Newspaper prints correction after reporting that thousands was spent on champagne, and the rest of today’s news

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5.42pm There are some interesting readers comments under our story about CSUs not being sold to the private sector.

“No surprise there then. The political risk always outweighed whatever financial / organisational benefits there were in selling off NHS organisations. Hopefully CSUs won’t have wasted too much money preparing for that sell off in the meantime.”

“Surely, the customer-controlled social enterprise option could result in conflict-of-interest issues? PCTs were largely independent of GP and other contractor services and used to monitor carefully to ensure that budgets were deployed optimally without unfair gain to contractors by “interpretation” of policies meant to ensure quality of service provision to patients. CSUs should remain completely independent of CCGs to make sure that this continues.”

In response to the above comment - “One note of caution. Although as you correctly state there is a real advantage (most would say necessity) in terms of separation of duties/ probity in CSUs being separately controlled, the current reality is that CCGs are not obliged to use any particular CSU and if the current paradigm prevails they might be tempted (only tempted, mind) to shop around for the one which gives them the most ‘flexibility’ in that interpretation. Not that this would ever happen, of course…”

5.03pm Yorkshire ambulance staff have voted to take strike action over changes in shift patterns which could mean paramedics working for 10 hours without a meal break and staff working 12 hour shifts.

The staff - members of Unite - voted overwhelmingly for a 24 hour strike which will commence atjust after midnight on 1 February.

Staff at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Trust will strike again for four hours between 3pm and 7pm on 3 February over the imminent introduction of new elongated shift patterns.

The members voted by a margin of 76 per cent for strike action.

Today Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe again called for talks with the trust’s chief executive David Whiting on the new shift patterns and their impact on patient safety.

Unite said that the proposals would impact on patient safety as hard working ambulance staff could go more than 10 hours without a meal break, as such breaks would be at the whim of managers. The union wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.

Terry Cunliffe said: “Our members are taking action as they are very concerned about the scale of these changes and how they will impact on patient safety in Yorkshire. The shift patterns are not family friendly and will lead to an overtired workforce.

“Once again, Unite makes the offer of talks with David Whiting, the trust’s chief executive, who has dug in his heels and refuses to engage with the legitimate concerns Unite has raised on behalf of its members and the Yorkshire public.”

The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to ‘plug the gaps’ in NHS 999 responses which was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.

Ambulance staff previously took strike action on 2 April and 7 June 2013 over concerns regarding patient safety.

4.58pm UNISON is calling for a national public consultation over proposals to privatise commissioning support units through the creation of social enterprises or staff mutuals.

The union has written to the NHS England board raising its objections and highlighting the fact that decisions about the future of CSU’s will have wide spread implications for patients and staff.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said: “The vast majority of the public will have no idea what the changes to CSUs will mean to them. We have a national health service and local consultation is just not good enough. That is why a national public consultation is needed to educate and to ensure the views of the public are not sidelined.

“Changes to CSUs will affect the whole commissioning and provision of health services in England and that is matter of wide public interest.”

In its letter to the Board the union writes that a consultation is particularly required because they argue the commissioning support function was subject to little scrutiny during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.

3.20pm The working week is set to get longer, with hospitals moving to seven day working and patients receiving the same levels of care at weekends they currently can only expect Monday to Friday, writes Alison Moore.

3.06pm Assistant director of the Health Foundation Jane Jones writes in our comment section on the importance of flow in making sure emergency care meets demand.

She writes that the assumption that more money and people put into the healthcare system leads to improvements can sometimes be misguided.

2.50pm In response to chief executive of Heart of England Mark Newbold’s recent comment piece the chief executive of Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust Julian Emms explains how the trust’s rapid assessment community clinic is supporting acute hospitals, GPs and ambulance services this winter.


2.36pm In The Telegraph Macmillan Cancer Support claims that 14,000 lives a year could be saved if elderly cancer patients weren’t “written off” as too old for treatment.

The charity said that older patients were victim to “age discrimination” and too often denied treatment on the grounds of their age, without proper asessment of their fitness levels and the likelihood they could benefit from treatment.

1.45pm In our comment section Sean Duggan argues that the liberal democrat plan is a crucial step towards mental health parity.

He writes that there is a lack of accountability over clinical commissioning groups’ spending on mental health and that achieving parity of esteem will take cooperation between commissioners, providers, politicians and campaigners.

At its board meeting in London this morning, NHS England ruled out selling CSUs, setting them up as new independent organisations within the NHS, and allowing other health service bodies, such as foundation trusts, to host them.

The papers reveal that part of the reason why a sale to the private sector will not be allowed is a lack of support for the policy from CCGs.

1.04pm The Daily Mail has been forced to print a correction after wrongly reporting that thousands of pounds of public money was spent on champagne bars by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The money was in fact spent on room hire and sandwiches at the Royal College of GPs and the Commonwealth Club for committee meetings.

NICE’s chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon wrote to the paper when the article appeared saying: “We use the public money entrusted to us carefully, not just because of our responsibility to advise the NHS on the effective and cost effective use of treatments, but because it’s rightly what we are expected to do. All the expenditure you refer to was committed appropriately. You have a right, you might say a duty to examine how public bodies spend their money. But if you’re going to do it, you should do so with due care and attention. You haven’t done so in this case and as a consequence you’ve both misled the public and damaged our reputation.”

12.48pm The Guardian reports that the parents of a four-year-old boy are calling for an inquiry after their son died following a heart operation at Bristol Royal children’s hospital.

The parents of Sean Turner said they had been let down by a shortage of staff and a lack of expertise at the hospital.

Chief executive of the University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust said there were some “missed opportunities” in the care Sean was given but that “significant changes” had been made since Sean was treated at the hospital.

12.41pm All mental health providers will be expected to implement a single point of access for patients suffering crises in the next year, NHS England’s national clinical director for the sector has revealed.

In an HSJ interview Geraldine Strathdee also set out her priorities and expressed fears over its poor quality of data.

The consultant psychiatrist, who also works at Oxleas Foundation Trust in south London, said commissioners and providers needed to work together in a “collaborative approach” with other partners to develop easier access to services.

12.33pm The number of nurses working for acute trusts has risen dramatically in the past two months, suggesting a significant response to the Francis report’s criticism of low staffing levels.

For the first time the Health and Social Care Information Centre has broken down its nursing workforce data into specific specialty groups.

There were 172,300 full-time equivalent nurses working on NHS acute, elderly and general wards in October 2013, constituting a rise of 3.5 per cent since September 2009, when the number fell to a low point of 166,443.

The number has risen sharply in the past two months, jumping by 1.9 per cent since August, when 169,049 full time equivalent nurses were employed.

Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk CCG said that after completing a four-month probe they had found “no evidence of harm to patients” but they told the private provider to improve in a raft of areas.

Staff morale, recruitment and retention, communication with GPs and commissioners, equipment stores and procedures at the Ipswich care co-ordination centre were all areas identified for improvement, according to the CCGs’ report.

12.15pm The latest issue of HSJ is ready to read on our tablet app. Just download it from here.

The NHS is writing to all households across the country this month to warn them that their patient records - including date of birth, postcode, but not their name - will be added to the Health and Social Care Information Centre to be shared with researchers.

The scheme is aimed at building up a large bank of data to help improve the quality of health services, but it has been opposed by some privacy campaigners who argue it could pharmaceutical companies too much access to patient information.

Speaking in a debate about the NHS in Croydon, junior health minister Jane Ellison revealed that she was taking action due to concern about how Croydon Primary Care Trust reported a £5.4m surplus in its 2010-11 accounts when it really had a £22.4m deficit.

At a Commons debate over the financial state of Croydon CCG Jane Ellison said that although permanent chief financial officers at clinical commissioning groups were subject to a “rigorous independent assessment and appointment process”, she was not yet reassured that interim chief finance officers received the same scrutiny.

12.04pm According to medical director Sir Bruce Keogh NHS 111 needs “beefing up”. He says there also needs to be more support for self-care and that people need to use pharmacists more for care advice. He is also keen to promote paramedics and says that with some more training they could treat people in their homes.

11.59am Moving on to winter pressures on accident and emergency departments deputy chief exectuive of NHS England Barbara Hakin says that they have already started winter plans for next year and will be happy to present them at the next board meeting.

This year they have been working with the voluntary and independent sectors for people who can receive care outside of hospital.

Dame Barbara also says that helping people with mental health issues shouldn’t be underestimated in taking pressure off the acute sector.

11.50am Turning to NHS England finances chief financial officer Paul Baumann says that there has been little change between month 7 and 8. Month 9 will determine what is going on. Baumann says that it is a steadily improving picture for finance.

11.47am Chief nursing officer Jane Cummings says the plan is to develop 15 patient safety collaboratives across England by the end of 2014-15. These collaboratives will support local teams and people will determine locally what direction they want them to go in.

11.38am At the NHS England board meeting Tim Kelsey says that communication over the project could have been better over the last few weeks.

He gives more detail on how the organisations using the data will be vetted - any organisation which tries to identify patients from the data should be subject to a criminal conviction.

11.34am Our reporter Judith Welikala is tweeting from this morning’s NHS England board meeting. Follow @judithwelikala for more updates and we’ll be retweeting some of her tweets from our HSJ account @hsjnews

11.10am Let’s take a look through this morning’s papers:

The Times reports that over ten thousand cancer patients are dying needlessly every year because of “blatant ageism” among doctors, charities claim.

The NHS is denying older people life-saving treatment solely because of their age, with older sufferers of the disease much less likely to survive in Britain than in many other rich countries, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

With proper treatment, many older people can live on for many years after a cancer diagnosis and more than 8,000 people alive today have survived for more than ten years after a diagnosis in their 80s, an analysis of official data shows.

Elsewhere, the newspaper publishes a letter from the heads of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nursing, British Geriatrics Society and dozens of professional groups around the world, urging the NHS to stop abolishing specialist old-age psychiatry teams.

The experts have said that older people with dementia and other mental health problems are losing out because the NHS is scrapping key services through misunderstanding of age discrimination laws.

10.50am A health minister has demanded assurances over the appointment process for interim finance directors to avoid a repeat of a situation in which an interim mis-stated a primary care trust’s financial position by at least £28m.

10.45am The development of new, more accurate and compact ultrasound devices could soon consign the stethoscope to medical history, two heart experts predict.

Several manufacturers already make hand-held ultrasound machines “slightly larger than a deck of cards”.

Evidence suggests that compared with the stethoscope, the devices can reduce complications, assist in emergencies and improve diagnostic accuracy. For the full story - click here.

10.40am The government has been accused of deliberately making it hard for people to prevent their confidential patient records being sent to a national database.

A Labour peer has argued that it is difficult for patients to opt out if they do not want their details extracted from their GP.

To read the full story - click here.

10.35am The Office of Fair Trading today issued a statement of objections to pharmaceutical companies that have admitted to being part of a cartel to fix the price of prescription medicines supplied to care homes throughout England.

Hamsard 3149 Ltd and its subsidiaries Quantum Pharmaceutical Ltd and Total Medication Management Services Ltd (trading as Tomms Pharmacy) and to Celesio AG and its subsidiary Lloyds Pharmacy Limited (Lloyds) have admitted to wrongdoing.

The statement is a proposed infringement decision which gives the companies a chance to make representations to the regulator.

In December 2013, Hamsard agreed to pay a reduced £387,856 fine reflecting its admission and agreement to co-operate under the OFT’s leniency policy and in light of settlement. The matter was brought to the OFT’s attention by Lloyds, under the OFT’s leniency policy. Under the policy, a company which is the first to report its participation in a cartel may qualify for immunity from fines. Provided it continues to co-operate with the OFT, Lloyds is not expected to pay a fine

10.05am Sean Duggan, chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, has written a blog for HSJ arguing that the mental health plan launched by the Lib Dems this week is long overdue.

The deputy prime minister’s 25-point action plan has to work, he says.

9.50am All mental health providers will be expected to implement a single point of access for patients suffering crises in the next year, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health has revealed.

In a wide-ranging interview with HSJ, Geraldine Strathdee also sets out her priorities - for more details and for the full story, click here.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. An influential parliamentary committee has released a report criticising the use so-called gagging clauses in the public sector.

The Commons public accounts committee said there has been “a worrying lack of proper accountability and oversight around the use” of compromise agreements, and that “confidentiality clauses have been used… to cover up failure”.

Magaret Hodge MP, the chair of the committee, said: “It is clear that confidentiality clauses may have been used in compromise agreements to cover up failure, and this is simply outrageous. We heard evidence of shocking examples of using taxpayers’ money to ‘pay-off’ individuals who have flagged up concerns about patient or child safety.”