The chief executive of Circle Holdings and regulators have been quizzed by MPs this afternoon at a Public Accouts Commitee hearing on Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust, plus the rest of today’s health news and comment

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5.35pm In case you missed them earlier, here are our main news stories from today:

St George’s Healthcare Trust today became St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust, after being granted foundation trust status by Monitor.

5.31pm Another point made during the commitee hearing - Cambridgeshire and Peterborugh CCG chair Maureen Donnelly was asked about her and her colleague’s link to the Labour Party, and whether that posed a conflict of interest.

Ms Donnelly confirmed both were Labour Party members, but had not been active within the the party for many years. She said she had “absolutely no problem with private providers,” pointing to the CCG’s tender for integrated older peoples services.

5.28pm Here’s the verdict from HSJ correspondent James Illman, who has been tweeting live from the hearing:

5.24pm The Public Accounts Committee hearing has now ended.

5.20pm Committee chair Margaret Hodge has asked why Circle is registered in Jersey.

Chief executive Steve Melton said it was only the holdings company registered to Jersey “for reasons unrelated to tax purposes”. He said Circle has been making a loss for every year since its founding eight years ago, as it invests gains from activity.

HSJ’s James Illman tweets:

5.08pm David Flory confirmed there is no trust whether this model is being considered in detail.

After being quoted a list of trusts by committee chair Margaret Hodge, he said a number of trusts were considering mutualisation, but that is “quite different” from the franchise model taken on by Hinchingbrooke.

5.07pm Richard Douglas said “the question we’ve got to ask outselves” is whether the is something more that would bring hese issues to the fore before 30 people would need to going into the trust or whether those 30 feet on the ground are what is necessary to identify such issues.

5.03pm Committee chair Margaret Hodge asked whether Circle would consider another NHS franchise arrangement.

Circle chief executive Steve Melton said: “We would have to look at what the terms are”

Mr Melton said he was very proud of what was achieved in Hinchbrooke over the past three years. “The issue that we’ve confronted is that th contract is not sustainable in its current form”

After being put the same question, the DH’s Richard Douglas said: “There is nothing in Circle’s performance to suggest it wouldn’t be considered in the future in the right circumstances”.

4.57pm Parties are seeking to hand over responsbility for the trust by the end of this financial year, the committee has heard.

4.55pm Mr Jackson has asked for David Behan to write to the committee “in a timely way” all the factual errors conceded by the CQC.

“I would gladly set the record straight,” Mr Behan responded.

Dr Abdel-Rahman was also asked to send a list of the factual errors the trust presented to the CQC.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge asked for both letters to be delivered to the Public Accounts Committee within a week, before parliament adjourns.

4.53pm Mr Jackson also questioned inclusion of people in the inspection team in the team who have historically criticised private sector involvement in the NHS. He said this could be perceived as conflict of interest.

4.50pm Stewart Jackson said the CQC should be cautious of”unsubstantiated innuendo” being presented as fact.

4.43pm Mr Melton said the CQC report was not the reason of Circle withdraw from its contract with Hinchingbrooke.

4.41pm Dr Abdel-Rahman also said the allegation made in the CQC report that a doctor shouting a patient was simply the doctor speaking loudly because the patient was deaf.

4.37pm Hinchingbrooke chief executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman said 65 per cent of the 300 factual inaccuracies the trust put to the CQC were conceded.

David Behan said “we stand by our findings,” but admitted that changes were made after the trust’s challenge.

Stewart Jackson told Mr Behan: “You should be ashamed of yourself,” for the inaccuracies but he strongly defended the CQC’s inspection findings. “We found what we’ve found” and “we reported that in a transparent way,” he said.

4.29pm David Behan said a new report on Hinchingbrooke is due soon.

Describing the trust, he said “there have been improvements” since the original report, and “things we wanted to see addressed quickly have been”.

4.23pm David Flory and Maureen Donnelly were asked about their oversight level over the trust. Ms Donnelly said “in general Hinchingbrooke has been quite good” in meeting the CCG’s indicators.

Hodge said the impression was the the two organisations that were supposed to be overseeing the hospital (the CCG and the NHS Trust Development Authority) failed to spot the serious failings highlighted in the CQC report.

James Illman tweets:

4.17pm Here’s James Ilman’s verdict from the Public Accounts Committee hearing so far:

4.15pm Stewart Jackson moved onto the CQC’s intelligentmonitoring system, which he described as an “oxymoron”. He pointed out that Hinchingbrooke was rated on the lowest risk rating, but a few months later rated as ‘inadequate’ by inspectors.

Mr Behan stressed that intelligent monitoring was not a judgement on itself, and just a “smoke alarm” to direct when to inspect organisations.

4.10pm Moving onto the Care Quality Commission, Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborugh, has asked chief executive David Behan whether the body was fit for purpose to judge standards at Hinchingbrooke.

Mr Behan said the the CQC has “come a long way” in the past two years, and that Hinchingbrooke was inspected under its revamped inspection regime, with over 30 people on the team.

4.09pm Earlier in the hearing David Flory explained that Hinchingbrooke built up £40m debt, and could not carry on as it was. £5m of that risk was passed to Circle.

4.06pm The committee asked why Sir Neil McKay, chief executive of the then Midlands and East Strategic Health Authority is absent from the hearing today.

Richard Douglas confirmed that he was made redundant with the abolition of SHAs.

Asked if he was still employed or doing consultancy work for the NHS, David Flory said he was aware he was doing some consultancy work for local NHS organisations.

HSJ’s James Illman tweets:

4.03pm David Flory has been asked why the assumption for non-elective activity would be flat.

He said an expectation was the fewer people would be admitted to hospital and instead would receive more appropriate care closer to home.

However, CCG chair Maureen Donnelly she was “aware that [non-elective] activity was increasing” in 2012, but she was also aware that they had to take whatever action they could to reduce it.

3.52pm Richard Douglas said there was risk in the contract, but “there would have been risk if we’d carried on the way we had before”.

He confirmed that he ultimately signed off the transaction.

3.50pm Margaret Hodge has criticised David Flory for his appearance in fron the committee two years ago, for not doing an effective risk assessment. She has asked who was accountable for the decision.

HSJ’s James Illman tweets:

3.49pm Steve Melton has explained that cash stayed flat while activity in the trust has increased significantly.

3.46pm HSJ correspondent James Illman tweets:

3.45pm When asked to explain where the 10 per cent figure came from, Circle chief executive Steve Melton said it faced a four per cent price deflation in line with national tariff and three per cent reduction in income based on local tariffs, with the remaining coming from financial reductions.

3.42pm Both the Department of Health’s Richard Douglas an Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG chair Maureen Donnelly have said they do not recognise the 10 per cent drop in income that Circle says has been inflicted on Hinchingbrooke.

5.38pm Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group chair Maureen Donnelly saidspending on Hinchingbrooke increased by 5.5 per cent over the three years during course of the contract.

5.32pm HSJ’s James Illman tweets from the Public Accounts Committee Hearing:

3.29pm Committee chair Margaret Hodge quoted, among others NHS Trust Development Authority chief executive David Flory, from the las at hearing on Hinchingbooke. He said at the time: “I am seriously saying the financially viability of the trust can be secured.”

Ms Hodge also quoted DH permanent secretary Una O’Brien, who said, when asked at the time about what happened if the franchise were to fail: “I’m not expecting it to fail”.

3.25pm The hearing has now begun.

3.19pm The Public Accounts Committee hearing on the franchising of Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust has is due to begin immanently.

HSJ correspondent James Illman is at the hearing and will be tweeting live from it. Follow @Jamesillman on Twitter for regular updates.

3.00pm The BBC has today covered Kate Granger’s #hellomynameis campaign, which has received the backing of more than 90 NHS organisations.

Dr Granger is a consultant in elderly care medicine at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust who was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and terminal cancer in 2011.

Her experience as a patient led to the #hellomynameis campaign on Twitter, which encourages healthcare professionals to introduce themselves to each and every patient.

She received a special recognition award at the 2014 HSJ Awards.

2.44pm HSJ celebrates its 123rd birthday today.

The publication launched in 1892 as The Poor-Law Officer’s Journal: the organ of the service in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

In March 1930 was renamed the Public Assistance Journal and Health and Hospital Review before becoming the Public Assistance Journal and Health and Hospital Review in July 1948.

It was retitled the Hospital and Social Service Journal in July 1948, to coincide with launch of the National Health Service. Prior to this the publication did not carry formal news coverage, although articles did touch on the big issues of the day. After the relaunch, a section introduced called ‘News And Comment’.

It went through three further guises before finally becoming Health Service Journal in March 1986.

2.11pm Public Health England has said a campaign to publicise stroke symptoms saved 4,000 people from long-term disabilities, the BBC reports.

1.30pm EXCLUSIVE: Higher patient mortality at weekends needs to be tackled but proposals for seven day working must be ‘sensible and realistic’, the chair of the British Medical Association consultants committee has told HSJ.

Paul Flynn, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said the government and NHS Employers would find the BMA “open for business” if obstacles to talks on how to increase consultant presence at the weekends were removed.

He warned any new offer must have strong safeguards to prevent consultants working excessive hours and must be properly funded.

1.28pm Cerner Corporation has today completed its $1.3bn acquisition of Siemens Health Services’ assets, client relationships andassociates, the health IT company has announced.

Cerner and the former Siemens business unit have a combined annual research and development investment of more than $650m.

“By combining client bases, investments in [research and development] and associates, we are in a great position to lead clients through one of the most dynamic eras in health care,” said Cerner chief executive Neal Patterson.

“Cerner remains focused on key development areas including population health, physician experience, open platforms, revenue cycle and mobility.

“We see these as critical areas of investment to ensure providers can meet growing regulatory demands and control costs, while continuing to improve quality of care.”

John Glaser, former chief executive of Siemens Health Services, has joined Cerner as a senior vice president and member of the company’s executive cabinet. He will assist former Siemens Health Services clients as they transition to Cerner.

Cerner and Siemens AG, the former parent company of Siemens Health Services, are also moving forward with a strategic alliance designed to advance industry innovation, with each organisation expecting to invest up to $50mduring an initial three-year term.

Mr Patterson said: “Siemens AG is a tenured company with a long and respected track record in health care.

“A unique feature of this acquisition is we’ll continue working with Siemens AG in a R&D capacity, in order to advance the interoperability of electronic health records with medical devices.”

1.18pm Writing in the Independent on Sunday yesterday, care services minister Norman Lamb called on Labour and the Conservatives to take part in a non-partisan review of the health service.

Mr Lamb said the review “would ditch the unhelpful rhetoric and, instead, listen to the people with the best knowledge and ideas on how to improve our health service.”

“The public wants and expects politicians to bury their differences in order to sustain the NHS and vital care services for elderly people,” he added.

“Medical advances mean that people are living longer, and the number of people living for longer with a range of long-term conditions is increasing rapidly.

“The financial implications are immense – and the next five years will be crucial. To safeguard the NHS for the future we need both investment and change.

It is for this reason that the Liberal Democrats have called on both Labour and the Tories to take part in a non-partisan review of health and care services’ budgets.”

12.40pm Implementing revalidation for the nursing profession will raise standards, the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has said.

In an interview following the publication of provisional requirements on nurses, NMC chief Jackie Smith said the council had to be “realistic” over what revalidation would deliver. Revalidation is due to be launched later this year.

Ms Smith said it was crucial individual nurses took responsibility for meeting the new standards, adding that “employers were vital” to its success.

She said the NMC’s existing post-registration education and practice system, known as PREP, which requires nurses to keep a portfolio of their learning, was “not fit for purpose”.

12.30pm The Daily Mail reports that vulnerable elderly people could be receiving home visits from care workers that last as little as five minutes, according to evidence revealed yesterday.

One such call resulted in carers leaving an elderly person lying on the floor of their home overnight, it is claimed.

Documents show that at least one local authority has tried to cut care visits to five minutes.

And at least two more attempted to reduce the length of care visits to ten minutes on the grounds that it was long enough to help an elderly person take medication or to remind them to take it themselves.

In December it emerged that these short slots were being used by 74 per cent of councils – 5 per cent more than the year before.

11.43am Commenting on the announcement that St George’s Healthcare Trust has today been granted foundation trust status, rust chief executive Miles Scott said: “This is a great day for our staff, our patients and the communities we serve.

“Achieving foundation trust status is a recognition of the high quality services and safe care we provide in hospital and in the community.

“Our success is the result of a long period of improvement from a workforce whose energy, commitment and compassion is outstanding.

“In authorising us, Monitor has said it will keep a close eye on the waiting times for patients in our emergency department. We will continue working hard to reduce this and to provide the best possible care for every patient, no matter how busy we are.”

You can read HSJ’s full story here.

11.35am To give some background to the Francis whistleblowing enquiry, it was announced in June last year that Sir Robert Francis QC had been appointed to lead a review of how whistleblowers are treated in the NHS.

The former chair of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry had been asked by the government to consider what further action is necessary to protect NHS workers who speak out in the public interest.

It followed calls for a public inquiry into whistleblowing in the NHS by a number of high profile whistleblowers and their supporters, including Patients First, a campaign group headed by former Great Ormond Street paediatrician Kim Holt, and GP and Private Eye journalist Phil Hammond.

Speaking exclusively to HSJ ahead of the review’s offical launch in August, Sir Robert said the role of probing claims made by NHS whistleblowers could be taken out of the hands of hospital trusts.

In an early sign of the direction the inquiry could take, he said whistleblower concerns should be subjected to outside scrutiny.

“In the same way I have suggested complaints from patients will often need a degree of external investigation and independent scrutiny [that] they haven’t had before, I don’t see why the same can’t be suggested for staff raising concerns,” he said.

The review was originally due to be published last November, but it was postponed to 2015 due to the high number of contributions and evidence it had received.

A spokesman for the review said at the time: “In view of the very high volume of contributions to the review, it has been agreed Sir Robert Francis will publish his final report early in the new year.”

11.29am HSJ editor Alastair McLellan has tweeted:

11.18am A review of NHS whistleblowing by Sir Robert Francis QC will be published on 11 February, he has confirmed.

Sir Robert said he has completed his Freedom to Speak Up review and has sent his final report to Jeremy Hunt.

He plans to publish the report on Wednesday 11 February on the review website.

10.53am Two city squares in Bristol have today become the first major public outdoor spaces in Britain to become smoke-free zones as part of a voluntary pilot, the BBC reports.

10.40am The Guardian interviews a GP, patient’s family and politician about the state of the Welsh NHS (newspaper only).

Paul Myres, a GP in north-east Wales and the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners Wales, said he and his colleagues had never been busier and he felt the GP system was “on the tip of a crisis”.

He added: “It makes me slightly sad that the NHS is being used as a political pawn. I know how valued the NHS is by most people in Britain.”

Gaynor Scott, whose 92-year-old mother was recently treated in hospital, said “I think the whole system is under-funded. I know the Welsh government is getting the blame but they are struggling because they don’t’ get enough money from London. I don’t like the way Cameron is always attacking the health service. It’s largely down to him.”

Labour health minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “The prime minister’s comments are always ill-informed…These are nakedly political attacks designed to divert attention from the manifest difficulties that the English NHS is facing, to throw a lot of sand up in the air and try to neutralise the NHS as a Labour issue in the election campaign.

He added it was unfair to compare waiting times for accident and emergency in Wales with England. “It’s not comparing like-for-like. The English figures include walk-in centres; we don’t have walk-in centres. In the English figures, an astonishing number of people get admitted to hospital after waiting three hours 58 or 59 minutes. Those people are being falsely admitted to artificially meet targets. Our A&E departments will hold people in longer to try to send them home.”

10.35am The Times reports that a leading national hospital for complex hip and spine problems is on the point of closure because it is forced to treat patients in “third world” conditions.

A tractor is used to pull patients to operations at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where they are treated in Second World War Nissen huts.

The hospital has now said that it could soon have to close before it becomes dangerous. A plan has been drawn up for a £250m new building which the hospital believes it can fund through long term government loans, attracting more private patients and selling off spare land.

However the plan has yet to be signed off by the NHS hierarchy.

10.24am The Daily Telegraph reports that winter deaths are expected to exceeed 40,000 this year, the highest figure for over 15 years.

It is estimated that by the end of the financial year, the Department of Health’s winter deaths totals will have surpassed the 36,450 toll 2008-9, making this the deadliest winter since 1999-2000, which peaked at 48,440 winter deaths.

The DH’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said severe weather could “substantially add to the average winter death toll.”

She wrote in Public Health England’s Cold Weather Plan for England 2014-15: “Excess deaths are not just deaths of those who would have died anyway in the next few weeks or months due to illness or old age.

“There is strong evidence some of these deaths are indeed “extra” and are related to cold temperatures, living in cold homes as well as infectious diseases such as influenza.”

Angie Bone, who is part of the extreme events and health protection team at Public Health England, said: “Cold does kill, even in places where the temperatures aren’t at their lowest.”

10.00am University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust was responsible for 65 per cent of the patients in England waiting over 12 hours to be admitted from accident and emergency departments in January, according to NHS England figures.

The number of patients waiting over 12 hours nation-wide was at its highest level in any month since 2010.

However, University Hospitals of North Midlands was responsible for 417 of the 639 patients waiting over 12 hours throughout January.

9.56am Monitor has approved St George’s Healthcare Trust’s bid to become a foundation trust, the regular has confirmed.

It achieved foundation trust status today after concerns about its financial position were allayed, Monitor said.

The regulator was also satisfied that although A&E performance has declined over the past year, its emergency care action plan would mitigate this.

The organisation will now be known as St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

A statement issued by Monitor this morning said: “Before allowing St George’s to become a foundation trust, Monitor rigorously assessed the trust and found that it is well-led.” It noted that the Care Quality Commission rated the trust as ‘good’ overall.

“St George’s also meets the financial standards expected of foundation trusts, having recently finalised new borrowing arrangements  to ensure services will be protected in the event of any financial downturn,” the statement continued. Monitor had deferred the trust’s foundation trust application in December while it was finalising these additional measures.

However, it noted: “Whilst it approved the trust’s foundation trust application, Monitor has said that St George’s needs to continue reducing the number of patients waiting too long in [accident and emergency].

“The regulator will be closely monitoring the trust’s performance against its agreed action plan.”

As a foundation trust, it will be  free from central government control, and can make its own decision about services.

It will also be permitted  to keep any surpluses it generates to invest in new services, and borrow money to support these investments.

There are now 149 foundation trusts in England, cover over 60 per cent of all trusts in the NHS.

Monitor’s executive director of provider appraisal  Miranda Carter said:“We are delighted to announce that Monitor has allowed St George’s Healthcare Trust to become a foundation trust.

“This is great news for the trust, which benefits from new freedoms, but even better news for its patients, who can have a greater say over their health services.

“The trust has worked very hard to achieve foundation trust status and should feel proud of this accomplishment.

“We hope that St George’s will use its new freedoms to continue to deliver quality care and keep looking for ways to improve its services for patients.”

9.45am The Public Accouts Commitee will be getting an update on Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust at 3.15pm today.

Individuals due to appear in front of the committee include:

  • Richard Douglas, director general for finance and the NHS, Department of Health
  • David Flory, chief executive of the NHS Trust Development Authority
  • Steve Melton, chief executive, Circle Holdings
  • Hisham Abdel-Rahman, chief executive, Hinchingbrooke Hospital
  • David Behan, chief executive, Care Quality Commission
  • Maureen Donnelly, chair, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group

We will be covering the hearing on HSJ Live from 3.15pm onwards. HSJ correspondent James Illman will also be tweeting live - follow him @Jamesillman

HSJ reported on Friday that the trust posted a £7.2m deficit for the first eight months of the 2014-15 financial year, according to figures published last month which give the fullest indication to date of the hospital’s financial problems.

Publication of the substantial deficit position for the small trust follows Circle, the company which has been running the hospital under a franchise arrangement, announcing earlier January that it was terminating the agreement. The company said the franchise was “not sustainable” in its existing form. The announcement was made on the same day that the Care Quality Commission recommended it be placed in special measures after rating it “inadequate”.    

9.36am In case you missed it when the story broke on Friday afternoon, Colchester University Hospital Foundation Trust’s accident and emergency department has been rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission.

The trust’s urgent and emergency services and its medical care were rated as “inadequate” following unannounced inspection.

The trust said it was “concerned that the CQC report is not balanced”.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. We begin the day with a comment piece from Kirstie Stott, programme manager of West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing at South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust and one of HSJ’s Rising Stars, describing how a new community of voices is helping to shape the future of the NHS by embracing diversity, technology and the desire of health workers at every level to make a difference.