Coverage of the Queen’s speech, including proposal to create a single Public Service Ombudsman, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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3.02pm The Royal College of GPs has responded to the government’s plans to improve access to general practice. Chair Maureen Baker said: “Waiting times for a GP appointment are now a matter of national concern and hardworking family doctors are going all out to ensure that patients can get access to a GP when they need one.

“In addition to existing out of hours GP services, many practices are already offering extended opening times but it is difficult to see how we can deliver this more widely with current resources, especially when there is a severe shortage of GPs.

“Access to GP services is extremely important but prioritising weekend and evening access must not come at the expense of access and services during normal hours so that patients end up worse off.

She added: “We are pleased that the government has reiterated its commitment to delivering the Five Year Forward View and hope that it will honour its promise of 5,000 additional GPs as a matter of urgency.

Our new blueprint for building the new deal for general practice in England outlines an immediate, emergency package of measures, as well as medium to long term plans, to secure essential improvements to general practice.

“We look forward to working with the government to increase investment for general practice and to boost the GP workforce, so that we can give all our patients the care they need and deserve.”

2.56pm Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation, has commented on the Queen’s speech. She said: “As outlined in today’s Queen’s speech, we welcome the commitments to implementing the Five Year Forward View for the NHS and to providing the additional £8bn per year real-terms increase by 2020, as well as the prime minister’s focus on transformation. But over and above this £8bn we believe that the government needs to resource a ‘transformation fund’ for the NHS to develop new ways of caring for people that are more efficient and higher quality.  Without it, there are high risks of a shortfall in funding by £30bn opening up by 2020.

“There is no silver bullet to addressing the challenges facing the NHS – the best way forward must be to test a range of approaches. We urge the government to ensure that any new policies or service developments maintain or improve quality, transform care for the future and achieve financial balance.”

2.40pm David Buck from the King’s Fund has a keen eye:

2.15pm The General Medical Council has joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council in expressing “deep disappointment” over the government’s decision not to call for the modernisation of regulating health professionals.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said the system was “outdated and not fit for purpose”

He said: “We are deeply disappointed that the government has not taken this opportunity to improve patient safety by modernising the regulation of healthcare professionals.

“The UK Government, the devolved administrations and indeed all the main political parties have stated their commitment to reforming our legislation to enable effective, independent regulation. The Mid-Staffordshire inquiry highlighted the vital importance of effective regulation focussed on promoting safe, compassionate patient care rather than, as too often in the past, intervening only after patients have been harmed.

“In spite of all we have done to reform our services, the truth is that patients, professionals and the health service as a whole will now be left with a system everyone accepts is outdated and not fit for purpose.

“I hope the government will make these reforms a priority and introduce legislation as soon as possible. If taken forward, the draft Bill by the Law Commissions of the UK would allow us to respond more quickly and effectively to protect patients and maintain the standards of good medical practice. By streamlining and reducing the burden of regulation, the Bill would also help to drive down costs and help all health professionals to focus on providing the best care for patients.

“We are committed to introducing a series of further major reforms to protect patients more effectively, but our current legislation makes this impossible. We do understand that the government wants to concentrate on the huge pressures on services and on front line professionals but we very much hope these important and long overdue reforms will be taken forward as soon as possible.” 

1.45pm On the trade union strike proposals set out in the Queen’s Speech, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still. 

“Democracy won’t be enhanced by raising thresholds but by bringing balloting into the 21st century.”

On plans to change the NHS Mr Prentis said: “David Cameron has been evasive about how he is planning to fund this at a time of serious efficiency savings.

“The £8bn funding is just enough to keep the NHS going. Ministers must find new money if they want more NHS services to be available. Our worry is that they will be taking this out of the earnings of already hard-pressed NHS workers.

“The public is right to expect that the NHS should be well-run and safely staffed every day of the week, but they won’t want to see that happen at the expense of dedicated health professionals.”

North East Essex CCG will bring in thresholds for non-urgent elective surgery on the basis of whether patients smoke or are overweight.

Smokers will be referred to a smoking cessations service, while overweight or obese patients would be “strongly encouraged” to lose weight. “Failure to attend smoking cessation or weight loss programmes may have an impact on whether individuals could undergo their procedure,” the CCG said in a report for a board meeting yesterday.

1.15pm In the Huffington Post chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, accusesthe Government of double standards over the new proposals for strike action to require a 50 per cnt turnout and a 40 per cent backing.

12.45pm The vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons has expressed “disappointment” that the Queen’s speech did not include legislation to protect patients undergoing cosmetic surgery.

The RCS had called for the General Medical Council to be given a new power to tell the public and employers which surgeons are qualified to undertake cosmetic surgery, but it was not included in any of the Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech today.  At present, the law allows any doctor (including non-surgeons) to perform cosmetic surgery without undertaking additional training or qualifications.

David Ward, consultant plastic surgeon and vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to supporting the NHS’ Five Year Forward View and seven-day care, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech.

“However, we are very disappointed that the Government has further delayed necessary changes to the regulation of health professionals.  This was widely supported and would have allowed a change in the law to protect patients undergoing cosmetic surgery.

“Without it, it will be difficult for patients and employers to be able to tell a proficient cosmetic surgeon from a professional who has limited recognised experience.

“The RCS is determined to improve standards of cosmetic surgery for patients in this country, but the GMC needs the power to help enforce them.  We will continue undeterred with our proposals for new standards of training for cosmetic surgeons and will lobby the government for this change in the law.”

12.40pm The government has confirmed plans to bring forward a Trade Unions Bill which will require a minimum 50 per cent voter turnout threshold in any union ballot along with maintaining a simple majority rule.

Ministers also plan to impose a rule that 40 per cent of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of industrial action in certain essential public services such as health, education, fire and transport.

This is a major change to trade union rules and comes at a time when the government is seeking major reform of NHS staff pay, terms and conditions.

It wants to negotiate new contracts for both consultants and junior doctors in light of changes to seven day services as well as cuts to unsocial hours pay for Agenda for Change staff.

Other changes include measures to tackle intimidation of non-striking workers during a strike.

12.20pm The Queen’s Speech includes plans to merge the Health Ombudsman, Parliamentary Ombudsman, Local Government Ombudsman and potentially the Housing Ombudsman.

This would be a “simplified, improved and more accessible final tier of redress for customers of public services who have complained and who do not feel satisfied by how their complaint has been handled.”

It will also include the “opportunity to improve public services by identifying where problems are occurring and informing the creation and development of effective responses.”

A consultation on this proposal will end on 16th June.

12.05pm Responding to the omission of a Bill that would introduce significant reforms to Nursing and Midwifery Council’s legal framework, NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: “I am deeply disappointed that a Bill modernising the regulation of nurses and midwives has not been included in the Queen’s Speech. This is a major setback and comes despite the government’s undertaking in response to the Francis Report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

“There is an overwhelming consensus that our current legislation is hopelessly out of date inefficient and costly. It does not serve the public or the professions well. We are now left continuing to spend the majority of resources on the few where concerns have been raised.

“We urgently need reform that enables us to regulate nurses and midwives in the twenty-first century and we will continue to press for much needed change which will enable us to serve the professions and the public, well.”

12.00pm The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has welcomed the government commitment to create a Public Service Ombudsman.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “We have been calling for a single public service ombudsman to make it much simpler and easier to complain about public services in England and we are delighted that the government has made a firm commitment to this today.

“The current system is too complex and confusing for people. The public should not have to work out who funds or runs the service they feel let down by and then which ombudsman service to turn to, to get a final decision on their complaint that has not been resolved locally.

“We want a unified public service ombudsman that will make it easier for people to get redress when things go wrong - what I call the ‘no wrong door’ approach to complaining. This will be better for the public, better for Parliament and provide better value for money.”

11.45am That’s the speech finished. The NHS did get a mention, but it’s not clear whether anything mentioned will require legislation. Stand by for reaction and analysis.

11.38am The Five Year Forward gets a mention by the Queen. As does integration, the move to seven day working and improving access to general practice.

11.37am “My government will bring forward legislation to regulate trade unions and protect essential public services from strikes”.

11.35am The Queen’s speech is now under way.

10.34am The Guardian (newspaper only) reports that Lord Falconer, the shadow lord chancellor, has said he would like to bring back his failed assisted dying bill after a British businessman travelled to the Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas to end his life.

Falconer, who served as lord chancellor under Tony Blair, criticised the fact that Jeffrey Spector, 54, had to go abroad for help to end his life after learning his cancer had worsened.

10.29am The Daily Telegraph reports that a genetically engineered virus has been shown to “cure” patients of skin cancer, raising hopes of an end to chemotherapy.

In a global study led by The Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, researchers showed that the new treatment allowed some patients with melanoma to live for more than three years - the benchmark many oncologists use to define a cure.

The therapy, called T-VEC, works by infecting and killing cancer cells while also kicking the immune system into action against tumours.

10.22am It’s the Queen’s Speech this morning, the day when the monarch sets out the government’s legislative programme for the coming year. Today’s is a bit of a novelty, being the first one by a Conservative majority government in nearly two decades.

We’re not expecting any significant health legislation to be announced (the Conservatives were bruised by their experience of steering the Lansley bill through the last parliament) but you never know. Follow HSJ Live for coverage when it gets underway around 11.30am.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live.

Medical data must not only be patient centric – it should be shared and analysed for the benefit of whole populations too. Daloni Carlisle reports.