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Pioneering price match scheme frees up millions for frontline care

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Doctors have freed up millions of pounds to fund frontline care by banding together to create a pioneering ‘price match’ scheme.

The scheme will drive down the cost of simple items such as anti-embolism stockings and surgical gloves.

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The clinician-led scheme in Sheffield saw staff and patients work closely across seven hospitals to agree on the best product and commit to bulk buy jointly to save money.

The hospitals had been using a variety of brands and paying different prices for the same products which all did the same job.

Evaluation of the products takes place to ensure there is no difference in the standard of care for patients as a result of a switch to the most cost effective product and robust opportunities for staff to make any concerns heard are in place.

By committing to buy a larger quantity of product thanks to the collaboration, 11 products were changed leading to savings of £2 million, including a saving of £400 thousand alone by switching to one type of examination glove.

Professor Des Breen, clinical lead for the South Yorkshire Integrated Care System, said: “It was just a no-brainer to keep using products we knew were the same quality as others we could buy for less purely because each department procures them individually.

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“We knew we had to take advantage of buying for all the hospitals at the same time; it was a lot of work but well worth it when we think of all the extra services we can use that money to provide for patients.”

A scoring system was used on all of the products to make sure that they met the high standard needed for use by the NHS and the product which met all of these and was deemed the best value for money was chosen.

Further opportunities to use the process to make savings on other products are being scoped out and other areas across the country are considering using South Yorkshire’s approach.

Michael Macdonnell, director of system transformation at NHS England, said: “The South Yorkshire programme demonstrates how neighbouring hospitals can team up to improve clinical quality and reduce waste, working together as integrated systems. It also shows what can be achieved when clinicians take charge.

“But perhaps most impressive is that the team has already saved £2m which can now be reinvested into better patient care.”

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Cancer patient forced to sleep in “consultation room” because of bed shortage

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The recovering cancer patient was forced to sleep in a hospital “consultation room” due to a bed shortage.

Martyn Wells, 49, was placed in the cramped windowless room at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital last Wednesday – just hours after having a total gastrectomy, an operation which removes the stomach.

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The IT Director and father of four has been battling cancer since he was diagnosed with stage four malignant melanoma earlier this year.

Mr Wells tweeted a picture of his cupboard to Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt but is still yet to get a reply.

Image: Martyn Wells

In a statement on social media, Mr Wells Said; “Cupboard. I woke up in a cupboard. So I lie here typing this, surrounded by cannulas, stoma bags and other accessories.

“A team of ninja nurses burst into my room in the small hours, told me gently I was being moved and wheeled me into another dark haven. 

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“Waking this morning I find my new location is a cupboard. Are things SO bad in our great health service that they have to move stage IV cancer patients into a cupboard? Whatever happened to patient dignity?
I’ve been told to use the staff toilet and have no access to any washing facilities. The staff toilet is 50 metres up the main corridor; handy when you’re on an overnight drip feed and have been given laxatives.

“I’m going home. There’s no reason for me to be here now; half my staples were removed yesterday and I’m pretty sure I have all the tools I need in my new room to remove the rest. I can run my own food pump, have received dietician advice and my blood results are trending back to normal so I’m getting discharged. It’s going to be a long and careful convalescence but I’m sure it’s now the best place for me.
I’m trying hard not to moan as I am genuinely grateful just to be alive but I’ll be glad to get home as there is something very wrong with the bed management in our hospitals.”

A spokesman for the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation said: “We are sorry Mr Wells is unhappy with his situation.

“The trust has a standard operating procedure for capacity escalation and a full capacity protocol which are strictly followed to ensure the safe care of all of our patients.

“When a ward reaches maximum capacity a patient who is clinically fit for discharge may be moved into a consultation room to allow another patient with clinical needs to be transferred onto the appropriate ward.

“The consultation rooms such as the one occupied by Mr Wells are fully equipped clinical areas and are used to support capacity management across the hospital.

“The dignity and safe care of all of our patients remains our priority.”

Mr Wells is set to walk the length of the River Severn in ten days in September to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. His fundraising page can be found here.

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Why Work In A Care Home?

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It is well documented that the UK is on the brink of a Social Care crisis. There is a lack of healthcare workers and nurses wanting to work in residential settings, with people seeming to favour the acute hospital environment.

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Sharon Allen, chief executive of Skills for Care, the employer-led workforce development body for adult social care in England, agrees that recruitment and retention is “the number one issue for the sector”.

There are 60,000 vacancies in adult social care on any one day.

Contrary to the popular belief that this type of job is not rewarding and job satisfaction is low, I would like to talk about why I loved working in a care home.

Why I Loved Working in a Care Home

I worked as a Carer, a Registered Nurse and Home Manager in a busy nursing and residential home for many years. The main reason I loved working in a care home was that the residents became our extended family. 

Some of our residents had lived in the home for years and with that, we were able to get to know people really well. Some residents did not have loved ones or even visitors, and as staff we filled that role.

I enjoyed coming to work to see familiar faces and had a genuine bond with our residents; working in a hospital with a fast turnover of patients makes it difficult to get to know people as well.

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Furthermore, I used to enjoy building a relationship with the families of our residents too.

I understand how hard it is for them to leave their loved ones in our care. Knowing that family members trusted us to look after them made us feel valued and appreciated. 

Special Occasions with our Residents

Working in a care home is very sociable. We are effectively working in people’s homes and it is important to ensure that we maintain a homely feel that is less formal than that of acute environments.

Care home staff are able to share special occasions such as Birthdays and Christmas with their residents and make these events meaningful.

I can recall many Christmas mornings when we would sit with the residents in the day room and open presents together in the same way that families sit together and open gifts.

We cared for one lady who had lived with us for many years who did not have any family. Several of the staff members used to buy her a gift so that she had presents to open on Christmas morning.

I can recall many trips and events I was involved in at the Care Home. Some of the favourites being a trip to the Zoo, going to Blackpool Illuminations and the Christmas Church services.

Critical Clinical Skills Required

Older people often have a range of medical conditions. Working in a care home means that staff need to have excellent clinical skills to be able to look after people with frequently complex care needs. 

Many older people do not want to go into hospital and want to stay in the care home for their treatment. This dispels the myth that care home nurses lose their clinical skills. I believe that they need them more than ever.

Finally, working in a care home means that sadly sometimes we have to say goodbye to our residents. Having looked after somebody whether for a short time or a long time makes it hard for staff when a resident passes away. When someone is dying, I consider it a privilege to be able to sit and hold their hand and support them and their loved ones through such a difficult time in their lives.

For all of these reasons, I found working in a care home to be the most rewarding role I have had.

It can be tough. There are many pressures facing social care, but if you can go to work and make a difference to your resident’s lives there is nothing more rewarding than that.


Written by Claire Bailey, Registered Nurse and Clinical Operations Manager at AutumnCare.

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Twenty percent of antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately

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Twenty percent of all antibiotic prescriptions written in primary care in England are inappropriate, estimates research published by Public Health England (PHE).

Research suggests that the majority of antibiotic prescriptions written in primary care in England were for respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, however, in almost a third of all prescriptions, no clinical reason was documented.

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Earlier this year Public Health England (PHE) campaigned patients not to ask their GP to prescribe antibiotics in a bid to fight against growing resistance to the drugs.

The research highlighted substantial variation in antibiotic prescribing rates between GP practices, and that, for most conditions, “substantially higher proportions” of GP consultations led to an antibiotic prescription than is considered appropriate.

Findings showed that an antibiotic was prescribed in 41 percent of all uncomplicated acute cough consultations when experts advocated 10 percent.

A similar trend was seen for bronchitis (actual: 82 percent versus ideal: 13 percent), sore throat (actual: 59 percent versus ideal: 13 percent), rhinosinusitis (actual: 88 percent versus ideal: 11 percent) and acute otitis media in two-18yr olds (actual: 92 percent versus ideal: 17 percent).

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Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England’s medical director, said;

“Using antibiotics when you don’t need them threatens their long term effectiveness and we all have a part to play to ensure they continue to help us, our families and communities in the future.

“This publication highlights the role GPs can play and I urge all practices to look at ways they can reduce their inappropriate prescribing levels to help make sure the antibiotics that save lives today can save lives tomorrow.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the figures “are extremely disappointing” but also cautioned against using them “as an excuse for criticising GPs who are working their hardest to reduce antibiotic prescribing, whilst grappling with countless other workload pressures and a shortage of GPs.

“If GPs do prescribe antibiotics, it is because, in their expert opinion, they are the most appropriate treatment available, given the unique circumstances of the patients before us. However we are still coming under considerable pressure from some patients who need to understand that antibiotics are not a ‘catch all’ for every illness.

“Antimicrobial resistance is now a major global health threat and responsibility for tackling this does not lie solely at the door of GPs – the whole of society must play its part”.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said;

“But we need to go further and faster otherwise we risk a world where superbugs kill more people a year than cancer and routine operations become too dangerous”.

The UK government has set an ambition to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 50 percent by 2020.

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