Royal Marsden drafted in to improve Colchester Trust’s cancer services, plus the rest of the day’s news and comment

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5.50pm Anyone under the impression that chief executive of NHS England David Nicholson is, or ever was, a freemason may be disappointed to hear that the man himself has quashed the rumour.

Sir David has recently joined twitter and taken to it like a duck to water. One enquirer tweeted him asking: “Rumour has it that you are or have been a freemason? Is this rumour true?” To which Sir David replied: “Never heard that rumour, have always been open about past and current affiliations so no I have not or ever been a Freemason!”

Former NHS England chief executive Ruth Carnall chipped in to add: “I can barely imagine anything less likely than David as a Freemason”.

5.18pm The BBC reports that a glitch on the NHS Choices website caused users to be exposed to harmful websites rather than pages containing health advice.

A statement from NHS Choices said that an internal coding error had been the cause and that the problem had now been fixed.

3.13pm NHS England has added three new drugs to the national Cancer Drugs Fund list.

The additions to the list have been made following a review of trial data from the drugs by the Chemotherapy Clinical Reference Group (CRG), one of 74 such groups which provide clinical advice to NHS England regarding a range of specialised services.

The additions, which are all targeted drugs for specific cancers, are:

  • Trastuzumab Emtansine: for patients with breast cancer        
  • Radium-223 Dichloride: for patients with prostate cancer
  • Dabrafenib: for patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma

No drugs were removed from the list.

Professor Peter Clark chair of the Chemotherapy CRG said: “These new additions to the list demonstrate NHS England’s commitment to achieving maximum benefit to patients from the annual £200 million Cancer Drugs Fund. 

“The process of updating the list is led by cancer specialists, and should ensure that patients benefit quickly when new drugs become available that are backed by good evidence from trial data.”

The Cancer Drugs Fund provides £200m a year to enable patients with cancer in England to access drugs that are not routinely funded by their local NHS. The national Cancer Drugs Fund list is a single national list of approved fast-track drugs giving uniform access to treatment across the country. 

The most recent panel meeting, which was originally scheduled for December 2013 was deferred until the New Year to allow the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) negotiations between the Department of Health and the industry to complete and for NHS England to determine any impact any new pricing agreements might have on the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Cancer affects the lives of millions of people and their families, and the Cancer Drugs Fund provides vital access to life-extending or improving treatments.

“Better access to effective medicine is a priority for the government, and we are delighted that these new drugs will mean more patients will join over 38,000 cancer sufferers who have already benefitted from the fund.”

2.37pm Chairman of the CQC David Prior’s assertion that the health service should undergo “transformational change” without which it will “go bust” has collected some interesting reader comments:

“Well said! The NHS has a ‘Them and Us’ culture, bullying, isms, club culture and old boys’ network. There is corrosive energy and poor clinical engagement. Many doctors are fire-fighting and getting burnt out. Shortage of well trained doctors and nurses in many specialities doesn’t help. Uses of locums have gone up. Whistleblowers lives have been ruined. Many patients complain that they have not been told the truth. We’ve got to focus on good leadership, good culture which creates good energy and conditions where staff can do a good job. Where there is an open and honest culture, patient safety culture, zero tolerance for bullying or any form of isms. NHS is about kindness, caring and compassion. We need leaders who care for NHS, patients and staff alike. Where raising concerns is seen as good thing and everyone learns. In such a culture both patients and staff are safe and get good care. Staff feel happy and provide good care for patients. But this must be all staff including BME staff.”

“What we need is a radical shift in the culture of politicians. From coming to power this govt has put the NHS through the biggest, most complex (and IMHO pointless) reform process in it’s history while cutting the real term budget. This is where the current crop of headlines are rooted, so stop trying to blame everyone else. Man up and admit it’s not clinicians or managers, NHS or private sector providers at fault, it’s you. Be transparent, stop spinning hopeless causes, admit your mistakes and end the ‘us’ and ‘you’ behaviour.”

2.20pm On our new leadership channel we have an article exploring the changes the Care Quality Commission’s inspection regime is undergoing.

1.46pm Monitor has announced that The Royal Marsden cancer institute will help Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust to improve its cancer services.

Colchester was placed into special measures in November 2013, following concerns about cancer care. An agreement between the two trusts will set out the level of involvement The Royal Marsden will have.

Adam Cayley, regional director at Monitor said: “The Royal Marsden has an excellent track record in providing specialist cancer services for its patients and will provide specifically tailored support to help Colchester improve its cancer services for its patients.”

This appointment follows on from the appointment of Mark Davies, former CEO of Imperial College Healthcare and Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals, to the role of improvement director at Colchester.

1.43pm Monitor are adding an additional 86 posts to their regulatory workforce, HSJ has learnt.

In Monitor’s most recent board papers, the regulator said it had “identified a number of additional posts (up to 86) required in addition to the currently signed off organisational structure” for 2014-15.

A spokesman confirmed to HSJ that “the roles are shared across our regulatory functions”.

As HSJ reported last week, in the last year there has been a dramatic increase in Monitor’s regulatory activity, with the number of interventions this financial year already more than double that for the whole of the previous year.

Monitor said the new posts were “affordable within our indicative budget allocation”.

1.19pm The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is calling for greater access to rehabilitation services to improve the quality of life for patients.

New chief executive professor Karen Middleton CBE said physiotherapists enable patients to recover as much of their independence and function as possible after a serious illness or condition.

Prof Middleton who was formerly the chief allied health professions officer at NHS England and is visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University said: “Medical advances are keeping more people alive than ever before, but we need to ensure that we continue to support them once they leave hospital. Physiotherapy is central to their recovery and I look forward to making that case at every opportunity.”

Prof Middleton added that physiotherapy was also crucial to the 15m people in England alone who live with a long-term condition, as it enables them to self-manage that condition and remain independent, thereby also saving the NHS money.

The new CEO said other priorities included:

·        Making sure physiotherapy plays a bigger role in the public health agenda, using the profession’s expertise in movement to increase physical activity and prevent ill-health

·        Helping the profession to make better use of digital technology to enhance clinical practice and outcomes for patients.

Prof Middleton worked in the NHS for 28 years prior to joining the CSP and is the first physiotherapist and first woman to hold the post. 

Welcoming her, CSP vice-chair of council Catherine Pope said: “Karen brings to the role extensive experience, a passion for the profession and a background in using innovation to improve patient care. She will be a tremendous asset to the CSP and I look forward to working with her.”

Prof Middleton replaces Phil Gray, who retired on Friday after 15 years as chief executive.

1.06pm The court of appeal recently overturned a decision to block a judicial review into the legality of a national policy for ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ notices.

Here, law firm Ridouts argue that there is not enough awareness around the legal use of DNARs.

12.47pm In our comment section academics David Hunter and Neil Goodwin argue that the challenges of change and transformation canot be driven from the top.

The health sector regulator launched the investigation in August after University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust and Stockport Foundation Trust complained that the process NHS England had used to select providers was not based on quality or patient preference.

Monitor decided to close the case after NHS England said it would develop a new service specification and process.

11.41am HSJ will be hosting a twitter chat on 14 February looking at the best way to commission end of life care.

The UK’s ageing population is such that annual deaths are expected to increase by 17 per cent by 2030. The demand for end of life care services will be unprecedented and complicated, and commissioners will have to respond.

Follow the @hsjnews and @mariecurieuk twitter accounts on 14 February to take part. We will be using #HSJEoLC – you can use this hashtag now to post questions and contributions for the debate.

11.20am Also in The Times, Britain’s leading trauma doctors have called for a civilian version of the military’s Help for Heroes rehabilitation services, to provide better care for victims of multiple injuries who they believe are currently let down by the NHS.

Although the survival rate for patients who have suffered multiple trauma in serious accidents has improved, rehabilitation services tend to be specialised on one trauma at a time, and are not well equipped to cope with patients with a wide range of injuries, a panel of experts at a Barts Charity seminar on cycle safety said.

11.19am The tobacco industry has told a government review that plain packaging for cigarettes has failed to cut smoking in Australia, has led to record levels of smuggling, and could be against the law in the UK, The Times reports.

The paper also claims that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, may be about to change his mind to back a ban on smoking in cars carrying children.

11.18am A new report by the Royal Society for Public Health, based on a survey of public health professionals working in local authorities, found the majority believe health decisions are being made based on politics rather than evidence.

In addition it was apparent that the public health workforce, which is responsible for the health of their local communities, perceives that budgets which are meant to be reserved for public health initiatives are not being ring fenced in practice.

Nearly three quarters of respondents also suggested that financial restrictions are impacting upon their team’s ability to deliver health improvement initiatives.

Only 15 per cent of professionals believed the changes have currently had a positive impact on health improvement outcomes and over half did not believe in the potential of the new system to improve health or reduce health inequalities.

Over 80 per cent of respondents suggested additional influencing skills would help them demonstrate their effectiveness within this new environment.

Shirley Cramer CEO of the Royal Society for Public Health said: “It is widely understood that the transition of public health into local authorities has great potential to provide improvements in the public’s health and particularly on health inequalities and while we recognise that it will take time for a new system to be fully functional, this report has highlighted some areas of concern. It is encouraging to see that the public health workforce is optimistic about the future, but we must provide the support they need to be effective in this new environment and increase transparency and communication about budgets and decision making. We want to ensure that public health remains at the top of local authority agendas if we are to make a dent in health inequality. There is clearly a risk around health improvement in local populations if the workforce do not feel they have the skills to be effective in a local authority setting.”

Dr Vasco-Knight agreed with the national body on Tuesday that she would leave her role. On Thursday tribunal findings were released that ruled that South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust - a trust which Dr Vasco-Knight serves as chief executive - concealed a report that contained accusations of “nepotism” against her.

However, NHS England denied that Dr Vasco-Knight’s departure had anything to do with the tribunal findings.

11.03am HSJ reporter David Williams gives his analysis of the departure of Oxfordshire CCG’s chief:

Despite the controversy over Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s outcomes based contracting plans, it was ultimately not the local providers that forced Dr Richards out – it was a vote by local GPs who may have been voting on any number of local or personal issues.

Nevertheless, his departure, combined with the compromises the CCG has agreed to its radical outcomes based commissioning plans, form a critical development for outcomes based contracting – and has wider political significance.

Dr Richards’ attempt to introduce integrated care through large scale contracts was seen as a test case because it was early and ambitious. Bedfordshire CCG might have gone to market earlier to find a lead provider for musculoskeletal services, but the Oxfordshire plans account for up to 40 per cent of the CCG’s entire £612m commissioning budget.

11.00am On the front page of The Times, the paper reports that a once-a-day pill for men with advanced prostate cancer cuts the risk of death by a third, research has shown.

In a study of 1,700 men, enzalutamide allowed an average of 17 extra healthy months before the need for chemotherapy. It could soon become the standard choice for thousands of men with the UK’s most common male cancer, if hormone treatment fails.

10.58am Older women are less likely to have babies with major birth defects, according to study results reported by The Daily Mail.

An analysis of 76,000 womens’ pregnancy data by researchers from Washington University shows that women over 35 had 40 per cent lower odds of having a baby with a serious birth defect than younger women.

10.52am The Guardian also reports that e-cigarettes could be available on the NHS by the end of the year.

10.51am The Guardian reports on cosmetic surgeries exceeding 50,000 for the first time.

Rajiv Grover, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said people have more confidence in cosmetic surgery and are “choosing to spend on procedures with proven track records, such as liposuction”.

He added: “Whether it is breast augmentation or anti-ageing procedures like facelifting, the public are choosing tried and tested surgical methods rather than the magical-sounding quick fixes that fail to deliver results.”

10.48am GPs have been ordered to inform patients that they are almost twice as likely to develop blood clots if they take certain popular brand contraceptive pills, reports The Telegraph.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency wrote to GPs saying that there is no need for anyone to stop taking the pill if they have had no problems with taking it. However, they said that GPs should go through a health checklist with the patient before prescribing.

10.34am One in three breast cancer patients is aged 70 or over yet women in that age group are not routinely screened for the disease, reports The Telegraph.

About 13,500 women aged 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer every yer Public Health England figures show.

Chief medical officer professor dame Sally Davies

10.32am The Telegraph reports that an extra 110,000 patients were diagnosed with cold-related illnesses at A&Es last year according to the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

Mr Burnham will say in a speech today that the government is to blame for failing to curb the increase in energy bills.

10.18am Help HSJ to find out the status of clinical research in the NHS by completing our survey.

How important is research to your trust board and what would make it matter more?

HSJ, in association with the National Institute for Health Research, is preparing an article to investigate how clinical research is viewed at executive level within the NHS and would like to know what you think. Just take a few minutes to fill out our survey.

David Prior also called for serious “transformational change” of the health service, without which it will “go bust”.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Prior called for greater input from the private sector, the merging of hospitals and changes to the way the NHS is held to account - particularly, the scrapping of waiting targets.

Health charities warned that lives were being put at risk after it emerged that in some parts of England ambulances took nearly two minutes longer than two years ago to reach those who were in need of urgent help.

Nine out of the 11 regional NHS ambulance services saw response times go up between December 2011 and December last year, according to performance figures published by NHS England.

Amy Thompson, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Every second counts if someone’s having a heart attack or stroke.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live.By using a clearly defined profile of a “great ward sister” in recruitment, we can restore public faith in the nursing profession, says Katherine Fenton in this resource centre feature.