Millions to get telehealth support
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a telehealth drive in which three million patients with chronic illnesses will get hi-tech equipment to monitor their conditions at home. The London Evening Standard said the move, pioneered in partnership with Intellect (which represents the UK technology industry), will be rolled out over the next five years.
The telehealth scheme has been designed so that vital health checks can be carried out and sent electronically to GPs without the need for the patient to make an appointment or visit a clinic. Mr Cameron said: ‘This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people. Dignity, convenience and independence for millions of people.’
HSJ reports that commissioners and providers have also been told that they will suffer significant financial penalties if they fail to meet government standards for innovation in six ‘high impact areas’ including the introduction of new technology, of tele-health projects and of best practice on dementia care. Incentives will be available for those which excel. The DH has told trusts that the 2.5% of their £60bn income which is related to commissioning quality and innovation is at stake.
Many cancers caused by lifestyle – more action demanded
Better lifestyle choices could cut cancer cases by 130,000 a year. A Cancer Research UK study identifies smoking as the chief worry, causing 23% of cases in men and 15.6% in women.
The BBC coverage says 100,000 cancer cases are linked to cigarettes, alcohol, obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise. Salt is a cause of stomach cancer, while with oesophageal or gullet cancer, half the risk is from eating too little fruit and veg.
Royal College of Physicians president Sir Richard Thompson said: ‘These stark new figures are a wake-up call to take stronger action on public health. The “carrot” approach of voluntary agreements with industry needs to be replaced by the “stick” approach of legislative solutions.’
The RCP has called for:
• higher prices and reduced availability of alcohol
• banning smoking in cars
• plain packaging for cigarettes.
Doctors’ fresh attack on Health Bill
The whole stability of the NHS is under threat, according to the BMA, as chaotic and uncoordinated change sweeps the health service. The ruling council of doctors’ union has voted for total opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said: ‘There has been a growing level of unease about how the reforms are panning out – we hear repeated concerns from doctors about mounting chaos on the ground.
‘We want the government to rethink its reform package and withdraw the Bill. It should be focusing on delivering high-quality, coordinated and integrated health care, not side-tracking staff with major structural reform.’
The BMA says its main concerns are that the timetable is overambitious, the reforms are adding to complexity rather than making things simpler, and that doctors will not get the promised freedoms to deliver better services.
GP data released
The DH has published GP practice data to provide the public with information on services they access on a regular basis. The idea is to make doctors more accountable and to encourage patient choice.
A tool to allow easy comparisons between practices is due to be launched next April. The DH says the information, available through NHS Choices, will drive up standards. Pulse, though, carries claims that the system could mislead.
Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘What’s completely absent is the local context. Two neighbouring practices may start with very different populations. If you bombard patients with information out of context, it becomes meaningless.’
Life science strategy launch
The government has launched its Life Sciences Strategy, to support the growth of the industry in the UK. The strategy offers incentives to business, researchers and clinicians to work in Britain. It aims to make the UK the ‘global hub’ for life sciences.
Key elements include:
• an enhanced web-based UK Clinical Trials Gateway providing patients and the public with authoritative and accessible information about clinical trials
• an investment of £310m to support the discovery, development and commercialisation of research
• consultation proposals for a new Early Access Scheme to increase the speed and efficiency of routes to market approval for new therapies.
Go live for iSOFT e-prescribing
A second NHS trust has gone live with iSOFT’s electronic prescribing system (ePMA) and its pharmacy system. University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has introduced the systems as part of its move towards a full end-to-end electronic patient record.
EHI says the solution covers stock control and dispensing in the bone and marrow transplant unit and the oncology and haematology wards. Electronic prescribing is expected to reduce the risk of adverse interactions and clinical errors.
Clinicians’ love of mobiles is a security risk
Mobile devices may soon be the preferred computing devices in healthcare, replacing desktops. But Information Week suggests there are major security risks.
The feature highlights many potential security threats – often to do with patient confidentiality. PricewaterhouseCoopers privacy and security practice experts are quoted as saying of US patient health data breaches issues that: ‘it’s astounding to note that mobile devices are involved in many or most incidents.’
GPs braced for surge in workload
PCTs plan a 25% increase in GP workload by 2014/15 as hospitals shift more care into the community. Recently published efficiency plans suggest the transfer of care is becoming central to the ongoing NHS cost-cutting drive.
GP magazine says the proposals have raised fears that practices will have to cut referrals, while staff work longer hours and offer more consultations per session.
NHS Confederation deputy CEO David Stout said the challenges facing the health service are enormous – and insisted that this kind of planning is essential.
News in Brief
Surgery care unacceptable: The care of high-risk surgery patients is falling short of acceptable standards, an independent review says. Four in 10 patients, from 20,000 cases reviewed, got poor or inadequate treatment. There were particular failings in pre-op checks and use of critical care facilities after surgery.
Top US EHR suppliers named: CPSI, Cerner, GE Healthcare and Picis have emerged as the vendors whose inpatient EHRs are most favoured by customers in a four-month user poll. See Healthcare IT News for complete results.
Post-surgical speed: The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough has developed a new system called RADS (recovery arrival departure screen) to improve patient flow following surgery. HSJ reports that it shows everything from likely recovery time to surgeons’ estimates of when an operation will finish.
60 care measures: The government is producing 60 indicators relating to how patients fare during and after treatment. HSJ says they include a focus on better cancer survival and a zero tolerance of hospital-acquired infections.
The NHS has been in fear of new media for many years – but now it is being embraced as a power for positive change according to James Munro, director of research and informatics at Patient Opinion.
‘Social media offers the NHS an invitation to a different kind of relationship with patients and carers – one which is more equal, more collaborative and yes, more transparent. Just as relationships with healthcare staff in the real world have the power to heal, or harm, so we are learning that the way that the NHS responds online can also have a powerful impact, for good or ill.’
Patient data leaks are not all from tabloid hackers – hospitals need to look to their staff according to Sarah Burnett-Moore, a consultant radiologist in London.
‘You may imagine that patient details are sacrosanct, but they are not. A good friend of mine is a well-known actress and national treasure. She was admitted to a private hospital for a fairly major operation. Within hours she had a call from her surgeon, to say that a red-top journalist had called on his home number asking for details.
The hack knew what the operation was, her room number, and the pseudonym under which she had booked. She hadn’t used her mobile phone once, so clearly a member of staff was quite happy to sell details to the press.’
In the UK, women doctors are set to outnumber men by 2017. Maham Khan believes it could be a change for the better – despite a persistent gender gap in some areas.
‘Women dominate in specialties such as general practice, paediatrics, and palliative care, but some branches of medicine, such as cardiology and general surgery, remain closed or unattractive to women. Despite fears propagated by the media, more women could lead to safer practice. A review of complaints received by the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) shows women are less likely to be subject to disciplinary hearings.’
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This week Mark Venables discusses making patient information available to private companies for clinical trials.
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