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The fight against Coronavirus



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

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

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

  • Revealed: ‘COVID goldrush’ firms receiving millions under UK furlough scheme Another Open Democracy revelation of the dodgy dealings during the pandemic:
    “Companies awarded huge COVID contracts by the government have received millions in support payments through the furlough scheme, openDemocracy can reveal.
    “Among the firms given furlough payments are a digital marketing business that won an £19.5m contract to provide personal protective equipment, and a controversial science company once hired by Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave.
    “The revelations come amid growing concerns about COVID cronyism and lobbying in government and days after HMRC announced it was launching a clampdown on poor families who were mistakenly overpaid tax credits as long as 17 years ago.
    “OpenDemocracy’s investigation also found that Greensill Capital, the collapsed finance firm at the centre of the David Cameron lobbying scandal, has been receiving payments from the government’s wage subsidy scheme.”

  • Lockdown easing will ‘inevitably’ lead to rise in deaths and hospitalisations, Boris Johnson warns Independent April 14 warns us to adopt the brace position for more bad news to come:
    “Hospitalisations and deaths will rise “inevitably” as the lockdown is lifted, Boris Johnson has warned the public.
    “The dramatic falls in infections were achieved primarily because of the tough restrictions – rather than the vaccination programme, the prime minister said.
    “The bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown,” Mr Johnson said. “So, as we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, that sadly we will see more hospitalisations and deaths – and people have just got to understand that.”
    “However, the prime minister insisted the key future dates for lifting curbs – on 17 May and 21 June – would go ahead as planned, on the current data.”

  • U.S. trade czar meets unions, companies as pressure mounts for IP waiver to boost vaccinations Reuters report April 14 showing the Biden regime far more responsive than Johnson government to need for global vaccination to contain the pandemic -- and action to force grudging drug companies into line:
    “U.S. trade czar Katherine Tai is meeting with unions, industry executives and advocacy groups as Washington faces mounting pressure to back a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights to accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.
    “…Tai, who helped broker Sunday’s agreement in a thorny trade case involving South Korean battery makers, is seeking input before a virtual World Trade Organization meeting on the issue on Wednesday.
    “Tai met with representatives from more than 20 unions, including the AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Association of Flight Attendants, her office said. She underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to increasing COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution, both at home and worldwide, USTR said, seeking the organizations’ views on increasing vaccine availability and preventing the emergence and spread of new variants.
    “Biden’s top trade negotiator also met with officials from eight groups, including Public Citizen, Oxfam America, Human Rights Watch and Doctors without Borders, who want Washington to change course and allow an increase in the production of vaccines.
    “WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will convene major manufacturers, banking officials and ministers from wealthy and developing countries on Wednesday to discuss vaccine export restrictions and a waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 drugs.”

  • Maternity units told to meet target staffing levels by next April Independent April 14 following up on its coverage of the poor quality of maternity care in a number of trusts and belated action to address it:
    "NHS maternity units have been told they have until next April to increase the numbers of midwives on wards to expected levels after a near £100 million investment.
    "NHS England has told hospitals they must bring staffing levels for midwives up the levels needed to meet their planned demand from mothers and to ensure women get safe care.
    "In a letter to NHS trusts, England’s chief nurse Ruth May said she expected hospitals to use their share of a recent £96 million investment by NHS England to boost staffing levels along with extra spending from local budgets."

  • 4.6m people missed out on hospital treatment in England in 2020 Guardian April 13 exclusive on Health Foundation research, with some shocking figures on how far the NHS has to go to catch up after Covid:
    "More than 4.5 million people missed out on hospital treatment in England last year due to the disruption to the NHS caused by Covid, with growing numbers turning to crowdfunding to pay for cancer drugs and operations.
    "The number of patients having planned surgery such as a joint replacement plummeted from 16.62 million in 2019 to just under 12 million last year – a drop of 4.64 million people – an analysis of NHS hospital activity by the Health Foundation reveals.
    "The fall was mainly caused by hospitals suspending many of their normal services as they focused on the influx of people severely ill with coronavirus, which resulted in operating theatres being turned into makeshift intensive care units and surgical staff being repurposed to fight the pandemic.
    "At the same time GPs referred 6 million fewer people to have diagnostic tests and treatment in hospital as a result of the disruption to care …"

  • Nigel Boardman: from GQ list to chairing Greensill lobbying inquiry Guardian April 13:
    “The corporate lawyer chosen to chair the inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal was once named one of GQ’s most connected men in Britain – but his close connections in the world of finance and politics are set to come under scrutiny.
    “Nigel Boardman was a long-term partner at the international law firm Slaughter and May, a role he left in 2019, though he continues to be a senior consultant at the firm.
    “Slaughter and May is deeply connected to the coronavirus loan scheme that David Cameron sought to access on behalf of Greensill Capital – repeatedly texting the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on its behalf.
    “Lawyers from the firm were “working as an integrated team with Treasury legal advisers” as the Treasury set up the Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF), announced by Sunak on 17 March 2020, according to a release on the firm’s website.”

  • Thousands of doctors have quit the NHS for overseas amid row over visas for elderly parents i-News April 13 with an everyday story of the consequences of institutionalised racism in Priti Patel's brutal Home Office:
    "Thousands of GPs and consultants have left the NHS over the last six years to move overseas with the row over visas for elderly parents one of the main reasons behind the “staggering” exodus, according to doctors.
    "Figures obtained from the General Medical Council (GMC) reveal that since 2015 more than 2,000 GPs and specialists have left for another country and asked to be erased from the UK register. More than 4,000 non-specialists, such as junior doctors, have quit their jobs and moved abroad.
    "Doctors said the latest figures make a mockery of the Government’s economic argument for severely restricting the number of adult dependent relative (ADR) visas for elderly parents of NHS staff. The Coalition Government’s hostile environment policy led to a change in the rules in 2012 that led to an immediate collapse in the number of visas granted."

  • Mental Health Matters: Celebrity death among cascade of concern over eating disorders (£)HSJ report April 13 on a still unresolved gap in NHS mental health care:
    "Yesterday’s tragic news of the death of a former Big Brother star comes after a month of headlines about people struggling with an eating disorder.
    "Much of that news, including in HSJ, has focused on the recent dramatic rise in demand for eating disorder services, which the NHS is unable to cope with.
    "Despite much talk of how coronavirus has impacted on the NHS, eating disorder services were already broken before the pandemic."

  • David Cameron facing scrutiny over £123m Illumina health contract (£) Times April 13 report on yet more shenanigans from ex PM David Cameron – this time lobbying for a US health corporation:
    "David Cameron is facing new questions over lobbying after an American healthcare company he acts for as a paid adviser secured a £123 million contract with the Department of Health.
    "Illumina was awarded the sum a week after the former prime minister appeared with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, at a genomics conference in September 2019.
    "Cameron has denied lobbying on any Illumina contracts, saying that his role at the company was purely to promote the benefits of genome sequencing.
    "The conference coincided with a £200 million expansion in the government’s sequencing programme. A week later Genomics England, a health department body, awarded Illumina the £123 million contract without competition."

  • Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs Reuters report April 12 on consequences of chronically low bed provision in Ontario:
    “Canada’s most populous province is cancelling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.
    “The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.
    “Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.
    “Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly cancelled elective surgeries. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.”

  • The Guardian view on mental health: this emergency requires a response Guardian Editorial April 12:
    "The toll on the UK’s mental health caused by the pandemic is becoming much clearer. The dismaying, if unsurprising, news as shops and businesses reopen is that fears that Covid would result in higher levels of mental illness have been borne out.
    "What is particularly disturbing about the warning issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on Friday is that it most strongly applies to children.
    "There were 80,226 more under-18s referred to NHS mental health services in England between April and December last year than in the same period in 2019.
    "The number of children and young people needing emergency care rose 20% to 18,269, while the number of adults needing emergency treatment reached a record high of 159,347.
    "Parity of esteem for mental health was supposedly enshrined in law in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. But the promise was not fulfilled."

  • Sixty seconds on . . . a covid-19 inquiry BMJ April 12 giving a welcome plug to Keep Our NHS Public's People's Covid Inquiry, chaired by Michael Mansfield:
    "The informal People’s Covid Inquiry (www.peoplescovidinquiry.com), convened by the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, is filling the gap, receiving testimony from experts, key workers, and the public at fortnightly hearings.8 The inquiry’s panellist Neena Modi, professor of neonatal medicine, told The BMJ, “If ever there was a time to ask questions, it has got to be now.”
    "I hope this is about more than blame
    "The inquiry’s chair, the human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC, told The BMJ that the “focus is the present predicament” and “the rebuild of public health.” The inquiry aims to publish recommendations, establish accountability, and bring justice. “We endeavour to ask the questions everyone wants answers to,” he said."

  • Downing Street rewrote ‘independent’ report on race, experts claim Observer April 11 indicating that the Sewell report denying institutional racism was neither independent nor written by the commission members:
    "The Observer has been told that significant sections of the report published on 31 March, which were criticised and debunked by health professionals, academics, business chiefs and crime experts, were not written by the 12 commissioners who were appointed last July.
    "The 258-page document was not made available to be read in full or signed off by the group, which included scientist and BBC broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Samir Shah, former chair of the Runnymede Trust, nor were they made aware of its 24 final recommendations. Instead, the finished report, it is alleged, was produced by No 10.
    "Kunle Olulode, an anti-racism activist and director of the charity Voice4Change, is the first commissioner to condemn the government publicly for its lack of transparency. In a statement to the Observer, Olulode’s charity was scathing of the way evidence was cherrypicked, distorted and denied in the final document."

  • Protesters advocate for legislation to alleviate burden of medical debt lawsuits Johns-Hopkins Newsletter with more news on the US health care system and how it’s viewed by patients, April 10:
    “End Medical Debt Maryland held a rally at the Hopkins Hospital Billings building on April 3 to protest against the practice of suing patients over medical debt. End Medical Debt Maryland is a coalition of 58 organizations that are advocating for the Medical Debt Protection Act to be passed at the Maryland General Assembly this spring.
    “Numerous Baltimore residents shared their stories of financial and emotional distress incurred from the hardships of medical debt. The protesters also distributed “Know Your Rights” flyers around the neighborhood.
    “Brig Dumais, coalition chair of End Medical Debt Maryland, emphasized that residents of East Baltimore are most likely to be sued for medical debt, notably Black people, single mothers and low-income essential workers. According to Dumais, at least 17% of Marylanders currently have medical debt in collections, with the median debt totaled around $944.
    “Ending medical debt is not only a patients’ rights issue. It’s a worker’s rights issue. It’s a social justice issue and a gender justice issue,” they said. “We all know that for wealthy institutions, $944 is just a drop in the bucket. For a working family, $944 makes a difference between making rent or having food on the table or not.”

  • David Cameron lobbied No 10 and Hancock for Greensill (£) Times report April 10 into more of the sleazy dealings of David Cameron and Lex Greensill, this time adding in an NHS component:
    "Cameron brought Greensill to a “private drink” with the health secretary in October 2019
    "Cameron and Greensill lobbied Matt Hancock to introduce a payment scheme that was later rolled out within the NHS.
    "With the help of one of Cameron’s former ministers, Greensill, 44, also met with Dido Harding, the then head of NHS Improvement, and Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, to pitch his ideas.
    "Greensill later launched a partnership with NHS Shared Business Services, jointly run by Hancock’s department allowing up to 400,000 NHS staff to be paid daily
    "The Australian banker planned to make money from the scheme, which was awarded without tender or an open process."

  • Children bearing brunt of ‘terrifying’ coronavirus mental health crisis Independent April 9 with shocking new figures from Royal College of Psychiatrists:
    “Experts from the Royal College of Psychiatrists have warned the problem facing the country will get worse before it gets better with new analysis revealing almost 400,000 children and 2.2 million adults sought help for mental health problems during the crisis.
    “While the effect of lockdown and coronavirus has affected people of all ages, children appear to be particularly susceptible.
    “Some 80,226 more children and young people were referred to specialist mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28 per cent on the same months in 2019 to 372,438.
    "Meanwhile, 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million.”

  • Working backwards with No. 10 Equalities expert Roger Kline April 7 rubbishes the government commissioned Sewell report that claims institutional racism is not an issue in Britain any more:
    "The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report is part of a political project mapped out some time ago.
    "In 2017, Munira Mirza, the (now) head of the No 10 Policy Unit, who commissioned the Sewell Commission) dismissed the concept of institutional racism claiming “a lot of people in politics thinks it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism”.
    "In 2019, Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said ”too much ground had been ceded to the Left on issues of identity […] We need to reassert the value of individual and character above the particular type of group you might happen to be a member of […] I think there’s been too much identity politics in Britain”.
    "Nine months ago, Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities Minister, having claimed (falsely as the subsequent leaks confirmed) that the Fenton Review on COVID-19 did not make recommendations, then “hit back at claims ‘systemic injustice’ is the reason ethnic minorities are more likely to die from coronavirus in England.”

  • UK public health expert criticises No 10 race report ‘shortcomings’ Guardian April 7:
    "An inquiry into racial disparities used outdated references and notably underplayed the impact of structural racism in health outcomes, the UK’s leading authority on public health has said, in a new blow to the credibility of the much-criticised report.
    "Sir Michael Marmot, who led a pioneering work into health inequalities in 2010, which was updated a decade later, said that while there was “much that is good” in the report’s chapter on public health, he was concerned about “shortcomings” in its approach.
    "Writing for the Guardian, Marmot said the report by the Downing Street-appointed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred) had cited his 2010 study but did not consider the 2020 update or a subsequent study he led on structural factors behind varying Covid outcomes.
    "Marmot also criticised the report’s contention that health inequalities should be considered an outcome of factors such as deprivation and poor housing rather than ethnicity. Such social conditions “are themselves the result of longstanding inequalities and structural racism”, he noted."

  • Maternity compensation claims cost NHS £4 billion Independent April 7 reveals the sky high cash cost of chronic failures of care:
    "Failures in maternity care over the past decade have left more than 1,200 children permanently brain damaged and cost taxpayers more than £4 billion in compensation, new data has revealed.
    "According to NHS Resolution, which handles compensation claims on behalf of the NHS, the number of maternity claims has increased dramatically from 391 in 2009 to 765 in 2019-20.
    "The figures, obtained by specialist birth and brain injury law firm JMW, underline the consequences of maternity safety errors in the NHS with 1,226 children left with cerebral palsy as a result of negligence during their birth when children are starved of oxygen. The data also includes more than 1,000 deaths and 386 cases of the loss of a baby, as a result of errors.
    "There are more than 1,000 serious incidents in NHS maternity units every year with almost two fifths of maternity units needing to improve on safety, according to the Care Quality Commission."

  • COVID-19 in Brazil: Country records 4,195 deaths in a single day as commuters pack trains Sky News April 7 on a pandemic fuelled by right wing populism:
    "More than 4,000 COVID deaths have been recorded in a single day in Brazil, with one doctor comparing the country's crisis to a "biological Fukushima".
    "The outbreak is overwhelming hospitals in the South American nation - and scientists are forecasting that the surge in fatalities will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the US.
    "Even though Brazil's population is two-thirds that of America's, the country's overall death tolls from COVID-19 now stands at 337,000 - second only to the US on 555,000."

  • The Covid crisis is very far from over Tax expert Richard Murphy's blog warning that there are clear signs of panic in the latest government announcements and reliance on unreliable lateral flow tests:
    “There is no elimination strategy of any sort now apparent. The end of the impact of the pandemic is no longer anticipated. The idea that this might be over has gone. Instead the only goal is to keep the NHS functioning.
    “The aim is no bigger than that. It is simply containment. In other words, we as individuals and the risks from Covid that we face are the bargaining chips in an equation that is all the government thinks it has left available to it because despite all the bravado no strategy, including vaccination, has yet worked.
    “That this new containment strategy is based on desperation is indicated by the fact that it is based on lateral flow tests that are not licenced for the negative testing role they are being given, and for which they are not well suited because of their well known false negative rate. Will that really work then? And will people want to partake? And why will they unless there is compulsion from an enforced use of an app based on those tests?
    “Given that it is thought that only one in four people with Covid symptoms are currently thought to ask for a test the chance of a serious uptake on this new scheme which is targeted at those without symptoms seems low, especially with such poor support being made available for those required to isolate. The government must know that.
    “… Worse though, I think that the government has set itself up to fail again. It seems certain that SAGE does too. They forecast another wave of Covid in July and August at least as serious as that we have just been through. They could be wrong, of course. But logic is on their side.”

  • Brain disorders affect 1 in 3 Covid survivors, large UK study shows Financial Times April 6: “One in three people who have suffered from Covid-19 was diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months of infection, according to scientists who have carried out the largest study of the mental health effects of coronavirus.
    “They found that Covid-19 was 44 per cent more likely to cause neurological and mental problems than a case of influenza of comparable severity.
    “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic and the fact that many of these conditions are chronic,” said Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at Oxford university and the project leader.
    “As a result, healthcare systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary and secondary care,” he added.”

  • A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders - study Reuters April 6:
    "“One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said on Tuesday.
    “Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.
    “Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19. “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who co-led the work.
    “Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them”.”

  • Communities with high virus rates 'left behind' due to Tory public health cuts Mirror April 5 highlighting another avoidable widening of health inequalities:

    "Communities struggling with stubbornly high virus rates risk being “left behind” due to public health cuts, Labour has warned.
    "Analysis by the House of Commons Library found two thirds of local authorities (100) will see per person spending frozen or cut this financial year compared to 2020/2021.
    "One in five (31) would see their budgets slashed.
    "The analysis looked at the state of town hall budgets once dedicated cash for anti-HIV drug PrEP was taken into account. The vital medicine is available through local authority public health services for the first time this year so it cannot be compared to previous years."

  • Government must ‘proceed with caution’ on mass testing, as BMA voices concern about accuracy of results BMA April 5 press release quoting chair Chaand Nagpaul:
    "He said: “The rollout of rapid twice-weekly testing for all adults could help to identify some cases of those who have Covid-19 but don’t show symptoms which would otherwise go undetected – if those people then self-isolate this will minimise spread.
    “However, it is vital that the public is made aware of the limitation and accuracy of these tests. Recent research into lateral flow tests suggests they can pick up about over half of people with symptoms but significantly fewer of those who have Covid-19 but don’t have any symptoms.
    “Further, there is evidence of even a lower detection of positive cases if people carry out the tests themselves.
    “Therefore, negative tests could provide false reassurance to many people who have Covid-19 but do not have symptoms and who will be contagious. If they then mix more freely, that could be seriously counterproductive and rapidly spread infection.
    “Given concerns about the level accuracy of these tests, the BMA believes the Government must therefore, proceed with caution and a negative test must not be used as a basis for people to mix without mitigations, but should only be used as a complementary exercise to other vital measures, such as social distancing and the wearing of face masks in public spaces. These tests must not be used as a mechanism of how to unlock the country."

  • Government cutting and freezing public health budgets for councils across the country amid pandemic Independent April 5:
    "The government is cutting and freezing the amount of public health cash it gives to councils per person in areas across the country, according to official figures.
    "Despite the pandemic 31 local authorities will see a fall in their public health grants this financial year, while a further 69 will have the amount they are given by Whitehall frozen.
    "Each year ministers give councils ring-fenced cash for public health duties like outbreak planning, substance misuse services, and sexual health services – but in recent years the amount has been cut by around £1bn.
    "Areas to be hit by a per capita cut in their public health allocation for 2021/22 include Wakefield, Doncaster, Peterborough, and Rochdale – all parts of the country with Covid-case rates above 100 per 100,000 population.
    "Council public health teams have in particular been praised for their effectiveness in contact tracing during the pandemic, with success rates far beyond that of the government’s own outsourced test and trace system."

  • Tests to be offered twice-weekly to all in England BBC News April 5 on the controversial extension of lateral flow testing, which does not point out the new scheme at 2 tests per person per week could cost over £700 per person – 7 times the per capital budget for primary care:
    “Everyone in England is to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday, under an extension of the government's testing programme.
    “The lateral flow kits, which can provide results in around 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.
    “The health secretary said it would help squash any outbreaks as lockdown eases.
    "But critics of the programme say it risks becoming a "scandalous" waste of money.”

  • Communities with high virus rates 'left behind' due to Tory public health cuts Mirror report April 5:
    "Communities struggling with stubbornly high virus rates risk being “left behind” due to public health cuts, Labour has warned.
    "Analysis by the House of Commons Library found two thirds of local authorities (100) will see per person spending frozen or cut this financial year compared to 2020/2021.
    "One in five (31) would see their budgets slashed.
    "The analysis looked at the state of town hall budgets once dedicated cash for anti-HIV drug PrEP was taken into account.
    "The vital medicine is available through local authority public health services for the first time this year so it cannot be compared to previous years.
    "Town halls get ring-fenced cash for public health measures such sexual health, substance abuse and stop smoking services."

  • Government cutting and freezing public health budgets for councils across the country amid pandemic Independent report April 5:
    "The government is cutting and freezing the amount of public health cash it gives to councils per person in areas across the country, according to official figures.
    "Despite the pandemic 31 local authorities will see a fall in their public health grants this financial year, while a further 69 will have the amount they are given by Whitehall frozen.
    "Each year ministers give councils ring-fenced cash for public health duties like outbreak planning, substance misuse services, and sexual health services – but in recent years the amount has been cut by around £1bn.
    "Areas to be hit by a per capita cut in their public health allocation for 2021/22 include Wakefield, Doncaster, Peterborough, and Rochdale – all parts of the country with Covid-case rates above 100 per 100,000 population."

  • Black and Asian deaths from covid-19 are due to poverty and racism, not genetics, Vitamin D or lifestyle Spoiler alert in this headline to an undated article researched before, but published by Doctors in Unite just after the publication of the widely-discredited government-commissioned report:
    "This paper was completed just before the publication of a government commissioned report into “racial and ethnic disparities in the UK”, by a panel chaired by Tony Sewell. Its findings are unsurprising given the well-known racism denialist views of Sewell and others on the panel, and is consistent with the government’s policy of denial and indifference to racism in the UK today, and as the historian David Olusoga says, the false choice it presents to the nation between addressing racial inequalities or class disadvantage.
    "The main contention of the report, that structural and institutional racism do not exist, is flatly contradicted by the SAGE report, as outlined above. (The SAGE report is not mentioned at all in the Sewell report, despite the fact that the committee has much greater expertise). The health section of the report has been roundly condemned by public health and primary care experts who state that it ignores decades of evidence of the causes of racial disparities in health. [25]
    "The Sewell report also suggests “genetic risk factors” as a cause of disparities in Covid deaths, which the SAGE report expressly also rejects, stating there is no evidence for such speculation. We have dealt comprehensively with this above. In the words of Lady Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered by white racists in 1993, the Sewell report “will give the green light to racists” in this country."

  • Boris Johnson urged to sack Tory peer who denied Covid pandemic and said Chinese ‘fake videos started this’ Independent April 4 highlights the bizarre views of one of the many loopy Tory right wingers that prop up Johnson's government:
    "A Conservative peer has denied the pandemic exists and blamed Chinese “fake videos” for fears about Covid-19, sparking calls for her to be sacked from her government job.
    "Helena Morrissey, a director at the Foreign Office, suggested the crisis has been exaggerated because people are not “dropping dead in the street”.
    “The data shows we are NOT in a pandemic,” tweeted the peer, who was sent to the House of Lords by Boris Johnson last year. If people were dropping dead in the street we would notice & not go to M&S and have all those football matches."

  • Europe’s third wave: ‘It’s spreading fast and it’s spreading everywhere’ FT April 4:
    “More than a year after the start of the pandemic, Europe is enduring a grim spring. Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths are rising in many countries as the continent grapples with a more infectious variant, a shortage of vaccines and public weariness with lockdowns.
    “In France “the epidemic is spreading fast, and it’s spreading everywhere,” prime minister Jean Castex told parliament on Thursday after President Emmanuel Macron announced the country’s third nationwide lockdown, which includes travel restrictions and school closures and extends a 7pm-6am curfew.
    “In two weeks, Castex said, the number of recorded new cases in France had risen 55 per cent to about 38,000 a day. This two-week growth compares with a rise of 95 per cent in Belgium and 48 per cent in the Netherlands in a similar timeframe; in Germany, they have risen 75 per cent. Part of this increase reflects an expansion in testing.
    “The latest pandemic surge in Europe, triggered by the spread of the now dominant B.1.1.7 strain of the virus first noted in England, is often called a “third wave”, but observed across the continent as a whole it is more like a confused sea in which some national epidemics are worsening, some are reaching their peak and others are declining.”

  • Undermining the AstraZeneca jab is a dangerous act of political folly Guardian April 3:
    “… we should note that among Covid’s many impacts, clotting events are included. Crucially, the chances of getting a clot through infection with the Covid virus are several orders of magnitude more likely than are the chances of getting a clot from the vaccine. Hence the robust defence of the AstraZeneca vaccine by most UK doctors and scientists.
    “Nevertheless, swaths of Europe continue to restrict its use at a time when many nations are suffering third waves of Covid-19 cases and have said they are desperate for vaccine supplies. It is a baffling response.
    “It is the one approved vaccine that can be easily shipped and does not need complicated refrigeration. But if its safety is constantly undermined by individual national regulators across Europe, developing countries will be hesitant to use it. Why should they accept a vaccine at which western society turns up its nose?”

  • Strain on NHS as tens of thousands of staff suffer long Covid Guardian April 3 on the shockingly high number of NHS staff facing long term debilitating health consequences of their role in combatting the virus:
    "Intense pressures on the already overstretched NHS are being exacerbated by the tens of thousands of health staff who are sick with long Covid, doctors and hospital bosses say.
    "At least 122,000 NHS personnel have the condition, the Office for National Statistics disclosed in a detailed report that showed 1.1 million people in the UK were affected by the condition. That is more than any other occupational group and ahead of teachers, of whom 114,000 have it.
    "Patient care is being hit because many of those struggling with long Covid are only able to work part-time, are too unwell to perform their usual duties, or often need time off because they are in pain, exhausted or have “brain fog”."

  • 21-year-old died after dialling 999 from his hospital bed Shocking April 3 Independent report demonstrating nursing staff ignorance of symptoms of sickle cell disease that affects afro caribbean people:
    "A young NHS patient suffering a sickle cell crisis called 999 from his hospital bed to request oxygen, an inquest into his death was told.
    "Evan Nathan Smith, 21, died on 25 April 2019 at North Middlesex Hospital, in Edmonton, north London, after suffering from sepsis following a procedure to remove a gallbladder stent.
    "The inquest heard Smith told his family he called the London Ambulance Service because he thought it was the only way to get the help he needed.
    "Nursing staff told Smith he did not need oxygen when he requested it in the early hours of 23 April, despite a doctor telling the inquest he had “impressed” on the nurses he should have it."

  • “Cuts To Life-Saving Research Are Unavoidable”: How The Pandemic Will Have A Devastating Lasting Impact On Charities Detailed article in Politics Home April 2 warning of knock on impact on a range of charities after a year of lockdowns and restrictions:
    “Prior to the pandemic hitting in March 2020, the country’s charitable organisations were in pretty good shape. Research from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations found that in the year before the pandemic the sector’s income hit £53.5 billion, 47% of which came from public donations.
    “But, the picture wasn’t perfect. 59% of charity leaders told the Charities Aid Foundation in 2019 that fundraising was their biggest concern, with increased demand for their services (33%) and a drop in government funding (32%) coming up second and third.
    “Part of that anxiety stems from the fact that, according to research by the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham, 21% of charities surveyed had just one month’s expenditure in reserves.”

  • 'A truly frightening backlog': ex-NHS chief warns of delays in vital care Former NHS boss Sir David Nicholson's outspoken comments to the Guardian April 2 accompanied by some alarming figures:
    "The widespread suspension of normal NHS diagnostic tests and surgery during the pandemic as hospitals prioritised Covid care has left the service in England with a record 4.59 million people waiting for hospital treatment.
    "That number is set to rise to what the NHS Confederation believes could be as much as 6.9m cases by the end of the year as people on a “hidden waiting list” – who put off seeking help after discovering symptoms of illness – finally visit a GP.
    "According to the most recent figures, the number of people who have been waiting for at least a year has rocketed from 1,613 before the pandemic struck to 304,044.
    Under the NHS Constitution, 92% of people waiting are meant to be treated within 18 weeks. However, a third of the 4.59 million people have already waited longer than that."

  • Institutional racism exists in UK and healthcare, says head of NHS race body Independent April 2 with another response to the widely derided government report claiming institutional racism does not exist:
    "Institutional racism exists both in the UK and within the NHS, according to the independent NHS Race and Health Observatory.
    "In a strongly worded response to Wednesday’s controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the chair of the body said she was disappointed with its conclusions.
    "The NHS group was set up last year in response to widespread concerns over the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities. It aims to investigate the links between race and health.
    "In a statement on Thursday, its chair Marie Gabriel said: “The observatory believes that tackling persistent ethnic and racial disparities in health, and across society, is absolutely the right thing to do.
    “However, as an evidence-led organisation, the observatory was disappointed by several of the headline conclusions of the report, including those on the causes of ethnic inequalities.
    “The evidence it cites is clear: institutional racism exists in this country, it exists in the organisations that make up our health and care system, and it exists across wider public establishments.”

  • Solving global vaccine inequity requires new incentives for pharmaceutical companies Important BMJ article April 2:
    "In a pandemic, we as a global community have two urgent interests: that life saving vaccines and treatments be created, manufactured, and distributed, and that the disease be quickly contained and eliminated worldwide without a potentially catastrophic resurgence.
    "The financial interests of pharmaceutical shareholders accord with our first interest, but not always with the second. Their companies earn more if the disease is not eliminated—whether or not that is their explicit intention. Moreover, product allocations go to the highest bidders, rather than to where need is greatest or the pandemic may be contained most effectively. Today, impoverished regions are disproportionately lacking access to covid-19 vaccines, largely as a result of financial and political inequities.
    "Highlighting this divergence of interests is a criticism not of pharmaceutical firms and their shareholders, but of our governments and ultimately some citizens of wealthy countries who have played outsized roles in how the pharmaceutical industry operates. They have designed the sector so that if firms want to serve global interests well, they must decide and act against their own financial interests. We cannot expect them to always put their very best effort into this."

  • Government facing threat of legal action over PPE links to modern slavery Independent April 2 on another grim aspect of the handing of huge covid procurement contracts to cronies of ministers:
    "The government is facing legal action over links between personal protective equipment and alleged modern slavery.
    "A case is mounting against the government’s failure to address labour abuses in the NHS supply chain, The Independent understands, despite repeated promises made by the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care to crack down.
    "Wilson Solicitors, a London firm, has written to the DHSC raising concerns over how gloves made by Malaysian manufacturers with a history of exploiting workers have been provided to frontline healthcare staff.
    "Throughout the pandemic, NHS doctors and nurses have used gloves produced by Brightway, Supermax and Top Glove. All three are accused of “dire human rights abuses” by Wilson Solicitors. The companies deny the claims and insist they comply with Malaysian labour regulations."

  • Long Covid: More than a million experiencing symptoms in UK, official data shows Independent April 2:
    "More than a million people in Britain are suffering from signs of long Covid, the Office for National Statistics has said.
    "This is a significant increase in previous estimates of persistent and debilitating symptoms and follows the January surge in coronavirus.
    "The ONS says 1.1 million have reported symptoms lasting beyond four weeks that were not explained by anything else.
    "Long Covid can include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, so called “brain fog” as well as serious damage to the kidneys, heart and lungs."

  • A new public health body for the UK BMJ editorial April 1 by public health expert Gabriel Scally on the launch of the sinister new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA that has replaced Public Health England:
    "The new name for the organisation and short, two page policy paper make clear that the new entity is to be part of the UK’s national infrastructure and security system. It also states that UKHSA will have a core function in driving economic growth as an integral part of what politicians term “UK plc.” In particular, it is envisaged as “acting as an engine” for the life sciences and diagnostics industry.
    "A critical weakness of the UK’s pandemic response has been the overreliance on technological solutions to the detriment of proved public health interventions—such as quarantine and local find, test, trace, isolate, and support systems. One enduring problem has been the misleadingly named NHS Test and Trace programme.5 The UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has been scathing of both the enormous cost of this system, designed and operated by the private sector, and its lack of effectiveness.
    "The emergence of a powerful medical-industrial complex was first described in the US in the 1960s.
    "In the UK, the influence of this sector of the economy increased after 2010 as it took advantage of the contracting of core NHS services to the private sector. In its pandemic response, the government pivoted away from public health and NHS functions and organisations.
    "Taking advantage of the emergency to dispense with normal tendering and contracting procedures, funding on a colossal scale was passed to the private sector. Similarly, in data analytics, the government has engaged state security organisations and the private sector to provide crucial information on covid-19.
    "Against this background, it is likely that the creation of UKHSA will be seen by many as a further step in the growth of a centralised and secretive state apparatus with the close engagement of private sector interests."

  • Birmingham's Nightingale Hospital closes without treating a single patient Birmingham Live April 1 report on another one of the hospitals that could be kitted out in record time in a conference centre, but could never be staffed to care for Covid patients.
    "Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital is to close today without treating a single patient.
    "The facility at the NEC complex, which cost nearly £65million, was set up last April in anticipation of soaring numbers of coronavirus patients.
    "In September it was said to be on “high alert” following an increase in cases, but was never used. It will close along with all the other Nightingale hospitals, apart from London and Sunderland, which will stay open for vaccinations."

  • In Doug Ford’s Ontario, COVID-19 lockdowns have become meaningless Andre Picard in Toronto Globe and Mail April 1 on the neoliberal provincial government that is failing so badly to combat the pandemic:
    “If a lockdown is going to have a real impact on slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it requires, for starters, a stay-at-home order and a curfew.
    “The “tough new measures” announced on Thursday include virtually no restrictions on movement or activities. For all intents and purposes, nothing has changed; so, if new infections have been soaring for the past few weeks, what do we expect they will do now?
    “You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or a modeller to answer that question. But, for the record, the latest models predict up to 6,000 cases daily, an increase from about 2,500 currently, and a doubling of patients in intensive care to 800 from the current 421 by the end of the month.”

  • Racism in healthcare is real and it matters Independent's Shaun Lintern refutes the widely discredited government report claiming institutionalised racism is a thing of the past:
    “It is surprising to see the report appearing to play down the inequalities that are known to exist between different ethnic minorities and their experiences and access to healthcare. The commission suggests there is no racism at play and instead points to wider more complex reasons such as deprivation, education, employment and so on.
    “The report says: “The commission rejects the common view that ethnic minorities have universally worse health outcomes compared with White people, the picture is much more variable.”
    “It highlights that ethnic minorities have better outcomes for some key measures like life expectancy, overall mortality and key diseases and conditions, adding: “This evidence clearly suggests that ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK but deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors.”
    “But this is a strange analysis, for most experts agree that structural racism within society is one of the factors that contributes to deprivation. It is a cycle which affects social mobility, your life chances, where you live, what sort of house and lifestyle you can adopt.
    “Racism is woven through many of the ingredients that make up the complex factors that contribute to health inequalities, whereas the report seems to argue they are separate contributors.”

  • Only one in three of trust’s black Caribbean staff vaccinated Worrying HSJ report April 1:
    "Just over a third of black Caribbean staff have been vaccinated at one of the London acutes most heavily impacted by the pandemic, new data has revealed.
    "Uptake among staff from a black background at London North West University Healthcare Trust is substantially below the level recorded for staff overall, its board papers have shown, reflecting a fundamental challenge facing the vaccine programme in wider society.
    "The figure at LNWUH is likely to reflect similar low takeup among some minority ethnic groups among NHS staff in some other trusts, and in the general population — as previously reported by HSJ — but shows it is a serious ongoing issue several months into the campaign.
    "Uptake is lowest among the staff from a Black Caribbean background, with just 36 per cent of 499 staff members vaccinated. This rises slightly to 39 per cent among the 132 staff from a ‘black other’ background and 54 per cent for 724 staff from a black African background."

  • Fewer than a quarter with Covid symptoms request test, UK study finds Guardian report April 1:
    "Fewer than a quarter of people in the UK with Covid symptoms are requesting a test, while only half say they are fully self-isolating after symptoms develop, researchers have found.
    "People in the UK must self-isolate for 10 days if they have Covid, with the period beginning from the onset of symptoms or, if there are no symptoms, from the day of a positive test result.
    "However, data from the Covid-19 rapid survey of adherence to interventions and responses (Corsair) study, conducted by researchers from institutions including King’s College London, Public Health England and University College London and published in the BMJ, suggests compliance is far from universal."

  • Families march for public inquiry into mental health patient deaths Independent April 1 on the campaign to expose failures in Essex mental health services – and the government response: another rigged "Inquiry" by an NHS England bureaucrat who has defended Essex MH services:
    "Families demanding a public inquiry into dozens of mental health patient deaths in Essex have criticised ministers after they appointed a former NHS England director to lead a new investigation.
    "Dozens of families whose loved ones died under the care of North Essex Partnership University Trust held a protest rally outside the offices of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in London on Wednesday.
    "There are almost 70 families supporting the campaign who want the government to set up a full public inquiry, with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence on oath.
    "Mental health minister Nadine Dorries has rejected that and instead commissioned an investigation that will only be able to rely on the goodwill of witnesses with no formal powers.
    "The government has also appointed Dr Geraldine Strathdee, a consultant psychiatrist and former national clinical director for mental health at NHS England until 2016, to lead the inquiry. She was given the role without families being consulted."

  • New Zealand raises minimum wage and increases taxes on the rich Guardian March 31 with yet another story in which New Zealand shows what could be done but is not being done in Britain (or even aspired to by the current opposition leadership)
    "New Zealand is raising its minimum wage to $20 an hour and increasing the top tax rate for the country’s highest earners to 39%.
    "The changes will be rolled out on Thursday, alongside small increases to unemployment and sickness benefits. The government estimates the minimum wage increase – a rise of $1.14 per hour – will affect up to 175,500 workers, and increase wages across the economy by $216m.
    "The new top tax rate will apply to anyone earning more than $180,000 a year, about 2% of New Zealanders. The government estimates it will bring in an additional $550m in revenue this year."

  • Ambulance service worst affected when it comes to impact of Covid on mental health, reveals charity Morning Star March 31: "The mental health of ambulance service workers has been the hardest hit of all emergency staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey from charity Mind reveals.
    "Contributions from almost 4,000 staff and volunteers in the police, fire and ambulance services shows that mental health has worsened across the board, but that ambulance workers have been the worst affected.
    "They are the most likely to say their mental health has worsened, with a massive 77 per cent reporting a deterioration over the last year, as opposed to two thirds of police and fire workers.
    "The highest proportion of respondents saying they have “poor” mental health are within the ambulance service, at almost one in three (32 per cent).
    "This compares with 23 per cent of those in the police and 20 per cent of firefighters."

  • Adherence to the test, trace, and isolate system in the UK: results from 37 nationally representative surveys Valuable study in BMJ (March 31) on the effectiveness of testing when so many people cannot afford to stop work even when testing positive:
    “The ability of the test, trace, and isolate system to keep rates of infection under control relies on how well people adhere to guidance on testing, provide details of contacts, and self-isolate, which in turn depends on their knowledge, motivation, and opportunity to do so.
    “From when an infected person develops symptoms to when their contacts are allowed to come out of quarantine, adherence might break down at multiple stages. In the UK, knowledge of the symptoms of covid-19 has been shown to be poor.
    “Financial constraints and cramped accommodation have been identified as factors that affect whether people will remain at home during the pandemic. Some evidence suggests that men and younger age groups are less adherent to covid-19 restrictions, as are those who think they have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.”
    The article concludes: “Levels of adherence to test, trace, and isolate are low, although some improvement has occurred over time. Practical support and financial reimbursement are likely to improve adherence. Targeting messaging and policies to men, younger age groups, and key workers might also be necessary.”

  • Irish Examiner View: How is this queue dodge different? Irish Examiner March 31 highlights the objectionable two-tier heavily private health care system in Ireland:
    “… our entire health system is predicated on the kind of paid-for privilege that saw teachers from St Gerard’s private school near Bray, and the staff and managers at Park Academy, which runs private creches used by Beacon staff, vaccinated long before official schedules suggested they might be. This institutionalised queue-jumping is the very epitome of our grossly unfair health system …
    “… over recent years thousands of people have had to travel from the South West on the Belfast-or-Blind bus to try to save their sight. They are forced to do this because our cataract services are so inadequate that they face up to four years on a waiting list for an operation that takes just minutes but changes lives dramatically.
    “Those with cataract issues in a position to pay via one insurance company or another — the VHI Positive cohort — face no such delays and can expect an early appointment at one of the 18 private hospitals that operate under the umbrella of the Private Hospitals' Association.”

  • Structural racism is a fundamental cause and driver of ethnic disparities in health BMJ March 31:
    “The much-delayed UK government report on race disparities has devoted 30 pages to disparities in health. The report claims that “for many key health outcomes including life expectancy and overall mortality… ethnic minority groups have better outcomes than the White population.” It further claims that “genetic risk factors” along with “cultural” and “behavioural” factors have led to the disparities seen in covid-19.
    “The 30 page section on health in the report claims to undo several decades of irrefutable peer reviewed research evidence on ethnic disparities, previous governments’ reports, and independent reviews all reaching similar conclusions: ethnic minorities have the worst health outcomes on almost all health parameters.
    “The report’s conclusions, recommendations, and cherry-picked data to support a particular narrative shows why it should have been externally peer reviewed by independent health experts and scientists. Furthermore, we would expect that a report with such lofty ambitions of presenting a “new race agenda” would have at least one health expert or a biomedical scientist on the commission. It included a space scientist, a retired diplomat, a politics graduate, a TV presenter and an English literature graduate, but no one with an academic background in health inequalities.
    “The report also concludes that deprivation, “family structures,” and geography—not ethnicity, are key risk factors for health inequalities. However, it ignores the overwhelming evidence that systemic racism, in particular residential segregation, which is rising in the UK, is a major driver of ethnic differences in socioeconomic status.”

  • Vaccines: Is Bill Gates the answer? Roger Steer in Brave New Europe (March 31) highlighting the role of Bill Gates in upholding intellectual property rights and patent laws that are limiting the access of poorer countries to vital vaccines and other drugs:
    "That the resources found by Bill Gates to support the existing arrangements ($1.5bn) is vital to the current arrangements is placed in perspective by the sums committed by the UK government alone to date on Track and Trace (£37bn). The Economist calculated the global cost of the Covid pandemic at just over $10trn. In Europe alone the costs are $2trn.
    "What is remarkable in this story is not that there is not a perfectly credible alternative range of measures that could be taken to speed up the delivery of vaccines but that the process of managing the pandemic has been high-jacked by one man, with a vested interest in maintaining the credibility of the existing IP regime.
    "But as Mazzucato has … pointed out in the Entrepreneurial State the pharma/biotech/medico legal complex is the second highest spending sector in the US on lobbying and payments to politicians, second only to the arms industry. It doesn’t explain the Bill Gates factor but explains that politicians have got used to knowing on which side of the bread the butter is."

  • Privatisation of York Hospital’s Emergency Department Petition launched by York Labour MP Rachael Maskell calling on the Government "to recognise that the proposal to outsource work done by the Emergency Department of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is ill-conceived, poorly timed and against the interests of patients; to prevent this outsourcing to the private sector; and to revise these plans for York Teaching Hospital only when the Government has published its White Paper and subsequent Bill on NHS reorganisation."

  • UNISON welcomes Imperial College Healthcare’s decision to keep staff on NHS contracts UNISON London region press release March 31:
    "Over 1000 cleaners, porters, and catering staff at Imperial College Healthcare trust are celebrating today (Wednesday) after the trust announced it will continue to directly employ them following negotiations with UNISON.
    "The staff, who were previously employed by Sodexo, were brought back in-house temporarily in April 2020, which was up for review this month.
    "The trust will now start the process of consulting staff to move them over to full NHS (Agenda for Change) terms and conditions, ending the unfair disparity of a two-tier workforce the union said."

  • See How Rich Countries Got to the Front of the Vaccine Line New York Times March 31:
    “More than half a billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide so far, and well over three-quarters of them have been used by the world’s richest countries. The reason, experts say, lies in how — and when — deals for doses were struck.
    “In the early days of the pandemic, when drug makers were just starting to develop vaccines, placing orders for any of them was a risk. Wealthier countries could mitigate that risk by placing orders for multiple vaccines and, by doing so, tied up doses that smaller countries may have otherwise purchased, according to experts.
    “As a result, most higher-income countries were able to pre-order enough vaccines to cover their populations several times over, while others had trouble securing any doses at all. Throughout 2020, even middle-income countries had difficulties winning contracts.
    “We saw it with countries like Peru and Mexico,” said Andrea Taylor, a researcher at Duke University who is studying the vaccine purchase agreements. “Money wasn’t the problem for them. They have the financing to make the purchases, but they couldn’t get to the front of the line.”

  • Coronavirus surge could be worse than the last for the Americas: PAHO Reuters report March 31:
    “Countries in the Americas could see a worse surge in coronavirus cases than the previous surge last year, with Brazil, Uruguay and Cuba already suffering more, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
    “Director Carissa Etienne said the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer, following holidays where people grouped together and spread cases, had prompted spikes. She urged citizens to stay at home and governments to think hard before lowering movement restrictions.
    “So far this year, over 19.7 million COVID cases and 475,000 related deaths have been reported in the Americas, she said.
    “Vaccines are rolling out - 124 million people have received one dose and 58 million have received two, PAHO said. More have begun to arrive through the COVAX vaccines alliance, a total of 2.5 million in the past 30 days, with all countries in the region to receive some COVAX doses in the next week, according to PAHO assistant director Jarbas Barbosa.
    “Vaccine supply “continues to be our greatest challenge,” admitted Etienne, saying the organisation was “scouring” the globe for more supply, asking countries to hand over surpluses.”

  • UK scientists warn of 'catastrophic' impact of funding cuts Guardian March 31:
    "Senior scientists fear that deep cuts to government research spending will have “catastrophic” consequences for the UK, with projects cancelled midway through and some of the brightest minds moving to other countries.
    "Hundreds of research projects tackling issues from the Covid pandemic to antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis are already being axed after the country’s main science funder, UK Research and Innovation, told universities its budget for official development assistance (ODA) grants had been cut from £245m to £125m.
    "But with the UK now out of Europe, the funder may also have to find up to £2bn per year from its existing £8.5bn budget for British scientists to join research under the EU’s international Horizon programme. The move, which could imperil 18,000 research jobs, would reverse the past two years of science budget rises."

  • Revealed: New team of health advisers in number 10 (£) HSJ report March 31 on recruitment of Centene UK boss Samantha Jones as one of Johnson's new expanded team of health advisors:
    "Former hospital chief and NHS England director Samantha Jones has been appointed as Boris Johnson’s health adviser, HSJ can reveal, while a former NHS Improvement boss is also now advising on health in Number 10.
    "Samantha Jones is currently chief executive of Operose Health, the UK arm of US health giant Centene, a post she took up in January 2019.
    "She confirmed to HSJ she would be taking up a civil service role in number 10 shortly and is leaving Operose. Her title in Number 10 will be expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care delivery, HSJ understands. She will work in the policy unit.
    "It has also been confirmed to HSJ that Adrian Masters, a former director at Monitor, NHS Improvement and Public Health England, and director of health delivery in Downing Street in the 2000s, rejoined Number 10 earlier this year as an expert adviser on elective care recovery."

  • NHSX team behind beleaguered contact tracing app now working on vaccine passports Independent March 30 on yet another bungled contracting process handing fresh responsibility to those who have proved so inept in the recent past:
    "The team behind the beleaguered development of the government's contact tracing app has turned its attention to vaccine passports, MPs have been told.
    "Cabinet office minister Michael Gove on Monday launched a charm offensive to convince sceptical MPs of the need for the certificates, which are controversial with civil liberties campaigners.
    "Mr Gove, who is leading the government's review into whether the policy is needed, held a one hour video call with the group as part of a "listening exercise".
    "But The Times newspaper reports that the minister caused consternation when he revealed that NHSX, the developers behind the contact tracing app, had begun developing a passport system.
    “At that point lots of people on the call said ‘oh no!’,” one MP told The Times."

  • France reports 2021 high of 5,072 people in intensive care with COVID-19 Reuters report March 30 on worrying rise in Covid infection in our nearest neighbouring country:
    “France’s health ministry said on Tuesday that the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID-19 increased by 98 to 5,072 people, the highest this year.
    “The last time France had more than 5,000 people in ICUs for coronavirus-related disease was on April 23, 2020 during the first lockdown, when the number of people in ICU peaked at 7,148 on April 8.
    “… Health Minister Olivier Veran told parliament on Tuesday: “We will not let doctors be in a situation where they have to choose among patients” to treat, amid a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
    “Veran said the next 24-48 hours would be key in assessing the impact of new confinement measures taken 10 days ago to limit the spread of highly contagious variants and that the government was ready to take additional measures if necessary.”"

  • Over half London's healthcare workers 'considered quitting' due to pandemic pressures, ITV News London survey reveals ITV News March 30 on a UNISON survey:
    "Over half of London's healthcare workers, including NHS staff, have considered quitting due to the pressures of the pandemic, a survey by ITV News London survey has found.
    "The report, with healthcare union UNISON, also revealed how hundreds of medics felt "overwhelmed" by the level of stress at work.
    "71% overwhelmed by work-related stress
    "55% considered quitting
    "25% sought help for mental health
    "10% taken time off for work-related stress
    "More than 2,000 people responded to the survey and the London director of Unison said it showed more needed to be done."

  • One in four NHS workers more likely to quit than a year ago, survey finds Guardian March 30: "A quarter of NHS workers are more likely to quit their job than a year ago because they are unhappy about their pay, frustrated by understaffing and exhausted by Covid-19, a survey suggests.
    "The findings have prompted warnings that the health service is facing a potential “deadly exodus” of key personnel just as it tries to restart normal care after the pandemic.
    "A representative poll of 1,006 health professionals across the UK by YouGov for the IPPR thinktank found that the pandemic has left one in four more likely to leave than a year ago. That includes 29% of nurses and midwives, occupations in which the NHS has major shortages.
    "Ministers must initiate a “new deal” for NHS staff that involves a decent pay rise, better benefits, more flexible working and fewer administrative tasks, the IPPR said."

  • Hospital Charged Family Almost $40K for 12 COVID Tests so They Could Return to Work, School Newsweek insight into the rip-off world of US health care:
    "A New York hospital reportedly charged one family nearly $40,000 for a dozen coronavirus tests that were required for them to return to work and school.
    "The New York Times reported on Tuesday afternoon that Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, which is owned by Northwell Health, has repeatedly charged patients thousands of dollars for virus tests that typically cost less than $200. The hospital has billed the tests—which insurance or the U.S. government is generally required to cover—as a "moderately complex" emergency room visit, tacking on additional charges.
    "One family that did their testing at Lenox Hill reportedly racked up $39,314 for just 12 tests. The virus testing was necessary for the family members to return to work and school. Several other patients' bills for one test reportedly hovered just below or above $3,000—which is roughly 30 times the cost of a typical test."

  • Rebuild of PM’s local hospital pushed up priority list without announcement (£)HSJ (March 29) highlights a surreptitious change in the priority schemes for new hospital projects, bumping up the crumbling Hillingdon Hospital to one of the first to be financed, after its backlog maintenance bill doubled to over £200m in 2019-20:
    "Two hospital rebuilding building projects — including one in the prime minister’s constituency — have been promoted into a group of trusts being prioritised for major capital investment.
    "The Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust, which is in Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, and Manchester University Hospitals FT, have been added to a group of six other trusts set to receive capital funding to build new hospitals by 2025.
    "The pair of providers were initially in a second group of 21 trusts to be given up to £5m in seed funding to progress their plans, and which would be funded between 2025 and 2030.
    "Both groups are part of the government’s manifesto pledge for 40 NHS hospitals to be newly built or redeveloped. HSJ has learned that local estates chiefs were told in a webinar two weeks ago by NHS England that the projects would cost up to £20bn in total."

  • How to use national planning guidance – a guide for planners (part 1) Brilliant light relief from the parody world of NHS Blithering that echoes so many pointless ICS and other documents. Worth a read, not least for the paean to NHS planning:
    "Without plans, the NHS would simply continue treating patients, training doctors and employing nurses without any sense of strategic purpose or direction.
    “Left to its own devices, the NHS would simply “keep going”, aimlessly spending the taxpayer’s money on medicines, GP surgeries, dental care, mental health, operating theatres, ambulances, diagnostic capabilities and so on. These are all useful in their own way, but what’s the point, the organising principle?
    “The answer is planning. Without continuous planning we can’t build upon and refresh previous plans, we can’t prepare for the future, we can’t measure our achievements or set out our ambitions. We would be unable to celebrate success, identify opportunities or agree next steps.”

  • Trust CEO quits after investigation uncovers ‘really concerning’ governance failings (£)HSJ report March 29: “The long-serving chief executive of a community and mental health trust has resigned, amid official reviews into allegations of multiple financial and governance failings, HSJ has learned.
    “Phil Confue has left Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust after nine years at the helm, and his departure comes a few months after two external reviews were carried out, HSJ has been told.
    “HSJ was told one of the reviews investigated claims that Mr Confue had spent thousands of pounds of the trust’s cash to fund an academic research project he was working on, and claims that both he and several other board members were told to repay overtime payments made for extra hours of work during the early days of the pandemic.”

  • £1 Billion in Contracts Awarded to Conservative Donors Another excellent report in the Byline Times March 29:
    “Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Byline Times and The Citizens have found that 57 contracts – worth some £944 million – have been awarded to 15 companies with directors, or people with controlling interests over these companies, who have donated £12 million to the Conservative Party.
    “Byline Times and The Citizens have exclusively exposed the contracts awarded to 12 out of these 15 companies.
    “Our ongoing investigation reported, in February, that COVID-related contracts worth £881 million had been awarded to donors that had given £8.1 million to the Conservative Party. However, just a month on, we have uncovered a further seven links to contract-winning Conservative donors.”

  • A Collapse Foretold: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbreak Overwhelmed Hospitals Excellent and shocking New York Times feature March 28:
    "More than a year into the pandemic, deaths in Brazil are at their peak and highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are sweeping the nation, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. "The country, whose leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has played down the threat of the virus, is now reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country in the world.
    “We have never seen a failure of the health system of this magnitude,” said Ana de Lemos, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in Brazil. “And we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

  • The future of adult social care March 28 policy statement from the Local Government Association putting pressure on the government to come up with a new system of social care rather than simply prop up the old one. It begins:
    “Over the past decade, adult social care costs have risen by £8.5 billion, while total funding has grown by only £2.4 billion. This has left councils with a gap of £6.1 billion to fill. Of this, £4.1 billion has been met by making savings to adult social care services, whilst a further £2 billion has been diverted from other services; cutting them faster than otherwise would have been the case.
    “Our analysis before the 2020 Spending Review showed that adult social care faced a funding gap of £2.2 billion in 2021/22, rising to £2.7 billion in 2023/24.
    “This is just for ‘core pressures’ (demography, inflation and National Living Wage increases) and the provider market gap (the difference between what providers say is the cost of delivering care and what councils pay). This does not take into account the cost of tackling many of the challenges facing social care, such as unmet and under-met need; a lack of funding for prevention; an over-stretched and undervalued workforce; and growing strain on unpaid carers.
    “This year’s Spending Review must address the social care funding gap as well as tackle these additional challenges. It must inject new Government funding into social care to stabilise it for the short- to medium-term. Increasing or extending the council tax precept is not the answer.
    “But we must also think bigger.”

  • Social care needs a ‘1948 moment’ to secure its future A March 28 statement from the Local Government Association indicating consensus among council leaders that serious reforms are needed to the cash-strapped social care system that was privatised by Thatcher's government and shafted by 10 years of austerity from 2010. Ironic indeed that the call for a "1948 moment" comes from a Tory councillor, whose party opposed Bevan's NHS Bill right up to the launch of the NHS in July 1948: now the tone seems very different:
    "Immediate priorities include funding to meet the continuing costs of COVID-19 on social care, particularly on the care workforce and unpaid carers, as well as investment to tackle the funding gap between the cost of providing care and what councils pay.
    "This should help pave the way to a more properly funded, person-centred form of care that puts people in control of their lives and recognises their agency. Working closely with communities and the NHS to invest in prevention, reduce health inequalities and build on new health and care partnerships announced in the recent White Paper, this should ensure health and care services best support people to live the lives they want to lead in their own homes and communities."

  • The lives we want to lead: where next for the debate about care and support reform? Extended statement from LGA going forward from their Green Paper on social care published a year ago (https://bit.ly/31z32l1):
    "The severity of the pandemic and the resultant upheaval and change in our daily lives since then has been staggering. Yet, while it may feel like everything has changed, some things have not.
    "The issues facing social care – particularly the scale of funding pressures - are just as pressing, with many having been exacerbated by the pandemic.
    "In this respect, the 2020 Spending Review provided some, but not enough relief, and the 2021 Budget was notable for its absence of measures to support social care in the short or long-term. So too has the value of social care to people’s wellbeing remained at the fore.
    "What is different is that these two defining features of social care – its challenges and its value and potential value have been revealed to society at large in a way not seen previously. We therefore hope this is no longer a debate limited to people who use or work in social care and its broad range of interested parties.
    "Instead, we hope it is a conversation taking place in people’s living rooms as we all witness the impossible circumstances facing people with lived experience of care, care providers, their workforce, councils and the many others involved in supporting people to live their best life."

  • Experts fear new biodefence agency will neglect health priorities Independent report March 28 pointing out the gaps that will be left in public health policy by Matt Hancock's latest intervention:
    "The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which will be launched on 1 April, brings together the work of Public Health England (PHE), NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre with the aim of better coordinating Britain’s response to future pandemics and health emergencies.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the new body would be a “dedicated, mission-driven national institution for health security”, one that is responsible for monitoring and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.
    "But experts have expressed concern just days before its launch that there is “little information” on how it will work, and that it is not clear how it will address wider socioeconomic determinants of health.
    "Scientists have welcomed the “recognition” that infectious diseases need to be taken seriously, but some believe the decision to subsume PHE into a security-focused agency could undermine England’s wider public heath strategies."

  • UK Covid deaths pass 150,000 milestone, analysis shows Guardian March 27: “The latest figures revealed at least one in three recorded Covid-19 deaths have taken place in the past three months, with 54,445 fatalities officially counted on death certificates in the UK since the beginning of 2021.
    “It means one in 445 people have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
    “Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said: “The death toll is not a surprise given the ferocity of the second wave, but you can’t see it as anything other than a failure of public health policy.
    “There are countries that have far, far lower death rates, and it wasn’t inevitable. We had more deaths in the second wave than we did in the first wave and that really shouldn’t have been the case.”

  • Britain's public wealth and health are up for sale again Observer Economics article March 27 makes a number of sound points about sell-off of land assets by local authorities and links to PFI in the NHS. But it ends with something of an exaggeration:
    "An invasion by US private health firms is under way, 30 years after these behemoths – many of them among the most profitable businesses in the world – first lobbied the Major government for access to the UK during the mid-1990s.
    "Since February, the Centene Corporation has been in control of 58 GP practices serving almost 500,000 people. More deals are on the way – especially on new developments, where including a GP practice can swing a deal in a developer’s favour."
    Every inroad by Centene is to be opposed, and the lack of any scrutiny or public voice in these decisions needs to be challenged, but the takeover of fewer than 1% of GP practices by one company is hardly a full scale invasion. There is still plenty of NHS to defend.

  • Capitalism won't save us from Covid, no matter what Boris Johnson might think Guardian article March 27: “It’s worth remembering that the “AstraZeneca” vaccine was created by scientists at the University of Oxford and developed and distributed by the pharmaceutical giant. Yet the private sector has emerged as the victor in the public celebration of Covid vaccines.
    “In truth, an unprecedented amount of public funding has been poured into vaccine research, development and manufacturing. The leading six vaccine candidates have received an estimated $12bn (£8.7bn) of taxpayer and public money, including $1.7bn for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and $2.5bn for the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate.
    “This level of investment represents a huge risk – but it’s not the only risk that the public sector has taken on. Governments have used “advanced market commitments” to guarantee that private companies that successfully produce a Covid-19 vaccine are amply rewarded with huge orders.
    “Public funds spent on research and development are often more entrepreneurial – in the sense that governments are investing in the early, riskiest stages of health innovation, before any market is viable.
    “This is part of the reason why companies were able to develop a Covid vaccine in record time. As a new report from the UK’s Industrial Strategy Council makes clear, the fast turnaround of Covid-19 vaccines would have been unthinkable without state involvement.”

  • English local elections: Johnson hails 'incredible' vaccine at Tory launch BBC News March 27 confirming that both Labour and Tory parties will be leading their local election campaigns not on local government issues but on the NHS – over which councils have no control, and for which Rishi Sunak’s latest budget offered no extra funding or capital:
    “The prime minister called on activists to remind voters about the "incredible scientific breakthrough" of the vaccine ahead of May's elections in England.
    “Mr Johnson said one difference between the Tories and Labour was a belief in the need for "capitalist energy".
    “The party leader said the UK would recover "jab by jab, job by job".
    Johnson's speech then veered off into complete fantasy:
    “… In a pre-recorded speech filmed and broadcast by the Conservative Party, Mr Johnson … said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget showed the party was "holding taxes down and spending wisely" and harnessing the advantages brought about through Brexit.”

  • Amputee learns he has no health insurance after employer neglected to pay bills WBRZ report from Louisiana of an everyday horror story of a health care system based on private insurance:
    “As the fallout continues to grow surrounding defaulted contractor Coastal Bridge, the WBRZ Investigative Unit is learning about more people who claim owner Kelly Sills stiffed them.
    “Luis Nieves-Rivera was hired by Coastal Bridge in April of 2019 as an operator. Things were going well until a freak accident on a rural stretch of road in Hammond sent him to the hospital.
    "In November, I was riding on my motorcycle, and from what I was told I took a good spill," Nieves-Rivera said. "I ended up losing my leg, fracturing on my legs, ankles in and out of a coma.... medically flown to New Orleans."
    “After learning doctors could not save his leg, more devastating news came. Nieves-Rivera was told he had no health insurance.
    "First, I was told Blue Cross Blue Shield would not pay the claim because my employer did not pay the premium," Nieves-Rivera said.
    “… A pay stub he provided to the WBRZ Investigative Unit from around the time the crash occurred showed Coastal Bridge deducted his health insurance from his paycheck. That money was never paid to Blue Cross, as Nieves-Rivera was told Coastal Bridge had not paid their health insurance.”

  • Letter to London Mayoral Candidates (2021) Waltham Forest Save Our NHS campaigners sum up their concerns that the new £400m hospital planned for Whipps Cross will fall short of meeting local needs:
    “Designs for the new Whipps Cross hospital propose that the facility will have 51 fewer beds, despite statistics from Waltham Forest Council predicting the local population will increase by 19%, from 277,100 residents in 2020 to 329,200 in 2050
    “There are concerns that facilities & services at the new hospital will be less comprehensive than pre-pandemic.
    “… and there is concern the Margaret Centre for Specialist Palliative Care Unit will not be included in plans for Whipps Cross Hospital. For 34 years The Margaret Centre has provided outstanding care for people who are dying and support for those close to them.”

  • Rebuild the QEH - Back our campaign for new Norfolk hospital 26 March report of a campaign being launched by a local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, demanding a new hospital to replace the dilapidated Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, which is not one of the prioritised schemes or in Johnson's 'Fake 40' promises of new buildings:
    "Today we are launching a campaign to win West Norfolk the new hospital it is crying out for - and you can help increase the pressure in a few clicks online.
    "By signing our petition, you can add your voice to the many who are calling for the aging Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn to be replaced.
    "Parts of the roof have to be propped up to stop them from falling in at the QEH, which was built with an expected working life of 30 years in the late 1970s.
    "It is still soldiering on more than four decades later, but preventing the structure from collapsing is expected to cost around £550m over the next 10 years.
    "States of emergency have been declared this year, while critically-ill patients have had to be moved to other hospitals because of problems with the roof.
    "But the QEH was not included in a list of 40 hospitals being given funding for new builds or renovations, in two five-year improvement programmes announced by the government last year. It is currently one of 16 waiting to see if they will be awarded one of eight new builds planned between 2030 - 2035, having missed out in HIP (Health Improvement Plan) one and two."

  • NHS England plans to 'embed total triage' in general practice post-pandemic Worrying GP Online report March 26: "The operational planning guidance document published by NHS England - which sets out priorities for the year ahead - makes clear that NHS systems will be expected to 'support practices to increase
    significantly the use of online consultations, as part of embedding total triage'.
    “… Total triage was adopted across general practice from March 2020 on the advice of NHS England as the pandemic forced practices to limit face-to-face consultations.
    “NHS England defines it as a model in which 'every patient contacting the practice first provides some information on the reasons for contact and is triaged before making an appointment'.
    “Despite the shift towards delivering more consultations remotely, GP practices have continued to deliver large numbers of face-to-face consultations, with RCGP surveillance data suggesting that around one in three appointments are currently face-to-face.
    “However, the NHS England strategy document calls for NHS systems to 'support those practices where there are access challenges so that all practices are delivering appropriate pre-pandemic appointment levels'. It adds: 'This includes all practices offering face-to-face consultations.'”

  • How the AstraZeneca vaccine became a political football – and a PR disaster Guardian March 26: "It was billed as the vaccine to deliver the world from Covid. But over the last six months, AstraZeneca – whose jab was designed to save thousands of lives for no profit – has found itself stumbling along an extraordinarily rocky road, facing accusations over the efficacy, supply and side-effects of its vaccine from all quarters, and being kicked about like a political football.
    "This week, AstraZeneca faced unprecedented public criticism in the US from a high-level scientific body claiming the British-Swedish company massaged the data from its long-awaited trial there. And in Italy, military police entered a factory on behalf of the European commission investigating allegations of 29m hidden doses, said to be intended for shipment to the UK. The commission, which is demanding AstraZeneca supplies more jabs to Europe, meanwhile drew up regulations which could block vaccine exports to the UK.

  • Why did so many babies have to die for the NHS to take action? Independent March 26 with analysis of an important shift in policy:
    "“The NHS has written a cheque for almost £100m to improve the safety of maternity units in the NHS by boosting staffing levels and investing in training for midwives and doctors.
    “At a meeting of its board on Thursday, senior figures were open that some services had failed women, chief executive Simon Stevens acknowledged what he called “unacceptable” behaviour by some staff.
    “… While the £100m is a huge sum, we know it is not enough. NHS leaders have said the health service needs potentially four times that much to make lasting improvements and the Royal College of Midwives has repeatedly highlighted the NHS is short of more than 2,000 midwives.
    “NHS England has stepped up to the plate and recognised, belatedly, that it needed to act.
    … So why has it taken so long for this investment to be made? Why did so many babies have to die before action was taken?”

  • NHS to spend almost £100m improving maternity safety after Shrewsbury care disaster Independent report march 26: "NHS England announced the investment on Thursday in response to the care scandal at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.
    "As well as boosting the numbers of midwives and doctors on wards, NHS England said the money would include an extra £26.5m for safety training for midwives and doctors across England.
    "The £96m represents one of the biggest investments in maternity services for decades. A total of £46m will be to used to recruit 1,000 extra midwives along with £10m for the equivalent of 80 extra doctors. As well as training cash will also be used to create new roles to oversee trusts safety and help recruit staff from overseas.
    "The investment is a direct response to the poor care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust where The Independent revealed in 2019 that dozens of babies and mothers had died or been left brain damaged as a result of persistent poor care over decades. An inquiry is examining more than 1,860 cases, making it the largest maternity scandal in NHS history."

  • Low pay is ‘rarely mentioned’ by NHS staff, claims health minister Nursing Notes March 25 reports:
    "Low pay is “rarely mentioned” by nurses and other NHS workers, claims a Government health minister.
    "Health and Care Minister Helen Whately told MPs during a debate on NHS pay yesterday morning that increased pay is not what “staff most want” but instead more staff, time off, and to feel valued and supported.
    "A recent independent report by the London Economic showed that some nurses are as much as 32% worse off now than they were a decade ago.
    "Health unions have been calling upon the Government to give NHS workers an immediate restorative rise of between 12.5% and 15%.
    "Earlier this year the Government told the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) that a 1% pay rise for NHS workers was all it could afford.
    "Ms. Whately’s comments came just hours before the Scottish Government announced a 4% pay rise for all NHS workers on top of a previous £500 bonus for their efforts during the pandemic."

  • Boris Johnson hints at bigger pay rise for England’s nurses (£) FT report March 25 hinting at a possible manoeuvre by Johnson government to split off nurses from the wider NHS pay fight by offering a slightly larger increase through the Pay Review Body:
    “The Scottish government said on Wednesday that after “positive discussions” with trade unions and employers’ representatives, it had offered the “substantial” rise, which would be the “most generous National Health Service pay uplift anywhere in the UK, and would represent the biggest single year increase in pay for NHS staff since devolution”.
    “In England, the government has recommended a rise of just 1 per cent for staff.
    "But responding to renewed criticism, Johnson hinted that the government was considering a higher pay rise for nurses.
    “We’ve asked the public sector pay review body to look at what could be done for nurses in particular, exceptionally, and I think that’s right,” he said. “I think what nurses have done is incredible and I personally am the beneficiary of their life saving efforts”, he added, referring to his hospitalisation with coronavirus last year.”

  • Low rates of staff vaccinations at long-term care homes amid outbreaks raise concerns CBC Canada reporting March 25 on familiar problems in Ontario's long term care:
    "An average of only 65 per cent of long-term care staff working in Ottawa long-term care homes have received vaccinations against COVID-19, a survey by CBC reveals, leaving residents in some facilities to face further isolation and confinement as homes grapple to contain outbreaks, mainly involving staff.
    "The low staff vaccination rate is a serious concern for residents' families, many of whom had hoped that once their loved ones and caregivers were vaccinated, there would be more freedom.
    "Where's public health?" asks Betty Yakimenko, head of the family council at Madonna Care Community in Orléans, where just 51 per cent of workers have received the vaccine."

  • The pandemic has only added to the effects of years of delay to meaningful social care reform Nuffield Trust March 25:
    "Responding to the National Audit Office report on the adult social care market in England, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Policy Natasha Curry said:
    “The report by the National Audit Office exposes the fundamental flaws and fragility of the social care provider market in England. Organisations providing adult social care were struggling long before the pandemic took hold, with years of delay to any meaningful reform of the sector storing up the problems exacerbated by the pressure of Covid-19.
    “Years of real-terms cuts to local authority budgets have seen the market eroded with effects being felt by people in our society who depend on care and support. "Organisations providing care are too often paid at or below cost for council-funded clients, with the result that they either turn down council contracts, collapse, or charge people paying for their own care higher fees. The impact of this unstable system inevitably falls on care workers and the people receiving care, many of whom struggle to access the essential and high quality services they deserve."

  • Doctors’ union urges Government to tackle ‘unacceptable’ social inequalities London Evening Standard March 25 highlighting BMA report on growing health inequalities which is focused on poverty in North of England:
    “… socio-economic inequality alone costs the NHS approximately £4.8 billion per year, and so as the country moves forward, it’s important that the Government takes a much more proactive approach to tackling these underlying inequalities, which have been made worse by Covid-19 and must now be viewed as a priority.”
    “The BMA advised that mental health services and support programmes for vulnerable children must receive more funding to meet increased demand, and homeless people must not be overlooked in the vaccine rollout.
    “Universal Credit payments, which were boosted by £20 as a temporary measure introduced at the start of the pandemic, should also be made permanent, the union said.
    “Between 2010 and 2020, life expectancy fell among the poorest 10% of women in the Yorkshire and Humber region and in the North East of England, according to the union’s report. By 2019, there was almost a 20-year gap in healthy life expectancy between women living in the richest versus poorest areas of the country, the BMA has said.”

  • COVID-19 Vaccine R&D Investments Website showing levels of investment in Covid vaccine research, with US and Germany as largest investors followed by UK government. While most funding has flowed to private companies, most of the investment is from public funds.
    "Public funding represents the vast majority of the data collected (98.12% of the USD 5.9bn tracked). The dataset does not include any specific numbers from pharmaceutical companies, which have not disclosed specific figures regarding their R&D investments; private sector investments may be underestimated in this chart, but it is not clear by how much. …
    "Funding went primarily to private companies and academic groups …. CEPI [the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] accounted for 22% of the total invested. As contributions to CEPI are primarily from the public sector (97.18%), nearly all investments in our dataset were from public funds."

  • How well prepared was the NHS‪?‬ Apple podcast of first session of KONP People's Inquiry.
    The People's Covid Inquiry asks: how has policy over the last decade impacted on the resilience of our NHS, social care system and public health systems and its preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic whilst delivering continuity of core NHS services?
    WITNESSES FOR THE SESSION:
    Jo Goodman (Co-founder Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice)
    Professor Sir Michael Marmot (Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity, UCL Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health)
    Holly Turner (Children's Mental Health Nurse/CAMHS)
    Professor Gabriel Scally (President Epidemiology and Public Health Section Royal Society of Medicine, Visiting Professor of Public Health, University of Bristol, member of Independent SAGE)
    John Lister (Health Journalist and campaigner.
    THE PANEL
    Michael Mansfield QC (chair), Professor Neena Modi, Dr Tolullah Oni, Dr Jacky Davis, Lorna Hackett Barrister (Counsel to the Inquiry)
    ‘We’ve been making every possible preparation … this country is very well prepared’
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 2 March 2020

  • Consultants Deloitte Paid To Draft Ministers’ Parliamentary Answers On Test And Trace Huffington Post march 24 on a classic example of marking your own homework -- and getting paid for it!
    "Private firm Deloitte is receiving taxpayer cash to help ministers to draft parliamentary answers and media “lines to take” to defend the Test and Trace programme, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "The unprecedented role for the consultancy giant is part of a series of contracts worth £323m to “support” the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the National Testing Programme run by Baroness Dido Harding’s service.
    "… But buried within the contracts are details of help provided with PR and communications, with a requirement to “draft and respond to parliamentary questions, Freedom of Information requests, media queries and other reactive requests” and to “support lines to take and Q&A’s in anticipation of queries”.
    "Traditionally Whitehall civil servants draft answers to parliamentary questions from MPs, as well as statutory Freedom of Information requests."

  • Top US healthcare chief to join NHS England (£) HSJ report March 24 on another US import to the NHS:
    "The chief executive of a leading US healthcare organisation has been hired as NHS England’s new director of transformation.
    "Timothy Ferris, who is currently an NHS Improvement non-executive director, is moving to a full time executive role, from his current role as chief executive of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, a not for profit healthcare group.
    "He is a primary care physician by background and has carried out extensive work on healthcare systems, improvement, and population health.
    "Dr Ferris will lead NHSE’s new transformation directorate, which is intended to bring together its operational improvement team and digital body NHSX. Its purpose is to maintain and improve the rapid service innovations seen during the covid-19 pandemic."

  • Trust forecasts June surge in covid patients will be on a par with April 2020 peak HSJ report March 24: “A trust in the South East is forecasting it will be treating as many covid patients in June as it was at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last April.
    “Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust’s modelling suggests covid patients would occupy 50 to 100 beds in mid June in a “reasonably optimistic” scenario. The trust, which normally has around 765 beds, was caring for just under 100 covid patients at the height of the first wave last spring.
    “The “optimistic” scenario is based on both lockdown restrictions being relaxed as planned and the vaccination programme continuing in line with the government plans as of early March.
    “However, a paper submitted to the trust’s board meeting being held tomorrow says poorer adherence to social distancing could push numbers up to between 100 and 150 with the peak happening at least a month earlier.”

  • 'GREEDY' JABS GAG Boris Johnson risks fresh vaccine row over UK’s ‘greedy’ jab firms Sun front page story March 23:
    “BORIS Johnson risked inflaming the EU vaccines war last night by saying “it was greed my friends” behind "our vaccine success".
    “The PM made the controversial comments in a private address to Tory MPs over Zoom earlier in the evening. He was hailing the efforts of “big pharma” in manufacturing the life-saving jab in lightning-quick time.
    “Boris has spent days trying to dial down the rhetoric and pleading with European leaders to abandon their threat to slap an export ban on vaccines. But he risked reigniting tensions with the continent last night as he boasted about how Britain stole the march.
    “He told MPs at the 1922 Committee: "The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends."
    “He later added: "Actually I regret saying it."
    “And he asked MPs repeatedly to "forget I said that".”

  • Previously secret report into scandal hospital reveals safety concerns dating back years Independent March 23 lifting the lid on another scandalous failure of care:
    "A previously secret report into children’s services at a scandal-hit NHS hospital has revealed concerns over the safety of services including care of seriously ill babies were raised with managers back in 2015.
    "A report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) raised serious concerns over children’s services at East Kent Hospitals University Trust in 2015 including senior consultants refusing to work beyond 5pm and a shortage of nurses and junior doctors.
    "It also found the neonatal intensive care unit was being staffed by general paediatric doctors instead of specialist neonatal consultants.
    "The confidential report was given to The Independent and posted on the trust’s website this week after being mentioned in the terms of reference for an independent inquiry examining dozens of baby deaths at the trust."

  • Aboriginal health sector overcoming major challenges to deliver first Covid vaccine jabs Guardian March 23
    "Aboriginal community health services across Australia have overcome major challenges including floods and wild weather to deliver their first Covid-19 vaccines to Aboriginal elders.
    "New South Wales floods have disrupted the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to some parts of the state, but Dr Tim Senior, from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation’s medical service in western Sydney, said they were relieved to get their supply as planned on Thursday.
    “A few general practitioners have been expecting deliveries since last Thursday and have yet to receive the vaccine, causing a real problem as patients had to be rebooked,” Senior said."

  • Hospitals across Europe scramble to replace millions of IV kits amid fear of infections Exclusive article in the Independent March 23:
    "Hospitals across Europe, including Britain, as well as the Middle East and Africa are scrambling to replace millions of pieces of equipment used to treat patients, as fears grow that they could cause infections after a company was discovered to have falsified sterilisation records for more than a decade.
    "The Independent has learned the problem affects more than 230 different types of infusion lines, connectors and associated kit, that are used with infusion pumps to deliver medicine and fluids into patients’ veins.
    "Medical devices company Becton Dickinson, or BD, has issued a recall of the tubing and equipment used with its Alaris infusion pumps after an investigation found a company it uses was intentionally falsifying sterilisation records, meaning BD could not be certain the tubing, lines and connectors were free from contamination.
    "Hospitals across the UK have been given until the end of this month to stop using the infusion sets and quarantine any of the affected equipment. Any NHS trusts struggling with a lack of supply have been told to seek “mutual aid” from neighbouring trusts."

  • 5 things we learned in taking on big pharma MSF advocacy advisor (March 23) with important lessons on how the little guys can win:
    "“Medicines shouldn’t be a luxury”: For over ten years, I have been working with inspiring teams around the globe creating and coordinating public campaigns that ignite people’s imaginations and change lives.
    "Today, on World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021, I want to look back on our #NoMoreTears campaign to get the pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to lower the price of bedaquiline, an important drug to treat people with drug-resistant TB, and share five things I learned from that successful campaign. …"

  • 1 in 3 Covid survivors suffer long-term health issues: review AFP report March 22: "At least one in three patients hospitalised with Covid-19 suffer long-term health issues including multiple organ problems and deteriorated mental health, according to a review of studies looking at the lasting impact of the disease.
    "Published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday, the review looked at the frequency of symptoms among Covid "long-haulers", the most common of which include fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    "Authors of the research said the data pointed to an underappreciated health emergency that governments needed to study more closely and find ways to manage.
    "Given the millions of people infected by SARS-CoV-2 globally, the long-term cost on physical, cognitive and mental aspects of health still remain to be seen," lead author Kartik Sehgal, a medical oncologist at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told AFP.
    "We may be capturing only the tip of the iceberg."

  • Third wave will 'wash up on our shores', warns Johnson BBC tamely repeats Johnson's attempt to blame dangers of third wave of Covid on Europe: in fact the Europe wave is not "coming here", because we've already got it.
    It's taken two months for our "Kent" strain to spread across the EU and start a new wave there.
    "Boris Johnson has warned the effects of a third wave of coronavirus will "wash up on our shores" from Europe.
    "The PM said the UK should be "under no illusion" we will "feel effects" of growing cases on the continent.
    "One of his ministers, Lord Bethell, also warned the UK might put "all our European neighbours" on the red list of countries , where arrivals are either banned or put in quarantine hotels.
    "The comments come amid a row over Covid-19 vaccine supplies in the EU.
    "The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has warned the EU could "forbid" doses made in the bloc from being exported to the UK."

  • AstraZeneca US trial shows 79% efficacy against Covid FT report March 22: “AstraZeneca’s US clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University has shown 79 per cent efficacy at preventing symptomatic disease and 100 per cent efficacy against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation.
    “The results are similar to those from other Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, said Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford and co-designer of the vaccine. “They are all highly effective,” she told the Financial Times.
    “A fifth of the participants in the AstraZeneca trial were over 65 and the jab showed 80 per cent efficacy in these older participants.
    “The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently the subject of a safety row in Europe, where at least 16 countries have paused or limited its rollout after some recipients developed unusual blood clotting side-effects.”

  • Covid sees biggest fall in life expectancy in England since 1940s Independent March 19:
    "The coronavirus pandemic caused the largest fall in life expectancy across England since the Second World War, new data has revealed.
    "The average life expectancy at birth for men in 2020 dropped by 1.3 years and was down 0.9 years for women compared to 2019, the largest fall since 1939-40.
    "Data published on Thursday by Public Health England (PHE) found life expectancy fell sharply during the first half of the year, coinciding with the first wave of the pandemic.
    "Between January and June life expectancy at birth for men fell 1.7 years compared to the same six months a year earlier. For women, the drop was 1.5 years."

  • Boris Johnson and his Cabinet fail to disclose millions of pounds of outside earnings for NINE MONTHS after Whitehall anti-sleaze mandarin’s resignation over Priti Patel bullying row Daily Mail story exposing once again the sheer hypocrisy of top Tories refusing health workers any real increase in pay while pocketing millions from moonlighting in second jobs:
    "“Boris Johnson has broken the Government’s own code of conduct by failing to disclose ministers’ outside earnings, it was claimed last night.
    “The Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet have kept payments and other interests worth millions of pounds secret for nine months, breaking a pledge to publish them twice a year.
    “The non-disclosure is said to have been caused by Whitehall anti-sleaze mandarin Sir Alex Allan’s resignation in November after Mr Johnson refused to sack Home Secretary Priti Patel over bullying allegations. Sir Alex was responsible for the publication of ministers’ outside interests and no one has been lined up to succeed him.
    “The failure to recruit a replacement means there are no plans to publish the list in the near future, according to the Open Democracy political website.
    “The Whitehall code of conduct was set up in the 1990s to stop a repeat of sleaze scandals involving ministers in John Major’s administration.”

  • The dying days of local NHS accountability Lowdpown analysis in the final few days before most remaining local Clinical Commissioning Groups are merged into much larger and more remote CCGs to correspond with just 42 Integrated Care Systems across England:
    "The transition from CCG to ICS is not just a question of much less locally based bodies taking decisions and reduced local accountability: CCGs (after an uncertain start in 2013) have operated as public bodies, with their governing body meetings held in public and most of their board papers published and they are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
    "This of course has not stopped CCGs doing outrageous things, energetically complying with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act that requires them to put a growing range of services out to competitive tender, eagerly handing out contracts to dodgy private companies, spending millions paying management consultants to draw up savage plans for “centralisation” and reorganisation of hospital services, drawing up growing lists of services no longer available on the NHS, and blanking local politicians and communities seeking to challenge them.
    "However, as they stand most of the ICSs that are to replace them are not, and do not aspire to be, public bodies, or accountable other than upwards to NHS England and the Health Secretary, who would gain new powers to intervene and to veto appointments of top management under the government’s proposals."

  • But aren’t all GPs private anyway? GP Louise Irvine on the KONP website (March 19) explaining basic facts of primary care to those willing to listen :
    "What’s wrong with commercial General Practice?
    "These companies have the creation of profit rather than the provision of care as their driving motivation. They don’t see the value in the provision of personal continuing healthcare from a family GP committed to their community. It’s cheaper to provide fragmented care from a downsized and down-skilled workforce. That is why personal continuing care is the aspect of General Practice that has most withered in those organisations providing commercial GP services, including some of the ones run by GP 'doctorpreneurs'.
    "The advent of 'digital-first' services - whereby patients can access an unknown GP, based anywhere in the country and with no knowledge of the patient or connection with the community within which the patient lives, and with no ongoing responsibility for their care - is seen as the new model of 21st century GP care. If that can be combined with reducing demand from the patients that need the most care - mainly elderly people and those with long term conditions - by making access more difficult for them, limiting the range of treatments they can expect, and replacing their care with technological gizmos, then so much the better for profits.
    "The fact that there is no evidence that this model of care is efficient, effective, inclusive or even caring does not seem to matter. Nor does it seem to matter that the patients who most use and need health services were never asked if they wanted this model and that most doctors find it meaningless and soul-destroying, no doubt contributing to the collapse in popularity of General Practice as a profession for young doctors.
    "… This is why the claim made that GPs have always been private since the inception of the NHS does not explain the profound changes that have happened in General Practice over the years, and the risks facing it now - changing from a personal continuing community service, to a remote, impersonal, episodic one based on and driven by commercial values."

  • Underfunded but ‘fabulously well organised’: a hospital trust chief on the NHS Guardian March 19: After four years running one of Britain’s biggest hospitals Prof Marcel Levi has some strong views on the NHS and the government’s stewardship of the nation’s most venerated institution.
    “Levi feels able to speak candidly because he is about to step down as the chief executive of University College London Hospitals trust and return to his homeland in the Netherlands to become its chief scientific officer so no longer fears upsetting NHS bosses. His views offer a counterpoint to the relentless positivity of the government’s airy promises to hire 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more GPs, build 40 new hospitals and put in record funding.
    “There’s chronic underinvestment in the system. It’s quite clear, the NHS is really underfunded. For example, the UK does not spend a lot of money on acute hospitals,” says Levi in his office high above the traffic on London’s busy Euston Road. He is also scathing about the government denying the service the capital funding it needs to buy new kit, make repairs and build new facilities.
    “… In his time as an outsider-insider in the NHS he has grown to loathe another aspect of NHS funding: the private finance initiative, which several governments have used to build new hospitals. “I’d never heard of PFI before I came here. It’s a crazy system, a stupid system.” He should know. Levi points across the road, to UCLH’s PFI-funded main building, which opened in 2005 and cost £422m. Except that it will have cost the trust many more times that by the time it has finally paid it off in 2040.”

  • Blanket 'do not resuscitate' orders imposed on English care homes, finds CQC Guardian March 18 on a report that cries out for more investigation to name, shame and where appropriate prosecute those responsible for prematurely ending the lives of vulnerable people:
    “Blanket orders not to resuscitate some care home residents at the start of the Covid pandemic have been identified in a report by England’s care regulator.
    “A report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found disturbing variations in people’s experiences of do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions during the pandemic.
    “Best practice is for proper discussions to be held with the person involved and/or their relatives. While examples of good practice were identified, some people were not properly involved in decisions or were unaware that such an important decision about their care had been made. Poor record-keeping, and a lack of oversight and scrutiny of the decisions being made, was identified.
    “The report, Protect, respect, connect – decisions about living and dying well during Covid-19, calls for a ministerial oversight group – working with partners in health and social care, local government and the voluntary sector – to take responsibility for delivering improvements in this area.”

  • NHS to be given extra £6.6 billion to cover cost of Covid, Matt Hancock announces Independent Match 18 on yet another allocation of cash that turns out to be nowhere near as generous as it sounds:
    “Matt Hancock has announced the NHS will be given an extra £6.6 billion to cover the cost of coronavirus amid warnings hospitals faced cutting services without additional funding.
    “… Mr Hancock told the Commons the funds earmarked for the NHS was in addition to the £3 billion committed by Rishi Sunak at the spending review, insisting it would help the health service “meet the additional costs of Covid and critically starting work on the elective recovery ahead”.
    “The health secretary’s remarks also followed a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), calling for an extra £12 billion a year investment is needed in the NHS and care system to try and recover the damage inflicted by the pandemic.”

  • Delaying England's winter lockdown 'caused up to 27,000 extra Covid deaths' Guardian March 18 on latest findings from the Resolution Foundation:
    "Delaying the winter lockdown caused up to 27,000 extra deaths in England, the Resolution Foundation thinktank has claimed as it accused the government of a “huge mistake” which should be central to any public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic.
    "In an assessment of policy over the last year, it said delaying the start of the latest lockdown until January, despite evidence of fast-rising cases before Christmas, led to around a fifth of all fatalities caused by the virus. It said these could have been avoided if restrictions were put in place quickly enough to prevent the death rate rising from early December."

  • Unions, advocates for seniors call for inquiry into discrimination against elderly in health care CBC report from Ontario, March 18: "A coalition of health-care advocates and union groups is calling on the Ontario Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into "systemic discrimination based on age against the elderly in the provision of hospital and long-term care," citing already-dire conditions that have been made significantly worse by the pandemic.
    "The Ontario Health Coalition, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions — part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — and the Advocacy Centre for Elderly said Thursday that packed hospitals are discharging elderly patients who still need care, and that seniors in long-term care homes have struggled to get hospital treatment even after contracting COVID-19.
    "Even before the pandemic, lawyer Jane Meadus says her organization — the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, a legal clinic — would get calls about long-term care residents who hadn't been bathed for weeks, or been left to sit in soiled diapers. Now, she hears regularly about people who have been left to die from COVID-19, instead of being transferred to hospital where they would get better care.
    "As Canadians, we like to be proud of our healthcare system and (its) equal access," she said in an online press conference. "When it comes to the elderly, that is clearly not happening."

  • Funding rise of just 1.4% for local council health services labelled ‘inadequate’ Independent report March 18: "Spending on vital local health services used by millions of Britons, including local contact tracing for coronavirus infections, will rise by just 1.4 per cent from next month, sparking warnings from experts that the money is “inadequate”.
    "The move comes just weeks after the Chancellor allocated an extra £15billion to the centralised test and trace service.
    "The budgets include spending on children’s health services, health visitors, sexual health, drug and alcohol abuse schemes as well as spending on local outbreak management, contact tracing and responding to coronavirus.
    "The increase amounts to just £45million extra for 2021-22 and is equivalent to a 24 per cent cut in real terms to local health budgets since 2015, which have dropped from £4.2billion in 2015-16 to £3.3billion now.
    "It comes amid concerns over NHS budgets for next month, which are still be approved. Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has demanded “immediate certainty” be given to hospital bosses."

  • All healthcare workers deserve permanent stability March 18: Ontario public sector union SEIU takes up a campaign for a significant and permanent increase in pay for its health care members in place of short term half-measures:
    "This afternoon, the Ontario government announced an extension of the temporary wage enhancement of up to $3 an hour for personal support workers until June 30, 2021.
    "SEIU Healthcare has been pushing Premier Ford to do the right thing and pay workers what they deserve—all workers! Today’s temporary wage enhancement fails to give workers like you the long-term stability you deserve.
    "You have heard us bringing your voices to the government and your employers:
    Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us.
    "When it comes to pay, our demand remains the same; for the Ontario government to bring back the initial $4 per hour “pandemic pay”, make it available to all healthcare workers, and make it permanent. Today’s announcement falls short of what you deserve. Every healthcare worker plays an important role and deserves permanent stability.
    "That’s why for low-wage workers, like PSWs, cooks, cleaners and everyone else on the health team struggling to make ends meet, we continue fighting for full-time jobs and living wage of at least $25 an hour. Today’s announcement is only a temporary half-step towards that. We will continue to be your voice and fight for the wages you desperately need and deserve."

  • Boris Johnson under pressure after 300,000 NHS staff work unpaid hours during pandemic Mirror report March 18: "Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to offer NHS staff a decent pay rise, after new figures showed 300,000 staff worked unpaid overtime during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    "Labour analysis of figures from the latest NHS staff survey reveal more than 308,563 staff who would be in line for the 1% pay deal worked unpaid hours in the past year.
    "It’s almost 13,000 more than the figure for the same groups in in 2019.
    "And it suggests more than a million hours of unpaid overtime were worked during the pandemic.
    "Across the whole NHS workforce, some 55.2% of staff say they worked unpaid overtime last year - which is a slight decline from 55.9% the year before.
    "Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds condemned the Government’s “shabby” 1% pay deal for staff - which amounts to a pay cut for hundreds of thousands after inflation."

  • Nursing staff ‘enjoy pay increases of at least 25%’, MP tells ICU nurse Nursing Notes March 17 on the pig ignorance and indifference of Tory MPs:
    "A medical doctor turned Conservative MP has claimed that “many nurses and healthcare assistants” have enjoyed “pay increases of at least 25 per cent”.
    "Dr. Kieran Mullan, the Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich and former A&E junior doctor, made the claim after a constituent and intensive care nurse urged him to attend an Every Doctor and Nurses United briefing for MPs on NHS Pay.
    "The news comes only days after the Government told the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) that a 1% pay rise for NHS workers was all it could afford.
    "Figures in fact suggest that the most experienced staff nurses have seen a real-terms pay cut of around £5000 over the past decade due to wages failing to keep up with inflation (RPI)."

  • Advocates call for human rights inquiry into 'discrimination' denying hospital care to long-term-care residents in Ontario CTV March 16 report on demands from Ontario Health Coalition for a human rights inquiry:
    “The Ontario Health Coalition, along with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, held a news conference on Tuesday calling for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to use its power to the investigate discriminatory policies.
    “In the pandemic, we saw to our utter horror, the worst mass casualty event in our provinces long-term care history,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said on Tuesday.
    “In our view, many of those deaths were avoidable. The policies of denying access to hospital care for the elderly were instrumental in that death toll. The long-standing and terrible inadequacy of care in long-term care was equally instrumental.”
    “The advocates wrote a 39-page letter to the commission requesting the human rights inquiry into the provincial government’s “long-standing de-hospitalization” and policies, which they claim, hurt and discriminate against the elderly, including cuts to health-care and long-term care since the 1990s.”

  • Majority of doctors support nurses taking strike action Nursing Notes March 15 reports:
    WA survey of 450 Doctors undertaken by Doctors.net.uk reveals that the majority (66%) are in favour of nurses taking strike action.
    "Health unions have been calling upon the Government to give NHS workers an immediate restorative rise of between 12.5% and 15% after over a decade of real-terms pay cuts.
    "This news comes after the Government told the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) that a 1% pay rise for NHS workers was all it could afford. Subsequently, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced the UK’s largest industrial action fund as it prepares to fight the Government on pay.
    "The poll also found that less than a quarter (23%) of doctors were against nurses taking industrial action while just one in ten say they are unsure.
    "Another poll undertaken by findoutnow.co.uk showed overwhelming public support for nurses taking strike action."

  • There's no proof the Oxford vaccine causes blood clots. So why are people worried? Guardian comment piece March 15 challenges the spurious hue and cry over the cheaper, non-profit AZT vaccine:
    "Stories about people getting blood clots soon after taking the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have become a source of anxiety among European leaders.
    "After a report on a death and three hospitalisations in Norway, which found serious blood clotting in adults who had received the vaccine, Ireland has temporarily suspended the jab. Some anxiety about a new vaccine is understandable, and any suspected reactions should be investigated. But in the current circumstances we need to think slow as well as fast, and resist drawing causal links between events where none may exist.
    "As Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Ronan Glynn, has stressed, there is no proof that this vaccine causes blood clots. It’s a common human tendency to attribute a causal effect between different events, even when there isn’t one present: we wash the car and the next day a bird relieves itself all over the bonnet.
    "Typical. Or, more seriously, someone is diagnosed with autism after receiving the MMR vaccine, so people assume a causal connection – even when there isn’t one. And now, people get blood clots after having a vaccine, leading to concern over whether the vaccine is what caused the blood clots."

  • Now Irish medical chief says use of AstraZeneca Covid jab should be suspended after reports of blood clots in Norway, as region in Italy suspends vaccine following death of a teacher Daily Mail March 14 with nine paragraphs retailing hugely exaggerated fears over the Oxford vaccine and several more paragraphs before the key fact:
    "Out of the millions of jabs already given, fewer than 50 cases of blood-related issues have been reported post-vaccine, with no confirmed causal link.
    "The European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication that the events were caused by the vaccination, a view that was echoed by the World Health Organisation on Friday. AstraZeneca also said it had found no evidence of increased risk of deep-vein thrombosis. "

  • Private hospital’s hiring plan set to trigger war for top medics Financial Times March 14 with a grim warning:
    “Cleveland Clinic, the US-based healthcare group, is to employ its own doctors when it opens its first British hospital later this year, marking a major shift for the UK’s health sector and triggering a war for top talent.
    “Unlike the US, where medics are routinely employed directly on fixed salaries, private hospitals in the UK generally use doctors employed by the state-funded NHS, who work in their spare time on a fee-for-service basis.
    “Cleveland, which is headquartered in Ohio, will open a six-storey out patient centre in Marylebone, near Harley Street in London in September. Next Spring it plans to open a 184-bed general hospital on a site overlooking Buckingham Palace which, once operational, will be one of the largest private hospitals in central London.
    “It plans to employ 1,250 staff in the UK and said it had been inundated with applications from medics and had already signed up 200 consultants on part-time, fixed salaries.”

  • The record-beating cost to the taxpayer of Boris Johnson’s wasteful government Guardian March 14 Opinion piece by Andrew Rawnsley:
    "The test and trace programme is worth a big chapter all to itself. This staggeringly expensive scheme was recently described by Nick Macpherson, who used to be the most senior civil servant at the Treasury, as the “most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time”.
    "That is quite an accolade when there are so many other contenders for the title. That’s the gold medal at the fiascolympics.
    "An eviscerating report by the all-party public accounts committee has concluded that a programme that is consuming colossal amounts of taxpayers’ money could not point to “a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic”.
    "The promise on which the £37bn scheme was set up – that it would prevent the need for another lockdown – has been broken twice. Among other failures, it has never met its target to turn around all face-to-face tests within 24 hours and many of its contact tracers spent last year sitting idle even as the virus raged out of control.
    "A problem with numbers this large is that they can so boggle the brain that they numb the shock; £37bn is more than the annual sum that we spend on primary and pre-primary education. It is three times the cost of the high-performing vaccination programme. It is more than £1,000 for each working-age adult in the UK.
    "To put it in a way that Boris Johnson might understand, with that kind of money he could order Carrie-approved refurbishments of the Downing Street flat 20,000 times over."


  • Better sick pay will make Britain a healthier place, insists Matt Hancock (£) Times article reports Hancock has left it until after the peak of Covid infection to propose higher levels of sick pay which would have made it more likely low paid workers (including contractors' staff providing support services in NHJS hospitals) could afford to quarantine, self-isolate or shield vulnerable family members. But it also reveals any increase above the sub-poverty level of £96 per week is opposed by his ministerial colleagues -- many of them millionaires:
    "Matt Hancock is pushing for an increase in statutory sick pay as Britain emerges from the lockdown in an effort to create a healthier nation, The Times has been told.
    "The health secretary wants to raise the level of statutory sick pay from £95.85 a week to help people to take time off work if they are ill.
    "During a meeting of the government’s Covid-operations committee this week he argued that the move would benefit the economy because it would reduce levels of sickness. But The Times has been told that the move is being resisted by the Treasury amid concerns about the cost to employers."
    "

  • Tracking the Spread of COVID-19: Large Outbreaks in Health Care Settings Summary & Report March 12 report from Ontario Health Coalition, with some shocking figures on the performance of the neoliberal Ford government:
    "As the devastation of second wave of COVID-19 abates, we are left with 53% more infections and 14% more deaths than the first wave, as well as the certainty that Ontario failed to adequately prepare its health care setting despite months of warning. Details of the nine worst currently-active long-term care outbreaks, with 120 deaths attributed to them, can be found in Table 1 below.
    "This report shows the growth of the 49 currently active large outbreaks in health care settings. This is a decrease from our report on February 9 in which we found 155 large outbreaks."

  • NHS GP earning £700,000 a year is one of hundreds earning more than the Prime Minister while nurses on as little as £24,907 row over a 1% pay rise Daily Heil (March 12) once more playing on an old right wing riff, trying to drive a wedge between GPs and other health workers with a spurious story: any GP earning £700k is not getting it from the NHS:
    "The nation's highest-paid family doctor is one of hundreds earning more than the Prime Minister, the Daily Mail can reveal.
    "Patient and nursing groups last night blasted the 'staggering' sums and questioned how the vast disparity could be justified.
    "The fat cat medics are likely to be benefiting from a contract that allows them to run several surgeries and earn money for providing extra treatments.
    "The Royal College of Nursing says nurses earn an average of £33,384, while figures from NHS Digital show GPs earn an average of £98,000 – three times more.
    "But the starting salary of a newly qualified nurse is £24,907."

  • Experience of minority ethnic staff gets worse across range of key indicators HSJ report March 11 following up latest NHS staff Survey and noting that :
    "The latest NHS staff survey results suggest a significant increase in minority ethnic workers experiencing discrimination from their manager or colleagues, while showing white staff were far less likely to have been deployed on covid wards.
    "The 2020 survey results, published today, also showed a drop in the proportion of minority ethnic staff saying their organisation acted fairly with regard to career progression or promotion.
    "The survey was conducted across October and November last year.
    "The proportion of minority ethnic staff experiencing discrimination had declined to 14.5 per cent in 2019, but rose steeply to 16.7 per cent last year. The proportion of white staff experiencing discrimination remained at 6 per cent.
    "The survey also suggests a far higher proportion of minority ethnic staff (47 per cent) worked on covid-19 wards or areas in the 12 months to November 2020, compared to 31 per cent of white staff."

  • Government response led to 20,000 excess deaths in four months Second session of Keep Our NHS Public's Covidf Public Inquiry hears from Sir David King and others on the inadequate government response to the Covid pandemic:
    "Lockdown came too late and led to the loss of the lives of 20,000 UK residents, Professor Sir David King told the People’s Covid Inquiry last night. Speaking at the second session of the People’s Covid Inquiry which asked: How did the Government respond, chair of Independent SAGE Professor King said that if the country had gone into lockdown on 3 March 2020, rather than 20 days later, many lives would have been saved. It can be watched on YouTube.
    "Mass events such as football matches were partly responsible for spreading COVID-19 among the population. He argued that while people consider these events to be ‘outside’ people will still have mingled in pubs and caught the virus there.
    “Hospitals would never have become overwhelmed if we had gone into lockdown earlier. I would have said that at least 20,000 out of the 35,000 lives lost in the first wave could have been saved if we had gone into lockdown earlier,” he told the panel."

  • Biden directs states to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccine by May 1 New York Times March 11 again underlining the very significant shift of policy since the ousting of the Trump administration:
    "President Biden on Thursday evening directed states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines no later than May 1, using a somber but hopeful prime-time address to the nation to say Americans may be able to “mark our independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July.
    "Mr. Biden offered a renewed sense of optimism as he recognized the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared the spread of the virus a global pandemic, which plunged the nation and the world into health and economic crises. With continued vigilance, he said, families and friends may be able to gather to celebrate the nation’s independence.
    “If we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” the president said.
    "Mr. Biden’s speech — solemn and short — was a stark contrast to the often rambling and defensive remarks by former President Donald J. Trump, … ”
    "… Instead, Mr. Biden sought to balance empathy for more than 529,000 lives lost with the deep yearning among Americans for an end to the crisis. He declared that Americans are “owed nothing less than the truth,” no matter how grim."

  • Covid test kit supplier joked to Hancock on WhatsApp he had 'never heard of him' Guardian on latest revelations of Matt Hancock's dodgy relationship with his dodgy mates as huge contracts are handed out:
    "The former neighbour of Matt Hancock who is supplying the NHS with millions of Covid test tubes joked to the health secretary that he had “never heard of him” during a private WhatsApp exchange.
    "The exchange, seen by the Guardian, suggests Alex Bourne, a former publican who had no prior experience of producing medical devices before he began supplying the government, may have downplayed his relationship with Hancock in public.
    "The messages, which suggest an easy familiarity between the two men, were sent in late November, shortly before the Guardian published a story about Bourne’s work supplying the NHS and his links to the health secretary.
    "In a WhatsApp message Hancock sent to Bourne about the imminent story, the health secretary called the newspaper “a rag”. Bourne wrote back: “Matt Hancock – never heard of him,” before assuring the health secretary that his lawyers were “all over” a reporter investigating their connection “like a tramp on chips”."

  • NHS and social care ignored in budget Keep Our NHS Public March 10 highlighting the glaring gaps in Rishi Sunak's austerity budget:
    "Rishi Sunak’s budget said next to nothing about the NHS, and nothing about social care: and that’s a kick in the teeth for NHS England and all of the organisations that have pressed hard for spending increases to put the NHS back on its feet, tackle backlog maintenance and reward staff for their extraordinary efforts during the covid pandemic.
    "Behind the smiles and the silence was the Chancellor’s decision to slash back COVID-19 funding to NHS England from £18 billion this year to just £3bn for 2021-22.
    "…T he “extra” £3bn to help restore services after covid turns out to include £1.5bn of money previously announced, £1bn to cut waiting list backlogs and £500m for mental health."

  • Covid-19: NHS Test and Trace 'no clear impact' despite £37bn budget BBC March 10 reporting on the damning report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee on the disastrous performance of the privatised Test and Trace system:
    "the MPs' report questioned:
    "An over-reliance on consultants, with some paid more than £6,600 a day
    "A failure to be ready for the surge in demand for tests seen last September
    "Never meeting its target to turn around tests done face-to-face within 24 hours
    "Contact tracers only having enough work to fill half their time even when cases were rising
    "A splurge on rapid tests with no clear evidence they will help.
    Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said it was hard to point to a "measurable difference" the test-and-trace system had made.
    "The promise on which this huge expense was justified - avoiding another lockdown - has been broken, twice," she said."

  • Meetings Held By Test And Trace Chief Dido Harding Kept Secret – On Cost Grounds Huffington Post report March 10:
    "Boris Johnson’s £37bn Test and Trace service is facing a fresh row after it emerged that the government is refusing to publish details of meetings held by its chief Dido Harding.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed that it holds the information but is refusing a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request – because to do so “would exceed the appropriate cost limit” of £600.
    "Campaign group The Good Law Project, which submitted the request, asked what ministers hoped to hide by failing to make the details public.
    "Test and Trace faced withering criticism on Wednesday in a new report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which concluded there was “no clear evidence” that it had made a significant impact on the Covid-19 pandemic.
    "MPs also attacked the “staggering” cost of the system and concluded ministers were treating taxpayers “like an ATM machine”."

  • More than 50 Long-term effects of COVID-19 Scientific paper from January pops up on social media in March, sounding the alarm on the long term implications after the virus appears to have been defeated:
    "From the clinical point of view, physicians should be aware of the symptoms, signs, and biomarkers present in patients previously affected by COVID-19 to promptly assess, identify and halt long COVID-19 progression, minimize the risk of chronic effects and help re-establish preCOVID-19 health."

  • Matt Hancock in new transparency row over missing £91,000,000 PPE contract Metro exclusive March 3:
    “A £91milion contract between Matt Hancock’s department and a Chinese PPE firm was only published a day after the Government was told it was missing from an open register.
    “The heavily-redacted document had not been attached to a five-month-old award notice issued by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The order for surgical gowns intended for the NHS supply chain was among billions of pounds of PPE ordered at speed by the DHSC as it responded to shortages during the first months of the pandemic.
    “The DHSC was first asked by Metro.co.uk on February 25, 2021 why there was no copy of the contract alongside the few lines of detail about the deal on the online database.
    “The department replied the following evening saying ‘the contract can be found alongside the award notice here’, with a link to the 24-page document, which is marked ‘confidential’ and published vertically.
    “… date-stamp information spotted on the document by the Good Law Project (GLP) shows it was redacted on February 26, 2021 – after the Metro’s approach.
    “Usually, when a notice is updated it is issued with a clear revision date so the public is aware of any changes.”

  • Six million ‘hidden’ patients could flood NHS waiting lists this year Independent's Shaun Lintern with an exclusive March 8:
    "As many as 6 million “hidden” patients could join the queue for NHS treatment in the coming months, swelling official waiting lists to records not seen for more than a decade, health chiefs have warned.
    "In the wake of a Budget that offered no new investment for the health service ministers must level with the public that previous guarantees on waiting times are now impossible to meet, the head of the NHS Confederation has said.
    "In an interview with The Independent, Danny Mortimer said some patients should expect to wait many months, or possibly even beyond a year, for their treatment.
    He said: “It's going to take many years to recover the waiting list position to where we want it to be."

  • Boris Johnson defends NHS pay rise saying the government has given ‘as much as we can’ Independent March 7 on the government trying to defend one of its more unpopular decisions: "Boris Johnson has defended his controversial pay offer to ‘heroic’ NHS staff, suggesting his government has given “as much as we can”.
    "Nursing leaders and unions expressed anger last week when it emerged that ministers had recommended a 1 per cent pay rise.
    "Speaking on a visit to a vaccination centre in Brent in north London, the prime minister, who was himself hospitalised with Covid-19 last year, said he was “massively grateful” to NHS and social care staff."

  • New research strengthens calls for official review of the government’s COVID-19 infection control guidance March 7: "A report commissioned by the RCN shows that the government’s COVID-19 infection control guidelines, which are used across the UK, are “flawed and need replacing”.
    "The report, written by independent experts, analysed a literature review which underpins the current guidance and found that the review met just four of the 18 criteria the experts deemed essential. Crucially, the report found that the review failed to consider a key way in which COVID-19 is transmitted – airborne infection – about which growing evidence has emerged during the pandemic.
    "For these reasons, the experts concluded the review provided only a “superficial account” of the available COVID-19 evidence and that the current guidelines based on the review need replacing."

  • Welcome to the weird world of NHS pay, where a 1% rise is a lot more than it seems A loathsome March 7 intervention in the (£)Times by the right wing Centre for Policy Studies praises Tory govt for refusing to increase its 1% proposed pay increase and goes on to attack the hard-won Agenda for Change pay structure based on job evaluation as "inflexible". It argues that:
    "The NHS wage bill is also, let’s remember, an astonishingly big figure. The health service is the world’s fifth biggest employer (after the US and Chinese militaries, Walmart and McDonald’s). It has the salary costs to match — more than £65 billion in England alone. The kind of increase the unions are after would divert billions from spending on patients, not to mention be grotesquely unfair to other workers, public and private alike."

  • Now we health workers know how empty Boris Johnson's 'clap for heroes' really was Guardian March 5 comment by Rachel Clarke:
    “We remembered all too well the footage in 2017 of Conservative MPs in the House of Commons literally cheering as they voted down a proper pay rise for nurses. Boris Johnson was, of course, among them, as were Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and the rest of the current cabinet.
    “… We’ve had a year of performative gestures. That never-ending applause from the steps of Number 10, those photo ops of Johnson in goggles squirting water into test tubes, the extraordinary footage of Hancock’s dry-eyed tears when the health secretary was seemingly overcome with emotion at the arrival of Covid vaccines.
    “Now, though, the mask has well and truly slipped. We’ve discovered precisely how much Johnson really values NHS staff. And – in an inverse relationship to the zeal with which he has clapped – it turns out the answer is one Pret a Manger sandwich. Yes: £3.50 a week is precisely how much extra he thinks each NHS nurse deserves.”

  • Canadians wary of long-term care: survey RCI March 4 report:
    "Three-quarters of Canadians think the high number of deaths in long-term care (LTC) homes during the COVID-19 pandemic could have been reduced if governments had acted sooner, according to a recent survey. Since the start of the pandemic, the virus rampaged through many of these facilities causing high levels of infection and death.
    "By May 25, 2020, more than 80 per cent of the coronavirus deaths had occurred in long term care homes and retirement homes. Horror stories abounded of facilities understaffed, residents neglected and some of them dying of thirst and malnutrition. In some cases, the army or hospital staff were called in to take over. "

  • NHS, social care and most vulnerable 'betrayed' by Sunak's budget Guardian March 3 analysis of budget:
    "A lack of support for care homes, the NHS and people on benefits led to claims that Rishi Sunak’s budget had left the country’s most vulnerable people “betrayed”.
    "In his statement to the Commons, the chancellor ignored the social care system and set out only a temporary extension of the universal credit boost, potentially plunging 500,000 people into poverty next winter.
    "The budget did not include any detailed plans for the NHS, and unions complained it was “strangely silent” on public services. The red book published alongside Sunak’s statement showed the NHS England budget will fall from £148bn in 2020-21 to £139bn in 2021-22.
    "Health experts said the failure to give the NHS any extra cash, apart from the £1.65bn for the vaccine rollout, would leave it struggling to cope with the pandemic’s “challenging legacy” of a big backlog of surgery and increased mental illness. Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which speaks for hospital trusts in England, said the decision showed that the chancellor needed to reaffirm his commitment to giving the NHS “whatever it needs” to deal with Covid."

  • NHS GP practice operator with 500,000 patients passes into hands of US health insurer Guardian February 26: "One of the UK’s biggest GP practice operators has quietly passed into the hands of the US health insurance group Centene Corporation, prompting calls for an official investigation into what campaigners claim is “privatisation of the NHS by stealth”.
    "The merger is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services in the UK, with 58 practices covering half a million patients.
    "A coalition of doctors, campaigners and academics has voiced concerns in a letter sent this week to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, asking him to order an investigation by the Care Quality Commission.
    "Operose Health, a UK subsidiary of Centene, has recently taken over the privately owned AT Medics, which was set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and runs 37 GP practices across 49 sites in London. Operose already operates 21 GP surgeries in England.
    "Objectors are concerned because they claim the change of control was approved for eight practices in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington and Haringey in a virtual meeting on 17 December that lasted less than nine minutes, during which no mention was made of Centene and not a single question was asked."

  • Centene: Undemocratic takeover of GP services Keep Our NHS Public report Feb 26 "11 GP surgeries in NE London and 49 across London … have just been sold to Operose, a subsidiary of Centene, which is a huge US health insurance corporate. This was all done with no public debate and no say for patients.
    "The expansion of Operose has raised concerns among campaigners who believe the take over demonstrates how much the role of private companies in the NHS has been strengthened in recent years, and may be further strengthened still.
    "Dr Jackie Applebee, chair of Doctors in Unite said: "We have been warning for years that US healthcare firms are circling to swoop on the NHS. Our fears are dismissed by politicians and senior NHS managers. The public are constantly told that the NHS is not being privatised. The advent of Centene onto the general practice landscape reveals yet again, that this is a lie. In reality the NHS is being parcelled up and sold off under the radar."

  • WRES: Time for a reboot HSJ Feb 25 with some shocking statistics again exposing the institutionalised racism in relation to NHS promotion, most dramatic in the case of senior management positions:
    "Most strikingly, the relative likelihood of White applicants being appointed from shortlisting across all posts compared to BME applicants is actually slightly worse in 2020 (1.61) than it was in 2016 (1.57) The slight improvement in 2016-2018 has been reversed. Moreover the percentage of staff believing their employer provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion has also declined from 2016-2020 – and faster for BME staff than for white staff."

  • Rishi Sunak set to ignore pay rise demands for NHS staff i-news Feb 25 breaking the news of the new insult to NHS staff:
    "NHS staff in England are set to miss out on a pay rises when Chancellor Rishi Sunak reveals his Budget next week despite a year fighting on the Covid-19 frontline, i can reveal.
    "Senior Treasury sources have told this newspaper Mr Sunak will not make any decision on health-worker salaries until after the NHS Pay Review Body’s conclusions arrive on his desk in May.
    "Any decision on pay rises for NHS staff such as nurses, junior doctors, paramedics, hospital porters and operating theatre technicians could then take months to be made, according to union bosses."

  • Unite warns that private Leamington mega lab will damage local NHS services Unite publishes (24 Feb) the excellent report warning on the dangers and consequences of the new privatised mega-lab being opened in Leamington Spa.
    Unite lead officer for health in the West Midlands Su Lowe said: “This is an important report as it lays bare how the mega lab will undermine NHS services in Warwickshire and Coventry.
    “Unite, which represents biomedical scientists, believes that it is disgraceful how the government is using the Covid pandemic as cover to force through the creation of the mega labs.
    “The NHS scientists who will be most impacted by the creation of the mega labs are working flat out to protect the health of patients.
    “Given the very public failures of the test and trace service which has greatly exacerbated the number of deaths due to Covid-19 in the UK and which has contributed to the need for successive lockdowns. It is frankly shocking that the government still thinks that test and trace is capable of setting up a fully functioning and safe mega lab.”

  • Birmingham blood cancer patient dies of Covid after ward outbreak Shocking story from BBC Midlands news (Feb 23/24):
    "A 43-year-old man being treated for blood cancer has died of Covid after contracting it in a hospital outbreak.
    "He had received stem cell transplants in an open bay at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, despite virus guidelines saying such patients should be treated in isolation. His family, who have asked not to be identified, said they were "surprised" he had been on an open ward.
    "The hospital said it would now treat such patients in isolated side rooms.
    "An outbreak of Covid among stem cell transplant patients was reported on the ward earlier this month - the second there since October.
    "Transplants had to be halted amid the autumn outbreak.
    "The hospital department was circulating the national guidelines in December, but transplants continued in open bays."

  • People's Covid Inquiry: Learn Lessons, Save Lives Website with details of the People's Covid Inquiry launched by Keep Our NHS Public, with a series of hearings to bring key expert testimony to bear and piece together an analysis of how the government has got so many things so wrong about the Covid pandemic.

  • G7 backs Gavi's COVAX Advance Market Commitment to boost COVID-19 vaccines in world’s poorest countries Vaccines NGO GAVI press release Feb 19 with some belated good news:
    "Today G7 leaders announced a doubling of funding for Gavi COVAX AMC to support lower-income economies obtain life-saving vaccines against COVID-19, ensuring greater equity in fighting to end the acute phase of the pandemic.
    "New funding from the European Union, Germany and the United States will allow COVAX, the international COVID-19 vaccine mechanism, to secure more doses and further diversify its vaccine portfolio, advancing its goal to roll out at least 1.3 billion vaccine doses in world’s poorest economies in the next few months.
    "This comes alongside a number of recent pledges, including a pledge announced today by Ireland.
    "The announcement also includes securing doses for COVAX to support vital humanitarian work in places where populations face emergencies.
    "In addition, the UK and France announced commitments to share vaccine doses with lower-income economies, joining a number of other countries expressing the same goal, to further accelerate a coordinated international response and help put an end to the pandemic globally."

  • We will keep fighting Update (Feb 23) from the Good Law Project after inflicting major setback on Matt Hancock:
    "We are pleased to be able to tell you that the Court has granted a cost-capping order in our judicial review over the award of huge PPE contracts, without advertisement or competition, to Pestfix (a pest control company), Ayanda (an opaque private fund owned through a tax haven), and Clandeboye (a confectionery wholesaler).
    "After Government said it would cost an unbelievable £1million pounds to defend the case, we asked the Court to cap our exposure to Government’s legal costs at £100k. We are a small not-for-profit that relies on crowdfunding. After reviewing our fundraising efforts for the case so far and looking at what we have saved for a rainy day, this is the figure we could afford.
    "Instead, the Court has granted a cost-capping order of £250k. It means that if we lose the case, we are liable to pay a quarter of a million pounds to Government, as well as needing to cover our own legal costs. Despite huge support from members of the public, generous individuals and organisations, we are still short.
    "But we will not be bullied out by costs. This case, which we are bringing alongside EveryDoctor, is simply too important."

  • The UK’s PPE procurement scandal reminds us why we need ways to hold ministers to account Excellent BMJ Feb 23 summary by Martin McKee on the Hancock/PPE scandal:
    "The struggles that frontline health and social care workers faced when trying to obtain PPE are surely well known, although not seemingly to the health secretary when he told the BBC that there had been no national shortage. Some of the best accounts are in books by two British doctors, Rachel Clarke and Dominic Pimenta. Indeed, Pimenta stepped away from frontline medicine to create a charity to source PPE for the NHS.
    "Yet equally shocking were the stories of how the procurement process was operated. In one of the most visible cases, only a fraction of 400 000 gowns ordered from a Turkish t-shirt manufacturer arrived and when they did, they were late despite the Royal Air Force being sent to collect them, and they were found to be unusable.
    "Fifty million face masks, purchased through a company specialising in currency trading and offshore property, part of a £252 million contract, were also unusable.
    "A Miami jewelry designer, awarded a £250 million contract for PPE, was found to have paid £21 million to a consultant to broker the deal. A pest control company with net assets of £19 000 was given a £108 million contract for PPE. A highly critical report by the National Audit Office provides more examples.
    "These vast sums of money were being spent as schools and community groups were using their spare time to make PPE using their 3D printers."

  • Matt Hancock took nearly 3 times legal time limit to publish Covid-19 contracts Mirror February 23:
    "The High Court rapped the Health Secretary for unlawfully failing to publish contracts within 30 days in a “substantial number of cases.”
    "A defiant Mr Hancock said today that he would breach the law again if needed, claiming the documents were on average only a fortnight late.
    "But in a letter to Government lawyers, the Good Law Project revealed the Health Secretary’s estimate that contracts took an average of 47 days to be published did not include contracts which had still not been released.
    "They said that once unpublished contracts were included the figure skyrocketed to 78 days by November - almost three times the legal limit.
    "In a letter to the Government Law Department, lawyers Deighton Pierce Glynn, who represent the Good Law Project said they were concerned Mr Hancock was “denigrating” the High Court decision."

  • The Covid contracts furore is no surprise – Britain has long been a chumocracy Polly Toynbee in the Guardian Feb 22:
    "The Good Law Project, the admirable not-for-profit public-cleanser, last week proved in the high court that the government had breached what the judge called the “vital public function” of transparency over “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money. A VIP fast-lane for protective equipment contracts made the contacts of ministers, MPs, peers and officials 10 times more likely to win contracts. PPE prices sky-rocketed: even bodybags were being charged at 14 times their previous cost. The Good Law Project’s demands for publication of those favoured suppliers, their VIP sponsors and prices paid have been denied so far.
    "Why the secrecy? The Guardian has already revealed that the medical regulator is investigating Alex Bourne, health secretary Matt Hancock’s ex-neighbour, who won £30m of work producing medical vials, despite having no experience in the field.
    "In the panic over empty PPE shelves in hospitals and care homes, that dash to procure might be forgiven were it not that favours to friends is the everyday modus operandi for Boris Johnson."

  • ‘We did not have a national shortage of PPE’, says Hancock Nursing Notes Feb 21 with an angry response to a blatant lie from Matt Hancock
    "The Health Secretary has angered health and social care workers by rubbishing claims of a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the first wave of the pandemic.
    "In an interview with Andrew Marr today Health Secretary Matt Hanock said that his team was spending “7 days a week, often 18 hours a day getting hold of the equipment that was saving lives” insisting on three occasions that the UK “didn’t have a national shortage of PPE”.
    "A NursingNotes survey of healthcare workers following the first wave of the pandemic showed that over half of workers (52%) had been given PPE they felt was inappropriate or inadequate, a third had been told to re-use single-use PPE, and a fifth has been given PPE that had already expired.
    "With the vast majority of nursing staff caring for COVID-19 patients wearing nothing more than a standard surgical mask, gloves, and a thin plastic apron, Mr. Hancock’s claims come only days after healthcare leaders wrote to the Prime Minister again calling for improved PPE.
    "Across the UK, at least 930 health and care workers to date have died and many more are suffering from long-term adverse effects of COVID-19."

  • Matt Hancock's ex-neighbour under investigation by UK's medicine agency Guardian Feb 21: “The former publican and neighbour of Matt Hancock who secured lucrative work producing millions of vials for NHS Covid tests is under investigation by the UK’s medicine agency, the Guardian can reveal.
    “Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn near the health secretary’s old constituency home in Thurlow, won about £30m of work producing the test tubes despite having no prior experience in the medical devices industry.
    “Prior to the pandemic, his company, Hinpack, made plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. Now it supplies tens of millions of vials from its production site on an industrial potato farm complex in Cambridgeshire.
    “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed it has launched an investigation into Bourne’s company. “We take all reports of non-compliance very seriously,” said Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the MHRA. “We are currently investigating allegations about Hinpack and will take appropriate action as necessary. Patient safety is our top priority.”

  • Call for new Beveridge report as number of destitute UK households doubles during Covid Guardian Feb 20:
    "The number of British households plunged into destitution more than doubled last year, according to alarming new research on the devastating fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
    "Amid growing concerns over the unequal impact the crisis has had on the poor and low-paid, it has emerged that there were 220,000 more households living in destitution by the end of last year, potentially more than half a million people.
    "The troubling figures come alongside calls for a major review of the support provided to the poorest during the crisis. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to extend state support for businesses and the low-paid as part of in his Budget next month.
    "The increase in destitution – from 197,400 to 421,500 households last year – was revealed by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to be broadcast tomorrow, Britain’s £400bn Covid Bill: Who Will Pay? Destitution is defined as a two-adult household living on less than £100 a week and a single-adult household on less than £70 a week after housing costs."

  • Covid: Matt Hancock acted unlawfully over pandemic contracts BBC News website story Feb 20:
    "Matt Hancock acted unlawfully when his department did not reveal details of contracts it had signed during the Covid pandemic, a court has ruled.
    "A judge said the health secretary had "breached his legal obligation" by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.
    "The public had a right to know where the "vast" amounts spent had gone and how contracts were awarded, he added.
    "The government said it fully recognised the "importance of transparency".
    "But Labour claimed the government's awarding of contracts was "plagued by a lack of transparency, cronyism and waste"."

  • Matt Hancock ‘acted unlawfully’ by failing to publish Covid contract details Channel 4 News report Feb 19:
    "There have been another 12,000 new cases in the UK and another 450,000 people received their first dose of the Covid vaccine yesterday. Almost 17 million people have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
    "But the political row over the government’s handling of the crisis has continued.
    "Today, the High Court ruled that Health Secretary Matt Hancock acted “unlawfully” when he failed to publish details of contracts signed during the pandemic."

  • Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts Guardian Feb 19 on the big story the BBC largely failed to mention:
    “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted unlawfully by failing to publish multibillion-pound Covid-19 government contracts within the 30-day period required by law, a high court judge has ruled.
    “The judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, ruled the failure to do so breached the “vital public function” of transparency over how “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money was spent.
    “The judgment is a victory for the Good Law Project (GLP), a crowdfunded not-for-profit organisation that is making a series of legal challenges related to the government’s procurement of protective personal equipment (PPE) and other services during the pandemic.
    “Research by the procurement consultancy Tussell had found Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had spent about £15bn buying PPE from different companies by the beginning of October, but that only £2.68bn worth of contracts had been published.”

  • UK government broke the law by failing to disclose PPE contracts, court rules Reuters report Feb 19:
    “The British government broke the law by failing to publish details of billions of pounds of spending on personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, a London court ruled on Friday.
    “As COVID-19 swept across the world last year, Britain scrambled to secure protective gear for medics and nurses on the front line.
    “The Good Law Project, a campaign group, and three opposition politicians brought a judicial review seeking information about undisclosed deals with firms that had no medical procurement expertise and, in some cases, delivered defective protective equipment.
    “Martin Chamberlain, a High Court judge, said the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, failed to comply with a public procurement law that requires the government to publish contract awards within 30 days.
    “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020,” Chamberlain said. “The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.”

  • Whistleblowers trigger downgrade of maternity unit over staff shortages Independent Feb 19:
    "A hospital’s maternity unit has been downgraded over safety fears after whistleblowers raised alarms over unsafe staffing levels.
    "The Care Quality Commission has issued Worcestershire Royal Hospital with demands to improve after inspectors found shifts had only half the required number of midwives during an inspection in December.
    "The regulator said whistleblowers had raised repeated concerns over unsafe staffing levels in the maternity unit which were not being acted on by managers.
    "According to its inspection report, the CQC found there was a shortfall of registered midwives between September and December of 49 per cent. Between March and June last year the unit was 30 per cent short of midwives."

  • Frontline NHS staff at risk from airborne coronavirus, Boris Johnson warned Independent Feb 19 with a story underlining that PPE supplies are even now not adequate for some front line NHS staff:
    "Frontline NHS staff are being put at risk because they’re forced to work with inadequate protection against coronavirus, leading health organisations have warned.
    "A coalition of more than 20 health and science bodies have written to the prime minister urging him to intervene and order a review of UK rules on infection prevention so that workers are provided with higher-grade masks.
    "They say new research shows the virus should be considered an airborne pathogen and current rules are incorrectly based on the idea the virus spreads via droplets alone.
    "The organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing, British Medical Association, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Midwives, told Mr Johnson: “The evidence is clear and lives continue to be put at risk.”
    "On most general hospital wards nurses and doctors are expected to wear only basic surgical masks, although The Independent revealed earlier this month some hospitals were already defying the rules and handing out higher-grade masks."

  • First image of the Kent & Canterbury 'super' hospital which could become hub for healthcare in east Kent A brazenly one-sided Kent online Feb 19 propaganda puff for a new "huge" hospital plan that would 'centralise' all services for East Kent in Canterbury, and downgrade hospitals in Ashford and Margate, each 20 miles away.

  • Unwinding lockdown ‘too fast’ risks ‘disaster’, warns government scientific adviser Independent report Feb 17: "Unwinding the national lockdown “too fast” would risk a “disaster”, a government scientist has warned as she urged caution with many yet to receive Covid vaccines.
    "Dame Angela McLean — a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) — made the remarks as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the government’s roadmap for lifting restrictions next week.
    "The prime minister stressed on Wednesday that the government’s strategy would be based on a “cautious and prudent approach”, reiterating he wanted the move out of lockdown to be “irreversible”.
    "Appearing at the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Dame Angela, who also serves as chief scientific officer at the Ministry of Defence, said the country “got into real trouble” in 2020 for not being cautious enough."

  • BORIS JOHNSON'S CRONY CONTRACTS Valuable Feb 17 collection by Byline Times of 74 varied examples of crony contracts issued by Johnson government during the pandemic, going back to April 2020.

  • Losing one’s faith in leaders 17 Feb BMJ opinion piece from Partha Kar:
    "What, exactly, has gone right so far, apart from vaccine delivery by primary care? We’ve seen the development of a contagious variant, the opening up over Christmas, a lack of any cohesive strategy to support people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and a vaccine strategy that may work—yet wrapped around a sense of hope rather than science.
    "When it was known that loosening restrictions over Christmas would lead to a huge surge in deaths, where does the responsibility lie? When do we acknowledge that being silent over these failings makes us complicit?
    "I’m frustrated and tired. I’m hurt by my own loss of faith, when I’d placed so much trust in leaders. We’ve been brought to this position by an out of control pandemic, itself brought on by the same people who failed to influence politicians to do the right thing: close borders, lock down early, forget Christmas for a year.
    "To me, leadership isn’t defined by how nice or popular you are. It’s defined by outcomes. That’s how I judge my own successes and failures. In this pandemic—if death and collateral damage are the barometers, as they should be—the leadership teams have failed us all."

  • Unprotected African health workers die as rich countries buy up COVID-19 vaccines Alarming Science Mag report 17 Feb:
    "Countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas have administered more than 175 million shots to protect people against COVID-19 since December 2020, with most countries giving priority to medical workers.
    "But not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa has started immunizations—South Africa will be the first, this week—leaving health care workers dying in places where they are scarce to begin with.
    "The exact toll of COVID-19 among health workers is hard to gauge, but Hakim was one of several prominent doctors to succumb in recent weeks in Africa, which has suffered a second pandemic wave.
    "Just 1 day before him, U.S. physician David Katzenstein, who had moved to Harare after his retirement and directed the Biomedical Research and Training Institute there, died from COVID-19 at the same hospital.
    "Those losses stand for many others, says Robert Schooley, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who worked with Hakim for many years. “We don’t hear about a lot of the others who are labouring in the health care workforce behind them.”

  • Poorer areas falling behind on vaccination against coronavirus Independent Feb 17: "The NHS is increasing efforts to reach out to ethnic minority communities in more deprived areas of England as analysis by The Independent shows poorer areas are vaccinating fewer at-risk people.
    "Among the most deprived parts of the country, fewer people aged over 80 and in their mid-70s had received their first dose of vaccine against coronavirus by 7 February when compared with more affluent areas, sparking concerns communities most at risk are being left vulnerable.
    "Comparing local NHS vaccination data with Public Health England’s deprivation scores for each NHS region reveals six of the most deprived parts of England were in the bottom 10 local areas for vaccine uptake among the over-80s and those aged over 75.
    "The worst performing NHS region was East London, with just 73 per cent of over-80s vaccinated by 7 February. East London was also one of the worst-affected areas during the second wave of the virus as hospitals became overwhelmed early on in the crisis."

  • Unwinding lockdown ‘too fast’ risks ‘disaster’, warns government scientific adviser Independent report Feb 17:
    "Unwinding the national lockdown “too fast” would risk a “disaster”, a government scientist has warned as she urged caution with many yet to receive Covid vaccines.
    "Dame Angela McLean — a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) — made the remarks as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the government’s roadmap for lifting restrictions next week.
    "The prime minister stressed on Wednesday that the government’s strategy would be based on a “cautious and prudent approach”, reiterating he wanted the move out of lockdown to be “irreversible”.
    "Appearing at the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Dame Angela, who also serves as chief scientific officer at the Ministry of Defence, said the country “got into real trouble” in 2020 for not being cautious enough."

  • After the market—what do the proposed new plans mean for the NHS? BMJ opinion piece from Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust Feb 15:
    "For 25 years, politicians from the Thatcher to the Cameron government tried to use market principles and competition to push the NHS forwards, culminating in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. The publication of a new White Paper last week marks the decisive end of that approach, preparing to reflect in law the dropping of many of the more overt aspects of a market system since the 2014 Five Year Forward View.
    "Since then a significant amount of NHS effort has been put into developing a more integrated and population health based approach, and planning service change. Both of these principles are hard to reconcile with a market driven system, and so over time the 2012 Act has increasingly been ignored. The national tariff for paying hospitals had already been abandoned in many places and there had been increasing emphasis on collaboration, which the response to the pandemic has reinforced.
    "The new proposals to remove the jurisdiction of the Competition and Markets Authority, replace the procurement regime that often produced onerous bidding processes, and formalise Integrated Care Systems (ICS) as statutory bodies, are amongst a number of significant changes that complete the dismantling of much of the 2012 edifice.
    "If markets and competition have now been largely abandoned the question is: what is now the mechanism for driving change and is it strong enough to deliver the very challenging goals that have been set? "

  • Pandemic has had negative impact on mental health: poll Observer Feb 14: "More than four out of 10 people say the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.
    "In the survey, 43% say their mental health has deteriorated over the past year, while more than a third (35%) report that their physical health has got worse.
    "The shocking data bears out warnings from experts who have predicted that Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions on movement and activities, as well as job losses and lay-offs, would trigger a mental health crisis.
    "Last December Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned that the UK was facing “the biggest hit to mental health since the second world war”, with lasting effects."

  • Community nursing faces ‘rehabilitation disaster’ as Covid leaves thousands in need Independent Feb 14: "Tens of thousands of coronavirus survivors needing long-term care are heaping pressure on Britain’s stretched community services, threatening a crisis that experts warn could dwarf that seen in hospitals over the past 12 months.
    "As many as 100,000 intensive care patients, including up to 15,000 Covid-19 survivors, will need long-term community nursing care after being discharged from hospitals during the past 12 months, The Independent has been told.
    "This will be on top of an as yet unknown number of Covid patients from the 350,000 treated on general wards since the pandemic began, as well as tens of thousands of people who were sick without going to hospital but have been left with debilitating symptoms of long Covid."

  • The Museum of missing nurses A fascinating interactive world map showing the scale of tax evasion in terms of nurses' salaries that could have been paid for with the money.
    Linked to an article on tax evasion within the EU that points out
    "Every year, in addition to Luxembourg, the Netherlands steals the equivalent of $10 billion from its EU neighbours. Ireland, Cyprus and Malta have similar practices. Most of these losses comes from countries hit hardest by COVID such as Italy, Spain, France and Germany."
    The article links to a November 2020 revelation that tax evasion is equivalent to the pay of 34 million nurses world wide. https://publicservices.international/resources/news/one-nurses-salary-lost-to-tax-havens-every-second-our-new-report-reveals?id=11336&lang=en

  • US could have averted 40% of Covid deaths, says panel examining Trump's policies Guardian report Feb 11: “The US could have averted 40% of the deaths from Covid-19, had the country’s death rates corresponded with the rates in other high-income G7 countries, according to a Lancet commission tasked with assessing Donald Trump’s health policy record.
    “Almost 470,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far, with the number widely expected to go above half a million in the next few weeks. At the same time some 27 million people in the US have been infected. Both figures are by far the highest in the world.
    “In seeking to respond to the pandemic, Trump has been widely condemned for not taking the pandemic seriously enough soon enough, spreading conspiracy theories, not encouraging mask wearing and undermining scientists and others seeking to combat the virus’s spread.
    “Dr Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, told the Guardian: “The US has fared so badly with this pandemic, but the bungling can’t be attributed only to Mr Trump, it also has to do with these societal failures … That’s not going to be solved by a vaccine”.”

  • Is a ‘free’ NHS really ‘fairer’? It is time to consider an insurance-based system in the UK A profoundly ignorant (£) paywalled article in the Independent by Mary Dejevsky, allegedly an expert on Russian politics, who clearly knows next to nothing about the origins of the NHS, its principles, or the relative costs and up-front fees charged by European insurance-based health care systems.
    Early in her rant she complains that the element of national insurance in NHS funding has fallen since it was established -- clearly unaware that Bevan in setting it up specifically rejected an insurance based system and argued that the fairest way to fund it was the share the cost and risk across the whole tax-paying population so that those who earned most should pay the most.
    Like so many similar attempts to drag the NHS back to the pre-1948 hell of an insurance based "mixed economy" of health care, she conveniently separates out health inequalities in Britain from the widening gap of income inequality after so many years of neoliberal policies since Thatcher -- and ignores the much higher spending per head and as share of GDP in France and Germany, which allows them to afford more beds, staff and equipment.

  • UK government not sure where billions of pounds' worth of PPE is Guardian February 11 revealing yet another government PPE balls-up:
    "The government is not sure where billions of pounds worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) is located, the head of the National Audit Office has disclosed.
    "Gareth Davies, the comptroller and auditor general, said outside consultants had been brought into Whitehall to find all equipment, which is stored at different sites around the country, or is in transit from abroad.
    "The task had been undertaken so that the Department of Health and Social Care knew when stocks would become too old to use and could complete its own accounts, he said.
    "Under questioning from the public accounts committee, Davies said: “We have been working closely with the DoH. It has commissioned consultants to advise it on first of all understanding where all the PPE that has been bought actually is. It sounds like a strange question but it is a really big issue because it is not all standing neatly in an NHS store somewhere.
    “We have amounts in containers, in storage around the country, there’s some on the docks and there is some en route somewhere from China.”

  • Tories unveil plans today to unpick their own disastrous NHS reforms Mirror Feb 11 with a more balanced take than some of the news media on the government's flawed White Paper:
    "A decade after David Cameron’s government fragmented healthcare in Britain and opened it up to the market, a white paper will be published to reverse some of the changes.
    "Former health secretary Andrew Lansley brought in reforms blamed for encouraging “competition” between health bodies from hospital trusts to GP surgeries, when buying in private healthcare services.
    "Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will now be set up to encourage cooperation between the NHS and local councils for the overall benefit of the local population.
    "However campaigners say the White Paper - which was leaked at the weekend - does not go far enough and many of the Lansley reforms remain in place."

  • Living with covid-19 long term BMJ Feb 10 blog by NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson:
    "The key, as we’ve seen over the last few weeks, is to have sufficient surge, and super surge, capacity to cope with peaks of demand and ensure that the provision of mutual aid across trusts and regions works effectively. That has profound implications for NHS estates—how do we create community, hospital, general/acute, and ICU capacity that can be easily flexed up and down? How do we create reserve ambulance capacity that can be called on? …
    "Simon Stevens, CEO of the NHS, has also argued eloquently that the NHS now needs a buffer to function sustainably.
    "NHS Providers has argued consistently that we have been trying to run the NHS permanently in the red zone for several years now.
    "Whichever per head of population number you look at—beds, nurses, doctors, diagnostic equipment—the resources available to the NHS compare poorly with key European comparators like France and Germany. "

  • Doctors warn intensive care units still face months of extra pressure Independent report Feb 10 on the strains on staff in the front line of the pandemic:
    "Hospitals across the UK opened more than 2,250 extra intensive care beds to cope with the demand from coronavirus patients during the last 12 months – the equivalent of 140 new intensive care units.
    "In a new report, the Intensive Care Society (ICS) warned pressure on hospitals could last for many more months with makeshift beds for critical care patients having to stay open, hampering efforts to restart more routine services.
    "The ICS said that 20,675 patients had been admitted to intensive care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 5 February. It said patients had a median length of stay in the first wave of 12 days, a lot longer than normal with 2,251 extra beds occupied in January 2021 compared to last year.
    "The ICS warned thousands of extra staff drafted in to look after critical care patients would be needed for months to come and this was despite staffing levels been stretched to dangerous levels."

  • MPs: Government ‘wasted huge sums on unfit PPE’ Public Finance Feb 10 report: "A report published by the Public Accounts Committee today found that the government made extensive use of new procurement powers to outsource more than £10bn of goods and services without competition at the start of the pandemic.
    "However, it said that the Department for Health and Social Care has identified items worth hundreds of millions of pounds which are unusable for their intended purpose.
    "Meg Hillier, chair of the committee said: “The government had permission to procure equipment at pace and without tendering under the law, but acting fast did not give it license to rip up record keeping on decisions.
    “It did not publish contracts in time and kept poor records of why some companies won multi-million-pound contracts.
    “The cost of emergency procurement - billions of pounds higher than the equivalent a year before - highlights how both its pandemic plan and supply of essential equipment were inadequate.”

  • Analysis: NHS 2019-20 annual accounts NHS Providers advisor Amelia Chong in Public Finance Feb 10:
    “The belated publication of the 2019/20 NHS accounts at the end of January shows that, going into Covid-19, providers’ finances were stretched and deteriorating – despite a significantly improved funding settlement linked to the NHS Long Term Plan.
    “When the pandemic is behind us, questions about the long-term investment required for the NHS will remain.
    “NHS England and NHS Improvement’s main annual reports focus on the number of providers in deficit falling from 107 in 2018-19 to 53 in 2019-20.
    … delving deeper into the detail reveals that the total provider deficit has risen by nearly £80m, from around £830m in 2018-19 (excluding a favourable technical adjustment following the collapse of Carillion) to £910m in 2019-20.
    “… Ultimately, a mismatch between costs and income lies at the root of the provider deficit.
    “The NHS budget has not risen fast enough to meet the rapidly growing demands presented by an ageing population, more complex long-term conditions and technological advancement.”

  • Friend of Matt Hancock Wins £14.4 MILLION PPE CONTRACT Another Hancock sleaze story, this time from the Byline Times (Feb 10):
    "A firm owned by a family associate of Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock was awarded a Government contract for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) worth £14.4 million.
    "The Government today released details of the contract awarded to CH&L Limited in April for isolation gowns. The owner of the firm has told Byline Times that, due to “unforeseen logistical circumstances,” the contract was not fulfilled and the deposit paid by Hancock’s department was returned to the Government.
    "CH&L Limited was incorporated in January 2020 with one director – a Mr Chun Lei Li. In June that year, Frances Stanley was appointed as the second director of the firm, and later in the year appears to have become the sole person with significant control of the company.
    "The firm does not seem to have a website, though its Companies House page states that it is an agent “specialised in the sale” of products, and also a supplier of “human health activities”…

  • Hospitals need extra £400m a year to make maternity units safer Independent report Feb 10:
    "Making maternity wards safer for mothers and babies will need £400m of extra spending every year, hospital leaders have told The Independent.
    "They warn that without increased funding, the NHS will not be able to fully implement recommendations made by an inquiry into poor maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust – where dozens of babies died or were left brain damaged in the largest maternity scandal in NHS history.
    "Multiple maternity care failings at hospitals across the country in the past 12 months have sparked concerns over the safety of mothers and their babies with MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee launching an investigation into the issue last year.
    "Hospital leaders say even just covering existing shortfalls of 3,000 midwives and recruiting 20 per cent more obstetricians, will cost at least £250m a year. To pay for extra anaesthetists, neonatal nurses and other support staff could push the cost to more than £400m."

  • NHS Has Been 'Nothing Special' In Covid Pandemic, Right-Wing Think Tank Claims Huffington Post (Feb 9) highlights the outlandish views peddled by the obscurely-funded neoliberal fundamentalist outfit the Institute the Economic Affairs, who have consistently sought to undermine public affection for the NHS.
    "A new study by the Institute Of Economic Affairs (IEA) describes as a “myth” the idea that the health service had been a star performer over the past year.
    "The report by the think tank, which counts Tory peers and donors among its advisory board, compares the UK’s to other healthcare systems and concludes “there is no rational basis for the adulation the NHS is currently receiving”.
    "It states that the “Clap for Carers” and the public’s posters saying “Thank You NHS” last summer were part of the “false Covid-19 narratives”, including the suggestion that the health service had held the nation together during the crisis."

  • These wealthy vaccine cheats prove we were never all in this together Guardian comment Feb 9: "Remember how, at the beginning of the pandemic, everyone used to chirp “we’re all in this together!”? You don’t hear much of that any more because it’s embarrassingly obvious we’re not.
    "Watching wealthy people, who have the means to shield from the virus, being vaccinated before many essential workers is infuriating. Even worse is the fact that there’s not much we can do about it.
    "Making it harder to get a vaccine helps no one: better a few undeserving people slip through the net than a single precious vaccine goes to waste."

  • Coronavirus ‘amnesty’ to get undocumented migrants vaccinated will not be enough, ministers warned Independent Feb 9: "A government "amnesty" for undocumented migrants to encourage them to come forward for Covid vaccines will not be enough, minsters have been warned.
    "Over 140 charities, faith groups, local authorities and medical organisations have written to the government urging more action to ensure an estimated 1.3 million people feel safe coming forward.
    "Downing Street on Monday said there would be no checks on immigration status at vaccine centres and that "those who are here illegally can come forward to receive a vaccine".
    "But groups including the Refugee Council, The Faculty of Public Health, Trades Union Congress, Medact, Migrants Organise, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) say many could still be left unvaccinated unless concrete action is taken to roll back aggressive policies.
    "In a joint letter to the health department shared with The Independent, the organisations say people "are afraid to access services because of longstanding and entrenched barriers to healthcare" and are thus at risk of being left unvaccinated."

  • Thinktank critical of NHS Covid response has links to Hancock Guardian Feb 9 reminds us again that Matt Hancock has received funding from the chair of the obscurely-funded right wing IEA "think tank" which campaigns for scrapping NHS and replacing it with insurance model:
    "Labour has demanded that Matt Hancock return donations from the chair of an influential conservative thinktank after it published a report saying there was “no reason to be grateful” for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The report published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claims to debunk “myths” including that “the NHS is the star performer of the pandemic” and that it “has done the most amazing job under the most difficult of circumstances”.
    "Written by Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s head of political economy, it says: “There is no rational basis for the adulation the NHS is currently receiving, and no reason to be ‘grateful’ for the fact that we have it. It should go without saying that if the UK did not have the NHS it would not have no healthcare system. It would have a different healthcare system.”
    "After suggesting possible alternative systems used overseas, such as insurance-based models, it adds: “There is no guarantee that this would have served the UK better during the pandemic, but there is certainly no reason to believe that it would have done any worse. There is nothing special about the NHS, neither during this pandemic, nor at any other time.”

  • We must vaccinate the world — now Financial Times opinion piece Feb 9 arguing the economic case for vaccinating the whole world:
    “The world economy is recovering from the depths of the Covid-19 crisis. But that crisis will not depart for good until the pandemic is under control.
    “Since the virus knows no frontiers, it cannot be under control anywhere unless it is under control everywhere. The alternative is for us to remain inside national prisons indefinitely. Alas, that is what we risk if leaders do not raise their gaze from their own countries.
    “In its January World Economic Outlook Update, the IMF projected global economic growth at 5.5 per cent this year and 4.2 per cent in 2022. Moreover, its “2021 forecast is revised up 0.3 percentage point relative to the previous forecast”. The global contraction in 2020 is also now thought to have been 0.9 percentage points less than previously expected. Still, it was the worst recession since the second world war and had especially devastating effects on women, the young, the poor, people employed informally and those working in contact-intensive sectors.
    “Losses relative to pre-pandemic expectations are large and likely to prove permanent. They will turn out to be a form of “long economic Covid”.
    “As the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report notes, this is partly due to the damage done to investment and human capital. It is also due to the combination of pre-existing economic weaknesses with increased fragilities, especially the big jump in debt.
    “One of the report’s chapters is entitled, “Heading into a Decade of Disappointment”. That is plausible and disturbing.”

  • Surgical gowns bought by the UK government for NHS use are withdrawn over packaging concerns i news Feb 8: “Ten million surgical gowns bought by the UK Government for use in the NHS have been withdrawn from use over concerns about how they were packaged. The sterile gowns were bought for £70m from a US firm last year, but they arrived in only one layer of protective packaging.
    “However, according to a court document obtained by the BBC, NHS infection control experts were concerned about the single wrapping. They believed they should have been double wrapped if they were to be used in sterile care environments.
    “The £70m deal was signed in June for the supply of 10.2 million sterile surgical gowns from a US firm called Saiger LLC. Although the Government has said all PPE is quality assured, the Labour Party has called for an inquiry into the awarding of contracts.”

  • More PPE that can’t be used by the NHS Good Law Project (Feb 8) with yet more revelations of incompetence and cronyism in PPE procurement: "You may remember the tale of the jeweller from Florida and the Spanish intermediary who profited to the tune of tens of millions of pounds from vast PPE contracts, paid for with taxpayers’ money. Well, there have been developments.
    "Government continues to fail to publish details of contracts within the legally required timeframe, but we have learned of another contract it entered into with the jeweller Saiger, worth £36 million, for face masks.
    "The contract was for FFP2 masks – which protect the wearer, unlike the ones we all wear to the supermarket. But to protect the wearer they need to be adjustable – which means headstraps – and all of these masks have ‘earloops’. Earloop masks, Government has admitted in other cases, can’t be used in the NHS because they don’t give a proper fixing. We expect these £36 million of masks will also be unusable.
    "Not only did Government buy PPE that can’t be used. It also appears to have paid well over the odds."

  • The price of the Tories' outsourcing obsession? Cronyism and waste Labour front bencher Rachel Reeves in the Guardian Feb 8:
    "It’s been increasingly frustrating to witness the government’s reluctance to learn from its mistakes during the pandemic. One of the starkest and most easily rectified mistakes is the decision to outsource much of Britain’s Covid response.
    "From PPE to testing kits, the government has outsourced billions of pounds’ worth of contracts to firms connected to the Tory party, many of which lacked relevant experience. Although it reached new heights during the pandemic, this wasn’t the first time the government’s outsourcing obsession had harmful effects. The list of scandals is long: who remembers when the army had to swoop in to provide security at the 2012 Olympics that G4S failed to deliver? Or the collapse of Carillion, when workers’ pensions went down the drain while executives still received their bonuses?
    "With so many wasteful contracts handed out to Tory friends and donors during the Covid-19 crisis, the government’s approach to outsourcing has underlined the “one rule for them, another for us” mantra that surrounds Boris Johnson’s cabinet. But it has also shone a disturbing light on just how deeply the Tories have hollowed out our public services."

  • Coronavirus vaccine strategy needs rethink after resistant variants emerge, say scientists Public health expert Gabriel Scally in the Guardian Feb 8:
    "Leading vaccine scientists are calling for a rethink of the goals of vaccination programmes, saying that herd immunity through vaccination is unlikely to be possible because of the emergence of variants like that in South Africa.
    "The comments came as the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca acknowledged that their vaccine will not protect people against mild to moderate Covid illness caused by the South African variant. The Oxford vaccine is the mainstay of the UK’s immunisation programme and vitally important around the world because of its low cost and ease of use.
    "The findings came from a study involving more than 2,000 people in South Africa. They followed results from two vaccines, from Novavax and Janssen, which were trialled there in recent months and were found to have much reduced protection against the variant – at about 60%. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have also said the variant affects the efficacy of their vaccines, although on the basis of lab studies only."

  • A global vaccine apartheid is unfolding. People’s lives must come before profit Guardian Opinion column 29 January:
    "Nine months ago world leaders were queueing up to declare any Covid-19 vaccine a global public good. Today we are witness to a vaccine apartheid that is only serving the interests of powerful and profitable pharmaceutical corporations while costing us the quickest and least harmful route out of this crisis.
    "I am sickened by news that South Africa, a country whose HIV history should have taught us all the most appalling life-costing consequences of allowing pharmaceutical corporations to protect their medicine monopolies, has had to pay more than double the price paid by the European Union for the AstraZeneca vaccine for far fewer doses than it actually needs.
    "Like so many other low- and middle-income countries, South Africa is today facing a vaccine landscape of depleted supply where it is purchasing power, not suffering, that will secure the few remaining doses.
    "Nine out of 10 people living in the poorest countries are poised to miss out on a vaccine this year. Production delays put even this figure in doubt."

  • ‘Covid is no worse than flu’ – seven coronavirus myths busted Consultant David Oliver in the Independent Jan 29 shoots down the Covid deniers, refuting seven key myths:
    1. People are dying with Covid, not from Covid
    2. Reporting deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test could be death from anything
    3. The death numbers are no worse than a normal flu season
    4. PCR tests are useless with most cases being false-positives
    5. Covid-19 is no worse than normal seasonal flu
    6. Covid only kills older people or those with pre-existing conditions who were going to die anyway
    7. There is no second surge and the pandemic is over

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) weekly insights: latest health indicators in England, 29 January 2021 ONS article January 29 "brings together latest coronavirus (COVID-19) data in England. Exploring how these measures interact with each other can improve understanding of the severity and spread of the pandemic. This weekly summary gives an overview of the current situation and explores variations for different age groups and regions."
    It shows that even though more young people have been infected, hospital admissions and deaths involving #COVID19 are highest among those aged over 65 years.

  • Explaining covid-19 performance: what factors might predict national responses? Valuable Jan 29 BMJ analysis of ten factors behind government failure to tackle Covid death toll:
    "Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated existing flaws in public health systems around the world. Shredded social safety nets and underinvestment in healthcare systems, compounded by conflicts of interest, dismissal of scientific evidence, and failures of political leadership meant many countries were unprepared to deal with the covid-19 pandemic and vulnerable to the next one.
    "Important lessons can be learnt from the various national responses to covid-19 to inform preparedness for future waves or the emergence of new pandemics or epidemics
    "The Global Health Security Index (GHSI), which measures preparedness for pandemics or epidemics, published its scores in October 2019, just before the covid-19 pandemic was declared.
    "The US and UK scored highest on the GSHI, but both countries have done spectacularly badly in response to covid-19, whether measured in deaths or economic damage.
    "The Epidemic Preparedness Index, also published in 2019, grouped countries into five levels of preparedness, and also placed the US and the UK and others that have fared poorly in the covid-19 pandemic in the highest categories. "

  • £2.5 million government contracts for firm that donated over £240,000 to Conservative Party A new revelation (Jan 28) in the excellent Byline Times:
    "A firm that has donated more than £240,000 to the Conservative Party has won Government deals worth £2.5 million during the COVID-19 pandemic, Byline Times and The Citizens can reveal.
    "Since April 2020, ANS Group has been awarded four contracts for the supply of IT “cloud” services to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England. ANS Group appears to be providing services to host and maintain the Government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, launched last September, seemingly working in conjunction with Amazon Web Services.
    "In addition, ANS claims that it is working with Microsoft and the ‘Test and Trace’ programme to “help local authorities identify and contain potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools”.
    "The firm – which posted revenues of £50 million last year and has won awards for its work – is evidently a big-hitter in its field. It certainly doesn’t correspond with the litany of businesses, documented by Byline Times, that have been awarded COVID-19 contracts despite having little or no experience.
    "However, the contracts awarded to ANS Group do correspond with another trend witnessed during the pandemic.
    "Indeed, the firm was founded – and is owned – by a Scott Fletcher, a Conservative Party donor."

  • The Department for Deloitte Tribune revelations 28 January: “Lord Bethell, the unelected government minister in charge of test and trace, has overseen the award of multiple key Covid-19 contracts to Deloitte.
    “In fact, before becoming a minister, Bethell ran a lobbying company which represented Deloitte as they won over £700 million worth of government contracts on a poorly-performing and much-criticised scheme.
    “His move from lobbying for Deloitte to a minister in charge of commissioning Deloitte underlines the worry many feel about this government: that it is far too close to the companies it rewards with contracts.
    “The government still has not published details of many of the contracts it has handed out during this period, so we do not know the full value of the profits Deloitte has made from the national Covid-19 strategy – but we do know that it’s deeply embedded. According to a Freedom of Information request, Deloitte has 1,127 consultants working on test and trace. That’s the size of a small government department, inside an actual government department, and made up entirely of outsourced consultants.
    “Deloitte was central to the creation of test and trace. It managed the creation of the drive-through Covid-19 test sites and the Lighthouse Laboratories testing facilities; it also supported the government’s drive to purchase huge quantities of PPE at the start of the pandemic.
    “The company itself says it is ‘incredibly proud’ of its role, because what it calls the ‘success’ of the test and trace programme has been down to ‘the powerful partnership between businesses and government.’”

  • Why President Biden should kill out-of-pocket deductibles Twitter thread Jan 28 by former US health insurance executive Wendell Potter:
    “Many who sign up for an Obamacare plan can’t use it because they have to pay thousands out of pocket before coverage kicks in.
    “A recent Commonwealth Fund study found 42 % who bought coverage through exchanges were underinsured because of the amount they had to pay out-of-pocket.
    “Almost 1/3 with coverage through employers are underinsured because of unaffordable deductibles. More than 1/4 with crappy insurance -- that’s what it is -- said they delayed needed care because of the cost & nearly half said they had medical bill and debt problems.”

  • Five out of seven regions now have areas with over a third of beds occupied by covid patients HSJ update January 28: "Among the health systems with covid occupancy of 33 per cent or more in adult general and acute beds, five out of seven NHS regions are represented.
    "Until about two weeks ago pressure was concentrated in the east and south east of England including London. Since then, those areas have seen some decompression. Elsewhere there was faster growth, which is now just levelling off in most places.
    "The health system (sustainability and transformation partnership) with the highest covid occupancy in general and acute beds, in general acute trusts, as of 28 January was Frimley Health and Care, which spans Surrey and Berkshire. It had 42 per cent of those beds occupied by confirmed covid patients."
    For a graphical description of these figures see also https://healthcampaignstogether.com/NHS_performance_charts.php

  • Provision of Management Consultancy Services Another government contract – worth £145m – handed to Deloitte (without no tender process) for "general management consultancy services."

  • ‘Crony Bill’ to tackle procurement scandal passes first Commons hurdle after government ‘Handed out public contracts like sweeties to friends’ Byline Times (Jan 27) highlighting a little-known initiative from the SNP:
    "A new proposed law that would hold the Government to account for awarding contracts to its chums, has passed its first House of Commons hurdle.
    "Presented to the Commons by Scottish National Party MP Owen Thompson this afternoon, the Bill received the assent of MPs in the chamber – which means it will now be the subject of a formal parliamentary debate and vote.
    "The Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill would ensure that MPs can interrogate ministers in the House of Commons about any personal, political or financial connections they may have to a company that is awarded a Government contract. "

  • Group stormed East Surrey Covid ward and abused staff Worrying Jan 27 story of ignorance and arrogance of Covid deniers in Surrey Comet:
    "A group of people who refused to wear masks abused NHS staff at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill and gained access to a patient critically ill with Covid, it has emerged.
    "The news broke earlier today (January 27) after Surrey Police, who are investigating the incident, issued a public appeal in the search for one of the people thought to be involved in the shocking scenes that took place last Thursday (January 21)."

  • Covid-19: How to break the cycle of lockdowns Christina Pagel in the BMJ January 27: "“Countries all over the world are grappling with the same dilemma. Until populations at large are vaccinated, people are not safe from covid-19, and though we know a lot more about the virus than a year ago, the many questions that remain mean the blunt tool of lockdowns and other social restrictions are the main weapon used, in Europe at least, against a virus that has infected over 100 million people and claimed over two million lives so far.
    “As millions are vaccinated across the UK, at what point is it safe to lift restrictions?
    “… The dominance of new, more transmissible variants means that a policy of trying to “live with” the virus will fail, certainly in the UK where the new B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common. I know of no country that is successfully living with the virus while avoiding lockdown and restriction cycles, a high death toll, or—as in the UK—both.
    “We need to set our sights instead on where we want to be and then work out how to get there.
    “The role models we have are Vietnam (35 deaths, 98 million population), Thailand (73 deaths, 70 million population), South Korea (1371 deaths, 51 million population), and New Zealand (25 deaths, 5 million population) where people have been living much more normal lives for months.”

  • Here are five ways the government could have avoided 100,000 Covid deaths Devi Sridhar marks the 100,000 British Covid death toll in The Guardian Jan 27:
    "Yesterday Britain passed a grim milestone. A further 1,631 deaths from Covid-19 were recorded, taking the official tally above 100,000, though data from the Office for National Statistics suggests the total number will now be nearer 120,000. In a briefing, Boris Johnson has said his government did everything it could to minimise the loss of life, but these deaths were far from inevitable.
    "While the number of UK deaths has entered the hundreds of thousands, New Zealand has recorded only 25 deaths from Covid-19 so far. Taiwan has recorded seven, Australia 909, Finland 655, Norway 550 and Singapore 29. These countries have largely returned to normal daily life.
    "In the first year of the pandemic, the UK faced three big challenges. Our national government had no long-term strategy for suppressing the virus beyond a continual cycle of lockdowns. Even now we still don’t know what the government’s plans for the next six months are. In the early days of the pandemic, the UK treated Covid-19 like a bad flu.
    "The government halted testing, and the initial plan seemed to be allow the virus to run unchecked through the population (the “herd immunity” approach). Finally, ministers have pitted the economy against public health, instead of realising that the health of the economy depends upon a healthy population."

  • Why has Britain suffered more than 100,000 Covid deaths? Guardian presents its list of policy and public health failures, January 26, beginning:
    "Britain went into the Covid-19 pandemic in poor health in some key areas. In 2018, the proportion of adults who were obese had already reached 28%, having almost doubled over 25 years. Morbid obesity tripled over the same period.
    "The NHS has identified obesity as a cause of clinical vulnerability to Covid. After Boris Johnson was hospitalised with Covid in April, he remarked he was “way overweight” and soon after he was discharged he launched a national anti-obesity campaign.
    "Diabetes, another key comorbidity was also rising. At the start of 2020 3.9 million people had a diagnosis – up 100,000 on the previous year. Britain also had a substantial elderly population, although a smaller proportion of over-65s than European neighbours such as France and Germany. But with people aged 80 or older 70 times more likely to die than those under 40, the country’s elderly were at risk and the most vulnerable were not properly shielded."

  • An inquiry into COVID-19 is needed now Excellent short January 25 BMJ letter from KONP co-chair Dr John Puntis calling for a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic begins:
    "COVID-19 has been notable for England topping the list of European countries for excess mortality.
    "The significant negative implications for the well-being of children have been widely discussed. Some argue we could never have been fully prepared for an outbreak of a novel infective agent and point to countries like the USA and Brazil that have even worse records.
    "There are, however, many other places with much better outcomes. Doubtless the reasons for this can be debated, but such differences surely lend weight to the call for a national inquiry so that lessons can be learnt."

  • UNISON demands higher human rights standards in PPE UNISON takes a stand, January 25:
    "UNISON has joined the lobby to bring in new laws to prevent UK businesses and public services from sourcing from companies that violate workers’ human rights.
    "Evidence has emerged throughout the pandemic that PPE suppliers to the NHS were tied to severe, widespread human rights violations of workers in the global south.
    "One of a number of known abusive suppliers is Top Glove, the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves. Top Glove have seen their profits triple in 2020, whilst investigations showed that gloves were being made by migrant workers forced to work in cramped conditions in Malaysian factories. Workers were housed in squalor with 25 workers sharing one dormitory, and reports show that in December 2020 alone, 5,000 workers had contracted COVID-19.
    "Reports of human rights abuses in the PPE industry aren’t isolated to gloves. Gowns were reportedly being made with North Korean forced labour. And masks by ethnic Uighur in forced detention in China."

  • Workers With Covid Too 'Scared’ To Get Tested Over Fear Of Losing Wages, Dido Harding Says Huffington Post report Jan 25 reveals even Tory peer Dido Harding can spot the fatal weakness in government policy:
    "People with Covid are too “scared” to come forward for a test because of a lack of government cash support, the head of Test and Trace has said.
    "Baroness Dido Harding told a CBI webinar that the most recent figures showed that less than 60% of people who tested positive followed advice to quarantine at home once contacted. But the Tory peer said the problem of people not taking the test was even more of an issue.
    "Harding said that it was up to chancellor Rishi Sunak to resolve the cash help problem, adding that the rollout of rapid testing in workplaces to help pick up asymptomatic cases early would help too.
    "Her remarks came days after No.10 ruled out proposals from the Department of Health and Social Care to pay everyone a flat-rate payment of £500 each if they were forced to quarantine at home."

  • Over 850 health and social care workers have now died of COVID-19 Nursing Notes with a Jan 25 update on a total nobody wants to see increasing:
    “Official data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that 883 health and social care workers have tragically lost their lives to COVID-19 since March 2020. The data reveals that male health and social care workers are around twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than their female counterparts.
    “A total of 469 deaths among social care workers were registered in England and Wales between March 9 and December 28 2020, with rates of 79.0 deaths per 100,000 males and 35.9 deaths per 100,000 females.
    “In addition, a total of 414 deaths among health care workers were registered during the same period with rates of 44.9 deaths per 100,000 males and 17.3 deaths per 100,000 females.
    “The data is limited to those in England and Wales between 20 to 64 years so the true figure across the UK could be much higher.”

  • Vaccine delays in poorer nations threaten advanced economies (£) Financial Times January 24 reminding us of an uncomfortable truth:
    “Advanced economies face a significant hit to their economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic unless they help developing countries speed up their vaccination programmes, according to a report that will be published by the World Health Organization on Monday.
    “If the rollout of vaccines in developing countries continues on its current trajectory, advanced economies face output losses of up to $2.4tn — 3.5 per cent of their annual gross domestic product before the pandemic — because of disruptions to global trade and supply chains, the study said.
    “The longer we wait to provide vaccines, tests, and treatments to all countries, the faster the virus will take hold, the potential for more variants will emerge, the greater the chance today’s vaccines could become ineffective, and the harder it will be for all countries to recover,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.
    “No one is safe until everyone is safe.” The research illustrates the interconnected nature of the global economic recovery and means that even if the world’s leading nations succeed in vaccinating their vulnerable populations promptly, they still face significant economic vulnerabilities from the pandemic.”

  • Claim: Lockdowns cause more deaths than they prevent Powerful evidence to refute the commonly trotted out nonsense from the rabid Tory right:
    "1) There is absolutely no evidence that lockdowns cause remotely as many deaths as Covid-19 has. All claims that "lockdowns kill" at all are based on speculation that is at odds with the empirical evidence.
    "Covid has killed 90,000 people in the UK and counting (as of 19 January 2021), and the number of excess deaths since the start of the pandemic closely tracks the number of deaths associated with Covid. While lockdown does have significant costs, many of those costs would be worse without lockdown, because Covid would be spreading uncontrolled across the country, crippling the health service and the economy …."

  • Delaying second dose of vaccine increases risk of new resistant strain, Sage papers reveal The Independent (Jan 23) highlighting concerns that don't surface much in other mainstream media:
    "Delaying doses of coronavirus inoculations will increase the chances of a vaccine-resistant strain of Covid-19 emerging, government scientists have warned.
    "In new reports, released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), experts also warned that resistant new variants were a “realistic possibility” driven by the virus reacting to increasing levels of natural immunity among the population.
    "The government’s decision to delay the second dose of vaccines to 12 weeks rather than three, to try and give more people some protection from the virus, has sparked anger among frontline health workers who fear they are being left at increased risk from infections.
    "There have also been suggestions from Israel, that have yet to be fully validated, that the protection from a first dose could be far less than originally thought.
    "In papers released on Friday, Sage scientists there was an “increased risk of virus replication under partial immunity after one dose than after two doses, so in the short term, delaying the second dose would be expected to somewhat increase the probability of emergence of vaccine resistance – but probably from a low base."

  • Gap between Pfizer vaccine doses should be halved, say doctors BBC (Jan 23) reports alarm being raised by BMA:
    “Senior doctors are calling on England's chief medical officer to cut the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
    “Prof Chris Whitty said extending the maximum wait from three to 12 weeks was a "public health decision" to get the first jab to more people across the UK.
    “But the British Medical Association said that was "difficult to justify" and should be changed to six weeks.
    “It comes as early evidence suggests the UK virus variant may be more deadly.
    “Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing on Friday: "In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant - the variant that was first identified in London and the south east - may be associated with a higher degree of mortality."
    “Previous work suggests the new variant spreads between 30% and 70% faster than others, and there are hints it is about 30% more deadly."

  • Let's stop the blame game over the shortage of ICU beds for Covid patients Guardian Jan 23 powerful opinion piece:
    “A troubling narrative now appears to have crept into some reporting of intensive care bed shortages – blame the public.
    … “We are trying to cope with a significantly more infectious form of coronavirus, a lockdown with more exemptions that are open to interpretation than previous lockdowns and an apparently unstoppable rise in the number of cases presenting to hospitals.
    “It is people living in areas of the country with the most social deprivation, poor, cramped housing and multigenerational living who experience the highest risk of catching Sars-CoV-2, require hospital admission, become critically ill and, sadly, die.
    In desperation, it is tempting to seek to apportion blame when all apparent previous exhortations have failed, but this is too easy and too simplistic.
    “In doing so, we run the risk of feeding the trolls who call us liars when we show the harsh realities of intensive care treatment in a pandemic and losing the goodwill of those trying their best to comply.
    “Doctors and other healthcare workers are trusted professionals. That trust comes in part because of the contract we make with you, the public, in acting to provide care and treatment where we can, without judgment.
    “We do that in relation to treatment for road traffic collisions irrespective of who is “at fault”, vascular diseases where the individual may have damaged blood vessels due to smoking and forms of cancer where lifestyle factors are known to play a part as much as genetics. We do it because it’s the right thing to do because health is so valuable. We do not know who will need our help until they do and in each case we treat and care without judgment.”

  • Science is not on the side of the delayed second doses Pulse Jan 22: “The mixed messaging and short notice from the Government has led to considerable concern, confusion and upset for healthcare workers and elderly, vulnerable patients. A doctor is rightly campaigning to challenge the decision of in court.
    “Israel’s Covid tsar, who, having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people, has warned that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be providing less protection than originally hoped. The study suggests the effectiveness of vaccine after a single dose is as low as 33%, rather than the 89% that had initially been suggested.
    “By contrast, those who had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine had a six to 12-fold increase in antibodies.
    … “Staff illness rates are significantly higher than usual, and confidence within the profession is certainly now very badly shaken by disregard to manufacturer’s and World Health Organisation’s recommendations to give the second dose within 21 to 28 days.
    “The ambitious vaccine rollout could suffer a severe knockdown if the chief medical officer refuses to see the reason and scientific evidence to reverse his decision of delaying the vaccine to 12 weeks.”

  • FBU responds to “political and biased” HMICFRS report HCT affiliate the FBU (January 22) responds to an attack from the regulator and from ministers:
    "The government’s fire service inspectorate has made a political attack on firefighters and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in an attempt to water down firefighter safety mid-pandemic.
    "Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) claimed the FBU had “prevented” firefighters in England from helping communities during the pandemic, an apparent reference to the union’s refusal to let bosses water down safety measures earlier this month.
    "The FBU has helped firefighters to assist the health and social care sector since March and was in the process of negotiating safety measures for firefighters to be involved in mass-vaccination, when fire service bosses unilaterally collapsed the agreement.
    "But HMICFRS called the safety guarantees in the agreement “more of a hindrance than a help” and advocated for Chief Fire Officers to have the authority to water down safety without negotiation.
    "MPs and trade unions have spoken out in the FBU’s defence, rejecting the “stitch up” and vowing to stand by firefighters. But government minister Stephen Greenhalgh accused the union of preventing firefighters from volunteering, sharing a picture of firefighters during the Blitz to try and suggest firefighters weren’t responding to the coronavirus crisis as they had then.
    "Responding to the report, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
    “This report is a political and biased attack on firefighters. It is neither evidence based nor an independent report and is instead full of untruths and omissions and we totally reject it. While firefighters are out tackling fires, floods and the pandemic, the HMICFRS didn’t even have the courtesy to speak to or provide us in advance with a copy of their report, which was passed to us by a journalist.
    “The FBU has from the start wholeheartedly supported the response to the pandemic, and as a result of agreements delivered by the union, firefighters have been able to take on significant areas of additional work including driving ambulances, moving the bodies of the deceased and delivering vital supplies to the NHS and care sector and vulnerable people in our communities.
    “But the message from this report is clear: fire chiefs and the government don’t want workers to have a voice over their own safety or their terms and conditions. That’s why employers, advised by fire chiefs, tore up a national agreement containing vital safety measures. This report is being used to undermine a trade union they consider a nuisance because it wants to keep its members safe. "

  • Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation: March through October 2020 Research in this pre-print from medRxiv.org finds that:
    “In California, per-capita excess mortality is relatively high among Blacks, Latinos, and individuals with low educational attainment. An explanation for these findings is that these populations face unique occupational risks because they may disproportionately make up the state’s essential workforce …
    “Latino Californians experienced a 36% increase in mortality, with a 59% increase among Latino food/agriculture workers. Black Californians experienced a 28% increase in mortality, with a 36% increase for Black retail workers. Asian Californians experienced an 18% increase, with a 40% increase among Asian healthcare workers. Excess mortality among White working-age Californians increased by 6%, with a 16% increase among White food/agriculture workers.
    The report concludes: “Certain occupational sectors have been associated with high excess mortality during the pandemic, particularly among racial and ethnic groups also disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
    “In-person essential work is a likely venue of transmission of coronavirus infection and must be addressed through strict enforcement of health orders in workplace settings and protection of in-person workers.
    “Vaccine distribution prioritizing in-person essential workers will be important for reducing excess COVID mortality.”

  • Self-Isolation: Support, Monitoring, and Adherence: A scoping review of international approaches Edinburgh University comparison confirms that the achilles heel of test & trace in Britain has been failure to support isolation appropriately. Researchers reviewed international policies on isolation: Finland offers 100% of salary, Norway 80%, Belgium 70%. UK needs to support people to stay home & not infect others.

  • The failure of private health services: COVID-19 induced crises in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) health systems Important research paper from Global Public Health (pub Jan 20) on the long term damage done by neoliberal policies and privatisation to the health care systems in developing countries:
    “For decades, governments and development partners promoted neoliberal policies in the health sector in many LMICs, largely motivated by the belief that governments in these countries were too weak to provide all the health services necessary to meet population needs.
    “Private health markets became the governance and policy solution to improve the delivery of health services which allowed embedded forms of market failure to persist in these countries and which were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    “In this article, … we identify how pre-existing market failure and failures of redistribution have led to the rise of three urgent crises in LMICs: a financial and liquidity crisis among private providers, a crisis of service provision and pricing, and an attendant crisis in state-provider relations.
    “The COVID-19 pandemic has therefore exposed important failures of the public-private models of health systems and provides an opportunity to rethink the future orientation of national health systems and commitments towards Universal Health Coverage.”

  • Are you a frontline health worker? We want to hear from you The Torygraph Jan 19, possibly the least sympathetic of the right wing newspapers to health workers and frequently questioning the future of the NHS, seeks staff to tell them what's happening.
    One thing they will all agree on is that the reactionary tosh spewed out by the Torygraph's columnists -- a gaggle of covid-deniers, anti-maskers and anti-lockdown fanatics -- only makes life more miserable for NHS staff, for the population as a whole, and undermines the credibility of any news in the Torygraph's news section

  • UK coronavirus death toll rises with highest daily record of 1,610 Guardian Jan 19: "The UK has recorded its deadliest day from coronavirus so far, with 1,610 deaths recorded on Tuesday.
    "It comes as the number of new infections fell, showing early signs that lockdown restrictions are working, with confirmed coronavirus cases within 24 hours dropping to 33,355 – down from 38,598 cases on Sunday, and 37,535 on Monday.
    "Official data showed one in eight people in England – about 5.4 million – had already had Covid by December last year, with experts claiming the disease was “much more widespread than previously realised”.
    "A further 1,610 people died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test, Public Health England (PHE) confirmed. This is the biggest UK figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began."

  • London’s Nightingale hospital relaxes admission rules as it treats just 12 patients Independent Jan 18: “London’s Nightingale hospital has been forced to relax its rules for admitting patients after NHS trusts sent only a handful of patients there.
    “The field hospital, at the ExCel centre, reopened its doors on Monday last week, with 64 beds ready for patients. But it faced a backlash from hospitals, with many sources warning the criteria to discharge a patient to the site were so restrictive it would not help NHS trusts to free up beds.
    “By Friday, the lack of patients at the Nightingale, which was rebuilt at a cost of millions after being dismantled following the summer, led the North East London Foundation Trust and NHS England to agree changes to the admissions criteria to allow it to take on more complex patients.
    “Despite the changes, the hospital still had only 12 patients as of Monday, up from eight at the weekend. Some NHS hospital insiders told The Independent the new criteria still did not go far enough.”

  • Two-thirds of residents die in Covid outbreak at Lincolnshire care home Guardian January 19: "A care home in Lincolnshire has been left devastated after Covid killed two-thirds of its residents with two staff treated in hospital in an outbreak the manager described as “horrendous”.
    "Eighteen of 27 residents at The Old Hall at Halton Holegate, near Spilsby, died in the run-up to Christmas, the care home’s manager, Diane Vale, told the Guardian. Most of those who died were in their 90s – the youngest was 79 and the oldest 99.
    "Some of the deaths were so sudden staff did not have the chance to administer end-of-life treatment or arrange for loved ones to say goodbye.
    "It is the most devastating outbreak in a care home in England to have emerged in the second wave of the pandemic, as the new, more transmissible, variant of the virus spreads and GPs race to vaccinate all residents by the end of this week.
    "Covid outbreaks in England’s care homes almost tripled in the three weeks to 10 January, according to data from Public Health England. "

  • Test and Trace is paying Deloitte nearly a million pounds every day The London Economic January 19: "Dido Harding’s Test and Trace system is splashing out nearly a million pounds every day to private consultancy firm Deloitte, newly-released government figures have revealed.
    "David William’s, a top-ranking civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), told MPs on Monday that 900 of the firm’s consultants were currently employed – at a rate of £1,000 per day.
    "The disclosure of the astonishing level of expenditure comes after parliamentarians were told that DHSC expected to spend £15 billion on coronavirus in the next three months on testing alone – particularly the rollout of controversial rapid testing – to tackle the pandemic.
    "It emerged last year that more than a thousand consultants from Deloitte had been hired by the government – but Williams’ admission to the Commons Public Accounts Committee is the first time the true cost has become clear.
    “The latest number I’ve got suggests that’s come down to around 900 [consultants],” he told the committee. “We have a plan in place to see that number reduce markedly over the course of the next few months, although there is a dependency on our ability to backfill a number of the roles they are currently doing with permanent civil servants."

  • NHS Test and Trace boss Dido Harding defends paying consultants £1,000-a-day Independent January 18 with the great unanswered question of how so many and such highly paid consultants (collectively costing almost £1m per DAY) can work so long on the disastrous test and trace system and still not get it working?
    "The head of NHS Test and Trace has defended paying consultants on average £1,000 per day, as she told MPs the service was having a "material impact" in the fight against Covid-19.
    "Baroness Dido Harding told the Commons Public Accounts Committee she felt it was "appropriate" to bring in external help in "extreme emergency circumstances" such as that faced by the country during the coronavirus crisis.
    "Whitehall mandarins said they did not believe profiteering had gone on, despite the large daily rates forked out to the private sector, telling MPs that consultants had lowered their usual fees in order to assist with the pandemic.
    "Asked by MPs whether it was right for at least 900 workers to be earning on average £1,000 per day, Tory peer Baroness Harding said: "I think it is appropriate to build a service in extreme emergency circumstances using short-term contingent labour and consultants for some of those roles."

  • Test and trace consultants are earning average of £1,000 a DAY as it emerges 3,000 have been hired at a cost to the taxpayer of at least £375m Even the Daily Heil (Jan 18) is shocked at the scale of private consultancy that has failed so lamentably to deliver a working test and trace system:
    "… the Daily Mail can reveal that almost 3,000 consultants and contractors, many on gold-plated deals worth thousands of pounds a day, have been hired at a cost of at least £375million.
    "Baroness Dido Harding, chairman of the programme, defended the 'appropriate' use of the private sector in 'extreme emergency circumstances'.
    'They've done very important work alongside the public servants, the military, the healthcare professionals and members of the private sector who have come and joined us as well,' she told the committee.
    'We couldn't have built the service without all of that combined expertise.'
    "She said 7.5million people were tested in the first fortnight of 2021 and that in the last week of published data, the first week of January, contact tracers successfully reached a million people."

  • Israel is accused of 'racism' by Palestinian PM after excluding 4million people in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine program Daily Heil (Jan 18) highlighting the discrepancy in the much vaunted 'success' of Isreal's vaccination programme, which will leave a large pool of unvaccinated and vulnerable people living right next door:
    "“Israel has been accused of racism by the Palestinian prime minister after excluding four million people living in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine drive.
    During a press conference at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to vaccinate every citizen by the end of March.
    “Israel's Arab residents and the Palestinians of east Jerusalem will be included in the country's vaccination drive. Palestinians living in the West Bank, and those living in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, will not be given a dose.
    “Officials will however travel into the West Bank to make the vaccine available for Jewish settlers.
    … “Israel, which is leading the vaccine race with one in five people receiving an initial dose, argues that it is not responsible for inoculating citizens in the Palestinian territories.”

  • Low-paid shun Covid tests because the cost of self-isolating is too high Guardian Jan 16 with research proving the existence of a pretty obvious problem that ministers still insist on ignoring:
    "Families on low incomes are avoiding the Covid-19 testing system because they cannot afford to isolate if they get sick, while red tape is hampering access to the government’s £500 compensation payments.
    "People in some of the most deprived areas of England, including Middlesbrough, Liverpool and the London borough of Newham, are less likely to request a coronavirus test.
    "According to the CIPD, the association of HR professionals, when people on low incomes do self-isolate, they find it difficult to access the NHS Test and Trace support payment scheme. Freedom of information releases from 34 local authorities show that only a third of claims were granted.
    "Dr Wanda Wyporska of charity the Equality Trust said people avoided testing for a range of reasons, from caring responsibilities to employment worries. “Some people have said they’re not going to take the test, because if they are told to isolate, they won’t be able to work,” she said."

  • The greatest failure of government in our lifetime New European article (Jan 15) rehearses the damning litany of the Johnson government's abject failure:
    … "But No.10's decision-making is not based exclusively on the science. It balances scientific advice against political interests - specifically perceived notions of public opinion and the lockdown scepticism of cabinet ministers and members of the Conservative parliamentary party. So instead of taking swift preemptive action as soon as it is advised, Boris Johnson has equivocated and delayed.
    "This is the pattern of behaviour whose consequences are now playing out in our hospitals. It's why we went into lockdown two to four weeks too late, on all three occasions. It's why the tiers system was only adapted weeks after scientists warned it was ineffective. It's why we witnessed the insanity of allowing certain areas to open up for Christmas only to now see their infection rates spiral out of control.
    "Timing, however, only partly explains what is happening. The government could have recognised and addressed this problem by now if it was alive to its own failings. It is not. Downing Street is an echo chamber. It does not listen to criticism. Indeed, Johnson purged the party of any moderate Conservatives early on in his tenure as prime minister. All criticism from outside the party is treated as evidence that someone is a political enemy.
    "This is why you see them making the same mistakes over and over again. "

  • New £120m fund to provide boost for care sector staffing levels Guardian Jan 16 on an announcement that is both belated and tight fisted, and nowhere near enough to plug the gap that's growing after Priti Patel's immigration laws slammed the door on care workers:
    "The Covid-stricken care home and domiciliary care sector is to get an extra £120m government funding to help boost depleted staff levels, ministers announced on Saturday night.
    "The funds would help increase staff numbers, said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Ministers said the aim was to help local authorities plug worker shortages and allow additional staff to take on administrative tasks, freeing up skilled colleagues to provide care. It could also help existing staff work extra hours with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs, the DHSC said.
    "The cash comes after a snapshot survey from the National Care Forum (NCF) earlier this month suggested that some care services were reporting staff absences of more than 50%."

  • Doctors want new legal protections if they have to choose between patients (£) Times article January 16:
    "Doctors require immediate emergency legal protection in case NHS pressures caused by coronavirus force them to choose between patients, leading healthcare groups have warned.
    "In a letter to the health secretary, the groups say that there is no legal protection for doctors faced with “surges in demand for resources that temporarily exceed supply”.
    "Doctors fear that they could face prosecution for unlawful killing because of decisions they are forced to make in such a situation, they add.
    "In November Boris Johnson gave warning that should the NHS be overwhelmed “the sick would be turned away because there was no room in our hospitals”, with doctors and nurses potentially “forced to choose which patients to treat, who would live and who would die”."

  • Protect us from unlawful killing charges - medics BBC Jan 16: "Doctors and nurses need protection from prosecution over Covid-19 treatment decisions made under the pressures of the pandemic, medical bodies have said.
    "Groups including the British Medical Association have written to ministers saying medical workers fear they could be at risk of unlawful killing charges.
    "It comes as the UK's chief medical officers said the NHS could be overwhelmed in weeks.
    "The government said staff should not have to fear legal action."

  • Hospitals told to free up beds ahead of influx of patients as ‘toughest part’ of pandemic looms Independent Jan 16: "Hospitals have been told to find as many beds as possible in preparation for an influx of Covid patients in the north of England and midlands.
    "Across the country, hospitals have been told to prepare extra wards and critical care beds to cope with a flood of patients over at least the next week to two weeks as health chiefs warn the NHS is about to face the “toughest part” of the pandemic. Hospitals will also be expected to take transfers of patients between areas to even out pressure for those worst affected.
    "While infections across the UK have started to fall in recent days, hospitals could face another week of growth in Covid patients because of the time it takes people to become seriously unwell.
    "Any influx of patients, as seen in London and the southeast, will hit other parts of England hard where operations have already been cancelled and some areas are already reporting record numbers of Covid-19 patients on their wards."

  • Paying for the pandemic: the economic consequences of COVID-19 Interesting findings from Health Foundation's inquiry into the impact of the pandemic:
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the relationship between income and health. Low income affects what people can buy and can bring on stress, which risks harming their mental and physical health. Poor health limits opportunities for good work and future employment prospects. !
    … "While the government’s economic policies mean that the pandemic downturn appears to have had little effect on household income inequality in the UK to date, we should not conclude that all is well. To do so would be to miss the broader point that incomes have generally fallen since the start of the pandemic. And importantly, while the proportional drops in incomes across different households may be relatively even, the consequences of those reductions are being felt much more acutely by some.
    "Restrictions on opportunities for eating out, holidaying abroad and other leisure activities have pushed down spending in many households – especially higher income households who typically spend more on such items. In contrast, lower income households have recorded more modest spending reductions, and are more likely to have had to dip into their savings.
    "This stark result is shown in Figure 1: on the whole, lower income households have responded to the crisis by spending their savings, while higher income households have added to theirs."

  • School meals row: boss of scandal-hit caterer set rules for food parcels scheme (£)Times revelations Jan 15 confirm what we all expected would be the case -- the tightfisted "hampers" that left starving kids hungry were no accident or error: they fitted the guidelines … which were written by the the suppliers!
    "An executive at the caterer criticised for inadequate food parcels for schoolchildren is chairman of the industry body that helped to draft the scheme’s guidelines, The Times can reveal.
    "Stephen Forster, 58, is national chairman of the Lead Association for Caterers in Education (Laca), the professional organisation that represents school meal providers, including councils and commercial suppliers.
    "He also works as a business development director for local authority group contracts at the food providers Chartwells, according to the organisation’s website."

  • Daily Telegraph rebuked over Toby Young's Covid column Guardian Jan 15 gleefully pointing out that the press regulator IPSO has slammed the Daily Telegraph for not only publishing misleading and false allegations by right wing anti-lockdown fanatic Toby Young, but not offering to print a correction and failing to offer evidence to support its position.
    Of course the Telegraph is a platform for many other extreme right wing views as ill-informed as Toby Young's, which fit in with the bias of the Torygraph's billionaire owners.
    "Ipso concluded that the Telegraph was unable to support its position and that it had “failed to take care not to publish inaccurate and misleading information”.
    “The statement was significantly misleading,” it said, noting that the Telegraph had not offered to run a correction. “It misrepresented the nature of immunity and implied that people previously exposed to some common colds might be automatically immune to suffering symptoms and passing on Covid-19 to others.”
    "Ipso also found that Young’s claim that “London is probably approaching herd immunity, even though only 17% tested positive [for antibodies] in the most recent seroprevalence survey” was misleading."

  • Dutch government resigns over child benefits scandal Guardian Jan 15 underlining that they do things differently in the Netherlands, where a scandalous failure can trigger resignations not even of a single minister but a whole government. We can only wish for similar standards here:
    "The Dutch government has resigned amid an escalating scandal over child benefits in which more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority.
    "The move came less than a month before parliament was due to break up ahead of general elections scheduled for 17 March. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet is to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new coalition is formed after that vote.
    "“The government was not up to standard throughout this whole affair,” Rutte told a press conference. “Mistakes were made at every level of the state, with the result that terrible injustice was done to thousands of parents.”
    "Political responsibility for the scandal lay with the current cabinet, he said, which had decided collectively that it had no option but to resign. “Things cannot ever be allowed to go so terribly wrong again,” Rutte said."

  • NHS calls in military to help shore up understaffed intensive care wards Independent Jan 15: "Hundreds of soldiers are to be sent into major London hospitals to help shore up understaffed intensive care units as the numbers of coronavirus patients in the capital has risen again.
    "The Independent has learned 200 medical combat technicians will be sent into intensive care units at the city’s main trusts including the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, and the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.
    "Another 150 military staff will be put into non-clinical roles to help free up nurses and doctors to keep caring patients. The move follows a request for aid from the NHS.
    "The city’s hospitals are in a staffing crisis with the latest data from Thursday showing almost 15,000 staff across London are off sick from work, with 60 per cent of the absences linked to Covid-19. This includes more than 6,100 nurses and 789 doctors. Nursing bodies have also issued a warning over hospitals stretching nurse to patient ratios to unsafe levels in intensive care wards."

  • 'The NHS is now under the most extreme pressure seen in recent history': The King’s Fund responds to the latest emergency care situation reports and estates data King's Fund report January 14; "Responding to the latest NHS Urgent and Emergency Care Daily Situation Report data and monthly hospital activity data Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund, said:
    ‘Today’s figures show that the NHS is now under the most extreme pressure seen in recent history and is battling on multiple fronts. Staff are exhausted, wards are overflowing and patients face long waits for routine and emergency care, with many procedures being cancelled or postponed.
    ‘Despite staff doing their best under incredibly difficult circumstances, waits for routine care have rapidly ballooned, with 192,000 people waiting over a year for care compared to just 1,400 this time last year. But this is only part of the problem. Last week, more than 3,700 patients had to wait 12 hours or more in A&E before being admitted to hospital – the highest number since current records began, and even urgent operations are being cancelled in some parts of the country."

  • While Covid pushes the NHS to breaking point, private healthcare is thriving Guardian's Polly Toynbee (Jan 14) echoing the warnings from The Lowdown and HCT that the reliance on private hospital beds is strengthening what would otherewise have been a bankrupt private sector while thousands of NHS beds are unused. She notes that in the spring of 2020:
    "the NHS took over all the capacity of private hospitals, its 8,000 beds, 680 operating theatres and 20,000 staff, to carry out non-Covid emergency treatments for cancer, stroke and heart patients. In a gesture of wartime necessity, the well-off could not commandeer special treatment.
    "But the beds were not requisitioned as they might be in wartime; they were officially bought at “cost price” and the sum has been estimated to be £1bn, steep according to many.
    "Though other deals continue elsewhere, the contract with London’s hospitals ended in August and NHS England has since been locked in a dispute over the price of private beds. The Treasury balks at the cost, while private hospitals spy new opportunities in the spike in private demand as the NHS overflows.
    "Private healthcare companies have seen what the Telegraph describes as a “boom” in demand; William Laing, of LaingBuisson, a private health market monitor, predicts “pent up demand” will lead to a sharp increase in NHS patients opting for “self-pay” private treatment."

  • GMB demands all NHS and social care workers are given full access to PPE Union News report Jan 14: "GMB has written to the Health Secretary to demand all NHS and social care workers are given access to full PPE to prevent more unnecessary deaths.
    "In the letter to Matt Hancock, the union says in order to save lives, workers must be provided with full coverage of skin, hair and clothing, including head covers; goggles; FFP3 masks; coveralls or long-sleeved gowns; shoe coverings; medical grade gloves.
    "According to the ONS, 618 health and social care workers’ deaths in England and Wales were linked to COVID-19 up to 30 June 2020 (the latest date for which figures are available). This is the second time the union has written to the Health Secretary making this demand on behalf of members.
    "Since the start of the pandemic, GMB has consistently raised concerns about the lack of adequate PPE for health and social workers. Despite being assured by Ministers there are sufficient levels of PPE, terrified members report working on the front line with inadequate protection."

  • Regulator refuses to approve mass daily Covid testing at English schools Guardian Jan 14: "Boris Johnson’s plans to test millions of schoolchildren for coronavirus every week appear to be in disarray after the UK regulator refused to formally approve the daily testing of pupils in England, the Guardian has learned.
    "The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told the government on Tuesday it had not authorised the daily use of 30-minute tests due to concerns that they give people false reassurance if they test negative.
    "This could lead to pupils staying in school and potentially spreading the virus when they should be self-isolating.
    "The regulator’s decision undermines a key element of the government’s strategy to bring the pandemic under control – and is bound to raise fresh questions about the tests, and the safety of the schools that have been asked to use them."

  • Struggling London hospitals sending Covid patients to Newcastle Guardian Jan 14: “Seriously ill Covid patients are being transferred from overstretched London hospitals to intensive care units almost 300 miles away in Newcastle, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The crisis engulfing the capital’s hospitals is so severe that in recent days patients have also been moved 67 miles to Northampton, 125 miles to Birmingham and 167 miles to Sheffield.
    “NHS England has told hospitals in the north of England, the Midlands and other areas to open up hundreds of extra ICU beds to take patients from London, the south-east and east, where the new variant has pushed Covid hospital admissions to new levels.
    “It is the latest dramatic illustration of the increasingly difficult situation confronting the health service. Hospitals across the UK are battling to provide care for 36,489 people with Covid, an increase of 5,872 in seven days.
    “There were a further 48,682 confirmed cases reported on Thursday but Public Health England said that UK deaths data had been delayed due to a “processing issue”. Late on Thursday it said a there had been 1,248 deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.”

  • Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal Guardian Jan 14 on the aftermath of a major report documenting a scandal led by the right wing government:
    "The MPs’ report, titled Unprecedented Injustice, was published last month after an inquiry into the childcare benefits scandal that included public questioning of officials up to and including Rutte.
    "It established that “fundamental principles of the rule of law were violated” by the Dutch tax authority, with fraud investigations into families triggered by “something as simple as an administrative error, without any malicious intent”.
    "The investigating committee chairman, Chris van Dam, called the system “a mass process in which there was no room for nuance”, with more than 20,000 working families pursued for fraud before the courts, ordered to repay child support benefits and denied the right to appeal over several years from 2012.
    "Some were pushed close to bankruptcy or forced to move house by unjust claims for tens of thousands of euros when the alleged fraud amounted to an incorrectly filled-out form or a missing signature. Several couples separated under the strain."

  • 'It's Unimaginably Bad.' How Government Failures and the New COVID-19 Variant Are Pushing the U.K.'s Health System Into Crisis Time magazine Jan 13 brings an outside view that pins the blame on government:
    “The U.K. is currently enduring a painful third wave of COVID-19, far worse than its European neighbors like Spain, France, Italy and Germany. (The Republic of Ireland currently has the world’s highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 cases per capita.)
    “On Wednesday Jan. 13, the U.K. reported a record high of 1,564 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test—the biggest figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began, bringing total deaths to more than 84,000.
    “Experts say that the current situation in the U.K., and particularly in London—which declared a state of emergency on Jan. 8 is a cautionary tale. They say the crisis is a result of both the struggle to deal with a new variant estimated to be up to 70% more transmissible, and because of a failure in decisive and strong government leadership.
    “One of those failures, they say, was that the U.K. government did not act on the scientific advice that recommended a short “circuit breaker” lockdown in September to halt rapidly rising transmissions after the easing of lockdown restrictions in the summer. …”

  • UK coronavirus deaths pass 100,000 after 1,564 reported in one day Guardian Jan 13 sub-headlines: "Experts condemn ‘phenomenal failure of policy and practice’ in handling of pandemic":
    "Even by the lower government figure – which only measures deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test – the UK is now ahead of the US, Spain and Mexico, where there have been 116, 113 and 108 deaths per 100,000 people respectively.
    "The figures are also in stark contrast to counties that have maintained low case and death rates, including Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia where death rates per 100,000 people stand at 0.03, 0.5 and 3.6.
    "Gabriel Scally, a visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said the 100,000-plus death toll was an indictment of the way the pandemic had been handled.
    “It is an astounding number of preventable deaths from one cause in one year, [an] absolutely astounding number. It’s a sign of a phenomenal failure of policy and practice in the face of this new and dangerous virus,” Scally said."

  • Almost quarter of Yorkshire residents are living in poverty, charity report reveals Yorkshire Post Jan 13 with grim reading for those who recognise the link between poverty and ill-health, noting figures are only slightly worse from disastrously high national averages:
    “1.27million residents were living under the poverty line pre-pandemic according to the figures, with fears that the number will have dramatically increased over the past few months. The poverty rate in Yorkshire at 24 per cent is slightly higher than the national average of 22 per cent.
    “And 32 per cent of the region’s children are living in poverty, compared with the national average of 30 per cent.
    “The government must urgently tackle poverty to alleviate the “relentless pressure” faced by low-income families, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have said. The regional data covers the period of 2016-2018, but the charity’s national data shows the situation has worsened for millions since the pandemic began in March last year.”

  • Free meals firm at centre of outcry was run by Conservative party donor Independent Jan 13 with news that offers no real surprise:
    "The companies at the centre of the outcry over the “disgusting” free meals provided to struggling families while schools remain closed have links to the Conservatives, it has emerged.
    "Compass Group and its subsidiary Chartwells are under fire after football star and campaigner Marcus Rashford shared photos of Chartwells’ meagre parcels – saying they were “just not good enough”.
    "Electoral Commission records show Paul Walsh – chairman of Compass Group until he stepped down last month – has given more than £10,000 to the Tory party.
    "Mr Walsh, who had been at the helm of Compass since 2014, was a member of No 10’s business advisory group during the early years of David Cameron’s time as prime minister.
    "Reportedly a big game hunter, Mr Walsh also signed a joint letter of business leaders urging voters to back the Tories during the 2015 general election campaign."

  • NHS Nightingale: How reopened London hospital will be used to manage patients Independent Jan 13 reports 64 beds have now been reopened in the field hospital allegedly planned to provide 4,000 -- and that only patients who do NOT still have Covid will be accepted:
    "London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital has now officially opened after being rebuilt in a just a matter of weeks.
    "The field hospital, based in London’s ExCel Conference Centre, has an initial capacity for 64 patients over two 32-bed wards and is designed to help alleviate pressures on the capital’s swamped hospitals.
    "The Nightingale welcomed staff from across London on Monday for training and had just one patient so far on Tuesday.
    "Unlike last time, the Nightingale has been designed to look after patients who are recovering from Covid-19 and are almost ready to be discharged.
    "Leaked clinical criteria for admission to the field hospital reveal patients will only be accepted for a bed if they have tested negative twice for Covid-19.
    "If they need oxygen, they must be on the lowest normal dose of two litres a minute."

  • What's as scary as Covid? The fact our leaders still have no plan to control it George Monbiot Jan 13 in the Guardian:
    "A government with any level of competence would have explained from the outset where we need to be before it lifts this lockdown. It might have stated what the R number should be; what the number of positive cases should be; how great a reduction in Covid hospital patient numbers there should be. It would have committed not to end the lockdown until such conditions have been met.
    "It would also have published a plan for tightening restrictions if conditions worsen, and its criteria for graded restrictions when lockdown ends. But no such statements have been published. We’ve had 11 months of this, and the government is still flying blind.
    "Without clear objectives, without a plan, we are likely to remain trapped in a perpetual cycle of emergency followed by suppression, followed by relaxation, followed by emergency. Boris Johnson will continue to chase short-term popularity by lifting restrictions as soon as he thinks he can; the government, constantly surprised by events, will keep responding with reactive, disconnected policies; and the nightmare will continue."

  • “It’s vital megalabs have an appropriate skill mix” – IBMS Lowdown report Jan 13 on the professional body's concerns over the running of Lighthouse and "mega-labs":
    "The professional body representing laboratory staff, the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), has expressed concerns over the plans – revealed to trade unions by Dido Harding – for the first of a network of new mega laboratories, in Leamington Spa, to be contracted out to Medacs, a private recruitment agency.
    "IBMS president Allan Hall told The Lowdown:
    “There is a significant risk that employing 2000 staff at this stage could destabilise the existing NHS and private laboratories currently providing a diagnostic service to the acute and primary care service. We are all “fishing in the same pond” as we try and increase capacity for COVID testing to meet clinical demand.
    “We have evidence that recruitment agencies working for the Lighthouse labs have been directly approaching Biomedical Scientists working in the NHS to offer them enhanced salaries to tempt them to leave the NHS. "

  • Private sector ‘pushing back’ on NHS request to take more patients, says top trust HSJ Jan 13 on another disastrous policy failure by Matt Hancock and NHS England:
    "“Private hospitals are ‘pushing back’ on requests from NHS trusts to send them more NHS patients, following a change to the national contract with the independent sector, and amid high pressure from covid-19.
    “Manchester University Foundation Trust, one of the largest NHS providers, has reported difficulties in accessing capacity at its local Spire, BMI and Ramsay hospitals this month.
    “… Throughout most of 2020, the bulk of private providers in England were on a national block contract whereby the NHS could use as much capacity as it needed.
    “But a new contract, agreed with oversight from the Treasury last month, is now in place between January and April, and only offers trusts a minimum volume of activity which equates to activity provided in October and November.
    “Pressures on the NHS have since intensified to unprecedented levels, with many areas now in far greater need of the private capacity than they were two months ago.”

  • MAP joins international call on Israel to ensure vaccine access for Palestinians Jan 12: "Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has today joined a coalition of 21 Israeli, Palestinian and international health and human rights organisations to urge Israel to fulfil its international legal duties as an occupying power by ensuring that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza can rapidly access quality vaccines against coronavirus.
    "Decades of occupation and blockade mean that the local Palestinian health system does not have the financial or material resources they need to sustain COVID-19 response long-term.
    "Gaza’s health system, in particular, is on the brink of collapse. The international community must do its part to facilitate essential COVID-19 healthcare supplies, including vaccines, and states like the UK must use their influence to ensure that Israel meets its duties and obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
    "In addition to advocating for Palestinians to be ensured fair, rapid and equitable access, MAP is seeking ways to support the Palestinian Ministry of health and other local partners to roll out vaccines in the occupied Palestinian territory when they are made available. We will keep supporters updated."

  • Private members club vaccinating clients abroad is 'proud' to offer the service Daily Telegraph , which gives its platform to covid-deniers and anti-lockdown nuts gives a free advert to a despicable company offering the super-rich who recognise the real danger of Covid the chance to jump the queue for vaccination -- becoming real "health tourists":
    "£25,000-a-year UK private concierge service Knightsbridge Circle has exclusively revealed that it is flying its members to the UAE and India to receive vaccinations. Around 40% of the company’s members are UK based, but many hold multiple passports and have several homes around the globe.
    "“It’s very exciting to say that we can offer the vaccine now,” says founder Stuart McNeill. “We’ve been proactive in offering it to all of our existing members.”
    "And the inoculations are already well underway, with members based both in the UK and abroad flying out for vaccination holidays, many on private jets. “It’s like we’re the pioneers of this new luxury travel vaccine programme. You go for a few weeks to a villa in the sunshine, get your jabs and your certificate and you’re ready to go,” says McNeill, who assumes that many such members have flown out under the business/education trip exemption. “Lots of our clients have business meetings in the UAE,” he adds.
    “We’ve been vaccinating over the last couple of weeks in the UAE, using Pfizer and Sinopharm, which require a 21-day gap between shots. We can start administering the AstraZeneca vaccine today in India. "

  • This is what an 'overwhelmed NHS' looks like. We must not look away The excellent Christina Pagel in the Guardian Jan 12:
    "ngland currently has more than 30,000 patients in hospital with Covid-19. This is 62% more than at the first peak in April. Chris Whitty wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the NHS faces the “most dangerous situation in living memory” and hospitals could be overwhelmed within two weeks.
    "The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared a Covid emergency in the capital, warning that its NHS was already overwhelmed. Each new day of record admissions turns the screw on frontline staff. The problem is that while the NHS, government ministers and scientists are all sounding the alarm, there is also a reluctance to spell out exactly what this means.
    "This is an account of what it truly means for a hospital to be “overwhelmed”. It is gleaned from years of working with intensive care clinicians and hearing from doctors across the country. Much of this is happening already, but we have not yet seen the worst.
    "The danger is not of a sudden collapse, but an escalation of worsening care for patients and increasing pressure on staff. First, care that is not immediately essential is postponed: operations such as hip or knee replacements, scans or check-ups for chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. This will mean that some people get sicker in the future because they missed out on care now. Others will have new cancers or heart disease missed for several months. This is already happening."

  • Woman fined £200 over false Covid hospital Facebook posts BBC news Jan 11 on welcome action against wilfully misleading claims that over-stretched hospitals are "empty":
    “A woman has been fined under coronavirus regulations after posts appeared on social media claiming parts of a Hampshire hospital were "empty".
    “Hampshire police said officers had identified a 30-year-old woman as the source of the posts referring to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and issued a £200 fixed penalty notice.
    “Hospital management criticised misinformation about the pandemic.
    “Police said the posts on Facebook had caused "angst in the community".
    “A statement said the fine was imposed for contravening the requirement to not leave or be outside of the place where the person is living.
    … “The posts which appeared last week were among similar images and videos taken of dozens of locations around the country and some have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
    “After a similar post was uploaded about Southampton General Hospital, University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust said false information was causing "upset and distress" to staff.”

  • How One Campaign Illustrates COVID-19 Denialists’ Disinformation Tactics Excellent Jan 11 article in the excellent Byline Times by David Oliver:
    “In a story about COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and denialists published at the weekend, The Times referred to an online group demanding the repeal of the Coronavirus Act 2020.
    “‘The People’s Brexit’ – a group of “solicitors, legal researchers and campaigners” – is currently crowdfunding a campaign to take a case to court. They describe the law as “null and void” and, at the time of writing, have raised £67,000 to do so.
    “The Act is a piece of emergency legislation, the purpose of which will have been served once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and has review and repeal embedded in its drafting. However, the arguments that this particular group make provide a handy illustration of the tactics of disinformation often employed by such movements.
    “These range from demonstrably false assertions, to irrelevant, partial or exaggerated information taken out of context, or quotes from individuals who are not recognised experts with credibility among their peers.”

  • Lockdowns don't work unless workers can afford to follow restrictions Guardian January 8: "The millions of people who cannot afford to self-isolate face a choice between financial devastation and compliance. By not providing proper support, the government is forcing people to decide between their families and their communities. This choice is cruel. And it is avoidable.

    The evidence is clear that Covid-19 disparities are driven by differences in exposure both at home and at work. Those of lower socioeconomic status are hit hardest by both the virus and the collateral damage of restrictions.
    … "The data shows that, while most people intend to adhere to government advice, only 12% get a test, 18% isolate, and 11% of contacts isolate properly. Crucially, self-reported ability to self-isolate is three times lower in those who earn less than £20,000 per year or have less than £100 saved."

  • Doctors raise alarm as Covid strikes down NHS workforce Guardian Jan 9 highlights consequences of short-sighted govt decision not to prioritise vaccinating NHS front line staff:
    "The problem of staff absence, because of illness or the need to self-isolate when family members test positive, is also beginning to hamper the vaccination programme – just as the government throws maximum resources into efforts to vaccinate 15 million high priority people by the middle of February."

  • NHS counts cost of Christmas in lives and warns worst is yet to come Guardian January 9: "In normal times, January is the month for counting the cost of Christmas. The credit card bills arrive. New year resolutions are made. The consequences of recent indulgence have to be faced.
    "This year, however, the price of having celebrated Christmas with loved ones could be far steeper – and counted in lives. Doctors and nurses in the NHS report that they are seeing record numbers of admissions of people with Covid-19.
    … "On Friday Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, declared it was in the grip of an emergency. A day earlier, the capital’s medical director, Vin Diwakar, told a briefing, leaked to the Health Service Journal, that London’s hospitals were less than two weeks from being overwhelmed."

  • One in SIXTEEN people in Barking and Dagenham infected with virus London Standard report Jan 9: "In the week to January 2 some 6.3 per cent of Barking and Dagenham’s population is thought to have had Covid-19, according the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
    "That is followed by Croydon which had an estimated 5.01 per cent of its people infected with the virus, while the figure in Bexley was 4.48 per cent."

  • Care sector hit by staff absence rates up to 50% as third wave of coronavirus intensifies Independent Jan 9: "Care providers in the UK are reporting staff absence rates of up to 50 per cent, amid concern of “mounting pressure” across the social care sector as the third coronavirus wave continues to intensify.
    "The National Care Forum (NCF), which represents more than 130 organisations, called on the government to take “heed of this early warning signal” and provide additional resources for care services that have become increasingly stretched over winter.
    "In a survey conducted last week, the NCF found that some providers were missing between 11 and 50 per cent of their workforce. Absences were driven by a combination of Covid-19 infections, instructions to self-isolate, shielding and childcare responsibilities.
    "In November of last year, the average staff absence rate across the social care sector stood at 7 per cent."

  • Hundreds of cancer operations cancelled as overrun London hospitals asked to send staff to Nightingale Alarming Jan 9 Independent report from Shaun Lintern:
    "An urgent appeal has gone out for nurses and doctors across London to work at the Nightingale in east London’s Excel Centre, which will take recovering patients who are no longer testing positive for Covid – though the city’s hospitals themselves have been pleading with doctors and nurses to take on extra shifts already to help short staffed wards.
    "According to a leaked NHS England cancer resilience plan, written on Thursday, the capital needs to treat more than 500 cancer patients a week to stay on top of demand, but most hospital “green sites”, which are meant to be kept free of Covid-19, were described as being “compromised”.
    "Only 122 cancer cases were treated in the city’s NHS hospitals this week, with another 101 in private hospitals. This left a shortfall of 277 cancer patients whose operations were delayed."

  • 'The worst by a cataclysmic margin': the race to save the NHS from Covid Guardian stark warning Jan 8: "The most dramatic illustration of the NHS’s potential to fall over came in a memo sent by managers at the Royal London hospital in the capital’s East End to staff just before new year.
    “We are now in disaster medicine mode,” it said.
    “We are no longer providing high-standard critical care, because we cannot. While this is far from ideal, it’s the way things are, and the way they have to be for now.”
    "It added: “Every hospital in north-east London is struggling, some with insufficient oxygen supplies, all with insufficient nursing numbers. Believe it or not, Royal London critical care is coping well relative to some sites.”

  • Proportion of active NHS beds filled with Covid patients Latest in a new series of performance graphs available from Health Campaigns Together

  • 'Patients sent to Critical Care over next fortnight already infected': Dr's warning as 8 covid wards open Teesside Gazette Live Jan 6 warning that ICU capacity now limited: "An intensive care doctor has told of "stormy times" ahead as the number of coronavirus cases and admissions soar.
    "Richard Cree has now reported that the North East and Yorkshire region is currently at nearly 80% of total critical care capacity whilst London and the South East are at 130%.
    "In his online blog, ' NoMoreSurgeons ', the doctor added that case numbers appear to have risen "significantly" on Teesside, as well as the number of COVID patients being admitted to the hospital.
    "James Cook University Hospital now has seven covid wards and one ward at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton."

  • More honesty about the crisis facing the NHS is urgently needed Strong Jan 6 Analysis article in Independent by Shaun Lintern concludes:
    "The fact is that the health service went into this crisis weaker than it needed to have been. Successive years of underfunding left it with fewer beds and staff than most western European nations.
    "The public don’t need the truth hidden from them. NHS staff want to see real leadership from their bosses. No health service could withstand the onslaught from the coronavirus unscathed.
    "Being more honest about the weaknesses of the health service and the reality of what is happening is urgently needed. It would silence the denialists and simultaneously show staff that the leadership get the situation they are in.
    "It would also serve to make the case for a properly resourced health service in the longer term."

  • Say No to NHS England plans for "integration" Press release from Cllr Charmaine Morgan of SOS Grantham Hospital warning of the consequences of NHS England’s plans for “integrated care systems” and urging people to respond to consultation ending January 8:
    “To fully appreciate what less public accountability means in the NHS we need only look at the decisions ULHT have made affecting Grantham Hospital services over 5 years. Lincolnshire County Council Health Scrutiny members are only consulted after decisions are made. …
    “The existing CCG’s involvement is barely noticeable with the current chair allowing all healthcare providers to do their own thing. There is no elected public representation on the CCG or ULHT. There is a deficit in democracy within NHS decision making now.”

  • UK Faces Trade Boycott After Brexit VAT Change Byline Times January 4 on a gathering crisis triggered by hasty legislation rushed with minimal scrutiny through parliament last month:
    "The UK is facing a damaging trade boycott from European and US businesses after a new post-Brexit law changing the VAT system was rushed virtually unopposed through Parliament eight days before Christmas.
    "Under the changes companies all over the world that deal directly with the public have to register with HM Revenue and Customs and collect VAT before sending the goods.
    "As a result, a growing number of firms have decided to end all deliveries to the UK rather than register with the country for VAT, leaving people unable to order goods including materials not manufactured here."

  • Colchester Hospital: Covid deniers removed from 'at capacity' hospital BBC news Jan 4: “Security officers removed Covid-19 "deniers" who were taking pictures of empty corridors at a NHS hospital where the intensive care unit is at maximum capacity, its chief executive said.
    “The incident took place at Colchester Hospital at the weekend. Chief executive Nick Hulme said it "beggars belief" some people were calling the pandemic a hoax.
    “He said it was "the right thing to do" to keep corridors in outpatients units as empty as possible.
    “Mr Hulme said hospital security had to "remove people who were taking photographs of empty corridors and then posting them on social media, saying the hospital is not in crisis".”

  • FAMILY OF VACCINE MINISTER Sets Up Medical Company Byline Times flagging up yet more questionable dealings by this dodgiest of Tory governments:
    "The wife of Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi is the owner and director of a newly-established medical company, Companies House records show.
    "Lana Saib is listed as the owner, with a 75%+ shareholding, of a firm called ‘Warren Medical Limited‘. The company was incorporated on 10 June 2020 under the name “Zahawi Warren Limited”, before being changed a day later to its current title.
    "On its Companies House page, Saib’s firm is listed as trading in real estate, yet its name clearly indicates a healthcare specialism."
    "

  • Where’s the urgency in Canada’s vaccine rollout? Toronto Globe and Mail Jan 4 comment by Andre Picard also notes that Israel's vaccination programme excludes the Palestinians completely:
    "It’s enough to make a grown man weep, at least in Canada, where we are vaccinating so slowly that more than two-thirds of our modest vaccine stocks are sitting unused.
    "Since it began its vaccine rollout on Dec. 20, Israel has administered as many as 150,000 doses daily. Canada began vaccinating even earlier, on Dec. 14, but since then has immunized only 120,000 people – yes, fewer than Israel does in a day. On Monday morning, we had 300,000 doses languishing in freezers, like old bags of peas.
    "Both countries are prioritizing health care workers and elders, but only Israel is doing so with a sense of urgency. At least two million of its nine million residents will be immunized by the end of January.
    "The plan in this country – at least on paper – is to inoculate four million people by the end of March, or roughly 11 per cent of citizens. Israel has already surpassed that percentage in 10 days."

  • Norway imposes new restrictions to halt third coronavirus wave Reuters report Jan 3: “Norway will impose fresh restrictions to prevent a resurgence in the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Sunday, including a nationwide ban on serving alcohol in restaurants and bars and not inviting guests home.
    “The Nordic country has seen a rise in cases over the past month and now estimates its R number - which represents the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to - stands at 1.3.
    “We see more signs of a new wave of infections,” Solberg told a news conference, citing Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations and the emergence of the more contagious variant of the virus first identified in Britain among the reasons.”

  • The challenges facing the Oxford Covid vaccine roll-out Telegraph Jan 3: “Boris Johnson insisted on Sunday that tens of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine would be delivered by the end of March.
    … “But the target is a testing one for the NHS, which is facing the logistical nightmare task of launching, from scratch, the biggest-ever vaccination programme – and all this during a pandemic in which infection rates are spiralling out of control.
    “Mr Johnson said the target was two million jabs a week, widely acknowledged as the minimum if the most vulnerable people in society are to receive at least one dose of the new vaccines – two doses are required – by the end of March.
    … “If the NHS does have targets for rolling out the vaccine, it is not sharing them. Each week, the numbers vaccinated, including those aged over 80, are being published, with the figures keenly watched.
    … “On Sunday Tony Blair said he would be demanding five million weekly jabs if he were still Prime Minister.
    NHS sources have stressed the logistical problems and called for a reality check on what is achievable, certainly in the early days of the roll-out.”

  • Now the Swedish model has failed, it's time to ask who was pushing it Guardian Jan 3: "“We now know with certainty what public health experts have long predicted: a light-touch coronavirus approach does not work. Sweden has recorded far higher death rates than its Nordic neighbours, while suffering a similar economic hit. Even the country’s king thinks it has “failed”.
    “And yet, through the late autumn, as the Covid virus was mutating in England, Sweden was still being cited as an example to follow. In mid-October, the Tory MP Christopher Chope was in parliament extolling the virtues of what he previously called Sweden’s “clear and simple” approach. Just last month, the Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson tweeted that she “admired Sweden’s handling of the pandemic”.
    “Our future historians will doubtless wonder, too, just how, in the imagination of many on the British right, Sweden went from gang violence-riddled dystopia to exemplar in a few months.
    “The answer is quite simple: the same small group of people who talked so fervently about Sweden’s libertarian refusal to lock down – newspaper columnists, backbench MPs, anonymously funded thinktanks – have massively outsized access to British public debate.”

  • ‘It makes me want to cry’: voices of hospital staff on the Covid frontline Guardian January 3 report in which three healthcare workers describe the realities of struggling against a rising tide of coronavirus cases

  • Hundreds of thousands more US Covid deaths possible amid vaccine chaos Guardian January 2: "America had no trouble hitting the appalling milestone of 20 million coronavirus cases, but reaching the federal government’s own target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020 proved a huge problem.
    "Just under three million Americans were vaccinated by the time the crystal-encrusted ball dropped in New York’s almost-deserted Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve to mark the end of a hellish year.
    "Now US distribution of the vaccine is being routinely described as “chaos”, with criticism that inept officials are “botching” efforts.
    "More than 10,000 people died in the US in the last three days of 2020 alone, to bring the national death toll close to 350,000 so far, including the worst 24-hour toll of the whole pandemic when more than 3,700 people died last Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data."

  • Vaccine firms rubbish ministers’ claims of supply shortage, reports say Independent Jan 1: "Vaccine manufacturers have rubbished claims made by ministers that a Covid vaccine shortage was “limiting” the inoculation programme, and insist that millions of doses have already been delivered to the NHS.
    "It comes after ministers and the UK’s chief medical officers warned that shortages in the supply of vaccines is a global issue and a “reality that cannot be wished away”.
    "Boris Johnson said earlier this week that supply would be the “rate-limiting factor” that could hinder the NHS’s ability to deliver the vaccines quickly, not distribution.
    "Currently, the NHS is doling out 250,000 jabs per week, and is confident it can exceed 2 million a week by February. NHS England medical director, Stephen Powis, said: “Our aim is to get the jab into people’s arms as quickly as the manufacturers can supply that vaccine to us.”
    "But both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have insisted there was no problem with supply, with Pfizer saying it has now sent millions of doses to the UK, reports The Daily Telegraph. These include 1 million jabs that were destined as the second dose for people who have already received their first jab – which will now be delayed following a change in policy."

  • Mixing Covid Vaccines 'Not Recommended', Says Public Health England Expert Huffington Post Jan 2: "One of Public Health England’s (PHE) top officials has said the body does not recommend mixing Covid-19 vaccines from different suppliers, despite recent government guidance stating it would be “reasonable” to do so if necessary .
    "Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE, told Sky News on Saturday that the mixing of vaccines – for example, giving one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine followed by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – should only be done on “rare occasions”.
    "Both vaccines require two doses to maximise effectiveness. On New Year’s Eve, the government issued guidance to healthcare workers stating that “every effort should be made to determine which vaccine the individual received and to complete with the same vaccine”.
    "But concerns have been raised about another part of the guidance, which says that if a patient came back for a second dose but the same type of vaccine as their first jab was not available or it was unclear what type the patient had previous recieved, it would be “reasonable” to use a different type of vaccine, particularly if an individual is deemed particularly high risk."

  • The Covid-19 Vaccine: Another Ugly Face of Israeli Apartheid Common Dreams shock report on January 2: "“Close to 400,000 Israelis have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tens of thousands of others are on track to do the same in the coming weeks.
    “Israel was one of the first countries in the world to begin rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to its population, and according to the University of Oxford-run Our World in Data, is currently second in the world in vaccinations per capita.
    … “Last month, Israel secured 8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — enough to cover nearly half of Israel’s population of 9 million, as each person requires two doses. Among those eligible to receive the vaccine from the Israeli government, are the nearly 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
    “Those not eligible to receive the vaccine, however, are the more than 5 million Palestinians living under the control of the Israeli occupation in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.
    … “The apartheid system under which Israel operates inside the occupied territory, …, could not be better displayed than in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine — who gets the vaccine, and who doesn’t, is a simple matter of nationality.”

  • What it's like to work on a Covid ward as the second wave accelerates Telegraph Jan 2: Consultant David Oliver injects some realism into one of the newspapers most avidly promoting the Covid-deniers and opponents of the NHS:
    "I've been an NHS acute hospital doctor for 31 years, but I've never worked through anything like the 10 months since the UK's first death from coronavirus.
    As a Covid ward consultant for weeks on end last spring, and again from September, I want to explain how it feels as the number of cases, admissions and deaths accelerates towards a second pandemic peak already outstripping the first."

  • Cancer operations face cancellation across London as Covid patients fill hospitals Guardian January 2: "NHS bosses are set to cancel urgent surgery across London in a move that could mean cancer patients waiting months for potentially lifesaving operations, the Observer can reveal.
    "NHS England chiefs are considering the drastic action because hospitals across the capital are becoming overwhelmed by people who are very sick with Covid-19.
    "The operations likely to be cancelled, known as “priority two” procedures, mainly involve surgery for cancer where specialists have judged that the patients need to be operated on within four weeks. Any delay could allow their tumour to grow, the disease to spread, or both, thus reducing their chances of survival."

  • Hundreds of thousands more US Covid deaths possible amid vaccine chaos Guardian Jan 2 report on more shocking failures of US health care and public health:
    "America had no trouble hitting the appalling milestone of 20m coronavirus cases, but reaching the federal government’s own target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020 proved a huge problem.
    "Just under 3 million Americans were vaccinated by the time the crystal-encrusted ball dropped in New York’s almost-deserted Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve to mark the end of a hellish year.
    "Now US distribution of the vaccine is being routinely described as “chaos”, with criticism that inept officials are “botching” efforts.
    "More than 10,000 people died in the US in the last three days of 2020 alone, to bring the national death toll close to 350,000 so far, including the worst 24-hour toll of the whole pandemic when more than 3,700 people died last Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data."

  • NHS staff fear speaking out over crisis in English hospitals Guardian Jan 1: "In Devon, one nurse working on a Covid ward said safety standards had slipped at her hospital, but she feared for her job if she was identified by name. “The infection control restrictions are more relaxed. Before, we had to use a separate entrance but now we don’t, and some doctors feel they don’t have to obey the infection control protocols and are still unsure of how to properly remove the PPE,” she said.
    "Staffing is a huge issue, she said, with 10 out of 25 nurses absent on a recent week because they were isolating. During the first wave, her hospital never had more than around 20 Covid patients. Now they have more than 40.
    "Claims circulating on social media that hospitals were empty had upset many staff. “People need to understand the problems we are having and the situations we are facing, rather than this ridiculous notion that we are all in empty hospitals learning TikTok dances, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” said an occupational therapist in Hampshire. “We’re being pressured into pretending everything is all right for the benefit of the popularity of the government. They are trying to underplay the situation so that people don’t look behind the curtain and see what’s happening.”

  • NHS England Performance Charts: How is your area coping with pressures? Health Campaigns Together Jan 1 - with new graphic presentations of the latest data on A&E performance and Covid impact on beds and ICU.

  • Britain Opts for Mix-and-Match Vaccinations, Confounding Experts New York Times Jan 1 fills in details on a topic the British media should be covering:
    "Amid a sputtering vaccine rollout and fears of a new and potentially more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, Britain has quietly updated its vaccination playbook to allow for a mix-and-match vaccine regimen. If a second dose of the vaccine a patient originally received isn’t available, or if the manufacturer of the first shot isn’t known, another vaccine may be substituted, health officials said.
    "The new guidance contradicts guidelines in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that the authorized Covid-19 vaccines “are not interchangeable,” and that “the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated. Both doses of the series should be completed with the same product.”
    "Some scientists say Britain is gambling with its new guidance. “There are no data on this idea whatsoever,” said John Moore, a vaccine expert at Cornell University. Officials in Britain “seem to have abandoned science completely now and are just trying to guess their way out of a mess.”

  • Exclusive: new data reveals the 23 trusts with over a third of beds occupied by covid patients HSJ exclusive Jan 1: "Twenty-three hospital trusts had more than a third of their core bedbase occupied by covid-19 patients on Tuesday, and occupancy is still rising at all but one.
    "Three trusts … had more than half of general and acute beds occupied by patients who had the virus, and others were not far behind.
    "Several trusts saw their covid occupancy share up by more than 10 percentage points in a week — a rate of growth which would soon see them entirely filled by covid patients, a situation with radical consequences for emergency hospital care in those areas.
    "London as a whole had a third of these beds occupied by patients with covid-19."

  • Experts question UK decision on Covid vaccine dosing regimen Financial Times Jan 1: "“Late on Thursday, the UK’s chief medical officers said they were confident “that the first dose of either Pfizer or [AstraZeneca] vaccine provides substantial protection within two to three weeks of vaccination for clinical disease, and in particular severe Covid disease”. Justifying their decision, they added that vaccine shortages were “a reality that cannot be wished away”.
    “But the UK’s approach remains unusual. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s vaccine procurement and development programme, warned that it appeared to be founded on “more of a conceptual observation” because it was not based on data from large-scale trials.
    “Mr Slaoui said it was “important” to use vaccines as studied and to use one clear efficacy figure. Echoing his remarks, Pfizer on Thursday hit out at the UK decision, saying there was no data to support a longer interval between doses.”

  • Kent hospitals ‘overwhelmed’ as ICU bed occupancy hits 137% Independent January 1: “More critically ill patients are being transferred to hospitals across England as NHS trusts in Kent reported bed occupancy levels in intensive care reaching 137 per cent on New Year’s Day.
    “Eleven hospitals across the Kent and Surrey regions are failing to meet nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in intensive care, raising concerns for patient safety. Thresholds for admitting patients to intensive care are being revised, and clinicians in the region say some patients who should be in intensive care are instead being looked after on other wards because there is simply not enough space available.
    “It is thought the region is aiming to transfer more than 20 patients to other hospitals across England in the coming days to try and relieve the pressure.
    … “Kent patients are going as far as Bristol and Leeds, more than 230 miles away. It emerged earlier this week that some patients had already been sent to hospitals in Portsmouth and Southampton.”

  • BioNTech criticises EU failure to order enough Covid vaccine Guardian Jan 1: “BioNtech has criticised the EU’s failure to order more doses of its coronavirus vaccine, saying it is now racing with its US partner, Pfizer, to boost production amid fears of a European “gap” left by the lack of other approved vaccines.
    “The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved by the bloc late last month, after being accepted by the UK, Canada and the US. They and other countries have also since approved the Moderna or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, leaving the EU trailing behind.
    … “The US ordered 600m doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in July, while the EU waited until November to order half as many. Şahin said the firms were now working flat-out to increase production and “fill a hole due to a lack of other approved vaccines”.
    “He said BioNTech aimed to get a new manufacturing plant up and running in Marburg, Germany, in February, “far earlier than planned”. It should be able to produce 250m doses in the first half of 2021.”

  • More than 76,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in December, pandemic’s deadliest month Independent Jan 1: “Nearly 77,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in December, by every measure the worst month of a pandemic that has killed more than 340,000 people in the US since the onset of the outbreak.
    “Every week of December saw more deaths from Covid-19 than any other week in the year, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project. The coronavirus deaths of 76,580 people in December surpassed the death toll from the year’s second most-lethal month of April by more than 20,000 lives.
    “On the final day of 2020, a record-high 125,379 people were reported in hospital for the coronavirus. More than 3,200 people died.
    “By the end of the first day of 2021, the US is set to eclipse 20 million confirmed coronavirus infections, based on projections from Johns Hopkins University.”

  • Giving people false hope about the pandemic isn't 'balanced' – it's dangerous Owen Jones in the Guardian Jan 1, challenging the media promotion of Karol Sikora – the man who has denounced the NHS, and who Imperial College denies is a professor – and his pernicious views on Covid:
    "You can see why the “Positive Professor” has developed such a wide fanbase: in an era of death, disease, economic turmoil and suspended freedoms, he offers desperate – often vulnerable – people the one thing they crave most: hope.
    "His formula is simple: contrary to the misery peddled by the doom merchants, the measures strangling our economic and personal lives might actually be unnecessary.
    "But there is nothing so cruel as false hope, and during a pandemic in which people’s lives depend on adherence to social distancing measures, it can be dangerous.
    … "Back in 2018, the BBC sent a briefing note to its staff asking them to be aware of false equivalence, accepting the BBC had got coverage of climate breakdown “wrong too often”, and telling them they did “not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate”. This is the correct position: just because a fringe grouping of scientists endorse climate denial does not mean it should be treated as the legitimate, valid “other side” of the argument."

  • Military reserves will help staff London Nightingale hospital Independent Jan 1: "The military will be drafted in to help run London’s Nightingale hospital which is due to open within days to help relieve pressure on the capital’s struggling wards.
    "NHS England has confirmed the ExCel conference centre, in London’s docklands, is being readied to take patients from hospitals across the city as they risk running out of beds for the sickest.
    "Now emails seen by The Independent reveal the military is preparing to call up dozens of army reservists to help run the hospital alongside NHS staff.
    "NHS England is in talks with the military to redeploy army reserve nurses and other clinicians working at NHS hospitals in the north of England to help bolster staffing levels at the London centre.
    "Lack of staff, particularly nurses, was one of the reasons why the Nightingale was poorly used during the first wave of the virus – treating only 54 patients in total."

  • To exhausted healthcare workers like me, Covid conspiracies are a kick in the teeth Guardian Jan 1: "Covid is ripping through hospitals at an unprecedented rate, while an exhausted workforce, already running on fumes not from “just another winter surge”, but due to a second wave of Covid cases worse than the first, attempts to battle it.
    "For us, the objective truth is undeniable: patients are desperately sick. Patients who often decline quickly and suddenly, needing intensive care, ventilation and specialist support.
    "And yet in the outer world, our social media and even newspapers amplify a different “truth”. That there is no major emergency, that it’s misdiagnosis or global hysteria, which every major country, and their established academic and medical bodies, has inexplicably and simultaneously fallen prey to.
    "Perhaps it was too much to ask that the brief period of trusting and listening to experts during the early days of the first spike might last through the winter."

  • UK chief medical officers defend delay of second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses CNN report Jan 1: "The UK's chief medical officers have defended a decision to delay second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in order to prioritize first doses, saying it will protect as many vulnerable people as possible while the coronavirus is running rampant.
    "The new strategy, announced Wednesday by the head of the UK's medicines regulator MHRA, means that the interval between doses could be extended to up to 12 weeks, instead of the three weeks previously stipulated.
    "It has prompted a debate among experts, with the British Medical Association (BMA), a body representing UK doctors, criticizing the move to postpone appointments for the very vulnerable patients currently awaiting their second shots.
    "The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been in use in the UK since early December, when the country became the first in the world to approve it, but supplies are limited."

  • NHS staff fear speaking out over crisis in English hospitals Guardian Jan 1 report: "In Devon, one nurse working on a Covid ward said safety standards had slipped at her hospital, but she feared for her job if she was identified by name. “The infection control restrictions are more relaxed. Before, we had to use a separate entrance but now we don’t, and some doctors feel they don’t have to obey the infection control protocols and are still unsure of how to properly remove the PPE,” she said.
    "Staffing is a huge issue, she said, with 10 out of 25 nurses absent on a recent week because they were isolating. During the first wave, her hospital never had more than around 20 Covid patients. Now they have more than 40.
    "Claims circulating on social media that hospitals were empty had upset many staff. “People need to understand the problems we are having and the situations we are facing, rather than this ridiculous notion that we are all in empty hospitals learning TikTok dances, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” said an occupational therapist in Hampshire.
    “We’re being pressured into pretending everything is all right for the benefit of the popularity of the government. They are trying to underplay the situation so that people don’t look behind the curtain and see what’s happening.”

  • Advancing Mental Health Equality Royal College of Psychiatrists publish an important new study on ways to make mental health less unequal:
    "The AMHE resource was commissioned by NHS England to support delivery of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and the NHS Long Term Plan.
    "This resource outlines comprehensive and practical steps for commissioners and service providers to reduce inequalities in an achievable and measurable way.
    "It provides detailed guidance and methods on how to identify and reduce inequalities related to mental health support, care and treatment.
    "It will also support commissioners and service providers to evaluate and review their services, to measure the impact of changes and to identify areas for improvement.
    "The resource has been co-produced with a wide-range of stakeholders including experts by experience, ALBs, commissioners, providers and third sector organisations. Its development included a systematic mapping review, focus groups etc. from other work that is happening in this area."

  • Concerns over the change of policy around the Covid-19 vaccination delivery The Doctors Association UK's Dec 31 letter to Matt Hancock expressing "real and grave concerns" about the sudden changes to the Pfizer vaccine regime
    "It undermines the consent process, as well as completely failing to follow the science."

  • UK’s chief medical officers warn over vaccine availability FT Dec 31: “The UK’s chief medical officers have warned that the availability of Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be a problem for “several months” as they defended the decision to lengthen the gap between doses to try and combat spiralling infection rates.
    “Since announcing the move on Wednesday, Britain’s health authorities have come under fire, with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer insisting the “safety and efficacy” of the new schedule had not been evaluated and doctors expressing anger over the need to cancel appointments for people who had expected to receive their top-up dose in the next few days.
    “But in a letter to healthcare professionals published on New Year’s Eve, the four chief medical officers, including England’s Chris Whitty, said the decision to space out the recommended gap between the first and second dose from three to as much as 12 weeks would be “much more preferable in public health terms”.”

  • Hospitals ‘need help’ as nurses struggle to cope with Covid pressure (£) Times report Dec 31: "London is reporting the highest pressure on services but trusts across the country said that they were struggling with problems such as high staff absence rates. The NHS, councils and emergency services in Essex and Buckinghamshire declared major incidents.
    "A note circulated to senior NHS staff after a meeting of the North East London STP Critical Care Network said that demand was outstripping resources. It was “beyond full and needs help,” it added.
    "The network, which covers three trusts and seven acute hospitals in the capital, had 235 patients in 236 beds, 160 of whom were ill with Covid-19 and more waiting to come in. Staff in Newham University Hospital had to convert an intensive care unit cupboard into room for a bed.
    "At Queen’s Hospital in Romford oxygen usage was so heavy that doctors approved reduced targets for all patients. Staff at North Middlesex University Hospital were told to take similar action. Doctors told The Times this was a safe, if highly unusual, step. The Romford hospital was trying to convert about 60 beds to using oxygen cylinders, changed every 12 hours, rather than relying on the piped supply."

  • Germany set for longer lockdown as death figures spike Independent Dec 31: "German officials made clear Wednesday that they won't be able to relax lockdown restrictions in early January as the country recorded more than 1,000 deaths in one day for the first time
    "That figure was likely swollen by delayed reporting but underlined the severity of the situation.
    "Germany the European Union's most populous country, shut restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities on Nov. 2. That partial shutdown halted a fast increase in new infections for a while but failed to bring them down, prompting authorities to impose a fuller lockdown from Dec. 16, shutting nonessential shops and schools.
    "Those measures run through Jan. 10. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany's 16 states will consult Tuesday on how to proceed."

  • London faces ‘ticking time bomb’ over oxygen supplies as another hospital issues warning to staff Independent Dec 31: "Concerns are mounting over the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals in London as another NHS trust in the capital issued an urgent warning over its oxygen supplies.
    "On Tuesday afternoon, the North Middlesex University Hospital Trust warned clinicians the numbers of coronavirus patients it was treating “was putting a strain” on the oxygen system, sparking several alarms.
    "The trust currently has around 200 patients using oxygen with the trust consuming 2,400 litres of oxygen a minute. It normally uses around 1000 litres a minute and has a limit of 3,000 above which the system could cut out.
    "It is only the latest hospital to face the problem – which is caused by the sheer demand for oxygen by sick Covid patients, which is more than the hospital piping can physically deliver."

  • Critically ill patients ‘evacuated’ hundreds of miles as fears grow London could run out of beds Independent Dec 30: "Critically ill patients are being “evacuated” from the south of England to hospitals hundreds of miles away as NHS bosses in London revealed data showing the capital is set to run out of critical care beds within a week.
    "There were 50,000 positive cases reported across the UK for the second day running on Wednesday, with figures showing London – now the centre of the crisis – with 5,524 patients in hospital, more than its first-wave peak in April.
    "In response to the worsening crisis in London, The Independent has learnt NHS England will announce plans on Thursday to reopen the Nightingale Hospital, at the east London Excel conference centre, on 4 January – initially with around 60 beds for patients who are almost ready to leave hospital.
    "Several patients from across Kent have been taken to Plymouth, Southampton, Bristol and Leeds in recent days as the southeast of England has run out of beds as the numbers of coronavirus patients continues to rise.
    "Across England critical care networks have been told to keep some beds free for possible transfers from the south as the surge in patients accelerates and staff sickness undercuts the ability to staff the beds with enough nurses."

  • German daily death toll surpasses 1,000 for 1st time German website report Dec 30: "Germany recorded a total of 1,129 deaths from coronavirus within the last 24 hours, reported the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases on Wednesday.
    "It is the first time that more than 1,000 daily deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the country.
    "This is an increase from the previous record number of 962 deaths within 24 hours — registered on Wednesday last week."

  • Birmingham hospital issues alert as it cannot maintain safe nurse staffing levels in intensive care Independent report Dec 30: "University Hospitals Birmingham urged doctors to help nurses with patient care tasks as well as “just ensuring they’ve had a drink / break” in a message sent on Tuesday and seen by The Independent.
    "It warned the medics that it was struggling with staffing levels due to sickness as patient numbers “continued to rise”.
    "The trust currently has almost 1,500 staff off work, with more than 43 per cent of absences linked to Covid-19.
    "Its warning to staff will trouble NHS bosses as the pressure from the surge in coronavirus patients in southeast and London spreads across the country."

  • NHS boss praises staff 'in the eye of the storm' as Covid cases surge Guardian Dec 29: “In a new year message recorded at a vaccination centre, Sir Simon Stevens paid tribute to those on the frontline including doctors, nurses, therapists, as well as cleaners and non-medical staff such as carers, volunteers and care home workers.
    “On Monday Dr Yvonne Doyle, the medical director of Public Health England, warned that hospitals face “unprecedented” levels of coronavirus infections, after the UK reported 41,385 new lab-confirmed cases on Monday, its highest figure yet for a single day and the first above 40,000.
    “Doyle said: “This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable, with new admissions rising in many regions.”
    “NHS England said it now has more Covid-19 patients in hospital than at the peak of the first wave – 20,426 as of 8am on Monday, surpassing April’s high of 18,946 on 12 April. Health officials in Wales and Scotland have also said they fear becoming overwhelmed.”

  • Surge Capacity – what if COVID-19 overwhelms the NHS? Cygnus Reports: "ICU beds in London are currently filling up fast with COVID-19 patients. Perhaps more seriously, the Health Service Journal reported that my local NHS Trust had 33% Covid-positive beds on 21 December, and my personal experience is that – unlike the first wave – large numbers of NHS staff are being tested COVID-positive. Worse still, the pandemic has been trending sharply upwards during recent weeks, and we are fighting blind for the next few critical days because reporting mechanisms and NHS staff testing are suspended over the Christmas holidays.
    "Instead of raising the alarm about what (predictably) lies ahead, healthcare leaders have followed the Government’s self-congratulatory vaccine narrative, or made irrational public statements defending the medical establishment’s lack of transparency. Few have had the courage or independence of mind to speak up in the public interest.
    … "Let’s be clear: There is no excuse for secrecy during a pandemic.
    "The Institute for Government have clearly stated in their recent report that lack of transparency has a negative effect on public understanding, and in turn on public compliance with the Government’s COVID-19 strategy. "

  • $427bn lost to tax havens every year: landmark study reveals countries’ losses and worst offenders Tax Justice Network with an idea how to cover the cost of spending on Covid:
    “The equivalent of one nurse’s annual salary is lost to a tax haven every second
    “Countries are losing a total of over $427 billion in tax each year to international corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, costing countries altogether the equivalent of nearly 34 million nurses’ annual salaries every year – or one nurse’s annual salary every second.
    “As pandemic-fatigued countries around the world struggle to cope with second and third waves of coronavirus, a ground-breaking study published today reveals for the first time how much public funding each country loses to global tax abuse and identifies the countries most responsible for others’ losses.
    “In a series of joint national and regional launch events around the world, economists, unions and campaigners are urging governments to immediately enact long-delayed tax reform measures in order to clamp down on global tax abuse and reverse the inequalities and hardships exacerbated by tax losses.”

  • We need to protect intensive care staff from reaching breaking point Moving statement from the Intensive Care Society Dec 29: "Intensive care units (ICUs) are under extreme pressure as they continue to look after the sickest COVID-19 patients as well as providing care for other critically ill patients who need intensive care.
    "We see news reports that the number of ICU beds is running out. The issue is not beds, the issue is the lack of staff available to look after these very unwell patients. A bed doesn’t care for a patient, it’s the team of incredible doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, advanced practitioners, pharmacists and healthcare scientists who fight to keep you alive.
    "The biggest risk to the country is the NHS becoming overwhelmed. Right now, ICU staff are stretched, over-worked and exhausted both physically and mentally, yet they keep going every day."

  • Doctors raise alarm over 'dire' situation in NHS as Covid cases rise Guardian Dec 29: "NHS hospitals in England are under increasing pressure as coronavirus cases rise, with doctors raising the alarm about “very, very busy services” and one trust calling for volunteers to help prone patients.
    "The warning comes as the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals surpassed the peak of the first wave – up to 20,426 as of 8am on Monday, more than April’s high of 18,974. Health officials in Wales and Scotland have also said they fear becoming overwhelmed.
    "The UK reported 41,385 new lab-confirmed cases on Monday, the highest figure yet for a single day."

  • It’s Time to Use Eminent Domain on the Coronavirus Vaccines Foreign Policy website December 29: “The easiest way to make vaccines truly available to all is to freely license every effective vaccine formula so that generic producers can manufacture the vaccine anywhere.
    “This approach would overcome the short-run limits on production, which come from intellectual-property restrictions that constrain production to specific firms. Doing away with this barrier would ensure that the vaccines are produced and sold by many actors in a competitive marketplace, and made available to the public at the least cost.
    “The economic benefit of widespread access to vaccines, tests and treatments that can help to overcome the pandemic is potentially enormous, and dwarfs the cost of what is needed to compensate pharmaceutical companies for research and development, or for giving up monopoly privileges.
    “The losses to the global economy from the pandemic are in the trillions but the expenses incurred for research and development have been in mere billions. Firms can be handsomely compensated for their innovative technology and, thereafter, it can be made available freely to all potential manufacturers, some of whom may well be more efficient producers.”

  • I work in intensive care. Our beds are full, and more Covid patients are arriving Guardian Dec 29 Opinion column: "Wards became temporary ICUs. Yet as quickly as we could free more beds, they were filled by those sick with the virus.
    "Teams scrambled to move ventilated patients by ambulance out of the south east to hospitals with any capacity left. Those hospitals are now full. By the week before Christmas there was simply no room left at the inn.
    "Are you surprised by this? Maybe you are. The tabloids continued to report we were quieter than this time last year, that we had even more capacity than before. But this simply wasn’t true.
    "What they had failed to realise when reporting on our expanded ICU capacity is what that truly meant: using portable ventilators and anaesthetic machines, the kind of ventilators used for operations and not intended for long-term ventilation of sick patients; putting patients in theatres and wards not set up for critical care; using staff who aren’t trained in looking after ICU patients. When you hear that hospitals are running at capacity, what that means now is that they are running at 100% of 150%. I’m not sure how we can find more space."

  • Concern at 'unprecedented' infection level in England BBC report 28 December: "England's "very high" Covid infection level is a "growing concern" as the NHS struggles to cope with rising patient numbers, a health official has said.
    "On Monday, a record 41,385 Covid cases and 357 deaths were reported in the UK.
    "NHS England said the number of people being treated for the virus in hospital is now 20,426, which is higher than the previous peak of about 19,000 in April.
    "Health officials in Wales and Scotland have also said they are at risk of becoming overwhelmed.
    "Monday's figure for new cases is the highest daily number reported by the UK government, and the first time the daily total has surpassed 40,000."

  • What the Brexit deal means for the NHS NHS Confed Dec 28 on the other crisis about to hit in the new year:
    "…there are some significant gaps compared with the arrangements that applied until the end of the post-Brexit transition period on 31 December.
    "We have provided below a brief summary of the agreements within the deal that impact the NHS and the wider health sector. …
    "There will be non-tariff barriers such as regulatory requirements, now that the UK and EU will not be obliged to adhere to the same standards in future. The deal includes an agreement that the UK and EU will recognise each other’s inspections of manufacturing premises for medicinal products. But it does not include a mutual recognition agreement on conformity assessment, meaning that the UK and EU will both have to assess that products are safe to be authorised and marketed in their territories. They will not automatically accept each other’s assessment.
    "… UK and EU will collaborate/co-operate in warning each other and tackling health threats, though the UK will not normally have access to EU databases and will not retain membership of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and control (ECDC).
    "“… UK will implement new points-based immigration system for people wanting to come and work in the UK from 1 January. Most healthcare workers will meet the entry criteria but most care workers won’t.
    “… Mutual recognition of professional qualifications ends. UK has unilaterally decided to continue to recognise EEA qualifications for up to two years, but no reciprocity.”

  • England’s hospitals have more Covid patients than ever before with London ‘teetering on the edge’ Independent report Dec 28: “The latest NHS England data, shared among NHS bosses, and seen by The Independent, reveals that across all NHS settings, there were 20,407 coronavirus patients being treated by the NHS on Monday, compared to a 12 April peak of 18,974.
    “In London, cases have surged to 4,957 patients – an increase of 47 per cent in a week and up more than 200 per cent since the end of the second national lockdown on 2 December.
    “Across the capital, hospitals have declared major incidents and cancelled operations while ambulances have been delayed for up to six hours outside some A&E departments, as NHS bosses issued a “call to action” to staff to work extra shifts in the coming weeks.
    “The Independent has learned that the situation in the capital prompted some senior hospital bosses to request the NHS publicly declare a major incident in a conference call with London’s regional medical director, Dr Vin Diwakar.”

  • Bid to boost nurse staffing in hospitals ahead of coronavirus failed, NHS report reveals Independent's Shaun Lintern with an exclusive (Dec 28) including yet another Capita cock-up:
    “According to an NHS England report, only 1,007 eligible former nurses out of a total of 71,000 returned to work during May and June while sickness caused by Covid-19 decimated staffing levels, leaving hospitals with a net drop in 3,694 full-time equivalent nurses.
    “The expert review, carried out during the summer, said actions by England’s chief nurse Ruth May to ready the NHS for the coronavirus first wave were hampered by a lack of data on the numbers and skills needed.
    “It raises questions over the ability of the NHS to cope as patient numbers in England near the peak seen in April when almost 19,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospital.
    “It also highlighted poor communication between the chief nurse’s office and the separate team run by NHS England’s chief people officer Prerana Issar, which it said caused confusion on the frontline.
    “There was criticism too for the way nurses who joined the temporary register, set up by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, were handled by consultancy Capita, who took on average more than 26 days to send nurses details to hospital trusts, who found the data they were sent wasn’t good enough to determine the skills and experiences of the nurses.”

  • London nurses and doctors urged to work extra shifts in ‘call to action’ by NHS England Independent Dec 28: “A leaked letter, sent to NHS staff on Christmas Eve and seen by The Independent, issued what it described as a “call to action” for NHS staff to take on additional shifts over the next three weeks, when hospital admissions are expected to peak.
    “Signed by London’s regional NHS director, Sir David Sloman, the letter said London was facing pressure from Covid-19, with hospital admissions “increasing sharply”.
    … “For those staff who have the skills and capacity to do so, particularly those who do not normally work in emergency services, we are asking you to please consider undertaking additional shifts over the next three weeks as we wait for the tier 4 restrictions to impact on infection rates.”
    … “The letter has sparked concerns over the consequences of asking already overstretched staff to work more, with experts saying it underlines the crisis in NHS staffing that has been made worse by Covid-19 forcing thousands more staff off work because of sickness or having to self-isolate.”

  • London hospital declares major incident over oxygen supply fears Another Shaun Lintern exclusive for the Independent (Dec 28):
    "A London hospital has declared a major incident over fears about a shortage in oxygen caused by the demand from coronavirus patients on its wards.
    "The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Woolwich, southeast London, was forced to ask London Ambulance Service to take emergency patients to other hospitals on Sunday amid concerns about the flow of oxygen to patients.
    "It is the latest in a string of London hospitals to declare major incidents in the past 10 days as the capital has been hit by a surge in new Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions.
    "The 500-bed hospital, part of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, called in extra staff on Sunday after the incident was declared at around 1pm."

  • Nightingale hospitals stand empty despite surging Covid cases as medics warn of staff shortages Telegraph report Dec 28: " The flagship Nightingale hospital is being dismantled as medics warn that there are not enough staff to run the facilities despite the NHS being at risk of being overwhelmed by coronavirus.
    “Amid surging virus case numbers, elective surgery is being cancelled as the number of patients in hospitals in England passes the peak of the first wave in April. Although the NHS is "struggling" to cope, the majority of the seven Nightingale hospitals, created at a cost of £220 million, have yet to start treating Covid-19 patients during the second wave. The Exeter Nightingale has been treating Covid patients since mid-November.
    “The facility at London's Excel centre has been stripped of its beds and ventilators.
    “The NHS has told trusts to start preparing to use the overflow facilities in the coming weeks, but bosses have failed to explain how they will be staffed.”

  • Coronavirus vaccine chaos with appointments axed last minute as surgeries wait for jab Mirror warning Dec 26: "The Covid vaccine rollout could turn into a PPE-style fiasco, MPs, doctors and care chiefs warned last night.
    "Hundreds of GP surgeries and scores of hospitals are still waiting for Pfizer jabs.
    "Vaccine appointments for the most vulnerable are being cancelled at the last minute because of the delay, doctors say.
    "And 12,000 of the country’s 15,000 care homes are not even being considered for jabs right now – with only seven areas of England getting them so far.
    "Health leaders have also raised concerns many frontline NHS staff are still not being sent for jabs."

  • Coronavirus: London ambulances ‘can no longer guarantee’ response to home-birth emergencies Independent exclusive Dec 26: "Women planning home births in London will no longer be guaranteed an ambulance response in the case of emergency, as a result of “current pressures” from Covid-19, a local health authority has warned.
    "In an email circulated on Christmas Eve and seen by The Independent, London Ambulance Service NHS Trust warned that it was “no longer in a position” to ensure a response is provided to those women choosing to have their birth at home or within one of the capital’s three birthing centres.
    "The trust said it was “critical that this information is communicated to [pregnant] women, to inform their planning and future choices”.
    "Health services across the capital are under increasing pressure as the numbers of Covid infections and hospitalisations continue to rise.
    "Hospital trusts have started to cancel operations and are redeploying nurses and doctors to cope with an expected increase in demand, amid mounting concern that London could run out of critical care beds within weeks."

  • Major UK testing lab suffers coronavirus outbreak after claims of safety breaches Sky News Dec 26 reports: "The UK's biggest testing lab has been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus after what one worker claimed were repeated breaches of COVID safety rules, Sky News has learned.
    "Positive cases have been reported in three of the four scientific teams at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory, as well as among administrative and warehouse staff at the site.
    "It is not known how many people have been affected by the outbreak, but around 20 people in one 70-person lab team are currently isolating, according to a worker at the laboratory who asked to remain anonymous."

  • NHS told to prepare for use of Nightingale hospitals in coming weeks Independent article Dec 25, although just days later it emerged that Nightingale hospitals in London and Birmingham were being dismantled:
    "NHS England has told trusts to begin planning for the use of Nightingale hospitals as the number of coronavirus patients is expected to surge in the coming weeks.
    "In a letter sent on Wednesday night, hospitals were told to activate all of their emergency capacity to cope with the expected pressures.
    "This is likely to mean the mass redeployment of staff and the designation of wards, surgical theatres and recovery areas as makeshift intensive care units for patients.
    "NHS England did not explain how the Nightingale hospitals would be staffed if the decision was made to activate them."

  • The 12 Contracts of Christmas Brilliant summary from The Byline Times (Dec 24): "On 22 December, a poll was released by YouGov. The research company had surveyed people on “how Brits said their 2020 had been”. The majority, 52%, of respondents said their year had been “bad” or “terrible” with 45% saying it had been “good” or “okay”.
    "Just 2% of people said that their year had been “great”, which led Labour MP Justin Madders to speculate upon the identity of these individuals. He said they all must have won large contracts from the Government for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
    "Indeed, since the onset of the pandemic, Byline Times has been tracking the bizarre, occasionally inexplicable, deals awarded for the supply of face masks, ventilators and testing kits. In total, The New York Times estimates that roughly £8 billion of the £16 billion publicly-available deals awarded so far have been clinched by “companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy”.
    "With Christmas just hours away, Byline Times – in collaboration with The Citizens – decided to compile some of the firms that have been at the top of Boris Johnson’s gift list this year."

  • Taiwan imposes new regulations after first Covid case since April Guardian Dec 23: "Within hours of authorities announcing Taiwan’s first community transmission of Covid-19 since April, more people were wearing masks in more places, and hand sanitiser dispensers appeared in doorways, positioned so people would have to step around them to avoid the hint.
    "Until Tuesday Taiwan had gone 253 days without a local case of the virus. The circumstances around the new case have sparked fear and anger.
    "Health authorities said they had diagnosed a woman in her 30s, a friend of a New Zealand-born resident and pilot in his 60s, who had flown between the US and Taiwan and moved about Taipei while infectious without disclosing his symptoms or movements to authorities."

  • Which areas could go into Tier 4 lockdown over Christmas? Full list of at risk towns Mirror report Dec 23: "Large parts of England could join London and the south east in the strictest coronavirus restrictions as the Government considers plunging them into Tier 4.
    "The Mirror exclusively revealed that a Gold Command meeting on Tuesday discussed plans to put Birmingham, which is currently in Tier 3, into Tier 4 ahead of Christmas,
    "And other areas could follow suit, and even a third national lockdown being mooted for the days after Christmas."

  • The government must not be allowed to rewrite history on its failure to protect the NHS HSJ editor Alastair McLellan in more than usually outspoken comment:
    "On 15 December, HSJ and the British Medical Journal called for the government to respond to the worsening situation by cancelling its plans to allow house-hold mixing over Christmas and tightening the tiered restrictions immediately.
    "On 16 December, Boris Johnson said such a move would be inhuman. Matt Hancock speaking privately to colleagues railed against mischief-making “newspapers” who knew it was too late for the government to change tack and whose opinion on this matter was worthless in any case.
    "The U-turn which followed on Saturday sent thousands of people onto crowded trains, exporting the new variant far and wide.
    "Speaking to HSJ after the decision, an exasperated senior Tory politician bemoaned his government’s chronic delay “on every single decision” that mattered to controlling the pandemic.
    "The end result — as forecast in HSJ’s 15 December editorial — is that, in the words of a national NHS leader speaking to HSJ this week: “The most likely scenario is that we’ll have more covid patients in our beds on 1 January than we did at the height of the first peak.”

  • Delayed Covid vaccines for poor countries 'will leave Europe vulnerable for years' Guardian warning on Dec 23: "Poorer countries are unlikely to gain substantial access to Covid-19 vaccines until the latter half of next year, meaning wealthier European countries could still remain vulnerable to new waves of infection for years, the UN’s humanitarian chief has said.
    “For poorer countries there will be small quantities of vaccine conceivably in the second quarter of next year, probably not much more than that for a while after that, and it’s 2022 and beyond when the major progress is made,” Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general of the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA, said in an interview. “That is a best judgment, recognising large quantities depend on the number of vaccines authorised, the manufacturing and then the solution the world comes to on who accesses what when.”
    "Lowcock said that European countries would therefore be “dealing with” the coronavirus in 2022 and probably beyond, even if their economies bounced back in 2021."

  • Named: the trusts set to have at least a third of beds filled by covid patients on 31 Dec HSJ Dec 23:“Three of the four acute trusts in Kent are projected to have covid bed occupancy of over 40 per cent.
    “… There are also 27 trusts not in tier four areas which had more than 50 covid patients on 21 December, and where the number of covid patients grew by at least 20 per cent in that week. …
    “HSJ last week projected that, if trends continued, English hospitals would have just short of 19,000 covid patients on New Year’s Eve in total — almost exactly the same as the 12 April first wave peak. Current projections put that number at over 20,000.”

  • The hospital bed crisis preceded the Coronavirus emergency and will outlive it Interesting Byline Times article by David Oliver (Dec 23) -- which sadly cites outdated (and much higher) numbers of NHS beds (on latest count there were fewer than 95,000 acute beds available in England):
    "The UK already sits near the bottom of the OECD league table for hospital beds per 1,000 of the population – at around 2.7. Take away the devolved nations and England’s numbers are lower still. They are 25% below the EU average, around half the capacity of France and a third of that in Germany. Overall, bed numbers in England more than halved from 1988 to 2018 even though, during that time, hospital emergency attendances and admissions more than doubled.
    "Readers may be surprised to learn that we only have around 140,000 beds for an English population of 56 million people, of which barely more than 100,000 are “general and acute beds” – to which acutely sick adults or those needing planned operations might be admitted.
    "The UK only has 6.6 critical care (sometimes called ‘intensive care’ or ‘ICU’) beds per 100,000 – well down the league table compared to say the US with 34.7, Germany with 29.2, Italy with 12.5, France with 11.6, or Spain with 9.7. Yet, all these countries have seen their ICU beds overwhelmed during the Coronavirus pandemic."

  • Covid: France rewards frontline immigrant workers with citizenship BBC report Dec 23 -- as Priti Patel slams the door on would-be migrants, the French have a much better way:
    "Hundreds of immigrants in France working on the coronavirus frontline have had their service to the country recognised with fast-track citizenship.
    "The interior ministry invited residents helping with efforts against Covid-19 to apply for accelerated naturalisation.
    "More than 700 have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it. They include healthcare professionals, cleaners and shop workers.
    "Frontline workers around the world have been exposed to Covid-19 at a high rate with many dying from the disease including doctors and nurses.
    "France is in the top 10 countries worst hit by coronavirus infections, with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and close to 62,000 deaths."

  • Lewes records sharpest rise in coronavirus rate in Sussex The Argus report Dec 22: "THE coronavirus rate in one Sussex area has more than tripled in a week. Tier 2 Lewes has gone from having one of the lowest figures in the country to having hundreds of new weekly cases in the most recent data.
    "There were just 78 cases recorded in the area in the seven days leading up to December 10, giving it a weekly rate of 75.5 new cases per 100,000 population.
    "This meant it had the 31st lowest rate of the 315 local authority areas in England.
    "But, in the most recent figures covering the seven days leading up to December 17, the number of cases recorded in Lewes has soared.
    "There were 254 cases confirmed in the area during this period, giving an updated weekly rate of 246 cases per 100,000 population.
    "This is the greatest weekly percentage increase in Sussex - up 225.8 per cent."

  • £66.7 million Birmingham Nightingale hospital has admitted no patients in eight months The brilliant Byline Times (Dec 18) with another revelation on the white elephant field hospitals constructed by NHS England:
    "Birmingham’s emergency Nightingale Hospital, designed to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases, has not admitted a single patient in eight months, Byline Times can reveal.
    "Costing a reported £66.7 million, the hospital opened on 16 April as part of a Government effort to boost NHS bed capacity. The hospital has 496 beds divided into four wards, which can rapidly increase to 800 beds if needed. The emergency facility, constructed inside the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull, has a maximum capacity of 4,000 beds.
    "However, despite expecting to receive its first patients in mid-April, the hospital hadn’t received any patients as of 8 December. “No patients have been admitted to the hospital because the additional capacity has not yet been required,” said Edward Agar, Minister of State for Health, in response to a written Parliamentary question from Labour MP Matt Western. “However, the hospital remains on standby ready to play whatever role is needed in the months to come.”"

  • Warning for men over 50 due to Covid-19 threat BBC News Dec 22 with pre-Xmas warning to yours truly and many others:
    "Men older than 50 who want to see next Christmas must be extra vigilant, a senior doctor has warned.
    "It comes as coronavirus continues to prominently affect this section of the population.
    "The warning was made by Dr Wendy Anderson, a respiratory consultant at the Northern Health Trust.
    "The Department of Health (DoH) said it was aware of concerns and was assessing the situation, "with a view to updating guidance and messaging if required".
    "However, in a statement it added that Covid-19 was a threat to "many different age groups and sections of society"."

  • Doctors and nurses at London’s frontline hospital denied coronavirus vaccine Independent Dec 22: "Doctors and nurses on the front line of the fight against coronavirus at the Royal London Hospital – which has the largest number of Covid patients in the capital – have been denied the Pfizer vaccine, The Independent has learnt.
    "Hospital bosses at Barts Health Trust have written to staff today expressing their frustration over the decisions by NHS England, which meant the northeast of London – where the rate of infections and hospitalisations are worst – has not been given access to any vaccines.
    "The Independent has learned that staff from the Royal London booked appointments to be vaccinated at a GP run hub in Bloomsbury, near University College London, but they were turned away because they were told the vaccinations had been earmarked for NHS staff from University College London Hospital Trust."

  • Government 'operated illegal buy British policy' over Covid contracts Guardian Dec 22 on how ministers went from procurement failure to flouting the law: "The government was operating an illegal “buy British” policy when it signed contracts with a small UK firm to supply Covid antibody tests, claim lawyers who have filed a case against the health secretary.
    "The Good Law Project said there were a number of other companies in a better position to supply antibody tests in June and August, when the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed deals worth up to £80m with Abingdon Health without going out to tender.
    "The government had also agreed a deal to share in the profits the company made, the lawyers say.
    "The government was determined to get a British test, following the fiasco of the purchase by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, of 3.5m Chinese antibody tests in March with orders for a further 17.5m."

  • How a string of failures by the British government helped Covid-19 to mutate Anthony Costello in the Guardian Dec 22: "When a virus is allowed to spread, spending time in different hosts, it evolves and mutates. Scientists have now found a “mutant” variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, which has 17 alterations to its genetic sequences, including changes in the spike protein that enables the virus to enter our cells.
    "Despite the warnings, the government’s strategy throughout the pandemic has been to slow the spread of the virus and reduce pressure on the NHS, rather than eliminating Covid altogether.
    "As late as 13 March, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) minutes recorded that “measures seeking to completely suppress [the] spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak”. Advisers warned that countries such as China, where heavy suppression was already under way “will experience a second peak once measures are relaxed”. Instead of eliminating coronavirus, the logic seemed to be, Britain would learn to live with it.
    "Nine months later, China and South Korea have recorded three and 12 deaths per million people respectively. By contrast, based on the government data for deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive Covid test, the UK has recorded 970 deaths from Covid per million people."

  • A warning, a cabinet meeting and a descent into chaos: the inside story of how Johnson was forced into action (£) Times report Dec 22: “After being briefed at 3.15pm on Friday by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer of England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, Boris Johnson called a meeting of the “Covid-O” cabinet subcommittee. The meeting, attended by, among others, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, was bleak. “Everyone was blindsided,” a source said. “I don’t think anyone in the room expected it to be quite so bad.”
    “A senior aide put it more succinctly: “It’s all f***ed.”
    “The atmosphere in Downing Street on Friday evening was described as “grim” by an insider. “Everyone is desperately worried and concerned.”
    “… One internal assessment, in early December, suggested that there will be nearly 700,000 cases a week by mid to late February — more than three times the present level — with 20,000 hospital admissions and 5,000 deaths.
    “Mr Johnson, though, was said to have been stubborn. “It was only when he was faced with a scenario that looked like armageddon that he actually changed his position,” a source said. “He’s been told about this for weeks but he’s been in denial about this.”

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Gave Top Doctor $1.5 Million After He Was Forced to Resign Over Conflicts of Interest Pro Publica Dec 22 exposes shenanigans in the top echelons of a US private health corporation:
    “In 2018, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. José Baselga, resigned under fire over his failure to disclose payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles he wrote.
    “Now, recent Internal Revenue Service filings show the nonprofit hospital paid more than $1.5 million in severance to Baselga in 2018 and 2019.
    “The revelations about the former executive led to significant changes governing Memorial Sloan Kettering’s ties to the health care and pharmaceutical industries and prompted an overhaul of its conflict-of-interest policies. The disclosure failures, which were uncovered by The New York Times and ProPublica, also led to a broader reexamination of how medical journals enforce their conflict-of-interest policies as well as heightened scrutiny of the relationships between medical researchers and for-profit companies at cancer centers around the country.
    “The hospital would not say whether it paid additional severance to Baselga in 2020. A spokeswoman said the past payments reflected the hospital’s “contractual obligation” to Baselga under his employment agreement.”

  • Majority of voters believe government’s coronavirus contract awards to Tory friends are corrupt, poll finds Independent Dec 22: "The government procurement process that saw friends of Tory politicians handed billions in contracts during the coronavirus pandemic amounts to corruption, a majority of the public believes.
    "A survey by pollsters Survation found that 59 per cent of voters think the government’s “high priority” lane for friends and associates is corrupt, while just 16 per cent think it is not.
    "In November the National Audit Office revealed that Boris Johnson’s government had set up the fast-track lane “to assess and process potential PPE leads from government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and lords”.
    "For those on the list, the chances of success when bidding for a government contract were one in 10, compared to just one in a hundred for other suppliers.
    "Of 1,200 central government contracts – worth £16bn in total – handed out by the government during the pandemic, around £8bn ultimately went to companies run by friends and associates of Tory politicians, or to those with a history of controversy or no previous experience, a recent analysis by The New York Times found. "

  • Plans for 30-minute Covid testing in England halted amid accuracy fears Guardian Dec 22: "The government has shelved plans to open rapid-turnaround coronavirus test centres across England over Christmas amid concerns from public health experts about the accuracy of their results, the Guardian has learned.
    "Ministers had planned to convert a number of existing testing sites into centres for lateral flow tests, which provide results in 30 minutes, to help cope with an anticipated surge in demand.
    "However, the scheme was halted last week after concerns were raised by directors of public health about the accuracy of the tests and the potential false reassurance given to people who test negative. A government source said the planned rollout “proved unnecessary”.
    "The development is a blow to the UK government’s £100bn “Operation Moonshot” mass-testing plan, which aims to increase the number of tests carried out each day from 430,000 to 10m by early next year."

  • Sweden’s Covid-19 failures have exposed the myths of the lockdown-sceptics New Statesman report Dec 21: "For much of this year, those who object to measures to control the virus have hailed Sweden as a libertarian paradise, supposedly showing us how Covid-19 could be kept under control without intrusive government restrictions.
    "Of late, these champions have fallen silent. It’s not hard to explain why. Recent days have seen Sweden’s Nordic neighbours Finland and Norway offering emergency medical assistance as Stockholm’s hospitals have been overwhelmed, infections and deaths have spiked dramatically upward, and the King of Sweden has made an unprecedented criticism of the government’s bungled strategy.
    "Unprecedented, but hardly surprising: Sweden has suffered a death rate that is roughly ten times that of neighbouring Norway and nine times that of Finland. A searing government report concluded the state had failed to protect the vulnerable. Mats Persson, a former UK government adviser, said of his home country: “For a social model largely designed around the state levelling the odds and caring for the vulnerable, this will leave a very difficult moral legacy.”

  • Jacqui Smith in Heartlands Hospital row as bosses accused of 'clapping, then slapping' porters in rota bust-up Birmingham Mail Dec 21 on the outrageous behaviour of Birmingham Heartlands Trust bosses, headed by trust chair, failed Strictly contestant and ex-new Labour minister Jacqui Smith:
    "Birmingham's eight Labour MP's have written to former Strictly star Jacqui Smith condemning the alleged firing and rehiring of staff at a Birmingham hospital.
    "The Unison union claimed the Heartlands porters were being rehired on inferior contracts involving a "damaging" new rota.
    "It said NHS staff had been clapped for their front line work during the pandemic - but the workers were now being "slapped".
    "Health chiefs said the proposed changes would create a "fairer environment" but the row has triggered industrial action.
    "Ms Smith chairs University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Heartlands as well as the QE, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals."

  • Flay your fart: viral clip calls on public to alter speech to curb Covid Excellent fun in this brilliantly done video, featured by the Guardian Dec 21: cheer yourself up!
    "With tongue firmly in cheek, a retired PR consultant and translator from Surrey has produced a viral video suggesting the government is to ban certain sounds and letters of the alphabet because they increase the transmission of Covid-19. Instead of “please take care”, we should say “flease nake lare”, the skit says.
    "Nonsense, of course. But funny. Like a Monty Python sketch, said one Twitter user. Haven’t laughed so hard in months, said another."

  • Union anger as Birmingham hospital bosses offered jab BBC Midlands report Dec 21: "A row has broken out after unions discovered hospital bosses had been given the Covid-19 vaccine.
    "University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said staff, including the executive team, were offered it after booked patients did not turn up.
    "It did not want to waste the vaccine, the trust added.
    "But Ravi Subramanian of Unison said it was "nothing short of a scandal" as front-line staff were putting their lives on the line every day.
    "People aged over 80 in hospital, frontline health staff and care home workers have been the first to get the jab across the UK in a mass mass vaccination campaign which started earlier this month.
    "Staff vaccination has started at the hospital but the trust said with a shortfall of about 300 bookings and a number of patients not attending during the first five days of rolling it out, the vaccine was offered to more high-risk staff on shift and others not necessarily high risk, which included some of the executive team members."

  • Third of hospital trusts now have more Covid-19 patients than during the peak of the first wave Torygraph decides to ignore the nonsense of many of its columnists and highlight the scale and impact of the renewed wave of Covid:
    "A third of major hospital trusts in England now have more Covid-19 patients than during the peak of the first wave, with some areas seeing more than a 30 per cent increase in weekly admissions.
    "In two regions - eastern England and south-west England - more than half of trusts are above their first-wave peak, official government figures show.
    "Other trusts have seen their numbers rise so rapidly that they could pass their first-wave peak within days.
    "Of the 127 acute hospital trusts with a 24-hour (type 1) A&E department in England, 42 (33 per cent) had more Covid-19 patients on December 18 than at the peak of the first wave in the spring.
    "Mid & South Essex recorded 450 confirmed Covid-19 patients on December 18, compared with a first-wave peak of 374."

  • Tread softly... Dec 21 blog from Roy Lilley expressing the views of many:
    "I am fearful. I am fearful for the nation. I am fearful for you and your family. I am fearful that this bone-headed government will do irreparable damage to this great nation of ours.
    "I am fearful for the young people who’s education has been tainted, truncated and terminated.
    "I am in despair for the prospects of the millions who can see their employment fizzling out and for the hundreds of thousands of small businesses, who will wither-on-the-vine.
    "I am angry we have someone in charge, who is a passenger, impersonates a prime minister, thinks pictures of him in a safety hat and a high-viz jacket somehow makes him a leader, mocks critics, denies the facts, lackadaisical, scruffy and little more than a political yob."

  • Firm with mystery investors wins £200m of PPE contracts via 'high-priority lane' Guardian Dec 21: "A company with mystery investors and links to the Isle of Man was awarded government contracts worth £200m to supply the UK with personal protective equipment (PPE) after it was placed in a “high-priority lane” for well-connected firms, the Guardian can reveal.
    "PPE Medpro has not revealed the identities of the financiers and businessmen behind the venture, and it remains unclear how its offer to supply PPE came to be processed through a channel created for companies referred by politicians and senior officials.
    "PPE Medpro was awarded its first contract, for £80.85m to supply 210m face masks, on 12 June. The company secured its second contract two weeks later, for £122m, to supply 25m surgical gowns. Both contracts were awarded directly by the government without competitive tenders under Covid-19 emergency regulations that have waived normal requirements."

  • Government indecision is the UK’s greatest health threat Independent Dec 21: "The abandonment by the government of its much heralded and strongly defended Christmas arrangement that involved a lifting of restrictions on social mixing is no surprise to many. The experience from the US of growth in Covid-19 in the aftermath of Thanksgiving celebrations should have given pause for thought, as should the very limited response in case numbers engendered by the national restrictions imposed in November.
    "There had been many voices raised in criticism of the planned five-day relaxation at Christmas, with Independent Sage in particular pointing out that, just because the government said it was permissible to lower your guard and mix households and generations over Christmas, it didn’t mean it was a good idea. Of particular note was the Public Health England estimate that 25 days of very strict measures would be required to make up for the five days of laxity.
    "The growing numbers of cases alone should have been enough to cause a major rethink some weeks ago. But delay in decision-making , whether in respect of a Brexit agreement or Covid response, seems to have been a constant characteristic of the government’s behaviour. Delay and indecision in the face of a lethal, highly infectious virus is the greatest threat to health – sometimes even bigger than the threat from the virus itself."

  • Majority of voters believe government’s coronavirus contract awards to Tory friends are corrupt, poll finds Independent Dec 21: "The government procurement process that saw friends of Tory politicians handed billions in contracts during the coronavirus pandemic amounts to corruption, a majority of the public believes.
    "A survey by pollsters Survation found that 59 per cent of voters think the government’s “high priority” lane for friends and associates is corrupt, while just 16 per cent think it is not.
    "In November the National Audit Office revealed that Boris Johnson’s government had set up the fast-track lane “to assess and process potential PPE leads from government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and lords”.
    "For those on the list, the chances of success when bidding for a government contract were one in 10, compared to just one in a hundred for other suppliers."

  • UK ‘Mega Lab’ Cut Working Hours Last Week Amid‘Shortages’ Byline Times Dec 21 on the chaos in the labs set up to bypass existing NHS laboratories in testing for Covid: "One of the UK’s flagship ‘Lighthouse’ testing labs cut the working hours of some staff last week, amid a shortage of provisions, Byline Times understands.
    "According to someone working at the Lighthouse lab in Milton Keynes, who helps to process COVID-19 tests, their team was asked to work shorter hours last week, with management citing a lack of consumables – items such as reagents and pipettes – needed to process results.
    "Rather than working a standard 12-hour shift, the person in question worked for just five-and-a-half hours on two consecutive days. On the third day, the team was invited to take a free day’s holiday.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed to Byline Times that the Milton Keynes lab has experienced a short-term shortage of supplies in recent days. The lab’s press team said that all media enquiries are handled by the Government."

  • A New Congressional Budget Office Study Shows That Medicare for All Would Save Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Annually US Jacobin magazine Dec 19 highlights some positive findings:
    "Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an estimate of the cost of implementing a single-payer health insurance program in the United States. The CBO’s report is more exhaustive than any other recent study on the subject and concludes that replacing our current system with a single-payer system would insure every American while reducing overall health spending in the country.
    "Modelling the cost of a single-payer program is relatively straightforward. You begin with the status quo health care system and then make educated guesses about the following questions:
    "How many more units of health care services will be demanded and supplied when price barriers are removed?
    "How much more efficient will health insurance administration be after enrollment and payment systems are radically simplified?
    "How much money will be saved by reducing the payment rates for health care providers and drug companies?
    "The CBO answered these questions for four different single-payer designs and found that a single-payer system would save $42 billion to $743 billion in 2030 alone."

  • Emergency Financial Protection In a Medact initiative, 12 of the UK’s leading public health organisations have written to the Prime Minister urging him to address the financial barriers currently undermining people’s ability to afford to follow public health advice and self isolate if required.
    The coalition of public organisations have asked the Prime Minister to take five urgent steps to increase targeted financial protection, in order to improve compliance with public health measures during this crucial stage of the pandemic.

  • Give NHS staff Covid vaccine now or face growing winter crisis, say hospital bosses Guardian Dec 18: "Hospital bosses in England want NHS staff to start getting the Covid vaccine urgently because soaring rates of sickness among frontline personnel are threatening to intensify the service’s growing winter crisis.
    "Doctors and nurses are asking their hospitals to vaccinate them, but are being told they will have to wait until early 2021 because the over-80s and care home staff are the top priority.
    "Hospital trust chief executives say staff believe their wait to have the jab is unfair, and that they feel let down and exposed to danger because they are dealing with a sharp increase in the number of Covid patients.
    "Ken Bremner, the chief executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS trust, has called the decision to make NHS staff wait for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine “a kick in the teeth”. Four other bosses, all speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian they backed an immediate rethink by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) of which groups should get it first, to give staff the same priority as the over-80s."

  • Belgian minister mistakenly reveals prices EU negotiated for Covid-19 vaccines Telegraph publishes some real news Dec 18: "In a now-deleted tweet, Belgian finance minister Eva De Bleeker revealed that the EU had secured 33 million doses for €279 million (£253m) for this year, with funds set aside to purchase a further 500 million doses in 2021.
    "By contrast, the UK has secured 267 million doses at a cost of £2.9bn, according to a National Audit Office report earlier this week.
    "However, the UK government has refused to reveal how much it has paid per dose or the contractual arrangements in the event of a company failing to develop a viable vaccine, turning down a Freedom of Information request from the Telegraph earlier this week for “commercial sensitivities”.
    "The Belgian minister’s tweet revealed that the EU has managed to negotiate much lower prices than the companies initially advertised.
    "The EU is paying €12 or $14.70 per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, compared to the company’s official price of $19.50 per dose.
    "And it has secured the Moderna vaccine for $18 per dose, compared to the company’s $25 to $37 per dose.
    "And for the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine - which the company has pledged to provide at cost to developed countries until next summer and in perpetuity to low and middle income countries - it will pay €1.78 a dose. The US is paying $3 to $4 a dose, according to the Financial Times. "

  • £66.7 million Birmingham Nightingale Hospital has admitted no patients in eight months The excellent Byline Times with an early (Dec 18) reminder of the inherent contrast between the ease of throwing together new field hospitals and the problem of finding enough staff to make use of them: "Birmingham’s emergency Nightingale Hospital, designed to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases, has not admitted a single patient in eight months, Byline Times can reveal.
    "Costing a reported £66.7 million, the hospital opened on 16 April as part of a Government effort to boost NHS bed capacity. The hospital has 496 beds divided into four wards, which can rapidly increase to 800 beds if needed. The emergency facility, constructed inside the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull, has a maximum capacity of 4,000 beds.
    "However, despite expecting to receive its first patients in mid-April, the hospital hadn’t received any patients as of 8 December. “No patients have been admitted to the hospital because the additional capacity has not yet been required,” said Edward Agar, Minister of State for Health, in response to a written Parliamentary question from Labour MP Matt Western. “However, the hospital remains on standby ready to play whatever role is needed in the months to come.”

  • The NHS is failing to explain the impact of covid on healthcare access HSJ report Dec 18 by CHPI director David Rowland: "“One impediment to public understanding is the current presentation of the data relating to covid and the NHS.
    “As things stand, it is almost impossible for the general public to grasp the material, day-to-day impact of the disease on their own local healthcare systems and what it means for their own access to healthcare.
    “The debate about lockdown restrictions is often framed in terms of trade-offs. The harms caused by the disease in terms of mortality rates and the longer term consequences are often balanced against the wider harms of lock down in the form of unemployment, poverty, mental health and domestic abuse.
    “Yet this utilitarian calculus misses one key point. Unless the government decides that the NHS should ration treatment for covid patients the consequence of rising infection rates is not only increased deaths of older people, but the denial of timely healthcare services to large swathes of the population who need them for other, often more serious conditions.
    “But whilst this cost is frequently covered in the media with stories of NHS backlogs and increased waiting times, it is too often presented in a way which has very little resonance or meaning for local communities.”

  • Nurses forced to use food banks as Covid and financial pressures drive many to brink of quitting ITV News Dec 17: "Over a third (39%) of nurses have skipped meals in order to feed their family or to save money as financial and Covid pressures force many to the brink of quitting the NHS, a survey seen by ITV News has revealed.
    "For nurses from an ethnic minority background the situation is even bleaker, with over half (61%) admitting to missing meals owing to money worries.
    "The exclusive figures from Nursing Notes and Nurses United lay out a stark crisis in nursing, as 30% of NHS nurses say they plan to leave the profession in the next 12 months citing mental health issues and a poor work/life balance as the most common reasons."

  • Waste, Negligence and Cronyism: Inside Britain’s Pandemic Spending New York Times Dec 17 asking hard questions and publishing hard facts the British media should be doing for themselves:
    "When the pandemic exploded in March, British officials embarked on a desperate scramble to procure the personal protective equipment, ventilators, coronavirus tests and other supplies critical to containing the surge. In the months following those fevered days, the government handed out thousands of contracts to fight the virus, some of them in a secretive “V.I.P. lane” to a select few companies with connections to the governing Conservative Party.
    "To shine a light on one of the greatest spending sprees in Britain’s postwar era, The New York Times analyzed a large segment of it, the roughly 1,200 central government contracts that have been made public, together worth nearly $22 billion. Of that, about $11 billion went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy. Meanwhile, smaller firms without political clout got nowhere."

  • COVID-19 vaccine rollout may be delayed - with IT system 'failing constantly' Sky News Dec 17: "The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine could be delayed by technical issues, doctors and health officials have warned, after the first week of the vaccination programme was marred by difficulties with data collection.
    "GP practices have been forced to collect data on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine by hand, following problems with the software being used to keep track of who has been given the jab.
    "A senior health official told Sky News that the IT system, known as Pinnacle, was "failing constantly" and that GPs were "having to record on paper and then transfer". NHS England strongly disputed the claims.
    "The official said the problem could help explain why the government has struggled to publish figures on how many people have received the vaccination until Wednesday morning, when vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted the first official numbers - a claim the Department for Health denies.
    "The official also raised concerns about the system for recording and booking appointments, known in the field as "call and recall".

  • Coronavirus: one in 10 patients have symptoms lasting three months or more Independent Dec 17: "One in 10 people infected with the coronavirus experience symptoms that last for three months or longer, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
    "A new analysis aimed at determining the extent of the “long Covid” problem among infected patients also found that one in five reported having symptoms that lasted for five weeks or longer.
    "The ONS said it estimated that during the week ending on 28 November, there were about 186,000 people in England living with Covid-19 symptoms that had lasted between five and 12 weeks.
    "This number could be as high as 221,000, the ONS warned. It said the data was experimental and based on the findings from its infection survey of households."

  • COVID has exposed a long-running shortage of nurses that is putting NHS patients at risk The Conversation December 17: "The danger that the pandemic could overwhelm the NHS has never been far out of sight. As we approach the five-day relaxation of restrictions for Christmas, the question of whether the NHS will be able to cope is as pertinent now as it was in March.
    "What has become apparent is that the major limit to treatment capacity is not the number of hospital beds, nor even the number of intensive care beds with ventilators, it is the number of appropriately skilled nurses available to provide care. The pandemic has exposed an achilles heel: a deficit in nursing.
    "This isn’t a new problem. Around 10% of positions for registered nurses in the NHS were vacant when the pandemic first hit. Analysis from the charity the Health Foundation has found that over the last ten years, NHS activity (the number of patients seen and care provided) has risen year on year, but without a corresponding rise in the nursing workforce.
    "Between 2010 and 2017, the number of nurses in the NHS barely changed. From 2017 to June 2020 there was a 4.8% rise, but the gap between amount of the work to do and nursing numbers has continued to widen. "

  • Big Pharma Is Fooling Us New York Times Dec 17 with a useful reminder
    "The rule in press coverage seems to be that the biggest brand involved gets top credit. And so, every day now there are stories about the Pfizer vaccine (a collaboration between Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech); the Moderna vaccine (a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and Moderna); and the AstraZeneca vaccine (a front-running non-mRNA candidate, in fact created by scientists at the University of Oxford and developed and distributed by AstraZeneca).
    "It’s an incredible public relations coup for an industry desperate to rescue its image. Just last month, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty and has agreed to penalties of more than $8 billion after being prosecuted for its role in America’s horrific opioid crisis.
    "Pfizer set an earlier record for a drug industry fraud settlement in 2009 at $2.3 billion, in a case over its fraudulent marketing of a painkiller, an antipsychotic and other drugs for conditions for which it hadn’t received approval."

  • Long Covid alarm as 21% report symptoms after five weeks Guardian report Dec 16: "A fifth of people still have coronavirus symptoms five weeks after being infected, with half of them continuing to experience problems for at least 12 weeks, official data suggests, as concerns grow about the scale and impact of “long Covid”.
    "Previous estimates suggested 14.5% of people in the UK had symptoms for at least four weeks, with 2.2% likely to have symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more. But new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest ongoing symptoms could be more common than previously thought.
    "The latest data for England, based on the Covid infection survey, which randomly samples households for coronavirus, reveals 21% of almost 8,200 participants who were followed up after testing positive still had symptoms five weeks after infection, with 9.9% reporting symptoms 12 weeks after infection."

  • Major trust diverts ambulances and cancels electives after covid surge HSJ Dec 16: "Whipps Cross Hospital in north east London, part of Barts Health Trust, declared a critical incident over the weekend, the trust has confirmed. The trust has also declared a “high pressure phase” of covid response.
    "A well placed source said Whipps Cross had been forced to divert ambulances in recent days, because of pressure on its emergency services, while a message to staff said it was deferring some planned operations, along with other steps aimed at protecting safety.
    "It is also understood to be attempting to further speed up discharges from hospital.
    "Whipps and Barts as a whole, which has two other hospitals with A&Es, have seen very rapid growth in covid pressure over the past week.
    "The rate of covid admissions at the trust (including new cases of covid diagnosed in hospital) has more than doubled in the past seven days, from about 150 over a seven day period to more than 300 — the largest absolute increase at any trust in that period."

  • WHO vaccine scheme risks failure, leaving poor countries with no COVID shots until 2024 Reuters report Dec 16: "The global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.
    "The World Health Organization’s COVAX programme is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries around the world against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
    "But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme’s promoters say the programme is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goals.
    “The risk of a failure to establish a successful COVAX Facility is very high,” says an internal report to the board of Gavi, an alliance of governments, drug companies, charities and international organisations that arranges global vaccination campaigns. Gavi co-leads COVAX alongside the WHO."

  • Who knew what was happening at Shropshire's hospital trust? And why was it left to families to raise the alarm? ITV News Dec 16: "NHS regulators were “missing in action” when it came to tackling serious problems at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust, MPs say - as campaigners question why it was left up to bereaved parents to take action.
    "As the dust settles from a damning report from the ongoing independent review into services at the Trust, campaigners have demanded to know why red flags - including a 10% higher death rate on the maternity unit than other comparable trusts between 2013 and 2016 - did not lead to action sooner.
    "Who knew about this - and why did they keep quiet?" Gill George, from local campaign group Shropshire Defend the NHS, said.
    The first report was published last week, and analysed the first 250 of 1,862 cases of concern at the trust, largely dated between 2000 and 2019.
    "At the very centre of that timeframe, in 2009, Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies suffered the loss of their daughter Kate at just six hours old.
    "Ever since, they have been on the frontline of the fight for answers."

  • For the first time in its history UNICEF will help feed kids in the UK Shocking Sky News report Dec 16 that has scandalised Jacob Rees Mogg -- who, as a large scale and chronic tax-dodger, is comfortable about children going hungry over Christmas, or any other time:
    "For the first time UNICEF has launched a domestic emergency response in the UK to help feed children hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
    "The UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide has likened the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on youngsters to that of the Second World War.
    "Since the first national lockdown in March, the number of families struggling to make ends meet and access food has grown, as the economy has suffered and vital jobs been lost.
    "In May, a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity Food Foundation found that 2.4 million children (17%) were living in food insecure households. And by October it said an extra 900,000 children had been registered for free school meals.
    "UNICEF has now pledged a grant of £25,000 to the charity School Food Matters which will use the money to supply thousands of breakfast boxes over the two-week Christmas school holidays to vulnerable children and families in Southwark, south London."

  • Ministers warned ‘kamikaze’ Christmas plans could fuel third wave of coronavirus Independent Dec 16: "With the NHS facing the prospect of having to cancel thousands of operations to cope with the surge in coronavirus patients, Downing Street is coming under pressure to perform a U-turn over its Christmas plans, which currently allow up to three households to mix for five days.
    "Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the party would back a change to the plans following a spike in infections in recent days.
    "As the prime minister’s official spokesperson confirmed plans were being reviewed, a joint editorial by the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal, called for the plans to be reversed, saying: “We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS’.”
    "The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association said the government must reverse its “kamikaze Christmas Covid plan”.
    "Dr Claudia Paoloni, the trade union’s president, said: “Germany has more beds and more staff than our underfunded NHS, yet has announced a Christmas lockdown. The UK’s failure to do the same will see hospitals buckling, the mass cancellation of non-Covid work and propel us zombie-like into an avoidable emergency."

  • Poor countries face long wait for vaccines despite promises AP news Dec 15: "With Americans, Britons and Canadians rolling up their sleeves to receive coronavirus vaccines, the route out of the pandemic now seems clear to many in the West, even if the rollout will take many months. But for poorer countries, the road will be far longer and rougher.
    "The ambitious initiative known as COVAX created to ensure the entire world has access to COVID-19 vaccines has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals to ship out vaccines and is short on cash."

  • Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review New Report from Mike Marmot published by Institute of Health Equity Dec 15:
    "As the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic ‘Build Back Better’ has become the mantra. Important, but we need to Build Back Fairer. The levels of social, environmental and economic inequality in society are damaging health and wellbeing.
    "It was the principles of fairness and the need to do things differently that animated the concrete recommendations we set out in our February 10 Years On Review, just before the pandemic hit with such devastating intensity. Inequalities in mortality from COVID-19 and rising health inequalities as a result of social and economic impacts, have made such action even more important.
    "The aim of this report is three-fold:
    "*To examine inequalities in COVID-19 mortality. Focus is on inequalities in mortality among members of BAME groups and among certain occupations, alongside continued attention to the socioeconomic gradient in health – the more deprived the area, the worse COVID-19 mortality tends to be
    "*To show the effects that the pandemic, and the societal response to contain the pandemic, have had on social and economic inequalities, their effects on mental and physical health, and their likely effects on health inequalities in the future
    "*To make recommendations on what needs to be done"

  • Pre-existing inequality led to record UK Covid death rate, says health expert Guardian coverage Dec 15 of new report on inequalities and Covid deaths:
    "Pre-existing social inequalities contributed to the UK recording the highest death rates from Covid in Europe, a leading authority on public health has said, warning that many children’s lives would be permanently blighted if the problem is not tackled.
    "Sir Michael Marmot, known for his landmark work on the social determinants of health, argued in a new report that families at the bottom of the social and economic scale were missing out before the pandemic, and were now suffering even more, losing health, jobs, lives and educational opportunities.
    "In the report, Build Back Fairer, Marmot said these social inequalities must be addressed whatever the cost and it was not enough to revert to how things before the pandemic. “We can’t afford not to do it,” he said.
    “It is simply unacceptable that we say it’s OK for children to go to bed hungry … we’ve got some incorrect notions about the necessity of austerity … What is the society we want? We want to guarantee the health and wellbeing of all members and the fair distribution of health and well being. We simply can’t afford not to do it. The government debt is no excuse. We know that is incorrect understanding of economics.”

  • Pandemic backlash jeopardizes public health powers, leaders AP news from the US Dec 15: "Across the United States, state and local public health officials … have found themselves at the center of a political storm as they combat the worst pandemic in a century. With the federal response fractured, the usually invisible army of workers charged with preventing the spread of infectious diseases has become a public punching bag. Their expertise on how to fight the coronavirus is often disregarded.
    "… The backlash has moved beyond the angry fringe. In the courts, public health powers are being undermined. Lawmakers in at least 24 states have crafted legislation to weaken public health powers, which could make it more difficult for communities to respond to other health emergencies in the future.
    “What we’ve taken for granted for 100 years in public health is now very much in doubt,” said Lawrence Gostin, an expert in public health law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
    "It is a further erosion of the nation’s already fragile public health infrastructure. At least 181 state and local public health leaders in 38 states have resigned, retired or been fired since April 1, according to an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press and KHN. According to experts, this is the largest exodus of public health leaders in American history. An untold number of lower-level staffers have also left."

  • HOTEL CARPETING COMPANY Awarded Contract to Supply COVID-19 Tests More revelations of cronyism and dodgy practice in Covid procurement from the excellent Byline Times Dec 14:
    "“A company aiming to be “the first choice global provider of high quality carpet, tile and rug” has been chosen by the Government to supply lateral flow COVID-19 tests, Byline Times can reveal.
    “Government documents published last week show that Hotel Logistics Limited was commissioned to supply a batch of rapid testing kits, delivered between 30 September and 15 October.
    “While the contract was only for a relatively small amount, £28,050, it confirms a trend during the Coronavirus pandemic: the awarding of public sector work to private companies with a questionable track record in the services they have been asked to deliver.
    “… This isn’t the first time that Hotel Logistics has made a foray into pandemic procurement. As revealed by Byline Times in October, the company has been awarded Government contracts worth £5.3 million for the supply of gloves.
    “Despite this, neither the Hotel Logistics nor the Haima Corporation website lists healthcare procurement as a specialism.”

  • Government gave Covid contract to firm co-founded by Tory pollster Guardian Dec 14: "A political consultancy co-founded by the pollster who headed the Conservative party’s general election campaign was given a contract by the government without a competitive tender during the pandemic.
    "Fleetwood Strategy, which was co-founded this year by Isaac Levido, was given the £124,000 contract by the Cabinet Office in April. The 37-year-old has been credited with playing a large part in securing Boris Johnson his landslide victory.
    "The government has been accused of giving contracts to companies with links to the Conservative party during the pandemic, drawing criticisms that it has created a “chumocracy”.
    "The government has also been accused of being unnecessarily secretive after refusing to say which companies have been awarded multi-million-pound Covid-19 contracts after being processed in a high-priority channel for firms with political connections.

  • Gravesham council leader calls for the NHS to break its silence on the pressure in Kent's hospitals Kent Online Dec 14 reports: “The leader of a Kent council has called for hospital staff to be able to speak out about the pressures they are facing because of Covid-19. Cllr John Burden, head of Gravesham council, believes if people had a better picture of the strain on our health services it would encourage them to comply with Tier 3 restrictions.
    “He has written a letter to the borough's MP Adam Holloway, asking if he can contact NHS England about allowing senior clinicians to speak publicly and on the record.
    “He wrote: "Discussions with NHS colleagues in Kent indicate the current rate of Covid admissions is twice that recorded during the first wave of the virus and still rising at pace. Myself and leaders of other borough and district authorities from across Kent have been calling on senior clinicians from local NHS bodies to speak publicly and on the record about the intense pressure on our hospitals.
    "We are all seeing large numbers of our constituents becoming at best complacent about following Covid rules and at worst, wilfully ignoring them.
    "We believe if the full and worrying story of the strain on our county's hospitals is laid bare, a large percentage of those people would return to following government guidance, helping us all within Kent to justify to local people, businesses and visitors why the county is in Tier 3 restrictions, something that is proving increasingly difficult when backed by silence from the NHS."
    “He goes on to say that he believes senior clinicians are being prevented from speaking publicly by NHS England management and calls this an "ill-thought through policy".”

  • Almost 2 billion people depend on health care facilities without basic water services – WHO, UNICEF WHO news release Dec 14 with another stark reminder of global health inequalities: "Around 1.8 billion people are at heightened risk of COVID-19 and other diseases because they use or work in health care facilities without basic water services, warn WHO and UNICEF.
    “Working in a health care facility without water, sanitation and hygiene is akin to sending nurses and doctors to work without personal protective equipment” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Water supply, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities are fundamental to stopping COVID-19. But there are still major gaps to overcome, particularly in least developed countries.”
    "The report, Fundamentals first: Universal water, sanitation, and hygiene services in health care facilities for safe, quality care, comes as COVID-19 is exposing key vulnerabilities within health systems, including inadequate infection prevention and control.
    "Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are vital to the safety of health workers and patients yet provision of these services is not prioritized. Worldwide, 1 in 4 health care facilities has no water services, 1 in 3 does not have access to hand hygiene where care is provided, 1 in 10 has no sanitation services*, and 1 in 3 does not segregate waste safely."

  • England’s Covid test and trace relying on inexperienced and poorly trained staff Guardian report Dec 14: "England’s test and trace service is being sub-contracted to a myriad of private companies employing inexperienced contact tracers under pressure to meet targets, a Guardian investigation has found.
    "Under a complex system, firms are being paid to carry out work under the government’s £22bn test and trace programme. Serco, the outsourcing firm, is being paid up to £400m for its work on test and trace, but it has subcontracted a bulk of contact tracing to 21 other companies.
    "Contact tracers working for these companies told the Guardian they had received little training, with one saying they were doing sensitive work while sitting beside colleagues making sales calls for gambling websites.
    "One contact-tracer, earning £8.72 an hour, said he was having to interview extremely vulnerable people in a “target driven” office that encouraged staff to make 20 calls a day, despite NHS guidance saying each call should take 45 to 60 minutes."

  • Risk of a third wave of COVID-19 NHS Providers wrote on December 13 to the prime minister on on behalf of the 216 NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health trusts in England:
    "First, to urge extreme caution in moving any area to a lower tier.
    "Second, to move areas into Tier 3 as soon as this is needed, without any delay.
    "Third, to urge you to personally lead a better public debate about the risks inherent in the guidance for 23-27 December."

  • Swale has the highest coronavirus infection rate in England, with Medway second Kent Online Dec 13, noting that not long after Kent MPs had complained bitterly about being put into Tier 3:
    "Swale once more has the highest coronavirus infection rate in England, with Medway in second.
    "Dover, Maidstone, Gravesham, Canterbury and Ashford are also in the top ten areas, according to Public Health England data, gathered today.
    "Swale continues to have the highest rate in England, with 951 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 9, the equivalent of 633.7 cases per 100,000 people.
    "This is up from 579.7 in the seven days to December 2.
    "Last week, data showed Medway had overtaken Swale, but now it is back in second place, although its rate has still risen, from 605.6 to 613.9, with 1,710 new cases."

  • 48 hours in September when ministers and scientists split over Covid lockdown Times December 13 revealing that ex-banker Rishi Sunak rather than the science led Johnson to decide against the "circuit breaker" half-term lockdown to combat the second wave of Covid, with disastrous consequences.
    "The medical and scientific experts had been summoned the previous day and warned to keep their Sunday evening rendezvous with the prime minister a secret. When they dialled into the Zoom call at 6pm they found Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, at the end of the long mahogany cabinet room table in Downing Street.
    "The presence of the chancellor with no sign of other ministers was a little odd, because the experts had been invited to deliver presentations on the coronavirus pandemic rather than the economy. But the government was in a crisis that weekend in September and Sunak had been kicking up a fuss.
    "Two days earlier, Johnson had been forced to confirm the grim news that a second wave was “coming in”. His chief scientific and medical advisers were pressing him to bring in a short “circuit-breaker” lockdown that would save lives and arguably prevent the need for lengthy, economically damaging restrictions at a later date.
    "Johnson had reluctantly sided with the scientists and was preparing for a quick lockdown in the week of Monday, September 21, backed by his then chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. Two key members of his cabinet — Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister — were also supporting tougher restrictions.
    "But Sunak wanted a different strategy. Faced with dire predictions that half a million people could be made redundant in the autumn, he strongly opposed a second lockdown, which some economists were saying would wreak further havoc on Britain’s already limping economy."

  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC): time for really "innovative" health financing! Article in Health Financing Africa for Universal health Coverage Day notes:
    "Ten years after the WHO’s report on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), most African low- and lower-middle income countries are not able to raise enough resources to achieve UHC. And however important, domestic efforts for resource mobilisation alone will not be enough to bring us there. The world has a collective responsibility to address tax injustices and high indebtedness, which have a huge potential to free resources for health.
    "… The latest UNCTAD report estimated that Africa is losing USD 89 billion per year in illicit financial flows such as tax evasion and theft, which amounts to more than it receives in development aid. The potential of this untapped source of revenue is clear when compared with the annual funding gap for the health-related SDGs previously mentioned. At the same time, debt service repayment on average takes over almost 12% of African governments’ revenue, while the average domestic allocation to health is half of this.
    "To conclude, health, as well as other social goals, need far more public resources. Mainstream approaches to economic growth are not leading to higher well-being, equality and realisation of the SDGs.
    "To meet the SDG3 targets, including UHC, a rethink is needed on how to get there, putting equity centre stage and challenging mainstream thinking on economics and finance."

  • 'A slap in the face': Yuma hospital fires ER doctor for talking about COVID-19 in Arizona Another insight into Trump's US, Arizona central report Dec 11: "Dr. Cleavon Gilman, a well-known emergency-medicine physician, has been asked not to return to his work at Yuma Regional Medical Center for his social media posts about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona, according to him and his staffing agency.
    "What I don't understand about this is I have been advocating for Arizona; I have been calling for a mask mandate, the closure of schools and indoor dining," Gilman told The Arizona Republic. "I did all of this because we are seeing an unprecedented number of cases. This is my third surge — I know how this ends."

  • F.D.A. Advisory Panel Gives Green Light to Pfizer Vaccine New York Times Dec 11: "Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine passed a critical milestone on Thursday when a panel of experts formally recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the vaccine. The agency is likely to do so within days, giving health care workers and nursing home residents first priority to begin receiving the first shots early next week.
    "The F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory panel, composed of independent scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians, voted 17 to 4, with one member abstaining, in favor of emergency authorization for people 16 and older. With rare exceptions, the F.D.A. follows the advice of its advisory panels.
    "With this formal blessing, the nation may finally begin to slow the spread of the virus just as infections and deaths surge, reaching a record of more than 3,000 daily deaths on Wednesday."

  • COVID-19 Reveals Weakness Of Global Health Financing Systems, Says New WHO Expenditure Report Health Policy Watch Dec 11 flags up important new WHO report:
    "The combined health and economic shocks triggered by COVID-19 have revealed profound weaknesses in health systems, with direct consequences on the future of healthcare, says a new World Health Organisation report on global health financing systems.
    "COVID-19 has revealed [the] underlying weakness of country and global health financing systems. There needs to be a proactive policy response. The year 2020 is the ultimate proof that investing in health is good for people and good for the economy,” said Agnes Soucat, one of the head writers on the new WHO report, Global Spending on
    "The global health expenditure report highlights COVID-19’s devastating impact worldwide – describing global patterns and trends prior to the pandemic, the changes in allocation levels in 2020 arising from country responses, and the challenges raised by future health spending and equitable access to healthcare. "

  • Covid-19: Many poor countries will see almost no vaccine next year, aid groups warn BMJ Dec 11: "At least 90% of people in 67 low income countries stand little chance of getting vaccinated against covid-19 in 2021 because wealthy nations have reserved more than they need and developers will not share their intellectual property, says the People’s Vaccine Alliance, which includes Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now, and Oxfam.1
    “Unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for covid-19 for years to come,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager.
    "Rich countries with only 14% of the world’s population have bought up 53% of the eight most promising vaccines, the alliance said, including all of the Moderna vaccine doses expected to be produced over the next year and 96% of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses.
    "Oxford University and AstraZeneca have pledged to distribute 64% of their vaccine in developing nations, but at best this will reach only 18% of the world’s population next year, the alliance said.
    "Mohga Kamal Yanni, a physician speaking for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said, “Rich countries have enough doses to vaccinate everyone nearly three times over, whilst poor countries don’t even have enough to reach health workers and people at risk."

  • The government’s approach to test and trace in England – interim report National Audit Office report Dec 11 reveals only £785 million out of £15bn budget allocated to NHS T&T up to Sept was allocated to local authorities that have done most of the difficult work.

  • 36 trusts see covid admissions rise by 20pc plus in a week HSJ Dec 11 report: "Thirty-six hospital trusts saw covid-19 admissions grow by more than a fifth last week, of which more than half have at least 10 per cent of beds occupied by covid patients.
    "In many hospitals the second wave of coronavirus refused to subside over the past week, despite a month of lockdown, with dozens seeing new cases and occupancy more or less flatlining.
    "At an all-England level, covid-19 admissions and occupied beds started falling around mid November, but since the beginning of December have started rising again."

  • Test and Trace callers worked just 1pc of time as £22bn was 'thrown at' efforts to stop second lockdown Covid-denying Torygraph with an interesting report on government incompetence December 10: "The National Audit Office (NAO) said billions of pounds have been spent on outsourced providers without proper scrutiny to prevent conflicts of interest and waste.
    "Its report found that after 18,000 call handlers were employed in May, their “utilisation rates” were just one per cent. It comes after workers spoke of how they were effectively being paid to “watch Netflix” with one describing receiving £4,500 without receiving a single call.
    "Auditors found that clinical workers employed by the project were also barely used in the programme’s early months, with just four per cent of time spent working. "

  • Health disparities are worse in the U.S. Axios report (Dec 10) shows extent of costly failure of US health care "system":
    "Wealthy Americans have long had better access to care — and therefore better outcomes — than poor Americans. And the coronavirus' disproportionate impact on low-income Americans and people of color has made those disparities glaringly obvious.
    "Adults with lower incomes in the U.S. were far more likely than those in the other high-income nations ... to go without needed health care because of costs, to face medical bill burdens, and to struggle to afford basic necessities such as housing and healthy food," the study's authors write.
    "Low-income adults are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions in the U.S. than in the 10 other high-income countries. During the pandemic, these underlying conditions have translated into a higher risk of serious coronavirus infections.
    "On every measure of health status, as well as affordability and access to primary care, the U.S. reported some of the largest income disparities."

  • Covid's 'devastating impact' on NHS services exposed by latest figures Guardian Dec 10 report revealing that the NHS has NOT coped with Covid:
    "Soaring numbers of patients are having to wait more than a year for surgery because Covid has disrupted hospital care so badly, new NHS performance statistics show.
    "The big rise in people facing delays of at least 52 weeks for an operation comes amid warnings that access to treatment will take years to get back to normal.
    "In October, 162,888 people in England had waited more than a year for a non-urgent planned procedure, even though the supposed maximum waiting time is 18 weeks. That was the largest number of patients forced to wait that long since October 2008.
    "The total was 123 times more than the 1,321 such cases there were in October 2019 and was 23,343 (16.7%) up on the 139,545 in that situation just a month earlier. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the surge in year-long waits was “staggering”."

  • The time to act is now: pseudo-systematic review Excellent seasonal spoof from the BMJ keeps the correct tone throughout:
    "One of us had the idea years ago to undertake a review of papers that claimed the time for action is now. However, there never seemed to be a good time. Each time a new study got published claiming the time for something or other is now, there would be a brief increase in motivation, but this would soon fade. Finally, in May 2020, with nowhere to go and little to do at weekends, we decided it was time to act."

  • 'We need help': Sweden's capital sounds the alarm as its hospitals fill with coronavirus patients Business Insider Dec 10: revelations on the consequences of Swedish government's refusal to implement any lockdown to combat Covid19.
    "The head of the health service in Sweden's capital Stockholm has pleaded for help from the government as the city's hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients amid a spiralling new wave of infections.
    "Bjorn Eriksson, director of healthcare for the Stockholm region, said on Wednesday that the region's intensive care units were nearly full with coronavirus patients and asked the government to send extra nurses and hospital staff to deal with the number of Covid patients, according to a Reuters report.
    "We need help," he told a news conference, per Reuters, noting that 83 patients were in intensive care beds. "That corresponds more or less to all intensive care beds we normally have."
    "Sweden was unique in pursuing a no-lockdown strategy at the beginning of the pandemic, instead relying on a more relaxed approach which relied on voluntary social distancing measures."

  • Firm with Links to Matt Hancock’s Family Awarded £5.5 Million COVID Testing Deal Byline Times Dec 10 report: "A firm with links to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock’s family has been awarded a £5.5 million contract for COVID-19 mobile testing units, Byline Times can reveal.
    "The Government yesterday published details of the deal, awarded to EMS Healthcare, based in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.
    "Beginning on 15 September, the company has been expected to provide articulated mobile testing units to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The contract will run for a year – ending on 14 September 2021.
    "The chairman of EMS Healthcare, who has been a director of the company since 2013, is Iain Johnston – a former business partner of Shirley and Robert Carter, Hancock’s mother and stepfather."

  • Covid-driven recession likely to push 2m UK families into poverty Guardian Dec 9 on the rising poverty that will bring fresh burdens on the NHS:
    "Destitution levels in Great Britain are expected to double in the wake of the pandemic with an estimated 2 million families, including a million children, likely to struggle to afford to feed themselves, stay warm, or keep clean as the recession deepens, according to a study.
    "The estimates, carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), described “increasing, intensifying” levels of extreme poverty experienced by some of the country’s poorest households in recent years, and highlight a social security system increasingly failing to protect society’s most vulnerable.
    "Cuts in social security rates over the past decade, together with design flaws in universal credit and disability benefits, as well as the harsh impact of welfare reforms such as benefit caps, were driving sharp rises in extreme poverty even before Covid struck, the study says."

  • Government’s 50,000 more nurses target ‘insufficient for growing demand’ Nursing Times Dec 9: "“A report published today by the Health Foundation has laid bare the trends and figures for the recruitment and retention of nurses over the last 10 years.
    “It warned that although the government’s target was achievable, the 50,000 number needed to be exceeded if the health service was to “fully recover” from the pandemic.
    “Overall, the number of full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors working in the NHS in England was up 8% over the last decade, from 280,620 in June 2010 to 302,471 in June 2020, noted the report.
    “However, the number of health visitors, and nurses working in the community, in mental health and in learning disability services were now lower than they were a decade ago, it said.”

  • Another false dawn for adult social care? David Oliver in Dec 9 article for BMJ: “In his post-election Queen’s speech in December 2019, the UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged cross party consensus to reform adult social care. He promised to “give everyone the security and dignity they deserve” and “put social care on a sustainable footing,” with plans for legislation to be announced within 12 months.
    “Cut to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review on 26 November 2020, where a paltry £300m in extra grant funding to support councils in providing adult social care was the only concrete announcement, with some calculatedly vague statements about “sustainable improvement to the system” and “proposals next year.”
    “I’d be delighted to see some meaningful progress on adult social care in 2021. Sadly, I think it’s set to be one of the many false dawns over the past few parliaments.
    “We’ve been playing this game for years. Since 2010 we’ve seen overall cuts in local government and social care funding; huge reductions in adults receiving personal care at home, even as need has grown; a care home market in serious crisis over funds and capacity; and a series of short term, quick fix cash injections from central to local government – or permissions for local authorities to raise a bit more revenue through local precepts on council tax.
    Right now, however, we also have to deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic and many other demands on government spending. Kicking social care reform into the long grass will be politically easier than dropping other priorities and commitments.
    “Put simply, most people don’t use social care, and until it touches their life its funding and provision remain opaque to many.”

  • HMRC boss says UK businesses face £7.5 billion cost in post-Brexit paperwork The Independent (Dec 8) with yet another under-reported but heavy cost of the self-inflicted misery of Brexit headed our way from January 1:
    "British businesses face an “administrative burden” cost of £7.5bn a year in filling out customs paperwork after the Brexit transition period, the chief executive of HMRC has said.
    "Highlighting the additional bureaucracy facing UK firms next year, Jim Harra said HMRC’s estimate of the cost from 2018 “still stands”, with millions of extra customs declarations being made after the transition period.
    "As London and Brussels continue attempts to thrash out a free-trade agreement with just weeks remaining, Mr Harra reiterated the extra red-tape will apply regardless of the outcome of the negotiations."

  • Trump administration refused offer to buy millions more Pfizer vaccine doses Guardian Dec 8: "The Trump administration passed up a chance last summer to buy millions of additional doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, a decision that could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until the manufacturer fulfills other international contracts.
    "The revelation, first reported by the New York Times and confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday, came a day before Donald Trump aimed to take credit for the speedy development of forthcoming vaccines at a White House summit.
    "Pfizer’s vaccine, one of the leading Covid-19 vaccine contenders, is expected to be approved by a panel of Food and Drug Administration scientists as soon as this week, with delivery of 100m doses – enough for 50 million Americans – expected in coming months."

  • Ambulance workers ballot for strike action at St George’s Hospital GMB Dec 8 press release: "GMB is set to ballot ambulance worker members at St George’s Hospital over proposed changes to their shift patterns.
    "If members at the South London hospital vote to strike, industrial action will take place in the New Year.
    "GMB says HATS, the private employer which runs the contract for patient transport services at St George’s Hospital, has ignored concerns raised by workers that these changes will have a significant impact on their pay, their hours and their work/life balance."

  • EU countries spent over €220m stockpiling remdesivir despite lack of effectiveness, finds investigation BMA (Dec 8) report showing EU is little more competent than the blundering Johnson government in procurement of medicines. EU has blown millions on useless drug:
    "On 7 October the European Commission struck a so called joint procurement framework deal with the drug manufacturer Gilead, after reports the day before of shortages of the antiviral remdesivir in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland.
    The EC agreed to buy 500 000 treatment courses in six months for €1bn (£0.9bn; $1.2bn).
    Though not all this money has been spent yet, 36 participating European countries (inside and outside the European Union) have collectively already purchased more than 640 000 vials, costing €220m. The countries’ volume of orders differs considerably, although under the agreement all have to pay €345 per vial, or on average €2070 for a course of treatment.
    “The deal was made just eight days before the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial into potential treatments for people with covid-19 made public its interim results on 15 October. These showed that among patients in hospital remdesivir had no effect on mortality, length of stay, or need for ventilation.”

  • Four trusts cancel planned operations as covid pressures mount HSJ report Dec 8: "All non-urgent elective operations are being postponed for at least two weeks in a health system still seeing significant and growing pressure from coronavirus.
    "The four acute trusts in Kent and Medway will still carry out cancer and urgent electives, but other work is being postponed. Relatively few elective operations are usually carried out around Christmas and New Year, meaning the county is likely to see little or no elective work for the next four weeks.
    "In a covid update bulletin issued last night, the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group acknowledged the pressure hospitals across its area were under but stressed cancer and other urgent operations would go ahead."

  • A short thread about hospital bed pressures Very useful Dec 8 series of tweets exploring NHS bed pressures and how to deal with them by the excellent Dr David Oliver.

  • Lords defeat Boris Johnson with vote to 'protect the NHS' in a trade deal Mirror report Dec 8: "“Boris Johnson suffered a string of defeats in the House of Lords after peers backed a move to protect the NHS in a trade deal.
    “The new law would ban any trade deal that “undermined” the NHS’s ability to provide free services or control drug prices.
    “Anti-privatisation campaigners hailed the late-night 233-143 vote, backed by Labour, the Lib Dems and Crossbenchers, after more than 300,000 people signed a petition in favour.
    “It was one of four defeats inflicted on the PM over amendments to the Trade Bill last night.
    “Peers also voted to block trade deals with any country that commits genocide or violates human rights, and demanded a bigger say for Parliament over the details of any deal after Brexit.
    “But it could lead to a showdown in the House of Commons - after Tory ministers vowed to oppose the amendment on protecting the NHS.”

  • Measuring the impact of COVID-19 on global labour rights UNISON report Dec 8 notes: “When the COVID-19 pandemic broke, there was a rush to find personal protective equipment (PPE) for key workers and laptops for those working from home. But with the urgent need to stay safe, few stopped to question who was making the equipment and whether they were safe too.
    “What impact has this had on labour standards? And has the UK’s commitment to end modern day slavery effectively been cast aside?
    “A new report from UNISON, Public Procuring During COVID-19, found that, in the competitive scramble to secure fast-tracked PPE, electronics and other in-demand products, almost “no ethical considerations were made”. Instead of applying usual procurement processes and principles, goods were bought off the shelf.
    “As a consequence and the Cabinet Office taking control of finding some items, such as rubber gloves, decision makers overlooked or didn’t know about worker exploitation in Malaysia.”

  • Slovakia's mass Covid testing cut infection rate by 60%, researchers say Guardian Dec 7: “Mass testing for Covid brought down the infection rate in Slovakia by about 60% in one week, say UK researchers – but in combination with tough quarantine rules and other measures that are not being implemented in Liverpool or elsewhere in the UK.
    “Slovakia guaranteed high take-up of the rapid tests by requiring employers not to allow people to work without a certificate to prove they had tested negative. Anybody who got a positive result had to go into quarantine with their family, but their full salary was paid for the 10 days of isolation.
    “A negative test result allowed people to work, but was not a criterion for visiting an elderly relative in a care home, or for a student of coming home for the holidays. The exercise in Slovakia was not carried out to lift restrictions, but to find Covid cases and isolate them.”

  • No Deal Brexit could lead to medicine supply shortage, inflation and public disorder, No10's secret 34-page 'worst-case scenario' dossier shows as Boris threatens to walk away Pro-Brexit Daily Heil begins (Dec 7) to face the dire prospects of a no-deal exit:
    "The UK could be overwhelmed by public disorder, drugs and fuel supply shortages and rising food prices in the event of a No Deal Brexit, a leaked Government document reveals, as talks teeter on the brink of collapse.
    "A 34-page 'reasonable worst-case scenario' dossier sets out what No10 believes could happen in the event that Britain crashes out of the EU in the New Year without a trade deal in place.
    "It says 'flow rates of medicines and medical products could initially reduce to 60-80% over three months which, if unmitigated, would impact on the supply of medicines and medical products across the UK'."

  • Doctors step up drive for probe into PPE and Covid deaths among health workers Guardian Dec 7: "Doctors are stepping up a legal effort to force a public inquiry into Covid-19 deaths among NHS staff and care workers because of a lack of personal protective equipment.
    "Doctors Association UK (DAUK), a union that represents frontline medics, has escalated its threat of judicial review against the government.
    "At least 126 health and care workers died of Covid between April and October in cases where their employers believe they had contracted the virus as a result of their work, official reports to the Health and Safety Executive show."

  • England is facing another needless Brexit disaster: care home staff shortages Guardian Dec 7: "By far the worst-off victims of coronavirus have been elderly people. The worst-off victims of Brexit are going to be … elderly people.
    "As reported by the Sunday Times, on 1 January EU staff who care for older people in residential homes cannot be recruited to work in the UK, as they earn below a £25,600 threshold for skilled workers. This will apply whether or not there is a “deal” on Brexit trade this week.
    "In parts of south-east England, up to a third of care workers come from the EU, feeding a turnover that can be as high as 50% a year. While EU workers make up 8% of care staff in England overall, some areas have vacancy rates of 25% and risk staff simply vanishing as agencies close down. This recruitment crisis is far worse than for the summer agricultural workers, where farmers were able to lobby for relief."

  • UCSF nurses hold virtual rally to demand safe staffing, patient protection during ongoing Covid-19 pandemic National Nurses United fighting to defend staffing levels: "Nurses at University of California, San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF) will hold a virtual rally on Tuesday, Dec. 8 to demand safe staffing throughout the health system and to alert the public to their patient safety concerns during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today.
    "Nurses will also voice opposition to UCSF management’s decision to impose an outrageous 25 percent increase in parking costs that imposes additional economic hardship on patients and essential workers during this crisis."

  • Oregon doctor’s licence suspended over refusal to wear mask and dismissal of Covid as ‘common cold’ Independent Dec 6 on fate of pro Trump Covid-denying US doctor:
    "An Oregon doctor who was against wearing masks had his medical licence revoked after his public refusal to acknowledge the coronavirus as anything more than the “common cold”.
    "Steven LaTulippe made headlines after attending the Stop the Steal rally in support of President Donald Trump in Salem, Oregon, on 7 November. During the rally, he called Covid-19 the “common cold” and said his staff members have not worn masks throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
    “I want to expose what I call corona mania,” Dr LaTulippe told the rally crowd in a video that was shared to YouTube by the Multnomah County Republicans."

  • NHS England pushes for “integration” … but not as we know it Lowdown Dec 6 -- update on so-called "integrated care systems" (ICSs) and the efforts by NHS England to impose a fresh top-down reorganisation on the NHS:
    "Many campaigners remain justifiably suspicious of the extent to which ICSs, which have been set up and function largely in secret, would be in any way accountable to local communities if given statutory powers.
    "And while Integrating Care argues for the need to establish ICSs as “statutory bodies” with real powers, notably “the capacity to … direct resources to improve service provision,” there are real fears that NHS England, facing more years of tight and inadequate budgets, sees ICSs and system-wide policing of finances as a way of more ruthlessly enforcing cash-cutting reductions or restrictions on availability of services through “control totals” limiting spending across each ICS, and growing lists of excluded “procedures of limited clinical value”.
    "The HSJ, normally happy to go with the flow of NHS England, has pointed out how vague are the proposals in the new document, and raised questions over funding, pointing out: “While the paper makes it clear the current system doesn’t work, it gives little indication of what a better solution will look like and how that efficiency drive will be maintained."

  • Private hospitals celebrate closer ties with NHS John Lister in the Lowdown Dec 6 on the huge transfusion of NHS cash to prop up private hospitals -- and how much they like it:
    "The extent to which NHS England now sees the future in a permanent alliance with private hospital chains was underlined in October by NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens taking time out to give a keynote speech to the virtual summit meeting of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN).
    "Of course the private sector is delighted at the renewed and strengthened prospects of “partnership” with the NHS. The summit also heard from former deputy CEO of NHS England Dame Barbara Hakin, who said private hospital firms would have to decide how much capacity they want to commit to the NHS and what type of treatments they are best placed to provide, insisting: “I think there’s a huge will to make this happen.”
    "NHS Providers deputy CEO Saffron Cordery also spoke of a “sea-change” over the past few months in relations between the sectors and the crucial need for these partnerships to continue."

  • Hospital Millions - Cronyvirus 2020 edition As Covid blocks the usual holiday board and card games, Health Campaigns Together offers the ideal answer - the brand new Hospital Millions Cronyvirus edition, the only safe way to experiment with privatisation in the NHS. Play it now!

  • How Thatcher Unleashed the NHS Outsourcing Wave Tribune Dec 5 reproduces a feature article on the origins of NHs privatisation first published in The Lowdown. It begins:
    "far from wanting to buy up and privatise the whole of the NHS, the private sector has always been happiest when it can win contracts to provide specific packages of services that will be paid for from the public purse.
    "Far from ‘selling off’ these services, the NHS is ‘buying in’ dubious quality services from private firms: far from flogging the NHS to ‘the highest bidder’, services are entrusted to the lowest-priced, least reliable contractor. And nothing is being sold: once the contract comes to an end, the contractors do not own any of the NHS. They can only continue if they win a further contract.
    "Even where clinical services have been privatised, the result is not a ‘sale’ to create anything like an American-style system, but a private company, on contract, delivering services previously delivered by NHS staff, but which remain free at point of use and funded from taxation, often even sporting the NHS logo on buildings and uniforms. No wonder some people don’t recognise it as a problem."

  • US sees record coronavirus infections as states face deadline for vaccine orders Guardian Dec 5 with a story that gives a grim foretaste of the likely aftermath of Christmas holidays with relaxed rules:
    “As US states faced a deadline to place orders for a coronavirus vaccine, California went back into lockdown and federal authorities advised the wearing of masks indoors, new infections reached a record 227,885 on Friday.
    “Many states are reporting record infections, hospitalisations and deaths, with healthcare systems pushed to breaking point. The number of Americans hospitalised with Covid-19 hit an all-time high on Thursday, at 100,667.
    “The daily case average is 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to Johns Hopkins University, which recorded 2,607 deaths on Friday in an overall toll of 279,409. The US has recorded more than 14m cases overall.
    “The alarming surge is in part attributed to millions choosing to travel and gather over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

  • The countdown to UHC Day 2020 has begun! Rather belated December 5 call for global mobilisation for Universal Health Coverage Day on 12 December.
    "Join the movement calling for strong health systems that Protect Everyone – now.
    "Make a virtual rally “sign” inspired by the Protect Everyone theme, take a picture and post it on 12.12 using the #ProtectEveryone hashtag. As long as it is something visual, we encourage creative interpretations! This could be anything from a family creating “rally posters” with advocacy messages, to an organization filming a short video about what health care should look like in their community, to an individual creating an artistic representation of COVID-19’s impact on the world this year."

  • Overtaxed Idaho health facilities on brink of rationing care Grim Independent Dec 5 report from Trump-voting Idahao:
    "Soldiers triaging patients in parking lots in a capital city is normally the stuff of science fiction.
    "Yet that’s the reality in Boise, where troops direct people outside an urgent-care clinic revamped into a facility for coronavirus patients as infections and deaths surge in Idaho and nationwide.
    "Inside Primary Health Medical Group's clinic, physician assistant Nicole Thomas works extra 12-hour shifts to help out. She dons goggles, an N95 mask, a surgical mask over that, gloves and a body covering to examine 36 patients a day with symptoms. Some days, she says, half of them test positive for COVID-19"

  • A bleak outlook for millions facing cutoff of US jobless aid Another Independent Dec 5 article on Trump's USA:
    "Unemployment has forced aching decisions on millions of Americans and their families in the face of a rampaging viral epidemic that has closed shops and restaurants, paralyzed travel and left millions jobless for months. Now, their predicaments stand to grow bleaker yet if Congress fails to extend two unemployment programs that are set to expire the day after Christmas.
    "If no agreement is reached in negotiations taking place on Capitol Hill, more than 9 million people will lose federal jobless aid that averages about $320 a week and that typically serves as their only source of income."

  • Ontario reports new record high of 1,859 COVID-19 cases on Saturday Dec 5 CBC report on rising level of Covid infection in Ontario, Canada's most populous province:
    "Ontario reported a record 1,859 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
    "Health Minister Christine Elliott said the latest cases include 504 in Toronto, 463 in Peel Region and 198 in York Region. Ontario's previous daily record of 1,855 cases was set on Nov. 27.
    "Both Toronto and Peel Region are currently in lockdown, with most non-essential businesses ordered closed nearly two weeks ago.
    "Ottawa and Hamilton also saw increases in daily infections on Saturday. Ottawa logged 72 cases, up from 36 on Friday, while Hamilton recorded 89 cases, compared with 43 a day ago."

  • Argentina passes tax on wealthy to pay for virus measures BBC bravely reports (Dec 5) on radical policies to cover costs of fighting Covid pandemic in Argentina by taxing only the richest, while tamely repeating government insistence that the bill in UK must be paid for through increased taxes on working people:
    "Argentina has passed a new tax on its wealthiest people to pay for medical supplies and relief measures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
    "Senators passed the one-off levy - dubbed the "millionaire's tax" - by 42 votes to 26 on Friday.
    "Those with assets worth more than 200 million pesos ($2.5m; £1.8m) - some 12,000 people - will have to pay. Argentina has recorded close to 1.5 million infections and almost 40,000 deaths from the coronavirus."

  • Face masks considerably reduce COVID-19 cases in Germany Scientific evidence based on German studies showing effectiveness of face masks:
    "As face masks became mandatory at different points in time across German regions, we can compare the rise in infections in regions with masks and regions without masks. Weighing various estimates, we conclude that 20 d after becoming mandatory face masks have reduced the number of new infections by around 45%.
    "As economic costs are close to zero compared to other public health measures, masks seem to be a cost-effective means to combat COVID-19."

  • Nonprofit Hospital Almost Never Gave Discounts to Poor Patients During Collections, Documents Show Pro Publica Dec 4 exposure of the antics of a so-called non profit US hospital:
    "Memphis’ largest health care system almost never gave patients discounts based on their income even as it pursued thousands for overdue bills in the last several years, according to new information released this week.
    "Since 2014, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, a nonprofit, collected just over $169 million from more than 977,000 patients with bills at least 30 days past due, but only 1% of those received financial assistance during the collections process, the hospital reported in a lengthy response to a query from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
    "The hospital also disclosed that employees at its now-shuttered collection agency were given financial incentives based on the money they recouped from patients. Workers received a 10.75% commission on amounts collected over $30,000 per month, the hospital’s response said."

  • Covid-19 contracts: government refuses to say who benefited from political connections Guardian December 3: "A report by the National Audit Office last month stated that a government unit, set up to procure PPE, established the high-priority lane to deal with leads that came “from government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals”.
    "The 493 companies given high priority due to these connections secured contracts to supply PPE with 10 times the success rate of nearly 15,000 companies that were not given enhanced attention.
    "The revelation that a high-priority channel was in operation has fuelled criticism that the government has established a “chumocracy” in which companies with connections to the Conservative party have been favoured with contracts."

  • Are Bill Gates’s Billions Distorting Public Health Data? Extensive article in The Nation Dec 3 explores the level of influence of Bill Gates' billions of donated money and University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in shaping research and the findings that are publicised:
    "“A perennial feature of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the guessing game of whether things are getting better or worse—and how policy approaches (masks, shutdowns) and changes in the weather will affect the coronavirus. Dozens of research institutes have published educated guesses about what’s coming next, but none have had the impact or reach of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
    “In the early days of the pandemic, the IHME projected a far less severe outbreak than other models, which drew the attention of Donald Trump, who was eager to downplay the danger. At a March 31 press briefing, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Debbie Birx, with the president at her side, used IHME charts to show that the pandemic was rapidly winding down.
    ““Throughout April, millions of Americans were falsely led to believe that the epidemic would be over by June because of IHME’s projections,” the data scientist Youyang Gu noted in his review of the institute’s work. “I think that a lot of states reopened based on their modeling.”

  • UK approves Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for rollout next week Guardian Dec 2: "The UK has become the first western country to license a vaccine against Covid, opening the way for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to begin next week for those most at risk.
    "The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), before decisions by the US and Europe. The MHRA was given power to approve the vaccine by the government under special regulations before 1 January, when it will become fully responsible for medicines authorisation in the UK after Brexit.
    "The first doses of the vaccine would arrive in the coming days, said the company. The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trials."

  • Maternity units rated ‘inadequate’ at NHS trust as parents demand inquiry Independent Dec 2 with yet another maternity scandal: "Maternity services at one of England’s largest hospital trusts have been downgraded to inadequate over safety fears by the care watchdog the Care Quality Commission.
    "The regulator has taken enforcement action against Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, including imposing conditions on the trust and issuing it with a formal warning notice.
    "Inspectors found women were being left at risk of harm because of a shortage of midwives, and failures by staff to properly assess women who could be high-risk pregnancies or at risk of deteriorating on the wards while in labour.
    "The trust, which delivered 8,200 babies in 2019, has been criticised by families who have demanded an inquiry into maternity care at the trust after an inquest in October heard hospital staff had written to the trust board in 2018 warning of safety concerns about maternity services."

  • Pfizer vaccine: NHS hospital hubs will be at centre of mass vaccination effort Independent Dec 2; "The NHS is preparing to coordinate one of the largest vaccination efforts in British history as the health service leads on a nationwide effort to protect millions of citizens.
    "Across England leading hospitals will be designated as vaccine hubs to start immunising NHS frontline staff and patients. Hub hospitals will be responsible for vaccinating their own staff and making sure neighbouring hospitals can get the jab to their own staff. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will follow a similar pattern.
    "The first deliveries of the vaccine to hospitals could come as soon as Tuesday. Because the virus needs to be stored at cold temperatures, the 53 hospital hubs will be the main centres for delivery. Once thawed the virus can be kept in a fridge for up to five days for use locally.
    "The initial efforts will be focused on those patients at highest priority including those aged over 80 as well as care home residents and carers. The rest of the population will follow in the coming weeks."

  • Brexit did not speed up UK vaccine authorisation Channel 4 Fact check Dec 2 responds to misleading statements by ministers and Tory MPs: “Today’s decision comes from the UK’s independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It’s long worked in tandem with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) deciding which drugs are safe for use.
    “When we were part of the EU, the EMA had areas of jurisdiction that meant only it could make decisions about certain types of medicine, including vaccines. National regulators like the MHRA couldn’t get involved.
    “When the UK left the EU on 31 January this year, we entered the “transition period”, which means the European regulations we adopted during our time in the trade bloc are still in effect until the end of 2020. That includes the rule that says vaccines generally must be authorised by the EMA instead of national regulators.
    “But as a UK government press release from 23 November 2020 states: “if a suitable COVID-19 vaccine candidate, […] becomes available before the end of the transition period, EU legislation which we have implemented via Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations allows the MHRA to temporarily authorise the supply of a medicine or vaccine, based on public health need.”
    “So even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to take this decision on its own because EU law already allows it. Incidentally, that legislation took effect in the UK in 2012, long before Brexit was on the cards.”

  • Greater Manchester tells care homes not to use rapid tests for visitors as government roll-out faces 'chaos' Manchester Evening News Dec 2 on more waste and confusion: "Public health and social care directors have written to care homes warning them not to yet use rapid tests for visitors, amid chaos, confusion and safety concerns around the government's roll-out.
    "One Tory councillor in charge of local adult social care has warned ‘only when we are confident that the appropriate guidance and safety measures are in place’ will he advise homes to use them, due to questions over demand on care staff, test accuracy and adequate training.
    "Andy Burnham told the M.E.N. of ‘confusion’ and ‘very considerable concern’ within local authorities about the level of resource and guidance required to safely use the tests in the way the government has suggested."

  • Regulator rejects Matt Hancock’s claim that UK got vaccine first because of Brexit Independent Dec 2: "Britain’s medicines regulator has contradicted claims by health secretary Matt Hancock that the UK got the first coronavirus vaccine faster because of Brexit.
    "And Mr Hancock’s boast of a “Brexit bonus” was later effectively slapped down by Boris Johnson, when the prime minister twice declined to claim any role for EU withdrawal in speeding up the approval of the jab.
    "Speaking shortly after the announcement that the Pfizer/BioNTec jab had been cleared for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Mr Hancock said that the authorisation process was faster than in the EU because Britain was no longer a member.
    "But asked if this was the case, MHRA chief executive June Raine said the process was undertaken under the terms of European law, which remains in force until the completion of the Brexit transition at the end of 2020."

  • Coronavirus vaccine: Pfizer given protection from legal action by UK government Independent Dec 2: "The UK government has granted pharmaceutical giant Pfizer a legal indemnity protecting it from being sued, enabling its coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out across the country as early as next week.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed the company has been given an indemnity protecting it from legal action as a result of any problems with the vaccine.
    "Ministers have also changed the law in recent weeks to give new protections to companies such as Pfizer, giving them immunity from being sued by patients in the event of any complications."

  • Vaccine 90% effective at pushing Tory coronyism from the headlines Canary cartoon Dec 2: A scientist in a lab coat and holding a clipboard is illustrated next to a poster featuring the words “Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine” and the image of a syringe with two vaccine vials. The scientist is saying “The vaccine has been proven to be 90% effective at pushing Tory cronyism and incompetence out of the headlines! It will also be vital in fighting the virus…”.

  • Top Trump Coronavirus Adviser Scott Atlas Resigns His Post Bloomberg Dec 1 on further disintegration of Trump administration: "White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas, who won President Donald Trump’s favor by advocating the loosening of social distancing restrictions during the pandemic, resigned his post on Monday, according to a White House official.
    "His departure closes a controversial tenure in which the neuroradiologist without a background in infectious disease prevention or public health drew the ire of other members of the coronavirus task force for urging the president to abandon lockdowns, describing such efforts as harmful to Americans.
    "In a resignation letter obtained by Fox News, which first reported his departure, Atlas said he was leaving the administration because his federal employment status was expiring. Temporary workers considered “special government employees” can only work 130 days per year."

  • Leaks reveal two-thirds of private hospital capacity went unused by NHS December 1 revelation by HSJ "Two-thirds of the private sector capacity that was block-purchased by the NHS — costing hundreds of millions of pounds — went unused by the service over the summer, despite rocketing long waits for operations, according to internal documents leaked to HSJ.
    "Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS has had unprecedented block contracts in place for almost all the private hospital capacity in England. The total cost has never been revealed, although public contract notices suggest they are worth around £400m per month.
    "The contracts were welcomed by the independent sector, which saw a substantial drop in patients seeking private care at the start of the pandemic.
    "In the spring, the contracts mainly enabled staff and equipment to be borrowed by NHS hospitals to cope with demand from covid patients, and put private hospitals on standby in case NHS facilities were completely overwhelmed."

  • Private hospitals paid millions for unused beds as NHS waiting lists soar Independent Dec 1: "Private hospitals have received millions of pounds from the taxpayer under contracts with the NHS despite two-thirds of extra capacity beds going unused for months during the summer, it has emerged.
    "According to leaked documents obtained by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), a majority of beds in private hospitals over the four months from June to September were not used by the NHS.
    "This is despite soaring numbers of patients waiting for operations, with around 140,000 waiting more than a year for treatment by September and more than 1.7 million waiting beyond the 18-week target for routine NHS treatment."

  • UK coronavirus death toll passes 75,000 Dec 1 report from the Guardian;
    "The UK’s total Covid death toll has passed 75,000, according to a tally of all fatalities that mention the disease on death certificates.
    "The grim milestone comes just over a month after the UK surpassed 60,000 deaths in late October, showing how the Covid death toll accelerated since September, having slowed during the summer.
    "The figure is higher than the government’s Covid death toll of 59,051. The latter figure only covers people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus."

  • BioNTech moves to head of pack in fight against coronavirus European Investment Bank underlines its key role (and that of immigrants) in the development of the first vaccine for Covid-19: "EU financing for COVID-19 vaccine helps German firm close in on a solution with highly effective trial results
    "When Özlem Türeci and her husband, Uğur Şahin, announced that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by their company, BioNTech, had excellent results in its latest tests, the couple took a short break from their round-the-clock research schedule. But only long enough to drink a cup of tea.
    “It was oolong tea to be precise,” Türeci says. “We both like it and it’s easy to make. We didn’t have a lot time for a celebration.”
    "The two immune engineers are conscious of the vital nature of their research into a vaccine for the deadly disease that has devastated the entire globe in 2020. Both children of Turkish immigrants, Türeci, 53, and Şahin, 55, have led Mainz-based BioNTech to the frontrunner’s spot in the race for a vaccine. On 9 November, they announced that their vaccine, BNT162, showed indications of at least 90% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infections, based on an interim analysis of the phase 3 trial."

  • International rollout of Covid-19 vaccine on track for next month FT Nov 29: “The first coronavirus vaccine is on track for international deployment within weeks, with health officials on both sides of the Atlantic confident that inoculations will begin before the end of the year.
    “The UK is expected to become the first country to approve a vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech, with the aim of delivering the first jabs as soon as December 7. US approval could be granted shortly after a Food and Drug Administration advisory meeting on December 10.
    “Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC on Sunday: “We likely, almost certainly, are going to be vaccinating a portion of the individuals in the first priority before the end of December.”
    “German officials over the weekend said preparations had been made to ensure that people could start getting inoculations next month, once the greenlight is given by European regulators.”

  • Dispelling disinformation - If Covid-19 doesn't kill the young and fit why can't we just ignore it? Consultant David Oliver in the excellent Byline Times makes some blunt and sensible points in response to the right wing hacks misleading readers in mainstream media:
    "‘COVID-19 Only Kills the Old and the Sick, After All’
    "The insinuation behind this claim is pretty disturbing. As COVID-19 doesn’t kill or harm many ‘normal’ people (i.e. younger, fitter and less socioeconomically deprived), it shouldn’t concern the rest of us. By extension, public health protection measures from behavioural restrictions and changes, through to vaccines or lockdowns, aren’t worth adopting.
    "This is a covert manifesto for age discrimination and discrimination against the old, sick and disabled. "

  • America facing ‘darkest days’ in modern medical history if virus isn’t controlled, warns top medic Independent Nov 27: "America could face its "darkest days" in modern medical history if the coronavirus crisis is not brought under control, a top medic has warned.
    "Dr Joseph Varon, chief of staff at Houston's United Memorial Center, said a surge of infections over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may push hospitals to breaking point.
    "His comments came as US health officials on Wednesday reported 180,830 new coronavirus cases nationwide – a rise of 2,630 from the previous 24 hours, New York Times data shows.
    "Just over 100,000 new infections were reported on Thursday, although that figure could be artificially low with fewer people getting tested on Thanksgiving.
    "Covid-19 deaths have been steadily climbing in recent weeks. Some 2,313 Americans died from the disease on Wednesday, according to the data."

  • ‘Difficult to maintain emergency care’ as region’s ICUs at full stretch HSJ Nov 27: "A live dashboard of critical care in the Midlands NHS region — which stretches from the Welsh border in the west, to Lincolnshire in the east — shows at least five hospitals were reporting “CRITCON” level three on Thursday and Friday, up from just one last week. Images of the dashboard have been leaked to HSJ.
    "This effectively means the critical care unit is at full stretch. It is one escalation level away from the highest, at which resources would be overwhelmed and there is the possibility of imposing thresholds on entry to critical care.
    "Around 70-80 per cent of the critical care patients have covid-19. Covid-19 occupancy has continued to grow across much of the Midlands in the past week.
    "Several units in the region are well over 100 per cent of their normal critical care capacity, with Walsall Healthcare recording the highest at 169 per cent, according to the Midlands critical care network dashboard."

  • Hancock's former neighbour won Covid test kit work after WhatsApp message Guardian November 26 with another story of chums and plum contracts:
    "An acquaintance and former neighbour of Matt Hancock is supplying the government with tens of millions of vials for NHS Covid-19 tests despite having had no previous experience of producing medical supplies.
    "Alex Bourne, who used to run a pub close to Hancock’s former constituency home in Suffolk, said he initially offered his services to the UK health secretary several months ago by sending him a personal WhatsApp message.
    "Bourne’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. It is now supplying about 2m medical grade vials a week to the government via a distributor contracted by the NHS.
    "Bourne categorically denies he profited from his personal contact with Hancock. However, the case raises questions for the health secretary and is likely to reignite the row over alleged government cronyism during the pandemic."

  • Untested, untraced: how three-quarters of Covid contacts slip through cracks Guardian animated graphic Nov 26 explains the weaknesses in the test and trace system:
    "It was in May that Boris Johnson promised the UK would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace operation in place within weeks.
    “Our test-and-trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world,” he doubled down in July.
    "But nearly half a year after the system was established, thousands of Covid-19 cases still go undetected each week, leaving severe lockdown restrictions as the only option to prevent hospitals across the country from collapsing.
    "The Guardian has analysed the latest figures on the performance of test and trace to show how people at risk of spreading the virus go missing at every step of the process."

  • Coffey announces 37p benefits rise, after PM announces £24 billion more for defence Disability News Service Nov 26: "Benefits for disabled people are set to rise by just 0.5 per cent next year, the government has announced, despite the increasing costs and cuts to support many of them are facing as a result of the pandemic.
    "The announcement by work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey means that someone in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance (ESA) will receive a rise of just 37p a week from next April.
    "The same 0.5 per cent increase – in line with September’s inflation rate – will apply to personal independence payment and disability living allowance, but not state pensions, which will rise by 2.5 per cent.
    "The 0.5 per cent increase comes even though many disabled people have faced extra costs as a result of the pandemic, including having to switch to more expensive online food deliveries, and paying for personal protective equipment for personal assistants and care workers and extra cleaning products.
    "Coffey also failed again to extend the £20 a week uplift given to claimants of universal credit – introduced as a temporary measure in the early weeks of the pandemic – to those on ESA, jobseeker’s allowance and income support."

  • BBC: Laura Kuenssberg 'promoting Tory austerity' with 'economic illiteracy Insight from Scotland Nov 25 The National:
    “THE BBC has been accused of “promoting economic illiteracy” after its chief political editor claimed the Tories were being forced into the cuts announced in today’s spending review because the UK had “no money left”.
    “… Kuenssberg, the BBC’s chief political editor, said: “If you think about the debate we had really all the way through from the late noughties all the way through to the 2015 election, it was defined by ‘how is the country going to pay back what we had to borrow in the credit crisis?’.
    “This is that, and some, okay? This is the credit card, the national mortgage, everything absolutely maxxed out. Enormous levels of the country basically being in the red.”
    “Kuenssberg was speaking alongside Faisal Islam, the corporation’s economics news editor, who did offer some counter to her position.
    “… Still more experts condemned Kuenssberg’s "unfounded" rhetoric.
    “… Chris Marsh, a blogger and former economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Kuennsberg’s “language [was] hugely irresponsible and unfounded”.
    “… Writing in today's National Extra, George Kerevan highlights how the "cost of servicing the National Debt (circa £2 trillion) is actually falling because of low interest rates. In fact, the latest public spending increases are being funded by the Bank of England, which is owned by the Government. In other words, Chancellor Sunak is taking from one pocket and putting it in another," he writes.
    “Elsewhere, political economist Richard Murphy said that scaremongering around national debt repayments was an “obsession”.
    “He said that “every bit [of the national debt] plays a vital role in keeping the UK, its pensioners, savers and banks, plus its international trade secure. Now which bit of that do you want to forego? Or is that that we really do not need to repay the national debt, and the claim that we have to do so is made up to give reason to tax you (but not the wealthy and big business) quite a lot more and to persuade you that austerity is really necessary when it isn't? You decide.”

  • The AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Data Isn't Up to Snuff Worrying questions from Wired Nov 25 for those who see the cheaper vaccine as the best way forward:
    "Monday’s press release from AstraZeneca presents “convincing evidence that [the vaccine] works,” said Science. But not everyone has been convinced. The price of AstraZeneca’s shares actually dropped on the news, and an analysis from an investment bank concluded, “We believe that this product will never be licensed in the US.” Over at STAT News, Anthony Fauci cautioned that we’ll need to see more data before coming to a conclusion. The skeptics have strong reasons to be concerned: This week’s “promising” results are nothing like the others that we’ve been hearing about in November—and the claims that have been drawn from them are based on very shaky science."

  • Deaths in UK 'a fifth higher than normal levels' BBC report November 24: “The total number of deaths occurring in the UK is nearly a fifth above normal levels, latest figures show.
    “Data from national statisticians show there were almost 14,000 deaths in the week ending 13 November. Some 2,838 of the deaths involved Covid - 600 more than the preceding week, according to the analysis of death certificates.
    “The North West and Yorkshire have seen the most excess deaths. The number of deaths in both regions were more than a third above expected levels.
    “By comparison, the number of deaths in the South East was just 2% above the five-year average.”

  • Matt Hancock gave key Covid role to lobbyist pal (£) Sunday Times Nov 22 with another tale of chumocracy at work:
    “Matt Hancock has failed to declare that he appointed his closest friend from university, who is the director of a lobbying firm, as an adviser — and later gave her a £15,000-a-year role on the board of his department.
    “Gina Coladangelo, 42, is a director and major shareholder at Luther Pendragon, a lobbying firm based in central London that offers clients a “deep understanding of the mechanics of government”. She is also communications director at Oliver Bonas, a fashion and lifestyle store founded by her husband.
    “Hancock, the health secretary, first met Coladangelo, a public relations consultant, while involved with radio at Oxford University and the pair remain close friends. In March, he secretly appointed her as an unpaid adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a six-month contract. She has since accompanied Hancock, 42, to confidential meetings with civil servants and visited No 10 Downing Street.
    … “In September, Hancock appointed Coladangelo as a non-executive director at DHSC, meaning that she is a member of the board that scrutinises the department. There is no public record of the appointment, which will see her earn at least £15,000 of taxpayers’ money and could rise by a further £5,000.”

  • Student nurses on Covid placements in UK call for return of paid NHS contracts Guardian Nov 22: "Student nurses are calling for paid contracts to be reinstated for those on placement in hospitals in the UK, saying they feel “forgotten about” during the second wave of Covid-19.
    "In March, final-year student nurses in the last six months of their degree were offered the option to join the NHS workforce under paid contracts. Other final year students and those in second year could also opt in for paid clinical work.
    "Paid contracts finished in September as pressure on the health service eased, and there are no plans to reintroduce them in any of the four nations of the UK.
    "As admissions to hospitals rise this winter, many student nurses are now being drafted in to help on Covid wards. In England and Scotland, their student status also means they are not automatically eligible for the death-in-service benefits that paid NHS staff receive."

  • Tory Steve Dechan’s £276m in PPE contracts lands him a place in the country (£) Times Nov 22 on yet more questionable behaviour in PPE cronygate:
    "A former Conservative councillor, who was awarded £276m in government contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE), has traded his modest home for a £1.5m, 17th-century Cotswolds mansion with 100 acres of land.
    "Steve Dechan is the owner of Platform-14, a Gloucestershire firm that specialises in medical devices for people with chronic pain. It recorded a loss of almost £500,000 last year.
    "In April, Dechan, 52, was awarded a £120m contract to supply masks. At the time it was the third largest order that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had placed for protective gear. He later received a further £156m to provide gowns and masks. Neither contract went through a competitive tender process."

  • My Little Crony Excellent interactive "visualization of the connections between Tory politicians and companies being awarded government contracts during the pandemic based on a wide range of investigative reporting."

  • A Covid ward consultant's powerful message for conspiracy theorists who say that coronavirus is a 'scamdemic' Manchester Evening News Nov 21 article from Dr David Oliver, an experienced NHS Consultant Physician and medical writer from Manchester:
    "I want to explain how damaging it can be when some individuals or groups pump out untruths, distortions, bile and blame around the NHS frontline response to Covid-19.
    "By November 18, the UK had recorded over 53,000 deaths from or with the virus and both Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have been rising steadily since October.
    "Big regional variations have seen the North West hit hard.
    … "We may all be fed up it and want to wish it all away, but Coronavirus still merits serious attention from policy makers, health and social care workers and the general public.
    "Distorting the truth and attacking the key workers, helps no-one except individuals dining out on the notoriety and attention."

  • Mersey company forced to lay off staff as PPE contracts go to Tory connected firms buying from abroad Liverpool Echo Nov 21 with a local take on the PPE procurement scandal:
    "A family-run Merseyside company has had to lay off a fifth of its workers after its offer to supply PPE to the government was ignored and then refused.
    "The owners of Knowsley-based Florence Roby said they had been left frustrated by the government’s procurement process, that handed out contracts worth millions of pounds to brand new companies but overlooked UK-based businesses with years of manufacturing experience.
    "Business owner Jan Roby said: “If we had been given just one contract we could have got more jobs going for local people.
    “There’s a lot of local raw talent around, we could have brought them in. But we’re struggling to keep going and it’s heartbreaking because only last year we were picked out by the government as one of four model successful factory firms.
    “Yet we weren’t model enough to even quote for a contract for PPE.”

  • Boris Johnson ‘acted illegally’ over jobs for top anti-Covid staff Guardian Nov 21 with more revelations of Cronygate or so-called chumocracy:
    “Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.
    “The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding, who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.
    “The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.”

  • Parliamentary Panel on COVID-19 Finds India's Response to Pandemic Ineffective The Wire India (Nov 21) on the failure of another right wing populist-led government to handle the Covid pandemic properly:
    "Amid rising COVID-19 cases, inadequate beds in government hospitals and the absence of specific guidelines for the treatment resulted in private hospitals charging exorbitant fees, a parliamentary panel on Saturday said, asserting that a sustainable pricing model could have averted many deaths.
    "Chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on health, Ram Gopal Yadav, submitted the report on Outbreak of Pandemic Covid-19 and its Management to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
    "This is the first report by any parliamentary committee on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    "Underlining that healthcare spending in the country with a population of 1.3 billion is “abysmally low”, the panel said the fragility of the Indian health ecosystem posed a big hurdle in generating an effective response against the pandemic.
    “The committee, therefore, strongly recommends the government to increase its investments in the public healthcare system and make consistent efforts to achieve the National Health Policy targets of expenditure up to 2.5% of GDP within two years as the set time frame of the year 2025 is far away and the public health cannot be jeopardised till that time schedule,” the report stated."

  • Reality check coming for deniers of the NHS challenge Lowdown Nov 21 comment on the minimal £3 billion increase in NHS spending announced ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's spending review.

  • How the Government spent £12 billion and still lost control of the virus Nov 20 KONP review by Dr Jacky Davis of Channel 4 Dispatches:
    "Keep Our NHS Public's Jacky Davis, author of NHS for Sale: Myths, Lies and Deception finds that Channel 4's recent Dispatches programme, Lockdown Chaos is right - the Government's chaotic handling of the crisis has caused unnecessary deaths and lost the public's confidence in their ability to keep us safe.
    "South Korea has a population of 51 million. As of this week, it had had 29,000 cases of Covid and under 500 deaths. The UK has a population of 68 million, with 1.4 million cases and 52,000 deaths. These figures are truly shocking and show that it didn't have to be this way in the UK. The big question now is how did our government manage to spend so much money and end up with the highest death rate in Europe?"

  • Johnson And Gove ‘Ripped Up The Rules’ On Covid PPE Contracts For Private Firms Huffington Post Nov 18: "Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have been accused of “ripping up the rules” on procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) with secret fast-track treatment for private firms personally recommended by politicians.
    "Commons spending watchdog chair Meg Hillier hit out after a new National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that a special “high priority lane” had been created by the government earlier this year to source masks, gloves and aprons to protect staff dealing with Covid.
    "The NAO also criticised the lack of transparency and inadequate record-keeping as Johnson and his ministers scrambled to buy PPE and awarded £10.5 billion on contracts without a competitive tender process.
    "Its investigation revealed for the first time the existence of the “high priority lane”, which was created for officials to act on “leads” from key figures in Westminster and Whitehall."

  • PPE suppliers with political ties given 'high-priority' status, report reveals Guardian Nov 18 on the NAO report that exposes PPE purchasing scandals:
    "PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a “high-priority” channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful, according to a report by the parliamentary spending watchdog.
    "Almost 500 suppliers with links to politicians or senior officials were referred to the channel, where their pitches for contracts were automatically treated as credible by government officials charged with procuring PPE."

  • England's contact tracing system so complex workers fear wrong advice could be given Telegraph Nov 18 finds room for some news amid the ravings of anti-maskers and Covid deniers:
    "England’s test and trace service is so complex that those operating it say they fear that potentially dangerous symptoms could be missed or the wrong advice given to the public.
    "Contact tracers speaking anonymously to The Telegraph said they also worried that people who test positive for Covid-19 are being called repeatedly to ensure they comply with orders to self-isolate. One extended family got 70 calls in one day, due to an oversight in the system.
    "The NHS Test and Trace system - touted as “world-beating” when it was launched by Boris Johnson - is increasingly struggling to reach enough patients and their contacts.
    "According to a Test and Trace tracker developed by the Health Foundation, an independent think tank, the system has only been able to reach an average of 60 per cent of those who had been in close contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus."

  • Highest number of weekly coronavirus deaths since mid-May in England and Wales, ONS figures show Independent Nov 17 with a grim reminder for the Covid deniers:
    "The highest number of weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has been recorded since mid-May, new figures show.
    "A total of 1,937 people died from Covid-19 complications in the week up to 6 November, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is up from 1,379 deaths in the previous week — a jump of 40 per cent -— and marks the highest weekly figure since 22 May.
    "The number of Covid-related deaths that occurred in hospitals rose by 442 between 30 October and 6 November, bringing the weekly total to 1,520. "

  • Sky high costs paid for PPE - PQ Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan , Commons Nov 17: - The price of an FFP2 mask, bought by the government, increased by 1400% & gowns by 350%... so can the minister categorically assure the country that no Tory Party donors are profiteering from the pandemic?

  • Go-between paid £21m in taxpayer funds for NHS PPE BBC News Nov 17: hard edged story with predictable softening by inclusion of government denial.
    "A Spanish businessman who acted as a go-between to secure protective garments for NHS staff in the coronavirus pandemic was paid $28m (£21m) in UK taxpayer cash.
    "The consultant had been in line for a further $20m of UK public funds, documents filed in a US court reveal. The legal papers also reveal the American supplier of the PPE called the deals "lucrative".
    "The Department of Health said proper checks are done for all contracts."

  • Confusion over hospital’s ‘critical incident’ (£)HSJ report Nov 17: "A hospital trust struggling under an influx of covid patients has denied it declared a critical incident after confusion about how it had responded to extreme pressure over the last few days.
    "Medway Foundation Trust was understood to have declared the incident after a difficult weekend was followed by an even more challenging Monday. But at lunchtime on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours after being notified of HSJ’s understanding, it issued a statement from chief executive James Devine saying no “official critical incident” had been declared.
    “While we are seeing an increase in demand for our services due to an increase in coronavirus patients, we are working with NHS partners across Kent and Medway to maintain services for our patients and will continue to review our approach,” he said.
    "However, NHS staff have continued to contact HSJ with concerns about how the trust was coping. One source told HSJ the pressure within the hospital was at levels not seen before. Another spoke of staff members being in tears amid long delays for ambulance handovers. "

  • Rishi Sunak refuses to say if he will profit from Moderna Covid vaccine Guardian Nov 17 on yet another shady side to a profoundly dodgy ex-banker Tory chancellor: "The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has refused to disclose whether he will profit from a surge in the share price of the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna, one of the biggest investments held by the hedge fund he co-founded before entering parliament.
    "Moderna has become the latest biotech firm to announce successful trials of its vaccine, declaring on Monday that it was 94.5% effective in trials.
    "Sunak was a founding partner of Theleme Partners, a major investor in Moderna, and one of the executives managing its US office. He left the firm in 2013, returning to the UK to pursue his political career.
    "It is not known whether the chancellor retained any investment in the Theleme fund after leaving. Theleme is registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven which does not make company records public. Ordinarily, a partner in a hedge fund would own a stake in the management company and have money invested in its fund."

  • Mass testing for covid-19 in the UK Hard hitting BMJ Editorial Nov 16 on the flaws of the Moonshot mass testing project:
    “Despite claims by the city council that the Innova test is “very accurate with high sensitivity and specificity,” it has not been evaluated in these conditions. The test’s instructions for use state that it should not be used on asymptomatic people.
    “A preliminary evaluation from Porton Down and Oxford University9 throws little light on its performance in asymptomatic people or in the field. It suggests the test misses between one in two and one in four cases.
    “… Spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an unevaluated underdesigned national programme leading to a regressive, insufficiently supported intervention—in many cases for the wrong people—cannot be defended.”

  • ‘Mega labs’ to open early 2021, doubling government’s testing capacity Independent Nov 16 on the latest extension of privatisation in the government's response to Covid 19:
    "The government has announced the opening of two new “mega labs” early next year, which are set to more than double the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity.
    "The laboratories will be able to process up to 600,000 samples a day when operating at full capacity, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
    "One will be based in Leamington Spa and the other in Scotland. The exact location of the latter is yet to be confirmed, said Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman, calling it an "important step in our fight against the virus”."

  • Sweden limits public gatherings as pandemic second wave swells Nov 16: the wheels fall off Sweden's policy of doing nothing to combat Covid:
    "The Swedish government on Monday moved to cut the size of public gatherings sharply as it sought to come to grips with a second wave of the pandemic that has seen record daily numbers of new cases and growing pressure on hospitals.
    "Swedes are not sticking to coronavirus recommendations as well as in the spring and public gatherings will now be limited to eight people, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said, down from a previous upper limit of 300.
    "This is the new norm for the entire society," Lofven told a news conference. "Don't go to gyms, don't go to libraries, don't host dinners. Cancel."
    "The resurgence of the disease hit Sweden weeks later than much of continental Europe, but the number of new infections has picked up speed since the turn of the month, with rising admissions to intensive care units and general Covid-19 wards."

  • 'Chumocracy': how Covid revealed the new shape of the Tory establishment Guardian Nov 15: “The anti-establishment claims of a government led by Johnson and Dominic Cummings were always audacious, and in the appointments and contracts awarded during the pandemic, the shape of a Tory establishment has come into focus. Critics are calling it a “chumocracy”.
    “Companies benefiting from government contracts awarded during the pandemic have links, among others, to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser. Cummings shock departure from Downing Street following the resignation of his close ally Lee Cain, who was head of communications, now signal a realignment of power in No 10, but the web of connections drawing complaints of “cronyism” extend beyond any single Tory faction.”

  • George Pascoe-Watson among lobbyists given secret access to Covid meetings Sunday Times Nov 15 link to their extended exposee of "chumocracy": "One of Britain’s most influential lobbyists secretly served as an adviser to a health minister for six months — before sending sensitive information on lockdown policy to paying clients.
    "George Pascoe-Watson is chairman of Portland Communications, a lobbying firm that represents pharmaceutical companies, weapons manufacturers and banks.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) appointed Pascoe-Watson, 55, a former journalist, as an adviser during the pandemic’s first wave on April 9 without announcing the move."

  • Chumocracy first in line as ministers splash Covid cash Sunday Times feature Nov 15 “… the government has awarded £1.5bn of taxpayers’ money to companies linked to the Conservative Party during the coronavirus pandemic. None of the firms were prominent government suppliers before this year.
    “In normal times, ministers must advertise contracts for privately provided services so that any company has a chance of securing the work. A person’s connections are not supposed to help.
    “The government is also legally required to publish details of awarded contracts within 30 days, so the public knows how its money is being spent.
    “During the pandemic, neither has happened. Facing a sudden need to deliver millions of items of PPE, test kits and vaccines, ministers used emergency procedures to award work directly.
    “According to Tussell, a data provider on official spending, Whitehall departments have taken an average of 72 days to publicise who has received money, meaning public debate has often moved on before decisions can be scrutinised.”

  • Norfolk Covid-19 test centre closed after coronavirus outbreak among staff Eastern Daily Press 15 Nov: “A drive-through coronavirus testing site on the edge of Norwich has had to close - because of an outbreak of Covid-19 among the staff who work there.
    “The closure of the government testing centre at Postwick Park and Ride site on Sunday morning meant people who had booked tests at the centre were redirected elsewhere.
    “They were told they would have to travel to Great Yarmouth or Ipswich to be tested. "There were reports that up to 14 workers at the centre had tested positive for the virus since Friday.
    "A spokesman for G4S said: … “Those with tests booked have been redirected to nearby test sites.”

  • Thousands of NHS staff face a 'disgusting' 200 per cent hike in hospital parking fees, with new permits costing as much as £1,440 Mail on Sunday Nov 15 steams in to attack … the government:
    "Thousands of NHS staff will be hit with ‘disgusting’ hikes for their hospital car parking, making a mockery of Ministers’ temporary free parking pledge, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
    "An internal document leaked to this newspaper shows the cost of annual parking permits will go up by 200 per cent for NHS workers at one of the UK’s biggest trusts, with new permits costing up to £1,440.
    "One senior nurse, who has worked for the NHS for 30 years, will see her annual parking charge rise from £240 to £720 as a result."

  • How a national response could address an unprecedented COVID-19 surge across Canada Nov 14 warning from CBC: "COVID-19 levels are surging across Canada at rates never before seen in the pandemic and showing no signs of slowing down.
    "The coronavirus continues to spread like wildfire both in areas that were hit hard in the first wave and those that were practically untouched previously, and the reaction from the federal government has taken a desperate tone.
    ""I'm imploring the premiers and our mayors to please do the right thing," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week. "Act now to protect public health."
    "We're now averaging 4,000 coronavirus cases and 50 deaths per day, with more than 45,000 active cases across the country.
    "A record of nearly 5,000 cases and 83 deaths were also reported in a single day in Canada this week, and we're on track to record over 10,000 cases a day by early next month."

  • Lockdown may be looming for Ontario — but what that looks like isn't clear CBC Nov 14 on Ontario, which could face 6,500 daily cases by December: ""We're staring down the barrel of another lockdown," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday. "And I will not hesitate for a second if we have to go further."
    "It was a blunt statement about a blunt instrument: some combination of widespread restrictions, closures and a potential declaration of emergency.
    "It's a situation few Ontarians want to see again, Ford among them — but some warn it may now be unavoidable as the province's COVID-19 cases keep surging to new heights, with more people filling hospital beds week after week.
    "We're not looking down the barrel at a lockdown," said Toronto-based physician epidemiologist Dr. Nitin Mohan. "A lockdown is inevitable."

  • Sweden has admitted its coronavirus immunity predictions were wrong as cases soar across the country Business Insider Nov 14 on Sweden where the policy of ignoring Covid and relying on "herd immunity" has gone horribly wrong, and led to one of the highest per capita death rates in the world:
    "Sweden's chief epidemiologist has acknowledged the country is experiencing a second surge in coronavirus cases despite previously predicting that the number of infections in the autumn would be "quite low" because of the country's no-lockdown policy.
    "In the autumn there will be a second wave," the chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, told the Financial Times back in May. "Sweden will have a high level of immunity and the number of cases will probably be quite low."
    "The latest figures, however, show Sweden is experiencing higher levels of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths than its neighbors, relative to its population size, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
    "Sweden recorded 4,658 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to official figures reported by Reuters, with new daily cases having surged in recent weeks."

  • The vaccine scramble Useful reminder from Labour Hub Nov 14: "After the relief at the discovery of a vaccine that is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, the pressing question is: who is going to get it?
    "For billions of people around the world, there will not be a vaccine any time soon. The company which announced that it has a vaccine says it has the capacity to produce the two required doses for 675 million people by the end of 2021. But rather than distribute them globally according to need, rich countries have already bought up most of the doses.
    "The obvious solution is to bring together the world’s resources to produce more of the vaccine as fast as possible. The problem is that Pfizer has exclusive rights to make this vaccine and has no plan to share it. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a plan that allows companies and governments to work together to scale up production – a plan that Pfizer has called “nonsense”. Meanwhile, on Monday, the value of its shares went up by 11%."

  • ‘No One Is Listening to Us’ Nov 13 feature in The Atlantic on the toll the Covid pandemic is taking on US health workers as beds fill up again:
    "In the U.S., states now report more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point this year—and 40 percent more than just two weeks ago.
    "Emergency rooms are starting to fill again with COVID-19 patients. Utah, where Nathan Hatton is a pulmonary specialist at the University of Utah Hospital, is currently reporting 2,500 confirmed cases a day, roughly four times its summer peak. Hatton says that his intensive-care unit is housing twice as many patients as it normally does. His shifts usually last 12 to 24 hours, but can stretch to 36. “There are times I’ll come in in the morning, see patients, work that night, work all the next day, and then go home,” he told me."

  • Government fails to follow own transparency guidelines with over 200 PPE contracts Channel 4 fact Check from Nov 13: "The government failed to follow its own transparency guidelines over 200 times on contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) worth nearly £6bn of public money in total, FactCheck can reveal.
    "Departments were reminded in March this year that they could make deals for vital supplies without going through the usual competition processes because of the coronavirus crisis – that’s always been the case in an emergency. But they were told that when that happens, “you should publish a contract award notice (regulation 50) within 30 days of awarding the contract.”
    "Our analysis, which covers the period between 1 January and 28 October this year, found 246 “direct award” contracts for PPE where the government failed to meet that deadline. Though ours was not an exhaustive search.
    "Among them, we found 115 deals that were published more than 90 days after being awarded without a competitive process. Together, they were worth £3.1bn."

  • Covid-19: politicisation, “corruption,” and suppression of science Grim warnings in Nov 13 BMJ editorial: "Politicians and governments are suppressing science. They do so in the public interest, they say, to accelerate availability of diagnostics and treatments. They do so to support innovation, to bring products to market at unprecedented speed.
    "Both of these reasons are partly plausible; the greatest deceptions are founded in a grain of truth. But the underlying behaviour is troubling.
    "Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement.
    "So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science."

  • Carillion directors to face FCA action for misleading investors Financial Times Nov 13 on continuing aftershocks of the collapse of a major private contractor that left NHS PFI projects in chaos:
    "“The UK’s financial regulator has said it is planning to take action against former directors of Carillion, almost three years after the government contractor collapsed under £7bn of liabilities, leaving taxpayers to pick up the pieces.
    “On Friday, the Financial Conduct Authority announced that it had issued warning notices to the company itself and to “certain previous executive directors” over a series of breaches of financial rules before the business failed.
    “These include giving “false or misleading signals as to the value of its shares”, “failing to take reasonable care to ensure that its announcements were not misleading, false or deceptive”, and “failing to take reasonable steps to establish and maintain adequate procedures, systems and controls”.”

  • Feldman health advisory role with government questioned Financial Time Nov 13 revealing more underhand dealing by ministers:
    “Former Conservative party chairman Andrew Feldman was quietly given a job advising a health minister in the spring despite potential conflicts of interest with clients of the lobbying firm that he runs.
    “Lord Feldman, who has been mooted as a contender for next Downing Street chief of staff, worked as an unpaid adviser to health minister Lord Bethell between March 24 and May 15 this year, an investigation by Open Democracy, the news website, has established.
    “At the time the government was assembling an informal “task force” with private and public sector organisations to scale up coronavirus testing as a precursor to its test and trace programme.
    “The Tory peer is also managing director of Tulchan, a position he has held since last year after joining the PR consultancy in 2018. Yet his advisory role, which was supported by a “small civil service private office”, according to officials, was never formally announced by the government.”

  • Safety officials had 'political' pressure to approve PPE BBC News Nov 13: "Britain's safety watchdog felt leaned on by the government to make factually incorrect statements about PPE suits bought for NHS staff earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, the BBC has found.
    "Emails reveal how the Health and Safety Executive said protective suits, bought by the government in April, had not been tested to the correct standard.
    "But the emails describe "political" pressure to approve them for use."

  • Covid patients ‘head to toe’ on trolleys in A&E spark warnings over ‘lethal’ situation Independent Nov 12 lifts the lid on the desperate situation in Greater Manchester:
    "Patients, including those with the coronavirus, are being kept “head to toe” on trolleys in accident and emergency departments in Manchester, with some forced to wait up to 40 hours for a bed.
    "The “dangerous” situation has sparked warnings from the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine over the “potentially lethal” crowding of patients in A&Es across the country this winter.
    "Katherine Henderson said she was “absolutely terrified” by what was happening in some departments. She said she had warned NHS England about the dangers of crowding patients in A&E but that not enough action had been taken.
    "She told The Independent: “Crowding in A&E is unsafe, but with coronavirus it is potentially lethal. We have said this endlessly to NHS England."

  • More nurses on NMC register but risk of ‘future problems’ Nursing Times Nov 12 on the impact of international nurse recruitment to the NHS “falling off a cliff”:
    “Dr Billy Palmer, senior research fellow at Nuffield Trust, said the figures around international recruitment showed the pandemic was “storing up problems for the future”. Research it has conducted with other leading health think tanks determined that 5,000 migrant nurses a year were needed in England alone if the government was to meet its promise of delivering 50,000 extra nurses by 2025.
    “Before the pandemic we were briefly on track – but now these figures show international recruitment has fallen by two thirds, compared with this time last year,” warned Dr Palmer. “In the months covered here, we lost 500 nurses from the EEA, and only gained 1,600 from the rest of the world.
    “This will mean we need to recruit even more from abroad in future, at a time of global shortage and when we are about to impose more costs and bureaucracy on EU migrants.”
    “The 50,000-nurse pledge was a key aspect of the Conservative Party’s manifesto that led to Boris Johnson becoming prime minster in December 2019.”

  • 'Hostile environment' supporter appointed to EHRC equality watchdog You couldn't make this up: Middle East Eye Nov 12 with news of a hugely unsuitable appointment: "The UK government has appointed a supporter of its "hostile environment" policy as a commissioner on its equalities watchdog, the EHRC, which is currently investigating the Home Office over the linked Windrush scandal in which hundreds of people from Black and ethnic minorities were wrongly deported.
    "David Goodhart's appointment was announced on Wednesday on the same day that a scathing report by parliament's human rights committee found that the Equality and Human Rights Commission was failing to promote and protect Black people's rights.
    "Goodhart is a journalist and author who currently heads an immigration and integration research unit at the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank.
    "He has written in support of the Home Office's "hostile environment" policy, a series of measures introduced during the 2010s under then-home secretary Theresa May that were intended to make life more difficult for people living irregularly in the UK."

  • Test And Trace Fails To Reach 124,000 'Close Contacts' Of Covid Cases In A Single Week Huffington Post Nov 12: "Boris Johnson’s Test and Trace service has failed to reached 124,000 “close contacts” of people with Covid-19 in a single week, new figures show.
    "The controversial system is continuing to miss nearly 40% of those identified as having been near someone who tested positive in England, according to the latest statistics for October 29 to November 4.
    "Although there has been a slight improvement, some 60.4% of close contacts were not reached and therefore not told to self-isolate for the required 14 days.
    "Government advisers have consistently told the PM that an 80% contact rate is needed to make the entire service viable to break transmission of the virus and stop its spread."

  • NHSE: Some GP practices will have to vaccinate patients on Christmas Day Pulse Nov 12 on the latest government edicts apparently designed to make life as a GP as miserable and stressful as possible: "GP practices in some areas will need to provide Covid vaccinations on Christmas Day, NHS England has confirmed to Pulse.
    "NHS England emphasised that it will not be an explicit requirement that all practices will have to open on Christmas Day when the DES is published later this month.
    "But they said the nature of the vaccine means that some GP-led vaccination centres will inevitably need to provide the vaccinations over bank holidays during the festive period.
    "The letter informing practices about the Covid vaccination programme had said that vaccination sites ‘will need to be able to deliver a vaccination service seven days per week including bank holidays between 8am and 8pm’."

  • England test-and-trace system hit by 'huge' IT problems last month Guardian Nov 12: "The government’s struggling test and trace system for England was hit by “huge” IT issues that delayed calls to some of the most vulnerable coronavirus patients last month, NHS emails show.
    "Sources said the previously undisclosed problems led to delays of up to 48 hours in reaching potentially infected people linked to care homes and hospitals.
    "The government’s scientific advisers have said 80% of an infected person’s close contacts should be reached within 24 hours to stem the spread of the disease.
    "The IT failure happened in mid-October when the numbers of infections and people in hospital were rising exponentially across large parts of the UK. They will add to concerns that the £12bn system has failed to keep up with the second wave, which it was supposed to help prevent."

  • As Covid cases build, more people waited over 12 hours for a bed at one Greater Manchester hospital trust than anywhere else in the country - top medics say "it's dangerous and unsafe" Manchester Evening News Nov 12: "“Two hundred people waited more than 12 hours for a bed at A&Es run by Pennine Acute NHS Trust last month as the second wave of Covid and the start of winter pressures hit simultaneously.
    “The trust - which runs the Royal Oldham, North Manchester General and Fairfield General - recorded more 12-hour waits than anywhere else in the country and accounted for a sixth of those experienced nationally.
    “It is understood the pressures have been particularly severe at the Royal Oldham, which serves a borough that has had consistently high Covid infection rates for months, a situation now feeding through into hospitals.
    “… Overall, the number of people waiting 12 hours or more for a bed - once being assessed at A&E as needing one - has more than quadrupled in Greater Manchester compared to this time last year.”

  • Deloitte’s COVID ‘bonanza’: this is how much the British public has paid so far Caroline Molloy for Open democracy Nov 12: "The Department of Health handed £38.8 million to accountancy firm Deloitte in July this year, for unspecified “services” relating to Test and Trace, new figures reveal.
    "This is the first time we’ve known how much Deloitte is being paid for its work on the “failing” Test and Trace system.
    "The payments are separate from the £22 million of Deloitte COVID contracts published by the government so far – which involve other, unrelated COVID work such as sourcing ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment.
    "Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said Test and Trace was resulting in a “bonanza for discredited outsourcing firms and consultants.” He told openDemocracy: “No one knows what this money has been actually spent on but we do know Test and Trace has failed to keep the virus under control and the consequence is Boris Johnson’s hard lockdown.”

  • Test and trace system has yet to see major progress as second wave persists NHS Confederation, Nov 12, warning of the need to improve disastrous privatised test and trace: "“There have some modest improvements, for example, in reduced turnaround times for in-person test results, but we are not seeing the rapid or significant progress that will be needed to make the test and trace system the ‘world beating’ programme we were promised.
    "It is vital that the time remaining in this new lockdown period is used to make this progress, as we wait for the wider rollout of a vaccine."

  • COVID-19-positive nurses in North Dakota get OK to keep working amid staffing shortage Becker's Hospital Review Nov 11 with a surprising story emphasising staff shortages:
    "The state's interim health officer, Dirk Wilke, revised an order to allow the measure, Gov. Doug Burgum said Nov. 9 at a local news conference. The move would pose little risk of spread, as infected nurses and physicians wear personal protective equipment and would only care for patients who already have the virus, Mr. Burgum said. The revision is part of the CDC's crisis guidelines to mitigate staffing shortages and comes as the state confronts increased hospitalizations and maximum bed capacity. "

  • Trying to “Protect the NHS” in the United Kingdom New England Journal of Medicine summary by Brit Dr David Hunter Nov 11:
    "A centerpiece of the government’s response was to be a “world-beating” test, trace, and isolate (TTI) system. Although nearly all public health officers recommended that such a system should reinforce local “boots on the ground” capacity, contracts were given to private companies to build a highly centralized call center, in which minimally trained workers would contact people who had tested positive and attempt to reach their close contacts with the advice to self-isolate.
    "The leaders of the laboratory process similarly ignored requests to strengthen local laboratories and instead built from scratch a network of seven “Lighthouse Laboratories” to which samples had to be sent long distances, with a consequent increase in test turnaround time.
    "Not surprisingly, the TTI system has consistently underperformed, even when case numbers were much lower in July and August. It is now unable to keep up with the surge in infections, and the companies managing it have finally reached out to local public health authorities for help."

  • Labs sound alarm on coronavirus testing capacity, supplies US story on labs under strain Nov 11, Politico: "Clinical laboratories are warning they could soon face delays processing coronavirus tests, similar to slowdowns this summer, as infections again surge to record numbers across the country.
    "The nation’s testing capacity has increased, but not fast enough to keep pace with the swarm of new cases. Over the past week, the U.S. conducted nearly 10 million coronavirus tests, an increase of 12.5 percent from the previous week, while confirmed cases rose 40.8 percent to more than 875,000.
    "Quest Diagnostics this week said its average turnaround time for PCR testing is two days, but private labs say results will take longer to process once the number of new samples begins to exceed testing capacity.
    "The surge in demand for testing will mean that some members could reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days," said Julie Khani, the president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents private labs, including LabCorp and Quest."

  • A toxic UK-US deal is just as likely under President Biden Guardian Nov 11 with a grim reminder: "Trade deals are driven by big business interests. The demand that we import chlorinated chicken comes from US agribusiness. The demand that the NHS pay higher charges for medicines comes from the pharmaceutical industry. The demand to drop our digital services tax comes from Silicon Valley’s big tech corporations.
    "That’s why it was the Obama-Biden administration that pushed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the US-EU trade deal that caused controversy across Europe, and that looked very similar to the US deal currently under discussion. "

  • Elective care in England Important Nov 11 long read from Health Foundation notes:
    "Before the pandemic, meeting the 18-week standard would have required the NHS to treat an additional 500,000 patients a year for the next 4 years – an unprecedented increase in activity, which looked unrealistic before COVID-19 and looks even harder now.
    "The number of people waiting for consultant-led elective care was 4.2 million in August 2020, around 196,000 less than at the end of 2019 (4.4 million). But this is only the case because the 32% reduction in the number of elective care pathways completed was exceeded by the 34% reduction in the number of new pathways being started."

  • Vaccine taskforce chief may benefit from £49m UK investment Guardian Nov 10 on yet more chronic Tory cronyism:
    "Kate Bingham, chair of the government’s vaccine taskforce, is facing questions over whether she will benefit from a $65m (£49m) UK taxpayer-backed investment into a fund run by her private equity firm.
    "Bingham, a venture capitalist married to Treasury minister Jesse Norman, has already come under fire over allegations she revealed sensitive information to a private investors’ conference and insisted on hiring costly PR advisers.
    "She is expected to leave her post at the end of the year, according to a government source who said her contract ran until January 2021 and she had always intended to leave at that point."

  • UK set to cut Covid self-isolation to 10 days after Cummings and Whitty row Guardian Nov 10 on the continuing contradiction between ideology and science, and the government's refusal to recognise that for millions isolation only possible with full financial support:
    "The Covid self-isolation period is expected to be cut from two weeks to 10 days after a row involving Prof Chris Whitty and Dominic Cummings, who had been pushing for a more drastic change, the Guardian understands.
    "The reduced quarantine time is to be made possible by increasing the use of rapid tests – for which the UK government has paid more than £500m, despite the fact that some are not designed to test people without symptoms.
    "It comes amid growing concerns about compliance, with only 11% of people abiding fully by the current two-week self-isolation rule, according to research by King’s College London in September."

  • The UK needs a sustainable strategy for COVID-19 Lancet article spells out sustainable combined strategy to contain and deal with Covid-19. It begins with the basics:
    "To avoid repeated lockdowns and their impacts, we need a sustainable COVID-19 public health strategy. Here, we make seven evidence-based recommendations (a schematic representation is available in the appendix).
    First, we need urgent reform of the ineffective private sector run find, test, trace, isolate, and support system.
    "As recommended by Independent SAGE, the current system in England must be integrated with and led by National Health Service (NHS) England, with leadership from local Directors of Public Health, so that local knowledge can facilitate timely contact tracing. To ensure prompt testing, we recommend bringing together all current test providers in a national COVID-19 testing consortium, under the oversight and management of NHS England.
    "To make this system effective, people should be supported to isolate when required (so-called supported isolation) with accommodation, domestic assistance, financial support, and greater resourcing for mutual-aid groups.
    "We urge the government to cease extravagant promises about aspirational technologies. Technologies only deliver health care or save lives when integrated into clinical practice in an adequately resourced health-care system.
    "Focusing on the potential of a technology that does not yet exist, or is not yet widely used in the NHS, might undermine trust in the government and hamper the pandemic response."

  • NHS test and trace: Dido Harding’s husband told to self-isolate Guardian Nov 9 on a gruesome Tory twosome, who apparently don't have contact wityh each other very often:
    "The MP husband of the NHS test – and trace chief, Dido Harding, has been told to self-isolate after potentially coming into contact with someone who has coronavirus.
    "The Conservative MP John Penrose was alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app, part of the operation overseen by his wife. Lady Harding had not been told to self-isolate, Penrose said.
    "The Weston-super-Mare MP said on Twitter: “It never rains but it pours…. my NHS app has just gone off, telling me to self-isolate, which I’m doing. No symptoms so far *crosses fingers*.”
    "Asked if he had spoken to his wife about it, he told PA Media: “We are trying to make sure we are doing it by the book, if I can put it that way. Her NHS app has not gone off, so it’s someone I have been in contact with rather than her.”

  • The Pfizer vaccine news is welcome but for the NHS, this battle is far from over Independent overview Nov 9: "The British government has ordered up to 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, amid optimism the medication could be the way out of the Covid dark ages.
    "But we are not there yet and there are significant reasons to hold off celebrating just yet.
    "First off, the second wave crisis engulfing hospitals in northern England is going to spread to the south. The national lockdown will help reduce the numbers of patients being admitted to hospital but only after the next two weeks. Until then numbers may continue rising, operations will be cancelled. The traditional winter crisis period for the health service is fast approaching."

  • UK vaccine taskforce chief Kate Bingham expected to quit Guardian Nov 9 on the latest Tory crony caught in the spotlight:
    "Kate Bingham, the beleaguered chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, is expected to leave her post at the end of the year, according to a government source.
    "Bingham, a venture capitalist married to Treasury minister Jesse Norman, has come under fire for her use of expensive PR consultants and allegations over a presentation to a private investors’ conference. She is set to leave her post when her contract runs out in January 2021, with the source saying it “had always been clear” that was her intention.
    "Labour had asked the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, to investigate claims that Bingham disclosed sensitive information about potential targets for the government’s vaccines push to a $200-a-head private conference."

  • UK government fails to publish details of £4bn Covid contracts with private firms Guardian Nov 9 on the ongoing fight by the Good Law project to expose the network of contracts worth billions handed out with no competition or scrutiny:
    "The government has failed to publish any information about £4bn of Covid-related contracts awarded to private companies, in what appears to be a continuing breach of UK law.
    "The gap was uncovered by campaign group the Good Law Project, which along with a cross-party group of MPs, is suing the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in the high court. They are accusing his ministry of an “egregious and widespread failure to comply with legal duties and established policies”.
    "The group is warning of a “transparency gap” and is pushing for an independent judge-led inquiry into the billions spent on personal protective equipment, medicines and virus testing and tracing since the pandemic began."

  • US coronavirus cases pass 10 million after 60% surge in two weeks Mirror Nov 9 with the latest on the pandemic worsened by the irresponsibility of Donald Trump:
    "The US has confirmed that its coronavirus cases have surpassed 10 million after daily infections surged more than 60% over two weeks.
    "The news was announced tonight by John Hopkins University, as President-Elect Joe Biden revealed he was forming a new coronavirus taskforce and urged all Americans to not politicise the pandemic.
    "As the nation passes the grim milestone tonight and cases continue to surge in nearly every state, there was a clear sign from Biden that he is well aware that it will be the biggest challenge facing him when he takes office in January.
    "America has the worst death toll of any nation in the world, with close to 250,000 among the dead."

  • Adult day care centres denied access to ‘vital’ coronavirus testing Independent Nov 9: "Thousands of people with dementia, learning difficulties and other mental health conditions, as well as their carers, have been unable to get tests for the coronavirus and face missing out on vital support, The Independent can reveal.
    "The government has rolled out extensive testing in care homes and hospital settings, yet the same programme has not been provided for day centres, many of which have been forced to scale back the services they offer.
    "The charity Carers UK warned that a lack of testing “will be a factor in stopping hundreds of centres” from being able to deliver crucial services for thousands of vulnerable people."

  • Vaccines tsar hit by 'cronyism' claims row to step down at end of the year Mirror Nov 9 on the crony in the media spotlight: "UK Vaccines Taskforce Chair Kate Bingham is to step down from her post at the end of the year.
    "The Financial Times reported the head of Boris Johnson's vaccine taskforce will step down amid criticism that she spent £670,000 of taxpayer's money with a PR firm.
    "Meanwhile the Tories were accused of “dodgy cronyism” over claims Bingham showed US financiers private Government documents at a $200-a-head conference.
    "The FT reports Government officials said of Bingham: "She's off at the end of the year."

  • As Millions of Americans Seek ACA Coverage, Republicans Aim to Overturn the Law at the U.S. Supreme Court US Commonwealth Fund (Nov 9) explains the fresh attempt in Supreme Court to overturn the remainder of President Obama’s Affordable care Act:
    “The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) open-enrollment period — when consumers can shop and sign up for health care on the marketplaces — is now underway. The number of Americans seeking coverage in the marketplaces this fall may exceed last year’s figure because millions have lost jobs and job-based health insurance during the pandemic.
    “In addition, the fear of COVID-19 may drive other uninsured people to the marketplaces in search of protection from an illness that can be severe and costly.
    “But 10 days into the open enrollment period, on November 10, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that seeks to overturn the ACA.
    “In the middle of a raging pandemic, with more than 56,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the justices will hear arguments from Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the Trump administration that the law should be struck down.”

  • Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine found to be 90% effective in 'great day for science and humanity' Sky News with some good news Nov 9: "The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been found to be 90% effective in preventing people from getting the virus.
    "Phase 3 of Pfizer's trial involved 43,538 participants from six countries. They received two doses of either the immunisation or a placebo, with 90% protected from the virus within 28 days of having their jabs.
    "Only 94 people who took part in the trial developed coronavirus and no serious safety concerns were reported, the US pharmaceutical firm said.
    "… A UK government spokesman said it is "optimistic about a breakthrough" but urged people to remember "there are no guarantees"."

  • NHS staff to get twice-weekly home covid tests with immediate effect HSJ report Nov 9: "The NHS will rollout twice-weekly asymptomatic testing for all patient-facing staff by the end of next week, according to a letter from NHS medical director Stephen Powis.
    "Government said only last week that universal asymptomatic staff testing would start in December, but government has now agreed it will bring this forward to this week for a first tranche of 34 trusts; and all others next week. HSJ has asked if primary care is covered.
    "The tests at 34 trusts this week will cover “over 250,000 staff,” Professor Powis said. He set out plans for the new testing regime in a letter to Commons health and social care committee chair Jeremy Hunt who has been pressing the government for routine staff testing since the summer."

  • NHS England should manage test and trace system, says Independent SAGE BMJ Nov 9 report on continued miserable performance of costly private contractors:
    "The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Independent SAGE) has renewed its call for urgent reform of the government’s covid-19 test and trace system,1 urging that it be replaced by a system overseen by the NHS to avoid future lockdowns.
    "Independent SAGE showed that 1 217 214 contacts have been reached by England’s NHS Test and Trace service since May at an approximate cost of £10 000 per head so far, based on the government’s commitment to spend £12bn on a tracking system. Contact tracing in the national service is provided by the private companies Serco and Sitel.
    "Latest figures show that the number of contacts traced has remained stagnant at around 60%. However, Kit Yates of the University of Bath concluded after analysing government data that only 14% of those who provided contacts have been reached and advised to quarantine. “We know that not everyone is isolating, because it’s not practical for people and they’re not being supported effectively,” he said, projecting that only 5-10% of those told to isolate are doing so."

  • Public sector pay ‘very likely’ to be frozen ‘at 1% for at least two years’ Nursing Notes Nov 9: "Public sector workers are “very likely” to have pay rises capped “at 1% for at least the next two years”, according to a source close to the issue.
    "An unnamed Westminster official speaking exclusively with NursingNotes said; “We are in a difficult position – the Government has to decide between pay rises for public sector workers or supporting the most vulnerable in society for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic”.
    "The source continued; “I have seen plans that scope capping public sector pay rises at 1% for at least the next two years.” Adding; “Entering a second lockdown and extending the furlough scheme makes this very likely.”
    "A pay cap would see NHS workers hit especially hard after they were missed out of a pay deal for public sector workers earlier this year.
    "Figures suggest the most experienced frontline nurses have experienced a 20% real-terms pay cut over the past decade."

  • Director of beleaguered Test & Trace replaced by trust CEO (£)HSJ points to a reshuffle at the top of the failing service that leaves the useless Dido Harding in charge:
    "A director of the beleaguered coronavirus test and trace programme has been replaced by a trust chief executive, HSJ has learned.
    "Haroona Franklin was brought into the programme on a temporary basis from HM Revenue and Customs to run the contact tracing component, which has consistently failed to meet targets set by the government’s scientific advisors.
    "She will be replaced by Steve McManus, chief executive of the Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust, who is part-way through a six-month secondment to NHS Test and Trace and has been in an operational role in the “contain” part of the programme.
    "Ms Franklin is understood to be moving to an as-yet-unspecified new role in the Department of Health and Social Care."

  • On health care, neither party offered what US voters want Balancing comment from The Lowdown (Nov 8) on the welcome ousting of lying crook Donald Trump (which was still unresolved when the article was written).
    Biden's health care policies are a long way short of what most Americans want -- even according to a Fox News poll!
    The lowdown analysis concludes: "A poll for Kaiser Health News found that most voters preferred Biden’s limited policies on health to Trump’s. But having rejected the bolder proposals of Medicare for All, he has limited his offer to capping price increases for already over-priced brand name and some generic drugs, and giving consumers subsidies and tax credits to help pay exorbitant premiums, with an option to purchase a public insurance plan (which would be free for the poorest, based on need).
    "In June the Democrats in Congress passed a proposal to cap insurance costs at no more than 8.5% of income, but were not able to agree on much else of substance, leaving Biden and party candidates mouthing promises not far different from Donald Trump, pledging to “strengthen and improve our health care system to make it cheaper and easier for everyday Americans to get the care and coverage they need.”

  • President-Elect Biden Has A Plan To Combat COVID-19. Here's What's In It NPR Nov 8 report sounds promising until we get to point 4, "4. Help people get health insurance" – which leaves the parasitic insurance firms and the rip-off private hospital corporations in charge of the broken system. Biden rejects the proposal of 'Medicare [publicly funded health care system for seniors] for all,' supported by 72% of even Fox News audience:
    "Millions of American have lost health insurance during the pandemic. Biden's coronavirus plan proposes to have the federal government cover 100% of the costs of COBRA coverage for the duration of the crisis. "So when people lose their employer-based health insurance, they can stay on that insurance, given the moment we are in," Stef Feldman, Biden's national policy director, told NPR.
    "In addition, Biden will push to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expanding coverage by making more people eligible for premium subsidies. Biden hopes also to push for expansion of Medicaid in states that have yet to do so, and he has proposed making Medicare coverage available to Americans beginning at age 60 (instead of 65)."

  • Exhausted NHS workers could quit their jobs after second Covid-19 wave, unions warn Mirror Nov 8: "Exhausted NHS staff could quit in their droves after the Covid-19 second wave, unions representing the workforce have warned.
    "Unions representing 1.3 million staff today publish a joint letter to the Prime Minister today asking him to support those he dubbed the “beating heart of the nation”.
    "The 14 health workers unions are demanding a commitment to this year reward the heroes battling to keep the NHS from being overwhelmed.
    "It comes on the day inflation means many NHS workers including porters and cleaners are no longer getting the Real Living Wage. The Living Wage Foundation today (Monday) announces its new rate - independently calculated based on what people need to live on - of £9.50 an hour."

  • NHS England suspends one-to-one nursing for critically ill Covid patients Guardian Nov 8: "Nurses will be allowed to look after two critically ill Covid-19 patients at the same time after NHS bosses relaxed the rule requiring one-to-one treatment in intensive care as hospitals come under intense strain.
    "NHS England has decided to temporarily suspend the 1:1 rule as the number of people who are in hospital very sick with Covid has soared to 11,514, of whom 986 are on a ventilator.
    "The move comes amid concern that intensive care units, which went into the pandemic already short of nurses, are being hit by staff being off sick or isolating as a result of Covid."

  • The 31 worst postcodes for coronavirus cases in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire ranked - full list and latest figures Stoke Sentinel Nov 8: "Newcastle-under-Lyme is now one of England's worst coronavirus hotspots but the infection rate differs massively between different parts of North Staffordshire.
    "The latest data released by Public Health England shows the areas where Covid-19 infections are highest. "The seven-day rolling rate is increasing rapidly across Newcastle borough, Stoke-on-Trent, the Staffordshire Moorlands and Stafford borough but the figures are very different depending on the postcode area.
    "These can be broken down to small neighbourhoods used in compiling the national census.
    "The latest map - depicting infection rates up to November 2 - shows that alarming new hotspots have emerged, some where the rate of infection has doubled or even tripled."

  • Vaccine tsar Kate Bingham runs up £670,000 PR bill Important exposee of yet more cronyism in (£) Times Nov 7: "The head of the government’s vaccine taskforce has charged the taxpayer £670,000 for a team of boutique relations consultants.
    "Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist married to Jesse Norman, a Conservative minister, was appointed to the role by Boris Johnson.
    "Since June she has used eight full-time consultants from Admiral Associates, a London PR agency, to oversee her media strategy.
    "According to leaked documents, she has already spent £500,000 on the team, which is contracted until the end of the year. It means each consultant is on the equivalent of £167,000 a year — more than the prime minister’s salary.
    "Bingham, 55, is said to have “insisted” on hiring them despite concerns they would duplicate the work of about 100 communications staff at the Department …"

  • Greater Manchester's NHS hospitals suspend non-urgent care BBC News Nov 7 – with a headline that ignores continuing outpatient and diagnostic services: “Hospitals in Greater Manchester are treating "more Covid patients than at the peak of the first wave", resulting in non-urgent care being suspended.
    “Non-urgent hospital surgery and appointments will not go ahead as planned as coronavirus admissions have increased by 64 patients in a week. Urgent and emergency care, such as cancer treatment, will continue.
    “Hospital chiefs said non-urgent work was "pausing" to ensure critical care facilities could be expanded.
    “… Diagnostic services, including endoscopy, and the majority of out-patient services will not be affected. Patients were advised to "assume your treatment is continuing as planned" unless told otherwise.”

  • Test and trace needs radical reform in England, health experts say Guardian Nov 7: "The government faces renewed calls for the central NHS test and trace system to be scrapped in favour of handing responsibility for contact tracing to local public health teams.
    "Weekly test and trace figures for England show it reached just under 60% of close contacts of people testing positive, the lowest since the service began. It comes as the Office for National Statistics indicated the steep rise in new infections was levelling off in England and stabilising at about 50,000 a day.
    "Sir John Oldham, adjunct professor in global health innovation at Imperial College London and former leader of large-scale change at the Department of Health, said “lockdown will be a letdown” unless trust was increased through radical reform of test and trace."

  • Too late to find enough nurses for this winter, union warns Independent Nov 7 quoting warning from, the RCN:
    "It is now too late to recruit enough nurses to meet the demands placed on the health service this winter, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.
    "The RCN, which represents more than 450,000 registered nurses, said any plans to cope with the second wave of Covid-19 created by ministers and the NHS has to be based on reality and specifically the number of nurses “actually available”.
    "The union issued its dire patient safety warning as NHS England declared a national incident on Wednesday evening as England went back into a national lockdown to try and supress the spread of the virus again."

  • ‘Sticking plaster’ local contact tracing deluged with missed and out-dated Serco cases Manchester Evening News November 6: "Local contact tracing teams are being deluged with cases from the national Serco-run system, many of them already so out-of-date there is little point following them up.
    "Public health departments have seen caseloads rocket in the past few weeks, with some town halls seeing six times the cases they had expected and well beyond what had been forecast. They are also seeing many cases arrive after a considerable lag of a week or more.
    "One director of public health said her department was simply abandoning some of the ones being passed to it by Serco, because the seven-day delay on them is so long the resource is better deployed with other contact tracing work."

  • We need a public inquiry into how covid contracts are handed out Nov 6 blog for Left Foot Forward by Prem Sikka making a point that is becoming ever more urgent; "The UK government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been shambolic. Vast amounts of money have been spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) and test and trace facility, but with little accountability. There is an urgent need for an independent public inquiry.
    "Cronyism, corruption, incompetence and inefficiencies have become hallmarks of coronavirus related contracts. Contracts for large values have been given to fledgling companies with no experience of PPE.
    "At best, these companies acted as intermediaries and collected millions in commissions. The commissions could have been minimised or avoided by procuring supplies through Supply Chain Coordination Limited, a state owned company, specifically formed for that purpose."

  • Rapid test missed over 50% of positive cases in Manchester pilot BMJ Nov 6: “A rapid covid-19 test due to be rolled out to healthcare staff in Liverpool next week missed more than 50% of positive cases in a pilot in Greater Manchester, it has emerged.
    “The government has spent £323m (€358m; $425m) on securing the technology to deliver 20 minute saliva tests to give to asymptomatic staff at hospitals and care homes as part of its Operation Moonshot mass testing programme.
    “But a letter seen by the Guardian newspaper reported concerns from scientists in Greater Manchester about the accuracy and sensitivity of the OptiGene Direct RT-LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) tests, which identified only 46.7% of infections during a pilot last month.”

  • ‘Sticking plaster’ local contact tracing deluged with missed and out-dated Serco cases Manchester Evening News Nov 6: "Local contact tracing teams are being deluged with cases from the national Serco-run system, many of them already so out-of-date there is little point following them up.
    "Public health departments have seen caseloads rocket in the past few weeks, with some town halls seeing six times the cases they had expected and well beyond what had been forecast.
    "They are also seeing many cases arrive after a considerable lag of a week or more.
    "One director of public health said her department was simply abandoning some of the ones being passed to it by Serco, because the seven-day delay on them is so long the resource is better deployed with other contact tracing work."

  • Hancock labelled “corrupt” after handing another Covid contract to failing private healthcare company The London Economic , Nov 5 with what has become a widely-know example of Tory sleaze:
    "Matt Hancock has come in for criticism after awarding a new £375 million testing contract to a Tory-linked private healthcare company whose testing kits had to be recalled over the summer because of concerns about contamination.
    "Randox was handed an extension to an existing contract – without other companies being invited to bid – leading to accusations of “corruption” and “cronyism”.
    "So far Hancock has now approved transfers of nearly half a billion pounds in taxpayer funds to the Northern Ireland-based company since the pandemic began.
    "Conservative MP Owen Paterson acts as a consultant for the firm for the princely sum of £100,000 a year. According to reports he was party to a call between the company and James Bethell, the health minister responsible for coronavirus testing supplies."

  • Will Operation Moonshot pass its first test fighting Covid in Liverpool? Guardian Nov 5: "Operation Moonshot, the government’s ambitious plan to deploy exciting new technologies to test the entire population for coronavirus infection, launches in Liverpool on Friday. Yet, even as the army arrives and testing sites are set up, questions are being asked about the accuracy of the tests and the information people will be given about their results."

  • Operation Moonshot: rapid Covid test missed over 50% of cases in pilot Guardian coverage Nov 5 begins: "“A rapid coronavirus test at the heart of Boris Johnson’s mass-testing strategy missed more than 50% of positive cases in an Operation Moonshot pilot in Greater Manchester, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The 20-minute tests, on which the government has spent £323m for use with hospital and care home staff with no symptoms, identified only 46.7% of infections during a crucial trial in Manchester and Salford last month.
    “This means that many of those carrying Covid-19 were wrongly told they were free of the virus, potentially allowing them to infect others.
    “… Scientists with Greater Manchester’s mass testing expert group (MTEG) raised significant concerns about the accuracy of the OptiGene Direct RT-Lamp tests this week, and said the technology should not be widely used as intended in hospitals or care homes.”

  • Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ October 4: "Cancer treatment delay is a problem in health systems worldwide. The impact of delay on mortality can now be quantified for prioritisation and modelling.
    "Even a four week delay of cancer treatment is associated with increased mortality across surgical, systemic treatment, and radiotherapy indications for seven cancers. Policies focused on minimising system level delays to cancer treatment initiation could improve population level survival outcomes."

  • Software bungle meant NHS Covid app failed to warn users to self-isolate (£) Sunday Times November 1: "The “world-beating” NHS Covid app, downloaded by 19 million people, has systematically failed to send alerts telling people to self-isolate after they came into contact with infected people.
    "Thousands were not contacted by the Test and Trace app, developed under Baroness (Dido) Harding, because it was set at the wrong sensitivity, the government has admitted.
    "For a month, the Department of Health and Social Care failed to use software developed to make the app work properly. Users whose “risk score” should have triggered an alert were not contacted. As a result, a government source said, “shockingly low” numbers of users had been sent warnings since the app was released on September 24."

  • The evidence is clear: if countries act together, they can suppress Covid Devi Sridhar writes in the Guardian Nov 1: "There are few options for all countries. An attempt to “simmer” the virus through society at an acceptable level will simply lead to repeated lockdown-and-release cycles. This is because of the infectiousness of this virus and the associated high hospitalisation rate of Covid-19 patients, which puts strain on health services, health staff and resources, and forces governments into crude and reactive harsh measures to curtail further spread and stay within health service capacity. We are already seeing the start of these cycles.
    "What about just lifting all restrictions and letting the virus go uncontrolled quickly through the population? Some might see this as an acceptable cost-benefit calculation: “life back to normal” for millions – especially younger and healthier people – at the cost of the deaths of thousands. Not only is this approach unethical and immoral, it would take us down a dangerous path. If the virus were allowed to spread freely, health services would be likely to collapse under pressure, leading to widespread panic and uncertainty. Far from saving the economy by lifting the existing restrictions, this would end up damaging the economy more; people would probably come to fear the consequences of participating in social and economic activities as they witnessed the effects of coronavirus and failing health services on members of their family, friends and neighbours."

  • Covid spreading faster in England than 'worst-case scenario', documents show BBC News Oct 31: "The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says there are around four times as many people catching Covid than anticipated.
    "A "reasonable worst-case scenario" is used by officials and the NHS to plan for the months ahead.
    "It had estimated 85,000 deaths from Covid over the course of winter.
    "But an official Sage document, dated 14 October and published Friday, reveals we are in a worse position than expected. Scientists crunching the numbers estimated that, by mid-October, there were between 43,000 and 74,000 people being infected with coronavirus every day in England."

  • Covid nurse death toll now as high as the number of nurses who died during World War One Shocking statistics from Independent Oct 31: "As many nurses have now died from coronavirus than were killed during the entirety of the First World War, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has revealed.
    "The latest figures collated by the federation of 130 national nurses’ associations show that 1,500 nurses have lost their lives since the pandemic began around the world.
    "This is the same as the number of nurses believed to have been killed during the four years of World War One.
    "However, the ICN expects the figure of 1,500 to be a significant underestimate, as it only includes those who have died in 44 countries where data was available. "

  • Private companies could have say in how NHS money is spent in borough after CCG merger Ilford Recorder (Oct 31) looks a little deeper than most local papers at the implications of a massive CCG merger:
    “Seven different clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the organisations which decide how NHS funds should be spent in each area, will merge into one body in April. It will cover Newham, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, City and Hackney, and Waltham Forest.
    “CCGs are in charge of buying health services for their area from providers like hospitals, charities or private companies.
    “The law forbids these providers – or their employees, partners or shareholders – from sitting on the board of a CCG which buys from them. However, the merged CCG created next year will be an “integrated care system”, meaning it is not bound by any such laws and could have private providers on its board.
    “… The NHS North East London Commissioning Alliance is another body that can make decisions for all seven boroughs. Papers from a meeting in September show one of its voting “lay members” is a management consultant for Deloitte, a private firm heavily involved in the UK’s Test and Trace programme.”

  • How teenagers ended up operating crucial parts of England’s test and trace system George Monbiot in The Guardian Oct 28: "“Even after a vaccine is produced, test and trace will remain essential, as inoculation will not be completely effective, or universally accepted.
    “Today, it’s our only real hope of preventing repeated lockdowns, and other great interruptions to our lives.
    “Yet the English system on which our freedoms depend is a total fiasco. The government has so far spent £12bn on test and trace. But, as a result of catastrophic mismanagement, it might as well have flushed this money down the toilet, as tracing has failed to reach the critical threshold (roughly 80% of contacts) needed to reduce the infection rate.
    “Last week, after a further fall, the figure stood at just under 60%.
    “To put this in context, £12bn is more than the entire general practice budget. The total NHS capital spending budget for buildings and equipment is just £7bn.
    […]
    “Because so much about this essential programme has been shrouded in secrecy, it’s not easy to see where the money has gone. But the breakdown of the system appears to result at least in part from its oversight by corporate executives (led by Dido Harding), with no relevant experience in public health and a track record of failure, rather than by professional public servants.”

  • HALF A BILLION POUNDS in PPE Deals Goes to Conservative Backers The excellent Byline Times with another exposure of chronic Tory cronyism:
    "he total value of Government contracts awarded to Conservative-linked firms for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) has surged to more than half a billion pounds, Byline Times can reveal.
    "Since 21 September, when this newspaper revealed that £364 million worth of deals had been won by Conservative backers, two new contracts have been released – taking the total to £526.3 million.
    "On 30 September, the Government published documents revealing a £156.3 million deal for the supply of isolation gowns, awarded to P14 Medical. The contract started on 5 June and ended just a day later, suggesting a single bulk order of equipment. Other firms were not able to compete for the contract, as the Government invoked an EU clause that allows normal tender procedures to be abandoned during an emergency.
    "P14 Medical is co-owned and run by Steve Dechan, a Conservative councillor in Gloucestershire. The firm – which specialises in the supply of pain management equipment – has 10 employees and made a £486,000 loss in 2019 on revenues of roughly £500,000."

  • ‘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:
    https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/c23fdfaf-d1f2-4d8c-a0cd-6b6f35793ccd
    https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/7645e3ef-ce16-4cae-8932-1eb6521a50cb
    "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".
    However:
    “… 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."