Lowdown stories from 29/12/2019 – 16/01/2020

Social care adds to winter pressure: what’s being done?

Dash in to take charge in NW London

Real anger unites Northern Ireland’s health unions striking for fair pay

New buildings can mean fewer beds

Charity mental health provider misled CQC

High number of assaults still take place on mixed-sex mental health wards

Thousands of young people rejected by mental health services

Useful insights on American health care that help understand issues in our NHS

How seriously is the government committed to the long-term plan?

New buildings can mean fewer beds

Editors pick of stories from the last two weeks:

NHS missing out on millions of pounds of unsecured and unspent funding from property developers 

Millions of pounds of funds from developers who pay towards public services as part of planning agreements is being left unspent by the NHS.  

Freedom of Information requests from independent think tank, Reform, has found that less than 36% of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) had secured funds for health infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2019.  

Additionally, of the £87million of funds that were secured in the same period, almost half have yet to be allocated. That means that the money is being held by LPAs rather than transferred to the relevant healthcare provider to spend. When the money has been allocated, at least £34 million has been left unspent. 

Reform are now calling on the Government to act urgently to take advantage of these vast sums of available funding.  

Full story on iNews, 13 January 2020. 

Practice forced to divert patients due to ‘staggering demand’ from closures 

A GP practice in the West Midlands has warned it may soon have to direct patients to walk-in centres to ensure safe care as a result of increasing demand.  

The Lion Health practice has seen its patient list size increase to over 30,000, following closures of multiple other GP practices in the area. The additional pressures have seen GPs cutting their hours or leaving the service, which the practice have been unable to replace. 

NHS Dudley CCG’s chief nurse Caroline Brunt said: ‘We recognise the challenges Lion Health is currently experiencing and we are working with the practice to further understand their pressures and to support them to improve access for their patients.’ 

Full story on Pulse, 12 January 2020. 

Safety fears as hospitals redeploy nurses to care for patients in corridors 

Nurses are having to be redeployed from wards to corridors to look after queues of patients, a growing trend that is raising concerns about patient safety. 

Hospitals are now so overcrowded that they are having to tell nurses to spend part of their shift working as “corridor nurses” to look after patients waiting for a bed. 

This comes as the NHS in England posted its worst-ever performance figures against four-hour target for A&E care.  

Dave Smith, chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s Emergency Care Association, said:  

“Having to provide care to patients in corridors and on trolleys in overcrowded emergency departments is not just undignified for patients, it’s also often unsafe.” 

Full story on The Guardian, 12 January 2020. 

Private ambulances in Northern Ireland costs £3.2m last year  

Ambulances run by private firms and voluntary organisations were sent to 8,514 calls made to 999. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said the private ambulances were needed to meet demand on services.  

Unison said the use of private firms was an indicator of the problems across Northern Ireland’s health service. 

Patricia McKeown, Unison’s regional secretary said:  

“We have been raising serious concerns about the use and increase of private sector ambulances for some years,”  

She said the concerns “stem from under-investment in the health service as whole and poor workforce planning”. 

Full story on BBC News, 12 January 2020. 

NHS hospital patients to be temporarily houses in Portakabins due to overcrowding 

NHS patients of Whiston Hospital, Liverpool, could find themselves housed in temporary wards as the hospital battles severe overcrowding. 

The hospital’s NHS bosses have applied for permission to install a two-story Portakabin the car park. This would provide an extra 60 beds and relieve pressure on the wards currently operating above capacity. 

The occupancy rate for beds at this hospital have averaged above 95% over the last two years. The additional beds in a temporary ward would put the trust around the safer 85% occupancy rate, so long as admissions do not also increase. 

Full story on Liverpool Echo, 10 January 2020. 

Patients suffer record delays because of pressures at A&E units 

Record numbers of patients are having to stay with ambulance crews for an hour or more this winter, as A&E units are too busy to admit them. 

Ambulance delays are occurring more often, with concern that 999 response times are affected by crews being tied up at hospitals awaiting admission. 

The rise in ambulance waits comes after figures revealed the smallest ever percentage of patients were being seen within 4 hours at A&E, down to 68.6%. 

NHS England has said that the intensive pressure on services proves it needs more staff and beds across both hospital and community services. 

Full story on The Guardian, 9 January 2020. 

Glaucoma patients going blind due to treatment delays, watchdog finds 

An investigation has revealed that NHS eyesight services have an “inadequate capacity” to follow up patients after glaucoma diagnoses, leaving some patients going blind.  

It is estimated that 22 patients a month are suffering severe or permanent loss of sight because of long delays in getting follow-up appointments.  

The report highlighted the problem after a 34-year-old woman lost her sight due to delays in seeing specialists over the course of 11 months. Last year, she was awarded £3.2m in compensation from the NHS. 

Helen Lee, policy and campaigns managed at the sight loss charity RNIB, said:  

“Thousands of patients are experiencing delays in time-critical eye care appointments, which is leading to irreversible sight loss for some. Suggestions on how to tackle the problem have been continually ignored. Without immediate action we’re very concerned that more people will experience avoidable sight loss.” 

Full story on The Guardian, 9 January 2020. 

Nursing staff in Northern Ireland walk-out again over pay and unsafe staffing levels 

The Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland took strike action again last week, after their first action in December. They are demanding urgent measures to address unsafe staffing levels and deliver pay parity with their colleagues across the UK.  

There are almost 2,800 vacant nursing posts across Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland and pay has fallen 15% in real terms in recent years. Nurses in the country are the lowest paid in the UK.  

Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said:  

“Today, our members in Northern Ireland are making clear to those in power that they and their patients will not be ignored. We all wish to see a rapid solution to this crisis. However, this will not be secured by trying to blame nurses for the consequences of the decisions made by those in power.” 

Full story on Nursing Notes, 8 January 2020. 

NHS pressures putting medical breakthroughs at risk 

Leading academics claim that NHS pressures are hampering the ability of staff to take part in vital research. The Academy of Medical Sciences report that budgets have been frozen and the number of doctors involved in research has fallen.  

During the election, the Tories said they wanted to see funding for research double over the next five years to £18 billion. This would be for the whole research sector, but the NHS would be a large beneficiary. 

The Academy of Medical Sciences said this money would help but NHS staff would need protected time to ensure they can take part in research.  

The NHS is vital for research but the proportion of consultants involved in academic work has fallen in recent years, as the National Institute for Health Research has seen its budget frozen. 

Full story on BBC News, 8 January 2020. 

Critically ill children being rushed to units across England due to lack of intensive care beds 

Increases in severe breathing problems in children, impacted by winter viruses and infections, is leaving some children having to be transferred miles from their home areas due to the lack of paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) beds locally.  

Disclosure of the acute shortages in PICU beds follows reports from doctors that the pressure on beds in units where they work is considerably worse than official NHS figures show.  

Dr Julia Patterson, a spokeswoman for EveryDoctor, a network of grassroots NHS doctors, said:  

“Paediatric intensive care exists to treat some of the most vulnerable members of our society. After nine years of planned NHS austerity cuts by the government, it is not surprising that the end-point is a lack of safe care for the most vulnerable.” 

Full story on The Guardian, 29 December 2019. 

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