Thursday, 26 May 2016

2017 University League Tables Published

The Guardian University League Tables for 2017 have now been published, with Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews all scoring over 90 out of 100 possible marks, helping them retain their positions in the table from last year.
Bath fell from the fifth spot down to number 10 and although it didn’t make it into the top three, Loughborough was the surprise star of this year, moving up seven places to fourth place.
Talking to The Guardian, Bob Allison, vice-chancellor of Loughborough University, puts Loughborough’s success down to having a clear focus.
“Many university strategies are unbelievably long and very complex. My view is there’s little point in doing that. Most people won’t read it and they cannot then understand what we are trying to achieve. You can put our university strategy on one side of paper. I said, keep it really really simple. Focus on no more than three or four things that will make a serious difference.”
Those things are supporting staff, increasing the university’s international reach, raising standards – and “recognising that all students who come here are making a serious commitment and we have to commit to them”.
The Guardian’s league tables rank universities according to:
·         spending per student
·         the student/staff ratio
·         graduate career prospects
·         what grades applicants need to get a place
·         a value-added score that compares students’ entry qualifications with their final degree results
·         how satisfied final-year students are with their courses
Specialist tables also rank universities by subject area. You can view the league tables in full at

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

CQC Local Area Reports Out For Consultation

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published two further prototype reports looking at how it might assess the quality of care in a local area in order to encourage improvement.

The Quality of Care in a Place project will shape the CQC’s future role beyond provider-based regulation. It sits alongside other reviews looking at how the CQC could assess the quality and coordination of urgent and emergency care within an area; the extent to which care is integrated affects older people’s experiences of care; and the implications of emerging new models of care for how the CQC should operate in the future.

The pilots have allowed the CQC to test how they could assess quality and encourage improvement at a system level, increase transparency for local people, inform how the CQC might respond to new models of care as they develop, and provide a rounded picture of local services for the CQC’s local inspection teams.

The prototype reports will be evaluated to understand if the CQC can demonstrate whether reporting on quality of care in a place can encourage improvement locally. Feedback from local organisations and local people will be an important part of the evaluation. The CQC will also be exploring whether reports can help their inspection teams by providing more context about an area.

The CQC has taken a different approach to collating data for each of their Quality of Care in a Place reports and as pilots each report should be seen within the context of being set up to test a methodology, rather than to report on a place.

Salford Report

To arrive at a view of the quality of care in Salford the CQC brought together information from a range of different sources. These included ratings from CQC inspections and findings from inspection reports data from others about the outcomes of care locally; the views of people involved in health and social care in Salford by means of interviews and focus groups; CQC’s local inspectors; case studies to understand how well services work together, from the point of view of people who uses services and the professionals providing care.

Tameside Report

The Tameside report is a “data only” report, produced to provide an example of what this type of report could tell us about Quality of Care in a Place. This complements the work in the two other pilot areas where additional methodologies were tested.

CQC’s own data on providers was instrumental to this project. However, data from other sources was also used, particularly when looking at population outcomes. Section two is informed by data from Public Health England (PHE), the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and NHS England, in addition to CQC publications.

David Behan, CQC’s chief executive said: “In these two reports we have attempted to answer the questions ‘If I live in Tameside or Salford what will be my experience of health and care services? If I have multiple needs are services joined up?’

“By 2020, 50 per cent of the population should be receiving care in a range of new ways and from organisations that bring different elements of care together. Quality of Care in a Place is one of a number of ways we have been looking at how we can assess the quality of care beyond individual providers.

“Together these projects are helping us to build our capability to inspect, report on and rate new models of care, such as vanguards, and the range of different services that people use. Our work is also designed to support areas to innovate and collaborate and make informed decisions about local services.”

Stephanie Butterworth, Executive Director at Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “We were happy to take part in the pilot and welcome any further work in support of the CQC which aids a better understanding of how they can assess quality of care and encourage improvement for our residents.”

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sci-fi Book World Remains Bias Towards Male Authors

Image reproduced under license: Flickr, R C Mariner
The Strange Horizons Count for 2015 has been published, concluding that, whilst some progress has been made to address the gender imbalance in sci-fi (SF) book journalism, in most SF magazines, most of the reviews are written by men and most of the books covered are by men.

The Strange Horizons Count started four years ago, and was inspired by the American Vida Count, set up to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing, as well as add further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary.

Each year the VIDA and SF Counts looks at the behaviour over the previous year of key journals, publications, and press outlets. This year the SF Count looked at 18 magazines and journals. Officials counted the number of reviews of prose books (novels, short stories, and related non-fiction) in each publication in 2015, by author or editor gender and race. For books with co-authors or co-editors, the attribution was fractioned as appropriate. In addition to the reviews and reviewer counts, they conducted a count of Locus "books received" columns for April, July, and October 2015.

Key Findings

  • Of the 18 magazines reviewed, only five reviewed at least as many books by women or non-binary (WNB) writers as books by men. 
  • In 11 magazines the ratio of books by men to books by WNB was 2:1 or greater. 
  • In all but six magazines at least 60% of the reviews were written by men.
  • 10 of the 18 magazines looked at didn’t even manage to give 10% of their review coverage to books by writers of colour. Seven of them had no reviewers of colour at all.
  • The most diverse publications are often the smallest. The publications most likely to reivew books by WNB writers were The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Romantic Times and Lightspeed. The publications most likely to review books by writers of colour were Lightspeed, The Cascadia Subduction Zone and Strange Horizons.
  • The publications with the highest proportion of WNB reviewers were Romantic Times, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, and The publications with the highest proportion of reviewers of colour were Lightspeed, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, and
When the SF count started, across all the publications surveyed, WNB writers received about 30% of reviews, and wrote about 30% of reviews. This year, both numbers were up to just over 40%. For writers of colour, the baseline is lower and the improvement is smaller – up from about 5% to about 10%.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

CQC Cancels Dorset Residential Care Home’s Registration

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken enforcement action to cancel the registration of the service providers of Thistlegate House in Dorset to protect the safety and welfare of people in its care.

The providers appealed this decision to cancel but the tribunal found in the CQC’s favour, concluding that CQC’s evidence was overwhelming and the decision to cancel was proportionate and necessary.

The CQC’s decision to cancel the registration of the provider means they can no longer legally operate a residential home service from its premises at Thistlegate House in Charmouth, Dorset or any other premises that CQC would regulate in England.

Inspectors visited the home five times since January 2013 with the latest inspection taking place in April 2016. Major concerns in relation to the quality, safety and monitoring of the service were found at each inspection. The management stated that they fully complied with the regulations but inspectors found no evidence of this.

There was a continued failure to ensure that people were protected from risks and inspectors found that there were breaches in regulations on every inspection. Despite a number of enforcement measures being put in place to bring about fundamental change to the service. This action had not resulted in people receiving the care appropriate to their needs.

There was a continued lack of action to mitigate risks. These included people not receiving their medicines safely and safeguards not being in place to protect people from abuse. Safeguarding issues raised by Dorset County Council had not been investigated by the providers.

In addition, there was a consistent lack of training and supervision support provided for staff this was putting people at risk of unsafe care or care that was not appropriate to their needs and people in the home were sometimes treated in ways that were not respectful. End of life wishes had not been discussed or recorded.

Deborah Ivanova, Deputy Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care in CQC’s south region, said:

“People are entitled to services which provide safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care and the owners of Thistlegate House have failed their residents.

“The provider was placing people at significant risk of receiving inappropriate or unsafe care and made little attempt to address the issues we identified despite having several opportunities. For this reason we had no option but to cancel the registration.

“Our priority is always the safety of people using health and social care services and we would not consider this kind of action if we did not feel there was a serious risk to people, their health and wellbeing or that the environment they were in was unsafe.”

“I hope the action we have taken together with the tribunal decision should send a strong public message that we will not hesitate to use our powers to take tough action if we have concerns about the care and welfare of people who use services. We will work with providers to encourage improvement but if this is not in place then our role is to take action to protect those who are at risk of harm”.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Kings Fund Analysis into the Causes of GP Crisis Published

New research from The Kings Fund has revealed the extent of the crisis in general practice.

Their report, Understanding Pressures in General Practice, analyses 30 million patient contacts from 177 practices and includes extensive research with GP practices and trainees.

As well as a growth in the number of consultations, it shows that general practice’s workload has become more complex and intense. For example:
  • There has been a 13 per cent growth in face-to-face consultations and a 63 per cent growth in telephone consultations, contributing to stressful and highly pressurised working days for GPs, despite other members of the team providing triage and managing minor illness.
  • The overall number of consultations (face-to-face and telephone) has increased over the past five years at a rate three times that of the rate of increase in the number of GPs.
  • The biggest increase in consultations were among the over-85 age group (up 28 per cent), who are more likely to have more than one chronic condition.
  • The complexity of the cases being seen by GPs has increased, with many requiring more than a 10 minute appointment.
  • The drive to move care out of the acute sector and back into the community hasn’t been adequately funded, putting additional pressure on existing resources in the community and therefore on GPs.
The report also underlines the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession, finding that fewer GPs are choosing full-time clinical work. New research for the report found that five years after qualifying:
  • only 1 in 10 new GP trainees plan to be working full time seeing patients in general practice.
  • GPs are retiring earlier and in greater numbers: between 2009 and 2014, 46 per cent of GPs leaving the profession were under 50; between 2005 and 2014 the proportion of GPs aged between 55 and 64 leaving doubled.
The report argues that the Department of Health and NHS England have consistently failed to collect national-level data that could have anticipated the crisis that has now emerged. It says that general practice is at risk of falling apart unless significant additional investment is accompanied by new ways of working that build on current good practice.

As well as improvements to data collection and intelligence the report’s recommendations include:
  • Placing general practice at the heart of new sustainability and transformation plans to ensure that the voice of general practice is heard and acted on.
  • Developing new and innovative models of general practice (for example, multispecialty community providers) with a balance struck between the benefits of working at scale through federations and networks and making sure services are responsive to local people.
  • Designing a workforce strategy through Health Education England that supports sustainable careers for GPs and their fellow team members, promoting sustainable and fulfilling options for development and recognising changing career preferences.
Beccy Baird, Fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said:

‘While we have data almost in real time to tell us what’s going on in A&E, the only national-level data we have on activity in general practice is, at best, a year out of date. It wouldn’t be acceptable to try to run a hospital on out-of-date information and it shouldn’t be for general practice either.’

She added:

‘Investment alone won’t help the crisis in general practice. To avoid the service falling apart, practical support to do things differently is crucial and must be underpinned by an ongoing understanding of what is driving demand and activity. Only then will working in general practice be an attractive proposition and ensure the service remains at the heart of the NHS.’

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

SMEs in British Costal Resorts Get a Boost

Image reproduced under license from Ronald Saunders, Flickr
Projects dotted across the country, from Durham to Dorset, have been awarded up to £50,000 each to help restore local landmarks to their former glory, supporting local businesses, in and out of season.

Communities Minister Mr Francois said he hopes that the work will encourage a wave of enthusiasm for trips to our much-loved seaside areas – and help boost the £4 billion that tourism generates for coastal communities every year. Mr Francois said “Across our Great British Coast we’ve got heritage hooks to be proud of, but some of these places need some tender, loving, care.

That’s why over the past year we’ve invested £3.7 million to get them back into ship-shape and now 15 more brilliant British attractions will be buoyed up by work to restore them to their former glory.

This country has sight-seeing gems that are a match for anywhere in the world and I’d urge people to take a trip down to the seaside to discover them.”

Projects Receiving Funding

  • The Churches Conservation Trust in Kent, to provide access to the tower of St Peter’s Church Sandwich offering a birds-eye view over one of the most complete medieval townscapes in England.
  • Illfracombe Museum in Devon, to protect and preserve its unique collection of Victorian curiosities right on the seafront.
  • Maryport Coastal Community Team in Cumbria, to brighten up the local lighthouse, getting it back into working order and putting the spotlight on Maryport as a tourist destination.
  • Ryde town council on the Isle of Wight, to revitalise the western gardens, creating an arts and performance area, around Ryde pier.
  • South Shields council, to develop options to help link tourist trails on the South Shields peninsula from historic sites like the Arbeia Roman Fort to the forthcoming North East Centre for the Written Word - The Word.
  • Lancaster city council to give a new lease of life to a disused lido in Morecambe and turn into a welcome venue for festivals, arts and leisure.
Analysis has shown that that money already invested from this fund is doing its job, with every £1 invested creating a boost of upto £8 – great news for coastal SMEs and the communities they support.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Booktrope to Close at the End of May

Booktrope, set up in 2015, promising to transform the book publishing world with a new ‘team publishing’ model, has announced it will be closing on the 31st May due to a lack of revenue.

Their business model brought together freelance editors, designers and marketers to collaborate through their online tools to help authors develop their manuscripts, and sell books. Freelance contributors were not paid a set fee for their contribution, but were awarded a share of the royalties for each book they worked on. Booktrope brought together the various specialist in a virtual world and handled legal issues in return for 30% of net profits.

Booktrope distributed books both digitally and through a print-on-demand model and worked with a wide range of bricks-and-mortar stores as well as Amazon and subscription e-book services like Scribd. All published books will be removed from sale as of 31st May and rights will return to authors on the 1st June.

The company started in 2015 with over $1 millon in seed money and directly employed 11 people. All employees and contributors have been contacted with details of how final royalties will be paid.

“Much has been accomplished by Booktrope and our community over the past six years,” read the email from CEO and co-founder Ken Shear; co-founder and CTO Andy Roberts; and COO Jennifer Gilbert. “But even with a collection of excellent books and with very strong contributions by creative teams who’ve provided editing, design and marketing services, Booktrope books have not generated sufficient revenues to make the business viable.”

“Booktrope has helped hundreds of authors get over 4 million copies of their books into the hands of readers. We are proud our creative teams have produced almost 1000 books using our platform. Thank you to all readers, authors, investors, partners, and creative team members who were a part of this journey with us.”

Reaction on social media to Booktrope’s closure has been mixed, with many authors thanking Booktrope for helping them get published. But understandably, there has also been a degree of anger and frustration. Ally Bishop wrote on Medium: “Neither of us have said a word publicly against Booktrope largely because we felt foolish for getting involved with them in the first place. But now, watching the flames rise from what was, at best, a foolish venture, and at worst, designed to fail, some truths should be noted, if for no other reason than to warn fellow authors and creative types.”

“Booktrope never placed a priority on qualifications when hiring. The people at the top had little-to-no book publishing or editing experience, yet those same people were their acquisitions team…They didn’t ask, didn’t check backgrounds, didn’t require their book marketing managers to have any previous marketing experience.”

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

CQC Board Approves 2016/17 Business Plan

The Care Quality Commission has published its business plan for 2016/17. The business plan sets out the first phase of the CQC’s five-year strategy for health and adult social care regulation in England.

4 main priorities have been identified for the year:
  1. To complete the first comprehensive inspection programme of all acute NHS trusts, adult social care service providers, GP practices and out-of-hours services, trusts and independent hospitals. Ensuring that registration processes support service providers to deliver high-quality care while encouraging innovation. Developing a baseline of understanding of quality across health and social care that is unique not just in England, but in any country.
  2. Ensuring that their approach remains relevant to a changing environment. Making better use of intelligence, developing a shared view of quality with providers, and developing a framework with NHS Improvement on how well NHS acute hospitals use their resources.
  3. Developing the CQC’s own skills to embed cultural values and to respond to the changing needs of the organisation and wider system.
  4. Demonstrating the difference the CQC makes. Evaluating, measuring and reporting on their own performance, quality, management assurance, impact and value for money, using this evidence to learn and improve.
David Dehan, Chief Executive said “The pressures on the health and social care system will not decrease – it’s how we respond to these pressures that is crucial. Working together, we can ensure that people who use services get the high-quality care they deserve.”

The CQC will be publishing its’ full five-year strategy in June 2016, which will include further details of future inspection activities, work being undertaken to evaluate and set quality standards and share resources with service providers.