latest health care news

03.01.18

Hospitals told to cancel non-urgent operations to cope with winter pressures

NHS trusts have been advised to postpone elective care and outpatient appointments in order to cope with considerable winter pressures.

The National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP), which met yesterday, noted the sustained pressure felt by the NHS over the Christmas period, with high levels of respiratory illnesses and bed occupancy.

The panel, chaired by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, also acknowledged the early indications of increasing flu prevalence and reports suggesting a rise in the severity of illness in patients attending A&E.

As a result of these pressures, the panel recommended that trusts defer non-urgent elective care until next month, although time critical procedures, such as cancer operations, were not included in this recommendation.

Day-case procedures and routine outpatient appointments should also be postponed where this will release clinical time for non-elective care, the panel also advised.

It is hoped that the recommendations will free up clinical time to enable consultant triage so that patients are seen by a senior decision maker on arrival to A&E, and ensure consultant availability for telephone advice for GPs.

In addition, it is expected that ambulatory care and hot clinic appointments will be used as an alternative to A&E attendances, and that extra inpatient beds will be staffed, allowing for allied health professionals to provide increased support for rehabilitation and discharge.

To cope with the increased demand, the panel also advised that CCGs should temporarily suspend sanctions for breaches of mixed sex patient accommodation.

Sir Keogh thanked the NHS staff who have worked hard under pressure over the Christmas period.

“We expect these pressures to continue and there are early signs of increased flu prevalence,” he explained.

“The NHS needs to take further action to increase capacity and minimise disruptive last minute cancellations. That is why we are making these further recommendations today.”

Director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, called the recommendations “sensible and proportionate.”

“Preparations for winter in the NHS have been more extensive and meticulous than ever before,” she added. “It is good to see the National Emergency Pressures Panel recognises the scale of the pressures trusts face.

“Many are dealing with unprecedented demand, reflecting the recent rise in cases of flu and respiratory illness, the impact of norovirus and – in some places – primary care including GPs working at more than full stretch.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said that the NHS is experiencing “enormous pressure,” and that this decision reflects that.

He explained: “Our members warned repeatedly that this winter was likely to put an already stretched system under intolerable strain.

“Something has to give and this move - although unpalatable - makes sense.”

Dickson continued: “In many ways the health service in England is better prepared than ever before, but that does not prevent a situation where hospitals are having to cope with unsafe levels of bed occupancy.

“The numbers of people needing to be admitted has grown and the shortages in the community too often mean it is impossible to secure appropriate care for patients even when they are better.

“There was some extra money in the budget but £335 million was frankly too little too late – and it did nothing to ease the social care crisis.”

And John Kell, head of policy at the Patients Association, said that the advice indicates how hard the NHS is being hit by winter pressures this year.

He said: “Combined with regular first-hand reports of worsening conditions in hospitals, including growing numbers of patients being treated on trolleys in corridors, it is clear how badly patients are losing out.”

Kell added that ministers must be accountable for the winter crisis, saying that it is the government’s policy decisions that have left the NHS in its current position.

“Objectively, the NHS’s performance and offer to patients are stronger now than they were 15 years ago or more, but the experiences of patients at times like this do not reflect that,” he continued. “Ministers must not allow the NHS to slide backwards in its 70th anniversary year to the point where its improved performance in the later 2000s seems like an isolated peak.”

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News

comment

NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >

interviews

NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

17/09/2019NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

Over 20 years ago, a Teesside hospital cleaner put down her mop and took st... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Providers are delivering – and here’s how

09/10/2019Providers are delivering – and here’s how

It has been a challenging few years for healthcare providers, yet they have continued to deliver high quality care despite the conditions. Adam Brimelow, director of comm... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >