Category Archives: Stories in the Media

High Court to decide on meaning of “exceptional”, and also whether trials of unproven treatments should be allowed in such cases..

In a patient centred health service one might expect the definition of “exceptional” when referring to rationing decisions, to have input from the patient and their medical representative. But a case record of one or two does not prove a treatment is effective. NHSreality sees no reason why the product cannot be tried, but with provision that there is an assessment interval period, and that this is done by an independent third party. Lack of progress would mean treatment stopped. Real improvement would mean it continued. There cannot be many children with this form of double trouble.. If the treatment were cheap there would have been little argument, but it is expensive at £365,000 per year…. Now even cheap placebos such as Homeopathy are being threatened. Prince Charles will be disappointed. Perhaps he can save the health services from implosion.

Phenylketonuria is the disease which is found by the heel prick in babies (Guthrie Test). it is reliable and allows treatment of a rare condition, preventing brain damage. It is an inherited inability to metabolize phenylalanine which, if untreated, causes brain and nerve damage.

Autism is a completely different condition, and to have both has to be exceptional by any normal use of the English Language. Unfortunately, in the UK health systems, English Language is distorted in a manner which has demotivated and disengaged two of the most altruistic and motivated professions: Medicine and Nursing.

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Clive Coleman reports for BBC News 18th July 2017: Family’s fight for son’s medicine reaches High Court. 

The family of a seven-year-old boy with a condition that could cause severe brain damage are challenging an NHS decision to deny him a life-changing drug, at the High Court.

David, not his real name, is on a severely restricted diet, as his rare condition means that too much protein could cause permanent brain injury.

He also has autism – so controlling his diet is “a nightmare” for his parents.

The case could have huge implications for NHS drug provision, say lawyers…..David’s NHS consultant wants him to have a drug called Kuvan, which would help him metabolise protein.
But the drug costs £100 a day, and the NHS will pay for it only in exceptional cases.
An individual funding request for David was refused by NHS England on the grounds that his case was not sufficiently exceptional, and the family began legal proceedings to challenge that decision.

…But late last year, the NHS changed tack, agreeing that David’s case was exceptional, instead refusing funding on the grounds that the drug’s clinical and cost effectiveness were not established.
David’s consultant believes Kuvan would reduce the danger David faces and make his life much easier.
“It’s a basic right to be able to eat, and he’s being denied that right at this moment,” his mother said.
“With Kuvan, he could access more food and wouldn’t have to have as many supplements. It’s his quality of life really and our lives as a family as well.”
The family find the NHS’s continued refusal to fund the treatment “heartbreaking”.
“We just feel that they are totally ignoring the fact that there is a little boy at the centre of this,” said his father….

…”Funding is being squeezed, demand for care is going up, and that means that the NHS is having to take some really difficult decisions about what will and won’t be funded,” said Ms Robertson.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said that in order to make this sort of complex decision, “we must consistently apply our policies and consider the evidence presented to decide if the requested treatment will be clinically beneficial and cost effective”.
The spokeswoman said “it would not be appropriate for NHS England to discuss this case any further at this stage”.

‘A misuse of scarce funds’: NHS to end prescription of homeopathic The Guardian

Tackle health charities – Charities Commission fails to confront groups promoting alternative remedies of dubious benefit..

‘No reliable evidence’ that homeopathy is effective

Imploding NHS

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Families asked to feed dementia patients…. How do we design a system that is fair to both the well spread, and the very locally based families?

The quality of care that demented and dementing patients are receiving is inadequate. There is not enough funding, in any system, and especially one without rationing, to provide the quality of care needed. ( National Dementia Audit: Important improvements in dementia care, but more support needed report finds) If you have a stroke, or have cancer, the treatment deficit is similar. These people won’t have votes for much longer, but they have paid into the safety net. So what is to be done: an open and frank discussion about the need to ration, and then an informed discussion of the options and the implications of those options…. It may be reasonable that, where possible, families should feed their relatives in todays financially constrained world. But this is rarely possible in our mobile society. Many UK children think internationally rather than nationally ( hence the Brexit differences between generations), and are working intensive days. Should the next generation be contributing financially if they cannot contribute with care/feeding? How do we design a system that is fair to both the well spread, and the very locally based families? And do this before we are completely swamped?

An educational imperative on Advanced directives might help reduce the numbers….

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Chris Smyth reports 22nd July in the Times: Families asked to feed dementia patients

Families must be drafted on to wards to feed relatives with dementia who are routinely going hungry in hospital, a comprehensive audit of NHS care concludes. One in four staff caring for dementia patients says they cannot feed them properly, with some resorting to sharing their own food, the study by leading doctors found.
Overstretched hospitals can struggle to provide meals when people need them and do not have the staff to ensure vulnerable patients actually eat what is put in front them, the figures suggest.
Oliver Corrado, consultant geriatrician and author of the report, argued that if families helped out more, it would also be good for those without relatives…….

….“we can’t subcontract out feeding people”, saying it would be “awful” if families felt they had no choice but to come in at mealtimes.
Ms Carter said the system worked well in hospitals where staff discussed with relatives what role they wanted to play and both showed flexibility.
Eileen Burns, of the British Geriatrics Society, said: “On the surface it might be perceived as simply a cost-saving exercise but in reality it is often highly beneficial for older patients with dementia. Relatives and carers can help create a supportive, familiar environment.”

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Understanding NHS financial pressures and how they are affecting patient care (The Kings Fund report) by Ruth Robertson, Lillie Wenzel, James Thompson, Anna Charles 14th March 2017

Harvard Medical School and Medical Publications: Practical advice for helping people with dementia with their daily routines – 7 ways to make life easier and more rewarding for demented people

( National Dementia Audit: Important improvements in dementia care, but more support needed

report finds) Simple Measures: National Dementia Audit: Important improvements in dementia

care, but more support needed report finds 

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Advanced directives needed. Choice in death and dying. Lord Darzi warns of “draconian rationing”. GPs need to be involved at the interface of oncology and palliative care.

An advanced directive or living will – It’s important to specify, especially lying flat. Good news if you take action.


2,000 foreign GPs needed to tackle growing shortage. How about an apology to 20 years of rejected applicants to medical school?

When the Times reports (Kat Lay) that there is such a vast shortage of GPs that we are going to repeat the recruitment drive of the 1950s, then you know there has been a dereliction of manpower planning. The duty of government is to protect it’s citizens. It has failed. Short termism, and not listening to the profession has led to this demise. Rationing of medical school places, avoiding more graduate entry, and preferential selection of female candidates at age 18 when they perform better than men, are to blame. Somebody needs to recognise that it takes 10 years to train a GP, and longer if they have children. Part-time GPs are unable to deliver as much continuity of care. The shape of the job is partly to blame as well. It’s too late. It’s going to get worse, especially for those living in deprived areas. And the overseas doctors recruited will block places for our own in 10 years time! Perhaps they could all be over 60 and on short term visas? And how about an apology to those aspiring med students who were rejected?

Kat Lay in the Times, 8 th July reports: 2,000 foreign GPs needed to tackle growing shortage

The NHS is set to recruit 2,000 foreign GPs — quadruple the previous target — in a drive to combat a shortage of family doctors.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said it would target other EU countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Last year health service bosses set a target of recruiting 500 overseas GPs at an expected cost of £30 million. The new target comes after figures showed that the number of GPs was in decline, despite a government pledge of 5,000 more by 2020.

In an interview with the Health Service Journal, Mr Stevens said: “Although there are some good signs of progress on increases in the GP training scheme, nevertheless there are real pressures around retirements.

“And so the conclusion we’ve come to is that in order to increase the likelihood of being able to have 5,000 more doctors in general practice, we are going to need a significantly expanded industrial-scale international recruitment programme. We intend to launch that in the autumn.”

He added: “Rather than the current 500 or so GPs that are being targeted for international recruitment . . . it probably needs to be four times more than that, from international sources — [from the] rest of the EU and possibly New Zealand and Australia.”
The total number of full time-equivalent GPs dropped from 34,914 in March 2016 to 34,372 in March this year, according to figures from NHS Digital.
Doctors’ representatives raised concerns about the long-term viability of overseas recruitment, given uncertainty over the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit.
The British Medical Association called the measure “a sticking plaster”.
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chairman of the BMA GP committee, said: “Overseas doctors have for decades provided a valuable contribution to the NHS, especially in general practice where they have a strong track record of providing first-class patient care.
“However, this announcement is yet another clear admission of failure from the government, which is effectively conceding it cannot meet its own target of recruiting 5,000 extra GPs without an emergency draft of doctors from abroad.”
He called for a long-term solution to address workload pressures on GPs, which he said were putting students off choosing general practice as a career.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Workload in general practice is escalating — it has risen 16 per cent over the last seven years — yet investment in our service has declined and we are desperately short of GPs and nurses.
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to address this, including recruiting more GPs, retaining existing ones, and making it easier for trained GPs to return to practice after a career break.”
She welcomed the extension of overseas recruitment, and called for “the position of EU GPs already working in UK general practice to be safeguarded beyond doubt as part of Brexit negotiations”.


Also, there is the unintended consequence of limiting pension amounts which many full-time (mostly male) doctors are endanger of breaching.  This is resulting in them (and many higher paid public service workers, e.g. head teachers) taking early retirement.

Additionally, no real account has been taken of the large number of female GPs who (like my daughter) chose to jobshare so they can accommodate family life.  It will not be long before GPs (like primary school teaching), will be an overwhelmingly female profession.  There is a lot to be celebrated in rise in the number of female doctors over the last 25 – 30 years, but the nation needs to account for the different life work patterns when planning the workforce.

The Training of doctors…. unfortunately it is too late to recover in even the 5 years promised by government… Decommissioning of operations

Gender bias. The one sex change on the NHS that nobody has been talking about

Medical Schools: your chances – applications-to-acceptance ratio was 11.2.

Hands up – who want’s to be a GP today? Recruitment is at an all time low despite rejecting 9 out of 11 applicants for the last few decades..

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David Millett for GPonline 17th July: Emergency draft of 2,000 overseas GPs is ‘clear admission of failure’, says GPC

Criticism of the NHS should not be seen as an attack on healthcare itself

Mark Little wood in The Times 17th July opines in the business section: Criticism of the NHS should not be seen as an attack on healthcare itself

The NHS occupies the most curious and inconsistent of places in our national psyche. On the one hand, we seem permanently concerned that it is on the brink of collapse, that it is chronically underfunded and that staff morale is on the floor. On the other, our unusual approach to healthcare provision is frequently heralded as Britain’s greatest postwar achievement and even as the very encapsulation of the underlying values of the United Kingdom.
Those who see it as being worthy of passionate flag waving will be heartened by the most recent analysis of different healthcare systems in 11 of the world’s richest countries. According to the Commonwealth Fund, a US think tank, we come right at the top of the list, with Norway, Switzerland and Canada trailing in our wake.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, could not contain his glee. This report meant that “the NHS has again showed why it is the single thing that makes us most proud to be British,” he fawned. In fairness to Mr Hunt, he was not castigated for absurd hyperbole. On the contrary, his view probably represents mainstream opinion throughout the land……

….Underpinning such widespread support for the NHS is the understandable desire to ensure every single person is guaranteed to receive a good standard of healthcare, irrespective of their means. But virtually every developed country achieves this without seeing the need for the state to actually run and control the healthcare system from top to bottom. A standard model would be an insurance-based system where those of limited means have their premiums subsidised, or even paid for entirely, by the government. When illness strikes, patients elsewhere can more readily choose between an array of different providers, with this competitive dynamism encouraging innovation and efficiency. In Singapore, for example, a system of personal savings accounts doesn’t produce obviously better outcomes than we get here, but it manages to do so at about half the cost.

Too often, any criticism of the NHS is seen as an attack on universal health provision or even on healthcare itself. The British debate about improving healthcare is stymied by an inability to detach a key moral principle (that everyone should be able to be treated irrespective of their means) from a more prosaic and technical discussion about how best to achieve this. Our failure to consider those two issues separately is useful for those who benefit from using the NHS as a political football, but is not good news for those of us whose primary interest is staying alive.

Mark Littlewood is director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Twitter: @MarkJLittlewood

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Scottish GPs accuse government of ‘long-standing underfunding’

The same is true of the other regions. Deliberate rationing by undercapacity…

BBC Scotland reports 14th July : GPs accuse government of ‘long-standing underfunding’

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The Royal College of GPs has accused the Scottish government of “long-standing underfunding” of GP practices.

It has also criticised the “confusion” surrounding £500m of future spending commitments.

The comments come in a written submission to Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee.

The Scottish government said it had already committed to investing “a further £500m in primary care by the end of this parliament”.

The Royal College of GPs (RSCP) called on the Scottish government to say exactly how much it would spend on general practice in the next four years.

It follows a statement by Health Secretary Shona Robison after the government announced that its share of health spending would be increased to 11% of the overall health budget by 2021.

Ms Robison said: “This forms the first stage of the Scottish government’s commitment to provide an extra £250m in direct support of general practice per year by 2021 – increasing the overall investment in primary care by £500m.”

The RCGP said Scotland “does not yet have understanding of what ‘in direct support’ may mean and the point has been raised with Scottish government that the term is too broad and lacks sufficient clarity”.

It added: “General practice is in severe need of a clear, positive future, illustrated by adequate governmental investment, if it is to attract sufficient numbers of medical graduates to general practice specialty training.

“If the long-standing underfunding and confusion that we are currently experiencing is to continue, we will keep witnessing a considerable number of general practices closing and transferring the running of their practices to Health Boards due to insufficient resource through which to remain solvent.

“Patients will continue to be found queuing outside practices for the uncertain opportunity merely to register with a GP. It is a major deficit to bear such long-standing underfunding and confusion.”

Increased staffing

Responding to the RCGP’s submission, a Scottish government spokesman said: “As the First Minister announced last year, a further £500m will be invested in primary care by the end of this parliament.

“This spending increase in primary care, to 11% of the frontline NHS budget, will support the development of a multi-disciplinary approach, with increased staffing as well as investment in GP services and health centres.

“Health Secretary Shona Robison recently set out that £250m of this new investment will be in direct support of general practice, helping to transform the way services are delivered in the community – an approach that was agreed with the British Medical Association.

“In this financial year, over £71m of that funding is to support general practice by improving recruitment and retention, reducing workload, developing new ways of delivering services and covering pay and expenses.”

‘Reneging on promise’

Scottish Labour said the RCGP’s comments were “absolutely damning”.

The party’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Nicola Sturgeon has promised to boost the proportion of spending on GPs and it now appears she is going to renege on that promise.

“The importance of GP surgeries cannot be stressed enough. Particularly as we face an ageing population, with people living longer, primary care will only become more and more important.

“The reality is that under the SNP our health service is not prepared for this.

“We would do things differently. Labour’s government-in-waiting in Westminster would hugely increase the money available to our NHS as part of our plan to create a society that works for the many, not the few.”

‘Doctors are furious’

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs branded the government’s spending plans “a funding con”.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon happily stood with GPs and backed their campaign for an extra £500m to be directly invested in general practice.

“Now this has been cut in half, and the SNP is offering some waffle about the money being spent more generally.

“It’s no wonder doctors are furious about this deception.

“The nationalists were happy to lap up the support of GPs when this commitment was made, but now seem to have completely u-turned on that promise.”

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Stroke survivors ‘are dumped by the NHS’. Dead patients don’t vote, and those near death don’t appear to count…

If you have a stroke on your way to the hereafter, your life expectancy is short, demand for services is high, and nobody listens to you, even if you can be understood.  Dumped is the right political word. Congratulations to the reporter on his understatement however, The real word, especially with regard to intensive physiotherapy, is abandoned. Dead patients don’t vote, and those near death don’t appear to count. Commissioners have a perverse incentive to save money, richer areas can have more physio as more patients go privately, and the post-coded, covert rationing lottery continues..

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Jon Ungoed-Thomas in the Sunday Times reports: Stroke survivors ‘are dumped by the NHS’

Sufferers feel abandoned after leaving hospital and face waiting up to a year for the right treatment — or paying for it themselves

Stroke survivors are being left to languish at home with a “shocking” lack of support. Many say they feel abandoned by the NHS.
Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said a new national plan was required to help the 1.2m stroke survivors in the UK. Some have to wait up to 12 months for psychological help.
“As a stroke survivor, your life and the life of your family is turned upside down,” she said. “Many stroke survivors say they feel abandoned, as if they have dropped off a cliff. The provision in some areas is shocking.”
About 100,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the UK; it is one of the country’s leading causes of death.
Andrew Marr, the broadcaster and journalist, who suffered a stroke in January 2013, said better support for stroke survivors — many of whom are of working age — could help them return more quickly to employment. He was back at work within six months, but largely because he paid for additional physiotherapy.

Stroke survivors can wait up to four months for speech therapy and up to a year for psychological support, according to data from the Royal College of Physicians. Stroke survivors say there is insufficient physiotherapy, a treatment which would ensure the best recovery.

Andrew Marr, who had a stroke in 2013, paid for physiotherapy to help him get back to work sooner<img class=”Media-img” src=”//″ alt=”Andrew Marr, who had a stroke in 2013, paid for physiotherapy to help him get back to work sooner”>
Andrew Marr, who had a stroke in 2013, paid for physiotherapy to help him get back to work soonerDavid Cheskin/PA

A stroke strategy, launched in 2007, outlined a 10-year plan to overhaul stroke services and has seen significant improvement in acute treatment. The Stroke Association is calling for a new action plan to build on improvements and outline a new strategy for the rehabilitation of stroke victims.

Nathan Ridgard, 40, a self-employed businessman and a father-of-two from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, suffered a stroke on New Year’s Eve 2012. After being discharged from hospital, he said he was given some leaflets by the NHS on coping with a stroke, but struggled to read them because of his poor vision.

“I just felt I had been dumped out in the world,” he said. He received some NHS physiotherapy, but also paid for private sessions to supplement them. He has since made a good recovery.

Professor Tony Rudd, National Clinical Director for stroke at NHS England, said: “The quality of care and survival rates for stroke are now at record highs. We are working with the Royal College of Physicians and others local health service leaders to improve rehabilitation care for everyone who suffers a stroke.”

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An endangered species? You may be lucky to find a GP soon…

An endangered species? You may be lucky to find a GP soon… It will be better in the cities as they have the best schools, and most of the part time, and predominantly female, GPs come from suburban schools. The current situation cannot be solved quickly, and any sensible professional would never have got to this situation. Therefore they should not be expected to find a short term way forward.  Meanwhile the Guardian reports: Record number of GP closures force 265,000 to find new doctors … It’s going to get worse.. and part of the problem is the belittling of GPs in Hospitals, and the lack of exposure medical students get to GP. Access and waiting times are both threatened, even for GPs

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15th July and the Times reports: Hundreds of GP practices forced to close or merge

More than 200 GP practices across England have closed or merged in the last year.
Data from NHS Digital reveals that while just eight practices opened, 202 closed or merged. Practices were affected in all regions, but the north of England experienced the most change, with more than 60 closing or merging, while more than 50 closed or merged in the South East. The Midlands and the east of England had the most new surgeries.
Last year, NHS England announced a £500 million “turnaround package’“ to help struggling surgeries. NHS England data shows that between last summer and this, the same time period covered by the 202 closures and mergers, more patients became registered with GPs across the entire country. Taking into account that some patients may register with more than one GP, 58,492,541 patients were registered with a GP on July 1 this year, up from 57,744,814 the year before.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “When practices are being forced to close because GPs and their teams can no longer cope with ever-growing patient demand without the necessary funding and resources, it’s a huge problem.” Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, said: “With over 200 practices closed or merged in the last year and many more struggling to manage their workload pressures, it is time for government and NHS England to step up their efforts to resolve this crisis before even more patients lose their much loved local GP service.”

The Yorkshire Post: ‘Hundreds of GP practices closed or merged in a year’

In Wales the BMA – Welsh General Practitioners Committee (GPCW) has not been listened to for years. BMA in Wales wants faster action on GP ‘crisis’ – BBC News and Hywel Dda is one of the worst (and most rural) areas in Wales.

BMA heatmap reveals scores of struggling GP practices across Wales …

Half of North Wales GP surgeries on ‘verge of closure’ claims doctors …

GP practice closures ‘at record levels’, GPC chair tells BMA annual …

In Scotland on 4th December 2016 the Herald reported: Scotland’s GP crisis deepens as vacancies soar

SCOTLAND’S GP crisis has deepened with one-in-three practices reporting a vacancy, the British Medical Association claims.
Last year the BMA found that almost a fifth of practices surveyed had at least one vacancy for a GP but the figure has since risen from 17 to 28 per cent.
The shock figures follow the closure of a rural GP clinic. Glencairn Medical Practice shut the doors of its Fenwick premises in East Ayrshire on Friday….

BMA – List closures in Scotland

In N Ireland: 20 GP surgeries face closure in Northern Ireland affecting 120,000 …

Patients ‘forced to change surgeries as record number of GP practices …

and in GP magasine in May Nick Bostock reports: General practice in parts of Northern Ireland ‘one closure from collapse’

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