NHS trust boss resigns in protest over underfunding of health services (The Guardian: 10 December 2017)

The boss of one of the NHS’s biggest trusts has resigned in protest at what he claims is such serious government underfunding that hospitals cannot perform their key role properly.

Bob Kerslake, who was the head of the civil service until 2015, is quitting as the chairman of the board at King’s College hospital in London, after a long-running dispute with the NHS watchdog over its finances. Ministers are in denial about the reality of how much extra money the NHS requires, he says.

In an article for the Guardian, Lord Kerslake, a highly respected crossbench peer and former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, explains that he is stepping down because hospitals are being asked to agree to meet unrealistically demanding savings targets....read more

 

Private health firm gives GPs operation price list for impatient patients (The Guardian: 5 December 2017)

A private healthcare company has sent letters to hundreds of GPs setting out a price list of operations they could offer their patients to beat NHS delays and restrictions.

Care UK, which runs nine centres offering treatment on the NHS, said it intended to use spare theatre time to provide “self pay” procedures ranging from earwax removal to hip replacements.

The company said it was trialling the scheme at two treatment centres in the west of England but insisted core work at the sites would remain NHS referrals.

The move has, however, alarmed some GPs and health campaigners who fear it is another example of creeping privatisation in the NHS....read more

 

Care access to be rationed in the hope it will force through extra funding (The Guardian: 30 November 2017)

NHS bosses are to meet to discuss plans to ration and delay patients’ access to care, which could set them on a collision course with ministers over health funding.

NHS England’s board will publicly debate what the service will and will not be able to afford to do next year after Philip Hammond gave it less than half the extra money it said it needed.

Thursday’s meeting comes amid unprecedented tension between the organisation’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, and Theresa May and Philip Hammond. Stevens antagonised both of them with a dramatic pre-budget plea that treatment waiting lists could spiral and mental health and cancer care be hit unless the NHS received a £4bn boost in last week’s Budget. The chancellor awarded it just £1.6bn extra....read more

 

Trust faces £48m repair bill for PFI hospital (HSJ: 29 November 2017)

A trust faces a £48m repair bill to make one of its hospitals safe because of loopholes in the drafting of its private finance initiative contract, Department of Health documents reveal.

Documents released to HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act show Lewisham and Greenwich Trust asked for money “essential to ensure patient safety” following power cuts, water shortages and floods....read more

 

Commissioners settle with Virgin following contract dispute (HSJ: 27 November 2017)

A legal dispute between Virgin Care and six Surrey clinical commissioning groups has been resolved – with an apparent payment by the NHS to the company.

The litigation – over a £82m procurement of children’s services across Surrey – was launched after the three year contract was awarded to Surrey Healthy Children and Families Services – an alliance between Surrey and Borders Partnership Foundation Trust and two local social enterprises.

Virgin Care Services started High Court proceedings against NHS England, Surrey County Council and the CCGs in November last year. It said there were “serious flaws in the procurement process” which had left it “so concerned” that it had launched the proceedings.

However, governing body papers for NHS Surrey Downs – one of the six CCGs involved - have revealed that its “liability” in the case is £328,000. The sum was published this month in a finance paper covering October on the CCG’s website. The paper was uploaded earlier this week but subsequently removed after HSJ started to enquire about the settlement. A CCG spokesperson said the reference had been removed because “the level of detail…should not have been included in the report.”...read more

 

Budget's £1.6bn cash boost for NHS less than half of experts’ advice (The Guardian: 22 November 2017)

Philip Hammond has bowed to intense pressure to give the NHS more money in Wednesday’s budget, but produced less than half the £4bn the health service’s own boss said it needed to look after patients properly next year.

A payment of £1.6bn for the NHS in England in 2018-19 will see its budget rise to £126bn, rather than the £124.4bn originally planned. Similarly, it will receive £900m more than planned in 2019-20 to help it withstand the pressures of coping with the increasing demand for care. However, both are one-off payments, not permanent additions to the NHS’s baseline budget.

The chancellor also promised £337m in emergency funding to boost NHS efforts to avoid its usual winter crisis in the next few months, in a move that underlines how nervous ministers are about a repeat of hospitals visibly struggling to cope during last winter’s “humanitarian crisis”....read more

 

Chancellor told to find billions more to rescue ‘top priority’ NHS in Budget (The Independent: 19 November 2017)

Two-thirds of the British public say the Chancellor must make the NHS his top priority in this week’s budget, as 90 MPs write to Theresa May to demand action over social care policy.

The Independent’s exclusive poll, carried out by BMG Research, finds that 64 per cent of the public want Philip Hammond to find billions more for the NHS, amid closures of A&E units and walk-in centres and as waiting lists lengthen for routine operations.

The poll cements health as easily the public’s number one concern, way ahead of education, social security, cutting the deficit – or housing, which is expected to be the Budget’s centrepiece....read more

 

Landmark study links Tory austerity to 120,000 deaths (The Independent: 16 November 2017)

The Conservatives have been accused of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths.

The paper found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led efficiencies than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels.

On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020, even with the extra funding that has been earmarked for public sector services this year.

Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government in 2010, and the researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths....read more

 

NHS cash squeeze forces hospitals to postpone non-urgent operations (The Guardian: 16 November 2017)

The NHS is under fire for forcing patients who need surgery to wait at least three months before they can have an operation in order to save money.

NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Lincolnshire have provoked sustained criticism after deciding to introduce minimum waiting times for non-urgent surgery including cataract operations and joint replacements.

They have adopted the policy as a result of the NHS-wide cash squeeze and also because they insist that some patients’ condition clears up while they wait....read more

 

NHS needs £24bn more by 2022 or waiting lists will grow and care be hit (The Guardian: 8 November 2017)

The NHS will need up to £24bn more by 2022 than Theresa May plans to give it or patient care will worsen and treatment waiting times grow even longer, experts have said.

Rising demand for care means the NHS budget in England will have to jump to £152.6bn by the end of this parliament, which could be as much as £24.2bn more than ministers have pledged.

At least £4bn of that will have to come next year alone just to keep the NHS functioning well, three leading health thinktanks have said.

The estimates come a day after the boss of the service’s financial regulator warned that the NHS could “pop” unless it receives an emergency cash injection in the budget later this month....read more

 

Smartphone GP service 'risks luring doctors from frontline practice' (The Guardian: 6 November 2017)

GP leaders have raised concerns about the first NHS smartphone virtual GP service.

Millions of NHS patients who live or work in various locations in London can sign up to the service offering a GP consultation via a smartphone 24 hours a day.

But the Royal College of GPs said that while the scheme might be seen as a golden ticket for some patients, others are not eligible for it.

The GP at Hand service – created with the technology company Babylon Health – offers a booking system through a smartphone app, with the promise of a video consultation within two hours of booking.

If a patient needs a face-to-face appointment, he or she must travel to a clinic in a commuter hub.

Commenting on the launch of the project, Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Technology can achieve wonderful things when used properly, but we are really worried that schemes like this are creating a twin-track approach to NHS general practice and that patients are being ‘cherry-picked’, which could actually increase the pressures on traditional GPs based in the community....read more

 

Jeremy Hunt faces legal action over attempts to 'Americanise' the NHS (The Independent: 3 November 2017)

Legal action is being taken against Jeremy Hunt and the Department of Health over their proposals to restructure the NHS, The Independent can reveal. 

Plans have been tabled to convert the NHS into a public/private enterprise, which critics say is based upon the US private health insurance-based system.

Senior health professionals and campaigners have now come together to take legal action and demand a judicial review, to ensure full parliamentary scrutiny of the proposals.

Under NHS England's new plans, the boundary between health and social care would be dissolved and new systems and structures would allow alternative funding sources, ultimately leading to the creation of new healthcare overseers called Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs).

ACOs would permit commercial, non-NHS bodies to run health and social services. They could be awarded huge contracts to manage and provide whole packages of care, allowing the ACOs to either provide the NHS service themselves or sub-contract it....read more

 

Exclusive: CCG resists Virgin Care demands for more money (HSJ: 23 October 2017)

Virgin Care has demanded more money for a controversial prime provider contract it signed with commissioners in Staffordshire last year, HSJ has learned.

East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has said it is “resisting” requests from the company for more money for the £270m prime provider contract.

Virgin is responsible for commissioning services for people with long term conditions

Both the CCG and Virgin Care have refused to confirm the amount being asked for, however, sources have told HSJ the private provider has asked for nearly £5m extra....read more

 

Children waiting up to 18 months for mental health treatment – CQC (The Guardian: 20 October 2017)

Children with mental health problems are waiting up to 18 months to be treated, a government-ordered report will reveal next week, in an indictment of the poor care many receive.

A Care Quality Commission report into child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) will warn that long delays for treatment are damaging the health of young people with anxiety, depression and other conditions.

The NHS watchdog will conclude that when under-18s in England do get help from the NHS, it is “caring”. However, it will voice alarm that so many of them encounter much difficulty once they are referred by their GP or a teacher at their school.

Experts at the CQC who have drawn up the report, due to be published next Friday, were surprised to find that accessing care took so long and delays occurred in so many parts of England. Children can wait months after referral before their initial assessment and then further months before they start treatment.

NHS waiting times: hospital bosses fear 'a return to 1999' (The Guardian: 19 October 2017)

Hospital bosses have taken the unusual step of publicly drawing attention to the NHS’s declining ability to treat patients quickly enough, with one comparing lengthening waits for care to the huge delays last seen in 1999.

Four NHS trust chief executives in England have posted comments on Twitter since Tuesday lamenting the challenges the service is facing while it struggles with a tight budget and mounting staffing problems.

Their interventions reflect acute anxiety within the highest levels of the NHS that patients are being let down and that it could collapse if there is another winter crisis....read more

 

NHS will struggle to meet targets without more cash, health chief says (The Independent: 18 October 2017)

The health service will find it difficult to meet treatment targets without increased funding, an NHS executive has said.

NHS England’s director for acute care, Professor Keith Willett, said the health service was trying to deal with rising demand.

The comments came after a BBC survey found targets for cancer care, A&E treatment and planned operations were being routinely missed....read more

 

Cygnet named in new care model despite serious failings at hospital (HSJ: 18 October 2017)

NHS England named Cygnet Health Care as a partner in a new care model for young people’s mental health 10 days after inspectors found serious failings at its hospital in Woking that led to the temporary closure of its adolescents’ psychiatric intensive care unit.

The Care Quality Commission rated the psychiatric intensive care services at the hospital inadequate. The inspection in June found young people had repeatedly self-harmed while under constant observation; there was a high level of incidents and use of restraint, including prone restraint; and staff did not have the skills and experience to manage the young people in their care. In eight reported cases, male staff had not intervened when a patient was self-harming until a female nurse arrived....read more

 

NHS straining at the seams year before 70th birthday, finds regulator (The Guardian: 10 October 2017)

The NHS is in danger of a sharp decline in its services around its 70th birthday next year, with the risk of the quality of care becoming precarious, the health service’s regulator has warned.

The Care Quality Commission said staff shortages, rising demand and increasing numbers of patients with preventable illnesses meant services were straining at the seams.

An increase in the number of older people who are frail, many with dementia and have multiple long-term conditions, was placing unprecedented pressure on the system, it added.

Examples of pressure in the system include the fact 2.5 million people spent longer than four hours in A&E in 2016-17, up from 1.8 million the previous year. Hospital bed occupancy reached record levels of 91.4% this year.

Behan said the NHS was in need of modernisation and it had been created almost 70 years ago when the big issues were diseases such as TB and polio.

“Today, the NHS and social care are dealing with obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancers, dementia. All of which are driven less by those diseases of the middle of the last century and more by lifestyle choices.”

He continued: “We are living longer but are not living healthier so I think what we are signalling is that the system now and into the future has got to deal with those increased numbers of older people who are going to have more than one condition.”....read more

 

 

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