Study cut a year after HSJ revealed a fall in spending, plus the rest of today’s news and comment.

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4.55pm Our story on private providers being given access to the NHS pension is provoking some interesting reader comments. Here are a couple:

“I thought the coalition was trying to reduce the public pension liability! This will effectively be a massive subsidy to the private sector as it will reduce their costs now, and then those costs will be picked up by the tax payer in the future. It’s also misleading to suggest that the NHS has lower costs. The cost of NHS pensions is covered by another department’s budget but comes from the one (public) purse. I’m not against people having access to better pensions but at least be up front about the true cost and who will be footing the bill.”

“Looks like the playing field is being levelled in that NHS employers have always had an advantage in tax payer subsidised pensions; all this does is give the same cost base advantage to the independent sector. Strikes me the question is about whether or not the tax payer should be ponying up the dough for either NHS or independent sector employers.”

“Who is providing actuarial advice? I think the Hutton report solved the wrong problem absolutely. But stress not, when future governments have to nationalise pensions we will all be losers anyway. A more appropriate approach would be to close the scheme completely to new entrants and force alternative provision.”

“Why were public health staff moved into the council, but also mainly working on health of the population, not allowed to keep their NHS pensions when they voluntarily moved jobs after their TUPE transfer, even though they stayed within the public health sector? The choice became - either stay in your job for years, or change jobs voluntarily and lose your NHS pension - unfair?”

4.31pm In The Guardian Clare Allen argues that the proposed smoking ban around hospitals debate has been too black and white.

4.04pm Our sister title, Nursing Times, reports on rise in violence against NHS staff which unions say is “only the tip of the iceberg”.

3.49pm South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust’s Dan Charlton explains why the trust agreed to be the star of a Channel 4 series.

3.41pm Michael White takes a look at supposed coalition u-turns in this week’s column.

3.16pm A male contraceptive pill could act as a temporary vasectomy according to researchers and reported by The Telegraph.

The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the pill has been shown to work in male mice, whose sperm was undamaged by the process.

3.08pm Robotics could be the future of surgery according to Ben Challacombe in our comment section.

2.18pm The Professional Standards Authority is to review the Nursing and Midwifery Council and General Medical Council’s handling of alleged misconduct cases relating to Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust staff, HSJ has discovered.

The PSA, which oversees the work of the professional regulators, has instructed the GMC and NMC to supply it with cases involving doctors and nurses from the scandal hit trust which were dealt with and closed at an early stage.

The revelation comes after it emerged the PSA has launched a High Court appeal against the decision of an NMC fitness to practise panel to impose a five year caution order against former Mid Staffordshire chief nurse Jan Harry on the grounds it was “too lenient”.

2.14pm The Francis report calls for more female behaviours, according to Karen Lynas writing for our resource centre.

1.57pm A GP surgery manager has been prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office after illegally accessing approximately 1,940 patients’ medical records.

Appearing at Maidstone Magistrates Court today, 37-year-old Steven Tennison pleaded guilty to charges of unlawfully obtaining personal data. He was fined a total of £996 and ordered to pay a £99 victim surcharge and £250 prosecution costs.
The offences were uncovered in October 2010 when the practice manager at College Practice GP surgery was asked to review Tennison’s attendance file. The review included a check of Tennison’s use of the patient records program, which showed that between 6 August 2009 and 6 October 2010 he had accessed patients’ records on 2023 occasions.
The majority of the records viewed related to women in their 20s and 30s. One woman’s record – believed to be a school friend of Tennison – was accessed repeatedly along with the record of her son.
ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said: “We may never know why Steven Tennison decided to break the law by snooping on hundreds of patients’ medical records. What we do know is that he’d received data training and knew he was breaking the law, but continued to access highly sensitive information over an 14-month period.
“The GPs and staff at College Practice GP surgery work hard to maintain the confidentiality of their patients’ records. The irresponsible actions of one employee have undermined their work and he is now facing the consequences of his unlawful actions.”

1.38pm BREAKING: Private providers of health service funded care will be granted access to the NHS Pension Scheme under proposals announced today.

Ministers have accepted the recommendations of a review calling for widening access to the NHS pension to the private sector in an attempt to level the playing field between the NHS and independent sectors. A consultation will now begin on the proposals.

In October the government announced any staff transferred out of the health service to a private provider would be able to retain their membership of the pension. However, this latest proposal goes a step further and allows independent providers to offer access to the NHS Pension Scheme for any of their staff “wholly or mainly” involved in delivering NHS funded care.

1.33pm Here’s a twitter update from Sarah Calkin, who wrote about the CQC failing to publish warning notices:

“There is still an issue with providers using lawyers to prevent concerns abt their services being widely publicised but not on scale suggested and more in social care than in the NHS. We’ll update the story as soon as we have up to date figures.”

Follow Sarah on @sjcalkin

1.22pm The Care Quality Commission has claimed the figures it released to HSJ under FOI about the number of warning notices that were not press released were wrong. The regulator has apologised to HSJ and is working to find the correct figures as soon as possible.

In the meantime we have taken the story down. Here’s the CQC’s statement to us in full:

“CQC does publicise all the enforcement action it takes unless the provider has successfully made representations against the publication. The reports on our web site include details of enforcement, which is also indicated by means of a red cross on the provider’s page. For the NHS, we issue a press notice as a matter of routine when we have taken enforcement, unless representations have been made and upheld. For social care providers we’ll generally notify the media where the concerns are more serious. Unfortunately it appears that there has been an error in the data released to HSJ, which overstates the number of times information has not been published. For the 90 warning notices issued to NHS healthcare organisations since April 2011, we have issued 84 press releases. We apologise for the error and are working to identify the cause.”

1.20pm 38 accident and emergency doctors in London are currently receiving psychological help according to the president of the College of Emergency Medicine.

Dr Clifford Mann said at the Hospital Directions conference last week that A&E medics are under such pressure that roughly one doctor per department in London is currently seeking psychological help.

Dr Mann was speaking at the conference in London and argued that the real crisis in A&E was caused by a lack of medics wanting to train in emergency medicine and the few that do put under increased psychological pressure as a result. 

Dr Mann said: “We can’t recruit, we can’t retain, and the people that do stay are about to crack.”

He added: “We lost seven per cent of our consultant workforce last year. We trained them and then they threw in the towel. We aren’t slipping off the edge here, we are about to fall off the cliff.”

12.45pm A hospital trust has apologised after a surgical glove was left inside a patient following an operation.

Sharon Birks underwent a hysterectomy at the Royal Derby Hospital last month.

She felt unwell after the operation on 19 November and it was thought she might have an infection.

Mrs Birks, who lives with her husband Darren and their children, was given a bladder scan to check for problems and prescribed antibiotics.

It was three days after the operation that the 42-year-old, from Wirksworth, Derbyshire, discovered the error.

12.19pm Thousands of doctors did not immediately pass a new set of skills checks during the first year of assessments, figures show.

The General Medical Council said it decided to “defer” the revalidation of more than 5,000 doctors.

So-called responsible officers, who conduct the assessments, can recommend that a decision to revalidate doctors is deferred if a medic is subject to local disciplinary proceedings or if the doctor has been unable gather all the supporting evidence in time.

11.31am Accident and emergency attendances have risen by 11 per cent in four years, according to a new report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Despite a growth in overall attendance, Focus on Accident and Emergency, December 2013 also shows consistencies in patterns of A&E activity in 2013-13 with previous years.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: “HSCIC has responsibility for a wealth of national health and social care statistics and therefore, as an independent authority in this area, can usefully harness its expertise to help shed light on the A&E debate.

“A&E is a complex area that statistics alone cannot fully explain– but good quality information is vital towards gaining a clear understanding of patterns and trends in activity over time.”

11.15am An independent inquiry will be carried out into the safety of blood donations following fears of infection from vCJD, the human form of “mad cow disease”, it has been reported. Read more here.

11.13am Circle Partnership – the private provider that runs Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust – has signed a deal to advise one of China’s biggest multinationals on how to duplicate its own employee-ownership model.

Prime minister David Cameron and health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the deal as part of the UK’s trade mission to China, according to a statement issued by Circle this afternoon. Find out more here.

11.11am Thousands of doctors did not immediately pass a new set of skills checks during the first year of assessments, figures show.

The General Medical Council said it decided to “defer” the revalidation of more than 5,000 doctors. Read the full story here.

11.07am NHS commissioners are slipping behind on their efficiency plans and becoming more pessimistic about whether they will hit their year-end targets.

Click here watch this HSJ film and get a full explanation of the current position.

11.03am There has been an almost 50 per cent rise in the number of care home residents dying with blood infections in the last decade, according to The Daily Telegraph.

10.58am The Daily Telegraph also reports that the early diagnosis of whether breast cancer will develop into it’s invasive form could result in thousands of women being spared unnecessary mastectomies and radiotherapy.

Up to 5,000 women a year are diagnosed with early signs of breast cancer, according to The Daily Telegraph, but doctors have not yet been unable to distinguish between the cases which will become invasive, and those which do will not require treatment.

10.49am Also in The Guardian, researchers think they have identified a molecule that could unlock how to prevent the overtreatment of cancer. The molecule could potentially show when early stage of the disease is likely to develop into an invasive form.

10.37am In the rest of this morning’s papers, a landmark report has concluded that “health disparities between nations could be eliminated within a generation” if countries put around $60bn (£37bn) into their healthcare systems, according to The Guardian.

The Lancet Commission report was written by 25 leading health experts and economists and chaired by Larry Summers, a former adviser to the Obama and Clinton administrations.

10.35am EXCLUSIVE: The government has axed an annual study of spending in mental health services a year after HSJ revealed it had shown the first fall in spending for a decade. Find out more here.

10.31am Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that it is not possible to be very overwight and still fit, according to The Times.

10.27am Also in The Times, Michael Mosley, a doctor and television presenter, claims people only need to do a few short bursts of of exercise a day. The longer a workout goes on, he calims, the benefits decrease.

10.25am The Times reports that a sex offender with HIV has been jailed for life after he targeted hundreds of teenage boys, some as young as 13. Anthony Marsh, 53, was told he will serve a minimum of ten years after pleading guilty to a number of sex offences.

10.23am In today’s papers, The Times reports that Sir James Munby, Britain’s top family judge, has taken over the case of a woman whose baby was taken into care by Essex social services, after being delivered by an enforced Caesarean section.

Essex County Council yesterday said the Caesarean was taken under medical grounds. The woman, originally from Italy, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in June 2012, after which a health trust applied to the High Court to carry out a Caesarean. The baby was born on 23 August 2012.   

10.06am Lynda Hamlyn, NHS Blood and Transplant’s chief executive, has announced she will retire next summer.

9.58am In resource centre, Karen Lynas, deputy managing director at the NHS Leadership Academy, argues that reforms identified in the Berwick and Francis reports demand compassion, collaboration and inclusivity − behaviours that fall more within a female than a male paradigm of leading. Read more here.

9.55am Despite scare stories, robotic surgery, in the hands of well trained, experienced and highly skilled surgeons, can produce amazing patient outcomes, writes Ben Challacombe, consultant urological surgeon and honorary senior lecturer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals and Kings College London. Click here to find out more.

9.48am Good morning. In comment today, Dan Charlton of South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust explains why the decision to allow mental health patients at his trust to be filmed for TV series was positive for the image of mental health care. Read his article in full here.