Weekly political news round up – 24th April 2015

April 24, 2015 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, has said health services have deteriorated under the Coalition Government and that the Conservatives were “not being straight” on how they intend to pay for the £8 billion a year in extra funding it has promised if elected. He said the Conservatives’ plans on the NHS were a “double deceit” and called on the party to inform the public of its plans to double cuts to public services next year. The comments came during the Labour Party’s “NHS week”, which launched a week of intensive campaigning focused on the health service.

Additionally, Ed Miliband this week unveiled plans to begin training an extra 1,000 nurses this year as part of its plans to recruit 20,000 extra nurses by 2020. In a speech to nursing students in Manchester, Miliband said Labour ministers will instruct officers to call on universities to reopen admissions for nursing courses on their first day in office.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published a briefing note looking into the fiscal plans laid out by the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party SNP, noting that all parties have stated they would reduce borrowing but have not provided specific information on how that will be achieved. The parties differ as to the extent of the reduction in borrowing, with Labour and the SNP aiming to reduce the deficit and debt more slowly than the Conservatives.  The IFS concludes that the electorate “is at best armed with only an incomplete picture of what they can expect from any of these four parties”.

The Liberal Democrats launched their disability manifesto this week, pledging a £150 million support package for carers to cover benefits such as a £250 holiday bonus. The announcement follows official figures revealing that one in eight adults across England and Wales provided unpaid care for their family or friends.

The SNP publishes its 2015 general election manifesto

The Scottish National Party (SNP) this week launched its manifesto document, setting out its policy aims and ambitions for Scotland in the next Parliament. The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the manifesto’s aim was not to push for a Scottish independence, but to highlight that the party will use its influence at Westminster to help deliver a “positive change for the benefit of ordinary people across the UK”.

Broadly, the SNP has pledged to put in place an alternative to austerity, protect the NHS and public services and use its influence to “demand that Labour delivers the real change that people want and need – instead of just being a carbon copy of the Tories”.

More importantly, the party stressed that SNP MPs will vote against any measure at Westminster that affects Scotland’s interests or has the effect of reducing Scotland’s funding.

In terms of policy areas relevant for PCF, the manifesto stated that the SNP would:

  • Continue to integrate health and social care, especially for people with long-term conditions and disabilities. This includes £300 million over the next three years for the Integrated Care Fund and £30 million for telehealth. The party said the additional investment will lead to better local primary, community and care services to help keep people safe in their own homes for as long as possible.
  • Meet the NHS funding challenge set by NHS Chief Executive in England in the Stevens report, and vote for an increase in NHS spending across the UK of £24 billion by 2020-12. This increase will also see spending in Scotland rise by a total of £2 billion in 2020-21.
  • Vote against any further privatisation of the NHS in England and back any moves to restore it to a fully public service.
  • Vote to block plans to cut Disability Living Allowance by £3 billion across the UK by 2017-18, of which £310 million a year is Scotland’s share.

Weekly political news round up – 17th April 2015

April 17, 2015 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

BBC News has reported that Sir David Nicholson, the former chief executive of NHS England, has said that the NHS in England is facing a “substantial financial problem”, with large deficits that will become “crystal clear” later this year. He said that all parties had to make the extra £8 billion of funding required for the NHS available immediately, rather than by the end of the parliament. He also said that the £22 billion of planned NHS efficiencies, on which the £8 billion ask was based, were a “big ask”, and that “emergency” action such as vacancy freezes were required to tackle financial difficulties.

Health Service Journal has reported that Ian Williamson, chief officer of Central Manchester CCG, has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the first stages of Greater Manchester’s health devolution reforms.  Over the next few months, Williamson will be responsible for ensuring appropriate staffing and resources are in place, strengthening governance arrangements, and drawing up a business case by October which will inform submissions to the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.

The Welsh Government has launched a survey on the Health Professional Education Investment Review, which seeks to establish whether current arrangements for the planning, development and commissioning of health professional education and workforce development represents best value for Wales, or whether changes are required. Responses to the survey are required by 25th May 2015.

Political parties publish 2015 General Election manifestos

This week saw the launch of the 2015 General Election manifestos by the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party. These manifestos set out the policy aims and ambitions for each party, with each focusing on core themes and ideals. Below is a summary of each of the party’s manifestos.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto, available here, seeks to set out its plan to support “every stage of one’s life to secure a better future”. The theme of the party’s manifesto remains the need to “finish the job” and stick to the current Government’s “long-term economic plan”.

In terms of health, there were no surprise policy announcements, with written confirmation that the Conservatives increase NHS spending by £8 billion a year by 2020, as requested by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.  The manifesto states that a future Conservative government would:

  • Expand GP access for all people to 7 days a week, from 8am to 8pm, by 2020.
  • Implement that findings of the Accelerated Access review into innovative medicines and medical technologies.
  • Increase the use of cost-effective new medicines and technologies
  • Encourage large-scale trials of innovative technologies and health services
  • Patients will be able to access full information about the safety records of their hospital and other NHS or independent providers.

Labour

Labour’s manifesto, available here, seeks to establish a “plan to reward hard work, share prosperity and build a better Britain”, by focusing particularly on the economy, NHS and living standards. The main manifesto was published shortly after a more specific health-focused manifesto, which outlined Labour’s ambition for the NHS and the health and social care sector in more significant detail than the main manifesto.

The major announcements in the health manifesto include the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which Labour argue has led to greater privatisation of NHS services, as well as plans to recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs as part of the £2.5 billion Time to Care fund. Labour also plan to restore the Health Secretary’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service, and also plan to integrate health and care services into a seamless system of whole-person care, bringing together services for physical, mental and social needs.

There are several areas of relevance to the PCF, which can be summarized below:

  • All people with complex needs will be entitled to a personalized care plan, developed with the individual and their family, and tailored to personal circumstances. All those with complex conditions will be given a single point of contact for all of their care needs, and will have the option of a personal budget where appropriate.
  • Budgets, commissioners and providers will be brought together at a local level, with Health and Wellbeing Boards to be supported to become a vehicle for system leadership.
  • Anyone diagnosed with a long-term condition will be able to have access to peer support.
  • There will be a system of independent medical examination to identify patterns of poor care in the community as well as in hospitals.
  • The process for setting up clinical trials will be streamlined through working with the Health Research Authority.
  • The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme will be maintained.
  • Labour will make sure that NICE is “fit for the future” by looking at setting tougher rules on implementing NICE guidance, and ensuring that there is a clear route into routine commissioning for innovative treatments.

Liberal Democrats

The theme of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, available here, is that of a stronger economy and a fairer society, which provides opportunity for everyone – from children to older people and the next generation.

The headline health announcement is that the Liberal Democrats will deliver an extra £8 billion of funding for the NHS in England, with appropriate boosts in funding for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Half of the initial £1 billion of funding will be invested in providing care in communities and at home. There is also a heavy emphasis on improving the quality of mental health services in order to being parity with physical health.

The manifesto recognises that there is a need to integrate health and social care due to an ageing population and an increase in the number of people living with long-term conditions. To address this, the Liberal Democrats will:

  • Shift full responsibility for care policy and funding to the Department of Health.
  • Secure local agreement on full pooling of budgets between the NHS and care services, with a target date of 2018. The details of how services are commissioned with remain a matter for local areas.
  • Develop Health and Wellbeing Boards to take a broad view of how services can improve wellbeing in the area.
  • Create a combined national wellbeing outcomes framework from the existing public health, adult social care and health outcome frameworks.
  • Allow for GPs to provide services like scans and blood tests closer to home.
  • Allow NHS commissioners and providers in a local area to form a single integrated health organisation.
  • Encourage the development of joined-up health providers, which cover hospital and community services, including GPs.
  • Move away from payments for activity to tariffs that encourage joined-up services and preventive care.
  • Repeal aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which makes NHS services vulnerable to forced privatisation through international agreements on free markets in goods and services.

The manifesto also outlines a need to improve access to GPs and community care. To do this, they will:

  • Better utilise the network of community pharmacists across the country so they become the first point of contact for advice on minor illnesses and are joined-up with GPs and community health teams.
  • Review the rules for exemption from prescription charges to ensure they are fair to those with long-term conditions and disabilities.
  • Expand GP evening and weekend opening hours.

The Liberal Democrats have also announced that they would “get the best” for the NHS out of innovative medicines and treatments while continuing to ensure value for money for the NHS in negotiations on the cost of medicines, promoting the use of generic medicines where appropriate.

UK Independence Party

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) manifesto, available here, focuses on issues like immigration, the economy, the NHS, Europe and living standards.

In terms of health policy, UKIP have said that they will increase the budget for the NHS in England by £3 billion a year by the 2020. The extra money will be used to fund 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses, and 3,000 more midwives, as well as a pilot programme to put GPs on duty in A&E departments seven days a week.

Moreover, they have announced that they will abolish Monitor and the Care Quality Commission, and place their inspectorate functions into the hands of county health boards made up of health and social care professionals elected locally by their peers. These boards will have the power to inspect health services, and will have a statutory duty to investigate concerns flagged up by their local Healthwatch or local authority Health Scrutiny panels.

Green Party

The Green party also launched its manifesto this week, outlining the party’s plans for the next Parliament should it form part of a government.  A manifesto to “create a more equal, more democratic society, while healing the planet”, it covers a broad range of policy areas, including ending privatisation of the NHS, abolishing tuition fees, and bringing the railways back to public ownership.

The manifesto addresses the NHS and the health and social care sector in general, outlining that, should they form part of a Government, they will seek to:

  • Repeal the Health and Social Act 2012 and introduce an NHS Reinstatement Bill, which will restore the obligation of the government to provide a comprehensive health service, whilst also ending market-based commissioning and procurement.
  • Increase the overall NHS budget by £12 billion a year, and thereafter increase the overall NHS budget annually by 1.2%. This extra funding will create a total of 400,000 jobs.
  • End “phony patient choice”, which they believe “for most of us” is “much less important” than getting good treatment at their local hospital or health centre.
  • Ensure free health care and social care for older people.
  • Work in partnership with third sector organisations that champion patient care, and ensure that all cost-effective treatments are available to all patients who need them.
  • Build systems to measure and improve the ecological impact of health, from carbon costings of treatments, to setting targets on recycling in NHS Trusts.
  • Look at what services are currently offered in hospitals that could be transferred to the community.
  • Encourage cooperation between all primary care providers, for example, pharmacies and hearing, optical and old age care organisations.

Weekly political news round up – 10th April 2015

April 10, 2015 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Times has reported that the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has asked members not to take part in early trials of the baseline assessment for four and five-year-olds. The NUT said that unless the next government withdraws the tests, which focus on numeracy, literacy and communication, then it will ballot teachers to approve a formal boycott of the assessments when they are introduced in autumn 2016. Ben Cox, from NUT Cymru, warned that the assessments will lead to an education system “based on testing not teaching, churning out robots to pass tests without the vital life skills we as teachers value”.

The Guardian has reported that Dr Mark Porter, chief executive of the British Medical Association, has warned that the poor state of NHS finances may mean that patients will be charged to use basic NHS services such as GP services. He said that whoever took office following the general election would “inevitably be tempted” to bring in charges, despite the inevitable unpopularity of such a move. However he added that such temptation should be resisted.

BBC News has reported on a survey by health think-tank the Health Foundation, where 85% of the 1800 people polled believed the NHS should be protected from cuts – significantly more than other public services. 59% of respondents supported tax rises to secure funding for the NHS, but only 16% were in favour of charging for services, such as a £10 fee for GP appointments. However, only 63% of people believed that the NHS would continue to be free at the point of use by 2020.

Royal College of Nursing launches clinical supplies procurement campaign

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has launched the Small Changes, Big Differences campaign, which aims to encourage nursing staff to get involved in the procurement process at an early stage, and use their knowledge and experience to influence how their trust procures clinical supplies so to make savings. The campaign is being run by the RCN, NHS Supply Chain and the Clinical Procurement Specialist Network.

A survey carried out by Nursing Times found that over 80% of nursing staff think there is scope to save money in their organisation and a further 86% believed that patient safety would be improved if nurses had greater involvement in purchasing. The RCN hopes that the campaign will lead to savings of £30 million.

A resource pack published for the campaign highlights that nurses are uniquely positioned to share knowledge of what products do and do not work in a clinical environment, offer feedback on the quality and safety of products, and share insight on which products are best from a patient experience perspective. By being more involved, the pack states that clinical risk is reduced, patient experience and safety is improved, and the procurement process becomes more efficient and effective.

The resource pack includes examples of good procurement practices, including examples of good continence and catheterisation procurement. The case study for good continence procurement focuses on the use of continence care pads, which involved cooperative working between pad producer Ontex UK and NHS Supply Chain. The case study for catheterisation focused on the usage of an antimicrobial cleaning solution developed by infection prevention specialist company, Schülke.

Both the resource pack and the website contain materials that are used to help nurses get involved with the procurement process.

Weekly political news round up – 2nd April 2015

April 2, 2015 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

BBC News has reported that Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers (ATL) and Lecturers, has said that the provision of special needs services in England has been “drastically damaged” by cuts to support services. She added that she feared that the cuts mean that “many schools and colleges are unable to meet their legal obligations for disabled pupils”, and that special needs provision in many schools was “woefully inadequate”.

The Guardian has published an open letter, signed by leading educationalists, early years specialists and psychologists, which calls for the Government to scrap plans to introduce baseline assessments for four and five-year-olds when they enter primary school. The letter argues that the assessments, which will measure children’s numeracy and literacy skills, will introduce the stresses of academic over testing to children at a younger age. It has previously been suggested that the baseline assessment could lead to nurseries and similar settings focusing on academic rather than general development.

NHS England publishes business plan for 2015-2016

NHS England has published its business plan for 2015-16, which sets out its priorities for the coming year. These priorities are chosen to deliver the main themes of the Government’s mandate to NHS England, whilst advancing the agenda the NHS set for in the NHS Five Year Forward View (FYFV).

There are ten priorities in total, which have been split into four groups. Priorities one to four seek to improve health, and five to eight cover the redesign of NHS care. The other two priorities focus on separate structural priorities. The most relevant areas for the PCF have been highlighted.

  1. Improving the quality of care and access to cancer treatment
  2. Upgrading the quality of care and access to mental health and dementia services
  3. Transforming care for people with learning disabilities
  4. Tackling obesity and preventing diabetes
  5. Redesigning urgent and emergency care services
  6. Strengthening primary care services
  7. Timely access to high quality elective care
  8. Ensuring high quality and affordable specialised care
  9. Whole system change for future clinical and financial sustainability
  10. Foundations for improvement

6 – Strengthening primary care services

By March 2016, the business plan highlights that NHS England will improve access to general practice, invest in GP estate and negotiate and agree national contracts for primary care. The business plan states that by achieving these objectives, proactive care can be delivered for people with long term conditions, especially those with complex care needs.

7 – Timely access to high quality elective care

The business plan states that NHS England will continue to work with Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to ensure a common approach to achieving all NHS Constitution Referral to Treatment standards nationally and locally. The business plan also states that all CCGs and trusts must continue to plan to meet the growing demand for elective services, and that NHS England will continue to check that CCGs are contracting for enough treatments so elective standards are met.

9 – Whole system change for future clinical and financial sustainability

Enabling system change –

The business plan notes that NHS England’s new Commissioning Committee will develop a strategy and plan for improving all aspects of the commissioning system, to support the FYFV.

It is also intended that NHS England will expand personal budgets through Integrated Personalised Commissioning (IPC) demonstrator sites by March 2016.

Delivering value and financial sustainability –

The business plan states that NHS England will continue to develop an economic and financial strategy that supports the FYFV, including a medium term financial strategy for the health and care system. Furthermore, NHS England’s work programme will focus on refining their estimates of both future cost pressure and resources and projecting the potential impact of various system interventions.

NHS England will continue to work with the Department of Health, Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and other NHS bodies to bring transparency and strengthen cost control to facilitate the delivery of the maximum possible operational efficiency.

Finally, the business plan highlights that NHS England will be launching a spending review.

10 – Foundations for improvement

Recognising that people with long term conditions often only spend less than 1% of their contact time with health professionals, the business plan notes that NHS England will improve the information to which people have access – not only clinical advice, but also information about the patient’s condition and history. NHS England will also work with voluntary sector partners to commission self-management educational courses. They will also, by October 2015, support all CCGs to develop their local personal health budgets offer to patients beyond NHS Continuing Healthcare.

National Children’s Bureau and Council for Disabled Children publish reports on health services in England

The National Children’s Bureau and the Council for Disabled Children have published two reports outlining what every child and young person should expect from health services in England. The first report reviews the NHS Constitution and three other key documents on children and young people’s health in order to establish the quality of care that children and young people should receive. The second report presents children and young people’s experience of using NHS services and their views on how the NHS Constitution can be improved.

Children and young people’s health rights in England: Shared messages

This report examines four key documents to establish core messages on what children and young people should expect from health services in England. These documents are: the NHS Constitution; the Department of Health’s ‘You’re Welcome’ document, which sets out the criteria for young people friendly health services; the Children and Young People’s Manifesto for Health and Wellbeing; and the Government’s pledge to improve children’s health.

The review found that there needed to be a clear relationship between the commissioning of available services and collective involvement in decision making to ensure that children and young people’s needs are their views are adequately represented and the appropriate services are put in place. It identified that poor population-level data is a challenge for the consideration of children’s needs in commissioning.

It also found that the four documents do not adequately address the need to ensure that health professionals have the skills required to communicate with children and young people, especially those with additional needs. It found that the NHS Constitution did not address the issue of young people’s consent and parental involvement relating to under 18s and under 16s.

Children and Young People’s Views on the NHS Constitution: Engaging Themes

This report examines what children and young people think about the NHS Constitution. The report found that there was a low recognition amongst children and young people of the NHS Constitution, even amongst those with extensive experience of NHS services. As such, this meant that focus groups interviewed found that there was a limited understanding of the rights that they had when using NHS services, and that they were unsure how the rights would or should apply to them as children, as well as how parental involvement would impact on their individual rights.

Those interviewed as part of the study said that they wanted to know how the NHS would support them in having an appropriate understanding of their rights as they developed from early childhood to young adulthood, and empower them to take ownership of their rights. They stated that health professionals needed to take the lead in making children and young people’s rights clear throughout their work, and that the rights in the Constitution should be promoted better so to enable them to feel more confident and welcome in exploring how these rights relate to their own use of NHS services.

Plaid Cymru publishes 2015 election manifesto

Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales, has published their manifesto for the 2015 General Election. This manifesto outlines the policy ambitions for Plaid Cymru for the next parliamentary term. It covers a wide range of areas, including devolution, taxation, education, housing, as well as health. Below is a summary of the areas relevant for the PCF.

The manifesto outlines that Plaid Cymru will develop a national workforce plan to ensure that there are enough healthcare staff for Wales. It notes that this will include increases to the number of district and community nurses to support people in Wales, as well as plans to recruit an additional 1,000 doctors. There will also be a focus on providing healthcare professionals, such and nurse and doctors, with additional training to ensure that they can contribute effectively to the Welsh NHS.

The manifesto also states that Plaid Cymru will improve access to medicines and technology. They will do this by ensuring that prescriptions are free, and by introducing a New Medicines and Treatments Fund for treatments that are not ordinarily available for patients on the NHS, with decisions applying nationally across Wales.