A community services provider has accused the country’s largest clinical commissioning group of a conflict of interest in its decision to award a £100m contract without a tender, plus the rest of the day’s news and comment

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5.00pm In case you missed it, there’s top news and comment from HSJ today:

4.10pm Writing in The Guardian, cookery writer Prue Leith has sharply criticised new guidelines on hospital food as “hopelessly weak”.

She points out that “food for patients, arguably the people most in need of good nutrition, is of a worse nutritional standard than that permitted for schoolchildren”, which means that “a sick child in hospital can be given a meal that would be banned in their school” under existing rules.

She argues: “Wouldn’t it have been great if Jeremy Hunt, instead of effectively ducking the issue, had announced a hospital food revolution to match the school food one of recent years, with strong standards enshrined in law, and hospitals given the means and incentives to produce good, nourishing food for patients?”

3.50pm The Medical Protection Society has backed Norman Lamb’s withdrawal of support for Lord’s Saachi’s Medical Innovation Bill.

MPS said the move by the care services minister, an the government’s decision to review Lord Saachi’s proposal, was “a positive step.

A statement released by the organisation this afternoon said: “MPS has long called for a full and proper review to examine what the potential barriers to innovation might be as well as solutions.

“We are pleased the government has listened.”

MPS medicolegal adviser Pallavi Bradshaw said: “MPS has been opposed to the Medical Innovation Bill from the beginning; we believe it is an unnecessary piece of legislation that has the potential to undermine safe and established routes of innovation and could damage the relationship between doctors and their patients.

“This bill is flawed and we believe it would have created a number of adverse unintended consequences for both patients and doctors.

“It gives the false impression to vulnerable patients and their families that all experimental treatments would be readily available; confuses what is meant by and covered by the term medical innovation and may cause fundamental disagreements with patients and their treating doctors about ongoing care.”

3.35pm Following the announcement last week that Manchester will be the first English region to have a fully devolved health and social care budget, The Yorkshire Evening Post considers whether Leeds will be the next place in the devolution pipeline.

3.25pm Sending in special administrators to Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust cost £19.5m over 18 months, Monitor has revealed.

This figure includes the the work to find and implement a solution to the problems at Mid Staffs (£17.35m), in addition to the full cost of having trust special administrators running the hospitals at the same time (£2.15m).

During the course of special administration, Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust also paid EY, the team supporting the TSAs, for additional professional services work costing £3.55m, as the trust did not have the specialist staff required.

A statement released by the foundation trust watchdog this afternoon said the work “took longer and cost more than originally planned”. Monitor originally budgeted £15.25m for the work but the timescale was extended twice.

Monitor brought forward the publication of these figures in response to a pending parliamentary question, but plans to publish a detailed breakdown of the costs, “in due course”, along with a report setting out some of the lessons learned.

The regulator’s chief executive David Bennett said: “Mid Staffs was failing its patients and relying on tens of millions of pounds of emergency funding from central government each year. If nothing had been done the trust would have been £100m in debt by 2018.

“Our priority was securing safe and sustainable services for the people of Staffordshire, and while special administration took longer than expected it nevertheless led to substantial investment in local health services.

“However, Trust Special Administration remains a last resort for failing NHS providers. What we have learned from our experience is that the solution to a struggling provider lies as much within the local health economy as in the failing institution itself. We are already taking a swifter and more cost effective approach to dealing with other challenged local health economies.

“In areas like Milton Keynes, King’s Lynn and Tameside in Greater Manchester, our focus is now on working closely with other NHS bodies to find local solutions and bring about the improvements needed.”

2.40pm Writing in The Times, Matt Ridley asks why public bodies such as the the NHS able to survive despite multiple failings, which claims would not be possible for private companies.

Mr Ridley, a Conservative peer and former chair of Northern Rock, writes: “The latest report into Jimmy Savile’s astonishing freedom to roam the wards of Stoke Mandeville hospital will not lead to the end of the National Health Service.

“Nor will the forthcoming report that apparently finds a “systemic cover-up” of the unnecessary deaths of babies and mothers at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust between 2004 and 2013.

“The NHS itself will survive these scandals, as it survived the Mid Staffordshire hospitals scandal of 2005-2008. The immortality of large public-sector monopolies is a given.”

2.20pm The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has called for measures to protect children’s health should be put at the forefront of the general election, the BBC reports.

President Hilary Cass said: “We often see policies hitting the headlines that are targeted at the ageing population - increased funding for dementia research and additional dementia training for NHS workers are among the pledges that have been made in recent weeks.

“But whilst caring for our ageing population is important, it shouldn’t mean that children’s health falls to the wayside.”

1.45pm Lord Saachi has accused Nick Clegg of “handing down a death sentence to cancer patients” after the Liberal Democrats vetoed his Medical Innovation Bill, The Times reports.

Lord Sacchi also accused the party of pulling off a hypocritical U-turn.

1.30pm A leaked report has delivered a damning verdict on the NHS leadership in Staffordshire, describing the health economy as beset with an ‘oppressive culture’ and in ‘perpetual crisis mode’.

The “distressed economy” report by management consultancy KPMG criticises the lack of collaboration between different organisations and suggests it is time for some leaders in Staffordshire to move on to new roles.

The report, seen by HSJ, highlights cultural problems across the region that it says are leading to poor behaviours and are impacting on patient care.

1.15pm NHS members of the GMB union have accepted a new pay offer, resolving its pay dispute.

81 per cent GMB members voted to accept the new offer, which emerged after a week of talks in January.

The union called off strike action on 29 January to allow members to consider the new officer.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said  “GMB members in England have voted by four to one to accept the new offer secured after a week of talks. This means the pay dispute in England is resolved.

12.55pm The Times reports that dozens of bereaved families are bringing negligence claims against University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust over failings that led to that will be condemned tomorrow over failures that allegedly led to the deaths of mothers and babies at the trust.

It comes as the Kirkup Inquiry into maternity and neonatal services at the trust is due to publish its findings tomorrow. It is expected to say that up to 30 mothers and babies died at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria between January 2004 and June 2013 because of staff failings.

12.15pm More than half of GPs expect to retire or leave general practice before they turn 60, according to a BBC poll.

An ComRes survey of 1,004 GPs across the UK, carried out for BBC Inside Out, also found that a quarter definitely plan to leave the service before 60.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the the results of the survey are “worrying”. The government would tackle the issue through a new programme to incentivise doctors to come back into general practice, he told the BBC.

11.55am EXCLUSIVE: Care minister Norman Lamb has told HSJ that he wants to create a single government department for health and social care by joining budgets at a national level.

In a wide ranging pre-election interview, the Liberal Democrat minister said the government should lead by example by integrating budgets at a national level.

Mr Lamb also:

  • said he “would love” to continue as a health minister in the next Parliament, saying he was “on a mission, particularly on mental health”;
  • expressed horror that clinical commissioning groups are holding back funding rises for mental health, as reported by HSJ last week; and
  • became the first minister to call for the NHS Trust Development Authority to merge with Monitor.

11.40am A community services provider has accused the country’s largest clinical commissioning group of a conflict of interest in its decision to award a £100m contract without a tender.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust alleges that the process followed by Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG to award the three year community services contract was “automatically skewed” in favour of a neighbouring provider.

The trust says in a document submitted to Monitor that senior figures involved in drawing up plans regarding the service’s future configuration were also involved in identifying the preferred provider. The CCG categorically denies the claim.

11.18am Research from the Nuffield Trust into how the healthcare hierarchy meddles in the management of emergencies has thrown up some worrying findings, writes Nigel Edwards, the think tank’s chief executive.

Here’s an excerpt:

“In researching the recent problems in accident and emergency performance, I was struck by the way the NHS is managing the situation: there appears to be a large amount of activity across the system – conference calls, emails, phones calls – to check progress and request detailed information.

“Is this adding value or causing problems? What were those involved hoping to achieve? And why is this type of activity thought to be an important part of the response?”

10.45am Responding to the annoucnement, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “This is great news and means that foundation trusts now represent almost two thirds of all trusts in England’s NHS. It marks a turning point for the staff, patients and the communities that both trusts serve.

“Achieving foundation trust status is recognition of the high quality services provided and the result of a commitment to improve from across the organisations.

“The FT pipeline continues to flow enabling patients to have a greater say over their health services and benefit from the cornerstones of FT status - good governance, local decision making and clear accountability.

“Today’s announcement is testament to the hard work of both trusts and they should feel proud of their accomplishment”.

10.20am Dean Fathers, chair, and Ruth Hawkins, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare, added: “We are absolutely delighted to announce that Nottinghamshire Healthcare has been successful in its assessment, receiving formal notification on 26 February 2015.

“We have worked hard to achieve this outcome, with intense scrutiny and review but we have used the assessment to strengthen and improve the organisation with FT authorisation recognising the high quality services and care we provide

“We feel very proud to be part of an organisation that does so many things on so many fronts so well, day in, day out. 

“We have a great group of multi disciplinary staff, many innovative partnerships and of course the patients, service users and carers who have benefited from our services, advice and support in the past, those who do now and those who will in the future.

“Congratulations to all of our staff and volunteers for the wonderful team effort in achieving Foundation Trust [status]. We look forward to them sharing in the greater power and influence we now have in determining our future.”

10.00am Responding to the announcement that Kent Community Health Trust is to become a foundation trust, Marion Dinwoodie, chief executive, said: “This is a momentous day for our staff, patients and the communities we serve and a vote of confidence in us as an organisation.

“To our 5,500 staff whether they work directly with patients on the frontline or behind the scenes, I’d like to say thank you – you did it!

“Every day, I witness the amazing care they provide and hear stories of them going above and beyond the call of duty for their patients – and now recognition of this work is official. We have the badge of a good organisation.

“A crucial part of our assessment was by the Care Quality Commission which rated us as GOOD and praised staff for their caring and compassionate approach to patients. Every patient the inspectors spoke to agreed.

“I hope our patients will have renewed confidence in knowing the services they need from us right from the advice and help they receive from our health visitors after the birth of a newborn to support from our nurses at the end of life, can be relied on.

“And for the communities we serve, I want to reassure them that this doesn’t mean the hard work now stops. We know there is always more we can do to improve.”

9.42am Two NHS trusts have been awarded foundation trust status.

Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust and Kent Community Health Trust have both become foundation trusts. There are now 150 NHS foundation trusts in total, almost two thirds of all trusts in England’s NHS.

Providing a range of services including mental health, intellectual disability and community health services to over a million people, Nottinghamshire Healthcare is the first trust providing high security psychiatric services to be awarded foundation trust status.

It runs Rampton Hospital and also provides healthcare in 13 prisons across the country.

Kent Community Health Trust is the third community trust to become a foundation trust, and is the second largest community trust in England. It will now have more freedom to tailor and improve how it cares for patients in their homes and communities, which could reduce the need for patients to go to hospital for treatment. 

Miranda Carter, Monitor’s executive director of provider appraisal said: “The approval of two new foundation trusts is good news for patients across England who will get a greater say in their local healthcare services, and for the trusts which will benefit from extra freedoms. 

“Having the ability to receive treatment outside of hospital and close to home matters to patients. It’s also important that patients get the chance to put their views across on their local healthcare, and as new foundation trusts Kent Community Health and Nottinghamshire Healthcare will be able to offer this to local patients.”

As NHS foundation trusts, Kent Community Health and Nottinghamshire Healthcare will be:

  • Free from central government control and able to decide how to improve services for patients;
  • Able to retain any surpluses they generate to invest in new services, and borrow money to support these investments; and
  • Accountable to their local communities, with local people able to become foundation trust members and governors.

9.35am Good Morning and welcome to HSJ Live. Retailers do it, travel websites do it, but why does the NHS find it so heard to listen to the opinions of service users? Jennifer Trueland reports on a tide that is beginning to turn in healthcare.