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  1. Satisfaction with NHS slumps

    Public satisfaction with the NHS slumped last year, according to figures published today.

    And while general practice remains the most popular part of the service, its ratings also fell to its lowest levels in 30 years, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey.

    Overall satisfaction with the service fell to 60% last year – a five percentage point drop, the figures show.

    This contrasts with the highest recorded level on these ratings when 70% expressed satisfaction with the NHS in 2010.

    Some 69% expressed satisfaction with GP services – compared with 79% in 2009. This compared with 71% in 2014.

    Satisfaction with social services also fell by five percentage points – reaching just 26%.

    The survey asked for reasons for the first time. The biggest cause of dissatisfaction was waiting times for GP and hospital appointments, cited by 55%, and staff shortages, cited by 44%.

    Analysts from the King’s Fund said satisfaction levels with inpatient services, outpatient services and A&E remained largely unchanged.

    Researchers questioned more than 3,000 people between July and October last year

    The Royal College of GPs welcomed the high ratings for general practice in the face of “intense resource and workforce pressures.”

    Chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “This year we will make in excess of 370 million patient consultations this year – 60 million more than we did five years ago – but despite this increase in workload our workforce has remained relatively stagnant, and over the last ten years funding for our service has declined.

    “This relentless pressure is a threat to our own health and our patients' safety – and this report today indicates that it is gradually wearing down the satisfaction our patients have in us.”

    She added: “We need more investment in our services, and initiatives to be implemented to ‘recruit, retain and return’ thousands more GPs and practice staff as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to deliver the care that our patients need and deserve.”

    King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said: “The latest survey underlines the high value the British public places on the quality of care the NHS provides and its availability free at the point of use.

    “It is no surprise to find that dissatisfaction is driven by waiting times for appointments and perceptions of underfunding and staff shortages. However, it is also apparent that people’s perceptions are influenced by their views about a range of factors including politics, policy and public institutions, as well as by their own experience of the NHS.”

  2. Psychiatric patients should have access to local beds - commission

    The NHS should end the practice of transporting mentally ill patients all over England in the search for beds, an independent review says today.

    Instead services should ensure that patients have fast access to acute care – with a four-hour target for admission being set, according to the findings of an Independent Commission.

    The Commission was chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp, former chief executive of the NHS, and backed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

    The report says that about 500 patients a month have to travel more than 30 miles to find an acute bed.

    Lord Crisp says this is a symptom of “far more widespread problems” in mental health services, including variable quality of care in in-patient units and inadequate availability of in-patient care.

    Residential provision is also inadequate, leading to patients staying in hospital longer than necessary, he says.

    The report says that by October 2017 the NHS should phase out the moving of patients large distances for non-specialist care – together with introducing a maximum waiting time of four hours for admission.

    Lord Crisp said: “It is time to end the difference in standards between mental and physical illnesses. People with severe mental illnesses need to be able to find care just as quickly as people suffering from physical illnesses - and they shouldn’t have to travel long distances to do so.

    “Most of what is needed is already being done somewhere in the country with committed and innovative people - patients and carers as well as professionals - working hard to improve services.

    “This report’s recommendations are designed to get behind their efforts and help them to share their learning and achieve their ambitions.”

    College president Professor Sir Simon Wesseley said: “Everyone agrees that it is a scandal that patients with serious mental disorders who need admission can end up being sent anywhere from Cornwall to Cumbria in a search for a bed. And yet it continues.

    “The answers lie not in just providing more beds, although there are definitely places where that might help in the short term, but assessing the entire system.”

    The Mental Health Network, which represents providers of services, warned of “shrinking funding.”

    Chief executive Stephen Dalton said: “Government rhetoric about prioritising mental health does not match the reality of shrinking funding and hard-working staff struggling to cope with growing public need.

    "The evidence presented by this useful report is clear that the postcode lottery of investment in mental health services in England is putting vulnerable people, including children, at risk.”

  3. US experts to tell NHS how to use IT

    US and European experts have been recruited to advise the NHS on how to improve its use of IT, it was announced yesterday.

    An advisory group is to be led by Professor Bob Wachter, an expert in medical IT from the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, USA.

    The review follows a government announcement that it intended to accelerate the introduction of a “paperless” NHS and public use of IT to access GP services.

    Members of the review panel include Dr Julia Adler-Milstein, of the Michigan University schools of information and public health, and Dr David Brailer, appointed to coordinate health IT in the USA in 2004.

    There is Professor John Halamka, of Harvard Medical School and chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, USA, and Professor Christian Nohr, of Aalborg University, Denmark.

    British participants include haematologist Dr Wai Keong Wong, of University College London Hospitals, and Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, a medical sociologist of Leicester University, together with Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

  4. Some locums “unprofessional” – new NHS boss

    Some locums are “unprofessional” in their behaviour, one of the NHS’s newest overseers has claimed.

    The allegation comes from Jim Mackey, the chief executive of the new NHS Improvement organisation, which is taking over from regulator Monitor and some other agencies.

    Speaking to the Times, Mr Mackey, formerly chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said some clinicians were leaving permanent jobs to work as full-time agency staff.

    He said: "I've seen examples where someone has booked a locum or an agency nurse and five minutes before the shift's due to start they decide not to turn up because they've got a better offer next door.

    “So it's bred really unprofessional behaviour out there and that's really, really bad."

    He said individuals were exploiting doctor and nurse shortages.

    He said: “So if you're on an on-call manager at 8 o'clock on a Friday night and you need to staff an A&E, I've seen it where they'll be individual negotiations with a doctor or nurse: 'I want X for a shift', 'No, I want X plus Y now' and 'I've just been offered Z next door'. That actually happens and those managers have just got nowhere to go."

    Mr Mackey’s organisation will oversee trust management of their finances – and he said it was likely it would be having to ask for a “bail out” from the government.


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