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  1. Embattled Hunt seeks surgical aid

    A senior surgeon is to become a personal clinical adviser to embattled health secretary Jeremy Hunt, it has been revealed.

    Sir Norman Williams, a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, will be "senior clinical adviser" to Mr Hunt, according to the Health Service Journal.

    Part of his role will be to advise the health secretary of the likely response from clinicians to government policy moves.

    He is also expected to assist with the government's drive to extend out of hours services.

    The health secretary has had a difficult week at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester after appearing to suggest the British should adopt Chinese working practices, claiming China was a good example of "hard work."

    He is also facing the growing threat of a junior doctors strike and is under pressure from prominent doctors within his own party to U-turn on the proposed new contract.

    His speech to the conference yesterday angered GP leaders even more after he sought to focus on patient safety issues.

    Mr Hunt claimed there are "around 200 deaths in our hospitals that could have been avoided every week, claiming it was like "a plane crash every week because of mistakes that shouldn't have been made."

    Figures released two weeks ago by NHS England suggested a rate of about 70 deaths a week linked to patient safety incidents in the last six months of reporting.

    He went on to tell the conference: "We are not asking junior doctors to work longer hours - that wouldn't be safe. Nor is it our intention to cut doctors’ pay - and it is utterly irresponsible to try and scare people into believing we are.

    "But we do want to support the many doctors who do work weekends with properly staffed shifts, safe working hours and seven-day diagnostic services so that patients are not put at risk."

    The Royal College of GPs said Mr Hunt continued to "live in cloud cuckoo land."

    Chair Dr Maureen Baker said: "All I am hearing is that hard-working family doctors, who are delivering 370 million patient consultations a year – 60 million more than five years ago – will need to work even harder to meet growing demand, with decreasing resources

    “Mr Hunt should concentrate on recruiting new GPs, retaining existing GPs, making it easier for trained GPs to return to practise in the UK, and making general practice a profession that trainee doctors want to join."

    * Sir Norman was president of the Royal College of Surgeons from 2011 to 2014 and was knighted in 2015. [Earlier report on this on news]

  2. Perception problem deters potential GPs - educator

    General practice is a victim of "fundamental flaws in perception," and this is deterring students from seeking to be GPs, a senior NHS official has said.

    Professor Ian Cumming, the chief executive of Health Education England, said complaints about the pressures faced by GPs were being made "without necessarily realising the impact that is going to have on people considering their career choices."

    General practice also suffers from the long-standing perception that it is what doctors do if they cannot get a specialist training place in a hospital, he said.

    Speaking to the Health Service Journal, he claimed there was also a perception of shortages caused by growing numbers of doctors choosing to work part-time.

    There is also a problem that London is more successful than other regions in filling training places, he said.

    He said: “There is undoubtedly a gap between supply and demand for GPs at the moment but the absolute number of people entering GP training hasn’t changed over the last five or six years, it’s remained constant at an average of 2,600."

    He added: "I also don’t think we should be afraid of saying the NHS has got much better at keeping people alive and treating long term conditions. The huge burden of that falls on GPs, so what a GP does now is incomparable with what they did 10 or 15 years ago.”

    Professor Cumming went on: “There is a perception in some medical schools that general practice is what you do if you don’t get into specialist training for a hospital based specialty. That is a fundamental flaw and we have to stamp that out.

    “If you are a junior doctor considering the options for your future and all you ever read and hear about is how bad things are, is that going to impact the decisions you make? I think it is.”

  3. Wollaston weighs in for juniors

    A second senior Conservative doctor has urged the government to rethink its plans to impose a new contract on junior doctors.

    The government would face "unintended consequences" from pushing through a new contract, former health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston told a meeting at her party's conference in Manchester.

    She told the fringe event organised by the BMA that the NHS could "end up losing far more of our workforce."

    She said it would be "bad for everyone" if the dispute ended with industrial action.

    Her comments came after former health minister Dr Dan Poulter MP said the proposed contract was nothing like the one intended when talks began a year ago and when he was in office.

    Senior royal college officials revealed they met with health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week to set out concerns raised by the trainee groups within the medical royal colleges.

    The meeting involved academy chair Professor Sue Bailey together with Professor Jane Dacre, Dr David Richmond and GP Professor Mike Pringle.

    The academy representatives said their view was the dispute would only be settled through "a return to negotiation and this must be the priority for the BMA and NHS Employers.”

    An academy statement said: "There is a strong feeling from our trainees that they are not valued in the NHS. Reasons for this are complex and employers, medical education arrangements and, indeed, at times the support and attitude of senior doctors have all contributed to this problem.

    "The Academy was clear that whatever the outcome of the contract discussions this underlying issue has to be addressed and Colleges are keen to play their part."

  4. NHS aligns with business on immigration row

    NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens stepped into a dispute about immigration yesterday - calling for a rethink on restrictions on NHS recruiting.

    He made his comments to the conference of the Institute of Directors, which yesterday found itself in conflict with home secretary Theresa May on the issue.

    Speaking to the Conservative party conference, Ms May promised a further tightening of restrictions on immigration.

    But business leaders have been angered by the growing difficulty they face in recruiting skilled workers from overseas.

    Mr Stevens seemed to align with them in highlighting the risk of losing the "most experienced and committed nurses."

    He told the conference: "My responsibility is to point out that at time when the need for nurses is growing, when publicly funded UK nurse training places will take several years to expand, and when agency staff costs are driving hospital overspends right now, we need to better 'join up the dots' on immigration policy and the NHS.

    "However most nurses I speak to struggle to understand why our immigration rules define ballet dancers as a shortage occupation - but not nursing. And most hospitals tell me that the idea that we would seriously consider deporting some of our most experienced and committed nurses solely because they’re not earning £35,000 clearly needs a rethink."

    His comments were welcomed by the NHS Employers organisation.

    Chief executive Danny Mortimer said: "NHS Employers has written to the Home Secretary Theresa May to highlight that many NHS Trusts are facing a shortage of nurses going into winter as the Home Office refuses to grant visas to nurses from outside the EU.

    "We have also written to the Home Office Migration Advisory Committee calling on nurses to be added to the shortage occupation list."


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