Weekly political news round up – 6th June 2014

June 6, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

BBC News has reported that Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell has stepped down as chair of the Health Select Committee with immediate effect. Dorrell, who was Health Secretary between 1995 and 1997, said that he wanted to contribute to the debate on the health service in the run-up to the 2015 election from a “less overtly political position”. The ballot to replace him as chair will take place on Wednesday 18th June, provided there is more than one candidate.

Children and Young People Now has reported that several early years organisations, including the National Day Nursery Association and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, have criticised Ofsted for treating early years as a “second class service” by failing to bring inspections of early years settings back in house. Ofsted had announced last week that they planned to bring inspections for all schools in house amid accusations of poor quality inspections by contracted companies.

Health Education England publishes 15 year strategic framework for 2014-2029

Health Education England (HEE) has published Framework 15, its strategic framework for 2014-2029. This strategic framework, which was unveiled at the NHS Confederation Conference between 4th and 6th June, acts as a guide as to how HEE should invest its £5 billion yearly budget in education and training programmes for the current and future workforce.

The strategic framework identifies areas where health care has changed in the last 15 years and how it is likely to change in the following 15 years. From this, it has developed six strategic assumptions:

  1. The need for a workforce fit for the future, able to meet the needs of patients of today and tomorrow.
  2. The necessity to plan for an uncertain future.
  3. The workforce is both a key enabler and driver of change in health and must be integral to all future planning and investment decisions if the opportunities to improve care are to be realised
  4. Maintaining current approaches to investment and training will perpetuate current models of care.
  5. Basing HEE’s long-term workforce strategy on anticipated needs of patients is the best chance of creating a successful NHS.
  6. The distinction between the present and the future is a false one in health: today’s workforce will be working ten, twenty, thirty years from now, and have a duty to serve both the patients of today and tomorrow.

In particular, it has identified that in response to the increasing number of people with multiple long term conditions, the health workforce needs to develop a greater degree of flexibility.

Specifically, the framework identifies that the current way in which HEE plans, commissions, runs and regulates education and training programmes encourages a trend towards greater specialisation. Whilst it emphasises that specialists are needed, it said that HEE should take care to ensure that the future workforce maintains a greater degree of generalism and adaptability, and is able to respond to and adopt the latest research and innovation that could benefit patients. It highlighted that in the future, where possible, the NHS should seek to reduce the number of specialists an individual patient is required to see.

Subsequently, it was identified that the strategic framework should do following:

  • Provide the conceptual framework for how HEE approaches problems and identifies solutions, ensuring our focus remains on the patient.
  • Guide the decisions HEE makes in the short term, such as the annual workforce planning process and the priorities in our Business Plan.
  • Inform HEE’s longer-term work programme, including taking forward The Shape of Training Review and piloting life-cycle workforce planning for children and young people.
  • Enable HEE’s board and the public to assess HEE’s actions against HEE’s expressed strategic ambitions, and to challenge us if we veer off course.

Provide the basis for more detailed conversations with our partners and stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

National Institute for Health Research publishes article on health outcomes for children with neurodisability

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has published a research article on what children and young people with neurodisability want from their healthcare, and what clinicians seek to achieve from treatment.

Through engaging with 54 children and young people with neurodisability, an unrelated group of 53 parents in focus groups and interview, and over 200 health professionals, it was agreed that the key health outcomes were: communication, emotional well-being, pain, mobility, independence/self-care, worry/mental health, social activities and sleep. Parents of children with learning disability also rated behaviour, toileting and safety as important.

Regarding toileting, parents believed that it was a priority because of the logistics of changing children who were not continent; parents saw continence and independent toileting as opening up a greater range of social opportunities. Parents interviewed raised concerns about the poor quality of continence products, stating in particular that they wanted continence products which would not leak when their children soiled themselves in public.

The research identified that existing measurements for NHS outcome performance – questionnaires called patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) – did not accurately measure the outcomes for children and young people with neurodisability. It was discovered that few PROMs had been tested specifically with children and young people with neurodisability, and that parents reacted unfavourably to these questionnaires. With regards to continence, it was suggested that outcomes could be best measured by quantitative means rather than through self-reported methods like questionnaires.

It was concluded that further consultation with young people, families and professionals is warranted to support using PROMs to measure NHS outcomes. It also concluded that more research needed to be conducted to test PROMs with different age groups and conditions.

Family and Childcare Trust publishes 10 year review of Government’s 2004 childcare strategy

The Family and Childcare Trust has published a review of the Government’s 10-year childcare strategy, Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare, published in 2004. The report concludes that the strategy is no longer fit for purpose and fails to address the needs of young children and their families a decade on.

The report subsequently makes a series of recommendations based on the four broad aims of the 2004 strategy – choice and flexibility, availability, quality and affordability – in a bid to bring childcare policy up to date. Regarding the quality of childcare, the report recommends that the Government should ensure:

  • All early years staff are qualified to Level Three and all settings should be graduate-led.
  • The creation of a permanent workforce development fund to support improvements in staff qualifications.
  • That funding of free early education places should be used to lever up quality, with providers’ funding linked to achieving quality standards.
  • Local government should be responsible for quality improvement in their area and build local early years quality networks to support providers.

The report concluded that the Government should commit to a new childcare strategy, and that they should set up an independent review of childcare funding.

Pre-school Learning Alliance publishes report on findings of Early Years Agenda survey

The Pre-school Learning Alliance has published a report on the findings of the Early Years Agenda survey. The survey, which received 1270 responses in total, asked early years practitioners to share their views on key areas of early years policy, including: schools, funding, qualifications, childminder agencies and Ofsted. The findings showed that, in general, early years practitioners believed there to be numerous problems with the Government’s reforms of the early years sector.

Respondents were asked whether they felt the Government adequately consults with the sector when introducing or changing early years policy. It was discovered that just 3% believed this to be the case, with 89% of believing this not to be the case. Respondents argued that the Government has made little or no attempt to develop an adequate understanding of early years issues and that the sector is used as “political football”. Concerns were also raised that Government policy is largely driven by a need to cut costs, rather than provide high quality care and education.

On individual issues, the survey found that only 18% of respondents agreed with the Government’s decision to make the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile non-statutory and replace it with mandatory baseline assessments (in numeracy, literacy and communication) at the beginning of reception. 55% of respondents disagreed with the decision, while 27% said that they did not know or had no opinion. Some respondents warned that the plans for formal assessment would lead to children being labelled as failing too easily and too early.

Regarding Ofsted, the survey found that one a scale of one to ten (with one being extremely unconfident and ten being extremely confident), the average confidence rating that early years practitioners had in Ofsted was 4.7. The report highlighted that these findings appeared to contradict Ofsted’s own data on early years provider views on inspections: the results of its most recent survey in 2012/13 found that 93% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were happy with the way their inspection was carried out. In justifying their concerns, early years practitioners highlighted that they believed Ofsted inspections to be inconsistent, and largely dependent on whichever individual inspector happened to conduct a particular inspection.

Queen’s Speech 2014

The State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday morning, which marks the start of the 2014/15 Parliamentary year. This will be the final State Opening before the next General Election.

During the ceremony the Queen’s Speech was delivered to Parliament – outlining the Bills which will be brought before Parliament in the next parliamentary year. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said beforehand that the speech would be “unashamedly pro-work and pro-business”.

The speech itself included announcements regarding work, pensions and business, as well as some changes to the legal system, educational attainment, housing, social care and energy. There was no mention of any business related to health care.

The full list of Bills is as follows:

New

  • Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill
  • National Insurance Contributions Bill
  • Infrastructure Bill
  • Pensions Tax Bill
  • Private Pensions Bill
  • Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill
  • Childcare Payments bill
  • Slavery Bill
  • Armed Forces Bill
  • Serious Crime Bill
  • Recall of Members of Parliament Bill

Draft

  • Draft Governance of National Parks and Broads Bill
  • Draft Riot (Damages) bill
  • Draft Protection of Charities bill

To be reintroduced

  • Wales Bill
  • High-speed Rail Bill
  • Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
  • Deregulation Bill
  • Finance No. 2 Bill
  • Consumer Rights Bill

Although there was no specific mention of business relating to health care, it was announced that a new bill would be introduced, the Childcare Payments Bill, that provide parents earning less than £150,000 a year with a tax free subsidy of £2,000 per child aged 12 or under. As part of the Bill, the existing employer-supported childcare scheme will be repealed. It was also announced that the provision of free childcare for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds would be extended.