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The fight against Coronavirus

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  • 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.

  • ‘Focused protection’ of elderly not a viable option, say PM’s advisers Independent Oct 24 reports fresh evidence from SAGE to refute the stubborn proponents of "herd immunity" and "focused protection" effectively incarcerating millions of elderly and vulnerable people: will Johnson follow the science or the urgings of his party's rabid right wing?
    "Boris Johnson has been warned by his scientific advisers that a policy of protecting over-60s from Covid-19 while allowing the rest of society to go back to normal life “would not be viable”.
    "Proposals for so-called “focused protection” have gathered support since the launch of the Great Barrington Declaration, backed by thousands of scientists, medics and politicians around the world, including in Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party.
    "But experts in the PM’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found it would not be possible to stop coronavirus spreading from young people to the older population, and that even if this was achieved for a period, a wave of disease among elderly people would be “almost certain” as soon as protections were removed."

  • Hospitals are filling up. Again. New York Times Coronavirus Briefing brings together evidence of a third wave of infection in the US and the fresh spread of the virus in Poland and France: we are not alone in facing the problem – but the chances of containing it depend on stemming the spread and bringing the disastrous privatised test and trace system into the public sector where there is expertise to deliver.

  • We can either pay the price for stricter coronavirus restrictions now - or later with more mental suffering Thoughtful exclusive comment article in the Independent Oct 23 by Dr Adrian James begins:
    "As the nation argues whether regional lockdowns are justified here’s something to consider - there will be no escape from the mental health ramifications either way.
    "Here’s why - your mind is part of your body and Covid-19 can be both a physical and mental illness. A great deal has been achieved to highlight the plight of those suffering the mental health effects of lockdown, the result of social isolation and recession.
    "This is a very real concern, but I worry that this threat is being weaponised by those with other political agendas to argue against tighter restrictions to control the virus."

  • Treasury confirms it is to end VAT waiver on PPE in UK Guardian October 23 with the latest nonsensical twist of government policy, with the Treasury making it harder and more expensive for businesses to observe basic safety precautions:
    "Face masks and gloves will cost more from the end of this month after the government said a temporary waiver of VAT on personal protective equipment (PPE) would not be extended, the Guardian has learned.
    "The Treasury confirmed that the 20% sales tax would once more apply to protective equipment bought by firms and consumers from November, after a six-month exemption.
    "While care homes and the healthcare sector can access PPE from the Department of Health and Social Care, the increase could mean extra costs for businesses and ordinary people, who are legally bound to use masks in shops and on public transport."

  • It's not too late but we must act now. Independent SAGE sets out plan to fix failing Test & Trace and answers your Qs on transmission in schools. With @theAliceRoberts. Latest figures from @chrischirp

  • Care home fined £200,000 after pensioner left on floor for up to two hours Independent Oct 23 with some good news of action to force at least one care home to pay more attention to safety of residents:
    "A care home has been forced to pay almost £220,000 for not providing safe care to an 89-year-old woman who was left on the floor for up to two hours with a broken hip.
    "Vivo Care Choices Limited, which runs Curzon House in Saltney, near Chester, was prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission and ordered to pay a £200,000 fine plus costs at Chester Magistrates’ Court on Friday."

  • The Trump administration quietly closed a vaccine safety office last year, hampering efforts to track the long-term safety of a coronavirus vaccine. New York Times Oct 23: “As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.
    “Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. Sorting out whether the vaccines had anything to do with their ailments will be a thorny problem, requiring a vast, coordinated effort by state and federal agencies, hospitals, drug makers and insurers to discern patterns in a flood of data. Findings will need to be clearly communicated to a distrustful public swamped with disinformation.
    “For now, Operation Warp Speed, created by the Trump administration to spearhead development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, is focused on getting vaccines through clinical trials in record time and manufacturing them quickly.
    “The next job will be to monitor the safety of vaccines once they’re in widespread use. But the administration last year quietly disbanded the office with the expertise for exactly this job, merging it into an office focused on infectious diseases. Its elimination has left that long-term safety effort for coronavirus vaccines fragmented among federal agencies, with no central leadership, experts say.”

  • More than 100 care home inspectors forced to self-isolate as ministers withhold regular testing Shocking story from Independent Oct 22: "More than 100 inspectors at the Care Quality Commission – almost one-tenth of its inspection workforce – have been forced to self-isolate over coronavirus concerns since March.
    "The watchdog has released the figures as ministers continue to deny its inspection teams regular testing.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care said inspectors do not get close enough to vulnerable residents to warrant regular testing despite fears they could seed homes with the virus through contact with staff.
    "During the first wave of the virus it is estimated 16,000 care home residents died from the coronavirus after 25,000 NHS patients were discharged from hospitals."

  • Specialist hospitals for people with autism and learning difficulties ‘providing undignified and inhumane care’ Independent Oct 22 picks up on damning CQC report:
    "Specialist hospitals for people with autism or learning difficulties in England are providing “undignified and inhumane” care that risks breaching patients’ human rights, a watchdog has found.
    "Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates health and social care services in England, discovered that some mental health hospitals could be “distressing” to those being treated there.
    "The majority of the 43 wards they visited were deemed to be “noisy, chaotic and unpredictable”, instead of being therapeutic environments. This, along with a lack of specialised training for staff, meant that patients’ needs were not always met, the CQC said."

  • PM admits failings as England's Covid contact-tracing system hits new low Guardian Oct 22 on the latest symptoms of the privatised test and trace fiasco: “Boris Johnson and his chief scientific adviser have admitted to failings in England’s £12bn test-and-trace system as contact-tracing fell to a new low and waiting times for test results soared to almost double the target.
    “Under pressure to explain new figures showing less than 60% of close contacts being reached, while test turnaround times rose to nearly 48 hours, the prime minister said: “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.”
    “… In the week ending 14 October, 59.6% of close contacts were reached, down from the previous week’s figure of 62.6%, which was the lowest since the test-and-trace operation was launched at the end of May.”

  • ‘Dramatic’ surge in patients forces hospital to cancel more operations Independent Oct 22 as the first announcements begin of operations cancelled as beds fill up and staff resources are devoted to Covid 19 patients once more:
    "Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said it had no alternative due to the pressure from Covid-19 which had seen more than 200 patients in hospital with the disease in the last few days. Surgery for cancer and urgent and emergency cases will not be affected.
    "The trust’s chief executive, Tracy Taylor, appealed to the public to help ease the pressure on the hospital by following social distancing rules and washing their hands regularly. She said the surge in cases at the East Midlands trust was now at similar levels to that seen in April."

  • Faculty strongly opposed to judicial review ‘rebalance’ Faculty of advocates Oct 22 comes out strongly against government moves to “dilute” the judicial review court process, by which a check can be kept on the legality of government decision-making – a process which, while far from perfect, has proved vital as an option for health campaigners.
    “In evidence to a review of the procedure, the Faculty described as “chilling” any suggestion that some decisions could be made immune from examination by judges.
    “There is no serious basis in a modern democracy for the view that public bodies and government authorities are entitled to operate without accountability for material mistakes of law or fact in their actions (or inactions). Such a consideration betrays a misunderstanding of the rule of law and runs contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy,” stated the Faculty.
    “The importance of the rule of law should be self-evident: a system of democratic government that pays proper respect to the rights of the individuals present within its territorial jurisdiction must be based on a system of rules, and those rules must be properly interpreted and consistently applied.”

  • UK test and trace hits new low with fewer than 60% of contacts reached Independent Oct 22: “The government’s NHS Test and Trace programme has reached a record low, with just under 60 per cent of close contacts of people infected with coronavirus successfully reached by the system.
    “… This is the lowest weekly percentage since test and trace began, and is down from 63 per cent in the previous week.
    “For cases handled by local health protection teams, 94.8 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate. But for cases processed online or by call centres, this figure was 57.6 per cent.
    “… Meanwhile, just 15.1 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in the week ending 14 October at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called in-person test – received their result within 24 hours, the data showed.”

  • England’s social care system needs extra £7bn annually to avoid collapse, MPs warn Independent Oct 22 report of Health Committee warnings:
    "England's social care sector needs £7 billion more a year as an urgent "starting point" to avoid potential collapse of the market, MPs say.
    "An immediate boost is needed to avert a feared market collapse caused by providers exclusively offering services to clients who fund their own care over council-funded places, a new report warns.
    "But this figure would not address the growing problem of unmet need, with the full cost likely to run into tens of billions of pounds, the Health and Social Care Committee said."

  • Visualising Local Authority COVID-19 deaths/cases data Valuable new searchable and interactive resource for tracking the spread of the virus from Colin Angus, who says on Twitter: "Today I have *finally* managed to wrangle some English hospital data into the local COVID-19 data explorer app I made.
    "You can now look up estimated new hospital admissions and hospital deaths for every Local Authority in the country."

  • Thousands more coronavirus patients hospitalised as second wave threatens NHS surgery Independent Oct 21: "The number of patients in hospitals across England with coronavirus has jumped almost 50 per cent in the past seven days, putting extra strain on the NHS as the second wave gathers momentum.
    "Doctors, nurses and senior managers across the country have warned of their fears that rising numbers of patients with Covid-19 are undermining efforts to treat routine patients, with some already having surgery cancelled.
    "Leaked emails, seen by The Independent, reveal the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust, one of the largest hospital trusts in the country, has told its surgeons to begin cancelling routine operations for some patients because of the pressures it is facing."

  • Test and trace forced to bring in untrained workers as system is overwhelmed by second wave, leaked email reveals Independent Oct 21: “England’s test and trace service is being forced to draft in untrained staff to carry out clinical assessments of patients infected with coronavirus as the second wave of infections swamps the service.
    “Leaked emails obtained by The Independent show that as of Wednesday, staff from outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel, who have no clinical training, will be working alongside nurses and clinical staff to help assess and contract trace approximately 20,000 cases each day.
    “… Staff working for test and trace service, which was set up in May and hailed as a “world beating” service by prime minister Boris Johnson, said the use of Serco and Sitel workers was a potential patient safety risk because they may struggle to spot patients who need to emergency hospital treatment.”

  • The government's secretive Covid contracts are heaping misery on Britain Guardian Oct 21 comment from George Monbiot:
    "The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.
    "Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.
    "This centralisation is perhaps the hardest aspect to understand. All experience here and abroad shows that local test and trace works better. While, according to the latest government figures, the centralised system currently reaches just 62.6% of contacts, local authorities are reaching 97%."

  • Racial discrimination widespread in NHS job offers, says report Guardian exclusive Oct 21 begins: "Doctors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds have been hindered in their search for senior roles because of widespread “racial discrimination” in the NHS, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians.
    "The RCP, which represents 30,000 of the UK’s hospital doctors, found that ingrained “bias” in the NHS made it much harder for BAME doctors to become a consultant compared with their white counterparts.
    “It is clear from the results of this survey that racial discrimination is still a major issue within the NHS,” said Dr Andrew Goddard, the RCP’s president. “It’s a travesty that any healthcare appointment would be based on anything other than ability.”

  • Two thirds of hospices facing redundancies as government help runs out ITV news Oct 19 with shocking news not only that hospices are facing bankruptcy but also that their funding is utterly dependent on charity rather than public funds:
    "Two thirds of hospices in England have started planning for redundancies as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit funding for end of life care, ITV News has learned.
    "Extra government support to help the sector through the coronavirus crisis stopped in the summer, leaving hospices on the brink of cuts to the care they provide. Last month ITV News reported that a third of England's hospices - 56 out of 169 - are at financial risk and are being forced to contemplate redundancies.
    "Hospice UK, the national charity for hospices and palliative care, has been working with NHS England to identify the most cash-strapped providers of end-of-life care to see of local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) can step in to help.
    "ITV News has now learned that number has doubled, with two in three hospices in England now reporting financial concerns that are forcing them to plan for redundancies.
    “More than two thirds of hospices are now considering redundancies, which will significantly affect end of life care due to worsening finances and winter pressures,” said Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK."

  • Medics from Italy and UK come together to expose their harrowing reality of Covid daily Mirror 19 October: "As Britain approaches the final cliff edge of Brexit, the Daily Mirror has teamed up with newspapers and websites in Italy, Germany, France, Poland and 10 other European countries to pair people for a chat across national boundaries.
    "... Meeting up will happen by videocall on Sunday December 13. You will need to be free for a chat at 2pm UK time on that day.
    "As so many participants will have different first languages, Europe Talks organisers have suggested these video calls should take place in English if possible."

  • NHS staff offered snack box or a ‘commemorative badge’ for covid efforts HSJ Oct 19 reports tight-fisted, newly-merged Kent & Medway CCG has an underwhelming way of showing its appreciation:
    "A clinical commissioning group which is making redundancies has polled staff on whether they would prefer a thank you card from senior management or a “Graze-type snackbox” as recognition of their work over the last six months.
    "Staff at Kent and Medway CCG – which was formed from eight CCGs in April – are also being offered the option of a commemorative badge, an extra day of annual leave or a voucher. They can suggest other options.
    "They had until 5pm on Friday to complete the survey, which management says is an attempt to find out what a “genuine and heartfelt thank you to each one of you to recognise your contribution” should look like."

  • TED Europa - Garments for biological or chemical protection 2020/S 203-494877 Contract award notice Details of an £81m contract awarded to PPE Medpro Limited, a new £100 company incorporated in May 2020, with no obvious qualification to supply PPE beyond an association with big Tory donors (it had already received a £112m contract) .

  • People sent to 'non-existent' Sevenoaks Covid test site BBC report Oct 19: “People with suspected Covid-19 symptoms have been sent to a testing site in Kent that does not exist. The address in Sevenoaks had been listed on the government website, but "is not a test facility", the district council leader said.
    “Angie Waters, 67, drove to the site after booking a slot at 11:00 GMT. "It was an absolute fiasco," she said.
    “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said people were no longer being sent to the "incorrect" location.
    “Kent County Council apologised to anyone who had "made a wasted journey" and said it was trying to find out "what went wrong". It said a mobile testing site was to be introduced by the DHSC due to a local rise in Covid-19 rates, but it had not yet arrived "for an unknown reason".”

  • The pursuit of herd immunity is a folly – so who's funding this bad science? Guardian Oct 18 comment by Trish Greenhalgh, Martin McKee and Michelle Kelly-Irving setting the record straight on a right wing intervention attempting to skew the discussion on dealing with Covid 19:
    “You may not have heard of the “Great Barrington declaration” but you’ll likely have seen the headlines that followed it. Journalists have written excitedly about an emerging rift in the scientific community as the consensus around the most effective response to Covid supposedly disintegrates. The declaration, which called for an immediate resumption of “life as normal” for everyone but the “vulnerable”, fuelled these notions by casting doubt on the utility of lockdown restrictions. “We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity”, it stated.
    “Scientists were swift in their response. The declaration’s core assumption, that population immunity will be achieved by allowing life to go on as normal and shielding only the most vulnerable from the virus, is entirely speculative. …
    “…The truth is that a strategy of pursuing “herd immunity” is nothing more than a fringe view. There is no real scientific divide over this approach, because there is no science to justify its usage in the case of Covid-19.”

  • Police 999 callouts to people suffering mental health crises soar Guardian report Oct 18: “The police are being called to deal with soaring numbers of incidents involving people suffering from mental health crises, sparking fresh concern about lack of NHS help for the mentally ill.
    “The number of such 999 callouts in England has risen by 41% over the past five years, with some police forces seeing more than a twofold jump since 2015, new figures reveal.
    “Mental health experts say the increase highlights the erosion over recent years of services for people with conditions such as depression and schizophrenia who end up in crisis.”

  • Covid vaccine roll-out must not involve private firms UNISON Press Release October 16:
    “In its response to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on changes to medicine regulations, the union has raised concerns about allowing non-healthcare professionals to administer any vaccine.
    "Millions of people will need to be protected from coronavirus once a vaccine is approved. It’s vital that any vaccination programme is delivered and supervised by healthcare professionals, says UNISON. There should be no cutting corners by allowing private firms to use staff with little training who could create added dangers, the union warns.
    "UNISON is also calling for some highly experienced groups such as operating department practitioners (ODPs) to be added to the list of health professionals who can administer vaccines.
    "UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government’s use of private companies to run test and trace has been a disaster. Any more mistakes on that scale will simply allow the virus to continue to spread.”

  • Serco says profits set to soar after Test and Trace contract extension Southern Daily Echo report Oct 16: "Outsourcing giant Serco has said it expects profits to exceed expectations in 2020 as a result of the uptick in work since the global pandemic.
    "Updating the London Stock Exchange in an unexpected announcement, the company said the excess profits could now be returned to shareholders, with a consultation on dividend payments under way.
    "The company, which is one of the largest companies involved the UK Government’s Test and Trace scheme, said it had achieved strong revenue growth in the three months from July, highlighting extensions to contracts to provide test sites and call handlers.
    "Bosses said this was “an indication of our customer’s satisfaction with the quality of work we have delivered” as part of the £12 billion committed by the Government to the system."

  • Black African men four times more likely to die of Covid-19 than white women Mirror report Oct 16: "Black African men in England and Wales are two and a half times more likely to die of Covid-19 than white men, with the disparity even greater between men and women.
    "Number crunchers at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have detailed the stark differences in mortality rates among ethnic groups.
    "Men from black African, black Caribbean and Bangladeshi ethnic backgrounds have had "significantly higher" rates of death involving Covid-19 than all other ethnic groups in England and Wales.
    "Their mortality rates from the disease are higher than 250 deaths per 100,000 people."

  • Remdesivir Fails to Prevent Covid-19 Deaths in Huge Trial New York Times Oct 16 with the evidence that one of the grugs given to Trump is not a life-saver: “Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug authorized for treatment of Covid-19 in the United States, fails to prevent deaths among patients, according to a study of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries sponsored by the World Health Organization.
    “The drug was granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on May 1 after a trial by the National Institutes of Health found that remdesivir modestly reduced the time to recovery in hospitalized. President Trump received the antiviral after he began showing symptoms earlier this month.
    “This puts the issue to rest — there is certainly no mortality benefit,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Alberta in Canada.
    “But other scientists said the design of the W.H.O.’s sprawling clinical trial, which collected data from hundreds of hospitals, meant the conclusions were not definitive.”

  • Health Care in the 2020 Presidential Election: What’s at Stake Series of blogs from US Commonwealth Fund filling in some of the facts to replace a welter of fake news:
    "The importance of maintaining or expanding access to affordable health care in the midst of a pandemic cannot be understated. Going into the crisis, 30 million Americans lacked health coverage, with many more potentially at risk as a result of the current economic downturn. And even for many with coverage, costs are a barrier to receiving care. Moreover, despite efforts by Congress and the Trump administration to ease the financial burden of COVID-19 testing and treatment, many people remain concerned about costs; examples of charges for COVID-related medical expenses are not uncommon.
    "In this context, President Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most important signal of his position on health care. The administration’s legal challenge of the law will be considered by the Supreme Court this fall. With no Trump proposal for a replacement to the ACA, if the Court strikes the law in its entirety or in part, many voters cannot be certain that their health coverage will be secure. By undermining the ACA — the vast law that protects Americans with preexisting health conditions and makes health coverage more affordable through a system of premium subsidies and cost-sharing assistance — the president has put coverage for millions at risk.
    "Trump issued an executive order to preserve preexisting condition protections. If the ACA remains intact, the order is redundant. But if the ACA is repealed by the Court, the order is meaningless because it lacks the legal underpinning and legislative framework to take effect."

  • Minister confirms no penalty clauses in Serco/Sitel test and trace contract Parliamentary answer from Health Minister Helen Whately:
    "Contracts were awarded to Serco and Sitel to provide call handling services for the contact track and trace initiative. The contracts have been published and can be found at the following links:
    "Contractual penalties are often unenforceable under English law so they were not included in test and trace contracts with Serco or Sitel. Sitel and Serco are approved suppliers on the Crown Commercial Service contact centre framework and the contracts have standard performance and quality assurance processes in place. Some information on Key Performance Indicators and service levels has been redacted from these published contracts as it is considered to be commercially sensitive.
    "The contracts have break clauses in them, meaning if the company does not meet required service levels we may cancel the contract and reclaim our money."

  • Councils to take over some Test and Trace work after string of failures and vast bill Mirror report Oct 11: “Tory ministers are planning to give councils more control over coronavirus contact-tracing after a string of failures and a massive cost to the taxpayer.
    “The shift emerged after the privatised NHS Test and Trace failed to reach 31.4% of Covid sufferers' close contacts last week - the worst rate since it launched in May.
    “A blunder also meant more than 15,000 positive cases were not sent to contact tracers until days afterwards. A source told the Sunday Times the government wants to "extend" local plans trialled in 60 areas, where council staff pick up the most difficult cases from Test and Trace.
    “Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared to confirm the plans - saying local knowledge is "bound to be better" than a call centre. But the plans have prompted yet more bafflement and anger among northern leaders because they have been calling for such a move for months.”

  • Health and safety breaches at testing lab Independent Oct 15 on failures in controversial "lighthouse" labs set up in parallel to NHS lab network:
    "Whistleblowers who worked at the Lighthouse Laboratory in Milton Keynes have alleged that workers receive insufficient training before each being asked to handle tens of thousands of coronavirus test samples every day.
    "A joint investigation by The Independent and the BBC also uncovered concerns about a lack of social distancing, poor protective clothing, and unsafe handling of samples by staff under pressure to process as many tests as possible as Britain tried to ramp up its coronavirus testing programme.
    "The UK network of Lighthouse Laboratories, run by private organisations on a not-for-profit basis, was set up in a matter of weeks in April to rapidly expand daily testing capacity. Initially there were three labs, in Milton Keynes, Manchester and Glasgow. "There are now seven mega-labs around the country aiming to process a combined total of at least 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. "

  • Leaked emails raise flag on ‘extremely concerning’ bed shortage HSJ report Oct 15: “‘Systemic’ problems within mental health services in Birmingham have caused the number of people waiting for an inpatient bed to reach ‘extremely concerning’ levels, according to documents leaked to HSJ.
    “There are currently 41 people waiting to be admitted to a bed by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, according to internal documents, while 36 people have already had to be sent to private sector facilities up to 150 miles away.
    “The NHS in the area has indicated to HSJ that it is due to need for “intensive levels of care” now growing because of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
    “In an email thread, sent to 60 people in the trust including senior executives, one senior clinician wrote in response to the bed figures: “The number of patients with Mental Health Act assessments completed is extremely concerning. This needs to be escalated to commissioners. The problem is systemic”.”

  • NHS seeks £10bn covid deal with private hospitals HSJ Oct 15 revelation of more billions on offer to private hospitals for up to 4 years – while little or no information is released on how much has been spent so far, and what the NHS has received for its money:
    “Private providers have been asked to apply to a new procurement framework worth up to £10bn, from which NHS organisations will purchase additional capacity for up to four years.
    “The framework represents a key element of the NHS England’s plans to cope with coronavirus over winter, by outsourcing significant amounts of routine activity to independent hospitals.
    “Procurement frameworks effectively create a list of suppliers which have demonstrated they can meet certain criteria, and can then be called upon to deliver services when required. NHS England will decide which suppliers qualify to be on the framework, from which local trusts and health systems can then commission services.”

  • NHS staff testing 'dismantled' in virus hotspots BBC Oct 15 report: "At the start of the pandemic, "a lot of trusts pulled together their own [makeshift] testing schemes because they really needed to test staff", said Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, the body which represents health trust leaders in England.
    "But as a centralised national system developed, many trusts "stood down" their testing arrangements put in place in the first months of the pandemic, she said.
    "This was partly in response to the "direction of travel from central government".

  • Government pays BA and Virgin £70m to fly PPE from China Telegraph report Oct 15: “Two of Britain's largest airlines were paid more than £70m of taxpayer cash to fetch PPE from China, according to new data which threatens to reignite the row over tendering at the height of the Covid crisis.
    “The deals with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were part of a massive drive to replenish stocks of protective kit from sources all over the world. They will have provided vital funding to the airlines at a time when almost no passengers were travelling.
    “BA was handed £46m between May and July in a contract with the Department of Health and Social Care, details published by the Government show. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has been paid £27m since April for flights that were still running as recently as this month. The airlines' services ran from London to Beijing and Shanghai and used empty passenger jets.
    “… Although it was known in spring that ministers had sought help from airlines, the costs involved have been secret until now. The revelations are likely to spark a debate over whether a proper tendering process was carried out and if market rates were paid.”

  • Five-person team gets £25k a day to work on Test and Trace system Sky News October 15 with shocking figures: “Amid claims that England's crucial COVID-19 contact tracing scheme has failed, Sky News can reveal that the government has been paying a five-person team of management consultants £25,000 a day to work on that part of the system.
    “The team from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) helped mastermind the creation of the contact tracing systems.
    “They were only a fraction of the private sector consultants working on the test and trace system, however, they are believed to have been among the most expensive.
    “Two members of the team were being paid day rates of £7,360 while the remaining three were being paid £4,160 - though the consultancy gave the government a 10% discount for the job.”

  • Family of NHS consultant stricken by Covid face removal from UK Guardian Oct 15 lifts the lid on yet another hideous example of the government's brutal anti-migrant policies in action:
    "The family of an NHS consultant who has treated many patients during the coronavirus pandemic, and who is now critically ill with Covid himself, are facing removal from the UK.
    "Dr Basem Enany, 44, a consultant cardiologist from Egypt, is currently in intensive care on a ventilator at a Yorkshire hospital.
    "Colleagues describe him as “a frontline fighter against the pandemic” and say he regularly spent full day and night shifts on the Covid wards looking after very sick patients. In mid-September, he tested positive for Covid himself.
    "A few days after falling ill he noticed weakness in both legs which developed into a progressive paralysis. He has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare complication of some viruses, including Covid. There have been 31 other cases linked to Covid, mainly in Europe."

  • Britain's Covid-19 strategy simply adds up to many more jobless people Guardian comment from economics correspondent Larry Elliott: "The lesson from South Korea is that an effective track-and-testing system is the key to limiting the number of Covid-19 deaths and protecting the economy. Boris Johnson’s government has had seven months to provide something comparable, and has failed to do so.
    "The UK has so far had the worst of all worlds: a high death rate and colossal economic damage. This unfortunate combination looks set to continue."

  • Why health secretary must act over troubled NHS in his backyard Hard-hitting East Anglia District Times report Oct 15 challenges Matt Hancock over the dire state of trusts around his constituency:
    “Over the past year, three major health trusts on Mr Hancock’s patch – and in health minister Jo Churchill’s Bury St Edmunds constituency – have been hit by highly critical watchdog reports.
    “One - West Suffolk Hospital - is accused of an alleged ‘witch-hunt’ for a whistleblower, last month the East of England Ambulance Trust’s leadership was rated as “inadequate” and thirdly, the region’s mental health service has been in crisis for years.
    “The mental health trust, which was the worst-performing in the country until recently, remains in special measures. … During the pandemic, hundreds of youngsters were also discharged from the service, which bosses later admitted “was not a mistake”. It is understood inspectors will be revisiting the trust soon.
    “Last month, the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) – covering both ministers’ constituencies – faced huge criticism for allowing sexual harassment and a ‘culture of bullying’ to continue. Thirteen cases of sexual misconduct and predatory behaviour were reported to police, a CQC report revealed, with leadership slammed as “inadequate”.
    “In November last year, three staff died suddenly, with one death linked to the harassment scandal.”

  • Scientific consensus on the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to act now A letter from leading experts to the Lancet sets out in detail why any reliance on "herd immunity" as an answer to Covid 19 is unethical, impossible, and an all round bad idea:
    "The arrival of a second wave and the realisation of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable. Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable.
    "This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence."

  • Medical supplies needed to fight second wave to be hit by no-deal Brexit, think tank warns Independent Oct 15 warning of the health dangers of the looming no-deal Brexit in the new year:
    "Medical supplies crucial to fight a second wave of coronavirus face being disrupted by a no-deal Brexit, a leading health think tank has warned.
    "They could be interrupted without an agreement on a future trading relationship with the EU, the Nuffield Trust said.
    "The warning came as the author of a new report said “negotiators on both sides have not been putting health first” in talks, despite the ongoing global pandemic. The trust found that imports of medical equipment from the EU hit their highest ever level in March this year."

  • The NHS is not ready to tackle the debilitating effects of ‘long Covid’ Independent Oct 15 warning:
    "A new report has warned of a widespread hidden impact of coronavirus on thousands of patients who are suffering from the so-called “long Covid” phenomenon and struggling to get help from the NHS.
    "The work by National Institute for Health Research reveals the challenge for the health service in being able to meet the needs of patients suffering the after-effects of the Covid-19 virus.
    "Some patients are still reporting problems seven months on from their infection.
    "Among the “roller coaster of symptoms” they face include organ damage to their heart or lungs, problems with their kidneys, livers or skin as well as breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog” and anxiety."

  • Hospitals battle coronavirus outbreaks as workforce shortages drive cancellation fears Independent Oct 15: "Hospitals across the north are battling rising numbers of Covid-19 outbreaks spreading on their wards as they juggle staff shortages and increasing numbers of patients being admitted with the virus.
    "As millions entered stricter lockdown measures on Wednesday, there were 4,146 patients in English hospitals with a total of 19,724 testing positive for the virus in the previous 24 hours and another 137 deaths reported across the UK.
    "Mounting pressure has already led to some hospitals warning they will be forced to cancel routine surgeries with others now redeploying nurses and doctors to cope with the second wave surge."

  • Consultants' fees 'up to £6,250 a day' for work on Covid test system Guardian Oct 14: "Management consultants are being paid as much as £6,250 a day to work on the British government’s struggling coronavirus testing system, sources have confirmed.
    "Senior executives from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) are being paid fees equivalent to £1.5m a year to help speed up and reorganise the £12bn network that Boris Johnson said in May would be “world-beating”.
    "The figures, first disclosed by Sky News, come amid growing concern about the cost of the UK’s Covid-19 testing system, which has been criticised for being slow, disorganised and unable to cope with rising demand.
    "BCG, one of the largest and most prestigious consultancies in the world, charged £10m for 40 people to work on the virus test-and-trace programme over the course of four months, a source with knowledge of the contract said.
    "Individual consultants from the firm could earn £2,400 a day; the most senior consultants up to £7,360, sources confirmed. BCG then offered discounts of between 10% and 15% on different parts of the project."

  • Private COVID-19 testing proves we are not all in this together Toronto Star Oct 14 report on the failure of public provision of testing and the private profiteers sneaking round the Canada Health Act:
    “COVID-19 has hit our country like a storm, disproportionately affecting lower-income and racialized people. In some Toronto neighbourhoods where we practice, the likelihood of encountering COVID-19 is five times higher than in wealthy, whiter communities.
    “We may all be in the same stormy seas, but we are not in the same boat. So why, in the midst of this crisis, are we seeing the rise of private, for-profit COVID-19 testing services charging upwards of $400 per test?
    “Long waits to access Ontario’s COVID-19 assessment centres certainly contributed, as did lagging test results in a laboratory system that is not robustly resourced enough to keep up with demands. From testing, to lab infrastructure, to our health workforce, the summer months went by in Ontario with little preparation from the Ford government for a second wave that many had predicted from the outset.
    “It is within this paradigm that pandemic profiteering began to take root.
    “Private diagnostic firms began offering at-home testing, while large corporations offered preferred testing options as job “perks” to employees. As the lines at COVID-19 assessment centres continued to grow, an option to pay to jump the queue, emerged.”

  • Liverpool intensive care units '90% full' as city braces for second wave Independent Oct 14 report: “Intensive care units in Liverpool’s hospitals are more than 90 per cent full, according to a local health leader, as the city braces for a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
    “Councillor Paul Brant, cabinet member for adult health and social care at Liverpool City Council, warned that hospital services were once again being forced to care for patients critically ill with coronavirus.
    "Our intensive, critical care beds are filling up very fast,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
    "The most recent figures I've seen suggest they are over 90 per cent full … At the current rate of increase, we would expect Liverpool to surpass the peak of the first wave probably within the next seven to 10 days."

  • David Oliver: Hospitals are not “half empty” Hospital consultant David Oliver in a BMJ Oct 14 blog reminds us of the real picture:
    "The pandemic has seen a recurring assertion in mainstream and social media that hospitals are empty. The implication is that earlier concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed were exaggerated or that clinical staff are workshy, while managers are incompetent or complacent about patients without covid-19 awaiting treatment. But the current low, if steadily rising, numbers of inpatients with covid-191 don’t mean that hospitals are hibernating.
    "The DailyTelegraph reported recently that hospitals were “eerily quiet” and “literally half empty.” If you work in acute general hospitals it’s hard to read this stuff and not get upset. Members of the public then engage in frustration with doctors, asking us to explain or defend this fake news.
    "I can see how the impression of “emptiness” might take hold for people who set foot in a hospital. They’re not quite as full as they were before the pandemic, but there are valid reasons for this. For infection control and health protection purposes, we have very limited visiting. Some outpatient consultations have been moved to online or telephone. Lobby shops and cafes aren’t running as usual. Car parks have spaces. Physical appointments, tests, and procedures are organised differently, to avoid crowded waiting areas or patient-to-patient transmission. But hospitals are not “literally half empty,” however much this is repeated.
    "NHS Wales reported on 1 October that bed occupancy in general and acute beds was back at 87%. We’re still waiting for NHS England’s report for Q2 2020, but I’ve seen October data also showing rates of 87%. Attendances at type 1 emergency departments in September 2020 in England were around 13% lower and emergency admissions 9% lower than last year, but they’re growing monthly."

  • The failure of test and trace shows the folly of handing huge contracts to private giants Guardian Oct 13 report sums up the scale of chaos created by private contractors:
    "The multibillion pound surge in outsourcing of public services during Covid-19 has attracted many headlines, but it is not just a public spending scandal. It is a vivid demonstration of our government’s inability to perform the essential roles society asks of it. Furthermore, this dependency on outsourcing to profit-driven companies undermines any promise to “build back better”.
    "After drastic public health services cuts over the past decade – coupled with extensive outsourcing of procurement to commercial logistics companies – a stripped-down health service was under-resourced for the challenge of a pandemic. The only feasible response was what is increasingly the default choice across government: outsource the work required. Covid-19 has prompted a gold rush for government contracts not seen since the heady days of New Labour’s private finance initiative.
    "The richest seam of all for the private companies cashing in has been the test and trace system, handed to Serco on contracts officially priced at up to £410m and to the French company Sitel for up to £310m (with other outsourcing behemoths such as G4S also getting in on the act). Such is the opacity of the arrangements, however, that no details of actual payments to these firms have yet been published. Approximate figures released by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, suggest the final bill will run into several billions of pounds."

  • Johnson has ignored the science and blown our chance to stop a second wave Guardian Oct 13 analysis: "On 21 September the scientific advisory body Sage produced a paper with a simple message: do something now or else lose control over the virus. That “something” would have to be sufficient to reduce infections to a level where the virus could be controlled without shutting businesses and curtailing livelihoods. At a minimum, that would mean restricting social mixing, closing pubs, offering university classes online and working from home.
    "On the day that advice was given, there were 4,696 infections across the UK. The government hummed and hawed, dillied and dallied, and by the time ministers finally made a decision on 12 October, three weeks later, infections had tripled to some 14,000 cases per day. If anything, this alarming growth meant they had to go further than the Sage advice to bring the virus under control. So what did they do?
    "Rather than following the science, the government plumped for an anaemic compromise between its scientific advisers and those arguing against any new restrictions. England’s new three tier system still falls far short of what Sage advised back in September."

  • Covid: ministers ignored Sage advice to impose lockdown or face catastrophe Guardian Oct 13: “Ministers were warned three weeks ago that the country faced a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” unless they took immediate action by imposing a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
    “The government’s Sage committee of experts urged ministers to move urgently as new infections rose in all age groups across the country, even as the full impact of opening schools and universities had yet to be felt.
    “The group proposed five measures including the circuit breaker – a short period of lockdown to drive new infections down – that it urged ministers to consider to head off a second wave of the virus that “would fall disproportionately on the frailest in our society, but also those on lower incomes and BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities”.
    “The warning appeared in official documents dated 21 September that were released on Monday evening after the prime minister wrapped up a press conference at which he announced the new three-tier Covid alert system for containing the epidemic.”

  • Hospitals in the north will be overwhelmed if we don’t take urgent action NHS Providers Chris Hopson in the (£) Times Oct 12: "Talking to NHS trust chief executives in the north of England over the past three days, they are very worried. Increasing numbers of coronavirus cases have translated into rapidly rising hospital admissions. For a few, the number of Covid-19 hospital patients is now at the same level they had reached at the height of the first phase.
    "They are clear about the lessons from that phase: that the virus strikes at different rates in different localities, so appropriate local responses are needed; that the only way to control the spread of Covid-19 is by reducing social contact; and that lockdowns take time to impact and looser lockdowns have proved much less effective."

  • Maternity scandal hospital fined for not triaging A&E patients fast enough Independent Oct 12 report on the ongoing failures of services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospitals Trust: "An NHS hospital which has faced repeated criticism by regulators for poor standards of care has been fined £4,000 for failing to assess A&E patients quickly enough.
    "The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust has been fined by the Care Quality Commission after patients were not triaged within 15 mimutes of arrival in A&E – in breach of conditions set by the regulator last year and a national target.
    "The care of emergency patients at the hospital trust, which is also facing an inquiry into poor maternity care, has been a long running concern for the watchdog which has rated the trust inadequate and put it in special measures in 2018."

  • WHO chief says herd immunity approach to pandemic 'unethical' Guardian Oct 12: “The head of the World Health Organization has warned against deliberately allowing coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying the idea is unethical.
    “Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing.
    “For measles, for instance, it is estimated that if 95% of the population is vaccinated, the remaining 5% will also be protected from the spread of the virus. For polio the threshold is estimated at 80%.
    “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” Tedros said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

  • Refuse Covid patients if you can’t stop spread of virus, care homes told Independent Oct 12 interview with CQC chief inspector of social care reveals a change in approach since the first wave of Covid infection:
    "Care homes should refuse to take coronavirus patients from hospitals if they cannot prevent the spread of the disease, the care watchdog has told The Independent.
    "Staff should admit these patients only if care homes are equipped with the right PPE and infection prevention measures, the Care Quality Commission said.
    "During the first wave of the pandemic, care homes saw widespread outbreaks of the virus with 16,000 deaths. Homes struggled to access protective clothing for staff and were forced to take 25,000 untested patients discharged from hospitals."

  • MPs launch legal action against UK government over Covid contracts Guardian Oct 11: “A legal action has been launched over the government’s failure to disclose details of its spending on contracts related to the pandemic, as it emerged that it has failed to account for £3bn spent on private contracts since the start of lockdown.
    “Three cross-party MPs and Good Law Project, a non-profit-making organisation, have filed a judicial review against the government for breaching the law and its own guidance and argue that there are mounting concerns over coronavirus procurement processes.
    “Green party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran say that, despite the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) disclosing in September that at least £11bn worth of contracts have been awarded by the department since April, related predominantly to coronavirus, fresh analysis by data analysts Tussell shows that over £3bn worth of these contracts have not been made public.”

  • As the tide of coronavirus swells again, Boris Johnson heads into a perfect storm Guardian Oct 11 on 7 months since the first lockdown, and the changed public mood:
    "Seven months on, the coronavirus is surging again, hospital admissions have risen by 50% in just a week and the government may well be forced into something resembling another national lockdown before Christmas, but consensus has disintegrated. We are heading into what threatens to be a bleak winter, not with a spirit of national unity but with divisions on stark display. Between north and south. Between young and old. Between lives and livelihoods. Between those (a shrivelling band) who still invest faith in Mr Johnson and those (a now much larger group) who don’t. Between government and opposition. Between scientist and scientist. Between Westminster and local government. Between cabinet member and cabinet member. And between prime minister and his own party."

  • Whitehall told to release secret 2016 files on UK pandemic risks Observer Oct 11 on a notable legal victory for campaigners trying to expose the truth on the failure to prepare for the pandemic:
    "In a dramatic move, the Information Commissioner’s Office has ordered the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to hand over the report into Exercise Cygnus, or explain its decision for refusing, by 23 October.
    "Cygnus, a three-day simulation exercise in 2016, assessed the UK’s ability to cope with an influenza pandemic, but its findings are pertinent to the current coronavirus crisis.
    "Lawyers for an NHS doctor, Moosa Qureshi, who made a freedom of information request six months ago demanding to see the Cygnus report, have accused the government of deliberately delaying its response to his request. There is speculation that this is because the report’s contents would confirm that the government had failed to learn the lessons from its own exercise."

  • Hospital bosses urge NHS England to drop 'unfair' fines as Covid admissions rise Guardian Oct 11: "Hospitals in England will be fined for failing to meet “impossible” targets on patient care within weeks, in a scheme criticised by NHS trust bosses as “mad, wrong and unfair”.
    "NHS England is facing calls to urgently rethink plans to impose financial penalties on trusts that fail to return non-emergency operations to near-normal levels by the end of this month.
    "The directive, which has sparked alarm among regional public health directors and local councils, was issued to hospitals in August and is still going ahead despite a resurgence of coronavirus cases that threatens to seriously disrupt the NHS this winter."

  • Continual lockdowns are not the answer to bringing Covid under control Another excellent Guardian comment article Oct 10 from Devi Sridhar:
    "In April, cafes and restaurants opened in Vietnam full of bustle and life. In July, 10,000 baseball fans attended a match in a stadium in Taiwan. In August, thousands packed together for a music concert at the Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park in China. And this month, rugby internationals are going ahead in New Zealand with stadiums at full capacity.
    "Daily life within these places has largely returned to normal. Compared to other countries, they have faced minimal economic damage. In fact, Taiwan never even had a lockdown, while lockdown measures in Vietnam, New Zealand and China were early, short and sharp. Out of a population of 1.4bn people, China has only suffered 4,634 Covid-19 deaths; Vietnam, Taiwan and New Zealand together have had 67. How are these countries keeping Covid-19 under control, their health services running, and their economies and societies afloat?
    "That’s the question we should all be asking. Instead, seven months into this crisis, the UK remains stuck in endless cycles of lockdown measures, its media still fixated on paralysing debates about how serious the virus really is and what the optimal strategy for addressing it should be."

  • Watchdog’s prosecution sends a strong message to safety laggards: Time’s up Comment from Independent's Shaun Lintern (Oct 10) on the decision to prosecute East Kent hospital trust bosses for a shocking failure of patient care:
    "The announcement on Friday by the Care Quality Commission that it will bring criminal charges against an NHS trust for failing to provide safe care to a patient is a hugely significant milestone in efforts to bring about greater accountability and safer care in the health service.
    "The CQC has had the power to bring such prosecutions against hospitals since April 2015 when it was given a suite of new legal powers to hold hospitals to account on the care they give to their patients.
    "Bringing in the new laws, the so-called fundamental standards of care, was one of the most significant actions taken after the care disaster at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where hundreds of patients suffered shocking neglect, with some dying as a result."

  • Spreadsheet and a broken app ‘well worth £12bn’ insist people who said £6bn to abolish tuition fees was bonkers News Thump (Oct 10) sums up quite neatly:
    "£12billion for what amounts to a broken track and trace system is terrific value, according to people who warned against using half that figure to abolish tuition fees.
    “The enormous investment of public funds was expected to return a world-standard track-and-trace program with a state-of-the-art mobile app to help keep Britain safer.
    ”What we’ve actually got is a spreadsheet in a format not even Mr Bean would use, and an app that looks nice but actually does sod all,” confirmed conservative spokesperson, Simon Williams.”

  • Chorley A&E unit closed during pandemic is to reopen BBC Oct 10 with some welcome news of the reopening of what seemed like a doomed A&E:
    "An A&E department which closed to free up capacity during the coronavirus pandemic is to reopen two months later than planned after a delay in recruiting enough doctors.
    "The unit at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital shut in March so more staff could work at the Royal Preston.
    "It was due to reopen in September but was delayed after only half of the required staff could be found.
    "The department is now set to reopen on 2 November. Locum doctors will be employed to ensure the reopening, with the ongoing recruitment process continuing."

  • UK at ‘critical’ moment as coronavirus infections double in a week in England Independent Oct 10: "During a briefing with Matt Hancock and Mr Van-Tam, MPs are understood to have been warned the situation was “critical” and could be compared to early March, just weeks before Boris Johnson ordered an unprecedented nationwide lockdown.
    "The latest infection numbers from the Office for National Statistics revealed cases may be doubling with 224,400 people in England thought to have caught coronavirus between 25 September and 1 October, equating to about one in 240 people. A week earlier, the numbers infected were nearer 116,000."

  • Covid drives more people in UK to fund own operations Guardian Oct 10 with a grim but unsurprising report on the way in which the Covid pandemic is fuelling demand for private operations to jump growing queues for elective care:
    "A major private hospital group says it has experienced a doubling in the number of patients opting to pay out of their own pocket for a range of procedures because they fear they will not be seen because the NHS is struggling with a backlog of operations.
    "HCA Healthcare, which runs some of the best-known private hospitals in London, including the Portland and the Lister, as well as providing private care at Guy’s, said: “We have seen double the number of self-pay procedures in hip surgeries, ophthalmology (cataracts) and abdominal procedures on last year.
    “People are also coming to our London hospitals from further afield than normal, particularly from the south and south-west of England where we have seen 25% to 35% more self-pay patients.”

  • COVID-19 Cases in Arizona Dropped 75% After Local Mask Mandates Enforced Daily Beast report on effectiveness of masks in preventing spread of Covid19:
    "Arizona—which at one point was one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19— saw a 75 percent decrease in new cases of the virus following local face mask mandates, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before the mandate and after a stay-at-home order was lifted, the daily average number of new cases had jumped by 151 percent, overwhelming the state's health care system. When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey enforced a mask mandate, new cases sharply decreased. Former Maricopa County health director Dr. Bob England said that the order should have come earlier in order to slow the outbreak from happening in the first place. “If they'd been allowed to do so earlier, a number of those jurisdictions, if not all of them, would have had those mandates in place earlier and our peak of infection would have been lower,” he said."

  • Weekly national Influenza and COVID-19 surveillance report - Week 41 Latest report on pattern of Covid infection page 14 smuggles in a significant change in the colour coding, to avoid most of England hitting the amber or red zone.
    Government changed colour coding on the CV19 map of infections to hide the growing crisis in South of Eng. Areas that would have shown red for infections will now be much lighter colours spinning infections are low. What was previously the red zone 30-44.9 is now massively higher at 230-334.9. https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/1314459744388743168/photo/1

  • Contact-tracing app has only sent one alert about an outbreak in a venue Sky News Oct 9: "The contact-tracing app for England and Wales has only sent one alert about a coronavirus outbreak in a venue since it was launched two weeks ago, despite being used for millions of check-ins, Sky News has learned.

    Department of Health officials said that the system was still in its infancy and was not expected to be used frequently.
    "But with mass closures of pubs and bars expected in parts of the country, the absence of targeted venue alerts has raised questions about the government's strategy.
    "Shadow digital minister Chi Onwurah said: "On the one hand, at a government briefing on local data I'm told pubs are the primary location for common COVID exposure, on the other that the contact-tracing app has only sent out one alert about an outbreak in a venue. "There is a plain contradiction there and ministers need to get a grip."
    "The app has now been downloaded 16 million times, thanks in part to its QR code scanner, a feature built into the app in addition to the contact-tracing system, which tells users whether or not they've been near someone who has tested positive for coronavirus."

  • Disputed ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ issued by free-market think tank The (US) Berkshire Edge with some more critical reporting of the recent neoliberal plan to rely on "herd immunity":
    "In the case of COVID-19, the coronavirus that causes it is a novel strain, so it is not yet known what the threshold of immunity is. In addition there is no vaccine and there won’t be an effective one for at least several months, or perhaps longer. Vaccines create immunity without disease or resulting complications. But without them, the only other way to achieve herd immunity is through infection.
    “With a population of 328 million in the United States, it may require more than 2 million deaths to reach a 65 percent threshold of herd immunity, assuming the virus has a 1 percent fatality rate,” according to an analysis by the Washington Post.
    "The Great Barrington Declaration insists that “the most compassionate approach” is “focused protection,” or allowing “those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
    "But the Post report throws cold water on that theory, noting that “proponents of herd immunity who talk of segregating and thereby protecting seniors, nursing home residents and others most likely to die of the virus, while allowing the virus to spread among the young. But growing evidence shows that young people — who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns — are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members.”

  • Government accused of ‘cronyism’ after Tory councillor wins £156m COVID contract Open Democracy Oct 9 reveals yet another shocking scam in which huge sums have been funneled from the public purse into the pockets of Tory Party members, donors and cronies:
    "A small, loss-making firm run by a Conservative councillor in Stroud was given a £156m contract to import PPE from China without any competition, openDemocracy has learned. Steve Dechan’s company, P14 Medical, signed the huge contract to supply medical gowns in May, even though the firm suffered significant financial losses in 2019, and its previous track record in PPE procurement is unclear. Transparency campaigners say the deal “reeks of corruption”.
    "Dechan, who stood down from Stroud town council in late August, had previously made headlines when it emerged that P14 Medical had landed a contract worth almost £120m to supply face shields to the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "The £156m gowns deal was signed in late May, but details were only published at the end of September. Government contracts are supposed to be made public within 30 days."

  • Contact-tracing app has only sent one alert about an outbreak in a venue Sky News Oct 9 on yet another conspicuous failure of an NHS app:
    "The contact-tracing app for England and Wales has only sent one alert about a coronavirus outbreak in a venue since it was launched two weeks ago, despite being used for millions of check-ins, Sky News has learned.
    "Department of Health officials said that the system was still in its infancy and was not expected to be used frequently.
    "But with mass closures of pubs and bars expected in parts of the country, the absence of targeted venue alerts has raised questions about the government's strategy.
    "Shadow digital minister Chi Onwurah said: "On the one hand, at a government briefing on local data I'm told pubs are the primary location for common COVID exposure, on the other that the contact-tracing app has only sent out one alert about an outbreak in a venue. There is a plain contradiction there and ministers need to get a grip."

  • Sweden's gamble Science mag on the real story of what has happened in Sweden:
    "“… Sweden adopted strikingly different policies from those of other European countries, out of a desire to avoid disrupting daily life—and perhaps the hope that, by paying an immediate price in illness, the country could achieve “herd immunity” and put the pandemic behind it.
    “Swedish authorities actively discouraged people from wearing face masks, which they said would spread panic, are often worn the wrong way, and can provide a false sense of safety. Some doctors who insisted on wearing a mask at work have been reprimanded or even fired.
    “Until last month, Sweden's official policy stated people without obvious symptoms are very unlikely to spread the virus. […] Testing in Sweden still lags behind many other countries, and in many districts infected people are expected to notify their own contacts—in contrast to, say, Germany and Norway, where small armies of contact tracers help track down people who may have been exposed.
    “The Swedish approach has its fans. […] But … A group of scientists known as “the 22” has called for tougher measures since April, when it published a blistering critique of the country's public health authority ….
    “It says the price for Sweden's laissez-faire approach has been too high. The country's cumulative death rate since the beginning of the pandemic rivals that of the United States, with its shambolic response.
    “And the virus took a shocking toll on the most vulnerable. It had free rein in nursing homes, where nearly 1000 people died in a matter of weeks. Stockholm's nursing homes ended up losing 7% of their 14,000 residents to the virus. … Although infections waned over the summer, scientists worry a new wave will hit in the fall. Cases are rising rapidly in the greater Stockholm area, where almost one-quarter of the Swedish population lives.”

  • Why public health boss opposes pubs closure and thinks North East lockdown has 'curtailed' Covid Newcastle’s Chronicle Live Oct 9: “Newcastle’s top public health official is opposed to new local lockdown measures that could see the North East’s pubs, bars, and restaurants closed down next week.
    “The Government is expected to announce a new three-tier lockdown system on Monday, which would see all hospitality and leisure businesses closed in areas with the highest rates of Covid-19 infection – including the North East.
    “But Newcastle’s public health director, Prof Eugene Milne, believes that the region’s existing Covid restrictions have succeeded in curtailing the virus’ spread and deserve more time to work.
    “Since tougher rules on social mixing were first introduced on September 18, Newcastle’s case numbers and infection rate have continued to escalate – with 498.6 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to October 5, the fifth highest in the country.
    “But Prof Milne says that the city in fact faces two “quite distinct” Covid problems – the spread of coronavirus among the general population, which he believes could be coming under control, and a major but “still containable” outbreak among university students.”

  • Nurses will have to “live off the claps” as MPs get another pay rise The London Economic Oct 9 reporting on the MPs who recently voted in line with government policy to reject a pay rise for NHS staff collecting a hefty £3,300 increase:
    "The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was described as “tin-eared” today after it recommended that a £3,300 pay rise for MPs should go ahead, despite pleas from nurses being shunned just months prior.
    "The Commons watchdog proposed that MPs’ wages should continue to be linked to the average rise for public sector staff as it launched a consultation on salaries.
    "It is expected to base next year’s pay rise on October’s public sector three-month annual growth figure of 4.1 per cent. This would mean MPs, including those working at home, would get an extra £3,360 on top of their £81,932 salary."

  • Britain is heading ‘into a long winter’ as Covid second wave strikes Financial Times Oct 9 reports: “On August 14, Boris Johnson sparked panic on the beaches when he decided to add France to England’s quarantine list. Thousands of Brits dashed home from a country recording 30 Covid-19 cases per 100,000, hoping to avoid two weeks of self-isolation at the end of their vacation.
    “While danger lurked abroad — British tourists were told to venture to foreign climes “with their eyes open” — Mr Johnson was confident the situation at home was under control. Workers were urged to return to their offices; the taxpayer subsidised cheap meals under an “eat out to help out” scheme.
    “The new Covid-19 test and tracing system — on which the government had spent more than it spends on nursery and university education at 0.6 per cent of national income — would allow the country to get back to work and enjoy life, while suppressing the virus until a vaccine was available.
    “Since then, a second wave of coronavirus has engulfed the UK at a pace not seen in other large European countries. Mr Johnson’s “world-beating” test and trace system struggles to cope on good days; on bad days it is a farce.”

  • Government’s test and trace system has ‘concerning’ worst-ever week Independent report Oct 8: "The government’s contact-tracing programme failed to reach more than 30 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England, the latest figures show, in what is the worst week on record since the beginning of Test and Trace.
    "Some 68.6 per cent of close contacts were reached through the system, once dubbed “world-beating” by prime minister Boris Johnson, in the week ending 30 September, according to data published by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
    "This is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began, and is down from 72.5 per cent in the previous week.
    "Meanwhile, only two-thirds of positive Covid-19 cases were transferred to the system over the same time period."

  • More than 1,000 consultants from Deloitte on Test and Trace programme Sky News Oct 8 reveals that more than 1,000 Deloitte management consultants are now coining in up to £2,400 per day for work on the disastrous privatised test and trace programme -- a cost of up to £2.4m per day, with little to show for it
    "More than 1,000 consultants from Deloitte are now working on Test and Trace, according to newly released documents that underline the scale of the government's reliance on the private sector.
    "According to documents released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) under Freedom of Information rules, there are currently 1,114 consultants from the firm who are working on the scheme.
    "In pure headcount terms, this is about the size of a small UK government department.
    "... The government is also employing consultants from McKinsey, BCG, PWC, KPMG and EY - however their combined numbers total 144."

  • Deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19) compared with deaths from influenza and pneumonia, England and Wales: deaths occurring between 1 January and 31 August 2020 The latest ONS figures show once again that despite ignorant misrepresentation, the death toll from Covid is far higher than flu and pneumonia combined.

  • Knowing me, knowing you, Aha: NSFT’s Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20 Hard hitting breakdown of Annual Report of the disastrous Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust by campaigners Norfolk Suffolk Mental Health Crisis, noting:
    “• Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) spent a staggering £6.9m transporting patients to Out of Area beds in 2019-20 because it doesn’t have enough of its own. That’s more than half a million pounds every month (page 16).

    “• Chief Nurse Diane Hull trousers £125 – £130,000 per year. That’s between 15.7 and 20.4 per cent higher than predecessor Jane Sayer. She’s helping herself to about £20,000 more from NHS coffers each year than her predecessor for doing exactly the same job (page 32).
    “• The number of registered doctors and nurses (WTE – Whole Time Equivalent) permanently employed by @NSFTtweets FELL by 14 despite additional demands of the new prison contract (page 52).
    “• Number of doctors permanently employed FELL from 152 to 131. That’s one in seven permanent doctors gone in just one year (page 52).”

  • Test And Trace Hits New Low With Worst 'Contact Tracing' Rate Since Service Began Huffington Post Oct 8: "Boris Johnson’s Test and Trace service has reported its worst ever figures for tracking down “close contacts” of people with Covid.
    "As well as thousands of cases going missing due to an IT blunder, the controversial system hit a new low with just 68.8% of cases in England being reached and told to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus.
    "Government experts have advised that the whole system can only work effectively if at least 80% of “close contacts” are actually tracked down and told to quarantine.
    “Close contacts” are defined as those who have spent more than 15 minutes within two metres of a positive Covid case.
    "Latest figures for the week between September 24 and 30 confirmed the “September surge” in coronavirus cases across the country, with 51,475 people testing positive for the first time – a 56% increase compared to the previous week."

  • SEVEN week-old firm with links to Tory peer lands £122 million PPE contract The London Economic Oct 8 reports: "A firm that was set up by a former secretary of Baroness Mone has been awarded a £122 million contract to supply PPE to the NHS – just 44 days after it was set up.
    "PPE Medpro was started by Anthony Page on the day he quit as the secretary of the company that deals with the Tory peer’s “brand”, a Mirror investigation has revealed.
    "Just 44 days later it had won a Department of Health contract – not advertised to other bidders – to supply 25 million gowns for health workers.
    "Jolyon Maugham of The Good Law Project, told the Mirror: “Another hugely lucrative PPE contract has been awarded to a firm with no obvious qualification beyond links to very substantial donors to the Conservative Party.”

  • Jeremy Hunt to lead inquiry into Covid management including PPE Pulse Today revealing that hopes of a searching, independent inquiry into the government's handling of the Covid pandemic have been dashed:
    "A new Covid inquiry is to gather evidence from GPs on the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including its provision of PPE and testing, Pulse has learned.
    "The joint inquiry on ‘lessons to be learned’ from the pandemic response so far was announced and launched today by the House of Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees.
    "The two select committees will conduct weekly evidence sessions scrutinising the ‘impact and effectiveness’ of action taken by the Government and the ‘advice it has received’, they said.
    "Issues covered will include non-medical interventions such as lockdown and social distancing rules, as well as testing and contact tracing, Government communications and public health messaging and the development of treatments and vaccines, they announced."

  • Only two-thirds of COVID cases transferred to English tracing system in latest week Reuters take on the latest test & trace statistics, Oct 8:
    "Only two-thirds of positive COVID-19 cases were referred to England’s test and trace system in the latest weekly figures published on Thursday, after thousands of results were affected by a glitch that delayed tracing.
    "The robustness of the test-and-trace system has been again called into question this week after a technical problem delayed the upload of nearly 16,000 cases into computer systems, including for contact tracers.
    "The health ministry said the error means 11,000 positive test results that would normally have entered the contact tracing system in the latest reporting period were delayed until the next week."

  • Lowest weekly Test and Trace contact rate as figures show one in four positive Covid tests returned in 24 hours ITV report Oct 8 should be headlining the key fact that three quarters of positive Covid tests took more than 24 hours -- delaying any measures to quarantine infectious people.
    "More people could be unwittingly spreading coronavirus to others as figures reveal the lowest Test and Trace contact rate since the scheme began.
    "Meanwhile, as few as one in four people testing positive for Covid-19 receive their results in 24 hours.
    "The Test and Trace system reached just 68.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week ending September 30, the lowest since the scheme began.
    "The figures are starkly different to those cases handled by local health protection teams where 97.1% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to September 30."

  • Number of covid hospital patients in north west likely to equal April peak by end of month HSJ Oct 8 report with some scary figures: "Public health officials believe it is ‘extremely likely’ the North West region will have around 3,000 covid patients in hospital by the end of October – matching the numbers seen during the first peak of coronavirus.
    "The warning comes as the region experiences an alarming surge in covid admissions.
    "A briefing document prepared by officials at Blackburn with Darwen Council yesterday, and seen by HSJ, says: “It is reasonable to assume no impact can be made in the increasing trend in bed occupancy for at least the next two weeks, as these cases have already occurred.
    “Even if a full scale lockdown was called tomorrow bed occupancy would continue to rise after the next two weeks as hospital beds fill quicker than they empty for COVID patients."

  • Living standards for UK's poorest plunge during pandemic Guardian Oct 8 with news that will impact on the health of the poorest: “Living standards have plunged for some of the UK’s poorest families during the coronavirus pandemic, with over a third reporting they are financially even worse off since lockdown, according to Save the Children.
    “The charity’s survey of households on universal credit or working tax credits found nearly two-thirds had run up debts over the past two months, 60% had cut down on food and other basics, and over a third had relied on charities for food and clothes.
    “It warned the end of the government’s job retention scheme meant this winter would be “more difficult than ever” for low-income families and called on ministers to help by boosting the weekly rate of child benefit by a minimum of £10 a week.”

  • Manchester students 'in intensive care' with coronavirus - this is one Manchester medic's warning to young people Manchester Evening News with another grim warning that Covid also hits the young:
    "A number of students who have contracted Covid-19 are being treated for the virus in hospital - and some have needed intensive care.
    "One medic - who works within Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) - says some of the city’s youngest residents are “getting quite ill”.
    "He has warned students not to “take it lightly” as coronavirus can affect anyone, even those who are young, fit and healthy.
    “Coronavirus can affect all ages, it doesn’t discriminate,” he says."

  • New England Journal of Medicine Editorial: Dying in a Leadership Vacuum The NEJM ends many years of refusing to endorse or oppose presidential candidates, and comes out against Donald Trump:
    "Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.
    "The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly.
    ... "Some deaths from Covid-19 were unavoidable. But, although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands in a pandemic that has already killed more Americans than any conflict since World War II.
    "Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs."

  • First 'Lighthouse lab' opens in Newport BBC's bland report (Oct 8) reveals in passing that the latest of the part-privatised Lighthouse labs, set up in parallel to the existing network of NHS and public sector labs, has been hijacked from the Public Health network:
    "Wales' first specialist Covid-19 lab is opening in Newport having been delayed since August. The hope is the new Lighthouse facility will process 20,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
    "Miles Burrow, managing director of PerkinElmer, which set up the lab, said tests would be done within 12 hours and returned to patients within 24.
    "The Newport lab, at Imperial Park, was originally being built as a pathology lab for Public Health Wales (PHW). ....
    "Lighthouse labs are managed by the UK government and run by private firms.
    "The Newport lab was "upscaled" after being given to the Lighthouse network."

  • NHS England claims victory on early ‘recovery’ target (£) HSJ Oct 8 report "New figures show the NHS has hit a key target for recovering activity, but questions remain about whether it can continue to increase despite infection control and rising covid cases.
    "In an official statement accompanying new performance data, NHS England said in September that the NHS carried out 80 per cent of the planned hospital inpatient procedures which it did last year. It said 96 per cent of last year’s level of CT scans were carried out, and 86 per cent of MRI.
    "NHSE has not yet published full performance data for September, so performance for other services, and for different regions, is not known."

  • David Oliver: Don’t let covid-19 drive a wedge between acute and primary care Consultant David Oliver in BMJ on latest proposals to pre-book A&E visits:
    "We’ve seen a huge transformation in primary care during the pandemic, with GPs still working very hard but moving many of their consultations to phone or online models and limiting face-to-face appointments.5 GPs are keen to shift the balance back partly, but the fear of infection on their premises is valid. It’s upsetting to read comments in mainstream or social media suggesting that, just because face-to-face appointments are less common, general practices are “closed” or “lazy.” I’ve also seen emergency medicine doctors expressing frustration at seeing lots of patients who would normally have gone to their GP but couldn’t. This in turn triggers reactions from GPs.
    "Now, in the face of models suggesting that many of our acute hospitals could be at 110% of their capacity this winter, NHS England proposes a model whereby patients phoning NHS 111 will have an appointment slot booked for them in the emergency department—or a GP appointment if hospital attendance is deemed inappropriate. Some GPs fear an under-resourced, unmanageable mass transfer of patients to primary care. GPs and emergency medicine doctors alike worry that NHS 111 will be overwhelmed or won’t have the right clinical skills—and that worried patients will present to emergency departments regardless, where in reality no one will refuse to see and triage them."

  • The Great Barrington Declaration has nothing to do with epidemiology and a great deal to do with far right economics Richard Murphy Oct 7 notes that: "The so-called Great Barrington Declaration itself says: "As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection."
    He goes on to point out that:
    "it’s important to note that this so-called Great Barrington Declaration was signed at the Great Barrington Headquarters of the American Institute for Economic Research, of which Wikipedia says (and on this occasion, I think quite reliably):
    "The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER)[2] is a 501(c)(3) economic research institute located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The institute aims to promote individual sovereignty, limited government, and "a society based on property rights and open markets." It was founded in 1933 by Edward C. Harwood, an economist and investment advisor, with the intention of protecting individual rights. The current president of the institute is Edward Stringham, an Austrian School economist and a professor of economics at Trinity College in Connecticut."
    "This is not, then, epidemiology at all. Nor is it science. It is far-right economics. And the logic that underpins it is that of that branch of economic thinking."

  • Social Care – whoever knew? Thoughtful piece in North East Bylines (Oct 7) notes:
    "Over the years we have somehow conflated ‘care’ with ‘care homes’. We have moved into a position of thinking that care can be delivered only by paid staff within certain settings. Yet the majority of care happens within local communities, by unpaid family carers and friends, in informal settings, in people’s own homes and in communities.
    "The pandemic exposed that there are over 8000 home care providers, the vast majority of them independent, private providers. There is very little state-provided care. Ian Birrell, a financial journalist who writes mainly for the Financial Times, and who is himself a family carer, wrote an article ‘Old Money’ in May 2020, which is a devastating analysis of social care, and explains the financial shenanigans. “This is a sector that has been exploited by corporate giants, using offshore tax havens hidden behind opaque corporate structures. Lurking behind the provision of care homes lies the world of global finance, in which some of our most vulnerable citizens have become a source of profit for billionaire owners, hedge fund operators and private equity barons.” It is a chilling indictment.
    "But it isn’t just about care homes, an increasing and significant amount of demand (about 35% of adult care budgets) is for support of working age adults. Mortality rates have fallen and life expectancy has dramatically increased for many people with disabilities. Whilst this is rightly celebrated, their needs are increasingly neglected. One in four requests for social care support from local councils is refused. People are told they need less – when it is obvious that more support is needed. Because of austerity, local councils now operate rationing, but they refuse to admit it. "

  • How lockdown has affected mental health BBC report Oct 6 reminds us of the hidden damage being done while the focus is on the coronavirus: "Covid-19 may be a physical illness but it has also hit mental health hard.
    "In August, a group of NHS leaders said they were seeing a rise in people reporting severe mental health difficulties while charities including Mind, Samaritans and Calm have all said they have seen an increase in people coming to them for help.
    "The BBC's Unusual Times podcast spoke to people around the country about the impact the pandemic and lockdown has had on them."

  • Covid could cause 'tsunami of cancelled NHS operations' BBC news Oct 6: “There could be a "tsunami" of cancelled operations this winter as the NHS copes with rising numbers of coronavirus patients, leading surgeons are warning. Members of the Royal College of Surgeons of England say they doubt the NHS can meet targets to restore surgery back to near pre-pandemic levels.
    “… In July, NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens told trusts hospitals should by September 2020 be performing at least 80% of their September 2019 rates of:
    • overnight planned procedures
    • outpatient or day-case procedures
    “And by October, this proportion should rise to 90%. But data suggests more than two million people have been waiting longer than 18 weeks for routine operations, with 83,000 waiting more than a year - up from 2,000 before the pandemic.”

  • Malfunctioning phones hit efforts to trace 40,000 contacts (£) Times Oct 6 revelation that it's not just clapped-out Excel spreadsheets at the core of the latest test and trace fiasco: “Contact tracers’ phone lines crashed as they scrambled to reach tens of thousands of potentially infectious people missed because of an IT blunder.
    “A computing malfunction caused phones to fail yesterday as tracers tried to clear the backlog of an estimated 40,000 contacts of coronavirus cases, only half of whom had been identified by yesterday morning.
    “Almost 16,000 infectious people were missed because of an error caused by systems reliant on a 13-year-old version of Microsoft Excel and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, could not say when their contacts would be reached.”

  • NHS staff struggle with burnout as they warn hospital bosses about looming second wave Independent Oct 6: "NHS workers are at breaking point after months of upheaval and high pressure during the coronavirus outbreak with hospital leaders warning the health service is facing a “perfect storm” of workforce shortages and a second wave of Covid-19.
    "In a survey of 140 NHS trust leaders almost all of them said they were worried about their staff suffering burnout ahead of winter.
    "They also sounded the alarm over concerns there had not been enough investment into social care before this winter. "

  • CCGs sitting on millions in unspent funds for GP ‘additional roles’ Pulse report Oct 6 on the failure to properly spend an already inadequate sum on expanding support for GPs through 'Primary Care Networks' which have already shown themselves to be unable to deliver what they promised: "Primary care networks in England used less than half of the funding they were entitled to last year to recruit additional clinical staff, leaving CCGs with the surplus.
    "Just over 40% of the additional roles reimbursement (ARRS) scheme money in 2019/20 went towards hiring clinical pharmacists and social prescribers, according to data supplied to Pulse by 77 CCGs.
    "The leftover funding was in some cases redistributed to other PCNs, as NHS England ‘strongly encourage[d]’ CCGs to do last year.
    "But 22% of the cash – or £9.8m – was still unspent by CCGs at the end of June, when Pulse requested the data through a freedom of information (FOI) request.
    "The total value of the ARRS scheme for 2019/20 was £110m, meaning if this were extrapolated across the country, CCGs could be holding on to around £24m to which PCNs are entitled."

  • Clare Gerada: Bracing for the second wave BMJ article Oct 6 by Dr Clare Gerada in run up to second wave of Covid 19:
    "We now understand the virus better—who is at greatest risk, what treatments work, and which ones don’t—and we hopefully even have a vaccine on the horizon. But still, among the increasing numbers of doctors I see in my service for sick doctors, there is anticipatory dread, intense anxiety, and a constant feeling of unease, as though something bad is about to happen. The “bad” is that they will be asked again to risk their lives, see their colleagues die from covid-19, make immense sacrifices in their personal lives to serve their patients, and generally be called on to show superhuman abilities.
    "However, doctors don’t wear magic white coats that protect them from fatigue, grief, and fear. Pandemics place health professionals at increased risk of mental illness, uncomfortable psychological emotions, and moral injury. They must contend with other additional burdens.
    "During the first wave I ran a group for health practitioner leaders, from medicine, nursing, paramedicine, and management. Not only did they work very hard (up to 16 hours a day, every day for weeks on end) but they were often blamed for factors out of their control, such as inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), insufficient intensive care beds, and implementing ever changing protocols and guidelines. They had to deal with protests from staff as they were blamed for failings in the system—and from patients as waiting lists grew longer."

  • Test and Trace chief Dido Harding breaks promise to stay neutral and backs Tory immigration plan Mirror report Oct 6: “Test and Trace chief Dido Harding has voted along party lines despite promising the Government’s top civil servant she would abstain.
    “The Mirror has seen a letter from new Cabinet Secretary Simon Case saying the controversial Tory peer volunteered to avoid votes on health and social care. She had been criticised by MPs and peers for following the party whip despite her role as a senior public office holder.
    “But on Monday she voted against a Labour amendment to review the impact of the Government’s immigration plans on staffing of the social care sector.
    “Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords said: “Baroness Harding either never intended to keep her commitment not to vote on health and social care issues or just didn’t care enough to find out what the Tory whips had told her to vote against. Either way, it’s brazen behaviour.”

  • NHS races to reach 50,000 Covid contacts missed in data blunder Guardian Oct 5 report on the massive screw-up by privatised test and trace system using outdated and inappropriate 2003 spreadsheet software to administer a national database:
    "Contact tracers are scrambling to reach up to 50,000 people who should be self-isolating after ministers were accused of “putting lives at risk” with a spreadsheet blunder that led to coronavirus cases going unreported.
    "MPs from across the political spectrum rounded on the health secretary, Matt Hancock, after it emerged that official figures missed 15,841 positive results due to a “catastrophic” data error."

  • Covid’s north-south divide widens (£) HSJ October 5: “The regional divide in the impact of covid’s ‘second wave’ is widening further, with the latest figures showing deaths and hospital admissions accelerating in the North West and North East and Yorkshire.
    “There were 219 deaths in the week up to 28 September – the most recent point when hospital deaths data is considered robust. This is an increase of 178 from 41 deaths in the seven days to 3 September.
    “Most of this increase came in the North East and Yorkshire, the North West, and the Midlands regions. London, the South East, South West and East of England saw only 48 deaths in the week up to 28 September — up from 15 in the seven days to 3 September.
    “… Four neighbouring large sustainability and transformation partnerships accounted for 49 per cent of the deaths in the seven days to 28 September: Greater Manchester, Cumbria and the North East, Lancashire and South Cumbria, and Cheshire and Merseyside.”

  • The government lost 16,000 Coronavirus cases because they missed a GCSE-level Microsoft Excel error Evolve Politics Oct 5 sums up the latest privatisation fiasco in an apparently endless series of avoidable blunders in handling Covid 19: "Yes, despite allocating an astonishing £10bn to set up and run what Boris Johnson said would be a “world-beating” test and trace system, the error was caused by the fact that the people running the system don’t appear to have any knowledge as to how Microsoft Excel works.
    "According to the Daily Mail, the cases were missed because the system’s auto-updating Excel spreadsheet had reached its maximum size – meaning no more cases could be added.
    "According to the Microsoft website, the total number of columns that can be recorded on any single spreadsheet is 16,384 – a fact that any GCSE-level IT student would be expected to know when troubleshooting a problem."

  • What COVID numbers SHOULD have said: Excel bungle masked daily cases hitting 11,000 as Boris Johnson admits he has 'no idea' how many of patients' contacts could be infected - and furious blame game e Furious attack by Daily Heil Oct 5 embarrassed once again by the failures of the government they so eagerly helped into office:
    "As well as underestimating the scale of the outbreak in the UK, critically the details were not passed to contact tracers, meaning people exposed to the virus were not tracked down.
    "Boris Johnson was unable even to say how many people were being contact traced in the wake of the bungle - although based on the previous average number of contacts reported by each infected person, it will be over 50,000.
    "But he scrambled to play down concerns that ministers have been making pivotal decisions on lockdown without accurate information, saying the outbreak was still in line with where its experts thought.
    "The shambolic situation sparked an immediate backlash against PHE - which is already set to be abolished and replaced by the government - with claims 'everything it touches turns to sh**'.
    "But the body hit back by pointing the finger at the Test & Trace operation, run by Baroness Dido Harding. 'We report the data when they send it. We didn't get it,' one official told Sky News. "

  • No-deal Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ for the NHS, warns BMA Nursing Notes Oct 5 report: “A no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the NHS, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.
    “Following the Prime Minister’s meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss a possible post-Brexit trade agreement, the BMA’s lead trade negotiator and deputy chair Dr. David Wrigley issued the stark warning.
    “Dr. Wrigley announced that given the complex nature of these negotiations and the challenges of the pandemic, there are concerns that working to the tight deadline could result in the transition period ending without an agreed deal.
    “Furthermore, the BMA has warned of the potentially catastrophic impact that a no-deal Brexit would have for patients, the workforce, and health services in the UK; the NHS faces challenging circumstances, with a huge backlog of care and the ongoing demands of Covid-19, Dr Wrigley says it cannot be placed in further jeopardy.
    “The deputy chair believes a deal is needed to protect the rights of the EU healthcare workforce in the NHS and to ensure that the NHS is safeguarded and to guarantee access to medicines. Dr Wrigley warned that will threaten supply chains of vital supplies, such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and protective equipment, needs to be avoided.”

  • The Guardian view on pandemic failures: this data loss is symptomatic Guardian Editorial Oct 5: "Much remains to be revealed about the precise circumstances in which 15,841 positive Covid-19 test results were temporarily lost. The technical explanation being reported on Monday – that an Excel file maximum was reached, leading to excess data being dropped between a lab and Public Health England – is not the whole story.
    "As well as what caused the error, there is much to learn about its effects. This includes the locations of around 48,000 close contacts of the infected people, who were not contacted by the test-and-trace system because it did not have their details.
    "On Monday the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told the House of Commons that 49% of those tested had still not been reached by contact tracers."

  • Overstretched health visitors caring for up to 2,400 families each Guardian exclusive Oct 10 begins: "Overstretched health visitors have been forced to care for up to 2,400 families with newborns at a time, 10 times the recommended number, according to the sector’s most senior figure.
    "Prompting fears that breastfeeding rates will drop to new lows and a generation of babies could face a troubled future, Cheryll Adams, the chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, told the Guardian that as sickness and redeployment struck, some health visitors were having to care for thousands of families.
    “In the last five years we have seen the number of health visitors cut by 30%, then during the pandemic, as many as 50% of staff were redeployed in some areas,” she said. “That was devastating for families and for health visitors who were put under immense pressure.”"

  • GPs in England left waiting up to a month for flu vaccine supplies Guardian Oct 4 exclusive: "GP surgeries are waiting up to a month for supplies of this winter’s flu vaccine amid unprecedented numbers of patients seeking jabs ahead of the second wave of Covid-19, family doctors have said.
    "The Royal College of GPs (RCPG) has written to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, seeking assurances that they will have enough doses of the vaccine to cope with demand. The struggle to get jabs has prompted fears that vulnerable groups, including elderly people and those with underlying conditions, will go unprotected.
    “We have heard anecdotally that some surgeries are waiting up to a month for replenished supplies of vaccine, which raises concerns that there are significant distribution problems,” Prof Martin Marshall, the RCGP’s chair and a family doctor in London, said in the letter."

  • Less than half UK population to receive coronavirus vaccine, says task force head | Free to read Financial Times report Oct 4: “Less than half the UK population can expect to be vaccinated against coronavirus, the head of the government’s vaccine task force has said in an attempt to clear up the public’s “misguided” perception of the programme’s aim.
    “Kate Bingham told the Financial Times that vaccinating everyone in the country was “not going to happen”, adding: “We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk.” Her comments come as Boris Johnson on Sunday warned that the country was in for a “bumpy” winter. Calling himself a “freedom-loving Tory”, he urged Britons to live “fearlessly but with common sense”.”

  • UK Covid testing cutoff quietly extended to eight days after first signs Another Guardian Exclusive, Oct 3: "The government has quietly changed its guidance on the number of days within which people with coronavirus symptoms should get tested, the Guardian has learned, raising fears that the disease could spread quicker.
    "On the government’s website, people are now told: “On day eight, you need to go to a test site” after an apparent change on Friday morning. Earlier in the day it was quoted as saying: “You need to get the test done in the first five days of having symptoms.”
    "Various internal messages seen by the Guardian show coronavirus helpline team leaders suggesting the tests do not provide an accurate result more than five days after first having symptoms. “If over five days, the tests will not provide an accurate result,” one said."

  • Surge of Covid cases in London health workers sparks fear of spread on wards Guardian Oct 3: "Covid infection rates among doctors, nurses, and other hospital and care home staff have risen more than fivefold over the past month in London, scientists have discovered. The figures – provided by the Francis Crick Institute – have triggered considerable concern among scientists, who fear similar increases may be occurring in other regions of the UK.
    "Increasing numbers of infected healthcare workers raise fears that the spread of Covid-19 into wards and care homes – which triggered tens of thousands of deaths last spring – could be repeated unless urgent action is taken.
    “It is very, very worrying,” said Professor Charles Swanton, who helped set up the institute’s Pipeline testing service. “Keeping hospitals and care homes free of the virus is crucial but these figures suggest we are heading in the wrong direction.”

  • Most of Boris Johnson's promised 40 new hospitals will not be totally new Guardian Oct 2 on the latest (Tory Conference) re-run of the completely bogus claim to be building 40 new hospitals: "Ministers have set out more details of Boris Johnson’s much-scrutinised election promise to build 40 new hospitals in England, revealing that the bulk of the projects involve rebuilding or consolidation, and that only four have been started.
    "The scheme comes with a promised spending package of £3.7bn. However, NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said the real cost of building 40 new hospitals would be more like £20bn.
    "The plan for 40 hospitals to be built by 2030, first made by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, at last year’s Conservative party conference, and repeated many times by Johnson during the subsequent election campaign, was criticised at the time for being based more on aspiration than definite plans."

  • Thousands of migrant NHS workers must apply for right to stay after visa extension scheme scrapped despite Covid-19 second wave i-news Oct 2 on the latest way in which the government's racist immigration laws are obstructing the recruitment and retention of staff vital for the NHS:
    "Thousands of healthcare workers must now reapply for a visa to stay in the country after the Government rejected calls to extend a scheme which automatically extended their right to work in the UK.
    "At the height of the pandemic, ministers announced that all non-EU migrants working in the health sector whose work visas were due to expire would have it extended for another year with no fee.
    "That scheme ended this week, meaning that foreign doctors, nurses and paramedics must spend hundreds of pounds and several weeks applying for fresh visas despite the second wave of Covid-19. Around 1,000 people are month are believed to be affected."

  • Major UK testing company broke health and safety laws at height of pandemic Sky News Oct 2 reveals yet more failures by a private contractor involved in the outsourced testing programme: "One of the biggest coronavirus testing companies in the UK broke health and safety law multiple times at the height of the pandemic, Sky News can reveal.
    "The breaches, which related to an inspection in May, included telling couriers that the containers used to transport coronavirus tests should be cleaned at least once a week, when in fact they should have been cleaned at least once a day.
    "The Doctor's Laboratory, which has lucrative testing contracts with major sporting and retail bodies, has been ordered to pay a fee by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whose inspector found a "material breach" of health and safety law.
    "A 24 August letter from HSE, seen by Sky News, orders The Doctor's Laboratory to change numerous internal processes by 9 September, saying: "It is important that you deal with these matters to protect people's health and safety."

  • The Government has Abandoned the Disabled People Hit Hardest by the Coronavirus Byline Times Oct 2: "Almost two-thirds of all people who have died from COVID-19 are disabled. New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that disabled people made up almost 60% of all deaths involving COVID-19 until July 2020 (27,534 of 46,314 deaths).
    "What is more staggering is that these figures are an underestimate. As the ONS says, its data sources do not allow a statistical analysis by type of disability (like learning disability or specific physical disability). The analysis is also based on the 2011 census, which the ONS says is the best model currently available, yet is not reflective of the full UK disabled population.
    “It is likely that the number of people who are recorded as having an activity-limiting condition [disability] is now an underestimate,” the ONS says, “because those not limited in 2011 may have developed a long-term health condition over the past nine years that limits their activities or any existing health condition may have worsened in severity, causing them to become limited.”

  • NHS Test And Trace Contact Tracing Rate Drops Again As Covid Cases Surge Huffington Post Oct 1: "Boris Johnson’s test-and-trace service has seen another fall in its contact-tracing rate as the number of people testing positive soared across England.
    "The figures for the week of September 17 to September 23 showed that just 71.6% of “close contacts” of Covid cases were reached by the system.
    "For the 14th week running, the figure is below the 80% figure that the government’s scientific advisers have said is needed to make the entire policy viable."

  • Why the World Bank should be calling for a People's vaccine Oxfam press release: "Responding to the World Bank's proposal of a $12 billion initiative to help poor countries purchase COVID-19 vaccines, Anna Marriott, Health Policy Advisor at Oxfam, said:
    "The World Bank is right to be concerned about whether poorer countries will be able to afford COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and they should use their influence accordingly. The best way of ensuring universal access is for pharmaceutical companies to stop seeking monopolies on their treatments. This only limits production and drives up prices. That is why Oxfam and others are calling for a People's Vaccine that would be free from patents, widely manufactured and affordable, so that governments can provide it to people in need free of charge.
    "Many poorer countries are already in debt and should not have to resort to taking additional loans to pay for over-priced vaccines from pharmaceutical corporations eager to profit from this crisis."

  • Hancock wrong to say government scientists ran coronavirus trial on vitamin D (£) Times Oct 1 reveals another porkie from Matt Halfcock:
    "Ministers are to reconsider vitamin D as a potential weapon against Covid-19 after Matt Hancock wrongly claimed that government scientists had run unsuccessful tests.
    "The health secretary told the Commons last week that he had ordered a trial that showed vitamin D did not “appear to have any impact”. Officials now admit that no trials took place."

  • One of the biggest coronavirus testing companies in the UK broke health and safety law multiple times at the height of the pandemic, Sky News can reveal. The breaches, which related to an inspectio Open Democracy Oct 1: "The opposition today accused the government of being “in denial” about the “clear failures” of its privatised COVID-19 contact tracing system – just days before ministers must decide whether to renew their contracts with outsourcing giants Serco and SITEL for a second time.
    "Speaking to openDemocracy, shadow cabinet office minister Helen Hayes said the government was “pouring taxpayer money down the drain” because of its “addiction to outsourcing”.
    "In Parliament today, Hayes asked: “What justification the government could possibly have for continuing with the failed privatised centralised model of test and trace, in contrast to the effectiveness of local councils and public health teams who are denied the full funding they require?”

  • Keir Starmer Calls For New Powers For Mayors To Decide Local Lockdowns Huffington Post Oct 1 reveals Keir Starmer starting to catch on that the opposition should be challenging the government's lamentable failures on test and trace:
    "Keir Starmer has called for council chiefs and mayors in England to be urgently given new powers over both local lockdowns and NHS Test and Trace.
    "Amid a growing revolt among local leaders at fresh restrictions imposed by the Tory government, the Labour leader told HuffPost UK that it was now time for them to be “put in the driver’s seat” in the battle against coronavirus.
    "Starmer said that health secretary Matt Hancock should share decision making with council leaders and metro Mayors, offer cash packages for businesses locked down and end the confusing public health messages.
    "In an exclusive interview, he also demanded a radical overhaul of NHS Test and Trace to prevent it from damaging the reputation of the NHS itself, with local public health teams leading the service rather than Tory peer Dido Harding or private firms like Serco and Deloitte."

  • NHS Test And Trace Contact Tracing Rate Drops Again As Covid Cases Surge Huffington Post Oct 1 on the latest symptoms of government failure: "Boris Johnson’s test-and-trace service has seen another fall in its contact-tracing rate as the number of people testing positive soared across England.
    "The figures for the week of September 17 to September 23 showed that just 71.6% of “close contacts” of Covid cases were reached by the system.
    "For the 14th week running, the figure is below the 80% figure that the government’s scientific advisers have said is needed to make the entire policy viable.
    "In line with the September surge in cases, NHS Test and Trace reported 31,373 people testing positive for the first time – a 61% week-on-week increase and four times as high as the number at the end of August. But the service’s performance has gone backwards on the percentage of people it reached, dropping to 71.3% from 80.8% the week before."

  • The Lancet censors Gaza health letter after pro-Israel pressure Electronic Intifada with a worrying October 1 criticism of the Lancet buckling under pressure from supporters of the Israeli state:
    “With a fresh spike in the number of coronavirus infections, Gaza is yet again facing the very real prospect that its healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Gaza is not just fighting a global pandemic. Under an Israeli blockade and successive military attacks since 2007, the coastal strip is fighting one of the highest levels of poverty and unemployment in the world as well as a crumbling infrastructure, including in its health sector.
    “A severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment that is directly linked to the Israeli siege could, combined with the ravages of a pandemic, threaten the health service with complete collapse.
    “…. Back in March, when the pandemic first hit Gaza, David Mills of Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Bram Wispelwey of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Rania Muhareb formerly of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, and Mads Gilbert of University Hospital of North Norway, wrote a short letter to The Lancet, one of the world’s foremost medical journals.
    “… The letter – “Structural violence in the era of a new pandemic: the case of the Gaza Strip” – was duly published online on 27 March. Just three days later, however, in a move unusual if not unprecedented for The Lancet, the letter was taken down without comment. …”

  • New report exposes wrongheadedness of outsourcing at North West Anglia NHS UNISON Eastern Region Press Release Sept 30: “A new report rips apart North West Anglia NHS NHS Trust’s plans to outsource catering and other services at Hinchingbrooke and makes the case to bring all facilities services back in house across the employer.
    “The report takes apart the case to outsource the award-winning catering service, drawing from the experience of three decades’ failed privatisation of NHS services and the latest research showing that a sell-off would be “most unwise.”
    “It lambasts the complete lack of a business case for outsourcing and argues that at the very least the Trust should consider an in-house bid for the multimillion-pound contract.”

  • Care home coronavirus outbreaks cast doubt on official PHE data Guardian Sept 30 report: "The UK’s largest care home provider has had Covid outbreaks in 70 of its facilities, prompting questions about whether official figures on the virus’s return to social care may be too low.
    "As care leaders issued fresh warnings about testing delays, HC-One said it had closed one in five of its 329 homes because of outbreaks and that 20 homes had seen new outbreaks in the last fortnight.
    "Bupa also told the Guardian that in the last 28 days people had tested positive at 21 of its homes – almost one in six of its 130 locations – while Care UK has had positive tests at 19 of its 110 homes."

  • Why the World Bank should be calling for a People's vaccine Oxfam Press release Sept 30 responding to World Bank proposal:
    "Responding to the World Bank's proposal of a $12 billion initiative to help poor countries purchase COVID-19 vaccines, Anna Marriott, Health Policy Advisor at Oxfam, said:
    "The World Bank is right to be concerned about whether poorer countries will be able to afford COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and they should use their influence accordingly. The best way of ensuring universal access is for pharmaceutical companies to stop seeking monopolies on their treatments. This only limits production and drives up prices. That is why Oxfam and others are calling for a People's Vaccine that would be free from patents, widely manufactured and affordable, so that governments can provide it to people in need free of charge.
    "Many poorer countries are already in debt and should not have to resort to taking additional loans to pay for over-priced vaccines from pharmaceutical corporations eager to profit from this crisis."

  • Test and trace is failing – we need GPs’ expertise to make it work Dr Kailash Chand writes in Pulse 29 Sept: "The NHS’s test and trace system isn’t working. Why? Because we have no strategy, and the public sector has been utterly sidelined. Boris Johnson, true to his ideological beliefs, has outsourced the Covid response to big private companies, the likes of Serco and Deloitte. It’s like designing a car and not putting the engine in.
    "We’ll never get on the road to normalcy. We’ll be stuck in a world of lockdown, unlock, lockdown, unlock…. Without an operative, functioning test and trace system, we are doomed to ever more lockdowns, whether local or national.
    "We are the fifth richest economy in the world, with one of the best healthcare systems and world-leading science research universities, but still, after eight months, we do not have a functional testing system that returns results within 24 hours."

  • Italy approves use of rapid airport-style coronavirus tests in schools News from English language The Local in Italy confirms how far behind British testing is from world class: "
    Italy's coronavirus testing strategy is getting better every week, ministers said on Tuesday, as they looked at rolling out the rapid 30-minute tests currently used at airports in schools.
    Italy's coronavirus testing strategy is getting better every week, ministers said on Tuesday, as they looked at rolling out the rapid 30-minute tests currently used at airports in schools.

    Italy's coronavirus testing strategy is getting better every week, ministers said on Tuesday, as they looked at rolling out the rapid 30-minute tests currently used at airports in schools.

    Italy's coronavirus testing strategy is getting better every week, ministers said on Tuesday, as they looked at rolling out the rapid 30-minute tests currently used at airports in schools.
    "Health authorities in the Lazio region had already confirmed they will start using the tests in some schools from Thursday.
    "The rapid antigen tests (‘test antigene’ or ‘test antigenico’, or sometimes just ‘tampone rapido’, ‘fast swab’), currently used in airports, are carried out with a cotton nasal swab, much like the "normal" tests which take 24-48 hours to give a result. The difference is in the method of ascertaining the presence of the virus and above all in the timing: with rapid tests the response arrives in 20-30 minutes."

  • As pandemic deaths pass 1 million, COVID survivors from 37 countries write to pharmaceutical bosses to demand a People's Vaccine Oxfam Sept 29 publishes an open letter appealing for affordable vaccine for whole world rather than mega profits for big pharma:
    "Survivors of COVID-19 from 37 countries are among almost 1,000 people who have signed an open letter to pharmaceutical industry leaders calling for a ‘people's vaccine’ and treatments that are available to all – free from patents. The letter comes on the eve of a high-level side event about the pandemic at the UN General Assembly in New York tomorrow (30 September).
    "The signatories include 242 COVID-19 survivors from South Africa to Finland and New Zealand to Brazil. They also include 190 people in 46 countries who have lost relatives to the virus, and 572 signatories with underlying health conditions that mean they are more likely to develop severe forms of COVID-19 and have a greater risk of dying from it.
    "The letter says: “Some of us have lost loved ones to this killer disease. Some of us have come close to death ourselves. Some of us are continuing to live in fear that contracting this disease would be fatal for us. We see no justification why your profit or monopolies should mean anyone else should go through this.”
    "It describes pharmaceutical corporations as “carrying on with business as usual - defending monopolies while refusing to share research and know-how” and calls on industry leaders to “ensure COVID-19 vaccines and treatments reach everyone who needs them by preventing monopolies, ramping up production and sharing knowledge.”

  • ‘Scandalous’ - campaigners’ fury as failing NHS trust hands out nearly £1m in exit packages Eastern Daily Press Sept 28 with another revelation about disastrous Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust: "Exit packages – money employees are paid when made redundant or on leaving a company – paid to staff departing the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) last year totalled almost £1million (£924,169).
    "During the same year the trust spent £33million on ‘temporary staff’, including workers on short-term contracts and agency staff, according to its accounts for 2019/20. That is up from £18m the previous year.
    "The accounts show six-figure sums between £150,000 and £200,000 were paid to two departing ‘locality managers’ in a shake-up of departments in mid-2019, triggered after NSFT was ranked ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission for the third time in a row."

  • Britain's failure to learn the hard lessons of its first Covid surge is a disaster Guardian opinion column Sept 27: "Since the first outbreaks of Covid-19 early in the year, scientists and governments have learned a lot about the virus. They’ve learned that the best way to fight it is through testing, tracing and isolating – and they’ve learned what the consequences of not fighting it can be. But the UK seems to be ignoring most of these hard lessons. Instead of evidence-based policy, its response – initially urging people back into offices, outsourcing testing and tracing to corporate giants, and opting for half-measures in the face of a virulent second wave – looks more like policy-based evidence."

  • ‘Long covid’ clinics still not operating despite Hancock claim HSJ report Sept 23; "The government and NHS England appear unable to identify units set up to treat ‘long covid’, contrary to a claim by Matt Hancock in Parliament that the NHS had ‘set up clinics and announced them in July’.
    "There are growing calls for wider services to support people who have had covid-19 and continue to suffer serious follow-up illness for weeks or months. Hospitals run follow-up clinics for those who were previously admitted with the virus, but these are not generally open to those who were never admitted.
    "Earlier this month the health secretary told the Commons health committee: “The NHS set up long covid clinics and announced them in July and I am concerned by reports from Royal College of General Practitioners that not all GPs know how to get into those services.”
    Asked by HSJ for details, DHSC and NHS England declined to comment on how many clinics had been set up to date, where they were located, how they were funded or how many more clinics were expected to be “rolled out”."

  • Sir Patrick Vallance has £600,000 shareholding in firm contracted to develop vaccines Telegraph Sept 23; "Sir Patrick Vallance, who also chairs the Government's expert advisory panel on vaccines, holds a deferred bonus of 43,111 shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) worth £600,000 from his time as president of the multinational drug company, The Telegraph can reveal.
    "He has already cashed in more than £5 million worth of shares he received from the company during his tenure from 2012 until March 2018, when he became the Government's chief scientific adviser. Accounts show he held 404,201 GSK shares when he left, worth £6.1 million at current values.
    "In July, GSK and drugs multinational Sanofi agreed a deal with the UK Government to supply it with up to 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, subject to final contract. It has a similar deal with the US government for an initial 100 million doses as part of Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed. "

  • No-deal Brexit will cost UK more than Covid, report finds Guardian Sept 23: "Analysis by the London School of Economics and UK in a Changing Europe says “a no-deal Brexit would represent a further major shock to a UK economy” with a “major set of changes” to the economic relationship with the country’s largest trading partner.
    “Our modelling with LSE of the impact of a no-deal Brexit suggests that the total cost to the UK economy over the longer term will be two to three times as large as that implied by the Bank of England’s forecast for the impact of Covid-19,” says the report.
    "LSE modelling puts the long-term economic hit from a no-deal Brexit at 8% of GDP, similar to that of the government’s own forecast in 2018 of 7.6%, which amounts to £160bn in today’s money, or £2,400 per person.
    "This compares with the Bank of England’s latest forecast of the impact of Covid which shows a reduction of 1.7% of GDP to the economy up to 2022.
    "This amounts to £40bn, or £600 per person, and is dwarfed by cost of a no-deal Brexit, which will have an impact on GDP for years to come."

  • Scamademics?Right-Wing Lobbying Groups Reviving ‘Herd Immunity’ in the UK The excellent Byline Times Sept 23 takes on “two different letters sent to the Government by what the press has portrayed as two groups of esteemed scientists – one group supporting the reintroduction of social distancing restrictions, and the other criticising efforts to ‘suppress’ the Coronavirus.
    “Widespread media coverage of the letter has suggested a deep-seated schism at the heart of the British scientific community about how to respond to the crisis.
    “In reality, the authors of the letter that is critical of a COVID-19 suppression strategy have numerous ties to Conservative and Republican Party lobby groups as well as to various agencies of the Government, including HM Treasury, the Ministry of Defence and the ‘Nudge’ Unit – ties which represent potentially serious conflicts of interest.
    … “Worse, this group’s claims about the Coronavirus have no basis in peer-reviewed scientific literature. Instead, it represents what one top British epidemiologist has described as “a fringe group of scientists”, out of sync with “most of the public health experts in the world”.
    “The main authors of that letter are Professor Sunetra Gupta (a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University), Professor Carl Heneghan (director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine), Professor Karol Sikora (consultant oncologist at the University of Buckingham) and Sam Williams (director and co-founder of the Economic Insight consultancy).
    A version of this letter was published by the Spectator magazine on Monday under the title ‘Boris Must Urgently Rethink his Covid Strategy’.”

  • Covid-19 test and trace programme is still a leaky system Nuffield Trust 22 Sept on the holes in the Serco Test and trace system: "The NHS Test and Trace programme forms a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy. More than three months after the programme commenced in England in May, we’ve pieced together the data to look at the extent to which the issues we previously identified have been resolved.
    "We’ve found a system that is still far from water-tight, with leakages all the way along the pipeline – from the numbers of people referred to the Test and Trace programme right through to those being told to self-isolate.
    "It is likely that large numbers of infected people are being missed. Although 15,526 people were ‘transferred’ to NHS Test and Trace in the week to 9 September, during that period a higher number – 18,371 – tested positive. And the estimated number of new infections in the community was somewhere in the region of 59,800 over a similar timeframe."

  • Coronavirus: NHS tests will be capped at 100,000 a day Independent Sept 22 revelation of the limits being placed on testing via the NHS rather than the privatised system: "On Friday, The Independent revealed that NHS hospitals had been told by NHS England not to launch their own testing of staff and patients unless they had prior approval from the national test and trace service, led by Baroness Dido Harding.
    "If hospitals did go ahead and test for the virus without approval, the capped budget imposed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) means that they would not be reimbursed for the spending and would have to meet the costs from their own budgets.
    "The DHSC has now confirmed to The Independent that the maximum budget in place for NHS testing will allow for up to 100,000 tests a day."

  • Operation Moonshot proposals are scientifically unsound Free access BMJ editorial exposing the scientific flaws in the so-called "moonshot" plan for mass testing:
    "Frequent repeat testing is necessary as the proposed test will only identify people with new infections when their viral load becomes high. Since Moonshot proposes use of point-of-care tests, delays in receiving results would be eliminated and isolation can be immediate.
    "But no point-of-care tests approved for home use are currently available.
    … The Moonshot proposals have been condemned for not considering the potential harms from repeated frequent testing of whole populations. All tests generate some false positives and false negatives. The consequences of high false negative rates are most serious in symptomatic people who can transmit disease. Up to 30% of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are missed by swab based PCR testing, for example.
    “False positives become a problem when individuals and their contacts have to self-isolate unnecessarily. Even with a specificity of 99%, proposals to do 10 million tests a day will generate many thousands of false positive results, causing unnecessary but legally enforced isolation of both cases and contacts with potentially damaging consequences for the UK economy and for civil liberties.”

  • The Right Wing's Favourite 'Crazy Scientist' - Professor Karol Sikora Far Right Watch sums him up:
    “Seems like a quite respectable chap on first glance, until you hear what he says, and delve a little into his history.
    “A few of the things you might need to know about him :
    “He hates the NHS. Really, really hates it. Calls it 'the last bastion of communism'.
    “He used to work for the World Health Organisation. He hates the WHO. He claimed he resigned, but smarter and more reliable sources say he was fired over some of his more, er, radical ideas, after a dispute with the United Nations (He hates them, too. Can you see a pattern emerging here?)
    “… He has claimed for 22 years to be Professor of Oncology at Imperial College. He even introduced himself to a Commons Health Select Committee with that title. He is not - and never was. This led Imperial to seek legal advice to stop Sikora from making such claims.”

  • Gov medical advisors should resign or speak out over England’s failing covid strategy HSJ column Sept 21 from leading medic David Oliver:
    "In September, Jonathan Jones, the permanent secretary of the UK government’s legal department resigned on principle over Boris Johnson’s reversal of decisions relating to Northern Ireland in the Brexit agreement. Lord Keen, the government’s law officer for Scotland then resigned on similar grounds, saying he could not reconcile the new Internal Market Bill with his obligations as a lawyer.
    "They followed other senior civil servants who had resigned on points of principle this year, some with a departing broadside at practice and expectations they found unacceptable.
    "Yet, I struggle to think of any recent instances of senior doctors, nurses or scientific advisors with roles in government departments or arm’s length bodies overseeing healthcare resigning on a point of principle that clashed with their medical professional code, their personal principles, with the civil service code, or the Nolan Principles for holders of public office.
    "Deputy CMO Jonathan Van Tam said on the record at a Whitehall press briefing that “In my opinion, the lockdown rules apply to all and are for the benefit of all” in response to Dominic Cummings reported breach of them. He rarely appeared again afterwards. It was also reported that chief nursing officer, Ruth May was pulled from a press conference for admitting that she would take the same line if asked by journalists.
    "With the exception of those examples, I struggle to think of any senior scientific, medical or clinincal advisor who has spoken out independently to contradict or challenge decisions or statements by politicians or special advisors, therefore taking the risk of being marginalised, sacked or censured."

  • Public Want Test And Trace Taken Off Private Firms Huffington Post Sept 21 on Survation poll findings: "The vast majority of people think large private firms should be stripped of their test and trace contract and the job handed to town halls, says a new poll.
    "The Survation survey, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, shows 74% want local public health teams, rather than Serco and Sitel, to run NHS Test and Trace.
    "Just 14% want the vital service to be run by a private company, the poll commissioned by We Own It and shared exclusively with HuffPost revealed.
    "It comes as the government’s testing regime was in chaos, with figures last week showing three quarters of a million Covid test requests are going unanswered every day. "

  • Daily ‘moonshot’ tests for Covid-19 will not be given out by NHS – the public will have to pay i-news Sept 21 reports: “Daily “moonshot” tests for Covid-19 which will allow people to resume normal life will not be available on the NHS, the Government’s testing czar has suggested.
    “Dido Harding said that individuals and companies would have to pay to access the proposed tests, which would return results in as little as 15 minutes, as a “cost of doing business”.
    “… The “Holy Grail” is a saliva-based test which can be operated entirely at home or in the office, rather than being processed in a laboratary, and takes just 15 minutes to show a result, Baroness Harding added. The technology to do so does not yet exist on a major scale.
    “Existing swab tests offered by private firms cost at least £100 a go, but the cost of the daily “moonshot” tests is not clear.”

  • UK could face 50,000 cases a day by October without action - Vallance BBC Sept 21 report; “The UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action, the government's chief scientific adviser has warned.
    “Sir Patrick Vallance said that would be expected to lead to about "200-plus deaths per day" a month after that.
    “… Speaking at Downing Street alongside chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick stressed the figures given were not a prediction, but added: "At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
    "If, and that's quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days... if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.”

  • Building a test and trace system isn't easy, but there's no excuse for Johnson's shambles Public health expert Dave McCoy in the Guardian Sept 15: "The government made a fundamental and strategic error early on in designing a fragmented, over-centralised and semi-privatised system that was never going to work well. It created barriers between testing and tracing systems; it undermined the ability of local public health teams to understand and react strategically to their local epidemiology; and it excluded the primary healthcare providers from the system.
    "A future public inquiry should determine why we have a dog’s breakfast of a system. But there won’t be a single cause. The underlying problems involve a combination of incompetence and unwillingness to do the painstaking work of complex logistical planning, a political culture of centralised and top-down decision-making, and a pro-market ideology that turned a public health crisis into a commercial opportunity for big business."

  • Leaked figures reveal scale of coronavirus test shortage Sunday Times report Sept 13 on total chaos in privatised test and trace: “The government’s “world-beating” testing programme has a backlog of 185,000 swabs and is so overstretched that it is sending tests to laboratories in Italy and Germany, according to leaked documents.
    “A Department of Health and Social Care report marked “Official: sensitive” also confirms that most British laboratories are clearing fewer tests than their stated capacity, as they are hit by “chaos” in supply chains.
    “The government claims that it has capacity for 375,000 tests a day. However, the actual number of people being tested for the coronavirus stalled to just 437,000 people a week at the start of the month — equivalent to just 62,000 a day.”

  • Coronavirus cases in care homes spiral again (£) Sunday Times Sept 13: "The coronavirus is spreading through care homes again, according to leaked documents that show the government is failing to protect the most vulnerable from the spiralling number of cases.
    "A Department of Health report marked “official sensitive” and circulated on Friday stated that the rate of the coronavirus recorded through satellite tests — almost all of which take place in care homes — had quadrupled since the start of the month. It now stands at an estimated 1,100 new cases every day.
    "Matt Hancock, the health secretary, took an emergency update on Wednesday saying that outbreaks had been detected in 43 care homes after months of calm."

  • Boris Johnson under pressure to explain questionable PPE procurement deals Byline Times Sept 12: "At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) this Wednesday, Labour MP Rushanara Ali asked Johnson to explain why the Government has shelled out billions of pounds in questionable procurement deals handed to private firms.
    "In response, Johnson invited Ali to send a letter detailing the contracts of concern – which the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow has now done.
    "Indeed Ali referred the Prime Minister to contracts worth more than £52 million awarded to a dormant firm for the supply of hand sanitiser, a story exposed by Byline Times.
    "TAEG Energy was listed on Companies House as a dormant company on 25 February – just a week before it concluded a £43.8 million deal with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
    "The contract was awarded without going to competitive tender.
    "Ali also cited a £19 million contract awarded to fast fashion retailer Elite Creations UK for the supply of goggles. As revealed by Byline Times, the total revenue of Elite Creations in 2019 was just under £3 million – a fraction of the value of this single contract."

  • Government commits to new mental health legislation Health minister Nadine Dorries gives a written answer to a PQ: "We have committed to publishing a White Paper which will set out the Government’s response to Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983 and pave the way for reform of the Act.
    "We will publish our White Paper as soon as it is possible to do so. We will consult publicly on our proposals and will bring forward a Bill to amend the Act when parliamentary time allows.
    "The Independent Review made a number of recommendations around how the law works for children and young people. The Government will respond to these in the White Paper."

  • Boris Johnson's 'Operation Moonshot' plan to test millions daily for Coronavirus criticised by top doctors Evening Standard Sept 11 report highlighting various critiques of Johnson’s £100bn fantasy project:
    “The Government’s ambitious plans for mass testing under the so-called Operation Moonshot has been met with mixed reaction from the health and scientific community, with concerns raised over the implications of a negative test result.
    “Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that millions of people could be tested every day so they could “behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid”.
    “… Dr David Strain, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the BMA’s medical academic staff committee, said: “The mass-testing strategy is fundamentally flawed, in that it is being based on technology that does not, as yet, exist.
    “The Prime Minister’s suggestion that this will be as simple as “getting a pregnancy test” that will give results within 15 minutes is unlikely, if not impossible, in the timescale he was suggesting to get the country back on track.”

  • Coronavirus cases in England doubling every eight days, study shows Guardian Sept 11: "Cases of coronavirus in England are doubling every seven to eight days, research has revealed in the latest figures to show a resurgence of Covid-19.
    "The study, known as React-1, is a population surveillance study that began in May and uses swabs from about 120,000 to 160,000 randomly selected people in England across 315 local authority areas each month to track the spread of coronavirus using PCR analysis – the “have you got it now” test.
    “The prevalence of the virus in the population is increasing. We found evidence that it has been accelerating at the end of August and beginning of September,” said Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London and a co-author of the work."

  • Telford council chiefs want to open borough's own coronavirus test and trace system Shropshire Star Sept 11 on a Labour council seeking to sort out the mess of test and trace created by government’s privatised system:
    “Telford and Wrekin Council chiefs have written to the Health Secretary for cash to set up the borough's own coronavirus test and tracing system.
    “In the letter, council leader Shaun Davies and health boss Councillor Andy Burford stated: "National contact tracing is not working – it is failing to reach cases and contacts sufficiently and not able to identify outbreaks early enough.
    "Our approach in Telford and Wrekin is to undertake contact tracing ourselves so that we can understand more fully transmission of the virus within the borough and be best placed to take swift action to contain and stop further spread.
    "We are quite happy to manage and provide the whole contact tracing function for our borough but we would ask that this is properly resourced through transfer of cash or staff from NHS Test & Trace.”

  • UK health screening advisers not involved in 'moonshot' Covid plan Guardian September 11:
    “The government’s health screening advisers have not been involved in Boris Johnson’s “moonshot” project to test the entire population for Covid-19, an omission public health experts have described as “incomprehensible”.
    “The National Screening Committee, which advises ministers and the NHS about “all aspects of population screening”, has not been consulted on the £100bn plans for mass surveillance involving up to 10m coronavirus tests every day.
    “Made up of 23 doctors, academics, public health and patient representatives, the NSC normally rules on proposals for mass population screening for cancers as well as infectious diseases such as chlamydia, herpes and hepatitis B. It reports to the UK’s four chief medical officers, and follows a strict and rigorous process, one source said, “which is not like the process we have seen put forward [for ‘Operation Moonshot’].”
    “The NSC has not been involved with this in any way,” the committee’s chairman, Prof Bob Steele, confirmed to the Guardian by email.”

  • Muslim Medics Taunted About Bacon And Alcohol – By Their Own NHS Colleagues Shocking Sept 11 exclusive survey by Huffington Post reveals that:
    “Muslim NHS workers have told HuffPost UK how Islamophobia is rife in the organisation, with their own colleagues making disgraceful comments and denying them opportunities to progress or even socialise.
    “We teamed up with the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) for a flagship, in-depth survey of more than 100 Muslim health workers – one of the most significant of its kind.
    “A shocking 81% revealed they had experienced Islamophobia or racism within the NHS, 69% felt it had got worse during their time at the organisation and more than half – 57% – felt Islamophobia had held them back in their career progression within the NHS.
    “Many Muslims voiced a culture of “swallow it up” in the NHS, leaving people fearful of reporting Islamophobia in case of repercussions for their job or career progression. One Muslim female consultant said she felt that “you may as well flush your medical degree down the toilet” rather than reporting Islamophobia from a colleague or manager. She described the NHS as a “family which will close ranks to protect their own against those perceived as outsiders”.”

  • Less than 20% of people in England self-isolate fully, Sage says Guardian Sept 11 reminds us that without measures to ensure people are offered more than the miserable £13/day statutory sick pay, many will not self-isolate: and unless government becomes more credible, many people will simply ignore calls to do so:
    "Less than 20% of people in England fully self-isolate when asked to do so, according to documents released from the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies, which said mass testing would be of no use unless this percentage rose.
    "The report from scientists on Sage suggests they think there are limited benefits to mass testing, which was proposed in the leaked “Operation Moonshot” documents.
    "Boris Johnson viewed moonshot as “our only hope for avoiding a second national lockdown before a vaccine”, a leaked memo said. The £100bn plan for up to 10m tests a day were sent to Sage and the Treasury in August."

  • Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19 politico.com Sept 11 report from the US on Trump's team attempting to obscure the facts and interfere with scientific data:
    "The health department’s politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals.
    "In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump's optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails reviewed by POLITICO and three people familiar with the situation.
    "CDC officials have fought back against the most sweeping changes, but have increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording, according to three people familiar with the exchanges. The communications aides’ efforts to change the language in the CDC’s reports have been constant across the summer and continued as recently as Friday afternoon."

  • Boris Johnson did not look in the Piggy Bank to see if he had £100 billion for a ‘moonshot’ because the one thing he knew was that the money could be created to deliver the deal Tax expert Richard Murphy warns:
    "The risk of corruption in this plan is enormous. Modern Monetary Theory is good, but it cannot prevent abuse. And I have to say that I smell something pretty rotten in this plan. I can’t prove it. But £100 billion of spending plans on something totally unproven has the risk of potential corruption written all over it."

  • Concerns over Boris Johnson's 'moonshot' testing plans BBC Sept 10 report: "Scientists and health professionals have raised doubts about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "Operation Moonshot" plan for mass coronavirus testing.
    "The PM hopes millions of Covid-19 tests - including some giving results within minutes - could be processed daily.
    "But experts say there are issues with laboratory capacity for current tests, while the technology for more rapid tests "does not, as yet, exist"."

  • Performance figures show just how hard trusts are working to restore services NHS Providers step in to provide the positive spin on the latest combined performance figures published by NHS England, arguing how hard staff have been working to get services back up and running:
    "“Although the figures show there are over four million people on a waiting list for elective care and those waiting over 18 weeks has significantly increased, the number of operations carried out has increased by more than 50% since June and is up by almost 250% since April. Additionally, in July 25% more diagnostic tests were carried out than in June.
    “The number of people who attended an outpatient appointment following an urgent referral by their GP for suspected cancer is also up 17% on last month, and the number of people with cancer who started treatment following receipt of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer is also up 19%.
    “There has also been a significant increase in the number of people attending A&E since April, with emergency rooms treating 88% more people."

  • Cheltenham General Hospital's A&E may remain shut until next year BBC Sept 10 report on another "temporary" closure that seems to be on the way to becoming permanent:
    "A hospital's A&E department could remain temporarily shut until next year to prepare for a potential second spike in coronavirus cases.
    "In June, Cheltenham General Hospital's A&E was turned into a minor injury and illness unit for a three-month period.
    "But the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said the NHS trust now wants to extend the temporary closure until the end of March 2021."

  • 'One of Many Reasons Why Single Payer Matters': For-Profit Insurers Hitting People With 'Illegal' Bills for Covid Tests US website Common Dreams September 10 on the sneaky ways US insurers find ways to add hefty charges for services that should be provided free:
    "In March, Congress passed legislation aimed at requiring for-profit health insurance companies to cover all FDA-approved coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing—but federal laws have not stopped insurers from hitting vulnerable Americans with large surprise bills during an ongoing pandemic and economic crisis that pushed millions to the brink of financial ruin.
    "This isn't just about coronavirus—it's about the universal fragmentation of U.S. health financing.
    "If I had to pay it off, it would clear out my savings," New York City resident Kelly Daisley told the New York Times after Anthem charged her $2,718 for a Covid-19 test that was advertised as free.
    "Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, private insurers are supposed to shoulder the all of the costs of coronavirus tests, including those offered by out-of-network providers. But the laws—and the Trump administration's narrow interpretations of them—are rife with loopholes that insurance giants have not hesitated to exploit, potentially leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans with unanticipated charges."

  • Booking system error sent hundreds to English town for Covid tests, MPs told Evening Standard report Sept 10 on a Tory MP complaining of disastrous failings of test and trace booking system:
    “Hundreds of cars from across the country descended on an English town in search of Covid-19 tests after a "glitch" in the booking system, MPs have been told.
    “Conservative MP Lucy Allan revealed on Friday that roads were recently blocked and tests quickly ran out in the town of Telford. She said a booking system error directed people from Cornwall, London and elsewhere to the site in Shropshire.
    “On Tuesday evening, hundreds of cars from across the country – and I mean hundreds – descended on Telford and its testing site as directed by the booking system.
    “… Tests quickly ran out, roads were blocked, people who had travelled from as far away as Cornwall, Stockport and London were turned away, and my constituents were no longer able to access tests in the area – and they in turn were sent elsewhere.”

  • Test and Trace contact tracing rate at lowest since launch ITV news Sept 10 story that will surprise few people following the issue:
    "The percentage of close contacts reached through the Test and Trace system has hit a new low.
    "Some 69.2% of contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were reached in the week ending September 2, according to new figures from the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "This is down slightly from 69.8% in the previous week - and is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace was launched in May.
    "This week, ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan spoke to a Test and Trace NHS 119 call handler, who made alarming claims about the system. Speaking anonymously, she said: "It's absolutely shambolic. For instance today I've only been able to put one person through after taking 20-odd calls."
    "The site is just not allowing anyone to complete and get an appointment. It's not good and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

  • Texas Leads the Nation With Highest Rate of Uninsured Health Care Workers San Antonio Current revealing Texas's world-beating level of health workers who themselves lack health insurance and are at risk of massive health care costs:
    “The pandemic has highlighted just how many Americans don't have access to health insurance. And, as it turns out, healthcare workers — frequently on the front lines and susceptible to COVID-19 exposure — are among the vulnerable groups lacking coverage
    “Nearly 600,000 U.S. healthcare workers are currently uninsured, according to a recent study by the financial site ValuePenguin.
    “What's more, Texas had the highest rate of uninsured healthcare workers of any state, according to ValuePenguin's analysis, which is based on data from the 2018 American Community Survey.
    “Nearly 18% of healthcare workers in the Lone Star State lack coverage. The two states trailing just behind, Oklahoma and Idaho, had rates of 13% and 12%, respectively.”

  • Coronavirus: Too many people getting COVID-19 tests are 'not eligible', says health secretary Sky News Sept 9 notes Matt Hancock has found a new group of people to blame for the shambolic failure of the privatised "test & trace" system -- people without symptoms seeking tests (while the spread of the virus by asymptomatic people is one of the major problems to be tackled).

  • Covid risks making society more unequal than since early Victorian times Guardian Sept 9 comment by public health expert Gabriel Scally:
    "“Since the beginning of the 20th century life expectancy in England has improved consistently. Until the last decade that is. As a result of government policies over the last 10 years improvement in life expectancy has stalled, and for women in the most deprived areas it has actually fallen. The widening gap between life expectancy in the best-off and worst-off areas is now almost 10 years for men and seven and a half years in women.
    “Similarly, the infant mortality rate for England and Wales reached its lowest point in 2014 and has been consistently higher ever since. Across a whole range of other public health indicators, such as drug-related deaths, sexually transmitted diseases and childhood immunisations, the position has been deteriorating.
    … Given the evidence of increasing inequalities and some reductions in life expectancy, it is all the more alarming that last month the government announced the almost immediate abolition of Public Health England and its replacement with a National Institute for Health Protection. This is undoubtedly driven by blame-shifting following the government’s extraordinarily inept response to the Covid pandemic. The new organisation is based on a concept of protecting health that is centred on infectious diseases.
    “This is not the first time that the government has deliberately downgraded the drive to improve the health of the population. Within a year of the 2010 general election the Department of Health established a series of “responsibility deals” involving the private sector. This effectively handed power over public health action to industry interests, particularly in the areas of food and alcohol.”

  • Matt Hancock gets test and trace figures wrong again Full Fact Sept 9 vindication for Shadow health Secretary Jon Ashworth who had correctly disputed Matt Hancock's claims of success for test and trace:
    "Jonathan Ashworth MP claimed that only 69.4% of identified contacts are now reached and asked to self-isolate, which Matt Hancock disagreed with.
    "Mr Ashworth was right. The data (which was published on Thursday 3 September, that day Mr Hancock referred to) shows that 69.4% of identified contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 were reached by the service between 20 August and 26 August.
    "This number has fallen over time which, as we have explained in a previous piece, is largely down to how the NHS Test and Trace system has changed since its inception."

  • Government plans to spend £100bn on expanding testing to 10 million a day BMJ free to access Sept 9 critique of the latest extravagant fantasy privatisation project from the Johnson government:
    "The internal correspondence reveals that the government is prepared to almost match what it spends on the NHS in England each year (£130bn) to fund mass testing of the population “to support economic activity and a return to normal life” under its ambitious Operation Moonshot programme.
    "A briefing memo sent to the first minister and cabinet secretaries in Scotland, seen by The BMJ, says that the UK-wide Moonshot programme is expected to “cost over £100bn to deliver.” If achieved, the programme would allow testing of the entire UK population each week.
    "A separate PowerPoint presentation prepared for the government by the global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, also seen by The BMJ, says the plans had the potential to grow the UK’s testing capacity from the current 350 000 a day to up to 10 million tests a day by early 2021.
    "Critics have already rounded on the plans as “devoid of any contribution from scientists, clinicians, and public health and testing and screening experts,” and “disregarding the enormous problems with the existing testing and tracing programmes.”
    "The leaked documents reveal a heavy reliance on the private sector to achieve the mass testing and give details of “letters of comfort” that have already been signed with companies to reach three million tests a day by December. Firms named are GSK for supplying tests, AstraZeneca for laboratory capacity, and Serco and G4S for logistics and warehousing."

  • Why Boris Johnson Needs To Stop Dreaming Of A Nice Christmas Huffington Post Sept 9 report: "… Johnson was still dreaming of a nice Christmas, courtesy of his hopes for a “moonshot” plan for instant, daily home testing for everyone, giving those who test negative a “laissez passer” or “freedom pass” (once a London Mayor, always a London Mayor) to go to work, the theatre, sports.
    "Within seconds however, both chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientist Patrick Vallance poured buckets of ice cold caution over this tempting mirage. Vallance said it would be “completely wrong to assume” that mass saliva testing would be viable. The PM’s moonshot plan felt as real and tangible as his deceased ‘fantasy island’ scheme for a new London airport in the Thames estuary.‌
    "Whitty wanted to plan on the basis of grounded reality, basing his assumptions on not getting a vaccine, let alone some ‘moonshot’ testing regime. On the day Keir Starmer raised the continuing laboratory problems with the public failing to get tests near their homes, Whitty also said “those constraints are not just going to magically disappear”. Most candid of all, he made clear the new rules would be around for months, and probably until the spring.
    "A snap poll from YouGov showed 77% of Brits in favour of tightening social restrictions on big groups. The public like clear, simple messaging as long as their prime minister and other people in power stick to it too."

  • What is No 10's 'moonshot' Covid testing plan and is it feasible? Guardian explainer on Moonshot project Sept 9:
    "One of the documents, titled UK Mass Population Testing Plan, is a briefing memo sent to the first minister in Scotland, which explains it could cost £100bn.
    "That might be a price worth paying if it worked – however, most of the technology simply does not yet exist. Getting 10 million people tested every day – however quick and simple the process – is a very big logistical ask for a country that has struggled to deliver a few hundred thousand.
    "The second is a 26-page PowerPoint presentation from the Department of Health and Social Care entitled: Moonshot mobilisation: briefing pack, dated 21 August.
    "The document is full of diagrams and charts, with pages headlined “Mission Team”, “Moonshot Headquarters” and “Mission Analysis”."

  • 'I had to be sectioned': the NHS staff broken and burned out by Covid Guardian Sept 8 report: "More than 1,000 doctors plan to quit the NHS over the government’s handling of the pandemic, according to a recent survey, with some citing burnout as a cause.
    "And as early as mid April, YouGov polling for the IPPR thinktank found that 50% of 996 healthcare workers questioned across the UK said their mental health had deteriorated since the virus started taking hold of the NHS. Meanwhile, latest sickness rate data for NHS staff in England found that April had the highest levels of sickness absence since data was first collected in 2009. Anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses were the most reported reasons for absence, at 20.9%, compared with about 14% each for respiratory problems, colds and flu, and infectious diseases. Data for the months following is yet to be released.
    "However, recent research from China suggests that healthcare workers were at greater risk of developing stress and other mental health problems at the beginning of the pandemic, including post-traumatic stress disorder."

  • Discharge guidance could lead to increased death and disability, warn senior clinicians HSJ Sept report on the hidden snags and dangers in the latest guidance and instructions from NHS England:
    "Serious patient safety and wellbeing concerns about the latest hospital discharge guidance have been raised to HSJ by senior clinicians and charities.
    "Senior geriatricians warned that the guidance could prompt an increase in “urgent readmissions”, “permanent disability” and “excess mortality”, while charities said families could be left with “unsustainable caring responsibilities” because of the new rules.
    "The government guidance, Hospital Discharge Service: policy and operating model, published in August, said clinicians should consider discharging patients when they were “medically optimised” rather than “medically fit”. It said 95 per cent of these patients would return straight home with additional social care and rehabilitation support if needed."

  • Labour Urges Halt To 'Short Sighted' NHS Land Sell-Off Huffington Post Sept 8: "Ministers face calls to block a “fire sale” of NHS land to private developers amid fears a second wave of Covid-19 and growing demand for other health services could see hospitals run out of space.
    "A total of 626 plots of land or buildings, worth potentially over £1bn, have been earmarked for sale by trusts, according to a report for the government by NHS Digital.
    "The government told HuffPost UK this week the list had been compiled before the pandemic, and that trusts would be able to reclassify land that was now in use. NHS bosses said 131 of the sites listed as “surplus” were actually in use.
    "It comes amid cost pressures on the health service and as Boris Johnson’s administration pledges to help developers “build, build, build” in the wake of the pandemic.
    "Now Labour is urging the government to step in and halt the sell-off so medics can respond to “ballooning” waiting lists for non-Covid care."

  • Coronavirus: fears UK government has lost control as Covid cases soar Guardian Sept 7 report: "The UK has recorded a massive rise in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus, amid concerns the government has lost control of the epidemic just as people are returning to work and universities prepare to reopen.
    "Labour has demanded the health secretary, Matt Hancock, give an urgent statement to the House of Commons to explain the increase and why some people are still being told to drive hundreds of miles to have a test.
    "On Sunday almost 3,000 people in the UK tested positive for Covid-19, a more than 50% increase in a single day and the highest daily total since May.
    “They’ve lost control of the virus,” said Prof Gabriel Scally, a former NHS regional director of public health for the south-west. “It’s no longer small outbreaks they can stamp on. It’s become endemic in our poorest communities and this is the result. It’s extraordinarily worrying when schools are opening and universities are going to be going back.”

  • TUC report: Fixing social care: better quality services and jobs A new TUC report shows adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010. The analysis finds that in 112 of the 150 responsible local authorities, social care spending per head of the population is still below 2010.
    "Spending per head is 8% below the level in 2010 for England overall. And regional reductions range from 18% in London, to 5% in the South East, East Midlands and East of England."

  • Coronavirus: Further 2,988 cases confirmed in UK BBC Sept 6 report: “A further 2,988 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the UK in the past 24 hours, government data showed. It is the highest number reported on a single day since 22 May and a rise of 1,175 on Saturday, according to the UK government's coronavirus dashboard.
    “Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "concerned" about a rise in cases "predominantly among young people". Two further deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded, taking the total number of UK deaths to 41,551.
    “…Despite the sharp rise in cases, Mr Hancock said the government was right to reopen schools "because of the impact on children of not getting an education", adding that workplaces which have reopened are "Covid-secure".”

  • More than 1,000 UK doctors want to quit NHS over handling of pandemic Guardian Sept 5 report: "Over 1,000 doctors plan to quit the NHS because they are disillusioned with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and frustrated about their pay, a new survey has found.
    "The doctors either intend to move abroad, take a career break, switch to private hospitals or resign to work as locums instead, amid growing concern about mental health and stress levels in the profession.
    “NHS doctors have come out of this pandemic battered, bruised and burned out”, said Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, president of the Doctors’ Association UK, which undertook the research. The large number of medics who say they will leave the NHS within three years is “a shocking indictment of the government’s failure to value our nation’s doctors,” she added. “These are dedicated professionals who have put their lives on the line time and time again to keep patients in the NHS safe, and we could be about to lose them.”

  • NHS worker who has spent 17 years trying to comply with Home Office red tape now faces being kicked out of UK Independent report September 4 on another triumph for racist laws: the Home Office, apparently now entirely staffed by nazis, is unmoved by concern for human rights, common decency – or the needs of the NHS which depends on migrant workers for its survival:
    "The NHS IT engineer, who has been working in hospitals throughout the coronavirus pandemic, has done his utmost to comply with Home Office immigration rules since arriving in the UK 17 years ago – but his attempts have wound up placing him at risk of removal from the country.
    "Farrukh’s immigration history is a complex one, through no fault of his own. The Manchester resident been affected by two Home Office policies that were later found to be unlawful – and has been struggling to release himself from the restrictions they imposed on him ever since."

  • Coronavirus tests run out in north-east England as cases surge Guardian Sept 4 with another episode of total shambolic incompetence from Dido Harding’s privatised Test and Trace, now also impacting on hospitals’ ability to deliver testing:
    “Coronavirus tests are running out in parts of north-east England despite cases rising to the highest level in months, political leaders have said amid growing concern over the government’s rationing of tests.
    “Health officials in Gateshead said tests were running out within two hours of becoming available, by 10am “at the very latest”, despite a recent surge in cases meaning the area has one of the highest infection rates in England.
    “The Guardian understands that Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth hospital ran out of chemical reagents for swab tests on Wednesday night and was unable to get a new batch until Friday afternoon. The hospital was only able to continue testing patients when other NHS laboratories stepped in to help.
    “Martin Gannon, the Gateshead council leader, said the lack of tests was “more than worrying” at a time of rising infections. “We’ve run out of tests,” he said. “It’s diabolical. At a time when we’re opening schools, we’ve got an empty void of tests. You can’t control a situation when you haven’t got the facilities to do it.”

  • TREK and Trace: Route-planner reveals how Britons with Covid symptoms are forced on near 500-mile round-trips to test centres (because the government website assumes people can 'walk on water') Daily Heil Sept 4 picks up on the widespread anger that ridiculous software failures of test and trace system show no improvement after months of operation:
    "The mapping system used by coronavirus test and trace system is sending people on near 500-mile journeys - because it measures the nearest centre 'as the crow flies'.
    "Locator software is picking geographically close testing centres without realising visitors would need to 'walk on water' to get there in a short amount of time or distance.
    "It means families in Ilfracombe, Devon, have been told to drive to Swansea in Wales, which is 30 miles as the crow flies, but 350 miles and seven hours by road."

  • Covid-19 set to widen the gap between the fittest and fattest, as impromptu lockdown and self-isolation ‘triggered weight gain’ Sept 4 inews report with the unsurprising finding that "People who are generally healthier to begin with, probably more affluent, living in nicer areas and are motivated have been more resilient during lockdown".

  • UK test and trace system has failed because of privatisation ideology, public health experts warn Independent Sept 4 report: “The poor performance of the UK’s national coronavirus test and trace system is down to the government’s “ideology” and obsession with using the private sector, a senior public health expert has warned.
    “Professor Anthony Costello, a former director of maternal and child health at the World Health Organisation and former director of UCL’s Institute for Global Health, said the system designed by the government had “failed” and that it was up to experts to raise the alarm.
    “We are seven months into a pandemic,” Prof Costello told a briefing hosted by the Independent Sage group.
    “We’ve got a fiasco; we’ve been presenting evidence for months about how contact tracing is failing, and how the national testing system is failing.
    “The whole thing is public health malpractice and it’s being designed [and] led by government ideology. They wanted a private system; it has failed, and we need to keep saying that.”

  • UK test and trace system has failed because of privatisation ideology, public health experts warn Independent Sept 4 report quoting Prof Anthony Costello:
    “We are seven months into a pandemic,” Prof Costello told a briefing hosted by the Independent Sage group.
    “We’ve got a fiasco; we’ve been presenting evidence for months about how contact tracing is failing, and how the national testing system is failing.
    “The whole thing is public health malpractice and it’s being designed [and] led by government ideology. They wanted a private system; it has failed, and we need to keep saying that.”

  • Norfolk sets up own contact tracing scheme after problems with national one Eastern Daily Press Sept 4: “Norfolk is launching its own version of the test-and-trace programme, after the coronavirus outbreak at Banham Poultry exposed shortcomings in the national scheme.
    “As cases spread among poultry workers at the meat factory in Attleborough from August 21, local public health officials were left relying on the national contact tracing programme to find people who had spent time with the 104 infected workers.
    “But as of Tuesday only half of those contacts had been traced.
    “It comes as the national tracing system sunk to its worst performance ever, reaching just 70pc of contacts. By contrast, local systems set up by other councils are reaching 97pc of people.
    “Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman described the national system as having “real issues” and said councils should be put in charge.
    “Norfolk County Council has now posted several job adverts on LinkedIn for the scheme.”

  • Coronavirus: Testing boss 'very sorry' for shortages Six months after the initial revelations of chaos in the privatised system for testing for Covid 19, the Guardian Sept 3 reports the chaos is unresolved – and NHS Test and Trace boss Dido Harding is making use of her extensive experience of apologising for failure she has presided over:
    “Bosses in charge of the coronavirus testing system have apologised after it emerged UK labs were struggling to keep up with demand. Some people are being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.
    “UK labs were described as "maxed out" after a rise in demand - 170,000 tests a day are being processed, up from 100,000 in mid June.
    “Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace in England, said she was "very sorry" for the situation. But she also insisted the "vast majority" of people could still get appointments nearby.”

  • Private Cancer Patients in U.K. May Be Avoiding Care Backlog bloomberg Sept 3 report: "An increase in the number of insurance claims for oncology services during the coronavirus pandemic suggests that patients with private health care are paying their way out of a backlog burdening the U.K.’s National Health Service.
    "Urgent cancer referrals under the NHS, Britain’s publicly funded health-care system, remained at less than 80% of 2019 levels as of June, according to the latest figures available from NHS England. Meanwhile, oncology insurance invoices for private treatments had almost returned to 2019 volumes in the same month, data from clearing house Healthcode show.
    "That may indicate that private hospitals have been able to restart services quicker and patients are paying to avoid delays, according to Pat Price, visiting professor at the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London."

  • Mental health trust admits discharge of 300 young people from waiting list was ‘decision’ Eastern Daily Press Sept 3 with yet another shocking revelation about the most scandal-ridden mental health trust in England:
    “The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) sent a letter to hundreds of patients on waiting for access to children and young people’s services at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.
    “The letter informed the patients they would no longer be getting any more appointments and said their referrals had been closed. The trust apologised at the time and said the letters “should not have been sent”. But NSFT have now admitted the incident was “not a clerical error”.
    “Speaking at a meeting of the county council’s health scrutiny committee - a group of elected councillors tasked with holding health services to account - Dr Sarah Maxwell, clinical director of children and young people’s services, said the letter was a “decision” taken by the trust.”

  • Two paediatric EDs in region to close for the winter HSJ Sept 3 worrying report on the planned closure of emergency paediatric services in the capital this coming winter:
    "Two of the five paediatric emergency departments in north central London are to close through the winter, HSJ has learnt.
    "The children and young person emergency department at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust will remain closed through the winter having started diverting its patients to the Whittington Health Trust in March due to covid.
    "However, the FT’s “specialist inpatient and day-case services, including cancer haemato-oncology and complex adolescents, will remain open,” according to the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group.
    "One of the Royal Free London FT’s paediatric EDs, at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, will also shut through winter. The trust’s Barnet Hospital site will reopen its paediatric ED and inpatient unit, as well as its CAMHS crisis services, having closed it in April."

  • Test and Trace has worst week since launch with 30% of close contacts missed ITV report Sept 3: "NHS Test and Trace has had its worst week since it was launched in May, with more than 30% of coronavirus close contacts being missed, the latest figures have revealed.
    "The heavily criticised programme has consistently missed thousands of people who may been infected with Covid-19, but the week ending August 26 saw the system achieve its lowest ever success rate, with just 69.4% of close contacts being reached.
    "This is down from 77.1% in the previous week, new figures from the Department of Health and Social Care revealed.
    "The statistics also showed that in the same week England recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases since June 3, with 6,732 new positive test results."

  • Coronavirus: Testing boss 'very sorry' for shortages BBC news Sept 3: "Bosses in charge of the coronavirus testing system have apologised after it emerged UK labs were struggling to keep up with demand.
    "Some people are being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.
    "UK labs were described as "maxed out" after a rise in demand - 170,000 tests a day are being processed, up from 100,000 in mid June.
    "Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace in England, said she was "very sorry" for the situation. But she also insisted the "vast majority" of people could still get appointments nearby."

  • Test and Trace has worst week since launch with 30% of close contacts missed ITV news Sept 3: "The heavily criticised programme has consistently missed thousands of people who may been infected with Covid-19, but the week ending August 26 saw the system achieve its lowest ever success rate, with just 69.4% of close contacts being reached.
    "This is down from 77.1% in the previous week, new figures from the Department of Health and Social Care revealed.
    "The statistics also showed that in the same week England recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases since June 3, with 6,732 new positive test results."

  • Labour accuses government of “rewarding private sector failings” in test and trace This Labour List story slams health secretary Matt Hancock's claims that 80% of people who have been in contact with somebody who has Covid are contacted. In fact, private firms such as Serco have only managed to contact 60% of those who have been in contact with people who tested positive for Covid-19.

  • Care home visits: another area of confusion surrounding the UK’s COVID-19 response Have we overlooked the human rights of care home residents to prevent the spread of a disease?

  • Understanding changes to mortality during the pandemic Excluding reported COVID-19 deaths, deaths in hospitals have fallen sharply and remained below average since March. At the same time, deaths in private homes have risen by similar amounts. What does this tell us about access to care, asks The Health Foundation?

  • Patients at risk as cash-strapped councils outsource services in middle of pandemic, warn NHS bosses Independent September 2 report on the latest spread of the privatisation virus:
    "Nurses and essential healthcare staff could be left redundant in the middle of the pandemic as local authorities look to make changes to healthcare contracts that would leave patients facing major disruption, NHS bosses have warned.
    "NHS Providers, which represents all NHS trusts, and NHS Confederation, which represents health and care organisations, said that the decision to put contracts for public health services out to tender as workers battle coronavirus in the community is “completely inappropriate” and a “damaging distraction”, creating uncertainty for those who have spent the past six months on the Covid-19 frontline.
    "Labour warned that the move by cash-strapped councils was “risky” and would undermine preparations for a potential second wave of coronavirus.
    "Many NHS trusts and foundation trusts across England deliver community health service contracts that are commissioned by local authorities. These include public health services, such as home visits and school nursing, and some mental health services."

  • Patients at risk as cash-strapped councils outsource services in middle of pandemic, warn NHS bosses Independent Sept 2 on yet another acceleration of privatisation during the pandemic: “Nurses and essential healthcare staff could be left redundant in the middle of the pandemic as local authorities look to make changes to healthcare contracts that would leave patients facing major disruption, NHS bosses have warned.
    “… Many NHS trusts and foundation trusts across England deliver community health service contracts that are commissioned by local authorities. These include public health services, such as home visits and school nursing, and some mental health services.
    “Since the beginning of the pandemic, several have started the retendering process for their community health contracts, The Independent has been told, raising the prospect that these services could be placed into the hands of private providers.”

  • Lockdown reimposed in Greater Manchester areas in latest U-turn Guardian Sept 2: "The government has reimposed “crude, blanket” lockdown restrictions on half a million people in Greater Manchester just 12 hours after they were lifted after a rise in infections.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said Trafford and Bolton would remain under enhanced restrictions banning gatherings in homes and gardens “following a significant change in the level of infection rates over the last few days”.
    "Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, welcomed the change of heart but warned confusing local lockdowns were “becoming less and less effective”."

  • NHS patient backlog threatens to undermine return to pre-pandemic service FT report Sept 2: “At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, England’s NHS found beds for everyone who was admitted who needed them, defying grim predictions that a wave of Covid-19 patients would overwhelm its wards.
    “But as clinicians and managers seek to return to a semblance of normality ahead of a possible winter surge in Covid cases, the price of this achievement is becoming increasingly apparent in a massive accumulation of cases that could undermine the NHS for years.
    “Health leaders’ decision to halt all non-emergency surgery from mid-April to free up beds for virus patients threatens to lengthen waiting lists to historic levels, with one estimate suggesting the number of people waiting for treatment in England could hit 10m by the end of the year.”

  • Dozens of health organisations unite to challenge rushed reorganisation of public health Left Foot Forward Sept 2 reports: "Today over 70 health organisations and alliances have sent a joint statement to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health, and the interim leadership of Public Health England, raising serious concerns about the reorganisation of public health now underway. This follows recent announcements that PHE will cease to exist by April next year and be replaced by the National Institute of Health Protection.
    "The statement below is endorsed by a wide range of leading health organisations, including the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, the SPECTRUM public health research collaboration, the Smokefree Action Coalition and the Richmond Group of health and care charities."

  • Twenty-one ‘wholly preventable’ patient safety incidents reported in private hospitals last year Independent Sept 2 reports that with less than half of private hospitals supplying data "There were 21 “wholly preventable” patient safety incidents of the most serious category at private hospitals last year, new data has shown, as NHS bosses prepare to invest up to £10bn in the sector.
    "This is the first time that a comprehensive dataset of so-called ‘Never Events’ within private hospitals has been published in the UK, and comes ahead of plans to outsource both inpatient and outpatient services, routine surgery operations and cancer treatment to private providers.
    "The audit conducted by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), established in 2014 to bring greater transparency to the private health sector, showed that 287 out of 595 private hospitals and NHS private patient units (PPUs) provided information on Never Events between 1 January and 31 December 2019."

  • Major A&E shake-up plans to be rolled out in coming weeks HSJ Sept 2 with an exclusive, and worrying news, especially for mental health patients, and for those who wish to see risk minimised rather than the NHS encouraged to take more risks:
    "Pilots for a new urgent care model requiring walk-in patients to book slots in emergency departments are expected to be rolled out in at least one site in every health system in the coming weeks, HSJ has learned.
    "The move comes amid concerns from trust managers who warned some 111 providers’ systems were too “risk averse” and were sending too many patients who could have been treated in other care settings to hospitals.
    "Local managers believe NHS 111 not directing enough people to alternative services was a cause of a critical incident at Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust’s emergency services earlier this month, HSJ understands. And trust leaders in other parts of the country are understood to have similar concerns."

  • Coronavirus in South Africa: Misuse of Covid-19 funds 'frightening' BBC, not so keen on revealing problems at home, happy on Sept 2 to carry details of dodgy dealing throusands of miles away, as if it was not already grimly familiar:
    “A scathing report into the use of South Africa's Covid-19 relief fund has revealed overpricing and potential fraud, the auditor general says.
    “Kimi Makwetu says the audit uncovered "frightening findings". In some cases personal protective equipment (PPE) was bought for five times more than the price the national treasury had advised.
    “The report also has flagged up 30,000 relief grants which "require further investigation".
    “Mr Makwetu has been tracking the spending of 500 billion rand ($26bn; £19bn) which is equivalent to 10% of the country's gross domestic product.”

  • Palatir is a long way from sustainable profits Chartr (Sept2) with an interesting insight into the American company which is being gifted all UK Covid test data (including LOTS of personal information).
    “Last year Palantir generated a little over $740m in revenue but spent more than $1.3bn to earn those sales, resulting in a whopping $576m loss from operations. For such a secretive company, the $450m they spent on sales and marketing is also quite a chunk of change.
    “… Palantir's business model is fascinating.
    “A lot of companies don't care about burning cash, but Palantir really doesn't care.
    “One of Palantir's first investors was the CIA, through their venture capital arm, and a huge portion of their revenue comes from governments – primarily the US.
    “When you are implicitly backed by the government, have the government as your client and are developing critical infrastructure for data management in 2020 it seems like a fairly safe bet that you aren't going to be allowed to go broke.”

  • Number of gonorrhoea cases highest since records began ITV News Sept 2 with the latest take on 'clap for the NHS":
    "The number of gonorrhoea cases diagnosed in England in 2019 reached its highest level since records began more than 100 years ago, official data shows.
    "A total of 70,936 cases were reported last year - up by more than a quarter from 2018.
    "It is the largest annual number reported since records began in 1918 and is a continuation of an upward trend in recent years, according to Public Health England (PHE)."

  • Government procurement scandal continues with £43.8 million PPE contract for dormant firm Byline Times Sept 2 update on the procurement scandal “The Government awarded a whopping £43.8 million deal for the supply of hand sanitiser to a dormant firm, new documents reveal.
    “The contract was handed out by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), without going to competitive tender, and concluded on 1 March.
    “As revealed by Byline Times last week, TAEG Energy was listed on Companies House as a dormant company on 25 February – just a week before its multi-million-pound contract with the DHSC drew to a close.”

  • As NHS waiting times grow, its enemies are waiting to swoop Polly Toynbee's strong article in The Guardian September 1 sketches in just a part of the gathering storm of chaos and privatisation that is unfolding in and around the NHS, highlighting lengthening waiting times and avaricious private companies in the wings lining up for plum contracts to be awarded with minimal if any competition.

  • Executives all white in city where 40pc of population is BAME Shocking statistics on institutionalised racism from HSJ Sept 1: "Every current executive director at the five NHS trusts in Birmingham is white, despite more than 40 per cent of the city’s population being from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
    "The largest trust in the city, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, as well as the specialist Royal Orthopaedic FT, do not appear to have had a BAME executive for at least 20 years.
    "The other trusts are Birmingham Women’s and Children’s FT, Birmingham Community Healthcare FT and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. The latter said it has a new executive from a BAME background due to start in November.
    "None has a chair from a BAME background either, although there are several non-executive directors from a BAME background. "

  • As a paramedic in England, I’m shocked at assaults on ambulance staff during Covid Guardian Sept 1 revelations from a paramedic on today's English public:
    "The outpouring of appreciation for NHS staff during the Covid-19 crisis has been extraordinary. Yet reports of a recent rise in attacks on emergency workers, including ambulance crews, in England and Wales suggests the Thursday evening applause was hiding a less positive reality.
    "Abuse of emergency workers is a growing issue: a 2018 survey found that 72% of ambulance staff have been attacked on duty, and figures have repeatedly pointed to an upward trend. As an NHS paramedic for 10 years, this aligns with my own experience."

  • Coronavirus cases soar in northern towns as pleas to stay in lockdown 'ignored' Mirror report September 1, prior to the belated government U-turn on lifting the lockdown in Trafford and Bolton: "Council leaders in northern towns where coronavirus infections are spiking claim the Government is ignoring their pleas for local lockdowns to stay in place.
    "In Greater Manchester, the leaders in Bolton and Trafford do not want their towns to emerge from their respective lockdowns on Wednesday, fearing the number of new cases could soar even higher.
    "Cllr Andrew Western claimed Trafford's pleas for the restrictions to be extended were "completely ignored" and the Government decided to "overrule" the council despite the town's infection rate being three times higher than the national average.
    "Bolton has entered the Covid-19 "red alert" level with a 200% increase in cases, and asked the Government to keep the town in a local lockdown in a bid to halt a "sudden, concerning and unpredicted" spike, the Manchester Evening News reported."

  • Johnson backtracks on meeting group for Covid-19 bereaved Guardian September 1 reports on another broken Johnson promise:
    "Boris Johnson has declined to meet members of a campaign group representing families bereaved by coronavirus, despite appearing to promise to do so on live TV last week.
    "Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, which says it represents 1,600 bereaved families, is campaigning for a rapid public inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic and is taking legal action to force one, sending pre-action letters to the government.
    "Challenged live on Sky News last week about repeated requests from the group for a face-to-face meeting, the prime minister said he was “not aware” of their letters, but “of course” he would meet them.
    "The Guardian has seen a letter from the prime minister that now declines to meet the group’s representatives, saying it was “regrettably not possible”."

  • Government spends £364 MILLION on coveralls but delivers just 432,000 The excellent Byline Times Sept 1 reveals another colossal display of incompetence in PPE procurement:
    “The Government has spent £364 million purchasing ‘coveralls’ from private companies during the Coronavirus pandemic – but has delivered just 432,000 items for use in health and social care services.
    “Government documents show that it has awarded several multi-million-pound contracts to private firms for the supply of coveralls – full body boilersuits – over recent months. However, similarly, Government statistics up until 23 August show that fewer than 500,000 coveralls have been delivered to the frontline, including just 15,000 in the most recent week recorded.
    “…Taken together, this represents a Government outlay of £842.60 per coverall delivered.”

  • Pharma industry calls on UK to support medical research charities FT (September 1) reports “More than 30 pharmaceutical companies and business groups have written to UK prime minister Boris Johnson urging the government to plug a £310m financing gap faced by medical research charities that work closely with industry to fund and develop drugs.
    “Companies at the forefront of Covid-19 drug development, including AstraZeneca, Novartis, Pfizer and Roche, wrote to Mr Johnson on Tuesday to urge him to take ‘urgent action to preserve the vital contribution medical research charities make to life sciences in this country’.”

  • 50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event Gallup (Sept 1) with another horror story from the dysfunctional health care industry in the US: "Half of all U.S. adults are concerned that a major health event in their household could lead to bankruptcy, an increase from 45% measured in early 2019 (PDF download). These results, based on a new study by West Health and Gallup, also show that the percentage of non-White adults who harbor this concern has risen from 52% to 64%.
    "…Amid rising concerns nationally about bankruptcy arising from a significant health event, 15% of adults report that at least one person in their household currently has medical debt that will not be repaid -- either in full or in part -- within the next 12 months. This includes 12% of White adults and 20% of non-White adults.
    "Those in households earning less than $40,000 per year are more than four times as likely as those in households earning $100,000 or more to be carrying long-term medical debt (28% vs. 6%, respectively)."

  • England test-and-trace system in global 'top tranche', says Hancock Guardian Sept 1 on hapless Hancock still insisting the test and trace system not only works but is among the best in the world:
    "“The health secretary was asked by the Conservative MP Jack Lopresti how his assessment of the performance of NHS test and trace compared with the equivalent programme in other countries and what lessons the system in England was learning from its counterparts, including in Germany and South Korea.
    “Hancock replied: “Well, of course, we learn the lessons and I talk to my international counterparts, including in Germany and South Korea. Actually, compared to international systems … we are now absolutely in the top tranche and we’re constantly looking all around the world to how we can improve the operation of test and trace.”
    “… Justin Madders, a Labour shadow health minister, accused Hancock of wasting public money on private companies that had so far not performed well enough. “In some areas private companies involved in test and trace have been reaching less than half of the contacts they’re supposed to, not the 80% that [Hancock] claims.”

  • Where Is America’s Groundbreaking Covid-19 Research? New York Times Sept 1 Opinion piece contrasting commercial medicine in the US with the public system in the UK: "Americans and American biomedical researchers have often prided themselves on conducting the best clinical research in the world. Yet with over six million coronavirus cases and 183,000 deaths, the United States has produced little pathbreaking clinical research on treatments to reduce cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Even one of the most important U.S. studies to date, which showed that the antiviral drug remdesivir could reduce the time Covid-19 patients spent in the hospital to 11 days from about 15, had too few subjects to demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in mortality.
    "Progress on therapeutics research has been a very different story in Britain. In mid-March researchers there began a randomized evaluation of Covid-19 therapies, known as Recovery, that involves every hospital in the nation. The goal was to conduct large, rapid and simple randomized trials to define standard treatment. Some 12,000 patients were quickly randomized — that is, assigned by chance to receive different treatments — and within 100 days of the effort’s start, researchers made three major discoveries that transformed Covid-19 care worldwide."

  • COVID-19 has eroded confidence in the U.S. health care system PBS Sept 1 report on the erosion of the continued mass delusions of millions of Americans who believe their dysfunctional and wasteful system is better than others :
    "Overall, 42 percent of Americans say their nation’s health care system is above average compared to the rest of the world, with adults age 45 or older also more likely to feel pretty good about their health care system compared to younger generations. That perception has shifted little during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is one held by 74 percent Republicans, 40 percent of independents and 22 percent of Democrats. It’s a partisan divide also apparent in those who say the U.S. health care system is not so great, which include 55 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans.
    "More than half of U.S. adults — 55 percent — say they have a favorable impression of universal health care coverage, which the U.S. lacks. That’s up slightly from 52 percent in February.
    "The COVID-19 pandemic shook the way many Americans viewed health care in their country, said Dr. Ashish Jha, who has directed the Harvard Global Health Institute and is the incoming dean for the Brown University School of Public Health. “It made people feel our health care system is not nearly as good as we thought it was,” Jha said."

  • Visa delays keep hundreds of doctors on NHS waiting list Financial Times August 31 notes the disastrous impact of government immigration restrictions:
    “Overseas doctors recruited to the UK have described how weeks of delays in processing their immigration applications have held them up, preventing them from filling hundreds of critical vacancies in the NHS.
    “The staff are currently in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other countries waiting mostly for “vignettes” — passport stamps that will allow them to travel to and work in the UK before they receive long-term residence permits.
    “A doctor awaiting a vignette in Saudi Arabia estimated there were 200 doctors held up by some kind of UK visa issue in her country alone. Julia Patterson, founder of Every Doctor, a support group for medical staff, whose supporters brought the issue to her attention, said she estimated several hundred doctors were affected in multiple countries.”

  • A Quick Virus Test? Sure, If You Can Afford It New York Times August 31 on another aspect of inequality in US health care:
    "As major laboratories struggle to meet surging demand for coronavirus tests, wealthier people and others in privileged professions are avoiding long waits for results — anywhere from four days to more than two weeks in New York City — by skipping the lines.
    "Some are signing up for concierge medical practices that charge several thousand dollars a year for membership and provide quick turnaround testing. Others have turned to smaller laboratories or doctors’ offices that have their own equipment and can give results in a few hours or less.
    “So far, we have tested 12 billionaires,” said Dr. Andrew Brooks, chief executive of Infinity BiologiX, a New Jersey-based company that developed a saliva test used by professional athletes, universities and financial institutions. “This concern is universal.”

  • With Canada and Mexico borders closed, Americans are trapped in their own health care system CNN August 31 report on more suffering in Trump's US: "Pandemic travel restrictions have made Americans prisoners of their country. Even within North America, Mexico and Canada have closed thousands of miles of border to all but essential travel, roiling plans for vacation, work, and school. For cash-strapped Americans, it has also cut off access to medicines and health care services that they can't afford at home -- at a time when money is tighter than ever."

  • Revealed: How, on every measure, Britain's response to the Covid pandemic has been woeful Unusual critical view in Boris Johnson's former employer's newspaper, concluding:
    "So how has Britain performed? As of August 10, the UK had the highest confirmed Covid-19 death toll in Europe and the second-highest confirmed Covid-19 deaths per capita in the world.
    "On the better measure of per capita excess deaths, Britain had the highest count in Europe and the third highest in the world. The UK also has the worst case mortality rate in the world, reflecting its Covid testing capacity which remains relatively low."

  • Coronavirus: Winter plans revealed in leaked Sage report BBC August 29 report: “A leaked government report suggests a "reasonable worst case scenario" of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter due to Covid-19. The document also says while more restrictions could be re-introduced, schools would likely remain open.But it says the report "is a scenario, not a prediction" and the data are subject to "significant uncertainty".
    “However some are critical of the modelling and say some of it is already out of date.
    “The document, which has been seen by BBC Newsnight, was prepared for the government by the Sage scientific advisory group, which aims to help the NHS and local authorities plan services, such as mortuaries and burial services, for the winter months ahead.
    “Among its key assumptions are that schools will remain open and that the government's tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40% effective in cutting the spread of Covid outside households.”

  • Exclusive: Tory Peer Dido Harding Pockets £65,000 For Two-Day-A-Week NHS Job The Huffington Post reports Dido Harding, the former TalkTalk chief has been paid a total of £175,000 since starting NHS Improvement role. The Tory peer has been widely criticised over responsibility for England’s test-and-trace system and has also been named chair of Public Health England's replacement agency the National Institute for Health Protection.

  • Watchdog takes action against scandal-hit hospital after patients infected with coronavirus Independent report 28 August: "East Kent University Hospitals Trust has been warned by the Care Quality Commission to take urgent steps after inspectors found patients on wards were being put at risk of contracting the virus.
    "It is thought to be the first time the CQC has used its regulatory powers against a hospital due to fears patients were at risk of catching the virus.
    "The Independent understands that the Care Quality Commission became concerned about the infection rate at the trust last month, when at one stage deaths from Covid-19 there accounted for almost 12 per cent of all hospital deaths in England."

  • Give all NHS staff a wage rise immediately of at least £2k, says UNISON UNISON 28 August Press Release: "A pay claim submitted by UNISON to the government today (Friday) would see every NHS employee receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of this year.
    "UNISON – which is the UK’s biggest union and represents NHS staff including healthcare assistants, radiographers, porters, midwives and paramedics – says this rise is the equivalent of around £1 an hour for all staff.
    "If the claim is accepted, minimum wages in the health service would go above £20,000 a year for the first time (more than £20,400 annually in Scotland), according to the union."

  • A new relationship between the NHS, people and communities: learning from COVID-19 NHS Confederation's new document drips with platitudes, but seems to offer no actual commitment to take heed of the views of communities when forcing through half-baked plans for local hospital cuts, closures and "centralisation" of services with little or no regard for transport and access issues.

  • Data on Covid care home deaths kept secret 'to protect commercial interests' Guardian 27 August report brings news that information on the performance of care homes is being withheld to protect the profits of the owners:
    "Covid-19 death tolls at individual care homes are being kept secret by regulators in part to protect providers’ commercial interests before a possible second coronavirus surge, the Guardian can reveal.
    "England’s Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Care Inspectorate in Scotland are refusing to make public which homes or providers recorded the most fatalities amid fears it could undermine the UK’s care system, which relies on private operators.
    "In response to freedom of information requests, the regulators said they were worried that the supply of beds and standards of care could be threatened if customers left badly affected operators."

  • UK sees highest number of new Covid-19 cases since mid-June Guardian August 27 report warns that as schools prepare to reopen:
    "The UK has recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases since 12 June, with government figures reporting 1,522 positive cases.
    "The number of new cases, which cover the 24 hours to 9am on 27 August, were up 474 on the previous day.
    "The average number of cases confirmed in the past seven days stood at 1,155, the highest rolling average recorded since 22 June.
    "Both the daily case number and the seven-day rolling average are both higher than on 23 March , the day national lockdowns were announced (967 daily cases and 730 cases on a seven-day rolling average)."

  • Fuller care homes with fewer staff had more Covid cases, study finds Guardian August 27 reveals 'no shit, Sherlock' findings from UCL and Public Health England:
    "Higher occupancy and fewer staff increased Covid-19 infections at one of the UK’s biggest private care home operators, according to a study that raises questions about the business model for old-age care in Britain.
    "There was a significant increase in infection in 179 Four Seasons Health Care homes that were almost or entirely full, compared with those that had as many as a quarter of their beds empty, researchers at University College London (UCL) found.
    "Higher resident-to-staff ratios at the private equity-owned chain were also linked to more infections – a finding which follows a Public Health England (PHE) study that found the virus was spread by temporary agency workers used to make up for low staff numbers."

  • Local lockdowns based on arbitrary figures are punishing England's poorest Opinion from Guardian August 27, notes underlying issues of inequality:
    “The current watchlist is dominated by areas of deprivation: Bradford (ranked the 13th most deprived local authority in England), Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Oldham and Leicester are at the top of the watchlist. They are all in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in England.
    “The higher number of detected cases in these deprived areas is highly predictable. A built environment provides numerous opportunities for transmission of infection: high population density and overcrowded housing present the ideal conditions.
    “In England, about 3% of the population live in overcrowded accommodation; this is much more prevalent among lower-income households.
    “And while 2% of white households experienced overcrowding from 2014 to 2017, that number is much higher in ethnic minorities – it shoots up to 30% in Bangladeshi households.”

  • The universal health coverage ambition faces a critical test Lancet article shows the inadequacy of the current system of evaluating the extent to which developing countries have achieved universal health coverage -- leaving out key issues of unequal access.

  • Discharge money doesn’t reflect the reality HSJ's Sharon Brennan August 27 with a critical analysis of the government's new guidance on discharge from hospital (See August 21 Infolink below):
    "The new discharge operating model, released last week by the Department of Health and Social Care, has raised questions around five key areas: the feasibility of the asks on family members; the capacity of therapy staff and community services; the role of adult social care; and how much of a barrier the reinstatement of NHS Continuing Healthcare will become.
    "The guidance said 50 per cent of people can go home with little or no support and a further 45 per cent with up to six weeks of community care paid for by the government.
    "While the latter is universally welcomed to prevent a return to the delayed discharges that hampered the system last winter, there will be a reliance on family support that hadn’t been present before the pandemic."

  • PPE providers, the firm behind school meal vouchers and the NHS locum medic bank among big winners making millions as Government pays private firms £6.5BILLION during COVID crisis Surprising critique of extent of government spending on dodgy private providers from the Tory-supporting Daily Heil :
    “The analysis shows 1,262 contracts have been handed out to date, worth a total of £6.61billion. Some £2.6billion of contracts were handed out in June alone. The Department of Health, as the lead department in the crisis, has so far spent £3.6billion on 334 contracts.
    “The overall largest contract was handed out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is paying £750million on its Covid -19 Infection Survey (CIS), which provides data on how the pandemic is affecting the country.
    “It comes amid criticism over how many of the contracts, some worth hundreds of millions of pounds, were awarded.”

  • The IBMS outlines and assesses the principal testing options currently available for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19). The Institute of Biomedical Science assesses the principal testing options currently available for SARS-CoV-2 in the hope that it will support scientists and lab professionals in selecting and advising on appropriate testing routes for patients. In particular it notes the extra costs and reduced reliability of "rapid testing" techniques:
    "• Rapid testing is not a replacement for the laboratory based PCR test.
    • It must only be used in the patient context that it has been approved and validated to undertake
    • These tests often have a low level of sensitivity
    • It should be used only where it is clinically appropriate to improve patient outcomes and no equivalent laboratory alternative is available
    • Rapid testing is the most expensive modality of testing.
    • Rapid testing is labour intensive per sample processed when compared to traditional laboratory testing.
    • Systems and processes must be in place to ensure that results are physically linked to the patient health record – these often require manual interventions."

  • North West Anglia’s health heroes face being sold out of the NHS August 26 warning from UNISON and Unite over the threat to outsource over 70 catering, logistics and patient services staff in Peterborough, Hinchingbrooke and Stamford & Rutland hospitals to a private provider.
    “Not only will staff suffer as they will no longer be entitled to NHS pay and conditions, but patients will likely experience deteriorating standards as a new private employer looks to save money and squeeze a profit out of the contract,” warn the unions.
    “Plans for the North West Anglia Hospitals Trust’s award-winning catering team would be particularly harmful, warn the unions. A new firm would no longer freshly prepare food at Hinchingbrooke but will bring in pre-cooked food which unions fear will drive down standards for patients, their relatives and staff.
    “The Trust wants the 70-plus staff to join more than 100 other cleaning, portering and retail staff currently employed by three other outsourcers, bringing them under a single private employer.
    “The unions say that single employer should be the NHS but so far the Trust is not even considering an in-house bid.”

  • Privatisation of Tyneside GP services August 26 clip from BBC's Sharon Barbour, in which ⁦@NTyneCCG tries to explain why it has awarded the first contract of its kind to offer 220,000 patients in North Tyneside given free access to GP consultations – through private Swedish company Livi.

  • National contact tracers miss nearly a quarter of potentially-exposed Cumbria residents Cumbrian local newspaper The Mail August 26 confirms that the failure of track & trace is down to the privatised national system, while the strengths are local:
    "NATIONAL contact tracers have missed almost a quarter of potentially at-risk residents in Cumbria, new figures show.
    "Government statistics revealed that 78 per cent of potentially-exposed people were reached across the county.
    "The revelation heaps further pressure on Number 10 over the contracts awarded to outsourcing giants Serco and Sitel - worth hundreds of millions of pounds - to lead the flagship national scheme.
    "According to the figures, the contact tracers hired as part of the national programme have failed to reach nearly half of potentially-exposed people in areas with some of the highest infection rates in England.
    "In the country’s 20 worst-hit areas, the firms reached just 54 per cent of people who had been in close proximity to an infected person, leaving more than 21,000 exposed residents un-contacted."

  • Government awards£8.4 million in PPE procurement contracts to dormant firm Byline Times report August 25 on an apparently never-ending catalogue of incompetence in procurement:
    "Government documents released yesterday show that two contracts for the delivery of hand sanitiser were awarded to Taeg Energy Limited, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
    "The first contract began and ended on 19 April – at a time when 1,000 people a day were dying in the UK from COVID-19 – suggesting the delivery of one bulk order. The value of this contract was £4.208 million and was replicated the very next day through a second, identical contract."

  • Flaws in Test and Trace online booking sends symptomatic people on 350-mile drives Independent August 25 report confirms that the early chaos on testing centres has not been resolved: "Some people suffering coronavirus symptoms who have tried to book a test online have been directed to centres which would take them more than three hours to reach by car, it has emerged.
    "One person from Ilfracombe in Devon who developed symptoms of Covid-19 – including a persistent cough, fever or loss of sense of taste or smell – was directed to a test centre in Swansea when they try to book a test online.
    "It would see them drive past centres in Taunton, Bristol and Cardiff on their six-and-a-half hour round trip, driving 175 miles in each direction."

  • Is Cuomo Directive to Blame for Nursing Home COVID Deaths, as US Official Claims? Kaiser Health News on the two-faced position of the Democrats over health care and nursing homes – wanting to criticise Trump while Biden and his supporters oppose calls for Medicare for All.
    “New York Governor Cuomo “has been dogged by criticism for months over his March advisory directing nursing homes in the state to accept patients who had or were suspected of having COVID-19. As long as they were medically stable, the notice said, it was appropriate to move patients in. Further, nursing homes were prohibited from requiring that medically stable prospective residents be tested for the virus before they arrived.
    “Between March 25 and May 8, approximately 6,326 COVID-positive patients were admitted to nursing homes, according to a state health department report.
    “… According to the COVID Tracking Project, 6,624 people have died of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in New York, accounting for 26% of the state’s 25,275 COVID deaths.
    “Some say the true number of deaths is much higher because, unlike many states, New York does not count the deaths of former nursing home residents who are transferred to hospitals and die there as nursing home deaths.”

  • The government is using the pandemic to give contracts to cronies Aug 24 article from Left Foot Forward lists a string of dodgy deals and points out:
    "Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, vowed to crush crony capitalism because it distorts free markets and enables a few to enrich themselves from political patronage.
    "The reality is different. Contrary to the stated government policy, contracts have been awarded without competitive tenders, and to businesses close to the Conservative Party. The details remain secret.
    "Cronyism is not new and is central to capitalism. Remember how the East India Company was sponsored by the state (Royal Charter) to plunder around the globe. The loot was shared by wealthy elites. The form may have changed but the symbiotic relationship between the UK state and corporations remains. "

  • The government is using the pandemic to give contracts to cronies. In Left Foot Forward's most read article of the week, Prem Sikka shows how in the first year of the Boris Johnson led Conservative administration, the government has squandered over £57bn on contracts that have delivered little or no value.

  • There is an urgent need to review the UK’s system of communicable disease control administration and its public health laws August 24 blog from CHPI's David Rowland:
    "Experts have been warning for decades about the dangers of a system of communicable disease control administration in the UK which is confused, irrational, and rests upon an outdated sets of laws, none of which have been framed to deliver a clear set of policy objectives. In 1988, Sir Donald Acheson, the former Chief Medical Officer described a system which was ‘positively baffling’, in 2003 a House of Lords Committee asked the government to draw a map of how the system worked, but it was unable to do so. Our own study into pandemic preparedness in 2013 identified a lack of clarity about ‘who does what and how the system is co-ordinated’.
    "The last time any UK government published a strategy document relating to infectious disease control was 18 years ago in 2002."

  • 16 consulting firms awarded government coronavirus contracts Consultancy.uk (Aug 24) with more revelations on squandered cash on management consultancy with little if any proven value:
    "The UK Government has once again come under fire for its spending on private consulting contractors, after it emerged the industry had received contracts worth £56 million to help with the national response to the coronavirus. Deloitte, Cambridge Consultants and PwC took the three largest fees, pocketing some £23 million between them.
    "Despite a recent edition of the respected Global Health Security Index predicting at the turn of the year that the UK was one of the best-positioned nations in the world to handle a pandemic, Government mismanagement of the situation quickly saw Britain spiral into crisis, amid the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. After a decade of austerity, the National Health Service had been left under-resourced and under-staffed, and hospitals quickly reached bursting point."

  • Deaths within 28 days of positive test Government's latest effort to manipulate the real figures downwards to make the British response to Covid less obviously a world-beating failure.
    The new figures include only "Number of deaths of people who had had a positive test result for COVID-19 and died within 28 days of the first positive test. The actual cause of death may not be COVID-19 in all cases. People who died from COVID-19 but had not tested positive are not included and people who died from COVID-19 more than 28 days after their first positive test are not included.

  • Coronavirus in Europe: dozens of Berlin schools report infections Guardian August 22 warning of the impact of schools reopening in Europe:
    "Coronavirus cases have been reported by at least 41 schools in Berlin, barely two weeks after the German capital’s 825 schools reopened.
    "Cases are rising across Europe, including in Spain, which registered 66,905 in the past two weeks, resulting in the continent’s highest 14-day infection rate and warnings over the risk of a new wave of deaths.
    "The disclosure by Berlin city education authorities that hundreds of students and teachers have had to quarantine has underlined once more how little is known about the risk of infection in school settings, despite the insistence of governments and experts, including in the UK, that reopening schools is safe given the right precautions."

  • Children's tooth decay costs NHS more than £40m a year in England Guardian August 22 on yet another health indicator that has been worsened by Covid:
    "Hospitals in England carried out almost 180 operations a day on children and teenagers last year to remove rotting teeth, costing the NHS more than £40m.
    "Figures show there were 44,685 surgical procedures to remove more than one tooth in those aged 18 and under in 2018/19, the majority driven by tooth decay. The figure for 2012/13 was 38,208. That equates to 177 operations every working day, at a total cost of £41.5m.
    "Local health officials fear that lockdown will drive up levels of tooth decay as youngsters snack on more sugary foods and drinks while stuck at home and community oral health programmes are interrupted."

  • FOI request re Rutherford Health & Somerset NHS Trust – with all key info redacted Huge secrecy surrounds the deal done between Karol Sikora's Rutherford Health company establishing a diagnostic partnership with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust. Every significant detail has been redacted from the document released under the Freedom of Information Act on the basis that it is "commercially sensitive".
    An uncharitable view would be that this is to hide monster profits which embarrass both the Trust and Sikora.

  • Study reveals alarming impact of Covid on care home sector Independent August 22 reveals the reality behind Matt Hancock's spurious claim to have thrown a protective ring around care homes:
    "Nursing homes were put under “constant” pressure to accept patients with coronavirus while being regularly refused treatment from hospitals and GPs for residents who became ill at the height of the Covid crisis, a landmark study has revealed.
    "The Queen’s Nursing Institute said homes were told hospitals had blanket “no admissions” policies during April and May while GPs and local managers imposed unlawful do not resuscitate orders on residents.
    "The findings have emerged in a survey by the QNI, the world’s oldest nursing charity, which surveyed 163 care home nurses and managers working across the country."

  • England's anti-obesity fight ‘at risk’ after Matt Hancock closes health agency Guardian Aug 22 on the implications of Hancock’s decisive moves to scrap Public Health England, a body for which he was responsible, and replace it with a new body with a reduced remit:
    “Health secretary Matt Hancock was under mounting pressure last night to say who will take responsibility for the national fight against obesity after his controversial decision to close down Public Health England caused dismay among experts.
    “Today shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth is writing to Hancock to demand answers, amid fury from campaigners and officials, who point out that it is less than a month since Boris Johnson, the prime minister, launched a national anti-obesity strategy, claiming it was crucial to the fight against Covid-19 and the nation’s health.
    “But last week Hancock pulled the plug on Public Health England, the body that has been responsible for fighting obesity, and announced that it would be replaced by the National Institute for Health Protection that would focus on external threats to the UK, pandemics and infectious diseases, but not inherit the public health protection roles of PHE.”

  • Firms linked to Tories have won £500m coronavirus contracts without having to bid Mirror August 22: "Firms linked to the Tory Party have won nearly £500million in pandemic contracts without having to bid.
    "Labour says at least 13 companies got the contracts with no competitive tendering.
    "Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: “There has been an alarming pattern of companies with links to the Conservatives doing well out of publicly funded projects during this pandemic.
    “People want their governments to use public money fairly and they don’t expect contracts to end up with ministers’ mates.” She is demanding an independent probe."

  • Mitigating public health risk from evictions Over the last few of weeks campaigners have been working hard to gather together health bodies such as the BMA, the Royal College of Physicians, and the Royal College of General Practitioners, Pathways, Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists among others, to write to the government calling on them to protect those experiencing housing insecurity during the coronavirus crisis.
    Housing is a key determinant of health and a right to good health means a right to have safe & secure housing.
    They sent a collective letter to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister Robert Jenrick, highlighting the serious public health risk posed by the ban on evictions ending on the 23rd August.
    The letter has now been covered in both the Financial Times and The Guardian.

  • Deloitte gets another huge COVID contract – for ‘crazy’ plan to test millions each day Open Democracy August 21 report on what could be another massive bonanza for private sector:
    "Last week, civil servants were instructed to carry out the plan for all 68 million people in the UK to be tested weekly, according to a senior civil service source familiar with the conversations. The ambitious cross-departmental plan, dubbed Operation Moonshot, anticipated a second peak of COVID-19 in the winter.
    "Civil servants greeted the scheme with widespread incredulity, given the government's previous record on testing and tracing, which has lagged well behind most other leading economies.
    "Those tasked with implementing the plan expressed doubt that it was even possible. One senior source told openDemocracy: "We all double-checked the figures," and they described the plans as "crazy"."

  • Outsourcing firms miss 46% of Covid contacts in England's worst-hit areas Guardian August 21 with another chapter in the failure of privatised track and trace:
    "Outsourcing companies leading the government’s flagship test-and-trace system have failed to reach nearly half of potentially exposed people in areas with the highest Covid infection rates in England, official figures show.
    "In the country’s 20 worst-hit areas, Serco and Sitel – paid £200m between them – reached only 54% of people who had been in close proximity to an infected person, meaning more than 21,000 exposed people were not contacted.
    "In Bradford, 42% of exposed people were reached, with 3,691 of those potentially infected not traced. In Birmingham, which was on Friday placed on the national watch list after a sharp rise in cases, 52% of close contacts were reached and 1,462 missed."

  • Hospitals still suing patients in coronavirus hotspots August 21 grim news from the US (axios.com):
    "The big picture: Almost all of the roughly two dozen Community Health Systems hospitals in Florida, Texas and Arizona have sued patients since the pandemic began. Many paused or slowed down in the spring, but then resumed business as usual over the summer — when these states were being hit hardest.
    "These hospitals have filed dozens — sometimes hundreds — of cases per county between Jan. 1 and Aug. 14 of this year, according to Axios’ review of court records in the counties that make them available online.
    "A random sampling of those lawsuits show that hospitals have sued to collect medical bills ranging from less than $1,000 to, in one case, $125,999.53."

  • Michael Gove's department alone spent £50m on consultants and marketing during Covid-19 crisis Mirror August 21 report on the gravy train to private consultants:
    "Michael Gove's department alone paid private firms £50 million of taxpayers cash for consultancy and marketing during the coronavirus crisis, new analysis shows.
    "The Mirror found a string of government contracts signed by the Cabinet Office for "consultancy services", "intelligence" and "media analysis" related to the Covid-19 epidemic from May to August 2020.
    "Many deals were handed out without any competition, under "urgent" procurement arrangements to react to the pandemic.
    "London-based start up Signal AI was paid almost £100,000 to perform "media analysis" on the Government's Covid-19 communications, while accountancy giant Deloitte was paid £3 million for "urgent" consultancy services.
    "Another "urgent" contract saw the taxpayer fund a £21,000 survey of the people of Tunisia about their attitudes to the coronavirus pandemic."

  • UK families bereaved by Covid-19 lose eligibility for welfare benefits Guardian August 21 report of government plans to gut their apparently generous previous pledges:
    "The families of low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers who die from coronavirus will be stripped of eligibility for welfare benefits if they receive a payout under the government’s Covid-19 compensation scheme, it has emerged.
    "Under the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme, the £60,000 lump sum breaches capital limits rules for most benefits, meaning that the recipient would unable to claim universal credit, housing benefit or pension credit."

  • England contact tracer: 'I haven't made one call in 12 weeks' Guardian Aug 21 lifts the lid on the disastrous privatised track and trace system:
    "“I was hired by a Serco sub-contractor to be a contact tracer in the north-west of England at the end of May, just as this supposedly world-beating national contact-tracing system began.
    “In 12 weeks I have not made a single call despite working 42 hours a week for £10.12 an hour. One of my friends started at the same time and they haven’t been assigned any cases either. We are not alone: we have a WhatsApp group comparing notes with other call handlers and quite a few haven’t had even one job the entire time."

  • SMOKE & MIRRORS The Government is Bashing Migrants to Distract from a Coronavirus Fiasco The Byline Times looks critically at the Government's sudden focus on refugees coming to England via small boat, and asks if this is meant as a distraction from its handling of the Covid crisis?

  • Covid-19: Healthcare professional is referred to regulator for delaying seeing a patient because of lack of PPE Though healthcare professionals we reassured they did not need to see patients if they did not have access to adequate PPE, a regulator is investigating a situation that involved just that.

  • NHS prepares to spend up to £10 billion on private hospital treatments Independent August 17 on plans for a truly massive potential flow of NHS cash to private hospitals:
    “The health service could spend up to £10bn of taxpayers’ money buying operations and treatment in the private sector over the next four years to reduce waiting times.
    “NHS England said the figure, which was revealed in a contract tender notice published online on Monday, is an upper estimate of what it could spend to cut waiting times.
    “… NHS England has extended its contract with private sector hospitals until March 2021, but in the contract notice on Monday, NHS England said it will launch a bid to find suppliers to join an agreed “framework” for hospitals to use over the next four years to help reduce the size of its waiting list.”

  • Calling the NHS a ‘COVID only service’ is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous NHS Providers provides some analysis over claims the NHS was forced to 'shut down' for Covid, stating this is simply not true: "Even at the height of coronavirus, for every one COVID-19 patient in hospital, there were two non-COVID inpatients being treated for other conditions."

  • The PPE debacle shows what Britain is built on: rentier capitalism This Guardian article shows why the problems the UK has experienced obtaining PPE was always inevitable, due to privatisation of the NHS and services.

  • England's contact-tracing saga is at the heart of the government's failures This Guardian article asks all the right questions: "What will the continuing role of outsourcing companies be, and how much will it cost?" This autopsy of the Prime Minister's promised "world beating" track and trace system, puts attempted privatisation of the processes under the microscope at every turn. From the flip flopping over the involvement of local authorities, to Serco's slow incompetence and Hancock's non-existent mobile app, this article points the finger at lack of ownership and responsibility by the Government for the highest death toll in Europe.

  • Serco and Sitel to get more public money despite track-and-trace fiasco Open Democracy flags the latest public funds given to Serco and Sitel. Serco was given a three month contract to operate the Covid-19 track and trace system in May this year. It is still not considered to be operating effectively enough to ensure schools are safe to reopen in September.

  • Six months into Covid, England's quarantine programme is still a mess This Guardian article by Anthony Costello, professor of global health and sustainable development at University College London and a former director of maternal and child health at the WHO, urges the Government to offer individuals in quarantine more support to ensure it is adhered to better.

  • Four key failings of England's Covid-19 test-and-trace system The Guardian explores why the Government's track and trace system has failed, as local authorities are forced to set up their own task forces to pick up cases the Serco and Sitel-run system has missed.

  • Coronavirus '90-minute tests to be provided in care homes and hospitals' It's Groundhog Day as the latest Covid-19 tests are revealed. Tests purporting to give results in 90 minutes have been rolled out into care homes, but there is little evidence to support them and they are not being used in other countries yet. It all sounds a bit like the £3.5 million spent on antibody tests that didn't work.

  • 3 reasons health care journalists should interview nurses more than they do US based article with valuable lessons for UK journalists, noting the lack of routine reference to nurses for informed opinion:
    "According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, which reviewed and coded a random sample of 365 health care stories published September 2017, “Nurses were identified as sources in only 4% of all quotations or other sourcing in newspaper stories, and in 1% of those in stories from news magazines and industry publications. Physicians and dentists were sources in 43% of newspaper articles, 30% of news magazines, and 18% of industry articles.” Furthermore, nurses “were never sourced in stories on health policy,” the authors report.
    "Only 13% of the articles in the study sample mentioned nurses or the nursing profession, and nurses were identified in only 4% of photos, even though nurses are the largest group of health care professionals, according to the 2017 National Nursing Workforce Survey in the Journal of Nursing Regulation."

  • Coronavirus: Deaths of hundreds of frontline NHS and care workers to be investigated More than 620 NHS staff and social care worker deaths have been linked to coronavirus and are due to be reviewed by medical examiners. This could lead to investigations by individual hospitals.

  • Rise in UK Covid cases above 1,000 a day breached government target On the day the New Zealand implemented a lockdown in one of its cities due to 4 Coronavirus cases, the UK recorded over 1,000 breaching Government guidelines.

  • Approaching the end of the Brexit transition: practical implications for the NHS Warnings from NHS Confed August 5, key points summed up as
    "The UK’s future relationship with the EU that is currently being negotiated will determine how aspects of health and social care are delivered and how some patients will access care from 2021.
    "There is a risk that the negotiations do not result in agreements being found for some or all of the aspects of health that will be affected, or that the agreements will be associated with various forms of disruption.
    "Whether the UK leaves with or without a deal, Brexit will have a significant impact on the sector, including access to reciprocal healthcare arrangements, protecting public health and the supply of medicines and medical technologies."

  • Coronavirus: England highest level of excess deaths BBC July 31 report based on latest figures from ONS:
    "The UK saw some of the biggest rises in deaths rates in Europe in the months until the middle of June, official analysis shows.
    "England saw the largest increase in death rates in Europe, with Scotland seeing the third largest increase.
    "The Office for National Statistics says that Spain saw the highest peak in rates of death in Europe.
    "But the UK had the longest period of above-average deaths and so overall saw higher death rates."

  • Last chance to protect the NHS from trade deals We Own It petition seeking to press the House of Lords to amend the trade bill after Tory MPs voted NOT to keep the NHS off the table:
    "Boris Johnson has betrayed the British people. He promised to "take back control" and "keep the NHS off the table", but over 300 of his MPs have voted against parliamentary scrutiny and NHS protection in the Trade Bill debate.
    "We have one last chance at stopping Donald Trump and his healthcare cronies. We need the House of Lords to step up now and protect our NHS.
    "Members of the House of Lords, please amend the Trade Bill to give parliament a say over trade deals and protect our NHS. "

  • A flat tax on the over 40s to pay for care would be deeply regressive and completely unfair July 27 Blog from tax expert Richard Murphy showing why plans that have been floated for a tax on the over-40s could be used to pump extra cash into the collapsing privatised social care system

  • NHS on course to miss major workforce target HSJ July 27 report: "A flagship target to increase the mental health workforce by 19,000 could be missed by nearly half, according to new government figures.
    "As part of a major plan announced in 2017, the government, NHS England and Health Education England announced plans to add 19,000 new NHS mental health jobs by 2020 to 2021, as part of a bid to address severe workforce shortages in the sector.
    "According to a parliamentary answer by mental health minister Nadine Dorries, the workforce increased by 9,500 in the three years from March 2017 to March 2020.
    "If recruitment continues at the same rate — which may prove challenging given the predicted constraints on international recruitment during the covid pandemic — then the number of additional staff would reach around 12,600 by March 2021."

  • Concern for England's mental health patients discharged at start of lockdown Guardian July 26 report: "Nearly 2,500 additional patients were discharged from mental health units across England at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, prompting concern that vulnerable people were released into the community before they were ready.
    "Official data analysed by the charity Mind showed 11,829 patients were discharged from mental health units in March 2020, a sharp rise from 9,836 last year and up by 2,441 from the February before lockdown started. The number of discharges fell back to 8,426 in April.
    "One of the patients released early was a man with severe mental health problems who was now missing in Spain. His family told the Guardian that they believed he was discharged too soon."

  • Over-40s in UK to pay more tax under plans to fix social care crisis Guardian July 26 report: "Everyone over 40 would start contributing towards the cost of care in later life under radical plans being studied by ministers to finally end the crisis in social care, the Guardian can reveal.
    "Under the plan over-40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be compelled to insure themselves against hefty bills for care when they are older. The money raised would then be used to pay for the help that frail elderly people need with washing, dressing and other activities if still at home, or to cover their stay in a care home.
    "The plans are being examined by Boris Johnson’s new health and social care taskforce and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). They are gaining support as the government’s answer to the politically perilous question of who should pay for social care.
    "Sources say the principle of over-40s meeting the cost of a reformed system of care for the ageing population is emerging as the government’s preferred option for fulfilling the prime minister’s pledge just over a year ago to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. "

  • Nearly half of Florida's Covid-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities CNN July 25 report: "In Florida, 46% of all Covid-19 related deaths are linked to long-term care facilities, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.
    "To date, 2,645 out of 5,777 total deaths are associated with long-term care facilities in the state, health department data shows."

  • Corporate Insiders Pocket $1 Billion in Rush for Coronavirus Vaccine New York Times July 25: “The race is on to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public.
    “Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic.
    “They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.
    “… The sudden windfalls highlight the powerful financial incentives for company officials to generate positive headlines in the race for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, even if the drugs might never pan out.”

  • Ex-chief of scandal-hit hospital now works for group advising NHS on patient safety Shocking Independent July 25 report revealing that a former chief executive who presided over a collapse of quality in care in Shrewsbury and Telford is now making big bucks as a consultant on patient safety:
    "The disgraced former chief executive of hospitals at the centre of the largest maternity scandal in NHS history is working for a major hospital group advising the health service on safety and leadership.
    "Simon Wright was head of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, which is being investigated by the NHS over 1,900 maternity incidents including baby deaths. The trust was rated inadequate and placed into special measures by regulators during Mr Wright’s tenure.
    "He is now working as a “continuous improvement consultant” for the Virginia Mason Institute, which has a five-year contract with NHS England to help improve safety at five NHS trusts, including Shrewsbury and Telford.
    "Mr Wright, who was criticised by regulators in 2018 before resigning last year, describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as having been “a CEO in one of the most successful health systems in the world”. He does not mention the name of the trust."

  • ‘Bizarre’ That Face Masks Are a Partisan Issue, NIH Chief Says Bloomberg report from USA July 19: "It’s “bizarre” that mask-wearing in the U.S. has become so partisan and the “divide between different political perspectives” is making it harder to curb the coronavirus, the director of the National Institutes of Health said.
    "Speaking on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, NIH chief Francis Collins said he didn’t want anybody to think that mask-wearing is “something optional” as the nation attempts to tamp down the Covid-19 outbreak running at record levels.
    “Imagine you were an alien coming to the planet Earth and looking around,” Collins said. “You would be totally astounded, puzzled, amazed ... How could it be that something as basic as a public health action, that we have very strong evidence can help, seems to attach to people’s political party?”

  • Government admits its Test and Trace programme is unlawful Sky News report July 20: "The government has admitted its contact tracing programme is unlawful in a legal letter which confirms it has been running in breach of data protection laws since it was launched in May.
    "Confirmation the programme failed to adhere to privacy regulations comes as Sky News can reveal that contractors working for NHS Test and Trace have been told they may be fired following reports of dozens of staff sharing patients' confidential data on social media.
    "According to the legal letter, the government did not conduct a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA) which is required to ensure that breaches of patients' information don't take place."

  • When Is a Coronavirus Test Not a Coronavirus Test? If it takes 12 days to get results, it’s basically pointless. New York Times July 24 report: "Coronavirus testing in the United States has been bungled in every way imaginable. The latest fiasco is perhaps the most Kafka-esque: Tests are now widely available in many places, but results are often taking so long to come back that it is more or less pointless to get tested.
    "If it takes up to two weeks to get results, we can’t detect brewing outbreaks and respond with targeted shutdowns. We can’t do meaningful contact tracing. We can’t expect people to stay home from work or school for two weeks while they wait for the result of a screen. We have no way to render early treatment and attention to those who test positive, to try to prevent serious illness. It’s a disaster.
    "Many doctors can do a rapid strep test in half an hour, and the “slow” test takes a day. Imagine if it took 12 days before doctors knew whether to prescribe an antibiotic. You’d end up with more cases of meningitis, pneumonia and rheumatic fever. Strep could spread through families and schools like wildfire."

  • UK junk food ad ban 'could force deep cuts on TV channels' Guardian July 24 report reveals the extent to which TV is hooked on junk food, and can apparently only continue if it is allowed to fuel obesity and ill health:
    "British television channels could be forced to make cuts of more than £200m to their programme budgets if the government pushes ahead with plans to impose a blanket ban on junk food advertising.
    "In a further blow to a crisis-hit media industry, ITV would lose about £100m of income if a 9pm, pre-watershed ban is implemented, according to television industry estimates.
    "Channel 4 has estimated that it would lose £40m annually – almost a tenth of its now drastically reduced annual programming budget. Such a move could boost competing subscription services such as Netflix, which do not rely on advertising.
    “We know that the creative industries are already suffering as a result of Covid,” said one senior source at a commercial broadcaster, who said the government risked “kicking away the crutches” of the British television industry.""

  • Victoria's Covid-19 aged care disaster: 'This virus is like a fire out of control' Grim extended July 24 Guardian report on Australia's failing heavily privatised health and social care system: "The disaster unfolding in Victoria’s aged care homes was “absolutely foreseeable”, one of the country’s foremost experts in aged care says.
    "Authorities knew some facilities had poorly trained workers and underpaid part-time or casual staff who had to move between homes to make a living. There’d been overwhelming evidence about the vulnerability of aged care residents internationally. In Sydney, there was the outbreak of Covid-19 at Newmarch House. It was all documented.
    “We got this wrong from the very start,” says Prof Joseph Ibrahim, the head of the health law and ageing research unit at Monash University. The result, he and other experts say, is what is unfolding in Victoria."

  • Put a F**king Mask On! Foul mouthed, but very amusing exhortation from the brilliant Jonathan Pie conveys all the arguments needed to confront the anti-mask brigade -- in under 4 minutes.

  • Boris Johnson ready to curb the scope and power of judicial reviews Telegraph July 24 report on the threat to abolish one of the few options open to campaigners seeking to halt half-baked reconfiguration and closure plans that have been rubber stamped by NHS bureaucrats:
    "Boris Johnson has speeded up plans to curb the judiciary after axing a manifesto pledge to hold a commission on changing the way the courts operate.
    "The Prime Minister is expected to announce next week that he has set up a panel to examine the issue of judicial reviews, which were successfully used to overturn his decision to prorogue Parliament last year.
    "Mr Johnson believes the courts have become increasingly politicised and are being used to “conduct politics by another means” and wants to define in law what they can and cannot be used to challenge."

  • New £100m NHS intensive care unit shut over fire safety fears Guardian July 22: "A newly built £100m intensive care unit at an NHS hospital has been closed after it failed fire safety checks, leading to seriously ill patients being moved out.
    "King’s College hospital in south London has had to shut the critical care unit after its own engineers and the London fire brigade identified problems that could potentially make it unsafe.
    "The trust has declared a critical incident over the closure, which has been prompted by fears that panels on the outside of the unit could make it easier for a fire to spread.
    "The critical care unit only opened in April and is the biggest and most advanced facility of its kind in the NHS. It has played a key part in helping King’s manage an influx of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.
    "It holds up to 56 patients, and is understood to have had about 30 when the critical incident was declared on Wednesday morning. They are being moved to other parts of the hospital, including a critical care ward that had been closed for refurbishment."

  • Above-inflation pay rise for almost 900,000 public sector workers BBC July 21 report which finally gets round to admitting the lack of any new post-Covid pay rise for most health workers: "“Almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise, including doctors and teachers. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he recognised their "vital contribution" during the coronavirus pandemic.
    “The Treasury said the money for the pay increases of up to 3.1% would come from existing departmental budgets.
    “But Labour said the rise would not make up for years of real-terms cuts and the British Medical Association said doctors had hoped for "far better".
    “… Nurses are not included in Tuesday's announcement because they negotiated a separate three-year deal in 2018. The rise does also not apply to junior doctors, who agreed a new four-year pay deal last year.”

  • Make masks compulsory in GP surgeries to reduce Covid-19 risk, BMA urges Guardian July 21 report: "Face masks should be compulsory in GP surgeries to minimise the spread of Covid-19, according to one of the top representative bodies for doctors.
    "The British Medical Association said that compelling people to cover their face while in shops or on public transport but not in a GP practice is “illogical” and “makes no sense”.
    "It wants the government to change the law to make that mandatory, as they have already done after disagreements between ministers over their approach – for those other settings.
    “'The BMA is clear that face coverings should be mandatory in all situations where physical distancing of more than 2 metres is not possible. It makes no sense that the government has introduced one measure for shops and public transport, while other indoor spaces, including GP practices, are exempt'."

  • Coronavirus: NHS nurses told 'lives would be made hell' BBC July 21 report lifts the lid on an outrageous bullying regime in Nottingham's University Hospital: "Hospital nurses were told their "lives would be made hell" if they complained over conditions on a coronavirus ward, a union has claimed.
    "Unison has raised a group grievance for 36 employees, most of them nurses, at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.
    "It said staff on the Queen's Medical Centre ward were not trained properly, faced bullying for raising concerns and denied PPE "as punishment".
    "The trust said the allegations were "very troubling".
    "The union said the staff, which included nurses, senior nurses and healthcare assistants, volunteered to work on the hospital's only ward dealing with end-of-life coronavirus patients."

  • Covid-19: test all health and care workers weekly, says UK scientist Guardian July 21 begins: "All health and care staff should be routinely tested for Covid-19 once or twice a week, according to one of the UK’s most eminent scientists, Sir Paul Nurse, whose team’s research suggests 45% of staff were infected with coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic in England, most of whom showed no symptoms.
    "Giving evidence to the Commons health and social care select committee, Nurse, who turned the Crick Institute he heads into a testing laboratory, said his team had told ministers that frequent, routine testing was essential to ensure the safety of health and care staff and give the public the confidence to go into hospitals."

  • No new pay rise for nurses, confirms Downing Street Nursing Notes July 21 report: "The Treasury has revealed that nearly 900,000 public sector workers are to get a pay rise, with teachers and doctors seeing the largest rise at 3.1% and 2.8% respectively “recognising their efforts on the frontline during the battle against COVID-19”.
    "NHS staff working on the frontlines to battle COVID-19 and paid under the Agenda for Change terms and conditions are surprisingly missing from the new pay arrangements.
    "In an announcement made today, the Treasury claims this is because there is already a settlement in place for “for more than one million NHS workers who continue to benefit from the three-year Agenda for Change pay deal, under which the starting pay for a newly qualified nurse has increased by over 12% since 2017/18.”
    "It goes on to proclaim that the average nurse will “receive an average 4.4% rise this year”.
    "In stark contrast to the claim, the vast majority of frontline nurses received just 1.65% in April this year – the last rise of a multi-year pay deal which saw the average take-home salary of a Band 5 nurse rise by just 7%."

  • Covid conspiracies and confusions: the impact on compliance with the UK’s lockdown rules and the link with social media use A frightening survey of UK public views, highlighting the extent of conspiracy theories and the impact of fake news and false information transmitted via social media:
    "3 in 10 think coronavirus was probably created in a lab, up from a quarter at the beginning of April.
    • 3 in 10 think most people in the UK have already had coronavirus without realising it.
    • 3 in 10 believe the Covid-19 death toll is being deliberately reduced or hidden by the authorities.
    • 1 in 7 believe the death toll is being deliberately exaggerated by the authorities.
    • 1 in 8 believe that the current pandemic is part of a global effort to force everyone to be vaccinated.
    • More than 1 in 20 believe that the symptoms that most people blame on Covid-19 appear to be connected to 5G network radiation.
    • More than 1 in 20 believe there is no hard evidence that Covid-19 really exists"

  • Cheap, popular and it works: Ireland's contact-tracing app success Guardian July 20 report: "A government minister once compared Ireland’s health care system to Angola – a political minefield of dysfunction, bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency. The nickname stuck.
    "Yet this morass has just produced a shiny success: a Covid-19 contact-tracing app that is popular and appears to work.
    "Since launching on 6 July, the Covid Tracker app was downloaded 1.3m times in eight days – the fastest-downloaded app per capita in Europe – and has started picking up cases of infection.
    “We’ve been delighted by the take-up rate. It’s gone beyond the initial hopes,” said Colm Harte, the technical director of NearForm, the company that made the app for the Health Service Executive (HSE)."

  • England's test and trace programme 'breaks GDPR data law' BBC July 20: "Privacy campaigners say England's test and trace programme has broken a key data protection law.
    "The Department of Health has conceded the initiative to trace contacts of people infected with Covid-19 was launched without carrying out an assessment of its impact on privacy.
    "The Open Rights Group (ORG) says the admission means the initiative has been unlawful since it began on 28 May."

  • Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at NHS Test and Trace centre in North Lanarkshire London Evening Standard July 20 unusually aware of events in Scotland that reveal what appears to be unsafe practices by contractors running test and trace call centre:
    "A cluster of coronavirus infections has been confirmed at an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.
    "Measures have been brought in by the region’s health board to try and suppress the outbreak, which flared up at the Sitel site in Motherwell.
    "NHS Lanarkshire said it had been notified about “potentially linked cases” of Covid-19 infections in the area on Sunday.
    "An NHS Test and Trace spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a local outbreak of Covid-19 at the Sitel site in Motherwell. This is being managed by Sitel and colleagues in NHS Lanarkshire, who are following appropriate test and protect action in line with Scottish Government advice."

  • England’s chief nurse confirms she was ‘dropped’ from No 10 press conference after voicing Dominic Cummings criticism Independent July 20: "England’s chief nursing officer has confirmed she was “dropped” from a No 10 coronavirus press briefing in June after warning Dominic Cummings should follow the lockdown rules that apply “to us all”.
    "It comes after The Independent revealed last month Ruth May had been due to appear alongside Matt Hancock, the health secretary, but was ditched after failing to offer support to Boris Johnson’s senior Downing Street adviser.
    "In her first public comments on the incident, the chief nursing officer confirmed the report and said it was “regular occurrence” that expert colleagues advising the government had also been stood down from daily briefings during the pandemic.
    "Seizing on Ms May’s comments, Labour said it was “scandalous” that England’s most senior nurse, who appeared at various briefings before being dropped, was silenced because “she wasn’t prepared to parrot Downing Street spin” in relation to Mr Cummings."

  • Test and trace in England less successful in poorer areas, figures show Guardian July 20 report: "England’s poorest communities are at greater risk of a second wave of coronavirus owing to imbalances in the national test-and-trace system, official figures suggest.
    "Data obtained by the Guardian shows that a much lower proportion of at-risk people are being contacted and told to self-isolate in deprived towns than in wealthier areas.
    "In Blackpool, 37% of people who had been in close contact with an infected person were not reached by the system. This compares with 9% in Cheshire East, which includes the affluent towns of Knutsford and Wilmslow.
    "Similarly, in Knowsley, Merseyside, more than one in three at-risk people were not contacted, compared with one in 10 in Trafford, a mostly upmarket borough of Greater Manchester."

  • Tories vote down amendment to protect NHS from foreign control in Brexit trade deals Evolve Politics July 20 report on Tories reneging on their 2019 election promises to keep the NHS off the table in trade talks: "The Conservative Party have tonight used their 78-seat majority to vote down an amendment designed to protect the NHS and publicly-funded health and care services from being subject to any form of control from outside the UK in a future post-Brexit Trade Deal.
    "The amendment, which was put forward by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and supported by Labour leader Keir Starmer and a number of other senior Labour MPs, was voted down by a margin of 340 to 241 thanks to the Tories’ overwhelming parliamentary majority."

  • Government’s test and trace system failing in areas battling major outbreaks, leaked analysis reveals Independent July 19 report: "England’s “world beating” coronavirus test and trace service is failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected residents in Blackburn with Darwen – where health chiefs are battling a major outbreak.
    "Leaked analysis obtained by The Independent shows that across northwest England, the national tracing service is reaching only 52 per cent of all close contacts, leading one senior source to say: “The contact tracing service is now part of the problem we are trying to solve, not the solution.”
    "The data also shows that less than half of close contacts are being reached in Oldham, St Helens, Manchester and Rochdale. The best performance for the region is in Cheshire East, where a third are still being missed."

  • Seven in 10 back mandatory use of masks in shops in England, poll finds Guardian July 19: "Concerns that the wearing of masks could become a new front in a political “culture war” have been eased after evidence emerged that a clear majority of the public back their use in shops and supermarkets.
    "An Opinium poll for the Observer reveals that 71% of adults in England support making masks mandatory in shops, with only 13% opposed to the move. Support was consistent across parties and age groups. Almost two-thirds of UK adults (64%) said they believed masks were an effective way to contain the spread of Covid-19.
    "There is also wide acceptance that the value of masks is to protect other people. Most people (54%) say masks are worn mainly to prevent the person wearing it accidentally infecting others, while 30% say they are needed to protect others and prevent others infecting them. Just 8% believe masks are mainly to protect the person wearing them."

  • ‘Risk death or risk jail’: Health workers around the world detained and attacked during the pandemic Alarming must-read July 19 report in the Independent reveals:
    “Amnesty reports that globally at least 3,000 health workers have died from Covid-19 – a figure that is likely to be a significant underestimate because of the lack of testing.
    “The highest recorded medic death toll is in Russia. An unofficial count collated by medics says at least 584 healthcare professionals have died from Covid-19 (although the official number is just over 100). The UK is not far behind with 540 recorded deaths, followed by the US, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and finally Egypt.
    “It is not just about human rights; it has direct health implications for everyone,” says Hussein Baoumi, Egypt researcher at Amnesty, which is urging states to take the lives of health workers seriously.
    “When you silence the people on the ground expressing valid concerns, this has implications for all the lives of the health workers and the entire population.”

  • Cubans celebrate no local transmission of COVID-19 for first time in four months Reuters report July 19: “Cuba for the first time in 130 days on Sunday said there were no new domestic cases of COVID-19 as most of the country moved into the final phase of resuming normal activities with masks and social distancing.
    “Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, and who has updated the country daily on the pandemic, took off his mask during the national broadcast for only the second time deliver the good news. Duran, on Saturday did the same, reporting just a single domestic case in Havana.
    “Only a handful of COVID-19 cases were reported in Cuba over the last week, all in Havana. Most of the Caribbean island, home to 11.2 million inhabitants, has been free of the disease for more than a month.”

  • Three quarters of the public want the NHS protected in trade deal with Trump Mirror July 19 report: "A new poll has found 75% of people want the NHS to be protected in a trade deal with Donald Trump.
    "Parliament is set to debate the next stage of the Trade Bill tomorrow and an overwhelming majority want it to include specific protections for the NHS.
    "The poll, conducted by Survation and commissioned by campaign group We Own It, also found nearly half of the public don’t believe Boris Johnson when he says the NHS is not “on the table” in trade talks with the US - 38% say they don’t believe him, while 19% say they don’t know.
    "Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly has tabled an amendment which would give parliament the power to scrutinise and vote on future trade deals - a power they currently don’t have, and nearly 4,000 people have written to their MP asking them to support the amendment."

  • Trump administration seeking to block funding for CDC, contact tracing and testing in new relief bill July 18 report from the US (The Hill) on the latest dangerous efforts of Trump:
    "The Trump administration is attempting to block billions of dollars for contact tracing, additional testing and other coronavirus mitigation efforts that would potentially be included in Congress's next coronavirus relief package, officials involved in the negotiations told The Washington Post.
    "According to the Post's sources, the administration is also trying to block billions in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that GOP senators want to give the agency as it continues to battle COVID-19 on the front lines."

  • Bad News about the Pandemic: We’re Not Getting Back to Normal Any Time Soon Scientific American article July 18 explains why so many people cling on to such false ideas and reject necessary precautions over covid:
    "Many disregarded the new guidance, especially if those they considered authority figures did not reinforce it. Consequent to a mental blind spot called emotional contagion, we tend to adopt the perspectives of those we see as authority figures.
    "With their guidance, we can overcome initial anchoring; without it, we will stick to our initial perspective.
    "Just as problematic is another dangerous judgment error that cognitive neuroscientists call normalcy bias. This mental blind spot refers to the fact that our gut reactions drive us to feel that the future, at least in the short and medium term of the next couple of years, will function in roughly the same way as the past: normally.
    "As a result, we tend to vastly underestimate both the possibility and impact of a disaster striking us. Moreover, we will rush to get back to normal even when we should be preparing for the aftershocks or continuation of the disaster."

  • How south Liverpool coronavirus outbreak was spotted and tackled and what happens next July 18 Liverpool Echo report shows what public health systems can do with the right information at the right time: "It was a Thursday afternoon when Liverpool's relatively new Director of Public Health Matt Ashton spotted something.
    "He had been analysing coronavirus data that had arrived on his desk on July 9 when he located a potential cluster of infections in the city.
    "The problems with getting data from the government's centralised systems to local health leaders like Matt has been well documented - but in recent weeks things have improved.
    "The more granular level of the numbers Matt received allowed him to work out that in some specific areas of south Liverpool - as well as Knotty Ash in the east and Halewood over the Knowsley border - there had been a spike in positive cases.
    "He explained: "With my team we dug down further into the data and were able to see that this was predominantly a cluster of young people aged between 15 and 24.
    "We had spotted a pattern there and were able to use insights to link it to community gatherings that had taken place in some of those areas."

  • Most of the World May Face Covid Without a Vaccine Bloomberg july 18 interview with expert Klaus Stohr, who warns:
    "The epidemiological behavior of this virus will not be that much different from other respiratory diseases. During winter, they come back.
    "There will be another wave, and it will be very serious. More than 90% of the population is susceptible. If we do not tighten again to a serious lockdown or similar measures, the virus is going to cause a significant outbreak. Winter is coming before the vaccine. There will be an increase in cases, and there will be problems containing it because people seem not very amenable to more constraints in their movement and freedom."

  • Scientists pour cold water on PM’s ‘open by Christmas’ vow The London Economic July 18: "The Prime Minister signalled another significant easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England on Friday, relaxing work-from-home guidance and paving the way for theatres and sports stadiums to reopen. At a No 10 press conference, he said it was his “strong and sincere hope” that ministers would be able to review the remaining restrictions from November onwards “possibly in time for Christmas”.
    "However scientists quickly poured cold water on the Prime Minister’s statement.
    "Sir Mark Walport, a former chief scientific adviser, said that it could prove difficult to achieve such significant relaxation with respiratory illnesses tending to flourish in the colder weather. He said that while the disease was declining, there were still between 3,000 and 11,000 new cases a day in England."

  • Government’s test and trace system failing in areas battling major outbreaks, leaked analysis reveals Independent July 18 report: "England’s “world beating” coronavirus test and trace service is failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected residents in Blackburn with Darwen – where health chiefs are battling a major outbreak.
    "Leaked analysis obtained by The Independent shows that across northwest England, the national tracing service is reaching only 52 per cent of all close contacts, leading one senior source to say: “The contact tracing service is now part of the problem we are trying to solve, not the solution.”
    "The data also shows that less than half of close contacts are being reached in Oldham, St Helens, Manchester and Rochdale. The best performance for the region is in Cheshire East, where a third are still being missed."

  • UK government to stop publishing daily coronavirus deaths while review carried out Liverpool Echo July 18: “The government will temporarily stop announcing the daily coronavirus death figures because of concerns about how accurate they are.
    “Health Secretary Matt Hancock has launched an inquiry after Public Health experts said the number of deaths associated with the virus may have been over-exagerrated.
    “But scientists have questioned the move and suggested that there is unlikely to be a 'massive distortion' of the figures.
    “Academics have said the way that Public Health England(PHE) calculates the data means they might look worse there than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Mirror reports.”

  • Matt Hancock in new U-turn on coronavirus testing data Guardian July 18: "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has bowed to pressure from councils, which demanded full access to the names and data of people in their areas who tested positive for Covid-19, and those with whom they have been in contact, in another major government U-turn.
    "Local authorities and public health officials have been complaining for weeks that they are being hampered in efforts to combat and prevent local outbreaks by lack of access to “named patient data” which would allow them to get straight to the sources of local outbreaks.
    "Now the Observer has been told that Hancock, who has insisted repeatedly that local authorities have all the information they need from the track and trace system, is set to give way and allow access to the named data as well other information already provided, such as postcodes, so long as strict data protection rules and conditions are followed."

  • We must not let the government seize back control from doctors Guardian July 17 giving a platform to Andrew Lansley, former Tory health secretary and architect of 2012 Health & Social Care Act, warning Johnson government against repealing any of it:
    "I believe I speak with some experience when I say that structural reorganisation of the NHS is not a task on which to embark lightly, let alone gratuitously.
    "Britain is in the midst of a health crisis unparalleled in living memory. Doctors and nurses, and all our NHS workers, have rightly been lauded for their selfless service during this difficult time, for which some have very sadly given their lives."

  • Senior Tory accuses Johnson of blaming NHS for government's Covid-19 failings Guardian comment on July 17 article it carries from Andrew Lansley (see below):
    "Andrew Lansley, the Conservative former health secretary, has criticised the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and accused it of trying to blame the NHS for its own failings.
    "Lansley made clear that delays in instigating the lockdown, ordering personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff and increasing testing were made by ministers, not health service bosses.
    "Lansley – now a Tory peer – also said Boris Johnson’s plan to grab more direct control of the NHS, as revealed in the Guardian last week, was wrong and would undermine the service."

  • Health secretary must intervene at Homerton Hospital to halt “outrageous” outsourcing deal, says UNISON London region UNISON July 17 increasing the pressure on Homerton Hospital's renewed contract with ISS:
    "The secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock must intervene to stop a controversial new outsourcing deal at London’s Homerton Hospital, says UNISON in a letter sent today (Friday).
    "Last month, the hospital trust issued a Voluntary Ex-Ante Transparency (VEAT) notice, allowing it to bypass the competitive-tendering process. It now intends to award a new five-year contract to global outsourcing giant ISS Mediclean.
    "However, regulations say that a VEAT notice can only be used under certain conditions, which UNISON says haven’t been met.
    "ISS Mediclean currently provides catering, cleaning, security and portering services at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney.
    "The company’s workers have provided essential services to the hospital during the pandemic, but earn less than their directly employed NHS colleagues, ​get fewer days annual leave and only statutory sick pay."

  • Boris Johnson statement fact-checked BBC Fact check July 17 begins with this deception:
    "Boris Johnson: "We have substantially increased the pipeline of personal protective equipment [PPE] for the NHS and social care constituting over 30 billion items of PPE over the course of the pandemic".
    "However, government figures show that only 2.3 billion items have actually been delivered to health and social care services in England, up to 12 July.
    "This includes 1.4 billion gloves (which are counted individually as opposed to in pairs).
    "It's not immediately clear where the 30 billion number comes from, but it could include future deliveries.
    "On 26 June, Lord Deighton who's leading the government's PPE efforts, said there were 28 billion items on order.
    "Adding that together with what has already been delivered would be just over 30 billion."

  • Why Poor Countries Could Be Priced Out Of Oxford University's Covid-19 Vaccine Huffington Post July 17: "A pharma giant could price poorer countries out of a British coronavirus vaccine in the future due to a loophole in the non-profit agreement it signed with Oxford University, campaigners have warned – among them one of the first participants in the trial itself.
    "Volunteer Luigi Ceccaroni has demanded the details of a distribution deal between Oxford University and AztraZeneca be made public, saying he fears the firm could still profiteer from the drug once the first global peak dies down. AstraZeneca told HuffPost UK this week it was “too early to comment on pricing post-pandemic”.
    "Ceccaroni’s concerns have been echoed by shadow minister for science and research Chi Onwurah, and by campaign group Global Justice Now."

  • Shrewsbury Hospital: ‘The staff appear not to know what good care looks like’ Independent July 16 with telling leaked letter from hospitals inspector Prof Ted Baker:
    "Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust has been in special measures and rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since 2018, but in a leaked letter, revealed today by The Independent, the chief inspector of hospitals reveals that the situation at the hospital is getting worse.
    "Professor Ted Baker details a litany of concerns over the standards of care at the trust in a letter to NHS England earlier this month and he warned unless action was taken patients are being exposed to unnecessary harm.
    "His letter reveals the Midlands trust is facing more criminal investigations and enforcement actions than any other NHS trust in England. It’s been inspected five times since August 2018, and had more than 90 specific conditions imposed."

  • Up to £10 billion of the Chancellor's 'Plan for Jobs' will be funded by underspends on previously planned projects IFS less than enthusiastic July 16 analysis of government's so-called Roosevelt-like spending plans: "The UK Government is spending big on supporting public services and the economy through the COVID-19 recovery and beyond. There are, for example, ‘up to £30 billion pounds’ of measures counted in the ‘Plan for Jobs’ announced in the Summer Economic Update last week, although the OBR thinks they will ultimately cost around £20 billion.
    "However, alongside this – but with much less fanfare – are reductions in spending on other things as some previously planned projects and investments are now deemed less of a priority or infeasible given the COVID-19 crisis. The Treasury’s decisions on funding for the devolved governments suggest they expect these underspends to amount to almost £8 billion; the OBR expects more like £10 billion.
    "A lack of transparency over where spending is expected to be lower is contributing to confusion about the overall scale of fiscal support being provided, as well as the amount that the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive to fund their own measures. It makes scrutiny of plans more difficult and is corrosive to trust. "

  • Coronavirus outcome in the UK has not been good, admits chief scientific adviser Independent July 16 report: "Giving evidence to MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “My view, and I think this is a view shared by Sage [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies], is that we’re still at a time when distancing measures are important.
    "And, of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do.
    “I think a number of companies think it’s actually not detrimental to productivity, and in that situation, there’s absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”
    "Sir Patrick admitted the UK has not had a good outcome from the coronavirus pandemic and he warned that the UK lacks enough tests for winter.
    "He said: “It’s clear the outcome in the UK has not been good. I think we can be absolutely clear about that"."

  • I'm one of the thousands of extra cancer deaths we'll see this year Moving Guardian comment article July 16 from Prof Val Curtis, director of the environmental health group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: “I’m going to die soon, but before I do, I want to see a plan for a better NHS, one that does not needlessly lose lives. There is a large majority in the UK in favour of properly funding the NHS."

  • Spending Watchdog Urged To Probe Government's £5bn PPE Contracts Huffington Post July 16 report: "The UK’s spending watchdog has been urged by Labour to investigate the government’s multi-billion pound procurement of protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The party has written to the National Audit Office to request a probe following the award of a number of contracts without any competition under emergency procedures used by ministers, HuffPost UK has learned.
    "The move came as it emerged that the Cabinet Office had awarded a £800,000 contract to consultants McKinsey for the “Provision of Consultancy Services for Civil Service Modernisation and Reform”.
    "The contract suggests that the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings is driving through his agenda to overhaul the civil service."

  • Tired of being Boris Johnson's patsy, Patrick Vallance fights back July 16 parliamentary sketch in Guardian by john Crace: "It’s fair to say that Vallance has been a little slow off the mark right from the very start of the pandemic. Not so much with the science – though he’s hardly excelled at that – but with PR management. "For a long time, he was under the impressions that his prime role was to provide the government with independent scientific advice; it’s only over the course of the last few weeks he’s realised his real function was to be a human shield for Boris. And he’s clearly not happy about having been suckered in this way.
    "So for Vallance, a two-hour appearance before the science and technology select committee was an ideal opportunity to lay the foundations of his fightback. A chance to redirect the blame to where it really lay. "

  • Matt Hancock orders pause in use of sub-standard coronavirus testing swabs Independent July 16 report on the halting of the gravy train for a company advised by former Tory minister Owen Paterson: "Health secretary Matt Hancock has ordered a halt to the use of Randox-branded coronavirus testing kits after swabs were found not to be up to required standards.
    "Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that there was no evidence of clinical harm to patients or of the results of tests being invalidated by use of the sub-standard equipment.
    "The award in March of a £133 million contract for testing kits to the Northern Ireland-based company caused controversy when official documents indicated that it was awarded without a competitive process.
    "In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said it had been “notified that some test kits produced by Randox laboratories may not meet our required safety standards for coronavirus testing”."

  • Johnson has failed on social care. That's why he is dodging a coronavirus inquiry Polly Toynbee in a July 16 Guardian column arguing limitations of any inquiry into the government's handling of coronavirus:
    "any inquiry would not only expose the lethal blunders that left Britain “world-beating” in Covid-19 mistakes, but it would open up the great social care dilemma.
    "Every wicked political issue congregates here: the passionate feelings about inheritances lost to care costs, the anti-immigration sentiment Priti Patel panders to in denying visas to “low-skilled” care workers, the injustice between those with Alzheimer’s (who pay) and those with cancer (who don’t).
    "It would expose the catastrophic neglect of Britain’s older people, 1.5 million of whom lack the care they need, despite a 25% increase in the number of over-65s in the last decade.
    "The Treasury will have noted the £8bn the Health Foundation reports it would take just to restore care to the (far from ideal) 2010 standards."

  • Government accused of giving £830m worth of coronavirus contracts to Tory ‘friends’ Mirror July 16 report: “Opposition MPs allege 12 different companies were contracted to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health services which “never materialised” - three months on from when orders were made.
    “Labour also pressed ministers over a tender handed to Public First, an analytics firm run by long-time associates of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings without “any public tender process”.
    “… Labour MP Helen Hayes said although her party understood the need to procure goods “at speed” during a national emergency it was not an “excuse for reducing transparency”.
    “How does the minister explain reports that contracts at the value of more than £830 million had been awarded to at least 12 different companies for PPE which has never materialised?” she put to cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt.”

  • ‘We made it’: Medics recount emotional moment Bergamo hospital ICU declared coronavirus-free Interesting July 15 feature in the Independent:
    "The last Covid-19 patient in Bergamo’s main coronavirus hospital was a 51-year-old man. He had been infected with a very severe form of the virus, which caused his lungs to fail and involved other organs. But on 8 July, after more than two months, he was able to leave the intensive care unit.
    "Staff gathered in the hall and held a minute of silence to mourn all of Bergamo’s coronavirus deaths – then the silence gave way to a euphoric round of applause. It was over. After more than four months, the ICUs in Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital were declared coronavirus-free.
    “We can say we made it,” Luca Lorini, 59, the head of the hospital’s resuscitation department, tells The Independent. “We don’t know if the coronavirus will attack us again, but we have won this battle.”
    "Signs of a newly found normality are everywhere in Bergamo, once the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus crisis. Residents are again flocking to shopping malls and outdoor bars in parks, although wearing a mask is still compulsory. Patients have begun to book check-ups and elective treatment like colonoscopies and ultrasounds."

  • Management consultancy McKinsey brought in to review NHS Test and Trace programme Independent July 15 on the latest in the test and trace fiasco:
    "A management consultancy company has reportedly been brought in to review the NHS Test and Trace programme.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care asked McKinsey to review the governance and organisational form of the programme, the Health Service Journal reported.
    "The consultancy has been asked to consider whether the organisation should remain as a directly controlled DHSC agency, be given greater operational independence or be merged with another DHSC body such as Public Health England, according to the journal.
    "The programme was hastily put together in May as Covid-19 swept through the UK, with many senior personnel brought in on short term contracts."

  • National roll-out of ‘call before you walk’ A&Es set for winter HSJ July 15 confirming the NHS is not aiming to return to pre-Covid 'normal,' and bringing in policies that could make life difficult for people with mental health problems: "NHS England plans to introduce a “call before you walk” model for accident and emergency by winter, HSJ has been told.
    "Trials of new systems to prevent overcrowding in emergency departments ahead of a potential second wave of covid-19 in the winter are taking place at hospitals in Portsmouth and Cornwall and are due to shortly be expanded to other areas such as Newcastle, HSJ can reveal.
    "London is also experimenting with introducing the system, having pulled back from an earlier proposal to roll it out it rapidly, shortly after the covid-19 peak."

  • Ahead of the second wave: COVID-19 and BME staff by Roger Kline BMJ blog July 15 from Roger Kline: "Local NHS organisations could legitimately ask of national NHS organisations why national guidance on risk assessments was so late they each had to create their own risk assessment tools. They could ask why, if the treatment of BME staff is so important now, WRES data collection was suspended at the start of lockdown (apparently because some didn’t see it as a priority). They could ask why the track record of national organisations on race equality has been poor (6).
    "But to do so would be to miss the point.
    "Staff infected at work die, become very ill, or have to self-isolate along with work colleagues they have been in contact with. It is a patient safety issue too. 20% of coronavirus infections among hospital patients may have been caught in hospital (3), a significant number presumably from those infected staff.
    "This is primarily a governance failure. Staff are entitled to know their employers have taken all reasonably practicable steps to assess risks and mitigate them as required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. "

  • Right-wing propaganda pair paid £3 million to Run Coronavirus Communications Byline Times July 15 report lifts the lid on more dodgy dealings and lucrative contracts handed out to mates of ministers, and the man in charge Dominic Cummings:
    "A firm specialising in right-wing propaganda campaigns will be paid £3 million for helping to run the Government’s Coronavirus communications operation.
    "Documents published yesterday by the Government show that Topham Guerin Limited was awarded a massive, multi-million pound contract to deliver digital content on Coronavirus.
    "The company is run by Sean Topham and Ben Guerin – two New Zealanders who have a background in right-wing political campaigns. Indeed, the pair worked on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s successful 2019 General Election campaign, proudly using “boomer memes” – graphics that are often poorly designed but appeal to middle-aged Facebook users – to help the right-wing Liberal Party to achieve a shock victory."

  • Study: Immunity To Coronavirus May Fade Away Within Weeks Forbes report July 15: "Many patients who have recovered from Covid-19 may lose their immunity to the disease within months, according to research from scientists at King's College London, which, if proven true, will have wide implications for vaccine development and could put a "nail in the coffin" in the idea that herd immunity to the coronavirus is attainable.
    "… It's important to note that this is a longitudinal study that has not been peer-reviewed. If it turns out to be supported by other research, the ramifications on the durability of vaccine protection would be substantial. Most significantly, it would mean that herd immunity to the coronavirus is likely unachievable.
    "Many scientists have previously predicted individuals may be susceptible to being infected by Covid-19 repeatedly because short-term immunity and reinfection has been observed in other human coronaviruses."

  • Coronavirus UPDATES: £100 mask fines for England shoppers amid second wave fears Mirror report July 14: "Police will soon be able to fine shoppers up to £100 if they don't wear a face covering in stores and supermarkets.
    "Face coverings and masks are set to become compulsory in all shops across England from July 24.
    "Rule-flouters will be fined by police, under the latest coronavirus powers that ministers have yet to set out.
    "The latest move comes as health experts issue a 'worst-case scenario' prediction warning 120,000 more could die in the UK if a winter second wave hits.
    "And worldwide there have now been more than 13 million cases of coronavirus reported, affecting more than 210 countries."

  • A record 5.4 million people lost their health coverage amid the pandemic, a study found New York Times July 14 report on more grim consequences of a US health care system that ties health insurance to employment:
    "The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.
    "As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.
    “We knew these numbers would be big,’’ said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and was the author of the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”

  • National Nurses United Endorses Biden Statement from National Nurses Unite explaining why despite his shortcomings they are backing Joe Biden as the only serious challenger to replace Trump:
    “’Vice President Biden is presenting a clear alternative to this president and his administration on a number of essential issues to nurses, and all working people,’ NNU President Zenei Cortez, RN, said.
    “‘On the COVID-19 crisis, for example, “Biden has committed to fully invoke the Defense Production Act to mass produce personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure nurses and other health care workers will have the life-saving protections we need,’ said Cortez.
    “Biden has also endorsed NNU’s call for an emergency federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to protect worker’s safety during pandemics.
    “…No matter who is elected, Ross noted, NNU will continue to mobilize on health care, racial, gender, worker, and environmental and climate justice and other priorities “that require a strong mass movement to overcome entrenched corporate and far right opposition,” Ross noted.
    “In particular, ‘NNU will continue our campaign, in which we have rallied thousands of people across the country to press for enactment of Medicare for All to guarantee health care as a human right for everyone, without the barriers imposed every day by a profit-focused health care industry,” Ross said. “The calamitous pandemic has reinforced why Medicare for All, as a public health emergency, is urgently needed more than ever’.”

  • Face masks: should you wash them or throw them away? Independent report on July 14 as government reveals it has struck a deal with the coronavirus to hold off on any further infection until July 24, when England will catch up with most of the civilised world:
    "Face coverings are to become compulsory in shops in England from 24 July, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
    "The move will bring England in line with Scotland, which made face coverings mandatory in shops on 10 July and comes after the British government followed in the footsteps of other nations on 11 May by advising the wearing of masks when in enclosed spaces, such as going to the supermarket.
    "From 15 June, it also became mandatory to wear a face covering when using public transport.
    "“If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet," the advice stated. "This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example, on public transport or in some shops."

  • Not all foreign NHS staff eligible for free visa extension scheme - BBC Newsnight BBC Newsnight July 14 report underlines the fact that not all NHS staff – and no social care staff – are covered by the new "health and care" visa launched by Pitiless Priti Patel. "The Home Office has given a one-year free visa extension for some staff in the NHS and care sectors. But health workers such as cleaners are porters are not eligible."

  • The Government's Ten Biggest Coronavirus Lies Unmasked The excellent Byline Times in a compilation of the ten biggest of the government's Covid porkies in the last six months:
    "Since the Coronavirus arrived in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Government has often contradicted itself, often within days, from one press conference to the next. Some of these contradictions were half-truths, U-turns on policy, or the result of missed targets. But among these contradictions were lies so big they are symptomatic of an entire populist political project. Here are the ten biggest so far."

  • Government faces backlash after care workers are excluded from fast track visas BMJ blog (July 14) on the limitations of the visas designed to fast track those coming to the UK to work in the health and care sector:
    “…Under the new system the health and care visa will allow people working in eligible occupations, who speak English, and have a job offer, to come to the UK.
    “Under this visa route, workers and their families will gain fast tracked entry to the UK with reduced application fees and dedicated support, the government said. Those who are eligible to apply, and their dependents, will also be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge, a move that has been welcomed by doctors.
    “Applicants must meet a salary threshold of £25 600 … to be eligible to apply for the visa, unless they are entering a shortage occupation such as nursing and medicine. The NHS workers union GMB said that this threshold would mean that many NHS cleaners, porters, and support staff won’t qualify for the visa.
    “… Although the Migration Advisory Committee—on whose advice much of the new system is based—recognised the workforce shortage faced by social care in its most recent report it did not recommend that care workers be added to the list of shortage occupations.”

  • UK frontline worker death rate second highest among 79 countries, report shows July 13 Independent report on another shameful statistic that speaks volumes on government mishandling of the Covid pandemic:
    "The UK has one of the highest death tolls in the world among health and social care workers during the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by Amnesty International.
    "The human rights organisation said at least 540 frontline staff have died after contracting the virus in England and Wales – second only to Russia, which has recorded 545 deaths.
    "Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 268 deaths involving Covid-19 among social care workers were registered in England and Wales between 9 March and 25 May.
    "In the same period, the ONS reported that 272 deaths involving the virus were registered among healthcare staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives, nurse assistants, paramedics and ambulance staff, and hospital porters."

  • 37-year-old Port Clinton war vet dies from COVID-19 complications on Fourth of July Cleveland report on the sorry end of a man who boasted his refusal to wear a mask:
    "“Richard Rose was only 37 years old when he died at his home from complications due to COVID-19. He was born and raised in Port Clinton.
    “Those who knew Rose described him as kind, funny, and caring. His family said he was very active in helping homeless vets and in preventing veteran suicide.
    “The Port Clinton man served in the U.S. Army for nine years and did two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He died at his home from complications related to COVID-19 on the Fourth of July.
    “‘We were blown away, you know? You hear about this virus and you don’t expect it to affect people, younger people like ourselves,’ said Nick Conley, who was Rose’s friend.
    “Conley met Rose through a shared love of video games. He is crushed that he lost his friend to this virus, but he’s also hurt by something Rose posted on Facebook back in April.
    “That post has now been shared more than 10,000 times. It reads, ‘Let’s make this clear. I’m not buying a mask. I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype’.”

  • Cases of child malnutrition in England double in last six months Shocking July 12 report in the Guardian: "Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year – double the number over the same period last year – prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.
    "Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.
    "Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.
    "Liberal Democrat leadership campaigner Layla Moran MP, who collated the responses, said: “These figures shocked me and make me angry that in Britain, in 2020, people can be hospitalised due to malnutrition. We need to move forward and create a system of social security that helps everyone and makes sure no one goes hungry in our country."

  • Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry Guardian July 12 report of some seriously good, if belated news on politicians recognising the need for a more serious approach to the Covid crisis rather than allowing the government to continue unchallenged with serial screw-ups:
    "The only UK inquiry to date into the handling of the coronavirus crisis will take its first evidence from bereaved relatives on Monday, amid growing calls for a full independent investigation.
    "Families of those who have died will give their submissions in writing, via video call, or will arrange to do so in person to the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for coronavirus, led by a cross-party group of MPs.
    "It is so far the only independent inquiry into the pandemic taking place in the UK. The politicians involved hope their findings will be used to inform the government’s response before a potential second peak of the illness this winter."

  • Almost 2,500 children admitted to hospital with malnutrition this year as cases double in England Independent July 12: "Some 11,515 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015, according to research by an MP.
    "Data also shows there were 2,483 hospital admissions of children and adults due to malnourishment between January and June this year, according to Freedom of Information responses from nearly 50 hospital trusts in England.
    "Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Layla Moran, who collected the data, said she was "shocked" at the figures - which are equivalent to 103 hospitals admissions per week.
    "Hunger has surged during lockdown with government figures revealing as many as 7.7 million adults cut down on portion sizes or missed meals because they could not afford food."

  • Jeremy Hunt warns Boris Johnson patient care will suffer if NHS reorganisation goes ahead Independent July 11 with an interesting different angle on the rumoured plans of the Johnson government:
    "Jeremy Hunt has urged Boris Johnson to drop plans for another huge reorganisation of the NHS, warning patient care will suffer if it goes ahead.
    "The former health secretary said he was “astonished” by evidence that preparatory work is under way, including to curb the arms-length independence of NHS England.
    "Mr Hunt urged the prime minister to look at the deep problems the NHS faces: “the social care system, which desperately needs a 10-year plan, the Cumberlege report into vaginal mesh, the issues in the Shrewsbury and Telford maternity safety report”.
    "He said: “If you want to improve care for patients, then looking at the quality and safety of care is going to have far more impact than another big reorganisation.”
    "NHS England is in the firing line, because of clashes with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, over testing and personal protective equipment shortages during the coronavirus pandemic."

  • The £5.5bn PPE scandal that goes to the core of government incompetence – and that’s just for starters Extended July 11 report from The Canary: "A multi-million pound personal protective equipment (PPE) contract awarded by the UK government to a family-run investments firm has set off alarm bells.
    "Recipients for similar contracts include a recruitment agency, a sweets manufacturer, and a business that specialises in pest control products. A Labour MP has raised questions about one of these contracts. And litigation against the government has commenced.
    "Meanwhile, The Canary has conducted its own investigation into these matters. And what has been highlighted so far may well be just the tip of the iceberg."

  • Another 148 people die with coronavirus bringing UK death toll to 44,798 July 11 report in the Metro -- obscured by lack of any data on numbers of people being tested: "A further 148 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the UK death toll to 44,798. The new figure, released today by the Department of Health and Social Care, covers fatalities in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
    "A total of 288,953 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 across the country since the start of the pandemic, with 820 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours."

  • Foreign care workers to be given special visas to move to UK to ease staffing crisis fears Independent July 11 report; “Foreign care workers will be given special visas to move to the UK to head off fears of desperate staffing shortages when Brexit is completed, in a major government U-turn.
    “Priti Patel will on Monday unveil a new “health and care visa”, entitling migrant workers to fast-track cut-price permission to take up job offers and support to move here with their families.
    “The home secretary had previously said it would be an NHS visa only, sparking protests that care workers – among the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic – would be shut out.
    “Without special rules, their low pay means they will fall foul of the post-Brexit salary threshold of £25,600 for most workers seeking to enter the UK, from next January.
    “The King’s Fund think tank had pointed to 122,000 social care job vacancies – at a time when one in six staff are non-British – warning ministers not to let “international recruitment fall off a cliff”.”

  • Covid-19 has revealed a pre-existing pandemic of poverty that benefits the rich Guardian July 11 report by outgoing UN rapporteur on poverty Philip Alston explains sudden awareness of poverty: “Over the past decade, world leaders, philanthropists and pundits have embraced a deceptively optimistic narrative about the world’s progress against poverty. It has been lauded as one of the “greatest human achievements”, a feat seen “never before in human history” and an “unprecedented” accomplishment. But the success story was always highly misleading.
    “As I show in my final report as UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, almost all of these rosy accounts rely on one measure – the World Bank’s $1.90 (£1.50) a day international poverty line – which is widely misunderstood, flawed and yields a deceptively positive picture.
    “It has generated an undue sense of satisfaction and a dangerous complacency with the status quo.
    Under that line, the number of people in “extreme poverty” fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 736 million in 2015. But the dramatic drop is only possible with a scandalously unambitious benchmark, which aims to ensure a mere miserable subsistence.
    “The best evidence shows it doesn’t even cover the cost of food or housing in many countries. And it obscures poverty among women and those often excluded from official surveys, such as migrant workers and refugees. Much of the touted decline is due to rising incomes in a single country, China.”

  • The inside story of how UK's 'chaotic' testing regime 'broke all the rules' Sky News July 10 on a chronicle of errors: "As Britain sought to assemble its coronavirus testing programme, all the usual rules were broken.
    "In their effort to release rapid data to show the increase in testing capacity, officials from Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) "hand-cranked" the numbers to ensure a constant stream of rising test numbers were available for each day's press conference, Sky News has been told.
    "An internal audit later confirmed that some of those figures simply didn't add up.
    "According to multiple sources, the data collection was carried out in such a chaotic manner that we may never know for sure how many people have been tested for coronavirus.
    "We completely buffed the system," says a senior Whitehall figure.
    "We said: forget the conventions, we're putting [this data] out."

  • U.S. Hits Another Record for New Coronavirus Cases New York Times July 10: "Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database.
    "The surge has been driven largely by states in the South and the West that were among the first to ease restrictions established during the virus’s initial wave in the spring.
    "At least six states set single-day case records on Thursday: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas.
    "The numbers were especially striking in Texas, which set a record for the fourth consecutive day with more than 10,900 cases. Nearly one in 10 of them were in Hidalgo County, which consists of over a thousand square miles of scrub and urban sprawl on the Mexico border."

  • Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database. The surge has been Independent July 10: "Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said the virus was “not under control” in most parts of the world.
    “It is getting worse,” he said on Thursday.
    "Speaking at a weekly member state briefing, he said more than 11.8 million Covid-19 cases had been reported to the WHO.
    “And the pandemic is still accelerating,” he said. “The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.”

  • Government quietly publishes figures which reveal it overstated number of people tested Sky News report July 10: “The government was routinely overstating the total number of people who had been tested for COVID-19 by as many as 200,000 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new Sky News analysis.
    “It follows a Sky News investigation into irregularities in how testing data was collected and compiled in the face of the outbreak.
    “In the wake of that story, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published data showing the total number of people tested for the disease since January. It's the first time such data has been released since the second half of May.
    “The revised data shows that the daily numbers provided at the time alongside the government's press conferences significantly overstated the number of people who had been tested for coronavirus.”

  • Boris Johnson plans radical shake-up of NHS in bid to regain more direct control Guardian July 10, rather confusing report on the latest rumoured move by the Cummings government: “Boris Johnson is planning a radical and politically risky reorganisation of the NHS amid government frustration at the health service’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, the Guardian has learned.
    “The prime minister has set up a taskforce to devise plans for how ministers can regain much of the direct control over the NHS they lost in 2012 under a controversial shake-up masterminded by Andrew Lansley, the then coalition government health secretary.
    “The prime minister’s health and social care taskforce – made up of senior civil servants and advisers from Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – is drawing up proposals that would restrict NHS England’s operational independence and the freedom Stevens has to run the service.
    “In the summer, the taskforce will present Johnson with a set of detailed options to achieve those goals, and that will be followed by a parliamentary bill to enact the proposals, it is understood.”

  • What might Boris Johnson's restructuring plan mean for the NHS? Guardian July 10 explainer on the rumoured changes begins: "A planned restructuring of NHS England could have a significant impact on its architecture, its relationship with government, which NHS bodies are responsible for which issues, and the role – and future – of its chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens."

  • Conservative councillor PPE contracts questioned BBC July 10 report on more dodgy deals on PPE: “The government is under pressure to review its personal protective equipment (PPE) deals after a Tory councillor received major contracts.
    “The councillor's company, P14 Medical, was given contracts to supply face shields worth £120m in total. Labour said the government had "serious questions" to answer about the PPE procurement process.
    “No 10 said the Department of Health and Social Care "works closely with the Treasury to ensure value for money". The prime minister's official spokesman said demand for PPE had been going up but the DHSC "will have worked with the Treasury on spending conditions".
    “Asked what safeguards were in place where companies were run by Conservative Party members, he said: "All contracts will be published by DHSC and their value”."

  • “All the Hospitals Are Full”: In Houston, Overwhelmed ICUs Leave COVID-19 Patients Waiting in ERs Propublica reports from US July 10: "Houston hospitals have been forced to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients in their emergency rooms — sometimes for several hours or multiple days — as they scramble to open additional intensive care beds for the wave of seriously ill people streaming through their doors, according to internal numbers shared with NBC News and ProPublica.
    "At the same time, the region’s 12 busiest hospitals are increasingly telling emergency responders that they cannot safely accept new patients, at a rate nearly three times that of a year ago, according to data reviewed by reporters."

  • Covid-19: Many trusts have not done risk assessments for ethnic minority staff, BMJ investigation finds BMJ July 10 report: "Data show that almost two thirds of UK healthcare workers who have died from covid-19 were from ethnic minority groups, despite only a fifth of the NHS workforce being from such backgrounds.45
    "The BMJ asked England’s 140 acute care trusts for details of risk assessments they had carried out and what subsequent actions they had put in place. Seventy trusts responded (response rate 50%). Of these, 27 (39%) said that assessments were yet to be completed for all ethnic minority staff, and 43 (61%) indicated that assessments had been completed.
    "But the other 70 trusts were unable to provide a response within the 20 day deadline, citing “unprecedented challenges” posed by the covid-19 pandemic, so it is not known what stage they are at in risk assessing staff."

  • From the front lines, Black nurses battle twin pandemics of racism and coronavirus July 10 CNN report: "CNN interviewed a dozen Black nurses across the UK's healthcare sector. From students to medics with decades of experience, they work in different roles and different settings -- hospitals, care homes and clinics -- up and down the country.
    "They all say they have experienced racism in the workplace -- and that it has gotten worse amid the coronavirus outbreak.
    "They told CNN the pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated existing racial inequalities, leaving Black nurses vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.
    "They say they have been pressured to treat Covid-19 patients without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), to work in the highest-risk areas with larger caseloads, and left too scared to speak out, for fear of reprisals."

  • Care homes face staffing 'black hole' with new immigration bill BBC July 9: “Care homes could face a staffing "black hole" because of the impact of the government's immigration bill, care leaders have warned.
    “The Cavendish Coalition - which represents UK health and social care groups - says it is gravely concerned. The current proposals would not allow enough overseas workers to be recruited, it has warned.
    “The government said immigration is "not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector".
    “Leaders of 37 national care organisations, including the NHS Confederation, have signed the letter to the prime minister. They say the proposed post-Brexit bill could have a damaging effect on care homes and other social care services, especially as the nation heads towards winter - which could bring further challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

  • Student nursing applications surge 15 per cent in a year Independent July 9: “Applications to study nursing at university has jumped by 15 per cent in a year, according to the latest data.
    “The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS, said the number of applicants had reached 58,550.
    “It follows a huge surge in interest in joining the NHS after the coronavirus outbreak has shone a spotlight on the role of frontline nurses and doctors.
    Universities have come under pressure from NHS England’ chief executive Sir Simon Stevens to open up more places and accept more applicants to study as part of efforts to boost the nursing workforce.
    “Before the coronavirus outbreak the NHS had around 40,000 vacancies for registered nurses and the government has committed to having 50,000 more full-time equivalent nurses working in the NHS by April 2024.
    “… Despite the increase in applicants the Royal College of Nursing warned there was still a long way to go before the government would hit its target.”

  • New data reveals PM’s testing speeds claims as wrong Full fact July 9, responding to another silly lie from Johnson: “Last month, the Prime Minister was asked how far the government had progressed towards delivering on its target to process Covid-19 tests within 24 hours.
    “He responded saying that, at that point:
    • 90% of all tests were turned around within 48 hours
    • All tests at testing centres and mobile testing sites are done within 24 hours
    “… Far from “all” tests being done within 24 hours, the proportion of people in England receiving their test result within 24 hours of taking their test in the week to 3 June was 19% at regional test sites, 5% at mobile testing units and and 6% at satellite test centres.”

  • Dementia patients 'deteriorating' without family visits BBC July 9 report: “Relatives of care home residents with dementia should be treated as key workers, leading charities say.
    “In a letter to the health secretary, they write that the care given by family members is "essential" to residents' mental and physical health. They argue the current limits on visitors have had "damaging consequences".
    “They want visits to resume safely, with relatives given the same access to care homes and coronavirus testing as staff.
    “Signed by the bosses of leading charities including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer's Society, the letter calls on the government to "urgently" address what it calls the "hidden catastrophe" happening in care homes.”

  • Chorley Hospital's £17.5m expansion and what it'll add to central Lancashire healthcare Lancs Live reports on a new £17.5 million four-storey, state-of-the-art extension at Chorley Hospital to house the trust's day case and eye care unit, with three new theatres -- two for ophthalmology - and a third for treatment that doesn't need overnight admission.
    “Meanwhile, the hospital's A&E department is set to reopen from September on the condition that Lancashire doesn't experience a second spike on Covid-19 cases. The reopening of Chorley A&E will also depend on if funding is available to ensure that the site can be 'Covid-secure'.”

  • Covid-19 should increase our commitment to publicly funded and provided healthcare July 9 BMJ blog by doc David Oliver slamming the latest attempts by the IEA to whip up hostility to the NHS:
    "The BBC reports that the UK has been hit hardest by covid-19 among the G7 nations. Over the 11 peak pandemic weeks it had the highest increases in deaths, deaths per 100 000 population, and excess deaths as a proportion of usual levels. This is not a set of league tables anyone should be proud to top.
    "Mark Littlewood, director of the libertarian Institute for Economic Affairs, tweeted that “this is more evidence that the NHS is pretty much the worst healthcare system in the Western world. Once we look at all the info, there may be a good case for going for an EU-style more marketised system.” But was he justified in co-opting the UK’s pandemic performance in support of this cause?"

  • The Trump administration sends formal notification that the U.S. will withdraw from the W.H.O. next year. New York Times July 8 report on the latest vindictive act by the most destructive US President:
    “The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the United States is withdrawing from the World Health Organization, officials said Tuesday, cutting off one of the organization’s biggest sources of aid amid a pandemic that has infected more than 11.6 million people, killed more than a half a million, and upended life around the world.
    “… By law, the United States must give the organization a year’s notice if it intends to withdraw, and meet all the current financial obligations in the current year.
    “Mr. Trump, whose response to the pandemic has drawn criticism, first announced that he planned to halt funding to the W.H.O. in April, claiming that the organization had made a series of mistakes as it battled the coronavirus.
    “His move to withdraw drew immediate criticism. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate’s health committee, said that he disagreed with the president’s decision.
    “’Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need,” he said in a statement. “And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States’.”

  • Confusion over whether free hospital parking for NHS staff to end in England Guardian July 8, with an unclear article of conflicting claims which does however quote health minister (and former Serco lobbyist) Edward Argar, answering a parliamentary question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana, admitting that the government was “considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognising that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers”.
    "He added: “The government’s focus remains on ensuring the commitment of free parking for the groups identified in their announcement of 27 December 2019 is implemented once the pandemic abates.”"

  • Hospital in Boris Johnson's constituency closes to emergencies after coronavirus outbreak Sky News July 8 report on the closure of Hillingdon Hospital's A&E – with knock on pressures on already stretched hospitals in NW London:
    "A hospital in Boris Johnson's constituency has been forced to close to emergencies after an outbreak of coronavirus among staff, officials have said.
    "Around 70 staff at Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, in the prime minister's west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, have gone into isolation after symptoms were detected amongst some of them.
    "Ambulances were diverted away from Hillingdon hospital from last night and it was closed to emergency admissions today, though "walk in" casualty patients were still being seen."

  • Hillingdon hospital boss blames staff for A&E closure after Covid-19 outbreak Guadian July 8 on the hospital trust boss who has taken a leaf out of the government's book -- and opted to blame staff:
    "The chief executive of the hospital that serves Boris Johnson’s constituency, which has shut its A&E unit after an outbreak of coronavirus, has blamed staff for flouting the rules by not wearing masks at work.
    "Hillingdon hospital in north-west London stopped letting patients attend its emergency department or accepting any new emergency admissions on Tuesday after 70 of its staff had to self-isolate.
    "It has had to tell the London ambulance service to take patients from the area to other hospitals because the number of its own staff who are now in quarantine means it has too few personnel to provide a full range of services.
    "The outbreak began last Friday, but its impact on the hospital’s workforce has escalated since then as growing numbers of staff have been identified through the track-and-trace scheme as having been in contact with colleagues who have tested positive and so have had to self-isolate."

  • How government blindfolded frontline public health experts fighting Covid’s next phase Manchester Evening News July 8: “Going back to the 19th Century, medical officers of health for municipalities such as Manchester were in charge of suppressing outbreaks of the Victorian diseases plaguing dirty water supplies or overcrowded, unsanitary housing.
    “So public health directors are steeped in this kind of scenario. And in this case their expertise is also crucial to avoiding a second 21st Century mass shutdown of the economy.
    “Yet they have been denied the tools they need.
    “From early-May onwards, as we’ve covered extensively, they were unable to access any data from tests carried out in privately-run testing labs procured by the government.
    “After the looming local lockdown of Leicester became apparent, suddenly parts of that information did begin flowing. From the week of June 21 onwards, public health directors started getting some data - partial postcodes showing roughly where those with the virus lived, albeit only provided on a weekly basis.”

  • BGS statement responding to Prime Minister’s comments on care homes British Geriatrics Society July 8 statement: "The BGS strongly condemns comments from the Prime Minister on 6 July stating that ‘too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems bizarre for the Prime Minister to suggest that care homes did not follow procedures when, at least in the early weeks, there were no agreed procedures available for them to follow.
    "The impact of this pandemic on care homes cannot be overstated – official figures show 30% of deaths in care homes during the pandemic are directly attributable to COVID-19. Sadly, nearly 20,000 care home residents have died from COVID-19. Care home staff were put at risk on a daily basis and, unfortunately, some contracted the virus and died.
    "At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a complete lack of government guidance about how to manage the infection in care homes. When guidance was published in early April, it was insufficient. There was no requirement for patients being transferred to care homes to have a negative COVID-19 test or to be isolated for a period of time. In addition, there was very little testing available to care homes at this stage. "

  • The Pro-Privatization Shock Therapy of the UK’s Covid Response Substantial July 10 article in New York Review of Books highlights government's obsession with privatisation:
    "Boris Johnson won last year’s December election on promises of Brexit, but also state investment and “leveling up” neglected regions of the country.
    "And yet, facing the coronavirus crisis, his party’s instinct was to shore up the private sector: a pandemic version of “disaster capitalism,” to borrow Naomi Klein’s coining from her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine.
    "Britain’s public health sector, a cash-strapped, eroded, but functioning network comprising the National Health Service (NHS), general-practice clinics, and local authority health officials, has been repeatedly sidelined in favor of outsourced alternatives.
    "As Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health at Newcastle University, put it to The New York Times recently: “They’re basically trying to build a centralized, parallel, privatized system".”

  • A Spike in People Dying at Home Suggests Coronavirus Deaths in Houston May Be Higher Than Reported Propublica report from US July 8: "As coronavirus cases surge, inundating hospitals and leading to testing shortages, a rapidly growing number of Houston area residents are dying at home, according to an NBC News and ProPublica review of Houston Fire Department data. An increasing number of these at-home deaths have been confirmed to be the result of COVID-19, Harris County medical examiner data shows.
    "The previously unreported jump in people dying at home is the latest indicator of a mounting crisis in a region beset by one of the nation’s worst and fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks.
    "On Tuesday, a record 3,851 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus in the Houston region, exceeding normal intensive care capacity and sending some hospitals scrambling to find additional staff and space."

  • Boris Johnson under fire over claim care homes 'didn't follow procedures' Sky News July 7 report: "Boris Johnson has been urged to apologise after he angered care home bosses by claiming "too many" in the sector "didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus crisis.
    "During a visit to Goole, Yorkshire, on Monday, the prime minister was asked about comments from NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens - who wants to see plans to adequately fund the adult social care sector within a year.
    "Mr Johnson replied: "One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.
    "We discovered too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we're learning lessons the whole time."

  • Absolute Chaos! Records Show UK Has 2.5 Million COVID-19 Missing Test Results Tech Times July 7 report: “About 2.5 million tests are believed to be missing in a testing system, which is branded as "absolute chaos."
    Based on figures released on Monday, July 6, data show the government has released 10.6 million home testing kits, but only 8 million were returned.
    “The number of tests issued by the government shown in its official figures seems inaccurate as opposed to the number of tests returned, which earned criticisms from the public.
    “This prompted Department for Health to stop daily reporting on the number of tests administered, which triggered a backlash from critics who said ministers are "embarrassed".
    “According to recently published data, there were a total of 10,505,758 antigen and antibody tests released at a testing center or via the post. However, only 8,058,510 have been returned for and processing. This means over 20% were never returned.
    “"How can 2.5 million tests be unaccounted for? The testing system is in absolute chaos with ministers unable to keep a track of how many people are being tested," said Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders.”

  • 'Travesty of leadership': Charity boss hits out at 'cowardly' Boris Johnson after PM blames care homes for coronavirus deaths Independent July 7 reports: "The chief executive of a social care charity has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s “cowardly” and “appalling” comments after the prime minister appeared to blame care home owners for the high death toll.
    "Expressing his anger at Mr Johnson’s remarks, the chief executive officer of Community Integrated Care, Mark Adams, accused the government of re-writing history and claimed there had been a “travesty of leadership” during the health crisis.
    "As deaths of care home residents with Covid-19 approached 20,000, the prime minister said on Monday that “we discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lesson the whole time”.
    "Care providers said the basis for Mr Johnson’s comments were unclear, while the National Care Forum (NCF) said they were “neither accurate nor welcome” and urged him to start “turning the dial up on reform and down on blame”."

  • Introducing the Best Hospitals for America Washington Monthly with an extended comparative look at the ways of rating US hospitals, noting that those with the most inclusive services are generally not those rated highest. It begins by looking at how hospitals have responded to the Covid crisis:
    "On the not-so-heroic side, this crisis has also brought news of misbehavior. One major teaching hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, continued scheduling lucrative elective surgeries long after the state’s governor ordered hospitals to stop such surgeries so they could prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients. One uninsured woman in Boston who had symptoms of COVID-19 got a $34,000 bill for her emergency room treatment. Some hospitals have maintained aggressive bill collection practices, dunning working-class patients whose incomes have plunged in the pandemic-induced recession. Still others have threatened to fire workers who speak publicly about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and refused COVID-19 tests for people with symptoms while offering them to the rich and famous."

  • What is Covid Tracker Ireland? Irish Times July 7 on the successful launch of the Irish contact tracing app: “After weeks of testing and an €850,000 bill, the HSE’s contact tracing app is finally live. Available from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, it is intended to be another weapon in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland.
    “The HSE’s contact tracing app, developed by Waterford company Nearform, uses your phone’s bluetooth connection to keep a log of any close contacts. That list is compiled using beacons that are identified by a string of numbers that change every 10 to 20 minutes.
    “If two phones are in close contact, they exchange their active ID, and that list is stored on phones for 14 days. To help protect privacy, the beacons are random and are not tied to a user’s identity.”

  • Revealed - 16 care homes given £1,000 to take Covid-positive hospital patients Birmingham Mail report July 7: "Birmingham City Council gave care homes a £1,000 extra cash 'incentive' to take in hospital patients in a hurry, including some with coronavirus, so more NHS beds could be freed up for critically ill people.
    "A condition of the offer was that care homes had to take in a patient within 24 hours and no matter what their Covid status was.
    "Sixteen homes in the city took up the offer, made in line with government instructions to free up acute beds.
    "Today a care home manager who rejected the advance said she's certain it's one of the reasons none of her residents have been infected."

  • The lesson of the Covid-19 care homes tragedy: renationalising is no longer taboo Guardian July 6 articleby former Tory minister Ros Altman, calling for nationalisation of care homes: “The dire consequences of neglecting social care reform for decades have been starkly exposed by Covid-19, with one in 20 care home residents in the UK dying from the virus, and dedicated, low-paid staff risking their lives.
    “Much of the blame for the UK having the highest death toll in care homes in Europe from coronavirus, bar Spain, has been attributed to hospitals discharging patients into residential care, even if they were infected with Covid-19, and care staff moving between homes without being issued PPE.
    “But the problems go much deeper, to the way our care sector is structured, leaving it fragmented, financially fragile and without the capacity to cope in a crisis.
    “In the 1980s responsibility for care homes was passed from the NHS to local authorities. But few are still council-run; 85% of the UK’s 22,000 care homes are owned by private companies, with the remainder in the hands of charitable or nonprofit organisations.”

  • The truth about the billion pound PPE procurement fiasco Excellent Yorkshire Bylines July 6 report: “On 1 April an order for £10m was placed with Medco Solutions Ltd, a London-based company that apparently only incorporated on 26 March, three days after lockdown, with a share capital of just £2. It was the first of over sixty such contracts placed with a variety of suppliers, some quite unusual and under emergency rules, bypassing the normal competitive tendering process that ensures best value.
    “Let me say clearly at the outset, I do not believe this is necessarily a story of wrongdoing or corruption on the part of anyone in any of the suppliers or the DHSC.
    “I suspect the companies saw an opportunity to help the NHS and make money for themselves and their shareholders and did so. The failure at the top of government to anticipate and prepare for an unprecedented increase in the need for PPE made the bypassing of competitive tendering inevitable.
    “Details of all these contracts can be found on the EU’s TED (tenders electronic daily) website. It’s easy to use – just enter “garments for biological or chemical protection” in the search box. Of the 117 single-bidder contracts for protective garments under code 35113410 that were showing on the website when this research was done, 65 or so totalling about £980m were placed by the DHSC from 39 Victoria Street, London between 1 April and 26 May.
    “The pace of contract placing stepped up through April as hospitals and care homes began to complain of a desperate shortage of PPE. A number of clinical staff had to use bin liners in place of gowns. While some contracts were given to established UK manufacturers like Polystar Plastics, a Southampton-based company with significant assets who received an order for £25m, many and much larger orders were placed with companies that appeared to have little or no history or experience in personal protective equipment. At least two appeared to have been dormant businesses a few months beforehand.
    “Initia Ventures Ltd, providing business support service activities, filed accounts for a dormant company in January this year but received an order for £32m on 2 April and a second for £16m on 25 April.”

  • Government awards £252m PPE contract to private equity firm i-news report July 6: "The Government could face further legal challenges after it awarded a £252.5m personal protective equipment (PPE) contract to a private equity and currency trading company owned through an offshore holding firm based in the tax haven of Mauritius.
    "Ayanda Capital Limited won the contract to supply an undisclosed number of face masks to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in April, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Details of the deal, published on the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website, reveal that only one tender was submitted for the lucrative contract.
    "Officials have been able to award contracts directly without prior publication and therefore without adhering to the usual procurement timetables in certain circumstances, one of which is for reasons of “extreme urgency”."

  • Investor Tim Horlick's trading firm wins £252m PPE contract Torygraph July 6 report joins the chorus of astonishment at the ineptitude – or otherwise – of government PPE procurement:
    "Health officials are facing scrutiny after a £252.5m contract to supply face masks was awarded to a small family investment firm with no known history in the industry.
    "The Department for Health handed the deal to London-based Ayanda Capital - run by Tim Horlick, ex-husband of the star fund manager Nicola Horlick - which has five employees, and according to its website specialises in currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade financing.
    "It has sparked further questions about the Government’s PPE procurement strategy following a £108m contract awarded to small pest control firm PestFix.
    "Ayanda is owned by the Horlick family through a Mauritius-registered holding company, Milo Investments. Latest accounts, for the year ending December 2019, show it had assets worth £1.8m and £1.4m of cash in the bank.
    "The Government has handed billions of pounds to dozens of companies to secure PPE throughout the coronavirus crisis, often without competitive tender in a rush to get vital equipment for the battle against Covid-19. "

  • Britons overwhelmingly want NHS privatisation to end after coronavirus crisis, survey finds Independent on July 5 on opinion poll findings: "Voters overwhelmingly want to see an end to privatisation in the health service after the coronavirus crisis has ended, according to a new survey.
    "The Survation poll for We Own It, a think tank that campaigns for public ownership, found that 76 per cent of the public want to see the NHS “reinstated as a fully public service” against just 15 per cent who wanted to see continued involvement of private companies.
    "The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the delivery of health services by private companies.
    "The government has come under fire for handing contracts to run coronavirus testing services to commercial companies rather than involving local public health experts, and Boots was forced to back away from a plan to use volunteers to staff centres, following an investigation by The Independent.
    "A leaked email revealed Rupert Soames, chief executive of outsourcing giant Serco, said he hoped involvement in the test and trace operation would “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain."

  • Covid-19 may not have originated in China, Oxford University expert believes Telegraph July 5 with an interesting new theory on the origins of the coronavirus:
    "Coronavirus may have lain dormant across the world and emerged when the environmental conditions were right for it to thrive rather than starting in China, an Oxford University expert believes.
    "Dr Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), at Oxford and a visiting professor at Newcastle University, argues there is growing evidence that the virus was elsewhere before it emerged in Asia.
    "Last week, Spanish virologists announced that they had found traces of the disease in samples of waste water collected in March 2019, nine months before coronavirus was seen in China.
    "Italian scientists have also found evidence of coronavirus in sewage samples in Milan and Turin in mid-December, many weeks before the first case was detected, while experts have found evidence of traces in Brazil in November."

  • UK set to award Covid-19 testing contracts worth £5bn to private bidders Guardian July 2 reporting a new twist in the government’s efforts to use the Covid-19 crisis as a cover to drive forward its ambitions for wider privatisation of NHS services:
    “The government is preparing to award coronavirus testing contracts worth an estimated £5bn to commercial bidders, in what critics fear is a “backdoor” subsidy to the private sector.
    “The vast new budget, which works out at £2.5bn per year and will be managed by Public Health England (PHE), is equal to the entire annual spend on English NHS laboratories.
    “The Department of Health and Social Care said it was creating a new national framework for testing which would replace current arrangements, with further details released “in due course”.
    “The new plan, outlined in a public notice, dwarfs the budget for the current framework. Completed in 2017, its estimated cost was between £80m to £120m.
    “NHS sources said they had been told the cash would be used to fund an expansion of Lighthouse laboratories. Created in April to boost Covid-19 testing capacity, they are at the centre of the storm over why it took until last week for local authorities to begin receiving postcode data on the spread of coronavirus in their communities.
    “It is understood that seven new commercially run laboratories are planned in the short term. That number could eventually rise to 29, one for each NHS pathology region in England.”

  • Why was £108m of public money paid to Crisp Websites Limited? A crowd-funding website raising cash to challenge one of the more ridiculous awards of contracts for PPE by the government without competition:
    "How on earth did a company - Crisp Websites Limited - with last reported net assets of £18,047 win a contract worth £108m - and why was there apparently no bidding process?
    "The bare facts are quite remarkable. Here is the filing history of Crisp Websites Limited showing at 30 November 2019 it had net assets of £18,047. Here is the Official Journal publication of the 12 month £108m contract it entered into with Matt Hancock's department. That publication states there was only one bidder for that contract.
    "From these bare facts, a quite remarkable series of questions arise.
    "1. Was this contract ever advertised? If so, where? No one we have spoken to is aware of any advertisement.
    "2. If it was not advertised, how was Crisp Websites Limited chosen? Who was the decision maker? How did the name of this tiny company come to be placed before the decision maker?"

  • Dozens of shifts at coronavirus mega-lab cancelled and staff paid to stay away, whistleblower reveals Independent July 3 report: "Dozens of shifts at one of the government’s coronavirus mega-labs have been cancelled and staff paid to stay away because of a lack of test samples, a whistleblower has revealed.
    "A member of staff at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory has shared a tranche of emails sent from lab bosses to staff during May and June with The Independent.
    "They show more than 40 separate shifts at the labs were cancelled in the past two months, often with just a day’s notice or less.
    "Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary and chair of the Commons health select committee, said he thought it was “extraordinary” the labs were not being fully utilised."

  • Coronavirus R rate creeps up above 1 in London just hours before lockdown eases Daily Mirror July 3 warning: "Alarming new figures show the R rate range has risen above 1 in London - meaning cases of the deadly virus could be growing again.
    "It comes just hours before lockdown restrictions are eased in England, with pubs allowed to open again from 6am.
    "In four other regions - the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire, the South East and the South West - experts believe the R rate could also be as high as 1.
    "If the R rate goes above 1, it means the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise, as each individual with the disease is infecting more than one other person.
    "In order for the disease to be in retreat, the R rate needs to be below 1, but scientists fear a surge of new cases as restrictions are eased."

  • Almost 20,000 people have died in care homes with Covid-19 Mirror July 3 report: “Between March 2 and June 12, a total of 19,394 deaths had Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate, whether as an underlying cause or not. Of these, 16,305 (84%) were classified as "confirmed" Covid-19 and 3,089 (16%) were classified as "suspected" Covid-19.
    “…The daily number of deaths of care home residents peaked in England on April 17, when a total of 515 deaths occurred - 413 in care homes, 100 in hospitals and two in other locations.
    “Latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics this morning come as Boris Johnson was asked if an earlier lockdown could have prevented more care home deaths.”

  • Healthcare unions call for ‘immediate NHS pay discussions’ Nursing Notes report july 3: “Unison, Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and twelve other healthcare unions have today written to both the Prime Minister and Chancellor calling for them to “show its support for NHS professionals” by entering “immediate NHS pay discussions”.
    “The letter highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has made the dedication and commitment of health and care staff, wherever they work, plain for all to see.
    “It goes on to explain that while the applause and tributes have been a short-term morale boost, this is a “unique” opportunity for the government to show true support and acknowledge the hard work of staff.
    “Despite the health secretary claiming that workers have already received a “significant rise”, NHS staff in England recently received their final annual rise following a multi-year pay deal – with the majority of nurses seeing a pre-tax rise of just 7% over three years – below the rate of inflation.
    “With a recent YouGov survey finding that 77% of the general public supported a rise for healthcare workers, unions say that waiting until 2021 for the next scheduled set of pay negotiations is “not acceptable”.”

  • ‘Unforgivable’ - Mental health trust allowed court hospital order to expire Eastern Daily Press report July 3: “Paperwork errors at Norfolk’s mental health trust have risen by more than a third in the past year, it has emerged.
    “The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has seen mistakes in sectioning - involuntary hospitalisation - paperwork increase by 36pc in the past twelve months.
    “Errors in the trust’s completion of Mental Health Act paperwork rose from 30 in 2018-19 to 41 in 2019-20, which campaigners have branded “profoundly concerning”.
    “It comes as the trust, dubbed England’s worst, was criticised for a “shocking” lack of beds as data revealed a fresh rise in patients being sent out of the area for treatment.
    “… Among the errors, recorded in board papers published ahead of the trust’s May directors’ meeting, was the unintentional expiration of a Section 37 order - a court-ordered mental health patient admission to a secure ward.”

  • Unions call for early pay rise for NHS staff Guardian July 3: “The unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), GMB and Unite, stress that the increase should also include support for private contractors, such as domestic workers and security guards.
    “Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, who chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “Throughout lockdown the public has seen the immense dedication, commitment and compassion shown by NHS staff, and now expects them to be rewarded. As the clapping returns this weekend for the NHS’s birthday, ministers can show how much they value health staff by committing to an early pay rise that the entire country supports.”
    “Before the three-year pay deal agreed in 2018, which was worth at least 6.5% and excluded doctors, NHS workers had gone through seven years of 1% rises or pay freezes under David Cameron’s government. The RCN has calculated that the average salary for a nurse has fallen by 8% in real terms since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.”

  • Government admits 30K fewer people tested positive for Covid than previously thought Torygraph report July 3 with uncomfortable facts for ministers: "The number of people testing positive for coronavirus is 30,000 fewer than previously thought, after the government admitted it had been double counting test results.
    "In the latest testing controversy, the Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE) said it was changing its methodology for reporting positive cases after finding duplicates in pillar 1 and 2.
    "Pillar 1 tests key workers and those in NHS hospital settings while pillar 2 is in the wider community, but there appears to be an overlap which was only discovered when local data was compiled recently, which showed national figures were too high."

  • Test and Trace: 15% trust private firm to run English system Scottish newspaper The National reports:
    JUST 15% of people think a private firm should be in charge of coronavirus contact tracing systems, a new poll has found.
    "A Survation poll, commissioned by campaign group We Own It, asked people living in the UK who they felt should run contact tracing schemes as we move out of lockdown. While 67% said public health teams and local health services should have responsibility for the systems, just 15% felt that a private company like Serco should control them.
    "In England, Serco and other private firms look after large parts of the test and trace system. The scheme has been plagued with issues since it was established at the end of May."

  • Comprehensive new funding package for councils to help address coronavirus pressures and cover lost income during the pandemic Government press release tries to trumpet a pathetically inadequate £500m increase in funding as the solution to the £10 billion funding gap faced by councils -- with dire consequences for social care, public health and many other vital services.

  • Deloitte: Coronavirus They Work for You reveals the parliamentary exchange between Stella Creasey MP for Labour and Tory Minister Nadine Dorries, confirming the inadequate contract between government and Deloitte that does not require the firm to report on test results to Public Health England and local authorities.

  • PPE spend to hit £14bn by the end of the year HSJ report July 2:
    "The Treasury is preparing for spending on personal protective equipment for the health system to hit up to £14bn this financial year, HSJ understands — representing more than 10 per cent of the pre-covid NHS budget.
    "The revelation — an estimate of what has been spent since April and will be spent up to the end of March 2021 — underlines the huge hit to government budgets, and comes as the Treasury negotiates with the NHS over what funding it will get for the next phase of the coronavirus response.
    "The financial envelope, which has been confirmed by senior sources, has been calculated based on the average price per item and the number of pieces the Department of Health and Social Care has said is necessary. The DHSC declined to confirm the value of the envelope, citing “commercial sensitivity”."

  • Trust CEO slams 'cruel and ineffective' government policy HSJ July 2 report on a CEO willing to speak up in support of vulnerable patients affected by vicious government welfare policies:
    "The chief executive of a London trust has criticised the government over the reinstatement of its “cruel and ineffective” benefits policy.
    "Paul Jenkins, chief executive for Tavistock and Portman FT, commented on Twitter that the government’s benefit sanctions policy is “really cruel and ineffective”.
    "He also tweeted that the reinstatement was “very concerning when some of the most vulnerable people in society are already under so much pressure.”
    "In a statement to HSJ, Mr Jenkins said he stood by his tweet, adding: “I was closely involved in this issue when I was at Rethink Mental Illness and saw at first hand the harm caused to people with severe mental illness by the use of sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment.”
    "Under the government’s policy, those receiving benefits must once again adhere to “claimant conditionality” to access their benefits such as carrying out job searches."

  • INDEPENDENT SAGE – STATEMENT ON LEICESTER AND LOCAL LOCKDOWNS Statement from Independent SAGE group of experts begins:
    "The lockdown in Leicester constitutes a foreseeable crisis of the Government’s own making. It has come too late and, by being imposed on the locality, rather than being developed and implemented with the locality, it risks creating uncertainty, dissent, and even disorder.
    "In the case of Leicester, and for future such cases, we advocate a response that is led by local government, supported by agencies such as PHE Health Protection Teams, the NHS and the Police and with additional funding from central government.
    "The imposition of local restrictions should only be considered in the context of such an overall package of support, they should only be a last resort and used as a temporary measure. Such an approach will maximise both the efficacy of infection control measures and public support for these measures."

  • Johnson not telling the whole story on Leicester testing More fact checking finds Boris Johnson a long way from the truth -- Channel 4 July 2 report: “The government first took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester on 8 June, because we could see that there was an issue there. We sent mobile testing units—four more mobile testing units—shortly thereafter.”
    “That was Boris Johnson’s claim yesterday in the Commons.
    “But what the Prime Minister didn’t mention was that it was ten days after 8 June before even one additional testing site was opened in Leicester. And it was 21 days before a total of four new centres had opened in the city.”

  • Lifestyle Company with No Employees or Trading History Handed £25 Million PPE Contract Byline Times investigation July 2 begins:
    "The Great British COVID-19 procurement scandal continues after a newly published contract revealed yet another business with little experience or expertise being awarded a multi-million-pound contract to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS.
    "Design company Luxe Lifestyle Ltd was awarded a £25 million contract on 27 April to supply garments for biological or chemical protection to the NHS.
    "According to Companies House, the business was incorporated by fashion designer Karen Brost in November 2018. However, it appears to have no employees, no assets and no turnover.
    "Additional research into the company’s background using business information provider Endole revealed no evidence that the company has actually done any trading at all.
    "It is not clear how a business with no experience in the sector is able to meet its contractual requirements to provide 1.2 million gowns and 10 million FFP2/KN95 masks to the NHS during a national crisis.

  • Lack of local Covid-19 testing data hinders UK’s outbreak response Important Financial Times June 30 revelation of the massive data gap that is hampering any sensible track and trace system to contiun Covid-19: “The ability of local leaders to manage new coronavirus outbreaks in the UK is being hampered by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions, according to analysis by the Financial Times.
    “The government publishes a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home. But at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “The result is that hundreds of local authorities across the country are unable to see a timely picture of what is happening in their communities or compare that with other cities and regions of the UK.
    “This gap in the subnational and regional data has been cited by local political leaders and health officials in Leicester as one reason for a delay in locking down the east Midlands city, where virus cases have spiked.
    “For weeks we have been trying to get information about the level of testing in the city and the results of that testing in the city,” Peter Soulsby, mayor of Leicester, told the BBC on Tuesday.”

  • Still 36 parts of England where Covid-19 cases increasing, statistics reveal Independent July warning: “With a swathe of lockdown restrictions due to be lifted on ‘super Saturday’ this weekend, new statistics showed that there are still 36 parts of England where coronavirus cases have been increasing.
    “Release from lockdown was put on hold in Leicester as authorities moved to damp down an upsurge in infections which saw the Midlands city record 10 per cent of all positive cases in England in the past week. Its infection rate of 135 cases per 100,000 over the seven-day period was three times higher than the next worst-affected city in the country.
    “But figures from Public Health England (PHE) showed that other areas had also experienced increases in positive cases between the weeks of 13-19 June and 20-26 June. Doncaster recorded a rise from 11 to 32 in the number of positive cases over the period, while Derbyshire’s figure increased from 23 to 25, Medway from 10 to 17 and Sandwell from 8 to 10.
    “Some of the sharpest increases were in London boroughs, where the weekly figure rose from 7 to 18 in Hammersmith & Fulham, from 9 to 15 in Hounslow, 5 to 14 in Ealing, 6 to 14 in Westminster, 7 to 13 in Brent and 8 to 12 in Kensington and Chelsea.”

  • Still 36 parts of England where Covid-19 cases increasing, statistics reveal Independent July 1 report: "Release from lockdown was put on hold in Leicester as authorities moved to damp down an upsurge in infections which saw the Midlands city record 10 per cent of all positive cases in England in the past week.
    "Its infection rate of 135 cases per 100,000 over the seven-day period was three times higher than the next worst-affected city in the country.
    "But figures from Public Health England (PHE) showed that other areas had also experienced increases in positive cases between the weeks of 13-19 June and 20-26 June.
    "Doncaster recorded a rise from 11 to 32 in the number of positive cases over the period, while Derbyshire’s figure increased from 23 to 25, Medway from 10 to 17 and Sandwell from 8 to 10."

  • Understanding excess mortality: comparing COVID-19’s impact in the UK to other European countries Health Foundation research comparing levels of excess deaths:
    "The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has so far killed at least half a million people worldwide and has led to over 64,000 excess deaths in the UK. And although it is a global pandemic – triggered by the same SARS-CoV-2 virus – the impacts of the pandemic and the responses to it have been anything but the same across countries.
    "Early in the pandemic countries were at different stages of their outbreaks, making it difficult to make robust comparisons. Initially it looked as if Italy would be the country hardest hit, though this has not turned out to be the case. But as the first wave across Europe is coming to an end, meaningful comparisons have become possible. These comparisons can help us understand and learn from the experiences of different countries, so we are better able to manage a potential second wave or a future pandemic.
    "In this analysis we use excess deaths (the number of deaths in a given period less the usual number) over the pandemic period. This is a more comparable measure across countries than deaths from COVID-19, because different countries count COVID-19 deaths in different ways. It is also a measure of the total impact of the pandemic, including both COVID-19 deaths and other deaths that may have been a consequence of lockdowns."

  • Saturated Houston hospitals transferring COVID-19 patients to other cities Grim aftermath of premature end to lockdown in Texas. ABC13 report from HOUSTON, Texas:
    "Harris Health Systems, the public health agency that operates Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals, is sending COVID-19 patients to facilities outside of the area in an effort to cope with the growing healthcare crisis.
    "Charlie McMurray-Horton, the associate administrator for Clinical Integration and Transformation at Harris Health, spoke to ABC13 about the capacity issues affecting Harris Health hospitals this afternoon.
    "It really has intensified in the last month or so," said McMurray-Horton. "We are actively trying to transfer out ICU and surge patients that are COVID positive and under investigation, just because we don't have the capacity to treat those patients," McMurray-Horton added.
    "Harris Health Systems said it has transferred patients to UTMB in Galveston, the Woodlands, and as far away as Conroe. The scramble to find beds for patients also has a trickle down effect."

  • Coronavirus cases higher than thought in Merseyside with Wirral worst affected Liverpool Echo July 1 report: "Coronavirus cases in Merseyside are three times higher than previously reported.
    "New Covid-19 rates published by Public Health England suggest around 138 people in the area tested positive in the week to June 21. Previously published figures had shown 43 cases across the area during that same week.
    "Of the local areas in Merseyside, current rates show Wirral as being much more badly affected than other boroughs.
    "The Peninsular's infection rate of 19.2 per 100,000 people is significantly higher than the other Merseyside areas, which are all between 6 and 8.4 per 100,000 people.
    "The new figures are based on people being tested both through Pillar 1 (in hospitals) and Pillar 2 (through drive-through test centres and swabs sent by post)."

  • Government finally releases Greater Manchester coronavirus data... and there are SIX TIMES more cases than local officials knew about Manchester Evening News July 1: "Public health officials have finally received crucial local testing figures from government after nearly two months of pleading - and they reveal the number of cases here in the past week has been as six times higher than their own data suggested.
    "Since the start of May officials here have been begging government to release ‘pillar two’ testing data, the results of swabs carried out at drive-through stations and other facilities operated here by the private sector on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "Without it, they only had access to ‘pillar one’ test numbers, those carried out directly by Greater Manchester councils and hospitals and processed in Public Health England labs.
    "That had left public health directors flying blind, unable to accurately gauge the virus’s spread in the community.
    "This week they finally received the missing data - and it shows nearly 400 more people had tested positive in the past week than their existing figures would have suggested."

  • Leicester and Merthyr Tydfil top table for new Covid-19 infections Financial Times July 1 report on belated publication of fuller data revealing local patterns of infection: “On Tuesday, the FT reported that local leaders in England were being hampered in their efforts to manage new coronavirus outbreaks by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions.
    “Although the government has been publishing a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home, at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “Following criticism of its failure to provide comprehensive and timely testing results for all local authorities in England to allow them to track possible spikes, Public Health England on Wednesday released data for all Covid-19 infections up to June 21.
    “Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had already been publishing full data sets for both Pillar 1 tests collected in hospitals and Pillar 2 tests collected by commercial labs.”

  • Ministers shifting blame to Public Health England for Covid-19 errors, say experts Guardian July 1 report anticipates government efforts to dump blame for its errors onto a far from perfect Public Health England:
    "Experts have accused ministers of shifting the blame for their own mistakes during the coronavirus crisis on to Public Health England, amid speculation that the agency may be scrapped.
    "Downing Street on Wednesday failed to guarantee that PHE will survive in its present form as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care when the government reviews its response to Covid-19.
    "It also did not rebut a report that Boris Johnson was referring to PHE when he said in a speech on Tuesday that “parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly” to the pandemic. Without apportioning blame, the prime minister had said “it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move”."

  • Unless the government ups its game, there will be more lockdowns like Leicester’s Guardian July 1 article by Dave McCoy: "Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, the government’s over-centralised, fragmented, confused and semi-privatised patchwork of testing and contact-tracing services has proved slow, inadequate and cumbersome.
    "There are still too few tests being done, leading to insufficient case detection, and our contact-tracing rates are also low. Delays in producing test results are compounded by delays and blockages in the sharing of data across the various different organisations involved.
    "Local public health teams have been inevitably hamstrung by this centralised system. Ideally, local public health directors and their teams would have timely and complete data about new cases, including the names, ages, genders and ethnicities of suspected cases, their home, work and school details, and relevant clinical data such as the date that their symptoms started. But nobody seems to have been given this information."

  • DWP benefit sanctions restart from today as Tories refuse to extend ban Mirror July 1 report on a shocking decision by ministers:
    "Benefit sanctions have resumed from today after the Tory welfare chief refused to extend a blanket ban on them.
    "Therese Coffey said it was "important" for claimants to commit to look for work and attend appointments as Jobcentres started to reopen from July 1.
    "She insisted work coaches will prioritise "support". And a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) source insisted sanctions would not be their "focus".
    "But the Work and Pensions Secretary's statement was branded "heartless" - as MPs warned it will heap "stress and suffering" on families while unemployment soars, and people remain having to shield or care for children at home.
    "As messages promising not to sanction people vanished overnight, the GMB union branded the reopening of jobcentres a "PR stunt" that could put people at risk.
    "Sanctions, which dock people's benefits if they don't follow government rules, were formally halted for three months from March 30 for anyone failing to look for work or attend an interview."

  • Johnson’s misleading figures on government ‘New Deal’ Another devastating fact check of Boris Johnson's big speech boasting of a "New Deal," this time by Channel 4 News:
    "On hearing the Prime Minister’s words, you might think that the government’s “New Deal” announced yesterday will pump £34bn into the NHS and £14bn more into schools.
    "But that’s not the case.
    "The schools pledge was first announced in August 2019. It’s how much budgets will rise over three years, though the figure doesn’t account for inflation or rising student numbers.
    "Meanwhile, the £34bn for the NHS was first promised in 2018. It refers to the planned increase in spending on the health service, this time over five years. Again, it does not adjust for inflation (once we do that, the figure is closer to £20bn)."

  • It Paid Doctors Kickbacks. Now, Novartis Will Pay a $678 Million Settlement New York Times July 1 report on a massive fine on a leading pharmaceutical corporation: “There were fishing junkets, golf outings and round-table events at Hooters. And then there were the six-figure honorariums that the Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. paid to several doctors who wrote thousands of prescriptions for cardiovascular and diabetes drugs the company made.
    “Now, after admitting it used an extensive kickback program for nearly a decade to influence doctors to prescribe certain medications, Novartis will pay $678 million to settle a fraud lawsuit, federal prosecutors in New York announced on Wednesday.
    “… Prosecutors said that Novartis violated a federal statute prohibiting kickbacks, which led to fraudulent prescription claims paid by Medicare, Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The company gained an advantage over competitors, but there were no allegations that the drugs were not needed by the patients to whom they were prescribed, prosecutors said.
    “For more than a decade, Novartis spent hundreds of millions of dollars on so-called speaker programs, including speaking fees, exorbitant meals, and top-shelf alcohol that were nothing more than bribes to get doctors across the country to prescribe Novartis’s drugs,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement. “Giving these cash payments and other lavish goodies interferes with the duty of doctors to choose the best treatment for their patients and increases drug costs for everyone.”

  • Tory policies have killed a quarter of a million people in the last decade The London Economic, July 1 report: "A decade of Tory austerity, coupled with the more recent COVID-19 mismanagement, has killed over 250,000 people, an exclusive TLE investigation has revealed.
    "More than 100,000 people have died following social security cuts, while around 120,000 perished due to reductions in health and social spending and experts have predicted that the UK’s COVID-related death toll of circa 60,000 is double the number it needed to be.
    "Coupled with the tens of thousands of lives cut short by a failure by successive governments to impose tougher legislation to tackle air pollution and you have a pretty grim picture."

  • Why Did the UK Have Such a Bad Covid-19 Epidemic? BBC's excellent More or Less asks the question so few BBC journalists seem willing to ask or pursue. The intro explains: "The UK has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus anywhere in the world. We’ve been analysing the numbers for the last 14 weeks, and in the last programme of this More or Less series, we look back through the events of March 2020 to ask why things went so wrong - was it bad decision-making, bad advice, or bad luck?"

  • US states race to reimpose lockdowns as Covid infections pass 2.5m – and Trump heads to golf course Independent June 30 with another story from the worst President's handling of the worst crisis:
    "A number of US states are racing to reimpose lockdowns amid a new leap of coronavirus infections that have taken the total to more than 2.5 million – apparently triggered by the push to reopen the economy.
    "As Donald Trump for the second successive day visited the Trump National golf course in Sterling, Virginia, the number of cases in the US hit at least 2,534,981, part of a global total of more than 10 million. Worldwide, more than 500,000 people have now died.
    "Among the worst places to have been struck were rural counties in California, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Florida, that saw confirmed cases more than double in a week, from June 19 to last Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
    "In Texas, governor Gregg Abbot ordered the closure of bars and reimposed limits on restaurants for indoor seating down from 75 per cent capacity to 50 per cent."

  • Lack of local Covid-19 testing data hinders UK’s outbreak response | Free to read Financial Times June 30 report revealing serious flaws in testing and reporting of data:
    “The ability of local leaders to manage new coronavirus outbreaks in the UK is being hampered by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions, according to analysis by the Financial Times.
    “The government publishes a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home. But at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “The result is that hundreds of local authorities across the country are unable to see a timely picture of what is happening in their communities or compare that with other cities and regions of the UK.”

  • Boris Johnson: Economy speech fact-checked BBC's Reality Check team have looked at Johnson's speech, which includes allocations for new hospitals and other NHS projects and found that every major assertion was either previously announced, a lie, or a distortion of the truth - usually some combination of the three.

  • Heat on Public Health England as Prime Minister admits coronavirus response was 'sluggish' Telegraph June 30: “Public Health England's (PHE) future has been thrown into doubt after the Prime Minister suggested that parts of the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis had been "sluggish".
    “In a speech ahead of the country's 100th day in lockdown, Boris Johnson described his frustration at failing to quickly confront elements of the pandemic as being "like a recurring bad dream".
    “He did not name PHE, but Whitehall sources indicated on Tuesday night that they believed the Prime Minister was referring to the agency, after he had privately criticised its response in meetings with Conservative MPs.
    “The quango is responsible for testing, and the decision to abandon widespread tracking of the virus as it began to spread is regarded by most scientists as the key mistake in Britain's handling of the pandemic, which has led to the country recording the highest number of deaths in Europe.
    “The agency on Tuesday was once again at the forefront of a public row after ministers ordered the lockdown of Leicester following a new outbreak. Council leaders expressed frustration at the lack of data and detailed information on cases in the city after infections started to rise over the past fortnight.”

  • Will “temporary” NHS closures and cuts ever be reversed? Left Foot Forward June 29 shares an article first published in The Lowdown:
    "With tens of thousands of NHS beds still closed (NHS Improvement has refused to reveal an updated figure since the Health Service Journal in April revealed 37,000 beds were unoccupied) NHS England’s focus appears to be on a multi-billion pound deal to utilise private hospitals.
    "This raises serious questions over the future of the many services including A&E departments “temporarily” closed during the peak of the Covid crisis, many of which NHS bosses had sought to scale back in previous plans.
    "There have been protests in Grantham in Lincolnshire over the downgrading of its day time only A&E to an Urgent Treatment Centre, with emergency admissions diverted to Lincoln or to Boston, each 30 miles away.
    "Questions have been asked in the Commons over the “temporary” closure of already reduced A&E services in Chorley, Lancashire, and concerns have been raised locally over other “temporary” closures of A&Es in Cheltenham and Weston super Mare, and emergency surgery in Ealing Hospital."

  • Coronavirus: UK hardest hit by virus among leading G7 nations BBC June 29 report with a useful graphic showing England much worst of UK nations:
    "The UK was the hardest hit of all the G7 major industrialised nations in the weeks leading up to early June, according to BBC analysis of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Analysis also showed that England fared the worst in Europe, just above Spain. The research compared 11-week periods for each nation as the virus hit its peak in each country.
    "The analysis of Covid-19 deaths and excess deaths - which compared countries in three different ways - showed the UK worse off than the US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan."

  • GPs to demonstrate at Number 10 tomorrow against pubs reopening Pulse Today June 29 report: "Doctors in Unite, led by Tower Hamlets GP Dr Jackie Applebee, will be protesting in front of 10 Downing Street on Tuesday against next Saturday’s lockdown easing.
    "The group believes that the Government plans to open up ‘indoor spaces’, including pubs and restaurants, from next weekend are ‘too risky’.
    "The doctors argue that people gathering in indoors spaces with poor ventilation comes with a high risk of the virus spreading, and they are warning that the new ’one metre plus’ rule will ‘fail to protect the public’"

  • GPs to catch up on public health targets post-Covid or risk losing LES cash Pulse Today June 29 report on more misery for GPs in Essex as a non-profit company working for the County Council cracks the whip:
    "GP practices in Essex have been told they will have to catch up on targets for NHS Health Checks once the service is re-established post Covid-19, or they could face having payments clawed back.
    "Anglian Community Enterprise, which procures the service on behalf of the local authority Essex County Council, informed practices by email they would be paid monthly based on 2019 activity until the end of June, but that targets for the year would need to be met ‘once in more certain times’.
    "The message, seen by Pulse, stated: ‘We recently wrote to you explaining the current financial situation on which we are paying all providers based on the NHS Health Check delivery performed in April, May and June 2019.
    "‘Payments will made month by month as normal. However, targets will be remaining the same for this financial year and will be expected to be met once in more certain times.’"

  • Not all foreign NHS staff eligible for free visa extension scheme BBC Newsnight report reminds us that while the Home Office has given a one-year free visa extension for some staff in the NHS and care sectors. But health workers such as cleaners are porters are not eligible

  • Calls for national care service as crisis leaves homes in critical state Guradian article June 28 points out the growing consensus that current systm of social care is unsustainable, and bold action needs to be taken:
    "Mike Padgham, who runs St Cecilia’s care home in Scarborough and is chair of the Independent Care Group, said the sector should be merged with the NHS. “Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson can make a name for themselves,” he said. “They could say ‘I’m going to make my name like [Nye] Bevan. I’m going to make a service we’re proud of’.”
    He said he was aware of at least three homes in his area that were closing, or on the brink of closure. “Every political party has said how important social care is, and every one of them has kicked the can down the road,” he said. “There are no more excuses.”
    Even those who don’t want to see care swallowed by the NHS agree there is an urgent need for a national body to take control of information flowing into and out of care homes and home care. Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: “It is the right time and it has to be now. There is an absolute hunger in the sector for serious reform.”

  • Failing the test: Slow start and flawed decisions in Britain’s coronavirus testing have cost lives, warn health leaders Another excellent in depth Indepoendent report by Shaun Lintern, June 28, begins: “Lives were lost because of delays to Britain’s expansion of testing and the decision to create privatised mega-labs to process swabs, NHS leaders and health experts have told The Independent.
    “An investigation funded by The Independent’s Supporter Programme has uncovered widespread concern over the “Lighthouse Lab” system for processing coronavirus tests, which was not fully functioning until late April – weeks after Britain’s Covid-19 peak.
    “Three national leaders in pathology warned NHS bosses in a letter seen by The Independent that the strategy would cause problems that would “inevitably cost lives” yet were “wholly avoidable”. They called for changes before a second wave of the virus hits.
    “They said privatised labs were often taking 72 hours from the time they received tests to determine a result – by which point the results were of no use for wider strategy or policy. By contrast, they said local labs could give results in six hours from the point the test is taken.”

  • Covid-19: risk of death in UK care homes 13 times higher than in Germany Guardian June 28 report: "Care home residents were more likely to die of Covid-19 in the UK than in any of the major European countries apart from Spain, analysis of global data has revealed.
    "The proportion of residents dying in UK homes was a third higher than in Ireland and Italy, about double that in France and Sweden, and 13 times higher than Germany. The analysis of official statistics was carried out by academics at the London School of Economics as part of the International Long Term Care Policy Network.
    "Of all the UK’s care home residents, 5.3% were confirmed or suspected to have died from Covid-19, compared with 0.4% in Germany, according to analysis of official statistics.
    "About 3,500 people died in care homes in Germany compared with more than 16,000 in the UK, despite Germany having a care home population twice as large. Its test-and-trace system and 14-day quarantine for people leaving hospital have been credited with protecting homes from outbreaks."

  • Include all care workers in NHS’ fast-track mental health service, Labour says Independent June 28 report: "Labour has set out plans for a shake-up of mental health support to ensure that 3.1 million NHS and care workers who have been under intense pressure during the coronavirus crisis get access to the same fast-tracked help and advice.
    "Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister, said the current system was “inadequate” because it did not cover private sector staff doing NHS and social care work.
    "And she said she wanted reform to end long waiting lists and significant regional variations in services which see some nurses waiting up to a year for help."

  • Expert says Scotland 'could be Covid-free by end of summer' BBC interview with Prof Devi Sridhar June 28 shows how uniquely bad has been the Westminster government handling of the crisis: "Scotland could eliminate coronavirus by the end of the summer if the decline in new cases continues, according to a public health expert.
    "There were no confirmed deaths from the virus on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
    "Prof Devi Sridhar, of Edinburgh University, said the country would effectively be Covid-free if that progress could be maintained.
    She said the challenge would then be how to stop new cases being imported.
    "… However, an open border with England - where hundreds of cases are still being reported daily - is a concern, as is enforcing the 14-day quarantine of people flying into Scotland."

  • As Covid-19 Cases Rise, America Still Doesn’t Get It Thoughtful June 28 report from Bloomberg: "When it comes to coping with the Covid-19 crisis, America has been anything but exceptional. Europe’s patience ahead of cautious reopenings has been rewarded with a steep drop in cases; a recent outbreak in Beijing was met with swift lockdowns and mass testing. New Zealanders have largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines thanks to strict and early border closures and orders to stay home. In the U.S., however, the curve remains far from flat, with record spikes in cases now appearing in Florida, Arizona, Texas and other states.
    "But that doesn’t mean there aren’t Americans who are doing exceptional work in trying, or that most oppose mask wearing and other social-distancing measures. Despite failures in leadership — and the rollback in reopenings around the country — at higher levels, communities can remain vigilant amid a still-raging pandemic. Here's hoping lessons learned around the world might sink in before the next peak in the wave."

  • London’s Nightingale hospital recorded 144 safety incidents in 29 days Independent June 27 report: “London’s Nightingale hospital recorded 144 patient safety incidents during its 29 days treating 54 patients, it has emerged. There were two serious incidents at the field hospital, a doctor told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar.
    “Dr Andrew Wragg, consultant cardiologist and director of quality and safety at Barts Health NHS Trust, said a study of the long-term outcomes of the 54 patients was ongoing, as 20 of those treated at the ExCel conference centre site were still recovering in hospitals across London.
    “The Nightingale was built to house up to 4,000 Covid-19 patients. It opened in April to cope with a predicted surge in patients needing critical care to help them breathe after the virus attacked their lungs and caused pneumonia. Although more than 2,000 staff volunteered and trained to work at the hospital, only 700 staff were actually employed on shifts there as the hospital never had more than 35 patients at any one time.”

  • Ministers ignored police chiefs' warning over risks of lifting lockdown in England Guardian June 27 on the inevitable aftermath of Cummings' outings to Durham and Barnard Castle: "Ministers were warned by senior policing figures on the eve of chaotic scenes at beaches last week that lifting the lockdown is “madness” and risks prompting fresh disorder.
    "During a meeting last Wednesday with police and crime commissioners, the Home Office minister Kit Malthouse was told that the decision to reopen pubs on 4 July could lead to increased violence and that coastal resorts could be overrun.
    "According to the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, Labour’s David Jamieson, Malthouse “brushed the concerns away”. Jamieson said: “The issue was raised and it is total madness, we all know it’s madness. Some of his [Malthouse’s] Conservative colleagues raised it as well, particularly those on the coast.”
    "The following day a major incident was declared after tens of thousands of people defied pleas to stay away and descended on beaches in Bournemouth, while police were attacked at illegal street parties in Brixton and Notting Hill in London."

  • UK ditches healthcare coverage for pensioners moving to EU after Brexit transition Europestreet news report June 27: "The dream of many British pensioners to retire in a Mediterranean country may be crushed by the new Brexit reality. Under a proposal by the British government, from January 2021 the UK will no longer reimburse healthcare for pensioners who move to EU countries.
    "The draft negotiating text on the future relationship with the EU published in May also cuts social security benefits for people who move between the UK and the EU from next year. These benefits include the possibility to receive carer allowances or to aggregate periods of contributions to be entitled to unemployment allowances.
    "The proposals concern only people who will move between the UK and the EU after the Brexit transition period, which ends on December 31st, 2020. "

  • Health Secretary calls on country to get tested as access is expanded even further June 26 Government press release allows us a glimpse into Matt Hancock's fantasy world in which he imagines widespread state of the art testing etc.
    In reality 331 Tory MPs voted to block a proposal for weekly testing of NHS staff, the people most likely to be exposed to the virus.
    Nor are there measure sin place to ensure tests are valid, returned, or to report the actual numbers of people being tested.

  • A Voice From the Front Line: Reaching out of the box to engage private non-state healthcare actors in LMICs to combat COVID-19 Unfortunate Health Systems Global blog argues for greater involvement of private sector in tackling Covid in the poorest countries, thus further stunting the belated growth of public sector provision and universal health coverage.
    "This blog calls for extraordinary measures to coordinate and engage with the ‘other half of the health sector’ – the informal health sector, private health professionals and non-state actors in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with weak health systems to start with, where the pressure from the current pandemic has been especially tough.
    "When state capacity has failed, the unorganized sector and local private practitioners are often the first line of contact for many vulnerable populations."

  • 'Terrified': As coronavirus cases surge in Mississippi, doctors provide dire perspective Mississippi Clarion Ledger report June 26: "Officials with the Mississippi Department of Health are urging people to wear facial masks and social distance after releasing the state's highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
    "The Health Department on Thursday reported 1,092 cases of the coronavirus and 532 patients hospitalized with the virus, prompting State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs to warn of an overburdened health care system.
    "It's not just the cases. We have seen the highest number of hospitalized patients. I'm terrified we will overwhelm the health care system, the hospitals, the ICUs. Not in the fall, I'm talking about this week," he said."

  • Student nurses will be paid until the end of their NHS frontline contracts Guardian June 26 report of health unions having forced another welcome government U-turn:
    “It comes after anger mounted among some of the 18,700 student nurses who started working in hospitals before their training ended believed their contracts had been ended earlier than expected as Covid-19 cases fell and the pressure on healthcare services continued to ease.
    “The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, last week said paid placements were being terminated early, effectively leaving students with no income, after the schemes were initially advertised locally as being for six months.
    “On Friday, Health Education England (HEE) issued an FAQ confirming that students would be fully paid until the end of their contracts, lasting until the end of August in some cases, after some were understood to have been told their contracts would end prematurely.”

  • UK on course for further 30,000 deaths unless Boris Johnson changes approach, Independent Sage warns Independent June 26 report: “The UK is on course for another 30,000 deaths by the first anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic unless Boris Johnson changes strategy, independent experts are warning.
    “A sharp drop in infections has already stalled, they say – with Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, having suggested they could stay at around 3,000 a day for nine more months, they pointed out.
    “ ‘If we carry on with 100 to 150 deaths a day, that’s over 30,000 deaths,’ warned Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London.
    “The professor is a member of the Independent Sage group of scientists, which has sharply criticised the government for lifting lockdown restrictions too early.
    “In a new analysis, it said so-called “Super Saturday” on 4 July – when pubs, restaurants and cultural venues can reopen – will arrive before the country is ready for the “risk” it poses.”

  • NHS England apologises after investigation finds only 23% of health trusts have risk-assessed BAME staff Sky News June 26 uncovering another dimension of the failure of NHS England and trust bosses to protect BAME staff from higher risk of Covid19:
    "NHS England has apologised after Sky News revealed that only 23% of health trusts in England have risk-assessed their BAME staff.
    "Two months ago, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens wrote to all trusts telling them Black Asian and Minority Ethnic staff are at "greater risk" from coronavirus and advised them to assess the risk.
    "In a Freedom of Information request to 221 trusts, Sky News asked whether they had completed those risk assessments. Of the 149 trusts that responded, only 34 said they had done so, while 91 others said they were "in the process"."

  • Trump administration urges Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act CBS News 26 june with another aspect to the worst ever president's handling of the worst-ever health crisis:
    "In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The late-night court filing came on the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov.
    "The administration's legal brief makes no mention of the coronavirus.
    "Overall, some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage, and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration in the case, which won't be heard before the fall.
    "The information on new sign-ups for health coverage comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The figures are partial because they don't include sign-ups from states that run their own health insurance marketplaces. Major states like California and New York aren't counted in the federal statistics."

  • UK councils fear bankruptcy amid Covid-19 costs BBC June 25 report: "Some of the largest UK councils say they may have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt unless the government agrees to further support.
    "Nearly 150 authorities have forecast a combined budget shortfall of at least £3.2bn, the BBC found.
    "Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the government "has got to recognise" the financial situation facing councils. The government said it was working on a "comprehensive plan" for councils.
    "A BBC investigation found across the UK:
    "At least five English councils warned they may meet the criteria to issue a section 114 notice at some point without more government support, declaring themselves effectively bankrupt
    "They include some of the UK's largest unitary authorities - Leeds, Wiltshire, Trafford, Tameside and Barnet"

  • NHS test and trace unable to reach almost 30 per cent of people with Covid-19 Independent June 25: “The government’s contact-tracing programme failed to reach almost 30 per cent of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England last week, the latest figures show.
    “Only 70 per cent of the 6,923 people who tested positive for Covid-19 during the period were reached by NHS Test and Trace staff, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
    “This means that 2,054 people with the virus – and potentially thousands of their close contacts – could not be traced by the new system.
    “The figures also show that of the almost 21,000 people who have been referred to the tracing programme since it began at the end of May, 73 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of contacts.”

  • Getting back on track: control of covid-19 outbreaks in the community BMJ article by Peter Roderick, Alison MacFarlane and Allyson Pollock June 25. A useful critique of government response to Covid and a reminder of how if flouts the basic public health approach, which begins:
    "Historically, England’s system of communicable disease control has relied on close cooperation between local health services and authorities. General practitioners, NHS and public health laboratories, and local public health officers play key roles, backed by legal notification requirements.
    "That local system has gradually been eroded over several decades. (box 1) But instead of prioritising and rebuilding this system at the start of this epidemic, the government has created a separate system which steers patients away from GPs, avoids local authorities, and relies on commercial companies and laboratories to track, test, and contact trace. "

  • Revealed: The Government Isn’t Certain The Coronavirus 'R' Rate Is Below 1 In England Huffington post June 24: "The government is not certain that the coronavirus R rate is below 1 in England, meaning the disease may not be under control even as lockdown restrictions are being lifted, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "According to a classified daily document released by Public Health England to health professionals across the UK, there is “uncertainty” around the figure published by the government, which has been used to justify the lowering of the UK’s “alert level”.
    "Publicly, the government last stated the R was 0.7 to 0.9 on June 17. If R – short for the reproduction rate of the virus – is greater than 1, the epidemic is generally seen to be growing. If R is less than 1, the epidemic is shrinking.
    "But a copy of last Thursday’s document, titled “COVID-19 Situation Report” and marked “OFFICIAL SENSITIVE”, states that because of uncertainty in how accurate the figure is “we cannot preclude R being above 1” in England."

  • London’s councils face £1.3 billion black hole due to coronavirus June 24 report from 853.London: "London boroughs are facing a “catastrophic” £1.3billion financial black hole caused by coronavirus, council leaders warned today.
    "The London Councils group, which represents local authorities across the city, told MPs crippling cuts to services will take place unless the government “honours its promise” to pay back the money they have spent during the Covid-19 crisis.
    Boroughs have paid out millions over the last three months on housing all rough sleepers, providing PPE and delivering food and medication.
    "By the end of the financial year there will be £1.8billion of extra pressure on boroughs due to Covid-19, London Councils estimates. They told MPs they will collectively lose £1.1billion through income loss and £700million through increased expenditure."

  • UK must prepare for second virus wave - health leaders BBC June 24 report: “Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the "real risk" of a second wave of coronavirus.
    “In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life.
    “The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter. It comes after Boris Johnson announced sweeping changes to England's lockdown.
    “The Department of Health said it would continue to be guided by the latest scientific advice and would give the NHS "whatever it needs".”

  • £93m PPE gown contract to confectionery firm with 14 employees Evidence UK govt gave £93.24m contract to Clandeboye Agencies Ltd for the supply of Covid PPE, a company with 14 employees, net assets of £291,026 & specializing in "Wholesale of sugar and chocolate and sugar confectionery" (as per info filed Companies House).

  • A national care service is the only way to prevent more deaths UNISON 24 June press release publicising new policy document calling for reform of social care:
    "The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in the social care system, which requires substantial reform if its many structural, financial and operational weaknesses are to be tackled, says UNISON in a new strategy document released today (Wednesday).
    "Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care sets out how the fragmented, crisis-riven sector could be transformed into a national care system. One that the union says could cope with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.
    "Improved regulation and government oversight, better staff pay, stringent UK-wide professional standards, robust workers’ rights, and strategic long-term investment could help create a resilient care system that resembles the NHS more, says UNISON."

  • A Simple Way to Save Lives as Covid-19 Hits Poorer Nations New York Times report June 24: "As the coronavirus pandemic hits more impoverished countries with fragile health care systems, global health authorities are scrambling for supplies of a simple treatment that saves lives: oxygen.
    "Many patients severely ill with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, require help with breathing at some point. But now the epidemic is spreading rapidly in South Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa, regions of the world where many hospitals are poorly equipped and lack the ventilators, tanks and other equipment necessary to save patients whose lungs are failing.
    "The World Health Organization is hoping to raise $250 million to increase oxygen delivery to those regions. The World Bank and the African Union are contributing to the effort, and some medical charities are seeking donations for the cause."

  • South Bend Common Council Passes Resolution Supporting Universal Health Care During Pandemic June 24 report suggests Indiana is embracing the call for single payer health care in the USA: "The South Bend Common Council passed a resolution Monday night supporting the nationwide Medicare for All program and the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
    "The resolution is meant to send a message to Indiana Congress members that South Bend supports universal health care during the coronavirus pandemic and after.
    "6th District Council Member Sheila Niezgodski says while she normally wouldn’t be pro medicaid for all, the pandemic has brought on special circumstances that she believes call for extra assistance."

  • 1 in 4 working carers consider giving up work due to pressures of balancing work and caring responsibilities Welfare Weekly June 24 report with worrying implications: "New research indicates that almost half (44%) of working carers in England and Wales, equivalent to around 1.6 million people, are struggling to cope with the pressures of balancing their work and caring responsibilities – and that a quarter (24%) have considered giving up their job entirely.
    "These are the findings in a newly published report, Supporting working carers: How employers and employees can benefit, from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and The University of Sheffield, which highlights the need for greater support for carers from their employers."

  • From China to Germany, the World Learns to Live With the Coronavirus New York Times June 24 overview: “Around the world, governments that had appeared to tame the coronavirus are adjusting to the reality that the disease is here to stay. But in a shift away from damaging nationwide lockdowns, they are looking for targeted ways to find and stop outbreaks before they become third or fourth waves.
    “While the details differ, the strategies call for giving governments flexibility to tighten or ease as needed. They require some mix of intensive testing and monitoring, lightning-fast response times by the authorities, tight border management and constant reminders to their citizens of the dangers of frequent human contact.
    “The strategies often force central governments and local officials to share data and work closely together, overcoming incompatible computer systems, turf battles and other longstanding bureaucratic rivalries. Already, in Britain, some local officials say their efforts are not coordinated enough.”

  • https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8450773/More-HALF-NHS-patients-England-waiting-six-weeks-tests.html Daily Mail surprisingly highlighting Labour Party research June 23: “More than half of people waiting for NHS tests in England had been waiting for six weeks or more by April, statistics have revealed.
    “The Labour Party's analysis found 470,000 people have been waiting a month-and-a-half or more for potentially life-saving scans and tests.
    “It is calling for weekly testing of all NHS staff so the health service can get back on its feet and clear the massive backlog of sick patients waiting to be diagnosed and treated. In February just 2.8 per cent of people booked in for tests had to wait for six weeks, but this had soared to 55 per cent by April because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “These patients include people waiting for MRI or CT scans, ultrasounds, audiology (hearing) appointments, colonoscopies or heart, brain or lung tests.
    “Health bosses warned earlier this month that the surgery waiting list, growing because routine operations were cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, could soar to 10million people by Christmas, with surgeons warning of a 'significant backlog'.”

  • Nearly half of home test kits not sent back or returned void, government admits June 23 report in the Independent; “The Government's testing figures count a test as soon as it is sent out rather than when results are obtained, with the effect of inflating the numbers in time to meet deadlines.
    “But new statistics released by the Department of Health and Social Care show that 39 per cent of kits are not being sent back, with a further 4.8 per cent of those – 9,761 – returned void.
    “It means that over 4 in 10 of the home testing kits are not actually providing results, a total of around 42 per cent.
    “The statistics were released by the government in response to a written parliamentary question on Tuesday. Ministers have previously been coy about releasing the exact figures, but Public Health England told a parliamentary committee last month that "certainly more than half" were being returned.”

  • Boris Johnson rejects demand for urgent inquiry into government's handling of coronavirus pandemic Independent June 23: “Boris Johnson has rejected demands for an urgent independent inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
    “The prime minister was challenged to call an inquiry by Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey, but insisted it would not currently be “a good use of official time”.
    “The clash came as MPs debated the prime minister’s dramatic relaxation of lockdown measures in England from 4 July.
    “The changes, which allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to reopen and cut the two-metre social distancing rule to “one-metre plus”, were given a rapturous reception in the House of Commons by Tory MPs who queued up to invite the PM to visit venues in their constituencies.”

  • Eight out of 10 English councils at risk of bankruptcy, says study Guardian June 23 report: “More than eight out of 10 English councils providing adult social care services are at technical risk of bankruptcy – or face a fresh round of cuts to services – because they cannot meet the extra financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.
    “The analysis estimated that predicted Covid-19-related costs and income losses in 131 out of England’s 151 upper-tier councils this year will exceed both the levels of their available financial reserves and the support so far provided by central government.
    “The majority of those councils that are in the “red wall” northern England and Midlands parliamentary seats won by the Tories from Labour at the last general election are at risk of going bust because of Covid-19 pressures, the study found.
    “The Centre for Progressive Policy thinktank study said authorities in the most deprived areas of England already hit hardest by a decade of austerity faced higher pandemic-related costs, and should be prioritised for government support in line with ministerial promises to “level up” so-called “left behind” areas of England.”

  • England in danger of following same route as US, leading epidemiologist warns Independent June 23: "England risks following the route of several US states which have seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases after lifting lockdown too early, a leading epidemiologist has warned.
    "Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said that the country was in a “difficult and dangerous situation” after Boris Johnson’s decision to ease restrictions while daily infections are still running well into four figures, the NHS Test and Trace system has yet to prove its effectiveness and the promised smartphone app has been shown to be a “dead duck”.
    "He was speaking to The Independent after a joint plea was issued by eminent doctors, including presidents of 11 medical royal colleges, for Mr Johnson’s administration to make preparations for a probable second wave of Covid-19."

  • 42 hospitals closed, filed for bankruptcy this year Beckers Hospital Review in the US, June 22 with another glimpse of the American system at work:
    "At least 42 hospitals across the U.S. have closed or entered bankruptcy this year, and the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may force more hospitals to do the same in coming months.
    "COVID-19 has created a cash crunch for many hospitals across the nation. They're estimated to lose $200 billion between March 1 and June 30, according to a report from the American Hospital Association.
    "More than $161 billion of the expected revenue losses will come from canceled services, including non-elective surgeries and outpatient treatment.
    "Moody's Investors Service said the sharp declines in revenue and cash flow caused by the suspension of elective procedures could cause more hospitals to default on their credit agreements this year than in 2019. "

  • Systemic racism among risk factors in Covid-19 BAME deaths in Wales Guardian June 22 report : "Structural and systemic racism is among the key risk factors that has contributed to the high death rate in Wales of black, Asian and minority ethnic people, a report commissioned by the devolved government has concluded.
    "The report, which is to be published on Monday, makes more than 30 recommendations to address the socio-economic and environmental risks it highlights.
    "Prof Emmanuel Ogbonna, who chaired the group that produced the report, said the central issues raised had been identified many times before the Covid-19 crisis but had not been addressed.
    "He said: “There’s an overall theme running through our research for this report. It centres on longstanding racism and disadvantage and the lack of BAME representation within decision-making processes.”"

  • How to Destroy a National Health Service June 22 feature in The Nation begins:
    "Soon after Covid-19 started to sweep through the United Kingdom in March, thousands of residents began appearing at their windows every Thursday to applaud the National Health Service. While the pandemic has evidently caused a wave of renewed appreciation for the NHS, the universal health care system has been a source of immense British pride for over 70 years. What many Britons fail to realize, however, is that some of the past and present government officials clapping alongside them, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have had a hand in the decades-long efforts to privatize their beloved NHS."

  • The pandemic is not over – we need to push now for a zero-coronavirus Britain June 22 Guardian comment by public health expert Devi Sridhar argues for a totalk 2-week lockdown to eleiminate the virus:
    "As an island, Great Britain is in a strong position to eliminate the virus and fully reopen schools, bars and theatres as well as bringing back sports matches and weddings, without pointless debates about 1 or 2 metre distancing measures. This would require mass testing – to catch all symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers – tracing of contacts and isolation for those individuals.
    "The public needs to be convinced that the short-term pain is worth it, including continued physical distancing from others, use of face masks when distancing is not possible, and putting aside short-term self-interest for a few more months.
    "Local dashboards should be created using the first part of postcodes, so individuals can understand transmission within their communities and ensure their behaviour contributes to a downwards push. Covid-19 will burn itself out if it has no other hosts to transmit it."

  • Health official defends discharging patients into English care homes Guardian June 22: "Discharging patients into care homes in England in early April, when the number of coronavirus cases was rapidly increasing, was neither reckless nor wrong, the Department of Health and Social Care’s most senior civil servant has claimed.
    "Faced with aggressive questioning from MPs on the powerful public accounts committee on Monday, Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the DHSC, said the guidance for discharge was correct based on the information available at the time."

  • NHS Test and Trace: it didn’t have to be this way Anonymous doctor's June 22 BMJ blog: "During my shifts later that week, there were no cases to trace, an experience echoed by others who spoke to other mainstream media and newspapers, labelling the system “chaotic” and “a complete shambles.” “I’m yet to know anybody who has made a call to a member of the public,” said one.12
    "So, what went wrong? One thing seems clear: too many organisations spoil the broth.
    NHS Professionals employed us as clinical tracers, but we were recruited by Capita and placed with Public Health England (PHE).
    "Sitel provided access to the tracing applications and systems, and these all required different usernames and passwords. Synergy CRM assigned cases and held scripts, CTAS captured contact tracing information, RingCentral was used for voice calls, and MaxConnect was used for storing knowledge about contacts.
    "All of these systems were accessed through Amazon Workspace. Training was initially through PHE’s Learnspace, and then moved to Health Education England’s e-Learning for Health.
    "When systems are disconnected, cracks rapidly appear. "

  • Local health teams trace eight times more contacts than national service BMJ June 22 blog shows level of failure of privatised track and trace system run by Serco and extent to which it is hidden by efforts of public health experts:
    "Local health protection teams have traced nearly eight times more contacts (77 642) than the national call centres and online service (9997), latest figures show.1
    "The NHS Test and Trace system brings together the local health protection teams that handle complex cases, and the national call centre and online system—run by two private companies, Serco and Sitel.
    "The contracts awarded to operate test and trace are reportedly worth £108m (€120m; $134m) in total,2 and some experts have said this money would have been better spent on resourcing and funding local public health teams, who were already in place and could have led the initiative."

  • ‘Untouchable’ hospitals still rejecting '75%' of GP referrals Pulse magazine June 17 reveals: “Hospitals rendered ‘untouchable’ by coronavirus measures are still rejecting referrals and ‘reverse delegating’ patients back to their GPs, Pulse has learned.
    “Pulse has been told that CCGs in some areas are having to hold around 75% of GP referrals, which are not being accepted by trusts. GP leaders warned that the ‘backlog’ of patients waiting to be seen by secondary care is placing the ‘risk and burden’ on primary care.
    “It comes as the NHS Confederation said that 10 million patients could be on the waiting list for routine procedures by the end of this year.”

  • Boris Johnson seems determined to ignore any lessons from coronavirus. It’s not good enough Independent June 19 article from Tory MP and chair of Commons Health Committee, Sarah Wollaston: "The government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been “world beating” only in delivering one of the highest death rates. When ministers refuse to acknowledge that anything could or should have been handled differently, how on earth will they learn from mistakes?
    "Britain was in no position to follow World Health Organisation guidance on testing and tracing because inadequate equipment and facilities, combined with fragmented and underfunded public health systems, meant they were rapidly overwhelmed.
    "We were late into lockdown, and for all the promises and ambitious targets, scant supplies of personal protective equipment left health and social care staff vulnerable to infection and increased the risk of transmission to patients. The decision to quarantine people arriving from overseas happened months after it could have helped to prevent the virus taking root across the UK.
    "Coronavirus has also starkly exposed pre-existing health inequalities, which disproportionately affected black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as well as other disadvantaged groups. Far from being the great leveller, it looks set to widen the gap in health for decades to come."

  • Sophy Ridge tears into Matt Hancock after coronavirus admission: 'How is that a success? Express correspondents report the news from their sofa while watching Sophy Ridge on Sky challenge Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
    "Matt Hancock admission he was "delighted" with the new track and trace system, which was slammed by Sky's Sophy Ridge. The Government hired 27,000 coronavirus contact tracers who reached 40,000 contacts in a week.
    "Ms Ridge pointed out the tracers were, on average, reaching less than two people in a week and demanded to know how that was a success."

  • Student nurses ‘not deemed to be providing a service’, says MP Nursing Notes June 21 on the idiotic statement of a gaffe-prone Tory minister that has enraged nurses and nursing students:
    "A Conservative MP has claimed that the government has “no plans” to backdate a new £5,000 grant for student nurses as they “are not deemed to be providing a service”.
    "Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham and Care Minister at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) makes the bold claim while responding to a letter from Tom Pursglove MP calling for additional financial support for student nurses.
    "The government scrapped the NHS Bursary system for student nurses and midwives in 2015 which subsequently led to a significant drop in the number of applicants."

  • Coronavirus has downgraded from 'tiger to wild cat' and could die out without vaccine Telegraph June 20 with some encouraging news from Italy:
    “Prof Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the Policlinico San Martino hospital in Italy, told The Telegraph that Covid-19 has been losing its virulence in the last month and patients who would have previously died are now recovering.
    “The expert in critical care said the plummeting number of cases could mean a vaccine is no longer needed as the virus might never return.
    “… "The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity," said Prof Bassetti.
    "In March and early April the patterns were completely different. People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult to manage illness and they needed oxygen and ventilation, some developed pneumonia.
    "Now, in the past four weeks, the picture has completely changed in terms of patterns. There could be a lower viral load in the respiratory tract, probably due to a genetic mutation in the virus which has not yet been demonstrated scientifically. Also we are now more aware of the disease and able to manage it.”

  • Shock poll results reveal MAJOR public distrust of new coronavirus test and trace provider Daily Express shocks us by revealing some news (June 19): "A poll conducted by Survation shows that almost half of people don’t trust outsourcing giant Serco to run part of the test and trace programme.
    "Serco was given a contract worth £45 million to employ call handlers for the test and trace programme.
    "The group polled 1,022 UK adults, after it emerged the service had failed to reach a quarter of people after they tested positive for coronavirus.
    "After test and trace launched in May 28. Over 3,800 people infected were not contacted about who they had seen."

  • Coronavirus app failure leaves tracing plan in disarray Times report June 19: “A smartphone app to track the spread of Covid-19 may never be released, ministers admitted yesterday, as they abandoned a three-month attempt to create their own version of the technology.
    “Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced that the government was scrapping its coronavirus contact-tracing app to focus on one developed with Apple and Google technology.
    “Mr Hancock said that in trials neither of the potential apps was accurate enough to be used by the public and he could not indicate when, or if, a usable version might be available. “The truth is that no app is better than a bad app,” a senior government source said.
    “In a sign of the breakdown in trust between the two sides sources at Apple said that it had not been informed of the announcement or consulted about the plan to work together. “We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They haven’t spoken to us about it,” a source said.
    “The company also queried the claim that its model was less accurate at measuring distance than the government’s NHSX model. “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us. But the app has been downloaded by six million in 24 hours in Germany, the Italians have had it going since Monday, the Dutch government and Irish government have it, and there has been no issue about proximity detection.”

  • Medics demand better terms for 'less valued colleagues' HSJ June 19 report on doctors writing to declare their support for support service staff at Homerton Hospital FT in Hackney, which is seeking to extend a private contract with ISS for a further five years:
    "This has spurred 170 of the trust’s 464 doctors to write to the chief executive, Tracey Fletcher, urging her to reconsider.
    "The letter says: “We are writing as Homerton employed doctors in support of our ISS colleagues. We understand that a further five year contract is to be signed with ISS at the end of this month.
    "We have been proud to work alongside colleagues in cleaning, portering, catering and security services during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have gone above and beyond in their commitment and hard work, just as NHS staff have.
    “Their work is invaluable to the care we offer our patients. Without these colleagues, our hospital would run poorly. Despite all of us being invested in trust values, these employees… by being employed through ISS… receive worse pay and worse terms and conditions, including only statutory sick pay.
    “It is therefore disappointing and deeply troubling that the trust has decided to extend this contract and these inequalities for a further five years. Covid has rightly shone a light on our less valued colleagues, who are so important. It is an opportunity for change and not to just pay lip service to the NHS family.”"

  • Nearly 1,500 deaths in one day: UK ministers accused of downplaying Covid-19 peak Guardian June 19 on a fresh analysis of Covid-19 deaths reveals a big gap between the real figures and those we were told at the time:
    "Ministers have been accused of playing down the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic after it emerged that more than 1,000 people died every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days – in stark contrast with daily tolls announced by the government.
    "According to an analysis of official figures, the darkest day came on 8 April as the country prepared for Easter under lockdown, when a record 1,445 people died from Covid-19 in 24 hours.
    "The figures – encompassing deaths in hospitals, care homes and private residences – are far higher than the numbers announced by ministers during that period at the daily Downing Street briefings, as the pandemic peaked faster than forecast.
    "Critics say ministers should have more clearly underlined that the reported death tolls were underestimates of the true tallies as they only counted deaths in hospitals after positive Covid-19 tests, excluding thousands who died in care homes."

  • CQC says inspections suspended for covid-19 crisis will restart in autumn BMA news report June 19 that will bring joy to the hearts of NHS hospital staff and management: "Routine inspections of healthcare providers that were suspended during the covid-19 crisis will restart this autumn, England’s healthcare regulator has announced.
    "The Care Quality Commission will also conduct inspections of higher risk providers over the summer, it announced.
    "The CQC stopped all routine inspections of hospitals, GP surgeries, and care providers in March to allow services to focus on the covid-19 crisis.1 In the interim period it has been checking up on providers remotely through its emergency support framework [ESF]."

  • Social care ‘cannot be kicked into the long grass’, Hancock warned as nursing homes make up almost half of deaths Independent JUne 18 report: "The issue of social care cannot “be kicked into the long grass any longer”, the health secretary has been warned as the Labour party calls for more support for both professional and unpaid carers struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
    "More than 13,000 people have died from Covid-19 in care homes across England during the course of the pandemic – making up 45 per cent of the nation’s overall fatalities while putting strain on a fragmented and cash strapped care system.
    "Now with a Social Care Taskforce set to advise the government on how the sector can emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, shadow social care minister Liz Kendall has told the health secretary the wellbeing of care staff must be a priority for the future."

  • Treasury blocks plan for private hospitals to tackle NHS backlog Guardian June 18 reports the axing of an NHS England plan to spend up to £5bn a year on private hospitals:
    "Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and NHS bosses are pushing for a £5bn-a-year deal to treat NHS patients in private hospitals and tackle a spiralling backlog amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned.
    "But the Treasury is blocking the plan, which could cover a range of treatments including cancer surgery, joint operations and cataract removals amid concerns that it will not offer value for money.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England want the Treasury to fund an extension of a contract that has resulted in scores of private hospitals being paid about £400m a month to perform procedures since the start of the pandemic, when the NHS suspended swathes of non-urgent treatment to prioritise Covid-19 patients.
    "The deal, agreed in March, in effect gave the NHS control of the private sector’s 8,000 beds, 680 operating theatres and 20,000 staff, though there were concerns that many hospitals stood near-empty during the Covid-19 crisis. It has never confirmed how much the scheme costs."

  • Trusts to buy Serco out of joint venture after losing major contract (£) HSJ June 18 report on an unsavoury deal in south east London:
    "Two foundation trusts are set to buy an outsourcing company out of a multimillion pound pathology partnership, HSJ can reveal.
    "King’s College Hospital FT and Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT will pay an undisclosed sum to Serco for its share of Viapath, the firm they co-own.
    "The company was set up in 2009 to run the pathology labs at the two south London trusts but earlier this year another operator was named preferred bidder for a new 15-year, £2.25bn contract.
    "Synlab was selected and, if final approvals are granted, will take over the running of the services from September."

  • Ministers accused of 'betrayal' over NHS surcharge for migrants Guardian June 18: "Doctors have accused ministers of “a crass betrayal” by not honouring Boris Johnson’s pledge to scrap the £400-a-year fees foreign-born NHS staff have to pay for healthcare.
    "The Doctors’ Association UK has written to Priti Patel, the home secretary, criticising the delay as “unacceptable”.
    "The prime minister made the first major U-turn of his time in power on 21 May when he announced that health and care workers would no longer be forced to pay the immigration health surcharge.
    "Johnson abolished the charge after Conservative MPs told him the fees were “mean-spirited and immoral”, given that migrant health staff already contribute to the NHS by working in it and paying tax. He won widespread praise for the move, and has since stressed his commitment to implementing it.
    "But in the letter Dr Rinesh Parmar, the DAUK’s chair, said: “Several weeks down the line we are deeply concerned that it seems that no progress has been made towards actually scrapping the charges. We have received scores of messages from doctors stating that the Home Office have advised that the charge is yet to be officially removed. This is frankly unacceptable."

  • UK virus-tracing app switches to Apple-Google model BBC report June 18 catches up with the chaos in the development of what has been proven to be a failed app to assist the tracking and tracing of the Covid virus, after ministers wasted months and millions trying to create an "NHS" app rather than use other working systems:
    "In a major U-turn, the UK is ditching the way its current coronavirus-tracing app works and shifting to a model based on technology provided by Apple and Google.
    "The Apple-Google design has been promoted as being more privacy-focused.
    "However, it means epidemiologists will have access to less data. The government now intends to launch an app in the autumn, however it says the product may not involve contact tracing at that point.
    "Instead the software may be limited to enabling users to report their symptoms and order a test."

  • Government abandons NHS coronavirus app in favour of Apple and Google system Mirror June 18 reports the app fiasco: "The Government has ditched the system behind the NHS coronavirus app and is putting all its efforts into developing an app based on Google and Apple's built-in system, the Mirror understands.
    "It's understood the app is only able to correctly identify contacts on Android phones 75% of the time - and just 4% of the time on iPhones.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to outline the government's new approach later today.
    "The NHSX app has been on trial on the Isle of Wight since early May.
    "But the Mirror understands "problems" have been found and it won't be rolled out in its current form.
    "One issue with the Government's app is that it that Apple phones don't allow third party apps to use bluetooth connections while the phone is locked, an issue experts warned would be a problem within days of the NHSX app being announced."

  • After coronavirus, the NHS's ability to provide care will be reduced, experts warn Guardian quotes various views on the prospects for restarting the NHS as the Covid caseload subsides, including Nuffield Trust's Nigel Edwards, Foundation Trust boss Sam Allen, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton and GMB national secretary Rehana Azam

  • Health minister says app should roll out by winter BBC June 17 report on the ongoing failed tracing app fiasco: “A government minister has said the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app is "not a priority" and he was not sure it would be out by winter.
    “The app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, was initially expected to launch nationally weeks ago. The BBC can also reveal that the project's two lead managers - NHSX's Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis - are stepping back.
    “And Simon Thompson - a former Apple executive - is joining to manage it. Mr Thompson is currently chief product officer at the online grocer Ocado. He has been appointed to Baroness Dido Harding's Test and Trace team, where he will have other duties in addition to the app.
    “… Lord Bethell, the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, said he was unable to give a date for its launch.”

  • 'We saved your life Boris,' student nurses recruited to work Covid-19 front line angry as placements cut short ITV news June 17 report: "Thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line against Covid-19 have been told their placements will be cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.
    "Many nurses expressed their outrage at a decision from NHS England that their paid placements will now finish on 31 July instead of running until the end of September.
    "But Health Education England (HEE) – which oversees training – said that it was "made clear to students who opted into paid placements" that the arrangements would need to come to an end at "an appropriate point".
    "One nurse calling herself Becky Jane said nurses had been told by HEE that the NHS can no longer afford to keep the paid placements going until the end of September as originally promised.
    “Some of us left jobs for this. Many of us have children and families to care for," she wrote on a message on Facebook."

  • How NSFT managers have designed bureaucratic obstacles to prevent or delay mental health admissions Norfolk Suffolk Mental Health Crisis presents data to back up its accusation that Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) “tries to manipulate its inappropriate out of area placement (OAP) bed statistics when the Care Quality Commission (CQC) comes to inspect.”
    “… out of area bed usage was again artificially reduced in the run-up to the latest full CQC inspection during October 2019, only to rise again shortly thereafter, even following NSFT’s blatant attempt to fiddle the most recent figures by excluding £560 per night beds at the remote private hospital on the site of the repeatedly-inadequate Mundesley Hospital which was forced to close by CQC, Southern Hills, on the basis that these placements are not inappropriate since a manager from NSFT visits the site twice per week.
    “ There is a bed crisis because NSFT closed at least 139 of its mental health beds at the same time as its community mental health services were slashed and specialist services were closed. NSFT has recently reopened sixteen beds but these are nowhere near enough to address the beds crisis, particularly when community services remain chronically underfunded.
    “NSFT’s Board and senior management consistently finds the money for new management posts, promotions and pay rises for themselves, relatives and friends but doesn’t seem to care about the quality of mental health services received by the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.…”

  • Student nurses irate after NHS frontline contracts cut short Guardian June 17: "Student nurses who joined the NHS frontline in England months before their training ended in order to join the fight against Covid-19 have voiced anger after contracts were terminated earlier than they expected as the pandemic comes under control.
    "As nursing unions called on the government to offer clarity for those affected, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told parliament that student nurses who joined the frontline six months ago as part of the coronavirus effort were seeing their paid placement schemes terminated early, leaving them with no income.
    “Surely this is no way to treat student nursing staff,” he told the health secretary, Matt Hancock."

  • There's a hidden crisis threatening lives alongside Covid-19: the lack of routine treatment Guardian June 17: "“The government has spent recent weeks boasting that they have managed to protect the NHS during the pandemic, but what they’ve really done is shut it down. Almost two-thirds of Britons with common life-threatening conditions have been denied care by the NHS because hospitals have focused on fighting Covid-19. That’s people with breathing problems, high blood pressure and cancer.
    “Tens of thousands of non-urgent surgeries have been cancelled in recent months to free up space for coronavirus patients, while many diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments are on hold.
    “Screening services for cancer have been formally paused in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and are de facto suspended in England. NHS leaders say the waiting list for hospital treatment in England could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas due to the huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services. …
    “This comes on top of patients who have voluntarily stayed away; there was such concern about empty A&E wards during the height of lockdown that the government set up a campaign in April to encourage people with suspected strokes and heart attacks to still seek help.”

  • Delaying part of PHE’s report on covid-19 and ethnic minorities turned a potential triumph turned into a PR disaster Important BMJ blog by Prof Raj Bhopal on the saga of the missing recommendations from the Public Health England report, which were included as part of a 64-page report he peer-reviewed, but then withheld:
    "Public Health England was repeatedly challenged about the missing material, which was presumed to have been removed from the published report at a late stage.
    "They denied this and on 4 June 2020, the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, told parliament that PHE did not make recommendations because it was unable to do so.
    "Subsequently the UK government backtracked and have now said that the recommendations will be published belatedly."

  • Hospitals face ‘hard choices’ as routine NHS services restart, expert says Independent June 16: "Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, argued every patient who comes to hospital will now need to be treated as a potential infection risk and the layout of accident and emergency departments must be completely changed to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
    "He emphasised such adaptations would affect the capacity of healthcare services, possibly by more than a third.
    “The net effect of all of this, and of the testing required before planned or elective treatment, is to slow the pace with which the NHS has traditionally treated patients, maybe by as much as 35 percent and in some cases more,” he said."

  • NHS examines new deal with private hospitals to clear waiting lists Financial Times June 16 on possible fresh windfall for private sector:
    “Private hospitals taken over by the government during the Covid-19 crisis are in talks about extending the arrangement for up to two years, as the NHS attempts to relieve growing pressure on patient waiting lists.
    “… One option being discussed is for NHS England to maintain the existing deal — struck in March and running until the end of this month — until August. This would mean the government continuing to pay all operating costs for the private hospitals including rent, external interest payments and staff. Industry sources estimated the value of the deal could be between £100m and £125m a week. “However, NHS England is also considering a less comprehensive agreement under which the health service would book out a majority of private hospital beds for between eight months and two years, according to two healthcare executives briefed on the discussions.”

  • Countries from Germany to Vietnam got test and trace right, so why didn't England? Guardian comment from Dr Dave McCoy June 16: "ost people agree that England’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been slow and disorganised; a fact made worse by the government’s willingness to squander public trust by massaging data and spinning the facts to save face. Yet its shambolic approach to testing and contact tracing isn’t the result of mistakes, but a choice to ignore evidence and experience.
    "For months, public health specialists in England have asked the government to decentralise responsibility for testing and tracing to local authority public health teams, which can develop nimble and responsive plans that are specific to different contexts, and organise systems with clear lines of accountability. They have also asked the government to recognise the obvious fact that case detection and contact tracing are social and behavioural interventions, which rely on skilled personnel and trust."

  • Resilience is much more than hospital beds Kings Fund June 16 blog stresses need for full range of services:
    "So, how can local health and care services adapt to be more resilient to a wide range of future shocks and risks? Capacity is likely to be first on the list in any debate about local resilience. Early in the pandemic, discussions in the NHS were dominated by bed numbers and occupancy rates.
    "The UK has a low number of hospital beds compared with other countries and the high and rising bed occupancy rate was an easily visible sign of a system under pressure. There was a clear recognition of the need to get bed numbers up and occupancy levels down.
    "There is a clear risk that approaching resilience by focusing primarily on acute hospital beds or occupancy rates reinforces the default of hospital-focused responses to system-wide issues.
    "However, understanding unmet need and hot spots in community health, community mental health, home care is much harder because there is little data collected for other key health and care services that is the equivalent to bed occupancy or waiting lists."

  • Where are the patients? The factors affecting the use of emergency care during Covid-19 Nuffield Rust June 16 blog hoping that the reductions in A&E attendances can continue after Covid:
    "Some predicted that the number of patients needing emergency care could increase over the course of the pandemic, as patients with chronic disease decompensate and people with previously undiagnosed conditions present with major complications in the absence of usual health care. This was coupled with a warning that the system could be severely stretched by pent-up demand for care after lockdown ends.
    "In this piece, based on the extant literature and my own clinical experience of working in a London teaching hospital over the past three months, I review a range of factors that might be impacting on the use of emergency health care services during the pandemic. They include changes in how the system is structured, the impact of disasters on people’s health, and how individuals might be modifying aspects of their own behaviour during the crisis.
    "They will suggest, in my view, that the drop in ED attendances is likely to be real, do not necessarily represent pent-up or deferred demand, and that aspects of this may be sustainable in the longer term."

  • WHO warns England's lockdown should not be lifted further without improved test and trace system Guardian June 15: “England’s coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government’s test and trace system has proven to be “robust and effective”, senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has warned.
    “… WHO’s regional European director Hans Kluge cautioned against rushing into restarting the economy while the country remains in a “very active phase of the pandemic”.
    “… He added: “Contact tracing is key especially as the UK starts to relax the social and physical distancing measures. There has to be a robust track-and-trace system in place of operation.”

  • Revealed: Government spent more than £200m on Nightingale hospitals Shocking figures revealed by HSJ, and raising further questions:
    "Seven temporary hospitals were set up in the last three months to help the NHS respond to the covid-19 pandemic, although only two of them are known to have treated patients.
    "Including London’s Excel Arena, six other venues across England have temporarily been turned into hospitals. They are in Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Harrogate, Manchester and County Durham.
    "Setting up the hospitals cost around £220m, according to the Department of Health and Social Care in a response to a Freedom of Information request.
    "The DHSC also estimates running costs in April for the project were £15m, although only London, Birmingham and Manchester Nightingales were operational for at least half of this month. Only London and Manchester Nightingales treated patients."

  • Patients face diagnosis delays as hospitals struggle with surge in screenings Independent report June 10: "As the NHS tries to recover from the worst of the coronavirus crisis, more than a million laboratory samples from cancer screening services are expected in pathology labs, while as many as 850,000 delayed CT and MRI scans need to be carried out.
    "But 97 per cent of labs do not have enough pathologists to carry out the work – with staff already working unpaid hours to tackle the existing backlog – while the number of radiology posts nationally would need to be increased by a third to deal with the rise, experts say.
    "… The royal colleges of pathologists and radiologists warned that cancers would go undiagnosed and treatments for all patients across the NHS could be further delayed as a result."

  • Coronavirus: BAME safety plan not published BBC June 11 report, 2 weeks after same story published by HSJ: “A report containing measures to protect ethnic minority groups from coronavirus has been drawn up for government, BBC News has learned.
    “Public Health England (PHE) published a review last week confirming coronavirus kills people from ethnic minorities at disproportionately high rates.
    “But a senior academic told BBC News a second report, containing safeguarding proposals to tackle this, also existed. And PHE now says this report will be published next week.
    “…The already published PHE review found people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at twice the rate of white Britons, while other black, Asian and minority ethnic groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.”

  • The Guardian view on care homes: take responsibility and apologise Guardian Editorial comment June 12: "For weeks while the NHS was protected, social care in the UK was left to be overwhelmed.
    "The National Audit Office, Whitehall’s spending watchdog, confirmed that in the first month of lockdown, 25,000 patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes and spread the virus when testing was either patchy or non-existent, and personal protective equipment was unavailable. It looks like the elderly were either expendable or collateral damage in the war against Covid-19.
    "Care home residents could make up more than half the deaths caused directly or indirectly by the coronavirus crisis in England, a grim toll of 34,000.
    "Instead of shouldering responsibility, Boris Johnson blames others, telling MPs it was clinicians who authorised hospital discharges into care homes.
    "This is a slander. It was under guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care that elderly people, with no tests, were sent into care homes. Hardworking medics did not deliberately risk care homes, but a lack of testing surely did."

  • Care worker pay deductions must be tackled to stop hardship and control virus spread UNISON press release June 15: "Staff in the care sector, who need to self-isolate, shield or have the virus, have told UNISON they’re being forced to take unpaid leave or survive on minimal statutory sick pay (SSP), leaving them hundreds of pounds out of pocket each week.
    "Some have been told by their employers to use up annual leave or make up time for free when they return to work.
    "UNISON research shows the situation varies widely between employers. Many care workers complain they are being left high and dry with next to no income, even though their workplace may have been where they contracted the virus.
    "It means a significant number have no choice but to carry on working against public health advice because they can’t afford time off, increasing the risks of spreading the virus at work and to their family, says UNISON."

  • SAGE expert urges Homerton Hospital to ‘financially protect’ contracted workers Hackney Citizen report June 15: "A highly regarded public health expert and member of the Independent SAGE committee has called on the Homerton Hospital to guarantee “full financial compensation” for contracted workers if they fall sick or have to self-isolate.
    "The high-profile intervention was made by Professor Allyson Pollock, director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle at a recent meeting of a council commission scrutinising health in the borough.
    "The announcement that the Homerton is considering a five-year extension of a contract with facilities giant ISS sparked anger from trade unions Unison and the GMB recently. "

  • Government faces lawsuit over £108m PPE contract with pest control firm CITY am report June 15: “The Good Law Project has filed legal proceedings against the government over its multimillion-pound deal with Pestfix — which has just 16 staff — to provide equipment such as gowns and face masks to the NHS.
    “The government handed out more than £350m worth of PPE contracts to private companies in March without a competitive tender process, as the UK scrambled to find sufficient levels of protective equipment for the NHS.
    “The Good Law Project, established by barrister Jolyon Maugham, argued that the £108m contract with Crisp Websites Ltd — which trades as Pestfix — is equivalent to nearly a third of the government’s PPE deals.
    “We’re suing the government over its decision to grant an £108m contract for the supply of PPE to Crisp Websites Ltd,” The Good Law Project said in a statement.
    “The number of bidders who competed for that contract was one… [and] the purchase order for this enormous sum of money was issued on 10 April 2020, three days before the contract was concluded.”

  • Emergency care: what do the May data show? June 15 analysis by Health Foundation of NHS England statistics on emergency services:
    “As in March and April, A&E visits and emergency admissions through A&E were lower in May than in the same month the year before. Ambulance crews transported fewer patients to A&E with more patients treated at the scene.
    “The percentage reductions in A&E visits, emergency admissions through A&E and the numbers of patients transported to A&E were smaller than in April showing that levels of activity are starting to recover. However, the falls are slightly larger than in March when the lockdown began.
    “Emergency admissions have recovered at a faster rate than A&E visits, with such admissions 24% down in May compared to 22% down in March.
    “Visits to major A&E departments were down 33% in May compared 26% in March. The slowest to recover have been activity in minor A&E departments, where visits in May were 58% lower than the total in March 2019.”

  • Millions of African Americans and Native Americans were uninsured as pandemic hit: ‘Having COVID-19 is scary enough’ US article June 13 from Market Watch:
    “Typically health insurance is tied to employment — which makes being laid off in the midst of a pandemic all the more difficult. But 18.2 million Americans would have had difficulty affording medical care if they contracted a severe case of COVID-19, even if they weren’t laid off from their jobs.
    “That’s because they were either uninsured or inadequately insured prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published in the latest edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
    “African Americans, Native Americans and lower-income individuals have been found to be at a higher risk of contracting a more severe case of COVID-19 than Caucasians due to many factors, including access to quality health care and their roles in frontline jobs, and higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, which also have socio-economic causes.
    “Black COVID-19 patients have 2.7 times the odds of being admitted to the hospital compared to non-Hispanic white patients.
    “Between May 21 and May 26, 20.5 million U.S. adults were uninsured, 15.5 million of whom were also unemployed.
    “The pandemic is laying bare the lethal inequality of American society and American health care,” said lead author Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.”

  • Revealed: Boris Johnson scrapped Cabinet ministers' pandemic team six months before coronavirus hit Britain Daily Mail reports: "Boris Johnson scrapped a team of Cabinet ministers tasked with protecting the UK from a pandemic six months before coronavirus arrived, a Mail investigation has found.
    "The Government’s ‘anti-pandemic committee’, which included senior ministers Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson, was disbanded without discussing virus control plans.
    "The group, officially known as the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee (THRCC), was supposed to ensure the UK was ready to cope with a pandemic."

  • BMA demands answers over missing BAME pages of Covid-19 report Guardian June 13: “In a letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, shared exclusively with the Guardian, the head of the BMA called for the missing pages and recommendations to be published immediately.
    “Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s report.
    “’I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities,’” Nagpaul said.
    “On Thursday, a senior academic disclosed that the advice for the government on how to protect BAME communities from coronavirus has yet to be published.”

  • What Went Wrong: Corona and the World after the Full Stop A long read, but well worth reading, this 21-page study gives a genuine world view on the handling of the pandemic and its impact, offering something beyond the superficial analyses we see everywhere

  • UK will not participate in EU’s coronavirus fast track vaccine scheme European report June 12: “The UK will not be involved in the European Union’s plans to fast track orders for a coronavirus vaccine, designed to ensure supplies for member states as soon as one is ready.
    “The UK will not formally be a part of the programme, but an EU spokesperson suggested it would be able to benefit from the scheme until the scheduled end for the Brexit transition period on December 31.
    “The bloc’s executive body will propose to its 27 member states that they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies as a united bloc and offer up-front financing to speed development and ensure priority access to any successful vaccine.
    “The EU proposes using a “large majority” of a €2.7bn emergency fund for the effort but is also committed to ensuring fair access worldwide to pandemic remedies.”

  • All data related to Deaths involving COVID-19 by local area and socioeconomic deprivation: deaths occurring between 1 March and 31 May 2020 ONS figures showing that Covid mortality rates are highest in the most urban areas and lowest in the most rural areas

  • Chief nurse dropped from Downing Street coronavirus briefing ‘after refusing to back Dominic Cummings’ Independent June 12 report: "England’s chief nurse was dropped from one of Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefings after refusing to publicly back Dominic Cummings, senior sources have told The Independent.
    "As Boris Johnson’s chief aide was engulfed in scandal over his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown, Ruth May had been due to appear alongside the health secretary Matt Hancock in the press conference.
    "But, in practice questions hours before the briefing, she was asked about Mr Cummings and, after failing to give support to the prime minister’s chief adviser, she was immediately dropped from the press conference, according to senior NHS sources.
    "Instead the health secretary had to present the slides on Covid-19 himself for the first time, alongside Professor John Newton from Public Health England. The incident, on 1 June, was two days after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam sparked headlines by saying that lockdown rules “apply to all” when asked about Mr Cummings. He has not appeared at the press conferences since 30 May."

  • Matt Hancock faces legal action from daughter of Covid-19 care home victim Guardian June 12 reports "Matt Hancock is facing legal action from the daughter of a man who died from Covid-19 in a care home in which the health secretary is accused of a “litany of failures” and misleading the public with his claim to have “thrown a protective ring” around care homes.
    "Dr Cathy Gardner launched a high court claim on Friday after her father, Michael Gibson, a retired superintendent of births, marriages and deaths, died in an Oxfordshire care home in early April. He became infected after a patient who tested positive for the virus was discharged from hospital into the home.
    "The request for a judicial review alleges failings “have led to large numbers of unnecessary deaths and serious illnesses” and have been “aggravated by the making of wholly disingenuous, misleading and – in some cases – plainly false statements suggesting that everything necessary has been done to protect care homes during the pandemic”.

  • Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag June 12 slice of life in the US, from Seattle Times:
    "Remember Michael Flor, the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient who, when he unexpectedly did not die, was jokingly dubbed “the miracle child?”
    "Now they can also call him the million-dollar baby.
    "Flor, 70, who came so close to death in the spring that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes, is recovering nicely these days at his home in West Seattle. But he says his heart almost failed a second time when he got the bill from his health care odyssey the other day.
    “I opened it and said ‘holy [bleep]!’ “ Flor says.
    "The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus: $1.1 million. $1,122,501.04, to be exact. "All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages."

  • 'An American fiasco': US hits grim milestone of 2m Covid-19 cases More sobering news in Guardian June 11 report: "The true figure of infection in the US is almost certainly “multiples more” than the 2m confirmed cases, said Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, but is obscured by the lack of testing.
    "Problems in developing and rolling out an effective test dogged the initial US response to the pandemic and although testing has now ramped up, only about 6% of the population has received one.
    "People with Covid-19 most likely experience either no noticeable symptoms or only minor symptoms such as a dry cough and mild fever.
    “We are very much seeing only the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” said Redlener. “We are hampered by the lack of sufficient testing, especially as businesses are reopening across all 50 states.”

  • Ten failures which show Johnson is gaslighting us with coronavirus Alastair Campbell in The European June 11: “A reminder of the 10-point guide to crisis management that I set out, almost three months ago, when Boris Johnson was assuring us that we should trust him and his government to “squash the sombrero” and “send the virus packing”.
    1. Devise, execute but also narrate clear strategy.
    2. Show strong, clear, consistent leadership.
    3. Organise from the centre of government.
    4. Throw everything at it.
    5. Use experts well.
    6. Deploy a strong team.
    7. Make the big moments count.
    8. Take the public with you.
    9. Show genuine empathy for people affected by the crisis.
    10. Give hope, but not false hope.
    You really do have to be very, very bad at your job to get zero out of 10. That, however, is how I would score Boris Johnson, and even admitting my bias against him, he reminds of the old football joke: “We played so badly we were lucky to get nil.”

  • COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Universal Health Coverage June 11 report from Think Global Health argues what should be an obvious point: "Poverty has not been the driver of how able systems are to cope with the pandemic. Rather, it’s the quality of a health care system that matters. While money is correlated with good health coverage, it is far from the only driver of quality care.
    "Many middle-income countries offer excellent health care to their citizenry, and there are low-income countries making real strides in that direction as well.
    "Meanwhile, the world’s largest economy lacks universal health coverage, and is struggling to deal with this pandemic."

  • NHS hospital waiting lists could hit 10 million in England this year Guardian June 10 on an NHS Confed report: “The waiting list for hospital treatment could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas amid a huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services, NHS leaders are warning.
    “Hospital bosses say that such a massive increase in England is a realistic prospect, given so many people have been unable to have surgery and crucial diagnostic tests in recent months while the NHS’s main priority has been minimising the damage from Covid-19.
    “The total number of people waiting to undergo a procedure in a hospital in England such as a hernia repair, cataract removal or hip or knee replacement stood at 4.4 million before the pandemic. It then fell to 4.2 million because in March GPs referred fewer patients for care to help hospitals tackle the pandemic and also because some patients were reluctant to risk getting infected by going into hospital.
    “However, the NHS Confederation estimates that it is likely to reach 9.8 million by the end of the year as a result of staff shortages and hospitals having to cap the number of patients they can treat at any one time because of strict physical distancing rules that reduce the number of beds available.”

  • Stop calling family carers a 'hidden army'. We're not invisible, just ignored Guardian June 10: “The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the role of NHS staff, who rightly deserve the praise being heaped on them. In comparison, appreciation of care workers, who are equally deserving praise, was not so visible. Meanwhile, carers continue to be ignored.
    “In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged carers’ vital roles and announced extra payments for them. Boris Johnson and his government failed to make a similar gesture. More crucially, the vital role carers had in preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed received negligible attention.
    “But this comes as no surprise. The current and preceding governments have repeatedly overlooked carers and their needs. …
    “Those in power are ignoring the challenges millions of carers are up against day in, day out, yet still expect this army to diligently continue supporting our loved ones with little recognition for our commitment.”

  • Covid aftercare piles pressure on ‘understaffed’ community services HSJ June 10: “The aftercare of covid-19 patients will have significant financial implications for ‘understaffed’ community services, NHS England has been warned.
    “This month the national commissioner released guidance for the care of patients once they have recovered from an immediate covid infection and been discharged from hospital.
    “It said community health services will need to provide “ongoing health support that rehabilitates [covid patients] both physically and mentally”.
    “The document said this would result in increased demand for home oxygen services, pulmonary rehabilitation, diagnostics and for many therapies such as speech and language, occupational, physio, dieticians and mental health support.
    “The document recognised that dealing with the increased number of people needing specialist support would create “new challenges” to the system, which will include maintaining infection control; pressures on equipment such as oxygen cannisters and personal protective equipment; staffing; and increased numbers of patients experiencing persistent psychological difficulties post-discharge.”

  • Nine California counties report spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations Worrying story from Guardian June 10: "Nine California counties are reporting a spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations of confirmed cases, raising fears that authorities may have to reimpose or tighten public health restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’s spread.
    "The counties are: Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Imperial, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Santa Clara.
    "New diagnoses in the heavily populated Los Angeles area are going up in part because testing is more widely available. But officials say infections and hospitalizations in most other parts of the state are being driven by factors tied directly to the loosening of restrictions or overt flouting of public health rules.
    "It is too soon to see whether cases will also spike after protests over the death of George Floyd swept the state."

  • NHS preparing for workforce shortages caused by test and trace system Independent report June 10: "Heath chiefs have warned administrators to plan how they can continue to run services in the event large numbers of staff are forced to self-isolate at home after being identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for coronavirus.
    "During the height of the pandemic, about 12 per cent of NHS staff were off sick with the virus and many more self-isolated, heaping even more pressure on hospitals."

  • Pledge to boost spending on mental health is ‘absolute’, says NHS director Independent June 10: “The NHS is preparing for a significant rise in demand for mental health services as a result of coronavirus and is re-examining spending plans to prioritise its response.
    “NHS England’s director of mental health Claire Murdoch has promised spending on mental health will not be cut to help other parts of the NHS, saying the commitment to investing £2.3bn of extra spending by 2023-24 was “absolute.”
    “Ms Murdoch, a registered mental health nurse and chief executive of the Central and North West London mental health trust, said NHS England was now modelling the predicted impact on services and would respond later this year.
    “She said: “As we move to the restoration and recovery phases of the Covid-19 response, it is important to note that our commitment to the mental health long-term plan ambition is absolute and will require continued joint working to deliver the changes in quality and access.”

  • Coronavirus leaves one in 10 UK charities facing bankruptcy this year Guardian June 9: "The analysis by Pro Bono Economics, an independent charity, says the coronavirus crisis will trigger a £6.4bn loss of income for charities over the next six months just as demand for extra services – ranging from health to debt advice and social care – piles on extra costs of £3.7bn.
    "There are just under 170,000 general charities in the UK, sharing a total annual income of about £51bn, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The vast majority are small charities, meaning they have income of under £100,000. Larger charities (£1m upwards) account for about a fifth of the sector but 80% of its income."

  • Watchdog relaxed rules on doctors operating in private hospitals weeks after inquiry’s safety warning Independent June 9: "Controversial rules allowing doctors to operate on patients in private hospitals have been fast tracked during the coronavirus crisis, just weeks after an independent inquiry warned they were a risk to patient safety.
    "The Independent has learned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) wrote to private hospitals in March and agreed to a streamlined process for consultants to gain what is known as “practising privileges” to allow them to start work immediately in private hospitals.
    "These privileges allow a doctor to operate on patients, but they are not considered employees of the hospital and their work is monitored less closely. It was under this system that rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson was able to operate unnecessarily on more than 1,000 women."

  • Deaths registered in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 29 May 2020 ONS figures showing around 64,000 more people have died in the previous 10 weeks than would be expected based on the 5 year average.
    Deaths in hospitals to the end of May were 1% below the 5-yr wkly avg – excluding Covid-19 they would have been 27% below
    * Deaths in care homes were 49% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 7% above
    * Deaths in private homes were 45% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 42% above

  • Boris Johnson’s patience wears thin over tracing app Financial Times June 9: "“Boris Johnson and his senior Downing Street advisers are growing increasingly impatient at delays to the launch of the NHS’s coronavirus tracing app, pressing health officials for a rethink even as a new trial is set for next week.
    “According to two people with knowledge of the situation, pressure from Number 10 has been stepped up in the past few days with one telling the Financial Times that the prime minister wants serious consideration to be given to a different version of the app, which incorporates Google and Apple technology.
    “One UK government official said there was “frustration with how long everything takes but the reality is that we are building something from scratch”. The official added: “It is obviously taking longer than people would have hoped.”

  • Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro forced into U-turn on releasing death figures following national uproar Independent June 8: “Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been forced into a U-turn on releasing data showing Brazil’s total number of Covid-19 cases and deaths following a national uproar.
    “In a move officials said was personally ordered by the president, months’ worth of coronavirus data vanished from Brazil’s health ministry website overnight on Friday, with a supreme court judge describing the manoeuvre as “totalitarian”.
    “The health ministry said it would only report Covid-19 cases and deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours - a day after the South America country reported its daily record number of deaths.
    “… The decision sparked outrage among members of Brazil’s congress and judiciary, while medics in the country – now considered the epicentre of the pandemic – said it would hamper their efforts to manage the disease.
    “…On Sunday night, the health ministry resumed releasing the cumulative number of coronavirus cases and deaths following national outrage.”

  • UK ministers face legal challenge for refusal to order PPE inquiry Guardian report June 8: "Ministers are facing a high court legal challenge after they refused to order an urgent investigation into the shortages of personal protective equipment faced by NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Doctors, lawyers and campaigners for older people’s welfare issued proceedings on Monday which they hope will lead to a judicial review of the government’s efforts to ensure that health professionals and social care staff had enough PPE to keep them safe.
    "They want to compel ministers to hold an independent inquiry into PPE and ensure staff in settings looking after Covid-19 patients will be able to obtain the gowns, masks, eye protection and gloves they need if, as many doctors fear, there is a second wave of the disease."

  • Student nurses ‘being asked to carry out unsupervised drug rounds’ Nursing Times (June 8) reveals breaches in NMC guidelines: “Some NHS trusts are wrongly allowing student nurses on extended clinical placements to carry out unsupervised medication rounds, a leading student representative has revealed.
    “More than 25,000 students opted to carry out paid extended clinical placements which were designed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to support the coronavirus response.
    “But concerns have been raised that because those in their final six months of study are being remunerated at band 4, they are being expected to work like a qualified nurse at this level, rather than students.”

  • Boris Johnson speeds up hospital building to aid economy Sunday Torygraph June 7 flags up the Tories’ latest dead cat to divert from the disastrous mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic:
    “Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to speed up the construction of new hospitals, as he prepares to set out a blueprint for how he will "rebuild Britain" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic …”
    And Johnson is determined to get around the fact that few if any of the six ‘new’ hospitals actually promised and funded had proper plans in place (drawn up before Covid changed the world) – and that some are already facing a legal challenge by local councils and campaigners alarmed at the threat to bed numbers:
    “…a new team already examining the effect of cumbersome planning rules and 'endless consultations'. The team is studying possible reforms to the system of judicial reviews, resuming work begun in February, when Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's chief aide, warned that there must be 'urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become.' "

  • Boris Johnson told to dump rhetoric and plan for new Covid wave Guardian June 7|: “Senior figures from across the NHS have issued an urgent plea for a comprehensive plan to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections, as Boris Johnson continues to lose public confidence in his handling of the pandemic.
    “Amid persistent fears among scientists that the virus remains too prevalent to ease the lockdown further, the prime minister has been urged to ditch “cheap political rhetoric” that risks eroding the public’s adherence to lockdown measures in the months ahead.
    “Health chiefs say there should be no further easing before a comprehensive test and trace system has been proved to work, as NHS figures accuse the government of lacking a strategy and dodging an “honest and open” debate about Britain’s plight. They also warned of a “dramatic” drop in capacity at NHS hospitals.”

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major extended June 7 investigation by Independent's Shaun Lintern with some shocking warnings:
    "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer. Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock has made clear he expects private hospitals will have a “critical role”.
    "The persistent menace of Covid-19 means hospitals up and down the country are being forced to remove beds and redesign buildings to keep patients safe as they restart routine services. But infection precautions mean only half the normal number of operations a day can be carried out.
    "Experts and hospital leaders warned the impact of coronavirus will mean longer waits for treatment, higher costs for the taxpayer and a need to ration care to an extent normally seen only in poorer countries."

  • The Observer view on the government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis Observer Editorial June 7 concludes: "As the pandemic goes on, the government appears to be moving further away from, not closer to, the balance of scientific opinion; ministers are increasingly struggling with the huge logistical challenge of managing this pandemic, rather than learning from their mistakes; Johnson is approaching pandemic management more, not less, through the lens of the populist politics of the Vote Leave campaign that he and Cummings together led.
    "We agree with the scientific and medical experts who wrote to the Guardian on Friday calling for a rapid public inquiry. Such an inquiry should be focused on producing practical recommendations for the autumn and could be conducted by a cross-party committee of senior parliamentary backbenchers."

  • Brazil stops releasing Covid-19 death toll and wipes data from official site Guardian June 7 on how Brazil's far right populist government is dealing with Covid:
    "The Brazilian government has been accused of totalitarianism and censorship after it stopped releasing its total numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths and wiped an official site clean of swaths of data.
    "Health ministry insiders told local media the move was ordered by far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, himself – and was met with widespread outrage in Brazil, one of the world’s worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots, with more deaths than Italy and more cases than Russia and the UK.
    “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhuman and unethical attempt to make those killed by Covid-19 invisible will not succeed. We and Brazilian society will not forget them, nor the tragedy that befalls the nation,” said Alberto Beltrame, president of Brazil’s national council of state health secretaries, in a statement."

  • Cuba sets example with successful programme to contain coronavirus Guardian report June 7 on a success story: “The World Health Organization has identified Latin America as the new centre for coronavirus pandemic, but over the last two months, cases in Cuba have fallen. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to catch the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less likely to catch it than Mexicans, and more than 70 times less likely to be infected than Brazilians.
    “Desperate for tourist revenue, Cuba closed its border later than most other countries in the region. But ever since the communist-ruled island shut out the outside world in late March, it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the virus.
    “The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases Covid-19 – every single day.
    “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately.”

  • Serco wins Covid-19 test-and-trace contract despite £1m fine Guardian June 6 on the apparently endless succession of Serco scandals: "Serco, one of the companies that has secured a lucrative government contract for the Covid contact-tracing programme, was fined more than £1m for failures on another government contract just months ago, the Observer has learned.
    "The revelation has led to campaigners against the privatisation of public services to call for the £45.8m test-and-trace contract to be cancelled.
    "Serco has a range of government contracts both in the UK and overseas, much of it focused on criminal justice and immigration. It has already had to apologise after breaching data protection rules on its test-and-trace contract by inadvertently revealing the email addresses of new recruits. The junior health minister, Edward Argar, is a former Serco lobbyist."

  • NHS trust bosses not consulted over new face mask rules BBC June 6 report: "NHS trusts were not consulted before the government announced changes to the use of face coverings and visitor policy in English hospitals, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.
    "Chris Hopson said trust leaders felt "completely in the dark" about the "significant and complex" changes.
    "From 15 June, hospital visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings and staff must use surgical masks.
    "The Department of Health says masks can be provided by the hospital if needed.
    "A spokeswoman said that, while the public were "strongly urged" to wear a face covering while inside hospitals, no-one would be denied care."

  • Care home residents foot £100 a week for coronavirus costs Guardian June 6 on the latest revelation of how dysfunctional our care home sector has become:
    “Older people and their families are being asked to pay more than £100 a week on top of their usual care home fees, with homes saying the cost of PPE and staff absences could push their finances into the red, threatening their sustainability.
    “ ‘Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.’
    “Abrahams said that central government should meet care homes’ extra costs. ‘Otherwise there’s a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless,” she warned.’ ”

  • £108m PPE contract was given to small pest control company Times June 6 report of another shocking award by ministers of a major tender to a firm with no qualifications:
    "A small family-run pest control company was handed a contract worth £108 million to procure personal protective equipment for frontline health staff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "PestFix, which has only 16 employees and net assets of £18,000, was turned overnight into one of the government’s largest suppliers of PPE last month.
    "It is one of a number of companies to have been awarded multimillion-pound contracts to provide facemasks, gowns and visors despite lacking experience in the field.
    "The contracts were signed in early April when ministers were under huge public pressure to improve the supply of PPE to hospitals and care homes amid global shortages. The flurry of offers to help was so overwhelming that in late April the government paid £200,000 to a call centre supplier to clear a backlog of about 5,000 offers.
    "Last night the chairman of parliament’s public accounts committee said it and the National Audit Office would be scrutinising the contracts awarded to ensure that they represented value for money. “The need for PPE for frontline staff is urgent and critical but tendering outside the normal rules can be risky,” Meg Hillier said."

  • Vital health projects axed as Tory cuts batter Liverpool council Liverpool Echo report June 6: "Merseyside has areas with some of the highest health inequalities in the UK, yet projects to encourage people to make changes to their lifestyles to improve their health have fallen victim to a lack of funding.
    "With resources increasingly stretched rising to meet the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, the ability of Liverpool Council to address chronic health inequalities has been put under further pressure.
    "The cuts were agreed by councillors at the annual budget meeting in March and form part of £30m of savings needed this year to balance the council’s books."

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major June 6 report from Independent's Shaun Lintern begins: "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer.
    "Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year."

  • No return to 'business as usual' for dentists BBC June 5 report: "The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned there will be no return to "business as usual" for dentistry in England.
    "Practices were told last week that they could reopen from Monday 8 June, if they put in place appropriate safety measures.
    "But some dentists say it was not enough warning and they lack necessary kit. A poll of 2,053 practices in England suggests that just over a third (36%) plan to reopen on Monday.
    "Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service," says BDA chair Mick Armstrong. "Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand."

  • We can't be 100% sure face masks work – but that shouldn't stop us wearing them Primary health care expert Trish Greenhalgh in Guardian June 5 notes the lack of relevant research on the effectiveness of face masks, and concludes:
    "Like dozens of other countries, England is about to have a natural experiment of face coverings in public places. Still, the scientists will continue to argue. If transmission rates of Covid-19 fall as predicted, public health experts – and I count myself among them – will say this has produced a “fact” that face coverings are effective source control. And triallists will say that in the absence of a trial (which they will continue to demand), this is not a fact because there’s no robust evidence that the association is causal. Whether we can agree on “the facts” or not, we’ll hopefully welcome the positive outcomes, as I predict that transmission of Covid-19 will fall and that any harms will be relatively minor and worth the trade-off."

  • 'Die-in' outside Dominic Cummings's house over COVID-19 response Sky News reports, June 5: "Protesters staged a "die-in" outside Dominic Cummings' house over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Holding signs and wearing face masks, about 20 campaigners lay on the street outside the north London home of the prime minister's controversial adviser on Thursday evening.
    "One of the placards read: "Over 50,000 dead while you're playing king of the castle.""

  • ‘Primary’ PPE portal relegated to ‘emergency top-up route’ (£) HSJ June 5 reports a fresh twist in the ongoing PPE supply chain scandal, with a new U-turn:
    "A government portal to supply personal protective equipment to primary and social care providers has now been branded “emergency only” - despite originally being intended to fill “the bulk” of demand.
    "This means the eBay-built website is only currently available as “an emergency top-up route”, to be used when existing supply routes have failed.
    "… In April, an internal update seen by HSJ said the portal would be “the primary method of centralised distribution” of PPE to primary and social care providers, fulfilling “the bulk” of demand during the covid-19 crisis once fully rolled out.
    "But Thursday’s presentation described the portal to customers as “an emergency top-up route” to be used only when existing supply methods failed.
    "Those that are registered can request small batches of gloves, masks and aprons through the portal on a weekly basis. At present, GPs can order up to 50 IIR masks, 200 aprons and 200 pairs of gloves per week. Small domiciliary care providers and care homes with 24 beds or fewer can order up to 100 IIR masks, 400 aprons and 400 pairs of gloves per week"

  • WHO advises public to wear face masks when unable to distance Guardian June 5: "People over 60 or with health issues should wear a medical-grade mask when they are out and cannot socially distance, according to new guidance from the World Health Organization, while all others should wear a three-layer fabric mask.
    "The announcement on Friday marks a significant change of stance by the WHO …
    "…Until now the global body has been reluctant to advocate the wearing of face coverings by the public because of limited evidence that they offer protection. There were also fears of a rush on masks leading to shortages of medical-grade versions for health workers."

  • Patients Not Passports – Migrants’ Access to Healthcare During the Coronavirus Crisis A new (June 5) Medact briefing paper, co-produced by Migrants Organise and the New Economics Foundation examines the barriers to accessing healthcare for migrants during the coronavirus crisis.
    The findings of the research lead to a series of urgent recommendations designed to help inform the government’s response to the public health emergency.
    The report’s findings highlights numerous cases of migrants being denied healthcare outright; or refusing to seek care due to fear of Government policies or racial profiling.
    The report shows that:
    • Migrants are not coming forward for healthcare because of the Government’s Hostile Environment, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • The coronavirus ‘exemption’ from charging and immigration checks is not working – people are still being asked to show their passports for coronavirus treatment, and migrants are still too fearful of the Hostile Environment to come forward for treatment for coronavirus.
    • Migrants are facing a wide range of additional barriers – including language and digital exclusions – to accessing care during the pandemic, including to emergency services.

  • Thousands more may have died with coronavirus without being diagnosed, data reveals ITV News report June 5: "The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that between March 7 and May 1 this year there were 46,380 more deaths than in an average year - but almost 13,000 of these deaths were not attributed to coronavirus.
    "The ONS concludes that many cases may have been missed - the vast majority were in care homes.
    "ITV News has spoken to several families who say their relatives passed away with symptoms of Covid-19, without the virus ever being recorded as a cause of death.
    "In April, 89 year-old Isobel Hick died at her care home in Scarborough, after several other residents had been diagnosed with Covid-19. But because she hadn’t been tested for the virus, her death certificate simply records “dementia” as the cause of death."

  • Covid-19 Shambles: 11 Reasons why “guided by science” claim is lie Keep Our NHS public report, June 5 "The government keeps telling us they are "guided by the science", but this mantra does not fit the facts. In truth, its policies have been characterised by callousness, greed and ineptitude. Here is Keep Our NHS Public’s 11-point guide to the shambles of our Government’s Covid-19 response. "

  • Healthcare workers should self-isolate if any colleague tests positive for COVID-19, says Hancock Nursing Notes June 5 with a change of policy that could trigger a new shortage of PPE and bring departments to a halt:
    “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has told health and social care staff that they are not exempt from the self-isolation rules. Speaking live during today’s daily Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock told health and social care workers that ‘if one of your team tests positive you have to test the isolation advice.’
    “The current guidance from Public Health England (PHE) means that any health or social care worker who has been in close proximity to a colleague who tests positive would need to self-isolate at home for 14 days, even if asymptomatic.
    “Mr. Hancock admitted that while the new measures may cause ‘logistical challenges’, insisted they were necessary.
    “This advice comes alongside new rules forcing staff to wear face masks “at all times” due to an increased risk of health and social care staff catching the virus. Hospital visitors and outpatients will also be required to wear face coverings.”

  • Parts of South West could face local lockdown as R-rate increases, says Health Secretary Cornwall Live report June 5: "The Health Secretary has said that local lockdowns will be brought in if the R-rate continues to rise in certain locations.
    "Earlier it was reported that the R-rate has risen to 1 in the South West, meaning the region now has the second highest rate of transmission of the virus in England.
    "Matt Hancock said Sage believes the R is below one and said local lockdowns would be used when flare-ups are spotted, pointing towards a success in Weston-super-Mare.
    "The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “You’re right that the R is closer to one in the South West and in the North West, the advice from Sage is that R is below one in all regions.
    “However, we want to increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up."

  • Experts told UK to boost test-and-trace in February, papers show Guardian June 5 new revelation on avoidable, but lethal government failures: “The government was advised to scale up its coronavirus test-and-trace effort using a call centre system as early as February, government documents show, raising questions about why the system launched last week as lockdown measures were eased is still not fully operational.
    “A report presented to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 12 February, when the UK was still actively tracing contacts of those infected with Covid-19, recommended a 10-fold increase in Public Health England’s test-and-trace capacity in order to extend the number of cases that could be managed.
    “‘Scaling this response up, using for example a call-centre type system to support the local PHE teams, should be possible and feasible,’ the experts from Public Health England and the University of Cambridge recommended.
    “However, this suggestion does not appear to have been pursued and contact tracing was abandoned in March.”

  • The Brexit crisis led to totally incompetent leadership at a time of unprecedented calamity. Now we are paying for it Independent article from Patrick Cockburn June 5:
    "Britain is discovering the hard way how far its administrative machine has been weakened by cuts and outsourcing. Central government has monopolised authority and resources and starved local authorities of both, though they should be on the cutting edge of “test and trace”.
    "An editorial in the British Medical Journal of which the lead author is a professor of European public health, Martin McKee, succinctly sums up what has happened:
    “A hollowed out civil service has long turned to outsourcing companies, despite their repeated failures. Companies with little relevant experience have struggled to organise viral testing or contact tracing. The task of coordinating activities with existing organisations, such as NHS laboratories or local public health departments, is too complex for their business model.”

  • NHS test-and-trace system 'not fully operational until September' Guardian June 4 exclusive on leak revealing just how poor the privatised track and trace system really is:
    "The NHS coronavirus test-and-trace system designed to prevent a second deadly wave is not expected to work at full speed until September or October, the Guardian has learned.
    "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the NHS scheme, admitted in a webinar to staff that the programme would be “imperfect” at launch, adding that he hoped it would be operational at a world-class level within three to four months.
    "It comes as a leaked email from the chief executive of Serco – one of the main companies contracted to deliver the service – revealed how he doubted the scheme would evolve smoothly but said he wanted it to “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.
    "The disclosures come as scientists said lockdown measures should not be eased until the test-and-trace service is well established. The system, which tracks those who have contracted coronavirus and anyone they have been in contact with, before asking them to self-isolate, was rolled out across England last week with the help of 25,000 contact tracers."

  • Test and trace system not expected to be ‘world-class’ until September, leaked comments suggest Independent report June 4|: "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the scheme, is reported to have admitted in a video message to staff that the system will not be working at full speed for months.
    "The apparent admission came after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, claimed the UK would have a “world-beating” test and trace system by the start of June.
    “I am sure when Dido [Harding, the chief executive] announces this service later she will make clear that it is an imperfect service at launch that we will improve over time and make it world-class by the time that we are moving towards the September or October time,” Mr Prestedge said, according to The Guardian.
    “We know it will be imperfect, we know it will be clunky but we ask you to help us improve the service.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 report stresses findings from SAGE that underline impact of inequalities in raising risks to BAME people from Covid-19: “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies ordered the analysis in mid-April after a “signal” that black people had a higher risk of death among coronavirus patients compared with the overall Bame population.
    “Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University … concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Swedish expert admits country should have had tighter coronavirus controls Financial Times, June 3 report: “The architect of Sweden’s controversial lighter lockdown policy for dealing with coronavirus has for the first time conceded the Scandinavian country should have imposed more restrictions to avoid having such a high death toll.
    “Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, agreed with the interviewer on Sveriges Radio that too many people had died in the country. “If we would encounter the same disease, with exactly what we know about it today, I think we would land midway between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world did,” said Mr Tegnell in the interview broadcast on Wednesday morning.
    “Mr Tegnell’s admission is striking as for months he has criticised other countries’ lockdowns and insisted that Sweden’s approach was more sustainable despite heavy international scrutiny of its stubbornly high death toll.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “… Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University used data on hospital coronavirus patients and matched patients from ethnic minorities to white patients using 23 different characteristics including age on admission, sex, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, asthma, smoking and deprivation.
    “They concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Keir Starmer warns PM: get a grip or risk second coronavirus wave June 3: “In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader launched a stinging attack on the prime minister, accusing him of “winging it” over the easing of the lockdown and making an already “difficult situation 10 times worse”.
    “He also questioned whether the timing of some decisions over the relaxation of the lockdown rules had been taken “to try to deflect attention away” from the Dominic Cummings affair – an episode, he said, that showed Johnson was too weak to sack his chief adviser.
    “In a significant hardening of his language, Starmer said Johnson had to “get a grip” of the crisis. “My [worry] is that after a week or more of mismanagement, I’m deeply concerned the government has made a difficult situation 10 times worse,” he said.”

  • Censorship row over report on UK BAME Covid-19 deaths Guardian report June 3: “Concerns about censorship have been raised after third-party submissions were left out of the government-commissioned report on the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people
    “Public Health England said it had engaged with more than 1,000 people during its inquiry. But the report, which has been criticised for failing to investigate the reasons for the disparities or make recommendations on how to address them, did not mention the consultations.
    “Anger has been compounded by a report in the Health Service Journal claiming that before publication the government removed a section detailing responses from third parties, many of whom highlighted structural racism.
    “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which called in its written submission for “specific measures … to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism [within the NHS]”, said it had contacted PHE to ask why its evidence was not included.”

  • England had the chance to prepare for lifting lockdown, but our leaders wasted it Outspoken Guardian June 3 comment by normally reticent former King’s Fund boss Chris Ham:
    “Unfathomably, the government decided to ease restrictions while the Covid-19 alert level was still at four, which denotes a high level of transmission. A reasonable inference to make is that politics has taken precedence over “the science”.
    “Indeed, members of Sage have expressed concern that the lockdown is being relaxed too soon. The more cautious approach taken by devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is a reminder of English exceptionalism, even in the face of death rates higher than anywhere else in Europe.
    “Relaxing the lockdown in advance of having an effective and fully integrated system of testing and tracing in place creates unacceptable risks to the public’s health. If infections and hospital admissions from coronavirus begin to increase, the NHS will face renewed pressure.”

  • An uncompromising defender of the NHS: colleagues remember Dr Ron Singer GP Online June 3 tribute to campaigner Dr Ron Singer who died aged 71:
    "In a 2014 interview with GPonline to mark the founding of the organsation - known then as the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) - he explained the philosophy that underpinned his approach to medical politics.
    "'You have to be on the streets,' he said. 'You have to bring your colleagues to a point where they can see that unless they act collectively and in a fairly visible manner, the plight of general practice will not be recognised.'
    "The Newham GP campaigned powerfully - and visibly - for the NHS he believed in well beyond his retirement from frontline general practice.
    "In 2012 as then health secretary Andrew Lansley toured a north London hospital as his controversial health reforms went through parliament, Dr Singer confronted him in person, saying: 'I am a doctor of 30 years Mr Lansley, explain to me how this is going to make patients better.'"

  • Just one in three think government has done a good job managing coronavirus pandemic Telegraph (June 3) revealing that a third of the population clearly have no idea what's going on: "A new poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group March for Change, found just 31 per cent of adults believe the government is doing a good job, while 44 per cent said it was doing a bad one.
    "Asked if there should be an independent public inquiry into how the government has handled the pandemic, 58 per cent said there should be.
    "Regional divides were also revealed in the data, as people in London (56 per cent) and Scotland (58 per cent) were the most likely to think the government is doing a bad job, compared to 40 per cent in the North, 40 per cent in the South and 38 per cent in both the Midlands and Wales."

  • Number of cases and deaths Government website updating daily, reveals continued failure to report numbers of people tested alongside number of tests.
    "As of 9am on 2 June, there have been 4,615,146 tests, with 135,643 tests on 1 June.
    277,985 people have tested positive.
    "As of 5pm on 1 June, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 39,369 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 31,136."

  • Reducing social distancing to one metre would double risk of infection, study suggests Independent June 2: "Reducing social distancing from two metres to one could double the risk of being infected with coronavirus, according to a comprehensive new study published amid growing calls for the UK to reduce its guidance to allow more businesses to reopen.
    "Researchers found distancing of a metre or more reduces the risk of infection to 13 per cent, compared to 3 per cent for less than a metre. However, analysis of modelling published in The Lancet suggests for every extra metre further away up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve.
    "In the UK people are advised to keep a distance of two metres from others, but there have been calls to reduce this to 1.5 metres like in other countries such as Germany to help the hospitality sector reopen.
    "Businesses such as theatres, pubs and music venues could be particularly hit hard by the two-metre rule, which would severely restrict the number of customers allowed inside."

  • Chris Whitty thwarted Boris Johnson’s bid to downgrade coronavirus threat level Times, June 2, reports: "Boris Johnson’s hopes of downgrading the virus alert level last week were resisted by the chief medical officer for England.
    "The prime minister had wanted to announce that the five-stage alert level was being reduced from 4 to 3 to coincide with yesterday’s partial relaxation of the lockdown. His road map published on May 11 said that the relaxation of social-distancing measures “must be warranted by the alert level”.
    "In the event Mr Johnson was able only to repeat that the level was “moving towards 3” after Chris Whitty insisted it remain at the second-highest level. The decision to relax the lockdown without a full reduction in the alert level has prompted questions over the system’s credibility. No 10 has yet to explain what benchmarks, such as the number and location of daily new infections, inform the five levels."

  • AI firm that worked with Vote Leave given new coronavirus contract Guardian June 2: "An artificial intelligence firm hired to work on the Vote Leave campaign may analyse social media data, utility bills and credit rating scores as part of a £400,000 contract to help the government deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The company, Faculty, was awarded the contract by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last month. However the full details of its work for the government are unknown because the published version of the contract was partly redacted.
    "The disclosure comes amid questions from civil liberties groups as to how private companies hired by the government during the pandemic are using confidential data.
    "The unredacted portion of the contract shows that the MHCLG said such work was likely to require data from “social media, utility providers and telecom bills, credit rating agencies” as well as from the government, but provides few other specifics."

  • CQC publishes data on deaths of people with a learning disability Disturbing CQC report on huge 134% increase in death rates of people with learning disabilities this year compared with last year, suggesting this vulnerable group are also being failed by government policies.
    "While we know this data has its limitations what it does show is a significant increase in deaths of people with a learning disability as a result of COVID-19. We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives.
    "These figures also show that the impact on this group of people is being felt at a younger age range than in the wider population – something that should be considered in decisions on testing of people of working age with a learning disability."

  • Covid-19: Questions of conscience and duty for scientific advisers Highly critical BMJ editorial pointing to government's departure from "the science" goes on to question how scientists and doctors should respond:
    “This is meant to be a moment of optimism, a green recovery, centred on the health of people and the planet, backed by an effective system of testing and contact tracing and possibly informed by a public inquiry.
    “Instead, England arrives here in a state of utter confusion. The public’s confidence in the official lockdown advice is shaken. The covid-19 response is short on testing, uncertain on contact tracing, and reliant on unreliable apps.
    “Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are not following England’s lead. The UK has the second highest number of covid-19 deaths of any nation and, by some calculations, the most deaths per capita.
    “… Scientists and doctors in advisory positions face a dual obligation to the state and to the public. But what happens when the government’s integrity no longer matches your personal or professional integrity, when your public accountability seems greater than that of the politicians you advise?”

  • Things are not getting better – our data is getting worse June 2 comment from The London Economic: “The UK death toll increased by four times the amount that was reported by Matt Hancock at the daily press briefing on Monday. Owing to “statistical housekeeping” on behalf of the government, they have been able to report figures that paint a much rosier picture of the current situation in the UK.
    “The health secretary announced that there were just 111 fatalities … When in fact 445 deaths were subsequently added, largely owing to cases which had been identified through commercial partners rather than by NHS and Public Health England laboratories.”

  • Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding linked to anti-NHS group Mirror June 2: "The Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding has been linked to a right-wing group calling for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system.
    "Former minister John Penrose said last month he was “delighted” to join the advisory board of 1828.
    "One article authored by 1828’s co-founders argued Britain should be “bold and progressive” – scrapping the NHS in favour of a system where people pay for insurance either through private firms or a government scheme.
    "It said: “With a social health insurance system, you don’t need the state to own or subsidise hospitals, or to control policy from the centre; you simply need it to regulate the system to a satisfactory degree.”

  • BAME people twice as likely to die of COVID-19, finds PHE report Nursing Notes June 2: "Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A report by Public Health England (PHE) identifies those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities as at greater risk from COVID-19 but has been criticised for failing to provide any recommendations.
    "The ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ report was published by PHE earlier today despite rumours it would be delayed.
    "It concludes that members of the BAME community are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than white ethnic groups.
    "Following diagnosis “People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.” All-cause mortality was said to be up to 4 times higher in some subsets."

  • Boris Johnson takes back control of coronavirus crisis with Downing Street shake-up This (£) Telegraph June 2 exclusive does raise questions of who has been in charge of the government's response for the past 3 months:
    "Boris Johnson is to take "direct control" of the Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis after a chaotic fortnight in which his chief aide was accused of breaking the lockdown rules and the Government's test and trace plans were hit by setbacks.
    "A shake-up in Downing Street will see the Government's entire approach to the pandemic run by two centrally-run committees, covering strategy and operational delivery.
    "Tory MPs said the changes could weaken the influence of chief adviser Dominic Cummings – who was heavily criticised for a 260-mile trip during lockdown – and allow Mr Johnson to tighten his grip on the fight against the pandemic after being treated in intensive care for the virus.
    "In the past fortnight, his Government has been criticised over plans to quarantine new arrivals in the UK, while a test and trace app to track people infected with coronavirus has failed to materialise.
    "The reforms will also free up some of the Prime Minister's top team to focus on the Brexit talks ahead of a crucial deadline next month when the UK must decide whether to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year."

  • Leaked report reveals just 1,749 people out of 4,456 contacted by track and trace Mirror June 2: "A leaked report has revealed that just 1,749 people have been contacted by the government's much heralded track and trace system in the first four days since it was launched.
    "Matt Hancock has described the NHS test and trace system as "successful" but has repeatedly been unable to provide figures for the number of people contacted under the system.
    "Around 25,000 people have been hired as tracers to help track new cases.
    "Today the national coordinator for the scheme Professor John Newton said that thousands of contacts had been successfully identified using test and trace."

  • Review into impact of COVID-19 on BAME community delayed again Sky News June 2, "A review into how the BAME community has been affected by COVID-19 has been delayed again because of "worries" around "current global events", Sky News understands.
    "Public Health England's review was commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and due for release "by the end of May" as per the terms of reference.
    "But government sources said it was being put on hold until Wednesday because it was not ready for publishing.
    "They now say it has been delayed further because it is in "close proximity to the current situation in America" and it would be a "bad combination" if it was released amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
    "One Whitehall source told Sky News: "The government won't be able to put this out without concrete and solid next steps."
    Of course this is exactly what they did.

  • University Hospitals to cut pay of all doctors, including those working on coronavirus frontlines From the US, Cleveland Metro report on the latest contortions of the US health care market in response to Covid-19: "University Hospitals has temporarily cut the pay of doctors treating patients by 7%, including physicians working on the frontlines to care for coronavirus patients.
    "Doctors will receive a 10% drop in pay for any administrative work they do. Clinical leaders will also receive a 10% pay reduction.
    "The move to slash doctor’s pay comes after the hospital system in April slashed the hours and pay of 4,100 workers not directly involved in patient care by 20% for 10 weeks.
    "University Hospitals blamed the most recent pay cuts pay cuts on budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic. It’s spent more than $30 million to cover an increased need for labor, supplies and operations."

  • Government censored BAME covid-risk review June 2 article in HSJ: “The government removed a key section from Public Health England’s review of the relative risk of covid-19 to specific groups, HSJ has discovered. The report was published on Tuesday.
    “The review reveals the virus poses a greater risk to those who are older, male and overweight. The risk is also described as “disproportionate” for those with Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities. It makes no attempt to explain why the risk to BAME groups should be higher.
    “An earlier draft of the review which was circulated within government last week contained a section which included responses from the 1,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence to the review. Many of these suggested that discrimination and poorer life chances were playing a part in the increased risk of covid-19 to those with BAME backgrounds. HSJ understands this section was an annexe to the report but could also stand alone.
    “… One source with knowledge of the review said the section “did not survive contact with Matt Hancock’s office” over the weekend.”

  • UK coronavirus death toll passes 50,000, official figures show Guardian report June 2: “The UK reached a grim milestone in its battle with coronavirus on Tuesday, as the death toll passed 50,000, according to official figures.
    “… The UK death toll is higher than the other worst-affected countries in Europe: Italy, France and Spain, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and the number of people killed by coronavirus in the UK since it emerged in China in January is only currently surpassed by the United States.
    “The number of deaths registered in England and Wales with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 reached 44,401 by 22 May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but when more recent figures from the NHS and from statistics authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are added in, the tally hits 50,032.”

  • We cannot continue to run our health service focused solely on the short term June 2 Public Finance article by Anita Charlesworth of Health Foundation concludes:
    "It would be wrong to conclude that the Covid-19 experience means efficiency doesn’t matter, but it does highlight that however efficient our system, the overall level of funding and capacity matters even more.
    "… But there also needs to be a more nuanced and comprehensive view of system efficiency which extends beyond the narrow prism of short-term delivery of certain front-line services to include system resilience. "

  • Huge drop in overseas nurses (£) HSJ Exclusive June 1 notes: "The number of overseas nurses who joined the UK nursing and midwifery register on a permanent basis fell dramatically in April — but a large number signed up to work during the covid-19 crisis under special rules.
    "Figures collected by the Nursing and Midwifery Council show a drop from 1,348 overseas nurses joining its “permanent register” in March, to just 35 in April. There were also more than 1,000 in both January and February, with more overseas than English permanent registrants in those months.
    "It suggests the global outbreak, as predicted, severely restricted the flow of overseas nurses, which played a big part of NHS and government hopes for bolstering total numbers."

  • Almost a week now since Govt has been able to say how many people are being tested June 1 graphic and comment from digital journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw: "This is how many tests have been done, and those that were sent out in May
    "In the last week of April the Government changed the counting criteria so they could add "delivered tests" to their daily testing figures. This chart separates the two types of counting, as well as "surveillance" tests.
    "Figures on "people tested" do not include the same breakdown, so although these are shown below they are less reliable. The statistics regulator has urged Matt Hancock to improve the level of detail provided in testing data."

  • Exercise Cygnus: NHS doctor's legal bid to force Government to release papers on pandemic preparedness (£) Telegraph June 1: "An NHS doctor has launched a judicial review of the Government's refusal to reveal the full findings of a secret simulation designed to test the UK's preparedness for a pandemic.
    "Dr Moosa Qureshi filed a claim against Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, in the High Court on Monday. Dr Qureshi and his legal team are seeking to force the Government to release the full findings of Exercise Cygnus, a cross-governmental dry run carried out in late 2016.
    "The Department of Health has repeatedly refused to publish Cygnus, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardise the ability of civil servants to speak freely behind the scenes.
    "However, a document setting out the broad conclusions of Cygnus was leaked to newspapers last month. It revealed that the Government had been forewarned of the likely impact of a new disease on care homes.
    "Whitehall insiders have also disclosed that Cygnus warned that the NHS might be overwhelmed in the event of a pandemic amid shortages of critical care beds, mortuary places and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers."

  • Easing Covid-19 shielding in England 'risks second wave' Guardian June 1: “Care home operators have warned that easing Covid-19 shielding restrictions for 2.2 million vulnerable people risks a second wave of infections, as it emerged that government scientific advisers who previously warned against such a move were not asked to reconsider the matter.
    “New guidance allows the “clinically extremely vulnerable” to go outside and, if they live alone, meet one friend from Monday. They include many in long-term care facilities for elderly people, as well as those with chronic illnesses living at home.
    “Strict isolation rules were expected to stay in place for at least another two weeks. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned in April that “lifting the policy of shielding the vulnerable would … lead to a sharp increase in hospitalisation, ICU admissions, and the death rates within this age group”.
    “… The sudden relaxation of the rules this weekend appeared to surprise many health officials. NHS England’s primary care medical director, Nikki Kanani, indicated on Twitter that she was not told in advance.”

  • Here to stay? How the NHS will have to learn to live with coronavirus Nigel Edwards of Nuffield Trust in an interesting discussion paper on future of the NHS now that Covid-19 has shaken things up:
    "Now, as the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions gradually declines, policy attention is turning to how the NHS can restart some more routine activities, with hospitals beginning to resume elective surgery and cancer treatments. But doing this while living alongside Covid-19 will involve major practical challenges that will need to be overcome.
    "It will inevitably have a large negative impact on the ability of the NHS to deliver what it was able to offer previously.
    "This could mean the public having to accept reduced services, health and care staff facing continued and long-term changes to their ways of working, and difficult choices
    ahead for policymakers in accepting a degree of rationing of health care that would previously have been seen as unacceptable. "

  • Critics round on No 10 over 'ridiculous' rules for 14-day quarantine Guardian June 1 report: "Tens of thousands of new arrivals to the UK will be able to go food shopping, change accommodation and use public transport from airports during a 14-day quarantine imposed to prevent a second wave of coronavirus, under draft plans to be laid before parliament.
    "The Guardian understands that about a fifth of people are expected to receive a spot-check to ensure that they are staying at the address or addresses they have provided to the authorities, but enforcement of the quarantine will be limited.
    "The rules, still being finalised and due to be published on Tuesday before coming into effect next week, have prompted cross-party concerns about the potentially limited impact on public health amid warnings of the severe damage that could be caused to the travel and aviation industry."

  • Almost two-thirds of care homes have had no staff tested, data shows - despite government's promise of universal testing by early June Independent May 31: "Only 15 per cent of care home staff have been tested for coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, according to data which suggests the government is failing to meet a key target.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock pledged on 15 May that every elderly resident and member of staff in England would be tested by “early June”.
    "However research by the Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software revealed that by 27 May nearly two-thirds of homes had still not had any staff members tested.
    "Just six per cent of care home staff were tested in the seven days leading up to that date.
    “The rate of testing of care home staff has picked up in the last week but is still far too slow to get close to the target set by the government,” said Simon Briscoe, director of T-DAB."

  • How a decade of privatisation and cuts exposed England to coronavirus Major May 31 investigation by The Guardian begins "“Let’s not forget,” Boris Johnson said in early March, near the start of the coronavirus crisis, “we already have a fantastic NHS, fantastic testing systems and fantastic surveillance of the spread of disease.”
    “Yet those who have experienced the government’s emerging testing and tracing operations for Covid-19 have had limited contact with the NHS. Instead, Britons with symptoms are directed to a network of 50 drive-through testing centres, set up by management consultants at Deloitte.
    “Upon arrival, patients are marshalled not by NHS staff, but workers in hi-vis jackets supplied by outsourcing companies, such as Serco, G4S, Mitie and Sodexo. Those who cannot make the drive have received postal test kits, processed by the private diagnostics company Randox and delivered by Amazon.
    “When contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus finally moved up the agenda in late April, the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said the job would be done with an as–yet unproven NHS app. The app has been developed by private firms for NHSX, the technology wing of the health service, which is also responsible for a Covid-19 government data operation involving tech companies Palantir, Faculty, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
    “On Thursday the government finally launched its long-awaited NHS Test and Trace Service. But despite the name, many of the 25,000 contact tracers tracking those potentially exposed to Covid-19 and advising them to self-isolate will be working not for the NHS, but rather the outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel.”

  • ADPH Presidential Blog: A time for steady leadership, careful preparation and measured steps Association of Directors of Public Health May 31 President’s blog:
    “We are at a critical moment. We need to weigh up the balance of risks between easing restrictions, to enable more pupils to return to school, more businesses to open and more social connections to happen, with the risk of causing a resurgence of infections.
    “Directors of Public Health are increasingly concerned that the Government is misjudging this balancing act and lifting too many restrictions, too quickly.
    “This is a new disease; evidence is still emerging and there is much uncertainty. However, based on what is currently known, several leading scientists and public health experts have spoken out about a string of recent national policy announcements affecting England which project a degree of confidence that many – including ADPH members – do not think is supported by the science.
    “Over the weekend we have seen signs that the public is no longer keeping as strictly to social distancing as it was – along with this, we are concerned that the resolve on personal hygiene measures, and the need to immediately self-isolate, if symptomatic, is waning. A relentless effort to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events is essential.
    “… The Government has set five tests, each of which must be regularly reviewed as restrictions are adjusted and eased. Here is our current assessment…”

  • COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable Government guidance - issued at 10.33pm on May 31, to guide behaviour on June 1.

  • Care homes mentioned only twice in five months of Sage minutes Independent report, May 31: “The government’s top scientific advisers discussed care homes only twice between January and May, according to newly published minutes.
    “Records for meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, which is the key group of experts advising ministers on how to react to the Covid-19 outbreak, reveal a lack of discussion about the risks facing care homes.
    “Between January and May, Sage minutes mention care homes only twice, before the start of lockdown in the UK and weeks before the numbers of deaths made headlines across the country.
    “… James Bullion, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services said the publication of the minutes "appears to reinforce the impression that social care has been an afterthought – a secondary consideration after the NHS. This cannot continue."

  • The silence of the chief scientists is worrying and deeply political New Statesman 31 may comment begins: "In the astonishing UK government update on the pandemic on the evening of Thursday 28 May, we watched the relationship between government and science collapse before our eyes.
    "Much of the media coverage has focused on Boris Johnson’s muzzling of his chief medical officer (CMO) Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser (CSA) Patrick Vallance, as he intervened to prevent them from answering questions about the public health repercussions of Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown rules. But that much was business as usual: we should by now be used to this increasingly isolated prime minister shutting down inconvenient debate.
    "Far more troubling to those who care about the role of scientific advice during the coronavirus crisis was the servile response from those two scientists."

  • Why I quit working on Boris Johnson's ‘world-beating' test-and-tracing system Guardian May 30 anonymous account of working in privatised "track and trace": "The self-led courses were very basic – with some generic dos and don’ts about customer data, security and so on. I completed it all in less than one and a half hours, with a score of 95%+.
    "The next morning I was worried, and feeling very unprepared. I felt the job was an important thing to do. But it was essential to get this right, and I didn’t really understand the role and how to use the systems. I logged in and saw a message saying I would be invited to a chatroom and to please wait.
    "I waited seven and a half hours (my entire shift). I called the HR helpline after about one hour and was told to relax – everyone is waiting.
    "The next day I was scheduled to work again. This time, I was invited to a chatroom. I recognised many of the names in the group from my training, so knew the other people were also new. Many people were writing, “Did anyone do anything yesterday?” “Do we just wait?” “What are we waiting for?”
    "… [Wednesday] night I saw someone from the track-and-trace programme had spoken to the BBC, and noted that their group had spent the day watching Netflix or playing games online. Having spent days feeling frustrated, I started to feel dejected too.
    Two days later I logged in for my weekend shift and discovered nothing had changed – and that I had clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing."

  • UK abandoned testing because system 'could only cope with five coronavirus cases a week' (£) Telegraph, losing patience with government handling of pandemic, in May 30 revelation: “Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.
    “Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.
    “At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.
    “Advisors then agreed it was "sensible" to shift to stopping routine testing - despite acknowledging that such a decision would “generate a public reaction”.
    “The decision to give up on testing those with symptoms of coronavirus is now seen as the key reason the UK has the highest death toll in Europe.”

  • Jennifer Arcuri warns against using NHS tracking app over data security fears Mirror May 30 report: "Boris Johnson’s alleged ex-mistress is advising against using the NHS coronavirus tracking app. Jennifer Arcuri, who gave him technology lessons at her flat, said: “There is no way I would download that app.”
    "The app, which may eventually hold data on millions of Brits, is set to be rolled out across the UK after its Isle of Wight trial.
    "Ms Arcuri, 35, raised her fears in an exclusive interview.
    She said: “The Government can say they’re doing the best to keep it secure, there’s just no guarantee it’s 100 per cent secure or the data is going to be kept secure, encrypted and used only for this.
    “I don’t think people should give away their freedoms.”

  • WHY WE NEED A #PEOPLESVACCINE – With Achal Prabhala and Mohga Kamal-Yanni Podcast May 30. A vaccine against COVID-19 is humanity’s best shot at ending this painful pandemic. But how can we ensure that a vaccine is available to all people, all countries, free of charge?
    We talk about the need for a #PeoplesVaccine, what to do about the big pharma monopolies and vaccine nationalism that stand in the way and what we can learn from iconic struggles to fight for access to medicines like the victories by HIV/AIDS activists.

  • Matt Hancock's obsession with hospitals has warped priorities and cost lives Guardian May 29 broadside at Matt Hancock's miserable record on Covid-19, by Richard Vize: "The health and social care secretary’s appearance at the 5pm briefing on Wednesday to finally announce the test and trace system in England showcased the flaws that have undermined the effectiveness of the entire coronavirus response: seeing everything through the lens of the NHS, marginalising and ignoring local government, and throwing money at private companies to fill the gaps left by public sector cuts.
    "The “NHS track and trace system” largely consists of thousands of people working in Serco call centres, for which the training has been so haphazard that the company’s chief executive has issued a video apology. Painting NHS lipstick on it is supposed to give people confidence it will work. Unheralded, much of the work will fall to local government public health teams.
    "And yet again Hancock delivered a calculated snub to councils, refusing to acknowledge their contribution in a thank-you list that included businesses.
    "Hancock knows all about shielding the vulnerable: he has been using the NHS as his personal human shield from the start. Setting himself up as the champion of the health service, the “protect the NHS” mantra quickly became pivotal to his entire approach to the pandemic. This warped priorities and cost lives, as the government initially decided to treat the sickness rather than prevent the illness."

  • NHS ordered to rush out ‘meaningless’ covid antibody tests ahead of PM’s deadline HSJ (May 29) flags up more government jiggery pokery with testing figures: “NHS pathology labs have been given just two days to roll out thousands of antibody tests, amid a push to reach a covid-19 testing target set out by Boris Johnson.
    “Earlier this month the Prime Minister set a target of having a testing capacity of 200,000 per day by the end of May. Capacity currently stands at 161,000, Matt Hancock has said.
    “… On 27 May, NHS England and Improvement wrote to local leaders giving them two days’ notice to put in place testing capacity for, and deliver, thousands of antibody tests of staff and patients.
    “… One head of pathology at a trust said: “There is one obvious answer as to why there is suddenly such an urgency to roll this out. While it will be interesting to have the results, there is nothing meaningful we can do with this test data at the moment.”
    “Another trust director involved in the scheme described the antibody tests as having “no clinical value”.”

  • Matt Hancock Faces Second Warning Over Coronavirus Test Figures Huffington Post (May 29) flags up another impending official warning against cooking the statistical books on testing:
    "Britain’s statistics watchdog is expected to warn Matt Hancock that it still has concerns about government figures for daily Covid-19 tests, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "Hancock is in a race against time to hit Boris Johnson’s target of 200,000 daily tests by Monday, as part of the wider goal to get a “world beating” test-and-trace system in place by June 1 to ease the country’s path out of lockdown.
    "But with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) not expected to publish statistics on capacity until Sunday, just hours before the deadline, critics fear the target could be achieved by new moves to “artificially” inflate the figures.
    "Sir David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, told Hancock on May 11 that he had concerns about the “trustworthiness” of the way the government was presenting and counting its numbers of tests for the virus."

  • Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England – Sage advisers Guardian May 29: "Government advisers have voiced unease over the decision to lift England’s lockdown while thousands of people a day are still becoming infected with the coronavirus, warning that loosening restrictions could easily lead to a second wave.
    “We cannot relax our guard by very much at all,” said John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who attends meetings of Sage, the scientific advisory group on emergencies.
    "There are still 8,000 new infections every day in England without counting those in hospitals and care homes, Edmunds said. “If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.” World Health Organization statistics suggest it is the fifth highest in the world."

  • ‘40,000 excess deaths could have been avoided if government had acted responsibly’ – Prof Sir David King Channel 4 News interview (May 29) with Sir David King – a former government Chief Scientific Adviser. He leads a group of scientists who have been critical of the government’s approach to combating the virus. The interview begins by asking him what impact the easing of the lockdown will have on fears of a second wave.

  • Hancock says trusts must decide on paying for covid overtime HSJ May 29 report: "New guidance agreed by the NHS and unions suggests staff should always be paid for overtime work during the coronavirus pandemic – but stops short of making it compulsory.
    "The guidance has been agreed and welcomed by 15 staffing unions, which said NHS staff were often not being paid for their extra hours. It suggests an extension of overtime payments to all staff in bands 1-7, while being less clear about more senior staff.
    "A document published by NHS Employers this morning said health secretary Matt Hancock had been asked to introduce temporary changes to overtime payments during the pandemic response.
    "But it said Mr Hancock had “confirmed that he is content to leave the matter for local determination rather than agree the proposal for a national solution”."

  • COVID survivor receives $840,000 statement for treatment, with more on the way Another chapter in the horror story of US health care, from the Denver Channel:
    “Robert Dennis spent weeks in the hospital, fighting and beating the coronavirus. He’s now back at home, working his way through recovery, but he’s not done with the virus entirely just yet. The high school teacher just received his first itemized statement for the cost of his care: $840,386.94.
    “Seeing that number yesterday for the first bill it kind of took your breath away again,” Robert’s wife Suzanne, who also beat the virus, told Denver7. The statement covers Robert’s time at Sky Ridge Medical Center, where he was in the intensive care unit and intubated for two weeks.
    “His meds just at the hospital are a quarter million dollars,” Suzanne said.
    “What is not included is Robert’s three weeks at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, or his wife’s trips to the emergency room when she was fighting the virus. The couple estimates their total bills to top one and a half million dollars.”

  • Experts warned Cameron’s government the Lansley reforms would hobble Britain’s epidemic response New Statesman May 29 on the disastrous damage done to public health by Cameron govt's 2012 Health & Social Care Act: "Throughout 2011, experts wrote to the Health Select Committee about the impact of proposed changes under David Cameron’s health secretary Andrew Lansley — changes that would later be formalised in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.
    "The director of public health for County Durham, Anna Lynch, warned that abolishing Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) – which were responsible for improving regional health services and were axed in favour of a commissioning-based model – “means that the public will be less safe at times of outbreak or pandemic”. During flu seasons, the SHAs were vital “in co-ordinating responses to the challenges posed”, she said.
    "Dr Alison Merry, a public health consultant, said the changes would “fragment, weaken and ultimately destroy the specialty of public health” and "disrupt... the ability to effectively respond to an emergency or epidemic situation and undermine public trust and confidence”.

  • How H&F helped local care homes control COVID-19 outbreaks and save lives May 29 Report from LB Hammersmith & Fulham on the council’s intervention to test care home residents and staff:
    “Once we realised that hospitals were discharging residents into care homes without first testing them for COVID-19, we acted in late March and early April to protect residents by closing the borough’s homes (which are all privately run) to new admissions.
    “A team led by Dr Nicola Lang, the council’s Director of Public Health, and including doctors, nurses and academics from Imperial College NHS Trust, Public Health England (PHE) Colindale and Imperial College London then tested everyone in the homes – whether they had symptoms or not. This controlled the virus and prevented further deaths.
    “People were tested using a robotic testing platform specially developed by the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI), which is based in the borough at Imperial College.
    “… [Dr Lang] swiftly drew together a unique collaboration of GPs, virology, elderly medicine, frailty matrons, infectious diseases teams, academia, and paediatric infectious diseases and epidemiology teams. Dr Lang added: “They helped us manage the outbreaks with the latest infection control and isolation advice, and enabled us to test all our care home residents twice, as well as all staff.”
    “Cllr Ben Coleman, H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Sadly, we found that there was no government ‘protective ring’ around care homes. In the absence of national guidance or support, and combined with the huge amount of PPE the council is providing to homes, this local action on testing saved lives.”

  • UK suffers second-highest death rate from coronavirus | Free to read Important, shocking update on FT tracking of real death toll, compared with much lower "official" statistics: “The UK has suffered the second-highest rate of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic after Spain, according to excess mortality figures. The UK has registered 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20, indicating that the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million.
    “Until Thursday, the UK had a higher rate of death than in any country for which high-quality data exist. However, Spain made a revision to its mortality estimates, adding 12,000 to its toll of excess deaths from coronavirus in a one-off adjustment to 43,000.
    “This increased its death rate to 921 per million. The absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.
    “The country fares no better on another measure: the percentage increase in deaths compared with normal levels, where the UK is the worst hit in Europe and behind only Peru internationally.”

  • Matt Hancock slammed for hysterically laughing at concerns about the 'rushed' track and trace launch Indy May 28 report on Matt Hancock's further decline:
    "At Wednesday's coronavirus briefing Hancock announced that the coronavirus track and trace app, which had been trialled in the Isle of Wight, was going to be launched in the UK on Thursday.
    Many had questioned if this was being introduced a little hastily and Burley asked if the government had pushed the app forward to distract from the ongoing Dominic Cummings scandal. She said:
    “The problem is, you’ve rushed it forward haven’t you? Because you want to take the headlines away from Dominic Cummings so you brought it forward. It should have been 1st of June, when the app is being launched at the same time. You’ve had to rush it forward.”
    An almost maniacal grin came over Hancock's face as a result of this question and he actually began laughing and said:
    “It’s priceless Kay, I’m normally accused of delaying these things and bringing them in too slowly. I committed to getting the system in in mid-May. You can’t accuse me both of rushing it and of being delayed.”
    Burley then called Hancock out for laughing and pointed out that even the government had said that the app wasn't ready to be launched:
    “You said the app was ‘absolutely essential’ to this track and trace. The app is still not ready until next week at the earliest, maybe after that, and yet you’ve brought this forward. I suppose many of my viewers will think it’s not a laughing matter.”

  • How is COVID-19 changing the use of emergency care by region? Health Foundation report on the huge drop in attendances at A&E departments as people fear Covid-19 infection:
    "Recent NHS England data show that A&E visits in April 2020 were 57% lower than in April 2019 and were the lowest monthly number since records began in 2010. This chart explores how COVID-19 is changing use of emergency care on a regional level.
    "Falls in visits to A&E in March and April 2020 were very similar across regions. There were bigger falls in April, the first full month of the lockdown, than in March. The fall was also always greater in minor units than major units. Reductions were slightly larger in London than other regions.
    "There is more variation in reductions in emergency admissions through major A&E units. In March, there were larger percentage falls in admissions in London (30%) relative to the rest of the country (18-22%). In April, London again saw the largest fall in admissions (45%). Another five regions had falls of between 34% and 40%, with the North West an outlier, seeing a reduction of just 28%."

  • Boris Johnson accused of launching broken test and trace system before it was ready to distract from Dominic Cummings scandal Independent May 28: "The government has been accused of panic-launching its coronavirus test-and-trace system before it was ready in order to distract from the Dominic Cummings scandal rocking the Conservative Party.
    "The new contact-tracing scheme suffered from major technical problems on Thursday, with staff unable to even log in for most of the day and many only notified the night before that it was going live and that they would be needed.
    "Meanwhile the government’s test and trace tsar admitted to MPs that the whole system would not actually be “fully operational” until the end of next month – with still no date set for the launch of the supposedly “world-beating” app promised by the prime minister.
    "Contact-tracers working on the programme told The Independent that when they finally managed to log into the system at the end of the working day, they were presented with an empty page that contained no cases to review.
    “The only explanation for the government announcing and launching this scheme when it was clearly not ready is that they wanted to try to persuade the public to ‘move on’ from the Dominic Cummings scandal,” said Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who earlier in the day had participated in a conference call with Dido Harding, the government’s test and trace tsar."

  • Coronavirus testing hit by struggle to match results with NHS records Guardian May 28 report:
    "Efforts to prevent the nationwide spread of coronavirus have been dealt a blow after it emerged that health officials in England and Scotland are struggling to match hundreds of thousands of coronavirus test results to patient records.
    "Up to 350,000 Covid-19 test samples – those carried out at drive-through centres between 2 April and 6 May – are believed to have been taken without recording individual NHS numbers or full addresses, making it harder for health authorities to track the pandemic and cases in their areas, the Guardian has learned."

  • Government rejected radical lockdown of England's care homes Guardian May 28 reports on another aspect of the avoidable death toll in Britain's care homes: "Public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging coronavirus deaths, including staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals – but it was rejected by the government, the Guardian has learned.
    "An 11-point plan proposing “a further lockdown of care homes” was submitted to Downing Street on 28 April by officials at Public Health England (PHE), as fatalities peaked in care homes and the virus spread to half of homes in the worst-affected areas.
    "They urged ministers to “use NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents”, and to “consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks”.
    "But neither of the proposals, recommended as “high impact”, were included in a subsequent action plan on infection control announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, last week."

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot: 28 May 2020 ONS figures May 28 report low seroprevalence around 7%. Still about 50,000 new infections/week. So R close to 1: virtually no room for error, and more than 90% of the country still susceptible to infection. Not a good time to lift the lockdown.

  • ITV News reveals plans to discharge Covid-19 patients into care homes PAUL BRAND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT ITV news May 28: "ITV News has uncovered plans to discharge at least 1,800 patients from hospital into care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The government has denied there was pressure to move people from hospital into care, after Care England recently blamed discharges for spreading the virus into nursing and residential homes.
    "But data obtained by ITV News shows how, at the outset of the pandemic, the NHS and councils block booked beds in care homes to ensure they were ready to deal with a surge in patients coming from hospital.
    "NHS clinical commissioning groups and councils in 17 regions of England replied to ITV News telling us that they had reserved a total of 1,800 beds in care homes, including 182 beds in Suffolk, 122 in the Wirral and 86 in Oxfordshire.
    "Until mid-April, patients were not routinely tested for coronavirus before being discharged into a home, with care managers having previously told ITV News that they believe that’s how the virus spread among their residents."

  • Coronavirus: 1,694 mental health patients discharged in 'error' News from Wales via BBC May 28, but it's likely to be echoed in similar "errors" in England: “Almost 1,700 mental health patients have been wrongly discharged from support services during the pandemic in north Wales.
    Last week it emerged Betsi Cadwaladr health board advised people to seek new referrals once the pandemic had eased.
    “It had estimated that between 200 and 300 were affected, but the true figure is 1,694, according to a letter it has since sent to a Plaid Cymru politician.
    “The health board has apologised and said it was contacting the patients.
    Last week, Simon Dean, the health board's interim chief executive, told a Senedd committee discharging the patients was an "error that should not have occurred".

  • 'A slap in the face to every citizen of this country' - nurse hits out at Dominic Cummings as she shares experience of working on the front line Manchester Evening News May 26 report of outspoken views from unnamed nurse from Fairfield General Hospital:
    “A nurse working on the front line during the coronavirus pandemic has described Dominic Cummings' actions as 'a slap in the face to every citizen of this country'.
    … "My colleagues have sent their children elsewhere so that they can continue to work on the frontline. Some haven’t seen or touched their children since the beginning of lockdown.
    "We haven’t seen our parents and friends for months. We have our own family members who have died alone.
    … "We have worked 6-7 night stretches. We have worked through our annual leave. We have sacrificed more and more and more as the weeks have unfolded.
    "The actions of Mr Cummings are wrong and unlawful. This is about the truth. And the truth is that his actions cannot be tolerated the Prime Minister and your fellow Tory members defending this man is the fundamental issue with your party and its politics.”

  • Johnson blocks top scientists from talking about Cummings Guardian May 28: “Boris Johnson has blocked his two most senior scientific advisers from answering questions on whether his senior aide, Dominic Cummings, broke the lockdown.
    “At No 10’s daily press conference, the prime minister twice prevented questions from journalists who wanted to know whether Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, believed Cummings had stuck to the rules.
    “Johnson said he wanted to “draw a line” under the Cummings affair, after Durham constabulary said the aide might have committed a “minor breach” of the rules.
    … “The prime minister then said he would not allow Vallance or Whitty to answer questions on the row to “protect them from what I think would be an unfair and unnecessary attempt to ask any political questions”.

  • After PPE and testing, contact tracing looks like the next government shambles Guardian May 28 from Dave McCoy comment sums up another simmering fiasco: "“As of this week, the government will begin to roll out the second part of this strategy. In theory, contact tracers will call or text people in England who test positive for coronavirus, asking them to provide a list of everyone they have met for longer than 15 minutes, who will then receive a message instructing them to self-isolate for 14 days (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are rolling out separate programmes).
    “But already, England’s contact-tracing strategy looks set to be hobbled by the government’s reluctance to involve local authorities and regional public health expertise in its coronavirus response from the outset, and its dogmatic commitment to outsourcing health services to the private sector.
    “Baroness Dido Harding, who is leading the programme of testing and tracing, recently conceded that the system won’t be fully operational at the local level until late June. Elsewhere, contact tracers have spoken of difficulties accessing the government system, describing it as a “complete shambles”. One recruit reportedly said their training amounted to reading a pdf and taking an online quiz - “all of which takes an hour”.”

  • Why did so many people die of Covid-19 in the UK's care homes? Guardian May 28, extended analysis sets out to answer key question: "Why did so many people die in care homes? That may be the most urgent question of the likely public inquiry into the UK’s Covid-19 response. The NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, but 16,000 residents of care and nursing homes have died so far, compared with fewer than 3,000 in Germany and none in Hong Kong. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, claims the government “threw a protective ring” around care homes. So, what went wrong?"

  • Boris Johnson accused of launching broken test and trace system before it was ready to distract from Dominic Cummings scandal Independent report May 28: “The government has been accused of panic-launching its coronavirus test-and-trace system before it was ready in order to distract from the Dominic Cummings scandal rocking the Conservative Party.
    “The new contact-tracing scheme suffered from major technical problems on Thursday, with staff unable to even log in for most of the day and many only notified the night before that it was going live and that they would be needed.
    “Meanwhile the government’s test and trace tsar admitted to MPs that the whole system would not actually be “fully operational” until the end of next month – with still no date set for the launch of the supposedly “world-beating” app promised by the prime minister.
    “Contact-tracers working on the programme told The Independent that when they finally managed to log into the system at the end of the working day, they were presented with an empty page that contained no cases to review.”

  • £1bn CCGs deficits revealed, prompting fears of a fresh financial squeeze Another Lowdown exclusive, May 27: "As the remaining 135 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) throughout England begin to hold virtual meetings in public and publish Governing Body papers once again, it is becoming clear that many face daunting financial pressures.
    "Even the limited number of CCGs that have published up to date information show deficits from 2019-20 combining with historic underlying deficits to total almost £1 billion, even before the costs and dislocation of the Covid epidemic are included.
    "While many CCGs have either not met, or not published any up to date financial figures in the last few months, a quick snapshot survey of CCG websites by The Lowdown (May 25) has revealed at least 13 CCGs with deficits or underlying deficits in excess of £20m"

  • Coronavirus: Test and trace system will start on Thursday BBC May 27 report on the half-baked test and trace system, with dysfunctional tracing and erratic and often delayed results from testing:
    "A massive system to find people who come into close contact with those infected with coronavirus will start in England on Thursday, Boris Johnson has said.
    The prime minister said it "will change people's lives".
    "The aim of the test and trace system is to move from lockdown for all towards more targeted measures.
    "However, scientists have warned it is not a "magic bullet" and may prevent between 5% and 15% of infections."

  • Carry the can... Roy Lilley e-letter May 26 argues that "The Cummings and goings to Durham and government looks to be run by the selfish, the privileged, the hypocrites, and deniers".

  • The truth about why Cummings hasn't gone: Johnson is too terrified to sack him Guardian's Marina Hyde sums up on May 26 "Perhaps on Sunday you watched the entire nation being lectured on what constitutes fatherly responsibility by Boris Johnson, a man who won’t even say how many children he has, and leaves women to bring up an unspecified number of them. Perhaps on Monday you watched the Guardian’s Rowena Mason being lectured in journalism by Johnson, a man sacked from a newspaper for fabricating quotes from his own godfather, and who blithely discussed helping a friend to have another journalist beaten up. Perhaps today, you heard Michael Gove tell LBC he has “on occasion” driven a car to check his eyesight.
    "If you did see these things, I can only direct you to the slogan flyposted all over Paris during the 1968 civil unrest. “DO NOT ADJUST YOUR MIND – THERE IS A FAULT WITH REALITY.” The term “gaslighting” is much overused, but let’s break the glass on it for the events of the past few days. As for “indefensible”… well, I don’t think that word means what you thought it meant."
    … "So here we are. Cummings stays, and only irresistible external events will make Johnson do the right thing. He is not himself capable. We have the highest death toll in Europe, we left the care homes to their fate, our test-and-trace blunders are an international embarrassment, and we didn’t even save our economy.
    "Johnson takes daily runs, but appears only once or twice a week in a crisis to fail at leadership.
    "This is the utter smallness of the man, and the tragedy for everyone stuck being governed by him. "

  • Military alleges horrific conditions, abuse in pandemic-hit Ontario nursing homes CBC Canada May 26 report "The Canadian military has drawn the curtain back on horrific allegations of elder abuse in five Ontario long-term care homes, with precise, graphic reports of residents being bullied, drugged, improperly fed and in some cases left for hours and days in soiled bedding.
    "Within the military's shocking catalogue of abuse, neglect and cruelty is an accusation that delinquent care led to the death of a resident.
    "Soldiers were called into the facilities as part of an effort to backstop the provincial system, which has been overwhelmed by novel coronavirus cases."

  • Needy Matt becomes Door Matt in defending Dom’s Durham flit Guardian May 26 sketch sums up Appless, Hopeless Matt Hancock: "“There was a brief moment after Matt Hancock recovered from coronavirus when he appeared to be a man of principle. That proved to be nothing more than a chimera. Now he has revealed himself to be the most abject of career politicians, who will literally do and say anything to save his job.
    “So there was no one Boris Johnson could have trusted more than Matt to have taken the Downing Street press conference on the day after Dominic Cummings had been granted the freedom of the No 10 rose garden – there’s a code for special advisers specifically saying they should not make public statements – to annihilate what was left of his credibility. Needy Matt is the health secretary with the perfect grasp of the public good.
    “When it came to a straight choice between sticking to government health guidelines or protecting the career of Boris’s boss, it was a no-brainer. Who cared if thousands more might die because they couldn’t see the point of sticking to the rules if Dom didn’t …
    “… How did Matt let it come to this? What makes the tragedy so riddled with pathos is that Hancock deep down knows he is so busted. That he has traded what passed for his self-respect for loyalty to two men who think morality is for suckers. You can see it in the terror in his eyes and the increasing shirtiness in his responses. He is now so brittle, he could shatter into a thousand tiny fragments at any moment. I give it five days at most.
    “Because not only has his track-and-trace app proved to be totally useless, but he’s also only got five days to meet the arbitrary target of 200,000 tests a day that Boris set when under pressure from Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions. So far, we’re on under 110,000. It’s just not going to happen, Matt. And the public won’t get fooled twice with fake testing targets.”

  • Boris Johnson struggles to draw a line under Cummings row FT May 26: "“Boris Johnson’s efforts to draw a line under the crisis surrounding Dominic Cummings floundered on Tuesday as more Conservative MPs called on the prime minister to remove his chief adviser and one minister quit in protest.
    “Downing Street had hoped Mr Cummings’ defence on Monday of his actions during the coronavirus lockdown — after he was accused by newspapers of breaching the restrictions on people’s movements — would defuse the controversy.
    “But Mr Cummings’ refusal to apologise and concern that his actions would undermine public adherence to the lockdown led to more than 30 Tory MPs supporting the case for ousting him. These included several former ministers, such as Mark Harper and Caroline Nokes.
    “Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said Mr Cummings had breached the lockdown rules but stopped short of demanding his resignation.
    “Six opposition parties — including the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats, but not Labour — called on Mr Johnson to remove his chief adviser, saying trust in public health advice was being “severely undermined”.”

  • NHS changes made under the radar Lowdown May 26 follow up on previous exclusive: "changes accepted as temporary measures are already being cemented in. NHS England’s plans in London make clear that to reverse away from any of these changes now requires the prior agreement of the Regional office.
    "NHS England have also begun to further cut back local accountability by establishing 18 so-called ‘Integrated Care Systems’ covering even wider catchment populations than most CCGs, but which are not public bodies, and are outside of existing legislation.
    "At the same time NHS England is encouraging the development of plans without any public discussion or scrutiny during the lockdown period, and “streamlined decision-making” – in other words minimal if any public consultation.
    "Even though the CCGs have continued to function behind the scenes, and some are meeting online while public attention is focused on the Covid crisis, it’s clear that in many areas the local government and other bodies that should be scrutinising their plans and performance have been suspended, and are yet to get going."

  • Coronavirus: UK hospital closes A&E and no longer accepting new patients Independent May 25; "An NHS hospital has been forced to close its accident and emergency department to new admissions as a result of high numbers of patients with the coronavirus.
    "Weston General Hospital, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, stopped accepting A&E patients at 8am on Monday morning.
    "The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said patients who needed care would be treated elsewhere in the local area.
    "The trust has not said how many new patients with the virus have been admitted or whether the closure has followed a sudden surge in cases."

  • Huge backlog in operations building due to lack of PPE and staff testing Guardian May 25 report: “A lack of vital protective equipment and long waits for coronavirus test results are stopping hospitals from tackling a huge backlog in operations, a key NHS leader is warning.
    “Patients whose surgery has been postponed because of the pandemic face even longer delays because hospitals are having to wait for as long as 13 days for the outcome of tests, Chris Hopson told the Guardian.
    “In thinly veiled criticism of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, the chief executive of hospital group NHS Providers blamed ministers for repeated failures to ensure easy availability of fast-turnaround testing for NHS staff, whiletrusts have warned about the lack of adequate supplies of surgical gowns.
    “Both problems risked patients unwittingly becoming infected with Covid-19 in hospitals across England, which would not be able to get back to providing the range of treatment they had before the pandemic until those problems were solved, said Hopson.
    “That along with ongoing shortages of the sterile gowns that operating theatre teams needed to perform surgery safely remained “major obstacles” to the NHS’s reopening, added Hopson.”

  • Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings provokes furious backlash FT May 24 sums up the furore over PM Johnson's key advisor:
    "Dominic Cummings was facing a clamour for his resignation on Sunday evening, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to defend his closest adviser provoked a furious backlash.
    "Mr Cummings faced renewed pressure to resign after ministers, MPs, scientific advisers and pro-Conservative newspapers called on Mr Johnson to sack him, following reports that he had broken the government’s restrictions on more than one occasion.
    "A joint investigation by the Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers alleged Mr Cummings, architect of the Vote Leave campaign to take Britain out of the EU, had driven 264 miles from London with his ailing wife and young son to a family home in County Durham, where he was spotted on April 5.
    "Speaking at the daily Downing Street Sunday press conference, Mr Johnson said he had “extensive face-to-face conversations” with Mr Cummings about the journey from his London home to County Durham and had concluded that he had not broken lockdown restrictions."

  • Care home coronavirus testing pledge in tatters as just 21% have been checked Mirror May 24 report: "The Government is on track to miss its own target to test every care home resident for coronavirus.
    "In the past week just 6% of residents have been tested for the Covid-19, The Telegraph reported.
    "Since the pandemic began 21% have been checked for the virus, but only 1% have been tested twice or more since March 18.
    "Across the country 40% of people have had no residents tested, data from The Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software shows.
    "The Government will have to get a move on if it is to meet its ambition of testing everyone living in a care home by early June."

  • Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for the Rich Brutal reality of Trump's hard nosed favouritism towards the super-rich in this May 23 NYT feature: "While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one group: zillionaires. Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion — yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of wealthy real estate developers.
    "My Times colleague Jesse Drucker notes that Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.
    "Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked the Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the “Zillionaire Giveaway.”)
    "About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.
    "In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200 stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling workers, and socialism for the rich."

  • What Parents Should Know About Coronavirus as Kids Return to Babysitters, Day Cares and Camps Well balance Maye 23 article from US ProPublica:
    "Reopening states after the COVID-19 lockdown raises unnerving questions for working parents who depend on some form of child care, from nannies to day camp.
    "Instead of coming home with a snotty nose, is your child going to bring back the coronavirus? And how do you know your in-home babysitter or nanny, even your child’s teacher, isn’t a symptom-free spreader?
    "The short answer is that there are no easy answers. Every family’s budget and needs and risk tolerance are going to be different. ProPublica scoured the latest research and talked to seven infectious disease and public health experts to help think through the issues facing parents."

  • ‘We don’t get paid for empty beds’: the crisis facing UK care home operators Important May 22 FT investigation: “Thousands of UK care homes … were already under financial pressure before the pandemic hit. Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the rise in the minimum wage had increased staffing costs, while an £8bn drop in government funding for social care since 2010 had hit fees paid for residents, even as the number of over-65s grew.
    “Now coronavirus has not only turned care homes into incubators for the most deadly pandemic in generations, but left their operators battling to survive, raising the risk of further closures in a country that already had less capacity to house the elderly than the rest of Europe.”

  • Report reveals mental health trust ‘culture of bullying’ as public excluded from meeting Eastern Daily Press May 22 with an update on the latest outrages at England's worst mental health trust: "The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), branded the worst mental health trust in England, unveiled a report on its staff culture ahead of a meeting of senior directors, held on Thursday, May 21.
    "The report described the trust’s environment as “characterised by bullying, disempowerment, lack of respect and unreasonableness.”
    "The trust, which remained in special measures following its latest inspection in January this year, has been slammed for the “disappointing” move of holding discussions behind closed doors.
    "The trust holds board meetings ten times a year, and says on its website “members of the public are welcome to attend”.
    "However, at Thursday’s meeting, held remotely via Microsoft Teams, the public were barred from listening in - despite the agenda describing it as a “public session”.
    A trust spokeswoman said the meeting would not be recorded or subsequently broadcast, but any decisions would be revealed by the end of May."

  • Coronavirus: Acting earlier would have saved lives, says Sage member BBC May 22 report picks up on an increasingly common criticism, this time from one of the scientists advising the government:
    "“One of the government's scientific advisers has said he would have liked ministers to have acted "a week or two weeks earlier" in the virus pandemic.
    “Sir Ian Boyd, who sits on the Sage scientific advisory group, said "it would have made quite a big difference" to the death rate.
    “… He told The Coronavirus Newscast: "Acting very early was really important and I would have loved to have seen us acting a week or two weeks earlier and it would have made quite a big difference to the steepness of the curve of infection and therefore the death rate.
    "And I think that's really the number one issue - could we have acted earlier? Were the signs there earlier on?"

  • Migrant charges: When we stand together we win Keep Our NHS Public response to the axing of the immigration surcharge for NHS staff:
    "“When Prime Minister Johnson was asked in parliament about lifting the surcharge on 20th May, he both paid tribute to “our amazing NHS staff” while simultaneously declaring: “We must look at the realities . . . those contributions help us raise about £900m”.
    “… Johnson’s claim quickly unravelled since according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the surcharge generated not £900m but only £90m a year. Even a number of prominent Conservative politicians spoke of the surcharge as “appalling and immoral”, saying that not to drop it was “mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty”.
    “In an increasingly indefensible position, the government has already backtracked on leaving low paid workers out of a bereavement scheme which granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK to relatives of foreign national NHS staff who died from Covid-19.
    “With mounting disquiet within his own ranks together with mass opposition from campaigning organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public, NHS Staff Voices, trade unions and other migrant bodies, Johnson reversed his decision, leaving Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to announce this U-turn at the press conference on 21st May, a mere 24 hours after the PM’s House of Commons refusal.
    “This is a clear victory for those fighting against racism, against the hostile environment and for a universal and inclusive public NHS.
    “Now we must continue to demand the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) be lifted for all migrant workers and not just those in health and social care; for all key workers to be given the right to stay in the UK with no visa fees; for an end to the charging of ‘overseas visitors’ regulations and data-sharing practises that are doing so much harm.”

  • PRIVATISED AND UNPREPARED - THE NHS SUPPLY CHAIN: THE REPORT launch of new pamphlet on the NHS Supply Chain fiasco from We Own It:
    "More than 300 NHS and care workers have now died from coronavirus and many of these deaths were “avoidable with proper PPE”.
    "Businesses and communities have been ready to help out with vital protective equipment – masks, gowns, visors. But in the last few months, it’s often felt like the government was asleep at the wheel.
    "The NHS Supply Chain, responsible for procuring and delivering PPE during the coronavirus crisis, has itself been privatised.
    "Procurement and logistics in our NHS has been outsourced to a chaotic mish-mash of private contractors. There are 11 key outsourced procurement contracts and four levels of profit taking before equipment arrives at the hospital or care home.
    "The system is supposed to deliver "efficiency savings". In reality, supplies have been rationed and the country left unprepared. This has severely undermined the national effort to protect NHS, care staff and patients."

  • Up to half of government coronavirus home tests never returned, officials admit Independent May 22 on the latest dimension of the Covid-19 testing shambles: "Significant numbers of home-testing kits sent out under the government’s Covid-19 programme are not being used, officials have admitted.
    "Throwing fresh doubt on the government’s figures, the UK’s testing tsar on Friday admitted that the number of kits being sent back was not as high as health authorities would like and said steps were being taken to increase the rate.
    "Last month, ministers faced criticism that Britain was lagging behind the rest of the world in testing. The government rapidly increased the daily number of tests, relying heavily on home-testing kits.
    "But home tests are counted in the government’s figures as soon as they are put in the post, meaning that if they are not being returned, many of those recorded will never have taken place."

  • Canada is reopening without knowing where Canadians are getting COVID-19 CBC Canada report May 22: "Canada is emerging from months of lockdown, but key questions remain unanswered about where Canadians are getting infected with COVID-19 and why case levels remain high in our hardest-hit provinces.
    "Ontario and Quebec have seen their rate of new cases plateau in recent weeks, still in the hundreds each day, and have little information on the source of infection or what effect reopening will have.
    "It's scary. There's a large sense of unknown there," said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, who is a veteran of SARS and H1N1.
    "And there's no way around the fact that this is uncomfortable."
    "In Ontario, where the number of new daily cases is actually trending upward, testing is falling far below targets and the source of infection for new cases still remains a mystery."

  • Should Schools Reopen? Interim Findings and Concerns Second report of Independent SAGE committee bringing more rigorous science to bear on a crisis skewed by government's ideological approach:
    "We believe that decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence of low levels of COVID-19 infections in the community and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a local test, track and isolate strategy. There is no clear evidence that these conditions are met. Until they are it is not safe to open schools on June 1. Some rural areas might be ready to re-open schools earlier than other places.
    “Estimates of levels of infections must be based on up-to-date real time, detailed, local data on suspected and confirmed cases. To ensure that any local outbreaks are quickly spotted and contained, we strongly recommend that local test, track and isolate programmes are in place and tested before schools re-open. In cases where schools reopen where these safeguards are not in place, we suggest alternative testing strategies at the end of this document."

  • ‘Lord Have Mercy’: Inside One of New York’s Deadliest ZIP Codes Very moving May 22 video report from New York Times speaking to health workers from one of the hot spots of Covid infection in the most infected city of the US.

  • 22 days of dither and delay on coronavirus that cost thousands of British lives Extended and detailed Times May 22 analysis again points the finger of blame for the inflated British death toll at the Johnson government:
    "When the new [lockdown] measures came in on the evening of Monday, March 23, the infections had almost doubled again since the previous Friday and there were an estimated 1.5 million across the UK, according to Imperial and Oxford’s new data. Close to 1.2 million of those infections had happened since Johnson resisted calls to lockdown on Monday March 16.
    "An analysis of the data shows the lockdown swiftly reduced the spread of the virus but was introduced so late that Britain had a higher number of infections than every other major European country at the time they took the same emergency measures. For example, Italy had an estimated 1.2 million at its lockdown on March 10 and Germany, which locked down a day earlier than the UK on March 22, is estimated to have had just 270,000 infections.
    "Sir David King said the lockdown delay was “grossly negligent”. “The fact they were short of PPE, the fact they were short of testing equipment. The response of the government has not just been tardy. It has been totally disrespectful of British lives,” he said. “We created an unmanageable situation.”
    "There had been too much delay. The sheer number of people who had been allowed to become infected meant the country was riddled with the virus and the only defence was the workers of the NHS who had been left critically short of testing and protective equipment."

  • Two-thirds of BME staff feel unsafe at work, reveals snapshot survey Nursing Times May 22 report: "“A small-scale survey organised by Channel 4 News has found that more than half of BME staff in NHS trusts in England feel additional pressure to work on the coronavirus frontline.
    “Out of 473 health workers who responded to the poll, 61% felt they had unequal access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “While more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported feeling unsafe at work during Covid-19 outbreak, 50% said they did not feel able to speak up about safety in the workplace.”

  • Government Silent On Involving Credit Firm in COVID-19 Testing Byline Times May 22 report begins: “The Department of Health and Social Care is remaining tight-lipped about its decision to award a contract to the UK subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar US credit reporting agency that checks patient data when attempting to book a Coronavirus home test online.
    “Tens of thousands of people have already visited the Government website to book their test. Users are told that, in order to confirm their identity, they need to share their information with TransUnion. It is the smallest of the three largest credit agencies, along with Experian and Equifax.
    “Individuals unwilling to share their credit data are asked to start the process again and advised to choose the drive-through test option. It is unclear what possible COVID-19-related reason there would be for the Government to grant the company access to UK citizens’ information.
    “Privacy and civil liberties campaigners have already warned about tech firms getting their hands on patient data in the battle against the Coronavirus.”

  • Coronavirus: People in deprived areas face higher risk of death – with women disproportionately affected Independent May 21 report on findings of Health Foundation research: "The risk of dying from coronavirus is more than twice as great in the most deprived areas of England – with the disparity largest for women, analysis shows.
    "A study by the Health Foundation of deaths from Covid-19 showed women in the most deprived parts of the country had a risk of dying that was 133 per cent higher than those in the least deprived neighbourhoods.
    "Between men the difference in risk was 114 per cent higher in worse-off areas, suggesting that while deprivation is a key factor in risk of death from coronavirus for both sexes, its effect is worse for women.
    "Experts say the evidence shows the impact of Covid-19 is falling disproportionately on the poorest in society."

  • Nurses express their frustration at those flouting lockdown rules Nursing Notes May 21: "Nurses and other healthcare professionals across the UK have taken to social media to express their frustration over the actions of some members of the public.
    "It comes after huge crowds flocked to beaches and parks across England yesterday – the hottest day of the year so far.
    "Earlier this month the Government eased lockdown restrictions, encouraging many back to work alongside allowing unlimited exercise and the ability to travel around the country.
    "Lockdown rules in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland remain unchanged with the devolved Governments advising the public to stay at home."

  • Why are Africa's coronavirus successes being overlooked? Guardian May 21 comment: There have been coronavirus mistakes and misjudgments, and deaths, and each one is a tragedy. … But what has also happened is that many African nations, realising early on that large-scale, expensive testing and hospitalisation was not an option for the populations, had no choice but to take a more creative approach.
    “Take the two African countries I have called home – Senegal and Ghana. Senegal is developing a Covid-19 testing kit that would cost $1 per patient, which it is hoped will, in less than 10 minutes, detect both current or previous infection via antigens in saliva, or antibodies. …
    “Senegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.
    “As a result, this nation of 16 million people has had only 30 deaths.
    "… At every single one of those stages, the UK did the opposite, and is now facing a death toll of more than 35,000.
    “Ghana, with a population of 30 million, has a similar death toll to Senegal, partly because of an extensive system of contact tracing, utilising a large number of community health workers and volunteers, and other innovative techniques such as “pool testing”, in which multiple blood samples are tested and then followed up as individual tests only if a positive result is found.”

  • Tens of thousands of coronavirus tests have been double-counted, officials admit may 21 report indicates even Johnson's previous employers at the Telegraph are losing their confidence in his govt's handling of the covid crisis: "Tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests have been double-counted in the Government’s official tally, public health officials have admitted.
    "Diagnostic tests which involve taking saliva and nasal samples from the same patient are being counted as two tests, not one.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England each confirmed the double-counting.
    "This inflates the daily reported diagnostic test numbers by over 20 per cent, with that proportion being much higher earlier on in the crisis before home test kits were added to the daily totals. Almost 350,000 more tests have been reported in Government data than people tested since the start of the pandemic."

  • Greater Manchester STILL doesn't know how many people are testing positive for COVID-19 because it can't get results from government May 21 Manchester Evening News report on chaos in the testing system: “Public health officials and local leaders still have no idea how many people are testing positive for Covid-19 in Greater Manchester, due to continued chaos within the national system.
    “… The data issue has now been dragging on since May 4 and stems from the two separate testing systems currently in operation.
    “One involves tests carried out by the public sector, which are then processed in NHS laboratories - such as at the Manchester Royal Infirmary - and fed back to public health officials, who use them to track the pandemic’s pattern here and plan local infection control.
    “But results from the second set of testing, which is carried out through a government process at various locations - including Manchester Airport - before being processed at private laboratories, have not been reaching local authorities since the first week in May.”

  • Britain’s tracing army sits idle as lockdown deadline looms Another excellent FT report, May 21: “New recruits hired by the UK government to trace the spread of coronavirus have spent the past few days mowing lawns, trimming hedges and enjoying a mini-heatwave as technical problems and unexplained delays prevented them from starting work.
    “Speaking just hours before Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that a “world-beating” track and trace scheme would be in place by June 1, one tracer, hired by outsourcer Capita, told the FT he and many of his peers have been left in limbo, unable to get the technology to function on their own PCs and laptops.
    “You can’t speak to anybody, you can’t see any data, there are massive communication issues,” said the recruit, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s a ludicrous situation. I’ve done my washing, I’ve done my ironing, I’ve got the cleanest house around, we’re all just out in the garden,” he said.
    “This rocky start to Operation Charcoal — the name given to the project to identify and call people who have been in recent contact with new virus sufferers and advise them to isolate — would appear to confirm concerns over ill-founded political promises, a failure to tap relevant expertise and competing power centres.”

  • NHS fees to be scrapped for overseas health staff and care workers A welcome bit of belated good news from BBC May 21: NHS staff and care workers from overseas will no longer have to pay an extra charge towards the health service after mounting pressure from MPs.
    "Boris Johnson's spokesman said the PM had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers "as soon as possible".
    "Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "a victory for common decency".
    "The health immigration surcharge on non-EU migrants is £400 per year and set to rise to £624 in October.
    "The move to grant the exemption came after the PM's spokesman defended the fee earlier on Thursday.
    "Officials are now working on the detail and more will be announced "in the coming days".
    "But it is understood the plan will include exemptions for all NHS workers, including porters and cleaners, as well as independent health workers and social care workers."

  • Battle Covid-19, Not Medicare for All: Doctors Demand Hospital Industry Stop Funding Dark Money Lobby Group Common Dreams May 21 report from US: "A progressive organization of 23,000 physicians from across the U.S. demanded Thursday that the American Hospital Association (AHA) divest completely from a dark-money lobbying group that has spent millions combating Medicare for All and instead devote those financial resources to the fight against Covid-19 and to better support for patients and healthcare workers.
    "Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), said in a statement that "the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched hospitals' resources to the limit, and the AHA should not waste precious member hospitals' funds lobbying against universal health coverage" as a member of the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PFAHCF).
    "Because Medicare for All would provide a lifeline to hospitals in underserved areas that have been hit hard by Covid-19, Gaffney argued, the AHA "cannot claim to represent hospitals while also opposing a single-payer system that would keep struggling hospitals open." The AHA represents around 5,000 hospitals and other healthcare providers in the U.S."

  • These Labs Rushed to Test for Coronavirus. They Had Few Takers. May 21 report from New York Times shows more grim similarities between UK and USA:
    "When a stay-at-home order in March all but closed the revered labs of the gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, her team at the University of California, Berkeley dropped everything and started testing for the coronavirus.
    "They expected their institute to be inundated with samples since it was offering the service for free, with support from philanthropies. But there were few takers.
    "Instead, the scientists learned, many local hospitals and doctors’ offices continued sending samples to national laboratory companies — like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — even though, early on, patients had to wait a week or more for results. The bureaucratic hurdles of quickly switching to a new lab were just too high.
    “It’s still amazing to me, like, how can that be the case, that there is not a more systematic way to address a central need?” said Fyodor Urnov, the scientist who oversaw the transformation of the Innovative Genomics Institute into a clinical laboratory.
    "The inability of the United States to provide broad diagnostic testing, widely seen as a pivotal failing in the nation’s effort to contain the virus, has been traced to the botched rollout by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the tardy response by the Food and Drug Administration, and supply shortages of swabs and masks.
    "Yet one major impediment to testing has been largely overlooked: the fragmented, poorly organized American health care system, which made it difficult for hospitals and other medical providers to quickly overcome obstacles to testing."

  • Minister says 'wrong' advice at start of COVID-19 outbreak could have led to mistakes “Sky News May 20 report: “A senior minister has told Sky News that "wrong" advice at the start of the coronavirus outbreak could have led to mistakes in the government's response.
    “Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey made the comments during an interview with Kay Burley in which she was challenged about ministers' handling of COVID-19 in adult social care.
    “Asked if the government had, in hindsight, got the approach to care homes wrong, Ms Coffey told Kay Burley@Breakfast that "you can only make judgements and decisions based on the information and advice that you have at the time".
    “Pressed again, she replied: "If the science was wrong, the advice at the time was wrong, I'm not surprised if people then think we made a wrong decision. But you have to take judgements based on what you have."

  • Andrew Neil gives brutal assessment of government's 'scandalous' handling of coronavirus Indy May 20 reminds us of the growing unease amongst right wing commentators over the incompetence of the Johnson government, quoting Andrew Neil:
    "I think when you look at whether it’s testing, the time that we went into lockdown, what has happened in care homes – where there has been a crisis, if not the makings of a national scandal – and some of the conflicting guidance that seems to be coming from the government. And then in the end, the deaths themselves from this, which every way you cut it and then compare it to other equivalent countries – France, Italy, Germany, Spain and so on – the British record, I don’t think you could argue is great at all.
    "In terms of excess deaths, the number of deaths that have taken place since this virus broke out compared to a five year average, we are among the worst, if not the worst. So I don’t think people will be coming to us to learn how to cope with the virus. ​"

  • 'No one had any idea': Contact tracers lack knowledge about Covid-19 job Guardian May 20 exposes the poor quality and ineptitude of the privatised track and trace system:
    "They were hailed as stepping up to serve their country, with all the “rigorous” and “detailed” instruction needed for such an important role – but a programme to train thousands of contact-tracers to help control the spread of coronavirus has been described as shambolic and inadequate by recruits.
    "People hired to contact those exposed to someone with Covid-19 and advise them to self-isolate have reported spending days just trying to log into the online system, and virtual training sessions that left participants unclear about their roles.
    "New contact tracers have been told to rely on a two-page script and a list of frequently asked questions, both seen by the Guardian. When one taking part in a training session, run by contact centre company Sitel, asked for guidance on how to speak with somebody whose loved one had died of coronavirus, they were reportedly told to look at YouTube videos on the topic."

  • Serco apologises for sharing contact tracers' email addresses BBC May 20 with another aspect of the shambolic privatised track and trace system:
    “Outsourcing firm Serco has apologised after accidentally sharing the email addresses of almost 300 contact tracers.
    “The company is training staff to trace cases of Covid-19 for the UK government. It made the error when it emailed new trainees to tell them about training. Serco said it had apologised and would review its processes "to make sure that this does not happen again".
    “… In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 21,000 contact tracers have been hired, some of whom are healthcare professionals.
    “… Serco is one of the companies hiring, training and operating the 15,000 contact tracers who do not have clinical training.”

  • Plans for contact-tracing in doubt as app not ready until June Guardian May 20 report; "the deputy chief scientific adviser acknowledged the decision to abandon track-and-trace in March was made because of a lack of testing capacity, but said it was “the right thing to do” in the circumstances.
    "Prof Angela McLean told the No 10 press briefing: “The advice that we gave certainly took account of what testing was available. It was what was the best thing to do with the tests that we had. We could not have people in hospital with Covid symptoms not knowing whether or not they had Covid.”"

  • Earlier lockdown could have prevented three-quarters of UK coronavirus deaths, modelling suggests May 20 feature in Torygraph pulls no punches: “Researchers said that if the UK had imposed the measures seven days earlier its death toll now would be on a par with the 8,000 in Germany.
    “They also said it would have been possible to have a shorter and less economically damaging lockdown.
    “Britain introduced its lockdown measures on March 23, when 359 deaths had been reported. Germany took such steps on the same day, but had reported only 86 fatalities at that time.
    “The UK's death toll has now exceeded 35,000 people.
    “Modelling from British scientist James Annan suggests that entering lockdown a week earlier would have reduced the number of deaths by three-quarters.”

  • We must demand the COVID-19 vaccine be free for everyone Oxfam petition: “The vaccine will become the currency of life and death. Nearly every person on the planet will need it to stay safe from the virus. Ensuring everyone has access is the only way to protect us all from another COVID-19 pandemic.
    “The greatest challenge is ensuring everyone on the planet gets the vaccine as quickly as possible and free of charge.
    “… We can demand a commitment from world leaders to guarantee NOW that the vaccine will be free and fairly distributed to everyone on the planet.
    “Tell world leaders that we cannot put a price on global immunity, sign the petition now.”

  • Stop the blame game: trusts have supported care homes through the COVID-19 crisis Special pleading promoting a more extensive May 19 pamphlet by NHS Providers, keen to deny any responsibility of trust bosses for the NHS England/Department of Health policies that led to them discharging untested older patients into unprepared care homes in March and April, with what we now know were disastrous results:
    "A new report by NHS Providers shows how trusts have gone to great lengths to support care homes through the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The report, Spotlight on...NHS discharges into care homes, confronts and dispels the damaging and mistaken belief – deeply resented by trust leaders - that their organisations systematically and knowingly discharged COVID-19 patients to the home care sector."

  • The UK government was ready for this pandemic. Until it sabotaged its own system Guardian May 19, George Monbiot on top form: "“We have been told repeatedly that the UK was unprepared for this pandemic. This is untrue. The UK was prepared, but then it de-prepared. Last year, the Global Health Security Index ranked this nation second in the world for pandemic readiness, while the US was first. Broadly speaking, in both nations the necessary systems were in place. Our governments chose not to use them.
    “The climate modeller James Annan has used his analytical methods to show what would have happened if the UK government had imposed its lockdown a week earlier. Starting it on 16 March, rather than 23 March, his modelling suggests, would by now have saved around 30,000 lives, reducing the rate of illness and death from coronavirus roughly by a factor of five.
    “But even 16 March would have been extraordinarily late. We now know that government ministers were told on 11 February that the virus could be catastrophic, and decisive action was urgently required. Instead, Boris Johnson told us to wash our hands and “go about our normal daily lives”.”

  • Coronavirus: Hundreds of learning disability deaths in just eight weeks, new data shows Independent May 19: "More than 460 people with a learning disability have died from coronavirus in just eight weeks since the start of the outbreak in England.
    "New data shows between the 16 March and 10 May 1,029 people with a learning disability died in England, with 45 per cent, 467, linked to coronavirus.
    "Overall the number of deaths during the eight weeks is 550 more than would be expected when compared to the same period last year.
    "The charity Mencap warned people with a learning disability were “being forgotten in this crisis” and called for action to tackle what it said could be “potentially discriminatory practice.”
    "It highlighted the percentage of Covid-19 related deaths among learning disabled people was higher than those in care homes, where the proportion of Covid-19 deaths was 31 per cent for the same period."

  • Security flaws found in NHS contact-tracing app “BBC report May 19: “Wide-ranging security flaws have been flagged in the Covid-19 contact-tracing app being piloted in the Isle of Wight.
    “The security researchers involved have warned the problems pose risks to users' privacy and could be abused to prevent contagion alerts being sent.
    “… Specifically, they call for new legal protections to prevent officials using the data for purposes other than identifying those at risk of being infected, or holding on to it indefinitely.”

  • Fee on foreign medics for using NHS is branded a gross insult Hard hitting Times May 19 headline indicates growing pressure for govt to change its line:
    "Charging overseas medical staff higher fees to use the NHS is a “gross insult” to professionals who are risking their lives to fight Covid-19, doctors’ leaders say.
    "They have urged the government to reconsider plans to make foreign medical workers pay a £624 health surcharge as part of a post-Brexit immigration system, saying scrapping it would be the “smallest recognition” of their role in the pandemic.
    "Downing Street said yesterday that the government would press ahead with plans in the Conservative manifesto to increase the fee levied on overseas workers to cover the cost of their healthcare, which is due to be extended to those from the EU."

  • Care homes threatened with losing insurance cover for accepting Covid-19 patients Independent May 19: "Care homes that take patients who test positive for coronavirus could lose their insurance cover, the care watchdog has said – meaning sick residents may be forced to move homes.
    "The Care Quality Commission said it knew of more than 10 care providers who had been told they would lose their insurance cover if they knowingly accepted coronavirus patients, while other providers have been unable to renew their employee and public liability cover.
    "In a new report published on Tuesday, the CQC also raised fears that social care providers could go out of business following the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and warned the government it needed to do more to join up services."

  • Matt Hancock’s ‘protective ring’ around care homes does not exist Independent May 19: "Last week, Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health, claimed that the government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes” since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
    "Unfortunately, since that protective ring was thrown, 20,000 people have somehow found a way to die within it, so somewhat unsurprisingly, the quality of that protective ring, and the degree of protection it provides, is a subject on which Hancock was required to provide more detail to the House of Commons."

  • NHS remains 'unprotected' in future trade deal with Donald Trump's government Mirror May 19 warning: "The NHS is left “unprotected and at risk of privatisation” in a future trade deal with President Trump, campaigners warn.
    "On Wednesday the Trade Bill 2019-2021, which is where the Government outlines how the UK would implement and police new deals, reaches its second reading in Parliament.
    "Campaign groups Keep Our NHS Public and We Own It say it fails “to give Parliament oversight of, or votes on, trade agreements; to improve existing and inadequate processes for parliamentary processes; and gives the executive unchecked powers on trade”.
    "MP Caroline Lucas is proposing an amendment to the bill, which calls for the House of Commons to decline a second reading as it “fails to uphold democratic scrutiny”.

  • The editor of the prestigious Lancet medical journal said a study Trump cited to justify pulling out of the WHO doesn't exist Business Insider May 19: " “The editor of prestigious British medical journal The Lancet has disputed the existence of a study that President Donald Trump claimed was published in the journal in December 2019, sounded an early alarm on the novel coronavirus, and was ignored by the World Health Organization.
    “Trump's letter, addressed to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had accused the agency of accepting China's attempts to downplay the outbreak in its early days, despite scientific reports indicating its urgency.
    “It also threatened to permanently withdraw US funding and membership of the WHO unless the agency made "major substantive improvements" within 30 days.
    "The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal," he wrote. But it appears such a study doesn't exist.
    “Richard Horton, The Lancet's editor-in-chief, disputed Trump's claims about the study, saying in a Tuesday morning tweet: "Dear President Trump — You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan.”

  • The NHS surcharge shows what the Tories really think of key workers Guardian May 19 comment "Clap for them, then charge them. This is the how the Conservatives treat migrant key workers.
    "For all the admiration and thanks heaped upon these workers during the coronavirus pandemic, the government has refused to scrap the NHS immigration surcharge. The majority of non-EU migrants, including those who work in the NHS, will have to pay the surcharge on top of taxes, national insurance contributions and extortionate immigration fees.
    "And so it has to be said plainly: the government praises NHS workers for providing life-saving care, then makes them pay through the nose to access that same care themselves. Migrant staff have to pay twice for the very healthcare system they work for. Just because they are immigrants."

  • Coronavirus: The care homes catastrophe Hard hitting and well-researched report on BBC Radio Four's File on 4, showing the way in which NHS and Department of Health and Social Care policy decisions to empty hospital beds led to covid-positive patients being dumped onto unprepared care homes -- resulting in thousands of deaths. One in twelve care home residents died in just six weeks -- almost three times the average care home death rate.

  • Bereaved families of migrant NHS cleaners and porters locked out of leave-to-remain scheme Independent May 19 report: "NHS porters and cleaners and social care staff have been left out of a Home Office scheme granting families of health workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they die of coronavirus, it has been revealed.
    "The exclusion of some of the NHS’s lowest-paid workers – many of them employed by private companies under outsourcing arrangements – was branded an “outrageous scandal” by the GMB union.
    "Some 8 per cent of social care home workers are foreign nationals from outside the EU, while non-UK nationals are also strongly represented among the ranks of hospital cleaners, porters, security guards and catering staff who are regarded as key workers but do not qualify for the bereavement scheme.
    "One NHS cleaner from Nigeria, a mother-of-two who gave her name only as Catherine, said she had been in the UK for 10 years working on a “right to remain” visa which had to be regularly renewed. She said it was “hurtful” to know she was being treated differently from colleagues working alongside her at the hospital."

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19 Shocking piece in the BMJ outlining the failures of the U.K.’s response to the Covid crisis. Some naming and shaming. No pay wall.

  • NHS hospitals accused of using crisis as excuse to deny women caesarean sections Independent May 18: "Multiple NHS trusts have told women preparing to give birth since March that requests for a caesarean section will not be granted due to the viral pandemic.
    "It has led to accusations from the charity Birthrights that the coronavirus outbreak is being used as an excuse to promote an ideology that more women should have a natural birth.
    "During the coronavirus crisis some women have been forced to give birth alone due to bans on partners attending hospital. Hospitals changed their policy after new visiting rules were released.
    "Maria Booker, from Birthrights, told The Independent: “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance."

  • Why didn't the government protect us earlier from coronavirus? ITV's Robert Peston (May 18) belatedly shares his overview of the government failure so far: "I assumed, naively it turns out, that in government money would be no object and that behind the scenes all possible defences would be erected to protect us from this most savage of black swans.
    "But they weren't erected, or at least not until the virus had spread so far and so fast that only the most economically expensive of comprehensive national lockdowns was capable of holding its vicious advance in check.
    "And even after that unprecedented restriction on our freedoms, the prevalence of the virus has been permitted to become so great, there are still so many people infected, that restarting the economy is now that much more distant."

  • British army veteran faces £27,000 NHS hospital bill Shocking Guardian May 18 story of the brutal realities of the continued "hostile environment" policy being viciously imposed by NHS and home office bureacrats:
    "A Commonwealth-born veteran, who served for more than a decade in the British army including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, has been told he must pay more than £27,000 for NHS hospital bills after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour.
    "Hospital staff have classified Taitusi Ratucaucau, 49, as an overseas patient, and therefore ineligible for free NHS care. He joined the British army in 2001 and has been continuously in the UK since being discharged from the military in 2011, living here with his wife and three daughters, and paying tax and national insurance."

  • There is revolution in the air now, but history shows the old order will fight back Guardian comment May 18: "Coronavirus policies to help the vulnerable are already being jettisoned. Those who want change need to be up for the battle
    “The language of a resilient infrastructure doing its best is deliberate – useful in creating the impression that once the pandemic passes, so does the problem. Failures in the care sector are “challenges”; the NHS, rather than being underfunded and weakened, has been a success because it has not been overwhelmed, ignoring the infected patients who were shipped out from hospitals to care homes to spread the deadly virus to the most frail.
    “Fuelled by dissembling and denial, the country lurches forward with a broken economy, a depleted public sector, an underpaid and underprotected class of workers, and a vilified migrant population.
    “In the final stages, policies to help the vulnerable launched at the start of the pandemic will be quietly jettisoned. A pledge to review the NHS surcharge for foreign doctors has come to nothing. A popular programme to house homeless people in England in hotels was quietly scrapped last week. The homeless returning to the streets will be joined by others sent there by the economic downturn. They will be scapegoated, along with the rest of the dispensable victims.”

  • Thanks to NHS managers, I’ve now got two care homes infected with Covid-19 Angry, wide-ranging anonymous May 17 article in Sunday Times from care home owner furious at government and NHS handling of Covid-19 crisis:
    “The government has given £3.2bn to local authorities to help cope with Covid. We hear about it every day. But councils are holding on to it, because they’re so short of money. …
    “And we’re starting to see care homes fail because residents are dying and there are no new referrals. …
    “… we’re getting no new residents, and the implications are calamitous. The 3,500 care homes with fewer than 40 beds are the most vulnerable. A 30-bed home makes profits only on the last six or seven beds; if they’re not filled, it’s a ticking timebomb.”

  • Majority of doctors have ‘little to no confidence’ that NHS will cope in coming weeks, BMA survey finds Independent May 17 reports on a BMA survey of its members:
    "NHS England this week published a “road map” to support the resumption of routine treatments over the next six weeks.
    "But the BMA’s poll of 10,328 doctors, surveyed between 13 and 15 May, found 52 per cent of those in England were either not at all or not very confident that their department could manage patient demand if services went back to normal.
    "Confidence was at its lowest in community settings, such as care homes, where 69 per cent of doctors said they were not very or not at all confident they could cope with patient demand."

  • Boris Johnson's promised workplace safety inspections 'don't exist' i-news May 17: "In answer to a question on workplace safety measures from Labour MP Chi Onwurah following his Covid-19 strategy statement last Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are Covid-secure and Covid-compliant.
    "The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe.”
    "However, when asked by i about the spot inspection a spokeswoman for the HSE said: “In line with government guidance to cease all but essential work that cannot be done outside of the home, minimising contact between individuals, HSE has paused all proactive inspections at this time to reduce any risk posed to our own staff and to members of the public.”
    "Instead of spot inspections, the HSE is encouraging companies to self-police safety measures and workers can report concerns via the group’s website."
    "Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, slammed the ‘self-policing’ strategy and demanded the Government do more to protect workers as lockdown conditions ease.
    Ms O’Grady said: "Self-policing is just spin for no policing."

  • State may run private care homes Times report May 17: "On Wednesday, Holyrood is expected to pass emergency powers to allow care homes to be taken under public sector control if conditions are thought to pose a significant risk to life, health or wellbeing or if a provider is unable to deliver care.
    "Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, said private care home owners are increasingly nervous about criticising the Scottish government for fear their homes may be taken into public ownership, following pronouncements from figures in the SNP about private homes.
    "While Carlaw emphasised he has no sympathy with the operators of poorly run care homes, he said unnecessary anxiety was being caused for some businesses by SNP parliamentarians, whose constituencies include Skye."
    … "Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, welcomed the intervention at Home Farm but said she could not understand why action had not been taken in other homes, such as Castle View in West Dunbartonshire and Tranent care home in East Lothian, where significant numbers of residents have also died."
    Evidence of very different politics in Scotland where the Tories are in opposition can be seen in the response of Miles Briggs, the Scottish Tory shadow health secretary, who said "care for some of the most vulnerable was being delivered “on the cheap”, and demanded “more professionalisation of the service and better remuneration and support for staff”.

  • Anger as Priti Patel says NHS fees paid by foreign health staff must stay, just three weeks after announcing ‘review’ Independent May 16 on an outrageous government decision that will deter overseas recruits to jobs in health and social care: "Priti Patel has sparked anger by refusing to cut or axe the huge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers to help fund the NHS – just three weeks after promising to “review” the controversial charges.
    "The home secretary raised expectations when she hinted at concessions for migrants working in the NHS themselves, as she praised their “extraordinary contribution” during the Covid-19 crisis.
    "But The Independent has now learnt there will be no changes to what ministers consider the “important” principle that everyone coming to work in the UK contributes extra for the NHS.
    "It means the immigration health surcharge is still due to soar from £400 a year to £624 from this October – to be and extended to all EU citizens from next January, when Brexit is completed."

  • How 10 Years of Tory Policies Led to Coronavirus Calamity KONP co-chair Tony O'Sullivan's May 15 Tribune article summing up the past few months, arguing that a decade worth of Tory policies, from pro-market reforms of the NHS to austerity and the hostile environment, have undermined Britain's response to coronavirus – with fatal consequences.

  • NHS staff told not to join pay demonstrations as they ‘adversely affect public confidence’ HSJ (May 15) reports that, not content with gagging staff protesting at lack of adequate supplies of PPE, NHS staff in London have been warned by national regulators not to take part in public protests over pay:
    "NHS England and NHS Improvement’s London regional team sent an email to all five sustainability and transformation partnerships in the capital warning staff against protesting at the current time."

  • Abbott joins Roche in winning UK approval for virus antibody test Financial Times May 15 report: “American multinational Abbott Laboratories has joined Swiss pharma company Roche in getting a green light from Public health England. The company said it stood ready to ship “5m tests to the UK each month with immediate effect”, adding that it had already sent some to the NHS labs with which it was “working closely”.
    “Abbott’s lab-based test, which detects past infection with the virus, was endorsed by PHE on Thursday — hours after news emerged that its competitor Roche’s version had been evaluated successfully by the government agency
    “… Governments expect antibody tests to be a key tool for tracking the spread of the virus and helping to decide how to ease lockdowns.”

  • Coronavirus outbreaks reported in a third of care homes BBC May 15 report: “More than a third of care homes in England have now recorded a coronavirus outbreak, official figures reveal.
    “Public Health England data shows 5,546 care homes out of a total of 15,514 had confirmed or suspected outbreaks since early March and almost every district has now had an outbreak in at least one.
    “Age UK said the situation in care homes was "a scandal behind closed doors".
    “… More than 9,700 care home residents across the UK have died with Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics and its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

  • Covid-19: Testing testing Hard-hitting, evidence based critique of government failures in BMJ May 14 Editorial comment on the lockdown:
    “Tragically, the UK government has squandered much of the precious eight weeks bought at such great social and economic cost.
    “The question now is whether it is willing to admit mistakes and do what’s really needed to suppress the virus.
    “It seems clear the UK locked down late and too gradually, that we lacked basic preparedness despite clear warnings of a likely future pandemic, and that our healthcare and public health systems were already reeling from lack of investment and the unnecessary disruptive reorganisations of the previous decade.
    “In the past frantic few weeks the NHS has responded magnificently, but it has survived only by discharging people back into the community and by stopping everything other than covid related care.
    “The resulting loss to health and life will become clear, as will the impact on staff who have shouldered the covid burden. Despite these exceptional efforts it is therefore wrong to say that the NHS has not been overwhelmed.”

  • Doctors 'told not to discuss PPE shortages' BBC’s Newsnight, which seems to be the one area of BBC News with consistently hard focus on facts rather than ministerial bluff, May 15 report:
    “Some NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking publicly about shortages of personal protective equipment, the BBC has been told. WhistleblowersUK said more than 100 healthcare workers had contacted them since the beginning of March, raising concerns about Covid-19 and PPE.
    “The Department of Health said no one should be prevented from speaking up.
    “But Newsnight has seen evidence of pressure being applied to doctors to not share concerns they have about PPE.
    “A newsletter sent out to staff at one trust suggested subjects for tweets, such as thanking staff for their hard work, paying tribute to retired NHS staff who had returned to the workforce and retweeting posts from the trust's account. It specified that staff were to avoid "commenting on political issues, such as PPE".
    “Another trust put up posters in hospital staff areas which told healthcare workers not to "make public appeals for equipment, donations or volunteers".”

  • Coronavirus: Only 8% of government target of 18,000 contact tracers appointed, minister admits Independent May 15 report: “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in April the government wanted to recruit 18,000 contact tracers by the middle of May, who would be in place for the roll out of the promised NHS tracing app.
    A shortage of contact tracers could slow the delivery of the smartphone app, which Mr Hancock also promised would be available by the middle of the month. …
    “Asked how many of the contact tracers have been appointed, [Northern Ireland secretary Brandon] Lewis told Sky News: "I don't think we've got to 18,000 just yet, I think there's about 15,000 applications, we're looking to as you say get up to 18,000."
    “Pushed again on how many of the 15,000 applicants have been appointed, he added: "As of this morning I'm not sure of exactly how many of the 15,000 have been hired, earlier in the week it was about 1,500, it would have gone up since then."

  • Hancock says 'key thing' is R number has not risen above 1 More important than the headline of this May 15 Sky News report is this has the famous Hancock lie on care homes:
    "Right from the start we've tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes. We set out our first advice in February... we've made sure care homes have the resources they need" says Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. "

  • Lessons from the COVID Emergency – 6: Unlike the public, non-EU doctors and nurses have to pay for NHS services Former advisor to Blair-era ministers Paul Corrigan in a May 15 blog arguing a moral case against Tories' vicious new charges:
    "During the recent election campaign the Conservative Party announced it was increasing this surcharge from £400 to £625 for all non-EU migrant workers. Their plan is to extend it to EU workers on Jan 1st 2021 – the date they have set for leaving the EU. The fee is payable for each member of the migrating family, so an individual, their partner and 2 children would have to pay the government £2500.
    "When this increase was announced both the RCN and the BMA rightly concentrated on the fact that nurses and doctors would have to pay. They called it pernicious.
    "After the election, when the new Government promised numbers of new nurses (many from abroad), it was pointed out that these charges would act as a strong disincentive for nurses and doctors to come and work in the NHS. Richard Murray, CEO of the Kings Fund, called it perverse to make people pay for a service they themselves are providing."

  • Nurses have already had a ‘very significant pay rise’, insists Hancock Nursing Notes May 15, responding to leaked documents showing ministers are discussing another possible public sector pay freeze, reports:
    "A recently leaked Treasury document proposed a two-year public sector pay freeze.
    The health secretary has today refused to guarantee a pay increase for frontline healthcare workers.
    "When questioned by a member of the public at today’s daily Downing Street press briefing, Matt Hancock refused to commit to increasing pay but instead promised staff a “fair reward”. Speaking live, Hancock admitted nursing was a “highly skilled profession and deserves decent pay” but quickly claimed that nurses had already received a “very significant” pay rise.
    "NHS staff in England recently received their final annual rise following a multi-year pay deal. The majority of nurses saw a pre-tax rise of just 7% over three years."

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19: Too little, too late, too flawed Tough, no nonsense May 15 summary Editorial in BMJ on the government's failures in responding to the pandemic - with an excellent graphical comparative chronology:
    "How did a country with an international reputation for public health get it so wrong? The UK’s response to covid-19 is centrally coordinated through a series of scientific advisory groups led by Whitty and Vallance. Critical to this is the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which models the future epidemic and feeds into SAGE. SPI-M and SAGE are dominated by modellers and epidemiologists. None of the members were experts in developing and implementing a public health response, and other relevant groups such as communicable disease experts, women, and ethnic minorities are under-represented.
    "The Guardian revealed that several SAGE meetings had been attended by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief political adviser, and Ben Warner, his adviser on data science. The involvement of two influential political advisers makes a mockery of SAGE’s claim to provide independent scientific advice to the government."

  • LGA OVERVIEW OF ISSUES Local Government Association (representing all local authorities) report dated May 15 notes continued crisis in provision of PPE:
    "Care providers and councils are still not able to access sufficient supplies of PPE. This
    continues to be a major concern and additional drops of PPE to LRF’s have not significantly addressed this issue. Care workers and other staff are not being provided with the protection they need to carry out their roles looking after vulnerable people. This is putting workers and vulnerable people at risk. This has become a major credibility issue for the government and needs to be addressed in a manner which restores confidence to the sector. "

  • A gross injustice is being done to universities, students and all our futures as the government abandons higher education to its fate Richard Murphy notes May 4: “The government announced overnight that it is not going to bail out the university sector as a result of the coronavirus.
    “Numerous thoughts follow.
    “First, this will lead to mass redundancies at universities, and most especially amongst academic staff, many of whom are on temporary contracts.
    “Second, this will scar the reputation of UK universities for a long time to come.
    “Third, the failure of the government to support research when Brexit is also causing untold damage to the sector as a result of the loss of European cooperation cannot be overstated: we will now be in the research wilderness.”
    He might have added that it is also a grim warning of what could be in store for other public services – including the NHS.

  • Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as countries fight to contain the pandemic | Free to read Excellent explanation and graphs from the Financial Times May 14:
    “The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 4.3m cases confirmed globally and more than 292,700 people known to have died.
    “The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic and it has spread to more than 190 countries around the world.
    “This page provides an up-to-date visual narrative of the spread of Covid-19, so please check back regularly because we will be refreshing it with new graphics and features as the story evolves.”

  • The Beginning of the End of Boris Johnson? Double Down News video blog by public health expert John Ashton slams government record on Covid-19. “When Coronavirus was getting into its stride in UK, the Secretary State for Communities & Local Government wrote to all local authorities giving them details on how to organise street parties for VE Day”

  • Drivers tell of chaos at UK's privately run PPE stockpile Guradian investigation May 14: “The private firm contracted to run the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) was beset by “chaos” at its warehouse that may have resulted in delays in deploying vital supplies to healthcare workers, according to sources who have spoken to the Guardian and ITV News.
    “The allegations from delivery drivers and other well–placed sources raise questions about whether Movianto, the subsidiary of a US healthcare giant, was able to adequately manage and distribute the nation’s emergency stockpile of PPE for use in a pandemic.
    “The investigation by the Guardian and ITV News also established that in previous years Movianto temporarily stored the emergency pandemic equipment in a smoke-damaged warehouse that was found to contain asbestos.”

  • Care home residents paid ‘huge price’ for emptying of acute beds, says STP chair HSJ 14 May reports comments by former New Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt:
    “Patricia Hewitt, the chair of Norfolk and Waveney STP, said hospitals had sped up discharges to social care settings in March due to instructions from national NHS leaders.
    “Speaking on a webinar on health and social care today, she said: “Emptying acute beds, which was essential…came at a high price and it was paid by those patients in social care or transferred to social care who already had covid-19 or [subsequently] got it.
    “Nobody can remember a time when acute beds were as empty [as currently]…it is quite an extraordinary situation. But it was at a huge price paid, there will be all kinds of questions to come… once we are past the crisis phase.”
    “When discussing the initial public health messages sent out by the government, Ms Hewitt added: “Where was social care? It was obviously not in that first message.”

  • 'The numbers on the streets are going to rocket': Homeless people put up in hotels amid pandemic to be kicked out as government quietly scraps scheme Manchester Evening News breaks the story that triggered a vicious backlash by ministers trying to cover up the facts: "Hundreds of homeless people who had been put up in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic must now be moved out after ministers quietly pulled the plug on the programme, the M.E.N. can reveal.
    "Civil servants have told Greater Manchester officials that the scheme - known as ‘Everyone In’ - is no longer being funded by central government and that March's original Covid guidance to local authorities has been scrapped.
    "So far 1,600 homeless people with nowhere to self-isolate have been put up in emergency accommodation here during the crisis, including hundreds in hotels, as authorities were directed to protect them from the spread of the virus.
    "But a leaked report to the region’s combined authority reveals the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government has now ‘drawn a line’ under its programme and has told councils it will no longer be funded, although no ministerial statement has been made to that effect."

  • NHS Labs Were Frozen Out Of Coronavirus Testing Programme, Says Top Scientist Huffington Post, following earlier reports in the Lowdown, on creation of parallel network of unaccredited "super-labs" for Covid-19 testing, sidelining NHS labs:
    "President of the professional body for biomedical science Allan Wilson says a dual system of NHS labs and new government labs processing Covid-19 tests has contributed to the target of 100,000 tests a day regularly being missed.
    "He accused the government of pushing ahead with setting up three new laboratories – known as the Lighthouse labs – to roll out coronavirus testing without first asking if NHS labs had capacity to do it.
    "Wilson, who represents scientists from at least 130 NHS labs across the country, says these NHS labs should have been the central plank on which testing infrastructure for the national programme was built. "

  • NHS Staff Voices with Professor John Ashton NHS Staff Voice's chair, Alia Butt (psychologist and psychotherapist) interviews public health expert Professor John Ashton CBE, a British doctor and academic, and former regional director of public health for north-west England, on the government's mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Plans for post Covid NHS hatched behind the lockdown May 14 exclusive from The Lowdown: "The Lowdown has seen a letter from NHS England’s London Regional Director Sir David Sloman, sent out internally on April 29 but not published, requiring Integrated Care System Chairs and Senior Responsible Officers to take “urgent action” on system plans for London that “fundamentally change the way we deliver health and care.”
    "Each ICS is ordered to supply a “revised ICS plan” by Monday May 11. The letter spells out a 12-point list of issues on which bureaucrats in each area are supposed to devise new policy, on the hoof, for a “Recovery Board” meeting on May 13.
    "Even if the country was not on lockdown, this 12-day turn-round period for proposals on fundamental changes for a New Health and Care system for London, to be in place by November 2021, would indicate a complete disregard for any serious consultation or discussion.
    "But it’s clear from the way this is being done that any notion of public engagement or accountability is a very low priority afterthought. The accompanying Powerpoint presentation entitled ‘Journey to a New Health and Care System’ states that over the next 12-15 months they hope to keep public engagement to a bare minimum: “Include public and stakeholders in the process within the constraints of an emergency”.

  • Commentary: COVID in Care Homes—Challenges and Dilemmas in Healthcare Delivery Free access academic study of the impact of Covid on care homes: points raised include:
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected care home residents internationally, with 19–72% of COVID-19 deaths occurring in care homes.
    "COVID-19 presents atypically in care home residents and up to 56% of residents may test positive whilst pre-symptomatic. In this article, we provide a commentary on challenges and dilemmas identified in the response to COVID-19 for care homes and their residents.
    "We highlight the low sensitivity of PCR testing and the difficulties this poses for blanket screening and isolation of residents. We discuss quarantine of residents and the potential harms associated with this.
    "Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply for care homes during the pandemic has been suboptimal and we suggest that better integration of procurement and supply is required. "

  • Ministers were warned two years ago of care homes' exposure to pandemics Guardian report May 13: "Council social care directors in England warned the government two years ago, in a series of detailed reports, about care homes’ exposure to a pandemic, the Guardian has learned.
    "They called for better supply plans for personal protective equipment – warning that “demand for PPE could rapidly outstrip supply” – plus improved infection control and a system to enlist volunteers to help services expected to be stretched to breaking point.
    "The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), which represents directors of adult social services in England, told the Guardian it carried out the work to improve government planning for a flu pandemic at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "But it said: “We are not aware of whether government departments picked up on any of the recommendations set out.”

  • COVID in Care Homes—Challenges and Dilemmas in Healthcare Delivery Academic paper from Age and Ageing looks at lessons from UK, Netherlands and Ireland:
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected care home residents internationally, with 19–72% of COVID-19 deaths occurring in care homes. COVID-19 presents atypically in care home residents and up to 56% of residents may test positive whilst pre-symptomatic. In this article, we provide a commentary on challenges and dilemmas identified in the response to COVID-19 for care homes and their residents. "

  • DfE chief scientific adviser admits he hasn’t assessed school reopening guidance May 13 revelation in Schools Week: the department had done no modelling on consequences, their advisor had not been in SAGE discussions, and the decision to begin reopening schools was taken by cabinet, not the Department.
    "Education committee chair Robert Halfon asked what scientific evidence base underpinned the decision to reopen schools to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6, and what modelling had been done.
    “The department has not done any modelling,” [Osama] Rahman replied. “One of the SAGE groups has done various bits of modelling for different scenarios on what years you can bring back. My understanding is those will be published in due course.”
    "Halfon responded that “surely you must have scientific evidence the base underpinning the department’s decision?”, to which Rahman responded: “That was a cabinet decision following advice from SAGE.”"

  • With Millions Out of Work, the Trump Administration Pushes to Limit Food Stamps In the US, Time magazine (May 13) notes: "Amid a global pandemic that has rattled the United States economy and led to record-breaking job losses, the Trump Administration is continuing to push to restrict access to the nation’s largest food assistance program.
    "On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly issued a notice that it was appealing a judge’s injunction that blocked the cabinet agency from proceeding with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), colloquially known as food stamps.
    "If the USDA wins its appeal, the new requirements would strip 688,000 Americans of their food benefits, according to Department’s own estimates. "

  • Excess UK deaths in Covid-19 pandemic top 50,000 Financial Times May 12 report: “The number of UK deaths during the coronavirus pandemic over and above normal levels has exceeded 50,000, official figures confirmed on Tuesday. The Office for National Statistics said that in the week ending May 1, there had been 17,953 deaths in England and Wales recorded, 8,012 higher than the average of the past five years in that week, as the disease killed three times the normal number of people in care homes.
    “This represented the seventh consecutive week that deaths exceeded normal levels and once equivalent figures from Scotland and Northern Ireland were included, takes total mortality across the UK during the pandemic to 50,979.”

  • How Boris Johnson refused to fight the virus Appeasement.org with a chronology of Johnson's failure to wage the necessary fight to contain and tackle the virus:
    "Through a deadly combination of arrogance and incompetence, Boris Johnson’s government ignored international warnings and allowed Covid-19 to spread largely unchecked in the UK.
    "Like one of his predecessors he ignored a gathering storm, downplayed the threat then failed to act. He appeased the virus.
    "By the time he realised his mistake it was too late, thousands would needlessly die and the economy would face a protracted lockdown.
    "Today the UK is the second worst hit country in the world. He’s not Churchill. He’s Chamberlain."

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Lessons on civic duty from Boris Johnson? No thank you Guardian’s Marina Hyde on Johnson’s back to work announcement May 12:
    “On Sunday, construction and manufacturing workers were told to get back to work by a man who skived off five consecutive Cobra meetings during a wildly mushrooming global epidemic. Five! Boris Johnson couldn’t even be bothered to turn up and grip the government’s crucial early response to a deadly virus – are we supposed to believe he’d be rushing back to finish a loft extension out of civic duty? He’s not even prime minister out of civic duty.
    “Still, that’s showbiz. You miss one universal credit meeting and your benefits are stopped; you miss five Cobra meetings and you get to address the nation on its working responsibilities from a drawing room so vast you’d need a hansom cab to traverse it.
    “… As for Johnson’s Sunday address, it was taped in advance, which at least spared people his involuntary smirk as they were apparently being told to trudge into work in 12 hours’ time.”

  • Treasury blueprint to raise taxes and freeze wages to pay for £300bn coronavirus bill Telegraph May 12 exclusive on options being discussed by ministers on a package of tax increases and renewed austerity measures to make sure it is workers and pensioners rather than bankers or billionaires who carry the cost of their apparent generosity in supporting furlough scheme. It notes:
    "The document suggests a two-year freeze on public sector pay could generate savings of £6.5 billion by 2023-24, while "stopping the rising cost" of the pension triple lock would produce savings of £8 billion a year."

  • Government’s handling of Covid-19 is a very British disaster Remarkable May 12 comment, broadside slamming failures of government policy -- from of all people the Torygraph: "I have been silent on Covid-19 for a while. There was little to be gained from harrying the Government once it had abandoned the misadventure of herd immunity and was at least trying to get a grip. Much of the belated media onslaught is reflexive gotcha-journalism (where were they in February when the mistakes were made?), or hides an ideological agenda.
    "But claims by both Downing Street and Public Health England that they “got it right” cannot be allowed to stand.
    "Nor can the pretence that each stage of the containment policy is being fed out at just right time and at just the right calibration under the Jupiterian guidance of behavioural theorists.
    "There was never anything to be gained from delaying the lockdown once the brushfire had slipped control due to lack of testing/tracing. Each three days of prevarication meant a doubling of the infection case load. It was to sink deeper into the quagmire. Nor did the SAGE committee ever have a sufficient grasp of the basic facts to fine-tune the timing, let alone to play God."

  • Healthcare firm advised by Owen Paterson won £133m coronavirus testing contract unopposed Guardian May 11: "A healthcare firm which employs the prominent Conservative politician Owen Paterson as a paid consultant has been awarded a £133m contract without any other firms being given the opportunity to bid for the work.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has given Randox the contract to produce testing kits to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It was awarded “without prior publication of a call for competition”, according to details of the contract seen by the Guardian.
    "The founder of Randox Laboratories is Peter FitzGerald, a polo-playing multimillionaire Northern Irish doctor who is the UK’s 475th richest person with a £255m personal fortune, according to the Sunday Times rich list.
    "Matt Hancock’s department awarded the contract last month under fast-track arrangements that enable public bodies dealing with the pandemic to give contracts to commercial companies quickly without the need to ask other firms to bid for them."

  • Most oppose FoI restrictions during lockdown, poll finds Journalism website Hold the Front Page May 11 on a threat to limit access to information in Scotland:
    "The majority of people oppose an extension of Freedom of Information request deadlines during the coronavirus crisis, a new poll has found.
    "The Survation poll for the Open Knowledge Foundation found 52pc of respondents believe that “restricting the public’s right to information is an unnecessary measure”.
    "The responses were given from those polled across the United Kingdom when asked about new timescales set by the Scottish government for replying to FoI requests.
    "In Scotland the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill has extended the response deadline to FoI requests from 20 to 60 days with a potential further extension of 40 days."

  • Plans for post Covid NHS hatched behind the lockdown Lowdown article May 11 reveals leaked correspondence on plans by NHS England at least in London to frame and rush through fundamental changes to NHS after the Covid crisis with minimal if any public consultation:
    "a letter from NHS England’s London Regional Director Sir David Sloman, sent out internally on April 29 but not published, requir[ed] Integrated Care System Chairs and Senior Responsible Officers to take “urgent action” on system plans for London that “fundamentally change the way we deliver health and care.”
    "Each ICS is ordered to supply a “revised ICS plan” by Monday May 11. The letter spells out a 12-point list of issues on which bureaucrats in each area are supposed to devise new policy, on the hoof, for a “Recovery Board” meeting on May 13."

  • New guidance launched to help get Brits safely back to work Official May 11 guidance aimed at getting people back to work, claims:
    "Practical guidelines published today to make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during coronavirus pandemic
    "Documents developed in consultation with approximately 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations
    "Up to an extra £14 million made available for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment"
    but in fact HSE budget has been slashed by over £100m per year since 2010, when it received £230m. In 2019 it received just £126m. That is a huge real-term cut and neglect of workplace safety: £14m nowhere near enough to put back what has been lost.

  • Government must set out better testing strategy to help UK exit lockdown, says laboratories chief Independent May 9 flags up the chaotic creation of a parallel system of "super-labs": "The government’s arbitrary target of increasing coronavirus testing to 200,000 a day is fuelling a “wild west” of diagnostics without a focus on the longer-term strategy needed to help the UK exit lockdown, the head of Britain’s biomedical science body has warned.
    "Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), told The Independent the “political dogma” driving decisions on the next phase of testing for Covid-19 was causing frustration among NHS laboratories.
    "He said the industry wanted to see a more considered approach than the “first come, first served” system in place at the moment with NHS laboratories competing with the government’s hastily set up Lighthouse Labs – three mega-labs in Milton Keynes, Cheshire and Glasgow with the capacity to do tens of thousands of tests a day."

  • NHS staff asked to make 390-mile trip to have coronavirus tests - despite testing units in Durham Chronicle Live report May 9 from the North east: "The Government has been slammed after key workers were offered coronavirus tests that would force them to make a 390-mile round trip ,it is claimed.
    "Three mobile testing units have visited County Durham - but the Government has come under fire for the “poor performance” of its national website for booking test appointments by a Durham county councillor.
    "Councillor Lucy Hovvels, Cabinet member for adult and health services chairwoman of the County Durham Health and Well-being Board, has written to the Health Secretary to ask for the issues to be looked at with “extreme urgency”.
    "She [said] testing sites not being listed, appointments as far as Perth being offered, and the length of time to make a booking have been raised as concerns has led to a 75% drop in the number of tests being carried out in the area."

  • 50,000 coronavirus tests secretly flown to the US after UK lab issues Signs the Torygraph has begun to lose patients with government incompetence in May 9 report: “Britain has been secretly flying tens of thousands of coronavirus tests to America as it struggles to lift the daily testing rate over 100,000 a day in the UK, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
    “The Department of Health admitted last night that 50,000 test samples were sent to the US last week as problems were reported in laboratories in the UK. The samples were airlifted across the Atlantic in chartered flights from Stansted airport.
    “The Government insisted that "all results will be returned to patients as quickly as possible".
    “The UK has failed to hit the hundred thousand a day target for testing for each of the past seven days, and only hit the 100,000 a day target by the end of last month by mailing 40,000 testing kits to people at home.
    “The Government admitted on Thursday that there had been a problem in a lab in Northern Ireland, but made no reference to shipping tens of thousands of tests to America.”

  • 'That's not fair - give me a break': Matt Hancock pleads with PM in bust-up over Health Secretary's handling of Covid crisis as No 10 unveils new 'stay alert' slogan and five-stage threat level system Daily Heil reveals tensions between Tories in May 9 report: “Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Boris Johnson to ‘give me a break’ in a furious bust-up over the coronavirus crisis.
    “The row – which raises questions over the beleaguered Minister’s Cabinet future – can be revealed as the Prime Minister prepares to use a televised address to the nation this evening to set out his roadmap for easing the national lockdown.
    “…Pressure intensified on Mr Hancock over his handling of the crisis last night after more than 25 million goggles were found to offer frontline NHS workers inadequate defence against the deadly virus.
    “The latest in a string of embarrassing Government failures over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) came as senior sources suggested to The Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock was now living ‘on borrowed time’ in the Cabinet.
    “One source claimed Boris Johnson had raised questions with Mr Hancock about his department’s grip on the crisis, only for the Minister to plead: ‘That’s not fair – give me a break.’”

  • NHS nurse quits London hospital after six weeks without hand gel or masks Mirror report May 9: "A nurse on the coronavirus front line has quit claiming her hospital failed to provide adequate PPE, leaving her too scared to work.
    "Laura Demmen – who has a son aged five – said she walked out after weeks working without hand gel, a face mask or gloves as the pandemic gathered pace.
    "She said when Covid-19 patients were first moved to intensive care, which shared a door with Laura’s ward, there was still no hand gel by her ward’s beds, or face masks for staff."

  • In the era of Covid-19 healthcare should be universal and free Rob Yates May 9 in South Africa's Mail & Guardian: "Covid-19 is, therefore, perhaps the ultimate example of why we need universal health coverage ― if anyone is left out, it threatens the health security of everyone.
    "If the objective is to guarantee universal access to healthcare, it is vital to eliminate barriers that inhibit people accessing services and one obvious place to start is to remove financial barriers ― services should be publicly financed and provided free of charge.
    "Worldwide, it has been shown that healthcare-user fees dramatically reduce demand for health services ― especially preventive services, because people may not perceive that they need interventions. For example, when a $0.30 charge for preventive deworming medicines was introduced for school children in Kenya, demand fell 80%. Conversely, when countries have removed user fees, for example when the United Kingdom launched its National Health Service in 1948, they have witnessed huge increases in demand for services."

  • Hundreds more care homes report outbreaks in just one week Independent May 8: "Coronavirus continues to spread in care homes across England with more than 600 new homes reporting an outbreak in just seven days, new data has revealed.
    "The government is coming under increasing pressure over its support for vulnerable and elderly people in residential homes after more than a dozen documents from the government’s scientific advisory committee, Sage, failed to show any consideration of the challenges faced by care providers, or how to support them in the run-up to the UK entering lockdown.
    "The documents, which date back to the beginning of the crisis earlier this year, discuss at length the risks to the NHS and the lack of hospital beds as well as the need to introduce social distancing measures. But there is no detailed assessment of what should be done for care homes."

  • Deaths in mental health hospitals double as Covid-19 spreads Independent May 8 report: "Deaths in mental health hospitals have doubled compared with last year – with 54 fatalities linked to coronavirus since March began.
    "Mental health hospitals have now been warned by the care watchdog that they must take action to protect vulnerable patients.
    "The Care Quality Commission regulator said 106 deaths were recorded in mental health hospitals between 1 March and 1 May, compared with 51 over the same period in 2019.
    "Fifty-four of these deaths are from confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections.
    "The CQC has now written to all mental health hospital providers highlighting its fears over the spread of the virus in secure hospitals and units, and to patients who are under Mental Health Act restrictions in the community."

  • Public health directors in England are asked to take charge of Covid-19 testing Guardian May 8 report: "Ministers have asked local directors of public health to take charge of Covid-19 testing in English care homes in what will be seen as a tacit admission that centralised attempts to run the programme have fallen short.
    "In a letter to sector leaders, seen by the Guardian, the care minister, Helen Whately, acknowledged that testing of care home residents and staff needs to be “more joined up”. She describes the new arrangements as “a significant change”.
    "Under the new approach, public health directors employed by local councils will take lead responsibility for arranging the testing of some 400,000 care home residents and 500,000 staff, in discussion with directors of adult social services, local NHS bodies and regional directors of Public Health England (PHE)."

  • We care workers face a terrible decision: risk people's lives or go without pay Anonymous Guardian Opinion column from a care worker May 8 reveals the horrific under-resourcing of social care: “Like many care workers in the UK, I’m on a zero-hours contract. My hours plummeted to between four and eight a week, amounting to less than the £95 a week we can get from statutory sick pay, and definitely not enough to live on.
    “Though my manager reassured me there would be more hours, there weren’t – and he refused to furlough me in case there were staff shortages later on.
    Work became increasingly stressful. Our team of carers had to make boxes of gloves last as long as possible. Face masks or visors were out of the question, and hand sanitiser quickly ran out.
    “We continued as if it were business as usual. One client was discharged from hospital with pneumonia (she hadn’t been tested for coronavirus as it was still early in the pandemic). I was instructed to carry on her calls as normal – taking her out to get shopping and fresh air – despite government advice about social distancing.”

  • Creeping NHS privatisation is hampering our Covid-19 response Guardian letters May 8 highlight the damaging proliferation of private contracts that are undermining the response to Covid-19

  • UK scientists condemn 'Stalinist' attempt to censor Covid-19 advice Guardian May 8: “Government scientific advisers are furious at what they see as an attempt to censor their advice on government proposals during the Covid-19 lockdown by heavily redacting an official report before it was released to the public, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The report was one of a series of documents published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) this week to mollify growing criticism about the lack of transparency over the advice given to ministers responding to the coronavirus.
    “However, large blocks of text in the report, produced by SPI-B, the Sage subcommittee providing advice from behavioural scientists on how the public might respond to lockdown measures, were entirely blanked out.
    “Several SPI–B members told the Guardian that the redacted portions of the document contained criticisms they had made of potential government policies they had been formally asked to consider in late March and early April. One SPI-B adviser said: “It is bloody silly, and completely counterproductive.” A second committee member said: “The impression I’m getting is this government doesn’t want any criticism.”

  • Coronavirus latest: NHS start building second Covid-19 contact tracing app with Apple and Google after MPs raise ethical issues i-news May 8 reports: "A second smartphone app to trace the spread of Covid-19 is being produced after the first app launched on the Isle of Wight this week presented technological issues and sparked ethical debate.
    "Built by the NHS, the new application will instead incorporate technology provided by Google and Apple that is more compatible with the most commonly used smartphones."

  • Boris Johnson Is Using Scientists As Human Shields May 8 comment from Huffington [post: "The Neil Ferguson story had everything. There was sex, hypocrisy and a “married lover”. At a time when pubs are closed and the football is cancelled, the solid British tradition of a good old public shaming remains comfortingly accessible. But the most interesting element was not the revelation that scientists are in fact fallible human beings like the rest of us. It was the reaction of the media, which used the story to distract us from the real news: that the UK now had the worst death toll in Europe. This story wasn’t about a scientist’s hypocrisy: it was about deflecting from the government’s failure."

  • Revealed: the secret report that gave ministers warning of care home coronavirus crisis Guardian May 7 on the findings from the Cygnus exercise that were ignored: “A secret government report that said the UK was not prepared for a pandemic and forewarned of the Covid-19 crisis in care homes is being published by the Guardian.
    “The report is based on the findings of a government simulation of an influenza pandemic, codenamed Exercise Cygnus. It concluded starkly that Britain was not adequately prepared for a flu-like pandemic’s “extreme demands”. The 2017 report is likely to raise questions over whether ministers ever implemented key recommendations pertaining to the care home sector.
    “It contained 26 key recommendations, including boosting the capacity of care homes and the numbers of staff available to work in them. It also warned of the challenge facing homes asked to take in patients from hospitals.”

  • The Guardian view on BAME death rates: inequality and injustice Guardian May 7 Editorial: “The disproportionately high toll of BAME people was already evident, notably among medical staff: a review of just over a hundred NHS staff who died found that almost two-thirds were black or Asian, though those groups account for less than one in seven workers in the health service. It is all the more striking, given that age is one of the biggest risk factors and the over-65s comprise only one in 20 of the BAME population, compared with almost one in five of the white population.
    “The reasons are complex, interlocking and not yet fully understood. Geography has doubtless played its part; urban dwellers have been worse hit. The prevalence of underlying conditions such as diabetes vary markedly between communities. But health is intimately tied to economic wellbeing. It cannot be divorced from other considerations. We know that, in general, the poor die younger. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups, and are much more likely to live in overcrowded conditions.
    “Even stripping out such factors, the ONS figures show black people are still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death, with Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian individuals also disproportionately affected.”

  • UK may ditch NHS contact-tracing app for Apple and Google model Guardian May 7: "The government has left open the prospect of ditching its own contact-tracing app in favour of the “decentralised” model favoured by Apple and Google after it was revealed that a feasibility study into such a change is under way.
    "After repeated warnings that the UK will be an outlier if it insists on using its own centralised app rather than relying on Google and Apple’s technology, rights groups and MPs said on Thursday that the lack of privacy and data protections could mean that the app would be illegal.
    "With growing questions over that approach, it emerged that the Swiss-based consultancy Zühlke Engineering has been hired to undertake a two-week “technical spike” to investigate implementing Apple and Google’s system “within the existing proximity mobile application and platform”."

  • ‘I’m furious’: Failing care homes are the real coronavirus scandal Hard hitting May 7 Wired report: “The week before prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown, Rachel Beckett decided to take matters into her own hands. As chairman of Wellburn Care Homes, she worried the virus could seep into one of her 14 locations across northeast England. Beckett stopped hiring agency workers – fearing they could unknowingly carry and spread the virus as they work between multiple locations – closed all homes to visitors and refused to admit any discharged hospital patients, unless they tested negative for coronavirus.
    “And then, three weeks into the self-imposed lockdown, the inevitable happened. Two residents tested positive and four more showed symptoms of Covid-19.
    “After Public Health England refused to supply tests for the residents in the home, Beckett went to the shops to buy two trolleys full of toiletries, camp beds and sleeping bags for her staff, who moved on site. “Five weeks ago, I would say, we were very much on our own,” she says.
    “Even after three more homes were hit by coronavirus outbreaks and testing kits were finally sent out to them, hospitals refused to take in some of the residents who tested positive. “As a sector we support hospitals because we take admissions from the hospitals to relieve their beds, yet they were just not working with us,” says Beckett.
    “She argues that there has generally been little guidance from government and social care regulators on how to protect elderly residents from coronavirus.”

  • Boris Johnson doubles coronavirus testing target to 200,000 per day by end of May Independent May 6 on an even more unattainable target and even emptier promise from PM Johnson: “Returning to the House of Commons for the first time since his recovery from coronavirus, Mr Johnson confirmed that he will set out his roadmap out of lockdown in an address to the nation on Sunday, when he is expected to announce some easing of social distancing restrictions.
    “And he said it was now the government's "ambition" to hit 200,000 tests by the end of May and go beyond that at a later date. Although his announcement was a significant increase on Mr Hancock's earlier commitment, it still fell short of the PM's own promise as long ago as 25 March that test numbers would "very soon" reach 250,000.”

  • Coronavirus testing restricted across London after chemical shortages, as Boris Johnson announces even bigger target Independent May 6: “Widespread testing for coronavirus has been suspended among staff and patients at hospitals and GP practices serving 3.5 million people because of a shortage of vital chemicals.
    “On the day Boris Johnson unveiled a new target of 200,000 Covid-19 tests a day by the end of May (before backtracking and clarifying it was a target of capacity, not testing), pathology services in south London – including four major hospitals and hundreds of doctors’ surgeries – have been forced to impose restrictions on testing both in hospitals and in the community.
    “And the head of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, warned that the government’s crude targets were putting hospitals across the country at risk of the same shortages, as testing was aimed at high overall numbers rather than where need was greatest.
    “A leaked email to NHS staff from the South West London Pathology Partnership has confirmed only patients and staff who show symptoms will now be tested for Covid-19 after the labs, based at St George’s Hospital, were unable to source enough of the chemical reagents needed for the tests.”

  • Accurate accounting is part of honouring the dead Powerful comment from Keep Our NHS Public May 6: "Accurate accounting is part of honouring the dead: the Government should start with transparency and humility
    "The UK looks on course to be one of the worst affected countries in Europe with respect to deaths from coronavirus. While this should prompt careful and critical examination of how the Government has handled the crisis, we can already see an attempt to obscure the reality that too little was done too late.
    "Prime Minister Johnson has referred to our “success” in responding to the pandemic as part of constructing a narrative that diverts attention away from his own incompetence. This was too much even for some of the right-wing press. There is also plenty of scope to muddy the waters in terms of the scale of the disaster."

  • Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list The Eastern Daily Press May 6 on the latest screw up by Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust: “The region’s mental health service has apologised after sending a letter to more than 300 young people telling them they were taking them off the waiting list because of coronavirus. The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted today it never should have sent the letter.
    “It read that patients would no longer be getting any more appointments and told them that their referrals had been closed. The letter said that because of coronavirus “our service is not able to support everybody in the way that it used to”. Instead it offered them a phone call to get advice.
    “A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “The coronavirus crisis is a reason to put people on mental health waiting lists, not take them off them.”

  • Child mental health was in crisis before Covid-19. We can't go back to 'normal' Guardian May 6: “When the coronavirus curve starts to flatten, what will become of the mental health curve that was snowballing pre-Covid 19 as a consequence of psychosocial upheaval and austerity?
    “The large child and adolescent mental health services team I work for has been running waiting lists of a number of months for a first appointment, and then equally long waits for specialist therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or art therapy. Trying to absorb dozens of referrals a week, many of which are highly complex, is a truly Sisyphean task.
    “Post-lockdown referral rates have, however, plummeted. Teenagers who would have previously overdosed and presented at A&E are avoiding hospital; parents queue for hours to get a consultation with their GP or don’t contact them at all.
    “Referrals from schools are currently zero. What a wonderful time to catch up and get our waiting lists down.”

  • Care homes still expected to take Covid-19 hospital patients as deaths mount Independent report May 5: “Hospitals are continuing to discharge patients infected with Covid-19 into Britain’s struggling care homes, despite new figures showing deaths in the care sector still rising while those in hospitals are falling.
    “Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean revealed the government was now seriously concerned about the scale of the outbreak in care homes. She said the number of deaths was now almost half of those in hospitals adding: “There is a real issue that we need to get to grips with.”
    “The latest statistics show 5,890 care home residents died in the week ending 24 April, an increase of 2,500 compared to the week before, according to the Office for National Statistics. The ONS said the total number of deaths in care homes increased 8 per cent on the previous week.”

  • The Comforting and Misleading Political Response to Britain’s Coronavirus Disaster New Yorker comment May 5: "The Department of Health continues to describe Britain as “one of the most prepared countries in the world for pandemics.” And yet. In the weeks after December 30th, last year, when Chinese officials first informed the World Health Organization of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the U.K. made no striking plans to respond. Even as the virus tore through Northern Italy, and the British authorities had a chance to see, at relatively close quarters, what covid-19 could do to a prosperous European society, they dithered. Countries such as Germany, South Korea, and Singapore, which have responded well to the virus, all appear to have followed a similar playbook of mass testing, contact tracing, and collective vigilance. Each nation that has failed is more likely to have its own particular story of what went wrong."

  • In shielding its hospitals from COVID-19, Britain left many of the weakest exposed Strong research report on care homes from Reuters May 5: Even as the government was promising to protect the elderly and vulnerable from the deadly virus, local councils say they didn’t have the tools to carry out the plan, and were often given just hours to implement new government instructions.
    "Policies designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed pushed a greater burden onto care homes. With hospitals given priority by the government, care homes struggled to get access to tests and protective equipment. The elderly were also put at potentially greater risk by measures to admit only the sickest for hospital treatment and to clear out as many non-acute patients as possible from wards. These findings are based on documents from government agencies seen by Reuters, interviews with five leaders of local authorities and eight care home managers."

  • Coronavirus has exposed the dangerous failings of NHS marketisation May 5 comment by Dave McCoy in the Guardian: "“Though it’s too early to judge how successful different countries have been in managing this pandemic, it’s hard to escape the view that the UK has failed in several respects. The government muddled its initial epidemic control strategy and was slow to roll out testing and contact tracing. Shortages in PPE may have contributed to the tragic deaths of frontline health workers. And measures to shield the vulnerable in care and residential homes have been inadequate.
    “These failings aren’t just the result of recent decisions – in England they’re also symptoms of structural weaknesses in the health system, many of which can be traced back to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.”

  • Hospitals could be blamed for NHS staff deaths as coroners barred from investigating government failings Independent May 4: "“While coroners will be barred from looking at national policies and decision-making around shortages of protective equipment, the chief coroner has insisted they will still be able to investigate the deaths of health workers who may have contracted Covid-19 due to inadequate local supplies.
    “The Doctors’ Association UK has warned the situation could mean local managers are held “accountable for a situation out of their control”.
    “NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, who represents local NHS organisations, told The Independent the wider context of the situation that hospitals were operating in needed to be considered.”

  • Plan to use private firm at centre of outsourcing scandal to run contact tracing attacked Independent May 4: “A plan to use a private firm at the centre of an outsourcing scandal to help run the ‘test-and-trace’ system crucial to curbing Covid-19 has drawn criticism.
    “Labour hit out at ministers after it emerged that Serco – and probably other giant contractors such as G4S – will carry out most of the contact tracing work, by recruiting 15,000 call centre staff.
    “They will be given only about one day’s training in the principles of contact tracing, The Times reported, stating Serco was in “advanced talks”.
    “Last year, the outsourcing giant was fined £19.2m by the Serious Fraud Office as part of a settlement over an electronic tagging scandal, also paying £3.7m in costs. Both Serco and G4S were accused of charging the government for electronically monitoring people who were either dead, in jail, or had left the country.”

  • UK government 'using pandemic to transfer NHS duties to private sector' Hard hitting Guardian report May 4: “Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation.
    “They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector.
    “In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.
    “Deloitte, KPMG, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots and the US data mining group Palantir have secured taxpayer-funded commissions to manage Covid-19 drive-in testing centres, the purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the building of Nightingale hospitals.”

  • Ministers under fire as Covid-19 testing drops back below 100,000 daily target May 4 Guardian report: “On Friday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the government’s target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 tests provided on the last day of the month – though it emerged that a third had not been carried out.
    “Since then, the number of tests per day dropped by more than 40,000, with 76,496 delivered in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday.
    “… Earlier, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, admitted that more lives could have been saved if the UK had been able to test on a large scale at an earlier date.”

  • UK behind most European states in tackling coronavirus, says EU agency Guardian may 4 report: “Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), suggested on Monday that the UK had yet to progress as far as the majority of European countries in tackling the disease.
    “In evidence to the European parliament’s committee on public health, Ammon said Europe as a whole appeared to have passed the peak of infections on Saturday, with only Bulgaria still experiencing an increase in cases of infection.
    “But she told MEPs that the UK, along with Poland, Romania and Sweden, stood out as showing “no substantial changes in the last 14 days”.
    “All the others, we really see this substantial decrease,” Ammon said of the cumulative incidence rate, which provides a measure of the prevalence of active cases in the population. She did not offer any explanation of the differences.”

  • The U.K. Needs a Real Government, Not Boris Johnson’s Puppet Cabinet May 4 comment in New York Times: “LONDON — On the day a paler, thinner, notably less boisterous Boris Johnson returned to work after his near-death coronavirus experience, a Tory member of Parliament tweeted a GIF of a magnificent lion perched on a mountaintop, his mane blowing in the wind. “Good to see @BorisJohnson back at the helm!” he wrote.
    “This fawning sycophancy is not the norm in British politics. We haven’t, on the whole, run Trumpian courts, or implied that our prime ministers are kings among men. And yet, unusual and unwelcome as the adulation was, the tweeter had a point.
    “Mr. Johnson’s cabinet is so markedly weak, with so few politicians of intellect and experience, that the prime minister’s absence for nearly a month left an alarming void. A shifting cast of ministers stood in for him at the daily pandemic press briefings, with performances ranging from mortifying to faltering or defensive to occasionally, thankfully, competent.
    “The lack of depth in the cast around this cabinet table was mercilessly displayed, as was the nervousness of many of those obliged to face public interrogation at such a critical time.”

  • Coronavirus fears leading families to remove relatives from UK care homes Guardian May 4: “The devastating spread of the coronavirus among care homes has led to a growing number of families seeking legal advice about bringing their relatives home, the Guardian has learned.
    “One law firm said it had received at least 10 calls a week from families wanting to overturn guidance that prevents them from withdrawing their loved ones.
    “Advice lines said they had also seen a small but growing number of calls from those experiencing what one lawyer called a new “fear factor … the fear that coronavirus will sweep through the care home and everyone will die”.
    “Recorded care home deaths from Covid-19 have been running at around 2,400 per week. When Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK has passed the peak of the pandemic and he could see a light at the end of the tunnel, care networks hit back, saying this was not true in care homes.”

  • Britons may be unable to travel abroad because of UK failure to join international tracing app system May 4 warning from Telegraph: "The UK launched its app to trace coronavirus on Monday but was immediately warned that failure to join an international system could hamper Britons' attempts to take foreign holidays.
    "The smartphone app, which begins testing on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, will work on a different method of contact tracing to that being used in a system developed by Apple and Google and already in use in countries including Germany and Switzerland.
    "The two operating systems are not compatible, leading to fears that, if contact tracing becomes mandatory for travel, Britons will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in a country. "

  • Britain On Track For Highest Health Worker Deaths IN EUROPE May 4 investigation by Byline Times: "“The media is awash with graphs looking at COVID-19 deaths by country and the general consensus is that the UK is heading for the highest death toll in Europe as we are at least two weeks behind Italy. But so far there haven’t been comparisons of health worker deaths by country.
    “Byline Times has partnered with Nursing Notes to report weekly on the tragic deaths of both Health and Care workers in the UK. Today the total who have sadly lost their lives helping COVID-19 patients and care home residents has risen to 171.
    “…Why did health workers in Italy and the UK pay such a higher price than in Spain and France, or indeed Germany where no deaths were recorded.”

  • Almost half of doctors have sourced their own PPE or relied on donations Sky News May 3: “Almost half of doctors have had to source their own personal protective equipment or have relied on donations, according to a survey.
    “More than 16,000 doctors were asked about the supply of PPE amid continued claims of shortages for health workers treating COVID-19 patients.
    “Forty-eight percent of doctors said they had bought PPE for themselves or their department, or they had used donations from a charity or local business.
    “Fifty-five percent of GPs said they had done this, compared to 38% of hospital doctors.”

  • A ‘tsunami’ of coronavirus survivors could overwhelm NHS rehabilitation services, experts warn Independent May 3: “Coronavirus can leave patients with lasting physical damage and scarring to their lungs, meaning many could struggle to breathe and move around as well as they did before – in some cases permanently.
    “Patients admitted to intensive care can also suffer physical effects of being paralysed weeks and almost half who are ventilated with a tube in their windpipe will experience a form of delirium that can include terrifying hallucinations and leave survivors with lasting mental problems including post-traumatic stress.
    “Experts have warned a long-term lack of funding of NHS rehabilitation services and post-discharge care for ITU patients means the health service will struggle to help the thousands of patients who beat the virus but face a long road to recovery.”

  • Top scientists set up ‘shadow’ SAGE committee to advise government amid concerns over political interference Independent May 3: "Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser, has assembled a group of independent experts to look at how the UK could work its way out of the coronavirus lockdown.
    "He said the 12-strong committee had been created “in response to concerns over the lack of transparency” from Sage.
    "The body, which will hold its first press conference on Monday, will focus on seven key points, including how testing and tracing can work, and the future of social distancing."

  • 'Biggest failure in a generation': Where did Britain go wrong? Hard hitting view of UK response to Covid from Sydney Morning Herald May 3: “a growing chorus of health experts, MPs and members of the public … think Britain's response to the crisis has suffered from a series of deadly mistakes and miscalculations.
    “The charges focus on four areas: that healthcare workers struggled to access personal protective equipment, that Britain was too slow to implement a lockdown, that it bungled testing, and that vulnerable care home residents were not properly protected.
    “Downing Street and key ministers such as Hancock have been reluctant to concede many errors, although their tone has shifted over recent days as the official death toll hit 28,446, one of the highest in the world and well above the 20,000 figure Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance once said the government hoped to not exceed.
    “Says Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an adviser to the World Health Organisation: "The countries that moved fast have curtailed the epidemic. The countries that delayed have not. It's as simple as that."

  • Unions angry after pay talks for Cornish carers deferred due to coronavirus Union News May 2 reports: "GMB, UNISON and Unite said the announcement by Cornwall Council-owned Corserv to defer talks until September contrasts poorly with neighbouring Devon which has awarded its care workforce a pay rise from this April.
    "The Cornish workforce are key workers such as qualified care staff caring for elderly and isolated vulnerable people in their own homes and also looking after people who have had Covid-19 being discharged from hospital to newly opened ‘isolation units’ in the community where they are recovering. Fire and rescue services are also employed within Corserv, as are those in social housing and road maintenance."

  • Clapping the NHS is all very well, but with my sister on the frontline, I need to speak up May 2 Comment from Guardian's Hadley Freeman: "anyone with a brain can see that this is a scandal unfolding in real time, and that where the government neglected one public sector, it is now neglecting another.
    "Some 179 British servicemen were killed in the invasion of Iraq; we have already lost more than half that in the NHS – and doctors, unlike soldiers, are not called upon to risk death to do their job.
    "Already the letters pages of newspapers are filled with messages from desperate families, terrified for relatives who went into healthcare in order to help others. And it’s up to the families – us, me – to speak for them, given that NHS workers are being warned by their employers not to speak to the media."

  • UK seeks access to EU health cooperation in light of coronavirus May 2 Guardian report: "The UK is seeking “something akin to membership” of the EU’s early warning and response system (EWRS), which has played a critical role in coordinating Europe’s response to the coronavirus, as well as to earlier pandemics such as bird flu. According to an EU source, this would be “pretty much the same” as membership of the system.
    "The government’s enthusiasm in the privacy of the negotiating room contrasts with noncommittal public statements. Detailed negotiating objectives published in February merely stated that the UK was “open to exploring cooperation between the UK and EU in other specific and narrowly defined areas where this is in the interest of both sides, for example on matters of health security”."

  • Coronavirus testing: Government accused of ‘misleading the public’ amid criticism over figures Independent sums up May 2: "The government has been accused of “misleading the public” over the number of people being tested for coronavirus, amid claims that ministers have “massaged” figures to make it look like targets have been met.
    "On Friday, the health secretary claimed that he had met his target of testing 100,000 people a day before the end of April, but significant discrepancies have emerged in the figures.
    "Matt Hancock had said 122,347 tests were performed in the 24 hours up to 9am on Friday, but a closer look at the figures revealed that many of the claimed tests counted had in fact not actually been completed yet.
    "The government had counted the posting of 27,497 home testing kits to households around the deadline as tests being carried out in the total, as well as 12,872 testing kits delivered to satellite locations – boosting its final day total by more than 40,000.
    "The change partly explains why the government claimed the 100,000 tests target had been met on the final day despite only 52,000 tests a day being carried out as of Tuesday and making very slow progress in the course of the month."

  • Lack of PPE caused death of care home nurse who contracted Covid-19, says son Independent May 2: "The son of a care home nurse who died after testing positive for Covid-19 has said in an online tribute that a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) caused his mother’s death.
    "Ian O’Neal described his mother Suzanne Loverseed as a “lioness” who gave everything to protect her children and died “sacrificing herself for others”.
    "He said his family was forced to say goodbye to her via an iPad. “I cannot bring myself to recount the trauma of what we have been through, even though it will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Mr O’Neal wrote in a blog post.
    “But I will say this: there are some people out there still urging that the virus is not that threatening, or that the government has overreacted, or that it doesn’t matter if a few oldies die. They are mistaken.”

  • NHS doctor: Forget medals and flypasts – what we want is proper pay and PPE Rachel Clarke in Guardian May 2: "doctors, nurses and carers are not typically members of the armed forces.
    "We signed up to save lives – not, if necessary, to kill. And the increasingly bombastic proposals for honouring our “sacrifice” are beginning to feel more burdensome than uplifting.
    "Alongside last week’s minute of silence to remember the frontline staff who have died so far of Covid-19, for example, at least three national newspapers are campaigning for all NHS staff to be awarded a medal for our bravery in “fighting” the virus. Medals, I imagine, are a matter of glory.
    "But right now, my needs are frankly more prosaic. What I crave is sufficient masks and gowns."

  • Care home provider HC-One sounds alarm over £265m loans Telegraph May 2: "Britain’s largest care home provider has sounded the alarm over its ability to carry its debt burden as it warned of the blow to its finances from the pandemic.
    "HC-One is at risk of breaching the terms on loans worth more than £265m agreed with a group of lenders including Citi. The care home giant, which has lost nearly 500 people to confirmed or suspected coronavirus, could be forced to ask lenders to waive its debt covenants or to defer its payments.
    "HC-One is at the centre of concerns over mounting levels of debt in the social care sector, whose finances have come under strain from the spiralling cost of buying more protective masks, gloves and aprons. "

  • Coronavirus: Which regions have been worst hit? BBC May 1: "The number of people killed by coronavirus in London in the four weeks to 17 April has narrowly surpassed the number of civilians killed during the worst four-week period of aerial bombing of the city during the Blitz in World War Two.
    "Figures held in the National Archives, and collated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, show that 4,677 people were killed during the Blitz and buried in London cemeteries in the 28 days to 4 October 1940.
    "Registered deaths in London attributed to Covid-19, in the four weeks to 17 April this year, have now reached 4,697 according to a BBC count based on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)."

  • Coronavirus set to re-emerge in society through care homes, warns NHS chief Independent May 1: "In a private online briefing for hundreds of NHS chiefs on Thursday, Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s senior incident director for coronavirus, said there had been a “shift in the recognition” of the extent of coronavirus now spreading between patients and staff in care homes.
    "He said the proportion of care-home residents dying had increased from a quarter to 30 per cent, adding: “The expectation is that for the next few weeks … those care homes will be the epicentres of transmission back into society and feeding the endemic problem that we will have going forward.”
    "His comments come amid growing criticism that the NHS may have introduced the virus into care homes earlier in the epidemic when homes were told they had to take Covid-19 patients from hospitals to help free up beds on wards."

  • Modification notice: EHC [education, health and care] plans – legislation changes Government notice confirming a new round of institutional government discrimination against children and young people with special edicational needs. As of 1 May, children and young people with EHC Plans no longer have a right to all the provision set out in those plans. LAs / CCGs only have to use ‘reasonable endeavors’ to secure the provision

  • Coronavirus death rates twice as high in more deprived areas, new figures show Independent May 1 report on latest ONS figures which show inequalities in patterns of mortality: "Death rates from coronavirus in the most deprived parts of England are more than double than in less deprived areas, according to new figures that show London is the worst-hit part of the country.
    "The mortality rate for the most deprived areas for March and early April was 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population – compared with 25.3 deaths per 100,000 in the least deprived areas, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
    "The statistics show London has by far the highest mortality rate, with 85.7 deaths per 100,000 persons. This was found to be “statistically significantly higher” than any other region – almost double the next highest rate.
    “By mid-April, the region with the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 was London, with the virus being involved in more than 4 in 10 deaths since the start of March,” said Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS."

  • Coronavirus: Black African Brits dying at 3.5 times rate of white people, study finds Independent May 1: "Britons from black African backgrounds are dying from coronavirus at more than three times the rate of white people, an alarming study concluded on Friday.
    "Pakistani deaths are almost as disproportionate at 2.7 times higher, while fatalities among people of black Caribbean origin are 1.7 times greater, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.
    "The research rejects demographic differences as the reason for the higher death toll – pointing out most ethnic minority groups are much younger than the white British population, so could be expected to survive in higher numbers.
    "But it may be partially explained by more black and Asian people being in “key worker” roles, while health conditions such as diabetes may also “be important”."

  • The UK carried out 122,000 coronavirus tests on the last day of April, passing the government's target Naive and uncritical BBC headline puffs up government spin, on a claim that has been almost instantly refuted. Indeed even a few paragraphs in to the NNC story it reveals the fiddle, with 40,000 tests sent out but not carried out:
    "Of the 122,347 tests provided in the 24 hours up to Friday morning, the number of people tested was fewer - at just over 70,000 - as has been the case since the testing programme began. This is because some people need to be tested more than once to get a reliable result.
    "The total testing figure includes 27,497 kits which were delivered to people's homes and also 12,872 tests that were sent out to centres such as hospitals and NHS sites.
    "However, these may not have been actually used or sent back to a lab."

  • Obesity dangers make Covid-19 a rebuke to unequal societies Financial Times May 1 article notes:
    "“We urgently need to understand the connections between these conditions and Covid-19. In France, the US and UK, figures suggest that patients who are overweight are at significantly greater risk. In New York City, a study of 4,000 Covid-19 patients found that obesity is the second strongest predictor, after their age, of whether someone over 60 will need critical care.
    “… A second New York study says that being overweight is the main driver of whether younger people will be hospitalised with Covid-19. Patients under 60, the researchers found, are twice as likely to need intensive care if they have a body mass index over 30, and 3.6 times more likely to need it with a BMI over 35. Once in ICU, we must remember, survival odds are tragically only 50:50.”

  • Government counts mailouts to hit 100,000 testing target HSJ May 1 article lifts the lid on the fiddles needed to claim 100,000 tests by April 30.

  • How poor planning left the UK without enough PPE Another hard hitting, detailed report from the Financial Times, May 1, which points out that government twists, turns and lies brought total confusion:
    "“Behind the scenes, some hospital procurement chiefs moved unilaterally to protect their staff and began “parallel sourcing”, having lost confidence in the Health Department’s central procurement operation.
    “The result has been confusion, according to one person with a ringside view of the process: “The NHS central team don’t know what the NHS hospitals are doing. The [Cabinet Office] team don’t know what the NHS are doing and the army — brought in to help with logistics — are pulling their hair out.”

  • Revealed: NHS procurement official privately selling PPE amid Covid-19 outbreak Guardian May 1 reveals moonlighting and profiteering as another factor in the ongoing scandalous failure to deliver adequate NHS supplies of PPE.
    "A head of procurement for the NHS has set up a business to profit from the private sale of huge quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, an undercover investigation by the Guardian can reveal.
    "David Singleton, 42, a senior NHS official in London who has been working at the capital’s Covid-19 Nightingale hospital, launched the business two weeks ago to trade in visors, masks and gowns."

  • Breathless bullsh*tter Boris can boast about his ‘successful' coronavirus war all he wants, but Britain’s horrendous death toll tells the real shameful story Daily Mail May 1: Yes, the Daily Heil gives prominence to a born-again Piers Morgan tearing strips off the Prime Minister's record on Covid-19:
    "Going full Julie Andrews, Boris assured us that though it’s been like coming through ‘some huge alpine tunnel’, we’ll soon be seeing sunlight and pastures again!
    "Oh, and he wanted us to know ‘we are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day’!
    "Wow, this all sounded fantastic.
    "It also sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t."

  • Black African Brits dying at 3.5 times rate of white people, study finds Independet May 1 flags up a major problem: "Britons from black African backgrounds are dying from coronavirus at more than three times the rate of white people, an alarming study concluded on Friday.
    "Pakistani deaths are almost as disproportionate at 2.7 times higher, while fatalities among people of black Caribbean origin are 1.7 times greater, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.
    "The research rejects demographic differences as the reason for the higher death toll – pointing out most ethnic minority groups are much younger than the white British population, so could be expected to survive in higher numbers.
    "But it may be partially explained by more black and Asian people being in “key worker” roles, while health conditions such as diabetes may also “be important”."

  • Rethinking Tax Systems for a Post-Covid Social Contract May 1 blog from tax expert Richard Murphy and Andrew Baker: "One of the consequences of the current covid-19 pandemic and the associated economic slowdown is that the UK government will likely face a record annual fiscal deficit and a consequent increase in so-called government debt. Calls for another round of austerity are already gathering pace.
    "Our paper helps to explain why such calls are misplaced, while pointing towards an alternative future path that rehabilitates both the macroeconomic and social policy roles of tax."

  • London’s Nightingale Hospital being ‘wound down’ after no new patients for a week Independent May 1: "London’s Nightingale Hospital is effectively being wound down after taking no new patients in the past week.
    "Staff were told today that a decision on its future would be made within days.
    "The field hospital, built in just 10 days at the start of April, had only 19 patients on Friday, down from a peak of around 35 earlier in the month.
    "London hospitals are increasingly choosing to keep patients in their own intensive care units.
    "One source said London’s Nightingale was in effect being “wound down”, with staff from the Royal London Hospital, who were due to be seconded to work there, told they were no longer needed on Friday due to the small numbers of patients.
    "The situation has been replicated across the country: none of the other Nightingale hospitals in Birmingham, Manchester or Harrogate have patients."

  • Global: Crackdown on journalists weakens efforts to tackle COVID-19 May 1 warning from Amnesty International: “There is no hope of containing this virus if people can’t access accurate information. It is truly alarming to see how many governments are more interested in protecting their own reputations than in saving lives,” said Ashfaq Khalfan, Amnesty International’s Director of Law and Policy.
    “From the earliest days of this pandemic, when Chinese authorities censored media reports and punished whistle blowers, journalists around the world have been risking their lives, freedom and jobs to share potentially lifesaving information with the public.”

  • Stanford Health Care to cut workers' wages by 20% Hospital claims cuts are necessary due to COVID-19 economic impact Another aspect of the craziness of the US health care system revealed in Palo Alto April 24: "Employees of Stanford Health Care, including doctors, nurses and technicians who are caring for COVID-19 patients, will have their pay reduced by up to 20% starting Monday, April 27, for 10 weeks, according to a tip sheet the organization sent to workers on April 21.
    "The medical center briefly stated it was making the cuts due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the organization instead of laying off employees. The "temporary workforce adjustment" program was created as part of the hospital's "cost-saving measure and initiatives," hospital administrators stated. The pay reductions will apply to all employees at Stanford Hospital, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and, in the East Bay, Stanford-ValleyCare. Asked if the cuts included to doctors' salaries, hospital spokeswoman Lisa Kim reiterated the cuts are "across the board."

  • Open Letter to UK Government: “Do you want our PPE or not?” Open Letter to Matt Hancock from businesses:
    "We are a group of businesses and individual suppliers from around the UK who are desperate to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS. Between us, we can produce masses of pieces of PPE.
    "Together, we can help save lives. But you’re making this impossible.
    "We’ve done what you asked us to do: we’ve contacted the Government through the official procurement process you set out. None of us has had a definitive response. We don’t know when we can expect one.
    "With every passing day that you don’t respond, people are dying. Every day that we are left waiting, there are health workers, care workers, cleaners, supermarket staff, volunteers and delivery staff left exposed to coronavirus. Our PPE can help protect them."

  • Liverpool facing bankruptcy after government's shock coronavirus funding failure Hard hitting Liverpool Echo report April 30 on how ministers are failing to support councils: "Liverpool Council could face bankruptcy and is considering imposing emergency spending controls after the government failed to offer anywhere near enough support during the coronavirus crisis.
    "The city council, already battered and bruised after ten years of austerity, is now facing a financial cliff edge of £44m because of extra spending to support residents through the crisis and a loss of income.
    "Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has previously pledged that councils will be reimbursed for their emergency epidemic spending - but the funding support from government has shockingly decreased in the second tranche.
    "The council faces £78m in increased costs and loss of income because of Covid-19 this financial year. It has only received £34m from government in two tranches, with the second lower than the first."

  • NHS could run out of surgical masks within weeks, senior NHS England director warns Independent report April 30: "Parts of the NHS could run out of basic surgical masks in the next few weeks, NHS England’s senior director for coronavirus has warned hospital chiefs.
    "Just hours before prime minister Boris Johnson said face masks could be “useful” for coming out of lockdown, Professor Keith Willett told a private webinar for 800 NHS managers that the levels of masks being delivered to the UK for the NHS were not good enough and hospitals may have to share what they have with each other if they run out.
    "Surgical masks are the most basic level of face protection for NHS staff and could become even more scarce if the NHS re-starts routine operations in coming weeks or increasing numbers of the public use them."

  • UK carers who lost jobs after raising safety fears consider legal action Guardian April 30: "Five carers who lost their jobs in the past fortnight after raising concerns about understaffing and personal protective equipment shortages at homes are considering taking legal action, according to a charity that is warning more whistleblowers face being sacked before the end of the Covid-19 crisis.
    "As the care industry struggles to grapple with the unfolding pandemic, Compassion in Care, a charity that runs a helpline for whistleblowers, claims the five carers came forward this month to say they no longer had positions after disclosing safety problems.
    "The health workers are contemplating legal action after contacting regulators and authorities with concerns, the charity has said.
    "There is growing concern about the situation inside the country’s care homes, with the sector feared to be at the centre of crisis."

  • Hundreds of ventilators UK bought from China 'are wrong type and could kill patients if used' Sky News April 30 on a letter from doctors to warn ministers to withdraw potentially dangerous ventilators:
    "Seen by Sky News' partner organisation NBC, the document also claims the ventilators cannot be cleaned properly, are an unfamiliar design and come with a confusing instruction manual.
    "Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove triumphantly announced the arrival of "300 ventilators from China" to help treat COVID-19 patients on 4 April. But the letter of warning from doctors was issued just nine days later.
    "We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely," it says.
    "We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients."

  • PIERS MORGAN: Breathless bullsh*tter Boris can boast about his ‘successful' coronavirus war all he wants, but Britain’s horrendous death toll tells the real shameful story As Boris Johnson's lobotomised fans rail at critical BBC and press coverage of the government, a newly-reborn Piers Morgan uses the pages of the Daily Heil on April 30 to have a full wellie go at ridiculing their hero:
    "Going full Julie Andrews, Boris assured us that though it’s been like coming through ‘some huge alpine tunnel’, we’ll soon be seeing sunlight and pastures again!
    "Oh, and he wanted us to know ‘we are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day’!
    "Wow, this all sounded fantastic.
    "It also sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t."

  • NHS could run out of surgical masks within weeks, senior NHS England director warns Independent April 30: "Just hours before prime minister Boris Johnson said face masks could be “useful” for coming out of lockdown, Professor Keith Willett told a private webinar for 800 NHS managers that the levels of masks being delivered to the UK for the NHS were not good enough and hospitals may have to share what they have with each other if they run out."

  • Coronavirus Testing Firm Forced To Furlough Staff As Government 'Ignores' Offer To Help NHS Huffington Post April 30: "A UK coronavirus testing firm says it has been forced to furlough staff because the government has “ignored” its offers to supply test kits to the NHS.
    "Cumbrian-based medical diagnostics company Better2Know says it could provide at least 2,000 coronavirus test kits a week but has been stonewalled despite its persistent attempts to offer its support to government.
    "The company provides Covid-19 home testing kits and has already delivered a large order for one NHS trust in early April.
    "But since then the firm has had to furlough seven of its 16 staff, with the government paying 80% of their wages, because there is not enough testing work to keep them employed."

  • Coronavirus: Matt Hancock refuses to apologise to relatives of elderly residents who died in care homes Independent on April 29: "Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to apologise to the relatives of elderly residents who died of coronavirus in care homes, as fresh figures showed more than 5,000 fatalities in England alone.
    "The new figures from the Office for National Statistics and Care Quality Commission put the UK on track for a higher overall death toll than Italy, Spain or France, lagging only behind the US.
    "And experts warned that deaths in care homes may not yet have reached their peak, with one suggesting that they could be running at as much as 400 a day – around the same as are occurring in hospitals."

  • Mail's £1m airlift for NHS heroes Daily Heil April 29 front page unwittingly exposes government failure to act to ensure supplies of PPE to frontline NHS and care staff.

  • Coronavirus: NHS Nightingale chief says NHS must ‘never go back’ to old bureaucratic ways Independent April 29: "“The chief executive of London’s NHS Nightingale hospital has said the health service’s agile response to the coronavirus pandemic means it “can never go back” to its previously bureaucratic ways of working.
    Professor Charles Knight also revealed the NHS is now planning to double London’s permanent intensive care bed capacity from 799 to more than 1,600 beds so a future Nightingale hospital would never be needed in any future epidemic.
    “… “We can never go back to how we used to work”, Prof Knight told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Tuesday, adding: “I think we were described in a newspaper as a lumbering bureaucracy. I think we have proven, once and for all that that’s not the case. I don’t think there’s many private sector companies that could have, or indeed have, responded to the pressures of Covid in the way we did.
    “One mustn’t ignore the fact that for most of one’s time in the old NHS you were talking about money and business case approvals. We haven’t had to do that. … what we can do is to take pride in what’s been achieved in terms of the flexibility of the response across the whole country. And also, to learn from that, to be more agile in the future and not go back to quite the sort of level of bureaucracy that we used to deal with.”

  • Coronavirus crisis could lead to 18,000 more cancer deaths, experts warn Guardian April 29 reports: "Cancer experts claim that an extra 6,270 people in England who have been newly diagnosed with the disease could die from it over the next 12 months as a direct result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, and the additional toll taking into account all those living with cancer could be 17,915.
    "That is an increase of 20% on the 89,576 deaths among cancer patients recorded annually in England, according to the latest available statistics."

  • UK minister admits main coronavirus focus was NHS rather than care homes Guardian April 29: "A cabinet minister has acknowledged the government focused more on the NHS than care homes in the early stages of the outbreak, as the UK prepares to publish daily death figures for the community as well as hospitals.
    "As the outbreak continues to worsen in care homes, George Eustice, the environment secretary, defended the government’s handling of the crisis for older people, while acknowledging its approach had not been “perfect”."

  • To protect older people from COVID-19, state coordination of the social care sector is urgently needed David Rowland of CHPI in an April 29 LSE blog: "Using the market to deliver social care on a low-cost basis had manifestly failed even before the current pandemic: one in five care homes are rated as inadequate or needing improvement, personal care is provided to people in their own homes in 15-minute slots, with the sector as a whole suffering from a 30% turnover rate – a fact which might explain why there are currently over 120,000 vacancies.
    "But this market failure, whilst tolerated by politicians of all parties for over 20 years, is fast becoming the cause of a national tragedy. Due to the fragmented nature of social care provision, it is almost impossible to say what is happening to these older people. Within one local authority, as many as 800 different care businesses are delivering vital care services at any one time, making it all but impossible for public health teams to track and monitor the spread of the disease across these providers."

  • Concerns over training at emergency morgues run by UK festival firm Guardian April 29: "A music festival company contracted to operate emergency mortuaries in London has been accused of inadequately training workers in handling bodies, and demanding staff sign non-disclosure agreements.
    "Workers have not been issued with written contracts of employment but are told by text message when to report for work, according to two recruits who contacted the Guardian.
    "The temporary mortuaries, with capacity for thousands of bodies, have been set up as overflow facilities in case hospital, funeral home and local authority morgues are overwhelmed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic."

  • Remdesivir in adults with severe COVID-19: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial Lancet article April 29 reporting research reveals that the drug promoted by US and some British media as answer to Covid-19 is not associated with clinical benefits:
    "Remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement …. Although not statistically significant, patients receiving remdesivir had a numerically faster time to clinical improvement than those receiving placebo among patients with symptom duration of 10 days or less …. Adverse events were reported in 102 (66%) of 155 remdesivir recipients versus 50 (64%) of 78 placebo recipients. Remdesivir was stopped early because of adverse events in 18 (12%) patients versus four (5%) patients who stopped placebo early.
    "…In this study of adult patients admitted to hospital for severe COVID-19, remdesivir was not associated with statistically significant clinical benefits. However, the numerical reduction in time to clinical improvement in those treated earlier requires confirmation in larger studies."

  • BBC Statement on Panorama, Monday 27 April: Has The Government Failed the NHS? Statement April 29 by BBC standing fully behind the Panorama programme April 27 and rejecting government attempts to undermine it.

  • NHS staff coronavirus inquests told not to look at PPE shortages Guardian report April 29 warning of new guidelines to limit scope of inquests to reveal systemic failings in provision of PPE:
    "Inquests into coronavirus deaths among NHS workers should avoid examining systemic failures in provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), coroners have been told, in a move described by Labour as “very worrying”.
    "The chief coroner for England and Wales, Mark Lucraft QC, has issued guidance that “an inquest would not be a satisfactory means of deciding whether adequate general policies and arrangements were in place for provision of PPE to healthcare workers”.
    "Lucraft said that “if there were reason to suspect that some human failure contributed to the person being infected with the virus”, an inquest may be required. The coroner “may need to consider whether any failures of precautions in a particular workplace caused the deceased to contract the virus and so contributed to death”.

  • Home Secretary announces visa extensions for frontline health and care workers Official April 29 announcement of free visa extensions -- as demanded by the health unions. These “will be automatically granted to more crucial overseas health and care workers”.
    “Frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists, with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will receive an automatic one-year extension. It will apply to those working both in the NHS and independent sector and include their family members.
    “This builds on the Home Secretary’s announcement last month for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics. All will be exempt for the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration of the exemption. …
    “In total approximately 3,000 vital health and care workers and their families will benefit from the extension.
    “… The Home Secretary has also confirmed family members and dependants of healthcare workers who sadly pass away as result of contracting the virus will be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain.”

  • Revealed: the inside story of the UK's Covid-19 crisis Detailed Guardian April 29 article examining the history of failure on Covid-19:
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, supported by Downing Street, has persistently denied that attaining herd immunity, by allowing the disease to infect most people, was ever a policy, goal, strategy or even “part of the plan”. Well-placed government sources said on the strictest reading of the word “policy” that may be true. But they do not understand how the government can claim that herd immunity was not part of its plan.
    "The Guardian’s account of the government’s response to the crisis is based on interviews with sources in or close to Downing Street, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Office, Cobra and Sage, as well as other advisers and experts. Many asked not to be named, because they were not authorised to speak publicly. Some said that while they had concerns, they were holding back some of their criticism because they did not want to damage public trust in government at such a delicate time. All are wary of being wise in hindsight, and sympathetic to ministers who took decisions they felt were right at the time."

  • Hospices will run out of PPE 'within days' as they are denied access to government supply chains ITV News April 29: "Hospices could run out of essential personal protective equipment “within days” because providers of end of life care are being denied access to government supplies of PPE.
    "ITV News has learned deliveries of PPE to hospices in England have all but stopped as they struggle to access affordable supplies.
    "Hospices are being quoted up to twenty six times more for surgical masks than NHS suppliers, leaving them unable to place orders and quickly running out."

  • Britain’s shockingly high Coronavirus death rate means we need to learn from abroad – fast Surprisingly thoughtful April 29 article from David Davis (yes THAT David Davis) in reaction.life poses questions as Boris Johnson boasts about British performance in response to covid: "before we move on to the next stage the Prime Minister should be looking very hard at the practices in Asia, and in Norway, Austria, Finland, and Germany, to establish how they have maintained a death rate less than one third of ours, and adapt it to our own use as fast as possible. And give our NHS a better chance of victory."

  • NHS Trust ‘leak’ suggests doctors ‘gently discouraged’ from listing all Covid-19 deaths Left Foot Forward (April 17): "The Good Law Project say the guidance suggests doctors are being ‘gently discouraged’ from reporting deaths as COVID-19. That would mean “we have no way of knowing if the government figures on deaths from coronavirus – the daily in hospital figures as well as the weekly ONS figures – are accurate,” the group said in an email to supporters.
    "The leaked guidance from an NHS Hospital Trust says: “Doctors are asked to use the standard MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) form to certify death. ‘Pneumonia ‘or ‘community acquired pneumonia’ are acceptable at 1(a) on the MCCD.
    “There is no requirement to write COVID 19 as part of the MCCD. It may be mentioned at 1(b) on the form, should the doctor wish.”

  • NHS staff told they’re not allowed to tweet about ‘political issues’ – including not having PPE Indy100 April 20: "An NHS trust has been accused of "gagging" its staff by asking them not to tweet about "political issues" such as "PPE, testing and exit strategies".
    "Workers at the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust were issued guidance on "Covid-19 suggested subjects for tweets" as part of a staff newsletter.
    "Acceptable tweets included praising staff for their hard work, volunteering to move departments, working over the weekend and keeping people safe."

  • Health Insurers Prosper As COVID-19 Deflates Demand For Elective Treatments Kaiser Health News in the US reports April 28 that some corporations are doing well under Covid-19: "...a report out last week by credit rating agency Moody’s, which looked at a range of pandemic scenarios — from mild to severe — and concluded “U.S. health insurers will nonetheless remain profitable under the most likely scenarios.”
    "Earlier this month, UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann told analysts that cost reductions so far are outstripping expenses for COVID-19 and that revenue is up compared with the previous year. He expects — barring a worsening situation — the rest of the year’s earnings to match projections.
    "Other insurers, including Centene, Anthem, Humana and Cigna, are scheduled to release earnings reports this week."

  • Coronavirus: Care home deaths up as hospital cases fall BBC report April 28: "Office for National Statistics data showed there were 2,000 coronavirus care home deaths in the week ending 17 April, double the previous week.
    "It brings the total number of deaths in care homes linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic to 3,096.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock said testing will be expanded to all care home residents and staff in England.
    "This includes those who do not have symptoms, Mr Hancock told Tuesday's coronavirus briefing."

  • Care home fatalities to be included in daily coronavirus death tolls Guardian April 28: "The death toll from coronavirus in care homes will be announced daily from Wednesday after figures revealed a sharp rise of more than 4,300 deaths in a fortnight in England and Wales and care operators said they were at the centre of the crisis.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said care deaths would now be tracked in the same way as hospital fatalities “to keep the focus on what is happening in care homes” and allow policy to be changed swiftly if needed.
    "Until now, data has been published weekly and a week out of date. But Hancock declined to apologise to bereaved families for failing to protect their loved ones, amid widely reported shortages of personal protective equipment and testing in care homes."

  • COVID-19: PPE Shortages? Who to Tell? Medscape April 28: "Are health professionals being gagged over PPE shortages? A recent BMJ report suggested that some doctors had been warned off talking to the media about their concerns.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock has backed the right of NHS workers to speak out publicly about shortages insisting that, "people should be free to talk about what happens at work".
    "Even so there is a sense that people don't want to stick their heads above the parapet in case it has damaging personal consequences for them.
    "The Doctors' Association UK has said that some GPs have been told by local CCGs not to talk to the press and to avoid posting on social media about any shortages."

  • Anger as Priti Patel stands by ‘mean and counterproductive’ migrant Universal Credit ban amid coronavirus crisis Politics Home April 28 report: "Priti Patel has batted away calls to suspend “mean and counterproductive” rules that bar some migrants from accessing Universal Credit during the coronavirus crisis.
    "Opposition MPs and campaign groups hit out at the Cabinet minister after she said those with ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’ should instead apply to have the status lifted on a case-by-case basis - a process that PoliticsHome has been told can take “months”.
    "Under the NRPF status, migrants subject to immigration control by the Home Office are shut out of most social security benefits, council tax help, state housing support and free school meals for their children, although they can access the NHS."

  • 14% With Likely COVID-19 to Avoid Care Due to Cost Scary results of US poll, published April 28: "One out of every seven (14%) U.S. adults report that they would avoid seeking healthcare for a fever and a dry cough for themselves or a member of their household due to concerns about their ability to pay for it.
    "When framed explicitly as believing to have been infected by the novel coronavirus, 9% still report that they would avoid seeking care. Adults under 30, non-whites, those with a high school education or less and those in households with incomes under $40,000 per year are the groups most likely to indicate they would avoid seeking out care."

  • Trusts told it is ‘paramount’ to free up stroke beds for covid patients HSJ (April 27) on potential rolling back of years of controversial centralisation of stroke services "Stroke victims could be admitted to district general hospitals which do not normally provide such care if specialist units do not have the beds or staff as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Guidance published by NHS England states that freeing up beds usually occupied by stroke patients to care for those suffering from coronavirus is “paramount”.

  • Has the Government Failed the NHS? The hard-hitting Panorama programme (April 27) that exposed the disastrous government failings on preparation for a pandemic threat and provision of PPE. Don't miss it.

  • Coronavirus: UK government again runs out of home testing kits after just over one hour Independent April 27 on a continuing failure to deliver yet another promise:
    “The UK government has run out of coronavirus home testing kits in just over an hour. Key workers could no longer order any online by 9.10am on Monday – the fourth day in a row where tests have become unavailable within hours of the booking system opening.
    “The kits ran out around two minutes after the service launched on Friday, and people were reportedly told there were none left on Saturday morning after around 15 minutes. As of 10am on Sunday, home testing kits for England were listed as “unavailable” on the government’s website – two hours after booking slots reopened.”

  • Questions raised over wisdom of “Nightingale” hospitals Lowdown April 27 raises the question that more and more NHS staff are asking: what are these new field hospitals for? Focused on the London Nightingale it comments:
    "It has made some good headlines, and has actually been compared with the massive Chinese effort in Wuhan, which involved clearing land and building a vast prefabricated hospital from scratch in just ten days: but reconfiguring a large pre-existing building comprised mostly of open space is not really in the same league, and questions are now being asked about how wise it was to do this, and whether the building has proved to be an asset or a liability.
    "Not least because … the hospital turns out to be lacking two key ingredients for success – staff, and patients."

  • Closed Hospitals Leave Rural Patients ‘Stranded’ as Coronavirus Spreads New York Times April 27 another horror story of for-profit health care in the US:
    "Fairmont was one of three hospitals that have shut down in this corner of rural West Virginia and Ohio since September. They delivered hundreds of babies each year, treated car crash and gunshot victims, repaired hearts and knees and offered addiction treatment and psychiatric care.
    "They had been acquired by a for-profit company, Alecto Healthcare Services, beginning in 2014. Employees expected the new ownership to put the institutions on solid footing after years of financial struggle.
    "Instead, decisions made by Alecto wound up undercutting patient care and undermining the hospitals’ finances, according to more than two dozen interviews with doctors, nurses, other staff members, government officials and patients, as well as a review of court records.
    "Doctors were pushed out to save on salaries; many patients followed them elsewhere. Medical supplies ran short. Vendors went unpaid. Finally, one after another, the three hospitals ceased operating. At the request of the governor, the West Virginia attorney general’s office is investigating the company’s decision to close them.
    "The shutdowns — besides Fairmont, Alecto owned Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, W.Va., and East Ohio Regional Hospital in neighboring Martins Ferry, Ohio — have forced the region to fight a coronavirus outbreak with 530 fewer licensed hospital beds than it had a year ago."

  • N.Y.C. Deaths Reach 6 Times the Normal Level, Far More Than Coronavirus Count Suggests New York Times April 7 reveals shocking calculations: "More than 27,000 New Yorkers have died since March 11 — 20,900 more than would be expected over this period and thousands more than have been captured by official coronavirus death statistics.
    "As of Sunday, the city had attributed 16,673 deaths to coronavirus, either because people had tested positive for the virus, or because the circumstances of their death meant that city health officials believed the virus to be the most likely cause of death.
    "But there remains a large gap between the 16,673 figure and the total deaths above typical levels in the last six and a half weeks: more than 4,200 people whose deaths are not captured by the official coronavirus toll."

  • Mitigating the wider health effects of covid-19 pandemic reponse Open access BMJ article concludes: "In the longer term, policy decisions made now will shape the future economy in ways that could either improve or damage sustainability, health, and health inequalities. These include decisions about which sectors to prioritise for support, whether to direct financial support to business or workers, and how to fund the costs. To protect population health it will be essential to avoid a further period of austerity and the associated reductions in social security and public service spending.
    "Instead we must build a more sustainable and inclusive economy."

  • Leading statistician slams UK’s reporting of swab tests as “travesty of science” BMJ News April 27: “The UK’s data collection and reporting of swab testing is a travesty of statistical science, as you can draw no inferences whatsoever about the evolution of the epidemic,” said Sheila Bird, former programme leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge Institute of Public Health. “Politicians only seem to be interested in the number of tests performed rather than what is actually happening in the epidemic,” she told The BMJ.
    “… Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society’s covid-19 taskforce, said that it makes no sense that swab test results from people in pillar 1 are combined rather than reported separately. There are potentially more direct exposure routes among the most critical workers than their household members, she warned, adding, “The grouping into pillars is a political construct and is not the way an epidemiologist would have organised the results.”

  • The government's secret science group has a shocking lack of expertise Guardian April 27 comment by Anthony Costello: "“Beyond that, what does the membership of this committee actually tell us? We’ve learned from the list of attendees at a crucial Sage meeting on 23 March, leaked to the Guardian, that the group includes seven clinical academics, three microbiologists, seven modellers, two behavioural scientists with backgrounds in disasters and terrorism, one geneticist, one civil servant and two political advisers, one of which is the most powerful prime ministerial lieutenant in recent memory.
    “The makeup of Sage reflects an oddly skewed and overwhelmingly medical view of science. Indeed, there are many other perspectives that could bring value to a pandemic crisis team. Did Sage consult public health epidemiologists at the frontline of the response to coronavirus in China or Hong Kong, such as Prof Gabriel Leung? Did the group get input from infectious experts at the World Health Organization, such as the epidemiologist Mike Ryan, who leads the team responsible for containing of Covid-19 across the world?
    “The group includes no molecular virologists who could explain detailed pathogenic differences between Covid-19 and influenza, not one intensive care expert or nursing leader, and no immunologist to examine whether this virus produces lasting and protective immunity. There are no social scientists who could work on community engagement, nor a logistician, who would have expertise in planning for the delivery of supplies and resources during a pandemic.”

  • Why bypass NHS labs for mass testing? Concerns over new super-labs Lowdown April 27 exclusive highlighting damaging fragmentation as government ignores NHS labs to build 3 new unregulated "superlabs":
    "Staff in NHS laboratories are increasingly alarmed at the implications of the government’s turn to create a new network of “super-labs” to process what is supposed to be a rising number of tests for Covid-19, leaving 44 NHS labs under-used.
    "The development of a new network of labs running parallel to the NHS has taken place with no transparency and no attempt to consult with the unions.
    "NHS scientific staff in south London have now contacted the Lowdown to express their frustration that while they have the capacity to process large numbers of tests, the NHS labs are struggling to get supplies of the kits and the reagents required.
    "One member of staff explained their concerns: “I am so annoyed about this testing fiasco.
    “I want to know why the new super-labs have been set up, because if they gave the NHS labs the resources they could easily to the tests. Our lab has been ready for ages to do large numbers of tests. We have the equipment and we have staff."

  • To tackle this virus, local public health teams need to take back control Guardian April 26 article by Prof Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick: "Contact tracing and testing, case finding, isolation and quarantine are classic public health measures for controlling communicable diseases. They require local teams on the ground, meticulously tracking cases and contacts to eliminate the reservoirs of infection. This approach is recommended by the WHO at all stages of the epidemic. It was painstakingly adopted in China, Singapore and Taiwan, with a high percentage of close contacts identified and many housed in hotels. Germany has traced contacts throughout. The leaked UK national risk register proposes it.
    "Yet Public Health England, the agency responsible for communicable disease control in England, stopped contact tracing on 12 March, having reportedly only contacted 3,500 people, of whom about 105 were found to be positive. It’s now about to resume. But why was it stopped, and how will it be resumed?"

  • Who is the Government Trying to Fool – Us or Itself? Typically blunt article from Prof John Ashton in Byline Times 26 April, slamming government PR spin and failures to lead:
    "There was no mention here of the changing criteria for hospital admissions, leaving the frail to be nursed and die at home without the Coronavirus being recorded on the death certificate; no mention of the 400,000 care home residents abandoned and forsaken to take their chances with staff protected only by bin bags and whatever they could find in their wardrobes; of the seeds being planted for multiple deaths in individual care homes and of a similar scenario cooking up in prisons, with prisoners and prison officers and their families alike being off the radar of incompetence and hubris."

  • Test, test, test: can Britain find a way out of lockdown? “Guardian April 26 on the testing centres: “Nic Mitchell, a property and financial services adviser, began developing symptoms a few days ago, which forced her partner, the head engineer at a food processing factory, to go into isolation with her. … Mitchell’s partner is considered to be an essential worker, so they managed to book a test online.
    “The nearest centre for her was in Worcester, 22 miles from her home in Cheltenham. …
    “When Mitchell arrived at the testing site at Worcester Warriors rugby club just before 3pm on Saturday, she was told that there would be a two and a half hour wait – but the centre would shut at 5pm regardless. The only option was to attempt to rebook. “They told me they couldn’t cope,” she said. “It was very disappointing.”

  • Coronavirus tests run out in minutes again — and results will take a month (£) Times April 26 continues its critical line, calling out the inadequate new system for testing for Covid-19:
    "NHS staff are being forced to wait up to 25 days for the results of coronavirus tests as the government’s testing regime descends into farce.
    "The revelation came as tests for key workers via the government’s booking website ran out within minutes yesterday for the second day in a row.
    "Last week the Department of Health and Social Care said that it had finished setting up “the biggest network of diagnostic labs in British history”.

  • If ministers fail to reveal 2016 flu study they ‘will face court’ Guardian April 26: "The government faces being taken to court if it refuses to disclose the findings of an exercise confirming the UK could not cope with a flu pandemic.
    "Dr Moosa Qureshi, an NHS doctor, is demanding the government publish its report into Exercise Cygnus, a three-day simulation involving government and public health bodies conducted in 2016.
    "Qureshi, who is a campaigner with the group 54000doctors.org, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the secretary of state for health requesting a response by 4pm .
    "If the government fails to disclose the findings of Exercise Cygnus without adequate reason, Qureshi’s lawyers will seek an urgent judicial review challenging the decision and seeking publication. A crowdfunding page to support the challenge was due to go live on Saturday night."

  • Public trust plummets in Britain's handling of pandemic, new poll reveals Observer April 26, in an article which the government tried to bully them into changing:
    "“The public’s confidence in the government’s ability to handle the coronavirus crisis has fallen sharply in the past fortnight, with less than half of voters now having faith in decisions made by ministers, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.
    “A particularly low proportion of people (15%) believe the government is handling the key issue of testing well (down from 22% two weeks ago). Some 57% disapprove of the way testing has been handled, up from 48% on 7 April.
    “Just 7% of people think the level of testing for Covid-19 has been sufficient, while 71% think it has been insufficient – a finding barely changed since two weeks ago, despite the government’s huge efforts to “ramp up” the number of tests to 100,000 a day by the end of this month.
    “With more doubts raised over the past week about ministers’ handling of the crisis … Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, and Matt Hancock, health secretary – have both seen falls in public trust.”

  • Fresh anger over Doncaster Covid testing centre as keyworkers wait hours to be told to do their own test Doncaster Free Press reveals yet another failing test centre at Doncaster Airport:
    "“Those arriving at the front of the queue … are told by mobile phone to briefly open their window, while a test kit is thrown into their car. Then they have to close the window again, read the instructions and work out what to do, before swabbing themselves, and then throw the swab back out at another station.
    “… Angry workers have told the Free Press they only went to the testing centre because they thought they would be tested by a medic who knew what they were doing, and would have tested themselves at home if they had wanted to self test.
    “… James Collins, a care worker from Lincoln, drove from Lincoln to Doncaster on Saturday. He was seen for his 12noon appointment at 5.30pm. He fears the self testing flaws the process. He said: “I thought it would be done in 15 minutes. But I’m angry that it all had to be administered by myself. They might as well just give us tests at home. …
    “I think many of the tests will be invalid because it is something people have not done before, and it is scary to push the swab a long way up your nose and down your throat.”

  • Attendees of Sage meetings worried by presence of Cummings Guardian April 26: "The involvement of the prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, in meetings of the scientific group advising the UK government’s response to the coronavirus has left other attendees shocked, concerned and worried for the impartiality of advice, the Guardian can reveal.
    "One attendee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.
    "A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input."

  • Coronavirus: Boris Johnson's return to work 'a boost for the country' BBC's April 26 headline borrows from the North Korean media handbook on fawning to flawed leaders. The content is no better. This passes for "analysis" from Political Correspondent Leila Nathoo:
    "It has been a "difficult time", acknowledged Dominic Raab of the period he's spent deputising for the PM.
    "The government has been without its leader through much of this tumultuous time but Boris Johnson is now well enough to be back in charge as the next major decision looms - where the lockdown goes from here."

  • Birmingham's Nightingale hospital 'has no patients' BBC Birmingham April 26 reports NHS leaders complacent about absorbing the extra pressure, when in fact much of the potential caseload of the new hospital has instead been dying without support in care homes:
    “Birmingham's Nightingale hospital is "not being used at all" 10 days after it was opened by the Duke of Cambridge. Set up inside the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), the site is intended to take up to 500 coronavirus patients at a time from 23 Midlands hospitals.
    “The chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said it was a "good thing" the hospital had not received patients. It showed the NHS had "absorbed" the extra pressure Dr David Rosser said.
    “Unlike the ExCel in London, Birmingham's Nightingale hospital was always devised as a step-down facility, so it would accept patients who had recovered sufficiently from coronavirus or who were not suitable for ventilation.
    “Fortunately, although the number of coronavirus cases have been significant, social isolating is working and the NEC has not been required for this purpose.
    “Trusts who have also had up to 20% of their staff off self-isolating or sick have not wanted to second employees to the new facility because their rotas are already stressed.
    “The Birmingham Nightingale is expected to be in use for 12-18 months and may be called upon if there is a second greater surge.”

  • Boris Johnson must overcome any public sector inertia (£) Torygraph at its most Tory, April 25, reveals its real view of the NHS: "It’s the story of this crisis: the private sector responds with innovation and energy, while government bureaucracies, on whose shoulders so much responsibility has been placed, are slow to act."

  • Top Tories join calls to bar Cummings from scientific advisory group Guardian April 25: "The former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
    "Davis said that Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings, adding: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”
    "It comes after the Guardian reported that Cummings and Warner were among the 23 who attended Sage on the day Johnson announced the lockdown, and had been able to question attendees at other meetings."

  • Coronavirus: how the government tried to dismiss Sunday Times investigation Sunday Times April 25 hits back at government attempts to rubbish their detailed revelation of the saga of its incompetence and callous disregard for life in its mishandling of the Covid-19 response.

  • Coronavirus and the Price of Trump’s Delusions Hard hitting summary from New York Times April 25 notes: "Trump, meanwhile, spoke of the crisis in the past tense, as something America is now emerging from, suggesting that all the country will face in the future is “some embers of corona.” The day before, the country had recorded around 2,200 deaths, making it one of the deadliest days of the pandemic in the United States.
    "Over the last three and a half years, Americans have had to accustom themselves to a relentless, numbing barrage of lies from the federal government. In one sector after another, we’ve seen experts systemically purged and replaced with toadying apparatchiks. The few professionals who’ve kept their jobs have often had to engage in degrading acts of public obeisance more common to autocracies. Public policy has zigzagged according to presidential whim. Empirical reality has been subsumed to Trump’s cult of personality."

  • Hospitals running out of kidney dialysis equipment needed to keep coronavirus patients alive More top stuff from Independent April 24: "Doctors told The Independent they were already under pressure to use equipment conservatively and choices were needing to be made about which patients should receive the treatment, without which they would likely die within 24 hours.
    "One consultant said supplies were now "just-in-time" addiing: "We are being asked to guess how many sets we will need four days in advance and bits of kit are being ferried between hospitals in taxis where those predictions aren't known. Clinically, for renal failure as part of critical illness we usually deliver filtration continuously. Because of shortages of kit and machines we are having to deliver it on an intermittent basis which is suboptimal.
    "For context, we have one machine per two ICU patients normally, but now have the same four machines for over four times the number of beds."

  • Revealed: UK ministers were warned last year of risks of coronavirus pandemic Guardian April 24: "Ministers were warned last year the UK must have a robust plan to deal with a pandemic virus and its potentially catastrophic social and economic consequences in a confidential Cabinet Office briefing leaked to the Guardian.
    "The detailed document warned that even a mild pandemic could cost tens of thousands of lives, and set out the must-have “capability requirements” to mitigate the risks to the country, as well as the potential damage of not doing so."

  • BAME doctors hit worse by lack of PPE BMA report April 24 on the findings from analysis of responses to the most recent BMA survey of thousands of frontline doctors battling COVID-19.
    "Almost double the proportion of BAME doctors (64 per cent) have felt pressured to work in settings with inadequate PPE where aerosol-generating procedures are carried out exposing them to risk of infection. This compares with 33 per cent of doctors who identified as white.
    "Only four out of 10 BAME doctors in general practice said they had sufficient PPE for safe contact with patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 or those with non-COVID-19 symptoms. A far greater proportion – seven out of 10 doctors who identified as white – said the same."

  • Care homes' soaring death rate blamed on 'reckless' order to take back Covid-19 patients (£) Telegraph report April 24: "A Government diktat that NHS hospitals should move hundreds of elderly patients to care homes has been branded “reckless” and blamed for the homes’ soaring coronavirus death rates.
    "In two damning policy documents published on 19 March and 2 April, officials told NHS hospitals to transfer any patients who no longer required hospital level treatment, and set out a blueprint for care homes to accept patients with Covid-19 or who had not even been tested.
    "Analysis by the Telegraph suggests that the rate of coronavirus deaths accelerated more than twice as fast in care homes than in hospitals in the week beginning 7 April - two and a half weeks after the first policy document was published."

  • Testing for Covid-19 – an unresolved fiasco Detailed Lowdown update on the continued government failure to meet its own targets to rolling out testing for Covid-19.

  • Revealed: Dominic Cummings is on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19 Guardian April 24 referring to leaked list: "The prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, and a data scientist he worked with on the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit are on the secret scientific group advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic, according to a list leaked to the Guardian.
    "It reveals that both Cummings and Ben Warner were among 23 attendees present at a crucial convening of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 23 March, the day Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown in a televised address.
    Multiple attendees of Sage told the Guardian that both Cummings and Warner had been taking part in meetings of the group as far back as February. The inclusion of Downing Street advisers on Sage will raise questions about the independence of its scientific advice."

  • Government and Covid-19 — A story of power, arrogance and incompetence Op-ed in PMQ magazine: "To try and wriggle out of the target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April – which he himself set at the beginning of the month, Hancock changed the wording of his promise. Claiming the government was perfectly on track to meet the “challenging” target, he and his two sidekicks (Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, and Professor John Newton, the director of health improvement at Public Health England) announced the official figures and talked about ‘testing capacity’, not ‘tests carried out’."

  • Six Royal Colleges write to the new PPE "Tsar" April 24 letter looks for action -- and some honesty:
    “It will be no surprise to you that our members remain concerned about PPE availability and stocks. While some report improvements over the last few weeks, too many still say there are significant issues.
    "Clinicians are facing the challenge of their lives and doing the very best for their patients. It saddens us that at this extraordinary time they are also having to worry about the fundamentals of personal safety, including when the next PPE consignment will arrive at their workplace and how long it will last. …
    “We encourage you to be open and frank in your new role about the challenges you face, while doing everything possible to get the supplies to where they are needed.”

  • Hospitals are using AI to predict the decline of Covid-19 patients — before knowing it works More US issues from Statnews April 24: "Dozens of hospitals across the country are using an artificial intelligence system created by Epic, the big electronic health record vendor, to predict which Covid-19 patients will become critically ill, even as many are struggling to validate the tool’s effectiveness on those with the new disease.
    "The rapid uptake of Epic’s deterioration index is a sign of the challenges imposed by the pandemic: Normally hospitals would take time to test the tool on hundreds of patients, refine the algorithm underlying it, and then adjust care practices to implement it in their clinics."

  • Time to demand a wholly public NHS and to create a public National Care Service Thoughtful video presentation by Keep Our NHS co-chair Dr Tony O'Sullivan

  • Hospitals sound alarm over privately run virus test centre at Surrey theme park Guardian April 23: "Hospitals sought to take over the operation of a flagship government coronavirus testing centre from the accounting firm Deloitte after severe failings in the service led to the test results of NHS staff being lost or sent to the wrong person, the Guardian can reveal.
    "The drive-through centre, at Chessington World of Adventures, in Surrey, was among the first in what will be a network of about 50 regional facilities, trumpeted by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, as key to delivering on the government promise of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April."

  • Flagship Nightingale hospital has only 30 patients amid staff shortage – claim Yahoo News April 23: "The NHS’s flagship Nightingale pop-up hospital is operating at roughly one per cent of its capacity because it does not have the staff required to expand the number of patients it can accept, a report has suggested.
    "The NHS Nightingale, in east London’s Royal Victoria Dock, was opened on April 3 amid much fanfare, promising to alleviate the pressure on hospitals in the city as the coronavirus took hold.
    "But insiders told The Independent how staffing levels had been “quite poor”, meaning it has barely been able to see more than 30 patients treated at a time."

  • Inside NHS Nightingale: Staff speak out about the reality of care in London’s coronavirus field hospital Excellent report from Independent's Shaun Lintern April 23: "…at the 100-acre ExCel centre in London Docklands, the number of patients fighting for their lives in the field hospital is approximately 30.
    "Questions are being asked about why the Nightingale isn’t taking more patients from London’s hospitals, which have carried the burden of the surge in patients needing intensive care, cancelling operations, creating makeshift intensive care units in overspill areas and stretching staffing to unsafe levels.
    "Up to 3,800 staff were needed for the initial creation of the hospital, although The Independent has been told only around a third of that number had been recruited and trained. NHS England refused to provide any staffing details, but denies there are shortages.
    "Insiders who work at varying levels in the hospital, who have spoken to The Independent on condition of anonymity, also criticise the “political spin” and portrayal of the Nightingale which they say has given a “false perception” of what it is like, with social media posts doing “more harm than good”."

  • Emails reveal doctor's plea for PPE before Covid-19 death Guardian April 23: "An NHS doctor who died of Covid-19 had pleaded in vain for his hospital to provide protective equipment in the days before he caught the virus, emails shared with the Guardian by his family show.
    "Dr Peter Tun, from Reading, died on 13 April. Three weeks before his death, he warned Royal Berkshire hospital that unless they supplied the vital kit he and his colleagues needed to avoid becoming infected, “it will be too little and too late”."

  • http://sushrutajnl.net/index.php/sushruta/article/view/34 Paper on an online self-administered survey of healthcare workers was undertaken by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in April 2020. The respondents were predominantly hospital doctors (67%), aged between 40-60 years (72%) and from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds in the UK (86%).
    “Over 78% reported either lack of, or inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their role and 68% of respondents felt that they were unable to comply with or that it was impractical to adhere to social distancing at work (including commuting).”
    It concludes: “These results add to the emerging concerns expressed internationally on the observation that BAME ethnicity appears to have a higher risk of developing COVID-19 … Our work supports the imperative for designing and conducting urgent larger studies to understand this risk and plan appropriate mitigation of the risks to health care workers”

  • How politics thwarted the UK’s Covid-19 response Financial Times April 23 joins the line up of establishment press critical of the government’s handling of the biggest health crisis in many years:
    “When the inevitable national inquiry reports into Britain’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the first item on the charge sheet will be a failure to act decisively at the outset to suppress the pandemic.
    “Some Whitehall insiders call this a stumble, a passing hesitation. Some talk about reckless complacency. Others observe laconically that Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not react well to bad news. Britain lagged behind most of Europe in the spread of the infection.
    “Yet, in spite of the lessons to be drawn from Italy and elsewhere, it has one of the highest death rates outside of the US. Management failures in procurement and distribution compounded political mistakes in depriving it of critical resources such as ventilators, testing capacity and personal safety equipment.”

  • Coronavirus-linked deaths FT calculations show more than 40,000 deaths from Covid-19

  • Dozens of British firms offering PPE “ignored” by government, says Labour Labour List April 22: "36 British companies have contacted the opposition since the weekend to say they have offered help with the provision of PPE for frontline staff but “not received a reply”.
    "The details of these companies have been passed on to the government by Labour in an effort to support the national drive to adequately equip NHS and care workers."

  • Covid-19 bonuses for prison staff, what about care workers? While @MattHancock continues to insist that now is “not the time” to discuss any increase in NHS pay, the Prison and Probation Service have agreed to fork out substantial Covid-19 bonuses to staff - says a March 23 document leaked to The Lowdown

  • '60,000 cancer patients could die because of lack of treatment or diagnosis': Oncologist on coronavirus dilemma ITN reports April 22, quoting private sector cancer specialist Karol Sikora: "In a usual April, we would normally see around 30,000 people diagnosed with cancer. I would be surprised if that number reaches 5,000 this month.
    "Coronavirus will steal the headlines, but cancer kills 450 people a day in the UK - there is no peak and the numbers aren’t coming down. Unless we act urgently, that number will rise. A group of oncologists, including myself, estimate that 60,000 cancer patients could die because of a lack of treatment or diagnosis.
    "It’s absolutely right to stop the treatment for some cancers in the face of coronavirus. The immunosuppressive effects of the treatment would put the patient at risk as their immune system is significantly weakened. But for others, a delay of more than a month would have a negative impact on the future prognosis."

  • Two-thirds of voters say government has done bad job getting protective equipment to NHS staff - poll Politics Home April 22 quotes a YouGov poll: "A clear majority of British people believe the Government has done a bad job in providing personal protective equipment for NHS frontline staff, according to a new poll.
    "The YouGov survey also showed public support for the Government's overall performance in the coronavirus crisis is beginning to fall.
    "According to the results, 65% of UK adults think ministers have done a "fairly bad" or "very bad" job in getting healthcare workers the PPE they need.
    "By contrast, only 26% think they have done a good job in sourcing and delivering vital kit."

  • Coronavirus Kent: 'Mass' Covid-19 testing site to open in county Kent Online April 21 reveals plans for a single testing centre to cover the whole of Kent – with the involvement of management consultants Deloitte: “Plans are underway to create a "mass" coronavirus testing site in Kent, it has emerged.
    “A major centre is expected to be built at an undisclosed location in the county after a proposal was discussed between public health bosses at Kent County Council and consultant firm, Deloitte.
    “Boris Johnson's government and NHS England will have the final say on the testing centre plans, with more details expected from the government later this week.”

  • Millions of pieces of PPE being shipped from Britain to Europe despite NHS shortages (£) Telegraph April 21 joins the Mail and Sunday Times in criticising government: "Millions of pieces of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) are being shipped from British warehouses to Germany, Spain and Italy despite severe shortages in the UK, The Telegraph can disclose.
    "Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged.
    "On Monday night, UK firms said they had "no choice" but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the British Government."

  • Matt Hancock: Report the true death toll from COVID-19 Leaked guidance from an NHS hospital trust reveals that doctors are not being required to report COVID-19 as the cause of death for patients. Here’s what the guidance says:
    "Doctors are asked to use the standard MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) form to certify death. ‘Pneumonia ‘or ‘community acquired pneumonia’ are acceptable at 1(a) on the MCCD. There is no requirement to write COVID 19 as part of the MCCD. It may be mentioned at 1(b) on the form, should the doctor wish."

  • Government shelves Priti Patel’s immigration bill during coronavirus outbreak The European April 21 reports: "The bill - which would have formally ceased freedom of movement with Europe after the Brexit transition period - was pulled from the Commons order paper by Jacob Rees-Mogg ahead of a second reading on Tuesday.
    "It comes as ministers spent the last week mulling over plans to delay the reading because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, and MPs grappled with new technology as the House of Commons moves into a new “virtual parliament”."

  • Union Leaders Demand Judge-Led Inquiry Probes 'Grotesque' PPE Shortages Huffington Post April 21 reports TUC call for “A judge-led public inquiry” to investigate the “grotesque” failure to give frontline workers personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.
    It should also investigate “Whether frontline workers were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to work and whether official PPE guidance left them at risk.”
    “Ministers have repeatedly faced criticism for failing to provide enough PPE since the outbreak began and have blamed “distribution problems”, delays and “international demand” for shortfalls. But critics say poor planning and chaos within government have put NHS frontline workers in harm’s way.”

  • Foreign NHS workers are risking their lives for us – and paying for the privilege Guardian April 19 comment on yet another incoherent Theresa May/Johnson policy that manages to be racist and damaging to the NHS: indeed it's bad enough before they implement their 2019 election promise to further jack up the "immigration surcharge" from £400 to £625 per person per year:
    "Many of the foreign doctors, nurses and care workers on the NHS frontline without adequate protection are secretly struggling on another front, too.
    "They cannot afford to pay the fees levied by the Home Office to enable them to remain in the UK and continue their work.
    "Often they fall into debt to pay the charges. Some of them simply leave the country once their permits are up for renewal, unable to find the money. The highest single fee they face is the immigration health surcharge, which must be paid in advance. So you have the spectacle of NHS staff paying to use the NHS, even though they already pay tax and national insurance contributions."

  • This is how many chances the government 'missed' to buy £1.3bn worth of PPE with the EU, reports suggest Indy reports April 18: "Downing Street originally said that it only failed to join the scheme because of an email miscommunication, but it was revealed at the end of March that British officials in Brussels had attended four meetings where bulk-buying was discussed, according to EU minutes reported by The Guardian. At the time, the government was accused of choosing "Brexit over breathing" in choosing not to participate in the ventilator, but Downing Street stressed that it was down to communication mixup, not politics.
    "It is now reported that the UK missed three opportunities to buy protective equipment – which appears to contradict No 10’s claim that the confusion was down to a missed email."

  • The government must commit to a full public inquiry into lack of PPE for NHS staff Change.org petition: "Frontline NHS staff are putting their lives on the line every time they turn up to work in the fight against COVID-19.
    "The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has been lobbying for weeks for adequate personal protective equipment in our Protect the Frontline campaign. Despite our efforts and multiple reassurances the PPE situation has now become dire.
    "Doctors are dying. Nurses are dying. This is unforgivable. DAUK is now calling for a full public inquiry into the government’s failure to source adequate PPE and protect frontline staff. We need a commitment to this now, with a full inquiry to be launched once the COVID-19 crisis is over."

  • Conditions at coronavirus hospital NHS Nightingale 'as tough as war zone' Mirror April 18: "Army medic Jamie Jones, 41, retired from the forces in 2010 after 15 years and became a health adviser.
    "But when he was furloughed he helped build the 4,000-bed facility and then accepted an offer to do 12-hour shifts maintaining ventilators and other emergency gear in the critical resuscitation team.
    "He said: “Working at Nightingale is as tough as Camp Bastion or any of the other seven operational deployments and tours I’ve done – only this time the enemy is an incredibly evil and dangerous virus we still don’t understand."

  • Union leader says Matt Hancock may have to consider his position over PPE failures Mirror April 19 report on toughening line of GMB and Unite over PPE crisis: “Union leaders say faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is "draining away" after the change in personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, suggesting he might have to consider his position.
    “ Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced in today's daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing very large consignment" of personal protective equipment - including 400,000 gowns - is due to arrive in the UK from Turkey tomorrow. But the NHS is currently using 150,000 gowns a day - meaning the new shipment will last just days.
    “Earlier, Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB, said the union raised critical protective equipment supply issues with the Government more than a month ago.
    "It took until last Friday for ministers' PPE plan to be published, and it's falling apart after just a week. It is key workers on the front line who are paying the price for this litany of failure. It appears Government guidance is being hastily redrawn based on availability, not on evidence or best practice. This is downright dangerous territory and one that will amplify the concerns of NHS staff.
    "The Health Secretary now has serious and urgent questions to answer. Trust is draining away.”

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to privatisation in our NHS? Morning Star feature (April 18) from HCT and Lowdown editor John Lister discussing the need to ensure the NHS is not dragged back to its pre-pandemic situation when the current crisis eventually subsides. With much of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act and the competitive market suspended, debts written off, spending limits lifted, extra beds opened and damaging plans postponed, it's shown how much better the NHS could have been without Tory laws and 10 years of austerity. "A properly integrated NHS must not be seen as only for pandemics — we need it all year round."

  • Response to Sunday Times Insight article Department of Health spin doctors roll out an unprecedented attempt to rebuttal of the well-researched and widely-respected Sunday Times critique of government mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Revolves around arguing that Johnson's role in Cobra is irrelevant and insignificant -- not the attitude of previous prime ministers.

  • UPDATE 'A National Scandal' Timeline of the UK Government’s Response TO THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS Ian Sinclair and Rupert Read with a weekly Byline Times update on how Britain came to have one of the highest COVID-19 per capita death rates in the world.

  • U.K. Medics Told to Decide If Safe to Work Amid PPE Shortage Bloomberg report April 20: "The U.K. is struggling to acquire enough protective gear for its front-line staff amid a global surge in demand, prompting criticisms that is failing to protect them adequately. Last week, the government advised medics to reuse gowns, something the Royal College of Physicians warned would “cause consternation” among health care workers.
    "Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said the country distributed 12 million pieces of protective equipment yesterday, and today received 140,000 gowns from Myanmar."

  • Nurses Sue Montefiore for ‘Systemic Failure’ to Protect Them US report from Bloomberg 20 April: "A union representing New York nurses sued Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center for failing to safeguard its members and their families, as health care workers across the country demand personal protective equipment in the pandemic.
    "The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses, is seeking an order requiring Montefiore and WMC to give the nurses sufficient PPE such as masks and gowns, provide improved ventilation and protection from the virus, and comply with negotiated staffing ratios, particularly for patients in intensive care units or on respirators. It said at least eight of its nurses have died from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, across the state."

  • Contrary to claims by US president, CDC experts long-advised the White House from Geneva, officials say Independent report April 20: "A dozen US researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organisation as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to US and international officials.
    "The presence of so many US officials undercuts President Donald Trump‘s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States."

  • Government advisers 'lying to support regime with collapsing credibility', says Lancet editor April 20 MSN report: “Richard Horton, the editor of medical journal The Lancet, criticised the government’s advisers, accused them of telling “manifest untruths”.
    “In a tweet posted on Sunday evening, he wrote: “When you see supposedly independent medical advisors to government tell what are manifest untruths to shore up a political regime whose credibility is rapidly collapsing, you have to say that those advisors have lost their integrity and our trust.”
    “On Sunday, during the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, claimed the UK has been an “international exemplar in preparedness” during the pandemic.
    “She made the remark despite anger from NHS officials over a continued lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and a report in the Sunday Times claiming the government dithered in its response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.”

  • UK’s scientific advice on coronavirus to be secret until after pandemic (£) Times article April 20: The scientific evidence that has underpinned No 10’s response to Covid-19 will not be made public until the pandemic ends, the government chief science adviser has told MPs.
    "Sir Patrick Vallance said that the minutes of meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) — the government’s most senior team of expert advisers — would only be released “once Sage stops convening on this emergency”.

  • WHO head warns worst of virus is still ahead Politico April 20: "The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.
    "WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed."

  • The government can’t fight coronavirus, so it’s fighting journalists instead Excellent stuff from Independent April 20: "The Conservatives’ 2,000-word rebuttal to a news article they don’t like shines a light on precisely nothing beyond their own towering ineptitude."

  • Mid Yorks nurses given 'cagoules' instead of gowns BBC April 20 report: "Nurses have been left in tears after being given what look like cagoules to protect themselves at an NHS trust, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.
    "Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was trying to conserve stocks in the "absence of certainty" about the next delivery of gowns."

  • Care home deaths 'far higher' than official figures BBC (April 19) catches up with some of the press coverage highlighting unreliable figures that underestimated deaths of CV-19 in care homes:
    "New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far.
    "The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.
    "Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths.
    "Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.
    "The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics."

  • Backlash as NHS staff told: ‘Avoid tweeting about political issues like PPE’ April 19 report from east Anglia daily Times reveals mechanism for gagging orders preventing staff speaking out on vital issues: branding shortages of PPE as a "political" issue:
    “PPE, Covid-19 testing and an exit strategy from the pandemic are vital clinical matters, not ‘political’ subjects for suppression to save the government from embarrassment,” said a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
    "Campaigners also feel the move means “genuine front line ‘heroes’ cannot say what they really think”.

  • When this is over, we must give our most vulnerable the dignity they deserve AND reward the heroes who give them such devoted care, says SIR KEIR STARMER Labour leader Keir Starmer in remarkably limp and low key article in Daily Mail:
    “First, our carers need to be kept safe. … too many of them are being left exposed because of shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE).
    “The Government says it is doing everything it can to supply equipment. I do not doubt its sincerity. However, there is a mismatch between the statements coming out of Downing Street and the realities for staff on the ground. That needs to come to an end, and fast.
    “Second, we need more information. The crisis in our care homes has gone unheard for too long, in part because we do not know the full scale of the problem. That is why we urgently need Ministers to publish daily figures on the number of deaths in care homes. …
    “Third, testing, testing and more testing. Matt Hancock’s announcement that all care home residents and staff with symptoms would be tested is welcome. But many of us will be asking why on earth was this not done sooner? A council leader I spoke to last week told me that of its 5,000 social care workers, only ten had been tested. That is astonishing.”

  • Medical staff face weeks without protective gowns Observer April 19: "Doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients face shortages of protective full-length gowns for weeks to come, it has emerged, as anger builds over the failure to stockpile the garments.
    "Critical shortages of the gowns have meant that some trusts have already had to make do with the best available alternatives as a result of the shortages, which forced a sudden change in Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on the use of gowns on Friday. Concerns are being raised within the NHS over why the gowns did not form part of the government’s pandemic stockpile."

  • Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster Free access link to keynote (£) paywalled Sunday Times extended analysis of blunders and negligence of Johnson government

  • Half of frontline care workers paid less than living wage Under valued, under risk, under paid. Observer April 19 reports: "More than half of social care workers putting their health at risk during the coronavirus outbreak are paid below the real cost of living, according to an analysis of their working conditions. Staff are also four times more likely to be on a zero-hours contract than the average worker.
    "Many care workers and providers were continuing to experience shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and access to testing this weekend, amid concerns in local government over the extent of the pandemic. One estimate suggests that 5,300 people have died in care homes from Covid-19, dwarfing official estimates. Care England, an industry trade association, said the figure could be above 7,000 deaths."

  • Front-line NHS staff deserve extra £29 a day, Lib Dems say BBC reports that as Matt Hancock offers rounds of applause and a crappy badge, it's the Lib Dems of all people who suggest extra cash for the staff facing the biggest risks. They might of course prefer adequate supplies of PPE, and an increase in basic pay.

  • Trusts need certainty on gowns delivery and focussing on individual consignments is unhelpful April 19 press comment from NHS Providers, which seems to be cautiously edging towards an actual criticism of the government's handling of the crisis -- at least in regards to broken promises of supplies of PPE to NHS staff. It's still a long way from the outspoken lines taken by NHS Providers before the pandemic struck.

  • Hospital leaders hit out at government as PPE shortage row escalates Guardian 19 April report slightly exaggerates the open criticism but highlights shifting mood of hospital booses:
    "Hospital leaders have directly attacked the government for the first time during the coronavirus crisis over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) after a desperately needed consignment of surgical gowns that had been announced by ministers failed to arrive.
    "In an unprecedented intervention, which hospital leaders privately say is the result of “intense frustration and exasperation”, the organisations representing NHS trusts in England urged ministers to “just focus on what we can be certain of” after weeks of “bitter experience” with failed deliveries."

  • 'Enormous strain' on protective kit for NHS - Williamson BBC 19 April report which notes almost at the very end the appointment after weeks of fudge, failure and the failure of even the army to make the privatised "NHS Supply Chain" work for delivery of PPE that Matt Hancock has now appointed a new supremo to tosrt it out: "The government has appointed Lord Deighton, who headed the organising committee of the London Olympics, to resolve problems with supplies and distribution of PPE." Deighton is a former Tory MP, Treasury Minister and investment banker. Don't hold your breath waiting for results.

  • Domestic violence: Hotels say offer of refuge for domestic abuse victims has been snubbed Observer April 19 flags up yet another display of ineptitude and bungling by ministers: "Hotel and hostel chains which offered the UK government thousands of rooms to ensure domestic abuse victims could flee violence during the coronavirus lockdown say their gesture has been snubbed.
    "The chains, which asked not to be named, wanted to help solve the absence of refuge places as domestic violence soars.
    "Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics, described the government’s response as “foot-dragging at its most unnecessary, irresponsible and lethal”."

  • Piers Morgan is right about the coronavirus crisis – and this is why you’re surprised Interesting Independent April 19 article on why the attack dog of the Brexit right has now become a champion of the NHS retweeted by the left:
    "In this climate, Morgan is giving voice to the moral outrage felt over the government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has led to thousands of potentially avoidable deaths. Labour has positioned itself as broadly supportive and its MPs note how difficult it must be for government, none of which speaks to the mounting sense of public despair. It is not helped by parliament being mothballed in an ill-advised recess (it will sit virtually from next week)."

  • Government not being honest enough, says former Chief Scientific Adviser Channel 4 April 19: As the Chief Scientific Adviser, he dealt with crises including the foot and mouth disease outbreak, but now Professor Sir David King says he’s shocked and saddened that the UK failed to respond quickly to this pandemic. And he wants the government to be more open and honest with the public.

  • Japan's medical system faces catastrophe as sick people turned away from hospitals Independent April 19: “The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries.
    “…The outbreak has highlighted underlying weaknesses in medical care in Japan, which has long been praised for its high quality insurance system and reasonable costs.
    “… Japan lacks enough hospital beds, medical workers or equipment. Forcing anyone with the virus into hospital, even those with mild symptoms, has left hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.”

  • Undocumented migrants dying of coronavirus because they’re too afraid to seek help, MPs and charities warn Independent April 18 report: "The current NHS charging policy, introduced in 2018 as part of the “hostile environment”, charges non-EU patients 50 per cent more than it costs the NHS to treat them and requires hospital staff to demand proof of entitlement to free healthcare.
    "In response to the coronavirus outbreak, ministers introduced regulations on 29 January that meant no charge could be made to an overseas visitor for diagnosis or treatment of the virus, saying it was “very important, for public health protection, that overseas visitors are not deterred from seeking treatment for Covid-19”.
    "However, the MPs warned that while this was a “welcome step” it did “not go far enough”, adding: “It does not undo years of hostile environment policies, in which migrants have been told that they will be charged for healthcare or faced with immigration enforcement when accessing public services. In the present moment, this undermines the government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.”

  • Trusts told sending patients and staff to almost empty Nightingale is essential to recovery HSJ report April 18: "NHS organisations in London have been asked to send more than 200 doctors and nurses to the temporary Nightingale hospital, as regional leaders seek to increase the number of patients being treated there.
    "The facility in east London was built to provide intensive care to around 3600 Covid positive patients. But it has remained largely empty since it opened as London trusts have been able to absorb the demand within their own expanded critical care capacity.
    "A letter to senior leaders in the capital, leaked to HSJ, said that using the Nightingale’s capacity was vital in helping London’s hospitals restore some of their typical services, such as elective surgery, as well as coping with rising emergency demand as social distancing measures are relaxed. There has been a major reduction in normal hospital activity during the coronavirus outbreak."

  • Coronavirus UK: large consignment of PPE to arrive tomorrow, says Jenrick – as it happened Guardiian April 18: "NHS frontline workers may refuse to work if there is not enough PPE to ensure their safety, the UK’s largest union said. The warning came in response to new guidance from Public Health England, revealed by the Guardian on Friday, which instructs healthcare workers to reuse disposable PPE and recommends that medics wear aprons if they are unable to access full-length gowns. There are growing concerns that some PPE supplies are dangerously close to running out."

  • Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster Major (£) Sunday Times analysis exposes the record of government negligence and incompetence in addressing Covid-19 threat: "The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.
    "But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low".

  • How did Britain get its coronavirus response so wrong? Guardian's extended and detailed critique of government handling of the pandemic:
    "It is perhaps too early to conclude for sure that Johnson, Hancock and the government’s entire team of scientific and medical advisers were caught asleep at the wheel. But the fact that Johnson and Hancock themselves, in common with much of the Downing Street staff, would go on to contract the virus or suffer symptoms, further suggests that people at the top had not been sufficiently on their guard.
    "Now, 11 weeks on from the first cases being confirmed in the UK on 31 January – a period during which more than 14,000 people (and probably several thousands more once care home fatalities are counted) in the UK have died from Covid-19 – and with the country in lockdown, the economy facing prolonged recession as a result, schools closed, and no sign of an end in sight – hard questions have to be asked.
    "We already know with some certainty that other countries, such as Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, will emerge from this crisis having performed far better than the UK."

  • Revealed: The UK’s “Three Stage” Exit Strategy To Ease The Coronavirus Lockdown Buzzfeed analysis April 18: "A "best case scenario" would see some non-essential retail shops and industries reopen in early to mid-May, further social distancing measures relaxed over the summer, but the elderly and vulnerable facing strict "shielding" restrictions lasting until a vaccine is found."

  • 'There's no pandemic...Media's the cancer' — People across the U.S., many of whom are vocal Trump supporters, are protesting stay-at-home orders." Scary display of US ignorance and unbelievable stupidity whipped up by Trump from Now This video

  • A Nurse’s Hospital Wouldn’t Let Her Wear an N95 Mask. She Hasn’t Been Back to Work in Weeks US news from ProPublica April 18: "ProPublica spoke to 15 doctors and nurses from New Jersey to California to North and South Carolina who said their administrators have normalized poor infection control practices — putting them at risk and likely spreading the virus.
    "A study published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that health care workers are getting infected at high rates, which also makes them a source of transmission.
    "ProPublica and others have reported on staff who were suspended or fired for bringing their own gowns and masks and other protective equipment, or speaking up about it. But clinicians are saying there’s an even deeper problem.
    "The conditions are so unsafe they’re being forced to choose between their livelihoods and risking their lives — and that means some are walking away."

  • Unseen footage of Boris Johnson on 3rd February stating the UK will stand alone against world wide lockdowns Interesting reinforcement for the growing number of critiques revealing how badly wrong he and his government were in the early handling of the pandemic, with disatrous and lethal consequences.

  • UK care home Covid-19 deaths 'may be five times government estimate' Guardian April 18: "“Care England, Britain’s largest representative body for care homes, told the Daily Telegraph that up to 7,500 care home residents may have died of the virus.
    “This is significantly higher than the figure of 1,400 people estimated to have died by the government earlier this week.
    “Without testing, it is very difficult to give an absolute figure,” Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said. “However, if we look at some of the death rates since 1 April and compare them with previous years’ rates, we estimate a figure of about 7,500 people may have died as a result of Covid-19.”
    “The figure is also significantly higher than the 217 care home deaths recorded in the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which runs up to 3 April.”

  • Will Big Pharma Fleece Us On A COVID Treatment That We Helped Fund? Blog from US commentator David Sirota: “Drug companies often justify their high prices by insisting that when a medicine comes to market, they need to recoup the money they spent on R&D, some of which inevitably ends up being a loss as they chase promising but unsuccessful therapies. That same return-on-investment logic could also apply to taxpayers -- when we take the financial risk of funding original medical research, our ROI could be in the form of affordable prices for the medicines that eventually come from that research.
    “In fact, that was the very concept embedded in our laws during the Bush I administration, after criticism of the high price of a leading anti-AIDS drug developed at taxpayer expense.
    “The NIH rule’s principle was simple: drugs developed at taxpayer expense and then licensed to commercial pharmaceutical companies must ultimately be offered to consumers at a fair and reasonable price. …
    “That NIH rule, however, was rescinded by Bill Clinton’s administration -- a big win for “the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, which campaigned against the pricing clause,” according to a contemporaneous report from the New York Times”

  • C.D.C. Labs Were Contaminated, Delaying Coronavirus Testing, Officials Say New Yoprk Times April 18 highlights confusion and incompetence in US similar to that revealed in British government handling of the crisis: "To this day, the C.D.C.’s singular failure symbolizes how unprepared the federal government was in the early days to combat a fast-spreading outbreak of a new virus and it also highlights the glaring inability at the onset to establish a systematic testing policy that would have revealed the still unknown rates of infection in many regions of the country.
    "The blunders are posing new problems as some states with few cases agitate to reopen and others remain in virtual lockdown with cases and deaths still climbing.
    "While President Trump and other members of his administration assert almost daily that the U.S. testing capacity is greater than anywhere else in the world, many public health officials and epidemiologists have lamented the lack of consistent, reliable testing across the country that would reflect the true prevalence of the infection and perhaps enable a return to some semblance of normal life."

  • Hancock faces calls to resign over coronavirus PPE shortages (£) Times April 18: “A “very large consignment” of personal protective equipment — including 400,000 gowns – is due to arrive in the UK tomorrow as the health secretary faced calls to resign over the shortages.
    “Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said that 84 tonnes of PPE would arrive in the UK from Turkey on Sunday amid reports that 60 NHS trusts were expecting to exhaust their stocks of gowns within hours.
    “The announcement came as Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was told he might have to “consider his position” as union leaders criticised his handling of the PPE crisis.
    “Faith in Hancock is “draining away”, union leaders said as NHS staff were told to re-use PPE and wear aprons to treat coronavirus patients.”

  • Half of nursing staff under pressure to work without PPE RCN survey, conducted over the Easter weekend, "shows that half of nursing staff have felt pressure to carry out their work without the levels of protection set out in official guidance. This includes those working in the most high-risk environments, such as areas where patients with or suspected of having COVID-19 are being treated on ventilators.
    "Of those treating possible or confirmed COVID-19 patients in these high-risk areas, around half (51%) reported that they are being asked to reuse items of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are marked ‘single use’ by manufacturers. Of those treating COVID-19 patients elsewhere, over a third (39%) said they were being asked to reuse this equipment.

    "RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “These figures unmask the gut-wrenching shortages nursing staff are dealing with in all health care settings. It is little wonder they are in such fear for their own safety and that of their patients. This crisis is taking the lives of nursing staff, and their colleagues feel they’ve been left exposed. All decision makers involved here need to get an urgent grip on the situation. Nursing staff just want to do their jobs – they must be given protection in order to do so.”

  • NHS director warned smaller care providers could fail last month and Government failed to act A hint of criticism from the stoutly loyal (£) Daily Torygraph April 18 as they survey the instability and chaos of the social care in private hands: "An NHS director warned "lots" of private care homes could fail before the sector burned through two thirds of the coronavirus support package for councils in just three weeks, The Telegraph can disclose.
    "Such is the scale of financial turmoil facing smaller homes dealing with Covid-19 that an initial £1.6billion support package to cover demand across council services was immediately branded insufficient.
    "On Saturday, the Government doubled that contribution, handing over another £1.6billion to the wider effort by local authorities.
    "However, ministers will continue to face mounting questions over a financial black hole facing the care sector."

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Refugees among hundreds of overseas medics to respond to NHS call Guardian April 17 report: "Hundreds of foreign-born doctors, including refugees, have signed up to become medical support workers as part of a new scheme aimed at helping the NHS tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
    "NHS England launched the initiative for international medical graduates and doctors after calls to fast track the accreditation of overseas medics.
    "The NHS plans to deploy the workers, who have passed an English language exam, in small numbers initially.

  • Muddled thinking punctures plan for British ventilator Financial Times (April 17) analysis: "Matt Hancock invoked the wartime “Blitz Spirit”, urging companies to pivot factory lines to make ventilators. “We cannot make too many,” he wrote.
    "That was March 14 and the genesis of a project designed as a showcase for British innovation and self-reliance, likened to the production of Spitfire fighter aircraft in the second world war.
    "But what emerged was a procurement programme insiders say was plagued by disjointed thinking that sent volunteer, non-specialist manufacturers down the wrong track, designing products clinicians and regulators so far deemed largely unsuitable for treating Covid-19 patients. "

  • NHS staff told 'wear aprons' as protective gowns run out Guardian report April 17: "NHS bosses have asked doctors and nurses to work without protective full-length gowns when treating Covid-19 patients, as hospitals came within hours of running out of supplies.
    "The guidance is a reversal of Public Health England (PHE) guidelines stipulating that full-length waterproof surgical gowns, designed to stop coronavirus droplets getting into someone’s mouth or nose, should be worn for all high-risk hospital procedures.
    "In a significant U-turn, PHE advised frontline staff to wear a flimsy plastic apron with coveralls when gowns ran out, in a move that doctors and nurses fear may lead to more of them contracting the virus and ultimately putting lives at risk. "

  • Mortality associated with covid-19 outbreaks in care homes: early international evidence April 17 update of report from International Long term Care Policy Network:
    "Official data from 7 countries suggests that the share of care home residents whose deaths are linked to COVID-19 is much lower in 2 countries where there have been fewer deaths in total (14% in Australia, where there have been 63 deaths, and 20% in Singapore, where there have been 10 deaths).
    "In the remaining 5 countries for which we have official data (Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland and Norway), and where the number of total deaths ranges from 136 to 17,167, the % of COVID-related deaths in care homes ranges from 49% to 64%).
    "Data reported by media as coming from official sources for Portugal and Spain suggests rates of 33% and 53% respectively.
    "The authors have considered that it is not possible to draw accurate estimates from the data that is currently in public domain in the United Kingdom."

  • Peers call for a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 crisis Yorkshire Bylines April 17 reports: "ifteen senior peers, including Chris Patten, Bob Kerslake and Helena Kennedy have written a letter to the Financial Times calling for a full public inquiry into the UK’s handing of the coronavirus crisis. They argue that the public but particularly “health and care professions, the medical science community and those who have lost loved ones to the virus, are entitled to reassurance that the relevant questions will be addressed.”

  • Considerations for acute personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages Latest government changes in guidance on PPE, brought in as a response to dwindling stocks and without proper consultation with professional bodies.

  • How do we escape lockdown? Community testing, new tech and an army of volunteers Paul Evans in The Lowdown spells out the missing links for a plan to escape from lockdown:
    “Mass testing of the community for Covid-19 is yet a priority in the UK, despite evidence from South Korea and China showing that it was vital in beating back the virus – so why aren’t we recruiting an army of public health volunteers to help make it possible?
    The theory is that tracking down people who have newly acquired the virus before they have time to pass it on will help put a lid on transmission. It is a standard tool in the public health response to infectious disease and the UK deployed it at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

  • Now or Never for Global Leadership on COVID-19 April 7 statement in Project Syndicate calling for an international effort to contain the spread of Covid-19 co-authored by Gordon Brown:
    “During the global financial crisis of 2008, G20 leaders coordinated a global response, and in other emergencies – such as tsunamis, civil wars, or epidemics – coalitions of countries have convened donor conferences to generate the necessary resources. Today, we need both”

  • Britain faces a care crisis that could overwhelm the NHS Hard hitting April 4 report from Independent’s Shaun Lintern: “Across the country, care providers say they have been pushed to the brink of closure because some local councils are refusing to release emergency funding made available by the government, while many face staff shortages, a lack of equipment and too few nurses to care for extra patients being discharged by the NHS.
    “Some care-home managers have warned that the vulnerable or elderly who fall ill may be all but abandoned by local NHS services, with reports of unlawful do-not-resuscitate orders being put in place by some GPs.
    “While national efforts have focused on shoring up the health service to help it cope with a surge in coronavirus infections, experts warned not enough has been done to make sure the 18,000 care sector companies, on which the health service may rely, can withstand the next few weeks and months.”

  • Covid vs. US Daily Average Cause of Death Astonishing animated graph showing the impact of Covid-19 compared to other major causes of death in the USA.

  • Protecting migrants from Covid-19 Campaigners unite behind letter from Liberty Medact and many others including Health Campaigns Together, to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to call for urgent changes to ensure the safety of migrants in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “We call on the Home Secretary to:
    “ensure access to healthcare - this means immediately suspending all NHS charging and data sharing with immigration enforcement, and launching a public information campaign that makes clear that healthcare services are available and safe for all migrants to use
    “ensure all migrants have access to vital public services by suspending 'No Recourse To Public Funds' conditions
    “make assurances that no one will be penalised for missing appointments, reporting or court dates due to illness
    “make sure no one is made an 'overstayer' because of being self-isolated or unable to return to a country that is not safe to travel to, by extending or modifying visas
    “release everyone detained under immigration powers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the detention estate and causing avoidable harm
    “provide specialist support for those housed in shared Asylum Accommodation to enable safe access to medical services, testing, and where necessary, re-housing for particularly vulnerable people.”

  • No matter how you crunch the numbers, this pandemic is only just getting started US doctor in Guardian (April 16) dissects arguments for lifting the lockdown
    "An editorial in the British Medical Journal has reported data from China suggesting that as many as four in five cases of Sars-CoV-2 infection could be asymptomatic.
    "It then goes on to quote people from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Oxford, who say that if this is true “What the hell are we locking down for?” I wish those people would be brave enough to go and repeat that opinion in an ER in the Bronx right now, in which actual medicine is going on.
    "Worrying about the exact rate of asymptomatic infection, or the currently unknown duration of immunity and a possible “second wave”, is like politely applauding the performance in a jazz club and murmuring “nice” while the building is demolished around you and the piano player gets decapitated."

  • Bracing for coronavirus but losing money every day, this East Texas hospital had to cut employees More from the tragically dysfunctional world of US health care. Texas Trubune reports on hospitals laying off staff as the virus gathers pace:
    "Just two months ago, Titus County in northeast Texas had a high-traffic medical center with 800 employees, an average of 65 patients in the emergency room and an entryway manned by senior volunteers selling buttery popcorn.
    "Now, ER traffic has slowed to a crawl. Ten percent of the staff is out of work. And the hospital’s chief executive officer, Terry Scoggin, says the 108-bed facility is sitting on just a few months of cash — even with new money it's getting from a federal stimulus package.
    "It's not alone.
    "As hospitals brace for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients, some facilities are shedding staff members, cutting hours and hemorrhaging money. It’s an unexpected side effect of a steep drop-off in lucrative surgeries, meant to free up hospital bed space and preserve protective equipment for the coronavirus outbreak."

  • Trump turns against WHO to mask his own stark failings on Covid-19 crisis Guardian reports (April 15) “Donald Trump’s declared suspension of funding of the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic is confirmation – if any were needed – that he is in search of scapegoats for his administration’s much delayed and chaotic response to the crisis.
    “The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, with funding over $400m a year in both assessed contributions (membership fees) and donations – though it is actually $200m in arrears.
    “Theoretically the White House cannot block funding of international institutions mandated by Congress. But the administration has found ways around such constitutional hurdles on other issues – by simply failing to disburse funds or apply sanctions, for example.”

  • Coronavirus: Around half of COVID-19 deaths are in care homes Sky News April 14 reports statistics that suggest British death toll figures are massively understated:
    “Figures from five European countries suggest that care home residents have accounted for between 42% and 57% of all deaths related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
    “The figures are contained in a report by academics at the London School of Economics, which focuses on Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium.”

  • Older people being 'airbrushed' out of virus figures BBC April 14 report: “Industry leaders from Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer's Society have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.
    “They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.
    “It comes after the government confirmed there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England - although they did not specify the number of deaths that had occurred.
    “The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is "running wild" in care homes for elderly people.
    "The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don't matter," Caroline Abrahams, the charity's director, said.
    “Meanwhile, Britain's largest care home operator, HC-One, said coronavirus was present in two-thirds - 232 - of the group's care homes.

    “… About 410,000 people live in care homes in the UK, living in 11,300 care homes for older people supplied by 5,500 different providers.
    “… Labour's shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said daily figures were essential to dealing with the "emerging crisis" in care homes and called for the government to offer social care "whatever resources it needs".
    “… Conservative peer and former work and pensions minister Baroness Altmann told Today that "one or two" people in care homes had said to her they felt as though older people are being treated "like lambs to the slaughter. They [care homes] are left without protective equipment, they are left without testing," she said.”

  • UK scraps plans to buy thousands of ventilators from Formula One group Guardian April 14 with another story of confused action by ministers: “A plan to buy thousands of medical ventilators from a group including the Renault and Red Bull Formula One teams has been cancelled amid signs that symptoms specific to Covid-19 could make building new devices more difficult than hoped.”

  • The right wing have begun their attack on the most vulnerable, who they want to pay for coronavirus Tax expert Richard Murphy (April 14) quotes from the Guardian:
    “The Social Market Foundation (SMF) proposes that the massive economic cost of the emergency measures deployed to manage the pandemic must be shared fairly between old and young, and that some of the huge anticipated government deficit could be funded by abandoning the so-called triple lock guarantee on state pension rises.”
    Murphy comments: “The economic logic underpinning this demand is entirely flawed. It assumes that there the coronavirus crisis must be paid for, when all that is missing is credit at present, as I have explained.
    “It assumes that payment must come from across society when many have nothing more that they can contribute.
    “And it assumes that there must be a squeeze on public spending because the private sector is in meltdown when the exact opposite is the case.”

  • Two of UK's largest care home providers report 521 coronavirus deaths Guardian (April 14) reports: “Two of the largest providers of care homes in the UK have revealed the deaths of 521 residents from coronavirus in recent weeks, in the clearest sign yet of the rising scale of fatalities outside the NHS which have not been officially announced.
    “HC-One, which operates about 350 homes, said that as of 8pm on Monday there had been 311 deaths from confirmed or suspected Covid-19, with outbreaks in two thirds of its homes. MHA, a charitable operator, said there have been 210 deaths across 131 homes, with outbreaks in about half of its homes.
    “The figures contrast both with Monday’s assertion by Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, that there are outbreaks in one in seven care homes in England and data published weekly by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which has a 10-day time lag.”

  • Coronavirus tests have been given to only 505 social care workers in Britain Mirror (April 14) reports: “Only 505 social care workers in Britain have had coronavirus tests, the government admitted today.
    “Downing Street said specific testing of care home and home-care staff had only rolled out in the last few days due to a lack of capacity. As of 9am on Easter Monday, just 505 have been tested - compared to 47,784 once NHS staff and their families are included.
    “The tiny figure was revealed despite the Health Secretary pledging on Friday that "all key social care staff" could now get tests if needed.”

  • England coronavirus testing has not risen fast enough - science chief April 14 report in The Guardian: “Public Health England did not increase testing for Covid-19 as quickly as was needed to control the spread of the virus, the government’s chief scientific adviser has suggested.
    “Sir Patrick Vallance’s comments echo those of Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who said a week ago that Germany “got ahead” in testing people for Covid-19 and that the UK needed to learn from that.
    “So far, the government has prioritised tests for seriously ill patients in hospital and frontline NHS staff. But Vallance said testing needed to be done at sufficient scale “to look at outbreaks and isolate”, as has happened in countries such as Germany and South Korea.”

  • Top creditors to suspend poorest countries' debt payments: France Reuters April 14 report: “Major international creditors have agreed to suspend debt payments owed by the poorest countries this year, throwing a financial lifeline to help them cope with the coronavirus crisis, France's finance minister said on Tuesday.
    “Some 76 countries, of which 40 are in sub-Sahara Africa, were eligible to have debt payments worth a combined $20 billion suspended, out of a total of $32 billion the countries were to spend on debt servicing this year.
    "We have obtained a debt moratorium at the level of bilateral creditors and private creditors for a total of $20 billion," Bruno Le Maire told journalists.
    “The government creditors, including not only the Paris Club group of creditors, but also China and other members of the Group of 20 economic powers, are to suspend $12 billion under the agreement, which remains to be finalised on Wednesday.”

  • Risky numbers: the national reporting of Covid-19 Nuffield Trust analysis of weakness of official data published on Covid-19 concludes:
    "displaying forecasts – we know that some exist – may also help the public understand whether the latest data is as expected or showing a new trend. This can be guided by lessons from history. Following a flawed attempt by government to articulate the risk of the swine flu a decade or so ago, there is now an established principle that government should continually communicate “most probable scenarios” with the public, while also being open about the worst-case scenario.
    "Third, providing a single, consistent and accessible source of information on a variety of health service data can give a more accurate picture. This could include available capacity (e.g. ventilators); activity (e.g. hospital admissions – data currently provided on this is poorly explained); intermediate outcomes (e.g. admissions to intensive care units); and outcomes (e.g. deaths and recoveries). A suite of indicators could be supported with evidence on the relationship between the measures, such as the proportion of intensive care patients that die or recover"

  • Reconciling COVID-19 death data in the UK “How many people have died from COVID-19 in the UK? You’d think this was an easy question to answer, but you would be wrong. There are numerous places in which you can find this data, and they don’t always give the same answer.” Fascinating information (April 8, since updated) from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.

  • Ministers 'must be open with NHS about PPE shortages' Guardian April 13 quotes Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who appears more concerned that factual information might be “weaponised” than to ensure honest answers are given.
    Hopson “wants the government to start alerting health service trusts when they are about to face a lack of equipment such as the ongoing dearth of gowns and visors that frontline staff need to repel Covid-19.
    Writing for the Guardian about PPE shortages, Hopson says: “National NHS leaders will continue their massive efforts to fill current PPE gaps. But trust leaders believe that they should be included earlier in helping to find the solutions. For example, if there is going to be a stock shortage of a particular item, then far better to know about it well in advance.
    “Trusts then have more time to effect the solutions like the mutual support approach they’ve adopted for gowns over the last few days.”

  • Coronavirus: Government 'close to lies' over coronavirus deaths, warns expert Sky News April 13: “A former public health director has accused the government of "coming very close to lies" over the UK's coronavirus death figures.
    “Professor John Ashton, former regional director of Public Health England, said the number of people dying with COVID-19 could be double what the public is being told.
    “This is because officials counts are not including deaths outside hospitals, such as those in the community or in care homes, he said.”

  • Furor Erupts: Billions Going To Hospitals Based On Medicare Billings, Not COVID-19 April 13 updated article from Kaiser Health News revealing more chaos, waste and inequality in the disastrous US hospital sector, where the Trump administration has adopted:
    “one-size-fits-all approach to distributing the first $30 billion in emergency grants. HHS [Health and Human Services] confirmed Friday it would give hospitals and doctors money according to their historical share of revenue from the Medicare program for seniors — not according to their coronavirus burden.
    “… States such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana, which the pandemic has touched relatively lightly, are getting more than $300,000 per reported COVID-19 case in the $30 billion, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.
    “On the other hand, New York, the worst-hit state, would receive only $12,000 per case. Florida is getting $132,000 per case. KHN relied on a state breakdown provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by HHS along with COVID-19 cases tabulated by The New York Times.”

  • UK missed three chances to join EU scheme to bulk-buy PPE Guardian (April 13) “Britain missed three opportunities to be part of an EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves and has been absent from key talks about future purchases, the Guardian can reveal, as pressure grows on ministers to protect NHS medics and care workers on the coronavirus frontline.
    “European doctors and nurses are preparing to receive the first of €1.5bn (£1.3bn) worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) within days or a maximum of two weeks through a joint procurement scheme involving 25 countries and eight companies, according to internal EU documents.
    “The EU’s swift work has led to offers of medical equipment, including masks, overalls and goggles, in excess of the number requested, a spokesman for the European commission said. The EU is separately establishing stockpiles within member states, with the first being set up in Romania.”

  • Coronavirus: Top scientist claims Government recklessly allowed thousands to catch bug Mirror April 13: “Professor Helen Ward, of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London has warned ministers "there will be a reckoning, and it will not be forgiving".
    “The academic tweeted: "It’s very sad that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill because politicians refused to listen to advice.
    "We said lockdown earlier, we said test, trace, isolate. But they decided they knew better. There will be a reckoning, and it will not be forgiving."
    Professor Ward told the Mirror the decision in early March to stop community testing and contact tracing was a "big problem" which meant we "lost sight" of the pandemic.”

  • NHS staff still putting their lives on the line without vital protection kit Mirror April 13 report launches a campaign for PPE to save lives of health workers (and patients):
    “So far, around 40 health and care workers have died of Covid-19. And those on the ground insist government claims there is enough equipment do not match the desperate reality.
    “So today, the Mirror launches a campaign demanding ministers urgently provide the gowns, masks, visors and gloves staff on the front line need to keep them safe while trying to save others.
    “… It comes as the BMA revealed it continues to receive stories of “serious shortages” of personal protection equipment from worried doctors around the land.”

  • 'Growing crisis' as 92 care homes report COVID-19 outbreaks Sky News (April 13): “A total of 92 care homes have reported outbreaks of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, England's chief medical officer has said.
    “Speaking at the daily COVID-19 news conference, Professor Chris Whitty said 13.5% of care homes have been affected by the virus.”

  • One in three UK surgeons lacks enough protective kit, survey finds “Surgeons treating Covid-19 patients have a “terrifying” lack of personal protective equipment that is risking lives, the profession’s leaders warn today.
    “Almost a third (32.5%) of UK surgeons say they do not have access to enough masks, gowns and other clothing to keep them safe, a new survey reveals.
    “The widespread lack of PPE for frontline staff is “a disgrace”, according to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which collated the views of 1,978 surgeons and surgical trainees.
    “There are often young doctors and nurses, many with kids at home, putting themselves in challenging situations without proper PPE. It’s not acceptable, morally or ethically, that people should put their lives at risk to do their job unless they have adequate PPE,” Sue Hill, the college’s vice-president, told the Observer.”

  • Patel refuses to take children from Greek camps threatened by Covid-19 Guardian April 12 report on yet more “shameful” behaviour by the appalling Home Secretary:
    “Priti Patel has refused pleas to accept more unaccompanied children from the notoriously overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands amid dire warnings of an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
    “The charity Médecins Sans Frontières wrote to the home secretary on 13 March asking her to “significantly increase” the number of child refugees transferred to the UK as well as “facilitate the urgent evacuation” of those with chronic and complex health conditions.”

  • Ministers must get PPE to NHS frontline, says business secretary Guardian April 12 reports Business Secretary Ashok Sharma, two days after NHS published PPE distribution plan, refusing to apologise for its failures so far to carry out previous promises:
    “Sharma told Sky News’s Ridge on Sunday: “It is absolutely right that no medical professional should be placed in a position where they have to make that choice. That for me is self-evident. That is why we are making sure we get the equipment to the frontline.”
    “However, he refused to apologise specifically over the supply of PPE and said he was “sorry for the loss of any life during this pandemic”.
    “It is our job to make sure we get that healthcare equipment, that PPE, out to them,” he said. “Right now, your viewers will be asking does the government have a plan to get this PPE out to the frontline and the answer is yes, we do have a plan.
    “We are putting that in place, with millions of pieces of PPE kit going out to the frontline. Of course, we need to be doing even more,” he said.

  • Community nursing will 'blow’ as discharge threshold is reduced HSJ April 12 report: “Both the Royal College of Nursing and the Queen’s Nursing Institute — the charity for community nursing — told HSJ that district nurses were now having to prioritise patients more than normal, as staffing numbers have become “extremely stretched”.
    “The demands on nursing care in people’s homes has worsened due to instructions from NHS England and the government to discharge people from hospital more quickly, and when their health is “medically optimised” but not yet “back to baseline”, freeing up tens of thousands of beds for acute covid-19 admissions.
    “One GP, who asked not to be named, told HSJ: “The skill base in community nursing is high, but before covid19 we didn’t have [enough] staff, and that is without the increase in early discharge, complex patients [moving out of hospital] and the slower consultations that having to wear personal protective equipment will also cause. The NHS is really going to struggle, it is going to blow.”

  • Coronavirus is ripping through this care home at a frightening speed Sky News April 12 report from Sheffield: “Half of the residents in a care home we visited have coronavirus.
    “The disease has ripped through the wards with frightening speed in the past two weeks. COVID-19 has attacked the old and frail who are now locked in the fight of their lives.
    “Staffing levels are running dangerously low because nurses are either self-isolating or have been infected themselves.”

  • Coronavirus: 'Half of A&E team' test positive BBC report (April 12): “About half of A&E consultants and nurses at a major Welsh hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, a doctor there has said. Consultant Tim Rogerson, from the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, appeared in a video on the Aneurin Bevan health board's Facebook page.
    “Dr Rogerson is self-isolating and said he had "pretty much a full house" of coronavirus symptoms. The health board area is one of the worst affected of the UK.”

  • Revealed: value of UK pandemic stockpile fell by 40% in six years Guardian April 12 report: “Analysis of official financial data suggests £325m was wiped off the value of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) emergency stockpile, reducing it from £831m in 2013 under the Conservative-led coalition government to £506m by March last year.
    “The finding is likely to raise further questions for the health secretary, Matt Hancock, who faced criticism over the weekend after urging healthcare workers not to “overuse” personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “The revelation raises questions about why the value depreciated so quickly and how the fall related to stock-levels.
    “According to official figures at least 19 UK healthcare workers had died after contracting coronavirus. Frontline medical staff have complained of PPE shortages, which they say are putting lives at risk.”

  • Coronavirus: Health secretary Matt Hancock declines to apologise to nurses forced to choose whether to work without PPE Independent (April 12) report: “The health secretary has declined to apologise to nurses forced to choose between treating coronavirus patients or protecting themselves due to shortages of vital protective kit.
    “Matt Hancock came under pressure to make an apology to frontline staff who are putting themselves at risk by working without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “Nursing leaders have issued guidance to staff that they should refuse to treat coronavirus patients as a “last resort” if appropriate PPE was not provided.
    “Asked whether he would apologise to medics “who are being put in that impossible position”, Mr Hancock did not answer directly, instead saying: “We are working night and day to make sure that we get the right PPE.”

  • 10,000 UK coronavirus deaths: don't forget that this was preventable Guardian comment article (April 12): “Not only did the UK have the experience of Italy play out before the virus hit its own shores, illustrating clearly the measures that needed to be taken, it had explicit warnings from Italians spelling out the pitfalls to be avoided.
    “… It is a jarring experience to wake up to a British death toll that is almost a thousand a day, and not see that number on every front page, being put to every politician in every single interview, with a demand for an explanation. It is as if those who should be asking these questions, from the media to opposition politicians, have been subjected to a mass memory-erasing exercise.
    “Every report showing the scale of the crisis should be framed in the language of accountability and anchored in the premise of preventability. With all the benefits of hindsight, the government dragged its feet, wasted precious time and infused the issue with a sense of British exceptionalism: drastic measures need not be taken because in the UK things will somehow be different.”

  • UK cancels order for simple ventilators, needs more complex ones: source Reuters April 12: “Britain has cancelled an order for thousands of units of a simple model of ventilator developed by industrial companies to treat COVID-19 because more sophisticated devices are now needed, a source involved in the project said on Sunday.”

  • Pressure grows for developing world debt relief over coronavirus Powerful April 12 Guardian report: “Calls for a comprehensive package of debt relief to help poor countries cope with the coronavirus pandemic have intensified after research showed that more than 60 countries are spending more on paying their creditors than they are on health.
    “Before a series of key meetings this week, the Jubilee Debt Campaign said it was vital to relieve the mounting financial pressure on poor countries by cancelling their debt payments this year.
    “The JDC said that among the 121 low and middle-income countries for which 2019 data was available an average of 10.7% of government revenue was spent on public health systems, compared with 12.2% on external debt payments.”

  • Priti Patel 'sorry if people feel there have been failings' on PPE Tame April 11 BBC report picks up on Priti Patel’s now infamous phrase:
    “The home secretary has said she is sorry if NHS staff feel there has been a failure to provide protective kit for those treating coronavirus patients.
    … Speaking at Saturday's coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, the home secretary said: "I'm sorry if people feel that there have been failings. I will be very, very clear about that.
    "But at the same time, we are in an unprecedented global health pandemic right now. It is inevitable that the demand and the pressures on PPE and demand for PPE are going to be exponential."

  • 'We're all scared': brave carers battling daily tragedy in a broken system Liverpool Echo April 11 report: