Doctors trying to save lives – even if they are striking


first-aid-850489_640Tomorrow passers-by at London Bridge and the Southbank will be able to learn new first aid skills – courtesy of striking junior doctors.

Members of the public can learn the correct way to perform CPR on both adults and children, as well as deal with someone who is choking.

The event is part of a wave of public health events planned by striking doctors across the country. These include first aid training and blood donation.

While most doctors will just be giving up time, some are preparing to give up quite a lot more. Blood drives are taking place in Nottingham, Bradford, Warwick, Birmingham, Leeds and Brighton.

These blood drives have been welcomed by NHS Blood and Transplant: “We’re always looking for new or existing donors to come along. It’s a difficult time of year for donations. People are really busy, the weather is miserable, there’s bugs going around. All these things keep people from donating.”

The blood donations have been pre-organised with authorities to ensure that none of the blood collected is wasted.

People wishing to find out more about donating blood can visit


Birmingham – Sepsis Awareness, Blood Donation, HIV/AIDS Awareness
Bradford – Charity Fundraising, Child First Aid Teaching, Blood Donation
Colchester – CPR and First Aid Teaching
Hove – Blood Donation
Leeds – Child CPR Teaching, Blood Donation, Stem Cell Drive
Lincoln – CPR Teaching

Liverpool, Crosby – Child and Adult CPR Teaching
London Bridge – Child and Adult CPR Teaching
Lymm – CPR Teaching
Nottingham – Blood Donation
Oxford – Blood Donation, Child CPR Teaching
Poole – Charity Fundraising
Southampton – Stem Cell Drive
Southbank – Child and Adult CPR Teaching
Sutton Coldfield – CPR Teaching
Warwick – Blood Donation


What Health Professionals Should Pay Attention To In Parliament This Week

Like all weeks in Parliament, there is quite a lot on. Even massive nerds like me struggle to care about most of it, but there are always a few nuggets worth paying attention to. Here are the things healthcare professionals should be paying attention to.

Monday 30th 

The Health Select Committee will release their report on childhood obesity. This report will make uncomfortable reading for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, given the recent furore over the proposed sugar tax and the ongoing crises of junior doctor contract talks and NHS finances. The report will probably generate an ‘action plan’, health professionals will be interested to see if it’s up to snuff.

Tuesday 1st

The Health Select Committee will interview the potential new head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Peter Wyman. He has held a few interesting roles over his career. A bit of digging reveals the following:

  • He is a senior advisor to Allbright Stonebridge Group – a company that advises multinationals on business strategy, or in blunter terms, a lobbying group.
  • He is a member of the board of Companies House. This group oversees businesses in the UK.
  • He was previously president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and a senior figure at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

It is a little surprising that the Government’s preferred candidate  to oversee the quality of healthcare is a man with ongoing interests in business. Hiring Wyman would open them up to further criticism about their desire to further the links between the NHS and private business interests.

Friday 4th

A bill designed to make off-patent drugs cheaper will get its second chance in Parliament. It will take a miracle for it to even be talked about as 11 other bills have to be voted on before it. It has such a late position as it was blocked on its first day by Alistair Burt, Minister for Social Care, who spoke for nearly half an hour to stop it passing.


To be honest, a lot less of interest to healthcare professionals in Parliament this week than most weeks. Though the upcoming junior doctors strike, and the ongoing NHS financial crisis, will ensure health and politics don’t stray too far apart.

Feelgood Friday: A Few Bits of Medical Good News

Like most weeks, there’s been a lot of bad medical news in the press. Babies dying unnecessarily, junior doctors going on strikes, the NHS ihas no money.

Here’s a few stories that show it’s not all been doom and gloom:

  1. Yet another reason to big up breast feeding this week. According to new research, breast feeding halves the chance of gestational diabetes becoming Type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can come on in pregnancy, and is linked to Type 2 diabetes later on in life
  2. For as long as doctors have been putting devices in to open up the arteries in peoples hearts, these devices have been getting clogged up. A new analysis of previous data shows that drug-releasing devices get clogged up less than devices which don’t ($)
  3. According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, British five year olds are at the skinniest levels ever measured. 9% of Reception Year children are obese, with 22% classed as overweight.
  4. The Government is launching a review into when gay and bisexual men should be allowed to give blood. Currently, men who have slept with another man are only to give blood if they’ve been celibate for 12 months. The decisions comes as welcome news to campaigners who say the current policy has not kept up with the medical evidence.

Despite what the papers normally tell you, it’s not always grim in the medical world. If you spot a story that you think should be in next week’s round-up, please get in touch.

BREAKING: Jeremy Hunt agrees to contract talks

Jeremy Hunt has agreed to mediated talks with the BMA, according to a letter sent by him to Mark Porter, Chair of the BMA.

In the letter, he says he is: “disappointed by the BMA’s continued refusal to take up that offer [direct negotiations]”. However, Hunt acknowledges: “any talks are better than strikes”, and he is: “very happy for my officials and NHS employers to commence these talks using ACAS conciliation services.”


The BMA proposed talks via ACAS on the 19th November, the same day 98% of their members voted for strike action. Hunt initially rejected talks with ACAS but has come under increasing pressure to avoid a junior doctor walkout.

Many junior doctors are irritated that the announcement came via a third party on Twitter, with plenty pointing out that unless the BMA makes an official announcement the strike will still go ahead .However many more will be relieved that resolving the dispute seems a possibility for the first time in several months.

The full text of the letter can be read here.



Psychological therapies subject to postcode lottery

Three quarters of NHS authorities are still failing to meet national targets on recovery from mental health problems, according to new data.

Recovery rates varied massively across the country according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The worst recovery rate was in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale (Greater Manchester) where just 2 in 10 patients recovered. The best was in Cannock Chase (Staffordshire) where nearly 7 in 10 patients recovered. Nationwide, just under half of people recovered at 45%.

The HSCIC report looked at the impact of  psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy on a wide range of disorders from depression to OCD.

A similar postcode lottery was found in how long people waited for access to psychological therapies. An average patient in Dudley waited a week to get treatment whilst the same patient in Blackpool waited longer than four months. Nationwide, the average was just over a month at 32 days.

London remains the worst performing region for mental health recovery, though it is the only region that has improved since last year.

mental health recovery.fw

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) are the local authorities responsible for NHS services. Only 57 out of 211 CCGs met the target recovery rate of 50%. However, this is an improvement on 2013-14 when just 48 CCGs met the target.

Dominic Grair, the statistician responsible for the report, said: “This report will enable commissioners and care providers to review access to psychological therapies, which should be useful when planning services for patients in the future.”



Feelgood Friday: It’s Not All Been Rubbish in the Medical World

Medicine and health gets a poor showing in the press most weeks. Everything gives you cancer, rogue healthcare professionals have done something stupid, and politicians have cocked up again.

To help you feel better, here’s some positive stories that may distract you for 5 seconds from the mess that is the junior doctor contracts and the NHS financial blackhole.

  1. The Federal Drug Authority in the US have approved a nasally inhaled version of naloxone, the drug used to treat heroin and other opioid overdoses. They hope it will be cheaper, easier to administer and eliminate the risk of needlestick injuries.
  2. An experimental anti-RSV drug has been shown to work in healthy adult males. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a major cause of lung infections in young children. This drug could be the first step on the way to a vaccine.
  3. A study has shown that if low-frequency ultrasound scans through the abdomen don’t detect an early pregnancy in women with first trimester pain or bleeding, you should try a high-frequency one. This doesn’t sound like much but hopefully it will reduce the need to do uncomfortable transvaginal procedures.
  4. A new Hep C combination pill has been developed that researchers believe is potentially curative. The simplified treatment would also be appropriate for use in primary care, which would speed up treatment times.

If you see any cheerful medical stories over the next week, tweet me @DTGregg1 and I’ll include them in next Friday’s post.

Hypocritical Hunt AGAIN avoids Parliamentary emergency

Jeremy Hunt has once again avoided answering an urgent question in Parliament, the second time he has done so in as many months.

Today’s question on junior contracts came just over 24 hours after junior doctors overwhelmingly voted for industrial action.

Whilst the first ever vote for strike action by Britain’s doctors might sound like a big deal to most people, Jeremy Hunt decided against attending today’s debate on it. It was left to  junior minister Alistair Burt to answer the questions out to him by Heidi Alexander, the Shadow Health Secretary, and other MPs.

Mr Hunt avoided a question on NHS finances on the 12th October 2015,  and here’s what I wrote then:

“Urgent questions are the parliamentary equivalent of a heart attack. They are serious, don’t happen that often and are granted only if there’s no other way of asking for the information you want.


Given that Hunt is continuing to say he’s open to negotiations, one would expect him to take the chance to discuss the contracts in Parliament. Mind you, you’d also expect him to take up the offer of fresh contract talks.

In fairness to him, there was the small matter of the worst ever NHS financial crisis to deal with today. However if his excuse is that he’s got too many crises to deal with at once then there will be very little sympathy for him in the world.

There has long been a feeling amongst junior doctors that Jeremy Hunt is either incompetent at his job or deliberately messing things up. This feeling is not helped by the fact he appears to do his best to avoid any kind of honest debate.

If he continues to avoid debate over important issues, you can only help but wonder before this total lack of trust starts to carry over to his political masters.

NB: The full debate can be viewed here. Scroll down on the right-hand side to 11:00 to ‘Urgent Question – Junior Doctor Contract’.