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Found 35 results
  1. News Article
    Gloucestershire Hospitals FT declares critical incident after ‘relentless demand’ on emergency care Pressure comes two months after trust downgraded one of its A&Es ‘Tired’ staff warned a ’Herculean effort’ is needed to reset emergency system NHS 111 cited as pinch point A trust has declared a critical incident after experiencing “relentless demand” on urgent and emergency care, months after downgrading one of its emergency departments. The internal critical incident was raised by Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust yesterday. An internal memo said the previous three days “have seen unprecedented demand fall on the Gloucestershire urgent and emergency care system”. Clinicians have been told that early discharges need to be identified on both its Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospital sites, to try to free up bed-space, and that all non-essential meetings, besides those at executive level, should be cancelled. The incident comes after the trust decided in June to downgrade the A&E department at Cheltenham General to a minor injuries unit, operating from 8am to 8pm. Previously, the unit offered a full A&E service between 8am and 8pm, with a “nurse-led” minor injuries service outside these hours. The problems appear to be unrelated to covid-19, although infection control measures are known to have reduced capacity in many A&Es and wards. HSJ understands that local managers believe NHS 111, run by Care UK Health Care, has been a particular cause of the problems in recent days, because it has not been directing enough people to alternative services; as well as workforce pressures and the hot weather. Read full (paywalled) article here in the HSJ.
  2. News Article
    Waiting lists for treatment in 2019 were at record levels, with the proportion of patients waiting less than 18 weeks for treatment at its lowest level in a decade. Cancer waiting times were the worst on record, with 73% of trusts not meeting the 62-day cancer target. Waiting for diagnostic tests was at the highest level since 2008: 4.2% of patients were waiting over six weeks against a target of less than 1%. On 17 March 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked trusts to postpone all non-urgent elective operations to free up as much inpatient and critical care capacity as possible. At this point, there were 4.43 million people on waiting lists for consultant-led elective treatment. It is imperative that we open a national debate on what the NHS can deliver in a resource-constrained environment. To translate into action, this must involve patients, clinicians, system and regional leaders, the public and politicians. Such a debate is long overdue: current methods for prioritising elective care, such as referral to treatment or the 62-day cancer standard, are no longer fit for purpose. Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 14 July 2020
  3. News Article
    Far fewer people are having surgery or cancer treatment because COVID-19 has disrupted NHS services so dramatically, and those who do are facing the longest waits on record. NHS figures reveal huge falls in the number of patients who have been going into hospital for a range of vital care in England since the pandemic began in March, prompting fears that their health will have worsened because diseases and conditions went untreated. Patients have been unable to access a wide range of normal care since non-COVID-19 services were suspended in hospitals in March so the NHS could focus on treating the disease. Many patients were also afraid to go into hospital in case they became infected, which contributed to a fall in treatment volumes. Tim Gardner, a senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation thinktank, said: “The dramatic falls in people visiting A&E, urgent referrals for suspected cancer and routine hospital procedures during lockdown are all growing evidence that more people are going without the care they need for serious health conditions." “Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of cancer is crucial to saving lives, and delays in referrals and treatment during the pandemic are likely to mean more people are diagnosed later when their illness is further advanced and harder to treat.” Read full story Source: Guardian, 9 July 2020
  4. News Article
    Waiting times for tests and treatment not related to COVID-19 are likely to increase significantly in the second half of 2020 because of the fallout from the pandemic, the head of NHS England has acknowledged. Giving evidence to the Commons health select committee on 30 June, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said that contrary to some commentary, the NHS’s overall waiting list actually dropped by over half a million people between February and April 2020 because fewer people were coming forward for treatment. But, he added, “As referrals return we expect that will go up significantly over the second half of the year.” Stevens said that there were 725 000 fewer elective admissions to NHS hospitals during March and April, but that number has begun to recover significantly. “As we speak, we think we’re now somewhere north of 55% of pre-covid-19 elective activity levels,” he said. He added that he hoped the NHS would return to around three quarters of normal activity levels by July or August. Stevens told MPs that the NHS would pursue a range of measures to increase capacity over the coming months, including extending the deal with the private sector to use its facilities, and repurposing some of the Nightingale hospitals for diagnostic testing. Read full story Source: BMJ, 1 July 2020
  5. News Article
    The NHS will not be able to get back to providing its full range of services for as long as four years because of the huge disruption caused by COVID-19, hospital bosses have warned. Patients will face much longer waits than usual for operations and diagnostic tests because hospitals’ drive to remain infection-free means they are closing beds, and surgeons’ need to wear protective clothing means they are carrying out fewer procedures than before the pandemic. In a stark admission of the complexity of reopening the NHS, a key health service leader has predicted that some hospitals will be able to provide only 40% of the care they previously delivered. Hospitals are under pressure from ministers and health charities to restart services as soon as possible for patients with conditions such as cancer, obesity and joint problems. But the chief executives of three NHS trusts in England have told the Observer that the “sheer complexity” of getting back to normal amid the lingering effects of COVID-19 means progress will be very slow. “It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months,” said Glen Burley, the group chief executive of Warwick hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and County hospital in Hereford. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 27 June 2020
  6. News Article
    Almost half a million people are waiting at least six weeks for tests which could diagnose cancer – up from just 30,000 before lockdown, new analysis shows. Ministers have been urged to urgently bring forward plans to tackle the backlog of patients waiting for care, with calls for weekly testing of staff to keep coronavirus infections off the wards. Cancer charities fear there will be an extra 18,000 deaths a year because those with symptoms are not receiving prompt diagnosis and treatment. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Telegraph, 23 June 2020
  7. News Article
    An independent provider’s NHS contract has been suspended, and a harm review is to be carried out on patients who have faced a long wait. Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group suspended DMC Healthcare’s contract to provide dermatology services in north Kent “to ensure patient safety” on Friday. It said it had showing some patients had been on waiting lists longer than they should have been. It is unable to say how many patients are likely to be involved in the harm review, but it is expected to focus on those who have waited longer than they should or where harm is suspected. Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 24 June 2020
  8. News Article
    Leading clinicians have written to Boris Johnson warning the UK faces a "second health catastrophe" because so many non-Covid patients are missing out on treatment as a result of the pandemic. The letter warns that “lives are being put at risk” and that action is needed immediately. It comes as new figures show as many as one in six (10 million) people will be on the NHS waiting list by the end of the year. The letter, signed by ten specialists, including cancer doctors, patient safety experts, CQCs and medical negligence lawyers, states: “We are increasingly concerned about the impact, including avoidable harm and death caused by the continuing unavailability of urgent diagnostics and treatment for thousands of non-COVID patients. “The backlog of such cases is now significant and worsening. We implore the central and devolved Governments of the UK to take urgent strategic action, including in co-ordination and co-operation with each other, to prevent this becoming a second and perhaps even more serious health catastrophe arising from the pandemic in the UK.” The letter was also signed by barrister Theo Huckle QC, Professor John Fairclough of Swansea and Cardiff Met Universities, Nick Brown of Doughty Street Chambers and Helen Hughes, Chief Executive, Patient Safety Learning. Cases which have come to the attention of the signatories include Sherwin Hall, 27, a father of one from Leeds, who made 13 visits to hospital during the COVID-19 lockdown before getting a cancer diagnosis for the pain in his groin. He said of his case: “I am very angry at the way I have been treated due to COVID-19 and the delay on my cancer treatment and now I am fighting for my life. Read full story Source: Express, 21 June 2020
  9. News Article
    NHS trusts could be asked to create shared waiting lists for elective care under plans being considered by national leaders. HSJ understands that NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is to write to all NHS organisations early next month to lay out plans for phase three of the recovery from covid. The letter is expected to focus on the importance of working at a system level to get more services up and running. Senior NHS sources said the recovery plans are likely to include proposals for creating pooled system-level waiting lists between trusts, but there is still internal debate over the extent to which changes could effectively be mandated; for example, by attaching significant incentive funds. The move appears to be aimed at ensuring an “equitable level of care” across a patch. In a statement, NHSE said individual providers’ would ultimately still have responsibility and accountability for their waiting lists, even where this might be “supplemented” by system-wide arrangements. Read more Source: HSJ, 19 June 2020
  10. News Article
    A leading doctor has warned that trusts will struggle to get back to anything like pre-covid levels of endoscopy services and will need to prioritise which patients are diagnosed. Endoscopy procedures are part of the diagnostic and treatment pathway for many conditions, including bowel cancer and stomach ulcers. Most hospitals have not done any non-emergency procedures since the middle of March because they are aerosol generating — meaning a greater covid infection risk and need for major protective equipment. Although some areas are now starting to do more urgent and routine work, capacity is severely limited. Kevin Monahan, a consultant gastroenterologist at St Marks’s Hospital, part of London North West Healthcare Trust, and a member of the medical advisory board for Bowel Cancer UK, said the time taken for droplets to settle in rooms after a procedure can be up to an hour and three quarters, depending on how areas are ventilated. Only then can the room be cleaned and another patient seen. Dr Monahan said his trust had restarted some endoscopy work and was currently doing around 17 per cent of its pre-covid activity. “We can provide a maximum of about 20 per cent of normal activity — and that is using private facilities for NHS patients,” he said. “I am not at all confident we will be able to double what we are doing now, even in three to four months’ time." Read full story Source: HSJ, 12 June 2020
  11. News Article
    As the death toll from the virus soars above 40,000, slowly the horrendous toll on non-Covid patients is emerging. These are patients who are not afflicted by coronavirus, but who have had their treatment or diagnosis for other potentially deadly conditions postponed or cancelled, as hospitals scrambled to make way for an overwhelming burden of COVID-19 patients. Sherwin Hall, a 27-year-old from Leeds, had tried 13 times in one month during the lockdown to get a proper diagnosis for the crippling pain in his groin. He was initially told it might be a sexually transmitted disease. Eventually he was given the all clear of any STD after multiple blood tests and begged for an MRI scan. But he claims he was told no scans would be available because of the COVID-19 emergency. Finally he got a scan which confirmed a 14 cm tumour near his pelvis. He clams his consultant confirmed the delay in diagnosis and therefore cancer treatment may have serious consequences on his chances of survival. He told ITV news "I am very angry at the way I have been treated due to COVID-19 and the delay on my cancer treatment and now I am fighting for my life." His lawyer, Mary Smith, who specialises in medical negligence at Novum Law in Bristol, says she is worried there will be a spike in cases involving delayed diagnosis or treatment coming across her desk. She wants an urgent overhaul of the management of this crisis, now its peak appears to have passed. Read full story Source: ITV News, 9 June 2020
  12. News Article
    Senior doctors repeatedly raised concerns over safety and staffing problems at a mental health trust before a cluster of 12 deaths, an HSJ investigation has found. The deaths all happened over the course of a year, starting in June 2018, involving patients under the care of the crisis home treatment services at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. The causes of the deaths included suicides, drug overdoses, and hanging. Coroners found several common failings surrounding the deaths and have previously warned of a lack of resources for mental health services in the city. HSJ has now seen internal documents which reveal senior clinicians had raised repeated internal concerns about the trust’s crisis home treatment teams during 2017 and early 2018. The clinicians warned of inadequate staffing levels, long waiting lists, and a lack of inpatient bed capacity. In the minutes of one meeting in February 2018, just two months before the first of the 12 deaths, a consultant is recorded as saying he had “grave concerns over safety in [the home treatment teams]”. Read full story Source: HSJ, 9 June 2020
  13. Content Article
    Key points Reducing elective waiting times from ‘18 months to 18 weeks’ was one of the English NHS' major achievements in the 2000s. In January 2020, before coronavirus (COVID-19) began to impact on the UK, more than one in six patients were waiting more than 18 weeks for routine treatment. To free up NHS capacity, non-urgent planned care was postponed for 3 months from 15 April 2020. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet the 18-week standard for newly referred patients and clear the backlog of patients who will have already waited longer than 18 weeks, the NHS would have needed to treat an additional 500,000 patients a year for the next 4 years. The pandemic is likely to make waiting lists grow further and the challenge will be even greater. At the end of April, the NHS in England was asked to begin a cautious programme to resume some of the routine services suspended in response to COVID-19. Returning the NHS to ‘normal’ is hugely important but poses significant challenges. For example, treating patients with enhanced infection control arrangements will reduce the volume of patients that can be treated relative to normal. For planned hospital care, this challenge has to be seen against a backdrop of growing waiting lists and waiting times. In January 2020, before large numbers of COVID-19 hospitalisations, a total of 4.4 million patients were on the waiting list – around 730,000 of whom had waited more than 18 weeks. The rates of spending growth, set out in the NHS Funding Bill in February 2020, will not be sufficient to cover the cost of meeting the 18-week standard by March 2024, even before any additional costs and demand arising from COVID-19. The Health Foundation estimates that spending growth would need to increase by a further £560m a year – assuming the NHS can prioritise patients to make the most effective use of available capacity. Without a radical intervention to increase capacity, it is unrealistic to expect the 18-week standard can be achieved by 2024 with current infrastructure and staffing levels. Meeting the 18-week standard would require hospitals to increase the number of patients they admit by an amount equivalent to 12% of all the patients admitted for planned care in 2017/18. This would be an unprecedented increase in activity. COVID-19 makes the challenge even greater. Over the coming years there will need to be long-term changes to how routine care is delivered, considerable effort at the front line and potentially an important role for the independent sector if the NHS is to return to a position of meeting the 18-week standard. But even with huge efforts, the reality is that longer waiting times for planned care are likely to be a feature of the NHS in England for several years at least.
  14. News Article
    The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has issued a warning about insufficient staffing in the NHS in the wake of a mental health trust being downgraded. Earlier this week, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEVW) NHS Foundation Trust being rated as "requiring improvement" by the Care Quality Commission. It had previously been rated as "good" but inspectors said some services had deteriorated. Among the concerns raised were ones over staffing, workload and delays. Glenn Turp, Northern Regional Director of the RCN: "The CQC has rightly highlighted some very serious concerns and failings which call into question whether this trust can provide safe patient care. After the very tragic and sad deaths of two vulnerable patients last year and the findings of the CQC, the trust and NHS commissioners must take immediate action to ensure patient and staff safety." "They have a responsibility not to commission and open new beds with insufficient nursing staff to provide safe patient care. Having the right number of nursing staff with the right skills in the right place at the right time is critical to protecting patients. It also protects those staff who too often find themselves struggling to maintain services in the face of nursing vacancies." Read full story Source: The Northern Echo, 7 March 2020
  15. News Article
    There is significant variation in ambulance response times to patients with serious conditions such as suspected strokes or heart attacks, which is not fully explained by how rural an area is, an HSJ analysis has revealed. The exclusive analysis represents the first time ambulance performance for category two calls, which have an 18-minute response time target, have been broken down to clinical commissioning group level. Category two, known as emergency calls, covers a wide range of conditions, including suspected stroke and heart attacks (except cardiac arrests), major burns and epileptic seizures. They account for well over half of ambulance responses. The findings — described as “alarming” by the Stroke Association — lay bare the incredibly long waits which are usually hidden, because average waiting time data is usually published for ambulance trusts, which cover far larger areas than CCGs. Mark MacDonald, Deputy Director of Policy at the Stroke Association, said: “It is alarming to hear that in some cases ambulance staff are taking over an hour to reach patients because when it comes to stroke, being assessed quickly and then, if necessary, transferred to hospital, is really important.” Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 5 March 2020
  16. News Article
    More than 70 children and young people have been put at risk by long delays in treatment by mental health services in Kent and Medway, HSJ has learned. According to a response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by HSJ, 205 harm reviews have been carried out for patients waiting for treatment following a referral to the North East London Foundation Trust, which runs the child and adolescent mental health services in Kent and Medway. Of those, 76 patients, who had all waited longer than the 18 week target time for treatment, were found to be at risk of harm. One patient had to be seen immediately as they were judged to be at “severe” risk. Seven were found to be at “moderate” risk and 68 at “low” risk. The trust said “risk” meant a risk of harm to themselves or others. But it said none of the 76 patients had come to actual harm. Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 25 February 2020
  17. News Article
    A&E units are so overcrowded that growing numbers of patients have to be looked after in hospital corridors, warn nurses and doctors. There are rising concerns that the “shameful” trend means people stuck in corridors are not getting the care they need, or they may be even coming to harm. A&E health professionals say “corridor nursing” is becoming increasingly widespread as emergency departments become too full to look after the sheer number of people seeking treatment. In a survey of 1,174 A&E nurses in the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Emergency Care Association, 73% of those polled said they looked after patients in a “non-designated area” such as corridors every day and another 16% said they did so at least once a week, while 90% said they feared patient safety was being put at risk by those needing care having to spend time in areas of hospitals which did not have medical equipment or call bells. Staff have had difficulty administering urgent doses of intravenous antibiotics to such patients, some of whom have been denied privacy and found it harder to use a toilet or been left in distress, nurses said. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 26 February 2020
  18. News Article
    Patients in need of a new hip or knee are increasingly being left in agony for more than a year, an investigation reveals. The number of patients forced to endure such waits has risen by more than 50% in 12 months, NHS data shows. Charities said that the findings were "devastating", with thousands of people left in pain and misery, with some left house-bound, and younger patients unable to work, as they waited for NHS help. The figures show that in 2018/19, 55,251 patients waited at least 18 weeks for hip and knee surgery – a more than doubling from 25,704 such cases in 2013/14. In total, 2,889 patients were left waiting at least 12 months, up from 1,863 a year before, and 780 cases five years ago. Experts warned that even these figures from NHS Digital are an underestimate, as they only measure the wait from the point a hospital doctor decides that surgery is required, not from point of GP referral. Read full story Source: The Telegraph, 22 February 2020
  19. News Article
    Delays diagnosing and treating children with arthritis are leaving them in pain and at a higher risk of lifelong damage, a national charity has warned. Arthritis is commonly thought to affect only older people, but 15,000 children have the condition in the UK. Versus Arthritis says many children are not getting help soon enough. The NHS said: "Arthritis in young people is rare and diagnosing it can be difficult because symptoms are often vague and no specific test exists." Zoe Chivers, Head of Services at Versus Arthritis, said: "We know that young people often face significant delays getting to diagnosis simply because even their GPs don't recognise that it's a condition that can affect people as young as two. It's often considered that they're just going through growing pains or they've just got a bit of a viral infection and that's not the case." Read full story Source: BBC News, 12 February 2020
  20. News Article
    A woman described as a "high risk" anorexia patient faced delays in treatment after moving to university, an inquest has heard. Madeline Wallace, 18, from Cambridgeshire, was told there could be a six-week delay in her seeing a specialist after moving to Edinburgh. The student "struggled" while at university and a coroner said there appeared to be a "gap" in her care. Ms Wallace died on 9 January 2018 due to complications from sepsis. A parliamentary health service ombudsman report into her death was being written at the time of Ms Wallace's treatment in 2017 and issues raised included moving from one provider to another and higher education. Coroner Sean Horstead said Ms Wallace only had one dietician meeting in three months, despite meal preparation and planning being an area of anxiety she had raised. Dr Hazel said she had tried to make arrangements with the Cullen Centre in Edinburgh in April 2017 but had been told to call back in August. The Cullen Centre said it could only accept her as a patient after she registered with a GP and that an appointment could take up to six weeks from that point. Read full story Source: BBC News, 10 February 2020
  21. News Article
    Patients were harmed at a Midlands trust because of delays in receiving outpatients and diagnostics appointments, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned. Following the inspection at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Foundation Trust in September and October last year, the CQC has lowered the trust’s rating in its safety domain from “requires improvement” to “inadequate”. It warned there were insufficient numbers of staff with the right skills, qualifications and experience to “keep patients safe from avoidable harm”. The report noted the trust had identified incidents in 2018 and 2019 where patients had come to harm due to delays in receiving appointments in outpatients, particularly in ophthalmology. Ten patients were found to have come to low harm, one patient moderate harm and two patients severe harm. The CQC also issued a Section 31 letter of intent to seek further clarification in relation to incidents where patients had come to harm because of delays to receiving appointments in outpatients and diagnostic imaging, although it has confirmed the trust has provided details on how it is going to manage the issues raised. The watchdog said it would continue to monitor the issue. Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 7 February 2020