The must read stories and debate in the NHS

Bold action on A&E

NHS Improvement has turned its focus towards the worsening issue of handover delays.

In a letter obtained by HSJ, NHS Improvement said some NHS trusts were applying “unacceptable rules” to delay or restrict ambulance access to hospital emergency departments.

The national regulator told trusts to stop it IN BIG BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS, warning them about the serious risks to patient safety resulting from ambulances being delayed in EDs.

In a subsequent letter, NHS Improvement told both acute and ambulance trusts that they weren’t kidding about the need to reduce handover delays and would even be launching a national support programme to help areas improve.

The later letter made it clear to chief executives that they really must take the issue seriously, asking them to give it “their immediate attention” and warning them to ensure all handover over an hour are escalated to the higher echelons, at the time they occur. For emphasis, and in keeping with house style, the latter point was again written in big bold letters.

In an encouraging display of joined up working NHS England’s director for acute care, professor Keith Willet, even got a mention. NHSI stated that he had identified handover delays as “his top priority for improving patient safety and reducing clinical risk in the urgent and emergency care system”.

A not-very-merry-go-round

On 24 January, providers were told by NHS Improvement that their capital spending plans for the rest of 2016-17 were unaffordable.

Yet on the same day, NHS England was telling trusts to urgently apply for digital technology funding that would have to be spent by the end of March.

But a week later – after trusts had got their formal expressions of interest in – they were suddenly told the funds were no longer available.

Unfortunately, this is so often the story with central planning in the NHS. Lots of people told to prepare something very quickly and rushing to do it. Then finding out it was mostly pointless.