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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Public money goes private

Private companies have been promised more than £1bn to run GP services as part of the government's drive to attract the private sector into primary care. In a closed meeting, senior Whitehall officials outlined plans to earmark 10 per cent of trusts' primary care budgets for private contracts. The plans, reported in Doctor, have been slammed as further evidence of the government's wish to privatise the health service. They also coincide with a further policy change expected in the White Paper this year, which will enable companies that invest in building health centres to provide healthcare for the local community. Traditionalist are outraged by proposals they believe are eroding the cornerstone of the NHS: primary care.

Misleading dossier

Cancer patients are losing their fight against the disease because of delays in making treatment available on the NHS, according to CancerBacup. The charity has issued a list of 12 drugs it says have been held up for nationwide use due to slow approval processes. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has criticised CancerBacup's dossier, labelling it as `misleading' because some of the drugs it refers to have not yet been licensed for use and, therefore, cannot be assessed. NICE chief executive, Andrew Dillion said that being diagnosed with cancer was ìdistressing enoughî without being led to believe that were it not for red tape treatment would be readily available.

NHS not using refugee skills

The NHS is failing to make the most of the skills of refugee doctors in the UK, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). A survey conducted by the RCP revealed that 85 per cent of more than 150 refugee doctors in the UK do not have physician posts. More than half of the respondents said they were not employed in any capacity, while many said that they were working in unrelated fields. The RCP, which is calling for government action to help with the issue, has suggested setting up a central information point to offer advice on careers and training for refugee doctors.

HFEA plans change to regulations

Failing fertility clinics will face greater scrutiny and possible suspension of their licences under plans by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to change the way it regulates fertility clinics. In particular, the HFEA will be thoroughly investigating the practices of clinics with low in vitro fertilisation birth rates. The HFEA Guide to Infertility 2005, published last week, shows that some IVF clinics produce babies in more than half of all attempts with women under 35 while others were successful in little more than one in 10 cases. While the HFEA is keen to work with clinics that have lower success rates, sanctions including issuing licences with conditions attached will be introduced.

Private insurance figures drop

The number of people taking out private health insurance has dropped for the first time in a decade, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). While a reduction in hospital waiting times and an increase in NHS spending have contributed to the decline, rising insurance premiums are also a factor. The total number of people taking out private health insurance fell 0.8 per cent to 3,684,782, yet income from premiums increased by £100,000 to £2.9bn.

Brits abroad

Brits are travelling abroad for medical treatment because they are fed up with waiting for treatment in the UK, according to a report from Norwich Union Healthcare. As part of the health insurer's Health of the Nation Index, 74 per cent of the 1,596 GPs polled said waiting times were the cause of patients going abroad. According to the respondents almost 45 per cent of their patients who were travelling abroad for major operations were doing so for heart surgery and hip replacements.

30th September 2008


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