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Archive for June, 2007

Conservatives: Cameron seeks to set the political agenda

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Ahead of Gordon Brown’s accession to the premiership next week, David Cameron is working hard to set the political agenda by setting out the key themes of his policy review process. These include devolving more power away from Westminster and Whitehall to communities, charities, local authorities and frontline public service workers, in contrast the chancellor’s alleged centralisation. A series of policy review documents are set to be rolled out in the next few months in the run-up to the conference season and as Brown seeks to establish his own agenda and credentials in the public eye.

In a first move,the Tory leader Cameron will today seek to put the grammar schools row behind him as he delivers a speech on the party’s policy reviews. will use an address in Tooting, south London, to reassure activists that he is on course to make major gains at the next general election despite the rows of the last month. Accompanied by Tory chairman Francis Maude he will again tell parliamentary candidates that the party must “hold our nerve” and stick to his modernising strategy. However Cameron will also attempt to stress that the direction is a modernisation of Conservatism, rather than be the ‘heir to Blair’ as shadow chancellor George Osborne has implied.

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Judy Viitanen was interested to note that over the weekend senior shadow cabinet members, William Hague and David Davis, both made that point.  As strong Tory supporters, Judy and the PRimage team believe that Cameron has made the Conservatives an electable party again – reinforced by their good results in the April local Government elections.  However, we feel that recent rows over the Grammar schools debate and publicity hasn’t gone as smoothly as possible; raising the hackles of the more right-wing, traditionalists within the party.

In our view, the Tory grass-roots activists are looking for more prominent input and roles from people like Hague and Davis – who can act as a bridge to reassure the traditionalists in the Tory rank and file.  As a former Conservative Councillor, Judy Viitanen is always very aware that the Tory Party is a broad church – and as such, all elements and views need to be acknowledged and managed.  What’s your opinion?

Pharmacy figures in Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team were delighted to see that two pharmacy leaders were honoured in yesterday’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.  PSNC Chairman, Barry Andrews, was awarded a CBE, and Cardiff community pharmacist, Raj Aggarwal MRPharmS, was also honoured with an OBE for services to the Pharmaceutical Industry and to the Asian Community in Wales.

PRimage believe that this recognition was very well deserved – and Judy Viitanen sends warmest congratulations to Mr Andrews and Mr Aggarwal.

Are GPs right to have ‘no confidence’ in NHS policy ?

Friday, June 15th, 2007

GPs have given the government a vote of no confidence over its handling of the NHS at their annual conference. Delegates at the British Medical Association’s meeting attacked a raft of health policies, accusing government of wasting millions of pounds. Family doctors also branded out-of-hours care “shambolic”. And they said they had been made a “scapegoat” for the problems in the NHS after seeing their pay rise in recent years.

In a speech to the UK’s family doctor conference GP chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said that unless Gordon Brown ‘clears the obstacles out of the way’, the government’s flagship NHS policy of cutting patient waiting times to 18 weeks will fail. In his speech to the local medical committee conference, Dr Meldrum said: ‘All doctors want to see this become a reality for all patients. We want to see this work. ‘But there is wreckage that could sink the ship – referral management centres that ration healthcare, choose and book that doesn’t work, practice-based commissioning blocked at every turn, the junior doctor training fiasco, and, affecting everything, the grinding year-on-year cuts that prevent investing to improve.’ Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee said choose and book, an IT network to link up hospitals and GPs, was not working. Other doctors at the two-day conference were also critical of the government, culminating in an overwhelming majority of delegates giving both the government and Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt a vote of no confidence.

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Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team were impressed at the bullishness of Dr Meldrum – in our view he’s done a great job in standing up for his profession.  GPs are absolutely right to send such a stark unambiguous message to Brown on NHS policy.  In our view they are also right to condemn out of hours care as ‘shambolic’.  It is!  As a specialist healthcare PR and public affairs consultancy, PRimage believes this is reaching crisis levels – By stating their views so robustly, the BMA delegates have ensured that our PM in waiting is now aware that is a priority to resolve as soon as possible.

Judy Viitanen suggests that Mr Brown should consider finding out more about the solutions that community pharmacy could provide on out of hours healthcare and easily accessible healthcare advice

Hewitt rejects NHS ‘independence’

Friday, June 15th, 2007

The NHS is too vast for politicians to hand over to an independent board to run, the health secretary has said. Patricia Hewitt said the proposal, favoured by the British Medical Association, would turn the NHS into a “1960s nationalised industry”. But she said more power should be given to patients, GPs and health staff. Mrs Hewitt was heckled by a handful of “Keep our NHS public” campaigners who say the NHS is being privatised, as she gave her speech. In a speech about the future of the health service, Mrs Hewitt told the London School of Economics: “The NHS is four times the size of the Cuban economy and more centralised. She said a free, comprehensive NHS was “under attack” – pointing to recent comments from Doctors for Reform and the BMA. She denied creating a “free market” within the NHS, but said that competitive pressure could create “startling results for patients”.

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Interesting to see Ms Hewitt doing her usual ‘hectoring’ on this – Judy Viitanen is not suprised that she was heckled!  PRimage recalls that last year Gordon Brown was reported to favour handing over day-to-day control of the NHS to an independent board – in the same way he gave up control of interest rates to the Bank of England in 1997.

Dealing with Diabetes

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

This week Diabetes UK is mounting its annual Diabetes Awareness Week – and to support the campaign message Judy Viitanen has issued a diabetes healthcare advice message from our PRimage client, Day Lewis Pharmacy Goup, to over 600 local newspapers and radio stations around the country.

Diabetes is a major health problem – and has never been such a threat to people’s health as it is today. There are now 2.2 million people with diabetes in the UK – of the 2.2 million, almost 250,000 people have Type 1 diabetes and just over 1.9 million have Type 2 diabetes. And according to Diabetes UK, the numbers of cases are set to double in this decade as the population ages and becomes more overweight.

To coincide with the healthcare messages of Diabetes Week 10 to 16 June 2007, Day Lewis Pharmacy Group is playing its part to help raise awareness of the condition by highlighting to people that they are putting their health on the line through ignorance of diabetes and its complications. The 165-pharmacy chain reminds people that pharmacists can provide a simple pin-prick blood test to see if they are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, answer queries on the condition and offer easy to understand advice on ways to reduce their risk.

Day Lewis Superintendent Pharmacist, Peter Glover, says: “It is estimated that there are up to 750,000 people who have Type 2 diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed yet. Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition and it is vital that people are tested and diagnosed early to avoid the onset of complications like heart disease, kidney failure and eye problems. All too often the symptoms of diabetes, such as feeling tired or thirsty, can go unnoticed.”

Peter advises: “Those most at risk of Type 2 diabetes are white people aged over 40 or African-Caribbean and South Asian people over 25, who have a large waistline, are overweight or have a family history of diabetes. So if you think that you may be at risk, we would urge you to visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy, and talk to the pharmacist about your symptoms. And if you are already diagnosed with diabetes, our pharmacy teams can provide support, information on how to lead a healthier lifestyle and medication advice – all essential to good diabetes management.”

As a specialist healthcare PR company, PRimage believes it’s crucial that as many people as possible are alert to the warning symptoms of Diabetes. 

And as a diabetic, Judy Viitanen knows the valuable help and advice that Diabetes UK offer. For support and information on Diabetes, contact Diabetes UK Careline, on 0845 1202960.

Diabetes group urges patient caution on Avandia

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The latest studies on Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline’s blockbuster diabetes drug, have raised enough questions about the drug’s safety to worry the American Diabetes Association.

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As a diabetic, Judy Viitanen is always interested to learn more about new treatments.  However, as a specialist healthcare PR agency, PRimage is aware that several studies now suggest the drug, which lowers blood sugar levels, may raise the risk of heart attack.   We noted that Glaxo researchers rushed out an interim analysis of an ongoing study on Tuesday, which the company said showed no increased risk, but independent experts disagreed.

Medical training board ‘failing’

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has condemned the body that oversees postgraduate medical training, accusing it of being weak and uncommunicative. In a document seen by Hospital Doctor magazine, the Academy accuses the Postgraduate Medical Education Training Board (PMETB) of a catalogue of failings.

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Judy Viitanen and PRimage have been following this issue with interest.  Clearly the sagas continue – and PMETB was also in the news earlier this week over revelations it is taking longer than three months in some cases to process applications for doctors to work as consultants.

Good news – NHS finances back in the black!

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Last year, the NHS reported debts of £547m. This year that’s turned into a surplus of £510m. So PRimage agree that yes, it’s welcome news … But we believe the background is rather disturbing: in order to bring in a surplus, regional health bosses took £825m from primary care trust budgets, and used £450m from a contingency fund!  That enabled some NHS organisations to underspend by £1.4bn.

But Judy Viitanen believes we should all be concerned to learn that 22% of our local PCTs around the country are still in debt to the tune of £911m!  That debt brought the net surplus down to the £510m that the health secretary wanted to shout about.

As Judy Viitanen has reported in the PRimage blog page in recent months, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt staked her job on wiping out the debt from previous years during 2006-07, but we think that the fact that more than one in five NHS bodies in England are still in the red is not something she can be proud of.  And that is on top of the thousands of job losses that have been forced on NHS trusts – 17,000 in the past 12 months.  What’s your view?Š

Sex Disease Alert For London Olympics!

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The Government has been urged to use the 2012 Olympics to promote sexual health, amid fears the influx of thousands of visitors could lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases during the games.

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The Terrence Higgins Trust claim that the competition was a “magnet” for sexual activity, and wants a strong focus on promoting condom use and warning of the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during the 2012 Games.  Judy Viitanen will be interested to see the Goverment and Department of Health response.

NHS smokers ‘witch-hunt’?

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Judy Viitanen and her PRimage colleagues hear that the Government are claiming that plans to ask smokers to quit before going in for surgery are not a form of “health fascism” – and that the government and Health Minister Lord Hunt has been urged to overrule the plans by local NHS trusts.   It seems that peers say this could be seen as part of an anti-smoking “witch-hunt” – and PRimage agree!  As does the independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart, who says that smokers paid high taxes and were entitled to treatment.   What’s your opinion?