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The fight against Coronavirus

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  • One year of coronavirus ‘lockdowns’ Report by Dr John Puntis, co-chair Keep Our NHS Public to Health Campaigns
    Together Affiliates meeting – 23rd January 2021:
    "January 23rd 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Wuhan lockdown and is ten
    months from when the UK first introduced restrictions on people’s movement in
    order to decrease the spread of the virus. In this brief overview, I want to look at
    where we are now and what the Westminster government has or has not learnt."

  • Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak Excellent interactive New York Times resource with trackers and statistics on the prevalence of Covid infection and the measures to deal with it in every US state and around the world

  • Memorial of Health & Social Care Workers taken by COVID-19 Moving and interactive a digital tribute and memorial by Nursing Notes to the dedicated members of our health and social care family who gave their lives during the fight against Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).
    NursingNotes is committed to planting a new tree in a protected forest for every single health and social care worker who loses their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • West Suffolk hospital chief resigns prior to bullying claims review Guardian July 28 reports on the resignation of Stephen Dunn, once honoured by the private sector for masterminding the Hinchingbrooke Hospital privatisation, from the CEO post at West Suffolk Hospital:
    "The chief executive at Matt Hancock’s local hospital is to step down before the publication of a delayed review into bullying allegations involving an unprecedented demand for fingerprints from senior clinicians first revealed by the Guardian.
    "In January 2020, a “rapid review” was ordered into claims of a “witch-hunt” at West Suffolk hospital trust, from which the former health secretary had to recuse himself because of his friendship with the trust’s chief executive, Stephen Dunn.
    "On Tuesday, Dunn announced he was resigning after what he acknowledged were “operational, structural and cultural challenges within the trust”. The trust’s deputy chief executive, Craig Black, will be taking over as interim chief executive while a replacement is found."

  • Abusive man jailed for attacking and threatening ambulance staff 40 times Independent July 28:
    "A man who attacked and threatened ambulance staff around 40 times has been jailed for almost half a year.
    "John Dannaher, 33, routinely spat, assaulted and threatened London Ambulance Service paramedics and across the south east of England over several years, including threatening to murder women in the service and to follow them home.
    "Clinical team manager Scott Lummes spent two years building a case against Dannaher after the serial offender abused a colleague at Kings Cross station, shouting and screaming at her as she tried to treat him.
    "Lummes found that Dannaher had made dozens of 999 calls despite his GP confirming that he had no serious medical problems."

  • A third of middle-aged UK adults have at least two chronic health issues – study Guardian July 28:
    "More than one in three middle-aged British adults are suffering from at least two chronic health conditions, including recurrent back problems, poor mental health, high blood pressure, diabetes and high-risk drinking, according to research that warned that health in midlife is on the decline.
    "The study of “generation X” adults born in 1970 found that those who grew up in poorer families were 43% more likely to have multiple long-term health conditions than their peers from wealthier households. Those who had been overweight or obese as children, who had lower birthweight and who had experienced mental ill-health as teenagers were also at increased risk of poor health in midlife.
    "Dawid Gondek, the UCL researcher who authored the paper, said: “This study provides concerning new evidence about the state of the nation’s health in midlife. It shows that a substantial proportion of the population are already suffering from multiple long-term physical and mental health problems in their late 40s, and also points to stark health inequalities, which appear to begin early in childhood.”

  • UK ministers lay out ‘most ambitious’ plan for disabled workers “Ministers have announced plans to help disabled people in the workplace, part of a wider disability strategy billed as the most ambitious in a generation, but condemned by some campaign groups as notably thin in specific policies.
    “… Boris Johnson described the strategy – which applies in England – as “the most far-reaching endeavour in this area for a generation or more”.
    “However, some charities have expressed scepticism. Kamran Mallick, the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said the strategy was “disappointingly thin on immediate actions, medium-term plans and the details of longer term investment”.
    “There has also been criticism of the consultation, which ran from January to April, and prompted about 14,000 responses.
    “Kevin Shinkwin, a Conservative peer who chairs a disability commission for the Tory thinktank the Centre for Social Justice, has previously said that the lack of engagement risked making the strategy “another car crash”.”

  • The British government’s Covid strategy was never designed to manage the virus Guardian Opinion column July 27:
    "It may be tempting to explain the government’s lagging public health advice by a lack of clear evidence, the novelty of the situation, or just “bad luck”.
    "But this obscures the degree to which the government has also exploited the uncertainty generated by the Covid-19 pandemic for economic and political gain, by using the facade of incompetence to narrow the political choices available to the public.
    "In a report released last December, the cross-party joint committee on national security strategy condemned the government for having “failed seriously to consider how it might scale up testing, isolation and contact-tracing capabilities during a serious disease outbreak”. But the report missed a key aspect: the delay in scaling up public testing helped to prime the space for private UK-based firms to enter the market. In January 2020, the UK passed on the early chance to use a viral sequence developed by a German lab and made freely available by the WHO to make a Covid test.
    "It did, however, award last-minute public contracts for testing, tracing, and the production of PPE and ventilators to companies with little or no prior experience in similar tasks."

  • England is sleepwalking towards a two-tier health system Interesting Opinion article in the Guardian July 27:
    "The impact of the pandemic on NHS waiting lists worsened health inequalities, with a 31% fall in completed treatments in the most deprived areas of England compared with 26% in the least deprived. The flight to private healthcare means the poorest communities are hit three times: people are more likely to be chronically ill, more likely to be waiting for an operation and have no chance of buying their way out.
    "The growth of a more mixed healthcare economy, in terms of both NHS treatment carried out in private sector and self-payers, is starting to normalise the idea of private healthcare. The numbers are still relatively small, and even people with comprehensive insurance are likely to need the NHS, but a waiting list with more than 5 million people on it undermines the idea of being free at the point of need. There is not much virtue in being free if the need cannot be met.
    "If wealthier people start to buy their way out of trouble in significant numbers they will be less willing to pay taxes to improve the NHS. With public spending under intense pressure, and key figures such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove having strongly criticised the NHS in the past, there is a danger that we will look back on the pandemic as the moment that the seeds of a two-tier healthcare system were really sown."

  • UNISON launches consultation over NHS rise that meets neither expectations nor real living wage UNISON press release flags up the biggest health union's criticism of the proposed 3% increase in NHS pay for staff in England (Scottish staff have already accepted a 4% offer):
    "The award announced last week doesn’t meet the real living wage of £9.50 per hour for the lowest paid health service workers and widens the gap between those at the top and bottom of the scale, the union says.
    "The 3% increase means the lowest earners will get a rise which is just one sixth of those at the top of the NHS pay scales.
    "UNISON will begin consulting NHS workers later this week on whether they accept the rise, or oppose it and are prepared to take industrial action.
    "More than 300,000 people across all disciplines – including nursing, ambulance, operational and technical services – will be asked for their views from this Friday until 10 September. UNISON says its elected leadership body is giving a clear steer that 3% is “unacceptable”."

  • Failure to help poor countries fight Covid ‘could cost global economy $4.5tn’, says IMF Guardian July 27:
    “The world economy risks losing $4.5tn (£3.3tn) from highly infectious variants of Covid-19 spreading through poor countries where vaccination rates are lower, the International Monetary Fund has warned.
    “Calling on rich countries to take urgent action to share at least 1bn doses with developing nations, or risk severe economic consequences, the Washington-based fund said the gap between rich and poor economies had widened during the pandemic and risked worsening further next year.
    “A speedy rollout of vaccines has improved the economic outlook in wealthier countries, including the UK, while a lack of resources to improve vaccination rates and support the reopening of their economies has depressed growth rates across low-income countries.
    “Setting out the downside risk scenario in its six-monthly health check of the global economy, the IMF said the new coronavirus variants would wipe $4.5tn from global GDP by 2025 with the potential for more than two-thirds of that loss falling on middle- and low-income countries.”

  • Paramedics abused and assaulted while on duty, survey reveals Independent July 27 with a distressing story:
    "Hundreds of paramedics have reported being physically abused or verbally abused while working to serve the public, new data has revealed.
    "More than 1,600 paramedics from across the country said they feared for their own safety or had been threatened while on duty.
    "The College of Paramedics survey of 2,345 paramedics comes after NHS England data showed there had been a 32 per cent rises in assaults over the past five years, with 3,569 incidents recorded in 2020-21.
    "The revelations come as nine out 10 ambulance services across the country are in the grip of a summer crisis in demand with trusts reporting delays in answering 999 calls and patients forced to wait hours for an ambulance crew to get to then."

  • Our eight-point plan to ensure the NHS gets the funding it so desperately needs NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson July 27:
    “Our NHS Providers letter today, to the prime minister, the chancellor, the health secretary and the chief executive of NHS England, sets out what's needed. Continuation of the discharge funding that's been so successful over the last 18 months in enabling the NHS and social care to keep patients flowing through the system. Avoiding the tens of thousands of discharge delays we used to see.
    “Replenishing the funding to treat elective surgery backlogs where trusts are recovering activity so fast they've already used up most of the £1bn allocated for this task this year.
    “An emergency round of precious capital funding, similar to the £450m the NHS received last year, to enable trusts to speed up backlog recovery and expand their emergency departments, crisis mental health services and community and ambulance capacity in time for winter.
    “Full funding of the government's recently announced 3% pay award so trusts don't have to cut patient care to give hardworking NHS frontline staff the pay rise, and recognition, they obviously deserve. Helping trusts speed up recovery by funding the use of all possible available capacity, including the independent sector, as happened in earlier phases of COVID-19. …”

  • ‘I advise everyone to get it’: UK Covid patients tell of regrets over refusing jab Guardian July 26:
    “For some people, the moment the ambulance arrives is the time they start expressing regrets about not receiving a coronavirus vaccine. For others, it’s the death of a loved one.
    “Healthcare workers and Covid patients have spoken out about growing numbers who, once faced with the serious reality of catching the virus, realise that they made a huge mistake.
    “Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, a senior intensive care registrar, said she had only come across one patient in critical care who had received both vaccination doses, and that the “vast majority” of people she was seeing were “completely unvaccinated”.
    “According to official statistics, about 60% of people being admitted to hospital with Covid are unvaccinated.”

  • Doctors warn over increasing number of young people with Covid in ICU Guardian July 25:
    “Increasing numbers of young people with coronavirus are being admitted to hospital – including to intensive care wards – doctors have said, begging them not to “suffer unnecessarily” and to get the vaccine.
    “During the first weekend after the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted in England there were pictures of crowded nightclubs, filled with revellers not wearing masks or social distancing. Medics raised the alarm that unvaccinated young people urgently needed to protect themselves against infection to avoid serious illness.
    “The warning came as scientists gave a cautious welcome to the fifth day in a row of falling Covid case rates – the first time that cases have seen a sustained fall without a national lockdown. These figures, however, do not include the impact of 19 July’s easing of restrictions.”

  • LA man who mocked Covid-19 vaccines dies of virus BBC News July 25:
    “A California man who mocked Covid-19 vaccines on social media has died after a month-long battle with the virus.
    “Stephen Harmon, a member of the Hillsong megachurch, had been a vocal opponent of vaccines, making a series of jokes about not having the vaccine.
    "Got 99 problems but a vax ain't one," the 34-year-old tweeted to his 7,000 followers in June.
    “He was treated for pneumonia and Covid-19 in a hospital outside Los Angeles, where he died on Wednesday.
    “… Despite his struggle with the virus, Mr Harmon still said he would reject being jabbed, saying his religious faith would protect him.”

  • Are hospitals returning to pre-Covid activity levels? Useful Nuffield Trust study July 22 looks at activity levels – but not the substantially reduced front line capacity in terms of bed numbers:
    “The latest NHS guidance for hospitals has increased the expectation for recovering services, stating that they should aim to deliver at least 95% of the services they delivered before the Covid-19 pandemic measured against the value of services delivered in the same month in 2019/20. However, the pandemic has caused huge disruption to services that were already under considerable pressure, so how realistic is this target?
    “At the start of the pandemic, planned care (including hospital appointments and admissions) was scaled back due to the number of Covid-19 patients requiring treatment. The number of people attending A&E and GP appointments also fell, which may have been due to fear of catching Covid-19 or concerns about increasing the burden on the NHS. This fall in hospital activity was more pronounced for elective care (treatment that is planned in advance) than in emergency services. In April 2020, GP referrals were 75% lower than before the pandemic, while unplanned admissions fell by a third.
    “Since then, activity levels have fluctuated but been maintained at higher levels than during the first wave of the pandemic. In recent months, emergency activity has reached pre-pandemic levels, while elective activity remains lower. Last month, the number of A&E attendances reached the highest level for any June since records began and trusts are reporting considerable pressure on urgent care services.”

  • NHS summer crisis deepens as Covid surge leads to cancelled operations and ambulance ‘black alert’ Independent July 20 update on the mounting crisis:
    "Hospitals and ambulance services are in a deepening crisis caused by the surge in infections as the removal of Covid-19 rules coincides with added pressure from the heatwave and the return of thousands of workers to offices.
    "More than half of staff at one NHS trust are absent because of Covid-19 isolation rules, forcing operations to be cancelled, while the number of Covid patients in England has leapt by one-third in the past week.
    "The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told a Downing Street press conference that he expected the NHS to see 1,000 patients a day being admitted to hospital soon.
    "His comments come as hospitals and ambulance services report surging demand from patients with staff being redeployed to new Covid wards and 999 calls going unanswered for vital minutes because of a lack of staff."

  • NHS summer crisis: London Ambulance Service declares incident as 999 calls surge Independent July 20:
    “London Ambulance Service was forced to declare an incident on Monday after a surge in 999 calls threatened to overwhelm it, The Independent has learned. Emergency calls increased by a third compared to a normal day, with a sudden wave of more than 400 calls in a single hour during the early afternoon.
    “Paramedics were told the service was under extreme demand with bosses making the decision shortly before 4pm to declare a “business continuity incident”.
    “This means there was a risk of normal services being disrupted below an acceptable level, leading to delays in answering 999 calls and a lack of crews to respond to emergencies.
    “The LAS has been at the highest level of demand, previously known as a “black alert”, since 17 June. Seven out of 10 ambulance services across England are in a similar situation.”

  • Boris Johnson’s ‘freedom day’ isolation tells us the virus is everywhere Polly Toynbee in the Guardian July 19:
    "The Health Service Journal reports that three NHS chief executives have been banned from speaking to the media about the “unsustainable pressure” their hospitals are facing, and banned from commenting on the reckless removal of masks, social distancing and indoor gathering limits. They confirmed that NHS chiefs’ WhatsApp group has “quite a few angry people” commenting on leaders’ failure to signal the present danger. “There is a sense that we are expected [by government] to pretend it’s all over.”
    "Silencing the NHS is absurd, and it never works. Some un-cowed souls will always speak out – especially seasoned seniors such as Nick Hulme, a well-respected troubleshooter, now chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex trust. “We are breaking every previous A&E record every day,” and not in a good way, he tells me. Covid cases are filling beds.
    “This is still a major crisis and we expect a third more cases for the rest of this year as they relax the rules.”

  • Boris Johnson pursuing Covid policy of mass infection that poses ‘danger to the world’, scientists warn Independent report July 17:
    “More than 1,200 scientists from around the globe have condemned the prime minister’s decision to forge ahead with so-called “freedom day” on 19 July, describing it as “unscientific and unethical”.
    “Some of the experts convened an emergency summit on Friday, warning that the UK government’s decision to lift its rules on social distancing and masks amounted to a “murderous” policy of “herd immunity by mass infection”.
    “The group of scientists – who all signed a recent letter to The Lancet warning against the plans – fear next week’s reopening in England will allow the Delta variant to spread rapidly around the world.
    “The warning comes as more than 50,000 cases were recorded on Friday, the highest figure since mid-January. A further 49 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported – bringing the UK’s total death toll from the pandemic to 128,642.”

  • Government won't publish records of meetings between Dido Harding and Covid firms Mirror July 17 on the latest episode of Tory sleaze:
    “None of the meetings Dido Harding held with private firms and consultants while running the UK’s £37 billion Test and Trace programme will be declared, the Government has said.
    “Ministers and senior officials are required to publicly declare any meetings with stakeholders or private companies. But no public record exists of any meetings held by Baroness Harding, a Tory peer and ally of shamed minister Matt Hancock.
    “Justin Madders, Labour ’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Under Dido Harding’s leadership test and trace has been an absolute bonanza for the plethora of private companies who have been contracted to deliver elements of the service, despite the failure of the service to work properly.
    "Failing to disclose details of these meetings is part of the wider pattern with this Government including the use of private emails, and handing contracts to their mates”."

  • Sajid Javid tests positive as health chiefs tell PM: don’t let Covid rip Observer July 17:
    Another 54,674 new cases of Covid-19 were announced on Saturday, confirming that numbers are back to levels last seen in January. A further 41 Covid deaths were also announced.
    "There has been widespread dismay from public health officials at the prime minister’s claim that people must “learn to live” with Covid and “exercise their personal responsibility”.
    "In a letter to the Observer, all four of the UK’s independent public health bodies warn: “Living with Covid-19 is not the same thing as letting it rip. We should proceed carefully, not recklessly … The government must promote effective public health measures because personal responsibility will not be enough.”

  • British ministers decide against mass vaccination for teens - The Telegraph Reuters report July 17 on a baffling JCVI decision to leave teens at risk of long covid:
    "Britain has opted against mass COVID-19 vaccinations for all children and teenagers, with ministers instead preparing to offer doses to vulnerable 12 to 15-year-olds and those about to turn 18, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Saturday.
    "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is believed to have advised ministers against the rollout of vaccines to all children until further evidence on the risks is available, the report added.
    "Under guidance the newspaper said are due to be issued on Monday, vaccine doses will be offered to children between 12 and 15 who are deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with adults who are immunosuppressed or otherwise vulnerable to the virus.
    "They will also now be offered to all 17-year-olds within three months of their 18th birthday, according to The Telegraph, which reported that the committee would keep the possibility of vaccinating all children "under review."

  • NHS summer crisis: Birmingham Queen Elizabeth hospital cancels all planned operations for two days Independent July 16 tracing the rapid growth of the crisis in England's hospitals:
    "“One of the largest hospitals in the country has cancelled all its planned operations for Thursday and Friday because of a lack of beds and space in intensive care.
    “The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which has more than 1,100 beds, has had to stop dozens of elective operations, including liver transplants, because of increasing numbers of coronavirus patients as well as wider demand.
    “The hospital’s intensive care unit, one of the largest in Europe, was full on Thursday with 10 patients in the wider hospital on a watch list who may need a bed in the critical care unit. This meant there were no spare beds for planned operations and transplants where patients would need an ICU bed post-surgery.
    “… Staff at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital were told on Wednesday that operations were being cancelled, while earlier this month The Independent revealed cancer operations were being delayed at Leeds Teaching Hospitals because of rising pressures.”
    Shaun Lintern comments on Twitter: "And we only know this because NHS staff from across the country have leaked info to journalists. All my recent stories about NHS pressures have been leaks.
    "Thank goodness some staff want to actually tell the public the truth. The corporate NHS certainly doesn't."

  • NHS staff asked to postpone holidays due to 'extreme pressure' caused by Covid spike Mirror report July 16:
    "NHS staff who have been in the frontline in the Covid pandemic are now being asked to postpone holidays by health bosses in Sunderland due "extreme pressure" caused by a surge in coronavirus cases.
    "Staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust are tackling one of the highest infection rates in the country with hospital cases doubling week-on-week.
    "In an internal note to staff earlier this week, bosses said there were 80 Covid patients receiving hospital treatment compared with just two exactly a month before.
    "The message began: "The Trust is currently under extreme pressure due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
    "Many people are seriously ill and receiving intensive care support."

  • Chris Whitty warns England could be plunged back into lockdown curbs in just 5 weeks Mirror July 16:
    “Boris Johnson could be forced to order new Covid lockdown curbs in five weeks, Chris Whitty has warned just days before Monday's "Freedom Day".
    “The Chief Medical Officer sounded the alarm over a potential "scary" growth in hospitalisations which could leave the NHS "in trouble again surprisingly fast" once restrictions are lifted.
    “The top medic said if hospital admissions begin doubling and the jabs rollout was not "topping out" the pandemic, in "five, six, seven eight weeks' time" the Prime Minister may need to "look again" at restrictions.
    “It comes after Mr Johnson insisted Brits must "learn to live with Covid" and ignored calls to keep the legal requirement for face masks in enclosed spaces beyond Sunday.
    “Speaking at a British Science Museum event, Professor Whitty underlined that epidemics are "either doubling or they're halving", adding: "And currently this epidemic is doubling. It's doubling in cases. It is also doubling in people going to hospital, and it's doubling in deaths”."

  • Melbourne: Australian city enters snap lockdown with 18 cases BBC News July 16 on how a government serious about public health responds to Covid 19:
    “Melbourne had largely avoided new cases despite an outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales, home to Australia's largest city, Sydney.
    “But earlier this week, a team of Sydney furniture movers travelled to Melbourne, leading to a spread in cases.
    "You only get one chance to go hard and go fast. If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier," Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said.
    "I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now," he added, only to be forced into a much longer one later on.”

  • Health and Care Bill seeks to add more political interference into the NHS July 16 Canary article interviewing three campaigners on Health & Care Bill concludes:
    "There is still time to stop the bill. However, as we can see, the worrying elements of the bill are numerous and complex. Once again, this is another change coming from Westminster which requires difficult and consistent activism."

  • Profits swell when insurers are also your doctors Axios follow-up on how UnitedHealth keeps as much of its subscriber income as possible:
    “UnitedHealth Group isn't just making more money because people deferred care throughout the coronavirus pandemic. It's making more money because it's owning a bigger piece of the health care system.
    “The bottom line: Insurers keep more of the premiums they collect when they also own the medical providers that are paid those premium dollars. And no insurer has expanded as aggressively into care delivery over the years as UnitedHealth.
    “Zoom in: Each quarter, UnitedHealth reports what it calls "intercompany eliminations."
    • This is when money transfers from one part of the company to another. UnitedHealth can't record the transaction as revenue because it is just paying itself.
    • For example, if a worker with UnitedHealthcare insurance goes to a surgery center or physician practice owned by Optum? That's an intercompany elimination. A 70-year-old with a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan fills a prescription through Optum's specialty pharmacy? That's one, too.
    “By the numbers: UnitedHealth recorded $43.8 billion of eliminations in the first half of 2021, putting it on pace for roughly $91 billion for the entire year.
    • That amount would be four times as much as the eliminations UnitedHealth recorded a decade ago.”

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