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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:
30th May 2023
The Government’s long-awaited NHS workforce plan appears to have been delayed as rumours circulate that it is too expensive.
According to deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, the plan, which was expected for publication today (30 May), has been delayed further.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Cordery said the plan will require ‘a very significant commitment of funding’ from the Government.
Health secretary Steve Barclay declined to provide a deadline for publication during interviews over the weekend, according to The Guardian.
The workforce plan, which has already been delayed from last year, is expected to put forward solutions to address NHS understaffing, including expanding medical school places and potentially training apprentice doctors directly on the job.
Ms Cordery said: ‘We know that when it comes, it will be a very significant commitment of funding from the Government because what we’re talking about is setting out the number of training places and the number of staff that the NHS needs over the next decade or so.’
Of the delay, she added: ‘What everyone has been calling for, and what Jeremy Hunt committed to in his autumn statement last year and indeed talked about in the spring budget, was a fully-funded and fully-articulated workforce plan for the NHS.
‘So I think that we are talking about something to do with the funding of this plan.’
The Times has also reported that disagreements over cost, which is believed to be in the tens of billions, have delayed publication of the plan.
A senior NHS source was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt ‘can’t agree the financial commitment’ and that it ‘was all set to go this week and now the PM wants to run through it in detail’.
In March, reports of the plan revealed it would highlight that the health service is already operating with 154,000 fewer full-time staff than it needs and that number could balloon to 571,000 staff by 2036 on current trends.
The leaked report also said that without ‘radical action’, the NHS in England will have 28,000 fewer GPs, 44,000 fewer community nurses and an even greater lack of paramedics within 15 years.
There have recently been calls from cancer professional organisations highlighting capacity and workforce challenges compromising patient safety and quality of care.
A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.
26th May 2023
The UK Government has announced five funding commitments totalling £121m to accelerate commercial clinical trials, making it easier for revolutionary healthcare treatments to reach patients and helping to cut NHS waiting times.
The commitments include measures to make the approvals and set up of trials quicker, with the aim of approving all trials within 60 days, and improving trial recruitment through increased transparency and accessibility of clinical trial data. This will make it easier for people to find trials via real-time information and for NHS organisations to contact patients who could benefit from ground-breaking treatments.
A joined-up approach to clinical trials across the country will also be established through the creation of Clinical Trial Acceleration Networks. These will focus on accelerating priority areas of research, creating exemplars for delivering trials in key areas, such as cancer and infectious disease, to improve delivery of all trials based on best practice.
The Government acknowledged clinical research as the single most important way to improve healthcare – by identifying the best way to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions – and identified clinical trials as part of the solution for reducing strain on the NHS.
The announcement comes in response to the publication of the Lord O’Shaughnessy Review into commercial clinical trials in the UK.
This much-anticipated independent review, commissioned by the Government in February 2023, offers 27 recommendations, addressing eight problem statements, on how the Government should work to resolve key challenges in conducting commercial clinical trials in the short and longer term.
This includes the need for clinical research to be be systemically prioritised by or within the NHS, and for incentives to offered to doctors, nurses and NHS organisations to take part in clinical research, especially when it is commercially funded.
Indeed, evidence shows hospitals which undertake research have better patient care outcomes, improved staff retention and it benefits the whole health and care system.
The Government has welcomed all recommendations from the Review, with health and social care secretary Steve Barclay saying: ‘This investment is another significant step in harnessing UK innovation to help cut waiting lists – one of the Government’s five priorities – and build a stronger NHS.
“We will take forward Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations to speed up the delivery of clinical trials and boost patient involvement in research, so people getting NHS care can benefit from cutting-edge treatments faster, supported by £121m in government funding.’
The Review also highlights the potential for commercial clinical trials to take place in primary care and at-home settings and the need for regulators to produce guidance to support these decentralised trials.
A report into the progress of the Government’s commitments to Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations, as well as responses to those recommendations requiring further research, will be published in autumn 2023.
Richard Torbett, chief executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: ‘Lord O’Shaughnessy is right that making the UK an attractive destination for industry clinical trials requires regulatory reform, speedier study set-up and approvals, and improved access to data. Implementing his proposals, alongside these other announcements, can be a springboard to delivering on the UK’s ambition to be a science superpower, and we now must press forward with delivery at pace.’
Executive director of policy, information and communications at Cancer Research UK, Dr Ian Walker, said: ‘The O’Shaughnessy Review has rightly recognised that the UK’s clinical trials system needs to change. The system has been under pressure for many years, but has been pushed close to breaking point by the pandemic and related pressures on the NHS.
‘Many of the review’s recommendations recognise the value that medical charities like Cancer Research UK bring to clinical trials, offering patients early access to innovative new treatments. Taking trials to sites outside of hospitals and cutting red tape will help get more trials up and running, get more patients joining trials and make faster progress towards new treatments.
‘But fundamentally we must urgently address the lack of time and capacity available for research within the NHS. Right now, staff within cancer services are overstretched, struggling to set aside time to deliver promising clinical trials which could ultimately make smarter use of the NHS.’
Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Innovation at Asthma + Lung UK, said: ‘I’m pleased Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review highlights the areas where clinical trials aren’t currently working in the UK and that the Government proposes to accept his recommendations. Clinical trials are an essential part of developing new and better treatments for people. However, without a consistent way to connect people in need of treatment with the appropriate trial, the system supporting clinical research in the UK breaks down and faces collapse.’
Mr Hunt’s ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package, announced on 25 May 2023, brings together 10 policies to ‘fire up the UK’s life sciences sector’, backed by cross-government package of £643m.
As well as focusing on clinical trial improvements, other health-related policies include up to £48m of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies, and £154m to increase capacity of the UK’s biological data bank.
Plans were also unveiled to plans to relaunch the Academic Health Science Network as ‘Health Innovation Networks’ to boost innovation by bringing together the NHS, local communities, charities, academia and industry to share best practice.
Mental health was another priority, with £42.7m of investment for the ‘Mental Health Mission’, which will go towards the research and delivery of novel treatments for early intervention in psychosis, depression and mental health in children.
Mr Barclay added: ‘We’re also accelerating research into mental health, backed by over £42 million of investment in clinical research centres across the UK – including in Birmingham and Liverpool – to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and increase the use of technology for treatment.’
18th May 2023
Doctors are among those who have been asked to respond to a consultation ahead of the UK Government’s major conditions strategy set to publish later this year.
A call for evidence has been launched on how to prevent, diagnose, and manage six conditions that account for 60% of ill health and early deaths in England.
The online survey for individuals and organisations asks questions on what the priorities should be for cardiovascular disease – including stroke and diabetes – chronic respiratory diseases; dementia; and; musculoskeletal disorders. It will be open until the 27 June.
The Government said it wanted to see what impactful interventions can be adopted and scaled quickly – that is, in the next one to two years – how to improve outcomes for people with more than one condition and how to tackle gender, ethnic and geographical disparities, the evidence call said.
It will also look at how to best support those with multiple conditions, with one in four people having two or more of the major long-term conditions included in the strategy.
Ministers are particularly keen to hear from those who suffer from, care for or provide treatment to people who suffer from multiple long-term conditions as part of the consultation, as well as those working for the NHS, local government, voluntary and community sector.
For each major condition area, participants are asked to select up to three priorities: prevention, stopping or delaying progression, improving speed of diagnosis, improving urgent and emergency treatment, or improving non-urgent and long-term treatment and care.
Plans for the major conditions strategy were first announced in January as being ‘critical’ to achieving the Government’s manifesto commitment of five extra years of healthy life expectancy by 2035, and to narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2030.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay, said: ‘Patients often live with more than one major condition, so it’s vital that we do all we can to understand how best to manage their care.
‘I encourage patients, carers and healthcare professionals to contribute to our call for evidence so we can ensure our Major Conditions Strategy is as targeted and patient-focused as possible.’
Minister of state for social care Helen Whately added: ‘We want to hear from as many people as possible affected by these conditions in our call for evidence. It’ll help us join up care across the NHS and mean better treatment for millions of people.
‘It’s also really important that we hear from professionals working in areas like dementia or cancer too. Their frontline experience will be invaluable to make sure our strategy includes plans which will really work in practice.’
Samantha Benham-Hermetz, director of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Since the previous dementia strategy expired in 2020, the number of people living with the condition in the UK, and the challenges they face every day, have only continued to grow.’
She added that promising new treatments for early dementia were in development. ‘Bringing these into routine use will be challenging, and the major conditions strategy presents a huge opportunity to address these challenges and transform our health system,’ she said.
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma + Lung UK, said: ‘Lung conditions are the third biggest killer in the UK, but historically haven’t received the attention they deserve, so the major conditions strategy is a big opportunity to change that.’
The Government said the views and ideas gathered will inform the priorities, content and actions in the major conditions strategy, which it will be publishing later this year. It will also publish an interim report in the summer.
The Government has also published a summary of responses to its call for evidence on priorities for the 10-year cancer plan.
Most agreement was on the need to get people diagnosed quicker which 90% of individuals and 74% of professionals and organisations said should be a key focus over the next decade.
Suggested interventions included funding to expand the GP workforce and tackle geographical disparities to help people be seen sooner and training for GPs to recognise a wider range of symptoms.
Some respondents also called for GPs to listen better to patient concerns and act sooner ‘moving away from a culture of watch and wait’ as well as greater use of self-referral and at home tests for diagnostics.
A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.