News round-up 29 October

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29th October 2021 about a 4 minute read

The big news this week is the chancellor’s promise of an additional £13bn a year for health and social care, including nearly £6bn for capital infrastructure projects to tackle the backlog caused by the pandemic. Researchers at Manchester University, however, are warning that burnout caused by working on the Covid-19 frontline could lead to an exodus of staff.

Rishi Sunak pours money into the NHS and innovation

Yesterday’s budget and spending review saw the announcement of a substantial injection of cash for the NHS. A new health and social care levy will deliver an additional £13bn a year for health and social care over the next three years. The bulk of this will go to the NHS, with social care receiving only £5.4bn over the three years – though after that, the proportions will change, with most of the money going into social care.

Included in the NHS money is £5.9bn to be spent on capital projects: new community diagnostic centres, surgical hubs and digital infrastructure, largely aimed at reducing a backlog in elective procedures caused by the pandemic.

The chancellor also found £5bn for health care research and development, to support initiatives such as Generation Genome, which will sequence the genomes of 100,000 newborns to detect rare diseases.

NHS staff save 2.9m hours by using Microsoft Teams

NHS staff have saved 2.9m hours by using Microsoft Teams to communicate, according to a new study from the Digital Workplace team at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. In March this year, NHS Digital rolled Teams out to 1.3m employees, and since then it has been used to replace 14.5m phone calls, and hosted more than 32m virtual meetings.

In one week alone nearly six million messages were sent between NHS colleagues and more than 1.3m meetings were held using the software.

The Imperial researchers studied the efficiency of using Teams and found that on average a staff member saved one minute by using the software instead of making a phone call, and five minutes every time they replaced an in-person meeting with a virtual one.

Health regulators identify 10 guiding principles for medical devices using AI

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has worked with regulators in Canada and the USA to identify 10 guiding principles that should be addressed when medical devices use artificial intelligence or machine learning software. These principles are intended to lay the foundation for developing good machine learning practices (GMLP), and the regulators hope they will help guide future growth in this rapidly progressing field.

The principles include, for example, making sure that clinical study participants and data sets are representative of the intended patient population, and that good software engineering and security practices are implemented.

Emotional impact of pandemic could lead to exodus of NHS staff

New research from the University of Manchester suggests there is a high risk that the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic will lead to an exodus of health care professionals from the NHS.

The study, which involved interviewing doctors, nurses and other health care staff, found that during the pandemic health care workers have been torn between providing the best care in very difficult circumstances and trying to look after their own physical and emotional health. The result has been that staff have felt undervalued, with some experiencing burnout.

The researchers recommend that the NHS should now prioritise supporting staff recovery from the physical and psychological impacts of working on the frontline, and take into account the potential long-term consequences on staff mental health.

Charity sector dogged by lack of data

A serious paucity of data is preventing the social sector from unleashing its full potential, according to a new report from the Law Family Commission on Civil Society.

Although charities played a valuable role in helping the UK cope with the pandemic, the sector was hindered by a lack of data. Because the private sector was able to argue its case based on reliable and timely data, it was able to take advantage of a furlough scheme that was designed to meet its needs and “regularly amended to match changing circumstances.” The charity sector, however, “had to rely on an employment scheme designed for managing reduced or entirely eradicated demand, even though surveys suggested most charities faced higher demand for their services than usual because of the pandemic.”

The report identifies five areas where better data is needed – business demography, sector capacity, sector health, sector contribution and volunteering – and makes recommendations for how to collect and manage that data in future.