The government has promised £700m to NHS hospitals this winter to cope with the backlog created by the pandemic, but the advent of the Omicron variant threatens to throw a spanner in the works. NHS hospitals, however, are continuing to roll out digital systems, such as Bart’s new digital pathology software, that promise to lead both to efficiencies and to improvements in patient care.
The government has announced £700m in funding for NHS hospitals to help them cope with demand this winter. The funding will be used to expand wards, install modular operating theatres and upgrade outpatient spaces and MRI and screening technology. Of the £700m, £330m will be allocated to upgrading NHS facilities, £250m is for new technology and £120 million will be spent on any supporting revenue costs.
The money is part of the £5.4 billion announced earlier in the year to support the NHS response to the pandemic.
Hospital admissions from the Omicron variant could reach 1,000 a day in England by the end of the year if extra restrictions are not put in place, according to the government’s scientific advisers.
The numbers were revealed in leaked minutes of a meeting held on Tuesday of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which provides advice to the government about how to handle the pandemic.
The minutes say that it is “highly likely” Omicron will account for the majority of new coronavirus infections in the UK within “a few weeks” and that the peak of the wave is “highly likely” to be higher than 1,000-2,000 Omicron hospital admissions a day unless new rules are put in place to slow the spread.
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is implementing a new electronic referral system to improve cancer care.
Until now, referrals at Doncaster and Bassetlaw have been made by phone or emails, sometimes leading to delays. The new system, which integrates two existing computer systems – the Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE) electronic referral system, and Infoflex, a cancer management system – will enable patients who receive a cancer diagnosis to have their care options discussed promptly by a team of multi-skilled specialists. This will lead to them receiving the appropriate treatment more quickly than under the old system.
Barts Health NHS Trust is implementing a digital pathology system from Sectra that will improve clinical collaboration and speed up turnaround times.
Because pathologists will now be able to look at slides on a screen, rather than relying on microscopes, they will be able to work remotely. They will also be able to share the slides with other pathologists (for a second opinion, for example) and with other members of the multi-disciplinary team. Reporting will be faster and safer.
The implementation will also facilitate the collection of important clinical data, creating a foundation for the use of artificial intelligence in future.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is to pilot FibriCheck, a remote monitoring tool that allows stroke patients to check whether they have atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart condition that can lead to an increased risk of stroke.
AF contributes to one in five strokes in the UK, but most are preventable if caught in time. However, people with the condition can be asymptomatic, making it difficult to check.
The FibriCheck app allows patients to check their heart rate and rhythm by placing their finger over the camera lens of their smartphone for one minute, which will measure pulse pressure signals. If AF is detected, patients will be called in for formal diagnosis and treatment.