News From The Web


Circle’s Hinchingbrooke losses approach £5m limit

HSJ - 2nd September 2014 10:16 am

The losses built up by Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust in its first two years under private management are just £150,000 short of the £5m ceiling at which the contract could be terminated.

According to the half yearly report of Circle - the firm contracted to run the hospital - it made £4.85m in “cumulative support payments” to the trust since the contract started in February 2012.

This represents an almost 40 per cent increase on the accumulated loss for 2012-13 of £3.5m. Under its 10 year contract with Hinchingbrooke, the firm has agreed to pay any deficit at the trust - in the form of support payments - up to a cumulative total of £5m.

After this point “both parties must agree the basis for the continuation for the franchise”, the report said.

Although either Circle or the trust could then terminate the deal, this would require Circle to pay Hinchingbrooke a £2m fee.

Circle’s report admitted to “uncertainty over Hinchingbrooke’s profitability over the next year”, raising the possibility that the limit could be broken this year.

Read more in HSJ.

New NHS hospital food rules introduced

BBC Health - 29th August 2014 1:45 pm

Hospitals in England will be expected to provide a higher standard of food under new measures being announced by the health secretary.

The new standards, enforced through legally-binding NHS contracts, will focus on quality, choice and promoting a healthy diet for patients and staff.

Hospitals will also be ranked on the meals they prepare.

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food said the changes were “woefully inadequate” and hard to enforce.

NHS hospitals in Scotland and Wales have nutritional standards in place.

Under the changes, hospitals will be ranked according to quality and choice of food, whether the menu is approved by a dietitian, the availability of fresh fruit and food between meals, the variety of options at breakfast - which should include warm food, and the cost of the food provided.

The rankings will be published on the NHS Choices website.

Read more at BBC Health.

Hospital car parking guidance to reduce charges

BBC Health - 25th August 2014 9:10 am

Hospitals in England have been told to cut the cost of parking for certain groups under new government guidelines.

Ministers said relatives of people who were seriously ill or had to stay in hospital for a long time should be given free parking or reduced charges.

Concessions should also be offered to people with disabilities and NHS staff whose shift patterns meant they could not use public transport, they said.

Labour accused the coalition of dropping plans to scrap the charges.

Hospital parking policies are set by individual NHS trusts.

The Department of Health guidance made it clear trusts were responsible for the actions of private car parking contractors running facilities on their behalf.

The guidelines also recommended hospitals should use “pay-on-exit” schemes so motorists pay only for the time they use in a hospital car park.

And they say trusts should waive fines if a visitor or patient overstays through no fault of their own, for example because treatment took longer than planned, or when staff have to work beyond their scheduled shift.

Read more in BBC Health.

Ebola: British man treated in London hospital

BBC Health - 9:05 am

Doctors at a hospital in north-west London have begun treating a Briton who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The man has been named as William Pooley, a 29-year-old volunteer nurse, by a US scientist who worked with him.

Mr Pooley was flown to RAF Northolt in a specially-equipped military aircraft on Sunday and taken under police escort to Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital.

He volunteered to go to west Africa to care for victims of the Ebola outbreak which has killed almost 1,500 people.

It is the first confirmed case of a Briton contracting the virus during the current outbreak.

He will be treated in a specialist isolation unit for patients with highly infectious disease, the only one of its kind in Europe.

Read more in BBC Health.

Musgrove Park challenged over cataract operations

The Guardian - 14th August 2014 7:59 pm

Dozens of people have been left with impaired vision, pain and discomfort after undergoing operations provided by a private healthcare company at an NHS hospital.

One 84-year-old man claimed he has lost his sight and his family is calling for a full independent inquiry after it emerged that half of the 60 patients who underwent surgery suffered complications.

The routine cataract operations were carried out by the private provider in May to help to reduce a backlog at Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton.

But the hospital’s contract with Vanguard Healthcare was terminated only four days after 30 patients, most elderly and some frail, reported complications, including blurred vision, pain and swelling.

Some of those who suffered complications, including the 84-year-old man, have contacted lawyers to discuss seeking compensation, which raises the prospect of an NHS hospital picking up the bill for procedures done by a private health company.

Read more in The Guardian.

NICE condemns Roche for price of cancer therapy

The Guardian - 8th August 2014 4:24 pm

The pharmaceuticals giant Roche has been criticised in unprecedented terms by the government’s drugs watchdog for refusing to significantly lower the price of a breast cancer drug whose £90,000-per-patient cost is well over the NHS’s limit.

NICE says it cannot recommend the drug, Kadcyla, which promises extra months of life for women with advanced breast cancer, because of Roche’s inflexibility.

But the company hit back, saying the pricing row showed that the system of cancer drug regulation was “broken”.

The system set up by the coalition in 2010 means that, although hospitals will not buy Kadcyla for their pharmacies, individual doctors can apply to the separate £600m-a-year Cancer Drugs Fund that pays for treatments Nice regards as too expensive.

As a result, some patients may get the drug because their doctors believe in it, while others will be denied.

NICE had warned Roche in April that it could not sanction the drug for NHS use because of the cost, and called on the Swiss-based company to think again. Nice this week said that Roche has not made any serious attempt to reduce the price.

Read more in The Guardian.

Save Our Surgeries campaign at Downing Street

BBC Health - 7th August 2014 12:50 pm

Campaigners fighting new funding arrangements for GPs’ surgeries are delivering a 21,000-signature petition to Downing Street.

The group, Save Our Surgeries, says 22 practices in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney could be forced to close, if proposed changes go ahead.

They are calling on NHS England to reverse funding cuts.

NHS England said it recognised “the unique financial challenges some GP practices were facing”.

The government has decided to phase out the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) nationally, over a seven-year period and changes started taking place in April.

The MPIG was introduced in 2004, to support some GP surgeries and was used to top-up the core funding of practices.

Read more at BBC Health.

Two Newcastle Uni medical students killed in Borneo

BBC Health - 6th August 2014 4:01 pm

Two British medical students have been stabbed to death in Borneo, local police have said.

Newcastle University said the killing of its students Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger, both 22, was a “huge shock”.

Malaysian police said the men were killed at about 04:15 local time on Wednesday.

There had been an argument between a man and one victim before the killings, and four men have been arrested over the murders, police added.

Mr Dalton and Mr Brunger had been on a six-week work placement at a hospital in Kuching, a city in one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.

In a statement, Malaysian police said the two victims had a drink in a tea shop, where one man “rebuked” them for being “noisy”.

“This has given rise to an argument,” police said, between the man and one of the victims before they left the shop.

Police said four men then “pursued” the students in a car, before one man got out and attacked them with a knife.

Read more at BBC Health.

Phone consultations don’t cut GP surgery pressure

BBC Health - 4th August 2014 11:03 am

Introducing GP consultations over the phone, rather than face-to-face appointments, does not reduce pressure in busy surgeries, a study shows.

The analysis of 42 practices, in the Lancet, found telephoned patients needed more contact with their GP.

The report’s authors said phone consultations had a role, but were “no silver bullet”.

BMA said GPs were “under real pressure” from soaring patient demand.

It was hoped that using telephone consultations would relieve some of the burden.

An average surgery deals with 20 patients who need an appointment on the day.

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School investigated the impact of having a GP or nurse call those patients back instead of them coming into the surgery.

Rather than easing workloads, the number of patients being dealt with by practices increased by 33% when a doctor called back, and by 48% when a nurse was on the other end of the phone.

Read more at BBC Health.

Two weeks to save general practice, warns RCGP

Pulse - 1st August 2014 9:52 am

The RCGP has warned GPs they have just 16 days to ‘save general practice’ and is calling for them to get as many people as possible to sign its Put patients first: back general practice petition.

The College have set the ambitious target of one million signatories, which it says can be achieved if every one of their 49,000 members enlists 20 supporters to the cause.

The deadline has been set at 15 August so that signatories can be counted before political party conferences begin, and members have been provided with Freepost envelopes to return signatures.

In a letter to members yesterday, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said that, despite the widespread coverage of the campaign so far ‘there is still more to do in order to persuade politicians to ensure that investment in general practice is increased in each of the four UK nations’.

Read more in Pulse.