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Treat patients ‘more holistically’

Published on 13/01/14 at 08:05am
Hunt image

UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken of the challenges faced by the NHS in a New Year message to staff - and chief among these is the need “to find ways to treat patients more holistically”, he says.

The health secretary focusses on the professionalism of NHS ambulance services, highlighting their work during the Christmas floods and power failures, as well as their part in treating theatregoers in London when part of the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre collapsed.

“A&E departments were busy, but across the country we hit the target for the two final weeks of the year,” he adds.

Yet although the message is designed more as a pep talk rather than a comprehensive review of 2013, the document is striking for what it leaves out.

While Hunt thanks the “many people who worked right through Christmas and the New Year, as ever doing a brilliant job for patients”, there is nothing about October’s spat over pay, when a government move to scrap a 1% pay rise in 2014 for more than a million NHS staff in England was likened by the Labour Party to a ‘kick in the teeth’.

The Department of Health suggested in written evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body that the money should instead be used to ‘modernise’ NHS pay structures.

Hunt also makes no mention of the return to ‘old fashioned family doctors’, a phrase trumpeted by the government at the announcement of the new GP contract in November - although he does highlight the move to having a named GP for the over 75s, which is set to be rolled out from April.

The list of challenges also does not include Hunt’s pledge that ‘one region in England’ will have a fully portable electronic health record in place by the next general election.

There is also nothing about the cuts the NHS faces, although money remains a huge issue: the House of Commons health select committee warned last year of the need for the NHS to be ‘re-imagined’ after publishing a report on public expenditure on health and care services.

Perhaps most surprisingly, there is no place in the message for either the 11 hospitals which were put into ‘special measures’ after an investigation into mortality found a number of failings - or of the response to the scandal of Mid Staffs, which was perhaps the defining story of the NHS in 2013.

However, Hunt makes much of the plan “to put the name of responsible consultants and nurses above every bed” in hospitals, a practice which he says was stopped with the arrival of multi-disciplinary teams.

“Of course these teams are very important, but we also know that sometimes patients can feel they are pushed from pillar to post inside a hospital without anyone taking overall charge,” Hunt says.

“So this year I hope all hospitals will consider the best way to make sure there is someone senior taking responsibility for a patient’s whole stay in a hospital - not just for solving individual medical problems and then passing them on to another team,” he goes on.

“Everywhere will have different approaches to achieving this, so please work together with the leadership in your Trust to find the best solution for your patients,” Hunt concludes.

Adam Hill

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