Friday, 20 April 2018

Society of Authors Challenging Five Fold Rise in NI Payments For Low Paid Authors

In April 2019 National Insurance rules are set for a shakeup, as a result, authors earning less than £6205 a year could see their National Insurance Contributions (NICs) bill increase fivefold.

Writers, illustrators and translators earning less than £6205 per year can currently make voluntary payments of £2.95 in the form of Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs).  From April 2019 self-employed workers earning below £6205 will still be able to make voluntary contributions towards their state pension – but only in the form of Class 3 NICs, which are £14.65 a week.

This adds up to £761.80 per year, a fivefold increase on the Class 2 annual contribution of £153.40. If you earn below £6,205, this will mean a minimum contribution of 12.3% of your income.

Talking about the changes in a recent blog post the Society of Authors (SoA) said "The Government claims that relatively few people will end up making this payment, as they will gain qualifying years for contributory benefits through other means, such as through additional employment or benefits. However, the Government’s own analysis suggests that 100,000 self-employed workers earning less than £6205 a year will end up making these payments of £14.65 a week (2% of a workforce of 5 million).

We are concerned that this change will disproportionately affect authors and other creators who are already struggling financially. Many have an author income below £6205, and some have no other sources of income."

The Society of Authors is busy petitioning HMRC on behalf of authors and illustrators and they met last week to discuss the matter.  As a result of that meeting it has been agreed that the SoAs will submit further evidence on the impact of these proposed changes.  

If you are below state pension age and earn below £6205 per annum from your writing, and if you have no other sources of income, you can contact the SoAs with your testimony by email at tgallagher@societyofauthors.org but do it by Monday 23 April.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

GP Practice Previously Rated Good Placed Into Special Measures by CQC

St Lukes Surgery, Hedge End, Southampton has been placed in special measures by the CQC following a deterioration in the quality of its services.

The surgery was inspected following an information security breach that was publicised on their website.

Inspectors found that there was a significant decline in standards and rated the surgery as Inadequate overall, placing it into special measures.

The CQC found there was no longer a registered manager at St Luke’s Surgery and there appeared a general decline in leadership within the practice.

  • There was a lack of clear leadership to deliver the practice’s vision and strategy. 
  • Staff turnover had resulted in a number of management and clinical vacancies. This resulted in a gap in skills mix for monitoring of long-term conditions such as asthma.
  • The practice did not have clear systems to mitigate or manage risk.
  • Not all staff had a record of having completed safeguarding training.
  • Patients found it difficult to use the appointment system and reported that they were not able to access care when they needed it. 
  • There was limited evidence to demonstrate how the practice was responding to concerns raised by patients around accessing the service.

Ruth Rankine, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice for the South of England, said: “I find it concerning that the high quality, consistent good care we found at our first inspection has diminished to such as degree. While it is good to see that staff are still providing a caring service there needs to be an overall improvement within the practice for the sake of its patients. As a result of these concerns I have recommended the practice will benefit from being placed into special measures, so the practice can receive the support it needs to improve.

“We will continue to monitor progress and we will inspect again within six months to check whether sufficient improvements have been made. I am hopeful that the practice will do what is required for the sake of their patients but if we find that the service remains inadequate, we will consider taking further enforcement action even if that leads to cancelling its registration.”

Monday, 16 April 2018

SMEs Embracing the Newsletter to Drive Up Sales

Businesses, big and small, are re-evaluating their use of social media, no longer prioritising social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and returning to the good old-fashioned e-newsletter as the primary method of communicating with customers.

Social media platforms are busy places and there is growing recognition that you have to fight to be seen, something backed up by research showing that consumers are less engaged with publishers on social media platforms than had been assumed.

Competition for ad space has grown, pushing up prices, and platform algorithms have led to business posts being naturally included in people's feeds as little as five percent of the time.

As a result more and more businesses are turning their focus back onto their mailing lists and electronic newsletters, and it is paying off, with some businesses reporting 60% plus opening rates.

The reappraisal of the newsletter has been driven by a few different factors, from audiences’ desire for a finite regular source of content amid the endless feeds of information, to improvements in newsletter technology helping you target your content.

Given the benefits of an email newsletter that caters to an engaged audience, and the relatively low costs associated with running one, it’s small wonder that so many businesses are attracted to the model.

Making Your Newsletter Work For You

Your newsletter is a direct link to someone who has already said they want to know more - you really are already more than halfway there!

Publish regularly, a news roundup at the start or end of the week or month has been shown to strengthen relationships between businesses and customers - an audience habituated to a branded email in their inbox is a more engaged – and therefore a more valuable audience.

Personalise content, tailor articles to suit the needs of the reader, when customers sign up to your newsletter get them to say what they are interested in (in applications such as MailChimp you can offer a tick box list of areas of interest) and only send them emails about those topics - you only need to receive one or two emails that says nothing to you personally to disengage with a brand.

A study last year from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that newsletters whose contents had been personalised by the reader enjoyed almost double the open rate of a more generic email, the contents of which had been dictated by an editor.

Some of the best email newsletters contain original editorial content, not simply repackaged copy from the article to which they link. Include explanations as to why the articles that are curated within the newsletter are of interest to the audience.

Popular newsletters offer an antidote to the constant churn of content and avoid simply pushing products.  They are about building a relationship with your customer, having the sort of conversations you might have had across the counter in your store in days gone by, that build trust and loyalty, which in turn lead to sales. 

It Works!

One of the most prominent – and most successful email newsletters at the time of writing is The New York Times’ Morning Briefing, which has been celebrated for its open rate of between 50 and 60%. Crucially, the newsletter also acts in support of the Times’ subscription model, with subscribers to Times’s free newsletter twice as likely to become paying subscribers as the general public.

Don't Stop There...

Don't be complacent, use every opportunity you can to build your mailing list, sign up sheets and tablets at events, invitations to sign up via other social media outlets and your own website - yes you want to get sales from your activities outside of your mailing list, but get a customer on that list and you will be able to carry the conversation on for even longer!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

CQC Reports Independent Acute Hospitals Doing Well But Need to Strengthen Governance


The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published its analysis of the quality and safety of care provided by independent acute hospitals across England following the inspection of over 200 independent hospitals in England.

Key Findings

  • The majority of independent acute hospitals are providing high quality care for their patients. As of 2 January 2018, 62% were rated as good and 8% were rated as outstanding.
  • Most patients have prompt access to effective treatment and experience personalised care from highly skilled and caring staff. Of the 206 hospitals inspected, 89% were rated as good and 11% were rated as outstanding for how ‘caring’ their services were.
  • The majority of hospitals were also rated as good (86%) or outstanding (7%) for how ‘responsive’ they were. Patients were more likely to have named consultants and the hospitals managed their flow of patients well, which meant that there were few cancellations or delayed admissions or procedures.
  • While the report highlights many examples of good care, it also shows variation in quality and clear scope for improvement. Almost a third of hospitals (30%) were rated as requires improvement.
  • Safety was where the CQC had the greatest concerns – 41% of hospitals were rated as requires improvement and 1% as inadequate in this area.
  • 30% of hospitals were rated as requires improvement and 3% as inadequate for how well-led they were.
  • In some cases, the CQC found that a lack of formalised governance procedures meant that hospitals were not effectively monitoring the work of consultants who operate under ‘practising privileges’ – where a consultant clinician works in a hospital but is not a direct employee. Checks to ensure clinicians were only working within their agreed scope of practice were not always taking place. This meant that there was a risk that poor practices were not always picked up or challenged in the way they should be.
  • Inspectors also saw that safety procedures were not always fully embedded – for example, where surgeons were not following every step of the World Health Organisation surgical checklist.
Other issues highlighted by CQC include a failure by some hospitals to adequately monitor clinical outcomes to evaluate the effectiveness of the services they were providing, and a lack of preparation for the possibility that a patient’s condition could deteriorate.

Already, the CQC’s actions are driving improvements in care for people and providers have been quick to respond to inspection findings taking on board the CQC’s judgements and proactively addressing areas where further work is needed to improve patient care. Of the 13 hospitals that had been re-inspected, seven had improved. Four of these had improved from an initial rating of inadequate: two going from inadequate to good and two going from inadequate to requires improvement.

Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission said "Much of the care and treatment we have seen at independent acute hospitals is good – and we found that effective leadership at a local level, good staff engagement and a close oversight of the services being provided played a key role in ensuring high quality care.

“However, our inspections also identified concerns around the safety and leadership of some services, often as a result of a lack of safety checks and poor monitoring of risks. Too often, safety was viewed as the responsibility of individual clinicians, rather than a corporate responsibility supported by formal governance processes. Where we found failings, we have been clear that improvements must be made, using our enforcement powers where needed to protect people.

“As the independent quality regulator we hold all providers of healthcare to the same standards regardless of how they are funded. Having inspected all independent acute hospitals in England we now have a comprehensive picture of the quality of care they are providing for the first time – and, importantly, people can use our reports to help them make choices about their treatment.

“Encouragingly, we have seen clear evidence that our regulation is having an impact, with providers taking rapid action in response to our concerns. We want to see this continue and more providers learning from those services that are getting it right.”

Thursday, 5 April 2018

NUS Report Shines a Spot Light on Staff-Student Sexual Misconduct in UK Universities

Over the last year, NUS Women’s Officer, Hareem Ghani, has been researching staff-student sexual misconduct in higher education.  She has now published her findings in the NUS's report, Power in the academy: staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education.

Talking about the report Hareem commented "I am thrilled to announce the publication of our ground-breaking report, for a long time, it’s been apparent to many of us who live and work in universities that sexual misconduct is a reality within academia. However, a lack of research in this area, combined with wide-scale institutional failings, meant that we had very little idea of students’ patterns of experience."

Hareem worked on the report with The 1752 Group and sees it as a first step towards understanding the issue of staff-student sexual misconduct.  Hareem continued "Staff-student sexual misconduct needs to be located as part of a continuum of sexual violence in universities and in society more widely.  However, the unique dynamics of the relationship between staff and students in higher education means that there are aspects of sexual misconduct that are specific to this setting."

Key Findings

  • More than four in ten respondents experienced at least one instance of sexualised behaviour from staff, and that one in eight had been made to feel uncomfortable by a staff member touching them. 
  • Women were much more likely than men to both have experienced misconduct, and to have suffered greater consequences because of it.  Digging further into the stats LGBT+ participants, and LGBT+ women, were even more likely to have experienced misconduct as were postgraduate respondents, and postgraduate women.
  • Universities are not responding adequately to report of misconduct.  Of those respondents who reported misconduct to their institution, the vast majority had a negative experience, with 90 percent reporting being let down in some way by the response to their case. 
  • The impact of these encounters on students can be significant and long-lasting.  Of those respondents who experienced sexual misconduct, a fifth of women reported losing confidence in themselves; just under fifth experienced mental health problems, 16 percent reported avoiding going to certain parts of campus, and 13 percent felt unable to fulfil work roles at their institution.
Hareem concluded "The significance of these findings cannot be underestimated, and we hope that this research will prompt swift action from higher education institutions. There is still a long way for us to go, but I am proud that the Women’s Campaign and The 1752 Group are taking a lead on this pertinent issue. For too long, these problems have been at best side-lined and at worst silenced by institutions."

Thursday, 29 March 2018

CQC Remains Concerned Over the Safety of Online Healthcare Services

The CQC has published a report reflecting on its findings from 55 inspections of online primary care services, such as those that provide GP consultations and prescriptions through independent websites and apps.

The report concludes that the quality of online primary care services has improved over the last 12 months but that further action from providers and the wider system is needed to ensure they are as safe as general practice in physical premises.

Key Findings

  • 97% of the providers were meeting the regulations around being ‘caring’. An example of where this has worked well was a company that provided sexual health services online, which offered partner notification services (whereby with the person’s consent, it could confidentially trace their sexual contacts to flag to those who may have been at risk and encourage them to be tested).
  • 90% of the providers were meeting the regulations around being ‘responsive’ to people’s needs. Examples the CQC identified included providers that made ‘type talk’ available for patients with hearing loss and one provider responding to a significant uptake in the number of Chinese students requesting services and producing an information leaflet in Mandarin.
  • The CQC has found that online consultations have the potential to improve access and convenience for some patients, such as those with physical impairments for whom attending face-to-face appointments could be difficult, those with sensory impairments, and those who live in rural areas and have poor transport links.
  • As of 28 February 2018, 43% of the providers the CQC inspected were found not to be providing ‘safe’ care in accordance to the relevant regulations. This is an improvement from 86% not fully meeting these regulations on their first inspections. 
Safety is where CQC found the greatest concerns but also, where the CQC has seen the greatest improvement with some providers even addressing issues on the day of inspection itself; such as, by deciding to no longer prescribe certain medicines or by introducing new policies.  Specific concerns the CQC had included: 
  • Inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, including lowered thresholds for antibiotic prescribing as a physical examination was not possible, 
  • prescribing high volumes of opioid-based medicines without talking to the patient’s registered GP,
  • unsatisfactory approaches to safeguarding children and those who may not have the mental capacity to understand or consent to a consultation,
  • not collecting patient information or sharing information with a patient’s NHS GP, who should have an accurate and up to date record of their previous and current treatments and health problems,
  • inappropriate prescribing of medicines for long-term conditions, including failures to monitor the volume of asthma inhalers being prescribed to individuals when their condition should be regularly checked.
Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission, said “New methods of service delivery that increase access to care and give patients more control over how and when they see a GP have huge potential not only for patients but for the wider health system."

“However, while innovation should be encouraged, it must never come at the expense of quality. As with all health care services, patient safety must be at the heart of all decisions around what kind of care is offered and how it is delivered."

“This is why we have taken action where we have seen risks to patients - and why we have been encouraged to see many providers take note of our findings and make swift improvements to how they operate."

“This way of delivering primary care has an important place in the future of health provision – but it are still evolving. We must all work together – providers by using our inspection findings to learn and improve, and oversight bodies by working together and continuing to have a positive dialogue with providers – to ensure that this model fulfils its promise of accessible, responsive care while ensuring that the care delivered is always safe and high quality.”

Hour Long Multi-Media Poem Wins Ted Hughes Prize for 2017

Ted Hughes Award judges Gillian Allnutt, Lemn Sissay and Sally Beamish have chosen Jay Bernard’s Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes) as the latest winner of The Poetry Society’s prestigious prize.

Jay Bernard is from London and is the author of three poetry pamphlets: The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink Sweat & Tears and CafĂ© Writers, 2016), English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008). 

Surge: Side A is an hour long multi-media performance work.  It investigates the New Cross Fire of 1981, in which thirteen young black people lost their lives in a defining moment in Black British history. It was produced by Speaking Volumes and was performed at the Roundhouse, London, as part of The Last Word Festival 2017. 

Judge Sally Beamish said: “An intensely personal relating of the New Cross massacre; powerful, lyrical and communicated with extraordinary intimacy. I was particularly struck by their drawing of a parallel between the struggle for validation in the black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity by transforming their body through surgery. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum.”

From Surge: Side A by Jay Bernard

Surge 1 

I was so weak, I was sickened, 
I was grieved, I was sad, 
I was everything that’s bad – 

my voice became the glass
breaking in the heat 

I was so sickened and so grieved 

I was so weak – I called
and no-one seemed to call with me 
no-one seemed to know or see 
what I had seen –

I was so sickened and so grieved

and I said to the child I knew 
harboured in the fire – jump 

Yvonne, jump Paul, jump –

I said, I called – jump 

Yvonne, jump Paul, jump

– my voice it was so weak
– Paul, jump – 

so sickened and so grieved.