News round-up 17 December

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17th December 2021 about a 4 minute read

After a spell when it all seemed to be dying down, the pandemic has returned with a vengeance. This week’s headlines are dominated by the news that the new Omicron variant is spreading remarkably quickly, with the number of new daily cases higher than they have been since the start of the pandemic. The impact is already being felt elsewhere, with patients having long waits in ambulances, and the CQC postponing inspections of acute hospitals to give staff space to focus their efforts on fighting Covid.

Covid cases soar – and worse is to come

On Wednesday, the UK reported 78,610 new Covid cases – the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. The previous highest figure was 68,053 on 8 January this year. At the time, the UK was in lockdown.

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned that cases would continue to rise and records would be broken. In some parts of the country, he said, cases were doubling in under two days. The UK was experiencing epidemics of both the Delta and Omicron variants, he added, and he advised people not to mix with others unless they had to.

NHS England to introduce payment-by-results for elective work

NHS England is to introduce an element of payment-by-results for elective work from April 2022, dropping the emergency financial system it has been operating since the start of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, the NHS was in the process of introducing a blended payment model combining fixed payments with payments that depended on the number of procedures performed – that is, payment by results.

During the pandemic, providers were moved onto block contracts where they were paid a fixed amount with some top-ups. Julian Kelly, NHS England’s chief financial officer, said last week there would have to be at least a partial return to payment by results in order to meet the goals agreed with government in return for £9bn additional funding.

Quarter of ambulances getting stuck in A&E queues

Nearly a quarter of patients brought to hospital in an ambulance are experiencing lengthy waits to be handed over to A&E, according to new data from NHS England.

Ambulances are meant to hand over patients within 15 minutes of arriving, but in the past week 23% out of nearly 84,000 patients brought in by ambulance waited more than 30 minutes. At seven NHS trusts more than half of patients were left waiting more than half an hour

As the number of Covid infections rises steeply, it’s likely that even more patients will face lengthy waits, potentially putting them at risk.

CQC to postpone inspections of acute hospitals and primary practice until New Year

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has postponed on-site inspections in acute hospitals, ambulance services and general practice for the next three weeks with immediate effect – except in cases where it has evidence of risk to life, or the immediate risk of serious harm to people.

The regulator has made the decision in the hope of reducing pressure on the NHS as it responds to the new Covid variant. In a statement it said that the “acceleration of the vaccine booster programme, announced yesterday in response to alarming new data about the spread of the Omicron variant, will require a massive effort from the NHS which is already under severe pressure.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals offers new app to support liver transplant patients

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has developed an app to help liver transplant patients manage their health after their operation.

The mobile app, which is called TAPP, provides users with access to a resource hub with information from trusted sources. It also enables them to communicate easily with their clinical team.

The tool, which was developed as part of the Healthcare Entrepreneur Exchange Programme, has been received positively by patients who have used it. The clinical team hopes to roll it out across national and international healthcare markets, with the help and support of an international entrepreneur programme.