The healthmatters blog; commentary, observation and review
Life shouldn’t be ugly just because you’re poor was the arresting title of a piece in today’s Times newspaper by Clare Foges. It caught my eye because I have long held the view that one’s living environment is a very important determinant of one’s wellbeing.
There are of course many determinants of wellbeing and in the policy makers’ minds such things as health, education and material wealth seem to dominate with little thought given to the living environment. So, in the debate about inequalities the same elements – health, education and wealth – feature large particularly the latter with no attention given to the gross inequalities that exist in this country in the quality of the living environment.
As a public sector retiree I am fortunate to be fairly comfortably provided financially and like many in similar circumstances I invest most of my accumulated and continuing wealth in living in a nice house with adequate space, a sizeable garden and with a pleasant outlook. Yet so many of my fellow citizens are forced to live in small houses – few civilized countries have such small domestic dwellings – in ugly surroundings and little if any privacy.
Churchill said “ we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
We need to pay much more attention to the shape of our buildings and to the dire impact so much of our misshapen environment has on the nation’s wellbeing and mental health.
Three quarters of general practice teams (76%) spend over half their time doing patient documentation according to research commissioned by Nuance Communications (www.nuance.co.uk).
The volume, the backlog, and the quality (completeness and accuracy) of patient and administrative documentation were all cited as key challenges by GP managers with regard to the practice workload and management of patient records (87%, 43% and 46% respectively).
Many GP practices look to new technology to support them in this process, with a third of practice managers (33.3%) claiming that better technology would improve the paperwork workload in their practice.
However, the majority of practice managers (70%) stated that funding is a key challenge when implementing new technology, with the time and people resources also listed as significant hurdles (67% and 63% respectively). IT knowledge and experience was cited as a barrier by two in five of doctors (40%), while data security and privacy was a concern for just 22 per cent.
Further key findings include:
· Just 10 per cent of GPs use speech recognition technology to support the team with patient documentation / paperwork processes
· Over 83 per cent of practices who use speech recognition technology reported a positive impact upon patient documentation / paperwork processes at their practice
· 90 per cent of practice managers and doctors say that the creation and processing of patient documentation is a burden to their practice
· Half of GP practices (48.5%) report that over half their patient documentation is paper not electronic
Three quarters (75%) of people aged 45 or over are not putting any money aside for their elderly care while one in ten (9%) are saving less than £50 a month.
- 31% of over 45’s believe they will live until they are at least 81 years of age
- 34% believe the state will pay but the reality is that most of us will have to pay for our own care, as those with over £23,250 of assets will not get support from the state
- 75% of people aged 45 or over are not putting any money aside for their elderly care
- 17% don’t anticipate needing elderly care. 13% say that they don’t know where the funds for elderly care will come from
- Two million elderly people in the UK alone have a care related need and four million will need daily help by 2029
- Almost 40% are pessimistic about getting older with 66% claiming their biggest fears are having poor health and being a burden on their children
This is according to new research by SuperCarers, the personal online service matching the needs of families with safe, reliable and compassionate caregivers, which is on a mission to disrupt the UK’s archaic, expensive and inefficient care system.
The research highlighted a growing sense of financial complacency regarding paying for elderly care. Indeed more than two in five (42%) people aged 45 and over think they will be able to pay for their elderly care through personal savings. A third (34%) think the state will pay. This is despite the fact that currently the cap on when an individual’s care costs can be supported by the state, stands at £23,250. A further 33% said it would be with equity from their home.
The research canvassed the views of over a 1,000 people aged 45 and over also showed that 17% don’t actually anticipate needing elderly care with 13% feeding back that they don’t know where the funds for elderly care would come from.
This is in spite of the reality that two million elderly people in the UK alone have a care related need and four million will need daily help by 2029. Furthermore it is expected that by 2025 there will be a deficit of 600,000 carers in spite of this increasing demand.
The biggest concerns people have about getting old include having poor health (66%), not being very mobile (55%), not being financially well off enough to do what they want (45%) and losing their partner and feeling lonely (44%). The research also showed that one in ten (10%) people believe they will be a burden on their children as they get older.
Only a fifth (20%) of people are either optimistic or very optimistic about getting older, with men being more optimistic (24%) than women (16%). Almost four in ten (39%) are either pessimistic or very pessimistic about getting older. People who are most optimistic about getting older are in Northern Ireland (50%), the North East (29%), London (27%) and the East (25%). The least optimistic are those living in the North West (17%) and the South West (12%).
More than one in seven (13%) believe they will pass away between the ages of 76 and 80; 17% think it will be between the ages of 81 – 85 and 12% think they will be aged between 86-90. Three per cent thought they would live to 100+.
Adam Pike, CEO and Co-Founder of SuperCarers, said: “The statistics show just how little planning is taking place by those aged 45 or over in terms of preparing for elderly care in spite of an ageing population and the reality that four million people will need daily help by 2029. Considering the impact of growing old is often put off until it is too late and even though our research highlights there are clear concerns for health in later life, it seems that preparing financially for future care requirements isn’t as high up on the agenda as it should be.
“There is little faith in the UK’s care system as overpriced, poor quality service has become the norm. There is no wonder that there is a lot of negativity about later life and fear about how care is going to be paid for. This is something we want to change! SuperCarers believes that by empowering and connecting people care can become more personal, reliable and consistent. We are determined to simplify finding, monitoring and paying for care, easing the burden on many UK families struggling to cope.”
The research also showed that people don’t believe that leaders of the main UK political parties have a strategy in place for our ageing population: 57% agree that leaders definitely don’t have a strategy in place while 31% are not sure whether they have a strategy in place or not. The view on UK political party leaders gets worse as people get older: 69% of those aged 65+ think they don’t have a strategy in place (55% for those aged 45-54).
Sustainability and transformation plans ( STP ) for local health and social care services are provoking strong feelings inside and outside the NHS. One of the first STPs to be published was in NW London, and here is a critique of it by local campaigners”.
The STP was produced under enormous time pressure at the behest of NHS England to cut an enormous amount of money from the budget.
- The STP offers NO evidence that £1.3bn can be cut from the NW London area between 2017 and 2021 without significant damage to our health.
- The STP offers NO evidence, clinical and financial, that an enormous transformation of acute and primary care can be rushed through over such a short period of time.
- The STP offers NO evidence as to how closing two acute hospitals and losing more than 500 beds can enhance provision for local people.
- The STP offers NO evidence that enormously complex ‘lifestyle’ changes can be engineered to improve the health of the local community within half a decade.
- The STP gives NO explanation as to how ACPs can work in practice without turning great parts of our NHS over to private corporations.
- The STP has neither been put before the public, nor before Parliament, and therefore lacks legitimacy.
- The STP should be withdrawn.
It would be more helpful if CCGs demanded of their paymasters that spending on the NHS be raised at least to the average level of spending across the European Union.
Save Our Hospitals: Hammersmith and Charing Cross is a resident-led non-party political campaign group made up of people from all sections of the community, campaigning against the closure of vital acute services at Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals and other NW London hospitals such as Ealing, and against damaging reconfigurations of local NHS provision across NW London.
We have carefully studied the published Draft STP for NW London. We hope that this critique of the STP will receive careful scrutiny by both the local CCGs and by NHS England, and that we receive, before the final submission date for STPs of December 23rd 2016 a detailed response to the issues we raise.
What is clear, in reading the document, is that the STP is essentially about cuts. The STP aims to cut a notional deficit of £1.3bn and turn that into a surplus of £55m by 2020 and all of the policy options put forward claim to produce this financial outcome. The driver is clearly financial rather than clinical. The demand is that NW London footprint will contribute to NHSE’s objective to cut £22bn+, at the behest of the Government, from NHS budgets by 2020. All clinical proposals etc have to work within that financial ‘cage’.
The team who have put together the NW London STP have worked under considerable pressure to produce it to a risible deadline under conditions of semi-secrecy for which NHSE is responsible.
We believe this STP cannot achieve the significant financial savings it sets out to achieve without significantly damaging the health of local people. Further, we note the lack of detail across all the delivery areas. We are deeply concerned at the lack of clinical and financial evidence to support the plans.
STPs in fact have no democratic mandate, and this STP has involved minimal engagement and no effective consultation to date.
There has been NO public consultation on the formative stages of the NW London STP and, indeed, it has only been seen by local residents as a result of a Freedom of Information request, following which it was published. Our critique, therefore, relates to a document in which the public had no say.
In September 2016, NHSE published a document, Engaging local people: a guide for local areas developing Sustainability and Transformation Plans, ironically well after the June submission date for CCGs to submit their draft STPs. It is worth quoting from this document:
… we need robust local engagement plans as part of the STP process (p4)
It is essential that the STP partners in every area have an ongoing dialogue with patients, volunteers, carers, clinicians and other staff, citizens, the local voluntary and community sector, local government officers and local politicians … And local areas may wish to consider how to engage people who live outside the footprint area but access health and care services within it and may therefore be affected by footprint proposals. (p.7)
Consultation must take place when the proposal is still at a formative stage … sufficient reasons must be put forward for the proposal to allow for intelligent consideration and response … adequate time must be given for consideration and response … decision makers must properly consider the material produced by the consultation. (p.11)
And, of key importance:
Service change must be evidence-based, and this evidence should be publicly available during the consultation and decision-making stages. (p.12)
STPs have been submitted, in June, to NHSE without any sort of consultation. Indeed, it took a FOI request to get the NW London STP into the public domain and it is still the case that most parts of England have yet to see their STP.
Since NHSE’s document stresses the need for consultation at a formative stage, it is difficult to know how this can be the case when there has been no input from the public, or anyone, to plans to date. Further, the second draft of the STP is to be submitted by Oct. 21st, the engagement (not consultation) has been limited to a few ‘town hall’ type meetings where the agenda has essentially been a sales job, without any evidence being presented to the public to back up any assertion in the STP. In effect, the public have been asked to take the proposals in the STP as a matter of faith. Indeed, an officer of H&F CCG said in a Patients Reference Group that we needed to have faith – this was in response to a request for evidence!
We concur with the response to the STP from Brent Patient Voice that ‘the STP is an extremely difficult document to analyse for a whole number of reasons … Many sections are based on unpublished documents and, most significantly of all, financial presentations using figures ‘plucked out of the air’. Readers are in effect being asked to sign up to articles of faith.’ (p. 3)
We have also learned from a councillor in RBKC that the scrutiny committee members there were invited on Friday 14th October to comment on the draft STP by noon on Monday 17th. As pointed out by the councillor:
This is typical of the lack of effective consultation over this plan which threatens the future of Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals, is expected to lead to the loss of at least 500 acute beds, and to ‘save’ £1.3 billion from health budgets over the next 5 years.
The revised plan is 58 pages long and is a complex document. Less than three days over a weekend is clearly insufficient time for busy Councillors to absorb and comment in detail on the proposals.
The councillor is pointing to the fact that one of the largest changes in the history of the NHS is being rushed through behind the backs of the public and their elected representatives.
There is a long history in NW London of the local community asking for evidence – initially for the proposals in Shaping a Healthier Future and now in regard to the draft STP. We have attended CCG and Imperial Trust board meetings and also had a meeting with the management of Imperial in order to have our questions answered about evidence. We have been promised, repeatedly over four years, that we will be provided with the evidence to back up claims that acute services can safely be reduced. We have never received this evidence. At the ‘engagement’ meeting held by H&F CCG on October 3rd, we were promised that the Chair of SOH would be sent the background papers showing evidence that, both financially and clinically, the proposals were safe. Yet again, the evidence has not arrived.
We can only conclude that this evidence does not exist. When public bodies know that things will work, they produce the evidence!
In commenting on some of the detail of the draft STP, we will include key examples where no clinical evidence is referenced to show how a transformation might work. Nor is there referenced evidence that some of the changes in clinical strategy would, of themselves, reduce the need for acute beds within a footprint. We will also indicate some of the (many) areas where there is no evidence to support the financial ‘savings’ or expenditure on ‘transformations’.
In what follows we focus on the core delivery areas as outlined in the STP. We have not, however, commented on every detail but have concentrated on examples of the issues that we are concerned about.
DELIVERY AREA 1: RADICALLY UPGRADING PREVENTION AND WELLBEING
What is clear is that no one is going to be opposed to preventing illness and maintaining wellbeing!
From the outset, the STP recognises that those in poverty (which has to include those in badly paid jobs), lacking of work, in poor housing and socially isolated are at a higher risk of poor health and that these factors can cause poor health.
We do not see how poverty, low pay, unemployment and poor housing can be ameliorated by any of the particular proposals in the STP. These areas need to be tackled by both central and local government. But this is in the context of continual austerity cuts from central government, which also include huge cuts to local government expenditure over the next 5 years. How can the factors that are implicated in poor health be addressed significantly in this context?
Further, there is no evidence presented to show that encouraging people to adopt more healthy ways of living is feasible within a short time frame. ‘Lifestyle changes’ take time and concerted action. Only recently Public Health England pointed out that figures for those smoking had fallen to their lowest level in 50 years, but that it is still the case that 1 in 6 adults is still a smoker. To achieve this reduction has taken decades of education, media coverage, tax rises on smoking products, legislation to prevent smoking in public places, etc. The admirable objective to cut obesity figures, for example, will require a similar concerted public programme addressing complex questions of poverty, regulation of the food and drinks industry, taxing of unhealthy foods, education as well as health provision. There is no clear clinical evidence that the aims for healthier living, however worthy, can be achieved in the time scale presented or at a local level.
The STP aims to invest a modest amount of money to enhance prevention and well-being while making vast cuts to the budget – in fact, a net saving of £11.6m in this area. Where is the evidence that the small investment in preventive and well-being budgets can deliver so that there are savings of £11.6m? To be convinced, we need to see detailed financial modelling of this, together with the clinical evidence that the strategies can work within the required time scale. Without this, it seems we are living in cloud cuckoo land!
Social isolation is mentioned as an important determinant of ill health. We accept this, but also would like it recognised that poor mental health may itself be a determinant of isolation – it is not always a one-way process! The financing of services which might help to mitigate social isolation is given as £500,000 – or £12,500 per borough per year, while the saving is given as £6.6m. It is extraordinary that an investment of so little could accomplish so much, both in reducing social isolation and saving such an enormous sum, and over such a short period of time. This seems like fantasy. Could we please see the evidence – clinical and financial – that such a turnabout could possibly happen. (We might also ask why it hasn’t already been done, given that SaHF has been around for more than 4 years.)
DELIVERY AREA 2: ELIMINATING VARIATION AND IMPROVING LONG TERM CONDITION MANAGEMENT
There are several difficulties in understanding what is meant in parts of this DA. What is the evidence for clinical variation and for its costs to the NHS in NW London? Indeed, what are the variations being addressed? Here we are given bland and rather meaningless statements.
How do you know that people have a mental health problem if it is not diagnosed?
Further, ‘long-term condition’ is never adequately defined. What is meant by this?
Where is the evidence that services can be delivered effectively within budget constraints – a cost of £2m and a savings of £124m for ‘Right Care’ priority areas? What pilots have been carried out for this and how can small pilots be rolled out to a vast population? The discrepancy between investment and vast savings is such that one wonders if the second figure is a misprint!
Further, two core areas in this DA have no costing or savings listed.
In terms of improving self-management, the use of personal care budgets is promoted as a core way forward. These are highly controversial and there has been no public consultation about whether this is an appropriate way forward. A key question here is what happens if someone with a personal care budget exhausts the budget without ameliorating the condition. Will this lead to patients paying for additional, necessary, treatment? Is this a back door method of introducing charging?
DELIVERY AREA 3: ACHIEVING BETTER OUTCOMES AND EXPERIENCES FOR OLDER PEOPLE
A substantial saving envisaged in the STP (£132.7m) seems to come from this segment of the population – ironically the segment of the population that has paid into the NHS for an entire working life. Further, the tone of this section will rightly alarm many older people and their families and neighbours.
A further irony is the statement that a ‘market analysis of older people’s care’ will be undertaken at a time when private providers are withdrawing from the care home market on the grounds that they cannot make sufficient profit. Indeed, the CQC has very recently pointed out that the care sector as a whole is at risk (see The Guardian 13 October 2016; also in BBC and Telegraph on same day). As well as closures of private care homes there has also been a steady decline in the number of local authority places for older people. There have also been a seemingly unending number of reports of poor and maltreatment of older people in care contexts over the last few years.
The entire NW London provision for older people’s care services is proposed as being provided by a single Accountable Care Partnership, with joint agreement about the model of integration with local government commissioned care and support services. This is to be provided on a per capita basis. What evidence might be being used to determine the population included in this, the variety of conditions covered (is it all health needs for older people), the relationship with individuals GPs etc? It is a cynical exercise to suggest that £25.1m can be saved in this area, without any investment at all.
What is the relationship between an ACP and GPs? As this is not explained, it is difficult to know just how care for older people is to be delivered!
Will the market analysis also include an evaluation of the costs to older people of care outside hospitals? This is an issue which has never been addressed in the more than four years since SaHF was mooted.
Key to the implementation of new models of local services is the downgrading of Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals as sites for ‘the older persons (frailty) service’. Despite repeated questioning, the CCGs have given no detail of the kinds of care offered to older people at these sites, the number of older people to be treated in these institutions, the levels and kinds of staffing to be available which could be anything from consultants to care assistants, what the budget for such provision would be, ETC! It is hard not to think that these are simply seen as dumping grounds for older people. This is even more the case when other services which might exist at these hospitals have not been made clear. The definition of a ‘local hospital’ has not been clarified over the past 4+ years despite repeated requests, let alone the services for the elderly which now seem to have been prioritised for these two hospitals.
It is absolutely correct that people at the end of life should be able to spend their last days in their preferred place of care. For many this will be home, for many a local hospice and for some an acute hospital bed. It is very useful to ensure people in their last stage of life are able jointly to make care plans. However, end of life care in the community cannot be delivered on the cheap and cannot not be viewed as an easy way of making savings.
The STP fails adequately to plan and cost for the increased numbers of district nurses, palliative care specialists, GP cover, Marie Curie services, equipment and necessary skilled carers. The issue of a lack of capacity in our local hospices is not addressed. The lack of detail here is very concerning. There is no data provided on current demand and current provision – another failure to provide evidence. Finally, the problem of how to recruit to these specialist roles, given current vacancy rates, has not been addressed. Indeed, it is not even clear that NW London will retain its current staffing level in this area, leading to a possible further deterioration.
The STP seems to believe that non-elective admissions for patients in their last phase of life can be reduced by 50%. As we have shown above, this seems to be highly unlikely without substantial investment in care outside an acute hospital. Yet the plan seems to indicate that the savings will be significantly greater than the cost. Given the ‘cost cutting’ theme throughout the STP it is not surprising if some people fear community palliative care is seen primarily as a way of saving money.
We also have strong reservations about the link between care for the elderly and use of digital technology. Many of the services required by older people require the expertise of trained nurses to check, for example, dehydration – a common cause of death and suffering for older people. Digital technology is not good at recognising how people, particularly older people, signify health problems through changes in body language and actual physical examination. Further, there seems to be no account taken of the fact that older people are not as digitally minded as younger cohorts and further, that with greater levels of dementia, use of technology becomes problematic.
DELIVERY AREA 4: IMPROVING OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS
It is widely recognised that care for mental health needs is in a sorry state across the country. There is little in this delivery area to give any confidence that there will be much additional help in NW London for those with mental health conditions, whether children or adults. The stated aims are unspecific and, more worryingly, uncosted.
While more support in primary care would clearly be helpful, there seems to be no account taken of earlier attempts to provide care in the community for those with mental health problems. As reported by the BBC on 6th Oct ’16, the suicide rate for patients with mental health problems cared for in the community is three times the number of those cared for in hospitals. Further, there is anecdotal evidence that beds are not available for patients going through a crisis when needed and that they are shunted around various hospitals across London. On the same day as the BBC report, the Metropolitan Police complained that they were having to detain people with mental health problems in police cells without any training as to how to provide adequate care as no hospital help was available.
That three sections of DA4 are uncosted is a clear indication of the inadequacy of planning to meet actual needs, whether in acute or primary settings.
While, at the H&F engagement meeting (3rd Oct, 2016), Dr Spicer, Chair of H&F CCG, stated that the actual % of monies to be spent on mental health (8% of total budget) would not be reduced, this is hardly reassuring when this does not take into account inflation and when it is absolutely clear that MORE is needed to provide even adequate care.
It is also the case, as explained to us by Dr Tracey Batten in late 2014, that a high proportion of those who seek treatment for physical conditions in A&E also have high levels of mental health problems. There is no indication of what might happen to this group if the A&Es at Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals were to close.
Because of social pressure, not least from the digital environment, increasing numbers of young people are experiencing mental health problems. There is, despite this and despite the title of DA4, very little that explicitly addresses the problems of/for younger people.
The ‘promise’ to extend out of hours service initiatives for children, providing evening and weekend specialist services (CAMHS) hardly seems adequate to meet the dramatic rise in the number of children needing mental health support, as shown by NHSE figures (see The Guardian, 24 Oct ’16), following many other detailed reports over several months across all responsible media. The NHS recognises an immense rise in self-harming, suicide attempts, and dramatic rise in the number of people needing A&E and then acute care. Sarah Brennan, quoted in The Guardian, refers to cuts in social workers, educational psychologists, parenting classes and mental health services in schools as reducing support for under-18s in distress. She goes on to say:
The pressure on CAMHS has forced services to raise the bar for access to treatment. About a quarter of young people are being turned away and this will include many who self-harm. At the moment too many vulnerable children go to A&E because no other help is available.
Even Jeremy Hunt has severely criticised NHS care of troubled young people! CAMHS were the ‘biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision’ and were beset by ‘big problems’ including failure to intervene early enough when problems such as eating disorders emerge, which meant ‘too many tragedies’. (Also reported in The Guardian article.)
This whole delivery area is woefully lacking in detail, clinically and financially. Children and adults with mental health needs deserve much better than this.
DELIVERY AREA 5: ENSURING WE HAVE SAFE, HIGH QUALITY SUSTAINABLE ACUTE SERVICES
It is shocking but not surprising that acute services are subsumed under sustainability i.e. cuts. It is equally shocking that the proposal to downgrade two acute hospitals is still envisaged in this report.
Following the closure of Central Middlesex A&E and Hammersmith A&E, there was a significant deterioration in A&E performances at other hospitals. The argument that this was a result of a national trend can, at best, only be partly the case. The other A&E departments in NW London, which had previously been top A&E performers in meeting targets, fell to the bottom of the league table.
Further, these problems have not been resolved! Hospitals across NW London are already working to and beyond capacity. There have been occasions when not a single bed has been available in NW London. Moreover, this problem has been acknowledged publicly, at Board meetings of Imperial, by Dr Tracey Batten, CEO. There is no sign of any improvement on the horizon, let alone evidence that unproven out of hospitals care can reduce the need for acute hospital beds.
We have been told that neither Charing Cross nor Ealing Hospitals will close until there is clear evidence that alternative provision is available and can work. This would be reassuring if it were not the case that the STP clearly signals that Ealing hospital is under imminent threat of closure. Over the last 18 months several departments (Maternity, Paediatrics) have been closed down resulting in a blight effect on staff recruitment. To then claim that the hospital is ‘unsafe’ is a disingenuous strategy to get rid of the hospital regardless of need.
The closure of Ealing Hospital would be a major loss to the local health community. In addition, the closure would add to the stress on other hospitals across NW London, as well as putting more pressure on existing primary care. For a document that claims to address the social determinants of health, there is no recognition that users of Ealing Hospital will have further to travel, with additional travel costs. There is also little recognition of the specific communities that live in Ealing borough, for whom local services are crucial. There is a passing mention of ethnic and cultural diversity in the STP, but this is then simply ignored in the plans for provision.
Four years of questions from local residents, council leaders and local MPs have failed to elicit from the CCG what they envisage doing with Charing Cross. Indeed, it was claimed that Charing Cross is not part of the STP plan because any reconfiguration involving Charing Cross will take place post-current STP plans. Yet its closure as an acute hospital remains within the plan. We know that it was only at Dr Batten’s insistence that it has been stated that reconfiguration of Charing Cross will not take place until appropriate alternative provision is in place.
It is worth quoting here from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (Feb. 2016):
Any reconfiguration proposal must start by considering the needs of the communities served. Thus the key issue is the impact on patients and patient care at site from which services will be removed or reduced. Secondary, though important, are the consequences for services at sites that would be required to absorb the diverted patient flows. The additional stress on local primary care systems must also be considered.
Save Our Hospitals believes that none of these concerns have been adequately addressed.
The RCEM statement continues:
- Relocating services has a disproportionate effect on the very young, the very old, patients with mental health issues and those with chronic illness or reduced mobility.
- Relocation also has a greater impact on poorer socioeconomic groups through difficulties with transport….
- Increased travel times are associated with worse outcomes for some patient groups with serious illness.
- The increased demands on ambulance services brought about by longer transport times are seldom properly modelled….
- Short-term staffing shortages cannot be a rationale for permanent reconfigurations. Longer term patient outcomes will be compromised….
The amount of traditional A&E work that can be undertaken by the replacement unit (such as a GP- or nurse-led urgent care centre) is likely to be grossly over-estimated. This is especially true of patients who arrive by ambulance, the majority of whom will require the resources of the parent department.
The King’s Fund have demonstrated that the cost efficiencies associated with such reconfiguration are largely illusory.
It is worth noting that much of the rationale for closing acute services at Ealing and Charing Cross is based on limited pilots of schemes to transfer care into the community. While we have received at various meetings reports of some of these limited pilots, there has been no evidence presented that their success will lead to less need for acute provision, particularly in a context where NW London is experiencing population growth and where there is a significant increase in older people who have more care needs. Nor have the cost implications of these pilots been provided when they are rolled out to large communities. We do not believe that they will either reduce the population needing acute beds or cut costs.
Like most of the public, we know that health care is already available 7 days a week at hospitals, A&Es and UCCs. We do not understand how a full 7 day service can be rolled out without major investment in staff, in hospital equipment, in back-up services including cleaning and ensuring that hospitals are not a source of infection themselves.
In the rest of the paper, we take up specific issues rather than responding to the STP as structured.
The STP does not supply sufficiently robust data on population growth and potential patient growth across NW London. On p.14, the STP notes that there are currently 2.1m residents and 2.3m registered patients. We would also like to note that part of the population may not be accounted for. This includes homeless people, a rising number, who frequently have physical and mental health conditions. In addition, there are large groups of migrant workers who live in various boroughs in NW London for significant periods of time and may not have registered with NHS services.
Additionally, there is significant population growth across the footprint area. For example, in H&F it is estimated that c. 25,000 additional people may be living at the Old Oak site by the end of this decade. There is also significant growth expected at Earls Court and around the Wembley area. In fact, each borough will undergo population growth over the period of the planning for the STP, and thereafter. There is no evidence that this growth has been taken into account. This has been a major issue from the inception of SaHF and still evidence has not been presented to indicate that the health needs of a growing population can be met. It is not the case that these figures are not available. Local authorities use this population data to plan their own services e.g. education.
The STP is opaque about the place and organisation of GP services in the future. With primary care central to moving patients out of hospital or preventing hospitalisation, we need to be much clearer about the organisation of GP services and how patients will access these.
We understand that GP services are currently under great stress, as elsewhere in London. We know that locally a large number of GPs are aged 55 or above which means that they are coming up to retirement. Furthermore, we know that recruitment to GP practices is very difficult. At the H&F consultation meeting, Dr Spicer, Chair of the CCG, stated categorically that there is unlikely to be an increase in the number of GPs, despite the assumption that more care will be provided outside acute hospitals. There is a national shortage of GPs. The increase (25%) in trainees promised by the Secretary of State for Health will not provide enough GPs or other doctors once trained, let alone in the short term. Patients will also not be confident that their needs are being met as ‘physician associates’ are trained and moved into GP practices and seeing patients to relieve the pressure on GPs. This is a cost-cutting device.
For a very high percentage of the population, a GP surgery is the first port of call for someone who is feeling unwell. And we know that bonds of trust between patient and doctors and practices are built up over a period of time. A doctor familiar with a patient is best placed to recognise changes in physical and mental health conditions.
It is unclear from the proposals for strengthening GP federations and increasing health care ‘hubs’, whether there is to be a reduction in the number of actual surgeries across the footprint. If this is the case, then the local knowledge build up by GP surgeries of their local population will be lost, as a surgery generally draws its patient group from its immediate locality. Currently GPs identify key social determinants of poor health. Ironically, social isolation is mentioned as a social determinant of wellbeing. Yet there seems to be a case being put forward in the STP for cutting off or diminishing the direct contact between patient and GP. Contacting an ‘anonymous’ hub will discourage many patients from making appointments etc sufficiently early.
As indicated above, we are deeply concerned that reorganisation of GP services will mean the loss of the link between an individual patient and his/her GP or GP practice. What evidence is there that GPs would be happy about this? Have they been consulted as individual GPs rather than through so-called representation on the CCGs? We have noted the concerns raised by the London LMC about GP provision. Dr Michelle Drage, LMC Chief Executive, has said recently:
“Our general practices are the backbone of the NHS – providing for 90% of patients’ needs on a paltry eight percent of its budget – and falling.”
The NHS Five Year Forward View provided a vision of transferring investment from acute trusts to primary care, more GP training posts, better premises and above all “stabilising core funding for general practice nationally over the next two years”. To secure the future of general practice for Londoners we need more resource and more support. And we need it now, before it is too late.
It is also well established that doctors base their diagnoses not simply on what the patient says, on notes and technical data, but also on body language and actual examination (Dr Tony Grewal, former London director, LMC). We do not at all underestimate the advances to medical care provided by video, computer analysis, smart phones etc. But for many patients, face to face contact with a doctor is a prime way of developing trust. This is particularly the case in NW London which has a highly diverse ethnic population, speaking many languages, with a diversity of cultures and a growing number of older people. A strengthening of GP services should be a prime aid to ‘wellness’ in our area.
It is also worth noting here not just that appropriate access to digital facilities is not available to everybody and also that digital systems have a habit of breaking down – not useful if GP consultations, to save money, take place electronically.
STAFF AND CARERS
SOH has consistently expressed its huge appreciation of NHS staff who find themselves in the frontline of providing services under increasingly difficult circumstances. As Sir Richard Sykes has told us in public (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhYva5_0API ), there is no scope for further efficiency savings in hospitals and we are ‘killing’ our NHS staff through overwork. It is good to see such a frank appreciation of NHS staff from somebody so highly placed!
The STP recognises serious workforce shortages and problems in recruitment and retention, with overdependence on agency staff (p.35). But there seems to be little detail of how shortages, a London-wide problem, can be tackled locally. Nothing is said, for example, about the costs of living in London – a major deterrent and a cause of skilled staff moving elsewhere or to better paid agency work. Levels of pay for nurses and other ancillary staff are not addressed. Nor is workload.
What is also disturbing is the statement that there will be ‘a 50% reduction in workforce development funding for staff in Trusts’. Does this reduction depend on the reconfiguration of acute trusts? Does this mean that this sum will only apply to Ealing, if it ceases to be an acute hospital, since Charing Cross is not to be downgraded in the short term? It is not clear what the figure refers to, but it is alarming. Further, it is not clear just what the spend will be on ‘Workforce Transformation to support new ways of working’. This entire section is written in corporate obfuscatory prose when detail is needed to indicate that the STP has a strategy rather than a pious wish.
NHS staff and patients deserve better than this.
We find it extraordinary that UNPAID CARERS are included in the workforce! Indeed, with 103,001 unpaid carers, they are a majority of healthcare ‘providers’ in NW London. There is no analysis of who these unpaid ‘staff’ are, what support they receive or what pressures they face. Indeed, the thrust of the STP closing acute facilities will pile additional pressure on carers without medical training, often at breaking point, so many will feel unable to cope. It would also seem to imply that the number of such carers should increase. A much more detailed analysis, with clear evidence, urgently needs to be provided about carers, their dependents, the work they are doing and the support they receive, including costings. It is also important to recognise that these carers are often the most vulnerable to other cuts in social care and welfare budgets.
We also note that, while there are currently 1,284 pharmacists mentioned in the STP, and these are seen as a front-line service that could reduce pressures on GPs, it is also the case that the government is set to cut 12% funding from community pharmacies over the next two years. This could lead to the loss of up to 3,000 pharmacies (see http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/up-to-3000-pharmacies-could-close-after-government-cuts-mps-warn/20200553.article ) – and undoubtedly would affect NW London where costs are higher.
More generally, there is no evidence provided that health care staff have been consulted on the STP proposals in any meaningful fashion.
It is shocking that it seems that NHS staff are to be pressurised into becoming ‘advocates for the STP’ (see the presentation by Dr Mohini Parmar at the JHOSC, 14 Oct ’16 at Ealing Town Hall). We are not clear that an employer has a right to require staff to undertake this; staff need to feel able to be critical and when necessary to be whistle blowers. We need assurances that staff will not be required to be advocates for the STP either as a condition of employment or otherwise.
CARE IN COMMUNITY COSTS – WHO PAYS?
One of the key thrusts of the STP is the movement of health provision away from acute services and into ‘the community’. It is not at all clear whether this is a move to primary care or to social services care – or a mixture of each. We have already, above, noted the intense pressure on primary care and we are alarmed if the STP entails putting people back into social service care at a time when it is widely recognised that social service budgets have been systematically cut in recent years and are due to be cut further each year up to 2020.
Neither the Better Care Fund nor promised transfers of monies from the STP developments to social care can make up for the heavy cuts which all social care budgets face under the current austerity regime.
Nobody expects there will be sufficient additional money from central Government to pay for a significant expansion of social care eventuating from cuts to acute and other hospital care.
In fact, there are fundamental worries here. Patients treated within the NHS acute, hospital and primary care services currently receive treatment ‘free at the point of delivery’. However social care is customarily means-tested and payment or co-payment by patients/clients. Is there an attempt, in the STP, to move care away from ‘free at the point of delivery’ to make patients pay, or part-pay, for services? This would be a fundamental change to the NHS. Again, this is an issue which SOH has been asking local health authorities to clarify since the inception of SaHF. We still don’t know! In other words, there has been no specific information published about which services might be means-tested and which services will be provided free of charge under the STP.
It is also worth noting that the move to standardise provision across the footprint area has not taken any note of differences between local authorities in charging policies for various forms of social care. Surely this is also a key element if unnecessary variation in outcomes is a desired aim.
As noted in the section on Sustainable Acute Services, there are major issues around the effects on patients of having to travel further for care – this applies both to acute care and more generally to other hospital care and primary care. It is an issue that has consistently been ignored by both H&F CCG and Imperial College Health Care Trust. Put bluntly, closures of services and reconfiguration will have damaging effects on the most vulnerable who will have to travel further to and from health care services and, in many cases, will have to pay additional sums for travel. This may also affect large numbers of unpaid carers.
THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
We will not repeat concerns we have expressed earlier in the paper about over-dependence on technological services for health provision.
We do, however, want to raise key issues of security, privacy and patient agreement to sharing data (and who it is shared with). Some of the proposals involve very large numbers of people being able to access and use data on individual patients. This of course can be a very positive aspect of team work with the patient but there is nothing in the STP to show sufficient security both for individuals and of databases from hacking, nor to ensure informed consent. We would also note that there have been cases of anonymised patient data being sold on to private corporate bodies. This is something that should also have patient consent.
It is clear that governance of data is already a genuine concern with some of the initiatives taken in NW London. For example, in April 2015 the Nuffield Trust conducted an evaluation of the NW London WSIC since its inception in April 2013 (http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/sites/files/nuffield/publication/integrated-care-north-west-london-experience_0.pdf) and concluded that there were serious governance issues including those in relation to consent, that it was deviating from its purpose and it was seriously behind schedule and over budget (actual cost: £25M).
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Already in NW London there is a very complex governance system which the public finds difficult to understand or engage with. The STP is to cover 8 boroughs and is to have an executive group at the peak of the STP which does not appear to be accountable either to local government or to the public. It is not clear locally, and even less so in the STP, who is responsible for decision-making, who will carry the can if and when things go wrong. How can the public, as apart from small selected groups (e.g. voluntary groups who depend on the CCG for funding), influence decision-making and seek redress? Even the small number of elected councillors on the overarching STP body seems more decorative than involved as actual decision-makers – it is not clear that they can speak for each and every council caught up in the STP.
We are deeply concerned that this overarching body may be given delegated powers. This is undemocratic and reduces even further accountability.
As the planning, to date, of the STP has been carried out in semi-secrecy, we can have no confidence in the management structure being able to respond to the health demands of the public and questions raised by residents in the NW London area. Indeed, it is significant that at the JHOSC meeting on 14th October ’16, core questions asked by councillors and by the chair were treated evasively and no clear answers were given.
ACCOUNTABLE CARE PARTNERSHIPS
The first thing we would like to note here, is that ACPs are an importation of Accountable Care Organisation in the USA. These have been a key mechanism for attracting private corporations to provide health care and boost their profits.
As we understand it, ACPs will be consortia of NHS Trusts, CCGs, local authorities, GP federations and private and charitable care organisations. It seems that, by 2021, all healthcare and social care services are to be delivered by ACPs who will be given long-term fixed price contracts which will be based on a ‘capitation’ method.
At the Imperial Board AGM in September ’16, held at St Pauls Church, Hammersmith, a ‘pilot’ of collaborative work was presented to attendees. Quite apart from the limitations of the pilot, because of not getting informed consent to share data from an overwhelming majority of patients approached, it was also significant that Prof. Tim Orchard stated that, from this study, it was clear that the integration of medicine and social ‘can be fiendishly difficult’. This was a very small scale study with high staff to patient ratio. It seems that there has been little work done to see how ACPs can be rolled out across the footprint effectively by 5 ACPs and within a limited budget.
Within the STP, it is proposed that there be 5 ACPS in NW London, servicing specific populations of 500,000 – 1 million people. What is not provided is either a clear financial plan for how this might work or how, if budgets are exceeded, care will continue to be provided. It is also the case that nothing in the STP explains how patients with a variety of conditions could be catered for within one ACP. Does this imply that more than one ACP might be responsible for a single patient? Some patients have complex conditions – or their health needs change. How is the continuity of care ensured?
These ACP proposals have been introduced in an almost clandestine way. None of them has been discussed in Parliament; no Act of Parliament mandates any of these STP/ACPs. There is no clear indication of how they can be held both responsible and accountable, or of how they might be managed if they overspend their budgets. (It is important to note that a number of privatisations of care have collapsed because of financial issues.) Why has such a massive transformation of NHS provision not been put to the public nor even debated in Parliament?
It’s all about the money, isn’t it?
Chris Hopson, Chief Executive on NHS providers, told the House of Commons Select Hearing on 11th October that time constraints and unprecedented financial deficits facing NHS trusts risked ‘blowing up’ the STP schemes. Noting that the funding is going to drop, he pointed out that the set of figures just look completely undeliverable. He went on to say,
Our members are saying to us that they are spending quite a lot of time creating plans that in their view are not deliverable and usually involve major structural service changes, because that is the only way where they can create a balanced plan.
In NW London, plans to reconfigure health services have been on the agenda for more than four years. The public and local councils have been promised an Implementation Business Case for more than 2 years. This has yet to be provided and, at the JHOSC meeting in October, it was clear that one will not be seen for some time (if ever). It is also worth noting that this plan now relates only to estates and capital expenditure, whereas we were initially told that it would provide a business case for Shaping a Healthier Future in its entirety. Just knowing about ‘estates’ does not convince anyone that plans are going to be effective!
And even in considering ‘estates’, it is known that in the NW London area a register of NHS property deemed ‘surplus’ to requirement for health has already been drawn up. This register has never been published, the public are not aware of what estates are being considered for sell-off, nor whether sell-off will inhibit future health provision, in a context of a growing population, being developed. We DO know that the downgrading off Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals involves plans to sell off hospital land, but as yet there are no details of which parts of the hospitals are to be sold, of plans for redeveloping the land, nor of where the capital from the sales will go – how much is to be returned to the local health economy? Will these sales remove NHS land from public ownership, to the advantage of private developers?
The STP, much of which was also in SaHF, seems also to be based on an absence of sound financial planning. Although there are enormous ‘savings’ listed in the published draft STP, there is no clear evidence to say that ‘costs’ (where given) can be limited to the figures given and ‘savings’ (where given) can be achieved. It is virtually impossible to make more than broad general comments because of the lack of any working out of costs in relation to programmes. Taking the figures ‘on trust’ is not something we, or the public more widely, should be asked to accept.
When there is mention of savings by further efficiencies, the public knows that this is impossible because the NHS has reached the limit of saving possible from this route. No evidence is presented to indicate just where ‘efficiency savings’ can be made.
Nor is there any evidence presented to indicate that the switch to services outside acute care and the reconfigurations of primary and social care can be provided more cheaply than current services. Indeed, even if there was such evidence, innovations in their formative stages always involve additional investment and even long term don’t always lead to savings.
One additional factor needs to be looked at. Unbelievable as they are, the figures rushed out by the NW London STP were produced in a zero inflation era which is now finished. Already, post the Brexit referendum, inflation is heading to 1% and the Bank of England expects inflation to rise to 3% over the next year or so. This throws the hastily produced figures further into question.
Healthmatters dot org dot uk October 2016
Research has revealed that improving the quality and outcomes for patients at reduced costs (value-based healthcare) is dominating the NHS leadership agenda. More than eight in 10 (82 per cent) of NHS professionals are already looking to make changes in how they work to achieve this. A tenth of NHS workers can’t measure patient outcomes; vast majority only have a very limited ability to do so.
However, a meaningful rollout of value-based healthcare is very much in its infancy, with many admitting that their organisations are still not clear on the benefits of delivering integrated care. The study “Value-based healthcare: the ‘fix it’ strategy for the UK?”, commissioned by SAS, surveyed 200 professionals from across the NHS on their attitudes and practical progress towards delivering increased value from existing resources, and how well placed their IT systems are to support value-based healthcare.
In total, 64 per cent said the benefits are still not very well understood, which is almost double the number (36 per cent) of those that said their organisation understands the benefits very well.
This follows a recent warning from NHS Providers, the body that represents hospitals across England, that the NHS is close to breaking point and that achieving a seven-day NHS is ‘impossible under current funding levels’. The UK’s public healthcare system is undoubtedly facing relentless pressure to deliver more at lower costs. The research does suggest that more could be done to secure better value for patients and address discrepancies in performance.
Overall, one in 10 respondents said they can’t measure patient outcomes at all and the vast majority (66 per cent) have a very limited ability to measure patient outcomes. Currently only 11 per cent stated that they are able to measure the outcome of every medical intervention across the treatment cycle, while 14 per cent replied that they can measure outcomes and dynamically change treatment plans to optimise health results.
David Downing, Director of Health, SAS UK, said: “With the future of the NHS under scrutiny, the government and NHS providers are all desperately seeking the answer to how to deliver better quality of care without increasing the gaping budget chasm. In fact, with the funding gap facing the NHS potentially growing to £30 billion a year by 2021, organisations need to start taking ownership of delivering more patient value – and consequently more financial value – from their resources. Through always underpinning clinical experience with data-driven insights and collaboration and making every decision a “decision of value”, industry practitioners can analyse the status quo, model future possible scenarios and their outcomes, and ensure processes and treatment deliver optimal tangible value. The industry requires a step-change that puts patients at the core, rewarding quality and patient outcomes. By putting data front and centre, decisions can be founded on deep insights with less subjectivity and far greater objectivity.”
When it comes to the sensitive topic of budgeting and cost allocation, while the majority of respondents are still unable to measure costs in a way that will drive up operational, clinical and patient value, some creative thinking is being deployed. Overall, 57 per cent of industry practitioners are either already pooling or somewhat pooling budgets with their local authority. More than one in five are now measuring costs at the ‘micro’ medical condition level, recording the costs of treating a single ailment, and over a quarter (26 per cent) are measuring the complete cost of treating a patient from the first interaction all the way through the care cycle. However, the two most common ways costs are measured still fall at the wider macro level – monitoring overall budgets (44 per cent) and measuring aggregated costs by department (46 per cent).
As the NHS transitions towards a model of value-based healthcare, the good news is that 88 per cent of respondents regard their information technology systems as a key enabler of change. Healthcare officials are looking at new ways to improve access to medical treatment and advice. Yet, 79 per cent of respondents claim their current IT system is unable to support integrated, multi-disciplinary care, with systems largely incapable of delivering the required analyses.
“A new approach is needed that empowers the NHS to interpret clean, current and accurate data to so that demand for services can be forecast, new care pathways planned, treatment plans modelled and patient outcomes analysed. Only through developing new models of care, will the NHS start to achieve efficiency savings and address the decline in patient outcomes,” concluded Downing.
For more insight into value-based healthcare, you can download a copy of the report here.
PwC is calling for local areas to be given the power to raise funds for their regional health service. New research finds that 70% of NHS staff in England do not understand the role of the national bodies in the healthcare system. The report calls for the government to clarify the roles of these bodies and move to a more devolved system where local areas are given more accountability and responsibility.
- 70% of NHS staff in England say they do not understand role of national bodies
- Two in three say divide between health and social care is bad for patients<
- PwC report calls for merger of national institutions and new revenue-raising powers for local services
The report also calls for Health and Social Care to be brought under one department, away from the current system where social care sits with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The research shows that staff are also confused by the division between health and social care in the healthcare system.
PwC’s latest report Redrawing the Health and Social Care Architecture, looks at the future role of national bodies in the healthcare system and calls for radical devolution to local areas. PwC surveyed more than 1,000 NHS staff and over 2,000 members of the public in England to gain the views of both those within and outside of the system. The results show a high level of confusion and frustration across the board with the majority of NHS staff believing the entire system should be reformed:
- 71% of NHS staff in England want the healthcare system reformed;
- 66% of NHS staff in England are frustrated by the division between health and social care.
To address the confusion between the roles of the national local bodies in the NHS and the system overall, PwC makes a series of recommendations in the report:
- Create a new care management board or merging NHS Improvement and NHS England – to simplify the structure of the current health and care system
- Clarify and coordinate the work of local institutions
- Delegate responsibility for managing the health and care system in their areas to Sustainability and Transformation Planning (STPs)
- Clarify the role of The Department for Health and The Department of Communities and Local Government in healthcare.
- Shift accountability to the local level by allowing Regional Care Groups to evolve into democratically accountable bodies and have responsibility for commissioning health and social care.
- Give local democratically accountable leaders powers to raise additional funds through taxation.
- Shift control of healthcare to local areas
The report frames a vision in which the system remains a national service, where standards and majority of the funding is determined at a national level. However increasingly this balance of power should be devolved so local areas have greater responsibility and accountability, the report suggests. This will require phased changes to the architecture of the NHS. Alan Milburn, former Health Secretary and chair of the PwC Health Industries Oversight Board, commented:
“Despite the best efforts of its leaders to make it work, the current national architecture is confused and complex. The artificial divide between health and social care makes as little sense as the division of labour between a myriad of national bodies.
“Organisational change is always a risk but without it, the move towards integrated local care systems will be undermined.
“This report sets out a long-term reform agenda towards an NHS in which the balance of power moves from national to local level where services are delivered.”
David Morris, PwC partner and author of the report commented:
“Our research highlights a persistent underlying sense of confusion about the roles of national bodies in the NHS, coupled with frustration over the division between health and social care. Evidently there is growing appetite for reform.
“It is essential that this debate does not fall to the bottom of the pile and I hope this report is a welcome addition to the discussion and helps point to some much needed solutions to the growing problems the NHS faces.”
New research reveals that more than two in five (44%) of people in the UK believe the standard of elderly care is ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
- 44% of people in the UK believe the standard of care for elderly people is ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’
- One in five people in the UK are currently looking after their parents
- Women are more likely than men to be caring for an elderly parent
- People over 64 are less likely to think the elderly are well looked after than people aged 45-64
- Only 13% of people aged 45 and over are happy with the way the elderly are looked after
- SuperCarers is seeking to raise £500,000 on Seedrs
Sadly, this is despite the fact that two million elderly people in the UK have a care related need and four million will need daily help by 2029. Furthermore, it is expected that by 2025 there will be a deficit of 600,000 carers.
The research showed that just a quarter (21%) of people in the UK are currently looking after their parents which highlights the number of elderly people without any family care support and the potential for a growing epidemic of loneliness in old age.
Women are more likely (23%) than men (19%) to be caring for an elderly parent. This rises to a quarter (25%) of 45-54 year-olds and emphasises the stresses placed on women given the fact that many have already had to give up on careers to care for children.
People express much more confidence in their ability to care for their parents than the standard of care in the nation as a whole – while only 13% think that elderly care overall is good, two-thirds (66%) believe they are taking care of their own parents well or very well.
The research conducted by SuperCarers’ shows that only 13% of people aged 45 and over believe the elderly are looked after well or very well. Older people (aged 64+) are less likely to think they are well looked after (10%) than 55-46 year-olds (14%) and 45-54 year-olds (15%), potentially highlighting a level of complacency and apathy towards elderly care amongst younger people. SuperCarers is on a mission to disrupt the UK’s archaic, expensive and inefficient care system.
On a regional level, people in Northern Ireland (36%) and the East Midlands (24%) are most likely to believe that older people are being looked after well or very well. Meanwhile, those in the North West (51%) and Wales (51%) are most likely to say that the care given to the elderly by the UK as a nation is ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Adam Pike, CEO and Co-Founder of SuperCarers, said: “It’s worrying to see that as a nation we feel we are not providing the best possible care for older people. People are living longer and the need to look after the elderly has become more and more pressing. There are plenty of skilled care workers across the country, and we need to connect them to those most in need.
“While it’s commendable that many can and do look after family members, we still need to make sure we improve on our elderly care. We’re confident that SuperCarers can make care more reliable and ease the burden on families struggling to handle care along with their other responsibilities.”
SuperCarers is the brainchild of brothers Adam and Daniel Pike, who had first-hand experience of the challenges in the elderly care system. Reflecting on their Gran’s story in 2014 inspired them to leave the City and pursue a viable solution to help other families in the same predicament: affordable, world-class elderly care.
The company curates a personal matchmaking service where families can find vetted, reliable and compassionate carers for loved ones. SuperCarers matches carers with families based on personality and interest, as well as care need, location and timing. The brand is currently backed by Innocent Smoothies ‘JamJar Investment Fund’ and Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, the former CEO of Marie Curie, now the Chairman of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
SuperCarers has launched a £500,000 fundraising campaign on leading equity crowdfunding platform, Seedrs.
Find out more here.
As the clocks go back and people turn their heating up, research shows cancer patients are estimated to spend an additional £15.7m a year on their energy bills
New figures by Macmillan Cancer Support and npower estimate that people diagnosed with cancer in the UK over the last two years spend an additional £15.7 million a year on their energy bills, as a result of using more energy due to their illness and treatment.
People undergoing cancer treatment are often at home and feel the cold more due to side effects such as weight and hair loss and reduced energy levels, so tend to turn their heating up. This can result in their energy consumption going up while their income may be significantly reduced, making energy costs a big concern for cancer patients.
So far this year Macmillan has received over 14,000 enquiries from cancer patients and their loved ones (equating to over 53 interactions a day) about their energy costs, a 15% increase from 2015ii. It’s estimated that this winteriii an additional 6,400iv people will contact the charity asking for support.
Today Macmillan and npower are highlighting the support available for people living with cancer through npower’s Macmillan Fund and Macmillan’s Energy Advice Team. npower’s Macmillan Fund is the only programme in the UK offering bespoke support to npower customers living with cancer by capping energy bills and writing off debt. Macmillan Energy Advisors, who are part-funded by npower, offer support and advice to help people living with cancer regardless of their energy supplier.
In the last 12 months Macmillan’s Energy Advice Team has seen a 33% increase in calls and on average deal with 20 calls a day from people affected by cancer v. This is expected to rise in the coming months as people turn their heating up and need it on for longer.
Worryingly only 6% of people living with cancer who are financially impacted by their diagnosis are aware that they may be entitled to receive support to pay their energy billsvi yet almost 60% of those who are severely financially impacted by their diagnosis are unable to heat their home adequately vii.
Over the last 12 years, npower has given over £8 million to help over 32,000 families by providing them with support such as emergency energy grants or writing off their debt. npower’s Macmillan Fund has helped almost 4,000 cancer patients turn their heating on and up, writing off £4.2 million in debt, an average of £1,655 per household whilst on the scheme.
After npower customer, Sue, aged 59 from Essex, was diagnosed with terminal pelvic cancer in April 2016. Sue was no longer able to work and began claiming benefits. After speaking to Macmillan she was helped by npower’s Macmillan’s Fund:
“Due to my treatment, I’m at home all the time”, says Sue. “As my income has come down, I couldn’t pay my energy bills; it took months to sort my benefits out so I had no income whatsoever. I thought I was going to lose my home. I thought I was going to lose everything. I was paying £220 a month on electricity and I just couldn’t afford it.
“When Macmillan explained they could get my payments down to £28 a month. I was absolutely dumbfounded. npower and Macmillan’s support has helped me take back control. I don’t have to worry any more about using electricity, putting on the washing machine or putting the heating on in winter. They gave me back a bit of dignity.”
Alison Rooks, Energy Advice Team Leader at Macmillan says: “Rising energy needs aren’t something people automatically associate with having cancer. However, cancer patients going through chemotherapy feel the cold. It can be a bone numbing cold that they just can’t shake, regardless of the weather outside. Combine that with spending more time at home as well as reduced income from not being able to work and managing energy bills can soon become difficult for cancer patients.
“Npower’s Macmillan Fund provides vital support to their customers undergoing cancer treatment, allowing them to focus on their health instead of their energy consumption and keep warm without the worry.”
Elizabeth Gardner, Head of Corporate Responsibility & Community at npower said: “Our partnership with Macmillan allows us to offer tailored support when no other help is available for people affected by cancer. Sadly many people are unaware of this support and rarely think to notify their energy supplier of their diagnosis. By working with Macmillan, we help people living with cancer at a time when they need it most – so they can focus on their health”.
If you’re living with cancer, are a cancer patients and struggling to pay your energy bills, visit the Macmillan Keepwarm campaign page for more information or call Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 0000 Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.
i) Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 1,266 adults aged 18 and over in the UK with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork conducted between 22nd December 2015 and 5th January. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population. Results in this report are based on the 503 respondents who were diagnosed within the last two years. The average yearly bill increase amongst the 21% of respondents diagnosed in the last two years whose energy bills have increased as a result of their diagnosis and treatment was £177. This figure has been extrapolated onto the number of people diagnosed in the last two years. The numbers of people living with cancer diagnosed within the last two years that are estimated as those people alive in 2010 with a cancer diagnosis in the last two years – source: Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network Partnership Work-Plan. 2013.
Segmenting the cancer patients survivor population – the data was sourced and presented in collaboration with the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales, Public Health Wales, the Scottish Cancer Registry and the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.
ii) Calculated by number of calls to Energy Advice Team and number of people helped by Macmillan fuel grants (Jan to Aug 2015 and Jan to Aug 2016): 12,013 in 2015 and 13,857 in 2016
iii) Winter is based on the four months November to February
iv) Calculated by: number of grants queries per month in 2016 Macmillan has received about energy costs – on average 1,372 grants queries per month, meaning that next four months we could predict another 5,488 enquires combined with the average number of calls to the Energy Advice Team so far in 2016 236 new unique calls per month, meaning that over the next four months we could predict another 944 new unique calls. Bringing total to: 6,432 enquiries overall
v) In 2015 EAT received 2074 January to September calls and in 2016 January to September received 2766 calls
vi) Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 – 21 September 2015.
vii) Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 – 21 September 2015.
SuperCarers, an online care platform, is on a mission to disrupt the UK’s archaic, expensive and inefficient care system with a solution targetted at home care. As technology continues to revolutionise the way we eat, travel and shop; now Supercarers is providing an ageing population with a safe, reliable and affordable solution for home care. The company has launched a £500,000 equity crowdfunding round on Seedrs to drive its growth.
Two million elderly people in the UK alone have a care related need and four million will need daily help by 2029 and yet by 2025 there will be a deficit of 600,000 carers in spite of increasing demand. Local authorities can’t keep up with the increasing costs or scale of care, leaving many without the critical assistance required to live their lives with dignity.
SuperCarers is the brainchild of brothers, Adam and Daniel Pike, who witnessed the inefficiencies of the care system first hand as they were growing up. Reflecting on their Gran’s story in 2014 inspired them to leave their city jobs roles and pursue a viable solution to help other families in the same predicament: affordable, world-class home care.
Their story is one that millions across the UK can relate to. The boys’ mother had become the primary carer for their elderly grandma but struggled to balance this responsibility with her other full-time role as mother of two young boys. Grandma Pam was desperate to stay in her own home but because home-care agency support was inadequate and unaffordable she was forced to go into a residential care home, where her health and happiness deteriorated rapidly.
The Supercarers mission
The mission to improve the quality of life for older people, families and carers finally began with the launch of SuperCarers in December 2015. The fledgling business offers a unique solution to the gaping hole in the care market, enabling families to work and manage family life with the assurance that their elderly parents can continue to live in the comfort and security of their own homes.
Point of difference to home care
The company curates a personal matchmaking service where families can find vetted, reliable and compassionate carers for loved ones. SuperCarers matches carers with families based on personality and interest, as well as care need, location and timing.
SuperCarers bypasses the high overhead costs of agency middlemen, without forfeiting quality of care via a user-friendly online platform. The smart technology empowers families to monitor, manage and pay for care independently. This in turn generates a saving that alleviates the financial burdens of traditional care and simultaneously improves the quality and pay of carers.
SuperCarers workers earn £12.80/hour, versus a typical £7.40, and as a result the platform attracts motivated and compassionate carers. Smart technology creates a simple and effective platform with transparent payment, care scheduling and communication. A personalised matching process tailors care to the requirements of each and every individual.
Alan Rosenbach, Director of Strategy of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), is chair of the SuperCarers Care Advisory Board. To read more about SuperCarers visit their website here.
Raiding the piggy banks
The King’s Fund’s report into the progress of the implementation of the Five Year Forward View has hit some raw nerves. Stephen Dalton, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“This report shows long-term plans for improvement are being put on the back burner because of short-term funding issues arising from a health and care system which is stretched to breaking point. We understand the need to ensure services have enough money today but the tactic adopted is to effectively raid resources which were meant to enable change and ensure we develop a 21st century NHS offer. If we are to have a sustainable NHS and care system, the government needs to urgently invest in social care, halt planned cuts to public health, get serious about preventing ill health and kickstart an honest, open public conversation about what needs to change if the next generation is to carry on benefitting from the high quality health care we have today.” We can only agree.
A Conservative critique
A new report on the NHS from UK 2020 a think tank established by Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP to produce a conservative policy platform for the General Election of 2020. Argues that despite improvements since the early 2000s, the NHS is still lagging behind the health systems of most comparable countries on most health outcome measures for which robust data is available.
The report goes on to say that the NHS has relatively low survival rates for the common types of cancer, although it does better on some of the rarer ones. The same claim is made for measures of ‘amenable mortality’, an indicator which captures unnecessary deaths across the healthcare spectrum. Long waiting times are still a problem, even if this one that the UK shares with a number of other countries. The uptake and diffusion of medical innovation is relatively slow. The NHS does guarantee universal access to healthcare, but so do all healthcare systems in the developed world, with the exception of US system. Healthcare spending is lower than in some of the neighbour countries, but this does not indicate superior efficiency. In more sophisticated estimates of health system efficiency, the NHS is, once again, inferior to most other countries.
A further report is promised on what the NHS can learn from other countries. NfN moles are placing their bets on compulsory health insurance being the offering.
Did somebody say market failure?
On October 19th the Health Services Journal reported that private company Ramsay Health Care UK had pulled out of a project with Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust in which it had been appointed to run a 90 bed private hospital as part of a complex including a hotel, conference centre and a medical education centre. The company took the decision to pull out shortly after the EU referendum on 23 June. This blow to a flagship NHS infrastructure project comes as capital funding for the NHS is in desperately short supply. The Cambridge project has been seen by some as a potential model for new infrastructure development elsewhere.
An anonymous commentator in the HSJ said in response:
“What is it about the Cambridge, rather than Cambridgeshire, system where it has to be the test bed for most new health concepts and then see them fail. The PCT were at the forefront of mergers when it took on Peterborough, the local commissioning group CATCH were the forerunner of the CCG model with the architect as their local MP, the failed Older Peoples tender was the first to attempt outcome based commissioning using capitated budgets and now this. What next?”
Answers in an email to ‘info at HealthMatters dot org dot uk’ please.
A new study has highlighted the scope of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tools available worldwide and outlined their impact on people with mental health needs.
The study from RAND Europe, commissioned by the education and social service company Ingeus, showed that computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools, which are online platforms or mobile applications to help tackle common mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety or insomnia, have grown significantly in the past two years. These tools are available in a number of countries, including Australia, China, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.Cognitive behavioural therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.
Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools aim to address a variety of mental health conditions, with the study finding that these largely had a positive impact on users. It also found that condition-specific tools could reduce the symptoms of other conditions. For example, a tool to help those with insomnia could simultaneously reduce symptoms of depression. Despite the overall positive impact, the study revealed that some groups with mental health needs are less likely to participate in treatment (or trials) of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools than others. For example, the average user was a woman in her late 30s with a university degree and in full-time employment. However, computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools specifically focused on people with depression had a more equal proportion of male and female participants, while those specifically for people with anxiety disorders had somewhat younger and less-well-educated participants. News from Nowhere asks: if these are the characteristics of the users, exactly what is the problem being solved?
To view the report visit Rand Europe.
Sellers’ market in general practice
The problems of accessibility and understaffing in general practice are not unique to Britain. The New Zealand Dominion Post reported on November 2 that up to 25% of people surveyed across the country had been unable to get a routine appointment with their usual medical centre (not their usual doctor, please note) within 24 hours. General practices in New Zealand are struggling to recruit new doctors and half of current GPs seem likely to retire in the next ten years. There is also the same tendency to work part-time as there is in Britain.
During the junior doctors strikes there was talk by some doctors in training of emigration to avoid the overbearing manner of the NHS and to take advantage of the better salaries and easier working conditions of health services in New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand doctor shortage may well attract some disaffected British doctors, who might also be attracted to the different lifestyle. In a sellers’ market they could set their own terms.
But it is not that simple. The doctor shortages in New Zealand are least in trendy Auckland, the cultural centre of the country, and greatest in rural communities. In the countryside, notes the Dominion Post, doctors face geographical isolation, less peer support, longer working hours (including out of hours work) and encounter a wider range of clinical problems than their urban peers. If British doctors only want the easier jobs they compete with themselves in New Zealand, and the labour market could turn towards the buyer.