Mid-life health checks are to digitalise
As part of new government plans to help reduce NHS pressure, face-to-face GP appointments for mid-life health checks are to be moved online. Instead, patients will be provided with a questionnaire to complete, an at home kit to provide a blood sample and a pharmacy appointment for a blood pressure check-up.
This new scheme started in Cornwall on Monday, with ministers hoping to implement this procedure nationwide as a part of NHS plans to digitalise. Mid-life health checks form an essential part of the governments plans to emphasise prevention over care - prioritising preventative testing over treating individuals once sick. These "mid-life MOTs" are credited with detecting early signs of illness including kidney disease, stroke and dementia and are currently offered every five years to adults (without pre-existing health conditions) in England aged between 40-74. By digitalising these health checks it is hoped that people will be encouraged to take a more proactive interest in their health and more GP appointments will be available so that those who still require face-to-face appointments can book them.
Public health minister, Neil O’Brien, discussed the importance of these checks. He said: “The health check is crucial in preventing and identifying potentially life-threatening conditions, and this digital version will do just that while making patients’ lives easier and reducing pressure on frontline services.”
Read more at The Times
New Parkinson's therapy to use stem cell transplants
Early next year, a new treatment for Parkinson's disease is to be trialled with its first round of patients, including those from the UK. This new trial will involve tissue transplants, whereby lab grown stem cells will be transported into nerve cells to replace those affected by the disease. An approach which scientists hope will limit the spread of Parkinson's symptoms including shaking and stiffness.
Currently, in the UK around 145,000 people are living with Parkinson's disease, with around 18,000 people being diagnosed annually. The disease occurs when the nerve cells supplying the brain with dopamine begin to die - a consequence of genetic and environmental factors. This new treatment approach which involves transforming stems cells into dopamine cells provides an exciting potential for treatment as it is relatively cheap (stem cells can be produced by laboratories in bulk), carries a reduced risk of contamination and overcomes many ethical considerations involved in current Parkinson's treatment - foetal tissue is used to generate dopamine cells.
Scientists expect that these upcoming clinical trials will take two years to complete, with the hope that if successful, this approach could become standard practice within the next five years.
Professor Roger Barker of Cambridge University discusses the implications of his new therapeutic approach. He said" “Younger patients will benefit most from this therapy. It is going to be a one-off treatment, so that the complications that you get with chronic medications will not arise.”
Read more at The Guardian
More diagnostic hubs to help reduce NHS waiting lists
The Government has announced that 19 more diagnostic centres will be established in communities across England to help address Covid backlogs. Currently, 91 centres are already open and since last summer have helped to deliver over 2.4 million tests and checks. With locations including shopping centres and football stadiums, these diagnostic centres offer a wide range of services including X-rays, MRI and CT scans, and provide patients with the flexibility to obtain life-saving medical care without travelling to hospitals. It is hoped that the addition of these 19 new centres will speed-up access to services for patients alongside reducing NHS wait times.
In England, around 7 million people are currently waiting for hospital treatment, a number which BBC analysis attributes to hospitals struggling to recover from the pandemic rather than an excess in demand. As winter pressures increase and NHS nurses and ambulance workers prepare to strike later this month waiting lists are forecasted to increase.
To reduce waiting times and unlock space capacity in the private sector a task force comprised of academics and health experts has been established - meeting for the first time on Wednesday. Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay highlights the importance of this new division for addressing NHS pressures.
He said "Hardworking staff have made strong progress but I want to turbocharge our current plans to bust the backlog and help patients get the treatment they need."
Read more at The BBC
NHS England to cut £1bn from primary care, maternity and cancer funds
The HSJ has found that NHS England plans on raiding a national fund allocated to advancements in maternity care, cancer and other services by £1bn to allow for spending elsewhere - cuts which are expected to continue, and likely increase, into 2023-2024.
The Service Development Fund (SDF) which is allocated at the start of the year for service areas also includes funds for care in mental health, learning disabilities, health inequalities and community health. The anticipated cuts come after several NHSE directors said they were tightly squeezed this year following major cost pressures from inflation, and higher than predicted covid-related costs. When establishing which areas will be affected by these spending changes an NHSE director suggested that decisions are likely to reflect ministers views that the NHS should prioritise "core" areas.
However, it is predicted that funding to areas like mental health will be protected from these cuts. This is because of its connection to the mental health investment standard which sees commissioners attempt to increase their investment in mental health services (an area notoriously underfunded) to keep up with current growth.
Sally Gainsbury, a senior analyst at Nuffield Trust provides more insight into these changes. She said: "The NHS faces myriad competing demands – from urgent care to elective waiting times to patient safety and equity. But the competition between these demands is made all the worse by a lack of adequate resources, which is largely a political choice.”
Read more at HSJ
Quote of the week:
Last Friday, a warning was issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) over an increase in the number of Group A Strep related deaths which has claimed the lives of 6 children under 10 in the past week. The UKHSA has been criticised by senior sources in hospitals, 111/ambulance, urgent and primary care providers for not providing notice to this announcement which led to emergency services being flooded over the weekend by the worried well.
A senior accident and emergency leader speaking to HSJ highlighted the dangers associated with this patient influx. They said: " We are just not equipped to deal with the volume of patients. [There is a] much greater chance we would miss one seriously unwell child when we are wading through a six-hour queue of viral, but otherwise well, kids.”
Read more about what was said at HSJ