BMA calls for proper services for patients diagnosed with Alzheimers

The British Medical Association (BMA) has given its response to the Alzheimer Society’s survey of GPs which suggested that patients with dementia are let down by lack of social care support.

The survey of 1000 family doctors found that dementia patients are increasingly relying on friends, family and unpaid carers because insufficient help is available from health and social care services.

Dr Richard Vautrey, the BMA’s GP Committee deputy chair, said: “Difficulty in accessing social care support has become an everyday reality for GPs, patients and carers. Sadly it is not only the case for those diagnosed with dementia, but also affects the large number of people living with long term conditions or with frail elderly relatives.

“GPs are increasingly frustrated that due to excessive cuts to local authority funding, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are not receiving the level of care and support they deserve.

“The increasing emphasis on diagnosing dementia has not been matched with proper services for patients once they are diagnosed. With an ageing population, and the number of people with dementia set to grow significantly in the next five years, it is vital that sustainable care and support is urgently put in place to help provide the best possible care for those who need it.”

The Alzheimer Society’s survey was published a month after David Cameron pledged to help drive up diagnosis rates.


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BMA’s Porter asks government to “get real” over the crisis facing the NHS

British Medical Association (BMA) chief executive Dr Mark Porter has today called on the government to “get real” over the crisis facing the NHS.

In a speech to the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Liverpool, Dr Mark Porter said that instead of empty promises politicians should give patients, their families and those working in the NHS what they really need – honesty, respect and a sense of reality.

Dr Porter said: “It is truly a message for everyone across the country. As our No More Games campaign made clear, politicians from every party have been guilty of scoring cheap political points from the NHS, of dragging committed staff into political rows, and making promises they know they cannot keep.

“As one election passes, and with three more soon to hit us, they’ll all tell us how much they love the NHS. Well, thanks for that, but what patients and their families need, what those of us working in the NHS need, is honesty, respect and a sense of reality. We want to see clear plans, with clear funding for delivering improvements, free of dogma and ideology.

“We will work with any government that wants to truly protect and improve the NHS. You want a fresh start? We’ll start today. The NHS faces a real crisis. It affects real people. The government must get real. With urgency, with compassion and by offering a hand, not an axe, they can get real.”

Dr Porter’s comments come at a time when the NHS is facing a £30bn funding black hole and doctors reveal the extent to which they are being affected by the growing pressures on the NHS.

Dr Porter continued: “We have a government run from cloud nine rather than number 10. The crisis is real, but their solutions show little grasp of reality. A debilitating NHS deficit, to be met with a £22bn wish and a promise. A pledge to expand services, with barely the detail to fill a post-it note. And a crude, unrealistic attempt to marginalise patients safety in our contracts.

“The crisis is real. For the sake of every single one of our patients, it’s time for the government to get real.

“We’ve had Mid Staffs, we’ve had Francis, and cost is still being put before quality. This is, quite simply, wrong,” adding that the “most insidious of cuts are imposed upon staff who are still suffering from a disastrous restructuring of the health service, who face an unprecedented workload, and have no clarity about the future. It is harming some of the doctors here today. It is harming our friends, our colleagues and our patients.”

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NHS pension scheme changes could lead to exodus of medical academics claims BMA

The British Medical Association (BMA) has declared that action needs to be taken to prevent an exodus of medical academics following changes to their pension scheme.

Responding to a consultation, the BMA stressed the need for protections and transitional arrangements for academics that are approaching the end of their careers.

The issue is that the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) wants to close its final salary pension scheme in April 2016 and move to a career-average revalued earnings scheme, and reduce its pension contributions. Medical academic leaders say the USS must at least match the NHS pension scheme, which offered protections when its final salary scheme closed.

“Clinical academics have expressed concerns during the consultation on the future changes proposed to the USS pension scheme”, said BMA medical academic staff committee pensions’ lead Mark Gabbay. “There would now be fundamental differences between the NHS and USS schemes in the future, including potentially a withdrawal from the public sector transfer club, and an end to the final salary scheme as constituted with an earnings cap on the scheme.”

Professor Gabbay believes that the changes represent a major shift between the terms and conditions of NHS and university posts including equivalent remuneration. “They could act as a disincentive to taking up a medical academic career”, he said.

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GP crisis could “destroy” the NHS hears BMA conference

A warning that the general practice (GP) funding and recruitment crisis could “destroy” has been issued by a leading member of the British Medical Association (BMA).

Speaking at the annual two-day Local Medical Committees (LMCs) conference which is taking place from 21 to 22 May at the Institute of Education in London, BMA GPs committee chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that patient demand, declining recruitment and lack of investment in general practice could lead to the collapse of the wider NHS.

Dr Nagpaul said: “This is not just a perfect storm, but an absolute hurricane … a hurricane that will destroy the whole fabric of the NHS if the Government does not act swiftly.

“The newly elected Government must wake up to this alarming reality, not only because it will fail dismally in its manifesto pledge for 5,000 extra GPs, but crucially because unless it turns this around we won’t have a comprehensive general practice service in parts of the UK.”

Dr Nagpaul added that the numbers of NHS doctors working as GPs had shrunk from 34 percent to 25 percent.

Turning to the question of seven-day services, Dr Nagpaul said: “If Government claims to have any clue about the plight of general practice it must halt its obsession with practices to open for seven days when there aren’t enough GPs to cope with demand.

“This would damage quality care by spreading GPs so thinly and will reduce GPs’ availability for older, vulnerable patients. If we carry on the way we are, we’re putting not only ourselves but our patients at risk of care that is lacking in quality and is potentially unsafe.”

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BMA welcomes protection for medical supply workers

Workers in healthcare supply chains are to be protected under new anti-slavery laws thanks to extensive lobbying by the British Medical Association (BMA).

BMA council chair Mark Porter has welcomed the new powers set out in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 for England and Wales, which he believes will help enforce ethical practices in national and international healthcare.

The Act, granted royal assent on 26 March 2015, will see the creation of an independent anti-slavery commissioner, as well as strengthening existing laws by: (i) introducing life sentences for those guilty of the most serious trafficking and slavery offenders; (ii) tougher asset confiscation for those convicted of slavery or trafficking; (iii) the creation of trafficking and slavery risk and prevention orders aimed at restricting the actions of individuals likely to cause harm; and (iv) ensuring the protection of victims of slavery from criminalisation through a statutory defence.

Mr Porter said: “The BMA is pleased that the Government has legislated within the Modern Slavery Act to encourage transparency in supply chains of UK medical goods and imports.

“If major suppliers of healthcare goods strive to ensure fair and ethical practices in the manufacture of their products, then the potential impact on global supply chains is vast.

“The BMA is at the forefront of campaigning for ethical trade in the NHS. There is an uncomfortable paradox in providing healthcare in the NHS at the expense of workers’ health in its supply chains.”

More information about the BMA’s role in ethical procurement is available on the BMA website.

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BMA’s Porter responds to devolution of healthcare spending announcement

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter has responded to today’s announcement that responsibility for Greater Manchester’s £6bn health and social care budget is to be handed to councils and health groups in the region.

Dr Porter said: “There is no doubt that patients would benefit from more joined-up health and social care. However, any plans to do so would have to be underpinned by clear funding to ensure that an already dangerously over-stretched NHS budget isn’t used to prop up a woefully underfunded social care budget.

“These wide sweeping changes will affect millions of people. We need to look carefully at exactly how they will affect the commissioning and delivery of services, and what the impact on patient care will be. We must also ensure clinicians have a central role in decisions over health care, something which was undermined by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

“We need assurances on who is responsible if these changes go wrong. Doctors believe the secretary of state for health should have the duty to provide a universal and comprehensive health service, and must take responsibility for guaranteeing national standards in the of quality care across the country, especially if the delivery of care is to be devolved to local authorities.

“The NHS has just undergone unprecedented upheaval, there must be no more games with our health service and we need to avoid a situation where the NHS moves from being a national to a local political football.”

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BMA symposium puts patient safety top of the agenda

Encouraging patients, families and carers to raise concerns about healthcare was the big issue under discussion at a British Medical Association (BMA) event earlier this week.

The BMA’s Patient Safety Symposium event focused strongly on the report by Sir Robert Francis (Freedom to Speak Up) which makes 20 recommendations towards creating ‘an open and honest reporting culture in the NHS.’

During her opening of the symposium, BMA president Baroness Ilora Finlay said that it was important to listen to what was going on in the NHS and, in particular, “listening to patients and their concerns and inputting those concerns into the system.”

Also in attendance was BMA council chair Mark Porter who said that it was essential that doctors could speak up without fear of an adverse response: “This is so distressing for people looking in from outside to understand. It can be hard for doctors to know whether and when to speak up.

“All doctors are acutely aware of preventing harm to patients, but we have all seen what can happen when a patient voice is ignored.”

Dr Porter recalled the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and said that there were other examples in the NHS where patients had not been put first.

Supporting Dr Porter’s views was Paul Durham, a strategy team member at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who said that “everyone can learn from positive and negative experiences of care.”

And BMA patient liaison group chair Catherine Macadam said:”We want to learn from different perspectives, clearly understanding what we can all do to influence patient safety, change systems and change culture.”

To carry forward the work of the symposium the BMA has set up a task group to consider how best to implement the recommendations in the Freedom to Speak Up report.

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Doctors leaders demand greater resources for GPs

Politicians and NHS managers must ensure ‘overstretched and underfunded’ GP services are properly resourced, say doctors leaders.

Referring to figures in a Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) report which show details of NHS payments made to general practices in 2013-14, BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said that they show how good value general practice is for the NHS but warns that GPs are “finding it increasingly difficult to make funding meet demands.”

The HSCIC figures show that more than £7.6bn was paid to 8,060 practices in 2013-14 and covered a range of costs, such as premises, staffing costs and services to patients.

Dr Nagpaul continued: “Politicians and NHS managers need to focus their energy on ensuring overstretched and underfunded GP services get the resources they need to deliver enough appointments and services to their patients.”

The BMA GPs committee chair said the payments funded unlimited patient access to GP appointments — on average more than six visits per year — as well as: (i) home visits; (ii) care for housebound, vulnerable patients; (iii) immunisation programmes; (iv) cervical screening; and (v) chronic disease management.

According to the figures, registered patients at practices in England cost the NHS on average £136 each per year. Dr Nagpaul said this proved GP services were delivering “comprehensive” care for patients over a whole year.

The HSCIC report is available here.

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