Deputy prime minister unveils new ambition for NHS providers to achieve zero suicides among patients in contact with their services, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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5.02pm NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham, and the government’s patient safety adviser, Don Berwick, will be speaking this week on the new models of care in the five year forward view.

The event will take place on Friday 23 January from 10.00am to 3.00pm at the King’s Fund.

The speakers will discuss UK and international experience of implementing new care models, and will seek local areas’ advice on how best to design the new programme.

If you are interested in attending you can email the King’s Fund at

4.52pm Jeremy Hunt is to meet with unions ahead of the NHS strike action planned later this month, ITV News’ incoming health editor tweets

4.17pm And here’s a comment from Stephen Dalton on Nick Clegg’s announcement of an ambition for “zero” suicides:

“We welcome the political commitment and attention mental health is receiving. The Liberal Democrats are rightly focussing on the ground-breaking work NHS funded providers are doing to reduce harm. There can be no more important goal than reducing, and in time eliminating, avoidable deaths. The NHS Confederation 2015 Challenge to the new government in May is that they give the same priority to reducing harm in mental health as they have in physical healthcare.”

4.16pm Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, has commented on Ed Miliband’s mental health announcement (see 10.06am). He said: 

“We very much welcome this comprehensive report and political commitment to prioritise mental health in the next parliament. Not only does it recognise that everyone has a part to play in enabling a mentally healthy society, but it also practically signposts what works and what makes a difference. The NHS Confederation 2015 Challenge to the new government in May is that they give the same priority to reducing harm in mental health as they have in physical healthcare.”

2.34pm Barts Health Trust spent more than £7m on five consultancy firms in the 14 months to December as part of its financial turnaround project, HSJ can reveal. The turnaround programme began at the start of the 2013-14 financial year.

The cost of the consultancy firms was equivalent to 12 per cent of the £59m the trust managed to save last year. This was significantly less than the £77.5m saving the programme aimed to achieve.

The largest amount was spent on PwC, which earned up to £4.85m up to December.

One company, Titanium Global Solutions, is the trading arm of management consultant’s Donald Muir company, which earned £1.38m from Barts.

2.30pm The Spectator’ has some interesting information about Andy Burnham’s legal expenses.

They report that the shadow health secretary has had to declare donations in kind of £16,665 worth of legal services offered by Steel & Shamash, the Labour Party’s solicitors, and £8,250 from Gavin Millar QC, a barrister who specialises in defamation proceedings.

The magazine suggests that the advice, which was delivered on a pro bone basis, was in relation to Mr Burnham’s comments in October 2013 that he was consulting lawyers over a claim by Jeremy Hunt that he had tried to cover-up failing hospitals when Labour were in power.

2.23pm Henry Marsh, the neurosurgeon and author of “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery,” has made some provocative comments about the zero harm agenda, describing it as “crap” in an interview with Total Politics.

“Another grouse I have against the present government is this zero harm crap,” he said.

“There’s never going to be zero harm. Nothing is perfect, things are always going to go badly. If you’re inflating the public to have these consumer expectations that they should not have to wait, that they get perfect healthcare, perfect cancer care, without spelling out that actually it’s hugely expensive and they’re going to have to pay more money one way or the other… That’s going to have to happen, because all the indices are the NHS is seriously running out of money and they are going to have to come up with a solution.”

1.58pm A consortium of NHS trusts have lodged a formal challenge against NHS England following its decision to hand a 10 year, £80m contract for PET CT scanning to a private company.

University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust, Wirral based Clatterbridge Cancer Centre Foundation Trust and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust had bid together last year to run PET CT scans across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and Lancashire.

But the contract, which would cover around 5 million patients, was awarded to independent company Alliance Medical just before Christmas. HSJ understands this bid would cost £7m more than the NHS consortium bid.

The consortium confirmed it has lodged a formal challenge to the procurement decision. The challenge is believed to focus on the process followed by NHS England, although details have not been released.

1.48pm Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has said beginning to shift mental health services away from block contracts could be the most significant change the government has made in the sector.

Mr Clegg was speaking at an event at the King’s Fund this morning when he unveiled a new ambition for NHS providers to achieve zero suicides among patients in contact with their services.

He used the event to reiterate the importance of new waiting time standards due to come into force in April, as well as a commitment for increased funding from commissioners.

1.35pm Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, has also commented on today’s mental health announcements:

“People who have experienced mental health problems and their loved ones know all too well how important it is to be able to access the right treatment at the moment when it is most needed. It is encouraging that this is now being recognised by policy makers and being placed at the centre of future plans.

“Nick Clegg is right to be ambitious in his plan to reduce to zero the number of people who take their own lives. Anyone touched by suicide will know that the ripples of this personal tragedy can be felt for many decades. There are effective strategies which can help and which should be more widely available.

“The Labour Party are right to recognise that early intervention in mental health is the key to keeping people well and preventing more serious problems in the long term. Children in particular, where their mental health needs are recognised, can be effectively treated. This requires services to work together to identify those at risk and to reassure children that they can ask for help.

“Good mental health care should be central to health ambitions for the UK, but this can’t be achieved when mental health services are pared back and are the first casualties of short term cutbacks.

“By investing in mental health nursing, the NHS can be a world leader in mental health and suicide prevention. It would be a tragedy if services were allowed to slip backwards due to a lack of investment just when the politicians are expressing enlightened views and laudable ambitions.”

12.35pm NHS Providers has commented on Nick Clegg’s call for “fundamental culture shift” in the NHS to address suicides.

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy, said:

“The… call today for a fundamental review of how the NHS addresses suicides represents a further milestone in parity between mental and physical health. It complements the new task force on mental health Mr Clegg announced last year and also confronts a mental health problem that has steadily worsened in recent years.

“It is helpful to learn from initiatives by our international colleagues. Translating these into successful strategies locally requires significant investment to not only deliver high quality care for all types of mental health needs but also to avoid relying on already overstretched teams.

“Crisis care and prevention are critical within the mental health sector and we welcome the new strategy’s focus on intensifying knowledge of an individual patient so that every professional involved in their care gets the most accurate and holistic overview possible. This is an ambitious but much needed step in the right direction to prioritise all mental health services in the NHS. We trust that on this issue the level of investment required will be fully recognised in forthcoming spending announcements.”

12.31pm Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust has announced that chief executive Rachel Newson is to retire later this year. Here’s there statement:

Rachel’s is a personal decision, and is part of an orderly managed leadership transition at the Trust, where new Chair Jagtar Singh joined in September.

She joined the Trust in 2010 from Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. A mental health nurse by background, she had previously worked as mental health strategy lead for the health authority and primary care trusts in the area, and before that led service evaluation work for the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

She is due to leave the Trust in May, having last year declared her intention to retire to staff and local organisations.

Rachel said: “I feel very privileged to have had a career spanning over 30 years in the NHS, and have experienced so many roles from when I first started nurse training in 1984!

“I feel so lucky to have had the chance to lead this brilliant organisation, and help improve the way we serve our local communities. I will miss so many things about the job, not least the excellent people we have working for us and alongside us across Coventry and Warwickshire.

Jagtar said: “We will be very sorry to see Rachel leave us. She has been a determined and popular Chief Executive, and has done a great deal to lead important organisational and cultural change here during a time of considerable change nationally across the NHS.

“Rachel leaves us financially stable and with an excellent senior team. She has built a ‘can do’ culture that any aspiring CEO will be pleased to take forward.

“We have much to thank her for, and I know she will be warmly remembered across our organisation and beyond.

“The Trust began its formal recruitment process this month, with a new Chief Executive due to be in post by September 2015. The selection process is underway, and we aim to have completed this process by May.”

11.40am Also in The Times (paper only), an £11.5m programme to eradicate tuberculosis has been put forward by health bosses, who warn that England is likely to have twice as many cases a the United States within two years.

More newborn babies will be inoculated against the disease before leaving hospital and teams could be sent to homeless shelters and prisons to weed out cases.

The plans, devised by Public Health England and NHS England, include improved screening for and treatment of latent TB – in which a person is infected but does not have the active disease – for those who have arrived in the country within the last five years from areas where tuberculosis is endemic.

11.23am The Times (paper only) reports that almost 400,000 people have dropped their private health cover over the past five years, with experts claiming that the figure reflects a high level of patient satisfaction and confidence in the NHS.

The number of people choosing to go private has yet to pick up after dropping sharply as the recession began. Further falls in individual cover are predicted.

According to the most recent data from the analysts LaingBuisson, 4.32m people – slightly more than 12 per cent of the population – subscribed to private medical cover on January 1 2009. The figure last year was 3.96m, or about 10.6 per cent.

The number of individual paying for their own medical insurance, rather than having it paid for by their company, dipped below a million for the first time in 2011, and has remained there. It is project to decline by a further 2 per cent by next year.

11.13am Elsewhere, the Telegraph reports (newspaper only) that police are investigating injuries to three elderly people who were being cared for by a scandal-hit care home firm.

Two men and a woman, in their 80s and 90s, suffered unexplained injuries at the Grantley Court care home in Sutton, Surrey, before it was evacuated last month alongside its sister home Merok Park in Banstead, Surrey.

Both were run by businessman Soondressen Coopen, 51 and his wife Maleenee, 42.

10.56am The Daily Telegraph reports that a group of cancer charities has condemned the system for allocating life-saving drugs in the NHS as a failure, after the decision to pull the plug on funding for 25 separate treatments.

In a letter to the paper, the leaders of 15 cancer charities described the announcement last week on the changes to the cancer drugs fund as a “kneejerk” reaction to save money, which would leave thousands of sufferers facing uncertainty and do nothing to solve the problem of funding new treatments.

They disclose that talks are getting under way between the government, the pharmaceutical industry and charities to design a new system to help the NHS cope with demand.



10.33am HSJ’s editor, Alastair McLellan, tweeted over the weekend on the Mail’s Hinchingbrooke story. Here’s Alastair’s thoughts:

10.27am The Daily Mail, which splashed with a story on Saturday accusing left wing activists in Cambridgeshire of orchestrating a “stitch up” of Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust, continues the story in today’s paper.

Hinchingbrooke, which is operated by Circle and is the only privately run trust in the country, was rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission earlier this month and placed in special measures.

The Mail has claimed that left wing activists in the local health economy and on the CQC inspection team may have conspired to “stitch up” Circle.

10.06am Another mental health announcement: Ed Miliband has said a Labour government would improve mental health provision by placing greater emphasis on prevention, early intervention and better support - particularly for young people.

Unveiling the report of Stephen O’ Brien’s independent mental health taskforce, which he commissioned more than two years ago, Mr Miliband will accuse the government of failure and “false economies” in mental health. He will say this is costing billions of pounds a year as well as increasing pressure on the NHS and hospital services.

Labour have said that a “10 year plan” for the NHS, which the party will publish later this month, will contain key measures to integrate mental and physical health provision with social care to ensure problems get identified and addressed as early as possible.

9.57am The government is calling for a fundamental overhaul of how the NHS tackles suicides, BBC Online reports.

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, wants hospitals to aim to end all suicides by adopting an approach pioneered in Detroit, where the suicide rate among patients in the scheme fell by 75 per cent within four years.

In 2001 the Henry Ford Medical Group launched a programme that included improved staff training, increased contact with patients and better education for the families of people who were deemed to be at risk.

Within four years the suicide rate among the medical group’s patients had fallen by 75 per and by 2008 all suicides had stopped.

Merseycare NHS Trust in Liverpool is now embarking on a similar strategy.

“Suicide is preventable, it is not inevitable”, said Mr Clegg.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. We begin the day with an opinion piece from Robert Royce, an independent healthcare consultant, arguing that “internal major incidents” have become the new normal within the NHS.

The emergence of urgent care issues reflects not only the problems within the health service but patients’ inflated expectations of hospital services, writes Mr Royce.