Qualified nurses being turned away from jobs because of poor numeracy skills, it has been claimed, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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5.03pm NHS Employers has today shared printable posters throughout the NHS to draw attention to the contribution of women in healthcare, following the NHS Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week.

Paul Deemer, head of equality, diversity and human rights at the NHS Employers said:

“When people talk about the NHS, it is probably a nurse that springs to the forefront of most peoples minds, and of course about 90 per cent of our nurses are women. But the contribution of women in the NHS is evident throughout the NHS and in every setting. The NHS probably has more women in senior roles than almost any other sector, whether politics, law, higher education or business. This extends right to the top, where 40 per cent of NHS chief executives are women – almost double that seen in FTSE100 companies.

“Even in what was once a male-dominated world of medicine, women are - for the first time in our country’s history - beginning to outnumber men in the emerging generation of hospital and family doctors.

“So the NHS really is busting its old stereotypes, one by one, and should be recognised as a place where women can make their mark… Our posters will available throughout the NHS and I’m sure the information about ‘Gender in the NHS’ will allay some myths, help highlight where change is still needed, and above all show the massive contribution women make to the NHS.”

4.51pm The Green party has released a film on the “encroaching privatisation of the NHS”.

4.41pm The North West Coast Academic Health Science Network is supporting a new project to help children with long-term illnesses access expert advice and support from consultants at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital through remote video monitoring.

The project is being implemented at three sites covered by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and will allow paediatric consultants to use video technology to monitor and assess children living with chronic neurological conditions at locations as far afield as Bangor and the Isle of Man.

Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Dr Ram Kumar, who is leading the programme said said: “At present, families and sick children are having to travel significant distances to attend consultations with Alder Hey’s specialist paediatric neurologists or the consultants are required to travel to outreach clinics located in locations as far afield as the Isle of Man to review and assess children with chronic neurological conditions. This can mean either the family or the consultant is facing a round trip of more than ten hours, often to have a twenty minute face-to-face consultation. 

“This scheme will allow families and their local paediatricians to easily access the expert support and advice of their specialist neurological specialist, without having to make long and tiring journeys. The new technology will also allow our specialist consultants to focus their resources and expertise on their case loads, where it is most needed, and spend less time on the road travelling to what are often very short consultations which can easily be done remotely. The new scheme has the potential to be of use to varied practice areas.”

4.22pm The Care Quality Commission has recorded a surge in the number of whisteblowers complaining about standards in general practice, the regulator’s most senior inspector has said.

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC said his team had been contacted by increasing numbers of nurses, practice managers and even GPs.

Calls from whisteblowers doubled from 12 in November last year to 24 in December, according to CQC figures.

4.11pm All trusts with inpatient beds will have to publish staffing fill rates (actual versus planned) in hours on the NHS Choices website in June. NHS England sent a letter to chief executives and nursing directors of trust’s with inpatient areas on Friday outlining what needs to be done to meet this requirement.

3.30pm The UK’s largest provider of private dental care services, Oasis Healthcare, had acquired Apex Dental Care for an undisclosed sum. The deal closely follows the acquisition of Smiles Dental in April 2014.

The additions of Apex and Smiles to the Oasis portfolio will increase the company’s turnover by 40% from £160 million to over £225 million, and will grow its practice network by over 50% from 204 to over 310 in six weeks.

2.43pm Iain Osborne has been appointed as a non-executive director of Monitor, the regulator has announced

Mr Osborne, is currently group director for regulatory policy at the Civil Aviation Authority, and led collaboration between UK economic regulators before the formation of the current UK Regulators Network.

Starting his career at the Department for Trade and Industry, he has also previously been chief executive of Northern Ireland’s utility regulator, where he created new regimes for water and energy regulation, and been seconded to the European Commission’s competition directorate.

Baroness Hanham, interim Chairman of Monitor, said today: “I warmly welcome Iain to Monitor. He has been at the forefront of developments in regulation in a number of different fields and this experience will be invaluable to the board, particularly on the decisions which have to be taken as we move Monitor forward to its wider role. 

“His experience complements that of other non-executive directors, who have clinical and health care management experience, to ensure that there are a number of different voices around the board table.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1.52pm The NHS risks losing thousands of nurses to the US if it fails to value and support existing nursing staff, the chief executive of Health Education England has warned.

Speaking at the body’s first annual conference, Professor Ian Cumming said the NHS would be “stuffed” if UK-trained nurses left to plug a massive shortfall in staff across the Atlantic, according to HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times.

1.21pm The chair of troubled Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, the hospital accused of manipulating cancer patients’ data last year, is stepping down.

The trust announced Sally Irvine, its chair since 2010, was leaving later this year and it would begin the recruitment process for a successor in the “next few weeks”.

Dr Irvine said this was “the right time” to go and that she would be concentrating on other commitments with a string of organisations she is already involved in.

12.58pm The Department of Health and the Cabinet Office will today meet with health and local government representatives to draw up a tougher set of tests for the better care fund.

The stricter assurance programme expected to come out of what will be a series of meetings could allow for direct Whitehall intervention in areas where plans are deemed not to have been properly developed.

Proposals due for discussion, include new demands for detailed risk assessments of each better care fund plan and a right to refuse those without convincing evidence bases which are underpinned by financial and performance data.

12.53pm HSJ is offering its readers the chance to win £200 of Amazon vouchers, in partnership with HCL Workforce Solutions.

To be entered into the draw, all you need to do it to complete the short survey here.

12.32pm An exclusive from HSJ’s Shaun Lintern: qualified nurses are being turned away from jobs in the NHS because of poor numeracy skills, it has been claimed.

Hospital providers have claimed some nurses are not able to pass numeracy and literacy tests as part of the recruitment process which includes testing their ability to correctly calculate drug doses.

Health Education England has now appealed for evidence of the “anecdotal” problem amid greater focus on the education and training of qualified nurses following the Francis Report.

12.04am The Daily Mail has a news article and two comment pieces dedicated to privately-run Hinchinbrooke Health Care Trust winning the quality of care award at the CHKS Top Hospitals Awards.

The Mail leader says of the Circle-run trust: “Under Labour, the innovation that has achieved these remarkable improvements would be blocked on ideological grounds, to the loud cheers of health unions who insist everything should be run by a monolithic, inefficient state machine”.

Columnist Dominic Lawson says it is “shameful” that “not a single Conservative spokesman pointed out that Hinchingbrooke’s winning of the top hospital award refuted the… accusation that competition was putting the NHS ‘backwards’”.

11.40am Mental health has become an increasingly significant reason for housing homeless people, an analysis of figures recorded by councils show.

According to a report placed in a Parliamentary library this month, the number of homeless people with mental health problem who qualified for council housing has risen by 38.7 per cent since 2010.

This compares with just 27 per cent for the overall increase in the number of people qualifying for a social homes as a result of homelessness applications to local authorities over the same period.

11.32am Longitude Prize 2014, a challenge with a prize fund of £10 million, has been launched today to help solve “one of the greatest issues of our time”. The British public will cast the deciding vote to choose which of six issues the prize will tackle. The shortlist includes three health-related issues:

  • “Antibiotics – How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics? The development of antibiotics has added an average of 20 years to our life, yet the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective. This poses a significant future risk as common infections become untreatable. The challenge is to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.
  • “Paralysis - How can we restore movement to those with paralysis? In the UK, a person is paralysed every eight hours. Paralysis can emerge from a number of different injuries, conditions and disorders and the effects can be devastating. Every day can be demanding when mobility, bowel control, sexual function and respiration are lost or impaired. The challenge is to invent a solution that gives paralysed people close to the same freedom of movement that most of us enjoy.
  • “Dementia - How can we help people with dementia to live independently for longer? It is estimated that 135 million people worldwide will have dementia by 2050, which will mean a greater personal and financial cost to society. With no existing cure, there is a need to find ways to support a person’s dignity, physical and emotional wellbeing. The challenge is to develop intelligent, affordable integrated technologies that revolutionise care for people with dementia, enabling them to live independent lives.”

The prize has been developed and run by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and commemorates the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act where in 1714 the British government threw down the gauntlet to solve one of the great scientific challenges of that century: how to pinpoint a ship’s location at sea by knowing its longitude. The challenge was solved by watchmaker and carpenter John Harrison who designed the chronometer.

11.01am Crohn’s disease patients could be given special meals in hospital after it emerged last year that almost 80 per cent of sufferers relied on family and friends to bring them food, reports The Times (newspaper only).

According to a poll by the charity forCrohns, 46 per cent of patients believed that their recovery was hindered because of poor hospital food.

11.00am The NHS has been told to embrace mobile technology and the use of patient data, or it will cease to exist says a Google executive.

The Times reports that Theo Bertram has warned that private companies are racing ahead in developing devices to monitor health.

10.59am Also in The Times, students, particularly girls, are being encouraged to become engineers rather than doctors because of a “gross excess” of applicants for medical degrees.

Figures show that medical schools received more than 11 applications for every place last year, compared with fewer than nine in 2008.

10.57am The Times reports that children as young as nine will be allowed to take drugs to block puberty, which doctors say provides a crucial delay to allow them to decide whether to undergo gender reassignment later.

The treatment, which suspends the hormonal changes that cause puberty, will be offered by Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust to children with gender identity disorder.

10.45am The mental health documentary series, Bedlam, won a BAFTA television award last night.

The four-part series made by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) with Channel 4 and Garden Production was declared the winner of the ‘best factual series’ category.

SLaM’s Chief Executive Matthew Patrick said: “I am absolutely delighted and incredibly proud to announce that Bedlam has won a BAFTA television award.

“Bedlam was a pioneering series which was sensitively made and reflects the realities of living with mental illness.

“We took part to help raise awareness of mental illness and from the public reaction so far we have gone some way to achieving that.

“I am honoured we were part of it and want to thank our staff and patients for their time, dedication and commitment to the series.

“Now it appears that mental health is very much on the map and hopefully here to stay.”

10.04am The chair of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has said the NHS can be “a bit like a conveyor belt” in the way it sets out drugs and treatments to patients.

David Haslam, a former GP, told The Times newspaper: “The health service as a whole has been a bit like a conveyor belt - you get on and have the treatment laid out for you.”

He said treatment should be a “two way thing”.

Professor Haslam said that while some doctors find this “uncomfortable”, more progressive doctors see it as a “good step”.

He added: “The health service has tended to be fairly paternalistic, ‘Bring us your problems, we’ll look after you’. There’s something noble about that, but now we need to work together a bit more.”

9.57am Bradford Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust has appointed a new chairman.

Professor Lord Patel of Bradford will take over from David Richardson, who steps down at the end of June after serving three consecutive terms in office, which is the maximum allowed under the foundation trust’s constitution.

Lord Patel is a social worker by background and moved into academia establishing the Centre for Ethnicity and Health at the University of Central Lancashire and specialising in research connected to the reduction of health inequalities.

Commenting on his appointment, he said: “I am very excited and honoured to be taking up the position of chair at the Trust.

“Bradford is my home and I am committed to ensuring that Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust continues to improve and provides an excellent service for all the people of Bradford.”

9.45am The Guardian has a front page story on US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer raising its offer to buy British rival AstraZeneca to £69m. If the deal goes through, it would be largest foreign takeover of a British company to date.

This morning AstraZeneca rejected the bid, saying the offer “undervalues the company and its attractive prospects”.

9.35am In case you didn’t catch it over the weekend, The Observer reported yesterday that a Conservative minister has asked Labour MP Frank Field to meet the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to discuss his ideas for raising national insurance contributions to pay for the NHS.

Mr Field told The Observer that he was approached by the minister, who said the financial crisis in the NHS needed to be addressed and that he was right to be floating ideas on how the service could be maintained and put on a sound financial footing for future generations.

He told the minister he would be willing to meet the health secretary, but not before he had held talks with shadow chancellor Ed Balls about his proposals, which he did last Tuesday.

7.00am Good morning. The NHS spends £20.6bn annually on purchasing goods and services, accounting for 30 per cent of the operating costs at each hospital. Andrew Daly explains the new procurement obligations for transparency.