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Meet the ex-nurse tipped to become new health secretary in cabinet reshuffle

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Former nurse Anne Milton is tipped to replace Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary as May reshuffles the cabinet.

Theresa May is set to announce her cabinet reshuffle today and with Jeremy Hunt set to become May’s second-in-command as the new First Minister for State, the former Nurse and Conservative MP, Ann Milton, is on track to step into his shoes.

Update: It has been announced that Jeremy Hunt will remain as Secretary of State for Health.

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Mr Hunt is presently the longest-serving Health Minister in history since he was promoted in September 2012.

Anne Milton trained as a Registered Nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London before working for the NHS for 25 years, as a District Nurse. During her time as a Nurse, she served as a steward for the Royal College of Nursing and was involved with the National Childbirth Trust.

She is one of five nurses who currently hold seats in Parliment.

She became involved in politics in the early 1990s and Mrs Milton is presently serving as the Conservative Elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Guildford –  a seat she has held continuously since 2005.

Following her election, she was swiftly promoted to the Shadow Minister for Tourism in 2006 and then the Shadow Health Minister in 2007.

In July 2010, Milton suggested that doctors should describe obese patients as ‘fat’ to encourage them to take responsibility for their condition. This was criticised by campaigners who pointed out that a clinical definition was being replaced with a subjective, pejorative term.

Between May 2015 to June 2017 Ms Milton was deputy chief whip in the House of Commons –  reportedly one of the most effective and respected whips in her party.

In June 2017, she was appointed as Minister of State responsible for Skills and Apprenticeships at the Department for Education, and Minister of State for Women in the Government Equalities Office.

During a vote in June 2017, Mrs Milton was one of three Nurses who voted against a pay rise for public sector workers.

Despite her extensive experience, Mrs Milton has never voted against her party in the Commons and according to the website, TheyWorkForYou, has consistently voted socialist policies including those to increase tuition fees and against dropping the controversial Health and Social Care Bill.

However, critics, citing ‘conflict of interests’, say that Mrs Milton should be prevented from taking up the role after being heavily linked to the private healthcare firm Virgin Care, with her husband Dr Graham Henderson sitting on the board as Medical Director.

MEP Keith Taylor reacted with fury today following the revelation. He said:

“It was Virgin Care that just tried to sue our NHS in Surrey for awarding an NHS contract to an NHS provider, with the NHS having to hand over a reported £2m, that should have been spent on patient care, in an out of court settlement.

“There was no fault found with the tendering process, the financial might of Virgin Care meant it was cheaper for our NHS to settle out of court rather than being forced to match Virgin’s spending in the courts to defend the process.

“Virgin Care Ltd held our NHS to ransom. Anne Milton’s husband is a director of Virgin Care Ltd in Surrey. This must be shared widely.”

Education

£200 million NHS training budget could be lost to the private sector

Around a third of NHS trusts are paying apprentices just £3.90 per hour – the statutory minimum rate.

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NHS hospital corridor

Money paid by NHS trusts is now being “clawed back by the government”.

More than £200m is lying unused by cash-strapped health trusts in England because of restrictions in the Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme.

The restrictions mean that money from the levy can only be used to fund training costs and not salaries – meaning already cash-strapped organisations are unable to recruit additional staff.

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Around a third of NHS trusts are paying apprentices just £3.90 per hour – the statutory minimum rate.

According to the UNISON report, It Doesn’t Add Up, 79% of the levy money is yet to be used and warns that if this trend continues substantial NHS funding will be lost.

Levy money not spent after two years is reallocated to a central Government pot and used to subsidise apprenticeships for smaller employers – who don’t have to pay into the levy. This means cash from NHS budgets being diverted into the private sector.

Millions sat idle while there are 100,000 vacancies.

UNISON is now calling for the Government to change the rules so levy funding can also be spent on apprentice salaries and the wages of staff employed to cover for apprentices when they are training.

They have also suggested that the money could be used to fund a new extensive apprenticeship programme across the entire NHS for nursing and all the other health professions experiencing shortages.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON, said; “Hundreds of millions of pounds are sitting idle at a time when budgets are stretched and there are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS,”.

“There are real concerns about the standard of training apprentices receive, with many carrying out administrative and clinical support roles for peanuts. Ministers must reform the system to ensure money allocated to the health service stays within the NHS and invest properly to ensure apprenticeships play a full role in solving the growing staffing crisis.”

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Health Politics

Bill calling for safer staffing legislation put before Parliament

There are now 43,671 vacant nursing posts throughout the NHS in England alone.

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Maria Caulfield

The Bill will seek to “establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, nurse and member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), today brought a Bill designed “to establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

The Bill comes as nursing vacancy rates hit a record high with 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone – leaving 12% of full-time nursing posts unfilled.

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In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the RCN highlights the impact the nursing staffing crisis is having on patient safety.

Scotland recently secured new legislation on safe staffing and a nurse staffing law was introduced in Wales in 2016.

‘No one is responsible and no one is accountable’.

Ms Cauldfield said; “There is increasing evidence that the right number of qualified nurses can improve patient outcomes in terms of mortality, morbidity and quality of care and that conversely, an insufficient number of nurses can have a potentially life-threatening effect for patients.”

Presenting the primary aim of the Bill as; “to make the Government accountable for nursing levels in England, as currently no one is accountable for nursing levels in England and that is why we have such a high nursing vacancy rate.”

Before adding that the other aims of the Bill were ensuring the NHS has “a fully costed workforce strategy and nursing numbers” alongside ensuring training and development for nurses throughout their career.

Cauldfield controversially voted against scrapping the pay cap for NHS workers in 2017.

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