Saturday, 30 August 2014

Save Our Hospitals Campaigners are joining the NHS March on the 06/09/2014

                                            Check all the photos here

Stafford Hospital protesters vow to stay as long as necessary

28 August 2014 Last updated at 17:06 BST
Campaigners fighting plans to downgrade a Staffordshire hospital have vowed to stay in their protest camp for as long as is necessary.
Protesters have already been camped outside Stafford Hospital for six weeks.
Karen Howells, from the Support Stafford Hospital group, said: "We are honest people (who) just want our health services for our community."
The downgrading was announced following the high profile public inquiry into the failings of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.
Please watch the very inspirational VIDEO here:

Jarrow Crusade revived to highlight NHS worries

It's a long old walk, and it's not for the faint hearted.

But since the 1930s, the 280 miles from Jarrow to London has been a marching route for those who feel marginalised politically.
Those taking part in the 21st Century version are now half-way through their trek, and have been picking up support along the way.
It was the idea of a group of Tyneside women worried at what they saw as increasing privatisation of the National Health Service.
"We've had a wonderful welcome from people along the route. There's been real enthusiasm to the campaign," said march organiser and GMB union official Rehana Azam.I caught up with the 30 or so marchers as they left King's Mill Hospital at Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire. They were into day 12 and half-way to London.
"But our main message is to let people know that the NHS is in danger of being parcelled up and sold off to big private interests. And that we are determined to prevent."
Among the marchers from Jarrow is retired doctor Rajan Madhok, who came from India to work in the NHS.
He's also worked in the USA's health system.
"It's only when you've worked in other countries that you appreciate how special and exceptional the NHS is," he told me.
"It mustn't be allowed to become a privatised market place. That would be a disaster for everyone."
The GMB's Rehana Azam said they were determined to stop the NHS being 'parcelled off
The march cut through the Nottinghamshire constituency of Conservative MP Mark Spencer. He accused the campaigners of scare-mongering.
"The NHS has been supplied by private firms since it was set up. The medicines and bandages are from private firms; even the GPs are, in effect, self-employed businesses.

Start Quote

The NHS is delivered free at the point of delivery, and that won't change under a Conservative government”
Mark Spencer MPConservative, Sherwood
"The key here is that the NHS is free at the point of delivery, and that won't change under a Conservative government."
But the so-called "People's March for the NHS" gives a strong indicator of the political battles ahead in the next general election.
Labour's Gloria De Piero joined the march as it made its way through her Ashfield constituency.
"Of course, I'm giving it my wholehearted support," she told me.
"Waiting lists are increasing at local hospitals here and nationally. People can see what is happening to their NHS and basically, they don't trust David Cameron to keep the NHS safe."
A more formal response came to me in a short statement from the Department for Health.
"By taking tough financial decisions elsewhere, this government has been able to increase the NHS budget by £12.7bn during this Parliament.
"We're committed to an NHS which continues to be free at the point of use for everyone who needs it."
The NHS Jarrow marchers have another week on the road; Northampton, Bedford and Luton are on the route. Then it's London and Parliament... and a big question: Will it have had the same impact as the original Jarrow Crusade? And will the sore feet have been worth it?

It mustn't be allowed to become a privatised market place. That would be a disaster for everyone”
Rajan MadhokRetired NHS doctor

Darlo Mums' March for the NHS is shaking the conscience of the nation

Mirror columnist Paul Routledge highlights how the protest - which echoes the famous Jarrow March of 1936 - is about privatisation dressed up as reform.

Let’s hear it for the Darlo Mums!
The Mothers’ March for the NHS reaches Nottingham today, and with good weather and good luck those tired limbs will make it to London a week on Saturday.
Retracing the steps of the famous Jarrow March of 1936, the mums of Darlington, County Durham, are taking their protest at Tory dismantling of the health service to the capital.
They tramped through rain and shine in Yorkshire last weekend, before heading for the Midlands and the Home Counties.
And the Darlo Mums are winning support from people everywhere.
“The reception has been amazing,” marcher Joanna Adams told me.
“Their sense of purpose sometimes made me cry.
“The NHS is more than just a public health service. It’s the core of what makes us civilised and good folk.
"I can’t help but be horrified that profit should be how it’s determined in the future. I can’t stand by and see that happen.”
Tory MPs demand “more and more reform”.
That’s precisely what the Darlo Mums’ protest is all about: privatisation dressed up as reform.
That’s the aim of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which compels health service ­commissioners to put NHS services out to tender, and makes it easier for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to close or downgrade a hospital.
Fight: The Peoples March for the NHS - and the 1936 Jarrow March
A disturbing picture is emerging. Private health hospitals now get up to 40% of their work from the NHS – work that could and should be done for patients and not for profit.
Eighteen per cent of A&E units and one-third of NHS walk-in centres have closed.
Three new Coalition laws to encourage privatisation are on the statute book since 2010, and 70% of NHS contracts go to the private sector.
Along with the privatisation of hospital cleaning, laundry and catering services, key medical services, including cancer care, have been handed over to the privateers.
And if they can’t make it pay, they just walk away, leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces.
The Darlo Mums fear that the health service – “owned by us, loved by us, our most prized possession” - is being systematically pushed to the edge of collapse, making it privatisation-ready if the Tories get back into power.
The 11 Darlo Mums, who have 13 kids between them (and another on the way), aren’t celebrities.
They are ordinary wives and working mothers doing something extraordinary for what they believe in – the NHS, which has nurtured them and their families – and the rest of us – for 66 years.

Do you back the Darlo Mums' stance?

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“The NHS is safe in our hands” declared vote-hunting David Cameron before the last election. Can there have ever been a bigger political fib?
No more top-down reforms, he ­promised, before imposing a £3billion reorganisation of the NHS so his rich City pals could profit from the sick.
A shake-up for a shake-down, you might say.
These mums are shaking the conscience of the nation.
You can follow their progress as well as registering your support on
As Darlo Mum Linda Hughes put it: “Health is not a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.”
Hear, hear. Mirror

The coming crisis in the NHS

Amid accusations that the government is bleeding the NHS dry, is Britain's health service about to become a key political issue?

Political issue: protesters demonstrate against a hospital closure. Photograph: Rex Features

Sixty-six years after Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS at Manchester's Trafford General, the future of this small, now rather bleak, hospital, with its peeling paint and malfunctioning automatic doors, once again became a political issue of national importance in February.
The decision to downgrade Trafford's A&E department became the focal point of a parliamentary byelection in the neighbouring constituency of Wythenshawe and Sale, where the local hospital had suffered a huge, debilitating influx of the stricken and walking wounded who would, in times past, have turned up in Trafford.
The new Labour MP, Michael Kane, who made much of the plight of 1,000 people stuck in queueing ambulances outside Wythenshawe hospital's packed A&E over the winter, declared his victory "a result that demonstrates that people know the NHS is not safe in David Cameron's hands".
The electorate can expect a lot more of this. In last month's local elections Labour did not do as well as it hoped, with a general election less than a year away. But one thing the party high command, and senior figures from other parties, noticed was that, where the NHS was the central issue, Ed Miliband's message, so often lost on the public, got through. "In London, in particular, looking at Hammersmith and Fulham and places like Merton, Labour had full-on 'save our NHS', 'save our local hospital' campaigns," said former health minister Paul Burstow MP, a Liberal Democrat. "They credit that with sweeping the Conservatives aside, quite unexpectedly. It will become a big part of the debate at the general election, partly because Labour will want it to be."
The past few months have provided more grist to Labour's propaganda mill. In April the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for an operation hit three million, a six-year high. In May the cancer treatment target was missed for the first time since it was introduced in 2009, and there was a record number of delayed discharges, where patients were kept in hospital often because of a lack of social care options in the community.
This month brought talk of a GP recruitment crisis, with figures showing a fall in the number of family doctors since the coalition came to power, and the worst ever take-up of GP training. Then last Friday official NHS data revealed that 299,031 patients had arrived at hospital A&E departments that week – the highest number on record. The A&E four-hour waiting time target was also missed for the 49th consecutive week. And all this with a £2bn shortfall discovered in the NHS budget for next year.
"It's basically a winter crisis in the NHS every day now," one senior hospital official told the Observer. "The pressure and demand is unrelenting and overwhelming. The service is running hot the whole time. There are practically no spare beds at any time. When a patient is admitted to a bed, they can probably feel the warmth from the patient who used it just before."
Last week Dr Mark Porter, head of the doctors' union, the BMA, accused the government of bleeding the system dry and listed ways in which ministers were failing the NHS. He asked an appreciative audience at the BMA annual conference in Harrogate: "Who should the public blame? The people who work in the NHS, or the government that holds the purse strings? And with the general election just 10 months away, we could be fighting like this every day."
Stephen Dorrell MP, a health secretary in John Major's government, is a veteran of NHS politics. For the past four years, before his surprise resignation earlier this month, he also chaired the influential Commons health committee, scrutinising the system and the government's reactions and reforms. He said: "All prime ministers have one requirement of the health secretary – and this is just as true of Tony Blair, as Gordon Brown, as John Major and David Cameron – the only thing they want the health secretary to deliver is to keep the NHS out of the newspapers. If the NHS is in the papers, it's bad news for the government. It's as simple as that."
Clearly, an attempt to find £30bn of efficiency savings in the NHS by 2020, which can be redistributed to meet the NHS's needs, is failing. A 4% annual increase in demand is being driven by an ageing population, advances in medicine that are keeping patients alive longer, and more people suffering from long-term conditions, such as diabetes, kidney problems and breathing trouble. That adds up to big problems, notwithstanding the government's commitment to ringfence the NHS budget from real-term cuts. "Historically we have met it [increased demand] by 3% cash and 1% efficiency gains," Dorrell said. "And then suddenly, because the government has run out of money, we are supposed to meet the 4% by efficiency gains."
The difficulty – some say impossibility – of this challenge has forced ministers to provide emergency funds – some of which has been shouted about, and some of which, curiously, hasn't. Last summer saw an extra £500m announced to help the NHS cope with last winter and the next. And in November another £150m was made available. But then earlier this month another £400m was handed over – without ceremony or press release.
A source close to the negotiations over the extra cash, to be spent on relieving A&E pressures and 100,000 extra operations this July and August, told the Observer: "The Department of Health wanted to announce it but No 10 told them not to. Most people would consider additional funding for the NHS to be praised and welcomed. But the fear in government was that if they did that, it would draw attention to and give credence to the notion that the NHS is in crisis and needs to be bailed out. No 10 is much more anxious about the state of the NHS than the DoH."
Dorrell can see that the battle is on, and is pleased to have the controversial political strategist Lynton Crosby on his party's team. "Electoral politics is one of the reasons I am an admirer of Lynton Crosby," Dorrell said. "He understands that a general election is not a competition about policy; it is a competition about which issue is most important in the electorate's mind. The higher salience the economy has, the better the government does. The higher the salience of health the better Labour will do – not because they are Labour but because they are the opposition. It depends which one is a higher priority in the mind of the voter in that quarter of 2015. That is what the election campaign is essentially about."
Back in Manchester, Joanne Harding, who was campaign coordinator for the ill-fated campaign to save Trafford General's A&E department, predicts that the NHS will play a huge role in the election in this city. "A new consultation on restructuring all the hospitals in central Manchester is due to be launched soon," she said. "It's a bit hazy at the moment what this will mean but we're all watching out for it."
Labour will no doubt seize on uncomfortable changes. But Burstow, who was minister for social care between 2010 and 2012, wonders whether ultimately Labour will regret its strategy. "The problem is that those save-the-local-hospital campaigns will sow the seeds of real difficulty were there to be a Labour majority trying to govern – because it would then have to do nothing to change the NHS. Yet their analysis, quite publicly, is that it does need to change."
Dorrell says that is why he resigned from the health select committee. He regarded health secretary Jeremy Hunt's decision to offer extra emergency cash to the NHS as "good politics but not particularly good policy". While adamant that it would be unthinkable for the NHS not to receive a real-terms increase in funding as the economy picks up, he wants to champion the case for money not being the only solution. He worries that amid political game-playing – Hunt keen to avoid contentious system change and Labour jumping on any sniff of it – necessary reforms will fall by the wayside.
"In a perfect world I would want them to address the real issues," Dorrell said. "The reason I stepped down from the committee is because of the central challenge in the care system … the system is not merely dysfunctional and inefficient but it also delivers bad care." He added that what is required is a system that prevents people needing to turn to hospitals – and that means moving money and focus away from expensive buildings and into keeping people out of them. Rather than spending more and more on the increasing demand on A&E departments, and then worrying about the costs of treatment, Dorrell wants a system that prioritises the need to stop people, often the elderly who take a fall, or are left in a parlous state due to neglect, ending up there.
"You will never solve the urgent care demand by chasing demand upwards. And why would you want to? We call it the National Health Service but actually it doesn't invest in health, it invests in rationing medicine. If it spent more time on improving health, it would find it relieves the pressures on medicine."
Is that change of focus possible in a country where the closure of a hospital can be wielded to great effect as a political weapon? "You have to be an optimist to be involved in politics," Dorrell says. Maybe. But this is an election year and, when it comes to the country's most cherished institution, the gloves are coming off.

Hospital Update

Gone are the days when summer was a period for rest and relaxation. In Hammersmith the busy people at Imperial NHS Trust, on the instructions of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have been pushing full steam ahead with their plans to close huge swathes of our local health service. 

On 30 July, the Imperial Board met to decide the future of A&E services in the borough. The public meeting quickly descended into farce after members of the public (including me) were refused entry by heavy-handed security guards. One quick-thinking campaigner quickly rang up LBC, and I was put live on radio, stuck outside the hospital. Magically, that got us in.

But, despite the protest, the decisions to go ahead with the closures were nodded through in under 30 minutes. I've written more about the decision and what it means on my website

They're not 'closures', according to Imperial who spent £400,000 on PR, including hiring M&C Saatchi. What does £400,000 get you? Remove the word 'closures' and substitute ‘changes'.  Not only pathetic and wasteful but positively misleading.

We also learnt that Imperial hopes to double its £39 million annual private income, while cutting the number of inpatient beds at Charing Cross from 360 to 24. 

Stefano Hatfield wrote an excellent article in the Independent about the double-speak that has been an ongoing feature of the way Imperial NHS Trust has chosen to communicate with local people. 

Some of you may remember that residents in Edmonton fought a similar campaign against the closure of the A&E at Chase Farm. Like us they were given assurances that there would be improved care, and that those needing emergency treatment could travel to North Middlesex hospital. As the campaigners predicted, North Middlesex is now struggling to cope, with 40,000 extra patients coming through the doors. Nurses have reported that their workload has 'increased significantly' since the closure of Chase Farm. 

This worrying report was given extra weight by the experience of Conservative MP David Burrowes, who told the Mail that he waited 12 hours on a trolley at North Middlesex, saying that beleagured staff were 'run ragged'. 

I felt I had to tell residents who use Hammersmith Hospital the truth – that the A&E there is closing on 10 September – so I wrote a letter to residents explaining the situation. I have had hundreds of responses in support of the Save our Hospitals campaign, from local residents who are standing with us against these closures. The bigger battle to save Charing Cross Hospital from demolition is only just beginning.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Imperial NHS Trust Annual general meeting 2014 - Please REGISTER and join us

Members of the public and staff are invited to attend our 2014 annual general meeting (AGM), to hear about our work and performance during the last year, our plans for the future and to ask questions.
Our annual report and accounts can be found here.
The meeting takes place on:
Date: Wednesday 24 September 2014
Time: Doors open 17:30, presentation 18:00, event close 19:30
Place: Porchester Hall, Porchester Road, Bayswater, London W2 5HS 
Please make sure you register your attendance before 22 September, by using the button below. 
Please let us know in advance if you have any special requirements by emailing
We hope you will be able to attend.
Eventbrite - Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust AGM 2014

Central London, West London and Hammersmith and Fulham CCGs' transport survey

Central London, Hammersmith & Fulham and West London Clinical Commissioning Groups would like to better understand any transport difficulties that our patients are facing in accessing health appointments, specifically those outside of a hospital setting. Clinical Commissioning Groups are NHS organisations responsible for planning, buying and monitoring local health services in their area. 

This survey is aimed at patients registered with a GP in one of the following boroughs: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. 

Thank you for your time to complete this survey, which should be submitted by 1 September 2014. If you have any questions about it, please contact Helena Stokes at NHS Central London CCG on 020 3350 4779 or

PS: Survey closing date September 1.

Council takes on Trust Executives over A&E closure

Hammersmith and Fulham Council

Cllr Julian Bell: Family emergency was timely reminder of why its wrong to close our A&Es

Ealing Council leader Julian Bell criticises Government plans to close local Accident and Emergency wards in his latest column.

Leader of the council Julian Bell

On the 10 September 2014 the Tory led government will close Central Middlesex A&E and Hammersmith A&E . These are my local A&Es and recent personal experience and news has taught me why their closure is both dangerous and wrong.
This week one of my grown up daughters anxiously explained to me that she was experiencing pain in the centre of her chest and that she was having difficulties breathing. She had a possible explanation for the pain as earlier in the day she thought she may have pulled a muscle in her sternum area whilst moving a bed to do some cleaning but she hadn't felt anything at the time so the intense pain she was now feeling may be due to something else.
She read up all the possible causes of the symptoms on the internet and of course a heart attack was prominent amongst these. I advised her to call NHS 111 the new emergency telephone advice service and after a number of conversations with an advisor and a paramedic they recommended she went to the nearest A&E at Hammersmith Hospital within the hour.
It was a worrying and stressful experience only made more bearable by the knowledge that Hammersmith A&E was close by and was also the best place to go in the event that the worse case scenario of a heart attack was happening. In these moments of deep anxiety and worry you are acutely aware of how time is of the essence, that proximity to help is vital and that speed could be a matter of life and death. Why then are 4 out of 9 A&Es being closed in NW London in the biggest experiment in NHS history making it much further away for many residents to access an A&E in an emergency?
Much to our relief when we arrived at A&E the doctor was able to speedily confirm that my daughter's heart was fine and that her far more prosaic diagnosis of the causes of her symptoms was spot on. Moving her bed in order to Hoover behind it had indeed caused the rather frightening symptoms she had experienced!
But this experience begs quite a few questions. What if this had happened on 10 September where would we have gone and how long would it have taken? Would we have gone to an unproven stand alone Urgent Care Centre (UCC) - the Doctor we saw at Hammersmith expressed his concerns about UCCs operating without the back up of an on site A&E and also made the obvious point about A&Es needing to be close to the people.
Save Our Hospitals campaigners

Although it turned out that we only needed UCC treatment (painkillers) the symptoms were such that we would have definitely gone to an A&E - probably either the soon to be closed Charing Cross or Ealing - in case it was a heart attack but would we then have been redirected back to Hammersmith if the worst had happened as the place in west London where heart attack victims will be treated? All these changes are mired in confusion and I believe are clinically dangerous.
Another justification for these changes - that fewer, bigger A&Es serve people better - suffered a blow this week. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the results of a recent inspection at Northwick Park and Central Middlesex A&Es. Northwick Park the larger and to be expanded A&E was judged 'required improvement' while the smaller and due to be closed A&E at Central Middlesex was rated 'good'.
I've often described these A&E closures as crazy and putting lives at risk but after the last week's experiences and news I am even more convinced that this is the case. Local people need to have a local A&E, easily accessible and fully equipped but unless the closures are halted on 10 September this will not be available and we will be moving into dangerous and unchartered territory. It is almost but not quite too late for the government to think again. I hope they do but I very much doubt it.
Read more columns by Ealing's leading politicians: For Labour - Councillor Julian Bell, Virendra Sharma MP and Steve Pound MP, for the Conservatives Angie Bray MP and Councillor Greg Stafford and for the Liberal Democrats Councillor Gary Malcolm.
Read more columns by Ealing's leading politicians: For Labour - Councillor Julian BellVirendra Sharma MP and Steve Pound MP, for the Conservatives Angie Bray MP and Councillor Greg Stafford and for the Liberal Democrats Councillor Gary Malcolm.

EXCLUSIVE: Overcharging by outsourcing giant Serco costs NHS millions

Outsourcing giant Serco is embroiled in a fresh misuse of public funds scandal after a company it set up overcharged NHS hospitals millions of pounds, The Independent can reveal.

Internal documents leaked to Corporate Watch indicate Britain’s biggest pathology services provider, which was established by Serco in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, overcharged the NHS for diagnostic tests.

The venture - first called GSTS and now trading under the name Viapath - has also been dogged by allegations of cost-cutting and clinical failings.  Internal documents show increasing concern amongst senior consultants who claimed that staff cuts and a lack of investment since privatisation left some laboratories close to disaster. 

In internal emails clinicians said the company had an “inherent inability… to understand that you cannot cut corners and put cost saving above quality.” The trust and Viapath say the problems have now been resolved. But this only happened after the intervention of senior medical staff and changes to the structure of the joint venture that reduced Serco’s role.

A 2013 internal audit by the trust into three of the 15 laboratories run by Viapath found its invoicing and billing systems were “unreliable” and contained “material inaccuracies”, amounting to an overcharge of £283,561 over a sample three month period. The auditors found invoices included double-counting of tests charged to the hospitals, with both samples and patients included in bills, and that the Trust had been “indirectly providing a free pathology service” to other NHS bodies by being billed for outside work done. They estimated this could represent approximately £1 million in 2012 alone.

The full scale of the over-charging is not known because a full audit has never been conducted.
But The Independent has also seen documents highlighting concerns raised by senior NHS managers over the accuracy of billing from other laboratories. One department raised a dispute over £1 million in 2011 due to what they said were errors including the suggestion that two different labs were charged for the same tests.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee said: “After a series of high profile failures, Government claims it has a grip on contracts with private companies to deliver our public services. Clearly it hasn’t. This is not just about ripping off the taxpayer, but about a failure to provide acceptable quality in a service that is vital for diagnosing what it many cases are serious or even life-threatening illnesses.

“It is also not the first time that serious concerns have been raised about Serco and its track record, including in other parts of the NHS where last year our Committee reported on substandard service and data manipulation in a contract to provide GP out-of-hours services.”

Pathology laboratories are central to the NHS, with blood and tissue analysis used in 70 per cent of all patient diagnoses. Viapath – a joint venture between Serco and Guy's and St Thomas’ hospital trust and King’s College hospital – is the largest pathology service provider in the UK, processing more than 22 million tests a year in London and Bedford.
Viapath declared it would combine the hospitals’ “clinical and scientific excellence” with the “service and business excellence” of outsourcing giant Serco when it was founded in 2009.

The joint venture was supposed to have reformed the Trust's commercial practices in the early stages of the contract, signed in 2009. However, a promised reform of charging has still not been introduced.
Serco had a controlling, 51 per cent voting share in the partnership, which made a £3.8 million profit last year. However after several failings the hospitals renegotiated the contract to an equal three-way split in 2012.
In a review of its first four years, marked “strictly confidential”, CEO Richard Jones admitted that it had “achieved much less than hoped” and that “initial attempts at transformation were badly handled and ended up costing money rather than saving it”.

An NHS commercial manager close to the contract told the Independent: “When you’re taking over a contract of this complexity it’s unreasonable to expect to fix the problem on day one. But the contract was set up on the basis that they had a year to turn things around and get things in proper shape. When they were unable to do it the trust should have ended the contract.”

They added: “They haven’t improved efficiency. Going into a service like this and making it more efficient and ensuring that people are billed properly - that’s where you think the private sector will add value. Serco know the public sector behaves this way and they take advantage. They use the ambiguity and inefficiency of the public sector that they’re meant to be improving on to take advantage of that inherited incompetence.”

Senior consultants have raised concerns over the effects of the “financial squeeze” by Viapath on some Guy's and St Thomas' labs. In June last year senior clinicians in the histopathology laboratory – which tests tissue samples for disease - made a complaint to Viapath. They claimed that their policy “over the last three years of either not replacing leavers or downgrading them has left us with a department that cannot cope with the technical complexity of our workload. This is now resulting in errors, poor turnaround times and now, an inability to perform quality control” for gynaecologic tests.

Consequences alleged included delays in scanning for the HPV virus, too few staff to book in samples for processing and quality control checks for semen analysis not being done.
A Clinical Director at the hospitals described it as “yet another lab in distress and part of a recurring pattern.” In a document written in August 2013 entitled “[Viapath]: the Great Leap Backwards”, Professor Tony Wierzbicki, the clinical lead for Blood Sciences said Viapath has not made the necessary investment into one of the “very few departments in the hospital whose failure can cause the whole institution to close”.

The review accused Viapath of ignoring consultants' concerns, “inadequate” investment and haemorrhaging experienced staff by introducing “a large pay cut with no improvement in working conditions”. It claimed disaster was avoided “only just” in 2013, and that the rate of “near miss 'never' events has climbed dramatically”, with new chemistry analysers brought in by Viapath apparently unable to read barcodes on a quarter of specimens and too slow to cope with peak demand compounding staff shortages.

The clinician also claimed that “minor events are often not recorded as the culture of [Viapath] means staff know the practical consequences of honesty.”
The service previously came under fire after it emerged that more than 400 clinical “incidents” had happened with its tests in 2011 – including losing or mislabelling patients’ blood and cell samples. Its first year performance review by the hospital's management said there appeared to be an increase in the number of these incidents since Viapath became involved.

Further mistakes in 2012 included a patient given the wrong blood after the system did not flag their medical history - and a patient’s kidney damage results showing up incorrectly after a “software fault”.
In a statement sent to The Independent by the trust’s press office, Professor Wierzbicki said: “I raised concerns 12 months ago during the internal review process. My concerns at that time have been resolved and there has been significant investment in staff and equipment. This has led to shorter waiting times for blood tests and a quicker turnaround time of services to key departments such as A&E.”

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust said in a statement that a September 2013 internal review commissioned by the Trust’s Audit Committee, including interviews with Viapath staff and frontline clinicians, concluded that: “notwithstanding some early challenges during the first years of Viapath, the new management team at Viapath was making good progress in transforming pathology services in terms of quality and value for money.”

The Trust said “there are no disputed invoices between Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Viapath. Billing arrangements are governed by a contract which is monitored regularly with data shared in an open and transparent way. If activity data errors or anomalies are identified, these are resolved on a case by case basis at monthly finance meetings and adjustments are made to subsequent invoices. Such adjustments have amounted to only 0.4 per cent of the cumulative contract value over the last five years.”

Richard Jones, Viapath chief executive, said he welcomed the trust’s statement and added: “Viapath had a difficult start but the partners have worked together to deliver ongoing improvements in service delivery and investment in innovation which is now yielding benefits for patients and our many NHS users. Our scientists and clinicians are world class and I am proud of the service we are delivering for the NHS.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “All providers of services to NHS patients, whether independent or NHS healthcare providers, are required to meet the same high standards on both patient care and strong financial control. The responsibility for holding accountable any company or provider which breaches conditions of its contract lies with the relevant NHS commissioning body.”

Serco: a history in scandals

Serco earns over £1 billion from its public sector contracts every year but it has been hit by a series of scandals over the past two years.
It is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the Government for the electronic tagging of offenders, some of whom were found to be dead, back in prison or overseas. Serco agreed to repay the government £68.5m at the end of last year.

Last year the company agreed to the early termination of its contract for out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall after falsifying performance data, failing to meet national standards and having a ‘bullying’ culture.
The Serco-run prison, HMP Doncaster, came under heavy criticism from the prison inspectorate last year after it emerged it had locked up inmates in cells without water or electricity for more than two days.

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