One of the largest healthcare unions will ballot its 460,000 members over strike action, plus the rest of the day’s news and comment

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6.00pm Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity announced today that it will be funding its first children’s specialist neuromuscular nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

This will be the third Roald Dahl specialist children’s nurse post based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, funded by the charity. The full-time post has been created and funded for its first two years by the charity. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has in turn committed to fund the role for a further three years. Applications for this role are now open.

Richard Piper, CEO of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity said: “In the UK, services for paediatric neuromuscular disorders are so patchy that most children will not live beyond their mid 20s, whereas in Denmark they will live nearly twice as long. Children and their families deserve better than this. Our health service can do better than this. We believe that our new Roald Dahl nurse will help this rapidly growing service to be recognized as a Centre of Excellence in the near future.”

Dr Gautam Ambegaonkar, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist and Lead for Paediatric Neuromuscular Services at Addenbrooke’s said: “The new Roald Dahl nurse will play a vital role in developing our service to help more children and young people with complex neuromuscular disorders. The nurse will optimize the care that our current 116 children are receiving, and also seek out children and young people from across the region who are not currently receiving any care at all.”

4.10pm Here are some reader comments on our story about Unison balloting their members over strike action:

“I do love it when unions say management or Govt are ‘provoking us into a dispute’ as a way of displacing their own responsbilities.”

“If pay and conditions are so atractive in the NHS you would think we would attract the best people from industry and financial services? The best managers the best cooks, cleaners, facilities staff? If we are a free market economy isnt that how things work? That can not be the case because other than the BBC, can you thing of anyone or anything that people like to complain about more? If it wasnt free would people still value it so little?”

“Surely the point is that we had an agreed process, and because the government didn’t like the outcome it decided to ignore it? Its really about trust, and the demonstrable lack of keeping your word. I guess the standards of conduct in public life guidance is a useful benchmark, on that basis the governments conduct has simply not been up to the standard they expect from staff.”

3.59pm The Guardian reports that the first suspects to be charged with female genital mutilation in the UK have appeared in court today.

3.03pm Responding to the Unison ‘yes’ vote today to proceed to a ballot on possible industrial action, Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said:

“I understand the frustration and anger some staff and trade unions feel over the announcement about a pay award this year. Of course I do. I also understand concerns that this decision on pay may impact on morale and motivation. But as an employers’ organisation we also acutely recognise the impact job losses and redundancies would have on morale and on patient care, which was the stark choice we faced when we gave our recommendations to the pay review. We want to ensure we maximise our ability to retain staff and plan changes to how we work in response to the changing needs of patients.

“The decision to ballot for industrial action at a union conference is no surprise. They will want to show their displeasure but my simple, honest ask is that they don’t take that displeasure and frustration out on patients. People accessing healthcare are often at their most vulnerable and the very prospect of strikes when they should be receiving care will be deeply distressing for many. Given these challenging times across the economy, I would urge unions instead to engage with us in meaningful discussions about how to come out of a period of pay restraint in sensible way. Then we can explore solutions affecting the lowest paid and plan for the longer term – not for short term disruption which will affect those in need.”

2.48pm Unite has announced it will be joining Unison in balloting its members for a strike in response to the pay offer.

It will be consulting its 100,000 members in the health service over possible strike action over what it describes as the “divide and rule” pay offer.

The consultation with the membership is expected to take place next month.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Unite will be consulting its membership on whether they wish to proceed to an industrial action ballot, including strike action, over the insulting pay offer.

“Unite will be liaising with other health unions and professional associations in driving home the message that health service staff have had their fill of being treated with contempt by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Enough is enough.” 

2.21pm Our story on the cut to the Academic Health Science Networks’ budget has gathered a fair few reader comments:

“I fail to see why London needs Imperial and UCL Partners surely this is a case for a merger.”

“Cut the number of ‘chiefs’ and identify those who want to progress - give them the funding required to get on with developing innovative ideas, processes and initiatives. £53.6m is a massive amount of money..!”

“The cost of not innovating for the NHS is massive. This spend is about investing in the future. It may be that the only AHSNs that will survive will be those that successful access private funding. NHS England need to decide whether they want the process of innovating to be guided by corporate hands/ interests.”

1.51pm Cardiovascular disease has shifted from being an acute to a chronic condition which demands more joined up care pathways, says British Heart Foundation’s Chris Annus.

The trust said it was reviewing treatment by one of its oral and maxillofacial consultants and had written to the patients affected.

The surgeon had been suspended by the trust since February 2013, pending the outcome of an internal review at the hospital, after concerns were expressed by colleagues.

Warnings about the impact of budget cuts on the 15 academic health science networks come from several of their senior members.

The networks, launched amid much fanfare by NHS England last May, are expected to bring together NHS, private sector and academic organisations.

11.19am BREAKING: One of the largest healthcare unions Unison is to ballot its 460,000 health members over plans to take industrial action – including strike action – following the government’s imposed pay deal.

An emergency motion at the union’s annual healthcare conference was overwhelmingly supported and means the union can now ballot members over whether they support a campaign of action.

The ballot will seek permission to take strike action and industrial action short of a strike.

It comes after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected proposals for a 1 per cent pay rise for all NHS staff. Instead the government imposed a deal which will see those eligible for incremental increases receiving no cost of living rise while those at the top of their pay bands will receive only 1 per cent but this will not be permanent or pensionable.

Speaking to the conference, Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea said there would be a national protest day on June 5.

She said: “We face a government in England deliberately provoking us into a dispute”. She added: “This time it feels that we have no choice.”

Yesterday the union’s general secretary Dave Prentis called on the Royal College of Nursing and other health unions to “stand shoulder to shoulder” in opposing the government’s pay deal.

Jeremy Hunt has offered to give staff a permanent 1 per cent pay rise over the next two years if the unions agree to a freeze on incremental pay in 2015-16.

The Department of Health has said giving staff a pay rise on top of increments would cost the equivalent of paying for 10,000 full time front line staff.

NHS Employers has estimated the cost of the government’s imposed deal to the NHS will add around £150m in cost pressure to the service.

11.06am Waiting times expert Rob Findlay explores the issue of patients choosing to delay elective treatment and what this means for trusts trying to avoid breaching the targets.

The national commissioning body had planned to remove the “high-cost area supplement” from clinical commissioning groups in the capital.

The supplement is intended to reflect the higher costs faced by the 10 mental health trusts in London. It acts in a similar way to the “market forces factor” premium paid to acute trusts which face above-average costs.

10.09am The Guardian reports that a pregnant woman suffering from appendicitis died on the operating table weeks after a surgeon mistakenly removed her ovary instead of her appendix, medical watchdogs heard yesterday.

Maria De Jesus, 32, was 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when she was admitted to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, the Medical Practitioners tribunal heard.

The King’s Fund said the next government will need to find more funds for the health service or accept the cuts.

The warning comes after its latest report on NHS finances painted a bleak picture for the future.

A poll of 74 NHS trust finance directors and 47 clinical commissioning group finance leads found that only two in five hospital financial bosses are confident their organisation will achieve financial balance in 2014-15. Just 16 per cent believe this will be achieved in 2015-16.

10.00am The Telegraph reports that falling salt consumption has played an “important role” in the plummetting number of deaths from heart disease in Britains, researchers have said.

Between 2003 and 2011 average salt intake in England reduced by around 15 per cent while the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke fell by 40 per cent, the study by researchers from Barts, the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Queen Mary University found.

9.56am The Financial Times reports that a financial crisis looms for the NHS in 2015-16 with only abut one in six finance directors confident they will balance the books in the general election year, according to the King’s Fund.

One in eight trusts and clinical commissioning groups expected to have overspent their 2013-14 budgets.

7.00am Without more joined up care pathways, CVD patients suffer poorer health outcomes and often need hospital treatment that could have been prevented with better self-management and community care, argues Chris Annus, business and service development manager at the British Heart Foundation.