Successful bidders from PM’s £50m challenge fund announced, and the rest of today’s news and comment

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4.20pm The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has welcomed the decision by the Department of Health to appoint a Director General for Innovation, Growth and Technology, announced at the ABPI Annual Conference by Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health.

The post will oversee the Medicines, Pharmacy, and Industry Division. The appointment is intended to strengthen the Government’s focus on the innovation growth and technology agenda and strengthen the Department’s capacity in this area. The post is due to be filled later in the summer.

Commenting on the announcement, ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead said: “I am very pleased that through the creation of this new post the Department is making innovation and growth a higher priority. When the strategy for UK Life Sciences was published in December 2011, the Government made a commitment to make the UK a global leader in the life sciences sector, and earlier this year the ABPI called on the Government to provide greater leadership and accept a growing accountability in the development of the life sciences sector. This appointment will contribute to meeting these objectives.

“I hope that this appointment will lead to an increased focus on delivering the Innovation Health and Wealth agenda, ensuring that the health system in the UK is a hotbed of innovation and growth. The pharmaceutical industry is committed to play its part in defining the next steps and working together with government as they strengthen their focus on this important agenda”.

4.05pm An evaluation of the North East Transformation System contains some important lessons for future large scale change initiatives in the NHS, write David Hunter, Jonathan Erskine, Chris Hicks, Tom McGovern, Edward Lugsden, Martin Eccles, Nick Steen, Paula Whitty.

2.55pm The NHS’s most indebted trust, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust, has announced the appointment of a new chief executive.  

Stephen Graves, chief executive at nearby West Suffolk Foundation Trust will take on the role, currently occupied by interim chief executive Peter Reading last September.

Prior to his current role at West Suffolk, Mr Graves was director of corporate development at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

2.25pm The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman has said it is “fully cooperating” with the Kirkup Inquiry into failures Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust. Last month HSJ reported the ombudsman would not be able to provide all of the information requested by the independent inquiry team due to restrictions on sharing personal data.However, the ombudsman has told HSJ its staff are helping the team to locate information from other sources.

2.15pm The Central Eastern Clinical Commissioning Support Unit has shelved plans to bid for a place on NHS England’s ‘lead provider’ network, throwing its long-term viability into question.

The Central Eastern Commissioning Unit decided against applying for a place on the network after examining the intentions of its clinical commissioning group clients, it said in a statement this week.

NHS England has made clear that CSUs which are not accredited by its lead provider framework for commissioning support would be “extremely unlikely” to win enough contracts to stay financial viable.

1.37pm Failure to adopt new surgical techniques quickly into everyday clinical practice means NHS patients are missing out on ground-breaking new procedures, warns a new report from the Royal College of Surgeons.

The report, entitled From innovation to adoption: Successfully spreading surgical innovation, sets out for the first time the factors that have helped and hindered the adoption of new surgical techniques in England.

It highlights that from the first antiseptic operation, through to organ transplantation, keyhole techniques and robotic technology, innovation has revolutionised NHS care.

From innovation to adoption warns that if we are to continue to be at the forefront of improving patient care, supporting research, new techniques and ideas must become business as usual for the NHS.

Based on an examination of five mainstream surgical procedures the study explores why, after new surgical techniques have been trialled, it can still take years for patients to benefit from them. Insufficient evidence to prove the safety and effectiveness of a new procedure; ensuring surgeons have the new skills required; investment in new equipment or the need to redesign services (infrastructure) and the level of clinical and patient demand are among the reasons why the widespread adoption of a new surgical procedures is often delayed.

One case study in the report, for laparoscopic colorectal surgery, starkly outlines the problems.

The quality of the evidence for laparoscopic colorectal surgery meant that the technique received a positive recommendation through NICE’s technology appraisal process, which carries with it a legal requirement for hospitals to make the treatment available within three months. However, this requirement was waived for four years due to a lack of appropriately trained surgeons in the NHS to deliver the desired workload, meaning the availability of the treatment on the NHS was not mandated.

Strong clinical leadership and advocacy from Sir Mike Richards, then National Clinical Director for Cancer was instrumental in securing action and adequate funding from the Department of Health to ensure that this legal duty could be fulfilled by training surgical teams which led to the procedure eventually being adopted.

The report seeks to address how to progress the uptake of surgical innovations in a practical way, eradicating delay to ensure their benefits are realised by patients as quickly as possible.

It argues the absence of evidence that a new innovation is truly beneficial can make it harder to secure the funding needed to develop surgical skills and establish the correct infrastructure to support an innovation’s wider use.

The study states that ultimately clinicians must want to use a new procedure and patients must want to receive it, if a treatment is to be widely adopted. This will require the provision of appropriate information on its benefits and risks.

From innovation to adoption also makes six achievable and affordable recommendations, which, if implemented, will benefit patients in future years. Among the recommendations is a call to NHS England to work in partnership with NICE and the Royal College of Surgeons of England to develop a horizon scanning process to quickly identify and review new surgical procedures that have the potential to improve patient care.  Other recommendations include:

  • Providers of NHS services should be financially incentivised to support surgical innovation.
  • NHS England should work in partnership with NICE and the Royal College of Surgeons of England to agree on an appropriate service delivery model. The Royal College of Surgeons should provide advice on training requirements, including the number of centres, to safely introduce the new technique.
  • Patients should be offered a choice of different surgical interventions that are appropriate for them, including new practices and techniques.
  • Patient groups should work with surgical specialty associations to develop appropriate information for patients on new surgical procedures.

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Many patients are not benefitting from groundbreaking procedures even when surgeons firmly believe that they can save or extend lives and improve their quality. This cannot continue. We cannot afford to neglect the kind of surgical innovation that has made such a difference to a chance of survival and recovery, for example, in keyhole surgery, advancements in transplant surgery and the rapid developments we are now seeing in robotic surgery. Now is the time for the NHS, the government and the surgical profession to understand how the adoption and diffusion of new, innovative surgical practices can be accelerated.”

1.30pm Nearly half of all nurses believe their organisation is at risk of becoming the “next Mid Staffs” or heading that way already, reveals the latest large-scale survey on NHS staffing levels.

The findings suggest many nursing teams are operating at danger point, with ongoing shortages damaging patient care, according to a Unison poll reported by HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times.

The union carried out the poll of nearly 3,000 nursing staff on 4 March to show a typical “day in the life” of the NHS.

12.56pm A statement from the British Medical Association on the Prime Minister Challenge Fund pilot, designed to increase patient access to GPs:

Positive changes to the GP contract in England supporting GPs to deliver more personalised care to vulnerable patients will need to be backed by new investment in a range of patient services and general practice, GP leaders said today.  

In response to the launch of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund pilot, the BMA also questioned whether overstretched GP practices would have the resources to provide extended opening hours in the long term. GP leaders called for the pilot to be evaluated for appropriate use of limited NHS resources, and take into account the need for practices to tailor their opening hours to the demands of local patients, ensuring they are not at the expense of caring for vulnerable patients in greatest need.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s General Practice Committee, said: “GPs have for many years been at the forefront of delivering care in the community to the millions of vulnerable patients with complex needs, who need coordinated support with their conditions.

“The changes negotiated by the BMA to the GP contract in England will help to build on this good work. GPs want the best possible care for their most vulnerable and frail patients, which includes avoiding the distress of a preventable hospital admission.

“However, these changes will need to be properly supported. The government must take further action so that community, social and urgent care work in tandem to deliver truly holistic care to patients.  Ministers must also deliver on their commitment to increase resources in the community so that there are more GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to provide coordinated care to the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home. This will enable GPs to be properly supported and have the time and ability to deliver the personalised care that patients deserve.”

Commenting on the government’s improving access pilot, Dr Nagpaul said: “These pilots will give some GPs the opportunity and resources to test ways of improving access, use of technology and extend their opening times in areas where it is felt there is demand from local patients. However, as pilots, it is important that these are independently evaluated to ensure they are a responsible use of stretched NHS funds.

“We must ensure that practices have the flexibility to tailor their opening times appropriately for their local population, and this must not be at the expense of their availability to those most vulnerable patients in greatest need. Outside of those signed up to the pilot, there will still be close to 7,000 GP practices across the country who will not be receiving extra support to improve patient access or maintain current services. Furthermore, given that this funding is only for one year, there is no assurance of these changes being affordable in future years.

“General practice is currently under intense pressure from a combination of escalating patient demand and falling resources. In a recent BMA GP survey almost all respondents reported they were struggling with heavy or unmanageable workloads and six out of ten said they were considering retiring early because of the pressure they were under.

“It is vital that we have a long term plan in place to help support all GP practices to deliver appropriate care to their patients. We must also make sure that finite NHS resources are directed to where they are truly needed.”

12.55pm The Department of Health and NHS England have launched a £400m programme for vulnerable older people to reduce pressure on accident and emergency wards.

Their transforming primary care programme aims to help 800,000 people deemed to have the most complex needs. They are mostly expected to be over the age of 75.It will offer enhanced services including individual care plans which will be regularly reviewed, a named GP responsible for their care an same-day access to GPs when necessary. Full story here

12.49pm Click here to read the complete version of More complaints please!, the public administration select committee’s report on complaints handling in public services. In their report on complaints, committee says a culture of denial and failure of leadership in public services in handling complaints is what leads to failures like the Mid-Staffs hospital disaster.

11.49am A major review of nurse training in England will be launched next month to help push up standards of patient care, Health Service Journal can reveal.

Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council will launch the review in May to investigate the education standards of the 60,000 annual intake of nursing and midwifery students.

11.45am The threat of industrial action by health workers over pay will come closer this week amid public support for higher wages in the NHS.

Delegates at Unison’s annual health conference in Brighton on Tuesday will debate the government’s decision not to award an across the board 1 per cent pay rise, as recommended by the NHS review body.

Only staff who do not receive an incremental increase will be awarded the 1% rise, a proposal which has sparked anger among health workers.

11.20am Sexual health services currently provided by Whittington Health are to be put out to tender by the north London authority that took over the role of commissioning the services last April.

Haringey Council is to launch the bidding process this summer but refused to disclose which aspects of the service the tender would cover or the value of the contract.

Seperately, the British Medical Journal has done research on how local authorities are administering public health budgets now that they have been transferred over from the NHS. The journal found that local authorities across England are diverting ringfenced funds for public health to wider council services to plug gaps caused by government budget cuts.

11.17am The government has today revealed the successful bidders for the prime minister’s £50m ‘challenge fund’, a budget to increase access to GP surgeries. The cash has been alloted to twenty pilot schemes, covering more than 1,150 practices. Seven of the pilots will extend opening hours to 8am-8pm seven days week. Two others will offer seven-day services in specially created centres.

11.02am The Daily Mail also carries coverage of claims by the British Medical Association that funding in place to help extend GP opening hours will not be enough.

10.59am In The Guardian, good public services, including the NHS, are too often being “poisoned” by inadequate handling of complaints, a cross-party group of MPs has found.

In a report commissioned after the Mid-Staffordshire NHS scandal, the Commons public administration committee said the government did not conform to complaints best practice.

The report recommends that a Cabinet Office minister take charge of how complaints are dealt with and there should be a single point of contact for citizens to raise concerns.

10.57am The Independent reports that ten times more patients will have access to extended GP opening hours, the Government claimed yesterday, as part of changes to a scheme designed to improve patient care in the community.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said that 1,147 surgeries covering 5.5 million patients had signed up to the plan. Originally the scheme was only due to benefit 500,000 patients. But the Department of Health later admitted that funding for the scheme had not increased from the £50m that was announced last year.

10.39am The Times reports that artificial blood made from human cells is to be tested in patients for the first time.

The study is planned for 2016 and could pave the way for the manufacturing of blood on an industrial scale, which scientists say could ultimately supersede donated blood as the main supply for patients.

10.33am Looking through this morning’s newspapers:

The Daily Telegraph carries on its front page a claim by MPs that millions of people are suffering in silence because they are met with “hostility, defensiveness and denial” by public officials.

The paper reports that Britain will face another scandal like Mid Staffs, unless there is a cultural “revolution”, the public administration select committee has said in report published today.

The committee urges David Cameron to create a new minister for complaints to champion those with grievances and overhaul the way that the public sector is run.

The paper also reports that nearly a million elderly and vulnerable patients will be given personalised care by their GPs including regular visits from doctors and nurses, the Prime Minister will announce today.

More than £400 million is being targeted at over 75s with long-term conditions to help them remain in their homes and prevent unnecessary admissions to accident and emergency departments.

David Cameron will also unveil plans to extend the opening hours of more than 1,000 GPs’ surgeries in the evening and at weekends and offer consultations by phone and on Skype, the video call service.

6.00am Trainee GPs looking to hone their commissioning skills are being attracted to east Kent by the region’s clinical leadership programme, writes Hazel Carpenter.