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Media Watch: workforce woes go beyond Olympics

With the harsh media spotlight trained on Olympics security firm G4S, you’d think the NHS could have a week off. No such luck.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation revealed hospitals were hiring agency nurses for up to £1,600 a day to cope with rising staff shortages.

“Experts said the disclosures showed how attempts to improve hospital efficiency had backfired, with jobs being cut only for temporary staff to be hired at inflated rates,” reported the paper.

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the freedom of information-sourced data showed “lamentable planning” by the NHS. Julia Manning of the 2020health think tank opted for “appalling short-sightedness”.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times splashed on the suggestion that thousands of NHS staff could face the sack unless they agree to “drastic changes to their pay and conditions” – having discovered a “leaked document” covered by HSJ some time previously.

As the Financial Times reported, this news was set to become key ammunition for shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who would accuse the government of causing “financial distress” in the NHS.

Elsewhere a Daily Mail exclusive claimed “the sight of thousands of elderly people has been put in jeopardy as NHS trusts place harsh restrictions on cataract surgery”, citing research by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. It seems more than half of trusts in England have imposed criteria for surgery that are “tougher than national guidelines”, a move dubbed “short termism of the worst kind” by RNIB head of policy Steve Winyard.

Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph’s business section reported Hospedia – “the company formed from the wreckage of controversial hospital bedside telephones and television company Patientline” – was announcing its first acquisition. The firm is to buy Extramed, provider of hospital patient flow and bed management services to 22 hospitals, “in a move aimed at transforming itself into a healthcare IT specialist”.

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