The essential stories in the NHS from Thursday

Elective activity frozen

Winter is approaching fast and one trust has already conceded that its elective activity will suffer from the inevitable rise in demand for emergency care.

The big questions for Portsmouth Hospitals Trust are how much its elective work will reduce by and at what cost?

New chief executive Mark Cubbon has made no secret of the fact that his organisation will “take a financial hit”.

But he is equally sure the six-month plan is necessary to improve, or at best maintain, current accident and emergency performance and patient flow – both of which are concerning to the trust.

If the flu season is as bad as some are predicting, it may well take the full six months before the elective inpatient orthopaedic work is operating as normal at the trust.

In the meantime, Portsmouth will use private patient capacity and outsource some of the work to an independent provider.

With a savings plan of £34m already being revised, these measures are not going to make accounting at PHT any easier.

It will be interesting to see how NHS Improvement responds if the trust presents a red set of figures at the end of the financial year.

Elective work cannot be relaxed for too long, however, because the trust is already facing questions over waiting times and its ability to manage patients waiting for follow-up appointments.

All these issues must be carefully balanced by trust leaders when calculating how much to reduce its non-emergency orthopaedic work by.

NHS swipes left

The trust involved in a controversial plan to send discharged patients to private spare rooms, under an Airbnb style model, has now said it has “no intention… to support the pilot at this time”.

As exclusively revealed by HSJ on Wednesday, Southend Hospital University Foundation Trust has been working with a company to develop “proof of concept” for private homeowners with no care experience to be paid up to £1000 a month to “host” patients after they have been discharged from hospital.

The trust initially told HSJ: “’Carerooms’ is one of [the] initiatives that Southend Hospital is currently exploring with system partners in order to provide greater system resilience in light of continued high levels of demand being experienced… A number of patient cohorts are currently being assessed to identify opportunities that may exist with our system.”

However, following high profile national media coverage, and groups, including unions and social care directors, raising concerns, the trust appears to have changed tack.

Trust deputy chief executive Tom Abell said in a statement on Thursday: “Whilst we welcome and encourage new ideas and innovation, there is no intention and there never has been for the hospital to support this pilot at this time.

“We will never compromise the safety and quality of care for patients and we will not support this pilot until the necessary safeguarding and quality arrangements are in place and there has been full engagement and discussion with our local communities on the proposal, this will happen after a period of detailed work and scoping that we have requested.”