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Patient deaths in England reveal true extent of winter crisis

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The true extent of the winter crisis affecting the NHS has become clear, says UNISON today.

It has been revealed that 20 deaths might have been avoided in the East of England over Christmas. During this time there were lengthy delays in ambulances responding to 999 calls.

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UNISON is calling for an independent inquiry into why the East of England ambulance service remained at crisis point for days over the festive break before admitting it could no longer cope, and asking for assistance.

In a question asked in Parliament today, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said that the regional ambulance service was under extreme pressure between Christmas and New Year.

He claimed that even though senior managers at the ambulance trust knew the service was at crisis point on 19 December, they didn’t ask for assistance until 31 December – nearly two weeks later.

Responding to the claims, UNISON East of England regional secretary Chris Jenkinson said:

“The government can no longer deny the true extent of the winter crisis. Between Christmas and New Year, the ambulance service in the East of England was receiving so many 999 calls that it was quite simply unable to cope.

“Twenty grieving families will now, quite rightly, be demanding answers. They’ll want to know whether their loved ones might still be alive had it not been for the huge delays in ambulances arriving.

“And ambulance crews across the region, whose job it is to save lives, will want reassurances that the service they work for is still able to keep the public safe.

“There must be an independent inquiry to establish what went wrong, and whether these tragic deaths could have been avoided. Jeremy Hunt can no longer claim the government has given the NHS enough to see it safely through the winter. It clearly hasn’t.

“Even if ambulance managers had appealed to neighbouring ambulance services, it’s unlikely they would have been able to help. The only alternative would have been army ambulances on the streets of Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk. That would have left the public in no doubt as to the depth of the winter crisis affecting the NHS.”

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NHS staff top list of those applying for payday loans

Nursing unions say years of cuts to NHS funding and pay restraint for NHS workers is to blame.

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NHS staff are among those most likely to rely on payday loans, suggests a study.

The payday loans study, which was commissioned by short-term credit broker CashLady, found that NHS staff were significantly more likely to apply for payday loans than workers at any other organisation.

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After NHS workers, supermarket workers at Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, followed by staff at McDonald’s, Morrisons, Royal Mail and finally the British Army.

StepChange, the debt charity, says that the loans, which charge interest of up to 1,325% per year, are not a debt solution and can make your financial situation worse – the charity advises the majority of people to avoid using such services.

Nursing unions say years of cuts to NHS funding and pay restraint for NHS workers is to blame.

Gerry O’Dywer, Employment Relations Advisor at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These figures reveal the financial pressure nursing staff are under. Years of pay cuts left them struggling to make ends meet.

“The health service cannot keep losing valuable highly-trained staff because they can’t afford to pay the bills each month. The proposed NHS Pay Deal would give NHS staff the largest pay rise in ten years – it will go some way in helping nursing staff and preventing nurses from leaving the profession.

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“The RCN’s own Lamplight Support Service also provides tailored financial advice and support for nursing staff.”

Sara Gorton, Unisons Head of Health, said; “No-one should be so desperate for money that they have no option but to go cap in hand to unscrupulous lenders, who offer quick and easy money at sky-high rates of interest that can take a lifetime to pay back.

“It’s a terrible state of affairs that NHS workers are so strapped for cash they don’t have enough money to get through the month, and have to go deep into debt trying. It shows how much harm years of government pay restraint has caused.”

NHS employers suffering with debt can contact their union or a national debt charity for advice and assistance.

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Mobile Stroke Unit will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever

This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

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Southend University Hospital is undertaking the trial of a Mobile Stroke Unit which will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever.

The Mobile Stroke Unit, which has an onboard CT scanner and blood-testing equipment, will be staffed by stroke and imaging experts who can diagnose and start treating patients with suspected stroke at the scene.

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This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

Lead Stroke Consultant at Southend, Dr Paul Guyler explains its importance: “It’s widely known that ‘time is brain’ when it comes to stroke.  When a patient is suspected to have had a stroke a CT scan is essential to allow specialists to determine whether the patient has a blood clot in the brain, a bleed in the brain or something else. 

“The scan determines the diagnosis and what treatment happens next, and the Mobile Stroke Unit brings the scanner and the clinicians to the patient.”

Should a stroke be diagnosed, life-saving clot-busting medications can be administered to the patient quicker than ever before.

The Trust was offered the opportunity, to test the specialist ambulance in the community for a short period of time.  This was made possible because of the of the strong links between Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist Professor Iris Grunwald, who works at the Trust and also holds the post of Director of Neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the University of the Saarland, Germany who are supplying the vehicle free of charge.

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The unit will be based at Southend to ensure safety and governance standards are met and Professor Grunwald has been working with the Trust’s stroke team to put plans into place.  Anglia Ruskin University and the team will be evaluating the information collected during the project. 

Professor Grunwald said: “We know that Mobile Stroke Units work in a densely populated city through trials carried out in Germany, Norway, Australia and the USA.

“The data and learning we gather during the period the vehicle is in use will be valuable in understanding the benefits and challenges of using a Mobile Stroke Unit in a more suburban or rural area, like we have across mid and south Essex.”

While the project is limited to a three-month period, the stroke team are looking to the future and hope that the information they gather over the 12 weeks will help inform plans to develop stroke services across mid and south Essex.

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UNISON accepts 3% pay deal for Scotland

UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

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UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

During the union’s annual health conference in Brighton today, the union has said it will accept a pay deal which would secure an above-inflation 3% wage rise for the all NHS workers in Scotland and has called for it to be implemented with immediate effect.

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Two weeks ago the Scottish Government tabled a ‘draft pay remit’ which proposes NHS staff earning less than £80,000 will receive 3% increase on pay and allowances.

UNISON Scotland has today announced that they will accept this proposed deal.

Tom Waterson, Chair of the UNISON Scotland Health Committee, said: “It was UNISON’s campaign in health, and across the public sector, which convinced the Scottish government to scrap the pay cap. It has tabled a pay remit paper that says all staff earning less than £80,000 are to receive an immediate 3% increase on pay and allowances, while talks craft a Scottish version of the NHS offer currently being consulted on in England.

“UNISON Scotland accepts the offer of 3% and demands that it‘s implemented without further delay. This agreement is an important first step to securing a Scottish deal for Scottish NHS workers, and we’re determined that it will deliver for our staff and roll back the pain of austerity.

“There appears to be a view that the 2018 pay award should be held off until the NHS pay offer is concluded in England. That is not acceptable. Shona Robison, cabinet secretary for health has committed to giving NHS workers a pay rise, the government has promised 3% and UNISON won’t allow anyone to delay the implementation of that rise.”

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The pay remit is expected to be discussed over the next few days by Scotland’s health unions. If agreed it would secure a “no detriment” deal, ensuring that Scottish NHS workers would not be worse off than their English colleagues, who are currently being balloted on a pay offer in England.

UNISON says it won’t be balloting NHS Scotland members on the England offer, but has committed to do so on the final outcome of Scottish negotiations.

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