Treasury has approved public funding for a £353m “PF2” hospital rebuild in the West Midlands – the first NHS project to get the green light under the government’s successor to the private finance initiative, plus the rest of today’s news and comment

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4.45pm The Health Foundation has £1.6m available to fund research projects exploring original ideas in the area of informatics and health care improvement.

‘Informatics’ refers to the management and processing of complex information, in particular through the engineering and use of advanced information and communications technologies and systems.

The Health Foundation’s Insight call for proposals wants to support innovative work with the potential to address the challenges and embrace the opportunities of informatics in health care service improvement.

The call for proposals will close on Monday 28 July. The Health Foundation is looking to give grants to up to six research teams, with £250,000 – £500,000 available for each project.

The open call comes at a time when the Health Foundation is beginning to focus on the role of informatics in helping to improve people’s health and quality of health care.

4.05pm The Information Commissioner has warned that it has never been more important that the general public has an independent regulator overseeing the handling of people’s personal data.
Speaking at the launch of the Information Commissioner’s Office’s annual report today, Christopher Graham highlighted how the troubled launch of show why there is a need to have an independent regulator.

But he warned that independence relies on strong powers and sustainable funding.
The latest annual report shows that the ICO responded to a record number of data protection and freedom of information complaints this year.
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “Facebook,, Google: it is clear that organisations’ use of data is getting ever more complicated. People need to know someone is watching over their information.
“That needs to be someone who’s independent, of government and business, so the public know the regulator can be trusted. Sometimes the state is itself the issue. When the Intelligence and Security Committee wanted to know how the Snowden revelations fitted with data protection law, it was the Information Commissioner they turned to.
“Independence means someone who’s got the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases. The last twelve months have been a record year – more complaints resolved than ever, more enforcement action taken and more advice given through our helpline.
3.50pm The Foundation Trust Network has responded to the staff engagement report from the King’s Fund.

A spokeswoman said: “Different organisational models bring different benefits, but the advantages of effective staff engagement will be common to all. In a renewed effort to engage the workforce, it is therefore important that we do not dilute the principles of the foundation trust concept to ensure the autonomy of the provider board alongside local accountability to members and to the public. A core strength of the FT model is that it is inclusive to a variety of stakeholders including staff, partners, patients and representatives of the public.

“This report is particularly timely in the context of the Dalton Review which is also exploring the different organisational models trusts could adopt, depending on the needs of their localities. We look forward to working with members and policymakers to explore the options, and await with interest, the feedback and uptake from trusts in the government pathfinders.”

3.24pm Our story on University Hospitals of Leciester Trust being open to becoming a staff owned social enterprise has attracted some fierce debate.

“Social enterprises should: Have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents, generate the majority of their income through trade, reinvest the majority of their profits, be autonomous of state, be majority controlled in the interests of the social mission, be accountable and transparent. So apart from becoming autonomous of the state, how would this be different from what we have now?”

“The main difference is the accountability Martin. As CEO of a 100% staff and publically owned Social Enterprise I am very clear that I am accountable to my members and local citizens and no-one else. As far as i am concerned there is only 1 employee on our business, and thats me. I am employed by the staff and local citizens to run there business for them and that suits me fine. This is the first time in my 30+ year career that I feel truly accountable.”

“Who currently ‘owns’ NHS Trusts, the state, ie the staff and public. So yet again the government are seeking to sell us something we already own, so that their mates (who, by the way, will quickly cease to be their mates as soon as they get a better deal elsewhere) can make a financial killing down the line. Tell me, why is this a good thing for anybody except those ‘mates’?”

“Hold on. So the basic idea is to free hospitals from government control and make them accountable membership organisations? We could call them “Trust Foundations”.”

3.13pm Labour has called on the Government to commit to a two-year deadline to end the practice of placing vulnerable people with learning disabilities in Assessment and Treatment Units – like the former Winterbourne View – for long periods of time.

Labour’s shadow minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, said: “The whole country was shocked by the serious abuse and appalling standards of care at Winterbourne View. Ministers promised to move people with learning disabilities out of Assessment and Treatment Units and into the community. Labour warned at the time that without a detailed plan and clear deadlines, progress on achieving this would slip. Sure enough, three years on, there has been hardly any change.

“It’s a scandal that only a third of the people who were in ATUs last April have since been transferred out and that even today, more people are being sent into them than are being discharged. Over 2,615 people – including 148 children – are still being kept away from their families and friends.

“Labour is calling on the Government to commit to giving people with learning disabilities the support they need in the community or at home by July 2016. We need clear, personal and public commitments from Ministers. It’s time that they made good on their promises.”

2.51pm We have our first health-related reshuffle! George Freeman has been appointed as joint Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Health and the Department of Business.

He recently led a debate on the use of patient data.

2.50pm A leadership programme to help London mental health leads commission more effectively was the result of a major collaborative effort, write leading mental health figures.

2.06pm The Patient Safety and Care Awards 2014 ceremony is tonight. The brochure announcing the winners will be on the HSJ website from 11pm. Follow #psawards and @psafetyawards for live updates from the evening.

1.52pm Sheffield’s plans for a single budget for commissioning health and social care predate the better care fund and outstrip that policy’s ambitions, say director of business planning and partnerships at Sheffield CCG Tim Furness and director of commissioning at Sheffield City Council Joe Fowler

John Adler, chief executive of University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, told HSJ the £760m turnover organisation wanted to pursue a mutual model in order to bolster staff engagement, as a potential alternative to becoming a foundation trust.

His comments come as a Department of Health commissioned report on staff engagement today recommended acute trusts should be free to become staff led mutual social enterprises.

12.35pm Almost three-quarters of Britons support a change in the law on the right to die, an opinion poll has found ahead of the first parliamentary test for legislation on the issue.

The ComRes poll for ITV’s Tonight programme found that 70 per cent could support allowing assisted dying under the measures proposed in the Assisted Dying Bill being promoted by former lord chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

The legislation, which will have its second reading debate in the Lords on Friday, would enable people with six months to live to be given assistance to end their life, as long as two doctors approved.

12.31pm Hunt says car parking charges in some hospitals are too high.

12.27pm HSJ is quoted by Labour MP Barbara Keeley who cites our research into trusts failing to meet their own staffing levels.

She calls for a 1:8 ratio for nursing staff. Hunt says a ratio will not be given because that could mean some trusts would use this as a maximum.

12.25pm Labour MP Rushanara Ali asks why GP surgeries are being closed seeing as demand is rising.

12.22pm Hunt says since the reorganisation the NHS is performing 855,000 more operations.

12.20pm Burnham says Hunt survived the reshuffle because his “real views on the NHS are anything but moderate”.

He cites the RCS report into restricted access to certain types of surgery. Hunt says more people are being treated because of scrapping PCTs.

Burnham says the reorganisation has resulted in “a postcode lottery writ large”.

12.14pm Paul Burstow asks what will replace the National Dementia Strategy when it ends this year. Hunt says conversations are currently underway.

12.12pm Hunt welcomes the NICE staffing guidance to end the “scandal of understaffed wards”.

12.10pm Hunt says “we need to be enhancing community care services”.

12.08pm Hunt praises the improvements Medway Foundation Trust has made and cites the “twinning” relationship between Medway and University Hospitals Birmingham.

12.04pm Sarah Wollaston says that access therapy should be based on informed consent. Lamb says there is no plan to coerce patients into therapy.

Lamb says there is no truth in the “rumour” that people with mental health problems who refuse treatment could have their benefits stopped.

12.01pm Lamb says it is essential to get the voluntary sector more involved to move patients with learning disabilities out of hospital settings.

Lamb says that changing the culture is a lot more difficult than he had hoped.

12.00pm Care Minister Norman Lamb says Simon Stevens has shown a personal interest in moving patients with learning disabilities out of institutionalised care and back into their communities.

11.50pm Hunt says 1000 more GPs have been employed over this Parliament by cutting money spent on “bureaucracy”.

11.47pm Conservative MP Edward Leigh asks when the government is going to be honest about the “massive looming black hole” in NHS finances. Mr Leigh calls for French system of social insurance.

Hunt says he would not support any system of charging that would make it harder to access services.

11.41am Hunt says the most important thing for continuity of care is having a named GP.

11.40am Jeremy Hunt is answering health questions in the House of Commons today. He says there will be one million extra over 75s by the end of the next Parliament.

11.12am Patients are being denied “vital” surgical procedures because clinical commissioning groups are imposing “arbitrary” restrictions on care, leading doctors have warned.

The Royal College of Surgeons said that patients across England are facing a postcode lottery as to whether or not they get some types of treatment.

The college examined patient access to four common surgical procedures across the country and found that a number of CCGs were restricting access contrary to national guidance.

Data was collected from 52 CCGs about their policies on hip replacements, the removal of tonsils, hernia operations and surgical treatment for glue ear - also known as Otitis media with effusion.

11.05am A string of newspapers including the Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian as well as the Press Association have cited HSJ research in their coverage of NICE’s staffing proposals.

More than three quarters of acute NHS providers have missed their own targets for the number of hours worked at their hospitals by registered nurses, HSJ analysis of latest published data has revealed.

Of 139 acute trusts that reported staffing data for May 2014 to their boards, a total of 105 failed to meet their own targets for total nursing hours worked during both day and night in at least one hospital site.

The merger was meant to complete by 1 August, but a spokesman for Frimley Park said that while “substantial progress” had been made, more time was needed to “work through the raft of outstanding legal, financial and practical challenges”.

He did not give a revised deadline, but said the “parties involved” were committed to bringing the “process to the quickest possible conclusion”.

The organisation last week issued details of its proposals, which aim to save HEE 20 per cent - or £17m - of its £85m running costs.

HSJ revealed HEE’s plans for structural change last month. Under the proposals, each of the 13 LETBs’ current managing director, finance director and education and quality director posts would be abolished. Each would instead have a “local director”. HEE would also create four new national director posts, each to oversee a group of LETBs.

10.20am In The Times, hospital patients should demand action if they wait more than 30 minutes for pain relief or see other “red flags” that wards are short-staffed, the National Institute for Health and Care excellence has warned.

NICE will today suggest that hospitals need to recruit thousands of more nurses to ensure safe care, at an estimated cost of £200m.

10.10am The Telegraph reports that NHS executives face possible investigation by HM Revenue and Customs after they refused to answer questions about their tax arrangements.

An investigation has identified 86 senior health service officials paid off-payroll have refused to give assurances to their employers that they are paying the correct level of income tax and national insurance.

The review, led by King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham, is published today.

In an opinion piece published on today Professor Ham says there should be an “option… for NHS trusts to become staff-led mutual… including trusts providing acute services”.

9.50am Patients are facing long delays for surgical treatment because clinical commissioning groups are ignoring evidence-based guidance on when to provide surgery, a report by the Royal College of Surgeons reveals today.

The report ‘Is Access to Surgery A Postcode Lottery?’ reveals that 73 per cent of the CCGs reviewed do not follow NICE and clinical guidance on referral for hip replacements, or have no policy in place for this procedure. Over a third of CCGs (44 per cent) require patients to be in various degrees of pain and immobility (with no consistency applied across the country) or to lose weight before surgery. The report states that this is unacceptable.

The study investigated commissioning policies relating to four common surgical procedures carried out on the NHS and compared those policies to evidence-based guidance.

The commissioning policies for each procedure were sought from 58 CCGs, 27 per cent of the total 211 CCGs in England. In total 52 CCG polices were analysed.

The report discovered that only 27 per cent of CCGs reviewed had policies that complied with NICE or surgical guidance on inguinal hernia repair, while 58 per cent have no policy at all. Fifteen per cent required evidence of a hernia increasing in size or a history of reoccurring problems, even if a patient is suffering from debilitating pain.

9.28am The Guardian reports that Jeremy Hunt is preparing plans to place GPs into special measures if they are judged to be failing their patients.

The British Medical Association is warning that the move could unfairly damage patients’ trust in their local practice and says the health secretary could sensationalise the few surgeries where problems have been found.

9.17am The government’s reshuffle continues today. HSJ Live is not expecting any major moves in the Department of Health but we will keep you updated if anything changes.

The government will provide £100m to the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust rebuild, with the remainder of the finance sought from private sector lenders.

The inclusion of public funding under the PF2 deal is intended to reduce the costs of the private finance.

7.00am Good morning. During a time of flux for the NHS, staff engagement should be a high priority but will make little difference unless politicians and national bodies are willing to give more responsibility to providers at a local level, writes Chris Ham.