Selected Recent NHS Press Articles to 31.10.12

Solihull News

  • NHS Trust 'should be dissolved'.

    An NHS trust which went into administration as it was on the brink of bankruptcy should be dissolved, with the possibility that one of its hospitals will be run by a private company, its administrator has said. In addition, the accident and emergency (A& E) department at a hospital nearby will be closed as part of the plans for South London NHS Trust - which was losing more than £1m a week - and for the wider area. Special administrator Matthew Kershaw said University Hospital Lewisham's A& E department, not part of the South London Trust, will be downgraded to an "urgent care" unit and Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough, near Bromley, should be taken over by another provider. Outlining his draft recommendations, Mr Kershaw said it would be preferable for the Princess Royal to be run by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, but that an alternative option would be to run a procurement process allowing private companies or other NHS providers to bid to run services at the site.

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  • Debt-ridden NHS trust to be scrapped.

    A bankrupt NHS trust with three acute hospitals that serve a million people in London looks set to be carved up between the NHS and private sector, according to controversial proposals. South London NHS Healthcare Trust was declared bust and administrators called in three months ago after haemorrhaging around £1m a week to accumulate debts of £150m. Its three hospitals in south-east London - Queen Mary's in Sidcup, Princess Royal (PRU) in Bromley and Queen Elizabeth (QEH) in Greenwich - have struggled with patient satisfaction and spiralling debt since they were merged into a super-Trust in 2009. Matthew Kershaw was dispatched to take-over in July by the former Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, after it became clear that its two hugely expensive private finance initiative (PFI) deals meant the status quo was impossible for the taxpayer to sustain. Mr Kershaw’s radical proposals, which inevitably have a knock-on effect for neighbouring hospitals, include the merger of the PFI built QEH with neighbouring Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust with the loss of one A& E department. The PRU could be taken over by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust or more controversially, its services put out to tender - keeping alive hopes of several private companies hoping for a slice of the franchise. One of the biggest changes would see Queen Mary's taken over by a mental health foundation trust, Oxleas, and land sold off to the pay off debts. The new ‘health campus’ would no longer provide complex surgery but concentrate on day cases, radiotherapy and endoscopy. The burden of unsustainable PFI deals on the taxpayer is pulled sharply into focus here as Kershaw calls on the government to pay ‘the excess costs’ of the two PFI hospitals, regardless of their use, until the 25-year contracts expire. The proposals come after 39 organisations submitted expressions of interest in taking over some services though none is said to have wanted to take on the whole beast. Nine bids have been taken forward for more detailed consideration, though none have been named because of “commercial confidentiality”. Virgin Health, Care UK, Serco and Circle are among the private companies vying for a share of the services. The proposals are out to public consultation for 30 days, with Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, expected to make a decision early in February.

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Nursing Times

  • Exclusive: Unions close to deal on Agenda for Change.

    National talks on changes to NHS worker’s pay and terms and conditions could be close to a deal. Unions and NHS Employers, which represents health service organisations, have been engaged in negotiations for more than a year over alterations to the national Agenda for Change agreement. Sources close to talks have revealed a draft agreement has been drawn up by unions, which if adopted would mark significant changes to pay and terms and conditions. Nursing Times understands the draft will include proposals for incremental pay rises to be subjected to performance standards and see the loss of enhanced out of hours sick pay for most workers – two big wins for health services employers. However, unions will demand a commitment that the bulk of NHS trusts and organisations will continue to back Agenda for Change as a national framework and also want increased protection against “down-banding.” A source close to the negotiations said all unions had been involved in the draft, which they described as the “least worst option”. Under the draft proposals, Nursing Times has been told unions will agree to employers using performance as a tool to manage incremental pay rises. But instead of being based on local standards, which NHS Employers wanted, unions will demand a set of nationally agreed principles and protections be put in place. Unions will also agree to the scrapping of enhanced out of hours sick pay, but will ask for protections for certain staff at lower pay points within Agenda for Change and those off sick due to work related illness of disease. In return for the concessions, unions want stronger protections for staff subjected to job evaluation processes and re-profiling, with a national set of good practice rules and rights for staff adopted by the NHS.

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Postcode Gazette

  • Care home elderly forced to pay £17 to get toe nails cut.

    Elderly residents in a number of Sheffield care homes are being forced to pay up to £17 to have their toe nails cut. ‘Significant’ numbers of old people face a waiting list of more than four months to get basic foot care from the NHS, meaning they have no choice but to fork out for a private podiatrist. A lack of trained members of care home staff, and a shortage of training spaces, worsens the problem. A report by Sheffield Local Involvement Network (LINk), which was written following an investigation by its Care Homes for Older People Action sub-group, stated: “Significant numbers of older people are paying for private chiropody services at prices varying from £5 to £17 per session. It is difficult to know for certain what type of foot care they are paying for but we know that many of these contacts are for toe nail cutting only. We found that some care home staff will file people’s toe nails and some won’t, leaving people with little choice but to pay for this.” According to Age UK, some one in three older people are unable to cut their own toe nails. Sheffield’s primary care trust is obliged to ensure these people have access to the appropriate NHS services, however over the last year it has taken an average of four months for the NHS Podiatry Service to respond to referrals.

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Hull Daily Mail

  • NHS plan to give patients itemised 'bills' is outrageous, Hull campaigners say.

    Health campaigners have criticised plans to give hospital patients breakdowns of how much their treatment has cost the NHS. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said the move would encourage patients to "value" and "appreciate" the service, as well as raise awareness of how much tests, procedures and visits cost.Trust chief executive Phil Morley said some people attend the accident and emergency (A& E) department at Hull Royal Infirmary, requesting painkillers for a headache. He said the visit costs £150 but the painkillers could have cost pennies. Now, campaigners say they believe the cost breakdowns could deter patients from attending hospital. Dermot Rathbone, 44, who is secretary of the Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire group, suffers from a degenerative brain condition called cerebellar ataxia and needs ongoing treatment. He said: "It's outrageous. I understand Mr Morley is under pressure with cutbacks but this won't help. People who play the system are hardened to it and this isn't targeting the right people. The people who do this display a lack of regard for other people anyway, so it won't have any effect. It's allowing people who are doing wrong to set the agenda for the rest of us." The trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, is under pressure to save £99m. The efficiency savings have to be made by 2018 and include ward closures and bed losses. Mr Rathbone, of Kirk Ella, said the breakdown of costs could cause added stress. Danny Marten, chairman of Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire group, said: "We are worried people will be made to feel guilty for using the NHS. Older people especially are very conscientious about money and may feel they are being a burden, or do not feel they are 'worth it'. This may be especially true for vulnerable patients with mental health issues." The trust declined to comment on the criticisms.

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Daily Telegraph

PFI deals crippling the NHS with £1.5bn of handouts needed: PAC report.

Patients in every part of the country face having their NHS services merged, closed or moved to address the financial crisis, a scathing report warned, as crippling PFI debts mean the government will have to hand over £1.5bn of bailouts. Every NHS organisation will have to make significant changes to patient services for the health service to become financial sustainable, the report from MPs said. Officials admitted that patient care could be affected and that it may be more difficult to access healthcare, MPs said. Dozens of hospitals and other NHS organisations are in debt with more only kept out of deficit through government handouts worth a total of more than £1bn, the influential Public Accounts Committee said. Waiting times may increase as hospitals run out of money, it was warned. Campaigners warned that patient services were already suffering with rationing and staff cuts. There is particular concern over 'unaffordable private finance initiative' deals which means hospitals cannot break even once their annual repayments are made, the report said. Seven trusts with PFI deals will need £1.5bn worth of government handouts over the life of the contracts, the equivalent of £60m a year, it was warned. One trust with a significant PFI, South London Healthcare, has already been placed in administration with others likely to follow. But there are no criteria for when this action is triggered, the report said, with 'rules being made up on the hoof'. Officials did not know what to do with trusts so heavily in debt that they are effectively bankrupt, the highly critical report said. There are 30 organisations which are unviable in their current form, the report said. Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “The Department of Health could not explain to us how it will deal with an NHS trust that goes bankrupt. Nor could it provide reassurance that financial problems would not damage the quality of care or equality of access to all citizens, wherever they live. It very much looks like the Department is inventing rules and processes on the hoof rather than anticipating problems and establishing risk protocols. We are particularly concerned that the financial viability of a number of trusts is being undermined by the fact that they are locked into unaffordable PFI contracts." The report said that overall the NHS in England had a combined surplus of £2.1bn in 2011/ 12 but that masked the fact that 34 organisations had deficits totalling £356m by March this year. Together there would have been 73 organisations in deficit, if some had not been given handouts from other trusts and the Department of Health, the report said. Over the last five years the Department of Health has handed out £1bn worth that is does not expect will be repaid, even though there is a fear this will be seen as rewarding failure. The report added that the £20bn of efficient savings required between 2011/ 12 to 2014/ 15 means major changes to the way patients are treated are needed.

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