The New Year may have only just begun but NHS managers are already in the firing line.
The Times reports that “health service managers are wasting more than £1bn of taxpayers’ money every year by paying needlessly inflated prices for supplies”. The story, based on an interview with NHS Shared Business Services managing director John Neilson, highlighted eight trusts routinely paying 19 different sums for the same pacemaker.
In a move guaranteed to alarm readers, the paper also quoted Mr Neilson saying millions of pounds could be saved by outsourcing more NHS administration to India, for example GP appointment booking and medical record storage.
The Sun went on the offensive stating “NHS fatcats feast as patients get £1 meal”. The story picked on directors at three trusts for their restaurant expenses compared with the daily spend per patient on hospital meals.
Midwifery in particular seems to be feeling the post Christmas gloom. The Daily Mail reported that maternity units were “teetering on the brink” under the “relentless pressure” of rising birth rates, while Royal College of Midwives general secretary Cathy Warwick warned in The Guardian that GPs were “scaring women out of giving birth at home”.
The Christmas period itself was, of course, dominated by the return of swine flu with the media criticising health secretary Andrew Lansley for failing to back the seasonal programme with public advertising - now hastily reinstated - and for rejecting plans to vaccinate under-fives this year.
The Daily Mail’s front page headline on 29 December read “Swine flu: the perfect storm”, warning hospitals will be “pushed to breaking point” after Christmas by a “deluge” of patients suffering from flu and norovirus.
In a separate public health drive, the paper named and shamed celebrities promoting “quack remedies”, including Naomi Campbell’s support of a maple syrup, lemon and pepper detox diet, highlighted in a critical report by the charity Sense About Science.