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Calls For innovation and investment for medical treatment

The Patients Association with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) conference host, Fiona Bruce.

Mike Thompson the new Chief Executive of ABPI spoke about the need to encourage investment in pharmaceuticals and urged that we stop looking at the NHS as a cost and instead see the value the NHS could bring to the country. Thompson called for the NHS to be seen as an economic powerhouse delivering better patient outcomes in a virtuous cycle. He spoke alarmingly about the uptake of new medicines in the UK being so poor, that some companies were reconsidering doing research in this country.

George Freeman the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences spoke about the Department's commitment to informatics and data as being absolutely fundamental to the future of this country. He said the life sciences sector goes to the heart of the NHS’s 22bn financial challenge. Freeman articulated the need for the NHS to position itself as a strategic partner with industry. He ended the speech by saying that he was leading a team to look at "per patient costing" which means the cost of treatment over a patient’s life. The theme throughout the conference was the need for innovation and a change to a one size fits all approach to medicines and treatment which is not meeting the needs of patients.

Sir Hugh Taylor, Chairman Of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust is chairing the Accelerated Access Review of Innovative Medicines and Medical Technologies. This aims to speed up access to innovative drugs, devices, diagnostics, and digital products for NHS patients. Sir Hugh said that he believed the patient voice was getting louder but it was still not loud enough and that currently there is a powerful patient pull on access to medicines. Patients are rightfully becoming more demanding and expecting more. Sir Hugh spoke about the NHS’s struggle with innovation before arguing that price wasn’t the issue the central issue is the process of making change happen. He spoke of the need to help the NHS to change rather than just shouting at it, he also said that the NHS has been continually restructured in recent years and that one of the things he has eschewed in the report is that there would be no recommendations to change the structure. The delayed Accelerated Access Report is now expected after the EU referendum.
£2.4bn funding boost for GP services in England

An extra £2.4bn a year will be invested into GP services by 2020 according to a new General Practice Forward View which is a blueprint for the future of GP services drawn up by Simon Stevens head of NHS England, other NHS bodies and GP organisations. The investment aims to improve access for patients to their GP it is hoped this money will alleviate the crisis in primary care where patients are waiting too long for appoints and having difficulty accessing primary care services. The Patients Association has welcomed investment in primary care and the acknowledgment of the problems primary care is facing. Simon Steven’s said "GPs are by far the largest branch of British medicine and as a recent British Medical Journal headline put it - if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails.” This is evidenced by the knock on effects of poor access to GP services which piles pressure on A & E units.

The Primary Care sector is under immense pressure with an estimated 370 million consultations a year which is up by 70 million in five years. This is a worrying trend considering a third of GPs say they are planning to retire in the next five years. GPs carry out 370 million appointments a year which is 90% of all NHS consultations but
currently have had only 8% of the funding this new investment will see that rise to 10%.  The investment will help pay for the 5,000 extra GPs and 5,000 more non-medical staff, including nurses, pharmacists and therapists, which were promised by the Conservatives in their election manifesto. However, there is a concern that some of these new staff will not be regulated in the same way doctors are for example physician assistants are an unregulated group.

The funding will also include extra support and help for GPs suffering from stress, relaxation of rules which will make it easier to renovate buildings and build new ones, streamlined inspections for the best-performing practices, meaning surgeries rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission will only be inspected every five years,
rather than three under the current system. A public campaign to encourage junior doctors to become GPs and the recruitment of 500 doctors from abroad to boost numbers. Patients will also be encouraged to use “self-care” to manage their conditions, including using online resources with the aim of reducing the need to see a GP, especially for those with minor illnesses and long-term conditions.

The document has also made clear that no individual GP or any GP surgery will have to offer patients seven-day access to care. NHS England has left the exact opening hours for GPs to agree and operate locally. This is at odds with the Prime Minsters pledge that every patient would be able to see a GP between 8am and 8pm every day by 2020. There has been
continued argument against this by GP bodies who have said this pledge is unachievable due to the poor state of primary care.
‘Soft Targets’ more important than patient safety?

The Royal College of Surgeons voiced concern that patients who are overweight or smoke are being refused routine operations.  With the NHS having to make cuts of £20billion by 2020, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are enforcing restrictions on surgery, such as hip and knee operations, for patients until they stop smoking or lose weight.

Patients should have the right to receive medical treatment, and the effect of restricting surgery for those who already live with challenging conditions is harmful.

The Patients Association hears about issues of access to surgical procedures on our National helpline and it is disappointing to see the latest figures in a recent report produced by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). It is shocking that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are more concerned about tackling financial pressures than treating patients requiring medical attention.

The Patients Association hopes that this problem is resolved as soon as possible, for the sake of the patients and families affected by this unprofessional practice.

Responding to this issue, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said:

“Withholding surgery for these patients is unjustified. We suspect that cash-strapped CCGs are using the fact that people are smokers or overweight as a way of avoiding the cost of undertaking surgery. This seems like an underhand way of CCG’s improving their financial forecasts at the price of the patients”

As the voice of patients, the Patients Association is firmly against any decision that could jeopardise patient safety; this includes the denial of treatment due to financial pressures. Such bad practice cannot continue within the NHS, for the patient’s sake.

According to the report, the creation of such clinical barriers for patients is something not recognised by any guidance from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Royal College of Surgeons, or Surgical Specialty Associations (SSA)

British Orthopaedic Association president Tim Wilton how there was no justification for refusing to fund hip or knee replacements:

"Good outcomes can be achieved for patients regardless of whether they smoke or are obese, even at BMIs of over 50, and these surgeries are highly cost effective, typically delivering sustained pain relief for a cost that equates to just £7.50 a week,".
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The Patients Association’s motto is ‘Listening to Patients, Speaking up for Change’. This motto is the basis on which we build all our campaigns. Via our Helpline, we capture stories about Healthcare from over thousands of patients, family members and carers every year. We use this knowledge to campaign for real improvements to health and social care services across the UK.
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