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Coronavirus update

System leaders sent out a clear message to trusts on Thursday as they bid to free up 15,000 beds by 27 March — whatever you have to do to discharge your medically fit patients, just get on and do it.

The enhanced discharge process means the rulebook has been ripped up. Eligibility and funding decisions for hospital discharges have been suspended as have continuing healthcare assessments.

Yes, corners will inevitably be cut. And problems will inevitably be stored for further down the line. But these are desperate times.

The move comes with £1.3bn for NHS trusts, with community health providers handed “full responsibility” for all patients on acute trust discharge lists.

A further £1.6bn has been given to councils largely to support social care provision. All the funding comes from the £5bn coronavirus emergency fund set out in last week’s budget.

Elsewhere in the NHS, trusts’ procurement teams are working flat out to make sure clinicians have the crucial personal protective equipment and infection control products they need to treat infectious patients safely. But several have complained national procurement body NHS Supply Chain isn’t shipping enough to meet demand.

The organisation has now told HSJ it is lifting some restrictions to make it easier for trusts to order goods. Meanwhile, on Thursday night’s Question Time, Matt Hancock told the BBC millions more masks were on their way to trusts.

This will be good news for some procurement teams, but those still experiencing major supply issues may be unconvinced.

It’s not just PPE procurement the NHS is faced with questions about. NHS England has ramped up its digital response to help cope with the rising pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, with all GPs being urged to provide remote appointments for patients.

In a bid to make this a reality, on Thursday, NHSE announced resources would be “rapidly” procured and available within two weeks for primary care providers who did not have the capabilities to offer digital appointments 

In general, the NHS has been notoriously slow at adopting tech, trailing far behind other industries.

However, as mentioned by NHSX director of digital experience, Polly Bishop, a couple of weeks ago, coronavirus is likely to “force the pace” on digital healthcare services — because there is no other choice.