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  • 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.

  • Cancer patients face ‘perfect storm’ as Covid piles pressure on NHS Guardian October 22 with a grim warning:
    “Progress in clearing the NHS cancer treatment backlog in England has gone into reverse amid high Covid cases and staff shortages, analysis suggests.
    “With rising coronavirus hospitalisations also now piling pressure on the health service, experts have warned patients should brace themselves for worse to come as a “perfect storm” looms in cancer care.
    “The NHS has been striving to catch up with the pandemic backlog of cancer care but the analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support of official data suggests the drive has recently suffered a setback, with growing numbers of potential cancer diagnoses missed.
    “Four key cancer measures have fallen back, with two dropping to their worst ever recorded level….”

  • Boris Johnson’s recklessness over Covid-19 has led to a new NHS crisis Rachel Clarke in the New Statesman Oct 22:
    “This week, in the first national Covid press conference to be held in five weeks, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid looked the population in the eye and claimed: “We are a lot closer to normal than we were a few months ago.”
    “I suppressed the impulse to swear in front of the children, but only barely. The truth is that, in the week ending 17 June, the number of Covid hospital admissions numbered 1,220. By the week ending 17 October, that number had surged to 5,250 patients.
    “As I write, the daily Covid death toll has reached a seven-month high, and one in five intensive care beds are occupied by patients gravely unwell with the virus. Javid may deny on camera that the NHS is facing unsustainable pressures, but even he has to be aware that this is disastrously far from “normal”.
    “The truth – and it’s a truth the government seems to be doing everything in its power to deny – is that the NHS has been in the grip of a crisis ever since early summer. For months, events have been regularly occurring that should never take place in a properly functioning health service….”

  • Sajid Javid's alternative reality Blog by Independent health expert Shaun Lintern (Oct 22) nails the complete lack of leadership from ministers or NHS England:
    “… It seems there is real denial at the top of the NHS and government. At yesterday’s Downing Street press conference Sajid Javid said: “We don't believe the pressures on the NHS are unsustainable”. The UK’s military has been called in to help ambulance services to cope this summer in just one sign of how bad the situation is. I’m not sure what Sajid Javid’s definition of ‘unsustainable’ is but having to rely on soldiers to drive ambulances is in all four UK nations is not business as usual.
    “The health secretary also described almost 1,000 deaths a week as "mercifully low" - a comment he should not be allowed to forget anytime soon.
    “A day earlier NHS England’s CEO Amanda Pritchard told MPs on the health committee the NHS had not been overwhelmed during the pandemic – again she didn’t define what she meant by being overwhelmed but for a bit of a reality check consider that the NHS paused routine treatment for millions of patients, called in the military to staff wards and cancelled life-saving surgery.
    “Staff worked 20 hours days with makeshift critical wards set up and staff who had no experience of critical care being drafted in to look after sick and dying patients….”

  • Covid booster jabs: New vaccines minister hasn’t made a single national media appearance during slow roll-out MSN report Oct 21 showing how seriously Johnson is pushing for booster jabs:
    "Boris Johnson’s newly appointed Minister for Vaccines and Public Health has been accused of going missing in action during a crucial period in the UK’s fight against Covid.
    "Opposition MPs and a leading medical expert have condemned Maggie Throup for failing to keep up the pace of vital public health messaging and effectively “hiding away” from the media since taking the post.
    "The Tory MP for Erewash joined the Government under Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle on 15 September but has so far made no national media broadcast appearances – despite a sluggish uptake of the Covid booster jabs and rising case numbers.
    "Ms Throup has only made two appearances on BBC local radio, in her constituency, since taking up the post."

  • ‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning Independent Oct 21:
    “England’s NHS and care services face a “tsunami of unmet need”, the health watchdog has warned, despite ministers insisting that hospitals are coping with the huge surge in demand.
    “… The Care Quality Commission’s chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said NHS and care staff “cannot be expected to work any harder than they already are if we’re to get safely through this winter”.
    “What we’re seeing is many services are at capacity, and in many cases beyond capacity, and problems that traditionally could have been diverted can no longer be diverted,” he said.
    “Organisations needed to come together and work differently, he warned: “If these things don't happen there is the genuine risk of a tsunami of unmet need with many people not getting the care that they so desperately need this winter.”

  • NHS hospital declares ‘critical incident’ as demand higher ‘than any time during pandemic’ Independent Oct 21:
    “A major hospital has declared a “critical incident” after a surge in demand saw more than 100 patients awaiting treatment in A&E and 25 ambulances queueing outside. The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske, in Truro said “unprecedented” pressure this week is worse “than at any point during the pandemic.”
    “It urged “families, friends and neighbours” to collect any patients who are able to “to leave hospital sooner.”
    “Managers at Cornwall’s main hospital raised the operating level from OPEL4 — known as a ‘black alert’ — to an ‘internal critical incident’ to allow for greater cooperation to ease the crisis.
    “It comes as the government is under intense pressure to reimpose some Covid-19 measures amid a surge in cases, with many other NHS clinics and hospitals across the country facing similar pressure.”

  • Care sector pushed to brink by staffing catastrophe UNISON Press Release Oct 21:
    “UNISON and the National Care Forum (NCF) have written jointly to Sajid Javid today (Thursday) calling for urgent action over the staffing crisis engulfing the care sector.
    “The letter to the health and social care secretary says they’ve taken this “unprecedented step” in response to daily reports from care providers and staff of serious worker shortages.
    “They say this “recruitment and retention emergency” has been triggered by “chronic underfunding leading to low wages, staff burnout, and mandatory vaccination”.
    “It comes ahead of the government’s spending review next week, and amid warnings that social care desperately needs an injection of cash just so care providers can maintain existing levels of service.
    “UNISON – the largest union representing employees in social care – and the NCF, the organisation representing not-for-profit care providers, say social care is gripped by a staffing crisis of “a magnitude that threatens to overwhelm the sector” unless the government steps in.”

  • Covid: UK daily cases surpass 50,000 for first time since end of lockdown Independent Oct 21:
    “The UK has recorded over 50,000 Covid-19 infections for the first time since the end of lockdown, latest government figures show.
    “A total of 52,009 cases were reported today, marking an increase of almost 3,000 cases since yesterday.
    “The news comes after Britain recorded more than 40,000 new positive cases for eight consecutive days leading up to 20 October.
    “Latest figures show there have been 372,603 people with a confirmed positive test result over the past 7 days - an increase of 18 per cent compared to the previous week.”

  • Third of low-income households unable to pay bills, finds research Guardian October 21 report on the government-driven worsening of poverty, and with it the health and prospects of millions of children and their parents:
    “Nearly 4 million low-income households are behind on rent, bills or debt payments, up threefold since the pandemic hit, according to a study revealing the growing cost of the living crisis facing the UK’s poorest families.
    “A third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £25,000 or less were found to be in arrears on their rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax bills or personal debt repayments, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
    “The charity called for urgent government action to support families at the sharp end of pandemic-related financial pressures, including the reinstatement of the £20 uplift in universal credit, which was withdrawn earlier this month, and help with debts.
    “Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction,” said Katie Schmuecker, the JRF deputy director for policy and partnerships.”

  • Yes, we have to live with Covid – but not with such irresponsible ministers Guardian Oct 20:
    “The UK has one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world: four times higher than Germany, nine times higher than France, and 25 times higher than Spain. Britain is a total outlier in western Europe.
    “By the start of October, 1 in 20 schoolchildren were Covid-positive. Already, before winter sets in, the NHS is struggling to cope with hospitalisations – one in five intensive care beds are occupied by Covid patients – while still having a backlog of more than 5m delayed treatments to clear.
    “The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said today, “We are right on the edge”, and called for the government to implement its Plan B for Covid. This would entail compulsory masks in indoor spaces and secondary schools, vaccine passports and advice to work from home. None of these things would cause significant economic disruption: no one is calling for a lockdown. They could mostly be implemented tomorrow.
    “They won’t be, as the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, indicated today. Downing St says it is keeping a “close eye” on the situation – which makes you wonder what they would need to see before acting.
    “This complacent attitude was exemplified by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, who reassured us recently that the infection rate “feel[s] quite stable”. As though the relatively massive absolute numbers – well over 40,000 new infections recorded every single day, which he now admits could hit 100,000 this winter – don’t matter so long as they don’t change….”

  • They let Covid rip through our care homes Good Law Project Oct 20:
    “… In May 2020 Matt Hancock the former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care claimed the Government ‘right from the start…threw a protective ring around care homes’. This was simply untrue. Good Law Project has exclusive access to the evidence – and it is horrifying.
    “Despite knowing elderly people were more likely to die from Covid, Government prioritised the rapid discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes, without sufficient testing. Incredibly, there is no mention of testing at all in the Government note: ‘How can we free up hospital bed capacity by rapidly discharging people into social care? 17 – 18 March 2020’.
    “Government ignored the pleas of care home staff, who were forced to take in patients discharged from hospital who had not been tested, knowing it would put their residents at risk.
    “One email dated 22nd March 2020 shows Dr Jenny Harries, now Head of Test and Trace, and officials in the Department for Health, discussing the fact that care homes on the ground did not want to take people from hospital without a negative test. Instead of listening and implementing testing, it appears the Government asked Dr Jenny Harries to issue statements to reassure worried care home staff ‘it’s safe to accept patients from hospital’.
    “As history records, it wasn’t.”

  • MPs set to reject move to make water firms cut sewage discharges Guardian on October 20 with yet another brazen example of Tory contempt for public health and the environment:
    “The government is to reject calls to place a legal duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers.
    “MPs will debate the environmental bill on Wednesday in its final stages through parliament, and clean water campaigners want them to back what they say is a key amendment on sewage that was agreed in the House of Lords.
    “In 2020 raw sewage was discharged into waters more than 400,000 times over a total of more than 3.1 million hours. Sewage pollution is a key component of what MPs have heard is a chemical cocktail of pollutants going into rivers.”

  • Charge Bolsonaro with murder over Covid toll, draft Brazil senate report says Guardian Oct 19:
    “The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, should face murder charges for his role in the country’s “stratospheric” coronavirus death toll, a draft report from a senate inquiry into Brazil’s Covid crisis has recommended.
    “The 1,078-page document, published by Brazilian media on Tuesday afternoon, is not due to be voted on by the commission until next week and could yet be modified by senators.
    “But the draft text paints a devastating portrait of the neglect, incompetence and anti-scientific denialism many believe has defined the Bolsonaro administration’s response to a public health emergency that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.
    “Bolsonaro’s “deliberate and conscious” decision to delay buying Covid vaccines needlessly condemned thousands of citizens to early graves, the report claims.”

  • Implement ‘plan B’ winter measures now or risk NHS crisis, Johnson warned Guardian Oct 20 on increasing warnings from NHS professionals and management on the need for action to contain the new surge of Covid-19:
    “Ministers must urgently implement sweeping “plan B” winter measures or derail efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients, the head of the NHS Confederation warned as the UK recorded its highest daily Covid death toll since March.
    “Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.
    “… Downing Street said it was keeping a “very close eye” on the situation. But Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis” where the elective care recovery would be jeopardised.
    “Taylor said: “We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.”

  • Single rooms should be ‘default’ in hospitals, says Powis (£)HSJ story October 19 indicating the extent to which the preoccupation with infection control has left no room for priority to be given to re-organising existing buildings to restore capacity lost because of Covid. The single room set-up would reduce the numbers of beds and increase the costs of building and running any new hospitals that may eventually be built. But NHS England's medical director says:
    “Single rooms should be the ‘default’ for inpatients in English hospitals as they would improve infection control and patient flow, NHS England and Improvement’s national medical director has said.
    “Stephen Powis told the Commons health and social care committee the need to move towards individual rooms was a key consideration in determining the NHS’s capital budget which is being negotiated with ministers.”

  • England’s GPs overwhelmingly reject Health Secretary’s plan to ‘support’ general practice BMA Press Release Oct 19:
    “Thousands of GPs in England have told the BMA that the Health Secretary’s package of measures to supposedly rescue general practice is useless. 93% of respondents surveyed by the BMA say it is an unacceptable response to the current crisis.
    “Almost 3,500 GPs in England took part in the snap poll1 after Sajid Javid published details of a package which he claimed was to improve access to GPs. However, doctors have made clear it would in fact increase workload and bureaucracy on GPs and their colleagues, reduce the number of appointments available, and impact the quality of patient care, while threatening to name-and-shame and penalise practices that need the most help.
    “The 93% figure is the clearest articulation yet that frontline GPs working across the country do not believe the plan will go any way to addressing the pressures facing general practice, staff and patients.
    “The BMA is warning that the impact of such a damaging move from the Government on staffing levels could be disastrous. The latest GP workforce figures show that England has lost around 1,800 full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GPs since 2015, despite the Government promising 6,000 more.
    “However, Sajid Javid could be to blame for this number plummeting further. In addition to today’s survey results, a separate survey2 of more than 6,000 GPs in England, conducted in the week before the announcement, found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents were prepared to reduce their hours to protect themselves from the current crisis, while more than half (54%) shockingly said they would consider leaving the NHS all together if the Government did not provide them with the support they needed.”

  • Third Scottish health board asks for military assistance for winter Independent Oct 19:
    “A third Scottish health board has requested help from the armed forces as it faces staffing shortages ahead of the winter months.
    “A formal request for military support was made by NHS Grampian as the health service faces growing pressure as a result of coronavirus and the backlog of care built up during the pandemic.
    “Last week, the British Army was called in to help NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, with a total of 86 personnel deployed for a three-week period.
    “Soldiers are also helping the Scottish Ambulance Service vehicles under a separate arrangement.
    “… Staffing pressures mean acute services - such as emergency departments, surgeries and diagnostics - in the NHS are operating at capacity.”

  • Millions waiting to receive booster jab amid fears of rising Covid hospitalisations Independent Oct 19:
    “Almost 5 million people are at a greater risk of catching Covid as they have yet to receive their booster jabs, health officials and experts have warned.
    “Under government guidance, those aged over 50 and vulnerable groups who were double vaccinated at least six months ago are eligible for a third dose, but there are fears that poor communications around the programme and logistical complications could be hindering uptake.
    “Although vaccine coverage is high across the UK, infection rates are returning to those seen during the winter wave. Some 49,156 tested positive for Covid on Monday, a weekly rise of 22 per cent and the highest figure since the end of lockdown.
    “The failure to “top up” waning protection levels could place further pressure on the NHS, with hospitalisations of the elderly already beginning to creep up.”

  • Patients waiting almost 50 hours for a bed in crowded A&E departments Independent on the escalating crisis in acute hospitals Oct 18:
    “Patients are waiting almost 50 hours for a bed in accident and emergency departments – including children with serious mental health problems – amid warnings a winter crisis in the NHS is already underway.
    “The Independent has seen information showing multiple patients at Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire have faced lengthy waits for a bed in recent days with some spending in excess of 40 hours before getting a bed.
    “One patient last week spent at least 47 hours in the A&E with staff warning the long waits are a regular occurrence.
    “The situation is being replicated across England with multiple hospitals declaring incidents and seeing record waits for patients to see doctors. Some patients have waited 13 hours in the back of an ambulance before even getting into A&E.
    “At Ipswich Hospital, in Suffolk, a child under the age of 16 with serious mental health problems waited almost 48 hours in the A&E department there last week. The trust confirmed this was because of a lack of specialist mental health beds being available for children – a problem being reported across the NHS.”

  • Statement on accreditation status of Immensa Health Clinic Ltd / Dante Labs Ltd Statement from UKAS, the National Accreditation Body for the United Kingdom, clarifying that it never accredited the latest company to be embroiled in a Covid procurement scandal:
    “From the beginning of the pandemic, UKAS has been working with government to provide advice on quality assurance and accreditation of laboratories performing COVID-19 testing including laboratories that have been supporting the national testing provision (NHS Test and Trace) and also private testing providers.
    “Since November 2020 UKAS has been working with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to develop a three stage UKAS accreditation process for private providers of COVID-19 testing. Under the scheme, organisations that take swab samples and/or test them are required to demonstrate their ability to meet the required standard by progressing through each stage – application, appraisal and accreditation – with increasing levels of assessment by UKAS.
    “Only after successfully completing the third stage is the organisation accredited by UKAS. To date, UKAS has received over 500 applications/extensions to scope requests for COVID-19 testing/sampling and has accredited 245 public and private sector laboratories/sample-takers.
    “Neither Immensa Health Clinic Ltd nor its related company Dante Labs Ltd has been accredited by UKAS.”

  • UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded ‘VIP’ Covid contracts Guardian Oct 18:
    “The UK government has been ordered to reveal which companies were given “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
    “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that had contracts awarded through the privileged, fast-track process allocated to firms with political connections.
    “A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) last year found that companies referred as possible PPE suppliers by ministers, MPs or senior NHS officials were given high priority by the DHSC procurement process, which resulted in a 10 times greater success rate for securing contracts than companies whose bids were processed via normal channels.”

  • UK lab investigated for false negative Covid tests is not fully accredited Guardian Oct 18 on the scandal surrounding the lab company that gave thousands of false negative tests for Covid:
    “The private laboratory that is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.
    “The UK’s independent accreditation service, Ukas, told the Guardian on Monday that neither Immensa Health Clinics Ltd nor its sister company, Dante Labs, had ever been accredited by the service, and that it had informed the Department of Health that statements suggesting otherwise were incorrect.
    “The UK Health Security Agency announced on Friday that it was suspending operations at Immensa’s laboratory in Wolverhampton pending an investigation into concerns that at least 43,000 people with coronavirus had been wrongly told their swabs tested negative for the virus.”

  • NHS hospitals still using out-of-date MRI and CT scanners, report says Independent Oct 18:
    “NHS hospitals are still using body-scanning equipment long past its recommended lifespan which could potentially have negative impacts on care, according to a report.
    “Channel 4’s Dispatches used freedom of information rules to find out how many CT and MRI scanners were in use after the 10-year mark, when NHS bosses recommend they be retired. More than one-quarter (27.1 per cent) of trusts in NHS England had at least one out-of-date CT scanner, a figure which leapt to 34.5 per cent for MRI machines.
    “Among the potential problems with obsolete units are the need for higher radiation doses to achieve image quality comparable to newer machines, and an end to software upgrades reducing their usefulness, according to an NHS report from last year. Ultimately these and other shortcomings can impact care, the document said.
    “Dispatches found several hospitals were using outdated CT scanners. All four machines at the Royal Berkshire Hospitals Trust were 10 or more years old, while King’s College Hospital was found to possess a CT scanner acquired in 2007 and another that was 11 years old.”

  • Woman dies after two hour wait in ambulance outside James Paget Hospital Norfolk Live story Oct 14:
    “A woman has died after suffering a heart attack while waiting in a queue of ambulances at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston-on-Sea. The woman had been waiting in a queue of ambulances for more than two hours and died just as she got into the Emergency Department.
    “The incident happened on Monday morning (October 11), just days after local NHS services declared a maximum alert due to acute pressures.
    “The BBC reported that Norfolk and Waveney went to OPEL 4 the previous Wednesday over fears patient care could be compromised. Operations Pressure Escalation Level (Opel) 4 is declared when a "comprehensive care" is unable to be delivered and patient safety is at risk.
    “Speaking anonymously, an ambulance worker told the BBC: "We're under a tremendous amount of pressure.”

  • Austerity in England linked to more than 50,000 extra deaths in five years Guardian Oct 14:
    “Austerity cuts to the NHS, public health and social care have killed tens of thousands more people in England than expected, according to the largest study of its kind.
    “Researchers who analysed the joint impact of cuts to healthcare, public health and social care since 2010 found that even in just the following four years the spending squeeze was linked with 57,550 more deaths than would have been expected. The findings, worse than previously thought, were revealed in the journal BMJ Open.
    “The research by the University of York also found that a slowdown in life expectancy improvement coincided with the government’s sharp cuts to health and social care funding after David Cameron came to power a decade ago.
    “Restrictions on the growth in health and social care expenditure during ‘austerity’ have been associated with tens of thousands more deaths than would have been observed had pre-austerity expenditure growth been sustained,” said Prof Karl Claxton of the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York.”

  • 50% Of Americans Now Carry Medical Debt, A New Chronic Condition For Millions Forbes magazine Oct 13:
    “Fully half of Americans now carry medical debt, up from 46% in 2020, according to new data from Debt.com, a consumer financial education company.
    “More than half (57%) of Americans with medical debt owe at least $1,000, driven by diagnostic tests, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits, the survey showed.
    “In a weird way, Covid didn’t have as big an impact on medical debt as you might think—but only because medical debt was such a huge problem before the pandemic,” said Don Silvestri, CEO of Debt.com. “If anything, Covid forced more people to consider the seriousness of the problem.”
    “Though more people reported having medical debt compared to last year, less than half (46%) said their bills were in collections this year, down from 56% in 2020.
    “Despite the decrease, a recent JAMA study showed that debt collectors hold $140 billion in medical debt, not including credit card balances and unpaid medical bills that haven’t hit consumers’ credit reports.”

  • Plans to hand over NHS data to police sparks warning from government adviser Independent report Oct 11:
    “Plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police forces across England are “very problematic” and could see patients giving false information to doctors, the government’s data watchdog has warned.
    “In her first national interview, the data guardian for England told The Independent she has serious concerns over Home Office plans to impose a responsibility on the NHS to share patient data with police which she said “sets aside” the duty of confidentiality for clinicians.
    “Dr Nicola Byrne also warned that emergency powers brought in to allow the sharing of data to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 could not run on indefinitely after they were extended to March 2022.
    “… The legislation could impose a duty on NHS bodies to disclose private patient data to police to prevent serious violence and crucially sets aside a duty of confidentiality on clinicians collecting information when providing care.
    “Dr Byrne said doing so could “erode trust and confidence, and deter people from sharing information and even from presenting for clinical care”.”

  • The Observer view on benefit cuts Observer Editorial Oct 10 on the benefit cuts that will undermine the health of millions for years to come:
    “The government enacted the biggest ever overnight benefit cut last week. In one fell swoop, low-paid parents and unpaid carers of disabled people have lost more than £1,000 a year from their annual budgets, at a time when energy and food costs are steadily climbing and many are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.
    “The result of these political choices is that more children will grow up without the fundamentals no child should ever be without: a warm and secure home; going to bed without feeling hungry at night. Not even Marcus Rashford, the footballer who speaks with such moral clarity about child poverty and who has forced the government to U-turn from enacting policies that cause harm to children, could extract a concession from the government this time.
    “It has justified this unconscionable policy on two grounds. First, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has argued this is not a benefit cut, but simply a removal of a temporary and pandemic-related uplift to low-income families with children. Second, Boris Johnson claimed in his speech to the Conservative conference last week that by dramatically reducing low-skill immigration in the wake of Brexit, he was setting the country on a path to productivity and wage growth that we are led to believe will more than compensate for his decision to slash financial support to parents and carers.
    “Both are rhetorical sleights of hand. The £20 a week boost in universal credit introduced at the start of the pandemic must be set in the context of a decade of cuts to financial support for low-income parents that cost some families thousands of pounds a year. These were delivered while Conservative chancellors initiated income tax cuts to the tune of billions a year that disproportionately benefited more affluent families.”

  • Sajid Javid working on radical plan to merge social care with health in England Observer report October 10, reporting on Tory plans for social care changes drive not by concern for social care but by problems in the NHS:
    “Radical plans for a new national care service under which health and social care would be delivered by the same organisation are being actively considered by the government for inclusion in a white paper next month, according to senior Conservatives and Whitehall sources.
    “The idea of local authorities and the NHS taking joint responsibility for social care, perhaps working from a single combined budget for the first time, would amount to one of the most far-reaching reforms since the NHS was founded in 1948.
    “At present, local authorities have responsibility for running social care services in their own areas. Critics say there is, as a result, insufficient incentive for cash-strapped councils to develop better care for people in their homes or in the community, as it is cheaper for them if those in need go into hospital where the cost is met from the separate NHS budget.
    “The result is that many people who could be cared for at home or in the community end up occupying much-needed hospital beds.”

  • Revealed: Hospitals face ‘severe’ shortages of medical supplies ahead of winter due to Brexit and Covid Independent report October 9:
    “Hospitals are experiencing shortages of essential medical equipment triggered by a combination of Brexit and the impact of the pandemic on global supply chains, The Independent can reveal.
    “Manufacturers and suppliers of beds, lifts and life-saving defibrillators have also warned of being under “unparalleled pressure” due to the supply chain crunch this winter. NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard has warned that the winter season was already going to be “tougher” than a summer which experienced unprecedented demand.
    “Medical supplies are the latest casualty of widespread disruption that has left gaps on supermarket shelves and prompted panic buying at petrol stations.
    “Managers at London’s St George’s Hospital, one of the largest NHS trusts in England, are having weekly meetings with suppliers to stay on top of the problems and warned staff in an email leaked to The Independent that some companies were folding or exiting the UK market as a result of the pressures.”

  • Nursing crisis sweeps wards as NHS battles to find recruits Guardian October 9 reporting the utterly predictable and widely predicted impact of Brexit in worsening NHS staff shortages:
    “Ministers are being warned of a mounting workforce crisis in England’s hospitals as they struggle to recruit staff for tens of thousands of nursing vacancies, with one in five nursing posts on some wards now unfilled.
    WHospital leaders say the nursing shortfall has been worsened by a collapse in the numbers of recruits from Europe, including Spain and Italy.
    “The most recent NHS figures reveal there are about 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England, with one in 10 nursing posts unfilled on acute wards in London and one in five nursing posts empty on mental health wards in the south-east.
    “The number of nurses from the European Economic Area joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register has fallen more than 90%, from 9,389 in the year to 31 March 2016 to 810 in the year to 31 March 2021.
    “Thousands of nursing shifts each week cannot be filled because of staff shortages, according to hospital safe staffing reports seen by the Observer.”

  • One in six adults in Great Britain not able to buy essential foods, ONS finds Guardian report October 8
    “Almost nine million people, representing one in six adults in Great Britain, have not been able to buy essential food items in the past two weeks because they were not available, official research suggests.
    “According to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, 17% of adults could not buy some of the grocery products they needed between 22 September and 3 October, reflecting the widespread impact of supply chain disruption and labour shortages.
    “Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) told the ONS they had not been able to purchase other essential non-food items.
    “Meanwhile, 15% reported they had not been able to buy fuel for their vehicle during the fortnight, which covered the acute phase of the fuel supply crisis in which forecourts have run dry as motorists queued for long periods to fill up their cars.”

  • Private hospitals treated just eight Covid patients a day during pandemic – report Guardian Oct 7 with an important report on the real agenda of the private sector in health care:
    “Private hospitals treated a total of just eight Covid patients a day during the pandemic despite a multi-billion pound deal with the government to help stop the NHS being overwhelmed, a report reveals. And they also performed far fewer operations on NHS-funded patients than usual, even though hospitals has suspended much non-Covid care, according to research by a thinktank.
    “The Treasury agreed in March 2020 to pay for a deal to block-book the entire capacity of all 7,956 beds in England’s 187 private hospitals along with their almost 20,000 staff to help supplement the NHS’s efforts to cope with the unfolding pandemic. It is believed to have cost £400m a month.
    “However, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest’s report (Pdf) says that on 39% of days between March 2020 and March this year, private hospitals treated no Covid patients at all and on a further 20% of days they cared for only one person. Overall, they provided only 3,000 of the 3.6m Covid bed days in those 13 months – just 0.08% of the total.
    “And while private hospitals undertook 3.6m NHS-funded planned procedures the year before, that dropped to only 2m during the first year of the pandemic – a fall of 43% – the thinktank says. Its conclusions are based on its analysis of two major sets of published NHS activity data.”

  • Coronavirus report warned of impact on UK four years before pandemic Guardian October 7 excluive:
    “Senior health officials who war-gamed the impact of a coronavirus hitting the UK, warned four years before the onset of Covid-19 of the need for stockpiles of PPE, a computerised contact tracing system and screening for foreign travellers, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The calls to step up preparations in areas already identified as shortcomings in the government’s response to Covid, emerged from a previously unpublished report of a health planning exercise in February 2016 that imagined a coronavirus outbreak.
    “It was commissioned by Dame Sally Davies, then chief medical officer, who attended alongside officials from NHS England, the Department of Health, Public Health England, and observers from the devolved administrations.
    “The participants imagined cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) arriving in London and Birmingham and spreading rapidly resulting in “a large scale outbreak”. Like Covid, MERS causes potentially fatal respiratory illness and can spread asymptomatically; there were no known treatments or vaccines.
    “… The disclosure of the 23-page report on Exercise Alice is set to trigger fresh scrutiny of the adequacy of UK preparations.”

  • Tory party conference: Sajid Javid urges families to care more for elderly (£) Times Oct 6. Another day, another daft and reactionary speech from Thatcher's truest disciple to the Tory faithful, as Sajid Javid effectively argues that there is 'no such thing as society':
    “People need to take responsibility for looking after their elderly relatives and stop looking to the state to provide, the health secretary has said.
    “Sajid Javid said that people needed to ask “what I can do to help my own family” before calling on government provision, as he attempts to get the most out of the billions of pounds given to the NHS and social care sector.
    “… In his speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he insisted on the importance of “family first” as he stressed the expanded role for the state seen during the pandemic could not become permanent.
    “He is said to be concerned that high profile promises on social care will encourage more people to come forward for help that would otherwise be provided by relatives.
    “Government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life,” he stressed. “We as citizens have to take some responsibility for our health too.”
    “Speaking later at a fringe event, he said that the “default position” should not be that government was responsible for all care. “I think we should all also step back a bit sometimes and just think, ‘What can I do about it? What can what can I do to help my loved ones and my own family?” he said.”

  • Tory MP reveals grim reality of living on just £82,000 as he asks for payrise Metro October 6: as Universal Credit cuts officially started, ending the £20-a-week uplift for the poorest families which was introduced during the coronavirus pandemic, a Tory MP spoke out about the struggles of living on an MP’s salary.
    “Sir Peter Bottomley, the ‘Father of the House’ as the MP in the Commons with the longest continuous service, called it ‘desperately difficult’ for many of his colleagues.
    “He thinks MPs, who are paid £81,932 annually, should be paid the same amount as GPs – whose average salary in England is £100,700.
    “The average salary across the UK was £31,461, as of last year.
    “Although he said he currently is not struggling financially, he believes the situation is ‘desperately difficult’ for his newer colleagues. The representative of Worthing West in West Sussex added: ‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’”

  • Sajid Javid says health and social care ‘begins at home’ and people should turn to family before NHS Independent October 6 with a different take on Sajid Javid’s revival of the Thatcher philosophy:
    “Sajid Javid has said health and social care “begins at home” and people should rely on their families in the first instance rather than on the state.
    The health secretary’s comments came during his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday.
    Mr Javid said: “The state was needed in this pandemic more than any time in peacetime. But government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life. We as citizens have to take some responsibility for our health too.
    “We shouldn’t always go first to the state. What kind of society would that be? Health – and social care – begins at home. Family first, then community, then the state.
    “If you do need support, we live in a compassionate, developed country that can afford to help with that. There are few higher callings than to care for another person.”

  • Tory party conference: NHS bosses face sack for failing to cut waits More counterproductive Tory Conference posturing and regeneration of failed Thatcher-era experiments by Sajid Javid, reported in the (£) Times Oct 5:
    “Hospital managers who fail to clear mounting NHS backlogs will be sacked under government plans for reform, The Times understands.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is said to be preparing new powers to seize control of poorly performing hospitals with the insistence that ministers cannot just “throw cash” at the NHS.
    “Business people and other outsiders will be encouraged to take jobs running hospitals as Javid argues that good leadership is key to improving care.
    “He is under pressure from Downing Street and the Treasury to produce results by cutting waiting times for routine treatments following last month’s £36 billion spending plan for health and social care.”

  • ‘Stupid’ and ‘wrong’ for NHS to compete for overseas nurses, claims health minister HSJ report October 5 on yet another ill-informed speech from another ignorant health minister:
    “A new health minister has said NHS efforts to compete to attract overseas nurses are ‘stupid’, despite the approach being government policy.
    “Gillian Keegan also said that hiring nurses from overseas was “bizarre, unbelievably inefficient and also wrong”.
    “Ms Keegan became a health minister last month, with responsibilities including social care, mental health and integration. Before becoming an MP in 2017 she served as a governor of Western Sussex Hospital Foundation Trust.
    “She was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday organised by Age UK. Ms Keegan – who was previously apprenticeship and skills minister – was asked about the impact of Brexit on the health and care workforce. Her answer focused mostly on nursing.
    “She said: “One of the things I found interesting when I first became an NHS board governor, [was that at] the very first meeting I’d been to, they’d all just come back from the Philippines. This is in Chichester, I was thinking, ‘What are you doing in the Philippines?’ They said, ‘We were recruiting nurses’, and I said, ‘What are you doing there recruiting nurses?’
    “They said, ‘Well, we’ve already depleted the availability of the Spanish and the Portuguese nurses.’ I said, ‘What about, you know, people who are here who would love to go into this profession? And it struck me as just bizarre – unbelievably inefficient and also wrong and just bizarre.”

  • Overseas nurse recruitment and the NHS Nuffield Trust report, Oct 4, refutes Tory minister's view that it is "stupid and wrong" to recruit NHS staff from overseas:
    “There are some 342,300 nurses working in NHS hospital and community health services, and 23,900 working in general practice. Yet vacancies are widespread: there were 39,000 full-time equivalent nurse vacancies by mid-2021, representing a 10% vacancy rate. The equivalent figure for doctors is 7%.
    “The 2019 NHS Long Term Plan committed to reducing the nursing vacancy rate to 5% by 2028. Later that year, the government pledged to increase the number of NHS nurses by 50,000 by 2025.
    “Achieving these ambitious goals will require sustained effort using a variety of approaches, including improved retention, an increase in the number of nurses being trained domestically, and attracting previous NHS workers back into practice and employment.
    “However, given the time required taken to train new nurses, recruitment of international staff remains vital for addressing the current widespread vacancies.”

  • UK might not be over the worst, scientists warn, as Covid case numbers stay high Guardian October 3 with a worrying reminder:
    “Britain is heading into winter with the number of Covid cases remaining at a worryingly high level. At the same time, the nation’s vaccination programme appears to have stalled.
    “That is the bleak view of leading epidemiologists who have warned that the worst effects of the pandemic may not yet be over for the UK. As the weather gets colder, more and more people are likely to socialise in restaurants, bars and cinemas rather than in parks or gardens with the result that transmission rates of Covid-19 are likely to rise.
    “At the same time, employees are being encouraged to return to their workplaces, which will also drive up infections. At present, new Covid cases are being reported at a rate of about 35,000 a day – though Britain’s vaccination programme has kept hospitalisations to below the 7,000 level with fewer than 200 deaths occurring every day. These figures have remained fairly stable for the past few weeks.
    “Crucially, the majority of those in hospital with severe Covid are unvaccinated. It is therefore very important to continue to give jabs to as many people as possible, said Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University.”

  • Medicare for all is a matter of justice – and healthcare savings Cleveland.com Oct 3 comment from Dr. Johnathon Ross is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program, arguing for the ambitious reform that would cover all Americans -- AND save money:
    “For decades, the Commonwealth Fund has tracked U.S. healthcare system performance vs. other rich nations. In 2021, we are again ranked last in performance and highest in cost. With Medicare for all, we can do better.
    “In December 2020, after congressional hearings, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a working paper that estimates that Medicare for all would save over $400 billion in administrative waste annually -- dollars that could be applied to universal coverage and care.
    “Even eliminating copayments for patients while maintaining current average payments for doctors and hospitals, national health expenditures would still fall by $40 billion annually. Compare this to our current system, which leaves 31 million uninsured and half of Americans fearful they cannot afford an unexpected medical bill.
    “Surveys of U.S. physicians find that 80 percent spend more than five hours weekly on administrative tasks; 30 percent spend more than 20 hours. The simplicity of universal coverage and a single fee schedule without copays would slash billing- and insurance-related costs, while increasing caregivers’ time for patient care.”

  • Tories order biggest shake-up of NHS leadership in England for 40 years Guardian Oct 2 report on Sajid Javid reviving yet another failed tactic from the Thatcher years – calling in a general to sort out the crisis in the NHS:
    “The Conservatives have ordered a shake-up of NHS leadership in England on the eve of their party conference, with Sajid Javid saying that with more funding must come “change for the better”.
    “The health secretary said he wanted to see the most far-reaching review of NHS bosses in England for 40 years, appointing a former vice-chief of the defence staff, Gen Sir Gordon Messenger, to lead the work.
    “However, some NHS bosses were furious about what they described as a political move to shift blame on to trust, hospital and social care leaders as the health service struggles with a big backlog.
    “Under the terms of the review, Messenger will be asked to look at the best hospitals, GPs’ services and social care delivery to work out how this can be replicated across the country.”

  • “I've given you the most important metric which is, never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes, look at wage growth." Classic Boris Johnson interview clip revealing how hollow are promises of "levelling up" which the BBC took off its website, still available on Twitter.
    Apart from the arrogance and callousness of this, it's obvious that if healthy life expectancy is reduced by Tory policies widening inequalities and worsening social determinants of health a few pounds extra in the pay packet for a few years is poor compensation.

  • Covid backlogs: No more business as usual, Sajid Javid tells NHS managers (£) Times Oct 2 version of the story on Sajid Javid calling in a retired general to sort out the problems in the NHS that have been exacerbated by a brutal decade of real terms Tory spending cuts and frozen or falling pay for staff. Javid appears unaware of the fresh wave of demoralisation his tough talk will generate amongst hard pressed NHS chiefs:
    “Business as usual” must end, NHS bosses will be told as ministers launch what they hope will be the biggest review of health service management for four decades.
    “All aspects of NHS leadership will be scrutinised as ministers seek to ensure any extra cash brings results.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said management must “change for the better” in exchange for a £16 billion funding over the next three years to deal with Covid-19 backlogs.
    “… General Sir Gordon Messenger, the former vice-chief of the defence staff who oversaw the coronavirus testing scheme last year, will lead the review. He is due to report back in about four months and ministers are promising an action plan shortly afterwards.”

  • Conservatives: Who funds them, and what's in it for them? Surprisingly hard report from BBC News October 2 begins:
    “Welcome to the One Million Pound Club.
    “To make the top ten donors to the Conservative Party since Boris Johnson became prime minister, you need to have stumped up a seven figure sum.
    “At the top of the chart, by a considerable margin, the providers of one of the most memorable political images of the last few years. Boris Johnson at the wheel of a JCB, a polystyrene wall smashed, his 'Get Brexit Done' slogan in the mechanical shovel.
    “JC Bamford Excavators Limited has given just over £2.5m in the last two years. Lord Bamford, the chairman of the family owned company, has personally given £100,000 since 2010, when the Conservatives returned to government. He became a Conservative peer in 2013.
    “I've been trying to find out what motivates people to give money to the Conservative Party, how do they choose how much to give and how do they measure if it is worth it?”

  • Boris Johnson condemned for saying ‘never mind’ about cancer outcomes Independent Oct 2:
    “Boris Johnson has sparked outrage on the eve of the Conservative Party conference after saying “never mind” about cancer death rates and the recent fall in life expectancy.
    “Grilled about his plans for Britain’s recovery from the Covid crisis, the prime minister chose to emphasise economic growth over health measures.
    “Pointing to the recent growth in wages, Mr Johnson told the BBC: “I’ve given you the most important metric – never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes – look at wage growth.”
    “Opposition parties pounced on the prime minister’s remarks, with Labour accusing him of showing an “outrageous” disregard for the health of British citizens.
    “Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told The Independent: “Boris Johnson starts his conference with the most chilling words ever spoken from a prime minister dismissing the importance of cancer outcomes”.”

  • Doctors, receptionists and practice teams quit after wave of hostility over GP appointments Guardian Oct 2 reporting the grim and predictable consequences of the hate campaign against GPs waged by the right wing press and far right in recent weeks:
    “Senior doctors have warned that practice staff and GPs are quitting after an unprecedented and escalating wave of abuse from patients that has followed weeks of public pressure over face-to-face appointments.
    “Practice managers, receptionists and doctors have spoken of daily confrontations with patients over issues including appointments, vaccinations and blood tests.
    “Some said that patients had been responding to media campaigns over recent weeks, which have led to Boris Johnson and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, pledging to increase in-person appointments.
    “Many practices are maintaining Covid-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, including the use of face masks; some patients have refused to wear them and become abusive when asked to do so.
    “The number of permanent GPs has been declining steadily over the last five years – down by 1,904 since 2016, or about 7% – to the point that by March this year there were only 26,805 remaining in post.”

  • GP flu jabs in England hit by vaccine shortages despite government claims of ‘no impact’ Independent report October 1 on more frustration GPs as the face a barrage of hostile media reports and snide comments from ministers:
    “GP surgeries in England are continuing to experience delays in the delivery of influenza vaccines - weeks after the government downplayed fears of disruption to the country’s flu programme amid a nationwide shortage of lorry drivers.
    “GPs in Reading and West Suffolk have recently been forced to cancel vaccination appointments due to the delays, telling patients that the “situation is completely outside of our control”.
    “Manufacturers have assured the government they have sufficient staff and fuel reserves to deliver the flu vaccines as planned, The Independent has been told, but some surgeries are still waiting to receive their supplies.
    “One GP in West Suffolk told its patients earlier this week that it is “one of the thousands of surgeries across the country being affected” by distribution issues and delays - despite “having ordered our vaccine 12 months ago to guarantee our delivery date”.

  • This Black History Month, I’ll be remembering the nurses who lost their lives on the Covid front line i-News feature October 1:
    “The theme of 2021’s Black History Month celebration is “Proud To Be” and black people across the globe are being invited to focus on how they’re making history all the time in their own ways.
    “For black and ethnic minority nursing staff, this is especially relevant.
    “We’ve long known the indispensable role that nursing staff have played in protecting the health of the nation, but over the last 18 months those staff, and particularly black and ethnic minority nursing staff, the contribution and sacrifices they have made have really come to the fore.“The pandemic presented huge problems for all healthcare staff, no more so than black and ethnic minority nursing staff, who, despite being at increased risk of dying from Covid-19, put their lives on the line to help service users and their families.”

  • More NHS maternity units criticised for poor cultures, bullying and staff shortages Independent report October 1:
    “Two more NHS maternity units have been criticised by the care watchdog over concerns about safety, with inspectors highlighting poor cultures and bullying as well as staff shortages leaving midwives visibly upset.
    “The Care Quality Commission has published two reports into inspections at maternity services in Queens Hospital, in Romford, Essex and at Walsall’s Manor Hospital.
    “Both hospitals have been told they must make improvements and the latest criticism from CQC follows its decision to inspect dozens of maternity units amid fears over the safety of maternity care throughout England.”

  • England needs one million more NHS and social care staff over the next decade Independent October 1:
    “A new analysis by the Health Foundation reveals the growing workforce gap in England with an extra 488,000 NHS staff needed to meet rising demand and the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. This would represent a 40 per cent increase in the workforce – double the level of growth seen over the past 10 years.
    “In social care the need is even greater with 627,000 more staff needed. This would be a 55 per cent rise over the next decade and four times more than the level of growth since 2001.
    “… The Health Foundation said in order to deliver this level of staff funding for the NHS alone would need to grow at twice the rate of the last decade and reach at least 3.2 per cent a year – the equivalent of an extra £70 billion by 2030/31.”

  • One in six children in England suffering poor mental health Independent October 1:
    “Figures released today by NHS Digital also show there has been a significant deterioration in mental health for children and young people in the past four years.
    “Separately, NHS England has today accepted, in new guidance to the NHS, that up to 1.5 million people may be waiting for mental health treatment and are yet to receive it as a result of the impact of coronavirus.
    “The survey of more than 3,600 young people found 17 per cent of children aged six to 16 in England had a probable mental health disorder, with the same rate for teenagers aged 17 to 19.
    “The results are similar to rates in 2020, but show a considerable increase in child mental health problems in the past five years, with rates rising from one in nine in 2017.”

  • Patients in new NHS regions experience widespread variation in care Independent 30 Sept:
    “A new analysis of the different experiences for patients living in one of 42 new NHS regions has revealed wide discrepancies in treatment in different parts of the country.
    “Ministers are pushing through parliament one of the biggest NHS re-organisations in almost a decade with the aim of creating new integrated care systems across England from April next year. They will be tasked with delivering better joined up care across different organisations.
    “But the new bodies face an uphill struggle with widespread variation in outcomes revealed in a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).”

  • New era of public health to tackle inequalities and level up the UK Oct 1 launch of new Office for Health Improvement and "Disparities" – shrinking from the word and concept of inequalities, not least because the gulf between richest and poorest has widened each year since 2010.
    It cites figures on the scale of the problem, apparently unaware which government has been in power for the past decade:
    "Health disparities across the UK will be tackled through a new approach to public health focused on stopping debilitating health conditions before they develop, as the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launches today (Friday 1 October).
    "OHID marks a distinct shift in focus at the heart of government in addressing the unacceptable health disparities that exist across the country to help people live longer, healthier lives and reduce the pressure on the health and care system as work is done to reduce the backlog and put social care on a long-term sustainable footing.
    "The latest figures show clear trends, based on geographical location, of a person’s life expectancy and the years they can expect to live a healthy life."

  • When It Comes to Health Insurance, What are We Paying For? October 1 reminder from un-covered on the horrors of US health care:
    “Insurer by insurer, health plans are making COVID-19 patients pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets before they will pay a dime.
    “UnitedHealth and Anthem both stopped waiving deductibles and other out-of-pockets requirements for COVID patients at the end of July. Now most, if not all, of the other payors are following their lead, which means bills will hit patient mailboxes, and hospitals will be saddled with even more uncompensated care.
    “This is because out-of-pocket maximums – the amount patients have to pay before payors pony up – have gotten so high that millions of Americans with insurance are falling deeply and hopelessly into debt.
    “They simply don’t have the cash to pay the doctors and nurses trying to keep them out of the cemetery.
    “Too bad, so sad, is the payors’ attitude. High-deductible health plans enable insurance companies to avoid paying billions of dollars a year in claims they once covered, and that has enabled them to rack up record profits year after year.”

  • Marketing firm given £40m PPE contract made staff work on furlough Open democracy October 1 with another PPE scandal:
    “A company that won £40m in COVID contracts made its staff work “flat out” when they were meant to be furloughed – and threatened to fire anyone who spoke out.
    “An investigation by openDemocracy has found that KAU Media Group wrongly claimed furlough support while being handed a series of multi-million-pound government contracts to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “The deals were awarded without competitive tender, despite the London-based digital marketing firm having no prior experience with PPE.
    “One of the company’s directors, Mohammed Kashif Khokhar, quickly banked £10m for him and his wife. Over the last year, he has boasted about his expensive lifestyle – posting photos online wearing a £130,000 watch in a Lamborghini sports car, and at Wembley watching England play football in the European Championships.”

  • Pitting patients and GPs against each other is unhelpful and dangerous Comment article from Independent September 30, opposing the vilification of GPs by the right wing media and politicians begins:
    “People aren’t always getting the support they need from their GPs. True. GPs are working around the clock, doing everything they can in response to unprecedented levels of demand for healthcare. Also true.
    “These two statements are not mutually exclusive. Both accurately reflect how many patients and primary care teams feel about what is happening at the front door of the NHS in the wake of a brutal pandemic.
    “Yet, it is becoming increasingly evident that patients and primary care teams are being pitted against each other. This tension is then spilling over with devastating consequences, from totally unacceptable abuse against staff to some patients not seeking treatment because they are being made to feel like a burden.”

  • Woman with agonising burns sent away from TWO hospitals after falling foul of new rules meaning people have to get urgent care at unit closest to home Grim news on new bureaucratic obstacles to urgent care from Manchester Evening News Sept 29:
    “Patients needing urgent care may be sent to the unit closest to their homes under new rules, the Manchester Evening News can reveal.
    “Hospital bosses admitted the ‘protocol’ after one patient, suffering horrific burns, reported being sent away from two hospitals before receiving any care.
    “The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group has introduced the directive as part of a ‘reconfiguration of services across Greater Manchester’, saying that patients will be sent to the 'most appropriate place for their needs', 'closest to their home', in the 'quickest time possible'.
    “However, anyone needing care for emergency and life-threatening conditions can still go to their nearest A&E department for treatment, hospital chiefs have stressed.
    “The group operates Salford Royal Hospital, the Royal Oldham Hospital, Fairfield General Hospital, and Rochdale Infirmary, among other local care services.”

  • Social care system 'progressively failing' people, says ombudsman Sky News Sept 29:
    “The social care system is "progressively failing" people and there has been a "relentless rise" in upheld complaints, according to the ombudsman.
    “There is a "gulf" between what the public expects and what it gets, said the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in its yearly complaints' review.
    “It received 2,033 complaints and enquiries about adult care provided by councils and independent providers in the year to April 2021. That was down on the year before due to the pandemic, but the proportion upheld rose from 69% to nearly 72%.
    “The ombudsman said the last decade had seen a "relentless rise" in the percentage of cases in which care users and families had been let down. Complaints are also said to be increasingly stemming from measures by care providers and councils to "mitigate the squeeze on their resources".

  • Ministers under fire over breaking of mental health crisis pledge in England Guardian report Sept 29:
    “Ministers are under fire for breaking a key pledge on mental health after statistics showed that hundreds of patients are being sent far from home every month because of a beds crisis.
    “The government pledged to end “inappropriate” out-of-area placements in mental health for adults in England – those caused by a lack of beds in treatment units near the person’s home – by April this year.
    “However, figures show that 695 people were sent out of area in April. The figure includes “inappropriate” placements and those deemed “appropriate” because the patient needed specialist psychological or psychiatric help that is only available in a few units.
    “A large majority of placements have always been “inappropriate” because they are caused by a lack of beds.”

  • ‘The system is broken’: Sick patients forced to sit for hours outside A&E under blankets and heat lamps Independent shock story Sept 28:
    “Sick patients have been forced to wait outside a hospital A&E department on chairs and wrapped only in blankets while being treated by nurses in shocking photographs and videos captured by one worried relative.
    “The situation, at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, is a regular occurrence, workers have told The Independent.
    “Footage shared with The Independent by a concerned member of the public shows one patient being cannulated, where a needle and intravenous line is inserted into a vein, while another patient has a monitor attached to track their vital signs. Patients waiting outside the A&E were said to be extremely sick, with some vomiting and complaining of worsening symptoms.
    “It was like something out of a horror movie,” said Maria, who has asked for her surname not to be used. “The system is completely broken from the beginning to the end. From the moment we tried to call the GP and they tried to get through to the hospital,” she said.”

  • Social distancing and covid testing relaxed to ‘help hospitals treat patients more quickly’ HSJ report Sept 27:
    “Covid infection control rules for health services have been relaxed in what national officials say will help the service ‘treat more patients more quickly’.
    “The UK Health Security Agency – part of the Department of Health and Social Care – which has been created to advise on the pandemic and future threats, has recommended three changes to guidance.
    “The first is that physical distancing requirements be reduced from two metres to one metre in areas “where patient access can be controlled”. This excludes emergency departments. It will allow some services to remove space restrictions introduced early in the pandemic to prevent spread.
    “Secondly, testing requirements for elective surgery are set to be relaxed. Patients in low-risk groups who are fully vaccinated, have no covid symptoms and take a negative lateral flow test on the day of their procedure will no longer need to have a negative PCR test and isolate for three days beforehand. This requirement has made elective recovery more difficult.
    “Finally, standard cleaning procedures can be restarted in low-risk areas such as elective care, and “enhanced” cleaning — which involves more frequent cleansing of items that are regularly touched — can be discontinued in these areas, the UKHSA said.”

  • Elective care: how has COVID-19 affected the waiting list? Health Foundation report Sept 27:
    “While the NHS delivered a remarkable amount of elective treatment during the pandemic, the pressure of caring for large numbers of patients seriously unwell with COVID-19 has led to the waiting list for elective care reaching the highest level since current records began.
    “Data show that 6 million fewer people completed elective care pathways between January 2020 and July 2021 than would have been expected based on pre-pandemic numbers.
    “Services in every part of England were placed under enormous strain during the pandemic, but the backlog in elective care is not evenly distributed. Elective care has been hit harder – and recovered more slowly – in certain parts of the country.
    “Just as COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities in other parts of life, access to elective treatment fell further in the most socioeconomically deprived areas of England between January 2020 and July 2021 than in less deprived areas.”

  • NHS waits: More people feeling forced into private healthcare BBC report Sept 27 that lacks any real statistics on private sector treatment to back up the headline:
    “62,000 patients [have] been waiting more than 12 months to get joint replacement surgery.
    “New research conducted by charity Versus Arthritis and given exclusively to BBC Panorama reveals that half (54%) of people with arthritis who are currently waiting for surgery are facing an average cost of £1,739 a year to keep their pain at bay, through things like private physio appointments and over-the-counter painkillers.
    “Inevitably, GPs are the ones patients turn to for help managing their pain as they wait. One of them, Dr Leora Harverd, from a practice in north London, says she's overwhelmed by her current caseload.
    “Some of her patients are anxious about long delays for treatment, and says it's not unusual that people go private, but "it's not how it should be".”

  • NHS backlog disproportionately affecting England’s most deprived Guardian report Sept 27
    “Waiting lists for routine treatments have grown by 50% in the most deprived parts of England, compared with nearly 35% in the most affluent areas. Those in deprived areas were also nearly twice as likely as those in the wealthiest to wait more than a year for treatment, according an analysis by the King’s Fund.
    “The thinktank analysed the backlog of 5.61 million people – equivalent to almost one in every 10 people in England – who are waiting for treatments such as knee and hip replacements, cataract surgery and other common procedures.
    “Of patients on waiting lists in the most deprived areas, 7% have been waiting a year or more for treatment, compared with 4% of those in the most affluent areas, according to the research, which was shared with BBC Panorama and PA Media.
    Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, warned that the long waiting lists were in danger of leading to privatisation of the NHS.
    “Waiting times have got so bad that you’ve got people taking out payday loans, sometimes even remortgaging their homes, because they cannot bear the pain, or the disruption to their lives, or fear they will lose their lives,” he said. “That is eroding the fundamental universal system that we created.”

  • Labour launches bid to end NHS ‘culture of secrecy’ and improve safety following care scandals Independent report Sept 26:
    “Labour is to push for key changes to the government’s NHS reforms, with new laws on transparency in the NHS and a demand for safe staffing levels on hospital wards, following a series of scandals relating to failures in patient care.
    “Amendments to the government’s Health and Care Bill will also include plans for the investigation of stillbirths by medical examiners, and for limits on the power of the health secretary to interfere in investigations.
    “Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth believes the changes – which also include giving local NHS regions the ability to object to some spending limits if they consider them to pose a risk to patient safety – will attract the support of Conservative MPs.
    “In an exclusive interview with The Independent ahead of the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Ashworth said it was vital that the NHS learned from mistakes and improved its record on safety, which he said could only be achieved through greater transparency.”

  • UK care homes face funding crisis as banks refuse loans Guardian report Sept 25:
    “Care homes are facing a credit crunch with banks refusing to lend money or provide new services for fear that the care sector is about to crumble, senior care leaders have warned.
    “A survey of care providers in Hampshire found that 20% had been told their bank was concerned about their long-term viability. Several reported that their bank said they had “no appetite for the care industry” and had refused basic services such as additional accounts.
    “Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, said providers elsewhere were under similar pressure. “We haven’t seen surveys but I know these conversations are beginning to be held across the country with all banks. Some a bit more aggressive than others. Definitely we are hearing that providers are beginning to feel the pressure.”
    “Care providers are reluctant to reveal any problems to their local authority clients or the Care Quality Commission for fear of being put into special measures or losing care contracts.”

  • Region aims to clear all two-year waiters by March HSJ report Sept 24:
    “An NHS region is aiming to have no patients waiting more than two years on its waiting lists by the end of March. Senior sources in London told HSJ the region has set the “aspiration” to clear all two-year waiters by the end of the financial year.
    “According to the latest data, London had around 1,100 patients waiting more than two years for treatment at the end of July, which was up from around 670 at the end of April. “This equates to around 12 patients per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 14.
    “A report to the board of King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust said plans from the southeast London integrated care system were submitted to the London regional director’s office last month.
    “The board papers continued: “Achieving this [eliminating two-year waiters by March 2022] target is reliant on a range of issues including, potential further covid-19 waves, multiple actions, capacity assumptions, patient choice, independent sector capacity uptake and NHS patient transfers.”

  • Chemotherapy rationed amid shortage of NHS staff to deliver it Telegraph report Sept 24:
    “NHS cancer patients in some areas have had their chemotherapy stopped because there are not enough staff to deliver it.
    “… On Friday night, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said it was urgently trying to fill vacant posts and hoped to be able to offer chemotherapy to all who needed it by some stage next month.
    “It came after an oncologist spoke out about deteriorating levels of care, warning that the situation was now worse than at any point since the start of Covid.
    “The warning follows a report predicting that even if oncology departments boost the number of patients they see by five per cent, the cancer treatment backlog will take more than a decade to clear. Experts also believe there are an estimated 19,500 people living with undiagnosed cancer as a result of the pandemic.”

  • Social care plan furthers inequality and unfairness BMJ Sept 22 blog by Dr David Oliver:
    “The “health and social care levy” is a planned 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions from April 2022. But this applies only to people in employment and younger than the state retirement age. From 2023 people still working beyond retirement age will also have to pay the levy.
    “The number of people older than 65 in work has increased sharply in recent years and is now estimated at around 900 000 in England. But because around half of all adult social care spending goes on care for older people (as opposed to disabled people of working age) this means that younger working people bear the bulk of care costs. The “triple lock” protecting state pensions has been temporarily suspended as part of the plan, but that does not fully mitigate the inequity.
    “Unlike income tax, which is progressive, rates of national insurance paid fall as income rises, falling disproportionately as a share of income as pay increases, and placing a higher relative burden for the collective contribution to the cost of care on lower paid workers.
    “National insurance does not apply to income from dividends, pensions, investments, or rents. The government does not propose to levy tax on these to help increase funding for social care or healthcare and so it protects wealth from assets relative to income from labour.
    “The planned cap on social care costs to be borne by individuals—£86 000 over a lifetime—means that people with savings and assets well above this amount, including equity tied up in owned homes, will be disproportionately protected when compared with those for whom £86 000 is most of what they have.”

  • Tracking U.S. COVID-19 Vaccine Donations Useful work by US Kaiser Family Foundation Sept 22:
    “There remains a significant gap in vaccine access across the world, with only 2% of the population in low-income countries (LICs) receiving at least one vaccine dose, compared to 30% in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), 54% in upper-middle-income countries (UMICs), and nearly two-thirds in high-income countries (HICs).
    “One way to address this gap is for countries that have vaccines to donate them to countries in need, either via the multilateral COVAX mechanism or directly to countries and/or regions via bilateral donations.
    “For its part, the U.S. government has pledged to donate at least 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine for global use by 2022 and has been delivering doses to countries around the world since June.
    “To understand more about these donated doses and where they have been directed, we analyzed data from the U.S. State Department, COVAX, and other sources.”

  • Ministers to crack down on overprescription of medicines on the NHS More grief and GP-blaming in the latest government policy shift as reported by the Independent Sept 22:
    “The government is to crack down on the NHS’s over use of medicines by encouraging doctors to challenge prescriptions dispensed in hospitals and point patients towards local wellness charities.
    “The move, which has been backed by health secretary Sajid Javid, comes after a government-commissioned review found that 10 per cent of medicines prescribed by doctors, nurses and other primary care workers are not wanted or needed.
    “Ministers have accepted all of the recommendations laid out in the review, led by England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, which seeks to “support shared decision-making between clinicians and patients” and calls for “cultural changes to reduce a reliance on medicines”.
    “Health professionals should instead increase “social prescribing”, it continues, which involves “helping patients to improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them to community services which might be run by the council or a local charity”.”

  • Private hospitals profit from NHS waiting lists as people without insurance pay out Guardian September 18 with a possibly exaggerated view of a real threat to the NHS:
    “People on modest incomes, and even those claiming benefits are turning to private providers for knee or hip replacements, cataract removal or even expensive cancer treatment.
    “This week, a survey of 4,000 adults commissioned by charity Engage Britain showed more than a fifth had gone private because they could not get the treatment they needed. While support for the NHS remains high, a quarter said the wait for treatment for themselves or a loved one had had a serious impact on their mental health.
    “Roughly 13% of the UK population has some kind of health insurance, mostly through their employers. The rest are faced with a stark choice – wait months and even years for badly needed treatment, or dig into savings to jump the queue."

  • Asylum seeker given £100,000 hospital bill after suffering stroke Guardian September 18 with another grim example of Johnson government racist policies undermining the core principles of the NHS and levying extortionate charges:
    “Simba Mujakachi, a personal trainer, was just 29 years old in June 2019 when he suffered a catastrophic stroke that left him comatose. When he awoke, he was paralysed on his left side and unable to talk or eat.
    “His stroke could have been prevented by relatively inexpensive medication for a blood clotting condition that, as a refused asylum seeker, he was not entitled to on the NHS.
    “Now Mujakachi, who has lived in the UK since he was a child, owes nearly £100,000 for the emergency treatment that saved his life, a staggering sum which he does not know how he will ever repay.
    “No one can pay £100,000, who has got that? I’m looking at the bill and I’m thinking, that’s a house,” he said.”

  • Brain health and its social determinants Lancet Sept 18 editorial underscores the importance of social determinants in understanding mental health
    "Opinions about the relative importance of the biological and sociological causes of mental ill health have moved wildly from one extreme to another over the past 50 years. So, when Vivian Pender, the newly elected President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), pronounced in July that “we need to be more aware of the broader context in which that illness occurred and how that context has shaped the health outcome”, cynics could be forgiven for thinking it just another swing of the pendulum. However, perhaps this time Pender—and many others, for she is not alone—has got it right.
    "Much evidence has been published supporting Pender's call for social determinants to be considered as key in understanding and treating mental illness. The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development stated that research consistently shows a strong association between social disadvantage and poor mental health.
    "At the individual level, the Commission reported that poverty, childhood adversity, and violence are key risk factors for mental disorders. The COVID-19 pandemic has further focused attention on the importance of social determinants in causing both mental and physical illness.
    "That Pender has felt the need to create a taskforce to examine this issue, reporting to the APA's annual meeting in May, 2022, probably reflects the strength with which many US psychiatrists are wedded to the biomedical model of mental ill health and the utility of pharmacotherapy. Reaching for the prescription pad is certainly easier than fixing a patient's economic and social circumstances. But current treatments, including medication and talking therapy, have their limitations."

  • More patients should expect their operations to be cancelled, warns top doctor Independent report September 15:
    “Dr Fiona Donald, new president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, told The Independent the workforce gaps among anaesthetists, the largest group of hospital specialist doctors, had deteriorated since the pandemic with one in three reporting mental health problems following their experiences during the Covid crisis.
    “In her first interview, Dr Donald, a consultant anaesthetist at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, said she was very worried about the demand on hospitals during winter, adding that doctors were being asked to do extra work that was “beyond reasonable.”
    “She said she feared it was “inevitable” there would be more cancellations of operations in the coming months as the NHS comes under extra pressure – with the shortage of doctors placing a limit on how many surgeries could be done.”

  • Hospital admits patient care is being compromised as cancer operations delayed September 14 report from The Independent:
    “Cancer operations at one of England’s largest hospital trusts are being delayed as bosses admit patient care on wards is being compromised.
    “Nottingham University Hospitals Trust has been forced to convert one of its few remaining wards for cancer surgery patients into an emergency medical ward to cope with an influx of patients.
    “The Independent understands the trust’s A&E department is regularly overcrowded with 40 or more patients waiting for a bed at the start of most days.
    “The trust, which is set to begin filming on a new series of 24 Hours in A&E this week, said staff were going “above and beyond on a daily basis”.
    “It is one of a number of NHS trusts hit hard by rising demand for NHS services and increasing numbers of coronavirus patients. The East Midlands trust had more than 140 Covid-19 patients on its wards on Monday.”

  • Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust continues to miss out-of-area care target BBC Sept 18 with another tale of failure and broken promises from one of the country’s worst mental health trusts:
    “In 2014, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) bosses vowed to stop sending patients out of the area within four months, a target which was moved to October 2017, then March 2018.
    “NSFT said pandemic demand meant it failed to meet its September deadline.
    “A report ahead of a meeting on 23 September said the deadline has now been pushed back to April 2022.
    “Recent figures show there were 235 out of area placement days in July 2021, down from a high of 1,974 in April 2019, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
    “But campaigners have said any number is too high.
    “A spokesperson for the Norfolk and Suffolk Crisis campaign group said: "We are absolutely disgusted that they haven't moved further towards achieving this objective”.”

  • NHS trusts ‘wrongly charging’ vulnerable migrant women for maternity care Shocking Sept 17 report from the Independent on the racist policies imposed by government and NHS management:
    “NHS trusts are wrongly charging deeply vulnerable migrant women for their maternity care, new research has found.
    “Maternity Action, who carried out the study, said “terrified women” are ringing their helpline saying they are too scared to attend antenatal appointments in case they are charged for their healthcare.
    “The organisation discovered many NHS Trusts are “routinely ignoring or misinterpreting” the law on requesting payment from overseas women for maternity care, despite the fact the government's own policy stipulates the most vulnerable women should not be charged.
    “Rules specify overseas women from outside the European Union who are expecting a baby must be charged for NHS care – with debt from maternity care affecting future immigration applications. Charges start at around £7,000 but potentially double if there are complications with the pregnancy.”

  • Bad managers ‘never get fired’ in the NHS, complain doctors Yet another appalling badly informed Torygraph article, Sept 17, attacking the NHS and its management – despite never criticising the huge fat cat packages trousered by bosses of private companies – or indeed low-talent right wing journalists.
    “Ten years ago, NHS super-managers with six-figure salaries, expense accounts and hefty pensions were a rare breed in the country’s hospital boardrooms and local commissioning groups.
    “Not any more. While nurses have seen their pay fall in real terms over the past decade during an era of austerity, the ranks of these richly rewarded health bosses have swelled dramatically.
    “In September 2010, there were 985 hospital directors and healthcare managers in England earning more than £110,000, according to NHS Digital, the health information centre that tracks the numbers of “very senior managers” for salary reviews. But by September 2020 there were 2,788. It means their numbers have almost tripled in a decade.”

  • NHS unions express fury as health minister admits £2.8bn of PPE unfit for purpose Morning Star Sept 17:
    “NHS unions and campaigners reacted with fury today to a government admission that £2.8 billion of personal protective equipment (PPE) is not fit for purpose.
    “Health minister Lord Bethell revealed that nearly two billion items of PPE are unusable and lying in warehouses labelled “do not supply” — more than 6 per cent of the volume purchased.
    “The government admitted in July that it was in dispute with a number of companies over 40 contracts for £1.2bn worth of PPE that was either substandard or simply undelivered — including a million masks found to be below the FFP3 standard used in intensive care.
    “Unite union national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said that the latest revelation was “a searing indictment of the secretive fast-track fashion (in which) many of the PPE contracts were awarded to ‘friends’ of the Tory Establishment, something we have suspected for a long time.”

  • Man With Insurance Left With $80K Hospital Bill After COVID Battle Newsweek Sept 17 with another glimpse into the disastrous world of US health care:
    “Jim Sweeney, 63, from Nevada, tested positive for COVID-19 last November and was admitted to St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena Campus in Henderson, before quickly being moved into intensive care and being placed on a ventilator, according to a fundraiser started by his son, Scott Sweeney. Jim Sweeney was on the ventilator until mid-February and remained in hospital and a rehab center until April.
    "From that time he has racked up some ridiculous hospital bills. Most of which his insurance helped with but they won't cover everything, and that leaves him with a $80,000+ bill that he is now solely responsible for," his son says on the fundraising page, which was set up on Thursday.”

  • EU, Switzerland, UK continue opposition, amid support for TRIPS waiver Shocking Sept 15 Third World News report on British government, EU and Switzerland blocking steps to increase production and distribution of Covid vaccine
    “Amid the groundswell of international support for the TRIPS waiver at the WTO coupled with more countries, including Malaysia, joining as co-sponsors of the waiver, three members – the European Union led by Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom – seem determined to undermine an expeditious decision on the temporary waiver for combating the COVID-19 pandemic, said people familiar with the development.
    “The intransigent positions adopted by these three members against the waiver appears more like an attempt to protect the monopolies and massive profits of Big Pharma over the enormous loss of lives globally due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and the denial of vaccines to the global South, said people familiar with the discussions.
    “The much-delayed temporary TRIPS waiver seeks to suspend certain provisions in the TRIPS Agreement relating to copyrights, industrial designs, patents, and protection of undisclosed information for ramping-up the production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines across countries on an expeditious basis.
    “The EU, Switzerland and the United Kingdom escalated their opposition to the waiver on “ideological” grounds that could create a permanent state of “vaccine apartheid” as well as loss of millions of lives due to Covid-19, said people, who asked not to be quoted.”

  • Canada: Alberta healthcare system on verge of collapse as Covid cases and anti-vax sentiments rise Guardian report September 15 on the consequences of rejecting any restrictions to limit the spread of Covid:
    “A surge in coronavirus cases has pushed the healthcare system in the Canadian province of Alberta to the verge of collapse, as healthcare workers struggle against mounting exhaustion and a growing anti-vaccine movement in the region.
    “The province warned this week that its ICU capacity was strained, with more people requiring intensive care than any other point during the pandemic – nearly all of them unvaccinated.
    “It’s not easy to go to work every day and watch people in their 30s die,” an ICU nurse in Edmonton told the Guardian. “Having to help a family say goodbye and then going through the actions that are required at the end of someone’s life, is worse than anyone can imagine.”
    “Alberta has long boasted of its loose coronavirus restrictions – including advertising the previous months as the “best summer ever” as it rolled back those few restrictions. It has also been the site of North America’s highest caseloads.”

  • NHS app storing facial verification data via contract with firm linked to Tory donors Guardian report September 15:
    “The NHS app is collecting and storing facial verification data from citizens in England in a process which has fuelled concerns about transparency and accountability.
    “The data collection is taking place under a contract with a company linked to Tory donors called iProov, awarded by NHS Digital in 2019, which has yet to be published on the government website.
    “Privacy campaigners say the opacity of the relationship between London-based iProov and the government raises questions about how securely the information is held, with one saying they were “deeply concerned” about the secrecy surrounding the use of data.
    “An NHS spokesperson confirmed law enforcement bodies were able to request data, but that a special panel reviewed such requests, taking into account the health service’s duty of confidence.”

  • ‘Severe pressures’ driving two-month waits for urgent scans HSJ report Sept 15 on the growing delays of an under-funded NHS:
    “An internal update at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, labelled “September turnaround times” and seen by HSJ, suggested the current response time for the most urgent “two-week” CT scans is nine weeks.
    “The waiting times then rise to 15 weeks for scans which are still urgent but do not need a two-week response, and more than six months for routine scans. For routine scans the document adds: “Currently unable to appoint due to capacity available”.
    “… Diagnostics data that is published by NHS England shows the proportion of all cases waiting more than six weeks, regardless of their urgency. The latest data from July showed 27 per cent of cases waiting for a CT scan at SaTH breached this standard, against the national average of 16 per cent. This meant it was among the 30 worst trusts on this measure.”

  • Essex: Children harmed by mental health service failings BBC News September 15 report on a troubles trust where parents and relatives have been campaigning for action for years:
    “Young people cared for by an NHS mental health service "came to harm" because of its failings, inspectors said.
    “The care provided by Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) has been rated "inadequate" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
    “It has now been stopped from admitting new patients after inspectors found "serious concerns" in the children and adolescent mental health services.
    “EPUT said it had increased staffing levels and had been coaching staff.
    “The inspection was prompted by a serious incident and concerning information received about safety and quality, the CQC said.”

  • Child Covid rates in Greater Manchester spiked by 56 per cent after first week back at school Grim report from Manchester Evening News Sept 14:
    “The reopening of schools has brought a large spike in the number of pupils infected with Covid.
    “Infection rates among children aged 10-14 are now higher than in any other age group. Figures for the week ending September 8 show that rates have risen by more than 50 per cent in all-but three areas of Greater Manchester.
    Rochdale has had the largest percentage increase, of 128pc, followed by Bolton at 87pc.
    “But Tameside has the highest infection rate among 10 to 14-year-olds, at 859 cases per 100,000, followed by Stockport with 780.3 cases per 100,000.”

  • The NHS is broken – GPs know it and the patients are suffering the consequences Another (Sept 14) instalment of the Daily Torygraph hate campaign against the NHS in general and GPs in particular – in which not one word is said about the decade of under-funding and endless broken promises of Tory ministers. Fortunately behind a paywall:
    “…the starkest gap between how we want the NHS to be and how it actually is comes in general practice. It is in this aspect of the nation’s health provision, found a recent poll for The Patients Association, that most Britons have struggled to access care.
    “Before the pandemic, a quarter said they found it hard to see a GP. By April this year, that had risen by half to 36 per cent – worse than for any other NHS service. And now, a survey conducted over the summer reveals, it has jumped again, with 52 per cent finding it hard to get a GP appointment.
    “GPs are the front door to the NHS,” notes The Patients Association, “and patients are increasingly perceiving that that door is closed to them.”
    “The impact is very real. Some 56 per cent of patients admit to putting off appointments, and more than half also expect their health to suffer as a result of changes to provision during the pandemic. The toll may already be emerging. For the last 18 months the number of so-called “excess deaths” in private homes has remained stubbornly above the five-year average.”

  • The Long-Term Safety Argument over COVID-19 Vaccines Boston Review article September 14 takes on the “safety” argume t employed by anti-vaxxers:
    “Vaccine hesitancy remains a very serious and costly obstacle for many countries, with the United States very much in the spotlight. While some hesitancy is rooted in longer trends, much of it appears to be driven by coordinated disinformation campaigns specific to this pandemic.
    “Despite highly impressive safety profiles, strong efficacy, and continually encouraging data showing real-world vaccine effectiveness, numerous spurious and scientifically illiterate arguments to avoid the jab are reaching millions of people each day.
    “These efforts have taken a variety of forms. Staunch anti-vaxxers sow doubt more by fearmongering than by reasoned argument. Others present more specific concerns.
    “Some have expressed concern at emergency use authorization rather than full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This point is now moot, given that Pfizer/BioNTech won full approval in late August. (Moderna has submitted its own application for full approval and will almost surely win it soon.)
    “Perhaps the most stubborn challenge, however, is the contention that we lack “long-term” safety data for the vaccines. Assertions have been made on widely viewed broadcast media that the recent FDA approval has been rushed.
    “The mRNA shots seem to attract the lion’s share of this particular scare, due to the claim that these are “new” technologies. Given their novelty, the worry goes, we need more data before we can make a more informed decision about how they might impact us in the long run.”

  • ‘The virus is painfully real’: vaccine hesitant people are dying – and their loved ones want the world to listen Guardian report September 14:
    “In the UK and other developed nations such as France and the US, Covid-19 has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
    “Last month, Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, tweeted that: “The majority of our hospitalised Covid patients are unvaccinated and regret delaying [their vaccines].”
    “About 60% of all hospitalisations due to Covid in the UK are of unvaccinated people. An Office for National Statistics report published on Monday says that in the first six months of 2021, Covid was involved in 37.4% of deaths in unvaccinated people – and just 0.8% of deaths in fully vaccinated people.
    “While 80% of the UK adult population is fully vaccinated (and 89% have received a first dose, indicating they will go on to be fully vaccinated), vaccine uptake rates have been tapering off in virtually all regions of the UK.”

  • NHS leaders ‘set for fight’ amid signs mental health will miss out on new funding HSJ article Sept 14:
    “Last week, the government announced an additional £15bn for NHS England over the next three years, with a clear aim to increase elective activity in acute hospitals by 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. Other priorities were described as putting services on a sustainable footing, and focusing on prevention.
    “But there were no new commitments specified for mental health services, despite an acknowledgement of “unprecedented demands placed on staff and the public as a whole”.
    “In recent years there has been a firm commitment to reaching “parity of esteem” for mental health services, meaning the sector has generally received a fair share of any spending increases, and a growing proportion of the overall budget.
    “But well-placed sources told HSJ there are currently no additional increases planned for mental health over the three years from 2022-23.”

  • Multinational care companies are the real winners from Johnson’s new tax Excellent Sept 14 Guardian Opinion column by Allyson Pollock dissecting the dysfunctional social care system and the profits milked out of it:
    “Social services for community and long-stay care in the UK are among the most privatised and fragmented in the western world – even more so than in the US.
    “Local authorities in England commission most of their care services from private providers, of which there are 14,800 registered organisations providing care across 25,800 locations.
    “This situation arose as local authorities, facing budget shortages and central government-imposed regulatory and financial incentives, sold off their care homes and turned to outsourcing. Scotland and the other devolved administrations face similar structural issues.
    “According to a study by the Competition and Markets Authority carried out in 2016 and updated in 2018, the care homes industry alone was worth around £15.9bn a year in the UK with 5,500 different providers operating 11,300 care homes for older people.
    “In 2020, there were more than 456,000 care home beds in England, with local authorities and the NHS combined having closed and sold off an equivalent number during the preceding decades. For-profit providers, many of them large multinational chains, own 83% of care home beds with a further 13% provided by the voluntary sector.
    “At the same time, government funding for local authority adult social care in England fell by 55% in 2019-20 compared with 2010-11, resulting in a 29% real-terms reduction in local government spending power. By 2019-20, local authority net spending on care was £16.5bn, 4% lower in real terms than in 2010-11.”

  • UK near top of ‘league table of shame’ for delivering just 7pc of Covid jabs promised to poor countries Boris Johnson’s former employers the Daily Telegraph Sept 14 pointing out the broken promises by the government they normally refuse to criticise:
    “The UK has delivered less than seven per cent of the vaccines it has promised to developing countries, coming near the bottom in what critics are calling a “league table of shame”.
    “Data compiled by Our World in Data, a research hub based at the University of Oxford, show the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.
    “The data looks at donations to Covax, the initiative to share vaccines globally, and finds that of the 554 million doses promised by the world's richest nations, only 90.8 million, or 16 per cent, have been delivered.
    “The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines after the United States, promising 80 million doses to Covax. But is towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to delivery. So far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.”

  • Anti-Vaxxers Are Now Gargling Iodine to Prevent Covid-19 Rolling Stone Sept 13 uncovers more idiocy from anti-vaxxers:
    “As if attempting to one-up last week’s stupidity with regards to ivermectin, anti-vaxxers on Facebook and Twitter are advocating for a new and unproven Covid-19 treatment: Betadine, an antiseptic used to treat cuts and scrapes.
    “Povidone iodine, often sold under the brand-name Betadine, is an iodine-based treatment largely for topical use that kills bacteria.
    “It’s a “commonly used cleanser in the ER and OR,” says Kenneth Weinberg, an emergency room physician in New York City. “If you’re in the ER and someone has a wound to sew it up, you use it to clean with.”
    “When told that anti-vaxxers had taken to gargling with Betadine, Weinberg said, “Fuck me! Of course they are.”

  • Early CT scans deliver huge fall in lung cancer deaths, study shows Guardian Sept 12:
    “Low-dose computerised tomography (CT) scans can detect tumours in people’s lungs early and cut deaths by 16%, according to the UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial (UKLS).
    “The findings have prompted renewed calls from lung cancer experts for the government to bring in routine screening across the UK of all those who are at risk because of their smoking history. They say that early detection means patients can have potentially curative surgery or radiotherapy.
    “‘Lung cancer early detection and surgical intervention saves lives,’ said Professor John Field of Liverpool University, an author of the trial. …
    “About 47,000 Britons a year are diagnosed with lung cancer, and 35,000 die of the disease. It kills more men than prostate cancer and more women than breast cancer. Only a quarter of lung cancers are found when they are at stages one or two – when treatment may keep someone alive.”

  • ‘Only a fraction’ of long Covid sufferers able to access NHS support clinics Independent report, Sept 12:
    “Hundreds of thousands of people suffering from long Covid in England may be struggling to access NHS clinics dedicated to treating the condition, figures suggest, with patients waiting up to six months for an appointment following a GP referral.
    “Between 5 July and 1 August just 5,737 referrals were made to the support centres, which were established by the NHS at the beginning of the year to offer a range of treatments and rehabilitative services to those with long-lasting Covid symptoms.
    “But data from the Office for National Statistics show that an estimated 970,000 people are experiencing long Covid in the UK – more than a third of whom have suffered from the condition for over a year.
    “This means “only a fraction” of the number of people thought to have the condition are being seen by the clinics, said one member of the NHS Long Covid Taskforce, who asked to remain anonymous.”

  • Covid hospitalisations moving in ‘alarming’ direction, experts and NHS officials say Independent report Sept 11:
    “Covid-19 hospitalisations are increasing at an “alarming” rate, experts have warned, putting increased pressure on the NHS as it struggles to cope with a spike in demand for emergency care and the largest waiting list on record.
    “Figures show that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has increased by more than 1,000 within the last 11 days, jumping from 7,091 to 8,098 – a 14 per cent rise. In the previous 11 days, from 19 August to 29 August, the number of Covid patients increased by 590, or 9 per cent.
    “Covid bed occupancy levels are now at their highest levels since 10 March, according to government data, after daily admissions passed the 1,000 mark this week.
    “And analysis suggests that the UK could be forced back into another lockdown by mid-November if the number of daily admissions continues on its current trajectory.”

  • Should Meirion Thomas be subject to disciplinary action for expressing his offensive views? Useful 2015 blog illustrating the dodgy political track record of the surgeon who has just knocked out a Telegraph hate piece attacking GPs:
    “Meirion Thomas is a consultant surgeon who works at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He also has a sideline publishing controversial opinions in publications such as the Spectator and the Daily Mail.
    “He has published articles (e.g. here and here) in the Spectator on the subject of immigration that would, no doubt, delight the National Front and UKIP.
    “He has published in the Daily Mail, expressing:
    • “views on female doctors that even the Daily Mail described as "provocative"; and which many considered offensive - see the Royal College of General Practitioner's response here; and
    • “another which many felt was extremely inaccurate and offensive to general practitioners - see a response in GP magazine Pulse here."

  • If the GPs went on strike, would anybody notice? Rant by a right wing surgeon against GPs in, of course, the Torygraph Sept 11:
    “Most of the complaints of the GPs themselves, however, do not pass muster. Dr Samira Anane, workforce policy lead of the BMA GP Committee, recently seemed to suggest that GPs were cutting their hours to avoid burnout because of the stresses and pressures of the job.
    “But in my 33 years as a hospital consultant surgeon I didn’t see this happen once, even in cardiac, brain or cancer doctors who take life and death decisions daily. Why should GPs be so badly affected given that they work at the opposite end of the medical complexity spectrum?
    “The wider problem with all the new money that the Government is committing to the NHS is that it comes without any reform, and I predict that the bureaucrats that the health service seems to be hiring, charged in part with spending the £36 billion wisely, will never have worked at the bedside. I know from experience that the natural instinct of hospital managers when faced with a problem is to appoint more managers.”

  • Covid crisis as hospitals axe operations and move to highest alert level Mirror Sept 11 report on a situation in Derbyshire that is increasingly affecting the whole of England:
    “A county's healthcare system under 'severe pressure' has moved to its highest alert level and begun cancelling some operations.
    “NHS and care services across Derbyshire and Staffordshire sounded the alarm after seeing a huge surge in patients in recent days.
    “Health bosses in the region said there had been a 'significant increase' in sick patients and that in a single day the A&E departments saw 1,038 patients. The numbers were seen at Chesterfield Royal, Royal Derby Hospital and Queen's Hospital, Burton on Monday.
    “It has now prompted some hospitals to reportedly move to 'Opel 4' - which signifies a hospital is 'unable to deliver comprehensive care.'”

  • Betsi Cadwaladr health board cancels some surgery amid Covid rise BBC News Sept 11 on the worsening crisis in Welsh hospitals:
    “A Welsh health board has cancelled some surgical operations due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in hospitals.
    “Betsi Cadwaladr health board, which covers north Wales, said the decision was not taken lightly but was necessary to "safely care for patients".
    “And the health board has also decided to significantly restrict hospital visits as it battles outbreaks at four of its hospitals.
    “First Minister Mark Drakeford has said cases are "likely to get worse".
    “It comes after Hywel Dda health board suspended some planned orthopaedic surgery, and Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board banned most hospital visiting.”

  • Chart of the week: How much of the health and care levy will social care receive and what is this intended to do? Useful Nuffield Trust diagram (Sept 10) on the breakdown of the £30bn allocated to England over 3 years, showing how little goes to social care, and how little of that to address the workforce crisis:
    "What we do know is that £500 million of the £5.4 billion is meant to go towards the professional development of care staff. But critics have questioned whether this will be enough for the 1.52 million strong social care workforce, given the known low pay and working conditions they experience. To put this in perspective, the NHS Pay Review Body reports the government has estimated a cost of £1.2 billion to bring the lowest paid care workers in line with their NHS counterparts."

  • Long waits for ambulances continue in England BBC News report Sept 10:
    “Patients needing ambulances for life-threatening calls are often waiting longer than they should, latest NHS England figures show.
    “The average response time was around eight and a half minutes in August - the target for urgent calls is seven minutes.
    “Data also reveals the number waiting for routine operations rose to a record high of 5.6 million in July.”

  • Social care plan will help just a tenth of UK’s older people in need Guardian September 10:
    “After it comes into effect in 2023, the new policy will directly help about 150,000 more people at any one time, according to government documents. But already about 850,000 older people who receive care have at least some of the cost paid by local authorities.
    “Age UK estimates that a further 1.5 million older people need care but are ineligible for support – up from about a million in 2014. Some pay for it themselves, some get help from their families and some go without any care at all.
    “But while the prime minister’s £36bn national insurance tax rise focused on how care will be paid for after 2023, he made no provision to ensure that the sector survives the crisis engulfing it now.”

  • CCG closes private firm's GP practice in remote area HSJ (September 10) reports on a CCG rolling back privatisation of GP services – in unusual circumstances:
    “Nine thousand patients in an isolated part of Kent have been given two months to find a new GP surgery after the clinical commissioning group did not renew a contract with the existing practice – despite the area being short of GPs.
    “DMC Healthcare has run the practice at Sheppey Community Hospital for 12 years, under an alternative provider medical services contract which ends on 31 October. The company also runs a GP walk-in service at the hospital which will move to a new, unnamed, provider on 31 October.
    “DMC has already had some surgeries in Medway closed by the Care Quality Commission and a dermatology contract in Medway and north Kent was suspended over concerns about long waits for high risk patients: the contract was later terminated by mutual agreement. However, a Care Quality Commission inspection of the Sheppey service in 2020 raised no major concerns.”

  • The vaccination paradox #2 Useful infographic explaining why – even though vaccination is key to reducing serious infection with Covid – as more people are vaccinated, the proportion of vaccinated people hospitalised with Covid increases.

  • Against all odds: how New Zealand is bending the Delta curve Guardian report Sept 10 from New Zealand:
    “Across the Tasman, a bleak picture was emerging: Australia, like New Zealand, had maintained a zero-Covid elimination strategy throughout the first year of the pandemic but was now struggling with outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria.
    “Both countries had less than a third of their total populations immunised. With cases in NSW now regularly hitting more than 1,400 a day, the state provided a stark worst-case scenario of what New Zealand might see.
    “But now, against all odds, New Zealand is bending the Delta curve.
    “It’s looking very good for ending this outbreak,” says Prof Michael Baker, an epidemiologist and public health expert. “I wouldn’t say ‘absolute certainty’, but it’s now far more a matter of when, rather than if.”

  • GPs in England ‘finding it increasingly hard to guarantee safe care’ Guardian September 10:
    “Amid a debate over access to face-to-face appointments, Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), defended the growing use of remote consultations during the pandemic. He said a 4.5% fall in GP numbers across England was to blame for the crisis in primary care and warned it had led to a risk of mistakes being made.
    “In 2015, the government vowed to hire 5,000 more GPs within five years. But the number has instead fallen. The number of family doctors working the equivalent of full-time hours fell by 1,307 to 28,096 between September 2015 and March 2021, according to an analysis of NHS data by the RCGP, with growing numbers quitting due to burnout both early and late in their careers.
    “At the same time a growing and ageing population with complex conditions in addition to an overall increase in demand for care means GPs are beginning to crack under the pressure of unsustainable workloads, according to Marshall. As a result, overworked family doctors are increasingly fearful of making serious mistakes or missing crucial signs of potentially life-threatening conditions.”

  • ‘Heavy-handed, expensive’ inspections wrong way to regulate hospitals, says ex-CQC chair HSJ (9 Sept) reports that the man who has chaired the organisation carrying out heavy-handed inspections now says it doesn’t work
    “‘Very heavy-handed, laborious and expensive’ inspections ‘have not been the right way’ of regulating hospitals, according to the Care Quality Commission’s former chair.
    “Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine event on Wednesday, Lord David Prior, who is now the chair of NHS England, said “very few” physicians will have improved their work after reading a report from the regulator.
    “He added that there is a role for the CQC to move in when “things are going wrong” although he is “sceptical” the regulator can actually drive improvement in hospitals.
    “Lord Prior said: “I am highly sceptical as to whether or not CQC or any regulator can really drive improvement and drive the top hospitals to make them better.'”

  • Nearly half of all NHS staff have no medical qualifications Telegraph Sept 9 with a classical display of ignorance, prejudice and disinformation:
    “Almost half of all NHS staff are managers, administrators or unqualified assistants, it has emerged, as Boris Johnson came under pressure to insist on health service reforms as the price of increased funding.
    “The proportion of clinical staff who are professionally trained has declined from 55.5 per cent in 2013 to just 52.5 per cent now, meaning 47.5 per cent of staff have no medical qualifications.
    “Separately, it has emerged that the number of NHS managers paid more than the Prime Minister is about to rise to more than 400. Some hospitals have as many as nine managers earning more than Mr Johnson’s £157,000.
    “MPs said the figures showed that with £36 billion extra going to the NHS and social care, funded by a 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance, it was time to have a root and branch review of NHS spending.”
    Actual figures show just 34,000 managers & senior managers, 160,000 non-clinical support staff and 373,000 clinical support staff – without whom the 626,000 clinically qualified staff would have to run the whole NHS and clean the hospitals themselves, leaving little time to treat patients.

  • Don’t let them tell you we are back to ‘normal’. Excellently concise statistical Sept 9 warning note from The Brief Today:
    “There should be a real concern that some people feel they are no longer at risk and appear to have stopped taking steps to protect themselves and others. No social distancing. No proper ventilation. No masks in buses. No masks in the tube. No masks in trains. No masks in the streets. No masks at school gates...
    “Data are trending upwards, week by week, steadily but worryingly, reaching new levels. 3,069 deaths were reported in the last 28 days in the UK.
    “And what is the government doing about that?
    “They hold their cabinet meeting without masks or social distancing. Because they want you to believe we are back to ‘normal’.”

  • London ambulance under significant pressure with summer months among busiest ever Evening Standard Sept 9:
    The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has faced “significant pressure” this summer as it tackles “unprecedented” demand. June, July and August were three of the top five busiest months ever for the NHS service’s 999 call operators this year.
    July was its second busiest month on record, second only to March 2020 when paramedics worked through the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic. August and June were the fourth and fifth busiest ever months respectively.
    “It’s never been this consistently busy over a whole summer. Demand this high for this long and at this time of year is unprecedented,” a spokesperson said.”

  • To bounce back from COVID-19 the NHS needs investment, not reform Health Foundation comment September 9:
    “Political eyes … will be on how to reduce the waiting list. The NHS knows how to do this: the remedy as shown in the early 2000s was mainly investment with clear plans, incentives, targets and good performance management. The extra investment announced this week will help, but isn’t likely to be enough according to detailed modelling from the Health Foundation's REAL Centre.
    “Far from the NHS being a bloated sponge, the hard truth is the UK spends significantly less per capita on health care (and its administration) than most countries in western Europe. And it has done for decades, which is why these countries have far more staff, beds and equipment to cope with the pandemic and its effects than the UK.
    “So the priority now will be to continue to orientate the NHS towards better preventing and managing patients with long term chronic conditions, as in the NHS Long Term Plan. But at the same time double down on the waiting list using techniques proven to work as we saw in the early 2000s.
    “As we head into a likely difficult winter, and as the extra funding for the NHS just announced stretches too thinly, the political stakes will rise.
    “While shrill calls for further ‘reform’ might increasingly circulate among some backbench MPs and associated think tanks, the politicians should hold their nerve: yet more reform would be costly and risky.”

  • Record profits for Tory donor's firm that won huge PPE contracts
    Open Democracy Sept 8 investigation:
    “A company linked to the Conservative Party that won 'VIP contracts' has boasted of record £13m profits – saying that the pandemic provided an "unprecedented opportunity to support the government".
    “Meller Designs Ltd was awarded £160m in deals provide personal protective equipment (PPE), all without competitive tender.
    “The company was fast-tracked by the government through a ‘VIP lane’, after being recommended by a government insider.
    “Until January this year, it was co-owned by a prominent Tory donor, David Meller. Reports say that he personally lobbied Lord Bethell, a health minister, to speed up the awarding of one of the contracts.
    “Accounts now reveal that Meller Designs Ltd – which is normally a fashion manufacturer – made more than £13m profit after tax in 2020. The year before, it managed just £144,000.”

  • The hidden catches: ‘Capped’ social care could still cost some pensioners hundreds of thousands Unusually useful story in the Telegraph Sept 8 highlights the danger that the new social care proposals will herald a growth in private insurance to cover the continued high costs:
    “Sir Keir [Starmer] said during Prime Minister's Questions: “Someone with £186,000, if you include the value of their home – that is not untypical across the country in all of your constituencies – facing large costs because they have to go into care, will have to pay £86,000 under his plan.
    “That is before living costs. Where does the Prime Minister think that they are going to get that £86,000 without selling their home?”
    “Mr Johnson responded: “This is the first time that the state has actually come in to deal with the threat of these catastrophic costs, thereby enabling the private sector, the financial services industry, to supply the insurance products that people need to guarantee themselves against the costs of care.”
    “Asked whether his policy meant the Government was encouraging people to take out insurance to avoid selling their home, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said: “The private insurance market will now have the ability, because of the certainty provided, to come forward. It's not for me to say what actions they will take.””

  • NHS spends millions hiring an army of £200,000 bureaucrats Telegraph Sept 8 with a different twist on the implications of the Health and Care Bill, which almost all Tory MPs nodded through at its second reading in July, and are likely to rubber stamp through the Commons, establishing new and unaccountable Integrated Care Boards – headed by these new “bureaucrats”:
    “The NHS is hiring an army of 42 new executives on salaries of up to £270,000 each as Boris Johnson faces mounting anger over his tax rise to fund healthcare.
    “More than £9 million will be spent employing dozens of chief executives of new integrated care boards, each of whom will earn more than the Prime Minister.
    “Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, promised on Wednesday he would be “watchful for any waste” of the £12 billion a year tax revenue, but has yet to fully explain how the money will be spent.
    “On Wednesday night, senior Tories said they were “appalled” by the decision to hire the new executives, saying workers on low salaries would struggle to understand why they were having to pay more tax to fund “mega” pay packets for a legion of new managers.”

  • UK ministers braced for ‘catastrophic’ end to welfare uplift Financial Times report Sept 8, warning on the impact of another looming government policy to worsen the plight of the poorest, with consequences for living standards, their health and that of their children:
    "Some senior Conservative MPs have voiced their opposition to ending the uplift, including six of the party’s former work and pensions secretaries. A well-placed Whitehall official said the government’s own analysis highlighted the deep impact of reversing the change.
    “The internal modelling of ending the UC uplift is catastrophic. Homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar. It could be the real disaster of the autumn.”
    "One minister warned that the political backlash over universal credit, which is claimed by 6m people, was likely to be more serious for prime minister Boris Johnson than the debate about social care.
    “There’s no doubt that this is going to have a serious impact on thousands of people and colleagues are really worried, I think it will definitely eclipse social care as a political problem. It’s not just red wall MPs who are fearing a major backlash from the public.”

  • NHS waiting lists risk spiralling higher, experts warn FT report Sept 8 on the critical views of think tanks on the latest government plans to cut waiting lists:
    “Anita Charlesworth, director of research at the Health Foundation, pointed out that former prime minister Tony Blair’s successful push to cut waiting lists in the early 2000s had been on the back of an average 6 per cent annual increase in health funding over five years.
    “… Charlesworth pointed to huge uncertainty about how many of the estimated 8m patients who have stayed away from the NHS during the pandemic would ultimately seek healthcare. She said the government had “committed to an increase in the amount of activity the NHS is doing but they’ve resisted making any commitment, or even saying what they think the extra money will achieve, in terms of waiting lists and waiting times”.
    “If 75 per cent of the “missing” patients sought treatment, it could cost £17bn to restore 18-week waiting times, said Charlesworth, noting the government had instead provided £10bn between 2021-22 and 2024-25 to tackle the backlog.
    “… Even holding waiting lists at the current level of 5.5m patients would cost £13.3bn, according to Charlesworth’s calculations. “In all probability we will find ourselves at the next general election with a longer waiting list than we have at the moment — not a shorter one,” she said.”

  • Will the cap really fix the social care system? BBC's Nick Triggle Sept 8 with a particularly rigorous dissection of why the government's £36bn plan will make little difference to most people receiving social care:
    The £86k cap on spending does not include “daily living costs:”
    “In many ways, this is understandable - after all, they would be liable for living costs if they remained in their own home. But it would mean - based on the average care home cost of £36,000 a year - only £24,000 of the spending counting towards the cap once those £12,000 living costs are taken off.
    “That would mean it would take the average care home resident more than three and a half years to hit it.
    “But the problem is not many people live that long once they move into a care home. Half die in little over a year, with three-quarters not making it past three years.
    “Care you receive in your own home will count towards the cap. But this tends to cost much less and therefore people would normally need to be in receipt of that care for many, many years to hit the cap.”

  • The Tories sold a social care con-trick yesterday that will do almost nothing to help those in real need Tax expert Richard Murphy Sept 8, explores the actual implications of the government’s £30bn package for England’s health and social care:
    “On policy delivery what was very apparent yesterday was that what was being delivered on social care was a tax increase on low paid workers so that the wealthy could retain more of the value of their properties to pass on to their children.
    “That was the driving force behind this change. Everything else is a footnote to that goal. As policy priorities go few are as perverted in the face of need as that.
    “When it comes to practical delivery the statements made were even worse. Social care is largely delivered by local authorities. There was no indication of additional support being supplied to them.
    “Nor was there any indication of how the social care sector might attract the staff needed to supply the services that are now so essential, including by providing funding for better pay. Nor was there a hint as to how the staffing crisis caused by Brexit is to be solved.”

  • The government’s health and care proposals must address the problems in the existing care system Sept 7 analysis from the Institute for Government
    “The government plans to spend an additional £12bn in each year between 2022/23 and 2024/25. In theory, this is enough to reform social care with some money left over for tackling the backlog of elective operations.
    “Of the £36bn allocated over the next three years, 44% will go to NHS England and Improvement, 16% to the devolved nations as Barnett consequentials, 15% to social care in England, and the remaining 25% to the Department of Health and Social Care – although the government has said that it will only confirm the allocation of additional money between local authorities and the Department of Health and Social Care in the 2021 spending review.
    “Previous funds for specific tasks for the NHS have ended up being swallowed into the NHS budget permanently. The 2015 Sustainability and Transformation Fund – which was designed for NHS trusts to eliminate deficits and transform services – was ultimately used to “to address the financial deficit in the trust sector, rather than improving and developing services for patients”.
    “There is a risk that the funding for the NHS to tackle backlogs goes into the baseline NHS budget and the funding never ends up going to local authorities to reform social care.”

  • Extra £6.5bn next year falls short of what NHS says is needed HSJ Sept 7 analysis:
    “The spending increases government announced today provide an additional £6.5bn for NHS England’s revenue budget next year, falling significantly short of what health sector bodies say is necessary.
    “Last week, NHS Providers and NHS Confederation said a £10bn annual rise was needed for NHS-specific budgets in 2022-23, to avoid service cuts and placing patients at increased risk, which is also thought to reflect what NHS England has asked for.
    “But detailed tables published alongside today’s headline announcements show an additional £6.5bn for NHSE next year, followed by an additional £3.6bn in 2023-24, and £5.5bn in 2024-25. This equates to £15.6bn spread over three years.
    “… In a joint statement responding the announcement, NHS Providers and NHS Confed said: ‘No one should be in any doubt that this extra funding is welcome. But the government promised to give the NHS whatever it needed to deal with the pandemic, and, while it makes a start on tackling backlogs, this announcement unfortunately hasn’t gone nearly far enough. Health and care leaders are now faced with an impossible set of choices about where and how to prioritise care for patients.’”

  • NHS chief warns hospitals could face ‘one of the most challenging winters on record’ i-news report September 7:
    “The NHS is heading into “one of its most challenging winters”, with Covid-19, waiting lists and staffing issues increasing fears that it will be pushed beyond capacity, a leading health service chief has told i.
    “The warning comes after i revealed on Monday that the Government has contingency plans for an October half-term “firebreak” lockdown should NHS hospital admissions threaten to breach capacity in the coming weeks.
    “Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers – the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England – said that on top of Covid-19 admissions and record NHS waiting list of 5.45 million people, the NHS was expecting high levels of flu and of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among children in the coming months.
    “Ms Cordery told i: “The NHS is likely to face one of the most challenging winters on record as it tackles the backlog of care, the continuing presence of Covid-19, potentially high levels of flu and RSV and general winter pressures.

  • Social care reform plans facing Tory tax backlash BBC news report September 6:
    “Boris Johnson will unveil his long-term plans for social care and the NHS as early as Tuesday, amid rows over how to pay for multi-billion pound funding.
    “The PM said he had a plan to reform social care when he took power in 2019, but has yet to announce the detail.
    “Now, reports of an increase in National Insurance to cover the cost - which would break his commitment not to raise taxes - has led to anger from Tory MPs.
    “An extra £5.5bn for the NHS is also expected to be announced on Monday.
    “… Organisations representing the NHS have warned services may have to be cut unless NHS England receives an extra £10bn in funding next year.”

  • Hospital-acquired infection caused one-in-five covid deaths at several trusts HSJ report underling the issue of safety and quality in care during and after the peak of the Covid pandemic:
    “More than one in five ‘covid deaths’ were both probably hospital-acquired, and caused at least in part by the virus, at several trusts, according to analysis they have released to HSJ.
    “We obtained figures from more than 30 trusts which have looked in detail at cases where patients died after definitely, or probably, catching covid in hospital.
    “Previous reports of nosocomial covid deaths have been questioned on the basis that the patients may have died “with covid” coincidentally, while other conditions or injuries caused their death. The data newly shared with HSJ appears to dispel that theory.
    “Thirty-two acute trusts provided HSJ with robust data, out of the total 120 in England. Across all 32, they had recorded 3,223 covid hospital deaths which were either “definitely” or ‘probably’ nosocomial — making up around 17 per cent of their total reported 19,020 hospital deaths.”

  • 'Absolutely nobody' will challenge National Insurance hike to pay for social care, says minister ITV News September 6, focused on spending issue rather than the lack of any promised plan for long term reform of social care:
    "Plans to fund social care reform by increasing National Insurance have been widely criticised by Tories and Labour - but a minister has suggested the British public will accept a tax hike if shown honesty by the government.
    "Armed forces minister James Heappey would not confirm widely reported claims that the government was planning to break a manifesto pledge by raising National Insurance this week. Instead he urged people not to speculate about yet-to-be announced plans.
    "Reports say National Insurance will be increased by 1.25% to raise between £10 billion and £11 billion per year in order to pay for social care reforms, which many say should include a pay rise for carers."

  • Boris Johnson faces open warfare with his own party over national insurance hike Independent September 6:
    “Boris Johnson is facing open warfare with members of his own party over plans to hike national insurance contributions (NI) of 25 million of workers to raise £10bn for social care for the elderly.
    “Former chancellor Philip Hammond on Sunday became the latest senior Tory to denounce the plan, warning it will provoke “a very significant backlash” causing serious damage to the Conservative Party.
    “Ex-prime minister Sir John Major has blasted the use of NI to pay for care as “regressive”, while former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that Mr Johnson’s plans could turn the Tories into a “high-tax, high-spend party” without resolving the long-standing shortage of funds for care.
    “And cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg sent a thinly-veiled warning to the PM about the danger of breaching his 2019 manifesto promise not to raise NI, income tax or VAT during this parliament.”

  • … a tissue of lies and deception Summary article by John Lister for Roy Lilley's online newsletter.
    It concludes:
    "… behind the Playbook spin NO new hospitals are yet being built, and plans are being hacked back – while older hospitals not prioritised for funding, like QEH Kings Lynn, James Paget and Hinchingbrooke are actually falling down."

  • The Observer view on the urgent need for extra social care funding Observer editorial September 5 argues the need to tax the rich rather than the poor:
    “The government urgently needs to set out a proper funding plan as part of the forthcoming spending review. There is no good reason why, while people who get cancer have their care funded through the NHS, the vast majority of those who develop dementia in older age are expected to fund their own care: it is ageism.
    “The principled case for free personal care is stronger in older age than for universal healthcare; very few people in their 30s and 40s feel inclined to imagine, plan and save for a future with dementia and the costs of care can be far more crippling than many other conditions whose associated costs are absorbed by the NHS.
    “Commission after commission – from the royal commission on social care in 1999 to the Barker commission in 2014 – has recommended that the NHS principle should be extended to personal care in older age and shown that it is eminently affordable for a society as rich as ours. It can be funded through an increase in taxation on wealthier individuals, as the TUC is calling for today.”

  • Cuts to NHS mental health beds mean more than £100m spent on private providers Independent September 5:
    “Plummeting numbers of mental health beds in the NHS have led to a steep rise in spending on private hospitals in England as patients are increasingly sent miles from home to be treated, according to Labour research.
    “The party’s mental health spokesperson Rosena Allin-Khan says the money spent by the NHS on placing patients in private mental health beds soared by more than a third from £80m in the financial year 2017-18 to £108m in 2019-20. And the number of placements where patients were sent more than 300km – 186 miles – away from their home has almost doubled from 38 in 2017 to 75, she says.
    “The government had set a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements in mental health services for adults in acute inpatient care by April.
    “But Labour says that the problem is being exacerbated by a 25 per cent decline in NHS mental health beds since 2010, equating to almost 6,000 fewer places over a period when numbers of people in contact with mental health services has risen by 20 per cent.”

  • Tax the wealthy to give care workers a pay rise, don’t raid ordinary workers’ pockets TUC comment in the Guardian September 4 offers some advice to fill in the yawning gap in Labour's policies:
    “… in the UK seven in 10 social care staff earn less than £10 an hour and one in four are employed on zero-hours contracts.
    “There has been no mention so far of supporting the care workforce in all the chatter about last week’s forthcoming proposals on funding social care. Instead, ministers seem focused on selling their plan to wallop workers through higher national insurance contributions.
    “Our social care system needs a cash injection, but this isn’t the right way to do it. Young and low-paid workers, who have already borne the brunt of this pandemic, would see a disproportionate hit from an NI hike. It’s not right to hit them when ministers are leaving the wealthy untouched.
    “That is why the TUC is today calling on the government to raise capital gains tax (CGT) to provide a long-term funding settlement for our social care system, starting with paying all care workers at least £10 an hour.”

  • Long Covid hell could blight 2000 children a day amid row over vaccine for kids “As top scientists decide whether to vaccinate kids aged 12-15, experts warn that more than 2,000 children a day may develop long Covid.
    “England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is looking at the benefits of jabbing all in the age group, which was opposed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
    “The JCVI thinks the benefits are too small to vaccinate millions of the youngsters.
    “But now some medics fear the highly infectious Delta variant is about to rip through schools and may cause more severe disease in -unvaccinated sufferers.
    “A report, based on figures before Delta took hold, suggests one in seven infected children, aged 11 and over, still have symptoms 15 weeks on.”

  • GP surgeries in England cancel flu jabs amid vaccine shortage Guardian September 3:
    “GP surgeries are being forced to cancel appointments for the winter flu jab after the NHS’s biggest provider warned that it could not deliver supplies for up to two weeks due to “unforeseen road freight challenges”.
    “Practices in England have begun contacting patients to postpone their immunisation without being able to rebook them at a later date. The problem emerged on Friday when vaccine maker Seqirus wrote to surgeries alerting them to the possibility of having to rearrange booked appointments.
    “… The letter did not explain whether the delays were related to the continuing shortage of lorry drivers that has led to supermarkets running out of certain goods and fast food outlets having to close as they are unable to serve signature dishes.
    “The British Medical Association warned that the delay in delivery would have a major impact. It comes on top of a severe shortage of blood sample bottles, which last week led NHS England to order GPs and hospitals to cut back dramatically the number of blood tests they carry out, which has forced doctors to ration which patients have their blood taken.”

  • Rise in national insurance could fund post-Covid boost for NHS Guardian report September 3:
    "A manifesto-busting 1p increase in national insurance contributions for workers and employers could be used for a post-Covid boost for the NHS and to address long-term social care funding.
    "With MPs returning to Westminster after their summer recess on Monday, one source suggested the government was keen to rush the necessary legislation through in the three weeks before the Commons breaks again for the party conference season, with the funding badged as a health and social care levy.
    "The final details of the funding package to help the NHS deal with the legacy of Covid are to be thrashed out in crunch talks on Friday, with health service leaders fearing the final figure could be just half the £10bn they are demanding."

  • My father died because of paramedic staff shortages – the public should know about this worsening crisis Article by Dr Aseem Malhotra in i-News September 3 on the tragic circumstances of the death of his father, doctor and campaigner Kailash Chand:
    “I’ve treated countless patients in a similar situation myself and even published articles in medical journals on improving the survival of those suffering out of hospital cardiac arrest. Because effective CPR was being carried out by fully trained bystanders and the ambulance had been called immediately, I was confident he would be ok. In such cases survival rates can be as high as 75 per cent.
    “But it took 35 minutes from when the ambulance call was made and 30 minutes from when the cardiac arrest occurred before the paramedics got to the flat. By then it was too late. Through FaceTime I was able to see the cardiac monitor of the defibrillator. It was a flat line. There was nothing to shock. He was gone.
    “… Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Throughout the country, because of staff shortages, the ambulance services are now failing to meet the most basic levels of timely care.”

  • Care sector facing its worst ever staffing crisis, survey for ITV News finds ITV News with a very useful survey, Sept 3:
    “The largest survey of home care providers ever conducted has found the sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in history, with thousands of vulnerable people going without care as a result.
    “Some 78% of providers who responded to the exclusive survey, carried out by ITV News in conjunction with the UK Homecare Association, said recruiting carers is the hardest it has ever been. Many describe being at "breaking point".
    “Due to the staffing crisis, 30% of the 843 providers surveyed said they are handing back some, or all, of their care to local authorities because they can no longer fulfill their contracts.
    “ITV News has seen lists of people who are waiting more than three months to have a provider assigned to them.”

  • Yet more stress for nurses and doctors as they are forced to choose which patients are allowed blood tests Nursing Notes September 2 on yet another aspect to the crisis impacting on the NHS:
    “The British Medical Association (BMA) has issued a stark warning about the “very difficult choices” healthcare workers will be forced to make amid a shortage of blood test tubes.
    “A severe national shortage of Yellow top and Purple top blood tubes is having a significant impact on hospitals and GP surgeries.
    “Earlier this month NHS England released formal guidance advising NHS providers to cancel routine blood tests amid the national blood tube shortage.
    “The shortage means doctors and nurses are having to make “very difficult choices” about who is allowed blood tests.”

  • NHS ‘needs £10bn annual boost’ to tackle backlog and Covid cost Guardian September 2
    "The NHS needs a £10bn a year budget boost to cover the costs of Covid-19 and tackle the huge treatment backlog, health service leaders in England will tell ministers.
    "The plea comes in a rare joint initiative on Thursday from the two organisations that represent the 213 NHS care trusts.
    "Services will have to be cut, waiting lists will soar and the quality of hospital care will fall if the government increases NHS funding by anything less than £10bn, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation said.
    "Their intervention is intended to put pressure on Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), where ministers and officials are finalising how much more money the NHS will get in the next three years.
    "An announcement is expected imminently on the final figure, despite the comprehensive spending review not being due until November."

  • Eight in 10 African countries to miss crucial COVID-19 vaccination goal WHO Africa update September 2:
    “Africa is set to miss the urgent global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10% of every country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of September. Forty-two of Africa’s 54 nations—nearly 80%—are set to miss the target if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations hold, new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.
    “Nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, have already reached the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. At the current pace, three more African countries are set to meet the target. Two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations.
    “With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.”

  • GPs face patients' anger over cancelled tests as NHS awaits extra blood tubes GP Online September 2 on the GPs once again in the firing line for systems failure in the NHS or beyond their control:
    “NHS England last week ordered GPs to stop all non-urgent blood tests until 17 September amid a global shortage of tubes, with NHS officials warning supplies would become ‘even more constrained before they improved’.
    “In a statement on 31 August, supplier Becton Dickinson said it was importing millions of additional tubes this week for ‘immediate distribution’ under emergency measures.
    “However, GPs warned that practice teams are facing abuse from patients angry about disruption to blood tests, with one doctor saying their team was ‘at wits' end’ - urging the government to ‘speak out’ on the issue.
    “The warning comes after the BMA said last week that GPs must not take blame for delays to care due to the blood test tube shortage, which it said were likely to add to the ‘enormous backlog of care’ created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • Worcestershire NHS managers knew cancers missed due to X-ray backlog BBC report August 27 on a shocking cover-up by Worcestershire Hospitals:
    “Senior managers at an NHS trust knew up to 30 cancers may have gone undetected two years before an official probe into a backlog of thousands of X-rays.
    “Three lung cancers were missed at Worcestershire hospitals NHS Trust, a sample check of results in 2014 found.
    “Neither the Care Quality Commission (CQC) nor Worcestershire Healthwatch were told of potential harm to patients despite both investigating in 2016.
    “… The whistleblower who revealed the backlog was struck off as a radiographer after allegations of fraud. He has now been reinstated after previously undisclosed documents were found to make the strike-off judgement unsafe.”

  • Checking the NHS’s reality: the true state of the health service’s finances Important and revealing August 20 blog by Nuffield Trust’s Sally Gainsbury gets to the roots of the chronic NHS revenue funding crisis – but does not add in the growing problem of lack of capital to reopen closed beds or fund backlog maintenance:
    “The single biggest driver of that spending baseline is the costs of NHS providers – the hospital, mental health, ambulance and community service trusts, which together consume the equivalent of over three-quarters of the total £133 billion revenue budget for NHS England.
    “In the financial year 2018-19, the gross expenditure of those 230 NHS trusts came to £87.4 billion, against an original plan (after adjusting upwards to take in extra funding provided mid-year to cover the new staff pay settlement) of £85.3 billion.
    “That £2 billion gap between plan and reality was created in almost equal measure by unrealistically low assumptions on behalf of commissioners about the likely number of patients requiring care on one side, and unrealistically high assumptions about the value of cost savings that could be extracted from providers’ expenses on the other.”

  • The ICS house of mirrors HSJ’s Sharon Brennan in a farewell August 26 Expert Briefing spells out some of the unspoken problems already dogging Integrated Care Systems even before the real discussion on the Health and Care Bill begins in the Commons:
    “As the April 2022 deadline for integrated care systems to become statutory moves closer, leaders cannot find many more ways to say the timeline is becoming incredibly tight.
    “With seven months to go, there remain crucial unanswered questions. For example, for every piece of guidance NHS England releases, there is another piece of guidance mentioned within it that is due to be published.
    “Creating a new ICS is like a house of mirrors where no one knows where the exit is.
    “… In April, expect ICSs to look like very large clinical commissioning groups as they take time to think through the transformative work that would elevate them above this.”

  • NHS mental health therapists pressurised to exaggerate success rates, expert claims Independent August 26 with a report that shows it’s not just acute hospital bosses being called upon to lie to the public:
    “The provision of psychological treatment on the NHS has undergone an “Uberisation”, in which counsellors are pressurised to exaggerate their success in treating patients, a conference has heard.
    “Elizabeth Cotton, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, an expert in mental health at work, said that more than four in 10 – 41 per cent – of therapists working for the NHS’s talking treatments programme had been asked to manipulate data about patients’ progress.
    “… Dr Cotton carried out four surveys between 2016 and 2020. One, of 1,500 therapists working for the NHS or privately, found that more than a third - 38 per cent - had raised concerns about patient care, a figure rising to 58 per cent among the 223 currently employed by IAPT.
    “In another survey of 650 IAPT employees, carried out in 2019, 41 per cent said they had been asked to manipulate data.”

  • Waiting times for elective (non-urgent) treatment: referral to treatment (RTT) Kings Fund August 5 analysis of the most recent waiting list figures:
    “The NHS constitution sets a standard that 92 per cent of people waiting for elective (non-urgent) treatment, for example, cataract surgery or a knee replacement, should wait no longer than 18 weeks from their referral to their first treatment.
    “The standard was last met in February 2016, since when performance has declined steadily until the Covid-19 pandemic when it deteriorated rapidly.
    “In addition to the 18-week standard, to prevent very long waits for treatment, NHS England introduced a policy in 2013/14 that said no one should wait more than 52 weeks from referral to first treatment.
    “The number of people waiting more than a year was maintained at a low level for a long period of time but has never reached zero. Long waits started to creep up again in 2018, and then climbed significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additional data released for April 2021 showed that almost 3,000 people had been waiting more than 2 years (104 weeks) for treatment.”
    “… the NHS was already missing these key waiting time standards before the pandemic started. It will take considerable time and resources to reduce waits for routine NHS care.”

  • Outspoken conservative radio host Phil Valentine dies after battling COVID-19 Nashville Channel 5 August 22 on the death of 61 year-old Conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine from COVID-19.
    “Recently Valentine voiced skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine.
    “In December of 2020 he tweeted "I have a very low risk of A) Getting COVID and B) dying of it if I do. Why would I risk getting a heart attack or paralysis by getting the vaccine?"
    “He even recorded a parody song - Vaxman - mocking the vaccine.
    “In July, he told his audience he had COVID and he expected to be back soon. But later updates from family and friends indicated how serious it was.
    “Valentine's brother said Phil regretted not being more pro-vaccine and wrote if he got back on the radio he would encourage people to get vaccinated.”

  • Propaganda stepped up as new hospital schemes are stalled August 27 comment from The Lowdown pointing out that not only are NHS managers being required to lie about new hospitals, but even the projects that were supposedly funded are at a standstill and being called upon to scale back their plans to reduce costs:
    “Only a few of the promised 40 new hospitals by 2030 were guaranteed immediate funding, with the remainder fobbed off with less than £5m each in “seed funding” to work up projects that could not go ahead until at least 2025.

    “But so far none of the initial ‘pathfinder’ schemes has started, or even finalised a plan. They are replacing Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow; Watford General Hospital; Whipps Cross Hospital, part of Bart’s trust in East London; a new Specialist Emergency Centre for Epsom & St Helier in South West London; reconfiguration of University Hospitals of Leicester; and a new wing for Leeds General Infirmary.
    “Last October two more schemes, rebuilding Hillingdon Hospital and North Manchester General Hospital, were added to the priority list – to make eight pathfinders.
    “But with only £2.8bn allocated so far for the first round of new projects up to 2025, doubts have been growing over their affordability.
    “In early July the leader of the New Hospital Programme, Natalie Forrest, admitted to a conference that the ‘brakes had come on’ for some of the pathfinder projects, most notably Princess Alexandra, while some are having to change designs due to new requirements, and concerns over the capacity of the construction industry to complete so many projects by 2030.”

  • ‘Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon’: Hospital boss issues frank warning to staff Independent August 28:
    “The chief executive of Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust, Chris Long, told staff in a leaked message seen by The Independent that more operations would have to be postponed at Hull Royal Infirmary with new areas opened for Covid patients.
    “The hospital has already issued a warning to A&E patients that they face being turned away if they come to the hospital with non-urgent complaints after the trust reported 400 patients were being seen daily in the A&E with 100 able to go elsewhere.
    “Elsewhere on Friday, The Independent has learned a “makeshift” intensive care unit has been opened at the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Trust after a rise in Covid patients. The trust 59 Covid patients on Friday with 17 in intensive care.”

  • GPs ordered to halt all non-urgent blood tests across England until September Shaun Lintern Aug 27 in the Independent flagging up yet another knock-on impact of Brexit (aka ‘UK border challenges’):
    “All non-urgent community blood testing by GPs and other health services has been stopped by NHS England today as the nationwide shortage of blood collection tubes became “critical”.
    “In a new alert to the health service on Thursday, NHS England also told hospitals they needed to reduce the amount of blood test requests by doctors by 25 per cent.
    “NHS trusts have been warned they need to put plans in place to help each other out if some organisations come close to running out of tubes.
    “NHS England said the shortage of blood collection tubes was likely to get worse before it gets better.”

  • Expansion of pharmacies’ clinical offering fails to offset crisis in general practice Lowdown article August 27:
    “The move by the NHS community pharmacy sector to bolster its clinical offer to patients by expanding into hypertension case-finding and smoking cessation services is a welcome development, but the wider crisis in primary healthcare provision remains.
    “From October, more than 11,000 pharmacies which have signed up to the ‘community pharmacy contractual framework’ (CPCF) – a five-year deal already agreed by NHS England (NHSE), the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) – will offer the first of these services, providing blood-pressure checks to people aged 40 and over, under the mantle of hypertension case-finding.
    “According to NHSE, this service simply involves a free blood-pressure check as part of a 10-15 minute consultation with a trained member of the pharmacy team, following which patients “may be invited to take home a blood-pressure monitor” to take further readings, or alternatively they may be referred on to a GP.
    “Whether the roll-out of this quick-turnaround service, piloted last autumn, turns out to be an effective move only time will tell – NHSE claims that 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented, and around 2,000 lives saved, over the next five years as a result of its introduction – but GP surgeries, by contrast, often recommend taking readings at home over the course of seven days to gain a more reliable idea of a patient’s blood-pressure.”

  • DHSC ‘playbook’ orders trusts to describe big building projects as ‘new hospitals’ HSJ (August 26) breaks the story that the government’s propaganda chiefs are trying to instruct NHS CEOs to describe any substantial building project as a “new hospital”:
    “A communications ‘playbook’ for the government’s NHS building programme tells trusts that major refurbishments and new wings/units which are part of the scheme ‘must always be referred to as a new hospital’.
    “The instructions for comms on the Department of Health and Social Care’s “new hospital programme”, leaked to HSJ, also state that trusts should reiterate ministers’ commitment to open “48 new hospitals by the end of the decade”.
    “There has been a running controversy over the description of the prominent Conservative manifesto commitment, with questions raised about how many new hospitals will be delivered in reality, and the fact that many of those planned are not full hospital builds.
    “Last week, Sajid Javid was criticised for describing the Northern Centre for Cancer Care — which is part of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the first of the 48 schemes to open — as a “new hospital”. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs it, did not describe it as a hospital.”

  • Plymouth hospital declares critical incident over bed shortages Independent August 26:
    “A Plymouth hospital has declared a critical incident over bed shortages as its emergency department becomes overrun by coronavirus cases.
    “A spokesperson for University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which runs Derriford Hospital near Devon, said that the service is experiencing its highest rate of Covid-19 occupancy of the virus’s third wave.
    “The critical incident declaration means that all hospital departments must focus on tackling the problem. Already, bed capacity has been reconfigured to try to meet the demand of patients with and without Covid-19.
    “The hospital has also cancelled routine surgery appointments and temporarily banned visitors to try to prevent the virus being spread.”

  • Rush to clear NHS backlog could leave poorest behind, warns new analysis Independent August 26 on an important new report from the Health Foundation, revealing that far from “levelling up,” health inequalities are widening, not least in the areas that swung to the Totis in 2019:
    “A rush to cut NHS waiting lists for surgeries such as hip replacements could inadvertently worsen health inequalities with richer patients being treated sooner, according to a new analysis.
    “The study by the Health Foundation think tank has identified a large gap between the most and least deprived parts of London, in terms of the number of admissions for hip surgery during 2020, as the NHS recovered from the first wave of Covid.
    “While the most deprived parts of London saw a 30 per cent fall in admissions for hip replacements during 2020, the least deprived areas of the city saw only a 15 per cent fall.
    “The disparity is also regional too, with London managing to get back to its pre-Covid levels of activity for hip surgery while other parts of the country fell behind. The Health Foundation found the Midlands and the northeast and Yorkshire regions were worst affected with 50 per cent fewer admissions. This meant 15,000 more patients in the Midlands and 11,000 more in the northeast and Yorkshire waiting for surgery.”

  • NHS trusts told to describe building work on existing sites as ‘new hospitals’ Independent August 26 picks up on HSJ Exclusive on the leaked NHS Comms “Playbook” setting out how NHS chief executives need to big up even the smallest building or refurb project as a “new hospital”:
    “Under the definitions of a new hospital, the document stated that this could include “a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains a whole clinical service, such as maternity or children’s services; or a major refurbishment and alteration of all but building frame or main structure, delivering a significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure”.
    “The guidance says that, where NHS trusts are promoting the programme, they must mention the government’s manifesto commitment.
    “… Nuffield Trust director of strategy Helen Buckingham told the HSJ: “Stretching the definition of a ‘new hospital’ to cover all these initiatives is not going to convince the average patient or taxpayer, and might lead to a poor reception for what are actually much-needed local improvements.”

  • UK records 35,847 new cases and 149 more deaths, daily figures show Sky news August 26 with some grim figures on a new surge of Civid infection:
    “The UK has recorded 35,847 new COVID cases and 149 more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, government data shows.
    “The figures compare with 30,838 infections and 174 fatalities recorded yesterday - the highest daily death total since 12 March. This time last week, 18 August, 33,904 cases and 111 deaths were announced.
    “Since the pandemic began, 132,003 people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 and there have been 6,590,747 lab-confirmed cases.”

  • For a doctor, the Tories’ empty promises on hospitals are soul-destroying Guardian comment by Dr Rachel Clarke, August 25 in response to Sajid Javid’s August 20 tweet: “Looking forward to opening one of new 48 hospitals [sic] later today:”
    “Javid’s tweet met with a chorus of derision. The fact was, the health secretary was not en route to a “new” hospital at all, but rather to a new cancer unit, built within the existing Cumberland Infirmary in Cumbria, which was itself opened in 2000 – by the then prime minister, Tony Blair.
    “As Siva Anandaciva, chief policy analyst at health think tank the King’s Fund, puts it, the phrase new hospital “might suggest the NHS will see its stock of hospitals grow with … brand new, fully staffed hospitals that offer a full range of services. But – in reality – the promised investment is likely to pay for new facilities on existing hospital sites and the redeployment of existing staff.”
    “I shared the public fury. For what, precisely, is wrong with simply telling the truth and saying you are delighted to be opening a new cancer unit? Why devalue all the effort, hard work and rightful pride among its staff by pretending it is an actual hospital?
    “I don’t lie to my patients. So why does the health secretary think he is exempt from the NHS’s duty of candour, lying to NHS staff, patients and voters alike?”

  • UK Covid deaths average 100 a day with fears of rise when schools return Guardian with alarming figures August 23:
    “Deaths from Covid-19 are now averaging 100 a day across the UK, according to official data, and scientists have warned that case rates will jump again when millions of pupils return to schools next week.
    “The seven-day average for deaths within 28 days of a positive test now stands at 100, figures released by Public Health England on Monday show, a number that was last exceeded on 18 March.
    “Although the vaccination programme means deaths are far below the peaks of last winter – the highest daily total was 1,248, reported on 23 January – it is a notable rise from late May and early June, when they were consistently in single figures.
    “Confirmed infection numbers have also started to rise once more following a dramatic fall in mid-July, with 31,914 cases reported on Monday, the seven-day average figure having increased 13% from a week before. Hospitalisations have risen from 672 on 31 July to 948 on 17 August.”

  • Ending restrictions with 80% vaccinated could cause 25,000 Australian deaths, new modelling suggests Guardian August 23 with a warning for Australia – and against relaxing precautions or the drive for vaccination:
    “Ending lockdowns and other public health restrictions once 80% of the adult population is vaccinated could result in 25,000 deaths in total and 270,000 cases of long Covid, new modelling warns.
    “The work by researchers at three leading Australian universities predicts more than 10 times as many deaths as the Doherty Institute modelling that underpins the national four-phase roadmap. That plan was adopted by national cabinet in July but is subject to different interpretations by state and territory leaders.
    “The Doherty modelling looked at the number of deaths in the first 180 days of reopening at the 70% and 80% thresholds that lead to phase B and C – when lockdowns would be “less likely” and then “highly targeted”.
    “The latest research models total cumulative deaths over a longer time frame during phase D of the national plan – when no restrictions remain.”

  • 82 testing providers to be issued warnings over misleading prices Gov.uk press release August 23 tacitly concedes how desperately poor was the information on its website – and how lax are the controls on rip-off companies, 80 of whom are given warnings rather than simply being removed from the website.
    “More than 80 private travel testing companies will be issued a 2-strike warning and could be removed from GOV.UK for misleading prices, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced today (Monday 23 August).
    “Following a rapid review of the pricing and service standards of day 2 and day 8 testing providers listed on GOV.UK, 82 providers – making up around 18% listed – have been identified as displaying lower prices on GOV.UK than are available on their website at the point of checkout.
    “GOV.UK will be updated to reflect the true cost of the tests and companies will be warned this week that they will be removed if they advertise misleading prices again.
    “A total of 57 companies will be removed from the GOV.UK list today as they no longer exist or don’t provide day 2 and day 8 testing.”

  • Nurse issues warning against Covid misinformation after her anti-vaxxer mother dies of virus aged 57 Independent August 22 with a tragic story of another person who preferred injections of fake news to the vaccine:
    “A nurse has issued a warning against coronavirus misinformation after her anti-vaxxer mother died of the disease aged just 57.
    “Amy Crosby said her mother Geraldine Mount, who had no pre-existing health conditions, passed away from the virus at the same hospital where she has been working on the vaccine rollout.
    “In a Twitter post on Thursday, the 34-year-old nurse, who works at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, admitted that her relationship with her mother had become “strained” in the past 18 months due to her belief that the virus didn’t exist.
    “Amy said she was sharing the post in the hope it may prevent others from falling prey to dangerous misinformation around coronavirus and vaccines.
    “… “Today in hospital she died of complications caused by Covid, she spent the last month of her life without any family around her and her last memories were of sheer terror at having to be intubated and not knowing if she would wake up.”

  • Raging Delta variant takes its toll as Philippines runs out of nurses Guardian August 21 highlights the growing crisis as the Philippines tries to cope with Covid having for years exported many of its mots experienced nursing staff:
    “The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of nurses, with 17,000 leaving to work overseas, including in the UK and the US, in 2019. But it is increasingly struggling to staff its own wards, where pay is low and conditions poor. Last week, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines estimated 40% of private hospital nurses quit last year, and more have left followingafter new waves of infections this year.
    “Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United, warned more will go unless the government begins large-scale recruitment to ease the pressure on wards, and pays overdue benefits to staff. “If they don’t act immediately in the next few days there might be a huge mass mobilisation among the health workers,” she said.
    “The warning comes as cases in the country, one of the worst hit in south-east Asia, continue to rise. On Saturday, 16,694 infections were reported, as well as and 398 deaths – the second-highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. So far, 31,596 people have died.”

  • ‘They worry they will never get better’: a day in Bolton’s long Covid clinic Guardian August 21 on the fight against Long Covid in Bolton, revealing that only a minority are able to return to work:
    “Almost 40,000 people in the Greater Manchester town have tested positive for Covid over the pandemic, just over 20% of the local population. In May Bolton found itself once again in the eye of a Covid storm as the first place the Delta variant took hold.
    “Bolton’s health leaders believe they will be dealing with the fallout from Covid for many years to come. They do not know how many Boltonians will develop long Covid, but a report in June estimated that 37.7% of people in England who had symptomatic Covid experienced at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more – equivalent to 2 million people. Almost 15% experienced three or more persistent symptoms.
    “In January Bolton started its first long Covid pilot clinic, offering a mixture of group and individual therapy for the three main symptoms: respiratory issues, fatigue and speech difficulties. Of the 60 patients who took part, 45% were able to return to work and 43% felt well enough to resume hobbies.”

  • NHS Wales: Waiting times hit record levels BBC report August 20 – note the cynical condemnation from Tories whose govt in Westminster controls the Welsh budget:
    “The numbers on waiting lists for non-urgent hospital treatment in Wales have again hit record levels.
    “There were 624,909 people waiting in June, with the list climbing steadily each month and up by 41% since the early days of the Covid pandemic.
    “Those waiting the longest, more than nine months, rose again to 233,210.
    A&E waiting time performance was the worst on record and Conservatives called the figures "catastrophic".
    “Emergency departments and the Welsh ambulance service both had their busiest months since the pandemic began.”

  • Morecambe Bay maternity unit labelled ‘inadequate’ after drop in care standards Independent with a saddening report on the fresh failures of a notoriously failing trust to deliver safe maternity care:
    “A maternity unit at the centre of a major NHS care scandal six year ago has again been labelled inadequate by inspectors over fears for the safety of mothers and babies.
    “Maternity care at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has been heavily critcised by the Care Quality Commission in a new inspector report which criticises the care across the trust’s three hospitals and raises concerns over the trust’s culture and leadership.
    “The trust has now been effectively put into special measures by NHS England and has had conditions imposed by the CQC which is demanding urgent improvements.
    “… James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died as a result of mistakes at the trust in 2008, told The Independent he was shocked by the CQC’s findings and felt “deeply let down”. He said it was clear the trust had “lost its memory” after the tragic events that led to the Kirkup report.”

  • Inequalities in the distribution of the general practice workforce Cambridge University's Primary Care Unit has published a hard hitting report on the growing inequality in access to GP services, with the poorest facing the least access: here they offer the data as an interactive map.
    "A fair distribution of primary care staff is a key building block to reducing health and care inequalities. To accompany our recently paper published in the BJGP Open exploring inequalities in primary care workforce, which can be found here, we have developed an interactive data dashboard."

  • Record 1 million 999 calls made to NHS in July Independent August 13:
    “More than a million 999 calls were made to ambulance services in July – the highest number ever recorded – as the NHS battles a summer crisis in patient demand.
    “The latest data shows major A&E departments saw their second-highest ever numbers of patients in July, while paramedics were sent out to 82,000 emergencies last month, 8,000 more than the record set in June.
    “… The Independent has learned that more operations were cancelled on Wednesday at the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust and in Manchester, while doctors have been told that wards are dangerously understaffed, with one hospital trust at “full capacity”.
    “Earlier this week, major hospitals in London declared “black alerts”, with a shortage of beds at St Mary’s Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital, while operations have been cancelled in Sheffield, where bosses have converted a second ward to cope with Coronavirus admissions.”

  • Extra wards open and more staff recruited as high number of Covid patients likely to last 'months' Birmingham Mail August 20:
    “Hospital chiefs in Birmingham are predicting the number of Covid patients they are caring for will continue to top 150 into the autumn as still-high infection rates in the community and low vaccination uptake in some areas persist. Today there are 212 patients with coronavirus in the Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals, plus one in Solihull.
    “… The presence of so many Covid-positive patients is continuing to stretch hospital resources and staff, especially as they battle to help record numbers of patients through A&E and a backlog of thousands of operations.
    “Jonathan Brotherton, operations director for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, spelt out to staff the impact during a briefing seen by Birmingham Live.
    "We are likely to be continuing with over 150 inpatients for some time yet, which is a significant chunk of our available capacity," he said. "We don't run with 150 empty beds, ever, so those patients are in beds that would otherwise be used for other patients who need to be in hospital, so it's displacing people.”

  • Over 3,200 Royal Blackburn shifts filled by 'off-framework' nurses Lancashire Telegraph August 20 on the scale of staff shortages at one key hospital:
    “OVER 3,200 shifts were worked at Royal Blackburn Hospital by ‘off-framework’ agency nurses over the last year, reflecting ' chronic work shortages' across the NHS.
    “‘Off-framework’ refers to nurses who have been supplied by private agencies which are not on an approved list of contractors and as such do not have to apply through an open tender process nor provide as much information about their organisation and policies.
    “This means that off-framework agencies are able to charge far above the normal rate for hiring nurses and do not always abide by the same pay scale, with one agency having been recently reported in The Times as having charged Worcestershire Acute Hospitals £170.61 an hour for nurses, four times the approved framework rate.
    “… In total the NHS spent £6billion on agency and temporary staff across England last year. Of this, £3.8bn was spent on NHS England ‘bank’ staff and £2.4bn on agency workers.”

  • Concerning number of children and young people waiting for eating disorder treatment NHS Providers August 19 sharing concerns over the growing gaps in mental health services driven by Tory cash squeeze:
    “ * New analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists finds that at the end of the first quarter (April, May and June) of 2021-22, 207 patients were waiting for urgent treatment, up from 56 at the same time last year.
    “ * A further 1,832 patients were waiting for routine treatment, up from 441 at the same time last year. And 852 patients received urgent treatment, compared with 328 in the first quarter of 2020-21.
    “… deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

    "It is deeply concerning so many children and young people having to wait for urgent and routine treatment for eating disorders.

    "This analysis confirms the findings of a survey by NHS Providers in May which found 85% of mental health trust leaders said they could not meet demand for children and young people's eating disorder services.”

  • Maternity scandal trust issued with CQC warning over poor culture Independent August 19 with yet another worsening of the crisis in a growing number of maternity units:
    “A major hospital at the centre of the latest NHS maternity scandal has been served with a warning notice by the care watchdog over its culture and governance.
    “An internal briefing to staff at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust on Wednesday, seen by The Independent, revealed the Care Quality Commission had issued the formal warning to the trust after an inspection of the hospital at the end of July.
    “… The trust is already facing an inquiry into poor maternity care at the trust after an investigation by The Independent highlighted dozens of deaths and babies left with brain damage as a result of negligence, with families accusing the trust of trying to cover-up serious incidents over many years.
    “Whistleblowing midwives have warned the service is still unsafe today with the trust struggling to fill more than 70 midwifery vacancies.”

  • Failure to vaccinate the world’s poorest is not just a health hazard it could threaten global security Independent August 19 comment article from a former Tory minister:
    “When the G7 met in June, they pledged 1 billion vaccine doses to Covax for the developing world. But they haven’t yet arrived or even been purchased, let alone packed and sent.
    “While European countries boast vaccination rates above 70 per cent, some of the poorest African countries haven’t reached 2 per cent.
    “They can’t access enough doses because richer countries are quietly paying premium rates to secure supplies. They also lack the medical, logistical and transport infrastructure required for delivery that we take for granted.
    “That’s why the World Health Organisation’s director-general has urged a moratorium on booster shots until all countries have vaccinated at least 10 per cent of their population.
    “In the west, we must recognise the resentment and fear that this inequality foments. There’s an obvious moral issue here, as millions in Africa will be admitted to hospital and may die, while in Europe we debate vaccinating teenagers. …”

  • Covid Politics and Fatigue Work Against Contact-Tracing Foot Soldiers KHN in the US, August 19, with news that will appal but not surprise many HCT supporters:
    “many public health departments were overwhelmed by the onslaught of covid. Last winter — before vaccines provided relief — they were unable to stay ahead of the virus through contact tracing.
    “And as case counts dropped by virtue of increased vaccination rates in the spring and early summer, more than a dozen state health departments scaled back the workforce, said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The resources were needed for vaccination initiatives and to restart other public health programs.
    “The situation has grown critical in a number of states during the past month or so as local health officials find themselves once again behind the curve as the delta variant drives up case counts. Resources are already stretched, and the politicization of covid-19 has left these local officials making tough calls regarding whom to trace in places like Missouri and Texas.
    “… Arkansas, where Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison now says it was an error to sign a law in April banning mask mandates, is averaging around 2,000 new cases a day, one of the steepest upsurges among states. But the state health department has significantly fewer contact tracers now — 192 compared with 840 in December, when case counts were at the same level, according to the department and data collected by Johns Hopkins. …”

  • Jabbed adults infected with Delta ‘can match virus levels of unvaccinated’ Guardian August 19:
    “Fully vaccinated adults can harbour virus levels as high as unvaccinated people if infected with the Delta variant, according to a sweeping analysis of UK data, which supports the idea that hitting the threshold for herd immunity is unlikely.
    “There is abundant evidence that Covid vaccines in the UK continue to offer significant protection against hospitalisations and death. But this new analysis shows that although being fully vaccinated means the risk of getting infected is lower, once infected by Delta a person can carry similar virus levels as unvaccinated people.
    “The implications of this on transmission remain unclear, the researchers have cautioned. “We don’t yet know how much transmission can happen from people who get Covid-19 after being vaccinated – for example, they may have high levels of virus for shorter periods of time,” said Sarah Walker, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.”

  • NHS backlog maintenance is shooting through the roof Nuffield Trust’s Jon Appleby with strangely belated statistics on backlog maintenance that have been available for many months and published repeatedly by Health Campaigns Together and The Lowdown:
    “The latest estimates of the cost of repairs and maintenance that should have been carried out for English NHS trusts rocketed by 37% in one year to over £9 billion in 2019/20. This is now equivalent to the total annual cost of running all accident and emergency departments, ambulance services and critical care services combined.
    “It is also equivalent to an average of over £40 million for each of the 224 hospitals, ambulance services, community and mental health units in the country.
    “But backlog costs are not spread evenly. Three trusts – Imperial, West Suffolk and Guy’s and St Thomas’ – account for over a fifth of the total, with backlog costs ranging from £563 to £672 million.
    “Although some of the backlog maintenance is low priority, around 17% is not. Over £1.5 billion of the total cost is for high priority repairs or replacement which must be addressed urgently, … The costs of such high-priority maintenance have increased nearly four-fold in real terms over the last decade.”

  • English schools told to delay seeking help with small Covid outbreaks Guardian August 19 on how the Government is now completely at odds with what the rest of the world is doing, and advising schools and universities to do nothing in response to Covid outbreaks until 10% of people test positive.
    “Universities, schools and nurseries in England have been advised to delay seeking help in dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks until a cluster involving as many as 10% of staff, students or children have contracted the virus.
    “A new “contingency framework” issued by the Department for Education (DfE) to all education settings in England – ranging from universities and colleges to after-school tuition and youth clubs – advises that preventive measures such as wearing masks or remote learning should be used only after discussion with public health officers, once a “threshold” of infections has been reached.
    “School, university and college union leaders said the updated framework was likely to be inadequate.”

  • Four ICSs and four trusts placed in new ‘special measures’ regime HSJ report August 18 demonstrates the failure of the old “success regimes” and indicates “Integrated Care Systems” will be tightly controlled from above. Those in special measures do not (yet) include Lancashire & South Cumbria, facing deficits in excess of £350m.
    “Integrated health systems have yet to be created in law, but four areas have already been classed as requiring “intensive mandated support” in the regulator’s new “recovery support programme”. Those systems are: Devon; Lincolnshire; Norfolk and Waveney; and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.
    “The Devon health economy has a long history of regulatory oversight, having been subject to a previous iteration of special measures in 2015, which was branded the “success regime”.
    “At the time, NHSE said the success regime would “seek to address deep-rooted and systemic issues that previous interventions have not tackled”.
    “NHSE will subject the four systems to strict control measures, including the ability to enforce changes to the ICS board and executive team, and appointing an improvement director. It can also bring in an external third party to provide intensive support, and there are stringent approval processes over finances and decision making.”

  • Poorer areas have fewer GPs as national shortage hits the least healthy more Independent August 18 on a report that exposes the hollowness of Tory claims to be in any “levelling up” or eliminating health inequalities, especially in northern areas which saw the greatest Tory successes in the 2019 election:
    “People in the poorest areas of England are less likely to get appointments when they need them because of a shortage of GPs where they live – the result is a deepening gulf in health inequalities between rich and poor.
    “One doctor with 15 years experience in the NHS told The Independent the situation was akin to a “humanitarian disaster and national emergency” and said ministers must act to tackle the problem.
    “A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge found there were significantly fewer full time GPs per 10,000 patients in practices based in areas of higher levels of deprivation.
    “They warned the gaps between rich and poor had also widened since 2015.
    “The study, published today in BJGP Open, compared GP workforce data from between September 2015 and December 2020 with practice population sizes and deprivation levels across England.”

  • Were Nightingale units and fever hospitals ever workable responses to covid-19? BMJ August 18 blog by David Oliver on the false assumptions that led to building half a dozen ultimately useless “new hospitals”:
    “The Health Service Journal estimated the total set-up cost of the Nightingale hospitals at £220m, with a further £200m for running costs.
    “Yet between them they admitted fewer than 1000 patients over the whole course of their existence, before they were mothballed and then decommissioned from late 2020.
    “There were simply never enough clinical and support staff to cover anywhere near those bed numbers, and even the established NHS sites struggled with rota and recruitment gaps, sickness, and self-isolation.
    “The Nightingale units were created at such speed that there was no clear vision of precisely which patients they’d be used for, potentially hours away from their homes and support structures.
    “… We must stop putting infrastructure and buildings before the people needed to staff them—or putting headlines and publicity before workable solutions.”

  • BMA and RCGP publish updated GP workload guidance Pulse August 17 report:
    “The BMA and RCGP have updated their guidance on workload prioritisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “The advice has been changed because ‘the situation with Covid-19 continues to evolve’ and aims to give GPs more freedom to organise their workload as public life returns to ‘normal’ but general practice is still ‘under intense pressure’.
    “They advise that commissioners should carry on restricting or halting ‘additional expectations of practices, such as local enhanced services’.
    “Meanwhile, GPs should continue to evaluate and reprioritise their workload, ‘using clinical judgement and reflecting both patient need and local circumstances’, they say.”

  • Bigger tumours, delayed diagnoses as cancer patients struggle amid pandemic Report August 17 from CBC Canada:
    “The COVID-19 pandemic has left an estimated backlog of 15.9 million surgeries in Ontario alone — a total that includes diagnostic exams, screenings and other medical procedures that should have otherwise been performed.
    “In the pandemic's first wave, and again this spring, the province instructed hospitals to suspend procedures deemed non-urgent to keep beds free as COVID-19 cases climbed.
    “Compared to the year prior, Ontario Health says there has been a 94 per cent increase in Priority 2 cancer surgeries — those treating non-life threatening cancer — between March 15, 2020 to July 25, 2021 to catch up on the backlog.”

  • Almost 124,000 patients waiting more than three months for NHS tests in England Guardian report on the worsening crisis driven by Tory squeeze on funding and capital – and the chronic shortage of key staff, which will not be helped by the miserly 3% pay award:
    “NHS patients are waiting more than three months for tests including MRIs, colonoscopies and heart scans, with overall waiting lists doubling in some parts of England.
    “The number of people waiting more than three months for tests was 22 times that in 2019 as the health system continues to tackle the Covid pandemic backlog. Almost 124,000 people were kept waiting more than three months in 2021, compared with 5,675 in 2019. It is a slight fall from the May 2021 figure, which stood at just over 127,000.
    “People referred to hospital for tests are supposed to be treated within six weeks, according to NHS England’s constitution. But more than 306,000 people were waiting more than six weeks for a range of diagnostic tests. This is 7.6 times the equivalent figure in the same month in 2019, but lower than in June 2020 – by which time services had been massively disrupted by the pandemic and lockdown – when 539,433 people were waiting six weeks or more.”

  • Raising free prescription age would be ‘kick in the teeth’ for 2.4 million people, charity warns Independent August 17 on the campaign launched by Age UK against the planned imposition of prescription charges in England on millions of people aged over 60 -- while all prescriptions are free of charge in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:
    “A government proposal to raise the age at which people qualify for free prescriptions by six years would be a “kick in the teeth” for 2.4 million elderly Britons, a charity has warned.
    “Ministers launched a consultation on aligning the upper age for NHS prescription exemptions with the state pension age – pushing the age at which people qualify for free over-the-counter medicines from 60 to 66 – in July.
    “… Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said on Tuesday: “This proposed policy is a kick in the teeth, both for poorly older people and the NHS.
    “It is also extremely ill-judged because the money the government will save will almost certainly be outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS, if people fail to take their medication because they can’t afford it and become ill.”

  • Labour attacks Javid over lack of clarity on NHS budget with just weeks to go Independent August 17:
    “… The government has only agreed a budget for the NHS until the end of September with negotiations between the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Treasury ongoing.
    “In his letter to Sajid Javid, Jonathan Ashworth said the health service needed “immediate certainty” adding: “The service is in a summer crisis, with huge numbers of people in need of urgent and emergency care, record calls to ambulance services, and a soaring waiting list.
    “With only 16 days to the beginning of September, it is incredible that the service still does not have the budgetary clarity it needs to make major decisions about service planning.”
    “In the first few days of your tenure as secretary of state, you said that you wanted to give the NHS what it needs to recover from the pandemic. The NHS will now be wondering why you have not made a decision on this budget. Patients and NHS staff will consider this a test of whether you are true to your word to them.”

  • A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta Science August 16 with a warning from Israel, where high vaccination rates run in sharp contrast to the lack of vaccination of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank:
    “Now is a critical time,” Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz said as the 56-year-old got a COVID-19 booster shot on 13 August, the day his country became the first nation to offer a third dose of vaccine to people as young as age 50. “We’re in a race against the pandemic.”
    “His message was meant for his fellow Israelis, but it is a warning to the world. Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine.
    “Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.
    “… Israel’s experience is forcing the booster issue onto the radar for other nations, suggesting as it does that even the best vaccinated countries will face a Delta surge.”

  • Covid Vaccines Produced in Africa Are Being Exported to Europe New York Times August 16 report:
    “Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine was supposed to be one of Africa’s most important weapons against the coronavirus.
    “The New Jersey-based company agreed to sell enough of its inexpensive single-shot vaccine to eventually inoculate a third of the continent’s residents. And the vaccine would be produced in part by a South African manufacturer, raising hopes that those doses would quickly go to Africans.
    “That has not happened.
    “South Africa is still waiting to receive the overwhelming majority of the 31 million vaccine doses it ordered from Johnson & Johnson. It has administered only about two million Johnson & Johnson shots. That is a key reason that fewer than 7 percent of South Africans are fully vaccinated — and that the country was devastated by the Delta variant.
    “At the same time, Johnson & Johnson has been exporting millions of doses that were bottled and packaged in South Africa for distribution in Europe …”

  • NHS doctors know too well how waiting times damage all aspects of patient care Guardian Opinion article August 16 by an NHS doctor:
    “Damaging waiting times have existed for years, caused by the government’s refusal to properly fund the NHS. Waiting times for GP and hospital appointments were the second most common reason given in a 2019 King’s Fund study about why patients were dissatisfied with the NHS. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem. Some 1.2 million people in England have now been waiting over six months for essential services, a figure that is almost five times higher than it was in 2019.
    “NHS workers have watched the number of people waiting to be seen for essential care grow during the pandemic, and now many doctors and healthcare workers face the almost impossible task of increasing the number of patients they see in clinics, or increasing the number of operations they perform. Many have responded with disbelief and anger; others have felt they have no choice but to leave the health service altogether.
    “Behind these statistics are people in pain, fearful about the effect long waits could have on their health. When targets are missed for urgent operations or cancer diagnoses, mortality increases. Waiting times were a primary reason for the downgrading of the UK’s healthcare system in a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, a US thinktank, from best in the world to fourth.”

  • Suffolk hospital assessed legal risk of fatal roof collapse BBC report August 16 on the growing list of 30-50 year old hospitals that are literally falling down as the Tory squeeze on capital continues:
    “An NHS hospital commissioned a report into the risk of corporate manslaughter charges should a fatal roof collapse occur, leaked documents reveal.
    “West Suffolk Hospital is spending tens of millions of pounds making dangerous reinforced concrete planks in its main building safe.
    “Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is of similar design, has set a weight limit on patients at two of its theatres.
    “NHS England said the affected trusts were maintaining safe services.
    “The problems related to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks that have deteriorated or have structural weaknesses. Between the 1960s and 1980s they were used in roofs, floors and walls of NHS buildings and schools and had an expected lifespan of 30 years.
    “The West Suffolk, in Bury St Edmunds, currently has 27 metal supports under the planks, while the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn in Norfolk has more than 200 - a temporary measure ahead of more comprehensive safety works.”

  • 5 demands for a national care service UNISON publishes a new set of demands in response to the growing crisis in social care.
    “The UK’s response to the coronavirus left vulnerable people and the heroes that care for them unprotected. Never again. It’s time for a national care service. We have 5 demands we want the government to immediately guarantee:
    1. A real living wage for all care workers, as an absolute minimum.
    2. A standard employment contract for care work – including sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty, including ‘sleep ins’ and travel time.
    3. Significant, emergency government funding.
    4. Professional standards – the Care Certificate should be upgraded and expanded and professional registration should be standardised throughout the UK.
    5. A partnership working group of commissioners, providers, governments and trade unions must be established to action solutions.”

  • People who skip second jab ‘effectively unvaccinated’ as winter wave looms, warns vaccine adviser MSN August 15 appears to be one of the few outlets for discussion on Times Radio:
    "People who have not had their second vaccine remain “effectively unvaccinated” and unprotected in the face of a winter wave, a vaccine adviser has cautioned.
    "Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a GP and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said it is “tragic” that people are not getting fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
    "Speaking to Times Radio, she said: “I think my main concern as a jobbing general practitioner is looking at the number of people in my own practice who’ve either had no jabs or only one jab.
    “And that’s my concern, speaking as a GP, is that people who had them maybe in March or April this year and they’ve clearly not had their second jab.
    “And these people are effectively going to be unvaccinated going through the winter period, and I’m very worried about these people.
    “I personally send a lot of text messages to my patients asking them to make contact with me so we can talk through this, whether they’re worried, whether they’ve had side effects, whether they feel that one jab is enough for them.”

  • More than 32,000 patients in East Lancashire waiting for hospital treatment Lancashire Telegraph August 15 on the worsening situation in the cash-strapped Lancashire & South Cumbria area:
    “Figures from NHS Digital have revealed that some 32,030 patients were waiting for elective operations or treatment, in East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust at the end of June, up from 31,936 at the end of May.
    “And this was 35 per cent more than were waiting a year previously, when there were 23,651 patients on the list.
    “In Lancashire and South Cumbria, 3,191 patients were waiting for elective operations or treatment at the end of June – though this was down from 3,228 at the end of May.
    “A year previously, there were 1,561 patients on the list.”

  • ‘Lost samples and late results’: the Tory donor, his son and their travel-test firms Guardian August 15 on yet another Covid-related rip-off by Tory cronies that is putting the NHS under greater pressure:
    “A Tory donor and his son are facing questions about two private companies they run offering Covid-19 PCR tests for travellers, amid complaints about poor service.
    “Dr Ashraf Chohan, founder and chair of Conservative Friends of the NHS, which aims to forge ties between politicians and healthcare workers in the private and public sectors, is the sole director of 1Rapid Clinics, a government-approved Covid-19 testing company that some customers have claimed sent results back late, lost samples and refused refunds.
    “Chohan’s testing company is just one of a number of private firms with links to the Conservatives. Details of his involvement have emerged amid concern that the for-profit Covid testing regime put in place by the government is on the brink of collapse.
    “The industry has left a trail of unhappy holidaymakers complaining that the testing kits, or the results from those kits, often failed to arrive as promised, ultimately placing an extra burden on the NHS, which is supplying free tests for those let down by private providers.”

  • Latest NHS performance data confirm the service is under huge pressure NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson August 14 blog:
    “…COVID-19 is just one of several pressures the NHS is currently dealing with. This week's publication of the latest NHS performance data confirms what everyone on the NHS frontline already knew.
    “Although the COVID-19 caseload may not be as large as feared, the service is under huge pressure. And, for many NHS trusts, although the pressure is differently shaped, it feels just as busy as it was in January and February.
    “To get an accurate picture of the pressure the NHS is under, it's vital to look at the full range of demand and staffing pressures facing the service, not just the COVID-19 caseload. Trusts have identified six different pressures that are currently causing them significant operational problems and could make this winter even more difficult.”
    The six are:
    • waiting list and diagnostics backlogs.
    • much lower bed capacity
    • staffing pressures
    • the peak summer leave period
    • increased demand for urgent and emergency care
    • 5,000 or so COVID-19 patients in hospital over the last fortnight

  • Spike in UK coronavirus cases likely in next weeks, experts warn Financial Times warning August 14:
    “By mid-August, ministers and scientists feared the UK would be reporting 100,000 coronavirus cases a day because of the highly infectious Delta variant and a surge in social mixing after England’s July 19 “freedom day”.
    “Instead, cases currently stand at about a third of that figure, having dropped from a mid-July peak of more than 50,000 a day to a low of just above 20,000 in early August.
    “They are now starting to creep up again. The trajectory for Covid-19 is uncertain, but some scientists expect cases to rise significantly because social mixing will increase in the coming weeks, posing a big test for the effectiveness of vaccines.”

  • Doctors advocate establishment of health bank Dead end policies from The Nation in Nigeria, where private doctors (August 14) are urging the government to invest in private provision, setting up a “health bank” to lend money so that poor patients can pay their bills, rather than establish a universal health care system.
    “Private medical practitioners have urged the federal, state and local governments to invest more in the health sector, especially the establishment of a health bank.
    “They noted that with more access to loans at minimal interest rates, the private sector, which provides nearly 70 per cent of all health care services in the country, can increase access to affordable and qualitative health care for the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
    “Speaking during a round table dialogue on private sector intervention in the health sector, the President of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN), Dr. Iyke Odo, said: “The private sector has demonstrated that it is the present strength of our health system. The future of healthcare in Nigeria is the private sector. The best in our country today is in the private sector despite the near lack of support. All it needs is an enabling environment.
    “May I inform Nigerians and the international community that the health sector of Nigeria with over 200 million people and a potentially viable economy and deep natural endowments, is a huge investment location. I therefore call on our businessmen and women, local and international investors to invest in the health sector and invest in the private doctors.”

  • Staff at UK medicines regulator express alarm at plan for budget cuts Financial Times August 15:
    “Senior personnel at the UK regulator responsible for medicines have expressed “deep concern” over outline plans to make up to 25 per cent of staff redundant as it is forced to embark on budget cuts.
    “… Their concerns were raised following a staff meeting last month at which plans were outlined to take a “light-touch” approach to authorising generic medicines and rely heavily on approvals from larger regulators in the EU and the US.
    “A senior MHRA insider present at the meeting said that staff were concerned that despite government promises to create a “world-leading” regulator, the agency was in danger of being hollowed out.
    “The fear is companies will go to Europe or the US [for regulatory approvals of medicines] and then come back to us for a cheap, rubber-stamping exercise,” added the insider. “So we’ll just check the labelling and say ‘Yes, fine’.”

  • NHS summer crisis: Hospital suspends all inpatient surgery for three weeks over bed shortages Independent report August 13 tracking the crisis in A&E and its consequences:
    “All routine inpatient surgery at a hospital in Yorkshire is to be suspended from Monday to help the hospital trust cope with overcrowding in A&E caused by a lack of beds.
    “Bosses at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust told staff in an email, shared with The Independent, that they had been forced to make the decision because of the lack of beds for waiting patients, which they said had been a “critical issue for too long.”
    “Martin Barkley, chief executive of the trust, told staff that he had been forced to act because of serious overcrowding in A&E, which was having an impact on patient care:
    “… the extreme pressure on beds has to be reduced and quickly. The trust consistently has between 25 and 50 patients waiting for a bed at any one time at Pinderfields emergency department, causing serious overcrowding and long delays [and] contributing to an unacceptable patient and staff experience.”

  • The NHS is running very fast to recover the care backlog only to stand still August 13 blog from NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson:
    “Back in the 1990s, one of the features of ITV's Gladiators series was the travelator. Contestants had to run faster and faster just to stand still as the travelator's slope got steeper and steeper.

    “Yesterday's NHS performance statistics show that NHS staff are currently on their own, 2021 version of the travelator.
    “They're running faster and faster to recover the care backlogs created by COVID-19. It feels like they are running as fast as our medal winning Olympic athletes in Tokyo. For example, they performed 84,000 more diagnostic tests in June than the previous month – the highest number for a year. They checked 230,000 people for cancer – the second highest figure on record. And, once again, they reduced the number of people waiting for surgery for more than a year by 32,000.
    “… But despite this effort, waiting lists have grown again.”

  • NDP promises universal pharmacare, mental health supports in first mandate, if elected CBC Canada August 12 article on the developing programme of the country’s nearest equivalent to a social democratic party, the NDP:
    “If elected, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is promising to bring in universal prescription drug coverage, dental care and mental health supports within his first mandate and is vowing to bring in a wealth tax to help pay for it all.
    “This morning the federal party released a list of commitments focusing on health care and affordability, which is expected to form the backbone of its campaign platform during the looming federal election.
    “The document signals the party's long-term vision, but a party spokesperson speaking on background said they believe universal prescription drug coverage, dental care and mental health care for the uninsured is doable within the first mandate.
    “The commitments document doesn't contain a costing breakdown on its promises, so it's not clear how much the fourth-place party's promises would cost.”

  • THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF THE NHS What Does ‘Privatisation’ of Health Services Really Mean? Byline Times August 12 gives a partial view of the problem of #NHS privatisation that at least avoids wild conspiracy theories and claims that the Americans are taking over.
    “The perception persists that ‘NHS privatisation’ means patients having to get out their wallets and pay for a GP appointment or having to fill out insurance forms in A&E waiting rooms, as is the case in America.
    “While NHS treatment is not, in fact, free to all people living in the UK, privatisation is not currently about charging patients for healthcare at the point of service. Instead, it is focused on outsourcing NHS services to private companies, which can then make a profit.
    “In 2019/20, NHS commissioners spent £9.7 billion on services delivered by the private sector – an increase of 14% since 2014/15.
    “In addition, Department of Health and Social Care accounts for 2019/20 show that, if spending with not-for-profit and voluntary providers is taken into account, the spending increases to £14.4 billion – or 10.8% of total revenue spending by the department. A further £1.5 billion was spent on services from non-NHS organisations in 2019/20, as well as £271 million on outsourcing services to other providers including in the private sector.”

  • Lowest ever levels of A&E performance show NHS ‘near boiling point’ Royal College of Emergency Medicine August 12, restating its familiar warnings over lack of resources in A&E – ignored as usual by ministers:
    “Responding to the latest set of performance figures released by NHS England for July 2021, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, said: “The NHS has been running hot for months now and these figures show we are nearly at boiling point.

    “We are worried that the public think that things are getting back to normal on the virtual eve of a further reduction in restrictions, and messages from the centre that says things are OK are disingenuous – the reality is that the health service is really struggling.

    “Four-hour performance has sunk to its lowest ever level, we have levels of 12 hour waits we would usually associate with winter, and July saw the second highest ever number of attendances across emergency care units. Yet there is no sign of rescue ahead of winter. Despite our calls for action, crowding is back with us and is compromising patient care.”

    “… Dr Henderson said: “The NHS was in a pretty dreadful state going into the pandemic – we were seeing record waits across the board, due to insufficient resourcing – but the sheer determination of an overstretched workforce, combined with a ‘whatever it takes’ approach, got us through.”

  • UnitedHealth settles charges it denied mental health, substance abuse coverage Reuters report from US August 12 on United Health buying its way out of allegations it ripped off mental health patients:
    "UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N), the largest U.S. health insurer, has settled federal and New York state charges it illegally denied coverage to thousands of patients suffering from mental health problems and substance abuse.
    "The U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday that UnitedHealth will pay about $15.7 million, including $13.6 million in restitution and a $2.1 million fine, to settle with that agency and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
    "Authorities accused UnitedHealth of violating federal and state laws by imposing more restrictive limits on coverage and treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders than it imposed for physical health conditions.
    "UnitedHealth was also accused of overcharging patients for out-of-network mental health services by reducing reimbursements.
    "Without admitting liability, UnitedHealth agreed to stop using algorithms, including in a program called ALERT, that required extra layers of review before continuing mental health treatment and often resulted in coverage being cut off."

  • WIZARDS OF OZ? The obscurely-funded, right wing IEA, who recently lost a court case complaining at being described as "some herberts," publish yet another dishonest attempt to paint up insurance-based health care as superior to the NHS.
    This latest effort, on Australia, hinges on a quite significant lie, claiming Australia spends less on health than the UK
    “Total healthcare spending is lower in Australia, and it has been for nearly two decades. In 2019, it stood at 9.3 per cent of GDP, compared to 10.3 per cent in the UK. Public healthcare spending stood at 6.3 per cent of GDP in Australia, and 8 per cent of GDP in the UK.”
    Yet the most recent OECD figures show spending per head on health care at £3,631 in Australia, 21% higher than the £2,989 in the UK.
    The summary reveals the IEA focus is no more than the promotion of private insurance and private medicine: “If nothing else, the Australian system can teach us to be more relaxed about the benefits of private sector involvement in healthcare delivery, private insurance and decentralisation.”

  • Children’s hospitals are swamped with Covid patients — and it may only get worse US comments from Politico, August 11:
    “Nearly 1,600 kids with Covid-19 were hospitalized last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a new seven-day record and a 27 percent increase from the week before. Tennessee’s health commissioner expects the state’s children’s hospitals to be full by the week’s end. Louisiana reached that point more than a week ago. And Arkansas’ only children’s hospital has just two ICU beds remaining.
    “As dire as the situation is now, hospital leaders and public health officials predict it will get even worse in the coming weeks. They are already contending with unseasonably high levels of RSV, a respiratory virus that can be dangerous for young children and infants. Flu season is on the horizon. And schools across the country are welcoming children back, creating opportunities for Covid-19 and other viruses to spread even faster.
    “Yet the escalating crisis has had little political impact thus far, even in the southeastern states where Delta is hitting hardest. Most GOP [Republican] governors and state officials who have banned vaccine mandates, mask requirements and other public health tools to fight Covid-19 are sticking with those policies.
    “Nor has the unprecedented wave of infections in children meaningfully moved parents of school-age children; nearly 60 percent said they opposed mandating shots for kids attending school in person, according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And almost 70 percent of Republican parents told pollsters they continue to oppose school mask mandates.”

  • NHS summer crisis: Hospitals declare ‘black alerts’ as more operations are cancelled Independent (August 11) warns of ‘black alerts’ as London’s hospital beds fill up – in August:
    “Hospital chiefs have warned the NHS is now the busiest it has ever been, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, has accepted the health service will need more investment.
    “Two major London hospitals have declared “black alert” incidents in recent days due to bed shortages and increasing numbers of Covid patients, as well as rising numbers of people turning up in A&E.
    “Bosses at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington were forced to issue a black alert warning on Tuesday and Wednesday this week because of bed pressures across its surgery and medical ward areas.
    “Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith also issued alerts to staff on Tuesday, with doctors across both sites being told to prioritise patients who could be discharged to try and free up beds.”

  • Almost 1.2m people waiting at least six months for vital NHS services in England Guardian August 11:
    “Almost 1.2 million people in England are waiting more than six months for essential NHS services such as brain surgery and eye treatment because of the Covid backlog, analysis shows.
    “The May 2021 figure is almost five times that recorded in the same period in 2019 , before the pandemic hit, and also includes patients requiring gynaecological services.
    “Senior doctors said such long delays were causing patients to be left in pain, while experts said the full impact of the pandemic may not yet be known.
    “The deputy director of research of the Nuffield Trust, Dr Sarah Scobie, said: “We haven’t yet seen the peak of pent-up demand or the full impact of the multiple waves of this pandemic. Despite staff working flat out, overturning a backlog of this scale will take years.”

  • Is crowdfunding to pay hospital bills ethical? Hindu Business Line article August 10 focuses on a funding method that is inefficient, unfair and which effectively props up the rotten Indian system:
    “… In India, the healthcare affordability gap, however astonishing, is nothing new. According to a 2018 study by the Public Health Foundation of India, out-of-pocket medical expenses drove 55 million Indians into poverty in 2011-2012; and these numbers are steadily rising.
    “The World Health Organisation’s health financing profile of 2017 also reveals some alarming stats — 67 per cent of health expenses in India are out-of-pocket compared to 18 per cent globally.
    “Despite higher budgetary allocations, India’s public expenditure on healthcare is still only 1.2 per cent of GDP, the lowest among countries committed to Universal Health Care (UHC), where the average is 6 per cent. The impact of this dismal fact has been made horribly clear during the pandemic.
    “In this scenario, the growth of medical crowdfunding platforms — and access to them — has come as a boon for thousands of Indians … But by facilitating expensive medical interventions to replace or cover gaps in a woefully inadequate public healthcare system in India, are we creating a new health disparity?
    “That is, only patients who have access to crowdfunding platforms or find themselves in the right hospital — those that are collaborating with these platforms — are the fortunate few.”

  • NHS workers ‘have no more reserves’ as mental health-related absences hit all-time high Some shocking news statistics from Nursing Notes (9 August) on the mental health toll of Covid on staff:
    "The number of NHS workers away from work with mental health-related absences has hit an all-time high, according to new data.
    "The data reveals that almost 4,000 more NHS staff were off work in June 2021 than at the same time last year.
    "Research from wellbeing group FirstCare suggests that workers are having around three times as much time away from work with mental health issues than with COVID-19.
    "A staggering 2.5 million working days have been lost in the NHS due to mental health-related absence which equates to a financial cost of £371 million.
    "FirstCare has called for a close look at the mental health and wellbeing of NHS workers."

  • 500 GP surgeries pledge to ensure undocumented migrants can access healthcare Morning Star report August 9 on a significant stand by GPs, which needs to be spread to every practice in the land:
    “FIVE hundred GP practices have now pledged to ensure that undocumented migrants and other vulnerable communities can access healthcare.
    “The Safe Surgeries initiative, created by leading health charity Doctors of the World, was launched in 2018 in a bid to tackle barriers faced by marginalised communities, including migrants, refugees and rough sleepers, when they try to access primary healthcare.
    “Doctors of the World head of policy and advocacy Anna Miller said yesterday she was “delighted” that the charity had reached the milestone of having 500 GPs sign up.
    “GPs that declare themselves a “Safe Surgery” have pledged that a lack of ID or proof of address, immigration status or language will not prevent patient registration.
    “Despite rules stating that patients do not need to provide proof of address or ID to register with a GP, recent research found that less than a quarter of practices would register someone without these documents.”

  • It’s up to you, Rishi Sunak: your next move is make or break for the NHS NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson in the Guardian August 8 does not even include the £9bn backlog maintenance bill in his list of pressures on the NHS, but still makes some useful points on the need for more resources to restore lost NHS capacity:
    "Rishi Sunak has up to now largely met his pledge of giving the NHS what it needed to cope with the pandemic. But recently the Treasury mood music has sharply switched to recovering the national finances, reducing the NHS share of public spending, and a worryingly misplaced assumption that Covid-19 costs will fall quickly, so the NHS can return to its “generous” June 2018 settlement.
    "Frontline leaders cannot provide the quality of care patients need, and deliver the government’s manifesto commitments, unless they are properly funded to do so.
    "They won’t be able to reach the much higher levels of activity needed to clear surgery backlogs without substantial investment in extra diagnostic equipment, new technology and new ways of working.
    "Similar challenges apply to meeting growing demand for ambulance, community and mental health services. NHS leaders can’t build 40 new hospitals or maintain safe estates without the right capital funding. They can’t ensure a sustainable workload for NHS staff without a fully funded long-term workforce plan."

  • Fears over patient safety amid plans to ‘water down’ training for nurses Shaun Lintern in the Independent August 8 on a worrying plan:
    “Plans to simplify specialist nurse training across the UK pose “huge risks” to patient safety, health leaders have warned.
    “Nursing leaders are united in opposition against proposals by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to ostensibly simplify the qualification process.
    “They warn the watchdog is moving away from its core function – to protect the public – with a “reductionist” approach to the training of nurses working with the most at-risk groups.
    “One NHS trust chief said the plans would leave bosses unable to be certain that nurses possessed the skills required to care for patients’ safely.”

  • How Australia Won Universal Health Care — And How Workers Saved It With a General Strike Jacobin August 7 article with a fascinating account of the belated moves to establish universal health care in Australia in 1974 – and explanation of why it was not based on the successful British NHS model:
    “In 1967, Moss Cass, a medical doctor and left-wing member of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), invited the Labor opposition leader Gough Whitlam to a meeting at his house in in Canterbury, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Whitlam met a coterie of health-policy experts, including two health economists, Dick Scotton and John Deeble.
    “Scotton and Deeble proposed that Australia could replace private health insurance with a universal public health insurance scheme that would be funded by a 1 percent levy on taxable income. Whitlam was interested and asked them for a copy of their paper.
    “The ALP leader subsequently announced that Labor would introduce a national health insurance scheme known as Medibank. The proposal became a centerpiece of Labor policy in the lead up to the 1969 election.
    “Labor lost that time, but only just. Crucially, Medibank seemed to win the party votes. Labor formed a government after the 1972 election and Whitlam became prime minister. In August 1974, his government passed Medibank at a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.”

  • Six EU states overtake UK Covid vaccination rates as Britain’s rollout slows Guardian August 6 unpicks another Brexiteer lie:
    "Six EU states have now fully inoculated a larger share of their total populations with a coronavirus vaccine than the UK, after the bloc’s dire initial rollout took off while Britain’s impressive early jab rate has slumped.
    "According to government and health service figures collated by the online science publication Our World In Data, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland have all overtaken the UK in terms of the percentages of their populations who are fully vaccinated.
    "While Britain’s hugely successful campaign was bound to slow first as it ran into harder-to-reach, more vaccine-hesitant groups, the rate of decline is dramatic: the UK is currently administering a fraction of the daily doses of some EU states."

  • The refugee doctors helping the NHS in the fight against the pandemic Sky News August 6:
    “Through the pandemic the ranks of the NHS have been bolstered by a special group of doctors, who also happen to be refugees.
    “They've been taken on as Medical Support Workers (MSW), part of a £15m NHS England scheme that helps international medical graduates living in the UK pass the exams needed to register with the GMC.
    “The MSW role is suitable for those who have a medical qualification but have been out of clinical practice for over a year and need to work under clinical supervision.
    “There are thought to be more than a thousand refugees on the scheme in hospitals and trusts across the country.”

  • NHS Test and Trace cost £13.5 billion in its first year Full Fact August 5 with figures that will surprise many of us:
    “A photo on Facebook claiming that “Westminster’s “Track & Trace” system” is costing £37 billion, and building the Channel Tunnel only cost £12 billion, has gone viral on Facebook.
    “How much has Test and Trace cost so far?
    “£37 billion was budgeted for NHS Test and Trace (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Track and Trace) in its first two years. That amount hasn’t been spent yet.
    “NHS Test and Trace spent £13.5 billion up to April 2021, and its budget for that year was £22.2 billion.
    “According to a National Audit Office report on its progress, this £8.7 billion underspend was primarily due to the fact that “the high level of demand for testing forecast for January and February 2021 did not materialise, in part due to national lockdown measures”.”

  • Analysis: As Covid cases fall, why are things still tough for the NHS? Independent August 5:
    “The Independent has doggedly reported the pressures across the NHS in recent weeks with many frontline staff describing what feels like a real summer crisis.
    “The reality is that the effect of Covid on the NHS may have a very long tail. The health service went into the crisis with fewer beds, nurses and doctors than most of its western neighbouring countries. The capacity to cope was never really there in the first place.
    “With just under 900 patients currently in intensive care, that is still a significant chunk of England’s total capacity — more than 20 per cent. Those are beds that cannot be used for hip operations, cancer surgery and other treatments.
    “On top of that, the end of lockdown and the delays in treating non-Covid patients has, apparently, triggered a tsunami of demand at the hospital front door with A&Es seeing record numbers of patients.”

  • Fifth of Covid hospital admissions are aged 18-34, says NHS England Guardian August 5:
    “More than one-fifth of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are aged between 18 and 34, according to the new NHS England boss, who is urging young people not to delay getting vaccinated.
    “The NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said the proportion of patients aged 18-34 in hospital had nearly quadrupled from 5.4% at the peak of the winter wave in January to reach more than 20% last month, with 5,000 seriously ill in hospital.
    “On Thursday there were 30,215 new cases of coronavirus, while there were 86 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test.
    “Pritchard warned that young people “are not immune and the best way they can protect themselves absolutely is to get that vaccine if they haven’t already”.”

  • Intensive care units face ‘grim’ situation despite fall in Covid cases Independent August 5:
    “Hospital intensive care units remain under substantial pressure despite a fall in Covid cases, the president of the Intensive Care Society has warned, as more NHS trusts cancel operations across England.
    “Stephen Webb, a consultant in intensive care and deputy medical director at the Royal Papworth Hospital Trust, told The Independent many ICUs were facing a “grim” situation despite the dramatic drop in infections in recent weeks.
    “With the numbers of Covid patients in critical care at just under 900 across England, he said this represents more than 20 per cent of intensive care capacity at a time when the NHS was facing a summer crisis in non-Covid emergency demand, as well as pressure to do more operations to cut its growing waiting list.
    “His comments come as more operations have been cancelled at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.”

  • David Oliver: Is more statutory power for the health secretary to intervene in the NHS wise? David Oliver's August 4 BMJ blog on the Health and Care Bill concludes:
    "With over £130bn of public money spent on the NHS each year and with ministers often blamed by the press and public for failings in delivery or planning (even in areas they don’t directly control), it’s easy to see why the government wants more power to intervene. The NHS’s scale means that it can’t be free from party politics. But ministers’ recent track record in operational matters during the pandemic has been unimpressive next to NHS professionals on the ground.
    "For the good of the service and our patients I’d like to see less, not more, ministerial control and more trust in experts at the local and national level. The King’s Fund has described the bill as a “threat to the operational independence of the NHS.”5 There’s still time to influence the final legislation."

  • Mirror, Mirror 2021: Reflecting Poorly. Health Care in the U.S. Compared to Other High-Income Countries August 4 report from the US Commonwealth Fund compares 11 health care systems in the developed countries, ranking the US bottom (as usual), but pushing the UK down from 1st to 4th:
    "The top-performing countries overall are Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia. The United States ranks last overall, despite spending far more of its gross domestic product on health care.
    "The U.S. ranks last on access to care, administrative efficiency, equity, and health care outcomes, but second on measures of care process.
    "Four features distinguish top performing countries from the United States: 1) they provide for universal coverage and remove cost barriers; 2) they invest in primary care systems to ensure that high-value services are equitably available in all communities to all people; 3) they reduce administrative burdens that divert time, efforts, and spending from health improvement efforts; and 4) they invest in social services, especially for children and working-age adults."

  • Poorer communities see twice as many smoking related cancers as richer areas, says study Independent report August 3:
    “There are nearly twice as many cancers caused by smoking among the poorest people in England compared to the wealthiest, new figures by Cancer Research UK show.
    “In the first study to try and quantify the effect of avoidable cancers linked to smoking researchers say there were 11,000 cases of smoking related cancers in the lowest income groups compared to only 6,000 cancers in the highest.
    “This is despite the overall number of cancers being higher in the older, more wealthy population. Younger people tend to earn less and dominate in the lower income groups, once the cases are standardised by age, the level of cancer is higher among the most deprived.”

  • Paramedics left in tears from ‘unsustainable demand’, warns union Independent report Augsut 3:
    “Paramedics are being left in tears at the end of stressful shifts, with some forced to work five hours over a typical 12-hour shift, union bosses have warned.
    “In a letter to ambulance trust chief executives, seen by The Independent, UNISON officials have warned the health of paramedics and 999 call centre staff is being put at risk because of the “unsustainable demand” on the NHS.
    “The letter comes after weeks of revelations in The Independent over the summer crisis in emergency care demand on the NHS which has seen hospital accident and emergency departments overwhelmed and ambulance services unable to answer 999 calls quickly, with hundreds of people a day waiting hours for an ambulance.
    “All 10 ambulance trusts across England were operating at their highest level of demand last week. This is what used to be known as a black alert. Some like London have been at this level since June.
    "West Midlands Ambulance Service dropped back to level three but nine out of 10 trusts are still under “extreme pressure” demand.”

  • US sues Kaiser Permanente over alleged Medicare fraud MSN News August 2 report from the US:
    “The federal government has sued Kaiser Permanente, alleging the health care giant committed Medicare fraud and pressured doctors to list incorrect diagnoses on medical records in order to receive higher reimbursements, officials said late last week.
    “The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, consolidates allegations made in six whistleblower complaints. Kaiser, based in Oakland, Calif., is a consortium of entities that together form one of the largest nonprofit health care plans in the U.S. with more than 12 million members and dozens of medical centers.
    “The lawsuit said Kaiser entities gamed the Medicare Advantage Plan system, also known as the Medicare Part C program, which gives beneficiaries the option of enrolling in managed care insurance plans, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
    “The lawsuit contends that Kaiser “pressured its physicians to create addenda to medical records,” often months or more than a year after an initial consultation with an enrollee, because more severe diagnoses for beneficiaries generally result in larger payments to the plan.”

  • Doctors mourn passing of ‘unique’ BMA leader August 2 BMA website tribute to Dr Kailash Chand, the leading BMA member and campaign activist, who died suddenly on July 26, begins:
    “By any definition, Kailash Chand was a towering figure in general practice, medical politics and life. His titles, honours and public achievements are many – not least his OBE, of which he was very proud.
    “He was deputy president of the BMA, had been the first Asian elected as deputy chair of the organisation, he was a fellow of the Royal College of GPs, and had played an almost impossibly active role in local and national medical politics. He was also a prolific writer.
    “To his friends, family, colleagues – and patients – he was all these things, but also a very human and empathetic man whom they loved.”

  • Ben Elliot’s firm sold Covid tests to clients when NHS was struggling to increase capacity (£) Times report August 2 on yet more Tory sleaze:
    “The Conservative chairman’s company arranged for its clients to buy coronavirus tests for hundreds of pounds while the government was struggling to ramp up testing capacity, The Times has learnt.
    “Quintessentially, a luxury concierge company, arranged for its wealthy clients to purchase PCR and antibody tests in April last year, during the pandemic’s deadly first wave.
    “Quintessentially’s co-founder, Ben Elliot, has been co-chairman of the Conservative Party since July 2019, when Boris Johnson became prime minister. He remains a director and shareholder.
    “Emails show that at the same time as Elliot’s Conservative colleagues in government were battling to ramp up NHS testing, Quintessentially was willing to introduce its clients to private companies offering testing.”

  • The Conservatives and the whiff of chumocracy Hard-hitting August 1 statement on growing corruption in the Tory Party from Financial Times Editorial Board. And if wealthy donors are shaping government policy on housing, we can expect they will also be keen to influence NHS policy, too:
    “Is the UK’s democracy for sale? A select coterie of financiers and grandees have made substantial donations, some to the tune of £250,000, and gained membership of an invite-only club known as the Advisory Board that has the ear of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
    “What is discussed is not minuted. Who is a member is not clear. The very existence of the board is not documented, which is precisely the issue: a shadowy world of privileged access exists.
    “That is a problem for good governance and good government, increasing perceptions of cronyism and sleaze.
    “In addition to the so-called board, made up of some of the most generous Conservative party benefactors, the Financial Times has detailed that donors from the property sector have poured close to £18m into Tory coffers since Johnson became prime minister in 2019.
    “Housebuilders have long enjoyed strong connections to the party, where an article of faith holds that voters are more likely to vote Tory if they are homeowners. But the proportion of money backing the party from the property sector has soared in recent years to a quarter of all donations, from the previous high of 12 per cent of party income enjoyed under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.”

  • ‘Why should we die?’ Covid surgery delay leaves cancer patient in limbo Independent story August 1 highlights strain on front-line NHS resources as hospitals struggle with Covid cases as well as urgent and elective surgery:
    “A woman whose urgent cancer surgery has been postponed by the NHS because of a surge in Covid patients has warned that people like her are paying the costs of opening up society too early.
    “Angela DePastino, aged 46, was left distraught after being told the surgery to remove cancer in her womb – scheduled for Monday – had to be delayed because of the numbers of coronavirus patients being admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
    “Ms DePastino, who lives in Essex, has not been given a new date for the surgery, and was not allowed to speak with her consultant. Her pleas to be referred somewhere else were ignored, she says.
    “She decided to speak out to The Independent after seeing headlines in other media outlets celebrating the “end” of the pandemic and life returning to normal. The consequences of opening up for people like her, she said, were “terrifying”.”

  • Amanda Pritchard appointed NHS Chief Executive Health Estates and Facilities Management Association July 29 welcomes the new NHS boss:
    “Lord David Prior, Chair of the NHS England Board, says: “Amanda is imbued with the values of the NHS and is perfectly qualified to lead the health service through challenging times. ‘She has had first-hand experience of implementing digital technologies and worked closely with the Life Sciences industry and recognises how both can transform the way healthcare is delivered. She will build a great team and I and the Board look forward to working with her.’
    “Amanda has already served as the NHS’s Chief Operating Officer for two years, overseeing NHS operational performance and delivery, as well as implementation of service transformation and patient care improvements set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The Chief Operating Officer is also accountable to the NHS Improvement Board as NHS Improvement’s designated accountable officer with regulatory responsibility for Monitor.
    “Before joining NHS England and NHS Improvement in 2019, she was Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and has also served as Deputy Chief Executive at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.”

  • Abandon NHS power grab, former chairman tells Javid (£) Times report July 30:
    “Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, founding chairman of NHS England, today warns against a ministerial power-grab over the health service, saying it “opens the door to a muddle of second-guessing and micromanagement”.
    “Stressing that ministers “cannot run the NHS from the sidelines”, Grant says the appointment of a successor to Lord Stevens of Birmingham as chief executive is the time for a rethink of controversial health reforms that Javid himself is known to have doubts about.
    “A bill introduced to parliament this month aims to undo much of the controversial 2012 market-based reforms of the health service but also gives ministers significant new powers to issue orders to NHS England, which has had operational independence for a decade.
    “Writing in The Times Red Box online, Grant says it would be “foolish to imagine this is to be innocent intervention”, after Lord Stevens often stood up publicly to the government and succeeded in pressing the Treasury into several multi-billion pound budget increases.”

  • Hospital staff complain to regulator about bullying, harassment and racism Independent report July 30:
    “A review of the imaging departments at the Royal London Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital revealed concerns over the culture of the service and conflict between staff. Both hospitals are run by Barts Health NHS Trust, one of the largest hospital groups in the country.
    … In its report the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said: “The service faced significant challenges relating to the culture of the division. There were factions and separate interests within the workforce and nearly all staff suggested that this conflict created a difficult and hostile working environment.
    “We were informed of numerous allegations of bullying, harassment, racism, and sexism that had been escalated to requiring intervention from human resources.
    “… The watchdog carried out the inspection after concerns were raised about the safety of the service.
    “Inspectors found equipment repair records were poorly maintained with multiple reports of repairs not being carried out. Staff said it often needed multiple reports to get equipment fixed.”

  • Rates of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and vaccination impact the fate of vaccine-resistant strains Scientific report in Nature magazine July 30 warns of dangers of purely relying on vaccines while Covid infections continue:

    “Counterintuitively, when a relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions happened at a time when most individuals of the population have already been vaccinated the probability of emergence of a resistant strain was greatly increased.
    “Consequently, we show that a period of transmission reduction close to the end of the vaccination campaign can substantially reduce the probability of resistant strain establishment.
    “Our results suggest that policymakers and individuals should consider maintaining non-pharmaceutical interventions and transmission-reducing behaviours throughout the entire vaccination period.”

  • ‘We went from heroes to zeroes’: US nurses strike over work conditions Guardian article July 30 on US nurses fighting back on staffing levels and working conditions”
    “Last April people across America came out of quarantine each night to cheer the healthcare workers fighting to save lives at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Sixteen months on, nurses around the US are holding strikes and picket actions amid claims of deteriorating working conditions and severe understaffing issues.
    “Most of us felt like we went from heroes to zeroes quickly,” said Dominique Muldoon, a nurse for more than 20 years at Saint Vincent’s hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.
    “For over four months, more than 700 nurses at the Tenet Healthcare-owned Saint Vincent hospital have been on strike, the second longest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’ history. The hospital has brought in replacement workers throughout the strike and have spent more than $30,000 a day on police coverage during the strike.
    “Muldoon, co-chair of the local bargaining unit, said understaffing worsened during the pandemic, with more staffing cuts and furloughs, while nurses worked through breaks and past scheduled shifts to try to keep up with the demand for patient care.”

  • Government tells hospitals to submit cheaper rebuild plans HSJ Exclusive July 29 on major problems coming down the line for “new hospital” projects around the country:
    “NHS trusts hoping to build the first new hospitals under the government’s flagship infrastructure project have been told to submit plans for schemes costing less than £400m, prompting concern about plans being watered down.
    “Last week, the New Hospital Programme team – which oversees the government’s “40 new hospitals” programme – wrote to the eight “pathfinder” trusts asking them to submit three sets of plans for evaluation.
    “The letter, seen by HSJ, ordered trusts to send:
    • An option costing no more than £400m;
    • The trust’s preferred option, at the cost they are currently expecting; and
    • A “phased approach” to delivery of the preferred option.”

  • ‘Completely unacceptable’: Drug firm Advanz fined £100m for making thyroid drug unaffordable for NHS Independent July 29 on a major scandal in rip-off drug pricing, which led to the drug ceasing to be available through NHS prescription:
    “Boris Johnson has branded a drug firm “completely unacceptable and exploitative” after it hiked the price of some thyroid medication by more than 6,000 per cent.
    “An investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that from 2009 until 2017 Advanz charged “excessive and unfair prices” for supplying liothyronine tablets, which are used to treat thyroid hormone deficiency.
    “The watchdog said this was because the drugs faced “limited or no competition”, meaning it could sustain repeated price increases, which were “not driven by any meaningful innovation or investment”.
    “The price increase began in 2007 and by 2009 tablets were £20 per pack. This had increased to £248 by 2017 – a 6,000 per cent rise on the 2006 price of £4, the CMA said.
    “… Advanz was handed a fine of £40.9m, while its former private equity owners HgCapital and Cinven, which now form part of the company, were fined £8.6m and £51.9m respectively.”

  • RCGP demands emergency rescue package for 'crisis-torn' general practice GP Online July 29:
    “Day-to-day general practice was ‘largely undoable’ even before the COVID-19 pandemic, college chair Professor Martin Marshall has warned - and the pandemic has stretched the profession still further.
    “Pointing to data on surging workload and a GP workforce that is 4.5% smaller than it was in 2015, Professor Marshall warned: ‘We simply do not have enough GPs to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population, with increasingly complex conditions, on top of managing the fallout and work backlog from the pandemic. If general practice collapses, the rest of the NHS will follow not far behind it.’
    “Professor Marshall called on the health secretary Sajid Javid to implement a five-point recovery plan to prevent GPs from burning out and to safeguard patients care.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tributes to Dr Kailash Chand OBE Pulse magazine publishes tributes to Dr Kailash Chand, a fearless and long-standing campaigner for the NHS and for primary care services, who will be much missed.

  • NHS 'as stretched now as it was in January', health leaders say Sky News July 27 reporting the concerns of NHS Providers:
    “The NHS is as stretched now as it was at the pandemic's peak in January and things could get worse, health leaders have said.
    “NHS providers have warned of "the scale of challenges over the next nine months" in a letter to the prime minister, the chancellor, the health secretary, the chief secretary to the Treasury and the chief executive of NHS England.
    "Many trust chief executives are saying that the overall level of pressure they are now experiencing is, although very different in shape, similar to the pressure they saw in January of this year when the NHS was under the greatest pressure in a generation," the letter said.”

  • Covid vaccine hesitancy among Britain’s under-30s alarms ministers Financial Times July 27:
    “According to NHS England data up to July 22, only 66 per cent — or 5.6m — of 18 to 29-year-olds in England have had their first jab, compared with 88 per cent of the whole adult population.
    “Office for National Statistics research found that between 7 and 10 per cent of adults under 30 have expressed hesitancy about having a jab, compared with 4 per cent for the entire adult population.
    “Some within the scientific community have argued that the public health messaging throughout much of the pandemic, which emphasised the risks of the virus to elderly and vulnerable rather than younger groups, has led to complacency. “I think there is probably a false sense of security . . . but we know that infection in the younger age groups is quite rampant,” said Professor Lawrence Young, an infectious diseases expert at Warwick Medical School.”

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

  • Coronavirus infections continue to fall in UK BBC News July 26 with evidence the vaccination is working – but also that fewer tests are being taken.
    “The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has continued to fall in the UK, the latest daily figures show.
    “The UK recorded 29,173 new cases on Sunday - down from 48,161 logged a week earlier on 18 July.
    “The number of new infections by date reported has fallen for five days in a row for the first time since February.
    “It is also the first time since the start of the pandemic that a sustained drop in cases has not coincided with a national lockdown.

    “The figures show the number of people taking Covid tests has fallen over the past fortnight, which scientists say could explain some of the drop in reported case numbers but is very unlikely to be the only factor.”

  • About 200 nurses at Community First hospital in Portage Park go on strike Chicago Tribune report July 26:
    “About 200 nurses at Community First Medical Center in Portage Park went on strike Monday, citing safe staffing as a top concern.
    “The nurses are part of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United union. They became part of the union in December 2019 and have to been negotiating to secure their first contract. The strike is scheduled to last one day, until Tuesday morning.
    “Main sticking points include nurse staffing and health and safety precautions for nurses, among other things, said nurse Patricia Ryan, who is on the bargaining committee.
    “… The union alleges that the hospital has had a turnover rate among nurses of 51% since February 2020 because of problematic working conditions.”

  • Zimbabwe seeks to limit doctors, nurses striking over pay Bloomberg report July 26:
    “Zimbabwe plans to prevent the frequency of doctors and nurses going on strike over pay that often cripples the country’s fragile health sector.
    “Under the proposed Health Service Amendment Bill published July 23, members of the health industry will be barred from participating in strikes that last longer than three days, or more than 72 hours in a two-week period. Health-care workers will also be obligated during any collective job action, “to provide the skill, expertise, care and service to patients in a medical emergency or needing critical or intensive care,” according to the bill.
    “A notice of strike must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the start of the industrial action, according to the proposal, which also states that labor-union leaders that incite protests are liable to fines and jail sentences of three years.
    “… Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, which has 12,000 members, said there was no consultation by government on the proposed law. “The authorities can’t force health workers to give services when they are disgruntled,” he said by phone Monday. “The laws are demoralizing and most workers are contemplating going outside the country.”

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

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

  • Nurses’ pay in England to fall 7% in a decade even after government offer Guardian July 25:
    “Pay for nurses and other NHS staff in England will have fallen in real terms by more than 7% since 2010, even if they accept the latest offer from the government, according to new analysis that will fuel rising anger about public sector pay deals.
    “Figures produced by the TUC show that remuneration for nurses, community nurses, medical secretaries, speech therapists, physiotherapists, paramedics and radiographers will have dropped by between 7.3% and 7.6% in real terms in just over a decade, even after factoring in the 3% rise offered last week.”

  • £420 per visor: the price of ministers’ PPE panic (£) Times July 25:
    “A former Conservative councillor received a £120 million government contract for face shields whose quality is so doubtful that fewer than 1 in 400 have been used, meaning each one has so far cost the equivalent of £423.
    “Steve Dechan, 53, is the owner of Platform-14, a Gloucestershire firm that had specialised in devices for managing chronic pain. It recorded significant losses in the year before the pandemic.
    “In April last year, however, his offer to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) from China was fast-tracked through the “VIP” procurement lane. The government then invoked emergency rules to directly award him a series of contracts.
    “It heralded a change in his company’s fortunes as well as his own: he recently swapped his modest home in Stroud, Gloucestershire, for a £1.5 million 17th-century mansion with 100 acres of land in Painswick Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty nicknamed the “Queen of the Cotswolds”.
    “… Only a tiny fraction of the total order of 120 million medical-grade plastic face shields has reached doctors and nurses on the front line amid confusion about their safety. None of them could be used last year.”

  • Nottingham maternity scandal: Midwives reveal their fears for the safety of mothers and babies July 25 – Independent’s Shaun Lintern again digs out the truth behind the empty rhetoric
    “A hospital facing an inquiry into scores of baby deaths on its wards still poses a danger to mothers and infants, according to midwives who work in its maternity unit.
    “An investigation by The Independent revealed the scale of avoidable errors at the Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) Trust that have led to infants dying or being left brain-damaged. Ministers have since announced an independent review into cases at the trust, which is one of the largest in England.
    “But while the hospital concerned – the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham – claims it is making significant changes and recruiting more staff, midwives have told The Independent that there are still not enough resources to help mothers give birth safely, with dangerous levels of understaffing as well as a shortage of beds and equipment.
    “One said they were regularly left in tears by the conditions at the hospital, which the care regulator rated inadequate in December last year.”

  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid apologises for saying people should no longer 'cower from' virus Sky News July 25 with the revelation that the new Health Secretary is as crass and insensitive as the last one:
    “The health secretary has apologised for saying people should no longer "cower from" coronavirus.
    “Sajid Javid said he had deleted the tweet, which he posted on Saturday to say he had made a "full recovery" a week after testing positive for COVID-19.
    "I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise," he said.
    "Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact."
    “Mr Javid's initial tweet drew criticism for being insensitive to those who had stayed home during the pandemic due to health conditions or in an effort to protect others.”

  • Hospitals experiencing ‘perfect storm’ as Covid infections and holiday season collide Independent July 24:
    “Hospitals are experiencing a “perfect storm” as Covid hospitalisations, high infection rates and record-breaking demand for A&E collide with the holiday season, NHS executives have warned.
    “Across England, admissions to hospital for patients with Covid have risen by more than 30 per cent over the past week with hospitals now being told by NHS England to prepare for a difficult period ahead as the summer crisis worsens.
    “New Covid wards have been opened and operations cancelled across the country as the healthcare system buckles under the crisis. But hospital leaders say the start of the summer holidays – already a peak season for emergencies – could prompt a fresh wave of pressure.”

  • Fears social care billions could be used to plug existing NHS gaps – without solving the problem i-News report July 24:
    “Social care experts have spoken of their concern whether any a potential tax rise aimed at raising extra funding for the sector will instead be diverted to help clear the growing backlog of non-urgent treatment in the NHS.
    “The Head of Age UK told i that the Government must find the money to do help both areas and not promise investment for social care only to see it diminished before it is even put to use. Ministers are considering a rise in national insurance contributions to raise £10bn for social care reform but any announcement is not expected until autumn at the earliest.
    “Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “We have noticed, with concern, that there’s still talk that any money earmarked for social care may have to go to the NHS first to help reduce their lengthy waiting lists.”

  • Sage adviser claims ministers trying to get as many as possible infected with Covid Guardian July 23:
    “A scientist advising the government has accused ministers of allowing infections to rip through the younger population in an effort to bolster levels of immunity before the NHS faces winter pressures.
    “The allegation comes after England’s remaining Covid restrictions were eased on Monday, with nightclubs throwing open their doors for the first time in the pandemic and all rules on social distancing and mask wearing dropped even as infections run high.
    “Ministers were made aware of scientists’ concerns about reopening nightclubs and other crowded, close-contact and poorly ventilated venues without testing or other checks in place. On Monday Boris Johnson made the surprise announcement that Covid passports will be required for such settings – but not until the end of September, in two months’ time.
    “ ‘What we are seeing is a decision by the government to get as many people infected as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way of putting the blame on the public for the consequences,’ said Prof Robert West, a health psychologist at University College London who participates in Sage’s behavioural science subgroup.”

  • Prof Prem Sikka: Pandemics destroy lives but neoliberalism is deadly too Prem Sikka in Left Foot Forward July 23:
    “An independent public inquiry is needed to scrutinise the handling of the pandemic in all four home nations. It also needs to scrutinise the politics, economic and social policies which have delivered the high death-toll.
    “UK politics is increasingly framed by markets, corporate profits and tax cuts for a select few rather than concerns about humanity, compassion and care.
    “This is signified by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reluctance to tighten Covid restrictions because ‘Covid was only killing 80-year-olds’. Some 83,000 over 80s died. Such callous politics will bring more deaths and misery.
    “Cutting investment in public services has become a neoliberal dogma. The National Health Service (NHS) has been starved of resources and was in a poor shape to handle the pandemic. An indication is provided by the number of beds.
    “As we entered the pandemic, the UK had 2.4 beds per 1,000 of the population, compared to 5.4 in France, 7.9 in Germany and 12.8 in Japan. In April 2020, NHS England had 118,510 beds to serve a population of 56 million, compared to 299,000 in 1988.”

  • Government rules out searching Matt Hancock's private emails BBC News July 23 on a decision not to ask too many questions for fear of getting answers that reveal the truth:
    “The government has said it will not search the private email account of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock for discussions on official business.
    “Downing Street has admitted Mr Hancock, who quit last month, used his personal address for this reason.
    “The campaign group Good Law Project argued his inbox should be checked for the sake of transparency. But the government rejected this, saying a sweep of emails was "neither necessary nor proportionate".
    “The Sunday Times has reported that, as a result of Mr Hancock's use of his personal account, the government does not have a record of much of his decision-making during the pandemic.
    “This, it said, included negotiating PPE contracts, creating the test-and-trace programme and overseeing the care homes strategy.”

  • Why are fully vaccinated people testing positive for Covid? Financial Times July 23 with some common sense on the strengths and weaknesses of the Covid vaccines
    “The yellow fever jab … is widely understood to be the most effective live-virus vaccine ever invented, with a single dose generating long-lasting immunity in 98 per cent of those vaccinated.
    “But even that means that on average 2 per cent of people will still get infected. Phase 3 trials for most of the leading Covid-19 jabs showed an efficacy against symptomatic infection of more than 90 per cent.
    “Real-world studies of effectiveness in the UK, Israel and Canada suggest that vaccines are displaying a slightly lower effectiveness outside of the trial environment, probably because of the spread of the more vaccine-resistant Delta variant.
    “Estimates put protection against symptomatic infection, depending on the vaccine, at between 60-90 per cent. According to Public Health England, about 17 per cent of the 105,598 Delta variant cases reported across England in the four weeks to July 19 were among fully vaccinated people. PHE counts people as fully vaccinated 14 days after their second dose.”

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

  • Watchdog warns ‘exceptional’ NHS pressure is affecting patient care Independent report July 22:
    “The care watchdog has warned that “exceptional” pressures on the NHS is affecting the care of patients across England with healthcare workers pushed to the brink.
    “Professor Ted Baker, the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals has spoken out as ambulance services report record levels of 999 calls with patients waiting hours in the backs of ambulances outside hospitals.
    “He criticised the inaction of NHS leaders for not reforming services in recent years before the Covid-19 pandemic, despite previous warnings, which he said meant the NHS was not meeting the needs of patients.
    “The CQC’s chief inspector of primary care, Rosie Benneyworth, also warned GPs were suffering significant stress, with some unable to sleep because of the pressure they were under.”

  • Ministers respond to Cumberlege Inquiry Toughly-worded July 22 blog from Independent’s Shaun Lintern:
    “For those who need a reminder, the Cumberlege inquiry exposed the harm to tens of thousands of women caused by the use of vaginal mesh as well as the effects of medications sodium valproate and Primodus, which left scores of babies deformed and disabled.
    “When her inquiry was published Baroness Cumberlege said patients remained at risk from a “disjointed, siloed, unresponsive and defensive” healthcare system which “cannot be relied on” to identify safety risks.
    She added women had been repeatedly “dismissed, overlooked, and ignored”.
    “Enter Boris Johnson’s government who in responding to the inquiry have accepted only four of its nine recommendations and rejected one of the most important – a Redress Agency for those harmed by medical devices and drugs to help those who need it to get financial support. …
    “The health department has said no. And Nadine Dorries has vanished.”

  • ‘The system is broken’: Patients waiting 10 minutes for 999 calls to be answered Independent July 22 on a worsening crisis in ambulance services:
    “Some people dialling 999 are having to wait up to 10 minutes to get an answer, The Independent has learned.
    “With no way for ambulance call handlers to know if the call is a life-threatening situation or not before they answer, staff have warned there is a chance some patients are coming to harm, or even dying, due to the delays.
    “One paramedic told The Independent: “The system is profoundly broken.”
    “Leaked data from West Midlands Ambulance Service shows on Monday afternoon this week, some patients had waited as long as 29 hours for an ambulance. And once an ambulance was sent out, 10 per cent of category three, or urgent but non-life threatening patients in the West Midlands so far this week were waiting almost 12 hours for an ambulance, with an average wait of five hours.”

  • NHS told to find £1.5bn of savings to fund staff pay rise, despite fears of service cuts Independent report July 22, raising the question BBBC News did not bother to ask:
    “The NHS has been told to find £1.5bn of savings from within existing budgets to fund the pay rise for staff announced on Wednesday, in a move branded “brutally unfair” by nurses’ representatives.
    “The chaotic announcement of the 3 per cent boost for 1 million workers prompted suspicions of a battle between chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid over who pays the bill.
    “In the Commons, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded a commitment that the £1.5bn cost would not mean “cuts” to wider health or care spending.
    “But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said, shortly afterwards: “The pay uplift will be funded from within the NHS budget.” He claimed the move would “not impact funding already earmarked for the NHS frontline”, but it was unclear how that could be avoided if savings are required.”

  • 'Staggering' drop in sequencing of PCR tests to track Covid variants Torygraph July 22:
    “Potential Covid variants are entering the UK unchecked as the rate of positive tests being genome sequenced from amber-listed countries has fallen to just three per cent, official figures show.
    “The analysis shows that just 44 - or three per cent - of the 1,388 positive test results on people arriving from amber countries in the three weeks to June 30 were genome sequenced to identify variants. That compares with 61 per cent in the three weeks to March 17.
    “There was a similar decline even for travellers returning from red list countries - including South Africa, South America and India where three of the variants first emerged.
    “The official data, analysed by the House of Commons Library, showed the proportion of positive tests from red list countries that were sequenced dropped from 65 per cent to 13 per cent over the same period.
    The disclosure comes as it emerged that travellers to and from the UK have forked out £380 million for expensive PCR tests in the past six months supposedly so that the Government can track variants.”

  • Cognitive deficits in people who have recovered from COVID-19 Lancet article July 22:
    “There is growing concern about possible cognitive consequences of COVID-19, with reports of ‘Long COVID’ symptoms persisting into the chronic phase and case studies revealing neurological problems in severely affected patients. However, there is little information regarding the nature and broader prevalence of cognitive problems post-infection or across the full spread of disease severity. …
    “[Findings]: People who had recovered from COVID-19, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits versus controls when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group, pre-existing medical disorders, tiredness, depression and anxiety. The deficits were of substantial effect size for people who had been hospitalised … but also for non-hospitalised cases who had biological confirmation of COVID-19 infection …
    “… These results accord with reports of ‘Long Covid’ cognitive symptoms that persist into the early-chronic phase.”

  • Tories quietly ditch plans to extend sick pay to 2million more Brits Mirror report July 21 on the government decision to do nothing to make it easier for low-paid workers to isolate or quarantine to block the spread of Covid:
    "Tory ministers were blasted tonight for scrapping plans to extend Statutory Sick Pay to 2million more people.
    "Two years ago the government said there was "a case" for removing the requirement for claimants to earn at least £120-a-week. But the reforms were quietly ditched in a long-awaited response - prompting fury from unions.
    "TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time.
    “With Covid cases going through the roof, its refusal to make sick pay available for all is grossly irresponsible and will help drive infections still higher."
    "Ms O'Grady also called for the government to raise the £96.35-a-week rate of statutory sick pay. She added: "This boils down to political choices. Giving everyone access to statutory sick pay would cost less than 1% of the failed test and trace scheme."

  • Hospitals face ‘most difficult period’ since start of pandemic, NHSE warns HSJ Exclusive report July 21 begins:
    “NHS England has told hospitals they may be entering the “most difficult period” of the pandemic for more than a year — and said high rates of admissions are “closely linked” to low vaccine uptake.
    “In a letter to trust chiefs in the Midlands this morning, seen by HSJ, NHS England regional officials said trusts were facing increased pressures from covid-19, particularly in areas with lower levels of vaccination.
    “It says: “[The pressures are] compounded by the impact on staff absences and the need to maintain separate pathways.
    “At the same time, we are seeing unprecedented pressure on urgent and emergency care while trying to maintain the momentum created to tackle the long waiting elective patients…”

  • NHS workers in England offered 3% pay rise BBC News July 21 on the pay offer to NHS staff at a time when average earnings elsewhere have increased by between 3.2% and 4.4% in the last year and are forecast to increase by 2.4% this year:
    “Nurses and other NHS workers in England have been offered a 3% pay rise by government "in recognition of unique impact of the pandemic" on staff.
    “It comes after heavily criticised proposals made by the Department for Health and Social Care in March said only a rise of 1% was affordable.
    “All NHS staff in Wales will be offered a 3% rise by the Welsh government.
    “But some health unions opposed the new figure saying it does not reflect the sacrifices made by staff.
    “They point out the NHS workforce has been under unprecedented pressure.
    “The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, said the pay rise was disappointing and that junior doctors and some GPs could miss out on it altogether.”

  • Ministers ignored Government recruitment process to appoint Gina Coladangelo Good Law Project press release July 21:
    “Documents uncovered by Good Law Project suggest Ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) abandoned their own recruitment procedures to directly appoint Gina Coladangelo as a non-executive director.
    “We have unearthed a DHSC job advertisement posted in August 2020 seeking “expressions of interest for four non-executive directors”. The deadline for the application was 11 September 2020.
    “However, Coladangelo’s contract confirms she commenced her role as a non-executive director on 1 September 2020 – 10 days before the closing date for other applicants to apply for the same role.
    “Both the job ad uncovered by Good Law Project and Gina Coladangelo’s contract released to the Metro contain the same £15,000 per annum salary.
    “This raises serious concerns that Matt Hancock may have bypassed his own department’s recruitment process to fast-track the appointment of Gina Coladangelo."

  • White Vaccination Rates Lag in States Where Covid Is Surging Bloomberg July 21 report reveals the deadly side-effects of voting Republican and Christian fundamentalism:
    “As the Covid-19 delta variant spreads throughout the U.S., states facing the biggest spikes in new cases also tend to be those doing an especially poor job vaccinating their largest racial group, White people.
    “In almost a dozen states reporting more than 50 cases per 100,000 people last week, White people make up a disproportionately low share of the vaccinated population, which was not the case in the earliest months of the national inoculation drive.
    “In Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada, where new cases are running at least twice as high, the White vaccination rate trailed the Hispanic rate, which had long been held down by the group’s relatively low median age.
    “Recent polls have found Republicans and White evangelicals are least likely to say they’ll get the shots, which may account for less uptake among White people in certain states, especially in the South, Midwest and West. Since cases, hospitalizations and deaths are now primarily among the unvaccinated, these groups with less vaccine uptake are most vulnerable.”

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

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

  • Lord Sumption made several errors about Covid on Today Full Fact July 20 does its best to retrospectively highlight the false information peddled unchallenged on the Today programme by the reactionary peer:
    “First of all, he said that the virus had not killed more than 100,000 people, because many of the deaths recorded may have been people who were infected with Covid, but died for other reasons.
    “This is not true. … data from death certificates, which records whether or not Covid itself was the “underlying cause” … shows that up to 2 July this year, 124,082 people died with Covid as the underlying cause of death in England and Wales alone.
    “Lord Sumption went on to say that the people who died of Covid would soon have died anyway. He said: “At the age which they had reached, they would probably have died within a year after, as even Professor Ferguson has I think admitted." [1.19.00]
    “This is not supported by the evidence.
    … Research suggests that people dying of Covid lost far more than a year of life—about a decade on average.
    “… Lord Sumption also said: "The number of people who have died who are not in highly vulnerable groups who have died without a sufficiently serious comorbidity to appear on the death certificate is very small. It's a matter of hundreds and not thousands." [1.19.42]
    “This is not true either.”

  • Doctors from ethnic minorities earn 7% less than white colleagues, report finds BMJ July 20:
    “Discrimination against doctors from ethnic minorities begins early and continues throughout their careers, the first report of the Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) has found.
    “The standard is a set of indicators which uses data from a range of sources to expose ethnic disparities in the medical workforce. Sources include NHS Digital, the NHS staff survey, and the General Medical Council.
    “The report found that compared with the overall proportion of doctors in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), doctors from ethnic minorities are underrepresented in consultant, clinical director, and medical director roles and overrepresented in other grades and postgraduate training.
    “… The report also found that on average, ethnic minority doctors earn 7% (£4310; €4974; $5851) a year less than their white colleagues.”

  • Boris Johnson to delay social care reform plans until autumn Guardian report July 20 on yet another postponement of the plan which Johnson claimed to have had ready in 2019:
    "“Boris Johnson has delayed plans for a tax rise to fix the crumbling social care system until the autumn, amid worries about the proposal from within his own party.
    “The prime minister had hoped to be able to make the announcement before recess on Thursday but it was put off once again after details of the funding mechanism could not be agreed in time.
    “The Guardian revealed on Monday that talks were focused on a potential 1p increase in national insurance contributions, potentially branded as a social care levy or premium.
    “… Some Conservative MPs are already deeply worried about the prospect of a rise in national insurance hurting working people, especially in red wall seats won in 2019, and the prospect of breaking an electoral promise not to raise the levy.
    "One backbench Tory MP said the prime minister would “probably get it through but I am worried about losing the trust of many of our new voters”.”

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

  • Why the UK’s new Covid-19 strategy is uniquely dangerous Gabriel Scally in New Statesman July 19:
    “I know of no episode in history where a government has willingly aided and abetted the spread of a dangerous infectious disease among its own population. History is being made. The government of the United Kingdom seems to actually want people to catch Covid-19 in the summer, rather than in the autumn and winter.
    “Ministers reason that the understaffed and underfunded NHS will be in major trouble over the winter. To “go now” with the removal of all legal restrictions, thus producing an even higher level of infections, appears to be regarded as the right thing to do as it will reduce the inevitable problems later this year.
    “This extraordinary policy has been revealed to the population in small dollops via Downing Street press conferences where the Prime Minister is flanked by civil servants.
    “There is no obvious strategy and there is no published plan. In the view of much of the rest of the world, and most of the medical organisations in the UK, there is no possibility that this will be anything other than yet another failure that will cost lives and livelihoods.”

  • Ministers failed to ask for advice on reopening clubs DutchNews July 19 revealing ours is not the only government disregarding the science:
    “Ministers decided to reopen night clubs on June 26 without waiting for the results of a Fieldlab experiment and ignored advice from its own health experts about how events could be held safely…
    “The government lifted most of the coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands on June 26 after infections fell to around 500 day. Three weeks later, over 10,000 new infections are being reported on a daily basis, nightclubs are now closed again and ‘test for entry’ festivals have also been halted.
    “Fieldlab, an alliance of the events sector, government and scientists, held a series of controlled, but criticised, events in the run up to June 26 to assess how theatre shows, festivals and concerts could be held safely using mass testing.
    “But Fieldlab’s only club event, at Shelter in Amsterdam, was not held until the end of May and the results had not been made available to ministers before they decided clubs could reopen safely, as long as all guests had a negative test or had been vaccinated…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Time to end shady health insurance practices: Nicole M. Johnson Cleveland.com report July 16:
    “The Ohio legislature could soon take an important step to protect patients from unfair, profit-driven insurance practices. Unfortunately, it won’t completely solve this problem.
    “Ohio patients are subjected to shady contracting practices between some pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which manage drug plans for insurers. Instead of lowering drug costs for patients, these companies are using drug rebates to block competition with other drugs even if they’re cheaper or a better treatment for the patient.
    “As a physician and patient, I’ve seen insurance companies tell patients they won’t cover a medication the doctor prescribed unless they first take another medication on their list and prove it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter to these middlemen if this other medicine costs more or causes bad side effects, or even if the patient’s health worsens during that time. This is a practice called “nonmedical switching.”

  • Hospitals cancel operations and appeal for help as summer crisis bears down Independent July 15:
    “London’s Barts Health Trust is seeking volunteers among its staff who would be willing to be redeployed to help treat Covid patients in the coming weeks, The Independent has learned.
    “… It comes as hospitals across England continue to experience rising numbers of Covid-19 admissions.
    “In Manchester, hospitals have opened up extra Covid wards and are already transferring patients between hospitals to try and maintain capacity. In the northeast, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust has told staff it cancelled some operations last week with more expected in coming days.
    “Across England on Wednesday there were 3,110 Covid patients in hospital, a 45 per cent increase in the past week. In total there were 489 patients in intensive care.”

  • Experts call for new powers for ministers to be stripped from NHS legislation Independent July 15 on second reading of Health & Care Bill:
    "As the first major reforms of the health service in almost a decade come before MPs for a second reading of the Health and Care Bill, ministers were facing calls to row back on sweeping powers that would granted to the health secretary Sajid Javid.
    "There also calls by thinktanks, experts and charities to change the legislation to require workforce projections for the NHS to be published annually showing whether the health service will have enough staff to meet future demand.
    "Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said “this single measure would make the biggest difference” ahead of the debate.
    "While the bill is designed to bring about a new way of working for the NHS, with more integration between local organisations so that care for patients is more joined-up, the bill also includes an array of measures that experts say could lead to politicians interfering in the day-to-day work of the NHS and endangering patient safety."

  • Ex-Bullingdon Club member appointed to Whitehall’s sleaze watchdog Guardian July 15 with another sign of the corrupt times we live in under the Johnson regime:
    "A former Bullingdon Club member and university friend of Boris Johnson has been appointed to Whitehall’s independent sleaze watchdog, the Guardian can disclose.
    “Ewen Fergusson, a City solicitor, was announced on Thursday as one of two new members for the committee on standards in public life. A Whitehall source said the appointment was approved by No 10.
    “Fergusson, who has spent most of his career at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, appeared behind Johnson and two along from David Cameron in the infamous 1987 photograph of the exclusive, male-only Oxford dining club.
    “Fergusson’s appointment has enraged one former chair of the committee. Sir Alistair Graham, who held the role for four years until 2007, said the appointment was a “pathetic” attempt to recruit an old friend of the PM to an independent committee.

  • Most GP surgeries refuse to register undocumented migrants despite NHS policy Bureau of Investigative Journalism July 15 report on a scandalous failure of GP practices to provide primary care:
    “There are thought to be up to 1.2 million undocumented migrants in the UK, according to a 2019 report by the Pew social science research centre. Many are cut off from public services, often with the fear of deportation hanging over them.
    “… During the pandemic, those who live in the UK, but have an uncertain immigration status, have faced major barriers to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
    “… NHS England policy is clear. It says on its website: “Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.”
    “But an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that less than a quarter of GP surgeries (24%) surveyed in cities across England, Scotland and Wales would register someone without proof of address, proof of ID or legal immigration status.
    “Almost two-thirds (62%) told us they would not register the patient, while the remaining 14% said they were unsure whether they could.”

  • Patients getting more care trims UnitedHealth's profit Axios.com July report on how UnitedHealth is trying to minimise the amount it pays out for treatment of its subscribers:
    "UnitedHealth Group collected $4.3 billion of profit in the second quarter, a 36% decline from the health care conglomerate's historically profitable second quarter last year, when the coronavirus suppressed care and led to the company paying out fewer medical claims.
    "Yes, but: The company's revenue in this quarter soared 15% year over year, and the $4.3 billion of profit was still 30% higher than the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus hit. UnitedHealth remains the most financially powerful private entity in the health care system.
    "By the numbers: UnitedHealth's medical loss ratio — or how the industry refers to how much of its premiums were spent on health care — was 82.8%. That was significantly higher than the 70.2% during same period last year (i.e., the height of the pandemic), but lower than the 83% Wall Street had expected.
    "People have definitely been returning to doctors and hospitals, but UnitedHealth is still keeping more profit now than it was before the pandemic."

  • We need nothing short of an overhaul to our global health system: Priti Krishtel on vaccine equity Alliance Magazine July 15:
    “While it may feel like the pandemic is ending for those of us who are fully vaccinated, most of the world is still at risk and suffering.
    “It’s also important to recognize that as new variants emerge, the pandemic will not end: none of us are safe until all of us are safe. This is why we need to do everything necessary to vaccinate the world.
    “Over a third of the world’s population lives in India and Africa, and to date less than 4 per cent have been vaccinated. This reflects what we see globally, with only 1 per cent of vaccines going to low-income countries.
    “Charity is not the answer. Donations alone will never be sufficient to ensure that vaccines reach every corner of the world. We need to get every viable manufacturer in the world going to increase supply, which is why the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property (IP) waiver is such a critical turning point.”

  • 'It's shocking': Hundreds of Lancs carers paid less than real living wage This is Lancashire report July 15:
    “AN INVESTIGATION has revealed that hundreds of Lancashire’s vital care workers are being paid less than the ‘real living wage’.
    “Data shows that in Blackburn with Darwen 35 posts for home care workers were advertised between October 2020 and April that paid less than the living wage of £9.50 per hour, while in the rest of Lancashire 175 posts were advertised in the same period, coming to a total of 210.
    “For care workers, who have been on the front line during the pandemic, low pay has left them struggling to feed and clothe their families, has brought on physical and mental health difficulties and has caused many to consider leaving their jobs, campaigners say.
    “Colne carer Carol Thompson, who is paid just £8.91 an hour, said: “Staff are starting to think you might as well be working in a supermarket. You get paid more, with no responsibilities”.”

  • Masks to remain compulsory on London tube, buses and trains A welcome blast of common sense interrupting the kamikazi rush to "freedom day" 00 Guardian July 14:
    "Mask wearing will remain compulsory on the tube and other London transport services after next Monday, Transport for London is to announce, as national rail and bus operators in England said they would only request passengers follow government guidance.
    "Unions and bus industry bodies attacked the government for its confused messaging over the changes from 19 July, when face coverings will no longer be mandatory, saying the changed rhetoric had left operators unable to plan and could put staff and services at risk.
    "Airlines have already indicated that they will continue to demand passengers wear masks, and cross-Channel train service Eurostar has now said it will make mask-wearing a condition of carriage, from check-in at London St Pancras station."

  • Greater Manchester starts opening extra critical care beds amid extreme NHS pressures Manchester Evening News July 14:
    “Hospitals in Greater Manchester are standing up extra critical care beds as the pressure of rising Covid admissions and record-breaking A&E attendances continues to hit hard, the Manchester Evening News understands.
    “This weekend the system also had to call mutual aid in from Cheshire and Merseyside as a result of the growing strain..
    “As Covid patients continue to increase, emergency departments are also still struggling with very high numbers of patients, driven in particular by unseasonal cases of winter respiratory viruses among children, as well as pressures in primary care.
    “On Tuesday the M.E.N. reported on queuing ambulances outside North Manchester General’s emergency department, as health sources described patients also on foot being unable to get into the waiting room. It is understood a similar situation played out at Fairfield General in Bury on Friday afternoon, while last week Wythenshawe also saw queues, with paramedics reporting more than a dozen ambulances waiting outside at one stage.”

  • David Oliver: Hospital bed numbers were inadequate before the pandemic and will continue to be so BMJ blog July 14 from consultant David Oliver:
    "“As we approach the planned end to most covid-19 restrictions in England on 19 July, our general hospitals remain under unprecedented midsummer pressures, even though admissions and beds occupied by people with covid-19 are still way below peak pandemic levels.
    “Bed capacity was a glaring problem for the NHS well before covid, and even with no more surges in infections it will remain a huge limiting factor to our health system’s resilience and performance.
    “Between 2010-11 and 2019-20 England’s overall number of NHS hospital beds fell by 11%, from 144 455 to 128 943. The number of available general and acute beds fell by 8%, from 110 568 to 102 194.
    “…. Overnight bed occupancy was around 90% before the pandemic and exceeded that in serial pre-covid winters.
    “…. In June 2021, however, emergency department attendances in England reached an all time high for that month, at over 2.1 million, with 407 000 emergency department admissions to beds (up 21% on June 2020 and 8% on June 2019), and waits for over 12 hours rose sharply.”

  • The Tories’ Latest Plan to Wreck the NHS July 13 Tribune article by John Lister analysing the Health and Care Bill:
    “The continued Covid pandemic, now again on the rise, the record summer demand for emergency ambulance services and emergency admissions to hospital, the ever-growing waiting list for elective treatment, mounting pressures on mental health services, and chronic staff shortages – these are just some of the problems faced by the NHS in 2021 going forward. But the government’s new Health and Care Bill does nothing to address any of them, and could even drive some demoralised staff to leave.
    “The Bill brings no extra funding for services, and no additional investment to tackle the mounting backlog of maintenance that has now risen above £9 billion. Instead, it is yet another major top-down reorganisation of the NHS, less than ten years after the last one. It will hugely disrupt and divert the energies and resources of local NHS bosses for at least the next two years, and cost many millions in redundancy and consultancy services.
    “Far from ‘integrating’ services, as claimed by the February White Paper that preceded it, the Bill as it stands could make disintegration easier, enabling private companies to pick up NHS contracts with minimal scrutiny or regulation.”

  • New Zealand scientists say UK’s ‘awful experiment’ on Covid will threaten the country Independent July 13:
    “… New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has already dismissed the strategy being adopted by UK policymakers, and said that “different countries are taking different choices”.
    “University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told Newsroom: “The question is, how much worse is Delta going to get?
    “They are running a really quite awful experiment.”
    “Jemma Geoghegan, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Otago, expressed concern that just over half of the UK adult population has been vaccinated and that this could encourage new vaccine resistant variants to be produced.
    “She told Newsroom: “If you are going to train a virus to escape vaccine-induced immunity, you would do exactly what they’re doing.”

  • Trusts to remind public they must wear masks after 19 July HSJ July 13 report on trusts attempting to protect staff and patients despite Johnson government's irresponsibility:
    “Multiple trusts are planning to tell the public they must comply with current covid infection control measures, such as mask wearing, beyond 19 July when they visit NHS premises, HSJ can reveal.
    “Numerous trust chiefs told HSJ they will insist public visitors continue to wear masks within their hospitals. This is despite Boris Johnson confirming yesterday mask-wearing will be advisory in crowded and enclosed spaces, rather than a legal requirement, from Monday.
    “Public Health England guidance requiring mask wearing in clinical areas is still in force, and the trusts strategies are largely aimed at reminding the public that is still the case despite the change in law.”"

  • Failed music festival loses Derby NHS Trust £360,000 Derby Telegraph July 13 on a trust that has turned the clock back to the 1980s era of "income generation," with disastrous results:
    “A failed music festival created a loss of £360,000 for a company owned by the Derby hospital NHS trust.
    “The Derby Sound event was organised by health bosses in a bid to raise extra money, but instead the failed event lost a huge sum. The money could have paid the wages of 10 nurses for a year at the trust, which runs the Royal Derby Hospital.
    “The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust tried to keep the loss secret, but Derbyshire Live has forced it to reveal the details following a two-year Freedom of Information battle.
    “And now the largest trade union in the UK is calling for an “independent and transparent” inquiry into how the doomed venture could have cost a “cash-strapped NHS” so much money.
    “… It was organised by D-Hive, a company wholly owned by the hospital trust, which the trust says works on commercial projects with the aim of injecting profits back into local healthcare.”

  • Greensill Capital paid Cameron salary of more than $1m a year FT July 12 with revelations that former PM trousered £40k per day for promoting the schemes of failed financier Lex Greensill:
    “Two people familiar with the matter said Cameron received the large annual salary for his part-time advisory role, which included an increasingly desperate attempt to secure government funds for the ailing company.
    “A spokesman for Cameron declined to comment. Cameron was contracted to work 25 days a year as an adviser to the board, meaning he earned the equivalent of more than $40,000 a day.
    “His efforts to secure access to state-backed emergency coronavirus loans, first revealed by the FT, have landed the former Conservative party leader in the biggest Westminster lobbying scandal for a generation.”

  • Ministers shift responsibility for fighting coronavirus to the public Analysis July 12 from Shaun Lintern in the Independent, which begins:
    "After 16 months of government-imposed curbs on our everyday life, it appears the government has decided that enough is enough and that it’s time for it to depart the pitch, mid-game, as a summer wave of infection builds.
    "Johnson’s message was simple. It is up to each and every one of us to look out not just for ourselves but for each other, because the government has now returned to the idea of herd immunity as the only way out of the pandemic.
    "The vaccines have done the hard yards, with 66 per cent of us double-dosed, but the rest, with only one dose or no dose, are at the mercy of chance and the Delta variant.
    "Not everyone will survive the next few months."

  • Coronavirus summer wave could lead to hundreds of daily deaths within weeks, officials warn Independent July 12:
    “… modelling for the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), shows that ending restrictions could lead to between 1,000 and 2,000 hospital admissions a day within weeks, with up to 200 deaths daily now thought to be likely.
    “The new modelling from experts from the University of Warwick, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predicts a summer wave of Covid infections in the coming weeks, with Warwick making a central estimate of around 33,700 deaths by June next year.
    “The size and scale of infections, hospitalisation and deaths will depend on how the public responds to measures being eased from next week.”

  • Dutch PM Rutte 'sorry for easing restrictions too soon' BBC News July 12:
    "Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has apologised for "an error of judgement" in scrapping most coronavirus restrictions in the country.
    "The easing three weeks ago led to infection levels surging to their highest this year as nightlife resumed for large numbers of young people.
    "Curbs on bars, restaurants and nightclubs were reimposed on Friday.
    "Previously Mr Rutte had refused to take any blame for the opening up, describing it as a "logical step"."

  • Dutch PM sorry for early reopening as France tightens Covid rules Guardian July 12:
    “As governments in multiple EU states struggle to curb an increasingly alarming surge in Covid-19 cases, the Dutch premier, Mark Rutte, has apologised and conceded that restrictions reinstated this weekend were lifted too soon.
    “Meanwhile France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, unveiled a raft of new measures on Monday, including making health certificates mandatory in cafes, bars and restaurants and on planes and long-distance trains from next month.
    “While cases are rising, hospital admissions in most EU countries have not so far followed the same curve, prompting officials to suggest that as vaccination campaigns advance, hospital data should become a bigger factor in responding to the pandemic.”

  • UK’s outsourcing of COVID response has cost more than the GDP of 140 countries The excellent Byline Times July 12 with an overview of where the Covid contract cash has gone:
    “More than £21.6 billion has been awarded by the UK Government to the 50 companies that have earned the most in COVID-19 contracts, the Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens can reveal.
    “The top five companies alone have won some £8.8 billion of contracts, or 27% of the total amount awarded by the Government to the private sector since March 2020 – this being more than the GDP of countries like Nicaragua and Namibia in 2019, according to World Bank data.
    “The total value of all the contracts that have been awarded in relation to the pandemic and analysed by the Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens amounts to £54.2 billion – more than the GDP of 140 countries and territories in 2020 according to World Bank data.
    “In total, some 1,593 companies have been awarded contracts. A third of this spend went to just five companies, data from The Citizens’ review of UK pandemic-related contracts reveals. More than 2,500 UK Government contracts have been awarded in response to COVID-19.”

  • Rising hospital admissions tipping already delicate balance, NHS chief says Independent July 10 concludes:
    "Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, said high levels of vaccination could “challenge the virus” to mutate into variants against which the jab is less effective.
    “There is a risk with 19 July in terms of exposing more people to infection as a result of further reopening,” he told Times Radio.
    "He warned: “Of course, the more cases you have, particularly with high levels of vaccine protection, that does then kind of challenge the virus a little bit more and gives more potential for it to mutate into a form where the vaccines are less effective.”
    "A further 32,367 Covid-19 cases and 34 deaths were reported across the UK on Saturday."

  • Public alarm grows at Boris Johnson’s plan for Covid ‘freedom day’ Guardian July 10:
    "Boris Johnson faces a growing revolt over plans to end most Covid restrictions on 19 July – including the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport and in hospitals – as half of the public now say they want “freedom day” to be delayed.
    "Last night, as doctors and other NHS workers demanded that mask-wearing continue in hospitals, regional political leaders broke ranks, saying they would override the national government on the issue and strongly advise people to continue wearing masks on public transport.
    "Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told the Observer that with Covid cases rising rapidly again, “freedom day” risked becoming “anxiety day” for huge numbers of vulnerable people, because the government was making unwise decisions."

  • Sajid Javid warns NHS waiting lists backlog could reach 13m Stark warning and empty words from Health Secretary, Guardian July 10:
    Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Javid said the growing number of people waiting for non-Covid treatment on the NHS had been what shocked him the most since returning to the cabinet following Matt Hancock’s resignation.
    “What shocked me the most is when I was told that the waiting list is going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” he said.
    “It’s gone up from 3.5m to 5.3m as of today, and I said to the officials so what do you mean ‘a lot worse’, thinking maybe it goes from 5.3m to 6m, 7m. They said no, it’s going to go up by millions … it could go as high as 13m.
    “Hearing that figure of 13m, it has absolutely focused my mind, and it’s going to be one of my top priorities to deal with because we can’t have that.”

  • Patients face 15-hour wait in hospital A&E as summer crisis grips NHS Independent July 9 with the big story obscured by football hysteria and NHS Bill:
    "As NHS England data confirmed June was the busiest month on record for A&E departments in the NHS, Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital has confirmed some if its patients had to wait for 15 hours at several points earlier this week.
    "Elsewhere in the country, hospitals have reported patients facing long waits including up to eight hours at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust on Wednesday, where operations for some cancer patients were cancelled due to an increase in coronavirus patients.
    "The Royal College of Emergency Medicine on Thursday warned unless action was taken the NHS could be in a crisis worse than any previous winter."

  • Thousands of 999 calls put on hold with record A&E waits as health service buckles before lockdown ends Independent July 9:
    "Hospitals across the country are already in crisis mode with more than a week to go before the end of lockdown restrictions exacerbates the surge in Covid cases.
    "The care regulator on Thursday said the summer crisis was causing “very real” challenges as demand increased significantly in emergency departments and hospital wards.
    "Data seen by The Independent shows thousands of patients are being kept on hold for at least two minutes before 999 calls are answered, while new figures show record numbers of trips to A&E last month."

  • ‘There is no question patients are coming to harm’: Ambulance trusts on ‘black alert’ as 999 demand soars Another scorching hot Independent story on the scale of the crisis growing in the NHS:
    "A leaked briefing to staff at West Midlands Ambulance Service, seen by The Independent, said patients were being delayed outside hospitals for hours, meaning ambulances could not respond to 999 calls.
    "Some staff working for the trust have faced delays of four hours or more at the end of their 12-hour day waiting to transfer a patient to A&E staff.
    "Six out of the 10 busiest days ever for the West Midlands service have been this month, with 36,336 999 calls between 1 and 7 July, a 32 per cent rise on the same period in 2019."

  • Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy left fearful NHS patients avoiding treatment Independent July 9:
    "The government’s ‘hostile environment’ for charging overseas visitors for the cost of NHS services has been blamed for causing fear among vulnerable patients, with some avoiding treatment.
    "An independent review of the charging regime at one NHS trust found that while the trust was complying with government rules it did not act with compassion or empathy towards affected patients.
    "In some cases, patients at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust faced bills of thousands of pounds while living on benefits or without any income. The trust referred 1,085 debts worth £5.4 million to debt collectors between 2016 and 2018 – more than any other trust in the country."

  • New Health & Care Bill will gag local voices Lowdown early July 9 analysis of the Health & Care Bill after its first reading in the Commons:
    “A major loss of local accountability and control, coupled with a massive expansion of centralised powers, and the danger of a new wave of lucrative NHS contracts to be awarded without competition are among the main features of the government’s controversial Health and Care Bill to drive another major top-down reorganisation of the NHS.
    “The Bill would abolish local Clinical Commissioning Groups, 207 of which were established back in 2012-13, with 106 still functioning in April 2021, and reduce “local” control over the NHS in England to just 42 “Integrated Care Systems” (ICSs), some of which would cover very wide areas, and populations of up to 3.2 million.
    “In preparation for this, CCGs in many parts of the country have already been systematically merged into bigger, less accountable and more unwieldy bodies, leaving only the hollow pretence of local voice for local communities and council scrutiny committees, while decisions are taken by new, remote bodies with little or no concern for local health needs and inequalities.”

  • England’s reopening: ‘The world is looking at us with disbelief’ FT analysis July 9:
    “Cases of coronavirus are doubling every 10 days in England and hospital admissions have risen more than 50 per cent in the past week alone. Yet with 65 per cent of the adult population double vaccinated against the virus the government is set to lift restrictions, from social distancing to mask wearing, in a bid to restore normality.
    “It would make England the first country to lift restrictions in the face of exponentially rising Covid-19 cases and the decision has divided the country with some scientists suggesting it threatens the health of many thousands of people.
    “Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, and his new health secretary Sajid Javid argue that the next stage of the lifting of legal restrictions on July 19 can go ahead because the vaccination rollout has broken the link between infection, hospitalisation and deaths.
    “… Yet many scientists and health experts have angrily challenged the government’s argument. “The world is looking at us with disbelief — a country with some of the best universities and minds acting with arrogance, yet again underestimating our adversary,” says Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge university.”

  • Two-year waiters for elective care up by half to just under 4,000 HSJ report on latest waiting list figures July 9:
    "NHS England’s latest referral to treatment data, published yesterday, shows a 46 per cent increase in patients waiting more than 104 weeks for treatment, rising from 2,597 to 3,802 across April and May. NHSE only started publishing figures for patients waiting more than one year last month.
    "Five trusts contributed more than half of the total increase from April to May. All of them except University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust had a disproportionately high number of two-year waiters on their lists. The trusts (see table below) have been approached for comment.
    "The news comes as the overall waiting list for elective treatment hit 5.3m people.
    "Analysis by waiting list expert Rob Findlay, published by HSJ, reveals referrals to consultant-led care are now almost back to pre-covid levels."

  • Police called to vaccination centre in Hull park as abuse hurled at nurses and staff Depressing story of wilful malice and ignorance from Hull Live July 8:
    "Police have been called to guard a new pop-up Covid vaccination centre in Hull after staff and volunteers were subjected to a string of abuse.
    "The temporary walk-in clinic opened in Peel Street Park off Spring Bank on Wednesday.
    "However, earlier today a handful of anti-vaxxers and Covid conspiracists gathered near where people were being given jabs, at one point using a megaphone to harass people.
    "The site is part of a new initiative aimed at making vaccinations available to all adults in Hull aged over 18 without the need to book an appointment beforehand.
    "Staff are also going door-to-door in the immediate neighbourhood where each clinic is being held to encourage those who are not already vaccinated to attend.
    "In a live post shared on Facebook, one anti-vaxxer was seen seen filming nurses. shouting into a megaphone and swearing at staff."

  • Patient safety at risk as NHS struggles to cope with summer crisis, warn healthcare bosses Independent with an early warning July 8:
    "Across the country NHS leaders are warning of unparalleled numbers of patients needing non-Covid treatment, with A&E departments and GPs seeing record levels and hospitals already having to cancel operations, including for some cancer patients.
    "Ambulance services are receiving thousands more 999 calls a day while community services and mental health trusts are battling with increased pressures and the fallout of the pandemic.
    "Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations across the country, told The Independent: “The quality and safety of patient care is always going to be more at risk in a system which is struggling to cope, and we have a system that is struggling to cope."

  • Government’s mass infection plan pushed by Great Barrington Declaration lobbying effort to end COVID protections Byline Times exposee July 8:
    “A Government advisor on the Coronavirus pandemic, who claimed that young people and children are better off getting infected than vaccinated as a way of “topping up” population immunity, was behind an effort by supporters of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) in April to convince the Government to end all COVID-19-related protections, Byline Times can reveal.
    “The GBD advocated a “focused protection” – or ‘herd immunity’ approach – to the pandemic. The lobbying effort also involved a range of notorious COVID-19 disinformation groups which have promoted anti-vaccine pseudoscience.
    “Professor Robert Dingwall sits on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Viral Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) sub-group on COVID-19 vaccines.
    “He is a sociologist by profession who has also provided technical assessments to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group, advising Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty.”

  • Health bill could see NHS contracts awarded without tender process Guardian July 6 on the new Health & Care Bill:
    "Private companies could be handed NHS contracts for treating patients without going through a tender process as a result of the government’s shakeup of the NHS, critics claim.
    "The Labour party, doctors’ leaders and anti-privatisation campaigners warned that the new health and care bill would allow NHS bodies to simply award contracts for clinical care to private healthcare providers without considering other bids.
    "The bill, which was laid before parliament on Tuesday, sparked fears that it could see repeats of the “Tory cronies” contracts scandal involving multi-billion-pound deals for personal protective equipment during the pandemic replicated in the awarding of contracts covering the care of NHS patients."

  • Tory health bill published today despite fears it puts 'private firms at heart of NHS' Mirror report on new health & Care Bill July 6:
    "Dr John Lister, Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public and health policy academic, said:
    “The very last thing the NHS needs now is another top down reorganisation along the lines of the February White Paper.
    "This Bill will not treat even one extra patient, or recruit one extra nurse – and there’s no extra cash on the table: so one must question why this reform is deemed so urgent.
    "We know even Sajid Javid has reservations about the Bill, lots of Conservative MPs don’t like the new plans and NHS employers are warning it means more central powers and bureaucracy.
    "Just like Andrew Lansley’s disastrous Health and Social Care Act, that this Bill is supposed to correct, nobody supports this except ministers and their cronies and donors pressing for even more lucrative NHS contracts to be handed out – this time without competition.”

  • Maternity services in England need urgent improvement and at least £200m more to reduce unnecessary deaths, says MPs' report Sky News report July 6:
    “Maternity care in England requires improvement, a report by MPs says - and more needs to be done to reduce the numbers of deaths among babies and mothers.
    “The Health and Social Care Select Committee says urgent action is required to address staffing shortages and a "culture of blame" that prevents mistakes being admitted and lessons being learned.
    “The committee's chair, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, said "although the majority of NHS births are totally safe, failings in maternity services can have a devastating outcome for the families involved".
    “He added: "Despite a number of high-profile incidents, improvements in maternity safety are still not happening quickly enough. Although the NHS deserves credit for reducing baby deaths and stillbirths significantly, around 1,000 more babies would live every year if our maternity services were as safe as Sweden."
    “The report recommends the annual budget for maternity care in England should be increased by a minimum of £200m to £350m with immediate effect.”

  • Doctors in Unite Appeal for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme Important appeal from Doctors in Unite points out:
    "Israel’s high tech military – which gets an annual $3.8 billion from the US in a 10 year agreement made in 2016 under President Obama – does precision targeted bombing.
    "Key infrastructure, 25 storey tower blocks, dense neighbourhoods of homes and shops, schools, hospitals, clinics, mosques were hit. There was no safe place to run to for shelter.
    "Among the 242 people killed were 66 children, pregnant women, the elderly, the sick.
    "And two of the community’s most senior doctors were murdered with their families as they slept. Additionally, 1948 people are wounded, many very seriously.
    "The disabling effects of such trauma of fear and grief on the community is devastating, and psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers are working more than overtime to help.
    "The demands on the internationally respected Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) are pushing its limits. We must support these key pillars of this community."

  • More capacity – the best birthday present the NHS could get Royal College of Physicians publish a telling survey on the 73rd birthday of the NHS:
    "A new survey reveals that more than a quarter of senior consultant physicians expect to retire within 3 years, many within 18 months, while the majority of trainees entering the NHS (56%) are interested in working part-time.
    "A fifth of doctors already work part-time, and the new figures from the RCP suggest this trend is set to increase as wider expectations around work/life balance change.
    "The RCP is calling on new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid to give the NHS the best birthday present it could ask for – more capacity. It wants a doubling of medical school places to avoid medical staff shortages worsening in the future, with increased funding for social care and action to address health inequalities also needed to reduce demands upon the NHS."

  • UK scientists caution that lifting of Covid rules is like building ‘variant factories’ Guardian July 4:
    “UK scientists have warned that the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions is like building new “variant factories” at a very fast rate, and said the attitude of the new health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, is “frightening”.
    “Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Javid said the best way to protect the nation’s health was by lifting the main Covid-19 restrictions. “Rules that we have had to put in place have caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health,” he said.
    “Reacting to the comments, Prof Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, tweeted:
    “It is frightening to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is flu. Who is unconcerned at levels of infection. Who doesn’t realise that those who do best for health, also do best for the economy. Who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated.”

  • SAJID JAVID: The economic arguments for opening up Britain are well known. But, for me, the health case is equally compelling New Health Secretary Sajid Javid, July 3, using a ‘debate’ slot in the Mail on Sunday to show how little he understands and confirm he is even more anti-science than Matt Hancock, and has not even got the message that Covid is completely different in its potency and potential long term damage than flu.
    Indeed 'living with Covid' also means living with continued more dangerous variants, especially since infection rates among 10-14 year olds are rocketing and vaccination rates are falling. He says:
    “Amid the endless policy memos and reams of data, I see two immediate challenges. The first is how we restore our freedoms and learn to live with Covid-19. The second is to tackle the NHS backlog – something that we know is going to get far worse before it gets better.
    “We are on track for July 19 and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid.
    “We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view.
    “We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.
    “The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.”

  • More shocking revelations about maternity care show something is very wrong Independent editorial, following up shocking revelations from around the country of poor quality and dangerous maternity services.
    “The revelations about the state of maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are as shocking as they are depressingly reminiscent of previous episodes across England. Thanks to whistleblowers and strong investigative journalism, yet another example of neglect and worse has been identified, despite the attempts of hospital managers to obfuscate and obstruct. The truth, though, is coming out, and is reported today.
    “In recent years, families in Morecambe Bay, in Shrewsbury and in east Kent have all had to deal with multiple and systemic medical failures resulting in needless loss of life, injury, and every sort of pain. Involving as they do the lives of newborn babies, the stories are inevitably distressing, but the institutional callousness so often experienced would be unacceptable in any branch of medicine.
    “The circumstances in the various maternity units are not identical – they could hardly be, given the nature of the cases – but something of a pattern seems apparent. Or, rather, it should have become apparent when the first of this series of scandals became public knowledge. The disturbing possibility is that many more hospital maternity services across England, at least, may be subject to similar shortcomings – a major national problem.”

  • Sajid Javid must act to save an NHS on its last legs Financial Times July 2 comment from former No 10 Policy Unit chief Camilla Cavendish:
    "The health secretary’s in-tray looks more daunting than at any point since 1945. For decades, we’ve been warned that the NHS was on its last legs. Now, for the first time, I fear it’s true. The backlog of non-Covid cases is overwhelming.
    "Almost 5m people are waiting for treatment and there is no convincing plan to handle it.
    "Staff I speak to are demoralised and burnt-out. GPs have been retiring in droves for several years, partly to avoid paying tax on their pension pots.
    "Infection control measures for Covid-19 have reduced hospital capacity. I cannot see how business as usual will deliver anything near to what is required."

  • The Hancock scandal shows why we need proper regulation for non-executive directorships in government Prof Prem Sikka in Left Foot Forward July 2:
    "“The resignation of Matt Hancock as the health secretary for England has drawn attention to cosy arrangements between the government and elites who have been showered with non-executive directorships (NEDs) at government departments.
    “He personally appointed his lover as a non-exec at the Department of Health for a job which pays £20,000 for 15 days work, 14 times more than the salary of a junior nurse.
    “The concept of NEDs in the public sector is imported from the private sector. The key idea is that NEDs should offer an independent perspective on an organisation’s strategy and practices. However, in reality they are the chums of the executive directors and dare not bite the hand that feeds them. Scandals such as the banking crash, Carillion and BHS show that NEDs were the nodding donkeys who hardly ever objected to corporate excesses.
    “Ministers have eagerly embraced the idea of NEDs and enrol trusted soldiers to advance their ideological projects. The official position is that advertisements for NEDs appear on the government website and anyone can apply. Selection panels shortlist the applicants who are then invited for interviews before being appointed.
    “A nudge and a wink can also persuade individuals close to ministers to apply. However, the secretary of state can bypass all formalities and make direct appointments and there is no limit to the number of cronies that they can appoint as NEDs or advisers.”

  • Maternity scandal trust could now face criminal prosecution Independent July 2:
    “The NHS care watchdog is considering a criminal prosecution against Nottingham University Hospitals Trust over its failure to provide safe care to mothers and babies, it can be revealed.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned the Nottingham trust that it may bring a criminal case against it following the death of baby Wynter Andrews in September 2019.
    “It is also examining evidence of whether the trust may have committed a criminal offence in not being open and transparent with families after deaths and incidents of avoidable harm.
    “Wynter Andrews died after being starved of oxygen due to gross failings in care by maternity staff in 2019 which saw her delivered by caesarean section after long delays. A coroner ruled last year she would have survived if action had been taken sooner and criticised the “unsafe culture” at the trust.
    “Earlier this month East Kent Hospitals University Trust was fined a record £761,000 after a CQC prosecution following the avoidable death of baby Harry Richford in 2017.”

  • New wards and theatres at crumbling hospital Eastern Daily Press July 2 reveals that the number of props holding up the collapsing Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn is now up to 200 -- but it is still not on the Johnson government list for a new build.

  • Consultation on aligning the upper age for NHS prescription exemptions with State Pension age Consultation on massively undermining health care for millions of over-60s quietly sneaked out to run through the holiday season, under cover of the Euros and Javid's plans to axe all precautions and let Covid rip.

  • States Are Leading the Way on a Public Health Insurance Option Time magazine US, July 1:
    "“When Joe Biden ran for president, he campaigned on lowering health care costs and expanding coverage by adding a government-run health insurance option to compete with private insurers. That’s far from becoming a reality at the federal level, but three states have now passed their own versions of a public option—test cases that can reveal the possibilities and pitfalls of implementing such a system in the U.S.
    “Colorado and Nevada both signed public health insurance options into law in June, and Washington state recently updated its public option, first approved in 2019. All three plans are more limited in scope than what Biden and other Democrats have suggested a federal version might look like, but members of Congress are nevertheless watching closely to see how they fare.
    “… With an evenly divided Senate and a slim Democratic majority in the House, it’s highly unlikely lawmakers will pass a federal public option any time soon. Instead, Democratic states are tackling what Congress has failed to do ever since Republicans and centrist Democrats spiked a public option plan during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) negotiations in 2009.
    The new state level public option plans attempt to decrease health care costs by paying lower rates to hospitals, doctors and other medical providers than private insurance companies do.”

  • Ministers plan to end social distancing in England on 19 July Guardian July 1:
    "Ministers are planning to remove all mandatory mask and social distancing restrictions in England on 19 July, but national guidance may still encourage caution in high-risk areas such as public transport.
    "A number of key scientific advisers including England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, are said to be behind ministers’ plans to lift restrictions, though they have cautioned that the NHS may come under pressure in the winter.
    "However, hospital bosses fear the reopening date will lead to a new spike in admissions due to Covid. NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, warned it could lead to the cancellation of surgery and other care."

  • For Surprise Medical Bills, It’s the Beginning of the End New York Times July 1:
    “The Biden administration took its first steps Thursday toward finalizing the details of a ban on surprise medical bills that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law last winter. Some experts see the policy as the most important consumer protection in health care to come out of Washington in more than a decade.
    “Surprise medical bills happen when a doctor or other provider who isn’t in a patient’s insurance network is unexpectedly involved in a patient’s care. Patients may go to a hospital that accepts their insurance, for example, but get treatment from emergency room physicians or anesthesiologists who don’t — and who then send patients big bills directly.
    “Surprise billing had been widely seen, by academics and legislators, as one of the most exasperating common practices in medicine. Millions of Americans receive these type of bills each year, with as many as one in five emergency room visits resulting in such a charge. The new law effectively bans the practice.
    “… Outlawing surprise medical bills was the rare health policy that garnered widespread and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Legislators were spurred on by numerous stories of patients who faced thousands of dollars in debt for bills they never could have prevented. A Texas man, for example, received a $7,924 bill from an out-of-network oral surgeon who performed an emergency operation at an in-network hospital.”

  • Revealed: Dozens of baby deaths after errors at one of UK’s largest hospitals Excellent, but harrowing Independent special report July 1 from Shaun Lintern:
    “Dozens of babies have died or been left brain-damaged after errors during childbirth at one of Britain’s biggest hospitals – while managers failed to properly investigate concerns and altered reports to take blame away from the maternity unit.
    “An investigation by The Independent and Channel 4 News has uncovered repeated examples of poor care over the past decade at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, with parents forced to fight to find out the truth about what happened to their child.
    “Families say that if lessons had been learnt, further tragedies at the hospital could have been prevented. Naomi Lewin, whose baby Freddie died after a harrowing labour, told The Independent: “They don’t listen to families. It’s ignorance. If they don’t learn from it, it’s going to be a repeat cycle over and over and over again.”
    “During a panicked delivery, Freddie’s throat was cut during an attempt to free him and his leg was so bruised it had become blackened. He died soon after birth with no post-mortem examination despite the traumatic injuries.”

  • Health Department failed to declare minister’s 27 meetings held at outset of pandemic The excellent Byline Times June 30, reporting more Tory sleaze:
    "“The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed to declare 27 meetings held by Health Minister Lord James Bethell at the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic, Byline Times can reveal. The companies involved in these meetings went on to acquire public sector contracts worth £1.14 billion.
    “Yesterday, the DHSC updated its records for the ministerial meetings held with external individuals and organisations during the period from April to June 2020. The DHSC did not declare which meetings had been added to the register – merely noting that a number of meetings had been “left off the original publication due to an admin error”.
    “However, Byline Times has uncovered that 27 meetings held by Lord Bethell between 1 April and 6 April 2020 were omitted from the original publication and only added yesterday. The original publication was released on 29 October last year – meaning that these previously undeclared meetings were published eight months late and 14 months after they took place.
    “The release of these 27 previously undeclared meetings may have been spurred by the work of the Good Law Project, which earlier this week revealed that Lord Bethell held a meeting with Abingdon Healthcare on 1 April without disclosing it in his transparency data. Lord Bethell went on to hold several meetings with Abingdon during this period, which subsequently secured two contracts from the DHSC totalling £85 million for testing services. Both deals were awarded without competition.”

  • Serco expects 50% jump in profits on back of Covid contracts Guardian June 30:
    “The outsourcing company Serco predicts its profits will jump 50% during the first half of the year because of its continued work on Covid-19 contracts for various governments, including the UK’s test-and-trace service.
    “The firm expects its underlying trading profit for the first six months of 2021 to reach between £120m and £125m, more than 50% higher than a year earlier.
    “In addition, it forecasts revenues of £2.2bn, almost 20% higher than the same period in 2020, about £340m of which being related to Covid-19.
    “Serco said it had won record levels of new orders during the period, worth almost £4bn, including large contracts with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK, as well as with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
    “Serco runs large parts of the UK’s largely privatised test-and-trace service, which is labelled NHS test and trace. The firm runs a quarter of Covid-19 testing sites and half the tier 3 contact tracers, who are mostly required to phone the contacts of people who have tested positive.”

  • ‘Jaw-dropping’ fall in life expectancy in poor areas of England, report finds Guardian June 30 on more bad news of widening health and social inequalities in Johnson's deeply divided Britain:
    "“Boris Johnson’s post-Covid “levelling up” agenda will fail unless it addresses declining life expectancy and deteriorating social conditions in England’s poorest areas, a leading authority on public health has warned, as he published figures showing the impact of the pandemic on Greater Manchester.
    “Sir Michael Marmot revealed the coronavirus death rate in Greater Manchester was 25% higher than the England average during the year to March, leading to “jaw-dropping” falls in life expectancy and widening social and health inequalities across the region over the past year.
    “The deteriorating health equalities picture in the region and across similarly deprived areas of the country was a result of longstanding, avoidable socioeconomic inequities and ethnic disadvantage, exacerbated by a decade of spending cuts and amplified by Covid and the effect of prolonged lockdowns, he said.”

  • UK poorest nation per capita in northwest Europe, research shows Independent June 30 on the economic figures the Tories are definitely not keen to boast about:
    "Boris Johnson is prime minister of the poorest country in north west Europe based on wealth per head of population, research shows.
    "Analysis by the House of Commons research library – based on International Monetary Fund (IMF) data – shows the UK lags behind all 13 of its closest neighbours when it comes to per capita wealth.
    "The 2021 figures show that the UK has a gross domestic product (GDP) income per head of the population of just £31,038 – behind other poor performers France on £32,622 and Finland on £34,187.
    "Luxembourg was found to have the highest GDP per capita in north west Europe, with more than £80,000 per person – followed by Ireland (£65,411) and Switzerland (£50,015)."

  • Hospitals at breaking point in summer Independent’s Shaun Lintern writes in his Health Check newsletter, June 29:
    “At the weekend The Independent reported on the record levels of demand in accident and emergency departments across England. Since then I have been inundated with stories from people experiencing long waits to be seen and clinicians fearful of the consequences.

    “On Tuesday we reported that Barnsley Hospital was on black alert and warned its staff that patient safety was at risk because of the huge numbers coming through the doors.

    “Yesterday, we reported on Plymouth Hospital also declaring a black alert – known as an OPEL 4 – after it saw hundreds turn up at A&E with medical beds in the trust at more than 100 per cent occupancy.

    “These are just two examples but it is being replicated across the country – with serious consequences. … Corridor care, normally associated with hospitals in full winter crisis mode, is now appearing in our A&Es in June. This month is set to be the busiest in A&E ever.”

  • 'Taking taxpayers for fools': Anger over £39m cuts and savings Eastern Daily Press June 29 flags up plans by Norfolk Tories to cut social care by £17.7m and children's services by £8m:
    "Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, said: "We’re facing a menu of unpalatable options, unless the government grasps the nettle and sorts out council funding – especially for adult social care.
    “We can only stretch the elastic so far. Without fair, sustained funding, we’re going to have to make painful choices over savings, higher council tax, or both.”
    "But Labour opponents highlighted how the council was prepared to borrow millions - and pay interest on that - to underwrite part of the cost of the controversial £198m Norwich Western Link."

  • Third health minister reportedly used private email for government work London Economic report June 29:
    “A third health minister, Helen Whately, has allegedly used a private email account to carry out government affairs, The Guardian has revealed.
    “According to the newspaper, Whately, the social care minister, was found to have copied in a private email address to a diary invitation but the department for health said her account was only used for diary invitations and that this respects government guidance.
    “The news come after the UK’s information watchdog announced it may launch an investigation into Matt Hancock and James Bethell’s use of non-official email addresses.
    “Bethell, who oversaw Covid contracts, allegedly used his private email address in at least four official exchanges with a businessman trying to secure contracts during the pandemic.”

  • Covid: Masks upgrade cuts infection risk, research finds BBC News June 29:
    “The quality of face masks healthcare workers wear makes a huge difference to their risk of coronavirus infection, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research has found.
    “Wearing a high grade mask known as an FFP3 can provide up to 100% protection.
    “By contrast, there is a far greater chance of staff wearing standard issue surgical masks catching the virus.
    “Professional bodies have long campaigned for staff to be given better personal protective equipment.
    “The data was gathered during a programme of regular testing for Covid at the trust.”

  • Matt Hancock: the walking app who couldn’t cope with the virus Excellent Pulse June 29 summary of an undistinguished spell as Secretary of State:

    “Matt Hancock arrived on the scene as health secretary in July 2018 as a low-profile Government minister, who was perhaps most famous for starting his own self-titled social media app.
    “But he resigned over the weekend as a household name, following the biggest public health crisis in a century and a string of public scandals. It was the most recent scandal – the publication of leaked pictures showing him kissing an aide, breaking social distancing guidelines – that led to him stepping down and being replaced by Sajid Javid.
    “Pressure had been mounting on the ex-health secretary for months in light of his and the Government’s response to the Covid crisis, which has so far claimed 130,000 lives – to put into horrible context, government advisers said at the start of the pandemic that 20,000 lives would be considered a success.
    “… Hancock has been at the centre of the PPE procurement row, as well as heavily criticised for catastrophic failures with the £37bn Test and Trace system and for not doing enough to protect care homes from the virus at the start of the pandemic.”

  • Health Minister Lord Bethell failed to declare meeting with firm that subsequently won £85m Covid contract Good Law Project June 28 confirms that even after the departure of Matt Hancock the revelations of dodgy dealings around the handing out of PPE contracts on his watch just keep on coming:
    "According to explosive emails published by The Sunday Times, Health Minister Lord Bethell held a ‘private meeting’ with controversial Covid testing firm Abingdon Health on 1 April 2020 without disclosing this meeting in its transparency data.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is required to publish quarterly schedules of ministerial meetings with outside companies, but the 1 April meeting with Abingdon is missing from the departmental records covering the period of April to June 2020. The meeting was only uncovered in emails published by the Sunday Times.
    "Lord Bethell, a hereditary Peer and current Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation held two further meetings with Abingdon Health on 29 April 2020 and 13 May 2020 – these were declared by the DHSC.
    "Abingdon Health went on to secure two contracts from the DHSC totalling £85million – both deals were awarded without any competition."

  • RCEM explains: hospital beds Royal Colleage of Emergency Medicine June 28 Parliamentary Briefing sums up the scale of the shortage of front line beds after a decade of cutbacks and the additional cuts due to Covid in 2020:
    “While bed numbers have begun to slowly increase again, hospitals are short of 6,000 beds compared to pre-pandemic levels.
    “Importantly, bed numbers prior to the pandemic should not be seen as the standard that we need to return to, as bed occupancy levels were higher than what is deemed safe and putting strain on hospitals, which in turn can decrease the quality of care that patients receive.
    “… Insufficient bed availability can lead to increased waiting times for patients, crowding and consequently corridor care in EDs, and it can increase the rate of hospital-acquired infections, which has become even more dangerous due to the pandemic.
    “… with a similar number of admissions this winter as the winter of 2017/18, the NHS will need just over 7,500 additional beds. If demand broadly mirrors that of 2019/20 (which saw Covid-19 significantly diminish admissions), just under 5,000 more beds will be needed. If demand rises to the same levels as 2018/19 however, almost 16,000 more beds will be required to keep the bed to admission ratio broadly in line with recent years.”

  • NHS Test and Trace: Serco wins new year-long contract City am report June 28:
    "Outsourcing giant Serco today announced it has been awarded a new contract with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to continue providing Covid test and trace services.
    "It comes just days after a National Audit Office (NAO) review into the largely privatised service found that 600m tests were unaccounted for and the £22bn scheme was still missing targets and ‘wracked with problems’.
    "Serco’s new contract with the government could be worth up to £322m, though the outsourcing company specified that “the actual amount could differ materially from this” as the service matches demand for testing in the coming months.
    "The contract will initially last for 12 months, with the possibility to extend for a further six months."

  • Just three months to end mental health bed scandal Eastern Daily Press June 28 on a long-running saga of failures from the mental health trust:
    “The scandal of mental health patients being sent many miles from home is coming to a head - with just three months left for health chiefs to end the practice.
    “Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has promised for almost a decade to stop sending patients out of area.
    “But a trust spokesman said it had "more to do" ahead of the national deadline to end the placement days by September.
    “… Since March 2017, there have been 41,473 out of area bed days, and the closest the trust has been to no out of area days was July 2020 with 110.”

  • The Babylon Health Bad Bot Archive Youtube presentation from Dr Murphy (aka David Watkins) asks
    "Is @babylonhealth's AI technology, the biggest #HealthTech scam since Theranos?"

  • Hancock faces scrutiny for using private email for official business Guardian June 27 report
    “Matt Hancock’s use of private emails that bypassed disclosure rules when doing government business came under scrutiny this weekend, as exchanges emerged showing the former health secretary had personally referred an old neighbour wanting an NHS contract on to an official.
    “Hancock has repeatedly denied that he had any involvement with £50m worth of contracts for NHS test-and-trace supplies secured by Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn, near Hancock’s old constituency home in Thurlow, Suffolk.
    “The Guardian revealed last year that the former publican had won the work after sending Hancock a personal WhatsApp message last March, despite having no experience producing medical supplies. Bourne’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry.”

  • Matt Hancock could get £16k golden handshake June 27 report from The London Economic:
    “Matt Hancock … could still be entitled to a £16,000 golden goodbye – despite resigning in disgrace.
    “Ministers under 65 who leave their office – whether sacked or resigning – are entitled to a quarter of their annual salary under the 1991 Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act. The salary for a Secretary of State is £67,505 according to latest figures, which would in theory lead to a payout of £16,876 for 42-year-old Mr Hancock.
    “It is not yet known whether Mr Hancock intends to take and keep the payment.
    “… But shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said Boris Johnson must step in and deprive Mr Hancock of the payment.
    “She told Sky News: “I think most of your viewers would be appalled to think that there’s going to be a severance payment to Matt Hancock in this circumstance.
    “Let’s not forget, he as the health secretary was the guy who recommended that our NHS workers, after the year they’ve just had, in the pandemic, on the front line, who have worked flat out, who are now on their knees – he recommended that they have a pay cut.”

  • NHS staff in Manchester reveal ‘major incident’ over hospital pressures Independent report June 26 on a mid-summer ‘winter crisis’:
    “Doctors and nurses working at Manchester’s Royal Infirmary say they were told the hospital had declared a major incident on Thursday amid mounting pressures in its emergency department, long waits for patients and fears of a shortage of staff and beds.
    “Multiple sources at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, from different departments, said staff were told the declaration was made, but then rapidly reduced to an internal incident to “avoid bad press”.
    “The trust denied declaring any incident but has taken what is known as ‘business continuity measures” which is part of NHS England’s incident response and is designed to ensure hospitals can maintain patient services in the face of increased demand.
    “In A&E, staff said patients were facing long waits for admission to the wards, while only 65 per cent of patients in the emergency department were being seen within four hours.”

  • Matt Hancock keeps job as Boris Johnson accepts apology and considers matter ‘closed’ Independent June 26:
    “Pressure is mounting for an investigation into Matt Hancock’s lockdown-breaching relationship with an aide, as Boris Johnson attempted to save his health secretary by declaring the matter “closed”.
    “The prime minister was branded “spineless” after brushing aside demands to sack Mr Hancock, who was caught on camera in a romantic clinch in his departmental office with a longtime friend whom he had put on the government payroll.
    “Mr Hancock, 42, acknowledged that his embrace with married 43-year-old Gina Coladangelo had broken social distancing rules and said he was “very sorry”. But he made clear that he intended to fight to keep his job, and Mr Johnson later said he accepted his apology.
    “… A snap poll by Savanta ComRes found that a clear majority of 58 per cent – including 46 per cent of Tory supporters – thought Mr Hancock should resign, against just 25 per cent who said he should not.”

  • Beyond the numbers: understanding the diversity of covid-19 epidemiology and response in South Asia BMJ June 25 article on Covid in South Asian countries concludes:
    "Perhaps the single largest risk for a continued covid-19 crisis in South Asia is the abysmal vaccination strategy in the region.
    "India implemented an intense vaccine diplomacy initiative with donations to all strategic neighbours (except Pakistan), but given the massive domestic burden of infections, reneged on the promised supplies to the global Covax facility.
    "The supply and pace of vaccinations has not kept up with the spread of covid-19 in any low or middle income country.
    "A large increase in global finances will be needed to support and enhance Covax, which given limited supplies also poses enormous ethical challenges for targeting in recipient countries.
    "With current half-hearted mitigation measures and covid-19 fatigue, this pandemic could extend its course, exacerbate disparities, and impact development for years to come.
    "We need global solidarity and concerted evidence informed efforts to contain this existential threat, and countries of South Asia need to find common ground and solutions."

  • Test And Trace Has Lost Track Of Nearly 600 Million Covid Tests Huffington Post June 25:
    “Boris Johnson’s £37bn Test and Trace service is facing fresh criticism after a damning new report found that it had lost track of nearly 600 million Covid tests.
    “The National Audit Office spending watchdog concluded that the system was still failing to “deliver value for taxpayers”, with a lack of any targets for self-isolation by the public and a continued reliance on private consultants.
    “Test and Trace, which was run by Tory peer Dido Harding, has already come under fire for its use of private firms Serco and Deloitte and its repeated failures in 2020 to track down contacts of people who had Covid.
    “The latest report sets out a raft of problems, including paying for tracing staff it does not use, the use of emergency procurement powers that dole out contracts without competition and a lack of data sharing with local public health chiefs that hinders efforts to tackle outbreaks.”

  • A+Es seeing record numbers of children Independent June 25:
    “A&E departments are being flooded with children with often mild fevers, creating a “winter in June” for the NHS, experts are warning.
    “Three royal colleges have joined forces to issue new guidance for parents worried about fevers, after seeing a large rise in the numbers seeking emergency help for conditions that are not Covid.
    “As lockdown eases, more children are mixing and coming into contact with viruses that are usually seen in the winter months. These include a range of respiratory infections, bronchiolitis, paraflu and rhinovirus, all of which produce symptoms of cough, runny nose and fever.”

  • How the NHS Waiting List Crisis Can Accelerate the Reimagining of Care May 24 masterpiece of abstract twaddle from US management consultancy Bain:
    It offers such gems as the summary:
    “A micro-battle mindset and Win-Scale-Amplifysm approach can enable healthcare providers to recover the backlog and transform productivity through innovation.”
    And later on, it all boils down neatly to a matter of thinking rather than finance, capacity or staffing:
    “NHS systems have a key role in rapidly identifying winning solutions that can accelerate recovery. The boldest and most willing will lead this mission.
    “A first wave of systems with the potential to excel must have the operational freedom and financial incentives to shrink the problem.
    “Following the micro-battle approach, each system will first translate the mission to eliminate the waiting list into the constraining themes (e.g., shrink the orthopaedic waiting list), then break each theme into specific issues and actions within each provider organisation and specialty (e.g., increase orthopaedic theatre throughput).
    "Within this first wave, agility, speed, and a test-and-learn mindset are crucial.”

  • Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated AP News in the US June 24 with a warning for anti vaxxers everywhere:
    “Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.
    “An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 0.1%.
    “And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.
    “The AP analyzed figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC itself has not estimated what percentage of hospitalizations and deaths are in fully vaccinated people, citing limitations in the data.”

  • Hospital declares ‘black alert’ after A&E is flooded with hundreds of patients Metro report June 23:
    “Barnsley Hospital is struggling to keep up with the demand for beds, just days after top doctors from across the NHS warned of mounting pressure from record admissions.
    “Internal emails show the trust was forced to declare OPEL 4 status – (operational pressures escalation level) – on Tuesday amid a struggle to find beds. The system is used by the NHS to assess the stress, demand and pressure a hospital is under.
    “OPEL 4, also known as the ‘black alert’, is the highest warning used when a hospital is ‘struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care’ and patient safety is at risk.
    “… It is understood that the spike in patient numbers is due to A&E sickness demand rather than coronavirus, suggesting the delay in people missing out on medical treatment over lockdown is finally catching up on the NHS.”

  • NHS alarm over rise in number of UK Covid patients on ventilators Guardian June 23:
    “NHS bosses have sounded the alarm over the number of people on ventilators in hospital in the UK, which has risen over the past week.
    “The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said the number of Covid patients in hospital on ventilation beds had increased by 41% in the last week to 227, which she said was a strong indication Covid was having an impact on health services.

    “Cordery told BBC Breakfast: “Trusts on the frontline are really coming under huge pressure ... they have plans in place to tackle the backlog, but with more Covid cases and demand for emergency care going up, that’s really challenging.”

  • NHS data strategy: Hancock defends data sharing plan BBC News June 23 wakes up to the big fight going on over plans to potentially sell NHS data to commercial companies:
    “NHS patients in England will get greater control over their health and social care data under plans set out by the government, Matt Hancock says.
    “It means people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the NHS through various apps.
    “… In defending the plan, the health secretary said more effective use of data would deliver better patient care.
    “… But Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, which campaigns to stop abuse of digital technology, said the government took a "collect it all first and ask questions later" approach when it came to GP data and said the strategy included potential commercial uses of information.
    “She told the Today programme that GP data was "possibly the most valuable" set of health information in the world and called for the DHSC to send a consent form to individuals offering them the chance to opt out.”

  • Dido Harding’s pledge to cut overseas NHS staff is a kick in the teeth Guardian June 21 comment by Gaby Hinsliff:
    “Jenny McGee was originally from New Zealand, and Luis Pitarma from Portugal.
    “Both risked their lives to work on Britain’s Covid frontline, and the prime minister later marvelled at the dedication with which they watched over him “every second of the night”.
    “But words are cheap; it’s action that counts. Which brings us to the Tory peer Dido Harding, fresh from presiding over the chaos of track and trace, and her audacious application to follow that by taking over the running of the NHS in England.
    “Crucially, her pitch for the job reportedly includes a pledge to stop relying on overseas-born doctors and nurses and train British-born replacements instead.
    “Short of stringing up a banner reading “Go Home, Foreigners!” outside every hospital, it’s hard to think of a bigger kick in the teeth for the 14% of NHS staff who weren’t born in Britain and who will have arrived for work this morning, presumably wondering which of the patients whose lives they may save today would secretly prefer they weren’t here.”

  • ‘A sustained threat to patient safety’: Hospitals across the country swamped by record numbers in A&E Independent June 2:
    “Hospital emergency departments across the UK are at breaking point with record numbers of patients swamping A&Es, raising fears that lives will be lost, The Independent can reveal.
    “Some hospitals have been forced to declare major incidents in the last few days because of the swelling numbers of patients.
    “Hospitals across the country have set new records for patient numbers in recent weeks, surpassing the worst days of the winter of 2019 – the most recent winter crisis in the NHS before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.
    “A&E doctors from across the country have shared details with The Independent, revealing that in some units patients are waiting as long as nine hours to be seen, with overall numbers up by 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.”

  • Dido Harding’s bid to lead the NHS is symptomatic of a grim populism i-news June 20 slamming disgraceful comments from Dido Harding:
    “If you want an example of so much that is wrong with our country, consider this fact: Dido Harding has applied to become chief executive of England’s National Health Service.
    “She thinks she should run our most cherished, complex and arguably important institution, the biggest employer in Europe, at this time of immense crisis.
    “… And despite her dismal track record in both private and public sectors, she might just get the job.
    Clearly Baroness Harding of Winscombe is not the best person in the world to lead the salvaging of a post-pandemic health service and forge a new path for its future. Yet it is worth considering her candidature.
    “For she exemplifies the breathtaking arrogance of the governing elite, the insouciance of those who think they are born to rule over the rest of us, the inequality that bedevils our nation, the cronyism and tribalism that stymies progress, the casual contempt for the little people who fund their activities and the disturbing ability of a few well-connected folk to thrive despite persistent failure.”

  • Dido Harding: Make NHS less reliant on foreigners (£) Times report June 20 that manages to complete the whole article without a single quote from the woman herself:
    “Baroness Harding of Winscombe has vowed to end England’s reliance on foreign doctors and nurses if she becomes the next head of the NHS.
    “Harding, the former head of Test and Trace, formally applied last week to succeed Sir Simon Stevens to lead the health service.
    “… Her candidacy is controversial. The Conservative peer has chaired NHS Improvement since 2017 and is close to ministers, but her testing programme was condemned as ineffective and a waste of billions of pounds.
    “Harding, 53, would challenge the “prevailing orthodoxy” in government that it is better to import medical professionals from overseas and benefit from the investment of other countries because of the huge cost of training a doctor.
    “According to the House of Commons Library, 170,000 out of 1.3 million NHS staff say their nationality is not British, amounting to almost 14 per cent of the workforce.”

  • NHS backlog twice as big as we had thought, admits Matt Hancock Torygraph report June 18 helps Hancock’s efforts to blame Covid for the growth of waiting lists that mostly took place before the pandemic hit:
    “The NHS is facing the "biggest pressure in its history" from a backlog potentially twice as big as previously feared, Matt Hancock has warned.
    “On Thursday, the Health Secretary told hospitals to brace for a flood of up to 12.2 million people in need of elective procedures such as hip, knee and eye operations. “This includes 5.1 million patients currently on waiting lists.
    “Health bosses believe there could be a further 7.1 million who stayed away during the Covid pandemic but who will come forward demanding treatment, Mr Hancock revealed.
    “He said that even with the NHS "running at 100 per cent", coping with this total would be the greatest challenge the service had yet encountered.”
    (Of course the NHS is nowhere near running at 100 per cent and lacks the capital and staff to do so.)

  • Tracing chief Dido Harding ‘will change the NHS’ (£) Times report on Dido Harding’s latest job application:
    “Baroness Harding of Winscombe has applied to become head of NHS England, declaring there can be no return to pre-Covid business as usual.
    “The former Test and Trace chief has formally entered the running to take over from Sir Simon Stevens this summer after being bolstered by a positive reaction to her candidacy from senior NHS leaders.
    “The Conservative peer, 53, who was heavily criticised over the inability of Test and Trace to keep infections under control last year, would be a divisive choice to run the biggest public service.
    “Some in the NHS argue that her closeness to the government would make it difficult for her to convince staff that she is on their side.”
    [For “difficult”, read “impossible”].

  • Is Matt Hancock ‘hopeless’? Here’s 14 times he made the case for it i-news report June 18:
    “New texts published by Dominic Cummings allege that Boris Johnson called Matt Hancock,“totally f***ing hopeless” in terms of his testing and procurement policies.
    “The messages were the latest grenade lobbed in the war between the former adviser and the Health Secretary, after the two presented contradictory narratives about the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in evidence sessions to Parliament, and “hopeless” has become the refrain of lobby journalists and opposition politicians used in their scrutiny of the government.
    “It is also a charge Hancock swiftly denied but one that causes us to reminisce about the minister’s track record.”

  • Trust fined £733,000 in groundbreaking CQC prosecution HSJ June 18 report on a landmark case that also underlines the inadequacy of inspection and retrospective court actions to improve and uphold standards of care in the NHS:
    “An acute trust has been fined £733,000 for failing to meet fundamental standards of care, in a groundbreaking case brought by the Care Quality Commission.
    “East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing harm by failing to provide safe care and treatment to baby Harry Richford – who died a week after birth – and his mother Sarah.
    “It is the first time the CQC has prosecuted a trust for the quality of care it provided — three previous prosecutions, of mental health trusts, focused on unsafe premises. Their fines were significantly lower than the £733,000 fine, £28,000 costs and £170 surcharge East Kent will have to pay.
    “But the Richford family, responding to the sentence, said: “We are unsure if the system currently in place [of fines] is suitable for publicly funded organisations such as NHS trusts. Taking money away from a financially challenged resource does seem counterintuitive and we would encourage policy makers to consider alternative options.”

  • Why it suits Boris Johnson to have a cabinet of all the hopeless Amusing June 18 Guardian comment from Marina Hyde:
    "So, then, to the unbearable hopelessness of Matt Hancock, who somehow still remains health secretary in the most eyecatching miscasting since the Bond movie in which Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist.
    If you wished to distil the minister’s entire pandemic performance into one six-second clip, you could do a lot worse than this week’s footage of a reporter shouting “Are you hopeless?” through Hancock’s open car window.
    As the Range Rover pootles off, from the back seat comes the reedy reply: “I don’t think so … ”
    "(Incidentally, I understand that convention states all cabinet ministers have to be driven around in Range Rovers, but surely Matt should be downgraded to an Evoque. Or even one of those toy cabriolet versions you occasionally see in the park driven by some remorseless three-year-old future landlord.)"

  • Nigeria’s Healthcare cost gallop past 15%, highest on record Nairametrics.com article June 17 noting that health cost inflation in Nigeria has risen to a record 15%, but making no mention of the idea of curbing healthcare inflation by to publicly financing the health system:
    “According to the World Bank, Nigeria spends about 3.89% of its GDP on Health Care Expenditure, a significantly high amount when compared to the GDP of Human Health Sector.
    “Nigerians pay for healthcare via private pockets, community funded programs, or via private sector or government-supported medical insurance via the NHIS or the 54 Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).
    “Unfortunately, the number of people who pay for health care via medical insurance is not enough to drive down healthcare cost, worsening an already bad situation. To pay for their health care, most Nigerians often rely on self-medication in pharmacies and roadside chemists. Yet, it is these shops that have seen prices rise the most since the pandemic.
    “Rich Nigerians on the other hand spend more abroad fuelling a growing medical tourism industry that gets more money out of Nigeria.”

  • Dido Harding applies to become next CEO of NHS England Independent report on one of the worst bits of news for a while as Hancock’s jockey chum bids to do the same to the NHS as she did to Talk Talk and the disastrous privatised Test and Trace:
    “Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding has formally applied to become the next chief executive of NHS England.
    “The former head of the government’s much criticised test and trace service has officially put in a bid to run the £130 billion and stepped aside from her role as chair of NHS Improvement while her bid is considered.
    “Baroness Harding is the wife of Conservative MP John Penrose and when she was appointed to lead NHS Improvement - now part of NHS England - she refused to give up the Tory whip in the House of Lords.
    “She had previously confirmed she was considering making a bid for the top job in a move which drew criticism because of her clear political stance.”

  • Stevens' silent grin says it all In a pool interview Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, reacts to the question ‘Do you believe the Health Secretary is hopeless’

  • Hospital at centre of Covid surge appeals for help from nearby trusts as critical care beds fill up A worrying Independent June 16 report:
    “A hospital at the centre of the coronavirus surge in the northwest of England has started sending critically ill patients to neighbouring hospitals so it can cope with a growing demand for beds.
    “Multiple sources told The Independent the hospital has come under growing pressure as the numbers of Covid-19 admissions have risen in recent weeks, forcing it to activate “mutual aid” plans with other hospitals in the region.
    “Bosses at the Royal Bolton Hospital confirmed it had transferred a small number of critically ill patients to hospitals nearby to help it cope.
    “It comes as the latest data for hospitalisations in England show the number of Covid-19 patients has increased by 30 per cent in the two weeks since 2 June, rising from 801 to 1,057 on Wednesday.”

  • Eldertree Lodge: Troubled Staffordshire mental health unit forced to close BBC Midlands report June 16 on yet another failed private mental health unit:
    “A troubled mental health unit in special measures and subject to a police investigation said it has been forced to close.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) put Eldertree Lodge in Staffordshire in special measures after ruling it unsafe during an inspection.
    “The unit said it received a variation of registration notice, meaning changes to the care it can legally provide.
    “It means 41 patients will have to find new accommodation by 17 July.
    “In April, the high dependency clinic had its rating suspended over concerns about the quality of care around the use of restraint.”

  • NHS mental health trust fined £1.5m over care failures that led to 11 deaths Guardian June 16 on a verdict on a chronically poor mental health trust that has been the subject of sustained campaigning:
    "An NHS mental health trust has been fined £1.5m over serious lapses in care that led to the death of 11 patients who were found hanging.
    "Mr Justice Cavanagh, the judge who imposed the fine, said a “litany” of failings in safety standards had been identified at Essex Partnership University NHS foundation trust (EPUT) over many years, which meant that it had failed to “prevent suicides”.
    "The fine relates to 11 deaths in which a “point of ligature was used within the ward environment of the trust’s premises” between 1 October 2004 and 31 March 2015.
    "EPUT pleaded guilty last November to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The judge imposed the £1.5m fine in a sentencing hearing on Wednesday at Chelmsford crown court."

  • ‘We’ll re-engineer the whole NHS to make sure people don’t wait in pain’ Times June 12 with an alarming story on how much interest Murdoch's favoured Michael Gove has been taking in “innovations” to tackle problems facing the NHS:
    “A plan is beginning to take shape. Bringing waiting times down to pre-Covid levels will mean the NHS doing more routine procedures and operating at a greater capacity than before.
    “A group of hospitals and other NHS institutions have been identified to act as “accelerators” looking at ways of doing more operations than they did before and using data in a new way.
    “The idea is to get a “real-time” picture of staffing levels, operating theatre capacity and patient need so that all spare capacity can be used, as well as identifying where more is needed.
    “We are looking at the whole process end to end from a patient first presenting with symptoms to treatment,” Gove says. “We are looking at how we can re-engineer the system to use technology and in particular data analytics to reform the process and treatments.”

  • Fixing NHS waiting times could cost £40bn, leaked No 10 estimates show Guardian report June 11:
    “Calculations for No 10 drawn up by the Cabinet Office make clear that the prime minister may have to commit anywhere between £2bn and £10bn a year for up to four years, on top of core NHS funding, to tackle what is fast becoming a major political headache for the government.
    “The figures, disclosed by Whitehall sources, underline the huge scale of the challenge in getting NHS waiting times back to manageable levels before the next election.
    “The latest NHS England performance figures, out on Thursday, showed that the total number of people waiting for hospital treatment, especially surgery, had topped 5 million for the first time. It stood at 5,122,017 in April, the highest since records began in 2007.
    “However, despite negative publicity, Downing Street thinks it does not need to start throwing money at the problem soon because the public are not yet “distressed” about long delays, a source with knowledge of No 10’s thinking said.”

  • NHS trust contacts hundreds of families in effort at honesty over Covid hospital infections Independent report June 10 on what appears to be sadly a unique effort at transparency:
    "An NHS trust has become the first in the country to individually contact every family of patients who caught coronavirus while they were in hospital in a large-scale bid to be transparent over the scale of infections.
    "Bosses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn NHS Trust have set up a team to work through hundreds of cases where patients caught coronavirus in hospital.
    "At least 99 patients are known to have died after becoming infected with more cases still to review.
    "In a unique approach to transparency the trust is sending a letter by recorded delivery to every affected patient or family where it is thought the patient picked up the virus within the hospital."

  • NHS hospitals told to protect staff working in PPE during warm weather amid heat stress warning Independent June 10 with a fresh warning about PPE:
    “NHS hospitals have been urged to protect frontline staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a warning about the risks of heat stress as the UK basks in a period of prolonged warm weather.
    “A letter from Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive to hospital trusts, GPs and pharmacies said doctors and nurses should be given regular breaks and recommended that a buddy system be established with people urged to watch for the signs of heat stress, which can lead to more serious heat stroke.
    “Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in warm/hot environments increases the risk of heat stress,” the PHE memo said.”

  • Labour warns on next NHS England chief as Dido Harding expected to apply Guardian June 6 report:
    “The next chief executive of NHS England must be someone with “a proven track record”, Labour has said, after it emerged that the former test and trace chief Dido Harding was expected to stand.
    “It is understood that Harding, a Conservative peer, is considering formally applying to replace Sir Simon Stevens, who is leaving the job in July after seven years.
    “While Stevens’ whole career has been in healthcare and health management, Harding spent the bulk of her working life in areas such as supermarkets and telecoms, notably as head of the Talk Talk group.
    “Since 2017, she has chaired the board of NHS Improvement, an oversight arm of NHS England. Her first day-to-day management job in health came a year ago when she was appointed to lead the Covid test and trace service in England, with a budget that rose to £37bn.”

  • Private ambulance firm suspended after Norfolk woman's death Eastern Daily Press with a shocking June 10 report:
    “A private ambulance firm has been suspended after a grandmother "died while sitting between" staff as they transported her back to Norwich.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has suspended Premier Rescue Ambulance Services (PRAS), based in Taunton, following an inspection in April.
    “The company was driving Peggy Copeman, from New Buckenham, on December 16 from Taunton back to Norwich when she was taken ill and died in the ambulance in an M11 layby in December 2019.
    “Norfolk's senior coroner Jacqueline Lake sent a report to prevent future deaths to PRAS, which said staff transporting Mrs Copeman did not recognise she was in distress and that the 81-year-old had "effectively died whilst sat between them".
    “Amanda Williams, CQC’s head of hospital inspection for the south of England, said: “Premier Rescue Ambulance Services Limited has the right to appeal and further information will be published by CQC when we are able to do so."

  • Five million over-50s 'sleepwalking' into a retirement crisis Daily Telegraph June 9 with a story that helps to underline the scale of health inequalities and old age poverty worsened by a decade of Tory austerity:
    “Five million older workers face a retirement crisis as they will fall short of an “adequate” income once they leave work, an industry report has warned.
    “More than 90pc of private sector workers with “defined contribution” pensions will not be able to afford a comfortable retirement, and will be forced to live on less than their expected income, according to research by the Pensions Policy Institute, a think tank.
    “… The report, which was sponsored by the Centre for Ageing Better, a charity, warned a low state pension and increasing unemployment were key factors that would leave a quarter of those approaching retirement without enough to pay for an “adequate” standard of living.
    “… Meanwhile, the full state pension, currently £9,350, pays just 24pc of the national average income, which means it falls short of providing an adequate income.

  • Anger as Matt Hancock says he has 'no evidence' PPE shortages cost lives Mirror report June 10 on reaction to Matt Hancock lying through his teeth:
    "Matt Hancock stands accused of "insulting" NHS staff after he denied a scarcity of protective gear "led to anyone dying" on the Covid frontline.
    "The Health Secretary admitted to MPs on Thursday that PPE shortages came "pretty close" last year, but he claimed "at a national level", there was "never a point" when the UK "ran out".
    "But campaigners hit out at the claims, saying shortage which left some medics forced to rely on bin bags for protection meant "unnecessary deaths" at the height of the pandemic.
    "It came as NHS Providers revealed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that supplies were “dangerously low” at some points and a dearth of gowns and visors left frontline staff in fear.
    "Mr Hancock insisted in evidence to the Commons health and science select committee, however, that: "We've looked into this and there is no evidence that I have seen that a shortage of PPE provision led to anyone dying of Covid."

  • Political Pressure ‘Watered Down’ Public Health England Care Home Guidance Over COVID Testing Byline Times revelation June 9: “Public Health England was forced to alter its original scientific advice demanding elderly patients only be released into care homes after testing negative for the Coronavirus under political pressure from senior Government officials and the NHS, an official at the Department of Health and Social Care has claimed.
    “Speaking exclusively to Byline Times, under a condition of anonymity, the whistle-blower confirmed that, in March 2020, PHE’s internal advice from clinical staff was to ensure that any patients newly discharged into care homes had to be tested for COVID-19.
    “Public Health England’s original advice was that people shouldn’t be released from homes and hospitals without being tested to ensure they are not carrying the disease,” they said.
    “That initial advice was signed-off by two PHE officials – Dr Eamonn O’Moore, director for health and justice; and Dr Julia Verne, head of clinical epidemiology – and was the case up to the period “just before the lockdown”, the source revealed.”

  • Woman who had a three and a half hour wait in an ambulance later died BBC Midlands news on impact of ambulance delays at Birmingham's main hospital:
    “A woman who had a three and a half hour wait in an ambulance outside a hospital in Birmingham later died.
    “The patient, with chronic breathing difficulties, was suspected by paramedics to have sepsis during the call-out on 24 May.
    “She was pronounced dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
    “The hospital trust said it was doing all it could to reduce ambulance handover delays.
    “West Midlands Ambulance service said it was facing unprecedented delays outside hospitals which is impacting on patient care.
    “It said activity was up 15% last month, compared with the same period last year, during the busiest May on record and saw 4,135 hours of ambulance delays.”

  • David Oliver: The story of covid in care homes—neither mystery nor melodrama BMJ June 9 blog in which NHS Consultant David Oliver puts a different view from Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock, concluding:
    “We know that keeping lots of care home residents in scarce beds, waiting for tests we had insufficient access to, with a high first false negative rate and no clear understanding of how long people remained infectious, could have posed other risks to these residents and to other patients in need.
    “We know that the care home sector had insufficient access to personal protective equipment or testing for staff and was initially not involved in drawing up plans or policies, and false assumptions were made about its ability to contain outbreaks.
    “The support care homes received from local NHS services ranged from brilliant to patchy and unreliable. And many care home outbreaks were seeded not by hospital discharges but by staff who were infected without knowing it, or were unable to self-isolate, or worked on multiple sites.
    “Hancock and other ministers played down all of this publicly—and, if Cummings is to be believed, privately too.
    “Distorting the truth is not acceptable in public office. But none of this is news. What matters more are the conditions still facing care homes in terms of funding, staffing, and NHS support; what we learnt and how we changed between the first and second waves; and, most importantly, what mitigations we have in place for the future.
    “The real story of care homes and covid in the first wave was not so much the melodrama or mystery reported after Cummings’s incendiary evidence as a farce of brazen denial and a tragedy for the care homes and their residents.”

  • NHS to ‘retain all documents’ ahead of covid public inquiry HSJ report June 8 on an order that seems most unlikely to be obeyed:
    “Local NHS organisations have been told they must start preparing for the public inquiry into the covid-19 pandemic.
    “The message was delivered this evening as part of a longer regular newsletter from NHS England deputy chief executive Amanda Pritchard. It said: “Any organisation could be required to provide evidence for the statutory inquiry into covid-19, and individuals may be mandated to attend to give evidence under oath.”
    “Local NHS leaders are asked to consider “four key areas of action”. These include:
    “ensuring robust and comprehensive records management
    embedding systematic approaches to log key leavers, carry out exit processes and retain contact details
    considering wellbeing support for staff who may have to provide evidence
    appointing a named inquiry lead.”
    “Ms Pritchard’s note also says NHS England has issued a “stop notice” instructing staff “to retain all documents”. She suggests local NHS organisations may want to ”adapt” the stop notice for their own use.”

  • Minister says he is ‘not sure what more we can do’ for NHS staff as report warns of burnout ‘emergency’ Independent Minister George Eustice admits to being useless, having apparently not considering resigning and taking Matt Hancock with him:
    “NHS and social care staff burnout has reached an “emergency” level and poses a risk to the future of services, a committee MPs have warned.
    “In a highly critical report, the Health and Social Care Committee called for immediate action to support exhausted staff who have been pushed to breaking point during the pandemic.
    “The environment secretary told Sky News: “Yes, of course they’ve had a difficult year – if you’re dealing with a pandemic, as they’ve had to, it’s been a very difficult time, they’ve done extraordinarily well.”
    “Mr Eustice said the government had already recruited more staff and introduced a pay rise. Pushed on the issue, he responded: “Well, I’m not sure what more we can do.”

  • How serious is Delta Covid variant for UK and do vaccines stop it? Excellent Financial Times June 8 explainer on the latest Covid threat, with detailed figures:
    "“Greater Manchester and Lancashire will have access to military back-up and surge testing as part of a “strengthened package of support” to combat the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.
    “The two regions in northern England were also added to a list of areas, including Leicester and Hounslow in west London, where travel and indoor mixing is discouraged. Supervised in-school testing will also begin, health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons.
    “The announcement will add to fears that the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, could scupper Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of lifting all remaining restrictions on social contact on June 21.”

  • New NHS patient data store delayed by two months June 8 BBC news report correct in stating that the data dump has been postponed under growing pressure, rather than prevented:
    “The creation of a central NHS digital database from GP records in England will be delayed by two months, the government has announced.
    “The system was due to begin on 1 July, but the date has now been pushed back to 1 September.
    “The NHS had been calling for a delay to allow patients more time to learn about the system.
    “The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs had also expressed concern.
    “… Labour's shadow health minister Alex Norris welcomed the delay but argued that the "current plans to take data from GPs, assemble it in one place and sell it to unknown commercial interests for purposes unknown has no legitimacy."

  • Covid: 'No excuse' for failings on New Cross Hospital ward BBC Midlands news on June 8 on failures of hand hygiene in Wolverhampton:
    “A man says there is "no excuse" for failings on a hospital ward, after his brother contracted Covid-19 and died.
    “Seven patients and 34 staff members caught Covid in a Wolverhampton hospital's cardiac unit. Two patients died in hospital and David Kingston, known as Paul, later died in a hospice.
    “A subsequent investigation at New Cross found issues with hand hygiene and PPE.
    “The hospital trust denied any staff-to-patient transmission, but said it had since made improvements.”

  • Ambulance handover delays at hospitals jumped 44 per cent before Covid Independent report June 8:
    “The number of patients forced to wait with paramedics for at least an hour in ambulances and hospital corridors jumped 44 per cent in the year that preceded the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.
    “Data obtained by the Labour Party from nine out of the 10 ambulance trusts in England shows the deterioration in A&E capacity before the pandemic hit the UK.
    “… Between April 2019 and March 2020, 651,192 people waited for 30 minutes or more to be transferred from the care of an ambulance crew to an A&E department. That was up 18 per cent on the year before, when 552,303 people waited at least 30 minutes.
    “In total, 122,474 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over by paramedics – up 44 per cent on 2018-19, when 85,083 people waited that long.”

  • Approving Biogen's Alzheimer's Drug Is a Big Mistake Bloomberg article June 7 raising serious concerns over the evidence of effectiveness and safety of the new Alzheimer's drug:
    “"Follow the science" has been a consistent refrain during the pandemic, and it's usually a core mandate of the Food and Drug Administration in evaluating medicines. But when it came to one of the agency's most consequential decisions — the approval Monday of Biogen Inc.'s controversial Alzheimer's drug aducanumab — science took a back seat.
    “Alzheimer's is a devastating illness with no treatments that do anything but ease symptoms. Biogen's drug is the first said to slow decline. If there was good evidence that it did so, it'd be a breakthrough, but the data is inconclusive at best. And while the FDA is and should be flexible when patients have no options, this decision does more than bend standards — it shatters them.
    “For Biogen investors, the approval is a huge victory, setting the stage for a blockbuster drug worth billions in sales and added market value for the company; already, after an initial halt the stock surged 50% on Monday’s news. For everyone else, it’s a mistake; the FDA’s blessing threatens to harm the agency's reputation, America's health budget and the quality of drug research, including for Alzheimer’s.”

  • The contested future of Greater Manchester's NHS Manchester Mill June 7 on likely shape of Greater Manchester "integrated care", quoting HSJ's Lawrence Dunhill:
    “It was reported last week that most of GM’s acute care funding will be assigned to the central board of providers, effectively bypassing borough-level structures. Primary and community funding, which is a smaller chunk, will go to borough-level “locality boards.”

    “This morning we spoke to Lawrence Dunhill, a reporter at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) who has been reporting on this story. He told us:

    “They are going to talk a lot about how they are protecting the 'primacy of place' principle, when the reality of how the funding is going to flow straight to the acute sector is likely to give more power and decision-making to the Greater Manchester structures.

    “Bear in mind: If power and funding are heading in a more centralised direction, that doesn’t mean actual health services are. In fact, last week saw a significant reversal of centralisation when plans to consolidate high-risk general surgery in a smaller number of hospitals were “quietly dropped”.”

  • NHS bosses accused of keeping public in the dark over £450m Leicester Hospitals revamp Leicester Mercury report June 7:
    “Health bosses have been accused of keeping the public in the dark about £450 million plans to transform Leicester’s hospitals.
    “Radical overhauls of health services are being planned at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield and General Hospitals but campaigners and politicians say NHS officials have not been open and transparent about the changes after carrying out a two month public consultation held at the end of last year.
    “A decision making business case (DMBC) has been drawn up after more than 5,000 people offered their views on various aspects of the far-reaching transformation.
    “Tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon the boards of the city and county NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGS) are to meet potentially to approve the Building Better Hospital for the Future business case but there are concerns it has not, so far, been made public in advance.”

  • New website to help patients and NHS staff check hospital waiting times Independent report June 7:
    “A group of patient activists has set up a new website using official NHS data to allow patients to check the waiting times for treatments at their local hospital.
    “The new waiting times tool is thought to be the first automated and regularly updated website that shows hospital performance against key waiting time targets, by medical specialty such as cardiology or orthopaedics.
    “The service, developed by volunteers from the not-for-profit Patient Experience Library, not only shows patients how many people are waiting to be treated overall but also shows data on the median waiting time as well as how well the hospital is performing against targets over time.
    “Patients can also compare different hospitals and look at the performance of the NHS in England overall. Wait times for mental health services are treated separately and not included.
    “Miles Sibley, co-founder of the Patient Experience Library, said the website was an attempt to bring transparency to NHS England’s “impenetrable spreadsheets” which not only affected patients but also other NHS staff who told Sibley they spend hours downloading data and working out their organisations performance.”

  • Matt Hancock denies claiming to have ‘thrown a protective ring around care homes’ despite saying it live on TV Independent June 7 exposing yet again Matt Hancock lying through his teeth:
    "Matt Hancock has denied claiming to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes” from the start of the pandemic – despite saying it live on television.
    "The now-notorious statement – which ignored the discharge of patients from hospital without Covid tests – came “much later about what we were doing for the winter plan”, the health secretary insisted.
    "But TV footage shows Mr Hancock made the claim in May 2020, at a Downing Street press conference, and that he was arguing he had protected care homes throughout.
    “Right from the start, we’ve tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes,” the watching public was told. “We set out our first advice in February and, as the virus grew, we strengthened it throughout.”

  • Vaccines for children could start in August under plans being discussed by ministers Telegraph June 5 report:
    “Covid vaccines would be rolled out to children from as early as August under plans being drawn up in Whitehall, The Telegraph can disclose.
    “A Government source said that under current modelling “we would be ready” to begin vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds by the second half of August, or early September at the latest.
    “Ministers are awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which insiders expect will recommend the jab for younger teenagers, before they make a final decision.
    “However, writing in The Telegraph, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warns that “a huge proportion of the latest cases are in children”, as he urges secondary school pupils to take a coronavirus test on Sunday before returning to school on Monday.”

  • NHS hit by legal threat over GP data ‘grab’ Financial Times report June 4:
    “The UK government is being threatened with legal action if it does not pause plans to collate the full medical histories of 55m patients in England into a single database from July 1.
    “In a pre-action letter sent on Friday on behalf of five organisations and Conservative MP David Davis, the campaigners warned that “rushing this major change through with no transparency or debate violates patient trust, and that doing so without patient consent is unlawful”.
    “Last week, NHS Digital, which runs the health service’s IT systems, confirmed the plan to pool medical records from every patient in England who is registered with a GP clinic into a single database that will be available to academic and commercial third parties for research and planning purposes.
    “Patients have until June 23 to opt out by filling in a form and taking it to their GP for themselves, and their children, before their historical records become a permanent and irreversible part of the new data set.
    “Patients who opt out after the deadline can stop future data from being funnelled into the new system.
    “If NHS Digital does not extend the opt-out deadline of June 23, the coalition, which includes the National Pensioners Convention and the Doctors’ Association UK, plans to sue the Department of Health and Social Care as soon as next week, to freeze the data-sharing scheme immediately.”

  • Cummings’ care homes claim could lead to corporate manslaughter charges Guardian report June 3:
    “Criminal lawyers watched Dominic Cummings’ electric testimony at the health and science select committees last week with considerable interest. Not just because every select committee cries out for forensic cross-examination, but because if some of Cummings’ key claims are true then legal alarm bells should sound.
    “Cummings’ central claim was “We were told categorically in March that people would be tested before they went back to care homes. We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened … The government rhetoric was we put a shield around care homes … it was complete nonsense.”
    “Following Cummings’ testimony, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, was specifically asked in parliament whether he had indeed told the prime minister that patients being discharged from hospital would be Covid-tested before re-entering care homes.
    “His response was that the government had followed clinical advice, which was not a direct answer.”

  • Founder of virtual doctor app Babylon to become billionaire after $4.2bn US listing Telegraph story June 3 speaks volumes on the way the private sector is actually making money exploiting weaknesses in the NHS:
    “The founder of the virtual doctor app Babylon is set to join the ranks of Britain’s technology billionaires after the company announced a $4.2bn (£3bn) US listing.
    “Ali Parsa, who founded Chelsea-based Babylon in 2013, is set to own a 26pc stake in the company, worth $1.1bn, when it completes a reverse merger with Alkuri Global, a New York-listed blank cheque company.

    “… Babylon’s GP at Hand app, which allows patients to run their symptoms through a chatbot and speak to their doctor over video call, has been praised by Health Secretary Matt Hancock. It has around 90,000 NHS patients on its books, although most of its business is now based in the US, where the company launched last year.”

  • Hancock’s Department calls in management consultants after Cummings testimony Byline Times unearths yet another cracking story, June 2:
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) signed off a contract worth £2.5 million in the days following Dominic Cummings’ damning testimony, in an attempt to fix internal problems, Byline Times can reveal.
    "Cummings spoke to MPs for five hours in a televised hearing last week – discussing the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and the former Downing Street chief aide reserved much of his criticism for Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock and his department.
    "In a remarkable series of claims, Cummings said that Hancock should have been fired on multiple occasions for lying; that the vaccine programme has only been a success because it wasn’t managed by Hancock or his department; and that virtually no planning had taken place for implementing a national lockdown, as of 14/15 March last year."

  • Covid-19: Government faces legal challenge over alleged suppression of school data BMJ article June 1:
    “The UK government could face legal proceedings unless it releases data on the spread of the Delta variant (B.1.617.2, first identified in India) of SARS-CoV-2 in England’s schools, which it has been accused of suppressing.
    “A pre-action letter has been sent to Public Health England (PHE) by the Citizens advocacy group and the data rights agency AWO, accusing PHE of “unlawfully surrendering independent judgment” to the prime minister’s office in relation to data on schools.
    “The move comes after the Observer reported that the prime minister’s office was directly involved in a decision not to publish important data on the spread of the variant in schools, as part of a wider report.1 That report was shortly followed by the announcement that students would no longer need to wear face coverings in schools.
    “Before the letter, eight unions, 80 scientists, and more than 1000 parents had attempted to get the government to release the data. PHE has seven days to respond to the letter, sent on 28 May, which said that the organisation was bound by law to be independent from political interference but that it “fettered its discretion by treating the prime minister’s intervention as being binding upon it”.”

  • Covid cases rising rapidly in Wirral as Indian variant takes hold and lockdown eases Worrying Liverpool Echo report June 1:
    “Although the number of infections in Wirral is still relatively small, certainly compared to previous peaks in the pandemic, the very latest figures show a steep increase.
    “In the week up to May 29, Wirral’s rate was 23.2 per 100,000, a sharp rise on the rate of 5.6 per 100,000 recorded the week before.
    “Covid-19 case numbers are also rising in other parts of our region, with Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens all recording a rise in their infection rates.
    Knowsley’s weekly rate climbed to 16.6 per 100,000 from 8.0 per 100,000 last week.”

  • THE ANATOMY OF A PPE DEAL Awarded to a Matt Hancock associate Intriguing Byline Times report June 1:
    “… Chunlei Li … has been practicing Chinese medicine in the UK since 2003.
    “In January 2020, Chunlei Li launched a new venture. On the second day of the new year, he formally incorporated CH&L Limited, assigning himself one share – the company’s full allocation. At that time, the Companies House website listed him as a ‘receptionist’.
    “Soon, CH&L struck a big win. On 30 April, the company was awarded a £14.4 million contract from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for the provision of isolation gowns – part of the Government’s drive to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic. The contract was awarded without a formal competition process.
    “How did a small-time acupuncture practitioner from Newmarket with a brand new business secure a PPE contract worth as much as a Premier League footballer?”

  • GPs urged to refuse to hand over patient details to NHS Digital Guardian June 1:
    “Senior GPs have called on colleagues to refuse to hand over patients’ personal data to NHS Digital, in a move they hope will buy time to raise awareness of plans to place all medical records in England on a central database.
    “All 36 doctors’ surgeries in Tower Hamlets, east London, have already agreed to withhold the data when collection begins on 1 July, the Guardian understands. An email has been circulated to about 100 practices across north-east London calling on them to also consider whether the data collection is legitimate, with the hope that it will spread to many more.
    “The email makes clear the refusal to share the data is technically a breach of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
    “Privacy campaigners and doctors have raised the alarm about plans, led by the Department of Health and Social Care, to put the medical histories of more than 55 million patients into a new database where they will be made available to the private sector and other researchers.”

  • MPs tell Johnson: you have a duty to help vaccinate the world Guardian report May 31 of a handful of human beings somehow surviving on the back benches of the Tory Party and supporting action to vaccinate the world:
    “Boris Johnson has a “moral duty” to immediately start matching each vaccine administered at home with a donated dose to poorer countries across the world, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has said.
    “Several Tory backbenchers joined the call, which puts further pressure on the prime minister to boost supplies given to developing nations facing a “desperate shortage” of jabs.
    “In a letter to Downing Street seen by the Guardian, the group says this will help to save lives at home, adding that the spread across the UK of the variant first found in India had proven that all countries need equitable access to injections.
    “The longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that dangerous variants could emerge that can evade the protections offered by current vaccines,” says the group, which includes the Conservative backbenchers Sir Peter Bottomley – the longest-serving MP – and the former hospital doctor Dan Poulter.”

  • NHS test-and-trace workers are charged out at more than double their pay Guardian report May 31:
    “Workers on the NHS test-and-trace operation who are being paid £9.50 an hour were charged out to the government’s supplier, Serco, at as much as £21.50 an hour, the Guardian understands.
    “The rate was charged by Sensée, a London-based call centre company, for workers tasked with calling the contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19, a source said. Neither Serco nor Sensée disputed the figures.
    “The revelation prompted further concerns about the value for money offered by the test-and-trace system. Led by the Conservative peer Dido Harding, it has already faced scrutiny over efficacy, although the proportion of contacts reached by private-sector contact tracers has improved since earlier in the pandemic when it lagged behind public-sector tracers.
    “… Serco was limited to earning a margin of 4% on top of costs for its test-and-test work, but its suppliers were not under the same obligation. Sensée did not say how much profit it made on the contract.”

  • PPE supplier accuses ministers of squandering millions after snubbing cheaper equipment offer Telegraph report May 29:
    “Ralph Derman, who runs an import company, said the NHS ignored his repeated attempts to offer the service masks, gloves and gowns at a more reasonable price than it was paying other firms with no experience of obtaining goods from Chinese suppliers.
    “Mr Derman, whose Hong Kong-based export firm, Derman Industries, had been operating for 30 years, said he heard nothing back from the NHS, despite assuring ministers he could obtain supplies from Hong Kong at a fraction of the inflated cost they were paying.
    “He told The Telegraph: “I was simply ignored. The Government was throwing millions at small companies who in some instances had never dealt in masks before, from factories they also never dealt with before, to supply it with PPE for the NHS and care homes. And yet it apparently had no interest in any offers of the same equipment at cost price.
    “I’ve been exporting goods and materials from Hong Kong and mainland China for many years and I knew that the NHS was being ripped off by suppliers charging exorbitant fees at a time Britain was desperate for PPE.”

  • UK's biggest care home operator hikes fees for residents in the pandemic as owners cash in thisismoney.co.uk article May 29:
    “Britain's biggest care home operator has hiked fees for residents in the pandemic while funnelling cash to its super-rich owners, experts have claimed.
    “Private equity-owned HC-One has been accused of using loans and a complex web of offshore structures to ‘extract cash’ and reduce its tax bill.
    “Newly published accounts reveal the company, which has 8,000 residents in 170 care homes, increased fees to residents and councils by an inflation-busting 3.6 per cent. The jump meant that the average resident was paying £40,196 per year by September 2020.
    “At the same time, its founder, Dr Chai Patel, a Labour donor, extracted £2million in ‘management fees’ during the year through his investment vehicle Court Cavendish, accounts reveal.”

  • Virgin given seat on ICS Board Lowdown exclusive May 28:
    “The concerns of campaigners that the proposals in the NHS White Paper to give statutory powers to “Integrated Care Systems” would lead to private companies sitting on ICS Boards have been proved justified.
    “Virgin Care’s local managing director Julia Clarke is already listed as a member of the Partnership Board, the unitary Board which currently runs the ICS covering Bristol and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW).
    “But a look at the Board Papers for a meeting on May 28 reveals that the Virgin boss is not only occupying a seat, but actively intervening to protect the company’s interests. Minutes of the March meeting reported a discussion on the extent to which private sector “partners” would be required to be financially transparent towards the other providers within the ICS “for purposes of planning the independent/private sector’s NHS related or NHS commissioned work.”
    “They noted Virgin’s reluctance to share any information with the public:
    “Virgin Care were prepared to consider greater transparency where the contract with BaNES and BSW was concerned, but had reservations about sharing information in public.” (page 6)
    “In response to this the NHS “partners” tamely rolled over, agreeing to action by Chief Financial Officers to “further discuss how the ‘open book’ approach could be applied to private / independent providers while protecting those providers’ corporate and commercial interests” – in other words how to ensure ‘open books’ were not opened at all, and ICS contracts remain tightly guarded secrets withheld from the local public.”

  • Hancock and Johnson reject Dominic Cummings’ ‘unsubstantiated attacks’ Evening Standard report May 27:
    “Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have defended themselves following the extraordinary criticisms levelled at them by Dominic Cummings.
    “The Health Secretary hit back against the former No10 senior adviser who on Wednesday delivered a devastating verdict on the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
    “Mr Cummings singled out Mr Hancock for his most stinging criticism, accusing him of lying and alleging he should have been sacked on 15 to 20 occasions.
    “Addressing the Commons on Thursday morning, the Cabinet minister responded: “These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true. What we have done to handle this coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in modern times.”

  • Government scraps free emergency parking for NHS staff HSJ May 27 breaks the news of another kick in the teeth for front line NHS staff:
    “Ministers are set to scrap a free emergency parking pass issued to NHS and care staff last year once lockdown restrictions end next month, updated guidance reveals.
    “The government guidance, updated on 17 May, said the decision was being taken in line with proposals set out in the government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown published earlier this year.
    “The pass, announced in March 2020, entitled free car parking to NHS, health and social care workers, as well as for NHS volunteer responders while they are on duty. They were made available through NHS trusts, councils and the Royal Volunteer Service, and enabled staff to use off-street car parks which were owned by local authorities and on-street bays.
    “However, the updated guidance says current and potential pass holders will not be able to use it after 21 June, when the latest lockdown restrictions are eased. Those who try to may be liable to fines.
    “The government is hoping to have reached step four by then, where all legal limits on social contact would be reduced and more premises would be reopened to the public.”

  • Bolton hospital reports ‘one of busiest ever days’ in A&E as Covid admissions rise Independent report May 26:
    “A hospital in Bolton has reported “one of its busiest ever days” in its emergency department, after rising coronavirus cases led to a spike in hospitalisations.
    “There are currently 41 Covid-19 patients being treated at the Royal Bolton Hospital, with eight of them in critical care.
    “This comes as coronavirus infections in Bolton continue to soar, in large part due to the prevalence of the so-called Indian variant.
    “Andy Ennis, the deputy chief executive of the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said Monday “was one of the busiest days we have ever had in our emergency department”.

  • EU citizens who miss UK settled status cut off to lose some free healthcare Guardian May 26 with another disgusting post-Brexit government policy driven by hatred of 'foreigners'. It will make it harder than ever to recruit or retain NHS or social care staff from EU countries:
    “EU citizens who fail to secure settled status by the 30 June deadline will immediately lose access to free non-urgent NHS healthcare, despite a government pledge to be “extremely understanding” about late applications.
    “Some details of how swiftly different departments will apply hostile environment policies to EU citizens who have not secured the new post-Brexit immigration status by the cutoff date have emerged in responses to a series of parliamentary questions.
    “But campaigners are concerned that there is still no clarity about whether EU citizens who miss the deadline but who continue to work in the UK will be committing a criminal offence.
    “There was also no clear Home Office response to parliamentary questions seeking to clarify whether employers face prosecution if they employ an EU citizen who has not applied for EU settled status (EUSS) after the end of June.
    “Alliance MP Stephen Farry sought to clarify the grey area with Boris Johnson during prime minister’s questions, asking if illegal working legislation would be applied to EU citizens who continue to work despite missing the deadline. “Can the prime minister assure the House that EU citizens or non-EU family members who miss the deadline will not face potential criminal liability if they continue to go into work?” he asked.”

  • England’s NHS plans to share patient records with third parties Financial Times report May 26 echoes the concerns of many campaigners:
    “England’s NHS is preparing to scrape the medical histories of 55m patients, including sensitive information on mental and sexual health, criminal records and abuse, into a database it will share with third parties.
    “The data collection project, which is the first of its kind, has caused an uproar among privacy campaigners, who say it is “legally problematic”, especially as patients only have a few weeks to opt out of the plan.
    “NHS Digital, which runs the health service’s IT systems, confirmed the plan to pool together medical records from every patient in England who is registered with a GP clinic into a single lake that will be available to academic and commercial third parties for research and planning purposes.
    “Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, a campaign group for digital rights, said: “We all want to see the NHS come out of the pandemic stronger” but noted that the NHS had been “completely silent” on who would have access to the data.
    “Is it pharma companies? The health arm of Google Deepmind? If you ask patients whether they want details of their fertility treatment or abortion, or results of their colonoscopy shared with [those companies], they’re not going to want that,” she said.”

  • More than 77,000 NHS staff in England have caught Covid, shows research Guardian report May 25:
    “At least 77,000 hospital staff in England caught coronavirus during the pandemic, while there were nearly a quarter of a million absences for Covid-related reasons, Guardian research has revealed.
    “However, the true totals are likely to be much higher, because out of the 142 acute and specialist trusts in England sent freedom of information requests, only 55% (78) provided figures on staff who were infected, while 60% (85) gave data on time off for sick leave related to the virus.
    “The responses, which cover the year following 1 March 2020, offer the first official data on Covid’s impact on frontline workers who risked their own health while caring for the more than 400,000 patients who have ended up seriously ill in hospital.
    “They show that at least 77,735 doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel contracted Covid, while staff had 243,864 periods of absence – either because they had the disease or were isolating, quarantining or shielding – exacerbating existing workforce shortages.”

  • Private hospitals provided average of seven Covid beds a day despite £2bn Government contracts i-News report may 23:
    “The Government has been accused by a leading health think tank of providing a taxpayer subsidy of more than £2bn to private hospitals in exchange for just seven Covid beds a day during the first year of pandemic.
    “Research from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) has found that the Government paid around £200m a month to secure 8,000 beds from 26 private hospital groups during the health crisis.
    “The CHPI report, which covers the 12 months up to the end of March this year, also found that there were many days during the period when no private hospital beds were being used for Covid patients, and many more when only one was.
    “The report, which is due to be published in the coming weeks, also found that at no point during the year did private hospitals treat more than 67 Covid patients in a single day, which occurred during three consecutive days during April last year.”

  • No 10 ‘tried to block’ data on spread of new Covid variant in English schools Observer report may 22:
    “Downing Street leaned on Public Health England not to publish crucial data on the spread of the new Covid variant in schools, documents seen by the Observer have suggested. Scientists, union officials and teachers said that the lack of transparency was “deeply worrying”.
    “The focus of their anger concerns the pre-print of a PHE report that included a page of data on the spread of the India Covid-19 variant in schools. But when the report was published on Thursday 13 May, the page had been removed. It was the only one that had been removed from the pre-print. Days later, the government went ahead with its decision to remove the mandate on face coverings in English schools.
    “Evidence seen by the Observer suggests No 10 was directly involved in the decision not to publish it. The prime minister’s office acknowledged it was in correspondence with PHE officials about presentation of the data but vigorously denied this constituted “interference” or “pressure”.
    “Data on the spread of the new variant in schools has still not been published, despite calls from union officials and scientists who say teachers and families are being put at risk. In hotspots such as Bolton, cases involving the variant are rising fastest among school-age children.”

  • France to honour health workers killed by Covid-19 with special status France 24 report May 21:
    “France will confer a special honour on health workers who die from Covid while fighting the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.
    “He said a status called “died in the service of the republic” would be created to honour public employees who lose their life “in exceptional circumstances”. A similar “died in the service of the nation” status already exists for police and the military, while “died for France” is reserved for soldiers and civilians killed in battle.
    “I want us to give our gratitude a solid legal foundation,” Macron said in a video post on Twitter.
    The new status would allow the children of the deceased to become wards of the state with a right to receive material and moral support from the government, he said.
    “The current status reserved for military and police entitles the children they leave behind to financial help for education and job training, including free schooling and scholarships.”

  • Providing medications for free leads to greater adherence and cost-savings, study shows Eurekalert May 21:
    "Free access to essential medicines increases patient adherence to taking medication by 35 per cent and reduces total health spending by an average of over $1,000 per patient per year, according to a two-year study that tested the effects of providing patients with free and convenient access to a carefully selected set of medications.
    "The findings, published May 21 in PLOS Medicine, come as advocates urge Canada to carve a path toward single-payer, public pharmacare. Canada is the only country with universal healthcare that does not have a universal pharmacare program."

  • Number of patients in Bolton hospital with Covid rises again as Indian variant spreads Independent May 20 report begins:
    “The number of patients in hospital with Coronavirus in Bolton has increased to 30, rising by 5 in 24 hours, The Independent has learned.
    “Bosses at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust are opening an extra ward for Covid positive patients today, as a previous ward has become full.
    “… There are seven patients in intensive care or high dependency, with 27 patients on oxygen.
    “Typically, patients admitted now for Covid-19 were likely to be have been infected 2 to 3 weeks ago, suggesting numbers could rise further.”

  • COVID vaccines create 9 new billionaires with combined wealth greater than cost of vaccinating world’s poorest countries Shocking May 20 Press Release from Peoples Vaccine Alliance:
    “At least nine people have become new billionaires since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, thanks to the excessive profits pharmaceutical corporations with monopolies on COVID vaccines are making, The People’s Vaccine Alliance revealed today ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit.
    “Key members of the G20, who meet tomorrow, including the UK and Germany, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending companies’ monopoly control of vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.
    “Between them, the nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries1.3 times.
    “Meanwhile, these countries have received only 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines, because of the massive shortfall in available doses, despite being home to 10 per cent of the world’s population.
    “In addition, eight existing billionaires–who have extensive portfolios in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations -have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.”

  • Coronavirus: NHS was ‘overwhelmed’ in January surge, study finds Independent report may 19:
    “The NHS “was largely overwhelmed” at the height of the UK’s Covid second wave in January, according to a study.
    “New research published in Anaesthesia, a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists, revealed the scale of the pressure on hospitals during the pandemic and how stretched some units were.
    “Based on surveys of all NHS hospitals, with more than half responding, the study found almost a third of anaesthetists were redeployed to look after critically ill patients, leaving 42 per cent of operating theatres closed.
    “This meant operations, including for cancer and emergency surgery patients, had to be cancelled.
    “The research, by Professor Tim Cook, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care at the Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust, said: “Three-quarters of critical care units were so expanded that planned surgery could not be safely resumed. At all times, the greatest resource limitation was staff”.”

  • PPE supplier’s offer to help was ignored by government Times report may 19:
    “A PPE supplier that had been in business for more than 20 years was ignored by government officials at the height of the pandemic last year while a venture capitalist firm was deemed an “urgent VIP case” because it came with a recommendation from a government adviser, newly released emails have shown.
    “Multibrands, a company based in Bradford, said that officials “went quiet” after it wrote to the government in March last year advertising its capacity to supply 100 million masks from its warehouse in China.
    “However, Ayanda Capital, whose senior adviser worked for the Department for International Trade (DIT), ended up supplying the government after it was awarded a £252 million deal for personal protective equipment. A number of the masks were not used by the NHS because they had ear loops rather than head ties.
    “Ayanda has previously said that it delivered masks to the agreed specification and that it is not yet known to what use the government may put the PPE.”

  • The Government Wants to Sell Your GP Medical Records Here’s How to Opt-Out Byline Times May 19:
    “from 1 July, NHS Digital has announced that “data may be shared from the GP medical records about… any living patient registered at a GP practice in England when the collection started”.
    “NHS Digital – the health and social care system’s information and technology partner – will be able to take the following from GPs’ records: “Data about diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, recalls and appointments, including information about physical, mental and sexual health.” This will also include data about “staff who have treated patients”, and data “on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation”, as well as other sensitive data.
    “Although NHS Digital states that patients’ data will be extracted from GP systems across England “from 1 July 2021”, its privacy notice states that individuals have until 23 June 2021 to opt-out.
    “While its press release on the matter states that people can “opt-out at any time”, the privacy notice states: “NHS Digital will however still hold the patient data which was shared with us before you registered the Type 1 opt-out” – meaning that for anyone who has not opted-out by the time that their GP history is first extracted, the information taken will never be deleted.”

  • Government can keep amount spent on unusable PPE confidential, judge rules Evening Standard report on Good Law Project court challenge:
    “The Government can keep the amount of public money spent on unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) from two companies confidential, the High Court has ruled.
    "The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are bringing legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) claiming that contracts awarded to PestFix, Clandeboye and Ayanda Capital were given unlawfully at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April and May 2020.
    "The two groups allege DHSC has failed to provide proper reasons for why PestFix got the contracts, and say the Government violated principles of equal treatment and transparency when awarding the multimillion-pound deals.
    "They also claim DHSC has failed to provide evidence it conducted any negotiations which applied equally between prospective suppliers."

  • We need answers now, that’s why I’m chairing the People’s Covid Inquiry Michael Mansfield QC writes in Public Sector Focus May 18 explaining why he is chairing KONP’s People’s Covid Inquiry:
    “There is an unquestionable need for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. This much is agreed by, most importantly, the bereaved, the public, widespread medical opinion, and the Prime Minister who announced so last July.
    “On closer examination it soon becomes clear that there are a number of hidden assumptions.
    “Primarily can Boris Johnson be trusted to commit to it? No one has so far been prepared to believe him and increasingly it is obvious he will avoid any public scrutiny before the next election.
    “To fill the void, he merely recites the need but only when the time is right! Eight months have passed since his original announcement without him saying a word up till now, let alone setting a time line. As an informed guess – there is no chance.
    “Even if he suddenly had a change of heart and set a start date of June 1st – what would this mean in practice? This is where there are serious misconceptions. A far reaching and vitally necessary Inquiry should embrace the history of pandemics, the role of WHO, the preparation by the NHS (Cygnus) socio-economic planning, the effects of austerity, ministerial decisions about provision of facilities and lockdown, privatisation and fragmentation, role of SAGE and so on. This is by no means an exhaustive list but gives a steer about what is involved.”

  • Nurse who cared for Boris Johnson resigns over ‘lack of respect’ for NHS workers Guardian report may 18: “A nurse who cared for Boris Johnson when he was gravely ill with Covid-19 says she has handed in her resignation, such is her disillusionment with the “lack of respect” shown by the government for the NHS and healthcare workers.
    “Jenny McGee, who kept vigil by the prime minister’s bedside for two days when he was in intensive care, also revealed that his staff had later attempted to co-opt her into a “clap for the NHS” photo opportunity with him during what she thought would be a discreet thank you visit to Downing Street.
    “We’re not getting the respect and now pay that we deserve. I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation,” said McGee, referring to the government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff, which unions have described as a “kick in the teeth”.
    “She was also critical of the government’s handling of the Covid crisis, adding: “Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively – the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages. It was just very upsetting”.”

  • Hedge fund fast-tracked to £252m PPE deal ‘despite red flags on finances’, High Court told Evening Standard May 18:
    “A hedge fund with close ties to government was fast-tracked to a £252 million PPE contract as an “URGENT VIP CASE” despite red flags on its finances, the High Court heard on Tuesday.
    “Ayanda Capital was handed deals to supply face masks at the end of April last year, after its bid was marked as “very urgent” and officials were told the supplier was “influential across government”.
    “Some of the masks which were delivered were rendered unusable by the NHS as they did not meet safety standards, the court heard.
    “The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are challenging the way PPE contracts worth almost £600 million were entered into in the early stages of the pandemic, through the government’s controversial ‘VIP Lane’.”

  • Bank 'suspended' Matt Hancock's PPE deal payments fearing 'VIPs' could be fraudsters Daily Mirror report May 18:
    “The Government’s bank suspended Matt Hancock’s team from making payments to PPE suppliers at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic over fears they were being taken in by fraudsters, the High Court has been told.
    “NatWest told the government payments over £5 million would have to be reviewed by their fraud team, over concerns about a lack of due diligence in huge contracts being handed out through the so-called “VIP lane”.
    “At least £1.7 billion worth of deals were struck through the “VIP lane” - some of which were for products which did not meet adequate standards for the NHS, according to a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
    The committee found DHSC had “wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on PPE which is of poor quality and cannot be used for the intended purpose”.”

  • Government can keep amount spent on `useless´ PPE confidential, judge rules Daily Mail May 18:
    “… Mrs Justice O’Farrell found the specific pricing details were not relevant to what the court has to decide and did not need to be disclosed to the public.
    “She said: “The case concerns the decision-making process carried out by the defendant … the precise level of the pricing or pre-payments or total amounts spent on PPE that might not have been used or fit for purpose are not relevant to the issues before the court.
    “It is not part of this court’s role to consider whether the contracts provided value for money or whether any public money has been wasted.”
    “She added: “It is not necessary in my judgment for further details of the pricing of the contracts to be made public in these proceedings.”
    “A large part of the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor’s claim is that the use of a “VIP lane” gave an unfair, unlawful advantage to some companies.”

  • Ministers ‘lobbied’ officials over PPE contracts, court hears Guardian May 18:
    “Ministers “lobbied” officials to chase the progress of contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment that were being processed through a government “VIP lane” for companies with personal connections, a court has heard.
    “In an internal WhatsApp message revealed as part of a legal challenge brought by the Good Law Project (GLP) and EveryDoctor, a civil servant supporting the government’s urgent PPE procurement efforts at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic said they needed a tracker system to check the progress of VIP offers.
    “If they had such a tracking system for PPE offers from companies referred by ministers, MPs or civil servants, the official said it would save the procurement team from “being lobbied further by ministers/VIPs etc and the like”.
    “The government has consistently said that although ministers could refer offers from people to supply PPE to the relevant procurement team, they were not involved in the award of contracts.”

  • UK pharma supplier put into special measures after new IT system causes almost 10,000 missed medicine deliveries report in The Register May 18:
    "“UK pharmaceuticals supplier Healthcare at Home (HAH) missed 10,000 medicine deliveries from October to December 2020 following a change of IT systems, a mistake that left some patients needing hospital treatment.
    “… the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a report published at the end of last week stat[es] that HAH, which supports around 150,000 patients each year, had introduced new information systems in October 2020.
    "These had not been thoroughly risk assessed and tested and resulted in avoidable harm to some patients," the report said. "This meant that delivery dates for medicines were missed and patients didn't get their essential medication required to treat their health condition or maintain their health, on time. Some patients' conditions deteriorated and they had to be admitted to hospital, whilst others experienced psychological trauma because of the uncertainty of not knowing when they would receive their essential medicines."
    “HAH has yet to respond to The Register's questions over what caused the incidents and which software was involved. HAH is a user of Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP and CRM system, but it is not known whether these relate to its patient information system.
    “Placing the company in special measures, the CQC went on to say HAH had not acted in a timely manner to address the issues caused following the "installation" of the IT. The regulator said that by December 2020, the number of medicines missed or delayed had risen to 9,885.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Why money spend on public health is a sound investment May 12 blog by public health expert Greg Fell:
    "When public health stops meningitis outbreaks, or prevents toxic poisonings, or lowers infant mortality, it should be front page news. But you never see such headlines. As a practical example smoking prevalence has been coming down for decades. This hasn’t happened by magic.
    "Tobacco control policy has saved countless deaths over decades, yet rarely if ever gets any headlines, thus public health professionals don’t quite capture the same place in public imagination as other groups. Perhaps covid might change that a bit, it is up to us to capitalise on this."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Simon Stevens: How heavy hitter changed the NHS BBC May 4 with another buttock clenchingly sycophantic eulogy to the departing NHS England boss who has presided over years of decline in performance in acute and mental health care while busily promoting more top-down reorganisation: but it does allow one criticism:
    "As the first Covid-19 wave subsided, he was able, rightly, to say the NHS had coped in the face of the extraordinary surge in Covid-19 patient numbers.
    "But the emergency Nightingale Hospitals, created from scratch at large expense, were barely used.
    "And this was something Sir Simon and his senior NHS colleagues were less willing to talk about."

  • Non-NHS healthcare providers given £96bn in a decade, says Labour Guardian May 3: "More than £96bn of health service funding has gone to non-NHS providers of care over the last decade, including private firms such as Virgin Care, research has revealed.
    "The amount of money flowing out of the NHS in England to for-profit companies, voluntary groups and not-for-profits has grown from £8.4bn in 2010 to £14.4bn last year – a 72% jump.
    "Private firms received £9.7bn of that £14.4bn for undertaking work such as planned operations, CT and other diagnostic scans, and community services such as district nursing, according to the Labour party analysis of NHS England’s annual reports and summarised accounts.
    "Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said: “It’s clear that under the Conservatives, spending on private health companies has spiralled out of control.”

  • NHS faces exodus of doctors after Covid pandemic, survey finds Guardian May 3:
    "Thousands of UK doctors are planning to quit the NHS after the Covid pandemic because they are exhausted by their workloads and worried about their mental health, a survey has revealed.
    "Almost one in three may retire early while a quarter are considering taking a career break and a fifth are weighing up quitting the health service to do something else.
    "Long hours, high demand for care, the impact of the pandemic and unpleasant working environments are taking their toll on medics, the British Medical Association findings show.
    "In a survey of 5,521 doctors 1,352 (31.9%) of the 4,258 who replied to a question about whether their career plans had changed over the last 12 months said they were now more likely to retire early than they were last year – more than double the 14% who said the same in June 2020."

  • The NHS is being privatised by stealth under the cover of a pandemic Guardian May 3 comment by Corbyn advisor Andrew Fisher:
    "Cronyism and outsourcing have defined the government’s response to the pandemic, from the “VIP lane” for personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers with connections to the Tory party to the privatised track and trace system so flawed it was described by Sage as only being of “marginal impact”. But less attention has been paid to what the longer-term impact of these decisions might be.
    "Far from being an aberration, the government’s pandemic response reflects its commitment to embedding private interests at the heart of the state and stealthily chipping away at our most valued national institution.
    "As Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser, and the special representative for climate change under Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary, recently told the Guardian, the government is slipping through plans to “effectively privatise the NHS by stealth” in “the name of a pandemic”.
    "This story of privatisation is not one of wholesale transfer, such as the sell-off of British Gas or Royal Mail, but rather of a gradual hollowing out, a process that has been further accelerated by the pandemic and will continue under the Johnson government.
    "In 2010, for example, the NHS spent £4.1bn on private sector contracts; by 2019, this had more than doubled to £9.2bn."

  • Women and babies at risk at hospital where doctors are censored and midwives fear working Independent April 30, with revelations of safety breaches at Worcestershire Royal Hospital:
    "The maternity department’s clinical director resigned from her role earlier this month and in a damning internal message, leaked to The Independent, she criticised senior bosses at the trust for censoring her for speaking out about the “gridlocked system” and “unacceptably long delays” for some women.
    "Consultant obstetrician Catherine Hillman said her role as clinical director was no longer tenable after a message she posted was taken down on the instruction of managers. She said the maternity unit was “at best precariously safe” and that she now realised it was “heresy to question the safety and validity of the situation and I am unable to continue to hold this party line.”

  • Test and trace would have been more successful if run by local authorities: Hunt Messenger newspapers April 29 report of Jeremy Hunt going rogue on a key question:
    He "told the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ Spring Conference: “I think that local Government has done heroically well in the pandemic overall and my own view is we should have asked it to do more.
    “I think we would have had more success with our contact tracing programme if we’d run it through local Government as the primary place that it operated from.”
    He added: “My observation would be: why has the vaccine programme been a success? Because it’s been very locally led. And that has meant you had local NHS people, local Government people, local public services, local volunteers.
    “And I think that one of the reasons we’ve had low compliance with requests to self-isolate…is because the request comes from someone in a call centre 300 miles away, not from a local authority that is in a better position – it would need the support to do this of course – but would be in a better position to monitor whether compliance was actually taking place".”

  • Coronavirus Politics: The Comparative Politics and Policy of COVID-19 An important new book, available for free download, identifies key threads in the global comparative discussion that continue to shed light on COVID-19 and shape debates about what it means for scholarship in health and comparative politics.
    It brings together over 30 authors versed in politics and the health issues in order to understand the health policy decisions, the public health interventions, the social policy decisions, their interactions, and the reasons.
    The book’s coverage is global, with a wide range of key and exemplary countries, and contains a mixture of comparative, thematic, and templated country studies. All go beyond reporting and monitoring to develop explanations that draw on the authors' expertise while engaging in structured conversations across the book.

  • Recovery Watch: Analysing the elective challenge at ICS level Excellent (£) HSJ April 28 summary of the waiting list situation using February figures.
    "System-led elective recovery is a dominant theme in the service’s overarching strategy for resetting its performance in the wake of the pandemic and in NHS England and Improvement’s 2021-22 planning guidance.
    "In Recovery Watch’s analysis, I have compared the NHS’ referral to treatment data by ICS/STP footprint for February 2020 — the last full month before the pandemic struck — and February 2021. The results were then weighted by estimated population size.
    "It reveals not only the deterioration of each system’s waiting list over that 12-month period, but we can also (with several vital caveats) draw some comparisons into how different areas are faring. The analysis also provides a benchmark of sorts by which we can measure each ICS’ progress moving forward."

  • Woman dies after Indian police ‘take oxygen cylinder from family for VIP’ in fairness even the Daily Torygraph (April 28) appears shocked by the callousness of these latest government cuts in vital aid even as ministers prattle on about Global Britain:
    "The UK government is set to almost entirely cut funding for polio eradication despite the world being tantalisingly close to ending the disease, which mainly affects children.
    "The UK will cut its funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) by 95 per cent, from £100m to £5m, according to a report by Devex.
    "The cut comes amid a swathe of funding reductions as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) tackles the move to slash overseas aid spending from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent.
    "On Tuesday, the Telegraph revealed that UK funding to help the world's poorest get access to clean water will be cut by 80 per cent.
    "Polio, which remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, causes paralysis and mainly affects children. "

  • Health minister refuses meeting with NHS workers over 1% pay offer Nursing Notes April 26 on the dismissive response from minister:
    "Health Minister Helen Whatley has declined to meet NHS workers and discuss how they feel about the Government’s 1% pay recommendation.
    "GMB invited the Conservative MP and Health Minister to meet frontline NHS workers so they could explain how they feel about the Government’s 1% pay recommendation.
    "A representative for Ms Whatley said she was too busy and declined their invitation; “We wanted to thank you for raising this issue with the Minister of State for Care and for requesting a meeting.
    “As we are sure you can appreciate the Minister is getting many requests for her time currently, and unfortunately she is unable to meet at the moment.”
    "Speaking in a previous Westminster Hall debate, Ms Whatley said pay was ‘rarely mentioned’ when she spoke to health workers and suggested they instead wanted more staff, time off, and to feel valued and supported."

  • "Commercial partners" could take over "entirety" of planned imaging networks (£)HSJ report April 26 on the latest explicit plans for privatisation from NHS England, even while they prattle on about "integration":
    “New diagnostic imaging networks will be of such scale that they will be ‘significant operation businesses in their own right’ and will ‘need a distinct identity and arm’s length separation from the trusts’, NHS England has said.
    “Guidance published yesterday gave trusts “until 2023” to set up diagnostic networks which will have their “own distinct leadership [and] governance arrangements” and will be responsible for asset management, financing, quality, staffing and location of all elective and non elective imaging across England.
    “… In new operational guidance, NHS England has outlined seven models the networks can take, which include “outsourcing the service in its entirety, including ownership of the capital assets required for delivery of the service, to a commercial partner”.”

  • Labour: Ministers must reveal Covid contract links BBC News April 26:
    "“Labour is calling for ministers to publish all contacts and links they have with firms awarded government contracts during the Covid crisis.
    “In March 2020, emergency measures let the government speed up buying things like PPE and ventilators by directly awarding contracts rather than tenders.
    “But since then, ministers have faced accusations of offering a "VIP fast-track" to the contracts for friends.
    “… The call comes as a lobbying row continues to surround Westminster, following revelations that former prime minister David Cameron texted ministers on behalf of a firm he worked for - Greensill Capital - during the crisis.
    “Last week, the BBC also revealed that businessman Sir James Dyson directly texted Boris Johnson about tax issues during the pandemic, which the PM then said he would "fix".”

  • Boris Johnson said he ‘would rather let bodies pile high’ than impose third lockdown, reports claim Independent April 26:
    "Boris Johnson has been accused of saying that he would rather allow “bodies [to] pile high in their thousands” than impose another national lockdown.
    "It was reported that the prime minister made the remark after he ordered the second lockdown at the end of October.
    "Downing Street has strongly denied that Mr Johnson made the comment and said it was “just another lie”. But the Daily Mail said the sources who allege he made the comment back their claim.
    "They say Mr Johnson lost his temper and “raged” after agreeing to new restrictions following a meeting in No 10, allegedly adding: “No more ****ing lockdowns - let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
    "A spokesperson for the Labour Party said in response to the report: “If this report is true, then these are truly shocking and sickening comments from Boris Johnson. It is hard to imagine how families who have lost loved ones to Covid will feel reading them. Boris Johnson must make a public statement as soon as possible in his response to this report.”

  • Three NHS patients ‘mutilated’ by surgeon in a single week prompts shake-up at NHS trust Shocking Independent April 26 story on failed standards at Norfolk & Norwich Hospital:
    "An RAF veteran has been left with life-changing injuries after being “mutilated” by an NHS surgeon during what should have been a routine procedure.
    "Paul Tooth, 64, has been permanently left with tubes going in and out of his body which he needs to continually recycle bile produced by his liver.
    "The previously fit and active father-of-two has lost five stone in weight and can barely leave his house after the surgery last year.
    "It was supposed to be a routine gall bladder removal, but the surgeon inexplicably took out Paul’s bile duct and hepatic duct, which link the liver to the intestines, as well as damaging the liver itself, making a repair impossible.
    "Although he has won his legal battle against the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, Paul believes what happened to him raises bigger safety questions for the trust after he learned he was one of three patients harmed by the same surgeon just days apart."

  • Mental health patients ‘missed out on care’ during Covid Guardian April 25:
    "Mental health patients found their conditions deteriorated during the pandemic because the NHS switched from in-person help to support by telephone, video and text messages, new research reveals.
    "Many reported a lower quality of care, according to a study by University College London; others had trouble accessing medication, had appointments cancelled or felt the loss of face-to-face help meant they “were missing out on care”.
    "Researchers led by Dr Brynmor Lloyd-Evans found that, for many patients, the switch to remote care heightened the isolation and loneliness they were already feeling because they could no longer see friends and family.
    “People with pre-existing mental health conditions experienced serious disruptions to their access to, and the quality of, mental healthcare as a result of the pandemic. The opportunities and challenges of remote mental healthcare were an important aspect of our findings,” Lloyd-Evans and colleagues write in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology."

  • Social services chief: we’ve failed to learn lessons from Covid Observer April 25:
    "Failures by successive governments to fix the care system led to countless avoidable care home deaths from Covid, England’s most senior social services leader has said.
    "James Bullion, who steps down next week as president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, told the Observer he was angry at the unfairness of the effect of Covid on the poorest and most marginalised people in society and frustrated that ministers had still not laid out how they intended to reform social care.
    “I suppose the anger is about the impact of the pandemic on the people who are most vulnerable and the poorest – rough sleepers, disabled people, older and frail people,” he said.
    “When we look at the number of deaths, we see disproportionately more black and minority ethnic people affected, more people who’ve got social care needs, and so on.
    "And that includes social care workers – it’s not very well known, but more social care workers have died than health workers. They are generally low-paid women and many of them from the black and minority ethnic population.”

  • Outrage as No 10 rules out urgent inquiry into Covid mistakes Observer report April 25 on government retreat from Boris Johnson's promise of an inquiry:
    "The government has caused anger among bereaved families by telling them it will be too busy to start an inquiry into the UK’s handling of the Covid pandemic for months.
    "In a six-page letter to lawyers for thousands of families calling for an immediate statutory public inquiry, the government said “an inquiry now is not appropriate” and “the very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock”. It said “it is not anticipated that the government’s workload will ease in the coming months”.
    "In a position statement that appears to kick Boris Johnson’s promise of an inquiry into the long grass, the government told the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group its “entire focus” was on delivering vaccines and preparing for “the effects of the third wave of the virus currently being experienced in neighbouring countries”. The letter, sent on 1 April, also said mechanisms to learn lessons were already in place, citing inquiries by committees of MPs and the National Audit Office (NAO)."

  • Matt Hancock may be forced to reveal politicians behind 'VIP' Covid contract bids Mirror report:
    "Matt Hancock could be forced to reveal names of politicians behind “VIP” Covid-19 contract bids after officials blocked them out.
    "A High Court judge is set to rule next week whether the Health Secretary must identify MPs, ministers and Tory associates who fast-tracked firms that won £1.7billion of contracts when the pandemic first hit.
    "In a case brought by campaign group Good Law Project, black lines were drawn over names of those who recommended firms and decided who got what.
    "Normal competition rules were suspended as the Government raced for PPE and ventilators. It led to what one lawyer in the Good Law Project described as a “red carpet to riches” for friends of ministers and MPs."

  • NHS increases surgery sessions to tackle hospital waiting lists Guardian April 23 reports the positive news that four London trusts are collaborating to reduce waiting lists for treatment -- but irritatingly fails to identify them:
    “Four trusts spanning 10 acute and specialist hospitals in west and north-west London have joined forces to treat each other’s patients in a move to tackle the huge numbers seeking care.
    “Figures collated by the trusts and shared with the Guardian show how dramatically waiting lists have increased across that area, as they have across England as a whole, as a result of the widespread suspension of normal NHS care over the last year.
    “The number of patients at the four trusts waiting at least a year from their referral until they are treated has grown from just 20 pre-pandemic to 5,737.
    “Between January last year and the same month this year the proportion of people with cancer receiving their first treatment from Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust within 62 days of being urgently referred by their GP fell from 82% to 73.8%. The NHS constitution says that 85% of such care, such as surgery or chemotherapy, should begin within the specified 62 days.”

  • Oxford malaria vaccine proves highly effective in Burkina Faso trial Guardian April 23:
    "A vaccine against malaria has been shown to be highly effective in trials in Africa, holding out the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children every year.
    "The vaccine, developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over 12 months.
    "The hunt for a malaria vaccine has been going on the best part of a century. One, the Mosquirix vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has been through lengthy clinical trials but is only partially effective, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years. It is being piloted by the World Health Organization in parts of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
    "The Oxford vaccine is the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy against the mosquito-borne parasite disease. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries."

  • Lobbying scandal: Race for PPE held up by demands from ‘VIP’ suppliers (£) Times report April 23:
    “Civil servants were unable to buy PPE quickly at the height of the pandemic last year because they were “drowning” in offers from suppliers with links to the government, emails have shown.
    “In correspondence made public after legal action, officials expressed annoyance that VIP suppliers were allowed to “jump to the front of the queue”. Civil servants said that the number of requests they had to process from “high priority contacts” had hurt their ability to accept offers from other suppliers.
    “Applications to supply PPE to the government were ten times more likely to be successful if they came with a recommendation from someone in government, a report by the National Audit Office found last year.
    “… Transparency International, the campaign group, said this week that a fifth of PPE contracts totalling £3.7 billion had raised a “red flag” for potential corruption.”

  • Covid-19: Government race review “misused evidence,” says Marmot BMJ April 22 report:
    "A review commissioned by the government that dismissed the notion that structural racism may have contributed to poor health outcomes among ethnic minority groups during the covid-19 pandemic was guilty of a “misuse of evidence,” a world expert on health inequalities has said.
    "Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, said that the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities,1 chaired by Tony Sewell, failed to acknowledge that racism could account for the “adverse distribution of socioeconomic characteristics” that cause health inequalities when it selectively quoted his evidence.
    "But although the report has been roundly condemned for concluding that there was “no evidence of systemic or institutional racism” in the UK,2 Marmot said the reaction to it had given him some hope. “Because of their misuse of evidence, it has been widely criticised,” he said. “That makes me hopeful that the truth, the evidence, can actually carry the day. We need the evidence out there, we need people discussing it, and we need to get our national politicians responsive to it.”
    "Marmot was speaking at an online Westminster Health Forum event on 20 April, where he also argued that the UK’s high excess mortality during the covid-19 pandemic was caused by austerity policies, increased social and economic inequality, and cuts to public services over the past decade that had left the UK “unhealthy coming into the pandemic.”

  • Explosive emails show how the Government’s VIP lane caused chaos in PPE procurement Good Law Project report April 22:
    "“Explosive emails revealed in a hearing on our legal challenge over direct awards of PPE contracts show civil servants raising the alarm that they were “drowning in VIP requests” from political connections that do not have “the correct certification or pass due diligence”.
    “One email shows a civil servant warning that when VIPs “jump to the front of the queue it then has a knock on effect to the remaining offers of help.”
    “For ordinary people the pandemic was a tragedy. But for well-connected VIPs it was the chance of a lifetime – huge fortunes were up for grabs. “What this civil servant is saying is that it became more of a tragedy because so many VIPs – overwhelmingly introduced by Ministers – were interfering with civil servants’ ability to purchase the PPE needed by healthcare workers on the frontline.
    “Remember Ayanda, the company linked to Liz Truss, fast-tracked through the VIP Lane – who supplied £155m worth of unusable face masks to the NHS frontline? This email shows Ayanda threatening to escalate their bid to ministerial level and another includes a civil servant warning of the Ayanda deal “the bar seems to have been lowered on this one.”
    “This is the cost of cronyism – good administration suffers, efficient buying of PPE suffers.”

  • Fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags for possible corruption’ Guardian April 22:
    "One in five government Covid contracts awarded between February and November 2020 contained one or more red flags for possible corruption and require urgent further investigation, a respected campaign group has warned.
    "Transparency International UK said a “seriously flawed” arrangement, whereby companies bidding for contracts were prioritised if they were referred into a “VIP lane” by their political connections, had “damaged trust in the integrity of the pandemic response”.
    "The group said Boris Johnson’s government must urgently disclose the identities of companies awarded public money through the VIP lane, which was set up by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care in the early days of the pandemic.
    "The government has so far refused to name the companies granted public money through the scheme, citing “commercial confidentiality”. It has previously claimed the purpose of the arrangement was to triage large numbers of offers to help from the private sector."

  • Vaccines are working: charts that show the Covid endgame FT report April 21:
    “It is easy to feel as if the coronavirus pandemic is getting out of control again. The rate of new cases hit a record last week, with 5.2m people around the world getting infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
    “Three months ago, many in India were celebrating the prospect that the country was approaching herd immunity; now the number of new cases is growing at an alarming rate.
    “… But the flurry of depressing headlines cannot disguise one thing: it is now clear that the vaccines are working. In countries where cases have been falling in recent months, the vaccines have saved lives. And in countries that are still struggling to suppress a third or fourth wave, the vaccines have also saved lives.
    “An FT analysis of data from five countries — each facing very different scenarios — finds that rates of infections, hospitalisation and death have traced a lower path among the older, most vaccinated age groups than among younger cohorts, who are least likely to have received the jab.”

  • Top medic criticises Government over attention given to Dyson ventilator i-News April 26:
    “A senior medic who led the development of a ventilator to tackle the first wave of Covid-19 last year has criticised the way Sir James Dyson was given attention by the Government despite having no clinical expertise.
    “Andrew Farmery, professor of anaesthetics at Oxford University, spearheaded the OxVent project in response to the Government’s appeal for help for ventilators in March last year.
    “Sir James has come under scrutiny after it emerged Prime Minister Boris Johnson had agreed by text message to “fix” tax changes the vacuum tycoon wanted in return for the development of a Dyson ventilator.“Prof Farmery told i on Wednesday the Dyson prototype was “never a goer” and said it is his view that Sir James and the Prime Minister “both knew it wasn’t going to actually happen”.
    “The Government wanted the ventilator shortage to be solved by “UK PLC” rather than “anonymous university nerds”, Prof Farmery said.”

  • Government confirms no Coronavirus bonus for health and care staff in England Nursing Notes April 21:
    "The Government has confirmed there will be no COVID bonus for health and care staff in England.
    "It comes after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all agreed a one-time payment of at least £500 to all health and social care workers for their efforts during the pandemic.
    "A recent petition with over 14,000 signatures called upon Downing Street to honour a similar payment in England.
    "In response to the petition, the Government confirmed there would be no bonus for workers in England; “We are immensely grateful to our health and social care workforce. We are not currently planning to pay £500 bonuses but are exploring ways to improve recognition of health and social care staff.
    “The Government hugely values and appreciates all our NHS and social care staff. We are working hard to ensure that all health and social care workers feel supported and safe to continue the fight against Covid-19.
    “Covid-19 has placed a huge strain on public finances and the economic outlook remains uncertain."

  • ‘The system has collapsed’: India’s descent into Covid hell Guardian April 21:
    "[India] has descended into a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Almost 1.6 million cases have been registered in a week, bringing total cases to more than 15 million. In the space of just 12 days, the Covid positivity rate doubled to 17%, while in Delhi it hit 30%. Hospitals across the country have filled to capacity but this time it is predominately the young taking up the beds; in Delhi, 65% of cases are under 40 years old.
    "While the unprecedented spread of the virus has been partly blamed on a more contagious variant that has emerged in India, Modi’s government has also been accused of failures of political leadership from the top, with lax attitudes emulated by state and local leaders from all parties and even health officials across the country, which led many to falsely believe in recent months that India had defeated Covid."

  • Why is India seeing such a huge surge in Covid-19 cases? Guardian April 21:
    "“The health minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in March that the country had entered the “endgame” of the virus but cases were already beginning to take off by that point. Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India’s pandemic, told the Associated Press that India had failed to learn from second or third surges in countries including Brazil and the UK, to ensure it was ready for a similar situation.
    “The discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in India has caused widespread concern and has been blamed as one of the main factors driving the wave of cases. The variant is known as B.1.617 and has two unusual mutations: E484Q and L425R. This so-called “double mutant” variant is believed to be more transmissible than previous strains.”

  • Ageing NHS hospitals hit by sewage leaks, power failures and rat infestations as maintenance backlog hits £9 billion Independent April 20 with some grim chapter and verse on the implications of the soaring £9bn backlog in NHS maintenance as buildings crumble:
    “Raw sewage flooding wards, power failures, and rat infestations were just some of more than 1,200 critical incidents at NHS trusts in the past year caused by ageing equipment and crumbling infrastructure.
    “NHS leaders have said more investment is needed to reverse a backlog in buildings maintenance across the health service which has now reached an unprecedented £9bn. The situation is getting worse, with the backlog costs rising by 60 per cent in four years.
    “In some hospitals the problems have become so severe they are affecting patient care leading to wards being closed, operations delayed and in some cases posing genuine risks to safety.
    “… Jonathan Grieve, from MyJobQuote.co.uk which unearthed the data, said: “When we see figures like these it is plain to see that the NHS is in dire need of more money to support basic infrastructural requirements. By investing in the NHS now, it will enable staff to care for patients to a much higher standard.”

  • Revealed: £102.6 million to ex-No10 advisor More revelations from the Good Law project April 20:
    "We already knew that Boris Johnson had misled Parliament when he insisted in February that all COVID contracts were “on the record”. Now we’ve uncovered a new contract that makes further nonsense of that claim.
    "In July 2020 Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited was handed a £102.6 million Government PPE contract – without any competition. Though it was awarded the multi-million pound deal to supply face masks last July, Government failed to publish any details relating to the contract until March this year. In fact, it was only after our lawyers wrote to Government about Pharmaceuticals Direct that this lucrative contract was disclosed, long after Boris Johnson claimed all contract details were on the record. The company’s named representative was a man named Samir Jassal.
    "Samir Jassal is a well-connected figure within the Conservative Party. A two-time Conservative Party parliamentary candidate and former councillor, he has met Boris Johnson on at least three occasions, with the last meeting held in October 2020.
    "According to his LinkedIn profile, he was an adviser in No.10 during David Cameron’s premiership in 2015 and has worked with several other prominent Conservative Party figures, including the Home Secretary Priti Patel and Minister Zac Goldsmith. Jassal has also donated £4,000 to the Conservative Party in recent years."

  • Covid contracts: PPE fixer who was Tory donor named in admin error BBC News April 20 on how the embarrassing facts only emerged by accident:
    "Although the deal, for protective masks for hospital workers, was signed last year, the details only came to light in March after a court rebuked the government for failing to publish contracts within the legal time frame. Health Secretary Matt Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully for this failure.
    "Even when the deal involving Mr Jassal was finally published, the contact details for the supplier were blacked out. Full contracts are routinely redacted when published by the government.
    "However, in what appears to have been a clerical error, a separate document published with the contract gives Mr Jassal's name. He is listed as the "supplier's contact" to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited, the company paid to supply the masks."

  • NHS England chair faces demands to explain role in Greensill lobbying Observer April 18 on the way the Cameron lobbying scandal impacts on the NHS:
    “The Conservative peer who chairs NHS England is facing demands to explain why he helped arrange for Greensill Capital to lobby senior health service bosses, with Labour describing his role as “shocking”.
    “David Prior is facing questions over a meeting he organised between the now collapsed finance firm’s founder Lex Greensill and the overall boss of the NHS and its chief financial officer.
    “Lord Prior – a former Tory MP, health minister and Tory party deputy chair – also helped to facilitate a meeting at which Lex Greensill was able to lobby Lady Harding, the Tory peer who chairs NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator.
    “That encounter led to Greensill being able to meet the chief executives of a number of NHS hospital trusts whose support he was seeking for a scheme to let the NHS’s 1.4m staff in England be paid daily by Greensill, via an app called Earnd, rather than monthly in what Labour said was a latter-day “junk bonds” exercise.”

  • My Little Crony An updated interactive visualization of the links between Tory politicians and firms winning government contracts -- valuable resource in tracking the corruption.

  • Serco brazens out Covid calamity as the profits roll in Observer April 18:
    “What do you do when your company finds itself at the centre of a controversy? Some companies draw up delicately worded apologies or at least look for convenient scapegoats, but Serco has taken the more traditional approach during the pandemic: stick to your position and insist there’s nothing to see here.
    “The outsourcing company will be winning no popularity prizes any time soon, not least because of its role in the UK’s expensive test-and-trace programme. The National Audit Office said there was no evidence the £22bn programme had reduced rates of Covid-19 in England.
    “Serco chief executive Rupert Soames, a grandson of Winston Churchill whose brother is former Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, has staunchly defended his company’s role, and said the test and trace team had done “bloody well”.
    “The rewards for Serco for that and other work have certainly been generous. In March it revealed that Soames had been paid £4.9m for 2020. Shareholders were also happy, enjoying a £17m dividend payout after Serco doubled profits in 2020 as Covid-19 contracts boosted revenues.

  • No 10 adviser Eddie Lister owns shares in a firm awarded £1m in government and NHS contracts Mail in Sunday April 18:
    "Eddie Lister, one of the Prime Minister's most senior advisers, owns shares in a company that has won nearly £1 million in Government and NHS contracts, I can reveal.
    "The Tory peer has more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser.
    "Four years ago, Johnson Controls (no relation to Boris) merged with Tyco, where Lister worked for more than a decade as, wait for it, 'director of government relations' before Mayor Boris brought him to City Hall and then Downing Street."

  • David Cameron rode the wave of Covid to target the NHS Times April 17 revelations on the attempt to foist a Greensill project on to the NHS:
    “Cameron, … was writing with a pitch from “one of the businesses I now work with”: Greensill Capital, whose Earnd app was being piloted in several NHS trusts. By offering daily payment, he explained, “it addresses one of your key priorities: helping all NHS employees’ welfare, morale and wellbeing”.
    “Cameron then made a striking claim: his old protégé, the health secretary, whom he had already lobbied over private drinks, backed Greensill’s idea. “As you can imagine, Matt Hancock ... as well as the many Trust CEOs are extremely positive about this innovative offer.”
    “He also reiterated Greensill’s claim that the pandemic had created a moral case for a product, which, until that point, the NHS had not used widely. “This is of such potential importance in contributing to the priority of doing all we can to help NHS employees at the current time,” the former prime minister added.
    “All he needed was for NHSX to speed up the process, and grant it access to the data of NHS employees. As Cameron put it: “Our ask is about electronic staff records, as Earnd will be much slicker if it can obtain access to employee data ... I think some help from you would go a long way.” He signed off: “Finally, and importantly, once this is all over, it would be great to see you again — maybe for lunch? Let’s stay in touch!”
    “Within months, Cameron had got what he wanted. In October, Earnd unveiled a partnership to deliver rapid payment to up to half a million NHS staff, having secured deals to get access to, and in some cases pay for, the sought-after data.”

  • ‘Staff have been treated like cannon fodder’: NHS bosses issue stark warning on future of health service Independent April 16:
    "Hundreds of senior NHS managers have voiced their fears for the future of the health service amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis without a significant pay rise to help retain staff on the front line.
    "A survey of more than 800 senior NHS managers has revealed the extreme pressure some have been working under, with many working 20 or more hours of unpaid extra hours each week.
    "More than 90 per cent backed a significant pay rise for NHS staff to try and head off a feared exodus of nurses, doctors and other staff leaving the NHS after the pandemic. This would help shore up the service as it faces the daunting task of tackling record waiting lists now totalling 4.7 million patients.
    "Some managers said that the government’s planned 1 per cent pay rise was an “insult” and made them feel “worthless”, according to the survey run by the Managers in Partnership union."

  • Matt Hancock Holds Shares In Sister's Firm Who Won NHS Contracts Huffington Post April 16 on the latest revelations about Matt Hancock:
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock has a stake in his sister’s company that has recently won NHS contracts, it has emerged as questions are raised over the links between the Tory government and the private sector.
    "In the latest edition of the register of members of parliament’s interests, Hancock is shown to hold at least a 15% share in a company called Topwood Limited, with the declaration made last month.
    "Last month, Topwood won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal services, including the shredding of confidential documents.
    "According to Companies House, one of the directors of the firm is Emily Gilruth, the older sister of the Tory cabinet minister. The connection was revealed by the Bywire news website.
    "Health Service Journal also found Topwood has been in line for health contracts in England, securing a place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework for “confidential waste destruction and disposal” in 2019, just months after Hancock became secretary of state. The framework is effectively a shortlist of providers available to the local NHS. The HSJ added that Hancock did not declare his association with the firm in any of the published ministerial interests declarations of recent years."

  • Hospital waiting lists in England at longest since records began Guardian April 15:
    "Hospital waiting lists in England are longer than at any time since records began and nearly 388,000 people have waited more than a year to start treatment.
    "The NHS England data for February exposes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health service.
    "About 4.7 million people are now waiting for hospital treatment, the highest number since at least August 2007. The number of people waiting for 52 weeks or more is higher than at any time in more than 13 years.
    "Referrals for urgent cancer treatment were also down 8% on last year, with 15,475 fewer people being sent for help. Fewer people were admitted to accident and emergency departments, down by more than 50,000 to 503,913 in March compared with the same time in 2019, before the pandemic hit."

  • 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?
    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.
    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.”

  • 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."

  • 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 collabo