NHS 'abandoning' thousands by rationing hepatitis C drugs (The Guardian: 28 July 2016)

NHS England has been accused by a charity of “abandoning” thousands of people to a potential death sentence by rationing drugs that can cure hepatitis C.

An estimated 215,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C infection (160,000 in England), which new but costly drugs can cure. Addaction, a charity that helps people overcome drug and alcohol abuse, says the decision to treat 10,000 people a year is “manifestly unfair”.

Addaction is backing a judicial review application brought by another charity, the Hepatitis C Trust, over NHS England’s decision to cap the annual numbers on cost grounds.

“The decision by NHS England to limit access to treatment is manifestly unfair on a group of vulnerable people who suffer from a terrible disease,” said Simon Antrobus, chief executive of Addaction. “Those who are infected can go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Denying these people life-saving treatment is a potential death sentence for thousands.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended treatment of people with hepatitis C with the new drugs. NHS England first asked for a three-month delay in implementing the guidelines and then capped the numbers it would treat, so that only the sickest get the drugs immediately....read more

 

Bursaries for student nurses will end in 2017, government confirms (The Guardian: 21 July 2016)

The government has confirmed plans to end bursaries for student nurses and midwives from next year, sparking anger across the health sector.

Replacing bursaries with loans would free up about £800m a year to create additional nursing roles by 2020 and help more students enter the profession, according to the Department of Health.

However, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the changes were unfair and risky, while the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) argued that the move threatened the future of maternity services in England.

Student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, including occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, podiatrists and radiographers, currently do not pay tuition fees. They receive a mixture of a non-means-tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a reduced-rate student loan to help with their living costs. The government-funded Health Education England decides how many student places are available each year.

However, in a move first outlined by then chancellor George Osborne in November, bursaries will be replaced by loans in England to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs. The government claims this will allow the cap on student numbers to be lifted, creating up to 10,000 extra training places this parliament.

Health minister Philip Dunne said two-thirds of those who applied for a university nursing course were not currently offered a place and that the changes would give those in training about 25% more financial support while they studied....read more 

 

NHS bosses launch 'reset' plan to tackle £2.45bn deficit (The Guardian: 21 July 2016)

NHS bosses have launched a plan to “reset” the health service’s broken finances that will see overspending hospitals taken into financial special measures, as part of a crackdown to tackle a £2.45bn deficit.

Five hospital trusts that are set to overshoot their budgets by a wide margin this year, and nine GP-led local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that are facing acute financial problems, are the first NHS bodies to be forced into special measures. Their bosses have been given weeks to devise an action plan to reduce overspending or risk being replaced.

The initiative was unveiled as it emerged that the Department of Health avoided busting its £118.3bn budget in 2015-16 only because it received £417m more than planned in extra national insurance receipts because of an “administrative error” for which it will not be punished.

However, the health secretary is likely to face a parliamentary inquiry into his department’s figures after the Commons public accounts committee accused him of “underhand” behaviour in publishing his department’s figures on the last day before MPs leave for their summer break....read more

 

Jeremy Hunt to impose new contract on junior doctors (The Guardian: 6 July 2016)

Jeremy Hunt has said he will impose a new contract on the 54,000 junior doctors in the NHS in England, after they rejected it in a ballot.

The health secretary said the phased introduction of the contract would go ahead as planned from October in order to move on from the uncertainty created by an impasse between himself and the British Medical Association – “a no man’s land that, if it continues, can only damage the NHS”, he said.

He rejected holding any further talks with the BMA, the doctors’ union, pointing out that three years of talks on new terms and conditions for junior doctors had failed to produce a final agreement.

Junior doctors accused Hunt of deliberately choosing the day of the Chilcot report’s publication to confirm that he was pushing ahead with a contract that is deeply unpopular with doctors. One leading junior doctor, who did not want to be named, said Hunt had selected “a good time to bury imposition”.

Hunt made the announcement in an oral statement in the House of Commons a day after the BMA disclosed that junior doctors had defied its leadership’s advice by rejecting – by 58% to 42% – the version of the contract it had agreed with ministers in May and recommended as the best terms that could be secured.

Around 37,000 doctors in training and final- and penultimate-year medical students – 68% of those eligible to vote – took part in the BMA’s ballot....read more

 

NHS finance chiefs warn of poorer care and longer waiting times (The Guardian: 5 July 2016)

NHS finance managers warn today that patients are set to experience poorer care, longer waiting times for treatment and greater rationing.

A grim outlook for the NHS’s finances is also likely to see many hospitals fail to make savings that ministers have said are vital and put plans for the service to reform how it operates in serious doubt. More than one in five (22%) of over 200 NHS finance directors in hospitals and GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England surveyed by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) believe that quality of care will worsen during 2016-17. That 22% is a sharp increase on the 9% who voiced that fear as recently as last November.

Even more finance directors – one in three – fear that care will deteriorate in 2017-18 as a direct result of the NHS’s unprecedented financial struggles.

“Fears around the impact the current financial turmoil in the NHS could have on quality are a real cause for concern and we may start to see more of these predictions come true in the year ahead,” said Paul Briddock, the director of policy at the HFMA, which represents NHS finance managers.

“Respondents from both sectors felt waiting times (76%), access to services (69%) and the range of services offered (61%) were the most vulnerable” due to the financial squeeze, according to the HFMA’s latest biannual “NHS financial temperature check” report.

The HFMA’s findings raise questions about the likelihood of NHS trusts in England keeping their overspend for 2016-17 to the £250m they have been told to adhere to and the service getting its finances back into the black after providers of care ran up a deficit of £2.45bn last year....read more

 

A national disgrace: NHS fails to treat child mental health (Pulse: 4 July 2016)

Children's services hardest hit by public health cuts (HSJ: 4 July 2016)

Unions attack ‘ill-informed’ bursary reform plans (Nursing Times: 1 July 2016)

 

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