NHS community pharmacies sound alarm as inflation bites
By Gabriel Blaazer
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has raised concerns about the future of the community pharmacy sector, with a new report highlighting the impacts of inflationary pressures
The NPA commissioned the investigation into the implications of inflation on community pharmacy commissioned in June 2022 following large spikes in inflationary pressures this year. Professors David Taylor of University College London and Panos Kanavos from the London School of Economics and Political Science were asked to investigate the capability of community pharmacy across the UK to purchase and dispense NHS and other medicines and to become more focused on the provision of clinical services.
The report, Protecting the UK Public Interests in NHS Community Pharmacy, was published in September 2022 and warns of several thousand community pharmacies in the UK having to close thanks to rising costs and ‘flat’ NHS pharmacy funding.
The overall number of community pharmacies in England has fallen by 600 since 2018, about 5 per cent of the total. This number was likely kept artificially low thanks to temporary additional payments that were made to pharmacies during the Covid-19 pandemic, while many pharmacies that remain open have only done so by accepting reduced incomes and incurring more debt.
Many have also reduced the services they offer, cutting loss-making discretionary services and reducing opening hours. A FOI request has revealed that between December 2020 and July 2022, 1600 pharmacies in England reduced their opening times by an average of six hours per week in a bid to cut costs.
Many of the pharmacies that remain under threat are located in more deprived areas, where further closures of pharmacies risks widening existing health inequalities. The report warns that serious damage could be done to the NHS’ medicine supply without urgent government action to help community pharmacies remain as viable going concerns.
However, the picture looks less grim outside of England, with initiatives in Scotland and Wales producing a more stable outlook for community pharmacies there. In Wales, shifts in the balance of NHS pharmacy fees towards providing clinical services, as opposed to dispensing medicines, are being introduced, while in Scotland, prescribing pharmacists are now able to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that previously would have required GP intervention thanks to the Pharmacy First Plus scheme.
Inflation, inflation, inflation
The report comes after Ernst & Young (EY) were commissioned by the NPA to conduct a study of the funding, policy and economic environment for independent community pharmacies in England. This study was concluded in September 2020 and predicted a deficit of £500 million in community pharmacy funding by 2024. It also asserted that the current financial framework for the NHS pharmacy network was unsustainable.
According to figures from the NPA, the inflation adjusted value of NHS community pharmacy ‘global renumeration sum’ fell by 10 per cent between 2015 and 2017 (see Figure 1 below). It has remained at £2,592 million since then, with no annual allowance for inflation. As things stand, the proportion of English NHS funding allocated to pharmacies will have fallen in real terms by over one third in the period 2015-2024, falling from 2.4 per cent to 1.6 per cent. However, higher inflation rates and increased NHS outlays mean that the drop is likely to be larger.
The current Community Pharmacy Contract Framework for England was agreed upon for the period 2019-2024, before the pandemic and the recent inflation crisis. It would have been appropriate to expect a 2 per cent annual inflation rate when the ‘flat NHS funding’ contract sum was agreed upon. However, with inflation sitting at over 10 per cent, and expected to remain there for potentially one or two years, community pharmacies in England are now facing up to net funding shortfalls of 15 per cent in 2023 and 20-25 per cent in 2024, against what could have reasonably been expected in 2019.
Following the steep rise in inflationary pressures in 2022, the new report, Protecting the UK Public Interests in NHS Community Pharmacy, was commissioned by the NPA. It urges the new government to intervene to prevent further pharmacy closures and ensure the viability of the sector throughout the current period of economic turbulence.
The report does, however, point to some signs for long-term optimism, notably the fact that all new pharmacy graduates will qualify as prescribers by 2026. The government has recently announced its ambition for community pharmacy to assume some of the clinical services burden, thus relieving pressures on GP practices and A&E departments.
Such measures were also recommended by a recent Public Policy Projects report, ICS Futures, and the NPA say that that under the new integrated care systems, a transformation of community pharmacy’s role can be achieved, “given sufficient political, managerial and professional will to pursue the public’s best interests.”
Paddington life sciences cluster to maximise benefits of industry partnerships
By Rusheen Bansal
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust recently set out its vision for a new life sciences cluster in Paddington, founded on its growing partnerships with research, industry and community organisations around St Mary’s Hospital.
The Trust unveiled its ‘Paddington Life Sciences’ vision on a new website, featuring three initiatives already underway:
A new digital collaboration space, opening in autumn 2022, located at Sheldon Square, next to St Mary’s and Paddington station. Housing the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), Imperial Biomedical Research Centre’s (BRC) expanding digital health programme team. It will provide space for lectures, training, events and meetings. It will also benefit from additional investment in Imperial College Healthcare’s trusted data environment which has already helped to produce new clinical insights.
The creation of a new centre for clinical infection, a specialist clinical and translational research facility to complement Imperial College London’s new Institute of Infection. Together they will be one of only a few facilities in the world to offer ‘end-to-end’ innovation, from initial discovery to improved patient outcomes, for the management of infectious diseases as well as antimicrobial resistance.
Paddington Life Sciences Partners will bring together NHS, academic, local authority and life sciences industry partners with a commitment to the area to help ensure the delivery of significant social, health and commercial value as quickly as possible.
For the longer term, the Trust is progressing a full redevelopment of the St Mary’s estate as part of the government’s new hospital programme. As well as delivering a new, state-of-the-art hospital, the redevelopment is intended to create an additional 1.5 million square feet of cross-functional commercial and lab space for life sciences businesses to develop and grow.
Imperial College Healthcare Chief Executive Professor Tim Orchard said: “Research and innovation are fundamental to the clinical excellence our hospitals are renowned for, from the Nobel Prize-winning discoveries of penicillin, the chemical structure of antibodies and the invention of the electrocardiogram, to pioneering robotic surgery, HIV care and the clinical use of virtual reality technology. Most recently, we have played a key role in developing an understanding of Covid-19 and trialling a range of new treatments.
“We are now entering a new era of discovery, at an even more ambitious scale, by maximising the potential of our existing work areas and joining them up with new opportunities. With Imperial College London, we run one of the largest NIHR biomedical research centres, undertaking hundreds of clinical trials and analysing data from well over a million patient contacts each year. Through the pandemic, many more patients and staff have been encouraged to get involved in research and we are confident this trend will grow as we continue to deepen our relationships with local communities and organisations. We are working together to improve not just healthcare, but also health and wellbeing, creating synergies that will boost education, skills development and employment opportunities in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.
“The regeneration of Paddington is also drawing more and more life sciences and technology businesses to the area, attracted by investment in transport infrastructure and excellent national and international travel connections. This also means strong links to other life sciences hubs, including Imperial College London’s growing campus at White City, adjacent to another of our own campuses, Hammersmith Hospital, and the knowledge quarter in King’s Cross and Euston.”
Dr Bob Klaber, Imperial College Healthcare Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation added: “British life sciences firms raised £4.5bn in 2021, up from just £261m in 2012. But London has not yet reached its full potential to attract investment and innovation in the life sciences sector – MedCity’s 2021 London Life Sciences Real Estate Demand Report identiﬁed an estimated 500,000 square feet shortfall in innovation and lab space. Imperial College Healthcare is ideally placed to help fill that gap.”
There will be a formal launch of Paddington Life Sciences, and the new digital collaboration space, later this autumn.
Leading health charities highlight “untapped potential” of pharmacy services
By David Duffy
Leading UK health charities have highlighted the untapped potential of pharmacy services in tackling the nation’s major health conditions.
Just one in ten adults in Britain have turned to their local pharmacy for advice and information on lowering their risk of serious health conditions including cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a new YouGov survey.
The survey, commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and Tesco, suggests that many people could be missing out on opportunities to access free advice via their local pharmacies that could help them make life-changing improvements to their health.
The findings come as the BHF, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK have been working with Tesco to deliver specialist training to Tesco pharmacists and pharmacy colleagues to support their conversations with the public. The training will help them provide more information and support as to how people can help lower their risk of these serious conditions through small changes to their day-to-day routine.
The survey also found that, of those who had visited a pharmacist for health-related advice or checks, 43 per cent said talking to a pharmacist had eased their concerns around wasting their GP’s time.
Meanwhile, 24 per cent of those who had visited a pharmacist for health-related advice or checks found it easier to speak to someone in a pharmacy than in other healthcare settings, while 53 per cent identified not having to book an appointment as a benefit of using a pharmacy for information and advice about a health-related concern.
The leading health charities say that supporting people to make lifestyle changes and seek referrals for concerning symptoms could “save thousands of lives” every year from some of the UK’s most prevalent and serious diseases.
More than 7.6 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases, while 4.9 million are living with diabetes, 90 per cent of which are cases of type 2 diabetes, and it’s estimated that almost three million people are living with cancer (2020). Yet, around four in 10 cases of cancer, many heart and circulatory diseases and up to five in 10 cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed.
Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said on behalf of the charities: “Thousands of lives could be saved every year through people making positive changes that lower their risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart and circulatory diseases.
Far more people could be taking advantage of the advice and support available to them from their Tesco pharmacy while they do their weekly shop, this includes tips and information on stopping smoking and weight management services”
The survey also found that only two per cent of adults in Britain had visited their pharmacist for a blood pressure check in the last twelve months, despite an estimated 4.8 million people in the UK living with undiagnosed high blood pressure.
The three leading health charities, in partnership with Tesco, are encouraging people to use their local Tesco pharmacies for information and support on lowering their risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart and circulatory diseases.
Tesco and the health charity partners hope that shoppers take advantage of the convenience of having their local pharmacist in store. Customers can easily seek advice when they do their weekly shop and get support for making positive changes or seeking information on concerning signs or symptoms.
Social care crisis leaves 500,000 adults waiting for care
By Gabriel Blaazer
More than half a million adults in England are waiting for social care assistance, says the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), as staff shortages continue to impact the provision of care.
According to Adass’ research, the number of people waiting for either social care assessments, direct payments or reviews of their care has risen sharply over the last year. The research marks a 72 per cent rise in the numbers waiting for support, as similar research last year put the figure at about 294,000.
Adass president Sarah McClinton said the figures represent “a devastating impact on people’s lives,” while the government has said that reforming social care is a priority.
Published in May 2022, the Adass report, Waiting for Care, found that during the first three months of 2022, an average of 170,000 hours a week of home care could not be delivered due to workforce shortages, and that 61 per cent of councils were having to prioritise care assessments.
“The situation is getting worse”
The report states the capacity of the care sector to deliver on people’s needs has been sharply reduced, at the same time as England’s ageing population develops ever more complex care requirements.
It says that “despite staff working relentlessly over the last two years, levels of unmet, under-met or wrongly-met needs are increasing, and the situation is getting worse. The growing numbers of people needing care and the increasing complexity of their needs are far outstripping the capacity to meet them.”
The report also says that the government’s focus “of resources on acute hospitals without addressing care and support at home, means people deteriorate and even more will need hospital care.”
Adass argue that not only are people waiting longer for care, “but family carers are having to shoulder greater responsibility and are being asked to take paid or unpaid leave from work when care and support are not available for their family members.”
This was echoed by Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, who has said the current state of social care is putting “even more pressure on even more families who are propping up a chronic shortage of services.”
Changes welcome, but not enough
The government states publicly that fixing social care in England is a priority, and the Health and Social Care Levy passed last month will see £5.4 billion invested into social care over the next three years, including £3.6 billion to reform the charging system for social care and a further £1.7 billion to begin “major improvements” to the sector. The added funding is cautiously welcomed, but critics argue the government needs to go further.
However, ADASS president Sarah McClinton said: “We have not seen the bounceback in services after the pandemic in the way we had hoped. In fact, the situation is getting worse rather than better. Social care is far from fixed.
“The Health and Social Care reforms go some way to tackle the issue of how much people contribute to the cost of their care, but it falls short in addressing social care’s most pressing issues: how we respond to rapidly increasing unmet need for essential care and support and resolve the workforce crisis by properly valuing care professionals.”
Responding to the ADASS report, Miriam Deakin, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers said: “This valuable report paints a worrying picture of unmet care needs and lays bare the pressures on the social care system, which are having a serious knock-on effect on individuals’ quality of life and independence, as well as the timely discharge of patients from hospital.
“Although hospital patients who are medically fit for discharge are made a priority for assessment, any delay to those assessments means a delay to people receiving the care they need and makes it difficult to maintain the flow of patients through the NHS.
“Equally worrying is the obvious need for more support to help people stay well and live independent lives in the community which would in many cases prevent, or delay, any need for hospital care.
“We must recognise the efforts of social care staff delivering more care in people’s homes over the last year and ensure they are paid appropriately to acknowledge their valued contribution.
“The ADASS report highlights once again the urgent need to properly fund and reform the adult social care system.”
TPP SystmOne Maternity technology goes live at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation, digitising the entire maternity pathway, from ante to postnatal care.
This week, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust have gone live with TPP SystmOne Maternity. The system has enabled the Trust to digitise their entire maternity pathway, from antenatal through to postnatal care. It is being used by all midwives in the region, including those based at the hospital and those working in the community. More than 2,500 women will benefit from the new system every year, with their maternity care now centred on a complete, integrated digital care record.
Following the go-live, midwives now have instant access to all of the maternity data they need. For example, midwives working in postnatal care can easily view all antenatal care and delivery details. All medical and nursing notes are captured in a single record. This provides staff with the information required to make the best clinical decisions and improve safety for mothers and babies. Advanced functionality in the system is also supporting staff with the management of more complex pregnancies, through enhanced clinical decision support, alerts, and a complete maternity timeline.
There has been strong clinical engagement throughout the project, from midwives, doctors and nurses. The teams have used TPP’s powerful Clinical Development Kit (CDK) functionality to develop exactly the data entry templates and visualisations they wanted. All staff members can quickly capture the information they need for a complete antenatal, labour, delivery and postnatal record. The Trust have also used CDK functionality to create customised safeguarding content, helping to support and protect the most vulnerable families. Staff are also benefiting from interactive inpatient screens in the system, allowing them to manage bed capacity and perform safe, efficient handovers.
The go-live has also included providing TPP’s smartphone application, Airmid, to all women under the maternity service. This is putting women at the very centre of their pregnancy journey. Airmid allows women to access their maternity records, manage their upcoming appointments, complete questionnaires at home, and receive personalised advice and education material. Airmid supports better engagement and seamless communication between women and their maternity care team.
SystmOne also provides significant improvements to integrated care across the region and to multidisciplinary working. For example, maternity staff can immediately access any important information entered by GPs. This is significantly improving patient experience. Women only have to tell their story once, without having to repeat themselves. GPs can directly refer into the maternity unit, improving efficiency across both services. Additionally, all new births are now automatically registered with regional Child Health services, with no extra burden placed on NHS staff.
Tracy Moss, Head of Strategic Systems’ Software Development at the Trust, said: “We are excited to be working with TPP to introduce a new maternity IT system here at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust. The new system is expected to bring a wealth of clinical as well as efficiency benefits for our maternity teams and the wider organisation. The families we care for will also benefit from the system, as the new associated Airmid patient app will allow them to view their records, access information and be more involved in their care. Moving forward, we would like to continue to work with TPP to deploy other SystmOne products, both within our maternity unit and across our wider Torbay and South Devon organisation.”
Charlotte Knowles, Managing Director at TPP, said that “maternity services will always hold a particular place in my heart. Having had three babies, I know, from personal experience, what a superb job they do. We are delighted that the Trust are already seeing significant benefits for staff and patients from TPP Maternity. The dedication of the staff here has been truly inspiring. We are looking forward to working together to continue to make better use of technology to improve the experience and outcomes for pregnant women and their families.”
The UK must harness data and digital to revamp stroke aftercare – Mike Farrar
By Mike Farrar
Stroke is the single largest cause of complex disability and long-term thinking around stroke aftercare is critical in easing pressure on health and social care.
The NHS Long Term Plan places stroke aftercare as a key priority area for improvement. However, ongoing data shows that the promises to ensure the best performance in Europe for delivering clot-busting thrombolysis by 2025 and increasing the number of patients receiving reviews of their recovery needs (from 29 per cent to 90 per cent), is unlikely to be met.
The stroke pathway has seen significant improvements over the last decade. These include the introduction of hyperacute stroke units, improved brain-imaging, rapid thrombolysis and game-changing thrombectomy. However, it is likely that these interventions will be undermined by the failure to recognise the opportunities to help people return to productive lives after a stroke.
Stroke care is an area that has seen substantial improvement in the UK; while mortality rates have halved over the last 20 years, stroke remains the single largest cause of complex disability. Further to this, recent research from the Stroke Association five-year survival rates remains low.
The Stroke Association estimates that 100,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year, with two thirds of survivors leaving hospital with a disability. There are currently 1.2 million stroke survivors living in the UK, at an estimated cost to the health and care sector of £26 billion a year. This cost is expected to triple by 2035.
Missing parts of the stroke pathway
The provision of rehabilitation and aftercare is an essential element of the care pathway yet is often the least well supported and resourced, a situation not solely limited to stroke care.
This is not unique to the UK and clinicians in the USA are experiencing similar issues. Once a patient has left an acute situation, where the latest interventions, medications and technological advancements have been provided, the same level of attention just isn’t there post-discharge. There is often a marked deterioration in wellbeing with an undetermined longer-term impact.
Stroke aftercare: a faulty mindset
There is an underlying mindset within the system that the priority lies with acute care management and what happens after is less important. As a system, crisis response is generally exceptional, and innovation and resources tend to be focused on this stage of patient’s journey. But there is very little strategy – and the funding treadmill is perpetuated by continually focusing investment on acute interventions. But it is clear that the cost benefit is poor if a more strategic view of the whole care pathway is not taken.
The failure to provide effective rehabilitation immediately after an acute episode can lead to reduced functioning mobility and normal life for the individual. The consequence of this failure is an added cost for the health and care system, reduced economic productivity and can increase social care costs if it leads to patients losing their ability to live independently.
Masking the real data
The data currently collected typically identifies re-admitted patient episodes as a new case rather than allowing the system to recognise and then count it as a re-admission. This often masks the failure of the rehabilitation and ongoing support offered, which could have prevented further problems.
The link to co-morbidities is also missing, with more people dying in the first six months after a stroke from cardiac events, rather than consequences of a stroke – which means we are overlooking opportunities to influence outcomes in other ways.
The cost of high-quality rehabilitation may pay itself back over time but immediate cost pressures in the system can often mean that rehabilitation is not funded as a priority, in turn reducing patient outcomes.
Balancing the funding model
So, what should the path forward be from here? The key to achieving the right balance is to argue the need for a greater use of data and to provide the evidence to build up the business case. There are some professionals and clinicians leading the charge and looking for that evidence to balance the funding model.
The Mount Sinai health system in the USA recruited a randomly selected sample of people who were enrolled in a remote monitoring programme. Of the sample, 90 per cent of the sample had a crisis that the health system could have intervened on. Without the follow-up, these crises would never have been caught.
In Cardiff and Vale in Wales, they’re currently trialling a system that joins up the data to the patient – rather than the episode – to track the re-admissions and the patient’s entire journey through the health system. The data outcomes are providing interesting insights into chronic conditions and helping to modify care providers’ understanding of where they put their money.
The role of data and digital in stroke aftercare
There is also seeing a role for digital platforms to be used for virtual rehabilitation. There are many ways to do this and the growth of digital care technology in local authorities should be used to support and endorse these changes across the whole health and care system. As an example, Visionable’s platform allows any deterioration in health to be identified early to prevent serious problems occurring, including readmissions. As people wait longer for care, this early warning is crucial to avoid patient harm.
There’s a real opportunity to shift the way rehabilitation pathways are approached, and how outcomes are tracked. This dialogue should really appeal to the new integrated care systems and their integrated care boards as the NHS embark upon seismic structural shifts in 2022.
Through system-wide commissioning, there is the opportunity to balance the investment and provide transformation – and to deliver a genuine whole pathway, including more robust rehabilitation services. Enhancing data capture in real-time and making sure the money follows the patient could produce marked differences – not only for the public purse, but in the quality of people’s lives.
Royal College of Physicians issues stark warning over social care crisis
By Gabriel Blaazer
The Royal College of Physicians is warning that the combination of an ageing population and a lack of NHS workforce planning means the country is risking an unavoidable crisis in social care for older people.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has issued a stark warning that NHS workforce shortages are driving the social care crisis in England and that the NHS is “woefully unprepared to cope with an ageing population.”
New analysis from the RCP shows that there is the equivalent of just one full time geriatrician per 8,031 people over the age of 65 in England. The findings use data from the RCP’s own census of physicians and the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) population data and demonstrate the extent to which England’s care crisis is only set to grow.
The ONS estimates there will be more than 17 million people aged 65 and above in the UK by 2040, meaning 24 per cent of the population would require geriatric care. Additionally, many of the doctors currently providing geriatric care will, themselves, soon be requiring the same care, and 48 per cent of consultant geriatrics are set to retire within the next 10 years.
Considering these trends, the RCP, along with more than 100 medical organisations, is supporting an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill requiring the government to publish “regular, independent assessments of the numbers of staff the NHS and social care system need now and in future.” No such data is currently publicly available. The amendment, currently being debated in the House of Lords, was tabled by Baroness Cumberlege and is supported by former NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens (now Lord Stevens of Birmingham), is set to be debated in the House of Lords
Responding to the RCP’s warning, Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers and Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “As exhausted NHS staff strive to tackle the enormous treatment backlogs that have resulted from the pandemic, we must not forget about the pressures that our health and social care services face as they work to meet the growing needs of our ageing population.
“To be able to plan effectively for a future workforce, healthcare leaders need clarity in the shape of a clear long-term workforce plan. Sajid Javid’s recent commissioning of a workforce strategy is a very welcome step, but… we would urge the government to accept amendments requiring the health secretary to publish regular, independent assessments of the numbers of staff the NHS and social care system need now and in future.”
The President of the RCP, Andrew Goddard, said: ““I have dedicated my career to working in the NHS – a service that I am fiercely proud of – and yet it scares me to wonder what might happen should I need care as I get older. There simply aren’t enough doctors to go round, not least within geriatrics.
“The workforce crisis we’re facing is largely down to an astonishing lack of planning. All successful organisations rely on long-term workforce planning to meet demand and it’s absurd that we don’t do this for the NHS and social care system. The government needs to accept the amendment put forward by Baroness Cumberlege and make workforce planning a priority.”
Dr Jennifer Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said: “These figures show very clearly the current nationwide shortage of geriatricians – a situation that will only get worse with the predictable rise in the numbers of older people across the UK needing healthcare.
“It is absolutely vital that these fundamental issues around the recruitment, retention, development and support of the workforce are addressed, and that there is a properly-resourced strategy for future needs. The British Geriatrics Society stands with the RCP in strongly supporting the amendment to the Health and Care Bill.”
How integrated care systems can improve digital inclusion
By Gabriel Blaazer
Sarah Boyd, Head of Digital Experience and Transformation at Norfolk & Waveney Health and Social Care Partnership (NWHSCP), explores how her integrated care system (ICS) is using digital health to improve patient inclusion and help reduce health inequalities.
Health inequality is a growing problem but is still too often discussed separately from the core business of the NHS. Patients are treated through siloed care pathways, with conversations about why some populations have poorer health outcomes often treated as an aside.
The pandemic brought this into greater focus, especially around digital inclusion. Technology rolled out across the NHS in response to Covid-19 often widened the gap between those who could access online services and those who couldn’t.
The benefits of ICSs
When it comes to digital inclusion, there is little doubt that ICSs offer a huge opportunity to deliver more equitable access to healthcare and improved health outcomes for those previously underserved by the health system.
NWHSCP is a new type of organisation, working as a system across the Norfolk and Waveney region. Operating across the public sector, along with health and social care, councils and with voluntary organisations, presents an opportunity tackle health inequality and exclusion in a person-centred way.
The ICS allows health leaders to work across organisational boundaries, to test assumptions about exclusion, and to leverage the work that happens at the level of individual places.
Fixing existing digital inequalities
At every stage, NWHSCP are ensuring that their digital projects address digital inequalities. By implementing a pan-public sector hub-and-spoke model that provides personalised support to excluded groups, their plan is to gain the wider benefits of digital inclusion by engaging people – not only in health services – but more broadly in society.
For example, if a GP detects that an elderly person in their care is socially isolated, they can refer them to a central digital inclusion service. From there, they may be passed to a library or volunteer service who are able to provide connectivity or a 5G-enabled device, along with the ongoing support to use it. This allows the patient to order repeat prescriptions, but also to food shop online or video call family and friends, with positive benefits for their wider health and wellbeing.
“Creating an environment in which every service is digitally inclusive offers benefits not just to individuals, but also to wider society”
Asking people to go to an appointment at an unfamiliar location can create unnecessary barriers. As it proceeds, the ambition of NWHSCP is to work towards using services that people already access to provide a trusted contact point. If patients are already known to a church group or domestic violence shelter, for example, they might receive support there.
Through community partnerships, ICSs can build a network of digital tools and skill provision. For example, if a partially-sighted person, or family member, needs a speech-to-text reader, NWHSCP can point them towards their trusted toolkit. Once a person has access to this network, they can then download tools freely, ahead of their health needs.
Building an inclusive service
Creating an environment in which every service is digitally inclusive offers benefits not just to individuals, but also to wider society. As the Good Things Foundation’s Widening Digital Participation report found in March 2020, digital inclusion pays for itself in better mental and physical health, and stronger participation in the economy. For every pound spent, £6.20 is made back.
With this in mind, ICSs can leverage skills found in the private sector to identify new ways to increase inclusivity. Companies in the space include ThriveByDesign and CardMedic, an award-winning digital tool that provides instant access to communications options to improve engagement with healthcare professionals.
CardMedic is designed to help patients with a language barrier, visual, hearing or cognitive impairment, or to communicate through PPE and is unique in its space.
One issue with digital inclusivity tools is that they’re often seen as only affecting excluded communities, but digital inclusivity applies to everyone. Many people often struggle to retain emotionally-sensitive medical information, such as details about a cancer diagnosis. Tools like CardMedic allow any patient to review the basics of a hospital procedure or consultation – helping them to feel more secure in their care.
Through pulling together with public sector and voluntary organisations, NWHSCP has built a strong, interconnected and multi-disciplinary team to implement their digital transformation agenda. As ICSs move towards statutory footing, the hope is to build on their initial successes though good recruitment and the implementation of innovative technology.
But there is only so much one system organisation can achieve on its own. To maximise the potential of integrated care systems, the NHS will require a national system for picking up on digital innovation. It should not be up to individual ICSs to find products, such as CardMedic, themselves. Digital inclusivity should be available to all.
Taking practical steps to address a growing crisis in domiciliary care
By Gabriel Blaazer
John Bryant, Head of Strategy and Development for Torbay Council, outlines a series of practical steps to enhance the role of the care worker and address the growing crisis in domiciliary care.
The solution to the domiciliary care crisis is to enable the sector to do more, not to simply ask more of it. The distinction is important, as the development of integrated care provides opportunities to enhance system efficiency like never before. And yet, the scope of what could be asked of, and performed by, trained, supported, committed community-based practitioners is yet to be fully explored or achieved.
All the while, the expectations of those receiving care, and certainly those considering a future career in health and care, are greater than they have ever been.
To meet these ever-rising expectations, system leaders are likely to find fertile ground in looking to better embrace the assets that already exist within the system. This includes domiciliary care workers, whose skillset could be expanded and developed, a move that could encourage others into the system. This can happen by re-positioning the expectation, skills and rewards to produce and provide, for example, enhanced wellbeing services (EWS) provided by enhanced wellbeing practitioners (EWP), of which domiciliary care is a major component among a portfolio of beneficial interventions and service provision.
The 6Cs of care are prevalent within our frontline domiciliary partner staff; the opportunity is there to optimise their engagement and knowledge of patients and clients to:
Support retention and recruitment
Respond to the discharge and reablement challenges
Drive early intervention and prevention
Offer a developed interface with general practice
Engage with population health management
The support of these four key drivers for public service change: politics, policy, measurement and money, are positioning us as never before to achieve success. The government’s social care reform white paper, People at the Heart of Care, connects to the £5.4 billion pledged for adult social care reform between 2022 to 2025. It is notable that healthcare is a major beneficiary of this funding in early years, however within the policy of integrated care the opportunity exists to bring about radical, beneficial system reform from the outset.
“Together, these measures aim to put people at the heart of social care and move us towards our 10-year reform vision.”
(Department of Health and Social Care, 2022).
These themes were also present in the subsequent integration white paper, Joining up Care for People, Places and Populations. The measures set out in the paper provide clear areas of opportunity, focus and policy support.
A growing crisis
These government white papers are in no small part a response to a care crisis the likes of which we have never seen. One key element of that is domiciliary care, the unseen service that is delivered behind the front doors of our communities to keep people safe, comfortable, medicated and cared-for. For over a decade the policy has been to bring care closer to home, and the People at the Heart of Care paper reinforces that. The Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the need to ensure people are cared for and supported in this way, minimising their movement between different health settings to reduce infection risk.
“The endeavours of care providers to recruit at this level should be celebrated alonside any other part of the system that has been able to do the same”
Present estimates indicate that there is a care shortage/vacancy rate of 17 per cent which equates to at least 100,000 jobs based on Skills for Care data in England. Given the challenges in recruitment felt by providers, there can often be a projection that care providers are not ’good‘ at recruitment. However, in looking behind the headlines we find that in one area, Torbay, care providers have increased their capacity through recruitment by 39 per cent in the 18 months leading to September 2021. The problem is that the demand for their services has totally outstripped this staffing influx, increasing by 47 per cent in the same time period. This trend is consistent across the country’s health and care ecosystem.
The endeavours of care providers to recruit at this level should be celebrated alongside any other part of the system that has been able to do the same. If organisations who have been able to recruit as well as Torbay have done are finding it difficult, is it probable that any other part of the system will do better?
The Health Foundation recently published research suggesting that over a million more health and care staff will be needed in the next decade to meet growing demand for care. What is clear is that these shortages were well established trends before the Covid-19 pandemic. If the challenge of capacity is to be permanently addressed, then retention followed by recruitment is essential – as any marketing of roles from ‘the system’ will be trumped by the messages communicated by those working in or leaving the services.
Recognising a new future, communicating that and providing examples of what could be achieved will produce opportunities for beneficial results.
In this respect, returning to the domiciliary care issue, what might emerge if we were to turn the issue on its head?
To address the crisis currently seen in domiciliary care, I propose a series of practical steps to enhance the role of the care worker and to use the ICS framework to transform system level efficiency:
Addressing the domiciliary care shortage: expand the potential of the service and provide those delivering it with more responsibility and control by becoming EWPs
Supporting the community nursing challenge: offer them the opportunity to have a wider team of EWPs at their disposal; enable them to work to the top of their licence
To address GP availability: create neighbourhood teams of EWPs that are able to be with patients, directly support with digital literacy and connectivity, and be a physical presence to further enhance the experience of the remote general practice
To reduce A&E admissions and improve the discharge process: use EWS to support the safe discharge of increasingly complex patients to optimise recuperation in at-home settings, have the digital skills and tools to monitor and report e.g. RESTORE2 for early intervention and re-admission avoidance, and be able to support reablement; the stepping stone to independence
Develop greener care:reducing mileage by minimising cross-overs between staff and building a wider multi-disciplinary team
The practical possibilities for this are supported by the further development of the Allied Health Professionals strategy. The publication of the Allied Health Professions’ Support Worker Competency, Education and Career Development Framework received support from Trades Unions, Professional Bodies and Trade Union partners. Whether it is development within roles or providing new career paths, new forms of offer and opportunities are going to be central in encouraging a post-Brexit, domestic workforce into the social care and health sector; along with producing the impact value of those roles and associated care interventions which enable commensurate levels of pay and reward.
Underpinning all endeavours and quality care and support are the 6Cs of Care. These emerged as part of ‘Compassion in Practice’ and were rolled out by NHS England to all staff in 2014 with subsequent promotion to the wider care sector by the national body Skills for Care.
“But what cannot happen is that domiciliary care continues to be overprescribed without receiving more support or being allowed to expand its offering”
The characteristics of commitment, care, compassion, competence, communication and courage are prevalent throughout our community care partners and their staff. With that commonality between the professions what might we do to deliver even more fulfilling roles: more people doing fulfilling roles, more fulfilment within the roles, more roles in addition to the present ones that are also fulfilling?
The alchemy that will bring this about is within the gift of every system in England and available to all domestic nations. It is the meaningful flourishing and delivery of an integrated care system (ICS). The ‘holy grail’ of ICS development is to provide timely, personalised care that maximises the independence of the individual receiving care which, naturally, points to a home-based solution. But what cannot happen is that domiciliary care continues to be overprescribed without receiving more support or being allowed to expand its offering.
This article seeks only to look at one small area of that; however, it is a vital area, being felt by the 957,000 people in the UK that receive domiciliary care and their families, along with the 822,000 staff looking after them (as recorded by RCN surveys). This, quite rightly, is now receiving both political support and national media attention.
The pandemic should be recognised as a catalyst for accelerated change, avoiding any sense of ‘once we’re through this we can get down to business as usual’. What has been done, and is being done in response to the pandemic, has demonstrated the creativity and pace of change possible as system partners have collaborated. Fostering and building on that is in itself both an opportunity and a challenge.
Across the sector there are understandable concerns of implementing radical service reform on an already exhausted and beleaguered workforce. But there are examples we can look to where workforce wellbeing is protected while simultaneously enhancing capacity and quality of care that motivates staff.
Some facts from one system
To service 800 clients in a 75-mile geographical perimeter, home care staff drive almost one million miles per annum. In work supported by the Health Foundation, it was found that at a (sub)urban travel speed averaging 20 mph, over 43,500 hours were being spent in vehicles; a substantial proportion of that could be put to new ways of working.
Work has shown that by reorganising the rounds, 5,220 hours of care could be released from the existing workforce. This would provide opportunities not only for more care to be delivered but importantly, and in respect of future retention and recruitment across the system, time for wellbeing, supervision, learning and development, accreditation of skills and assurance in their application. And with no extra hours of care being purchased.
In terms of application and the development of broader multi-disciplinary teams within ICSs, it was established that of the community nursing patients nearly 20 per cent were also social care clients. People were being visited by multiple staff in one day, requiring travel from multiple staff.
There are of course many activities and health interventions which can only be done by those with nursing and clinical qualifications. However, in approaching this issue with a mindset of curiosity, courage and compassion there are many interventions that could be performed in different ways.
For instance, one of the many activities that domiciliary care staff undertake is washing and creaming clients’ legs when there are wounds to be attended to. Nursing staff will then arrive to apply a bandage. While certain grades of wound clearly need nursing attention there are many at lower levels of severity that are capable of being attended to by a well-trained EWP – and of being checked on regularly, though less frequently, by the stretched community nursing complement.
Benefits of EWS for participants and for system development
Enhanced wellbeing practitioners:
Feel respected and able to develop their domiciliary care roles, feel even more a part of the system and that their contribution is valued. This could lead to enhanced profile and esteem. The additional activity means more time with the client and the opportunity to further enhance the relationship that exists
Opportunities will be presented to work in strengths-based ways and with programmes such as Making Every Contact Count, leading to enhanced wellbeing of the clients and a development of their connectivity and circle of support
This leads to improved job/role satisfaction – improved retention leading to increased recruitment. Developed circle of support for clients, enabling them to step up towards independence and reduce their reliance on statutory interventions. Release of capacity for those with assessed needs to have their needs met and begin their journey towards well-being
Feel an increased level of support with a bigger, more integrated, team available to them. They are then able to work with the more complex cases and make the very best use of their skills and knowledge while enabling and supporting other integrated team members to develop
Through enabling better management of case-loads, job satisfaction is increased and stress is reduced. As the RCN has established, with 75 per cent of community nurses reporting that they had left necessary activities undone, the professional dissonance of the role is alleviated, supporting staffwellbeing and retention
With the nursing and Allied Health Professional colleagues active in this way, early intervention and reductions in exacerbations of conditions lead to reduced admissions. With greater capacity, along with the skills to manage more complex discharges, hospital flow is improved
Benefits of EWS for health providers
Admissions through A&E:
Are reduced by earlier interventions and the ability to deploy the highly skilled staff in the community to support patients and reduce the deterioration in their condition
Improved flow through A&E with reduced admissions, enhancing the wellbeing of staff as well as the patients, and contributing to the enhanced application of funding to meet elective care
Discharges and re-admission rates:
Are further improved with the skills and capacity made available to support increasing numbers of and increasingly complex patients. With the integrated approach to working and early intervention opportunities, people are supported to remain at home, with their condition even better managed and do not require a re-admission to hospital
Skills and capacity across the community integrated team are available to support timely, safe discharge from hospital and discharge to assess and ensure people remain at home
The patient/client gets less ill and recovers more quickly being supported by a team that has the resources, capacity and skills to meet their needs. This increases the ability for them to remain well or recover quickly in their home setting, which include care homes and supported living
Increased numbers of people cared for closer to home with reduced exacerbations in conditions. Complex clinical requirements being met in community settings with both care-giver and the patient having a well developed strengths-based relationship throughout the care and support period, enabling a step up to independence
It is understandable that there will be anxieties associated with the shift in activities. In order to ascertain who delivers what and where to achieve the five aims of population health management (as illustrated below), the mantra to hold onto is right person, right care, right place, right time. Risk-managed prototyping using good design methodologies is key and implicit within the title on the tin of sustainability and transformation partnerships (the predecessor to ICSs).
There are many practical examples already available and still plenty of headroom for further development, which will accelerate the transformation in health and care models which are both sought for and needed.
Covid has shown us how much can be done in a short space of time; even with all the pressures in the system, GPs, acute trusts, AHSN and domiciliary care providers worked together to train 148 staff in the RESTORE2 methodology in just three months, with some going further to be trainers themselves.
Practical steps to developing and implementing enhanced wellbeing services
Train domiciliary care and care home staff to use the protocols and develop relationships with primary care practices
Ensure that training is accessible and that the nursing staff are corporately supported in the delegation of tasks
Look to see if care packages are allocated by geographically focussed provider or on first-come-first-served basis, and what the mileage component to the care rounds is for providers
Review the wounds being attended to in community settings and what best practice can offer in tackling the £5 billion cost of wound management
Consult on ways in which the Allied Health Professions’ Support Worker Competency, Education, and Career Development Framework can be optimised
Get the best facilitators and design thinkers, often found outside the system, to help ask the questions, listen and gather the answers and develop action-orientated plans with system partners – which includes the care unit, the patient/client and those caring for them
Whichever of the four policy drivers (politics, policy, money or measurements) one wishes to consider, they are captured within the Five Aims of Population Health Management; moving to EWS and development of the practitioners supports their delivery. Beyond this the one element that is maybe more implicit within the ‘petals’ below is capacity. EWS supports this explicitly.
Achieving more with less
In summary, below is the 30-second elevator review of how we can achieve more with less on the topic of domiciliary care.
Time to care, more time to be more caring
Development and enrichment of roles
Satisfaction with the role
Prevention and early intervention
Dissonance in the role and 6Cs
Variation in care team and discontinuity of care
Dissatisfaction with roles and system design
Turnover and leaving before retirement, or at the earliest opportunity
Vacancy and cost to trying to encourage people into services
Illness and cost
Addressing the care crisis
With the job-seeking public indicating that insufficient numbers of them wish to work in domiciliary care, now would be the time, supported by the policy of integrated care, to develop a new offer that enables truly integrated roles. This should seek to provide enhanced wellbeing services through an increasingly broad, multi-disciplinary, person-centred team.
To address this multifaceted care crisis, we should do more than seeking to invite people into traditional domiciliary care. The system might benefit from offering people a new role(s) that encompasses the domiciliary care that they are proud to already be doing, but also one that offers development, inclusion, satisfaction, esteem and commensurate compensation. This could become increasingly available if and when ICSs fulfil the potential that exists; one that reflects those stated aims within the recent white paper(s) and meets the five tenets of Population Health Management.
This should also note the observations of the CQC and their likely support to engage in discovery sessions for regulation alignment towards new ways of working. In doing so this should create a virtuous cycle towards a sustainable system, both financially and with capacity, through the delivery of integrated care.
John Bryant is Head of Strategy and Development for Torbay Council and an ICJ contributor. To contact John, become an ICJ contributor or to obtain a full reference list for this article, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and one of our Editors will assist.
To achieve the NHS Long Term Plan goal of preventing health inequalities and improving health outcomes, the voices of those delivering and receiving dental care on a local level must be prioritised.
Top-down change, if not informed by local experience, will fail to address issues faced by service users and service providers. Therefore, the voice and experience of local councils, local Healthwatch and local service providers is key to creating an environment through which NHS dentistry can play its part in reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes. This is why building strong relationships with these bodies is central to the role played by Local Dental Committees (LCCs).
The LDC Confederation is a membership body for LDCs which represent primary care dentists delivering care under an NHS contract. We actively support our member LDCs to engage with local stakeholders, to take the time to explain the complex NHS dental contract and to make clear how, if properly supported, NHS dentistry could help meet their local objectives. These local relationships have created sympathetic alliances and a strong desire at the local level to see a reformed dental contract introduced that would remove barriers to care, which in turn would help to reduce health inequalities and improve health outcomes.
The local councils and local Healthwatch know their populations, understand their issues and seek to identify areas for improvement. Even before the pandemic, we were pleased to see a growing interest in NHS dental services from local stakeholders. Since then, of course, we have seen access to NHS dental services and appropriate provision of NHS dental care grow into a burning issue for almost every local authority.
Member LDCs have enjoyed close working with their local Healthwatch partners, helping with reports and speaking at events throughout London. During the pandemic we provided updates and patient facing information for our local partners to help them and their communities to navigate NHS dental services. This interest has increased dramatically throughout the pandemic as services have struggled to meet patient demand.
Barriers to access
The barriers to access exacerbated by the pandemic have existed since 2006. The pandemic simply brought them to the fore and demonstrated the historic neglect that NHS dentistry has suffered, but also the huge importance that the public place on NHS dentistry. Time and again we have seen reports which show clearly that dental services are highly valued and that satisfaction with the quality and outcome of the care received is high.
NHS dentistry should be one of the great success stories within the wider NHS: a high achieving clinical specialty, with high patient satisfaction, providing clinical care able to give instant pain relief and rapid functional outcomes. Instead, sadly, it is treated as an ancillary service which is not vital to health and wellbeing.
Local stakeholders know differently. They hear stories from patients in pain on a regular basis, from parents of children in pain, from those who are ashamed to go out or eat in public, from people who are afraid to access care because of the NHS charges and those who simply cannot navigate the system and end up at the GP or in A&E. We have been working hard with local partners to press for improvements to holistic care, especially for the most vulnerable such as those in residential care homes and those with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, diabetes and stroke rehabilitation. These groups in particular need the system to work with them and for them if they are to lead lives free from avoidable pain and discomfort. Integration of services at the local level will support a holistic approach to care which would pay dividends in improved general health outcomes and quality of life.
Dental contract pilots
Dental contract pilots, later termed prototypes, have been the great hope of the profession since they began in 2010. These pilots were testing new models for the contracting of NHS dental care and were based on blends of capitation and activity. Appointments were longer and the focus was on prevention.
90 per cent of patients had reduced or maintained levels of tooth decay
80 per cent of patients had reduced or maintained levels of gum disease
97 per cent of patients said they were satisfied with the dental care they received
At the start of 2022 the NHS announced the end of the prototypes and all dental practices operating as prototypes for the NHS are now reverting to their previous contracts. Despite the models showing such promise it is not clear how much of the valuable information taken from these pilots will be applied to a reformed contract in the future.
Local voices are vital
The current Units of Dental Activity (UDA) contract, is based on activity and the NHS is heavily reliant on recouping funding for dentistry through patient charges. This creates a disincentive for the system to increase access among those with the highest need, as a greater number of treatments take longer and in doing so will reduce the amount of activity delivered, throughput of patients and the amount of funding the NHS can recoup from patient charges. The current activity based contract is not able to support local objectives of reducing health inequalities, and the focus on treatment rather than prevention does not support the local objective of improving health outcomes.
If the local councils, and in the future local care partnerships and Integrated Care Boards, want to see a reduction in health inequalities and improvement in health outcomes then a dental contract which supports those objectives is needed. The LDC Confederation ensures that local stakeholders understand NHS dental services and the role they can play in meeting these priorities. We will continue to work with our local partners to make sure local voices who know their populations best will be heard at the national level. Local voices are vital to inform dental contract reform and to make sure that the dental contract is fit for purpose.
The Minister for Primary Care, Maria Caulfield, recently outlined the aforementioned problems with the dental contract on BBC Radio Sussex, and also affirmed the importance of contract reform. Both of these statements are to be welcomed but real improvements will only be seen if that reform is based on the experiences and priorities of those delivering and receiving care at the local level.