Today (Wednesday 6th April), junior doctors in England began their fourth strike over the new contracts that are to be ‘imposed’ on them by the government. The walkout began at 08:00am and will last for 48 hours. With these latest strikes, and promises of further stoppages on the 26th and 27th of this month (which will expand the strikes to A&E and other emergency services), the bitter dispute over junior doctors’ working hours and pay shows no sign of letting up. Other doctors across the country are currently providing emergency cover for their shifts, but it has been reported that around 5,000 operations and other procedures have been postponed.
The two sides – junior doctors backed by the British Medical Association on the one side and the government led by Health Minister Jeremy Hunt on the other – continue to disagree fundamentally over the issue of staffing a ‘seven-day NHS’: the government says that changes to junior doctors’ normal working hours are necessary to allow the NHS to function properly throughout the week; junior doctors insist that the changes are ‘dangerous’ and risk stretching staff too thin. The government insists that renegotiation will not take place and that the contract as it stands is a reasonable compromise.
If you want to see the new (and recently updated) contract for yourself, you can do so on the NHS Employers website. If you’re a patient concerned about a scheduled procedure or any other element of your care, you can read this handy guide produced by the BBC.
A second, and more heart-warming, piece of health news this week is the story of a woman from the UK becoming the oldest woman in the UK ever to give birth to triplets. Sharon Cutts is 55 and a grandmother. Having been unable to conceive naturally and being too old to receive IVF treatment on the NHS (their cut off for IVF treatment is 42), Sharon and her partner Stuart Reynolds paid £15,000 to have the treatment performed in Cyprus. According to NHS figures, the chances of a woman over 44 having a live birth after receiving IVF are around 1%, and after having been told that she was carrying triplets, Sharon was advised to abort one of the babies to reduce the significant risk of health complications resulting from her age. The triplets – Mason, Ryan, and Lily – were all born healthy on 21st March.
Finally this week, you may have seen another uplifting health story in the news: that a new study shows that singing might help cancer patients to ‘beat cancer’. These stories are the result of a study funded by Welsh charity Tenovus Cancer Care and conducted by researchers from the Royal College of Music, Imperial College London, and University College London. As reported by Behind the Headlines, reports that the findings of the study indicate that singing might help individuals to ‘beat cancer’ are unfounded – what the study does show, though, is that for the group of women involved in the study, engaging in choir singing decreased their stress levels and seems to have had some positive effect on their health and wellbeing. As a preliminary study, further research will be required to see whether the results of the research are repeatable and generalisable. If you want to learn more about the findings, you can read the full report on the research.