A protest march earlier this year against plans to sell off part of the Whittington Hospital site
Published: 18 July, 2013
by TOM FOOT
CANCER patients will be able to receive chemotherapy injections and blood transfusions at home under a new “virtual hospital” system being proposed by the Whittington.
The idea is one of many “significant” changes proposed by the NHS Trust in a clinical strategy that was published last week following a three-month “listening exercise” with the public.
The 21-page document, a revamp of an earlier strategy agreed in November, was triggered by a public outcry over widespread changes at the hospital that were revealed in January.
Those plans – which included the sale of buildings, staff cuts and bed closures – have been scrapped.
But medical directors believe there is still a “compelling case” for moving care out of the hospital and closer to patients’ homes. They say their new clinical strategy comes at a time when the NHS is being asked to “provide more care to more people with less money”, the report said.
It adds: “Care will only be provided in the hospital when it is shown to be clinically appropriate and in the best interests of patients.”
The strategy gives an example of “a patient called John who had a neurological condition and had a fall. He was discharged home after attending A&E. A matron visited him at home the following day and then again a day later.
“Being in his own home helped John recover quicker but also freed up valuable resources in the hospital”.
After leaving hospital, patients will be offered a face-to-face review or the choice of a consultation by telephone, Skype or “e-consultation” (email).
The hospital is also setting up a “digital portal” where patients and carers can “choose and book appointments” and “view and file letters and test results” from their homes. They will be able to contact Whittington staff in a “secure and confidential way”, the papers say.
By 2015, the Trust hopes to be paper-free and will be communicating solely through email and other digital technology. “High-risk” and frail patients, and those with multiple conditions will be allocated a “care coordinator” to help them with the new system.
Hospital beds no longer occupied by patients will be used for new services “commissioned” by GP leaders.
The hospital hopes that by taking a “leading edge” in what is known as “integrated care” it will “attract new business” and achieve “financial security”.
Where patients are admitted into the hospital they will be made better faster through an “Enhanced Recovery” programme, the hospital claims. This is a process of helping patients “stay more mobile” on the wards and “keep them eating and drinking”.
“This will help them recover from illness and spend less time in hospital,” the hospital says.
The Whittington is introducing “seven-day working” – where senior consultants work on Saturdays and Sundays as well as in the week – ending the current system where patients are left in beds over the weekend and are unable to be discharged.
The changes in the way care is provided at the hospital will have an impact on its 3,800 permanent and bank staff, whose jobs and roles will change.
The staff pay is set at £190million – 70 per cent of the hospital’s total revenue.
The documents say the “skill set” of the workforce will be reassessed across the hospital as the clinical strategy is implemented, although they have ruled out making “significant” redundancies.
Detailed plans for transformations of “care pathways” at the hospital will be unveiled in December.