In the News
Newswire - AS: Ever the poor relation for NHS funding - A recent Audit Scotland report - Overview of mental health services - says that up to 850,000 people experience mental health (MH) problems at any one time in Scotland. They can affect anyone, but some people are at higher risk, such as those living in deprived areas.
The NHS spends about £930m a year on MH services but this is likely to be an underestimate and it is not known how much councils spend. The wider costs to society of MH problems, such as people not being able to work, bring the total estimated cost to over £8bn a year.
MH care has changed significantly in the past 10 years, with more people receiving treatment in the community and a greater focus on helping people to recover from mental health problems. The report shows that there are long waits to access certain services, particularly services for younger & older people, and there is a lack of out-of-hours & crisis services in some areas.
Press release ~ Care Quality Commission (CQC)VSO: Education is a primary key to a better life - To ensure thousands of children across many of the developing countries VSO work in have access to quality education, VSO needs qualified primary school teachers with at least two years’ experience, to volunteer their time & expertise in countries such as Malawi, Nepal and Nigeria. By sharing skills with local teachers, VSO volunteers will ensure the continued provision of quality child-centred education.
Primary school teachers who applied in time for the May 2009 deadline could be on placement by September, providing invaluable in-service teacher training. Volunteers will work with a cluster of schools and serving teachers, most of whom will have had minimal teacher training.
Volunteers are expected to observe teachers, run workshops, help teachers develop educational materials using local resources and, in general, focus on helping teachers use participatory, child-centred teaching methods to meet basic educational needs. VSO’s education volunteers are committed to supporting 2000’s Millennium Development Goal that all children of primary school age should have access to quality education by 2015.
VSO also relies on a diverse wealth of knowledge & experience from senior educationalists & school leaders, with many rewarding roles for senior management now available. This very experience led volunteers Deb Jordan and David Spinney to develop the Higher Diploma Programme to improve the skills of all teacher trainers in Ethiopia; a country where 47% of children don’t go to school. Six years on, around 3,500 teacher trainers have undertaken the programme to the ultimate benefit of over 1m children, all because of 2 VSO volunteers.
VSO provides volunteers with flights, accommodation and an allowance to cover basic costs. UK public sector professionals volunteering for between 6 -24 months are entitled to claim pension contributions providing they return to the public sector for a minimum of 6 months on their return to the UK.
DWP: End of the Sick Note culture? - A new medical 'Fit Note' to replace the current 'Sick Note' and help more people stay in work rather than drift into long term sickness has been unveiled along with a 12 week consultation (closes on 19 August 2009) on its design. The new 'fit note' is intended to enable people to ‘get the best possible advice about staying in work, and if they can't work what their employer can do to help them return to work sooner’.
For example, if the employee has a problem with mobility, suggesting a job where they can work sitting down rather than standing up. Developed with the support of healthcare professionals, employer representatives and trade unions, the new 'fit notes' will roll-out across Great Britain in the Spring of 2010.
Under the new system 'fit notes' will be computer-generated in GPs surgeries, replacing the current hand written version. The introduction of the 'fit note' forms part of the Government's response to Dame Carol Black's report (March 2008) into the health of Britain's working age population.
* Cost to the British economy of working age ill-health is over £100bn each year
* Absences that last over 4 weeks make up around 40% of days lost to absence (CBI survey)
* 34m days lost in 2007/08 to work-related illness (official data)
* 2.6m people on incapacity benefits in May 2008 (latest data)
Industry News: Avoidance of Systemic Failure with Process Mining - On 13th May 2009, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a report showing systemic failings in the healthcare provided by NHS trusts to Baby Peter, who had 34 recorded contacts with health professional in his all too short life.
CQC Chief Executive Cynthia Bower said: "This is a story about the failure of basic systems. There were clear reasons to have concern for this child but the response was simply not fast enough or smart enough. ............. Concerns were not properly identified, heard or acted upon."
'Process Mining' is a concept which enables public sector service providers to create process models and mine process data from logs of their existing information systems, automatically producing a process map to immediately identify the bottlenecks and any non-compliance issues.
Once implemented, the revised processes can then be used to show efficiencies, constantly monitor performance and/or automatically highlight variances from the norm, prompting remedial action and avoiding delays or errors in service provision. In addition, it facilitates direction of limited resources to areas of most need. To receive your free White Paper - 'Process Discovery through Process Mining' - simply click HERE.
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BERR: Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas has issued an open letter to the independent garage sector calling on them to subscribe to the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair, which helps consumers to identify garages which are responsible & reliable businesses.
The code means that consumers can have confidence that participating garages adhere to high standards and will do their best to resolve complaints to customers' satisfaction if things go wrong. The code is currently working towards full OFT approval. To achieve this it will have to demonstrate that it is working effectively to protect consumers and that enough businesses are participating.
DH: Ten healthcare scientists from across England have been awarded research fellowships worth a total of over £1m for projects that will lead to improvements in patient care, Professor Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), has announced.
The awards were the results of the first round of the new CSO Research Fellowship competition launched in September 2008 to support the development of research capacity in healthcare science in the NHS. The scheme is funded by the Department of Health and managed by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).
The successful projects include a range of healthcare science activities such as developing techniques to diagnose health conditions and improving patient care for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular & respiratory disease. As well as supporting individual research programmes, the funding will support the postgraduate training needs of each research fellow.
TfL: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has set out plans for an action-packed summer of cycling, designed to boost the numbers of people travelling by bike and pave the way for London's cycling revolution.
The popular Freewheel event (Sunday 20 September 2009), which attracted 50,000 people last year to cycle past London's iconic sites along a car-free route, will be made bigger & better, with an additional event bringing the concept to outer London, this year to the LB of Hounslow.
The Tour of Britain cycling race is returning to London and additionally Londoners of all ages are being challenged by the Mayor to get pedalling through a series of London 'cycle challenges', where workplaces & schools can compete based on the number of miles clocked up and the number of people they get cycling.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has published a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) seeking expressions of interest from potential bidders for a new free morning newspaper distribution contract. The current 11 year contract held by Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Metro newspaper, concludes in March 2010.
This is the first stage in a competitive tender process for a new contract that will allow the concession holder to distribute free newspapers at approximately 250 Tube stations, up to 20 bus stations and a number of other locations across the TfL estate. It is expected that the new contract will be awarded in late 2009 for an approximate term of 7½ years.
STFC: Healthcare and the environment are just two of the many areas that will benefit from a new £145m research centre at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC’s) world-leading ISIS neutron source. After 5 years of construction, the new facility has opened its doors to a team of scientists from the STFC and Oxford University who are conducting the first experiment.
The joint team will carry out work expected to lead to significant advances in understanding the workings of everything from cell membranes to the practical chemistry of fabric conditioners.
Neutrons play a vital role in offering analysis techniques for research on subjects as varied as clean energy & the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology, materials engineering and IT. Neutron beams at ISIS can be used like ‘super x-rays’ to study materials at the atomic level
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is today warning consumers about vehicle matching scams which cost UK consumers nearly £3m every year. Vehicle matching scams work by approaching consumers selling their cars and promising falsely to match them with definite buyers.
Typically, the seller is cold-called by phone once they have placed an advert in a magazine, on a website or in a newspaper. They are promised that a buyer exists for their vehicle but are required to pay a matcher's fee up front before the sale is completed. However in many cases there is no buyer, the contract with the vehicle matcher cannot be cancelled, and any money paid is lost.
There has been a concentration of these scam companies operating from around North London and Hertfordshire and several recent enforcement cases have been successfully brought against these rogue traders by trading standards.
TfL: Commenting on RMT leadership’s proposed strike action, LU Chief Operating Officer, Howard Collins, said: "The RMT leadership has failed to engage in any meaningful talks on pay, instead submitting a wildly unrealistic claim - demanding a five per cent pay rise for fewer hours in the middle of a recession. On jobs, the RMT leadership knows full well we are seeking to end the duplication of back office jobs and that no front line staff will be affected”.
London Underground has offered staff a deal of a 1% pay increase in year one of a new deal, with increases of RPI + 0.5% in years two to five.
According to TfL, the RMT leadership has said that a pay increase of anything less than 5% would be ‘simply unacceptable’. Amongst other things, RMT has also demanded a reduction in working hours without loss of pay and improved travel facilities.
MSC: The operation to finally remove the remaining section of the 'MSC Napoli' is now underway. Earlier this year the salvor, Global Response Maritime, successfully positioned 12 lifting chains under the wreck and is now making preparations to lift the remaining hull section to the surface for demolition & recycling.
It is anticipated that the wreck will be removed from the site by the end of August 2009. A temporary exclusion zone (TEZ) of 500 metres around the wreck remains in place.
WAG: Welsh scientists are working on an exciting & highly innovative research project to turn grass into a green transport fuel. The £1m ‘Grassohol’ research project aims to develop commercially & economically viable processes to make ethanol from perennial ryegrass – the most commonly sown grass in the UK which is normally used for grazing or silage.
Ryegrasses with high extractable sugar contents will be utilised in the project, which will examine the best methods of extracting & fermenting the sugar and of maximising yields & rates of ethanol production. The dried residue after fermentation & distillation is rich in protein and has the potential to be converted into animal feed.
One hectare of grassland could produce up to 4,500 litres of ethanol and it is envisaged that local refineries could be established on farms at a similar scale of production to wine co-operatives. In Wales, 1.04m hectares - 62% of the available land - is permanent grassland providing a readily available resource that can be harvested over a long season.
Ryegrasses are commonly grown with white clover which fixes nitrogen into the soil and acts as a natural fertiliser. This lowers production costs as well as reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fertiliser manufacture.
TfL: Victoria Coach Station has become the first organisation in the transport sector to achieve the Government's Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard. The standard recognises excellence in customer service and the Coach Station was assessed against a wide range of criteria including customer satisfaction, complaint resolution and the professionalism of staff.
The Coach Station received particular commendation for the way it handles complaints, which the assessor said indicated 'a dedication to getting things right for the customer.'
CSE replaces the former Charter Mark scheme, which the Coach Station has held since 1994. CSE is awarded for 3 years and annual follow-up checks will ensure standards are being maintained and improvements put in place where possible.
MoD: The MoD has announced that hundreds of councils right across the country will raise a flag in June to support Britain's first ever Armed Forces Day. In addition to more than 450 local authorities, over 2,000 members of the public, businesses & schools will also fly official Armed Forces Day flags to join the celebrations to honour Britain's Armed Forces - past, present and future.
The specially designed flags, based on the Union Jack, will be raised together, in ceremonies across the country at 10.30am on Monday 22 June. This will mark the beginning of a week of events leading up to Armed Forces Day on Saturday 27 June. Purchases of the AFD flag include a donation of £1 to the Forces Children's Trust, a charity devoted to helping dependent children who have lost a parent who was serving with the Armed Forces.
The centrepiece of the inaugural annual AFD will be an event at the historic dockyard at Chatham, Kent, where there will be fly-pasts by the Red Arrows & veterans of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, military displays, and celebration parades. Members of the public will also have the chance to try their hand at a whole host of activities, from assault courses to digger driving.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has underlined its commitment to delivering a ‘Greener Government’, with the publication of its Carbon Management Plan. Developed in conjunction with the Carbon Trust the Plan sets out a number of actions which aim to reduce the organisation's carbon footprint.. Developed in conjunction with the the Plan sets out a number of actions which aim to reduce the organisation's carbon footprint.
The Plan was published on the same day as the Scottish Government's Environmental Annual Report for 2007-08, which shows a reduction in waste produced by the Scottish Government, high levels of recycling and an increase in video conferencing. It also shows a 6%increase in business travel emissions.
DECC: A study of the role of the North Sea in providing storage space under the sea-bed for carbon dioxide from European countries has been commissioned jointly by the UK and Norway. The study will look at how quickly the base of the North Sea could be needed for carbon dioxide storage and what the UK, Norway and other countries have to do to get it ready in time.
The aim of the study will be to build a profile for the whole of the North Sea, assessing each country’s storage potential and projections of likely volumes & locations of CO2 flows, against a rising price of carbon.
This will involve identifying network issues and proposing methods for managing CO2 flows across borders.
ScotGov: Lessons from a French programme, which has cut childhood obesity by almost a quarter in participating towns, are to be trialled in 8 towns, villages & cities in Scotland.
The pilot Healthy Weight Communities have been inspired by French projects showing participating towns curbed childhood obesity & maternal weight gain over 8 years, while ‘control’ towns saw both rise.have been inspired by French projects showing participating towns curbed childhood obesity & maternal weight gain over 8 years, while ‘control’ towns saw both rise.
The 8 pilot Communities have been inspired by two French projects, EPODE (Preventing Childhood Obesity Together) and its predecessor Villes Santés, which showed participating towns reversing obesity trends.
Public Health Minister Shona Robison launched the programme together with a consultation on revising Scotland's Diabetes Action Plan, as part of a two-pronged approach to tackling obesity. ScotGov will consider all responses & views received by the closing date of 22 August 2009 and publish the revised action plan later in November 2009.
ScotGov: Action to improve public services and cut the number of public bodies should save at least £40m a year, according to an update on the Scottish Government's Simplification Programme published last week.
Along with publication of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill, which will further streamline & improve services, the update shows Ministers are ‘on track’ to shrink the number of public bodies by over 25% by 2011.
The number of public bodies has already been cut from 199 to 162 and the Public Services Reform Bill and forthcoming Children's Hearings Bill will reduce that number to around 120 bodies by 2011. . The number of public bodies has already been cut from 199 to 162 and the Public Services Reform Bill and forthcoming will reduce that number to around 120 bodies .
DWP: A new medical 'fit note' to replace the current 'sick note' and help more people stay in work rather than drift into long term sickness has been unveiled along with a twelve week consultation (closes on 19 August 2009) on its design. The new 'fit note' is intended to enable people to ‘get the best possible advice about staying in work, and if they can't work what their employer can do to help them return to work sooner’ – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
ScotGov: Public Health Minister Shona Robison has launched the pilot Healthy Weight Communities programme, together with a consultation on revising Scotland's Diabetes Action Plan, as part of a two-pronged approach to tackling obesity. ScotGov will consider all responses & views received by the closing date of 22 August 2009 and publish the revised action plan later in November 2009– See ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
CLG: If your home is a boat, you should get a smoke alarm, is the message from the Fire Minister Sadiq Khan supporting the Boat Safety Scheme. During Boat Safety Week, 25 - 31 May, Fire & Rescue Services are offering free fire safety checks to boat owners and urging the boaters to be more fire safe on board.
Although boat fires on our coastal and inland waters are less common than fires on land, when they do occur they can be devastating to all involved, totally destroying the boat and putting lives at risk. Boats are often in remote locations which may result in firefighters taking longer to arrive.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Clinical Guideline Centre have published a guideline to improve the early management of persistent non-specific low back pain.
This covers people who have been in pain longer than 6 weeks, but less than one year, where the pain may be linked to structures in the back such as the joints, muscles and ligaments. . This covers people who have been in pain , where the pain may be linked to structures in the back such as the joints, muscles and ligaments.
Setting out a range of effective mainstream & complementary treatments, the guideline recommends what care & advice the NHS should offer to people affected by low back pain.
Affecting around 1 in 3 adults in the UK each year, low back pain is a very common disorder, with an estimated 2.5m people seeking help from their GP about their condition. It is difficult to ‘cure’, but the treatments recommended in this guideline can reduce its effect on people’s lives.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) haveissued guidance on the use of newer agents for blood glucose control in adults with type 2 diabetes. The new short clinical guideline is a partial update of last year’s clinical guideline ‘Type 2 Diabetes (Update)’ and examines several new & existing treatments for the management of blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
The NICE guidance recommends a number of new treatments to help manage levels of blood glucose, positioning these treatments among existing therapies for type 2 diabetes. These include recommendations on the use of long-acting insulin analogues, inhibitors of dipeptidylpeptidase-4 (DPP-4 inhibitors), glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) mimetics and thiazolidinediones within their licensed recommendations.
DH: From 1 June 2009, HbA1c (long term blood glucose levels) in all people with diabetes will be measured in millimoles per mol as well as by percentage, the Department of Health has said.
The UK is responding to the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) call for all countries to adopt the same measurement to make it easier to compare HbA1c results between laboratories throughout the UK and worldwide.
Both the old & the new measurements will be given for the first two years of the change, until 31 May 2011 when people with diabetes will receive their HbA1c measurement only in millimoles per mol. when people with diabetes will receive their HbA1c measurement only in millimoles per mol.
HbA1c gives a measure of how high or low the blood glucose has been over the previous 2-3 months. Reducing blood glucose levels safely towards the levels found in people without diabetes can reduce the risk of diabetic complications. Each person with diabetes must agree their own target HbA1c with their doctor.
Newswire - WAO: The Wales Audit Office has recently revealed its 3-year vision for helping improve public services in Wales. The strategy for 2009-2012 - Sustained Impact in a Time of Change - details how the organisation intends to support the Auditor General in promoting improvements to public services, through audit & inspection work, in an environment of considerable change & economic constraints.
The organisation has developed 6 main strategic themes for particular focus over the next 3 years and will focus on these themes by:
* providing assurance about how public money is being spent
* promoting improvement in services for citizens
* helping decision-makers understand the issues & challenges public services face
ScotGov: ‘Scotland must build on a year of significant progress on the road to recovery from drug misuse’, Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing said speaking on the eve of the first anniversary of the launch of the national drugs strategy as he met service users & project workers at Edinburgh's Simpson House, which offers specialist counselling for people affected by their own or another's drug use.
The Minister also published a progress report setting out some of the key steps taken by the Scottish Government and other agencies to help deliver the strategy's objectives - through education & prevention to enforcement and improved access to treatment & other services.
HM Treasury: The 2009 Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA) National Statistics First Release has been published. This is an annual publication of statistical data on public expenditure outturn from 2003-04 to 2007-08.
General Reports and Other Publications
FAWC: The Farm Animal Welfare Council has published a report which considers the welfare of poultry (and other white meat species) in the last few hours of their lives up to the moment of slaughter or killing. It deals with the experiences of poultry during catching & loading on the farm, the journey to the slaughterhouse, the wait in the lairage, unloading from transport containers, stunning and finally slaughter or killing.
With 800m poultry killed annually in Great Britain, there is a strong moral imperative to ensure that welfare is a prime consideration at all these stages. The Report sets out 6 principles for humane slaughter & killing.
Newswire - WAO: The Wales Audit Office has found that the planning services at all three Welsh National Parks are performing well when it comes to having clear policies for developing & using land. PembrokeshireCoast and Snowdonia National Park Authorities are also making good use of limited staff resources to improve the built heritage of their areas – which includes local archaeology, listed buildings and conservation areas.
But, the Auditor General for Wales has found that all three Parks have made limited progressin improving the speed of processing planning applications – and their performance in this area does not compare well with other Welsh planning authorities.
The Auditor General has published individual reports on the planning services at each of the 3 Welsh National Park Authorities – which follows-up on progress made since baseline assessments were undertaken in 2005.
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority has published its summary of responses to the consultation on securing a retirement income - Building personal accounts: Securing a retirement income. PADA received 45 written responses to the consultation, as well as collecting views from two public events and a series of smaller meetings.
Some of the key points to emerge are:
* acknowledgement that a lifetime annuity (or, where relevant, trivial commutation) is likely to be the most appropriate option for personal accounts members
* the need to use accessible language & simple communications
* the need to use other channels alongside 'e' communications such as a helpline for members, at least for part of the retirement process
* general acknowledgement that a panel of providers approach could be the most appropriate route for members not wishing to exercise the open market option
* recognition that fund sizes are likely to be very small in the early years and this could present a number of challenges to the scheme and the wider retirement income market.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
ScotGov: Speaking on his return from the EU's Fisheries Council in Brussels, Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has welcomed the acknowledgement that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed and that a new approach is required.
However, Mr Lochhead warned that Scotland faces a tough challenge to negotiate changes that will protect the country's historic fishing rights and to return decision-making to Scotland.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: An announcement was made by National Family Week (25-31 May 2009), at LEGOLAND Windsor to launch the new Big Family Idea competition to find the best new ideas to improve family life - with £150,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to make the winning idea a reality.
The idea could be aimed at improving family life in their street, in their town or across the whole country. It might be a product, service, event, campaign or a great social idea. The winner will get to discuss their idea with senior political figures, and £150,000 of Big Lottery Fund good causes money will be used to turn the winning idea into reality. Competition closes on 31 July 2009..
In the survey conducted for National Family Week, over half (52%) of parents said that they did not spend enough quality time together as a family. For example, they wanted to be able to have more meals together (60%), play games together more (54%) and do more educational things together (64%).
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has told 6 debt management businesses and 4 cold-calling companies to stop using unsolicited & misleading calls to advertise their services or face formal enforcement action. The action has been taken after the OFT and the Information Commissioner's Office received complaints from consumers that they had been cold-called either without prior consent, or despite registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
The OFT also found that most of the information given to consumers was potentially misleading or inaccurate, or missed out vital facts about the purpose of the call and the identity of the caller, for example:
* some calls misled consumers into believing that they were one of the 'few chosen individuals' contacted as part of a government scheme to help wipe out consumer debt
* some recipients were transferred to a commercial debt management business on the pretext of talking to a not-for-profit debt adviser and
* once referred to a different business, consumers were often not told that there was a fee payable for both the initial advice and the debt solutions offered
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has published a research report investigating the barriers that SMEs in Wales face in accessing public sector contracts. The research focussed around the initial contact that firms have with public sector buyers: the pre-qualification processes and the use of ‘approved lists’.
The key finding is that a large proportion of the information sought from suppliers is common to all procurements, and yet the information is sought time & again, in slightly different formats.
The headline recommendations are that these processes should be standardised and that a database should be established to hold common core data on all suppliers, to be used by buyers as part of each pre-qualification exercise.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of Procter & Gamble UK.
DH: NHS staff and those involved in health or social care innovation have been urged by Health Minister Lord Darzi to sign up to attend the first NHS Innovation Expo which will take place at London's Excel Exhibition centre on 18-19 June 2009. which will take place at London's Excel Exhibition centre on .
The event will be a unique opportunity for thousands of key NHS & social care staff to get together to learn more about innovation, science & technology and how it can benefit the business world and the NHS. They will be able to share ideas with over 80 of the worlds leading innovative organisations such as NASA, Microsoft, 3M and Toshiba who will be showcasing the very latest cutting edge devices and technologies.
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