Weekly political news round up – 30th March 2018

March 30, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, Prime Minister, Theresa May, has committed to developing a “sustainable long-term plan” for NHS funding and has called for funding to be injected into the Health Service promptly, saying that we cannot afford to wait until a review to increase its funding. She has been supported by Health & Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who has called for a ten-year NHS funding cycle.

The Nursing & Midwifery Council has published revisions to the draft standards it wrote last year and ahead of consulting on them next month. It said that, when originally publishing the standards, it caveated it with saying they might change, and did so early only to help universities to adjust their training programmes to meet them.

Medway Community Healthcare has been appointed to provide all NHS and council commissioned children’s community services in Medway. The announcement was delayed because of changes to the design of the brief, but the contract will start on 1st April and the transfer will be completed by 1st June.

Written question on incontinence answered in Parliament

A question on health services for incontinence was answered by the Department of Health and Social Care this week. Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, asked whether the Department had considered “the potential for a mandatory data set to provide transparency about the continence service which clinical commissioning groups are commissioning to enable NHS England to check how those groups are meeting the health needs of their population.”

Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, responded on behalf of the Government saying: “NHS England has advised that the Excellence in Continence Care Guidelines are currently being refreshed and will then go through the publication process. There is no definitive date at the present time for publication. The development of a minimum data set is being considered for both commissioners and providers by the Excellence in Continence Care Group.”

Given Ms. West’s interest in continence services, Whitehouse will request a meeting to further brief her on the work of the PCF

Government indicates support for ten-year NHS funding cycle 

The Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has called for the Government to agree a ten-year funding settlement for the NHS, in a significant intervention which criticised the “crazy” funding decisions for healthcare which have been taken up to now. Hunt said that NHS funding had been a case of “feast or famine” for the past two decades and suggested that the Government should consider “innovative forms of taxation”. In HSJ’s reporting on the remarks, it was noted that Hunt said large funding growth in some years had been “wasted” on IT and PFI projects and that he “wanted to see that money going in but to know every pound is being spent wisely.”

Hunt’s comments lend support to the argument for a ringfenced NHS tax, as he stated that the public “are very clear they want to know that money is actually going into the health and social care system.” However, commentators from the King’s Fund and the Institute of Fiscal Studies warned that this could result in funding being restricted during an economic downturn or recession if tax revenues fell.

Hunt’s intervention was accompanied by a letter from 98 cross-party figures, including 21 Select Committee Chairs, calling for the Government to create a commission to examine health and social care funding. The Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Sarah Wollaston, said “on behalf of all those who rely on services, we need to break down the political barriers and to agree a way forward.” The signatories suggested that a commission could make recommendations by Easter 2019. However, the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, argued that the Government could choose to increase NHS funding without the motivation of a cross-party commission, arguing that Gordon Brown “more than trebled the NHS budget in cash terms when we had a Labour government. We didn’t need a parliamentary talking shop to come up with that.”

Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee, pledged to developing a “sustainable long-term plan” for the NHS backed up by “a multi-year funding settlement” to empower it “to plan for the future.” She also called for the money to be delivered to the NHS expediently, saying that “I would suggest we can’t afford to wait until Easter.” Responding to this, Mr Ashworth has said, “Now the Prime Minister must put her money where her mouth is.”

Hunt’s bold call for a ringfenced health and social care tax should be considered in the context of his rumoured ambitions to bid for the Conservative Party leadership once Theresa May steps down. Following his polarising tenure as Health Secretary, Hunt will likely feel the need to change public opinion on his record if he is to make a leadership bid. While he has acted as a loyal servant on NHS funding and pay restraint policies under David Cameron and Theresa May, last week’s intervention suggests the Surrey MP is finally willing to offer more creative – and politically moderate – solutions to difficulties over health and social care finances.

NMC publishes draft nursing associate standards 

It has been reported in the Nursing Times that the Nursing and Midwifery Council has updated its standards for nursing associates including a list of skills they should be trained in. The standards were first published last year to give universities time to adjust their teaching programmes. The standards are due for consultation on 9th April. The requirements include nurses being able to recognise signs of allergy, sensitivity and adverse reaction and have an understanding of the different ways in which medicines can be prescribed.

Although the standards maintain that nurses need to be able to administer medication through oral, topical and inhalation routes, and through subcutaneous and intradermal injections, they no longer need to be able to do so through the rectum. They have also omitted the requirements on inserting and removing oral and nasal gastric tubes, catheters for all genders, the administration of intramuscular medicine and the use of infusion pumps.

An NMC spokesperson said: “We took the exceptional step of issuing an early working draft of the nursing associate proficiencies, accepting that they may change before and after consultation. This has given providers the best possible opportunity to prepare their students for the standards we are likely to set. We have engaged widely and the latest version has moved on. Subject to council approval, our formal consultation will open in April and people can tell us what they think.”

Social enterprise takes over children’s services contract

A social enterprise has won the contract to provide all NHS and council commissioned children’s community services in Medway. Medway Community Healthcare will run 19 different services and will run for four years at a value of £10.5m a year, taking services over gradually, with council services being transferred on 1st April through to CCG services scheduled to be transferred on 1 June. Medway Community Healthcare is already involved in the management of some of the previsions in the area.

Stuart Jeffery, Chief Operating Officer at Medway CCG, said: “Having a single point of access to all children’s community health services and advice should simplify the system and enable children and young people to achieve the best possible health outcomes. More and more services will be delivered in the community rather than in hospitals which fits with the Medway model, a new way of joining up local health and care services so that, where appropriate and possible, services can be delivered closer to people’s homes.”

Heidi Shute, Director of Children’s Services at Medway Community Healthcare, said: “We are delighted to be able to expand on the children’s services we currently provide, bringing together very experienced staff who will now be able to plan around the health needs of families in Medway. Our focus will be on supporting children and families to achieve the outcomes that are most important to them and we look forward to working with schools and other local partners to make this happen.”

Weekly political news round up – 23rd March 2018

March 23, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, the Government has announced a pay increase for NHS staff amounting to an average of 6% over three years. The Health and Social Care Committee has published its report on Brexit, covering medicines and medical devices; and the EU and UK have agreed a deal on the Brexit transition period. The Health and Social Care Secretary has also outlined the principles underpinning the social care green paper, which is due to be published in the summer.

Government announces pay increase for NHS staff

The Government has announced this week that NHS staff – excluding doctors – will receive a pay rise in line with the Agenda for Change pay framework over the next three years, amounting to an average of 6%. Nurses, healthcare assistants and other hospital staff will receive an average increase of 3% this year, 2% in 2019 and 1% in 2020, and will not need to sacrifice a day’s holiday as had been rumoured. The pay increases will be funded through new money from the Treasury, with an estimated cost of £4.2 billion over three years and with the greatest increases expected to go to the lowest paid staff. The Health Secretary said in a statement to the House of Commons that “Pay rises range from 6.5% to 29% over three years, with much higher rises targeted on those on the lowest and starting rates of pay.”

Responding to the announcement, the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, asked the Government whether the additional funding would “be paid for by extra borrowing or extra taxation”, arguing that “Public servants deserve reassurances that the Government will not give with one hand and take with the other.” The Chair of the RCN’s Trade Union Committee, Lors Allford, who led the negotiations with the Government on behalf of the union, said “This is the best pay deal in eight years from a Government that is still committed to austerity. Failure to accept it will put us back at square one, and at risk of returning to the 1% pay rises we’ve fought so hard to overturn.”

Health and Social Care Committee publishes Brexit report

The Health & Social Care Select Committee has published its report on Brexit – Medicines, Medical Devices and Substances of Human Origin. The Committee has recommended that the Department of Health and Social Care produces a comprehensive list of all issues relating to the supply of medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin that require contingency planning for after Brexit. The Committee also highlighted its expectation that the Department of Health and Social Care will produce evidence that there are plans in place to address the identified risk to patients or users of medical devices as a result of Brexit.

The Committee also refutes the argument that the publication of such evidence that shows contingency plans will weaken the UK’s negotiating position. In fact, the Committee argues, clarity over contingency planning that is able to guarantee patient safety and the continued supply of health supplies will strengthen the UK’s negotiating position, demonstrating that the UK has a “credible fall-back position”.

However, the Committee does also call for external analysis of supply chain issues. It was highlighted that Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Lord O’Shaughnessy, has announced that management consultants Ernst and Young have been commissioned by the Government to investigate this, but it has not been made clear when this work would be undertaken.

According to the Committee, the “overriding message from almost all the evidence in our inquiry is that the UK should continue to align with the EU regulatory regimes for medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin”. The Committee, as such, calls for the closest possible regulatory alignment with the EU over these issues, including retaining associate membership of the European Medical Association.

EU and UK agree Brexit transition deal

This week, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, and EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, announced in a joint press conference that a Brexit transition deal has been agreed following the UK making concessions over the free movement of EU citizens during the transition period. The UK agreed that it will give full rights to EU citizens moving to the country during that time and in return the UK will be allowed to sign trade deal agreements with other countries during the 21-month transition period, running from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020.

EU leaders also approved guidelines for the negotiation of future relations with the UK after Brexit. Whilst the UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, the negotiators have said that they want a deal on future UK-EU relations to be in place by the end of 2018. Specifically, this will facilitate discussions on a future trade deal between the UK and the EU which has been one of the UK Government’s key priorities. The aim will be to have a deal that can be presented to the EU legislature by October, in order to meet the end of year deadline.

Jeremy Hunt outlines principles underpinning social care green paper

This week, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, outlined seven key principles that he says will guide the thinking of his department as they prepare the long awaited Social Care Green Paper. The speech is the first presented by the Secretary of State since the renaming of his department to include social care. In particular, he has called for a stronger “partnership between the state and individuals” and announced that the Green Paper will establish a “risk pool” for people with complex care needs who are “disproportionately affected” by social care costs.

The Green Paper is due to be published before the summer. The Institute for Fiscal Studies this week also released a report warning that councils face “an almost impossible struggle” to plug social care’s funding black hole, with local authorities facing the loss of their government grant covering adult social care costs by 2020. The Local Government Association’s response to Hunt’s speech called first for an immediate “down-payment on the Green Paper by injecting additional resources into the system to fund immediate funding pressures which are set to exceed £2 billion by 2020”.

The seven principles outlined by Hunt are: quality; whole-person integrated care; control; workforce; supporting families and carers; a sustainable funding model for social care supported by a diverse, vibrant and stable market; and security for all.

Weekly political news round up – 16th March 2018

March 23, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, the Government has answered parliamentary questions on the Excellence in Continence Care guidance, and the Chancellor has delivered his Spring Statement. Public Health England has published commissioning guidance for health visitors and school nurses, while the Government has announced a review into outcomes for children with additional needs. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has also been taken over by a new President, Professor Russell Viner.

Written questions answered on EICC guidance

The Chair of the APPG on Continence Care, Rosie Cooper MP, has had three written questions answered on the adoption of the Excellence in Continence Care (EICC) guidance. The questions were:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, when he plans to publish the revised Excellence in Continence Care Guidelines;
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps (a) his Department and (b) NHS England is taking to ensure that commissioners in Clinical Commissioning Groups adopt the Excellence in Continence Care Guidelines; and
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make it his policy to require Clinical Commissioning Groups to submit data to NHS England on continence care services.

Responding on behalf of the Government, the Public Health and Primary Care Minister Steve Brine said that NHS England is doing several things to ensure that CCGs are following the Guidance, including:

  • Ensuring CCGs can work with clinicians and commissioners from areas that have adopted the guidelines to improve their own services;
  • Exploring implementing a mandatory data set to provide information on the continence services commissioned by CCGs;
  • Encouraging CCGs to develop integrated commissioning arrangements with local authorities to improve the use of resources; and
  • Raising awareness of the guidelines through communication campaigns.

The response also clarified that there is no confirmed date for the publication of the revised guidance and said that “NHS England are exploring the mandatory data set and have a long term programme to increase the transparency of information available about the National Health Service.”

Chancellor delivers Spring Statement

The Chancellor presented the Spring Statement to Parliament this week, in which he confirmed expectations that the UK economy is set to grow more strongly than predicted in 2018 with improved public finances. According to the Chancellor, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast more jobs, rising real wages, a falling deficit and shrinking debt in the coming years through to 2022. Despite this the Chancellor acknowledged that he was hesitant to increase public spending. Instead he suggested that possible public spending increases could be delivered in the Autumn 2018 Budget, provided public finances continue to reflect the outlined projections presented.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, accused the Government of “astounding complacency” and failing to address the “crisis on a scale we have never seen before” in the UK’s public services. He added that the Government should end the politics of austerity and that “austerity was a political choice not an economic necessity”.

While the speech did not contain significant policy announcements, the Chancellor did announce that London would receive an additional £1.7 billion to deliver 26,000 affordable homes – including homes for social rent, aiming to take the total number to more than 116,000 by the end of 2021/22. He also set out a number of future consultations on proposed policies including a new VAT collection mechanism, and a plan to end the practice of late payments for firms – something which is particularly damaging for small businesses. Hammond did not release more funding for the NHS, instead claiming there will be more pay for NHS staff if management and workers reach a deal on a pay agreement by the time of the next budget in the autumn. This will continue to be a contentious issue for the Government with increasing pressure to alleviate the NHS’s significant budget restraints.

PHE publish commissioning guidance for health visitors and school nurses

Public Health England have published their commissioning guidance for health visitors and school nurses in support of the healthy child programme 0 to 19. The guidance is made up of four documents, with the first and second document making several references to continence issues and toilet-training as part of school readiness. Some of the key points from the documents are:

  • A statement that “Ready for school is assessed as every child will have reached a level of emotional development, which enables them to […] become independent in eating, getting dressed and going to the toilet”;
  • A recognition that one of PHE’s high impact areas underpinning its early years framework is “managing minor illnesses and reducing hospital admissions” and lists some of the aims underpinning the school nursing programme as “promoting healthy lifestyles; maximising achievement and learning; and supporting additional health needs”.
  • A statement that to support the objective of “more children and young people develop and achieve their potential through improved rates of school attendance”, schools should ensure there is “identification of continence issues and referral to appropriate services”.
  • A diagram which lists level 1 and 2 continence services as examples of services to support effective commissioning for children with additional or complex needs, and attributes the commissioning responsibility to LAs and CCGs respectively.

Government to review outcomes for children with additional needs

The Government has announced that the former Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, will carry out a review into school exclusions and provision for children with additional needs to understand what can be done to improve the experiences for these children. The review will cover children with special educational needs, autism and children in care, and will be accompanied by a £4 million fund to progress steps to help children with additional needs move from alternative provision back into mainstream education or into special schools.

The Government stated when announcing the review that analysis has shown that these Children in Need are “three times more likely to have special educational needs than other children, and this compounds poor educational outcomes.” Edward Timpson said, “This review provides a real opportunity to fully understand what drives the different rates of exclusion in our schools system and the impact it has on the outcomes of children involved.” The Director for the Council for Disabled Children, Dame Christine Lenehan, said “We welcome these important announcements on behalf of children with special educational needs and their families.”

New RCPCH President assumes role

Professor Russell Viner has replaced Professor Neena Modi as the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Professor Viner is an academic paediatrician and adolescent physician at the UCL Institute of Child Health and works in paediatric and adolescent diabetes. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Viner called for the NHS to prioritise children and young people’s health, highlighting that “poor health in childhood leads to reduced workforce participation and productivity and lowers national wealth.”

Weekly political news round up – 9th March 2018

March 23, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, the European Council has published the EU’s draft guidelines outlining its position on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The guidelines emphasised that, as a result of the UK’s demands to leave the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the only economic relationship that is possible after Brexit is a free trade agreement. It also repeated the EU’s assertion that the UK cannot “cherry-pick” having access to certain sectors in the EU market, such as financial services, without accepting free movement of people.

Talks on NHS staff pay rise make progress

The Guardian has reported that significant progress has been made on finalising a pay increase for NHS staff of 3% this year and 1-2% over the next two years, which would equate to a 6.5% increase over three years. Reports initially suggested that this would be in return for staff losing a day’s holiday each year – which would effectively reduce pay packets by 0.4% even with the salary uplift – but these suggestions have now been described as “premature”.

The pay rises would be in line with the NHS’s Agenda for Change and so would boost pay for workers at the bottom of the NHS’s nine pay scales the most, with some staff potentially seeing increases of up to 10%. The 14 health unions which have been involved in the negotiations are thought to be enthusiastic about the proposed terms and have confidence that their members will endorse it. The Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust, Nigel Edwards, said “With very serious shortages of staff, government is right to conclude that an austerity approach to the NHS workforce has reached its limits.”

However, the Director of Research at the Health Foundation, Professor Anita Charlesworth, also highlighted that working conditions and work-life balance are important in recruitment and retention issues, arguing that “Any proposals on pay will need to be part of a wider programme to support nurses.”

NAO publishes report on financial sustainability of local authorities

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the financial sustainability of local authorities, warning that one in ten local authorities are facing running out of money due to the
pressures of social care funding. The report highlights that there was a 3% reduction in real-terms spending on social care services by local authorities between 2010/11 and 2016/17, although this compared with a 32% reduction in spending on non-social care services over the same period. This included a 31% real-terms reduction in spending on children’s and families’ services beyond children’s social care and safeguarding services. The report also highlighted that there is evidence that funding pressures in local authorities are “adding to pressures within the wider health care system and adult care provider markets.”

Responding to the report, the Local Government Association labelled its findings “stark” and said “The Government needs to urgently address this cliff-edge and the growing funding gaps facing local services.” The chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP, also highlighted that “Many councils are raiding their rainy day funds to pay for social care, and we have seen Northamptonshire reach the brink of financial failure.”

Chancellor prepares for Spring Statement

It has been reported that the Chancellor will receive a short-term upgrade to the UK’s economic forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in next week’s Spring Statement. The Resolution Foundation estimates that the public finances could be between £7 billion and £11 billion better than expected, in contrast to the economic downgrade which was given during the Autumn Budget in November. The Treasury has repeatedly emphasised that the speech will only cover th country’s economic outlook and not include any policy announcements.

The OBR is also expected to set out the estimate of the UK’s yearly payments to the EU after Brexit, which have previously been estimated as totalling anywhere between £22 billion and £65 billion. The exact payments have yet to be calculated but estimates can be taken including the UK’s payments up to 2020 and pension liabilities. A spokesperson for the OBR said that “Where we don’t have a final decision from the negotiations on the future relationship, we will continue to use a broad brush assumption.”

Weekly political news round up – 2nd March 2018

March 23, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out his support for the UK remaining in a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit. This would be different to being in the customs union which the UK is currently part of through the EU, and would enable the UK to not have any tariffs with Europe or a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Labour’s position could cause difficulties for the Government by tempting pro-Remain Conservative MPs to rebel against the Government during the negotiation process.

NICE publishes guidance on the use of the Peristeen transanal irrigation system

NICE has published its medical technologies guidance for the Peristeen transanal irrigation system for managing bowel dysfunction, following a consultation on the topic launched in August 2017. The guidance concludes that “The case for adopting Peristeen for transanal irrigation in people with bowel dysfunction is supported by the evidence”, while acknowledging that it may not be suitable for all people with bowel dysfunction, may take several weeks to get used to and is not necessarily more costeffective over a long period than other transanal irrigation systems.

The guidance reported evidence that there is a lower drop-out rate among children using Peristeen than adults using the system and that there are “highly positive comments from parents and carers, who stated that transanal irrigation had significantly improved their child’s quality of life.” It was noted that children with bowel dysfunction using the system could increase their participation in school and social events. The committee considering the guidance “acknowledged that Peristeen is successfully used in children in the NHS” and “may offer significant benefits for children with bowel dysfunction.”

Commenting on the publication of the guidance, PCF member and paediatric continence specialist June Rogers said: “This new NICE guidance means that these young patients will now have another form of treatment available from the NHS. Hopefully this will also reduce the need for them to undergo surgery.” Brenda Cheer, a paediatric specialist continence nurse from ERIC and also a PCF member, said the guidance will “add credibility to the prescription of Peristeen both for long term conditions and for those that require it temporarily to enable the bowel to rehabilitate. […] Transanal irrigation is well tolerated by children and young people; we should not shy away from its use.”

Government to act on prescription errors

The Health Secretary has said the Government will act to reduce errors in prescriptions, which new data estimates could be happening 237 million times a year in the UK and resulting in 700 deaths per annum. Jeremy Hunt said that this issue is “a far bigger problem than generally recognised, causing appalling levels of harm and death that are totally preventable.” He also said that the Government will continue to push the introduction of electronic prescription, as it is thought that this could reduce errors by up to 50%.

The Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, warned that the errors can be attributed to staffing and financial pressures, which creates “real problems in preserving patient safety.” A blog post on the RCPCH’s website by Dr Alice Roueché, a Consultant General Paediatrician and Meds IQ clinical lead, highlighted that children are three times more likely to be harmed by medication errors than adults. She highlighted that Meds IQ, a community created by the RCPCH, allows paediatricians to share ideas and resources including on reducing prescription errors.

NAO publishes report on reducing emergency admissions

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on reducing emergency admissions, examining work by the Department of Health and Social care and NHS England to prevent these. The report states that some emergency admissions “could be avoided by providing alternative forms of urgent care, or by providing appropriate care and support earlier to prevent a person becoming unwell enough to require an emergency admission.” It notes that there was a 9.3% increase in emergency admissions between 2013/14 and 2016/16, and NHS England had deemed 24% of emergency admissions in 2016/17 as avoidable. It was also suggested that if admission thresholds had not been raised since 2010, the number of emergency admissions would have been nearly 12% higher in 2015.

The NAO highlights that NHS England and DHSC have introduced several programmes to attempt to reduce emergency admissions and their impact, including improving access to GP services, improving the performance of A&E departments and out of hospital care. However, it notes disagreement on whether these programmes have actually caused a slight decline in the growth of emergency admissions, saying there is “disagreement among clinicians, other practitioners and evaluators about the effectiveness of some of the interventions.” The report concluded that there is not enough capacity in community services to prevent emergency admissions, and that NHS England does not have good enough data on emergency admissions. The report’s recommendations include:

  • The Department of Heath & Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement should establish an evidence base for what works in reducing emergency admissions and use this to inform future national programmes.
  • NHS England and NHS Digital should link hospital activity data with primary, community health care and social care data.
  • DHSC and NHS England should set out how community services will support reductions in emergency admissions.

Satisfaction with GP services at record low

Data from the British Social Attitudes survey has shown that satisfaction with GP services has fallen to the lowest level since data started being collected in 1983. Satisfaction with GP services fell to 65% in 2017 from 72% in 2016, although people were more satisfied with the care given by their GPs than with GP waiting times. The Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said the findings are “deeply worrying. The shift in public mood has been a long time coming.” Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of the RCN, Janet Davies, warned that “Ministers must act urgently on public concerns over NHS understaffing. The shortages are beginning to bite and that is reflected in this research.”

Chief Executive of the King’s Fund to step down

The Chief Executive of the King’s Fund, Professor Chris Ham, has announced he will step down by the end of this year. Professor Ham has been in the position since 2010, before which he worked for the Department of Health and World Health Organisation. The Chair of the Fund’s board of trustees, Sir Christopher Kelly, said “Under his leadership, the Fund has grown in influence and become a stronger organisation. He will leave it in very good health and will be greatly missed by his colleagues.”

Weekly political news round up – 23rd February 2018

March 23, 2018 in News by Whitehouse

Overview

This week, it has emerged that the Health Select Committee has renamed its inquiry into STPs to the ‘Integrated care: organisations, partnerships and systems inquiry’, and announced that the first evidence session will take place on 27th February. The inquiry will examine the effectiveness of STPs in joining up health and social care across their footprints; query the reliability of NHS England’s STP progress dashboard; discuss the development of accountable care within regional health economies; and discuss legislative barriers and public engagement.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has responded this week to health service failures by ordering a crackdown on drug dispensing errors and a nine-month review into the response to concerns about medical treatments, including vaginal mesh devices. Hunt has admitted that mistakes involving the dispensing of medicines in the NHS is causing “appalling levels of harm and death”, with research showing such errors contribute to around 22,000 fatalities per year. Facing demands for a full public inquiry following the vaginal mesh scandal, the Health Secretary has instead launched a prolonged review that will also examine the regulation of the hormone pregnancy test drug Primodos and the controversial anti-epilepsy drug sodium valproate.

NMC nursing proficiency standards to be launched in the spring

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Director of Education, Standards and Policy, Geraldine Walters, has published a blog post on the Council’s education programme for nursing and midwifery. The post outlined the NMC’s work since its consultation on new standards of proficiency for nurses last year which received responses from more than 1,000 individuals and nearly 300 organisations. Walters clarified that the standards will be launched in spring of this year, and that the NMC has also undertaken focus groups with charities such as Mencap and Mind to improve the standards of nursing for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, older people, and children and young people. The post also highlighted that the NMC will launch a consultation on the requirements and standards for nursing associates, which will be required once the NMC is the legal regulator for the profession.

Government publishes response to NHS sustainability report

The Government has responded to a report published by the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Long-Term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care, which was initially published in April 2017. The Committee’s report made 34 recommendations, including a push to create a “longer-term strategy for service transformation” than the measures outlined in the Five Year Forward View. The Government said that its additional funding allocations in the most recent Budget and other plans around Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) will leave the health and care system “well placed to plan for the future.”

The Committee’s original report also recommended that the Department of Health and Social Care “launch a public consultation on what legislative modifications could be made to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which would remove the obstacles to new ways of working”. In its response, the Department said it does not consider a change in legislation “necessary to drive forward further integration.” The Committee advised the Government commission a “formal independent review (on) pay policy with a particular regard to its impact on the morale and retention of health and care staff”, to which the Government highlighted its ongoing discussions with the NHS pay review bodies since it announced that the 1% pay cap would be lifted.

NHS Trusts predict £930 million deficit

The NHS has reported that its deficit for the end of 2017/18 is forecast to be £930 million, an increase of £300 million from the previous quarter and nearly twice the £496 million which had been planned for. The figures were published by NHS Improvement, which attributed the poor performance to higher than expected levels of emergency care and lower levels of planned care, which reduced trusts’ income. The report also highlighted that there are nearly 100,000 job vacancies in the NHS, including 35,000 nursing posts and 10,000 doctor posts, leaving around one in 12 jobs in the NHS unfilled.

The Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said that the figures show “this Government has overseen a devastating decline in NHS finances and the result is worsening outcomes for patients, with huge staff shortages and treatments cancelled or delayed.”

Disabled people spend extra £570 per month

Scope has published research showing that disabled people face an average of £570 of additional living costs due to their disability, and generally have less money to live on. The research gave examples of electric wheelchairs costing £9,500, replacement batteries for wheelchairs costing £600, and the price of having an accessible parking bay installed being nearly £4,000. The Chief Executive of Scope, Mark Atkinson, said that “disabled people often have to buy equipment that other people don’t” and noted that in some cases “their condition means disabled people have no choice but to use more of something, like heating.” He also bemoaned the “extortionate rates” charged to disabled people for essential services such as insurance.

Responding to the research, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton, pointed to the introduction of personal independence payments to meet the additional costs of disabilities, noting that “29% of people receive the highest rate of support, compared with 15% under disability living allowance.”