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.

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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.

Government’s additional £1.3 billion for mental health services is misleading

Adobe Spark (4)The Government has committed £1.3 billion to transform mental health services by 2021 (Health Education England (HEE), 2017). Stepping Forward to 2020/21: Mental Health Workforce Plan for England was launched by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who called it ‘one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe’ (Department of Health, 2017). 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.

Examining the plan

The scale of these proposals is commendable and reflects the additional staff required to deliver the transformation set out in The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (Mental Health Taskforce, 2016). Mental health provision has consistently been underfunded, therefore an update to place it more in line with physical health provision is long overdue.

For this reason, the announcement has been welcomed by many mental health campaigners and professionals. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) led the way in commending the Government’s plans, with Professor Wendy Burn, President of the RCP, saying the 570 extra consultants promised in the strategy will be ‘crucial to delivering the high-quality, robust mental health services of the future’ (RCP, 2017). NHS Employers said service providers will welcome national support, particularly for ‘improved access to funding for continuing professional development for the mental health workforce, and facilitating increased use of international staff where required’ (NHS Employers, 2017).

However, despite the will to welcome these proposals it would be wise to take them with a pinch of salt. While the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) encouraged the investment, it said the Government’s proposals ‘appear not to add up’ (RCN, 2017). RCN chief executive, Janet Davies, stressed that in order for the nurses to be ready in time, they would have to start training straight away. Additionally, she cites how the scrapping of nursing bursaries has led to a ‘sharp fall in university applications’.

Attrition rates on the rise

Attrition rates for all mental health staff are rising. From 2012/13 to 2015/16, the number of people leaving mental health trusts has risen from 10.5% to 13.6% (HEE, 2017). The NHS currently funds over 214 000 posts to provide specialist mental health services in England. However, over 20 000 of these vacancies are predominantly filled by bank and agency staff (HEE, 2017). It is clear the sheer scale of growth cannot be met via the traditional training routes within this timescale, as in some cases this would mean doubling or trebling the workforce. While investment is needed in the development and reskilling of existing staff, or looking to the global market for recruitment, this is an unrealistic aim.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) is one of the groups who have raised concerns over vacancy rates. Julia Scott, CEO of the RCOT, said health and care services across the country are experiencing real difficulties in filling existing vacancies, with vacancy rates for occupational therapists of up to 50% (RCOT, 2017). She stressed that rapid action is needed to address this crisis if commitment is to be delivered.

The British Medical Association (BMA) echoed worries over recruitment, stressing insufficient psychiatry trainees across England and a high percentage of trainees not completing training in the specialty. BMA consultants committee deputy chair and consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Gary Wannan, said: ‘In 2014, one in five doctors undertaking core psychiatry training did not progress into the final part of their training’ (BMA, 2017).

Government pledge still insufficient

Currently, 15.8% of people with common mental conditions access psychological therapies each year. However, even with the Government’s proposals this will only increase to 25% by 2020/21 (HEE, 2017). This is still an unacceptable figure
and one that is emphasised by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), who said the announcement falls far short of what is needed to offset the growing demand for NHS mental health services.

According to UKCP Chair Martin Pollecoff: ‘To meet even existing demand, the Government should take advantage of the vast existing workforce of therapists. UKCP alone has more than 8000 highly qualified trained psychotherapists from different backgrounds, and many of them have medical experience’ (UKCP, 2017).

Origin of investment misleading

This is not the first time the introduction of £1 billion for mental health services has been proposed. In 2016, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced almost £1 billion of investment as part of a ‘revolution’ of mental health treatment (Prime Minister’s Office et al, 2016). This commitment from the Government sounds impressive, but has to be considered in the context of cash terms rise in the NHS budget generally. The Government has pledged to increase NHS spending in England to £120 billion by 2020/21
(HM Treasury, 2015). For mental health spending to grow at the same rate as the rest of the NHS, around 11.9% of the extra funding given to NHS England needs to be spent on mental health (Full Fact, 2016). This works out at roughly £2.2 billion. This figure far exceeds the £1.4 billion pledged in the most recent announcement and clearly represents a slower rise in spending than other parts of the NHS.

Simply not good enough

At first glance, the Government’s proposals appear to be the desperately needed boost to mental health services, which should be welcomed. However, the explanations of how additional posts will be funded or the recruitment issues overcome does not add up and are simply not good enough.

The Government has sugar-coated the amount of investment pledged and the figure still falls far below what is needed for mental health. It therefore comes as no surprise that Labour’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Barbara Keeley MP, said the workforce plan: ‘offers little hope to those working in the sector faced with mounting workloads, low pay and poor morale’ (The Labour Party, 2017).

References

British Medical Association (2017) BMA responds to Department of Health mental health workforce plans. BMA, London. https://tinyurl.com/ybtgxye8 (accessed 29 August 2017)

Department of Health (2017) Thousands of new roles to be created in mental health workforce plan. DH, London. https://tinyurl.com/y9akdjdr (accessed 31 August 2017)

Full Fact (2016) Unanswered questions on “extra £1 billion” for mental health. Full Fact, London. https://tinyurl.com/y7oyy8qc (accessed 1 September 2017)

Health Education England (2017) Stepping forward to 2020/21: The mental health workforce plan for England. HEE, Leeds. https://tinyurl.com/ycebebna (accessed 25 August 2017)

HM Treasury (2015) Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. The Stationery Office, London

The Labour Party (2017) Tory Government promising jam tomorrow when action is needed today to tackle the staffing crisis in mental health – Keeley. The Labour Party, Newcastle upon Tyne. https://tinyurl.com/y7db35pf (accessed 29 August 2017)

Mental Health Taskforce (2016) The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. NHS England, Leeds. https://tinyurl.com/gvc4or3 (accessed 25 August 2017)

NHS Employers (2017) NHS Employers welcomes plan to prioritise mental health services. https://tinyurl. com/ydg8h3ca (accessed 29 August 2017)

Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Down-ing Street, Department of Health, NHS England, The Rt Hon David Cameron, The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP (2016) Prime Minister pledges a revolution in mental health treatment. Department of Health, London. https://tinyurl.com/z69jcpc (accessed 1 September 2017)

Royal College of Psychiatrists (2017) RCPsych response to HEE’s Mental Health Workforce Plan. RCPsych, London. https://tinyurl.com/yc2p93k8 (accessed 25 August 2017)

Royal College of Nursing (2017) RCN responds to Mental Health Workforce Plan. RCN, London. https://tinyurl.com/yavm3ulq (accessed 25 August 2017)

Royal College of Occupational Therapists (2017) Royal College of Occupational Therapists welcomes an expansion in the mental health workforce. RCOT, London. https://tinyurl.com/ycl9bss2 (accessed 25 August 2017)

UK Council for Psychotherapy (2017) We urge the Government to use existing therapist workforce to plug treatment gap. UKCP, London. https://tinyurl.com/ydfojrpk (accessed 29 August 2017)

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

Royal Pharmaceutical Society updates prescribing competency framework

Adobe Spark (1)The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS, 2016) has published an update to the Competency Framework for all Prescribers to ensure health professionals prescribe safely and effectively.

Originally published in 2012, the framework was developed to offer a common set of competencies for prescribing, regardless of professional background. As a result, it is relevant to all prescribers, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, optometrists, radiographers, podiatrists and dietitians. However, the framework should be contextualised to reflect different areas of practice and levels of expertise.

Ash Soni, President of the RPS, said:

‘Both the number of medicines prescribed and the complexity of medicine regimens are increasing. The challenges associated with prescribing the right medicines and supporting patients to use them effectively should not be underestimated.

‘There’s lots of evidence to show that much needs to be done to improve the way we prescribe and support patients in effective medicines use. This guide will be invaluable and I’m delighted the RPS has coordinated the update.’

The initial framework was published by the National Prescribing Centre and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). For the update, the RPS was approached by NICE and Health Education England to carry out the work on behalf of all prescribing professions. Additionally, the RPS was asked to ensure the framework had UK-wide applicability.

A project steering group of prescribers across all professions and patients updated the framework. This involved a 6-week consultation of the draft policy, where hundreds of organisations and individuals responded.

The framework has been endorsed by the UK’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officers—Keith Ridge, Rose Marie Parr, Andrew Evans and Mark Timoney—who said:

‘The single competency framework provides a means for all prescribers to become equipped to support patients to achieve the best outcomes from their medicines.

‘This update will ensure individuals can continue to benefit from access to resources which help them continually improve their practice and work more effectively.

‘We commend the updated framework and encourage prescribers, professional bodies, education providers and regulators to use it to support their role in delivering safe and effective care.’

How the competencies are separated

The framework comprises 10 competencies split into two areas: the consultation and prescribing governance. Within each of these competency areas, statements describe the activity or outcomes that prescribers should be able to demonstrate.

The consultation

The first competency concerns assessing the patient. It promotes taking an appropriate medical, social and medication history, before undertaking an appropriate clinical assessment.

The second competency involves the prescriber considering the options for the patient. This includes both non-pharmacological and pharmacological approaches to treatment, and weighing up the risks and benefits to the patient of taking medicine.

The third competency is about reaching a shared decision with the patient/carer, so the patient/carer can make informed choices and agree on a plan that respects the patient’s preferences.

The fourth competency is the prescribing itself. The framework states the medicine should be prescribed only with ‘adequate, up-to-date awareness of its actions, indications, dose, contraindications, interactions, cautions, and unwanted effects.’ Where appropriate, medicines should be prescribed within relevant frameworks, such as local formularies or care pathways.

The fifth competency concerns providing information to the patient/carer about their medicines. This includes what the medicine is for, how to use it, possible unwanted effects and how to report them, and expected duration of treatment.

The sixth and final competency in the area of consultation is monitoring and reviewing. Here the prescriber should establish and maintain a plan for reviewing the patient’s treatment. The effectiveness of treatment and potential unwanted effects should be monitored.

Prescribing governance

The seventh competency, and first under the area of prescribing governance, concerns prescribing safely. It highlights that the prescriber should prescribe within their own scope of practice and recognise the limits of their own knowledge and skill.

The eighth competency comprises prescribing professionally, and ensuring the prescriber maintains confidence and competence to prescribe. This includes accepting personal responsibility for prescribing and understanding the legal and ethical implications.

The ninth competency focuses on improving prescribing practice through reflection. It also stresses the importance of acting on feedback and discussion.

The tenth and final competency involves prescribing as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure continuity of care across care settings. Part of this concerns establishing relationships with other professionals based on understanding, trust and respect.

Putting the framework into practice

The framework can be used for a variety of reasons by prescribers to help them improve their performance and work more effectively. The following examples are highlighted in the framework:

  • To inform the design and delivery of education programmes; for example, through validation of educational sessions (including rationale for need) and as a framework to structure learning and assessment
  • To help health professionals prepare to prescribe and provide the basis for ongoing education and development programmes, continuous professional development and revalidation processes. For example, use as a framework for a portfolio to demonstrate competency in prescribing
  • To help prescribers identify strengths and areas for development through self-assessment, appraisal and as a way of structuring feedback from colleagues
  • To inform the development of education curricula and relevant accreditation of prescribing programmes for all prescribing professions
  • To provide professional organisations or specialist groups with a basis for the development of levels of prescribing competency; for example, from recently qualified prescriber through to advanced prescriber
  • To stimulate discussions around prescribing competencies and multidisciplinary skill mix at an organisational level
  • To inform organisational recruitment processes to help frame questions and benchmark candidates’prescribing experience
  • To inform the development of organisational systems and processes that support safe effective prescribing; for example, local clinical governance frameworks.

The RPS is liaising with the professional bodies and organisations of the other prescribing professions to encourage uptake of the framework, which will be reviewed again in July 2020.

References

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (2016) A Competency Framework for all Prescribers. http://www.rpharms.com/support-pdfs/prescribing-competencyframework.pdf (accessed 1 August 2016)

Taken from Nurse Prescribing, published 12 August 2016.

Association of Ambulance Chief Executives outlines strategic priorities for 2015/16

Paramedic prescribing and reform of paramedic education and training with Health Education England are among the key strategic priorities of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) for 2015/16.

The AACE National Programme, which is comprised of nine national groups and their respective 2015/16 work plans, as well as a number of other projects that are being progressed by the AACE with input from the national groups as required, is informed by its four strategic objectives: Ambulance Service: 2020 and beyond; Workforce, education and development; Operating model and efficiency; Clinical and patient safety.

The AACE aims to report on its ‘Ambulance service: 2020 and beyond’ project in May/June with an informed vision of what the ambulance service should look like beyond 2020 and suggestions to the ambulance sector on the steps and actions required to realise this vision.

Implementation of the Urgent and Emergency Care Review (U&ECR) will be an ongoing focus for the AACE in 2015/16, and will include the enhancement of NHS 111 services and reform of paramedic education and training with Health Education England.

Continued support and input will continue to the reform of paramedic education and training, with paramedic prescribing remaining a priority for the AACE to equip the profession for the ongoing expansion and diversification of the role.

The identification and development of future ambulance leaders is also a priority of the AACE, with focus being made on leadership development and consideration of a virtual academy and its potential for multidisciplinary training.

Ambulance service response will remain a focus for the AACE in 2015/16, and will include the development of future performance and clinical measures in light of the U&ECR, and the facilitation of any required changes to response protocol nationally following the completion of pilots in early 2015/16.

Finally, the AACE plans to deliver the National Ambulance Service Medical Directors’ Group’s Future National Clinical Priorities for Ambulance Services in England. Key clinical areas of focus include: emergency care; urgent care; mental health; the frail, elderly falls and dementia; long-term conditions; end of life patients; and public health and prevention.

To view the full list of strategic priorities, visit: http://aace.org.uk/national-programme/

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 30 April 2015.

Tackling the shortage of paramedics

February marked the first time that paramedics were recommended for addition to the shortage occupation list (SOL), with vacancy rates running at approximately 10% of the total 12 500 paramedic workforce in England (Migratory Advisory Committee, 2015).

Using evidence received from the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, the Migratory Advisory Committee have identified a number of factors driving the shortage. These include: significant increases in demand for ambulances as a result of the shift in focus to treat people at home rather than in A&E; high staff attrition due to work pressures and stress brought on by longer working hours; and growing opportunities for paramedics to take on roles in alternative areas such as the 111 service, GP practices and walk-in centres.

In an attempt to combat the shortage, ambulance services have been forced to introduce a number of initiatives. Many have looked overseas to fill the gap in the workforce, as retraining a healthcare professional to meet Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) standards usually only requires a short conversion course. This is particularly true for countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where the skills and training are similar to the UK. While only one paramedic was recruited from overseas from 2013–2014, 183 have already been recruited from 2014–2015, with further recruitment planned (Renaud-Komiya and Calkin, 2015). However, it is worth noting that the migration of healthcare workers brings with it ethical issues, as services abroad may suffer as a result of their own falling numbers (Peate, 2014).

Increasing the number of student paramedics will help to secure future generations of the workforce; however, it does not tackle the problem now, and does not help deter those paramedics who are already considering leaving the profession. Not only this, but higher education institutions (HEIs) are limited by the number of places they can offer. The shift of training in 2009 from in-house ambulance service training to a mix of degree, diploma, and foundation degree courses, has had a considerable impact on the profession. What is really needed, therefore, is a national funding scheme for the training of paramedics (Barnes, 2015). If national investment was made in paramedics then HEIs would be able to take in bigger cohorts as more places would be funded. Health Education England (HEE) has pledged to increase the number of paramedic training places by 87% over the next two years, but these additional commissions will not produce qualified paramedics until 2016/17 (HEE, 2015). Growth to the paramedic workforce is essential; however, the rapid level of increased demand from ambulance services means that shorter term supply solutions must be found if growing vacancy rates are not to deteriorate further until this newly trained supply becomes available.

References

Barnes S (2015) National fund needed to address paramedic shortage, says ambulance chief. HSJ. http://tinyurl.com/q2z8wez (accessed 27 March 2015)

Health Eucation England (2015) Workforce Plan for England: Proposed Education and Training Commissions for 2015/16. HEE, Leeds

Migration Advisory Committee (2015) Partial review of the Shortage Occupation Lists for the UK and for Scotland. MAC, London. http://tinyurl.com/qdaqbbl (accessed 26 March 2015)

Peate I (2014) Ethical recruitment and employment of internationally educated paramedics. Journal of Paramedic Practice 6(10): 500–501. doi: 10.12968/jpar.2014.6.10.500

Renaud-Komiya N, Calkin S (2015) Trusts forced to look overseas to plug paramedic gaps. HSJ. http://tinyurl.com/pqeo4k5 (accessed 27 March 2015)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 3 April 2015.

Looking forward: the Five Year View

On 23 October, Simon Stevens outlined his Five Year Forward View for the NHS. Developed by the partner organisations that deliver and oversee health and care services, including NHS England, Public Health England, Monitor, Health Education England, the Care Quality Commission and the NHS Trust Development Authority, it offers a look at why change in the NHS is needed, what that change might look like and how we can achieve it (NHS England et al, 2014). This ‘upgrade’ to the public health system will take into account growing problems associated with obesity, smoking and the consumption of alcohol; greater control of patients’ own care through fully interoperable electronic health records that are accessible to the patient; and decisive steps to break down the barriers in how care is provided.

In line with the Urgent and Emergency Care Review (NHS England, 2013), the Five Year Forward View proposes an expanded role for ambulance services, highlighting the increasing need for out-of-hospital care to become a more notable part of the work the NHS undertakes. The plan highlights the need to dissolve traditional boundaries and integrate urgent and emergency care services between A&E departments, GP out-of-hours services, urgent care centres, NHS 111, and ambulance services. Through empowering ambulance service staff—including paramedics—with the ability to make make more decisions, treat more patients and make referrals in a more flexible way, it is hoped that pressure on other services can be alleviated and patients can receive the care they deserve. Highlighting the success of the introduction of major trauma centres, it emphasises the need for developing networks of linked hospitals that ensure patients with the most serious needs get to specialist emergency centres.

The Five Year Forward View also promotes the need to engage with communities in new ways by involving them directly in decisions about the future of health and care services (NHS England et al, 2014). Through the encouragement of community volunteering, it is hoped that a critical contribution to the provision of health and social care in England can be made. It is suggested that this could be done through further recruitment of community first responders, particulary in more rural areas, who are trained in basic life support. In addition, proposals for new roles include family and carer liaison, educating people in the management of long-term conditions and helping with vaccination programmes.

The Five Year Forward View is a welcome proposal of how the NHS can tackle changing demands in health care. By recognising how and why the health system needs to evolve, it is hoped the NHS will be able to provide better, higher quality, and more integrated care to its patients.

References

NHS England (2013) High Quality Care for All, Now and for Future Generations: Transforming Urgent and Emergency Care Services in England – Urgent and Emergency Care Review End of Phase 1 Report. NHS England, London

NHS England, Public Health England, Health Education England, Monitor, Care Quality Commission, NHS Trust Development Authority (2014) Five Year Forward View. http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/5yfv-web.pdf (accessed 1 December 2014)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 5 December 2014.