The new NHS: what it means for journalists

There was laughter in the room when John Lister ironically described the new NHS structure as “streamlined” and shared a Guardian graphic of the new bureaucracy. It set the tone for the NUJ’s Reporting on our health services masterclass, aimed at helping health reporters get to grips with confusing changes.

Lister, senior lecturer in health journalism at Coventry University, identified some of the main issues for journalists:

  • access to information
  • getting that information in a timely manner
  • getting a range of information – not just press releases, but also Board papers, statistics, other info that isn’t specifically targeted at the press
  • transparency
  • access to expert analysis. (You have the info, but can you make sense of it? Is there a specialist who can put it in context or add insight?)

He spoke about the slippery nature of transparency. For example, NHS England (the new name for the NHS Commissioning Board) is relatively open to reporting, but the real nitty-gritty decisions are made by Local Area Teams (LATs). Continue reading

AUDIO: Health journalists speak at NUJ Reporting Health event

Last night Help Me Investigate attended the NUJ’s event on reporting the new health system. Panelists John Lister (Coventry University), Shaun Lintern (Health Service Journal) and Branwen Jeffreys (BBC) spoke in turn about how the new health system is structured (as best can be told); how to report on the new system; and the possible problems and opportunities within that.

Audio clips of those introductory talks can be found below, with a brief description. All three can also be found on Audioboo under the event tag, #NUJhealth. Continue reading

Tracking accountability and money in the new health system – diagram


The King’s Fund published the above diagram as part of a report on Good Governance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (PDF) in the new health system. It’s one of the best diagrams we’ve seen so far explaining where accountability lies within the system, and funding. Click to see a full size version.

The whole report is worth reading for an insight into what the new groups are supposed to do, and how they are supposed to operate.

The King’s Fund also has a section on its website about the NHS reforms covering autonomy, accountability and democratic legitimacy, which provides some useful historical and other context.

Making the most of WhatDoTheyKnow

The Independent recently got a great story from citizen FOI website about MPs running tabs in the bars at parliament.

It just goes to show what a great resource is. If you haven’t used it yet, have a look at it ASAP.

The site allows you to:

  • Make requests to any public authority in the UK
  • Browse past requests made through the site
  • Get FOI advice from its large community of users

I’ve been using it quite a lot recently and have a couple of tips to help you make the most use of it. Continue reading

Liveblog and audio from #Reportinghealth event

Yesterday Help Me Investigate Health hosted an event: ‘GPs in Control? Reporting the New Health System‘. You can catch up on the talks through a liveblog by Duarte Romero.

Audio clips of the opening talks by Richard Vize and Darren Wright can be found tagged #reportinghealth on Audioboo.

Notes from the event were made by Carol Miers and blogged here.

Video of the panels and presentations will appear on the BBC College of Journalism YouTube channel.

NHS publishes list of commissioning support groups

The NHS Commissioning Board has published a complete list of Commissioning Support Units (CSUs).

CSUs will support medical staff running CCGs whilst they acquire the business skills necessary to work independently as commissioners.

The list is now final after the merger of West Yorkshire Commissioning Support Unit and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Commissioning Support Unit.

The final list is:

■NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Greater Manchester Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Staffordshire and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS North Yorkshire and Humber Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS West and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Arden Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Central Midlands Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Norfolk and Waveney Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Hertfordshire and Essex Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS North & East London Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS North West London Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS South London Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS South West Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Kent and Medway Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Surrey & Sussex Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS South Commissioning Support Unit

■NHS Central Southern Commissioning Support Unit

The NHS has also published a list of CSU managing directors and their contact details.

NHS publishes social media guidance

NHS Employers, the health service’s human resources group, has published advice to managers encouraging staff use of social media.

The publication acknowledges the pressures on human resources staff to control negative online coverage – but concludes that an “active and honest social media presence” will improve the health service.

This advice for open engagement ranges across the service, from Department of Health managers to clinicians and administrative staff with personal accounts.

However, it still recognises that many NHS contracts explicitly forbid “bringing the organisation into disrepute”.

The issue of free speech within the NHS is of particular relevance following the NHS United Lincolnshire scandal – where two whistle blowers were forced from their posts after warning of care failings to rival Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.

Both managers subsequently spoke to the media, one of them breaking a gagging order to do so.

Get the data: How long can you expect to wait at A&E in the West Midlands?

A longer version of this post can be read in today’s Birmingham Mail. You can find out how to do the same report in your own area here.

If you’re going to have to go to an A&E department in the West Midlands, don’t turn up at 1am – you can expect a long wait.

That’s according to NHS figures which identify that time as being the worst for long waits across the region: the average patient arriving between one and two o’clock in the morning waits for almost three hours. Continue reading