Thursday, 31 March 2016

Libraries Taskforce 'Ambition' Report on the Future of Libraries Published

Reproduced under license: Jan David Hanrath, Flickr
Readers and authors love libraries. More than half of the UK population has a current library card and, with 225 million physical visits to public libraries in England in 2015 and 96 million visits to websites, they are one of our most popular and trusted public services, but since the start of the recession they have been under significant threat.

In 2014, the government published William Sieghart’Independent Library Report for England. Calling for clear local decision-making and a national strategy to secure the future of public libraries in England.

A Leadership for Libraries Taskforce was formed by the Department for Culture, and Sport.  The taskforce has now published a draft Ambition document for public libraries in England. The document outlines:
  • the support and value libraries currently offer their local communities.
  • examples of existing good practice.
  • a clear articulation of the government and Taskforce’s vision for public libraries in England.
  • plans of action to redefine the focus of libraries.
The taskforce is seeking views on the draft document from:
  • decision makers in local and central government 
  • members of the library workforce
  • partners of or suppliers to libraries
  • members of the public who are active users and supporters of libraries 
The taskforce would welcome views on the following themes described in the document:
  • context
  • vision
  • what libraries can achieve
  • how we can make this happen
  • governance and delivery
  • new ways of working
  • marketing and communications
  • action plan

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Department of Health Awards CMHT Training Scheme Additional £10m

One in three families now includes someone with a mental health problem, deeply affecting both their own lives and the wider family.  But support services are under threat with budget cuts and staff shortages.

The Think Ahead programme aims to recruit 300 graduates to work with nurses and psychiatrists in 20017/18 as part of a strategy to address staffing issues.  Trainees will receive specialist training, supporting individuals and families with mental health problems and will qualify as mental health social workers a year earlier than normal.  Over 2300 people applied for the first 100 places and successful applicants will begin their training in July.
Mental health minister Alistair Burt said mental health social work is highly skilled, complex work and the funding would mean thousands of people would be helped to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.
"This is a great initiative to attract the brightest and best into the profession," he said.
“Our £10 million funding will spark rewarding careers and mean thousands of people are better supported to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.”
Natalie Acton, Think Ahead’s Joint Chief Executive, said today: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news as it means we can treble the number of talented individuals training as mental health social workers through Think Ahead. I really encourage any graduate with the right blend of empathy, intelligence, resilience, and commitment to apply to Think Ahead this autumn.”
Sarah Carr, who chairs the National Service User Network, said: "Support from a social worker with the right skills and expertise can be transformational for people living with mental health problems.
"The programme gives graduates the skills to empower the individuals they work with - so that they can manage their mental health, stand up for their rights, and find their own paths towards personal recovery."

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Public Accounts Committee Raises Concern Over NHS Finances

The Public Accounts Committee’s latest report on the NHS criticises the government for not acting quickly enough to keep acute hospital trusts in financial balance.  Concluding that "there is not yet a convincing plan in place for closing the £22 billion efficiency gap and avoiding a 'black hole' in the NHS finances".

Reproduced under license from Flickr: Andy Jenks
The Committee found that the financial performance of NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts has deteriorated sharply.  Their report highlights the "long-term damage" to trusts' finances caused by unrealistic government efficiency targets, and describes the data used to estimate trusts' potential cost savings targets as "seriously flawed".  It concludes the current system for paying providers "is not fit-for-purpose as it does not incentivize the right behaviours needed for joined-up healthcare services".
Trusts had a net deficit of £843 million in 2014–15, which is a severe decline from trusts' £91 million deficit in 2013–14, and £592 million surplus in 2012–13.  Trust finances look set to deteriorate further—halfway through 2015–16 three-quarters of trusts had a deficit, and their total overspend could rise to around £2.5 billion.
The Committee also raised concern over the approach of government to trusts' spending on agency staff—finding that while this spending has contributed to trusts' deficits, the Department of Health, NHS England and NHS Improvement "are only recently making serious attempts to control agency spending".
Its’ recommendations to government include ensuring "all trusts in deficit have realistic recovery plans by the start of the 2016–17 financial year that will lead to timely and sustainable improvements" and that "informed and realistic" efficiency targets are set for providers.  The committee concluded that as a matter of urgency, NHS England and NHS Improvement should "set out how they will support providers to secure the collective action that is needed to get value for money from the use of agency staff".
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: "Acute hospital trusts are at crisis point.  Central government has done too little to support trusts facing financial problems with the result that overall deficits are growing at a truly alarming rate. Crude efficiency targets have made matters worse.
Without urgent action to put struggling trusts on a firmer financial footing there is further serious risk to services and the public purse. 
In particular it is unacceptable for senior government officials simply to point to excessive agency costs as a source of trusts' difficulties.  It is the job of those officials to take action to control spending on agency staff, and to address its underlying causes. The use of agencies is a sticking-plaster solution to deep-rooted problems with NHS workforce planning.
There is a long way to go before the taxpayer will be convinced there is a workable and properly costed plan in place to secure the future of our health service.” 
The committee has asked the Department of Health, NHS England and NHS Improvement to report back in September on the actions it is taking to implement the recommendations of the Audit Office’s report.

NHS Embraces Target to Achieve Gender Balanced Boards

Reproduced under license from Flickr:NHS Confederation
The Health Service Journal Women Leaders Group, set up in September 2015, has set an ambitious target to achieve gender-balanced boards in the NHS by 2020.  A goal which has been backed by senior figures from across the NHS including Ed Smith, NHS Improvement Chair and the health service’s Gender Diversity Champion, who said: “I accept that challenge and will work hard to drive that ambition through the NHS. Now let’s get to work.” 

The leaders group is made up of representatives from The HSJ’s Women Leaders Network, set up to support female leadership in the NHS, following a set of aims and guiding principles:
  • To empower, encourage and celebrate the skills and talents of existing and emerging women leaders.
  • To improve opportunities for women to secure and maintain board-level positions on health and care bodies in public, private, voluntary and third sectors;
  • To scrutinise and challenge bias against women on health and social care boards.

  • To be supportive – providing a forum for members to share, network, help and support each other.
  • To challenge – rejecting the ‘status quo’ or any view that women cannot contribute as much to a board as a man can.
  •  To be positive – encouraging positive, safe connection and sharing.
  • To be responsive - asking members what they want from the network.

Other leaders backing the target include University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust Chief Executive Jackie Daniel and former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell.
The NHS Confederation is also keen to see progress on the NHS achieving fairer representation of women on boards. In 2013, it asked senior leaders across the NHS to address gender inequality.
Helen Birtwhistle, NHS Confederation director of external affairs, said: “It is not acceptable, particularly with a predominantly female NHS workforce, and simply not fair, to allow gender imbalance to be perpetuated and I firmly believe that balanced boards better reflect the communities they serve.
“We know that there is robust evidence which showed that a diverse workforce, in which all staff members’ contributions are valued, is linked to good patient care.” 
HSJ Editor Alastair McLellan said the HSJ would play its part in driving the ambition. “Setting a target is right – our health service can only perform well if it reflects the society it serves,” he said. “HSJ will do its bit to promote equality – we will endeavour to make sure that we have gender balanced panels at our conferences. Likewise, when I am invited to contribute to speak at external events I will not appear on all male panels if I can possibly help it.”

Friday, 18 March 2016

Struggling to Finish Writing Your Book?

We are all familiar with the fear and dread the blank page puts into the heart of the writer struggling to get started, but many writers will also tell you of the struggle at the other end, with finishing their great work.

Recognising when enough is enough, making sure you have tied up the loose ends and editing, all conspire to stop writers putting the pen down.  Here are our top tips to getting your novel finished.

Keep Going
Author Neil Gaiman famously said, ‘This is how you do it. You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.’   Words may flow easily for the first couple of chapters, when you are full of enthusiasm and ideas, but many authors will tell you that will only get you so far.  You will hit a wall and like runners you just have to keep going when those words are elusive, you will hit your stride again – have the courage to keep going.

Become Obsessed
Live and breathe your characters and plot, explore their motivations, thoughts and feelings even when you are away from your writing desk.  These periods of time day dreaming about the lives of your characters will give your writing depth.

Laziness Breeds Laziness
If you leave a story untouched for a while you will find it hard to pick it back up.  However hard you are finding it, keep going through the tough times.  This doesn’t necessarily mean gluing yourself to your chair and staring into distance, uninspired.  You could take yourself off on a research trip, immersing yourself in the location of your work, doing activities your characters like to do or taking a trip to the library for more academic research. 

Set Targets and Make Time
Whether it’s a daily or weekly word count or page count, or writing one scene a day it helps if you can aim to get a certain amount done on a daily or weekly basis.  If you’re really stuck try using a writing prompt (many can be found online) to get your creative juices flowing and see if those help you take a new direction in your writing.

Editing Comes Next
Try not to over edit as you write.  The important thing is to get the ideas down and the shape and feel of the story right.  You can worry about finessing every last word and syllable in the edit.  Michael Crichton said “Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” 

We are all familiar with the fear and dread the blank page puts into the heart of the writer, struggling to get started, but many writers will also tell you of the struggle at the other end, with finishing their great work.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

English Curriculum Dominated by ‘White, Deceased, Male Writers’ Say Campaigners

Image reproduced under license from Flickr: Adam Tinworth
Campaigners are calling for women and ethnic minorities to be fairly represented on the GCSE and A-levels curriculum after finding current reading lists being weighted in favour of “white, deceased, male writers.”
Teachers at The Forest Academy in Ilford describe how they were choosing texts for the new school year and realised how unrepresentative the official reading list was.  Female writers are represented by an average of just 31 per cent of texts across AQA, Edexcel, and OCR’s 2015/16 GCSE and A-level English literature reading lists, despite women accounting for more than half of the UK’s population. In addition, texts by writers from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds account for five per cent of texts, despite them accounting for 14 per cent of the UK population.
Having noticed a “concerning” lack of female and ethnic minority authors on offer they launched a petition as part of a new Curriculum Campaign to pressure the Government to recognise the lack of representation.
Lascell Taylor, 17, an AS-level student at The Forest Academy, said: “Now, more than ever, I wholeheartedly believe schools must welcome, encourage, and promote a wide range of cultures into the curriculum, regardless of the subject studied; it is a necessity - not just for our generation - but for those to come if we are serious about challenging cultural, racial, and gender ignorance.
“If we turn our backs on the hundreds and thousands of well-renowned writers from female, black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds, how, as an English literature student, can I grasp the true nature of literature itself?”
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, helped to launch the petition and urged the Government to ensure the curriculum includes a proportionate number of texts by female and ethnic minority writers in English and across all subjects.
In a statement, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said the Government is commitment to social justice, and wants every child to be able to read widely and well, including from texts by both male and female authors. 
The spokesperson added: “Our reforms have already helped tens of thousands more pupils to leave primary school reading properly.
“Female authors have played a key role in shaping modern day literature, and it is absolutely right that pupils should learn about both classic and contemporary literature from a diverse range of authors.
“That’s why we are freeing teachers from a prescriptive curriculum and giving schools more freedom to decide which authors are taught in their classrooms.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

CQC to Include Dementia Care Ratings in Their Inspections

Reproduced under license: Flickr, Dandare06
The government has announced plans to improve dementia services in the UK, with the aim of making the UK the most dementia-friendly society in the world by 2020. 

Jeremy Hunt’s dementia implementation plan is designed to empower people with dementia and their family through improved care and transparency.  Members of the public will be able to compare the quality of dementia care in their local area with the CQC led, OFSTED style ratings, for dementia care being added to the CQC’s inspection regime.

As part of the plan:
  • NHS Health Checks will include awareness raising, education and discussion of risk reduction for dementia for people aged 40 or older (this is currently only available for over 65s).
  • Every person with dementia will receive a personalised care plan.
  • All patients in hospital high dependency care units will be seen and reviewed by a consultant twice a day, every day of the week by 2020.
  • If clinically appropriate, all patients, including those with dementia, staying in hospital, will be reviewed by a consultant once a day, every day of the week by 2020.
  • Research funding for dementia will be doubled.  The National Dementia Research Institute will drive forward new treatments and help the government fulfil its goal of finding a cure by 2025.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said:

“A dementia diagnosis can bring fear and heartache, but I want Britain to be the best place in the world to live well with dementia. Last Parliament we made massive strides on diagnosis rates and research – the global race is now on to find a cure for dementia and I want the UK to win it.”

“This Parliament I want us to make big progress on the quality of care and treatment. Hospitals can be frightening and confusing places for people with dementia, so our new plan will guarantee them safer 7 day hospital care, as well as tackling unacceptable variations in quality across England through transparent Ofsted style ratings.”

“The dementia implementation plan builds on national success including raising dementia diagnosis rates to their highest levels, doubling dementia research funding and getting over 1 million people to become dementia friends.”

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Since the first Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge was launched we’ve seen real progress in the fight against this devastating condition, and the beginnings of a social movement to rally people behind that fight. There is still much work to do, and Alzheimer’s Research UK welcomes this plan which signals a strong commitment to build on the achievements of recent years. We look forward to working with the Government to deliver action on research and help accelerate the development of much-needed new treatments, preventions and improvements in diagnosis.”

Competing Fairly in Business – Free Advice and Guidance for Start Ups

Starting a new business is undoubtedly an exciting time.  Taking an idea and turning it in a living breathing entity is a magical, if exhausting experience. But even the most well thought out business ideas can be put at a disadvantage, or even worse be killed off, by unfair competition. 
What does unfair competition look like?
Sometimes start-ups can be sabotaged when bigger, established businesses don’t like a new competitor’s cheaper prices, better products or innovative, more efficient business models. They try to find ways of blocking them from advertising cheaper prices. They stop their customers from using them. Or they use their revenues from other products to fund discounted prices and squeeze their fledgling competitor out of the market – before hiking their prices right back up again.
Sometimes, start-ups are stopped or slowed because the suppliers they use are colluding on prices or dividing up markets. This artificially drives up prices, making a new company pay more than they should for essential services – the last thing they need if they want their business to be a success.
Hindering competition like this is unfair, anti-competitive and illegal. Indeed, healthy competition is the very reason why new businesses launch in the first place. There are serious penalties for businesses and individuals who behave anti-competitively, including fines and prison sentences.
Before embarking on any new business venture, it's vital to know what anti-competitive behaviour looks like. On the one hand, this means that if you become a victim, you know to report it, and that it can be stopped. On the other hand, you need to be able to recognise price-fixing, market-sharing, bid-rigging and resale price maintenance to protect your own business from getting into trouble with competition law.
The good news is that the basic principles behind competition law are quite straightforward.  The government have produced free, bite-size materials, including one-minute videos on how competition law protects start-ups.  You can view the advice and guidance at