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Patients Association Weekly News
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Welcome to The Patients Association Weekly News
THE PATIENTS ASSOCIATION WELCOMES CESSATION OF JUNIOR DOCTOR STRIKES
The Patients Association welcome the news from The British Medical Association (BMA) who this week announced an end to the planned series of Junior Doctor strikes. 

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said: "We are delighted that the BMA have listened to the fears of patients and the public and called off the planned industrial action. It will be a huge relief to thousands of patients who have been worrying about when their surgery or hospital appointment would be re-arranged, in light of the strikes announced last month. 

Katherine Murphy added: "The Patients Association understand the enormity of the decision taken today by the BMA. The evidence, experience and feeling of Doctors about what constitutes safe-staffing levels was overwhelming, so to take a step back and re-evaluate their decision to strike should not be trivialised. I have no doubt, that having reviewed the responses from NHS Trusts and having listened to their patients, that the BMA made this decision in the very best interests of patients: proving that they continue to place patients at the heart of this debate."

Katherine Murphy concluded: "I hope that the Department of Health show willingness to meet with the BMA and do what they can to address Doctors' working conditions and respond to their concerns around patient safety. I trust that both parties will arrive at a solution whereby patients are given the very best and safest level of care that can possibly be provided."
'PHSO failings are shocking, but not surprising'

The Patients Association support many families in trying to get answers from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). Unfortunately, over the years our team have unearthed many shortcomings of the PHSO and so the latest news, as revealed by the Health Service Journal has come as no surprise to Chief Executive of The Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, who said: “It is shocking that such outrageous matters have been able to take place within the PHSO."
 

The Health Service Journal, earlier this week revealed massive failings in the recruitment process, resulting in a senior member of the leadership team being appointed under dubious circumstances, an official investigation found.

Katherine Murphy added: “Whilst shocking, we are not surprised at the latest news. The Patients Association highlighted failures of the PHSO to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) back in 2014 and again in 2015, but the concerns were ignored. Moreover, many hundreds of people have contacted our Helpline with concerns about the lack of detailed and independent work undertaken at the PHSO. The lack of rigour in the recruitment processes of PHSO staff simply mirrors the experience of people complaining about the health service who highlight an equally shoddy service with lack of attention to detail."
 

"It is beyond belief that an organisation that is so well funded, held in such high esteem and accountable to Her Majesty, should not adhere to the Nolan principles."

 

"As an ombudsman investigating wrong-doing, the PHSO has to work to the highest ethical principles and be judged by these higher standards. If the leadership of the PHSO are sloppy about the details, or worse, look the other way, then that sets dangerously low standards for the rest of the organisation to adhere to. And, when we are talking about an organisation that is the last resort for patients and family members who are seeking the truth often in horrendous circumstances, it is fundamental that they are whiter than white."

 

"Ultimately, patients who come to us for support with cases the PHSO are investigating want to know that the staff carrying out those investigations are people of conviction, that the individuals are trustworthy, compassionate and honourable. Fundamentally, this revelation points to very different characteristics defining the people at the top of the health and social ombudsman - which is alarming to say the least."

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Improving Access to Mental Health Service
One in four adults are diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. However, it is estimated that only a quarter of people needing mental health services will have access to them.

The latest report from the Commons Select Committee of Public Accounts on improving access to mental health services reveals the difficulties in trying to improve services and achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health. Parity of esteem refers to the principle that mental health must be given equal priority to physical health. The committee holds the government and its civil servants to account for the delivery of public services, and scrutinises the value for money of public spending. The Department of Health and NHS England have made a commitment to improve mental health services, which is welcomed by the Patients Association. However, in light of the pressures on the NHS budget, the Commons Committee are sceptical about whether this is affordable or achievable without compromising other services.

The report emphasises the difficulty many patients have in accessing mental health services. Patients can face a complex process of diagnosis, referral, and treatment where they encounter many different clinical staff in different settings. Patients can also face long waiting times for treatment, and there is a lot of variability across the UK in these waiting times. The National Audit Office found that in 2014-15 the proportion of patients able to access psychological therapy within six weeks of referral varied from 7% in one clinical commissioning group, to 99% in another.

In 2014-15 the NHS spent around £11.7 billion on mental health services, which is approximately 12% of total funding. NHS England and the Department of Health have recently put in place standards regarding the time patients should wait for mental health treatment, and the care that they should be able to access. Whilst this is a good step towards achieving parity of esteem, the committee expresses concern as to how this will be funded. Health Education England estimated that implementing these standards would require the number of mental health nurses to rise by 7% by 2020.

Work by parts of the government besides health, such as housing, prisons, employment, and schools, can all have an impact on people’s mental health. The Department of Health and NHS England have gone some way in establishing a dialogue with other departments to provide better integrated services. However, systems for working across government are generally weak. In their report the committee drew attention to the lack of coordination between the NHS and the Department for Work and Pensions in helping people with mental health problems get back into work. Since around half of people with life time mental health problems experience symptoms by the age of 14, schools also play an important part by identifying mental health problems among young people. Yet, counselling services are not available in all schools. Therefore, the report brings to light a need for more integrated care.

The report makes clear that, whilst there is a lot to be done to improve access to mental health services, under a tight budget it is becoming increasingly difficult to make such improvements.
Fundraisers in Focus
New opportunities to work for The Patients Association
The Patients Association is a leading campaigning charity that champions patient and public issues across the health and social care sector. We work with NHS England, the Department of Health, NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, regulators, patients, carers and the public and many other stakeholders, as well as the media, to ensure patients' voices are heard at the top of the political agenda.

We are recruiting for a number of new roles within our organisation and are seeking enthusiastic and passionate people to join our small, but growing team - including two fundraisers. 

We are looking for driven, self-motivated individuals who have big ambitions for the organisation and who share our values for an effective and compassionate health and social care system. 

This is really exciting time to work for The Patients Association, so if you, or someone you know, would like to give this opportunity a go, then get in touch. 
Giving Fundraiser
Fundraiser (Trusts and Grants)
South East Coast Ambulance Service should never have been allowed to continue functioning in this way
There will be patients across the length and breadth of the South East who will not be at all surprised that the South East Coast Ambulance Service has been placed in special measures. Our helpline have had so many patients and family members call our helpline with complaints and concerns about the Ambulance service, that this rating felt inevitable.

The Patients Association believe that being put into special measures is, of course, not the outcome hardworking staff no doubt wanted, but ultimately, we have to put patients first. Fundamental to safe staffing levels and delivering a positive patient experience is ensuring that staff have the resources and ability to deliver first-class patient care. So it is no wonder that patients were receiving such poor quality care when the CQC identified low staffing issues, inadequate safeguarding processes a lack of accountability as key to having a detrimental impact on staff morale, performance, understanding of safeguarding and trust in the management to deal with matters openly and effectively. South East Coast Ambulance Service have let down a lot of patients – but I hope this acts as the necessary wake-up-call to get services to the high standards they should be.

The most alarming aspect of this whole debacle is that the CQC, knowing of the serious inadequacies in the leadership and the huge staff shortages, walked away on their previous inspection without, evidently, putting the support in place to ensure that these failings would be addressed. The result has been that even more patients have been put at risk and staff morale depressed further.
 
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust may have been through a period of significant upheaval following changes in its senior leadership, but it is the role of those leaders to steer the ship through rocky waters. Evidently, this was not happening, and they have failed patients and staff alike as a result.
 
If you have been affected by this issue and want to share your story or seek advice and guidance, then contact our team today.
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About Us

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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