Lowdown stories and the editor’s pick from local media across the UK (16 September 2021)

Surprise privatisation of NHS staff at London urgent care centre

No private firms to sit on Integrated Care Boards


‘Revolutionary’ new cancer blood test to be trialled in the North East 

A ‘revolutionary’ new blood test which could detect up to 50 different kinds of cancer before symptoms appear is set to be trialled in the north-east. The Northern Cancer Alliance – covering the north-east and north Cumbria region – is one of 8 regional groups picked to trial the new Galleri blood test. 

The team behind the trial are hoping to recruit 140,000 volunteers for the “quick and simple” blood test, which can be administered at mobile testing units in the community.  

NHS England chief exec Amanda Pritchard said: “By finding cancer before signs and symptoms even appear, we have the best chance of treating it and we can give people the best possible chance of survival.” 

She is urging those invited to the trial to take part and said if successful the new test could help the NHS meet its target of diagnosing three-quarters of all cancer cases in the early stages. 

Full story – Chronical Live, 13 September 2021. 

Nurses reject 3% pay offer for NHS Wales staff as ballot for strike action edges closer 

93.9% of RCN Wales members who voted said the pay award from the Welsh Government was ‘unacceptable’. The vote was part of an online consultation on NHS pay which ran from August 12 for 28 days.  

Members of RCN Wales will now decide what action to take next with the option to ballot for industrial action on the cards. 

Helen Whyley, RCN Wales director, said: “This shows the strength of feeling among our NHS members who are bitterly disappointed with the 3% pay award. Nurses have not had a decent pay award for the last decade. This comes when inflation is above 3% and national insurance contributions are rising which effectively negates this pay award.” 

Nursing vacancies in Wales were at least 1,500 pre-pandemic and many of those have still not been filled. 

Full story – Wales Online, 16 September 2021. 

Stockport plans £500m hospital on Debenhams site 

The council and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust have bid for funds to replace Stepping Hill Hospital with a new town centre medical facility.  

Currently, no new hospital is officially in the works. The trust has only placed its bid for Stockport to get one of the 40 facilities promised under the government’s £3.7bn New Hospitals Programme. The programme has already delivered money for 32 new-build projects and actively looking to sponsor another 8.  

Karen James, chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that many of our patients, visitors and staff, particularly those living in outlying areas, don’t find it easy to get to Stepping Hill Hospital, 

The proposed town centre site is close to key transport hubs and would allow us, as a major employer in the town, to play our part in the exciting regeneration of Stockport.” 

Even if funding is secured, it is estimated that it could take seven to eight years before a new hospital would be able to open. In the meantime, the trust plans to continue investing in maintenance of the hospital including £30.6m plan to develop a new emergency care campus. 

Full story – North West Place, 8 September 2021. 

Youth workers to support stab victims at Dudley’s Russels Hall Hospital 

Youth workers will be placed in a Black Country hospital to support victims of knife attack and serious violence. This is part of a government-backed scheme to try and tackle knife crime in the region.  

Youth workers will approach young people who have come into hospital with stab wounds or who have suffered another serious injury from crime. They will attempt to work with troubled youths in gangs or at risk of being drawn into them.  

The support programme has been launched by the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit, who secured Home Office funding. They have already launched in Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital. 

Full story – Birmingham Live, 16 September 2021. 

Nursing vacancies in NHS Scotland at ‘record level’, union says 

Vacancies have reached ‘record levels’ as new figures show more than 500 consultant positions and almost 5,000 jobs in nursing and midwifery are vacant.  

RCN Scotland are demanding action as the level of staff vacancy was revealed this summer. The union claimed the vacancy rates in some areas – including NHS Highland, NHS Shetland and NHS Dumfries and Galloway – meant that more than one in 10 nursing and midwifery roles were lying empty. 

This comes as RCN Scotland are locked in a pay dispute with the Scottish Government, with union leaders demanding a “fair pay rise” to “retain and recruit the nursing workforce Scotland needs”.  

Julie Labmerth, RCN Scotland board chair, said: “RCN Scotland members are telling us that they have never been under greater pressure and with so many vacancies adding to the strain, we are seeing work-related absences on the rise.” 

Full story – The National, 8 September 2021. 

East Kent Hospitals: Chief executive of baby deaths trust to step down 

The chief executive of East Kent Hospitals Trust has stepped down. The trust has been exposed for failings in its maternity care and Covid-19 precautions is stepping down. Susan Acott steps down four years after taking on the post in 2018. 

In June the trust was fined £733,000 over the death of baby Harry Richford in 2017, admtiting failing to provide safe care and treatment.  

In October 2020, the trust also came under fire from the CQC after an inspection revealed a number of failings over Covid-19 precautions.  

The search for her successor begins immediately, with a huge job on their hands to recover the trust’s reputation. 

Full story – BBC News, 8 September 2021. 

NHS dentistry is financially unviable, Northern Ireland Health Minister told 

Almost 500 dentists from across Northern Ireland have signed a letter addressed to the Health Minister which warns NHS dentistry “is at severe risk of complete collapse”.  

The British Dental Association (BDA) said NHS dentistry in Northern Ireland is “financially unviable”, with the income for associate dentists dropping by 36% since 2008/09 and 43% for practice owners over the same period. 

The letter states: “While practitioners across the UK have experienced sustained cuts to their incomes, practitioners in Northern Ireland have seen their pay eroded by the largest proportion.” 

The BDA have described a burnt-out and demoralised workforce and that income has been significantly impacted during the pandemic, leaving the service in an “extremely precarious state”. They are calling for collective leadership from the government to try to avoid a complete collapse of health service dentistry. 

Full story – Belfast Telegraph, 2 September 2021. 

‘Perfect storm’ of more Covid, soaring A&E demand and staff exhaustion feared by London hospital chief 

The hospital chief has warned that hospitals will be unable to reduce the patient backlog or increase access to visitors if they are hit by the ‘perfect storm’ of rising Covid cases and staff burn-out. Hospitals are already reporting A&E numbers usually only seen in the winter. 

Across London more than 800,000 patients are waiting for hospital treatment. Professor Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said staff were exhausted and some hospital services would have to be postponed to help them cope in the event of more Covid cases. 

St Mary’s Hospital, part of the trust, has submitted a full strategic outline case to the government for funding to be part of the 40 new hospitals promised nationally.  

Professor Orchard said: “The trust has the biggest backlog maintenance liability of any NHS organisation and, as our staff and patients are very aware, the state of our facilities, with many pre-dating the NHS itself, makes it increasingly difficult to provide high quality care.” 

Full story – Evening Standard, 16 September 2021. 

Cornwall Council announces blitz on Covid cases 

Cornwall Council is aiming to tackle the number of Covid cases in the council this week with so called ‘vaxi taxis’ and extra vaccination clinics. These form part of the extra support after Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were designated an Enhanced Response Area on August 27. 

Three weeks since this extra support and covid cases in Cornwall have dropped in line with South West and national average. However, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continues to pressure the NHS.  

Teams will hit the streets this coming week to engage with residents in areas of lower vaccine uptake about the importance of getting vaccinated. The ‘vaxi taxi’ is a free transport scheme to encourage carers to get fully jabbed before September 16th and additional pop up vaccine clinics are being held in Falmouth and Truro – with no booking required.  

Local councillor and Portfolio Holder for Adults and Public Health, Andy Virr, said: “It’s great that we’ve managed to bring case numbers down in Cornwall but we still need everyone to step and do their bit to protect each other.” 

Full story – The Falmouth Packet, 16 September 2021. 

London statue unveiled in honour of Windrush NHS nurses 

A statue has been unveiled in North London to commemorate the efforts of Windrush and Commonwealth NHS nurses and midwives, following a successufl crowd-funding campaign.  

Around 40,000 nurses and midwives from around the Commonwealth came to the UK from 1948 to 1973 to help the fledging NHS, which was facing recruitment issues. Their dedication and service was exemplary and it has been said that the NHS would have collapsed without ther contributions.  

Full story – The Independent, 11 September 2021. 

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