This week, scientists reveal that their new malaria vaccine, which has an 80% success rate, is due to be rolled out next week. Cancer patient waiting lists continue to grow, however, and a DHSC scheme to tackle the problem of delayed discharge from hospital will only go ahead if it can receive Treasury funding. Trusts continue to show innovation in the use of technology, with Guy’s and St Thomas’ using VR to train surgeons, and Coventry and Warwickshire embracing text messaging as a way of cutting waiting lists.
Scientists at the University of Oxford have developed a malaria vaccine they say has “world-changing” potential.
Trials of the vaccine have shown that it offers up to 80% protection against malaria. The scientists say the vaccine is cheap and they have a deal in place to manufacture more than 100 million doses a year. The hope is that roll-out will begin next year.
Efforts to develop an effective vaccine against malaria have been in place for decades, but with limited success because of the complexity of the malaria parasite, which kills half a million people a year. According to the charity Malaria No More, however, recent progress means that the phenomenon of children dying from malaria could end “in our lifetimes”.
The backlog of patients waiting for urgent cancer referrals has increased, according to internal NHS data obtained by HSJ.
The total backlog of NHS patients waiting more than three months for their first treatment since referral grew by 10% month-on-month, from 10,361 as of 26 June, to 11,212 by 28 August.
The data also shows that there are now nearly 341,000 patients waiting to start their cancer treatment after being referred.
The growth has been driven by a small number of trusts, including North Bristol Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, which has 725 patients waiting more than 104 days.
Thérèse Coffey, the new health secretary, is considering paying care homes in England hundreds of millions of pounds to help free up hospital beds.
The problem of delayed discharge in the NHS is considerable. About 13,000 hospital beds are currently occupied by patients who are well enough to go home but don’t have a care plan in place. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) believes the scheme could also improve handovers by ambulance crews to A&E staff.
The scheme would be dependent, however, on receiving funding from the Treasury, as neither DHSC nor NHS England have enough money in reserve to pay for it.
Trainee surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are using virtual reality (VR) technology to practise their surgical skills.
Wearing a headset and holding motion controllers in each hand, the trainee surgeons create an avatar and are then taken into a virtual lecture theatre before moving onto the virtual operating theatre where they practise knee replacements, hip replacements and anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions.
Adil Ajuied, a consultant knee surgeon at the trust, said that the training was “very much like an aviation simulator – pilots learn how to fly aeroplanes on the ground before they ever get onto an aeroplane with passengers.”
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust is tackling waiting lists by using text messages to contact patients.
Patients on the waiting list for treatment at University Hospital, Coventry or the Hospital of St Cross, Rugby, now receive a short survey by text message or postal letter, asking whether their condition has changed.
Professor Kiran Patel, Chief Medical Officer at UHCW NHS Trust, said the trust was “determined to do everything we can to treat patients as quickly as possible and to further reduce waiting times.” In April 2022 Coventry and Warwickshire became the first teaching trust in the country to eliminate the number of patients waiting more than 104 weeks for elective surgery.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has published details of a £1.7billion contract to provide an integrated workforce management solution for the NHS in England and Wales.
According to the notice published on the government site, NHSBA is looking for a solution that includes an electronic staff record (ESR). It states that it requires “a supplier to manage the ESR service, transform, develop, implement and manage a future NHS workforce solution and once migration of user organisations completes, decommission the ESR service.”