Go beyond the headlines with our weekly news round-up.

We feature the biggest NHS stories of the week, providing analysis and the reaction to ensure that you are kept up to date and informed on what is happening to the NHS.

28/07/2017: Edited by Tom Robinson


The Independent: 25/07/2017

NHS Staff vacancies had risen by more than 10% in the last year.

Official figures revealed that in March this year there were 30,613 vacant full-time positions advertised by NHS England – up from 26,424 in the same month in 2016 and 26,406 in 2015.

Nearly 40 per cent of the vacancies in March 2017 were for NHS nursing and midwifery positions, of which there were 11,485 adverts in total. The average nursing or midwifery role is only drawing three applications, the figures show.

Nurses have said the true number of unfilled jobs is “far higher than the number of online adverts”, citing a figure of 40,000 in England alone, and warned patient safety is suffering as people are put off the profession by “low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs”.

Nurses are threatening to strike for the first time in history over staff shortages and low pay, which has been subject to the Government’s 1 per cent public sector pay freeze since 2010.


The NHS workforce crisis is putting patient safety at risk.

In January 2017, the NHS faced its worst ever ‘winter crisis’, nearly 80,000 seriously ill patients spent more than four hours waiting on trolleys to be treated after being admitted to A&E, with an unprecedented 988 patients waiting on trolleys for longer than 12 hours.

The Kings Fund think tank found that bed occupancy rates were regularly exceeding 95%.

The Red Cross called it a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

NHS staff are being stretched dangerously thin, wards are closing due to a lack of available doctors and nurses and those that remain open are chronically understaffed.

The Government says that is hiring new staff, but what it isn’t admitting is that low pay, sparse resources and poor working conditions are forcing hospital staff to leave in droves. Indeed, between 2016 and 2017, 20 per cent more people left the nursing register than joined it.

An investigation by the medical journal, Anaesthesia found that more than half of trainee hospital doctors have had an accident or near miss on their way home after a night shift due to sleep deprivation.

More than eight out of 10 (84%) of respondents said that they had felt too tired to drive home after a night shift. About 90% use caffeine-based drinks in order to stay awake on a night shift.

Seven out of 10 (72%) said that work-related fatigue had negatively affected their physical health, while almost as many said it had damaged their psychological wellbeing (69%) or personal relationships (66%). Over half (53%) of the trainee anaesthetists said fatigue had impaired their ability to do their job.


A typical junior doctor’s night shift lasts for 12 and a half hours. But 17% of medics said they never managed a sleep of at least 30 minutes during that time.

Budget cuts have seen an overall reduction in ‘rest rooms’ for exhausted staff to catch up on sleep.

At least three junior doctors have died in car crashes on their way home after nightshifts since 2013

The NHS has become increasingly reliant on EU migrants to fill nursing positions, however the uncertainties surrounding Brexit has seen the number of nurses registering work in the UK drop by 96%.

Urgent action is required to prevent the NHS from falling into crisis. The Government must improve pay and working conditions for staff, starting by scrapping the 1% public sector pay cap. This will ensure that the NHS can both attract and retain staff and ensure that its hospitals are adequately staffed.


The Independent: 24/07/2017

NHS England has launched a national review into schemes to divert patients away from A&E departments.

The investigation is in response to the death of a 44-year-old man who was turned away from a Bristol A&E department while a pilot scheme to ease pressure was in place, and instead seen by a GP service.

Following the inquest into his death in March, assistant coroner for Avon Terence Moore wrote to the NHS asking for a national review of "serious incidents and near misses in similar 'front door' services" to take place "as a matter of some urgency".

The decision to send Mr Birtwistle away from A&E meant "further tests, which could have led to an earlier diagnosis of his condition, were not done".

He added: "In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken."

The review is due to report its results in summer 2018, NHS England said.

The Government announced plans for all A&E departments to have a GP-led triage in March's budget, when the Chancellor said £100 million would be made available immediately to make the change.

The British Medical Association has warned that instead of relieving pressure, GPs may encourage patients to visit A&E units.


A centerpiece of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans is closing A&E departments to save money whilst moving more care into the community.

Indeed, our research has shown that 33 A&E units are under threat of closure under the plans whilst there has been a concurrent 39% rise in A&E attendances between 2003/4 and 2015/16.

Plans to move care into the community, such as referring people to GP services instead of A&E is firstly, undermined by chronic underfunding and secondly could severely damage patient care if the replacement services are not suitable, as has been the case in this instance.

The NHS has been tasked with filling a £22 billion funding shortfall, and in the scramble to save money it is making mistakes, with deadly consequences for patient care. It is essential that the NHS is adequately funded, and an important first step would be to increase spending in line with GDP growth.

Learn more about the funding shortfall here


Pulse: 26/07/2017

There was a 'significant increase' in patient information being dropped, accidentally left behind or sent to the wrong location after the NHS outsourced functions to Capita.

In 2016/17, one year after NHS England entered into the new primary care support services contract, around 700 patients were affected by inadvertent disclosure of their information - although in most cases items were discovered by, or handed into, GP practices unopened.

Serious data breaches doubled compared to the previous year, when nine incidents were reported.

In all, 12 of the 18 Serious Incidents Requiring Investigation reported by NHS England in the last financial year were related to the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) contract with Capita, NHS England’s annual report reveals.


Capita are an international business providing outsourcing and professional services with its headquarters in London.

The group holds business interests across the private sector (53%) and the public sector (47%) and has a UK market share of 29.2% in 2016.

This isn’t the first time Capita has been mired in controversy. In September 2015, the group took over coordination of primary care support services, soon after surgeries were running out of prescription pads, syringes and other key equipment. Once again, sensitive information was misplaced or sent to the wrong address.

In June 2017 the pressure group GP Survival announced that it plans to hire debt collectors to go after Capita’ after the firm failed to pay trainee salaries, maternity pay and pension deductions. The debts to GP practices range from £3000 to £40,000.

It subsequently came to light (July 2017) that Capita and NHSE owed GPs a quarter of a million in missing payments.

For the full profile on Capita, visit our sister site, NHS For Sale?