Live logo

4.30pm: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written a public letter to all NHS staff in which he makes reference to the long and short term challenges that the healthcare system faces. It is publised in full below:

“As winter approaches, I want to thank you for all you are doing in the run up to what will be a very challenging period for the NHS.”

“I know frontline staff are working extremely hard - and not just in A&E departments. I see this every week in my visits and shifts on the frontline, including this week at the Royal Brompton Hospital. I thought you might be interested to know some figures which are a true testament to the skill and dedication of our hospital staff.

“Our ageing society has meant 1.2 million more people in A&E every year compared to 3 years ago, with nearly 2000 more people every day seen within 4 hours. The average wait to see someone in A&E has been falling steadily – now down from 77 minutes to 33 minutes - and, despite this extra flow through A&E, elective waiting times are stable and the number of people waiting for 14, 26 and 52 weeks continues to fall.

“But the big question for all of us as we continue to see more and more people - especially frail older people - in A&E departments is how to deliver better ways to look after people outside hospital. So as well as the short term financial support we have offered the system for this winter, we are looking at the root causes of A&E pressure. Countless A&E departments say the 2 things that would make the biggest difference are better integration with the social care system so it is easier to discharge people, and better primary care alternatives.

3.15pm: New contractual arrangements must work for practitioners and patients alike if confidence in the future of NHS dentistry in England is to be maintained, the Chair of the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) General Dental Practice Committee (GDPC) has warned.

Speaking at a meeting of Local Dental Committees in London, Dr Milne emphasised that any new arrangements will only succeed if they satisfy a number of criteria. For dentists, he said, the reforms must deliver improved patient outcomes and fair remuneration, while preserving current benefits for practitioners, allowing the transfer of the value of a practice’s goodwill and ensuring financial stability during the transition period. They must also, he added, ensure that practice ownership remains a sustainable proposition.

At the same time, he stressed, any new system must provide access to quality routine and urgent care, improve oral health, be clear about what the NHS does and doesn’t provide and explain simply what the cost to the patient is.

New arrangements are expected to emerge from pilots that are being conducted across England. The BDA is supportive of the process of reform, having campaigned vigorously against the flawed, target-driven arrangements introduced in 2006 that are currently in place.

Dr Milne said: “If these reforms are to avoid the pitfalls seen around the changes in 2006, which prompted many dentists to pursue a future away from the NHS and triggered scenes of queues around the block to access dental care, they must work for practitioners and patients. They must ensure that practices are viable and stable, that patients can get the care they need and that we have a strong foundation for our mission to improve England’s oral health.

13.20pm: In this week’s issue of HSJ Giles Peel and Katy Steward argue that foundation trusts need to be reiminded of the important role their governors play and support them to fulfil it. Read more here.

12.07pm: This week’s HSJ supplement examines what can be done to ensure NHS staff’s mental wellbeing and how to protect vulnerable patientsdespite budget cuts. To read Chain gang in our Resource Centre - click here.

11.50am: How can patient safety be improved by supporting clinicians as they take clinical decisions? HSJ is holding a free webinar from 12pm on 10 December - Smarter decisions, better care - to explore the answer to this question. Join this free webinar - register here.

11.35am: Surgery for knees, hips and eyes is under pressure across the NHS, with evidence of rationing to save money, a report suggests. Data from health analysis firm Dr Foster highlighted the effects of recent austerity, with some operations at their lowest level for several years. Full details here.

11.20am: The Health Act 2012 is set to be changed to make it easier for clinical commissioning groups to come together with each other – and with NHS England – to jointly commission services, HSJ has learned. The move is intended to help and encourage commissioners to propose reconfigurations across large areas, and potentially enable single contracts combining core general practice with other primary and community services. More on Dave West’s exclusive story here.

11.10am: The chancellor yesterday used his Autumn Statement to warn of public sector pay restraint beyond 2015. The full statement, published shortly after George Osborne spoke in the Commons, said the Treasury would explore how “to get the best value for money from the pay bill” and “continuing reform of public sector pay policy can best contribute to consolidation [of the economy] beyond 2015-16”. Read Shaun Lintern’s story here.

11.00am: The Treasury has signed off NHS England’s £260m technology fund, the body’s technology chief has announced. NHS England director of strategic systems and technology Beverley Bryant revealed via Twitter chancellor George Osborne had rubber-stamped the spending. More details here.

10.55am: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has made a u-turn over the winter health crisis by encouraging hospitals to use professional volunteers in accident and emergency departments, according to The Times. This comes two weeks after Mr Hunt dismissed a plan by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of charity representative body Acevo, to get 5,000 volunteers to help keep the elderly out of A&E departments this winter.

10.50am: The Daily Telegraph reports on new figures that suggest people dying from breast, prostate and bowel cancer could halve by 2020. The paper also writes that the NHS is to introduce a new genetic test that can screen families for their risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

10.45am: This week’s issue of HSJ is ready to read on the tablet app. Click here for more details.

10.35am: A council leader embroiled in a row with Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group over its plans to withdraw 24 hour maternity consultant cover at the Friarage Hospital has submitted his own proposal to save it. Judith Welikala’s full story here.

10.30am: Staying with the Dr Foster theme, The Guardian reports that the numbers of knee and hip replacements and cataract removals in England have fallen to their lowest levels in five years despite the growing ageing population, according to health analytics firm Dr Foster’s annual Hospital Guide.  

10.25am: Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust reacts to the news that it has been named by the Dr Foster Guide,  an annual healthcare report, as the only trust in England to be rated as ‘better than expected’ for all four key mortality indicators:

  • HSMR (Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio) – measures whether the number of patient deaths in a hospital is higher or lower than expected, HSMR is based on 56 conditions that account for 80% of deaths
  • SHMI (Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator) – based on all conditions, this includes deaths in hospital and deaths in the 30 days after discharge from hospital
  • Death in low risk conditions
  • Deaths after surgery

Ron Kerr, Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I want to thank all our staff for their part in helping us earn this independent recognition of the high quality, safe care we provide. Ensuring that each of our patients receives the care they deserve requires commitment from everyone.

“I am proud of this achievement, but we are not complacent as we know there is always room for improvement.”

10.20am: Thirteen hospital trusts have higher than expected mortality indicator scores, according to an extract from the latest report by health analytics firm Dr Foster which has been shared exclusively with HSJ. To find out which ones they are, click here.

10.00am: Good morning. We begin proceedings today with the news that North West London Hospitals Trust has admitted its data recording problem may extend wider than performance on the 18-week wait for elective surgery. Read Sophie Barnes full story here