Monday, 27 April 2015

NHS Inspections for September 2015 announced

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have announced the 11 acute, community and mental health providers that they will inspect in September 2015, as part of the organisation's comprehensive regime.

The inspections – which are carried out by a mixture of inspectors, clinicians and Experts by Experience – will assess whether the service overall is: safe, effective, caring, responsive to people's needs and well-led.

Following the inspection, each provider will receive an overall rating of either: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate. Additionally, each of the eight core services will also be rated in the same way to provide performance information at a service, hospital and trust level.

The inspection regime allows the CQC to get under the skin of services better than ever before and to provide a clear picture of what care is really like.

The providers listed below have been selected for their planned, comprehensive inspections for different reasons. These include hospitals that are priorities for inspection and those that are low risk, following CQC's analysis of information, following up on concerns raised regionally and a commitment to inspect different types of trusts in different parts of the country.

The 11 providers to be inspected in September are:


  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Colchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Mental health

  • South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust

Combined acute and community health services

  • Wye Valley NHS Trust
  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Combined mental health and community health services

  • Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
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New Director appointed within CQC

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has appointed a new Director of Corporate Providers and Market Oversight.

Stuart Dean – an experienced financier and former leader of the corporate healthcare business at The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – is expected to take up his new CQC role in May.

Following CQC's new responsibility for Market Oversight – overseeing the financial health of difficult-to-replace providers of adult social care services – Stuart will lead this new function that involves 43 corporate providers, including around 400 registered services operating from 4,000 locations.

Stuart has a wealth of experience across the public and private healthcare industry and was also a member of the Market Oversight and Provider Failure Working Group which contributed to the legislative framework and development of CQC's approach to the new Market Oversight scheme.

Speaking about his new position at CQC, Stuart said:

"I'm delighted to have been given this opportunity working with key stakeholders across the sector. I'm looking forward to ensuring CQC's new Market Oversight responsibilities are successfully implemented to provide both continuity of care and reduce uncertainty for people who use services in the event of providers facing financial distress."

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, added:

"I am really pleased to welcome Stuart who has the right experience and skills to deliver our new Market Oversight responsibilities.

"Being able to protect people in vulnerable circumstances by spotting if a difficult-to-replace provider may fail and making sure the right action is taken is such an important piece of work. I am looking forward to having Stuart on board and take on this new function."

The items every Jane Austin lover should own!

There's some fantastic items out there for Jane Austin book lovers! Here's a sample of quirky gifts that you can pick up for those who love Ms Austin:

1. Sense & Sensibility - themed cookies - Etsy $30.75

Sense & Sensibility-themed cookies 

 2. Jane Austin quote pillow - Etsy $22

Jane Austen Quote Pillow

3. Pride and Prejudice 3D paper mobile - Etsy $15
Pride & Prejudice 3D Paper Mobile

4. Jane Austin quote print - Etsy $5
Jane Austen Quote Print

5. Mansfield Park bunting- Etsy $18.42
Mansfield Park Bunting

6. Jane Austin quote printed satin ribbon - Etsy $8.99
Jane Austen Quote Printed Satin Ribbon

7. Pride and Prejudice printed tights - Etsy $27
Pride & Prejudice Printed Tights

8. Mansfield Park ornament - Etsy $10
Mansfield Park Ornament

9. Jane Austin print iphone case - Etsy $15
Jane Austen Print iPhone Case

10. Pride and Prejudice locales T-Shirt- Etsy $24
Pride & Prejudice Locales T-Shirt

St Andrews top of the list for LGB-friendly patient care

Independent provider St Andrew’s Healthcare has been named as the most inclusive healthcare organisation for lesbian, gay and bisexual patients in England.

The specialist mental health and neuropsychiatry charity has sites in Northampton, Birmingham, Essex and Nottinghamshire.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust Foundation second and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust were listed as the third most inclusive healthcare providers, respectively.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust came in fourth and London-based Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust was fifth.

The Healthcare Equality Index – in its third and final year – is run by the charity Stonewall.
It is intended to act as a tool for health providers to benchmark and track their progress on equality for their lesbian, gay and bisexual patients and communities.

St Andrew’s Healthcare has improved its position since 2014, when it came third in the Index, after it provided accessible LGB-themed literature and resources in areas such as its library.

Overall, Stonewall said 39 healthcare organisations entered the index, including ambulance trusts, independent sector providers and social enterprise organisations.

Organisations were assessed against criteria including patient policy and practice, engagement and communication with gay people, improving the health of gay patients and staff training on gay health needs

James Taylor, head of campaigns at Stonewall, said: “All organisations who have secured top 10 positions should be extremely proud, and a special congratulations to St. Andrew’s Healthcare.

“Lesbian, gay and bisexual people still experience and expect poor health outcomes and treatment when they use the NHS,” he said. “Every organisation that entered helps tackle health inequalities.”

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Telegraph release the best crime books for 2015. Do you agree?

Terry Ramsey, writing for the, provides a summary of what he believes to be the best crime books of 2015 (updated monthly). Below are the summaries of the books he has listed in this month's entry:

'The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths
This is the seventh instalment in Elly Griffiths' highly likeable series of Ruth Galloway investigations. It won't disappoint fans and deserves to win over new followers as it features one of her most atmospheric stories coupled with her usual humour, characterisation and eye for building up to a set piece.
The story starts with a digger driver at a new Norfolk housing development uncovering the wreckage of a World War Two plane, complete with a body sitting at the controls.
Naturally, there is more to this than meets the eye and forensic archaeologist Ruth is soon on the case, once again helping her friend and former lover DCI Harry Nelson. The enjoyable "will-they won't-they" get back together soap opera of the duo's relationship continues through the investigation – though why someone as bright as Ruth would yearn for an unlikeable curmudgeon like Nelson is the biggest mystery of the books.
Griffiths seems to be having some fun here with the Agatha Christie style of country house mystery – she sets much of the story in the rambling, forbidding Blackstock Hall, home of the Blackstock family, who seem to have as many skeletons as they do cupboards (which is a lot). The house even gets cut off at one point - shades of Christie's And Then There Were None.
For someone who's 'day job' as a university archaeologist sounds a tad dull, Ruth has more than her fair share of excitement (including rekindling a relationship with American TV presenter Frank Barker). Fun and skilfully written.
384pp, Quercus, £16.99

What She Left by TR Richmond

This deliciously modern take on the psychological thriller caused quite a stir well before it hit the bookshops, as it was the subject of a serious bidding war between publishers. Now we get to see what the fuss was about.
The story is based on the notion that, in years gone by, when a young girl such as Alice Salmon died, her memory might soon fade away. But these days, we all leave a digital trail: emails, social media posts, blogs, online journals, published articles . . . Our lives are all out there, waiting to be pieced together.
Alice, an aspiring journalist, dies when she tumbles from a bridge, but was it an accident, suicide or something more sinister? Her rather creepy former university teacher, Dr Jeremy Cooke – who is obsessed with Alice (and her mother) – embarks on a project collecting everything he can find about her and trying to discover the 'real' Alice. He is painstakingly assembling a jigsaw of the dead girl's life, and the book itself is like that: documents, letters all sorts of information, all coming out in a seemingly random order. Of course, the writer is much smarter than that, and the way information is delivered is cleverly crafted to create a shifting, mesmerising, mysterious story.
While Cooke is creepy, Alice is carefully revealed to be a sparky, intelligent, infuriatingly self-absorbed, ambitious girl with a tendency to drink too much.
The difficulty (for an author) of telling a story through many characters (Cooke, Alice, her mum, her boyfriend, her best friend and so on), is ensuring that every voice is distinct and authentic. But no problem here. What She Left is very well-written and intelligently realised, occupying a territory half way between literary novel and thriller. It overdoes things though, extending the story for about 50 pages longer than necessary, just when the reader is breathless for the conclusion. Still, a memorable debut.
Incidentally, the author is billed as "an award-winning journalist" but searching the web for "T R Richmond" reveals no trace of such a journalist. He or she have covered their tracks. A little ironic, given the premise of the book.
384pp, Michael Joseph, £12.99 

Silver Bullets by Elmer Mendoza

"Introducing the godfather of Mexican crime fiction" pronounces the cover of this book - which might sound a bit niche, but to be honest it is remarkable (assuming it is true) that there has not been a translation of an Elmer Mendoza book before. He has been writing his celebrated crime novels since 1999, has had rave reviews and is a leading figure in 'narcoliterature' , depicting the violent and debilitating effect drug wars have had on Mexican society. (Incidentally,Mendoza is also a university professor of literature.)
This novel, from 2008, features his frequent protagonist, Detective Edgar Mendieta, a police officer in the drug-trafficking city of Culiacan. When a prominent lawyer is murdered, it looks like just another example of day-to-day corruption (Mendieta is every bit as weary and cynical as you might expect). But the killer used a silver bullet - and a few days later the assassin seems to have struck again.
Mendoza's writing style (smartly translated by Mark Fried) could never be called easy - his habit of using reported speech and running a whole conversation together into a single paragraph, means the reader has to concentrate. But it also helps create the claustrophobic atmosphere and sense of urgency and edginess that makes this novel so convincing. Demanding, different and impressive.
240pp, Maclehose Press, £14.99

Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner

This German thriller has been a European sensation, selling millions of copies across the continent, before arriving here. It centres on Blum, a wife and mother who (of course) has a dark secret in her past. When her husband dies in what looks like a hit-and-run accident she is convinced his death is no accident and sets out to get revenge on the men responsible.
It is easy to see why readers have been drawn to Woman of the Dead in large numbers. It is simply but grippingly written (here in an elegant translation by Anthea Bell), told from the point of view of a deeply flawed but understandable central character and it has some of the dark elements of Nordic noir: the hard-bitten Blum is reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander and the importance of historic sex crimes also echoes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
However, the revenge thriller plotline becomes a little formulaic and the 'reveal' at the end is too easily spottable from some way off. But there is no doubt that Aichner has a talent for keeping readers hooked - this is a gripping read and the character of Blum lives long in the mind.
288pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99 

Toxic by Jamie Doward

“Sometimes banks are more dangerous than bombs” runs the sell-line on the cover of this new conspiracy thriller by British journalist Jamie Doward. And a good line it is too, as it captures the spirit of the times: banks are not just untrustworthy but evil, with the power to bring down the Western world.
Add a febrile plot involving Arab plotters, the CIA, a nuclear power station and a headless, handless body washed up on an English beach, and you have the ingredients for a book that is bang on the mood of the moment.
At the heart of the story is Kate Pendragon, a financial investigator seconded to MI5, who makes a likeable central character with a memorable penchant for cocktails and random one-night stands. Unfortunately, some of the secondary characters are less well drawn and can be tricky to differentiate. Is this person from the CIA, MI5 or one of the Saudi Prince's advisers, you might find yourself wondering, as the action jumps between locations. This slows down the early chapters, but the later stages rattle along satisfyingly. The plotting is a bit loose and there's a feeling that Doward, rather than being driven by a central idea, has picked his zeitgeist-y elements and then come up with a recipe to suit his ingredients. However, there's an enjoyably tense will-she won't-she climactic scene, which sees Kate risk the ultimate sacrifice.
Doward appears to have been trying hard to create a bang-up-to-the-minute thriller and, even if it falls short, Toxic is a promising debut. He could crack it next time.
352pp, Constable, £19.99'

Friday, 24 April 2015

Students Tech Addiction Similar To Smoking

Students Tech Addiction Similar To Smoking

Tech addiction is a modern phenomenon that has been worrying parents for decades, and it seems that their anxiety is understandable. New research has found that around half of year 10 students experience symptoms of withdrawal when forced to stay offline, suggesting that the internet is addictive.

A recent poll conducted by 'Tablets for Schools' claims that "the peak age for feelings of addiction was year 10, where pupils are aged 14 or 15, with 49% of those pupils reporting this [addiction]. The greatest use of devices in bed comes a year later, with 77% of year-11 pupils. Aside from email the most commonly used sites at home were social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat."

Tablets for Schools is a charity which aims to supply, as the name suggests, tablets to school children. They have carried out this research to advice parents and children of the adverse effects of internet overuse, and to better understand the psychological dependence on technology that many children appear to exhibit.

Tech addiction is a relatively under-researched issue, mainly because the internet and, more specifically, social media, has only recently become such an important part of modern life. Most worrying of all are the similarities tech addiction can share with drug addiction, as Tablets for Schools found that "four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day."

Another piece of recent research, named ‘Unplugged’, has found that tech addiction knows no cultural boundaries, as a clear majority of ‘almost 1,000 university students, interviewed at 12 campuses in 10 countries, including Britain, America and China, were unable to voluntarily avoid their gadgets for one full day.’ Participants were allowed to maintain their use of books and had access to a landline, so they were able to experience traditional forms of information and contact with the outside world.

Sufferers essentially go through a kind of 'cold turkey', similar to drug withdrawal, when forced to refrain from using smart phones, tablets, laptops and computers. Some volunteers reported feeling as if they were on a diet. The condition of tech addiction is being termed 'Information Deprivation Disorder,' and could have an impact on how parents and children interact in the future.

Dr Roman Gerodimos, a lecturer in communication who led the UK contingent of the international study, said: "We were not just seeing psychological symptoms, but also physical symptoms." These physical symptoms include fidgeting, restlessness, and even heart palpitations, and students reported that they keep trying to reach for their phones, and finding that they weren't there.’ This section of the study featured 150 students from Bournemouth University, aged between 17 to 23, and they found that one in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to addiction while more than one in 10 admitted being left confused and feeling like a failure. Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.

There are some positives, however, as many students developed new coping mechanisms, such as going for walks and visiting friends. Although we use technology mainly for socialising, it was the loss of music that many students found most difficult to cope with. The majority of participants developed coping mechanisms to distract themselves and even found some enjoyment in being ‘unplugged’.

Women Are The Most Successful Self-Publishers

Women Are The Most Successful Self-Publishers

Since the birth of literature there has been gender disparity in the number of male and female writers, due largely to the fact that the majority of women have for centuries been denied an education. Wealthy, well-educated women were even excluded from the literary canon because it was not socially acceptable for ‘respectable’ women to publish. Even in the twentieth century, which saw greater gender equality and more opportunities for women writers, men have dominated the literary scene.

Today, despite the higher proportion of female writers and female readers, it seems that male writers feature more consistently in top reviews. Male writers, despite the larger female audience, are given more 'weight' than their female counterparts, whilst women writers are demoted to the realms of chick-lit.

A report in the Guardian showed that male authors account for 80% of titles in the Telegraph’s 100 Novels Everyone Should Read, 85% of the Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of all Time, and 70% of the Telegraph’s The Best Books of 2014. Male writers are therefore more likely to experience respect from their peers and find their writing reviewed favourably, whilst female writers are more likely to encounter prejudice or a lack of interest from reviewers.

In addition to their high commendations by reviews, male writers account for over 60% of the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon, according to FicShelf, which analysed data comparing male and female writers.

FicShelf looked at 227 bestselling self-published titles, which included a mix of fiction and non-fiction. ‘When it looked at novels, the results were even more skewed: of 134 fiction titles, 109, or 81%, were by women, 11 were by men, and 14 were unknown.’ BookWorks, an organisation of self-publishers, claim that women have a greater chance of success through DIY publishing: ‘odds are that the self-publishing community will be much kinder to you and your book than the traditional world of book publishing would, and you’ll be able to reach more readers than you might otherwise.’

Florence Wilkinson from FicShelf also reported that their research showed a surprising number of the 200+ authors analysed were under the age of 30, and she attributed this to 'fandom', which seems to attract mainly female writers. E L James is a very famous example of a writer who has made millions from self-publishing her fan-fiction; her trilogy 50 Shades of Grey attempted to reinterpret the love story of Bella and Edward in the Twilight Saga.

Despite James' success,  there is a certain amount of scorn directed at her DIY fan-fiction, which is apparently excluded from the literary canon of more substantial works of literature produced by men. The publishing industry sometimes assumes that people self-publish because they have to, because they have failed through traditional methods. James, at least, does know her audience and appealed to an online audience of fans who seek out fan-fiction. Self-publishing is a very different form of publishing and is not just a last resort, but it responds to a growing desire for fan-fiction. It even seems to offer more opportunities for success for women writers than print publishing. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

CCGs are failing to monitor outsourced services

A new report suggests that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are struggling to monitor and enforce the services they have outsourced to private providers. 

FOI requests sent to the 211 CCGs from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) have revealed that 60% of the 181 who responded did not record how many site inspections they undertook of outsourced services, or were unable to say how many they had done. Of even greater concern, 12% said they did not carry out any inspections at all.
The CHPI said there is also a reluctance among CCGs to enforce their contracts with the private sector, their investigations uncovered just 16 CCGs had imposed any financial sanctions due to poor performance.
The report claims that the reason many CCGs are unable to answer questions about their outsourcing contracts and how they are inspected and enforced is due to the complex arrangements surrounding them.
Most CCGs use an outsourced service for their contract monitoring function to CSUs (Commissioning Support Units). CSUs are at present part of NHS England, although the government intends them to become private companies by April 2016.
The CHPI suggest that NHS England should reconsider its plans to privatise the contract monitoring of NHS contracts. It points out that CCGs are the statutory bodies responsible for enforcing contracts between the NHS and the private sector, not CSUs, which remain unaccountable if anything goes wrong – and this problem will become exacerbated if CSUs become private companies.
The report also recommends an NHS England commissioned audit of CCGs’ capacity to monitor and manage contracts with non-NHS providers.
Source: National Health Executive
Image: Must be Art, Flickr

CQC publish results of adult social care inspections & the reports highlight a national problem

The CQC has published reports into adult social care this month, and almost half of the adult social care providers inspected have been rated as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Since October 2014, CQC began to roll out its new inspection regime for adult social care services across England with an aim to rate every service provider by March 2016.
In the latest round of inspections, the regulator revealed that of the 65 adult social care services rated in the South of England region, 10 were rated ‘inadequate’, 28 ‘require improvement’, and 27 ‘good’.
Adrian Hughes, CQC's deputy chief inspector for adult social care, said: “People are entitled to services which provide safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care.
“Whenever we find a service to be inadequate, we will consider taking further action on behalf of the people who use the service, so providers of those services should take the publication of the inadequate rating as a signal that immediate action is required to improve the service”
In the past week, the CQC has also published a further 48 reports on the quality of care provided by adult social care services across the Central region. It revealed that 25 were rated as good, 19 rated requires improvement and four inadequate.
Those rated inadequate included Medic2 UK Limited in Essex; Guysfield Residential Home, Hertfordshire; The Cottage Nursing Home Limited, Northamptonshire; and Friars Hall Nursing Home, Suffolk.
In London, 31 new reports highlighted that 20 were rated good, eight requires improvement and three as inadequate. These included Riverdale Court, Bexley; and two organisations in Kingston upon Thames: Lynton Hall Nursing Centre and Park Lodge.
The CQC stated that since October its Adult Social Care (ASC) Directorate has carried out over 4,200 comprehensive ratings inspections across community based adult social care services, hospice services and residential social care services and has published ratings for over half of these.
As of 13 April 2015, ASC had rated 18 outstanding, 1,554 good, 844 requires improvement and 229 inadequate.
Image: Michael Cote
Source: / National Health Executive

Authors taking part in this year's Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) announced

Authors taking part in this year's Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) were announced at a seminar at the London Book Fair this month.

The authors include: bestselling author of The Bone Season,Samantha Shannon; CILIP Carnegie Medal winner Kevin Brooks; reigning Queen of Teen James Dawson; Sally Green, author of hit YA novel Half Bad; and 15-year-old debut Helena Coggan.

Confirmed names include:

  • Amy Alward
  • Clare Furniss
  • Darren Shan
  • Dawn Kurtagich
  • Helena Coggan
  • Holly Bourne
  • James Dawson
  • Kevin Brooks
  • Laura Dockrill
  • Moira Young
  • Melinda Salisbury
  • Sally Green
  • Samantha Shannon
These authors will be joining Malorie Blackman, Cassandra Clare, Derek Landy, Carrie Hope Fletcher and a host of other top YA authors at the convention.

This year YALC will take place in the dedicated Book Zone at the London Film and Comic Con which runs from 17-19 July 2015 at Olympia, London.

For more information about YALC, and to buy tickets, please visit the Children's Laureate website.

Image: Eden Pictures, Flickr

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Consultation on NHS 111 service soon to close

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)'s proposal forms part of a new approach to make sure that services are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs, and are well-led.

The telephone-based NHS 111 service aims to make it easier to access local NHS healthcare services when urgent medical help is required, but it’s not a 999 emergency. Trained staff ask questions to assess symptoms, then give healthcare advice or direct callers to the local service that can best help.

CQC Chief Inspector of Primary Care, Professor Steve Field, said: “We are setting out the changes we are proposing to make to the way we regulate NHS 111 services that will help us to make sure that they provide safe, high-quality care.

“We want to hear what professionals, clinicians and members of the public think of these proposals."
The CQC plans to inspect and regulate NHS 111 services include:
  • using key lines of enquiry (KLOEs), inspection teams supported by clinical and other experts and the use of information, including people’s experiences of care, to decide when, where and what to inspect.
  • using the ratings characteristics which are similar to those for GP practices and GP out-of-hours services.
The consultation runs until 24 April 2015. Individuals can take part via the CQC's online form or by using #tellcqc.

Additional GP reports published by the CQC

The Care Quality Commission has published a further 37 reports on the quality of care provided by GP practices that have been inspected under its new approach.

Following recent inspections by specialist teams, one practice has been rated as Outstanding, 30 have been rated as Good, five have been rated Requires Improvement and one has been rated Inadequate.

Under CQC’s new programme of inspections, all of England’s GP practices are being given a rating according to whether they are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said:

“We know that the vast majority of England's GPs are providing a service which is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led. If that is what we find on inspection - we give it a rating of Good, and I congratulate the GPs and staff in these practices.

“Patients should be able to expect high quality and consistent care from every GP practice. Where we have required improvement, we will expect the practice to take the necessary steps to address the issue, and we will return at a later date to check that those improvements have been made.

"If we find a practice to be Inadequate, we will normally put it into special measures, to allow the practice to access support available from NHS England and to ensure there is coordinated response to help the practice improve.”

All reports can be found on the website.

New communication platform for children launched


An exciting new children’s communication platform launched this week, in partnership with Save the Children and Microsoft.

Supported by the National Literacy Trust's Patron HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Children United will shine a light on issues that affect children across the world. It will enable children to discuss the things that matter to them most and provide them with the opportunity to be heard and make a difference.

Developed by First News, Achievement for All and Skoolbo, schools are now able to register before the full interactive site launches in September. The site will be moderated by schools around the world to ensure a secure environment for children to talk to each other safely.

Nicky Cox MBE, Editor of First News says:

“Children are 27% of the world’s people but 100% of the future. It is essential that they are given a voice and that their opinions are heard. It is also important that young people around the world speak to each other; share experiences, knowledge and understanding. The future depends on our children having good, meaningful and positive relations with each other and this starts with communication.”

As part of the launch, Children United has launched a single with pop star Alesha Dixon. She is joined by over 10,000 children from around the world to sing the song, which can be downloaded on iTunes.

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Monday, 13 April 2015

There's still room for book collectors, despite this digital age

The Wall Street Journal reports that the demand for rare and collectable books has remained stable, despite the influence of digital media. This story is taken directly from The Wall Street Journal online.

'Digital disruption notwithstanding, book collecting appears to be alive and well, sustained in part by the very same people who are driving adoption of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and the like.

Take JT Bachman, a 28-year-old architect with Rockwell Group in New York. He gets his news from digital sources but prefers printed material when reading for pleasure and says he has become a recent convert to book collecting. Mr. Bachman says he has about 100 new, used and out-of-print titles on his shelves, including the architectural tome “Herzog & de Meuron: Natural History” by Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, and plans on buying more.

“I started collecting books because it is a way to catalog time,” Mr. Bachman says. “I want to keep them for the longer term.”

Dealers such as Strand Bookstore near New York’s Union Square and Freebird Books on the Brooklyn waterfront are counting on that kind of passion, as the rise of digital media and higher commercial real-estate prices decimate other corners of the bookselling business.

Strand, an 88-year-old purveyor of new and used books, says business has been good lately, helped in part by the popularity of its rare-book room, where a signed first edition of “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle can be had for $5,000 and where a book edited and signed by Jackie Kennedy recently sold for $900.

Last year “was one of the strongest years in Strand history,” says Strand marketing manager Brianne Sperber, 25, who insists it’s “wrong” to think people in their 20s and 30s don’t want to switch back and forth between digital and print. “I know a lot of people my age who read the way I do,” she says.
Ms. Sperber says demand for rare and collectible books has been more or less stable over the past few years, an assessment echoed by Freebird owner Peter Miller, whose specialty is books about New York, and Thomas A. Goldwasser, a veteran rare-book dealer in San Francisco.

“I don’t think demand for rare books has diminished as a result of digital platforms,” says Mr. Goldwasser, 62, whose office houses more than 4,000 rare volumes. At the same time, Mr. Goldwasser says he hasn’t noticed prices appreciating greatly over the past 10 years or so, either.

With that in mind, he and a few other insiders have this advice for would-be collectors:
Do it for love
Annette Campbell-White, the founder of venture-capital firm MedVenture Associates, in Emmeryville, Calif., says collectors should be driven by their interest in books, not by the prospect of financial gain. “I wouldn't encourage anyone looking for a quick profit to turn to book collecting,” she says. “If you make money, it is incidental.”

Ms. Campbell-White says she got hooked on book collecting in 1973 when she was 25 and over the years amassed collections of poetry from the World War I era, as well as copies of books that were included in literary critic Cyril Connelly’s “The Modern Movement, 100 Key Books from England, France and America, 1880-1950.” She sold two-thirds of her Modern Movement collection in a private auction at Sotheby’s in 2007. “Yes, I made money, about a 40% profit over 30 years,” she says. “Not a good investment.”

Darren Sutherland, manager of the rare-book room at Strand, advises collectors to “always buy the best combination of condition and edition that you can afford, and buy what you love, not because you have a suspicion it might go up in value.” First editions can command higher prices, as can books with unusual inscriptions by the author. Original manuscripts are often valuable, too.

Like everything else, he says, book values are “driven by supply, which is largely stationary, and demand. So on a smaller scale, some prices can be affected in the short term by cultural events, the death of an author, a new biography or film. But in the longer term, the demand will be set by larger forces, a long-standing cultural reassessment of an author’s work and their effect on our history, or a cultural shift in terms of what we consider to be important.”
Watch out for bubbles
Dealers note that a book doesn’t have to be old to be collectible. Honey & Wax Booksellers, an online dealer founded by Strand veteran Heather O’Donnell, offers a 1990 edition of Maira Kalman’s “Max Makes A Million” for $125. The popularity of the author and the book, as well as the quality of the art and production, can drive the value of newer works. Says Mr. Goldwasser: “Many younger collectors are drawn to books for their decorative or atmospheric quality.” Illustrated books and graphic novels are popular today, he says, while demand for photography books has leveled off.
Prices for collectible books can fall, too—sometimes significantly. The first editions of books by some late 20th century authors went through a bubble in the late 1990s, only to fall some 50% from their peak a few years later, Mr. Goldwasser says.

Collectible books are bought and sold in stores, at book fairs and auctions and, like everything else, online. When buying on the Internet, however, collectors should focus on the online dealer’s reputation and track record because they won’t be able to physically inspect the merchandise before sale, says Ms. Campbell-White.'

New guide provides help on how to obtain funding for residential care placements

A new guide has been produced by Caring Homes, which provides an overview of how to obtain the funding for residential care placements.

The way care and support services are funded in the UK is constantly changing, with £72k lifetime caps and more generous upper limits for means testing set to come in from April 2016. Going into care can already be a stressful process, making a clear approach more important than ever. 96% of over 65s have made no financial plans to pay for care. 

You can find out more about the guide and the advice it offers by clicking here.

Image: nany mata, Flickr

NHS patients to show ID to access treatment

Story taken from The Guardian online, Society section

'New rules intended to cut the cost to the NHS of foreign nationals travelling to Britain to use the service mean patients could be asked to show their passport to prove they are UK residents before accessing treatment.
Guidance from the Department of Health (DoH) tells NHS trusts that “where there is uncertainty” about patients’ entitlement to free care they must ask to see credentials including passports, driving licences, bills and bank statements.
Treatment at A&E departments and GPs’ surgeries will remain free for all, the department said, and no one should be denied treatment if it is deemed to be “immediately necessary or urgent”, but patients will face questions from staff, where possible, before being admitted as an inpatient or being given an outpatient appointment.
People living in the UK for more than six months are entitled to free care, but there are fears over abuses of the system by foreign nationals travelling to the UK to use the NHS.
The rules, which came into effect on 6 April, are intended to save as much as £500m a year by 2017-18, with hospitals given the right to charge short-term visitors from outside Europe 150% of the cost of their treatment. Hospitals will also get an extra 25% in funding on top of the cost of every treatment given to a European Economic Area (EEA) migrant or visitor with a European health insurance card (EHIC).
They also face penalties for any failures to implement the rules, as the cost of caring for any patient not eligible for free treatment would be withheld, meaning the hospital would foot the bill.
According to figures provided by the DoH, costs for common procedures range from £2,188 for a “normal maternity birth” to £7,826 for a hip replacement operation. Women who are about to give birth will not have to fill in forms beforehand, but could be asked for documents and chased for payment once their baby has been delivered.
Foreign nationals’ use of the health service has become a burning issue in NHS funding, with some on the right claiming they contribute to a healthcare gap by taking up beds that could go to people who have paid into the system. This is despite an investigation by the Guardian last week that found that the cost of treating ill Britons in Europe was five times higher than the cost to the UK of treating sick visitors from other European countries.
The rules place a legal obligation on NHS bodies to establish whether a patient must pay for care, but also emphasises that they have a “human rights obligation” to give treatment a doctor judges “immediately necessary”, even if the patients indicate they are not able to pay.
Anticipating concerns about discrimination, the guidance instructs staff to make sure they do not simply give forms to patients on the basis of their skin colour or their ability to speak English. Requests for documentation would only be made after initial interviews with patients to establish whether they are ordinarily resident or exempt from charges.
“These in-depth interviews need to be handled sensitively and by staff who have been adequately trained to perform this task, including training on appropriate interview techniques and how to identify patients in a non-discriminatory manner [e.g. to avoid racial discrimination and harassment],” the guidance says.
The guidance applies only to NHS hospital care, but in February the DoH was reportedly set to introduce a pilot scheme to test the feasibility of GPs asking their patients for proof they are eligible for free NHS care, with family doctors asked to identify patients who should be paying for treatment.
Responding to the new rules, Roger Goss of Patient Concern told the Daily Mail: “It’s a worthwhile price to pay to attempt to recover the tens of millions owed by health tourists. If it is successful, the money recouped could be invested in better care for those patients who are entitled to it for free.”
Leigh Daynes, the executive director of the health charity Doctors of the World UK, raised concerns over the rules. “There should be no impediment on receiving immediately necessary medical care,” he said.
Doctors of the World UK runs a clinic in east London staffed by volunteers that provides medical care free to undocumented migrants. “The patients we treat are not health tourists,” Daynes said, adding that many were women trafficked into the UK or migrants in otherwise exploitative situations.
“One-fifth of them tell us they did not seek a doctor’s help because they are afraid they might be arrested, and in 2015 that’s unthinkable,” he said.
“Of course we all want a sustainable NHS that’s accessible to all’ Also it is right that those who can pay should pay if they are eligible for treatment. [But] our experience is that there are many, many bureaucratic and language barriers stop people accessing care even when entitled to that care.”
Don Flynn, the director of the Migrant Rights Network, said any potential extension to family doctors’ surgeries of checks on patients’ entitlement to NHS care would be a “very bad idea”.
“Staff at reception are unlikely to have the skills and experience needed to determine the immigration status of patients and this will be particularly testing at practices in areas with large ethnic minority and immigrant communities,” he said.
“We are also concerned that it will conflict with NHS duties to eliminate the present high level of health inequalities through proactive work with hard to reach communities. Registration with primary care services will become a more hostile experience for people whose residence status in the UK comes under more suspicion because of their skin colour or accent.”
An official study in 2013 estimated that £388m is spent each year on patients in England who should be paying for their care but are not charged. The report said only 16% of costs were being recovered. It added that the cost of people who come to England with the purpose of getting free treatment on the NHS could be anywhere between £70m and £300m.
Figures obtained by the Guardian last week under the Freedom of Information Act showed that European visitors using the NHS cost the service £30m in 2013-14, less than a fifth of the £155m other states in the European single market spent on treating ill Britons.'

Picture your Health Competition

Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG are running a competition, asking people to take pictures of ‘healthy people, living healthy lives, in healthy communities’. The competition closes on Friday 17th April 2015.

The CCG have asked entrants to be creative in how they interpret the theme of the competition in their photos, drawings and painting from around Devon.

From catching a shot of a caring health worker to the rolling hills of the Devon countryside… they want to know what ‘Healthy people, living healthy lives, in healthy communities’ means to you?

Enter to be in with a chance of showcasing your work.

There are three prizes:
  • 1st prize – healthy hamper
  • 2nd prize – sports equipment
  • 3rd prize – family day out

The best images will also feature in this year’s NHS NEW Devon CCG annual report.
For further details, visit their website:

Same day GP appointments for over 75s, promise Tories

Story taken direct from Pulse Today:

'Patients over 75 will be guaranteed a same-day appointment with a GP if the Conservative Party wins the general election, it was announced over the weekend.

In an interview with the Telegraph on Saturday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the party will enable same-day access by introducing 5,000 new GPs by 2020.

A follow-up article published on the Conservative Party’s website over the weekend by chancellor George Osborne said this would be made possible via a commitment to a minimum real-terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn in the next five years.

Mr Osborne said this would fund the NHS reforms suggested in NHS England’s five-year plan, which includes new models for providing general practice.

However, the BMA said that this ‘simplistic’ age limit would risk ‘distorting clinical priorities’, while the Labour Party said that these pledges were unfunded.

In the article in the Telegraph, Mr Hunt said the UK must ‘face up’ to the ‘demographic timebomb’.
He added: ‘We will introduce during the course of the next Parliament same-day GP appointments for all over-75s. We need in the NHS is to be better at looking after people while they are at home so that they don’t need expensive hospital care in A&E departments.

‘We want to give everyone the confidence that they can get in to see a GP quickly. We can do that because of the extra investment.’

Mr Osborne said that the Conservatives backed NHS England’s plans.

But, he added: ‘There’s no point having a plan without the funding to deliver it, so today we commit to deliver what the NHS needs. The Five Year Forward View sets out a projected gap between costs and resources of up to £30bn by the year 2020-21. As the plan says, the majority of this gap, £22bn, can be made up through efficiency and reform, as well as improvements in public health and prevention that will keep people healthier for longer.

‘The NHS will do its part, and we will do ours. So I can confirm that in the Conservative manifesto next week we will commit to a minimum real-terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn in the next five years.

However, the GPC criticised plans for same-day access for the over 75s.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC, said: ‘Putting in place a simplistic age limit for services runs the risk of distorting clinical priorities. It cannot be right for a 76 year old with a minor ailment to get preferential care at the expense of a 70 year old with a more serious condition.

‘There is also a question mark over whether GPs have the ability to deliver same day appointments when many GP practices are under intense  pressure from rising workload and falling resources, and without the capacity to meet current demands.’

Responding to Mr Osborne’s statement, Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘George Osborne’s extreme plan to double the pace of spending cuts next year means he cannot credibly claim to protect the NHS. Other countries which have tried to make cuts on this scale have ended up cutting their health services. That’s why he wasn’t able to announce any extra NHS funding in his Budget last month

‘And the Tories have £10 billion of unfunded tax promises which they also can’t say how they will pay for and are ahead of the NHS in the queue.’

The NHS Five Year Forward View, published in October, set out a number of efficiency savings scenarios based on its plans for reforming services, especially primary, urgent and elderly care, by 2020. It said that if nothing was done the funding gap would be £30bn while a 2-3% efficiency saving per year would mean there was still £8bn annually missing from the budget.

But many have argued this is a very aggressive savings target, as since 2004-05 savings have been estimated at 1.5% per year and hospitals, the urgent care system and GP practices are already squeezed financially with no real terms pay increases for several years.

Mr Osborne announced a £2bn ‘down payment’ on the Five Year Forward View reforms in the Autumn Statement, while last week health secrerary Jeremy Hunt said the Tories would pay ‘whatever’ is needed for the NHS.'

A&E waiting times target missed for 90th week in a row

The Guardian has today released a story which states that the 4 hour waiting time directive for A&E has been missd 90 weeks in a row. The full story from the paper's website is provided below:

'The proportion of patients seen within four hours at NHS hospital emergency departments in England has failed to meet the 95% target for the 90th week in a row.
Figures released by NHS England on Monday show that 88.4% spent four hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge in the week ending 5 April. The figure was a slight improvement on the previous week, when it was 87.8%
Out of 140 trusts with hospital A&E departments, 38 achieved the 95% target, compared with 30 in the previous week.
The government prefers to measure the target against all emergency departments, including minor injury units and walk-in centres, rather than just hospital A&E units.
By that measure, 92.4% of patients were treated within four hours last week, compared with 92.0% the previous week, making it the 27th week in a row that the target has been missed.
Dr Barbara Hakin, the national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, said: “The demands on the NHS frontline remain high but we continue to deliver good services in the face of this pressure, admitting or treating and discharging more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours.”
There were 441,100 attendances in A&E units, down slightly on the previous week when it was 445,000.
The number of people waiting for more than four hours was 7,500, down from 7,700 a week earlier but up more than 50% on the same period last year.
Last month, the Department of Health confirmed that NHS England has failed to meet its target every week of the winter, meaning the average for the whole year has not been met for the first time.'

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Writer's Room

Writing is a solitary business that requires, according to Virginia Woolf, a 'room of one's own'. Such a thing is hard to come by when property and office space is so expensive, so can writers be content with any old cupboard or corner of a room? Can any rotting shed provide the solitude and quietness necessary for inspiration?

There are so many distractions when working from home. The temptation to put the laundry on, the ability to quickly check Facebook, and even the proximity of the kettle can drag even the most dedicated of writers away from their tasks when the momentum falters. All things considered, mixing home and work can be a recipe for disaster. So how do writers and students maintain their focus when working from home? Allocating a room or an area for the sole purposes of writing often seems like a logical step. But do we need to be so situated to write? Surely a good writer can write anywhere?

Many writers dream of creating an idyllic writer’s haven, a quiet place to retreat to that somehow magically ensures that the artist will be sufficiently motivated and inspired to write a classic. Yet writers throughout literary history have not always had such a luxury; in fact, many of our greatest writers have had to make do with a writing space that is far from ideal. Which will surely make any aspiring writer wonder if a writing room really is a pre-requisite for art, or if they are merely making an excuse for procrastination? If the basement of a trailer was good enough for Stephen King, surely it's good enough for anyone!

We can we learn a lot from examining the writing spaces of famous writers, and they certainly they tell us a lot about their characters and situations. The Bronte sisters, for example, wrote in the evening, by the fireside in their vicarage; a homely and warm space, far removed from the bleak moorland outside. Will Self's office is covered in post-it notes. Jane Austen wrote secretively at the table in her family home. Dylan Thomas wrote in a boat house; Henry David Thoreau in his self-built pond-side hut; Roald Dahl in his famous gypsy shed. J K Rowling wrote the phenomenal Harry Potter books in various Edinburgh cafes.

So perhaps writers do not need a space to call their own, a room to conquer - does it really make a difference to creativity? Descartes managed to write his Meditations in an oven, after all. 

Nevertheless, most writers, students, and those lucky enough to work from home, feel it necessary to entirely possess a small corner of their home and make it their primary writing environment. The prevailing assumption is that a room, a desk, a chair and a laptop, all arranged in an orderly fashion, can ensure inspiration and provide motivation. A large, light-giving sash window, perhaps, and walls concealed by shelves and shelves of books; who could fail to be inspired?

Despite the attractiveness of a writing space, it is by no means a necessity. There is no magic formula, but the privacy and quietness of one’s own room will probably increase your chances of writing a bestseller.