Health & Care Review

Health & Care Review

January 8, 2018

Keeping up with all the latest developments in health and care policy could almost be a full time job and PSNC regularly receives questions from LPCs and pharmacy contractors about what is going on in the wider health and care landscape beyond community pharmacy. To help answer some of these questions and to help contractors and LPCs stay up to date, PSNC provides this update service outlining the latest information in an easily digestible format. Weekly updates are published on our website and contractors can ensure they do not miss them by signing up to PSNC’s email newsletter service here.

The reviews extend the work we have been doing for some time to help LPCs stay informed about the NHS changes, and they inform the more detailed PSNC briefings which we continue to publish on this topic; these can be accessed in the Healthcare Landscape section of the website.

‘3 before GP’: new RCGP mantra to help combat winter pressures in general practice

The Royal College of General Practitioners has launched a campaign which encourages patients to ask themselves three questions before booking an appointment with their GP to help relieve pressures on GP services this winter.

The three questions are:

‘Before making a GP appointment, can I…

  1. self-care?
  2. use NHS Choices or similar reputable websites/resources?
  3. seek advice/treatment via a pharmacist?‘

NHS winter pressures: being in hospital

The Health Foundation has published a blog looking at winter pressures in the health and social care system in 2017/18.

The blog discusses critical care capacity, general bed occupancy, opening and closing beds and warning signs.

Key facts highlighted in the blog include:

  • nationally, bed occupancy levels for general and acute care are now at the highest level since current records began in 2010. For the last 3 years, the average occupancy level has been above 90% between January and March;
  • the growth in breaches of the NHS mixed sex accommodation policy is an indication that finding the right bed at the right time is proving increasingly difficult;
  • between December 2016 and February 2017, there were on average 3,659 additional general and acute beds open every day across England – up from 3,466 in 2015/16; and
  • so far this winter, vomiting bugs have affected on average 901 beds per day compared to on average 844 beds per day over the same period last year.

PHE launches Change4Life campaign around children’s snacking

Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new campaign aimed at parents to help them take control of their children’s snacking habits. The first Change4Life campaign to promote snacking encourages parents to look for ‘100 calorie snacks, two a day max’.

This is in light of data which shows that, on average, children are consuming at least 3 unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming 4 or more. The overall result is that children consume 3 times more sugar than is recommended.

Admissions of inequality: emergency hospital use for children and young people

The Nuffield Trust has published a report looking at the relationship between levels of deprivation and use of emergency hospital care by children and young people between 2005/06 and 2015/16.

Key findings in the report include:

  • in 2015/16, the most deprived children and young people overall were 58% more likely to go to A&E than the least deprived;
  • A&E attendances for the most deprived infants and pre-schoolers were over 50% higher than the least deprived. For the most deprived teenagers they were nearly 70% higher;
  • as well as the inevitable human cost, these inequalities also have a significant financial cost: if unplanned admissions among the whole population were brought down to the level of the least deprived, this would have led to a decrease of around 244,690 paediatric emergency hospital admissions in 2015/16, a potential saving of almost £245 million per year; and
  • designing and implementing policies that help reduce deprivation and improve social determinants of health should remain the overall long-term objective for policymakers.

Local government spending on public health: death by a thousand cuts

The King’s fund has published an article highlighting how local authorities (LAs) are maintaining their spend on public health budgets despite cuts in Government funding. The article contains data on LA public health outturn spending and plans, changes in net revenue, and service expenditure.

It concludes that LAs are struggling to maintain spending in the face of Government cuts, and too many local government services that affect public health are facing decommissioning.

UK Poverty 2017

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a report which assesses the progress the UK is making in reducing poverty rates and tackling underlying root causes. It also examines trends in poverty over the last 20 years and more recent developments.

The report concludes that the UK has seen a very significant fall in poverty; 20 years ago, one third of children lived in poverty but fell to 27%. Similarly, 20 years ago, 28% of pensioners lived in poverty which fell to 13%. The report warns that this progress is at risk of reversing, as poverty rates for both groups have started to rise again, to 16% for pensioners and 30% for children.

Sport participation in England

The House of Commons Library has published a report providing statistics about participation in sport by intensity, type and socio-economic characteristics in England.

Key facts in the report include:

  • around 63% of men were active in sport compared to 58% of women;
  • on average 43% of people with a disability participated in sport activities for over 150 minutes a week in year ending May 2017;
  • the most popular physical activity among women was walking for leisure (24%) followed by fitness activities (19%) in May 2017. Men were the most active in general sporting activities (29% of men compared to just under 17% of women); and
  • around 70% of individuals in managerial, administrative & professional occupations were active in sport in year ending May 2017. In contrast, around 49% of those long term unemployed or never worked were active in sport.

Medical profession at ‘crunch point’, GMC report finds

The General Medical Council has published an annual report which analyses data on the medical workforce across the UK.

It follows the launch of Health Education England’s consultation on the future workforce provision for the NHS.

Key challenges highlighted in the report include:

  • supply of new doctors in the UK’s medical workforce has failed to keep pace with changes in demand – the number of doctors on the medical register has grown by 2% since 2012, which A&E attendances and GP appointments have risen sharply;
  • dependence on non-UK qualified doctors has increased, ranging from 18% in the South-West to 43% in the East of England; and
  • at the same time, the UK is at risk of becoming a less attractive place for overseas doctors to work in.

Healthcare websites and other non-NHS services to be awarded quality ratings for the first time by CQC

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been granted powers by the Department of Health to rate digital GP providers, community health services and independent doctors

The changes come after recent CQC inspections found some online services were failing in their provision of safe care.

CQC will launch a public consultation to develop an approach for how it will rate these additional services.

Sir David Behan, Chief Executive of the CQC, said: “CQC’s ratings of health and care services are helping people to make informed choices about their care as well as supporting providers to improve. Never before has the public had such clear information about the quality and safety of their health and care services.

“CQC already inspects and publishes reports for these additional services and so, the ability to award ratings to them will bring increased transparency for the public about the quality and safety of their healthcare.

NHS Choices usage statistics published

NHS Digital has published new statistics in relation to NHS Choices usage.

Key statistics include:

  • over the past year, NHS Choices has received 525 million visits from people seeking healthcare advice, of which 63% were from people using mobile phones. The number of people visiting the tools on NHS Choices rose by 7% in the past year;
  • the most searched for condition on NHS Choices in 2017 was ‘stomach ache and abdominal pain’;
  • a surge in people looking to check out the ‘BMI healthy weight calculator’ made it the second most visited webpage on NHS Choices with 9.7 million views. The calculator tool was used 8.9 million times;
  • while the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator was the most visited, the second most-visited tool was the ‘blood pressure’ monitoring tool, which has been used 1.2million times.

NHS to consider routine use of ‘drunk tanks’ to ease pressure on A&Es

NHS England has announced that it will decide this year whether to routinely use ‘drunk tanks’ during the seasonal holiday period.

The Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (AIMS), or drunk tanks, serve as a place for people who may have had too much to drink to be checked and sleep in to take pressure off A&E departments and ambulance services. There have been a number of AIMS used around the UK to help deal with alcohol related attendances. They range from council funded ‘Safe Havens’ to ‘Booze Buses’.

The National Institute for Health Research is currently conducting a study to assess whether AIMS should be rolled out as a way of managing intoxicated patients.

Media monitoring:

On Tuesday 2nd January 2018 the following stories were published:

  • The Daily Telegraph reported that health officials are urging the public not to heap pressure on accident and emergency units, as they reveal up to 17 million hospital visits a year may be needless.
  • The Times reported that missed hospital appointments cost the NHS almost £1 billion a year and deprive patients of vital care. As the service heads into what is likely to be the busiest week of the winter, Jane Cummings called for the public to be more responsible about wasting time and resources. This was also covered by the Sun, Daily Mail and Guardian.
  • The Times also reports that the NHS is offering private rooms to women who have just given birth at a cost of up to £450 a night. The so-called amenity rooms are an alternative to those who do not want to receive care on a general ward.

On Wednesday 3rd January 2018 the following stories were published:

  • The health news agenda was led by NHS England’s decision to defer non-urgent procedures and outpatient appointments for a month due to winter pressures. The Times highlighted a doctor apologising for ‘third world’ conditions at his hospital.
  • The Telegraph reported that artificial intelligence that can diagnose heart disease and lung cancer from scans could be in use by the NHS within months.
  • The Mirror reports on warnings from Dentaid about the state of NHS dentistry, as temporary surgeries are established across England.

On Thursday 4th January 2018 the following stories were published:

  • The Daily Mail reported that families have been urged by NHS managers to look after elderly relatives at home to release hospital beds.
  • The Times reported that frequent callers of the ambulance service are costing the NHS £18.8 million a year.

On Friday 5th January 2018 the following stories were published:

  • The Daily Mail reported that Jeremy Hunt has called for a ten-year strategy to adapt the health service.
  • The Daily Telegraph reported that sugary drinks will be banned from sale in NHS hospitals across England from July. NHS England has released an updated contract for hospitals, which for the first time, included a clause prohibiting the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • The Telegraph also reported that the number of people hospitalised by flu had tripled in a week, according to new figures. The statistics show one in four patients admitted to hospital with influenza is suffering from the deadliest strain – dubbed “Aussie flu” – heaping pressure on intensive care units. This was also covered by the BBC and Daily Mail.

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