Junior doctors' row: Time for the nuclear option?

  • 10 February 2016
  • From the section Health
Fire button Image copyright Thinkstock

News that doctors have rejected a final "take-it-or-leave-it" offer means the nuclear option - imposition - is now a real possibility.

Over the past week ministers and their officials have been putting real thought into how and when they should make their move. Given the latest developments, expect it any day.

Why now? Quite simply, they've been told the time has come. Senior NHS officials have advised them that the health service needs to start making plans if a new contract is to be brought in this summer as planned.

That's because hospitals would need to carry out a detailed review of rotas and staffing before contract offers are made in May, in time for the August start date.

But once that has been done, the contract could be imposed quickly. Within six months about 80% of junior doctors would be on a new contract - this is because as trainees, most of them quickly rotate through jobs.

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Junior doctors' row: Should we care?

  • 8 February 2016
  • From the section Health
Junior doctor on strike Image copyright PA

Amid all the claim and counterclaim about anti-social-hours payments, on-call duties and long working days, it's easy to get bogged down in the detail of the junior doctors dispute.

But with a second strike by medics in England taking place on Wednesday, it's worth stopping for a moment to ask why this row matters.

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Care homes and the NHS: The silent scandal?

  • 1 February 2016
  • From the section Health
Person in wheelchair Image copyright Highwaystarz-Photography

The plight of care home residents has pretty much slipped below the radar in recent years. While there is close scrutiny of everything from A&E waiting times to access to the latest cancer drugs, the support - or rather lack of it - care home residents receive from the NHS has gone almost unnoticed.

But, on Monday morning, the issue bubbled to the surface following a front-page article by the Daily Mail headlined "GPs vote to axe care home visits".

Read full article Care homes and the NHS: The silent scandal?

The wider lessons of William's death

  • 26 January 2016
  • From the section Health
William Mead Image copyright William Mead's family

Much of the attention over the tragic death of 12-month-old William Mead has focussed on the role of NHS 111.

That is understandable. The report into his care highlights a series of missed opportunities by the call handler who William's mother spoke to on the day before he died. It makes it clear the handler should have probed more for information about his condition and immediately referred it on to a nurse or doctor.

Read full article The wider lessons of William's death

Why the government is going sweet on a sugar tax

  • 25 January 2016
  • From the section Health
Spoons of sugar Image copyright VICTOR DE SCHWANBERG/SPL

Next month, the government in England is expected to publish its long-awaited child obesity strategy. The plan has been in the pipeline for some time - it was originally going to be published last autumn.

But even at this late stage there's still fierce debate within Whitehall about what should be in it.

Read full article Why the government is going sweet on a sugar tax

Junior doctors' dispute: What next?

  • 13 January 2016
  • From the section Health
Junior doctor on strike Image copyright PA

With the junior doctors' strike over, attention will naturally turn to what happens next.

There are two obvious answers to that question. One, the two sides will get back round the table in a bid to break the deadlock. In fact, the first talks are to take place at the conciliation service Acas on Thursday.

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Will alcohol advice help us beat the demon drink?

  • 8 January 2016
  • From the section Health
women drinking shots Image copyright Thinkstock

The uncomfortable truth is that many of us drink too much. One in three - when asked - admit to breaching the old alcohol guidelines.

The new ones published on Friday are even tougher. We are, in short, a nation who loves its booze.

Read full article Will alcohol advice help us beat the demon drink?

Why the NHS needs better-behaved patients

  • 24 December 2015
  • From the section Health
Patients graphic Image copyright IvanNikulin

What does the NHS want for Christmas? More money? Yes. More staff? Yes again. But, whisper it quietly, better behaved patients wouldn't go amiss either.

In fact, in their more candid moments, it's not unusual to find doctors and nurses having a little moan about the people they care for.

Read full article Why the NHS needs better-behaved patients

Is the care home market heading for a crash?

  • 18 December 2015
  • From the section Health
Woman Image copyright Thinkstock

There are over 500,000 care and nursing homes places in the UK - that is more than the entire population of Liverpool.

The people living in them are among the oldest, most vulnerable people in society. One in six of all people over the age of 85 are housed in them.

Read full article Is the care home market heading for a crash?

Winter in the NHS: The lost beds problem

  • 10 December 2015
  • From the section Health
Hospital bed Image copyright Thinkstock

Walk into any hospital and you will see wards full to bursting. An empty bed is a rarity - certainly for any length of time.

And with winter here, it's only going to get worse. But arguably the biggest problem the NHS is facing this winter is not the sheer numbers - it's the fact that many of those people don't actually need to be there.

Read full article Winter in the NHS: The lost beds problem