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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

Young doctors left jobless

There is a 3,000-strong deluge of newly qualified doctors who are unable to find work in the UK, according to the British Medical Association (BMA), whose survey revealed that in August this year nearly one in 10 new doctors were left jobless. More than one third (35 per cent) of those who had failed to secure a post in the UK plan to seek work outside the NHS, and in other countries, including New Zealand and Australia. The Department of Health has challenged the BMA's survey, claiming that the level of unemployment for pre-registration house officers is not as high as the results may suggest. The BMA blamed the lack of positions available for newly qualified doctors on rigorous competition from a growing number of overseas students, as well as an increase in the number of British medical students in training.

Alzheimer's drug delay

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has announced that it will not make a conclusive decision until early next year about whether expensive but effective cholinesterase inhibitor treatments for Alzheimer's disease should be made available free of charge through the NHS. Having already been made to wait for months for a decision, frustrated patient groups feel that the question of whether these drugs are provided through the NHS is redundant. ìEvidence from over 32 trials shows that these [drugs] work, and that patients should get them,î said Clive Ballard, Azlheimer's Society's research director. However, NICE is concerned about the £60m-a-year bill the medicines would bring.

NHS debts pile up

Despite the government having ploughed record levels of cash into the NHS in recent years, the health system has overspent and slipped £250m into the red, for the first time since before 2000, according to official figures reported in the Financial Times. The Department of Health had anticipated an overspend of approximately £140m. Trusts have been warned by NHS CEO, Sir Nigel Crisp, to address their financial shortcomings, as failure to balance the books and ìpoor financial managementÖ can erode public confidenceî. Overall, one quarter of all NHS Trusts are understood to have overspent, moving the government to offer indebted hospitals in the worst-performing Trusts financial expertise and special advice, in a bid to counter the problem.

Undiagnosed diabetes

As many as one in four people in England may be diabetic but have not been diagnosed, according to the results of a clinical audit conducted on behalf of the Healthcare Commission. In Europe's largest national audit of diabetes care, information was collated on more than one quarter of a million people with early findings revealing that almost half of all women with diabetes may be undiagnosed. ìThe longer people are left undiagnosed, or are not managing their diabetes, the greater the risk of long terms complications such as heart and kidney disease, blindness and amputations,î said Douglas Smallwood, CEO of Diabetes UK. Anna Walker, CEO of the Healthcare Commission, said the audit highlights the need to determine whether there is a systematic ìunder-identificationî of certain diabetic groups.

Compulsory mental health treatment

The controversial draft Mental Health Bill, which proposes the forcible administration of treatment to some patients, may reach much further than the government's original estimations, according the King's Fund. A study indicates that within 15 years the number of patients who are bound by law to have treatment administered compulsorily may be as many as 13,000, whereas the government had envisaged that only 1,450 patients would be affected by the controversial measure. The King's Fund also said that there would be a sustained increase in the use of community-based treatment orders over the next 10 years. However, the government has branded the study as ìflawedÖ [due to a] lack of quality data and weakness in the analysisî.

30th September 2008


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