News round-up 7 January

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6th January 2022 about a 4 minute read

For most of us, a new year’s resolution is about losing weight or doing more exercise. NHS England, however, has set its sights a little higher, with 10  priorities for 2022-23 that range from tackling the elective care backlog to addressing health inequalities.

Richard Meddings, a former senior banker who has been appointed chair of NHS England, will have plenty to keep him busy. And despite optimistic noises from government, Covid hasn’t yet gone away: in one NHS mental health trust, one in four inpatients currently have the virus.

NHS England sets out 10 priorities for 2022-23

NHS England has set out 10 priorities for the financial year 2022-23. Some of these are  essential tasks such as establishing integrated care boards (ICBs), responding to Covid-19 more effectively and tackling the elective care backlog. Other more visionary ambitions form part of a long-term strategy, including addressing health inequalities, harnessing digital technologies to transform care and enhancing services for people with learning disabilities. There is also an emphasis on workforce planning: the document says it will “accelerate plans to grow the substantive workforce and work differently as we keep our focus on the health, wellbeing and safety of our staff.”

NHS England appoints senior banker as new chair

The new chair of NHS England, replacing Conservative peer David Prior, will be Richard Meddings, a former chair of TSB Bank. Meddings will be paid £63k a year for a two-to-three day week.

Part of his role will be to oversee the introduction of 44 integrated care systems, which will bring regional health providers and local authorities together to provide health and care services.

As chair of TSB, Meddings had to deal with a botched IT upgrade that left millions of customers without access to their accounts.

Care workers added to shortage occupation list

The government is to add care workers to the shortage occupation list in order to address some of the workforce shortfalls created by the pandemic.

Relaxed visa restrictions apply to the jobs on the list, which are all roles considered to be in short supply in the UK labour market. It means that employers will now find it easier to recruit care workers from overseas. Thousands of additional care workers, including care assistants and home care workers, could join the UK workforce as a result.

In order to qualify for the health and care visa, overseas workers will have to receive a minimum annual salary of £20,480.

New NHS contract sets watered-down targets

Following a deterioration in performance as a result of Covid pressures, NHS England has issued a proposed new standard contract that waters down a number of waiting time targets.

One of the proposals in the document is to change the zero tolerance standard for delays in handover from ambulance to A&E from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, with additional requirements that at least 95% of handovers must take place within 30 minutes and 65% within 15 minutes.  Another is to change the zero tolerance standard for 12-hour waits in A&E to a requirement that at least 98% of patients must wait less than 12 hours. The document also proposes amending the zero tolerance standard for 52-week waits for referrals to treatment to 104 weeks.

Quarter of patients at mental health trust have Covid

More than a quarter of inpatients at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust, one of England’s largest mental health trusts, have Covid, according to HSJ. In all, 160 inpatients were reported positive at the beginning of this week. For the same time period, South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust reported 11 per cent of inpatients with Covid (44 people), while Camden and Islington Foundation Trust had 13 per cent (31 people) and East London Foundation Trust had 14 per cent (125 people), the publication reported.

Sources in the sector told HSJ that there had been widespread omicron outbreaks in mental health units across England. They said the nature of psychiatric wards and use of restraints meant adherence to stringent social distancing measures was more difficult than in other settings.