NHS regime move 'unprecedented'
The doctors' union has described the announcement that hospitals in three areas where health services are persistently failing are to undergo a new regime overseen by NHS regulators as an "unprecedented move".
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the new "success regimes", were a signal of the failure of reforms brought out about by the last health secretary, Andrew Lansley.
Announcing the measures today, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said repeated attempts to turn around services in certain places had been "tested to destruction" and a new way of dealing with them needed to be tried.
Some areas were known to have suffered from "systematic imbalance" for "years, if not decades", he said.
North Cumbria, Essex, and North, East and West Devon are the first three parts of the country that are to be moved formally into the "new success regime".
Announcing the measures at the start of the NHS Confederation's annual conference, Mr Stevens acknowledged that previous attempts to turn the services around had not worked.
"Hopefully you will also see that it recognises that we get the fact that the existing models of trying to sort some of these knotty problems out needs to evolve," he told delegates in Liverpool.
The regime is a collaboration between regulators Monitor the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England, who said it will "build upon existing approaches to providing support and challenge to local systems".
BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: "This unprecedented move underscores the abject failure of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to address the underlying pressures on NHS services.
"The expensive and unnecessary reorganisation diverted attention away from the real problems facing the NHS such as the service co-ordination and chronic funding pressures.
"The need for this sort of dramatic intervention is likely to increase if the Government continues to pursue its drive for yet more 'efficiencies', instead of properly addressing inadequate NHS funding in the face of rising demand for health and care services."
Officials said the areas announced are three out of 11 challenged health economies that received support with strategic planning in 2014/15 and the success regime will seek to build on this work.
The Cumbrian organisations that will be working together in the regime are Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, Cumbria County Council and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which will remain in special measures.
All partners will work together across Essex, and Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust will also remain in special measures while Monitor's investigation into Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's finances after it reported a deficit of £9.8 million for 2014/15 will continue, they said.
They will also work together across the whole of Devon with the exception of Torbay and south Devon.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Patients quite rightly want to know that the NHS where they live is as good as the best across the country.
"This new Success Regime will make sure every part of the NHS locally is working well together and getting the support it needs to give patients the best possible care."
Mr Stevens said it was important that the way performance standards are measured and interpreted do not give rise to "perverse incentives or unintended consequences".
He said he has therefore asked NHS England's national medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, to carry out a review, paying particular attention to patients' treatment waiting times standards.
Better support for people with learning disabilities and improving public health strategies, particularly regarding obesity, also need to be dealt with, he said.
He told the annual conference of the NHS Confederation, which represents almost 500 member organisations, that it is "striking" that one child in 10 is obese when they start primary school while one in five is by the time they leave.
"As a society, as parents, we are doing something terribly wrong in terms of the way in which we are supporting and bringing up the next generation," he said.
"And we know what that will mean - that will mean a rising tide of avoidable type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and cancer, because we now know that one in five cancers are caused by obesity, not to mention blindness and amputations.
"So the question for all of us is, are we going to, as the National Health Service, stand by and get ready to treat that burden of illness, or are we going to rattle the cage and advocate for something different?"