Former health select committee chair will not run for re-election next year, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

Live logo

5.40pm A Twitter spat has broken out between Andy Burnham and Jeremy Hunt, after Mr Hunt said he had taken his children to A&E because he was unable to get a GP appointment.

Burnham tweeted: “Are you really saying, @Jeremy_Hunt, it’s OK to go straight to A&E if you don’t want to wait for a GP appointment?”

Hunt replied: “If parents have an unwell child needing medical attention, A&E provides a trusted service.”

To which Burnham said: “If all “unwell” people went to A&E, #NHS would collapse. Surprised you continue to contradict official advice. Irresponsible.”

4.10pm NHS Providers, the new name of the Foundation Trust Network, has called on the government to use the Autumn Statement on 3 December to avoid an “NHS cash crisis” next year.

The call follows two recent House of Commons Select Committee evidence sessions. Last week Simon Stevens told the Public Accounts Committee that 2015/16 is “going to be incredibly tough” for the NHS.

Prior to this, the three independent NHS think tanks, the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust all agreed that the NHS is currently facing a £2bn financial gap in 2015/16.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who gave evidence today on NHS finances to the Health Select Committee, said: “The Liberal Democrats are calling for £1.5 billion for the NHS in 2015/16; the Labour Party is now calling for an extra £1 billion. We need the coalition to formally commit to extra funding for the NHS in the Autumn Statement.

“60 per cent of acute hospitals are already in deficit half way through this year and the entire NHS provider sector is heading for a financial crisis next year unless the Government does something in the Autumn Statement. It may be tempting to think that eleven months of the next financial year are  beyond the General Election so this is an issue for the next Parliament. But a decision is needed now.

“If there is more money, it’s vital that the Government does two things. First that extra funding is routed through the NHS tariff and related mechanisms – the mainstream system for NHS funding -  so that NHS providers can plan properly and the money fully reaches the acute, mental health, community and ambulance frontline where it is needed. Second, since there is a £2bn gap for 2015/16 and rapidly rising demand and cost, the Government needs to recognise that any extra funding is to enable the NHS to deliver its existing stretching performance commitments as opposed to any new, extra, performance commitments.

“The choice is stark – £2 bn of extra funding on one hand or a worse quality of care for patients and unsustainable provider deficits on the other. The ball is firmly in the coalition’s court.”

3.45pm During health questions in parliament this morning Jeremy Hunt said he had taken his children to A&E because he was unable to get a GP appointment.

In a letter to Mr Hunt shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said this statement “appears to be at odds with long-standing advice given to the public”.

3.40pm In a recent House of Commons debate over repealing the Health and Social Care Act, Labour MP Dennis Skinner highlighted the important role immigrant health workers play in the NHS.

In a comment piece in The Huffington Post, UKIP’s Migration and Financial Affairs Spokesman and MEP for the North West, Steven Woolfe, questions whether the NHS would really collapse without workers from overseas.

3.25pm Sessions in the House of Commons will be short because of the May 2015 election and some MPs are using their bills to promote a campaign or idea, writes Michael White in his latest column.

3.20pm Consultancy Capita has launched a new venture, Capita Health Partners, with a focus on introducing technology into provider settings.

It will work with NHS organisations to help deliver transformation using data from CHKS knowledge base.

Richard Darch, executive director of Capita Health Partners said: “Capita’s work with Sussex Community Trust is an excellent example of how long term, strategic partnerships can bring together the expertise and knowledge of two organisations to produce a different way of working that opens up new opportunities and ensures financial sustainability. Our commercial ‘insourcing’ model delivers value by bringing expertise from Capita to work alongside the trust to identify and implement efficiency improvements.”

“There are a number of new ideas coming out the Sussex project and the 433 other healthcare organisations we already work with and we are keen to transfer this learning and best practice across the health sector. Our aim is to be a trusted partner in managing and delivering change, enabling our partners to focus on their core business of providing high quality healthcare.”

“An emerging focus will be on understanding the impact of advances in medical technology on the built environment and how technology, process change and facility planning go hand-in-hand to create a better experience for patients.”

2.55pm At the health select committee covering public expenditure on health and social care the Foundation Trust Network’s Chris Hopson is giving evidence. Here are some highlights:

“As NHS providers we are underfunded for the level of demand we are now facing. The way the tariff operates currently is clearly iniquitous, particularly the marginal rate.”

“Monitor say that in order to become an FT you need a 5 per cent margin over cost. Twenty smaller hospitals in Q2 have a margin of 0. They are simply being penalised because demand in admissions is growing.”

“How do we fund the shift when in reality getting the savings from moving care out of hospitals are likely to take 5-10 years.”

“We’re very clear – we believe there needs to be investment. Investment to maintain current levels of service. Investment to save of the traditional type.”

“If you’re going to move to the new models of care there needs to be investment in that.”

Jeremy Hunt approved the transfer last week on the recommendation of NHS England’s Prescribed Services Advisory Committee.

However, the move has been met with opposition from patients’ charities and a petition calling for renal dialysis to remain a specialised service which collected more than 15,000 signatures in less than a week.

HSJ and its sister title Nursing Times recently assumed responsibility for the conference and exhibition. The awards, also organised by HSJ and Nursing Times, will now be held on the evening of 7 July.

Increased demand and the financial pressure on trusts are taking a toll, with accident and emergency, routine surgery and cancer targets all missed between July and September.

Foundation trust finances have seen a particularly steep deterioration with a deficit of £254m six months into 2014-15, more than four times the planned deficit of £59m.

1.20pm The Foundation Trust Network has said it is “outrageous” that Monitor should “criticise” trusts for spending large amounts on agency staff.

The provider representative body tweeted: “outrageous @MonitorUpdate criticises trusts for agency staff costs when they feel compelled to hire more or fail quality regulations”

Jeremy Hunt approved the transfer last week on the recommendation of NHS England’s Prescribed Services Advisory Committee.

However, the move has been met with opposition from patients’ charities and a petition calling for renal dialysis to remain a specialised service which collected more than 15,000 signatures in less than a week.

The possibility of the mutuals option comes as the Department of Health announced the nine “pathfinder” trusts which are exploring models of staff ownership under its ongoing mutuals programme.

The trusts are all investigating whether becoming a mutual would benefit them, through boosting staff engagement.

The system, provided by US company Epic, has been one of the most closely watched NHS IT projects in recent years. It went live on 26 October.

It is the first time an NHS trust has implemented the well regarded, but relatively expensive US system.

According to consultancy Incisive Health, around one in five of the 76 acute trusts that have been inspected or are due to be inspected by the Care Quality Commission are in marginal constituencies.

Nine of these 17 are in constituencies on the Conservative target list and eight are on Labour’s list.

12.10pm The Daily Telegraph reports that patients are waiting up to 35 hours in accident and emergency at Medway Foundation Trust, according to a highly critical report by the Care Quality Commission due to be published tomorrow.

The Conservative MP will be working as a senior adviser at the firm’s UK healthcare and public sector practice.

Mr Dorrell served as health secretary between 1995 and 1997, and chaired the Commons health committee from 2010 until June this year.

11.55am Smoking in Britain fell from 20 per cent to 19 per cent between 2012 and 2013, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Action on Smoking and Health has welcomed the findings and also the inclusion for the first time of data on electronic cigarette use which finds that in 2014 only 0.1 per cent of never smokers have used them.     

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH said: “This statistically significant decline in adult smokers shows that the Government’s tobacco control plan is on track. However, children are still taking up smoking so tough new measures to regulate tobacco, like plain standardised packaging, are needed if we are to drive down smoking still further. The government must act quickly to allow parliament to vote on the regulations which will finally get rid of glitzy, glamorous cigarette packs forever.”  

10.25am Former health select committee chair, Stephen Dorrell, has announced he will not run for re-election next year.

He will be joining consultancy KPMG as a part-time senior adviser to its healthcare and public sector team from December.

On his appointment, Mr Dorrell said: “I have spent most of the last 25 years as an advocate of public service reform; I relish the opportunity to work with KPMG and its clients to take this essential reform process forward for the benefit of NHS patients and other service-users.”

Andrew Hine, UK Head of Healthcare and Public Sector at KPMG, added: “The next decade will see immense change in the public sector and the NHS as services change to meet new and rising demand, while funding remains constrained and devolution fuels innovation. Stephen’s experience and thinking in this area is exceptional. He is widely admired as an original and independent thinker who garners support across the political spectrum.” 

10.20am The College of Emergency Medicine has put forward a plan to address the “significant challenges” facing A&Es.

The four step plan includes a call for safe and sustainable staffing levels, a fair tariff and fundinng, dealing with exit block and overcrowding and for primary care facilities to be co-located with A&Es.

The College president, Clifford Mann, said: “This campaign is critical to providing relief and securing the future for A&Es. Our hard working doctors need tangible action to support them to stop the leaching of talent to Australia and New Zealand; patients deserve better access to care with primary care services being co-located with the A&E; ‘exit block’ needs to be a thing of the past; and the funding systems must stop penalising hospitals for treating the acutely ill and injured.”

10.15am The government has been accused of refusing to discuss the introduction of a lifesaving vaccine as negotiations over the promised injection for meningitis B descend into acrimony, The Times reports.

The drugs company that makes the vaccine says Whitehall is not returning its calls and there has been no “meaningful negotiation” over the price of the jab, despite a pledge eight months ago that Britain would be the first to introduce it.

10.05am The Times reports that teenagers will be encouraged to use apps to treat themselves for depression under government plans to fight mental illness.

Ministers want children and adults to be able to get treatment for mental health problems online as part of a transformation of how illnesses such as depression are dealt with by the NHS.

Norman Lamb, the care minister, said allowing people to bypass GP referrals to get help via the internet or over the phone would encourage hundreds of thousands to seek treatment.

A trust board paper reveals that non pay spend at the acute and community services provider was “managed” in August this year to preserve cash balances.

A trust spokeswoman told HSJ that this meant that payments were delayed “by a week or so”. This was because Buckinghamshire Healthcare needs cash balances worth £3m to cover payments to staffing agencies and the trust’s private finance initiative partner, which must be made in the first half of every month, before it receives most of its regular income.

9.51am The Daily Mail reports that GPs are struggling to cope with the hundreds of thousands of new patients registering for their practices, figures reveal.

Some surgeries have seen nearly 500 patients sign up in the past 18 months.

The influx is driving up waiting times and in the worst-affected areas receptionists are telling patients to come back in three or four weeks for an appointment.

9.50am Cervical screening coverage is considerably lower for women aged 25 to 29 than for those in older age groups, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Screening coverage for women aged 25 to 29 was 63.3 per cent – the equivalent of fewer than two out of three women screened.

Women aged 50 to 54 had the highest level of coverage at 81.6 per cent.

4.24 million women aged 25 to 64 were invited for screening in 2013-14 and in 2012-13 and 3.23 million women were tested - a fall of 2.9 per cent from 2012-13 when 3.32 million were tested.

Out of the women tested 93.4 per cent had a negative result.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning, said: “Today’s report highlights differences in cervical screening levels between women of different ages and shows differences between regions of the country.

“I’m sure health professionals and organisations with a focus on cervical cancer will be interested that women under 30 have the lowest levels of cervical screening coverage and will use this, as well as the other findings of the report, in planning their future work.”

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. We start the day with a comment piece from Monitor chief executive David Bennett.

Mr Bennett argues that when it comes to innovation, and introducing models of care that work best for local populations, the regulator will not stand in the way.