Is the ambulance service in crisis?

  • 23 May 2016
  • From the section Health
Back of ambulance Image copyright Thinkstock

It is perhaps one of the untold stories of the health service. While there has been acres of coverage of the junior doctors dispute, the rising waiting times in A&E and the money problems bedevilling the NHS, the plight of the ambulance service has slipped, by-and-large, under the radar.

But of all the parts of the NHS, it is arguably the one under the most strain and where delays have the greatest impact.

In England the ambulance service is meant to respond to the most critical calls - known as red one (cardiac arrests and where the patient is not breathing) and red two (other life-threatening situations) - within eight minutes.

But latest figures show that in March just 66.5% of red one calls and 58% of red two calls were dealt with in that time-frame, down from 73.4% and 69.6% respectively. To put that in context, the rate of deterioration outstrips every other area of the NHS.

It is now 11 months since the red one target was met, while you have to go back to January 2014 for the last time the red two target was achieved. Problems are also being experienced elsewhere in the UK.

Read full article Is the ambulance service in crisis?

Junior doctor deal: Which side has won?

  • 18 May 2016
  • From the section Health
Man with arms raised Image copyright Thinkstock

After months of deadlock, five strikes, including the first-ever all-out stoppage, and thousands of postponed operations, the government and British Medical Association have finally reached an agreement on a new contract.

Vast swathes of the old deal will now have to be re-written. So how are things changing?

The basic pay rise is not as generous

Read full article Junior doctor deal: Which side has won?

What yoghurt tells us about the obesity fight

  • 9 May 2016
  • From the section Health
Bowl of yoghurt Image copyright Getty Images

When it comes to understanding the challenge facing the nation on obesity, yoghurt is a good place to start.

It's one of the most common items in our shopping basket. We spend more on it than we do on crisps and bacon.

Read full article What yoghurt tells us about the obesity fight

Junior doctors' dispute: Who will break first?

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section Health
Chain breaking Image copyright Thinkstock

Two things have become clear during the first ever all-out doctors' strikes. One, with good planning hospitals can cope for a few hours without junior doctors.

And, two, this is going to be a fight to the bitter end. While consultants and nurses were stepping into the void left by the striking junior doctors, both sides have been briefing about how determined they are not to give ground.

Read full article Junior doctors' dispute: Who will break first?

Are all-out strike days actually going to be safer?

  • 25 April 2016
  • From the section Health
Doctor running Image copyright Thinkstock

The warnings about the forthcoming all-out junior doctor strikes have been coming in so thick and fast that you could be forgiven for thinking it will be Armageddon.

NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh says he worries they will put vulnerable people "at risk", while chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies says they will "inevitably lead to patients suffering" and Health Minister Ben Gummer claims they will be put in "harm's way".

Read full article Are all-out strike days actually going to be safer?

Chorley A&E closure: A cautionary tale?

  • 14 April 2016
  • From the section Health
A/E nurses Image copyright SPL

The problem with central dictats is they can have unintended consequences in an organisation as large as the NHS.

When ministers in England last year announced they were going to cap how much hospitals could pay agency staff, they felt they had found a solution to a factor increasingly cited as a cause of the financial problems engulfing the health service.

Read full article Chorley A&E closure: A cautionary tale?

Dawn of the nanny state?

  • 28 March 2016
  • From the section Health
Measuring obesity Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Three-quarters of middle-aged men are overweight or obese

The government certainly seems to be on a mission to get people in England healthier, if the recent flurry of announcements is anything to go by.

Last week, it was supervised gym sessions for people at risk of type-2 diabetes.

Read full article Dawn of the nanny state?

Will consultants take the scalpel to Hunt?

  • 18 March 2016
  • From the section Health
Scalpel Image copyright Thinkstock

Sooner or later the government in England will table an offer to consultants to reform their contract.

British Medical Association negotiators will then, in all likelihood, ask the union's members what they think - and that could set in train a process that could make or break not just the junior doctors' dispute but also Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's approach to the NHS.

Read full article Will consultants take the scalpel to Hunt?

Sugar tax: How bold is it?

  • 17 March 2016
  • From the section Health
Cola Image copyright Thinkstock

The announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that a tax on sugary drinks is to be introduced in the UK came as a surprise - ministers had spent months suggesting they were against the idea. But just how bold is it?

There are two ways of looking at it. Firstly, the government has made a pretty radical step. Only a handful of countries have introduced such a levy and for a right-of-centre administration to do so is quite remarkable, and shows a strong commitment to tackling child obesity.

Read full article Sugar tax: How bold is it?

How ripple effect of doctor row could be toxic

  • 7 March 2016
  • From the section Health
Drop in water Image copyright Thinkstock

The ante has certainly been upped in the increasingly acrimonious dispute between junior doctors and the government in England.

Wednesday sees medics stage a walk-out for the third time - with two more stoppages to follow next month - while lawyers prepare a legal challenge to fight the imposition of the new contract.

Read full article How ripple effect of doctor row could be toxic