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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

No funding for GP service expansion

Doctors have voiced scepticism over a government plan to expand GP services without providing supporting funds. Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, who hopes the expansion will include breakfast and evening surgeries, backed the initiative claiming that six pilot schemes would be great news for people living ìin the most deprived and under doctored areasî. The Department of Health (DOH) has refused to offer extra money for the pilots, instead asking ìentrepreneurialî GPs to apply for funding from their Primary Care Trusts. Dr Buckman, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs Committee, expressed the concerns of GPs when he said: ìHow can you do this without funding it? Nice try, but it will fail if there is no money.î

Hospital phone cost inquiry

Patientline and Premier, the UK's largest providers of hospital bedside telephones, are to be investigated by Ofcom following complaints about pricing. Both firms charge peak time calls at 49p per minute - more than 15 times the daytime rate for calls on BT's standard package. Ofcom will investigate whether the prices are ìexcessiveî and will assess whether the agreement between the NHS trusts and the two firms are anti-competitive. Patient groups are delighted and hope to see an end to what they describe as the `exploitation' of the elderly and sick. However, Derek Lewis, chairman of Patientline, claims that the problem is with ìthe way the system has been set upî by the NHS.

Patients harmed in hospital errors

Approximately 190,000 people are harmed every year by flaws in hospital safety, according to a government agency report. The NHS National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) revealed that almost one third of the injuries were caused by errors in prescription, inadequate training and faults with equipment. Of 85,342 reported incidents reported in England since November 2003, some 840 people are known to have died as a direct result of an error. Prof Richard Thomson, the NPSA's director of epidemiology and research, said: ìIt is inevitable in complex healthcare systems, treating often very sick patients, that sometimes things can and do go wrong.î

`Superbug' still at large

An inquiry into a lethal `superbug' in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, has been delayed because the infection is still spreading. The Healthcare Commission announced that it was not yet ready to go into the hospital until the outbreak of Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhoea, was `under control'. The number of infections across NHS hospitals soared from 1,200 in 1990 to more than 43,000 in 2004. According to the latest figures, there were 934 deaths in 2003 alone, a 38 per cent rise in just two years.

30th September 2008

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