Weekly political news round up – 17th June 2016

June 21, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

In the news

The debate surrounding the potential impact of voting to leave the EU has continued this week, with the chair of the NHS Confederation and former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell advising that the NHS cannot afford the potential economic instability that could accompany Brexit. At the NHS Confederation’s conference in Manchester, Mr Dorrell argued that the NHS needs secure and stable funding to facilitate “building a sustainable society where we help people stay well, focusing on health and care in a place, rather than single institutions working in silos.”

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Sussex has found that seven-day GP opening could reduce the number of A&E attendances and admissions, particularly among older and affluent patients, by 10% across the week and 18% on the weekend. However, GP leaders have cautioned that the seven-day access pilots that the study utilised were only able to operate with “significant additional, short-term funding” and were worsening GP access at other points in the week.

Parliamentary written questions on paediatric continence services answered

This week, the PCF has had two written parliamentary questions on incontinence in children and young people answered by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary State for Health, Jane Ellison MP. Both questions were tabled by Neil Gray MP, who the PCF met with in January 2016.

The first question asked what steps the Department of Health “is taking to reduce the number of inappropriate referrals to hospital settings for bladder and bowel problems in children and young people”. In her reply, Ms Ellison stated that children and young people with continence issues should have access to community based assessment and treatment services “whenever possible”, and referred to the Excellence in Continence Care commissioning framework as outlining the appropriate pathways for assessment, diagnosis and treatment and the principles for a good design of service. She also specifically referenced the PCF’s Paediatric Continence Commissioning Guide as providing “a specification for paediatric continence services and in particular community based services.”

The second question asked “what the cost was of emergency admissions for bladder and bowel problems amongst children and young people aged 19 and under in each of the last five years.” Ms Ellison specified that the information “is not available in the format requested for England”, and instead directed to the information available from reference costs. This is the average unit cost to NHS hospital trusts in England “of providing defined services to patients in a given financial year”, which is collected by healthcare resource group and covers bowel problems and bladder disorders in separate chapters. Ms Ellison clarified that many, but not all, of these collections differentiate between children and adults, but did not specify whether bladder and bowel treatments are covered by this.

Department of Health to scrap nursing advisory team

The Department of Health has allegedly decided to remove its nursing, midwifery and allied health professions policy unit, meaning it will not have any embedded professional advisors beyond the chief medical officer and the chief social worker. Although the Department will continue to receive advice from NHS England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, the proposal has generated criticism as it needs the “sound objective impartial advice” that the unit provides.

The proposal has not yet been officially confirmed by the Department, but is thought to be part of its drive to find efficiencies by 2020. It would entail the removal of the unit’s director, mental health adviser, nursing and midwifery adviser, and allied health professionals’ adviser; and comes just three years after Sir Robert Francis QC urged for nursing’s opinions to be strengthened within the NHS. Unison’s head of nursing, Gail Adams, argued that the decision sends “an appalling message to the [nursing] profession”.

Survey finds 12.5% of practice nurse positions are vacant

A survey of 718 GPs conducted by Pulse has found that there is an average vacancy rate of 12.5% for practice nurses. The findings mirror those for GP vacancy rates, recently found to be 12% in a Pulse study, and have generated calls for a plan to increase the number of practice nurses. GPs are worried that there is already an impending “demographic time bomb” among practice nurses, as many are due to retire over the next few years; and that Government plans to scrap bursaries for student nurses and replace them with loans could deter people from entering the profession.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, argued that the existing and potential further shortage is “linked to the historic failure to invest in primary care nurse training including the failure to fund training grants to training practices, as well as the longstanding focus on secondary care nursing at the expense of primary and community care nursing recruitment.” Kathryn Yates, the Royal College of Nursing’s professional lead for primary and community care, echoed these calls for plans to increase the number of practice nurses.