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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

NHS offers post-bomb stress test

The NHS is offering an assessment programme to thousands of people affected by the July 7 London bombings to test for post-traumatic stress disorder. Witnesses to the bombings, the injured and their relatives, the bereaved, plus transport and emergency workers will be invited for a test if they are still suffering with trauma symptoms. The £1m initiative is the first of its kind in England and could signal similar future measures following attacks or disasters. Clinicians have said that around 1,000 people are still experiencing severe stress, while psychologists estimate that around 4,000 people have been directly affected by the incidents.

More spending on cancer services

Spending on cancer services has reached record levels, according to the government. A tracking service, headed up by cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards shows that £639m has been spent since 2000/01 - £69m more than promised in the 2000 Cancer Plan. The system was put in place following concerns that much of the money destined for cancer services was being directed elsewhere. Prof Richards' tracking exercise revealed that £192m was spent on cancer drugs and £230m was spent on other services, such as specialist staff. Around £133m was invested in new equipment, while £103m was spent on staff training, modernisation and palliative care. According to Prof Richards, the latest figures show that cancer mortality has dropped by more than 12 per cent in the last six years.

Despite the increase in spending and a fall in mortality rates however, there are still concerns about the use of money in cancer care. The head of CancerBacup pointed out that the high rate of spending pertained to the period 2003-04, and said there were question marks surrounding the level of spending on cancer services undertaken since then.

Staff assault convictions rise

The number of convictions for violent attacks against NHS staff has risen 15-fold in the last two years, according to figures from the NHS Security Management Service. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt welcomed the rise, which saw 759 successful prosecutions in England in 2004/05 compared with just 51 in 2002/03. The NHS Security Management Service is now set to sign an agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers committing both parties to working more closely in prosecuting offenders.

Doctors concerned about NHS finances

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that the financial crisis facing the NHS is threatening patient care. With a quarter of NHS Trusts reporting a deficit in 2004, the BMA has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt requesting a meeting. Although the government has said that action will be taken to balance the books, Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA's Consultants Committee has warned of job losses and department closures. Two NHS Trusts, one in Portsmouth and one in south London, have already restricted recruitment of nurses and administration staff, while several accident and emergency departments have closed across the country in a bid to make savings. Many Trusts are blaming the continuing financial problems on the new GP and consultant contracts and the spiralling cost of drugs.

NHS apprentice scheme

Three NHS Trusts in Lincolnshire have launched a scheme to give teenagers aged between 16 and 18 a taste of what it would be like to work in the NHS. Under the initiative, 14 teen apprentices will spend two days a week over the next two years taking qualifications, while the remaining three days will be spent working in hospitals and surgeries gaining hands on experience. If the apprentices complete the course successfully they will gain recognised academic qualifications and will be in a strong position to apply for jobs, or seek further training, in the NHS.

30th September 2008

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