The must read stories and talking points from Thursday

Fallen five star reviews

HSJ revealed on Thursday that a much vaunted digital health firm, partnered with Uber, had been forced to remove incorrect claims about NHS partnerships from its marketing and launch a probe of five star reviews allegedly faked by its own employees.

Cera, a start-up founded by a former NHS England adviser, only took the drastic action after HSJ presented the firm with a series of allegations. It was also operating until February without registration to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which breaches the Data Protection Act.

There are lessons in this story for patients, new private healthcare providers pitching for NHS work, system leaders and regulators.

There is no doubt the NHS is behind the curve in terms of digital maturity compared to other comparable health systems, so innovative approaches should be viewed, on the whole, as opportunities rather than threats.

But those with the innovations must meet the standards set by regulators within the health system and beyond. It is simply not acceptable to be dealing with NHS commissioned services without proper sign off from all regulators, no matter how whizzy the product.

The regulators need to step up. The sophistication of digital health provision is developing at breakneck speed and regulators will struggle to keep pace.

And the patients? Many of us will have felt miffed after visiting a substandard restaurant despite a stream of beaming five star reviews on comparison sites.

But we know to take such sites with a pinch of salt. Sadly, it appears reviews of health services may also be vulnerable to bogus and misleading reviews.

Ugly picture

There was a surge last year in the number of patients waiting for the results of X-rays and scans, a leaked national performance report suggests.

The NHS Benchmarking report, leaked to HSJ, said across 95 anonymised trusts that took part in its work, the average backlog of “unreported” scans at the end of 2016-17 was 2,800. That was a 130 per cent increase on the average a year earlier of 1,250.

The report, dated December 2017, found that as of 31 March 2017, two medium sized trusts had backlogs of over 30,000 and one large trust had just under 25,000 reports unread. At many trusts the backlog was much smaller – less than 100.

These are for the number of scans that have not been reported, more than 10 days since examination.

These are the most recent figures available – it is not known what has happened to the number waiting for results in the 13 months since.

The news comes amid substantial concern at a national level about failures in radiology reporting, including the Care Quality Commission carrying out a national review.

The Royal College of Radiologists said the situation may be “very much worse” than the figures show, because the report said there was some indication that the share of scans which were “auto reported” is also growing.

RCR president Nicola Strickland said: “It is widely known that auto reporting is occurring throughout the whole of the UK because there aren’t enough radiologists to cope with the reporting work but it is difficult to trace [scans] that have been not been reviewed by a radiologist.”