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#GPnews: February A&E statistics were ‘worst on record’

14:50 The BMA has responded to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s call for hospitals to go back to meeting A&E targets by next winter, saying the Government ‘needs to explain just how this will happen considering that yesterday’s budget didn’t come close to addressing the black hole in NHS finances’.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘It would be naïve to think that the crisis in the NHS stops solely at the hospital door when, in fact, our A&E departments are struggling because of an overstretched system.

‘The NHS isn’t at breaking point because of front-line financial mismanagement, or individual chief executives’ poor decision making, but because of the conscious, and constant, underinvestment in our health service.

‘To really help doctors deliver the best care for patients, the government needs to look at the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole if we are to get to grips with the pressures the NHS faces year in, year out, but which are compounded during the winter months.’

Read our story on the NHS’s plan for returning to meeting A&E standards here.

14:05 More than 15,000 unexpected deaths were recorded at NHS trusts between 2011 and 2016.

Significantly high rates of unexpected deaths were recorded at 19 of England’s 133 hospital trusts, reports the BBC.

The analysis by the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London, which monitors NHS performance, found that all 19 trusts had below average numbers of doctors per bed

Dr Foster co-director Professor Sir Brian Jarman said: ‘What we’ve found is that not only do those hospitals which have the very high death rates have less than the average doctors per bed than the national average, nearly all of them have more overcrowding than you would expect.

‘Over the last 25 years in England we have doubled the number of admissions and we’ve halved the number of beds.’

The analysis comes as NHS England said last week that CCGs could de-commission hospital beds if they could show that they were increasing primary care and community services.

But Professor Jarman said: ‘If we cut more beds – and particularly if we cut the beds without proving that we have got adequate care in the community – I think that’s an extremely dangerous way to run a health service.’

11:45 The Sun reports on new tobacco laws coming in from 21 May to protect public health.

This will see smaller bags of under 30g of tobacco become banned alongside 10-packs of cigarettes.

There will also be a complete ban on menthol-flavoured cigarettes from 20 May 2020. 

Action on Smoking and Health spokesperson Amanda Sandford told the Manchester Evening News: ‘Cigarettes are already expensive and the price increase of cigarettes is a key factor in making people quit smoking.

‘So by removing the packet of ten cigarettes this means people will have to find that extra money for a packet.

‘It will hit poorer smokers harder, who are usually younger smokers.

‘Paying £3 or £4 for a packet of ten cigarettes at the moment might not seem so much to people and still leave them with change in their pockets.

‘But when you have to spend £6/£7 even £9 people may think, ‘Do I really need this packet?’

10:35 The latest statistics for A&E departments in England have shown February was the worst month on record.

Nuffield Trust chief economist and director of research John Appleby said the figures made ‘dismal reading for the NHS and patients’.

He said: ‘The numbers of patients stuck on a trolley waiting for a hospital bed have gone through the roof, with over 80,000 patients waiting for four hours or more in January, and a staggering 988 of them waiting longer than twelve hours.  These are vulnerable people with acute medical needs. Corridors, it seems, have become the new emergency wards.

‘The problems in social care are well known and cuts to services have been a big driver of these problems. That’s why the extra money announced in yesterday’s Budget is welcome. But with the NHS experiencing its own pressures and the social care funding gap set to be at least £2bn in the coming year alone, there are no guarantees that patients at A&E can expect let-up any time soon.’

09:40 Chancellor Philip Hammond has come under fire for breaking a Tory manifesto pledge that taxes would not increase.

As Pulse reports, GP partners are among those who will be forced to pay higher rates of National Insurance from next year onwards, following the announcement of the Spring Budget.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Mr Hammond defended his move to bring in line contributions paid by the self-employed to that of employees.

He said: ‘What I think we have done now is get the relationship between employed and self-employed National Insurance contributions into a fairer place.’

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