Guardian, Oct. 19th 1999, p.2
Reports that the £50m funding promised by Alan Milburn to improve treatment of heart disease is not new money but is part of the £21bn announced in the comprehensive spending review in 1998. Experts have responded by pointing out that the £50m will be insufficient to develop a top quality service, which would cost £300-400 million. Health commentators also said that the 400 'extra' heart specialists also announced by Mr Milburn had been agreed in 1998 and were already in training.
(See also Times, Oct. 19th 1999, p. 10; Guardian, Oct, 19th 1999, p.2; Independent, Oct. 19th 1999, p. 8)
Guardian, Oct. 26th 1999, p.4
Cancer services are to get a boost of £80m in an attempt to cut waiting times to see specialists. The government pledges that by 2000 no-one will wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist after referral.
(See also Times, Oct. 26th 1999, p. 10)
Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, vol. 4, 1999, 249-252
The implications of an ageing population are unclear because of uncertainties about trends in health expectancy. Additionally, the potentially long large increases in the cost of care can be reduced through research-led innovations that reduce dependency.
In Healthcare and cost containment in the European Union edited by E. Mossialos and J. Le Grand. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999.
Summarises five UK studies which have looked at the effect of charging for prescription medicines. All five studies agreed that increases in prescription charges are associated with decreases in the consumption of the drugs. Overall the studies suggested that a 10% increase in charges resulted in a 3% decrease in consumption. Results suggest that demand for drugs is relatively inelastic, and that charging is therefore ineffective as a cost containment measure.
Health Service Journal, vol. 109, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 12-13
Reports shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox's proposals for the expansion of voluntary private health insurance to augment the resources of the NHS.
Independent, Oct. 21st 1999, p. 10
Reports opening of an investigation into the spiraling cost of prescription drugs. The cost of many generic drugs, which are normally far cheaper than their 'branded' equivalents, has more than quadrupled in the past year. The problem has been compounded by a shortage of supply, meaning that hospitals and GPs are often being forced to prescribe more expensive branded versions. Difficulties have arisen from the closing down of one manufacturer, and the switch from bulk supplies to individual packaging following implementation of an EU directive.
(See also Guardian, Nov. 1st 1999, p. 10)
Independent, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 2
Reports that the government has ordered an investigation into the recent soaring cost of generic drugs supplied to the NHS. Ministers suspect that middlemen in the warehousing sector of the drugs industry have been hoarding supplies to drive up prices.
(See also Guardian, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 15; Daily Telegraph, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 5)
Independent, 19th Oct. 1999, p. 8
Nursing leaders warn that government will fail to meet its new targets for improving heart disease and cancer treatment unless it stops the drain of experienced nurses from the NHS through a substantial pay rise for middle grade staff.
(See also Times, 19th Oct. 1999, p. 10; Health Service Journal, vol. 109, 21st Oct. 1999, p. 4-5)
Health Service Journal, vol. 109, Sept. 23rd 1999, p. 10-11
Unions, managers and the NHS Executive are on the brink of an agreement on a national pay system. Core conditions, pay spines, job evaluation and pay lift will be set on a UK-wide basis, but local employers will be responsible for job design, have freedom to set pay bands and to make decisions about pay progression.
Health Service Journal, vol. 109, Oct. 28th 1999, p. 4-5
Predicts that NHS health commissioners will soon be able to enter into US-style disease management packages with pharmaceutical companies. PCGs and successor PCTs may have to consider such deals to comply with national service frameworks, stay within parameters set by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and Commission for Health Improvement and head off drug overspends.
Health Service Journal, vol. 109, 23rd Sept. 1999, p. 2
Primary care groups in Birmingham and Manchester have warned that soaring drugs costs could lead to city-wide overspends of up to £1m. Not only has the cost of generic drugs risen dramatically this year, but there has also been a shortage of cheaper, unbranded medicines.
Health Service Journal, vol. 109, Sept. 23rd 1999, p. 23
Argues that the present system of calculating reference costs for hospital inpatient and day-case activity produces no useful comparative data due to inconsistencies in the way hospitals operate and count activity. Offers three alternative options for calculating hospital operating costs by health resource group.
S. Player, S. Godden and A. Pollock
Health service Journal, vol. 109, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 28-29
Insurance companies tapping into NHS funds through PFI schemes are blurring the boundaries between public and private health provision in search of greater profits. Private finance schemes in primary care will not be subject to the controls required in hospital programmes. Insurance companies are interested in partnerships with primary care in order to influence NHS spending as services are increasingly contracted out. This state of affairs could lead to the introduction of US-style managed care with a loss of equity for patients.