The chair and accountable officer of a CCG have temporarily “stepped away” from their posts, plus the rest of today’s news and comment.
16.15pm The chair and accountable officer of Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group have temporarily “stepped away” from their posts while NHS England conducts a probe into the group’s leadership, the CCG confirmed this afternoon.
15.40pm Andrew Fisher, Assistant director (Communications & Marketing) at NHS Employers tweets: Great to see some familar names in our Social Media Pioneers list with @hsjnews and @nursingtimes. It was hard work picking the list….
15.17pm In his leader this week, HSJ editor Alastair McLellan has described health secretary Jeremy Hunt as “disingenuous” in suggesting that better patient safety will deliver enough savings to ensure the stability of the NHS.
In an interview with HSJ, published today, Mr Hunt avoided directly answering questions about the NHS’s finances. Click here for more details.
2.36pm Service change in healthcare garners public scrutiny and makes politicians timid. If the NHS wants to weather the challenges ahead, it must learn from the Bank of England when it gained operational independence – a universally welcomed policy decision, argues Axel Heitmueller, director of strategy and commerce at the Imperial College Health Partners.
2.06pmTimes columnist Alice Thomson writes today that reverence for general practice in Britain has diminished.
She argues that GPs should “modernise and adapt to increasing demand”, “work… out where it can take the strain from A&E” and “be at the forefront of modern medicine” instead of “continually lobbying for extra money”.
1.47pm Scotland’s long waiting outpatient figures improved sharply in March, bringing to a decisive end the long deterioration that began two years ago. However, the total outpatient waiting list continued to grow, suggesting that beneath the surface the underlying pressures are still increasing, argues Rob Findlay, founder of Gooroo Ltd and a specialist in waiting time dynamics.
1.33pm Social media has established itself as a powerful channel for voices in the NHS, whether it is to create professional networks, raise safety concerns or seek support in self-management of conditions. Participation is no longer optional, writes Claire Read.
12.58pm Will Cavendish, who currently oversees policy implementation across government for the Prime Minister, is to join the Department of Health in a new director general post with responsibility for pharma, IT and life sciences. Mr Cavendish with become director general of innovation, growth and technology, HSJ has learned. He previously worked in the DH between 2005 and 2009 as director of strategy then of health and wellbeing.
12.50pm The financial crisis and subsequent recession saw a significant acceleration in the numbers of antidepressants prescribed by GPs, research published by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation reveals today.
The study shows that between 1998 and 2012, the amount of antidepressants dispensed in the community each year rose by 25 million – from 15 million items in 1998, to 40 million in 2012.
Almost half of that increase occurred in the four years between the 2008 financial crisis and 2012, the last year for which data are available. This means that the annual rise in prescriptions has risen to 8.5 per cent per year since the banking crash, compared to 6.7 per cent before.
This striking increase is despite the incidence of depression having risen much more slowly over the same time period, meaning that either antidepressants were heavily under-prescribed in 1998, or they are heavily overprescribed now. Some GP practices also prescribed far more antidepressant medicine than others even where their patients were similar - suggesting over-use or under-use in many parts of England.
The research is published as part of the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation’s QualityWatch programme, which is tracking the quality of health and social care in England.
Examining the number of tablets dispensed on NHS prescriptions across the country, Nuffield Trust researchers found that:Areas with more white people, more women, and more people over the age of 65, had the heaviest use of antidepressants. Areas with more men and more people from ethnic minorities, on the other hand, had significantly lighter use. Even when regional characteristics are taken into account, there is significant variation in the rates of antidepressant prescription across the country. For example, per 1000 people, residents of Blackpool collected more than four times as many of these tablets each month as those of the London Borough of Brent. An analysis of changes over time found that increases in unemployment were associated with significant increases in the number of anti-depressant tablets dispensed. A 1 per cent rise in unemployment typically meant one and a half more tablets were given out per person on a GP list, per year. An analysis comparing practices in different geographical areas, meanwhile, did not show clear links to unemployment – but areas with worse housing tended to see significantly higher antidepressant use. GPs who prescribe more antibiotics also tend to prescribe more antidepressants, suggesting doctors vary across the board in how likely they are to use drugs to deal with their patients’ conditions. Adjusting for all these factors, younger, female GPs who qualified in the UK tend to prescribe more anti-depressants to their patients.
Adam Roberts, senior Research Analyst at the Nuffield Trust, said: “It’s striking that GPs were prescribing an extra 2.7 million antidepressants in 2012, compared to the trend we saw during the years of economic growth. That acceleration in the use of these drugs raises some difficult questions about the impact that poverty and unemployment can have on people’s health.
“Our research shows stark variation in antidepressant prescription rates between regions, ethnicities and age groups. While some variation is to be expected, the differences between regions suggest that there could be particular underlying problems in mental health for people in areas suffering from unemployment and poor housing.
“What we don’t know from the research is what level of prescribing is objectively the ‘right’ level. But the fact that the rise over time outstrips the incidence of depression suggests either that we were dispensing far too few of these drugs in 1998, or that we are dispensing far too many now.”
Professor Nick Barber, director of research at the Health Foundation, said: “The report clearly shows a significant increase in antidepressant prescriptions in recent years. A crucial finding for doctors and patients to consider is that there is real variation in prescription rates across GP practices.
“These differences imply that certain practices have a propensity to over or under prescribe. This could suggest that not enough attention has been given to individual patients’ needs, including the need to avoid possible side effects of these medicines.”
12.17pm In his HSJ column this week, Michael White argues that protest votes, whether for UKIP or the National Health Action party, have consequences which are yet to unfold following the local and European elections.
12.12pm The Daily Mail reports that hundreds of thousands of people are having their entire medical history “snooped on” by insurance giants.
Some of Britain’s biggest insurers are demanding unnecessary medical information from the GP records of those applying for life cover.
Extra details can include contraception, mental health and even relationship problems.
11.55am The Daily Telegraph reports that two thirds of the population should be sent to state-funded slimming classes run by firms such as Weight Watchers, according to new NHS guidance.
The advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says the cost of 12-week courses run by commercial providers will be outweighed by the potential savings to the NHS if the UK can tackle obesity.
A Telegraph editorial argues that “there needs to be proper punishment for those who break the rules” in the health service, claiming that the NHS “has been protected by its status as a sacred cow”.
“Mid Staffs should have been a wake-up call; instead, too much of the health service has carried on just as before,” it adds.
10.55am Find out more about the people who have changed the way the health world communicates by clicking on the pioneers who interest you on this interactive feature, which includes links to each pioneer’s online presence.
10.42am Jeremy Hunt has called for new models of provision for primary care to help close the gap between general practice and acute care.
The health secretary told HSJ he “absolutely” agreed with last month’s remarks by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that there was “too big a gap between what GPs do and what hospital doctors do”.
10.12am Looking towards this morning’s papers -The Guardian, like a number of papers this morning, reports on new NHS guidelines that have directed GPs to identify people eligible for state-funded slimming classes run by companies such as weight watchers.
GPs and other health professionals have been told by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to raise the issue of weight loss in a “respectful and non-judgemental” way and identify people who are eligible for referral for lifestyle weight management services by measuring their body mass index.
7.00am Good morning. Today on HSJ Live, we unveil the social media pioneers of the health service.
In this list, the first of its kind, we highlight the work of clinicians, patients and families who have used social media as a powerful force for change and as a way to inspire, campaign, spread best practice and raise awareness.