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#GPnews: Seven-day NHS and charging migrants in Queen’s Speech

17:30 …And in a bit of breaking news, the negotiating parties have reached agreement in the junior doctor contract dispute (although juniors will still get a chance to throw it out).

Read the full story here.

16:41 Shona Robison has been re-appointed to the role of health secretary in Scotland following a Holyrood reshuffle in light of general elections.

Commenting on the news, BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Benne said her reappointment ‘brings welcome continuity and experience to the role that will stand her in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead’.

He said the BMA looks forward to contining to work with the health secretary ‘at this critical time for the health sector in Scotland’.

It comes as Pulse reports on Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt’s negotiations with the SNP government for a new model of general practice.

According to Dr McDevitt, the new contract coming in next year in Scotland is a last chance to save the independent contractor model.

15:10 RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker has responded to the Queen’s Speech and she is not pleased.

She said: ‘We are disappointed and frustrated that despite our concerns and persistent opposition, plans are being forced through to start charging overseas visitors for GP care.

This fundamentally changes one of the founding principles of the NHS – that care is delivered free at the point of need.’

She also questioned ‘how cost-effective this legislation will be given that the Government’s own impact assessment found that, even in the best case scenario, economic benefits for the health service would be minimal’.

She said it would also ‘be a very real public health risk to have people living with potentially contagious diseases, because they are deterred from seeking healthcare because of cost’.

She said: ‘The college recognises that the NHS must not be abused and measures need to be taken to tackle health tourism, but doctors have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare and must not be expected to police the system or prevent people from getting medical help when they are at their most vulnerable.

‘GPs and our teams will be left doing the grunt work: explaining to patients what is bound to be a very complicated system; ticking more boxes at a time when we are calling for unnecessary bureaucracy in general practice to be reduced; and ultimately taking us away from delivering frontline patient care when demand is at an all time high.

She concluded that while GPs are ‘under immense pressure’, charging patients for appointments ‘is not the answer’.

12:45 The 2016 Queen’s Speech, which outlines legislation priorities for the Government, included both seven-day NHS services and plans to improve charging of migrants for NHS care they are not entitled to for free.

The Queen said: ’My Government will continue to work to deliver NHS services over seven days of the week in England. Legislation will be introduced to ensure that overseas visitors pay for the health treatment they receive at public expense.’

The BBC reports that the Overseas Visitors Charging Bill will entail:

  • Overseas migrants and visitors charged for NHS services they are not entitled to;
  • Tighter residency rules mean fewer visitors from the European Economic Area will be able to access free health care;
  • ’Full cost’ of treating overseas patients to be recovered and ploughed back into NHS   

It says it is not clear yet if this applies to the whole of the UK.

As previously reported by Pulse, overseas visitors are set to be charged for some GP services but will continue to be able to access consultations without charge.

The proposals, which are subject to consultation, include charging visitors for things like blood tests, lung function rests and prescriptions.

Since last year, overseas visitors are already charged at 150% of the tariff price for hospital treatments.

11.52 The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Zika virus – carried by mosquitoes and blamed for an increase in babies born with microcephaly – may spread to Europe as the weather gets warmer.

The Daily Mail reports that the virus, the spread of which began in Brazil, could reach the continent ‘within weeks’.

The risk is highest in areas which have the Aedes mosquito, in particular on the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, the report said.

’There is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European Region and… this risk varies from country toc ountry’, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

09:40 Eating more than four servings a week of potatoes increases the risk of high blood pressure, a study published in the BMJ has suggested.

In women, the risk was 11% higher, compared to those who ate less than one serving a month. This included boiled, mashed and fries – but not crisps, the Independent reports.

Experts said this was probably down to the high glycemic index (GI) of potatoes.

But Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: ’This type of study can only show an association, not cause and effect.’