Weekly political news round up – 3rd November 2017

Overview

This week, a written parliamentary question and an Early Day Motion have been tabled on incontinence. The Government has also launched a consultation on the regulation of healthcare professionals across the UK, and the Professional Records Standards Body has published a report on what information it believes should be available in digital child health records. The new Carter Review of community and mental health services has also identified £200 million in savings which could be found from corporate services.

Parliamentary developments on incontinence

Two parliamentary developments on incontinence have taken place this week. The first is a written parliamentary question tabled by Mark Hendrick MP in response to his previous written question on how the Department collects statistics on prescriptions for catheters, out-patient appointments, surgical interventions and costs of pads and other incontinence products. His question this week asked if the Department would make it its policy to collect that information centrally; the Government responded that it had no intention to do so.

The second development was the tabling of an Early Day Motion (EDM) by the Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, highlighting the need for an incontinence strategy. This motion included recognition that “only about 30 per cent of men and women with incontinence problems seek help”, and “urges research into the current costs to the UK public purse caused by incontinence, including managing the secondary effects, loss of earnings, burden of disease and cost of treatment.” Any MP can support an EDM as a means of expressing their support for a topic, although Ms Jardine’s EDM has yet to attract any further signatories.

Government launches consultation on regulation of healthcare professionals

The Government has launched a consultation on reforming the regulation of healthcare professionals, with the possibility of merging the existing nine regulatory bodies into three or four being proposed. The proposals affect all four nations of the UK, and were initially put forward by David Cameron in 2013 before being included in the Conservative manifesto for this year’s election. Two of the key changes proposed are on whether regulators should be given a “full range of powers for resolving fitness to practise cases” and “greater flexibility to set their own operating procedures”, as is the case for the General Medical Council which regulates doctors.

In a ministerial statement, the Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said that the Government’s primary objectives in pushing reform are to:

  • Improve the protection of the public from the risk of harm from poor professional practice;
  • Support the development of a flexible workforce that is better able to meet the challenges of delivering healthcare in the future;
  • Deal with concerns about the performance of professionals in a more proportionate and responsive fashion;
  • Provide greater support to regulated professionals in delivering high quality care; and
  • Increase the efficiency of the system.

The consultation document states that the existing system has been criticised as being “slow, expensive, complicated, reactive, overly adversarial and confusing for patients, professionals and employers”, which compromises its efficacy. For the Nursing and Midwifery Council, it was estimated that fitness to practice cases cost each registrant £84 per year during 2015/16. Responding to the launch of the consultation, the NMC called it “a welcome step in the right direction, but government must ensure that they press ahead with the changes that are so desperately needed to ensure that we have legislation which will enable us to properly protect the public in the years to come.”

PRSB publishes report on standardised information on child health

The Professional Records Standards Body (PRSB), which defines the standards for good care records in health and social care, has published a report on what information should be included in all digital child health records. The standards have been agreed to support the Healthy Child Programme, and list the information on screening tests, immunisations and developmental milestones that “should be accessible to ensure that children receive appropriate care.” The PRSB also intends for parents to have access to their child’s digital health records, and has worked with NHS England, NHS Improvement, the RCPCH, the RCGP and the RCP on the project.

One of the pieces of information which the PRSB says should be recorded is whether a child has achieved certain developmental skills, which would indicate that they are ready to start school. These include being toilet trained, having listening and communication skills, and the ability to dress/undress and follow instructions. The clinical lead for the project from the RCPCH, Dr Andy Spencer, said “When these new standards are implemented, parents will have the same access to their child’s personal health record as health and care professionals, and they will always know who the records are being shared with and why.”

New Carter Review identifies £200 million in savings

The new Carter Review of community and mental health services, which is currently being carried out, has identified a potential £200 million in savings in trusts’ corporate services. However, the NHS Improvement director who has been working on the review, Luke Edwards, has criticised the lack of data available in community and mental health trusts, which has made it difficult to identify areas of variation – and thereby savings – across trusts.

The review is examining how savings can be achieved across staffing and care hours, medicines and pharmacy optimisation, procurement, and how community and mental health services are commissioned. Mr Edwards said “We think there is scope to drive more savings in corporate services through collaboration and basically becoming a bigger entity”, as evidence indicates that smaller services have higher running costs. Lord Carter has previously expressed his opinion that there should be a “wrecking ball” approach to closing small community hospitals with these high costs.