News in brief

Demand soars across the NHS in England: The demand for hospital services is soaring, according to official data from NHS England. It has reported increases in emergency ambulance call-outs, A&E admissions, emergency admissions, diagnostic tests and treatments. However, the NHS is failing to meet some key targets, including those for cancer treatment, ambulance response times and A&E waiting times. NHS England acknowledged the increases were part of a continuing trend, reported the BBC. “The long-term trend is one of greater volumes of both urgent and emergency care and elective activity,” it said. It is the first time NHS England has published its data from a wide range of services on the same day. The snapshot shows that in the year up to June 2015: Ambulance call-outs were up 7% on the previous 12 months, A&E attendances were up 1.1%, emergency admissions were up 2.7%, diagnostic tests were up 5.8%, and consultant-led treatments were up 5.1%. However, two out of the eight targets for cancer treatment were missed. They included only 81% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of being referred by GPs, when the target is 85% of patients.

DH refuses to release IT savings report: The Department of Health (DH) has turned down a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from DigitalHealth.net to see a report that purportedly shows how technology can save the NHS billions of pounds each year. Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, told a meeting of the National Information Board in June that savings of between £8.3bn and £13.7bn were available by 2020. If accurate, these savings could account for around half of the £22bn in annual efficiency gains that NHS England is looking to make by 2020, to help fill a £30bn gap between funding and demand that could otherwise open up by then. The rest of the money is set to come from the government, with the Conservative Party manifesto pledging to find £8bn for the NHS over the next five years. Kelsey did not disclose the evidence behind these figures. But DigitalhHealth.net understands that they are based on an unpublished report ‘Modelling the potential of digitally enabled processes, transparency and participation in the NHS’, created by McKinsey on behalf of NHS England. In its response to DigitalHealth.net’s request to see this report under the FOI Act, the DH acknowledged it had this information, but declined to share it under Section 35 which provides protection to information used in the formulation of government policy. DigitalHealth.net has challenged this refusal, arguing that there is significant public interest in seeing this report. It expects to hear back from the DH this month.

NHS patients not satisfied with access to records: YouGov research, commissioned by Trustmarque, shows that 96% of British adults are unsure whether they can access their own health records, online or not. Online records were supposed to start becoming available to patients during spring 2015, but the latest report suggests that the NHS is not on track to meet its overall 2020 targets, reported Business Reporter. With patient permission, healthcare professionals would be able to share patient information with relevant parties, eliminating the need for patients to repeatedly recount their medical histories. However, currently 39% of the research’s respondents said that it had been necessary for them to provide the same medical information to health professionals more than once within the last year. A further 28% of respondents also stated that they or someone they knew had experienced a delay in receiving care due to health professionals not sharing information. Approximately 68% of UK citizens said that they believe that the NHS should use technology more, while 76% said that the NHS should offer its own health app or approve existing ones to improve patient outcomes and experience. Other targets for 2020 included a digital ‘red book’ for new parents to manage children’s early health records from early 2015, and NHS ‘Kitemarks’ for trusted mobile apps to help manage healthcare.

NHS England plans to hand over medical records to high-street retailers: NHS England is at the centre of yet another patient confidentiality scandal after drawing up plans to allow major retail chains that run pharmacies access to patients’ medical records, reported Computing. NHS England claims that, following a trial involving 140 pharmacies, the move will reduce pressure on GP surgeries and help improve efficiency. Pharmacies could, for example, provide repeat prescriptions for patients, bypassing GP surgeries. The national rollout will start in the autumn. However, campaigners say that NHS England is planning to forge ahead with the scheme without even consulting patients first and claim that the information could be mis-appropriated by the retailers to cross-sell other products. Indeed, NHS England has already expanded pharmacists’ rights to access patient records from prescriptions to precautionary “health checks”. MedConfidential campaigner Phil Booth described NHS England’s attitude towards the confidentiality of NHS patient records as “extraordinary” and warned that the retailers involved in the scheme would find the temptation to use the information in other ways “irresistible”.

Wye Valley opts for open source EPRWye Valley NHS Trust is the latest UK healthcare provider to sign up to an open source electronic patient record (EPR) after agreeing a five year service contract with pioneering software specialist IMS MAXIMS, reported eHealth News EU. The trust will work closely with IMS MAXIMS to implement the openMAXIMS EPR software to support the creation of accurate, accessible and integrated care records across its acute and community hospitals. The system will eventually integrate across multiple care settings, including social and primary care. Simon Lind, project and portfolio manager at Wye Valley NHS Trust said: “For us, this is not an ICT project, it is about clinical process change assisted by the right technology. Our decision to work with IMS MAXIMS was based on many things including their ambition to use open source as an option for generating the benefits of a strong electronic patient record. We can tailor the software for our specific requirements and share or access developments in the code with other healthcare providers. The fact that there are no licence charges was of particular interest to us.” Shane Tickell, CEO of IMS MAXIMS, added: “This is yet another significant step in the adoption of open source technology within healthcare. At a time when the NHS is looking to improve patient outcomes whilst becoming a more efficient service, Wye Valley has taken the very considered and astute decision when selecting its approach to clinical technology.”

Salisbury seeks £12m annual savings via move to new EPR: Salisbury District Hospital is exploring the idea of having an IT system to let patients access their own records – as well as at least £12m in annual savings via a move to digital, reported HealthIT Central. The idea is that patients could perform a range of actions, from changing their hospital appointments or GP details to uploading blood pressure readings – even checking that their medical records are correct. The hospital, part of Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, also believes that patient data could be shared among stakeholders and other partner organisations, as well as GPs – and that use of paper within the trust could be minimised, cutting administrative costs, too. Salisbury’s medical director, Christine Blanshard, told management of the trust in a report on the proposed system that the current administration system is coming to the end of its life. For that and other reasons, she argues that it’s time Salisbury moved to try and embrace a full electronic patient record system, which she noted could “transform the way we deliver an outstanding experience for every patient”. Meanwhile, at a recent trust board meeting, Salisbury’s corporate director Laurence Arnold told members a system could be up and running within a year, but that the move would be “a massive change project”.

Medical innovations supported by £18m fund: Life sciences minister George Freeman has announced £18m of government support for the next generation of medical advances, reported Integrated Care Today. According to Gov.uk, 12 new medical technologies, treatments and diagnostics will receive funding from the eighth round of the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC). These projects include “pre-clinical development of an influenza vaccine” and a “device that patients can use at home to monitor for lunch infections caused by bacteria and fungi”. The BMC is a joint programme operated by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Innovate UK (IUK). It is said to support “UK academics and small to medium-sized businesses seeking to take their research from discovery through to commercialisation to deliver patient benefit”. It has been reported that the MRC contributed £13m to the fund, and IUK gave £5m. The funding will enable companies and universities to work on technology needed to combat major health problems. George Freeman said of the funding: “The UK’s healthcare industry has a worldwide reputation for excellence. By providing early support of these latest treatment and diagnosis developments, we are not only going to potentially help improve or save lives, we are helping businesses grow and boost the UK’s productivity.”

IT experts ‘redefining’ the way technology is used in healthcare: IT experts are redefining the way technology is used within healthcare by driving innovation in Cloud Application Virtualisation. Through its new technology, the company is able to take existing applications one step further and put them on the internet, meaning they can be securely accessed from any location. This includes new applications and, importantly for the healthcare marketplace, established or legacy applications. This means they can operate on modern operating systems without the need to change a single piece of the underlying coding. Speaking to Building Better Healthcare, Mat Clothier, chief technology officer and founder at Cloudhouse Technologies, said: “We had a goal of making hospital systems that are really easy to deploy; systems that can interconnect with MR equipment, with blood pressure monitors and all sorts of other bits and pieces. This, however, adds complexity and we wanted to remove some of this complexity and make it easier for trusts to upgrade software and get the most from their IT systems.”

Cumbria launches social care referrals: Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is now able to refer patients to social care services at the “press of a button.” Dr William Lumb, chief clinical information officer at NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, told DigitalHealth.net that the ability to refer adult patients for social care is the latest development in the Cumbria Common Platform. This is a partnership effort between providers in Cumbria to share healthcare information in a real-time, interoperable way. Dr Lumb said that staff at North Cumbria University Hospitals can use Allocate’s RealTime PatientFlow bed management system to send referrals to social services, using a bespoke resource matching and e-referral system from Strata Health, known locally as “air traffic control”. This can replace the traditional process of filling out a paper form and faxing, saving time and creating standardisation of service. “The new way of working is due to be established within the next three months. If North Cumbria pushes this out, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, it will mean every single referral between acute health and social care will be electronic.”

Herald readers invited to major health summit on future of NHS in Scotland: A health summit is being held in Glasgow to discuss the future of the Scottish NHS. Scottish health secretary Shona Robison, leading doctors and nurses and representatives from the social care sector will debate how services need to change to cope with the growing elderly population. There are 25 places for Herald readers who are interested in considering what healthcare should look like in 10 to 15 years and how to deliver that vision. The event is part of the Scottish government’s national conversation, Creating a Healthier Scotland, which is offering people a say on how to improve both health and healthcare north of the border. The Health Summit is taking place in the Teaching and Learning Centre at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Tuesday August 25.

 

Awards

Healthcare IT champion of the year: The voting is now open to find this year’s eHealth Insider Healthcare IT Champion of the Year. Click here to view the shortlisted candidates. Voting closes on Friday 11 September at 4pm. Good luck to all shortlisted individuals. The winner will be announced at the EHI Awards ceremony on Thursday 1 October 2015.

EHI Awards

 

Opinion

British people want a technology revolution in the NHS
British people want a technology revolution in the NHS – we need to make sure they get what they’re asking for says Angelo Di Ventura, director of Trustmarque.

“The NHS looks after a population of over 64 million across the UK, dealing with more than a million patients every 36 hours. The service it offers has to remain first-rate despite severe cost cutting, placing immense pressure on those responsible for maintaining standards. There is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in helping the NHS improve patient outcomes, while ensuring every penny spent represents value for money.

“It’s easy to see why – as citizens have become adept with technology in all other areas of their lives, the same expectation is being levelled at the NHS. High expectations amongst the general public coupled with government targets, such as those set in the NHS England 2020 Vision, mean we ought to see a revolution in how the NHS uses technology in the next few years.

“With the NHS estimating missed GP appointments cost in excess of £162m each year and with 6.9 million outpatient appointments missed annually, it’s clear that technology can play a role in reducing this number.

“But looking beyond direct care, there’s no reason why the NHS can’t also enter the world of health apps to ease its own burden of booking and managing appointments. What’s more, the demand for NHS approved apps is there; when asked, over three quarters of British adults thought the NHS should offer or approve health apps for actions like booking appointments or managing prescriptions.

“It’s clear that UK citizens want more digital healthcare services – in the long run this promises to increase efficiencies and improve patient care. At a time when the NHS is under more scrutiny than ever, technology can be a way for it to transform the patient experience while delivering value for taxpayers’ money.”

Is the NHS delivering too much of the wrong things?
Sometimes the NHS delivers services that people don’t want or need, writes Hugh Alderwick senior policy assistant to the CEO and integrated care programme manager at The King’s Fund.

In a blog on the problem of overuse, Alderwick says more healthcare is not always better healthcare and that some people receive care even when the potential for harm outweighs the benefits.

“When people are involved in decisions about their treatment, they often end up wanting less care, not more. Too often, decisions are made in a state of what Al Mulley and colleagues at Dartmouth would call ‘avoidable ignorance’: ignorance on behalf of patients about their condition, treatment options and potential outcomes, and ignorance on behalf of professionals about their patient’s preferences.

“Tackling the problem of overuse requires action at all levels of the NHS – from changing the way that people are involved in decisions about their health and health care, to a new approach from national policy-makers towards NHS improvement.

“Above all, we need to see the problem of overuse in the context of NHS services as common pool resources, where what we use effectively ends up taking away from others. In this way, overuse becomes a moral problem at odds with effective stewardship of limited resources.”

DHI interview: Beverley Bryant
Now the general election is over, the NHS needs to deliver on the ‘Five Year Forward View’; and that will mean investing in IT. Digital Health News reporter Thomas Meek talks to Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of digital technology, about her priorities.

One of those priorities is joining up the NHS, Meek writes: “The first area includes [what Bryant describes as] “finishing the job” that previous, failed national IT strategies have tried to achieve and get technology into NHS organisations that can allow them “to operate in a modern way.”

[Bryant says] “That’s the electronic patient record. That’s interoperability and alignment so patients only have to give their information once and clinicians can get access to information about the patient at the touch of a button.” 

Meek asks how crucial the relationship between what ‘the centre’ is doing and what local providers are doing is. Byrant responds: “We’ve worked really hard to build relationships, because in the past [they weren’t there],” she says. “There’s a sense that we are getting something of that right; and when we are not getting that right people are telling us.

“That’s a good thing; it shows the relationship is strong enough for them to feel they can be open about it. We are here to incentivise, promote, gather evidence, show case studies, and show people how to do it.” 

“Ultimately, we think patients and the public are going to start to demand this from the NHS. The more we can get local organisations equipped, understanding it, and offering it the better.”

 

Highland Marketing guest interview

Person-centred care has long been an ambition for the UK. The technology is ready to support the vision but an underinvestment in IT could spell further delays to making it happen, Natalie Bateman, head of health, social care and local government at techUK tells Highland Marketing.

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