This week in the Patients Association Weekly News:
  • Switching to biosimilars
  • Get involved and have your say
  • Declare Your Care campaign from CQC
  • Shifting the mindset: A closer look at customer complaints
  • Health secretary hints at scrapping A&E targets
  • News from the helpline team
Switching to biosimilars

What is the difference between biologic and biosimilar medicine?

Biologic medicines have been used in hospitals for many years in the treatment of several conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diabetes. Biosimilars are newer versions of the original biologics.  They are very similar in terms of quality, safety and clinical effectiveness.

Now that patents on several biologic medicines have expired, other pharmaceutical companies are able to make biosimilars, which are now available on the NHS. Some patients are being asked to switch to biosimilar medication, something that will save the NHS millions of pounds, but not everyone understands why they’re being asked to switch or what it means to them.
We wanted to help clarify the process, so we have produced a clear and simple package of communication materials to help patients work together with their nurses, doctors or specialists to better understand the switch, and empower them to play an active role in their care and treatment.
Commenting on the Switching to biosimilars project*, our CEO Rachel Power said:  

“Changing medication can be a difficult time for patients potentially causing them concern, and we wanted to help.  

“For the past year we have been working with patients, clinicians and pharmacists to produce communications that will help patients understand why they may be asked to switch from biologic to biosimilar medication, how the changes should happen, and then encourage them to ask the right questions until they are completely comfortable with their new treatment.  
“The collaborative approach to the project has been key to producing resources that will massively benefit patients, as well as helping NHS staff and pharmacists.” 
Please take a look at our video and information leaflet, which are available on our website, and share the link with any of your family and friends who may be in the position of switching their medication - they could find it invaluable. 

*The Switching to biosimilars project was funded by Amgen, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. 

Switching to biosimilars resources
 Get involved and have your say

We still have three surveys on the go, so please do take some time to fill them out if you haven’t already, and if they’re relevant to you.  Also, why not share them with your friends and family? Getting patients’ views on board is absolutely central to our work – we know that things go wrong when decisions are made without consulting patients, or by assuming that what patients want and need is obvious. That’s why we’re committed to getting your views on board at every stage, and not taking anything for granted about what patients want. The more people respond to these surveys, the stronger and more persuasive our work will be. Thank you.   

 Patient Experience - closing on Monday!

It’s nearly time to close this important survey, which will inform our work for the rest of this year. As we escalate our focus on improving patients’ experiences of health and social care, we need to hear from you so we can decide on our priority actions.
Based on your feedback, we’ll be launching recommendations and initiatives in the coming months. If you have ever been a patient in any capacity whatsoever, as most of us have, please complete our survey as soon as possible – it's closing at midnight on Monday so there are only a few days left to go!  

Take the survey
Food in hospitals

Have you been in hospital recently? Did you like the food? Was it served nicely? Did you get a choice? 

The NHS Hospital Review Panel has asked us to find out what patients really think about food in hospitals so they can make any necessary catering improvements.  Please help us by completing this short survey and sharing your personal experiences.  

Take the survey
From hospital into care

Have you had to help discharge a member of your family or close friend from hospital into care? We're asking as many people as possible to share their experiences so that we can assess the impact finding care has on everyone involved.  

Take the survey

Declare Your Care campaign

We’re delighted to support the latest campaign from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which focuses on encouraging people with a learning disability, their parents and carers to provide information about the care they receive. 

Research revealed that people with a learning disability are more likely to regret not complaining about poor care than those without, that they are most likely to want to raise a complaint because of a lack of information about a health condition or because of their treatment options being poorly explained, and that they are twice as likely to have concerns about maternity services and mental health services than people without. 

This is an important campaign. If you would like to learn more about it, please visit the CQC website here and support #DeclareYourCare. 

Shifting the mindset - a closer look at customer complaints

An effective complaints process is key to high quality health and social care, helping services learn how to improve things when they go wrong. Healthwatch England’s new in-depth report shows how hospitals need to do more to improve their complaints processes and gain the full benefit of the patient insight that they offer.  

In his foreword the Chair of Healthwatch England, and our President, Sir Robert Francis, reflects on how things have improved since he published his final report on the Mid Staffs scandal, and how much remains to be done.  

Download the report

Health secretary hints at scrapping A&E targets

Health secretary Matt Hancock has hinted that the Government could scrap the four-hour waiting time targets for A&E. Currently, hospitals must aim to ensure that 95 per cent of patients are seen within this time limit, but last November most A&E departments in England missed the target. 

During a BBC radio interview, Mr Hancock said, “we will be judged by the right targets. Targets must be clinically appropriate.”

His words sparked a heated response, particularly from medics, and was widely reported across the media. Our CEO Rachel Power was approached by The Guardian for her view and she responded as follows: 

“Patients are less and less able to rely on getting safe, dignified and timely care in A&E, so any change to targets must improve performance, not disguise further collapses. 

“Any decision to ditch the four-hour target at this stage would be premature and unjustified. We would be greatly concerned about what it would mean for patients, and whether it might be happening simply to disguise a collapse in NHS performance due to unnecessary long-term underfunding, avoidable workforce shortages and predictable growth in patient need. 

“The NHS is currently piloting possible alternative approaches to the four-hour target, and we are part of the advisory group for this work. The results of the pilots are not yet in, and the case for change has therefore not yet been proved. Any decision must be taken only if it can be backed up with firm evidence of benefit to patients.” 

Read the full article

News from our helpline

During the week we received a call from Andrew* asking our advice about his regular prescription, which had just been cut back by his GP. Until recently he had been prescribed four pairs of medical socks to help alleviate the pain of his leg ulcers but then, during an appointment with his GP, for no apparent reason he was told he would now only be prescribed one pair. 
Andrew was quite surprised and very annoyed.  Clearly, in terms of laundry and basic hygiene, having just one pair of socks is not practical.  He did find out how much they cost over the counter but, at £80 per pair, they were way out of his price range.  
Firstly, we suggested to Andrew that he asked the GP why his prescription had been reduced and that, if he was told it was for budget reasons, he should contact his Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to see if they were able to help him.  
We also alerted Andrew to Turn2us, an organisation that provides information and support about welfare benefits and charitable grants, as it is may be possible for him to apply to them for a grant for additional pairs of socks.  
Finally, we advised Andrew that there might be a condition specific charity specialising in his condition that may be able to help him.  We told him how to search for these charities on the internet. 
*Name changed to protect privacy 

If you would like more information on Turn2us and the work they do, you can visit their website here


Contact our helpline
What our team is reading this week
Care home leadership criticised by CQC
If we don’t start looking after our doctors there will be no one to care for our patients
A day in the life of A&E staff
Older people have ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to mental health
NHS tells betting firms to shop vicious gambling cycle

About Us

Our vision is that health and social care will be delivered in a way that meets every person’s health and social care needs.

Our mission is to give effect to the patient voice, to improve patient experience and support people to engage fully in their own care. Find out more about our values on our website

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