News round-up 21 October

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20th October 2022 about a 4 minute read

A devastating review into maternity care at East Kent has identified multiple failings, and found that 45 babies might have survived with better care. The NHS is preparing for a tough winter by using data to identify when hospitals are at capacity so that patients can be taken to hospitals where there are spaces. In more encouraging news, scientists have developed a test that could predict cervical cancer years before it appears.

East Kent maternity deaths: Babies might have survived with better care

Up to 45 babies might have survived if they had received better care, a review into at East Kent NHS Hospitals Trust has found.

The report, by Dr Bill Kirkup, found a “clear pattern” of “sub-optimal” care that led to significant harm. Families’ concerns were ignored, and women in labour were often treated with “callousness” and “cruelty”. Staff at the trust described maternity services as “a vipers’ nest”, with a culture of bullying that placed women and babies at risk for more than a decade.

Kirkup and his team reviewed an 11-year period from 2009 at two hospitals in East Kent.  They found that the trust had given the appearance of “covering up the scale and systemic nature” of its problems.

NHS England setting up ‘war rooms’ for tough winter

The NHS is setting up “war rooms” to prepare for a particularly tough winter, NHS leaders in England have said.

Staff have received a letter setting out “winter resilience plans,” which include creating new system control centres in every local area. These centres will be required to manage demand and capacity across the entire country by constantly tracking beds and attendances.

The data-driven centres will be able to identify when hospitals are near capacity and could benefit from mutual aid. Where A&E departments are particularly busy, ambulances will be diverted to nearby hospitals with more space.

New cervical cancer test could spot disease years in advance

A test to predict cervical cancer years before it develops has been invented by scientists at UCL and Innsbruck University.

The test can also pick up DNA markers for certain other cancers, meaning it could in future be used to screen for breast, womb, cervical and ovarian cancer.

For women without cell changes, but who had human papillomavirus (HPV) – which causes most cases of cervical cancer – it detected 55 per cent of those who would have cell changes in the next four years.

The scientists looked at DNA methylation, which acts as an extra layer of information on top of DNA. DNA contains all the genes people inherit from both their parents, while DNA methylation tells cells which bits of DNA to read. By looking closely at DNA methylation, it may be possible both to detect some cases of cancer and to predict the risk of developing cancer in the future.

Long ambulance waits at hospital put patients lives at risk

Patients’ lives are being put at risk because ambulances are waiting “for hours on end” outside hospitals, ambulance workers have said.

They described working conditions as “diabolical” and said crews were “at the point of burn-out.”

Paramedics, technicians and call takers from the East of England Ambulance Service will be voting on strike action over pay next week. Unison, which has some 2,000 members in the service, said it was angry with the government’s 4% pay award and was asking for an above-inflation pay increase.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said it was “working hard” to improve “wellbeing support”.

Health and social care committee will assess government’s progress on digitisation of the NHS

Government progress against its promises to digitise the NHS will be assessed by an expert panel of the government’s health and social care committee.

The panel will look at the government’s commitments in four areas.

They are:

  • The care of patients and service users. This includes the NHS app, personalised digital care and integrated health and care records.
  • The health of the population. This includes making patient data available for research in a safe and trustworthy way and de-identifying data on collection in general practice settings.
  • Cost and efficiency of care. This includes contract methods and procurement.
  • Workforce literacy and the digital workforce. This includes the national digital workforce strategy and growing the digital workforce.

The panel will award a CQC-style rating from “inadequate” to “outstanding” for each commitment and provide a final overall rating.