More nurses leaving the profession than joining, figures show

My Post (10)More registered nurses are leaving the profession than joining, analysis by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has revealed. First published in July, the data showed that the overall number of leavers has increased from 23 087 in 2012/13 to 34 941 last year (NMC, 2017a). By contrast, the number of initial joiners was 29 025 for 2016/17.

Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: ‘At a time of increased pressure on the healthcare workforce to deliver quality patient care, we hope our data will provide evidence to support government and employers to look in detail at how they can reverse this trend.’

Recent figures reveal that the number of registered nurses has continued to decline, with 27% more people leaving the register than joining between October 2016 and September 2017 (NMC, 2017b).

‘These alarming new figures represent a double whammy for the NHS and patients,’ said Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Chief Executive Janet Davies.

‘Not only has the number of UK nurses quitting the profession gone up, but significant numbers of EU-trained nurses on whom the health service depends are leaving and there’s been a huge drop in nursing staff coming to work here from EU countries.’

The number of nurses and midwives from Europe leaving the register has increased by 67%, while the number joining the register from the EU has dropped by 89%.

Although the NMC does not have separate figures for the number of practice nurses leaving the profession, records show that in March 2017 there were 15 528 full-time equivalent practice nurses. This represents a decrease of 225 since March 2016 (NHS Digital, 2017). The number of European nurses joining and leaving general practice is unclear.

Why are nurses leaving?

One of the key reasons nurses are leaving the register is because an increasing number are reaching retirement. Nurses of the ‘baby boomer’ generation are now able to claim their NHS pension, and many are choosing to do so. Under the NHS pension scheme, nurses who were working on or before 6 March 1995 have the right to retire at 55 without any reductions in their pension.

‘Nursing and midwifery are widely acknowledged to be ageing professions, with significant numbers on the register coming up to retirement age,’ said Ms Smith.

It is this factor, combined with increasing workloads, that is encouraging nurses to leave the profession early said Crystal Oldman, Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute. ‘I think what’s happening is with the increasing demands on individual nurses in their areas of practice, those at that age—between 55 and 65—are saying, “you know what, this is not what I joined to do,”’ she said.

‘“I am not able to give the care that I used to be able to give, so I’m going to retire now. I’m not going to revalidate, I’ll come off the register, I’ll take my pension.”’

Jenny Aston, Royal College of General Practitioners Nurse Champion, agrees that retirement is the main reason for increasing numbers of practice nurses leaving. ‘The QNI survey that was done a few years ago suggests that there are about 30% due to retire in the next 2–3 years,’ she said. ‘That’s going to be a massive number, unless for some reason they wish to stay on or are encouraged to stay on.’

Valerie Ely, 58, is a registered nurse and senior lecturer at Huddersfield University who is in the process of taking voluntary severance. She went part time at 55, because to remain a manager she was required by the university to do a PhD.

‘I am sad about it and to some extent a bit bitter, but I am 58 so have to accept it,’ she said. ‘A PhD would be 6 years part time and it’s really performance managed.’

‘The irony of my redundancy date is that it’s the same day I would have had to renew registration and revalidate. I have not been clinical for some years and it’s unlikely I’m going to get a job at another university, so I don’t feel that I have many options to stay on the register,’ she added.

But not all those leaving are of retirement age. Of those who didn’t cite this as their reason for leaving, the average age has reduced from 55 in 2013 to 51 in 2017. Additionally, the numbers of leavers aged 21–30 years has increased from 1 510 in 2012/13 to 2 901 in 2016/17.

A survey of 4 500 nurses and midwives carried out by the NMC revealed that working conditions, a change in personal circumstances, and a disillusionment with the quality of care provided to patients were also cited as reasons for leaving.

Sarah is a lead practice nurse at a GP surgery in South Yorkshire. She has been a practice nurse for 9.5 years but is leaving to take up a respiratory nurse role at a hospital trust. She is hoping the new job will bring back her passion for nursing.

‘As nurses experience tougher work conditions, the importance of ensuring they are valued cannot be understated’.

‘Although I enjoy the variety within the role, I am increasingly feeling overwhelmed with the extent of the knowledge and skills I need to be competent to do my job,’ she said. ‘There are only two nurses at my surgery, so we both need to be able to do everything within the practice nurse remit.’

As nurses experience tougher work conditions, the importance of ensuring they are valued cannot be understated. Kathryn Yates, Professional Lead for Primary, Community and Integrated Care at the RCN, thinks that the feedback from patients, families and carers about the outstanding care they receive from general practice nurses is incredibly important.

‘We need to continue to raise the profile of general practice nurses and how valued they are,’ she said. ‘I think we need more evidence to support that.’

Additionally, Dr Oldman says that, due to increased workloads, many nurses are finding themselves no longer doing the job they were trained to do. This understandably causes frustration and a decrease in job satisfaction. ‘They may not be leaving if the conditions were suitable for them to give the best possible care they want to give,’ she said. ‘We have a lot of anecdotal evidence from nurses who say, “I would stay, but I can’t do the job I was trained to do.”’

This lack of being valued is at the heart of why Sarah decided to leave practice nursing. ‘There is a lack of understanding and awareness of what practice nursing involves, which has an impact on others’ expectations,’ she said. ‘It is viewed by the public and other nurses/health professionals as an easy job, with nice hours and none of the pressures that are obvious in hospitals, emergency departments etc.

Our contribution is usually overlooked or any achievements attributed to GPs.’

Combatting the problem

Central to the issue of recruitment and retention is a workforce plan that ensures there are sufficient numbers of nurses now and in the future. A clear workforce plan also allows for accountability when those numbers aren’t met.

Crystal Oldman said: ‘I think the issue is about having a robust workforce plan and also having accountability for that somewhere centrally. Each individual provider must have its own workforce plan, but we are a national health service. What I would like to see is a national workforce plan for registered nurses.’

Kathryn Yates supports this but adds: ‘If we signpost to one particular organisation, it may devolve responsibility. I think there is also a sense of being mindful of how organisations work together to try and come up with real-time solutions.’

For Jenny Aston focusing on training the next generation and making nursing an attractive career is key. ‘Nursing isn’t going to change over the next 10 years: there are still going to be injections, there is still going to be lots of wound care, there is still going to be a need to monitor patients’ health,’ she said. ‘The work is not going away. There may be bigger practices, but I don’t see the nursing activity changing and, therefore, there is going to be an ongoing need to train up the next generation because 30% are going to be retired in 3 years’ time.’

Additionally, there need to be incentives for nurses not to retire early. ‘What lots of people don’t realise is that there are ways to stay on, claim your pension and make your pension arrangements different, so you don’t lose out on the final salary [pension benefits],’ said Ms Aston. ‘But I don’t think many nurses have good financial advice on how they get the best out of staying in work.’

Most importantly, nurses have to be listened to, so their concerns are understood and they feel valued. According to Kathryn Yates, it may be unclear what their needs are: ‘Going forward we may have a workforce that wants to work differently, and we must continue to make nursing an attractive and first destination career.’ she said.

Maria Caulfield, former nurse and Conservative MP for Lewes, said: ‘While I welcome the fact that more nurses are entering the profession than ever before, I am concerned that we are losing large numbers of our most experienced nurses, who are retiring or leaving the profession early. As a result, overall nursing numbers remain static at a time when the demand and need for nurses are increasing. There are a variety of reasons why nurses are leaving and certainly the pay freeze and cap have not helped morale, but from talking to colleagues it is the lack of overall recognition and feeling of worth that has led to many walking away. This is why I have lobbied ministers to ensure nurses are recognised. Lifting the pay cap is one way to show this.’

Health Education England oversees education and training of NHS staff. It has identified the need for additional supplies of nurses and improved rates of employment for graduates. Closing current shortages will also help with moderating increasing workloads.

NHS Improvement has launched a programme to improve retention of NHS staff by 2020. It will look at reasons why staff are leaving to help understand how to improve retention rates.

References
NHS Digital. General and Personal Medical Services, England March 2017. https://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB30044 (accessed 13 December 2017)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC Register: 2012/13–2016/17. 2017a. https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/other-publications/nmc-register-2013-2017.pdf (accessed 13 December 2017)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC Register: 30 September 2017. 2017b. https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/other-publications/the-nmc-register-30-september-2017.pdf (accessed 13 December 2017)

British Thoracic Society/Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 153. British guideline on the management of asthma 2016. 2016. https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/document-library/clinical-information/asthma/btssign-asthma-guideline-2016/ (accessed 19 December 2017)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Asthma: diagnosis, monitoring and chronic asthma management. 2017. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng80 (accessed 19 December 2017)

Taken from Practice Nursing, published January 2018.

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The use of anti-inflammatory canakinumab could reduce risk of heart attack

My Post (9)Results from a recent trial of the anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab have revealed it could help reduce risk of heart attack and mark the biggest breakthrough in cardiovascular treatment since statins.

The Canakinumab Anti-inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study (CANTOS) looked at people who previously suffered from a heart attack and tested whether administration of canakinumab  could reduce inflammation and reduce risk of future cardiovascular events (Ridker et al. 2017).

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, where the findings were presented, Professor Paul Ridker of Harvard Medical School, said:

‘These findings represent the end game of more than two decades of research, stemming from a critical observation: half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol. For the first time, we’ve been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.’

According to Ridker this has far-reaching implications:

‘It tells us that by leveraging an entirely new way to treat patients—targeting inflammation—we may be able to significantly improve outcomes for certain very high-risk populations, he said.’

Outlining the trial

The trial was conducted by researchers from a wide range of international organisations, including the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Novartis in East Hanover, NJ, and Basel, Switzerland; the Federal University of São Paulo; Universitätsmedizin Berlin; and the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam.

Participating centres in 39 countries enrolled patients who had a history of heart attack and an elevated blood level of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. It is believed raised levels of this protein may lead to further heart attacks.

Participants received doses of 50 mg, 150 mg or 300 mg of either canakinumab or placebo. These were administered subcutaneously every 3 months. Patients were excluded from the study if they had any of the following:

  • History of chronic or recurrent infection
  • Previous cancer other than basal-cell skin carcinoma
  • Suspected or known immunocompromised state
  • History or high risk of tuberculosis or disease related to the human immunodeficiency virus
  • Ongoing use of other systemic anti-inflammatory treatments.

The 10,016 participants recruited to the study were then monitored over the next 4 years. The researchers predominantly wanted to see whether participants suffered from additional heart attacks or stroke, or died from cardiovascular disease during this time.

In total, 1,490 participants experienced the main combined outcome of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease within the 4 years monitored. Within the placebo group, there was an average of 4.5 of these main events per year per 100 people. The treatment groups revealed there was no statistically significant difference between the 50 mg group, compared with placebo. The 150 mg group indicated a 15% lower risk compared with placebo (3.86 events per year per 100 people), while the 300 mg group showed a 14% lower risk (3.90 events per year per 100 people). The researchers concluded that 150 mg of canakinumab taken every 3 months led to a significant reduction in recurrent cardiovascular events compared with placebo.

Considering the results

The potential implications for medicine of this study are considerable, with mainstream media hailing it as a remarkable breakthrough (BBC 2017) and calling canakinumab a ‘new wonder drug’ (Donnelly 2017). For a drug traditionally used in the treatment of arthritis it certainly makes for great headlines. However, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account before the drug is hailed as the medical advancement some have claimed.

Highlighting limitations

As mentioned, the study only looked at patients who have already had heart attacks. This is something many of the media’s headlines failed to convey (NHS Choices 2017). The effect of the drug, therefore, on reducing inflammation in people who have not had a heart attack, remains unknown. Additionally, many newspapers claimed that canakinumab was ‘better than statins’, but this is unhelpful as it does not reflect the nature of the study. It is thought that if canakinumab was licensed as a preventative medication, it is likely it would be given to people who wouldn’t benefit from taking statins (NHS Choices 2017).

Most importantly, before any changes can be made to the current licensing of the drug, further research is needed to confirm both the beneficial effects and the optimal dose. This was highlighted in an editorial by Dr Robert A Harrington of Stanford University published alongside the study (Harrington 2017), who called the clinical benefit of canakinumab ‘modest’. He argues that ‘a better understanding of the risks and benefits of this form of therapy is needed’ and raised concerns about the fatal infections encountered in the trial and sepsis. He also cites concern over the cost of using canakinumab in patients with a previous heart attack.

Cost matters

Canakinumab is currently licensed in the United States to treat systemic-onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at a cost of approximately $200,000 per year (Harrington 2017). While this pricing may be suitable for rare diseases, it is unsuitable for common indications such as coronary artery disease. Given the study was funded by Novartis, the manufacturer of the drug, substantial evidence of its benefit is needed before wider licensing of the drug can be considered.

References

BBC News. Anti-inflammatory drug ‘cuts heart attack risk’ [Internet]. London: BBC News; 2017 Aug 28 [cited 2017 Sep 7]. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41071954

Donnelly L. New wonder drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in fight against heart attacks and cancer [Internet]. London: The Telegraph; 2017 Aug 27 [cited 2017 Sep 7]. Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/27/new-wonder-drug-hailed-biggest-breakthrough-fight-against-heart/

Harrington RA. Targeting inflammation in coronary artery disease. N Eng J Med [Internet]. 2017 Aug 27 [cited 2017 Sep 6]. Available from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe1709904

Ridker PM, Everett BM, Thuren T et al. Antiinflammatory therapy with canakinumab for atherosclerotic disease. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2017 Aug 27 [cited 2017 Sep 6]. Available from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1707914?query=featured_home&#t=articleTop

NHS Choices. Anti-inflammatory drug may help prevent heart attacks [Internet]. 2017 Aug 30 [cited 2017 Sep 6]. Available from http://www.nhs.uk/news/2017/08August/Pages/Anti-inflammatory-drug-may-help-prevent-heart-attacks.aspx

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

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.

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.