News round-up (28 April 2023)

man looking at online news headlines
27th April 2023 about a 5 minute read

GPs are under huge strain, as demand for their services increases. In an 11-day period in February, an estimated 18 million people tried to book a GP appointment, while a separate analysis shows that one in six GP appointments now last less than five minutes. There is bad news, too, when it comes to treating cancer: during the pandemic, levels of cancer surgery in Britain fell by more than in any other Western country.

GP appointments last less than five minutes

One in six GP appointments in England last less than five minutes, according to new NHS figures.

The House of Commons library analysis of GP appointments is based on NHS statistics for the year March 2022 to February 2023. It shows that, on average, 17.2% of GP appointments in England (51 million in total) in the past year lasted less than five minutes.

The West Suffolk constituency had the highest proportion of short GP appointments, with 21.8 % lasting five minutes or less. At the other end of the spectrum, in Fylde and Wyre in Lancashire just one in 10 GP appointments were shorter than five minutes.

Britain experiences drop in cancer operations as a result of Covid pandemic

The number of cancer operations carried out fell more in Britain than almost anywhere else in Western Europe during the first year of the pandemic, international research shows.

The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which compared 25 OECD nations, shows that efforts to protect the NHS from Covid resulted in cancer operations being reduced on a much bigger scale than in other countries. Deaths from some types of cancer tripled during the pandemic.

For each of four common procedures for treating cancer, surgery levels in Britain were reduced on a scale seen by almost no other country in Western Europe. The number of mastectomies, for example, fell by 15.2%, compared with 8.5% across other nations. The number of hysterectomies, used to treat womb cancer, fell by 36.4% in the UK compared with an OECD average figure of 18.6% – the highest of all nations in Western Europe.

NHS England to set up ‘national improvement board’

NHS England (NHSE) has launched a new framework for quality improvement and delivery, including a national board designed to pick up a “small number of shared national priorities”.

The new framework, announced to NHS chairs and chief executives last week, says that the new board “will focus our improvement-led delivery work”.

As well as creating the improvement board, the framework says that NHSE will “set an expectation that all NHS providers, working in partnership with integrated care boards, will embed a quality improvement method aligned with the NHS improvement approach.”

It will also “incentivise a universal focus on embedding and sustaining improvement practice” and work with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to align the revised CQC inspection method with the improvement approach.

Priory Group whistleblowers ‘concerned for patient safety’

Two former senior managers at the Priory Group, a large mental health care provider, have told the BBC they had concerns about the safety of patients and staff.

The managers said they felt pressure to cut costs and fill beds. When they were working for the company, they said, they found it difficult to recruit or retain staff, because of poor pay and conditions.

They believe this resulted in patients being placed on wards that did not have staff equipped with the right skills to handle their conditions.

The Priory Group, which receives more than £600m of public money each year, is the biggest single private provider of mental health services to the NHS. It denies the whistleblowers’ claims and says it successfully treats tens of thousands of patients each year.

Wales unveils national education strategy based on simulation technologiess

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) has launched an education and training (SBET) strategy, which will use simulation-based technologies to improve workforce skills and enhance patient safety.

The strategy aims to standardise practice and build on current good practice throughout Wales.

Sara-Catrin Cook, associate dean for simulation and clinical skills, said: “At the heart of this strategy is patient safety, patient experience and outcomes. It is well-known that simulation-based education and training offer’s many benefits including the ability to provide a wide range of experiences in a ‘real-life clinical situation,’ create safe conditions for learners to learn, gain confidence and prepare for the reality of working and responding to clinical situations and support the safety of patients in their care.”

Demand for GP appointments soared in late winter, analysis shows

The number of people trying to get a GP appointment in mid-to-late February was half a million higher than it had been earlier in the winter.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) surveyed the same 4,494 people in two time periods: 22 November to 8 January, and 15-26 February. In February, 35% of respondents tried to make an appointment with their GP practice, which scales up to approximately 18.3 million people. This was an increase of 500,000 on the previous period, when 17.8 million people (34%) tried to make an appointment.

The survey also showed that one in five (21%) people were waiting for either a hospital appointment, a test or to start receiving treatment through the NHS, amounting to 11 million people in total.