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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

Hewitt to backtrack on care provision reform

Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is expected to reverse plans requiring primary care trusts (PCTs) to stop direct provision of a wide range of local NHS functions. As part of an attempt to halve their number, Hewitt wants PCTs to cease providing services such as school and district nursing. However, backbench MPs in New Labour's reduced majority have bent to increased pressure from 250,000 NHS staff. Hewitt hoped to soften the blow by putting off the transfer of employers to 2008, but she may now be forced to listen to alternatives. A statement is expected next week.

NHS and TUC talk pensions

Trade union representatives and NHS officials will restart discussions this week over the fate of pensions for the service's 1.3m employees. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the government last week agreed a framework deal for public sector pensions, forcing new employees to work until 65 for entitlement of a full pension. However, current workers' rights will remain unchanged. Talking points will include how pensions should be calculated and the degree of flexibility that will be allowed for early retirement. In 2003, over half the budget (about £23bn) was spent on pensions.

Patient attitudes on NHS differ

A Healthcare Commission study has revealed that attitudes towards the NHS are strongly shaped by demographics and personal well-being. Older people and those from the northeast of England were most positive about NHS services, whereas young Londoners and those from ethnic minorities were more negative. The most significant factor though was people's own well-being. Those most sickly were more likely to have complex and sometimes negative experiences of the NHS. The study covers 568 NHS organisations and more than 312,000 patients across England.

Upfront fees threaten diversity of medical training

The British Medical Association and the Council of Heads of Medical Schools have expressed fears that government plans to force graduate students in England to pay top-up fees will threaten the drive for diversity in the medical profession. Next year's top-up fee system will force students hoping to do a second degree to pay top-up fees up front, whereas those on a first degree can defer payments. It is feared that this may prevent the many people who go into medicine at a later stage in their career from attempting to do so, thereby reducing the social diversity of new doctors.

30th September 2008

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