News round-up (13 January 2023)

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12th January 2023 about a 5 minute read

The impact of the crisis in the NHS continues to be felt, with new figures showing a steep rise in excess deaths in 2022. The government is attempting to address the problem by providing money to buy up care home spaces, allowing beds to be freed for A&E patients. In better news, the NHS has put out a tender to create a national data platform, and a new artificial pancreas looks set to improve the quality of life for thousands of patients with Type 1 diabetes.

A sharp rise in excess deaths in 2022

More than 650,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2022.

The figure is 9% higher than in 2019, and represents one of the largest excess death levels outside the pandemic in 50 years.

Analysis of the data suggests two main reasons for the rise: the effect of the pandemic on health, and the pressures on the NHS.

Approximately 38,000 deaths involved Covid in 2022, compared with more than 95,000 in 2020. Studies have also found that people are more likely to have heart problems and strokes in the weeks and months after catching Covid, but these won’t always lead to Covid being mentioned on the death certificate.

At the start of 2022, death rates appeared to have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but in June of that year, excess deaths started to rise again, as the number of people waiting for hours on trolleys in English hospitals hit levels normally seen in winter.

NHS England tenders £480m contract for national data platform

NHS England has launched a procurement process for a new national data platform.

The contract, priced at £360m, is due to run for five years from September, but there will be an option to extend the contract by another two years, taking the potential value to £480m, depending on how much the platform is used by the NHS.

The tender said that the proposed data platform would support health and care organisations to “make the most of the information they hold and to work together to understand patterns, solve problems and plan services”. It will be made available to NHS England, integrated care systems and trusts. It will not be mandatory to use, however, as some NHS organisations already have their own data platforms.

New artificial pancreas could help thousands of patients with diabetes

More than 100,000 patients in England and Wales with type 1 diabetes could soon benefit from a new artificial pancreas, after the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued draft guidelines recommending its adoption.

The artificial pancreas uses a glucose sensor under the skin to calculate how much insulin is delivered via a pump. The diabetes charity JDRF said it had the potential to transform lives and was the “closest thing to a working pancreas”.

The technology is now being rolled out in Scotland, where an additional £14.6m is being spent to enable people with type 1 diabetes to use it, but patients in England and Wales will have to wait, as NICE said a more cost-effective price still had to be agreed with manufacturers.

NHS will buy care beds to create space in hospitals

The NHS in England is to tackle the problem of “bed blocking” by buying thousands of beds in care homes and upgrade hospitals.

Currently, about 13,000 patients who are well enough to be discharged remain in hospital because of the lack of a care plan. As a consequence, there are not enough beds for people to be admitted from A&E. The government is providing £200m to allow hospitals to buy care home places, enabling 2,500 hospital beds to be freed up. This is in addition to the £500m adult social care discharge fund announced last year.

Some health care leaders told HSJ that, if the £200m is to have an impact, it needs to be distributed within a week to 10 days.

Black people waiting six months longer for organ transplant

Black patients wait up to six months longer for an organ transplant than the general population, according to a new NHS Blood and Transplant report.

While waiting times have shortened for all ethnicities in the UK, Black people wait on average 735 days for a kidney, while Asian people wait 650 days and white people wait 488 days.

The best match for organ donations comes from someone of the same ethnicity, but while Black people make up 4% of the population, they make up only 2% of donors.

Black families are less likely to agree to organ donation than white families, the figures show.

The NHS says there’s an “urgent need” for more people from ethnic minorities to donate.

NHS England wants more commercial and procurement expertise

NHS England wants to bring more commercial and procurement expertise to the process of developing innovative medical products, according to a strategy outlined in a paper by Jacqui Rock, NHS England’s chief commercial officer.

The paper outlines a plan to develop an “innovation pathway” by involving commercial and procurement directors in the process of identifying and adopting new clinical practice innovations. The aim is to bring together the NHSE commercial and transformation directorates with trust and health system procurement and commercial teams “to develop guidance and standardise approaches that will benefit both buyers and innovators”.

The paper suggests the strategy would enable new ideas and products being developed by NHS organisations to be better commercialised and promoted to overseas markets through the UK Healthcare export agency.