The NHS is still struggling to cope with the Covid-generated backlog, but the good news is that it is also finding ways to address the pressure. The NHS App is saving thousands of patient journeys every month, while Watford General Hospital is introducing surgical robots to enable more patients to benefit from minimally-invasive surgery – and reduce hospital stays. SBRI Healthcare is awarding £4m to nine technology projects to reduce the backlog and tackle workforce pressures.
The NHS App is saving an average of 22,000 car journeys to GP practices every month, according to a new analysis carried out by NHS Digital.
The analysis revealed that approximately 200,000 appointments and repeat prescriptions arranged through the NHS app between April and December last year would previously have been made by people driving to their local GP practice.
This research also estimates that the app is saving patients about 4,100 bus and taxi journeys and 5,500 train and motorbike journeys each month.
The NHS App, which was launched in 2018, enables allows users to NHS services on their smartphone or tablet. These services include symptom checking and triage; appointment booking; repeat prescription ordering; access to patient records; national data opt-out; and organ donation preference.
Watford General Hospital is installing two Versius robotic systems, with the aim of offering more patients minimally-invasive (keyhole) surgery.
The robots will be used across multiple specialities, including colorectal, gynaecology, urology and upper gastrointestinal surgery.
Minimally-invasive surgery is safer for patients, but normally requires exceptional skill from surgeons. The use of the robots will enable more surgeons to perform such surgery, resulting in shorter hospital stays and better patient outcomes. It will help to ease some of the pressure on bed capacity faced by NHS services.
The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare has awarded £4m to nine medical technology and digital innovation projects to help the NHS recover from backlogs and workforce pressures created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The competition was launched in partnership with the Innovation Agency and the Accelerated Access Collaborative, and attracted 46 applications from organisations that included NHS trusts, small businesses and technology start-ups.
The newly-funded projects will run for nine months and implement their technology in a real-world environment. This will create an evidence base to show whether they can be scaled up for wider use in the NHS.
SBRI Healthcare is a programme run by NHS England & NHS Improvement to support businesses developing technologies to meet NHS challenges.
Ambulance trusts are seeing rising numbers of serious incidents as a result of delays in reaching patients, research by HSJ has found.
Serious incidents are defined by the NHS as a patient safety failure “where the consequences to patients, families and carers, staff or organisations are so significant or the potential for learning is so great, that a heightened level of response is justified.”
East Midlands Ambulance Service Trust saw 71 serious incidents in 2021-22 compared with 38 in the previous financial year. The trust’s board papers say that the increase in SIs related to delayed responses since June 2021 is a consequence of “sustained pressure on the service” and growing handover times at A&E departments. Of 14 SIs reported in February and the first half of March 2022, seven were due to “prolonged waits for an ambulance response”.
West Midlands University Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has also seen an increase in SIs. Half are due to “delays in reaching patients resulting in harm, serious harm, and deaths,” according to the trust’s board papers. It has given the issue of “hospitals, breaches, delays and turnaround times” the maximum rating of 25 on its risk register.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is implementing an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) from CCube Solutions, as part of a bigger investment in digitisation.
The trust plans to scan 650,000 legacy patient records into the system. So far, 50,000 have been scanned and made available to clinical staff. The aim of the EDRMS is to provide instant access to medical records, improving efficiency and effectiveness – and indirectly improving outcomes for patients. Clinicians working on different sites or from home will also have remote access to the records. Areas currently used to store paper records will be converted into clinical space.
There are also plans to procure an electronic patient record (EPR) system, which will be integrated with the EDMRS so that a clinician opening a patient record in the EPR will be able to see the legacy digitised health record in the EDMRS.