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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.

  • India variant could lead to serious third wave of Covid in UK Guardian May 14: “Without the new variant, outbreak modellers advising Sage anticipated a modest third wave in July and August, with perhaps 4,000 to 11,000 more deaths, but nothing on the scale of the devastating winter wave.
    “But the new variant is here. What that means is still uncertain. Take the outbreak in Bolton and surrounding areas out of the picture and the situation in England looks far less alarming, suggesting the region may be an outlier. Yet some scientists working on B.1.617.2 believe it is destined to displace the dominant and highly transmissible Kent variant, B.1.1.7, in the UK and note that charts displaying the steep rise in cases look horribly similar to those that tracked the surge of the Kent variant in December.
    “Their concerns are backed by the Sage committee, which advised ministers on 5 May that pushing down cases of variant infections was now a “priority for policy”. A highly transmissible variant – one that spreads more easily than the Kent variant – “could lead to a very significant wave of infections, potentially larger than that seen in January 2021 if there were no interventions,” the experts said.”

  • Socio-economic inequalities in access to planned hospital care: causes and consequences An important new study on the causes of health inequalities.
    "In the Summer and Autumn of 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic subsided, concern grew about reduced access to routine hospital care: diagnostics, outpatient care and planned surgery. Waiting lists and waiting times began to grow. The network of Decision Support Units in the Midlands recognised the potential for this issue to exacerbate existing inequalities. They jointly commissioned this analysis to explore the extent, causes and consequences of socio-economic inequalities in access to planned hospital care."

  • Matt Hancock helped Tory secure £180m PPE deal (£) Times May 16: "Matt Hancock personally intervened to help a former Conservative minister secure a PPE deal worth £180 million, according to government emails.
    “The health secretary assisted Brooks Newmark, the former civil society minister who resigned after sending sexually explicit photographs of himself to an undercover journalist he thought was a female party activist.
    “Last May, Newmark, 63, teamed up with the owner of a dog food company who had set up a firm to broker PPE deals for international suppliers. His subsequent lobbying helped a Hong Kong business become the eighth-biggest recipient of PPE contracts during the pandemic, according to the National Audit Office.
    “Zoe Ley, the dog food entrepreneur, was reported by BBC Panorama to have personally earned up to £1 million.”

  • Johnson ‘must think again on plans to relax Covid rules’ Guardian May 15: “Boris Johnson was under mounting pressure on Saturday to reconsider Monday’s relaxation of Covid rules in England because of the threat posed by the India variant. His own advisers and independent health experts raised fears that it could lead to a surge in hospital admissions, especially among young adults.
    “From Monday people will be able to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors, while six people or two households will be permitted to meet indoors. Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers indoors. Indoor entertainment such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas can also open along with theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums.
    “Overnight stays will be allowed. Weddings, receptions and other ceremonies will be able to take place among groups of up to 30. Unlimited numbers of people will be able to attend funerals.
    “But there are fears the new India variant could trigger a third wave, just as the “big bang” relaxation approaches. Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s taskforce on new and emerging viruses (Nervtag), said the relaxations would drive up the numbers infected with the India variant and that unvaccinated younger adults would be most at risk.”

  • Demand for inquiry into alleged PPE lobbying by Priti Patel Independent May 15 report on Labour exploiting rare useful revelation from Daily Heil: “Labour is demanding an investigation into allegations that Priti Patel breached the ministerial code of conduct by lobbying fellow ministers over a PPE contract for a Tory donor and former adviser.
    “… Documents obtained by the Daily Mail show that the home secretary wrote to cabinet colleague Michael Gove after being contacted by a client of Samir Jassal over a £20m deal to supply personal protective equipment early in the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.
    “Health secretary Matt Hancock responded that the masks being offered by Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd (PDL) were “not suitable for the NHS”. But the company was later awarded a £102.7m contract for a higher-specification face covering.
    “PDL contacted Ms Patel for help with the cancelled £20m deal after an introduction from Mr Jassal, who previously worked as her adviser and has twice stood as a Conservative parliamentary candidate.”

  • ‘GASLIT BY GOVERNMENT’ NHS Staff Tell of Mental Health Impact of PPE Shortages Byline Times May 14: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, PPE contracts have been awarded to friends and associates of the Conservative Party, including to companies that had no previous experience of procuring or developing medical-grade personal protective equipment.
    “The Health Secretary Matt Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully in failing to publish COVID-19 contracts within the 30 day period required by law. The National Audit Office has also criticised PPE procurement practices – including evidence of a VIP lane for some suppliers.
    “But the PPE procurement crisis goes beyond allegations of cronyism and corruption. It has had a traumatising impact on the mental health of NHS workers who faced the “terror” of working in a pandemic knowing they were not fully protected.
    “A survey of 2,733 healthcare workers by the University of Roehampton found that one-third of respondents reported severe levels of depression and anxiety, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Insufficient PPE and lack of workplace preparation were linked to the most severe mental health symptoms, as well as the loss of colleagues. More than 800 healthcare workers have died since the start of the pandemic.”

  • Lockdown lifting should be delayed if Indian variant spreads out of control, says NHS leaders Independent May 14: "“If the Indian variant of coronavirus spreads out of control, ministers must be prepared to delay relaxing lockdown, NHS leaders have warned.
    “The NHS Confederation, which represents more than 500 health and care organisations across the UK, urged the government not to delay taking action regardless of how unpopular such a move would be. Chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “With growing concern around the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19, the government must be guided by the data.
    “If there is any indication that the spread is no longer sufficiently under control, it must be prepared to adjust the timetable for easing lockdown, however unpopular that decision may be. There is also the real risk that the virus could mutate further if allowed to spread unchecked.”
    “His comments come as the latest data showed cases of the Indian variant show the number of cases across the UK has risen from 520 last week, to 1,313 cases this week. Most are in the North West of England and some in London, Public Health England said.”

  • Rise in patients at Bolton Hospital as Indian variant spreads. Most of the patients admitted to hospital were eligible for the Covid vaccine but had not had the jab Independent report May 14: “Hospital bosses in Bolton have told The Independent they have seen a rise in patients being admitted sick with coronavirus, some needing intensive care.
    “The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust medical director said a majority of the sick patients had not been vaccinated but would have been eligible for the jabs.
    “Dr Francis Andrews urged everyone in the area who was offered the vaccine to have it.
    “He said: “Whilst the numbers of people in the hospital with Covid-19 are still currently low compared to previous peaks, we have seen a modest increase in patients admitted with confirmed Covid-19 over the last week. A small number are requiring intensive care.
    “The increase in admissions is seen across the age range from 35-65. The majority of patients have not received a vaccination dose, but many would have been eligible.”

  • ‘Government Could Have Saved More Than 100,000 Lives During Pandemic’ Byline Times May 13: “Sir David King, who served as the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor from 2000 to 2007, estimates that two-thirds of the estimated 150,000 deaths during the COVID-19 crisis could have been prevented, if the Government had implemented a strong, early lockdown during the first wave of the disease, alongside a more effective test, trace and isolate strategy.
    “The [vaccine] roll-out has been understood literally as a lifesaver by the Government,” King told Byline Times. “It is a lifesaver.” However, other “lifesavers” have been missed by the Government. “How many deaths could have been avoided with quick action on find, test, trace, isolate and support, but also going into lockdown when it all became too desperate?… In excess of 100,000.”
    Sir David places particular emphasis on the early months of the pandemic – from January to April – as the source of the UK’s high death toll.
    “You’ve got to get ahead of a pandemic,” he said – pointing out that Chinese scientists published a definitive report on COVID-19, its transmission and its effect on humans, on 23 January 2020 – a full two months before Boris Johnson’s Government implemented the first nationwide lockdown.”

  • Sharp rise in children waiting for treatment in London for eating disorders ITV news May 13: "“There's been an alarming rise in the number of children in London waiting for treatment for eating disorders, according to figures from NHS England.
    “Between January and March the figure increased nearly five-fold compared to a year ago, with 40% more children also receiving treatment.
    “The number of children waiting for treatment last year between January and March was 39. For the same period this year that number rose to 187
    “During the same period, the number of children receiving hospital treatment for an eating disorder rose from 263 last year to 365 this year
    “At Great Ormond Street Hospital in central London a pilot scheme is tackling the waiting list for beds by expanding the outpatient service.
    “But the hospital said the uncertainty of the pandemic created a 'perfect storm' for children prone to eating disorders.”

  • Blackburn health chiefs ‘stopped from vaccinating all over-18s’ Pulse Today article May 13: "Blackburn with Darwen’s public health director has told the BBC that he was stopped by Government officials from rolling out vaccines to all over-18s next week.
    "Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council had briefly announced that the measures would be introduced next week to go hand in hand with surge testing in the area, amid concerns about outbreaks of the Indian variant of the virus.
    "Professor Dominic Harrison told Breakfast on BBC Radio Lancashire: ‘I am furious. I cannot understand why [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] or Department of Health and Social Care are stopping local directors of public health from taking the action they know will halt this surge of the Indian variant.’
    "Residents had already been urged by the council to be cautious after a rise in cases of Covid-19 after a number of cases of the Indian variant had been reported in the North West.
    "The European Medicines Agency has said there is promising evidence that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against the Indian variant."

  • Nearly half of eye patients at Hancock’s local trust waiting more than a year HSJ report May 13: “The East of England has been revealed as the worst-performing region for long ophthalmology waits, with almost half the waiting list at one acute trust already breaching the 52-week milestone.
    “Eleven per cent of the region’s 59,000 ophthalmology patients had already been waiting more than a year for treatment at the end of February, compared to 6 per cent in London, the best performing region.
    “West Suffolk Foundation Trust — which is in health and social care secretary Matt Hancock’s local constituency — had by far the biggest problem on this measure of any trust in England, with 42 per cent of the waiting list (660 patients) referred for treatment more than a year ago.
    “Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust had the next highest proportion of year-plus ophthalmology patients, at 29 per cent of its total list.”

  • The NHS Covid legacy - long waits and lives at risk BBC News May 13: “In-depth analysis by BBC News has found:
    • nearly a third of hospitals have seen long waits balloon with over 10% of patients going a year without treatment
    • major disruption to cancer services, with some hospitals struggling to treat half of their patients within the target time of two months
    • concern growing for 45,000 "missing cancer patients", after drops in GP referrals and screening services across the UK
    “It comes as NHS England has launched a £160m initiative to tackle the growing waiting lists.
    “A network of "accelerator" areas is being established to pilot new initiatives, including extra clinics at weekends, virtual assessments at home and new clinics that can complete high numbers of cataract operations.”

  • The UK's state-run investment bank won't say where it spent £1 billion of taxpayer money Business Insider May 12: “The UK's state-run economic development bank has refused to say who received more than £1 billion ($1.38 billion) it gave out in taxpayer-funded loans to startup companies.
    “The British Business Bank, the 100% government-owned bank for small and medium-sized enterprises, has disbursed more than £1.1 billion of convertible loan agreements to 1,140 companies as part of its "Future Fund" scheme.
    “… The lack of transparency over who got the money, or what they did with it, is of concern because the government has repeatedly awarded lucrative contracts to friends of ministers in Boris Johnson's government.
    “For instance, a man who ran a pub near health secretary Matt Hancock's house won a £30 million ($31.4 million) contract to provide personal protective equipment — despite having no experience in the industry — after sending WhatsApp messages to Hancock.”

  • Virtual wards and at-home antibiotic kits part of £160m funding to cut NHS waiting lists Independent May 12 report on a stable door-locking exercise that offers too little, too late, with just £160m shared between 12 of the 42 Integrated Care Systems: “Virtual wards, at-home antibiotic kits and using artificial intelligence in GP surgeries are among new initiatives to be trialled as part £160m funding to tackle waiting lists in the NHS.
    “NHS England announced the funding to aid in the health service’s recovery after the pandemic, after figures last month revealed the number of people waiting to begin hospital treatment in England had risen to a new record.
    “A total of 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February - the highest figure since records began in August 2007.
    “But NHS England said indicators suggest operations and other elective activity were at four-fifths of pre-pandemic levels in April, which is "well ahead" of the 70 per cent threshold set out in official guidance.”

  • ‘A slap in the face’: Hundreds of frontline Covid doctors told they won’t have jobs from August Independent May 11: “Hundreds of doctors working on the front line during the Covid pandemic have been told they won’t have jobs in the NHS training scheme from August, despite the health service being dependent on them to tackle surgical backlogs.
    “Almost 700 anaesthetists – who had key roles caring for critically ill patients struggling to breathe during the Covid surges – have been dropped from the NHS training scheme and are unable to progress in their careers because of a shortage in places.
    “One junior doctor listed 40 jobs across the country that he would have considered moving to, but had been rejected for every single one, despite ranking in the top third of candidates nationally.
    “He told The Independent that the news was a “slap in the face” after the past year and that he felt “let down” after giving so much during the pandemic.”

  • Tax dodging concerns over small firms used to pay NHS test-and-trace workers Guardian May 10 on yet another aspect of the sleaze and dodgy practice of private sector contractors who gained contracts during the pandemic:
    "The Guardian investigated after sources working at Covid-19 call centres, testing sites, mobile testing units and laboratories raised concerns about their payslips and employment terms.
    "Headed by the Conservative peer Dido Harding, NHS test and trace has become one of the biggest sources of new jobs during the pandemic, with a workforce of 50,000.
    "Most of its staff are supplied not by the National Health Service, but by outsourcing giants including Serco and G4S, and dozens of recruitment agencies in a broad contracting network.
    "Tax experts and unions fear weak controls by outsourcers and government agencies, and a complex chain of companies supplying labour for the service, which was created from scratch a year ago, have raised questions over the transparency of the system and left it wide open to abuse."

  • Mail on Sunday leads campaign to make GPs see all patients face to face once again May 9 article Mail on spurious Sunday “campaign” to vilify by demanding they do what they are already doing: GPs didn't stop seeing patients, haven't stopped seeing them, despite lack of promised support. Heil on Sunday claims:

    “Surgeries were ordered by NHS England to move to online and phone consultations at the start of the pandemic, but with the NHS workforce now vaccinated, Covid infections at a low and deaths in single figures, the measures inexplicably remain in place.
    “The new regime has led to vast swathes of patients feeling all but abandoned by their family doctors, according to more than 1,000 letters and emails received by this newspaper over the past eight months.
    “But enough is enough: we are calling for health chiefs to change their guidance and reopen GP surgeries before it threatens to cause a spiralling crisis. And more resources should be made available to allow all family doctors to do this safely.
    “GP leaders claim the proportion of appointments being held in person is recovering: NHS Digital statistics show the number of patients being seen in person in March had doubled to 15 million, compared to April last year.”

  • Johnson will vow to repair damaged NHS to lock in election gains Guardian May 9 with a highly optimistic reading of vague comments from Johnson camp, with no real new money in sight:
    "Boris Johnson will put repairing the NHS at the heart of his next programme for government, as his team draws up plans to lock in the huge local election gains in the north of England and Midlands.
    "With more NHS funding inevitable after the damage and delays caused by Covid-19, Downing St wants to neutralise an issue that could undermine progress among voters who have switched to the Tories. The NHS England head, Sir Simon Stevens, has already said cancer care and extra funding needs to be a priority. NHS waiting lists are seen as one of the government’s major vulnerabilities.
    “We have to be honest with the public about the damage done to the NHS by coronavirus and the scale of the challenge ahead,” a No 10 source said. “Now, more than ever, the NHS is the government’s priority – and recovery of patient services is at the heart of that. We need to achieve a national recovery that spreads opportunity and transforms the whole UK, and this Queen’s speech will have that ambition at its core.”

  • Thousands of doctors and nurses being pressured to work extra hours unpaid Independent May 8 revealing the extent to which the dedication of NHS staff is being relentlessly exploited:
    "In a survey of 5,500 doctors last month, the British Medical Association found 58 per cent had worked extra hours with more than a quarter, 28 per cent saying they were unpaid. More than two-fifths of doctors said the felt pressured by their employer to do extra hours.
    "A third of medics said they had skipped breaks with 60 per cent reporting a higher than normal level of fatigue.
    "Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon Ram Moorthy, from Berkshire, said: “We haven’t had a break since the first wave, we're being asked to do a lot of additional work to catch up and I honestly don’t know how long the workforce can continue working beyond maximum effort. The fact is, it’s going to take a lot more than shattered doctor’s goodwill for the health service to get through these backlogs.”
    "In July last year the Royal College of Nursing found a third of all nursing staff were working longer hours with 40 per cent not being paid for their time."

  • Nurses Hail Passage of Safe Staffing Bills US Public News Service report May 6 on the passing of Bill through both houses of New York state legislature to impose safe staffing levels and monitor the effectiveness of the change -- sadly to remain largely on paper unless Governor Andrew Cuomo comes off the fence and agrees to to sign the Bill.
    "The bills, Senate Bill 1168A and Senate Bill 6346 passed in both the state Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support. Once signed into law, they will affect every hospital and nursing home in the state, both public and private.
    "Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said hospitals will ultimately be required to abide by minimum nurse-to-patient ratios set by clinical staffing committees annually, and nursing homes will have to meet standards for daily nursing time for each resident.
    "This law is a pathway toward getting the kind of support that patients need in order to get the care that they deserve," Sheridan-Gonzalez stated."

  • LSE–Lancet Commission on the future of the NHS: re-laying the foundations for an equitable and efficient health and care service after COVID-19 A new Commission sets out a long-term vision for the NHS: working together for a publicly funded, integrated, and innovative service that improves health and reduces inequalities for all. Sadly it relies on increases in income tax and regressive taxes such as National Insurance Contributions and VAT to pay for it, making it unlikely to happen and diverting from the need to tax corporations and the billionaires.
    It makes seven recommendations, and associated sub-recommendations, for both the short term and long term, with a 10-year timeline.
    “First, increase investment in the NHS, social care, and public health. This Commission proposes that yearly increases in funding of at least 4%, in real terms, are needed for health, social care, and public health.
    “Second, improve resource management across health and care at national, local, and treatment levels.
    “Third, develop a sustainable, skilled, and fit for purpose health and care workforce to meet changing health and care needs.
    “Fourth, strengthen prevention of disease and disability and preparedness to protect against major threats to health.
    “Fifth, optimise diagnosis to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities.
    “Sixth, develop the culture, capacity, and capability to become a so-called learning health and care system (ie, in which data-enabled infrastructures are routinely used to support policy and planning, public health, and personalisation of care).
    “Finally, improve integration between health care, social care, and public health and across different providers, including the third sector (ie, charity and voluntary organisations).”

  • Infection rules for NHS staff leave them at risk from airborne Covid, warn experts Independent May 6: "Pressure is growing on the government to change its stance on coronavirus infection rules which it is feared may leave NHS staff and patients at risk from airborne transmission.
    "Experts told The Independent the current guidance from Public Health England (PHE), which effectively says staff working on general wards can rely on just surgical masks for protection, was “outdated and potentially misleading” and put NHS staff at risk.
    "At the start of the pandemic the emphasis on stopping infection was focused around droplets containing the virus both in the air over short distances and on surfaces. Increasingly scientists have begun to warn the virus can also spread through much smaller aerosols which can remain airborne for a lot longer and over further distances.
    "On Friday, the World Health Organisation updated its information on how Covid spreads to acknowledge the risk of aerosols and last month papers released by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said health workers may need to use better protection for longer.
    "According to the Health and Safety Executive there were nearly 20,000 notifications of suspected workplace infections involving staff in a health or care setting in the 12 months to April this year, with 271 deaths. This is likely to be a substantial underestimate and only includes cases where there is reasonable evidence staff were infected at work."

  • Ministers urged to reveal details of £2bn Covid deals with private health firms Guardian May 5: "“The government has been urged to publish details of up to £2bn in Covid-19 contracts awarded to private healthcare companies, including some that have helped fund the Conservative party.
    “… The NHS has said enlisting independent hospitals helped add 6,500 beds, freeing space to treat Covid-19 patients and allowing elective procedures to continue.
    “But the Good Law Project, which has repeatedly raised concerns about cronyism and opacity in public procurement, said a lack of transparency about the terms of the contracts was concerning.
    “… The first of two groups of contracts, running from March to December 2020, had 26 firms initially enlisted to provide extra capacity, to a value of £1.6bn.
    “The government said it did not pay for beds and staff that were not needed, adding that in the end only 17 firms provided services, at cost price.
    “Accounts for Practice Plus Group, which won £76.3m of work under the contract, raise questions about this assertion. They state that it worked on a “cost plus” basis, using a “cost plus pricing formula”.

  • Sir Simon Stevens steps down – the end of an era? This King's Fund blog by Nick Timmins May 4 is slightly less obsequious in its hero worship than some of the eulogies to the departing bureaucrat, but more extravagant in its praise for ... Jeremy Hunt!
    “If there is a criticism it is that he was probably a better strategist than manager and the surprise might be that only relatively recently did he appoint a proper chief operating officer to help better implement the drive for integrated care systems.
    “There has been real progress. But slower than he would have hoped. It is decidedly varied, with much still to do. And then, of course, there is the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “The eventual public inquiry will ask questions. Not least about the discharge to care homes of thousands of patients, untested for Covid-19, as the NHS cleared the decks to cope.”

  • ‘Ill-judged’ bonus hike for AstraZeneca boss prompts investor anger Guardian May 4:
    “AstraZeneca is facing mounting opposition over its plans to award its chief executive, Pascal Soriot, a big increase in bonuses, with three investor advisory groups calling on shareholders to vote against the policy.
    “Pirc, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) have all flagged concerns over moves to raise the maximum share bonus Soriot can receive under a long-term plan from 550% of his £1.3m base salary to 650%.
    “AZ also plans to hoist Soriot’s maximum annual bonus to 250% of salary from 200%, depending on performance targets being hit.
    “The advisory groups recommended investors vote against the pay policy at next Tuesday’s annual meeting.”

  • Boris Johnson delays social care reform amid cost fears Times May 4 with the latest decision to kick a can of worms further down the road:
    "Boris Johnson is expected to delay the announcement of plans for overhauling social care funding until after the Queen’s Speech over concerns in government that it will require cuts or tax rises worth up to £5 billion a year.
    "The prime minister met Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last month to discuss funding for social care, and more talks are expected in coming weeks. Johnson has taken a keen interest in a decade-long plan from Sir Andrew Dilnot, an expert in social care funding, that would cap care costs for individuals at £45,000 with the state covering the rest.
    "The Queen’s Speech, on May 11, setting out the government’s legislative programme, is expected to mention the prime minister’s promise to come forward with plans for the funding of social care this year, but will not give detail."

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