Hunt Claims Criticism of Conservative NHS Policy is Unfair

Jeremy Hunt has come out swinging against criticism of the government’s NHS policy, suggesting that the problems of the health service are not caused by funding alone.

Claims have been made by prominent NHS experts that there is a massive gulf between the government’s claim that the NHS had been awarded an additional £10 billion of funding, and the reality.

Estimates by independent organisations that have put the “true” figure at about £4.5 billion; obviously less than half of the amount claimed by the authorities.

Commenting on the issue, Nigel Edwards, the Nuffield Trust’s chief executive, warned that the winter months could be particularly challenging.

“The NHS is going into its toughest winter yet with the odds stacked against it. Demand for healthcare is on the rise, funding for both health and social care is being squeezed and A&E departments are missing their targets.”

Yet Hunt has dismissed the suggestion that the performance of the NHS Is suffering because of a lack of funding

“We do tend to get in the run-up to the autumn statement a coalition of people who will say that the answer to all the NHS’s problems is more money from government. The big question is: does the NHS have enough money, and the answer to that is that we do need more resources – we are looking after a million more people aged over 75 than five years ago. That’s why we are putting in £4 billion more. It isn’t just about money – it’s also about standards.”

Hunt suggested that a process of learning and best practice could seriously aid the NHS going forward.

“There’s lots of things we can do in terms of helping to ensure we are better at learning from mistakes, so that we don’t have this huge legislation bill of £1.5bn because of some of the mistakes we have made – that all helps on the money front. There are, of course, financial pressures, but I think it’s a mistake to say this is only about money. It’s also about getting the culture right.”

The health secretary also claimed that the NHS is well placed to cope with raised demand this winter.

“I can say I think we are better prepared this year than we have ever been. There’s always the unpredictable, the cold spells, the flu outbreaks and so on…I think it would be wrong for any health secretary in the run-up to winter to say everything’s tickety-boo.”

Yet independent assessments suggest that the NHS will seriously struggle to cope over winter, with the most pessimistic estimates indicating that the entire system could break down in a worst-case scenario.

 
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Northumbria Foundation Trust Acclaimed for Transparency

The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been named by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as the most open and transparent organisation in the NHS in England.

This achievement is part of the new national league table which is intended to play a role in developing positive learning cultures and patient services across the NHS.

When benchmarked against 230 NHS trusts, Northumbria Healthcare is ranked as the very best when it comes to the levels of openness and transparency which exist amongst the Trust’s 9,500 workforce and across its multiple hospital and community sites.

Data for the league table has been acquired from the NHS staff survey for 2015, although this has drawn criticism from some commenters.

Nonetheless, Northumbria was rated as the most outstanding NHS organisation for:

– staff confidence and security in reporting unsafe clinical practice

– fairness and effectiveness of procedures for reporting errors, near misses and incidents

– percentage of staff able to contribute towards improvements at work.

The ‘Learning from Mistakes League’ will be held on an annual basis having been launched by Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA).

Although the two organisations are set to merge to form the new NHS Improvement body, the league table is part of the plans of the NHS for the forthcoming years.

It is just one pillar of an overall policy intended to improve patient safety and transparency across the NHS on a national level.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, praised the contribution that Northumbria had made to the culture of the NHS, and emphasised the importance of patient safety in everyday operations.

“Patient safety must always be at the heart of everything we do, every second of every single day in the NHS. I am immensely proud that Northumbria has been recognised for the high levels of openness, honesty and trust that we have embedded as part of our culture which mean our staff feel confident and able to raise any concerns they may have about patient safety or care.”

Rushmer explained that the achievements of the trust had not come easily.

“We have worked very hard to create this positive culture which is founded on strong clinical leadership, mutual respect and our staff being open and accountable at all levels across the organisation. Our focus is always, quite simply, on what’s best for our patients and this allows us to openly discuss any quality issues or challenges and how we can collectively solve them.”

Mr David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, also spoke about the culture of the trust and the part that it had played in the achievement of topping the league table.

“For over ten years, we have placed a very strong focus on developing a good leadership culture and creating an environment where every single member of staff, regardless of their role, feels empowered, to take responsibility and accountability for the delivery of safe, high quality care for patients. This starts with making sure we understand why things go wrong so that we can truly learn from incidents, make appropriate changes and, crucially, be open and honest with patients, families and our teams throughout our learning.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is one of only three NHS organisations across England that is helping to spearhead the development of positive cultures and leadership capability across the NHS.

 
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Damning Report Destroys Hunt’s Weekend Claims

A damning report has scathingly attacked the position of Jeremy Hunt on the supposed reduced care in the NHS at weekends.

The Health Secretary had previously suggested that 6,000 excess fatalities occur in the health service at the weekend, which he described as the “weekend effect”.

Hunt had bemoaned the lack of a “proper seven day service in hospitals”, using the figures to push the new contractual provisions which he has steadfastly stuck to since.

But the editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), whose report last year the Tory minister cherry-picked the figure from, said he was “clearly warned” there was no evidence to link the deaths to problems with staff shortages.

This is a damning verdict from the authoritative medical publication, which indicates that the argument of the Health Secretary was fundamentally flawed and misleading from day one.

The BMJ’s Dr Fiona Godlee argued that the minister was “misusing the data” to “beat up on doctors”, in a new paper.

Godlee also stated that Hunt has “pitted himself against” medical staff to create the impression he is the “champion of the people” despite the “lack of a clear call from the public for a seven day service”.

The report concludes: “Hunt’s approach demonstrates either extreme political arrogance or an attempt to destabilise the NHS. Whichever, NHS staff and patients must deal with the fallout. Further strikes are pending, and doctors at all stages of their career are desperately demoralised, with many on the brink of leaving the profession or the country. Hunt was supposed to keep the NHS out of the headlines. His particular brand of confrontational micromanagement has achieved exactly the reverse.”

Back in July, Hunt had claimed: “Around 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven day service in hospitals. You are 15% more likely to die if you are admitted on a Sunday compared to being admitted on a Wednesday.”

New analysis from the BMJ has indicated that it is impossible to say whether the excess deaths that appeared in the original report could actually be prevented by more staff.

Indeed, the new report states that to assert them as such would be extremely rash and misleading.

Yet Prime Minister David Cameron used the figures at Prime Minister’s Questions in an attack on the latest doctors’ strike.

Heidi Alexander MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, considered the allegations of the BMJ to be extremely serious, and commented on the legitimacy of the junior doctors’ strikes.

“One of the main reasons why junior doctors feel so angry is because of the way the Tory Government has repeatedly conflated contract reform with delivering seven-day services. Junior doctors already work Saturdays and Sundays, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest higher mortality rates during the weekend is caused by a lack of junior doctors. Jeremy Hunt should apologise for his comments and find a resolution to this dispute that brings an end to further industrial action.”

But Godlee believes that Hunt “could redeem himself” if he can “find a way to resolve the doctors’ dispute as quickly as possible”.

 
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Junior Doctors to Hold Three Further Strikes in Ongoing Hunt Row

The British Medical Association has indicated that junior doctors will hold three further strikes as the argument over the government’s plan to impose new contractual conditions on them rumbles on.

Each of the three strikes will last for two days, and this unprecedented action certainly represents an escalation in the bitter argument over pay, working hours and the ultimate safety of patients.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has already responded to the plans of the doctors’ union, describing the planned three-day strike as “regrettable”.

But Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, was defiant, and indicated that the decision taken by junior doctors and the British Medical Association was the only viable course of action open to them.

“We have already seen NHS chief executives refusing to support an imposition, and patient representatives have said they are appalled by this move. Added to this, the government’s former adviser on patient safety, Don Berwick, has said it should apologise to junior doctors over the contract dispute. The government must listen to the chorus of concern coming from all quarters and reconsider this disastrous approach.”

Malawana was also keen to emphasise the pressurised conditions that junior doctors are already forced to work in, and suggested that the terms of the government at the time of writing were simply unreasonable and untenable.

“The fact is, junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the government wants more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and support staff, and the extra investment necessary to deliver them. Rather than address these issues head on, the government wants to introduce a contract that is unfair and in which junior doctors have no confidence.”

In his intention to impose the conditions of the planned contract on NHS staff, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued that it is a necessity in order to end uncertainty for the NHS as a health service.

If the Health Secretary indeed ultimately gets his wishes, then the new contractual provisions will become active in August of this year.

The contract would result in Saturdays between 7am and 5pm become part of a junior doctor’s normal working week for the first time – an issue on which the BMA refused to negotiate during the talks.

A Department of Health spokesperson naturally contested the position of the British Medical Association in a statement.

“Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations — over a contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe. The new contract will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise, and will bring down the maximum number of hours doctors can work. We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings.”

With 90% of the 38,000 junior doctors represented by the British Medical Association having voted in favour of striking back in the last ballot in November, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the strike will indeed go ahead unless there is an eleventh hour intervention from the government.

 
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Hospitals May Overrule Hunt on Junior Doctors’ Contracts

Reports are indicating that hospitals may ignore the action of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to junior doctors’ contracts.

Holland has threatened to impose the contractual conditions that have proved to be such a bone of contention, but it seems that hospitals may refuse to impose these contracts.

None of the 152 foundation trust hospitals in England will be obliged to force their junior doctors to accept the deal and can instead offer them better terms.

This provides the potential for health institutions across the UK to completely blindside the plans of the Health Secretary, in a move that would be extremely well received by junior doctors and other supportive health professionals.

Responding to the newly revealed loophole, the Labour party suggested that the position of the government is becoming untenable.

“Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose the junior doctors’ contract seems to be unravelling with every day that goes by. The fact that hospitals are trying to find ways around contract imposition underlines the extent to which the decision to impose a contract that nobody wants would destroy morale in the NHS,” said the shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander.

Even some members of the Conservative party have criticised the policy of the Health Secretary.

Dr Dan Poulter MP, who was a health minister until last May, commented that the decision made by Hunt regarding the imposition of the contract represented “a dark day for the NHS and the future of medicine”.

The Department of Health has already responded to media reports, indicating that it is indeed accurate that foundation trusts which are semi-independent of NHS control cannot be compelled to enforce any contract.

“Foundation trusts are not mandated to bring in the new contract. They can negotiate locally. However, [non-foundation] trusts are [obliged to use Hunt’s contract],” a spokesman affirmed.

Increasingly, it seems that the plans of Hunt are completely unworkable, and opposition to the imposition of the contract in particular is growing.

Hunt had claimed in the Commons that a raft of senior NHS leaders back his decision to impose the contract, but this soon unravelled under further examination.

A letter of support signed by numerous prominent individuals has since been disowned by 13 of the 20 supposedly signatories.

Hunt maintains that enforcing the contract is necessary in order to let hospital bosses recruit more junior doctors to work at weekends and usher in the so-called seven-day NHS.

But junior doctors fighting against what they consider to be unfair conditions looks to have increasingly encouraging prospects.

 
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Health Secretary Hunt Attacked Over Contentious and Misleading Remarks

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for accusing the British Medical Association of irresponsibility over the ongoing junior doctors dispute.

Hunt claimed in a television appearance that the union which represents doctors had refused to sit down and discuss improving patient care.

Additionally, the Health Secretary claimed that the British Medical Association was guilty of deliberately spreading misinformation.

However, with passions running high on an issue that means a great deal to people all over the United Kingdom, some of Hunt’s comments have been greatly criticised by those sceptical about the Conservative commitment to the NHS.

In particular, it has been pointed out that some of the statements of the health secretary are rash and misleading, with regard to a study quoted in relation to NHS deaths.

During a TV appearance on the BBC, Hunt had claimed that 11,000 more people die in hospitals at the weekends owing to the lower levels of staffing.

However, doctors have responded strongly to the statement, accusing him of deliberately misrepresenting a paper written by NHS England Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh for the British Medical Journal.

And not to be outdone, Hunt responded once more in the light of criticism on the matter, only to misquote the same paper for a second time.

As the rhetoric on the subject becomes more heated, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander described Mr Hunt’s handling of negotiations over the new contracts as an “utter shambles.”

Alexander pushed for Hunt to make concessions in relation to the definition of unsocial hours in the new contractual agreements, which has proved such a stumbling block for a cessation to the conflict being found.

In addition, Alexander was strongly critical of Hunt for misrepresenting academic studies on weekend mortality, and also took the time to point out that there could be a mass exodus of healthcare professionals from the UK to other English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia.

Alexander warned that Hunt “has to stop behaving like a recruiting sergeant for Australian hospitals, and start behaving like the Secretary of State for our NHS.”

Offering further negative response to Hunt’s TV performance, Dr Johann Malawana, the British Medical Association’s junior doctor committee chair, defended the commitment of junior doctors.

“Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, they need more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it. Rather than addressing these issues, Jeremy Hunt is instead ploughing ahead with proposals that are unfair and could see many junior doctors voting with their feet.”

The Department of Health has not commented on Hunt’s blunder, but it is clear that the level of ill feeling between the two parties is rising.

 
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Hunt Comment About Patient Safety During Strike Generates Headlines

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has made some controversial remarks which amount to the minister suggesting that patient care can’t be guaranteed during forthcoming strikes.

While the strikes in question are not guaranteed, with talks involving the British Medical Association ongoing, the comments made by Hunt will certainly incite a strong reaction.

Hunt has publicly refused to guarantee that all accident and emergency departments will remain open on Wednesday, 10th February, when the third strike involving junior doctors is planned.

Individuals opposing the government’s contractual plans for junior doctors will also stage a walk out on 26th January.

Nonetheless, Hunt insisted that he was “busting a gut” to ensure enough senior doctors and consultants are available to fill in.

The existing stand-off began when Hunt announced plans to alter the way that junior doctors’ existing contracts operate.

Although this encompasses several changes, perhaps the most notable of these will see some junior doctors’ pay docked by as much as 30% owing to the recalculation of what are considered peak hours.

The BMA and the Government continued talks on Friday over the proposed new junior doctor contract, but remain some distance apart according to reports.

But Hunt was dealt a significant blow when Sir David Dalton indicated that the government’s message on improving seven-day services in the NHS had become “muddled”.

Dalton had been appointed by Hunt to lead the government’s side during negotiations on the contracts.

This key individual also suggested that the strikes planned by the British Medical Association indicated that the organisation has the power to “land a punch” on the Health Secretary.

However, despite the comments made by Dalton, Hunt essentially retains a defiant demeanour, suggesting that the government will take the ‘nuclear option’ of imposing contracts if no agreement can be brokered.

Hunt has also stated that the contractual plans which he has overseen can be considered as central to achieving the Conservative manifesto pledge for a true seven-day culture in the National Health Service.

“We are talking with the BMA today, we are all sitting around the table at Acas,” he said. “I really hope we can make progress because we all want the same thing – every doctor wants high-quality care every day of the week, and I think the BMA also wants that. So I think this is something which needs sorting out by sitting around the table and I think, if we do it in the right spirit, we can solve this,” Hunt stated when questioned by the BBC Today programme.

When asked by presenters on the programme whether lives to be put at risk by the strike in February, Hunt was taciturn on the subject, in a move that could certainly be interpreted as political point scoring.

“I can’t give an absolute guarantee but we are busting a gut to make sure that every A&E department is able to function. We are going through, hospital by hospital, we are doing detailed work to see whether we can fill the shifts that are not going to be filled by junior doctors and, obviously, our absolute priority is to keep patients safe,” Hunt commented.

 
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Research Indicates that Investigations into Vulnerable Patients Inadequate

The government is facing a major issue, after it emerged that investigations into highly vulnerable patients appear to be completely inadequate.

Following a freedom of information request from The Guardian, it emerged that just one in seven such fatalities in hospitals in England have been investigated.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will inevitably have to deal with parliamentary questions on the matter, as well as public pressure.

According to the data, hospitals in England have investigated just 209 out of 1,436 deaths of inpatients with learning disabilities since 2011.

Even unexpected deaths were not adequately investigated by hospitals, with just over one in three being further examined.

Commenting on the issues, Professor Mike Richards, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, conceded that the findings from The Guardian investigation were far from acceptable.

“No one should have to wait four years for an explanation. The findings from this investigation are very concerning,” said Prof Mike Richards, England’s chief inspector of hospitals. “We’re keen to work with The Guardian to look at the new information in more detail. This will help us to plan the review that CQC [Care Quality Commission] is already committed to doing.”

This latest revelation is another damning indictment of the state of the NHS, with the health service also facing numerous other issues.

The NHS is facing a deficit of £30 billion by the end of the decade, with many experts sceptical that the government’s plans to address the situation will be satifactory.

Winter capacity is already proving a problem this year, yet in the middle of what can reasonably be described as a staffing crisis, David Cameron has signalled his intention to shift to a seven-day NHS culture.

Echoing the comment of Professor Richards, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of the charity Mencap, said that the figures “will leave many families questioning whether their loved one’s death in NHS care should have been properly investigated, and show the need for the government to commission an independent investigation across the NHS on these failings.”

Only five of the 47 trusts that had such deaths investigated all of them.

With the Opposition having focused heavily on the NHS in the last Prime Minister’s Question Time before the parliamentary break for Christmas, this news will be another source of ammunition for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party in 2016.

Responding to these clearly unacceptable figures, a spokesperson for the Department of Health acknowledged the failings of the NHS in this area.

“As the government’s response to Southern Health made clear, it is important that the NHS properly investigates unexpected deaths to learn lessons and improve care. That’s why the secretary of state has announced an investigation by the CQC into how deaths are investigated in all types of trusts. [NHS England medical director] Prof Sir Bruce Keogh also wrote to all NHS hospitals last week asking them for an assessment of their avoidable mortality to drive learning in the system.”

The NHS has already announced in its official figures that a £2 billion financial deficit is likely this year.

 
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Health Committee Seeks Opinions on Future of Social Care

The Health Committee of the British government has announced its inquiry into the impact of the comprehensive spending review on health and social care.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently announced the spending review in a Parliamentary statement.

There have already been criticisms from several sources on the provisions for social care included in the review, and the government has clearly decided to take these concerns on board.

The Health Committee has invited written submissions on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on health and social care from medical professionals.

In particular, the Committee will be assessing:

  • The distribution of funding for health and social care across the spending review period;
  • Achieving efficiency savings: their source, scale and impact;
  • Achieving service transformation set out in the Five Year Forward View at scale and pace through transformation funds;
  • The impact and management of deficits in the NHS and social care;
  • The effect of cuts to non-NHS England health budgets e.g. public health, health education and Department of Health, and their impact on the Five Year Forward View;
  • Social care funding, including implications for quality and access to services, provider exit, funding mechanisms, increasing costs and the Care Act provisions;
  • Impact of the spending review on the integration of health and social care;
  • Quality and access in health and social care including the cost and implications of new policy objectives such as 7 day services;
  • Progress on achieving parity of esteem through funding for mental health services.

The Health Committee is seeking submissions of no longer than 300 words from people working at every level in the NHS.

Additionally, the thoughts of the general public will also be sought, with anyone having an interest in the topic able to submit their views.

It is expected that the committee will consider oral evidence related to this topic at some point in 2016, with the second quarter of the year, possibly after the new financial year begins, a likely date.

In accordance with this deadline, the Health Committee has set a final date for submitting evidence as Friday 22nd January, 2016.

All interested parties should ensure that their thoughts on the future of health and social care, clearly an extremely important subject area, are submitted by this date.

The Health Committee is a government department tasked with the examination of the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department of Health and its associated bodies.

 
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Junior Doctors Strike Postponed After ACAS Intervention

The planned strike by junior doctors in England has been postponed, although significant disruption has already been guaranteed by the cancellation of operations.

Following an eleventh hour breakthrough in talks, the British Medical Association agreed to cancel the walkout.

Despite this last-minute decision, over 4,000 patients have already been told that treatment due for tomorrow will be cancelled.

Further walkouts scheduled for later in December have also been suspended for the time being.

The decision of the British Medical Association follows a preliminary agreement between the two sides following assistance from ACAS.

News of the decision to suspend the strikes only came on Monday night; just hours before the first walk-out was due to begin at 8am on Tuesday.

Both sides in the dispute will now spend the next few weeks combing the agreement in order to assess the fine detail.

However, a joint statement which has been distributed by ACAS makes it clear that this is only a temporary situation.

The British Medical Association has until 13th January to reinstate industrial action should the next round of talks prove to be unsuccessful.

Figures acquired ahead of the proposed strike indicate that around 15 per cent of operations have been cancelled as a result of the planned industrial action.

Commenting on at the last minute cancellation of the strike, Dr Barbara Hakin, of NHS England, described the breakthrough as “pleasing”.

“This is in the best interests of patients although we can only apologise for the disruption caused to anyone who has already had their operations cancelled for tomorrow,” Hakin stated.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had spoken to the House of Commons earlier in the day, and assured MPs that every effort will be made to minimise the effects of the strike on the functioning of the health service.

Hunt told the assembled MPs that changes to the contracts of the junior doctors were necessary owing to “the unintended consequence of making it too hard for hospitals to roster urgent and emergency care evenly across seven days”.

The Health Secretary also claimed that the plans would be good for junior doctors. “Our plans are deliberately intended to be good for doctors – they will see more generous rates for weekend work than those offered to police officers, fire officers and pilots,” Hunt added.

Meanwhile, as the British Medical Association assesses its position on the subject, it continues to argue that the changes proposed by the Health Secretary will compromise patient safety.

Some doctors had also claimed that they will lose as much as 30 per cent of their earnings as a result of the proposed contracts.

 
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Eleventh Hour Talks Aim to Avoid Junior Doctors Strike Action

The British government has agreed to enter into talks with ACAS over the ongoing dispute with junior doctors.

This eleventh hour effort is intended to mitigate against the threat of strikes, but the union representing junior doctors has underlined that they have not been called off at the time of writing.

Responding to the threat of strike action, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has indicated that he is willing to utilise the conciliation service.

Hunt had initially stated after the strike ballot results were revealed last week that he would be unwilling to enter any form of mitigation process.

At the time, Hunt had said the industrial action, due to start next week, should be cancelled to “avoid harming vulnerable patients”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) had responded strongly to this statement, indicating that the strikes would indeed take place as planned.

And although it seems that Hunt is attempting to avoid strike action, the BMA has maintained its position on the subject, at least for the time being.

The first day of action is Tuesday, starting at 8am and lasting 24 hours.

ACAS is an independent body that can help parties – normally an employer and unions – resolve employment disputes.

Because the two sides in this particular case are simply requesting conciliation, ACAS will merely be required to host the talks rather than offering any meaningful or binding recommendations.

Writing to the leader of the BMA, Dr Mark Porter, Hunt claimed that it was important for the two sides in the dispute to work together.

The Health Secretary claimed that the long running dispute could be resolved amicably were the two sides to work together in a spirit of conciliation and cooperation.

Nonetheless, Hunt also expressed his disappointment that the BMA had refused to agree to the offer that he had made previously.

He also emphasised the potential threat to safety that the strike action that is due to take place next week would represent.

However, despite the apparent intention of Hunt to enter into some form of conciliatory talks, the letter sent by the Health Secretary makes no mention of dropping his previous threat to impose the contract.

The BMA had strongly opposed this policy previously.

Commenting on the letter, the aforementioned Dr Porter stated that the talks would be critical for the future of the NHS.

“We hope to start these talks as soon as possible in order to reach a collaborative agreement for the benefit of patients and the NHS. Importantly, Jeremy Hunt must finally remove his threat of imposition in order to defer Tuesday’s industrial action.”

 
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Homeopathy Under Fire as Government Considers Policy Change

Government ministers are currently considering the future of homoeopathy on the NHS. The treatment could be blacklisted in order to prevent GPs from prescribing it.

Homoeopathy is based on treating conditions with small measures of the substance actually causing the problem in a patient.

And the Faculty of Homeopathy has defended the practice, suggesting that patients benefit from the treatment and support it.

The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m. Estimates indicate that GP prescriptions account for merely £110,000 annually.

Homeopathy is based on the concept that diluting a version of a substance that causes illness has healing properties.

One part of the substance is mixed with 99 parts of water or alcohol in order to create homeopathic remedies.

Homoeopathy is often used to treat conditions such as asthma, ear infections, hay-fever, depression, stress, anxiety, allergy and arthritis.

Yet the NHS has denied the efficacy of this practice, suggesting that there is “no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.”

Meanwhile, groups such as the Good Thinking Society continue to campaign against homoeopathy.

Simon Singh, the founder of the Good Thinking Society, claimed: “Given the finite resources of the NHS, any spending on homeopathy is utterly unjustifiable. The money spent on these disproven remedies can be far better spent on treatments that offer real benefits to patients.”

To put the spending on homeopathy into perspective, if every British taxpayer paid an extra 10 pence of tax each year, this would entirely fund the NHS budget for homeopathy.

And Dr Helen Beaumont, a GP and the president of the Faculty of Homeopathy, stated that homeopathic remedies were extremely effective for a wide variety of patients, and that reducing spending on drugs such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for depression would be more justifiable.

“Patient choice is important; homeopathy works, it’s widely used by doctors in Europe, and patients who are treated by homeopathy are really convinced of its benefits, as am I.”

Any decision made by the government would not affect people purchasing the treatment either over the counter or privately.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had previously argued in favour of a parliamentary motion supporting homoeopathy, but also indicated that an evidence-based approach to health must be prominent.

Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, stated that a decision is imminent.

“With rising health demands, we have a duty to make sure we spend NHS funds on the most effective treatments. We are currently considering whether or not homeopathic products should continue to be available through NHS prescriptions. We expect to consult on proposals in due course.”

 
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