NHS strikes set to be paused following improved pay offer



STRIKES which could have incapacitated Scotland’s NHS over winter look set to be paused after extensive talks between unions and the Scottish Government led to an improved pay deal.

If accepted, the “best and final offer” will see NHS Agenda for Change workers receive pay hikes ranging from £2,205 to £2,751.

Unite has called off their work to rule tomorrow and will ballot their members on the offer.

However, the Royal College of Nursing warned that the deal did not “meet our members’ expectations.” They will consider their next steps over the weekend.

The Scottish Government says that for the lowest paid the new deal represents an uplift of 11.3 per cent and delivers an average uplift of 7.5%, and would leave NHS staff in Scotland better paid than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

The offer is worth an additional £515m in 2022-23 and includes a “package of progressive measures to promote staff and patient safety, support long-term workforce sustainability and to recognise the breadth of skills and experience of NHS Scotland staff.”

This will include a review into reducing the working week to 36 hours.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We have engaged tirelessly with trade union representatives over recent weeks, leaving no stone unturned to reach an offer which responds to the key concerns of staff across the service.

“This best and final pay offer of over half a billion pounds underlines our commitment to supporting our fantastic NHS staff.

“A newly qualified nurse would see a pay rise of 8.7%, and experienced nurses and would get uplifts of between £2,450 and £2,751.

“We are making this offer at a time of extraordinary financial challenges to the Scottish Government.

“We have made the best offer possible to get money into the pockets of hard-working staff and to avoid industrial action, in what is already going to be an incredibly challenging winter. If the offer is agreed this pay uplift will also be backdated to April.

“Finally, I would urge the UK Government to get back to the negotiating table with the unions. This settlement has been shaped by the unions’ constructive approach and I hope it is backed by their members.”

Unite members of the Scottish Ambulance Service were due to work to rule tomorrow, with staff only working contracted hours.

However, the union said the new offer was “such that it will be put to members in a consultative ballot.”

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional officer in SAS said: “The suspension of our action short of strike within SAS is done in good faith to facilitate a Consultative Ballot of our members on the Scottish Government improved offer.

“We await the outcome of the ballot result for our next step.”

RCN Scotland Board members have said they will consider the details before considering the next steps.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director, said: “As always it is our members who will decide what happens next in relation to the pay offer. The first step in that process is for our board to review the detail of the offer. That will happen in the next few days.

“The revised offer still does not meet our members’ expectations, which is disappointing, but the Scottish Government is saying this is their best offer. We will update members once that process has taken place.  

“I appreciate it may be frustrating for our members in Scotland, the majority of whom voted very strongly in favour of taking strike action. It was that mandate that encouraged the Scottish government to re-open negotiations. It is right that RCN Scotland Board members consider the offer in the usual way.”

 

As well as Unite, the other health service unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwifery, Unison, GMB Union, and the Royal Society of Radiographers, all met with Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf this week. 





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FMQs: 40 per cent of hip and knee ops carried out privately



NICOLA Sturgeon has been forced to defend her government against accusations that the NHS in Scotland is already operating a “two-tier system” as MSPs heard that 40 per cent of all hip and knee surgeries carried out last year were private.

Both Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar quizzed the SNP leader over leaked minutes of a top-level meeting of health service chiefs obtained by the BBC, which warned of a “billion pound hole” in their budget.

According to the report, executives are said to have expressed a view that “fundamental reform” of the primary care model “must be on the table”, and that the success of the NHS has been built on a model “that no longer works today”.

This reportedly led to a suggestion to “design in a two-tier system where the people who can afford to go private”.

In his question to the First Minister, Mr Sarwar told MSPs that over 39,000 patients were treated privately in Scotland last year. 

“The number of people now paying for treatment without health insurance has increased by 72%. 

“Often these are people who are forced to borrow money, turn to family and friends or even remortgage their homes to get health care that should be free at the point of need. 

“So I know the First Minister doesn’t like facts, but let’s look at the facts. Almost 2,000 people have gone for private treatment for endoscopy and colonoscopy. Privately these treatments cost an average of £1,195. 

“Over 7,800 people have gone private for a cataract surgery, average cost of £2,660, and a staggering 3,500 have had a hip or knee replacement, a private hospital average cost of £12,500. 

“These figures make clear that under the SNP health care in Scotland is already a two-tier system. So does the First Minister accept that this goes against the founding principles of our NHS, a universal health care system free at the point of need?” 

Ms Sturgeon told the Labour leader that she did not accept that. 

“We will always act to protect the founding principles and we’ve done more than any other government to achieve that.

“And the one thing that was missing completely from Anas Sarwar’s question there, of course, was reference to a global pandemic that caused the cancellation and the pausing of elected services in our National Health Service for a considerable period of time.”

Mr Sarwar said the pandemic was not a “good enough excuse.”

“The First Minister denies we have a two-tier system. In 2021, 40% of all hip and knee replacements that happen in Scotland were paid for privately. 40%. That’s 3,430 people paying privately to get a hip or knee replacement. 

“Our NHS is at risk because of this government’s choices and this government’s crisis.”

The First Minister said she agreed that the pandemic should not be used as an excuse, “but nor can it be ignored in terms of the impact on our National Health Service.”

Earlier, responding to a question from Mr Ross, the First Minister said the number of people who self-fund for private care in Scotland was far lower per head than in England and Wales. 

“Let’s look at NHS use of the private sector,” she added. “In Scotland, total spend on use of the independent sector represents 0.5% of the total frontline health budget. In England, where the Conservatives are in power, that figure is almost 7%, £12.2bn. 

“This government will take no lessons from the Conservatives when it comes to privatising the National Health Service. In fact, presiding officer, this government will take no lessons from the conservatives on the NHS full stop.” 

Mr Ross pointed out that because of the EIS strikes over pay, “sadly in Strugeon’s Scotland, no one is getting any lessons today.”

He said that private treatments in Scotland have increased by 84%. In the rest of United Kingdom, the increase has been 39%. 

The Tory leader said someone had given the “green light” to the NHS directors to have this discussion otherwise it would mean they were “going off to try and fix the NHS on their own with no government oversight.” 

“So is this not just another confirmation that Hamza Yousef is out of control with Scotland NHS?” he asked. 

The First Minister disagreed. “NHS leaders are entitled to discuss what they want. They do not make government policy, the government makes government policy. And I could not be clearer about that.” 





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Royal Hospital for Children: Parents told to consider A&E alternatives



Scotland’s largest children’s hospital is asking parents to consider alternatives to A&E following a surge in attendances.

It comes following record number of attendances at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.

Recent figures have shown a spike in attendance at the hospital, with a high proportion of children being treated for non-urgent issues.

Traditionally November, December and January are extremely busy months and last week on average, 252 children attended at the A&E department each day for treatment. This is 25% higher than this year’s average.

READ MORE: Patient crippled by severe hernia amid ‘unreasonable’ three year wait for bowel op

Jamie Redfern, Director for Women and Children’s Services at NHSGGC, said: “A record number of 306 children presented at the RHC on Monday, 14 November which highlights the pressures the A&E department is facing. 

“The figures show an increase in recent weeks and to try and accommodate this, we would ask parents to think if a visit to A&E is required or if the issue can be resolved in another way.

“Unless it is an emergency or life-threatening, there are a number of alternative services that should be accessed first including contacting your local pharmacy, GP, NHS 24, NHS inform or 111 before presenting at an emergency department. 

“We also have access to emergency care consultations from the comfort of home through our virtual A&E service where parents can be given appointments for their children at our minor injuries units. This assists in reducing waiting times and queues at physical A&E.

“This not only benefits our staff and patients at the hospital but it can significantly reduce the waiting time for a child to be assessed.”

NHSGGC are also encouraging parents to ensure their children’s visit is essential or if an alternative means of treatment can be utilised. 

Dr Scott Davidson, Deputy Medical Director for Acute Services at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Our staff are working around the clock to ensure the best level of care for our patients.

“Parents and children have access to a range of alternative services that can help reduce the waiting times for the sickest of patients and free up capacity. 

“However, we would still like to stress that any child with a very urgent or life-threatening condition or injury should continue to call 999 or attend an emergency department as normal.”

For more information on children’s health or accident and injuries, please log on to the RHC website





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NHS Highland slammed over three year wait for bowel op



NHS Highland has been ordered to apologise to a patient who suffered serious complications after waiting more than three years for bowel surgery.

A report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) said the health board’s own investigation into the patient’s complaint was of “poor quality” and “failed to acknowledge the significant and unreasonable delays” suffered.

The delays led ‘Patient C’ to develop a severe hernia which left them unable to work, reliant on welfare benefits, and requiring riskier and more complex surgery than originally planned.

The watchdog criticised NHS bosses for blaming Covid for the delays when the patient had been ready for surgery since December 2018, and said there had been “no sense of urgency” despite “the gravity of C’s situation”.

The report said: “It is of significant concern that the Board has failed to fully acknowledge the consequences of the delays and the adverse effects upon C’s physical and mental health as a result.

“The consequences for C of these delays cannot and should not be underestimated.”

READ MORE: Forth Valley placed in special measures amid repeated safety warnings

Patient C’s ordeal began in January 2018 when they underwent emergency surgery to remove a section of their bowel and create a stoma – an opening in the bowel.

In April 2018, at an outpatient’s appointment, Patient C was told the stoma could be reversed subject to a flexible sigmoidoscopy taking place – a procedure to examine the inside of the bowel using a tiny camera.

This went ahead eight months later, in December 2018. The SPSO said this was an “unreasonable” length of time given that average wait times are under three months, and was partly due to NHS Highland’s use of a named person waiting list – whereby a specific doctor carries out certain procedures.

The watchdog said this did not make sense when the sigmoidoscopy could have been carried out “by any competent endoscopist” and called on NHS Highland to “urgently review their use of named person waiting lists to ensure they are being appropriately utilised and managed”.

By December 2019 – a year on from the sigmoidoscopy – Patient C’s GP contacted Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to raise concerns that they were still awaiting an appointment date for surgery.

In January 2020, Patient C attended an outpatient clinic where it was noted that they had developed an abdominal hernia.

By October 2021, with their condition “increasingly complicated”, Patient C had still not been given a date for surgery.

NHS Highland blamed the pandemic blamed for stalling elective procedures, but a consultant colorectal surgeon who advised the SPSO said there “appears to be a lack of orderly prioritisation…to ensure that non-cancer elective cases, such as C’s case, are appropriately prioritised”.

READ MORE: Debate future of NHS or face inevitable slide into privatisation by stealth

Figures from Public Health Scotland show that, by the end of September this year, there were 7,650 patients on NHS inpatient and day case lists who had been waiting more than two years for an elective procedure.

Patient C was eventually given a date for surgery at a hospital in Glasgow in March 2022, but the operation was called off due to staff shortages.

The procedure to reverse the stoma and repair the hernia was finally carried out in Glasgow in June 2022.

A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “We fully accept the recommendations of the report and are very sorry for the failures identified in our care for this patient.

“Our Chief Executive will be writing to the patient to apologise and explain what has been put in place since this happened. The report has also been shared with our teams.”





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