Homeopathy on the NHS “mad” and the rest of today’s news

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4.22pm HSJ’s sister title MRW reports today that human blood, syringes and pig snouts have been found discarded by a “handful of medical clinics” on central London streets.

One of them, the London Neurology and Pain Clinic, has been prosecuted by Westminster City Council and fined £1,000.

The council said street wardens had discovered used syringes, bags of blood and used drip bags in unmarked bin bags in recent weeks.

Pig snouts were also found, which were thought to have been from carcasses used in the training of clinical staff.

3.47pm NHS England has put out new figures today on diagnostics waiting times. Click here to download the latest installment.

A Department of Health press notice says:

  • at the end of February 2013, there were 660,000 patients still waiting for one of 15 key diagnostic tests, and of these 5,817 were waiting 6 weeks or over from referral. The number waiting 6 weeks or longer shows a decrease of 2,500 from January 2013 and an increase of 250 from February 2012.
  • the 5,817 waiting over 6 weeks or longer represents 0.9% of all patients waiting for a test. This compares to 1.3% at the end of January 2013 and 0.9 % at the end of February 2012.
  • in total, 1,358,000 of the 15 key diagnostic tests were performed during February 2013, which is an increase of 24,000 (1.8%) on the same period last year. Year to date figures for 2012/13 show a 6.8% rise on 2011/12.

3.08pm New on HSJ: HSJ editor Alastair McLellan has written a leader about the David Flory interview. In it, he sets out the most important strategic challenges facing Mr Flory’s NHS Trust Development Authority, and makes the case for why the new body, or something like it, will be part of the NHS landscape for some years to come.

2.53pm Meanwhile, Blair Mcpherson has written this blog on senior NHS management today. “Just because performance is good does not mean management is,” he writes.

2.42pm There are a couple of new blogs on HSJ today.

Harkness fellow Alexandra Norrish has posted a piece about innovation in healthcare, and the lessons for the NHS she’s picked up from a recent visit to the USA.

“The greatest strength that I have so far seen in the US system is a genuine commitment to innovation”, she writes.

2.03pm New on HSJ - NHS funded homeopathy is “mad”, a former government scientific advisor has said.

Professor Sir John Beddington, who retired from his post at the beginning of the month, said he was annoyed that taxpayers’ money was being wasted on homoeopathy despite it having no medical or scientific proof of its effectiveness.

1.40pm There are already 15 comments on the David Flory lead story - proving that the loss of expertise wrought by the government’s reforms is still a hot issue for NHS managers.

The first four comments are directed at NHS England, whose statement on the issue highlighted the savings brought about by employing fewer managers.

12.40pm NHS Trust Development Authority chief executive David Flory has done an interview with HSJ’s acute sector reporter Ben Clover.

There are three stories now online based on his comments:

There’s also this leader by HSJ editor Alastair McLellan: Trust Development Authority to punch above its weight.

10.49am HSJ’s south west reporter Sarah Calkin reports this morning that the Co-operation and Competition Panel has ruled that plans to centralise some acute services in Bristol could be anti-competitive and must be investigated further.

The centralisation of provision and management of head and neck services at University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and of breast care and urology at North Bristol Trust took place on 25 March.

Read the whole story here.

10.46am The Department of Health has announced that hospices across England have been awarded a share of £60million government funding to improve care environments and settings.

A total of 176 hospices will benefit. The money will be used to invest in creating new spaces for patients, their families and carers, whilst also supporting the care hospices provide to people in their own homes.

Some of the initiatives awarded funding include:

  • transport services;
  • refurbishment of inpatient and visitor areas, including improvements to bedrooms and bathrooms and providing overnight facilities for families;
  • improvements to gardens and outside spaces so patients can spend time outdoors.

10.41am The Times is reporting the number of deaths from heart disease and diabetes would be dramatically cut if Britons lost on average 5kg or 11lbs.

A mental health charity founded by former HBOS chairman Lord Stevenson says he has the “full support” of trustees following the critical report of the Parliamentary Banking Commission, The Times reports.

Lord Stevenson was heavily criticised in the report which recommends he and former HBOS chief executives Sir James Crosby and Andy Hornby should be banned from serving as directors.

MQ is hoping to raise millions of pounds to transform the treatment of mental illness and following a meeting of trustees on Tuesday to discuss the report the charity said it supported Lord Stevenson.

MQ was founded with an initial investment of £20million and will provide £75,000 a year for research into brain diseases and mental illnesses.

According to a report in The Times nearly four out of every 10 adults will check medical symptoms online before seeking professional help.

Women are more likely to go online for embarrassing symptoms, 47 per cent, than men at 38 per cent.

10.39am The Financial Times carries a report this morning on outsourcing giant Serco’s progress with its contract to run NHS community services in Suffolk.

The paper reports that six months into the the £140m contract, 23 of the 25 “transition consultants” Serco brought in to make changes to the services are now moving on to new projects.

It adds that Serco aims to make 90 job cuts – a figure cut down from 137 following union pressure – and that the company expects the contract eventually to deliver a profit margin of around 6 per cent a year, even after an investment of £4m in new technology.

10.32am New on HSJ: Campaigners fighting to save the children’s heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary have called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to launch an investigation into the suspension of surgery at the hospital, describing the decision as “NHS politics at its worst”.

Some operations at the centre will restart today - nearly a fortnight after they were halted following the intervention of NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

10.06am The Daily Mail reports on calls for NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh to resign over the handling of the suspension and reinstating of children’s heart surgery at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Under the headline “Pressure is growing on NHS boss over heart unit U-turn”, the paper includes comments from Leeds North-West MP Greg Mulholland that there is a “serious question mark” hanging over Sir Bruce’s future.

The paper also reports on concerns from the Fragile Heart Support Group that the decision to resume low risk surgery at the unit may have been premature. Michelle Elliott from the group is reported as saying: “The NHS initially said they needed three weeks to investigate this thoroughly.

10.04am The nationals are still a bit short on NHS news today, instead preferring to devote several pages each to the death of Baroness Thatcher.

But tucked away on page 10, the Telegraph has a funny story about NHS management speak upsetting MPs.

The story says that Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, has written to Mike Burrows, head of the Greater Manchester local area team, to objected to a hospital reorganisation document called Healthier Together.

“It is the most incomprehensible, opaque and jargon ridden document I have read in the last 30 years”, Mr Stringer said, before condemning it as “tripe dissolved in twaddle”.

Mr Burrows’ response probably hasn’t helped matters, as it uses the term “stakeholders” and the phrase “constructive engagement process”.

8.22am Good morning, research by the BMJ indicates that 36 per cent of the GPs in executive positions on clinical commissioning groups have a financial interest in a for-profit provider outside their own general practice. 

Today on HSJ, David Reissner considers how the commercial interests of GPs can be reconciled with the role of CCGs so the integrity of their decision making is not compromised.