Thursday, August 8, 2013

NHS A&E: Lewisham downgrade!

A genius has decided you can have a 75% heart attack or stroke as he has decreed that Lewisham will run a 75% A & E department. Wow!

Then I read this: 
In the Lords the other day, Labour peer and former Minister Lord Tomlinson challenged a government representative about the closures:

Will the Minister accept that the proposals to close the excellent and much-admired accident and emergency hospital in Lewisham, and to downgrade its maternity services, have been made not because there is anything wrong with the hospital but because a government-appointed administrator has said that that should be done in order to help the neighbouring National Health Service trust, which has run up £130 million-worth of debt? Will she accept that closing and downgrading good facilities is an act of almost criminal stupidity, which leads to nothing but increased health inequalities when the Government’s objective is to reduce them?

The government – for its own venal purposes – has been insistent in treating hospitals and Trusts as individual organisations, each with its own budget and its own responsibilities. But by considering the closure of facilities at one Trust for the sake of another, the government is recognising the principle that the NHS is one organisation, and individual Trusts are all part of a single whole. Like a field of mushrooms that are really all part of the same system.



The truth may be simpler: in an internal market system soon to be exposed to external market forces, A & E is the only department where CCGs have very little control over. Punters, (sorry patients) still hope they might see a real doctor at the A & E (soon to be ¾ doctor). Government figures showed that attendance figures are not dropping.

Punters have little faith in OOH services and UCCs as well and can you blame them? In health care, death is certainly not reversible.

So the genius has decided not to use UCC for Lewisham and that is why he is a genius. But when therumour s  the rest of the hospital will gradually be “3-quartered”, call it anything you want.

In time over a third of A & Es will have to be downgraded to reverse the rising trade! Read more in a previous blog post:

NHS A & E: Unpredictable, Unruly & Ungainly

As I wandered through the forests of Sibelius' Finland, I marvelled at how well the different plants co-exist in an integrated fashion. 

Why can't our NHS be integrated like this forest? With berries and mushroom growing in abundance! Looks like our A & E departments will be the first of the Hospital Services to be culled. 


 ©Am Ang Zhang 2012

It must be hard to believe that with the number of highly paid management consultants working for the government that any apparent oversight is due to cock-up rather than conspiracy. Yet reading through the Select Committee reports one begins to wonder.

Could it be that for too long, accountants dominated the NHS reforms and somehow nobody took any notice of what the doctors are saying anymore?

On the other hand, could the need to pass health care provision to private providers before anybody could raise enough objections be the reason or was it simply a means to contain cost and let the patients blame their GPs?

Can politicians really blame us for not trusting them? They did in Japan, didn’t they?

A & E (ER to our US readers) is perhaps something accountants would like to get rid of. It is unpredictable, unruly (literally) and ungainly as there is a need for the specialist backups. In the era of PCTs and Hospital Trusts, serious battle is fought around A & E. The silly time limit set has caused more harm than the good it is suppose to achieve. That many major A & E departments are staffed by Trust staff and the new GP Commissioners will try their best to avoid paying for A & E attendance & any unplanned admission. 

All too messy.

Hospitals tried their best to make more money from A & E and admissions in order to survive. Where is the patient in this tug-of-war of primary care and Hospitals!

What happens when there is a major E. Coli disaster. Who is going to pay for all the dialysis?

There is no better illustration to the wasteful exercise then in all of this internal market and cross charging during recent years and one must be forgiven for concluding that the purpose was to allow private involvement in our National Health Service.

We must be forgiven for not believing that all these AQPs are not great philanthropists and are all there not for the profit but for the common good.

Christmas and New Year will be here soon. The count this year is that over 20 million patients would have attended A & E: A rise from 12 million around 10 years ago!

It is not difficult for anyone in the NHS to see how the internal market has continued to fragment and disintegrate our health service.

Look at major hospitals in England: Urgent Care Centres are set up and staffed by nurse practitioner, emergency nurse practitioners and GPs so that the charge by the Hospital Trusts (soon to be Foundation Trusts)  for some people who tried to attend A & E could be avoided. It is often a time wasting exercise and many patients still need to be referred to the “real” A & E thus wasting much valuable time for the critically ill patients and provided fodder for the tabloid press. And payment still had to be made. Currently it is around £77.00 a go. But wait for this, over the New Year some of these Centres would employ off duty A & E Juniors to work there to save some money that Trusts could have charged.

Urgent Care Centres are one of the most contentious parts of the NHS reforms. Both the College and the King’s Fund  have consistently questioned the evidence base and the clinical and cost effectiveness for this major policy change. Surprisingly many of the NHS pathway groups still recommend such units. The public will be very confused by the desire of some Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to re-name the ED as an “Urgent Care Centre” for ambulatory patients.

The perceived problem that PCTs are trying to solve
There is a perception that many patients attending the ED should be treated in primary care. The College’s view is that a relatively small number are clearly non-urgent primary care problems that should have been seen by their general practitioner. A larger group of patients with urgent problems could be seen by primary care if there was timely access to the patient’s GP or out-of-hours services - e.g. at weekends. The College believes that improving access to GPs is the best way of dealing with this issue. At most we think that 25% of ED patients might be treated by general practitioners in an ED setting. There is no evidence to support the contention that 50-60% of ED attendances can be treated in Urgent Care Centres.

The approach of setting up an urgent care centre in front of every ED is an example of demand management. This has already been shown to be unsafe when tried in the USA.

Since April 2006, emergency departments have been paid according to the number and nature of the patients they treat. This seems perfectly reasonable, but many Primary Care Trusts are now paying more for their hospital emergency service than they used to, and as a result are looking at ways of “gate keeping”—that is, restricting the number of patients who enter emergency departments. This has lead to the concept of urgent care centres, where ambulant patients seeking emergency care are triaged by staff employed by the Primary Care Trust. Certain diagnostic groups are allowed through into the emergency departments, but many are seen by onsite general practitioners or nurse practitioners. In this way the PCTs can control expenditure, and many patients with minor trauma who would previously have been managed in emergency departments are no longer seen there. The result of this is that the casemix of emergency departments is being restricted, and this diminishes our specialty.

Loss of inpatient specialties
Traditionally, emergency departments in the UK have received an undifferentiated casemix, and have either provided definitive care or have referred on to hospital specialties. We may have wished to mimic the Australian model of emergency care, but the truth is that very few emergency departments in the UK have the staff or facilities to provide continuing inpatient care. Emergency medicine in the UK has therefore remained dependent on inpatient specialties to help it provide a comprehensive service.
Unfortunately, the government clearly intends that in future many hospitals will not have the full range of core specialties, and this will radically affect the sort of service their emergency departments can offer. In particular, many emergency departments will not be able to receive patients with major trauma or paediatric emergencies.

This is certainly not how Kaiser Permanente would run things: all integrated and no such thing as “cross charging”. In fact the doctors are not on a fee-for-service basis but like Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital, doctors are paid a salary.

Q143 Chair: No. I am sorry. My point is that if, as a commissioner, you have to have A&E and you have the power to defend whatever is required to deliver A&E, why do you need a power to designate?

Dr Bennett: On the designation question, the issue there is what happens if the provider of the service is the only provider of that particular service that is available to its local community but the provider gets into difficulty. Designation is all about making sure that there is continuity of the provision of the service even if the provider themselves gets into difficulty where there is no alternative provider.

On the integrated care for A&E, yes, there are similarities. I think the critical issue is where you draw the boundaries. If you finish up in a situation where you define the boundaries around A&E as being the whole of the DGH, then you have somewhat frustrated the policy, but I don’t think that should be necessary.

Dr David Bennett is head of Monitor and is NOT a medical doctor.

"Whatever the benefits of the purchaser/provider split, it has led to an increase in transaction costs, notably management and administration costs. Research commissioned by the DH but not published by it estimated these to be as high as 14% of total NHS costs. We are dismayed that the Department has not provided us with clear and consistent data on transaction costs; the suspicion must remain that the DH does not want the full story to be revealed. We were appalled that four of the most senior civil servants in the Department of Health were unable to give us accurate figures for staffing levels and costs dedicated to commissioning and billing in PCTs and provider NHS trusts. We recommend that this deficiency be addressed immediately. The Department must agree definitions of staff, such as management and administrative overheads, and stick to them so that comparisons can be made over time."

                                                  House of Commons

See Prof Waxman in an earlier post:

The internal market’s billing system is not only costly and bureaucratic, the theory that underpins it is absurd. Why should a bill for the treatment of a patient go out to Oldham orOxford, when it is not Oldham or Oxford that pays the bill — there is only one person that picks up the tab: the taxpayer, you and me.

…….Instead let them help the NHS do what it does best — treat patients, and do so efficiently and economically without the crucifying expense and ridiculous parody of competition.

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