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Choose and Book figures drop, 'The Silver Line' for lonely older people, and plugging staffing gaps abroad

A round-up of the health news headlines on Monday 25 November

Patient choice is ‘going backwards’ under the current Government as the number of people using the Choose and Book service declines 5% since 2010, The Guardian reports.

The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question by Shadow Care Minister, Liz Kendal, and show how numbers have dropped since the first quarter of 2010 – the last full quarter under Labour.

Ms Kendall laid the blame with the former Health Secretary, saying: ‘Andrew Lansley claimed it was no decision about me without me. But in fact what he did was fundamentally shift the power to GPs rather than really shifting the power to patients.’

Continuing: ‘It is really important that clinicians are leading changes but the goal is patient power, people power. That is the only way you are going to get the big and sustainable changes we need.’

The BBC reports that a five million pound charity scheme to provide lonely older people with 24-hour access to ‘friendship, information and advice’ has launched today.

‘The Silver Line’ is staffed by trained volunteers and aims to support people over 65 who live alone, which can cause serious physical and mental health problems – an earlier trial answered calls from 7,000 older people.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “In our busy lives we too easily forget the thousands of older people who often go for days without seeing or speaking to anyone, or rely on the television for company.

“This service will help provide people with the companionship and support they deserve in their older years.

Finally the Independent has revealed that, in a bid to fill 20,000 health worker roles and tackle staffing problems highlighted by the Francis report, NHS Trusts are bringing in thousands of health professionals from abroad, particularly from Spain and Portugal where more than 10,000 nurses are competing for 460 positions.

The paper shows that 1,360 nurses have been recruited by more than 40 trusts to plug gaps before the peak winter season, and a further 41 trusts are looking to do the same.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said there is “no way of knowing” how many of the 3,700 extra nurses promised by Mr Hunt will come from abroad, although with NHS recruitment fairs taking place in Madrid and Lisbon in January, it will be a large proportion.

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