The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
A “computer error” has inadvertently removed 1,800 patients from a trust’s elective waiting list by mistake.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust has alerted the North East London integrated care board to the problem this week, with the issue being dealt with as a “matter of urgency”.
Of the 1,800 patients affected, 600 of them have been waiting for treatment through the trust’s services for more than a year.
A further 200 have been waiting for more than two years.
The patients have been waiting to see specialists in routine clinics across gynaecology, neurology, neurosurgery and ophthalmology.
Due to the error, the trust’s overall waiting list size has increased from 61,400 to 63,200.
BHRUHT chief executive Matthew Trainer wrote to colleagues in the region this week to “apologise for the stress this will have caused those experiencing a delay”.
He said the error has since been fixed and that the trust was “reviewing every case,” with a formal group being set up that will report to the board and oversee its response to the matter.
Off the grid
Inflation and the cost of living crisis are pushing staff to increasingly join “off-framework” agencies that pay higher day rates.
NHS Professionals, which supplies bank staff to around 100 trusts, believes these factors are driving more people to work for agencies that are not approved by NHS England.
Although trusts are required to bring in agency staff through these framework agreements, a significant number of vacancies and severe workforce pressures means organisations have little choice but to use them.
Data from 51 of NHSP’s client trusts in our story yesterday suggested off-framework agency spending had tripled in the last two years to March 2022.
This is despite the government’s determination to crack down on off-framework spending. Former care minister Helen Whately told leaders this was a “priority” in December 2020, setting a target to eliminate this expenditure by the end of 2022.
That appears unlikely now given the current context.
NHSP chief executive Nicola McQueen told HSJ that banks, on-framework and off-framework agencies are all “competing for the same talent”.
She said: “Organisations that are constrained by pay caps experience difficulty in flexing pay rates to accommodate these market conditions, which make it much easier for the off-framework agencies, who can, to attract workers.”
Also on hsj.co.uk today
In Recovery Watch, James Illman says that NHS England published data last week which appeared to show a huge improvement in the number of two-year waiters. But, as ever, he writes, statistics can be misleading. And in news, we report on NHS staffing data that suggest a ‘worrying acceleration’ of people choosing to resign from their jobs.