NHS England medical director says the quality agenda ‘should define the financial strategy’ for NHS chief executives, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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4.35pm A group of nursing leaders, including Baroness Audrey Emerton, have written to The Times expressing their concerns over NHS England’s suspension of work to develop guidelines for safe nurse staffing levels by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE.

The letter, also signed by Elizabeth Robb from the Florence Nightingale Foundation and Dame Jessica Corner of the Council of Deans of Health, calls on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reinstate NICE to complete this work.

It warns the decision to stop the work is a “damaging step back not only for nursing but for all who use the NHS and care about its future.”

The letter adds: “The need for independent evidence based guidance on safe staffing has never been greater.”

Other signatories include Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing; Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison and Graham Scott, editor of the Nursing Standard.

The issue meant more than 5,000 patients at Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust were not notified of their appointments.

The trust said a clinical review found no patients suffered harm as a result.

The trust also faces further regulatory action from Monitor, following an increase in patients getting infections in its hospitals.

Monitor said today it was “stepping up” its regulatory action against the trust. It comes after the FT “failed to act quickly enough to reduce the number of infections that patients acquire in its hospitals”.

1.05pm The NHS England medical director has said the quality agenda ‘should define the financial strategy’ for NHS chief executives, amid growing pressure to make cost savings.

Sir Bruce Keogh also explained his decision to remove two of the three elective waiting time targets, and to change publication of accident and emergency performance data from monthly to weekly.

He spoke to HSJ last week, as national leaders made announcements focusing the NHS’s priorities on making large efficiency savings this year. These include limits on agency spending for clinical staff, and the Care Quality Commission measuring efficiency as well as quality.

1.00pm Providers of health visiting services fear they could face funding cuts after the government said it would reduce councils’ public health budgets by £200m.

Senior figures in the sector have told HSJ they are worried that the increase in the number of heath visitors over the last four years will be reversed when councils take over commissioning the services in October.

The services are worth an estimated £650m a year and are currently controlled by clinical commissioning groups.

11.22am The Times reports that the NHS negligence has hit £1bn, with more than 1,300 babies killed or maimed last year.

Care Quality Commission patient safety advisor James Titcombe, whose baby son died after care failings at University Hospitals of Morecombe Bay Foundation Trust, said: “That we’re spending £1bn is absolutely shocking. There should be no room for failing to learn, yet the system that we have at the moment is woefully inadequate.”

11.20am NHS Providers has responded to the King’s Fund report published yesterday, which calls for a pooling of health and social care budgets.

Miriam Deakin, head of policy, said: “The King’s Fund’s new report, which includes an evaluation of existing joint commissioning arrangements, is a valuable addition to the debate about how the new models of care described in the Five Year Forward View can best be delivered at local levels.

“Our members, NHS providers across the acute, ambulance, community and mental health sectors, are already working with commissioners and partners to improve the co-ordination of care for patients and service users within their local health and care economies, including closer working with colleagues in primary and social care.

“Exploring the options for commissioning will be fundamental to ensuring that all types of providers have the right frameworks in place to develop more co-ordinated models of care. The report’s focus on local flexibilities, existing case studies and the options for integrating commissioning is therefore particularly welcome, as we are clear that localities must retain flexibility to develop arrangements best suited to their populations.

“Some localities may wish to explore an expansion of pooled budgets between health and social care as one of the ways by which they can achieve this. However, we must also be realistic about how far the available funding for health and social care can stretch whether or not those monies are pooled.

“Encouraging increased joint working at local health and care economy levels will be essential, but it is fundamental that commissioning decisions remain clinically led with clear lines of accountability for the investment of considerable sums of public money to deliver the best possible outcomes.”

11.05am NHS England has announced it will be investing an estimated further £190m in new cures for Hepatitis C, on top of the approximately £40m extra which began last year.

The widening of NHS England’s ‘early access’ scheme to patients with cirrhosis will see an expected additional 3,500 patients accessing treatment in this year, NHS England said.

Channel 4 News recently reported that NHS England had been accused of interfering with a process to decide whether a Hepatitis C drug should be made available to patients on the NHS.

Richard Jeavons, NHS England’s director of specialised services, said: ”At a time when funding is inevitably constrained across the NHS this is a huge new investment; in fact it’ll be the NHS’ single largest new treatment expansion this year. That’s why we’re also running a competitive tendering process in parallel, to seek to bring down the price of these very expensive new drugs.”

Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “Patients with cirrhosis will be delighted to have access to these new drugs. They are so tolerable that almost all of those with cirrhosis will want to take them and so potent that almost all of those that do will be cured of their hepatitis C thereby massively reducing their risk of liver failure or liver cancer.

“This is a big step forward towards reversing the rising death-toll from this disease. People living with hepatitis C have been waiting for this revolution in therapy with huge expectation and now it has arrived we hope NHS England will move quickly to make it available to a rapidly increasing number of patients.”

10.55am Here’s an update to a story we reported yesterday:

The Long Leys Court inpatient unit, run by Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, has been temporarily closed by the trust and South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group amid “concerns surrounding the quality of care being provided.”

A statement from Lincolnshire Police yesterday said: “Lincolnshire Police are investigating the exact circumstances into the death of a 69-year-old male who has died following his admission into Lincoln County Hospital.  A Home Office post mortem will be carried out in the next few days.

10.05am The Telegraph reports more women now have abortions by taking a pill than by undergoing a surgical procedure.

Medical abortions accounted for just over half (51 per cent) of all terminations in England and Wales last year, according to the Department of Health.

9.55am In the Financial Times Andrew Bounds writes that the future of the health service is being shaped in Greater Manchester as it becomes the first big city to provide seven day services for all.

GP and community services, along with diagnostic tests, will be accessible to the entire 2.8m population by the end of the year.

Health executives are due to announce the move today as the city prepares to take control of its entire £6bn health and social care budget next April. But some critics warn that change is happening too fast and without the required resources.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. We start the day with some news from Greater Manchester - seven day access to primary care in areas of the conurbation has brought a three per cent reduction in accident and emergency activity, according to an evaluation of the project.

Backed by the research, regional health chiefs will today confirm the scheme will be rolled out to the rest of the city, as expected, by the end of this year.

Central Manchester, Radcliffe, Heywood and Middleton introduced seven day access to GPs and other primary care services in 2013, with Bury joining the project last year.

The evaluation report, drawn up by the National Institute for Health Research, is due to be published later today.

According to those driving the project, the key findings include an overall three per cent reduction in A&E activity.

More to follow later today