DfT: It will take longer but will hopefully be safer - New proposals to reform the way people learn to drive and how they are tested have been published for consultation (closes on 8 September 2008). The aim of the consultation is to create safer drivers for life by strengthening the current learning & testing procedures and creating a culture of extended & advanced learning.
Road deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 33% since the mid 1990s, but the casualty rate for young drivers has not changed:
* 20% of people have an accident within 6months of passing their test,
* 70% report near-misses in the same period
* newly-qualified drivers and their passengers account for 20% of all car deaths in Britain
* A foundation course in safe road use for under-17 year olds will be piloted in schools & colleges in Scotland from this Autumn.
* The new syllabus will set out more clearly the necessary steps to driving safely - beginning with the basics of car control, progressing to skills such as driving in difficult weather or at night and culminating in ensuring driver awareness is enhanced, to help novice drivers predict the intentions of other road users.
* Development of post-test courses & qualifications that produce safer drivers such as a new advanced training qualification, a course in motorway driving or vocational qualifications such as for van drivers.
The Driving Standards Agency is also developing a non-compulsory Attitude Advisor - a computer-based self-evaluation aid that helps make learners aware of their attitude towards risk and safety. Learners are asked to respond to questions about their reaction to different situations, allowing the programme to build up a profile of their overall attitude which can be used by the learner and instructor to improve their driving.
ScotGov: The real price of one for the road - Alcohol misuse is costing Scotland a staggering £2.25bn to business, the NHS, social services, police and courts - more than double previous estimates - according to figures released just released. Yet it warns that the new £2.25bn figure may be a significant underestimate.
Among the findings, the report shows:
* Lower productivity at work & days off from hangovers could be costing Scottish business £400m
* The use of hospital beds to treat drinkers could be costing the NHS more than £150m
* Alcohol is costing A&E services another £32.3m
* Premature deaths caused by alcohol abuse are estimated to be costing Scotland £328m
* Police response to alcohol misuse is estimated to be swallowing £288m - with alcohol assumed to be behind 40% of violent crimes
HC: More treatment but still need for improvement - A report released by the Healthcare Commission and the National Treatment Agency (NTA), shows results from the second of three annual reviews to assess the performance of substance misuse treatment services.
Focusing specifically on how services are commissioned and harm reduction service provision, the findings reveal the majority of services are performing well within acceptable levels across these categories. However, there were significant deficits, particularly in the provision of vaccination for hepatitis B and testing & treatment for hepatitis C. As 90% of all hepatitis C diagnoses are associated with injecting drug use, this is a key area of concern.
No local drug partnership had an overall score of “weak” however the review revealed the majority of partnerships had deficits in key areas. The NTA is engaging the sector in a range of initiatives and programmes to address the deficits identified by the review.
The Commission and the NTA will follow up this report with a third and final review into this sector, which will look at diversity & residential services. In relation to commissioning, the NTA continues to support the work of local areas in relation to treatment planning and needs assessment. 2008 will also see the publication of new guidance initiatives to enhance commissioning practice.
CRC: What happens if the immigration tide goes out? - News that the numbers of migrants from countries such as Poland are falling, and the numbers now leaving the UK is on the increase, has led the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) to ask ‘who will do the work?'
They are investigating the possibility that some rural communities & businesses could be vulnerable to an economic shock if there was to be a sudden slowdown or even a reversal of the current influx of migrant workers. Recent findings from ippr have highlighted the main factors that might lead to fewer migrants.
BIG: Building Third Sector Infrastructure - Greater support is on its way to voluntary & community organisations across England, as the Big Lottery Fund launches the second round of its BASIS (Building and Sustaining Infrastructure Support) programme with up to £50m available to develop the sector (deadline for applications is 2.00pm on 27 August 2008).
The programme is looking to fund projects that fill the highest priority gaps in the current VCS infrastructure support to ensure the sector’s wide spectrum of organisations can access relevant high-quality assistance. BIG’s regional staff will hold a series of stakeholder events to ensure that those who are eligible to apply for BASIS 2 funding are fully briefed on the opportunities presented by the programme.
DH: Will the NHS ever have a year without change? - Leading clinician and Health Minister Lord Darzi has issued five pledges to the public & staff on how the NHS will handle changes to services. Lord Darzi's report - 'Leading Local Change' - comes ahead of his final report on the next stage of NHS reform and it is meant to signal that ‘whilst the NHS must never back away from necessary change to improve services and save lives, there should be important checks which any change has to undergo before it proceeds’.
PCTs will have a duty to have regard to:
* Change will always be to the benefit of patients
* Change will be clinically driven
* All change will be locally-led
* Patients, carers, the public and other key partners will be involved
* Existing services will not be withdrawn until new & better services are available to patients so they can see the difference.
PCS: Plausible savings or just wishful thinking? - The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has echoed concerns expressed by the Committee of Public Accounts, over Cabinet Office claims that £1.4bn will be saved each year through government organisations sharing corporate services such as finance and human resources.
The committee's report - Improving corporate functions using shared services - highlights concerns that the government lacks accurate information on what corporate services cost and how they perform in addition to central benchmarks & timelines for achieving the savings. Savings targets were being set without taking into account the impact on the quality of service provided.
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