News in brief

    • Southern trusts invited to customer days: Intellect and NHS South are inviting representatives from more than 20 Southern acute trusts to attend customer awareness events. The events being held next month will show the acute trusts that did not get systems under the National Programme for IT in the NHS what the market has to offer.
    • GP budget for IT lands with CCGs: Responsibility for GP IT has been given to clinical commissioning groups; however the funding arrangements for this new role remain unclear. A new NHS Commissioning Board document – ‘securing excellence in commissioning primary care’ – says expenditure on core GP IT and premises reimbursement is included in the total primary care commissioning budget of £12.6 billion, reports ehi. After waiting almost a year for clarity, commissioners are only being informed now that they will be taking on this responsibility.
    • Southern community procurement approved: The Cabinet Office has approved funding for an IT system procurement for child and community health trusts in the South. The Department of Health confirmed this “significant step forward” to ehi and said it is now seeking the final approvals required before a tender can proceed. Tad Matus, chief information officer for NHS South East Coast, and lead for the child and community procurement, hopes to have a tender out early next month.
    • BMA calls for Andrew Lansley to resign: After a vote of no confidence at their Annual Representative Meeting the BMA has called for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to resign. The no confidence vote was carried by 158 votes to 124, this was despite BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum calling on the conference to reject the motion. The presenter of the motion, Dr Gary Marlow said: “Mr Lansley’s NHS and pensions reforms meant he should no longer continue as Health Secretary.”
    • ‘Challenging time’ for profession warns new BMA chair: The newly elected chair of the BMA, Dr Mark Porter, has warned doctors face a ‘particularly challenging time’ as the financial squeeze intensifies in the NHS. The warning comes after Dr Porter, consultant anaesthetist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and chair of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, was elected by BMA Council to replace GP Dr Hamish Meldrum as chair of the organisation. In a statement Dr Porter said: “I’m excited and privileged to be taking on this role at what is clearly a particularly challenging time for the NHS and the medical profession.”
    • Monitor ‘could not have prevented’ oversized PFI: A KPMG investigation into the private finance deal at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust, found that the regulator Monitor had “very limited powers to prevent the Peterborough board from committing to an unaffordable PFI [Private Finance Initiative] in 2007,” reports HSJ. The acute trust finished 2011-12 with a forecast deficit of £46m. The report stated that although Monitor was unable to prevent the deal, it could have spotted the trust’s slide into deficit earlier.
    • US Supreme Court upholds healthcare reform law: Back in March 2010, the state of Florida, along with 12 other states, filed a legal challenge to the bill minutes after President Barack Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it passed into law. On Thursday evening, the BBC reported the US Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favour of the law and Obama’s landmark healthcare reform act becoming constitutional. The court upheld a core requirement known as the “individual mandate” that Americans buy insurance or pay a fine.
    • Failures in NHS standards exposed by watchdog: The BBC reports that following the Care Quality Commission’s inspection of 14,000 sites, including hospitals, care homes and dental practices, more than a quarter of NHS and social care services in England are failing to meet all the essential standards they should. Among the common themes identified were staff shortages and poor management of medicines. Maternity care as a whole was flagged up as units were struggling to keep pace with the rising birth rate.
    • Underperforming suppliers may get fewer government contracts: Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude addressed twenty of the government’s top suppliers and informed them that supplier performance will now be monitored and made available at the start of and during the procurement process. This may make it difficult for those with poor performance to secure future government work. Companies attending the briefing included Accenture, Atos, BT, Capgemini, HP and IBM. It was noted that CSC was absent from the meeting reports ComputerWorldUK.
    • Government launches new open data strategy: New government data releases covering health, education and work are set to be made available. The Cabinet Office claims that the data will help drive improvements in public services, contribute to growth and innovation, and put the citizen at the heart of the open data revolution, reports Public Technology. The coalition’s new ‘open data’ white paper sets out how the government plans to ensure “everybody can benefit from open data by making data held by the public sector more accessible and usable.” The paper will be published alongside a series of new commitments from across government to release more data.
    • NHS party ‘could field 50 candidates’: The National Health Action Party, which was founded recently as a response to the passing of the Health and Social Care Act, will field up to 50 medical professionals in seats around the country at the next election, the party chair claims. Dr Clive Peedell told Pulse that the National Health Action Party could potentially tackle other issues related to the NHS such as deprivation, housing and public health. Funding streams are now in place and the party is looking to set up its working structure at a meeting next month.
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New CCGs need to show their human side

In his latest blog Colin Cooper, editor in chief of GPOnline outlines some of the key messages from this week’s Commissioning Show in London, the main one being that CCG’s need to develop their ‘soft skills’ in order to become a ‘people’s organisation.’ He says:

“The commissioners of the past, we heard, spent too much time on ‘the transactional stuff’, in other words, contracts. Now it’s the communication skills of new NHS leaders that need to be exercised in the name of improving patient care.

“CCGs have to start developing long term relationships with providers that will enable them to drive cultural change and improve quality, not necessarily something that can be simply lifted from the wording of a contract.

“The reluctance and inability to build successful, long term relationships in the past has been a key area of failure for many PCTs. And it’s clearly not a mistake that CCGs can afford to repeat, with their constituent GPs, or other providers, or their patients.”

Innovation in the NHS: managing the media response

Innovation is the latest buzzword in the NHS. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley stressed the importance of changing services in unique ways in order to meet efficiency saving targets under the new reforms, when he addressed delegates at the NHS confederation last week. Mike Farrar also in his opening address at the conference, urged local leaders in the NHS to “be brave” when looking at new ways to drive change.”

The article looks at the relationship between the NHS and the press and how potentially the tension between reforming services and how communications teams negotiate relations with the media is preventing those good news stories from being publicised.

David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation agreed that sometimes work in the NHS can be interpreted differently in the press than within the healthcare sector:

“Telehealth practically means less hospital beds because the care is taking place in the community and at home, but the fewer beds aspect is more likely to be picked up on in the press, instead of the new technology which is helping people with their healthcare.”

Does telehealth reduce hospital costs? Six points to ponder

The first results of the largest randomised controlled trial on telehealth were published in the British Medical Journal last week. Dr Jennifer Dixon of the Nuffield Trust, in her blog this week, gives her assessment of the results.

“Of the five arms of the Department of Health-funded ‘whole system demonstrator’ (WSD) trial, the first (conducted by a team at the Nuffield Trust) examined the impact on hospital admissions and costs.

“The headline results so far: patients receiving telehealth care had just 0.14 fewer emergency admissions in the one year of follow up; and there was no significant impact on hospital costs.

“For those hoping that telehealth might help fill the (estimated) £20 billion efficiency gap, the results may disappoint. But hope is not all lost – look underneath the headlines.”

Highland Marketing blog

This week Sarah Bruce returns from the Commissioning Show and shares her reflections on the conference and reports on the latest thoughts from Andrew Lansley as to what lies ahead for the commissioning agenda.

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