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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Medical students bullied

Over one-third of medical students have been bullied according to a survey from the British Medical Association (BMA). Of the 260 respondents to the BMA Medical Students Committee welfare survey, 25 per cent said a doctor had bullied them, while one in six claim to have been bullied by a nurse. Some 35 per cent of respondents claim to have been bullied at university or on a hospital placement. Leigh Bissett, chairman of the BMA's Medical Students Committee said that the figures were completely unacceptable. ìThe idea that students learn best when they're terrified is outdated, bad for students and bad for patients. There should be no place for bullying in the NHS and it's time we adopted a policy of zero tolerance,î Bissett added. Forms of bullying ranged from racial or sexual discrimination to humiliation by teachers in front of patients.

Doctors migrate for higher salaries

Doctors from Eastern Europe are coming to the UK in search of better salaries, and funding for research and career development. According to post-accession figures from the Polish Chamber of Physicians, about 3 per cent of doctors and dentists - around 3,600 - have applied for certificates to have their qualifications recognised abroad. Specialists working in Poland can expect to earn six-figure sums in the UK compared to 3,000 zlotys a month - the equivalent of around £5,800 a year - in Poland. Medical recruitment agencies have been placing high numbers of Polish doctors both in the UK and Sweden since Poland acceded.

Crude and ineffective

NHS targets have been ìtoo crudeî according to Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has promised fewer and more flexible ones in the future. Blair said that while targets should be kept to ensure improvements in public services, they should not become ìan end in themselvesî. ìWhat we need to do is to keep them, but make them sufficiently flexible and not to have so many of them that they overburden the system,î he told the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr in an interview. It follows claims - made on a BBC Question Time Special when all three main party leaders appeared separately to answer questions from the audience - that patients are unable to make an appointment more than 48 hours in advance due to targets. Blair vowed to look into the issue and said he would ensure that targets would not prevent people from seeing their GP. However, as he pledged to deal with this and other NHS issues, Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Burstow labelled the current targets as ìabsurdî because those most in need do not get treated quickly. ìIt is time to put the patient first,î he said.

Be open about QoF

Withholding Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF) data could be detrimental to the medical profession, according to the British Medical Association's GPs Committee on the Freedom of Information Act. The committee has advised practices to be open about data from the QoFs, which were introduced with the GMS contract. A new GPC document Freedom of Information Act? Frequently Asked Questions, which will be published this week, states that practices should be seen to be publicly accountable. Under the QoF, all GP practices can work towards achieving points for delivering evidence-based quality care to patients. The maximum number of points a practice can achieve is 1,000 plus 50 for access targets where one exists. While it is believed that practices have performed well in the 12 months since the QoFs were introduced, the scheme is voluntary and each practice is different and has varying individual scores and numbers of patients with qualifying condition. There are variety of different reasons why some practices receive higher scored than others, including unfilled staff vacancies and large numbers of patients with certain types of disease, according to Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the GPC, who believes the data should be explained when it is published. ìWhen the data are published they must be presented in a way that attaches real meaning to the figures, otherwise they will be open to misinterpretation.î

30th September 2008

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