Nine patients potentially put at risk of infection when unsterilised instruments used in surgery, plus the rest of the day’s news and comment.

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4.39pm There’s been some interesting reader comments on our story from earlier today about NICE rejecting government proposals that would see an assessment of the benefits a patient may have on society being taken into account when deciding whether to pay for new drugs. Here’s two of the comments:

“I’m glad to hear the DH is open to exploring the options, no system will be perfect but that’s no reason to accept the most reductive approach to assess the value of human beings.”

“This is ultimately the problem with any system where there is a central payer - we should look very closely at the Singapore system, with its personalised savings accounts and insurance against catastrophic costs, as a way of retaining individual control over these decisions.”

3.01pm Eleven financially challenged health economies will receive support with strategic planning to try to ensure the sustainability of local services, it has been announced.

Monitor, NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority have agreed to fund a series of projects to help groups of commissioners and providers work together to develop integrated five-year plans that address the specific challenges they face.

Potential suppliers are being invited to tender for work which will see them appointed as a “critical friend”, bringing together partners in a health economy and testing whether the organisations are undertaking their long term strategic planning in the most effective way.

NHS England’s Chief Financial Officer Paul Baumann said: “We are investing resources now to help organisations across these health economies to plan effectively. The health economies identified are those where we believe that this immediate support will have the greatest long-term impact, providing significant positive benefits to patients and taxpayers in the future.”

The 11 health economies are:

  • South West London
  • North East London
  • Cumbria
  • Eastern Cheshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Mid Essex
  • Cambridge & Peterborough
  • Leicestershire
  • Northamptonshire
  • East Sussex
  • Devon

2.25pm All three acute hospitals in Worcestershire are closed to visitors as an outbreak of norovirus continues to affect the county, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has announced.

The trust is asking members of the public to avoid visiting patients at the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch, Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre and Worcestershire Royal Hospital, unless it is absolutely essential. Those who believe their visit is essential are advised to telephone the ward in advance for advice.

In a press statement, chief nursing officer Lindsey Webb said: “We would like to thank all of those people who, over the past few days, have heeded our advice and avoided visiting the hospitals. We would also like to thank those who have arrived and been turned away for their understanding of the situation. I am pleased to report that this extra vigilance does mean that the situation is improving and we will be reviewing the situation again on Monday.”

The latest visiting information is available on the front page of the trust’s website.

2.00pm The health and social care workforce’s grasp of good information governance has deteriorated since the NHS reforms were implemented, according to the expert commissioned by the government to examine the issue.

Dame Fiona Caldicott has said that people working within the NHS and social care had forgotten what good information governance “looked like” since the date of the reforms’ implementation.

1.34pm Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust’s chairman has accused ministers of risking “smashing up” one of the “jewels in the NHS’s crown” by continuing to delay the trust’s move to a new site.

John Wallwork, who took over as chairman in September, said he was “baffled” by the Treasury’s reluctance to approve the trust’s relocation to a new £165m hospital next to Cambridge University Hospital Foundation Trust’s main site.

1.25pm The chair of the high profile public inquiry into paediatric heart surgery in Bristol is to lead a new review into the deaths of a number of children with heart problems at University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust.

Sir Ian Kennedy has agreed in principle to lead the review after being approached by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh last week.

Sir Ian chaired the public inquiry into children’s heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary at the turn of the century which looked at an unusually high death rate among children treated at the hospital between 1984 and 1995.

The Care Quality Commission inspected the trust 2012 in response to the concerns of the families of children who had died at the hospital.

They found ward 32, where seriously ill children were cared for, was understaffed and criticised management for failing to address the issue over a “considerable period of time”.

12.28pm An investigation has been launched after nine patients at a hospital in the North West were operated on with surgical instruments which had not been fully sterilised, HSJ’s Shaun Lintern reports.

Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust has confirmed the incidents took place between 12-15 January and saw instruments used in both minor and major surgical cases despite not being fully sterilised between operations.

The trust has identified nine patients who were potentially put at risk of infection during procedures including a skin biopsy and major hip replacement surgery.  

The trust said the patients were at “extremely low risk” of infection and that all had received apologies.

11.57am North Cumbria University Hospitals has “lost confidence” in the private finance initiative contractor that manages facilities on its main site after a probe uncovered “major issues” with the way its operating theatres, water systems and gas pipelines were being maintained.

The findings of the trust’s investigation of facilities on its Cumberland Infirmary site came as the facilities management company, Health Management Carlisle (HMC), advised the trust that it planned to increase its charges on the contract by £1m next year.

Trust board papers reveal that North Cumbria has warned HMC that the company is “open to corporate manslaughter and fraud risks in relation to [bacteria such as] legionella, pseudomonas, etc.”

The trust branded the planned price rise “entirely inappropriate” given its concerns about HMC’s current services.

11.18am HSJ’s resident waiting times expert Rob Findlay has written a fascinating and timely blog on what the NHS can learn from the Environment Agency’s approach and experience to flooding.

Rob writes: “We need to “forecast” first, because that tells us how to “mitigate”. The Environment Agency does a lot of forecasting, and that is what we need to replicate in the NHS. But each (fairly self-contained) river system on the Environment Agency’s map is equivalent to just one (fairly self-contained) subspecialty in one NHS hospital, so the NHS needs to monitor and forecast a lot more things. The good news is that each of those forecasts is not as complicated to produce as the Environment Agency’s, although it still needs to be in enough detail to plan weekly sessional commitments.”

11.04am Almost half of the public do not understand plans for sharing their medical records while 80 per cent of GPs are unclear how the data will be used, surveys have shown.

Two polls for the Medical Protection Society show most patients have not yet received leaflets explaining the system and GPs fear patients will not be informed enough to decide whether to opt out.

Last week, the Royal College of GPs warned of a “crisis of public confidence” in the new system. While it supports the plan in principle, it said it was “very worried” the public had not been properly informed.

10.58m The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has rejected government proposals that would see an assessment of the benefits a patient may have on society being taken into account when deciding whether to pay for new drugs.

10.47am The Daily Mail reports that some consultants are earning £200 an hour to work in understaffed accident and emergency units.

10.37am Returning to the subject of, two thirds of patients say they have not been told about the programme while most GPs don’t understand it properly, according to survey results reported by The Times.

67 per cent of people surveyed by YouGov say they have not received a leaflet that was supposed to have been sent to every household.

A separate poll of GPs fund that 80 per cent do not have a good understanding of how the data will be used.

10.32am Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted every year because the NHS is over-paying for supplies, reports The Times.

Two thirds of hospitals had little idea what they were buying or what price they were paying for equipment said John Neilson, managing director of NHS Shared Business Services.

After the Government announced last week that Sir Stuart Rose would advise on NHS leadership Mr Neilson said that looking to a “white knight” was not the best way to seek savings.

10.29am The Times reports that the elderly would be denied new drugs under “hard-nosed” plans by ministers that prioritise patients who contribute to the economy, NICE has warned.

NICE has rejected plans to take “wider societal benefit” into account when considering whether to pay for a drug. The treatments adviser is calling for a formula that gives extra weighting to patients’ quality of life.

Ministers insist that they would not allow the elderly to be discriminated against.

10.20am Also in The Telegraph, food manufacturers could soon be required to add folic acid to bread to prevent babies being born with spina bifida.

Health ministers will decide on the proposals when they see the latest results of the national diet and nutrition survey, a rolling survey assessing the country’s dietary habits.

A number of health bodies, including the British Medical Association, have campaigned for folic acid to be added to flour to prevent neural tube defects, of which spina bifida is the most common.

10.12am The main splash in The Daily Telegraph today is on the project. The paper reports that NHS England’s risk assessments highlights vulnerability to hackers and the “malicious” identification of patients from their records as risks associated with the new database, which will centralise GP patient records for the first time.

10.04am Turning to this morning’s papers, The Guardian reports that loneliness can be twice as unhealthy as obesity for older people, according to a six-year study of 2,000 people aged 50 and over.

9.47am Nina Barnett, a consultant pharmacist, has written an article with colleagues on the need to improve the quality of medicines related discharge information to protect patients.

7.00am Good morning and welcome to HSJ Live. Nigel Edwards, who will be chief executive of the Nuffield Trust from April, has written for HSJ on why community services have been neglected in recent years.