Dan Poulter has accused health unions of being “deliberately disingenuous” in local pay negotiations, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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4.40pm HSJ is hosting a webinar on how timely data can help managers and clinicians. Join us at 11am at Wednesday May 21. Register here to get a place.

3.45pm Some new experts have been added to our mental health Q&A taking place tomorrow at 1pm.

Here are some more details.

3.33pm There are some interesting comments underneath our story on Simon Steven’s announcement over primary care co-commissioning plans:

“Would be really nice if SS actually had a diascussion with primary care commissioning staff working for him who are doing a fine job in tough circumstances but now aren’t sure where they stand.”

“Does he really think asking GPs to agree GP practice contracts is ever going to be a good idea?”

“The right noises. Some of us think it’s totally incompatible with a CCGs governance, whereas I talk to others, who came from PCTs who clearly have a different view. It will be refreshing to ditch the one size fits all but fits no one policy of the past.”

“Why not just resource the area teams properly or at least listen to them from time to time…?”

3.00pm With one year until the 2015 General Election, a coalition of leading health and care stakeholders has challenged political parties to accept seven “burning issues” facing the health and care system, and to produce election manifestos that allow the NHS and social care the space to be able to address them.

The national-level partnership, representing health and care charities, clinicians, staff, senior leaders and councillors has rallied behind the 2015 Challenge led by the NHS Confederation. The 2015 Challenge calls on politicians to develop and stand by election pledges that recognise the need for change in the health and care system and which facilitate it at a local level, and has produced a Declaration it wants all party leaders to sign up to.

NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: “There is an overwhelming body of evidence that change in the NHS and social care is essential – as leaders of the health  and care system, we know it, patients know it, clinicians and practitioners of all specialties know it, and politicians know it.”

The seven challenges that make up the 2015 Challenge are:

  • Need  – meeting the rising demand for care, particularly from people with complex needs or long-term conditions, while maintaining people’s wellbeing and preventing ill health for as long as possible.
  • Culture– building confidence in the health service by achieving a fundamental shift in culture from the bottom up. Creating a more open and transparent NHS, which enables patients, citizens and communities to be partners in decisions, and staff to improve care.
  • Design – Redesigning the health and care system to reflect the needs of people now – and so that it remains sustainable in the future. Shifting more care closer to people’s homes, while maintaining great hospital care. A focus on joining up all parts of the health and care system so care revolves around the needs and capacities of individuals, families and communities.
  • Finance - recognising the financial pressures on all parts of the system and squeezing value from every penny of public money spent on health and care. Debating honestly and openly the future levels and sources of funding for health and social care.
  • Leadership – creating value-based, system leaders across the NHS and empowering them to improve health and wellbeing for local people. Supporting these local leaders to work in partnership with a wide range of health, care and related organisations to address the 2015 Challenge, involve patients and citizens as leaders, and have the resilience to make the biggest changes in the recent history or health and care.
  • Workforce– planning for a workforce to better match changing demand. Developing staff roles and skills to provide complex, multidisciplinary, co-ordinated care, in partnership with individuals and communities and more often in community settings.
  • Technology – using technology to help transform care and enabling people to access information and treatment in a way that meets their needs. Spreading innovation to improve the quality of care while responding to the financial challenge facing the NHS and care system.

2.30pm The BBC reports that the previous boss of the UK pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca has criticised the attempted takeover by its US rival Pfizer.

2.24pm To add to the waiting times discussion on our Comment pages Rob Findlay has responded to John Appleby’s article which argues that the pros of waiting time targets outweigh the cons.

“Thank you for your thoughtful response, John, and I broadly agree with the points you make. I just wanted to pick up one point here so that it isn’t left hanging.

“As you mention, I am of course not suggesting a strict “first come, first served” approach. The principles I advocate for good waiting list management are “safe, fair, short, and efficient” (in pretty much that order).

“It was beyond the scope of my article to discuss the safe management of urgent patients, or the reasons (other than patient choice) why “routine” patients should sometimes be admitted out of turn. if anyone is interested then I’ve discussed that elsewhere and here are a couple of links.

2.13pm New highly effective drugs have created the potential for the eradication of hepatitis C, says Stephen Ryder and John Dillon, but the NHS must clear several hurdles to reach this goal

2.00pm The NHS is wasting billions of pounds of public money by failing to tackle diabetes early enough, a charity has warned.

The disease costs the health service nearly £10bn a year, but the vast majority of this cash is spent on tackling complications that arise from the illness such as kidney damage.

The charity Diabetes UK accused health bosses of “failing to learn” that early intervention can save taxpayers’ money and improve the lives of millions of Britons living with the illness.

Sir Ian has previously held a number of high-profile roles within the health service, including as interim chief executive of the NHS.

He was formerly chief executive of the South West Strategic Health Authority and chief of the NHS South of England SHA cluster.

1.43pm Over in our Comment section we have an interesting debate on waiting times targets.

Waiting times expert Rob Findlay says the targets are complex and perverse, while John Appleby questions the argument that those waiting the longest should be treated first.

Chris Hopson calls for quality and safety to drive the thinking behind targets.

GSTS Pathology, a joint venture set up by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust and outsourcer Serco, posted a £3.8m net profit for the year ending December 2013, up from £300,000 in 2012.

Revenues increased by 6 per cent from £87.6m in 2012 to £92.5m in 2013, according to the  accounts which were released as the majority-owned NHS joint venture rebranded itself Viapath.

1.20pm In The Times, the managing director of Serco Health says the Mid Staffordshire scandal has made patients more favourable to the idea of private companies providing NHS services.   

More from The Times, a potentially fatal complication of type 1 diabetes are being frequently overlooked among children, a study has found.

1.10pm The Daily Telegraph reports that doctors from India are four times more likely to be struck off the medical register than those trained in Britain.

Proportionally about one in 1,000 British trained doctors have been struck off over the past five years, compared with about one in 250 of those trained in India and one in 350 of those from Pakistan.

Patient groups expressed concern about the figures, but the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin said the statistics showed that Indian doctors were discriminated against by General Medical Council decisions.

1.05pm And here are some more stories on the shortage of mental health beds to provide some further context.

HSJ previously reported on dismay from the mental health sector when NHS England placed a moratorium on commissioning new specialist mental health services and the knock-on benefit a lack of inpatient beds has had for the independent sector.

1.00pm The BBC and Community Care have found that a lack of beds for mental health patients is forcing them to seek treatment hundreds of miles away.

HSJ reported last week that Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust had been forced to pay significant sums to house patients in B&B accommodation because of a shortage of inpatient beds.


Urgent action is needed to ensure equal value is placed on both patients’ mental and physical health in the face of “distressing” evidence about the life expectancy of the mentally ill and people with learning disabilities, a report by the BMA board of science has said.

The physical health problems of patients with a mental illness or intellectual disability are “all too often” under-addressed, the report said, while the mental health of patients with a physical illness is frequently neglected.

The health minister said unions had agreed with government in 2013 that the link between performance and pay should be strengthened.

Union guidance issued to local negotiators, had however claimed that “the principle of pay progression” was that staff would “automatically progress” through pay bands.

12.49pm Law firm DAC Beachcroft has been appointed as sole law advisers to NHS Property Services for its HR needs.

The health employment team at DAC Beachcroft will support the organisation in dealing with issues related to its 3,200 strong workforce. 

12.45pm In the HSJ’s editor’s latest column he says the clamour for more cash should be answered by long-term investment planning rather than quick fixes.

12.28pm NHS England has confirmed there will be no “artificial deadlines” for the national rollout of the Care.data database programme.

National director for patients and information Tim Kelsey said in a blog on the organisation’s website that the programme will only be rolled out “nationally only when we are sure the process is right”.

The move follows NHS England’s new chief executive Simon Stevens describing the current six month “pause” period, which runs until September, as “an important moment to listen much more carefully to what a range of people have got to say” and stating that that the programme should not be tied to an “artificial start date”.  

Prior to the arrival of Mr Stevens, NHS England insiders had insisted to HSJ that the programme would move at pace following the six month pause.

It appears Mr Stevens has moved to reign in the timetable for the programme, which has been subject to substantial criticism from GPs, MPs, patient groups and privacy campaigners.

Key amendments to the Care Bill which concern Care.data are to be discussed in the Lords tomorrow.

10.25am Six NHS whistleblowers have written to Simon Stevens to call for a public inquiry into their cases, The Timesreports.

10.20am The shortlist has been announced for the 2014 Patient Safety and Care Awards.

The awards, held jointly by HSJ and sister title Nursing Times and supported by NHS Employers, celebrate excellent, safe and innovative care throughout the health service.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 15 July. Book your place here.

10.18am The Daily Mail reports that one in seven hospital beds is occupied by diabetes patients which costs the NHS £10bn a year, according to a report by Diabetes UK.

10.06am The Guardian reports that children and adults are dying needlessly from asthma attacks according to a report by the Royal College of Physicians.

The report’s authors found that in a quarter of fatal cases patients had received unsatisfactory care.

10.00am Join us at 1pm tomorrow for a Q&A on mental health and the potential benefits of employment.

Oxford Health Foundation Trust consultant psychiatrist Andrew Molodynski will be online to discuss how services in Oxfordshire are using a “light” version of an intensive (and therefore expensive) individual placement and support model to help service users.

Simon Stevens told HSJ that he planned to introduced “provisions that allow NHS England to delegate budget responsibilities for chunks of primary care and…to establish joint committees with CCGs which could do that”.

Feedback from CCGs has revealed varying degrees of interest in the idea of taking on a primary commissioning role, he added.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. To start the day, clinical priorities and patient choice should drive our decisions when setting waiting time targets, says Chris Hopson, chair of the Foundation Trust Network.