News round-up (24 February 2023)

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23rd February 2023 about a 5 minute read

Efforts to deal with the pressures on NHS services continue, as the government looks at allowing medical assistants to write some prescriptions for patients, which would free up GPs to deal with more complex cases. People from ethnic minority backgrounds are no longer more likely to die from the condition than those from white backgrounds, and the overall death rate has also fallen. Prostate cancer screening may soon be offered routinely, as more accurate methods of screening have been developed.

Patients to receive prescriptions without seeing GP

The government is planning to allow patients to receive prescriptions without having to see a GP.

Regulators are being asked to consider extending prescribing responsibilities to thousands of medical assistants, with the aim of reducing pressure on GPs. As well as increasing the numbers of patients receiving treatment without seeing a GP, it would speed up access for those who do need to see one.

Ministers hope that GPs would be able to spend more time treating people with more complex conditions, reducing the number of patients seeking help in A&E.

Ethnic Covid mortality gap closes

People from ethnic minority backgrounds are no longer significantly more likely to die of Covid-19 than white people.

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for the period January to November 2022 shows that there is no significant statistical difference between the number of Covid deaths among ethnic minorities and the white population. Covid mortality rates for all ethnic minorities decreased during the period. Early in the pandemic, deaths involving coronavirus were higher among black and Asian people

The ONS also said that “all cause” mortality rates, which measure how likely people are to die of any cause, have returned to pre-pandemic patterns.

Screening for prostate cancer could become routine

Prostate cancer screening could be offered throughout the UK, as new research has suggested the benefits of screening could outweigh the risks.

At the moment, prostate screening is not routinely offered to men without symptoms, because the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) used in screening are unreliable and lead to many men unnecessarily undergoing biopsies to diagnose the disease.

Newer screening techniques, however, are able to identify those in need of follow-up tests more accurately. The UK screening committee will review the latest evidence to determine whether screening should be rolled out nationwide.

New funding from DHSC to improve social care data collection

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is to give local authorities more than £60m to support the improvement of social care.

The funding will be split between three new grants totalling £57.36m, as well as a one-off £3m fund for the introduction of new data collection.

The three grants will include a new Local Reform and Community Voices grant to support HealthWatch teams and advocacy groups; a War and Pensions Scheme Disregard grant to help councils with the costs associated with disregarded income from war pensions; and a Social Care in Prisons grant to help local authorities meet the cost of care needs of offenders living in prisons pr bail accommodation.

The new £3m fund for data collection aims to give both the government and local authorities a better understanding of the experiences of people in need of social care.

Institutionalised’ staff ‘perpetuating long hospital stays,’ review finds

The review from NHS England suggests that 41% of inpatients, assessed over an eight-month period to May 2022, should be receiving care in the community. The NHS long-term plan said that inpatient numbers should reduce to less than half of 2015 levels by March 2024, but statistics show the numbers have so far reduced by about 30% from 2,905 in March 2015, to 2,020 in January 2023.

Reasons given for continued hospital care in the NHSE review included lack of suitable accommodation; delays in moving individuals into the community with appropriate aftercare; legal barriers; and no clear care plans.

White candidates 50% more likely to be recruited in NHS

White applicants are 54% more likely to be appointed from NHS job shortlists than ethnic minority candidates, according to a report from NHS England.

Published earlier this week, the 2022 NHS workforce race equality standard report shows that there has been a significant rise in the proportion of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. The figures show that in 2022, 24.2% of the NHS workforce were from an ethnic minority background, compared to 22.4% in 2021 and 17.7% in 2016.

It also reveals, however, that the likelihood of white applicants being appointed from shortlists was still about 50% higher than that of minority ethnic applicants, a figure that had barely changed since 2016.

The report shows that the percentage of trust board members from ethnic minority backgrounds has risen from 7.1% in 2016 to 13.2% in 2022. The proportion of very senior managers from ethnic minority backgrounds has also risen, from 9.2% to 10.3 % in the last 12 months.