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Archive for June, 2008

NHS Patient Power – PRimage say ‘bring it on!’

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Having looked through the summary of Lord Darzi’s 10-year plan for the NHS in England aimed at making it the best health service in the world, Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team have noted that empowering patients and improving care are the central themes. Nearly every page talks about quality — a big ‘buzz-word’, as is patient satisfaction. We hope that as a result, patients will be better informed and better placed to influence their pathways of care – especially for long-term conditions, like diabetes.

As a specialist healthcare PR consultantancy, PRimage has long felt that there has been far too much bureaucracy and top down targets in the NHS, so we hope that this new strategy will see a change from this culture. And that local clinicians will be allowed to decide on local needs.

The health minister has persuaded the government to shift the emphasis of the health service from increasing the quantity of care to improving its clinical quality. NHS trusts will be paid according to the outcome of treatment, using a new set of indicators ranging from surgery death rates to surveys of how well patients feel after treatment. And, crucially in Judy Viitanen’s opinion, patients’ views about the quality of service and the compassion of staff will be regarded as just as important as the medical outcomes.

Since its inception in 1948 the NHS has always been a politically sensitive public service … and judging from a BBC survey which shows that patient expectations are rising, it will continue to be a pivotal priority: Alan Johnson, Lord Darzi and Gordon Brown must ensure that the ‘fine words’ in this strategy for the 21st century NHS are matched by an increase in spending on the health service, to enable those expectations and needs are fully met.

NHS – A new era ahead with Darzi’s Review? PRimage comment

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team wait with interest today to see the fine details of the Government’s plans for the next 10 years of the NHS in England when Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, Lord Darzi reveals his long awaited and much hyped NHS review, commissioned by the Prime minister, Gordon Brown. The year-long study by Health Minister Lord Darzi will be unveiled together with a draft NHS constitution, setting out patients’ entitlements to healthcare – and PRimage undestand that the review is expected to focus on how the quality of care can be improved, while the constitution will detail what patients can do if their needs are not met.

The review is expected to call for the devolvement of more services out of the massive health provider to cut bureaucracy and speed up improvements in care. Lord Darzi is also expected to promise more autonomy to clinicians and regional health authorities, with fewer top-down targets from Whitehall in areas such as reducing waiting lists. Patients will be offered more choice over how and where they receive treatment, and greater information on the success of treatments at individual hospitals. Health Secretary Alan Johnson ordered the review a year ago, promising “unprecedented” consultation with staff and patients to ensure previous mistakes of introducing reforms without getting them on side were not repeated …. and PRimage clients in the pharmacy and healthcare arenas have given their input to these important consultations. Community pharmacy has long had a well-deserved reputation and provenance of ‘putting patients first’ – so the PRimage team believe that the pharmacy profession can give some valuable pointers to the rest of the health service on customer care and satisfaction.

As a specialist healthcare PR and lobbying consultancy, PRimage has already reviewed and commented on Darzi’s previously published separate reviews for England’s strategic health authorities — and we know that today’s report builds on these. The review has been described as a “bold vision” by Gordon Brown, who admitted it would need serious commitment from the Government to realise. The review suggests personal budgets for thousands of patients with long-term conditions such as multiple sclerosis and ratings for nurses according to their level of care and empathy. PRimage applaud this – as we do the expected plans to make hospitals publish death rates for dozens of conditions to inform patient choices of where to go for treatment.

Plans to build a network of 150 supersized surgeries — or polyclinics — are already underway, offering patients access to a team of family doctors and nurses seven days a week. In our regular healthcare blogs PRimage has often commented on these proposals for polyclinics —and we believe there are a number of misnomers and misrepresentation of the proposals. The polyclinics are a key part of Darzi’s plan to widen access to healthcare but have run into stiff opposition from the British Medical Association, who fears they spell the end of small family doctor practices. The Government will also publish its NHS Constitution consultation and the new NHS Workforce Strategy along side Lord Darzi’s review.

Judy Viitanen has read this morning that PM Gordon Brown has commented that this long-awaited NHS review and latest proposals would have “an even more profound effect” than previous shake-ups – and has pledgd to put patients at the heart of the National Health Service. Judy and the PRimage team wonder if this is simply Brown seeking a tonic for his flagging ratings as the state-funded system prepares to mark its 60th anniversary!

What’s your view? PRimage believe that patients are looking for consistency in their experiences of NHS healthcare and pathways of care …. and we were very interested to read the results of a new opinion poll on the NHS in today’s Daily Telegraph, which shows that Labour is no longer the party trusted to bring in the health reforms that are needed to safeguard the NHS for future generations. Watch this space for further comment ……

James Plaskitt MP opens Day Lewis Pharmacy in Warwick

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

PRimage client, Day Lewis Pharmacy Plc, has launched a new flagship Day Lewis Pharmacy in Warwick.

The Day Lewis Pharmacy and The New Dispensary GP surgery were officially opened by guest of honour, local MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, James Plaskitt, last week. The MP was joined by pharmacy and surgery staff, customers and patients, local dignitaries, and PCT and patient representatives as he cut the ribbon for the official opening ceremony in Warwick.

Mr Plaskitt had a personal taste of the sort of integrated community pharmacy and primary care services being provided by Day Lewis on his tour of the pharmacy, where he had his blood pressure tested by the pharmacy staff. In addition to meeting the Day Lewis CEO, pharmacy team and customers, he also met the GPs of The New Dispensary practice.The importance and benefits of the opening of new pharmacy and health services for the town wasn’t lost on Mr Plaskitt.

Speaking at the event, the MP was full of praise for the new pharmacy and surgery: “Today’s opening of the new Day Lewis Pharmacy and GP surgery at Chase Meadow is great news for local NHS patients and a wonderful achievement for all the parties involved. These first class premises represent an outstanding primary healthcare development and give customers and patients access to a wider range of services in one place,” he said.

“The pharmacy and surgery both embody the efficient delivery of high quality primary care in the modern NHS and will provide a significant boost to the local community. I congratulate all the staff involved in providing these excellent services for the people of Warwick.”

Located in a new development, adjacent to The New Dispensary GP surgery (formerly the Old Dispensary), at Chase Meadow, the Day Lewis pharmacy will provide local people with greater convenience as they will be able to pick up prescriptions directly after seeing their doctor. The Day Lewis pharmacy provides a more integrated service as the pharmacist will be at the centre of the primary care team, working closely with GPs and other NHS professionals in order to meet the needs of the local community. This integrated approach is in line with the Government’s strategy – ‘A Vision for Pharmacy in the new NHS’ – and new pharmacy regulations.

Commenting on the pharmacy contract award, and thanking the MP for officially opening the new pharmacy, Day Lewis Chief Executive, Kirit Patel MBE, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this new pharmacy contract in Warwick and to have the pleasure of welcoming Mr Plaskitt as our guest of honour at this official opening.

“I believe this new Day Lewis onsite pharmacy location will greatly increase patient convenience and will encourage greater integration of the primary care team – and we look forward to working with our GP colleagues from the New Dispensary Surgery to make this happen.  At Day Lewis our focus is on caring for local communities and for our pharmacies to be a key resource in the delivery of easily accessible local health services. So, I am confident that having our pharmacy and the GP surgery alongside us in this new development will provide easy access and convenience to our customers and patients, and will also bring real benefits to the wider primary care team.

Day Lewis District Manager, Rebecca Myers, commented to Primage MD, Judy Viitanen: “Our new Day Lewis pharmacy is all about providing the best possible service to our customers, and the friendly team here are committed to delivering a high level of customer service and to helping patients with their every healthcare needs. We welcome our customers to the new store, where we will provide them with an expanded range of important pharmacy services in a comfortable and attractive environment.”

Christine Rogers, Practice Manager of The Old Dispensary Surgery, added: “We look forward to the Day Lewis Pharmacy team becoming a fully integrated part of our primary health care team. The location of the new pharmacy alongside our practice ensures that we can develop excellent relationships with the team and that we collectively work together with the aim of improving the patient experience.”

Day Lewis – Caring for our local communities  

PRimage not surprised small businesses are unhappy with government!

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

As the managing director and owner of a small PR business, Judy Viitanen was interested to read a news report today that an overwhelming 96 per cent of small business owners are unhappy with the government’s record as costs spiral, according to a poll. This is very much the view and experience of Judy and the PRimage team!.

In a survey of over 9,000 business owners by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), nearly 90 per cent also said government policy was making already crippling business costs, such as fuel, even worse. In answer to the question, “Are you satisfied that the government is currently taking the right decisions in the interests of small businesses?”, 96 per cent said they were fairly dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, 2.1 per cent said they were fairly satisfied or very satisfied and 1.9 per cent had no opinion.

PRimage belive that in light of the fact that the UK’s 4.5 million small businesses contribute over half the country’s GDP, the FSB is quite right to call for the government to use higher than expected North Sea oil tax revenues to reduce fuel duty, in order to help its members.

Tories 23 points ahead of Labour – PRimage say ‘well done Cameron!’

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team are heartened to see that another opinion poll puts the Conservatives 23 points ahead of Labour in the popularity ratings with 49 per cent of respondents favouring the Tories. The poll published in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday shows the present prime minister trailing David Cameron on a number of issues. While 55 per cent of those polled believed that Mr Cameron had done a better than expected job, 85 per cent said the former chancellor’s performance had been worse than expected. Similarly twice as many people felt that the opposition leader represented British values better than the resident of number 10. A year ago, the same question on values showed a similar lead in favour of Mr Brown but he has suffered an alarming drop in popularity with 44 per cent of those polled now saying he should resign immediately.

PRimage believes that even more alarming for the current government, is the fact that respondents in this poll seemed to prefer Tony Blair over Gordon Brown!! —- With 53 per cent saying they wished the former prime minister hadn’t resigned to make way for the incumbent head of government. Judy Viitanen agrees!

Pharmacists and GPs ‘should focus on working together’ – PRimage agree!

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Pharmacists and general practitioners (GPs) in the UK should focus on working more closely together in the interests of the public, a new report concludes. The School of Pharmacy at the University of London has been investigating how the government’s aim for a more responsive and effective national health service can be achieved. In its report entitled Commissioning for Choice, Quality and Outcomes, the school concludes that data sharing and general collaboration needs to be improved between pharmacists and GPs working within the same community. One of the study’s authors Professor David Taylor said: “The report says that future primary care developments should be aimed at supporting self-care and extending patient choices, partly through allowing better use of existing resources like the UK’s easily accessible community pharmacy network.”

The Co-operative Pharmacy response to Government and industry drug price deal

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

PRimage notes that The Co-operative Pharmacy has issued its initial response to today’s announcement that a significant deal has been reached by the Government and the pharmaceutical industry on parts of the new Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme.

John Nuttall, Co-operative Pharmacy Managing Director, comments:

“We welcome the fact that the Department of Health and the pharmaceutical industry have reached an agreement. However, it is crucial that this agreement is implemented in such a way that patients are in no way disadvantaged – and that pharmacy contractors do not have any additional cash flows burdens at what is already a difficult time for the profession.”

‘Top-up’ NHS drugs to be reviewed – PRimage comment

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

As a specialist healthcare communications and public affairs consultancy PRimage welcomes the Government’s announcement this afternoon of a review of the current policy of penalising patients who top up NHS healthcare with private treatment.

Under current policy patients cannot receive the basic package of NHS care as well as paying for expensive drugs. The issue has reached headlines after a number of patients were banned from NHS care after they chose to pay for drugs denied to them on the NHS. Like many commentators, Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team feel this is morally and ethically wrong. In our view the country’s health system should be publicly funded and fair and Government should reject changes that undermine the equity of the NHS.

Alan Johnson told MPs this afternoon that he has asked Professor Mike Richards, national clinical director for cancer, to assess policy for patients who choose to pay privately for drugs not funded on the NHS. The review will make recommendations taking into account the importance of enabling patients to have choice and personal control over their healthcare as well as the need to uphold the founding principle of the NHS that treatment is based on clinical need not ability to pay, and to ensure that NHS services are fair to both patients and taxpayers. It is expected to be concluded in October.

Pharmacy – Directed Enhanced Services ‘are a must’ say’s CCA

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

In the wake of the Audit Commission and Healthcare Commission’s report ‘Is the Treatment Working’, PRimage client, The Company Chemists Association (CCA), has analysed its findings and the implications for community pharmacy. The picture it paints comes as no surprise to the CCA, and echoes the feedback the CCA receives from its members who operate nationally across all the PCTs in England.

Georgina Craig, CCA Commissioning Policy lead comments:

“It is clear from this report that NHS commissioning is in a sorry state. Community Pharmacy’s future is inextricably linked to this reform agenda. Many of the services that pharmacy is seeking to provide will support care closer to home.”

Public against polyclinics? PRimage comment

Monday, June 16th, 2008

As Judy Viitanen and the PRimage have previously commented, the thorny issue of the Government’s proposals for polyclinics is fast becoming the leading controversial ‘hot topic’ for the NHS and healthcare professionals … and now it appears that it’s on the radar for patients, with the news that in just 3 weeks over 1.2 million people have signed a British Medical Association petition objecting to the government’s plans to create “super surgeries” across England and are calling for the government to support existing GP practices and urging it to end plans to encourage private firms into primary health care.

The petition and lobbying approach by the BMA has triggered a furious response from the government: they have already accused the BMA of scaremongering and spreading false information to the public and have said some patients had been pressured into backing the petition. PRimage noted that at his monthly press conference, the Prime Minister attacked doctors’ leaders for their “ill-founded” opposition to planned changes to GP care in England. Perhaps predictably he said the issue was improving access, not axing existing surgeries. He said claims by the BMA that the plans would lead to provision being privatised were also wrong. “The issue at the moment is about increasing access to primary care, not replacing the existing GPs. “We want GPs to be open longer hours and we want them open at weekends. “And if that is not possible in some cases, we want to provide other sources of medical care.”

PRimage is aware that in Parliament tomorrow, Tuesday 17th June, there will be a debate on an Opposition Motion regarding the governments plans for Polyclinics. There is bound to be some forceful arguements and debate on this issue; especially as Ministers deny that polyclinics and the GP-led centres are the same thing. But opponents class them together, saying there is little distinction.

As a specialist healthcare PR and Public Affairs consultancy, PRimage will be monitoring this debate for our clients — Judy Viitanen will be interested to see what the reaction will be from MPs and health ministers to the BMA accusation that the government is trying to commercialise the GP system – and their call for Labour to support existing GP practices and halt the promotion of the involvement of private firms in the profession. Managers have been told to invite bids from both GPs and private firms to run the new network of super surgeries. Watch this space …….