Survey Outlines Shocking Level of Data Loss in Pharma Sector

Considering the sensitivity of data protection and related topics in the existing client, a new survey provides a damning indictment of the pharmaceutical sector.

According to the Crown Records Management / Censuswide Survey, 60 per cent of pharmaceutical companies have lost important data, and nearly one-in-four have been successfully breached by hackers.

The survey which quizzed IT decision-makers at UK companies which boast more than 200 employees will of serious concern, particularly owing to how imperative privacy is in the healthcare sector.

Companies in a wide variety of industrial sectors have been subjected to cyber-attacks, with the Carphone Warehouse and Ashley Madison recently hitting the headlines.

The importance of keeping data safe under lock and key was succinctly underlined by the 2013 data breach at US retailer Target; considered to be the largest successful cyber-theft in history.

As a result of the breach, which saw American computer hacker Albert Gonzalez sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, Target ultimately reached a deal with Visa to pay its card issuers up to $67 million.

The Crown Records Management Survey discovered that data in the industry is not being inappropriately accessed on an occasional basis, but instead this undesirable state of affairs appears to be a regular occurrence.

12 per cent of companies in the pharma sector that responded to the survey conceded that they have lost data between seven and nine times, while 8 per cent admitted that data had been jettisoned inadvertently on at least 13 occasions.

Speaking on this issue, Ann Sellar, Business Development Manager at Crown Records Management, indicated her view that these figures should be considered extremely serious.

Sellar warned: “These survey results should be a wake-up call for UK businesses, and especially those in the pharmaceutical sector, because the importance of protecting customer data is higher than ever. Not only because of potential fines for data breaches (which will soon increase when the EU General Data Protection Regulation is ratified) but also because of growing public awareness.

“It takes on average 20 years to build a reputation but just five minutes to ruin it with a data breach and then up to two years to rebuild it. So businesses need to look at the way they protect their information, understand where the threats are and start putting robust processes in place to protect their customers. If they don’t I can only see the number of data breaches increasing in the next few years.”

Although hacking is clearly a major source of difficultly for companies, Sellar also emphasised that the majority of data loss occurs due to human error, and reiterated the importance of companies treating this issue with due seriousness and gravity.

 
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New Report Suggests Strong Link Between Poverty and Poor Health

Analysis published by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) suggests that the health of children in the UK is hugely dependent on geographical location.

The disparity between the experience and physical well-being of young people is so stark as to be reasonably defined as a ‘postcode lottery’.

This divergence in the health of children is perhaps best summed up by the fact that a child in a reception class in Barking and Dagenham is over 250 per cent more likely to be obese than a child of the same age in Richmond upon Thames. Yet only 18 miles separate these two areas.

In similar statistical indicators, a 5 year-old child in Leicester is over five times more likely to have tooth decay than a similarly aged child in West Sussex.

On a broader regional level, it is clear that the south east benefits from significantly above average health in UK terms. It is estimated, based on the NCB research, that over 15,000 case of ill-health could be prevented if children in the north west had access to the same level of health and development.

The study will undoubtedly raise questions about inequality in the UK, and particularly whether wealthier areas of the country benefit from superior services.

Data compiled by the NCB clearly indicates that young people who grow up in areas of relative deprivation are simply far more likely to suffer from ill health and poor development.

Children in the 30 most deprived local authorities were significantly more likely than those in privileged areas to suffer from obesity, tooth decay, accidental injuries and lower educational development.

While more research needs to be carried out in order to understand all of the reasons behind this, the National Children’s Bureau still concluded that there is an inextricable link between poverty and relatively poor health.

Speaking on behalf of the NCB, its Chief Executive, Anna Feuchtwang, had the following to say:

“It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.

“As these variations are closely linked to poverty, with those in areas with the highest levels of deprivation more likely to suffer from a range of health issues, we have to ask whether England is becoming a nation of two halves?

“The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.

“We need local and national government to make the same efforts to narrow the gap in health outcomes across the country for under-fives as has been made to narrow the gap in achievement between poor and rich pupils in school. Government must make it a national mission over the next five years to ensure that the heath and development of the first five years of a child’s life is improved.”

Full regional and local health data from the report can be acquired online by clicking here.

 
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NHS England Launches New Initiative to Address Staff Absences

NHS England has today announced an initiative intended to impact positively on the health and wellbeing of staff in the service.

The Chief Executive of NHS England, , will outline the plans aimed at the organisation’s 1.3 million employees speaking at the NHS Innovation Expo conference.

Measures introduced as part of these plans will include serving healthier food, promoting physical activity, reducing stress, and providing health checks covering mental health and musculoskeletal problems.

These latter two issues are purportedly the largest causes of illness absences in the NHS. Overall absences in the health service are estimated to cost the taxpayer £2.4 billion per year. To put this figure into perspective, this amounts to approximately 2.5 per cent of the total NHS budget.

Three principles will be at the heart of this new health initiative. Firstly, there will be a major drive intended to promote improved NHS staff health. This will be conducted by a group of leading NHS hospital, mental health, ambulance, community and clinical commissioning group employers, and partnered with NHS Employers and Public Health England.

Secondly, a new occupational health service will be particularly targeted at GPs; a tranche of the NHS that particularly suffers from high levels of stress and burnout owing to long hours. This aspect of the programme will be partnered with the Royal College of GPs and BMA General Practitioners Committee.

And, thirdly, there will be a specific focus on catering, with the aim of delivering healthier food options within the NHS. In order to achieve this, NHS England will work closely with Public Health England.

Speaking on the new initiative, Stevens stated that “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country. When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.

“At a time when arguably the biggest operational challenge facing hospitals is converting overspends on temporary agency staff into attractive flexible permanent posts, creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must-do.

“And at a time when the pressures on GPs have never been greater, we need to extend the local practitioner health programmes that have been shown to help GPs stay healthy and get back to work when sick.

“Equally, it’s time for PFI contractors and catering firms to ‘smell the coffee’ – ditch junk food from hospitals and serve up affordable and healthy options instead. Staff, patients and visitors alike will all benefit.”

However, the approach to addressing the issue has been criticised in some quarters.

By implementing this new approach to health within the NHS, the health service is explicitly acknowledging that working within the clinical professions is becoming increasingly stressful. When this is combined with the relentless pursuit of cost saving measures, attempting to squeeze ever more juice from already stretched resources, then this inevitably results in more sickness absences.

Some have suggested that this an unsustainable situation that must be addressed directly, rather than merely attempting to alleviate problems with measures that singularly fail to tackle the root cause of the issue head-on.

Additionally, the overall budget for the scheme is £5 million, which when spread across the 200 trusts in the NHS ultimately represents a rather paltry figure, considering that the average trust typically employs around 5,000 people. One can calculate that this initiative will represent little more than a few pounds investment per member of staff.

Nonetheless, Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health and chair of the NHS Social Partnership Forum, was still willing to publicly acknowledged what she considered to be a positive development. McAnea commented that “the health and well-being of NHS staff at work has a direct impact on patients and this initiative rightly starts recognising that. Addressing physical and mental health issues is important and a step in the right direction as it will help tackle some of the major causes of stress at work.”

 
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Diabetes Report Paints Sobering UK Picture

Newly published analysis produced by Diabetes UK gives insight into the impact of diabetes on the nation.

According to the leading UK charity, people with diabetes suffer 200,000 devastating complications every year. These include amputations, heart attacks and strokes.

The report has been based on data that forms part of the National Diabetes Audit. Yet despite the sobering nature of the figures involved, the nadir of this phenomenon has yet to be reached, at least based on current projections.

By 2025, it is predicted that the number of people living with diabetes in Britain will soar to 5 million.

These figures illustrate the importance of addressing the disease within the NHS in terms of providing adequate care.

Diabetes is naturally a debilitating condition for sufferers, but it is also one of the largest economic burdens on the NHS. Staggeringly, diabetes alone accounts for 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget, with the health service spending £8 billion annually on tackling the condition.

Much of this expenditure could be prevented, according to Diabetes UK, if appropriate care is provided.

Speaking on these worrying figures, Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, had the following to say: “It is an absolute tragedy that there are almost 200,000 cases a year of debilitating and life threatening diabetes complications such as heart attacks, amputations, and stroke that could be prevented with better care and support.”

Young also made reference to the disparity in care offered to diabetes sufferers depending on the region of the country in which they reside. Research indicates that there can be a gulf of nearly 40 per cent between the areas of the UK with the best and worst treatment of the condition.

“With the numbers of people with diabetes rising at an alarming rate, it is vital that the Government and the NHS act urgently to end the postcode lottery of diabetes care and ensure that all people living with diabetes get the support and care they need to live long healthy lives,” Young opined.

Young also made clear that it was important to communicate to the general public the value of adopting preventative lifestyle-based measures. “The NHS must get better at giving people with diabetes the education they need to take control of their condition,” she asserted.

A study by the World Health Organisation has previously suggested that diabetes in Britain could rise by 25% by the end of the decade, while the National Heart Forum claims that type 2 diabetes could increase in the UK by as much as 98% in the same timeframe.

 
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‘Sunshine’ Legislation to Clean Up NHS Drugs Cronyism

New government regulations affecting all NHS staff will affect the way that gifts or hospitality operate within the public health sector.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that all such gifts or hospitality received by NHS employees from drugs and medical device companies will have to be explicitly declared. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.

The new government guidance has been dubbed the ‘Sunshine rule’, and is being introduced in order to prevent NHS staff from abusing their positions.

Previously there had been a risk that opulent gifts or luxurious hospitality could be offered to healthcare workers in exchange for preferential treatment within the NHS system for certain pharmaceuticals or procedures.

As a result of the new legislation, NHS organisations will be required to maintain a hospitality register in which staff will declare all gifts and hospitality that they receive from pharmaceutical firms and medical devices manufacturers.

With regard to the new legislation, Hunt indicated that he was acting on information that he had received previously, which brought into question the transparency and neutrality of processes in the NHS.

Hunt stated: “Disturbing evidence has come to my attention that small numbers of NHS staff have tried to influence NHS purchasing decisions in return for payment, gifts or hospitality from pharmaceutical firms and medical device manufacturers.

“This is a complete abuse of their position and will be shocking to the vast majority of staff who want the best for patients.”

In addition, Hunt also indicated that he believed the current regrettable situation was compounded by the number of sales representatives present in NHS establishment. Hunt stated that as many as 65 reps were on site at any one time according to a recent report.

In a robust defence of the policy, Hunt stated that “only those serving their own self-interest should have anything to fear, with patients and taxpayers set to benefit.”

Speaking on the subject, Dr Virginia Acha, the Executive Director of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), welcomed the legislation.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Department of Health and NHS England as plans for the ‘Sunshine Rule’ develop, to ensure that we maximise our combined efforts on disclosure for the benefit of patients and the public.”

Acha also pointed out that the ABPI had been governed by its own self-regulated Code of Practice for over half a century.

 
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Despite Government Measures, Alcohol-Related Deaths Rise in Scotland

Despite efforts to promote awareness of responsible alcohol usage, new figures indicate that the number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has increased over the last twelve months.

The Daily Record reported on figures from the National Records of Scotland which indicated that there were 1,152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland during 2014; a 5 percent increase on the previous year.

Previous research has indicated that Scots are the most likely among UK residents to engage in dangerous binge drinking.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 36 percent of Scots confessed to binge drinking in a 2013 survey; a larger proportion than in any other region of Britain.

And Scotland was placed eight on the so-called ‘alcohol consumption world league table’ back in 2009.

Statistics published by the World Health Organization at that time indicated that nearly 50 million litres of pure alcohol were consumed in Scotland in 2007. This placed the nation above Spain, Italy and France in terms of pure alcohol consumption.

Commenting on the publicised alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt struck a cautious note, indicating that the figures were worrying but should be seen in a wider context of a decline in alcohol consumption in Scotland.

“This increase in alcohol-related deaths is disappointing, particularly given the decreasing trend we have seen in recent years,” Watt stated.

But the Health Minister also made it clear that the country has a lot of work to do in order to eradicate problem drinking, or at least reduce it to an acceptable level.

“Alcohol deaths in Scotland are almost double those in the early 1990s. The five per cent increase in 2014, following a two per cent rise the previous year, shows that even though significant progress has been made since 2006 far more needs to be done,” Watt opined.

Watt added that the government has attempted to introduce measures to discourage binge drinking, stating that the alcohol framework put in place by the Scottish government consist of over 40 measures.

These are intended to reduce consumption, support families and communities, promote positive attitudes and positive choices, and improve treatment and support services.

Watt also suggested that availability and pricing played a major role in problem drinking, and this view was echoed by chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie.

“The Scottish Government has made great strides to introduce a comprehensive alcohol strategy, but it will inevitably be less effective without measures to deal with the affordability of alcohol and the proliferation of cheap, high strength alcohol that fuels heavy drinking and causes the greatest harm,” Bennie asserted.

 
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Obesity and drug problems included in review of sickness benefit

People who are obese or have alcohol or drug problems resulting in them not being able to work could have their sickness benefits cut if they refuse treatment, says David Cameron.

The PM has launched a wide reaching review of the current system because some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, he says, this fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help. There is currently no requirement for people with such health problems to undertake treatment.

ESA was brought in during 2008 in place of incapacity benefit and income support and is paid when someone has illness or disability. It does require claimants to undergo a work capability assessment to assess the degree to which their illness or disability impacts their ability to work.

Around 60% of the 2.5 million people claiming the ESA benefit have been on in for now for more than 5 years.

 

BACK TO WORK

The PM has asked Prof Dame Carol Black, already an adviser to the Department of Health, to carry out the review of policies and allowances.

Whilst launching the proposed review, Mr Cameron commented “Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment. In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice. It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.”

Mark Harper, Disabilities Minister, said people who were overweight or had alcohol or drug problems needed treatment to get back to work.

Dame Carol said she was keen to “overcome the challenges” posed by the current system. “These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”

 

NOT SUPPORTED BY ALL

However, the proposed review and policy changes have been challenged from many quarters.

Campaigners said it was “naive” to think overweight people did not want to change and Labour said the policy would no nothing to help people off benefits.

Susannah Gilbert, co-founder of online obesity support group Big Matters, claimed the proposed policy changes “wouldn’t be feasible”. She went on to say: “I think it’s naive to think that people don’t want to change their life. Many of them have tried every diet under the sun and they still have a weight problem, so to think they don’t want to have help isn’t true.”

The Labour MP, Kate Green, who’s also shadow minister for disabled people, pointed out that the numbers claiming sickness benefits had risen under the present Government. She said: “David Cameron’s government has stripped back funding for drug support programmes and their Work Programme has helped just 7% of people back to work, so it is clear the Tory plan isn’t working. Today’s announcement does nothing to help people off benefits and into work while the government continues to fail to clamp down on tax avoiders and offshore tax havens.”

 

 
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