Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A Tale of a Paramilitary Sexual Predator Wins 50th Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Last night Anna Burns won the 50th Man Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel, Milkman.

Anna is the first Northern Irish author to win and the 17th woman since the prize began in 1969.

Burns, 56, who was born in Belfast and lives in East Sussex, drew on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to write Milkman. Her first acclaimed novel, No Bones, was also set in this period. She saw off competition from two British writers, two American writers and one Canadian writer.

Talking about the award Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, said "None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life."

Set in an unnamed city, Milkman focuses on middle sister as she navigates her way through rumour, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community. Burns shows the dangerous and complex outcome that can happen to a woman coming of age in a city at war.

The Telegraph described the novel as ‘viciously funny’, praising Burns for her ability ‘to paint a colourful social scene’. Meanwhile, the Irish Times wrote that Burns has created a novel that is ‘an impressive, wordy, often funny book and confirms Anna Burns as one of our rising literary stars’.

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber, making it the fourth consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher. Faber & Faber has the second highest number of winning titles of any publisher, with six winners that include: Something to Answer For (1969), Rites of Passage (1980), Oscar and Lucinda (1988), The Remains of the Day (1989), True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), Vernon God Little (2003).
Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide for six days from 17 October. It will read ‘Congratulations to Anna Burns, winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize’.

On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, plus a dramatic increase in book sales. In the week following the 2017 winner announcement, sales of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders increased by 1227%. Bloomsbury has to date sold just under ¼ million copies globally across all formats, 70% of those sales coming after the win.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Plans for a New Masters Degree in Immersive Storytelling Announced

£10 million Industrial Strategy funding has been awarded to a new creative industries centre, which will build UK skills in immersive tech.

The Centre for Immersive Storytelling will be based at Royal Holloway University's Surrey campus. Its aim is to ensure that the UK’s creative workforce has world-leading skills in the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies.

It is being funded by UK Research and Innovation through its £33 million audience of the future programme, which forms part of government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The centre will be run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway University.  The bid was supported by high-profile people from the creative industry, including Sir Lenny Henry, Asif Kapadia, Georgina Campbell, Sarah Gavron, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue and Alex Garland.

The centre will offer creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling, initially to screen professionals.  They will be able to take part in experimental labs, workshops, placements and courses through the centre, which will also support and co-fund real immersive productions.

In the longer term, the centre will offer master’s degrees across a range of immersive specialisms.

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said "From watching live theatre productions in the cinema to apps which allow you to scan and identify artworks on gallery visits, immersive tech is opening up a huge range of exciting new possibilities.

We are determined to be the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, and by backing this new centre we will help our world-class creative talent captivate the audiences of the future."
The centre will commission 60 productions that will develop the UK’s immersive sector. Organisations across the UK will be selected to lead the projects.

Jon Wardle, Director of the NFTS, said "It is our aim to make immersive another success story for UK plc’s world-leading screen industries, by enabling our storytellers of film, TV, games and theatre to exploit this new medium.

We intend to place diversity at the heart of our endeavours, ensuring that the future of immersive storytelling is one that reflects the full breadth of the UK’s creative talent."

Friday, 5 October 2018

Proactive and Inclusive Approach to Risk Management Leads to Outstanding CQC Rating

A Westminster surgery has been rated Outstanding overall - for a second time - by the Care Quality Commission.

The Doctor Hickey Surgery has been rated Outstanding for being caring, responsive and well-led. It was rated Good for being safe and effective, following an inspection in March 2018.

The surgery looks after approximately 2,300 homeless people in Westminster. Clinicians provide a wide range of medical services including the management of substance misuse, alcohol abuse and mental illness. It has been providing services to homeless people for 30 years.

Inspectors were impressed with the service's culture, embedding risk management into every role:
  • The practice had clear systems to manage risk so that safety incidents were less likely to happen. When incidents did happen, the practice learned from them and improved their processes. 
  • A proactive approach to anticipating and managing risks to people who use their services was embedded and was recognised as the responsibility of all staff.
  • The practice routinely reviewed the effectiveness and appropriateness of the care it provided. It ensured that care and treatment was delivered according to evidence-based guidelines.
  • The continuing development of the staff’s skills, competence and knowledge was recognised as being integral to ensuring high-quality care. Staff were proactively supported and encouraged to acquire new skills and share best practice.
  • The practice had a clear vision which had quality and safety as the top priorities. High standards were promoted and owned by all practice staff with evidence of team working across all roles.
  • There was a strong focus on continuous learning and improvement at all levels of the organisation. 
  • There was a fully embedded and systematic approach to improvement. 
  • Improvement was seen as the way to deal with performance and for the organisation to learn.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Government Announces New Measures to Help SMEs

The Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced a series of new measures to back businesses and entrepreneurs, support workers and ensure every part of the country benefits from the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

More Protection for Small Businesses

The government will strengthen the Prompt Payment Code with a new tough and transparent compliance regime.

A call for evidence will be published later this week which will consider the best way to ensure company boards put in place responsible payment practices throughout their supply chain, including whether all company boards should give one of their non-executive directors specific responsibilities for the company’s prompt payment performance.

The Small Business Commissioner will join the Prompt Payment Code’s Compliance Board to support his role in tackling late payment.

Reacting to the plans the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the Government getting serious about this issue.

“The voluntary Prompt Payment Code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed. Involving the Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal with the Code is also right as that shows a more joined-up approach to this difficult issue.

“Further, it is a positive step that central government will set an example – paying 90% of undisputed invoices from small and medium-sized businesses within five days.”


The government has announced plans to ensure that tips left for workers will go to them in full.

While most employers act in good faith, in some sectors evidence points towards poor tipping practices, including excessive deductions being made from tips left by customers.

New legislation, to be introduced at the earliest opportunity, will set out that tips must go to the workers providing the service.

This legislation will ensure workers get the tips they deserve and give consumers reassurance that the money they leave in good faith to reward good service is going to the staff, as they intended – ensuring that hard work is rewarded.

Proposals to Help Parents and Carers in the Workforce

While many companies are increasingly embracing flexible working and the benefits it brings, some employees face barriers in raising this issue with their employers.

The government will consider creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising.

Greater Transparency on Parental Pay

The government will consult on requiring employers with more than 250 staff to publish their parental leave and pay policies, so job applicants can make informed decisions about whether they can combine the role with caring for their family.

While many employers go further than the legal minimum for parental leave and pay, very few publish their policies openly. Applicants must ask prospective employers what the position is which many are reluctant to do for fear of discrimination.

Progress Towards a Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands

In consultation with regional partners, the local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands will harness its distinctive strengths to unlock greater growth and earning power across the region’s cities and places. 

The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy will provide a long-term plan for alignment of local and national decision making to increase productivity and deliver an economy that works for all. This will include how the automotive and wider transport cluster, the life science cluster, and their associated supply chains and infrastructure, will drive the UK’s response to the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge and the AI and Data Grand Challenge.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Kings Fund Concludes CQC Work is Having a Positive Impact but There is Room for Improvement

The Kings Fund has been reviewing the effectiveness of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)’s ‘Ofsted-style’ inspection and rating regime.  Their report concludes that the system is a significant improvement on its predecessor but that there is room for improvement.

The research, carried out by The King’s Fund and Alliance Manchester Business School between 2015 and 2018, examined how the CQC is working in four sectors – acute care, mental health care, general practice and adult social care – in six areas of England.
The new regime for assessing the performance of health and care services was the centrepiece of the then government’s response to the Francis report into the failures of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. 

The new approach was seen as a significant improvement on the system it replaced, which had been widely criticised following several high-profile failures of care.

The report found that the impact of the inspection regime came about through the interactions between providers, CQC and other stakeholders not just from an individual inspection visit and report. It suggests that relationships are critical, with mutual credibility, respect and trust being very important. The report argues that CQC should invest more in the recruitment and training of its workforce, and calls on providers to encourage and support their staff to engage openly with inspection teams.

The report highlights a number of areas for improvement in CQC’s approach to regulation. It cautions that the focus on inspection and rating may have crowded out other activity which might have more impact. It recommends that CQC focus less on large, intensive but infrequent inspections and more on regular, less formal contact with providers, helping to drive improvement before, during and after inspections.

The evaluation found significant differences in how CQC’s inspection and ratings work across the four sectors it regulates. Acute care and mental health care providers were more likely to have the capacity to improve and had better access to external improvement support than general practice and adult social care providers. The report recommends that CQC thinks about developing the inspection model in different ways for different sectors, taking into account these differences in capability and support.

The researchers also analysed data on A&E, maternity and GP services to see if CQC inspection and rating had an impact on key performance indicators but found only small effects. There was also little evidence that patients or GPs were using ratings to make choices about maternity services.

The ‘risk-based’ system using routine performance data which CQC used to target inspections was found to have little connection to subsequent ratings. The report suggests the CQC use a wider range of up-to-date data to develop a more insightful way of prioritising inspections.

The CQC is now implementing a revised strategy for regulation which addresses some of the issues raised in the report. The report welcomes their new focus on developing stronger, improvement-focused relationships with providers and system-wide approaches to regulating quality.

Ruth Robertson, report author and Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund said "We found that CQC’s approach works in different ways in different parts of the health and care system. When CQC identifies a problem in a large hospital there is a team of people who can help the organisation respond, but for a small GP surgery or care home the situation is very different. We recommend that CQC develops its approach in different ways in different parts of the health system with a focus on how it can have the biggest impact on quality."

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

New and Returning University Students Urged to Get Meningitis Vaccine

First-year university students need to be vaccinated against meningitis, which could be mistaken for ‘freshers’ flu’ or a hangover, and puts their lives at risk.

Students are at particular risk from the disease due to mixing closely and living with new people who may unknowingly carry the meningitis-causing bacteria.

Latest figures show there were a total of 748 cases of meningitis in England in 2016/17. These figures include 225 cases of an aggressive form of meningitis called Men W, which has killed one in three teenagers. Meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Those who recover from meningitis can be left with serious long-term health problems, such as amputation, deafness, blindness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.  But, with early diagnosis and anti-biotic treatment, most people make a full recovery.

One in four 15 to 19-year-olds carry the meningococcal bacteria – the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK – in the back of their nose and throat, compared to one in 10 of the UK population, which puts them at greater risk.

The bacteria is spread by prolonged close contact – such as coughing, kissing or sneezing – with a person carrying the bacteria.

Early symptoms of meningitis can be similar to flu or even a hangover, and may be mistaken for other common illnesses. They include headache, vomiting, muscle pain, fever and cold hands and feet.

A rash of tiny red pinpricks may also develop once septicaemia has set in. This rash does not fade under pressure – for instance, when gently pressing a glass against it.

Students showing symptoms of the disease should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention as meningitis can develop suddenly and progress within hours.

New and returning students are being urged to get up to date with meningitis vaccinations before the new academic term starts or as soon as they arrive at university.

Overall, anyone up to the age of 25 is strongly advised to get the vaccination, whether starting college or university, or not.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Paediatrician at Public Health England, said “We know that colleges and universities can be hot spots for the spread of meningitis and septicaemia. First-year students especially are at increased risk of meningitis and septicaemia if they are unvaccinated – which makes sense when they spend large amounts of time with new people in confined environments such as university halls.

“Thanks to our MenACWY vaccine programme, we saw a significant decline in MenW cases among 18-year-olds in the first 12 months after the programme was introduced. More importantly, for the first time since 2009, we are now seeing a decline in the total number of Men W cases across England.

“We need eligible people to keep getting the vaccine every year to ensure that this downward trend continues. We encourage students to check with their GP that they are up to date with their MenACWY vaccination before term starts – it’s never too late to protect themselves and their friends from such highly infectious diseases.”

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Business Views on Post Brexit Trade Agreements Sought by Goverment

Members of the public and businesses can now have their say on the UK's prospective, post-Brexit trade agreements.

In 6 month’s time, the UK will have the opportunity to begin negotiating, signing, and ratifying Free Trade Agreements with trading partners across the globe. 

In preparation for this, the UK Government is consulting with members of the public, businesses, trade experts, and any other interested organisations to help inform this work.

These agreements could:
  • enable increased trade and investment
  • secure access for UK exporters to the key markets of today and the future
  • give consumers access to a greater range of products at lower prices
  • make the UK more innovative, competitive and prosperous.
There are 4 online consultations:
At the launch event International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said "These consultations are about how we position ourselves as Global Britain. To build the export markets, investment opportunities and trading relationships of the future.

Trade affects us all – whether it is through the prices and availability of product on our supermarket shelves, to the resources available for our public services, to the jobs and investment on which we all rely."