How scrapping targets could help ambulances

  • 30 November 2016
  • From the section Health
Ambulance on journey Image copyright iStock

The ambulance service in the UK receives about 30,000 calls a day. Or, to put it another way, by the time you've finishing reading this article 30 people will have rung 999 pleading for help.

The challenge for the hard-pressed control centre staff is working out which cases are genuinely life threatening - and which are not - so they can prioritise where to send crews.

How do they do that? They have a complex set of questions that have to help them determine how to categorise patients. There are about 7,500 different codes and a decision has to be made quickly.

Unsurprisingly it leads to mistakes being made. About a quarter of crews dispatched to life-threatening calls in England, which have a target of eight minutes to be reached, are called back before they reach the scene.

A similar situation arises in Northern Ireland, Scotland and, until last year, Wales.

Read full article How scrapping targets could help ambulances

NHS cuts: Why they terrify people in power

  • 15 November 2016
  • From the section Health
Scared woman Image copyright Ingram Publishing

NHS England's handling of the hospital cuts programme seems a fairly ham-fisted way of going about a major review of local health services.

But there are understandable reasons why bosses fell into such a secretive and controlling approach. It is known as the Richard Taylor effect.

Read full article NHS cuts: Why they terrify people in power

Cancer care: Is world class status a distant dream?

  • 25 October 2016
  • From the section Health
Graphic Image copyright audumbla

Linear accelerators are wonderful machines. They deliver high-energy radiation to a tumour, helping to destroy cancer cells while sparing the normal tissue which surrounds them.

About four in 10 cancer patients get treated with one. So news that NHS bosses are launching a £130m investment to upgrade or replace half of England's stock in the next two years is understandably being welcomed.

Read full article Cancer care: Is world class status a distant dream?

NHS funding: Is £10bn rise really a cut?

  • 20 October 2016
  • From the section Health
Graphic Image copyright Qvasimodo

When it comes to the NHS budget, all sorts of figures get thrown around. You only need to have seen Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday or followed the various coverage about health spending since the weekend to see that.

Ministers like to make big play of the fact they've increased the budget by £10bn in England. Or is it £8bn (as NHS England boss Simon Stevens said this week), or £4.5bn (as MPs grilling Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed)?

Read full article NHS funding: Is £10bn rise really a cut?

How long do we really want to live?

  • 12 October 2016
  • From the section Health
Ageing process vector Image copyright rashadashurov

Ask people how long they want to live, and many will answer: "As long as I have my health."

But just how old is that? News last week that the limit on human life may be 115 has prompted a great deal of speculation about rising life expectancies.

Read full article How long do we really want to live?

The NHS: How bad will it get?

  • 30 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Doctor Image copyright Wavebreakmedia

Look at almost any measure of performance, and the NHS in England is getting worse.

Waiting times for cancer care, accident and emergency units, ambulances and routine operations are all rising, and targets are being missed left, right and centre.

Read full article The NHS: How bad will it get?

Consultants' private work: The gloves are off

  • 20 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Gloves Image copyright PongsakornJun

The fight over NHS consultants' private work - and that is exactly what this is - goes back to the very start of the NHS.

Speaking about the 1948 contract Nye Bevan, the founding father of the NHS, offered consultants, he said he had "stuffed their mouths with gold".

Read full article Consultants' private work: The gloves are off

Care: The problem no-one can fix

  • 15 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Woman Image copyright Huntstock

Gathering dust on a shelf in the Department of Health's London headquarters is a plan for reform of the care system for the over-65s in England. It is the much heralded cap on care costs, which was a key part of the 2015 Tory manifesto .

It was meant to have launched in April. But last summer ministers announced it was to be postponed until 2020 amid concerns it would not work given the pressures in the system.

Read full article Care: The problem no-one can fix

Junior doctor row: A step into the unknown

  • 1 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Thinkstock Image copyright allanswart

Make no mistake, the latest salvo in the junior doctor dispute is a step into the unknown. The week of strikes in England in a fortnight's time takes this dispute into uncharted territory. Again.

Until this year, there had never been an all-out strike. In April, there were two.

Read full article Junior doctor row: A step into the unknown

Why the NHS has the winter blues in summer

  • 23 August 2016
  • From the section Health
Winter image Image copyright Coldimages

Summer may still be in full swing, but already the NHS has its sights firmly set on winter.

The past two winters have been the worst for more than a decade with hospitals creaking under the strain. The four-hour waiting time target in A&E has been missed and record delays have been experienced in discharging patients.

Read full article Why the NHS has the winter blues in summer