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  1. Lansley the “worst” – senior doctors

    The last health secretary Andrew Lansley has been named the “worst” holder of the post ever by many of the senior doctors he worked with, it was revealed today.

    The damning verdict came from 50 of the most senior doctors in the UK.

    Lansley was responsible for preparing the Conservative party for government with a pro-NHS message.

    But critics say his massive reorganisation of the NHS breached promises to avoid “top down” reorganisations and opened the way to privatisation.

    He was eventually eased aside to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt.

    He was named by 15 of the doctors as the worst health secretary of their lifetime – no other politician received more than one vote.

    Some 20 named NHS founder Aneurin Bevan as the best health secretary with nine supporting Tony Blair’s first health secretary Frank Dobson.

    The analysis was conducted by The BMJ and the journal says respondents included presidents of the Royal Colleges, four national clinical directors and a former chairman of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.

    All the individual responses had previously been published as questionnaires by the journal.

    As part of the questionnaire, doctors revealed their pet likes and dislikes – together with their childhood ambitions.

    The chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Terence Stephenson, revealed he wanted to be a bin-man at the age of five.

    Two admitted ambitions to be nuns, three wanted to be pilots and several wanted to be writers or poets.

    Asked a serious question, the survey delivered a surprising answer – as 24 stated they were in favour of doctor-assisted suicide and 15 against, an answer flying in the face of the views expressed by most medical organisations.

    Writer Nigel Hawkes said: “So that’s the upper reaches of the NHS pigeonholed.

    “A predominantly PC bunch who dislike pomposity in others but don’t invariably perceive it in themselves, whose rebellions have to be accommodated within quite a narrow shared ideology and who, almost to a man and a woman, regard the private sector as the enemy.”

    BMJ 18 December 2014

  2. Cancer stats scare was shambles, not fraud

    A troubled Essex hospital group was cleared yesterday of fiddling its cancer statistics.

    Investigators found management failings but cleared senior managers and doctors in Colchester of charges of bullying.

    The questions about the cancer statistics at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust plunged the organisation into crisis, creating doubts about its management and a range of services.

    The problem had been simmering at the trust for three years and last year led to concerns that patients might be facing hidden delays in getting treatment.

    Investigators found that managers had introduced a new process for checking cancer statistics in 2011 but had failed to explain to staff why returns were being changed.

    They said this triggered complaints and concern from staff – but an internal investigation by the director of finance was “mismanaged” and did not involve any clinicians.

    The report says those most responsible for the mix-up no longer work for the Trust and could not be disciplined by it.

    Adam Cayley, regional director of the regulator Monitor, said the report should bring “a difficult chapter” to an end.

    He said: “It is reassuring to find that there is no evidence of staff being bullied into changing cancer data, but it is even clearer that there were serious managerial failures at the trust.”

    The investigation was conducted by former deputy chief medical officer Professor Pat Troop and a former chief executive of NHS Suffolk Carole Taylor-Brown.

    The trust’s current chief executive Dr Lucy Moore said the trust was working to improve its cancer services.

    She said: “It is an important step towards rebuilding public trust and confidence in the cancer services provided here in Colchester.

    “It gives reassurance to our patients, their relatives and our local community that the authors found no evidence of manipulation of cancer data or of a systemic culture of bullying within the Trust.”

  3. Drivers face smoking restrictions

    Car users are to be banned from smoking when children are present in England, it was announced yesterday.

    There are also plans to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to teenagers under the age of 18, the government said.

    The news means that adults will only be able to smoke in cars when there are no children from next October. Drivers would be made responsible for ensuring their passengers were not smoking.

    Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “Second-hand smoke is a real threat to children’s health and we want them to grow up free from the risks of smoking. The only effective way to protect children is to prevent them breathing second-hand smoke and our plans to stop smoking in cars carrying children will help us to do this.

    She added: “Whilst we recognise the role that e-cigarettes can play in helping adult smokers quit, we want to protect children from the harmful effects of nicotine addiction and most e-cigarettes contain nicotine.

    “There’s a risk that e-cigarettes could be appealing to children as use and awareness of these products increases.”

    The news was welcomed by the British Medical Association.

    Chair of its board of science Professor Sheila Hollins said: “Children are still developing physically and biologically and compared to adults they breathe more rapidly, absorb more pollutants and have less developed immune systems. As a result, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of second hand smoke and are less likely to be able to choose to move away from it.

    “Adults who smoke in the presence of children are not acting in the children’s best interest; therefore it is encouraging that the government has brought forward these regulations in order to protect them.”

  4. Juniors urged to become GPs

    A senior GP has made a passionate plea to trainees to consider choosing general practice as their specialism.

    The future of general practice looks “bright”, according to Royal College of GPs chair Dr Maureen Baker.

    Dr Baker wrote to thousands of junior doctors yesterday calling on them to opt for primary care.

    The profession has been beset by shortages in recent years and news of the pressures doctors have been under may have deterred other applicants.

    The government had set a target that 50% of doctors should become trainees – but has fallen well short of this in recruitment to general practice in recent years.

    The college says England needs another 10,000 GPs by 2020 to cope with growing demands.

    Dr Baker tells trainees she now believes that more resources are coming into general practice, citing a promise of some £1.2 billion from Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

    She writes: “There is now a real push to put more resources into general practice and build up the GP workforce. As a result, the future of general practice is looking bright.

    “Please do consider joining me in this fantastic profession.”


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