First ESC Focused Update on dual antiplatelet therapy in CHD

My Post (8)The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has published its first Focused Update on the use of dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) in coronary heart disease (CHD) (Valgimigli et al, 2017). Produced in collaboration with the European Society for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS), the document addresses recommendations on a medical treatment that has seen conflicting advice over the years.

Conflicting evidence
According to Dr Marco Valgimigli, Chairperson of the ESC/EACTS Task Force, the conflicting evidence surrounding DAPT has resulted in many people calling it a controversial topic:

‘This has led to a great deal of uncertainty in the medical community, particularly regarding the optimal duration of DAPT after coronary stenting,’ he said.

A survey initiated by the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions sought opinions from the medical community on the evidence relating to DAPT duration after coronary stenting (Valgimigli et al, 2015). It revealed considerable uncertainty over optimal duration of DAPT after stenting and therefore called for updated recommendations for practising physicians to guide treatment decisions.

Neglected populations
Alongside conflicting results in the published literature on DAPT, there is also limited evidence on various patient subsets—such as elderly patients—who may have a greater bleeding risk. Here, the benefits and risks of DAPT may be different to those seen in more selected patient cohorts included in randomised controlled trials. The aim of this Focused Update therefore is to address the current recommendations on DAPT in patients with CHD.

Dual antiplatelet therapy
Being one of the most intensively investigated treatments in cardiovascular medicine, there have been 35 randomised clinical trials of DAPT, including more than 225 000 patients. The first randomised clinical trial to establish the superiority of DAPT over anticoagulant therapy among patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention was published in 1996.

Platelets are small particles in the blood that can clump together to form clots; these can go on to cause myocardial infarction or the occlusion of a coronary stent. Antiplatelet agents are a class of drugs that are used to stop platelets from forming these clots. The use of two types of antiplatelet agents to prevent blood clotting is known as DAPT (American Heart Association, 2017).

The number of patients requiring dual antiplatelet therapy consisting of the combination of aspirin and an oral inhibitor of the platelet P2Y12 receptor for adenosine 5’-diphosphate has increased over time. In Europe, it is believed that around 1 400 000 patients per year may have an indication for DAPT after coronary intervention, and 2 200 000 after myocardial infarction.

P2Y12 inhibitors range from safer drugs, such as ticlopidine or clopidogrel, to the more potent and predictable, such as ticagrelor or prasugrel. The decision on when to initiate a P2Y12 inhibitor depends on both the specific drug and the disease.

DAPT reduces the risk of stent thrombosis from occurrences ranging from acute to late events. It also reduces the rate of spontaneous myocardial infarction after percutaneous coronary intervention and myocardial infarction.

For patients with stable CHD treated with percutaneous coronary intervention, the default P2Y12 inhibitor is considered to be clopidogrel. It is also commonly the default drug for patients with indication to concomitant oral anticoagulation, and in patients with acute coronary syndromes in whom ticagrelor or prasugrel are contraindicated. Ticagrelor or prasugrel is recommended in people with acute coronary syndromes unless drug-specific contraindications exist.

Recommendations for DAPT
A Task Force made up of selected medical experts carried out a comprehensive review of the published evidence for management of CHD according to ESC Committee for Practice Guidelines policy, and approved by the EACTS. A critical evaluation of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures took place, including assessment of the risk–benefit ratio. The level of evidence and the strength of the recommendation of particular management options were then weighed and graded according to predefined scales.

The Focused Update recommends a default DAPT duration of 12 months for patients with acute coronary syndrome. This is irrespective of revascularisation therapy, whether through medical therapy, percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass surgery. In patients with high bleeding risk, 6 months of DAPT should be considered. Therapy over 12 months may be considered in patients with acute coronary syndrome who have tolerated DAPT without a bleeding complication.

The Task Force felt that the need for a short DAPT regimen should no longer justify the use of bare metal stents instead of newer generation drug-eluting stents. An assessment of the individual patient’s ischaemic risks versus bleeding risks should be used to establish duration of DAPT rather than the type of stent used.

For patients with CHD being treated with percutaneous coronary intervention who are believed to be stable, the duration of DAPT should be 1–6 months, depending on the bleeding risk. This is irrespective of the type of metallic stent implanted. For patients whose ischaemic risk is thought to be greater than the risk of bleeding, the Focused Update recommends a longer DAPT duration. The Task Force felt that there were insufficient data to recommend DAPT in patients with stable CHD treated with coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The most controversial issue cited was the need for a prolonged DAPT regimen (anything over 12 months) in patients with acute coronary syndrome treated with percutaneous coronary intervention. This is owing to concern over ensuring benefits while diminishing risks.

‘This is a setting in which one needs to think twice about how to maximise the benefits over the risks,’ said Dr Valgimigli. ‘The most novel and important message here is that DAPT is a regimen to treat a patient, not the previously implanted stent. This is crucial and the community needs to adapt to this new treatment paradigm.’

Differing types and durations of DAPT therapy have not been seen as necessary for male and female patients, instead calling for a similar approach to care. Additionally, no difference in therapy is required for patients with diabetes.

Dr Valgimigli said:

‘The Task Force advocates a personalised medicine approach where each treatment and its duration is individualised as much as possible. The document highlights who should, and should not, receive long-term treatment, while at the same time outlining how to maximise the expected benefits over the risks.’

Conclusion
This year marks the 21st anniversary of the first randomised clinical trial that established the superiority of DAPT over anticoagulant therapy among patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. However, differing advice on optimal duration of DAPT after coronary stenting makes this Focused Update long overdue—though it should go some way to guiding treatment decisions. BJCN

References

American Heart Association. 2017. What is Dual Antiplatelet Therapy (DAPT) [Internet]? Available from http://tinyurl.com/yajb9wmx

Valgimigli M, Costa F, Byrne R, Haude M, Baumbach A, Windecker S. Dual antiplatelet therapy duration after coronary stenting in clinical practice: results of an EAPCI survey. EuroIntervention. 2015;11(1):68-74. https://doi.org/10.4244/EIJV11I1A11

Valgimigli M, Bueno H, Byrne RA et al. 2017 ESC focused update on dual antiplatelet therapy in coronary artery disease developed in collaboration with EACTS: The Task Force for dual antiplatelet therapy in coronary artery disease of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and of the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS). Eur Heart J; 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehx419. [Epub ahead of print]

Taken from British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, published December 2017.

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Elderly need to take responsibility for their own long-term health

My Post (6)Elderly people are not doing enough to protect their long-term health and it is having a knock on effect on the NHS. A recent survey found almost a quarter of people aged 65 and over do no strengthening activities at all, and only 9% do them once a week (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 2017).

Along with 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, national activity guidelines recommend adults over 65 do strength training at least two times a week (NHS Choices, 2015). Working all the major muscles on a regular basis has the benefit of improving daily movement, maintaining strong bones and regulating blood pressure. It is also known to reduce the risk of falls.

Falls cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion a year, not to mention the human cost of pain, injury, and loss of confidence (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2013). It has regularly been highlighted that physiotherapists can greatly reduce the number of falls in the elderly if utilised properly. This is done by a multifactorial assessment of those who may be at risk, followed by a multifactorial intervention to improve strength and balance. As many as 160 000 falls could be prevented if everyone 65 and over at risk of falling was referred to physiotherapy. This would save the NHS £250 million a year (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 2014).

While these figures are substantial and illustrate how physiotherapists play a key role in the pathway of care, a simpler solution would be to increase the amount of education in the community in the benefits of strengthening activities. If people were encouraged more and realised how including strengthening activities as part of their weekly routine would affect them, it would reduce the number of people requiring medical attention for falls and take the pressure off health care professionals. The public should be taking responsibility for their own health, yet evidently they are not.

Many adults are put off by the idea of traditional strength training and squirm at the thought of hitting the gym to lift weights. However, this is by no means the only way to gain strength. Recent evidence highlights the benefit of both recreational and non-recreational activities in improving overall health (Lear et al, 2017). Recreational activities that can help to improve strength include yoga, dancing or even heavy gardening. If time is a concern, non-recreational activities such as carrying heavy shopping or doing the housework offer a practical way to build strength. By being mindful of these sorts of activities, the national recommended target can easily be reached.

People need to be inspired to meet these targets, but that is no easy task. However, more can and must be done. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s poll found that advice from a GP or physiotherapist would be effective in encouraging people to meet national guidelines so this needs to be pushed. Additionally, more information is needed, both online and in the community. The public must take responsibility for their own health, but to do that they need to be properly educated.

References

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Cost of falls [Internet]. London: CSP; 2014 Sep 2 [cited 2017 Oct 11]. Available from: http://www.csp.org.uk/professional-union/practice/your-business/evidence-base/cost-falls

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Too many people letting muscle waste as they age, physiotherapists warn [Internet]. London: CSP; 2017 Sep 29 [cited 2017 Oct 11]. Available from http://www.csp.org.uk/press-releases/2017/09/28/too-many-peopleletting-muscle-waste-they-age-physiotherapists-warn

Lear SA, Hu W, Rangarajan S. The effect of physical activity on mortality and cardiovascular disease in 130 000 people from 17 high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries: the PURE study. Lancet. 2017;pii:S0140-6736(17)31634-3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31634-3

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Falls in older people: assessing risk and prevention (CG 161). London: NICE; 2013

NHS Choices. Physical activity guidelines for older adults [Internet]. London: NHS Choices; 2015 July 11 [cited 2017 Oc 12]. Available from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-older-adults.aspx

Taken from International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, published November 2017.

Whole system change needed in gender identity services

My Post (5)Gender identity services in the NHS are failing to meet the needs of patients. Huge delays in treatment are forcing many to go private or abroad, while a lack of funding and suitably trained staff means patients are not receiving adequate care.

Gender dysphoria is a condition whereby a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity (NHS Choices, 2016). Figures estimate there are 650 000 people in the UK living with gender dysphoria, which is equal to 1% of the population (Women and Equalities Committee, 2016). This is expected to rise as society’s increasing tolerance and acceptance of transgenderism has encouraged more people to come forward and seek medical help.

In the UK, transgender people’s health needs regarding gender dysphoria are being met at specialised NHS gender identity clinics or through private care. At present, all GPs in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland may refer their patients directly to a gender identity clinic, and do not need to refer them to a mental health service for assessment beforehand. In Wales, however, GPs have to refer first to a local psychiatrist, who assesses the patient and can recommend they are referred for assessment and treatment at a gender identity clinic (General Medical Council (GMC), 2017).

Unacceptable waiting times
Waiting times for people with gender dysphoria before their first appointment at an NHS gender identity clinic are unacceptable, as are the times for subsequent gender reassignment surgery, should it be wanted. This, in turn, has a massive impact on the health and wellbeing of trans patients. According to the GMC, the risk of self-harm and suicide for trans people is much greater than in the general population, and any delays in accessing medical care can substantially increase these risks (GMC, 2017).

Under the NHS Constitution, patients are legally entitled to have their first appointment at a specialist service within 18 weeks of referral (Department of Health, 2015). However, due to increased demand, some transgender patients have found themselves waiting up to 4 years for an appointment (Lyons, 2016). Remarkably, it was only in January 2015 that the NHS accepted that the 18-week principle applies to gender identity services too (Women and Equalities Committee, 2016).

It is because of these long waiting times that many trans people are turning to private care—but this does not come cheap. Initial appointments can cost between £220 and £280, and tend to cover assessment, diagnosis and recommendations. It is generally after two appointments that hormone therapy is started.

The cost of gender reassignment surgery varies considerably and prices range from £10 000 to £20 000. In desperation, many are turning to far-flung destinations, such as Thailand, to have this surgery.

Things need to change
In an attempt to meet the increased demand on gender identity services, NHS England invested an additional £6.5 million in this area this year. It is hoped this will go some way to reducing waiting times. However, despite increased funding, there is no detracting from the stark truth that the NHS is letting transgender people down. Notably, according to a Government report on transgender equality, the NHS is ‘failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act’ (Women and Equalities Committee, 2016).

A lack of knowledge and understanding among many clinicians and staff within the NHS has meant transgender people all too often encounter significant problems, whether through prejudice or the provision of inappropriate care. Additionally, other commonly cited concerns include too much variation in clinical protocols, confusion about what is available in the NHS, and inequitable access arrangements (Women and Equalities Committee, 2016).

Following this report, NHS England asked its Clinical Reference Group for Gender Identity to make recommendations on new service specifications for these specialist clinics. This led to a 12-week public consultation on proposals for new service specifications that, if adopted, will describe how specialised gender identity services for adults will be commissioned and delivered in the future within England. The final decisions will be made at the end of autumn 2017.

Relationship between public and private services
Among the changes set out in the consultation include a proposal that only designated specialist gender identity clinics will be able to refer individuals for reassignment surgery in the NHS. This would mean other NHS professionals or private clinics would not be able to make the referrals. The decision was made because it is felt the multidisciplinary teams of gender identity clinics are best placed to consider an individual’s suitability for surgery in the context of the relevant medical, psychological, emotional and social issues (NHS England, 2017). They are also able to accurately gauge the likely range of risks in each case.

Unfortunately this means patients would be unable to begin down the private pathway of care for an initial assessment and diagnosis, before moving to the NHS for gender reassignment surgery. Though this would go some way to diverting pressures on NHS services, it could be argued that boundaries of care between private and public could be blurred, making it difficulty to ensure safety and quality of care. Equally, referrals to an NHS gender clinic would have to come through an NHS pathway.

A gender identity specialism is needed
The lack of suitably trained staff to take on specialist roles being created in nursing, medicine, psychology and other professions is one of the key reasons for unprecedented demand on gender identity services. There are under a dozen people in the UK working both privately and in the NHS who can carry out vaginoplasty or phalloplasty operations (Parkins, 2016).

With the above in mind, there have been discussions with Health Education England, the GMC and the Royal College of Physicians about the development of a gender identity specialism, supported by appropriate curricula and recognition. It is evident that this is sorely needed; however, even at a grassroots level, training for GPs is insufficient, consisting of two online educational modules on gender variance on the Royal College of General Practitioners’ website. Without a proper understanding of this patient population, health services cannot begin to address their needs.

Conclusion
While momentum for change is gathering and the Government is beginning to listen, anything short of a whole system change in gender identity services would be insufficient. Waiting times are the most pressing concern that need to be addressed, with demand and capacity out of balance. Quality indicators are needed to assess quality and benchmark providers; a better interface with primary care services is essential; and increased understanding and knowledge across all health services is paramount. Transgender people have just as much right to care as anyone else, and health services and professionals cannot let them down.

References

Department of Health. NHS Constitution for England. 2015. http://tinyurl.com/d7sa3wq (accessed 23 October 2017)

General Medical Council. Good medical practice. Trans healthcare. Treatment pathways. 2017. http://tinyurl.com/grugw8z (accessed 19 October 2017)

Lyons K. Gender identity clinic services under strain as referral rates soar. 2016. http://tinyurl.com/hcb9uzz (accessed 19 October 2017)

NHS Choices. Gender dysphoria. 2016. http://tinyurl.com/ybt7rbj7 (accessed 19 October 2017)

NHS England. Guide to consultation: specialised gender identity services for adults. 2017. http://tinyurl.com/ydg3pfmh (accessed 19 October 2017)

Parkins K. Meet the gender reassignment surgeons: ‘Demand is going through the roof’. 2016. http://tinyurl.com/hdblcpg (accessed 19 October 2017)

Women and Equalities Committee. Transgender equality: first report of session 2015–16. 2016. http://tinyurl.com/y8sftc2h (accessed 19 October 2017)

Taken from British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, published November 2017.

Review of Mental Health Act must address excessive detention rates

My Post (4)Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday 4 October was one mired by illness, a prankster and a backdrop that fell apart, presenting journalists with countless opportunities for cheap metaphors. But while the gaffs of her mea culpa overshadowed the announcement of new policies, for those that could see past the cringe-induced spectacle there were a number of interesting points.

One of these announcements was how the Government would be carrying out an independent review of the Mental Health Act. Building on her Brexit speech in January, where she vowed to correct the ‘burning injustices’ in modern society, May explained how a particular priority for her was ‘tackling the injustice and stigma associated with mental health’ (May, 2017).

She emphasised her desire for parity between mental and physical health through reiterating the Government’s pledge of increased investment in mental health. Recent announcements of an additional £1.3 billion to transform mental health services by 2021 (Health Education England, (HEE), 2017) were met with mixed reactions from key health bodies. It was said the funding will go towards the creation of 21 000 new posts, including 4600 nurses working in crisis care settings and 1200 nurses and midwives in child and adolescent mental health services (Department of Health, 2017). However, organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing said the Government’s proposals ‘appear not to add up’ (Royal College of Nursing, 2017). Other policies include giving an extra 1 million patients access to mental health services at an earlier stage, round-the-clock services and the integration of mental and physical health services for the first time.

The Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act was passed in 1983 and is the main piece of legislation that sets out when and how a person can be detained and treated in relation to their mental illness. People detained under the Mental Health Act need urgent treatment for a mental health disorder and are deemed to be at risk of harm to themselves or others. In May’s speech she argued that the three decades old legislation is leading to ‘shortfalls in services and is open to misuse’ (May 2017). While the Mental Health Act was amended in 2007, it is felt by many that a more substantial revision is needed. This amendment was originally a proposed bill, but many felt it was ‘too draconian’ (BBC news, 2007).

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health called for the Mental Health Act to be revised ‘to ensure stronger protection of people’s autonomy, and greater scrutiny and protection where the views of individuals with mental capacity to make healthcare decisions may be overridden to enforce treatment against their will’ (Mental Health Taskforce, 2016).

Reducing detention rates
Current detention rates under the Mental Health Act are too high. The latest published figures show the number of detentions under the Act are rising annually, increasing by 9% to 63 622 in 2015–2016, compared to 58 399 detentions in 2014–2015 (NHS Digital, 2016). Over the last 10 years they have increased by almost 50%. Of those detentions, a disproportionate number are of people from black and minority ethnic populations — four times as many black people as white people are detained. It is unclear why there are disproportionate detention rates between different communities, but this must be identified to ensure equal access to earlier intervention and crisis care services.

While reviewing the Act will use changes in legislation to help reduce the rates of detention, the difficulty will come in figuring out how the delivery of care must be changed so that detention can be avoided in the first place (Wessely, 2017). Additional focus is needed on the provision of earlier support. By identifying vulnerable people and addressing their mental health needs early, they can receive the support and care they need before detention becomes an unavoidable necessity.

For those that are detained, there needs to be a review of the areas constituting a ‘place of safety’. Police custody is not an appropriate area of safety. Around half the deaths that take place in or following police custody involve detainees with some form of mental health problem (Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), 2017). Although police custody is only used as a last resort, it can exacerbate a person’s mental state, and has the effect of criminalising people who are in need of medical attention (IPCC, 2017).

Undertaking the review
The review will be carried out by Sir Simon Wessely, professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. He is the former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and current President of the Royal Society of Medicine. Wessely will produce an interim report in early 2018 and develop a final report containing detailed recommendations, by autumn 2018.

References

BBC News. Ministers lose Mental Health vote. [Online]. 2007. [Cited on 25 Oct 2017]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6374547.stm

Department of Health. Thousands of new roles to be created in mental health workforce plan. London: The Stationery Office; 2017 Aug 30 [cited 2017 Oct 18]. Available from https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/30/moving-forward-with-theprevention-of-mental-health-problems/

Health Education England. Stepping forward to 2020/21: The mental health workforce plan for England. Leeds: Health Education England; 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 18]. Available from https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/CCS0717505185-1_FYFV%20Mental%20health%20workforce%20plan%20for%20England_v5%283%29.pdf

Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mental health and police custody [Internet]. Sale: IPCC; 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 19]. Available from https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/page/mental-health-police-custody

May T. Theresa May’s Conservative conference speech, full text [Internet]. London: The Spectator; 2017 Oct 4 [cited 2017 Oct 18]. Available from https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/10/theresa-mays-conservativeconference-speech-full-text/

Mental Health Taskforce. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. Leeds: NHS England; 2016

NHS Digital. Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983, and patients subject to supervised community treatment. Uses of the Mental Health Act: Annual Statistics, 2015/16. London: Health and Social Care Information Centre; 2016

Royal College of Nursing. RCN responds to Mental Health Workforce Plan. London: RCN; 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 18]. Available from https://tinyurl.com/yavm3ulq

Wessely S. The Prime Minister Has Asked Me To Lead A Review Of The Mental Health Inequality In Britain – Here’s Why. London: The Huffington Post; 2017 Oct 6 [cited 2017 Oct 19]. Available from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/professor-sir-simonwessely/mental-health-act_b_18192476.html

Taken from British Journal of Healthcare Management, published November 2017.

New cross-specialty guidelines on peripheral arterial diseases

My Post (3)New guidelines on peripheral arterial diseases (PADs) have been jointly published by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS) (Aboyans et al, 2017). These guidelines mark the first time that ESC recommendations on PADs have been developed as a collaborative effort between cardiologists and vascular surgeons. Management of hypertension is achieved through a combination of medication regimen and lifestyle changes. However, the results of the studies examining the level of adherence among hypertensives indicated that the target was not achieved. Saarti et al (2015) found that the level of adherence for medication regimen is 29.1%.

What are PADs?
Over 40 million people in Europe are affected by PADs (Fowkes et al, 2013)—a term used to describe all arterial diseases except those affecting the coronary arteries and aorta. Peripheral arterial diseases include atherosclerotic disease of the extracranial carotid and vertebral, mesenteric, renal, upper and lower extremity arteries.

Multidisciplinary approach
The Task Force was led by ESC Chairperson, Professor Victor Aboyans, and ESVS Co-Chairperson, Professor Jean-Baptiste Ricco. Building on recommendations laid out in the 2011 ESC guidelines (Tendera et al, 2011), it was felt by both societies that a multidisciplinary approach for the management of patients was needed.

Collaboration between specialisms has meant that there is now a single European document on the management of patients with peripheral arterial diseases. Professor Aboyans said:

‘Working together has enabled us to be comprehensive in our recommendations.’

Speaking to theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology, Aboyans stressed the need for multidisciplinary management of patients with PADs. Given the different areas of the body affected by PADs, it is necessary that other specialties beyond cardiovascular medicine and surgery are involved. An example of this would be in the case of carotid disease.

Aboyans said:

‘Talking about the management of carotid disease, we also need the input of a neurologist; the same for nephrologists or gastroenterologists.

‘We cannot think any more about a patient at a consultation and the surgeon says: “Ok, I’ll operate on you, I’ll fix the problem, and then it’s over,” because this is just the beginning of another story, which is the long-term management and reassessment of these patients, as with coronary risk,’ he added.

Complications of PADs
According to Aboyans, patients suffering from PADs often have difficulty walking— particularly those with arterial disease of the extremities. This is owing to insufficient blood flow to the lower limbs brought on by stenoses or occlusions of the peripheral arteries. This can pose a complication, as many patients may be unaware that they have a more serious condition. This is because they do not suffer from common symptoms of circulatory problems, such as shortness of breath, due to being sedentary.

‘They may have heart failure, but they don’t really complain about shortness of breath, just because they don’t walk any more,’ he said.

The benefit of cross-specialty assessment is therefore apparent. This ensures that all possible areas for concern are taken into consideration.

‘It is really mandatory that, if a patient comes to one specialty, to also have the call with other specialties, and this complementary approach is of benefit to the patients,’ he said.

‘It is one thing to fix the local-territory issue, the other is the cardiovascular health of these patients and, in the end, the prognosis.’

Changes to the guidelines
In putting together these guidelines, a comprehensive review of the published evidence was carried out. The Task Force was made up of experts in the field selected by the ESC. It included representation from the ESVS and European Stroke Organisation (ESO). This ensured all professionals responsible for the medical care of patients with this pathology were involved. The Task Force considered published articles on management of a given condition according to the ESC Committee for Practice Guidelines policy. These were then approved by the ESVS and ESO. A critical evaluation of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for PADs was carried out, including an assessment of the risk– benefit ratio.

A number of changes have been made since the 2011 guidelines were published and new recommendations set out for the management of PADs. A chapter devoted to the use of antithrombotic drugs has been introduced for the first time. There is also a new chapter on the management of other cardiac conditions frequently encountered in patients with PADs. These include heart failure, atrial fibrillation and valvular heart disease. The chapter on mesenteric artery disease has been entirely revisited. Ricco said:

‘We have updated this chapter with new data showing the interest of endovascular surgery in these often frail patients.’

The Task Force has recommended revascularisation of asymptomatic carotid stenosis only in patients at high risk of stroke. This is despite no new major trials on the management of asymptomatic carotid artery disease since the last guidelines were published. However, there are new data on the long-term risk of stroke in patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis.

‘The previous guidelines recommended revascularisation for all patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis, so this is an important change,’ said Aboyans.

‘Trials showing the benefits of revascularisation compared to best medical therapy alone were performed in the 1990s but stroke rates in all patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis have decreased since then— regardless of the type of treatment— so the applicability of those trial results in the current management of these patients is more questionable.’

There is now a strong recommendation against systematic revascularisation of renal stenosis in patients with renal artery disease. This is following the publication of several trials.

WIfI classification
A new classification system (WIfI) has been proposed as the initial assessment of all patients with ischaemic rest pain or wounds. The system takes into account the three main factors that contribute to the risk of limb amputation, which are:

  • Wound
  • Ischaemia
  • foot Infection.

Professor Ricco emphasised the impor¬tance of the new WIfI classification in lower extremity artery disease.

Guidelines into practice
The new guidelines encourage health professionals to consider its recommendations when exercising their clinical judgment, as well as in the determination and the implementation of preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic medical strategies. However, they make clear that they do not override the individual responsibility of health professionals to make appropriate and accurate decisions in consideration of each patient’s health condition. This should be done in consultation with that patient or the patient’s caregiver where appropriate and/or necessary.

References

Aboyans V, Ricco JB, Bartelink MEL et al. 2017 ESC Guidelines on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Peripheral Arterial Diseases, in collaboration with the European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS): Document covering atherosclerotic disease of extracranial carotid and vertebral, mesenteric, renal, upper and lower extrem¬ity arteriesEndorsed by: the European Stroke Organization (ESO)The Task Force for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Peripheral Arterial Diseases of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and of the European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS). Eur Heart J. 2017; [Epub ahead of print]. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehx095

Fowkes FG, Rudan D, Rudan I et al. Comparison of global estimates of prevalence and risk fac¬tors for peripheral artery disease in 2000 and 2010: a systematic review and analysis. Lancet. 2013;382(9901):1329–1340. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61249-0

Tendera M, Aboyans V, Bartelink ML et al. ESC Guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of peripheral artery diseases: Document covering atherosclerotic disease of extracranial carotid and vertebral, mesenteric, renal, upper and lower extremity arteries: the Task Force on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Peripheral Artery Diseases of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Eur Heart J. 2011;32(22):2851–2906. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehr211

Taken from British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, published November 2017.

Is now the winter of our discontent? Exploring seasonal pressure on the NHS

My Post (1)Around this time every year, the media is strewn with forewarnings of how winter will put undue strain on the NHS. In a system already struggling to cope, there are concerns that the seasonal pressure pushes services to breaking point. The NHS’s ability to handle yearly increases in demand has led the British Red Cross to go as far as to call it a ‘humanitarian crisis’ (Campbell et al, 2017).

This article will consider the causes of winter pressure on NHS services and how they differ to those experienced throughout the rest of the year. It will explore whether the warnings are genuine or mere hyperbole, and look at some of the ways the NHS attempts to combat these pressures.

Causes of winter pressures

The leading cause of winter pressure is difficult to pinpoint, and can vary from year to year. However, there are a number of recurring contributing factors. While most health problems are not caused by extremes of cold, the weather indelibly has an effect on the number of patients attending accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

Cold weather increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory illnesses, flu, falls and other diseases (NHS England, 2013; Public Health England, 2017). Vulnerable people— such as the very young, elderly and those with pre-existing conditions— are those predominantly affected by changes in the weather (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2015). The effect of winter on the NHS becomes apparent in early December. Performance in A&Es is measured through their ability to meet a 4-hour waiting target. One of the core standards of the NHS Constitution states that a minimum of 95% of patients attending A&E departments in England must be seen, treated and then admitted or discharged in under 4 hours (NHS England, 2015). Breaches of the 4-hour waiting standard result in trusts having to pay penalties (House of Commons Health Committee, 2016).

A&E attendances
Annual attendances at A&E departments have increased. The number of people arriving at major (type 1) A&E departments has seen a 7% rise from 2010 to 2015—from an average of 36 731 attendances per day in August 2010, to 39 220 in August 2015 (Fisher and Dorning, 2016).

Consequently, only 87.9% of patients in type 1 departments were admitted, transferred or discharged within 4 hours in 2015–16 (House of Commons Health Committee, 2016). This is clearly far below the expected standard. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (2016a) has estimated that the increased attendance over the past 5 years is equivalent to the workload of 10 additional medium sized emergency departments.

Contrary to expectation, the highest number of A&E attendances does not take place in winter. Instead, there is an observable ‘dip’ in visits to A&E around December and January (Fisher and Dornin, 2016). The highest overall attendances are actually in the summer months. The important factor affecting winter pressure is the number of patients subsequently admitted to hospital. The highest proportion of the patient population in summer is under 60 years of age. By contrast, in the winter, it tends to consist of those over 60 years. This spike in the number of more vulnerable, elderly patients is significant because they tend to stay longer in A&E, and are more likely to be readmitted to hospital (Fisher and Dornin, 2016).

Hospital admissions
Like attendances, hospital admissions have also increased. Similarly, they have seen a 7% rise from 13 723 in August 2010 to 14 666 in August 2015 (Fisher and Dornin, 2016). There is a notable ‘peak’ of admissions during the middle of winter (Fisher and Dornin, 2016).

The difference between the proportion of patients admitted is 27.9% in winter, compared with 25.8% in the summer months (Department of Health (DH) et al, 2017).

‘Congestive hospital failure’
The rise in hospital admissions has caused a subsequent decrease in the number of available hospital beds, with the percentage of beds occupied peaking in winter (Fisher and Dornin, 2016). Due to the number of beds available for admission of acutely ill and injured patients continuing to fall over the past 5 years, the UK now has the lowest number of beds per capita in Europe, and England has the lowest number within the UK (Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 2016a). The consequence of limiting bed capacity has been a growth in general and acute bed occupancy from 86.3% in 2010–11, to 91.2% in 2015–16 (Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 2016b).

A lack of available beds reduces flow through A&Es as it slows the accommodation of new attendances (Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 2016a). This in turn affects the ability of ambulance services to off-load patients—an issue known as ‘congestive hospital failure’ (NHS England, 2013).

Another factor influencing occupancy rates is delayed transfer of care, which leaves systems less resilient to operational pressures. Unnecessary delay in discharging patients who no longer need to be in hospital led to 1.15 million bed days being lost in acute hospitals during 2015 (National Audit Office, 2016).

Combatting pressures

To help combat winter pressures, the NHS conducts strategic planning each year. For the 2017/18 winter, formal planning began at its earliest time yet in July (Philip, 2017). Local plans were submitted in September covering resilience arrangements from the start of December up to Easter 2018.

As part of this preparation, Public Health England (2017) publishes a Cold Weather Plan every year to help protect the population against harm from cold weather. A mixture of past experience and forward-planning will help build future resilience. Below are some of the key methods of combatting pressure.

Best use of ambulance services
An expansion of the ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ services provided by ambulance services can help alleviate demand on A&E departments. ‘Hear and treat’ services refer to 999 calls that are successfully completed without dispatching an ambulance vehicle response. Examples of this include over-the-phone advice, instructions for self-care, or referral to other urgent services (Urgent and Emergency Care Review Programme Team, 2015).

‘See and treat’ services refer to a model of care where a patient is clinically assessed at scene, before being provided with immediate treatment and subsequent discharge and/or referral (Urgent and Emergency Care Review Programme Team, 2015). By avoiding taking patients unnecessarily to A&E, they can be referred to more appropriate services that better fit the patient’s needs, or further support can be provided at home or in a community setting. ‘Hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ services now cover 3.5 million people (NHS England, 2017b).

This winter will see the full rollout of phase two of the Ambulance Response Programme, with the introduction of new call standards that accurately reflect the type and urgency of care needed by patients (Quaile, 2017). Along with the new dispatch on disposition system, giving call handlers more time to triage 999 calls, it is hoped that many patients can avoid being taken unnecessarily to A&Es.

Boosting flu vaccinations
Flu outbreaks within health services can be crippling and are a genuine concern each winter. Last year, 49% of NHS staff were vaccinated against the influenza virus and, this year, the number of vaccinated staff has been raised to 63% (NHS England, 2017b).

Additionally, free flu jabs will be provided to hundreds of thousands of care-home staff at a cost of up to £10 million; and numbers of vaccinations for young children and vulnerable people will be increased (NHS England, 2017a). Being vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of flu infection and reduce avoidable deaths. As it is possible to have flu without showing any symptoms, health professionals could find themselves working with flu but not realising it. It is essential they are vaccinated to avoid spreading the illness to vulnerable people.

Increasing funding
The spring budget announced an additional £100 million to support improvements in emergency departments through the implementation of a primary-care streaming model (Philip, 2017). Here, patients are streamed away from highly pressured emergency departments, to co-located GP-led primary care services, for conditions more suited to assessment and treatment in primary care (NHS Improvement, 2017).

Achieving ‘good’ patient flow
According to Monitor (2015), improving patient flow through hospital departments other than A&E is ‘the most important systemic means’ of avoiding sharp declines in A&E performance during winter. Health systems that have better patient flow are much better at coping with external pressures than those who don’t (NHS Improvement, 2017). Within ambulance services, good patient flow is seen as the handing over of a patient to an emergency department within 15 minutes of arriving (NHS Improvement, 2017).

My Post (2)Encouraging self-care
Further promotion of self-care is essential to reducing demand on health services. Giving people the confidence and information to look after themselves can help prevent ill health and reduce pressure (British Medical Association, 2016). However, for this to work, support needs to be easily accessible.

Improving housing conditions
Housing conditions for vulnerable people play an important part in the number of excess winter deaths and illnesses. In the coldest 10% of homes, the death rate rises approximately 2.8% for every degree Celsius drop in the outside temperature (NICE, 2015).

In England, there is a relatively sharp increase in the risk of death when outdoor temperatures fall to around 6°C (NICE, 2015). Improving heating and insulation for vulnerable people is therefore highly important for reducing avoidable illness or death.

Addressing growing GP demand
General practice is on the brink of crisis as a result of inadequate resourcing, an insufficient workforce, and an unsustainable workload (British Medical Association, 2016). The number of GP consultations in England rose from 303 million in 2008/9 to 361 million in 2013/14 (Royal College of General Practitioners, 2015). However, despite this 19% increase in demand, there has been no change in resourcing and staffing, putting undue strain on GP services (British Medical Association, 2016).

Increased funding in social care
Social care has been struck by considerable funding cuts in recent years, creating a knock-on effect on the number of people receiving services.

There were 500 000 fewer people who accessed social care in 2013/14 compared to 2008/9 (Franklin, 2015). This is despite an increasing ageing population, where the number of over-85s will double over the next two decades. It is also anticipated that adults with a learning disability will increase by at least a third (Local Government Association, 2016).

The cut of £5 billion in local authority social care budgets over the last 5 years has placed significant pressure on services (Local Government Association, 2016). Delays in arranging community nursing or social care has a considerable impact on delayed transfers, with 60% of trusts believing the increase in delayed transfers of care is owing to reductions in social care capacity (Monitor, 2015).

Conclusion
This article has sought to explain the reasons behind additional pressures on health services brought on by the winter season. While attendances at A&E are lower during the winter, the number of hospital admissions of vulnerable patient groups rises, largely because of seasonal illnesses such as flu and norovirus. This causes a reduction in the number of beds available and reduced patient flow within hospitals.

To combat these pressures, longer term investments are needed to address the insufficient workforce, lack of social care, and demand on primary care services. Although there has been additional investment in vaccination against flu; primary-care streaming; and resilience funding for ambulance services for this winter; it is unclear what impact—if any—this will have on health services.

References

British Medical Association. Beating the effects of winter pressures: Briefing paper. 2016; London: BMA

Campbell D, Morris S, Marsh S. NHS faces ‘humanitarian crisis’ as demand rises, British Red Cross warns [Internet]. London: The Guardian; 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/y73vemzg

Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement. Written evidence submitted by the Department of Health, NHS England and NHS Improvement (WIP0035) [Internet]. 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from http:// tinyurl.com/y7vlmu5r

Fisher E, Dorning H. Winter pressures: what’s going on behind the scenes? London: Quality Watch; 2016

Franklin B. The end of formal adult social care: A provocation by the ILC-UK. 2015; London: ILC-UK

House of Commons Health Committee. Winter pressure in accident and emergency departments: Third Report of Session 2016–17. 2016; London: The Stationery Office

Local Government Association. Adult social care funding: 2016 state of the nation report. 2016; London: LGC

Monitor. A&E delays: why did patients wait longer last winter? [Internet]. 2015. [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/ ofw2uv3

National Audit Office. Discharging older patients from hospital [Internet]. 2016. [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/hnyuy2p

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Excess winter deaths and illness and the health risks associated with cold homes. Clinical Guideline 6. 2015; London: NICE

NHS England. NHS leaders unveil action to boost flu vaccination and manage winter pressures. [Internet]. 2017a. [cited 2017 Oct 21]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/ycp5k8er

NHS England. The Handbook to the NHS Constitution. 2015; London: The Stationery Office

NHS England. Understanding Winter Pressures in A&E Departments [Internet]. 2013. [cited 2017 Oct 21]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/ yblaeduc

NHS England. Urgent and emergency care [Internet]. 2017b. [cited 2017 Oct 21]. Available from http://tinyurl.com/y9dctbsp

NHS Improvement. National priorities for acute hospitals 2017. Good practice guide: Focus on improving patient flow [Internet]. 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from http://tinyurl. com/y7t6mfam

Philip P. Letter to all CCGs and providers regarding planning for winter 2017/18, and other operational priorities [Internet]. 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 22]. Available from http:// tinyurl.com/y82kelxe

Public Health England. The Cold Weather Plan for England: Protecting health and reducing harm from cold weather. 2017; London: The Stationery Office

Quaile A. What’s next for England’s ambulance services? J Paramed Pract. 2017;9(10): 443-444

Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Why does winter in A&E get worse every year? 2016a; London: The Royal College of Emergency Medicine

Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Written evidence submitted on behalf of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (WIP009) [Internet]. 2016b. [cited 2017 Oct 23].Available from http://tinyurl.com/y8naucxs

Royal College of General Practitioners. Patient safety implications of general practice workload. 2015; London: RCGP

Urgent and Emergency Care Review Programme Team. Transforming urgent and emergency care services in England: Clinical models for ambulance services. 2015; Leeds: NHS England

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published November 2017.

Leading support for those with mental health issues and learning disabilities

Adobe Spark (3)The Chief Nursing Officer has told mental health and learning disability nurses they need to ‘step up and take the lead’ in delivering ambitions set out by NHS England for mental health and learning disability services. Speaking at the NHS Expo in Manchester, Professor Jane Cummings said:

‘Nurses are creative, they’re innovative, they’re leaders, and they can really drive that change that we all want to see.’

Cummings outlined the important leadership role that mental health nurses have in delivering the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (NHS England, 2016), and that learning disability nurses have in delivering the Learning Disability Transforming Care programme:

‘I think that nurses and midwives should be at the driving edge of change and improvement. I think there is a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of experience. And there’s a huge amount of skill set that nurses can have to really drive the change that everyone wants to see.’

Five Year Forward View for Mental Health

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health was launched in February 2016 in an attempt to improve mental health outcomes across the health and care system, and includes an additional £1.4 billion of investment in mental health services by 2020/21. The funding will go towards the creation of 21 000 new posts, including 4600 nurses working in crisis care settings and 1200 nurses and midwives in child and adolescent mental health services. Other policies include giving an extra 1 million patients access to mental health services at an earlier stage, round-the-clock services, and the integration of mental and physical health services for the first time.

Cummings said that improvements to mental health services is one of the ‘national priorities’ for NHS England, emphasising how there is a massive amount of work going on around mental health, with a real focus on improving access to services:

‘We are particularly focusing, through the Maternity Transformation Programme, on perinatal health. As part of that we have a big workstream looking at perinatal mental health and supporting women to cope with any problems they get post birth.’

According to Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health, the priorities of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health are built on a core set of pre-existing services that are transforming and developing to create an ‘absolute, quiet and steady revolution in mental health care.’

Murdoch echoed Cummings by also calling mental health nurses to ‘step forward and step up.’ However, in order to do this she said nurses need to become vocal about their skills, and experts in co-production and working alongside mental health service users in their own care. As part of plans laid out in the Forward View, Murdoch said the NHS will see an additional 1 million extra patients. This will include 70 000 more children and young people, who will have increased access to specialist eating disorder services within the community.

Murdoch explained how further evidence-based interventions, made earlier in the pathway of illness or distress, will ‘fundamentally change the outcomes for people’s lives so that we don’t create unwittingly long-term patients for the future.’ She added that there will be more tier 4 specialist beds for children and young people suffering from serious mental health problems, particularly in London and the south, where occupancy often outstrips demand. Additional improvements in respite care, crisis houses and home treatment teams were also assured.

According to Murdoch, nurses are leading community mental health teams for children and young people. Working alongside psychologists and doctors, she explained that they are playing a key role in the management of conditions such as eating disorders. Community eating disorders services for young people largely did not exist until last year, and Murdoch commended the mental health nurses, who she said were not only leading those teams, but also breaking new ground in having to work alongside families, the young people themselves, and deliver evidence-based care in completely different settings.

One of the greatest concerns Murdoch highlighted was the current pressure on the mental health crisis care pathway. In particular she stressed the need to prevent beds overspilling into the private sector and long waits in accident and emergency (A&E) departments. However, she announced that nurses have led the way in redesigning the care pathway through the ‘development of intensive current treatment teams’ and the ‘establishment  of the psychiatric liaison teams in A&E and acute hospitals more widely.’

She believes nurses will play a ‘fundamental part’ in ‘bringing an end to inappropriate out-of-area placements.’ An example she cited was in Birmingham, where nurses are working alongside the police to dramatically reduce the use of Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, which allows the police to take a person who appears to be suffering from a mental disorder to a place of safety. She said this has enabled better outcomes for people in distress.

Though she raised concerns that large numbers of nurses are leaving the profession and that recruitment will be an additional challenge, she said ‘there has never been a better time to be a mental health nurse.’ However, she urged mental health nurses to be vocal about their skills, whether that is their skill of assessment or complex working in networks of care.

‘We need to become the experts in co-production and working alongside mental health service users in their own care. We need an effort to come up with a care plan that hasn’t been produced at least in partnership, even at times of great crisis. We need to become the experts in that space. Housing, debt, employment, the physical health care, these are the domains of mental health nurses.’

Transforming care for people with learning disabilities

Alongside improvements to mental health services, a national plan to develop community services and close inpatient facilities for people with learning disabilities has meant better care for this patient group. The focus of the Learning Disability Transforming Care programme is on giving people with learning disabilities the opportunity to live in the setting they think is home. It also aims to stop overmedication and improve access to annual health checks.

Vicki Stobbart, a disability nurse and Executive Director of Nursing and Quality for Guildford and Waverley CCG, said that while learning disability nurses may not be as high profile as other areas of nursing, their impact and value in supporting people with learning disabilities should not be underestimated.

‘Learning disability nurses are the only professional group specifically trained to work with people with learning disabilities,’ said Stobbart. ‘This level of preparation, currently provided at degree level, alongside the breadth, competence and knowledge they develop, makes them a unique and critical component on the delivery of comprehensive skills.’

Alongside presentations on the leadership role of mental health and learning disability nurses, Professor Cummings led a panel discussion with healthcare staff and service users on how nurses can play a key role in the care of mental health and learning disability patients. Organised by NHS England, the Health and Care Innovation Expo saw over 5000 delegates learn about developments and innovations taking place across health and social care.

Looking at the progress made since the launch of the Five Year Forward View, it identified a number of key areas of priority, including urgent and emergency care, primary care and general practice, cancer, and mental health.

Taken from British Journal of Mental Health Nursing, published November 2017.