Reform critic appointed to NHS CB

by JoelLane 30. August 2012 15:50

Professor-Steve-Field (resized) A Birmingham GP who called the NHS reform plans “unworkable” is one of two clinicians newly appointed to the Medical Directorate of the NHS Commissioning Board.

Professor Steve Field (pictured), who as Chair of the NHS Future Forum argued that the Government’s plans for hospital competition would destabilise the NHS, has been appointed Deputy National Medical Director (Health Inequalities).

Like Business Secretary Vince Cable in the Government, Field is a policy sceptic who has been kept ‘inside’ by the leadership to provide a more critical dynamic.

Field, who is Chair of the DH’s National Inclusion Health Board, will lead the NHS CB’s work to reduce health inequalities.

Professor Keith Willett, the current National Clinical Director for Trauma Care, has been appointed Director for Acute Episodes of Care with responsibility for Domain 3 of the NHS Outcomes Framework (“helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury”).

Willett, who has been an orthopaedic trauma surgeon in Oxford, will lead the Board’s work to assist rapid recovery from illness or injury.

The NHS Commissioning Board Authority’s National Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, said that both recruits “have a strong track record of leadership and innovation which will be of enormous benefit to the NHS”.

Sting of the Beecroft

by JoelLane 28. May 2012 13:44

Animal-Insect-Bee-and-Bee-hives The Beecroft review of employment law has implications for both the pharma industry and the NHS. Maxine Vaccine considers the significance of a policy review designed to help companies lay people off.

The Beecroft report on UK employment recommends a number of measures that would make it easier for employers to make staff redundant, dismiss employees and manage the HR aspects of a takeover.

The report, commissioned by David Cameron, urges a “bonfire of regulations” around job security:

• The mandatory 90-day consultation period for a redundancy programme would be reduced to 30 days – or to five days if the company is in “severe distress”.

• Loss of earnings compensation for employees who make successful unfair dismissal claims would be capped, while tribunals would be strongly pushed to reach a ‘no fault’ conclusion.

• The right of employees to retain terms and conditions (‘transfer of undertakings’) when a company is taken over would be scrapped.

Venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, a leader in the private healthcare field, insists these measures will support “job creation”.

The report has already drawn strong criticism from Business Secretary Vince Cable, who described its underlying principles as “nonsense”.

Cable said: “British workers are an asset, not just a cost for company bosses. That is why I am opposed to the ideological zealots who want to encourage British firms to fire at will.”

However, Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk – who took Cable’s place without notice in a Commons debate on the report – said the Government was already “actioning” 17 of Beecroft’s 23 proposals.

There are two reasons why the UK pharma industry should pay close attention to these proposals.

The first reason is that they clearly impact on the pharma industry, where redundancies and takeovers are commonplace and claims of unfair dismissal are not unknown. The belief that making it much easier to lay off staff will lead to a revival of the job market seems naïve at best. It may make life easier for the HR Director, but it could spell disaster for industry staff and their families.

The second reason – the sting in the report’s tail – is that Beecroft clearly has the NHS in his sights. He runs the private equity firm Apax Partners, which owns two of the UK’s leading private healthcare companies: Capio and General Healthcare. As private sector takeovers of Foundation Trusts and CCGs become the norm, the Beecroft measures will grease the wheels of asset-stripping.

That phrase “severe distress” seems tailor-made to describe the imploding NHS organisations of the near future. It’s what former NHS Chief Commissioner Mark Britnell meant when he told private healthcare providers in late 2010: “The NHS will be shown no mercy, and the best time to take advantage of that will be in the next couple of years.”

Interestingly, Britnell – now an independent consultant – said recently that he would like to go back into the NHS.

He’d better hurry.

Government plans to weaken employment rights

by JoelLane 22. May 2012 11:00

© MATT GREENSLADE
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PHOTO: © MATT GREENSLADE Changes to employment law recommended in a new Government policy review would make it much easier for pharma companies in the UK to get rid of staff.

Cuts in the consultation period for redundancy, compensation for unfair dismissal and employee rights following takeovers are among the reforms urged by the Beecroft report.

The proposals, commissioned by PM David Cameron, were attacked by Business Secretary Vince Cable as “nonsense”.

Venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft (pictured), a leader in the private healthcare field, has urged a “bonfire of regulations” including:

• Reduction of the mandatory 90-day consultation period for a redundancy programme to 30 days – or to five days if the company is in “severe distress”.

• A cap on loss of earnings compensation for employees who make successful unfair dismissal claims.

• Major reform of employees’ right to retain existing terms and conditions (‘transfer of undertakings’) when a company is subject to a takeover.

The report claims these measures will support “job creation”.

Vince Cable called for Lib Dem opposition to the reforms, saying: “Some people think that if labour rights were stripped down to the most basic minimum, employers would start hiring and the economy would soar again. This is complete nonsense.”

Adrian Beecroft is head of private equity firm Apax Partners, which owns two of the UK’s largest private healthcare companies: Capio and General Healthcare.

Is the Government doing enough to promote the UK as a location for pharma research?

by diana 24. February 2011 11:28

By Di Spencer, Pf Web Editor

In a recent poll, we asked the question in the title above to visitors to the Pf website. Overwhelmingly (90%) the response was ‘no’.

Recent facility closures such as Pfizer’s main UK R&D location in Kent have certainly gone a long way to undermine the UK’s importance as a research-base. The removal of the Pfizer plant could cost 2,400 jobs, which, following on the heels of other major research closures, is leaving many clinical professionals feeling there is nowhere left to go.

AZ, another ‘Big Pharma’ with an important R&D presence in the UK, laid off up to 1,000 R&D workers around this time last year.

This reduction of R&D activity in the UK is flying the face of assertions that the UK is a great place to conduct clinical research. Our nation certainly has a great heritage in this area – 25% of the top medicines were discovered here. But is maintaining this standard enough of a priority to the people in power? The Institute for Clinical Research (ICR) has revealed that the number of trials hosted in the UK dropped by a third between 2004 and 2009, demonstrating that the UK may be struggling to compete with cheaper research locations that offer less restrictive bureaucracy.

Vince Cable of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) was quick to defend the UK’s position following Pfizer’s announcement. He said: “This country is an attractive location for the life sciences industry and with R&D tax credits and our plans to introduce a Patent Box, the Government is committed to ensuring the UK is the destination of choice for investment, research and growth.”

Nigel Gaymond, Chief Executive of BIA also joined in, asserting that “the UK remains the second home next to the US for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry”.

The Government has announced various schemes in an effort to encourage research activities back to the UK, such as the aforementioned Patent Box tax regime and the ring fencing of public funds for science, and these went some way to reassuring the industry.

However, a recent gathering of key stakeholders at the ICR’s ‘Great Debate’ concluded that the UK is unlikely to regain its preeminence as a location for trials due to competition from countries like Brazil and China, but with the right support and infrastructure in place, it could maintain a steady level and even build on it. Read Peter Mansell’s summary of the debate for more details on what was discussed.

The importance of pharma R&D to the UK economy is undeniable. In 2010 it was revealed that around 80% of UK R&D was conducted by just one hundred of the top R&D investing companies, many of which operate in the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sector. The UK may not have the infrastructure to win back its status as one of the top two sites for R&D, but it is important that the Government’s initiatives reassure the life sciences industries that the UK still has something to offer.

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Contact the author: diana.spencer@healthpublishing.co.uk

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Novartis takes action against US death penalty

by diana 14. February 2011 14:56

Novartis is taking steps to prevent one of its drugs being shipped to the USA and used in executions.

Sodium thiopental is manufactured by Novartis’ generics unit Sandoz for commercialisation by Archimedes Pharma and is one of the drugs commonly used in lethal injections.

The company has urged its subsidiaries not to sell the product to third parties who may have supply arrangements with the US.

The drug is no longer produced in the US, as companies such as Hospira have moved its production to Europe to prevent its use in executions.

In November, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced restrictions on the export to the US of sodium thiopental, but refused to ban exports entirely as the product can have legitimate uses.

In a statement, Sandoz and Novartis said that they only support “the authorised use of injectable thiopental”, for the induction of anaesthesia, and do not support “the sale of this or any product for use in non-approved treatments”.

Clive Stafford Smith, the Director of Reprieve UK, has urged other pharma companies to take similar action. “It seems to me that the pharmaceutical companies need to get together and agree to some Hippocratic Oath whereby they only sell their drugs for positive purposes and not to execute people,” he said.

US states are becoming so desperate to access drugs like sodium thiopental that last month it was found that the state of Arizona had purchased drugs for lethal injections from a small pharmaceutical operation based in an office in West London.

Witty appointed to BIS role

by diana 16. December 2010 15:40

Andrew Witty GSK CEO Andrew Witty has been appointed as the Lead Non-Executive Board Member at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Witty (pictured) will take up his position on the new Departmental Board from 1 January 2011. Non-Executive Board Members are experts from outside Government who assist in the delivery of policy using relevant experience from business.

The Government hopes the new Board will be a forum where political and official leadership is brought together to drive up performance.

Announcing the appointment, Vince Cable said: “Andrew’s perspective on what works for businesses and the implications that policies will have on them will be a useful litmus test for our policy makers to see what will happen on the ground before we take a specific course of action.”

Andrew Witty has worked for GSK since 1985, securing the role of CEO in May 2008. He is also President of the European Federation of Pharmaceuticals Industries and Associations (EFPIA), a position he took up on 1 January 2010.

He said: “I am delighted to have been asked to take on this role. I look forward to working with BIS and the Secretary of State to build on the UK economy’s many strengths to deliver long term sustainable economic growth.”

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