News round-up (25 August 2023)

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25th August 2023 about a 5 minute read

Much of the news reporting this week has focused on the fallout from the conviction of nurse Lucy Letby of killing babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital, and the failures of managers to act on warnings from doctors. Questions have been raised about whether hospital managers should be regulated in the same way as doctors and nurses, and there are predictions that the NHS will face litigation claims of £60m from parents whose children were harmed by Letby. In other news, research suggests that MRI scans are more effective in screening for prostate cancer than traditional PSA tests, and the Metropolitan Police have confirmed they will stop attending mental health call-outs from the end of October.

Matt Hancock ditched plans to ban sacked managers from NHS

Government plans to bar senior managers guilty of serious misconduct from the NHS were abandoned when Matt Hancock, health secretary at the time, failed to approve them.

The government commissioned a leading barrister, Tom Kark KC, to improve the system of accountability for senior executives in the NHS, after it became clear that those implicated in scandals had moved to similar posts elsewhere.

Kark’s report made several recommendations, including creating a regulator to maintain a register of NHS executives, in the same way that the General Medical Council controls who can practise as a doctor. Dr Stephen Brearey, the paediatric consultant who first raised concerns that neonatal nurse Lucy Letby was harming children, has this week spoken out in support of the proposal.

Kark, who was counsel to the Mid Staffs inquiry, said in 2019 that a new Health Directors’ Standards Council should come into being, with “the power to disbar managers for serious misconduct”.

Hancock, however, said he did not accept the recommendation. A new system, based on some of Kark’s recommendations, will come into force next month, but will not include the creation of a regulator.

MRI scans could be used to screen men for prostate cancer

A 10-minute MRI scan could be used to screen men for prostate cancer, a new study has found.

For the Reimagine study, men aged 50 to 75 in London were invited for screening MRI and PSA tests, which were carried out at University College Hospital. The scans were far more accurate at diagnosing cancer than blood tests, which look for high levels of a protein called PSA.

MRI picked up some serious cancers that would have been missed by PSA alone.

Of the 303 who had both tests, 48 had a positive MRI that indicated cancer and of these, 25 were diagnosed with significant cancer after further tests, including biopsies.

NHS could face compensation bill of more than £60m after Lucy Letby case

The NHS could face a record compensation bill of more than £60m from civil claims lodged by the families of Lucy Letby’s victims at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Families whose babies have disabilities inflicted by Letby could receive a payout of more than £10m to fund their future care.

Dr Dewi Evans, a consultant paediatrician and the prosecution’s lead expert in the Letby case, said: “The NHS could well end up with paying total compensation of £40m to £60m. That figure would be higher if the police identify other suspicious events.” He added: “The highest compensation almost always is given to the families of babies who suffer damage at birth. This is because the value of the claim is based on not only the degree of damage to the baby but the fact that the baby will suffer lifelong disability and [require] lifelong care.”

Woman donates womb to sister in UK first

Surgeons in Oxford have performed the first womb transplant on a woman in the UK.

The 34-year-old was “incredibly happy” and “over the moon” with the success of the nine-hour operation, her doctors said. The womb, which was donated by her 40-year old sister, will, she hopes, enable her to have two children using IVF.

The unnamed woman was born with a rare condition that meant her own womb was underdeveloped.

A second UK womb transplant on another woman is scheduled to take place this autumn. Surgeons also have approval for 10 operations involving brain-dead donors plus five using a living donor.

Met Police confirms it will stop attending most mental health calls later this year

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that from 31 October it will stop attending most mental health calls.

On that date, it will introduce a “clear-threshold”, which means that officers will only attend an incident to investigate a crime, or where there is a clear risk to life or a risk of serious harm.

A spokesperson for the Met said the force’s new Right Care Right Person operational model is to make sure “each call receives a response from the most appropriate agency,” which isn’t always the police. “Currently police officers spend a significant amount of time dealing with health incidents which has an impact on the availability of our resources.”

Wales to begin testing electronic prescription service in primary care

Wales is about to launch live testing of a new electronic prescription service (EPS).

The service will see prescriptions sent electronically from a GP practice to a patient’s pharmacy of choice, removing the need for paper forms.

The transition from paper-based processes to a digital service is expected to benefit pharmacies, GP surgeries, patients and the wider environment – saving up to 40m paper forms per year.

The EPS will initially undergo a testing phase at the Lakeside Medical Centre GP practice and Wellington Road community pharmacy in Rhyl to make sure it meets “the necessary technical and safety requirements before wider roll out”.

The work forms part of the Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio, which brings together programmes and projects that will deliver the benefits of a fully digital prescribing approach across all care settings in Wales.