NHS plan includes target for continuing remote outpatient consultations

NHS England has published its priorities for the year ahead, including tackling health inequalities and building on what has been learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its 2021/22 Priorities and Operational Planning Guidance sets out several key gaols including:

  • Delivering the COVID-19 vaccination programme and continuing to meet the needs of patients with COVID-19.
  • Transforming the delivery of services, accelerating the restoration of elective and cancer care and managing the increasing demand on mental health services.
  • Expanding primary care capacity to improve access, local health outcomes and address health inequalities.

This includes a proposal to embed outpatient transformation by taking 'all possible steps to avoid outpatient attendances of local clinical value', alongside increased advice and guidance and patient-initiated follow up services.

The guidance says, where outpatient attendances are clinically necessary, at least 25% should be delivered remotely by telephone or video consultation.

This is equivalent to around 40% of outpatient appointments that do not involve a procedure.

NHS England

GP access during COVID-19

Healthwatch has published a review of its evidence on GP access during the coronavirus pandemic.

It highlights the impact of remote consultations on some patients, particularly those with disabilities and long-term health conditions or without access to the internet or English as a first language. 

Key findings include:

  • A lack of information about changes to services because of COVID-19 led to some people being confused about how to get in touch, whether they could make an appointment and how, and what to expect if they attended the surgery in person.
  • From autumn 2020 people were reporting long waits when phoning services and problems using triage systems.
  • While telephone appointments are convenient for some, others are worried their health issues will not be accurately diagnosed. These problems were exacerbated for disabled people, people with long-term health conditions, people without access to the internet and for anyone whose first language is not English.
  • People struggled to get appointments for regular health check-ups, treatments and medication reviews making it harder to manage conditions.


BSL Health Access set to close

In March 2020, as lockdown came into effect and services across the country switched to phone consultations, SignHealth launched a free on-demand 24/7 remote interpreting service called BSL Health Access.

The service, in partnership with the company InterpreterNow, enabled deaf people access to medical services over the phone, free of charge. 

SignHealth is unable to cover the costs of the service and the NHS has not committed any further funding for 1 April onwards, effectively closing the service. 

A petition calling for the NHS to continue funding the service has been launched.


COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan

The Government has published its plan to prevent, mitigate and respond to the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It sets out three main objectives:

  • Support the general population to take action and look after their mental wellbeing.
  • Prevent the onset of mental health difficulties, by taking action to address the factors which play a crucial role in shaping mental health and wellbeing outcomes for adults and children.
  • Support services to continue to expand and transform to meet the needs of people who require specialist support.


New single guideline for managing COVID-19 in children and adults

NICE has published a new guideline bringing together existing recommendations on managing COVID-19 in children, young people and adults in all care settings. 

It includes new recommendations on therapeutics and replaces existing COVID-19 rapid guidelines on:

  • Critical care in adults.
  • Managing symptoms (including at the end of life) in the community.
  • Managing suspected or confirmed pneumonia in adults in the community.
  • Acute myocardial injury.
  • Antibiotics for pneumonia in adults in hospital.
  • Acute kidney injury in hospital.
  • Reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism in over 16s with COVID-19.


Learning from the experiences of women to plan future mesh services

PIF member the ALLIANCE has published a new report, My Path, My Health, My Life – Learning from the experiences of women to plan future mesh services

The aim of the engagement process was to hear the views of women on their current experience and involve them in the development of the National Complex Mesh Surgical Service. 

Key themes include:

  • Assurance of competence and training of surgeons.
  • Individual experiences being listened to by professionals.
  • Seamless follow up between the national service and local NHS boards.
  • Multi-disciplinary and holistic approach.
  • Clear patient pathways, at local level and with GPs.
  • The importance of co-design.


Review to improve babies' and children's healthy development

The Government has published a review into reducing inequalities in the first 1,001 days of life.

The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days was led by early years health adviser Andrea Leadsom MP and sets out a vision for best practice across the health system.

It highlights six action areas which are key to improving health outcomes in babies and young children, including:

  • A single publication making parents and carers aware of what support they can expect in their local area.
  • Providing the information families need when they need it by designing digital, virtual and telephone services around the needs of the family. This includes digitising the personal child health record, commonly known as the ‘red book’, by April 2023.


Call to address LGBT+ health inequalities

The AHSN Network and LGBT Foundation have joined forces to launch a nationwide call for innovations to help address health inequalities facing LGBT people, many of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

These challenges are highlighted in a new compilation of evidence of LGBT+ health inequalities.

From MedTech and digital apps to improvement programmes, changes in practice and new pathways, the organisations are looking for innovations and innovative approaches already in use or in development.

Inspiring examples of work in this area will be showcased in a report to be published later this year by the AHSN Network and LGBT Foundation. Click on the link below for details of how to submit your innovation.

AHSN Network

New vaccine advice for those living with immunosuppressed adults

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to prioritise people for the coronavirus vaccine who are over 16 and living with adults who have weakened immune systems.

This includes those with blood cancer, HIV or those on immunosuppressive treatment including chemotherapy.


Fighting diabetes with information

An online diabetes education tool has been shown to help patients control blood sugar levels and improve their physical and mental health. 

HeLP-Diabetes (Healthy Living for People with Type 2 Diabetes) was developed by  University College London’s e-Health Unit with NIHR funding.

It is designed to help patients and carers affected by diabetes learn more about the condition and find the best ways to manage their own symptoms and blood sugar levels, at their own pace.

The tool is now being considered for roll out across the country following a pilot by NHS England.


Listen: Tackling the digital divide

The latest Digital Health Unplugged takes a look at digital inclusion and tackling the digital divide.

Host Andrea Downey spoke to Good Things Foundation chief executive Helen Milner and digital social inclusion outreach manager Surriya Walters, and mHabitat deputy director Peter Nuckley about their work with NHS Digital on improving digital participation.


International Wound Journal is now open access

All articles in the International Wound Journal are now fully open access.

The journal publishes research covering all aspects of prevention and treatment of wounds and associated skin conditions. 

The latest edition is available to browse via the link below.

Wiley Online Library

Webinar: How will the public mood shape care after the pandemic?

The Health Foundation is hosting a webinar exploring what the public thought of care during the COVID-19 pandemic and what this means for future care.

Drawing on Ipsos MORI polling taken before and during the pandemic, the panel will consider shifts in public attitudes to care and what they mean for the government, national leaders in the NHS and social care and clinicians in the recovery period.

The event takes place from 11.45am on 15 April.

The Health Foundation