The coalition’s radical reshaping of the health service has been a “step backwards” for the commissioning of fertility services in the NHS, the chair of the national fertility watchdog has said, plus the rest of today’s news and comment.

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4.30pm We’ve had some interesting reader comments about our interview with the British Medical Association’s GP committee chair Chaand Nagpaul, in which he acknowledged that the nationally agreed core GP contract will diminish in significance as clinical commissioning groups increasingly agree local deals with practices.

One reader said: “do I sense a climbdown from the BMA? Having got nothing from NHS England I wonder if they think they can get more from CCGs”

Another said: “So, rather than negotiate a national contract which allows GPs to unite and negotiate en masse, the Govt. will divide and conquer. Very clever, but potentially inflamatory.”

What are your thoughts on the GP contract? Let us know at

3.48pm In the King’s Fund blog, senior policy assistant Hugh Alderwick examines the limitations of directly comparing different healthcare systems.

“Rankings can only tell us so much, and necessarily look through the rear view mirror,” he writes.

“The NHS today is rapidly heading towards crisis and struggling to hold on to the performance gains made over recent years.

“The challenge is how to maintain our position against other health systems while focusing on the unwarranted variations that exist within our own.” 

A recent comparative study of 11 healthcare systems by the Commonwealth Fund ranked the NHS at the top.

3.22pm In response to a the findings of a BMA poll, which called for politics to be kept out of the NHS, Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Everyone has a view about how the NHS should be run and it will always generate debate. Along with partners in representative bodies and the Medical Royal Colleges, we are calling for that debate to be focused on the right solutions for change in the NHS.

“The poll released by the BMA shows there are concerns amongst the public about the health service being used as a political football. 

“This is why we and our partners are asking politicians and policy makers to sign up to the 2015 Challenge which calls for an open and honest debate about the challenges which currently facing the NHS.

“Ahead of the General Election, we need the political parties to develop manifestos which will address these challenges.  This does not mean a national blueprint for the way the NHS is managed.

“What we need is a system of local leaders across the NHS and to empower them to improve health and wellbeing for local people.

“We want to support local leaders to work in partnership with a wide range of health, care and related organisations to address the 2015 Challenge, involve patients and citizens as leaders. This must be clinically lead, with support from effective management.

“The organisations involved in the 2015 Challenge are now working on the issues we think will need to be addressed if we are to succeed.”

3.10pm You can now listen to BMA chair Mark Porter’s speech to the body’s annual representative meeting. Dr Porter received a standing ovation when he delivered his speech earlier today, which sharply criticised the government’s healthcare reforms.

2.43pm Delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting have also votied favour of investment in workforce and for contract talks to recognise compensation for anti-social hours.

2.41pm Back to the BMA’s annual representative meeting, delegates have voted unanimously at seven day services are not feasible within the current budget of the NHS and should not include routine care.

2.21pm In The Guardian, the BMA has criticised plans too relax licencing laws, which would allow the Women’s Institute, bed and breakfasts and charities to sell alcohol.

“There is nothing wrong with moderate alcohol intake, but we do not need to be relaxing the laws on the selling of alcohol. We need a well-controlled licensing system that ensures alcohol is sold in appropriate circumstances,” said Andrew Thomson, a member of the BMA’s board of science.

1.50pm The Times reports on an HSJ comment piece byNarinder Kapur, professor of neuropsychology at University College London, calling for a staff support commission.

In his original article, he said: “The staff support commission would oversee staff surveys that focus on issues such as bullying, as well as listening to workers’ stories. It would also probe subtle and indirect forms of bullying such as exclusion of staff from meetings, freezing of posts or budgets and “digging for dirt” about staff who have raised concerns.

“The commission would gather data on staff wellbeing within a hospital, the occurrence of discrimination, how much impaired wellbeing is due to working conditions and what support services are in place for staff who suffer stress or ill health.”

1.29pm Flicking through today’s papers this lunchtime, on The Times front page, the paper reports that “an emergency £2 billion bailout out of the NHS is being demanded within the government amid high-level feats of an approaching crisis in patient care”.

According to the paper the shortfall is so urgent that the chancellor George Osborne is facing demands to take action in his last autumn statement before the general election.

12.58pm Help us find LGBT role models within the NHS.

HSJ, working with the NHS Leadership Academy, will be publishing a special supplement in September exploring attitudes to, and experiences of, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in the NHS.

Compared with the general population, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have higher rates of mental ill health as well as alcohol and drug consumption. Lesbian women are also more likely to have never had a cervical smear test, while gay or bisexual men are more likely to experience domestic violence.

People’s sexual orientation matters. The extent to which an organisation is inclusive and understands the specific health needs of people who identify as LGBT will have an impact on the experience of LGBT staff and patients.

Through a reader survey, HSJ will be examining whether the NHS is as inclusive, accessible and welcoming to the LGBT community – patients, employees, service users and customers – as it could be.

We will examine whether and how attitudes are changing, how stigma and prejudice is being addressed and whether the health needs of the LGBT community are being fully understood and met.

The survey is now open and we are seeking views – both from people who identify as LGBT and those who do not. It can be found here.

The supplement will also celebrate LGBT role models within your organisation – clinicians, nurses, managers, leaders and frontline staff who identify as LGBT and who are working to promote the inclusion of, and support for, the community, helping to break down barriers and effecting change through personal example, leadership or day to day excellence.

The closing date for nominations and completing the survey is 1 August.

Only people who have approved and agreed to their nomination being published will be included on the long list, which will be evaluated by an expert judging panel, including lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall.

12.47pm HSJ’s Shaun Lintern tweets from the BMA’s annual representative meeting:

12.44pm At the BMA’s annual representative meeting,delegates have also passed calling for the repeal of legislation around competitive tendering in the NHS.

Delegates also voted in favour of motion calling for the NHS to be exempt from Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Follow HSJ’s Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern) on Twitter for further updates.

12.11pm The coalition’s radical reshaping of the health service has been a “step backwards” for the commissioning of fertility services in the NHS, the chair of the national fertility watchdog has said.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ, Sally Cheshire, interim chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said the organisation had arrived at a “relatively good place” by educating primary care trusts on how to get the best out of IVF services.

11.50am BMA chair Mark Porter received a standing ovation when he addressed the body’s annual representative conference earlier this morning, in a speech that was highly critical of the government’s health reforms.

He said “while everyone else in the NHS has been working to make it better for patients, the government, through its misguided legislation, has been doing the exact opposite”.

“Doctors may be more involved in commissioning, but in a fragmented NHS. There may be a theoretically independent board to run the NHS, but it has not stopped political interference driven by ill-informed dogma and ideology,” he added.

Dr Porter also claimed commissioners are “being driven to distraction by the madness of the market”

He said “failed ideology” is the “biggest source of waste in the NHS. “The King’s Fund talks of the irresistible tendency of ministers to want to be seen to be in charge. It says short-term political initiatives get in the way of delivering long-term change.

“All the political parties have been guilty of this. We have a general election ten months away. I can only urge the politicians to learn from their own mistakes and those of this government.”

He suggested “if politicians want to make any promises ahead of the election”, the one promise to keep is to “allow doctors to be the professionals, the leaders and the innovators that they have proved time and again they can be.

“And free us from unnecessary targets which benefit an agenda and not the public. Every time one of those diktats vanishes, patients benefit.”

Dr Porter concluded: “After four years of waste and cuts and missed opportunities, the government and its opponents can’t just switch off and start planning the next general election.

“They need to show us they get it.

“It’s never too late to change. And as anyone who works in the NHS, or is cared for by the NHS, or who cares for the NHS will tell you, it is never too soon to act.”

Click here to read the full speech.

11.29am HSJ editor Alastair McLellan tweets:
#ARMLive votes to restore Health Sec’s responsibility for NHS services. @TheBMA showing its love of irony

11.25am At the BMA’s annual representative conference, delegates have passed a motion to restore the motion to restore health secretary’s control over the NHS. This is in spite of a poll, commissioned by the BMA ahead of the conference, calling for politicians to stay out of it.

11.17am The Health and Social Care Information Centre is seeking back on its draft of its Code of Practice on Confidential Information (2) from health and care policymakers, patient groups, researchers, regulators, and those concerned about medical confidentiality.

“The views are being sought on a new code which aims to ensure that confidential health and adult social care information is properly handled by all organisations that handle confidential information,” the HSCIC said in a statement.

The body is required to publish a code of practice under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It released its Guide to Confidentiality in Health and Social Care in September last year.

The deadline for feedback to the draft code is 14 August. The final code is expected to be published at the end of September.

10.41am A hospital trust’s response to the death of a baby who was shaken to death has been labeled as ‘seriously inadequate’ by an independent investigation.

A report into the death of 16-month-old Kyle Keen at Walsall Healthcare Trust in 2006, which was published last week, has concluded there was a “significant probability” that the baby’s death could have been avoided if staff at Manor Hospital had referred him to social services.

10.20am In Resource Centre this morning, we look at Japan’s total care vision for an ageing population.

The country’s integration strategy is helping people with older people to be cared for in the community, but the flexibility of the approach also means it is light on evaluation and monitoring, Mayumi Hayashi, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Institute of Gerontology in King’s College London.

10.07am HSJ’s Shaun Lintern is at the BMA’s annual representative meeting today. Follow him on Twitter (@ShaunLintern) for regular updates throughout the day.

10.02am The vast majority of the public believe that MPs play political football with the NHS, a new poll suggests, as doctors called for the government’s controversial reforms of the NHS to be scrapped.

Almost three-quarters of people -73 per cent- told pollsters that political parties design health policy to win votes rather than do what is best for the health service, the survey found.

Meanwhile, the questionnaire of 2,000 people from across Britain, shows that two in three believe the NHS should manage itself without the involvement of politicians.

9.46am Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust’s difficulties with reporting waiting list figures could drag on into the autumn, amid signs that a staggering number of patients have waited more than a year for treatment.

A report by the Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group stated that the trust estimated that 179 patients have waited more than a year for surgery - over a third of the 510 in that category across the whole NHS, according to official figures.

7.00am Good morning. The nationally agreed GP contract will diminish in significance as CCGs increasingly agree local deals with practices, the BMA’s GP committee chair, Chaand Nagpaul, has acknowledged.