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  1. Staffs administrators cost £20 million

    Sorting out England's most troubled hospital cost nearly £20 million, it was revealed yesterday.

    The bills were incurred by the team of special administrators draw up a plan for the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, working over an 18 month period.

    The hospital regulator Monitor admitted the costs had soared beyond its original budget of £15.25 million.

    It announced the figure as a leaked report highlighted continuing problems with the NHS in the county of Staffordshire.

    It said that during the first phase of work a team of 30 experts cost some £9 million.

    Monitor said that in future it would aim to work "swifter" by using local NHS organisations from the start to develop solutions.

    Chief executive David Bennett said: “Mid Staffs was failing its patients and relying on tens of millions of pounds of emergency funding from central government each year. If nothing had been done the trust would have been £100 million in debt by 2018.

    “Our priority was securing safe and sustainable services for the people of Staffordshire, and while special administration took longer than expected it nevertheless led to substantial investment in local health services."

    * The Health Service Journal says it has obtained a report, which describes the health service in Staffordshire as in "perpetual crisis mode" and beset with an "oppressive culture."

    Monitor and NHS England were among those who commissioned the report from KPMG.

    The report states: “The vast majority of the senior leadership have been in Staffordshire for some time. This can bring undoubted benefits but sadly, the negatives are the prevalent aspects we have witnessed.”

    The report highlights problems of trust caused by some people "bouncing" others into decisions while others would say one thing in a meeting and do something else outside.

  2. Cut our waiting times - GPs

    Politicians should make reducing waiting times for GP appointments a priority, according to senior members of the profession.

    Growing delays in seeing a doctor need tackling - but GPs should not be expected to do this by cutting back on other care, according to the Royal College of GPs.

    In a new study, the college says there are ways to improve access to GPs with existing resources.

    But it warns of growing pressure on services caused by the ageing population.

    The report was published as a survey for the BBC found that most GPs are contemplating quitting the profession before the age of 60.

    The college says there will be 67 million times this year when patients have to wait for longer than a week to see a doctor or practice nurse.

    The college cites examples of practices that have improved access without compromising patient safety.

    It examines the use of smartphone apps for making appointments - whilst warning that individual practices will not be able to develop their own apps.

    The report says practices may be able to extend opening hours by pooling resources through creating federations.

    College chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “Access to general practice is frequently cited by politicians as a key issue, and in the run-up to this year’s general election parties from across the political spectrum are likely to include promises to ‘improve’ GP access in their manifesto documents.

    “But with general practice already under huge strain and GPs delivering more patient consultations than ever before, turning political rhetoric into practical action will require a significant increase in resources for general practice."

    She added: “Given the number and range of ideas currently being tested out in general practice in this area, it is vital that projects are properly evaluated, and evidence is gathered and published on what has been shown to work in some areas and what has not."

  3. Child health a public priority - paediatricians

    Paediatricians are claiming public backing for new measures aimed at improving the health of children.

    According to an opinion poll, the public want the NHS to give priority to child health.

    There is also majority support for public health measures to boost child health.

    The poll, for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, found that 76% said reducing child death rates should be a priority for the NHS.

    There was also overwhelming backing for "consistent" health provision for children together with reducing childhood rates of cancer.

    Just 59% backed measures to tackle obesity and 64% backed a ban on TV advertising of unhealthy food before 9pm.

    There was more backing for schools to teach children about healthy food - 90%.

    Some 69% said the mental health of children should be a priority.

    Some 2,118 adults took part in the survey by pollsters Comres and released ahead of a debate between party health spokespeople, organised by the college, and including health ministers Dr Dan Poulter and Norman Lamb and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

    College president Dr Hilary Cass said Britain had the worst child death rate in western Europe and the highest rate of childhood obesity.

    She said: "Whilst caring for our ageing population is important, it shouldn’t mean that children’s health falls to the way-side.

    “This poll shows that the voting public care as much about child health as they do care for the elderly.

    “Many health issues experienced later in life can be triggered during childhood. We need to better support children from infant to child, through to teen and into adulthood – we’ll only be able to do this by making small yet significant policy changes directly targeted to meet their needs.”

  4. New test for effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs

    A new method that enables doctors to monitor the effect of anti-cancer drugs on very rare leukaemia stem cells has been developed by a team of scientists in Manchester, England.

    It is hoped that the development will allow doctors to screen patients and personalise their treatment.

    The emergence of novel agents – tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), which target abnormal proteins caused by commonly found genetic mutations in CML patients – has improved the prospects for patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).

    However, the existence of treatment-resistant cancer stem cells is means that the disease recurs in many patients when treatment stops.

    It means that any new drug must be tested on such stem cells, but they are only found in very low numbers and are identified by certain cell surface markers.

    Now researchers at The University of Manchester have tested a way to monitor the effect of drugs on small samples of cells by using an antibody-based approach to detect structural changes in certain proteins and to track the effectiveness of the TKI drugs.

    They discovered that by using this method they could record changes in samples of only a few thousand critically important but rare stem cells.

    Professor Tony Whetton, head of the stem cell and leukaemia proteomics laboratory who led the study, which is published in Nature Protocols,said: “This new approach will enable us to test drugs on cells taken from patients, either at presentation or in a clinical trial setting.

    “It has great potential to allow us to implement precision medicine, where patients receive the most appropriate treatment to target their individual tumour.”

    Aspinall-O’Dea M et al. Antibody-based detection of protein phosphorylation status to track the efficacy of novel therapies using nanogram protein quantities from stem cells and cell lines. Nature Protocols March 2015; 10(1): 149-168.


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