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DH declares war on hospital bugs

   DRASTIC NEW MEASURES to tackle healthcare-associated infections have been announced by the Department of Health. Hospitals across England will undergo a programme of intensive ‘deep cleaning’ to take them as close to their original state as possible, making it easier to maintain hygiene standards in the future.

A new hospital regulator will be introduced with powers to impose fines, halt new admissions and even close down wards where hospitals do not meet hygiene requirements. Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: “We have made good progress bringing down infection rates, but we have to adopt new techniques if we are to go further. This deep-clean programme will give hospitals a one-off blitz so walls, patient equipment and ventilation ducts are disinfected and scrubbed clean, a ward at a time.”

The new regulator will inspect safety and quality across all health and adult social care services. It will replace three existing bodies: the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.

For the first time, both NHS and independent sector healthcare providers will be subject to the same regulatory framework. Patients will thus have consistent information available to them when choosing their service provider.

One notable implication of the DH’s new infection control measures for the healthcare industry is that sales professionals visiting hospitals will need to observe the ‘bare below the elbows’ dress code.

Rocket Medical wins Best Factory Awards

MEDICAL DEVICE MANUFACTURER ROCKET MEDICAL has won two of this year’s Best Factory Awards.

The Tyneside company won the Most Improved Plant Award and the Innovation Award in the annual event run by Cranfield School of Management and Works Management magazine. The scheme recognises UK manufacturing excellence, and especially pioneering work practices.

Rocket Medical, based in Washington, Tyne and Wear, manufactures plastic components for sterile medical devices. The company has developed the capability for working with customers to design, develop, test and manufacture new medical products within months. The factory is organised into cells manned by flexible teams of employees. Information about performance is posted on communications boards, which the teams discuss on a daily basis.

 Chris Rowlands, Editor of Works Management, said: “It’s a privilege to judge the awards, and this year what stood out for me this year has been the real thirst for improvement shown by so many manufacturers. These firms are on a quest – and those that step up to the challenge are clearly reaping the rewards.”

The awards were presented at the London Hilton, Park Lane. All entrants received a free benchmarking report to help them measure themselves against their competitors.

Cardiac surgeon at heart of NHS

   THE NHS CHIEF EXECUTIVE has appointed a cardiac surgeon, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, as the new NHS Medical Director.

Keogh will drive clinical engagement throughout the NHS and lead the work of the National Clinical Directors or ‘Tsars’. His appointment, together with that of Lord Ara Darzi as Under-Secretary of State, strengthens the voice of the surgical profession in the DH.

NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson said: “I am delighted that Bruce Keogh has accepted the post of NHS Medical Director. This will put the Department’s management of the NHS on a stronger clinical footing and support the NHS locally to provide better clinical leadership – helping to support clinicians to drive change at a local level.”

Keogh said: “I’m looking forward to my new role – it’s an exciting opportunity to harness the expertise, experience and talents of clinicians working on the front line to guide and implement the continuing transformation of the NHS for the benefit of our patients.”

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh worked as a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon in the NHS before becoming Professor of Cardiac Surgery at University College London. He is a Commissioner on the Healthcare Commission, where he chairs the Clinical Strategy Group. He was knighted in 2003.

NHS Connecting for Health without a paddle

   CONFUSION ABOUT ELECTRONIC PATIENT RECORDS has given NHS Connecting for Health new woes, according to a Health Select Committee report.

The report blames poor clarity about what information to include in electronic patient records (EPR) and poor engagement with frontline NHS staff for delays in creating the national database, retarding the development of new IT systems within the NHS. These systems are crucial for the uptake of electronic healthcare and other medtech innovations.

Kevin Barron MP, chairman of the committee, said: “There is no doubt that the use of IT in the NHS has the potential to make positive improvements in patient care, especially for those suffering with chronic illnesses, but this will only happen if people in the health service, particularly doctors, play a positive role in its implementation.”

A highly centralised approach to the NHS IT programme has “stifled local activity” causing “frustration and resentment at trust level,” the report says. It recommends relaxing central control to help local trust and strategic health authorities become more actively engaged in the project.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Head of Science and Ethics, commented on the report: “Public and professional confidence in the National Programme for IT is low and its credibility is at stake. Many doctors feel that they are seeing few returns for the investment in IT.”

Medtech industry calls for innovation centres

A NEW WHITE PAPER from European associations representing the medtech industry has called for the establishment of a network of national innovation centres across Europe.

The Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), together with Eucomed, the European Medical Technology Industry Association and other national associations, has presented the case for a network of National Medical Technology Innovation Centres (NMTICs) to the European Commission and national authorities.

The White Paper argues that innovation is the key to enabling European society and industry to meet the challenges of an ageing population and low-cost manufacturing conditions outside the EU. It proposes the establishment of a network of NMTICs as a strategic approach to these challenges.

The main success criterion for this network would be a significant increase in innovation in the medtech sector. This would boost the industry’s competitiveness and help to narrow the gap with the US in terms of investment in R&D and patient access to new medical technology.

The centres would be based on a business model whose key elements are ‘Open Innovation’ and balancing market demand with technology push. Each NMTIC would act as a regional focus for innovation, providing specialist services to local companies whilst also giving access to the wider European research, innovation and commercial communities.


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