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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

New advice from NHS helpline

The medical helpline, NHS 24, has asked patients to ring up only when they cannot wait to see a GP. Due to difficulty in coping with demand, the service - once envisaged as the first point-of-contact - has had to reassess its role. Trainer for the system and Glasgow GP, Douglas Colville, vented his frustration with NHS 24, saying that ìthe system is slowÖ and just doesn't meet the demands of the publicî. A recent review highlighted failures at all levels, which the British Medical Association considered was a fair analysis.

NHS watchdog warns of poor maternity care

Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Healthcare Commission, has raised concerns about the quality of services in hospital baby units in England and Wales, prompting a review of standards in maternity wards. Current figures show that 1 in every 8,800 pregnancies result in the mother's death. Health minister, Liam Byrne, commented that ìcircumstances are not yet good enoughî. However, despite the alarming findings of the commission, Sir Ian stated that ìgiving birth is probably safer nowÖ than it ever wasî.

Dirty hospitals protected from criminal charges

New laws to be introduced in an effort to clean up `dirty wards' will not include large fines or threats of criminal charges for hospitals. Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has overridden earlier statements in an attempt to increase hospital co-operation and participation, stating that sanctions will only be used in ìthe most exceptional circumstancesî. Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is said to be delighted by the announcement, whereas opposition parties have expressed scepticism about the new proposals.

Patient privacy may be breached by computer records

A proposal to put patients' records on a central NHS database could breach confidentiality, doctors of the British Medical Association (BMA) warned this week. A YouGov poll showed that people are willing to co-operate with the £6bn IT plan, but want to be fully consulted before anything is implemented. GPs have also expressed concerns. Dr Eleanor Scott said that ìthe risk of unauthorised access, identity theft and malicious tampering are legionî.

30th September 2008

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