NHS news review

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The main issue in today’s NHS news is that Con-Dem ‘reforms’ are driving GPs away from being GPs. There’s one article that I couldn’t understand that may be of interest to NHS insiders, GPs, etc: PCTs withhold GP consortia funding | GP online. The Guardian also has an article speculating that Lansley may be going.

There are local elections and a vote on adopting the Alternative Voting system in UK today. Don’t forget to vote if you intend to.

Conservative election poster 2010

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.

Pulse – NHS reforms push third of GPs to head for exit

Exclusive: More than a third of GPs are planning to quit general practice in the next five years, with morale in the profession nose-diving in the wake of the Government’s NHS reforms, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The first part of Pulse’s State of the Profession Survey, published this week, paints an alarming picture of GPs’ working lives, suggesting they are being forced to work longer hours, are spending less time with patients and are struggling to meet expectations as a result. Almost half of the 576 GPs who responded to the poll reported they were suffering from stress.

But it is the fallout from the Government’s far-reaching NHS reforms that appears to have pushed the number of GPs looking to quit to the highest level for more than a decade, with 71% claiming morale had fallen as a direct result of the health bill and only 9% saying it had risen. Just 18% said they believe general practice is currently moving in the right direction.

The survey found 35% of GPs plan to leave the profession in the next five years – a sharp

increase from the findings of similar BMA surveys in recent years.

In 2001, the BMA warned that 25% of GPs hoped to leave within five years, while its survey of GP morale in 2007 found that 23% either hoped to retire or leave the profession within five years.

Cost-effective prescribing by GPs has cut NHS costs | GP online

GPC prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Bill Beeby said the figures released last week suggested many GPs had already achieved large savings, but further savings may be harder to come by.

Overall numbers of prescriptions dispensed in the community in 2010 rose to 926,658 across England, up 5% from 885,999 in 2009. The net ingredient cost rose to £8,834,380, a rise of 3% from £8,539,421 in 2009.

But as the number of prescriptions showed a greater rise than the cost, the net ingredient cost per prescription fell to £9.53, down from £9.64 in 2009.

‘This reflects well on the prescribing behaviours of GPs, as they heed the need to contain costs by responsible choices of medication,’ Dr Beeby said.

The Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) agenda may have meant GPs were already using more cost-effective treatment options, he said. ‘The new QIPP-related indicators for prescribing in the QOF are intended to have the same effect, though these figures may indicate that many have done the work and future savings may be smaller,’ he added.

BBC News – Don’t be a ‘slave to competition’, NHS told

The government must not become a “slave to competition” over the NHS, the ex-head of the health regulator says.

Anna Walker said competition had an important role to play in making the health service more efficient.

But Ms Walker, now head of the Office of Rail Regulation, said ministers had to learn from other sectors – and limit the scope of private involvement.

It came as private health firms hit out at what they said was scaremongering about the changes in England.

Under plans put forward by the coalition government, the NHS is to be opened up further to competition from private sector firms.

This has prompted unions to suggest the health service is at risk of being privatised.

Pulse – Labour pledges to strip financial responsibility from GPs

Exclusive: GPs would not be given real budgets to commission care under a Labour government, and the opposition is ready to systematically dismantle the coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill if it returns to power, the shadow health secretary has revealed.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, John Healey said he fundamentally disagreed with the closer alignment of clinical and financial responsibility, and pledged to reverse plans to hand GPs real commissioning budgets. He also said he would oppose the abolition of PCTs and put the brakes on health secretary Andrew Lansley’s expansion of the NHS market.

The shadow health secretary said Labour would strip Monitor of its new expanded duty to enforce competition, and continue his predecessor Andy Burnham’s policy of making the NHS the ‘preferred provider’.

His stance on commissioning comes despite the previous Labour administration’s move to offer some GPs real budgets under practice-based commissioning.

Mr Healey said this policy would not be pursued in the future, claiming real budgets would jeopardise the doctor-patient relationship by creating insurmountable conflicts of interest.

Health watchdog reveals serious concerns about Medway NHS Trust finances

A HEALTH watchdog has said it has serious concerns about Medway NHS Trust’s finances.

The independent regulator Monitor said it found the trust, which runs Medway Maritime Hospital, was in “significant breach” of the terms relating to its foundation trust status.

It threatened formal intervention unless its board took immediate action and could show it was taking control.

The trust said it was “disappointed” with the findings, but had been hit with unexpected expenditure against a commitment to cost-saving.

Trust spokesman Kelly Trinder said: “Like all hospital trusts, Medway faces a challenging economic climate.

“In 2010/11 Medway set itself an ambitious target of making £15 million savings in its running costs.

“It successfully achieved £13.6 million of these but the shortfall, coupled with significant one-off losses such as cancelled operations due to the heavy snow in December, meant that it failed to meet all its financial targets.”

Monitor, which has the power to remove all directors and put in temporary replacements, said its inspection had resulted in concerns being raised about board-level scrutiny, financial planning and performance.

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