MHRA update on novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information for the public on the outbreak of novel coronavirus including the current situation in the UK and information about the virus and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is available here.

We are working closely with the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and other healthcare partners, contributing to the essential work needed to protect public health in the UK.

We are prioritising work to support and authorise the development of vaccines, clinical trials of new medicines, and helping to manage the supply of medicines and other healthcare products. We also provide information to patients, manufacturers and healthcare professionals through our established information channels and alert systems.

NIBSC

The MHRA includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), which plays a major role in assuring the quality of biological medicines, worldwide. NIBSC is drawing on its expertise gained through work on previous virus outbreaks such as Zika, Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), to support the public health response.   NIBSC is developing biological reference materials which are needed to support a quick and reliable diagnosis of infection, evaluate vaccines and the effectiveness of treatments, all of which will assist public health research.
  NIBSC works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); a global partnership that facilitates the development of vaccines for emerging viruses. NIBSC acts as an implementing partner to produce reference material which supports these activities. Working with CEPI and other partners will ensure the rapid availability of biological materials needed to contribute towards global response efforts to COVID-19.

Clinical trials

We authorise and inspect the clinical trials of new medicines in the UK. We are on standby to ensure that applications relating to COVID-19 are dealt with swiftly and we can guide you through the application process. If you would like further guidance or advice, we would be happy to discuss this with you at the earliest opportunity. Please contact us by emailing clintrialhelpline@mhra.gov.uk.




Regulatory judgement on Inclusion Housing: Court decision following Judicial Review

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Our statement on the decision in R (on the application of Inclusion Housing Community Interest Company) v Regulator of Social Housing [2020] EWHC 346 (Admin):

We welcome the decision today (24 February 2020) of the High Court dismissing Inclusion Housing’s challenge to our regulatory judgement following the Court’s careful consideration of this matter.

Our judgement on Inclusion Housing remains in place and we continue to work with the organisation and hope it will take steps to address our concerns. This will help ensure that the long term interests of the tenants of Inclusion can be best protected.

Published 24 February 2020




Departmental response to the Adjudicator’s Office 2019 annual report

The Adjudicator’s Office published its annual report in June 2019. The report sets out a number of recommendations based on insight from investigated complaints, topical reports, thematic reports and real-time tracking that was conducted in 2018 to 2019.

In July, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury’s Written Ministerial Statement on HMRC Powers and Customer Safeguards confirmed the department’s commitment to provide a published response to the report. This is provided below in relation to the 5 over-arching themes that emerged from the annual report.

Learning from complaints

The annual report emphasised the need for the department (HMRC and its executive agency, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)), not only to recognise and promote the importance of learning from complaints, but also to use that insight to inform the way it responds to complaints and to bring about transformative as well as transactional change.

Over the past year HMRC has taken a number of steps to respond effectively to the Adjudicator’s feedback. A Complaints Insight Board was established in July in recognition of the need to address strategic issues arising from complaints more effectively and embed learning from complaints. Both the Adjudicator and Head of Office are independent members of the board. The board has already helped raise the visibility and promote the importance of learning from complaints.

The Adjudicator also attends the Customer Experience Committee (a subcommittee of HMRC’s Board) and the committee has given its advice on how to best use complaints insight.

HMRC has existing processes to promote and utilise learning from complaints, such as monthly insight reports and bulletins disseminated to frontline staff. However, HMRC will conduct a deep dive exercise to assure and, if needed, improve further the use of insight from customer complaints that are not escalated to the Adjudicator. The assurance will be completed and any new approach established by September 2020.

Culture

The Adjudicator emphasised the need for a cultural shift within HMRC, so that there is a greater focus on taking a customer-centred approach alongside recognition of the importance of good complaint handling. In particular, the Adjudicator emphasised that HMRC should: (a) develop a greater appreciation of the need to prioritise the customer experience; (b) ensure customers and complaints are handled with empathy and accuracy; and (c) provide greater encouragement for HMRC’s people to take ownership for errors.

HMRC already has a number of programmes in place to support staff in being customer-focused – for example, the ‘Walking in the Customer’s Shoes’ programme. It is also making modifications to guidance and continuous improvement to the language and tone of correspondence. In addition, HMRC has undertaken a number of actions to support customers who need extra support. These include Customer Compliance Group establishing an Extra Support service for compliance checks, which builds on arrangements already in place within Customer Services Group.

HMRC’s Customer Services Group is exploring a new approach for complaints handling, and Customer Compliance Group is carrying out a programme of work focused on professionalism and improving customer experience. This includes refreshing HMRC’s professional standards for compliance work as well as a number of operational improvements to the management of casework.

The Customer Experience Committee is currently overseeing the review of the Customer Charter, which sets out what customers can expect from HMRC.

HMRC expects that these programmes of work will help bring about the desired shift in organisational culture.

Complaints handling

The annual report highlights 2 high level issues for improving the way HMRC handles complaints. These are: (a) the need to take a holistic view of a customer’s concerns by providing HMRC staff with the skills and flexibility to resolve issues at the first point of contact; and (b) digitising the complaint handling process

HMRC is currently developing a new operating model for complaint handling which aims to ensure complaints are identified and resolved at the first opportunity across HMRC. This builds on findings from performance data, insight from customers, Adjudicator Office feedback, as well as a comprehensive end-to-end review of the complaints process. The main objective is to streamline existing processes to improve the customer experience and ensure the right outcome for the customer is achieved as quickly as possible. The design phase and staff training have been completed with the pilot expected to run through early 2020.

HMRC has also made progress on ensuring there is digital access to the Adjudicator. In the summer the Adjudicator’s Office website went live on GOV.UK providing clear signposting to customers on when and how to escalate complaints. HMRC has also developed a secure digital channel to allow customers to contact the Adjudicator’s Office by email. This service launched in January 2020.

The annual report highlighted a number of issues related to specific topics for HMRC consideration, many of which were the subject of topical and thematic reports such as the NHS Widening Access Scheme, the transition from tax credits to Universal Credit, and treatment of delays.

Over the last year, HMRC has responded to feedback on these issues by: (a) updating and disseminating guidance; (b) providing training; and (c) conducting deep dives to understand issues better and use the findings to make operational improvements.

HMRC has also made steps to demonstrate improved decision-making in response to the learning that the Adjudicator offers through using the Customer Insight Board to better monitor actions and learning.

Collaborative working

The annual report noted that ways of working between HMRC and the Adjudicator’s Office have developed over the past 2 years. This is partly through the publication of the Service Level Agreement, which clarified the roles and responsibilities of the Adjudicator’s Office, alongside the establishment of HMRC’s Customer Experience Committee in December 2018, and more recently the Complaints Insight Board. All of which have provided opportunities for HMRC and the Adjudicator to build relationships and work collaboratively together on improving the customer experience and complaints handling.

To capitalise on these opportunities, HMRC has reviewed the effectiveness of its governance arrangements in relation to complaints insight, to ensure there is effective internal oversight of complaints and assurance to senior officials. Membership of the Complaints Insight Board has also been extended to VOA to enable all key stakeholders to participate in strategic decision-making in relation to complaints. VOA will also work more closely with HMRC on many of the actions mentioned in this response, in relation to its customer complaints.




YMCA Bournemouth’s Chatterbox Project visit Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council CCTV control room

The Chatterbox group spent their time learning about why the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Community Safety Team (BCP) have CCTV, how to use the cameras, mapping, producing evidence and respecting people’s privacy by masking images.

The Chatterboxes is a youth action project run by young people with disabilities aged 11 to 25 years old from Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset. Within all groups there is a focus on transitions and supporting members to build skills to help them in the future. Young members also deliver awareness workshops/ training in the community, create youth friendly literature and organise community awareness events.

Poppy who works within the project said:

Being able to visit BCP council’s CCTV unit has been a fantastic experience for the young people from The Chatterbox Project. With a range of disabilities, many of these young people feel unsafe when venturing into the town centre so having the opportunity to observe Bournemouth through the eyes of a CCTV camera and speak and ask questions to such friendly and kind camera operators has been a fantastic way to enable young people involved to gain a deeper understanding of how BCP Council’s CCTV unit operates and in turn feel safer.

BCP welcomed the Chatterboxes into their control room as part of the Surveillance Camera Day ‘doors open’ initiative so they could see, first hand, how they operate CCTV.

Tony Gleason, CCTV Manager at BCP, said:

We really enjoyed the visit. We discussed why we have CCTV, how it makes people feel safer and how it helps the police. They learnt how to use the cameras, identified digital masking of private properties and the areas where we have CCTV cameras. Some of them had excellent computer skills and a good eye for detail.

Surveillance Camera Day is a national event to encourage a conversation about the use of surveillance cameras in modern society. The day is one of the deliverables of the civil engagement strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy and is a world first. To raise awareness about surveillance cameras and generate a debate about how they are used in society.

This year Surveillance Camera Day is taking place on 19 May. More information about the day and how to get involved can be found on the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s website.




Student Money Week 2020

Image of a student and the words Student Money Week 2020

Student Finance England’s annual Student Money Week (#SMW2020) will run from Monday 24 – Friday 28 February 2020 and include a series of live Q&A sessions on Student Finance England’s Twitter and Facebook channels.

The sessions will cover a range of student finance related topics including; applying for student finance, eligibility and information for students who may be entitled to extra funding. Parents and partners are also being encouraged to get involved and find out how they can support their child or their partner’s application and make sure they get all the finance they are entitled to.

Derek Ross, SLC Executive Director of Operations said:

“Our team of student finance experts will be on our social media channels throughout Student Money Week to explain how the student finance application system works and answer any questions. Whether students are getting ready to apply for student finance for the first time, or are returning to studies, we are here to help them.”

The latest information on Student Money Week can be found by following SFE on Facebook and Twitter @SF_England.

Published 24 February 2020