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Union pensions industrial action hots up, Lib Dems reveal red lines on health bill and ‘abysmal’ GP waiting times

Our round-up of the health headlines on Wednesday 21 September 2011

The Guardian reports that the NHS faces the prospect of more than 500,000 staff taking industrial action on 30 November as part of the national day of action against Government plans to overhaul public sector pensions.

Paramedics, physiotherapist, chiropodist and non-clinical staff such as cleaners are expected to participate in as yet unspecified action. Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said ‘Employers are very concerned about the cost of the pay bill… We are keen to continue discussions with trade unions on the NHS staff council about the scope for negotiated changes to the national pay agreements to make them more affordable and flexible'.

Shirley Williams, the Liberal Democrat peer, said yesterday that Andrew Lansley will have to make further concessions on the Government's health bill when it gets debated in the House of Lords. According to The Independent, Liberal Democrat campaigners are hoping to give the health secretary ultimate responsibility for the NHS in the bill, and reinstating a cap on how much income hospitals can get from treating private patients. Baroness Williams is concerned that the bill could allow Mr Lansley or his successors to claim that they cannot intervene and keep hospitals and other services open, and that hospitals will try to increase their private revenue at the expense of NHS patients.

The Independent also reports that universities are preparing for a measles outbreak as students return to their courses. The Health Protection Agency has published figures showing that the number of confirmed cases so far this year is already more than twice than the amount for the whole of 2010. Several universities have warned students to get MMR jabs if their vaccinations are not up to date. Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said ‘University bars and campuses where lots of students are in close proximity are ideal places for bacteria and viruses to spread'.

The Daily Mail reports that abiraterone acetate, a prostate cancer pill, when taken with a steroid can help give men with advanced prostate cancer four months' extra life compared with those who took a placebo. Professor Johann de Bono from the Institute of Cancer Research said, 'Clinic trials have proven abiraterone acetate can not only prolong life, but in some men improve their quality of life'. 

A survey commissioned by the Daily Mail  has revealed many patients have to wait up to three weeks to see their GP. A poll of 2,000 patients found two-thirds are unable to see their doctor within two days, over a quarter cannot get an appointment within a week and some have to wait longer than a fortnight. Joyce Robbins, of Patient Concern, said the delays were ‘abysmal', however a spokesman from the BMA said GPs ‘always strive to meet demand, but the reasons why some people may wait longer than a week for an appointment will vary'.

According to the Daily Telegraph overcoming depression and anxiety is a postcode lottery. NHS Figures show that approximately three in five patients fail to return to full health after a course of psychological therapy. Blackpool PCT fared the worst with 6% of patients beating depression. In comparision, Sandwell PCT had a recovery rate of 67%.