Wednesday, 14 February 2018

GP Practice Placed in Special Measures By CQC After Standards Slip

Staplehurst Health Centre in Tonbridge, Kent, had been placed into special measures following a significant decline in standards, witnessed during an inspection in November 2017.

Staplehurst Health Centre is rated as Inadequate for being safe and well led, Requires Improvement for being effective and responsive to people’s needs and Good for caring.

Key Areas of Concern

  • The practice did not always have clear systems in place to identify and manage risk
  • When incidents did happen, the practice was not always able to demonstrate that their analysis identified all risks or that their subsequent action and learning was effective. 
  • The practice did not always maintain appropriate standards of cleanliness and hygiene. 
  • Most patients’ needs were fully assessed. This included their clinical needs and their mental and physical wellbeing. However, the care plans for patients with dementia were not complete or personalised.
  • Patients told inspectors that they were not always able to access care and treatment from the practice within an acceptable timescale for their needs. This aligned with views in the national GP patient survey. 
  • The practice had a range of governance documents to support the delivery of the strategy and good quality care. However, inspectors found that governance arrangements were not always effectively implemented. 
  • The systems and processes for learning and continuous improvement were not always used effectively to identify risks and areas for improvement. Where these had been identified subsequent action was not always timely or effective
Ruth Rankine, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice for the South of England, said: “While I find it encouraging that Staplehurst Health Centre has worked hard to ensure improvements have taken place, I am disappointed that at this inspection further significant concerns have been identified by our inspectors."

“As a result of these concerns the practice will benefit from being placed into special measures, so the service 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.”

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Benefits of Legislation and Red Tape Outweigh Drawbacks For Most SMEs

AXA Insurance interviewed 800 small businesses about the impact of regulation on their ability to trade. Incredibly over 90% of those interviewed felt that regulation was neither costly or created a burden for their businesses.

The majority of those asked also felt the benefits of regulation outweighed any drawbacks. 

Only 40% of sole traders and micro businesses were able to recognise common pieces of legislation that affected them directly, but SMEs with 5 or more employees were more clued up, with 94% of businesses aware of key pieces of legislation.

The small businesses polled said the pieces of legislation most relevant to them are:
  • Health and Safety at Work Act (23%);
  • Data Protection Act (21%);
  • Product Safety Regulations (9%);
  • Employment laws (9%);
  • Consumer Rights Act (9%).
Being "too small" or believing that "these regulations apply to big businesses" are common assumptions. Gareth Howell from AXA said: "I'd conclude that businesses are not crying out for cuts in red tape in the UK, they just require clearer information on what does and doesn't apply to them, and better support on day-to-day implementation."

The study also uncovered some worrying concerns about equality and discrimination laws. While most small business employers said they are committed to equal employment opportunities, a sizeable minority (14%) said they would not hire a woman or someone from an ethnic minority for fear of tribunals or accusations about workplace discrimination. This rose to 18% among male business owners.

AXA's Gareth Howell said: "If this figure is representative of the overall population, it means that almost 700,000 business owners feel discouraged from hiring equally. It's based on misconceptions: tribunals brought against employers on grounds of workplace discrimination are rare, but they get a lot of attention. There is a need to redress the balance through positive stories about workplace diversity and factual guidance for small employers."

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Social Care Work Force Simply Not Large Enough to Meet Growing Care Needs

The National Audit Office (NAO) has criticised the Department of Health and Social Care for not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce.  The number of people working in care is not meeting the country’s growing care demands, unmet care needs are increasing and the problem is only going to get worse.

Key Findings

  • Staff feel undervalued and there are limited opportunities for career progression, particularly compared with similar roles in health.
  • In 2016-17, around half of care workers were paid £7.50 per hour or below (the National Living Wage was £7.20 in 2016-17), equivalent to £14,625 annually. This, along with tough working conditions and a poor image, prevents workers from joining and remaining in the sector.
  • The turnover rate of care staff has been increasing and in 2016-17 reached 27.8%. The vacancy rate in 2016-17 for jobs across social care was 6.6%, which was well above the national average of 2.5%-2.7%.
  • Demographic trends suggest that demand for care will continue to increase and people’s cares needs will continue to become more complex. To meet these challenges, the Department estimates that the workforce will need to grow by 2.6% every year until 2035.
  • Care providers, already under financial pressures, are struggling to recruit and retain workers and are incurring additional costs as a result. 
  • Local authorities spent 5.3% less on care in 2016-17 compared with 2010-11, and spending is expected to reduce further over the next two years due to continued government funding cuts and increased financial pressures on local authorities. Uncertainty over funding is limiting local authorities’ ability to plan future spending on care.
  • Around 65% of independent providers’ income comes from local authority-arranged care. The vast majority of local authorities are paying fees to homecare providers that are below the recommended minimum price for care, putting providers in financial difficulties. Furthermore, local authorities are not paying the full cost for care home placements. If this continues, there is a risk providers will not continue to invest in areas where there are high proportions of people receiving local authority funded care.
  • There is no national strategy to address this workforce challenge and key commitments made by the Department for Health and Social Care and the government to help make the sector more attractive, through enhanced training and career development, have not been followed through.
The NAO did not find any evidence that the Department of Health and Social Care is overseeing workforce planning by local authorities and local health and care partnerships. Without a national strategy to align to, few local areas have detailed plans for sustaining the care workforce.

The NAO has recommended that the Department of Health and Social Care produces a robust national workforce strategy with the support of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and that it encourages local and regional bodies to align their own plans to it. The Department also needs to invest more to enable commissioners to set appropriate fees for providers, so they can pay staff adequately and afford to offer career development and training opportunities.

The government intends to publish a green paper on reforming care for older people by summer 2018 and all those working in this sector wait to see if the issues outlined above are properly tackled.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Business Banking Just a Little Easier for SMEs

Many of the Competition and Markets Authority’s much hyped banking reforms came into practice at the end of last week, promising to make personal and business banking easier.

What is new?

  • Transaction history: Both personal and business customers will now be given up to five years of their transaction history when they close their account. This means they no longer need to be worried that they might not be able to get hold of old information when they need it, a concern that can stop people from looking for a better deal or switching banks.
  • Loan price and eligibility tools: Small and medium sized businesses will now find it easier to take out a business loan thanks to a new loan price and eligibility tool launched by four banks: RBS Group, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC Group and Barclays. This will help SMEs to understand the costs of taking out a loan and find the best deal for them. And they can shortly be accessed by other business, which could help drive innovation amongst comparison sites.
  • Business current accounts: The CMA is insisting business current account opening procedures are standardised, so all banks will now ask for the same information from applicants. – making the process of opening an account and switching provider much easier.

There is more to come:

  • Open Banking: Open Banking will continue to evolve, with enhancements being introduced through this year and next.
  • Information on banks’ services: From August, customers and businesses will be able to access, for the first time, comparable information on the quality of banks’ services.
  • Nesta Open Up Challenge: In the Autumn, the second stage of the Nesta Open Up Challenge is due to complete. This is a competition being run by Nesta to provide opportunities for developers of innovative products or services that promote competition in the markets for business current accounts, credit, and financial automation and intelligence tools. The final prizes are expected to be announced in November this year.
Responding to the announcement of these new measures Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said: "Small firms have much more in common with consumers than big corporations. That’s why we need to move to an environment where small businesses are able to compare and switch banking services with the same ease that consumers enjoy. Today’s CMA reforms take us one step closer to making that a reality.

“Coupled with the Open Banking legislation that’s now in place, the loan eligibility tools for small businesses launched today will make finding the right finance product that much easier. Equally, allowing improved access to transaction histories promises to streamline the process of vetting a firm’s creditworthiness. Only one in ten small businesses currently applies for external finance – that has to change.

“Simplifying the process of changing business current accounts will remove one of the biggest barriers to switching and securing a better deal. Small business owners want to focus on running their firms. They don’t want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary on paperwork."

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Way the CQC Regulates Independent Healthcare Under Review - Have Your Say!

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is inviting people to give their views on proposals to change its approach to regulating independent healthcare services, such as independent acute hospitals, independent doctors and clinics, online services and independent substance misuse services in England.

Proposals include:
  • Plans to introduce quality ratings following inspections for independent healthcare services. 
  • Changes to the regulation of independent healthcare services, including the scheduling and intensity of its inspections and how the CQC will monitor providers. 
  • Improved systems for gathering intelligence to monitor the quality of care including the development of ‘CQC Insight’– a data monitoring tool currently in use for NHS hospital trusts and primary care providers – to help inform decisions about when and what to inspect, and a new regular provider information request to support and feed into CQC’s monitoring of services in between inspections. 
  • The phased introduction of a more targeted approach to inspection that is more responsive to risk and improvement and involves greater focus on leadership – similar to that introduced for NHS trusts, adult social care and primary care providers.
  • Changes to the core services that the CQC assesses during its inspections of independent acute hospitals and community health services. Including assessing and rating ‘outpatients’ and ‘diagnostic imaging’ services separately and combining the existing core services of ‘medicine’ and ‘surgery’ into a single ‘inpatient’ core service to better reflect the way these services are organised and managed at many independent hospitals. 
  • Introducing ‘community single specialty’ as a new core service for some independent community healthcare services. 
Commenting on the proposals, Sir David Behan, Chief Executive at CQC, said “The consultation sets out our plans to evolve our current approach to regulating independent healthcare services to be more focused, targeted and intelligence driven in line with our strategy and the approach we have introduced already for NHS hospitals, adult social care services and primary care.

“Our proposals are based on the learning from our inspections of the sector over the past three years and feedback from independent healthcare providers about our regulation, which will continue to focus on ensuring people receive safe, high-quality and compassionate care and on encouraging improvement. We welcome the further feedback that this consultation will bring.”

The consultation is open for eight weeks closing on Friday 23 March 2018. The CQC will formally respond to the feedback provided later in the year - click here to get involved.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Less Than Half of SMEs and Charities Aware of New Data Protection Requirements

The latest data released by the government shows that less than half of all businesses and charities are aware of the new data laws, coming into force in May.

Research shows that businesses in the finance and insurance sectors have the highest awareness of the changes to be brought in through the Data Protection Bill in May 2018, which see European GDPR regulations brought into force, as part of plans to help the UK prepare for a successful Brexit.

Businesses in the construction industry have the lowest awareness, with only one in four aware of the incoming regulation. Awareness is higher among businesses that report their senior managers consider cyber security is a fairly high or a very high priority, with two in five aware of the GDPR.

The survey found that more than a quarter of businesses and charities who have heard of the regulation have made changes to their operations ahead of the new laws coming into force.

Common changes to cyber security practices include:
  • creating or improving cyber security procedures
  • hiring new staff
  • installing or updating anti-virus software.
Organisations which hold and process personal data are urged to prepare and follow the guidance and sector FAQS freely available from the ICO.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said "This is a step change in the law; businesses, public bodies and charities need to take steps now to ensure they are ready.

Organisations that thrive under the new rules will be those that commit to the spirit of data protection and embed it in their policies, processes and people.

Our website is packed with information to help your organisation to get prepared for May 2018."

Businesses are also recommended to follow free guidance on protecting themselves from online attacks published by National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), such as the Cyber Essentials advice and the Small Business Guide.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Prince's Trust and Innovate UK Invite Young Entrepreneurs to Pitch Their Business Ideas

18 to 30-year-olds could win support to pursue an innovative idea under a new scheme run in partnership by the Prince's Trust and Innovate UK.

The competition - part of the ideas mean business campaign - will help young adults make their ideas a success, no matter where they come from.

Business ideas should focus on one of the following three areas:
  • changing something for the better in a local community 
  • a new way of using technology to fix an everyday problem 
  • a new way to tackle an environmental issue 
Support is available to young innovators who can commit 15 hours a week to developing their idea.

The award will include:

  • an allowance to cover time spent working on the idea 
  • coaching and mentoring from an innovation champion 
  • a funding pot for activities or resources, such as travelling to meet customers and partners, training courses, equipment, office space and IT.

Who can apply?

UK residents who:
  • have the right to work in the UK, or are applying for the right to do so.
  • are unemployed or are working less than 35 hours a week if applying through the online programme, or working less than 16 hours a week if applying through the in-person programme 
  • are not studying or studying less than 14 hours a week 
  • are age 18 and 30.
People currently receiving support from the Prince’s Trust’s in-person Enterprise programme are also eligible to apply.

How to apply

Applicants will need to register with The Prince’s Trust, where they will then be able to sign up to attend one of a series of regional events. These events are designed to help applicants develop their ideas and give more information about the application process.

You must attend an event in order to apply. 

1st Round of Events

  • Cardiff, Wales, 5 February 
  • Ipswich, East Anglia, 5 February 
  • Birmingham, West Midlands, 6 February 
  • Brighton, South East, 7 February 
  • Plymouth, South West, 8 February 
If you attend one of these events you will need to submit your application by 1 March 2018.

2nd Round of Events

  • Newcastle, North East, 26 February 
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland, 26 February 
  • York, Yorkshire and the Humber, 27 February 
  • Manchester, North West, 1 March 
  • Glasgow, Scotland, 2 March 
  • Nottingham, East Midlands, 2 March 
Delegates to these events must apply by 22 March 2018.