The British government’s highly controversial “Health and Social Care Act” finally completed its bruising 15-month journey through the Houses of Parliament in March, in the teeth of opposition from doctors, nursing unions, public health professionals, and mounting public concern. The debate on the merits and implications of the proposals is far from over. Continue reading
The British Conservative-led coalition government is currently in the midst of a brief “pause” in its efforts to push through their sweeping restructuring of England’s National Health Service. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill (see summary) is based, with minimal changes, on last July’s White Paper “Liberating the NHS.” The bill was published as legislation in mid-January, and whizzed through the first stages of parliamentary procedures with little evidence that any MPs (or journalists) had read or understood it. For example, BBC summaries have for the most part ignored the bulk of the Bill’s content to describe it as “plans to hand greater powers to GPs.” Continue reading
The Guardian‘s Denis Campbell and Sarah Boseley report that a drop in vaccination rates and a lack of public awareness has made this flu season worse than it should have been, and that there is potential for the NHS to be “inundated” with flu cases. The story has spread quickly in the UK, and may be providing just the sort of public awareness campaign that the reporters found was previously lacking.
Professor Steve Field, who until last month was the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, spoke out as the Department of Health revealed there are more than 300 people in critical care beds with flu and 17 people have died.
Field said the decision not to encourage the public to have a jab to protect themselves was “ill-advised” and needed to be urgently reversed.
The NHS should have acted more decisively to encourage people to have the jab because it was known that H1N1 swine flu was still circulating and that few NHS staff had the swine flu vaccine when it was offered to them late last year.
For more European health news, see AHCJ’s Covering Europe initiative.
The British ConDem coalition government has unveiled plans for sweeping and controversial changes to the National Health Service in England, which would see its workforce of around 1 million reduced to near zero within five years, with a combination of large-scale cuts and job losses, and staff hived off to the private sector and ‘social enterprises’. And while services would still be available to all free at point of use, and funded from taxation, the NHS would effectively be reduced from a public service to a ‘single payer’ fund of taxpayers’ money to be used to purchase health care from a range of private nonprofit and for-profit providers. Continue reading
Following medical errors and patient safety issues, the United Kingdom’s National Patient Safety Agency issues national safety alerts so that hospitals can change their practices and avoid repeat occurrences. As The Daily Telegraph‘s Rebecca Smith reports, a patient advocacy group has found (28-page PDF) that two-thirds of UK hospitals have failed to meet the implementation deadline on at least one alert.
The group blames haphazard enforcement and monitoring for the lapses.
Action against Medical Accidents warned that despite repeated warnings that the alerts were not being complied with, there was no central policy or guidance on which organisation should be monitoring compliance and what action should be taken.
Smith focused on two particularly serious issues, the inappropriate administration of oxygen and injectable medicines. The report groups instances of noncompliance by hospital and by alert.
Victoria Macdonald of Britain’s Channel 4 News, with the help of the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, used FOIA requests to expose the National Health Services’ habit of using “gagging clauses” and financial settlements to silence whistle-blowers.
In a number of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act we discovered that over the past decade 170 doctors signed a settlement, or compromise, agreement with their trust. We were given 64 heavily redacted contracts to review. Of those 55 – that is nearly 90 per cent – contained gagging clauses.
Under another FOI we asked all 225 hospital trusts in England how much they had spent on settlement agreements over the past decade. Of those who responded, only 71 trusts admitted to entering into these agreements, 40 revealed they had spent a total of £3m. In one case, a doctor was paid a quarter of a million pounds. However, a further 31 trusts simply refused to tell us how much they had paid out.
While not every settlement was designed to muzzle a whistle-blower, a significant portion were, Macdonald found. The effort has created what she found was a “culture of fear,” yet there are no plans to revise the relevant laws.