Accident & Emergency Misuse: We’re Here to Help

In his latest blog, Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group Lee Dentith discusses the misuse of accident & emergency departments in UK hospitals and how mHealth can be used to reduce inappropriate admissions.

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As I was browsing through last week’s news stories, I found myself once again reading a story concerning the worrying misuse of our nation’s accident and emergency facilities. Peterborough City Hospital recently reported a phenomenal 40% rise in patient numbers, with countless patients turning up with issues for which a trip to A&E were completely unnecessary.

It was reported that one woman turned up to the hospital as she had a broken finger nail, while another complained of suffering from hiccups! This is simply not what A&E is for – and, in all honesty, it isn’t something which healthcare providers have the time to be dealing with.

“Unprecedented numbers” are turning up at A&E departments on a regular basis, at a cost of around £120 to the NHS each time someone comes through the door.

This quote from chief operating officer at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Neil Doverty, is rather worrying:

“On Sunday and Monday our staff treated some 700 patients over the two days, which equates to 40% more patients than the usual average attendance. [People need] to think about the treatment they need before they come to A&E.”

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While the broken nails scenario is presumably something of a one-off, a dangerous number of people are using A&E services for health issues which are simply not appropriate.

As a nation we have to take a step back and think about why this is continuing to happen, and a lack of access to primary care is undoubtedly a major contributing factor. In today’s busy “on-the-go” society, people don’t have the time to wait weeks for an appointment with their local GP. This means that when people fall ill, even if it’s minor issues like coughs and colds, they will head straight to A&E departments or NHS walk-in centres to seek help.

This is where we come in. Mobile healthcare is a fantastic alternative when it comes to primary care access. What we need right now is to alleviate pressure on the health service as much as possible, and our products have been created for exactly that purpose.

By connecting patients to a GP through their smartphone, our Now GP platform has been created for ultimate convenience and to help reduce the number of these inappropriate A&E admissions. The current model isn’t working – it’s time to embrace mHealth and the benefits it can bring to our society.


mHealth as an Employee Benefit: Revolutionise your Business

Business in the UK is changing, and has been for some time. Gone are the days of work finishing when you leave the office at 5pm – thanks to the growth of smartphones, tablets and cloud servers, remote working and a blended work and home life are now commonplace for millions of employees, from businesses of all sizes and of all industries. In the modern day competitive marketplace, time is money, and businesses today need to maximise their time in order to stay ahead of the game, both financially and in terms of productivity.

Why the UK Needs mHealth

For UK businesses, one issue which continues to plague employers and drain valuable resources is the problem of staff sickness absence. Today’s employee may not necessarily live near a local clinic, may work out of town, or may regularly be away for business trips. When they inevitably fall ill, getting seen by a GP can be a major difficulty.

ill woman at work

 

150,000 patients who turned up to A&E in London last year were not even registered with a GP, and those that are can often face a two week wait to see their doctor. People can’t afford to take this amount of time off work to see a GP, or are unable to get an appointment in the first place. So, the employee battles through and comes into work anyway – leading to the spread of sickness and a severe deterioration of your company’s productivity. In total, staff absence costs UK businesses an incredible £29 billion each year – and it’s a number which will continue to grow unless companies take a stand and seek an alternative solution to their healthcare.


Now GP connects users to an MRCGP-certified GP, who is UK-based, at the touch of a button


How it Works

The Now GP platform has been created to alleviate the pressure on our National Health Service by giving patients instant access to a GP consultation via their smartphone device. We’ve opened up our innovative mHealth solution to businesses of all sizes to ensure that employees across the country can get the primary healthcare attention they need, when they need it.

The United Kingdom is a key adopter of solutions such as mHealth, telehealth and telemedicine, with an approximate spend of £252 million to be confirmed by the end of 2015. Now GP, an mHealth platform devised and developed by Now Healthcare Group, connects users to an MRCGP-certified GP, who is UK-based, at the touch of a button. On top of this, we offer the delivery of medicines directly to a patient’s home or office, with a whole host of corporate benefits available to those businesses who take up our healthcare solution.

the dr now app

 

A Number of Corporate Benefits

Our state-of-the-art reporting software and management reporting systems can provide businesses with strategic insight into sickness absence levels, site by site, department by department. By calculating weaknesses in your workplace, the months when your staff are most at risk and the causes of staff illness, you can help to safeguard against both the spread of sickness and the extensive costs that absence can cause. We also provide staff with medical care that, unlike other private medical insurance (PMI) plans, doesn’t count as benefit-in-kind: this makes us a cost-effective alternative to PMI which saves money for both employer and employee.

74% of businesses in the United States are predicted to offer telemedicine and mHealth services to their staff by as early as 2016, and the UK must follow suit in order to continue to meet the continued healthcare demands of employees.  Integration in the workplace means that employers can use key measures to monitor and assess the success of their mHealth investment, based on the quality of the clinical services provided, the improved rate of productivity, employee satisfaction and the ongoing innovation and integration.

The potential of mHealth as an employee benefit is clearly there for all to see. As the NHS continues to struggle to meet its growing demands, more and more businesses will need to explore the incredible benefits that can be offered to both employers and employees. Now GP is proud to be at the forefront of this exciting opportunity.


A&E Waiting Times Continue to Worsen

New figures from the College of Emergency Medicine make sorry reading for our nation’s health service, as hospitals continue to slip further and further away from their four hour A&E performance targets.

Waiting times continue to escalate in overcrowded A&E departments, with the latest numbers showing that 88% of patients were treated or admitted within four hours – significantly below the 95% target. As well as a struggle to get patients seen by A&E departments, the BBC has reported that there are also problems getting them to leave – in some hospitals, a fifth of all beds are occupied by patients who are ready to leave but cannot be discharged because of a lack of community services available for them.

waiting time figures for a&e departments

Photo credit: BBC

The NHS has taken steps to tackle the issue of overcrowding, with three quarters of UK hospitals increasing their stock of beds in an effort to relieve pressure and a growing number of previously routine operations now cancelled. Despite this, though, the problem continues to grow worse and worse and according to the President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Cliff Mann, the “worst is yet to come.”


Figures show that A&E waiting times have continued to worsen over the past seven weeks


He said: “The majority of hospitals have endeavoured to increase the number of beds available to cope. Despite this, elective operations have had to be cancelled and postponed as bed capacity is insufficient to cope.”

The data collected from the college contains information on waiting times from the past seven weeks, monitoring the level of pressure on hospitals during winter. It shows a gradual worsening in performance since the beginning of October, when just over 92% of patients were seen within the target window of four hours.

Weekly data was previously made available by NHS England and the government themselves, but this stopped recently with data now published monthly with a six-week time lag. The latest information from the NHS, then, is from September and shows the four hour target being missed, along with other targets related to ambulance response times, cancer care and diagnostics tests.

ambulances outside an emergency care centre

 

This unsustainable pressure on our national health service comes as a result of the population’s struggle to receive the primary care that they need. With millions of us struggling to get a GP appointment within a week, patients turn to A&E for what are, quite often, non-urgent matters. Our dynamic telehealth service, Now GP, is aiming to alleviate the pressure on our NHS by supplying the public and businesses with a reliable and affordable alternative to primary healthcare.


How Telehealth Can Save Our Nation’s A&E Units

London’s Accident and Emergency units were put under unnecessary pressure last year, with more than 150,000 patients who turned up not GP-registered at the time.

With the majority not requiring emergency care, this put incredible strain on the capital’s A&E departments and staff, further highlighting how big an issue access to primary care has become in the United Kingdom. A&E departments continue to spiral into further trouble, slipping further from its 4 hour waiting time target.

A leading GP has stated that if the entire population of London were to register with their local clinic, the health service would struggle to cope. Figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request show that 153,564 patients who turned up to A&E in London last year were not registered with a doctor, but realistically, this number is undoubtedly higher due to some NHS Trusts not recording their attendance figures.

busy hospital waiting room

 

These remarkable findings from the BBC further justify the claims that we at Now GP have been making for some time: that a lack of access to primary care services has direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments. It is only through providing patients with a suitable alternative to primary healthcare, such as our telehealth platform, that will begin to alleviate some of this pressure.

Our on-the-go society, and particularly those in London, require a more flexible and accessible solution to healthcare – young professionals and those with busy lifestyles simply don’t have the time to register at a local clinic and wait a week to be seen by a doctor. London’s fluid population sees many people come and go at a quick rate as they move in and around the city for work, with many either choosing not to register with a GP or finding themselves unable to do so due to a lack of availability.


“Lack of access to primary care services has a direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments.”


When people fall ill, many will invariably head straight to A&E, and often their arrival at the hospital is the first point of contact they will have had with their local health service since arriving in the area. The average waiting time to see a GP is as high as two weeks in certain areas of the capital – people are unwilling to wait this long with a primary care concern, which is why we are seeing the nation’s A&E units begin to crack under  pressure.

A story broken by Sky News this morning said that senior medics have warned that A&E units are facing a “perfect storm” this winter, with a junior doctor’s strike coupled with a lack of staff meaning that the nation’s Accident and Emergency departments could be  in crisis during the height of the winter flu season. Hospitals are already reporting a rise in patients needing emergency care much earlier in the autumn than would be normal.

man with flu outside hospital

 

A London-based GP and author, Dr Youssef El-Gingihy, has long spoken publicly about some of the NHS’s major flaws. He claims that the proportion of the NHS budget going to general practice is continuing to drop alarmingly, at a time when demand for services continues to rise. Over a quarter of walk-in centres in the capital have closed since 2010, with patients forced to head to A&E units for lack of a better alternative.

Through Now GP, we are attempting to provide those in London and beyond with access to primary care with no waiting times and no hassle. We connect those in need to a MRCGP-certified doctor via live video call, and deliver medicines to their door in as little as two hours in central London. Telehealth solutions such as ours offer the NHS a much-needed lifeline, and patient by patient we are determined to ease pressure on our nation’s A&E departments and make waiting times and doctor unavailability a thing of the past.


80% of A&E Visits in Wales Are Unneeded

An NHS Wales chief has urged the public to consider alternative methods of primary healthcare in a bid to ease pressure on the overstretched accident and emergency departments at Welsh hospitals.

In an interview with the BBC, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, Dr Andrew Goodall, announced that a staggering 80% of patients who visited A&E units did not actually need to be there. He urged people with minor injuries and illnesses not to “clog up” accident and emergency departments this winter in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s busy period which led to one senior nurse compare pressures in Welsh A&E units to those of a “war zone“.

Dr Goodall said that “the vast majority of medical conditions do not need emergency care,” with the public encouraged to turn towards alternative methods of healthcare in order to find a solution to their primary care problems. Dr Goodall also highlighted the shocking fact that NHS Wales receives approximately 100,000 calls to its 999 number for issues which are deemed as non-urgent, which end up wasting the time and resources of those who are tasked with handling more serious health concerns.

Accident & Emergency Department

 

When people are choosing services in the wrong way, bypassing more convenient and accessible primary healthcare solutions and heading straight to A&E, this can seriously impact both the health service and the patient. Hospitals are under increasing pressure as A&E attendances continue to escalate and, as we approach flu season and the winter months, this pressure could harmfully affect the quality of care that patients receive. On top of this, patients who visit A&E unnecessarily are actually waiting far longer to be seen by a nurse or GP than is required.

The Now GP platform has been designed to ease pressure on increasingly-strained A&E departments across the country, providing patients and businesses with an effective telehealth solution for their short-term sickness concerns. By providing users with instant access to a live consultation with an MRCGP-certified GP via video call, Now GP eliminates the need for those who feel a GP appointment is too difficult to book to head straight to A&E looking for a quick diagnosis.

Now GP is the world’s first app to diagnose and deliver medicines, with our pharmaceutical conveyance platform providing customers with guaranteed delivery of their medicines in as little as two hours. To keep up to date with the latest Now GP news, you can follow us on Twitter: @DrNow.