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This week's Friday Five: 25/11/22

Only 20% of trusts have met digitisation targets

Last week, NHS England highlighted that with their best estimate only 20% of NHS trusts were achieving their minimum digital foundations essential for reaching the level of digitisation outlined in the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan.

Within this plan digitisation was required to cover a range of clinical and operational processes across NHS departments and settings by an initial target of 2024, a target which has since been revised to the end of 2025.

In a webinar by Tech UK, Paul Gilliat, from NHSE’s frontline digitisation team said that most trusts were on their way to becoming digitally mature, however, 160 trusts are yet to reach their digitisation targets. To meet these goals Mr Gilliat said future need-based funding will be provided, with NHSE hoping that several hundred million pounds of capital funding will be unlocked to support future digital transformation and ultimately improve electronic patient records which remains a key goal. He emphasised the importance of having more discussions about funding so trusts can better understand and reach their digitisation targets.

He said: “Funding has been allocated to trusts based on need and they should know what indicative funding envelopes they’re working with for the next three years, which means they can put plans and strategies in place.”

Menopausal women in NHS England to be offered flexible working

Under new guidance, menopausal women working in NHS England, should they need, can now work flexibly.

The NHS England Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, has called upon other employers to follow suit and implement the NHS’s transferable guidance to help employees going through menopause who may be “suffering in silence” with a lack of support and potential embarrassment. This new plan aims to help women thrive in work both through increasing public awareness for menopause and offering practical solutions for managing physical symptoms. This includes cooler uniforms, the use of fans for improved temperature control, lighter duties and increased staff training.

She said: "Menopause is not a health condition, it’s a stage of life, and I want all women facing this transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay in and thrive at work.”

Read more at The Guardian.

The majority with long Covid experience discrimination and stigma

A new study by PLOS One has found that most people living with long Covid experience some form of stigma directly related to their condition. Since October 1st, 2022, the ONS reports that 3.3% of people in the UK are living with long Covid. However, as research is still in its early stages, assessing the true burden of this condition has been challenging.

This study, led by Dr Marija Pantelic, lecturer in Public Health at Brighton and Sussex Medical School had several key findings:

  • There is lots of shame among individuals with long Covid and many report feeling embarrassed and “very different” from those without the condition

  • This stigma is higher in individuals who have received a clinical diagnosis of long Covid

  • The prevalence of long Covid is greater among females, people living in more deprived areas and those working in social care

When discussing the consequences of these findings Dr Pantelic emphasised the importance of increased Covid support and awareness.

She said: "We know from decades of research with other long-term conditions such as asthma, depression, and HIV that stigma has dire consequences for public health. Fear of stigma is also likely to drive people away from health services and other support, which over time has detrimental consequences on people’s physical and mental health."

Read more at Medscape.

NHS creates standalone breast cancer unit to reduce waiting times

The week the NHS announced the introduction of its first standalone breast cancer centre which aims to: provide women with a diagnosis within 48 hours, surgery within a week and complete 1,200 operations per year.

This new centre, built on the site of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in East London, is scheduled to open in 2024 and will provide world-leading specialists including 150 staff and 45 doctors with the opportunity to collaborate under one roof. The centre aims to centralise breast cancer care by providing both chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same place. A plan they hope will not only eliminate patient commutes but also help to reduce high cancer waiting times attributed to COVID backlogs and increasing NHS pressure.

When asked about the new project Lauren Johnston, a consultant breast surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital discussed the relevance of the centre’s East London location.

She said: “The type of disease that we see in East London is much more aggressive than we see everywhere else because of the demographics of our patients. The centre puts us on the map internationally.”

Read more at The Times

Quote of the Week:

Analyses of the average bed occupancy rates in England between July and September highlighted that 15% of hospital beds were being used by patients with “no criteria to reside”. However, over the last few months these rates have steadily increased. New reports predict that as many as one in three hospital beds are currently occupied by patients fit for discharge across the Southwest region. Talking to the Guardian, Prof Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England sheds more light on this issue.

He said: “What we see are [that] late discharges often result in people having far more dependency than they would have done if they’d been discharged appropriately.”

Read more here

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