A Medical Device Daily

The UK Department of Health has launched a program aimed at reducing National Health Service (NHS) spending on temporary staffing by drawing on good practices found in NHS trusts across England.

Last year the NHS spent just under 1.45 billion on agency staff, which accounted for 5.06% of the total NHS spending on pay in England. Targeted actions to reduce the NHS spending on agency nursing, particularly in London, resulted in savings of 65 million last year.

Speaking at a conference in London last week, Health Secretary Lord Warner welcomed the launch of the Reducing Agency Costs Project. The project, led by South West London Strategic Health Authority and NHS Professionals, aims to reduce participating trusts’ spending on agency staff in 30 participating NHS trusts by drawing on good practice from across the country.

The NHS Professionals special health authority was established in April 2004. Working in partnership with NHS employers, NHS Professionals provides nurses, healthcare assistants and hospital doctors to trusts throughout the country.

Currently the NHS Professionals service is active in a total of 128 trusts, providing nursing staff in a total of 75 acute and primary care trusts. Almost 50,000 nursing staff are registered to work with NHS Professionals.

“There is growing evidence that demand for often expensive agency staff can be managed down through better planning and more flexible use of NHS staff,” Warner said. For example, he said that Nottingham City Hospital reduced its agency spending by 900,000 last year after working with NHS Professionals.

Acknowledging that “temporary staff can provide an essential service to the NHS by providing care to patients on a flexible basis,” Warner said, however, that “costs of agency staff in the NHS have been rising too rapidly.”

He added: “I believe it is important that trusts manage their flexible work force requirements in the most economical and effective way possible, and this means reducing [spending] on agency staff.”

Warner said that if individual trusts do use agencies, “they should work with those who the NHS’s Purchasing and Supplies Agency has already developed agreements. This ensures we maximize the collective buying power of the NHS to drive down costs and raise quality standards.”

Carmel Flatley, chief executive of NHS Professionals, said: “This program provides a real opportunity for the NHS to take more control of the temporary staffing agenda. NHS Professionals will support the sharing of best practice and provide practical examples of how working together, trusts are able to make flexible staffing an integral part of their overall work force strategy.”

OAS device gets CE mark

Cardiovascular Systems (CSI; Minneapolis) said it has received the CE mark for its Orbital Atherectomy System (OAS) for treatment of peripheral artery disease, allowing its commercialization in Europe.

The authorization was issued following a quality management system assessment visit by BSI, a European notified body.

Noting that the approval represents “an important milestone for CSI as it works toward full worldwide commercialization of the OAS,” Michael Kallok, CEO of Cardiovascular Systems, said, “We believe our OAS will become an important device that allows physicians to more easily treat peripheral artery disease.”

The Orbital Atherectomy Device uses a diamond-coated, eccentrically rotating cutting surface to ablate tissue. The company said the resulting particles are small enough to pass through capillaries and be eliminated by the body.

CSI, which has previously received marketing clearance to market the OAS to remove tissue causing stenosis in synthetic A-V shunts, said it is working on obtaining FDA clearance for use of the device in peripheral vascular disease and approval for use in coronary arteries.

The company said it expects to conduct initial market testing at a limited number of clinical sites before having a full commercial release of the product in the U.S. for the AV shunt indication.

Plasma products contract won’t be renewed

ZLB Behring (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) and the American Red Cross (Washington) said that they would not renew their current contract manufacturing agreement, set to expire on Dec. 31. Under that agreement, ZLB Behring manufactures Panglobulin immunoglobulin and human albumin for the Red Cross at its facility in Bern, Switzerland.

The company said the development would free manufacturing capacity for its branded plasma therapeutics.

“Meeting patient needs for immunoglobulin therapy and other services is a key focus of our company,” said Peter Turner, president of ZLB Behring, which he described as “the leading immune globulin provider worldwide.”

He added that the expiration of the agreement with the Red Cross “will allow us to manufacture more of our intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), Carimune NF, to help meet demand.”

Saying that ZLB Behring intends to assure that its supply of IVIG to the U.S. market will not be reduced when the contract manufacturing agreement expires, Turner said, “we will increase plasma supply to Bern from our own extensive collection facilities, and may purchase additional recovered plasma from sources other than the Red Cross as appropriate.”

Of the decision not to renew the agreement with ZLB Behring, Jack McGuire, executive vice president of American Red Cross Biomedical Services, said, “The American Red Cross has decided, upon a strategic review of our Plasma Services business, that we will exit the plasma products business so we can focus on our core mission of insuring a supply of safe blood products.”

ZLB Behring is a subsidiary of CSL Ltd. (Melbourne, Australia).