Often overlooked or seen as a ‘bundle of problems’, estates should be considered a vital part of building improved services. Jennifer Trueland reports, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

Live logo

4.18pm Now that Simon Stevens has confirmed that the NHS will take action against the ‘egregious’ prices charged for agency staff, the question is whether it is a competition issue or a result of NHS wages being held down, says Andrew Taylor, was founding director of the Cooperation and Competition Panel for NHS-funded services, now part of Monitor.

2.35pm Commissioners should help patients choose their GP surgery, according to a report by Monitor.

The regulator found that four in five patients are satisfied with their GP practice, and a majority of practices perform well against quality indicators used by commissioners and regulators, three in ten were unhappy with aspects of their service.

Nearly half of patients (45 per cent) cited practices opening on evenings and weekends as a concern.

Other concerns included the ease of getting appointments, unhappy with aspects of their GP service such as ease of getting an appointment (30%), being offered appointments online being able to see the same doctor every time

Monitor also found that four out of five underperforming GP practices are in deprived areas.

Relatively few new contracts for new GP practices have been awarded in the last three years.

Most patients choose a GP practice near to their home, according to the report. Only 16 per cent considered alternatives and even fewer used published information about GP practices, such as the NHS Choices website, to make their decision.

Monitor’s director of cooperation and competition Catherine Davies  said: “The way GP services are commissioned is changing and this represents a real opportunity to improve things for patients.

“Commissioners have the chance to help the NHS meet the needs of a growing and ageing population by improving access and capacity of GP services in England.

“Patients can also play a part by exercising their right to choose which surgery they go to and, if required, changing practice to one that better meets their needs.”

2.02pm North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust has confirmed it is taking actipn confirmed action being taken to “rectify issues with fire safety compliance” at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlyle.

A statement issued by the trust this afternoon said it has “deep concerns relating to the estate and facilities management” of the hospital, which is the responsibility of its PFI partner, “for some time and in for some time and in particular over the last three years”.

An independent report commissioned by the trust into fire precautions found that fire proofing materials used which did not meet the required 60 minute protection standard to allow for safe evacuation and prevent any fire from spreading in the building.

In the statement, the trust said it has already taken steps to retify some of the problems identified, for example applying appropriate sealant around the tops of walls and to the underside of floors, which will restrict the movement of smoke and flames in the event of a fire. The trust has said that this work is work is “around 70 per cent complete”.

However, the trust has said further remedial work is necessary across all wards and departments “to ensure smoke cannot pass through the main infrastructure and pipework in the building” and to “provide full reassurance to the trust board that all fire safety measures within the hospital are fit for purpose”. The timescale for completion of this work is expected to be around 12-18 months. 

The Trust plans to apply for planning permission from Carlisle City Council for a portacabin ‘decant’ ward to be created on the hospital site where patients can be cared for while work takes place on the site.  

It has also trained 44 members of staff at the Cumberland Infirmary as fire safety wardens and over 1000 staff at have taken part in additional fire evacuation training. More than to 91 per cent of trust staff who have completed their standard fire safety awareness training.

The trust’s chief operating officer Helen Ray said: “The safety and welfare of our staff, patients and members of the public using the Cumberland Infirmary is paramount and people can be absolutely reassured that we are taking all of the right steps to protect their wellbeing whilst they are using our services. 

“Our teams in Carlisle have been trained to very high standards in fire safety  awareness and we have also arranged for extra training, support and monitoring to take place on a weekly basis in the hospital as these extensive works take place to protect the building itself.

“Whilst all appropriate measures are now in pace to safeguard staff, patients and visitors against the possibility of fire whist this work takes place, the risks identified through our own independent report were wholly unacceptable and were raised immediately with our PFI partner who are responsible for the Cumberland Infirmary building.

“This is not the first time we have uncovered such major flaws in the service provided to us through our PFI partner and the Trust Board remains very deeply concerned that the current arrangements are not providing the high standards of service we require for our patients in North Cumbria on a consistent basis.”    

12.39pm A North East clinical commissioning group plans to decommission a specialist dementia nursing service and replace it with a carer support service.

Hull CCG has said it will decommission the current service using “admiral nurses”, supplied by Dementia UK, and hosted by Humber Foundation Trust.

It said the new carer support service it claims will support more families and patients from April next year.

12.17pm Also in The Times (newspaper only), all doctors and nurses would be trained in end of life pain relief and how to discuss death openly and sensitively with their patients under a bill to be presented in the House of Lords today.

The Palliative Care Bill would make it a failure of duty of care if appropriate pain relief were not given in the final stages of life.

The bill has been tabled by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative care who came ninth in the peers’ ballot for private members bills.

11.56am The Times reports that many terminally ill cancer sufferers will be “cured” of the disease by a breakthrough class of drugs, described last night as heralding a new era of treatment.

A British trial brought “spectacular” results, with tumours shrinking or disappearing completely in half of inoperable skin cancer patients.

10.43am While Jeremy Hunt’s predecessors don’t necessarily agree on what the health secretary role actually entails, they do agree that the attitude of the incumbent is the deciding factor, writes Health Foundation policy fellow Edward Davies.

10.31am Since the election result, many of the ‘excuses’ for not delivering the forward view have been swept away. Now, the ‘modernisers’ want to make progress to avoid the long and wasted years at the start of the last Parliament, writes HSJ editor Alastair McLellan.

10.17am HSJ’s analysis of all trust ratings issued by the Care Quality Commission to date has found a strong alignment between the regulator’s ratings and other indicators, such as staff and patient survey results and mortality indicators.

Take a look at our our exclusive charts to see how differently rated trusts compared.

We have also produced a map showing the distribution of “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” and “inadequate” trusts across the country.

10.00am Trusts rated well by the Care Quality Commission tend to have better scores in the NHS staff survey, HSJ analysis has found.

Patients’ opinions on the quality of care also appear to be closely linked to trusts’ CQC ratings.

Analysis of all 84 trusts from all sectors rated by the CQC by this quarter found that the average percentage of staff who recommended the care delivered by their organisation varied by nearly 40 percentage points between the trusts in the lowest category and those in the highest.

The nine trusts rated “inadequate” at the time HSJ conducted its analysis had an average of 51 per cent of employees recommending the trust’s care in the 2014 NHS staff survey.

9.55am In case you missed it, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS will take collective action to tackle the high cost of agency spending in the NHS, while speaking on the Andrew Marr show on BBC One yesterday.

Mr Stevens said GPs would need to come together to form a “rota” in order to provide access to local patients over the weekend.

He also used the interview to call for action on the amount of processed sugar in food describing it as “slow burn food poisoning” which contributed to cancer, diabetes and obesity adding further pressure on NHS services.

7.00am Good morning. When Halton Clinical Commissioning Group wanted to bring the management of urgent care closer to patients’ homes, it turned out the answer was almost on its doorstep.