Weekly political news round up – 12th August 2016

August 12, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

Children’s nursing qualification threatened by generic nursing degrees

Children and Young People’s Nurse Academics UK (CYPNAUK), a lobbying group for children and young people’s nursing, has warned that changes to nursing education could reduce specialised children’s nursing to an “add-on” rather than recognising the need for the specialisation. The recommendations of the 2015 Shape of Caring Review stated that nursing students should undergo two years of ‘general’ training before specialising during their third year, with children’s nursing being one of these areas of focus. Yet CYPNAUK’s interim chair, warned that generic nursing equates to adult nursing; and these suggestions “would basically be the death knell for the children’s nursing qualification.”

CYPNAUK’s fears were expressed following the Government’s confirmation that grants for student nurses will be replaced with loans from 2017. The dean of the faculty of society and health at Buckinghamshire New University, Sue West, has also warned this week that this decision is not guaranteed to increase the number of student nurses, as suggested by the Government. Ms West argued that the number of trainee nurses “will in reality be governed by the availability of clinical placements and the non-medical tariff to support these placements.” Health Education England is planning a series of workshops to inform its management of tariff money in light of the changes.

Department for Education ministerial responsibilities confirmed

Following the appointment of Theresa May’s new Cabinet a few weeks ago, the Department for Education has finalised the titles and ministerial responsibilities for each of its ministers. Of particular note to the PCF is Edward Timpson MP, whose position has been renamed Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families and who has responsibility for special educational needs, ‘rounded and resilient young people’ and behaviour and attendance. The list also confirmed that Nick Gibb MP’s role as Minister of State for School Standards will give responsibility for steering the Education for All Bill through Parliament.

Think tanks warns NHS rationing will worsen

The Nuffield Trust think-tank has warned of the risk of NHS treatments being rationed if it continues to be pressured to make efficiency savings to close the £22 billion funding gap expected by 2020. The Nuffield Trust’s report, ‘Feeling the crunch: NHS finances to 2020’, suggests that the options to reduce the health service’s funding gap include NHS providers becoming more efficient; commissioners reducing the speed of increases to NHS activity each year either through reducing demand or access to care; or increasing funding for the NHS.

There have been concerns that the NHS is already increasing restrictions on treatments such as cataract surgery and hip and knee operations. The Shadow Health Secretary, Diane Abbott, echoed the assertion that “we could see a rationing of health services if the financial crisis in the NHS is not addressed.” The Department of Health’s response to the report labelled its claims “pure speculation”, and said there are “no plans to arbitrarily close services”.

Half of GPs considering employing a pharmacist

A poll published by GPonline has found that approximately 31% of GPs employ a pharmacist in their practice, while 16% are considering doing so to increase capacity and diversify their skills mix. Many GPs responding to the survey expressed the positive impact pharmacists and other healthcare assistants have had on their practice – yet 35% reported that employing more pharmacists would not compensate for the shortage of GPs, and 12% were unsure whether it would.

NHS England increased the amount of investment in the scheme to recruit pharmacists from £15 million to £30 million earlier this year. A survey carried out for the mental health charity Mind, also published this week, has found that nearly nine in ten primary care staff experience stress at work. Two in five of those surveyed reported resigning or considering resigning due to workplace stress. The chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, commented that the survey showed the need for “a properly funded, fully staffed service that can meet the public’s needs”.

Weekly political news round up – 5th August 2016

August 12, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

Localis calls for “devolution revolution”

The think-tank Localis has published a report claiming that the NHS needs a framework for a “devolution revolution”. The paper says that local areas should be increasingly free of central government control and direction, with greater local flexibilities. The report also includes a survey of over 100 key NHS and local government stakeholders, which found that 78% said devolving control of the total local health budget would help create a sustainable and integrated local healthcare economy. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said the report is further evidence that devolution is “crucial for London”.

Wales’ new Chief Medical Officer takes office

Dr Frank Atheron, the new-Chief Medical Officer for Wales, took up his post this week. Dr Atheron is responsible for providing independent professional advice to the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health and the Cabinet on health and public health matters, as well as working with organisations across Wales to reduce health inequalities and improve health.

As Medical Director of NHS Wales, he will lead the medical profession with the aim of improving the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes.

Dr Atherton replaces Dr Ruth Hussey who retired earlier this year. He suggests that his appoint: “provides me with a fantastic opportunity to work with people and organisations across Wales to create the conditions for people to live healthier lives, building on the foundations of the Active Travel Act and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. I’m looking forward to getting down to delivering these progressive and innovative policies.”

Scottish government launch drive to increase bowel screening participation

A drive has been launched to encourage more Scots to return their bowel screening tests in August. The Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early (DCE) campaign will run for five weeks over August to encourage more people to do their test as soon as they receive it and, in doing so, join the ‘bowel movement’.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The bowel screening test is the best way to catch bowel cancer early. Today’s statistics, that shows three out of five cancers detected by screening were diagnosed at the earliest two stages, reinforces this…This Government is committed to continually improving access to cancer services for patients. Our £100 million cancer strategy outlines how we will invest over the next five years to ensure patients who are suspected of having, and are subsequently diagnosed with, cancer can get timely access to treatment.

Weekly political news round up – 29th July 2016

August 12, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has released a ministerial statement confirming his intent to continue to pursue access to GP appointments seven days a week. Mr Hunt said he expected NHS workers to “make further progress on this priority, in line with the Government’s mandate for 2016-17 and our longer term goals for 2020.”

The Labour leadership candidate, Owen Smith MP, has also unveiled the policies he would advocate if elected as the party’s leader, which included increasing the NHS’s funding settlement by 4% a year and tackling social inequality through tax rises. Smith said he would restore the 50p tax rate, end the public sector pay freeze and institute a 15% wealth tax on ‘unearned income’ e.g. dividend payments for people earning over £150,000 – arguing that “It’s time we asked the very wealthiest in our society to start paying more”. Smith is running against the incumbent Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, with the winner due to be announced on 24 September.

Article on paediatric continence featured in Nursing Times

An article by June Rogers on changes to paediatric continence service provision, following the transfer of school nursing responsibilities from public health to local authority funding, has been published in the Nursing Times. The article argues that while school nurses are best suited to identify continence issues at an early stage, changes to school nursing provision mean it is no longer their responsibility to do so. It also highlights that involvement from school nurses is the most cost-effective route as it reduces the need for referrals to other care settings; and that it should be recognised that continence problems may be indicative of underlying issues.

The article also references PCF’s research into paediatric continence service provision, conducted through Freedom of Information requests to CCGs in 2014, and the revelation that only 40% of areas commission comprehensive paediatric continence services. It also cited PCF’s assertion that a failure to act to solve bladder and bowel problems at an early stage can result in the condition worsening and requiring treatment in secondary care.

PCF press release featured in Northern Irish local media

David Simpson, the DUP MP for Upper Bann in Northern Ireland, has publicised his involvement with PCF’s recent parliamentary drop-in session in a local media outlet. The press release explained the issues with paediatric continence provision across the UK, citing PCF’s 2014 research into service provision which highlighted that only 40% of Health Boards/CCGs commission the four main continence services, and only 27% do so in a “joined-up” manner. Mr Simpson also referenced the provision of services in his constituency, utilising information provided by PCF at the drop-in session.

Mr Simpson confirmed he has written to Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, as well as the chair of his local Health Board, to discuss how paediatric continence service provision can be improved in his constituency and across the UK. The article also featured a quote from PCF’s Chair, Dr Penny Dobson, highlighting how the provision of these services “is becoming increasingly fragmented”.

London council planning to reduce number of health visitor checks

Following the request from Public Health England for responses to its review of compulsory checks from health visitors, the London borough of Lewisham has suggested it may look to reduce the number of mandatory checks conducted by health visitors between pregnancy and when a child is two-and-a-half years old. Lewisham Council has suggested the move as part of a wider consultation on how to reduce its public health budget; and said the Government’s review is “likely to give Lewisham and other local authorities more flexibility to target additional checks at the most vulnerable families.”

The cut could save Lewisham Council £2 million, necessitated by a £4.7 million reduction in its public health grant from April 2017, and would be matched by creating a new integrated health visiting and school nursing service. Its consultation has also proposed reducing school nurses’ involvement in supporting children with disabilities and long-term health conditions, by instead providing a “dedicated nursing team” with assistance from community children’s doctors.

NHS England underspends budget in 2015/16

NHS England has confirmed it underspent its annual budget of £100 billion by £600 million in 2015/16, “to help offset substantial overspends elsewhere”. The underspend ensured that the Department of Health was able to avoid formally requesting additional funding from Parliament; and may have included underspending on primary care by £163 million. The funding will remain with NHS England as contingency funding for 2016/17 – which could be needed, given reports that have also emerged suggesting the organisation could actually overspend its budget this year for the first time in its existence. For the first three months of this financial year, NHS England (including 45 CCGs) overspent its budget by £83 million, although many CCGs are expected to recover costs later in the year.

Weekly political news round up – 22nd July 2016

August 12, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

The Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens has written on the “radical blueprint” needed to save the NHS. Acknowledging the prominence the NHS had in the campaign to leave the EU, Mr Stevens outlined the wider issues facing the NHS in the coming years – in embedding preventative healthcare, reducing health inequalities, improving GP access and healthcare infrastructure. He urged the Government to take advantage of positive borrowing figures to invest in the NHS to solve these challenges.

Junior health ministers appointed in reshuffle

Theresa May continued to shape her government this week with the appointment of a number of ministers in departments relevant to the PCF. These included the appointment of a range of ministers to the Department of Health. The former Minister for Public Health, Jane Ellison, has been promoted to the Treasury; and the former Care Quality Minister Ben Gummer has been promoted to the Cabinet Office; while the departure of the former Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, was accelerated by the reshuffle. In their places the following ministers were appointed:

  • Philip Dunne MP, Minister of State for Health;
  • Nicola Blackwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation; and
  • David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care.

These appointments indicated a change to ministerial responsibilities, with the most relevant ministers for the PCF now being David Mowat (with responsibility for community services and all elements of primary care) and Nicola Blackwood (with responsibility for public health and innovation). The answers to several parliamentary questions on continence care provided this week suggest that David Mowat will take primary responsibility for this policy area. Meanwhile, the Department for Education experienced greater ministerial continuity, with Nick Gibb continuing as Minister of State for Schools and Edward Timpson continuing as Minister of State for Children and Families.

Questions on continence care answered in House of Commons

Two questions on continence care, tabled by Richard Fuller MP, have been answered in the House Commons this week. The first question asked the Secretary of State for Health “what steps his Department is taking to improve education and training for care staff on continence and toilet support”; while the second asked “what steps his Department is taking improve education and skills training for health care professionals on continence and toilet support”. Both questions were given the same answer by David Mowat MP, the newly appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care.

The answer referred to the Excellence in Continence Care guidance as being aimed at commissioners, providers, and health and social care staff, providing a “framework that enables commissioners to work in collaboration with providers and others” to consistently provide “safe, dignified, efficient and effective continence care”. The answer also specified guidelines produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for a range of continence problems. It did not specify any particular initiatives made by the Department to improve education and training for continence care.

Health Select Committee reports on Impact of the Spending Review on health and social care

The Health Select Committee has published the report for its inquiry into the impact of the Spending Review on health and social care. The Committee immediately clarified that it does not think the funding agreement for the NHS has been accurately portrayed by the Government, and that it is not enough to meet the goals of the Five Year Forward View. It attributes this to additional funding being used to “plug provider deficits, rather than to transform the health and social care system at scale and pace.” The Committee also criticised the decisions to move financial resources away from public health and health education, arguing that “cutting public health is a false economy, creating avoidable additional costs in the future.”

The Committee specifically recommended that “Given that even greater responsibility for public health has been transferred to local authorities, monitoring what is spent, how it is spent, and what it has achieved is of great importance. The Government needs to analyse and closely monitor the effects of the public health cuts on the aspirations set out in the Five Year Forward View.” The Department of Health subsequently rejected the conclusion that health care spending had not been transparently explained by the Government; while comments from the Royal College of Nursing highlighted the need to address the NHS’s financial pressures to deliver on the aims of the Five Year Forward View.

Government confirms nursing bursaries will end in 2017

The Government has confirmed it will end the current system of bursaries for nursing student in 2017, instead moving them to the student loan system and providing additional support with childcare costs, travel and dual accommodation, and in times of exceptional hardship. The changes are expected to save £800 million a year which will be invested to train up to 10,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament, which the Government claims is restricted by the current system.

The Royal College of Nurses acknowledged that “it is positive that the government has listened to some of our concerns, including the transitional bursaries for postgraduates and hardship funds.” It nonetheless criticised the decision, with its sentiments by the Royal College of Midwives arguing the move threatened the future of maternity services. The newly appointed Health Minister, Philip Dunne, said that the Government “are committed to plans to increase the number of training places for home-grown nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, with those in training getting around 25% more financial support while they study.”