Cancer and cardiac shake-up in three London trusts and the rest of the today’s news

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HSJ live logo

5.21pm Responding to the government’s announcement of details about an independent review into healthcare assistants’ standards, Sue Covill, director of employment services at the NHS Employers organisation, said: “Healthcare assistants play a huge role in patient care − it is absolutely right that the government is looking at the support in place to make sure they get the training and supervision they need to do the job well.

“Most healthcare assistants do a good job under often challenging circumstances, but recent events show the tragic consequences of what can happen when things go wrong.”

3.03pm In this week’s leader from HSJ editor Alastair McLellan tackles the complex area of compromise agreements and whistleblowing, following the Francis report and Gary Walker’s claims that he was gagged from speaking out about patient safety. 

He says: “HSJ’s position is clear. No existing or former NHS staff member should feel themselves restricted from blowing the whistle on any important issue once they have exhausted the official channels… The overhaul of how the NHS uses compromise agreements is long overdue – but the solution is unlikely to be simple or rapid.”

2.24pm The NHS Confederation has announced the appointment of two new directors to the organisation. Dr Johnny Marshall and Matt Tee will join the senior team as executive directors and will take up their new roles after Easter.

Dr Marshall joins as director of policy and will lead on all areas of the NHS Confederation’s policy work. He will take on shared responsibility for growing the organisation’s partnership working across health and social care. Matt Tee joins as chief operating officer, leading the NHS Confederation’s work on member engagement, business development and communications.

2.04pm The high cost of medication, stigmatisation and poor acceptance of their condition are causing young adults to take a dangerous approach to managing their asthma, according to new research published today in the journal BMJ Open.

In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (one in 11) and 4.3 million adults (one in 12). There were 1,131 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2009. Most asthma deaths are preventable.

The overuse of short-acting bronchodilators (“quick-acting” inhalers, usually blue, which relieve acute asthma symptoms) is a marker of poor asthma control and is linked to increased risk of hospital admission and death from asthma.

12.02pm Lawford Martin, head of healthcare at law firm Hill Dickinson, has been looking at what the “duty of candour” – a central part of Robert Francis’s report – means in practice for the NHS. He writes: “Given that the duty is recommended to apply even if the patient has not requested the information, this issue will be at the forefront of every healthcare professional’s mind upon any patient contact.”

11.54am HSJ’s round-up from its roundtable debate last week discussing the Francis report has been posted this morning. The full special report is free to download.

11.36am A new independent review will look at how the training and support of healthcare and care assistants can be strengthened so they give better care to patients, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced today.

The review will be led by Times journalist Camilla Cavendish who will report back to Government at the end of May. It will look at how healthcare assistants can have the training and support they need to provide essential services to the highest standards. Ms Cavendish will also look at how recruitment can be strengthened to place the right people, with the right values and behaviours, in the right settings.

In his report into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Robert Francis QC had set out the importance of looking at how care is provided at every level. 

11.29am HSJ Analysis: Confidentiality deals a perennial controversy in the NHS.

Confidentiality clauses in severance settlements are not a new source of controversy in the NHS even though there is no comprehensive data about their usage. Read the entire article here.

10.35am Mark Haddon, the author of novels including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, has written in the Guardian today arguing that voters in the upcoming Eastleigh by election should vote for the new National Health Action party. In his piece he also reveals he used to work as an illustrator for HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times.

10.25am The vast majority of compromise agreements in the NHS are not the result of whistleblowing disputes, while confidentiality clauses cannot be used to directly prevent patient safety concerns being raised, HSJ has been told.

There has been close scrutiny of such agreements in the NHS in response to former United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chief executive Gary Walker’s decision to apparently defy the terms of his compromise agreement.

His comments prompted health secretary Jeremy Hunt to write to trust chairs to ask them to check confidentiality clauses in any employee contracts and compromise agreements, to ensure they allowed openness about patient safety.

10.19am An independent inquiry is to be set up to investigate poor care at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust. The inquiry will sit in public and is expected to examine events at Furness General Hospital surrounding a number of infant and maternal deaths between 2004 and 2008. A police investigation is currently ongoing into the deaths.Health minister Dan Poulter revealed the inquiry plans in a letter to trust chair Sir David Henshaw earlier this week.

10.13am Around a quarter of staff appointed to commissioning support units have come from outside the pool of NHS commissioning staff affected by reorganisation. The most recent NHS data, shared with HSJ, shows that around 7,000 appointments had been made to CSUs by the end of January, with 1,500 posts still to be filled.

10.08am Obesity related hospital admissions have increased in England, according to a new report.

Analysis from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows female admissions were almost three times the number of male admissions; continuing the recent pattern of female admissions being substantially higher than male admissions. Regionally, North East Strategic Health Authority (SHA) had the highest admission rate at 56 per 100,000 of the population; while East of England SHA had the lowest rate (12 per 100,000).

HSCIC Chief Executive Tim Straughan said: “It won’t have escaped the majority of people that obesity is a high profile issue in this country. This annual report is important in bringing clarity to how this actually affects people, patients and the NHS, from the weighing scales to the operating theatre.

9.58am Exclusive: Three major teaching hospitals have unveiled a ground breaking reorganisation plan for cardiac and cancer services.

The plans were put forward this week by University College London Hospitals, Royal Free London foundation trusts and Barts Health Trust. The scheme would see specialist cardiac services for a population of six million people move from UCLH and the Royal Free to Barts. Specialist cancer surgery will transfer to University College London Hospitals and the Royal Free.

7.40am Good morning, NHS commissioners and providers can both benefit from ditching the “checklist” culture and learning to trust each other, writes Mike Mayers. He says: “The more checklists we apply, or the less we trust, the more we drive up transactional costs.”