Over the last few years, it has been discovered that too many patients are being treated as if they were emergencies. Is it all bad for the organisation though? Join Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm as they weigh up both the positive and negative aspects of the NHS
The increase in emergencies
These issues were brought to light in March by the National Audit Office after it was discovered that too many people were being taken into hospital as emergency cases. They pointed out that the country’s hospitals are collectively treating 5.8 million patients as emergency admissions on an annual basis, which is an increase of 24 per cent when compared to figures recorded a decade ago. They estimate that this costs the health service £13.7 billion; close to a 10th of its overall budget. Because of this growing problem, the NHS’s financial situation is becoming an even bigger issue.
“[The health service] cannot know if its approach is achieving enduring results until it understands whether reported increases in readmissions are a sign that some people admitted as an emergency are being discharged too soon,” the watchdog outlined. “The NHS also still has too many avoidable admissions and too much-unexplained variation. A lot of effort is being made and progress can be seen in some areas, but the challenge of managing emergency admissions is far from being under control.”
However, it was noted that efficient work had been carried out by NHS staff when it came to caring for the growing number of patients. However, it also criticised the organisation’s failure to establish enough services which operate outside of their hospitals with the aim of keeping patients healthy.
Donna Kinnair, the director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, commented: “People, particularly older people, are not getting the support they need in the community, which leads to more emergency admissions and dangerous levels of bed occupancy when demand is high, as we have seen this winter.”
“As the report states, there are 12 per cent fewer A&E patients being admitted than was predicted at the start of the decade, and hospitals, community trusts and GPs trialling new models of care have meaningfully reduced admissions compared with their peers. In addition, growth in the cost of managing emergency admissions has been less than a third of the growth in demand” commented Professor Keith Willett who is the medical director for acute care at NHS England.
The increase in violence
Figures suggest that there is a growing number of violent attacks across NHS hospitals too.
A Freedom of Information request that was carried out found that a total of 56,435 attacks were reported by NHS hospitals in 2016/17. This is up from the 51,447 attacks which were recorded during the previous year. The pressure caused by funding cuts and staff shortages at the NHS were acknowledged as creating a “hostile atmosphere” for workers.
“It’s no accident that trusts where the pressures seem the most extreme — where there are huge financial deficits or where it’s a struggle to meet growing demands on services — have seen the steepest rise in the number of attacks. This desperate situation is only set to worsen as the squeeze on resources gets tighter” commented Sara Gorton, the head of health at Unison.
However, another spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable that a nurse, paramedic, porter or any member of NHS staff should be assaulted physically or verbally as they care for patients. NHS England continues to work with trusts and any of our staff affected, to help the police and other authorities do everything needed when an assault takes place.”
Adjusting budgets for the NHS
There are a lot of changes being proposed to help better the NHS. Government proposals revealed in April, for instance, could see up to 350,000 people with physical disabilities and mental health conditions across the country being giving the option to receive personal allowances for their own care needs.
People who become eligible for the allowance will be able to choose treatments that they believe is best for them. The money would either be delivered to them through a direct payment, given to a third-party to manage or left with the NHS to control.
Politicians believe that implementing a strategy like this will help remove the pressure on social care budgets — and more importantly, the cuts that come with them. NHS head Simon Stevens backs the proposals, as does the country’s health secretary Jeremy Hunt. It could be in place as early as the end of 2018 when the government outlines its changes to the nation’s health and social care system.
“These changes will put the power back into the hands of patients and their families, potentially allowing up to 350,000 extra people to take up a personal health budget if they so wish. This would not only improve quality of life and the care they receive, it will offer good value for money for the taxpayer and reduce pressure on emergency care by joining up health and social care services at a local level” was a comment made by Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage.
Changes in technology
However, this pressure could be relieved when new technology has been introduced. NHS England is already looking to implement such changes as soon as possible, to ensure that patient care is at its highest standard in history.
What we could see soon:
- Endocuff Vision — This is a new type of ‘bowel scope’ which aims to improve the colorectal examination of patients who need to undergo bowel cancer tests.
- HeartFlow — This is a new form of advanced image analysis software. When used, a 3D model of the coronary arteries is created. This model can then be used to analyse the impact that blockages can have on blood flow, allowing suspected coronary artery disease to be quickly diagnosed among patients.
- Plus Sutures — This is a new type of surgical suture known as stitching. By using antimicrobial suture packs, the rate of surgery-linked infections like MRSA can be reduced.
- SecurAcarth — This device works to secure catheters, so to reduce the risk of infection among patients who have a peripherally inserted central catheter. It is also claimed that the device will cut the time taken to treat and care for dressing changes.
A varied amount of healthcare institutions in the North East have agreed to collaborate and share resources to help find new advancements in the medical diagnostic field. Deemed Diagnostics North East, the collaboration involves the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. During the partnership, the institutes will look to develop new diagnostic tests and devices and aim to introduce them to patients in a more rapid manner.
“Our strong collaboration, allied to first class clinical facilities and a strong culture of clinical research, is ideally placed to accelerate the pathway from innovation through to patient benefit” commented Michael Wright, Newcastle Hospitals’ deputy medical director.
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