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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories

Privateers to buy and provide NHS care
The UK Department of Health's move to allow the private sector to both buy and provide NHS care has elicited scrutiny from a number of quarters. While a shift towards a mixed NHS economy has been made clear is the government's vision for the future service, the recent decision to advertise for private purchasers of services has left opponents to ìprivatisationî bristling. Under the latest arrangements, a `private' manager could be responsible for, and able to choose which services, including GP work, provide the best available choice for patients - though patients should not perceive any changes to their experience of the health service, which, in large part, will continue to be free at the point of use.

Better drug use could eliminate NHS overspend, says study
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the NHS could wipe out its overspending-related debts through better use of drugs, such as switching patients from branded to generic statins which alone could save around £2bn over five years. The BMJ article, which reportedly claimed that the only important difference between branded and generic statins -£the single largest item on the NHS drugs bill, at £738m a year - `is cost', and that there were no clinical benefits in using the pricier drugs. However, ministers noted that reducing avoidable emergency hospital admissions, increasing day surgery rates and avoiding unnecessary admissions ahead of treatment could also knock more than £530m off the debt sheet.

RCN's Malone moves to America
Secretary General of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and architect of the nurse-led protest that humiliated Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt in recent months, Beverly Malone will step down and return to the US, to lead the National League for Nursing (NLN), based in New York. Malone, who was appointed under a cloud in 2001, in the face of opponents who called for a UK born and bred nurse to lead the RCN, said that nursing in the UK had ìgrown in confidence as a professionî. She will stand down with effect from January 2007.

30th September 2008

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