The decommissioning of musculoskeletal services from Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust could “negatively impact” its other work, according to an independent assessment carried out following a controversial contract tender, plus the rest of today’s news and comment


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3.55pm Ambulance service members of the trade union GMB are considering a 48 hour continuous strike in the New Year as part of an escalation of strike action with other health unions over the pay dispute in the NHS.

The two day stoppage by GMB members in the ambulance service, should it go ahead, will commence at 12pm on January 29 and will continue until 12pm on January 31.

The joint health unions have announced further strike action for January 29. This will be a 12 hour stoppage from 9am -9pm in NHS hospitals. This will be followed in February with a 24 hour stoppage on February 24.

Rehana Azam, GMB NHS national officer, said “The New Year will bring a regrettable escalation of the strike action in the NHS in this pay dispute. GMB has been left with no alternative as Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, continues to act irresponsibly by sticking to an entrenched position of no meaningful talks with the health unions.”

Steve Rice GMB ambulance chair said “I have worked for the ambulance service for almost four decades and in this time I have worked under 17 Secretaries of State for Health. Never have I experienced staff morale at such a breaking point and that is why the GMB is calling an urgent GMB Ambulance meeting to discuss the details of a potential two day stoppage across the ambulance service. Escalation is always a last resort but in the absence of any real talks from government or employers we have nowhere else to go.”

2.05pm South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust has appointed a new chief executive.

Mairead McAlinden, who will be relocating to Devon from Northern Ireland to take up the post in April 2015, was previously chief executive of Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

Sir Richard Ibbotson, chair of the trust, said: “We had an exceptionally strong field of candidates for this post, which I believe reflects our track record of providing excellent health and care and our innovative and ambitious agenda to be a national lead for integrating and delivering truly person-centred services.”

“Mairead already has experience of integrating different organisations successfully, but what particularly inspired us was her vision and leadership style. She clearly leads by example and understands the scale of the challenge that lies ahead for us. We look forward to welcoming her to Torbay.”

“I would also like, at this point, to publicly acknowledge the outstanding manner in which our Interim Chief Executive, Dr John Lowes, has led the Trust through a challenging summer, for which we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”

John Lowes was brought in as interim when previous chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight resigned following an employment tribunal which raised concerns about the treatment of two whistleblowers.

Ms McAlinden was the regional director of integrated care and treatment services in the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland and director of planning and performance for the service commissioning organisation for the Southern area of Northern Ireland.

She said: “I am delighted and honoured to be offered the post as your new chief executive, and am truly inspired by Torbay and South Devon’s vision to become an exemplar for the integration of health and social care services. My focus will be to build on the excellent work and world class innovation I have already seen in the leadership of the Trust and in the front line staff I have met.

“I always say that if something is not good enough for me or my family, it’s not good enough for anyone, and I sense that’s how it is here too. It’s a challenging time for the NHS in England, but I know that we can meet the challenges, because we are building on an excellent foundation. As we work together to develop the integrated care organisation, our two Trusts have plenty of experience to bring in showing what excellent services can look like in future.”

2.00pm The decommissioning of musculoskeletal services from Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust could “negatively impact” its other work, according to an independent assessment carried out following a controversial contract tender.

Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group and the trust agreed to jointly commission an independent assessment into the potential impact of moving MSK services out of the trust, after the CCG awarded its contract for them to a joint venture between Bupa and CSH in September.

In response the trust warned this could destabilise its trauma services.


1.55pm Oxleas Foundation Trust has secured a £12.6m per year contract to provide healthcare services to the Greenwich prisons cluster of Belmarsh, Thameside and Isis.

The trust will begin providing healthcare at the site of the three facilities between Woolwich and Plumstead in April 2015.

​Together with a number of partner organisations, Oxleas will lead the provision of services including: mental health services; dentistry; pharmacy; podiatry and a GP service.

​More than 2,600 prisoners are housed at Her Majesty’s Prison/Youth Offenders Institute Belmarsh, HMP Thameside and HMP/YOI Isis.

12.45pm Trusts have been reminded to continually assess patients who are waiting for admission in a letter from Monitor, NHS England and the Trust Development Authority.

The letter states: “We want to ensure adequate attention is focussed on providing the continued clinical monitoring and care of patients delayed in their admission by staff experienced in assessing such patients”.

It adds: “There should be a zero tolerance of over 12 hour waits for admission and such a wait should be classed as a Serious Incident, and we would expect a full root cause analysis to take place”.

12.30pm The Daily Telegraph reports that hundreds of thousands of pensioners are receiving care at home which is so brief that they have to choose between eating or being taken to the lavatory.

Three quarters of councils in England are offering pensioners just 15-minute visits from carers, a freedom of information survey by Unison has disclosed.

The number of local authorities booking carers for the shortest possible time slot has risen to 74 per cent from 69 per cent in the same survey last year.

Jeremy Hunt said the figures were “unacceptable”. He said he was developing new standards on how councils buy care services to clamp down on such visits.

12.10pm The Times reports that taking statins at the same time as a common antibiotic can cause death and kidney damage, a study suggests.

Canadian researchers found that clarithromycin appeared to interact dangerously with types of statins and urged doctors to pick another antibiotic or take patients off the cholesterol-lowering drugs durign treatment.

11.50am Three organisations have been shortlisted for a contract to provide community services in North Somerset.

Incumbent provider North Somerset Community Partnership and Swindon based Seqol have both passed the first stage, an invitation to negotiate, as has Somerset Partnership Foundation Trust.

North Somerset and Seqol are both social enterprises created from the provider arms of the former North Somerset and Swindon primary care trusts respectively, as part of the transforming community services programme. Somerset Partnership was originally a mental health provider in Somerset and also took on community services under TCS.

11.45am The Daily Mail reports that patients have been queueing outside their local GP surgery to try and get a same-day appointment.

Patients at Sunbury Health Centre say the phone is continuously engaged so it is “impossible” to ring for an appointment.

11.30am Ebola patients at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone have been given a heart drug that is untested against the virus in animals and humans, a move that has been deemed reckless by one senior scientist and has prompted UK medical staff at the centre to leave, The Guardian reports.

A 14-strong team of British doctors, nurses and paramedics stopped working at the Lakka treatment centre in Freetown because of their concerns over what they considered the experimental and potentially dangerous use of the drug, and other safety issues.

11.25am The Guardian reports that a senior minister has criticised the government’s £5.3bn central policy to save the NHS and claimed it will only work if private firms are given a much bigger role.

Speaking at a recent event in London Francis Maude described the Better Care Fund as a disappointment which was unlikely to lift the pressure from overcrowded hospitals because of “endless process and bureaucracy” in the NHS.

10.15am The draft NHS contract for 2015-16 needs 18 week sanctions to be balanced, commissioners’ discretion on perverse sanctions and no requirement to collect PTLs, writes Rob Findlay.

The relative balance between the three 18 weeks sanctions means they perversely discourage providers from treating their long waiting elective patients. As a result, patients wait longer.

This should be remedied by:

  • changing the balance between the sanctions so that the incomplete pathways sanction comes to the fore, and the perverse admitted and non-admitted sanctions are omitted or minimised; and
  • if they are not omitted, giving commissioners discretion to waive in advance the admitted and non-admitted sanctions if the provider has foreseen the breach and has suitable plans to recover and sustain short waiting times safely thereafter.

9.50am The Treasury has agreed an unannounced £740m increase to the health revenue budget for the current financial year, it has been confirmed to HSJ.

The unusual move indicates the Department of Health would otherwise have been highly likely to overspend its revenue limit for 2014-15, health finance experts said.  

The revenue departmental expenditure limit increase was funded by an additional £250m from the Treasury, and a further £490m transfer from the DH’s own capital budget.

7.00am Good morning. Over the Christmas and New Year break we bring you a round-up of the best articles from our Leadership, Commissioning and Innovation and Efficiency channels.

In this focus on leadership, we highlight a selection of best practice articles from 2014. Among them, Anushta Sivananthan, medical director of Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Foundation Trust, discusses if ‘zero harm’ is achievable for mental health, while Roger Kline explains how the lack of leadership diversity is compromising patient care.