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Report widens polyclinic debate

Niall DicksonPOLYCLINICS ARE NOT THE ONLY MODEL for the integration of primary care, according to a new report from independent charitable body the King’s Fund. The report calls for a flexible approach to primary care services under local control.

Recent DH proposals would see 150 polyclinics (integrated primary care centres) built to combine GP services with other services such as diagnostic testing, minor surgery, blood tests and X-rays.

The King’s Fund report welcomes the aim of developing patient-focused and integrated models of care, but argues that local NHS services and commissioners should consider a range of options. PCTs should proceed with polyclinics only where the benefits to local communities in terms of quality, access and costs are clear.

The report also suggests that PCTs should consider alternative models that do not require centralisation of GP services, such as the hub-and-spoke model where the polyclinic is a central resource centre for GPs to draw on.

King’s Fund Chief Executive Niall Dickson said: “Polyclinics may be the right answer in some areas, they will not be right for others. That should be a matter to be decided locally on a case-by-case basis.”

Polyclinics would improve access to diagnostic tests and minor surgery for some patients, Dickson said, but mass centralisation of GP services in polyclinics would reduce GP access.

Awards for medtech innovation

SPECIALISTS IN STOMA CARE and body heating were among the cutting-edge healthcare companies recognised at last month’s Healthcare Business Awards at the Medilink Yorkshire and Humber Innovation Day.

Trio Healthcare, specialists in silicone-based medical devices for stoma care, incontinence care and wound care, won the UDL ‘Start-up’ award, while Inditherm, a designer and manufacturer of patient warming medical products, scooped the Yorkshire Bank ‘Export’ Award.

The Awards, held at The Royal Armouries in Leeds and sponsored by Yorkshire Forward, DePuy and Johnson & Johnson Wound Management, recognised innovative uses of medical technology to improve healthcare services. Other winners included Vertual, whose virtual reality training solutions for radiotherapy clinical professionals won The Eversheds ‘Innovation’ award, and specialist bathing equipment manufacturer Kingkraft, who received the Hendersons ‘Growth in Sector’ award.

The Lean Healthcare Academy (LHA), which works alongside health organisations to build internal capacity, was awarded the Rogers & Co. ‘Partnership with the NHS’ award. Alongside the awards, the event also featured a speaker programme reflecting on the potential for innovation and accelerated adoption of technology to enhance service delivery and improve patient care within the NHS.

Healthcare Business Awards winners

Missed connection for EPR

IT COMPANY FUJITSU has been axed from a £898m contract to provide electronic care records for the NHS, following a contractual dispute.

The NHS says it has not been possible to reach agreement on the core Fujitsu contract, which was intended to produce an electronic patient record (EPR) database for the UK.

The contract may be transferred to BT. Meanwhile, the £12.7bn NHS programme to roll out the EPR across England faces delay.

The dispute centred on the NHS’s demand for more flexibility in providing electronic care records for patients across the south and west of England.

Martyn Hart, Chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, commented: “This leaves the success of the NHS project on a knife edge, with literally billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being wasted already and more likely to follow it down the drain.”

According to Hart, the award of the EPR contracts was “rushed” and the scope of the contract was unequal to the NHS’s demands. Hart also pointed to “lack of consultation with end users” as a reason for the project’s failure.

The bigger picture for EPR remains positive, with new systems being piloted in Denmark and the USA. Companies developing EPR technologies include Agfa HealthCare (see interview on page 16), while Microsoft’s HealthVault platform provides a global basis for EPR solutions.

Siemens and HFMA team up to promote MES

LEADING MEDTECH COMPANY SIEMENS MEDICAL and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) have formed a corporate partnership to raise the awareness of Managed Equipment Services (MES) among NHS finance directors and trust managers.

Siemens is a leading provider of Managed Equipment Services to NHS trusts. It offers a vendor-independent and multi-vendor approach. HFMA will support Siemens in promoting its MES message via events and meetings.

“We have been supporters of the HFMA and its goals for some considerable time,” said Paul Milligan, Head of PFI and Major Projects at Siemens. “This corporate partnership cements the relationship formally and allows us to work in synergy with the association nationally and regionally. This will include networking at events, speaker slots at conferences and providing thought leadership for member papers.”

“We are delighted to welcome Siemens to our corporate partner programme,” said Mark Knight, Chief Executive of HFMA. “It is important for NHS finance managers to be aware of all the options open to them for replacing, renewing and maintaining their assets. Siemens is a major provider of Managed Equipment Services to NHS organisations, and the corporate partner programme offers a good platform for them to deliver their MES message.”


SCREENING IN EAST ANGLIA has reduced deaths from breast cancer by 48%, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer. This is one of the first studies assessing the impact of the National Screening Programme. Professor Stephen Duffy, Cancer Research UK’s Professor of Cancer Screening, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that screening programmes like this save lives.”

THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) has launched a new safety checklist for surgical teams to use in operating theatres, as part of a major drive to reduce avoidable deaths and complications in surgical care worldwide. The guidelines and checklist will be finalised for dissemination by the end of 2008.

BRITISH HEALTHCARE COMPANIES supported by Medilink Yorkshire and Humber exhibited at Hospitalar, the largest medical trade fair in Latin America. The British Pavilion included Wardray Premise (radiation shielding), Advanced Medical Solutions (wound care and closure products), Neomedics Ltd (medical disposables), Mediwatch (diagnostic equipment), SLE (ventilators) and Water Jel International Ltd (burn treatment products).

US MEDICAL DEVICE COMPANY AngioDynamics, Inc. has completed its acquisition of certain US and UK assets of Diomed, Inc. for a purchase price of $11m. Diomed specialises in laser surgery for varicose veins. The Cambridge site of Diomed Ltd is expected to become an international hub for AngioDynamics.

Decontamination trips up NHS trusts

Anna WalkerONE IN FOUR NHS TRUSTS in England have failed to meet hygiene standards set by the Healthcare Commission, with decontamination proving the chief problem area.

According to a new Heathcare Commission report, 103 trusts of a total of 391 declared themselves to have failed on at least one of three core hygiene standards in 2007–8. Of those, 40 had performed better the previous year.

The main source of problems was decontamination of reusable medical devices: 70 trusts failed to meet this standard, whereas 35 trusts failed to comply with infection control standards and 21 to meet clean building targets.

One reason for these failures is that hygiene standards have been clarified and toughened. For example, some hospitals were still using benchtop sterilisers to clean equipment, though this is no longer recommended.

From April 2009, a new regulatory regime will require trusts to comply with all hygiene standards in order to pass a new registration test. Failing the test could, in principle, stop a hospital from operating.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “This is a wake-up call. It’s 10 months before this formal registration. Overall we are still in a situation where too many trusts have self-declared non-compliant.”

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