The latest on how NHS cuts are affecting patient care
LMC leaders are reviewing a controversial surgery ban for smokers and obese patients just six months after it was implemented, following large numbers of appropriate referrals being bounced back to GPs.
In other news, hospital units that care for Britain’s sickest babies are facing nursing cuts which put lives at risk, according to a survey by the charity Bliss. The Royal College of Nursing told the Independent that the situation as ‘desperate’, and that it was ‘deeply shocking’ that posts should be cut when extra nurses were needed.
A number of GPs in some parts of the country are advertising the availability of private services where care has been rationed locally, amid mounting concern that NHS cuts are placing practices in an ‘impossible’ position. A practice in York sparked the first controversy, but a private partnership in Somerset has since admitted to offering non-essential minor surgery for up to £225 per treatment.
Patients experiencing waiting times of over 18 weeks from referral to treatment rose nearly 50% year on year in August 2011, new Government figures reveal. Commenting on the figures, Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said hospitals were near ‘breaking point’.
GP practices have been hit by a 21% cut in funding for local enhanced services over the last year, as years of growth come to a dramatic halt, a Pulse investigation reveals. NHS managers have ended funding for a wide range of clinical services, including chlamydia screening, HPV vaccination and schemes for refugees and the homeless, in a stark demonstration of how budget cuts are damaging front-line care. Click here to read more.
NHS Hospitals in Ayrshire are under fire after launching a trial to recruit volunteers to make up a nursing shortfall.
The initiative uses local people from the community to support patients who need help to eat and drink. If the trial is successful, the Herald Scotland reports, it could be rolled out across the country.
GPs were asked to delay cancer referrals according to members of Berkshire LMC, Pulse reported. The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust admitted it had urged some two-week referrals be delayed ‘to achieve the best patient experience’.
Proposals for 4% ‘efficiency’ savings in GPs’ contracts have been condemned by GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman. Pulse understands officials approached Dr Buckman directly to sound him out on a possible deal prior to formal negotiations, but he rejected the approach and refused to negotiate under the terms suggested. A senior GPC member told Pulse he understood there were ‘enormous’ cuts planned for next year.
In other news, York GPs offered private surgical procedures to their NHS patients. The Haxby Group practice in York wrote to around 30 patients waiting to have minor skin surgery to advise them that the procedure ‘is no longer paid for by the NHS’ and alerting them to private treatment options, costing up to £250. Pulse editor Richard Hoey has blogged about the story here.
The NHS faces a huge challenge in meeting £1.5bn cuts in Yorkshire by 2015, according to local health experts. Ferrybridge GP Phil Earnshaw told the Yorkshire Post: ‘As GPs we are going to have to learn to be more open with patients on what basis any decision is made, particularly if finances do deteriorate.’
Cuts of £300m must be made to in South Essex NHS services by 2014, Brentwood Weekly reports, although bosses have saved both the Southend and Basildon hospitals from closure.
If waiting times in the UK rise or therapies go unfunded then more patients will seek help abroad, according to a study reported by PA.
The report found that outbound medical travel from the UK had been growing rapidly over the past decade – at a rate of 170% between 2002 and 2009, compared with just 30% for inbound growth.
The Royal College of Midwives warns the safety of women giving birth is at risk if cuts at already short-staffed maternity units take place, the Independent reports.
A survey of head midwives found a third were anticipating the need to cut staffing in the next 12 months, and 60% claimed current staffing levels were not enough to cope with demand.
The Royal Brompton Hospital has asked the High Court to look into the closure of its children’s heart surgery unit, according to PublicService.co.uk. The hospital said the closure followed a ‘deeply flawed and unlawful’ consultation, which it called ‘an act of bureaucratic vandalism’.
Nurses’ leaders sparked fury yesterday by telling families to look after elderly patients themselves on busy wards, the Mirror writes. Keith Botwright, whose mum Maureen, 75, of Stevenage, Herts, was left lying in her own waste by nurses, said: ‘Nobody begrudges helping out nurses during busy times but what happens when we go home?’
Meanwhile the Press Association reports that NHS nurses are at ‘breaking point’ after cuts. Seven hundred nurses and health care support workers in Scotland took part in the RCN’s employment and morale survey, that found fewer than a third of nurses feel nursing will continue to offer them a secure job in the future, compared with 82% two years ago.
Pulse editor Richard Hoey has blogged about how he feels GPs and commissioners will handle NHS cuts. Half of GPs would consider reductions in funding for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in the over 85s, he discovered, despite it being an area that has remained untouched. Click here to read about his other findings on the blog.
In the national press, a study published in the Evening Standard revealed that three-quarters of nurses fear for their patients’ safety because of poor staffing levels. The NHS workers also felt that the bad attitudes of colleagues and a lack of adequate skills were putting people in danger.
GPs should consider switching patients with diabetes from synthetic insulin to save money, say the UK authors of a new analysis. Their report estimates the NHS could have saved up to £625m by using human insulin more widely in the past. Click here to read the whole story.
In the wake of the newly-announced Scottish Comprehensive Spending Review, chairman of BMA Scotland Dr Brian Keighley responded: ‘The NHS faces an unprecedented real terms reduction in its budget over the next three years. Continued attacks on NHS staff terms and conditions of service and a raid on public sector pensions is completely unacceptable. This is a short term solution that will have long term repercussions.’
We reveal that some PCTs are still wading through backlogs of hospital care for thousands of patients which built up due to emergency rationing measures brought in at the end of the last financial year. Click here for the full story.
Lib Dem minster Paul Burstow admitted that another ‘wave’ of NHS hospital closures looms, the Telegraph writes. Discussing recent maternity unit and A&E closures at North London hospital Chase Farm, he said: ‘We’re now beginning to hit a wave of reconfiguration decisions… We recognise there are going to be more of these.’
NHS Orkney has introduced iPads to replace paper at board meetings in a bid to save £28,000 a year, according to the BBC. The announcement comes just a fortnight after public outcry when Bury Council gave iPads to its binmen to save on stationery costs.
Health chiefs in NHS South West Essex have defended the decision to ban GPs from sending patients for CT and MRI scans without the backing of a specialist. Dr Anil Chopra, medical director at the PCT, told the Echo: ‘Urgent referrals, for example to confirm or rule out a cancer diagnosis, have not been restricted in any way.’
No more coeliac biscuits or sausage rolls on prescription, WalesOnline reports, though gluten-free bread and flour are still available. Dr David Bailey, chairman of the Welsh GP committee, said: ‘I understand why a health board would ask GPs to consider this and I have a certain amount of sympathy because we have to save costs somewhere in the prescribing budget. It would be fairer, however, if patients with coeliac disease were given more control of this themselves.’
9 Sep 2011
The Department of Health wasted over £150m last year in terminating independent sector treatment centre contracts, dumping out-of-date medicines and scrapping IT projects, annual accounts show. As GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey says: ‘This clearly demonstrates that if the DH really listened to our suggestions, concerns and warnings over the last few years they could have saved the NHS and therefore the taxpayer millions.’ Click here for the full story.