The big news this week is the government’s U-turn on compulsory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff in England. We’ve also seen interim arrangements published for the merger of NHS bodies, as NHSX and NHS Digital are subsumed into NHS England and Improvement. Another trust unveils plans for a virtual Covid ward to ease pressure on resources, while in Manchester, cancer patients have started piloting wearable technology to monitor vital signs.
The government has performed a U-turn on its policy of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for frontline NHS staff and social care staff in England.
In his announcement of the decision, Sajid Javid, the health and social care secretary, said that the dominance of the milder omicron variant had shifted the balance of risks and opportunities. “While vaccination remains our very best line of defence, I believe it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment by statute,” Javid told MPs.
Five percent of NHS workers in England have not yet received a single Covid jab, about 77,000 in total. Last year 44,000 social care staff left frontline work rather than receive a vaccine.
Guidance has been issued on the interim arrangements for the merger of NHS Digital and NHSX with NHS England and Improvement. The arrangements aim to align digital and improvement teams, and involve the dismantling of NHS.
The guidance, which was produced by Tim Ferris, NHS England and Improvement’s director of digital transformation, sets out double and triple reporting lines. Although a small number of job titles will change, the guidance says, there are no plan for a substantial reduction of staff numbers. Simon Bolton, the current interim CEO at NHS Digital, will become the interim CIO at NHS England and Improvement. Matthew Gould, currently CEO of NHSX, will remain as national director for digital transformation.
The government has written off £8.7bn it spent on protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic. Documents from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) show that items costing £673m were unusable, while £750m of equipment was not used before its expiry date.
More than half of the sum written off, £4.7bn, was because the government paid more for the PPE than it is currently worth, now that global supplies have recovered.
A further £2.6bn of equipment was judged to be unsuitable for use in the NHS, but the DHSC believes it could still be sold or given to charities.
North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust intends to deliver a Covid-19 virtual ward service to both Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals.
The trust plans to monitor patients on the virtual ward seven days a week using the CliniTouch Vie platform. It means that patients will be discharged earlier from hospital, but still receive care. The aim is to free up beds and staff at a time when the NHS is overstretched. Spirit Health, which owns CliniTouch Vie, will support the virtual ward, by using its own in-house clinical team to provide weekend monitoring.
A new trial to test wearable monitoring technologies was launched in Manchester last week.
The patients taking part in the trial have all received cancer treatment, and will test sensors and devices that measure vital signs and send the information wirelessly to doctors. The three devices being tested are a smart ring, a smart watch and the Isansys system, which sits on the patient’s chest. They will track and record heart rate, temperature, physical activity and sleep patterns. All the devices are commercially available. The aim of the pilot is to find out if wearable sensors can be used to support patient recovery and provide accurate measurement outside clinic.