This week, it’s all change in the NHS, as three bodies – HEE, NHSX and NHS Digital – are merged into NHS England. The government is also considering making a single individual responsible for planning both health and care services in each local area. In a dramatic bid to cut waiting lists, NHS leaders are considering offering single rather than multiple follow-up appointments to hospital patients.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid has announced a review into the possible ethnic bias of medical devices after research showed that pulse oximeters may overestimate the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream of people with darker skin. The consequence is that black people may not be identified as having dangerously low levels of oxygen – a particular concern during the pandemic that may have resulted in some black patients not receiving the lifesaving treatment they needed.
Parliament has voted to introduce an amendment to social care plans that will disproportionately affect the poorest pensioners. The amendment is related to the new cap, announced in September, on how much individuals will spend on social care. Originally it was expected that the £86k limit would include council contributions to care fees, but under the amendment, the contributions will not be counted. It means that poorer people who receive means-tested help will pay the same as richer people if they need care for a significant amount of time.
NHSX, NHS Digital and Health Education England (HEE) will all become part of NHS England, probably in summer 2022. The aim is to remove silos and to make digital transformation a fundamental part of the NHS. Both NHSX and NHS Digital will form part of NHS England’s new transformation directorate, and Simon Bolton, who has been the interim CEO of NHS Digital since June, will become the chief information officer of NHS England.
The incorporation of HEE, which co-ordinates education and training in the NHS workforce, into NHS England will put workforce planning at the forefront of the NHS’s agenda nationally.
A proposal to make a single person accountable for planning health and care services in each local area is being considered by government, HSJ has reported. Staff involved in the work told HSJ that the proposal could be included in the government’s planned integration white paper, due to be published before Christmas. The principle being explored is that each local area would share a person who would be accountable for both NHS services, reporting to the NHS integrated care board, part of the integrated care system, and for overseeing social care (for which they would be responsible to their local council).
NHS leaders in England are finalising a plan to offer patients who have spent time in hospital only one follow-up consultation in the year after treatment rather than two or more. The aim of the proposal, which is part of Sajid Javid’s elective recovery plan, to be announced next week, is to help cut the NHS backlog. Currently, there are 5.8m people on the NHS waiting list. The BMA, however, said that the proposals had “the potential to present significant challenges for patients and seek to worsen health disparities across the country.”