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Autumn report

16th October 2006

16102006_report1.jpgThe first two weeks in October have seen a boom in performance-related reports and analyses.

First we had official confirmation that the NHS debt was indeed over half a billion pounds for the 2005/6 financial year; this was up slightly on earlier estimates due primarily to a further handful of Trusts unexpectedly revealing deficits. It was way over the government's initial estimate of £200m but comfortingly below the feared £800m we reported in our first issue back in April. And the good news is that everything is now back on track and the NHS is set to end the current year in surplus - but we all know by now that winter can change all that!

Almost simultaneously, the Health Profile of England revealed the north-south divide in healthcare to be as distinct as ever - and some otherwise unheard of places suddenly found themselves in the spotlight. I mean, when you think of healthcare, the places that spring to mind tend to be inner cities and political hotspots, not Boston, in Lincolnshire, which was revealed to have the highest obesity levels in the country. No wonder then, that as the cameras moved in, the streets suddenly seemed noticeably quieter. But none of us should be complacent; the study also revealed that the UK as a whole has the highest levels of obesity in Europe, more than twice that of our many of our neighbours. If you have time, it's worth looking at the maps, which put into clear perspective the correlation between obesity, smoking and life expectancy across England.

Not to be caught on the back foot by its own report, The Department of Health chose exactly the same day to launch its Health Challenge England campaign with an event attended by the Prime Minister at Leyton Orient football club and a host of senior figures from "local councils, education, supermarkets, health centres and sports clubs."

But not the NHS?

If our expectations of October were that a new army of reconfigured Primary Care Trusts would emerge on the scene and put the country to rights then we were sadly disappointed, but probably not half as much as many of the affected staff. A quick, informal survey at the beginning of the month (I made a few phone calls) revealed that, while most of the new PCTs had Chief Executives in post, very few other director positions had been filled. Be warned; as we go to press with our latest issue of Healthcare Today, the NHS is a juggernaut with a captain but very few crew on deck...

And what of the engine room? Well that's not exactly in rude health either. Hot on the heels of the Health Profile of England we were given the Healthcare Profile of England in the form of the Healthcare Commission's new ratings guide for the country's NHS organisations. Having ditched the much-criticised star ratings system, the new league tables separated out service quality and financial performance with very few organisations scoring highly in both categories. In fact, out of 570 organisations, only two were considered excellent across the board, implying "room for improvement" in the rest and with more than half being considered "weak".

So that's the state of the nation in October then: we're an unhealthy lot, our hospitals are struggling to look after us and our health promotion is being co-ordinated from sports stadiums by absolutely anyone so long as they're not working in the NHS.

 

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Article Information

Title: Autumn report
Author: Chris May
Article Id: 914
Date Added: 16th Oct 2006

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