Trafford, Greater Manchester (11 July 2013)

'Trafford hospital where NHS was launched will lose A&E unit'

The hospital where Nye Bevan officially launched the NHS in 1948 is to lose its A&E unit in a symbolically significant reorganisation of health services rubber-stamped by the health secretary. The emergency department at Trafford hospital in Manchester will be downgraded to an urgent care centre under plans approved by Jeremy Hunt after they were backed by the government's advisers on where hospital services should be sited. 

Hunt's confirmation in parliament that Trafford is losing its A&E will be greeted with dismay, following a long campaign involving MPs, the local council and health trade unions who have argued for the retention of the A&E unit. A similar reorganisation of vascular services in Cumbria and Lancashire has raised concerns that patient safety could be compromised. 

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Cornwall (11 July 2013)

'Serco's GP out-of-hours service in Cornwall 'substandard', say MPs'

Serco, the leading private contractor of services to the public sector, has come under attack for its "substandard" GP out-of-hours service in Cornwall, in a report published by the influential parliamentary public accounts committee (PAC) on Thursday. The company falsified figures on its performance 252 times, making it look better than it was, so that serious failings in the service only came to light thanks to whistleblowers, MPs say, yet the company's response was "bullying and heavy-handed".

The NHS primary care trust that had oversight of the contract was "deeply ineffective" in writing and managing it, did not impose any penalties when the failings were discovered, and instead made bonus payments to Serco even though it fell well short of required standards. Serco has responded by agreeing to pay back the bonus payments, however the PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP said it was "disgraceful" that the public had to rely on whistleblowers to find out that the Cornwall GP out-of-hours service was short-staffed and that data was being manipulated by Serco.

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Romford, London (10 July 2013)

'A&E patients forced to wait more than 14 hours at struggling hospital'

The Care Quality Commission has issued a formal warning over the level of care at Queen's Hospital in Romford, with reports of patients being forced to wait more than 14 hours to receive care at the struggling accident and emergency unit. An unannounced inspection at the hospital revealed only one in 20 patients arriving by ambulance were waiting 45 minutes to be assess by doctors – the inspectors also found some patients were waiting more than 14 hours with one having been waiting for 18 hours. National standards required emergency departments to see patients within 15 minutes of arrival by ambulance, and government-set targets say the majority of patients should be seen within four hours while no patient should be waiting for more than 12 hours.

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Plymouth, Devon (10 July 2013)

'Plymouth hospital gets formal warning after eight 'never events' in year'

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has been told to make urgent improvements to protect patients undergoing surgery at Derriford hospital, which has the second highest number of "never events" – so called because they should never happen – in England in the last four years. The Care Quality Commission has issued a formal warning to the trust after an unannounced inspection into eight serious mistakes in the last year, in which the hospital failed to meet five of the nine national standards reviewed. The inspection was triggered by a spate of 'never events', many involving surgery or treatment to the wrong part of the body, three incidents of which occurred within a week.

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Abergele, North Wales (10 July 2013)

'Gillian died just two hours after NHS Direct nurse told her: 'Take painkillers and wait for GP''

A retired nurse died in agony two hours after a telephone assessment of her condition in which it was decided that she didn’t need to go to hospital by ambulance. After listening to a recording of the telephone call in which 58-year-old Gillian Given could be heard howling with stomach pain, John Gittins, the Coroner for North Wales Central, ruled that neglect played a part in her death.

After the inquest her husband, retired licensee James Given, said he was considering legal action against the Wales Ambulance Services NHS Trust. During the hearing it emerged that Deborah Evans, the NHS Direct nurse who carried out the assessment for the ambulance service, had resigned shortly after the incident, which was subject of an internal investigation. Recording a verdict of death from natural causes, Mr Gittins said he did not believe there had been a systemic failure but a failure to establish the proper route to take – in other words human error – amounting to neglect which contributed to Mrs Given’s death.

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West Midlands (9 July 2013)

'West Midlands Ambulance Service 'to run NHS helpline''

The NHS 111 service across Birmingham and the Black Country is due to be taken over by West Midlands Ambulance Service - the contract to run the NHS helpline was originally won by NHS Direct, but it has been fraught with problems. Investigations are taking place into a handful of "potentially" serious incidents across the country, two of which happened in the West Midlands. West Midlands Ambulance Service is scheduled to take over in the autumn and run the contract for a year, when a new contract will be tendered.

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Wales (9 July 2013)

'Stafford Hospital scandal: Welsh NHS budget review to avoid repeat'

Welsh NHS funding levels will be reviewed to help ensure hospitals avoid a repeat of a scandal in England where hundreds of patients died needlessly at Stafford Hospital, where a public inquiry found neglect and abuse between 2005 and 2008 had contributed to patient deaths.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the NHS budget would support patient safety and quality of care, with £10m being used to recruit 290 hospital nurses. A series of measures designed to protect patients were also unveiled by the Welsh government. The plan includes changes to the NHS complaints system, a ban on gagging clauses and ensuring care standards focus on individuals.

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Cornwall, (8 July 2013)

'Three-year-old who died of blood poisoning 'let down by NHS''

The family of a three-year-old boy who died of blood poisoning despite seeing health professionals four times in 36 hours have been "utterly let down" by the National Health Service complaints system, campaigners have said. Sam Morrish, from South Devon, died at Torbay Hospital on December 23, 2010, from septic shock after suffering suspected flu.

The Patients Association said two inquiries, commissioned by the NHS in Devon, had "failed to find answers and hold those involved to account" and had been "designed to appease the family". The Patients Assoctiation is now investigating after the family made an official complaint in March last year: the organisation said its investigation was being conducted privately but that the family would have a chance to comment on a draft before it published its final report.

South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Direct declined to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Devon Doctors said: "We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure such an occurrence cannot happen again."

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Stevenage, Hertfordshire (7 July 2013)

'Surgery unit may shut after deaths'

 The Care Quality Commission issued a suspension notice for the Surgicentre, in Hertfordshire, on May 16, and is now investigating the deaths of three people after routine surgery, with a view to establishing whether they could have been avoided and whether any negligence was involved. Discussions between the CQC, legal advisors and the Department of Health are now expected to result in the unit – which is privately owned but treats only NHS patients – having its licence to practice removed.

As well as the deaths, inspections by the CQC are understood to have found a number of serious failings at the hospital since it opened in 2011, including the loss of 8,500 ophthalmology outpatient files last year. According to one report, from the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), thousands of eye patients at the unit failed to get appointments as a result of the records going missing, leading to at least six people suffering irreversible eyesight loss.

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Camden, London (4 July 2013) 

'Camden Council launches probe into out-of-hours GP provider Harmoni after death of baby Axel Peanberg King'

Members of Camden Council's heath scrutiny committee have agreed to conduct a full investigation into the out-of-hours GP service provider Harmoni, eight months on from the death of a seven week old baby in their care. Axel Peanberg King died at the Harmoni Centre at the Whittington Hospital in November 2012 when a cold which developed into pneumonia went untreated despite repeated visits to doctors employed by the urgent care provider.The move follows the publication of a critical Care Quality Commission (CQC) report which found there were “not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs” at Harmoni’s North Central London service.

The inquiry will begin in autumn, with a full report published in the new year, with new legislation under the Health and Social Care Act meaning that representatives from Harmoni will have to attend the panel’s hearings and answer questions.

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Greater Manchester (2 July 2013)

'Fears of new care crisis at NHS hospital'

Reports seen exclusively by the Guardian find patients waiting for days and left in pain at Tameside unit in Greater Manchester. The two previously unpublished reviews commissioned by the hospital reveal that care at Tameside general hospital in Manchester is so chaotic that patients are being left in pain, having to wait up to four days to see a consultant and languish in a corridor four hours because the A&E unit is too full. The problems are so serious that local Gps are calling for the chief executive and medical director of the hospital to quit, whilst concerns have been raised by junior doctors about staffing levels.

The long delays before being seen by a doctor are putting patients at risk, with some admitted on a Friday not being checked by a consultant until Tuesday, according to the two reports. The hospital has so far failed to acknowledge the level of medical concern, however has said it had drawn up an action plan in response to the issues highlighted in the report.

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Merseyside (1 July 2013)

'Irish private healthcare firm launches private clinic with NHS'

 Dublin-based Mater Private Healthcare has entered into a joint venture with Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust to launch a private cancer clinic in Merseyside. The facility, named the Clatterbridge Clinic, will offer chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for patients in the area, as well as two unique therapies for patients with bowel and eye cancers. The deal marks Mater’s first foray into the UK healthcare market and the company is reported to be exploring other opportunities in the UK.

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Cornwall (1 July 2013)

'Cornwall Council's health privatisation plan under way'

A health privatisation project has transferred 300 Cornwall Council and NHS staff to British Telecom, in a partnership which aims to create 500 new jobs over five years, centralises some services and will use technology to monitor people with long term conditions in their own homes. There was much opposition to an earlier, much wider, privatisation deal, which resulted in a slimmed down version being approved in March 2013, with claims that 'BT Cornwall' will deliver savings of £17.6m over 10 years.

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Cumbria (27 June 2013)

'CQC finds care failings at West Cumberland Hospital'

The Care Quality Commission this week published a report into the West Cumberland Hospital, with inspectors demanding improvements after finding its staffing was “at times inadequate” and it was failing to maintain accurate patient records. Following an unannounced inspection in May 2013, the regulator found that patients did not experience required standards of care due to inadequate staffing levels, reporting also that there was a lack of succession planning to replace doctors who left, and consultant vacancies were being filled by locums. The report also details a lack of weekend and night doctors, and long waits experienced by some patients in the emergency department due to a lack of available beds.

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Stevenage, Hertfordshire (20 June 2013) 

'Stevenage Surgicentre: Hospital licence to be suspended says MP

A privately-run NHS hospital has been told its licence is to be suspended after three patients died following routine surgery for joint conditions. The unexpected deaths at the Surgicentre, based at the Lister Hospital and run by Clinicenta, sparked investigations by Hertfordshire NHS, with the suspension then being issued by the Quality Care Commission.

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Derby (19 June 2013)

'New private ward at city hospital will raise cash for NHS patients'

A ward for private patients is to be set up at the Royal Derby Hospital – with money made from it being invested back into NHS care. At present, private work is already being carried out at the hospital, with those patients still being cared for on the same wards as NHS patients. The 11-bed ward for private patients will open in October 2013, with the NHS making cash by taking a cut of the fees.

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Hackney, London (19 June 2013) 

'NHS body unaccountable for extension of Harmoni contract'

Hackney GPs have been criticised for extending Hackney's contract for out of hours care to Harmoni, despite evidence that the private company was not meeting national targets for call answering and clinical assessment. NHS North East London and the City decided to allow Harmoni continue running the out of hours service for another 9 months, however last month Quality Care Commission inspectors declared Harmoni was potentially placing patient's safety at risk by running the out of hours service with too few doctors. The company also admitted that there were no doctors based at the Homerton Hospital, Hackney, on the evening of Easter Sunday 2013.

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Peterborough (7 June 2013) 

'Warning over PFI-crippled hospital'

An independent team of experts appointed by health regulator Monitor found that Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust is "financially unsustainable" in its current form: Peterborough City Hospital has been crippled by private finance initiative repayments, and would not be able to pay its staff or buy any more medical supplies if the Department of Health does not intervene.

The trust had a deficit of £37 million by the end of the last financial year, despite receiving a one-off payment from the Department of Health of £44.1 million. Peterborough City Hospital, a 611 bed hospital, is provided under a PFI agreement that is costing £40 million a year and has 31 years left to run.

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South Wales (3 June 2013) 

'South Wales NHS shake-up: More than 200 attend meetings'

More than 200 people have attended the first of more than 40 public meetings to discuss a major shake-up of NHS services in south Wales, including changes that could see the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant stop treating the most serious A&E cases.

Dr Paul Worthington, chief officer of Cwm Taf Community Health Council (CHC), had earlier urged as many people as possible to attend the consultation meetings. Many concerns were aired, including services moving away from more isolated areas, access to ambulances and patients getting to hospital in time. Proposed changes to the NHS in south Wales include cutting specialist departments from seven to four or five, with these units being led by consultants around the clock and throughout the week.

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South-West (27 May 2013

'France’s Sodexo to provide NHS services to southwest hospitals'

The French multinational company Sodexo has formed a consortium with two southwest hospitals to provide pathology services for the NHS. Around 160 staff have been outsourced to Southwest Pathology Services, a joint venture between Sodexo and Musgrove Park and Yeovil District trusts, which will initially provide blood tests and other pathology services to the two hospitals on a 20-year contract worth £300m.

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Cumbria (24 June 2013) 

'NHS watchdog covered up maternity unit review, says report'

 In October 2008, James Titcombe's nine-day-old son died in a scandal-hit hospital after nurses missed a treatable infection – for last five years his parents have fought for the truth, finding obstructions and lies at every turn, from the alleged destruction of his care records to the refusal of the hospital and government regulator to properly investigate the death.

In June 2013, a report found evidence that senior executives at the CQC had deleted an internal review detailing its failure to prevent a scandal at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay, the trust which runs Furness Hospital where baby Joshua Titcombe tragically died.

The CQC commissioned Grant Thornton to look at its activities in relation to Morecambe Bay trust, following more than 30 compensation claims over deaths of, or injuries to, mothers and babies, and the 2011 inquest into the death of Joshua Titcombe.

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Portsmouth (11 June 2013) 

 'Boy, six, left with brain damage due to NHS failures'

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has agreed to pay a lump sum of £1.5 million, plus tax-free annual payments, to a brain-damaged six year old, after staff failed to diagnose him with meningitis. When the boy was two, he was taken to the former St.Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth when he became ill – staff failed to spot the signs of meningitis at the time, causing catastrophic brain damage, and leaving the boy severely disabled, including being blind and deaf. The local trust admitted liability, and agreed the compensation payments on the basis that the boy suffered injury as the result of inadequate care.

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Cornwall (27 May 2013)

'Mother attacks NHS 'postcode lottery' on pupil's hearing aid'

 In Cornwall the mother of a four year old girl in desperate need of a hearing implant has attacked the NHS 'postcode lottery' after being denied the device because of where they live. Kelly Saunders applied for the bone anchored hearing aid, but says her daughter has been the victim of a 'postcode lottery' with two trusts, NHS Kernow and NHS England, arguing about who should pay the £3000 bill, despite other children elsewhere in Britain getting the aid.

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Brighton (25 June 2013) 

'NHS campaigners take to the streets of Brighton in protest'

NHS campaigners angry about the “creeping privatisation” of the NHS took part in a demonstration in Brighton to raise awareness of their concerns, after Specsavers was awarded the contract to provide NHS hearing aid services earlier this year. The service was previously run by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, and campaigners fear this move is the beginning of a slippery slope as NHS trusts begin to lose other services to private companies.

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Cambridgeshire (May 2013)

'NHS in Cambridgeshire is being privatised 'by stealth', warns union'

Fears have grown of a “mass sell-off” of NHS services in Cambridgeshire after bosses invited private health providers to discuss £1 billion worth of potential contracts. The Unite union is accusing Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) of the “privatisation of NHS by stealth” after they hosted an industry day featuring about 50 private as well as NHS organisations.

The CCG is working out how it will deliver services once Cambridgeshire Community Services (CCS), which runs everything from children’s community nursing to Chlamydia screening, is sidelined in April next year. Its services will have to be provided by “alternative organisations”, with private providers such as Virgin Care among the names being touted.

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Surrey (30 March 2013)

'NHS patients to be treated by Virgin Care in £500m deal'

Virgin Care has signed a £50 million, five-year contract to run a variety of community health services in Surrey in the biggest outsourcing deal yet for running NHS services. Virgin Care will take over Surrey Care Services, which includes running seven community hospitals, and providing community nursing and postnatal health visitors. The Department of Health said patients would receive “the best care from the best provider” but Unison warned that care would “inevitably” suffer.

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KEY ISSUES AT A LOCAL LEVEL:
  • Failure to meet national standards
  • Concerns over quality of care and abnormal deaths
  • Out-of-hours services
  • Increase in privatised services
  • Accountability
  • Local campaigns and consultations
  • Concerns over 'creeping privatisation'
  • Postcode lottery
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