News round-up 1 April

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31st March 2022 about a 4 minute read

The Ockenden Review of maternity care in Shropshire has uncovered a shocking pattern of mistakes over 20 years, leading to the deaths of 200 babies. Covid continues to exert pressures on the NHS, with Wales’s health minister urging people to go to A&E only in cases of life-threatening injury or illness. The introduction of new AI-based software in England to predict A&E admissions may point the way to easing some of that pressure in future.

Ockenden Review uncovers UK’s biggest maternity scandal

Failures of care at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust (SaTH) over a period of 20 years may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies and nine mothers, the Ockenden Review has found.

Published on Wednesday, the review was a comprehensive investigation of more than 1,500 cases. It found that babies’ deaths were not investigated and that the same mistakes were made repeatedly. National guidelines were often ignored. A commitment to keeping the caesarean rate low led to an inappropriate use of oxytocin to speed up labour, resulting in a number of babies being harmed. Other babies were injured as a result of forceps being used when caesareans would have been more appropriate.

Ockenden made 15 recommendations to improve maternity care in England, including mandatory multidisciplinary training, better investigation of serious incidents and complaints, and clear processes for staff to escalate concerns.

NHS introduces AI software to reduce hospital waiting lists

New AI software is being introduced in hospitals to reduce waiting lists. The software, which analyses data such as 111 calls, Covid-19 infection rates, traffic and weather, enables hospitals to predict daily A&E admissions up to three weeks in advance.

The software is being introduced in 100 NHS hospital trusts after trials showed it had an “impressive” ability to forecast daily admissions, broken down by age.

On days predicted to be quiet, managers will be encouraged to free up A&E staff to prioritise elective care and deliver more routine tests and operations to tackle the NHS backlog.

New pilot to support care leavers to get online

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has launched a pilot in Salford to help care leavers to build their confidence with digital technology.

The pilot, which has enlisted 40 care leavers, provides a package of support that includes free mobile devices, free data for 12 months and digital skills training. Research from the GMCA found that all of the 3,900 local care leavers aged 17-25 years old were excluded from the benefits of digital technology in some way.

After the pilot, GMCA plans to work with organisations and professionals from all 10 local authorities to roll out the programme to all care leavers in Greater Manchester.

Leicester opens virtual ward for atrial fibrillation patients

The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has launched a virtual ward for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition in which patients have a fast or irregular heart rhythm.

Patients in Leicester with AF will be able to be monitored virtually in their own home, rather than go into hospital.

In a pilot of the scheme, patients received special equipment to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels as well as a device that produces an electrocardiogram (ECG).

The virtual award project has been awarded £274,000 funding from NHS England’s Transformation Directorate (formerly NHSX) and is being run in association with health tech specialist Dignio. It will offer 120 virtual beds.

NHS in Wales is under ‘extraordinary pressure’

Wales’s health minister, Eluned Morgan, has warned that, as a result of rising Covid cases, the country’s health service is under “extraordinary pressure”, with limited bed capacity, staff sickness and difficulties discharging patients.

The Aneurin Bevan University health board, which serves a population of half a million people in South East Wales, has issued a black alert, urging people only to visit hospital if absolutely necessary.

Ms Morgan said that measures have been taken across all health board areas to relieve pressure, and urged only those with “life-threatening illness or serious injury” to go to A&E.