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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories

Private clinics bring no benefit to NHS, say MPs
A network of independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) established in England to carry out minor surgery have not brought major benefit to the NHS, according to MPs. A Commons health committee report said that while waiting lists have fallen, this is more likely to be due to extra money in the NHS rather than the impact of ISTCs. It added that the centres were ìpoorly integratedî with the NHS and were not training doctors. Committee chairman and Labour MP, Kevin Barron, said: ìIt is difficult to say how the ISTCs have affected either patients or the NHS due to the lack of any systematic assessment.î Paul Miller, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee said he was ìdelightedî that the committee had agreed that NHS hospitals are more likely to give better integrated care and to be cheaper than ISTCs.

Doctors 'lack sufficient prescribing skills'
Doctors are endangering patients because they lack the sufficient pharmacological knowledge to prescribe drugs, according to a group of leading medics. The doctors said that a change in guidance to medical schools in 1993 by the General Medical Council had placed less emphasis on pharmacology and prescribing skills, and that the problem was being compounded by the use of more complex medicines in the NHS. ìA great deal of mis-prescribing is because of a lack of knowledge,' said Professor Mike Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. ìAbout 80 per cent of adverse drug reactions are avoidable.î In a statement, the GMC said it rejected the allegations: ìWe refute the suggestion that medical undergraduates are failing to learn to prescribe properly. It is clearly stated in our guidance that medical students must be taught to prescribe safely and effectively, and we regularly check medical schools to ensure they are following our guidance.î

Boots plan to house NHS clinics
High street chemist, Boots, is in talks with local health bosses over plans to set up NHS diagnostic clinics and weekend GP surgeries in its stores. Some Boots stores in London already provide NHS Chlamydia-testing services and the latest services will be run under a similar agreement, with the chemist renting the space to the local primary care trust. However, doctors have criticised the move. ìIf Boots merely intends to rent out spare space in their stores to NHS doctors, we have far fewer concerns than if the company intends to directly employ GPs and other doctors and run the surgeries itself for the NHS,î said Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee. ìHowever, we have concerns this is symptomatic of the government's agenda to increase the amount of private sector involvement in the NHS.î

30th September 2008

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