Topsy Murray has resigned from her position as acting chair of South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust eight days into the role, and the rest of the day’s news and comment

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6:18pm The recently-appointed acting chair of South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust has resigned after just eight days in role.

Topsy Murray was appointed following the resignation of chair Peter Hildrew last Thursday. He resigned with immediate effect after after a tribunal found the trust covered up a report that contained accusations of “nepotism” against its chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight.

The trust has since launched an internal investigation into Dr Vasco-Knight, while South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group has called for her immediate suspension.

Ms Murray cited health grounds for her departure.

In a letter, she said she was “profoundly sorry to you all …. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the trust and know it will have a great future.”

The trust’s deputy chief executive Paul Cooper said : “We are very sorry that Topsy has stepped down on health grounds – she has been an invaluable source of wise counsel over recent years and will be missed by many staff and governors as well as the board.  Topsy agreed to step up as acting chairman at very short notice for which I would like to thank her. 

David Allen, speaking on behalf of the non-executive directors, said:  “I am sorry that Topsy is unable to continue.  Needless to say, the trust will carry on delivering high-quality and compassionate care for our patients.”

The trust is expected to announce a new acting chair on Thursday 13 February.

5:32pm In HSJ’s new Insight and Influence channel, Paul Rideout argues the NHS single failure regime is proving invasive and uncomfortable for some trusts.

5:17pm From our sister title Nursing Times, a mental health nurse has set up a petition calling on the government to review the process through which the Nursing and Midwifery Council decides its annual registration fee.

4:47pm BREAKING: A human resources director who had been suspended has lost her job despite a disciplinary investigation finding she had no case to answer, HSJ can reveal.

Sue Green has been made redundant following Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust’s decision to “streamline the executive structure”.

4:38pm The BBC reports that more than 700 doctors and health experts signing a letter, published in the British Medical Journal, urging MPs to back a ban on smoking in cars with children in England.

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson of Imperial College London co-ordinated the signatories. He told the BBC: “This letter issues a powerful statement from the medical professionals of this country - the people who, every day, are treating illnesses brought on by second-hand smoke in children - about the rights of children to breathe clean air that won’t make them sick.”

“Next week, MPs have a chance to help protect children from the proven dangers of second-hand smoke.

“If they vote in favour, it could help protect the health of literally hundreds of thousands of children nationwide. If they vote against, it will go down in history as a huge missed opportunity.”

Dr Hopkinson also chairs the British Thoracic Society’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease specialist advisory group.

4:22pm South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions services for South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust, has called for immediate suspension of its chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight.

Dr Sam Barrell, the CCG’s chief clinical officer, said: “The employment tribunal judgment raised concerns which the CCG views as extremely serious.  We welcomed the resignation of the chair of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and it is our view that the chief executive should be immediately suspended while the trust’s investigation into her actions is brought to what must be a swift and conclusive resolution.

“It is fundamental to good patient care that whistleblowers feel able to raise their concerns without fear of retribution. We will be acting to ensure that the duties of candour, transparency and openness are upheld at every level.  

“Our strong partnership working in South Devon and Torbay has never rested on any individual. Collaborative, joined-up working is firmly established at every level in every one of our organisations, and is carrying on across the system with as much commitment as ever. 

“Our clinically-led JoinedUp Board and JoinedUp Cabinet remain the central vehicles for driving our ambitious plans for integrating care across the whole health and care system.”   

4:04pm Wired has also created a simple guide to

3:56pm In her Wired blog, Olivia Solon argues the way has been communicated to patients has been “an absolute shambles”.

“There is no easy place to find out exactly what data is being extracted from GPs, how exactly it’s being used and by which organisations. It’s tucked away in PDFs, spreadsheets, microsites, radio interviews and, in some cases, it’s simply not available,” she writes.

“Worst of all, the government didn’t initially plan on letting people opt out of at all.”

3:37pm In the BBC’s weekly Scrubbing Up column, Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK argues that patient data sharing can be a “huge force for good, if we get it right”.

He argues: “We live in an age when all manner of information about us is collected and shared all the time and, understandably, everyone worries about who is looking at their data and what they’re doing with it.

“But using our records for medical research is not about some sort of free-for-all with people’s data.

“It is about doing the right thing and using the information that we collect in the NHS to benefit patients in the future.”

3:11pm EXCLUSIVE: Two former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust nurses who were struck off for altering A&E waiting times are to launch a High Court bid next week to overturn their ban.

Sharon Turner and Tracy White are appealing against the decision of a Nursing and Midwifery Council fitness to practise panel last year which ruled the pair were guilty of misconduct and should be struck-off the nursing register.

The panel concluded both of them were guilty of providing poor care, bullying and being dishonest in the management of the trust’s A&E department and by their actions had brought the nursing profession into serious disrepute.

The case will be heard in the High Court on Tuesday where HSJ understands the two nurses will claim they have been victims of media sensationalism and scapegoated by the NMC in the wake of the scandal.

Both Turner and White were working as sisters in Stafford hospital’s A&E department during the time “hundreds” of patients suffered appalling care and were the subject of a complaint by whistleblowing nurse Helene Donnelly who was bullied and threatened as a result.

The NMC panel found Sharon Turner, who left the trust in 2009, used foul language about patients and staff and also threatened her colleagues.

It said she inaccurately recorded patient discharge times and instructed staff to transfer patients to wards with “soiled sheets”. She actively encouraged nurses to lie about the discharge times in order for the department to meet A&E waiting time targets.

Tracy White refused to help a senior nurse undress an elderly patient, who she called a “naughty little monkey” for refusing to take drugs to treat constipation.

The panel also heard that, in relation to a patient who had attended A&E following a termination of their pregnancy, Ms White said words to the effect of: “She can wait, if you can do that to your baby.”

Between July 2000 and July 2010 she was also accused of inaccurately recording patient discharge times from A&E and ordering colleagues to follow her example.

The NMC panel ruled she ordered staff to move patients to different parts of the hospital before they had been properly assessed and with soiled sheets.

3:05pm HSJ has launched a new Insights and Influence channel in association with Ridouts, to highlight developments in leadership and regulation.

Yesterday, Paul Gough, an adviser at Political Lobbying Media Relations, outlined five ways to manage an NHS crisis.

2:45pm Did you get the chance to watch HSJ’s webinar on what the controversial section 75 procurement regulations means for the NHS and its providers.

If you missed it, not to worry. You can catch up on demand at

The panel included Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation, Jan Filochowski, former chief executive of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Trust and West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust, Michael Boyd, head of healthcare at DWF and Michael Watson, chief operating officer at Circle Partnership.

2:30pm The Health and Social Care Information Centre has set up a Caldicott2 Implementation Monitoring Group (CIMG) team in response to to Dame Fiona Caldicott’s report ‘Information: to share or not to share’.

Jeremy Hunt has requested a review of how information is shared in Health and Social Care.

Dame Caldicott was last year asked review how information is shared in health and social care by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In its response to her report, the government requested that the HSCIC create a team to monitor and support the implementation of her recommendations.

HSCIC chair Kingsey Manning said: “Making sure Dame Fiona’s recommendations happen is a priority if sharing information for the benefit of patients and service users is to become a reality.

“One of the options we expect her panel to ask us to provide evidence about is creating a single point of advice and guidance on information sharing.

“We are pleased to be able to support this crucial work which will enable the NHS and social care to make the best use of information.”

Dame Fiona Caldicott said: “Our brief is to hold the system to account on behalf of the secretary of state and we cannot do that effectively without robust evidence about how much information sharing is happening, or not, across health and social care.

“We are grateful for the work that CIMG will be doing for us as it will be key to successful implementation of Caldicott2 proposals.”

2:10pm More from Nursing Times, cognitive therapy is a “safe and acceptable” method for treating people with schizophrenia who not taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a UK study.

2:00pm Also in Nursing Times, the chief nursing officer for England is encouraging nurses, midwives and their teams to enter a new award for health professionals that have shown compassionate care.

1:50pm In our sister title Nursing Times, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said this week that 165 aspirant nursing students were currently piloting a controversial scheme of working as healthcare assistants for at least three months before starting their nurse training.

HSJ’s Sarah Calkin previously reported that a quarter of trusts are allowing healthcare assistants to start work on the wards without undergoing any training for the job.

1:35pm The BBC has published its weekly A&E tracker for week 13.  

1:13pm The NHS is facing a “profound tension” between financial constraints and the need to provide high quality care, according to a report published on the anniversary of the report into the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust inquiry.

The Nuffield Trust study, based on interviews with key NHS trust managers, found agreement that the need for excellent care must have a higher priority in the health service.

12:50pm NHS hospitals will have to submit data on the number of girls and women who have suffered female genital mutilation, the government has announced.

Among a range of measures aimed at targeting the illegal practice, it will be mandatory for hospitals to tell the Department of Health on a monthly basis of any cases they see of FGM.

12:40pm Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has today written to every clinical commissioning groups for greater funding to be diverted into general practice.

She identified the government £3.8bn better care fund and prime minister’s £50 challenge fund as potential areas of investment.

She also called for the £5 per head of the population that NHS England asked CCGs to set aside for additional primary care in December, to go towards ‘accountable GPs’ to for vulnerable older people.

Dr Baker said: “A chronic lack of investment in general practice is compromising patient care across the whole NHS. As we approach a new financial year, clinical commissioning groups will have a vital opportunity to provide general practice with the boost in resources it needs to drive improvements in patient care. 

She added: “We understand that resources are tight across the NHS and CCGs are facing the difficult challenge of ensuring proper investment in a range of services whilst balancing an extremely tight budget.

“In the context of an ageing population with patients increasingly living with multiple long term conditions, we believe there is a strong case for investing in the generalist skills that GPs and their teams provide. We are campaigning for a wider shift of investment towards the front line of care in the community to help reduce the burden on hospitals and the NHS as a whole.”

In a recent HSJ interview, Dr Baker backed the co-commissioning of general practice by NHS England and clinical commissioning groups.

12:29pm Read Robert Francis QC’s full speech on the anniversary of his report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which he gave at a Nuffield Trust event yesterday afternoon.

12:00pm In his Guardian column criticising the tendency of institutions to close ranks and form a culture of denial, Simon Jenkins writes of the NHS: “In The Doctor’s Dilemma, George Bernard Shaw called such institutions “conspiracies against the laity”. Anyone who peers inside the entrails of a modern British hospital knows what he means.

“When the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, calls for a “change of NHS culture”, he might as well have been challenging the meistersingers of Nuremberg. The “royal colleges” are in league with a managerial class now steeped in the target-driven centralism that Hunt regards as a template for “public service”. Their culture will not change until his does.”

11:40am How can patient safety be improved by supporting clinicians as they take clinical decisions? HSJ is holding a free webinar - Smarter decisions, better care - to explore the answer to this question.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday 10 December at 12pm.

It will consider how helping healthcare professionals to make the right decisions can result in safety improvements such as fewer prescribing errors, reduced diagnostic testing, reduced length of stays and improved hospital quality.

On the panel are Dr Rakesh Patel, NIHR academic clinical lecturer in medical education and honorary specialist registrar in nephrology at University of Leicester, and Dr Peter Williams, consultant in acute and emergency medicine and clinical lecturer for acute medicine at St Helens and Knowsley Trust.

Make sure you register today to watch this webinar

Can’t make it this time? Don’t worry, you can catch up on demand at

11:27am The Daily Telegraph reports on Robert Francis QC speaking on the anniversary of his report, in which said politicians should stop “throwing brickbats” over the NHS.

Speaking at a Nuffield Trust event yesterday, Mr Francis said: “It’s a shame that the NHS and particularly quality of care has become a political football.”

He added: “It should not be a partisan issue all parties should want good quality care.”

At the same event, he sharply criticised South Devonshire Health Care’s attempts to cover up accusations of nepotism against its chief executive, as HSJ has reported.

Mr Francis said it was important that no tolerance was afforded to oppressive managerial behaviour.

11:15am This week’s issue of HSJ magazine is now available to read on our tablet app.

In this week’s issue we examine the impact of the Francis report − published a year ago yesterday − on the culture of the NHS.


  • A quarter of trusts allow healthcare assistants to start work without undergoing any training for the job, HSJ research reveals
  • Several councils plan to pool their entire adult care budget with the NHS, in a boost to the integration of care between the two sectors
  • The Health and Social Care Information Centre’s new technology strategy is predicted to put it on a collision course with NHS England
  • Alex Kafetz and Francine Bennett discuss the potential and pitfalls of the NHS’s ‘big data revolution’
  • In Nottingham, a new approach to community services changing the way holisitic care is delivered to older people

To find the latest issue, simply navigate to “This week’s issue” on the app, or tap on the cover image on thehomepage.

HSJ’s tablet app is free to download for both iPad and Android devices. iPad users can download it directly here, Android users will need to download it from the Google Play store.

11:07am The chair of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust has resigned.

David Edwards joined the trust in August 2012 to lead its turnaround programme. He intends to stay in his position until a successor is found, and plans to leave in June.

10:41am The Daily Telegraph reports that care workers are ‘most commonly’ to blame as reports of abuse and neglect of the elderly and vulnerable have risen by 20 per cent, according to official figures.

There were 176,000 safeguarding alerts reported in 2012/13 by 132 councils, the Health and Social Care Information Centre has disclosed.

Elswhere in the paper, it is reported that NHS hospitals will have to submit data on the number of girls and women who have suffered female genital mutilation, the Government has announced. It will now be mandatory for hospitals to tell the Department of Health on a monthly basis of any cases they see.

10:40am The Guardian reports that the database has a series of “backdoors” that will allow police and government bodies to access people’s medical data.

David Davis, a former shadow home secretary told the paper that he had established that police will be able to access patients’ health records even if they have opted out of the database.

Also in The Guardian, Simon Jenkins has written a comment piece arguing that various institutions, including the NHS, “instinctively close ranks” when they are challenged for wrongdoing.  

10:30am HSJ has launched an Insight and Influence leadership channel.

With new forms of regulation and the requirement to deliver excellent care while making cost savings, there has arguably never been a more challenging time to be a leader in the NHS.

A new channel on seeks to present practical advice to help healthcare leaders chart these difficult waters.

More information here.

10:25am Looking at the morning’s newspapers:

The Daily Mail reports on MPs yesterday accusing NHS England of attempting to “bully” GPs into handing over patients’ medical files, as part of its programme.

Conservative MP David Davis said: “This is no doubt why a growing number of GPs are refusing to comply with the proposed scheme. It is frankly unacceptable for the NHS to attempt to bully those GPs to break their own duty of confidentiality to their patients.”

10:15am Writing exclusively for HSJ, former health minister Lord Darzi has thrown his weight behind the pioneering project but criticised ministers’ handling of how it has been presented to the public.

Ministers need to acknowledge the risks and ensure everything reasonable is done to protect individuals’ privacy, while explaining the good that sharing data could do for all patients.

10:00am Robert Francis has sharply criticised South Devonshire Health Care’s attempts to cover up accusations of nepotism against its chief executive.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Francis said it was important that no tolerance was afforded to oppressive managerial behaviour. Full story here.

9:30am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. To kick off the day’s proceedings, Graeme Creer has advice on how to untangle the maze of legislation around the integration of health and social care services to ensure smooth coordination.