Cancer patient dies after being denied transfer because of bed shortage (The Guardian: 31 May 2017)

A cancer patient died after he was denied an urgently needed transfer to another hospital because no bed was available, a coroner has said.

Michael Brennan was diagnosed with lung cancer at Whittington hospital, north London, and given a plan to be treated at another hospital if his condition deteriorated overnight.

But when the 80-year-old needed emergency surgery, Westmoreland Street hospital in central London was unable to find him a bed and he died on 24 October last year, a coroner’s report found. 

The assistant coroner for Inner London North, Dr Richard Brittain, said that he feared there would be more deaths if the situation was not remedied. 

The report was sent to the University College London hospitals NHS trust, which apologised to Brennan’s family in an initial statement.

However, UCLH later issued a statement saying an internal investigation had found there were beds available at its Westmoreland Street hospital and suggested another hospital trust was involved. 

Brittain wrote: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken. 

“I am concerned that this back-up plan relied on the availability of a bed at a satellite hospital, which was ultimately not available when it was required. This raises the concern that the bed status for the Westmoreland Street hospital was not known to the clinicians when this plan was devised.

“It is possible that future deaths could occur in similar circumstances if there is not a system in place to inform clinicians of the current bed status for the trust’s multiple sites.”....read more

 

NHS patients offered the chance to see a GP weeks earlier - if they pay (The Telegraph: 28 May 2017)

NHS patients are being offered the chance to jump the queue to see a GP weeks earlier - if they pay for it.

Touchscreen advertising within NHS practices is offering patients facing waits of almost a month a same-day appointment for £39.

Charities last night said it was “unacceptable” for patients to be being diverted to fee-paying services in order to get essential care.

Labour seized on the scheme as “shocking” evidence that the health service was moving towards a “two-tier” system, where only those who could pay upfront  could get the care needed.

One patient of an NHS practice in East London said he went to his GP practice in search of an appointment, only to be told he faced a wait of up to six weeks.

However, touchscreens near the entrance to the NHS reception area, run by a private company, urge all patients to “See a doctor here today” - with appointments available on the same premises....read more

 

Number of NHS patients waiting more than 12 hours on hospital trolleys rises 6,000%, figures show (The Independent: 26 May 2017)

The proportion of patients waiting for more than 12 hours on trolleys has increased by more than 6,000 per cent, NHS figures show, prompting warnings that hospitals in England have “endured one of the worst winters on record”.

Delayed transfers of care and waits at A&E were both found to be increasing, while bed occupancy on general and acute wards reached record levels, according to the latest British Medical Association (BMA) analysis of NHS performance in the country.

The findings show the number of trolley waits rose dramatically between November 2016 and March 2017, with more than 290,000 patients waiting at least four hours to be admitted – an increase of almost 70,000 on the previous year.

Despite the NHS England target that no patient should wait more than 12 hours on a trolley, the number of such incidents has dramatically increased over the past seven years, from 38 in the winter of 2010/11 to 2,608 last winter – an increase of 6,763 per cent.

Bed occupancy on general and acute wards was 91 per cent over the first three months of 2017 – the highest figure on record, and there were 328 fewer available mental health beds between January and March than between October and December, according to the findings.

Between the start of December 2016 and the middle of March 2017, 94 of 152 trusts issued major alerts on at least one day to say they couldn’t cope, with 6,708 patients experiencing a delayed transfer of care on any one day between November 2016 and March 2017.

Commenting on the analysis, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “These figures show that hospitals have just endured one of the worst winters on record, with patients facing unacceptably long waits for treatment....read more

Terrifyingly, the NHS is about to get some of its money from hedge funds – this will be quantum leap in privatisation (The Independent: 9 May 2017)

Privatisation has long been held up as a panacea to the NHS’s problems. The first ‘PFI’ (Private Finance Initiative) schemes in the 90s were hailed as a possible solution to the NHS’s difficulties in funding large capital projects, like new hospital buildings, under the Major and Blair governments. Since then, it’s been estimated that taxpayers’ money will be used to pay more than five times over what those PFI assets are worth, at £57bn. Private money into the NHS meant public liability, many times over, for no private risk.

But far from taking the lesson that private money to fund the NHS causes it greater problems, the NHS leadership’s most recent move to meet its under-funding is to approach City hedge funds to borrow £10 billion. This marks a quantum leap in privatising our NHS.

Hedge funds are investment companies using private wealth to invest in a wide range of businesses and ventures. Their most striking characteristic is their almost completely unregulated nature. They are set up deliberately to avoid most financial regulation and are by their nature far from transparent. They exist for but one purpose: to make a profit.  Many now think the NHS is 'inefficient' and the City will be its salvation.

Benefit for all, it is assumed, will somehow trickle down as capital is invested and profits returned. Yet it will not. It will stay firmly in the deepening pockets of the wealthy fund investors, who are not accountable to the public in any way. The only ultimate benefactors of any deal between City hedge funds and the NHS will be the very few with the privilege and fortune to be a part of the machine. The rest of us will keep paying, through our taxes, for years to come....read more

 

General election 2017: NHS pay cap 'must be lifted' (BBC News: 7 May 2017)

The pay cap on NHS staff must be lifted because it puts patient safety at risk, NHS bosses say.

NHS Providers said the cap, which limits pay rises to 1% a year to 2019, was causing severe recruitment and retention problems in England.

The body, which represents NHS trusts in England, said the next government must look at the issue immediately.

Labour says it would look to increase pay, but the Tories and Lib Dems have not yet set out any pay plans.

Labour wants to increase pay so it better reflects the cost of living, but has not said by how much.

Over the weekend the Lib Dems did announce they would increase income tax by a penny-in-the-pound to boost investment in the NHS.

Last year the Public Accounts Committee warned that the NHS in England was 50,000 people short of the front-line staff it needed - about 6% of the workforce.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said his members were now worried the situation was so bad that services were at risk.

"Growing problems of recruitment and retention are making it harder for trusts to ensure patient safety," he said. "Unsustainable staffing gaps are quickly opening up."

He said the seven years of pay restraint, combined with stressful working conditions, had taken a toll on the workforce.

"Pay is becoming uncompetitive," added Mr Hopson. "Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS."

He added that uncertainty surrounding Brexit meant that "vital recruitment from EU countries is dropping rapidly", saying: "Pay restraint must end."....read more

 

NHS hospital waiting lists to rise above five million in two years, leak suggests (The Independent: 4 May 2017)

The number of NHS patients waiting for hospital treatment could soar to more than five million in just two years' time, a leaked document has revealed.

If no action is taken, twice as many people will be forced to wait more than 18 weeks for non-emergency surgery such as hip replacements and cataract operations by 2019, according to projections made by health service regulator NHS Improvement.

Total waiting list numbers are expected to rise by nearly 50 per cent from 3.7 million to 5.5 million, based on current trends – resulting in delays that surgeons have warned may result in death or serious disability.

Ian Eardley, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said the "devastating" figures obtained by the Health Service Journal "hammer home just how damaging deprioritising the 18-week target for planned surgery will potentially be".

The target that no patient should have to wait longer than 18 weeks after GP referral for non-emergency surgery has been in place since 2004.

But the number of patients waiting longer than that is rising, with NHS England chief Simon Stevens suggesting this should be expected as a “trade off” for improved care elsewhere in the health service, including in A&E and cancer units....read more

 

Exclusive: Social care £2bn won't get NHS through winter, ministers warned (HSJ: 4 May 2017)

Ministers’ headline budget pledge to alleviate pressure on the NHS by handing councils an extra £2bn for social care will fail to deliver “anything like the level of resource” required, NHS leaders have warned.

Chancellor Philip Hammond used the pledge, alongside an extra £100m for emergency departments, to underpin his claim that the Conservatives were “the party of the NHS” – a key battleground in the general election campaign.

 

System leaders said following the budget announcement that the cash, which is for the next three years, could help “free up in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 acute hospital beds” by speeding up delayed discharges of care, equivalent to around five hospitals, in 2017-18 alone.

But NHS leaders have told HSJ that early discussions with local government counterparts indicated the new cash would instead be used by councils to fill existing budget gaps and provision, help stabilise private sector providers, and offset some of the cost burden resulting from the national living wage.

A new government after the general election on 8 June would need a “plan B” to avert an NHS winter crisis, they warned, with one senior source saying senior figures were “seriously worried” about the winter....read more

 

Revealed: NHS Ambulances fail to reach most seriously ill and injured patients in time despite efficiency drive (The Independent: 1 May 2017)

Ambulances are failing to reach thousands of seriously-ill patients within the eight-minute target time, despite a dramatic reduction in the number of calls classified as urgent, The Independent can reveal.

Unions warned that lives are being put at risk by slow response times, even as the system is being “manipulated” to make it easier to hit government-imposed targets.

The revelations of worsening performance come from a trial being run in three of the country’s 10 ambulance trusts, which is aiming to streamline the service and ensure the sickest patients are dealt with quickly.

The number of calls categorised as needing an urgent response has been radically cut to enable ambulances to respond to 75 per cent of cases within eight minutes – a requirement that has not been met nationally since January 2014.

But exclusive figures obtained by The Independent show even though tens of thousands of cases have been stripped out of the urgent category, ambulances are still failing to meet the target.

In Yorkshire, the percentage of the most serious calls responded to within eight minutes fell to 67 per cent between May 2016 and January 2017, down from 71 per cent a year earlier. During the same period, the number of calls classified as requiring an urgent response fell from 235,200 to 53,300.

The number of most urgent calls taken by the South Western ambulance service between May 2016 and March 2017 compared to the year before was reduced from 308,000 to 44,600. But the proportion of calls hitting the eight-minute target remained stagnant at 70 per cent.

Ambulance staff union GMB accused NHS England of “manipulating” targets, saying: “At the end of the day, someone, if they haven’t already, is going to die from a lack of care.”...read more
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