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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Unison claims equal pay win

Women working at the North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust have won the biggest equal pay award in British history, Unison has claimed. The union believes that 1,500 women working at the Trust have won back-pay totalling £300m as part of a case brought by Unison eight years ago which argued that men and women should be paid the same for work of equal value. The Trust, however, refused to confirm the win, stating that the overall agreement had not been reached as it is still negotiating with staff representatives.

Publication of mortality rates criticised

Publishing the patient mortality rates of individual surgeons under the Freedom of Information Act could have a ìdevastating effectî on patient care, surgeons have warned. The Act, which was introduced last month, has resulted in a number of hospitals making the mortality rates available to the public. However, surgeons claim that the publication of the tables could result in similar scenes witnessed in the US where patients demand to be treated by top surgeons who do not want to operate because they could tarnish their record. The league tables are also ìuselessî as hospitals draw up tables using their own criteria, so cannot be compared, the surgeons said.

PR hire 'waste of money'

The British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised the decision of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to hire a PR firm to promote the introduction of electronic medical records for patients. NPfIT hired Porter Novelli to carry out the campaign for a six-figure sum, but the British Medical Association (BMA) has branded the hire as a waste of money. ìIt is a clumsy attempt to get us on board. GPs are losing all confidence in the upgrade,î said BMA chairman Dr Paul Cundy. The NPfIT defended its actions: ìThis is not an attempt to win the hearts and minds of GPs. It is about informing patients,î a spokesperson said.

More female cardiologists needed

The lack of female doctors choosing cardiology as a career path will affect standards of cardiology practice and research, a report has warned. The report, published in the British Medical Association's journal Heart, found that women make up only 9 per cent of all applicants to cardiology positions and in 2002 comprised less than 17 per cent of trainees. ìIf this is not corrected, it will prove increasingly difficult to maintain high standards of cardiological practice and research in this country,î said cardiology consultant Dr Jane Flint.

30th September 2008

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