Mixed news on waiting lists this week: the number of patients waiting more than three months for referrals for suspected cancer has increased, while the backlog of patients waiting more than two years for routine operations has dropped dramatically. There are promising results from technology implementations, one leading to a significant drop in A&E admissions, the other saving valuable time for out-of-hours junior doctors.
The number of patients waiting three months or more after a referral for suspected cancer stood at 10,000 patients last month, according to HSJ.
The unpublished NHS data shows that 10,189 of the 327,395 people on the national cancer waiting list had waited 104 days or more, with a further 28,406 having waited between 62 and 103 days.
In June 2021, the number of patients waiting more than 104 days (the NHS target figure) was 5,000.
The data revealed significant regional variation, with some trusts performing particularly badly. University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust had 717 patients waiting more than three months (10% of its total suspected cancer waiting list), while North Bristol Trust had 470 (13 per cent of its total).
A trial that used artificial intelligence (A) to predict which patients were most likely to need hospital care has led to a 35% average reduction in accident and emergency (A&E) attendances in Staffordshire.
The trial, which was launched in 2016, involved two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and three acute hospitals. Its aim was to investigate how existing patient data could be used to predict which patients were most likely to attend A&E or need hospital care in the future. It then used those predictions to provide clinical coaching targeted at those patients to reduce their dependence on A&E and GP services.
Using HN Predict software, the project was able to identify and prioritise people with risk of worsening health conditions. It identified patients who were likely to take up three or more acute hospital bed days in the next six months or require an increase in GP-led care. As well as the 35% reduction in A&E attendance, it saw a 30% reduction per patient in the average total hospital care cost.
The number of people waiting more than two years for routine operations in England has fallen from 22,500 at the start of 2022, to fewer than 200, according NHS figures show.
The figures exclude 2,500 patients whose condition is complex, or who have chosen not to travel for speedier treatment.
NHS England said that it had achieved its first milestone in its plan to eliminate Covid-related backlogs. There are, however, still 6.6m people waiting for hospital treatment, with about 400,000 waiting more than a year.
Last week, a cyberattack by hackers shut down the Advanced software system that supports NHS 111 and electronic patient records. The attack left thousands of hospital staff unable to access patients’ notes , increasing the risks of misdiagnosis and medication errors.
NHS 111 staff are being forced to use pen and paper to prioritise calls, without use of the system which normally helps them to dispatch ambulances and book urgent out-of-hours appointments.
Nick Broughton, the chief executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said it had been advised to prepare for “a system outage that could continue…possibly longer than three weeks” for the electronic records system.
More than 1,000 care homes using software from Advanced have also been affected.
A project designed to improve workload management for junior doctors at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust is saving 91 minutes per clinical user per shift, according to an independent evaluation.
In a typical 12.5-hour shift, the Infinity Health task management solution saves 12% of each team member’s time.
Ward staff at the trust used to bleep junior doctors on their pagers during out of hours shifts. They then had to call back to find out more information, before making notes by hand on paper and attending the patient if necessary. Now, ward staff call an out-of-hours coordinator who allocates tasks on the software, enabling staff to see the tasks they have been allocated and where, avoiding the need to respond to bleeps.
Non-emergency bleeps at night have been reduced by over 13,400 per year, and paper and handwritten to-do lists have been eliminated entirely.