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RCN Health News Alert

Saturday 27 June - Monday 29 June

Government gives NHS patients new treatment rights

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will today unveil the document Building Britain's Future which includes six new 'rights' to be given to NHS patients. The rights include patients being entitled to an operation within 18 weeks after first seeing their GP and being entitled to see a cancer specialist within two weeks. Patients suffering from long-term conditions will have the right to die at home.

Government said to have underestimated the cost of public sector pensions

A report from the think-tank the British-North American Committee has called for significant reforms to public-sector pension schemes. The report found that public-sector pensions will cost the Government an estimated 85% of the UK's GDP, with the Government said to be over-reliant on high projected returns on investments to pay for the public-sector pension schemes.

Second UK swine flu death

A 73-year-old man from Greenock, Scotland, has become the second patient in the UK to die from the swine flu virus. The man was being treated at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, the same hospital where the first person in the UK to die from swine flu was treated.

Doctors to debate whether NHS staff should be free to meet patients 'spiritual needs'

The British Medical Association is set to debate the issue of NHS staff meeting the spiritual needs of patients. The debate is likely to focus on whether the threat of legal action for staff who try to meet the spiritual needs of patients, such as by praying for them, should be removed. A Department of Health document warns NHS staff that offering to pray for a patient could be interpreted by the patient as intimidation or harassment.

Heatwave warning

The Department of Health has called on hospitals to protect patients from this week's predicted heatwave. The Met Office is expected to raise the heat warning to Level Three with temperatures forecast to reach 33C later this week. At this level, hospitals would have to set up 'cool rooms', where patients could be guarded from the heat. Hospitals will also be expected to turn off some lights and electrical equipment to try and reduce building temperatures.

Clerics attempting to stop 'assisted suicide' law

Three of Britain's most influential religious leaders are attempting to stop the proposed changes to the law under the Coroners and Justice Bill that would see the threat of prosecution removed from those who accompany terminally ill patients who are travelling abroad to die. The three leaders, Dr Rowan Williams, Vincent Nichols and Sir Jonathan Sacks say in a joint letter to The Daily Telegraph that the proposed changes will put sick people at risk. The Times features an article on a woman from Dublin who in 2005 accompanied her terminally ill boyfriend to die at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Whistleblowing nurses were 'driven out' of jobs

A General Medical Council hearing has heard that several nurses who raised concerns over the treatment of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital were harassed, branded 'troublemakers' and 'forced out of their jobs'. The hearing is looking into allegations of professional misconduct against a doctor, after twelve elderly patients died at the hospital in the 1990s.

Dedicated whistle-blowing phone line set-up for doctors


The British Medical Association has issued new guidelines on doctors wanting to raise concerns about patient safety. As part of the guidance, an anonymous 'whistleblower helpline' for doctors has been created.

New guidelines for caring for critically ill newborn babies


The Observer reports that the General Medical Council is finalising new guidelines for doctors who care for critically ill newborn babies. The guidelines are intended to help doctors give support to parents and to avoid tense situations when disagreements occur over a child's treatment.

Parliamentary Update

House of Commons

South East Regional Committee  - Meeting in Brighton
South East England Development Strategy and the Regional Economic Strategy
Witnesses: South East Chamber of Commerce, Hastings Borough Council, Homes and Communities Agency, and Environment Agency

East Midlands Regional Committee - Room 5
East Midlands Development Agency and the Regional Economic Strategy
Witnesses: Phil Hope MP, Regional Minister for the East Midlands, Tom Levitt MP, Deputy Regional Minister for the East Midlands and Jonathan Lindley, Regional Director, Government Office for the West Midlands

Oral Statement:
BUILDING BRITAIN'S FUTURE [Prime Minister Gordon Brown]

House of Lords

APPRENTICESHIPS, SKILLS, CHILDREN & LEARNING BILL: Committee stage (Day 3)

Other business

Public Health Minister Gilliam Merron (tbc) & Conservative Health spokesman Andrew Lansley speeches to National Pharmacy Association Health Inequalities Summit in Tower Hamlets