As well as striking nurses and ambulance workers, the woes faced by the NHS this week include news of a worsening antibiotic shortage, severely mentally ill patients experiencing long delays for beds and thousands of sick babies being turned down for admission to neonatal intensive care units. Meanwhile, to cope with the staffing shortage, trusts are paying up to £5,000 a shift for a single agency doctor.
The shortage of antibiotics needed to treat strep A has worsened in the past week, according to pharmacists.
Leyla Hannbeck, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), which represents 4,000 UK pharmacies, said the supply of antibiotics to treat strep A and scarlet fever was “very poor” and that the government to should put a plan in place to address the shortage. Hannbeck said that the government’s decision to put four antibiotics on the banned UK export list because of high demand was “too little too late”.
The UK government said it was working urgently with manufacturers and wholesalers to speed up deliveries.
Vulnerable patients have faced long delays for a suitable bed as organisations argue over whose responsibility it is to fund and deliver their care, according to HSJ.
In a letter outlining winter arrangements, NHS England has warned trust leaders and commissioners not to delay emergency mental health admissions while they are working out which area has which responsibility. Emergency mental health admissions are typically needed when a patient is away from home, and are more common over the Christmas period.
Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s mental health director, wrote in the letter that such admissions should be arranged “as quickly as possible, and without delay caused by any financial sign-off process”. She added that to support efforts to reduce delayed discharges, she was intending to launch a Mental Health Discharge Challenge.
NHS hospitals are paying up to £5,000 a shift for a single agency doctor, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) figures sourced by the Labour Party.
The figures show that one in three hospital trusts paid more than £3,000 per doctor last year, with the vast majority of trusts spending at least £2,000 per shift in order to address staff shortages.
Labour said that the NHS was wasting vast sums paying “rip-off fees” to agencies because too few medics had been trained.
The rates of up to £5,000 for a single shift are twice what a typical hospital consultant would earn in a week, and are up to eight times the weekly salary of a junior doctor. Other data shows that some agencies have been paid as much as £2,500 per nurse per shift.
All new hospitals built in England must have only single patient rooms, leaders of the New Hospitals Programme have announced.
Previously, NHS trusts were expected to consider making 50% of rooms single-occupancy when refurbishing or building new facilities. The new directive will require many trusts to overhaul their existing proposals.
The decision will represent a major change in hospital design and lead eventually to an end to multi-bay wards. The decision followed a year-long process of gathering evidence from patients, patient advocacy groups and staff.
More than 1,000 referrals to admit very sick or premature babies to neonatal units were rejected in the last year due to a lack of beds, according to data sourced by HSJ from a freedom of information (FOI) request.
In 2021-22, 19 trusts turned down 1,345 requests to admit a baby to their level three neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A similar number (1,376) were turned down the previous year.
A consultant neonatologist from a tertiary NICU told the publication that the majority of units are not working to capacity because of staffing shortages.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, FCMS and Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board are implementing remote monitoring technology from Docobo to help manage cardiac surgery waiting lists.
The technology allows patients to be monitored at home by devices that can detect any health anomalies or deterioration. Patients are provided with monitoring equipment, which includes a phone or tablet pre-loaded with software allowing them to send health data digitally and remotely to clinical teams. This enables clinicians to identify those patients most in need of intervention. The app also provides patients with advice to help prepare them for their surgery.