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NHS watchdog examines 'potentially avoidable' deaths

The health service watchdog is examining more than 250 complaints about potentially avoidable deaths and many more about cases where patients may have suffered needless harm according to Dame Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The inquiry's finding into NHS complaints will be published next year. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Dame Julie said in some of the cases there had been no investigation by NHS authorities and the watchdog's casework had shown up a "wide variation in the quality of NHS investigations" into serious cases.

The inquiry's initial findings will be published next year, and Dame Julie said it would make recommendations for "system-wide change to the leadership and delivery of patient safety".

When public services fail, it can have serious effects on us as individuals. We know that when people complain, they often want three simple things: an explanation of what went wrong, an apology and for the mistake not to be repeated.

– Dame Julie Mellor

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Government 'acting like tin-pot dictatorship' over strike

The Government has been accused of acting "like some tin-pot dictatorship" with its plans to send in the Army and police to cover for striking health workers on Monday.

Christina McAnea, the worker union Unison's Head of Health, told ITV News the proposals were "astonishing".

Midwives, nurses, ambulance drivers and other NHS staff in England will walk out for four hours on Monday in a row over pay, while health workers in Northern Ireland will also take action.

Protests against US-EU trade deal that 'threatens NHS'

Protests are to be held across Britain and the rest of Europe against a controversial US-EU trade deal that UK campaigners claim will lead to more NHS services being privatised.

Rallies will be held today in cities including London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Leeds against the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) amid similar events in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Health campaigners protested about Ukip's silence over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the party's annual conference. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted there is no threat to the NHS from the agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.

The Government and the deal's supporters claim TTIP will boost the economy, create jobs and cut red tape, especially for small businesses, by removing trade barriers.

Campaign groups are urging MEPs to vote against the controversial deal when it reaches the European Parliament.

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GMC: More doctors coming from Europe than ever before

There are more doctors are coming from Europe to work in the UK than ever, according to a report by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Most overseas-trained doctors had previously come from south Asia, but recently there has been a sharp rise in doctors from southern Europe.

GMC: More doctors coming from Europe than ever before Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The GMC believes this might have been caused partly by changes to immigration rules which have made it more difficult for doctors from outside Europe to work here.

The report also found that a common theme among doctors working in primary care was feeling "overloaded" and "at risk of burning out". Meanwhile there has been a significant increase in the number of women becoming surgeons and specialists in emergency medicine. The profession as a whole could soon have equal numbers of men and women - women already account for 44% of all registered doctors (up from 42% in 2010) and more than half of medical students are female.

NHS facing 'tough choices on what it funds'

If the NHS cannot afford to fund everything, then it will need to make tough choices about what it does fund. Do we think about increasing our tolerance for longer wait (for care), or do we say, 'NHS funding is only for the health aspects of care and treatment', which means patients being asked to cover their hotel costs for bed and board? Overall funding allocation for health and social care is a political choice. Flat funding in real terms is a choice. Funding that doesn't match an increase in demand is a choice. One-off 'lumps' of money, which gets newspaper headlines but don't allow health service leaders to plan effectively, are a choice.

– Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation

The NHS will remain free at the point of use. We know that with an ageing population there's more pressure on the NHS, which is why we've increased the budget by £12.7bn over this parliament and are investing in community services to keep people living healthier at home for longer.

– Department of Health spokesman

Hospital patients could see £75 a night 'bed and board' charge

Patients admitted to hospital could be asked to pay for their "bed and board" if funding does not match increasing demand, a top health service manager has warned.

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS commissioners and providers, said the health service would have to make "tough choices".

Although he added plans to charge patients for accommodation had not been drawn up, the Independent quoted an unnamed source suggesting the fee could be £75 a night.

It comes after a cohort of influential health bodies issued an open letter to the leaders of all three main parties stating the NHS was at "breaking point".

Labour: NHS is 'heading in the wrong direction'

NHS professionals signed a letter saying the NHS is at 'breaking point'. Credit: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne says the NHS is "heading rapidly in the wrong direction" after several professional health organisations signed a letter to the three main political parties claiming the service is at 'breaking point'.

Mr Gwynne also accused the Prime Minister of "wasting" £3 billion on a damaging NHS re-organisation.

“Everywhere you look there are signs of an NHS now heading rapidly in the wrong direction...Patients are already seeing waiting times and cancer care heading downhill - people will fear that much worse will be in store next year. You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS."

– Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne
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