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Health and care sector latest developments

Latest developments affecting the health and care sector.

23 April 2024

Doctors leaving the NHS could cost £5 billion a year, BMA report finds

A report published by the British Medical Association (BMA) today has found that the NHS could soon face a £5 billion annual bill to replace thousands of doctors leaving before retirement age unless urgent action is taken to improve retention.

Based on the 15,000 to 23,000 doctors estimated to have left the NHS in England between September 2022 and September 2023, the BMA estimates that the cost of replacing them and their expertise would be between £1.6 billion and £2.4 billion. They say that these estimates do not take into account rising numbers of doctors who have indicated they are taking steps to leave the profession - meaning this figure could rise even further.

BMA representative body chair and workforce lead Dr Latifa Patel said: “There are simple solutions, starting with reversing real-terms pay cuts and making good on pledges to overhaul the way doctors’ pay is set. We need to end the ongoing pay disputes with doctors across the UK and prevent further disputes in the future. Only by valuing doctors appropriately in the UK can we hope to prevent them from leaving for more competitive roles abroad or outside the NHS."

NHS Providers has called on the government to take more action to recruit and retain staff, backed by appropriate training and support.

Labour accuses the government of “deprioritising women’s health”

Labour analysis of House of Commons library data has found that almost 600,000 women in England are waiting for gynaecological treatment, an increase of a third over two years. The data also found: 

  • There is no region in England that meets the government’s target for cervical cancer screening of 80 per cent coverage, with 68.7 per cent of women having been screened in the past five and a half years.
  • Twenty-six per cent of women with suspected breast cancer waited more than a fortnight to see a specialist in the year to September 2023.
  • 66.4 per cent of eligible women have been screened for breast cancer in the last three years, with only two English regions meeting the 70 per cent coverage target.

Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Anneliese Dodds accused the government of “deprioritising women’s health.”

MPs call for carer’s allowance review

MPs are calling for a full-scale review of carer’s allowance after official figures emerged last Friday showing that 34,000 unpaid carers inadvertently incurred fines last year.

MPs are due to question the minister for disabled people Mims Davies on the government’s failure to tackle carer’s allowance overpayments when the Commons Work and Pensions Committee meets tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, one of Rishi Sunak’s dementia advisers has resigned over the government’s approach to unpaid carers.

Johnny Timpson, who advised No 10 on its dementia strategy described the prosecutions of vulnerable people as “beyond the pale.”

The news comes after The Guardian investigation revealed that tens of thousands of unpaid carers were being fined considerable sums and in some cases prosecuted for minor infringements of earnings rules.

The former cabinet office adviser said he had been “quite disenchanted” with the government’s approach towards people with disabilities for some time, “but this latest thing – the approach the DWP are taking to reclaim benefits from carers and people with disabilities, particularly with neurological disabilities – is beyond the pale for me really.”

Patients “less likely to die” if treated by a female doctor 

study of 800,000 hospital patients by UCLA has found that women were less likely to be readmitted to hospital in the 30 days after discharge if they had a female physician. The research also found a “ clinically significant” difference in mortality rates when patients are treated by women doctors.

The mortality rate for female patients was 8.15 per cent when treated by women physicians in comparison to 8.38 per cent when the doctor was male. Meanwhile, the mortality rate for male patients treated by female doctors was 10.15 per cent, compared to the 10.23 per cent rate for male physicians.

Cigarette prices motivating more smokers to quit

A new study by University College London has found that the rising cost of cigarettes is motivating one in four adults to quit smoking. However, the survey of nearly 6,000 people still found that health concerns were the top reason for quitting.

NHS England publish mental health inpatient standards

NHS England has published culture of care standards for mental health inpatient services. Recognising that 'hospital is a form of restriction' the guidance seeks 'to provide the least restrictive experience possible within inpatient settings.'

The report established twelve commitments to support this vision: 

  • Lived experience: We value lived experience, including in paid roles, at all levels – design, delivery, governance and oversight.
  • Safety: People on our wards feel safe and cared for.
  • Relationships: High-quality, rights-based care starts with trusting relationships and the understanding that connecting with people is how we help everyone feel safe.
  • Staff support: We support all staff so that they can be present alongside people in their distress.
  • Equality: We are inclusive and value difference; we take action to promote equity in access, treatment and outcomes.
  • Avoiding harm: We actively seek to avoid harm and traumatisation, and acknowledge harm when it occurs.
  • Needs led: We respect people’s own understanding of their distress.
  • Choice: Nothing about me without me – we support the fundamental right for patients and (as appropriate) their support network to be engaged in all aspects of their care.
  • Environment: Our inpatient spaces reflect the value we place on our people.
  • Things to do on the ward: We have a wide range of patient requested activities every day.
  • Therapeutic support: We offer people a range of therapy and support that gives them hope things can get better.
  • Transparency: We have open and honest conversations with patients and each other, and name the difficult things.

‘Wholly unrealistic’ NHSE financial recovery policy risks ‘significant harm’ warns ICS

Leaders of an integrated care system (ICS) in the Midlands have warned they cannot make the scale of staffing cuts required to balance the books without putting patients at risk.

Indicative analysis produced by Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board (ICB) also found its provider trusts would have to cut 10 per cent of their workforce to break even.

This would equate to 2,300 posts across University Hospitals North Midlands, Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust and North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare, while the ICB would have to cancel a 'very high proportion' of third-sector contracts.

The document says this 'would bring our teams below safe staffing levels' and have a 'profound effect on our ability to deliver safe services'.

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent ICS – which includes the three trusts and the ICB – is looking at a £130 million deficit for the current year.