5.21pm Monitor are investigating whether patients are being disadvantaged by commissioners in Blackpool.
The regulator is acting on a complaint by Spire Healthcare about the commissioning of non emergency acute services by Blackpool CCG and Fylde and Wyre CCG.
A release issued this afternoon said Monitor will examine arrangements made by the two CCGs to purchase planned care and to offer patients choice. The investigation will consider whether these arrangements were consistent with the NHS competition rules which came into force in April 2013.
Monitor will now gather and review information from Spire Healthcare, Blackpool CCG, Fylde and Wyre CCG “and other relevant organisations” before deciding how to proceed.
Catherine Davies, executive director of co-operation and competition at Monitor, said: “Following a complaint by Spire Healthcare Ltd we are investigating the allegations that patients have been directed away from Spire Fylde Coast Hospital and towards Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Spire believes this is not what is best for patients.
“The investigation is at an early stage and Monitor has not yet reached a view as to whether there has been any breach of the rules. We are now seeking further information from the organisations involved. If we find that a breach has occurred we will investigate whether patient interests have been negatively affected by these decisions.”
4.32pm A late breaking story: Ealing Council’s attempt to overturn reconfiguration plans in north west London has failed after a judge refused to grant a judicial review.
More on this before the end of the day, hopefully.
4.09pm Here’s a new opinion piece on HSJ about the tension between the need for data security and the need for commissioners to do their jobs.
“On the ground in commissioning land, there is much disquiet and frustration about the new information governance arrangements resulting from the Health and Social Care Act and by implication the recommendations of the Caldicott review,” writes Andrew Fenton, an associate director at Central Southern Commissioning Support Unit.
3.49pm More World Mental Health day news: The Care Quality Commission has announced it is working with mental health charity Mind on a new initiative to help people report poor care.
The regulator will also be appointing a deputy chief inspector of hospitals to take responsibility for its regulation of mental health services.
The CQC has said it will train the Mind helpline team so they can talk to people about how to share concerns with the CQC.
The CQC is keen to gather more information from patients to indicate where, when and what they should inspect.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind said: “We’re here to make sure anyone with a mental health problem has somewhere to turn to for advice and support. The Mind helpline answers 40,000 calls a year. We are looking forward to working with CQC to raise their profile with people and help them share information about their care.”
Of the deputy chief inspector appointment, chief inspector of hospitals professor Sir Mike Richards said: “This is a very important appointment and signals our determination to strengthen our regulation of mental health services.”
3.18pm Minister Lord Howe has laid an amendment to the Care Bill which paves the way for a duty of candour.
The amendment, headed “duty of candour”, says: “Regulations… must make provision as to the provision of information in a case where an incident of a specified description affecting a person’s safety occurs in the course of the person being provided with a service.”
Read it for yourself here (it’s number 140).
Our reporter Sarah Calkin, who covers NHS performance issues, tweets: “We reported this was what the government was planning to do back in March and true to their word they’ve done it http://t.co/fPzF3GzQK8.”
And, she adds: “The detail of the duty of candour, such as when it will apply and who too, will be set out in secondary legislation.”
3.10pm New public health minister Jane Ellisson has made her first ministerial appearance, launching something called the “Responsibility Deal Construction Pledge” on a London Crossrail building site.
But the DH’s press office has made the initiative, aimed at encouraging a healthier lifestyle among builders, sound rather more exciting than you might have imagined.
“Britain’s beefy builders say bye bye to baring bottoms”, runs the headline. “The image of the bottom baring, overweight builder is being replaced by workers who are hands-on well-oiled machines who operate building sites up and down the country”, it continues.
2.51pm Our story from this morning on Norman Lamb’s renewed enthusiasm for mutuals in the NHS has attr
acted a lively comment thread debate.
The minister, who received glowing praise for his backing of integrated care, has not received such warm support this time around.
Although many readers are supportive of the principle of mutuals and social enterprises in general, few are convinced that Mid Staffs could never have occurred in one.
“Guff”, “phooey”, “spam”, “cobblers”, and “on the gin” feature in just some of the 20 comments we’ve already had. Join the debate here.
12.18pm NHS England’s Improving Quality agency has published the fourth annual national peer review report into cancer services.
The study covers 2012-13, based on cancer teams’ self assessments and external reviews by other professionals.
It finds: 52 per cent of cancer multidisciplinary teams scored more than 90 per cent against the peer review measures, compared with 28 per cent in 2011-12 and 34 per cent in 2010-11.
However, there were also a small number of low performing teams: 25 teams – accounting for 2 per cent of the total – had compliance of 50 per cent or less, compared to 19 teams (2%) in 2011/12.
Ruth Bridgeman, NHS Improving Quality programme director, said: “There has been fantastic progress over the last decade but it is important for us not to rest on our laurels. There are many ways in which the NHS can continue to improve care for people with cancer, from ensuring services are as safe as possible to identifying examples of good practice and learning from these, so everyone has access to the same quality of treatment.”
As a matter of routine, the Care Quality Commission has been notified of all teams whose compliance falls below 50 per cent. The chief executives of the trusts concerned have also been contacted, requesting remedial action.
The majority of poor performance relates mainly to brain and central nervous system services which are new to the peer review programme, NHS England’s release says.
Action plans have already been put in place to improve these services and most have already shown improvement.
12.02pm In the spirit of integration between the NHS and councils, we have a story about public health from Kaye Wiggins, reporter with our sister title Local Government Chronicle.
Councils fear they will be denied responsibility for infant public health. Local authorities are due to take responsibility for public health for under-fives in shadow form in 2015, gaining it in shadow form the previous year. But Whitehall is concerned that they may drop the ball on a government pledge to increase health visitor numbers.
11.43am To round off our mental health coverage, here’s an exclusive story by Shaun Lintern about a shortage of mental health beds, resulting in long journeys for patients requiring urgent admission. Minister Norman Lamb admits there is a shortage.
11.40am We also have this special report, based on a survey, that finds the NHS is “not even close” to delivering parity of esteem for mental and physical health. Respondents raised inadequate funding, lack of integration and poor commissioning as key problems.
11.33am So how successful is the government’s policy to raise the profile of mental health services?
HSJ editor Alastair McLellan’s verdict is that the “esteem gap” remains. “The goal of treating existing and potential mental health service users on an equal footing seems as far away as ever,” he writes. “For every advance mental health has made in ‘esteem’, the gap has been maintained by increasing importance attached to tackling high profile physical illnesses.”
11.27am More on World Mental Health day: Here’s an opinion piece from Geraldine Strathdee, national clinical director for mental health at NHS England, explaining how the national commissioning body aims to improve access to mental healthcare services and training.
“We want to play our part in creating a society where mental wellbeing and building strong, psychologically resilient people and communities is seen as essential, exciting and transformational,” she writes. “We want good psychological health to be as achievable as good physical health.”
11.10am In other Labour news, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has tweeted: “The fact ministers still can’t answer basic Qs about health tourism is exposing danger of letting Lynton Crosby write legislative programme.”
He’s refering to the Prime Minister’s adviser, who is known to be hawkish on immigration.
11.09am It’s World Mental Health Day. Labour’s new shadow public health minister Luciana Berger has this to say: “Mental health is an issue that continues to be swept under the carpet. We need to talk about it much more openly if we are to challenge the archaic attitudes that are still far too commonplace.
“One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime, but we’ve seen in the last fortnight that we have a long way to go in changing how mental illness is portrayed - from products sold in our supermarkets to coverage in our national press.
“Labour’s vision for integrated, whole-person care will deliver an NHS with mental health at its heart, not relegated to the fringes.”
In the interests of balance, we should point out that the current government has a policy of “parity of esteem” for mental and physical health.
11.05am Doctors of the World don’t agree with ministers that health tourism is a serious problem in the NHS.
Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of Doctors of the World UK said: “It’s right that those who can pay should pay if they are not entitled to free healthcare.
“But there is no credible evidence of rampant ‘health tourism’ to the UK. Migrants don’t come here to see a dentist. They come to work and provide for their families, or to seek protection from persecution.
“We know from our London walk-in clinic that more and more migrants living here are being refused treatment even though entitlement rules haven’t changed.”
11.01am The government is talking about “health tourism” again. The occasion this time is home secretary Theresa May’s Immigration Bill, which aims to restrict the rights of foreigners to access public services in the UK, including the NHS.
Here, you can listen to Ms May on the BBC’s Today programme exploring whether or not the cost of implementing her proposals will cost the NHS more than it benefits. Her interview is about 2 hours and 10 minutes in.
Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee, tweeted earlier this morning that “plans to force practices to become immigration border guards will be a bureaucratic nightmare and will cost more than they save”.
The charity wants to see hard-of-hearing individuals given the support they need, rather than allowing mental health problems to slip under the radar and go untreated.
10.41am More news on HSJ this morning: A Nuffield Trust study has found there has been a rise in “avoidable” NHS hospital admissions of 48 per cent in 12 years.
The ageing population and population growth accounted for less than half of the overall increase in rates of potentially avoidable admissions, the report said. There were increases in admissions for conditions including urinary tract infections, kidney infections and pneumonia, which suggested “sub optimal care” leading to a deterioration in the patient’s health.
10.24am Monitor has said this morning that even if the NHS achieves the maximum possible savings between now and 2021, it will still fail to close the £30bn funding gap identified by NHS England.
A Monitor analysis published today says the most the NHS can manage in that time is £18bn, and says “radical change” is needed to make the service financially sustainable in the long term.
Chief executive David Bennet warns against extending the NHS pay freeze as that is not sustainable.
10.19am The Department of Health is rekindling its interest in mutuals and social enterprises, bringing King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham in to lead a review of staff and workforce engagement.
The review will have a particular focus on social enterprise and mutuals as a way of giving NHS workers more of a stake in their organisation.
Our reporter David Williams has an interview with care and support minister Norman Lamb, in which he claims that the failures of leadership and management seen at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust could never have happened in a mutual.
8.40am: Good morning, a new approach to eyecare is saving Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group around £400,000 a year. Along with establishing additional pathways, local optometrists were also approached to discuss how they could make better use of their skills, and whether the CCG could fill any gaps with additional training and support.
Earlier this year, the NHS Ombudsman claimed NHS leaders are failing to listen to and learn from patient complaints. On HSJ’s Leadership channel today, Bernie Cuthel, chief executive of Liverpool Community Health Trust also writes on why taking patient feedback seriously is essential in a post-Mid Staffordshire world.