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The fight against Coronavirus



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Minister confirms no penalty clauses in Serco/Sitel test and trace contract Parliamentary answer from Health Minister Helen Whately:
    "Contracts were awarded to Serco and Sitel to provide call handling services for the contact track and trace initiative. The contracts have been published and can be found at the following links:
    https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/c23fdfaf-d1f2-4d8c-a0cd-6b6f35793ccd
    https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/7645e3ef-ce16-4cae-8932-1eb6521a50cb
    "Contractual penalties are often unenforceable under English law so they were not included in test and trace contracts with Serco or Sitel. Sitel and Serco are approved suppliers on the Crown Commercial Service contact centre framework and the contracts have standard performance and quality assurance processes in place. Some information on Key Performance Indicators and service levels has been redacted from these published contracts as it is considered to be commercially sensitive.
    "The contracts have break clauses in them, meaning if the company does not meet required service levels we may cancel the contract and reclaim our money."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • After coronavirus, the NHS's ability to provide care will be reduced, experts warn Guardian quotes various views on the prospects for restarting the NHS as the Covid caseload subsides, including Nuffield Trust's Nigel Edwards, Foundation Trust boss Sam Allen, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton and GMB national secretary Rehana Azam

  • Health minister says app should roll out by winter BBC June 17 report on the ongoing failed tracing app fiasco: “A government minister has said the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app is "not a priority" and he was not sure it would be out by winter.
    “The app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, was initially expected to launch nationally weeks ago. The BBC can also reveal that the project's two lead managers - NHSX's Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis - are stepping back.
    “And Simon Thompson - a former Apple executive - is joining to manage it. Mr Thompson is currently chief product officer at the online grocer Ocado. He has been appointed to Baroness Dido Harding's Test and Trace team, where he will have other duties in addition to the app.
    “… Lord Bethell, the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, said he was unable to give a date for its launch.”

  • 'We saved your life Boris,' student nurses recruited to work Covid-19 front line angry as placements cut short ITV news June 17 report: "Thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line against Covid-19 have been told their placements will be cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.
    "Many nurses expressed their outrage at a decision from NHS England that their paid placements will now finish on 31 July instead of running until the end of September.
    "But Health Education England (HEE) – which oversees training – said that it was "made clear to students who opted into paid placements" that the arrangements would need to come to an end at "an appropriate point".
    "One nurse calling herself Becky Jane said nurses had been told by HEE that the NHS can no longer afford to keep the paid placements going until the end of September as originally promised.
    “Some of us left jobs for this. Many of us have children and families to care for," she wrote on a message on Facebook."

  • How NSFT managers have designed bureaucratic obstacles to prevent or delay mental health admissions Norfolk Suffolk Mental Health Crisis presents data to back up its accusation that Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) “tries to manipulate its inappropriate out of area placement (OAP) bed statistics when the Care Quality Commission (CQC) comes to inspect.”
    “… out of area bed usage was again artificially reduced in the run-up to the latest full CQC inspection during October 2019, only to rise again shortly thereafter, even following NSFT’s blatant attempt to fiddle the most recent figures by excluding £560 per night beds at the remote private hospital on the site of the repeatedly-inadequate Mundesley Hospital which was forced to close by CQC, Southern Hills, on the basis that these placements are not inappropriate since a manager from NSFT visits the site twice per week.
    “ There is a bed crisis because NSFT closed at least 139 of its mental health beds at the same time as its community mental health services were slashed and specialist services were closed. NSFT has recently reopened sixteen beds but these are nowhere near enough to address the beds crisis, particularly when community services remain chronically underfunded.
    “NSFT’s Board and senior management consistently finds the money for new management posts, promotions and pay rises for themselves, relatives and friends but doesn’t seem to care about the quality of mental health services received by the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.…”

  • Student nurses irate after NHS frontline contracts cut short Guardian June 17: "Student nurses who joined the NHS frontline in England months before their training ended in order to join the fight against Covid-19 have voiced anger after contracts were terminated earlier than they expected as the pandemic comes under control.
    "As nursing unions called on the government to offer clarity for those affected, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told parliament that student nurses who joined the frontline six months ago as part of the coronavirus effort were seeing their paid placement schemes terminated early, leaving them with no income.
    “Surely this is no way to treat student nursing staff,” he told the health secretary, Matt Hancock."

  • There's a hidden crisis threatening lives alongside Covid-19: the lack of routine treatment Guardian June 17: "“The government has spent recent weeks boasting that they have managed to protect the NHS during the pandemic, but what they’ve really done is shut it down. Almost two-thirds of Britons with common life-threatening conditions have been denied care by the NHS because hospitals have focused on fighting Covid-19. That’s people with breathing problems, high blood pressure and cancer.
    “Tens of thousands of non-urgent surgeries have been cancelled in recent months to free up space for coronavirus patients, while many diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments are on hold.
    “Screening services for cancer have been formally paused in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and are de facto suspended in England. NHS leaders say the waiting list for hospital treatment in England could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas due to the huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services. …
    “This comes on top of patients who have voluntarily stayed away; there was such concern about empty A&E wards during the height of lockdown that the government set up a campaign in April to encourage people with suspected strokes and heart attacks to still seek help.”

  • Delaying part of PHE’s report on covid-19 and ethnic minorities turned a potential triumph turned into a PR disaster Important BMJ blog by Prof Raj Bhopal on the saga of the missing recommendations from the Public Health England report, which were included as part of a 64-page report he peer-reviewed, but then withheld:
    "Public Health England was repeatedly challenged about the missing material, which was presumed to have been removed from the published report at a late stage.
    "They denied this and on 4 June 2020, the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, told parliament that PHE did not make recommendations because it was unable to do so.
    "Subsequently the UK government backtracked and have now said that the recommendations will be published belatedly."

  • Hospitals face ‘hard choices’ as routine NHS services restart, expert says Independent June 16: "Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, argued every patient who comes to hospital will now need to be treated as a potential infection risk and the layout of accident and emergency departments must be completely changed to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
    "He emphasised such adaptations would affect the capacity of healthcare services, possibly by more than a third.
    “The net effect of all of this, and of the testing required before planned or elective treatment, is to slow the pace with which the NHS has traditionally treated patients, maybe by as much as 35 percent and in some cases more,” he said."

  • NHS examines new deal with private hospitals to clear waiting lists Financial Times June 16 on possible fresh windfall for private sector:
    “Private hospitals taken over by the government during the Covid-19 crisis are in talks about extending the arrangement for up to two years, as the NHS attempts to relieve growing pressure on patient waiting lists.
    “… One option being discussed is for NHS England to maintain the existing deal — struck in March and running until the end of this month — until August. This would mean the government continuing to pay all operating costs for the private hospitals including rent, external interest payments and staff. Industry sources estimated the value of the deal could be between £100m and £125m a week. “However, NHS England is also considering a less comprehensive agreement under which the health service would book out a majority of private hospital beds for between eight months and two years, according to two healthcare executives briefed on the discussions.”

  • Countries from Germany to Vietnam got test and trace right, so why didn't England? Guardian comment from Dr Dave McCoy June 16: "ost people agree that England’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been slow and disorganised; a fact made worse by the government’s willingness to squander public trust by massaging data and spinning the facts to save face. Yet its shambolic approach to testing and contact tracing isn’t the result of mistakes, but a choice to ignore evidence and experience.
    "For months, public health specialists in England have asked the government to decentralise responsibility for testing and tracing to local authority public health teams, which can develop nimble and responsive plans that are specific to different contexts, and organise systems with clear lines of accountability. They have also asked the government to recognise the obvious fact that case detection and contact tracing are social and behavioural interventions, which rely on skilled personnel and trust."

  • Resilience is much more than hospital beds Kings Fund June 16 blog stresses need for full range of services:
    "So, how can local health and care services adapt to be more resilient to a wide range of future shocks and risks? Capacity is likely to be first on the list in any debate about local resilience. Early in the pandemic, discussions in the NHS were dominated by bed numbers and occupancy rates.
    "The UK has a low number of hospital beds compared with other countries and the high and rising bed occupancy rate was an easily visible sign of a system under pressure. There was a clear recognition of the need to get bed numbers up and occupancy levels down.
    "There is a clear risk that approaching resilience by focusing primarily on acute hospital beds or occupancy rates reinforces the default of hospital-focused responses to system-wide issues.
    "However, understanding unmet need and hot spots in community health, community mental health, home care is much harder because there is little data collected for other key health and care services that is the equivalent to bed occupancy or waiting lists."

  • Where are the patients? The factors affecting the use of emergency care during Covid-19 Nuffield Rust June 16 blog hoping that the reductions in A&E attendances can continue after Covid:
    "Some predicted that the number of patients needing emergency care could increase over the course of the pandemic, as patients with chronic disease decompensate and people with previously undiagnosed conditions present with major complications in the absence of usual health care. This was coupled with a warning that the system could be severely stretched by pent-up demand for care after lockdown ends.
    "In this piece, based on the extant literature and my own clinical experience of working in a London teaching hospital over the past three months, I review a range of factors that might be impacting on the use of emergency health care services during the pandemic. They include changes in how the system is structured, the impact of disasters on people’s health, and how individuals might be modifying aspects of their own behaviour during the crisis.
    "They will suggest, in my view, that the drop in ED attendances is likely to be real, do not necessarily represent pent-up or deferred demand, and that aspects of this may be sustainable in the longer term."

  • WHO warns England's lockdown should not be lifted further without improved test and trace system Guardian June 15: “England’s coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government’s test and trace system has proven to be “robust and effective”, senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has warned.
    “… WHO’s regional European director Hans Kluge cautioned against rushing into restarting the economy while the country remains in a “very active phase of the pandemic”.
    “… He added: “Contact tracing is key especially as the UK starts to relax the social and physical distancing measures. There has to be a robust track-and-trace system in place of operation.”

  • Revealed: Government spent more than £200m on Nightingale hospitals Shocking figures revealed by HSJ, and raising further questions:
    "Seven temporary hospitals were set up in the last three months to help the NHS respond to the covid-19 pandemic, although only two of them are known to have treated patients.
    "Including London’s Excel Arena, six other venues across England have temporarily been turned into hospitals. They are in Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Harrogate, Manchester and County Durham.
    "Setting up the hospitals cost around £220m, according to the Department of Health and Social Care in a response to a Freedom of Information request.
    "The DHSC also estimates running costs in April for the project were £15m, although only London, Birmingham and Manchester Nightingales were operational for at least half of this month. Only London and Manchester Nightingales treated patients."

  • Patients face diagnosis delays as hospitals struggle with surge in screenings Independent report June 10: "As the NHS tries to recover from the worst of the coronavirus crisis, more than a million laboratory samples from cancer screening services are expected in pathology labs, while as many as 850,000 delayed CT and MRI scans need to be carried out.
    "But 97 per cent of labs do not have enough pathologists to carry out the work – with staff already working unpaid hours to tackle the existing backlog – while the number of radiology posts nationally would need to be increased by a third to deal with the rise, experts say.
    "… The royal colleges of pathologists and radiologists warned that cancers would go undiagnosed and treatments for all patients across the NHS could be further delayed as a result."

  • Coronavirus: BAME safety plan not published BBC June 11 report, 2 weeks after same story published by HSJ: “A report containing measures to protect ethnic minority groups from coronavirus has been drawn up for government, BBC News has learned.
    “Public Health England (PHE) published a review last week confirming coronavirus kills people from ethnic minorities at disproportionately high rates.
    “But a senior academic told BBC News a second report, containing safeguarding proposals to tackle this, also existed. And PHE now says this report will be published next week.
    “…The already published PHE review found people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at twice the rate of white Britons, while other black, Asian and minority ethnic groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.”

  • The Guardian view on care homes: take responsibility and apologise Guardian Editorial comment June 12: "For weeks while the NHS was protected, social care in the UK was left to be overwhelmed.
    "The National Audit Office, Whitehall’s spending watchdog, confirmed that in the first month of lockdown, 25,000 patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes and spread the virus when testing was either patchy or non-existent, and personal protective equipment was unavailable. It looks like the elderly were either expendable or collateral damage in the war against Covid-19.
    "Care home residents could make up more than half the deaths caused directly or indirectly by the coronavirus crisis in England, a grim toll of 34,000.
    "Instead of shouldering responsibility, Boris Johnson blames others, telling MPs it was clinicians who authorised hospital discharges into care homes.
    "This is a slander. It was under guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care that elderly people, with no tests, were sent into care homes. Hardworking medics did not deliberately risk care homes, but a lack of testing surely did."

  • Care worker pay deductions must be tackled to stop hardship and control virus spread UNISON press release June 15: "Staff in the care sector, who need to self-isolate, shield or have the virus, have told UNISON they’re being forced to take unpaid leave or survive on minimal statutory sick pay (SSP), leaving them hundreds of pounds out of pocket each week.
    "Some have been told by their employers to use up annual leave or make up time for free when they return to work.
    "UNISON research shows the situation varies widely between employers. Many care workers complain they are being left high and dry with next to no income, even though their workplace may have been where they contracted the virus.
    "It means a significant number have no choice but to carry on working against public health advice because they can’t afford time off, increasing the risks of spreading the virus at work and to their family, says UNISON."

  • SAGE expert urges Homerton Hospital to ‘financially protect’ contracted workers Hackney Citizen report June 15: "A highly regarded public health expert and member of the Independent SAGE committee has called on the Homerton Hospital to guarantee “full financial compensation” for contracted workers if they fall sick or have to self-isolate.
    "The high-profile intervention was made by Professor Allyson Pollock, director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle at a recent meeting of a council commission scrutinising health in the borough.
    "The announcement that the Homerton is considering a five-year extension of a contract with facilities giant ISS sparked anger from trade unions Unison and the GMB recently. "

  • Government faces lawsuit over £108m PPE contract with pest control firm CITY am report June 15: “The Good Law Project has filed legal proceedings against the government over its multimillion-pound deal with Pestfix — which has just 16 staff — to provide equipment such as gowns and face masks to the NHS.
    “The government handed out more than £350m worth of PPE contracts to private companies in March without a competitive tender process, as the UK scrambled to find sufficient levels of protective equipment for the NHS.
    “The Good Law Project, established by barrister Jolyon Maugham, argued that the £108m contract with Crisp Websites Ltd — which trades as Pestfix — is equivalent to nearly a third of the government’s PPE deals.
    “We’re suing the government over its decision to grant an £108m contract for the supply of PPE to Crisp Websites Ltd,” The Good Law Project said in a statement.
    “The number of bidders who competed for that contract was one… [and] the purchase order for this enormous sum of money was issued on 10 April 2020, three days before the contract was concluded.”

  • Emergency care: what do the May data show? June 15 analysis by Health Foundation of NHS England statistics on emergency services:
    “As in March and April, A&E visits and emergency admissions through A&E were lower in May than in the same month the year before. Ambulance crews transported fewer patients to A&E with more patients treated at the scene.
    “The percentage reductions in A&E visits, emergency admissions through A&E and the numbers of patients transported to A&E were smaller than in April showing that levels of activity are starting to recover. However, the falls are slightly larger than in March when the lockdown began.
    “Emergency admissions have recovered at a faster rate than A&E visits, with such admissions 24% down in May compared to 22% down in March.
    “Visits to major A&E departments were down 33% in May compared 26% in March. The slowest to recover have been activity in minor A&E departments, where visits in May were 58% lower than the total in March 2019.”

  • Millions of African Americans and Native Americans were uninsured as pandemic hit: ‘Having COVID-19 is scary enough’ US article June 13 from Market Watch:
    “Typically health insurance is tied to employment — which makes being laid off in the midst of a pandemic all the more difficult. But 18.2 million Americans would have had difficulty affording medical care if they contracted a severe case of COVID-19, even if they weren’t laid off from their jobs.
    “That’s because they were either uninsured or inadequately insured prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published in the latest edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
    “African Americans, Native Americans and lower-income individuals have been found to be at a higher risk of contracting a more severe case of COVID-19 than Caucasians due to many factors, including access to quality health care and their roles in frontline jobs, and higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, which also have socio-economic causes.
    “Black COVID-19 patients have 2.7 times the odds of being admitted to the hospital compared to non-Hispanic white patients.
    “Between May 21 and May 26, 20.5 million U.S. adults were uninsured, 15.5 million of whom were also unemployed.
    “The pandemic is laying bare the lethal inequality of American society and American health care,” said lead author Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.”

  • Revealed: Boris Johnson scrapped Cabinet ministers' pandemic team six months before coronavirus hit Britain Daily Mail reports: "Boris Johnson scrapped a team of Cabinet ministers tasked with protecting the UK from a pandemic six months before coronavirus arrived, a Mail investigation has found.
    "The Government’s ‘anti-pandemic committee’, which included senior ministers Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson, was disbanded without discussing virus control plans.
    "The group, officially known as the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee (THRCC), was supposed to ensure the UK was ready to cope with a pandemic."

  • BMA demands answers over missing BAME pages of Covid-19 report Guardian June 13: “In a letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, shared exclusively with the Guardian, the head of the BMA called for the missing pages and recommendations to be published immediately.
    “Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s report.
    “’I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities,’” Nagpaul said.
    “On Thursday, a senior academic disclosed that the advice for the government on how to protect BAME communities from coronavirus has yet to be published.”

  • What Went Wrong: Corona and the World after the Full Stop A long read, but well worth reading, this 21-page study gives a genuine world view on the handling of the pandemic and its impact, offering something beyond the superficial analyses we see everywhere

  • UK will not participate in EU’s coronavirus fast track vaccine scheme European report June 12: “The UK will not be involved in the European Union’s plans to fast track orders for a coronavirus vaccine, designed to ensure supplies for member states as soon as one is ready.
    “The UK will not formally be a part of the programme, but an EU spokesperson suggested it would be able to benefit from the scheme until the scheduled end for the Brexit transition period on December 31.
    “The bloc’s executive body will propose to its 27 member states that they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies as a united bloc and offer up-front financing to speed development and ensure priority access to any successful vaccine.
    “The EU proposes using a “large majority” of a €2.7bn emergency fund for the effort but is also committed to ensuring fair access worldwide to pandemic remedies.”

  • All data related to Deaths involving COVID-19 by local area and socioeconomic deprivation: deaths occurring between 1 March and 31 May 2020 ONS figures showing that Covid mortality rates are highest in the most urban areas and lowest in the most rural areas

  • Chief nurse dropped from Downing Street coronavirus briefing ‘after refusing to back Dominic Cummings’ Independent June 12 report: "England’s chief nurse was dropped from one of Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefings after refusing to publicly back Dominic Cummings, senior sources have told The Independent.
    "As Boris Johnson’s chief aide was engulfed in scandal over his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown, Ruth May had been due to appear alongside the health secretary Matt Hancock in the press conference.
    "But, in practice questions hours before the briefing, she was asked about Mr Cummings and, after failing to give support to the prime minister’s chief adviser, she was immediately dropped from the press conference, according to senior NHS sources.
    "Instead the health secretary had to present the slides on Covid-19 himself for the first time, alongside Professor John Newton from Public Health England. The incident, on 1 June, was two days after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam sparked headlines by saying that lockdown rules “apply to all” when asked about Mr Cummings. He has not appeared at the press conferences since 30 May."

  • Matt Hancock faces legal action from daughter of Covid-19 care home victim Guardian June 12 reports "Matt Hancock is facing legal action from the daughter of a man who died from Covid-19 in a care home in which the health secretary is accused of a “litany of failures” and misleading the public with his claim to have “thrown a protective ring” around care homes.
    "Dr Cathy Gardner launched a high court claim on Friday after her father, Michael Gibson, a retired superintendent of births, marriages and deaths, died in an Oxfordshire care home in early April. He became infected after a patient who tested positive for the virus was discharged from hospital into the home.
    "The request for a judicial review alleges failings “have led to large numbers of unnecessary deaths and serious illnesses” and have been “aggravated by the making of wholly disingenuous, misleading and – in some cases – plainly false statements suggesting that everything necessary has been done to protect care homes during the pandemic”.

  • Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag June 12 slice of life in the US, from Seattle Times:
    "Remember Michael Flor, the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient who, when he unexpectedly did not die, was jokingly dubbed “the miracle child?”
    "Now they can also call him the million-dollar baby.
    "Flor, 70, who came so close to death in the spring that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes, is recovering nicely these days at his home in West Seattle. But he says his heart almost failed a second time when he got the bill from his health care odyssey the other day.
    “I opened it and said ‘holy [bleep]!’ “ Flor says.
    "The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus: $1.1 million. $1,122,501.04, to be exact. "All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages."

  • 'An American fiasco': US hits grim milestone of 2m Covid-19 cases More sobering news in Guardian June 11 report: "The true figure of infection in the US is almost certainly “multiples more” than the 2m confirmed cases, said Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, but is obscured by the lack of testing.
    "Problems in developing and rolling out an effective test dogged the initial US response to the pandemic and although testing has now ramped up, only about 6% of the population has received one.
    "People with Covid-19 most likely experience either no noticeable symptoms or only minor symptoms such as a dry cough and mild fever.
    “We are very much seeing only the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” said Redlener. “We are hampered by the lack of sufficient testing, especially as businesses are reopening across all 50 states.”

  • Ten failures which show Johnson is gaslighting us with coronavirus Alastair Campbell in The European June 11: “A reminder of the 10-point guide to crisis management that I set out, almost three months ago, when Boris Johnson was assuring us that we should trust him and his government to “squash the sombrero” and “send the virus packing”.
    1. Devise, execute but also narrate clear strategy.
    2. Show strong, clear, consistent leadership.
    3. Organise from the centre of government.
    4. Throw everything at it.
    5. Use experts well.
    6. Deploy a strong team.
    7. Make the big moments count.
    8. Take the public with you.
    9. Show genuine empathy for people affected by the crisis.
    10. Give hope, but not false hope.
    You really do have to be very, very bad at your job to get zero out of 10. That, however, is how I would score Boris Johnson, and even admitting my bias against him, he reminds of the old football joke: “We played so badly we were lucky to get nil.”

  • COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Universal Health Coverage June 11 report from Think Global Health argues what should be an obvious point: "Poverty has not been the driver of how able systems are to cope with the pandemic. Rather, it’s the quality of a health care system that matters. While money is correlated with good health coverage, it is far from the only driver of quality care.
    "Many middle-income countries offer excellent health care to their citizenry, and there are low-income countries making real strides in that direction as well.
    "Meanwhile, the world’s largest economy lacks universal health coverage, and is struggling to deal with this pandemic."

  • NHS hospital waiting lists could hit 10 million in England this year Guardian June 10 on an NHS Confed report: “The waiting list for hospital treatment could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas amid a huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services, NHS leaders are warning.
    “Hospital bosses say that such a massive increase in England is a realistic prospect, given so many people have been unable to have surgery and crucial diagnostic tests in recent months while the NHS’s main priority has been minimising the damage from Covid-19.
    “The total number of people waiting to undergo a procedure in a hospital in England such as a hernia repair, cataract removal or hip or knee replacement stood at 4.4 million before the pandemic. It then fell to 4.2 million because in March GPs referred fewer patients for care to help hospitals tackle the pandemic and also because some patients were reluctant to risk getting infected by going into hospital.
    “However, the NHS Confederation estimates that it is likely to reach 9.8 million by the end of the year as a result of staff shortages and hospitals having to cap the number of patients they can treat at any one time because of strict physical distancing rules that reduce the number of beds available.”

  • Stop calling family carers a 'hidden army'. We're not invisible, just ignored Guardian June 10: “The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the role of NHS staff, who rightly deserve the praise being heaped on them. In comparison, appreciation of care workers, who are equally deserving praise, was not so visible. Meanwhile, carers continue to be ignored.
    “In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged carers’ vital roles and announced extra payments for them. Boris Johnson and his government failed to make a similar gesture. More crucially, the vital role carers had in preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed received negligible attention.
    “But this comes as no surprise. The current and preceding governments have repeatedly overlooked carers and their needs. …
    “Those in power are ignoring the challenges millions of carers are up against day in, day out, yet still expect this army to diligently continue supporting our loved ones with little recognition for our commitment.”

  • Covid aftercare piles pressure on ‘understaffed’ community services HSJ June 10: “The aftercare of covid-19 patients will have significant financial implications for ‘understaffed’ community services, NHS England has been warned.
    “This month the national commissioner released guidance for the care of patients once they have recovered from an immediate covid infection and been discharged from hospital.
    “It said community health services will need to provide “ongoing health support that rehabilitates [covid patients] both physically and mentally”.
    “The document said this would result in increased demand for home oxygen services, pulmonary rehabilitation, diagnostics and for many therapies such as speech and language, occupational, physio, dieticians and mental health support.
    “The document recognised that dealing with the increased number of people needing specialist support would create “new challenges” to the system, which will include maintaining infection control; pressures on equipment such as oxygen cannisters and personal protective equipment; staffing; and increased numbers of patients experiencing persistent psychological difficulties post-discharge.”

  • Nine California counties report spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations Worrying story from Guardian June 10: "Nine California counties are reporting a spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations of confirmed cases, raising fears that authorities may have to reimpose or tighten public health restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’s spread.
    "The counties are: Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Imperial, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Santa Clara.
    "New diagnoses in the heavily populated Los Angeles area are going up in part because testing is more widely available. But officials say infections and hospitalizations in most other parts of the state are being driven by factors tied directly to the loosening of restrictions or overt flouting of public health rules.
    "It is too soon to see whether cases will also spike after protests over the death of George Floyd swept the state."

  • NHS preparing for workforce shortages caused by test and trace system Independent report June 10: "Heath chiefs have warned administrators to plan how they can continue to run services in the event large numbers of staff are forced to self-isolate at home after being identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for coronavirus.
    "During the height of the pandemic, about 12 per cent of NHS staff were off sick with the virus and many more self-isolated, heaping even more pressure on hospitals."

  • Pledge to boost spending on mental health is ‘absolute’, says NHS director Independent June 10: “The NHS is preparing for a significant rise in demand for mental health services as a result of coronavirus and is re-examining spending plans to prioritise its response.
    “NHS England’s director of mental health Claire Murdoch has promised spending on mental health will not be cut to help other parts of the NHS, saying the commitment to investing £2.3bn of extra spending by 2023-24 was “absolute.”
    “Ms Murdoch, a registered mental health nurse and chief executive of the Central and North West London mental health trust, said NHS England was now modelling the predicted impact on services and would respond later this year.
    “She said: “As we move to the restoration and recovery phases of the Covid-19 response, it is important to note that our commitment to the mental health long-term plan ambition is absolute and will require continued joint working to deliver the changes in quality and access.”

  • Coronavirus leaves one in 10 UK charities facing bankruptcy this year Guardian June 9: "The analysis by Pro Bono Economics, an independent charity, says the coronavirus crisis will trigger a £6.4bn loss of income for charities over the next six months just as demand for extra services – ranging from health to debt advice and social care – piles on extra costs of £3.7bn.
    "There are just under 170,000 general charities in the UK, sharing a total annual income of about £51bn, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The vast majority are small charities, meaning they have income of under £100,000. Larger charities (£1m upwards) account for about a fifth of the sector but 80% of its income."

  • Watchdog relaxed rules on doctors operating in private hospitals weeks after inquiry’s safety warning Independent June 9: "Controversial rules allowing doctors to operate on patients in private hospitals have been fast tracked during the coronavirus crisis, just weeks after an independent inquiry warned they were a risk to patient safety.
    "The Independent has learned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) wrote to private hospitals in March and agreed to a streamlined process for consultants to gain what is known as “practising privileges” to allow them to start work immediately in private hospitals.
    "These privileges allow a doctor to operate on patients, but they are not considered employees of the hospital and their work is monitored less closely. It was under this system that rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson was able to operate unnecessarily on more than 1,000 women."

  • Deaths registered in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 29 May 2020 ONS figures showing around 64,000 more people have died in the previous 10 weeks than would be expected based on the 5 year average.
    Deaths in hospitals to the end of May were 1% below the 5-yr wkly avg – excluding Covid-19 they would have been 27% below
    * Deaths in care homes were 49% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 7% above
    * Deaths in private homes were 45% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 42% above

  • Boris Johnson’s patience wears thin over tracing app Financial Times June 9: "“Boris Johnson and his senior Downing Street advisers are growing increasingly impatient at delays to the launch of the NHS’s coronavirus tracing app, pressing health officials for a rethink even as a new trial is set for next week.
    “According to two people with knowledge of the situation, pressure from Number 10 has been stepped up in the past few days with one telling the Financial Times that the prime minister wants serious consideration to be given to a different version of the app, which incorporates Google and Apple technology.
    “One UK government official said there was “frustration with how long everything takes but the reality is that we are building something from scratch”. The official added: “It is obviously taking longer than people would have hoped.”

  • Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro forced into U-turn on releasing death figures following national uproar Independent June 8: “Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been forced into a U-turn on releasing data showing Brazil’s total number of Covid-19 cases and deaths following a national uproar.
    “In a move officials said was personally ordered by the president, months’ worth of coronavirus data vanished from Brazil’s health ministry website overnight on Friday, with a supreme court judge describing the manoeuvre as “totalitarian”.
    “The health ministry said it would only report Covid-19 cases and deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours - a day after the South America country reported its daily record number of deaths.
    “… The decision sparked outrage among members of Brazil’s congress and judiciary, while medics in the country – now considered the epicentre of the pandemic – said it would hamper their efforts to manage the disease.
    “…On Sunday night, the health ministry resumed releasing the cumulative number of coronavirus cases and deaths following national outrage.”

  • UK ministers face legal challenge for refusal to order PPE inquiry Guardian report June 8: "Ministers are facing a high court legal challenge after they refused to order an urgent investigation into the shortages of personal protective equipment faced by NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Doctors, lawyers and campaigners for older people’s welfare issued proceedings on Monday which they hope will lead to a judicial review of the government’s efforts to ensure that health professionals and social care staff had enough PPE to keep them safe.
    "They want to compel ministers to hold an independent inquiry into PPE and ensure staff in settings looking after Covid-19 patients will be able to obtain the gowns, masks, eye protection and gloves they need if, as many doctors fear, there is a second wave of the disease."

  • Student nurses ‘being asked to carry out unsupervised drug rounds’ Nursing Times (June 8) reveals breaches in NMC guidelines: “Some NHS trusts are wrongly allowing student nurses on extended clinical placements to carry out unsupervised medication rounds, a leading student representative has revealed.
    “More than 25,000 students opted to carry out paid extended clinical placements which were designed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to support the coronavirus response.
    “But concerns have been raised that because those in their final six months of study are being remunerated at band 4, they are being expected to work like a qualified nurse at this level, rather than students.”

  • Boris Johnson speeds up hospital building to aid economy Sunday Torygraph June 7 flags up the Tories’ latest dead cat to divert from the disastrous mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic:
    “Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to speed up the construction of new hospitals, as he prepares to set out a blueprint for how he will "rebuild Britain" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic …”
    And Johnson is determined to get around the fact that few if any of the six ‘new’ hospitals actually promised and funded had proper plans in place (drawn up before Covid changed the world) – and that some are already facing a legal challenge by local councils and campaigners alarmed at the threat to bed numbers:
    “…a new team already examining the effect of cumbersome planning rules and 'endless consultations'. The team is studying possible reforms to the system of judicial reviews, resuming work begun in February, when Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's chief aide, warned that there must be 'urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become.' "

  • Boris Johnson told to dump rhetoric and plan for new Covid wave Guardian June 7|: “Senior figures from across the NHS have issued an urgent plea for a comprehensive plan to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections, as Boris Johnson continues to lose public confidence in his handling of the pandemic.
    “Amid persistent fears among scientists that the virus remains too prevalent to ease the lockdown further, the prime minister has been urged to ditch “cheap political rhetoric” that risks eroding the public’s adherence to lockdown measures in the months ahead.
    “Health chiefs say there should be no further easing before a comprehensive test and trace system has been proved to work, as NHS figures accuse the government of lacking a strategy and dodging an “honest and open” debate about Britain’s plight. They also warned of a “dramatic” drop in capacity at NHS hospitals.”

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major extended June 7 investigation by Independent's Shaun Lintern with some shocking warnings:
    "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer. Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock has made clear he expects private hospitals will have a “critical role”.
    "The persistent menace of Covid-19 means hospitals up and down the country are being forced to remove beds and redesign buildings to keep patients safe as they restart routine services. But infection precautions mean only half the normal number of operations a day can be carried out.
    "Experts and hospital leaders warned the impact of coronavirus will mean longer waits for treatment, higher costs for the taxpayer and a need to ration care to an extent normally seen only in poorer countries."

  • The Observer view on the government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis Observer Editorial June 7 concludes: "As the pandemic goes on, the government appears to be moving further away from, not closer to, the balance of scientific opinion; ministers are increasingly struggling with the huge logistical challenge of managing this pandemic, rather than learning from their mistakes; Johnson is approaching pandemic management more, not less, through the lens of the populist politics of the Vote Leave campaign that he and Cummings together led.
    "We agree with the scientific and medical experts who wrote to the Guardian on Friday calling for a rapid public inquiry. Such an inquiry should be focused on producing practical recommendations for the autumn and could be conducted by a cross-party committee of senior parliamentary backbenchers."

  • Brazil stops releasing Covid-19 death toll and wipes data from official site Guardian June 7 on how Brazil's far right populist government is dealing with Covid:
    "The Brazilian government has been accused of totalitarianism and censorship after it stopped releasing its total numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths and wiped an official site clean of swaths of data.
    "Health ministry insiders told local media the move was ordered by far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, himself – and was met with widespread outrage in Brazil, one of the world’s worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots, with more deaths than Italy and more cases than Russia and the UK.
    “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhuman and unethical attempt to make those killed by Covid-19 invisible will not succeed. We and Brazilian society will not forget them, nor the tragedy that befalls the nation,” said Alberto Beltrame, president of Brazil’s national council of state health secretaries, in a statement."

  • Cuba sets example with successful programme to contain coronavirus Guardian report June 7 on a success story: “The World Health Organization has identified Latin America as the new centre for coronavirus pandemic, but over the last two months, cases in Cuba have fallen. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to catch the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less likely to catch it than Mexicans, and more than 70 times less likely to be infected than Brazilians.
    “Desperate for tourist revenue, Cuba closed its border later than most other countries in the region. But ever since the communist-ruled island shut out the outside world in late March, it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the virus.
    “The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases Covid-19 – every single day.
    “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately.”

  • Serco wins Covid-19 test-and-trace contract despite £1m fine Guardian June 6 on the apparently endless succession of Serco scandals: "Serco, one of the companies that has secured a lucrative government contract for the Covid contact-tracing programme, was fined more than £1m for failures on another government contract just months ago, the Observer has learned.
    "The revelation has led to campaigners against the privatisation of public services to call for the £45.8m test-and-trace contract to be cancelled.
    "Serco has a range of government contracts both in the UK and overseas, much of it focused on criminal justice and immigration. It has already had to apologise after breaching data protection rules on its test-and-trace contract by inadvertently revealing the email addresses of new recruits. The junior health minister, Edward Argar, is a former Serco lobbyist."

  • NHS trust bosses not consulted over new face mask rules BBC June 6 report: "NHS trusts were not consulted before the government announced changes to the use of face coverings and visitor policy in English hospitals, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.
    "Chris Hopson said trust leaders felt "completely in the dark" about the "significant and complex" changes.
    "From 15 June, hospital visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings and staff must use surgical masks.
    "The Department of Health says masks can be provided by the hospital if needed.
    "A spokeswoman said that, while the public were "strongly urged" to wear a face covering while inside hospitals, no-one would be denied care."

  • Care home residents foot £100 a week for coronavirus costs Guardian June 6 on the latest revelation of how dysfunctional our care home sector has become:
    “Older people and their families are being asked to pay more than £100 a week on top of their usual care home fees, with homes saying the cost of PPE and staff absences could push their finances into the red, threatening their sustainability.
    “ ‘Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.’
    “Abrahams said that central government should meet care homes’ extra costs. ‘Otherwise there’s a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless,” she warned.’ ”

  • £108m PPE contract was given to small pest control company Times June 6 report of another shocking award by ministers of a major tender to a firm with no qualifications:
    "A small family-run pest control company was handed a contract worth £108 million to procure personal protective equipment for frontline health staff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "PestFix, which has only 16 employees and net assets of £18,000, was turned overnight into one of the government’s largest suppliers of PPE last month.
    "It is one of a number of companies to have been awarded multimillion-pound contracts to provide facemasks, gowns and visors despite lacking experience in the field.
    "The contracts were signed in early April when ministers were under huge public pressure to improve the supply of PPE to hospitals and care homes amid global shortages. The flurry of offers to help was so overwhelming that in late April the government paid £200,000 to a call centre supplier to clear a backlog of about 5,000 offers.
    "Last night the chairman of parliament’s public accounts committee said it and the National Audit Office would be scrutinising the contracts awarded to ensure that they represented value for money. “The need for PPE for frontline staff is urgent and critical but tendering outside the normal rules can be risky,” Meg Hillier said."

  • Vital health projects axed as Tory cuts batter Liverpool council Liverpool Echo report June 6: "Merseyside has areas with some of the highest health inequalities in the UK, yet projects to encourage people to make changes to their lifestyles to improve their health have fallen victim to a lack of funding.
    "With resources increasingly stretched rising to meet the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, the ability of Liverpool Council to address chronic health inequalities has been put under further pressure.
    "The cuts were agreed by councillors at the annual budget meeting in March and form part of £30m of savings needed this year to balance the council’s books."

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major June 6 report from Independent's Shaun Lintern begins: "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer.
    "Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year."

  • No return to 'business as usual' for dentists BBC June 5 report: "The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned there will be no return to "business as usual" for dentistry in England.
    "Practices were told last week that they could reopen from Monday 8 June, if they put in place appropriate safety measures.
    "But some dentists say it was not enough warning and they lack necessary kit. A poll of 2,053 practices in England suggests that just over a third (36%) plan to reopen on Monday.
    "Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service," says BDA chair Mick Armstrong. "Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand."

  • We can't be 100% sure face masks work – but that shouldn't stop us wearing them Primary health care expert Trish Greenhalgh in Guardian June 5 notes the lack of relevant research on the effectiveness of face masks, and concludes:
    "Like dozens of other countries, England is about to have a natural experiment of face coverings in public places. Still, the scientists will continue to argue. If transmission rates of Covid-19 fall as predicted, public health experts – and I count myself among them – will say this has produced a “fact” that face coverings are effective source control. And triallists will say that in the absence of a trial (which they will continue to demand), this is not a fact because there’s no robust evidence that the association is causal. Whether we can agree on “the facts” or not, we’ll hopefully welcome the positive outcomes, as I predict that transmission of Covid-19 will fall and that any harms will be relatively minor and worth the trade-off."

  • 'Die-in' outside Dominic Cummings's house over COVID-19 response Sky News reports, June 5: "Protesters staged a "die-in" outside Dominic Cummings' house over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Holding signs and wearing face masks, about 20 campaigners lay on the street outside the north London home of the prime minister's controversial adviser on Thursday evening.
    "One of the placards read: "Over 50,000 dead while you're playing king of the castle.""

  • ‘Primary’ PPE portal relegated to ‘emergency top-up route’ (£) HSJ June 5 reports a fresh twist in the ongoing PPE supply chain scandal, with a new U-turn:
    "A government portal to supply personal protective equipment to primary and social care providers has now been branded “emergency only” - despite originally being intended to fill “the bulk” of demand.
    "This means the eBay-built website is only currently available as “an emergency top-up route”, to be used when existing supply routes have failed.
    "… In April, an internal update seen by HSJ said the portal would be “the primary method of centralised distribution” of PPE to primary and social care providers, fulfilling “the bulk” of demand during the covid-19 crisis once fully rolled out.
    "But Thursday’s presentation described the portal to customers as “an emergency top-up route” to be used only when existing supply methods failed.
    "Those that are registered can request small batches of gloves, masks and aprons through the portal on a weekly basis. At present, GPs can order up to 50 IIR masks, 200 aprons and 200 pairs of gloves per week. Small domiciliary care providers and care homes with 24 beds or fewer can order up to 100 IIR masks, 400 aprons and 400 pairs of gloves per week"

  • WHO advises public to wear face masks when unable to distance Guardian June 5: "People over 60 or with health issues should wear a medical-grade mask when they are out and cannot socially distance, according to new guidance from the World Health Organization, while all others should wear a three-layer fabric mask.
    "The announcement on Friday marks a significant change of stance by the WHO …
    "…Until now the global body has been reluctant to advocate the wearing of face coverings by the public because of limited evidence that they offer protection. There were also fears of a rush on masks leading to shortages of medical-grade versions for health workers."

  • Patients Not Passports – Migrants’ Access to Healthcare During the Coronavirus Crisis A new (June 5) Medact briefing paper, co-produced by Migrants Organise and the New Economics Foundation examines the barriers to accessing healthcare for migrants during the coronavirus crisis.
    The findings of the research lead to a series of urgent recommendations designed to help inform the government’s response to the public health emergency.
    The report’s findings highlights numerous cases of migrants being denied healthcare outright; or refusing to seek care due to fear of Government policies or racial profiling.
    The report shows that:
    • Migrants are not coming forward for healthcare because of the Government’s Hostile Environment, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • The coronavirus ‘exemption’ from charging and immigration checks is not working – people are still being asked to show their passports for coronavirus treatment, and migrants are still too fearful of the Hostile Environment to come forward for treatment for coronavirus.
    • Migrants are facing a wide range of additional barriers – including language and digital exclusions – to accessing care during the pandemic, including to emergency services.

  • Thousands more may have died with coronavirus without being diagnosed, data reveals ITV News report June 5: "The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that between March 7 and May 1 this year there were 46,380 more deaths than in an average year - but almost 13,000 of these deaths were not attributed to coronavirus.
    "The ONS concludes that many cases may have been missed - the vast majority were in care homes.
    "ITV News has spoken to several families who say their relatives passed away with symptoms of Covid-19, without the virus ever being recorded as a cause of death.
    "In April, 89 year-old Isobel Hick died at her care home in Scarborough, after several other residents had been diagnosed with Covid-19. But because she hadn’t been tested for the virus, her death certificate simply records “dementia” as the cause of death."

  • Covid-19 Shambles: 11 Reasons why “guided by science” claim is lie Keep Our NHS public report, June 5 "The government keeps telling us they are "guided by the science", but this mantra does not fit the facts. In truth, its policies have been characterised by callousness, greed and ineptitude. Here is Keep Our NHS Public’s 11-point guide to the shambles of our Government’s Covid-19 response. "

  • Healthcare workers should self-isolate if any colleague tests positive for COVID-19, says Hancock Nursing Notes June 5 with a change of policy that could trigger a new shortage of PPE and bring departments to a halt:
    “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has told health and social care staff that they are not exempt from the self-isolation rules. Speaking live during today’s daily Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock told health and social care workers that ‘if one of your team tests positive you have to test the isolation advice.’
    “The current guidance from Public Health England (PHE) means that any health or social care worker who has been in close proximity to a colleague who tests positive would need to self-isolate at home for 14 days, even if asymptomatic.
    “Mr. Hancock admitted that while the new measures may cause ‘logistical challenges’, insisted they were necessary.
    “This advice comes alongside new rules forcing staff to wear face masks “at all times” due to an increased risk of health and social care staff catching the virus. Hospital visitors and outpatients will also be required to wear face coverings.”

  • Parts of South West could face local lockdown as R-rate increases, says Health Secretary Cornwall Live report June 5: "The Health Secretary has said that local lockdowns will be brought in if the R-rate continues to rise in certain locations.
    "Earlier it was reported that the R-rate has risen to 1 in the South West, meaning the region now has the second highest rate of transmission of the virus in England.
    "Matt Hancock said Sage believes the R is below one and said local lockdowns would be used when flare-ups are spotted, pointing towards a success in Weston-super-Mare.
    "The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “You’re right that the R is closer to one in the South West and in the North West, the advice from Sage is that R is below one in all regions.
    “However, we want to increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up."

  • Experts told UK to boost test-and-trace in February, papers show Guardian June 5 new revelation on avoidable, but lethal government failures: “The government was advised to scale up its coronavirus test-and-trace effort using a call centre system as early as February, government documents show, raising questions about why the system launched last week as lockdown measures were eased is still not fully operational.
    “A report presented to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 12 February, when the UK was still actively tracing contacts of those infected with Covid-19, recommended a 10-fold increase in Public Health England’s test-and-trace capacity in order to extend the number of cases that could be managed.
    “‘Scaling this response up, using for example a call-centre type system to support the local PHE teams, should be possible and feasible,’ the experts from Public Health England and the University of Cambridge recommended.
    “However, this suggestion does not appear to have been pursued and contact tracing was abandoned in March.”

  • The Brexit crisis led to totally incompetent leadership at a time of unprecedented calamity. Now we are paying for it Independent article from Patrick Cockburn June 5:
    "Britain is discovering the hard way how far its administrative machine has been weakened by cuts and outsourcing. Central government has monopolised authority and resources and starved local authorities of both, though they should be on the cutting edge of “test and trace”.
    "An editorial in the British Medical Journal of which the lead author is a professor of European public health, Martin McKee, succinctly sums up what has happened:
    “A hollowed out civil service has long turned to outsourcing companies, despite their repeated failures. Companies with little relevant experience have struggled to organise viral testing or contact tracing. The task of coordinating activities with existing organisations, such as NHS laboratories or local public health departments, is too complex for their business model.”

  • NHS test-and-trace system 'not fully operational until September' Guardian June 4 exclusive on leak revealing just how poor the privatised track and trace system really is:
    "The NHS coronavirus test-and-trace system designed to prevent a second deadly wave is not expected to work at full speed until September or October, the Guardian has learned.
    "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the NHS scheme, admitted in a webinar to staff that the programme would be “imperfect” at launch, adding that he hoped it would be operational at a world-class level within three to four months.
    "It comes as a leaked email from the chief executive of Serco – one of the main companies contracted to deliver the service – revealed how he doubted the scheme would evolve smoothly but said he wanted it to “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.
    "The disclosures come as scientists said lockdown measures should not be eased until the test-and-trace service is well established. The system, which tracks those who have contracted coronavirus and anyone they have been in contact with, before asking them to self-isolate, was rolled out across England last week with the help of 25,000 contact tracers."

  • Test and trace system not expected to be ‘world-class’ until September, leaked comments suggest Independent report June 4|: "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the scheme, is reported to have admitted in a video message to staff that the system will not be working at full speed for months.
    "The apparent admission came after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, claimed the UK would have a “world-beating” test and trace system by the start of June.
    “I am sure when Dido [Harding, the chief executive] announces this service later she will make clear that it is an imperfect service at launch that we will improve over time and make it world-class by the time that we are moving towards the September or October time,” Mr Prestedge said, according to The Guardian.
    “We know it will be imperfect, we know it will be clunky but we ask you to help us improve the service.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 report stresses findings from SAGE that underline impact of inequalities in raising risks to BAME people from Covid-19: “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies ordered the analysis in mid-April after a “signal” that black people had a higher risk of death among coronavirus patients compared with the overall Bame population.
    “Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University … concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Swedish expert admits country should have had tighter coronavirus controls Financial Times, June 3 report: “The architect of Sweden’s controversial lighter lockdown policy for dealing with coronavirus has for the first time conceded the Scandinavian country should have imposed more restrictions to avoid having such a high death toll.
    “Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, agreed with the interviewer on Sveriges Radio that too many people had died in the country. “If we would encounter the same disease, with exactly what we know about it today, I think we would land midway between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world did,” said Mr Tegnell in the interview broadcast on Wednesday morning.
    “Mr Tegnell’s admission is striking as for months he has criticised other countries’ lockdowns and insisted that Sweden’s approach was more sustainable despite heavy international scrutiny of its stubbornly high death toll.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “… Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University used data on hospital coronavirus patients and matched patients from ethnic minorities to white patients using 23 different characteristics including age on admission, sex, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, asthma, smoking and deprivation.
    “They concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Keir Starmer warns PM: get a grip or risk second coronavirus wave June 3: “In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader launched a stinging attack on the prime minister, accusing him of “winging it” over the easing of the lockdown and making an already “difficult situation 10 times worse”.
    “He also questioned whether the timing of some decisions over the relaxation of the lockdown rules had been taken “to try to deflect attention away” from the Dominic Cummings affair – an episode, he said, that showed Johnson was too weak to sack his chief adviser.
    “In a significant hardening of his language, Starmer said Johnson had to “get a grip” of the crisis. “My [worry] is that after a week or more of mismanagement, I’m deeply concerned the government has made a difficult situation 10 times worse,” he said.”

  • Censorship row over report on UK BAME Covid-19 deaths Guardian report June 3: “Concerns about censorship have been raised after third-party submissions were left out of the government-commissioned report on the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people
    “Public Health England said it had engaged with more than 1,000 people during its inquiry. But the report, which has been criticised for failing to investigate the reasons for the disparities or make recommendations on how to address them, did not mention the consultations.
    “Anger has been compounded by a report in the Health Service Journal claiming that before publication the government removed a section detailing responses from third parties, many of whom highlighted structural racism.
    “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which called in its written submission for “specific measures … to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism [within the NHS]”, said it had contacted PHE to ask why its evidence was not included.”

  • England had the chance to prepare for lifting lockdown, but our leaders wasted it Outspoken Guardian June 3 comment by normally reticent former King’s Fund boss Chris Ham:
    “Unfathomably, the government decided to ease restrictions while the Covid-19 alert level was still at four, which denotes a high level of transmission. A reasonable inference to make is that politics has taken precedence over “the science”.
    “Indeed, members of Sage have expressed concern that the lockdown is being relaxed too soon. The more cautious approach taken by devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is a reminder of English exceptionalism, even in the face of death rates higher than anywhere else in Europe.
    “Relaxing the lockdown in advance of having an effective and fully integrated system of testing and tracing in place creates unacceptable risks to the public’s health. If infections and hospital admissions from coronavirus begin to increase, the NHS will face renewed pressure.”

  • An uncompromising defender of the NHS: colleagues remember Dr Ron Singer GP Online June 3 tribute to campaigner Dr Ron Singer who died aged 71:
    "In a 2014 interview with GPonline to mark the founding of the organsation - known then as the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) - he explained the philosophy that underpinned his approach to medical politics.
    "'You have to be on the streets,' he said. 'You have to bring your colleagues to a point where they can see that unless they act collectively and in a fairly visible manner, the plight of general practice will not be recognised.'
    "The Newham GP campaigned powerfully - and visibly - for the NHS he believed in well beyond his retirement from frontline general practice.
    "In 2012 as then health secretary Andrew Lansley toured a north London hospital as his controversial health reforms went through parliament, Dr Singer confronted him in person, saying: 'I am a doctor of 30 years Mr Lansley, explain to me how this is going to make patients better.'"

  • Just one in three think government has done a good job managing coronavirus pandemic Telegraph (June 3) revealing that a third of the population clearly have no idea what's going on: "A new poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group March for Change, found just 31 per cent of adults believe the government is doing a good job, while 44 per cent said it was doing a bad one.
    "Asked if there should be an independent public inquiry into how the government has handled the pandemic, 58 per cent said there should be.
    "Regional divides were also revealed in the data, as people in London (56 per cent) and Scotland (58 per cent) were the most likely to think the government is doing a bad job, compared to 40 per cent in the North, 40 per cent in the South and 38 per cent in both the Midlands and Wales."
    "

  • Number of cases and deaths Government website updating daily, reveals continued failure to report numbers of people tested alongside number of tests.
    "As of 9am on 2 June, there have been 4,615,146 tests, with 135,643 tests on 1 June.
    277,985 people have tested positive.
    "As of 5pm on 1 June, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 39,369 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 31,136."

  • Reducing social distancing to one metre would double risk of infection, study suggests Independent June 2: "Reducing social distancing from two metres to one could double the risk of being infected with coronavirus, according to a comprehensive new study published amid growing calls for the UK to reduce its guidance to allow more businesses to reopen.
    "Researchers found distancing of a metre or more reduces the risk of infection to 13 per cent, compared to 3 per cent for less than a metre. However, analysis of modelling published in The Lancet suggests for every extra metre further away up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve.
    "In the UK people are advised to keep a distance of two metres from others, but there have been calls to reduce this to 1.5 metres like in other countries such as Germany to help the hospitality sector reopen.
    "Businesses such as theatres, pubs and music venues could be particularly hit hard by the two-metre rule, which would severely restrict the number of customers allowed inside."

  • Chris Whitty thwarted Boris Johnson’s bid to downgrade coronavirus threat level Times, June 2, reports: "Boris Johnson’s hopes of downgrading the virus alert level last week were resisted by the chief medical officer for England.
    "The prime minister had wanted to announce that the five-stage alert level was being reduced from 4 to 3 to coincide with yesterday’s partial relaxation of the lockdown. His road map published on May 11 said that the relaxation of social-distancing measures “must be warranted by the alert level”.
    "In the event Mr Johnson was able only to repeat that the level was “moving towards 3” after Chris Whitty insisted it remain at the second-highest level. The decision to relax the lockdown without a full reduction in the alert level has prompted questions over the system’s credibility. No 10 has yet to explain what benchmarks, such as the number and location of daily new infections, inform the five levels."

  • AI firm that worked with Vote Leave given new coronavirus contract Guardian June 2: "An artificial intelligence firm hired to work on the Vote Leave campaign may analyse social media data, utility bills and credit rating scores as part of a £400,000 contract to help the government deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The company, Faculty, was awarded the contract by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last month. However the full details of its work for the government are unknown because the published version of the contract was partly redacted.
    "The disclosure comes amid questions from civil liberties groups as to how private companies hired by the government during the pandemic are using confidential data.
    "The unredacted portion of the contract shows that the MHCLG said such work was likely to require data from “social media, utility providers and telecom bills, credit rating agencies” as well as from the government, but provides few other specifics."

  • CQC publishes data on deaths of people with a learning disability Disturbing CQC report on huge 134% increase in death rates of people with learning disabilities this year compared with last year, suggesting this vulnerable group are also being failed by government policies.
    "While we know this data has its limitations what it does show is a significant increase in deaths of people with a learning disability as a result of COVID-19. We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives.
    "These figures also show that the impact on this group of people is being felt at a younger age range than in the wider population – something that should be considered in decisions on testing of people of working age with a learning disability."

  • Covid-19: Questions of conscience and duty for scientific advisers Highly critical BMJ editorial pointing to government's departure from "the science" goes on to question how scientists and doctors should respond:
    “This is meant to be a moment of optimism, a green recovery, centred on the health of people and the planet, backed by an effective system of testing and contact tracing and possibly informed by a public inquiry.
    “Instead, England arrives here in a state of utter confusion. The public’s confidence in the official lockdown advice is shaken. The covid-19 response is short on testing, uncertain on contact tracing, and reliant on unreliable apps.
    “Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are not following England’s lead. The UK has the second highest number of covid-19 deaths of any nation and, by some calculations, the most deaths per capita.
    “… Scientists and doctors in advisory positions face a dual obligation to the state and to the public. But what happens when the government’s integrity no longer matches your personal or professional integrity, when your public accountability seems greater than that of the politicians you advise?”

  • Things are not getting better – our data is getting worse June 2 comment from The London Economic: “The UK death toll increased by four times the amount that was reported by Matt Hancock at the daily press briefing on Monday. Owing to “statistical housekeeping” on behalf of the government, they have been able to report figures that paint a much rosier picture of the current situation in the UK.
    “The health secretary announced that there were just 111 fatalities … When in fact 445 deaths were subsequently added, largely owing to cases which had been identified through commercial partners rather than by NHS and Public Health England laboratories.”

  • Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding linked to anti-NHS group Mirror June 2: "The Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding has been linked to a right-wing group calling for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system.
    "Former minister John Penrose said last month he was “delighted” to join the advisory board of 1828.
    "One article authored by 1828’s co-founders argued Britain should be “bold and progressive” – scrapping the NHS in favour of a system where people pay for insurance either through private firms or a government scheme.
    "It said: “With a social health insurance system, you don’t need the state to own or subsidise hospitals, or to control policy from the centre; you simply need it to regulate the system to a satisfactory degree.”

  • BAME people twice as likely to die of COVID-19, finds PHE report Nursing Notes June 2: "Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A report by Public Health England (PHE) identifies those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities as at greater risk from COVID-19 but has been criticised for failing to provide any recommendations.
    "The ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ report was published by PHE earlier today despite rumours it would be delayed.
    "It concludes that members of the BAME community are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than white ethnic groups.
    "Following diagnosis “People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.” All-cause mortality was said to be up to 4 times higher in some subsets."

  • Boris Johnson takes back control of coronavirus crisis with Downing Street shake-up This (£) Telegraph June 2 exclusive does raise questions of who has been in charge of the government's response for the past 3 months:
    "Boris Johnson is to take "direct control" of the Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis after a chaotic fortnight in which his chief aide was accused of breaking the lockdown rules and the Government's test and trace plans were hit by setbacks.
    "A shake-up in Downing Street will see the Government's entire approach to the pandemic run by two centrally-run committees, covering strategy and operational delivery.
    "Tory MPs said the changes could weaken the influence of chief adviser Dominic Cummings – who was heavily criticised for a 260-mile trip during lockdown – and allow Mr Johnson to tighten his grip on the fight against the pandemic after being treated in intensive care for the virus.
    "In the past fortnight, his Government has been criticised over plans to quarantine new arrivals in the UK, while a test and trace app to track people infected with coronavirus has failed to materialise.
    "The reforms will also free up some of the Prime Minister's top team to focus on the Brexit talks ahead of a crucial deadline next month when the UK must decide whether to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year."

  • Leaked report reveals just 1,749 people out of 4,456 contacted by track and trace Mirror June 2: "A leaked report has revealed that just 1,749 people have been contacted by the government's much heralded track and trace system in the first four days since it was launched.
    "Matt Hancock has described the NHS test and trace system as "successful" but has repeatedly been unable to provide figures for the number of people contacted under the system.
    "Around 25,000 people have been hired as tracers to help track new cases.
    "Today the national coordinator for the scheme Professor John Newton said that thousands of contacts had been successfully identified using test and trace."

  • Review into impact of COVID-19 on BAME community delayed again Sky News June 2, "A review into how the BAME community has been affected by COVID-19 has been delayed again because of "worries" around "current global events", Sky News understands.
    "Public Health England's review was commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and due for release "by the end of May" as per the terms of reference.
    "But government sources said it was being put on hold until Wednesday because it was not ready for publishing.
    "They now say it has been delayed further because it is in "close proximity to the current situation in America" and it would be a "bad combination" if it was released amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
    "One Whitehall source told Sky News: "The government won't be able to put this out without concrete and solid next steps."
    Of course this is exactly what they did.

  • University Hospitals to cut pay of all doctors, including those working on coronavirus frontlines From the US, Cleveland Metro report on the latest contortions of the US health care market in response to Covid-19: "University Hospitals has temporarily cut the pay of doctors treating patients by 7%, including physicians working on the frontlines to care for coronavirus patients.
    "Doctors will receive a 10% drop in pay for any administrative work they do. Clinical leaders will also receive a 10% pay reduction.
    "The move to slash doctor’s pay comes after the hospital system in April slashed the hours and pay of 4,100 workers not directly involved in patient care by 20% for 10 weeks.
    "University Hospitals blamed the most recent pay cuts pay cuts on budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic. It’s spent more than $30 million to cover an increased need for labor, supplies and operations."

  • Government censored BAME covid-risk review June 2 article in HSJ: “The government removed a key section from Public Health England’s review of the relative risk of covid-19 to specific groups, HSJ has discovered. The report was published on Tuesday.
    “The review reveals the virus poses a greater risk to those who are older, male and overweight. The risk is also described as “disproportionate” for those with Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities. It makes no attempt to explain why the risk to BAME groups should be higher.
    “An earlier draft of the review which was circulated within government last week contained a section which included responses from the 1,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence to the review. Many of these suggested that discrimination and poorer life chances were playing a part in the increased risk of covid-19 to those with BAME backgrounds. HSJ understands this section was an annexe to the report but could also stand alone.
    “… One source with knowledge of the review said the section “did not survive contact with Matt Hancock’s office” over the weekend.”

  • UK coronavirus death toll passes 50,000, official figures show Guardian report June 2: “The UK reached a grim milestone in its battle with coronavirus on Tuesday, as the death toll passed 50,000, according to official figures.
    “… The UK death toll is higher than the other worst-affected countries in Europe: Italy, France and Spain, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and the number of people killed by coronavirus in the UK since it emerged in China in January is only currently surpassed by the United States.
    “The number of deaths registered in England and Wales with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 reached 44,401 by 22 May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but when more recent figures from the NHS and from statistics authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are added in, the tally hits 50,032.”

  • We cannot continue to run our health service focused solely on the short term June 2 Public Finance article by Anita Charlesworth of Health Foundation concludes:
    "It would be wrong to conclude that the Covid-19 experience means efficiency doesn’t matter, but it does highlight that however efficient our system, the overall level of funding and capacity matters even more.
    "… But there also needs to be a more nuanced and comprehensive view of system efficiency which extends beyond the narrow prism of short-term delivery of certain front-line services to include system resilience. "

  • Huge drop in overseas nurses (£) HSJ Exclusive June 1 notes: "The number of overseas nurses who joined the UK nursing and midwifery register on a permanent basis fell dramatically in April — but a large number signed up to work during the covid-19 crisis under special rules.
    "Figures collected by the Nursing and Midwifery Council show a drop from 1,348 overseas nurses joining its “permanent register” in March, to just 35 in April. There were also more than 1,000 in both January and February, with more overseas than English permanent registrants in those months.
    "It suggests the global outbreak, as predicted, severely restricted the flow of overseas nurses, which played a big part of NHS and government hopes for bolstering total numbers."

  • Almost a week now since Govt has been able to say how many people are being tested June 1 graphic and comment from digital journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw: "This is how many tests have been done, and those that were sent out in May
    "In the last week of April the Government changed the counting criteria so they could add "delivered tests" to their daily testing figures. This chart separates the two types of counting, as well as "surveillance" tests.
    "Figures on "people tested" do not include the same breakdown, so although these are shown below they are less reliable. The statistics regulator has urged Matt Hancock to improve the level of detail provided in testing data."

  • Exercise Cygnus: NHS doctor's legal bid to force Government to release papers on pandemic preparedness (£) Telegraph June 1: "An NHS doctor has launched a judicial review of the Government's refusal to reveal the full findings of a secret simulation designed to test the UK's preparedness for a pandemic.
    "Dr Moosa Qureshi filed a claim against Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, in the High Court on Monday. Dr Qureshi and his legal team are seeking to force the Government to release the full findings of Exercise Cygnus, a cross-governmental dry run carried out in late 2016.
    "The Department of Health has repeatedly refused to publish Cygnus, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardise the ability of civil servants to speak freely behind the scenes.
    "However, a document setting out the broad conclusions of Cygnus was leaked to newspapers last month. It revealed that the Government had been forewarned of the likely impact of a new disease on care homes.
    "Whitehall insiders have also disclosed that Cygnus warned that the NHS might be overwhelmed in the event of a pandemic amid shortages of critical care beds, mortuary places and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers."

  • Easing Covid-19 shielding in England 'risks second wave' Guardian June 1: “Care home operators have warned that easing Covid-19 shielding restrictions for 2.2 million vulnerable people risks a second wave of infections, as it emerged that government scientific advisers who previously warned against such a move were not asked to reconsider the matter.
    “New guidance allows the “clinically extremely vulnerable” to go outside and, if they live alone, meet one friend from Monday. They include many in long-term care facilities for elderly people, as well as those with chronic illnesses living at home.
    “Strict isolation rules were expected to stay in place for at least another two weeks. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned in April that “lifting the policy of shielding the vulnerable would … lead to a sharp increase in hospitalisation, ICU admissions, and the death rates within this age group”.
    “… The sudden relaxation of the rules this weekend appeared to surprise many health officials. NHS England’s primary care medical director, Nikki Kanani, indicated on Twitter that she was not told in advance.”

  • Here to stay? How the NHS will have to learn to live with coronavirus Nigel Edwards of Nuffield Trust in an interesting discussion paper on future of the NHS now that Covid-19 has shaken things up:
    "Now, as the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions gradually declines, policy attention is turning to how the NHS can restart some more routine activities, with hospitals beginning to resume elective surgery and cancer treatments. But doing this while living alongside Covid-19 will involve major practical challenges that will need to be overcome.
    "It will inevitably have a large negative impact on the ability of the NHS to deliver what it was able to offer previously.
    "This could mean the public having to accept reduced services, health and care staff facing continued and long-term changes to their ways of working, and difficult choices
    ahead for policymakers in accepting a degree of rationing of health care that would previously have been seen as unacceptable. "

  • Critics round on No 10 over 'ridiculous' rules for 14-day quarantine Guardian June 1 report: "Tens of thousands of new arrivals to the UK will be able to go food shopping, change accommodation and use public transport from airports during a 14-day quarantine imposed to prevent a second wave of coronavirus, under draft plans to be laid before parliament.
    "The Guardian understands that about a fifth of people are expected to receive a spot-check to ensure that they are staying at the address or addresses they have provided to the authorities, but enforcement of the quarantine will be limited.
    "The rules, still being finalised and due to be published on Tuesday before coming into effect next week, have prompted cross-party concerns about the potentially limited impact on public health amid warnings of the severe damage that could be caused to the travel and aviation industry."

  • Almost two-thirds of care homes have had no staff tested, data shows - despite government's promise of universal testing by early June Independent May 31: "Only 15 per cent of care home staff have been tested for coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, according to data which suggests the government is failing to meet a key target.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock pledged on 15 May that every elderly resident and member of staff in England would be tested by “early June”.
    "However research by the Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software revealed that by 27 May nearly two-thirds of homes had still not had any staff members tested.
    "Just six per cent of care home staff were tested in the seven days leading up to that date.
    “The rate of testing of care home staff has picked up in the last week but is still far too slow to get close to the target set by the government,” said Simon Briscoe, director of T-DAB."

  • How a decade of privatisation and cuts exposed England to coronavirus Major May 31 investigation by The Guardian begins "“Let’s not forget,” Boris Johnson said in early March, near the start of the coronavirus crisis, “we already have a fantastic NHS, fantastic testing systems and fantastic surveillance of the spread of disease.”
    “Yet those who have experienced the government’s emerging testing and tracing operations for Covid-19 have had limited contact with the NHS. Instead, Britons with symptoms are directed to a network of 50 drive-through testing centres, set up by management consultants at Deloitte.
    “Upon arrival, patients are marshalled not by NHS staff, but workers in hi-vis jackets supplied by outsourcing companies, such as Serco, G4S, Mitie and Sodexo. Those who cannot make the drive have received postal test kits, processed by the private diagnostics company Randox and delivered by Amazon.
    “When contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus finally moved up the agenda in late April, the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said the job would be done with an as–yet unproven NHS app. The app has been developed by private firms for NHSX, the technology wing of the health service, which is also responsible for a Covid-19 government data operation involving tech companies Palantir, Faculty, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
    “On Thursday the government finally launched its long-awaited NHS Test and Trace Service. But despite the name, many of the 25,000 contact tracers tracking those potentially exposed to Covid-19 and advising them to self-isolate will be working not for the NHS, but rather the outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel.”

  • ADPH Presidential Blog: A time for steady leadership, careful preparation and measured steps Association of Directors of Public Health May 31 President’s blog:
    “We are at a critical moment. We need to weigh up the balance of risks between easing restrictions, to enable more pupils to return to school, more businesses to open and more social connections to happen, with the risk of causing a resurgence of infections.
    “Directors of Public Health are increasingly concerned that the Government is misjudging this balancing act and lifting too many restrictions, too quickly.
    “This is a new disease; evidence is still emerging and there is much uncertainty. However, based on what is currently known, several leading scientists and public health experts have spoken out about a string of recent national policy announcements affecting England which project a degree of confidence that many – including ADPH members – do not think is supported by the science.
    “Over the weekend we have seen signs that the public is no longer keeping as strictly to social distancing as it was – along with this, we are concerned that the resolve on personal hygiene measures, and the need to immediately self-isolate, if symptomatic, is waning. A relentless effort to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events is essential.
    “… The Government has set five tests, each of which must be regularly reviewed as restrictions are adjusted and eased. Here is our current assessment…”

  • COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable Government guidance - issued at 10.33pm on May 31, to guide behaviour on June 1.

  • Care homes mentioned only twice in five months of Sage minutes Independent report, May 31: “The government’s top scientific advisers discussed care homes only twice between January and May, according to newly published minutes.
    “Records for meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, which is the key group of experts advising ministers on how to react to the Covid-19 outbreak, reveal a lack of discussion about the risks facing care homes.
    “Between January and May, Sage minutes mention care homes only twice, before the start of lockdown in the UK and weeks before the numbers of deaths made headlines across the country.
    “… James Bullion, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services said the publication of the minutes "appears to reinforce the impression that social care has been an afterthought – a secondary consideration after the NHS. This cannot continue."

  • The silence of the chief scientists is worrying and deeply political New Statesman 31 may comment begins: "In the astonishing UK government update on the pandemic on the evening of Thursday 28 May, we watched the relationship between government and science collapse before our eyes.
    "Much of the media coverage has focused on Boris Johnson’s muzzling of his chief medical officer (CMO) Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser (CSA) Patrick Vallance, as he intervened to prevent them from answering questions about the public health repercussions of Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown rules. But that much was business as usual: we should by now be used to this increasingly isolated prime minister shutting down inconvenient debate.
    "Far more troubling to those who care about the role of scientific advice during the coronavirus crisis was the servile response from those two scientists."

  • Why I quit working on Boris Johnson's ‘world-beating' test-and-tracing system Guardian May 30 anonymous account of working in privatised "track and trace": "The self-led courses were very basic – with some generic dos and don’ts about customer data, security and so on. I completed it all in less than one and a half hours, with a score of 95%+.
    "The next morning I was worried, and feeling very unprepared. I felt the job was an important thing to do. But it was essential to get this right, and I didn’t really understand the role and how to use the systems. I logged in and saw a message saying I would be invited to a chatroom and to please wait.
    "I waited seven and a half hours (my entire shift). I called the HR helpline after about one hour and was told to relax – everyone is waiting.
    "The next day I was scheduled to work again. This time, I was invited to a chatroom. I recognised many of the names in the group from my training, so knew the other people were also new. Many people were writing, “Did anyone do anything yesterday?” “Do we just wait?” “What are we waiting for?”
    "… [Wednesday] night I saw someone from the track-and-trace programme had spoken to the BBC, and noted that their group had spent the day watching Netflix or playing games online. Having spent days feeling frustrated, I started to feel dejected too.
    Two days later I logged in for my weekend shift and discovered nothing had changed – and that I had clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing."

  • UK abandoned testing because system 'could only cope with five coronavirus cases a week' (£) Telegraph, losing patience with government handling of pandemic, in May 30 revelation: “Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.
    “Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.
    “At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.
    “Advisors then agreed it was "sensible" to shift to stopping routine testing - despite acknowledging that such a decision would “generate a public reaction”.
    “The decision to give up on testing those with symptoms of coronavirus is now seen as the key reason the UK has the highest death toll in Europe.”

  • Jennifer Arcuri warns against using NHS tracking app over data security fears Mirror May 30 report: "Boris Johnson’s alleged ex-mistress is advising against using the NHS coronavirus tracking app. Jennifer Arcuri, who gave him technology lessons at her flat, said: “There is no way I would download that app.”
    "The app, which may eventually hold data on millions of Brits, is set to be rolled out across the UK after its Isle of Wight trial.
    "Ms Arcuri, 35, raised her fears in an exclusive interview.
    She said: “The Government can say they’re doing the best to keep it secure, there’s just no guarantee it’s 100 per cent secure or the data is going to be kept secure, encrypted and used only for this.
    “I don’t think people should give away their freedoms.”

  • WHY WE NEED A #PEOPLESVACCINE – With Achal Prabhala and Mohga Kamal-Yanni Podcast May 30. A vaccine against COVID-19 is humanity’s best shot at ending this painful pandemic. But how can we ensure that a vaccine is available to all people, all countries, free of charge?
    We talk about the need for a #PeoplesVaccine, what to do about the big pharma monopolies and vaccine nationalism that stand in the way and what we can learn from iconic struggles to fight for access to medicines like the victories by HIV/AIDS activists.

  • Matt Hancock's obsession with hospitals has warped priorities and cost lives Guardian May 29 broadside at Matt Hancock's miserable record on Covid-19, by Richard Vize: "The health and social care secretary’s appearance at the 5pm briefing on Wednesday to finally announce the test and trace system in England showcased the flaws that have undermined the effectiveness of the entire coronavirus response: seeing everything through the lens of the NHS, marginalising and ignoring local government, and throwing money at private companies to fill the gaps left by public sector cuts.
    "The “NHS track and trace system” largely consists of thousands of people working in Serco call centres, for which the training has been so haphazard that the company’s chief executive has issued a video apology. Painting NHS lipstick on it is supposed to give people confidence it will work. Unheralded, much of the work will fall to local government public health teams.
    "And yet again Hancock delivered a calculated snub to councils, refusing to acknowledge their contribution in a thank-you list that included businesses.
    "Hancock knows all about shielding the vulnerable: he has been using the NHS as his personal human shield from the start. Setting himself up as the champion of the health service, the “protect the NHS” mantra quickly became pivotal to his entire approach to the pandemic. This warped priorities and cost lives, as the government initially decided to treat the sickness rather than prevent the illness."

  • NHS ordered to rush out ‘meaningless’ covid antibody tests ahead of PM’s deadline HSJ (May 29) flags up more government jiggery pokery with testing figures: “NHS pathology labs have been given just two days to roll out thousands of antibody tests, amid a push to reach a covid-19 testing target set out by Boris Johnson.
    “Earlier this month the Prime Minister set a target of having a testing capacity of 200,000 per day by the end of May. Capacity currently stands at 161,000, Matt Hancock has said.
    “… On 27 May, NHS England and Improvement wrote to local leaders giving them two days’ notice to put in place testing capacity for, and deliver, thousands of antibody tests of staff and patients.
    “… One head of pathology at a trust said: “There is one obvious answer as to why there is suddenly such an urgency to roll this out. While it will be interesting to have the results, there is nothing meaningful we can do with this test data at the moment.”
    “Another trust director involved in the scheme described the antibody tests as having “no clinical value”.”

  • Matt Hancock Faces Second Warning Over Coronavirus Test Figures Huffington Post (May 29) flags up another impending official warning against cooking the statistical books on testing:
    "Britain’s statistics watchdog is expected to warn Matt Hancock that it still has concerns about government figures for daily Covid-19 tests, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "Hancock is in a race against time to hit Boris Johnson’s target of 200,000 daily tests by Monday, as part of the wider goal to get a “world beating” test-and-trace system in place by June 1 to ease the country’s path out of lockdown.
    "But with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) not expected to publish statistics on capacity until Sunday, just hours before the deadline, critics fear the target could be achieved by new moves to “artificially” inflate the figures.
    "Sir David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, told Hancock on May 11 that he had concerns about the “trustworthiness” of the way the government was presenting and counting its numbers of tests for the virus."

  • Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England – Sage advisers Guardian May 29: "Government advisers have voiced unease over the decision to lift England’s lockdown while thousands of people a day are still becoming infected with the coronavirus, warning that loosening restrictions could easily lead to a second wave.
    “We cannot relax our guard by very much at all,” said John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who attends meetings of Sage, the scientific advisory group on emergencies.
    "There are still 8,000 new infections every day in England without counting those in hospitals and care homes, Edmunds said. “If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.” World Health Organization statistics suggest it is the fifth highest in the world."

  • ‘40,000 excess deaths could have been avoided if government had acted responsibly’ – Prof Sir David King Channel 4 News interview (May 29) with Sir David King – a former government Chief Scientific Adviser. He leads a group of scientists who have been critical of the government’s approach to combating the virus. The interview begins by asking him what impact the easing of the lockdown will have on fears of a second wave.