Most hospitals unsafe for children, report finds

February 28, 2007

Three-quarters of NHS hospitals in England cannot guarantee the safety of children in their care, the government’s health watchdog warned today in a “wake-up call” to shock doctors and managers into improving services.

The Healthcare Commission said nearly one in five NHS trusts did not provide effective life support for children brought in for emergency treatment at night last year. More than half of hospitals did not give staff adequate training in child protection, ignoring procedures put in place after the death of the child abuse victim Victoria Climbié in 2000. Many doctors in outpatient clinics and day surgery units knew little about pain relief for children, and the majority of NHS surgeons and anaesthetists lacked essential training in how to communicate with children.

Most hospitals unsafe for children, report finds | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

First-time buyers turn to 100%-plus mortgages

February 28, 2007

The number of first-time buyers taking out a mortgage greater than the value of their home has risen by 50%, it was claimed today.Brokers at the Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB) said homebuyers opting for a 100% mortgage rose by 21% last year, while those opting to borrow more than the worth of their property grew by a half.

Research also indicated that around one in 10 borrowers are now choosing to borrow the entire value of their property or more.

But the news is likely to heighten concern that some homeowners couldbe stretching their finances too far and overburdening themselves with debt.

In so doing, they are likely to face greater repayment rates while leaving themselves open to huge financial risks should the price of property slump.

First-time buyers turn to 100%-plus mortgages | Property | Guardian Unlimited Money

Dementia Cases To Soar

February 28, 2007

Up to 1.7 million in the UK will have dementia by 2050 and the costs of caring for them will be colossal, experts have warned.

Britain currently pays £17bn a year to look after 700,000 people who have the condition – the equivalent to £539 per second.

But the number of sufferers is set to rise to more than one million in less than 20 years, creating a crisis in medical and social care.

According to estimates, by 2050 the number will have soared to 1.7 million.

An Alzheimer’s Society report into the social and economic impact of dementia warns that urgent action is needed to plan for the increase.

Sky News: Dementia Cases To Soar

Hewitt approves seven PFI hospitals at cost of £1.5bn

February 28, 2007

Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, gave the green light yesterday to plans for seven new hospitals to be built under the private finance initiative at a cost of £1.5bn.

Her decision to back the NHS’s biggest ever tranche of investment will provide modern facilities for patients in Bristol, Peterborough, Middlesbrough, Wakefield, Tunbridge Wells, Chelmsford and Edmonton, north London.

But it added to anxieties among health service managers and union leaders that the NHS is locking itself into repaying huge sums in 30-year deals with the private sector for buildings and equipment that may not meet changing medical needs.

Hewitt approves seven PFI hospitals at cost of £1.5bn | Health |

Hospitals told to wait 20 weeks to operate

February 27, 2007

A NHS surgeon today exposed how cash-strapped hospitals were being barred from operating on cancer patients who had not waited long enough.

Wayne Jaffe laid the blame for the appalling state of affairs at the feet of Tony Blair, with his vision of reduced waiting times and 24-hour surgery. In a withering assessment of the financial management of the health service, Mr Jaffe said that doctors were being restricted in getting waiting lists down by financial limitations and ever-changing targets.

The consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, who specialises in skin cancer and breast reconstruction, said he and his colleagues are being prohibited from operating in non-urgent cases unless the patient has been waiting for a minimum of 20 weeks.

This is because the hospital would not get paid – even if the patient and staff were ready for the operation.

Hospitals told not to operate until patients have waited 20 weeks | Uk News | News | Telegraph

‘Mercenaries’ to fill Iraq troop gap

February 25, 2007

MINISTERS are negotiating multi-million-pound contracts with private security firms to cover some of the gaps created by British troop withdrawals.

Days after Tony Blair revealed that he wanted to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from war-torn Basra within months, it has emerged that civil servants hope “mercenaries” can help fill the gap left behind.

Officials from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence will meet representatives from the private security industry within the next month to discuss “options” for increasing their business in Iraq in the coming years.

The UK government has already paid out almost £160m to private security companies (PSCs) since the invasion of Iraq, for a range of services, including the protection of British officials on duty and in transit in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But, despite expectations that the booming market for private security would go into decline following the bursting of the “Iraq bubble”, firms have now been told to expect even more lucrative work during the “post-occupation phase”. News – International – ‘Mercenaries’ to fill Iraq troop gap

NHS facing ‘financial uncertainty’

February 23, 2007

The next few years will be a time of “increasing turbulence and financial uncertainty” for the NHS and a “crucial” period for its long-term viability, a respected health thinktank has warned.

With real-term increases in funding set to fall from 2008, the health service will face a squeeze on spending at a time when many trusts are already finding it difficult to balance the books, says a report from the King’s Fund.

The Government must take action now to improve productivity, reduce wide variations in hospital performance and win staff support for reform if the NHS is to cope with the tighter funding climate, it warns.

NHS facing ‘financial uncertainty’ | UK Latest | Guardian Unlimited