News round-up 28 January

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27th January 2022 about a 5 minute read

Research by an NHS trust has confirmed that minority ethnic patients, and those from a deprived background, wait longer for priority two operations. The trust has now taken steps to address the issue. There is exciting news of a new development in artificial intelligence, as an 88-year old patient has sight restored in her left eye thanks to a microchip implanted under the retina. Meanwhile, the outgoing chief executive of NICE has expressed concern at the “tsunami” of new technologies in health care – too many for the body to evaluate.

Minority ethnic patients spend longer on waiting lists

An analysis of elective waiting lists, conducted by Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust and shared with HSJ, found that in October last year patients from a minority ethnic background waited three weeks longer on average than white patients for a priority two operation – which must be done within a month.

The analysis also found that patients from the most deprived communities were waiting 2.5 weeks longer than those from the least deprived areas.

Owen Williams, who led the trust when the study was carried out, said the analysis, which began early last year, contributed to these disparities being cut significantly over the course of 2021. In May last year patients from the most deprived areas were waiting 8.5 weeks longer on average for priority two operations than those from more affluent areas, while patients from minority ethnic groups were waiting 7.8 weeks longer than white patients.

Moorfields patient is first to trial a new AI implant

An 88-year old patient from Moorfields Eye Hospital has been able to detect signals in her blind left eye thanks to a revolutionary new implant. She is the first UK patient to receive the device, as part of a Europe-wide clinical trial. It offers the hope of partially restored vision for people with geographic atrophy (GA), the most common form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The procedure involves inserting a 2mm wide microchip under the centre of a patient’s retina, by surgically creating a trapdoor into which the chip is posted.

The patient wears special glasses that contain a video camera connected to a small computer attached to the patient’s waistband. The chip captures the visual image projected by the glasses and transmits it to the computer.  Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms process the information and instruct the glasses to focus on be the main object in the image. The glasses then project this image as an infra-red beam through the eye to the chip, which converts it into an electrical signal. This signal passes through the retinal cells and optical cells into the brain, where it is interpreted as if it were natural vision.

NHSX to publish new standards roadmap

NHSX is to develop and publish a new standards roadmap for care record and interoperability standards in England.

Proposed standards include NHS bookings and referrals, digital social care records and nursing documentation.

The roadmap will include access to a “system-wide overview” of the standards proposed and will offer opportunities to engage with the standards developer to “reduce duplication and burden”. Implementation will be phased, and the roadmap will develop over time. The aim is that it will eventually provide a “holistic view across all proposed standards and standards under active development”.

Technology ‘tsunami’ creates funding challenge, says regulator chief

Gillian Leng, the outgoing chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has expressed concern at the “tsunami” of digital technologies being used by the NHS.

In an interview with HSJ, she said: “There’s a tsunami of things [new digital technologies] out there. NICE really can’t look at all of them. So, it’s [a matter of] working out where we will best add value in determining are these things that the health service should pay for and importantly, are they actually going to be more cost effective, or will they be more cost saving?

Asked whether more funding could address the problem, Dr Leng said: “I can definitely say it would be wonderful to have more funding. I’m absolutely clear about that. Because there’s huge expectations on what NICE should be doing for the system… as all these additional technologies come forward.”

She also told HSJ that NICE was now charging pharmaceutical companies for assessing their new drugs and that, therefore, the work had become largely “self-funding.”

Macmillan Cancer Support partner with Careology to support cancer patients

Macmillan Cancer Support has partnered with Careology, a digital care platform, to offer support to the three million cancer patients in the UK.

The Careology platform is designed to help patients manage their cancer treatment. It enables them to connect with their friends, family and healthcare teams, enabling remote care that can transform the lives of those with cancer.

Patients are also able to monitor and share key health metrics such as symptoms, side effects and medication adherence. This access to real-time information helps healthcare providers to deliver care more effectively.

The aim of the partnership with Macmillan is to launch a series of digital initiatives to offer better support to patients and their caregivers.