The tailors have spoken: In Black & White, they are still not wearing clothes!!!
© Am Ang Zhang 2011
Historically, London Medical Schools were established in the hospitals in the poorer areas in order that medical students could have enough cases to practice on and in return the poor patients had the advantages of free treatment. There is nothing like volume for medical training.
For a very long time, doctors trained in London were one of the most valued. A Senior Registrar (yes, in those days) can easily get a Consultant job anywhere else in the Commonwealth and often a Professorship (British styled ones). In other words London trained doctors are a highly exportable commodity.
“The shape of the London hospital system has also been affected by developments in medical science and medical education. In many ways it has been the activities of doctors which have determined the pattern of the hospitals. The increasing ability to treat disease and improved standards of care shortened the time patients spent in hospital, raised the demand for services and led to an escalation of cost. The development of specialisation led first to the development of the special hospitals and later to special departments within the general hospitals. Advances in bacteriology, biochemistry, physiology and radiology created the need for laboratory accommodation and service departments, so that hospitals no longer consisted merely of an operating theatre and a series of wards. Sub-specialisation ultimately meant that services had to be organised on a regional basis and the very reputation of the capital’s doctors affected the number of patients to be seen. The hospitals of central London have long served a population much larger than their local residents.
It is against this complex background of population movement, poor social conditions, disease, wealth and poverty, professional expertise, critical comment and publicity that the London hospitals developed. A complex institutional pattern emerged. Voluntary hospitals grew up beside the ancient royal and endowed hospitals. A local government service providing institutional care for sick paupers developed alongside the hospitals. A network of fever hospitals, scientifically planned from the outset, was established. Physically near to each other, staffed by doctors who had trained in the same hospitals, and often serving the same people, the different objectives and status of the institutions led them to work in virtual isolation from each other. Each hospital had its own traditions and nobody standing in the middle of a ward could have doubted for a moment the type of hospital he was in. Countless details gave each an atmosphere of its own, and the different methods of administration and levels of staffing set them apart.” Geoffrey Rivett
Keith Palmer recently produced a detailed report that involved at least three such historic hospitals:
…………competition and choice in contestable services may inadvertently cause deterioration in the quality of essential services provided by financially challenged trusts.
Market forces alone will rarely drive trusts into voluntary agreement to reconfigure services in ways that will improve the quality of patient care as well as drive down costs. In many cases the most likely outcome will be continued deterioration in both the quality of care and the financial position. The NHS will have no alternative but to continue to fund their deficits or allow them to fail.
Let us hear it from the head tailor of the Emperor!
The NHS is entering a period of unprecedented financial challenges that will result in major changes to the provision of health services. While all areas of health care will be affected, acute hospitals face particular challenges because of the high proportion of the NHS budget spent in hospitals. Add in the need to reconfigure specialist services in many parts of the country to deliver improvements in outcomes and the requirement that all NHS trusts should become foundation trusts by 2014, and a period of fundamental service and organisational change is in prospect.
Keith Palmer’s analysis of the reconfiguration of acute hospital services in south-east London offers a timely and sobering contribution to the emerging debate on how service and organisational change should be taken forward across the NHS in England. His painstaking account of the trials and tribulations of bringing together four acute hospital trusts with a history of financial problems, the challenge of funding large and long-term private finance initiative (PFI) commitments and difficulties in sustaining high-quality specialist care in hospitals in close proximity to each other offers important learning for the future.
Three major implications for policy-makers stand out.
First, Palmer argues that market forces are unlikely to deliver desirable service reconfiguration, and only ‘strong commissioning’ stands a chance of bringing about the changes needed to improve quality and drive down costs. As he shows, in the case of south-east London, primary care trusts (PCTs) were either unwilling or unable to intervene to tackle the challenges facing acute hospitals, and only when the strategic health authority (SHA) became involved was some progress made. General practice commissioners face formidable obstacles in being more effective than PCTs in leading complex service reconfigurations, raising questions as to where responsibility for taking forward this work will rest when SHAs are abolished.
Second, Palmer questions the strategy of merging acute hospitals providing broadly similar services. His preferred alternative is to support acquisitions of financially challenged NHS trusts by high-performing foundation trusts on the grounds that this will facilitate improvements in quality and outcomes through the accelerated adoption of best practice models of care. Although provider consolidation along these lines might reduce competition in the health care market, the consequences have to be weighed against the risk that quality will deteriorate if Monitor in its role as the economic regulator rules against such acquisitions. The implication is that organisational changes need to be based on a thorough assessment of how to bring about improvements in quality, particularly through organisations that perform well lending support to those that are challenged.
Third, Palmer contends that the government will need to find a way of dealing with legacy debt and the costs of PFI commitments to support the acquisition of financially challenged trusts. Neither high-performing foundation trusts nor private sector providers are likely to be willing to take on challenged trusts without such support, and competition law requires that all parties should be treated equally if a market in acquisitions opens up. At a time of public spending constraint it will not be easy to identify additional resources but failure to do so may simply increase the financial and service challenges facing the NHS and store up even greater problems in future. The lessons from this paper need to be acted on in a context in which ministers have emphasised that service reconfigurations should be based on support from general practice commissioners and public and patient involvement. They have also argued that service changes should be consistent with clinical evidence and help to facilitate patient choice. The government’s decision to bring a halt to the work being undertaken by Healthcare for London to concentrate some specialist services to improve outcomes underlines the challenges in acting on the evidence presented in this paper.
In reality, the requirement to find up to £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015 and to establish all NHS trusts as foundation trusts by 2014 will necessitate a stronger approach to commissioning than currently envisaged to ensure that quality is improved at the same time as costs are brought under control. The expertise of general practice commissioners needs to be married with the ability to lead complex service reconfigurations across large populations if the lessons from south-east London are to have lasting impact.
The King’s Fund
Read the full summary here>>>>>
Read the full pdf report here>>>>>
The conclusions may make uncomfortable reading for policy-makers!!!
So in Black & White indeed!!!
Why is he not listening: BMJ:
UK health secretary Andrew Lansley was once prime minister David Cameron’s boss—a little remarked fact that may partly account for the fearlessness with which Mr Lansley felt able to spring upon cabinet colleagues his controversial plans for the NHS. When he was head of the Conservative research department in the early 1990s, Mr Lansley gave Mr Cameron and George Osborne, now chancellor, their first jobs in politics.
“That explains why he and David Cameron have a good relationship and why Andrew is trusted on health,” says Andrew Jones, formerly a Conservative policy adviser and now group medical director of Nuffield Health.
It is a common practice for politicians to ignore professional advice. Sometimes they might get away with it; sometimes it led to failure, gross failure as in the case of the French attempt at building the Panama Canal.
Jobbing Doctor: Carry on regardless.....
The Witch Doctor: The English Disease