Latest updates from the select committee session on the project, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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4.55pm Also in The Telegraph, blood pressure pills may be doing more harm than good for elderly people by increasing the risk of them having falls, researchers at Yale University have discovered.

“Older patients and their clinicians need to weigh the harms as well as the benefits in prescribing medications, particularly when the harms may be at least as serious as the diseases and events we hope the medications prevent,” said Mary Tinetti of Yale School of Medicine, who led the study.

“Patients may find themselves in the tough position of either choosing to continue their blood pressure medication and risk side effects that could lead to life-altering falls, or discontinuing their medications and risk heart attacks and stroke.

“Although no single study can settle the question and we cannot exclude the possibility that factors other than the medications accounted for the increased risk of injury, these medications may be more harmful in some individuals than thought.”

4.51pm Couple of interesting stories in The Daily Telegraph which we didn’t manage to get round to this morning. The paper reports that the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which looks after NHS data, has said its predecessor body should not have sold on information to the insurance industry.

A spokeswoman for HSCIC said: “The HSCIC believes greater scrutiny should have been applied by our predecessor body prior to an instance where data was shared with an actuarial society.”

She added: “We would like to restate that full postcodes and dates of birth were not supplied as part of this data and that it was not used to analyse individual insurance premiums, but to analyse general variances in critical illness.”

4.27pm NHS Employers has welcomed proposals by the General Medical Council to introduce more stringent language checks for European doctors.

Responding to a GMC consultation report published today and its aim to raise requirements for testing European doctors’ language skills, Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce at NHS Employers organisation, said:

“Employers have told us that they overwhelmingly support the GMC’s conclusions and, in particular, its aim to regulate doctors from Europe to the same language standard as those from further afield. These are proportionate, sensible proposals that put patients first by giving employers more power to ensure all NHS doctors can communicate well in English.

“The GMC’s report takes account of compelling input from NHS employers, 98 per cent of whom said they want the GMC to have the power to address serious language concerns with a formal language assessment. Also 96 per cent of employers wanted language requirements for doctors from Europe to match those from elsewhere.

“Health and care professionals from other countries make a huge contribution to the NHS and NHS patients will continue to benefit from skills and expertise developed overseas.” However, “it is essential that all staff are able to communicate with their patients and colleagues safely and effectively in English, both orally and in writing, in whatever role they undertake, whether in clinical or support services. Language checks in their current form are improving and widely seen as robust, so it is important that they be applied consistently by employers across all jobs - regardless of where the staff are recruited from.”

3.45pm The Royal College of Nursing has responded to the publication of the 2013 NHS staff survey for England which we covered earlier today on HSJ Live.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said:

“During the last year, the NHS and its staff have faced a great deal of change, scrutiny and pressure. Demands on staff are growing consistently, with an ageing population and millions living with long term conditions. The survey offers a telling glimpse of how the system is coping in the light of this, and how the NHS has responded to recent high profile critical reports criticising the quality of care. 

“It is positive that more staff, two thirds, now believe that care is the top priority for their organisation. Also, more staff would happily recommend their place of work to a friend or relative in need of care. 

“However, serious cracks are showing as staff try to deliver care. Only 30 per cent of staff feel that there are enough staff to enable them to do their jobs properly and high numbers of nurses in particular continue to work extra hours (82 per cent compared with 81 per cent in the previous year). 68 per cent of staff have attended work while not being well enough to perform their duties in the last three months alone. It is hardly surprising that there has been an increase in work related stress.   

“Clearly, nurses and other staff are working hard to ensure that patient care is delivered. However, it is simply not sustainable to have staff stretched too thinly and working beyond breaking point.”

3.33pm The Royal College of GPs has said that primary care doctors who suspect a child has been subjected to female genital mutilation should refer the parent or guardian to social services.

In its written evidence to the home office select committee released today, the RCGP describes FGM as ‘child abuse’ and calls for it to be treated as a safeguarding issue. However, the College also raises concerns about the capacity of social services to respond to referrals and is calling for a multi-agency approach to better support the young girls and women affected.  

The RCGPs stops short of calling for the routine screening of young girls - as in France - saying that while this can have positive outcomes, a screening programme could alienate hard to reach individuals and communities, and could be a traumatic experience in itself. 

3.18pm ONS Statistics released this morning indicate the continuation of the trend towards older motherhood: between 2011 and 2012 conception rates increased for women aged 35 years and over and decreased for women aged under 35 years.

Since 1990, the conception rate for women aged over 40 has more than doubled from 6.6 to 14 conceptions per 1000 women.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “These statistics demonstrate the trend towards older motherhood is continuing… It is important that reproductive healthcare services, whether providing contraception, abortion or maternity care, reflect this shift. While pregnancy and childbirth for older women may present particular challenges, with some mothers requiring additional support, the answer is to provide the services that they need, rather than attempt to cajole women into having children earlier than they feel is right for them.”

3.02pm Want to follow the action at the health select committee session on but not on twitter? No matter - you can check out all of Nick Renaud-Komiya’s tweets from the session here.

2.58pm Michael White’s latest politics column is now online. In it he discusses how the Welsh NHS has become a “political football”.

Michael argues David Cameron has been using Welsh Labour’s health “cuts” to ward off Ed Miliband’s attacks on the NHS. While the current controversy over Welsh health statistics might be “a bit of health and a lot of politics”, Michael concludes: “political football or not, Welsh ministers should treat it as a wake-up call – or someone will start scoring goals”.

2.38pm You can follow Nick for blow-by-blow coverage of the session, but we’ll also keep you updated on what’s going on here at HSJ Live.

2.32pm The Commons health select committee’s hearing on the project is about to begin. You can watch the committee live here.HSJ reporter Nick Renaud-Komiya is at the session and will be live tweeting throughout the rest of the day. Follow him at @NickRenKom

2.10pm A trust near to the Welsh border will stop carrying out non-specialised planned care on behalf of a number of Welsh NHS bodies following what it describes as “continuing payment issues”.

University Hospitals Bristol Trust board papers reveal that from April it will stop undertaking all “non-specialised, elective activity” for Welsh local health boards, which is not covered by an existing contract.

1.01pm Communication between senior managers and staff has improved in the past year, according to the results of the 2013 NHS Staff Survey which are published today.

Only 29.5 per cent of staff reported good communication with senior management, but this represented a 2.1 percentage point rise on the previous year.

12.43pm A protest is to be held outside George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton tomorrow to object to the possibility of a private business becoming responsible for the hospital.

In a press release, the Unite union, who will participate in the protest, said they would deliver a message to the hospital’s board that ‘big business has no business in our NHS, or the George Eliot’.

12.26pm The Financial Times reports that Labour have vowed to ‘declutter’ the provision of public services. This would include encouraging local bodies to merge in order to save money.

Shadow treasury chief secretary Chris Leslie MP is to give a speech at the Social Market Foundation saying that Labour will create more efficient commissioning for health and social care.

12.11pm Also in The Guardian (newspaper only): a company lobbied the Health and Social Care Information Centre to try and gain access to NHS prescription data on behalf of pharmaceutical firms last year.

The firm, i4Health, asked HSCIC for a memorandum of understanding in July 2013 to “ensure that requests [for patient data] from life sciences receive prompt attention”, an examination of the stakeholder forums of HSCIC shows.

12.08pm The Guardian reports that obesity in European children could be the new norm according to the World Health Organisation.

The WHO has issued figures that show that up to a third of 11-year-olds across Europe are overweight.

According to the figures Greece has the highest proportion of overweight 11-year-olds, followed by Portugal, Ireland and Spain.

11.12am One more from The Times (paper only): a doctor who was caught secretly filming up the skirts of shoppers has been allowed to continue practicing as a GP.

Buddhi Ranjan Yapa Abeywardena, 63, who said that he did not believe there was anything wrong in what he did, has been given ten strict working conditions by the General Medical Council.

11.10am A lot of health coverage in The Times today: an NHS hospital may face criminal charges after a mother of six bled to death after an elective Caesarean section, the paper reports.

Rosida Etwaree, 45, lost more than half her blood after having the operation at the Croydon University Hospital, formerly known as Mayday Hospital, in South London in June 2010.

Staff made a catalogue of erroes, failing to record the extent of her blood loss, declare a major haemorrhage, monitor her following surgery or react to the seriousness of her condition.

11.01am A million extra care workers will be required to meet the needs of the ageing population by 2025, The Times reports.

The International Longeivity Centre predicts a “staffing time-bomb” unless more men join the profession.

Women currently make up 82 per cent of the care workforce. The think tank says employers cannot continue to rely on women and must make the job more attractive to men.

10.51am Also in The Times, proteins found in fried or barbecued meat and other fatty foods could be linked to Alzheimer’s, according to researchers.

10.42am Turning to this morning’s papers, The Times reports that pregant women who take paracetamol have children with an increased risk of attention-deficit problems, according to researchers.

The drug is the most commons means of treating pain and fever and is used by more than half of pregant women.

10.25am Proposals to sell hospital sites contributed to an 11 per cent rise in the area of land being designated for sale for housing by English NHS organisations in 2012.

The latest Department of Health figures reveal 629 parcels of land, totalling 909 hectares, were deemed surplus on 1 October 2012, compared to the 817 hectares recorded on 1 January that year.

The government has been urging NHS organisations to identify surplus land in order to help it find the sites required to hit a target of building 100,000 homes over the four years up to 2015.

10.20am Questions have been raised over the value of mortality statistics published for NHS hospitals, after an academic taking part in a review of their use branded them “spurious” and said the public would be better off ignoring them.

Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios have been published by Dr Foster Intelligence since 2001 and have been credited with helping to uncover excessive death rates at hospitals such as Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

However, Nick Black, whose review is due to report to NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh at the end of this year, has warned that they can give a misleading picture of a hospital’s performance.

10.17am A heart surgeon who has not returned to work since five of his patients died after becoming infected with an antibiotic resistant bug during valve replacements has launched High Court proceedings against his employer.

Consultant John Chen Yui Lu says that Nottingham University Hospitals Trust has breached his contract and is preventing him from maintaining and developing his career.

He wants Mr Justice Lewis to rule that he is entitled to return to full surgical practice promptly and to receive compensation.

10.06am Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, has written for HSJ on how her organisation achieved transformational change to save the NHS £50m a year on blood products.

9.57am The foundation trust sector massively overspent on contract and agency staff in the final three months of last year, Monitor data shows.

The sector planned to spend £397m on such staff over the quarter ending on 31 December but it actually spent £977m – an overspend of 146 per cent.

According to the regulator, some trusts highlighted increased staffing in response to the Francis and Keogh reviews – both critical of clinical understaffing – to explain the variance compared to planned costs.

7.00am Welcome to HSJ Live.

To start the day, Mark Roddis, former consultant pathologist and NHS medical director, argues that emphasising healing over punishment to resolve conflict could be used in the aftermath of a serious untoward incidents.

“Doctors often feel “guilty, afraid and alone” when mistakes are made in a culture where failure is difficult to accept,” he writes.

“In a restorative review individual doctors can work with a facilitator to explore what went wrong and its emotional fallout.”