Medical Hot Topics 2016
If you’ve started your interview preparation, you’ll know that NHS hot topics are a key part of a medical school interview. So it’s important that you know your news!
These pages will recap a couple of key medical hot topics for 2016. This is by no means exhaustive, just a selection of big news stories in medicine this year, from junior doctors to the Zika virus. For an idea of how to approach NHS hot topics in an interview, visit NHS Hot Topics Interview Question Bank, or our Complete Interview Guide: NHS Hot Topics.
7 day NHS
7 day NHS in a nutshell:
You will have read a lot in the news about the seven day NHS. A recent study found that a patient is 15% more likely to die if they are admitted on the weekend than if they are admitted mid-week. The government wants to prevent these deaths by ensuring that weekend services are available at the same standard as weekday services.
What would happen in a 7 day NHS?
- The practicalities of the seven day NHS is currently unclear and the source of the dispute: to provide more services over two extra days would either mean that current doctors would need to work extra hours, or the NHS would need to employ more doctors, as well as radiographers, nurses and porters.
- If doctors do work at the weekend (currently deemed unsociable hours), they will need to be paid more. If the NHS employs more doctors, they would need to be paid for too.
- Doctors are worried that the government does not have funding for extra staff, and will cut pay for unsociable hours – or reduce the number of hours which are deemed ‘unsociable’.
What are the consequences of the 7 day NHS?
- Leaked governmental plans highlighted the lack of funding and detailed plans for the seven day NHS, causing more doctors to raise concerns.
- GPs have questioned whether opening surgeries for routine care should be a priority when services are currently so stretched.
- The British Medical Association has raised concerns over whether a seven-day service can be properly funded, as the extra £8 billion by 2020 promised by the government was only meant to keep current services afloat.
- The government is currently negotiating with the BMA on the practicalities of the seven day NHS.
Interview questions on the 7 day NHS:
- What do you understand by the term ‘7-day NHS’?
- Is implementing a 7 day NHS a positive – and if so, why?
- What do you think are the major challenges involved in implementing a 7-day NHS?
Junior doctors’ contract
Junior doctors’ contract in a nutshell:
You will have heard a lot about junior doctors in the past year. This is big news for aspiring medics hoping to work in the NHS. In a nutshell: dispute between junior doctors and ministers started over the introduction of a new junior doctors’ contract which introduced new terms. These terms included Saturday as a working day, and were designed to provide the seven day NHS detailed above.
What is the new junior doctors’ contract?
- Basic pay is to be increased by 13.5% on average.
- Other elements of the pay package will be curbed, including what is deemed unsociable hours.
- Saturday daytime hours will be paid at a normal rate, while extra pay offered for night shifts and the rest of the weekend are lower than what is currently paid.
- Medics are thus likely to find that they are working more weekend days, which, under the current contract, would have led to extra pay.
What are the consequences of the junior doctors’ contract?
- The British Medical Association responded with a series of six strikes, including two all-out stoppages, at the beginning of the year.
- A further series of strikes were scheduled in the run-up to Christmas, but were called off due to patient safety concerns.
- Junior doctors will be introduced to the new terms of the contract from this month (October 2016) until October 2017.
Interview questions on the junior doctors’ contract:
- Can you explain the recent issues with junior doctors’ contracts?
- What are the major changes proposed in the new junior doctors’ contract?
- Would you have gone on strike / were people right to go on strike?
Mental health services
Mental health services in a nutshell:
Mental health services in England currently deal with a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and psychosis. One in three people experience mental health problems while in employment – and recently the NHS has worked to increase much-needed funding for mental health services.
What is being done to improve mental health services?
- NHS England is aiming to develop and implement a new national programme for mental health by 2020, for which the government has pledged £1.25 billion.
- Part of this plan includes supporting Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to improve mental health for children.
- Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, recently appointed the first ever Shadow Minister of Mental Health, stating that he wanted to place mental health on par with physical health.
What are the consequences of the improvements to mental health services?
- These improvements will reduce the number of patients who are forced to travel miles to their nearest mental health hospital. NHS funding will enable them to use their local services.
- Supporting Clinical Commissioning Groups will work to improve mental health for young people.
- Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “One in four of us will suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health problem, but mental health services have historically been the NHS’ poor relation. Putting mental and physical health on an equal footing will require major improvements in seven day mental health crisis care, a large increase in psychological treatments, and a more integrated approach to how services are delivered.”
Interview questions on mental health services:
- Is mental health an area of concern for the NHS – and if so, why?
- Do you know of any of the challenges facing mental health services at the moment?
Zika virus outbreak
Zika virus in a nutshell:
This summer, the World Health Organisation declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency, putting it in the same category of importance as Ebola. The biggest concern is the impact the virus will have on pregnant women and foetuses developing in the womb.
What is Zika virus?
- Zika virus is carried by Aedes mosquitoes and the first human case was detected in 1954. There were further outbreaks in South East Asia and the Pacific, but these were not a serious threat to human health.
- A Zika virus case was reported in 2015 in Brazil, and the virus spread rapidly to Central America as well as the Caribbean.
- Symptoms of the zika virus include mild fever, conjunctivitis, joint pain and headaches.
- The World Health Organisation has claimed there is ‘scientific consensus’ that the Zika virus causes microcephaly (a condition which means babies are born with an underdeveloped brain), as well as other birth defects such as miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Experts also believe that the Zika virus is a cause of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system.
What are the consequences of Zika virus?
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women not to travel to affected areas.
- Some governments in affected countries have advised women to delay pregnancy.
- Trials of a Zika vaccine will likely start at the end of this year, and larger trials could begin at the start of 2017.
Interview questions on Zika virus:
- Can you tell me about the Zika Virus outbreak?
- Should we repatriate UK nationals who were infected by the virus?
- How would you manage an outbreak of Zika in the UK?
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