CEO of NHS Trust – “Second covid wave will be ’10 times harder’ to deal with
A report in the Health Service Journal paints a dire picture of the coming reality of the second Covid wave. Whilst politicians continue their poor decision making, inevitable U-turns then fight out the blame game – the national health service faces the destructive forces of not one battle – but three.
The second wave of the covid pandemic will be ‘10 times harder’ for the NHS and will require a step-change in the service’s use of the technology, according to the chief executive of a trust group in the Midlands.
Simon Weldon, chief executive of the Northampton and Kettering group of hospitals, told HSJ’s Digital Strategy Summit:
“Wave one was the easy part of the job. Wave two is 10 times harder because you’ve got staff exhaustion, you’ve got elective recovery, you’ve got winter, and you’ve got covid all happening at the same time.”
The health and care system will need to use technology to get a better grip on its performance to cope, he explained. “One of the challenges I’m facing, and really trying to grapple with, is how do we know, really accurately, what is going on in the hospital in terms of the throughput and what resources we have available to us?”
Trusts “are still in a kind of pre-covid age” when it comes to describing a hospital’s performance, Mr Weldon said. NHS England’s third phase letter in August “implied a much bigger challenge in terms of the ability of hospitals to really know on any given day almost down to an hour what the performance of the hospital was”.
Instilling the same momentum in social care will be crucial “because many of the most difficult interfaces that we had were on discharging patients safely and successfully”.
A priority now is to find a way to make social care staff trusted users of his trusts’ data he said, “so we can start to pull patients out of hospital as opposed to push”.
There is still work to be done finding out how to take that principle of access and shared data beyond hospital borders so that caseloads and clinical risks in care homes are shared with clinicians in secondary care, he said.
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“For me, that is about the shared care record and probably that’s the big unexplored frontier… that’s the thing that if we’re going to provide truly systematic care we’ve got to accelerate”, he added.
Tara Donnelly, the chief digital officer at NHSX, agreed with this point on the importance of “connecting with social care and having information flowing between care homes and hospitals, in particular”. She told the summit the distribution of thousands of iPads to care homes, each SIM-enabled with the summary care record app installed, “in itself will make a big difference”.
“Apart from anything else it will enable all of those care homes to fully participate in the virtual ward rounds that GPs have been offering people who live at home,” Ms Donnelly said. “It’s making sure that just because somebody lives in a care home – and 410,000 people spend their life in a care home – they get as much access to healthcare as you would if you were at home.”