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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Spot checks replace star ratings

The NHS' controversial star ratings system will be replaced by a health check system, the Healthcare Commission has said. Rather than routinely subject all 572 NHS trusts to week-long visits every three years, the Commission will carry out spot checks when there is evidence of a problem. The scale of inspection will also be proportionate to the issue concerned, in order to reduce regulatory burdens.

The new system will also give patients and public representatives a formal role in judging the quality of services by inviting comments on how they think the health service is performing, as part of an annual appraisal.

Sir Iain Kennedy, chairman of the Commission, said that the system was a ìradical first stepî towards modernising the regulation of the NHS. ìWe are offering the public a richer picture of performance while cutting through the bureaucracy that frustrates people actually delivering services,î he noted.

New part-time junior doctors contract

A new contract that will allow junior doctors to work part-time is expected to come into force in June this year. The contract will see the salary of a part-time doctor based on the total number of hours worked - bringing hourly rates of pay in line with full-time junior doctors. It is hoped that the new contract will double the number of part-time junior doctors in three to five years' time.

Visitors could help prevent MRSA

Hospital visitors could prevent the spread of the hospital superbug MRSA by washing their hands before visiting a patient, a health summit will hear this week. Michael Summers, chairman of the Patients Association, is expected to tell the Clean Hospitals Summit that visitors have been ignored in the fight against MRSA but should be urged to wash their hands frequently when visiting patients. ìIt is such a simple measure, but it could be vital,î he told BBC News.

SFO investigates nursing agency

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating claims that a nursing agency included 83 overseas nurses on its books with insufficient qualifications. It is claimed that the nurses from India and African countries had only received part-time familiarisation visits, although the agency gave assurances that they had undertaken full-time supervised courses. The investigation is the second phase of a nine-month inquiry into the allegations by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Tories would not cut services

The Conservative Party would not have to cut services in order to make way for its promised extra £15bn spending, according to shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin. Defending the extra funding from attacks by the Labour Party, Letwin said that the money was fully costed within Tory spending plans. The Tories have pledged to spend as much as the government on the NHS if they are elected to power. Labour has argued that the Tories' spending plans don't 'add up'.

30th September 2008


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