Outsourcing giant makes provisions for future losses on three contracts, plus the rest of today’s comment and news

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4.16pm Solicitors representing the families of cancer patients who died after potentially avoidable surgical complications have criticised the hospital for refusing to publish a report into the cases.

A total of five patients all died within a year following upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery at Maidstone Hospital in Kent, run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust.

3.32pm In the Daily Mail, Sarah Vine writes that “the treatment of the elderly in Britain is one of the greatest scandals of our time”.

“But do they protest? Do they rant and rave? Do they sue for compensation like so many of our younger citizens who hang like dead weights around the neck of the NHS?”

“Of course they don’t. They put up and shut up,” Ms Vine writes, referencing the recent findings of the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, who said that elderly people were not complaining about poor care because they did not like to “make a fuss”.

2.29pm Boris Johnson has claimed London and the southeast can become life sciences capitals of the world after launching a body aimed at helping the region compete with US biotech hubs, the Financial Times reports.

MedCity will bring together universities, businesses and scientists from London, Oxford and Cambridge to promote the so-called “golden triangle” to investors.

Mr Johnson said the region had the ingredients needed for success, but “we haven’t yet been as successful as some other cities in turning scientific breakthroughs into cash and creating the kind of start-ups we want”.

2.21pm Elsewhere in The Guardian it is reported that a crucial element of the exam process for GP trainees is racially discriminatory, a court has heard.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has brought a high-court action against both the Royal College of General Practitioners, which conducts the clinical skills assessment, and the General Medical Council, which is responsible for ensuring a fair process.

2.19pm The Guardian reports that a Crohn’s disease sufferer is challenging what she claims is an unlawful decision to refuse her funding for her eggs to be frozen before she undergoes chemotherapy.

A judge at the high court in London heard yesterday that a judicial review action, brought by artist Elizabeth Rose, 25, from Margate, Kent, was “exceptionally urgent”, according to the Press Association.

1.48pm Dr Suzy Lishman has been elected president of the Royal College of Pathologists, becoming the college’s second female and youngest president in its 52-year history.

Dr Lishman said: “It is an honour to have been elected President of the Royal College of Pathologists, particularly as this is the first time that all fellows have had the opportunity to vote. As president elect I look forward to working with the current president over the next few months before taking on this challenging role in November. I am grateful to my colleagues and the trust board at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for their encouragement and support.”

She will continue in her current role of vice-president until November but will have the additional title of president elect.

Dr Lishman is a consultant histopathologist at Peterborough City Hospital, where she is head of department and lead for gastrointestinal pathology.

1.43pm Monitor has launched an investigation into Barnsley Hospital Foundation Trust in relation to concerns about the trust’s finances and A&E waiting times.

The trust, which provides a range of services to patients in Barnsley, has breached the national A&E quarterly target five times in an 18 month period. The trust’s financial performance has also deteriorated with the consequence that it reported a deficit of £2.3m in February 2014. 

Monitor will examine if this is indicative of wider problems with how the trust is run and will look at whether it is in breach of its licence.

1.33pm Also in The Times, the online parenting website Mumsnet has written to the Treasury asking it to end its contract with Bounty, the private company distributing child benefit forms and free samples of baby products across a number of maternity wards.

Chief executive Justine Roberts said: “Members do not see any justification in HMRC maintaining a contract that wastes public money and subsidizes a company whose presence on maternity wards have been shown to be detrimental to patients’ privacy and wellbeing.”

Bounty’s general manager Clare Goodrham said it was victim to a “malicious campaign by a direct commercial competitor”.

1.32pm The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has suggested that needle exchanges should be put in place across gyms to combat a rise in HIV infections among people using steroids, fillers and tanning agents, The Times reports.  

Mike Kelly, director of the NICE Centre for Public Health, said: “Needle and syringe programmes have been a huge success story in the UK – they are credited with helping stem the Aids epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. However, we are now seeing a completely different group of people injecting drugs.”

1.10pm A large-scale survey of NHS patients has pinpointed several key areas for improvement in hospitals across England.

The responses from 62,000 patients who spent at least one night in hospital in England identified a lack of “information provision” as one of the main areas of concern, the poll by the Care Quality Commission found.

12.46pm Embattled outsourcer Serco has estimated it will rack up losses of nearly £18m on three flagship NHS contracts in the coming years, the company has told investors.

The company has made provisions in its 2013 accounts for substantial future losses on contracts in Suffolk, Cornwall and Braintree – two of which it is terminating early.

A company notice to investors published by the London Stock Exchange said: “Provisions for estimated losses in future years on the Suffolk and Cornwall contracts, together with provisions against the underlying assets of the Braintree contract, led to a non-cash exceptional charge of £17.6m in the year.”

11.38am Performance against the four hour accident and emergency target did not improve in 2013-14, despite a huge political focus on the issue, as emergency admissions reached record levels,HSJ analysis has found.

Emergency admissions at major A&Es were at their highest in nearly a decade last year, according to data from NHS England.

Just under 3.8m patients were admitted as an emergency in 2013-14, an increase of 38 per cent since 2004-05 when the data was first collected nationally and a nearly 2 per cent rise on 2012-13.

11.24am The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has achieved a five-fold increase in the number of complaints it investigates about the NHS and government departments.

The ombudsman, which is the final step for people who want to complain about being treated unfairly or receiving poor service from the NHS in England, or a UK government department or agency, investigated 2,199 cases in 2013/14 compared to 384 the previous financial year.

Almost 80 per cent of these investigations were about the NHS and the rest were about UK government departments and their agencies.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “Last year, following feedback from people who use our service, we made important changes to how we work, which has allowed us to help more people with their complaints and become a more efficient organisation. This is just the beginning and by improving our processes further we are aiming to investigate 4,000 cases by the end of 2014-15.”

11.07am A renowned artist has painted a mural at St Mary’s Hospital in London to add to two others she painted more than 20 years ago.

Bridget Ridley was commissioned by Imperial College Healthcare Charity Art Collection to paint directly onto the walls of the 10th floor of the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother building.

You can view photos of Ms Ridley’s pink, green and orange stripes here.

10.44am Leafing through today’s papers, The Daily Telegraph reports that NHS officials have admitted that sensitive medical data relating to millions of patients has been stolen despite claims that the national records database has never been compromised.

Freedom of information disclosures uncovered breaches including the theft of an unencrypted laptop with details of more than eight million patients records.

10.20am With an ageing population and death rates set to rise by 17 per cent from 2012 to 2030, the pressure on the healthcare system to provide end of life care will only increase. Hospitals will struggle to meet this additional demand and, in any case, research shows that most people do not want to die in a hospital setting.

On Friday 11 April at 12pm, HSJ – in association with Marie Curie Cancer Care – will be running a Twitter chat to discuss how we can commission care to keep terminally ill people out of hospital if there is no medical reason to be there.

Michael Cooke, Marie Curie’s head of analytics, and Phil McCarvill, Marie Curie’s head of policy for England, will be online taking questions and offering thoughts.

Follow the @HSJnews and @MarieCurieEOLC Twitter accounts from Friday 11 April at 12pm to take part. We will be using #HSJEOLC – you can use this now to pose questions for the debate.

10.07am With the best ideas for service improvements often coming from frontline staff, Keith Chantler offers some tips to ensure these innovators can make their ideas a reality.

9.59am Legislative changes to increase the CQC’s enforcement powers, which are due to come into force this October, will have a huge impact not just on NHS providers, but also on the directors running them.

In the first of a series of HSJ articles reviewing the changes, Neil Grant and Joanna Dirmikis look at the new criminal offence for breaching fundamental standards, the duty of candour, the offence of criminal neglect in respect of those with mental capacity, and the “fit and proper person test” for directors.

9.45am HSJ’s chief reporter Dave West has been named in the top ten best social media reporters in the UK.

In a poll of Press Gazette readers, with input from an expert panel of judges, Dave came ninth.

Dave tweets @Davewwest.

6.00am Good morning. Alastair Mordaunt, a partner at Clifford Chance LLP and previously director of mergers at the OFT, and Michael Rueter, an associate at Clifford Chance LLP take a look at how the new Competition and Markets Authority might treat future mergers.