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A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.

GPs used NHS commissioning surplus to fund basic practice costs and alternative medicine | News | Nursing Times

GPs have been able to boost their take-home pay by using commissioning funds rather than their general contractors’ income to buy basic medical equipment and fund practice refurbishments, an investigation by Nursing Times’ sister title has revealed.

Health Service Journal’s analysis shows almost £1m of commissioning surpluses generated through practice based commissioning were spent on basic general practice kit such as stethoscopes, otoscopes and waiting room chairs.

Surpluses were also spent on controversial complementary therapies, including aromatherapy and homeopathy.

Level of concern over NHS ‘reforms’ is becoming deafening, says Unite

The crescendo of concern over the ill-judged NHS reforms is becoming deafening, Unite, the largest union in the country, said today (Thursday 3 March).

Unite was commenting as the think tank, the Kings Fund, said that government plans to give more power over NHS decision making in England to GPs could make hospital reform difficult, and an online survey for the British Medical Association (BMA) suggested that the vast majority of doctors are not convinced that potential benefits of the government’s plans for the NHS in England outweigh the risks.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: ”The evidence is mounting at an alarming rate from respected health organisations that the so-called reforms outlined in the Health and Social Care bill are ill-judged and badly thought out.

New Statesman – The coalition’s NHS U-turn

Two weeks ago, when I listed the coalition’s ten biggest U-turns, I suggested that the NHS was next in line. “The smart money is on the government watering down its reforms,” I wrote.

Sure enough, Andrew Lansley has announced a major U-turn over NHS price competition. The Health Secretary is planning to amend his own bill to prevent providers from charging a maximum, as opposed to a fixed, price for treatment. In other words, the private sector will not be handed free rein to offer temporary loss leaders and undercut the NHS.

The NHS Operating Framework, published in December, stated that hospitals would be free to offer services to commissioners “at less than the published mandatory tariff price”. But Lansley now tells the Financial Times: “We want the tariff to be a nationally regulated price, not a starting point for price competition. These amendments will put our intentions beyond doubt.”

It takes some chutzpah for him to claim that he never wanted to introduce price competition in the first place, but the U-turn should be welcomed all the same. As studies by the LSE and Imperial have shown, the limited experiment with price competition during the Major government led to a decline in standards of care.

UNISON Press | Press Releases Front Page

Commenting on Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley’s u-turn on introducing price competition into the NHS, Karen Jennings, Head of Health for UNISON said:

“In a remarkable u-turn Andrew Lansley has publically stated that price competition is not now a part of the Government’s plans for the NHS – a victory for common sense.

“UNISON wants this promise delivered, by making sure that NHS guidance reflects the policy change. The Government should have the operating framework amended to make it clear that there should be no price competition.

NHS reform could ‘destroy patient-doctor trust’ – Channel 4 News

A Channel 4 News investigation on Wednesday revealed that the NHS reforms could see GPs making decisions based on profit rather than the clinical needs of the patient.

While the Department of Health stressed that the potential conflict of interests would be managed, patient groups told Channel 4 News their concerns that this may not be the case.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, told Channel 4 News: “When the Government first announced its reform plan my first comment was on my concerns that there would be a conflict of interest. Now it is clear that those concerns were justified.

Out of hours care ”cut” in 25 per cent of trusts – Public Service

Even before the NHS has to achieve £20bn of savings, around 25 per cent of trusts are said to have cut their out of hours care services in their 2010/2011 budgets.

According to reports, roughly 20 of England’s 152 primary care trusts have cut a total of £4m off the money they pay out for evening and weekend services provided by GPs. In other trusts spending in this area went up by £3.6m.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said the cuts could affect the level of care provided by GPs.

CAMPAIGNERS are stepping up opposition to controversial plans to ‘privatise’ NHS healthcare provision in Plymouth.

CAMPAIGNERS are stepping up opposition to controversial plans to ‘privatise’ NHS healthcare provision in Plymouth.

Unison is urging people to support its Say No to Social Enterprise campaign.

The union is holding a meeting at Stonehouse Creek on March 8 to highlight issues and raise awareness of the changes under way.

600 face axe from hospital

MORE than 600 health jobs are set to be axed as bosses at NHS Isle of Wight struggle to plug a massive £40 million black hole in their finances brought about by government spending cuts.
The jobs bombshell was dropped by NHS Isle of Wight chief executive, Kevin Flynn.
Speaking exclusively to the County Press, he revealed the equivalent of between 150 and 170 posts a year are set to go over the next four years as heath chiefs fight to bring down costs.

Fears for patient care as NHS reforms proposed – Today’s News – News – JournalLive

ALMOST 90% of doctors in the North East think increasing competition in the NHS will lead to services being fragmented, a new poll has revealed.

Some 62% believe competition between providers, including NHS and private companies, will reduce the quality of patient care, while 56% think the Government’s reforms mean they will spend less time with patients.

The survey was carried out in January, with 400 North East BMA members completing it.

Support for cut-threat hospice gathers pace – Health – lep.co.uk

Hospices today spoke out in a defiant united front against NHS cuts to funding.

It follows the Evening Post’s revelations that St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall, near Preston, is facing a cut in funding from primary care trust NHS Central Lancashire.

St Catherine’s Hospice, which provides a variety of services for seriously ill patients and their families, raises the bulk of the £4.6m a year it needs through public donations and fundraising.

The PCT stumps up 29%, £1.3m, but is now proposing to cut this by 1.5% compared to last year’s budget – a reduction in funding of about £19,500.

Lansley agrees to change Health Bill to prevent price competition | GP online

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has agreed to change the sections of the Health and Social Care Bill which would make it possible for providers to bid for contracts at a price below the standard NHS tariff.

He said the amendments will ‘put our intentions beyond doubt, sort out the confusion which we inherited from Labour, and put an end to the scaremongering we have seen.’ The DoH’s plans ‘have always been about competition on quality, not on price,’ he said.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the health secretary has ‘not only listened to doctors’ views, but also acted on them.’

‘Price competition has been linked with lower quality and was of huge concern to the BMA and many others. There is of course still a long way to go to address all the concerns doctors have about the Bill, such as Monitor’s powers to enforce competition. We will continue to press for further improvements and hope the government will continue to listen.’

Petition against ward closure is handed in to NHS – 100 in 100 Apprenticeship campaign – The News

A 10,000-signature petition against the closure of an end-of-life care ward has been delivered to hospital bosses.

Campaigner Will Purvis, from the Save G5 Campaign Group, handed over five folders’ worth of signatures to Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust board members during a board meeting at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, yesterday.

He said: ‘It was always the intention to give the petition to the hospital trust board.

‘I hope that they will take note of it and the 10,000 people who signed it.

NHS Short Of Specialist Staff Despite Cuts, Says Medical Recruiter, UK

Despite major cuts to front line services in the NHS, the health service is still short of specialist medical staff. That’s the message from the new white paper on the medical employment market from Your World Recruitment, who also warns that the government must be careful not to store up problems for the future of the NHS.

The report reveals that although cuts across the board in the healthcare sector have led to a decline in medical jobs across the UK, at the same time there are still a number of opportunities out there, especially for GPs, nurses and other medical experts with very specialist skills. These skill shortages include cochlear implant specialists within audiology, paediatric occupational therapists and MRI / ultrasound experts within radiology. Although pay levels have frozen for many, certain jobs or hospitals that are struggling to find talent are driving up remuneration to attract the right people.

The white paper also tells of the increasing number of locum healthcare staff moving into permanent positions, mainly due to the increased job security in what is a challenging time for the public sector. With less jobs, longer waiting lists and less locums to fill temporary positions when hospitals get busy, Your World is warning that investment in staff needs to continue in order to avoid future problems and staff shortages.

NHS prescription charges to rise by 20p | Society | guardian.co.uk

The cost of prescriptions in England will rise to £7.40 per item from £7.20, the government has announced.

The move will come as a blow to campaigners, including the British Medical Association (BMA), who have been calling for charges to be scrapped altogether.

The Department of Health has also announced that dental charges will rise.

England is the only part of the UK still charging for prescriptions. They are free in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be free in Scotland from 1 April.

GPs say reforms will damage doctor-patient relationship, BMA poll finds | GP online

The wide-ranging poll highlights a number of serious concerns among GPs about the reforms, particularly around the impact of GP commissioning on patient care and the drive to increase competition in the NHS.

The BMA said it shows that the government can no longer claim widespread support among doctors for the reforms. It urged the government to act on the concerns raised by doctors.

The survey, which was carried out by Ipsos MORI, showed 72% think GP commissioning will damage the GP-patient relationship.

Cuts blamed as Lib Dems slump to sixth in vote | Reuters

(Reuters) – The Liberal Democrats said on Friday they were paying the price for a tough economic stance after plunging to sixth place in a northern election.

The Lib Dems had come second in May’s general election in the former mining town of Barnsley, just ahead of the Conservatives in a seat long held by Labour.

However, this time they came a humiliating sixth, behind the anti-EU UKIP, who pushed the Conservatives into third, the far-right BNP and an independent. Labour won comfortably despite their former MP being jailed for fiddling his expenses.

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