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Budget 2011 – PRimage Comment: Not bad, given the circumstances!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Spent time this afternoon trying to assess the Budget announcements …. And overall, our view at PRimage is: ‘not too bad, considering the circumstances’. The eye-catching Budget headlines are, of course, on fuel and corporation tax. Nice to finally see a little bit of light relief for the motorists of this country!

As the owner of a small business, Judy Viitanen was especially interested in the announcements relating to business – noted George Osborne signalling his desire to merge National Insurance and income tax. Osborne is ideologically a fiscal conservative, and this move paves the way for a low-tax future, by convincing Brits they pay too much tax!

Osborne also announced the Government’s Plan for Growthhttp://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ukecon_growth_index.htm?dm_i=3QN,E7KN,K8LG6,14ROS,1 – a package of measures aimed at supporting private sector investment, enterprise and innovation. This includes measures to increase the competitiveness of the UK tax system; reduce the burden of regulation; and increase incentives for business investment.

Key measures in the Budget for businesses include:

  • A reduction in the main rate of corporation tax by a further one per cent. From April 2011, the rate will be reduced to 26 per cent with further yearly reductions of one per cent until 2014 when it will reach 23 per cent;
  • New Controlled Foreign Company rules to allow groups based in the UK to compete more effectively with those based overseas;
  • The abolition of 43 tax reliefs whose rationale is no longer valid – following recommendations from the Office of Tax Simplification;
  • Dropping existing proposals for specific regulations which would have cost business over £350m a year;
  • £100m for local authorities to repair potholes caused by the cold winter weather;
  • Increase the rate of R&D tax credits for small and medium-sized enterprises from 175 per cent to 225 per cent by April 2012;
  • 21 new Enterprise Zones, to focus growth in specific parts of the UK;
  • Fuel duty will be cut by one penny per litre from 6pm on March 23. The April 2011 inflation-only increase in fuel duty will be deferred to 1 January 2012; the April 2012 increase will be implemented on 1 August 2012;
  • A further increase to the income tax personal allowance for under 65s of £630 to £8,105 in April 2012;
  • Additional work experience placements and additional apprenticeships for young people;
     
  • Help for homeowners facing difficulties by extending the temporary changes to the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme for an additional year and providing £250m to support first time buyers to purchase a new-build property.

Prescription charges in England increased – PRimage comment

Friday, March 4th, 2011

PRimage is not happy that as from April 1st the Government is to increase prescription charges for patients in England by 20 pence to £7.40 per item! This is in contrast to the decision this week by the Scottish Parliament to abolish charges for patients north of the border …

As a specialist healthcare lobbyist, with in-depth knowledge on the issues surrounding the system of prescription charges, Judy Viitanen has long believed that the current system in England is totally unfair and needs reviewing. PRimage have consistently lobbied and supported the well-argued case for a total abolition of prescription charges: it is an important issue that has growing public support. In our opinion, free prescriptions are a long term investment in improving health. Free prescriptions should be seen as a long term investment in improving health – and would be beneficial for those with poorer health and in particular those with long term conditions.

Health Bill passes first stage in Parliament – PRimage comment

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

As a specialist healthcare communications consultant, PRimage MD Judy Viitanen, has been following the progress and debate on the Government’s comprehensive reforms of the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill is a complex and far reaching piece of legislation, reflecting the wide ranging nature of the Government’s programme of reform for the NHS in England.


PRimage is largely supportive of the potentially positive elements of the reforms – we believe giving clinicians greater responsibility for commissioning and shaping local health services, increasing public and patient involvement, and putting a greater focus on improving public health are to be applauded. And it must not be forgotten that the NHS needs to find efficiency savings of £20 billion by 2014-15!  In our view it is important that the Government ensures that the new GP consortia are not forced to promote competition between providers – and instead are able to work collaboratively across primary and secondary care boundaries in order to improve services for patients.

As a former District Councillor, Judy Viitanen welcomes the Government’s aim of increasing local democracy in health and that it recognises the importance of health services and local authorities working more closely together for the benefit of patients and the public. That can only be a win:win scenario.

In recent weeks there has been mounting criticism of the reforms from health professionals. For example, the BMA has warned that patients will become ‘internal medical tourists’, with the wealthy shopping round for consortia that offer expensive or rare treatments.

Despite a raft of warnings and concerns, the government’s controversial Health Bill has passed the first stage of its journey through Parliament – with MPs voting 321 to 235 in favour at its second reading. PRimage was interested to see that no coalition MPs voted against the Bill.

The influential cross-party Health Select Committee has already voiced concern and warnings, saying that the ‘surprise’ decision to abolish PCTs had already led to poor decision-making and additional costs in the NHS. But yesterday the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed their concerns.  And last month David Cameron revealed that GP frustration with the NHS, the profession’s desire to do more and be more involved is the core motivation behind the Health Bill.

If that is the case, PRimage MD, Judy Viitanen, wonders why Doctor’s union, the BMA is stepping up its opposition to the reforms, and has voted for a special representatives’ crisis meeting to discuss the Health Bill.

The Power of PR – Starts with an effective press release, says PRimage

Monday, January 31st, 2011

“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR” – Bill Gates


Want to get noticed and promote your business or product? A well-written press release that is timely, interesting and news-worthy is vital!  It is one of the most cost-effective ways of getting your message out when you have something to announce regarding your business. But to be effective, a press release must focus on the most newsworthy, interesting and unique element to emphasise the news angle. Equally important is to ensure that your news release gets to the right people, at the right media outlets.

Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team develop newsworthy, well-written press releases that have the appropriate messaging, personality and tone to reflect your business. If there is a news angle, you can bet that we’ll find it, and we can present it to the media with an appealing journalistic style. Our press release writing services are timely, efficient and comprehensive. Contact us today for a free consultation and estimate.

NHS Bill: Sound bites round-up

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

PRimage has been busy assessing reactions from various healthcare bodies to the NHS Bill, announced this afternoon … Lansley has had to contend with a huge amount of criticism of his NHS reforms, much of it dramatically expressed, by many of they key organisations representing doctors and other NHS organisations. Public supporters have been hard to find amongst the host of warnings and reservations! Judy Viitanen especially enjoyed the Titanic analogy used by Unison, who said that the Health Bill is a ‘disaster’ of Titanic proportions’ and which threatens to sink our NHS”

Here’s a listing of top line sound bites …
RCGP
‘makes sense’ for health professionals to be involved in the planning of services, but the proposals risk ‘destabilising the NHS and causing long-term harm to patient outcomes’

‘we must guard against fragmentation and unnecessary duplication within a health service that is run by a wide array of competing public, private and voluntary sector providers, that delivers less choice and fewer services, reduces integration between primary and secondary care and increases bureaucratic costs’.

Patient choices as outlined in the Bill ‘run a risk of destabilising the NHS and causing long-term harm to patient outcomes’. The RCGP has also yet to receive sufficient evidence to be reassured the plans would prevent this from happening.

BMA
The BMA said ploughing ahead with the reforms at the speed proposed was a ‘massive gamble’.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: ‘The BMA supports greater involvement of clinicians in planning and shaping NHS services, but the benefits that clinician-led commissioning can bring are threatened by other parts of the Bill.’

‘Forcing commissioners of care to tender contracts to any willing provider, including NHS providers, voluntary sector organisations and commercial companies, could destabilise local health economies and fragment care for patients.

‘Adding price competition into the mix could also allow large commercial companies to enter the NHS market and chase the most profitable contracts, using their size to undercut on price, which could ultimately damage local services.’

Royal College of Physicians
Supports the shift towards putting clinicians and patients in the driving seat but is concerned the Bill doesn’t require specialists to be at the heart of commissioning.
‘The scale and pace of change – and the challenge of unprecedented efficiency savings – should not be underestimated. Neither should the risks if we get this wrong.’

Unison
The public sector union, called the Health Bill a ‘disaster’ of Titanic proportions’. Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said: ‘This Titanic health bill threatens to sink our NHS. The only survivors will be the private health companies that are circling like sharks, waiting to move in and make a killing.

‘Lansley has turned his back on the warnings from across the medical establishment that these changes are unnecessary, undemocratic and unlikely to deliver improvements in patient care. We need a U-turn from the Government.’

Unite
Bill is ‘a charter for private profit at the expense of patients care’.
‘It is clear that one of the biggest influences on Tory ideology regarding health policy has been the massive and insidious lobbying by the  private healthcare companies, which have opened their cheque books for David Cameron big-time.’
‘The GP consortia, the supposed vanguard of this so-called reform programme, will be juggling financial decisions with the help of the private healthcare companies they will buy-in, versus the needs of their patients – this is a stark conflict of interest. Patients should always come first.’

The Nuffield Trust
Reforms are ‘broadly in the right direction’ but they will have to be judged on the extent to which they deliver – with minimum disruption – sustained improvements to patient care during a period of major financial challenge for the NHS.

‘The NHS is at a fork in the road. It embarks on this period of reform with much strength but the pressures it faces over the next four years will continue to rise. ‘Given the reforms over the past 20 years the Government’s decision to devolve more responsibility to the front line is logical. However, this approach carries significant risks in today’s financial climate and needs to be managed very carefully.’

General Healthcare Group
The UK’s largest private hospital group, welcomed the proposed reforms and said it was ‘only right’ the NHS, private and third sector providers worked together in austere times.
‘In our view, the challenge for instituting these reforms will be about maintaining the pace of change and how instability during the period of transition is minimised.’

The King’s Fund
The Bill signals the biggest shake-up of the NHS since its inception
‘But, while the government’s reforms have the potential to improve the NHS, they will be implemented against the backdrop of the biggest financial challenge in its history. ‘Finding the £20bn in efficiency savings needed to maintain services must be the overriding priority, so the very real risk that the speed and scale of the reforms could destabilise the NHS and undermine care must be actively managed.’

NHS Confederation
Urged MPs to ‘forensically analyse’ the Health Bill.

‘We support the objectives behind this legislation but there are huge risks and major uncertainties associated with it. ‘The system is already geared up for change and we can not afford for these reforms to fail – the public will not forgive us. The focus in parliament has to be on making this work on behalf of patients.’

CBI
‘We support the Government’s plans to modernise the NHS, because this will lead to better services for patients, and ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. ‘Allowing the best provider to deliver healthcare services, whether they are a private company or a charity, will spur innovation and choice. But bidders must be able to compete for contracts on a level playing field.’

Can GP-consortia learn from US experience?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The UK influential and independent health think-tank, The Nuffield Trust, certainly thinks so – and PRimage finds their new report on the US experience and insights from American medical organisations makes for fascinating reading: http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/publications/

The report sets out the lessons that the nascent GP consortia in England will need to learn from the experience of groups of doctors in some parts of America, which have been commissioning healthcare for patients, with a budget to match, for up to 20 years. It suggests that these new groupings of family doctors will need excellent leadership, management and IT support if they are to work well, and that there are ‘clear risks of introducing GP commissioning in England when the Government has placed such a strong emphasis on reducing management costs.’

NHS Bill – A Healthy Prescription?: PRimage comment

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

As PRimage see it there are pros and cons for this radical overhaul of the NHS. It’s a huge risk – and yes, of course it will bring massive organisational upheaval – but we should remember that the Govt needs to find 4% NHS efficiency savings a year for 4 years to keep up with rising demand!

The new policies will mean ministers essentially giving up day to day management of the service – opting instead to set annual priorities and measures of improved health outcomes for a national commissioning board. This board will performance-manage consortia of GPs to whom it will have to hand well over half the English NMS’s £100bn budget, with which to commission care locally. The worry is that this commissioning board will simply be a substitute DoH – but without a public health remit.

PRimage MD, Judy Viitanen, is a former District Councillor – and strong supporter of localism – so she’sencouraged by the policy to transfer much of public health to local authorities, who in turn will get strengthened scrutiny powers over GPs’ plans. And as a healthcare communicator and lobbyist, she is hoping that increased NHS investment in clinical care, and a focus on proactively improving health outcomes will help the treatment of cancer and other serious conditions – and ultimately bring swifter and better care closer to patients.

“I have a dream’ ….

Monday, January 17th, 2011

In honour of the US holiday todaycommemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday … his words still hold a stunning power and grace more than 40 years after his death in Memphis on April 4, 1968 ….

ON THE DREAM OF FREEDOM (1963):

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed . . . that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

“12 months to save the NHS” – PRimage comment

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Public services reforms is the headline media story today – as David Cameron defends NHS reform plans, saying: ‘doing nothing will end in tears’ – http://bit.ly/e6T5VU
The key is for Education Secretary Michael Gove and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to win over their sternest critics and also win the hearts and minds of the public that these radical changes are what’s needed – and will get results. Everyone in this country faces difficult times ahead – and it’s crucial that that the Government  gets these issues right! …

The Government’s new health policies are aimed at improving NHS performance, reducing bureaucracy and improving the outcomes of treatment for patients. As a specialist healthcare communications consultancy, PRimage totally agree with this – but Judy Viitanen shares some of the concerns voiced by healthcare professionals that the radical shakeup of the NHS could lead to a two-tier health service.

This country certainly needs to tackle its health and social inequalities – and in our opinion the Dept of Health must start to focus on dealing with health inequalities that those members of the community who either aren’t registered with a GP, or see no value in accessing healthcare, continue to suffer. So in this era of NHS reforms it is critical that reducing inequalities becomes a key focus for frontline health providers: not just GPs, but also community pharmacists.

Top 3 Social Networking Sites PRimage Love!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Judy Viitanen and PRimage found this a good article on the power of social media  … check it out : http://www.businessinsider.com/name-the-big-three-social-networks-for-business-2011-1#ixzz1BCaMLNgK

I was interested to read that the biggest site in numbers is Facebook with over 500 million active users. 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day. Seems the fastest growing segment now is business people, and discussion groups for business, like “Facebook for Business” with 56,250 members.

I find Twitter great for keeping up to speed with breaking national and international news – also enjoy some of the gossipy tweets!  For me, LinkedIn is a business networking ‘must’ – I also like Ecademy. What’s your view?