The chief executive of South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust, accused of “nepotism” by two whistleblowers, has been suspended, plus the rest of the day’s news and comment

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6.05pm The chief executive of South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust, who was accused of “nepotism” by two whistleblowers, has been suspended with immediate effect.

Non-executive director David Allen said that the “situation has moved on considerably in the last week” and that the suspension of Dr Vasco-Knight was “in the best interest of all parties whilst a formal process is underway to investigate concerns raised by the recent employment tribunal”.

He added that the suspension is a “neutral act and has no bearing on the outcome of the process”.

Robert Francis criticised South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust’s attempts to cover up accusations of nepotism against its chief executive.

Speaking at a Nuffield Trust event last Thursday to mark one year since his report into care failures at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, Mr Francis said: “It is important that no tolerance is afforded to oppressive managerial behaviour of the sort identified only last week by an employment tribunal in the South West, which victimises staff who raise honestly held concerns.

“Every such case is hugely damaging to the confidence of other staff who are contemplating raising concerns. It is clear that there is much to do in this area.”

A tribunal found that the trust hid nepotism claims against Dr Vasco-Knight after two whistleblowers accused her of giving a job to her daughter’s boyfriend, Nick Schenk, who was felt to be under-qualified for the position.

When Clare Sardari and Penelope Gates reported their concerns over Mr Schenk’s appointment they were subsequently told they would not be able to continue working for South Devon.

In an email to Anthony Farnsworth, then chief executive of Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust, which was in the process of being acquired by South Devon, Dr Vasco-Knight wrote: “I want to be really clear the behaviour and false accusations of these two employees…broke trust policy and trust.”

“It is within the gift of South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust to not wish to continue a partnership with staff who have behaved in such a way.”

When giving evidence at the tribunal Dr Vasco-Knight claimed that the trust did not consider the whistleblowers’ complaints to be “malicious” and said they had not returned to work because they had insisted that their line manager Adrienne Murphy and herself be removed from their posts first.

However, the tribunal found that Dr Vasco-Knight’s evidence was “inconsistent with many of the contemporaneous documents”.

A claim of wrongful dismissal was not supported by the tribunal however because Ms Sardari and Ms Gates were employees of Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust and the tribunal ruled that the trust had done everything in its power to try and reinstate the two women.

Following the tribunal’s findings chairman Peter Hildrew resigned with immediate effect. Topsy Murray stepped in as acting chairman but she also resigned just eight days later citing health grounds.

The trust is now conducting an internal investigation into Dr Vasco-Knight’s actions and said that it will be completed “as quickly as possible”.

5.00pm How can partnership working improve end of life care? Join HSJ’s Twitter chat this Friday at 12pm to have your say. Don’t forget to use the hashtag: #HSJEoLC

4.45pm In The Guardian’s Public Leaders Network, David Walker analyses whether Ed Miliband allow professional autonomy in public services such as the NHS, ahead of his Hugo Young lecture this evening.

4.20pm The BBC reports on Ed Miliband saying a future Labour government would “create a new culture” of giving more power to patients and parents for public services.

From extracts of speech he is due to give in London, Mr Miliband is expected to say patients should get access their health records “swiftly and effectively” and that Labour would bring about a “radical reshaping of services so that local services can come together and make the decisions that matter to their own communities”.

3.53pm The Daily Telegraph examines the potential health benefits of creating implants from 3D print-outs.

Craig Gerrand, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, created a pelvis from 3D printing for a patient who had lost his to cancer.

“It’s fantastic that you can do cool surgery,” Mr Gerrand told The Telegraph, “but the real innovation will be when we don’t have to do this at all, because we have developed new treatments that can stop the cancer in its tracks.”

3.30pm In The Guardian’s Healthcare Professionals Network, Roger Kline, a director at Patients First, speaks to Delilah Hesling, a former whistle-blower nurse at the Royal Sussex hospital in Brighton who has since been appointed the country’s first patient safety ombudswoman

Ms Hesling said: “”Most staff, especially the ones I have helped, are so glad my role is there to help raise their issues. Over the two years I have been in post a trickle of support has become a steady stream.

“The things I find most frustrating are familiar to many NHS staff. As in many other trusts, the organisational reluctance to say ‘sorry’, and the harrowing bureaucratic complaints and disciplinary processes, always exacerbate the pain of the complainant.”

3.17pm Janes Cummings also told Nursing Times that social media sites like Twitter can increasingly provide a “massive networking” opportunity for nurses to spread best practice.

3.15pm Our sister title Nursing Times has interviewed NHS England’s chief nursing officer, Jane Cummings.

2.21pm In relation to the ONS story below, the organisation’s formal report on its consultation can be found here.

2.07pm The Office for National Statistics has announced that all of the datasets relating to child mortality will continue to be published, following the results of a consultation.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, alongside other organisations including NSPCC, National Children’s Bureau and the Lullaby Trust campaigned to have the statistics retained.

Dr Hilary Cass, President of the RCPCH said:

“The decision to continue publishing statistics on child mortality is a huge relief and testimony to the organisations and individuals who campaigned hard to ensure they remained.

“Without these annual figures, the drive to improve child health in the UK would have taken a major backward step. Today’s victory sends out a strong message; the ONS has recognised that the health and wellbeing of the nation, and in particular children – is something that cannot be allowed to fall victim to a cold cost-cutting exercise.”

1.28pm The chief executive of a charity providing specialist mental health services to the NHS has announced he is resigning because of health concerns.

Professor Philip Sugarman, chief executive of St Andrew’s, is standing down with immediate effect. He will be replaced by chief operating officer Warren Irving on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found.

1.00pm In The Daily Telegraph, health columnist Max Pemberton uses his column to voice his support for Dr Gordon Gancz, an Oxford GP who has stated that he intends to keep his patients’ medical records private. This comes in response to the NHS’s flagship programme which will see data from patient’s records collected and stored. It will then be made available to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Dr Gancz has reportedly been told by NHS managers in Thames Valley that he risks having his surgery closed down if he does not comply with the data collection programme.

12.30pm An exclusive from HSJ’s Shaun Lintern: two former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust nurses who were struck off for altering accident and emergency waiting times are to launch a High Court bid to overturn their ban.

Sharon Turner and Tracy White are appealing against the decision of a Nursing and Midwifery Council fitness to practise panel last year which ruled they were guilty of misconduct and should be struck off the nursing register.

12.27pm Two influential groups, representing patients and NHS providers, have raised concerns about draft fundamental standards being consulted on by the Department of Health.

The coalition of health and social care charities National Voices, told HSJ there should be a stronger commitment in the standards to helping people manage their own health and involving them in decisions about their care.

The Foundation Trust Network said that new measures making it easier for the CQC to prosecute and fine providers were “likely to make matters worse, not better” for trusts in difficulty.

The DH is consulting on 11 fundamental standards below which care should never fall.

12.15pm An exclusive from David Williams and Kaye Wiggins: the Department of Health has scrapped plans to withhold money from areas that fail to deliver performance improvements through joint commissioning with local authorities.

Instead the DH, together with NHS England and the Local Government Association, will offer “support” where the £3.8bn better care fund does not lead to improved performance on metrics including delayed transfers and reduced emergency department admissions.

The policy shift was revealed by ministers in a joint interview featuring HSJ and our sister magazine Local Government Chronicle.

12.00pm The Daily Mail reports that a patient who lost half his pelvis to bone cancer has had a new one created on a 3D printer.

Craig Gerrand, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who works at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust, carried out the first transplant of its kind on a unnamed man in his 60s.

11.55am Also in The Guardian, a study from Sheffield University introducing a minimum alcohol pricing could result in 860 fewer deaths a year and  29,900 fewer hospital admissions from heavy-drinkers.

11.50am The Guardian reports that £250m could be saved by the NHS each year if a tenth of journeys were made by bicycle, according to research from Cambridge University, commissioned for a government campaign.

The study concluded that if just five of the average 36 minutes a day people spend in cars was spent cycling instead, there would be a 5 per cent reduction in inactivity-related illnesses seen by the NHS, such as diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

11.42am The Times also reports that the discovery of a chemical signal that predicts whether an embryo will implant or be rejected by the womb could improve the success rates of IVF treatment, according to scientists.

The study, by the University of Southampton, reveals that the most promising embryos give off a chemical called trypsin that readies the lining of the womb for implantation.

11:37am The Times reports that gay men will be given a pill to prevent HIV in a trial funded by the government.

Nearly 500 gay men who regularly have unprotected sex or are involved in heavy drug use have been selected for the two-year pilot trial of the drug Truvada, which is already used by the NHS to treat HIV.

However, scientists are concerned that use of the drug could encourage men to stop using condoms and increase incidents of sexually transmitted diseases.

11.23am Turning to today’s papers, The Financial Times reports that one of the UK’s biggest specialist healthcare providers is preparing to float on the London Stock Exchange.

Cambian provides specialist education, mental health rehabilitation and learning disabilities services in more than 60 centres across the country, employing more than 3,500 staff.

It has been owned by GI Capital, a private equity group, since 2004. The FT reports that GI has appointed bankers to examine a listing of the business before the summer.

The paper says it could be the first of a number of listings of healthcare companies over the next few years.

11.04am The chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists has commented on the government’s new health and work service. The scheme aims to stop people going on long-term sick leave by providing early access to services like physiotherapy that can keep people fit for work.

Professor Karen Middleton said:

“Too many people at present end up on long-term sick leave because they do not get fast access to physiotherapy and other services that could have got them back in work quickly, or even avoided any absence at all.

“This can be devastating for the individuals involved and expensive for employers and the wider economy.

“This new service has the potential to stop minor conditions from becoming long-term problems by providing that early access to treatment, and that is to be welcomed.

“But it is important to add that if someone is unable to work, forcing them back before they are ready will only cause their condition to worsen and require a longer period of absence.

“It is therefore essential that employers be responsible and work together with their employees to find the best solution for everyone’s interests.”

10.50am Patient care is being compromised by a “chronic lack of investment” in GPs, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned.

GP funding in England has reached its lowest level on record, the RCGP has claimed.

Funding for family doctors now accounts for 8.5 per cent of the NHS budget compared to 10.95 per cent eight years ago, despite the fact that nine-tenths of NHS patient contacts are made in general practice, the college said.

10.46am The chest wall service at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children Foundation Trust has been suspended following concern that individual consultants were making care decisions without involving the rest of the medical team.

The service is small and predominantly elective, carrying out around 40 operations a year. It mostly provides cosmetic treatment to children with significant deformities of the chest wall.

10.22am The number of people with diabetes in the UK is now more than 3.2 million, with last year seeing the biggest jump in cases since 2008.

NHS figures show 3,208,014 adults are now diagnosed with the condition. About 850,000 more people have diabetes without knowing it.

10.19am Efforts to develop quality indicators and a tariff payment system for community services providers have received a huge boost after winning the support of the main national health leadership organisations, HSJ has discovered.

Representatives from Monitor, NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the NHS Commissioning Assembly agreed to form a programme executive to continue developing the proposals.

9.51am The Unite union has said the Care Quality Commission should hold an inquiry into the an ambulance dispute in Yorkshire, as paramedics and ambulance staff prepare to go out on two more strikes this week.

Unite’s 375 members will strike on Friday 14 February between 15.00 and 20.00 and on Monday 17 February at the same time over the introduction of elongated shift patterns.

This follows a 25 hour strike on Saturday 1 February 2014 and a four hour strike on Monday 3 February.

9.41am NHS England will use this year’s Innovation Expo, taking place on March 3 and 4, to launch “NHS Change Day” - a campaign to get half a million pledges to improve care for people.

Last year’s campaign received 189,000 online pledges of action from individuals, teams and organisations, and NHS England is now targeting 500,000 pledges.

More information on Innovation Expo 2014 can be found here.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. As physical healthcare shifts from the hospital to the community, so liaison psychiatry should too. Lawrence Moulin and Michael Parsonage look at a service doing just that.