Campaigners spark debate with claims over private sector influence

by Admin 17. January 2014 11:57

A campaign group sparked a debate by claiming 70% of NHS contracts are awarded to the private sector.

The NHS Support Federation, a campaign group opposing the increasingly competitive methods of contract procurement in the NHS, said a recent study showed almost 70% of NHS contracts are going to the private sector.

“I think people are going to be genuinely surprised by what’s happening,” said Support Federation’s director Paul Evans. “We’re talking about the whole gamut of care and a massive change in the way we use services in the future.”

By collecting information on 57 contracts awarded between April and December last year, the Federation’s found 39 had gone to the private sector, 15 to the NHS, one to a charity and one shared between public and private.

Analysis of the findings also showed that over 70 categories of care were included in the contracts, with Evans suggesting “the scope of changes” was affecting “all kinds of care you might experience as a patient”.

In response to the claims, David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, criticised the findings as not “representative of the wider NHS.”

“Overall the independent sector currently provides around 6% of NHS clinical care and this figure has only increased by 1 [%] since 2010,” he said.

He also stressed that involvement of the private sector in the NHS was “not new” and that collaboration between public and private sectors had “benefitted patients and delivered real value for the NHS”.

The Department of Health added its weight to the discussion, calling the findings and their conclusions “highly selective and misleading” due to the “tiny” sample size.

The debate also sparked some accusations to fly between political parties, with Labour keen to point the finger at the current government. Shadow health minister Andy Burnham suggested David Cameron had “forced every part of the NHS to open up to the market” and claimed “privatisation is proceeding at an alarming rate”.

The Conservatives, in return, derided Labour’s “hypocrisy”, suggesting “it was Labour who encouraged the private sector to take up NHS contracts by offering preferential terms that this government has since outlawed”, said a health spokesman. 

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News | NHS

ABPI offers grace period and new exams for 2014

by Admin 17. January 2014 10:14

As the updated ABPI Code of Practice comes into effect, the organisation offers a grace period and a selection of new qualifications for the coming year.

The changes to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) Code of Practice, proposed in November 2013, have now come into effect, but the organisation has offered a grace period to the industry until April.

While the changes demand that list prices of medicines be reduced by 15%, companies will not be penalised for having incorrect promotional material until the end of April. However, the ABPI stressed that “care should be ensure that there is no discrepancy between what representatives say and what is written on the material left with the doctors”.

Accuracy is paramount, emphasised the ABPI in a statement, and the publication of any misleading information could land a company in front of the Code of Practice Appeal Board. Journal adverts must also be accurate at the time of printing.   

Alongside these instructions for managing the adjustment to the new Code of Practice, the ABPI announced it will now be offering accredited exams as a new Level 3 qualification for pharmaceutical workers in 2014.

The new exams, which can be booked on the new website, are the Medical Representatives Examination (Level 3 diploma in the promotion of prescription medicines) and the Generic Sales Representative Examination (Level 3 certificate in the promotion of prescription medicines).

Anyone currently working through the previous, unaccredited exams will be able to continue with these until December 2015. 

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General | News

External reviews for Foundation Trusts to tackle rise in governance problems

by Admin 16. January 2014 11:32

Monitor has called for ‘robust’ external reviews on Foundation Trusts every three years to tackle the rise in governance problems.

Monitor has published proposals that would see Foundation Trusts (FT) undertaking external reviews every three years in response to a rising rate of governance problems across the system.

Since 2008, 25% of FTs have faced regulatory action, usually due to poor governance. Most problems arise two years after the establishment of the FT, lending weight to Monitor’s call for triennial reviews.

The “robust” external reviews can be conducted by an independent reviewer, said Monitor, unless FTs have amber-red or red ratings, in which case the review would be undertaken by Monitor themselves. Monitor hope the implementation of regular reviews will bring down the number of FTs facing regulatory action and allow areas of improvement to be highlighted on a regular basis.

Toby Lambert, director of strategy and policy at Monitor, said "Good governance enables trusts to meet the challenges they face, while providing patients with the high quality care they deserve.”

"We believe regular effective governance reviews are a vital tool in showing that a trust is well-led, and whether any of their practices or capabilities need to improve.”

Under the new proposals, which are now in consultation, these reviews must be “robust, in-depth and tailored to cover the specific circumstances of the board”.

They should also be carried out by independent reviewers to ensure “objectivity and provide maximum assurance”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust network, welcomed the move to “formalise good practice that has already been adopted across a significant proportion of the..sector”. He did, however, raise concerns that such ‘formalisation’ could create a “’tick box’ exercise that provides work for consultancies, but gives little value to those that use the NHS.” 

As part of the consultation process for Monitor’s proposals, three FTs will pilot the new approach: Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals, Airedale and the Lincolnshire Partnership.

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News | NHS

GSK gives DMD rights back to Prosena as alliance ends

by Admin 16. January 2014 10:57

As GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Prosena terminate their alliance, the latter company has regained full rights to all DMD treatment programmes collaboratively developed.

As the collaboration agreement between Prosena and GSK, formed in 2009, comes to an end, GSK announced that Prosena will regain full rights to the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) treatment programmes to continue their development work in the rare genetic disorder.

The pair agreed that Prosena was best positioned to develop the treatments worked on collaboratively over the past four years, with Prosena also regaining full rights to drug drisapersen.

Hans Schikan, Prosena’s chief executive officer, said the company was now “in a favourable strategic position to advance the DMD portfolio” and remained “fully committed” to developing treatments for DMD.

Dr Carlo Russo, senior vice president and head of GSK’s rare diseases research and development unit, said GSK had “greatly valued the scientific expertise that Prosena provided since our collaboration started in 2009” and thanked all those involved in the studies for their “contribution and patience”.

Through the collaborative process, Prosena and GSK succeeded in gathering the largest global clinical programme in DMD and collated a large dataset relating the condition, parts of which will be made accessible to members of the wider scientific community to support the development of DMD treatments.


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Drugs | News

Let pharmacists help the NHS

by Admin 15. January 2014 12:07

A new pharmacy-awareness campaign calls for NHS staff to work with pharmacists to reduce pressure on services.

A two-year campaign, entitled Dispensing Health, has begun to persuade the NHS and healthcare professionals to utilise pharmacists in a bid to reduce pressure on GPs and A&E departments.

The campaign is being run by community pharmacy organisation Pharmacy Voice, with the launch marked by the publication of evidence suggesting a lack of public awareness of the services the pharmacist can offer.

According to a recent poll run by YouGov on over 2,000 adults, only 48% of adult patient realise that a pharmacist can advise on minor ailments, treatment of which is estimated to cost the health service £2bn each year.

Professor Robert Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said that despite pharmacy being “the third largest health profession after medicine and nursing”, most adults don’t understand the role of the pharmacist or the scope of their service capabilities.

“We’re launching Dispensing Health to challenge the traditional views of community pharmacy as simply dispensers of medicine,” he said. “We do so much more.”   

Aside from educating the public on the role of community pharmacists, Pharmacy Voice is also using the two-year campaign to seek support for a raft of recognitions, to be proposed in May 2015, which would cement community pharmacy’s place in health care services.

These recognitions include having a pharmacist recognised as a “dispenser of health, as well as medicines” and listing community pharmacy alongside GPs as a means of reducing pressure on A&E services.  

Dr Michael Dixon, GP chair of NHS Alliance, lent his support to the campaign, urging an end to the ‘abuse’ of the NHS – “we can no longer use the NHS like a sweetshop that’s open all hours. If we abuse it, we’ll lose it” he stressed.

“Community pharmacy is perfectly positioned to take the strain from GPs and A&E departments that are bursting at the seams. We need to work together across the whole health service so that the public access the right services, in the right place and at the right time.”he said. 

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General | News

Sanofi and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to develop new antibiotics at ‘Centre of Excellence’

by Admin 15. January 2014 10:44

Sanofi is to team up with the leading European research organisation to develop novel antibiotics at a new Natural Product Centre of Excellence.  

Under the terms of a recent agreement, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Sanofi will join together to develop new antibiotics based on naturally occurring chemical or biological compounds to target infectious diseases.

As part of the new collaboration, Fraunhofer’s Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) will gain access to Sanofi’s strain collection – one of the largest in the world – and the two will pool resources and knowledge in a bid to develop new antibodies at the purpose-created Natural Product Centre of Excellence.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni, President, Global R&D at Sanofi, emphasised the “critical” nature of the work, as the level of antibiotic resistance in patients continues to rise. This is especially prevalent “in the hospital setting,” explained Dr Zerhouni, “with increasingly frequent serious, often life-threatening, infections, where few advances have been made in recent years.”

“This cooperation with Fraunhofer is unique as internal and external scientists will work together as one team on common projects, in shared labs to acquire new knowledge with the objective to bring new medicines to patients suffering from infectious diseases,” he continued.

Prof. Dr. Rainer Fischer, Senior Executive Director from Fraunhofer IME, described the partnership as “win-win” for both parties, with the potential rewards expanding beyond drug discovery to “create value for other industries with significant economic opportunity”.

The new Natural Product Center of Excellence will be led by Prof. Dr. Peter Hammann, Sanofi R&D, Head of External Innovation of the Infectious Diseases Unit, and Prof. Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas, Division Director at Fraunhofer IME.       

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General | News

60% rise in cost of A&E temps

by Admin 14. January 2014 12:32

Data shows a 60% increase in NHS spending on temporary doctors to cover shortages in A&E over the past three years.

According to statistics obtained by Labour, the NHS has seen a 60% rise in the cost of paying locum doctors to cover staff shortages in A&E over the past three years, with spending hitting a high of £83.3m last year.

The findings, based on data obtained from a third of trusts operating A&E services in the country, show locum costs have risen 60% from £52m in 2009-10, with temporary staff now covering one in ten consultant shifts and up to one in six shifts for more junior roles.

Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, criticised the high spending as “unwise” and “not an efficient way of spending NHS money.”

“When people say there is no money, there is – we’re throwing money down the drain. It’s absurd. The only people who benefit from this are the locum agencies,” he said.

He also suggested the use of locum doctors was “damaging for morale when doctors work alongside other, sometimes less qualified doctors, who are earning much more.” A locum doctor can earn up to £1,500 a shift – four times more than it would cost to hire a permanent doctor in the role.

While shadow health secretary Andrew Burnham was quick to blame the escalating costs on “disastrous” reorganisation and “gross mismanagement” of the NHS by the current government, Dr Mann suggested the problems have “really been building for the last decade”.

“There has been a lack of job planning and it is now very hard to attract doctors to this speciality,” he explained. For the past three years, 50% of A&E roles have gone unfilled, and the College is currently struggling to attract medical students to train in Emergency Medicine due to the intensity of the role.

In a bid to make the A&E job more attractive, the College has been working with Health Education England to draw up new plans, such as flexible working hours and more training opportunities for those working in A&E.

The secretary of state for health, Dr Dan Poulter, also stressed the importance of improving the work-life balance for A&E doctors as part of the government’s approach to re-negotiating doctors’ contracts.


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News | NHS

New breast cancer jab for Scots

by Admin 14. January 2014 09:48

A new Herceptin jab available on NHS Scotland provides speedier treatment for breast cancer patients.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has recently approved a Herceptin injection for use on NHS Scotland, offering speedier delivery of Herceptin to patients with the aggressive form of breast cancer, HER-2 positive.

Previously, Herceptin was delivered by intravenous infusion over a period of 30-90 minutes, while the new injection will deliver the treatment in less than 5 minutes, saving both time for patients and money for the national health service.

The approval from SMC follows the injection getting the thumbs up from European Medicines Agency (EMA) last year, and its use on NHS Scotland could make an estimated £2.3m of savings annually as well as cutting down on treatment time for patients.

Dr Iain MacPherson, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, said the new treatment was “good news” for breast cancer patients and “could also help free up capacity on busy chemotherapy day units”.      

Herceptin is currently the standard treatment for those with HER-2 positive early stage breast cancer based on trials conducted on more than 13,000 people. The recent licence for the injection form of the drug came after trials showed no new or unexpected safety concerns as compared to the IV delivery method.  

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Drugs | News

Saying sorry could save money

by Admin 13. January 2014 12:35

Health professionals are being urged to apologise for mistakes in a bid to reduce claims and end the “defensive culture” of the NHS.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has added his support for ending what he describes as the “closed and defensive culture” of the NHS as new guidance leaflets urge health professionals to apologise for mistakes.

 “We want to see an open NHS culture that focuses on safety and learns when things go wrong,” said Hunt during a recent newspaper interview. “Saying sorry and supporting patients and their families when they have experienced harm is a really important part of this.

The recently published leaflet, entitled “Saying Sorry”, is produced by the NHS Litigation Authority, the organisation responsible for handling claims against medical staff. As the number of claims has risen by 20% this year, the Authority is keen to encourage staff to apologise for errors in a bid to reduce claims.

In cases where people perhaps bring a claim out of frustration, because they don't feel that they've been given an explanation or that their complaints have been heard, an apology may make them less likely to pursue an action,” explained Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority.  

"We actively support organisations being open, transparent and candid with their patients,” she said.

The leaflet, which runs to four pages, urges medical staff to apologise in person “as soon as staff are aware an incidence has occurred”, before following up with a written apology.

“Saying sorry is not an admission of responsibility,” emphasised the leaflet, “It is the right thing to do.”

This is the latest move towards transparency and changing the culture of the health service following the Mid-Staffordshire scandal in which approximately 1,200 patients died unnecessarily. It was a failing caused by “a system which ignored warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety”, with a further eleven Trusts subsequently being placed in special measures over high mortality rates.

Many changes have been implemented to improve the working culture of the NHS since then, with the leaflet from the NHS Litigation Authority being the latest step towards a more ‘open’ system and improve patient’s perception of and trust in the health service.  

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News | NHS

Boehringer Ingelheim UK appoints new MD

by Admin 13. January 2014 09:55

It is a return to her roots for new Boehringer Ingelheim UK managing director Zinta Krumins as she takes the top job at the office where she started her career 25 years ago.

Zinta, who embarked on her career in Boehringer at the UK headquarters in 1989, has just been appointed as managing director of the UK arm of the company following nearly 20 years working overseas.

Her inaugural role with the company was as Market Research Manager 25 years ago, and in the quarter century since Zinta has progressed through the company, most recently working as MD of the Nordics for 12 months, preceded by six years as MD of the Turkish arm of Boehringer.

Zinta said she was “delighted” to be returning to the UK after seventeen years abroad despite the current challenges the industry faces as the NHS undergoes major reforms and changes.

“My UK team has been working hard to meet the changing requirements of the evolving NHS and I am confident we are in a good position to strengthen our position as one of the leading companies within the industry,” says Zinta.

Speaking soon after her appointment as MD, Zinta also praised the working environment of the company she joined 25 years ago, commending a management system that “still allows people to command our own destinies.”

“There is always potential to continually develop both the business and the employees but most importantly to bring innovative new medicines to patients,” she said.

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