In the last few weeks, the NHS has been going through one of the most turbulent periods in its recent history. As you will probably have already seen, the struggles continued last week even as the crisis over junior doctors’ contracts reached what might turn out to be a resolution. After months of debates and strikes, the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt announced at the end of last week that a new contract would be imposed on junior doctors in the coming months. The final contract made concessions to the demands (supported by the British Medical Association) of the junior doctors – by offering a significant rise in basic pay and continuing to treat any hours worked after 5pm on a Saturday as outside of normal working hours. Nonetheless, many doctors continue to disagree with the contract; the announcement that it is to be imposed on doctors has caused yet more resentment. It has also come to light that NHS Foundation Trusts will be free to decline the imposition of the contract – meaning that it could, depending on the views of the Trusts, end up being imposed on a relatively small number of doctors. Yesterday, the public sector union Unison warned that the dispute is far from over, and could yet turn into a ‘war’ between doctors and the government.
And the NHS continues to dominate the news this week, with the release of a major new report on the state of mental health services in the country. The report was written by a Mental Health Task Force set up by NHS England specifically for the purpose of evaluating mental health care in the country and was headed by CEO of leading charity Mind, Paul Farmer. The report, called The Five Year Forward View For Mental Health, found that care for mental health in the UK is “chronically underfunded”, and in desperate need of increased funding and reorganisation if it is to meet the needs of the 1 in 4 UK citizens suffering with mental health problems. In response, the government has pledged an additional £1 billion in funds for mental health care over the remainder of this parliament, which will fund initiatives such as the development of community mental health care that is to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The government has said that these initiatives will see an additional million people every year getting treatment for mental health conditions.
Finally, a potentially very significant development in the field of medicine was revealed in a scientific journal yesterday – a great leap forward in the world of bioprinting. With bioprinting, doctors and scientists are able to use 3D printers to create ‘living’ body parts that have been specifically designed for the needs of a patient. Where a patient has had an accident that caused them to loose part of their jaw bone, for example, the doctor could print a piece of tissue to fit perfectly into the ‘gap’. There remains much research to be done, though, before the technology can be used in patients. You can read in detail about the new developments in the article published in Nature Biotechnology.
We’d love to hear what you think about these stories in the comments box below. How, if at all, do you see the dispute over junior doctors’ contracts ending? What are your experiences of mental health care in the UK? And what do you make of the idea of printing ‘living’ tissue for surgical purposes? Let’s talkhealth!