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Friday, 29 January 2010

Sunbeds Bill through to the next stage!

I am delighted that Members of Parliament have voted Julie Morgan’s Private Members Bill on sunbed regulation to the next stage.

I hope that today's vote will encourage more MPs to get involved in the debate and begin to feed through into a commitment by Government for radical action to regulate sunbeds.

BMA Cymru Wales has campaigned for the tanning industry to be regulated for many years. We want to see tough action on sunbeds - including unmanned and coin-operated ones.

Doctors have been concerned for years about the rising incidences of skin cancer and the access that people have to sunbeds for cosmetic use.

We are particularly concerned by evidence that children are using sunbeds. Children are especially sensitive to ultraviolet light, and just one day of burning as a child increases the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult.

BMA Cymru strongly believe that there should be a thorough regulation of sunbed operators, and that tighter controls will have a positive impact on skin cancer prevention efforts.

I look forward to watching the further progress of this vitally important Bill.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Q&A with Wales Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell

BMA Cymru Wales will be filming a Q&A session with Dr Tony Jewell shortly, and we want to hear from YOU!

What would you like to know about Dr. Jewell? Perhaps what his day to day activities entail, or what he thinks the biggest challenges facing the health service are?

Whatever your question, we want to hear from you. Email and we will try to ask as may questions as we can.

Calling for support for Julie Morgan MP

We are urging all Welsh MPs to support Julie Morgan’s Private Member’s Bill which would close a loophole in the law to protect the public from the dangers of sunbeds. The Bill is receiving its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.

We are urging all Welsh MPs to remain in Westminster on Friday to support and vote for the Bill. It requires 100 votes to move to the committee stage as part of its route to the statute book. If it fails to attract this support, it will fall.

Doctors have been concerned for some time about the link between exposure to UV radiation and skin cancer which is indisputable – shown by the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to raise the sunbed classification to “carcinogenic to humans” - the highest risk category.

We are particularly concerned by evidence in Wales that children are using sunbeds. Children are especially sensitive to ultraviolet light, and just one day of burning as a child increases the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult.

We must educate people about the dangers of sunbeds and counter the myths about tanning. A suntan is not a sign of good health; a tan means that the skin has been damaged.

A thorough regulation of sunbed operators, and tighter controls will have a positive impact on skin cancer prevention efforts.

This bill will protect vulnerable people. It will be good for the public health of Wales.

My colleague Dr Sharon Blackford, Consultant Dermatologist at Singleton Hospital has also been vocal about these issues:

“We are seeing more and more younger patients with skin cancer, particularly young women who are frequent sunbed users.

“In the past some types of skin cancer were only seen in elderly people, particularly outdoor workers, but now it is commonplace to see patients in their 40’s and even younger with these tumours.

“Dermatologists would never recommend sunbeds for tanning, it's much safer to stay pale and interesting or to use a false tan, or in other words fake it, don't bake it.”

The burns unit at Morriston Hospital has treated patients with burns caused by tanning sessions.

This legislation is vital to stop more young people being exposed to the risk of developing skin cancer.

BMA Cymru Wales is urging all Welsh Members of Parliament to rally behind this important cause and support Julie Morgan on Friday at the second reading.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

£25,000 for Health Projects in the Developing World

NHS teams planning humanitarian work overseas can apply for grants of up to £3,000 from the BMA/RCN Humanitarian Fund from this week.

The total amount available for projects in 2010 will be £25,000 – comprising, £20,000from the BMA, and £5,000 from the Royal College of Nursing.

Last year, 29 grants were awarded from the Humanitarian Fund, which is administered by the BMA’s International Department.

Projects ranged from reducing infant deaths by training community health workers to deliver improved maternity care in Afghanistan to setting up a sustainable kidney transplant programme in Ghana.

Such projects can have lasting benefits. In Ghana, for example, a British team supported by the Humanitarian Fund have trained local surgeons and nephrologists with the aim of establishing a national kidney transplant service that will save many lives.

I am proud that the BMA funds such valuable work. I’m looking forward to reading about the next range of projects that will take place this year using the humanitarian fund.

NHS staff seeking funding for projects should apply to the BMA’s International Department at

For more information, go to:

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

2010 for Medical Students in Wales

In 2010, the Welsh Medical Schools Committee (WMSC) will be working hard to forge better standards for medical students across a broad range of tough issues. Our priorities include improving standards of education and reducing the financial burden on medical students.

In September 2009, Swansea medical school welcomed its first cohort that will complete all four years of the graduate entry programme at Swansea University. As the course evolves and grows, so too does the WMSC. We have one of the strongest committees I have had the fortune to be a part of so I have great optimism for a successful year.

Last year Cardiff University appointed a new Dean of Medicine. Over the course of the year we hope to build a strong working relationship with him with the goal of improving education and administration for medical students. The work we have done together so far has been very encouraging and we are very grateful for his frankness and willingness to discuss our concerns. The change in administration and exam mark processing protocols are of paramount importance, as we never want to see a repeat of last year's debacle.

Financial issues are a continuous cause for concern for medical students. The average debt upon graduating is approximately £37,000 and with the proposed lift of the cap on tuition fees as well as the reform of the NHS bursary system this could lead to student debt mounting even further. This not only penalises students across the board but will almost certainly disproportionally reduce applications from students of a lower socio-economic background. This is unacceptable. As the WMSC we are in the unique position to lobby for a fairer system that will benefit medical students across Wales. We also hope to implement initiatives to encourage Widening Participation.

We look forward to working with you and for you.

Tom Combellack
WMSC Chair 2009/2010

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Putting an end to "all you can drink offers"

New UK Government proposals mean that the all you can drink promotions could be banned in England and Wales.

We welcome the crackdown on such promotions which can lead to excessive drinking.

The health consequences of binge drinking or regularly drinking over and above the recommended daily limits are serious and severe. The number of deaths in Wales as a result of the abuse of alcohol continues to rise, and doctors report an increase in the number of young people presenting to the NHS with serious illness resulting from alcohol misuse.

We are pleased that the UK Government are taking action, but if they are serious about tackling the UK binge drinking culture, even tougher action is necessary.

There is strong and consistent evidence that an increase in price will reduce consumption, and BMA Cymru believes that this should form a central plank of any strategy to deal with alcohol misuse.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Another Government Strategy Launched…..

I have been reading the physical activity action plan which has been launched this week, with the aim to achieve an active, healthy and inclusive Wales.

We support the call for increased participation in physical activity in Wales and in particular it becoming part of a normal everyday routine.

I hope that the strategy will be successful, but the responsibility ultimately lies with the individual. We all need to be prepared to make small changes to our daily routine which can make a real difference.

Wales is a beautiful country, and what better way to appreciate our surroundings than swap the car journey to work, for walking or cycling. And I’m not just talking about adults. Children, where possible, should be encouraged to walk or cycle to school. The number of children travelling to school by car has doubled over the last 20 years - no wonder childhood obesity is a growing epidemic. We need to teach children from a young age about the advantages of a healthy lifestyle, and introducing exercise into a daily regime will help to protect them from chronic conditions later on in life.

The inequalities inherent within Wales have a profound influence on the health of children. I would like to see more investment in safe areas for children to play and exercise, as well as further investment for sport in schools. Deprivation limits access to safe play areas and safe physical activities.

In deprived areas many parents are too scared to let their children go outside because the roads are so busy, and in many communities there are the additional dangers of unsafe environments where play areas are littered with discarded syringes and broken glass. Until we address these fundamental barriers – nothing will change.

As doctors we have a vital role to play as well - in prescribing exercise for those who are overweight or obese.

Physical inactivity has so many different causes that it is impossible to be tackled by guidelines alone. I’ll be very keen to read the data that will be produced through the Welsh Health Survey and Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study to see if the strategy has actually worked.

What are your thoughts on the strategy?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Julie Morgan’s Private Members Bill Receives Government Backing

BMA Cymru are delighted with the news that Julie Morgan MP’s private members bill which would ban under 18’s from using sunbeds, and ensure all sunbed use in England and Wales would be supervised has received Government backing.

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health has stated he will take action to protect young people from the harm that sunbeds cause. He has noted the clear scientific evidence that sunbeds increase the risk of getting cancer and voiced his support for the bill.

I’m also glad to see celebrities such as Nicola Roberts from the popular band Girls Aloud, supporting the Bill and being a positive role model for young people.

Julie Morgan is hoping that the bill becomes law before the UK general election and we certainly hope so too.

BMA Cymru have campaigned heavily last year in Wales for tighter regulation of the sunbed industry, in particular for a ban on coin-operated / unsupervised salons and a ban on the use by under 18s. We were delighted last year when the National Assembly for Wales Health Committee took our recommendations from their inquiry forward, and await the debate in Plenary this term.

We will continue to do everything we can to support Julie Morgan. Our public affairs team are seeing Julie on Friday to discuss the Bill and what more can be done in Wales. They will be filming Julie for our Youtube channel. Tune in soon to find out more.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Congratulations Dai!

I would like to congratulate the Chair of the Junior Doctors Committee Dr David Samuel (pictured) who has won a Pfizer bursary. Dai will be talking to groups of up to 100 students from schools in Merthyr about teenage health.

Dai was raised in Merthyr, and now works at Prince Charles Hospital. As a local Doctor who is aware of the issues facing the residents, he hopes to break the cycle of ill health that runs in families from the area. He will be covering amongst other topics; drugs and alcohol, smoking and teenage pregnancy.

Merthyr has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Wales and the UK. The borough also has the highest proportion of smokers in Wales, as well as a high proportion of binge drinkers.

Collectively we need to work together to ensure a healthy future for our children and I am pleased that Dai is taking action.

BMA Cymru are extremely concerned about alcohol consumption among young people. It is shocking that in Europe, the UK’s teenagers are most likely to be heavy drinkers.

As doctors we see first hand how alcohol misuse destroys lives. It causes family breakdowns, is a major factor in domestic violence, ruins job prospects, is often related to crime and disorderly behaviour and it kills. Alcohol misuse is related to over 60 medical conditions including heart and liver disease, diabetes, strokes and mental health problems.

Alcohol misuse not only costs lives it also costs the country many millions of pounds. The NHS spends millions every year on treating and dealing with alcohol problems and the criminal justice system also spends similarly large amounts dealing with alcohol-related and drink-driving offences.

It is also vital that we break the cycle of young smokers who will become tomorrow’s parents who smoke, and continue the cycle of smoking-related ill-health. Every day doctors witness the death and despair caused by smoking.

It is essential that cigarettes are made less accessible to children. Banning point of sale displays and getting rid of tobacco vending machines will go some way to doing this.

We must also ensure that young people have access to adequate and appropriate contraception, as well as working together to educate and inform them of the risks of becoming sexually active too early.

We will be producing a youtube film of Dai in action at one of the interactive sessions – tune in to find out how he gets on.

Monday, 11 January 2010

2010 for the Public Health Committee

Chair of the Public Health Committee Lika Nehaul (pictured)looks at the year ahead for the Committee.

"2010 will be another challenging year for the Public Health Committee. There are four main issues that we would like to focus on.

"Firstly, we will be working with the Board of the Public Health Wales NHS Trust (PHW) to make the new organisation function successfully, and to be the best Public Health Service in the UK.

"This will not be an easy task as public health capacity is slim. The Public Health Strategic Framework for Wales will need to be implemented and there are high expectations on the part of Local Health Boards of the newly appointed Directors of Public Health, and the support expected from PHW across all domains of public health practice.

"Local authorities and communities will look to the Public Health service to advise on, and support the health improvement agenda. These are substantial expectations in an increasingly difficult financial climate.

"The second issue relates to the ongoing development of BMA Cymru Wales policy. Our members want to work closely with Welsh Council and other crafts in regard to both health care and health policies.

"We would like more doctors specialising in public health to be actively engaged as BMA members, especially given the multiple challenges medics are likely to face in coming years.

"Finally, like other doctors we want the details of our specialty re-validation arrangements clarified at the earliest possible opportunity."

Thursday, 7 January 2010

2010 for Junior Doctors in Wales

My colleague and Chair of the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee Dr Dai Samuel (pictured) looks at the year ahead for junior doctors in Wales.

"2010 brings new and ongoing challenges for the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee. With the introduction of the EWTD back in August 2009, as a committee we are constantly reviewing the impact this is having on the working and training lives of Doctors in Wales. Being part of external groups such as the Junior Doctors Review Group offers the BMA a voice within the Welsh Assembly Government as well as the Wales Deanery and I hope our relationship with both these organisations continues to flourish in the new year.

"An exiting project which will come to fruition this year will be the development of an Ambassador role for junior doctors in Wales as well as working with the Deanery to nurture a network of doctors working on the front line to assess and discuss issues relating to Quality Assurance in medical education.

"Our committee grew and matured last year and I hope that conference 2010 will prove a successful one for the committee. Establishing equal voting rights for devolved nations on JDC have been a source of concern in recent times and this will be undoubtedly be debated at conference. Negotiating a new contract lies on the horizon for UK JDC and I relish the challenge of ensuring that doctors in Wales get a palatable and attractive offer to remain here to work and live. This issue never strays far from the top of the agenda with WJDC and we continue to look at what could and does make Wales a unique place to live and work as a doctor. Links with WMSC continue to mature and I hope I can help encourage students to become doctors in Wales, and members of WMSC members of WJDC!

"My hope is that the committee will attract new members, particularly from hospitals away from the capital city. Our roadshow tours to hospital messes are proving popular and hopefully planting the seeds of interest for new members to attend a committee meeting! Seeing how we can change things and interact with Chief Executives of Local Health Boards is an example of how grassroot members’ voices and opinions have channelled our work plan this year.

"WJDC looks forward to working BMA Cymru, Welsh Council and other professional colleagues in 2010."

Dai Samuel Chairperson WDJC 2009-2010

Are you a junior doctor in Wales? What are your thoughts on issues facing junior doctors for the year ahead?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New year message from the Chair of Welsh Council, Dr Andrew Dearden

Well a New Year dawns and the snow has fallen again.

There are several big issues facing our profession in the coming year. Not least Revalidation and the preparations for its introduction.

I am pleased to say that due to the work of BMA Cymru Wales, our dedicated staff and Council members, we in Wales are well placed to agree an acceptable and GMC approved system that I think will be welcomed by the doctors in Wales. (see recent revalidation newsletter for details)

But we also face the worse financial situation the country and NHS has faced for many years, if not decades. We face real term funding / cash cuts to the NHS services. While we know who caused the problems we now face, as it was not us(!), it will fall to us to do what we can to protect the NHS and our patients from severe cuts to their medical services.

The new health boards desperately need our input, ideas and suggestions so we can adapt to the financial cuts without damaging cuts to healthcare provision in Wales. While NHS managers may not have listened to us (much) in the past, they really do need to take our advice and ideas now. Not to do so, would be a mistake.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Good Mental Health

My colleagues in our public affairs department had an interesting meeting with mental health charity Gofal Cymru today, which got me thinking.

They discussed Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan’s Mental Health LCO - which will help change the way in which mental health services are structured and delivered in Wales, and we, alongside Gofal and others continue to support reform.

Their meeting however, soon moved onto the problems we face in Wales in relation to mental health.

The report published by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the Wales Audit Office, Estyn and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales late last year which I blogged about certainly highlights that mental health services in Wales are still failing young people.

What I find exceptionally worrying though, is the issue of social stigma.

People find mental health an uncomfortable topic of conversation, and many people conceal their illness as a result of the social stigma surrounding it. But mental health problems are extremely common - it is estimated that one in four of us will develop mental ill health at some point in our lives.

The social stigma attached to mental illness, the need for better education and the lack of funding are at the forefront of discussions in this area.

Misconceptions and stereotypes of mental illness must be dispelled if we are to remove the social stigma which still exists. Education is the key to achieving this, partly through public health education, but also in the classroom.

Until society respects the rights of individuals facing mental health problems, we will not be able to provide an effective service.

Service users and carers should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be afraid to speak out about their problems.

There is a real need for a fundamental re-think of attitudes and responses to mental health.

Good mental health is a priority for us all, and the Government have a golden opportunity available now to reshape mental health services in Wales - which I hope they grasp with both hands because we still have a long way to go.

Have you been a victim of social stigma? Share your experience with us.

2010 for Consultants in Wales

My Colleague and Chair of the Welsh Consultants Committee Dr Stefan Coghlan (pictured), has considered what 2010 will look like for Consultants in Wales.

"I expect this to be a difficult year for Consultants in Wales as we see the financial belt tightening further.

"With 7 to 10 % Cost Improvement programmes up and running in the new LHBs, the prospect of a further 10% cut in the budget allocation to Wales and demand ever increasing for specialist services, we can expect a tough year or two ahead.

"I have written before about the pressures on Consultants to fill gaps left by EWTD, and there is increasing evidence that poor planning by Trusts (and now LHBs) is leaving consultants to pick up the pieces.

"Is there any good news?

"Well, the Access targets are likely to be relaxed as the NHS simply can not afford to treat all patients within the 26 week timescale. The Minister herself has emphasised the need to treat patients on the basis of clinical priority as determined by Consultants.

"Revalidation may not be embraced quite so willingly by governments with stretched finances and little evidence of the benefit that this additional bureaucracy will bring.

"BMA Cymru Wales is exploring the possibility with partners of a Wales solution to revalidation.

"It may be a year or two before we see the benefits of integrating primary and secondary care, but there remains the real possibility of Consultants being able to lead the delivery of specialist care whether in the acute setting or in the community in partnership with GP colleagues."

Wishing you a happy new year.
Dr Stefan Coghlan
Chairman WCC

Do you agree with Stefan's predictions? Are you a Consultant in Wales? What are your predictions?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Welsh General Practice in 2010

Happy New Year to members and regular readers.

My colleague and Chair of the Welsh GP Committee Dr David Bailey (pictured), looks at the year ahead for GPs in Wales.

"The financial downturn will limit innovation in practice and certainly new premises development and we will need to concentrate on maintaining and improving existing services.

"Whilst I’m conscious of the difficulties greater morbidity and deprivation brings to Welsh practices, one quick win would be organisational change to improve access. Many practices still use the “advanced access” templates which don’t deliver what patients need because of artificial phone barriers. A reasonable window to make quick appointments and keeping principle premises open throughout core hours would address many patient complaints at a stroke and should be our aim.

"The advent of new Health boards brings the potential for improving working relationships and new innovative services. It is to be hoped that this opportunity won’t be thrown away by them failing to engage GPs in designing service change and drowning us in unnecessary bureaucracy – time will tell.

"We can but hope that Doctors and Dentists Review Body does not listen to those in government who do not recognise the fantastic value we still provide.

"Through it all as usual General Practice will continue to be the one constant in patient’s experience of the NHS and the jewel in it’s crown."

Happy New Year!


Do you agree with David's predictions for the year ahead? Tell us what you predict.