News round-up (17 February 2023)

man looking at online news headlines
17th February 2023 about a 5 minute read

Although hospitals are emerging from the worst of the winter twindemic, figures show that in December and January, the majority of patients at some trusts were still waiting more than four hours to be seen in A&E. Workforce pressures on the NHS continue, with GPs now having to deal with up to 3,000 patients each. NHS trusts, meanwhile,  have abandoned their commitment to use renewable energy in the face of  rising prices.

Data reveals hospitals with worst A&E waiting lists

At some hospitals in England, more than half of patients are waiting more than four hours to be seen in A&E, new data shows.

The BBC has analysed data for December and January and found that Hull University Hospitals, Wye Valley and Shrewsbury and Telford had the longest A&E waits.

The best trust out of the 107 which provided data, Northumbria Healthcare, had fewer than 10% waiting more than four hours.

The likelihood of waiting more than four hours at A&E in the 10 worst-performing trusts was at least five times greater than at the best.

The research is based on information from the trusts submitting data on four-hour waits – there are 14 services which do not submit data because they are piloting new ways of measuring performance for the government.

NHS England said plans were being put in place to support struggling trusts.

Radiotherapy ‘kinder’ treatment than surgery for prostate cancer patients

Treating early prostate cancer with radiotherapy rather than surgery could be “kinder” and have far fewer side effects, a study has suggested.

Research carried out by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Cancer Research, London, compared the long-term impact of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) with surgery in men with early prostate cancer.

The findings suggested that those patients treated with surgery are 10 times more likely to suffer from some degree of urinary incontinence. Patients given  SBRT also reported better sexual function after two years than those who received surgery.

Trusts abandon renewable electricity commitment

Nearly half of England’s largest NHS trusts are not buying all their electricity from renewable sources despite a national requirement to do so, largely because of the rapidly rising costs of this type of energy, HSJ has reported.

NHS England made a commitment that, from April 2021, the NHS would purchase only renewable energy from April 2021, as part of efforts to meet its target to achieve net zero in terms of emissions it can control by 2040.

Trusts were told to make sure all their electricity came from renewable sources as soon as they could in 2021, before this became a requirement in the 2022-23 NHS standard contract. According to data seen by HSJ, however, nine of the largest 20 trusts have not been buying 100% renewable electricity this financial year. This includes the four biggest London trusts: Barts; Guy’s and St Thomas’; Imperial College; and King’s College.

GPs deal with up to 3,000 patients each

GPs are attempting to deal with up to 3,000 patients each, according to House of Commons library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.

It shows that the number of patients per GP has risen sharply, as more and more GPs reduce their hours or opt for early retirement. The average GP now works a three-day week.

The figures, which show the number of  full-time equivalent fully qualified GPs, reveal that the number has fallen from 29,320 in 2016 to 27,372 last year.

On average, each fully qualified doctor has 2,273 patients, which has increased from 1,981 in 2016. During the same period, the number of registered patients at GP practices increased by 7% to 62 million.

Eight integrated care systems miss deadline for integrated care strategies

Eight integrated care systems (ICSs) have not yet published a version of their integrated care strategy, despite the government setting a deadline of the end of 2022 to do so.

The deadline was announced in March last year, and confirmed by guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care, which states: “In order to influence the first 5-year joint forward plans which are to be published before the next financial year, the integrated care partnership would have to publish an initial strategy by December 2022.”

HSJ has found that eight of the 42 total ICSs have not yet published a strategy even in draft. A number said they wanted to take longer to consult on their plans.

Electronic Prescription Service dispenses one billion items a year

The Electronic Prescription Service has dispensed nearly one billion items in the last year, which means it is now the default method for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions in primary care in England.

According to figures from NHS England, in 2021/22 the majority of prescriptions were issued electronically – 996 million or 95%, a nearly two-fold increase in the past five years. In 2016/17, there were 532 million issues electronically, representing just over half of all prescriptions that year.

The Electronic Prescription Service allows clinicians to send prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy chosen by the patient, making the process of prescribing and dispensing medicines more efficient and convenient for both patients and staff.