Wednesday, 4 January 2012

'Concealed' drug trial data putting lives at risk

'Concealed' drug trial data putting lives at risk:

Patients' lives are being put at risk and public money wasted on ineffective medicines because researchers are concealing the results of clinical trials amid a "culture of haphazard publication and incomplete data disclosure". The Independent

New start date and more funding announced for local HealthWatch bodies

New start date and more funding announced for local HealthWatch bodies:

Further details on the establishment of local HealthWatch bodies, including a new start date and extra funding, have been set out by Health Minister Andrew Lansley.

Following feedback from local authorities and Local Involvement Networks, they now have until April 2013 to work with local health experts and volunteers to establish the local HealthWatch. The new local health bodies are set to replace Local Involvement Networks and will be the local consumer champion for patients, service users and the public.

From next year, an additional £3.2m will also be made available to local authorities to establish local HealthWatch.

In addition, more than £370,000 will also be made available until the end of the 2011/12 financial year for 75 HealthWatch pathfinders, who are pioneering and testing out plans ahead of the full establishment of local HealthWatch across the country.

This money can be used in any part of their development, including spreading best practice, engaging more in the community, and financially supporting volunteers.

Andrew Lansley said:

‘Local HealthWatch is a vital part of our plans to give people a stronger voice and drive improvements in health and social care services across the NHS.

‘Today’s announcement is a further sign of our commitment to support the dedicated staff and volunteers who are driving this forward. It gives them the support necessary to carry out their important work in shaping the future of local healthcare.’

Becky Shaw, Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council and a member of the HealthWatch Programme Board, said:

‘Ensuring the voices of patients and the public are heard in the health and social system is a vital ingredient for future success. It is a complex task and extra resources to support councils in this task at a local level are very welcome.’

The new date for establishing Local HealthWatch supports the need to align this closer to the establishment of other new bodies such as the health and wellbeing boards. The extended deadline will also support preparations for implementation and enable HealthWatch England – which will be established in October 2012 – to provide the leadership and support to local HealthWatch organisations.

See letter from David Behan, Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, on the launch and funding arrangements for local Healthwatch and Healthwatch pathfinders.

See press release

See more information on HealthWatch

Extra money to help people leaving hospital

Extra money to help people leaving hospital:

£150m additional support funding for social care

A one-off additional £150m will be allocated to Primary Care Trusts in England, for immediate transfer to local authorities for investment in social care services which also benefit the health system.

This additional investment will enable local services to discharge patients from hospital more quickly and provide effective ongoing support for people in their own homes.

The aim is to reduce the pressure on health services, and particularly hospitals during the winter period.

£20m additional Disabled Facilities Grant funding

An additional £20 million will be allocated to the Disabled Facilities Grant for 2011/12, to help more people with a disability to access the aids and adaptations they require to live independently at home, saving them from an unnecessary stay in hospital or going into residential care. Allocations will be confirmed shortly by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

As part of the package of measures in the spending review, the Government is providing an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years to local councils so that they can protect services that support vulnerable people.

See more information on the allocation of funds

Warning over social care costs

Warning over social care costs: Individuals will still face significant social care costs even if politicians reach agreement on reform in England, experts say. BBC News

Three million patients to get telecare, DH pledges

Three million patients to get telecare, DH pledges: The DH will roll out telehealth and telecare services to three million people with long-term conditions by 2016, care services minister Paul Burstow has said. GP Online

Mental Health Act annual report 2010/11

Mental Health Act annual report 2010/11:

This is the Care Quality Commission’s second annual report on the use of the Mental Health Act, covering findings from April 2010 to March 2011.

Interactive slide pack on the NHS pension scheme

Interactive slide pack on the NHS pension scheme:

An interactive slide pack published in response to the Heads of Agreement on the proposed scheme design for the NHS Pension Scheme has been made available. It aims to provide staff with guidance on the NHS pension scheme proposals.

Data briefing: emergency bed use - what the numbers tell us

Data briefing: emergency bed use - what the numbers tell us:

This briefing examines why we need to understand more about bed use for emergency admissions; what progress has been made in reducing bed use; how reducing bed use can lead to improved quality of care and patient experience; and what the next steps should be.

Implementing the Government ICT strategy: six-month review of progress

Implementing the Government ICT strategy: six-month review of progress: This report commends the early progress being made by the Government in implementing its ICT strategy but has identified areas where progress has not kept pace with the Government’s ambitions. Healthcare Today

China calls for calm after bird flu death

China calls for calm after bird flu death: Beijing health officials say the virus was not transmitted from human to human, making it less likely to form a pandemic strain. Healthcare Today

NHS trust plans alternative to 'outdated hospital model'

NHS trust plans alternative to 'outdated hospital model':

Has North Bristol NHS trust found the answer to providing efficient health and social care after hospital closures?

NNot everyone is happy about North Bristol NHS trust's proposal to close one of its hospitals as part of a reconfiguration of health services, admits its chief executive, Ruth Brunt. The changes will affect around 500,000 people living in Bristol and south Gloucester. "Understandably, if you have to travel four miles rather than half a mile to get to your acute hospital in the future, there are some people who will be anxious, and feel they have lost something," she says.

The trust recently published a document detailing its planned alternative to the hospital at Frenchay: a "health and social care campus" with a community hospital and nursing home owned by the private sector, a new GP surgery, "extra care" housing, and outpatient services for people with long-term conditions.

Mike Farrar, head of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, last week said that at least one in four patients in hospital beds could be better looked after in the community, or at home, rather than in the "outdated hospital model of care … Hospitals play a vital role, but we do rely on them for some services that could be provided elsewhere. We should be concentrating on ... shifting resources into community services."

Brunt couldn't agree more. "Twenty seven per cent of the patients sitting in my acute hospitals don't need to be there," she points out. "Acute hospital care is extraordinarily expensive, and despite what patients think, acute hospitals are fantastic if you really need hi-tech acute specialist care but they are not that great if you're getting better, or you're waiting well."

Before moving to Bristol Brunt worked in Devon, which has a network of community hospitals that treat patients near their homes for less serious conditions. "I was horrified coming to Bristol that there was such a poor level of community provision," she says. "It felt like you either had to be well enough to receive your care at home, or you were in hospital. There was very little provision in between."

The Bristol health services plan was developed over several years by the city's three primary care trusts, three acute hospital trusts, its mental health trust, ambulance services and other public sector organisations. It aims to provide, by 2014, a £22m 68-bed community hospital located in the same building as a nursing home. The building will be owned and operated by a third party, probably a consortium of a construction company and a care provider, which the trust hopes to choose by the end of this year. It expects to lease the hospital area, with the ability to vary the number of beds used to cope with extra demand, at an annual cost of around £3.5m. Unlike a private finance initiative (PFI) deal, ownership of the building will remain in the hands of the private sector.

GPs may also lease beds in the community hospital, as an alternative to sending patients to a "superhospital" that is scheduled to open in 2014 on the trust's other site some 6km (4 miles) away in Southmead.

The plans for the health and social campus include extra care housing, where people can move to in order to continue living in their homes while receiving enhanced health and social care, and outpatient clinics for older people and those with long-term conditions, such as diabetes and illnesses that require respiratory medicine. The trust's plans for the Southmead hospital include the assumption that 40% of outpatient activity will move to community facilities.

The community hospital will have diagnostic facilities that will provide blood tests, x-rays, scans and echocardiograms, and physiotherapy, dietetics and occupational therapy. A section of the site will be reserved for a new GP surgery, and an existing brain injury rehabilitation unit.

"We were tantalised by the possibility of developing a whole health and social care campus at Frenchay, which was focused around reablement and rehabilitation, not just maintenance care but actively focused on returning people to independent living," says Brunt.

Frenchay will also improve North Bristol trust's finances, with part of the site being sold for residential housing. Proceeds from the sale of homes will reduce the PFI debt from building the new £430m hospital at Southmead and boost the trust's planned application for foundation trust status, which requires evidence of financial stability. Selling land at Frenchay will reduce the PFI cost to around 7% of the trust's annual income. As a result, Brunt says: "We can make our long-term financial plan stack up." she addssays Brunt

Conservative councillor Trevor Jones, who sits on South Gloucestershire council's health select and development control committees thinks the trust has done a good job of engaging with opponents of the hospital's closure. Campaigners from the Save Frenchay Hospital group joined a Frenchay Project Board, which asked the trust for changes to its plans – most of which were agreed. "The big one for local residents is the capacity for a new GP surgery," says Jones, as the area will get several thousand new homes. The plans for intermediate care for older people are also popular. "They can see a way of staying in their own homes, or moving into the care village," he says.

Trade union Unison is concerned that the community hospital will not be run by the trust and that staff will not be NHS employees. "The new build at Frenchay takes the NHS further into the hands of private health companies," says Simon Newell, Unison's south-west regional head of health. He adds that there was no prior consultation with staff or unions before the tender document was published. "With all staff being employed by a contractor, they will have no access to NHS pay and terms and conditions, and we would have serious concerns about training and quality of care."

In response, a spokeswoman for the trust says a nursing home site alongside NHS beds would "offer an opportunity for an integrated approach to patient care with possibly the third-party partner providing nursing care for the NHS beds and staff employed by North Bristol trust providing rehabilitation support. However, we shall need to carefully explore this in conjunction with potential third party partners and no decisions have yet been made," she adds.

Providing intermediate – and cheaper – alternatives to acute hospitals fits well with the government's attempt to increase efficiency in the NHS without increasing funding. So could North Bristol's plans provide a blueprint for other trusts? Candace Imison, deputy director of policy of the King's Fund health thinktank, believes the trust has a good chance of success because its reconfiguration involves just two sites, and that it could work in other areas.

For Brunt, reconfigurations can work when all the organisations with a stake in health and social care in an area co-operate. The difficult part is convincing the public that the loss of acute hospital beds is a price worth paying – but this is something the NHS has to do. She says: "This is about services, not just about facilities."

SA Mathieson is a journalist and a senior healthcare analyst for Kable, the public services market intelligence specialist. The Guardian

Fillers could prove next cosmetic surgery scandal, experts warn

Fillers could prove next cosmetic surgery scandal, experts warn: Patients who use anti-ageing injections could be putting themselves at risk in a market that is largely unregulated in Britain, experts have warned. The Telegraph

Elderly care reforms could get cross-party agreement, says Andrew Dilnot

Elderly care reforms could get cross-party agreement, says Andrew Dilnot: Andrew Dilnot, the architect of proposed reforms to long-term elderly care, said there is a "real chance" of a cross-party agreement between the Coalition and Labour on improving the system. The Telegraph