UK Artisan SMEs Report a Rise in Sales

A report by the Royal Mail, focusing on the artisan craft and design sectors, has revealed that two-thirds of retail businesses in these sectors have seen an increase in sales, year on year (by an average of 19%).

Gifts, artwork and jewellery are the most common products sold by UK SME craft and design retailers.  Stationery, children’s clothing and adults’ clothing are also popular products to make and sell in the UK.

The Stats

  • Almost three-quarters (72%) of UK SME craft and design retailers sell via their own website, 69% sell via a marketplace and 41% through social media.
  • Eight in ten (80%) retailers state that selling their products via online channels and marketplaces has helped to increase their sales.
  • 85% feel the design industry is increasingly attracting entrepreneurs.
  • 81% of SMEs in this sector are confident that sales will increase in the next twelve months and 41% intend to list their products on more marketplace sites.
  • Gifts, artwork and jewellery are the most common products sold by UK SME craft and design retailers.
  • 57% of UK SME craft and design retailers sell to overseas customers. 74% of these overseas customers are based in Europe, 45% in The USA and 35% in Asia.
  • 49% export goods and 50% import goods.
  • 63% are aiming to increase their international sales revenue over the next 12 months.
  • 81% of retailers are confident that their sales will continue to increase in the next year.

To grow sales, UK SME craft and design retailers intend to:

  • list their products on more marketplace sites (41%),
  • look for space in another physical store (26%)
  • and use social media (22%).

Over half (52%) are also planning to increase their marketing spend and 34% intend to take advantage of the increased interest in UK exports.

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CQC Review of Liverpool Health & Social Care Joint Working – Lessons to be Learnt

The Care Quality Commission has published its findings following a local system review of Liverpool.

This is one of 20 targeted reviews of local authority areas looking specifically at how people move through the health and social care system, with a focus on how services work together.

The reviews look at how hospitals, community health services, GP practices, care homes and home care agencies work together to provide seamless care for older people living in a local area.

The report found that there was a clear strategic direction for health and social care in Liverpool, focused on the needs of people living in the city and described in the One Liverpool strategy.  However, the CQC did criticise those involved in writing the strategy for not including key stakeholders in the development of the strategy and for roll out being patchy.

  • People were not always seen in the right place, at the right time by the right person; there were inconsistencies in commissioning and provision of services.
  • Local people were not actively enabled to participate in service planning and delivery, and a comprehensive public engagement strategy was needed to facilitate meaningful public involvement in shaping the future direction of the city.
  • People using services and their carers were not always supported to take control in making decisions about their care, although they were keen to do so.
  • A neighbourhood model had been developed to bring together primary, community, mental health and social care services, but this model was not being implemented with a clear and consistent approach. For example GPs were not always participating in multidisciplinary meetings, which meant that older people in Liverpool were not always benefitting from integrated working in the same way.
  • The Liverpool health and social care system is making good progress in relation to technology and shared records, with universal use of the NHS number and considerable investment in shared records systems. Efforts had also been made to digitise domiciliary care, which although a positive step, had a negative impact on community health and social care teams who did not have the compatible mobile technology.

The CQC recognised that Liverpool has faced significant financial and system leadership challenges in recent years and this had been a barrier to effective integrated working. Whilst the CQC found that relationships were improving, between the health and social care sectors, it recommended that those involved continue to strengthen these relationships, embedding joint approaches to working to ensure that outcomes for older people are improved.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of Primary Care Services, said “Although many older people experience the highest standards of care and support as they move between services in Liverpool, too often this does not happen. For the system to make progress its shared vision for One Liverpool needs to be taken forward in a jointly-owned operational plan involving all system stakeholders – including independent providers, voluntary sector organisations and people who use services and their carers.

“There also needs to be a consistent approach to the neighbourhood model, as our review team found inequity in services available and importantly in the engagement of GP providers with this approach.

“System leaders should work with providers to shape the care market, recognising independent providers and the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise Sector organisations as partners. The quality of residential and nursing care in the city is poor and must improve. We will continue to work with the local authority, NHS commissioners and the providers themselves to ensure that people get the standard of services they are entitled to expect.”

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Universities Pledge to do More to Support Students Trying to Access Mental Health Services

Universities UK’s Mental Health Taskforce has published new guidance for universities and NHS services working with students needing to access mental health services.

75% of all mental illness develops by the age of 24 years and research by the IPPR found that over the past five years, 94% of universities have experienced a sharp increase in the number of people trying to access support services, with some institutions noticing a threefold increase.

For most students, university is an enjoyable and life-changing experience. For a significant minority, including those who have a pre-existing mental health condition, the transition into higher education may be difficult to deal with and may disrupt existing informal support or formal care. For others who develop difficulties during their time at university, access to appropriate care can be challenging.

Talking about the launch of the new guidance, Minding our Health, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and Chair of UUK’s Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, said  “The system of mental health care for students must be improved.  Health services aren’t properly designed to help students as they move from home to university.  This is too important to ignore and we must not fail a generation by not doing what is required.

“I call on national and local government, schools, colleges, the health service, voluntary organisations and universities to work together. This will give us the best chance of supporting students through the significant transitions they face during their early lives.

“Students must be at the centre of these partnerships and senior leadership within universities and the NHS must sustain the changes.”

Key Recommendations

  • Services need to organise locally and address service issues as they arise. They should be developed with local multi-agency input, including the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, Public Health teams, and secondary care organisations including mental health trusts, and higher and further education leads.
  • Universities need to work with partners to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.  This includes initiatives to support individuals, strengthen communities and reduce stigma and reduce barriers to positive mental health.
  • Links between NHS providers and student services should be developed to create
    ‘student mental health teams’ supporting students within universities and facilitating timely and seamless referrals for those who need
    specialist help.
  • ‘Student passports’ should be developed to help students address services at university and at home where required.
  • Services should be user-centred and co-produced with students – health care and
    educational objectives should be addressed together.
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Care Home Company Ordered to Pay Over £2 Million in Compensation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has secured more than £2 million in compensation for residents of a major care homes group as part of an investigation into compulsory ‘upfront fees’.

The company has been ordered to give money back to the vast majority of residents who paid such fees since 1 October 2015 and who left within 2 years of moving into one of the company’s care homes.

The move comes as part of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into how some care homes charge for their services.  This uncovered that Sunrise’s description of its upfront fee – running to several thousands of pounds per person – and how it would be used, was unclear.  Moreover, prospective residents were having to pay out before they had secured a place at the home.

The CMA also raised concerns that the fee was non-refundable once someone had lived in the home for more than 30 days.

On top of individual pay-outs of, on average, £3,000, Sunrise has provided legally-binding commitments to stop charging these upfront fees altogether for future residents.  They have also agreed to abide by new CMA guidance about the charging of fees after a resident has died, which is soon to be finalised and published following a consultation.

George Lusty, the CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Protection, said: “Care home residents shouldn’t be required to pay out thousands of pounds without being clear what they’re getting for their money.  So, it’s only right that residents at Sunrise care homes will now receive compensation if they’ve paid these fees, and that future residents won’t have to make such payments at all.


The CMA welcomes Sunrise’s constructive engagement and co-operation throughout our investigation. We’re now continuing our enforcement action against other care homes, and expect all homes to review their practices to make sure they aren’t breaking consumer law. We will act if we find evidence that they are.”


The CMA’s ongoing consumer law investigation into fees charged by a number of care home providers has already led to one of the UK’s leading care home providers – Maria Mallaband – dropping a contract term requiring the payment of one month’s fees following the death of a resident.

It follows a year-long study of the residential care home market, which made several recommendations to help prospective residents and their families better understand the options available to them, and ensure residents receive more effective consumer protection.

As part of this, the CMA is working on new guidance about the practice of charging families after a resident has died, and the standards of behaviour they should be meeting to comply with consumer law.

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Focusing on Care Plans and Staff Development Delivers Outstanding CQC Rating for Care Home

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found the quality of care provided by The Oaks in Bardney, Lincoln, to be Outstanding following an inspection in September.

The Oaks is registered to provide accommodation and personal care for up to six people who may have learning disabilities or autistic spectrum disorder.

Inspectors found staff were caring and compassionate and people were being provided with safe, responsive, caring, effective and well-led care.

Key Findings

  • Effective systems were in place to ensure the correct staffing ratio and skill mix was maintained at all times.
  • There was a structured induction program to ensure staff developed the skills needed and ongoing training to ensure staffs skills remained up to date.
  • Staff were provided with support from their line manager and external consultants to ensure they were working in line with best practice.
  • Recruitment processes ensured staff were safe to work with people at the home.
  • Staff worked with the Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) team to help people manage their behaviours and reduce the need to restrain people for their own safety. Incidents were reviewed and changes made in care to support positive behaviour in people.
  • People’s abilities to make choices were respected and where needed decisions were made in people’s best interests. Where people had the ability to make an informed choice about risk-taking staff worked with people to support their choices. Other risks to people were identified and appropriate action taken to keep people safe.
  • People were able to make choices about their food and their diet was individualised to meet their needs. Appropriate advice was taken to ensure that people could eat and drink safely.
  • Staff were kind, caring and knew how to personalise care to meet people’s individual needs. They respected people’s privacy and dignity and people’s achievements were celebrated.
  • Staff understood people’s communication needs and supported them to make their views known.
  • Staff ensured that people’s needs were assessed and care plans reflected their individual needs and were updated when people’s needs changed. People and their relatives had been involved in planning their care.
  • People were supported with meaningful activities which supported their well-being and encouraged them to access the local community.
  • People living at the home and their relatives were able to raise concerns and the provider took action to improve the care they received.
  • People’s views about the quality of care they received were gathered and used to drive improvements in care. Additionally, people were involved in the running of the homes and their views were taken into account when recruiting staff or making changes.
  • The provider had effective systems in place to monitor the quality of care people received and took action when any concerns were identified. Staff felt supported and were encouraged to develop. The provider was working towards a no blame culture and concerns raised were used to continually improve the quality of care people received.

Rob Assall-Marsden, CQC’s Head of Inspection for Adult Social Care in the central region said:  “Our inspection team was really impressed by the level of care and support offered to people at The Oaks which we found gave them an enhanced sense of quality of life and well-being.

“There was a culture of continuous improvement and the provider engaged with external consultants to ensure they kept up to date with changes in best practice.

“Relatives were happy with the care their family member received. A person’s relative told us, “I am very happy with the care and I feel there are no concerns.” Another relative said, “There have been no concerns at all it is superb, my relative is not expected to fit in the home, the home is made to fit their needs.”

“One relative told us that the provider had installed a kitchen in a person’s room so that they could manage their concerns around meal times. Staff explained that another person was being supported to reach their goal of losing weight. They had been supported through healthy options and encouragement. The person was described as having increased in confidence and felt better as a result of their weight loss.

“People were supported to maintain relationships with people who are important to them. They were supported to pursue activities that they enjoyed, were meaningful to them and promoted their wellbeing.

“All of this meant people received a high standard of care, which is why it has been rated Outstanding.”

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FSB Raises Concern Over Small Business Community’s Readiness for GDPR

With less than a month to go until the new data protection laws, commonly referred to as GDPR, come into force, research shows that many small businesses are still in the dark when it comes to the impact the changes will have on their business.

Research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that around two thirds (68%) of small businesses had either not started or were only in the initial stages of GDPR preparation.

The FSB is warning that many small firms may not be compliant ahead of the May deadline and is calling on the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) to take an understanding approach to enforcement ensuring that small businesses have time to get GDPR ready.

The FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “As the GDPR deadline swiftly approaches, there is a real danger that many small businesses are yet to have adequately prepared for the changes.  Fortunately, for these businesses, there is still time on the clock to start, or finish, their preparations.“The GDPR is the largest shake-up of data protection laws for years, and whether you are a personal trainer or a consultant, most businesses will have to implement changes to their current practices to make sure they are complying with the new rules.

“Given the extent and the breadth of the changes, it is clear that a majority of small businesses will not be fully compliant before May 25 and will most likely not be compliant when the changes hit. With this in mind, it is critical that the ICO manages non-compliance in a light touch manner with the focus being on education and support, not punishment.”

Mike Cherry, said: “As we move closer to the 25th May, we can expect a rush of smaller businesses approaching the ICO for support and advice. When this hits, all eyes will be on the ICO and whether or not they have the ability and resources to effectively deal with these enquiries. We cannot have a situation where businesses are taking time out of their busy day to get GDPR compliant and are left hanging on the line.”

Speaking on Radio 4 the ICO confirmed that their approach will be one of support in the early days, particularly in relation to smaller businesses who can demonstrate they have tried to be compliant, even if they have actually misunderstood the implications of the changes on their business.  Advice will be issued rather than fines in the first instance, with time allowed for businesses to become compliant.


The ICO’s website contains lots of advice and guidance for businesses of all sizes and types on managing the transition and becoming compliant – click here to visit the ICO today.

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CQC Cancels Kent GP’s Registration

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken action to protect the safety and welfare of people by cancelling the registration of a GP in Chatham, Kent following serious concerns about patient safety at the practice.

The CQC’s decision to cancel the registration means that Dr Stephen Lawrence can no longer legally provide primary medical services at the practice in St Mary’s Island, Chatham, Kent. However, on 20 February 2018 a new provider was registered with the Care Quality Commission to provide general practice services from the St Mary’s Island Surgery site. CQC, NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England have worked together to restore patient safety since they became aware of the situation with Dr Lawrence.

Inspectors took the action regarding Dr Lawrence because they had serious concerns about the service and the risks to people using it.

The CQC first inspected St Mary’s Island Surgery in December 2015 and rated the practice as ‘inadequate’ overall.  As a result the practice was placed in special measures.  The CQC inspected again in September 2016 and took the practice out of Special Measures as a result of the improvements the practice had made and rated it ‘‘good’ overall and for each of CQC’s key questions.

A further unannounced comprehensive inspection took place in January 2018, which was carried out in response to concerns that had been raised to CQC.  The CQC found the concerns were such that on the 29 January 2018 immediate conditions were imposed on the Dr Lawrence’s registration with the Care Quality Commission.

Key Concerns

  • Systems to safeguard children from abuse were not effective.
  • There were no administration/reception staff working at the practice.  Temporary reception staff, who had come from other practices to help, had not had an induction.
  • Correspondence was not dealt with in a timely manner, large quantities of correspondence were awaiting inputting onto patients’ records.
  • Medicine management was unsafe. Emergency medicines were out of date. The oxygen cylinder was empty.
  • Significant events had not been reported.  The practice did not have an effective system for receiving and acting on safety alerts.
  • GPs did not have access to the proper information technology tools to help make the best decisions for their patients’ treatment and care.
  • Patient care was not well co-ordinated, including end of life care.
  • Patients’ records and the coding of patients’ records were not up to date so staff were not always able to identify patients’ conditions and meet their needs.
  • Patients were not referred to secondary care, nor were referrals from secondary care, dealt with in a timely manner.
  • There were failings in the practice’s compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
  • Care and treatment for patients with multiple long-term conditions and patients approaching the end of life was not always coordinated with other
  • Patients did not always receive care and treatment from the practice within an acceptable timescale for their needs.
  • Some complaints from patients were not acknowledged.
  • Governance arrangements were insufficient, ineffectively implemented and were compounded by the regular absence of the GP.
  • Significant issues that threatened the delivery of safe care were not identified or adequately managed.
  • There had been no recent staff meetings and there were no patient participation groups.
  • There was no evidence of systems and processes for learning, continuous improvement and innovation within the practice.

CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice, Ruth Rankine, said:  “Enforcement action to close a service is not something that the CQC takes lightly. Where we find that patients are at significant risk, as we did in this case, we have no choice but to work with our partner agencies in order to take action to protect the safety and welfare of the public.”

“In this instance, given the seriousness of what we found on inspection, we are confident we took the right decision to protect people. When necessary, we will use our powers to do what it takes to make sure patients and the public are protected.”

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Charles Lea and the Arts Council Supporting Budding Writers In Trafford

 A series of free creative writing courses are set to start at libraries across Trafford next week.

The Write Time, Write Place project is an eight-week long, adult creative writing courses for beginners, taking place in libraries from April to June.

The 90-minute sessions will take place during the day and will focus on areas that include:

  • inspiration
  • characterisation
  • settings
  • plotting stories
  • revising and editing

The courses are the brainchild of author Charles Lea,who said: “We are delighted that Trafford Libraries have been successful in obtaining funding from the Arts Council and look forward to running the workshops with adults across the borough to inspire their creative writing.

“Feedback from the new writers on the previous courses has been absolutely positive with many not only enjoying the writing aspect, but also commenting on how well the course has boosted their health and wellbeing and confidence.

“The real legacy is that many of these new writers are still meeting up and writing.”

Following on from the workshops, participants will be invited to submit their stories for a Write Time Write Place anthology, which will be professionally published. Participants will also be given the opportunity to read extracts from their stories at a special celebratory event.

Book by email:, or by phoning/emailing the appropriate library.

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CQC Takes GP Practice Out of Special Measures Following Introduction of Robust Governance

Wensum Valley Medical Practice in West Earlham, Norwich was given an overall rating of Inadequate by the CQC in July 2017 and placed into special measures after concerns were raised with regard to the leadership and safety of the practice.

The latest inspection which took place in March 2018 concluded the practice had addressed all areas of concern. It has now been awarded an overall rating of Good across all five areas for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

Inspectors found that since the original inspection the practice had taken significant steps to improve leadership, with a focus on improving the quality and safety of its services to patients.

Examples of key findings and improvements, included:

  • Clinical leadership has improved, all partners have been involved and practice staff told inspectors that they had been included in the development of the action plan and changes that were made.
  • The process to manage medicines prescribed to patients has improved. A fully electronic system giving a clear audit trail of changes and clinical oversight has been implemented.
  • The practice has been proactive since the previous inspection and has provided staff with ongoing support. This included an induction process, one-to-one meetings, appraisals, coaching and mentoring, clinical supervision and support for revalidation.
  • The process to manage medicines prescribed to patients has been improved.  A fully electronic system giving a clear audit trail of changes and clinical oversight has been implemented.
  • Practice staff told inspectors that the improvements made following the previous inspection had been successful.  They said they felt they were undertaking their work in a safer and more organised manner.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said “During the latest inspection we found the provider had significantly strengthened their leadership and management and had taken a proactive team approach towards making and sustaining improvements in quality.

“The practice now has a clear vision and strategy to deliver high-quality care and promote good outcomes for patients. Practice staff were clear about the vision and their responsibilities in relation to it.

“We saw that practice staff worked together as a cohesive team and treated patients with kindness and respect, and maintained patient and information confidentiality.

“It is clear that the practice took our findings seriously, seeking external advice to help it improve and working hard to implement the necessary changes. All of the staff should be extremely proud of what they have achieved and I applaud the dedication and commitment they have shown to improving the care of their patients.”

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Student Loan Repayment Threshold Has Risen to £25k

Hundreds of thousands of graduates will save up to £360 a year from the raising of the student loan repayment threshold which came into effect on the 6th April.

Around 600,000 university leavers will benefit from the change, which means borrowers who have taken out loans since 2012 will not begin paying back their loans until they earn £25,000 a year – up from £21,000.

It will result in savings of up to £360 a year for anyone earning over £21,000, with those earning less than £25,000 paying nothing at all.

Graduates earning over the new £25,000 threshold are set to benefit too, with lower payments compared to before, for example:

  • £25,000 per year repays £0 per month instead of £30
  • £27,000 per year repays £15 per month instead of £45
  • £30,000 per year repays £37 per month instead of £67
  • £33,000 per year repays £60 per month instead of £90
  • £35,000 per year repays £75 per month instead of £105
  • £40,000 per year repays £112 per month instead of £142

The increased repayment threshold applies to any student who has taken out a post-2012 undergraduate student loan or Advanced Learner Loan.

Graduates living in the UK will not be required to take action in order to receive the saving. Repayments will be calculated automatically by employers (for those paid through PAYE) or as part of the Self-Assessment return to HMRC.

Full-time students are not required to begin repaying their loans until the April after graduation.

Martin Lewis has written an in-depth piece about the change in threshold on Money Saving

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