Will EU law “devastate” health research?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on November 18, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

This week, the Wellcome Trust urged European institutions to strike a better balance between privacy and access in the new Data Protection Regulation to enable “life-saving research to continue”.

It argues that the law as currently proposed would be so restrictive it would have a “devastating” impact on the ability to use healthcare data for study purposes.

The Trust has joined 120 other signatories in an open letter to The Times, which calls on the EU to allow the continued use of personal data in health research, while maintaining confidentiality.

Paul Aylin echoed these sentiments in his inaugural lecture as Professor at Imperial College London earlier this month. Reflecting on a career spent analysing data and striving for improvements in public health, he also warned that the EU’s proposed data protection reforms would make future research “virtually impossible”. Read more …

Global comparison key to NHS improvement

By Hugo Greenhalgh on November 10, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

The latest report by the OECD on world healthcare does not make for pleasant reading for the NHS. The Health at a Glance study, which reviews the healthcare systems of 34 countries, found that too many lives in the UK were being lost “because the quality of care is not improving fast enough”.

The UK lags behind many other developed countries on a range of measures such as cervical, breast and bowel cancer survival and stroke survival. Mark Pearson of the OECD spoke of the NHS’s “somewhat mediocre performance across the board – from relatively low staffing levels, to high rates of avoidable admissions for asthma and lung disease”.

Worryingly, as Pearson suggests, the OECD report also points out that NHS workforce levels are below average – there are 2.8 doctors per 1000 people in the UK, compared to the OECD average of 3.3. This comes amid the on-going junior doctors debacle, with thousands of young medics leaving the country for careers abroad. Read more …

5 ways junior doctors are winning the PR war with the government

By Hugo Greenhalgh on October 15, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

Junior doctors have been in conflict with the government over plans to impose a new contract they fear will extend their hours and cut their pay. We take a look at five ways the junior doctors are communicating their case effectively…

1) Strength in numbers

Since the start of the dispute between junior doctors and Jeremy Hunt, membership to the British Medical Association (BMA) has surged. The BMA claim that about 80% of the 5,000 new members who signed up between 26 September and 5 October are junior doctors. With total membership near 160,000, having the backing of a vocal union has been crucial in communicating their message that Hunt’s proposals are unsafe for patients and unfair on doctors. Just days after the Health Secretary announced some new concessions on the contract, over 2,000 medics and students responded with a letter demanding more.

2) Direct action

Junior doctors have already made their feelings known in public demonstrations, including a rally outside Downing Street. Some doctors wore their overalls, with stethoscopes around their necks, and carried placards to create striking images that the media could use to embellish their coverage. An online poll of over 6,000 junior doctors also found that 97% were in favour of industrial action, proving that strikes would be a very real threat. Read more …

Can the NHS learn the lessons from Sir Robert Francis’ inquiries?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on May 19, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

The latest HealthChat event welcomed Sir Robert Francis QC, a name which has “redefined the future of healthcare”, as host Roy Lilley eulogised. Throughout his career, Sir Robert has dealt with cases of mismanagement in healthcare and striven for further review and reform.

In a packed King’s Fund lecture room, Sir Robert reflected on his early career and the significance of cases such as that of gynaecologist Richard Neale, the Alder Hey organ scandal and the Bristol heart surgery inquiry. These cases gave Sir Robert his first major insights into the NHS but he also noted the difficulties he experienced in finding doctors to come forward as expert witnesses, for fear of being ostracised from the health profession.

Lilley then guided the discussion onto Sir Robert’s most famous work, his inquiry into the shocking mistreatment of patients – which led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths – at Stafford Hospital, better known by the now infamous shorthand of ‘Mid Staffs’, after the trust which governed the hospital at the time. Read more …

The Election has been won – what now for the NHS?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on May 8, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

With talk of a hung parliament or Labour/SNP coalition already today’s chip paper, the reality of a Conservative majority is just beginning to set in. Labour’s anticipated gains did not come through, while high-profile figures were ousted. And would the last MP left in the Lib Dems please switch off the lights?

For the healthcare community, attention will quickly turn to what the new government will mean for the sector. This was supposed to be the election of the NHS, with the final IPSOS MORI poll ranking the health service as the main concern among potential voters. It was a stark contrast from 2010 in which the economy was the clear priority.

Yet it was the Labour Party who ran with the NHS as one of their main manifesto themes but ultimately came a cropper. In their own words, the NHS was “one of Labour’s proudest achievements” and the Party rhetoric put itself forward as the only capable of “rescuing” it. Read more …

How are political parties promising to take healthcare into the 21st century?

By Carl Packman on April 23, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

Sometimes what isn’t said is as important as what is. Many of us political geeks have had time to absorb the messages contained in the party manifestos and we know that in order to really get an idea of what’s being said, we must do more than just read between the lines.

Back in 2002 the NHS was gifted the National Programme for IT, launched and deployed in order to revolutionise the way in which the health system used information technology. The ambition for it was impressive – with costs to match.

According to the National Audit Office the estimated total cost of the NPfIT has changed since a 2011 report from £11.4bn to £9.8bn which took into account the number of system implementations. Some have called it a vanity project; what has resulted is big IT projects are a political no-go area, but haven’t necessarily resulted in a start-up revolution in digital contracts within the NHS. Read more …

The language of the manifesto is key to political PR

By Hugo Greenhalgh on April 16, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

With three weeks to go till the 2015 General Election, the launch of manifestos allows for some reflection on how far the parties will prioritise the NHS.

It has been portrayed as one of the major issues in this election for some time now, with the key players keen to stress their commitment to the NHS and present themselves as the most capable of handling the UK’s healthcare system.

The Labour Party gave their health manifesto a special launch on Saturday, a clear statement of how highly it ranks in Labour’s priorities and an opportunity to air some of their flagship health policies. Read more …

Jeremy Hunt needs a lesson in PR

By Carl Packman on April 1, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

Yesterday the Health Service Journal exclusively “revealed” that a leading report has called for NHS board members to be paid up £1m in bonuses. Anyone quicker than me at spotting anagrams will guess the nature of the article on April 1st by the new author Alf Poorli.

I hold my hands up. It fooled me (I had to re-edit this part for a start). But the best April Fools’ are the most believable.

What the HSJ has done very cleverly, though, is produce a joke that seems almost believable in a world where nothing is shocking anymore. It’s also very clever because of the controversy of the report it quotes from. As many will know, there have been a lot of guessing games about what will feature in the Lord Rose report on NHS management, and lots of questions asking why the Department of Health has yet to publish it. Read more …

Positive PR for whistleblowers can help solve NHS recruitment woes

By Rob Preston on March 12, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments

Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP spoke passionately about the importance of empowering professionals with the ability to share their opinions during last night’s Health Chat with Roy Lilley at the King’s Fund.

Read more …

Jeremy Hunt’s PR challenge

By Rob Preston on February 12, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

Last night, health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP faced off against one of his fiercest critics – health commentator Roy Lilley – at a packed Healthchat event at the King’s Fund.

Read more …