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In NHS language, the word “support” can have many meanings.

Earlier this week HSJ revealed NHSE’s decision to pay up to £21m to seven management consultancies which will make available short-term analytical and planning “support” for their elective recovery plans, according to a recently published tender.

Documents leaked to HSJ show the firms will be providing everything from “programme management and delivery” to “strategy and modelling” as well as the aforementioned analytical and planning tasks.

Some ICSs will need more support than others, and there is no doubt ICSs need help to come up with vital plans when they are not yet fully established.

But the amount of money available, which works out to roughly £11,000 per day per ICS, suggests the consultancies will be playing a very significant role. 

And given that these plans are set to form the start of a “multi-year planning approach”, there is a strong likelihood that these firms’ contribution will leave more than just a “supportive” legacy.

Crowd control

Fresh warnings have been issued that overcrowding in accident and emergency departments is threatening patient care as official figures show a big jump in emergency patients waiting 12 hours or longer.

According to NHS England’s stats – which measure from decision to admit to admission – 16,558 patients waited 12 hours in A&Es in January, a steep 27 per cent rise on the previous month.

The scale of long waits in A&E is likely to be much bigger than that. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine – which measures the total time patients spend in A&E – have recorded between 5,300 and 6,000 12-hour waiters each week in January, based on figures from 40 sites.

RCEM president Katherine Henderson has called for NHSE’s decision to admit metric to be replaced by 0-12 data, saying long waits in A&E are “getting worse and worse”.

The A&E pressures reflect pressures across the system, with many trusts struggling to discharge patients who no longer meet the criteria to reside, due to social care shortages and other issues.

More than 30,000 ambulances were delayed for longer than an hour while handing over patients at A&E departments in January, a slight increase on the previous month.

Meanwhile, the number of two-year elective breaches rose by 8 per cent to a record 20,065 in December, according to NHSE’s monthly data.

Also on today

In The Integrator, Dave West takes a deep dive into this week’s integration white paper and Rob Findlay explains why it matters that the waiting times to diagnosis and decision rose by more than a week in December, reaching 38.6 weeks at month end.