News round-up 13 October

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13th October 2022 about a 4 minute read

Although the pandemic is officially over, the effects of Covid continue to be felt. The latest research shows that one in 20 suffer long-term effects after catching the illness. This coincides with news that the number of people looking for work as a result of long-term illness is now at a record high. The NHS is also running short of donor blood – because staff absences for Covid has meant donor appointments being cancelled.

One in 20 people suffer long-term effects after Covid

A study in Scotland, led by the University of Glasgow, has found that one in 20 people who catch Covid experience long-term effects.

The most reported symptoms, the researchers found, were breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations, and confusion. Effects were more likely to occur in people who’d had severe infections that required hospitalisation. The most at-risk group were older women from deprived communities.

The study, which began in May 2021, found that people who were vaccinated before becoming unwell appeared to be protected from some long-term symptoms.

Record numbers not looking for work due to long-term illness

The number of people not looking for work because they are suffering from a long-term illness has hit a record high, official figures show.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the jobless rate fell to 3.5% in the three months to August. The fall in the number of people looking for work has helped to push the unemployment rate to its lowest for nearly 50 years.

The number of job vacancies has also fallen again, although it is still high, and many firms are struggling to recruit.

IT failure at a number of trusts disrupts patient care

An IT failure on Tuesday this week affecting the Cerner Millennium electronic patient record system left clinicians at a number of trusts unable to access patient records or write discharge summaries, HSJ has reported.

The publication saw an email sent to staff at Barts Health Trust, which said there was a “performance issue” with Cerner PowerChart that affected “a number of other trusts”. At least 13 trusts in the English NHS use the Cerner Millennium system but it was not yet clear how many trusts aside from Barts were affected.

The Powerchart programme is the part of the Cerner EPR system and is used to process document notes, request tests, view blood tests and scan reports.

The problem was fixed overnight, though on Wednesday some affected trusts were continuing to address knock-on effects such as untracked patients and test results.

NHSE plans 24-hour target for new hospital discharge service

NHS England is developing plans for a new universal community recovery service, with a 24-hour target to provide step down care once a patient is considered ready to leave hospital, HSJ has reported.

Slides presented to an NHS England webinar show that it intends to pilot a single “one intermediate care step-down service through one lead commissioner. It would include a target requiring that when patients no longer meet the “criteria to reside in hospital”, they enter the new community recovery service within 24 hours.

NHSE’s vision is for this 24-hour target to be met for all acute hospital patients within five years. The documents seen by HSJ do not specify whether they would also be discharged within 24 hours.

Delayed discharges have been a problem for many years, but have caused particular difficulties in the past 18 months, leading to emergency department overcrowding. In August, one in seven patients in acute hospitals were medically ready to be discharged.

Hospitals could cancel operations as NHS England runs short of blood

Hospitals are considering cancelling operations after the NHS declared an amber alert status, meaning there are just two days of some blood supplies left for surgery.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has asked all existing donors who are O negative or O positive to come forward and book an appointment to give blood.  Donor centres in towns and cities have extended their hours to increase capacity.

The amber alert expected to last a month while stocks are replenished, and health officials have said hip operations could be cancelled.

NHSBT has asked hospitals to put emergency plans in place, and asked to consider prioritising emergency surgery, and cancelling non-urgent operations.

The reason for the shortage of blood appears to be a consequence of staff absences at NHSBT due to Covid, with many donors having appointments cancelled.