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GPs go forth

#Election2017: GP upset at Jeremy Hunt health secretary reappointment

Monday 12 June

13:30 Some people in the health sector have welcomed Jeremy Hunt's reappointment, namely NHS Confederation - who happen to have him down as their keynote speaker at a conference taking place later this week.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations, said: 'We look forward to continuing to work with Jeremy Hunt and would like to congratulate him on his reappointment as secretary of state for health.

'This will provide continuity at a difficult and uncertain time for the country in general and for the NHS in particular.

'We look forward to welcoming the [health secretary] on Thursday when he will address our annual conference, Confed17, in Liverpool.'

10:20 Amid a weekend of political drama, Jeremy Hunt has been reborn as the health secretary in the UK's new minority Government.

As we point out in today's top story, not all GPs are impressed. Read all here.

Friday 9 June

15:50 The new Government must prioritise NHS funding to reduce patient waiting times, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter has said.

This comes as these hit their highest levels for a decade, according to official NHS England figures released today.

NHS England figures show that in April 2017 more than 10% of patients had been waiting more than 18-weeks for surgery.

This is the first time figures have been reported on waiting times since Jeremy Hunt allowed hospitals a 12 month reprieve on the national target of treating 92% of patients within 18 weeks of referral.

Dr Porter said: ‘On a day where figures show that more patients are waiting longer for treatment, it is clear that the next Government must make the NHS a priority and that politicians of all parties will have to work together to achieve this.’

Dr Porter is not the only doctor leader to react to the news of Theresa May forming a minority Government. For our full report, click here.

11:05 The Prime Minister's gamble on gaining a larger majority to negotiate Brexit (and another five years in power) has backfired this morning as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour has gained at least 29 MPs.

Ms May is heading off to see the Queen at 12.30 to ask to form a Government with the DUP as the only supporting party, but Labour does not seem willing to give up hope of their own version of Government.

Meanwhile, as we report in our top story, the minister in charge of general practice David Mowat has failed to be reelected.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt did manage to hold on to a large chunk of the South West Surrey vote, but his rival - GP Dr Louise Irvine - came second with 20% of the votes.

Thursday 8 June

09:40 It's election day!

If you're still undecided which party to vote for, we have read all the party manifestos and our analysis of them is here.

Wednesday 7 June

16:20 GPs in Yorkshire may recognise the face on their Labour Party election leaflet, as Doncaster LMC medical secretary Dr Dean Eggitt has helpfully lent it his face.

Dr Eggitt has backed the party as the one that will be best for the NHS, while elsewhere a group of GPs in a practice in East Sussex also appear to be warning patients not to re-elect the current Government.

Read the full story here

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also reckons he is the best choice for the NHS.

He said: 'The Conservatives have spent the last seven years running down our NHS, our proudest national institution. Our NHS cannot afford five more years of underfunding, understaffing and privatisation.

'Labour will give our NHS the resources it needs to deliver the best possible care for patients, and end the Conservatives’ attacks on our hardworking health workers, who care for us all.

'The Conservatives have already cut our NHS, our schools, our police and our social care services - and their manifesto is a plan for five more years of cuts to services according to the IFS.'

12:10 GP election candidate Dr Louise Irvine has issued a 'rallying cry' to urge South West Surrey voters to choose her over health secretary Jeremy Hunt on the ballot paper tomorrow.

Dr Irvine said: 'Tomorrow is polling day. I urge every one of you to vote. I know that if Lib Dem, Labour and Green supporters vote for me then I can beat Jeremy Hunt. I also know that I am the only candidate that can.

'So if you want to wake up on Friday morning to find that your constituency has sent a loud and clear message to Theresa May that we care about our NHS and won’t stand by and let her destroy it… If you want to wake up to the news that Jeremy Hunt has been kicked out of Parliament… Please vote for me on Thursday.'

She also took a swipe on her rival's record on the NHS, saying: 'The Conservative Government, and Jeremy Hunt, are promising that they will increase numbers, but these are empty words. In fact his actions and those of his government have had the opposite effect.'

Dr Irvine said Mr Hunt has 'imposed a draconian pay cap on nurses meaning their pay will have been cut by 12% by 2020'; 'removed the bursary for student nurses, meaning many people who want to train to become a nurse can’t afford to do so'; and 'treated nurses and junior doctors with contempt' with 'record numbers' taking time off with stress 'because they fear that patients aren’t receiving the care they need'.

She also said the Conservatives' “hard Brexit” approach and 'failure to assure EU nationals working in the NHS of their future; had led to 'thousands leaving and a 92% drop in EU nurses applying to work in UK'.

And she added: 'Since his announcement in 2015 of 5000 more GPs by 2020 we actually have fewer GPs now than two years ago!'

10:10 The 14 NHS regions in England with the highest overspends are facing 'savage' cuts in order to meet budgets, it has been revealed.

Analysis by Health Service Journal, covered today by a number of news outlets, revealed the areas are forced to consider significant measures to reduce spending in order to meet 'control totals' set out by NHS bosses.

As ITV reports, cuts would include: closing or downgrading wards or services, extending waiting times, restricting NHS funding for some treatments and limiting the number of operations carried out by non-NHS providers.

Lib Dem shadow health minister Norman Lamb called the cuts 'savage', while Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the NHS 'cannot survive' another five years of a Conservative Government.

NHS England said no decisions had been made on the planned cuts and that they would require national sign off.

Tuesday 6 June

10:00 A (rather unscientific) click poll on PulseToday shows that among almost 400 readers, nearly half (48%) are planning to vote Labour in this election compared to only 23% planning on voting Conservative.

The results in full, as they stand, are:

Conservative 23.1% (91 votes)

Green 5% (20 votes)

Labour 48% (189 votes)

Lib Dem 10.1% (40 votes)

UKIP 2% (8 votes)

Other 11.4% (45 votes)

Total: 393

Meanwhile, with just two days to go before voting begins, the gap between the Tories and Labour has narrowed to just 4 percentage points among the population on the whole, reports the Telegraph This is based on the latest YouGov poll - although ICM has the gap at 11 points.

As the paper points out, the trend has been for the gap to narrow but different polls continue to throw up very different results.

Monday 5 June

11:20 Teenagers are increasingly driven to risk their own lives just in order to be taken seriously by health services child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), education trade magazine Tes reports.

A head teacher in South West England told the magazine that three pupils in her school has made suicide attempts in a bid to get mental health services to take them seriously.

She said: 'I don’t think there’s anyone who genuinely wanted to end it all. They wanted to get help, and the only way they could explain that was through their actions.

'It wasn’t that people weren’t listening to them – people had put in referrals to CAMHS. But the threshold for getting some kind of help is very difficult. CAMHS can only deal with the most acute cases.'

Responding to the report, the Conservative Party said that 'if elected' on Thursday, ending the 'burning injustice' of lacking mental health support 'will be an urgent priority'.

But the news comes as Pulse revealed earlier this year that five areas in England are planning to cut spending on mental health services in 2017/18, despite being told by NHS England to ensure that they increase spending in line with physical health spending.

And a Pulse investigation last year revealed that increasing numbers of vulnerable children are being refused vital mental health treatment that is recommended by their GP. Figures obtained from 15 mental health trusts revealed that 60% of GP referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) lead to no treatment and a third are not even assessed.

A Pulse survey last year also revealed the majority of GPs say they have to diagnose child and adolescent mental health disorders ‘above their level of competence’ due to a deterioration in access to specialist services.

Friday 2 June

13:05 The next chair of the BMA, GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul, has pledged to 'lead the charge for an NHS that is properly resourced by the next government'.

Read the full story about Dr Nagpaul's appointment here.

10:15 RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard has also responded to the Pulse research.

She said: 'Hard pressed GPs around the country are already running on empty so these predictions are really concerning. As well as huge increases in the volume of patient numbers, disease management is also becoming much more complex and we simply cannot do any more without a significant injection of investment in general practice, including a significant influx of GPs.

'We are feeling the impact of a decade of under-investment in the family doctor service on a daily basis. Today alone, over 1m patients will have received care at their local practice and we are seeing 60m more patients per year compared even to five years ago.

'We are trying our hardest to see many patients as we can, but we need to remember that GPs’ own health and wellbeing is crucial for patient safety.'

She added that the RCGP's own election manifesto'calls on the new Government, whatever its persuasion, to honour the pledges of NHS England’s GP Forward View, and for all the governments of the UK to invest in general practice as a matter of urgency to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of GPs to deliver the quality and safe care that our patients need and deserve'.

09:35 As Pulse reveals today, GPs are going to have to work an extra fours hours a week to meet demand by the end of the next Parliament.

The warning comes as patients continue to wait an average two weeks for an appointment, quite despite the Government's GP appointment access agenda.

The Pulse research is quoted across the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Times this morning (as well as the Sunderland Echo), alongside GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul's warning that unless workload issues are addressed, patients can soon expect to wait three weeks to see their GP.

Liberal Democrat shadow health Secretary Norman Lamb said: 'This is a stark reminder of the looming GP crisis we will face under a Conservative government.

'Across the country, many people are already having to wait weeks to see their doctor.

'Unless we act, getting an appointment with your doctor when you need one will become the exception rather than the rule. This will have a catastrophic knock-on effect on A&Es.

'The Liberal Democrats have an ambitious plan to rescue the NHS and care by putting a penny on income tax.

'We are being honest that sustaining a world-class health service will mean all chipping in a little more.'

Thursday 1 June

12:45 The next Government will need to commit to significantly more funding for the NHS or patients will suffer, reports Sky News.

It is quoting the King's Fund think-tank, whose chief executive Chris Ham told the TV channel: 'The NHS is approaching a crisis. Hospitals have been under huge pressure this winter, social care is already in crisis because of rising demand and constrained resources, and increasingly we are seeing rationing of health care.

'If there is no more money after the election we will see more rationing, patients will suffer, staff will feel under even greater pressure and quality of care will undoubtedly be affected.'

He was interviewed in light of the latest report on NHS finances, which revealed that half of CCGs are having to cancel planned spending this year while GPs are struggling with increasing levels of demand.

Wednesday 31 May

14:00 A protest song which accuses the Government of letting nurses starve will not be played by BBC radio despite reaching number one in the charts, reports the Independent.

All the funds raised by the trackLiar Liar, released by Captain Ska, will go to food banks around the country and campaign organisation The People's Assembly Against Austerity, said the paper.

BBC Radio 1 said in a statement: 'We do not ban songs or artists, however our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial and the UK is currently in an election period so we will not be playing the song.'

The song, which accuses Prime Minister Theresa May of lying and references the recent news that underpaid nurses were now forced use foodbanks, says:

'We all know politicians like telling lies 

'Big ones, little ones, porky pies

'Saying they're strong, and stable, won't disguise'

'We're still being taken for a ride

'Nurses going hungry, schools in decline

'I don't recognize this broken country of mine'

11:00 GP Dr Louise Irvine has shared her election campaign video, in which she explains why she is challenging health secretary Jeremy Hunt for his South West Surrey MP seat.

In the video, the National Health Action Party candidate says Mr Hunt's claim the NHS was 'safe' in his hands has been proved false and that voting for her is the 'best hope' for local constituents.

She says: 'I believe Jeremy Hunt has failed. That is why I am challenging him again.'

Watch the full video below:

Tuesday 30 May

14:00 Meanwhile, for those who fear the election will solve nothing, the Diocese of Lichfield has helpfully arranged an NHS 'prayer walk' which commenced last week.

Stafford curate the Revd Becky Richards, who is visiting 16 hospitals over ten days, said: 'This is primarily a Pilgrimage of Prayer for our NHS and the thousands of health care workers who work under increasing pressures and rising expectations.

As an "agent of healing" in our country, the NHS is truly an expression of God’s Kingdom which provides healing and compassion to all, regardless of social standing or means, at their point of need.

'To me, the NHS is an embodiment of Jesus’ "Parable of the Good Samaritan"; the story he told to illustrate to a lawyer what it means to love one’s neighbour as oneself. The Walk is not a political demonstration, but a move of prayer, recognising God’s heart for the National Health Service.'

At Pulse HQ we are keeping our fingers crossed that the higher powers take mercy and solve all the woes of GPs.

11:40 Scottish health service workers have taken it upon themselves to end the NHS pay freeze...

10:00 A new survey of over 8,300 people in the UK shows Labour is the most trusted party to run the NHS in almost all parts of the country.

The Google Surveys poll, covered by several local papers, showed that in the North West this was the case for nearly seven in 10 voters.

Only in Scotland did people think another party would be best for the health service, with SNP coming out higher for confidence, report papers including the Bath Chronicle  and the Derby Telegraph.

The survey also showed most people would welcome paying an extra 1% in income tax if it went towards the NHS.

Friday 26 May

9:30  The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with voters about the economic consequences of their policy proposals, the BBC reports.

It said that the Conservative plans for the NHS 'imply at least another five years of austerity, with the continuation of planned welfare cuts and serious pressures on the public services including on the NHS' despite claiming an £8bn a year boost for the health service.

The think-tank said of Labour's plans to tax high earners more to fund the NHS: 'They should be willing to candidly set out the consequences - higher taxation affecting broad segments of the population.'


Thursday 25 May

15:30 The UKIP manifesto, which was released today (despite other political parties putting their campaigns on hold out of respect for the victims of the Manchester bombing), is very heavy on general practice policy, relatively speaking.

It pledges 10,000 extra GPs to be ensured by training more medical students and asking them to work in the NHS for 10 years. It also hints revalidation could be less rigorous and says NHS England will get an extra £9bn a year.

Where is all this money coming from? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is to be taken directly from the current foreign aid budget.

Other important pledges include blue passports, banning the flying of EU flags and - yep - making the Brexit referendum day a bank holiday called 'Independence Day'.

Read the full story here

Wednesday 24 May

17:25 The RCGP has excitedly welcomed the SNP's commitment to ensure 11% of NHS funding goes to general practice in Scotland - as revealed in a Pulse interview this week.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said this comes after there was 'confusion' over what appeared to be the same pledge in an announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last October.

In a (lengthy) statement, he said: 'Monday’s reaffirmation by Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on health, of an extra recurring £500 million to general practice, will be an enormous relief to GPs throughout the country and their patients.

'Patients were delighted with the First Minister’s announcement on 15 October last year that "an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres". Since then, there has been some confusion over the detail of that commitment with the suggestion that much of it would not go directly to general practice. So the confirmation that the Scottish Government has committed to increasing the share of the health service budget spent on general practice to 11% by the end of the parliament - equivalent to an extra £500 million per year – is welcome news indeed.

'Extra investment in wider primary care would be very welcome. It is vital, however, that this £500 million investment be supplied to general practice specifically. We have been unable to equate how primary care services can be brought to 11% of NHS spending through increased investment with the Scottish Government’s NHS Cost Book figures reporting that it currently sits at around 23%. The First Minister, speaking of "extra" funding could not have meant a decrease in the percentage share. The money has clearly been intended for general practice.

'The RCGP has been campaigning for this allocation for three and a half years with the support of patients and practitioners. Other health organisations have made their own arguments for increasing funding and the clear majority of MSPs in Holyrood are also behind the move. Whereas in 2005/06, general practice received 9.8% of NHS Scotland spending, that percentage was consistently cut over the decade and by 2015/16 it had fallen to 7.2%. Against the backdrop of increasing demand on our service from the growing population, the situation was unsustainable.

'Put simply, the crisis the profession finds itself in requires appropriate funding to solve. The Govan SHIP experiment, funded by the Scottish Government, has shown clearly that investing extra resources in general practice allows practices to find the GPs they need and creates better outcomes for patients.

'We look forward to seeing how and when these extra funds will be delivered and would be delighted to work with all partners to offer suggestions for its use.'

Tuesday 23 May

15:15 Leaked documents show that NHS hospital and ambulance trusts in England recorded a deficit of £770m last year. The leak comes days after the Department of Health stated that official accounts could not be published until after the election.

The deficit is £190mn above the maximum set out by health service bosses at the start of the financial year, despite a Government bailout of £1.8bn. The shortfall is however a significant improvement on the record £2.45bn overspend for 2015/16.

Borrowing from Prime Minister Theresa May's election tagline 'strong and stable', Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the leaked figures show that NHS finances under the Conservatives are 'at their weakest and most unstable'.

He called on the Prime Minister to publish the official figures and suggested attempts to conceal information.

He said: 'The Government has tried to cover up the depth of the crisis in the NHS and now we see why: seven years of underfunding have left hospital finances on the brink. Only Labour is offering the NHS a long term, sustainable funding solution.'

10:20 Analysis by the Health Foundation has revealed that the NHS is facing a significant deficit no matter which political party wins the general election.

Although the Conservative Party election manifesto would leave it with the largest deficit - of £12bn - the Liberal Democrat pledges would leave the service £9bn in the red, and the Labour Party some £7bn down compared to expected expenditures.

Health Foundation director of researchand economics Anita Charlesworth has explained the full methodology in a blog available here.


Monday 22 May

15:20 A majority of people in the UK are willing to pay more tax in order to boost NHS funding, according to a major survey carried out on behalf of the Health Foundation.

The charity said nearly two thirds of Brits aged 15 and over would back the move - proposed in both the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos.

The survey of nearly 2,000 people, carried out by Ipsos MORI, suggested this comes as many patients have experienced a drop in NHS quality.

It found that:

  • 64% think taxes should be increased as a way of funding the NHS;
  • Only 9% would favour reducing the level of care instead, and 17% would choose to reduce spending on other services;
  • 44% of people think that the standard of NHS care has got worse over the past year and almost half (48%) think it will get worse over the next year;
  • Half of people think the quality of social care will deteriorate over the next year;
  • More than three quarters (78%) of people believe NHS staff pay should rise by more than 1% a year; and
  • Almost nine in 10 people (87%) think that existing EU NHS and social care workers should be allowed to stay when the UK leaves the EU.

Ruth Thorlby, assistant policy director at the Health Foundation, said: 'The NHS is seven years into this decade of austerity, and whoever forms the next government will need to provide additional funding for health and social care if services are to be maintained.

‘The impact of this austerity - overloaded A&E departments, delays in getting people out of hospital, and longer waiting times for surgery - has been covered widely in the media, and has got through to the public, some of whom may well have had direct experience as well.

'The public has understood that the NHS and social care need more generous funding, and it is striking that such a significant majority say they are willing to see taxes rise, rather than reduce levels of service or see more cuts to other public services.'

10:45 London-based GPs Dr Jackie Appleby and Dr Louise Irvine both feature in a video making the rounds on social media, urging people to #voteNHS by voting 'anything but Conservative' in the general election. Watch it below...

Friday 19 May

09:50 The Medical Protection Society has welcomed the Tory manifesto pledge to cover rises to GP indemnity.

Its chief executive Simon Kayll said: 'We welcome the commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto to provide appropriate funding for GPs to meet the rising costs of indemnity. The decision to reduce the personal injury discount rate has increased the cost of settling future loss claims against our members at a time when the cost of clinical negligence is already high.

'Without Government support, this increase will need to be reflected in GP subscription rates and we know this will be worrying news. We are working hard to ensure the promise to fully protect GPs from these additional costs is honoured - this is a critical issue that must be resolved urgently after the general election. 

'The recognition that a longer term, sustainable solution is needed to tackle the rising costs of indemnity is also encouraging. The cost of clinical negligence is spiralling and it is right that we ask ourselves whether such costs are sustainable. The case for a whole package of legal reforms to create a more sustainable system is becoming ever more pressing.'

However it comes as GPs at the LMCs Conference yesterday voted for the Government to cover the full cost of GP indemnity, not just the increases. You can read all about that here.

Thursday 18 May

16:15 There wasn't much by way of spending pledges in the Conservative manifesto. It said the party would: 'Increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn over the next five years, with an increase in funding per patient every year.'

But NHS leaders were unimpressed.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'The extra £8bn touted in this manifesto for the NHS is smoke and mirrors – rather than extra money, this essentially extends the funding already promised in the 2015 spending review for another two years and falls far short of what is needed.

'The NHS is already at breaking point and without the necessary investment patients will face longer delays, care will be compromised and services will struggle to keep up.'

Commenting on the manifesto's continued commitment to the 'seven-day NHS', Dr Porter added: 'Providing additional care across the week requires not just more funding, but more doctors, nurses, diagnostic and community care staff, otherwise exiting staff will be stretched even more thinly than they already are.'

Analysis from health think-tank the Nuffield Trust said the financial pledges in the manifesto would see 'the share of Britain’s national income going to the NHS... continue to shrink, from 7.3% to 7%'.

The King's Fund went as far as calling the manifesto 'deeply disappointing', especially with regards to social care funding.

Chief executive Chris Ham also added: 'The £8 billion in additional funding over the next five years does little more than extend the squeeze on NHS finances for another two years and will not be enough to meet rising demand for services and maintain current standards of care.

'The Conservatives need to be honest with the public about the consequences for patients and their care.'

09:45 The Conservative manifesto is coming out today, with top Tories saying it will include new money for the NHS, above and beyond what is already pledged. The announcement is also expected to focus heavily on social care. More to follow...

Meanwhile, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul will address the LMCs Conference in Edinburgh from 10am.

He will call on politicians to pledge to properly fund general practice in the upcoming election.

You can follow what is going on at the LMCs Conference on the Pulse website, our dedicated conference blog and via @PulseToday on Twitter.

Wednesday 17 May

09:50  Health think-tank the King's Fund has also reacted to Labour's manifesto, with a warning not to halt the 44 regional plans for reforming NHS services.

Chief executive Chris Ham said: 'We welcome the commitment to extra funding for the NHS and social care, which will go some way to addressing the pressures facing the NHS and reversing the decline in social care services for older and disabled people. But investment needs to go alongside reform to develop new and better ways of delivering care, rather than protecting outdated services.

'The proposal to halt sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) risks holding back essential changes to services. Labour is right that there has so far not been nearly enough engagement with the public and patients and this needs to happen, but where the case for change has been made politicians should not stand in the way.

'In the long-term, spending on health and social care will need to increase as a share of GDP to meet rising demand for services and bring us into line with spending in other countries such as France and Germany.'

Tuesday 16 May

16:30 Doctor leaders have reacted to Labour's plans for the NHS, saying that the pledge of over £30 billion in extra funding over the next five-year Parliament was not enough.

Instead, it is arguing funding must rise by £10bn a year, which would amount to £50bn over the parliamentary term to 2022.

Labour has costed its plan with a plan to increase income tax for the highest 5% of earners and by increasing tax on private medical insurance, as well as reducing NHS management consultancy fees.

But BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'Doctors are calling on the next government to, as a minimum, bring spending on the NHS in line with other European countries, which would see it rise by more than £10bn a year.

'This is will only go some way to plugging the enormous funding gap however, and if the NHS is to survive, it needs credible and sustainable plans to deliver the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.'

11:40 The Labour Party has published its final manifesto, without any changes to pledges made on general practice compared to last week's leaked draft.

The NHS section of the manifesto still says the party, if elected, would 'work towards a new model of community care which takes into account not only primary care but social care and mental health as well' as well as 'increase funding to GP services to ensure patients can access the care they need'.

Click here to read the pledges in full

10:05 MDU is urging its members to put pressure on parliamentary candidates to pledge to revert the Government's decision to increase discount rates.

The indemnity provider said in a statement: 'The MDU is asking GPs to make sure this is a priority for the new government by raising this issue with parliamentary candidates. There is also a short survey for GPs to complete to give their views on indemnity costs.'

In a letter to MDU GP members, chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: 'A change introduced by the Lord Chancellor has overnight added hundreds of millions of pounds to the cost of clinical negligence claims payable by all medical defence organisations.'

Read the full story here

Monday 15 May

14:20 Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has emerged to comment on the NHS cyber attack, however briefly.

The BBC quotes him as saying that it was 'encouraging' there had not been any new attacks today.

He added: 'We've not seen a second wave of attacks and the level of criminal activity is at the lower end of the range that we had anticipated.'

The article adds that Mr Hunt is expected to attend a Cabinet Office meeting about the attack later today, chaired by home secretary Amber Rudd.

The short comment comes as many NHS workers had questioned Mr Hunt's silence in light of the NHS hack.

It comes as Labour seized on GP practice woes as it pledged it would firmly bring NHS IT 'into the 21st century'.

09:25 The Labour Party has pledged to spend an extra £37bn on the NHS by 2022.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is addressing the Royal College of Nursing conference today, will say this will include £10bn for upgrading IT systems.

He exected to go on to blame Tory financial cuts for leaving systems vulnerable to Friday's malware attack, following their decisions to take capital funding to spend on day-to-day running of the service.

The party pledges that this will lead to meeting the 18 week referral target, meeting the four-hour A&E wait target as well as setting a new one-hour target for the most urgent cases, setting a new target to reduce delayed discharge of hospital patients, and guarantee cancer patients being seen in four weeks.

Read the full story here

Friday 12 May

16:55 Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has commented on the major NHS hack attack disrupting services today.

He said: 'This cyber-attack is terrible news and a real worry for patients. Our hard-working NHS staff are already operating under unprecedented pressure and should be given every support to help the public in the face of these malicious and disturbing actions.

'This incident highlights the risk to data security within the modern health service and reinforces the need for cyber security to be at the heart of government planning. The digital revolution has transformed the way we live and work but we have to be ready for the vulnerabilities it brings too.

'The Government need to be clear about what’s happened, and what measures they are taking to reduce the threat to patients. The safety of the public must be the priority and the NHS should be given every resource to bring the situation under control as soon as possible.'

12:25 The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is calling on the new Government to change the discount rate law (this is the interest rate used by courts to calculate lump sum compensation payments to victims of clinical negligence incidents and other personal injury claims).

It argues that the recent discount rate drop of 3.25% ‘substantially increased the cost of clinical negligence claims overnight and had a massive impact on the cost of public services like the NHS’.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: 'GPs need immediate assistance to help them with the increased cost of indemnity as a result of the rate drop. It was already a serious concern and the Government committed to support GPs with the massively increased costs this decision has caused.'

The MDU points out that the decision to lower the discount rate means that a claim that it would have paid on behalf of a GP for £8.4m is now likely to settle for £17.5m.

10:00 The Government has been accused of making 'empty vows' on GP recruitment after a shocking Pulse survey showed one in five practices have had to abandon searching for a new GP as vacancy rates have hit their highest ever.

The story, which has been picked up all over the media this morning (the Mirror, Telegraph, Mail, Evening Standard, Sun and the BBC Today programme to name a few) revealed that 12.2% of all GP positions are currently vacant.

Read the story in full here

Thursday 11 May

16:20 Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has told the BBC that the party executive has now 'unanimously agreed' their manifesto.

And, according to what the BBC was told, there was only 'tinkering' compared to the leaked one, widely reported this morning.

But Mr Corbyn said everyone will have to wait 'a few days' for the details.

14:00 The BMA has warned the Prime Minister that the NHS is facing a 'ticking timebomb' created by unhealthy lifestyles and cuts to public health funding.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter told Theresa May that the UK was 'going backwards' when it comes to public health, reports the Independent.

Ahead of the general election, the BMA is calling for 'tighter regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, a minimum unit price on alcohol and support for people to quit smoking'.

The BMA also wants a reversal of cuts to public health funding, which it said was due to suffer a reduction of £400m by 2020/21.

Dr Porter said: 'With the NHS at breaking point, and demand on services only set to rise, we are facing a ticking time bomb.'

10:20 A draft version of the Labour Party's manifesto has been leaked widely to the media this morning.

Amid a very long list of NHS-related pledges, it says GP funding would be boosted, and that NHS workers would be paid what they deserve.

Read the full story here

Tuesday 9 May

12:15 The Labour Party has expelled three members for backing Lewisham GP Dr Louise Irvine in the general election, reports the Guardian.

As Pulse reported yesterday, Labour and Lib Dem local members from South West Surrey had agreed to back the GP on the campaign trail, while the Green Party went as far as to withdraw their candidate - all in a bid to unseat health secretary Jeremy Hunt as MP.

But according to the report, the tactics have backfired.

Steve Williams, a party member for 46 years who sits on the constituency party’s executive committee, was told that publicly stating his 'support for a party that is standing against the Labour party in the 2017 general election'  was 'incompatible with membership of the Labour Party'.

Mr Williams said: 'We have massive support from the local party. It is such an overkill reaction to a group of people who are trying to unseat the health secretary.'

09:35 Two GPs have been selected by their parties to run to become Members of Parliament in the general election on the 8 June.

This includes Bristol locum GP Dr Diana Warner who is challenging the seat of Filton and Bradley Stoke.

Meanwhile, NHA Party candidate Dr Louise Irvine is to repeat her bid to oust the health secretary in his home seat of South West Surrey. Read the full story here.

Monday 8 May

15:10 Liberal Democrats and Labour also made health policy pledges over the weekend. You can read all about it here. Most notably, Lib Dems want to hike income tax by a penny to the pound to pay for better general practice (among other key investments in NHS and social care).

Labour wants to focus on the health of the nation's children, including a ban on daytime junk food ads.

Meanwhile, in other news, Unite the union welcomed Labour's pledge to end hospital car parking charges as 'a victory for common sense'.

09:50 The Conservatives have pledged to get rid of the existing Mental Health Act, replacing it with an updated version.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the new laws would be aimed at halting an increase in people being detained under the Act against their will, as the Guardian  reports.

She said: 'On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our country. It is abundantly clear to me that the discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago is a key part of the reason for this.

'So today I am pledging to rip up the 1983 act and introduce in its place a new law which finally confronts the discrimination and unnecessary detention that takes place too often.We are going to roll out mental health support to every school in the country, ensure that mental health is taken far more seriously in the workplace, and raise standards of care.'

But Labour's shadow mental health minister Barbara Keeley said: 'The Tories have not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They appear to be offering no extra funding and have consistently raided mental health budgets over the last seven years.

'Warm words from the Tories will not help to tackle the injustice of unequal treatment in mental health.'

Friday 5 May

16:15 Former health secretary Andy Burnham has been elected as the first mayor of Greater Manchester, with a whopping 63% of the vote.

The Labour politician, who had said he would not be seeking re-election as MP for Leigh in the general election on 8 June, will start his new job on Monday, reports the Manchester Evening News.

And the BBC quotes Mr Burnham, who was briefly health secretary in the last Labour Government and then shadow health secretary, as saying: 'I've got a big job to do - I'll give it my all and I won't let you down.

'I will be a mayor for you - for the people.

'Politics in this country has been too London-centric for too long.

'Greater Manchester is going to take control and change politics.

'We're going to give power and purpose to those Westminster has left behind.'

13:00 Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told constituents in the South West Surrey town of Haslemere that improving the ‘failing’ South East Coast Ambulance service is one of his four key priorities for the town.

According to the Farnham Herald, in a pre-election statement, he expressed his concern following reports that ‘ambulance response times in Haslemere are too slow’.

Pulse has previously reported that the ambulance provider would be cutting its paramedic home visiting service in the area from the end of March due to an 'inadequate' CQC rating for not answering 999 calls within the five-second target, leaving GPs to take on more visits themselves.

Mr Hunt has been MP for the constituency of South West Surrey since 2005, where he is standing for re-election.

09:55 The first results from yesterday's local and mayoral elections around the UK show gains made by the Conservatives, reports the BBC.

It says the Tories gained control in Warwickshire and Lincolnshire, where UKIP lost all of its 13 council seats, while Labour lost control of Blaenau Gwent and Bridgend, but retained Cardiff.

Meanwhile the results for the Liberal Democrats were described as 'patchy' and the Green Party had won five seats by 9am.

But many of the 88 councils to hold local elections did not start counting until this morning.

Conservative canditate Tim Bowles was declared winner of the 'metro mayor' of West of England mayoral race.

Thursday 4 May

12:50 A junior doctor has published an animated short film on the pressure the NHS is under, ahead of the 8 June election.

The video, entitled The NHS: a visual essay and created by Dr Dominic Pimenta, has received more than 1.5 million views on Facebook to date.

Dr Pimenta told the Huffington Post: 'All I wanted from this video is for people to make informed choices, especially coming up to the election.'

9:45 Opposition parties have seized on new figures that suggest that the relaxation of the 18-week waiting time operation target could mean twice as many people waiting longer for non-essential operations.

According to graphs in a leaked document, obtained by the Health Service Journal, the proportion of patients being seen within 18 weeks could fall from the current 90% to about 85%. Also, the total number of people waiting for planned hospital care for procedures such as hip and knee replacements could rise sharply from just under 4 million to almost 5.5 million.

The Guardian article points out that the possibility of the backlog rising from 370,000 in February this year to around 800,000 by March 2019 is one of a number of scenarios presented to hospital bosses by financial regulator NHS Improvement.

Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth told the Guardian that the figures ‘lay bare the total failure of the Tories to protect patient safety by properly investing in our health and social care services’.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: ‘[These figures] reveal the sheer scale of the crisis facing the NHS and social care in the years ahead. [Without] bold solutions ... we will see standards fall and hospitals collapse under the pressure of growing demand.’


Wednesday 3 May

11:00 Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has called on political leaders to pledge to spend a fixed percentage on health spending, linking it with the success of the economy.

He said: ‘As the economy grows, so should health and care spending. This would establish more certainty around future investment and greater clarity on the collective view of what resources are needed to deliver safe and effective services.

‘We currently spend 10% of GDP on health and care funding, which is significantly less than the comparable economies of France and Germany.’

The NHS Confederation has also called for the Department of Health to be replaced by the Department of Health and Care to enable better integration between the two sectors as well as a one-off fund of at least £2 billion a year for the next two years to meet the immediate needs of the health service.

9:20 Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has promised that Labour will immediately reverse the 'sustainability and transformation plans' - designed to save £222bn from the NHS budget - if it comes to power.

Speaking to the Mirror, he said: 'The plans were drawn up behind closed doors, without proper consultation with local communities and within a financial envelope that was forcing local areas to make severe cuts.

'Under a Labour Government, we would halt this programme and undertake an immediate review of local health and care services.'

The Mirror says at least five major acute hospitals are likely to be axed including two in London, one in Leicestershire, one in the Black Country and one in Dorset, while a further 14 community hospitals have been earmarked for possible closure or redesignation.


Tuesday 2 May

16:00 The charity Mind has released its ‘Mental Health Manifesto’ ahead of the general election.

It urges the next government to make a number of commitments, including:

  • ‘Going beyond’ the pledged investment in the NHS’s Mental Health Forward View, and reform legislation to put mental health and physical health on the same footing;
  • Making financial assistance and tailored back to work support available, so people with a mental health condition can stay well and independent;
  • Tackling the stigma around mental health, by improving public understanding and incentivising employers to be more supportive.

10:00 Ahead of the general election, health policy chiefs are warning England is set for a 42,000 nurse shortfall by 2020 as Brexit and the impact of years of austerity exacerbate existing workforce crises.

The Health Foundation’s ‘In short supply’ report says NHS pay bands 5 and above - roughly 625,000 people - will have endured a 12% pay cut by 2020/21 when inflation is accounted for, as a consequence of the Conservative led pay restraint policies.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: ‘We are still not training enough nurses, doing too little to stop nurses leaving, and there seems to be no plan for pay policy following almost a decade of pay restraint. On top of this, the impact of Brexit means that international recruitment – the health service’s usual get out of jail free card for staff shortages – is at risk.’


Friday 28 April

16:45 NHS England have announced that the April combined performance data which was due to be published on Election Day, Thursday 8 June, has been delayed until the following day.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s health spokesperson, said: 'I will be writing to Jeremy Heywood to insist this data is released as planned. The Tories are running from their record of NHS failure, but patients and their families can see already how bad things have got. At this election, only Labour will give the NHS the resources it needs to deliver the service patients deserve.'

13:30 NHS Providers are urging Theresa May to give the health service an emergency cash injection of £25bn before 2020, the Guardian reports.

The group, which represents NHS trusts, is releasing its own manifesto next week, calling for an end to austerity.

Saffron Cordery, the director of policy and strategy, said its analysis showed that there was a 'revenue gap' of £4.5bn-£5bn a year in 2017-18 and 'each of the subsequent two years as well'.


Thursday 27 April

11:45 Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who was one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, has stuck by claims made by the campaigners that the NHS could receive the £350m week apparently spent by the UK on the EU.

Speaking to LBC, he said: 'I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll take back control, as I said many times, not just of our borders, not just of our laws, but of very substantial sums of cash.

'That's why we need strong, stable leadership under Theresa May to get that deal done.

'The £350m represents the total sum that we do not control every week that is spent by Brussels, either in this country or it's squittered away in some other European country.'

When challenged by the presente - who said health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he did not recognise the figure - Mr Johnson said: 'Well, you know. I'm just giving you. Well look. There's no question...

'Most people in this country, whether leavers or remainers will be gouging out their eyeballs with teaspoons at this conversation because we've had this so many times.'

He went on to clarify: 'We will take back control of that figure and that will be available for the government of the day to spend on the priorities of this country, including the NHS.'


Wednesday 26 April:

16:15 A Twitter campaign featuring members of the NHS Action Party has started a trend for NHS workers to tweet that it is their #publicduty to advise people to #VoteNHS in the upcoming election.

14:40 Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused the Labour Party of being 'insincere' about its election pledge for higher NHS pay.

13:50 The Labour MP for Stalybridge, Jonathan Reynolds, has sought the help of his GP, Dr Thomas Jones, to urge voters to shun the Tories in the upcoming election, in a Twitter video post.

12:30 A report from the Sun says Labour's NHS pay policies would 'delight hard-working nurses and GPs but cost the country around £1.5bn', suggesting this was 'economically reckless'.

It quotes Tory backbencher Philip Dunne saying: 'A strong NHS needs a strong economy. We’ve protected and increased the NHS budget and got thousands more staff in hospitals.

'But all that’s at risk with Jeremy Corbyn’s nonsensical economic policies that would mean less money for the NHS.'

10:45 Mr Ashworth has also made a video to explain what the NHS would be like with him as health secretary.

In the video, he pledges to fight for the NHS and says he is 'refusing' to let the polls 'depress' him.

09:45 The Labour Party wants to introduce safe staffing limits in the NHS if it wins the general election.

It said this would 'ensure that finances never again take precedence over patient safety'.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth will say this comes as 'we are thousands short on the numbers of nurses, midwives, GPs and paramedics that we need'.

A Labour spokesperson clarified that the scrapping of the 1% pay cap would also be taken into account when GP contractual uplifts were negotiated.

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Readers' comments (14)

  • Neither Tories nor Labour will be able to save NHS. Tories want to dismantle it because it is impossible to fund NHS entirely by tax payer's money.
    Labour wants to use NHS to get to power but they do not have any credible strategy to raise required money to fund the massive funding gaps.
    Neither party is talking about insurance based system or asking public to contribute directly, because it is politically incorrect.
    GPs who have political influence and voice should be asking these politicians these questions, instead of supporting either parties and fooling general public.

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  • Paying for the health service by insurance costs more in transaction costs.
    Where is the evidence that the money can't be raised by taxation? Have you considered Land Value Tax, transaction tax, and higher taxes on alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, diesel, gambling, and air passenger duty that would reduce demand for the NHS

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  • We need to come out of this thinking that Health care should be free for all forever. That thinking was appropriate when NHS was created after world war but times have changed.
    If world class health care which is free for all was economically possible then why no other country with respectable healthcare system has replicated our way of funding health care ?
    We & politician need to accept that NHS in current form has long outlived its days and needs to change the way its funded.

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  • We need a free service because the last thing the patients need to worry about is paying money when he or she is ill.

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  • keep it free for essential treatment and drugs. insurance is more expensive and so many don't have it and cant afford the treatment they need.

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  • Why is the UK creating MORE elected politicians....totally the best idea is to DISBAND more quango and shrink the number of politicians

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  • Tories liquidating the mental Health Act - Has their rule not being maddening enough?

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  • It does seem that democracy is in terminal decline in the uk

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  • getting paid more in gross and going home with less - net.

    We really have inadequate politicians!

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  • Ed, can this thread be split into weekly chunks as it is getting ever longer and how will we know what commenters are commenting on?

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