The end of the self-isolation era could soon be upon as, as the prime minister says he will look at bringing forward the date for removing Covid restrictions by a few weeks. The government’s next task is to tackle the backlog of elective care procedures by introducing community diagnostic centres and surgical hubs. NHS Wales hopes that its new national pharmacy system will lead to more standardisation, greater consistency and better outcomes for patients.
Covid restrictions in England could end later this month, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said. The current rules state that anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for at least five days. The government had planned to remove this requirement on 24 March. Now that the data is showing a trend towards fewer infections and fewer hospitalisations, however, Johnson has told parliament that he will make an announcement about the government’s strategy “for living with Covid” when parliament returns from recess on 21 February.
The government has set out its plan for tackling the backlog in elective care arising from the pandemic. Before the pandemic, 600 people waited longer than a year for elective care, the health secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement to parliament. That figure is now over 300,000. The government’s plans include establishing 160 community diagnostic centres along with surgical hubs focused on high-volume routine surgery away from major hospital sites. Follow-up appointments will be arranged on a case-by-case basis, rather than being automatic for all patients. A new online service, My Planned Care, will inform patients about waiting times and how to prepare for treatment.
Javid said the steps would enable the NHS to perform at least nine million extra tests, checks and procedures by 2025 and 30% more elective activity every year than before the pandemic. He promised that waits of longer than a year would be eliminated by 2025.
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) has embarked on a five-year collaboration with pharma company Roche to create a new clinical informatics and innovation unit. The aim is to help the hospital move towards personalised health care for children, and GOSH has said that it wants to identify better ways to care for children and young people with rare and complex diseases.
The collaboration will focus on four areas: improving research capability and clinical decision support systems; using digital tools to improve the collection of data from research and in clinical trials; using anonymised real-world data to improve paediatric personalised healthcare; and improving clinical and research data using sensors, devices and wearable technology.
Some Roche staff will join the trust on secondment.
Lancashire and South Cumbria Health and Care Partnership, the regional integrated care system (ICS), has outlined its digital strategy. The document, Our Digital Future, says that the ICS will measure the success of the strategy from the perspective of an individual person, rather than the organisation, stating that this represents a “significant shift” in its thinking. Its foreword states that, while digital services will be more convenient for many people, technology will not replace the “care and compassion” of the dedicated workforce.
The strategy makes a commitment to co-designing digital solutions with the people who will be using them, and to using data to “prevent, predict and respond to ill-health”. Ambitions laid out in the strategy include enabling people to access and add to their own electronic health care record, and to use it to manage appointments, as well as providing access to good quality information to support personal management of health and wellbeing.
NHS Wales has implemented a nationwide digital pharmacy system available in 28 sites across all seven health boards and one trust. The implementation was completed in 12 months.
The system, which replaces 30-year old software, is designed to improve the accuracy of computerised dispensing and medicines stock management. As well as offering better performance and reliability, the NHS believes it will improve the clarity of data recorded, enabling it to comply more effectively with governance standards. The result will be safer and more consistent patient care. The funding for the project was provided by the Welsh Government’s Digital Priorities Investment Fund, and it was implemented by Digital Health and Care Wales. The system, which was developed by CareFlow Medicines Management, has 2,500 users across Wales.
Berwyn Owen, chief pharmacist at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board described it as an “opportunity to do things better, together collaboratively, consistently and in a standardised manner.” One of the outcomes, an agreed All Wales medicines file, will make it possible to accurately check stock across Wales.