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Archive for July, 2008

Day Lewis Pharmacy says ‘Happy Birthday NHS!’

Friday, July 4th, 2008

This Saturday, 5 July 2008, marks the 60th birthday of the NHS – and Primage client Day Lewis Pharmacy is celebrating the anniversary by saluting the achievements of the health service and community pharmacy’s valuable contribution to delivering accessible and effective patient care.

On the eve of the anniversary celebrations Peter Glover, Day Lewis Managing Director, reflects with Judy Viitanen on the fact that during the past six decades pharmacy’s expertise and role has developed enormously – which means that for most people the local pharmacy is now their first port of call for medicines and healthcare advice.

Peter comments to Primage MD, Judy Viitanen: “The NHS and community pharmacy has never stood still: both have changed and reformed to meet the public’s expectations and the needs of a changing society. Before the creation of the NHS in July 1948, the high street pharmacist was a community’s easy one stop shop to receiving health care advice. From supplying over the counter medicines to delivering advice on general health care issues, pharmacists were relied upon by their local communities. Over the years, pharmacists have used their five years medical and pharmacological training to become the unsung heroes of the community, providing accessible health care advice on the high street without the need for an appointment. I’m delighted to report that all our 165 Day Lewis Pharmacies around the country continue that tradition of putting patient’s needs first – and are truly at the heart of local healthcare needs in the communities they serve.”

Since 1948, the role of the pharmacist has developed enormously. Today, pharmacists are starting to take on a greater role in managing public health and keeping people healthy, and well informed about their health. And the good news for patients is that the Government has recently acknowledged the accessibility that pharmacy offers and has set out its plans to extend the role of pharmacists in delivering health care in the community. Many of the Day Lewis pharmacies have also started to offer blood pressure and cholesterol testing, managing long-term conditions, managing minor ailments; quitting smoking and weight management.

So, six decades after its birth, the founding values of the NHS – and pharmacy – remain firmly in place – and Day Lewis is pleased to remind all it’s valued customers and patients that the company’s and branch pharmacy services are truly at the heart of patient and healthcare needs of the 21st century NHS!

Day Lewis – Caring For Our Local Communities

Primary and community care plans = Patient Power! PRimage view

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

It’s clear to Judy Viitanen that the package of new measures just unveiled this afternoon by Health Services Minister, Ben Bradshaw will mark a new era for patient power and give the public more control over their health.  As a specialist healthcare communications and public affairs agency, PRimage welcome this!  In our view the public have long needed a stronger voice and input into their care pathways options and treatment.

In light of today’s comments from the health minister about GPs restricting choice, it’s good news that there will now be a greater choice of GP service – with patients being able to register online and have a wider range of options for consulting with their GP – by telephone or email.  PRimage will be interested to see reactions to the news that practice funding will be reformed to reward GPs who take on new patients to support greater patient choice.

We also applaud the plans to give patients faster and simpler access to a wider range of community based services such as minor ailments services and health checks in high-street pharmacies.  The nation’s community pharmacies are a superb resource for expert and accessible healthcare services and advice – as PRimage has often commented on. PRimage Managing Director, Judy Viitanen spent many years raising awareness of the role of the pharmacist – and did valuable PR and communications work reminding the public to ‘ask your pharmacist’.

With clients in the pharmacy sector, PRimage can assure patients and politicians that community pharmacy is already doing valuable work in helping people live healthier lives – for example, offering vascular risk assessments, supporting people to quit smoking, dealing with patient obesity and weight management and helping people to manage long-term conditions. And the profession is ready, able and willing to take on the challenges outlined in today’s strategy. Another key factor is that by providing a national minor ailments scheme, the nation’s network of pharmacists can also help to release GP’s time, allowing them to concentrate on more complex patient conditions.

It’s really very positive that this new NHS Strategy will also underline the important role played by primary and community care services in keeping people healthy and preventing illnesses, as well as tackling regional variations. 

Peter Viitanen, PRimage marketing director, believes that with the strategies of both the Darzi Review and those of the primary and community care report plans linking service quality and funding for the first time, it means that after 60 years, marketing looks like playing a key and integral role in the new NHS. PRimage welcome this wholeheartedly – and we would love to use our proven track record of healthcare communications expertise and integrated marketing skills to help NHS organisations and health professionals make the most of this opportunity to help create a truly patient-led NHS.

So, all in all, PRimage believe these new measures are pretty positive for patients.  What’s your view?

Negative equity – should the average homeowner be worried? PRimage comment

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

With almost daily news reports on the dire state of the UK property market and plummeting house prices, many people with mortgages these days are concerned about the risk of negative equity. Judy Viitanen can recall how dreadful that was for homeowners in the late 1990′s. But according to new research from GE Money Home Lending, the nation’ homeowners who bought as recently as four years ago need not worry too much about negative equity — it seems that home owners who purchased their property four years ago, even without a deposit, have an ‘equity cushion’ of almost 50 per cent before the value of their home loan would exceed the property value. And for those with a sizeable deposit, or a longer time on their mortgage, the likelihood of finding themselves in negative equity is even more unlikely. PRimage are not convinced, or reassured! Are you?

Competition law may prohibit development of GP federations warns the CCA

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

PRimage client, The Company Chemists Association (CCA) has responded to the Royal College of General Practitioners’ think piece on a new organisational model for general practice. The CCA works to support the development of a diverse market of primary care providers. Given that smaller GPs practices are proven to provide high quality clinical care and often greater continuity of care for patients, the CCA recognises the legitimacy of RCGP considering how the future business model for GP contractors might be developed and their income protected.

GPs ‘deals’ criticised by Minister – PRimage comment on claims GPs blocking choice

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team listened with interest this morning to the broadcast comments and criticisms made by Health Minister Ben Bradshaw on GP’s anti-competitive behaviour. This clash between the government and doctors’ leaders stems from the Minister’s claims that GPs were operating “gentlemen’s agreements” in which they promise not to take other doctors’ patients. Mr Bradshaw blamed the GP pay system for including a lump sum that “dampened the incentive” to attract new patients and allowed some practices to survive with a small number of patients. In the BBC interview he said: “There is no doubt there are some areas where gentlemen’s agreements operate that mitigate against lists being open to new patients and therefore work against real patient choice.”  And he went on to warn that the current system was working against government plans to improve patient choice to foster competition and drive up standards of care.

Perhaps predictably, the British Medical Association denied the existence of gentlemen’s agreements! Chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, Dr Laurence Buckman, response was: “It is absolute nonsense to suggest there are gentlemen’s agreements – it just doesn’t happen. Nor are we going to compete for patients. That is not the way general practice works.”

The background to this is that under the current GP contract, a doctor’s basic pay consists of the lump sum in addition to payments per patient.  PRimage believe it is significant that Mr Bradshaw’s comments have been made ahead of today’s publication of the government’s strategy for primary and community care. This strategy builds on Lord Darzi’s recent review of the NHS, which detailed a raft of Government measures to raise standards of care and give patients more choice in how and where they are treated. These were headlined as aiming to expand the family doctor service so as to provde patients a real and positive choice between GP practices, providing more information about the range and quality of care on offer.

As PRimage has commented in previous blogs on our company website, last year Lord Darzi published a review of the NHS in London – which recommended a network of community polyclinics in which GPs and nurses would work alongside dentists, nurses, midwives and therapists, offering services (x-rays, blood tests and diagnostic tests) that have only previously been available to patients in hospitals.

Judy Viitanen has noted that this issue and the reactions from healthcare professionals to Polyclinics has been building momentum and resonance in recent months, especially since proposals for 150 similar clinics across England have emerged over the past two months in regional reports from regional strategic health authorities. However, Lord Darzi’s report said there would be no national requirement to implement this approach. PRimage will wait to see if this is indeed the case …. watch this space!

Deteriorating dental services are a disgrace – PRimage comment

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

With clients in the dental healthcare sector, Judy Viitanen has often commented on this blog on the sad state of dental services as a result of the dentist contract reform – which in Judy’s view has failed patients. Over the past year these changes designed to end the ‘drill and fill’ culture have made dentists even more prone to avoiding time-consuming repair work.

So we are not surprised to learn that a new report today by MPs has claimed that the Dept of Health is failing to improve standards; that standards remain uneven across the country – and that new arrangements have failed to improve patient access overall. The background to all this stems from April 2006, when the DoH reformed the General Dental Service (GDS) with a number of far-reaching changes. PCTs were given more power to commission dental services, a patient charging system was simplified and dentists were remunerated according to the number of UDA completed. As a specialist healthcare comms agency, PRimage totally agree with MPs assertion that these changes have failed to improve dental services. Dentists are reportedly concerned of an “exodus” from the GDS in 2009 once guaranteed income ends and the committee urged the DoH to monitor the career plans of NHS dentists.

From feedback and anecdotal comment from our dental client contacts, Judy Viitanen and the PRimage have heard that at least 1 million fewer people have seen a dentist since the launch of the new dental contract – and it appear that dentists have no incentive to use complex treatments to fix or save teeth when it’s simply cheaper to do an extraction!

Good news for savers! PRimage comment

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Admist all the angst surrounding the credit crunch and economic gloom, Judy Viitanen is pleased that there’s some good news from our Chancellor for savers – who will now have their first £50,000 protected. These new moves are part of the Government’s aim to restore confidence in the banking system. Chancellor Alistair Darling is proposing to raise the limit from £35,000 as part of a package of measures drawn up after the Northern Rock crisis. The ceiling would be well below the £100,000 figure speculated on last year. And plans to make banks pre-load a compensation fund so payouts can be immediate are expected to be postponed until the economic situation improves.

More work needed to help businesses reduce regulations – PRimage agree!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Whether you are a small company or a multi-national, there are endless regulatory requirements that burden the workplace these days. So Judy Viitanen is not surprised to learn that MPs have said that much more needs to be done to help businesses reduce the amount of time and money they spend complying with regulations. Absolutely!

The Commons committee for public accounts today published its report on how well the government’s Better Regulation Executive and departments had introduced the Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme. And chair of the committee, Edward Leigh said: “Sixty per cent of businesses regarded government regulation as an obstacle to their success, according to a National Audit Office survey last year.

Housing lows – PRimage viewpoint

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Like many property owners Judy Viitanen was disturbed to read more gloomy news this morning that property experts are warning that Britain is in the grip of the worst housing slump since the 1970s. It seems that the number of new mortgages being approved for house purchases has dropped heavily for another month, and that first time buyers had all but disappeared.

PRimage believe that these figures are very worrying – and we suspect that this latest data augurs that the housing market will continue to worsen over the coming months.

“NHS Constitution is long overdue.” says the CCA

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

The Company Chemists Association (CCA) has greeted the launch of the NHS constitution as an important step towards patient empowerment in England.

Rob Darracott, CCA CEO states: “The NHS Constitution represents a memorandum of understanding between the public and the NHS. It will increase the NHS’s accountability and is long overdue. Our members are committed to providing consumer focused NHS pharmacy services that ensure everyone gets the medicines they need safely, at the right time and from a range of convenient locations – no matter where they live.

CCA member companies welcome the commitment to widening patient choice. The intention to expand pharmacy’s contribution was signalled in the Pharmacy White Paper and our members look forward to offering vascular checks and helping patients with long-term conditions manage their medicines more effectively.

We support any moves to make innovative and effective medicines available to patients more quickly across the country, but we also recognise that even with this more transparent regime, patients may want to exercise personal choice and demand access to medicines and treatments not approved by NICE for the wider population. This will inevitably drive debate on top up fees as part of future NHS policy thinking.”