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

  • (31 Mar 2022) Why is the UK seeing near-record Covid cases? We still believe the three big myths about Omicron Important Guardian article March 30 begins:
    "We’re living in two realities: one in which people have returned to living life as if Covid is over, and the other in which we are approaching record levels of infections, with an estimated 4.26m cases last week. Most of us know people who have Covid, work and education are being disrupted, and the NHS is under severe pressure again due to new patients and sick staff. Admissions with Covid are only 2% below the first Omicron peak two months ago and still rising. "

  • (31 Mar 2022) Nation’s mental health hampered by Commons’ rejection of workforce amendment Royal College of Psychiatrists (March 31) joins the chorus of bodies and individuals slamming the government's refusal to take the NHS workforce crisis seriously:
    “Despite a strong campaign by the College and over 100 other organisations, the House of Commons has rejected an amendment requiring the Government to publish regular independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers.
    “The amendment to the Health and Care Bill requires the Secretary of State to report every two years: …
    “Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
    “We’re disappointed that the House of Commons has rejected this crucial amendment. The nation’s mental health relies on long-term planning, yet successive governments have failed to take decisive action to tackle staff shortages.
    “If the NHS is to avoid lurching from one crisis to another, health leaders must be able to predict where doctors, nurses and care staff are most urgently needed.”

  • (27 Mar 2022) Government paid firm linked to Tory peer £122m for PPE bought for £46m Guardian March 27 with another revelation of the scale of gross profiteering from crony contracts:
    "PPE the government bought for £122m from a company linked to the Tory peer Michelle Mone was purchased from the Chinese manufacturer for just £46m.
    "The extraordinary profits apparently made by PPE Medpro and its partners in the supply chain are revealed in documents leaked to the Guardian, including contracts and an inspection report for sterile surgical gowns supplied by the firm.
    "Despite being bought at the start of the pandemic and delivered in 2020, the 25m gowns were never used by the NHS after government officials rejected them following an inspection."

  • (27 Mar 2022) Coronavirus keeps 200,000 pupils out of school as infection levels near record highs Canary article March 27:
    “Some 200,000 children are off school in England due to coronavirus (Covid-19), the education secretary said. He also promised more details on rapid testing this week when universal free provision is stopped. It comes as infection levels have approached record highs in England.
    “Nadhim Zahawi said further information about lateral flow tests will be set out on 1 April, when mass free testing will end in England. The government has said free tests will only be made available to the most vulnerable. But an education union has said removing free access when coronavirus cases are high “feels irresponsible”.”

  • (24 Mar 2022) Private emails reveal Gove’s role in Tory-linked firm’s PPE deals Guardian March 24:
    “Michael Gove was secretly involved in the process through which a PPE company linked to the Tory peer Michelle Mone secured huge government contracts, according to newly released documents that show private emails being used for government business.
    “The correspondence threatens to embroil Gove in the deepening controversy surrounding PPE Medpro, the company awarded government contracts worth £203m after it was referred to the “high-priority lane” for well connected companies.
    “They will also add to the growing scepticism over Lady Mone’s repeated insistence that she was not involved with the company, and cast further doubt on statements made on her behalf by her lawyers.”

  • (24 Mar 2022) 1.3 million Brits will be pushed into absolute poverty next year, think tank claims Politics.co.uk March 24 focusing on the impact of the budget on the poorest, which will inevitably rebound also on their health and future demand for the NHS:
    “Progressive think tank the Resolution Foundation have accused the chancellor of failing to deliver on his promises to cut taxes and help families in yesterday’s Spring Statement.
    […]
    “The analysis claims that the scale of the cost of living squeeze is such that typical working-age household incomes are to set to fall by 4 per cent in real-terms next year (2022-23), a loss of £1,100, while the largest falls will be among the poorest quarter of households where incomes are set to fall by 6 per cent.
    “The report also estimates that absolute poverty will rise by 1.3 million, including 500,000 children – the first time Britain has seen such a rise outside of recessions.”

  • (24 Mar 2022) The Messenger Review of health and social care leadership: what must it address? NHS Confederation March 24 with a report anticipating a new review of NHS leadership by a former general – but studiously avoiding any mention of the dire shortage of capital and revenue funding to get services back on track and the government and NHS England’s abject failure to address the staffing problems with 110,000 vacant posts and the immediate threat of a real terms pay cut for the 1 million staff in post:
    “The review should emphasise the new operating environment we are moving into through integrated care systems (ICSs) and place-based partnerships. The focus on integration, collaboration and more blurred organisational boundaries will require different leadership characteristics than those incentivised by a system driven by marketisation and competition. The review should address and begin to explore the new skills and systems-focused mindset that will need to be ‘hard-wired’ into those in leadership positions within the NHS – much of which is already in evidence across the country.
    “Key to developing effective system leadership will be establishing a culture of learning and improvement, with less emphasis on top-down performance management.”

  • (23 Mar 2022) Did the COVID lockdowns work? Here’s what we know two years on Article in The Conversation March 23 notes:
    “Despite substantial variability across countries, there’s little doubt that lockdowns successfully slowed COVID’s spread in spring 2020, reducing cases in the first wave. There’s enough evidence to show that countries and regions that quickly introduced substantial and multiple restrictions also had fewer cases and deaths. Compare New Zealand’s and the UK’s responses.
    “In both cases the introduction of lockdown regulations resulted in a rapid drop in mobility. Reported cases peak soon after. Deaths in turn took another week or two to respond.
    “But New Zealand responded very quickly to its first reported case, with its lockdown introduced well before the first death in the country. Its resulting case numbers and deaths were low. In contrast, the UK delayed its lockdown response until almost two weeks after its first death.”

  • (23 Mar 2022) The claim that the NHS ‘coped’ with Covid is not true - it’s drowning and damaged Rachel Clarke article in The Guardian March 23:
    “The truth is, Covid caused a collapse of healthcare as we know it – in both the first and subsequent waves. The NHS was overwhelmed.…
    “NHS staff threw everything they had at increasing ICU capacity, but England’s starting point was only 4,000 critical care beds – one of the lowest numbers per head of any country in Europe. …
    “The service did not cope so much as shut down. In the frantic scramble to claw together as many ventilated beds as possible, surgical procedures in their thousands were cancelled. Cancers were left undiagnosed. Vulnerable patients dug in at home, too fearful or obedient to present to hospital. …
    “As for that “protective ring” Matt Hancock would later try to claim he threw around care homes, it was pure fiction. We all know what really happened to care home residents. Ignored and overlooked, they died in their thousands, not so much “cocooned” – as the government claimed – but incarcerated with Covid.”

  • (22 Mar 2022) Stop the decline: NHS needs £20bn now Pre-spring statement article by HCT Editor John Lister in Labour Outlook March 22:
    “Rishi Sunak’s spending review last October boasted of an increase in funding averaging 3.8 percent in the next three years: but this is barely the amount needed just to keep pace with rising costs and increased demand, and does nothing to address the backlog of under-funding.
    “Much of the increase is already being wiped out by soaring energy bills and cost inflation. Even more would be eaten up by any significant pay award to 1 million-plus NHS staff, since even the miserly 2-3% increase proposed by the government is not fully funded, and inflation is expected to hit 8%.
    “Sunak even told health secretary Sajid Javid there’s no money for a further round of booster jabs to fight Covid without making cuts in other services.
    “But for the ‘extra’ money it has been given the NHS is somehow also expected to cut waiting lists and deliver 30% more elective treatment by 2024-25 than before the pandemic.
    “Last autumn, just after Sunak had announced the “settlement,” an NHS Confederation survey found almost 90% of trust bosses already believed the pressures on their organisation had become ‘unsustainable,’ putting patient safety at risk, and that the NHS was at a “tipping point.” Since then it’s all got much worse.”

  • (22 Mar 2022) Covid: Pupil absence more than triples in two weeks TES report March 22 on a resurgence of Covid in schools
    “The Department for Education's latest attendance data, published today, reveals that Covid-related pupil absence in all state-funded schools rose from 58,000 on 3 March (0.7 per cent) to 202,000 (2.5 per cent) on 17 March.
    “Covid-related pupil absences rose faster in primary settings, increasing by 264 per cent (from 33,200 to 120,900) in just a fortnight. …
    “The data also revealed that almost one in 10 teachers and school leaders (48,000) were absent for any reason on 17 March.
    “This figure has risen by 55 per cent in two weeks, compared with 3 March, when 31,000 (5.8 per cent) were absent.”

  • (22 Mar 2022) NHS campaigners to deliver 170,000-strong petition to Downing Street calling for increased funding Morning Star article March 22:
    “HEALTH workers and campaigners from the alliance SOS NHS are set to join MPs on Tuesday to deliver a petition of over 170,000 signatures to Downing Street.
    “The petition calls on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver increased NHS funding ahead of the spring Budget on Wednesday.
    “Campaigners hope to raise awareness of the urgent need for extra money to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and obtain fairer pay for health workers during a recruitment and retention crisis.”

  • (21 Mar 2022) NHS told to double efficiency in ‘crackdown’ on ‘wasteful’ spending Nursing Notes March 21:
    “The NHS has had its efficiency targets doubled in a Treasury “crackdown” on “wasteful” spending. In an announcement over the weekend, Chancellor Rishi Sunak committed to reducing “wasteful” spending across all public sectors.
    “… The plans include doubling the current NHS savings target to 2.2%, with a target of making £4.75 billion in savings, the chancellor claims.
    “… Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the [NHS Confederation], warned; “Efficiency is strongly linked to capacity and the NHS is operating at well over the occupancy levels it would want to. You can’t run a highly efficient service with bed occupancy levels at such a continued high level.”

  • (21 Mar 2022) Mental health trust blames Covid for failures over Norwich student’s death Eastern Daily Press March 21 with yet another failure of care from the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust:
    “A mental health trust has admitted a Norwich student did not receive the help she needed in the months before she took her own life.
    “Tobi Stevens, 19, a publishing design student at Norwich University of the Arts, was found dead on December 4, 2020, at her flat at New Mills Yard after friends became concerned for her welfare.
    … “Assistant coroner Johanna Thompson said … “Tobi was in the system but she was not flagged as urgent,” she said. “By the time she was eventually seen she was assessed as being at medium risk of suicide and at high risk of misadventure.”
    “The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) carried out an internal investigation which found a number of failures in her assessment and treatment, the inquest heard.”

  • (18 Mar 2022) UK hospitals ranked from best to worst across the country - see list in full Mirror report March 18 on a rather mysterious study of UK hospitals by the American-owned magazine Newsweek, with no explanation of the criteria on which they have been compared. The high rating of Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital seems to suggest that long waiting times for treatment are not taken into account: the trust has the worst waiting lists in the country.
    “During the past two years, UK hospitals have been at the front line of the fight against Covid-19 with a time of huge upheaval, change and adaption for many medical institutions, with some faring better than others.
    Now Newsweek has completed a study in which the hospitals have been ranked from best to worse.
    The best ranked is St Thomas' Hospital in London while the worst ranked is Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Devon.”

  • (18 Mar 2022) Ahead of the spring statement, let’s keep fighting to end Tory privatisation and under-funding in our NHS HCT Editor John Lister's speech to March 16 SOSNHS campaign rally, reproduced in Labour Outlook (March 18)
    “Real terms Tory cuts in spending every year since 2010 have left an enormous financial hole to fill. That’s why SOSNHS is calling out the government’s deliberate under-funding. Now, in every plan that comes forward, the government are using lack of NHS capacity as a justification for ever greater spending on private hospitals and private providers.
    “Spending on private providers went up a staggering 26% in 2020 – £2.5bn – in a year as contracts were signed with private hospitals which we know were rotten value for money.
    “The private hospitals pocketed profits – while 5,000 NHS beds have remained unused since March 2020 for lack of cash to remodel wards and buildings for social distancing and infection control.”

  • (17 Mar 2022) ‘Betting against the NHS’: £1bn private hospital to open in central London Guardian March 17 with a report on an extravagant new US-owned private hospital being completed in London that seems aimed at capturing a slice of the lucrative health tourism business from the NHS as Covid restrictions on travel are lifted, rather than treating NHS patients at much lower rates:
    “A new 184-bed private hospital is about to open in London, the second-largest in the capital, where patients will enjoy views of Buckingham Palace and will be treated by doctors understood to be paid up to £350,000 a year.
    “… The opening of the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic’s first London hospital at the end of this month comes at a time when the private health sector is booming. With 29 intensive care unit beds and eight operating theatres staffed by 1,200 people, the eight-storey site – estimated by analysts to have cost £1bn – will add to concerns about the emergence of a two-tier healthcare system.”

  • (17 Mar 2022) Dying patients living longer than expected lose NHS funds BBC News story (March 17) that really should not shock us any more, but still does, not least in the casual cynicism of the NHS response:
    “More than 1,300 patients a year are having NHS funding for their palliative care withdrawn after living longer than expected, BBC analysis shows.
    “Terminally-ill or rapidly-declining patients are given fast-track support, allowing them to live outside hospital.
    “From 2018 to 2021, a total of 9,037 people had this funding reviewed in England and Wales, with 47% of them losing all support.
    “The NHS said patient eligibility was assessed in line with government rules.”

  • (14 Mar 2022) Shropshire hospitals trust declares another critical incident BBC report March 14 raises yet again the question of how the Trust expects to cope if they ever get the funding to carry through their “Future Fit” project to centralise emergency services in Shrewsbury:
    “The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said it was pausing "a very limited number" of non-urgent services, after "exceptionally high" demand.
    Urgent services, including cancer, and time-critical procedures will continue.
    "The trust, which apologised, asked people to attend appointments unless they were contacted to reschedule.
    "Chief Operating Officer Nigel Lee said the trust had seen a "continued high level of demand" and had been particularly busy since Saturday, especially in A&E."

  • (16 Feb 2022) Matt Hancock broke rules with Dido Harding Covid appointment, court finds Independent report Feb 16 begins:
    “Former health secretary Matt Hancock broke equality law when appointing Conservative peer Dido Harding to an emergency health job during the Covid crisis, the High Court has ruled.
    “Judges ruled that then-health secretary Matt Hancock failed to comply with public sector equality duty in the process of appointing Baroness Harding and her ex-Sainsbury colleague Mike Coupe to senior posts in 2020.
    “It marks a victory for the Runnymede Trust following the think tank’s legal battle over appointments – having argued that the jobs were handed out without fair competition.”

  • (15 Feb 2022) Doctors' concerns about the future of Medicare Feb 15 letter to US health Secretary Xavier Becerra from American campaigners Physicians for a National Health Program, warning of the dangers of implementing Trump-era reforms that could further privatise the publicly-funded Medicare system:
    “We are a group of 24,000 physicians and other health professionals who are deeply concerned about a threat to Traditional Medicare (TM). The Direct Contracting (DC) pilot program, initiated under President Trump but continued under President Biden, is handing control of TM beneficiaries’ health care to third-party middlemen called Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs); DCEs include firms controlled by commercial insurers, for-profit hospital and dialysis chains, and private equity investors.
    “…Because of the industry influence during the program’s development, as well as the dangerous incentives for DCEs to earn greater profits by restricting patient care, we believe that superficial tweaks and cosmetic changes will not alter DC’s fundamental flaws.”

  • (15 Feb 2022) Covid impact in poorer areas of England and Wales ‘worse than first thought’ Guardian Feb 15 article highlighting a new research report:
    “Comparing the number of deaths during the pandemic with data from previous years can shed light on its impact, researchers said, but looking at excess deaths alone underestimates years of life lost and does not account for the differences in ages at which people die in different social groups.
    “In the new study, led by the University of Manchester, researchers measured years of life lost attributable to the pandemic – directly or indirectly, as well as excess deaths. Years of life lost is a strong measure of premature mortality because it takes into account both the number of deaths and the age at which they occur.
    “The findings of the new analysis are striking, researchers say, and suggest the true toll of the pandemic has been even deadlier in poorer areas than initially thought. …
    “Between March and December 2020, 1,645 years of life were lost per 100,000 of the population in the most deprived areas of England and Wales. In the most affluent areas, 916 years of life were lost per 100,000 people. The figures mean that almost twice as many years of life were lost in the very poorest areas of the country compared with the wealthiest.”

  • (15 Feb 2022) Doctors call for action not words from NHS in response to racial inequality report Guardian Feb 15 report on continued inaction:
    “The Guardian revealed how a damning study – the largest of its kind – had found “vast” and “widespread” inequity in every aspect of healthcare it reviewed, and warned that this was harming the health of minority ethnic patients in England.
    “In response, an NHS spokesperson said the health service was “already taking action” to improve the experiences of patients and access to services and was working “to drive forward” the recommendations made in the report.
    “However, Dr JS Bamrah, a consultant psychiatrist in Greater Manchester and national chairman of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said he was unsatisfied with the response.
    “‘This 166-page review … is a terrible indictment of the current state of the NHS,” he told the Guardian. “As many of us have often said and reported, we don’t need any further reports. It’s action we need, as there are scores of patients who are not getting optimal treatment, and many are being neglected’.”

  • (15 Feb 2022) Free PCR tests to end 'in weeks' with new £100 fees to hit Brits, claim reports Mirror report Feb 15:
    “Boris Johnson will end free PCR tests "within weeks" and is drawing up plans to make the public pay £100 to find out if they have Covid, it is reported.
    “Part of the new approach of living with Covid, the new costs will come in as the Treasury pushes to save billions of pounds by scrapping free testing.
    “Vulnerable people and those in hospital will continue to get the testing for free.
    “The government is looking at different options about a new system this week before making a final call, say reports.
    “The Prime Minister is keen to get rid of all Covid restrictions, including the need to self-isolate, by the end of February.”

  • (14 Feb 2022) Why numbers matter Another excellent BMJ blog by Dr Helen Salisbury, Feb 14, warns:
    “Just as measuring something can highlight its importance, failure to do so can suggest the opposite. And ceasing to measure something that used to be regularly monitored and reported sends a strong message.
    “Since we’re no longer required to do a confirmatory PCR test after a positive lateral flow, the only reliable count of covid-19 infections in the UK now comes from a weekly survey by the Office for National Statistics.
    “Last week we learnt that not only does the government intend to stop publishing daily coronavirus statistics but the survey itself may be stopped in April—meaning that we’ll be flying blind as to the prevalence of infection, the emergence of mutations, and the ongoing risk to our vulnerable patients.”

  • (12 Feb 2022) Next Covid strain could kill many more, warn scientists ahead of England restrictions ending Guardian Feb 12:
    “A future variant of Covid-19 could be much more dangerous and cause far higher numbers of deaths and cases of serious illness than Omicron, leading UK scientists have warned.
    “As a result, many of them say that caution needs to be taken in lifting the last Covid restrictions in England, as Boris Johnson plans to do next week.
    “At the same time, demands are growing for Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the government’s most senior advisers on Covid, to hold a press conference to reveal what evidence there was to back the decision to end all pandemic restrictions.
    “The dangers posed by accepting the widespread assumption that Covid-19 variants would continue to get milder in their impact was highlighted by epidemiologist Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University.”

  • (30 Jan 2022) PPE worth £2.7bn bought for NHS will go unused, minister says Guardian Jan 30:
    “Almost 5bn items of personal protective equipment worth £2.7bn will be wasted as they are no longer needed or cannot safeguard NHS staff, ministers have revealed.
    “The huge sum of money involved has prompted the Liberal Democrats to accuse the government of “extreme negligence on an industrial scale” in its use of public funds during the pandemic.
    “The revelation came in a written parliamentary answer by the health minister Edward Argar.…
    “Argar said the government’s PPE programme had ordered more than 36.4bn items since the pandemic struck in March 2020. “Of this, approximately 3.4bn units are currently identified as potential excess stock. The estimated price for those items is £2.2bn,” he said. The minister did not explain why so much PPE had ended up as “potential excess stock”, or define precisely what that meant.”

  • (29 Jan 2022) GPs nationalised in Javid plan to reduce hospital admissions (£) Headline of Times report Jan 29 is both exaggerated and accelerated, but indicates a clueless Health Secretary unaware of the damage he could do by further annoying and frustrating the GPs who have held primary care together through the pandemic:
    “GPs would be nationalised under plans from the health secretary to make them do more to keep patients out of hospital.
    “Sajid Javid is considering radical changes to the 70-year-old structure of the NHS that could see many family doctors directly employed by hospitals instead of running their own surgeries.
    “ … A review of primary care planned by Javid will look at how to better integrate GPs with hospital care as part of attempts to do more to stop people developing serious illness.
    “Sources insisted there would be no forcible state takeover of GPs, who are likely instead to be given incentives to link up with hospital trusts.”

  • (28 Jan 2022) Care home residents found 'shivering' with some patients bathed 'once a week' Daily Record January 28 from Lancs Live report on grim conditions at a Southport care home:
    "Care home residents were found to be "shivering" due to a lack of heating with some only bathed once a week, an inspection report has found.
    "The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that staff morale was also at "rock bottom" and blamed a failure in management and staff shortages for the list of issues.
    "Dale Park Care Home in Southport was visited by inspectors in November 2021, with the home suffering from 'inadequate' leadership and deemed as requiring improvement, as reported by Lancs Live.
    "… A spokesperson for Dale Park and HC-One Ltd apologised for the failures at the home and said that with a new management team in place, steps were being taken to make "urgent improvements."

  • (28 Jan 2022) Here's how to save the NHS £12bn... without damaging patient care: ROSS CLARK's forensic blueprint proves there are smarter ways to improve the Health Service than hitting us with a tax hike Annoying Daily Mail piece Jan 28 designed to infuriate their angriest and most ignorant readers. Spoiler alert – not many of them make any sense, but they are not as rabid as the comments that follow. The major proposals are:
    “DON'T KEEP PATIENTS IN HOSPITAL SO LONG - Saving: £2bn
    “END THE DISEASE OF BED-BLOCKING - Saving: £546m
    “STOP RELYING ON SO MANY AGENCY STAFF - Saving: £360m
    “PUT TEST AND TRACE OUT OF ITS MISERY - Saving: £7bn
    “INCREASE STAFF PRODUCTIVITY - Saving: £280m
    “MAKER BETTER USE OF BUILDINGS - Saving: £1bn”

  • (28 Jan 2022) IHSCM Hot Food for Health & Social Care Staff Survey Results Jan 28 findings of a survey by Institute of Health and Social Care Management confirming that only 28% of organisations covered supply any hot food to staff, and 38% supply no food at all for hard-working staff.

  • (27 Jan 2022) Men far more likely to die after using mental health services, data reveals Eastern Daily Press Jan 27 with more shocking facts about the Norfolk & Suffolk FT:
    “In the last two years, at least 65 people have taken their own lives after using Norfolk and Suffolk mental health services.
    “The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) which oversees mental health services revealed 320 people have died unexpectedly within six months of using their services.
    “In 111 cases the cause of death has yet to be established.
    “Data presented to the NSFT board on Thursday covers 24 months starting in December 2019, a period covering the pandemic.”

  • (25 Jan 2022) Delayed discharges worsen despite NHSE’s reduction targets (£) HSJ report Jan 25 on the complete failure to deliver an NHSE “priority”:
    “Last month, NHS England told local systems to dramatically reduce their numbers of medically fit patients who remained in hospital, as they aimed to free up beds amid a surge in covid-19 admissions fuelled by the omicron wave. It told local leaders “a significant proportion of discharge delays are within the gift of hospitals to solve”.
    “The message was reiterated by NHSE’s regional teams at the start of January, with systems told to reduce their numbers of medically fit patients by between 30 and 50 per cent.
    “Yet the proportion of ‘medically fit’ for discharge patients occupying NHS general, acute or critical care beds has also been rising, from around 12 per cent in December to around 14 per cent in mid-January.”

  • (25 Jan 2022) GMB warns G4S sick pay non-payment may lead to strikes in Croydon Hospital GMB press release January 25:
    “GMB is warning private contractor G4S denying full sick pay to workers may result in strike action.
    “Outsourcing giant G4S - which holds the cleaning and portering contract with Croydon University Hospital NHS Trust - has stopped paying covid sick pay to employees, leaving workers reliant on statutory sick pay.
    “Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “GMB Members were already angry over the removal of covid sick pay and are now absolutely incensed their employer is publicly accusing them of lying about it.
    “… Our members are understandably worried about catching covid and spreading the virus around the hospital to patients and other members of NHS staff. They could do without any additional fears about being able to pay their bills and put food on the table.”

  • (24 Jan 2022) Rich Countries Lure Health Workers From Low-Income Nations to Fight Shortages New York Times Jan 24 report on overseas recruitment and its consequences:
    “Canada is among numerous wealthy nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, that are aggressively recruiting medical workers from the developing world to replenish a health care work force drastically depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “The urgency and strong pull from high-income nations — including countries like Germany and Finland, which had not previously recruited health workers from abroad — has upended migration patterns and raised new questions about the ethics of recruitment from countries with weak health systems during a pandemic.
    “We have absolutely seen an increase in international migration,” said Howard Catton, the chief executive of the International Council of Nurses. But, he added, “The high, high risk is that you are recruiting nurses from countries that can least afford to lose their nurses.”
    “About 1,000 nurses are arriving in the United States each month from African nations, the Philippines and the Caribbean …
    “Since the middle of 2020, the number of international nurses registering to practice in the United Kingdom has swelled, “pointing toward this year being the highest in the last 30 years in terms of numbers,” said James Buchan, a senior fellow with the Health Foundation …”

  • (23 Jan 2022) Britain’s welfare system ‘unfit for purpose’ with millions struggling, experts warn Guardian report January 23 on a major root cause of ill-health amongst the poorest:
    “Britain’s welfare system is “unfit for purpose” and in urgent need of reform, experts warned on Sunday amid fears that millions more families will struggle to make ends meet amid the dual pressures of the pandemic and the spiralling cost-of-living crisis.
    “The soaring price of food and rent, along with energy bills – which are expected to more than double in April when the price cap is lifted, bringing the number of households under “fuel stress” to at least 6 million – is forcing families to choose between basic essentials such as food and heat, the experts said, while growing numbers are being forced into debt and relying on food banks.
    “The warning comes as a damning report, due to be published on Monday, calls for rapid reforms to the social security system to protect low-income families from extreme hardship as its lead author cautioned that they “don’t have any resilience left”.”

  • (22 Jan 2022) U.S. opposes plans to strengthen World Health Organization Reuters report Jan 22 on US efforts to turn the WHO into a puppet organisation controlled by big donors:
    “The United States, the World Health Organization's top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration's long-term support for the U.N. agency.
    “The proposal, made by the WHO's working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state's standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.
    “The plan is part of a wider reform process galvanised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the limitations of the WHO's power to intervene early in a crisis.
    “But the U.S. government is opposing the reform because it has concerns about the WHO's ability to confront future threats, including from China, U.S. officials told Reuters.
    “It is pushing instead for the creation of a separate fund, directly controlled by donors, that would finance prevention and control of health emergencies.”

  • (18 Jan 2022) Specialist mental health unit failures exposed by patients BBC report Jan 18 on serious concerns over the standards of specialist care being provided to patients with the most complex mental health needs:
    “Patients sent by the NHS to stay in mental health rehabilitation units say they have been placed in unsafe environments, often far from home, with untrained staff.
    “Experts say not enough is being done to regulate the sector, which costs the NHS half a billion pounds a year.
    “The units, run by both NHS and independent providers, treat at least 3,500 patients each year considered too challenging for standard hospital settings.
    “They aim to offer a specialised approach, enabling patients to recover with skills to manage their conditions and re-enter the community. But some have remained there for 10 or more years, the BBC's File on 4 programme has found.”

  • (17 Jan 2022) Collaborating on the wider determinants of health Health Foundation Jan 17:
    “… I am struck by how clearly COVID-19 has amplified the stark health inequalities within our society, underlining the need to look beyond health care and improve the many wider determinants of health – from welfare and housing to employment and transport.
    “Our recent programme, Collaborative action on the social determinants of health, has provided examples of developing capacity and understanding about the ways different sectors can influence health and wellbeing.
    “The grant programme, led by the UK Public Health Network, awarded funding to five cross-sector partnership projects able to implement front-line interventions to address the wider determinants of health.
    “… Despite the disruption from the pandemic, the five projects funded have provided valuable insights for those wanting to mobilise cross-sector action to address health inequalities.”

  • (16 Jan 2022) Better sick pay, testing and ventilation: Labour’s Covid plan to keep UK open Guardian January 16:
    “Labour will today announce ambitious plans to create a country that can “live well with Covid” without the need for future harsh restrictions, as it seeks to prevent Boris Johnson claiming credit for his record on the virus.
    “Keir Starmer said he wanted people to be able to “live their lives as normal” and never again face “tough restrictions on our lives, our livelihoods and our liberties”.
    “Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting’s 10-point plan includes measures to raise sick pay, improve testing, share vaccines worldwide and transform social care.”

  • (15 Jan 2022) BHRUT chief: Winter at trust’s hospitals ‘not notably worse’ than pre-Covid Romford Recorder January 15 with a shocking quote from the new boss of the worst-performing A&E in England, with less than 30% pf patients treated and admitted or discharged within 4 hours -- and army staff propping up its ICU.
    If this is not worse than usual what level of failure would get him upset? What must his staff think of this?
    "Matthew Trainer, chief executive at Barking, Havering and Redbridge Universities NHS Trust (BHRUT), made the comment during his report to the trust’s board on Tuesday, January 11.
    "He told the board while there were a “significant number” of Covid-19 patients at the hospital, many were “incidental Covid” patients – meaning they are being treated for other things in addition to Covid.
    "Mr Trainer also said the use of oxygen was lower than 12 months ago.
    "Additionally, latest figures from the two hospitals showed the rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations was slowing."
    Which raises the question -- why, then, is the Trust's A&E performance by far the worst in England?

  • (14 Jan 2022) Recognising how big a problem we currently have in the NHS is the beginning of trying to solve it Jan 14 BMJ article by President of the excellent Royal College of Emergency Medicine, once more trying to inject some common sense into the debate over plunging A&E performance:
    “This is not just about long waits for patients with a broken finger or minor illness. The patients who have been most adversely affected are those waiting for hospital admission.
    “There has been a huge rise in those staying for over 12 hours (NHS England persists in publishing Decision to Admit plus 12 hours despite collecting the data from arrival, but even so the November figures of 10 600 was a new record).
    “The underlying bed capacity and workforce problems are clear for everyone to see.
    “There are no quick solutions, but ambulance delays and long waits in emergency departments have consequences for morbidity and mortality, just as delayed cancer surgery or heart surgery have consequences.”

  • (14 Jan 2022) I’m a Longtime Union Organizer. But I Had Never Seen Anything Like This New York Times Guest Essay from Oregon January 14 on why staff in long-term care facilities can't take it any more.
    Last winter, workers at a memory care facility in Oregon decided they were done watching the residents suffer. The story of a lousy employer, a barbaric care home, and a brave but unsuccessful strike, in which only the strikers kept their dignity, by former union organiser Vanessa Veselka.
    “I have often wondered what makes people fight when they suspect they aren’t going to win. Here, I knew. It was for the residents.
    “I wish I could say that the Rawlin workers got their union, but they didn’t. The strike lasted for 14 days, after which many of the workers who were on strike decided to quit together. About 12 employees marched over to the facility and handed in their resignation letters in person.”

  • (14 Jan 2022) Sajid Javid signs off £1 billion private health windfall as MPs sound alarm Byline Times January 14 on the latest big bung of scarce NHS cash to private hospitals - again without and obligation on the private hospitals to treat a single patient:
    “… both the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Labour MP Meg Hillier, and her Conservative deputy, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, were furious about having not been informed about this decision sooner.
    “Quizzing Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Health and Social Care, Clifton-Brown made his scepticism clear.
    “I do not have the papers in front of me as they only just emerged this afternoon, but as I understood it from what the chair was asking, the NHS has contracted with the private sector for £75 million a month – that is £1 billion a year – before a single service is even given by the private sector. That sounds like a very expensive insurance policy, doesn’t it?” he asked, rhetorically.
    “Hillier, meanwhile, asked why plans had not already been formulated for NHS bed capacity in the event of a new variant, and why the Government had been forced to rush to the private sector.”

  • (14 Jan 2022) What is driving all cause excess mortality? BMJ Opinion piece January 14:
    "Omicron may cause fewer hospital admissions as a percentage of all cases than previous variants, largely due to higher levels of population immunity, but much of that benefit has been squandered through allowing a higher, and more rapid, rise in case rates.
    "The current overwhelming of the health and care system, and the further disruption to come, as cases and staff absences rise potentially into late January and early February 2022, is now likely to generate more avoidable deaths from non-covid causes than from covid.
    "The risk and reality of this effect is not being clearly communicated in the public domain as part of the UK’s “pandemic related mortality” reporting."

  • (13 Jan 2022) Bristol's Nightingale 'surge hub' ready to be kitted out The intro line of this Jan 13 Bristol Post article, with a picture of a vast empty marquee in Southmead Hospital car park says it all really: “Hospital bosses hope it will never be needed as questions continue about who will staff it.”
    The article takes up the same theme:
    “The day after the ‘Nightingale surge hub’ announcements, Dr Azeem Majeed said it will be difficult to find enough staff to run the temporary NHS hubs set up for overspill patients amid rising coronavirus admissions. Speaking on Times Radio, the head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London said: “It’s going to be very difficult.
    … “Hopefully those won’t be needed, but if we do need those extra beds it will be a struggle to find the staff to deal with those patients – I’m not quite sure where those staff will come from given the fact hospitals are struggling now with their current workload,” he added.”

  • (13 Jan 2022) NHS guarantees private sector at least £225m to reserve capacity in case of new covid surge HSJ Jan 13 on Sajid Javid’s instruction to NHS England to waste tens of millions by putting private hospitals “on call”:
    NHS England has guaranteed to pay independent providers around £225m between now and March to reserve capacity in case of a covid admissions surge – but the figure could rise to up to £525m if the capacity needs to be fully utilised.
    The monthly payments under the new national deal, detailed in a letter published late yesterday, will be between £75m and £90m each month until April to reserve the capacity. But if a major surge occurs and the capacity has to be released, the payments are likely to double to £175m a month.
    Both scenarios would leave the NHS “exposed financially”, NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard has warned, and the arrangement creates “a material risk that the NHS pays for activity that is not performed”.

  • (13 Jan 2022) Sending out an SOS for our NHS Labour Outlook January 13 article by HCT Editor John Lister
    “A powerful new alliance of campaigners and trade unions has launched the SOSNHS campaign, demanding an immediate injection of another £20 billion in capital and revenue to help put England’s crisis-ridden NHS back on its feet.
    “… £20 billion sounds like – and is – a lot of money: but after more than a decade of real terms freeze or cuts in NHS funding it would only be a down payment to address some of the most pressing problems. Much more investment will be needed – not least to fulfil government promises of building 48 new hospitals, expanding the workforce, and fixing social care.
    “To put £20bn in context we also need to remember the huge sums of money Rishi Sunak threw at the private sector with little or no accountability during the Covid pandemic.
    “£48bn was shelled out on ‘bounce back loans’: the National Audit Office has found that that at least 37% of loans (£17.3bn) will not be repaid, and that 11%, worth (£4.9bn) were fraudulent.
    “Billions more were squandered on dodgy deals for overpriced or useless PPE and equipment. Billions more were wasted on the disastrous privatised test and trace system.”

  • (13 Jan 2022) Peak of viral shedding is later with omicron variant, Japanese data suggest BMJ January 13 article warning that moves to cut Covid isoloation from 7 days to 5 could result in further spread of the virus:
    “Patients with the omicron variant of covid-19 shed virus for longer after symptoms emerge, show data from Japan, potentially jeopardising hopes that the period of isolation for people testing positive could be shortened.
    “Preliminary data from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases—which conducts disease surveillance in Japan—suggest that the amount of viral RNA is highest three to six days after diagnosis or symptom onset.
    “The isolation period for people testing positive for covid-19 was recently cut from 10 days to seven in England if two lateral flow tests returned negative results on days six and seven. …
    “Staff absences because of isolation have caused severe workforce shortages for critical services, including the NHS, schools, and transport, leading to calls for the UK to follow the US and cut the isolation period to five days.”

  • (12 Jan 2022) The NHS won’t ‘collapse’ Pulse Editor Jaimie Kaffash January 12 on the normalisation of NHS crisis:
    “… every year, the NHS comes out the other side, leading some commentators to claim that the NHS has coped fine – that NHS staff are the Boys Who Cried Wolf.
    “But let’s think about what this actually means. What is meant by health services ‘collapsing’ (or imploding, or anything similar)?
    “… The effects are not obvious for those of us not affected directly, and they don’t make for a great 10pm news piece. Instead, it is patients who could have been treated in time deteriorating, care being rationed so you just need to learn to deal with your condition (or go private) or staff who are unable to cope having to go through the motions because there is no one else to provide care.
    “The fact that this is part of everyday life is a tragedy that is so long in the making that it no longer feels like a tragedy, and the general public becomes desensitised to the latest shocking headlines.”

  • (12 Jan 2022) Twelve-hour A&E waits average over 400 a day, leak reveals HSJ report January 12 uses leaked data and gives comment from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine on the developing problems in A&E performance:
    “The number of ‘trolley waits’ of more than 12 hours has continued to rise into January, as senior medics warn of ‘appalling crowding’ in emergency departments.
    “Internal operational data submitted to NHS England, and seen by HSJ, suggests the number of patients who waited 12 hours or more in an emergency department, from decision to admit to being given a ward bed, increased by around 15 per cent in December, compared to the previous month.
    “The leaked data is from “situation reports” from NHS trusts, but is unvalidated. It reliably reflects the trend in 12-hour waits, but the final validated figures for December, due on Thursday, are expected to be even higher.”

  • (10 Jan 2022) Tory private health deal branded waste of money as experts fear no help for NHS Mirror report Jan 10, quoting HCT editor John Lister
    “Critics condemned the three-month arrangement with 10 health care firms which is intended to offer cancer surgery and urgent care to NHS trusts if they are overwhelmed by Covid cases.
    “Experts, campaigners and trade unions believe the new deal, backed by undisclosed amounts of taxpayers’ cash, will line multinational firms’ pockets and care for very few NHS patients.
    “They say private hospitals can only take on extra patients by poaching medics from the NHS, which needs 100,000 more staff.
    “Campaigner Dr John Lister … said: “Tory ministers now prefer to squander more millions on short-term stop-gap deals with profit-seeking private hospitals than invest in reopening thousands of NHS beds.”

  • (10 Jan 2022) NHS England strikes private hospitals deal to fight Omicron surge Guardian Jan 10:
    “Hospitals in England will be able to use private hospitals and staff under a deal with the NHS to maintain services as Omicron cases surge, avoiding delays in treatment for patients with illnesses such as cancer.
    “The move comes as hospitals have also been told to find extra beds in gyms and education centres owing to rising numbers of Covid patients.
    “The three-month agreement means private healthcare staff and facilities will be on standby to support the NHS if required and to maintain services for patients who can be referred, including some of those waiting for cancer surgery.”

  • (9 Jan 2022) Free lateral flow tests are reportedly being scrapped by the government – and people are furious Indy report Jan 9:
    "News of the UK Government reportedly planning to stop free lateral flow tests except for a number of “high-risk” settings has outraged members of the public, who have described the possible move as “reckless” and “completely and utterly dangerous”.
    "In a report which suggests the government are more interested in testing our patience than testing for coronavirus, The Sunday Times said the proposals for free tests to be limited to places such as care homes, schools and hospitals are set to be announced by Boris Johnson “within weeks”.
    "A senior Whitehall source told the outlet: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody forevermore. It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing but we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary.”

  • (9 Jan 2022) Nadhim Zahawi Says There Are No Plans To Scrap Free Lateral Flow Tests Politics Home article Jan 9 gives the official denial which lends credibility to the Sunday Times story on the end of free access to lateral flow tests:
    “The government has no immediate plans to scrap free lateral flow tests, according to Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education.
    “Zahawi on Sunday told Sky News he was "puzzled" by a story published by The Sunday Times claiming that lateral flow tests will be scaled back as part of plans to live with the coronavirus.
    “The report said Boris Johnson would confirm the decision in the coming weeks and quoted a senior Whitehall source as saying the UK would soon move to scenario whereby there is "less testing".
    “They told the newspaper: "I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody for evermore. It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing but where we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary, such as in the winter.”
    “Zahawi said he did not "recognise" the story.”

  • (8 Jan 2022) NHS leaders accused of ‘bullying’ hospitals into silence over scale of Covid crisis Independent Exclusive Jan 8 begins:
    "NHS leaders have been accused of downplaying the impact of the Covid crisis and putting hospitals under scrutiny for declaring critical incidents and postponing surgeries.
    "A leaked email urges hospitals to use the “correct terminology” and make NHS leaders aware when declaring their status.
    "Sources said the message was a “thinly veiled threat” and that there was “subtle pressure” amid the rapid spread of Omicron.
    "At least 24 trusts have declared critical incidents this week, including one in Northamptonshire on Friday afternoon, while new figures show a 59 per cent rise in staff absences in just seven days.
    "Trusts in London were told hospitals will be scrutinised for declaring a critical incident if there is “doubt” over the decision, according to an internal email sent from NHS England on Wednesday."

  • (8 Jan 2022) Is this NHS crisis really worse than ones before? Dreadful BBC News January 8 summary that ignores the record 6m and rising waiting list, the loss of almost 5,000 beds in 2020 for infection control, the cumulative pressure on staff with 93,000 vacancies after almost 2 years of crisis, and the inadequate funding locked in to 2025. It concludes:
    “Traditionally winter would see around 1,000 admissions a day for all types of respiratory infections. Currently the NHS is seeing more than double that for Covid alone - although a chunk admittedly are people who are ill with something else, such as broken arms, strokes and cancer for example, and may well have come in anyway.
    “But even if you discount these patients, you are still well above the 1,000 threshold.
    “However, the NHS has been helped by lower pressures elsewhere. Flu is at rock-bottom levels. There are fewer than 50 patients in hospital with the virus in England.
    “So what can we conclude? The challenges are certainly worse and that is translating into poorer quality services. But this is not the first year care has been compromised. What matters now is when Covid infections peak - that will determine just how bad this winter will be.”

  • (6 Jan 2022) Delayed surgery fears and PM faces fresh pressure on tax hikes Independent Premium report Jan 6:
    “Health leaders are warning government ministers that urgent operations such as cardiac and cancer treatments are being delayed in hospitals as the PM confirmed in a statement to MPs in the Commons that England would continue with plan B restrictions.
    “We are hearing from our members that virtually all intensive care units are under strain primarily because of staffing constraints and this is resulting in many having to limit access for patients having urgent operations,” Dr Stephen Webb, president of the Intensive Care Society, told The Independent. “Staff isolation and staff illness due to Covid restricts our ability to care for other patients.”
    “Dr Webb’s comments came as a further 194,747 Covid cases were recorded in the latest 24 hour period and rules on Covid testing domestically and on travels entering England were relaxed.”

  • (6 Jan 2022) 'Unquantifiable challenge': Plans to tackle NHS backlog could be derailed by lack of staff, MPs warn ITV News report Jan 6:
    “The “catastrophic impact” of the Covid pandemic on patients waiting for NHS treatment is clear, but plans to tackle it could be derailed by emergency care demands and a lack of staff, MPs have said.
    “The record number of people on the waiting list for planned care in England – almost six million – is likely to grow but, at the same time, the NHS is also dealing with a record number of 999 calls and long waits to be seen in A&E.
    “In its new report, the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee said that tackling the wider backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and “unquantifiable” challenge as it includes all the people who have yet to come forward for care.
    “It calls for a broad national health and care recovery plan embracing emergency care, mental health, GPs, community care and social care.”

  • (5 Jan 2022) Cuba’s vaccine success story sails past mark set by rich world’s Covid efforts Guardian report January 5:
    “This downtrodden island struggles to keep the lights on, but has now vaccinated more of its citizens against Covid-19 than any of the world’s major nations.
    “More than 90% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of Cuba’s homegrown vaccines, while 83% have been fully inoculated. Of countries with populations of over a million, only the United Arab Emirates has a stronger vaccination record.
    “Cuba is a victim of magical realism,” said John Kirk, professor emeritus of Latin American studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. “The idea that Cuba, with only 11 million people, and limited income, could be a biotech power, might be incomprehensible for someone working at Pfizer, but for Cuba it is possible.”

  • (5 Jan 2022) NHS staff 'in tears as unable to deliver care for patients' due to Covid shortages Mirror report Jan 5:
    “Staff shortages continue to mount as Covid cases surge in the UK with a further 218,724 people testing positive in yet another daily record. Now RCN director for England, Patricia Marquis, has said the government needs to be "honest" with the public about the pressure being put on the health service and that patient care is being impacted.
    … Ms Marquis said:
    "… Many nursing staff are going into work with only half the number of staff that are needed but with still the same number of patients to look after. They are being spread thinner and thinner and we are hearing of many being reduced to tears because they are not able to deliver the care to their patients."
    Many public services are resorting to emergency plans to tackle shortages, with some hospital trusts declaring critical incidents, where priority services may be under threat.

  • (5 Jan 2022) Critical incidents declared over staff shortages BBC News report Jan 5:
    “Norfolk and Waveney's care system, covering three hospitals, the ambulance service, community and social services, has declared a critical incident.
    “Hospital trusts elsewhere have also declared critical incidents amid staff shortages and pressures from Covid-19.
    “University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and Great Western Hospitals in Wiltshire have all raised the alarm.
    Derriford hospital in Plymouth has problems offloading ambulances, and has recorded nearly 500 staff absences.
    … “In a statement, Norgfolk & Norwich University Hospital medical director Erika Denton said: "Our hospital is extremely busy and it is an incredibly pressured time for everyone working in health and social care.
    "The hospital is full and we have already taken steps to increase bed capacity in response to high emergency demand and a record number of Covid-19 infections that has led to a surge in admissions."

  • (5 Jan 2022) Two more NHS trusts declare critical incidents over staff Covid absences MSN report Jan 5:
    “Morecambe Bay NHS trust, which operates three hospitals across north Lancashire and southern Cumbria, made its move on Monday evening, and the trust that runs Blackpool Victoria hospital followed suit on Tuesday morning, saying its beds were at full capacity.
    “They join at least six other trusts that are understood to have issued alerts over “internal critical incidents” in recent days, including United Lincolnshire hospitals NHS trust.
    “In an internal memo, Morecambe Bay’s chief executive, Aaron Cummins, said “relentless and sustained pressure” caused by “unprecedented staff absences” would lead to operations and appointments being cancelled and staff being redeployed to allow the hospitals to maintain safe services for patients.
    “The trust operates three sites: Furness general hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, and Westmorland general hospital in Kendal. Barrow-in-Furness has the highest Covid infection rate of any local authority area in England, at 2,439.8 cases per 100,000 population.”

  • (5 Jan 2022) Private providers making the most of the pandemic January 5 Pulse magazine round-up on privatisation from the GP point of view. It notes:
    “The new framework has wider implications. Dr Jackie Applebee, a GP in Tower Hamlets, east London, says one of the key issues with the private sector taking on NHS work to help clear the backlog is they don’t offer the full range of NHS services, and this can lead to patients waiting for months only to find they won’t be treated.
    … “She adds: ‘The [private hospital] bounced pregnant women back before, and someone who was HIV positive but was very well controlled, on medication and whose viral load was really low. They won’t deal with anybody with a high BMI. Anything slightly complex and they will bounce it back.’
    “There might be a positive outlook for private providers as waiting lists rise. But it seems GPs and the wider NHS will continue to provide the safety net.”

  • (4 Jan 2022) ‘Get a lift to hospital,’ ambulance trust tells patients with suspected heart attacks HSJ report Jan 4:
    “Ambulance trusts have begun asking patients with heart attacks and strokes to get a lift to hospital with family or friends instead of waiting for an ambulance, because of high covid absences and ‘unprecedented’ surges in demand, HSJ has learned.
    “An internal note at North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust said that where there was likely to be a risk from the delay in an ambulance reaching a patient, call handlers should “consider asking the patient to be transported by friends or family”.
    “This applies to calls including category two, which covers suspected strokes and heart attacks, according to the note seen by HSJ. It said call handlers should “consider all forms of alternative transport” for patients.
    “The note from medical director Mathew Beattie gives the example of a person with chest pain who would normally get a category 2 response – with a target of reaching them within 18 minutes – but where the ambulance response time would be two hours.”

  • (4 Jan 2022) Heart attack patients told to make own way to hospital as Covid surge hits northern England Guardian report Jan 4:
    "“NHS pressures in the north-east have become so intense that ambulance workers in the area have begun asking patients with suspected heart attacks and strokes to get a lift to hospital with family or friends instead of waiting for an ambulance, amid high staff absences and an “unprecedented” surge in demand, it emerged on Tuesday.
    “An internal note at North East ambulance service NHS foundation trust said that where there was likely to be a risk from the delay in an ambulance reaching a patient, call handlers should “consider asking the patient to be transported by friends or family”, the Health Service Journal reported.
    “The second-fastest growth rate in hospital Covid occupancy is in the north-west, which recorded a rise of 94% in the last seven days. It means all parts of northern England have more than double the growth rate experienced in London, which was 46% between 27 December and 3 January.”

  • (3 Jan 2022) NHS trusts in England declare critical incidents amid Covid staff crisis Guardian report January 3, again tacitly raising the question of how bad the situation in the NHS needs to get for the government to brave its right wing extremists and take action:
    “Multiple NHS trusts across England have declared “critical incidents” amid soaring staff absences caused by Covid-19, with health leaders saying many parts of the service are now “in a state of crisis”.
    “Boris Johnson on Monday ruled out the introduction of new curbs “for now” but said he recognised that the pressure on the NHS and its hospitals, was “going to be considerable in the course of the next couple of weeks, and maybe more”.
    “More than half a dozen trusts have issued alerts over “internal critical incidents” in recent days, it is understood, as concerns mount that some may be unable to deliver vital care to patients.
    “Health leaders said the “rapidly increasing” number of absent NHS staff was piling “very serious” pressure on hospitals already struggling to cope with increasing Covid admissions and “huge wider pressure” on urgent and emergency services.”

  • (2 Jan 2022) The Vaccine Centre Is the Latest Tory Privatisation Disaster Tribune article Jan 2 by HCT editor John Lister:
    “The ‘offloading’ of the Centre marks a major about-turn by government. Back in May 2020, then chief executive of UK Research and Innovation Professor Mark Walport, welcoming fresh government investment to expand VMIC’s capacity, said it was ‘an essential new weapon in the UK’s arsenal against diseases and other biological threats.’
    “In December 2020 the UK Vaccine Taskforce’s document ‘2020 Achievements and Future Strategy’ also insisted on its long-term importance: ‘We have worked with VMIC to increase VMIC’s delivery capability… to 70 million doses of pandemic vaccine… This is a permanent facility, with government step-in rights during a crisis.’
    “… This short-sighted decision to prioritise cash, profits, and corporations over health is consistent with the Johnson government’s instinctive turn to the private sector rather than investing in the NHS or other public services.
    “This has led to the disastrous squandering of up to £37 billion on a dysfunctional test and trace system, billions more on dodgy deals for PPE with firms owned by cronies and donors rather than established companies, and up to £12 billion more on treating NHS patients in private hospital beds rather than investing in remodelling NHS hospitals to reopen thousands of closed beds.”

  • (2 Jan 2022) COVID, Capitalism, and Collapse: A Roundtable Discussion with NYC Nurses and Teachers The Strike Wave Jan 2: Labor journalist and NewsGuild organizer Chris Brooks sat down with a group of New York City nurses and teachers to talk about how the institutions they work for are collapsing and what labor activists can do about it. A nurse explains:
    “We are two years into the pandemic and there is still a testing shortage. Twenty City MD locations have closed so they can maintain a bare bones staff at their remaining locations. Lines for testing centers run on for blocks and blocks.
    “The failure to provide adequate care where it is needed leads to increased reliance on the one place that everyone knows they can turn to if they are desperate: the emergency room. Our hospital has a public testing center and the line is so crazy that people give up and just come to the ER to get tested. In the ER, it’s still a five hour wait.
    “The acuity is really high in the Bronx and the pandemic has only made it worse. Everyone we see in the ER is now sicker than they were a few years ago, because fewer people have access to the medications they need, many have lost their jobs and health insurance and hold off on getting care until it’s an emergency.
    “The baseline for everything we see is getting worse while the system continues to be flooded with COVID patients and nurses are quitting.”

  • (2 Jan 2022) Healthcare giants 'must repay their furlough millions': Private firms helping NHS during Covid pandemic face calls to hand back fortune they pocketed while seeing bumper profits Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) grabs a Daily Mail Jan 2 headline with another reworking of the finances that propped up private hospital chains while the NHS werstled with the Covid pandemic:
    “The NHS signed a series of contracts worth more than £2billion with private hospital firms in the first year of the pandemic to ease the burden of the crisis.
    “Yet the companies delivered less than 0.1 per cent of the nation’s Covid care and took on fewer NHS patients than the year previously, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) said.
    “The think-tank’s analysis of HM Revenue and Customs figures has revealed private health bodies collected as much as £72million in furlough support – enough to pay the salaries of more than 2,000 nurses.
    “… Australian firm Ramsay Health Care claimed up to £525,000 despite receiving £385million from the NHS. The company’s income increased 15 per cent last year and its profit margin rose 13 per cent to £100million.”

  • (2 Jan 2022) NHS struggles as sickness takes out 1 in 10 staff (£) Times Jan 2 report on the scale of the staff shortages, with NHS England’s under-reporting of the problem apparently helping fuel the complacency of ministers and the Tory right wing:
    “On Friday NHS England released sickness data relating to acute hospitals up to December 26, which showed that 68,000 staff were absent, in 25,000 cases because of Covid.
    “However, according to its own dashboard, sickness levels for acute trusts had jumped to 86,716 by December 31, a rise of 27 per cent. Covid-related absences reached 40,325, an increase of 62 per cent in five days. These numbers included 19,143 nurses and midwives and 2,120 doctors.
    “… Reports from the health service suggest the scale of absence is worse than ministers have publicly recognised, days before the NHS experiences its busiest week of the year. In London, the centre of the Omicron surge, Covid absences account for 51 per cent of the total: 7,255 staff, including 3,340 nurses and 622 doctors. In the Midlands regions, 43 per cent of staff were off sick because of Covid, including 3,639 nurses and 419 doctors.
    “At Lewisham Hospital in southeast London on Wednesday half of the unit’s nurses were off sick, prompting the trust to close some cubicles and redeploy staff from other parts of the hospital to keep patients safe.
    “… In Northampton some patients are waiting more than 40 hours in A&E, and dozens are waiting 12 hours on trolleys until they can be given a bed.”

  • (2 Jan 2022) NHS faces 'crucial days' as Omicron soars to give UK one of world's worst case rates Mirror report Jan 2, with an interactive map showing relative levels of infection:
    “A new map shows how the UK's Covid rate has soared above the rest of the world - with the country facing "crucial days" to see if hospitalisations surge.
    “The number of people admitted with the virus has climbed in the past week, and staff absences across the NHS have stretched services to breaking point.
    … Medics have warned that health services are "already overwhelmed", with more than a million confirmed coronavirus cases in the past - and the real number likely to be much higher.
    “Latest data shows that the UK's daily infection rate is estimated to be among the highest in the world as Omicron rips through the country. According to figures from the Johns Hopkins University, just nine countries have a higher rate of daily infections.”

  • (31 Dec 2021) England’s Covid infection rate climbs to one person in 25 Financial Times report Dec 31:
    “More than 2m people in the UK were infected with coronavirus last week, according to the latest official figures, causing a jump in staff absences in the health service and fast-rising admissions to hospitals.
    “… In England, the rate was one in every 25 people, up from one in 45 a week earlier, while London had the highest rate, at one in 15 residents. The comparable rates in the devolved nations were each about one in 40.
    “… Covid-related staff absences across the NHS in England were up 31 per cent week on week on December 26, according to NHS figures, with 24,632 employees either off sick or self-isolating. In total, about 68,000 staff — 5 per cent of the workforce — were off sick on that day for all reasons.”

  • (31 Dec 2021) I’m a UK Covid scientist. Here’s a sample of the abuse in my inbox This remarkably generous article in the Guardian December 31 begins with an appalling example of ignorant abuse, and continues:
    “Most letter-writers have at best a very basic grasp of the English language – enough to get their point across, but extremely rudimentary. The spelling really is shocking.
    “Sometimes it makes me wonder about the mental state of the sender; whether they are from the UK at all (Russian call centres come to mind); or whether they were even written by a human.
    “I find it strangely comforting to think that some of them might have been generated by a clever bit of computer code rather than an angry, deluded member of our society.
    Other things that I have learned is that if you mention vaccination in the media, particularly vaccination of children, then there is likely to be a reaction. However, this only occurs if one’s comments are picked up by the rightwing press – particularly the Daily Mail.”

  • (31 Dec 2021) Number of babies and toddlers in hospital with Covid up 90% in just three days Mirror with a worrying report Dec 31:
    “Another 92 children aged between 0 and 5 were admitted to hospital with Covid in England in just one day this week, latest government figures show. The figure for December 28 is almost double the number who were admitted on Christmas Day, just three days earlier, which saw a then record of 50 babies and toddlers in just 24 hours.
    “There were also 53 youngsters aged between 6 years old and 17 years old admitted on to wards in the same 24 hours, meaning a total of 145 children in one day.
    “Children made up 10 per cent of all 1455 people admitted to hospital with covid that day, which included 325 of those aged over 85.
    “The numbers also show that 621 children were admitted to English hospitals with coronavirus in the week to December 28, which is the biggest weekly rise in children being admitted since the pandemic began.”

  • (29 Dec 2021) Fauci says Trump ‘poisoned the well’ on vaccines before speaking in favour of the jab Independent report Dec 28:
    “White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has said he hoped Donald Trump “keeps up” his new found advocacy for Covid-19 vaccines - but lamented how the ex-president sowed the seeds of hesitancy to getting a jab among his supporters for many months.
    “Speaking during an interview on CNN, Dr Fauci told correspondent Kaitlan Collins that the mixed signals Mr Trump sent by refusing to participate in public service campaigns or publicly acknowledge that he’d been vaccinated made an impression on many Americans.
    "Poisoning the well early on about — even not being enthusiastic or outright not pushing vaccines and discouraging vaccines now has a lingering effect," said Dr Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease since the Reagan administration.
    "Even when you come out and say, 'Go get vaccinated,' some of the people that have been following his every word and what he does are now pushing back and not listening," he added.”

  • (29 Dec 2021) Covid update 29 Dec: Covid hospital patients increase by over 1000 in one day HSJ blog December 29:
    “The number of covid positive patients in English hospitals increased by over 1000 yesterday, the first time this has happened since mid-January at the peak of last winter’s wave.
    “The total of covid positive patients went from 8474 on 27 December to 9546 yesterday. The total has increased 38 per cent increase in the last week, but three quarters of that rise has come in the last two days.
    “Over a quarter of the increase in the last two days has come in London, where covid hospitalisation now stands at 3024, the first time it has hit that level since 19 February. The second largest increase came in the North West, where occupation is at early March levels.
    “The seven day total of admissions increased 49 per cent over the period 19 to 27 December (the latest data available).”

  • (28 Dec 2021) Covid update 28 Dec: Admissions now rising in every English region HSJ end of year blog highlights the increase in Covid in-patients is no longer only an issue in London:
    “NHS in England records 8000 covid positive hospital patients for the first time since early March
    “Admissions of covid positive patients are now rising in every region of England, with the South West now seeing increases.
    “The increase in the seven day total of admissions is still rising fastest in London, which saw a 68 per cent rise between 18 December and Christmas day (latest figures available). However, the North West is hot on the capital’s heels with 60 per cent.
    “The North East and Yorkshire, Midlands and East regions are seeing increases of between 42 and 48 per cent. The South East’s total is up 17% and the South West’s by two per cent.”

  • (28 Dec 2021) 'Big Pharma Uncut' Excellent spoof video from @peoplesvaccine highlighting the gross profiteering of the pharma corporations coining in cash from Covid vaccines while leaving the bulk of the world's population unprotected.
    Big Pharma CEO - aka comedian @JolyonRubs - talks candidly about pharma companies attitude to the COVID-19 pandemic, and why he detests the idea of a #PeoplesVaccine

  • (28 Dec 2021) Tory MP visits a food bank Nothing directly to do with health -- but comedian Matt Green is a welcome and grimly amusing counter to the widespread hypocrisy of Tory MPs across the Christmas period.

  • (28 Dec 2021) UK prevented from donating ‘tens of millions’ of PPE items to poorer nations due to Whitehall red tape Independent Dec 28 on how the British government continues to find ways of doing the wrong things in dealing with the pandemic at home and abroad:
    “The UK has been prevented from donating “tens of millions” of surplus PPE items throughout the pandemic due to Whitehall red tape, The Independent understands.
    “Britain has an excess of personal protective equipment in its stockpile, which has been acquired at a “significant cost” – roughly £12bn, according to one Whitehall source.
    “But attempts to donate surplus supplies of gloves, aprons and masks to poorer countries over the past 18 months have been hindered by a financial cap set by the Treasury and the Foreign Office.
    “Up until September, international donations counted as overseas development assistance (ODA). For the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), its annual foreign aid budget was set at £160m.”

  • (28 Dec 2021) Covid vaccine ‘the most expensive in history’ for poorer countries Independent report Dec 28 on the rip off of poorer countries by big pharma:
    “Despite international promises that the vaccines would be made available at the cheapest prices to lower-income countries, these nations are paying well above the expected cost.
    “World Health Organisation (WHO) data analysed by The Independent shows that governments of lower-income countries are paying a median price of $6.88 (£5.12) per dose for Covid vaccines. Before the pandemic, developing countries paid a median price of $0.80 a dose for non-Covid jabs, WHO figures show.
    “… Victorine de Milliano, a UK policy adviser for the global health NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, said the figures were “further evidence that the current pandemic response is failing people in low-income countries”.
    “Pharmaceutical companies are more interested in making profits than improving public health,” she added. “It is deplorable that in a pandemic, companies are charging historically high prices, especially given the public funding that went into these vaccines.”

  • (28 Dec 2021) Health leaders in England warn surge in Covid absences threatens patient care Financial Times report Dec 28:

    “Government figures show that a record 129,471 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England and Wales on Tuesday.
    “Meanwhile, NHS England data showed a total of 9,546 people were in hospital across England with Covid on December 28, a rise of 38 per cent from a week earlier and the highest figure since March 3.
    “The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in England is still behind the peak of 34,336 in January.
    “The UK government on Monday decided against further coronavirus restrictions in England before the new year after reviewing the latest data on hospital admissions. But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s ruling council, suggested Boris Johnson, the prime minister, had ignored “the elephant in the room” of staff absence levels.”

  • (28 Dec 2021) Covid News: U.S. Daily Record for Cases Is Broken New York Times report Dec 28:
    “The U.S. record for daily coronavirus cases has been broken, as two highly contagious variants — Delta and Omicron — have converged to disrupt holiday travel and gatherings, deplete hospital staffs and plunge the United States into another long winter.
    “As a third year of the pandemic loomed, the seven-day average of U.S. cases topped 267,000 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database.
    “The milestone was marked after a year that has whipsawed Americans from a relaxation of rules in the spring to a Delta-driven summer wave to another surge that accelerated with astonishing speed as Omicron emerged after Thanksgiving.”

  • (28 Dec 2021) Mental health patients waiting more than 12 hours in A&E for beds as services face ‘desperate’ situation Hard-hitting Independent report Dec 28 on another aspect of the NHS crisis:
    “NHS mental health services are facing a “desperate” situation as all hospitals across the country are dangerously full and leaked data shows hundreds of patients waiting over 12 hours in A&E, The Independent can reveal.
    “The news comes as the spread of Omicron risks outbreaks in mental health hospitals, with a large hospital in London forced to close its doors to new admissions on three wards.
    “In response to the growing bed pressures in the capital over the past month the NHS has commissioned 40 beds from private sector hospitals run by The Priory Group, The Independent understands.
    “NHS data, seen by The Independent, has revealed that almost all mental health hospitals in London have been at “black alert” levels of bed availability during October and November, meaning their beds were nearly 100 per cent full.
    “A senior national source has warned the situation is similar across the country, with nearly all mental health trusts 94 per cent full and services at their most stressed ever.”

  • (27 Dec 2021) How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not? Our World in Data website explains how to understand statistics and compares death rates in England, Chile, US and Switzerland -- showing that in each case death rates among unvaccinated are much higher than among those who have been fully or partially vaccinated,

  • (27 Dec 2021) ‘A living nightmare’: Burnout could lead to tripling of NHS staff sickness next year Independent Dec 27:
    “Hospitals could see as many as one in six doctors and nurses off sick throughout 2022, according to modelling, as the Omicron wave of Covid fuels burnout, stress and anxiety among NHS staff.
    “Days of record Covid numbers – with 119,789 positive tests reported on Christmas Eve – have led to an increase in hospital admissions in recent weeks, while sickness has also increased among health workers, with NHS absences reaching 12 per cent last week.
    “But analysis by London South Bank University shows that even after this Covid spike, the health service could be hampered by an absence rate of up to 17 per cent – almost three times as high as the highest seen after previous waves – because of burnout and long Covid. This is on top of a significant number of vacancies in frontline roles.
    “Professor Alison Leary, whose team carried out the modelling on behalf of a number of NHS trusts, charities and professional organisations, said: “The impact of Covid is likely to impact the workforce and the ability to provide care in the longer term, not just during surges. We entered the pandemic with a workforce deficit, and we need to work to leverage supplementary workforce resources and deal with long-standing issues.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) Former banker Richard Meddings to become chair of NHS England You couldn't even make it up: Guardian report Dec 24. Yet another crony appointment of a reactionary figure with no appropriate or useful knowledge of qualifications to continue the redisorganisation of the NHS: the only consolation is that neither of the previous chairs had any discernible impact on the NHS and its policies.
    “Ministers have chosen a senior banker as the new chair of NHS England, with a brief to push through changes in the way the service operates and cut spiralling waiting lists.
    “Richard Meddings, a former chair of TSB Bank, will take over the role early in the new year. He will be paid £63,000 a year for working two to three days a week, the Cabinet Office said .
    “He will succeed the Conservative peer David Prior, who has held the post for four years. However, unlike Lord Prior, who had been a health minister and chaired two NHS hospital trusts before taking over, Meddings is not thought to have any previous experience of the health service.
    “He is taking over at a time when the government is keen for the NHS to improve the way it works, use innovative means to tackle the 5.7 million backlog of patients, and provide value for money for the record funding it is due to receive in the next few years.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) 96 per cent of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust's critical care beds were in use last week Yorkshire Evening Post report Dec 24:
    “There were 59 adult critical care beds available at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in the week to December 19. That figure is for all critical care beds, not just the ones set aside for Covid patients.
    “A total of 55 (96 per cent) of those beds were occupied, compared to 98 per cent in the previous week. The 96 per cent figure was the 12th worst out of 142 hospital trusts in England that week.
    “The total number of staff absences at the Leeds trust in the week to December 19 was 1,391, compared to 1,319 for the previous week.
    “Of the total absences, an average of 353 (24 per cent) were Covid-related in the week to December 19 compared to an average of 285 in the previous week.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) Nurses 'in despair' amid fears it's too late to protect NHS from Omicron wave Nottingham Post report Dec 24:
    “The Government may have left it “too late” to protect the NHS against the Omicron wave unless it heeds the advice of scientific experts on tighter restrictions, the head of the Royal College of Nursing has said.
    “Pat Cullen told BBC Breakfast that ministers would find it easier to make decisions on how to defend the health service if they “walk in the shoes of any nurse” for a day.
    “She said nurses are in “despair” and facing a Christmas worse than last year amid mass staff shortages due to the Omicron wave, the head of the Royal College of Nursing has said.
    “Mrs Cullen described staff as “exhausted” as they routinely work 14-hour days with a depleted workforce.
    “She said: “Those staff that are isolating are actually quite sick, and the reason for that being their resources are so low, going off sick because of the shifts they’ve been working, some working 14-hour days.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) NHS hospital staff talk of pressure on them this Christmas Bournemouth Echo report Dec 24:
    “PRESSURE on the emergency departments at Poole and Bournemouth hospitals is the worst staff have known.
    “Speaking in the run up to Christmas as new variant Covid issues intensified, University Hospitals Dorset senior matron for urgent and emergency care, Bruce Hopkins, said: "I have been working in the trust since 2009 and the pressure now is extraordinary."
    “Both departments are seeing a huge volume of walk-patients who would have better dealt in the primary care system, including GPs, the 111 service and pharmacies.
    "There is a whole range of conditions were are seeing including chest pains, chest infections, accidents, foreign bodies, broken nails, things stuck in ears, that kind of thing."
    “Mr Hopkins said: "For most of this it would be far better for patients to see someone in primary care but there is a perception that people can't get appointments.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) NHS is ‘grinding to a halt’ as even triple-jabbed staff fall ill in Covid surge Metro report Dec 24:
    “An NHS doctor has warned that staffing is being depleted to its lowest point in the pandemic with even fully vaccinated workers falling ill.
    “Dr Chris George, who has been helping to administer the booster rollout, said that some surgeries have been left with only a single doctor able to physically see patients as staff quit or fall ill with Covid.
    “… The family doctor also described how low staff morale has led to health workers leaving the profession
    “… Dr George warned that even staff who had received two jabs and the booster were succumbing to the virus.
    “… ‘I have never known so many people to be off work because of Covid,’ he said. ‘I am seeing colleagues who have had all three vaccines that are falling ill with the virus and colleagues who possibly had Delta in August now catching Omicron, so it’s quite worrying.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) 2022/23 NHS priorities and operational planning guidance: what you need to know Christmas Eve summary and analysis by NHS Confederation of NHS England and NHS Improvement's latest operational planning guidance and priorities for the service in 2022/23 – published, as usual the day before the Christmas-New Year holidays. And, as usual it is not until paragraph five that the NHS bosses raise even the teeniest criticism of the demands being put upon them without matching resources:
    “On 24 December 2021, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) released its operational planning guidance for 2022/23, including its nine priorities for the service. The priorities are similar to those outlined for the second half of 2021/22 but do include important differences, which we describe in the overview section below.
    “One of the most significant points to note is the delayed implementation of integrated care systems (ICS) from 1 April 2022 to 1 July 2022, due to parliamentary timings. In line with contingency planning, this requires straightforward changes to clinical commissioning group regulations that will enable ICS leaders to continue their development work during this transition. Current statutory arrangements will remain in place until July, with the first quarter of 2022/23 serving as a continued preparatory period.
    “The planning timetable will be extended to the end of April 2022, with systems and providers asked to submit draft plans by mid-March. The deadline date for the submission of final plans remains under review, with further guidance setting out requirements yet to be published.
    “The guidance is comprehensive and helpfully sets ambitions around recovery. The 2022/23 targets for elective activity at 110 per cent, reducing ambulance handover delays and increased focus on care in the community, reflect the transitional stage the NHS is in. They will require careful implementation which considers patient safety and the variation in capacity to deliver across the system. The recognition that much of the plan is dependent on the next phases of the pandemic, in maintaining elective activity through the winter, and regaining some of the efficiencies lost to operating constraints, is welcome.
    “We welcome that the guidance leads with staff wellbeing, but there needs to be equal recognition that the reality on the ground is far from ideal, with pressure and exhaustion starting to have long-term effects.”

  • (24 Dec 2021) Social care: Immigration rules to be relaxed to recruit staff BBC report December 25 on an embarrassed retreat by ministers from racist laws that have made recruitment to social care posts even more difficult and created a growing crisis:
    “Immigration rules are to be temporarily relaxed for overseas care workers in a bid to recruit and keep staff, the government has announced. Social care workers, care assistants and home care workers are to become eligible for a health and care visa for a 12-month period.
    “The government said this would make it easier to fill gaps in workforces. It followed warnings the sector faced "severe and increasing" problems with hiring and keeping staff after Brexit.
    “Care workers are to be added to the shortage occupation list, which is designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.
    “The temporary measures are expected to come into effect early next year, the Department of Health and Social Care said, and will be in place for a minimum of 12 months.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) '60% of Covid patients in in Essex have not had jab' Chelmsford & Mid Essex Times story Dec 23:
    “MORE than 60 patients are being treated in hospitals across north Essex and Suffolk latest figures have shown.
    “New data from the NHS shows there were 63 patients being treated at the East Suffolk and North Essex Trust as of Tuesday. Of these 13 patients were in medical ventilator beds.
    “… Across Essex as a whole 193 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
    “… The latest statistics come as Essex County Council’s health boss Dr Mike Gogarty said 60 per cent of Covid patients in hospital in Essex were unvaccinated.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) Plans to cut ambulance depots in London is paused due to 999 calls Brent & Kilburn Times Dec 23:
    “Plans to cut the number of ambulance depots in London have been put on hold after a high number of 999 calls. London Ambulance Service (LAS) is looking to replace 68 stations across London with 18 new ‘ambulance deployment centres’.
    “But at a meeting with leaders from nine north and west London boroughs, including Brent, LAS boss Daniel Elkeles said the plan is paused. He told the joint health committee this was due to increased pressures over the summer.
    “This has continued as health services help tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Mr Elkeles said staff were grateful for the postponement.
    “The proposal would see the ambulance deployment centres supported by nearby ‘standby points’ and ‘rest and refreshment posts’, which the LAS said will stop staff ferrying to and from one station several times a day.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) Mental health patients waiting more than 12 hours in A&E for beds as services face ‘desperate’ situation Independent report Dec 23:
    “NHS mental health services are facing a “desperate” situation as all hospitals across the country are dangerously full and leaked data shows hundreds of patients waiting over 12 hours in A&E, The Independent can reveal.
    “The news comes as the spread of Omicron risks outbreaks in mental health hospitals, with a large hospital in London forced to close its doors to new admissions on three wards.
    “In response to the growing bed pressures in the capital over the past month the NHS has commissioned 40 beds from private sector hospitals run by The Priory Group, The Independent understands.
    “NHS data, seen by The Independent, has revealed that almost all mental health hospitals in London have been at “black alert” levels of bed availability during October and November, meaning their beds were nearly 100 per cent full.
    “A senior national source has warned the situation is similar across the country, with nearly all mental health trusts 94 per cent full and services at their most stressed ever.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) Nursing Homes Bleed Staff as Amazon Lures Low-Wage Workers With Prime Packages US Kaiser Health News Dec 23 with a story that runs parallel to the same issues in England:
    “Amazon’s ambitious expansion plans in northern Kentucky, including the $1.5 billion, 600-acre site that will serve as a nerve center for Amazon’s domestic air cargo operations, have stoked anxieties among nursing home administrators in a region where the unemployment rate is just 3%.
    “Already buckling from an exodus of pandemic-weary health care workers, nursing homes are losing entry-level nurses, dietary aides and housekeepers drawn to better-paying jobs at Amazon.
    “The average starting pay for an entry-level position at Amazon warehouses and cargo hubs is more than $18 an hour, with the possibility of as much as $22.50 an hour and a $3,000 signing bonus, depending on location and shift. Full-time jobs with the company come with health benefits, 401(k)s and parental leave. By contrast, even with many states providing a temporary covid-19 bonus for workers at long-term care facilities, lower-skilled nursing home positions typically pay closer to $15 an hour, often with minimal sick leave or benefits.
    “Nursing home administrators contend they are unable to match Amazon’s hourly wage scales because they rely on modest reimbursement rates set by Medicaid, the government program that pays for long-term care.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) More than 18,000 NHS staff off sick with Covid last week – up by 50% Independent Dec 23:
    “The number of NHS staff off sick with Covid reached 18,829 last week, up by 50 per cent in just seven days, while thousands of patients were stuck in hospital who shouldn’t be there, new data has revealed.
    “The number of healthcare staff off sick with the virus in London, the epicentre of the Omicron wave, hit 3,874 last week which is more than three times the number off in the week of 12 December. The Midlands followed closely with 3,855.
    “While the capital saw the biggest increase in staff off sick with Covid, the South East and the East of England followed, recording a 61 per cent and 58 per cent increase respectively.
    “The total number of staff off sick, including for non-Covid reasons, reached 64,221 on 19 December, up by 12 per cent on the 12 December. In London a total of 8919 staff were off sick, meaning Covid absences accounted for 43 per cent of staff sickness overall.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) UK, EU and US ‘get more Covid vaccines in six weeks than Africa has all year’ Guardian Dec 23 with the real reasons why the NHS and European health systems are now facing the latest Covid variant:
    “The UK, European Union and the US have received more doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the past six weeks than African countries have all year, according to analysis from the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA).
    “The research comes after the former UK prime minister Gordon Brown called the rollout a “stain on our soul” and organisations and charities stepped up calls for Moderna and Pfizer to share their vaccine recipes, and for governments to distribute urgently needed vaccines to poorer nations.
    “The Amnesty International-backed organisation, which is made up of a number of not-for-profits including Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, says that despite making billions in profit Pfizer and Moderna continue to refuse to share the new generation of vaccine technology. Its push to get the companies to waive their intellectual property rights has won backing from global leaders, including Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
    “Between 11 November and 21 December, the EU, UK and US received 513m vaccine doses while the continent of Africa received 500m throughout the whole of 2021.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) Health organisations call for accelerated action on global vaccine equity Joint statement Dec 23 from BMA, other professional bodies and UNISON calling for global vaccine equity
    “We, the undersigned and the organisations we represent, express our deep concern at the ongoing inequity in access to Covid-19 vaccines globally. In addition to the strong moral imperative, failure to ensure high vaccine coverage in all countries puts everyone at risk from new, potentially vaccine resistant variants of the virus.
    “Ninety-eight of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable low income and middle income countries will now miss WHO’s end of year target for vaccinating 40% of their populations. It was within our gift as high-income countries to make this happen. Yet too many nations have been shamefully slow in making good on their pledges – the UK among them.
    “We are appalled that the world’s richest countries continue to accumulate surplus vaccine doses while the world’s poorest struggle with woefully inadequate supplies. The total number of vaccines administered worldwide in the past year was more than sufficient to cover 40% of the population in all countries, if it had been delivered equitably. Instead, only 1 in 10 people in low-income countries and just 25% of healthcare workers in Africa have received a single dose.
    “As organisations representing healthcare professionals, we are deeply concerned by this lack of progress on sharing vaccines for the global good. We call on the UK to show true leadership by raising its ambition and commitment to expedite vaccines reaching those most in need. …”

  • (23 Dec 2021) Merck’s Covid Pill Is Authorized for High-Risk Adults New York Times Dec 23:
    “The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized a second antiviral pill for Covid but said it should not be preferred over other treatments.
    “The F.D.A. cleared the pill, developed by Merck and known as molnupiravir, for adults who are vulnerable to becoming severely ill from Covid and for whom alternative treatment options are “not accessible or clinically appropriate.”
    However:
    “The agency’s decision reflects concerns that Merck’s pill is only modestly effective and carries possible safety risks, including for pregnant women.
    “Merck’s treatment is expected to be available early next month. With the Omicron variant driving an onslaught of infections, the drug will be in greater supply in the coming weeks than other treatments in the United States.”

  • (23 Dec 2021) The silent struggle behind the NHS waiting list Byline Times December 23, which appears to raise more questions than it answers, but underlines the fact that the growth in waiting lists pre-dates the Covid pandemic:
    “While the problem has acutely worsened during the Coronavirus pandemic, the impact of austerity has meant that NHS waiting times were a problem long before the crisis hit in early 2020.
    “According to a report by the House of Commons Library in October, waiting lists increased by 74% between December 2012 and December 2019 – rising to 4.5 million just three months before the pandemic.
    “Treatment levels are now, slowly, beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels, though this is now threatened once again by the rise of the new Omicron variant.”

  • (22 Dec 2021) WHO says Covid booster programs limit vaccine supply for poor countries, could prolong pandemic CNBC report Dec 22:
    “World Health Organization officials on Wednesday criticized blanket Covid-19 vaccine booster programs as poor countries struggle to obtain initial doses, warning that the unequal access to immunizations could lead to more mutated variants that drag out the crisis.
    “Blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing.
    “The comments from the WHO come as health officials in the U.S. promote vaccine booster shots for all residents over the age of 16 amid a surge in Covid cases driven by the omicron strain. Israel on Tuesday announced it would offer a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccines to people older than 60.”

  • (22 Dec 2021) NHS boss quits after 'witch-hunt' against whistleblower... but he will continue to receive his £270k salary for another year Daily Heil Dec 22 report on the still less than total fall from grace of a once-high flying NHS boss who was feted by the private sector for his role in handing management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital over to Circle Health – with subsequent disastrous consequences.
    “An NHS trust boss who quit amid outrage over a whistleblower 'witch hunt' is continuing to draw up to £275,000 a year in salary and pension contributions.
    Dr Stephen Dunn stepped down in the summer ahead of a highly critical report about the way West Suffolk Hospital 'effectively ignored' warnings about a senior clinician's drug taking.
    “Colleagues said they had seen the consultant anaesthetist – known only as Dr A – injecting himself with painkillers while caring for patients.
    “But West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust came under fire after it hired fingerprint and handwriting experts to identify the author of an anonymous letter which claimed the anaesthetist should not have been involved in a botched operation.
    “Despite stepping down amid the scandal, it has emerged that former chief executive Dr Dunn will continue to be paid until September next year – a situation the Doctors' Association described as 'deeply concerning'.
    “Association chairman Dr Jenny Vaughan said: 'Saying that they [trust leaders] 'accept their failings and shortcomings' in no way makes up for the damage that has been done.”

  • (22 Dec 2021) Hospitals braced for ‘mass casualty’ scenario amid fears one-third of NHS staff could be off sick Independent report Dec 22:
    “Hospitals in parts of England are being asked to plan for the equivalent of a “mass casualty” event in January as NHS managers fear up to one-third of staff could be off sick, The Independent has learned.
    “… No extra Covid restrictions will be put in place before Christmas, Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday as another 90,629 cases were recorded.
    “NHS England has asked hospitals to draw up plans to deal with a “mass casualty type scenario”, which one source described as similar to a “major incident on a grand scale”.
    “The Independent understands “mass casualty” means hospitals are preparing for a short but “significant” wave of admissions across the region.”

  • (22 Dec 2021) NHS may set up ‘field hospitals’ in car parks to cope with Omicron Guardian report Dec 22 on the desperate measures that may follow from the lack of NHS staff and the capital investment needed to reopen unused NHS beds and restore pre-Covid capacity:
    “The NHS may set up “field hospitals” in the car parks of existing hospitals staffed partly by army medical personnel to help cope with a potential Omicron-driven surge in Covid patients.
    “Hospital canteens, offices and meeting rooms could also be turned into makeshift wards if the new variant leaves so many people seriously ill that the health service may be overwhelmed.
    “NHS England has told hospital bosses to make plans to take both steps in the coming weeks as part of a series measures to give the service “super-surge” extra capacity. However, it will only order the implementation of such dramatic and unprecedented moves if Omicron leads to even greater numbers of patients with Covid needing treatment than during the last peak in January.
    “The plans, first reported by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), come amid deepening fears that the numbers of health staff off work sick with Covid could hamper the NHS’s response to Omicron.”

  • (22 Dec 2021) RCP survey finds one in ten doctors off work Royal College of Physicians survey of members Dec 22 on the scale of Covid-linked absences:
    “Across the UK, more than 1 in 10 (10.5%) doctors are off work and 1 in 24 (4.2%) due to COVID. In London these figures increase to 1 in 7 (13.9%) off work and 1 in 13 (7.4%) due to COVID. The RCP’s survey found that staff absence is growing, with absences in London comparable to the start of the pandemic, only this time further exacerbated by exhausted and demoralised staff working under the extreme pressure of rising COVID-19 cases coupled with usual winter illnesses.
    “The high absence rate among doctors is likely to be due to the high community levels of infection and rapid transmission of the Omicron variant. Of those off work, 18% had suspected or proven COVID-19 and 19% were isolating due to having contact with cases.
    “Further concern was raised with issues accessing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Across the whole of the UK, 14.5% of respondents felt they didn’t have the PPE they needed to wear for managing patients with COVID-19. 6.5% said they had been in a situation in the past two weeks where they had not been able to access the PPE that the UK Health Security Agency advises.”

  • (21 Dec 2021) Councils call for billions of pounds to be diverted from NHS to social care Guardian report Dec 21 on the latest counter-productive call by under-funded council leaders for cash to be snatched from under-funded NHS services to prop up the social care services many of them have neglected, cut and privatised since the late 1980s. Councils should join the SOSNHS call for increased funding for health and a national care and support service to be set up and properly funded.
    “Town halls in England are calling for billions of pounds a year earmarked for the NHS to be diverted to social care amid warnings of severe care worker shortages and hundreds of thousands of people not getting the help they need.
    “The cross-party Local Government Association wants a rethink of the government policy announced in October, which is to reserve 85% of receipts from the new 1.25% health and social care tax for the health service. It warned the measures, announced to deliver Boris Johnson’s promise to “fix social care”, fail to deal with “immediate, frontline pressures facing care services right now”.
    “The demand “to immediately redirect a significantly greater share of the levy to frontline adult social care” comes amid concern the social care crisis is preventing hospital discharges amid rising Omicron admissions. A four-star hotel in Bristol has become the latest makeshift care home to be pressed into action, after NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, told hospital bosses to use hotel beds to prevent discharge blockages when conventional community care is unavailable.
    “Across the UK, almost half of homecare providers also now say they can no longer take on new work, with worker shortages a key problem. A total of 38% said they were handing back contracts to councils and the NHS because they could no longer deliver, a survey by the Homecare Association found. Meanwhile, 95% of the largest private care home chains are struggling to find care staff, according to a poll published on Tuesday by the industry group Care England.”

  • (21 Dec 2021) London doctor says ‘nine in 10 ICU patients are unvaccinated’ Metro report Dec 21:
    “An intensive care doctor working in the epicentre of the Covid-19 winter wave has revealed as many as 90% of his patients are unvaccinated.
    “Professor Rupert Pearse said doctors are battling to save the lives of people who declined to get the jab. The top physician works across The Royal London Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, where infections are higher than the rest of the country.
    “Mayor Said Khan was forced to declare a major incident across the capital’s emergency service’s this week because of the pressure on resources and staffing.
    “Hospitals and other critical services are being hit by the double blow of a steep rise in cases and workers who have caught the virus themselves being on the sick.
    “More than four fifths of eligible people in the UK have had two doses of the vaccine but millions haven’t had a single dose, a problem which is particularly acute in London.”

  • (21 Dec 2021) LBC’s Nick Ferrari suggests limiting people to 12 GP appointments a year before being charged Indy report on LBC comment by Nick Ferrari Dec 21 which effectively proposes discriminating against the people with the most serious chronic health problems, and almost certainly least able to pay. And if they are deterred by charges also the most likely to wind up in hospital beds rather than their own homes. Daft and reactionary.
    “Like some weird calendar of capitalism, LBC presenter Nick Ferrari has come under fire for his “radical” proposal to limit people’s GP appointments to 12 a year before paying a fee.
    “Mr Ferrari, who hosts the weekday morning programme on the radio station, suggested the plan after saying NHS staff are “bouncing on the bottom” because of coronavirus cases.
    “It is time for radical action, and today, I propose to you that you all have 12 appointments per annum, okay, which obviously works out at one a month. After that, you will be charged.
    “Unless it is a desperately serious case such as cancer, whatever, and obviously that means all bets are off, you go into a different bracket.”

  • (20 Dec 2021) UK public spending as % GDP Excellent graphic showing consistent pattern of Tory rundown of public service spending in each spell of government since Thatcher

  • (20 Dec 2021) Global Covid vaccination failure will harm Britain, Gordon Brown warns Guardian report December 20:
    “The failure to vaccinate the world against coronavirus will come back to haunt even fully vaccinated Britons in 2022, Gordon Brown has warned.
    “The former prime minister said the emergence of Omicron was “not Africa’s fault”, and added that new variants would continue to wreak havoc because richer countries such as the UK had “stockpiled” hundreds of millions of vaccines.
    “He rubbished suggestions wealthier nations faced a choice between offering boosters to their own citizens or sharing doses with people living in poorer countries.
    “Ours is not a fraught choice between boosters and vaccinating the world. We are manufacturing enough vaccines … to immunise the whole world.” Instead, Brown said it was an “inescapable and unacceptable fact” that of the billions of vaccines administered, only 0.6% ended up in low-income countries.”

  • (20 Dec 2021) Rishi’s Next NHS Raid Tribune article Dec 20 by HCT Editor John Lister:
    “Rishi Sunak, the Tory chancellor whose November 2021 Spending Review locked the NHS onto its course for a second decade of decline, is now warning that the limited NHS budget will not cover the extra costs of booster jabs for the latest variant of Coronavirus.
    “While further tightening the financial straitjacket that has effectively frozen real-terms NHS funding since 2010—a decade in which the population and its health needs and cost pressures have grown — Sunak is, according to a recent Spectator article, also leading a cabal of cabinet ministers who are critical of the NHS itself — and, according to the Financial Times, involved in meetings with US health corporation bosses.
    “Systematically starving the NHS of the revenue it needs to sustain services, and the capital it needs to repair and renew hospitals and equipment, has emerged as the main driver of privatisation. “Desperate NHS bosses, lacking the capacity to cope with rising demand, have been forced to turn to private hospitals to supply extra beds, and private contractors to supply cataract and other routine operations, imaging and laboratory services, and mental health care. The extra costs and inefficiencies of this fragmented system pile further pressures back on the NHS—while the private sector, which trains no staff, can only expand by recruiting from the limited pool of NHS-trained staff.”

  • (20 Dec 2021) Vaccine mandate could force hospital units to shut across England National Health Executive magazine’s shock report showing around 10% of NHS staff still refusing to get vaccinated against Covid:
    “The mandatory vaccine decision made at the start of November will mean that all eligible NHS workers must have the Covid-19 vaccine by April 2022.
    “An impact assessment carried out by the Department of Health and Social Care found that over 126,000 unvaccinated staff could lose their job if they are not vaccinated by the deadline. More than 55,000 NHS workers have had their first dose since the government announced the mandate but there are still 94,000 still yet to have the vaccine at all.
    “In an interview with the Guardian, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson has said that in one hospital trust 40 midwives are refusing to get vaccinated meaning that maternity unit may have to close.
    “He added that, “trust leaders are acutely aware that, from April onwards, when Covid vaccinations will become mandatory, decisions by staff to remain unvaccinated could – in extreme circumstances – lead to patient services being put at risk.
    “If sufficient numbers of unvaccinated staff in a particular service in a particular location choose not to get vaccinated, the viability and/or safety of that service could be at risk.”

  • (20 Dec 2021) Workers at hospital hit by staff shortages during Omicron wave warned annual leave is at risk Independent Dec 20:
    “Staff shortages at two hospitals in the UK have forced one to warn time off may have to be cancelled and another to suggest planned operations will be cut in January as the Omicron variant causes soaring infections.
    “University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust was forced to tell staff last week they could not make any new holiday requests and that current leave may be cancelled as it experiences “significant pressures”, according to an email seen by The Independent.
    “Meanwhile, in an email seen by The Independent, Barts Health Trust wrote to doctors warning it may have to cancel “some or much” of its planned operations in January to cope with the coming Covid surge, caused by the fast-spreading new variant.
    “The trust, which runs three hospitals in London, also suggested it will have to rely on staff volunteering for extra shifts to avoid cancelling leave and redeploying workers, as staff absences due to Covid have become a “major challenge”.”

  • (19 Dec 2021) A dangerous lie is stalking the NHS: that it is no longer fit for purpose Good Dec 19 Guardian explainer from Sonia Sodia
    “Times have changed: recent years have brought us the phenomenon of Tory health ministers proudly sporting that logo on pin badges on their lapels. But there remain a number of politicians and commentators who are cynically using the pandemic to argue that the NHS is structurally unsound and in need of major reform.
    “The argument goes like this. We are spending more on the NHS than ever. Too much is eaten up by bureaucracy. If we keep on at this rate, NHS demand will eventually crowd out spending on things like schools and the police. But despite all that record-breaking resource, we suffer inferior health outcomes than many of our European neighbours. The pandemic has made things worse, and the only way to fix this is to do the unthinkable: break up the NHS.
    “Its proponents present themselves as cool-headed rationalists battling the pathetically romantic predilections of a nation. But the reality is that their argument is as ideologically fuelled as arguments come, and it relies on some highly disingenuous sleights of hand.…”
    See also page 11 https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/flip/NB14/NewsBulletin-14.html

  • (19 Dec 2021) London hospital staff speak out: ‘We’re not here to judge, but please get your Covid vaccines’ Observer report from King’s College Hospital, Dec 19:
    “Staff who spoke to the Observer during a visit to the Covid wards said most of these dangerously ill patients recently admitted to critical beds were unvaccinated. Medical teams at King’s are now bracing themselves for a new influx of patients infected by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. They are urging people to get their jabs.
    “About a third of patients who are transferred to critical care beds with Covid will die, according to several studies carried out during the pandemic. Most will gradually improve over a week to 10 days, and a small number will require long-term treatment – for three months and longer – in the unit.
    “Doctors and nurses say they are deeply concerned at the number of seriously ill patients being transferred to critical care beds who are still unvaccinated.
    “Michael Bartley, a critical care matron at King’s, estimated that “80 to 90%” in the hospital’s critical care beds were unvaccinated.”

  • (19 Dec 2021) ‘Huge worry’ over impact of Omicron on NHS staff, senior medic says “The impact of the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant on NHS staffing levels is a “huge worry”, a senior medic has said. Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland, said the NHS was facing a “double whammy” of winter pressures and the latest coronavirus variant.
    “… Asked about medical staff being required to self-isolate and the pressure this was putting on medical care, he said: “I think if we see a huge number of cases of the new variant it’s highly likely to impact the medical workforce.
    “From a hospital perspective, it’s the effect it may have on nursing staff particularly because it’s nurses that keep the wards safe at the most basic level.
    “Although we can to some extent redeploy staff, there are real limits on how much we can do that.
    “It remains to be seen what proportion of the NHS workforce might end up self-isolating either temporarily or for longer, but that’s got to be a huge worry.”

  • (18 Dec 2021) Staff absence forecasts reveal ‘bleak picture’ for coming days Chilling (£) HSJ report December 18:
    “The number of NHS staff in London absent due to covid has more than doubled in four days, and one in three of the workforce would be absent by new year’s eve if the growth rate continues.
    “The rapid increase in recent days is set out by internal NHS monitoring figures seen by HSJ. It comes amid growing concern about the impact of the omicron variant, particularly in London, in the coming days and weeks. Sajid Javid this morning said the impact on the NHS was uncertain and it was still possible it may be overwhelmed.
    “Covid-related absences in the capital increased 140 per cent from 1,926 on Sunday 12 December to 4,695 on Thursday 16 December.”

  • (18 Dec 2021) Covid patients treated at home to protect NHS Sunday Times report Dec 18:
    “Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said the health service was on a “war footing”. Plans have been passed to treat 15 per cent of Covid patients at home, with remote monitoring of their oxygen levels.
    “… Data presented at a No 10 press conference last week by England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, showed a stark difference between the rate of hospital admission after a positive Covid test between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.
    “Unjabbed patients were more likely to be admitted to hospital across all age groups. They were more than twice as likely to be admitted if aged 50 or over and more than four times as likely if 80 or older.
    “Patients on virtual wards are given oximeters that fit on their finger. Powis said the treatment would allow thousands of people to receive “the same care they would in hospital but from the comfort of their own home. This is better for patients, it is better for their families and it is better for the NHS, as it limits the spread of the virus, which we know at the minute is rising exponentially.”

  • (17 Dec 2021) Government backs social care with record funding Misleading December 17 press release from Department of Health and Social Care headlines on total of money that will be split over 3 years, money only available from April and a pathetically low sum to plug the growing gaps in staffing in under-paid, stressful social care posts:
    "• New £1.4 billion fund to help local authorities offer a fairer cost of care to providers
    "• More than £1 billion for local authorities to support social care
    "• £300 million extra for workforce recruitment and retention
    Care providers, residents and staff will all benefit from additional funding to support the social care sector.
    "A total of £1.4 billion will be made available over 3 years to help increase the fee rates local authorities pay to care providers.
    "Further funding of more than £1 billion will be available for local authorities in 2022 to 2023 to fund social care. This will help councils respond effectively to rising demand and cost pressures.
    "This is on top of the £300 million announced last week for workforce recruitment and retention – taking the total to £462.5 million."

  • (17 Dec 2021) Omicron Gets Around Previous Covid Infection, Study Warns Bloomberg report Dec 17:
    “A previous Covid-19 recovery provides little shield against infection with the omicron variant, a research team from Imperial College London showed in a large study that underlines the importance of booster shots.
    “Having had Covid probably only offers 19% protection against omicron, the study showed on Friday. That was roughly in line with two doses of vaccine, which the team estimated were as much as 20% effective against omicron. Adding a booster dose helped dramatically, blocking an estimated 55% to 80% of symptomatic cases.
    “The Imperial College London team analyzed all the PCR test-confirmed Covid cases in England between Nov. 29 and Dec. 11, making it one of the most expansive examinations yet at omicron’s potential to evade the body’s defenses. The results were in line with the picture emerging of the variant’s capacity to elude protection from previous infection or inoculation and spread faster than earlier iterations of the virus.
    “There was no evidence of omicron cases being less severe than delta, based on the proportion of people testing positive who had symptoms or went to the hospital, the team said.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) Demand for apology from Tory MP after ‘outrageous’ attack on Chris Whitty Independent December 16:
    “Labour is demanding an apology after a Conservative MP said that chief medical officer Chris Whitty should “defer” to Boris Johnson over advice on Covid precautions over the Christmas period.
    “Joy Morrissey, who is a parliamentary aide in the Ministry of Justice, hit out after Prof Whitty said people should “deprioritise” unnecessary social gatherings, at a time when the prime minister insists he is not ordering the cancellation of Christmas parties.
    “In a hastily-deleted tweet branded “outrageous” by Labour, the Beaconsfield MP suggested that the chief medical officer’s comments suggested the UK was turning into a “public health socialist state”.
    “Perhaps the unelected covid public health spokesperson should defer to what our ELECTED Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister have decided,” wrote the parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab. I know it’s difficult to remember but that’s how democracy works. This is not a public health socialist state.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) Quarter of ambulances getting stuck in A&E queues BBC News report Dec 16:
    “Nearly a quarter of patients brought to hospital in an ambulance are facing dangerous delays getting into hospital in England, NHS data shows.
    “Ambulances are meant to hand over patients within 15 minutes of arriving.
    But in the past week 23% out of nearly 84,000 patients brought in waited over 30 minutes.
    “Staff are warning patients are being put at risk by the delays - and they think the situation is only going to get worse as Covid infections rise.
    “At seven NHS trusts more than half patients were left waiting over half an hour with nearly two thirds delayed at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) Brexit-voting areas of UK have highest COVID-19 death rate, study finds Euronews Dec 16:
    “COVID-19 is killing a high proportion of people in regions of the UK that voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, a new report has claimed.
    “… It reveals that the boroughs of Boston, Great Yarmouth, South Holland, and Hartlepool, for example, have the fourth highest fatalities from the virus in the UK and the biggest share of the vote for Brexit, with all four districts voting more than 75% for leave in 2016. By contrast, the 20 boroughs with the lowest death rates all voted heavily for Remain.
    “For the authors, the results suggest that the same people who were swayed by the arguments in favour of Brexit -- which was defined by a distrust of political and financial elites and populist rhetoric shared via social media -- are also those that resist getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and have been hostile to lockdown measures including curfews and mask-wearing.
    "There is a group of people in the population who just rejects any official advice, any mainstream advice, any expert advice,” Phalippou told Euronews.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) Man whose wife won legal bid to have his Covid treated with ivermectin dies Independent report December 15:
    “A Pennsylvania man, whose wife fought a legal battle to have his Covid-19 infection treated with ivermectin, has died days after receiving the second dose of the drug.
    “Keith Smith, 52, died on Sunday after being hospitalised for nearly three weeks. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus infection on 10 November and was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit in a medically induced coma on a ventilator on 21 November.
    “As his health continued to degrade, his wife of 24 years, Darla Smith moved court to have the hospital administer ivermectin. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medication, mostly administered to livestock to treat scabies and other ailments.
    “Countless viral posts in conservative Facebook groups and other online spaces, driven in part by a pro-Donald Trump telemedicine service that sells prescriptions for ivermectin, have hailed it as a miracle drug and advised followers to do whatever they can to get it.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) Integrating health and social care A comparison of policy and progress across the four countries of the UK Nuffield Trust report revealing its researchers are less than fully convinced that the rhetoric about “integrated care systems” in England is matched by any actual improvements in patient care:
    “Each of the UK’s four countries has a long-standing goal to integrate health and social care services, which has been a principle of successive major reforms by each government since devolution.
    “Despite this, we found there is limited evidence that policies in any of the UK countries have made a difference to patients, or to how well services are integrated.
    “Across countries, there has been a persistent mismatch between some of the stated objectives of integration, and what better collaboration between health and social care can meaningfully achieve.”

  • (16 Dec 2021) WTO TRIPS Council December 2021: UK statement December 16 statement of position of British government, effectively opposing attempts to secure a waiver of the WTO TRIPS agreement, in order to speed the production and distribution of Covid vaccines to developing countries, which otherwise face delays and unaffordable costs.
    The UK statement "does not see how text-based negotiations could lead to consensus, solutions, or pragmatic outcomes," and notes
    "many delegations point to the risks a TRIPS waiver would carry for this and future pandemics. I would like to reiterate that the UK is one of those Members."

  • (16 Dec 2021) Topsham doctors reverse 'no routine service' decision Radio Exe report December 16:
    “An Exeter GP practice has reversed its decision to suspend routine services until the middle of January, after a health boss said their messaging to patients was "not accurate".
    “The surgeries in Topsham and Countess Wear told patients on Wednesday not to get in touch and book appointments until well into the new year, but quickly changed its mind following interventions by the area's councillor and the NHS group in charge.
    “Topsham Surgery and Glasshouse Medical Centre sent text messages to patients on Wednesday [15 December] which said: “…all routine GP services have been suspended until the second week in January to enable us to support delivery of the covid booster programme.”
    “They continued: “Due to reduced clinical capacity, please do not ring the surgery for any routine matters until the middle of January,” instead directing them to 111 or 999 in case of an emergency.
    “But following criticism, the message has now been altered, advising that “patients should continue to contact our GP practice for urgent health advice, but are urged to consider calling in the New Year if it can wait…”

  • (16 Dec 2021) GP surgery tells patients: 'No routine appointments until 2022' Stoke Sentinel Dec 16 reports on one GP practice response to extra task of rolling out booster jabs:
    “GP practices are contacting their patients - to warn them there will be no 'routine appointments' until 2022.
    “Biddulph Valley Surgery - which operates from within Biddulph Primary Care Centre - is one of the practices to bring in the new rules from Monday, December 20.
    “It is in response to the Government's demand to offer a Covid booster jab to every adult in England by New Year's Eve.
    “But the text message hasn't gone down well with some patients who have labelled the practice an 'absolute joke'.
    “The message states: "Following the Prime Minister's announcement all NHS services are to concentrate on the Covid booster vaccines until the end of the year. From Monday, December 20, we can only offer a skeleton clinical service for urgent cases. Routine appointments will be rearranged for the New Year.…”

  • (15 Dec 2021) Government bullied safety watchdog over PPE supplied by ‘VIPs’ Good Law Project Dec 15 with more revelations of dodgy dealings:
    “PPE supplied by high profile VIPs has repeatedly been cleared for use by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), overruling concerns of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) that it is not fit for purpose.
    “Good Law Project challenged the award of £108m of PPE contracts to Clandeboye, a confectionery wholesaler. Clandeboye does not appear on the DHSC’s list of VIPs but Government’s internal documents tell a different story.
    “What DHSC told the High Court was that: “Clandeboye answered the call to arms by making a viable offer and performing its contracts” and had been “approved in testing upon arrival”.
    “However, emails obtained by the BBC show the [HSE] saying: “The outer packaging for these aprons indicates that they are fluid repellent gowns, which they are not… they are not Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and do not meet the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (EU) 2016/425.” Nevertheless, after months of email correspondence the DHSC issued a notice authorising their use.
    “… Good Law Project has written asking Government to explain how it has adhered to its duties of candour and not to mislead the High Court.”

  • (15 Dec 2021) Colorado Hospitals in ‘Critical Condition’ as State Weathers Another Surge Kaiser Health News report December 15:
    “The covid variant delta has overwhelmed the Colorado county of the same name. Hospitals on the Western Slope have been slammed for weeks, and the statewide picture is similarly grim. As of Monday, the state’s coronavirus website reported 1,294 patients hospitalized with covid-19.
    “Half of the state’s hospitals said they anticipated a staffing shortage in mid-December; more than a third of them anticipated bed shortages in their intensive care units at the same time. And behind those numbers, patients are feeling the impact.
    “… just 57% of eligible people in Delta County have received at least one dose of a covid vaccine. And 84% of hospitalized covid patients in Colorado are not vaccinated.”

  • (15 Dec 2021) GPs most likely to ‘bear the brunt’ of burnout, warns the GMC Pulse Dec 15 with a worrying report:
    “GPs are the most likely to be at a high risk of burnout compared with other doctors, with around a third (32%) of GPs operating at this level, the GMC has warned.
    “The proportion of GPs ‘struggling with workload’ – meaning they worked beyond rostered hours and felt unable to cope with workload on a weekly basis – has more than doubled in 2021 compared with 2020, the GMC’s annual state of medical education and practice (SOMEP) report said.
    “Meanwhile, one in five GPs say they found it difficult to provide sufficient patient care on a daily basis, with a further one in five saying they feel this on a weekly basis.
    “The GMC said that there ‘needs to be a fresh mindset in the way healthcare teams work together’, or more GPs will leave the workforce.
    “More than half of the 895 GPs (54%) who responded to its survey are struggling with workload on a weekly basis, compared with 26% in 2020.”

  • (15 Dec 2021) East Lancashire NHS Trust intransigence forces new period of strike action by biomedical scientists. Unite press release on a long-running dispute Dec 15:
    “Blackburn and Burnley biomedical scientists will re-start strike action today (Wednesday 15 December) in a dispute over unpaid wages.
    “Union negotiators met with the Trust on Tuesday (7 December) last week in an attempt to identify a solution to the dispute. It was an opportunity to avoid further strike action and to re-establish union / Trust relations. On the eve of the strike, the Trust had still failed to take up the opportunity to end the dispute.
    “The skilled NHS staff at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust are owed on average between £8000 and £12,000.
    “Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Last week Unite met with the Trust with an offer to work constructively to get a deal to resolve this strike. Instead our offer has been met with a stubborn unwillingness to end the dispute.
    “The Trust’s Chief Executive Martin Hodgson has the failed the staff, the patients, and he’s failed the taxpayer.
    "The biomedical scientists are taking action because they have a genuine, legitimate, fair and reasonable case and they have Unite's unwavering support. This dispute will now go ahead and our campaign will escalate."

  • (15 Dec 2021) Covid hospital admissions could reach 2,000 a day as Omicron cases soar, professor warns Mirror Dec 15:
    “Covid hospital admissions could reach 2,000 a day, an expert has warned.
    “Leading infectious disease scientist, Graham Medley, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Most of the infections at the moment are in young adults, so these are people who are far less likely to need hospital treatment in any case.
    "But in the past, in previous waves, we've seen that move out into more older and more vulnerable generations and there's no reason to suspect that won't happen during this wave.
    "And then the numbers of people who end up in hospital is some combination of when people get infected, their vaccination status, as well as what Omicron is doing."

  • (14 Dec 2021) Norfolk and Norwich hospital moves to highest alert level due to demand BBC Norfolk report Dec 14:
    “A hospital has gone into its highest level of alert due to increased pressure on services.
    “The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said there was high demand at A&E and many staff were working on the Covid-19 booster programme. It is also understood the hospital has cancelled all meetings and training to mobilise staff.
    “A spokesman said it was "extremely busy" and moving into Opel (Operational Pressures Escalation Levels) 4.
    “It means demand within the hospital has escalated to a level in which it is unable to deliver comprehensive care.”

  • (14 Dec 2021) Nearly one-third of Americans skipped care in past three months due to cost: poll US magazine The Hill, Dec 14:
    “Almost one-third of Americans skipped necessary medical care in the past three months because they could not afford it, according to a poll released Tuesday.
    “The survey from the West Health Policy Center and Gallup found that 30 percent of participants said they opted out of health care due to the cost — a percentage that tripled from nine months ago, reaching its highest point during the pandemic.
    “One-fifth of respondents said they or a household member saw their health problem worsen after delaying care because of the cost.
    “Twenty percent of those from households that earn more than $120,000 also reported they postponed health care due to financial reasons — an increase from 3 percent in March.
    “Tim Lash, president of the West Health Policy Center, told The Hill that the data showing those earning “significantly higher” than the median income struggling “tells you that we have a real problem.” “It tells me that we're at a breaking point and that it's not just … those that are desperate are not just low-income individuals but even those that are more affluent,” he said. “And we’re gonna have to find a way out of that.”
    “Almost a third of respondents said they would not have access to affordable care if they needed it today, compared to a spring survey in which 18 percent said the same. Plus, 42 percent said they worry they won’t be able to pay for necessary medical care within the next year.”

  • (13 Dec 2021) Half of UK families are £110 worse off a year since 2019 General Election New Economics Foundation Dec 13 with a report showing one reason why health inequalities are increasing at the same time as talk of ‘levelling up’:
    “The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised “to unite and level up, spreading opportunity across the whole United Kingdom”. When Boris Johnson became prime minister he doubled down on this promise to “level up across Britain”, with a focus on “forgotten people and the left behind towns”.
    “… Two years on from the election, and almost halfway through the current parliament, this analysis presents new modelling looking at who has benefited most so far, and who has lost out.
    “… The overall picture of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ is stark. …
    “On an annualised basis, the poorest 50% of families have seen their disposable incomes squeezed by an average of £110 in real terms (here and henceforth in December 2021 prices), while the top 5% of families have seen gains of more than £3,300. This has seen poverty – defined in terms of families with equivalised income below 60% of the UK median before housing costs – rise by 300,000 in two years.”

  • (13 Dec 2021) Wrong Prescription: The Impact of Privatizing Healthcare in Kenya Important new report Dec 13 from Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice lifts the lid on the damage done of health care in Kenya by privatisation and user charges:
    "Wrong Prescription: The Impact of Privatizing Healthcare in Kenya is a collaboration between The Economic and Social Rights Centre-Hakijamii and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.
    "The 49-page report draws from more than 180 interviews with healthcare users and providers, government officials, and experts, and finds that the government-backed expansion of the private healthcare sector in Kenya is leading to exclusion and setting back the country’s goal of universal health coverage.
    "The report documents how policies designed to increase private sector participation in health, in combination with chronic underinvestment in the public healthcare system, have led to a rapid increase in the role of for-profit private actors and undermined the right to health. Privatizing healthcare has proven costly for individuals and the government, and pushed Kenyans into poverty and crushing debt.
    "While the wealthy may be able to access high-quality private care, for many, particularly in lower-income areas, the private sector offers low-quality services that may be inadequate or unsafe. The report concludes with a call to prioritize the public healthcare system."

  • (13 Dec 2021) Trust CEO drafted in to lead national push to halve delayed discharges HSJ report, Dec 15, notes top-down instruction to step up the use of private hospitals as NHS capacity remains restricted:
    “The NHS has been told to discharge at least half the hospital patients who are medically fit to leave as it gears up to cope with a ‘tidal wave’ of omicron cases.
    “A letter from NHS England and Improvement letter to system leaders sent out tonight also instructs them to “significantly step up” the use of private sector providers in an effort to mitigate any impact on elective waiting lists.
    “The letter declares that in the light of the omicron threat: ”We are again declaring a Level 4 National Incident, in recognition of the impact on the NHS of both supporting the vital increase in the vaccination programme and preparing for a potentially significant increase in covid-19 cases.”
    “This means that efforts to combat the latest surge in covid infections and, potentially, hospitalisations will once more be co-ordinated at national level as it was during spring 2020 and winter 2020-21.”

  • (13 Dec 2021) NHS in crisis mode as hospitals told to discharge patients where possible Guardian report December 13:
    “The NHS was put on a crisis footing tonight as hospitals in England were told to discharge as many patients as possible while estimated daily Omicron cases hit 200,000 and the variant claimed its first life in the UK.
    “… Amid a scramble for tests and booster jabs, the country’s doctors called for further restrictions to be imposed to stem the rise in cases and Downing Street did not rule out fresh measures.
    “In a letter to hospitals, NHS England chiefs said patients who could be discharged to care homes, hospices, their own homes or hotels before Christmas to free up beds, should be. The letter from NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, and medical director Prof Stephen Powis said the service was facing a level 4 “national incident”.
    “Hotels are already being turned into temporary care facilities staffed with workers flown in from Spain and Greece to relieve rising pressure on NHS hospital beds.”

  • (13 Dec 2021) Hotels being used as care facilities to relieve pressure on NHS Guardian December 13:
    “Hotels are being turned into temporary care facilities staffed with workers flown in from Spain and Greece to relieve rising pressure on NHS hospital beds.
    “Three hotels in the south of England are being used, including one in Plymouth into which 30 hospital patients have been discharged to be looked after by live-in carers. It is understood that the staff are staying on upper floors while patients are below.
    “At least three other health authorities are considering the move, which is partly driven by the severe shortage of domiciliary care workers able to look after people in their own homes, according to Anne-Marie Perry, chief executive of Abicare, a home care company contracted to set up the facilities.
    “She said they were for people who are ready to be discharged to their homes but couldn’t be because care packages were not available.
    “The hospitals are on their knees and we are being contacted fairly regularly by clinical commission groups,” said Perry. “The problem Plymouth have is there is not enough domiciliary care provision, so that’s one of the reasons why they can’t discharge patients.”

  • (12 Dec 2021) Blood supplies could soon become ‘critical,’ NHS warns Grim warning from The Independent December 12:
    “NHS stocks of blood may become “critical” this winter, a regulator has warned, as Covid and higher than average winter rates of cold and flu risk donation levels.
    “The NHS Blood and Transplant authority declared a major incident at the end of October after its supply of blood supplies dropped to critical levels, nationally. The regulator’s supply was at risk of dropping to below two days’ supply across the country, when it aims to have at least five days at all times.
    “This is the second time the regulator, which is responsible for blood donation supplies to the NHS, has declared a critical incident in the last 12 months.”

  • (10 Dec 2021) Revealed: The true effect of the withdrawal of MPIG funding on GP practices Pulse Today Dec 10 on how yet another government policy has gone horribly wrong, and ministers have yet again managed to piss off the GPs who they rely upon to keep the NHS running:
    “The Government has been phasing out ‘minimum practice income guarantee’ (MPIG) funding since 2014, but its rationale was that this would lead to fair funding.
    “The Pulse Intelligence analysis reveals, however, that practices that received MPIG funding in 2015 earned on average around £8 less per patient in 2020/21 than those who didn’t.
    “They earned £4 less per patient through the global sum, and less in CCG discretionary funding such as GP Forward View payments and local enhanced services.
    “The MPIG was introduced as part of the 2004 contract to ensure that practices who were disadvantaged through the introduction of a new funding formula would not miss out on funding.”

  • (9 Dec 2021) Gloucestershire: Health services urgently need more staff and beds BBC South West report Dec 9:
    “Gloucestershire's health and social care services need more staff, beds and facilities, a councillor has claimed.
    “Cheltenham Borough Council wants more government support because the county's hospitals cannot meet capacity.
    “Councillor Flo Clucas said there were currently 200 people occupying hospital beds in Gloucestershire who should be elsewhere.
    “… the borough's councillors said there were still not enough beds in the county's hospitals, which includes Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Cheltenham General.”

  • (8 Dec 2021) Dr Tim Ferris appointed executive sponsor of BAME Network for the NHS Healthcare IT News Dec 8, with the “couldn’t make it up” news that (as Roy Lilley summed up): “white middle-aged American bloke” appointed to lead NHS BAME Network!
    “NHS national director of transformation Dr Tim Ferris has been appointed executive sponsor of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Network.
    “The BAME Network is a membership organisation which aims to help maintain a safe and positive working environment for BAME staff in the NHS, eliminate racial discrimination and help develop and maintain a representative workforce with inclusive leadership.
    “In an internal email seen by Healthcare IT News, Ferris said the transformation directorate aimed to recover and transform services in light of COVID-19 through national priority programmes, including improving population health and reducing inequalities.
    “…COVID-19 exposed health disparities across the country, with higher death rates among people from ethnic minorities, particularly from South Asian and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.
    “There has been debate about the cause of this disparity, with concerns raised about potential systematic racial bias in the NHS, such as the issue of race blind data.”

  • (7 Dec 2021) Where are all the missing hospital patients? IFS December 7 report askes some searching questions:
    “Millions of people in England have missed out on hospital care during the course of the pandemic. That is partly because the NHS cancelled or delayed large volumes of non-urgent procedures in order to prioritise the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
    “But it is also, at least in part, because people chose to stay away – perhaps because of a fear of catching the virus in a hospital environment, or a desire not to burden the NHS. In total, some 7.6 million fewer people joined a waiting list for NHS care in England between March 2020 and September 2021 than we would have expected based on pre-pandemic data. This suggests that there are millions of ‘missing’ patients: people who, in the absence of a pandemic, would have sought and received NHS hospital care but, in the event, did not.
    “The question we pose here is: where are these missing patients? It is true that the waiting list for NHS care in England has grown: there are currently 5.8 million people waiting for treatment in England, 1.4 million more than in February 2020. But while that is a large increase – more than 30% in less than two years – it is actually rather modest when compared with the number of people who have missed out on care. So, while some of those who stayed away during the early stages of the pandemic have since joined (and may still be on) the waiting list, many more have not (yet) formally joined. In other words, they are still missing.
    “This is a puzzle, and a hugely important one. For one, whether and when these patients do come forward to seek NHS care will have a massive impact on the length of future NHS waiting lists.”

  • (7 Dec 2021) Centene to pay $27.6M to settle PBM investigation in Kansas Fierce Healthcare Dec 7:
    “Centene Corporation has settled yet another pharmacy benefit management case, this time in Kansas, where it agreed to pay $27.6 million to the state.
    “After Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost investigated and filed suit against Centene over PBM practices, similar lawsuits cropped up in other states. In a statement, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the case alleged Centene failed to "satisfy its obligation to represent the state's best interests" in negotiating drug prices in Medicaid.
    “We take seriously our role of protecting Kansas taxpayers and finding and stopping fraud and overpayments in the state Medicaid program,” Schmidt said. “Today’s settlement involving PBM practices is the first of its sort in Kansas, and other investigations continue.”
    “Kansas officials began investigating Centene's practices following the Ohio investigation's publication in 2019, Schmidt said. In the settlement, Centene guarantees it will improve transparency by providing access to the necessary data to track pharmaceutical transactions.”

  • (6 Dec 2021) Care home in Kent gives families 10 hours’ notice of closure Guardian report Dec 6:
    “Standards collapsed so quickly at a severely short-staffed care home that families were given just 10 hours’ notice of its final closure triggering a desperate scramble to find new homes for traumatised residents, the Guardian has learned.
    “Berkeley House in Kent looked after adults with severe learning difficulties and autism but, five weeks ago, its operator suddenly decided it could no longer provide safe care and families were informed at 7.30am that their loved ones would have to leave by 5pm, a move branded “inhumane” by one family. Only four days earlier, families had been told by the operators the move would happen after 28 days.
    “The case emerged amid calls for the government to take urgent action to boost staffing levels in care homes and home care across England. Earlier this year there were estimated to be more than 100,000 social care staff vacancies in England and it was calculated this week that about 60,000 workers quit between April and October.
    “Half of councils surveyed in England have had to deal with care homes closing or going bankrupt in the last six months.”

  • (5 Dec 2021) The Observer view on the state of children’s social care Observer Dec 5:
    “Perhaps the most important job that the state has is to protect children at risk of harm and abuse. Yet children’s social care is facing a mounting crisis that gets far less exposure than that confronting the NHS or even adult social care. Local councils, which are responsible for child protection, are having to provide for vulnerable youngsters against a backdrop of rising need, reduced funding from central government and a shortage of long-term foster and residential care places, many of which are overpriced by the private sector.
    “… there are mounting pressures on the system as a result of growing numbers of children in care. The overall child population has grown over the past decade but, even allowing for this, there has been a 6% increase in the rate of children entering care in the past five years. …
    “Despite this rising demand, local authorities have seen their central government funding drastically cut by almost 60% in the past decade. Councils have been expected to make up for this reduction by relying more heavily on receipts from council tax and business rates.
    “This means councils in less affluent areas, with higher levels of need for children and adult social services and from people who are homeless have seen their overall budgets fall by more than wealthier areas.”

  • (5 Dec 2021) NHS under fire for paying private firms to jab kids which has 'slowed the process down' Sunday Mirror story Dec 5:
    “The NHS is paying private companies to vaccinate 12 to 15 year olds - but fewer than half have been jabbed.
    It was announced this week that this age group would be offered a second dose amid fears about the omicron variant. But it’s likely to be April before the majority are fully protected because only 1.2 million of the three million eligible children have had one dose - the equivalent of 40 percent.
    “Experts fear the decision to pay private firms millions to jab hundreds of thousands of children in this cohort has actually slowed the process down.
    “Dr David Strain, from the University of Exeter’s medical school, said: “There have been places where pools of students have been handed over to private companies and very little vaccination is taking place.
    "It is very clear that not all children are going to be vaccinated by the end of January.”

  • (5 Dec 2021) Doctors and nurses vent anger as unvaccinated Covid cases delay vital operations Shaun Lintern’s first article in the Sunday Times Dec 5:
    “Doctors and nurses have told of their anger and frustration at not being able to treat seriously ill patients as new figures show that more than 90 per cent of Covid sufferers requiring the most specialist care are unvaccinated.
    “While the success of the vaccination rollout has reduced the overall impact of Covid-19 on hospitals, intensive care clinicians from across England have spoken out over the continuing pressure they are under.
    “Between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of critical care beds in England are occupied by Covid patients and three quarters of those have not been vaccinated, according to the latest data up to July this year.”

  • (3 Dec 2021) Company 'could lose £54m Somerset healthcare contract' BBC Somerset story December 3, following the take-over of Virgin Care by venture capitalist group Twenty20 Capital.

    “Virgin Care could see a £54m-a-year contract to deliver health and care services withdrawn.
    “Councillors and clinicians in Bath and North East Somerset were told on Wednesday the company had been acquired by private equity firm Twenty20. Council leader Kevin Guy said the latest deal with Virgin Care had not been signed off.
    “Campaign group Protect Our NHS feared the takeover could mean cuts in staff and services to boost profits. HCRG Care Group disputes this claim.
    “Virgin Care took over services in the area in 2017, signing a seven-year contract.
    “… Its contract with Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) was renewed for five years in November, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
    However, it has now been acquired by Twenty20 Capital and rebranded as HCRG Care group.”

  • (3 Dec 2021) Hospital pass: The NHS is on life support Outlandish, misinformed Spectator article (Dec 3) ignores the 12 years of under-funding since 2010, and offers a predictably hostile comparison of the NHS with more generously funded and resourced health care systems around the world. Written by Kate Andrews, the ubiquitous BBC guest from the mysteriously-funded neoliberal “think tank” the IEA.
    Her article does appear to lift the lid on top-level Tory impatience to push more privatisation:
    “The cabinet meeting this week turned into a surprisingly frank conversation about the National Health Service. Rishi Sunak was asked to give his thoughts on the future of health and social care. … But once Sunak started, others joined in. Jacob Rees-Mogg added his concerns. Steve Barclay, the new Cabinet Office minister, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, also contributed.
    “By the end of the meeting, the ministers had heard each other say out loud what they have long been thinking: that the NHS, as it stands, is failing.”
    She goes on to peddle her view of the NHS
    “the NHS is designed to ration health-care, using waiting lists and running hospitals at nearly full capacity. This is why almost every winter the ‘NHS in crisis’ headlines appear. These stories are not really exaggerated: doctors and nurses work ridiculous hours, often in overflowing wards. This is, for political reasons, the way Britain chooses to run its health service: as a top-down bureaucracy, funnelling resources to management and keeping competition at bay. It wastes money and, worse, it costs lives. We’re long overdue a conversation about how to do better for everyone.”
    For a response see 'Dodgy figures wheeled out to attack NHS' at https://healthcampaignstogether.com/newsroundup.php

  • (3 Dec 2021) £700 million to support NHS this winter Department of Health & Social Care Press Release December 3, giving ministers a chance for yet another round of naïve local and national press and media headlines by revealing the allocations of the same pitifully small amount of money announced back in September.

    • £700 million targeted investment for 785 schemes across 187 hospital trusts to increase capacity and tackle waiting lists
    • Government sets out plan to addresses NHS and social care challenges this winter including responding to high demand alongside COVID-19
    • Public advised to play their part by getting COVID-19 and flu jabs, and contacting 111 for urgent medical advice
    “Hospitals across the country will benefit from a share of £700 million to expand wards, install modular operating theatres, upgrade outpatient spaces and MRI and screening technology, to help reduce waiting lists.
    “The funding, to be split across all regions in England, will help reduce waiting times for patients by expanding the number of operating theatres and beds, including new day surgery units to prevent people staying overnight and investment in technology to improve their experiences of care and help them manage their conditions.”

  • (2 Dec 2021) The social care White Paper: not wrong, just not moving far enough in the right direction Even the King’s Fund, normally quick to toady to ministers and government policy, struggles in this Dec 2 response to find much to cheer about in the White Paper:
    “The White Paper is, to remind ourselves, the latest of four documents that together were intended to deliver the Prime Minister’s promise of ‘fixing’ adult social care. We had already had the Health and Care Bill, the Build Back Better policy document and the autumn Spending Review.
    “The first introduced measures to give the Care Quality Commission oversight of local authority social care activities, with the possibility of intervention by the Secretary of State if necessary, as well as moves to greatly improve data collection within (and therefore insight into) the sector.
    “The second, funded by a slice of the Health and Care Levy, introduced the headline reforms: introduction of a cap on lifetime care costs and a loosening of the means test, along with promises of ‘fair price for care’ for self-funders and £500 million to support the workforce.
    “The third set local government funding for the next three years.
    “Yet the detail – and the money available – has proved disheartening. Social care is getting just a small slice (£5.4 billion over three years) of the £30.3bn raised by the Health and Social Care Levy, with the majority of the money going to the NHS. The cap has been reconfigured to be less generous to people with low and moderate assets. Once you have taken off the extra costs that the policy document creates for local authorities, the spending power increase in the Spending Review is only 1.8 per cent at a time when social care costs – especially around workforce – and demand for services are surging.”

  • (1 Dec 2021) Shock takeover of Virgin Care which runs Sheppey, Sittingbourne, Dartford and Gravesend hospitals December 1 Kent Online report seems to have ben the first to break the news of Virgin Care takeover:
    “Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Care, which runs four of Kent's community hospitals, has been taken over. The shock news was broken to stunned staff as they arrived at work this morning.
    “The business, which has run the wards at Sheppey Community Hospital, Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, the Livingstone Hospital in Dartford and Gravesham Community Hospital in Gravesend since 2016, has been rebranded to HCRG Care Group following a takeover by investment company Twenty20 Capital.
    “Virgin Care had more than 5,000 staff of which 447 work in north Kent.
    “… No money has changed hands in the top secret deal which suggests Sir Richard and the Virgin Group have been forced to write off their £75 million investment in healthcare.
    “A Virgin Group spokeswoman confirmed: "Sir Richard Branson publicly committed that Virgin Group would never make a profit over and above its investment in Virgin Care and we stand by this commitment. Importantly, Virgin is not recouping its investment either.”

  • (30 Nov 2021) For-profit long-term care homes receiving bulk of new bed licenses, report finds Toronto Star, Nov 30 highlighting the major report from the Ontario Health Coalition on the plans that could further entrench for-profit care homes at the centre of Long Term Care in the Province:
    “The Ontario Health Coalition has just completed a new report outlining their evaluation of the province’s bed allocation plan for long-term care.
    “The province is in the process of awarding 30-year capital funding deals and operational licenses for 30,000 new long-term care beds, and upgrading thousands more outdated long-term care beds.
    “For-profit, non-profit and municipal-run organizations providing long-term care can apply for the bed allocations. The Ontario Health Coalition found the majority of the bed licenses in progress, over 16,000, are being awarded to for-profit homes. They found almost 14,000 of the in-progress beds are going to non-profit and municipal homes.
    “… The Ontario Health Coalition report says the pandemic illuminated issues of systemic negligence in for-profit long-term care that had been growing for years.”

  • (29 Nov 2021) Public Money, Private Profit: The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care. New report (Nov 29) by the Ontario Health Coalition warns the Province’s government led by Doug Ford is on the cusp of privatizing an entire new generation of long-term care beds unless public outrage stops them.
    The Ontario Health Coalition was joined by families members of loved ones in for-profit long-term care in a press conference today to release the report, and are launching a province-wide virtual tour to issue a call to action.
    The public is paying for the homes regardless of who owns them, explains the Coalition, who are calling for them to be built as public, non-profit entities operated in the public interest.
    Among the key findings:
    • The Ford government is midway through allocating 30,436 beds and 30-year licenses
    • The majority of these (16,304) are in process of being allocated to for-profit companies. Of those, 12,084 or three quarters, have gone to 10 large chain companies with terrible records in the pandemic and prior
    • The Ford government is giving a minority of the beds to non-profits (10,990) and publicly owned municipal homes (2,918)
    Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said: “Ontario is building 15,000 new beds over 5 years for a total of 46,000 beds. In the next year we will either win them as public and non-profit beds or we will lose them to the for-profits for the next generation.”

  • (29 Nov 2021) Closures and soaring waiting lists: crunch time for social care services Guardian report Nov 29: “Social care services across England are “rapidly deteriorating”, with waiting lists soaring and councils struggling with care home closures, social services chiefs have warned.
    “Long-term waiting lists have almost quadrupled and 1.5m hours of necessary home care were not delivered in the three months to November, amid a deepening staffing crisis going into winter.
    “Red lights are flashing right across our dashboard,” said Stephen Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), which ran a survey of 85 councils. “Older and disabled people are suffering.”
    “Half of councils have had to respond to a care home closure or bankruptcy in the last six months.
    “The bleak assessment comes ahead of the government’s social care white paper, scheduled for Tuesday, which is expected to propose a new strategy for pay and career development for care staff amid an exodus of workers, who currently earn on average just over £9 an hour, to higher-paying employers including Amazon.”

  • (28 Nov 2021) Patient dies while waiting in ambulance for hospital bed Eastern Daily Press report Nov 28:
    "A patient had a cardiac arrest and died while waiting in the back of an ambulance for a bed to become free at a hospital's A&E department.
    “The patient, thought to be in their 70s, suffered the cardiac arrest around 30 minutes after arriving at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) on Friday night.
    “They are the third person in the region in recent weeks to go into cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance and die while waiting for a hospital bed.
    “One woman died while queuing for 90 minutes at Addenbrooke’s Hospital at the end of October. Another patient died earlier that month while their ambulance waited for more than two hours at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston. "

  • (26 Nov 2021) How criminals are cashing in on Rishi's Covid largesse: Billions in 'emergency loans' to firms with minimal checking Shocking report from This Is Money (Nov 26) on the billions sloshed around with minimal controls while the NHS struggles on with minimal funding:
    “The granting of coronavirus loans, though well-intentioned, was so lax as to be an open invitation to fraud and other misuse. Billions of pounds were handed to companies with minimal checking.
    “For once, the banks cannot entirely be blamed for this, because they were acting at the behest of the Government which had set out a deliberate policy of abandoning any attempt at stringent scrutiny. Instead, the priority was for firms to receive their cash in double quick time.
    “… The ultra-loose regime offered a golden opportunity for fraudsters, whether small-time opportunists or sophisticated organised crime.
    “… In total, nearly £48billion of borrowing was approved under the scheme, which is now closed to new applications.”

  • (26 Nov 2021) Pensioners march wreath to Downing Street as elderly face choice 'between heating and eating' Mirror report Nov 26, reminding us of the health risks of pensioner poverty:
    “Pensioners facing fuel poverty in the biting cold of winter marched a super-sized wreath up Downing Street to pressure Boris Johnson into action on energy bills.
    “The National Pensioners' Convention warned the Prime Minister that there was a "death penalty awaiting our poorest and most vulnerable this winter" amid spiking inflation and Rishi Sunak's decision to break the pensions triple lock.
    “It came as official figures revealed there were 60,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in the 2020/2021 winter period - the highest recorded rate since 1969/1970. Campaigners believe that cold homes may have contributed to some of the deaths.
    “Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, which helped to organise the protest, said thousands of elderly people will have the grim choice between eating and heating their homes.”

  • (25 Nov 2021) Labour’s obsessive fear of NHS privatisation blinded it to the real flaws in the Health and Social Care bill Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of Boris Johnson’s old right wing rag the Spectator, uses her column in the Daily Mail-owned i-news (Nov 25) to dismiss any notion that Health & Care Bill leaves room for privatisation – or indeed that the Tories have ever been keen to maximise privatisation:
    “This Bill is not about privatisation. It isn’t even secretly about it. The independent health think tanks examining it have made very clear that in many ways it reduces competition in the health service.
    “The places for private companies on the ICBs will be chosen by local NHS leaders, will lead to meetings held in public and where decisions are taken that must, according to the legislation, preserve the independence of the NHS. The Nuffield Trust’s analysis asks, not unreasonably, for the evidence that it is “any more likely that a representative of a private provider will succeed in getting more money, rather than the representatives of NHS trusts or GPs?”
    “If the Tories really wanted to privatise the NHS, you think they’d have managed it by now. After all, Labour MPs have been making similar accusations about their motives for decades.”

  • (24 Nov 2021) There’s Still an NHS Left to Save Article in Tribune (Nov 24) by HCT Editor John Lister on the next stage of the fight against the Health and Care Bill.
    “The fight over the controversial issues is important, both to expose as widely as possible (and warn a wider public and the NHS staff) what new problems are coming down the line, and to make it absolutely clear that each and every negative consequence that flows from the Bill is down to ministers and the Tory MPs that vote it through, and nobody else.
    “Even if some amendments are carried in the Lords, few if any are likely to be accepted by the Commons, and at the end of the process a government with a majority of 80 will get its Bill through.
    “Whatever is passed we will have to find ways to fight on to repair and restore our battered NHS—just as we did back in 1991 as John Major’s government broke the NHS into an ‘internal market’ of purchasers and providers, and in 2012 after Andrew Lansley’s wide-ranging and fundamental Health and Social Care Act was forced through by the Tories, propped up only by the spineless Lib Dems.
    “… The Bill reorganises the NHS—but it does not fundamentally change the system established in 2012. It does not ‘sell off’ the NHS, although services will still be contracted out, not least where capital investment is required to develop new centres or services.
    “The fight goes on, to the Lords—and beyond. There’s still a lot of NHS to defend—and too much to lose.”

  • (24 Nov 2021) ‘My last lunch break was five months ago’: An ambulance service on the brink of collapse Counterfire Nov 24 interview with a paramedic in the London Ambulance Service, who asked to remain anonymous, about the crisis in the ambulance service and hospitals
    “It is at breaking point. We are getting to the stage that we are unable to unload patients. At Whipps Cross the other day, for example, there was a three-hour waiting time before we could get patients out of the ambulance. …
    “We had an eighty-year-old in an ambulance for two hours the other day, for example, and earlier an eight-year-old with chronic chest pains. Both were desperate for help and panicking that they weren’t getting it.
    “Queen’s Romford is in meltdown. Virtually every day it’s an hour or more wait. At Queen’s they are getting staff to go in on overtime to wait with patients in the corridor, which can take hours. The corridor is not the place to be treated.
    “In so far as there is one, management’s response is to shuffle people to different hospitals. This takes up even more ambulance time. The result is at certain points they will literally not have ambulances to send out to anyone. …”

  • (24 Nov 2021) Dismissing unwell people to argue for pandemic freedoms is abhorrent and unrealistic NHS consultant David Oliver in BMJ blog Nov 24:
    “On 12 November the Daily Telegraph headlined with “Six healthy children died of covid in a year, but lockdowns fuel youth health time bomb.” It explained that, of 3100 child deaths in the 12 months since March 2020, only 61 were “with covid,” 24 were “from covid,” and six were in children with no underlying health conditions. The Daily Mail ran a similar piece, emphasising that mortality from covid in children had been around one in 500 000.
    “… the headlines and graphics were clearly designed to push a message that our focus on covid protection measures had been disproportionate and unjustified for a condition unlikely to harm otherwise healthy children. It didn’t mention the role of children as unwitting spreaders of infection.
    “The casual dismissal of people with underlying health conditions repeated a chilling pattern I’ve observed throughout the pandemic …
    “… The reason I find all of this so problematic is the utter disregard for the rights or human value of older people, people with disabilities, or those with underlying conditions—not least in ethnic minority groups or deprived areas, given that inequalities played a huge part in poor covid outcomes. …
    “Statistical analyses have shown that covid takes, on average, a decade off the life expectancy of the people who die. Most people who die from or with respiratory infectious diseases have underlying long term conditions, covid or otherwise. Are we going to write all of them off too, on the altar of individual freedoms?”

  • (24 Nov 2021) Small family run furniture firm's profits rocketed 4,700 PER CENT after shamed ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock personally recommended them for a PPE contract worth £29million Mail Online report Nov 24:
    “The profits of a small family furniture business in Nottingham rocketed by an astonishing 4,700 per cent after disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock helped it land a £29m government contract for PPE at the height of the pandemic, MailOnline has learned.
    “Monarch Acoustics Ltd, owned and run by husband-and-wife team Stuart and Sophie Hopkin, was given the £28.8m contract to supply surgical gowns after being referred to the fast-track 'VIP lane' by Mr Hancock in May 2020.
    “The effect on the company's finances were dramatic, according to its accounts.
    “Turnover leapt from £9.8m in 2019 to £38m in 2020, and pre-tax profits ballooned from just £267,000 to a hefty £12.6m over the same period. At the end of the 2019 financial year the firm, which has only 80 employees, had just £41,000 in the bank, yet a year later that figure had grown to a cool £10.2 million.”

  • (23 Nov 2021) Government misses opportunity to protect patient care as it disregards RCN-backed amendments to the Health and Care Bill, despite broad support. RCN (November 23) on key amendments to Health & care Bill that were rejected by Tory votes:
    “Among the key amendments, RCN members supported embedding accountability for workforce planning and supply with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to ensure that severe staff shortages – a patient safety issue – are resolved and addressed sustainably. This is important to ensure that such a significant shortage never develops again in the future.
    “The RCN, in coalition with over 50 organisations, also supported an amendment tabled by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that would require the Secretary of State to carry out and publish an assessment of current workforce as well as current and future workforce requirements in health and social care. This would ensure that the gap is clear and transparent.
    “The government rejected the cross-party consensus on the need to tackle the workforce crisis in legislation, by voting down Jeremy Hunt's amendment.
    “Patricia Marquis, RCN England Director, said: “A broad coalition of professional, political and public support has been overlooked by a government still unwilling to solve the staffing crisis in the NHS and care system. There is widespread disappointment and disbelief this evening. When vacancy levels are so high, the move is short-sighted at best and wilfully reckless at worst.”

  • (23 Nov 2021) Care cap 'con' on poorest passes but Boris Johnson suffers Tory revolt Mirror report Nov 23:
    “Boris Johnson suffered a Tory rebellion over cruel plans which mean many of England's poorest pensioners pay more for social care. MPs voted the "con" reform by 272 votes to 246 - a majority of just 26 - in a move that will leave poorer homeowners in the North worse off.
    “Only minutes before the vote, some Tories were quaffing champagne with millionaire donors, who paid up to £15,000 for a table at the party's winter fundraising ball in London.
    “Ministers were given strict instructions by whips to dash back to Westminster in plenty of time amid fears the revolt could be worse than expected. The division list showed 19 Conservative MPs rebelled against the social care changes and a further 69 Tory MPs abstained.
    “The architect of the care cap, Sir Andrew Dilnot, said the change will leave some poorer pensioners facing "catastrophic" costs.”

  • (23 Nov 2021) The King's Fund responds to the social care cap change vote Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund “Nov 23) with surprisingly forthright condemnation of Tory so-called reform of social care:

    “The change to the social care cap is a regressive step that will leave people with low levels of wealth still exposed to very high care costs.

    “It is likely to mean that some people with moderate assets living in poorer areas will still be forced to sell their home to pay for their care, while wealthier people from richer parts of the country will be protected from this.

    “This change was sprung upon MPs with very little notice and with no impact assessment made available. It is not the end of the story though – the Health and Care Bill will now pass to the House of Lords for peers to consider the implications of this regressive policy shift.
    “… People with low and moderate levels of wealth may well wonder why the Prime Minister’s promise that no one need sell their house to pay for care will benefit wealthier people but doesn’t seem to apply to them.’

  • (23 Nov 2021) Washington Mental Health Workers Win Safety Strike US Labor Notes (Nov 23) with an interesting story of a successful and legal strike on safety issues against a mental health unit owned by Acadia – former owners of the Priory group of hospitals in the UK:
    “Nurses and mental health techs at a Tukwila, Washington, facility have won their safety strike after three and a half months on the picket line.
    “Under the settlement, management agreed to staff three security guards for the day shift and two for nights, as well as to restore fired workers to their positions. The contract, which covers 220 workers, also includes 5 percent annual raises over its three-year term, plus a $5,000 bonus.
    “And it establishes staff-to-patient ratios that the union says set a new national standard for behavioral health.
    “When a patient attacked staff at for-profit Cascade Behavioral Health Center on August 1, injuring 11, it was the last straw for many. Staffers started calling out of work en masse, demanding that Cascade hire four security guards 24/7. Cascade quickly responded by charging the workers and their union, Service Employees (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW, with an illegal wildcat strike, since the union hadn’t given the required 10-day notice. It sent termination letters to a couple dozen strikers.
    “… By late October, 1199NW got word that the National Labor Relations Board had found no merit to Cascade’s claims that it was an illegal strike. In doing so, it condoned what 1199NW says may be the first instance of a safety strike in health care.”

  • (23 Nov 2021) The NHS is facing its hardest winter ever - but the Tories are still bent on destroying it Polly Toynbee in the Guardian Nov 23 commenting on the Health and Care Bill:
    “Regardless of the vote on how much people will pay for the government’s social care reforms, Boris Johnson has never had a plan to rescue England’s stricken social care system itself. After this vote, not a penny extra will be put towards helping the 2,000 frail people whose requests for care are refused every day. Nor is there any strategy to integrate social care with the NHS. That great opportunity has been blown away.
    “Indeed, the health and social care bill stumbling through the Commons this week seems curiously irrelevant to the oncoming NHS crisis. With the whole system sinking fast, the bill puts the health service through yet another re-disorganisation, while social care slides into collapse. Deckchair-shifting on the Titanic comes to mind.
    … “Nor is there any plan to restore the 24% that has been cut from the public health budget since 2015-16, which reduces the number of people getting ill in the first place.”

  • (22 Nov 2021) UK minister refuses to rule out people having to sell homes to fund care Guardian report Nov 22:
    “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) caused alarm on Thursday when it revealed it would calculate the £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs in a way that could leave tens of thousands of England’s poorest pensioners paying the same as wealthier people.
    “… Pressed on whether some people would have to sell their homes to pay for care, despite Boris Johnson’s pledge that his policy meant they would not, the business minister Paul Scully told Sky News: “There will be fewer people selling their houses and hopefully none.”
    “He continued: “I can’t tell you what individuals are going to do. What I’m saying is the social care solution is all about getting a cap above which you do not need to pay – that gives people certainty.”
    “Asked again whether some people receiving care may have to sell up under the proposals, he said: “It will depend on different circumstances.”

  • (22 Nov 2021) World must bolster WHO and agree pandemic treaty, expert panel says Reuters report, Nov 22:
    “The World Health Organisation (WHO) must be strengthened with more funding and greater ability to investigate pandemics through a new treaty, an independent panel said on Monday, ahead of a conference of health ministers next week.
    “Efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic have been uneven and fragmented, marked by limited access to vaccines in low-income countries while the "healthy and wealthy" in rich countries get boosters, the high-level experts said in their latest review.
    “The panel co-chairs, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, reiterated a call for urgent reforms. These included new financing of at least $10 billion a year for pandemic preparedness, and negotiations on a global pandemic treaty.
    “In May, the panel evaluated how the WHO and member countries had handled the pandemic, and said a new global response system should be set up to ensure that no future virus can cause a pandemic as devastating.
    "There is progress, but it is not fast or cohesive enough to bring this pandemic to an end across the globe in the near term, or to prevent another," the panel said in the report.”

  • (20 Nov 2021) Boris Johnson told: dump plan for social care charges or face Tory rebellion Guardian Nov 20:
    “Senior Conservatives on Saturday urged Boris Johnson to ditch plans that would see many of England’s poorest pensioners paying more for their social care – or risk being forced by his own MPs into a humiliating U-turn.
    “The prime minister, still reeling from sleaze allegations and fury among “red wall” MPs over scaled-back rail investment in the north, is facing another potentially damaging Commons rebellion at the hands of an increasingly mutinous party.
    “The Observer has learned that several northern Tory MPs took part in an emergency call set up by care minister Gillian Keegan on Friday afternoon, during which she was said to have been “monstered” by backbenchers complaining that the plans were unfair and had not been fully explained or thought through.”

  • (19 Nov 2021) Buffalo Hospital Workers Beat Concessions, Win on Staffing US Labor Notes Nov 19 with an important story of a successful strike over safe staffing:
    “After five weeks on strike, 2,000 Buffalo hospital workers returned to work November 10 with what they are calling a “landmark” agreement on their top demand: safe staffing ratios.
    “The four-year contract sets staff-to-patient ratios for most positions—including nurses, nursing assistants, clerical staff, and X-ray techs—taking full effect by the beginning of 2023. Nurses in critical care units will be staffed at 1:1 or 1:2, depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, with ancillary staff at 1:5. Medical/surgical unit ratios will be 1:4.
    “Workers will get bonus pay of $6 to $10 an hour for picking up additional shifts to help meet these ratios—and an additional penalty on top of the bonus if the hospital fails to meet them.”

  • (19 Nov 2021) Boris Johnson's vow to build 40 new hospitals branded 'unachievable' after HS2 U-turn Mirror report Nov 19:
    “Boris Johnson’s vow to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 has been judged “unachievable” by a government watchdog.
    “The Infrastructure and Projects Authority has given it a “red” rating. It means there are “major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which... do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.
    “The manifesto pledge has long been ridiculed because most of the schemes are refurbishments or the addition of extra units, rather than new hospitals, and many were planned long before the promise was made in 2019.
    “Now a report leaked to the Health Service Journal suggests it may be yet another promise the Prime Minister breaks.”

  • (19 Nov 2021) Vulnerable children ‘damaged’ by government spending cuts Independent report Nov 19:
    “A lack funding and cuts to early years and youth support services by local councils is leaving children at risk of “serious harm” a report by the House of Lords Public Service Committee has found.
    “Spending on these vital services has fallen more in areas where the poorest children live, compared to those in wealthier areas.
    “In places such as Walsall, which has some of the highest poverty levels in the country, spending decreased by 80 per cent between 2010 and 2019, while areas such as Surrey only saw a 10 per cent drop.
    “It warned the government’s recent spending pledge of £494 million for early year services will not be enough to repair the “creaking public services infrastructure of children’s services”, following cuts equalling £1.7 billion a year for the last decade.”

  • (19 Nov 2021) Sajid Javid under pressure over share options in US health tech firm Guardian report Nov 19:
    “The health secretary, Sajid Javid, is facing questions over share options he continues to hold in the hi-tech US company he worked for until rejoining the cabinet in June – and which operates in the healthcare sector.
    “Javid was paid the equivalent of £150,000 a year by C3.ai, a California firm specialising in artificial intelligence (AI), from October last year until he was given the job of health secretary.
    “As part of his remuneration package, he was also given “an option for 666.7 shares per month”. According to the health secretary’s current entry in the register of MPs’ interests, he continues to hold these options, which he reports have a market value of approximately £45,000.”

  • (18 Nov 2021) Dear Rishi … Letter to Rishi Sunak (Nov 18) from Treasury Committee Chair Mel Stride MP, asking for the basic information that should be produced to justify the abrupt introduction of the regressive “cap” on social care costs:
    “The House is expected to take report stage of the Health and Care Bill on Monday and Tuesday next week, and that is likely to entail a decision by the House on amendments to the Care Act 2014 to implement the reforms announced yesterday.
    “Given the potential impact on household assets against the original announcement in September, I would therefore ask that the Treasury (in cooperation with other departments) provide distributional and costings analyses of the impact of these reforms against a base case with no change to the Care Act 2014 but implementation of the other reforms.
    “The distributional analysis should consider the impact by household and individual income and wealth. Any information on the impact by region would also be welcome.
    “The Committee would also welcome an indication of the expectations of the number of people who may still have to sell their primary residence to fund their care, both before and after any change to the Care Act 2014, and also an indication of the number of households whose housing wealth is potentially at risk as a result of the changes proposed to the Care Act 2014.”

  • (18 Nov 2021) New report reveals shocking number of excess deaths caused by crowding in Emergency Departments last year A new report (Nov 18) by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine ‘Crowding and its Consequences’ has found that at least 4,519 patients have died as a result of crowding and 12 hour stays in Emergency Departments in England in 2020-2021.
    “The new report investigates the extent of harm that crowding causes and applies NHSE’s own findings from the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) program which found that one in 67 patients staying in the Emergency Department for 12 hours come to excess harm.
    Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President (Policy) of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:
    “October 2021 saw an unimaginable 7,059 12-hour stays from decision to admit, the highest number ever recorded, 40% higher than September 2021 which was the previous highest on record.
    “The number of 12-hour stays has risen drastically for six months and is very likely to rise again in coming months. The picture is more bleak as Hospital Episodic Statistics show that 12-hour stays from time of arrival are 21 times higher than 12-hour DTA stays. We now know that at least one in 67 of these patients are coming to avoidable harm. It is appalling.”

  • (18 Nov 2021) Watchdog says new hospital building programme is ‘unachievable’ Report in (£) HSJ Nov 18, later picked up by national press:
    “According to sources, the New Hospitals Programme – which was created to deliver the key manifesto pledge – has been downgraded to a “red” rating by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority following a review of the programme and its leadership.
    “A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said it was “usual for there to be areas for development at this early stage of the programme”.
    “HSJ understands that the IPA has carried out two reviews of NHP in the last six months, with the latest review – completed in July – resulting in the “red” rating. The previous published rating for the programme was in March this year, when the IPA gave an “amber/red” rating.
    “According to the IPA’s annual report for 2020-21, an “amber/red” rating means the successful delivery of the project is “in doubt”, while a “red” rating means it “appears to be unachievable”.”

  • (18 Nov 2021) Covid patient died in hospital side room after breathing tube disconnected and calls for help went unanswered Independent report Nov 18:
    “A pensioner died alone in a hospital side room after his breathing tube became detached and his appeals for help went unanswered.
    “… The married father of six was given oxygen but levels of the gas in his blood repeatedly dropped below correct levels, so medics attached a breathing machine called a CPAP. The device produces positive pressure through a tube and mask, but is non-invasive.
    He was placed in a side room off a ward because the CPAP process can pump respiratory particles into the air, …
    “However, at about 8pm on his second day in hospital, Terry used his call bell to ask for help. In its report, the HSIB said: “The ward was extremely busy at this time because of a staff shortage, coupled with competing clinical priorities and a new patient arriving on the ward with more admissions expected.
    … “The CPAP machine and other alarms, which would normally alert staff to a potential problem, could not be heard outside of the side room.”
    “Terry’s breathing tube had become disconnected, though his mask was still on. He could not be resuscitated. At the time nurses on Terry’s ward had been treating 10 patients each, the investigation found.”

  • (18 Nov 2021) Social care architect ‘very disappointed’ and ‘uncomfortable’ with government changes to cost cap Independent report Nov 18:
    “A leading architect of the government’s social care reforms said he is “very disappointed” and “uncomfortable” with watered-down proposals for the social care cap that hit less affluent households.
    “Sir Andrew Dilnot told MPs that changes to the Social Care Act, due to be voted on next week, would mean the poorest households in the country will not actually benefit from the cap.
    “He told the House of Commons treasury committee on Thursday that the changes will mean pensioners “will be much less protected against catastrophic risk.”
    “A very large proportion of the population needing care will find itself materially less protected by the proposals the government has announced then they would’ve been,” he said.”

  • (17 Nov 2021) Crisis Point Front page lead from Health Campaigns Together November news Bulletin argues:
    “The situation in the NHS was bad and worsening before Covid.
    “But during 2020 hospitals lost around 15% of vital front-line capacity, and Covid-19 is still causing chaos, with 7,000+ Covid patients in English hospitals (Nov 5), and thousands more beds still left closed or empty.
    “Capacity is further reduced by chronic staff shortages, with over 94,000 vacancies, 77,000 sickness absences at the last count and NO serious workforce strategy.
    “Too many NHS hospitals are literally falling down, or struggling on with clapped out kit and dilapidated buildings – with the backlog maintenance bill now £9.2 billion – and no money to invest in reopening closed or unused beds.
    “The danger is that delays, failures and gaps in care will mean growing numbers of patients and the wider public lose confidence in the NHS.
    “… Twelve years brutal austerity policies require BIG spending now to repair and restore the NHS.
    “The NHS can’t live off empty rhetoric about “record spending” and empty promises of “40 new hospitals by 2030” … any more than health workers could live off the applause they received in place of a pay increase.
    “Campaigners urgently need to focus on the bigger picture here: the NHS itself is under threat, and while money alone is not enough, none of the problems can be solved without more cash and capital in the pot to rebuild, repair and reopen our NHS, and recruit, train and retain the staff we need.”

  • (17 Nov 2021) Health Education England to be merged into NHSE (£) HSJ report Nov 17:
    Health Education England is to be incorporated into NHS England by April 2023, HSJ has learned. The decision … marks the climax of a long-running battle over HEE’s budget between the organisation and the Treasury.
    A number of senior sources have confirmed the funding settlement HEE was arguing for was considered unaffordable, leading to the effective end of the independent education body.
    A week before the spending review, NHSE medical director Steve Powis had warned it was “absolutely critical” HEE received a settlement which would enable it to increase staff supply.
    Responding to the news King’s Fund chief executive Richard Murray said: “While there is logic to it, this move alone will not address staff shortages in the NHS. The workforce crisis has become a blind spot for the government which has made promises, pledges and manifesto commitments, but failed to back the fully funded workforce strategy needed to chart a path out of the staffing crisis.”

  • (17 Nov 2021) Analysis: Once again the vulnerable will suffer most from the Tories’ social care plans Detailed analysis (Nov 17) by Independent’s Shaun Lintern begins:
    “The Conservatives still have deep scars from Theresa May’s disastrous attempt to implement what was dubbed a ‘dementia tax’, which contributed to the woeful 2017 election result that ultimately left her in office but without power.
    “Legislation was passed following the landmark report by Sir Andrew Dilnot in 2011, but politics again scuppered the plans in 2015 despite the Care Act legislation being passed into law.
    “Now the details of Boris Johnson’s plan for a lifetime cost cap of £86,000 – in effect, the maximum anyone will be expected to pay directly towards their care – are drawing criticism.
    “Under the fine print of the scheme, quietly published on Wednesday, only the amount that individuals directly contribute to their social care costs will count towards the cap.”

  • (16 Nov 2021) Deceased NHS staff called on to do their part Amusing send-up by Julian Patterson in the HSJ Nov 16 should raise at least a smile from all but the dullest campaigners:
    “The government is considering bringing back staff who have died to prevent the health service from collapsing in the wake of the pandemic.
    “… Trade union leaders expressed concerns that the recently dead would be open to exploitation by unscrupulous employers who would exploit loopholes in the law to avoid paying them a living wage.
    "Human rights groups called for equality and diversity laws to be amended to make death a protected characteristic like sexual orientation or religious belief.
    “A spokesman for the public sector trade union Unite accused the government of using a dead workforce to further erode employment rights. Dead workers were potentially cheaper to employ, never took time off sick and would not need benefits such as health insurance. “This is just the thin end of the wedge. How long will it be before the dead are being used not just in management but in skilled roles too?” a spokesperson said.”

  • (16 Nov 2021) LEAKED: The Conservative politicians who referred companies to the PPE ‘VIP lane’ Excellent new information from the Good Law Project, Nov 16 as the Tory sleaze and corruption stories just run and run:
    “A leaked document has revealed which Conservative MPs and Peers funnelled companies through a ‘VIP lane’ for lucrative PPE contracts, without competition. A staggering £1.6 billion worth of contracts were awarded as a result of referrals from just ten politicians at the heart of the Conservative party. The leaked list of the 47 companies in the VIP lane, first seen by Politico, can be found here.
    “Michael Gove MP, Matt Hancock MP, Esther McVey MP, and Steve Brine MP are among the Conservative politicians who referred companies to the VIP lane. Those lucky enough to receive this VIP treatment were more than ten times more likely to win a contract than companies that went without.
    Government claimed that the VIP lane for PPE contracts “was widely advertised across Government as a way of more quickly triaging offers of support”.
    “But the explosive list of companies in the ‘VIP lane’ shows that no other political party successfully referred companies via this fast-tracked route.
    “Some of the VIP lane companies have close links with Conservative party politicians. Take PPE Medpro. The company was founded by the former business associate of Conservative Peer Baroness Mone. It won two huge contracts, worth £200 million, just weeks after it was set up.”

  • (16 Nov 2021) Ex-Conservative chair helped multiple firms get UK PPE contracts Politico Nov 16 with a new list of all 47 firms that won PPE contracts via the “fast track” system for Tory donors and cronies:
    “A former chair of the Conservative party helped secure lucrative protective equipment contracts for multiple companies during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
    “Andrew Feldman — a peer who used to play tennis with former Prime Minister David Cameron and was drafted into the health department as Britain fought the virus — recommended contracts for three successful firms.
    “It has been reported before that Feldman helped secure work for Bunzl Healthcare, a client of his lobbying firm Tulchan. It can now be revealed he also helped three other companies win contracts worth tens of millions of pounds.
    “The revelations are contained in the full list of 47 firms that won contracts via the U.K. government's VIP fast-track system that sped up procurement for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early stages of the pandemic, which POLITICO publishes in full today.”

  • (16 Nov 2021) Owen Paterson case: Randox won test deal despite lack of equipment (£) Sunday Times Nov 7 with more on the corruption story of the day:
    “Randox, the diagnostics company that paid Owen Paterson as a lobbyist, won a £133 million Covid-19 testing contract days before government officials concluded that it did not have enough equipment, documents show.
    “Paterson, 65, the Conservative MP who resigned last week, was found to have committed “egregious” breaches of lobbying rules in his work for Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods between November 2016 and February last year, just before the pandemic.
    “However, questions remain about how Randox has been able to secure Covid-19 contracts worth roughly half a billion pounds, many awarded without tender, over the past year and a half.”

  • (16 Nov 2021) STATE OF THE PROVIDER SECTOR 2021: SURVEY FINDINGS NHS Providers (Nov 16) with results of their survey showing the dire state of the NHS after 12 years of under-funding.
    • A large majority (87%) of trust leaders said they were extremely concerned about the impact of seasonal pressures over winter on their trust and local area.
    • … Trust leaders highlighted … workforce shortages as one of the biggest risks to services over winter. Almost all (94%) trust leaders were extremely or moderately concerned about the current level of burnout across their workforce.
    • 84% of trust leaders were very worried or worried about their trust having the capacity to meet demand for services.
    • Just over half (51%) of trust leaders rated the current quality of healthcare provided by their local area as very high or high.
    It’s conspicuous that well under half (43%) of trust leaders were confident or very confident that plans to embed system working, via statutory Integrated Care Systems, will support better collaboration between local partners and improve mutual aid. Just 41% were at all ‘confident’ that these plans will support better outcomes for patients.

  • (15 Nov 2021) Stop the Centene Take-Over of our GP Surgeries Stage 2 of the crowd-funding appeal to stop GP practices being taken over by the American corporation - Centene.
    “In early 2021, Centene (through its UK company Operose Health Ltd) took over dozens of GP surgeries in London through the takeover of GP company AT MEDICS. This takeover now means that they are controlling the services for over 375,000 NHS patients - it is still unclear if any of them were told or consulted about the take-over. …
    “The legal team think we will be taking our case to the High Court in January or February 2022. That is why we are asking for donations now to show the courts we are prepared.
    “We need to raise an additional £30,000 to cover the 'capped costs' …
    “Any additional funds will go towards the costs of extra court fees, solicitors and barristers who have already been working hard with us and are working on a very reduced fee.”

  • (15 Nov 2021) Mental health patient made to sleep overnight on hospital floor: ‘Animals are treated better’ Independent Nov 15 with a glimpse of the pressures on mental health care as patient is transferred from one hospital without an empty bed to another that also lacks beds:
    “A patient suffering a mental health crisis was made to sleep overnight on the floor of an NHS hospital because it had no spare beds, The Independent has learned.
    “On Sunday, Mr Ben Ashcroft was given a mattress on the floor at Barnsley Hospital where he had been admitted after waiting for 36 hours at a different mental health hospital.
    “He described the situation as being “treated like a prisoner”, adding: “An animal is treated better than this. I’m poorly and you think this acceptable to put me in room like this. This all I have in room. Rather be in prison.”
    “Mr Ashcroft was detained, earlier in the week, under the Mental Health Act at Calderdale Royal Hospital, in West Yorkshire. But this hospital had no beds available and transferred him to another site in Barnsley where he was taken to a room with just a mattress.”

  • (15 Nov 2021) How the UK sleepwalked into another Covid disaster Long read New Statesman article by Dominic Minghella concludes:
    "If the story of the Johnson government’s back-to-school programme of autumn 2021 is strange, it is because we live in a period of data-denying, logic-defying, belief-beggaring inversion. Not for the first time, and not just in the arena of coronavirus, our current leaders have courted disaster and rejected mitigations. No surprise, then, that what they continue to deliver is – literally – unmitigated disaster.
    "And winter, as they say, is coming."

  • (14 Nov 2021) Staffing agencies triple rates as care homes and NHS fight over nurses Guardian Nov 14 on the grimly predictable face of the private sector, which has never viewed itself as a "partner" of health or care, least of all at points of crisis:
    “Nursing shortages are allowing “profiteering” staffing agencies to triple their rates, care leaders have warned, raising the risk of vulnerable patients being forced to move care homes and increasing the burden on the NHS.
    “The crisis is forcing some nursing homes to become standard residential care homes without support for people with chronic diseases.
    “The shortage also makes it harder for NHS hospitals to discharge patients. Some hospitals have redeployed their own staff into nursing homes to free beds in hospitals. In other places, NHS trusts are competing for staff with care providers.”

  • (14 Nov 2021) Ambulance delays outside hospitals are harming 160,000 patients, leaked report warns Independent Nov 14: we knew it was bad -- here's more proof.
    “Tens of thousands of sick patients are being harmed as a result of ambulance delays outside hospitals, a report leaked to The Independent has warned.
    “The study, carried out for ambulance service chiefs, estimates there could be as many as 160,000 patients experiencing harm every year in England as a result of being stuck in the back of ambulances.
    “As many as 12,000 patients, or one in 10, could be suffering severe harm, such as a cardiac arrest, loss of a limb or brain damage.
    “The damning report, by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) included examples of severely ill patients not being treated properly, being forced to go to the toilet in ambulances, and being denied food and drink, as well as antibiotics and fluids.”

  • (13 Nov 2021) Paramedics fear 'patients will be treated in ambulances outside hospitals' if queues at A&E continue to grow Manchester Evening News Nov 13:
    “Paramedics have shared their fears that patients may have to be ‘treated in ambulances’ outside A&E departments if huge pressures on the system continue.
    “NHS workers on the frontline have been warning for months that the service is under strain due to a combination of factors including a waning workforce, Covid, respiratory infections, a backlog of patients and a build-up of health problems through lockdowns.
    “Last month, the Manchester Evening News told of reports from one paramedic that hospital staff were already treating ambulances as 'an extension of their department', with patient blood tests and assessments taking place on vehicle gurneys.
    “But frontline staff are concerned this will be taken even further - with more advanced treatments administered outside department doors. "It's shocking. We are at maximum peak for queuing, patients are already being treated in corridors," said the paramedic, who asked not to be named.”

  • (12 Nov 2021) GPs dispute Javid’s claim lack of appointments is overloading A&Es Guardian Nov 12:
    “Family doctors have reopened their bitter dispute with the government by accusing Sajid Javid of misleading MPs and the public by blaming overloaded A&Es on a lack of GP appointments.
    “The Royal College of GPs has told the health secretary in a strongly worded letter that there is no basis for the claim, which he made to MPs last week and which was widely covered by the media.
    “In it Prof Martin Marshall, the college’s chair, said that its 54,000 members “are dismayed and disappointed at the media coverage of your evidence session, which suggested that the lack of face-to-face GP appointments was placing additional strain on accident and emergency departments”.
    “He disputed Javid’s claim that there is evidence which links the issues.”

  • (11 Nov 2021) Pressures in general practice very useful statistics on GP services and staffing from the BMA, notably:
    “The overall number of GPs has seen little growth since 2015, with the number of GP partners significantly declining over that time.
    “In February 2020, in a bid to reverse the stasis in GP workforce numbers, the Government announced a drive to recruit an additional 6,000 GPs by 2024. That’s a commitment of 1,200 - 1,500 extra doctors in general practice per financial year by the end of 2024.
    “Yet despite these promises, as of September 2021 (latest data) we actually now have the equivalent of 1,704 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs compared to 2015.
    “Over the last year alone, between September 2020 and September 2021, the number of GP partners reduced by 913 doctors, while the number of salaried and locum GPs increased by 759. This means that the number of fully qualified GPs by headcount actually decreased by 154 over the last twelve months.”

  • (11 Nov 2021) ‘It’s awful’: what it’s like to work a 12-hour ambulance shift in England Guardian Nov 11:
    “One senior paramedic working part-time in England explains what it is like working a 12-hour shift in an ambulance.
    “Things were OK up until about three months ago. I don’t know what exactly happened, but suddenly waiting times in getting patients admitted to hospital exploded. I think one reason was that social distancing guidelines were introduced in [our local] hospital, so the capacity of patients that could be in A&E at any given time was dramatically reduced. And there is much less care happening in the community now, so there are often no beds.
    “I work 12-hour shifts. On my last shift, I only saw two patients because of waiting times. Normally, I see six or seven.”

  • (11 Nov 2021) NHS waiting list at record high as 5.8 million still waiting for treatment Independent Nov 11 reporting unmistakeable signs of crisis:
    “More than 5.8 million patients were waiting for routine surgery by the NHS in England by the end of September, new data has revealed.
    “This is the highest figure since August 2007 and comes as hospital leaders have warned the health service is at “breaking point”.
    “Ambulance services answered 82,000 emergency 999 calls in October, which was more then any other month on record, while response times have skyrocketed.
    “The average response time for category two patients who needed emergency, but not life threatening, care such as strokes, was nearly 54 minutes - the longest average waiting time since records began in 2017.
    “Response times for urgent calls - such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes - averaged three hours, nine minutes and 58 seconds. This is up from two hours, 35 minutes and 45 seconds in September, and again is the longest average since current records began.”

  • (10 Nov 2021) Whipps Cross development 'stalled by national uncertainty over funding', says trust chair Ilford Recorder Nov 10 with a story of paralysis that has been reported repeatedly in the Lowdown and Health Campaigns Together: even the 'priority' schemes out of Johnson's "fake forty" new hospital plans have no idea how much they can spend or whether their existing plans will have to be junked:
    "“Delays in deciding how much can be spent to rebuild Whipps Cross are stalling the project, according to a local NHS leader.
    “The board for Barts Health, which runs the hospital, heard last week the government had not yet reviewed the rebuild’s business case or decided how much funding it would provide.
    “As a result, the trust is currently unable to choose a construction company, its new trust chair Jacqui Smith said.
    “This is despite the fact that Waltham Forest Council expects to debate the planning application for the project as soon as November 24.”

  • (10 Nov 2021) NHS is at breaking point and putting patients at high risk, bosses warn Guardian November 10 with NHS Confederation’s admission that the NHS is deep in its biggest-ever crisis:
    “Patient safety in the NHS in England is being put at “unacceptably high” risk, with severe staff shortages leaving hospitals, GP surgeries and A&E units struggling to cope with soaring demand, health chiefs have warned.
    “… Nine in 10 NHS chief executives, chairs and directors have reported this week that the pressures on their organisation have become unsustainable. The same proportion is sounding “alarm bells” over staffing, with the lack of doctors, nurses and other health workers putting lives of patients at risk.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has come under fire for recently claiming, at a No 10 press conference, that he did not believe the pressure on the NHS was unsustainable.
    “But the survey of 451 NHS leaders in England finds the health service already at “tipping point”. The results of the poll, conducted by the NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, show that 88% of the leaders think the demands on their organisation are unsustainable, and 87% believe a lack of staffing in the NHS as a whole is putting patient safety and care at risk.”

  • (10 Nov 2021) Leak reveals ‘40 new hospitals’ cash must cover rising costs of existing schemes HSJ Nov 10 on yet further doubts how many, if any of the "fake forty" promised new hospitals will be built:
    “Spiralling costs at delayed NHS construction projects will reduce available funding for new “hospitals” promised by the government, HSJ has learned.
    “In a letter to NHS trusts, leaked to HSJ, New Hospitals Programme chief Natalie Forrest said a team has been set up to “review” costs of eight building projects, most of which had funding approved prior to the government’s “40 new hospital” promise in 2019.
    “These eight projects were incorporated into New Hospitals Programme last year, taking the total number of schemes promised by the government within 2030 to 48.
    “However, in the letter to trusts, Ms Forrest said “any increase in the cost” of these eight projects will “reduce the funding for the remainder of the NHP schemes” because they will all now be funded from the same pot. The government has so far committed £3.7bn up to 2025, of which £600m is expected to be spent in 2021-22, according to the 2020 Spending Review.”

  • (10 Nov 2021) NHS to lose tens of thousands of staff over mandatory Covid vaccines Independent Nov 10:
    “…A government analysis has predicted 73,000 NHS workers, and 35,000 care workers, will not have had their Covid-19 jab by the time mandatory vaccines come into force on 1 April next year.
    “It has warned, ‘any reduction in the numbers of health and social care staff may lead to reduced or delayed services. The health system is currently stretched with an elective waiting list of 5.72 million and high levels of vacancies.’
    ‘If a proportion of staff decides to leave the NHS, this would put pressure on NHS services.’
    “Official estimates show it may cost the NHS £185 million to replace the healthcare workers lost as a result of the policy, while replacing care workers could cost £86 million.”

  • (9 Nov 2021) Helen Salisbury: What do GPs do all day? GP Helen Salisbury’s BMJ blog Nov 9 with common sense on why GPs are under pressure:
    “… One of the most depressing aspects of the recent GP bashing in the national press is criticism of the “part time” nature of many GPs’ work. It’s been pointed out that a nurse who puts in three 12 hour shifts is regarded as a dedicated hero/heroine, whereas a GP who does the same is regarded as a part timer who’s somehow failing to pay back the nation’s investment in her training. And yes, it’s nearly always women who are the subject of these complaints.
    “A major problem is the invisibility of much of our work, even within the surgery. The publicly visible parts—the face-to-face or telephone appointments—may be timetabled as surgeries lasting three or four hours. Some of us aren’t very good at running to time, but even when we’ve closed the door or hung up the phone there are prescriptions, laboratory results, hospital letters, referrals, emails, e-consults, and home visits waiting for us, which take many more hours.
    “With good organisation and enough support staff some tasks can be delegated, but many still require a decision by a doctor. The colleagues we’ve recently welcomed to help us—physiotherapists, pharmacists, and paramedics—all need training and supervision as they adapt to the world of primary care.
    “We may be teachers, researchers, specialists, or leaders, but we’re still GPs, and we need to count (and be proud of) all of our work that’s material to that role.”

  • (9 Nov 2021) Serious mistakes hidden by scandal-hit maternity trust Independent Nov 9
    “A new inquiry into poor maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, one of the largest in England, has now started its work and it will investigate how mistakes were incorrectly downgraded in a way that meant the trust avoided scrutiny.
    “This is thought to include baby deaths, stillbirths and children suffering brain damage during birth.
    “It meant incidents were not reported to NHS England or local health bosses and gave the impression there were fewer mistakes happening on the trust’s maternity wards compared to other hospitals.
    “The new inquiry comes after an investigation by The Independent and Channel 4 News earlier this year, which revealed dozens of babies had died or suffered brain damage at the trust over the past 10 years, with families accusing the hospital of covering up what happened to them.”

  • (9 Nov 2021) NHS chief warns ‘stretched’ staff face most challenging winter ever Independent Nov 9:
    “The head of the NHS in England has warned NHS staff will be “stretched” during what she predicted would be an “unprecedented” winter. Amanda Pritchard said the next 100 days will be “significantly” challenging for the NHS and said she recognised “how difficult winter is going to be”.
    “Her comments come after The Independent revealed patients are dying while waiting for paramedics, following a collapse in ambulance response times which has seen a spike in serious incidents across all NHS ambulance trusts.
    “Ms Pritchard said: “We are pulling out all the stops to vaccinate as many people as possible, we cannot know the impact that Covid, flu or other respiratory diseases will have on the health and care sector in the coming weeks and months.
    “We are simply facing an unprecedented situation, but as I said in my first week: I am optimistic, but realistic, about the challenges ahead.”

  • (8 Nov 2021) Malnutrition doubles to over 10,000 cases under Tory rule Metro Nov 8 with some shocking statistics on growing levels of gross inequality, which inevitably impacts on health:
    “Cases of malnutrition have almost doubled in the decade since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. In the 2010/2011 financial year, people were treated in hospital 4,657 times for the condition. By the most recent year, 2020/2021, this had risen to 10,109.
    “Statistics compiled by the NHS also show that cases of the Victorian disease scurvy, which comes from a lack of Vitamin C, have also doubled – although the figures are still relatively low.
    “… In the decade since the Conservatives took power, the use of food banks in the UK has rocketed.
    “For the year 2009/2010, the year before David Cameron won the election in 2010, The Trussell Trust provided 40,898 emergency three day food parcels. In 2020/21, approximately 2.5 million parcels were given out in the UK – over 600 thousand more than the previous year.
    “… Compared to this time five years ago, need for food banks in their network has increased by 128%, they said.”

  • (8 Nov 2021) ‘This is far worse than January – the vaccine hasn’t saved us this time’ HSJ Nov 8 with loud pleas for help from desperate trust chief executives:
    “We should all be rated inadequate.” The call HSJ received on Sunday lunchtime from one of the most respected chief executives in the NHS carried an air of desperation.
    “His big, highly rated acute trust is struggling on every front.
    “Emergency demand is at record levels, and elective referrals are increasing, as exhausted staff turn down the extra shifts needed to reduce the enormous, growing backlog, and intensive care is once again seeing a steady flow of acutely ill covid patients. One in five of his beds are filled by medically fit patients who cannot be discharged because no domiciliary or care home place can be found for them.
    “… The situation, he said, was far worse than in January – when the service was able to bend every bit of discretionary effort towards combatting the Alpha covid wave and the vaccine roll out offered light at the end of the tunnel. “This time,” he said, “the vaccine hasn’t saved us.”

  • (7 Nov 2021) England’s hospitals already at peak winter bed occupancy, NHS bosses warn Guardian warning Nov 7:
    “Hospitals in England are already at peak winter levels for bed occupancy, according to NHS bosses, who fear the health service will come under severe pressure in the months ahead.
    “The chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents England’s 240 NHS trusts, said the situation was unprecedented and “very worrying” as exhausted hospital staff prepare for higher levels of Covid and other respiratory infections such as influenza while dealing with a backlog of care for patients.
    “What’s very, very striking in talking to our trust chief executives is how worried some of the very long-term leaders, who’ve been around a long time, are at this point. What they are saying to us is they’ve never been so worried,” Chris Hopson told Times Radio on Sunday.”

  • (7 Nov 2021) Ambulance response times double as patients die waiting for paramedics Independent report Nov 7:
    “Patients are waiting almost twice as long for a paramedic as they were at the height of the pandemic, The Independent can reveal, as ambulance services buckle under the strain of record demand with dwindling resources.
    “Response times for all types of emergency – including life-threatening – are at their highest on record with patients dying before paramedics can reach them.
    “An investigation by The Independent has found a 26 per cent spike in the most serious incidents reported by paramedics so far in 2021 compared to the whole 12 months of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic began.
    “With several months of 2021 left to run, deaths as a result of safety incidents in ambulance trusts are up 13 per cent compared to 2019.”

  • (6 Nov 2021) Return of scurvy under Tory rule as cases of Victorian illness double in decade Mirror with a shock report Nov 6:
    “Cases of scurvy – a widespread illness in Victorian times – have more than doubled in a decade.
    “NHS Digital statistics also reveal hospital admissions for malnutrition have tripled since the Conservatives came to power in the 2010 election.
    “The increases coincide with soaring numbers of people relying on food banks in the wake of austerity policies. In 2010-11, 61,000 people needed food handouts but a decade on this figure now stands at 2.5 million.
    “Hospitals reported cases of scurvy – a vitamin C deficiency that can cause fatigue, bruised skin, swelling of the limbs and tooth loss – rising from 82 in 2010-11 to 171 in 2020-21.”

  • (5 Nov 2021) Piles of unused PPE costing £1million a day to store in 'grotesque waste of public money' Mirror report on another aspect of the PPE scandal Nov 5:
    “Huge stockpiles of excess PPE are costing the Government £1million a day to store, the Mirror can reveal today. It includes thousands of shipping containers piled high beside the UK’s largest commercial port.
    “Over the last four months, the Department for Health paid contractor Uniserve £124m for “storage costs”. The Good Law Project’s Gemma Abbott has hit out at the “grotesque waste of public money”.
    … “The Mirror can now reveal the Department of Health spent £7m this summer buying shipping containers to slash storage costs for tens of billions of items of PPE.”

  • (4 Nov 2021) Uninsured in South Would Win Big in Democrats’ Plan, but Hospitals Fear Funding Loss Kaiser Health News (US) November 4 on the obstacles in front of Biden’s health reforms”
    “At least 2.2 million low-income adults — nearly all in Texas and the Southeast — would be eligible for government-funded health insurance under the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social spending and climate change plan.
    “That’s the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act but have been left uninsured because they live in one of the dozen states that have not expanded coverage under the 2010 law. They are in the coverage gap — with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but below the $12,880 annual federal income minimum for an individual to qualify for subsidized coverage in the insurance marketplaces created by the ACA.
    “An estimated 60% of those caught in that Medicaid coverage gap are Black or Hispanic, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And nearly two-thirds of those in the gap live in one of three Republican-controlled states: Texas (771,000), Florida (415,000) and Georgia (269,000), according to a KFF analysis.”

  • (4 Nov 2021) Degrading A&E visits left a frightened Gran soaked in urine TWICE after she spent '24 hours abandoned on a trolley' Manchester Evening News Nov 4:
    “A beloved grandmother was found in A&E, ‘soaked in her own urine’, on two separate occasions, according to her devastated family.
    One of the incidents saw the 72-year-old being wheeled out of the hospital in a ‘wet-through gown, without any underwear' as doctors said there were ‘no beds’ - despite other medics proclaiming that the patient needed treatment on a ward.
    “Stays in hospital are a familiar experience for Bury mother-of-four Bridget, says her family. Known as Bridie to her loved ones, she suffers with a COPD diagnosis and does not yet qualify for oxygen treatment at home.
    … But last month, Bridie was hit with two severe bouts of breathlessness and reductions in her oxygen levels.
    “The grandmother was rushed to Bury’s Fairfield General A&E to be seen by medics, but family members who care for Bridie say they were left horrified by her treatment in both instances.”

  • (3 Nov 2021) One Patient’s Pain and UnitedHealth Group’s Payday Uncovered (US) with yet another of the endless lists of revelations on the horrors of US health care and naked profiteering of the health insurers:
    "“It was another big quarter for UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer. On October 14, the company announced an eye-popping, Wall Street-pleasing $5.7 billion in profits between June 1 and September 30.
    “The earnings were so unexpectedly positive that investors rushed to buy more shares, pushing the share price to an all-time high.
    “The next day, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story about a little girl who is in constant excruciating pain. Her doctors say she should be admitted immediately to a children’s hospital that has expertise in treating her condition.
    “However, the same UnitedHealth has repeatedly denied her parents’ and her doctors’ request to approve coverage for her care.”

  • (3 Nov 2021) Sir Jeremy Farrar quits SAGE advisory group amid 'concerning' coronavirus transmission rate in the UK Sky News November 3:
    “Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, quit the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) at the end of October.
    “Sky News can reveal that Sir Jeremy is advocating for a "vaccine plus" strategy to curb the high levels of transmission seen in the UK.
    “His plan calls for more mask wearing, ventilation and continued coronavirus testing to get the nation through what some experts predict will be a difficult winter.
    “The government has so far declined to take this route and has not yet adopted a COVID Plan B - tougher measures designed to curb the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.”

  • (3 Nov 2021) Lords reveals 12 million pensioners lose £30 billion as rebel peers defeat government over scrapping the triple lock Westminster Confidential blog by David Hencke, Nov 3
    “The government were roundly defeated in the Lords – by 220 votes to 178 – yesterday over its plans to abolish the triple lock for next year’s pension rise – reducing the up rating for pensioners from 8.1 per cent to 3.1 per cent.
    “The loss of cash for pensioners in the next five years is enormous. They lose a share of £5.4 billion next year, £5.78 billion in 2023-24, £6.1 billion in 2024-25, £6.5 billion in 2025-26 and £6.7 billion in 2026-27. That amounts as Lord Sikka told peers to £30.5 billion removed from pensioners’ pockets over the next five years.
    “What happened yesterday in the Lords were two separate approaches to challenging the government’s decision to end for next year the link between pensions and earnings.
    ….”Low pensions condemn our citizens to a life of misery. Some 1.3 million retirees are affected by malnutrition or undernutrition. Around 25,000 older people die each year due to cold weather, and we will no doubt hear the grim statistics for this year, possibly on 26 November when the next numbers are out. Despite the triple lock, the proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986, which is the largest increase among major western countries. Some 2.1 million pensioners live in poverty, and the poverty rate has actually increased since 2012-13.”

  • (3 Nov 2021) Wrangle over who pays for NHS workforce plans risks undermining care, Treasury told Independent Nov 3:
    “A tussle between the Treasury, NHS England and the health department over how to pay for the government’s promises to increase the NHS workforce has sparked fears hospitals might be landed with the bill.
    “The lack of clarity over who is going to pay for plans to expand the numbers of nurses, doctors and other staff in the NHS has left at least £1.7 billion of funding in doubt.
    “In his budget at the end of October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to outline any spending plans for Health Education England, the £5 billion body that trains nurses, doctors and clinical staff to work in the NHS.
    “Now NHS bosses have written to the Treasury warning that hospitals must not be left to shoulder the cost if money isn’t found.”

  • (2 Nov 2021) Legal threat to health secretary over false negative Covid tests Times November 2:
    “As many as 43,000 people wrongly received the all-clear because of problems at a laboratory in Wolverhampton run by the private company Immensa.
    “Testing at the facility was suspended but Immensa is still processing PCR tests for travellers via a sister company at another centre.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is now facing demands to strip the company of its government contracts and to compensate people affected by the false negative results.
    “The campaigning organisation Good Law Project has sent a pre-action letter to Javid and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) calling for greater scrutiny of private laboratories carrying out PCR testing on the government’s behalf.”

  • (2 Nov 2021) No 10 set to break promise of 6,000 more GPs in England, Sajid Javid says Guardian November 2, with an entirely predictable revelation:
    “No 10 is likely to break its promise to increase the number of GPs in England by 6,000, Sajid Javid has admitted. The health secretary disclosed that the figure, a key promise in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto in 2019, was unlikely to be met given the number of GPs retiring early.
    “He made the disclosure while giving evidence to the cross-party Commons health select committee. Asked by the committee chair, Jeremy Hunt, if the government was on track to implement the 6,000 pledge, Javid relied: “No. I’m not going to pretend that we’re on track when we are clearly not.”
    “Increasing the number of GPs in England by 6,000 by 2025 was one of the commitments to improve the NHS Boris Johnson repeatedly made in the election campaign. Others included expanding the nursing workforce by 50,000 and offering 50m more GP appointments a year.”

  • (2 Nov 2021) Red Book reveals £30bn pensions rip-off in Spending Review Prem Sikka tweet Nov 2:
    UK govt admits that suspension of the triple-lock will rob retirees of £5.4bn of pensions in 2022/23, £5,78bn in 2023/24, £6.1bn in 2024/25, £6.5bn in 2025/26 and £6.7bn in 2026/27, totalling £30.5bn over 5yrs (see page 136 of the link).

  • (2 Nov 2021) Poverty causing more than 1,000 stillbirths every year, study finds Grim news Nov 2 from Independent’s new recruit from HSJ, Rebecca Thomas:
    “More than 1,100 stillbirths in England every year are directly linked to the effects of poverty, according to an “alarming” new study.
    “Research, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, examined more than one million births including 4,505 stillbirths, between 2015 and 2017.
    “It found women living in the most deprived areas were particularly at risk and linked almost a quarter of all stillbirths to what it called the socioeconomic inequalities in the areas where mothers lived.
    “It also warned 12 per cent of stillbirths, more than 500 a year, were linked to racial inequalities.”

  • (2 Nov 2021) Hospital waits: Patient faces 44-hour wait at Ulster Hospital ED BBC News report Nov 2:
    “One person had to wait 44 hours in an emergency department to be admitted to the Ulster Hospital at the weekend.
    “The South Eastern Health Trust confirmed that another patient spent 12 hours in an ambulance before admission.
    “Emergency departments across Northern Ireland have reported extremely high numbers of patients over the weekend.
    “One senior doctor warned there was a serious possibility an emergency department (ED) would have to close its doors to new admissions.
    “BBC News NI understands that all the trusts have breached targets for waiting times, but figures for other trusts have not yet been made available.”

  • (2 Nov 2021) Woman charged nearly $700 for being forced to wait seven hours in emergency room and leaving without treatment Independent Nov 2 with yet another US health care outrage:
    “A Georgia woman was charged $688.35 (£504.4) for waiting in the emergency room of a hospital in Atlanta city for seven hours without receiving any treatment.
    …“I didn’t get my vitals taken, nobody called my name. I wasn’t seen at all,” Ms Davis told news channel Fox 5 Atlanta.
    “The bill was sent to her home by mail a few weeks after her hospital visit. She was convinced it was a mistake and decided to call the hospital.
    “So I called them and she [an employee] said it’s hospital protocol even if you’re just walking in and you’re not seen. When you type in your social, that’s it. You’re going to get charged regardless,” Ms Davis said.
    “The hospital said the bill was an emergency room visitation fee that is added to the total hospital bill and is not normally as noticeable as it was in Ms Davis’ case. In a reply to an email sent by Ms Davis subsequently, the hospital said: “You get charged before you are seen. Not for being seen.”

  • (1 Nov 2021) South Central Ambulance Service declares critical incident BBC News Nov 1:
    “An ambulance service has declared a so-called critical incident because of "extreme pressures" and an "overwhelming" number of calls.
    “South Central Ambulance Service pleaded for people to only dial 999 in a life-threatening emergency.
    “It said a surge in demand since May had been exacerbated by growing Covid-related pressures in October.
    … On Saturday evening the service tweeted: "Please, please support us by using our services wisely, we're here for life threatening illnesses and injuries."
    “It said several factors were to blame including GP waiting-list backlogs, ambulance queues at hospitals and people who had not been able to get medical help during the pandemic.”

  • (29 Oct 2021) Sajid Javid seeks business leader to oversee NHS (£) Times Oct 29: As campaigners and opposition MPs battle to ensure private providers get no voice on Boards or committees of so-called “Integrated Care Systems” the Health Secretary is working to install a strong private sector voice at the very top to replace the current incumbent:
    “A senior business executive will be brought in to oversee the NHS under government plans to ensure the health service uses extra cash to reform services.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has launched a search for a senior private sector candidate to chair NHS England and ensure that health chiefs are held to account
    “Lord Prior of Brampton, a Tory peer and former health minister, is stepping down as NHS England chairman in the new year and Javid wants an external candidate to replace him to ensure that bosses make the changes needed to bring down record waiting lists.
    “An outsider with private-sector experience in digital and data is understood to be Javid’s ideal candidate …”

  • (29 Oct 2021) NHS facing ‘mass exodus’ of GPs in England, experts warn Guardian Oct 29 – as ministers and the right wing news and ‘social’ media whip up abuse and attacks on GPs:
    “The NHS faces a “mass exodus” of GPs, experts have warned as figures reveal nearly one in four are nearing retirement amid a growing row over staff shortages and access to family doctors.
    “Official data show that 23% of family doctors in England – or more than 6,000 – are 55 or over and expected to quit within the next few years. The average age at which doctors retire is now 59, and only one in 10 is under 35. The number of doctors retiring early has more than trebled since 2008.
    “The NHS Digital figures also show nearly four in 10 GPs (38%) are aged 50 or over, underlining a demographic “time bomb” set to hit surgeries. Senior doctors said the figures were a huge concern, especially as burnout and “overbearing scrutiny” from politicians are prompting thousands more to say they are considering quitting.”

  • (29 Oct 2021) A&Es to set up ‘arrival lounges’ to slash waits in ambulances Evening Standard Oct 29: reveals a stupid ‘solution’ that simply builds in another delay for treatment and could put patients at risk in under-staffed areas:
    “Airport-style “arrival lounges” are being trialled in London A&Es in a bid to stop patients spending hours stuck outside in ambulances, the Evening Standard can reveal.
    “The initiative has been launched at Queen’s hospital, in Romford, and could be expanded to “many” outer London hospitals to improve care and release ambulance crews to respond to “massive numbers” of 999 calls.
    “London Ambulance Service (LAS) said the volume of calls this month has returned to a peak last seen at the outset of the pandemic in March last year, with almost 7,000 calls a day to 999 and 5,000 to its 111 non-emergency helpline.
    “At the same time, delays in handing over patients at overloaded emergency departments are so long that on one night recently about 100 of the 250 ambulances on duty in the capital were effectively out of action at any one time.”

  • (28 Oct 2021) With hands tied behind its back, Sunak tells NHS to deliver Excellent but scary summary of the plight of the NHS after the spending review by the Independent’s Shaun Lintern Oct 28:
    “Mr Sunak ended his speech with a clear ideological warning: “We’ve taken some corrective action to fund the NHS and get our debt under control.
    “But as we look towards the future, I want to say this simple thing to the House and the British people. My goal is to reduce taxes.”
    “He effectively put NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard and health secretary Sajid Javid on notice that now they must deliver. But what he didn’t say was that their hands are tied behind their back.
    “Annual real-term increases of 3.8 per cent sounds a lot after a decade of austerity but is actually quite close to the average annual spending of 3.7 per cent since the health service was founded in 1948.
    “And there was scant detail in the budget about any attempt to boost the workforce beyond the arbitrary 50,000 nurses pledge which is almost certainly not enough. Similarly beyond the new health and care levy there was no new funding for social care to help prevent admissions to hospital and get people out faster.”

  • (28 Oct 2021) Hospitals told to stop ‘catastrophic’ ambulance delays as patients die in queues Independent with surreal news Oct 28 as NHS England adopts King Canute stance demanding an instant end to ambulance handover delays:
    “Hospitals across England have been told to “immediately stop all delays” for ambulances stacking outside A&E units to handover patients as one ambulance trust today warned the problem had reached “catastrophic” levels.
    “The message from Mark Cubbon, NHS England’s chief operating officer, was sent to leaders on Tuesday night after it emerged a patient had died while waiting over an hour in the back of an ambulance outside Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge.
    “At a meeting of the board of West Midlands Ambulance Service on Wednesday, nursing director Mark Docherty told bosses patients were dying before paramedics could reach them because of delays at hospitals.
    “The West Midlands service, like ambulance trusts across the country, has seen record levels of 999 calls while also seeing crews delayed for hours outside NHS trusts. Data seen by The Independent shows there were 5,752 ambulances waiting longer than 60 minutes to handover patients in September across the Midlands.”

  • (27 Oct 2021) Nurse shortages leave people dying in pain, charity warns Independent Oct 27:
    “People are dying at home without the correct nursing support or pain relief because of staff shortages, according to the end-of-life charity Marie Curie.
    “One in three nurses, responding to a survey by the charity and Nursing Standard, say a lack of staff is the main challenge providing quality care to dying people.
    “More than half of the nurses said they feel the standard of care has deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic.
    “Some 548 nursing staff across acute and community settings in the UK completed the survey in September.”

  • (26 Oct 2021) Mythbusting the ‘rescue plan’ Oct 26 analysis by Pulse magazine editor Jaimie Kaffash teases out the contradictions in the so-called plan to increase face to face GP consultations (plan statements here in CAPITALS):
    PRACTICES SHOULD RESPECT PREFERENCES FOR FACE-TO-FACE CARE UNLESS THERE ARE GOOD CLINICAL REASONS TO THE CONTRARY”
    Paragraph 7
    “This depends on the definition of ‘good clinical reasons’. GPs will point out this is exactly what is happening. There is a lack of capacity in general practice, and GPs prioritise the demand based on just such reasons – like every other part of the NHS. But by making patients think they have the ‘right’ to see GPs face to face, NHSE is removing GPs’ ability to do this.
    IN AUGUST 2021 OVER 15% OF PRACTICES RECORDED LESS THAN 20% OF THEIR GP APPOINTMENTS BEING HELD FACE TO FACE. THAT IS LIKELY TO BE CONTRARY TO GOOD CLINICAL PRACTICE, EVEN IF IT WERE TO REFLECT THE PREFERENCES OF THEIR PATIENTS”
    Paragraph 8
    “This seems to be in direct contradiction to the ‘digital-first’ strategy laid out in 2019, which said: ‘The development of digital general practice now offers the possibility that has never before existed – to expand GP capacity for patients in an area even when the GP sessions are provided at some distance.’ But by NHSE’s latest definition, the ‘digital first’ strategy is ‘likely to be contrary to good clinical practice’.”

  • (26 Oct 2021) Patient dies in ambulance waiting outside ‘extremely busy’ A&E Independent Oct 26:
    “An investigation has been launched after the death of the patient, understood to be an elderly woman, on Sunday night outside Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge.
    “The patient suffered a cardiac arrest while paramedics were waiting to hand her over to hospital staff. They were forced to wait outside with other ambulances because the A&E unit was “extremely busy”.
    “One NHS worker with knowledge of the incident said: “People do die in the back of an ambulance on the way to hospital or at a scene of an incident. But no one should die in an ambulance parked outside an emergency department which can give higher level care than an ambulance. There is no dignity in that.”
    “They added: “This is the sort of thing that should never ever happen. This is exactly the sort of thing that will break staff and drive up absences or leavers and make it worse. This is not an Emergency Department problem but a symptom of a broken system.”

  • (26 Oct 2021) Ambulance service goes to highest ever alert over 999 delays - as patients face 'risk of death' Birmingham Mail report October 26 on dire warnings from ambulance trust:
    “More patients will suffer serious harm or die - that was the clear warning from West Midlands ambulance chiefs tonight as they prepare to move to the highest state of alert in the service's history amid fears over delays in getting 999 patients into hospital.
    “The move to an unprecedented 'level 25' rating (out of 25) means the service expects patients to suffer 'catastrophic consequences' with repeated serious harm or death 'almost certain'.
    “Urgent action is needed to avert the crisis.
    “It comes as ambulances with critically ill patients on board are being held routinely outside emergency departments across the region - sometimes for a staggering 10 hours or more. Handovers are meant to take 15 minutes.
    “Investigations are already under way after a patient who had been waiting on an ambulance for five hours outside Worcestershire Royal Hospital deteriorated and later died.
    “A similar incident occurred outside Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.”

  • (25 Oct 2021) Homecare costs outstrip funding from councils, says report BBC News Oct 25:
    “Many councils are not paying homecare companies a high enough hourly rate to cover basic costs like travel time between clients, says a report. It means, despite losing staff faster than they can be replaced, companies are unable to raise wages, says the Homecare Association.
    “… The Homecare Association, which represents some 2,340 care providers, calculates the true minimum cost of providing an hour of homecare in the UK is £21.43. This covers the minimum wage, travel time, pensions, holidays, training, PPE, office staff and 60p for profit or reinvestment in services.
    “Private clients who hire care direct from providers pay an average £24.94 for an hour of homecare, according to separate analysis by software company The Access Group.
    “But private clients are a minority, with the bulk of homecare (about 70%) funded by the state, says the Homecare Association.
    “Freedom of Information data collected for the Association shows the average paid by councils in Great Britain and health boards in Northern Ireland is £18.45. The report found that areas with some of the highest levels of deprivation also had the lowest average fee rates for homecare.”

  • (24 Oct 2021) Rishi Sunak to hand NHS £6bn to tackle waiting lists and boost tech Independent Oct 24 on plans to spend on equipment that lack any proposals on finding staff to use it:
    “A £5.9bn billion package aimed at tackling NHS waiting lists in England will form part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn Budget, the Treasury has said.
    “… The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has hit 5.6 million people, the latest NHS figures show – the highest number since records began in 2007.
    “The chancellor will set out £3.8bn in extra spending to get the health service “back on track” after the Covid crisis, with investment going into diagnostic services, surgical hubs and boosting bed capacity.
    “Roughly £2.1bn of the new package will not go directly on care, however, and will instead be spent on “digitising” the NHS, as the government attempts to push the health service into an efficiency drive.”

  • (23 Oct 2021) Breaking point: Inside the NHS’s looming crisis Excellent overview on the building crisis in the NHS by Independent’s Shaun Lintern Oct 23:
    “As one NHS chief suggested Mr Javid was living in a “parallel universe”, The Independent found:
    • The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is warning this will “likely be the hardest winter the NHS has ever had”;
    • Intensive care beds up and down the country are lying empty because of a lack of nurses, according to the Intensive Care Society;
    • A sick two-year-old girl was forced to sleep on two chairs pushed together in a waiting room during a 14-hour A&E wait;
    • One hospital is to begin turning away non-emergency patients at A&E from Monday;
    • A leaked survey of more than 114 NHS surgical teams found two-thirds have reduced operations with almost a fifth unable to do hip replacements;
    • The military has been called in to support three hospitals in Scotland as the area moved to a “black alert” level; and
    • NHS data shows the patients are staying in hospital significantly longer because community services cannot be found to look after them.”

  • (23 Oct 2021) English local health chiefs urge extra Covid measures in break from guidance Guardian Oct 23:
    “Local public health chiefs in England are breaking from the government’s official guidance and recommending so-called plan B protective measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases.
    “At least a dozen directors of public health (DPHs) have called on residents in their areas to readopt protective measures such as mask-wearing and working from home.
    “The government is likely to face questions over why local authority public health experts feel it necessary to break from the official national guidance.
    “Alice Wiseman, the DPH for Gateshead who is among the health leaders to call for changes, said: “Given the concerning rise in case numbers and the considerable pressures that we’re already seeing on NHS services, now is the time for us all to do whatever we can to avoid reaching crisis point. Taking basic precautions now like wearing face masks, working from home where possible and keeping indoor spaces well ventilated could help us to avoid returning to more disruptive restrictions.”

  • (22 Oct 2021) Cancer patients face ‘perfect storm’ as Covid piles pressure on NHS Guardian October 22 with a grim warning:
    “Progress in clearing the NHS cancer treatment backlog in England has gone into reverse amid high Covid cases and staff shortages, analysis suggests.
    “With rising coronavirus hospitalisations also now piling pressure on the health service, experts have warned patients should brace themselves for worse to come as a “perfect storm” looms in cancer care.
    “The NHS has been striving to catch up with the pandemic backlog of cancer care but the analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support of official data suggests the drive has recently suffered a setback, with growing numbers of potential cancer diagnoses missed.
    “Four key cancer measures have fallen back, with two dropping to their worst ever recorded level….”

  • (22 Oct 2021) Boris Johnson’s recklessness over Covid-19 has led to a new NHS crisis Rachel Clarke in the New Statesman Oct 22:
    “This week, in the first national Covid press conference to be held in five weeks, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid looked the population in the eye and claimed: “We are a lot closer to normal than we were a few months ago.”
    “I suppressed the impulse to swear in front of the children, but only barely. The truth is that, in the week ending 17 June, the number of Covid hospital admissions numbered 1,220. By the week ending 17 October, that number had surged to 5,250 patients.
    “As I write, the daily Covid death toll has reached a seven-month high, and one in five intensive care beds are occupied by patients gravely unwell with the virus. Javid may deny on camera that the NHS is facing unsustainable pressures, but even he has to be aware that this is disastrously far from “normal”.
    “The truth – and it’s a truth the government seems to be doing everything in its power to deny – is that the NHS has been in the grip of a crisis ever since early summer. For months, events have been regularly occurring that should never take place in a properly functioning health service….”

  • (22 Oct 2021) Sajid Javid's alternative reality Blog by Independent health expert Shaun Lintern (Oct 22) nails the complete lack of leadership from ministers or NHS England:
    “… It seems there is real denial at the top of the NHS and government. At yesterday’s Downing Street press conference Sajid Javid said: “We don't believe the pressures on the NHS are unsustainable”. The UK’s military has been called in to help ambulance services to cope this summer in just one sign of how bad the situation is. I’m not sure what Sajid Javid’s definition of ‘unsustainable’ is but having to rely on soldiers to drive ambulances is in all four UK nations is not business as usual.
    “The health secretary also described almost 1,000 deaths a week as "mercifully low" - a comment he should not be allowed to forget anytime soon.
    “A day earlier NHS England’s CEO Amanda Pritchard told MPs on the health committee the NHS had not been overwhelmed during the pandemic – again she didn’t define what she meant by being overwhelmed but for a bit of a reality check consider that the NHS paused routine treatment for millions of patients, called in the military to staff wards and cancelled life-saving surgery.
    “Staff worked 20 hours days with makeshift critical wards set up and staff who had no experience of critical care being drafted in to look after sick and dying patients….”

  • (22 Oct 2021) Horrified paramedic says people are dying needlessly across Cornwall due to ambulance crisis Cornwall Live Oct 22:
    “A horrified paramedic has spoken out to say people are dying across Cornwall because ambulances are unable to reach them.
    … The anonymous paramedic, who has previously risked their job to speak to us about their concerns, added: "Imagine if we piled the bodies that have died because we have arrived too late outside the hospital next to each other so that everyone could see how badly the system is failing the public, then there would be public outcry.
    "There have been loads of reports in the press about ambulances queuing up and it never strikes a nerve with the public. Why is it a big story that patients are having to wait six to eight hours in the back of an ambulance? But if they knew how many were dying needlessly then it would be on the front pages of every national newspaper."
    Speaking on the phone after emailing CornwallLive with their concerns, the paramedic said: "I have sat with the wife of a man who has died and she apologises for inconveniencing us, when it's us that have let her down. We are putting people's lives in danger.
    “… The system is utterly, utterly broken."

  • (21 Oct 2021) Covid booster jabs: New vaccines minister hasn’t made a single national media appearance during slow roll-out MSN report Oct 21 showing how seriously Johnson is pushing for booster jabs:
    "Boris Johnson’s newly appointed Minister for Vaccines and Public Health has been accused of going missing in action during a crucial period in the UK’s fight against Covid.
    "Opposition MPs and a leading medical expert have condemned Maggie Throup for failing to keep up the pace of vital public health messaging and effectively “hiding away” from the media since taking the post.
    "The Tory MP for Erewash joined the Government under Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle on 15 September but has so far made no national media broadcast appearances – despite a sluggish uptake of the Covid booster jabs and rising case numbers.
    "Ms Throup has only made two appearances on BBC local radio, in her constituency, since taking up the post."

  • (21 Oct 2021) ‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning Independent Oct 21:
    “England’s NHS and care services face a “tsunami of unmet need”, the health watchdog has warned, despite ministers insisting that hospitals are coping with the huge surge in demand.
    “… The Care Quality Commission’s chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said NHS and care staff “cannot be expected to work any harder than they already are if we’re to get safely through this winter”.
    “What we’re seeing is many services are at capacity, and in many cases beyond capacity, and problems that traditionally could have been diverted can no longer be diverted,” he said.
    “Organisations needed to come together and work differently, he warned: “If these things don't happen there is the genuine risk of a tsunami of unmet need with many people not getting the care that they so desperately need this winter.”

  • (21 Oct 2021) NHS hospital declares ‘critical incident’ as demand higher ‘than any time during pandemic’ Independent Oct 21:
    “A major hospital has declared a “critical incident” after a surge in demand saw more than 100 patients awaiting treatment in A&E and 25 ambulances queueing outside. The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske, in Truro said “unprecedented” pressure this week is worse “than at any point during the pandemic.”
    “It urged “families, friends and neighbours” to collect any patients who are able to “to leave hospital sooner.”
    “Managers at Cornwall’s main hospital raised the operating level from OPEL4 — known as a ‘black alert’ — to an ‘internal critical incident’ to allow for greater cooperation to ease the crisis.
    “It comes as the government is under intense pressure to reimpose some Covid-19 measures amid a surge in cases, with many other NHS clinics and hospitals across the country facing similar pressure.”

  • (21 Oct 2021) Care sector pushed to brink by staffing catastrophe UNISON Press Release Oct 21:
    “UNISON and the National Care Forum (NCF) have written jointly to Sajid Javid today (Thursday) calling for urgent action over the staffing crisis engulfing the care sector.
    “The letter to the health and social care secretary says they’ve taken this “unprecedented step” in response to daily reports from care providers and staff of serious worker shortages.
    “They say this “recruitment and retention emergency” has been triggered by “chronic underfunding leading to low wages, staff burnout, and mandatory vaccination”.
    “It comes ahead of the government’s spending review next week, and amid warnings that social care desperately needs an injection of cash just so care providers can maintain existing levels of service.
    “UNISON – the largest union representing employees in social care – and the NCF, the organisation representing not-for-profit care providers, say social care is gripped by a staffing crisis of “a magnitude that threatens to overwhelm the sector” unless the government steps in.”

  • (21 Oct 2021) Covid: UK daily cases surpass 50,000 for first time since end of lockdown Independent Oct 21:
    “The UK has recorded over 50,000 Covid-19 infections for the first time since the end of lockdown, latest government figures show.
    “A total of 52,009 cases were reported today, marking an increase of almost 3,000 cases since yesterday.
    “The news comes after Britain recorded more than 40,000 new positive cases for eight consecutive days leading up to 20 October.
    “Latest figures show there have been 372,603 people with a confirmed positive test result over the past 7 days - an increase of 18 per cent compared to the previous week.”

  • (21 Oct 2021) Third of low-income households unable to pay bills, finds research Guardian October 21 report on the government-driven worsening of poverty, and with it the health and prospects of millions of children and their parents:
    “Nearly 4 million low-income households are behind on rent, bills or debt payments, up threefold since the pandemic hit, according to a study revealing the growing cost of the living crisis facing the UK’s poorest families.
    “A third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £25,000 or less were found to be in arrears on their rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax bills or personal debt repayments, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
    “The charity called for urgent government action to support families at the sharp end of pandemic-related financial pressures, including the reinstatement of the £20 uplift in universal credit, which was withdrawn earlier this month, and help with debts.
    “Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction,” said Katie Schmuecker, the JRF deputy director for policy and partnerships.”

  • (21 Oct 2021) The UK government’s covid complacency shows lessons haven’t been learned BMJ analysis Oct 21:
    “This week, England’s health secretary, Sajid Javid told a Downing Street covid briefing that the government would not “at this point” be implementing its so-called “Plan B” measures to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed—including mandatory face coverings indoors and advising people to work from home.
    “… On 20 October 2021—the day of the briefing—the UK recorded 49 139 new cases of covid-19, 179 deaths, and 869 hospital admissions. Javid warned that rising daily infection rates “could yet go as high as 100,000 a day.” The NHS and the BMA say ministers must implement Plan B now, amid warnings of a torrid winter ahead for the health service.
    “Javid said the government was “looking closely at the data,” and “staying vigilant preparing for all eventualities.” But by failing to act now, this amounts to little more than burying its head in the sand.”

  • (20 Oct 2021) Yes, we have to live with Covid – but not with such irresponsible ministers Guardian Oct 20:
    “The UK has one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world: four times higher than Germany, nine times higher than France, and 25 times higher than Spain. Britain is a total outlier in western Europe.
    “By the start of October, 1 in 20 schoolchildren were Covid-positive. Already, before winter sets in, the NHS is struggling to cope with hospitalisations – one in five intensive care beds are occupied by Covid patients – while still having a backlog of more than 5m delayed treatments to clear.
    “The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said today, “We are right on the edge”, and called for the government to implement its Plan B for Covid. This would entail compulsory masks in indoor spaces and secondary schools, vaccine passports and advice to work from home. None of these things would cause significant economic disruption: no one is calling for a lockdown. They could mostly be implemented tomorrow.
    “They won’t be, as the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, indicated today. Downing St says it is keeping a “close eye” on the situation – which makes you wonder what they would need to see before acting.
    “This complacent attitude was exemplified by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, who reassured us recently that the infection rate “feel[s] quite stable”. As though the relatively massive absolute numbers – well over 40,000 new infections recorded every single day, which he now admits could hit 100,000 this winter – don’t matter so long as they don’t change….”

  • (20 Oct 2021) They let Covid rip through our care homes Good Law Project Oct 20:
    “… In May 2020 Matt Hancock the former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care claimed the Government ‘right from the start…threw a protective ring around care homes’. This was simply untrue. Good Law Project has exclusive access to the evidence – and it is horrifying.
    “Despite knowing elderly people were more likely to die from Covid, Government prioritised the rapid discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes, without sufficient testing. Incredibly, there is no mention of testing at all in the Government note: ‘How can we free up hospital bed capacity by rapidly discharging people into social care? 17 – 18 March 2020’.
    “Government ignored the pleas of care home staff, who were forced to take in patients discharged from hospital who had not been tested, knowing it would put their residents at risk.
    “One email dated 22nd March 2020 shows Dr Jenny Harries, now Head of Test and Trace, and officials in the Department for Health, discussing the fact that care homes on the ground did not want to take people from hospital without a negative test. Instead of listening and implementing testing, it appears the Government asked Dr Jenny Harries to issue statements to reassure worried care home staff ‘it’s safe to accept patients from hospital’.
    “As history records, it wasn’t.”

  • (20 Oct 2021) MPs set to reject move to make water firms cut sewage discharges Guardian on October 20 with yet another brazen example of Tory contempt for public health and the environment:
    “The government is to reject calls to place a legal duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers.
    “MPs will debate the environmental bill on Wednesday in its final stages through parliament, and clean water campaigners want them to back what they say is a key amendment on sewage that was agreed in the House of Lords.
    “In 2020 raw sewage was discharged into waters more than 400,000 times over a total of more than 3.1 million hours. Sewage pollution is a key component of what MPs have heard is a chemical cocktail of pollutants going into rivers.”

  • (20 Oct 2021) Charge Bolsonaro with murder over Covid toll, draft Brazil senate report says Guardian Oct 19:
    “The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, should face murder charges for his role in the country’s “stratospheric” coronavirus death toll, a draft report from a senate inquiry into Brazil’s Covid crisis has recommended.
    “The 1,078-page document, published by Brazilian media on Tuesday afternoon, is not due to be voted on by the commission until next week and could yet be modified by senators.
    “But the draft text paints a devastating portrait of the neglect, incompetence and anti-scientific denialism many believe has defined the Bolsonaro administration’s response to a public health emergency that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.
    “Bolsonaro’s “deliberate and conscious” decision to delay buying Covid vaccines needlessly condemned thousands of citizens to early graves, the report claims.”

  • (20 Oct 2021) Implement ‘plan B’ winter measures now or risk NHS crisis, Johnson warned Guardian Oct 20 on increasing warnings from NHS professionals and management on the need for action to contain the new surge of Covid-19:
    “Ministers must urgently implement sweeping “plan B” winter measures or derail efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients, the head of the NHS Confederation warned as the UK recorded its highest daily Covid death toll since March.
    “Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.
    “… Downing Street said it was keeping a “very close eye” on the situation. But Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis” where the elective care recovery would be jeopardised.
    “Taylor said: “We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.”

  • (19 Oct 2021) Single rooms should be ‘default’ in hospitals, says Powis (£)HSJ story October 19 indicating the extent to which the preoccupation with infection control has left no room for priority to be given to re-organising existing buildings to restore capacity lost because of Covid. The single room set-up would reduce the numbers of beds and increase the costs of building and running any new hospitals that may eventually be built. But NHS England's medical director says:
    “Single rooms should be the ‘default’ for inpatients in English hospitals as they would improve infection control and patient flow, NHS England and Improvement’s national medical director has said.
    “Stephen Powis told the Commons health and social care committee the need to move towards individual rooms was a key consideration in determining the NHS’s capital budget which is being negotiated with ministers.”

  • (19 Oct 2021) England’s GPs overwhelmingly reject Health Secretary’s plan to ‘support’ general practice BMA Press Release Oct 19:
    “Thousands of GPs in England have told the BMA that the Health Secretary’s package of measures to supposedly rescue general practice is useless. 93% of respondents surveyed by the BMA say it is an unacceptable response to the current crisis.
    “Almost 3,500 GPs in England took part in the snap poll1 after Sajid Javid published details of a package which he claimed was to improve access to GPs. However, doctors have made clear it would in fact increase workload and bureaucracy on GPs and their colleagues, reduce the number of appointments available, and impact the quality of patient care, while threatening to name-and-shame and penalise practices that need the most help.
    “The 93% figure is the clearest articulation yet that frontline GPs working across the country do not believe the plan will go any way to addressing the pressures facing general practice, staff and patients.
    “The BMA is warning that the impact of such a damaging move from the Government on staffing levels could be disastrous. The latest GP workforce figures show that England has lost around 1,800 full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GPs since 2015, despite the Government promising 6,000 more.
    “However, Sajid Javid could be to blame for this number plummeting further. In addition to today’s survey results, a separate survey2 of more than 6,000 GPs in England, conducted in the week before the announcement, found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents were prepared to reduce their hours to protect themselves from the current crisis, while more than half (54%) shockingly said they would consider leaving the NHS all together if the Government did not provide them with the support they needed.”

  • (19 Oct 2021) Third Scottish health board asks for military assistance for winter Independent Oct 19:
    “A third Scottish health board has requested help from the armed forces as it faces staffing shortages ahead of the winter months.
    “A formal request for military support was made by NHS Grampian as the health service faces growing pressure as a result of coronavirus and the backlog of care built up during the pandemic.
    “Last week, the British Army was called in to help NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, with a total of 86 personnel deployed for a three-week period.
    “Soldiers are also helping the Scottish Ambulance Service vehicles under a separate arrangement.
    “… Staffing pressures mean acute services - such as emergency departments, surgeries and diagnostics - in the NHS are operating at capacity.”

  • (19 Oct 2021) Millions waiting to receive booster jab amid fears of rising Covid hospitalisations Independent Oct 19:
    “Almost 5 million people are at a greater risk of catching Covid as they have yet to receive their booster jabs, health officials and experts have warned.
    “Under government guidance, those aged over 50 and vulnerable groups who were double vaccinated at least six months ago are eligible for a third dose, but there are fears that poor communications around the programme and logistical complications could be hindering uptake.
    “Although vaccine coverage is high across the UK, infection rates are returning to those seen during the winter wave. Some 49,156 tested positive for Covid on Monday, a weekly rise of 22 per cent and the highest figure since the end of lockdown.
    “The failure to “top up” waning protection levels could place further pressure on the NHS, with hospitalisations of the elderly already beginning to creep up.”

  • (18 Oct 2021) Patients waiting almost 50 hours for a bed in crowded A&E departments Independent on the escalating crisis in acute hospitals Oct 18:
    “Patients are waiting almost 50 hours for a bed in accident and emergency departments – including children with serious mental health problems – amid warnings a winter crisis in the NHS is already underway.
    “The Independent has seen information showing multiple patients at Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire have faced lengthy waits for a bed in recent days with some spending in excess of 40 hours before getting a bed.
    “One patient last week spent at least 47 hours in the A&E with staff warning the long waits are a regular occurrence.
    “The situation is being replicated across England with multiple hospitals declaring incidents and seeing record waits for patients to see doctors. Some patients have waited 13 hours in the back of an ambulance before even getting into A&E.
    “At Ipswich Hospital, in Suffolk, a child under the age of 16 with serious mental health problems waited almost 48 hours in the A&E department there last week. The trust confirmed this was because of a lack of specialist mental health beds being available for children – a problem being reported across the NHS.”

  • (18 Oct 2021) Statement on accreditation status of Immensa Health Clinic Ltd / Dante Labs Ltd Statement from UKAS, the National Accreditation Body for the United Kingdom, clarifying that it never accredited the latest company to be embroiled in a Covid procurement scandal:
    “From the beginning of the pandemic, UKAS has been working with government to provide advice on quality assurance and accreditation of laboratories performing COVID-19 testing including laboratories that have been supporting the national testing provision (NHS Test and Trace) and also private testing providers.
    “Since November 2020 UKAS has been working with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to develop a three stage UKAS accreditation process for private providers of COVID-19 testing. Under the scheme, organisations that take swab samples and/or test them are required to demonstrate their ability to meet the required standard by progressing through each stage – application, appraisal and accreditation – with increasing levels of assessment by UKAS.
    “Only after successfully completing the third stage is the organisation accredited by UKAS. To date, UKAS has received over 500 applications/extensions to scope requests for COVID-19 testing/sampling and has accredited 245 public and private sector laboratories/sample-takers.
    “Neither Immensa Health Clinic Ltd nor its related company Dante Labs Ltd has been accredited by UKAS.”

  • (18 Oct 2021) UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded ‘VIP’ Covid contracts Guardian Oct 18:
    “The UK government has been ordered to reveal which companies were given “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
    “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that had contracts awarded through the privileged, fast-track process allocated to firms with political connections.
    “A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) last year found that companies referred as possible PPE suppliers by ministers, MPs or senior NHS officials were given high priority by the DHSC procurement process, which resulted in a 10 times greater success rate for securing contracts than companies whose bids were processed via normal channels.”

  • (18 Oct 2021) UK lab investigated for false negative Covid tests is not fully accredited Guardian Oct 18 on the scandal surrounding the lab company that gave thousands of false negative tests for Covid:
    “The private laboratory that is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.
    “The UK’s independent accreditation service, Ukas, told the Guardian on Monday that neither Immensa Health Clinics Ltd nor its sister company, Dante Labs, had ever been accredited by the service, and that it had informed the Department of Health that statements suggesting otherwise were incorrect.
    “The UK Health Security Agency announced on Friday that it was suspending operations at Immensa’s laboratory in Wolverhampton pending an investigation into concerns that at least 43,000 people with coronavirus had been wrongly told their swabs tested negative for the virus.”

  • (18 Oct 2021) NHS hospitals still using out-of-date MRI and CT scanners, report says Independent Oct 18:
    “NHS hospitals are still using body-scanning equipment long past its recommended lifespan which could potentially have negative impacts on care, according to a report.
    “Channel 4’s Dispatches used freedom of information rules to find out how many CT and MRI scanners were in use after the 10-year mark, when NHS bosses recommend they be retired. More than one-quarter (27.1 per cent) of trusts in NHS England had at least one out-of-date CT scanner, a figure which leapt to 34.5 per cent for MRI machines.
    “Among the potential problems with obsolete units are the need for higher radiation doses to achieve image quality comparable to newer machines, and an end to software upgrades reducing their usefulness, according to an NHS report from last year. Ultimately these and other shortcomings can impact care, the document said.
    “Dispatches found several hospitals were using outdated CT scanners. All four machines at the Royal Berkshire Hospitals Trust were 10 or more years old, while King’s College Hospital was found to possess a CT scanner acquired in 2007 and another that was 11 years old.”

  • (14 Oct 2021) Woman dies after two hour wait in ambulance outside James Paget Hospital Norfolk Live story Oct 14:
    “A woman has died after suffering a heart attack while waiting in a queue of ambulances at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston-on-Sea. The woman had been waiting in a queue of ambulances for more than two hours and died just as she got into the Emergency Department.
    “The incident happened on Monday morning (October 11), just days after local NHS services declared a maximum alert due to acute pressures.
    “The BBC reported that Norfolk and Waveney went to OPEL 4 the previous Wednesday over fears patient care could be compromised. Operations Pressure Escalation Level (Opel) 4 is declared when a "comprehensive care" is unable to be delivered and patient safety is at risk.
    “Speaking anonymously, an ambulance worker told the BBC: "We're under a tremendous amount of pressure.”

  • (14 Oct 2021) Austerity in England linked to more than 50,000 extra deaths in five years Guardian Oct 14:
    “Austerity cuts to the NHS, public health and social care have killed tens of thousands more people in England than expected, according to the largest study of its kind.
    “Researchers who analysed the joint impact of cuts to healthcare, public health and social care since 2010 found that even in just the following four years the spending squeeze was linked with 57,550 more deaths than would have been expected. The findings, worse than previously thought, were revealed in the journal BMJ Open.
    “The research by the University of York also found that a slowdown in life expectancy improvement coincided with the government’s sharp cuts to health and social care funding after David Cameron came to power a decade ago.
    “Restrictions on the growth in health and social care expenditure during ‘austerity’ have been associated with tens of thousands more deaths than would have been observed had pre-austerity expenditure growth been sustained,” said Prof Karl Claxton of the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York.”

  • (13 Oct 2021) 50% Of Americans Now Carry Medical Debt, A New Chronic Condition For Millions Forbes magazine Oct 13:
    “Fully half of Americans now carry medical debt, up from 46% in 2020, according to new data from Debt.com, a consumer financial education company.
    “More than half (57%) of Americans with medical debt owe at least $1,000, driven by diagnostic tests, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits, the survey showed.
    “In a weird way, Covid didn’t have as big an impact on medical debt as you might think—but only because medical debt was such a huge problem before the pandemic,” said Don Silvestri, CEO of Debt.com. “If anything, Covid forced more people to consider the seriousness of the problem.”
    “Though more people reported having medical debt compared to last year, less than half (46%) said their bills were in collections this year, down from 56% in 2020.
    “Despite the decrease, a recent JAMA study showed that debt collectors hold $140 billion in medical debt, not including credit card balances and unpaid medical bills that haven’t hit consumers’ credit reports.”

  • (11 Oct 2021) Plans to hand over NHS data to police sparks warning from government adviser Independent report Oct 11:
    “Plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police forces across England are “very problematic” and could see patients giving false information to doctors, the government’s data watchdog has warned.
    “In her first national interview, the data guardian for England told The Independent she has serious concerns over Home Office plans to impose a responsibility on the NHS to share patient data with police which she said “sets aside” the duty of confidentiality for clinicians.
    “Dr Nicola Byrne also warned that emergency powers brought in to allow the sharing of data to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 could not run on indefinitely after they were extended to March 2022.
    “… The legislation could impose a duty on NHS bodies to disclose private patient data to police to prevent serious violence and crucially sets aside a duty of confidentiality on clinicians collecting information when providing care.
    “Dr Byrne said doing so could “erode trust and confidence, and deter people from sharing information and even from presenting for clinical care”.”

  • (10 Oct 2021) The Observer view on benefit cuts Observer Editorial Oct 10 on the benefit cuts that will undermine the health of millions for years to come:
    “The government enacted the biggest ever overnight benefit cut last week. In one fell swoop, low-paid parents and unpaid carers of disabled people have lost more than £1,000 a year from their annual budgets, at a time when energy and food costs are steadily climbing and many are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.
    “The result of these political choices is that more children will grow up without the fundamentals no child should ever be without: a warm and secure home; going to bed without feeling hungry at night. Not even Marcus Rashford, the footballer who speaks with such moral clarity about child poverty and who has forced the government to U-turn from enacting policies that cause harm to children, could extract a concession from the government this time.
    “It has justified this unconscionable policy on two grounds. First, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has argued this is not a benefit cut, but simply a removal of a temporary and pandemic-related uplift to low-income families with children. Second, Boris Johnson claimed in his speech to the Conservative conference last week that by dramatically reducing low-skill immigration in the wake of Brexit, he was setting the country on a path to productivity and wage growth that we are led to believe will more than compensate for his decision to slash financial support to parents and carers.
    “Both are rhetorical sleights of hand. The £20 a week boost in universal credit introduced at the start of the pandemic must be set in the context of a decade of cuts to financial support for low-income parents that cost some families thousands of pounds a year. These were delivered while Conservative chancellors initiated income tax cuts to the tune of billions a year that disproportionately benefited more affluent families.”

  • (10 Oct 2021) Sajid Javid working on radical plan to merge social care with health in England Observer report October 10, reporting on Tory plans for social care changes drive not by concern for social care but by problems in the NHS:
    “Radical plans for a new national care service under which health and social care would be delivered by the same organisation are being actively considered by the government for inclusion in a white paper next month, according to senior Conservatives and Whitehall sources.
    “The idea of local authorities and the NHS taking joint responsibility for social care, perhaps working from a single combined budget for the first time, would amount to one of the most far-reaching reforms since the NHS was founded in 1948.
    “At present, local authorities have responsibility for running social care services in their own areas. Critics say there is, as a result, insufficient incentive for cash-strapped councils to develop better care for people in their homes or in the community, as it is cheaper for them if those in need go into hospital where the cost is met from the separate NHS budget.
    “The result is that many people who could be cared for at home or in the community end up occupying much-needed hospital beds.”

  • (9 Oct 2021) Revealed: Hospitals face ‘severe’ shortages of medical supplies ahead of winter due to Brexit and Covid Independent report October 9:
    “Hospitals are experiencing shortages of essential medical equipment triggered by a combination of Brexit and the impact of the pandemic on global supply chains, The Independent can reveal.
    “Manufacturers and suppliers of beds, lifts and life-saving defibrillators have also warned of being under “unparalleled pressure” due to the supply chain crunch this winter. NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard has warned that the winter season was already going to be “tougher” than a summer which experienced unprecedented demand.
    “Medical supplies are the latest casualty of widespread disruption that has left gaps on supermarket shelves and prompted panic buying at petrol stations.
    “Managers at London’s St George’s Hospital, one of the largest NHS trusts in England, are having weekly meetings with suppliers to stay on top of the problems and warned staff in an email leaked to The Independent that some companies were folding or exiting the UK market as a result of the pressures.”

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

  • (8 Oct 2021) One in six adults in Great Britain not able to buy essential foods, ONS finds Guardian report October 8
    “Almost nine million people, representing one in six adults in Great Britain, have not been able to buy essential food items in the past two weeks because they were not available, official research suggests.
    “According to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, 17% of adults could not buy some of the grocery products they needed between 22 September and 3 October, reflecting the widespread impact of supply chain disruption and labour shortages.
    “Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) told the ONS they had not been able to purchase other essential non-food items.
    “Meanwhile, 15% reported they had not been able to buy fuel for their vehicle during the fortnight, which covered the acute phase of the fuel supply crisis in which forecourts have run dry as motorists queued for long periods to fill up their cars.”

  • (7 Oct 2021) Private hospitals treated just eight Covid patients a day during pandemic – report Guardian Oct 7 with an important report on the real agenda of the private sector in health care:
    “Private hospitals treated a total of just eight Covid patients a day during the pandemic despite a multi-billion pound deal with the government to help stop the NHS being overwhelmed, a report reveals. And they also performed far fewer operations on NHS-funded patients than usual, even though hospitals has suspended much non-Covid care, according to research by a thinktank.
    “The Treasury agreed in March 2020 to pay for a deal to block-book the entire capacity of all 7,956 beds in England’s 187 private hospitals along with their almost 20,000 staff to help supplement the NHS’s efforts to cope with the unfolding pandemic. It is believed to have cost £400m a month.
    “However, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest’s report (Pdf) says that on 39% of days between March 2020 and March this year, private hospitals treated no Covid patients at all and on a further 20% of days they cared for only one person. Overall, they provided only 3,000 of the 3.6m Covid bed days in those 13 months – just 0.08% of the total.
    “And while private hospitals undertook 3.6m NHS-funded planned procedures the year before, that dropped to only 2m during the first year of the pandemic – a fall of 43% – the thinktank says. Its conclusions are based on its analysis of two major sets of published NHS activity data.”

  • (7 Oct 2021) Coronavirus report warned of impact on UK four years before pandemic Guardian October 7 excluive:
    “Senior health officials who war-gamed the impact of a coronavirus hitting the UK, warned four years before the onset of Covid-19 of the need for stockpiles of PPE, a computerised contact tracing system and screening for foreign travellers, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The calls to step up preparations in areas already identified as shortcomings in the government’s response to Covid, emerged from a previously unpublished report of a health planning exercise in February 2016 that imagined a coronavirus outbreak.
    “It was commissioned by Dame Sally Davies, then chief medical officer, who attended alongside officials from NHS England, the Department of Health, Public Health England, and observers from the devolved administrations.
    “The participants imagined cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) arriving in London and Birmingham and spreading rapidly resulting in “a large scale outbreak”. Like Covid, MERS causes potentially fatal respiratory illness and can spread asymptomatically; there were no known treatments or vaccines.
    “… The disclosure of the 23-page report on Exercise Alice is set to trigger fresh scrutiny of the adequacy of UK preparations.”

  • (6 Oct 2021) Tory party conference: Sajid Javid urges families to care more for elderly (£) Times Oct 6. Another day, another daft and reactionary speech from Thatcher's truest disciple to the Tory faithful, as Sajid Javid effectively argues that there is 'no such thing as society':
    “People need to take responsibility for looking after their elderly relatives and stop looking to the state to provide, the health secretary has said.
    “Sajid Javid said that people needed to ask “what I can do to help my own family” before calling on government provision, as he attempts to get the most out of the billions of pounds given to the NHS and social care sector.
    “… In his speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he insisted on the importance of “family first” as he stressed the expanded role for the state seen during the pandemic could not become permanent.
    “He is said to be concerned that high profile promises on social care will encourage more people to come forward for help that would otherwise be provided by relatives.
    “Government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life,” he stressed. “We as citizens have to take some responsibility for our health too.”
    “Speaking later at a fringe event, he said that the “default position” should not be that government was responsible for all care. “I think we should all also step back a bit sometimes and just think, ‘What can I do about it? What can what can I do to help my loved ones and my own family?” he said.”

  • (6 Oct 2021) Tory MP reveals grim reality of living on just £82,000 as he asks for payrise Metro October 6: as Universal Credit cuts officially started, ending the £20-a-week uplift for the poorest families which was introduced during the coronavirus pandemic, a Tory MP spoke out about the struggles of living on an MP’s salary.
    “Sir Peter Bottomley, the ‘Father of the House’ as the MP in the Commons with the longest continuous service, called it ‘desperately difficult’ for many of his colleagues.
    “He thinks MPs, who are paid £81,932 annually, should be paid the same amount as GPs – whose average salary in England is £100,700.
    “The average salary across the UK was £31,461, as of last year.
    “Although he said he currently is not struggling financially, he believes the situation is ‘desperately difficult’ for his newer colleagues. The representative of Worthing West in West Sussex added: ‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’”

  • (6 Oct 2021) Sajid Javid says health and social care ‘begins at home’ and people should turn to family before NHS Independent October 6 with a different take on Sajid Javid’s revival of the Thatcher philosophy:
    “Sajid Javid has said health and social care “begins at home” and people should rely on their families in the first instance rather than on the state.
    The health secretary’s comments came during his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday.
    Mr Javid said: “The state was needed in this pandemic more than any time in peacetime. But government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life. We as citizens have to take some responsibility for our health too.
    “We shouldn’t always go first to the state. What kind of society would that be? Health – and social care – begins at home. Family first, then community, then the state.
    “If you do need support, we live in a compassionate, developed country that can afford to help with that. There are few higher callings than to care for another person.”

  • (5 Oct 2021) Tory party conference: NHS bosses face sack for failing to cut waits More counterproductive Tory Conference posturing and regeneration of failed Thatcher-era experiments by Sajid Javid, reported in the (£) Times Oct 5:
    “Hospital managers who fail to clear mounting NHS backlogs will be sacked under government plans for reform, The Times understands.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is said to be preparing new powers to seize control of poorly performing hospitals with the insistence that ministers cannot just “throw cash” at the NHS.
    “Business people and other outsiders will be encouraged to take jobs running hospitals as Javid argues that good leadership is key to improving care.
    “He is under pressure from Downing Street and the Treasury to produce results by cutting waiting times for routine treatments following last month’s £36 billion spending plan for health and social care.”

  • (5 Oct 2021) ‘Stupid’ and ‘wrong’ for NHS to compete for overseas nurses, claims health minister HSJ report October 5 on yet another ill-informed speech from another ignorant health minister:
    “A new health minister has said NHS efforts to compete to attract overseas nurses are ‘stupid’, despite the approach being government policy.
    “Gillian Keegan also said that hiring nurses from overseas was “bizarre, unbelievably inefficient and also wrong”.
    “Ms Keegan became a health minister last month, with responsibilities including social care, mental health and integration. Before becoming an MP in 2017 she served as a governor of Western Sussex Hospital Foundation Trust.
    “She was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday organised by Age UK. Ms Keegan – who was previously apprenticeship and skills minister – was asked about the impact of Brexit on the health and care workforce. Her answer focused mostly on nursing.
    “She said: “One of the things I found interesting when I first became an NHS board governor, [was that at] the very first meeting I’d been to, they’d all just come back from the Philippines. This is in Chichester, I was thinking, ‘What are you doing in the Philippines?’ They said, ‘We were recruiting nurses’, and I said, ‘What are you doing there recruiting nurses?’
    “They said, ‘Well, we’ve already depleted the availability of the Spanish and the Portuguese nurses.’ I said, ‘What about, you know, people who are here who would love to go into this profession? And it struck me as just bizarre – unbelievably inefficient and also wrong and just bizarre.”

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

  • (3 Oct 2021) UK might not be over the worst, scientists warn, as Covid case numbers stay high Guardian October 3 with a worrying reminder:
    “Britain is heading into winter with the number of Covid cases remaining at a worryingly high level. At the same time, the nation’s vaccination programme appears to have stalled.
    “That is the bleak view of leading epidemiologists who have warned that the worst effects of the pandemic may not yet be over for the UK. As the weather gets colder, more and more people are likely to socialise in restaurants, bars and cinemas rather than in parks or gardens with the result that transmission rates of Covid-19 are likely to rise.
    “At the same time, employees are being encouraged to return to their workplaces, which will also drive up infections. At present, new Covid cases are being reported at a rate of about 35,000 a day – though Britain’s vaccination programme has kept hospitalisations to below the 7,000 level with fewer than 200 deaths occurring every day. These figures have remained fairly stable for the past few weeks.
    “Crucially, the majority of those in hospital with severe Covid are unvaccinated. It is therefore very important to continue to give jabs to as many people as possible, said Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University.”

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

  • (2 Oct 2021) Tories order biggest shake-up of NHS leadership in England for 40 years Guardian Oct 2 report on Sajid Javid reviving yet another failed tactic from the Thatcher years – calling in a general to sort out the crisis in the NHS:
    “The Conservatives have ordered a shake-up of NHS leadership in England on the eve of their party conference, with Sajid Javid saying that with more funding must come “change for the better”.
    “The health secretary said he wanted to see the most far-reaching review of NHS bosses in England for 40 years, appointing a former vice-chief of the defence staff, Gen Sir Gordon Messenger, to lead the work.
    “However, some NHS bosses were furious about what they described as a political move to shift blame on to trust, hospital and social care leaders as the health service struggles with a big backlog.
    “Under the terms of the review, Messenger will be asked to look at the best hospitals, GPs’ services and social care delivery to work out how this can be replicated across the country.”

  • (2 Oct 2021) “I've given you the most important metric which is, never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes, look at wage growth." Classic Boris Johnson interview clip revealing how hollow are promises of "levelling up" which the BBC took off its website, still available on Twitter.
    Apart from the arrogance and callousness of this, it's obvious that if healthy life expectancy is reduced by Tory policies widening inequalities and worsening social determinants of health a few pounds extra in the pay packet for a few years is poor compensation.

  • (2 Oct 2021) Covid backlogs: No more business as usual, Sajid Javid tells NHS managers (£) Times Oct 2 version of the story on Sajid Javid calling in a retired general to sort out the problems in the NHS that have been exacerbated by a brutal decade of real terms Tory spending cuts and frozen or falling pay for staff. Javid appears unaware of the fresh wave of demoralisation his tough talk will generate amongst hard pressed NHS chiefs:
    “Business as usual” must end, NHS bosses will be told as ministers launch what they hope will be the biggest review of health service management for four decades.
    “All aspects of NHS leadership will be scrutinised as ministers seek to ensure any extra cash brings results.
    “Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said management must “change for the better” in exchange for a £16 billion funding over the next three years to deal with Covid-19 backlogs.
    “… General Sir Gordon Messenger, the former vice-chief of the defence staff who oversaw the coronavirus testing scheme last year, will lead the review. He is due to report back in about four months and ministers are promising an action plan shortly afterwards.”

  • (2 Oct 2021) Conservatives: Who funds them, and what's in it for them? Surprisingly hard report from BBC News October 2 begins:
    “Welcome to the One Million Pound Club.
    “To make the top ten donors to the Conservative Party since Boris Johnson became prime minister, you need to have stumped up a seven figure sum.
    “At the top of the chart, by a considerable margin, the providers of one of the most memorable political images of the last few years. Boris Johnson at the wheel of a JCB, a polystyrene wall smashed, his 'Get Brexit Done' slogan in the mechanical shovel.
    “JC Bamford Excavators Limited has given just over £2.5m in the last two years. Lord Bamford, the chairman of the family owned company, has personally given £100,000 since 2010, when the Conservatives returned to government. He became a Conservative peer in 2013.
    “I've been trying to find out what motivates people to give money to the Conservative Party, how do they choose how much to give and how do they measure if it is worth it?”

  • (2 Oct 2021) Boris Johnson condemned for saying ‘never mind’ about cancer outcomes Independent Oct 2:
    “Boris Johnson has sparked outrage on the eve of the Conservative Party conference after saying “never mind” about cancer death rates and the recent fall in life expectancy.
    “Grilled about his plans for Britain’s recovery from the Covid crisis, the prime minister chose to emphasise economic growth over health measures.
    “Pointing to the recent growth in wages, Mr Johnson told the BBC: “I’ve given you the most important metric – never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes – look at wage growth.”
    “Opposition parties pounced on the prime minister’s remarks, with Labour accusing him of showing an “outrageous” disregard for the health of British citizens.
    “Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told The Independent: “Boris Johnson starts his conference with the most chilling words ever spoken from a prime minister dismissing the importance of cancer outcomes”.”

  • (2 Oct 2021) Doctors, receptionists and practice teams quit after wave of hostility over GP appointments Guardian Oct 2 reporting the grim and predictable consequences of the hate campaign against GPs waged by the right wing press and far right in recent weeks:
    “Senior doctors have warned that practice staff and GPs are quitting after an unprecedented and escalating wave of abuse from patients that has followed weeks of public pressure over face-to-face appointments.
    “Practice managers, receptionists and doctors have spoken of daily confrontations with patients over issues including appointments, vaccinations and blood tests.
    “Some said that patients had been responding to media campaigns over recent weeks, which have led to Boris Johnson and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, pledging to increase in-person appointments.
    “Many practices are maintaining Covid-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, including the use of face masks; some patients have refused to wear them and become abusive when asked to do so.
    “The number of permanent GPs has been declining steadily over the last five years – down by 1,904 since 2016, or about 7% – to the point that by March this year there were only 26,805 remaining in post.”

  • (1 Oct 2021) GP flu jabs in England hit by vaccine shortages despite government claims of ‘no impact’ Independent report October 1 on more frustration GPs as the face a barrage of hostile media reports and snide comments from ministers:
    “GP surgeries in England are continuing to experience delays in the delivery of influenza vaccines - weeks after the government downplayed fears of disruption to the country’s flu programme amid a nationwide shortage of lorry drivers.
    “GPs in Reading and West Suffolk have recently been forced to cancel vaccination appointments due to the delays, telling patients that the “situation is completely outside of our control”.
    “Manufacturers have assured the government they have sufficient staff and fuel reserves to deliver the flu vaccines as planned, The Independent has been told, but some surgeries are still waiting to receive their supplies.
    “One GP in West Suffolk told its patients earlier this week that it is “one of the thousands of surgeries across the country being affected” by distribution issues and delays - despite “having ordered our vaccine 12 months ago to guarantee our delivery date”.

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

  • (1 Oct 2021) More NHS maternity units criticised for poor cultures, bullying and staff shortages Independent report October 1:
    “Two more NHS maternity units have been criticised by the care watchdog over concerns about safety, with inspectors highlighting poor cultures and bullying as well as staff shortages leaving midwives visibly upset.
    “The Care Quality Commission has published two reports into inspections at maternity services in Queens Hospital, in Romford, Essex and at Walsall’s Manor Hospital.
    “Both hospitals have been told they must make improvements and the latest criticism from CQC follows its decision to inspect dozens of maternity units amid fears over the safety of maternity care throughout England.”

  • (1 Oct 2021) England needs one million more NHS and social care staff over the next decade Independent October 1:
    “A new analysis by the Health Foundation reveals the growing workforce gap in England with an extra 488,000 NHS staff needed to meet rising demand and the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. This would represent a 40 per cent increase in the workforce – double the level of growth seen over the past 10 years.
    “In social care the need is even greater with 627,000 more staff needed. This would be a 55 per cent rise over the next decade and four times more than the level of growth since 2001.
    “… The Health Foundation said in order to deliver this level of staff funding for the NHS alone would need to grow at twice the rate of the last decade and reach at least 3.2 per cent a year – the equivalent of an extra £70 billion by 2030/31.”

  • (1 Oct 2021) One in six children in England suffering poor mental health Independent October 1:
    “Figures released today by NHS Digital also show there has been a significant deterioration in mental health for children and young people in the past four years.
    “Separately, NHS England has today accepted, in new guidance to the NHS, that up to 1.5 million people may be waiting for mental health treatment and are yet to receive it as a result of the impact of coronavirus.
    “The survey of more than 3,600 young people found 17 per cent of children aged six to 16 in England had a probable mental health disorder, with the same rate for teenagers aged 17 to 19.
    “The results are similar to rates in 2020, but show a considerable increase in child mental health problems in the past five years, with rates rising from one in nine in 2017.”

  • (1 Oct 2021) Patients in new NHS regions experience widespread variation in care Independent 30 Sept:
    “A new analysis of the different experiences for patients living in one of 42 new NHS regions has revealed wide discrepancies in treatment in different parts of the country.
    “Ministers are pushing through parliament one of the biggest NHS re-organisations in almost a decade with the aim of creating new integrated care systems across England from April next year. They will be tasked with delivering better joined up care across different organisations.
    “But the new bodies face an uphill struggle with widespread variation in outcomes revealed in a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).”

  • (1 Oct 2021) New era of public health to tackle inequalities and level up the UK Oct 1 launch of new Office for Health Improvement and "Disparities" – shrinking from the word and concept of inequalities, not least because the gulf between richest and poorest has widened each year since 2010.
    It cites figures on the scale of the problem, apparently unaware which government has been in power for the past decade:
    "Health disparities across the UK will be tackled through a new approach to public health focused on stopping debilitating health conditions before they develop, as the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launches today (Friday 1 October).
    "OHID marks a distinct shift in focus at the heart of government in addressing the unacceptable health disparities that exist across the country to help people live longer, healthier lives and reduce the pressure on the health and care system as work is done to reduce the backlog and put social care on a long-term sustainable footing.
    "The latest figures show clear trends, based on geographical location, of a person’s life expectancy and the years they can expect to live a healthy life."

  • (1 Oct 2021) When It Comes to Health Insurance, What are We Paying For? October 1 reminder from un-covered on the horrors of US health care:
    “Insurer by insurer, health plans are making COVID-19 patients pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets before they will pay a dime.
    “UnitedHealth and Anthem both stopped waiving deductibles and other out-of-pockets requirements for COVID patients at the end of July. Now most, if not all, of the other payors are following their lead, which means bills will hit patient mailboxes, and hospitals will be saddled with even more uncompensated care.
    “This is because out-of-pocket maximums – the amount patients have to pay before payors pony up – have gotten so high that millions of Americans with insurance are falling deeply and hopelessly into debt.
    “They simply don’t have the cash to pay the doctors and nurses trying to keep them out of the cemetery.
    “Too bad, so sad, is the payors’ attitude. High-deductible health plans enable insurance companies to avoid paying billions of dollars a year in claims they once covered, and that has enabled them to rack up record profits year after year.”

  • (1 Oct 2021) Marketing firm given £40m PPE contract made staff work on furlough Open democracy October 1 with another PPE scandal:
    “A company that won £40m in COVID contracts made its staff work “flat out” when they were meant to be furloughed – and threatened to fire anyone who spoke out.
    “An investigation by openDemocracy has found that KAU Media Group wrongly claimed furlough support while being handed a series of multi-million-pound government contracts to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “The deals were awarded without competitive tender, despite the London-based digital marketing firm having no prior experience with PPE.
    “One of the company’s directors, Mohammed Kashif Khokhar, quickly banked £10m for him and his wife. Over the last year, he has boasted about his expensive lifestyle – posting photos online wearing a £130,000 watch in a Lamborghini sports car, and at Wembley watching England play football in the European Championships.”

  • (30 Sep 2021) Pitting patients and GPs against each other is unhelpful and dangerous Comment article from Independent September 30, opposing the vilification of GPs by the right wing media and politicians begins:
    “People aren’t always getting the support they need from their GPs. True. GPs are working around the clock, doing everything they can in response to unprecedented levels of demand for healthcare. Also true.
    “These two statements are not mutually exclusive. Both accurately reflect how many patients and primary care teams feel about what is happening at the front door of the NHS in the wake of a brutal pandemic.
    “Yet, it is becoming increasingly evident that patients and primary care teams are being pitted against each other. This tension is then spilling over with devastating consequences, from totally unacceptable abuse against staff to some patients not seeking treatment because they are being made to feel like a burden.”

  • (29 Sep 2021) Woman with agonising burns sent away from TWO hospitals after falling foul of new rules meaning people have to get urgent care at unit closest to home Grim news on new bureaucratic obstacles to urgent care from Manchester Evening News Sept 29:
    “Patients needing urgent care may be sent to the unit closest to their homes under new rules, the Manchester Evening News can reveal.
    “Hospital bosses admitted the ‘protocol’ after one patient, suffering horrific burns, reported being sent away from two hospitals before receiving any care.
    “The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group has introduced the directive as part of a ‘reconfiguration of services across Greater Manchester’, saying that patients will be sent to the 'most appropriate place for their needs', 'closest to their home', in the 'quickest time possible'.
    “However, anyone needing care for emergency and life-threatening conditions can still go to their nearest A&E department for treatment, hospital chiefs have stressed.
    “The group operates Salford Royal Hospital, the Royal Oldham Hospital, Fairfield General Hospital, and Rochdale Infirmary, among other local care services.”

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

  • (29 Sep 2021) Ministers under fire over breaking of mental health crisis pledge in England Guardian report Sept 29:
    “Ministers are under fire for breaking a key pledge on mental health after statistics showed that hundreds of patients are being sent far from home every month because of a beds crisis.
    “The government pledged to end “inappropriate” out-of-area placements in mental health for adults in England – those caused by a lack of beds in treatment units near the person’s home – by April this year.
    “However, figures show that 695 people were sent out of area in April. The figure includes “inappropriate” placements and those deemed “appropriate” because the patient needed specialist psychological or psychiatric help that is only available in a few units.
    “A large majority of placements have always been “inappropriate” because they are caused by a lack of beds.”

  • (28 Sep 2021) ‘The system is broken’: Sick patients forced to sit for hours outside A&E under blankets and heat lamps Independent shock story Sept 28:
    “Sick patients have been forced to wait outside a hospital A&E department on chairs and wrapped only in blankets while being treated by nurses in shocking photographs and videos captured by one worried relative.
    “The situation, at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, is a regular occurrence, workers have told The Independent.
    “Footage shared with The Independent by a concerned member of the public shows one patient being cannulated, where a needle and intravenous line is inserted into a vein, while another patient has a monitor attached to track their vital signs. Patients waiting outside the A&E were said to be extremely sick, with some vomiting and complaining of worsening symptoms.
    “It was like something out of a horror movie,” said Maria, who has asked for her surname not to be used. “The system is completely broken from the beginning to the end. From the moment we tried to call the GP and they tried to get through to the hospital,” she said.”

  • (27 Sep 2021) Social distancing and covid testing relaxed to ‘help hospitals treat patients more quickly’ HSJ report Sept 27:
    “Covid infection control rules for health services have been relaxed in what national officials say will help the service ‘treat more patients more quickly’.
    “The UK Health Security Agency – part of the Department of Health and Social Care – which has been created to advise on the pandemic and future threats, has recommended three changes to guidance.
    “The first is that physical distancing requirements be reduced from two metres to one metre in areas “where patient access can be controlled”. This excludes emergency departments. It will allow some services to remove space restrictions introduced early in the pandemic to prevent spread.
    “Secondly, testing requirements for elective surgery are set to be relaxed. Patients in low-risk groups who are fully vaccinated, have no covid symptoms and take a negative lateral flow test on the day of their procedure will no longer need to have a negative PCR test and isolate for three days beforehand. This requirement has made elective recovery more difficult.
    “Finally, standard cleaning procedures can be restarted in low-risk areas such as elective care, and “enhanced” cleaning — which involves more frequent cleansing of items that are regularly touched — can be discontinued in these areas, the UKHSA said.”

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

  • (27 Sep 2021) NHS waits: More people feeling forced into private healthcare BBC report Sept 27 that lacks any real statistics on private sector treatment to back up the headline:
    “62,000 patients [have] been waiting more than 12 months to get joint replacement surgery.
    “New research conducted by charity Versus Arthritis and given exclusively to BBC Panorama reveals that half (54%) of people with arthritis who are currently waiting for surgery are facing an average cost of £1,739 a year to keep their pain at bay, through things like private physio appointments and over-the-counter painkillers.
    “Inevitably, GPs are the ones patients turn to for help managing their pain as they wait. One of them, Dr Leora Harverd, from a practice in north London, says she's overwhelmed by her current caseload.
    “Some of her patients are anxious about long delays for treatment, and says it's not unusual that people go private, but "it's not how it should be".”

  • (27 Sep 2021) NHS backlog disproportionately affecting England’s most deprived Guardian report Sept 27
    “Waiting lists for routine treatments have grown by 50% in the most deprived parts of England, compared with nearly 35% in the most affluent areas. Those in deprived areas were also nearly twice as likely as those in the wealthiest to wait more than a year for treatment, according an analysis by the King’s Fund.
    “The thinktank analysed the backlog of 5.61 million people – equivalent to almost one in every 10 people in England – who are waiting for treatments such as knee and hip replacements, cataract surgery and other common procedures.
    “Of patients on waiting lists in the most deprived areas, 7% have been waiting a year or more for treatment, compared with 4% of those in the most affluent areas, according to the research, which was shared with BBC Panorama and PA Media.
    Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, warned that the long waiting lists were in danger of leading to privatisation of the NHS.
    “Waiting times have got so bad that you’ve got people taking out payday loans, sometimes even remortgaging their homes, because they cannot bear the pain, or the disruption to their lives, or fear they will lose their lives,” he said. “That is eroding the fundamental universal system that we created.”

  • (26 Sep 2021) Labour launches bid to end NHS ‘culture of secrecy’ and improve safety following care scandals Independent report Sept 26:
    “Labour is to push for key changes to the government’s NHS reforms, with new laws on transparency in the NHS and a demand for safe staffing levels on hospital wards, following a series of scandals relating to failures in patient care.
    “Amendments to the government’s Health and Care Bill will also include plans for the investigation of stillbirths by medical examiners, and for limits on the power of the health secretary to interfere in investigations.
    “Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth believes the changes – which also include giving local NHS regions the ability to object to some spending limits if they consider them to pose a risk to patient safety – will attract the support of Conservative MPs.
    “In an exclusive interview with The Independent ahead of the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Ashworth said it was vital that the NHS learned from mistakes and improved its record on safety, which he said could only be achieved through greater transparency.”

  • (25 Sep 2021) UK care homes face funding crisis as banks refuse loans Guardian report Sept 25:
    “Care homes are facing a credit crunch with banks refusing to lend money or provide new services for fear that the care sector is about to crumble, senior care leaders have warned.
    “A survey of care providers in Hampshire found that 20% had been told their bank was concerned about their long-term viability. Several reported that their bank said they had “no appetite for the care industry” and had refused basic services such as additional accounts.
    “Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, said providers elsewhere were under similar pressure. “We haven’t seen surveys but I know these conversations are beginning to be held across the country with all banks. Some a bit more aggressive than others. Definitely we are hearing that providers are beginning to feel the pressure.”
    “Care providers are reluctant to reveal any problems to their local authority clients or the Care Quality Commission for fear of being put into special measures or losing care contracts.”

  • (24 Sep 2021) Region aims to clear all two-year waiters by March HSJ report Sept 24:
    “An NHS region is aiming to have no patients waiting more than two years on its waiting lists by the end of March. Senior sources in London told HSJ the region has set the “aspiration” to clear all two-year waiters by the end of the financial year.
    “According to the latest data, London had around 1,100 patients waiting more than two years for treatment at the end of July, which was up from around 670 at the end of April. “This equates to around 12 patients per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 14.
    “A report to the board of King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust said plans from the southeast London integrated care system were submitted to the London regional director’s office last month.
    “The board papers continued: “Achieving this [eliminating two-year waiters by March 2022] target is reliant on a range of issues including, potential further covid-19 waves, multiple actions, capacity assumptions, patient choice, independent sector capacity uptake and NHS patient transfers.”

  • (24 Sep 2021) Chemotherapy rationed amid shortage of NHS staff to deliver it Telegraph report Sept 24:
    “NHS cancer patients in some areas have had their chemotherapy stopped because there are not enough staff to deliver it.
    “… On Friday night, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said it was urgently trying to fill vacant posts and hoped to be able to offer chemotherapy to all who needed it by some stage next month.
    “It came after an oncologist spoke out about deteriorating levels of care, warning that the situation was now worse than at any point since the start of Covid.
    “The warning follows a report predicting that even if oncology departments boost the number of patients they see by five per cent, the cancer treatment backlog will take more than a decade to clear. Experts also believe there are an estimated 19,500 people living with undiagnosed cancer as a result of the pandemic.”

  • (22 Sep 2021) Social care plan furthers inequality and unfairness BMJ Sept 22 blog by Dr David Oliver:
    “The “health and social care levy” is a planned 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions from April 2022. But this applies only to people in employment and younger than the state retirement age. From 2023 people still working beyond retirement age will also have to pay the levy.
    “The number of people older than 65 in work has increased sharply in recent years and is now estimated at around 900 000 in England. But because around half of all adult social care spending goes on care for older people (as opposed to disabled people of working age) this means that younger working people bear the bulk of care costs. The “triple lock” protecting state pensions has been temporarily suspended as part of the plan, but that does not fully mitigate the inequity.
    “Unlike income tax, which is progressive, rates of national insurance paid fall as income rises, falling disproportionately as a share of income as pay increases, and placing a higher relative burden for the collective contribution to the cost of care on lower paid workers.
    “National insurance does not apply to income from dividends, pensions, investments, or rents. The government does not propose to levy tax on these to help increase funding for social care or healthcare and so it protects wealth from assets relative to income from labour.
    “The planned cap on social care costs to be borne by individuals—£86 000 over a lifetime—means that people with savings and assets well above this amount, including equity tied up in owned homes, will be disproportionately protected when compared with those for whom £86 000 is most of what they have.”

  • (22 Sep 2021) Tracking U.S. COVID-19 Vaccine Donations Useful work by US Kaiser Family Foundation Sept 22:
    “There remains a significant gap in vaccine access across the world, with only 2% of the population in low-income countries (LICs) receiving at least one vaccine dose, compared to 30% in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), 54% in upper-middle-income countries (UMICs), and nearly two-thirds in high-income countries (HICs).
    “One way to address this gap is for countries that have vaccines to donate them to countries in need, either via the multilateral COVAX mechanism or directly to countries and/or regions via bilateral donations.
    “For its part, the U.S. government has pledged to donate at least 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine for global use by 2022 and has been delivering doses to countries around the world since June.
    “To understand more about these donated doses and where they have been directed, we analyzed data from the U.S. State Department, COVAX, and other sources.”

  • (22 Sep 2021) Ministers to crack down on overprescription of medicines on the NHS More grief and GP-blaming in the latest government policy shift as reported by the Independent Sept 22:
    “The government is to crack down on the NHS’s over use of medicines by encouraging doctors to challenge prescriptions dispensed in hospitals and point patients towards local wellness charities.
    “The move, which has been backed by health secretary Sajid Javid, comes after a government-commissioned review found that 10 per cent of medicines prescribed by doctors, nurses and other primary care workers are not wanted or needed.
    “Ministers have accepted all of the recommendations laid out in the review, led by England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, which seeks to “support shared decision-making between clinicians and patients” and calls for “cultural changes to reduce a reliance on medicines”.
    “Health professionals should instead increase “social prescribing”, it continues, which involves “helping patients to improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them to community services which might be run by the council or a local charity”.”

  • (18 Sep 2021) Private hospitals profit from NHS waiting lists as people without insurance pay out Guardian September 18 with a possibly exaggerated view of a real threat to the NHS:
    “People on modest incomes, and even those claiming benefits are turning to private providers for knee or hip replacements, cataract removal or even expensive cancer treatment.
    “This week, a survey of 4,000 adults commissioned by charity Engage Britain showed more than a fifth had gone private because they could not get the treatment they needed. While support for the NHS remains high, a quarter said the wait for treatment for themselves or a loved one had had a serious impact on their mental health.
    “Roughly 13% of the UK population has some kind of health insurance, mostly through their employers. The rest are faced with a stark choice – wait months and even years for badly needed treatment, or dig into savings to jump the queue."

  • (18 Sep 2021) Asylum seeker given £100,000 hospital bill after suffering stroke Guardian September 18 with another grim example of Johnson government racist policies undermining the core principles of the NHS and levying extortionate charges:
    “Simba Mujakachi, a personal trainer, was just 29 years old in June 2019 when he suffered a catastrophic stroke that left him comatose. When he awoke, he was paralysed on his left side and unable to talk or eat.
    “His stroke could have been prevented by relatively inexpensive medication for a blood clotting condition that, as a refused asylum seeker, he was not entitled to on the NHS.
    “Now Mujakachi, who has lived in the UK since he was a child, owes nearly £100,000 for the emergency treatment that saved his life, a staggering sum which he does not know how he will ever repay.
    “No one can pay £100,000, who has got that? I’m looking at the bill and I’m thinking, that’s a house,” he said.”

  • (18 Sep 2021) Brain health and its social determinants Lancet Sept 18 editorial underscores the importance of social determinants in understanding mental health
    "Opinions about the relative importance of the biological and sociological causes of mental ill health have moved wildly from one extreme to another over the past 50 years. So, when Vivian Pender, the newly elected President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), pronounced in July that “we need to be more aware of the broader context in which that illness occurred and how that context has shaped the health outcome”, cynics could be forgiven for thinking it just another swing of the pendulum. However, perhaps this time Pender—and many others, for she is not alone—has got it right.
    "Much evidence has been published supporting Pender's call for social determinants to be considered as key in understanding and treating mental illness. The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development stated that research consistently shows a strong association between social disadvantage and poor mental health.
    "At the individual level, the Commission reported that poverty, childhood adversity, and violence are key risk factors for mental disorders. The COVID-19 pandemic has further focused attention on the importance of social determinants in causing both mental and physical illness.
    "That Pender has felt the need to create a taskforce to examine this issue, reporting to the APA's annual meeting in May, 2022, probably reflects the strength with which many US psychiatrists are wedded to the biomedical model of mental ill health and the utility of pharmacotherapy. Reaching for the prescription pad is certainly easier than fixing a patient's economic and social circumstances. But current treatments, including medication and talking therapy, have their limitations."

  • (18 Sep 2021) More patients should expect their operations to be cancelled, warns top doctor Independent report September 15:
    “Dr Fiona Donald, new president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, told The Independent the workforce gaps among anaesthetists, the largest group of hospital specialist doctors, had deteriorated since the pandemic with one in three reporting mental health problems following their experiences during the Covid crisis.
    “In her first interview, Dr Donald, a consultant anaesthetist at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, said she was very worried about the demand on hospitals during winter, adding that doctors were being asked to do extra work that was “beyond reasonable.”
    “She said she feared it was “inevitable” there would be more cancellations of operations in the coming months as the NHS comes under extra pressure – with the shortage of doctors placing a limit on how many surgeries could be done.”

  • (18 Sep 2021) Hospital admits patient care is being compromised as cancer operations delayed September 14 report from The Independent:
    “Cancer operations at one of England’s largest hospital trusts are being delayed as bosses admit patient care on wards is being compromised.
    “Nottingham University Hospitals Trust has been forced to convert one of its few remaining wards for cancer surgery patients into an emergency medical ward to cope with an influx of patients.
    “The Independent understands the trust’s A&E department is regularly overcrowded with 40 or more patients waiting for a bed at the start of most days.
    “The trust, which is set to begin filming on a new series of 24 Hours in A&E this week, said staff were going “above and beyond on a daily basis”.
    “It is one of a number of NHS trusts hit hard by rising demand for NHS services and increasing numbers of coronavirus patients. The East Midlands trust had more than 140 Covid-19 patients on its wards on Monday.”

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

  • (17 Sep 2021) NHS trusts ‘wrongly charging’ vulnerable migrant women for maternity care Shocking Sept 17 report from the Independent on the racist policies imposed by government and NHS management:
    “NHS trusts are wrongly charging deeply vulnerable migrant women for their maternity care, new research has found.
    “Maternity Action, who carried out the study, said “terrified women” are ringing their helpline saying they are too scared to attend antenatal appointments in case they are charged for their healthcare.
    “The organisation discovered many NHS Trusts are “routinely ignoring or misinterpreting” the law on requesting payment from overseas women for maternity care, despite the fact the government's own policy stipulates the most vulnerable women should not be charged.
    “Rules specify overseas women from outside the European Union who are expecting a baby must be charged for NHS care – with debt from maternity care affecting future immigration applications. Charges start at around £7,000 but potentially double if there are complications with the pregnancy.”

  • (17 Sep 2021) Bad managers ‘never get fired’ in the NHS, complain doctors Yet another appalling badly informed Torygraph article, Sept 17, attacking the NHS and its management – despite never criticising the huge fat cat packages trousered by bosses of private companies – or indeed low-talent right wing journalists.
    “Ten years ago, NHS super-managers with six-figure salaries, expense accounts and hefty pensions were a rare breed in the country’s hospital boardrooms and local commissioning groups.
    “Not any more. While nurses have seen their pay fall in real terms over the past decade during an era of austerity, the ranks of these richly rewarded health bosses have swelled dramatically.
    “In September 2010, there were 985 hospital directors and healthcare managers in England earning more than £110,000, according to NHS Digital, the health information centre that tracks the numbers of “very senior managers” for salary reviews. But by September 2020 there were 2,788. It means their numbers have almost tripled in a decade.”

  • (17 Sep 2021) NHS unions express fury as health minister admits £2.8bn of PPE unfit for purpose Morning Star Sept 17:
    “NHS unions and campaigners reacted with fury today to a government admission that £2.8 billion of personal protective equipment (PPE) is not fit for purpose.
    “Health minister Lord Bethell revealed that nearly two billion items of PPE are unusable and lying in warehouses labelled “do not supply” — more than 6 per cent of the volume purchased.
    “The government admitted in July that it was in dispute with a number of companies over 40 contracts for £1.2bn worth of PPE that was either substandard or simply undelivered — including a million masks found to be below the FFP3 standard used in intensive care.
    “Unite union national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said that the latest revelation was “a searing indictment of the secretive fast-track fashion (in which) many of the PPE contracts were awarded to ‘friends’ of the Tory Establishment, something we have suspected for a long time.”

  • (17 Sep 2021) Man With Insurance Left With $80K Hospital Bill After COVID Battle Newsweek Sept 17 with another glimpse into the disastrous world of US health care:
    “Jim Sweeney, 63, from Nevada, tested positive for COVID-19 last November and was admitted to St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena Campus in Henderson, before quickly being moved into intensive care and being placed on a ventilator, according to a fundraiser started by his son, Scott Sweeney. Jim Sweeney was on the ventilator until mid-February and remained in hospital and a rehab center until April.
    "From that time he has racked up some ridiculous hospital bills. Most of which his insurance helped with but they won't cover everything, and that leaves him with a $80,000+ bill that he is now solely responsible for," his son says on the fundraising page, which was set up on Thursday.”

  • (15 Sep 2021) EU, Switzerland, UK continue opposition, amid support for TRIPS waiver Shocking Sept 15 Third World News report on British government, EU and Switzerland blocking steps to increase production and distribution of Covid vaccine
    “Amid the groundswell of international support for the TRIPS waiver at the WTO coupled with more countries, including Malaysia, joining as co-sponsors of the waiver, three members – the European Union led by Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom – seem determined to undermine an expeditious decision on the temporary waiver for combating the COVID-19 pandemic, said people familiar with the development.
    “The intransigent positions adopted by these three members against the waiver appears more like an attempt to protect the monopolies and massive profits of Big Pharma over the enormous loss of lives globally due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and the denial of vaccines to the global South, said people familiar with the discussions.
    “The much-delayed temporary TRIPS waiver seeks to suspend certain provisions in the TRIPS Agreement relating to copyrights, industrial designs, patents, and protection of undisclosed information for ramping-up the production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines across countries on an expeditious basis.
    “The EU, Switzerland and the United Kingdom escalated their opposition to the waiver on “ideological” grounds that could create a permanent state of “vaccine apartheid” as well as loss of millions of lives due to Covid-19, said people, who asked not to be quoted.”

  • (15 Sep 2021) Canada: Alberta healthcare system on verge of collapse as Covid cases and anti-vax sentiments rise Guardian report September 15 on the consequences of rejecting any restrictions to limit the spread of Covid:
    “A surge in coronavirus cases has pushed the healthcare system in the Canadian province of Alberta to the verge of collapse, as healthcare workers struggle against mounting exhaustion and a growing anti-vaccine movement in the region.
    “The province warned this week that its ICU capacity was strained, with more people requiring intensive care than any other point during the pandemic – nearly all of them unvaccinated.
    “It’s not easy to go to work every day and watch people in their 30s die,” an ICU nurse in Edmonton told the Guardian. “Having to help a family say goodbye and then going through the actions that are required at the end of someone’s life, is worse than anyone can imagine.”
    “Alberta has long boasted of its loose coronavirus restrictions – including advertising the previous months as the “best summer ever” as it rolled back those few restrictions. It has also been the site of North America’s highest caseloads.”

  • (15 Sep 2021) NHS app storing facial verification data via contract with firm linked to Tory donors Guardian report September 15:
    “The NHS app is collecting and storing facial verification data from citizens in England in a process which has fuelled concerns about transparency and accountability.
    “The data collection is taking place under a contract with a company linked to Tory donors called iProov, awarded by NHS Digital in 2019, which has yet to be published on the government website.
    “Privacy campaigners say the opacity of the relationship between London-based iProov and the government raises questions about how securely the information is held, with one saying they were “deeply concerned” about the secrecy surrounding the use of data.
    “An NHS spokesperson confirmed law enforcement bodies were able to request data, but that a special panel reviewed such requests, taking into account the health service’s duty of confidence.”

  • (15 Sep 2021) ‘Severe pressures’ driving two-month waits for urgent scans HSJ report Sept 15 on the growing delays of an under-funded NHS:
    “An internal update at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, labelled “September turnaround times” and seen by HSJ, suggested the current response time for the most urgent “two-week” CT scans is nine weeks.
    “The waiting times then rise to 15 weeks for scans which are still urgent but do not need a two-week response, and more than six months for routine scans. For routine scans the document adds: “Currently unable to appoint due to capacity available”.
    “… Diagnostics data that is published by NHS England shows the proportion of all cases waiting more than six weeks, regardless of their urgency. The latest data from July showed 27 per cent of cases waiting for a CT scan at SaTH breached this standard, against the national average of 16 per cent. This meant it was among the 30 worst trusts on this measure.”

  • (15 Sep 2021) Essex: Children harmed by mental health service failings BBC News September 15 report on a troubles trust where parents and relatives have been campaigning for action for years:
    “Young people cared for by an NHS mental health service "came to harm" because of its failings, inspectors said.
    “The care provided by Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) has been rated "inadequate" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
    “It has now been stopped from admitting new patients after inspectors found "serious concerns" in the children and adolescent mental health services.
    “EPUT said it had increased staffing levels and had been coaching staff.
    “The inspection was prompted by a serious incident and concerning information received about safety and quality, the CQC said.”

  • (14 Sep 2021) Child Covid rates in Greater Manchester spiked by 56 per cent after first week back at school Grim report from Manchester Evening News Sept 14:
    “The reopening of schools has brought a large spike in the number of pupils infected with Covid.
    “Infection rates among children aged 10-14 are now higher than in any other age group. Figures for the week ending September 8 show that rates have risen by more than 50 per cent in all-but three areas of Greater Manchester.
    Rochdale has had the largest percentage increase, of 128pc, followed by Bolton at 87pc.
    “But Tameside has the highest infection rate among 10 to 14-year-olds, at 859 cases per 100,000, followed by Stockport with 780.3 cases per 100,000.”

  • (14 Sep 2021) The NHS is broken – GPs know it and the patients are suffering the consequences Another (Sept 14) instalment of the Daily Torygraph hate campaign against the NHS in general and GPs in particular – in which not one word is said about the decade of under-funding and endless broken promises of Tory ministers. Fortunately behind a paywall:
    “…the starkest gap between how we want the NHS to be and how it actually is comes in general practice. It is in this aspect of the nation’s health provision, found a recent poll for The Patients Association, that most Britons have struggled to access care.
    “Before the pandemic, a quarter said they found it hard to see a GP. By April this year, that had risen by half to 36 per cent – worse than for any other NHS service. And now, a survey conducted over the summer reveals, it has jumped again, with 52 per cent finding it hard to get a GP appointment.
    “GPs are the front door to the NHS,” notes The Patients Association, “and patients are increasingly perceiving that that door is closed to them.”
    “The impact is very real. Some 56 per cent of patients admit to putting off appointments, and more than half also expect their health to suffer as a result of changes to provision during the pandemic. The toll may already be emerging. For the last 18 months the number of so-called “excess deaths” in private homes has remained stubbornly above the five-year average.”

  • (14 Sep 2021) The Long-Term Safety Argument over COVID-19 Vaccines Boston Review article September 14 takes on the “safety” argume t employed by anti-vaxxers:
    “Vaccine hesitancy remains a very serious and costly obstacle for many countries, with the United States very much in the spotlight. While some hesitancy is rooted in longer trends, much of it appears to be driven by coordinated disinformation campaigns specific to this pandemic.
    “Despite highly impressive safety profiles, strong efficacy, and continually encouraging data showing real-world vaccine effectiveness, numerous spurious and scientifically illiterate arguments to avoid the jab are reaching millions of people each day.
    “These efforts have taken a variety of forms. Staunch anti-vaxxers sow doubt more by fearmongering than by reasoned argument. Others present more specific concerns.
    “Some have expressed concern at emergency use authorization rather than full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This point is now moot, given that Pfizer/BioNTech won full approval in late August. (Moderna has submitted its own application for full approval and will almost surely win it soon.)
    “Perhaps the most stubborn challenge, however, is the contention that we lack “long-term” safety data for the vaccines. Assertions have been made on widely viewed broadcast media that the recent FDA approval has been rushed.
    “The mRNA shots seem to attract the lion’s share of this particular scare, due to the claim that these are “new” technologies. Given their novelty, the worry goes, we need more data before we can make a more informed decision about how they might impact us in the long run.”

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

  • (14 Sep 2021) NHS leaders ‘set for fight’ amid signs mental health will miss out on new funding HSJ article Sept 14:
    “Last week, the government announced an additional £15bn for NHS England over the next three years, with a clear aim to increase elective activity in acute hospitals by 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. Other priorities were described as putting services on a sustainable footing, and focusing on prevention.
    “But there were no new commitments specified for mental health services, despite an acknowledgement of “unprecedented demands placed on staff and the public as a whole”.
    “In recent years there has been a firm commitment to reaching “parity of esteem” for mental health services, meaning the sector has generally received a fair share of any spending increases, and a growing proportion of the overall budget.
    “But well-placed sources told HSJ there are currently no additional increases planned for mental health over the three years from 2022-23.”

  • (14 Sep 2021) Multinational care companies are the real winners from Johnson’s new tax Excellent Sept 14 Guardian Opinion column by Allyson Pollock dissecting the dysfunctional social care system and the profits milked out of it:
    “Social services for community and long-stay care in the UK are among the most privatised and fragmented in the western world – even more so than in the US.
    “Local authorities in England commission most of their care services from private providers, of which there are 14,800 registered organisations providing care across 25,800 locations.
    “This situation arose as local authorities, facing budget shortages and central government-imposed regulatory and financial incentives, sold off their care homes and turned to outsourcing. Scotland and the other devolved administrations face similar structural issues.
    “According to a study by the Competition and Markets Authority carried out in 2016 and updated in 2018, the care homes industry alone was worth around £15.9bn a year in the UK with 5,500 different providers operating 11,300 care homes for older people.
    “In 2020, there were more than 456,000 care home beds in England, with local authorities and the NHS combined having closed and sold off an equivalent number during the preceding decades. For-profit providers, many of them large multinational chains, own 83% of care home beds with a further 13% provided by the voluntary sector.
    “At the same time, government funding for local authority adult social care in England fell by 55% in 2019-20 compared with 2010-11, resulting in a 29% real-terms reduction in local government spending power. By 2019-20, local authority net spending on care was £16.5bn, 4% lower in real terms than in 2010-11.”

  • (14 Sep 2021) UK near top of ‘league table of shame’ for delivering just 7pc of Covid jabs promised to poor countries Boris Johnson’s former employers the Daily Telegraph Sept 14 pointing out the broken promises by the government they normally refuse to criticise:
    “The UK has delivered less than seven per cent of the vaccines it has promised to developing countries, coming near the bottom in what critics are calling a “league table of shame”.
    “Data compiled by Our World in Data, a research hub based at the University of Oxford, show the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.
    “The data looks at donations to Covax, the initiative to share vaccines globally, and finds that of the 554 million doses promised by the world's richest nations, only 90.8 million, or 16 per cent, have been delivered.
    “The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines after the United States, promising 80 million doses to Covax. But is towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to delivery. So far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.”

  • (13 Sep 2021) Anti-Vaxxers Are Now Gargling Iodine to Prevent Covid-19 Rolling Stone Sept 13 uncovers more idiocy from anti-vaxxers:
    “As if attempting to one-up last week’s stupidity with regards to ivermectin, anti-vaxxers on Facebook and Twitter are advocating for a new and unproven Covid-19 treatment: Betadine, an antiseptic used to treat cuts and scrapes.
    “Povidone iodine, often sold under the brand-name Betadine, is an iodine-based treatment largely for topical use that kills bacteria.
    “It’s a “commonly used cleanser in the ER and OR,” says Kenneth Weinberg, an emergency room physician in New York City. “If you’re in the ER and someone has a wound to sew it up, you use it to clean with.”
    “When told that anti-vaxxers had taken to gargling with Betadine, Weinberg said, “Fuck me! Of course they are.”

  • (12 Sep 2021) Early CT scans deliver huge fall in lung cancer deaths, study shows Guardian Sept 12:
    “Low-dose computerised tomography (CT) scans can detect tumours in people’s lungs early and cut deaths by 16%, according to the UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial (UKLS).
    “The findings have prompted renewed calls from lung cancer experts for the government to bring in routine screening across the UK of all those who are at risk because of their smoking history. They say that early detection means patients can have potentially curative surgery or radiotherapy.
    “‘Lung cancer early detection and surgical intervention saves lives,’ said Professor John Field of Liverpool University, an author of the trial. …
    “About 47,000 Britons a year are diagnosed with lung cancer, and 35,000 die of the disease. It kills more men than prostate cancer and more women than breast cancer. Only a quarter of lung cancers are found when they are at stages one or two – when treatment may keep someone alive.”

  • (12 Sep 2021) ‘Only a fraction’ of long Covid sufferers able to access NHS support clinics Independent report, Sept 12:
    “Hundreds of thousands of people suffering from long Covid in England may be struggling to access NHS clinics dedicated to treating the condition, figures suggest, with patients waiting up to six months for an appointment following a GP referral.
    “Between 5 July and 1 August just 5,737 referrals were made to the support centres, which were established by the NHS at the beginning of the year to offer a range of treatments and rehabilitative services to those with long-lasting Covid symptoms.
    “But data from the Office for National Statistics show that an estimated 970,000 people are experiencing long Covid in the UK – more than a third of whom have suffered from the condition for over a year.
    “This means “only a fraction” of the number of people thought to have the condition are being seen by the clinics, said one member of the NHS Long Covid Taskforce, who asked to remain anonymous.”

  • (11 Sep 2021) Covid hospitalisations moving in ‘alarming’ direction, experts and NHS officials say Independent report Sept 11:
    “Covid-19 hospitalisations are increasing at an “alarming” rate, experts have warned, putting increased pressure on the NHS as it struggles to cope with a spike in demand for emergency care and the largest waiting list on record.
    “Figures show that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has increased by more than 1,000 within the last 11 days, jumping from 7,091 to 8,098 – a 14 per cent rise. In the previous 11 days, from 19 August to 29 August, the number of Covid patients increased by 590, or 9 per cent.
    “Covid bed occupancy levels are now at their highest levels since 10 March, according to government data, after daily admissions passed the 1,000 mark this week.
    “And analysis suggests that the UK could be forced back into another lockdown by mid-November if the number of daily admissions continues on its current trajectory.”

  • (11 Sep 2021) Should Meirion Thomas be subject to disciplinary action for expressing his offensive views? Useful 2015 blog illustrating the dodgy political track record of the surgeon who has just knocked out a Telegraph hate piece attacking GPs:
    “Meirion Thomas is a consultant surgeon who works at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He also has a sideline publishing controversial opinions in publications such as the Spectator and the Daily Mail.
    “He has published articles (e.g. here and here) in the Spectator on the subject of immigration that would, no doubt, delight the National Front and UKIP.
    “He has published in the Daily Mail, expressing:
    • “views on female doctors that even the Daily Mail described as "provocative"; and which many considered offensive - see the Royal College of General Practitioner's response here; and
    • “another which many felt was extremely inaccurate and offensive to general practitioners - see a response in GP magazine Pulse here."

  • (11 Sep 2021) If the GPs went on strike, would anybody notice? Rant by a right wing surgeon against GPs in, of course, the Torygraph Sept 11:
    “Most of the complaints of the GPs themselves, however, do not pass muster. Dr Samira Anane, workforce policy lead of the BMA GP Committee, recently seemed to suggest that GPs were cutting their hours to avoid burnout because of the stresses and pressures of the job.
    “But in my 33 years as a hospital consultant surgeon I didn’t see this happen once, even in cardiac, brain or cancer doctors who take life and death decisions daily. Why should GPs be so badly affected given that they work at the opposite end of the medical complexity spectrum?
    “The wider problem with all the new money that the Government is committing to the NHS is that it comes without any reform, and I predict that the bureaucrats that the health service seems to be hiring, charged in part with spending the £36 billion wisely, will never have worked at the bedside. I know from experience that the natural instinct of hospital managers when faced with a problem is to appoint more managers.”

  • (11 Sep 2021) Covid crisis as hospitals axe operations and move to highest alert level Mirror Sept 11 report on a situation in Derbyshire that is increasingly affecting the whole of England:
    “A county's healthcare system under 'severe pressure' has moved to its highest alert level and begun cancelling some operations.
    “NHS and care services across Derbyshire and Staffordshire sounded the alarm after seeing a huge surge in patients in recent days.
    “Health bosses in the region said there had been a 'significant increase' in sick patients and that in a single day the A&E departments saw 1,038 patients. The numbers were seen at Chesterfield Royal, Royal Derby Hospital and Queen's Hospital, Burton on Monday.
    “It has now prompted some hospitals to reportedly move to 'Opel 4' - which signifies a hospital is 'unable to deliver comprehensive care.'”

  • (11 Sep 2021) Betsi Cadwaladr health board cancels some surgery amid Covid rise BBC News Sept 11 on the worsening crisis in Welsh hospitals:
    “A Welsh health board has cancelled some surgical operations due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in hospitals.
    “Betsi Cadwaladr health board, which covers north Wales, said the decision was not taken lightly but was necessary to "safely care for patients".
    “And the health board has also decided to significantly restrict hospital visits as it battles outbreaks at four of its hospitals.
    “First Minister Mark Drakeford has said cases are "likely to get worse".
    “It comes after Hywel Dda health board suspended some planned orthopaedic surgery, and Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board banned most hospital visiting.”

  • (10 Sep 2021) Chart of the week: How much of the health and care levy will social care receive and what is this intended to do? Useful Nuffield Trust diagram (Sept 10) on the breakdown of the £30bn allocated to England over 3 years, showing how little goes to social care, and how little of that to address the workforce crisis:
    "What we do know is that £500 million of the £5.4 billion is meant to go towards the professional development of care staff. But critics have questioned whether this will be enough for the 1.52 million strong social care workforce, given the known low pay and working conditions they experience. To put this in perspective, the NHS Pay Review Body reports the government has estimated a cost of £1.2 billion to bring the lowest paid care workers in line with their NHS counterparts."

  • (10 Sep 2021) Long waits for ambulances continue in England BBC News report Sept 10:
    “Patients needing ambulances for life-threatening calls are often waiting longer than they should, latest NHS England figures show.
    “The average response time was around eight and a half minutes in August - the target for urgent calls is seven minutes.
    “Data also reveals the number waiting for routine operations rose to a record high of 5.6 million in July.”

  • (10 Sep 2021) Social care plan will help just a tenth of UK’s older people in need Guardian September 10:
    “After it comes into effect in 2023, the new policy will directly help about 150,000 more people at any one time, according to government documents. But already about 850,000 older people who receive care have at least some of the cost paid by local authorities.
    “Age UK estimates that a further 1.5 million older people need care but are ineligible for support – up from about a million in 2014. Some pay for it themselves, some get help from their families and some go without any care at all.
    “But while the prime minister’s £36bn national insurance tax rise focused on how care will be paid for after 2023, he made no provision to ensure that the sector survives the crisis engulfing it now.”

  • (10 Sep 2021) CCG closes private firm's GP practice in remote area HSJ (September 10) reports on a CCG rolling back privatisation of GP services – in unusual circumstances:
    “Nine thousand patients in an isolated part of Kent have been given two months to find a new GP surgery after the clinical commissioning group did not renew a contract with the existing practice – despite the area being short of GPs.
    “DMC Healthcare has run the practice at Sheppey Community Hospital for 12 years, under an alternative provider medical services contract which ends on 31 October. The company also runs a GP walk-in service at the hospital which will move to a new, unnamed, provider on 31 October.
    “DMC has already had some surgeries in Medway closed by the Care Quality Commission and a dermatology contract in Medway and north Kent was suspended over concerns about long waits for high risk patients: the contract was later terminated by mutual agreement. However, a Care Quality Commission inspection of the Sheppey service in 2020 raised no major concerns.”

  • (10 Sep 2021) The vaccination paradox #2 Useful infographic explaining why – even though vaccination is key to reducing serious infection with Covid – as more people are vaccinated, the proportion of vaccinated people hospitalised with Covid increases.

  • (10 Sep 2021) Against all odds: how New Zealand is bending the Delta curve Guardian report Sept 10 from New Zealand:
    “Across the Tasman, a bleak picture was emerging: Australia, like New Zealand, had maintained a zero-Covid elimination strategy throughout the first year of the pandemic but was now struggling with outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria.
    “Both countries had less than a third of their total populations immunised. With cases in NSW now regularly hitting more than 1,400 a day, the state provided a stark worst-case scenario of what New Zealand might see.
    “But now, against all odds, New Zealand is bending the Delta curve.
    “It’s looking very good for ending this outbreak,” says Prof Michael Baker, an epidemiologist and public health expert. “I wouldn’t say ‘absolute certainty’, but it’s now far more a matter of when, rather than if.”

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

  • (9 Sep 2021) ‘Heavy-handed, expensive’ inspections wrong way to regulate hospitals, says ex-CQC chair HSJ (9 Sept) reports that the man who has chaired the organisation carrying out heavy-handed inspections now says it doesn’t work
    “‘Very heavy-handed, laborious and expensive’ inspections ‘have not been the right way’ of regulating hospitals, according to the Care Quality Commission’s former chair.
    “Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine event on Wednesday, Lord David Prior, who is now the chair of NHS England, said “very few” physicians will have improved their work after reading a report from the regulator.
    “He added that there is a role for the CQC to move in when “things are going wrong” although he is “sceptical” the regulator can actually drive improvement in hospitals.
    “Lord Prior said: “I am highly sceptical as to whether or not CQC or any regulator can really drive improvement and drive the top hospitals to make them better.'”

  • (9 Sep 2021) Nearly half of all NHS staff have no medical qualifications Telegraph Sept 9 with a classical display of ignorance, prejudice and disinformation:
    “Almost half of all NHS staff are managers, administrators or unqualified assistants, it has emerged, as Boris Johnson came under pressure to insist on health service reforms as the price of increased funding.
    “The proportion of clinical staff who are professionally trained has declined from 55.5 per cent in 2013 to just 52.5 per cent now, meaning 47.5 per cent of staff have no medical qualifications.
    “Separately, it has emerged that the number of NHS managers paid more than the Prime Minister is about to rise to more than 400. Some hospitals have as many as nine managers earning more than Mr Johnson’s £157,000.
    “MPs said the figures showed that with £36 billion extra going to the NHS and social care, funded by a 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance, it was time to have a root and branch review of NHS spending.”
    Actual figures show just 34,000 managers & senior managers, 160,000 non-clinical support staff and 373,000 clinical support staff – without whom the 626,000 clinically qualified staff would have to run the whole NHS and clean the hospitals themselves, leaving little time to treat patients.

  • (9 Sep 2021) Don’t let them tell you we are back to ‘normal’. Excellently concise statistical Sept 9 warning note from The Brief Today:
    “There should be a real concern that some people feel they are no longer at risk and appear to have stopped taking steps to protect themselves and others. No social distancing. No proper ventilation. No masks in buses. No masks in the tube. No masks in trains. No masks in the streets. No masks at school gates...
    “Data are trending upwards, week by week, steadily but worryingly, reaching new levels. 3,069 deaths were reported in the last 28 days in the UK.
    “And what is the government doing about that?
    “They hold their cabinet meeting without masks or social distancing. Because they want you to believe we are back to ‘normal’.”

  • (9 Sep 2021) London ambulance under significant pressure with summer months among busiest ever Evening Standard Sept 9:
    The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has faced “significant pressure” this summer as it tackles “unprecedented” demand. June, July and August were three of the top five busiest months ever for the NHS service’s 999 call operators this year.
    July was its second busiest month on record, second only to March 2020 when paramedics worked through the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic. August and June were the fourth and fifth busiest ever months respectively.
    “It’s never been this consistently busy over a whole summer. Demand this high for this long and at this time of year is unprecedented,” a spokesperson said.”

  • (9 Sep 2021) To bounce back from COVID-19 the NHS needs investment, not reform Health Foundation comment September 9:
    “Political eyes … will be on how to reduce the waiting list. The NHS knows how to do this: the remedy as shown in the early 2000s was mainly investment with clear plans, incentives, targets and good performance management. The extra investment announced this week will help, but isn’t likely to be enough according to detailed modelling from the Health Foundation's REAL Centre.
    “Far from the NHS being a bloated sponge, the hard truth is the UK spends significantly less per capita on health care (and its administration) than most countries in western Europe. And it has done for decades, which is why these countries have far more staff, beds and equipment to cope with the pandemic and its effects than the UK.
    “So the priority now will be to continue to orientate the NHS towards better preventing and managing patients with long term chronic conditions, as in the NHS Long Term Plan. But at the same time double down on the waiting list using techniques proven to work as we saw in the early 2000s.
    “As we head into a likely difficult winter, and as the extra funding for the NHS just announced stretches too thinly, the political stakes will rise.
    “While shrill calls for further ‘reform’ might increasingly circulate among some backbench MPs and associated think tanks, the politicians should hold their nerve: yet more reform would be costly and risky.”

  • (8 Sep 2021) Record profits for Tory donor's firm that won huge PPE contracts
    Open Democracy Sept 8 investigation:
    “A company linked to the Conservative Party that won 'VIP contracts' has boasted of record £13m profits – saying that the pandemic provided an "unprecedented opportunity to support the government".
    “Meller Designs Ltd was awarded £160m in deals provide personal protective equipment (PPE), all without competitive tender.
    “The company was fast-tracked by the government through a ‘VIP lane’, after being recommended by a government insider.
    “Until January this year, it was co-owned by a prominent Tory donor, David Meller. Reports say that he personally lobbied Lord Bethell, a health minister, to speed up the awarding of one of the contracts.
    “Accounts now reveal that Meller Designs Ltd – which is normally a fashion manufacturer – made more than £13m profit after tax in 2020. The year before, it managed just £144,000.”

  • (8 Sep 2021) The hidden catches: ‘Capped’ social care could still cost some pensioners hundreds of thousands Unusually useful story in the Telegraph Sept 8 highlights the danger that the new social care proposals will herald a growth in private insurance to cover the continued high costs:
    “Sir Keir [Starmer] said during Prime Minister's Questions: “Someone with £186,000, if you include the value of their home – that is not untypical across the country in all of your constituencies – facing large costs because they have to go into care, will have to pay £86,000 under his plan.
    “That is before living costs. Where does the Prime Minister think that they are going to get that £86,000 without selling their home?”
    “Mr Johnson responded: “This is the first time that the state has actually come in to deal with the threat of these catastrophic costs, thereby enabling the private sector, the financial services industry, to supply the insurance products that people need to guarantee themselves against the costs of care.”
    “Asked whether his policy meant the Government was encouraging people to take out insurance to avoid selling their home, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said: “The private insurance market will now have the ability, because of the certainty provided, to come forward. It's not for me to say what actions they will take.””

  • (8 Sep 2021) NHS spends millions hiring an army of £200,000 bureaucrats Telegraph Sept 8 with a different twist on the implications of the Health and Care Bill, which almost all Tory MPs nodded through at its second reading in July, and are likely to rubber stamp through the Commons, establishing new and unaccountable Integrated Care Boards – headed by these new “bureaucrats”:
    “The NHS is hiring an army of 42 new executives on salaries of up to £270,000 each as Boris Johnson faces mounting anger over his tax rise to fund healthcare.
    “More than £9 million will be spent employing dozens of chief executives of new integrated care boards, each of whom will earn more than the Prime Minister.
    “Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, promised on Wednesday he would be “watchful for any waste” of the £12 billion a year tax revenue, but has yet to fully explain how the money will be spent.
    “On Wednesday night, senior Tories said they were “appalled” by the decision to hire the new executives, saying workers on low salaries would struggle to understand why they were having to pay more tax to fund “mega” pay packets for a legion of new managers.”

  • (8 Sep 2021) UK ministers braced for ‘catastrophic’ end to welfare uplift Financial Times report Sept 8, warning on the impact of another looming government policy to worsen the plight of the poorest, with consequences for living standards, their health and that of their children:
    "Some senior Conservative MPs have voiced their opposition to ending the uplift, including six of the party’s former work and pensions secretaries. A well-placed Whitehall official said the government’s own analysis highlighted the deep impact of reversing the change.
    “The internal modelling of ending the UC uplift is catastrophic. Homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar. It could be the real disaster of the autumn.”
    "One minister warned that the political backlash over universal credit, which is claimed by 6m people, was likely to be more serious for prime minister Boris Johnson than the debate about social care.
    “There’s no doubt that this is going to have a serious impact on thousands of people and colleagues are really worried, I think it will definitely eclipse social care as a political problem. It’s not just red wall MPs who are fearing a major backlash from the public.”

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

  • (8 Sep 2021) Will the cap really fix the social care system? BBC's Nick Triggle Sept 8 with a particularly rigorous dissection of why the government's £36bn plan will make little difference to most people receiving social care:
    The £86k cap on spending does not include “daily living costs:”
    “In many ways, this is understandable - after all, they would be liable for living costs if they remained in their own home. But it would mean - based on the average care home cost of £36,000 a year - only £24,000 of the spending counting towards the cap once those £12,000 living costs are taken off.
    “That would mean it would take the average care home resident more than three and a half years to hit it.
    “But the problem is not many people live that long once they move into a care home. Half die in little over a year, with three-quarters not making it past three years.
    “Care you receive in your own home will count towards the cap. But this tends to cost much less and therefore people would normally need to be in receipt of that care for many, many years to hit the cap.”

  • (8 Sep 2021) The Tories sold a social care con-trick yesterday that will do almost nothing to help those in real need Tax expert Richard Murphy Sept 8, explores the actual implications of the government’s £30bn package for England’s health and social care:
    “On policy delivery what was very apparent yesterday was that what was being delivered on social care was a tax increase on low paid workers so that the wealthy could retain more of the value of their properties to pass on to their children.
    “That was the driving force behind this change. Everything else is a footnote to that goal. As policy priorities go few are as perverted in the face of need as that.
    “When it comes to practical delivery the statements made were even worse. Social care is largely delivered by local authorities. There was no indication of additional support being supplied to them.
    “Nor was there any indication of how the social care sector might attract the staff needed to supply the services that are now so essential, including by providing funding for better pay. Nor was there a hint as to how the staffing crisis caused by Brexit is to be solved.”

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

  • (7 Sep 2021) Extra £6.5bn next year falls short of what NHS says is needed HSJ Sept 7 analysis:
    “The spending increases government announced today provide an additional £6.5bn for NHS England’s revenue budget next year, falling significantly short of what health sector bodies say is necessary.
    “Last week, NHS Providers and NHS Confederation said a £10bn annual rise was needed for NHS-specific budgets in 2022-23, to avoid service cuts and placing patients at increased risk, which is also thought to reflect what NHS England has asked for.
    “But detailed tables published alongside today’s headline announcements show an additional £6.5bn for NHSE next year, followed by an additional £3.6bn in 2023-24, and £5.5bn in 2024-25. This equates to £15.6bn spread over three years.
    “… In a joint statement responding the announcement, NHS Providers and NHS Confed said: ‘No one should be in any doubt that this extra funding is welcome. But the government promised to give the NHS whatever it needed to deal with the pandemic, and, while it makes a start on tackling backlogs, this announcement unfortunately hasn’t gone nearly far enough. Health and care leaders are now faced with an impossible set of choices about where and how to prioritise care for patients.’”

  • (7 Sep 2021) NHS chief warns hospitals could face ‘one of the most challenging winters on record’ i-news report September 7:
    “The NHS is heading into “one of its most challenging winters”, with Covid-19, waiting lists and staffing issues increasing fears that it will be pushed beyond capacity, a leading health service chief has told i.
    “The warning comes after i revealed on Monday that the Government has contingency plans for an October half-term “firebreak” lockdown should NHS hospital admissions threaten to breach capacity in the coming weeks.
    “Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers – the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England – said that on top of Covid-19 admissions and record NHS waiting list of 5.45 million people, the NHS was expecting high levels of flu and of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among children in the coming months.
    “Ms Cordery told i: “The NHS is likely to face one of the most challenging winters on record as it tackles the backlog of care, the continuing presence of Covid-19, potentially high levels of flu and RSV and general winter pressures.

  • (6 Sep 2021) Social care reform plans facing Tory tax backlash BBC news report September 6:
    “Boris Johnson will unveil his long-term plans for social care and the NHS as early as Tuesday, amid rows over how to pay for multi-billion pound funding.
    “The PM said he had a plan to reform social care when he took power in 2019, but has yet to announce the detail.
    “Now, reports of an increase in National Insurance to cover the cost - which would break his commitment not to raise taxes - has led to anger from Tory MPs.
    “An extra £5.5bn for the NHS is also expected to be announced on Monday.
    “… Organisations representing the NHS have warned services may have to be cut unless NHS England receives an extra £10bn in funding next year.”

  • (6 Sep 2021) Hospital-acquired infection caused one-in-five covid deaths at several trusts HSJ report underling the issue of safety and quality in care during and after the peak of the Covid pandemic:
    “More than one in five ‘covid deaths’ were both probably hospital-acquired, and caused at least in part by the virus, at several trusts, according to analysis they have released to HSJ.
    “We obtained figures from more than 30 trusts which have looked in detail at cases where patients died after definitely, or probably, catching covid in hospital.
    “Previous reports of nosocomial covid deaths have been questioned on the basis that the patients may have died “with covid” coincidentally, while other conditions or injuries caused their death. The data newly shared with HSJ appears to dispel that theory.
    “Thirty-two acute trusts provided HSJ with robust data, out of the total 120 in England. Across all 32, they had recorded 3,223 covid hospital deaths which were either “definitely” or ‘probably’ nosocomial — making up around 17 per cent of their total reported 19,020 hospital deaths.”

  • (6 Sep 2021) 'Absolutely nobody' will challenge National Insurance hike to pay for social care, says minister ITV News September 6, focused on spending issue rather than the lack of any promised plan for long term reform of social care:
    "Plans to fund social care reform by increasing National Insurance have been widely criticised by Tories and Labour - but a minister has suggested the British public will accept a tax hike if shown honesty by the government.
    "Armed forces minister James Heappey would not confirm widely reported claims that the government was planning to break a manifesto pledge by raising National Insurance this week. Instead he urged people not to speculate about yet-to-be announced plans.
    "Reports say National Insurance will be increased by 1.25% to raise between £10 billion and £11 billion per year in order to pay for social care reforms, which many say should include a pay rise for carers."

  • (6 Sep 2021) Boris Johnson faces open warfare with his own party over national insurance hike Independent September 6:
    “Boris Johnson is facing open warfare with members of his own party over plans to hike national insurance contributions (NI) of 25 million of workers to raise £10bn for social care for the elderly.
    “Former chancellor Philip Hammond on Sunday became the latest senior Tory to denounce the plan, warning it will provoke “a very significant backlash” causing serious damage to the Conservative Party.
    “Ex-prime minister Sir John Major has blasted the use of NI to pay for care as “regressive”, while former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that Mr Johnson’s plans could turn the Tories into a “high-tax, high-spend party” without resolving the long-standing shortage of funds for care.
    “And cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg sent a thinly-veiled warning to the PM about the danger of breaching his 2019 manifesto promise not to raise NI, income tax or VAT during this parliament.”

  • (6 Sep 2021) … a tissue of lies and deception Summary article by John Lister for Roy Lilley's online newsletter.
    It concludes:
    "… behind the Playbook spin NO new hospitals are yet being built, and plans are being hacked back – while older hospitals not prioritised for funding, like QEH Kings Lynn, James Paget and Hinchingbrooke are actually falling down."

  • (5 Sep 2021) The Observer view on the urgent need for extra social care funding Observer editorial September 5 argues the need to tax the rich rather than the poor:
    “The government urgently needs to set out a proper funding plan as part of the forthcoming spending review. There is no good reason why, while people who get cancer have their care funded through the NHS, the vast majority of those who develop dementia in older age are expected to fund their own care: it is ageism.
    “The principled case for free personal care is stronger in older age than for universal healthcare; very few people in their 30s and 40s feel inclined to imagine, plan and save for a future with dementia and the costs of care can be far more crippling than many other conditions whose associated costs are absorbed by the NHS.
    “Commission after commission – from the royal commission on social care in 1999 to the Barker commission in 2014 – has recommended that the NHS principle should be extended to personal care in older age and shown that it is eminently affordable for a society as rich as ours. It can be funded through an increase in taxation on wealthier individuals, as the TUC is calling for today.”

  • (5 Sep 2021) Cuts to NHS mental health beds mean more than £100m spent on private providers Independent September 5:
    “Plummeting numbers of mental health beds in the NHS have led to a steep rise in spending on private hospitals in England as patients are increasingly sent miles from home to be treated, according to Labour research.
    “The party’s mental health spokesperson Rosena Allin-Khan says the money spent by the NHS on placing patients in private mental health beds soared by more than a third from £80m in the financial year 2017-18 to £108m in 2019-20. And the number of placements where patients were sent more than 300km – 186 miles – away from their home has almost doubled from 38 in 2017 to 75, she says.
    “The government had set a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements in mental health services for adults in acute inpatient care by April.
    “But Labour says that the problem is being exacerbated by a 25 per cent decline in NHS mental health beds since 2010, equating to almost 6,000 fewer places over a period when numbers of people in contact with mental health services has risen by 20 per cent.”

  • (4 Sep 2021) Tax the wealthy to give care workers a pay rise, don’t raid ordinary workers’ pockets TUC comment in the Guardian September 4 offers some advice to fill in the yawning gap in Labour's policies:
    “… in the UK seven in 10 social care staff earn less than £10 an hour and one in four are employed on zero-hours contracts.
    “There has been no mention so far of supporting the care workforce in all the chatter about last week’s forthcoming proposals on funding social care. Instead, ministers seem focused on selling their plan to wallop workers through higher national insurance contributions.
    “Our social care system needs a cash injection, but this isn’t the right way to do it. Young and low-paid workers, who have already borne the brunt of this pandemic, would see a disproportionate hit from an NI hike. It’s not right to hit them when ministers are leaving the wealthy untouched.
    “That is why the TUC is today calling on the government to raise capital gains tax (CGT) to provide a long-term funding settlement for our social care system, starting with paying all care workers at least £10 an hour.”

  • (4 Sep 2021) Long Covid hell could blight 2000 children a day amid row over vaccine for kids “As top scientists decide whether to vaccinate kids aged 12-15, experts warn that more than 2,000 children a day may develop long Covid.
    “England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is looking at the benefits of jabbing all in the age group, which was opposed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
    “The JCVI thinks the benefits are too small to vaccinate millions of the youngsters.
    “But now some medics fear the highly infectious Delta variant is about to rip through schools and may cause more severe disease in -unvaccinated sufferers.
    “A report, based on figures before Delta took hold, suggests one in seven infected children, aged 11 and over, still have symptoms 15 weeks on.”

  • (3 Sep 2021) GP surgeries in England cancel flu jabs amid vaccine shortage Guardian September 3:
    “GP surgeries are being forced to cancel appointments for the winter flu jab after the NHS’s biggest provider warned that it could not deliver supplies for up to two weeks due to “unforeseen road freight challenges”.
    “Practices in England have begun contacting patients to postpone their immunisation without being able to rebook them at a later date. The problem emerged on Friday when vaccine maker Seqirus wrote to surgeries alerting them to the possibility of having to rearrange booked appointments.
    “… The letter did not explain whether the delays were related to the continuing shortage of lorry drivers that has led to supermarkets running out of certain goods and fast food outlets having to close as they are unable to serve signature dishes.
    “The British Medical Association warned that the delay in delivery would have a major impact. It comes on top of a severe shortage of blood sample bottles, which last week led NHS England to order GPs and hospitals to cut back dramatically the number of blood tests they carry out, which has forced doctors to ration which patients have their blood taken.”

  • (3 Sep 2021) Rise in national insurance could fund post-Covid boost for NHS Guardian report September 3:
    "A manifesto-busting 1p increase in national insurance contributions for workers and employers could be used for a post-Covid boost for the NHS and to address long-term social care funding.
    "With MPs returning to Westminster after their summer recess on Monday, one source suggested the government was keen to rush the necessary legislation through in the three weeks before the Commons breaks again for the party conference season, with the funding badged as a health and social care levy.
    "The final details of the funding package to help the NHS deal with the legacy of Covid are to be thrashed out in crunch talks on Friday, with health service leaders fearing the final figure could be just half the £10bn they are demanding."

  • (3 Sep 2021) My father died because of paramedic staff shortages – the public should know about this worsening crisis Article by Dr Aseem Malhotra in i-News September 3 on the tragic circumstances of the death of his father, doctor and campaigner Kailash Chand:
    “I’ve treated countless patients in a similar situation myself and even published articles in medical journals on improving the survival of those suffering out of hospital cardiac arrest. Because effective CPR was being carried out by fully trained bystanders and the ambulance had been called immediately, I was confident he would be ok. In such cases survival rates can be as high as 75 per cent.
    “But it took 35 minutes from when the ambulance call was made and 30 minutes from when the cardiac arrest occurred before the paramedics got to the flat. By then it was too late. Through FaceTime I was able to see the cardiac monitor of the defibrillator. It was a flat line. There was nothing to shock. He was gone.
    “… Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Throughout the country, because of staff shortages, the ambulance services are now failing to meet the most basic levels of timely care.”

  • (3 Sep 2021) Care sector facing its worst ever staffing crisis, survey for ITV News finds ITV News with a very useful survey, Sept 3:
    “The largest survey of home care providers ever conducted has found the sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in history, with thousands of vulnerable people going without care as a result.
    “Some 78% of providers who responded to the exclusive survey, carried out by ITV News in conjunction with the UK Homecare Association, said recruiting carers is the hardest it has ever been. Many describe being at "breaking point".
    “Due to the staffing crisis, 30% of the 843 providers surveyed said they are handing back some, or all, of their care to local authorities because they can no longer fulfill their contracts.
    “ITV News has seen lists of people who are waiting more than three months to have a provider assigned to them.”

  • (2 Sep 2021) Yet more stress for nurses and doctors as they are forced to choose which patients are allowed blood tests Nursing Notes September 2 on yet another aspect to the crisis impacting on the NHS:
    “The British Medical Association (BMA) has issued a stark warning about the “very difficult choices” healthcare workers will be forced to make amid a shortage of blood test tubes.
    “A severe national shortage of Yellow top and Purple top blood tubes is having a significant impact on hospitals and GP surgeries.
    “Earlier this month NHS England released formal guidance advising NHS providers to cancel routine blood tests amid the national blood tube shortage.
    “The shortage means doctors and nurses are having to make “very difficult choices” about who is allowed blood tests.”

  • (2 Sep 2021) NHS ‘needs £10bn annual boost’ to tackle backlog and Covid cost Guardian September 2
    "The NHS needs a £10bn a year budget boost to cover the costs of Covid-19 and tackle the huge treatment backlog, health service leaders in England will tell ministers.
    "The plea comes in a rare joint initiative on Thursday from the two organisations that represent the 213 NHS care trusts.
    "Services will have to be cut, waiting lists will soar and the quality of hospital care will fall if the government increases NHS funding by anything less than £10bn, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation said.
    "Their intervention is intended to put pressure on Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), where ministers and officials are finalising how much more money the NHS will get in the next three years.
    "An announcement is expected imminently on the final figure, despite the comprehensive spending review not being due until November."

  • (2 Sep 2021) Eight in 10 African countries to miss crucial COVID-19 vaccination goal WHO Africa update September 2:
    “Africa is set to miss the urgent global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10% of every country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of September. Forty-two of Africa’s 54 nations—nearly 80%—are set to miss the target if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations hold, new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.
    “Nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, have already reached the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. At the current pace, three more African countries are set to meet the target. Two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations.
    “With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.”

  • (2 Sep 2021) GPs face patients' anger over cancelled tests as NHS awaits extra blood tubes GP Online September 2 on the GPs once again in the firing line for systems failure in the NHS or beyond their control:
    “NHS England last week ordered GPs to stop all non-urgent blood tests until 17 September amid a global shortage of tubes, with NHS officials warning supplies would become ‘even more constrained before they improved’.
    “In a statement on 31 August, supplier Becton Dickinson said it was importing millions of additional tubes this week for ‘immediate distribution’ under emergency measures.
    “However, GPs warned that practice teams are facing abuse from patients angry about disruption to blood tests, with one doctor saying their team was ‘at wits' end’ - urging the government to ‘speak out’ on the issue.
    “The warning comes after the BMA said last week that GPs must not take blame for delays to care due to the blood test tube shortage, which it said were likely to add to the ‘enormous backlog of care’ created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • (30 Aug 2021) Worcestershire NHS managers knew cancers missed due to X-ray backlog BBC report August 27 on a shocking cover-up by Worcestershire Hospitals:
    “Senior managers at an NHS trust knew up to 30 cancers may have gone undetected two years before an official probe into a backlog of thousands of X-rays.
    “Three lung cancers were missed at Worcestershire hospitals NHS Trust, a sample check of results in 2014 found.
    “Neither the Care Quality Commission (CQC) nor Worcestershire Healthwatch were told of potential harm to patients despite both investigating in 2016.
    “… The whistleblower who revealed the backlog was struck off as a radiographer after allegations of fraud. He has now been reinstated after previously undisclosed documents were found to make the strike-off judgement unsafe.”

  • (30 Aug 2021) Checking the NHS’s reality: the true state of the health service’s finances Important and revealing August 20 blog by Nuffield Trust’s Sally Gainsbury gets to the roots of the chronic NHS revenue funding crisis – but does not add in the growing problem of lack of capital to reopen closed beds or fund backlog maintenance:
    “The single biggest driver of that spending baseline is the costs of NHS providers – the hospital, mental health, ambulance and community service trusts, which together consume the equivalent of over three-quarters of the total £133 billion revenue budget for NHS England.
    “In the financial year 2018-19, the gross expenditure of those 230 NHS trusts came to £87.4 billion, against an original plan (after adjusting upwards to take in extra funding provided mid-year to cover the new staff pay settlement) of £85.3 billion.
    “That £2 billion gap between plan and reality was created in almost equal measure by unrealistically low assumptions on behalf of commissioners about the likely number of patients requiring care on one side, and unrealistically high assumptions about the value of cost savings that could be extracted from providers’ expenses on the other.”

  • (30 Aug 2021) The ICS house of mirrors HSJ’s Sharon Brennan in a farewell August 26 Expert Briefing spells out some of the unspoken problems already dogging Integrated Care Systems even before the real discussion on the Health and Care Bill begins in the Commons:
    “As the April 2022 deadline for integrated care systems to become statutory moves closer, leaders cannot find many more ways to say the timeline is becoming incredibly tight.
    “With seven months to go, there remain crucial unanswered questions. For example, for every piece of guidance NHS England releases, there is another piece of guidance mentioned within it that is due to be published.
    “Creating a new ICS is like a house of mirrors where no one knows where the exit is.
    “… In April, expect ICSs to look like very large clinical commissioning groups as they take time to think through the transformative work that would elevate them above this.”

  • (30 Aug 2021) NHS mental health therapists pressurised to exaggerate success rates, expert claims Independent August 26 with a report that shows it’s not just acute hospital bosses being called upon to lie to the public:
    “The provision of psychological treatment on the NHS has undergone an “Uberisation”, in which counsellors are pressurised to exaggerate their success in treating patients, a conference has heard.
    “Elizabeth Cotton, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, an expert in mental health at work, said that more than four in 10 – 41 per cent – of therapists working for the NHS’s talking treatments programme had been asked to manipulate data about patients’ progress.
    “… Dr Cotton carried out four surveys between 2016 and 2020. One, of 1,500 therapists working for the NHS or privately, found that more than a third - 38 per cent - had raised concerns about patient care, a figure rising to 58 per cent among the 223 currently employed by IAPT.
    “In another survey of 650 IAPT employees, carried out in 2019, 41 per cent said they had been asked to manipulate data.”

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

  • (30 Aug 2021) Outspoken conservative radio host Phil Valentine dies after battling COVID-19 Nashville Channel 5 August 22 on the death of 61 year-old Conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine from COVID-19.
    “Recently Valentine voiced skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine.
    “In December of 2020 he tweeted "I have a very low risk of A) Getting COVID and B) dying of it if I do. Why would I risk getting a heart attack or paralysis by getting the vaccine?"
    “He even recorded a parody song - Vaxman - mocking the vaccine.
    “In July, he told his audience he had COVID and he expected to be back soon. But later updates from family and friends indicated how serious it was.
    “Valentine's brother said Phil regretted not being more pro-vaccine and wrote if he got back on the radio he would encourage people to get vaccinated.”

  • (30 Aug 2021) Propaganda stepped up as new hospital schemes are stalled August 27 comment from The Lowdown pointing out that not only are NHS managers being required to lie about new hospitals, but even the projects that were supposedly funded are at a standstill and being called upon to scale back their plans to reduce costs:
    “Only a few of the promised 40 new hospitals by 2030 were guaranteed immediate funding, with the remainder fobbed off with less than £5m each in “seed funding” to work up projects that could not go ahead until at least 2025.

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

  • (28 Aug 2021) ‘Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon’: Hospital boss issues frank warning to staff Independent August 28:
    “The chief executive of Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust, Chris Long, told staff in a leaked message seen by The Independent that more operations would have to be postponed at Hull Royal Infirmary with new areas opened for Covid patients.
    “The hospital has already issued a warning to A&E patients that they face being turned away if they come to the hospital with non-urgent complaints after the trust reported 400 patients were being seen daily in the A&E with 100 able to go elsewhere.
    “Elsewhere on Friday, The Independent has learned a “makeshift” intensive care unit has been opened at the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Trust after a rise in Covid patients. The trust 59 Covid patients on Friday with 17 in intensive care.”

  • (27 Aug 2021) GPs ordered to halt all non-urgent blood tests across England until September Shaun Lintern Aug 27 in the Independent flagging up yet another knock-on impact of Brexit (aka ‘UK border challenges’):
    “All non-urgent community blood testing by GPs and other health services has been stopped by NHS England today as the nationwide shortage of blood collection tubes became “critical”.
    “In a new alert to the health service on Thursday, NHS England also told hospitals they needed to reduce the amount of blood test requests by doctors by 25 per cent.
    “NHS trusts have been warned they need to put plans in place to help each other out if some organisations come close to running out of tubes.
    “NHS England said the shortage of blood collection tubes was likely to get worse before it gets better.”

  • (27 Aug 2021) Expansion of pharmacies’ clinical offering fails to offset crisis in general practice Lowdown article August 27:
    “The move by the NHS community pharmacy sector to bolster its clinical offer to patients by expanding into hypertension case-finding and smoking cessation services is a welcome development, but the wider crisis in primary healthcare provision remains.
    “From October, more than 11,000 pharmacies which have signed up to the ‘community pharmacy contractual framework’ (CPCF) – a five-year deal already agreed by NHS England (NHSE), the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) – will offer the first of these services, providing blood-pressure checks to people aged 40 and over, under the mantle of hypertension case-finding.
    “According to NHSE, this service simply involves a free blood-pressure check as part of a 10-15 minute consultation with a trained member of the pharmacy team, following which patients “may be invited to take home a blood-pressure monitor” to take further readings, or alternatively they may be referred on to a GP.
    “Whether the roll-out of this quick-turnaround service, piloted last autumn, turns out to be an effective move only time will tell – NHSE claims that 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented, and around 2,000 lives saved, over the next five years as a result of its introduction – but GP surgeries, by contrast, often recommend taking readings at home over the course of seven days to gain a more reliable idea of a patient’s blood-pressure.”

  • (26 Aug 2021) DHSC ‘playbook’ orders trusts to describe big building projects as ‘new hospitals’ HSJ (August 26) breaks the story that the government’s propaganda chiefs are trying to instruct NHS CEOs to describe any substantial building project as a “new hospital”:
    “A communications ‘playbook’ for the government’s NHS building programme tells trusts that major refurbishments and new wings/units which are part of the scheme ‘must always be referred to as a new hospital’.
    “The instructions for comms on the Department of Health and Social Care’s “new hospital programme”, leaked to HSJ, also state that trusts should reiterate ministers’ commitment to open “48 new hospitals by the end of the decade”.
    “There has been a running controversy over the description of the prominent Conservative manifesto commitment, with questions raised about how many new hospitals will be delivered in reality, and the fact that many of those planned are not full hospital builds.
    “Last week, Sajid Javid was criticised for describing the Northern Centre for Cancer Care — which is part of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the first of the 48 schemes to open — as a “new hospital”. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs it, did not describe it as a hospital.”

  • (26 Aug 2021) Plymouth hospital declares critical incident over bed shortages Independent August 26:
    “A Plymouth hospital has declared a critical incident over bed shortages as its emergency department becomes overrun by coronavirus cases.
    “A spokesperson for University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which runs Derriford Hospital near Devon, said that the service is experiencing its highest rate of Covid-19 occupancy of the virus’s third wave.
    “The critical incident declaration means that all hospital departments must focus on tackling the problem. Already, bed capacity has been reconfigured to try to meet the demand of patients with and without Covid-19.
    “The hospital has also cancelled routine surgery appointments and temporarily banned visitors to try to prevent the virus being spread.”

  • (26 Aug 2021) Rush to clear NHS backlog could leave poorest behind, warns new analysis Independent August 26 on an important new report from the Health Foundation, revealing that far from “levelling up,” health inequalities are widening, not least in the areas that swung to the Totis in 2019:
    “A rush to cut NHS waiting lists for surgeries such as hip replacements could inadvertently worsen health inequalities with richer patients being treated sooner, according to a new analysis.
    “The study by the Health Foundation think tank has identified a large gap between the most and least deprived parts of London, in terms of the number of admissions for hip surgery during 2020, as the NHS recovered from the first wave of Covid.
    “While the most deprived parts of London saw a 30 per cent fall in admissions for hip replacements during 2020, the least deprived areas of the city saw only a 15 per cent fall.
    “The disparity is also regional too, with London managing to get back to its pre-Covid levels of activity for hip surgery while other parts of the country fell behind. The Health Foundation found the Midlands and the northeast and Yorkshire regions were worst affected with 50 per cent fewer admissions. This meant 15,000 more patients in the Midlands and 11,000 more in the northeast and Yorkshire waiting for surgery.”

  • (26 Aug 2021) NHS trusts told to describe building work on existing sites as ‘new hospitals’ Independent August 26 picks up on HSJ Exclusive on the leaked NHS Comms “Playbook” setting out how NHS chief executives need to big up even the smallest building or refurb project as a “new hospital”:
    “Under the definitions of a new hospital, the document stated that this could include “a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains a whole clinical service, such as maternity or children’s services; or a major refurbishment and alteration of all but building frame or main structure, delivering a significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure”.
    “The guidance says that, where NHS trusts are promoting the programme, they must mention the government’s manifesto commitment.
    “… Nuffield Trust director of strategy Helen Buckingham told the HSJ: “Stretching the definition of a ‘new hospital’ to cover all these initiatives is not going to convince the average patient or taxpayer, and might lead to a poor reception for what are actually much-needed local improvements.”

  • (26 Aug 2021) UK records 35,847 new cases and 149 more deaths, daily figures show Sky news August 26 with some grim figures on a new surge of Civid infection:
    “The UK has recorded 35,847 new COVID cases and 149 more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, government data shows.
    “The figures compare with 30,838 infections and 174 fatalities recorded yesterday - the highest daily death total since 12 March. This time last week, 18 August, 33,904 cases and 111 deaths were announced.
    “Since the pandemic began, 132,003 people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 and there have been 6,590,747 lab-confirmed cases.”

  • (25 Aug 2021) For a doctor, the Tories’ empty promises on hospitals are soul-destroying Guardian comment by Dr Rachel Clarke, August 25 in response to Sajid Javid’s August 20 tweet: “Looking forward to opening one of new 48 hospitals [sic] later today:”
    “Javid’s tweet met with a chorus of derision. The fact was, the health secretary was not en route to a “new” hospital at all, but rather to a new cancer unit, built within the existing Cumberland Infirmary in Cumbria, which was itself opened in 2000 – by the then prime minister, Tony Blair.
    “As Siva Anandaciva, chief policy analyst at health think tank the King’s Fund, puts it, the phrase new hospital “might suggest the NHS will see its stock of hospitals grow with … brand new, fully staffed hospitals that offer a full range of services. But – in reality – the promised investment is likely to pay for new facilities on existing hospital sites and the redeployment of existing staff.”
    “I shared the public fury. For what, precisely, is wrong with simply telling the truth and saying you are delighted to be opening a new cancer unit? Why devalue all the effort, hard work and rightful pride among its staff by pretending it is an actual hospital?
    “I don’t lie to my patients. So why does the health secretary think he is exempt from the NHS’s duty of candour, lying to NHS staff, patients and voters alike?”

  • (23 Aug 2021) UK Covid deaths average 100 a day with fears of rise when schools return Guardian with alarming figures August 23:
    “Deaths from Covid-19 are now averaging 100 a day across the UK, according to official data, and scientists have warned that case rates will jump again when millions of pupils return to schools next week.
    “The seven-day average for deaths within 28 days of a positive test now stands at 100, figures released by Public Health England on Monday show, a number that was last exceeded on 18 March.
    “Although the vaccination programme means deaths are far below the peaks of last winter – the highest daily total was 1,248, reported on 23 January – it is a notable rise from late May and early June, when they were consistently in single figures.
    “Confirmed infection numbers have also started to rise once more following a dramatic fall in mid-July, with 31,914 cases reported on Monday, the seven-day average figure having increased 13% from a week before. Hospitalisations have risen from 672 on 31 July to 948 on 17 August.”

  • (23 Aug 2021) Ending restrictions with 80% vaccinated could cause 25,000 Australian deaths, new modelling suggests Guardian August 23 with a warning for Australia – and against relaxing precautions or the drive for vaccination:
    “Ending lockdowns and other public health restrictions once 80% of the adult population is vaccinated could result in 25,000 deaths in total and 270,000 cases of long Covid, new modelling warns.
    “The work by researchers at three leading Australian universities predicts more than 10 times as many deaths as the Doherty Institute modelling that underpins the national four-phase roadmap. That plan was adopted by national cabinet in July but is subject to different interpretations by state and territory leaders.
    “The Doherty modelling looked at the number of deaths in the first 180 days of reopening at the 70% and 80% thresholds that lead to phase B and C – when lockdowns would be “less likely” and then “highly targeted”.
    “The latest research models total cumulative deaths over a longer time frame during phase D of the national plan – when no restrictions remain.”

  • (23 Aug 2021) 82 testing providers to be issued warnings over misleading prices Gov.uk press release August 23 tacitly concedes how desperately poor was the information on its website – and how lax are the controls on rip-off companies, 80 of whom are given warnings rather than simply being removed from the website.
    “More than 80 private travel testing companies will be issued a 2-strike warning and could be removed from GOV.UK for misleading prices, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced today (Monday 23 August).
    “Following a rapid review of the pricing and service standards of day 2 and day 8 testing providers listed on GOV.UK, 82 providers – making up around 18% listed – have been identified as displaying lower prices on GOV.UK than are available on their website at the point of checkout.
    “GOV.UK will be updated to reflect the true cost of the tests and companies will be warned this week that they will be removed if they advertise misleading prices again.
    “A total of 57 companies will be removed from the GOV.UK list today as they no longer exist or don’t provide day 2 and day 8 testing.”

  • (22 Aug 2021) Nurse issues warning against Covid misinformation after her anti-vaxxer mother dies of virus aged 57 Independent August 22 with a tragic story of another person who preferred injections of fake news to the vaccine:
    “A nurse has issued a warning against coronavirus misinformation after her anti-vaxxer mother died of the disease aged just 57.
    “Amy Crosby said her mother Geraldine Mount, who had no pre-existing health conditions, passed away from the virus at the same hospital where she has been working on the vaccine rollout.
    “In a Twitter post on Thursday, the 34-year-old nurse, who works at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, admitted that her relationship with her mother had become “strained” in the past 18 months due to her belief that the virus didn’t exist.
    “Amy said she was sharing the post in the hope it may prevent others from falling prey to dangerous misinformation around coronavirus and vaccines.
    “… “Today in hospital she died of complications caused by Covid, she spent the last month of her life without any family around her and her last memories were of sheer terror at having to be intubated and not knowing if she would wake up.”

  • (21 Aug 2021) Raging Delta variant takes its toll as Philippines runs out of nurses Guardian August 21 highlights the growing crisis as the Philippines tries to cope with Covid having for years exported many of its mots experienced nursing staff:
    “The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of nurses, with 17,000 leaving to work overseas, including in the UK and the US, in 2019. But it is increasingly struggling to staff its own wards, where pay is low and conditions poor. Last week, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines estimated 40% of private hospital nurses quit last year, and more have left followingafter new waves of infections this year.
    “Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United, warned more will go unless the government begins large-scale recruitment to ease the pressure on wards, and pays overdue benefits to staff. “If they don’t act immediately in the next few days there might be a huge mass mobilisation among the health workers,” she said.
    “The warning comes as cases in the country, one of the worst hit in south-east Asia, continue to rise. On Saturday, 16,694 infections were reported, as well as and 398 deaths – the second-highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. So far, 31,596 people have died.”

  • (21 Aug 2021) ‘They worry they will never get better’: a day in Bolton’s long Covid clinic Guardian August 21 on the fight against Long Covid in Bolton, revealing that only a minority are able to return to work:
    “Almost 40,000 people in the Greater Manchester town have tested positive for Covid over the pandemic, just over 20% of the local population. In May Bolton found itself once again in the eye of a Covid storm as the first place the Delta variant took hold.
    “Bolton’s health leaders believe they will be dealing with the fallout from Covid for many years to come. They do not know how many Boltonians will develop long Covid, but a report in June estimated that 37.7% of people in England who had symptomatic Covid experienced at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more – equivalent to 2 million people. Almost 15% experienced three or more persistent symptoms.
    “In January Bolton started its first long Covid pilot clinic, offering a mixture of group and individual therapy for the three main symptoms: respiratory issues, fatigue and speech difficulties. Of the 60 patients who took part, 45% were able to return to work and 43% felt well enough to resume hobbies.”

  • (20 Aug 2021) NHS Wales: Waiting times hit record levels BBC report August 20 – note the cynical condemnation from Tories whose govt in Westminster controls the Welsh budget:
    “The numbers on waiting lists for non-urgent hospital treatment in Wales have again hit record levels.
    “There were 624,909 people waiting in June, with the list climbing steadily each month and up by 41% since the early days of the Covid pandemic.
    “Those waiting the longest, more than nine months, rose again to 233,210.
    A&E waiting time performance was the worst on record and Conservatives called the figures "catastrophic".
    “Emergency departments and the Welsh ambulance service both had their busiest months since the pandemic began.”

  • (20 Aug 2021) Morecambe Bay maternity unit labelled ‘inadequate’ after drop in care standards Independent with a saddening report on the fresh failures of a notoriously failing trust to deliver safe maternity care:
    “A maternity unit at the centre of a major NHS care scandal six year ago has again been labelled inadequate by inspectors over fears for the safety of mothers and babies.
    “Maternity care at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has been heavily critcised by the Care Quality Commission in a new inspector report which criticises the care across the trust’s three hospitals and raises concerns over the trust’s culture and leadership.
    “The trust has now been effectively put into special measures by NHS England and has had conditions imposed by the CQC which is demanding urgent improvements.
    “… James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died as a result of mistakes at the trust in 2008, told The Independent he was shocked by the CQC’s findings and felt “deeply let down”. He said it was clear the trust had “lost its memory” after the tragic events that led to the Kirkup report.”

  • (20 Aug 2021) Inequalities in the distribution of the general practice workforce Cambridge University's Primary Care Unit has published a hard hitting report on the growing inequality in access to GP services, with the poorest facing the least access: here they offer the data as an interactive map.
    "A fair distribution of primary care staff is a key building block to reducing health and care inequalities. To accompany our recently paper published in the BJGP Open exploring inequalities in primary care workforce, which can be found here, we have developed an interactive data dashboard."

  • (20 Aug 2021) Record 1 million 999 calls made to NHS in July Independent August 13:
    “More than a million 999 calls were made to ambulance services in July – the highest number ever recorded – as the NHS battles a summer crisis in patient demand.
    “The latest data shows major A&E departments saw their second-highest ever numbers of patients in July, while paramedics were sent out to 82,000 emergencies last month, 8,000 more than the record set in June.
    “… The Independent has learned that more operations were cancelled on Wednesday at the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust and in Manchester, while doctors have been told that wards are dangerously understaffed, with one hospital trust at “full capacity”.
    “Earlier this week, major hospitals in London declared “black alerts”, with a shortage of beds at St Mary’s Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital, while operations have been cancelled in Sheffield, where bosses have converted a second ward to cope with Coronavirus admissions.”

  • (20 Aug 2021) Extra wards open and more staff recruited as high number of Covid patients likely to last 'months' Birmingham Mail August 20:
    “Hospital chiefs in Birmingham are predicting the number of Covid patients they are caring for will continue to top 150 into the autumn as still-high infection rates in the community and low vaccination uptake in some areas persist. Today there are 212 patients with coronavirus in the Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals, plus one in Solihull.
    “… The presence of so many Covid-positive patients is continuing to stretch hospital resources and staff, especially as they battle to help record numbers of patients through A&E and a backlog of thousands of operations.
    “Jonathan Brotherton, operations director for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, spelt out to staff the impact during a briefing seen by Birmingham Live.
    "We are likely to be continuing with over 150 inpatients for some time yet, which is a significant chunk of our available capacity," he said. "We don't run with 150 empty beds, ever, so those patients are in beds that would otherwise be used for other patients who need to be in hospital, so it's displacing people.”

  • (20 Aug 2021) Over 3,200 Royal Blackburn shifts filled by 'off-framework' nurses Lancashire Telegraph August 20 on the scale of staff shortages at one key hospital:
    “OVER 3,200 shifts were worked at Royal Blackburn Hospital by ‘off-framework’ agency nurses over the last year, reflecting ' chronic work shortages' across the NHS.
    “‘Off-framework’ refers to nurses who have been supplied by private agencies which are not on an approved list of contractors and as such do not have to apply through an open tender process nor provide as much information about their organisation and policies.
    “This means that off-framework agencies are able to charge far above the normal rate for hiring nurses and do not always abide by the same pay scale, with one agency having been recently reported in The Times as having charged Worcestershire Acute Hospitals £170.61 an hour for nurses, four times the approved framework rate.
    “… In total the NHS spent £6billion on agency and temporary staff across England last year. Of this, £3.8bn was spent on NHS England ‘bank’ staff and £2.4bn on agency workers.”

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

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

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

  • (19 Aug 2021) Maternity scandal trust issued with CQC warning over poor culture Independent August 19 with yet another worsening of the crisis in a growing number of maternity units:
    “A major hospital at the centre of the latest NHS maternity scandal has been served with a warning notice by the care watchdog over its culture and governance.
    “An internal briefing to staff at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust on Wednesday, seen by The Independent, revealed the Care Quality Commission had issued the formal warning to the trust after an inspection of the hospital at the end of July.
    “… The trust is already facing an inquiry into poor maternity care at the trust after an investigation by The Independent highlighted dozens of deaths and babies left with brain damage as a result of negligence, with families accusing the trust of trying to cover-up serious incidents over many years.
    “Whistleblowing midwives have warned the service is still unsafe today with the trust struggling to fill more than 70 midwifery vacancies.”

  • (19 Aug 2021) Failure to vaccinate the world’s poorest is not just a health hazard it could threaten global security Independent August 19 comment article from a former Tory minister:
    “When the G7 met in June, they pledged 1 billion vaccine doses to Covax for the developing world. But they haven’t yet arrived or even been purchased, let alone packed and sent.
    “While European countries boast vaccination rates above 70 per cent, some of the poorest African countries haven’t reached 2 per cent.
    “They can’t access enough doses because richer countries are quietly paying premium rates to secure supplies. They also lack the medical, logistical and transport infrastructure required for delivery that we take for granted.
    “That’s why the World Health Organisation’s director-general has urged a moratorium on booster shots until all countries have vaccinated at least 10 per cent of their population.
    “In the west, we must recognise the resentment and fear that this inequality foments. There’s an obvious moral issue here, as millions in Africa will be admitted to hospital and may die, while in Europe we debate vaccinating teenagers. …”

  • (19 Aug 2021) Covid Politics and Fatigue Work Against Contact-Tracing Foot Soldiers KHN in the US, August 19, with news that will appal but not surprise many HCT supporters:
    “many public health departments were overwhelmed by the onslaught of covid. Last winter — before vaccines provided relief — they were unable to stay ahead of the virus through contact tracing.
    “And as case counts dropped by virtue of increased vaccination rates in the spring and early summer, more than a dozen state health departments scaled back the workforce, said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The resources were needed for vaccination initiatives and to restart other public health programs.
    “The situation has grown critical in a number of states during the past month or so as local health officials find themselves once again behind the curve as the delta variant drives up case counts. Resources are already stretched, and the politicization of covid-19 has left these local officials making tough calls regarding whom to trace in places like Missouri and Texas.
    “… Arkansas, where Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison now says it was an error to sign a law in April banning mask mandates, is averaging around 2,000 new cases a day, one of the steepest upsurges among states. But the state health department has significantly fewer contact tracers now — 192 compared with 840 in December, when case counts were at the same level, according to the department and data collected by Johns Hopkins. …”

  • (19 Aug 2021) Jabbed adults infected with Delta ‘can match virus levels of unvaccinated’ Guardian August 19:
    “Fully vaccinated adults can harbour virus levels as high as unvaccinated people if infected with the Delta variant, according to a sweeping analysis of UK data, which supports the idea that hitting the threshold for herd immunity is unlikely.
    “There is abundant evidence that Covid vaccines in the UK continue to offer significant protection against hospitalisations and death. But this new analysis shows that although being fully vaccinated means the risk of getting infected is lower, once infected by Delta a person can carry similar virus levels as unvaccinated people.
    “The implications of this on transmission remain unclear, the researchers have cautioned. “We don’t yet know how much transmission can happen from people who get Covid-19 after being vaccinated – for example, they may have high levels of virus for shorter periods of time,” said Sarah Walker, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.”

  • (19 Aug 2021) NHS backlog maintenance is shooting through the roof Nuffield Trust’s Jon Appleby with strangely belated statistics on backlog maintenance that have been available for many months and published repeatedly by Health Campaigns Together and The Lowdown:
    “The latest estimates of the cost of repairs and maintenance that should have been carried out for English NHS trusts rocketed by 37% in one year to over £9 billion in 2019/20. This is now equivalent to the total annual cost of running all accident and emergency departments, ambulance services and critical care services combined.
    “It is also equivalent to an average of over £40 million for each of the 224 hospitals, ambulance services, community and mental health units in the country.
    “But backlog costs are not spread evenly. Three trusts – Imperial, West Suffolk and Guy’s and St Thomas’ – account for over a fifth of the total, with backlog costs ranging from £563 to £672 million.
    “Although some of the backlog maintenance is low priority, around 17% is not. Over £1.5 billion of the total cost is for high priority repairs or replacement which must be addressed urgently, … The costs of such high-priority maintenance have increased nearly four-fold in real terms over the last decade.”

  • (19 Aug 2021) English schools told to delay seeking help with small Covid outbreaks Guardian August 19 on how the Government is now completely at odds with what the rest of the world is doing, and advising schools and universities to do nothing in response to Covid outbreaks until 10% of people test positive.
    “Universities, schools and nurseries in England have been advised to delay seeking help in dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks until a cluster involving as many as 10% of staff, students or children have contracted the virus.
    “A new “contingency framework” issued by the Department for Education (DfE) to all education settings in England – ranging from universities and colleges to after-school tuition and youth clubs – advises that preventive measures such as wearing masks or remote learning should be used only after discussion with public health officers, once a “threshold” of infections has been reached.
    “School, university and college union leaders said the updated framework was likely to be inadequate.”

  • (18 Aug 2021) Four ICSs and four trusts placed in new ‘special measures’ regime HSJ report August 18 demonstrates the failure of the old “success regimes” and indicates “Integrated Care Systems” will be tightly controlled from above. Those in special measures do not (yet) include Lancashire & South Cumbria, facing deficits in excess of £350m.
    “Integrated health systems have yet to be created in law, but four areas have already been classed as requiring “intensive mandated support” in the regulator’s new “recovery support programme”. Those systems are: Devon; Lincolnshire; Norfolk and Waveney; and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.
    “The Devon health economy has a long history of regulatory oversight, having been subject to a previous iteration of special measures in 2015, which was branded the “success regime”.
    “At the time, NHSE said the success regime would “seek to address deep-rooted and systemic issues that previous interventions have not tackled”.
    “NHSE will subject the four systems to strict control measures, including the ability to enforce changes to the ICS board and executive team, and appointing an improvement director. It can also bring in an external third party to provide intensive support, and there are stringent approval processes over finances and decision making.”

  • (18 Aug 2021) Poorer areas have fewer GPs as national shortage hits the least healthy more Independent August 18 on a report that exposes the hollowness of Tory claims to be in any “levelling up” or eliminating health inequalities, especially in northern areas which saw the greatest Tory successes in the 2019 election:
    “People in the poorest areas of England are less likely to get appointments when they need them because of a shortage of GPs where they live – the result is a deepening gulf in health inequalities between rich and poor.
    “One doctor with 15 years experience in the NHS told The Independent the situation was akin to a “humanitarian disaster and national emergency” and said ministers must act to tackle the problem.
    “A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge found there were significantly fewer full time GPs per 10,000 patients in practices based in areas of higher levels of deprivation.
    “They warned the gaps between rich and poor had also widened since 2015.
    “The study, published today in BJGP Open, compared GP workforce data from between September 2015 and December 2020 with practice population sizes and deprivation levels across England.”

  • (18 Aug 2021) Were Nightingale units and fever hospitals ever workable responses to covid-19? BMJ August 18 blog by David Oliver on the false assumptions that led to building half a dozen ultimately useless “new hospitals”:
    “The Health Service Journal estimated the total set-up cost of the Nightingale hospitals at £220m, with a further £200m for running costs.
    “Yet between them they admitted fewer than 1000 patients over the whole course of their existence, before they were mothballed and then decommissioned from late 2020.
    “There were simply never enough clinical and support staff to cover anywhere near those bed numbers, and even the established NHS sites struggled with rota and recruitment gaps, sickness, and self-isolation.
    “The Nightingale units were created at such speed that there was no clear vision of precisely which patients they’d be used for, potentially hours away from their homes and support structures.
    “… We must stop putting infrastructure and buildings before the people needed to staff them—or putting headlines and publicity before workable solutions.”

  • (17 Aug 2021) BMA and RCGP publish updated GP workload guidance Pulse August 17 report:
    “The BMA and RCGP have updated their guidance on workload prioritisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “The advice has been changed because ‘the situation with Covid-19 continues to evolve’ and aims to give GPs more freedom to organise their workload as public life returns to ‘normal’ but general practice is still ‘under intense pressure’.
    “They advise that commissioners should carry on restricting or halting ‘additional expectations of practices, such as local enhanced services’.
    “Meanwhile, GPs should continue to evaluate and reprioritise their workload, ‘using clinical judgement and reflecting both patient need and local circumstances’, they say.”

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

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

  • (17 Aug 2021) Raising free prescription age would be ‘kick in the teeth’ for 2.4 million people, charity warns Independent August 17 on the campaign launched by Age UK against the planned imposition of prescription charges in England on millions of people aged over 60 -- while all prescriptions are free of charge in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:
    “A government proposal to raise the age at which people qualify for free prescriptions by six years would be a “kick in the teeth” for 2.4 million elderly Britons, a charity has warned.
    “Ministers launched a consultation on aligning the upper age for NHS prescription exemptions with the state pension age – pushing the age at which people qualify for free over-the-counter medicines from 60 to 66 – in July.
    “… Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said on Tuesday: “This proposed policy is a kick in the teeth, both for poorly older people and the NHS.
    “It is also extremely ill-judged because the money the government will save will almost certainly be outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS, if people fail to take their medication because they can’t afford it and become ill.”

  • (17 Aug 2021) Labour attacks Javid over lack of clarity on NHS budget with just weeks to go Independent August 17:
    “… The government has only agreed a budget for the NHS until the end of September with negotiations between the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Treasury ongoing.
    “In his letter to Sajid Javid, Jonathan Ashworth said the health service needed “immediate certainty” adding: “The service is in a summer crisis, with huge numbers of people in need of urgent and emergency care, record calls to ambulance services, and a soaring waiting list.
    “With only 16 days to the beginning of September, it is incredible that the service still does not have the budgetary clarity it needs to make major decisions about service planning.”
    “In the first few days of your tenure as secretary of state, you said that you wanted to give the NHS what it needs to recover from the pandemic. The NHS will now be wondering why you have not made a decision on this budget. Patients and NHS staff will consider this a test of whether you are true to your word to them.”

  • (16 Aug 2021) A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta Science August 16 with a warning from Israel, where high vaccination rates run in sharp contrast to the lack of vaccination of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank:
    “Now is a critical time,” Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz said as the 56-year-old got a COVID-19 booster shot on 13 August, the day his country became the first nation to offer a third dose of vaccine to people as young as age 50. “We’re in a race against the pandemic.”
    “His message was meant for his fellow Israelis, but it is a warning to the world. Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine.
    “Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.
    “… Israel’s experience is forcing the booster issue onto the radar for other nations, suggesting as it does that even the best vaccinated countries will face a Delta surge.”

  • (16 Aug 2021) Covid Vaccines Produced in Africa Are Being Exported to Europe New York Times August 16 report:
    “Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine was supposed to be one of Africa’s most important weapons against the coronavirus.
    “The New Jersey-based company agreed to sell enough of its inexpensive single-shot vaccine to eventually inoculate a third of the continent’s residents. And the vaccine would be produced in part by a South African manufacturer, raising hopes that those doses would quickly go to Africans.
    “That has not happened.
    “South Africa is still waiting to receive the overwhelming majority of the 31 million vaccine doses it ordered from Johnson & Johnson. It has administered only about two million Johnson & Johnson shots. That is a key reason that fewer than 7 percent of South Africans are fully vaccinated — and that the country was devastated by the Delta variant.
    “At the same time, Johnson & Johnson has been exporting millions of doses that were bottled and packaged in South Africa for distribution in Europe …”

  • (16 Aug 2021) NHS doctors know too well how waiting times damage all aspects of patient care Guardian Opinion article August 16 by an NHS doctor:
    “Damaging waiting times have existed for years, caused by the government’s refusal to properly fund the NHS. Waiting times for GP and hospital appointments were the second most common reason given in a 2019 King’s Fund study about why patients were dissatisfied with the NHS. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem. Some 1.2 million people in England have now been waiting over six months for essential services, a figure that is almost five times higher than it was in 2019.
    “NHS workers have watched the number of people waiting to be seen for essential care grow during the pandemic, and now many doctors and healthcare workers face the almost impossible task of increasing the number of patients they see in clinics, or increasing the number of operations they perform. Many have responded with disbelief and anger; others have felt they have no choice but to leave the health service altogether.
    “Behind these statistics are people in pain, fearful about the effect long waits could have on their health. When targets are missed for urgent operations or cancer diagnoses, mortality increases. Waiting times were a primary reason for the downgrading of the UK’s healthcare system in a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, a US thinktank, from best in the world to fourth.”

  • (16 Aug 2021) Suffolk hospital assessed legal risk of fatal roof collapse BBC report August 16 on the growing list of 30-50 year old hospitals that are literally falling down as the Tory squeeze on capital continues:
    “An NHS hospital commissioned a report into the risk of corporate manslaughter charges should a fatal roof collapse occur, leaked documents reveal.
    “West Suffolk Hospital is spending tens of millions of pounds making dangerous reinforced concrete planks in its main building safe.
    “Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is of similar design, has set a weight limit on patients at two of its theatres.
    “NHS England said the affected trusts were maintaining safe services.
    “The problems related to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks that have deteriorated or have structural weaknesses. Between the 1960s and 1980s they were used in roofs, floors and walls of NHS buildings and schools and had an expected lifespan of 30 years.
    “The West Suffolk, in Bury St Edmunds, currently has 27 metal supports under the planks, while the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn in Norfolk has more than 200 - a temporary measure ahead of more comprehensive safety works.”

  • (16 Aug 2021) 5 demands for a national care service UNISON publishes a new set of demands in response to the growing crisis in social care.
    “The UK’s response to the coronavirus left vulnerable people and the heroes that care for them unprotected. Never again. It’s time for a national care service. We have 5 demands we want the government to immediately guarantee:
    1. A real living wage for all care workers, as an absolute minimum.
    2. A standard employment contract for care work – including sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty, including ‘sleep ins’ and travel time.
    3. Significant, emergency government funding.
    4. Professional standards – the Care Certificate should be upgraded and expanded and professional registration should be standardised throughout the UK.
    5. A partnership working group of commissioners, providers, governments and trade unions must be established to action solutions.”

  • (15 Aug 2021) People who skip second jab ‘effectively unvaccinated’ as winter wave looms, warns vaccine adviser MSN August 15 appears to be one of the few outlets for discussion on Times Radio:
    "People who have not had their second vaccine remain “effectively unvaccinated” and unprotected in the face of a winter wave, a vaccine adviser has cautioned.
    "Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a GP and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said it is “tragic” that people are not getting fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
    "Speaking to Times Radio, she said: “I think my main concern as a jobbing general practitioner is looking at the number of people in my own practice who’ve either had no jabs or only one jab.
    “And that’s my concern, speaking as a GP, is that people who had them maybe in March or April this year and they’ve clearly not had their second jab.
    “And these people are effectively going to be unvaccinated going through the winter period, and I’m very worried about these people.
    “I personally send a lot of text messages to my patients asking them to make contact with me so we can talk through this, whether they’re worried, whether they’ve had side effects, whether they feel that one jab is enough for them.”

  • (15 Aug 2021) More than 32,000 patients in East Lancashire waiting for hospital treatment Lancashire Telegraph August 15 on the worsening situation in the cash-strapped Lancashire & South Cumbria area:
    “Figures from NHS Digital have revealed that some 32,030 patients were waiting for elective operations or treatment, in East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust at the end of June, up from 31,936 at the end of May.
    “And this was 35 per cent more than were waiting a year previously, when there were 23,651 patients on the list.
    “In Lancashire and South Cumbria, 3,191 patients were waiting for elective operations or treatment at the end of June – though this was down from 3,228 at the end of May.
    “A year previously, there were 1,561 patients on the list.”

  • (15 Aug 2021) ‘Lost samples and late results’: the Tory donor, his son and their travel-test firms Guardian August 15 on yet another Covid-related rip-off by Tory cronies that is putting the NHS under greater pressure:
    “A Tory donor and his son are facing questions about two private companies they run offering Covid-19 PCR tests for travellers, amid complaints about poor service.
    “Dr Ashraf Chohan, founder and chair of Conservative Friends of the NHS, which aims to forge ties between politicians and healthcare workers in the private and public sectors, is the sole director of 1Rapid Clinics, a government-approved Covid-19 testing company that some customers have claimed sent results back late, lost samples and refused refunds.
    “Chohan’s testing company is just one of a number of private firms with links to the Conservatives. Details of his involvement have emerged amid concern that the for-profit Covid testing regime put in place by the government is on the brink of collapse.
    “The industry has left a trail of unhappy holidaymakers complaining that the testing kits, or the results from those kits, often failed to arrive as promised, ultimately placing an extra burden on the NHS, which is supplying free tests for those let down by private providers.”

  • (14 Aug 2021) Latest NHS performance data confirm the service is under huge pressure NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson August 14 blog:
    “…COVID-19 is just one of several pressures the NHS is currently dealing with. This week's publication of the latest NHS performance data confirms what everyone on the NHS frontline already knew.
    “Although the COVID-19 caseload may not be as large as feared, the service is under huge pressure. And, for many NHS trusts, although the pressure is differently shaped, it feels just as busy as it was in January and February.
    “To get an accurate picture of the pressure the NHS is under, it's vital to look at the full range of demand and staffing pressures facing the service, not just the COVID-19 caseload. Trusts have identified six different pressures that are currently causing them significant operational problems and could make this winter even more difficult.”
    The six are:
    • waiting list and diagnostics backlogs.
    • much lower bed capacity
    • staffing pressures
    • the peak summer leave period
    • increased demand for urgent and emergency care
    • 5,000 or so COVID-19 patients in hospital over the last fortnight

  • (14 Aug 2021) Spike in UK coronavirus cases likely in next weeks, experts warn Financial Times warning August 14:
    “By mid-August, ministers and scientists feared the UK would be reporting 100,000 coronavirus cases a day because of the highly infectious Delta variant and a surge in social mixing after England’s July 19 “freedom day”.
    “Instead, cases currently stand at about a third of that figure, having dropped from a mid-July peak of more than 50,000 a day to a low of just above 20,000 in early August.
    “They are now starting to creep up again. The trajectory for Covid-19 is uncertain, but some scientists expect cases to rise significantly because social mixing will increase in the coming weeks, posing a big test for the effectiveness of vaccines.”

  • (14 Aug 2021) Doctors advocate establishment of health bank Dead end policies from The Nation in Nigeria, where private doctors (August 14) are urging the government to invest in private provision, setting up a “health bank” to lend money so that poor patients can pay their bills, rather than establish a universal health care system.
    “Private medical practitioners have urged the federal, state and local governments to invest more in the health sector, especially the establishment of a health bank.
    “They noted that with more access to loans at minimal interest rates, the private sector, which provides nearly 70 per cent of all health care services in the country, can increase access to affordable and qualitative health care for the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
    “Speaking during a round table dialogue on private sector intervention in the health sector, the President of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN), Dr. Iyke Odo, said: “The private sector has demonstrated that it is the present strength of our health system. The future of healthcare in Nigeria is the private sector. The best in our country today is in the private sector despite the near lack of support. All it needs is an enabling environment.
    “May I inform Nigerians and the international community that the health sector of Nigeria with over 200 million people and a potentially viable economy and deep natural endowments, is a huge investment location. I therefore call on our businessmen and women, local and international investors to invest in the health sector and invest in the private doctors.”

  • (14 Aug 2021) Staff at UK medicines regulator express alarm at plan for budget cuts Financial Times August 15:
    “Senior personnel at the UK regulator responsible for medicines have expressed “deep concern” over outline plans to make up to 25 per cent of staff redundant as it is forced to embark on budget cuts.
    “… Their concerns were raised following a staff meeting last month at which plans were outlined to take a “light-touch” approach to authorising generic medicines and rely heavily on approvals from larger regulators in the EU and the US.
    “A senior MHRA insider present at the meeting said that staff were concerned that despite government promises to create a “world-leading” regulator, the agency was in danger of being hollowed out.
    “The fear is companies will go to Europe or the US [for regulatory approvals of medicines] and then come back to us for a cheap, rubber-stamping exercise,” added the insider. “So we’ll just check the labelling and say ‘Yes, fine’.”

  • (13 Aug 2021) NHS summer crisis: Hospital suspends all inpatient surgery for three weeks over bed shortages Independent report August 13 tracking the crisis in A&E and its consequences:
    “All routine inpatient surgery at a hospital in Yorkshire is to be suspended from Monday to help the hospital trust cope with overcrowding in A&E caused by a lack of beds.
    “Bosses at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust told staff in an email, shared with The Independent, that they had been forced to make the decision because of the lack of beds for waiting patients, which they said had been a “critical issue for too long.”
    “Martin Barkley, chief executive of the trust, told staff that he had been forced to act because of serious overcrowding in A&E, which was having an impact on patient care:
    “… the extreme pressure on beds has to be reduced and quickly. The trust consistently has between 25 and 50 patients waiting for a bed at any one time at Pinderfields emergency department, causing serious overcrowding and long delays [and] contributing to an unacceptable patient and staff experience.”

  • (13 Aug 2021) The NHS is running very fast to recover the care backlog only to stand still August 13 blog from NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson:
    “Back in the 1990s, one of the features of ITV's Gladiators series was the travelator. Contestants had to run faster and faster just to stand still as the travelator's slope got steeper and steeper.

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

  • (12 Aug 2021) NDP promises universal pharmacare, mental health supports in first mandate, if elected CBC Canada August 12 article on the developing programme of the country’s nearest equivalent to a social democratic party, the NDP:
    “If elected, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is promising to bring in universal prescription drug coverage, dental care and mental health supports within his first mandate and is vowing to bring in a wealth tax to help pay for it all.
    “This morning the federal party released a list of commitments focusing on health care and affordability, which is expected to form the backbone of its campaign platform during the looming federal election.
    “The document signals the party's long-term vision, but a party spokesperson speaking on background said they believe universal prescription drug coverage, dental care and mental health care for the uninsured is doable within the first mandate.
    “The commitments document doesn't contain a costing breakdown on its promises, so it's not clear how much the fourth-place party's promises would cost.”

  • (12 Aug 2021) THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF THE NHS What Does ‘Privatisation’ of Health Services Really Mean? Byline Times August 12 gives a partial view of the problem of #NHS privatisation that at least avoids wild conspiracy theories and claims that the Americans are taking over.
    “The perception persists that ‘NHS privatisation’ means patients having to get out their wallets and pay for a GP appointment or having to fill out insurance forms in A&E waiting rooms, as is the case in America.
    “While NHS treatment is not, in fact, free to all people living in the UK, privatisation is not currently about charging patients for healthcare at the point of service. Instead, it is focused on outsourcing NHS services to private companies, which can then make a profit.
    “In 2019/20, NHS commissioners spent £9.7 billion on services delivered by the private sector – an increase of 14% since 2014/15.
    “In addition, Department of Health and Social Care accounts for 2019/20 show that, if spending with not-for-profit and voluntary providers is taken into account, the spending increases to £14.4 billion – or 10.8% of total revenue spending by the department. A further £1.5 billion was spent on services from non-NHS organisations in 2019/20, as well as £271 million on outsourcing services to other providers including in the private sector.”

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

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

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

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

  • (12 Aug 2021) UnitedHealth settles charges it denied mental health, substance abuse coverage Reuters report from US August 12 on United Health buying its way out of allegations it ripped off mental health patients:
    "UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N), the largest U.S. health insurer, has settled federal and New York state charges it illegally denied coverage to thousands of patients suffering from mental health problems and substance abuse.
    "The U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday that UnitedHealth will pay about $15.7 million, including $13.6 million in restitution and a $2.1 million fine, to settle with that agency and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
    "Authorities accused UnitedHealth of violating federal and state laws by imposing more restrictive limits on coverage and treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders than it imposed for physical health conditions.
    "UnitedHealth was also accused of overcharging patients for out-of-network mental health services by reducing reimbursements.
    "Without admitting liability, UnitedHealth agreed to stop using algorithms, including in a program called ALERT, that required extra layers of review before continuing mental health treatment and often resulted in coverage being cut off."

  • (12 Aug 2021) WIZARDS OF OZ? The obscurely-funded, right wing IEA, who recently lost a court case complaining at being described as "some herberts," publish yet another dishonest attempt to paint up insurance-based health care as superior to the NHS.
    This latest effort, on Australia, hinges on a quite significant lie, claiming Australia spends less on health than the UK
    “Total healthcare spending is lower in Australia, and it has been for nearly two decades. In 2019, it stood at 9.3 per cent of GDP, compared to 10.3 per cent in the UK. Public healthcare spending stood at 6.3 per cent of GDP in Australia, and 8 per cent of GDP in the UK.”
    Yet the most recent OECD figures show spending per head on health care at £3,631 in Australia, 21% higher than the £2,989 in the UK.
    The summary reveals the IEA focus is no more than the promotion of private insurance and private medicine: “If nothing else, the Australian system can teach us to be more relaxed about the benefits of private sector involvement in healthcare delivery, private insurance and decentralisation.”

  • (11 Aug 2021) Children’s hospitals are swamped with Covid patients — and it may only get worse US comments from Politico, August 11:
    “Nearly 1,600 kids with Covid-19 were hospitalized last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a new seven-day record and a 27 percent increase from the week before. Tennessee’s health commissioner expects the state’s children’s hospitals to be full by the week’s end. Louisiana reached that point more than a week ago. And Arkansas’ only children’s hospital has just two ICU beds remaining.
    “As dire as the situation is now, hospital leaders and public health officials predict it will get even worse in the coming weeks. They are already contending with unseasonably high levels of RSV, a respiratory virus that can be dangerous for young children and infants. Flu season is on the horizon. And schools across the country are welcoming children back, creating opportunities for Covid-19 and other viruses to spread even faster.
    “Yet the escalating crisis has had little political impact thus far, even in the southeastern states where Delta is hitting hardest. Most GOP [Republican] governors and state officials who have banned vaccine mandates, mask requirements and other public health tools to fight Covid-19 are sticking with those policies.
    “Nor has the unprecedented wave of infections in children meaningfully moved parents of school-age children; nearly 60 percent said they opposed mandating shots for kids attending school in person, according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And almost 70 percent of Republican parents told pollsters they continue to oppose school mask mandates.”

  • (11 Aug 2021) NHS summer crisis: Hospitals declare ‘black alerts’ as more operations are cancelled Independent (August 11) warns of ‘black alerts’ as London’s hospital beds fill up – in August:
    “Hospital chiefs have warned the NHS is now the busiest it has ever been, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, has accepted the health service will need more investment.
    “Two major London hospitals have declared “black alert” incidents in recent days due to bed shortages and increasing numbers of Covid patients, as well as rising numbers of people turning up in A&E.
    “Bosses at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington were forced to issue a black alert warning on Tuesday and Wednesday this week because of bed pressures across its surgery and medical ward areas.
    “Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith also issued alerts to staff on Tuesday, with doctors across both sites being told to prioritise patients who could be discharged to try and free up beds.”

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

  • (10 Aug 2021) Is crowdfunding to pay hospital bills ethical? Hindu Business Line article August 10 focuses on a funding method that is inefficient, unfair and which effectively props up the rotten Indian system:
    “… In India, the healthcare affordability gap, however astonishing, is nothing new. According to a 2018 study by the Public Health Foundation of India, out-of-pocket medical expenses drove 55 million Indians into poverty in 2011-2012; and these numbers are steadily rising.
    “The World Health Organisation’s health financing profile of 2017 also reveals some alarming stats — 67 per cent of health expenses in India are out-of-pocket compared to 18 per cent globally.
    “Despite higher budgetary allocations, India’s public expenditure on healthcare is still only 1.2 per cent of GDP, the lowest among countries committed to Universal Health Care (UHC), where the average is 6 per cent. The impact of this dismal fact has been made horribly clear during the pandemic.
    “In this scenario, the growth of medical crowdfunding platforms — and access to them — has come as a boon for thousands of Indians … But by facilitating expensive medical interventions to replace or cover gaps in a woefully inadequate public healthcare system in India, are we creating a new health disparity?
    “That is, only patients who have access to crowdfunding platforms or find themselves in the right hospital — those that are collaborating with these platforms — are the fortunate few.”

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

  • (9 Aug 2021) 500 GP surgeries pledge to ensure undocumented migrants can access healthcare Morning Star report August 9 on a significant stand by GPs, which needs to be spread to every practice in the land:
    “FIVE hundred GP practices have now pledged to ensure that undocumented migrants and other vulnerable communities can access healthcare.
    “The Safe Surgeries initiative, created by leading health charity Doctors of the World, was launched in 2018 in a bid to tackle barriers faced by marginalised communities, including migrants, refugees and rough sleepers, when they try to access primary healthcare.
    “Doctors of the World head of policy and advocacy Anna Miller said yesterday she was “delighted” that the charity had reached the milestone of having 500 GPs sign up.
    “GPs that declare themselves a “Safe Surgery” have pledged that a lack of ID or proof of address, immigration status or language will not prevent patient registration.
    “Despite rules stating that patients do not need to provide proof of address or ID to register with a GP, recent research found that less than a quarter of practices would register someone without these documents.”

  • (8 Aug 2021) It’s up to you, Rishi Sunak: your next move is make or break for the NHS NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson in the Guardian August 8 does not even include the £9bn backlog maintenance bill in his list of pressures on the NHS, but still makes some useful points on the need for more resources to restore lost NHS capacity:
    "Rishi Sunak has up to now largely met his pledge of giving the NHS what it needed to cope with the pandemic. But recently the Treasury mood music has sharply switched to recovering the national finances, reducing the NHS share of public spending, and a worryingly misplaced assumption that Covid-19 costs will fall quickly, so the NHS can return to its “generous” June 2018 settlement.
    "Frontline leaders cannot provide the quality of care patients need, and deliver the government’s manifesto commitments, unless they are properly funded to do so.
    "They won’t be able to reach the much higher levels of activity needed to clear surgery backlogs without substantial investment in extra diagnostic equipment, new technology and new ways of working.
    "Similar challenges apply to meeting growing demand for ambulance, community and mental health services. NHS leaders can’t build 40 new hospitals or maintain safe estates without the right capital funding. They can’t ensure a sustainable workload for NHS staff without a fully funded long-term workforce plan."

  • (8 Aug 2021) Fears over patient safety amid plans to ‘water down’ training for nurses Shaun Lintern in the Independent August 8 on a worrying plan:
    “Plans to simplify specialist nurse training across the UK pose “huge risks” to patient safety, health leaders have warned.
    “Nursing leaders are united in opposition against proposals by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to ostensibly simplify the qualification process.
    “They warn the watchdog is moving away from its core function – to protect the public – with a “reductionist” approach to the training of nurses working with the most at-risk groups.
    “One NHS trust chief said the plans would leave bosses unable to be certain that nurses possessed the skills required to care for patients’ safely.”

  • (7 Aug 2021) How Australia Won Universal Health Care — And How Workers Saved It With a General Strike Jacobin August 7 article with a fascinating account of the belated moves to establish universal health care in Australia in 1974 – and explanation of why it was not based on the successful British NHS model:
    “In 1967, Moss Cass, a medical doctor and left-wing member of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), invited the Labor opposition leader Gough Whitlam to a meeting at his house in in Canterbury, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Whitlam met a coterie of health-policy experts, including two health economists, Dick Scotton and John Deeble.
    “Scotton and Deeble proposed that Australia could replace private health insurance with a universal public health insurance scheme that would be funded by a 1 percent levy on taxable income. Whitlam was interested and asked them for a copy of their paper.
    “The ALP leader subsequently announced that Labor would introduce a national health insurance scheme known as Medibank. The proposal became a centerpiece of Labor policy in the lead up to the 1969 election.
    “Labor lost that time, but only just. Crucially, Medibank seemed to win the party votes. Labor formed a government after the 1972 election and Whitlam became prime minister. In August 1974, his government passed Medibank at a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.”

  • (6 Aug 2021) Six EU states overtake UK Covid vaccination rates as Britain’s rollout slows Guardian August 6 unpicks another Brexiteer lie:
    "Six EU states have now fully inoculated a larger share of their total populations with a coronavirus vaccine than the UK, after the bloc’s dire initial rollout took off while Britain’s impressive early jab rate has slumped.
    "According to government and health service figures collated by the online science publication Our World In Data, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland have all overtaken the UK in terms of the percentages of their populations who are fully vaccinated.
    "While Britain’s hugely successful campaign was bound to slow first as it ran into harder-to-reach, more vaccine-hesitant groups, the rate of decline is dramatic: the UK is currently administering a fraction of the daily doses of some EU states."

  • (6 Aug 2021) The refugee doctors helping the NHS in the fight against the pandemic Sky News August 6:
    “Through the pandemic the ranks of the NHS have been bolstered by a special group of doctors, who also happen to be refugees.
    “They've been taken on as Medical Support Workers (MSW), part of a £15m NHS England scheme that helps international medical graduates living in the UK pass the exams needed to register with the GMC.
    “The MSW role is suitable for those who have a medical qualification but have been out of clinical practice for over a year and need to work under clinical supervision.
    “There are thought to be more than a thousand refugees on the scheme in hospitals and trusts across the country.”

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

  • (5 Aug 2021) Analysis: As Covid cases fall, why are things still tough for the NHS? Independent August 5:
    “The Independent has doggedly reported the pressures across the NHS in recent weeks with many frontline staff describing what feels like a real summer crisis.
    “The reality is that the effect of Covid on the NHS may have a very long tail. The health service went into the crisis with fewer beds, nurses and doctors than most of its western neighbouring countries. The capacity to cope was never really there in the first place.
    “With just under 900 patients currently in intensive care, that is still a significant chunk of England’s total capacity — more than 20 per cent. Those are beds that cannot be used for hip operations, cancer surgery and other treatments.
    “On top of that, the end of lockdown and the delays in treating non-Covid patients has, apparently, triggered a tsunami of demand at the hospital front door with A&Es seeing record numbers of patients.”

  • (5 Aug 2021) Fifth of Covid hospital admissions are aged 18-34, says NHS England Guardian August 5:
    “More than one-fifth of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are aged between 18 and 34, according to the new NHS England boss, who is urging young people not to delay getting vaccinated.
    “The NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said the proportion of patients aged 18-34 in hospital had nearly quadrupled from 5.4% at the peak of the winter wave in January to reach more than 20% last month, with 5,000 seriously ill in hospital.
    “On Thursday there were 30,215 new cases of coronavirus, while there were 86 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test.
    “Pritchard warned that young people “are not immune and the best way they can protect themselves absolutely is to get that vaccine if they haven’t already”.”

  • (5 Aug 2021) Intensive care units face ‘grim’ situation despite fall in Covid cases Independent August 5:
    “Hospital intensive care units remain under substantial pressure despite a fall in Covid cases, the president of the Intensive Care Society has warned, as more NHS trusts cancel operations across England.
    “Stephen Webb, a consultant in intensive care and deputy medical director at the Royal Papworth Hospital Trust, told The Independent many ICUs were facing a “grim” situation despite the dramatic drop in infections in recent weeks.
    “With the numbers of Covid patients in critical care at just under 900 across England, he said this represents more than 20 per cent of intensive care capacity at a time when the NHS was facing a summer crisis in non-Covid emergency demand, as well as pressure to do more operations to cut its growing waiting list.
    “His comments come as more operations have been cancelled at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.”

  • (4 Aug 2021) David Oliver: Is more statutory power for the health secretary to intervene in the NHS wise? David Oliver's August 4 BMJ blog on the Health and Care Bill concludes:
    "With over £130bn of public money spent on the NHS each year and with ministers often blamed by the press and public for failings in delivery or planning (even in areas they don’t directly control), it’s easy to see why the government wants more power to intervene. The NHS’s scale means that it can’t be free from party politics. But ministers’ recent track record in operational matters during the pandemic has been unimpressive next to NHS professionals on the ground.
    "For the good of the service and our patients I’d like to see less, not more, ministerial control and more trust in experts at the local and national level. The King’s Fund has described the bill as a “threat to the operational independence of the NHS.”5 There’s still time to influence the final legislation."

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

  • (3 Aug 2021) Poorer communities see twice as many smoking related cancers as richer areas, says study Independent report August 3:
    “There are nearly twice as many cancers caused by smoking among the poorest people in England compared to the wealthiest, new figures by Cancer Research UK show.
    “In the first study to try and quantify the effect of avoidable cancers linked to smoking researchers say there were 11,000 cases of smoking related cancers in the lowest income groups compared to only 6,000 cancers in the highest.
    “This is despite the overall number of cancers being higher in the older, more wealthy population. Younger people tend to earn less and dominate in the lower income groups, once the cases are standardised by age, the level of cancer is higher among the most deprived.”

  • (3 Aug 2021) Paramedics left in tears from ‘unsustainable demand’, warns union Independent report Augsut 3:
    “Paramedics are being left in tears at the end of stressful shifts, with some forced to work five hours over a typical 12-hour shift, union bosses have warned.
    “In a letter to ambulance trust chief executives, seen by The Independent, UNISON officials have warned the health of paramedics and 999 call centre staff is being put at risk because of the “unsustainable demand” on the NHS.
    “The letter comes after weeks of revelations in The Independent over the summer crisis in emergency care demand on the NHS which has seen hospital accident and emergency departments overwhelmed and ambulance services unable to answer 999 calls quickly, with hundreds of people a day waiting hours for an ambulance.
    “All 10 ambulance trusts across England were operating at their highest level of demand last week. This is what used to be known as a black alert. Some like London have been at this level since June.
    "West Midlands Ambulance Service dropped back to level three but nine out of 10 trusts are still under “extreme pressure” demand.”

  • (2 Aug 2021) US sues Kaiser Permanente over alleged Medicare fraud MSN News August 2 report from the US:
    “The federal government has sued Kaiser Permanente, alleging the health care giant committed Medicare fraud and pressured doctors to list incorrect diagnoses on medical records in order to receive higher reimbursements, officials said late last week.
    “The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, consolidates allegations made in six whistleblower complaints. Kaiser, based in Oakland, Calif., is a consortium of entities that together form one of the largest nonprofit health care plans in the U.S. with more than 12 million members and dozens of medical centers.
    “The lawsuit said Kaiser entities gamed the Medicare Advantage Plan system, also known as the Medicare Part C program, which gives beneficiaries the option of enrolling in managed care insurance plans, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
    “The lawsuit contends that Kaiser “pressured its physicians to create addenda to medical records,” often months or more than a year after an initial consultation with an enrollee, because more severe diagnoses for beneficiaries generally result in larger payments to the plan.”

  • (2 Aug 2021) Doctors mourn passing of ‘unique’ BMA leader August 2 BMA website tribute to Dr Kailash Chand, the leading BMA member and campaign activist, who died suddenly on July 26, begins:
    “By any definition, Kailash Chand was a towering figure in general practice, medical politics and life. His titles, honours and public achievements are many – not least his OBE, of which he was very proud.
    “He was deputy president of the BMA, had been the first Asian elected as deputy chair of the organisation, he was a fellow of the Royal College of GPs, and had played an almost impossibly active role in local and national medical politics. He was also a prolific writer.
    “To his friends, family, colleagues – and patients – he was all these things, but also a very human and empathetic man whom they loved.”

  • (2 Aug 2021) Ben Elliot’s firm sold Covid tests to clients when NHS was struggling to increase capacity (£) Times report August 2 on yet more Tory sleaze:
    “The Conservative chairman’s company arranged for its clients to buy coronavirus tests for hundreds of pounds while the government was struggling to ramp up testing capacity, The Times has learnt.
    “Quintessentially, a luxury concierge company, arranged for its wealthy clients to purchase PCR and antibody tests in April last year, during the pandemic’s deadly first wave.
    “Quintessentially’s co-founder, Ben Elliot, has been co-chairman of the Conservative Party since July 2019, when Boris Johnson became prime minister. He remains a director and shareholder.
    “Emails show that at the same time as Elliot’s Conservative colleagues in government were battling to ramp up NHS testing, Quintessentially was willing to introduce its clients to private companies offering testing.”

  • (1 Aug 2021) The Conservatives and the whiff of chumocracy Hard-hitting August 1 statement on growing corruption in the Tory Party from Financial Times Editorial Board. And if wealthy donors are shaping government policy on housing, we can expect they will also be keen to influence NHS policy, too:
    “Is the UK’s democracy for sale? A select coterie of financiers and grandees have made substantial donations, some to the tune of £250,000, and gained membership of an invite-only club known as the Advisory Board that has the ear of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
    “What is discussed is not minuted. Who is a member is not clear. The very existence of the board is not documented, which is precisely the issue: a shadowy world of privileged access exists.
    “That is a problem for good governance and good government, increasing perceptions of cronyism and sleaze.
    “In addition to the so-called board, made up of some of the most generous Conservative party benefactors, the Financial Times has detailed that donors from the property sector have poured close to £18m into Tory coffers since Johnson became prime minister in 2019.
    “Housebuilders have long enjoyed strong connections to the party, where an article of faith holds that voters are more likely to vote Tory if they are homeowners. But the proportion of money backing the party from the property sector has soared in recent years to a quarter of all donations, from the previous high of 12 per cent of party income enjoyed under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.”

  • (1 Aug 2021) ‘Why should we die?’ Covid surgery delay leaves cancer patient in limbo Independent story August 1 highlights strain on front-line NHS resources as hospitals struggle with Covid cases as well as urgent and elective surgery:
    “A woman whose urgent cancer surgery has been postponed by the NHS because of a surge in Covid patients has warned that people like her are paying the costs of opening up society too early.
    “Angela DePastino, aged 46, was left distraught after being told the surgery to remove cancer in her womb – scheduled for Monday – had to be delayed because of the numbers of coronavirus patients being admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
    “Ms DePastino, who lives in Essex, has not been given a new date for the surgery, and was not allowed to speak with her consultant. Her pleas to be referred somewhere else were ignored, she says.
    “She decided to speak out to The Independent after seeing headlines in other media outlets celebrating the “end” of the pandemic and life returning to normal. The consequences of opening up for people like her, she said, were “terrifying”.”

  • (30 Jul 2021) Amanda Pritchard appointed NHS Chief Executive Health Estates and Facilities Management Association July 29 welcomes the new NHS boss:
    “Lord David Prior, Chair of the NHS England Board, says: “Amanda is imbued with the values of the NHS and is perfectly qualified to lead the health service through challenging times. ‘She has had first-hand experience of implementing digital technologies and worked closely with the Life Sciences industry and recognises how both can transform the way healthcare is delivered. She will build a great team and I and the Board look forward to working with her.’
    “Amanda has already served as the NHS’s Chief Operating Officer for two years, overseeing NHS operational performance and delivery, as well as implementation of service transformation and patient care improvements set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The Chief Operating Officer is also accountable to the NHS Improvement Board as NHS Improvement’s designated accountable officer with regulatory responsibility for Monitor.
    “Before joining NHS England and NHS Improvement in 2019, she was Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and has also served as Deputy Chief Executive at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.”

  • (30 Jul 2021) Abandon NHS power grab, former chairman tells Javid (£) Times report July 30:
    “Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, founding chairman of NHS England, today warns against a ministerial power-grab over the health service, saying it “opens the door to a muddle of second-guessing and micromanagement”.
    “Stressing that ministers “cannot run the NHS from the sidelines”, Grant says the appointment of a successor to Lord Stevens of Birmingham as chief executive is the time for a rethink of controversial health reforms that Javid himself is known to have doubts about.
    “A bill introduced to parliament this month aims to undo much of the controversial 2012 market-based reforms of the health service but also gives ministers significant new powers to issue orders to NHS England, which has had operational independence for a decade.
    “Writing in The Times Red Box online, Grant says it would be “foolish to imagine this is to be innocent intervention”, after Lord Stevens often stood up publicly to the government and succeeded in pressing the Treasury into several multi-billion pound budget increases.”

  • (30 Jul 2021) Hospital staff complain to regulator about bullying, harassment and racism Independent report July 30:
    “A review of the imaging departments at the Royal London Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital revealed concerns over the culture of the service and conflict between staff. Both hospitals are run by Barts Health NHS Trust, one of the largest hospital groups in the country.
    … In its report the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said: “The service faced significant challenges relating to the culture of the division. There were factions and separate interests within the workforce and nearly all staff suggested that this conflict created a difficult and hostile working environment.
    “We were informed of numerous allegations of bullying, harassment, racism, and sexism that had been escalated to requiring intervention from human resources.
    “… The watchdog carried out the inspection after concerns were raised about the safety of the service.
    “Inspectors found equipment repair records were poorly maintained with multiple reports of repairs not being carried out. Staff said it often needed multiple reports to get equipment fixed.”

  • (30 Jul 2021) Rates of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and vaccination impact the fate of vaccine-resistant strains Scientific report in Nature magazine July 30 warns of dangers of purely relying on vaccines while Covid infections continue:

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

  • (30 Jul 2021) ‘We went from heroes to zeroes’: US nurses strike over work conditions Guardian article July 30 on US nurses fighting back on staffing levels and working conditions”
    “Last April people across America came out of quarantine each night to cheer the healthcare workers fighting to save lives at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Sixteen months on, nurses around the US are holding strikes and picket actions amid claims of deteriorating working conditions and severe understaffing issues.
    “Most of us felt like we went from heroes to zeroes quickly,” said Dominique Muldoon, a nurse for more than 20 years at Saint Vincent’s hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.
    “For over four months, more than 700 nurses at the Tenet Healthcare-owned Saint Vincent hospital have been on strike, the second longest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’ history. The hospital has brought in replacement workers throughout the strike and have spent more than $30,000 a day on police coverage during the strike.
    “Muldoon, co-chair of the local bargaining unit, said understaffing worsened during the pandemic, with more staffing cuts and furloughs, while nurses worked through breaks and past scheduled shifts to try to keep up with the demand for patient care.”

  • (29 Jul 2021) Government tells hospitals to submit cheaper rebuild plans HSJ Exclusive July 29 on major problems coming down the line for “new hospital” projects around the country:
    “NHS trusts hoping to build the first new hospitals under the government’s flagship infrastructure project have been told to submit plans for schemes costing less than £400m, prompting concern about plans being watered down.
    “Last week, the New Hospital Programme team – which oversees the government’s “40 new hospitals” programme – wrote to the eight “pathfinder” trusts asking them to submit three sets of plans for evaluation.
    “The letter, seen by HSJ, ordered trusts to send:
    • An option costing no more than £400m;
    • The trust’s preferred option, at the cost they are currently expecting; and
    • A “phased approach” to delivery of the preferred option.”

  • (29 Jul 2021) ‘Completely unacceptable’: Drug firm Advanz fined £100m for making thyroid drug unaffordable for NHS Independent July 29 on a major scandal in rip-off drug pricing, which led to the drug ceasing to be available through NHS prescription:
    “Boris Johnson has branded a drug firm “completely unacceptable and exploitative” after it hiked the price of some thyroid medication by more than 6,000 per cent.
    “An investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that from 2009 until 2017 Advanz charged “excessive and unfair prices” for supplying liothyronine tablets, which are used to treat thyroid hormone deficiency.
    “The watchdog said this was because the drugs faced “limited or no competition”, meaning it could sustain repeated price increases, which were “not driven by any meaningful innovation or investment”.
    “The price increase began in 2007 and by 2009 tablets were £20 per pack. This had increased to £248 by 2017 – a 6,000 per cent rise on the 2006 price of £4, the CMA said.
    “… Advanz was handed a fine of £40.9m, while its former private equity owners HgCapital and Cinven, which now form part of the company, were fined £8.6m and £51.9m respectively.”

  • (29 Jul 2021) RCGP demands emergency rescue package for 'crisis-torn' general practice GP Online July 29:
    “Day-to-day general practice was ‘largely undoable’ even before the COVID-19 pandemic, college chair Professor Martin Marshall has warned - and the pandemic has stretched the profession still further.
    “Pointing to data on surging workload and a GP workforce that is 4.5% smaller than it was in 2015, Professor Marshall warned: ‘We simply do not have enough GPs to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population, with increasingly complex conditions, on top of managing the fallout and work backlog from the pandemic. If general practice collapses, the rest of the NHS will follow not far behind it.’
    “Professor Marshall called on the health secretary Sajid Javid to implement a five-point recovery plan to prevent GPs from burning out and to safeguard patients care.”

  • (28 Jul 2021) West Suffolk hospital chief resigns prior to bullying claims review Guardian July 28 reports on the resignation of Stephen Dunn, once honoured by the private sector for masterminding the Hinchingbrooke Hospital privatisation, from the CEO post at West Suffolk Hospital:
    "The chief executive at Matt Hancock’s local hospital is to step down before the publication of a delayed review into bullying allegations involving an unprecedented demand for fingerprints from senior clinicians first revealed by the Guardian.
    "In January 2020, a “rapid review” was ordered into claims of a “witch-hunt” at West Suffolk hospital trust, from which the former health secretary had to recuse himself because of his friendship with the trust’s chief executive, Stephen Dunn.
    "On Tuesday, Dunn announced he was resigning after what he acknowledged were “operational, structural and cultural challenges within the trust”. The trust’s deputy chief executive, Craig Black, will be taking over as interim chief executive while a replacement is found."

  • (28 Jul 2021) Abusive man jailed for attacking and threatening ambulance staff 40 times Independent July 28:
    "A man who attacked and threatened ambulance staff around 40 times has been jailed for almost half a year.
    "John Dannaher, 33, routinely spat, assaulted and threatened London Ambulance Service paramedics and across the south east of England over several years, including threatening to murder women in the service and to follow them home.
    "Clinical team manager Scott Lummes spent two years building a case against Dannaher after the serial offender abused a colleague at Kings Cross station, shouting and screaming at her as she tried to treat him.
    "Lummes found that Dannaher had made dozens of 999 calls despite his GP confirming that he had no serious medical problems."

  • (28 Jul 2021) A third of middle-aged UK adults have at least two chronic health issues – study Guardian July 28:
    "More than one in three middle-aged British adults are suffering from at least two chronic health conditions, including recurrent back problems, poor mental health, high blood pressure, diabetes and high-risk drinking, according to research that warned that health in midlife is on the decline.
    "The study of “generation X” adults born in 1970 found that those who grew up in poorer families were 43% more likely to have multiple long-term health conditions than their peers from wealthier households. Those who had been overweight or obese as children, who had lower birthweight and who had experienced mental ill-health as teenagers were also at increased risk of poor health in midlife.
    "Dawid Gondek, the UCL researcher who authored the paper, said: “This study provides concerning new evidence about the state of the nation’s health in midlife. It shows that a substantial proportion of the population are already suffering from multiple long-term physical and mental health problems in their late 40s, and also points to stark health inequalities, which appear to begin early in childhood.”

  • (28 Jul 2021) UK ministers lay out ‘most ambitious’ plan for disabled workers “Ministers have announced plans to help disabled people in the workplace, part of a wider disability strategy billed as the most ambitious in a generation, but condemned by some campaign groups as notably thin in specific policies.
    “… Boris Johnson described the strategy – which applies in England – as “the most far-reaching endeavour in this area for a generation or more”.
    “However, some charities have expressed scepticism. Kamran Mallick, the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said the strategy was “disappointingly thin on immediate actions, medium-term plans and the details of longer term investment”.
    “There has also been criticism of the consultation, which ran from January to April, and prompted about 14,000 responses.
    “Kevin Shinkwin, a Conservative peer who chairs a disability commission for the Tory thinktank the Centre for Social Justice, has previously said that the lack of engagement risked making the strategy “another car crash”.”

  • (27 Jul 2021) The British government’s Covid strategy was never designed to manage the virus Guardian Opinion column July 27:
    "It may be tempting to explain the government’s lagging public health advice by a lack of clear evidence, the novelty of the situation, or just “bad luck”.
    "But this obscures the degree to which the government has also exploited the uncertainty generated by the Covid-19 pandemic for economic and political gain, by using the facade of incompetence to narrow the political choices available to the public.
    "In a report released last December, the cross-party joint committee on national security strategy condemned the government for having “failed seriously to consider how it might scale up testing, isolation and contact-tracing capabilities during a serious disease outbreak”. But the report missed a key aspect: the delay in scaling up public testing helped to prime the space for private UK-based firms to enter the market. In January 2020, the UK passed on the early chance to use a viral sequence developed by a German lab and made freely available by the WHO to make a Covid test.
    "It did, however, award last-minute public contracts for testing, tracing, and the production of PPE and ventilators to companies with little or no prior experience in similar tasks."

  • (27 Jul 2021) England is sleepwalking towards a two-tier health system Interesting Opinion article in the Guardian July 27:
    "The impact of the pandemic on NHS waiting lists worsened health inequalities, with a 31% fall in completed treatments in the most deprived areas of England compared with 26% in the least deprived. The flight to private healthcare means the poorest communities are hit three times: people are more likely to be chronically ill, more likely to be waiting for an operation and have no chance of buying their way out.
    "The growth of a more mixed healthcare economy, in terms of both NHS treatment carried out in private sector and self-payers, is starting to normalise the idea of private healthcare. The numbers are still relatively small, and even people with comprehensive insurance are likely to need the NHS, but a waiting list with more than 5 million people on it undermines the idea of being free at the point of need. There is not much virtue in being free if the need cannot be met.
    "If wealthier people start to buy their way out of trouble in significant numbers they will be less willing to pay taxes to improve the NHS. With public spending under intense pressure, and key figures such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove having strongly criticised the NHS in the past, there is a danger that we will look back on the pandemic as the moment that the seeds of a two-tier healthcare system were really sown."

  • (27 Jul 2021) UNISON launches consultation over NHS rise that meets neither expectations nor real living wage UNISON press release flags up the biggest health union's criticism of the proposed 3% increase in NHS pay for staff in England (Scottish staff have already accepted a 4% offer):
    "The award announced last week doesn’t meet the real living wage of £9.50 per hour for the lowest paid health service workers and widens the gap between those at the top and bottom of the scale, the union says.
    "The 3% increase means the lowest earners will get a rise which is just one sixth of those at the top of the NHS pay scales.
    "UNISON will begin consulting NHS workers later this week on whether they accept the rise, or oppose it and are prepared to take industrial action.
    "More than 300,000 people across all disciplines – including nursing, ambulance, operational and technical services – will be asked for their views from this Friday until 10 September. UNISON says its elected leadership body is giving a clear steer that 3% is “unacceptable”."

  • (27 Jul 2021) Failure to help poor countries fight Covid ‘could cost global economy $4.5tn’, says IMF Guardian July 27:
    “The world economy risks losing $4.5tn (£3.3tn) from highly infectious variants of Covid-19 spreading through poor countries where vaccination rates are lower, the International Monetary Fund has warned.
    “Calling on rich countries to take urgent action to share at least 1bn doses with developing nations, or risk severe economic consequences, the Washington-based fund said the gap between rich and poor economies had widened during the pandemic and risked worsening further next year.
    “A speedy rollout of vaccines has improved the economic outlook in wealthier countries, including the UK, while a lack of resources to improve vaccination rates and support the reopening of their economies has depressed growth rates across low-income countries.
    “Setting out the downside risk scenario in its six-monthly health check of the global economy, the IMF said the new coronavirus variants would wipe $4.5tn from global GDP by 2025 with the potential for more than two-thirds of that loss falling on middle- and low-income countries.”

  • (27 Jul 2021) Paramedics abused and assaulted while on duty, survey reveals Independent July 27 with a distressing story:
    "Hundreds of paramedics have reported being physically abused or verbally abused while working to serve the public, new data has revealed.
    "More than 1,600 paramedics from across the country said they feared for their own safety or had been threatened while on duty.
    "The College of Paramedics survey of 2,345 paramedics comes after NHS England data showed there had been a 32 per cent rises in assaults over the past five years, with 3,569 incidents recorded in 2020-21.
    "The revelations come as nine out 10 ambulance services across the country are in the grip of a summer crisis in demand with trusts reporting delays in answering 999 calls and patients forced to wait hours for an ambulance crew to get to then."

  • (27 Jul 2021) Our eight-point plan to ensure the NHS gets the funding it so desperately needs NHS Providers CEO Chris Hopson July 27:
    “Our NHS Providers letter today, to the prime minister, the chancellor, the health secretary and the chief executive of NHS England, sets out what's needed. Continuation of the discharge funding that's been so successful over the last 18 months in enabling the NHS and social care to keep patients flowing through the system. Avoiding the tens of thousands of discharge delays we used to see.
    “Replenishing the funding to treat elective surgery backlogs where trusts are recovering activity so fast they've already used up most of the £1bn allocated for this task this year.
    “An emergency round of precious capital funding, similar to the £450m the NHS received last year, to enable trusts to speed up backlog recovery and expand their emergency departments, crisis mental health services and community and ambulance capacity in time for winter.
    “Full funding of the government's recently announced 3% pay award so trusts don't have to cut patient care to give hardworking NHS frontline staff the pay rise, and recognition, they obviously deserve. Helping trusts speed up recovery by funding the use of all possible available capacity, including the independent sector, as happened in earlier phases of COVID-19. …”

  • (27 Jul 2021) Tributes to Dr Kailash Chand OBE Pulse magazine publishes tributes to Dr Kailash Chand, a fearless and long-standing campaigner for the NHS and for primary care services, who will be much missed.

  • (27 Jul 2021) NHS 'as stretched now as it was in January', health leaders say Sky News July 27 reporting the concerns of NHS Providers:
    “The NHS is as stretched now as it was at the pandemic's peak in January and things could get worse, health leaders have said.
    “NHS providers have warned of "the scale of challenges over the next nine months" in a letter to the prime minister, the chancellor, the health secretary, the chief secretary to the Treasury and the chief executive of NHS England.
    "Many trust chief executives are saying that the overall level of pressure they are now experiencing is, although very different in shape, similar to the pressure they saw in January of this year when the NHS was under the greatest pressure in a generation," the letter said.”

  • (27 Jul 2021) Covid vaccine hesitancy among Britain’s under-30s alarms ministers Financial Times July 27:
    “According to NHS England data up to July 22, only 66 per cent — or 5.6m — of 18 to 29-year-olds in England have had their first jab, compared with 88 per cent of the whole adult population.
    “Office for National Statistics research found that between 7 and 10 per cent of adults under 30 have expressed hesitancy about having a jab, compared with 4 per cent for the entire adult population.
    “Some within the scientific community have argued that the public health messaging throughout much of the pandemic, which emphasised the risks of the virus to elderly and vulnerable rather than younger groups, has led to complacency. “I think there is probably a false sense of security . . . but we know that infection in the younger age groups is quite rampant,” said Professor Lawrence Young, an infectious diseases expert at Warwick Medical School.”

  • (26 Jul 2021) ‘I advise everyone to get it’: UK Covid patients tell of regrets over refusing jab Guardian July 26:
    “For some people, the moment the ambulance arrives is the time they start expressing regrets about not receiving a coronavirus vaccine. For others, it’s the death of a loved one.
    “Healthcare workers and Covid patients have spoken out about growing numbers who, once faced with the serious reality of catching the virus, realise that they made a huge mistake.
    “Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, a senior intensive care registrar, said she had only come across one patient in critical care who had received both vaccination doses, and that the “vast majority” of people she was seeing were “completely unvaccinated”.
    “According to official statistics, about 60% of people being admitted to hospital with Covid are unvaccinated.”

  • (26 Jul 2021) Coronavirus infections continue to fall in UK BBC News July 26 with evidence the vaccination is working – but also that fewer tests are being taken.
    “The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has continued to fall in the UK, the latest daily figures show.
    “The UK recorded 29,173 new cases on Sunday - down from 48,161 logged a week earlier on 18 July.
    “The number of new infections by date reported has fallen for five days in a row for the first time since February.
    “It is also the first time since the start of the pandemic that a sustained drop in cases has not coincided with a national lockdown.

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

  • (26 Jul 2021) About 200 nurses at Community First hospital in Portage Park go on strike Chicago Tribune report July 26:
    “About 200 nurses at Community First Medical Center in Portage Park went on strike Monday, citing safe staffing as a top concern.
    “The nurses are part of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United union. They became part of the union in December 2019 and have to been negotiating to secure their first contract. The strike is scheduled to last one day, until Tuesday morning.
    “Main sticking points include nurse staffing and health and safety precautions for nurses, among other things, said nurse Patricia Ryan, who is on the bargaining committee.
    “… The union alleges that the hospital has had a turnover rate among nurses of 51% since February 2020 because of problematic working conditions.”

  • (26 Jul 2021) Zimbabwe seeks to limit doctors, nurses striking over pay Bloomberg report July 26:
    “Zimbabwe plans to prevent the frequency of doctors and nurses going on strike over pay that often cripples the country’s fragile health sector.
    “Under the proposed Health Service Amendment Bill published July 23, members of the health industry will be barred from participating in strikes that last longer than three days, or more than 72 hours in a two-week period. Health-care workers will also be obligated during any collective job action, “to provide the skill, expertise, care and service to patients in a medical emergency or needing critical or intensive care,” according to the bill.
    “A notice of strike must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the start of the industrial action, according to the proposal, which also states that labor-union leaders that incite protests are liable to fines and jail sentences of three years.
    “… Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, which has 12,000 members, said there was no consultation by government on the proposed law. “The authorities can’t force health workers to give services when they are disgruntled,” he said by phone Monday. “The laws are demoralizing and most workers are contemplating going outside the country.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) Doctors warn over increasing number of young people with Covid in ICU Guardian July 25:
    “Increasing numbers of young people with coronavirus are being admitted to hospital – including to intensive care wards – doctors have said, begging them not to “suffer unnecessarily” and to get the vaccine.
    “During the first weekend after the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted in England there were pictures of crowded nightclubs, filled with revellers not wearing masks or social distancing. Medics raised the alarm that unvaccinated young people urgently needed to protect themselves against infection to avoid serious illness.
    “The warning came as scientists gave a cautious welcome to the fifth day in a row of falling Covid case rates – the first time that cases have seen a sustained fall without a national lockdown. These figures, however, do not include the impact of 19 July’s easing of restrictions.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) LA man who mocked Covid-19 vaccines dies of virus BBC News July 25:
    “A California man who mocked Covid-19 vaccines on social media has died after a month-long battle with the virus.
    “Stephen Harmon, a member of the Hillsong megachurch, had been a vocal opponent of vaccines, making a series of jokes about not having the vaccine.
    "Got 99 problems but a vax ain't one," the 34-year-old tweeted to his 7,000 followers in June.
    “He was treated for pneumonia and Covid-19 in a hospital outside Los Angeles, where he died on Wednesday.
    “… Despite his struggle with the virus, Mr Harmon still said he would reject being jabbed, saying his religious faith would protect him.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) Nurses’ pay in England to fall 7% in a decade even after government offer Guardian July 25:
    “Pay for nurses and other NHS staff in England will have fallen in real terms by more than 7% since 2010, even if they accept the latest offer from the government, according to new analysis that will fuel rising anger about public sector pay deals.
    “Figures produced by the TUC show that remuneration for nurses, community nurses, medical secretaries, speech therapists, physiotherapists, paramedics and radiographers will have dropped by between 7.3% and 7.6% in real terms in just over a decade, even after factoring in the 3% rise offered last week.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) £420 per visor: the price of ministers’ PPE panic (£) Times July 25:
    “A former Conservative councillor received a £120 million government contract for face shields whose quality is so doubtful that fewer than 1 in 400 have been used, meaning each one has so far cost the equivalent of £423.
    “Steve Dechan, 53, is the owner of Platform-14, a Gloucestershire firm that had specialised in devices for managing chronic pain. It recorded significant losses in the year before the pandemic.
    “In April last year, however, his offer to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) from China was fast-tracked through the “VIP” procurement lane. The government then invoked emergency rules to directly award him a series of contracts.
    “It heralded a change in his company’s fortunes as well as his own: he recently swapped his modest home in Stroud, Gloucestershire, for a £1.5 million 17th-century mansion with 100 acres of land in Painswick Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty nicknamed the “Queen of the Cotswolds”.
    “… Only a tiny fraction of the total order of 120 million medical-grade plastic face shields has reached doctors and nurses on the front line amid confusion about their safety. None of them could be used last year.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) Nottingham maternity scandal: Midwives reveal their fears for the safety of mothers and babies July 25 – Independent’s Shaun Lintern again digs out the truth behind the empty rhetoric
    “A hospital facing an inquiry into scores of baby deaths on its wards still poses a danger to mothers and infants, according to midwives who work in its maternity unit.
    “An investigation by The Independent revealed the scale of avoidable errors at the Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) Trust that have led to infants dying or being left brain-damaged. Ministers have since announced an independent review into cases at the trust, which is one of the largest in England.
    “But while the hospital concerned – the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham – claims it is making significant changes and recruiting more staff, midwives have told The Independent that there are still not enough resources to help mothers give birth safely, with dangerous levels of understaffing as well as a shortage of beds and equipment.
    “One said they were regularly left in tears by the conditions at the hospital, which the care regulator rated inadequate in December last year.”

  • (25 Jul 2021) Health Secretary Sajid Javid apologises for saying people should no longer 'cower from' virus Sky News July 25 with the revelation that the new Health Secretary is as crass and insensitive as the last one:
    “The health secretary has apologised for saying people should no longer "cower from" coronavirus.
    “Sajid Javid said he had deleted the tweet, which he posted on Saturday to say he had made a "full recovery" a week after testing positive for COVID-19.
    "I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise," he said.
    "Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact."
    “Mr Javid's initial tweet drew criticism for being insensitive to those who had stayed home during the pandemic due to health conditions or in an effort to protect others.”

  • (24 Jul 2021) Hospitals experiencing ‘perfect storm’ as Covid infections and holiday season collide Independent July 24:
    “Hospitals are experiencing a “perfect storm” as Covid hospitalisations, high infection rates and record-breaking demand for A&E collide with the holiday season, NHS executives have warned.
    “Across England, admissions to hospital for patients with Covid have risen by more than 30 per cent over the past week with hospitals now being told by NHS England to prepare for a difficult period ahead as the summer crisis worsens.
    “New Covid wards have been opened and operations cancelled across the country as the healthcare system buckles under the crisis. But hospital leaders say the start of the summer holidays – already a peak season for emergencies – could prompt a fresh wave of pressure.”

  • (24 Jul 2021) Fears social care billions could be used to plug existing NHS gaps – without solving the problem i-News report July 24:
    “Social care experts have spoken of their concern whether any a potential tax rise aimed at raising extra funding for the sector will instead be diverted to help clear the growing backlog of non-urgent treatment in the NHS.
    “The Head of Age UK told i that the Government must find the money to do help both areas and not promise investment for social care only to see it diminished before it is even put to use. Ministers are considering a rise in national insurance contributions to raise £10bn for social care reform but any announcement is not expected until autumn at the earliest.
    “Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “We have noticed, with concern, that there’s still talk that any money earmarked for social care may have to go to the NHS first to help reduce their lengthy waiting lists.”

  • (23 Jul 2021) Sage adviser claims ministers trying to get as many as possible infected with Covid Guardian July 23:
    “A scientist advising the government has accused ministers of allowing infections to rip through the younger population in an effort to bolster levels of immunity before the NHS faces winter pressures.
    “The allegation comes after England’s remaining Covid restrictions were eased on Monday, with nightclubs throwing open their doors for the first time in the pandemic and all rules on social distancing and mask wearing dropped even as infections run high.
    “Ministers were made aware of scientists’ concerns about reopening nightclubs and other crowded, close-contact and poorly ventilated venues without testing or other checks in place. On Monday Boris Johnson made the surprise announcement that Covid passports will be required for such settings – but not until the end of September, in two months’ time.
    “ ‘What we are seeing is a decision by the government to get as many people infected as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way of putting the blame on the public for the consequences,’ said Prof Robert West, a health psychologist at University College London who participates in Sage’s behavioural science subgroup.”

  • (23 Jul 2021) Prof Prem Sikka: Pandemics destroy lives but neoliberalism is deadly too Prem Sikka in Left Foot Forward July 23:
    “An independent public inquiry is needed to scrutinise the handling of the pandemic in all four home nations. It also needs to scrutinise the politics, economic and social policies which have delivered the high death-toll.
    “UK politics is increasingly framed by markets, corporate profits and tax cuts for a select few rather than concerns about humanity, compassion and care.
    “This is signified by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reluctance to tighten Covid restrictions because ‘Covid was only killing 80-year-olds’. Some 83,000 over 80s died. Such callous politics will bring more deaths and misery.
    “Cutting investment in public services has become a neoliberal dogma. The National Health Service (NHS) has been starved of resources and was in a poor shape to handle the pandemic. An indication is provided by the number of beds.
    “As we entered the pandemic, the UK had 2.4 beds per 1,000 of the population, compared to 5.4 in France, 7.9 in Germany and 12.8 in Japan. In April 2020, NHS England had 118,510 beds to serve a population of 56 million, compared to 299,000 in 1988.”

  • (23 Jul 2021) Government rules out searching Matt Hancock's private emails BBC News July 23 on a decision not to ask too many questions for fear of getting answers that reveal the truth:
    “The government has said it will not search the private email account of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock for discussions on official business.
    “Downing Street has admitted Mr Hancock, who quit last month, used his personal address for this reason.
    “The campaign group Good Law Project argued his inbox should be checked for the sake of transparency. But the government rejected this, saying a sweep of emails was "neither necessary nor proportionate".
    “The Sunday Times has reported that, as a result of Mr Hancock's use of his personal account, the government does not have a record of much of his decision-making during the pandemic.
    “This, it said, included negotiating PPE contracts, creating the test-and-trace programme and overseeing the care homes strategy.”

  • (23 Jul 2021) Why are fully vaccinated people testing positive for Covid? Financial Times July 23 with some common sense on the strengths and weaknesses of the Covid vaccines
    “The yellow fever jab … is widely understood to be the most effective live-virus vaccine ever invented, with a single dose generating long-lasting immunity in 98 per cent of those vaccinated.
    “But even that means that on average 2 per cent of people will still get infected. Phase 3 trials for most of the leading Covid-19 jabs showed an efficacy against symptomatic infection of more than 90 per cent.
    “Real-world studies of effectiveness in the UK, Israel and Canada suggest that vaccines are displaying a slightly lower effectiveness outside of the trial environment, probably because of the spread of the more vaccine-resistant Delta variant.
    “Estimates put protection against symptomatic infection, depending on the vaccine, at between 60-90 per cent. According to Public Health England, about 17 per cent of the 105,598 Delta variant cases reported across England in the four weeks to July 19 were among fully vaccinated people. PHE counts people as fully vaccinated 14 days after their second dose.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) Are hospitals returning to pre-Covid activity levels? Useful Nuffield Trust study July 22 looks at activity levels – but not the substantially reduced front line capacity in terms of bed numbers:
    “The latest NHS guidance for hospitals has increased the expectation for recovering services, stating that they should aim to deliver at least 95% of the services they delivered before the Covid-19 pandemic measured against the value of services delivered in the same month in 2019/20. However, the pandemic has caused huge disruption to services that were already under considerable pressure, so how realistic is this target?
    “At the start of the pandemic, planned care (including hospital appointments and admissions) was scaled back due to the number of Covid-19 patients requiring treatment. The number of people attending A&E and GP appointments also fell, which may have been due to fear of catching Covid-19 or concerns about increasing the burden on the NHS. This fall in hospital activity was more pronounced for elective care (treatment that is planned in advance) than in emergency services. In April 2020, GP referrals were 75% lower than before the pandemic, while unplanned admissions fell by a third.
    “Since then, activity levels have fluctuated but been maintained at higher levels than during the first wave of the pandemic. In recent months, emergency activity has reached pre-pandemic levels, while elective activity remains lower. Last month, the number of A&E attendances reached the highest level for any June since records began and trusts are reporting considerable pressure on urgent care services.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) Watchdog warns ‘exceptional’ NHS pressure is affecting patient care Independent report July 22:
    “The care watchdog has warned that “exceptional” pressures on the NHS is affecting the care of patients across England with healthcare workers pushed to the brink.
    “Professor Ted Baker, the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals has spoken out as ambulance services report record levels of 999 calls with patients waiting hours in the backs of ambulances outside hospitals.
    “He criticised the inaction of NHS leaders for not reforming services in recent years before the Covid-19 pandemic, despite previous warnings, which he said meant the NHS was not meeting the needs of patients.
    “The CQC’s chief inspector of primary care, Rosie Benneyworth, also warned GPs were suffering significant stress, with some unable to sleep because of the pressure they were under.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) Ministers respond to Cumberlege Inquiry Toughly-worded July 22 blog from Independent’s Shaun Lintern:
    “For those who need a reminder, the Cumberlege inquiry exposed the harm to tens of thousands of women caused by the use of vaginal mesh as well as the effects of medications sodium valproate and Primodus, which left scores of babies deformed and disabled.
    “When her inquiry was published Baroness Cumberlege said patients remained at risk from a “disjointed, siloed, unresponsive and defensive” healthcare system which “cannot be relied on” to identify safety risks.
    She added women had been repeatedly “dismissed, overlooked, and ignored”.
    “Enter Boris Johnson’s government who in responding to the inquiry have accepted only four of its nine recommendations and rejected one of the most important – a Redress Agency for those harmed by medical devices and drugs to help those who need it to get financial support. …
    “The health department has said no. And Nadine Dorries has vanished.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) ‘The system is broken’: Patients waiting 10 minutes for 999 calls to be answered Independent July 22 on a worsening crisis in ambulance services:
    “Some people dialling 999 are having to wait up to 10 minutes to get an answer, The Independent has learned.
    “With no way for ambulance call handlers to know if the call is a life-threatening situation or not before they answer, staff have warned there is a chance some patients are coming to harm, or even dying, due to the delays.
    “One paramedic told The Independent: “The system is profoundly broken.”
    “Leaked data from West Midlands Ambulance Service shows on Monday afternoon this week, some patients had waited as long as 29 hours for an ambulance. And once an ambulance was sent out, 10 per cent of category three, or urgent but non-life threatening patients in the West Midlands so far this week were waiting almost 12 hours for an ambulance, with an average wait of five hours.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) NHS told to find £1.5bn of savings to fund staff pay rise, despite fears of service cuts Independent report July 22, raising the question BBBC News did not bother to ask:
    “The NHS has been told to find £1.5bn of savings from within existing budgets to fund the pay rise for staff announced on Wednesday, in a move branded “brutally unfair” by nurses’ representatives.
    “The chaotic announcement of the 3 per cent boost for 1 million workers prompted suspicions of a battle between chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid over who pays the bill.
    “In the Commons, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded a commitment that the £1.5bn cost would not mean “cuts” to wider health or care spending.
    “But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said, shortly afterwards: “The pay uplift will be funded from within the NHS budget.” He claimed the move would “not impact funding already earmarked for the NHS frontline”, but it was unclear how that could be avoided if savings are required.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) 'Staggering' drop in sequencing of PCR tests to track Covid variants Torygraph July 22:
    “Potential Covid variants are entering the UK unchecked as the rate of positive tests being genome sequenced from amber-listed countries has fallen to just three per cent, official figures show.
    “The analysis shows that just 44 - or three per cent - of the 1,388 positive test results on people arriving from amber countries in the three weeks to June 30 were genome sequenced to identify variants. That compares with 61 per cent in the three weeks to March 17.
    “There was a similar decline even for travellers returning from red list countries - including South Africa, South America and India where three of the variants first emerged.
    “The official data, analysed by the House of Commons Library, showed the proportion of positive tests from red list countries that were sequenced dropped from 65 per cent to 13 per cent over the same period.
    The disclosure comes as it emerged that travellers to and from the UK have forked out £380 million for expensive PCR tests in the past six months supposedly so that the Government can track variants.”

  • (22 Jul 2021) Cognitive deficits in people who have recovered from COVID-19 Lancet article July 22:
    “There is growing concern about possible cognitive consequences of COVID-19, with reports of ‘Long COVID’ symptoms persisting into the chronic phase and case studies revealing neurological problems in severely affected patients. However, there is little information regarding the nature and broader prevalence of cognitive problems post-infection or across the full spread of disease severity. …
    “[Findings]: People who had recovered from COVID-19, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits versus controls when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group, pre-existing medical disorders, tiredness, depression and anxiety. The deficits were of substantial effect size for people who had been hospitalised … but also for non-hospitalised cases who had biological confirmation of COVID-19 infection …
    “… These results accord with reports of ‘Long Covid’ cognitive symptoms that persist into the early-chronic phase.”

  • (21 Jul 2021) Tories quietly ditch plans to extend sick pay to 2million more Brits Mirror report July 21 on the government decision to do nothing to make it easier for low-paid workers to isolate or quarantine to block the spread of Covid:
    "Tory ministers were blasted tonight for scrapping plans to extend Statutory Sick Pay to 2million more people.
    "Two years ago the government said there was "a case" for removing the requirement for claimants to earn at least £120-a-week. But the reforms were quietly ditched in a long-awaited response - prompting fury from unions.
    "TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time.
    “With Covid cases going through the roof, its refusal to make sick pay available for all is grossly irresponsible and will help drive infections still higher."
    "Ms O'Grady also called for the government to raise the £96.35-a-week rate of statutory sick pay. She added: "This boils down to political choices. Giving everyone access to statutory sick pay would cost less than 1% of the failed test and trace scheme."

  • (21 Jul 2021) Hospitals face ‘most difficult period’ since start of pandemic, NHSE warns HSJ Exclusive report July 21 begins:
    “NHS England has told hospitals they may be entering the “most difficult period” of the pandemic for more than a year — and said high rates of admissions are “closely linked” to low vaccine uptake.
    “In a letter to trust chiefs in the Midlands this morning, seen by HSJ, NHS England regional officials said trusts were facing increased pressures from covid-19, particularly in areas with lower levels of vaccination.
    “It says: “[The pressures are] compounded by the impact on staff absences and the need to maintain separate pathways.
    “At the same time, we are seeing unprecedented pressure on urgent and emergency care while trying to maintain the momentum created to tackle the long waiting elective patients…”

  • (21 Jul 2021) NHS workers in England offered 3% pay rise BBC News July 21 on the pay offer to NHS staff at a time when average earnings elsewhere have increased by between 3.2% and 4.4% in the last year and are forecast to increase by 2.4% this year:
    “Nurses and other NHS workers in England have been offered a 3% pay rise by government "in recognition of unique impact of the pandemic" on staff.
    “It comes after heavily criticised proposals made by the Department for Health and Social Care in March said only a rise of 1% was affordable.
    “All NHS staff in Wales will be offered a 3% rise by the Welsh government.
    “But some health unions opposed the new figure saying it does not reflect the sacrifices made by staff.
    “They point out the NHS workforce has been under unprecedented pressure.
    “The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, said the pay rise was disappointing and that junior doctors and some GPs could miss out on it altogether.”

  • (21 Jul 2021) Ministers ignored Government recruitment process to appoint Gina Coladangelo Good Law Project press release July 21:
    “Documents uncovered by Good Law Project suggest Ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) abandoned their own recruitment procedures to directly appoint Gina Coladangelo as a non-executive director.
    “We have unearthed a DHSC job advertisement posted in August 2020 seeking “expressions of interest for four non-executive directors”. The deadline for the application was 11 September 2020.
    “However, Coladangelo’s contract confirms she commenced her role as a non-executive director on 1 September 2020 – 10 days before the closing date for other applicants to apply for the same role.
    “Both the job ad uncovered by Good Law Project and Gina Coladangelo’s contract released to the Metro contain the same £15,000 per annum salary.
    “This raises serious concerns that Matt Hancock may have bypassed his own department’s recruitment process to fast-track the appointment of Gina Coladangelo."

  • (21 Jul 2021) White Vaccination Rates Lag in States Where Covid Is Surging Bloomberg July 21 report reveals the deadly side-effects of voting Republican and Christian fundamentalism:
    “As the Covid-19 delta variant spreads throughout the U.S., states facing the biggest spikes in new cases also tend to be those doing an especially poor job vaccinating their largest racial group, White people.
    “In almost a dozen states reporting more than 50 cases per 100,000 people last week, White people make up a disproportionately low share of the vaccinated population, which was not the case in the earliest months of the national inoculation drive.
    “In Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada, where new cases are running at least twice as high, the White vaccination rate trailed the Hispanic rate, which had long been held down by the group’s relatively low median age.
    “Recent polls have found Republicans and White evangelicals are least likely to say they’ll get the shots, which may account for less uptake among White people in certain states, especially in the South, Midwest and West. Since cases, hospitalizations and deaths are now primarily among the unvaccinated, these groups with less vaccine uptake are most vulnerable.”

  • (20 Jul 2021) NHS summer crisis deepens as Covid surge leads to cancelled operations and ambulance ‘black alert’ Independent July 20 update on the mounting crisis:
    "Hospitals and ambulance services are in a deepening crisis caused by the surge in infections as the removal of Covid-19 rules coincides with added pressure from the heatwave and the return of thousands of workers to offices.
    "More than half of staff at one NHS trust are absent because of Covid-19 isolation rules, forcing operations to be cancelled, while the number of Covid patients in England has leapt by one-third in the past week.
    "The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told a Downing Street press conference that he expected the NHS to see 1,000 patients a day being admitted to hospital soon.
    "His comments come as hospitals and ambulance services report surging demand from patients with staff being redeployed to new Covid wards and 999 calls going unanswered for vital minutes because of a lack of staff."

  • (20 Jul 2021) NHS summer crisis: London Ambulance Service declares incident as 999 calls surge Independent July 20:
    “London Ambulance Service was forced to declare an incident on Monday after a surge in 999 calls threatened to overwhelm it, The Independent has learned. Emergency calls increased by a third compared to a normal day, with a sudden wave of more than 400 calls in a single hour during the early afternoon.
    “Paramedics were told the service was under extreme demand with bosses making the decision shortly before 4pm to declare a “business continuity incident”.
    “This means there was a risk of normal services being disrupted below an acceptable level, leading to delays in answering 999 calls and a lack of crews to respond to emergencies.
    “The LAS has been at the highest level of demand, previously known as a “black alert”, since 17 June. Seven out of 10 ambulance services across England are in a similar situation.”

  • (20 Jul 2021) Lord Sumption made several errors about Covid on Today Full Fact July 20 does its best to retrospectively highlight the false information peddled unchallenged on the Today programme by the reactionary peer:
    “First of all, he said that the virus had not killed more than 100,000 people, because many of the deaths recorded may have been people who were infected with Covid, but died for other reasons.
    “This is not true. … data from death certificates, which records whether or not Covid itself was the “underlying cause” … shows that up to 2 July this year, 124,082 people died with Covid as the underlying cause of death in England and Wales alone.
    “Lord Sumption went on to say that the people who died of Covid would soon have died anyway. He said: “At the age which they had reached, they would probably have died within a year after, as even Professor Ferguson has I think admitted." [1.19.00]
    “This is not supported by the evidence.
    … Research suggests that people dying of Covid lost far more than a year of life—about a decade on average.
    “… Lord Sumption also said: "The number of people who have died who are not in highly vulnerable groups who have died without a sufficiently serious comorbidity to appear on the death certificate is very small. It's a matter of hundreds and not thousands." [1.19.42]
    “This is not true either.”

  • (20 Jul 2021) Doctors from ethnic minorities earn 7% less than white colleagues, report finds BMJ July 20:
    “Discrimination against doctors from ethnic minorities begins early and continues throughout their careers, the first report of the Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) has found.
    “The standard is a set of indicators which uses data from a range of sources to expose ethnic disparities in the medical workforce. Sources include NHS Digital, the NHS staff survey, and the General Medical Council.
    “The report found that compared with the overall proportion of doctors in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), doctors from ethnic minorities are underrepresented in consultant, clinical director, and medical director roles and overrepresented in other grades and postgraduate training.
    “… The report also found that on average, ethnic minority doctors earn 7% (£4310; €4974; $5851) a year less than their white colleagues.”

  • (20 Jul 2021) Boris Johnson to delay social care reform plans until autumn Guardian report July 20 on yet another postponement of the plan which Johnson claimed to have had ready in 2019:
    "“Boris Johnson has delayed plans for a tax rise to fix the crumbling social care system until the autumn, amid worries about the proposal from within his own party.
    “The prime minister had hoped to be able to make the announcement before recess on Thursday but it was put off once again after details of the funding mechanism could not be agreed in time.
    “The Guardian revealed on Monday that talks were focused on a potential 1p increase in national insurance contributions, potentially branded as a social care levy or premium.
    “… Some Conservative MPs are already deeply worried about the prospect of a rise in national insurance hurting working people, especially in red wall seats won in 2019, and the prospect of breaking an electoral promise not to raise the levy.
    "One backbench Tory MP said the prime minister would “probably get it through but I am worried about losing the trust of many of our new voters”.”

  • (19 Jul 2021) Boris Johnson’s ‘freedom day’ isolation tells us the virus is everywhere Polly Toynbee in the Guardian July 19:
    "The Health Service Journal reports that three NHS chief executives have been banned from speaking to the media about the “unsustainable pressure” their hospitals are facing, and banned from commenting on the reckless removal of masks, social distancing and indoor gathering limits. They confirmed that NHS chiefs’ WhatsApp group has “quite a few angry people” commenting on leaders’ failure to signal the present danger. “There is a sense that we are expected [by government] to pretend it’s all over.”
    "Silencing the NHS is absurd, and it never works. Some un-cowed souls will always speak out – especially seasoned seniors such as Nick Hulme, a well-respected troubleshooter, now chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex trust. “We are breaking every previous A&E record every day,” and not in a good way, he tells me. Covid cases are filling beds.
    “This is still a major crisis and we expect a third more cases for the rest of this year as they relax the rules.”

  • (19 Jul 2021) Why the UK’s new Covid-19 strategy is uniquely dangerous Gabriel Scally in New Statesman July 19:
    “I know of no episode in history where a government has willingly aided and abetted the spread of a dangerous infectious disease among its own population. History is being made. The government of the United Kingdom seems to actually want people to catch Covid-19 in the summer, rather than in the autumn and winter.
    “Ministers reason that the understaffed and underfunded NHS will be in major trouble over the winter. To “go now” with the removal of all legal restrictions, thus producing an even higher level of infections, appears to be regarded as the right thing to do as it will reduce the inevitable problems later this year.
    “This extraordinary policy has been revealed to the population in small dollops via Downing Street press conferences where the Prime Minister is flanked by civil servants.
    “There is no obvious strategy and there is no published plan. In the view of much of the rest of the world, and most of the medical organisations in the UK, there is no possibility that this will be anything other than yet another failure that will cost lives and livelihoods.”

  • (19 Jul 2021) Ministers failed to ask for advice on reopening clubs DutchNews July 19 revealing ours is not the only government disregarding the science:
    “Ministers decided to reopen night clubs on June 26 without waiting for the results of a Fieldlab experiment and ignored advice from its own health experts about how events could be held safely…
    “The government lifted most of the coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands on June 26 after infections fell to around 500 day. Three weeks later, over 10,000 new infections are being reported on a daily basis, nightclubs are now closed again and ‘test for entry’ festivals have also been halted.
    “Fieldlab, an alliance of the events sector, government and scientists, held a series of controlled, but criticised, events in the run up to June 26 to assess how theatre shows, festivals and concerts could be held safely using mass testing.
    “But Fieldlab’s only club event, at Shelter in Amsterdam, was not held until the end of May and the results had not been made available to ministers before they decided clubs could reopen safely, as long as all guests had a negative test or had been vaccinated…”

  • (17 Jul 2021) Boris Johnson pursuing Covid policy of mass infection that poses ‘danger to the world’, scientists warn Independent report July 17:
    “More than 1,200 scientists from around the globe have condemned the prime minister’s decision to forge ahead with so-called “freedom day” on 19 July, describing it as “unscientific and unethical”.
    “Some of the experts convened an emergency summit on Friday, warning that the UK government’s decision to lift its rules on social distancing and masks amounted to a “murderous” policy of “herd immunity by mass infection”.
    “The group of scientists – who all signed a recent letter to The Lancet warning against the plans – fear next week’s reopening in England will allow the Delta variant to spread rapidly around the world.
    “The warning comes as more than 50,000 cases were recorded on Friday, the highest figure since mid-January. A further 49 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported – bringing the UK’s total death toll from the pandemic to 128,642.”

  • (17 Jul 2021) Government won't publish records of meetings between Dido Harding and Covid firms Mirror July 17 on the latest episode of Tory sleaze:
    “None of the meetings Dido Harding held with private firms and consultants while running the UK’s £37 billion Test and Trace programme will be declared, the Government has said.
    “Ministers and senior officials are required to publicly declare any meetings with stakeholders or private companies. But no public record exists of any meetings held by Baroness Harding, a Tory peer and ally of shamed minister Matt Hancock.
    “Justin Madders, Labour ’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Under Dido Harding’s leadership test and trace has been an absolute bonanza for the plethora of private companies who have been contracted to deliver elements of the service, despite the failure of the service to work properly.
    "Failing to disclose details of these meetings is part of the wider pattern with this Government including the use of private emails, and handing contracts to their mates”."

  • (17 Jul 2021) Sajid Javid tests positive as health chiefs tell PM: don’t let Covid rip Observer July 17:
    Another 54,674 new cases of Covid-19 were announced on Saturday, confirming that numbers are back to levels last seen in January. A further 41 Covid deaths were also announced.
    "There has been widespread dismay from public health officials at the prime minister’s claim that people must “learn to live” with Covid and “exercise their personal responsibility”.
    "In a letter to the Observer, all four of the UK’s independent public health bodies warn: “Living with Covid-19 is not the same thing as letting it rip. We should proceed carefully, not recklessly … The government must promote effective public health measures because personal responsibility will not be enough.”

  • (17 Jul 2021) British ministers decide against mass vaccination for teens - The Telegraph Reuters report July 17 on a baffling JCVI decision to leave teens at risk of long covid:
    "Britain has opted against mass COVID-19 vaccinations for all children and teenagers, with ministers instead preparing to offer doses to vulnerable 12 to 15-year-olds and those about to turn 18, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Saturday.
    "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is believed to have advised ministers against the rollout of vaccines to all children until further evidence on the risks is available, the report added.
    "Under guidance the newspaper said are due to be issued on Monday, vaccine doses will be offered to children between 12 and 15 who are deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with adults who are immunosuppressed or otherwise vulnerable to the virus.
    "They will also now be offered to all 17-year-olds within three months of their 18th birthday, according to The Telegraph, which reported that the committee would keep the possibility of vaccinating all children "under review."

  • (16 Jul 2021) NHS summer crisis: Birmingham Queen Elizabeth hospital cancels all planned operations for two days Independent July 16 tracing the rapid growth of the crisis in England's hospitals:
    "“One of the largest hospitals in the country has cancelled all its planned operations for Thursday and Friday because of a lack of beds and space in intensive care.
    “The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which has more than 1,100 beds, has had to stop dozens of elective operations, including liver transplants, because of increasing numbers of coronavirus patients as well as wider demand.
    “The hospital’s intensive care unit, one of the largest in Europe, was full on Thursday with 10 patients in the wider hospital on a watch list who may need a bed in the critical care unit. This meant there were no spare beds for planned operations and transplants where patients would need an ICU bed post-surgery.
    “… Staff at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital were told on Wednesday that operations were being cancelled, while earlier this month The Independent revealed cancer operations were being delayed at Leeds Teaching Hospitals because of rising pressures.”
    Shaun Lintern comments on Twitter: "And we only know this because NHS staff from across the country have leaked info to journalists. All my recent stories about NHS pressures have been leaks.
    "Thank goodness some staff want to actually tell the public the truth. The corporate NHS certainly doesn't."

  • (16 Jul 2021) NHS staff asked to postpone holidays due to 'extreme pressure' caused by Covid spike Mirror report July 16:
    "NHS staff who have been in the frontline in the Covid pandemic are now being asked to postpone holidays by health bosses in Sunderland due "extreme pressure" caused by a surge in coronavirus cases.
    "Staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust are tackling one of the highest infection rates in the country with hospital cases doubling week-on-week.
    "In an internal note to staff earlier this week, bosses said there were 80 Covid patients receiving hospital treatment compared with just two exactly a month before.
    "The message began: "The Trust is currently under extreme pressure due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
    "Many people are seriously ill and receiving intensive care support."

  • (16 Jul 2021) Chris Whitty warns England could be plunged back into lockdown curbs in just 5 weeks Mirror July 16:
    “Boris Johnson could be forced to order new Covid lockdown curbs in five weeks, Chris Whitty has warned just days before Monday's "Freedom Day".
    “The Chief Medical Officer sounded the alarm over a potential "scary" growth in hospitalisations which could leave the NHS "in trouble again surprisingly fast" once restrictions are lifted.
    “The top medic said if hospital admissions begin doubling and the jabs rollout was not "topping out" the pandemic, in "five, six, seven eight weeks' time" the Prime Minister may need to "look again" at restrictions.
    “It comes after Mr Johnson insisted Brits must "learn to live with Covid" and ignored calls to keep the legal requirement for face masks in enclosed spaces beyond Sunday.
    “Speaking at a British Science Museum event, Professor Whitty underlined that epidemics are "either doubling or they're halving", adding: "And currently this epidemic is doubling. It's doubling in cases. It is also doubling in people going to hospital, and it's doubling in deaths”."

  • (16 Jul 2021) Melbourne: Australian city enters snap lockdown with 18 cases BBC News July 16 on how a government serious about public health responds to Covid 19:
    “Melbourne had largely avoided new cases despite an outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales, home to Australia's largest city, Sydney.
    “But earlier this week, a team of Sydney furniture movers travelled to Melbourne, leading to a spread in cases.
    "You only get one chance to go hard and go fast. If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier," Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said.
    "I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now," he added, only to be forced into a much longer one later on.”

  • (16 Jul 2021) Health and Care Bill seeks to add more political interference into the NHS July 16 Canary article interviewing three campaigners on Health & Care Bill concludes:
    "There is still time to stop the bill. However, as we can see, the worrying elements of the bill are numerous and complex. Once again, this is another change coming from Westminster which requires difficult and consistent activism."

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

  • (16 Jul 2021) Time to end shady health insurance practices: Nicole M. Johnson Cleveland.com report July 16:
    “The Ohio legislature could soon take an important step to protect patients from unfair, profit-driven insurance practices. Unfortunately, it won’t completely solve this problem.
    “Ohio patients are subjected to shady contracting practices between some pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which manage drug plans for insurers. Instead of lowering drug costs for patients, these companies are using drug rebates to block competition with other drugs even if they’re cheaper or a better treatment for the patient.
    “As a physician and patient, I’ve seen insurance companies tell patients they won’t cover a medication the doctor prescribed unless they first take another medication on their list and prove it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter to these middlemen if this other medicine costs more or causes bad side effects, or even if the patient’s health worsens during that time. This is a practice called “nonmedical switching.”

  • (15 Jul 2021) Hospitals cancel operations and appeal for help as summer crisis bears down Independent July 15:
    “London’s Barts Health Trust is seeking volunteers among its staff who would be willing to be redeployed to help treat Covid patients in the coming weeks, The Independent has learned.
    “… It comes as hospitals across England continue to experience rising numbers of Covid-19 admissions.
    “In Manchester, hospitals have opened up extra Covid wards and are already transferring patients between hospitals to try and maintain capacity. In the northeast, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust has told staff it cancelled some operations last week with more expected in coming days.
    “Across England on Wednesday there were 3,110 Covid patients in hospital, a 45 per cent increase in the past week. In total there were 489 patients in intensive care.”

  • (15 Jul 2021) Experts call for new powers for ministers to be stripped from NHS legislation Independent July 15 on second reading of Health & Care Bill:
    "As the first major reforms of the health service in almost a decade come before MPs for a second reading of the Health and Care Bill, ministers were facing calls to row back on sweeping powers that would granted to the health secretary Sajid Javid.
    "There also calls by thinktanks, experts and charities to change the legislation to require workforce projections for the NHS to be published annually showing whether the health service will have enough staff to meet future demand.
    "Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said “this single measure would make the biggest difference” ahead of the debate.
    "While the bill is designed to bring about a new way of working for the NHS, with more integration between local organisations so that care for patients is more joined-up, the bill also includes an array of measures that experts say could lead to politicians interfering in the day-to-day work of the NHS and endangering patient safety."

  • (15 Jul 2021) Ex-Bullingdon Club member appointed to Whitehall’s sleaze watchdog Guardian July 15 with another sign of the corrupt times we live in under the Johnson regime:
    "A former Bullingdon Club member and university friend of Boris Johnson has been appointed to Whitehall’s independent sleaze watchdog, the Guardian can disclose.
    “Ewen Fergusson, a City solicitor, was announced on Thursday as one of two new members for the committee on standards in public life. A Whitehall source said the appointment was approved by No 10.
    “Fergusson, who has spent most of his career at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, appeared behind Johnson and two along from David Cameron in the infamous 1987 photograph of the exclusive, male-only Oxford dining club.
    “Fergusson’s appointment has enraged one former chair of the committee. Sir Alistair Graham, who held the role for four years until 2007, said the appointment was a “pathetic” attempt to recruit an old friend of the PM to an independent committee.

  • (15 Jul 2021) Most GP surgeries refuse to register undocumented migrants despite NHS policy Bureau of Investigative Journalism July 15 report on a scandalous failure of GP practices to provide primary care:
    “There are thought to be up to 1.2 million undocumented migrants in the UK, according to a 2019 report by the Pew social science research centre. Many are cut off from public services, often with the fear of deportation hanging over them.
    “… During the pandemic, those who live in the UK, but have an uncertain immigration status, have faced major barriers to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
    “… NHS England policy is clear. It says on its website: “Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.”
    “But an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that less than a quarter of GP surgeries (24%) surveyed in cities across England, Scotland and Wales would register someone without proof of address, proof of ID or legal immigration status.
    “Almost two-thirds (62%) told us they would not register the patient, while the remaining 14% said they were unsure whether they could.”

  • (15 Jul 2021) Patients getting more care trims UnitedHealth's profit Axios.com July report on how UnitedHealth is trying to minimise the amount it pays out for treatment of its subscribers:
    "UnitedHealth Group collected $4.3 billion of profit in the second quarter, a 36% decline from the health care conglomerate's historically profitable second quarter last year, when the coronavirus suppressed care and led to the company paying out fewer medical claims.
    "Yes, but: The company's revenue in this quarter soared 15% year over year, and the $4.3 billion of profit was still 30% higher than the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus hit. UnitedHealth remains the most financially powerful private entity in the health care system.
    "By the numbers: UnitedHealth's medical loss ratio — or how the industry refers to how much of its premiums were spent on health care — was 82.8%. That was significantly higher than the 70.2% during same period last year (i.e., the height of the pandemic), but lower than the 83% Wall Street had expected.
    "People have definitely been returning to doctors and hospitals, but UnitedHealth is still keeping more profit now than it was before the pandemic."

  • (15 Jul 2021) We need nothing short of an overhaul to our global health system: Priti Krishtel on vaccine equity Alliance Magazine July 15:
    “While it may feel like the pandemic is ending for those of us who are fully vaccinated, most of the world is still at risk and suffering.
    “It’s also important to recognize that as new variants emerge, the pandemic will not end: none of us are safe until all of us are safe. This is why we need to do everything necessary to vaccinate the world.
    “Over a third of the world’s population lives in India and Africa, and to date less than 4 per cent have been vaccinated. This reflects what we see globally, with only 1 per cent of vaccines going to low-income countries.
    “Charity is not the answer. Donations alone will never be sufficient to ensure that vaccines reach every corner of the world. We need to get every viable manufacturer in the world going to increase supply, which is why the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property (IP) waiver is such a critical turning point.”

  • (15 Jul 2021) 'It's shocking': Hundreds of Lancs carers paid less than real living wage This is Lancashire report July 15:
    “AN INVESTIGATION has revealed that hundreds of Lancashire’s vital care workers are being paid less than the ‘real living wage’.
    “Data shows that in Blackburn with Darwen 35 posts for home care workers were advertised between October 2020 and April that paid less than the living wage of £9.50 per hour, while in the rest of Lancashire 175 posts were advertised in the same period, coming to a total of 210.
    “For care workers, who have been on the front line during the pandemic, low pay has left them struggling to feed and clothe their families, has brought on physical and mental health difficulties and has caused many to consider leaving their jobs, campaigners say.
    “Colne carer Carol Thompson, who is paid just £8.91 an hour, said: “Staff are starting to think you might as well be working in a supermarket. You get paid more, with no responsibilities”.”

  • (14 Jul 2021) Masks to remain compulsory on London tube, buses and trains A welcome blast of common sense interrupting the kamikazi rush to "freedom day" 00 Guardian July 14:
    "Mask wearing will remain compulsory on the tube and other London transport services after next Monday, Transport for London is to announce, as national rail and bus operators in England said they would only request passengers follow government guidance.
    "Unions and bus industry bodies attacked the government for its confused messaging over the changes from 19 July, when face coverings will no longer be mandatory, saying the changed rhetoric had left operators unable to plan and could put staff and services at risk.
    "Airlines have already indicated that they will continue to demand passengers wear masks, and cross-Channel train service Eurostar has now said it will make mask-wearing a condition of carriage, from check-in at London St Pancras station."

  • (14 Jul 2021) Greater Manchester starts opening extra critical care beds amid extreme NHS pressures Manchester Evening News July 14:
    “Hospitals in Greater Manchester are standing up extra critical care beds as the pressure of rising Covid admissions and record-breaking A&E attendances continues to hit hard, the Manchester Evening News understands.
    “This weekend the system also had to call mutual aid in from Cheshire and Merseyside as a result of the growing strain..
    “As Covid patients continue to increase, emergency departments are also still struggling with very high numbers of patients, driven in particular by unseasonal cases of winter respiratory viruses among children, as well as pressures in primary care.
    “On Tuesday the M.E.N. reported on queuing ambulances outside North Manchester General’s emergency department, as health sources described patients also on foot being unable to get into the waiting room. It is understood a similar situation played out at Fairfield General in Bury on Friday afternoon, while last week Wythenshawe also saw queues, with paramedics reporting more than a dozen ambulances waiting outside at one stage.”

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

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

  • (13 Jul 2021) New Zealand scientists say UK’s ‘awful experiment’ on Covid will threaten the country Independent July 13:
    “… New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has already dismissed the strategy being adopted by UK policymakers, and said that “different countries are taking different choices”.
    “University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told Newsroom: “The question is, how much worse is Delta going to get?
    “They are running a really quite awful experiment.”
    “Jemma Geoghegan, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Otago, expressed concern that just over half of the UK adult population has been vaccinated and that this could encourage new vaccine resistant variants to be produced.
    “She told Newsroom: “If you are going to train a virus to escape vaccine-induced immunity, you would do exactly what they’re doing.”

  • (13 Jul 2021) Trusts to remind public they must wear masks after 19 July HSJ July 13 report on trusts attempting to protect staff and patients despite Johnson government's irresponsibility:
    “Multiple trusts are planning to tell the public they must comply with current covid infection control measures, such as mask wearing, beyond 19 July when they visit NHS premises, HSJ can reveal.
    “Numerous trust chiefs told HSJ they will insist public visitors continue to wear masks within their hospitals. This is despite Boris Johnson confirming yesterday mask-wearing will be advisory in crowded and enclosed spaces, rather than a legal requirement, from Monday.
    “Public Health England guidance requiring mask wearing in clinical areas is still in force, and the trusts strategies are largely aimed at reminding the public that is still the case despite the change in law.”"

  • (13 Jul 2021) Failed music festival loses Derby NHS Trust £360,000 Derby Telegraph July 13 on a trust that has turned the clock back to the 1980s era of "income generation," with disastrous results:
    “A failed music festival created a loss of £360,000 for a company owned by the Derby hospital NHS trust.
    “The Derby Sound event was organised by health bosses in a bid to raise extra money, but instead the failed event lost a huge sum. The money could have paid the wages of 10 nurses for a year at the trust, which runs the Royal Derby Hospital.
    “The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust tried to keep the loss secret, but Derbyshire Live has forced it to reveal the details following a two-year Freedom of Information battle.
    “And now the largest trade union in the UK is calling for an “independent and transparent” inquiry into how the doomed venture could have cost a “cash-strapped NHS” so much money.
    “… It was organised by D-Hive, a company wholly owned by the hospital trust, which the trust says works on commercial projects with the aim of injecting profits back into local healthcare.”

  • (12 Jul 2021) Greensill Capital paid Cameron salary of more than $1m a year FT July 12 with revelations that former PM trousered £40k per day for promoting the schemes of failed financier Lex Greensill:
    “Two people familiar with the matter said Cameron received the large annual salary for his part-time advisory role, which included an increasingly desperate attempt to secure government funds for the ailing company.
    “A spokesman for Cameron declined to comment. Cameron was contracted to work 25 days a year as an adviser to the board, meaning he earned the equivalent of more than $40,000 a day.
    “His efforts to secure access to state-backed emergency coronavirus loans, first revealed by the FT, have landed the former Conservative party leader in the biggest Westminster lobbying scandal for a generation.”

  • (12 Jul 2021) Ministers shift responsibility for fighting coronavirus to the public Analysis July 12 from Shaun Lintern in the Independent, which begins:
    "After 16 months of government-imposed curbs on our everyday life, it appears the government has decided that enough is enough and that it’s time for it to depart the pitch, mid-game, as a summer wave of infection builds.
    "Johnson’s message was simple. It is up to each and every one of us to look out not just for ourselves but for each other, because the government has now returned to the idea of herd immunity as the only way out of the pandemic.
    "The vaccines have done the hard yards, with 66 per cent of us double-dosed, but the rest, with only one dose or no dose, are at the mercy of chance and the Delta variant.
    "Not everyone will survive the next few months."

  • (12 Jul 2021) Coronavirus summer wave could lead to hundreds of daily deaths within weeks, officials warn Independent July 12:
    “… modelling for the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), shows that ending restrictions could lead to between 1,000 and 2,000 hospital admissions a day within weeks, with up to 200 deaths daily now thought to be likely.
    “The new modelling from experts from the University of Warwick, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predicts a summer wave of Covid infections in the coming weeks, with Warwick making a central estimate of around 33,700 deaths by June next year.
    “The size and scale of infections, hospitalisation and deaths will depend on how the public responds to measures being eased from next week.”

  • (12 Jul 2021) Dutch PM Rutte 'sorry for easing restrictions too soon' BBC News July 12:
    "Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has apologised for "an error of judgement" in scrapping most coronavirus restrictions in the country.
    "The easing three weeks ago led to infection levels surging to their highest this year as nightlife resumed for large numbers of young people.
    "Curbs on bars, restaurants and nightclubs were reimposed on Friday.
    "Previously Mr Rutte had refused to take any blame for the opening up, describing it as a "logical step"."

  • (12 Jul 2021) Dutch PM sorry for early reopening as France tightens Covid rules Guardian July 12:
    “As governments in multiple EU states struggle to curb an increasingly alarming surge in Covid-19 cases, the Dutch premier, Mark Rutte, has apologised and conceded that restrictions reinstated this weekend were lifted too soon.
    “Meanwhile France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, unveiled a raft of new measures on Monday, including making health certificates mandatory in cafes, bars and restaurants and on planes and long-distance trains from next month.
    “While cases are rising, hospital admissions in most EU countries have not so far followed the same curve, prompting officials to suggest that as vaccination campaigns advance, hospital data should become a bigger factor in responding to the pandemic.”

  • (12 Jul 2021) UK’s outsourcing of COVID response has cost more than the GDP of 140 countries The excellent Byline Times July 12 with an overview of where the Covid contract cash has gone:
    “More than £21.6 billion has been awarded by the UK Government to the 50 companies that have earned the most in COVID-19 contracts, the Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens can reveal.
    “The top five companies alone have won some £8.8 billion of contracts, or 27% of the total amount awarded by the Government to the private sector since March 2020 – this being more than the GDP of countries like Nicaragua and Namibia in 2019, according to World Bank data.
    “The total value of all the contracts that have been awarded in relation to the pandemic and analysed by the Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens amounts to £54.2 billion – more than the GDP of 140 countries and territories in 2020 according to World Bank data.
    “In total, some 1,593 companies have been awarded contracts. A third of this spend went to just five companies, data from The Citizens’ review of UK pandemic-related contracts reveals. More than 2,500 UK Government contracts have been awarded in response to COVID-19.”

  • (10 Jul 2021) Rising hospital admissions tipping already delicate balance, NHS chief says Independent July 10 concludes:
    "Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, said high levels of vaccination could “challenge the virus” to mutate into variants against which the jab is less effective.
    “There is a risk with 19 July in terms of exposing more people to infection as a result of further reopening,” he told Times Radio.
    "He warned: “Of course, the more cases you have, particularly with high levels of vaccine protection, that does then kind of challenge the virus a little bit more and gives more potential for it to mutate into a form where the vaccines are less effective.”
    "A further 32,367 Covid-19 cases and 34 deaths were reported across the UK on Saturday."

  • (10 Jul 2021) Public alarm grows at Boris Johnson’s plan for Covid ‘freedom day’ Guardian July 10:
    "Boris Johnson faces a growing revolt over plans to end most Covid restrictions on 19 July – including the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport and in hospitals – as half of the public now say they want “freedom day” to be delayed.
    "Last night, as doctors and other NHS workers demanded that mask-wearing continue in hospitals, regional political leaders broke ranks, saying they would override the national government on the issue and strongly advise people to continue wearing masks on public transport.
    "Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told the Observer that with Covid cases rising rapidly again, “freedom day” risked becoming “anxiety day” for huge numbers of vulnerable people, because the government was making unwise decisions."

  • (10 Jul 2021) Sajid Javid warns NHS waiting lists backlog could reach 13m Stark warning and empty words from Health Secretary, Guardian July 10:
    Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Javid said the growing number of people waiting for non-Covid treatment on the NHS had been what shocked him the most since returning to the cabinet following Matt Hancock’s resignation.
    “What shocked me the most is when I was told that the waiting list is going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” he said.
    “It’s gone up from 3.5m to 5.3m as of today, and I said to the officials so what do you mean ‘a lot worse’, thinking maybe it goes from 5.3m to 6m, 7m. They said no, it’s going to go up by millions … it could go as high as 13m.
    “Hearing that figure of 13m, it has absolutely focused my mind, and it’s going to be one of my top priorities to deal with because we can’t have that.”

  • (9 Jul 2021) Patients face 15-hour wait in hospital A&E as summer crisis grips NHS Independent July 9 with the big story obscured by football hysteria and NHS Bill:
    "As NHS England data confirmed June was the busiest month on record for A&E departments in the NHS, Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital has confirmed some if its patients had to wait for 15 hours at several points earlier this week.
    "Elsewhere in the country, hospitals have reported patients facing long waits including up to eight hours at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust on Wednesday, where operations for some cancer patients were cancelled due to an increase in coronavirus patients.
    "The Royal College of Emergency Medicine on Thursday warned unless action was taken the NHS could be in a crisis worse than any previous winter."

  • (9 Jul 2021) Thousands of 999 calls put on hold with record A&E waits as health service buckles before lockdown ends Independent July 9:
    "Hospitals across the country are already in crisis mode with more than a week to go before the end of lockdown restrictions exacerbates the surge in Covid cases.
    "The care regulator on Thursday said the summer crisis was causing “very real” challenges as demand increased significantly in emergency departments and hospital wards.
    "Data seen by The Independent shows thousands of patients are being kept on hold for at least two minutes before 999 calls are answered, while new figures show record numbers of trips to A&E last month."

  • (9 Jul 2021) ‘There is no question patients are coming to harm’: Ambulance trusts on ‘black alert’ as 999 demand soars Another scorching hot Independent story on the scale of the crisis growing in the NHS:
    "A leaked briefing to staff at West Midlands Ambulance Service, seen by The Independent, said patients were being delayed outside hospitals for hours, meaning ambulances could not respond to 999 calls.
    "Some staff working for the trust have faced delays of four hours or more at the end of their 12-hour day waiting to transfer a patient to A&E staff.
    "Six out of the 10 busiest days ever for the West Midlands service have been this month, with 36,336 999 calls between 1 and 7 July, a 32 per cent rise on the same period in 2019."

  • (9 Jul 2021) Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy left fearful NHS patients avoiding treatment Independent July 9:
    "The government’s ‘hostile environment’ for charging overseas visitors for the cost of NHS services has been blamed for causing fear among vulnerable patients, with some avoiding treatment.
    "An independent review of the charging regime at one NHS trust found that while the trust was complying with government rules it did not act with compassion or empathy towards affected patients.
    "In some cases, patients at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust faced bills of thousands of pounds while living on benefits or without any income. The trust referred 1,085 debts worth £5.4 million to debt collectors between 2016 and 2018 – more than any other trust in the country."

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

  • (9 Jul 2021) England’s reopening: ‘The world is looking at us with disbelief’ FT analysis July 9:
    “Cases of coronavirus are doubling every 10 days in England and hospital admissions have risen more than 50 per cent in the past week alone. Yet with 65 per cent of the adult population double vaccinated against the virus the government is set to lift restrictions, from social distancing to mask wearing, in a bid to restore normality.
    “It would make England the first country to lift restrictions in the face of exponentially rising Covid-19 cases and the decision has divided the country with some scientists suggesting it threatens the health of many thousands of people.
    “Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, and his new health secretary Sajid Javid argue that the next stage of the lifting of legal restrictions on July 19 can go ahead because the vaccination rollout has broken the link between infection, hospitalisation and deaths.
    “… Yet many scientists and health experts have angrily challenged the government’s argument. “The world is looking at us with disbelief — a country with some of the best universities and minds acting with arrogance, yet again underestimating our adversary,” says Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge university.”

  • (9 Jul 2021) Two-year waiters for elective care up by half to just under 4,000 HSJ report on latest waiting list figures July 9:
    "NHS England’s latest referral to treatment data, published yesterday, shows a 46 per cent increase in patients waiting more than 104 weeks for treatment, rising from 2,597 to 3,802 across April and May. NHSE only started publishing figures for patients waiting more than one year last month.
    "Five trusts contributed more than half of the total increase from April to May. All of them except University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust had a disproportionately high number of two-year waiters on their lists. The trusts (see table below) have been approached for comment.
    "The news comes as the overall waiting list for elective treatment hit 5.3m people.
    "Analysis by waiting list expert Rob Findlay, published by HSJ, reveals referrals to consultant-led care are now almost back to pre-covid levels."

  • (8 Jul 2021) Police called to vaccination centre in Hull park as abuse hurled at nurses and staff Depressing story of wilful malice and ignorance from Hull Live July 8:
    "Police have been called to guard a new pop-up Covid vaccination centre in Hull after staff and volunteers were subjected to a string of abuse.
    "The temporary walk-in clinic opened in Peel Street Park off Spring Bank on Wednesday.
    "However, earlier today a handful of anti-vaxxers and Covid conspiracists gathered near where people were being given jabs, at one point using a megaphone to harass people.
    "The site is part of a new initiative aimed at making vaccinations available to all adults in Hull aged over 18 without the need to book an appointment beforehand.
    "Staff are also going door-to-door in the immediate neighbourhood where each clinic is being held to encourage those who are not already vaccinated to attend.
    "In a live post shared on Facebook, one anti-vaxxer was seen seen filming nurses. shouting into a megaphone and swearing at staff."

  • (8 Jul 2021) Patient safety at risk as NHS struggles to cope with summer crisis, warn healthcare bosses Independent with an early warning July 8:
    "Across the country NHS leaders are warning of unparalleled numbers of patients needing non-Covid treatment, with A&E departments and GPs seeing record levels and hospitals already having to cancel operations, including for some cancer patients.
    "Ambulance services are receiving thousands more 999 calls a day while community services and mental health trusts are battling with increased pressures and the fallout of the pandemic.
    "Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations across the country, told The Independent: “The quality and safety of patient care is always going to be more at risk in a system which is struggling to cope, and we have a system that is struggling to cope."

  • (8 Jul 2021) Government’s mass infection plan pushed by Great Barrington Declaration lobbying effort to end COVID protections Byline Times exposee July 8:
    “A Government advisor on the Coronavirus pandemic, who claimed that young people and children are better off getting infected than vaccinated as a way of “topping up” population immunity, was behind an effort by supporters of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) in April to convince the Government to end all COVID-19-related protections, Byline Times can reveal.
    “The GBD advocated a “focused protection” – or ‘herd immunity’ approach – to the pandemic. The lobbying effort also involved a range of notorious COVID-19 disinformation groups which have promoted anti-vaccine pseudoscience.
    “Professor Robert Dingwall sits on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Viral Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) sub-group on COVID-19 vaccines.
    “He is a sociologist by profession who has also provided technical assessments to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group, advising Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty.”

  • (6 Jul 2021) Health bill could see NHS contracts awarded without tender process Guardian July 6 on the new Health & Care Bill:
    "Private companies could be handed NHS contracts for treating patients without going through a tender process as a result of the government’s shakeup of the NHS, critics claim.
    "The Labour party, doctors’ leaders and anti-privatisation campaigners warned that the new health and care bill would allow NHS bodies to simply award contracts for clinical care to private healthcare providers without considering other bids.
    "The bill, which was laid before parliament on Tuesday, sparked fears that it could see repeats of the “Tory cronies” contracts scandal involving multi-billion-pound deals for personal protective equipment during the pandemic replicated in the awarding of contracts covering the care of NHS patients."

  • (6 Jul 2021) Tory health bill published today despite fears it puts 'private firms at heart of NHS' Mirror report on new health & Care Bill July 6:
    "Dr John Lister, Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public and health policy academic, said:
    “The very last thing the NHS needs now is another top down reorganisation along the lines of the February White Paper.
    "This Bill will not treat even one extra patient, or recruit one extra nurse – and there’s no extra cash on the table: so one must question why this reform is deemed so urgent.
    "We know even Sajid Javid has reservations about the Bill, lots of Conservative MPs don’t like the new plans and NHS employers are warning it means more central powers and bureaucracy.
    "Just like Andrew Lansley’s disastrous Health and Social Care Act, that this Bill is supposed to correct, nobody supports this except ministers and their cronies and donors pressing for even more lucrative NHS contracts to be handed out – this time without competition.”

  • (6 Jul 2021) Maternity services in England need urgent improvement and at least £200m more to reduce unnecessary deaths, says MPs' report Sky News report July 6:
    “Maternity care in England requires improvement, a report by MPs says - and more needs to be done to reduce the numbers of deaths among babies and mothers.
    “The Health and Social Care Select Committee says urgent action is required to address staffing shortages and a "culture of blame" that prevents mistakes being admitted and lessons being learned.
    “The committee's chair, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, said "although the majority of NHS births are totally safe, failings in maternity services can have a devastating outcome for the families involved".
    “He added: "Despite a number of high-profile incidents, improvements in maternity safety are still not happening quickly enough. Although the NHS deserves credit for reducing baby deaths and stillbirths significantly, around 1,000 more babies would live every year if our maternity services were as safe as Sweden."
    “The report recommends the annual budget for maternity care in England should be increased by a minimum of £200m to £350m with immediate effect.”

  • (5 Jul 2021) Doctors in Unite Appeal for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme Important appeal from Doctors in Unite points out:
    "Israel’s high tech military – which gets an annual $3.8 billion from the US in a 10 year agreement made in 2016 under President Obama – does precision targeted bombing.
    "Key infrastructure, 25 storey tower blocks, dense neighbourhoods of homes and shops, schools, hospitals, clinics, mosques were hit. There was no safe place to run to for shelter.
    "Among the 242 people killed were 66 children, pregnant women, the elderly, the sick.
    "And two of the community’s most senior doctors were murdered with their families as they slept. Additionally, 1948 people are wounded, many very seriously.
    "The disabling effects of such trauma of fear and grief on the community is devastating, and psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers are working more than overtime to help.
    "The demands on the internationally respected Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) are pushing its limits. We must support these key pillars of this community."

  • (5 Jul 2021) More capacity – the best birthday present the NHS could get Royal College of Physicians publish a telling survey on the 73rd birthday of the NHS:
    "A new survey reveals that more than a quarter of senior consultant physicians expect to retire within 3 years, many within 18 months, while the majority of trainees entering the NHS (56%) are interested in working part-time.
    "A fifth of doctors already work part-time, and the new figures from the RCP suggest this trend is set to increase as wider expectations around work/life balance change.
    "The RCP is calling on new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid to give the NHS the best birthday present it could ask for – more capacity. It wants a doubling of medical school places to avoid medical staff shortages worsening in the future, with increased funding for social care and action to address health inequalities also needed to reduce demands upon the NHS."

  • (4 Jul 2021) UK scientists caution that lifting of Covid rules is like building ‘variant factories’ Guardian July 4:
    “UK scientists have warned that the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions is like building new “variant factories” at a very fast rate, and said the attitude of the new health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, is “frightening”.
    “Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Javid said the best way to protect the nation’s health was by lifting the main Covid-19 restrictions. “Rules that we have had to put in place have caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health,” he said.
    “Reacting to the comments, Prof Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, tweeted:
    “It is frightening to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is flu. Who is unconcerned at levels of infection. Who doesn’t realise that those who do best for health, also do best for the economy. Who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated.”

  • (3 Jul 2021) SAJID JAVID: The economic arguments for opening up Britain are well known. But, for me, the health case is equally compelling New Health Secretary Sajid Javid, July 3, using a ‘debate’ slot in the Mail on Sunday to show how little he understands and confirm he is even more anti-science than Matt Hancock, and has not even got the message that Covid is completely different in its potency and potential long term damage than flu.
    Indeed 'living with Covid' also means living with continued more dangerous variants, especially since infection rates among 10-14 year olds are rocketing and vaccination rates are falling. He says:
    “Amid the endless policy memos and reams of data, I see two immediate challenges. The first is how we restore our freedoms and learn to live with Covid-19. The second is to tackle the NHS backlog – something that we know is going to get far worse before it gets better.
    “We are on track for July 19 and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid.
    “We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view.
    “We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.
    “The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.”

  • (3 Jul 2021) More shocking revelations about maternity care show something is very wrong Independent editorial, following up shocking revelations from around the country of poor quality and dangerous maternity services.
    “The revelations about the state of maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are as shocking as they are depressingly reminiscent of previous episodes across England. Thanks to whistleblowers and strong investigative journalism, yet another example of neglect and worse has been identified, despite the attempts of hospital managers to obfuscate and obstruct. The truth, though, is coming out, and is reported today.
    “In recent years, families in Morecambe Bay, in Shrewsbury and in east Kent have all had to deal with multiple and systemic medical failures resulting in needless loss of life, injury, and every sort of pain. Involving as they do the lives of newborn babies, the stories are inevitably distressing, but the institutional callousness so often experienced would be unacceptable in any branch of medicine.
    “The circumstances in the various maternity units are not identical – they could hardly be, given the nature of the cases – but something of a pattern seems apparent. Or, rather, it should have become apparent when the first of this series of scandals became public knowledge. The disturbing possibility is that many more hospital maternity services across England, at least, may be subject to similar shortcomings – a major national problem.”

  • (2 Jul 2021) Sajid Javid must act to save an NHS on its last legs Financial Times July 2 comment from former No 10 Policy Unit chief Camilla Cavendish:
    "The health secretary’s in-tray looks more daunting than at any point since 1945. For decades, we’ve been warned that the NHS was on its last legs. Now, for the first time, I fear it’s true. The backlog of non-Covid cases is overwhelming.
    "Almost 5m people are waiting for treatment and there is no convincing plan to handle it.
    "Staff I speak to are demoralised and burnt-out. GPs have been retiring in droves for several years, partly to avoid paying tax on their pension pots.
    "Infection control measures for Covid-19 have reduced hospital capacity. I cannot see how business as usual will deliver anything near to what is required."

  • (2 Jul 2021) The Hancock scandal shows why we need proper regulation for non-executive directorships in government Prof Prem Sikka in Left Foot Forward July 2:
    "“The resignation of Matt Hancock as the health secretary for England has drawn attention to cosy arrangements between the government and elites who have been showered with non-executive directorships (NEDs) at government departments.
    “He personally appointed his lover as a non-exec at the Department of Health for a job which pays £20,000 for 15 days work, 14 times more than the salary of a junior nurse.
    “The concept of NEDs in the public sector is imported from the private sector. The key idea is that NEDs should offer an independent perspective on an organisation’s strategy and practices. However, in reality they are the chums of the executive directors and dare not bite the hand that feeds them. Scandals such as the banking crash, Carillion and BHS show that NEDs were the nodding donkeys who hardly ever objected to corporate excesses.
    “Ministers have eagerly embraced the idea of NEDs and enrol trusted soldiers to advance their ideological projects. The official position is that advertisements for NEDs appear on the government website and anyone can apply. Selection panels shortlist the applicants who are then invited for interviews before being appointed.
    “A nudge and a wink can also persuade individuals close to ministers to apply. However, the secretary of state can bypass all formalities and make direct appointments and there is no limit to the number of cronies that they can appoint as NEDs or advisers.”

  • (2 Jul 2021) Maternity scandal trust could now face criminal prosecution Independent July 2:
    “The NHS care watchdog is considering a criminal prosecution against Nottingham University Hospitals Trust over its failure to provide safe care to mothers and babies, it can be revealed.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned the Nottingham trust that it may bring a criminal case against it following the death of baby Wynter Andrews in September 2019.
    “It is also examining evidence of whether the trust may have committed a criminal offence in not being open and transparent with families after deaths and incidents of avoidable harm.
    “Wynter Andrews died after being starved of oxygen due to gross failings in care by maternity staff in 2019 which saw her delivered by caesarean section after long delays. A coroner ruled last year she would have survived if action had been taken sooner and criticised the “unsafe culture” at the trust.
    “Earlier this month East Kent Hospitals University Trust was fined a record £761,000 after a CQC prosecution following the avoidable death of baby Harry Richford in 2017.”

  • (2 Jul 2021) New wards and theatres at crumbling hospital Eastern Daily Press July 2 reveals that the number of props holding up the collapsing Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn is now up to 200 -- but it is still not on the Johnson government list for a new build.

  • (1 Jul 2021) Consultation on aligning the upper age for NHS prescription exemptions with State Pension age Consultation on massively undermining health care for millions of over-60s quietly sneaked out to run through the holiday season, under cover of the Euros and Javid's plans to axe all precautions and let Covid rip.

  • (1 Jul 2021) States Are Leading the Way on a Public Health Insurance Option Time magazine US, July 1:
    "“When Joe Biden ran for president, he campaigned on lowering health care costs and expanding coverage by adding a government-run health insurance option to compete with private insurers. That’s far from becoming a reality at the federal level, but three states have now passed their own versions of a public option—test cases that can reveal the possibilities and pitfalls of implementing such a system in the U.S.
    “Colorado and Nevada both signed public health insurance options into law in June, and Washington state recently updated its public option, first approved in 2019. All three plans are more limited in scope than what Biden and other Democrats have suggested a federal version might look like, but members of Congress are nevertheless watching closely to see how they fare.
    “… With an evenly divided Senate and a slim Democratic majority in the House, it’s highly unlikely lawmakers will pass a federal public option any time soon. Instead, Democratic states are tackling what Congress has failed to do ever since Republicans and centrist Democrats spiked a public option plan during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) negotiations in 2009.
    The new state level public option plans attempt to decrease health care costs by paying lower rates to hospitals, doctors and other medical providers than private insurance companies do.”

  • (1 Jul 2021) Ministers plan to end social distancing in England on 19 July Guardian July 1:
    "Ministers are planning to remove all mandatory mask and social distancing restrictions in England on 19 July, but national guidance may still encourage caution in high-risk areas such as public transport.
    "A number of key scientific advisers including England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, are said to be behind ministers’ plans to lift restrictions, though they have cautioned that the NHS may come under pressure in the winter.
    "However, hospital bosses fear the reopening date will lead to a new spike in admissions due to Covid. NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, warned it could lead to the cancellation of surgery and other care."

  • (1 Jul 2021) For Surprise Medical Bills, It’s the Beginning of the End New York Times July 1:
    “The Biden administration took its first steps Thursday toward finalizing the details of a ban on surprise medical bills that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law last winter. Some experts see the policy as the most important consumer protection in health care to come out of Washington in more than a decade.
    “Surprise medical bills happen when a doctor or other provider who isn’t in a patient’s insurance network is unexpectedly involved in a patient’s care. Patients may go to a hospital that accepts their insurance, for example, but get treatment from emergency room physicians or anesthesiologists who don’t — and who then send patients big bills directly.
    “Surprise billing had been widely seen, by academics and legislators, as one of the most exasperating common practices in medicine. Millions of Americans receive these type of bills each year, with as many as one in five emergency room visits resulting in such a charge. The new law effectively bans the practice.
    “… Outlawing surprise medical bills was the rare health policy that garnered widespread and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Legislators were spurred on by numerous stories of patients who faced thousands of dollars in debt for bills they never could have prevented. A Texas man, for example, received a $7,924 bill from an out-of-network oral surgeon who performed an emergency operation at an in-network hospital.”

  • (1 Jul 2021) Revealed: Dozens of baby deaths after errors at one of UK’s largest hospitals Excellent, but harrowing Independent special report July 1 from Shaun Lintern:
    “Dozens of babies have died or been left brain-damaged after errors during childbirth at one of Britain’s biggest hospitals – while managers failed to properly investigate concerns and altered reports to take blame away from the maternity unit.
    “An investigation by The Independent and Channel 4 News has uncovered repeated examples of poor care over the past decade at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, with parents forced to fight to find out the truth about what happened to their child.
    “Families say that if lessons had been learnt, further tragedies at the hospital could have been prevented. Naomi Lewin, whose baby Freddie died after a harrowing labour, told The Independent: “They don’t listen to families. It’s ignorance. If they don’t learn from it, it’s going to be a repeat cycle over and over and over again.”
    “During a panicked delivery, Freddie’s throat was cut during an attempt to free him and his leg was so bruised it had become blackened. He died soon after birth with no post-mortem examination despite the traumatic injuries.”

  • (30 Jun 2021) Health Department failed to declare minister’s 27 meetings held at outset of pandemic The excellent Byline Times June 30, reporting more Tory sleaze:
    "“The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed to declare 27 meetings held by Health Minister Lord James Bethell at the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic, Byline Times can reveal. The companies involved in these meetings went on to acquire public sector contracts worth £1.14 billion.
    “Yesterday, the DHSC updated its records for the ministerial meetings held with external individuals and organisations during the period from April to June 2020. The DHSC did not declare which meetings had been added to the register – merely noting that a number of meetings had been “left off the original publication due to an admin error”.
    “However, Byline Times has uncovered that 27 meetings held by Lord Bethell between 1 April and 6 April 2020 were omitted from the original publication and only added yesterday. The original publication was released on 29 October last year – meaning that these previously undeclared meetings were published eight months late and 14 months after they took place.
    “The release of these 27 previously undeclared meetings may have been spurred by the work of the Good Law Project, which earlier this week revealed that Lord Bethell held a meeting with Abingdon Healthcare on 1 April without disclosing it in his transparency data. Lord Bethell went on to hold several meetings with Abingdon during this period, which subsequently secured two contracts from the DHSC totalling £85 million for testing services. Both deals were awarded without competition.”

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

  • (30 Jun 2021) ‘Jaw-dropping’ fall in life expectancy in poor areas of England, report finds Guardian June 30 on more bad news of widening health and social inequalities in Johnson's deeply divided Britain:
    "“Boris Johnson’s post-Covid “levelling up” agenda will fail unless it addresses declining life expectancy and deteriorating social conditions in England’s poorest areas, a leading authority on public health has warned, as he published figures showing the impact of the pandemic on Greater Manchester.
    “Sir Michael Marmot revealed the coronavirus death rate in Greater Manchester was 25% higher than the England average during the year to March, leading to “jaw-dropping” falls in life expectancy and widening social and health inequalities across the region over the past year.
    “The deteriorating health equalities picture in the region and across similarly deprived areas of the country was a result of longstanding, avoidable socioeconomic inequities and ethnic disadvantage, exacerbated by a decade of spending cuts and amplified by Covid and the effect of prolonged lockdowns, he said.”

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

  • (29 Jun 2021) Hospitals at breaking point in summer Independent’s Shaun Lintern writes in his Health Check newsletter, June 29:
    “At the weekend The Independent reported on the record levels of demand in accident and emergency departments across England. Since then I have been inundated with stories from people experiencing long waits to be seen and clinicians fearful of the consequences.

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

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

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

  • (29 Jun 2021) 'Taking taxpayers for fools': Anger over £39m cuts and savings Eastern Daily Press June 29 flags up plans by Norfolk Tories to cut social care by £17.7m and children's services by £8m:
    "Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, said: "We’re facing a menu of unpalatable options, unless the government grasps the nettle and sorts out council funding – especially for adult social care.
    “We can only stretch the elastic so far. Without fair, sustained funding, we’re going to have to make painful choices over savings, higher council tax, or both.”
    "But Labour opponents highlighted how the council was prepared to borrow millions - and pay interest on that - to underwrite part of the cost of the controversial £198m Norwich Western Link."

  • (29 Jun 2021) Third health minister reportedly used private email for government work London Economic report June 29:
    “A third health minister, Helen Whately, has allegedly used a private email account to carry out government affairs, The Guardian has revealed.
    “According to the newspaper, Whately, the social care minister, was found to have copied in a private email address to a diary invitation but the department for health said her account was only used for diary invitations and that this respects government guidance.
    “The news come after the UK’s information watchdog announced it may launch an investigation into Matt Hancock and James Bethell’s use of non-official email addresses.
    “Bethell, who oversaw Covid contracts, allegedly used his private email address in at least four official exchanges with a businessman trying to secure contracts during the pandemic.”

  • (29 Jun 2021) Covid: Masks upgrade cuts infection risk, research finds BBC News June 29:
    “The quality of face masks healthcare workers wear makes a huge difference to their risk of coronavirus infection, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research has found.
    “Wearing a high grade mask known as an FFP3 can provide up to 100% protection.
    “By contrast, there is a far greater chance of staff wearing standard issue surgical masks catching the virus.
    “Professional bodies have long campaigned for staff to be given better personal protective equipment.
    “The data was gathered during a programme of regular testing for Covid at the trust.”

  • (29 Jun 2021) Matt Hancock: the walking app who couldn’t cope with the virus Excellent Pulse June 29 summary of an undistinguished spell as Secretary of State:

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

  • (28 Jun 2021) Health Minister Lord Bethell failed to declare meeting with firm that subsequently won £85m Covid contract Good Law Project June 28 confirms that even after the departure of Matt Hancock the revelations of dodgy dealings around the handing out of PPE contracts on his watch just keep on coming:
    "According to explosive emails published by The Sunday Times, Health Minister Lord Bethell held a ‘private meeting’ with controversial Covid testing firm Abingdon Health on 1 April 2020 without disclosing this meeting in its transparency data.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is required to publish quarterly schedules of ministerial meetings with outside companies, but the 1 April meeting with Abingdon is missing from the departmental records covering the period of April to June 2020. The meeting was only uncovered in emails published by the Sunday Times.
    "Lord Bethell, a hereditary Peer and current Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation held two further meetings with Abingdon Health on 29 April 2020 and 13 May 2020 – these were declared by the DHSC.
    "Abingdon Health went on to secure two contracts from the DHSC totalling £85million – both deals were awarded without any competition."

  • (28 Jun 2021) RCEM explains: hospital beds Royal Colleage of Emergency Medicine June 28 Parliamentary Briefing sums up the scale of the shortage of front line beds after a decade of cutbacks and the additional cuts due to Covid in 2020:
    “While bed numbers have begun to slowly increase again, hospitals are short of 6,000 beds compared to pre-pandemic levels.
    “Importantly, bed numbers prior to the pandemic should not be seen as the standard that we need to return to, as bed occupancy levels were higher than what is deemed safe and putting strain on hospitals, which in turn can decrease the quality of care that patients receive.
    “… Insufficient bed availability can lead to increased waiting times for patients, crowding and consequently corridor care in EDs, and it can increase the rate of hospital-acquired infections, which has become even more dangerous due to the pandemic.
    “… with a similar number of admissions this winter as the winter of 2017/18, the NHS will need just over 7,500 additional beds. If demand broadly mirrors that of 2019/20 (which saw Covid-19 significantly diminish admissions), just under 5,000 more beds will be needed. If demand rises to the same levels as 2018/19 however, almost 16,000 more beds will be required to keep the bed to admission ratio broadly in line with recent years.”

  • (28 Jun 2021) NHS Test and Trace: Serco wins new year-long contract City am report June 28:
    "Outsourcing giant Serco today announced it has been awarded a new contract with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to continue providing Covid test and trace services.
    "It comes just days after a National Audit Office (NAO) review into the largely privatised service found that 600m tests were unaccounted for and the £22bn scheme was still missing targets and ‘wracked with problems’.
    "Serco’s new contract with the government could be worth up to £322m, though the outsourcing company specified that “the actual amount could differ materially from this” as the service matches demand for testing in the coming months.
    "The contract will initially last for 12 months, with the possibility to extend for a further six months."

  • (28 Jun 2021) Just three months to end mental health bed scandal Eastern Daily Press June 28 on a long-running saga of failures from the mental health trust:
    “The scandal of mental health patients being sent many miles from home is coming to a head - with just three months left for health chiefs to end the practice.
    “Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has promised for almost a decade to stop sending patients out of area.
    “But a trust spokesman said it had "more to do" ahead of the national deadline to end the placement days by September.
    “… Since March 2017, there have been 41,473 out of area bed days, and the closest the trust has been to no out of area days was July 2020 with 110.”

  • (27 Jun 2021) The Babylon Health Bad Bot Archive Youtube presentation from Dr Murphy (aka David Watkins) asks
    "Is @babylonhealth's AI technology, the biggest #HealthTech scam since Theranos?"

  • (27 Jun 2021) Hancock faces scrutiny for using private email for official business Guardian June 27 report
    “Matt Hancock’s use of private emails that bypassed disclosure rules when doing government business came under scrutiny this weekend, as exchanges emerged showing the former health secretary had personally referred an old neighbour wanting an NHS contract on to an official.
    “Hancock has repeatedly denied that he had any involvement with £50m worth of contracts for NHS test-and-trace supplies secured by Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn, near Hancock’s old constituency home in Thurlow, Suffolk.
    “The Guardian revealed last year that the former publican had won the work after sending Hancock a personal WhatsApp message last March, despite having no experience producing medical supplies. Bourne’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry.”

  • (27 Jun 2021) Matt Hancock could get £16k golden handshake June 27 report from The London Economic:
    “Matt Hancock … could still be entitled to a £16,000 golden goodbye – despite resigning in disgrace.
    “Ministers under 65 who leave their office – whether sacked or resigning – are entitled to a quarter of their annual salary under the 1991 Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act. The salary for a Secretary of State is £67,505 according to latest figures, which would in theory lead to a payout of £16,876 for 42-year-old Mr Hancock.
    “It is not yet known whether Mr Hancock intends to take and keep the payment.
    “… But shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said Boris Johnson must step in and deprive Mr Hancock of the payment.
    “She told Sky News: “I think most of your viewers would be appalled to think that there’s going to be a severance payment to Matt Hancock in this circumstance.
    “Let’s not forget, he as the health secretary was the guy who recommended that our NHS workers, after the year they’ve just had, in the pandemic, on the front line, who have worked flat out, who are now on their knees – he recommended that they have a pay cut.”

  • (26 Jun 2021) NHS staff in Manchester reveal ‘major incident’ over hospital pressures Independent report June 26 on a mid-summer ‘winter crisis’:
    “Doctors and nurses working at Manchester’s Royal Infirmary say they were told the hospital had declared a major incident on Thursday amid mounting pressures in its emergency department, long waits for patients and fears of a shortage of staff and beds.
    “Multiple sources at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, from different departments, said staff were told the declaration was made, but then rapidly reduced to an internal incident to “avoid bad press”.
    “The trust denied declaring any incident but has taken what is known as ‘business continuity measures” which is part of NHS England’s incident response and is designed to ensure hospitals can maintain patient services in the face of increased demand.
    “In A&E, staff said patients were facing long waits for admission to the wards, while only 65 per cent of patients in the emergency department were being seen within four hours.”

  • (26 Jun 2021) Matt Hancock keeps job as Boris Johnson accepts apology and considers matter ‘closed’ Independent June 26:
    “Pressure is mounting for an investigation into Matt Hancock’s lockdown-breaching relationship with an aide, as Boris Johnson attempted to save his health secretary by declaring the matter “closed”.
    “The prime minister was branded “spineless” after brushing aside demands to sack Mr Hancock, who was caught on camera in a romantic clinch in his departmental office with a longtime friend whom he had put on the government payroll.
    “Mr Hancock, 42, acknowledged that his embrace with married 43-year-old Gina Coladangelo had broken social distancing rules and said he was “very sorry”. But he made clear that he intended to fight to keep his job, and Mr Johnson later said he accepted his apology.
    “… A snap poll by Savanta ComRes found that a clear majority of 58 per cent – including 46 per cent of Tory supporters – thought Mr Hancock should resign, against just 25 per cent who said he should not.”

  • (25 Jun 2021) Beyond the numbers: understanding the diversity of covid-19 epidemiology and response in South Asia BMJ June 25 article on Covid in South Asian countries concludes:
    "Perhaps the single largest risk for a continued covid-19 crisis in South Asia is the abysmal vaccination strategy in the region.
    "India implemented an intense vaccine diplomacy initiative with donations to all strategic neighbours (except Pakistan), but given the massive domestic burden of infections, reneged on the promised supplies to the global Covax facility.
    "The supply and pace of vaccinations has not kept up with the spread of covid-19 in any low or middle income country.
    "A large increase in global finances will be needed to support and enhance Covax, which given limited supplies also poses enormous ethical challenges for targeting in recipient countries.
    "With current half-hearted mitigation measures and covid-19 fatigue, this pandemic could extend its course, exacerbate disparities, and impact development for years to come.
    "We need global solidarity and concerted evidence informed efforts to contain this existential threat, and countries of South Asia need to find common ground and solutions."

  • (25 Jun 2021) Test And Trace Has Lost Track Of Nearly 600 Million Covid Tests Huffington Post June 25:
    “Boris Johnson’s £37bn Test and Trace service is facing fresh criticism after a damning new report found that it had lost track of nearly 600 million Covid tests.
    “The National Audit Office spending watchdog concluded that the system was still failing to “deliver value for taxpayers”, with a lack of any targets for self-isolation by the public and a continued reliance on private consultants.
    “Test and Trace, which was run by Tory peer Dido Harding, has already come under fire for its use of private firms Serco and Deloitte and its repeated failures in 2020 to track down contacts of people who had Covid.
    “The latest report sets out a raft of problems, including paying for tracing staff it does not use, the use of emergency procurement powers that dole out contracts without competition and a lack of data sharing with local public health chiefs that hinders efforts to tackle outbreaks.”

  • (25 Jun 2021) A+Es seeing record numbers of children Independent June 25:
    “A&E departments are being flooded with children with often mild fevers, creating a “winter in June” for the NHS, experts are warning.
    “Three royal colleges have joined forces to issue new guidance for parents worried about fevers, after seeing a large rise in the numbers seeking emergency help for conditions that are not Covid.
    “As lockdown eases, more children are mixing and coming into contact with viruses that are usually seen in the winter months. These include a range of respiratory infections, bronchiolitis, paraflu and rhinovirus, all of which produce symptoms of cough, runny nose and fever.”

  • (24 Jun 2021) How the NHS Waiting List Crisis Can Accelerate the Reimagining of Care May 24 masterpiece of abstract twaddle from US management consultancy Bain:
    It offers such gems as the summary:
    “A micro-battle mindset and Win-Scale-Amplifysm approach can enable healthcare providers to recover the backlog and transform productivity through innovation.”
    And later on, it all boils down neatly to a matter of thinking rather than finance, capacity or staffing:
    “NHS systems have a key role in rapidly identifying winning solutions that can accelerate recovery. The boldest and most willing will lead this mission.
    “A first wave of systems with the potential to excel must have the operational freedom and financial incentives to shrink the problem.
    “Following the micro-battle approach, each system will first translate the mission to eliminate the waiting list into the constraining themes (e.g., shrink the orthopaedic waiting list), then break each theme into specific issues and actions within each provider organisation and specialty (e.g., increase orthopaedic theatre throughput).
    "Within this first wave, agility, speed, and a test-and-learn mindset are crucial.”

  • (24 Jun 2021) Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated AP News in the US June 24 with a warning for anti vaxxers everywhere:
    “Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.
    “An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 0.1%.
    “And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.
    “The AP analyzed figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC itself has not estimated what percentage of hospitalizations and deaths are in fully vaccinated people, citing limitations in the data.”

  • (23 Jun 2021) Hospital declares ‘black alert’ after A&E is flooded with hundreds of patients Metro report June 23:
    “Barnsley Hospital is struggling to keep up with the demand for beds, just days after top doctors from across the NHS warned of mounting pressure from record admissions.
    “Internal emails show the trust was forced to declare OPEL 4 status – (operational pressures escalation level) – on Tuesday amid a struggle to find beds. The system is used by the NHS to assess the stress, demand and pressure a hospital is under.
    “OPEL 4, also known as the ‘black alert’, is the highest warning used when a hospital is ‘struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care’ and patient safety is at risk.
    “… It is understood that the spike in patient numbers is due to A&E sickness demand rather than coronavirus, suggesting the delay in people missing out on medical treatment over lockdown is finally catching up on the NHS.”

  • (23 Jun 2021) NHS alarm over rise in number of UK Covid patients on ventilators Guardian June 23:
    “NHS bosses have sounded the alarm over the number of people on ventilators in hospital in the UK, which has risen over the past week.
    “The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said the number of Covid patients in hospital on ventilation beds had increased by 41% in the last week to 227, which she said was a strong indication Covid was having an impact on health services.

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

  • (23 Jun 2021) NHS data strategy: Hancock defends data sharing plan BBC News June 23 wakes up to the big fight going on over plans to potentially sell NHS data to commercial companies:
    “NHS patients in England will get greater control over their health and social care data under plans set out by the government, Matt Hancock says.
    “It means people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the NHS through various apps.
    “… In defending the plan, the health secretary said more effective use of data would deliver better patient care.
    “… But Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, which campaigns to stop abuse of digital technology, said the government took a "collect it all first and ask questions later" approach when it came to GP data and said the strategy included potential commercial uses of information.
    “She told the Today programme that GP data was "possibly the most valuable" set of health information in the world and called for the DHSC to send a consent form to individuals offering them the chance to opt out.”

  • (21 Jun 2021) Dido Harding’s pledge to cut overseas NHS staff is a kick in the teeth Guardian June 21 comment by Gaby Hinsliff:
    “Jenny McGee was originally from New Zealand, and Luis Pitarma from Portugal.
    “Both risked their lives to work on Britain’s Covid frontline, and the prime minister later marvelled at the dedication with which they watched over him “every second of the night”.
    “But words are cheap; it’s action that counts. Which brings us to the Tory peer Dido Harding, fresh from presiding over the chaos of track and trace, and her audacious application to follow that by taking over the running of the NHS in England.
    “Crucially, her pitch for the job reportedly includes a pledge to stop relying on overseas-born doctors and nurses and train British-born replacements instead.
    “Short of stringing up a banner reading “Go Home, Foreigners!” outside every hospital, it’s hard to think of a bigger kick in the teeth for the 14% of NHS staff who weren’t born in Britain and who will have arrived for work this morning, presumably wondering which of the patients whose lives they may save today would secretly prefer they weren’t here.”

  • (21 Jun 2021) ‘A sustained threat to patient safety’: Hospitals across the country swamped by record numbers in A&E Independent June 2:
    “Hospital emergency departments across the UK are at breaking point with record numbers of patients swamping A&Es, raising fears that lives will be lost, The Independent can reveal.
    “Some hospitals have been forced to declare major incidents in the last few days because of the swelling numbers of patients.
    “Hospitals across the country have set new records for patient numbers in recent weeks, surpassing the worst days of the winter of 2019 – the most recent winter crisis in the NHS before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.
    “A&E doctors from across the country have shared details with The Independent, revealing that in some units patients are waiting as long as nine hours to be seen, with overall numbers up by 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.”

  • (20 Jun 2021) Dido Harding’s bid to lead the NHS is symptomatic of a grim populism i-news June 20 slamming disgraceful comments from Dido Harding:
    “If you want an example of so much that is wrong with our country, consider this fact: Dido Harding has applied to become chief executive of England’s National Health Service.
    “She thinks she should run our most cherished, complex and arguably important institution, the biggest employer in Europe, at this time of immense crisis.
    “… And despite her dismal track record in both private and public sectors, she might just get the job.
    Clearly Baroness Harding of Winscombe is not the best person in the world to lead the salvaging of a post-pandemic health service and forge a new path for its future. Yet it is worth considering her candidature.
    “For she exemplifies the breathtaking arrogance of the governing elite, the insouciance of those who think they are born to rule over the rest of us, the inequality that bedevils our nation, the cronyism and tribalism that stymies progress, the casual contempt for the little people who fund their activities and the disturbing ability of a few well-connected folk to thrive despite persistent failure.”

  • (20 Jun 2021) Dido Harding: Make NHS less reliant on foreigners (£) Times report June 20 that manages to complete the whole article without a single quote from the woman herself:
    “Baroness Harding of Winscombe has vowed to end England’s reliance on foreign doctors and nurses if she becomes the next head of the NHS.
    “Harding, the former head of Test and Trace, formally applied last week to succeed Sir Simon Stevens to lead the health service.
    “… Her candidacy is controversial. The Conservative peer has chaired NHS Improvement since 2017 and is close to ministers, but her testing programme was condemned as ineffective and a waste of billions of pounds.
    “Harding, 53, would challenge the “prevailing orthodoxy” in government that it is better to import medical professionals from overseas and benefit from the investment of other countries because of the huge cost of training a doctor.
    “According to the House of Commons Library, 170,000 out of 1.3 million NHS staff say their nationality is not British, amounting to almost 14 per cent of the workforce.”

  • (18 Jun 2021) NHS backlog twice as big as we had thought, admits Matt Hancock Torygraph report June 18 helps Hancock’s efforts to blame Covid for the growth of waiting lists that mostly took place before the pandemic hit:
    “The NHS is facing the "biggest pressure in its history" from a backlog potentially twice as big as previously feared, Matt Hancock has warned.
    “On Thursday, the Health Secretary told hospitals to brace for a flood of up to 12.2 million people in need of elective procedures such as hip, knee and eye operations. “This includes 5.1 million patients currently on waiting lists.
    “Health bosses believe there could be a further 7.1 million who stayed away during the Covid pandemic but who will come forward demanding treatment, Mr Hancock revealed.
    “He said that even with the NHS "running at 100 per cent", coping with this total would be the greatest challenge the service had yet encountered.”
    (Of course the NHS is nowhere near running at 100 per cent and lacks the capital and staff to do so.)

  • (18 Jun 2021) Tracing chief Dido Harding ‘will change the NHS’ (£) Times report on Dido Harding’s latest job application:
    “Baroness Harding of Winscombe has applied to become head of NHS England, declaring there can be no return to pre-Covid business as usual.
    “The former Test and Trace chief has formally entered the running to take over from Sir Simon Stevens this summer after being bolstered by a positive reaction to her candidacy from senior NHS leaders.
    “The Conservative peer, 53, who was heavily criticised over the inability of Test and Trace to keep infections under control last year, would be a divisive choice to run the biggest public service.
    “Some in the NHS argue that her closeness to the government would make it difficult for her to convince staff that she is on their side.”
    [For “difficult”, read “impossible”].

  • (18 Jun 2021) Is Matt Hancock ‘hopeless’? Here’s 14 times he made the case for it i-news report June 18:
    “New texts published by Dominic Cummings allege that Boris Johnson called Matt Hancock,“totally f***ing hopeless” in terms of his testing and procurement policies.
    “The messages were the latest grenade lobbed in the war between the former adviser and the Health Secretary, after the two presented contradictory narratives about the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in evidence sessions to Parliament, and “hopeless” has become the refrain of lobby journalists and opposition politicians used in their scrutiny of the government.
    “It is also a charge Hancock swiftly denied but one that causes us to reminisce about the minister’s track record.”

  • (18 Jun 2021) Trust fined £733,000 in groundbreaking CQC prosecution HSJ June 18 report on a landmark case that also underlines the inadequacy of inspection and retrospective court actions to improve and uphold standards of care in the NHS:
    “An acute trust has been fined £733,000 for failing to meet fundamental standards of care, in a groundbreaking case brought by the Care Quality Commission.
    “East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing harm by failing to provide safe care and treatment to baby Harry Richford – who died a week after birth – and his mother Sarah.
    “It is the first time the CQC has prosecuted a trust for the quality of care it provided — three previous prosecutions, of mental health trusts, focused on unsafe premises. Their fines were significantly lower than the £733,000 fine, £28,000 costs and £170 surcharge East Kent will have to pay.
    “But the Richford family, responding to the sentence, said: “We are unsure if the system currently in place [of fines] is suitable for publicly funded organisations such as NHS trusts. Taking money away from a financially challenged resource does seem counterintuitive and we would encourage policy makers to consider alternative options.”

  • (18 Jun 2021) Why it suits Boris Johnson to have a cabinet of all the hopeless Amusing June 18 Guardian comment from Marina Hyde:
    "So, then, to the unbearable hopelessness of Matt Hancock, who somehow still remains health secretary in the most eyecatching miscasting since the Bond movie in which Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist.
    If you wished to distil the minister’s entire pandemic performance into one six-second clip, you could do a lot worse than this week’s footage of a reporter shouting “Are you hopeless?” through Hancock’s open car window.
    As the Range Rover pootles off, from the back seat comes the reedy reply: “I don’t think so … ”
    "(Incidentally, I understand that convention states all cabinet ministers have to be driven around in Range Rovers, but surely Matt should be downgraded to an Evoque. Or even one of those toy cabriolet versions you occasionally see in the park driven by some remorseless three-year-old future landlord.)"

  • (17 Jun 2021) Nigeria’s Healthcare cost gallop past 15%, highest on record Nairametrics.com article June 17 noting that health cost inflation in Nigeria has risen to a record 15%, but making no mention of the idea of curbing healthcare inflation by to publicly financing the health system:
    “According to the World Bank, Nigeria spends about 3.89% of its GDP on Health Care Expenditure, a significantly high amount when compared to the GDP of Human Health Sector.
    “Nigerians pay for healthcare via private pockets, community funded programs, or via private sector or government-supported medical insurance via the NHIS or the 54 Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).
    “Unfortunately, the number of people who pay for health care via medical insurance is not enough to drive down healthcare cost, worsening an already bad situation. To pay for their health care, most Nigerians often rely on self-medication in pharmacies and roadside chemists. Yet, it is these shops that have seen prices rise the most since the pandemic.
    “Rich Nigerians on the other hand spend more abroad fuelling a growing medical tourism industry that gets more money out of Nigeria.”

  • (17 Jun 2021) Dido Harding applies to become next CEO of NHS England Independent report on one of the worst bits of news for a while as Hancock’s jockey chum bids to do the same to the NHS as she did to Talk Talk and the disastrous privatised Test and Trace:
    “Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding has formally applied to become the next chief executive of NHS England.
    “The former head of the government’s much criticised test and trace service has officially put in a bid to run the £130 billion and stepped aside from her role as chair of NHS Improvement while her bid is considered.
    “Baroness Harding is the wife of Conservative MP John Penrose and when she was appointed to lead NHS Improvement - now part of NHS England - she refused to give up the Tory whip in the House of Lords.
    “She had previously confirmed she was considering making a bid for the top job in a move which drew criticism because of her clear political stance.”

  • (17 Jun 2021) Stevens' silent grin says it all In a pool interview Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, reacts to the question ‘Do you believe the Health Secretary is hopeless’

  • (16 Jun 2021) Hospital at centre of Covid surge appeals for help from nearby trusts as critical care beds fill up A worrying Independent June 16 report:
    “A hospital at the centre of the coronavirus surge in the northwest of England has started sending critically ill patients to neighbouring hospitals so it can cope with a growing demand for beds.
    “Multiple sources told The Independent the hospital has come under growing pressure as the numbers of Covid-19 admissions have risen in recent weeks, forcing it to activate “mutual aid” plans with other hospitals in the region.
    “Bosses at the Royal Bolton Hospital confirmed it had transferred a small number of critically ill patients to hospitals nearby to help it cope.
    “It comes as the latest data for hospitalisations in England show the number of Covid-19 patients has increased by 30 per cent in the two weeks since 2 June, rising from 801 to 1,057 on Wednesday.”

  • (16 Jun 2021) Eldertree Lodge: Troubled Staffordshire mental health unit forced to close BBC Midlands report June 16 on yet another failed private mental health unit:
    “A troubled mental health unit in special measures and subject to a police investigation said it has been forced to close.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) put Eldertree Lodge in Staffordshire in special measures after ruling it unsafe during an inspection.
    “The unit said it received a variation of registration notice, meaning changes to the care it can legally provide.
    “It means 41 patients will have to find new accommodation by 17 July.
    “In April, the high dependency clinic had its rating suspended over concerns about the quality of care around the use of restraint.”

  • (16 Jun 2021) NHS mental health trust fined £1.5m over care failures that led to 11 deaths Guardian June 16 on a verdict on a chronically poor mental health trust that has been the subject of sustained campaigning:
    "An NHS mental health trust has been fined £1.5m over serious lapses in care that led to the death of 11 patients who were found hanging.
    "Mr Justice Cavanagh, the judge who imposed the fine, said a “litany” of failings in safety standards had been identified at Essex Partnership University NHS foundation trust (EPUT) over many years, which meant that it had failed to “prevent suicides”.
    "The fine relates to 11 deaths in which a “point of ligature was used within the ward environment of the trust’s premises” between 1 October 2004 and 31 March 2015.
    "EPUT pleaded guilty last November to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The judge imposed the £1.5m fine in a sentencing hearing on Wednesday at Chelmsford crown court."

  • (12 Jun 2021) ‘We’ll re-engineer the whole NHS to make sure people don’t wait in pain’ Times June 12 with an alarming story on how much interest Murdoch's favoured Michael Gove has been taking in “innovations” to tackle problems facing the NHS:
    “A plan is beginning to take shape. Bringing waiting times down to pre-Covid levels will mean the NHS doing more routine procedures and operating at a greater capacity than before.
    “A group of hospitals and other NHS institutions have been identified to act as “accelerators” looking at ways of doing more operations than they did before and using data in a new way.
    “The idea is to get a “real-time” picture of staffing levels, operating theatre capacity and patient need so that all spare capacity can be used, as well as identifying where more is needed.
    “We are looking at the whole process end to end from a patient first presenting with symptoms to treatment,” Gove says. “We are looking at how we can re-engineer the system to use technology and in particular data analytics to reform the process and treatments.”

  • (11 Jun 2021) Fixing NHS waiting times could cost £40bn, leaked No 10 estimates show Guardian report June 11:
    “Calculations for No 10 drawn up by the Cabinet Office make clear that the prime minister may have to commit anywhere between £2bn and £10bn a year for up to four years, on top of core NHS funding, to tackle what is fast becoming a major political headache for the government.
    “The figures, disclosed by Whitehall sources, underline the huge scale of the challenge in getting NHS waiting times back to manageable levels before the next election.
    “The latest NHS England performance figures, out on Thursday, showed that the total number of people waiting for hospital treatment, especially surgery, had topped 5 million for the first time. It stood at 5,122,017 in April, the highest since records began in 2007.
    “However, despite negative publicity, Downing Street thinks it does not need to start throwing money at the problem soon because the public are not yet “distressed” about long delays, a source with knowledge of No 10’s thinking said.”

  • (10 Jun 2021) NHS trust contacts hundreds of families in effort at honesty over Covid hospital infections Independent report June 10 on what appears to be sadly a unique effort at transparency:
    "An NHS trust has become the first in the country to individually contact every family of patients who caught coronavirus while they were in hospital in a large-scale bid to be transparent over the scale of infections.
    "Bosses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn NHS Trust have set up a team to work through hundreds of cases where patients caught coronavirus in hospital.
    "At least 99 patients are known to have died after becoming infected with more cases still to review.
    "In a unique approach to transparency the trust is sending a letter by recorded delivery to every affected patient or family where it is thought the patient picked up the virus within the hospital."

  • (10 Jun 2021) NHS hospitals told to protect staff working in PPE during warm weather amid heat stress warning Independent June 10 with a fresh warning about PPE:
    “NHS hospitals have been urged to protect frontline staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a warning about the risks of heat stress as the UK basks in a period of prolonged warm weather.
    “A letter from Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive to hospital trusts, GPs and pharmacies said doctors and nurses should be given regular breaks and recommended that a buddy system be established with people urged to watch for the signs of heat stress, which can lead to more serious heat stroke.
    “Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in warm/hot environments increases the risk of heat stress,” the PHE memo said.”

  • (10 Jun 2021) Labour warns on next NHS England chief as Dido Harding expected to apply Guardian June 6 report:
    “The next chief executive of NHS England must be someone with “a proven track record”, Labour has said, after it emerged that the former test and trace chief Dido Harding was expected to stand.
    “It is understood that Harding, a Conservative peer, is considering formally applying to replace Sir Simon Stevens, who is leaving the job in July after seven years.
    “While Stevens’ whole career has been in healthcare and health management, Harding spent the bulk of her working life in areas such as supermarkets and telecoms, notably as head of the Talk Talk group.
    “Since 2017, she has chaired the board of NHS Improvement, an oversight arm of NHS England. Her first day-to-day management job in health came a year ago when she was appointed to lead the Covid test and trace service in England, with a budget that rose to £37bn.”

  • (10 Jun 2021) Private ambulance firm suspended after Norfolk woman's death Eastern Daily Press with a shocking June 10 report:
    “A private ambulance firm has been suspended after a grandmother "died while sitting between" staff as they transported her back to Norwich.
    “The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has suspended Premier Rescue Ambulance Services (PRAS), based in Taunton, following an inspection in April.
    “The company was driving Peggy Copeman, from New Buckenham, on December 16 from Taunton back to Norwich when she was taken ill and died in the ambulance in an M11 layby in December 2019.
    “Norfolk's senior coroner Jacqueline Lake sent a report to prevent future deaths to PRAS, which said staff transporting Mrs Copeman did not recognise she was in distress and that the 81-year-old had "effectively died whilst sat between them".
    “Amanda Williams, CQC’s head of hospital inspection for the south of England, said: “Premier Rescue Ambulance Services Limited has the right to appeal and further information will be published by CQC when we are able to do so."

  • (10 Jun 2021) Five million over-50s 'sleepwalking' into a retirement crisis Daily Telegraph June 9 with a story that helps to underline the scale of health inequalities and old age poverty worsened by a decade of Tory austerity:
    “Five million older workers face a retirement crisis as they will fall short of an “adequate” income once they leave work, an industry report has warned.
    “More than 90pc of private sector workers with “defined contribution” pensions will not be able to afford a comfortable retirement, and will be forced to live on less than their expected income, according to research by the Pensions Policy Institute, a think tank.
    “… The report, which was sponsored by the Centre for Ageing Better, a charity, warned a low state pension and increasing unemployment were key factors that would leave a quarter of those approaching retirement without enough to pay for an “adequate” standard of living.
    “… Meanwhile, the full state pension, currently £9,350, pays just 24pc of the national average income, which means it falls short of providing an adequate income.

  • (10 Jun 2021) Anger as Matt Hancock says he has 'no evidence' PPE shortages cost lives Mirror report June 10 on reaction to Matt Hancock lying through his teeth:
    "Matt Hancock stands accused of "insulting" NHS staff after he denied a scarcity of protective gear "led to anyone dying" on the Covid frontline.
    "The Health Secretary admitted to MPs on Thursday that PPE shortages came "pretty close" last year, but he claimed "at a national level", there was "never a point" when the UK "ran out".
    "But campaigners hit out at the claims, saying shortage which left some medics forced to rely on bin bags for protection meant "unnecessary deaths" at the height of the pandemic.
    "It came as NHS Providers revealed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that supplies were “dangerously low” at some points and a dearth of gowns and visors left frontline staff in fear.
    "Mr Hancock insisted in evidence to the Commons health and science select committee, however, that: "We've looked into this and there is no evidence that I have seen that a shortage of PPE provision led to anyone dying of Covid."

  • (9 Jun 2021) Political Pressure ‘Watered Down’ Public Health England Care Home Guidance Over COVID Testing Byline Times revelation June 9: “Public Health England was forced to alter its original scientific advice demanding elderly patients only be released into care homes after testing negative for the Coronavirus under political pressure from senior Government officials and the NHS, an official at the Department of Health and Social Care has claimed.
    “Speaking exclusively to Byline Times, under a condition of anonymity, the whistle-blower confirmed that, in March 2020, PHE’s internal advice from clinical staff was to ensure that any patients newly discharged into care homes had to be tested for COVID-19.
    “Public Health England’s original advice was that people shouldn’t be released from homes and hospitals without being tested to ensure they are not carrying the disease,” they said.
    “That initial advice was signed-off by two PHE officials – Dr Eamonn O’Moore, director for health and justice; and Dr Julia Verne, head of clinical epidemiology – and was the case up to the period “just before the lockdown”, the source revealed.”

  • (9 Jun 2021) Woman who had a three and a half hour wait in an ambulance later died BBC Midlands news on impact of ambulance delays at Birmingham's main hospital:
    “A woman who had a three and a half hour wait in an ambulance outside a hospital in Birmingham later died.
    “The patient, with chronic breathing difficulties, was suspected by paramedics to have sepsis during the call-out on 24 May.
    “She was pronounced dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
    “The hospital trust said it was doing all it could to reduce ambulance handover delays.
    “West Midlands Ambulance service said it was facing unprecedented delays outside hospitals which is impacting on patient care.
    “It said activity was up 15% last month, compared with the same period last year, during the busiest May on record and saw 4,135 hours of ambulance delays.”

  • (9 Jun 2021) David Oliver: The story of covid in care homes—neither mystery nor melodrama BMJ June 9 blog in which NHS Consultant David Oliver puts a different view from Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock, concluding:
    “We know that keeping lots of care home residents in scarce beds, waiting for tests we had insufficient access to, with a high first false negative rate and no clear understanding of how long people remained infectious, could have posed other risks to these residents and to other patients in need.
    “We know that the care home sector had insufficient access to personal protective equipment or testing for staff and was initially not involved in drawing up plans or policies, and false assumptions were made about its ability to contain outbreaks.
    “The support care homes received from local NHS services ranged from brilliant to patchy and unreliable. And many care home outbreaks were seeded not by hospital discharges but by staff who were infected without knowing it, or were unable to self-isolate, or worked on multiple sites.
    “Hancock and other ministers played down all of this publicly—and, if Cummings is to be believed, privately too.
    “Distorting the truth is not acceptable in public office. But none of this is news. What matters more are the conditions still facing care homes in terms of funding, staffing, and NHS support; what we learnt and how we changed between the first and second waves; and, most importantly, what mitigations we have in place for the future.
    “The real story of care homes and covid in the first wave was not so much the melodrama or mystery reported after Cummings’s incendiary evidence as a farce of brazen denial and a tragedy for the care homes and their residents.”

  • (8 Jun 2021) NHS to ‘retain all documents’ ahead of covid public inquiry HSJ report June 8 on an order that seems most unlikely to be obeyed:
    “Local NHS organisations have been told they must start preparing for the public inquiry into the covid-19 pandemic.
    “The message was delivered this evening as part of a longer regular newsletter from NHS England deputy chief executive Amanda Pritchard. It said: “Any organisation could be required to provide evidence for the statutory inquiry into covid-19, and individuals may be mandated to attend to give evidence under oath.”
    “Local NHS leaders are asked to consider “four key areas of action”. These include:
    “ensuring robust and comprehensive records management
    embedding systematic approaches to log key leavers, carry out exit processes and retain contact details
    considering wellbeing support for staff who may have to provide evidence
    appointing a named inquiry lead.”
    “Ms Pritchard’s note also says NHS England has issued a “stop notice” instructing staff “to retain all documents”. She suggests local NHS organisations may want to ”adapt” the stop notice for their own use.”

  • (8 Jun 2021) Minister says he is ‘not sure what more we can do’ for NHS staff as report warns of burnout ‘emergency’ Independent Minister George Eustice admits to being useless, having apparently not considering resigning and taking Matt Hancock with him:
    “NHS and social care staff burnout has reached an “emergency” level and poses a risk to the future of services, a committee MPs have warned.
    “In a highly critical report, the Health and Social Care Committee called for immediate action to support exhausted staff who have been pushed to breaking point during the pandemic.
    “The environment secretary told Sky News: “Yes, of course they’ve had a difficult year – if you’re dealing with a pandemic, as they’ve had to, it’s been a very difficult time, they’ve done extraordinarily well.”
    “Mr Eustice said the government had already recruited more staff and introduced a pay rise. Pushed on the issue, he responded: “Well, I’m not sure what more we can do.”

  • (8 Jun 2021) How serious is Delta Covid variant for UK and do vaccines stop it? Excellent Financial Times June 8 explainer on the latest Covid threat, with detailed figures:
    "“Greater Manchester and Lancashire will have access to military back-up and surge testing as part of a “strengthened package of support” to combat the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.
    “The two regions in northern England were also added to a list of areas, including Leicester and Hounslow in west London, where travel and indoor mixing is discouraged. Supervised in-school testing will also begin, health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons.
    “The announcement will add to fears that the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, could scupper Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of lifting all remaining restrictions on social contact on June 21.”

  • (8 Jun 2021) New NHS patient data store delayed by two months June 8 BBC news report correct in stating that the data dump has been postponed under growing pressure, rather than prevented:
    “The creation of a central NHS digital database from GP records in England will be delayed by two months, the government has announced.
    “The system was due to begin on 1 July, but the date has now been pushed back to 1 September.
    “The NHS had been calling for a delay to allow patients more time to learn about the system.
    “The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs had also expressed concern.
    “… Labour's shadow health minister Alex Norris welcomed the delay but argued that the "current plans to take data from GPs, assemble it in one place and sell it to unknown commercial interests for purposes unknown has no legitimacy."

  • (8 Jun 2021) Covid: 'No excuse' for failings on New Cross Hospital ward BBC Midlands news on June 8 on failures of hand hygiene in Wolverhampton:
    “A man says there is "no excuse" for failings on a hospital ward, after his brother contracted Covid-19 and died.
    “Seven patients and 34 staff members caught Covid in a Wolverhampton hospital's cardiac unit. Two patients died in hospital and David Kingston, known as Paul, later died in a hospice.
    “A subsequent investigation at New Cross found issues with hand hygiene and PPE.
    “The hospital trust denied any staff-to-patient transmission, but said it had since made improvements.”

  • (8 Jun 2021) Ambulance handover delays at hospitals jumped 44 per cent before Covid Independent report June 8:
    “The number of patients forced to wait with paramedics for at least an hour in ambulances and hospital corridors jumped 44 per cent in the year that preceded the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.
    “Data obtained by the Labour Party from nine out of the 10 ambulance trusts in England shows the deterioration in A&E capacity before the pandemic hit the UK.
    “… Between April 2019 and March 2020, 651,192 people waited for 30 minutes or more to be transferred from the care of an ambulance crew to an A&E department. That was up 18 per cent on the year before, when 552,303 people waited at least 30 minutes.
    “In total, 122,474 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over by paramedics – up 44 per cent on 2018-19, when 85,083 people waited that long.”

  • (7 Jun 2021) Approving Biogen's Alzheimer's Drug Is a Big Mistake Bloomberg article June 7 raising serious concerns over the evidence of effectiveness and safety of the new Alzheimer's drug:
    “"Follow the science" has been a consistent refrain during the pandemic, and it's usually a core mandate of the Food and Drug Administration in evaluating medicines. But when it came to one of the agency's most consequential decisions — the approval Monday of Biogen Inc.'s controversial Alzheimer's drug aducanumab — science took a back seat.
    “Alzheimer's is a devastating illness with no treatments that do anything but ease symptoms. Biogen's drug is the first said to slow decline. If there was good evidence that it did so, it'd be a breakthrough, but the data is inconclusive at best. And while the FDA is and should be flexible when patients have no options, this decision does more than bend standards — it shatters them.
    “For Biogen investors, the approval is a huge victory, setting the stage for a blockbuster drug worth billions in sales and added market value for the company; already, after an initial halt the stock surged 50% on Monday’s news. For everyone else, it’s a mistake; the FDA’s blessing threatens to harm the agency's reputation, America's health budget and the quality of drug research, including for Alzheimer’s.”

  • (7 Jun 2021) The contested future of Greater Manchester's NHS Manchester Mill June 7 on likely shape of Greater Manchester "integrated care", quoting HSJ's Lawrence Dunhill:
    “It was reported last week that most of GM’s acute care funding will be assigned to the central board of providers, effectively bypassing borough-level structures. Primary and community funding, which is a smaller chunk, will go to borough-level “locality boards.”

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

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

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

  • (7 Jun 2021) NHS bosses accused of keeping public in the dark over £450m Leicester Hospitals revamp Leicester Mercury report June 7:
    “Health bosses have been accused of keeping the public in the dark about £450 million plans to transform Leicester’s hospitals.
    “Radical overhauls of health services are being planned at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield and General Hospitals but campaigners and politicians say NHS officials have not been open and transparent about the changes after carrying out a two month public consultation held at the end of last year.
    “A decision making business case (DMBC) has been drawn up after more than 5,000 people offered their views on various aspects of the far-reaching transformation.
    “Tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon the boards of the city and county NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGS) are to meet potentially to approve the Building Better Hospital for the Future business case but there are concerns it has not, so far, been made public in advance.”

  • (7 Jun 2021) New website to help patients and NHS staff check hospital waiting times Independent report June 7:
    “A group of patient activists has set up a new website using official NHS data to allow patients to check the waiting times for treatments at their local hospital.
    “The new waiting times tool is thought to be the first automated and regularly updated website that shows hospital performance against key waiting time targets, by medical specialty such as cardiology or orthopaedics.
    “The service, developed by volunteers from the not-for-profit Patient Experience Library, not only shows patients how many people are waiting to be treated overall but also shows data on the median waiting time as well as how well the hospital is performing against targets over time.
    “Patients can also compare different hospitals and look at the performance of the NHS in England overall. Wait times for mental health services are treated separately and not included.
    “Miles Sibley, co-founder of the Patient Experience Library, said the website was an attempt to bring transparency to NHS England’s “impenetrable spreadsheets” which not only affected patients but also other NHS staff who told Sibley they spend hours downloading data and working out their organisations performance.”

  • (7 Jun 2021) Matt Hancock denies claiming to have ‘thrown a protective ring around care homes’ despite saying it live on TV Independent June 7 exposing yet again Matt Hancock lying through his teeth:
    "Matt Hancock has denied claiming to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes” from the start of the pandemic – despite saying it live on television.
    "The now-notorious statement – which ignored the discharge of patients from hospital without Covid tests – came “much later about what we were doing for the winter plan”, the health secretary insisted.
    "But TV footage shows Mr Hancock made the claim in May 2020, at a Downing Street press conference, and that he was arguing he had protected care homes throughout.
    “Right from the start, we’ve tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes,” the watching public was told. “We set out our first advice in February and, as the virus grew, we strengthened it throughout.”

  • (5 Jun 2021) Vaccines for children could start in August under plans being discussed by ministers Telegraph June 5 report:
    “Covid vaccines would be rolled out to children from as early as August under plans being drawn up in Whitehall, The Telegraph can disclose.
    “A Government source said that under current modelling “we would be ready” to begin vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds by the second half of August, or early September at the latest.
    “Ministers are awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which insiders expect will recommend the jab for younger teenagers, before they make a final decision.
    “However, writing in The Telegraph, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warns that “a huge proportion of the latest cases are in children”, as he urges secondary school pupils to take a coronavirus test on Sunday before returning to school on Monday.”

  • (4 Jun 2021) NHS hit by legal threat over GP data ‘grab’ Financial Times report June 4:
    “The UK government is being threatened with legal action if it does not pause plans to collate the full medical histories of 55m patients in England into a single database from July 1.
    “In a pre-action letter sent on Friday on behalf of five organisations and Conservative MP David Davis, the campaigners warned that “rushing this major change through with no transparency or debate violates patient trust, and that doing so without patient consent is unlawful”.
    “Last week, NHS Digital, which runs the health service’s IT systems, confirmed the plan to pool medical records from every patient in England who is registered with a GP clinic into a single database that will be available to academic and commercial third parties for research and planning purposes.
    “Patients have until June 23 to opt out by filling in a form and taking it to their GP for themselves, and their children, before their historical records become a permanent and irreversible part of the new data set.
    “Patients who opt out after the deadline can stop future data from being funnelled into the new system.
    “If NHS Digital does not extend the opt-out deadline of June 23, the coalition, which includes the National Pensioners Convention and the Doctors’ Association UK, plans to sue the Department of Health and Social Care as soon as next week, to freeze the data-sharing scheme immediately.”

  • (3 Jun 2021) Cummings’ care homes claim could lead to corporate manslaughter charges Guardian report June 3:
    “Criminal lawyers watched Dominic Cummings’ electric testimony at the health and science select committees last week with considerable interest. Not just because every select committee cries out for forensic cross-examination, but because if some of Cummings’ key claims are true then legal alarm bells should sound.
    “Cummings’ central claim was “We were told categorically in March that people would be tested before they went back to care homes. We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened … The government rhetoric was we put a shield around care homes … it was complete nonsense.”
    “Following Cummings’ testimony, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, was specifically asked in parliament whether he had indeed told the prime minister that patients being discharged from hospital would be Covid-tested before re-entering care homes.
    “His response was that the government had followed clinical advice, which was not a direct answer.”

  • (3 Jun 2021) Founder of virtual doctor app Babylon to become billionaire after $4.2bn US listing Telegraph story June 3 speaks volumes on the way the private sector is actually making money exploiting weaknesses in the NHS:
    “The founder of the virtual doctor app Babylon is set to join the ranks of Britain’s technology billionaires after the company announced a $4.2bn (£3bn) US listing.
    “Ali Parsa, who founded Chelsea-based Babylon in 2013, is set to own a 26pc stake in the company, worth $1.1bn, when it completes a reverse merger with Alkuri Global, a New York-listed blank cheque company.

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

  • (2 Jun 2021) Hancock’s Department calls in management consultants after Cummings testimony Byline Times unearths yet another cracking story, June 2:
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) signed off a contract worth £2.5 million in the days following Dominic Cummings’ damning testimony, in an attempt to fix internal problems, Byline Times can reveal.
    "Cummings spoke to MPs for five hours in a televised hearing last week – discussing the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and the former Downing Street chief aide reserved much of his criticism for Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock and his department.
    "In a remarkable series of claims, Cummings said that Hancock should have been fired on multiple occasions for lying; that the vaccine programme has only been a success because it wasn’t managed by Hancock or his department; and that virtually no planning had taken place for implementing a national lockdown, as of 14/15 March last year."

  • (1 Jun 2021) Covid-19: Government faces legal challenge over alleged suppression of school data BMJ article June 1:
    “The UK government could face legal proceedings unless it releases data on the spread of the Delta variant (B.1.617.2, first identified in India) of SARS-CoV-2 in England’s schools, which it has been accused of suppressing.
    “A pre-action letter has been sent to Public Health England (PHE) by the Citizens advocacy group and the data rights agency AWO, accusing PHE of “unlawfully surrendering independent judgment” to the prime minister’s office in relation to data on schools.
    “The move comes after the Observer reported that the prime minister’s office was directly involved in a decision not to publish important data on the spread of the variant in schools, as part of a wider report.1 That report was shortly followed by the announcement that students would no longer need to wear face coverings in schools.
    “Before the letter, eight unions, 80 scientists, and more than 1000 parents had attempted to get the government to release the data. PHE has seven days to respond to the letter, sent on 28 May, which said that the organisation was bound by law to be independent from political interference but that it “fettered its discretion by treating the prime minister’s intervention as being binding upon it”.”

  • (1 Jun 2021) Covid cases rising rapidly in Wirral as Indian variant takes hold and lockdown eases Worrying Liverpool Echo report June 1:
    “Although the number of infections in Wirral is still relatively small, certainly compared to previous peaks in the pandemic, the very latest figures show a steep increase.
    “In the week up to May 29, Wirral’s rate was 23.2 per 100,000, a sharp rise on the rate of 5.6 per 100,000 recorded the week before.
    “Covid-19 case numbers are also rising in other parts of our region, with Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens all recording a rise in their infection rates.
    Knowsley’s weekly rate climbed to 16.6 per 100,000 from 8.0 per 100,000 last week.”

  • (1 Jun 2021) THE ANATOMY OF A PPE DEAL Awarded to a Matt Hancock associate Intriguing Byline Times report June 1:
    “… Chunlei Li … has been practicing Chinese medicine in the UK since 2003.
    “In January 2020, Chunlei Li launched a new venture. On the second day of the new year, he formally incorporated CH&L Limited, assigning himself one share – the company’s full allocation. At that time, the Companies House website listed him as a ‘receptionist’.
    “Soon, CH&L struck a big win. On 30 April, the company was awarded a £14.4 million contract from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for the provision of isolation gowns – part of the Government’s drive to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic. The contract was awarded without a formal competition process.
    “How did a small-time acupuncture practitioner from Newmarket with a brand new business secure a PPE contract worth as much as a Premier League footballer?”

  • (1 Jun 2021) GPs urged to refuse to hand over patient details to NHS Digital Guardian June 1:
    “Senior GPs have called on colleagues to refuse to hand over patients’ personal data to NHS Digital, in a move they hope will buy time to raise awareness of plans to place all medical records in England on a central database.
    “All 36 doctors’ surgeries in Tower Hamlets, east London, have already agreed to withhold the data when collection begins on 1 July, the Guardian understands. An email has been circulated to about 100 practices across north-east London calling on them to also consider whether the data collection is legitimate, with the hope that it will spread to many more.
    “The email makes clear the refusal to share the data is technically a breach of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
    “Privacy campaigners and doctors have raised the alarm about plans, led by the Department of Health and Social Care, to put the medical histories of more than 55 million patients into a new database where they will be made available to the private sector and other researchers.”

  • (31 May 2021) MPs tell Johnson: you have a duty to help vaccinate the world Guardian report May 31 of a handful of human beings somehow surviving on the back benches of the Tory Party and supporting action to vaccinate the world:
    “Boris Johnson has a “moral duty” to immediately start matching each vaccine administered at home with a donated dose to poorer countries across the world, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has said.
    “Several Tory backbenchers joined the call, which puts further pressure on the prime minister to boost supplies given to developing nations facing a “desperate shortage” of jabs.
    “In a letter to Downing Street seen by the Guardian, the group says this will help to save lives at home, adding that the spread across the UK of the variant first found in India had proven that all countries need equitable access to injections.
    “The longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that dangerous variants could emerge that can evade the protections offered by current vaccines,” says the group, which includes the Conservative backbenchers Sir Peter Bottomley – the longest-serving MP – and the former hospital doctor Dan Poulter.”

  • (31 May 2021) NHS test-and-trace workers are charged out at more than double their pay Guardian report May 31:
    “Workers on the NHS test-and-trace operation who are being paid £9.50 an hour were charged out to the government’s supplier, Serco, at as much as £21.50 an hour, the Guardian understands.
    “The rate was charged by Sensée, a London-based call centre company, for workers tasked with calling the contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19, a source said. Neither Serco nor Sensée disputed the figures.
    “The revelation prompted further concerns about the value for money offered by the test-and-trace system. Led by the Conservative peer Dido Harding, it has already faced scrutiny over efficacy, although the proportion of contacts reached by private-sector contact tracers has improved since earlier in the pandemic when it lagged behind public-sector tracers.
    “… Serco was limited to earning a margin of 4% on top of costs for its test-and-test work, but its suppliers were not under the same obligation. Sensée did not say how much profit it made on the contract.”

  • (29 May 2021) PPE supplier accuses ministers of squandering millions after snubbing cheaper equipment offer Telegraph report May 29:
    “Ralph Derman, who runs an import company, said the NHS ignored his repeated attempts to offer the service masks, gloves and gowns at a more reasonable price than it was paying other firms with no experience of obtaining goods from Chinese suppliers.
    “Mr Derman, whose Hong Kong-based export firm, Derman Industries, had been operating for 30 years, said he heard nothing back from the NHS, despite assuring ministers he could obtain supplies from Hong Kong at a fraction of the inflated cost they were paying.
    “He told The Telegraph: “I was simply ignored. The Government was throwing millions at small companies who in some instances had never dealt in masks before, from factories they also never dealt with before, to supply it with PPE for the NHS and care homes. And yet it apparently had no interest in any offers of the same equipment at cost price.
    “I’ve been exporting goods and materials from Hong Kong and mainland China for many years and I knew that the NHS was being ripped off by suppliers charging exorbitant fees at a time Britain was desperate for PPE.”

  • (29 May 2021) UK's biggest care home operator hikes fees for residents in the pandemic as owners cash in thisismoney.co.uk article May 29:
    “Britain's biggest care home operator has hiked fees for residents in the pandemic while funnelling cash to its super-rich owners, experts have claimed.
    “Private equity-owned HC-One has been accused of using loans and a complex web of offshore structures to ‘extract cash’ and reduce its tax bill.
    “Newly published accounts reveal the company, which has 8,000 residents in 170 care homes, increased fees to residents and councils by an inflation-busting 3.6 per cent. The jump meant that the average resident was paying £40,196 per year by September 2020.
    “At the same time, its founder, Dr Chai Patel, a Labour donor, extracted £2million in ‘management fees’ during the year through his investment vehicle Court Cavendish, accounts reveal.”

  • (28 May 2021) Virgin given seat on ICS Board Lowdown exclusive May 28:
    “The concerns of campaigners that the proposals in the NHS White Paper to give statutory powers to “Integrated Care Systems” would lead to private companies sitting on ICS Boards have been proved justified.
    “Virgin Care’s local managing director Julia Clarke is already listed as a member of the Partnership Board, the unitary Board which currently runs the ICS covering Bristol and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW).
    “But a look at the Board Papers for a meeting on May 28 reveals that the Virgin boss is not only occupying a seat, but actively intervening to protect the company’s interests. Minutes of the March meeting reported a discussion on the extent to which private sector “partners” would be required to be financially transparent towards the other providers within the ICS “for purposes of planning the independent/private sector’s NHS related or NHS commissioned work.”
    “They noted Virgin’s reluctance to share any information with the public:
    “Virgin Care were prepared to consider greater transparency where the contract with BaNES and BSW was concerned, but had reservations about sharing information in public.” (page 6)
    “In response to this the NHS “partners” tamely rolled over, agreeing to action by Chief Financial Officers to “further discuss how the ‘open book’ approach could be applied to private / independent providers while protecting those providers’ corporate and commercial interests” – in other words how to ensure ‘open books’ were not opened at all, and ICS contracts remain tightly guarded secrets withheld from the local public.”

  • (27 May 2021) Hancock and Johnson reject Dominic Cummings’ ‘unsubstantiated attacks’ Evening Standard report May 27:
    “Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have defended themselves following the extraordinary criticisms levelled at them by Dominic Cummings.
    “The Health Secretary hit back against the former No10 senior adviser who on Wednesday delivered a devastating verdict on the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
    “Mr Cummings singled out Mr Hancock for his most stinging criticism, accusing him of lying and alleging he should have been sacked on 15 to 20 occasions.
    “Addressing the Commons on Thursday morning, the Cabinet minister responded: “These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true. What we have done to handle this coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in modern times.”

  • (27 May 2021) Government scraps free emergency parking for NHS staff HSJ May 27 breaks the news of another kick in the teeth for front line NHS staff:
    “Ministers are set to scrap a free emergency parking pass issued to NHS and care staff last year once lockdown restrictions end next month, updated guidance reveals.
    “The government guidance, updated on 17 May, said the decision was being taken in line with proposals set out in the government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown published earlier this year.
    “The pass, announced in March 2020, entitled free car parking to NHS, health and social care workers, as well as for NHS volunteer responders while they are on duty. They were made available through NHS trusts, councils and the Royal Volunteer Service, and enabled staff to use off-street car parks which were owned by local authorities and on-street bays.
    “However, the updated guidance says current and potential pass holders will not be able to use it after 21 June, when the latest lockdown restrictions are eased. Those who try to may be liable to fines.
    “The government is hoping to have reached step four by then, where all legal limits on social contact would be reduced and more premises would be reopened to the public.”

  • (26 May 2021) Bolton hospital reports ‘one of busiest ever days’ in A&E as Covid admissions rise Independent report May 26:
    “A hospital in Bolton has reported “one of its busiest ever days” in its emergency department, after rising coronavirus cases led to a spike in hospitalisations.
    “There are currently 41 Covid-19 patients being treated at the Royal Bolton Hospital, with eight of them in critical care.
    “This comes as coronavirus infections in Bolton continue to soar, in large part due to the prevalence of the so-called Indian variant.
    “Andy Ennis, the deputy chief executive of the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said Monday “was one of the busiest days we have ever had in our emergency department”.

  • (26 May 2021) EU citizens who miss UK settled status cut off to lose some free healthcare Guardian May 26 with another disgusting post-Brexit government policy driven by hatred of 'foreigners'. It will make it harder than ever to recruit or retain NHS or social care staff from EU countries:
    “EU citizens who fail to secure settled status by the 30 June deadline will immediately lose access to free non-urgent NHS healthcare, despite a government pledge to be “extremely understanding” about late applications.
    “Some details of how swiftly different departments will apply hostile environment policies to EU citizens who have not secured the new post-Brexit immigration status by the cutoff date have emerged in responses to a series of parliamentary questions.
    “But campaigners are concerned that there is still no clarity about whether EU citizens who miss the deadline but who continue to work in the UK will be committing a criminal offence.
    “There was also no clear Home Office response to parliamentary questions seeking to clarify whether employers face prosecution if they employ an EU citizen who has not applied for EU settled status (EUSS) after the end of June.
    “Alliance MP Stephen Farry sought to clarify the grey area with Boris Johnson during prime minister’s questions, asking if illegal working legislation would be applied to EU citizens who continue to work despite missing the deadline. “Can the prime minister assure the House that EU citizens or non-EU family members who miss the deadline will not face potential criminal liability if they continue to go into work?” he asked.”

  • (26 May 2021) England’s NHS plans to share patient records with third parties Financial Times report May 26 echoes the concerns of many campaigners:
    “England’s NHS is preparing to scrape the medical histories of 55m patients, including sensitive information on mental and sexual health, criminal records and abuse, into a database it will share with third parties.
    “The data collection project, which is the first of its kind, has caused an uproar among privacy campaigners, who say it is “legally problematic”, especially as patients only have a few weeks to opt out of the plan.
    “NHS Digital, which runs the health service’s IT systems, confirmed the plan to pool together medical records from every patient in England who is registered with a GP clinic into a single lake that will be available to academic and commercial third parties for research and planning purposes.
    “Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, a campaign group for digital rights, said: “We all want to see the NHS come out of the pandemic stronger” but noted that the NHS had been “completely silent” on who would have access to the data.
    “Is it pharma companies? The health arm of Google Deepmind? If you ask patients whether they want details of their fertility treatment or abortion, or results of their colonoscopy shared with [those companies], they’re not going to want that,” she said.”

  • (25 May 2021) More than 77,000 NHS staff in England have caught Covid, shows research Guardian report May 25:
    “At least 77,000 hospital staff in England caught coronavirus during the pandemic, while there were nearly a quarter of a million absences for Covid-related reasons, Guardian research has revealed.
    “However, the true totals are likely to be much higher, because out of the 142 acute and specialist trusts in England sent freedom of information requests, only 55% (78) provided figures on staff who were infected, while 60% (85) gave data on time off for sick leave related to the virus.
    “The responses, which cover the year following 1 March 2020, offer the first official data on Covid’s impact on frontline workers who risked their own health while caring for the more than 400,000 patients who have ended up seriously ill in hospital.
    “They show that at least 77,735 doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel contracted Covid, while staff had 243,864 periods of absence – either because they had the disease or were isolating, quarantining or shielding – exacerbating existing workforce shortages.”

  • (23 May 2021) Private hospitals provided average of seven Covid beds a day despite £2bn Government contracts i-News report may 23:
    “The Government has been accused by a leading health think tank of providing a taxpayer subsidy of more than £2bn to private hospitals in exchange for just seven Covid beds a day during the first year of pandemic.
    “Research from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) has found that the Government paid around £200m a month to secure 8,000 beds from 26 private hospital groups during the health crisis.
    “The CHPI report, which covers the 12 months up to the end of March this year, also found that there were many days during the period when no private hospital beds were being used for Covid patients, and many more when only one was.
    “The report, which is due to be published in the coming weeks, also found that at no point during the year did private hospitals treat more than 67 Covid patients in a single day, which occurred during three consecutive days during April last year.”

  • (22 May 2021) No 10 ‘tried to block’ data on spread of new Covid variant in English schools Observer report may 22:
    “Downing Street leaned on Public Health England not to publish crucial data on the spread of the new Covid variant in schools, documents seen by the Observer have suggested. Scientists, union officials and teachers said that the lack of transparency was “deeply worrying”.
    “The focus of their anger concerns the pre-print of a PHE report that included a page of data on the spread of the India Covid-19 variant in schools. But when the report was published on Thursday 13 May, the page had been removed. It was the only one that had been removed from the pre-print. Days later, the government went ahead with its decision to remove the mandate on face coverings in English schools.
    “Evidence seen by the Observer suggests No 10 was directly involved in the decision not to publish it. The prime minister’s office acknowledged it was in correspondence with PHE officials about presentation of the data but vigorously denied this constituted “interference” or “pressure”.
    “Data on the spread of the new variant in schools has still not been published, despite calls from union officials and scientists who say teachers and families are being put at risk. In hotspots such as Bolton, cases involving the variant are rising fastest among school-age children.”

  • (21 May 2021) France to honour health workers killed by Covid-19 with special status France 24 report May 21:
    “France will confer a special honour on health workers who die from Covid while fighting the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.
    “He said a status called “died in the service of the republic” would be created to honour public employees who lose their life “in exceptional circumstances”. A similar “died in the service of the nation” status already exists for police and the military, while “died for France” is reserved for soldiers and civilians killed in battle.
    “I want us to give our gratitude a solid legal foundation,” Macron said in a video post on Twitter.
    The new status would allow the children of the deceased to become wards of the state with a right to receive material and moral support from the government, he said.
    “The current status reserved for military and police entitles the children they leave behind to financial help for education and job training, including free schooling and scholarships.”

  • (21 May 2021) Providing medications for free leads to greater adherence and cost-savings, study shows Eurekalert May 21:
    "Free access to essential medicines increases patient adherence to taking medication by 35 per cent and reduces total health spending by an average of over $1,000 per patient per year, according to a two-year study that tested the effects of providing patients with free and convenient access to a carefully selected set of medications.
    "The findings, published May 21 in PLOS Medicine, come as advocates urge Canada to carve a path toward single-payer, public pharmacare. Canada is the only country with universal healthcare that does not have a universal pharmacare program."

  • (20 May 2021) Number of patients in Bolton hospital with Covid rises again as Indian variant spreads Independent May 20 report begins:
    “The number of patients in hospital with Coronavirus in Bolton has increased to 30, rising by 5 in 24 hours, The Independent has learned.
    “Bosses at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust are opening an extra ward for Covid positive patients today, as a previous ward has become full.
    “… There are seven patients in intensive care or high dependency, with 27 patients on oxygen.
    “Typically, patients admitted now for Covid-19 were likely to be have been infected 2 to 3 weeks ago, suggesting numbers could rise further.”

  • (20 May 2021) COVID vaccines create 9 new billionaires with combined wealth greater than cost of vaccinating world’s poorest countries Shocking May 20 Press Release from Peoples Vaccine Alliance:
    “At least nine people have become new billionaires since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, thanks to the excessive profits pharmaceutical corporations with monopolies on COVID vaccines are making, The People’s Vaccine Alliance revealed today ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit.
    “Key members of the G20, who meet tomorrow, including the UK and Germany, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending companies’ monopoly control of vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.
    “Between them, the nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries1.3 times.
    “Meanwhile, these countries have received only 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines, because of the massive shortfall in available doses, despite being home to 10 per cent of the world’s population.
    “In addition, eight existing billionaires–who have extensive portfolios in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations -have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.”

  • (19 May 2021) Coronavirus: NHS was ‘overwhelmed’ in January surge, study finds Independent report may 19:
    “The NHS “was largely overwhelmed” at the height of the UK’s Covid second wave in January, according to a study.
    “New research published in Anaesthesia, a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists, revealed the scale of the pressure on hospitals during the pandemic and how stretched some units were.
    “Based on surveys of all NHS hospitals, with more than half responding, the study found almost a third of anaesthetists were redeployed to look after critically ill patients, leaving 42 per cent of operating theatres closed.
    “This meant operations, including for cancer and emergency surgery patients, had to be cancelled.
    “The research, by Professor Tim Cook, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care at the Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust, said: “Three-quarters of critical care units were so expanded that planned surgery could not be safely resumed. At all times, the greatest resource limitation was staff”.”

  • (19 May 2021) PPE supplier’s offer to help was ignored by government Times report may 19:
    “A PPE supplier that had been in business for more than 20 years was ignored by government officials at the height of the pandemic last year while a venture capitalist firm was deemed an “urgent VIP case” because it came with a recommendation from a government adviser, newly released emails have shown.
    “Multibrands, a company based in Bradford, said that officials “went quiet” after it wrote to the government in March last year advertising its capacity to supply 100 million masks from its warehouse in China.
    “However, Ayanda Capital, whose senior adviser worked for the Department for International Trade (DIT), ended up supplying the government after it was awarded a £252 million deal for personal protective equipment. A number of the masks were not used by the NHS because they had ear loops rather than head ties.
    “Ayanda has previously said that it delivered masks to the agreed specification and that it is not yet known to what use the government may put the PPE.”

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

  • (18 May 2021) Government can keep amount spent on unusable PPE confidential, judge rules Evening Standard report on Good Law Project court challenge:
    “The Government can keep the amount of public money spent on unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) from two companies confidential, the High Court has ruled.
    "The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are bringing legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) claiming that contracts awarded to PestFix, Clandeboye and Ayanda Capital were given unlawfully at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April and May 2020.
    "The two groups allege DHSC has failed to provide proper reasons for why PestFix got the contracts, and say the Government violated principles of equal treatment and transparency when awarding the multimillion-pound deals.
    "They also claim DHSC has failed to provide evidence it conducted any negotiations which applied equally between prospective suppliers."

  • (18 May 2021) We need answers now, that’s why I’m chairing the People’s Covid Inquiry Michael Mansfield QC writes in Public Sector Focus May 18 explaining why he is chairing KONP’s People’s Covid Inquiry:
    “There is an unquestionable need for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. This much is agreed by, most importantly, the bereaved, the public, widespread medical opinion, and the Prime Minister who announced so last July.
    “On closer examination it soon becomes clear that there are a number of hidden assumptions.
    “Primarily can Boris Johnson be trusted to commit to it? No one has so far been prepared to believe him and increasingly it is obvious he will avoid any public scrutiny before the next election.
    “To fill the void, he merely recites the need but only when the time is right! Eight months have passed since his original announcement without him saying a word up till now, let alone setting a time line. As an informed guess – there is no chance.
    “Even if he suddenly had a change of heart and set a start date of June 1st – what would this mean in practice? This is where there are serious misconceptions. A far reaching and vitally necessary Inquiry should embrace the history of pandemics, the role of WHO, the preparation by the NHS (Cygnus) socio-economic planning, the effects of austerity, ministerial decisions about provision of facilities and lockdown, privatisation and fragmentation, role of SAGE and so on. This is by no means an exhaustive list but gives a steer about what is involved.”

  • (18 May 2021) Nurse who cared for Boris Johnson resigns over ‘lack of respect’ for NHS workers Guardian report may 18: “A nurse who cared for Boris Johnson when he was gravely ill with Covid-19 says she has handed in her resignation, such is her disillusionment with the “lack of respect” shown by the government for the NHS and healthcare workers.
    “Jenny McGee, who kept vigil by the prime minister’s bedside for two days when he was in intensive care, also revealed that his staff had later attempted to co-opt her into a “clap for the NHS” photo opportunity with him during what she thought would be a discreet thank you visit to Downing Street.
    “We’re not getting the respect and now pay that we deserve. I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation,” said McGee, referring to the government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff, which unions have described as a “kick in the teeth”.
    “She was also critical of the government’s handling of the Covid crisis, adding: “Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively – the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages. It was just very upsetting”.”

  • (18 May 2021) Hedge fund fast-tracked to £252m PPE deal ‘despite red flags on finances’, High Court told Evening Standard May 18:
    “A hedge fund with close ties to government was fast-tracked to a £252 million PPE contract as an “URGENT VIP CASE” despite red flags on its finances, the High Court heard on Tuesday.
    “Ayanda Capital was handed deals to supply face masks at the end of April last year, after its bid was marked as “very urgent” and officials were told the supplier was “influential across government”.
    “Some of the masks which were delivered were rendered unusable by the NHS as they did not meet safety standards, the court heard.
    “The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are challenging the way PPE contracts worth almost £600 million were entered into in the early stages of the pandemic, through the government’s controversial ‘VIP Lane’.”

  • (18 May 2021) Bank 'suspended' Matt Hancock's PPE deal payments fearing 'VIPs' could be fraudsters Daily Mirror report May 18:
    “The Government’s bank suspended Matt Hancock’s team from making payments to PPE suppliers at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic over fears they were being taken in by fraudsters, the High Court has been told.
    “NatWest told the government payments over £5 million would have to be reviewed by their fraud team, over concerns about a lack of due diligence in huge contracts being handed out through the so-called “VIP lane”.
    “At least £1.7 billion worth of deals were struck through the “VIP lane” - some of which were for products which did not meet adequate standards for the NHS, according to a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
    The committee found DHSC had “wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on PPE which is of poor quality and cannot be used for the intended purpose”.”

  • (18 May 2021) Government can keep amount spent on `useless´ PPE confidential, judge rules Daily Mail May 18:
    “… Mrs Justice O’Farrell found the specific pricing details were not relevant to what the court has to decide and did not need to be disclosed to the public.
    “She said: “The case concerns the decision-making process carried out by the defendant … the precise level of the pricing or pre-payments or total amounts spent on PPE that might not have been used or fit for purpose are not relevant to the issues before the court.
    “It is not part of this court’s role to consider whether the contracts provided value for money or whether any public money has been wasted.”
    “She added: “It is not necessary in my judgment for further details of the pricing of the contracts to be made public in these proceedings.”
    “A large part of the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor’s claim is that the use of a “VIP lane” gave an unfair, unlawful advantage to some companies.”

  • (18 May 2021) Ministers ‘lobbied’ officials over PPE contracts, court hears Guardian May 18:
    “Ministers “lobbied” officials to chase the progress of contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment that were being processed through a government “VIP lane” for companies with personal connections, a court has heard.
    “In an internal WhatsApp message revealed as part of a legal challenge brought by the Good Law Project (GLP) and EveryDoctor, a civil servant supporting the government’s urgent PPE procurement efforts at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic said they needed a tracker system to check the progress of VIP offers.
    “If they had such a tracking system for PPE offers from companies referred by ministers, MPs or civil servants, the official said it would save the procurement team from “being lobbied further by ministers/VIPs etc and the like”.
    “The government has consistently said that although ministers could refer offers from people to supply PPE to the relevant procurement team, they were not involved in the award of contracts.”

  • (18 May 2021) UK pharma supplier put into special measures after new IT system causes almost 10,000 missed medicine deliveries report in The Register May 18:
    "“UK pharmaceuticals supplier Healthcare at Home (HAH) missed 10,000 medicine deliveries from October to December 2020 following a change of IT systems, a mistake that left some patients needing hospital treatment.
    “… the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a report published at the end of last week stat[es] that HAH, which supports around 150,000 patients each year, had introduced new information systems in October 2020.
    "These had not been thoroughly risk assessed and tested and resulted in avoidable harm to some patients," the report said. "This meant that delivery dates for medicines were missed and patients didn't get their essential medication required to treat their health condition or maintain their health, on time. Some patients' conditions deteriorated and they had to be admitted to hospital, whilst others experienced psychological trauma because of the uncertainty of not knowing when they would receive their essential medicines."
    “HAH has yet to respond to The Register's questions over what caused the incidents and which software was involved. HAH is a user of Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP and CRM system, but it is not known whether these relate to its patient information system.
    “Placing the company in special measures, the CQC went on to say HAH had not acted in a timely manner to address the issues caused following the "installation" of the IT. The regulator said that by December 2020, the number of medicines missed or delayed had risen to 9,885.”

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

  • (17 May 2021) Socio-economic inequalities in access to planned hospital care: causes and consequences An important new study on the causes of health inequalities.
    "In the Summer and Autumn of 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic subsided, concern grew about reduced access to routine hospital care: diagnostics, outpatient care and planned surgery. Waiting lists and waiting times began to grow. The network of Decision Support Units in the Midlands recognised the potential for this issue to exacerbate existing inequalities. They jointly commissioned this analysis to explore the extent, causes and consequences of socio-economic inequalities in access to planned hospital care."

  • (16 May 2021) Matt Hancock helped Tory secure £180m PPE deal (£) Times May 16: "Matt Hancock personally intervened to help a former Conservative minister secure a PPE deal worth £180 million, according to government emails.
    “The health secretary assisted Brooks Newmark, the former civil society minister who resigned after sending sexually explicit photographs of himself to an undercover journalist he thought was a female party activist.
    “Last May, Newmark, 63, teamed up with the owner of a dog food company who had set up a firm to broker PPE deals for international suppliers. His subsequent lobbying helped a Hong Kong business become the eighth-biggest recipient of PPE contracts during the pandemic, according to the National Audit Office.
    “Zoe Ley, the dog food entrepreneur, was reported by BBC Panorama to have personally earned up to £1 million.”

  • (15 May 2021) Johnson ‘must think again on plans to relax Covid rules’ Guardian May 15: “Boris Johnson was under mounting pressure on Saturday to reconsider Monday’s relaxation of Covid rules in England because of the threat posed by the India variant. His own advisers and independent health experts raised fears that it could lead to a surge in hospital admissions, especially among young adults.
    “From Monday people will be able to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors, while six people or two households will be permitted to meet indoors. Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers indoors. Indoor entertainment such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas can also open along with theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums.
    “Overnight stays will be allowed. Weddings, receptions and other ceremonies will be able to take place among groups of up to 30. Unlimited numbers of people will be able to attend funerals.
    “But there are fears the new India variant could trigger a third wave, just as the “big bang” relaxation approaches. Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s taskforce on new and emerging viruses (Nervtag), said the relaxations would drive up the numbers infected with the India variant and that unvaccinated younger adults would be most at risk.”

  • (15 May 2021) Demand for inquiry into alleged PPE lobbying by Priti Patel Independent May 15 report on Labour exploiting rare useful revelation from Daily Heil: “Labour is demanding an investigation into allegations that Priti Patel breached the ministerial code of conduct by lobbying fellow ministers over a PPE contract for a Tory donor and former adviser.
    “… Documents obtained by the Daily Mail show that the home secretary wrote to cabinet colleague Michael Gove after being contacted by a client of Samir Jassal over a £20m deal to supply personal protective equipment early in the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.
    “Health secretary Matt Hancock responded that the masks being offered by Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd (PDL) were “not suitable for the NHS”. But the company was later awarded a £102.7m contract for a higher-specification face covering.
    “PDL contacted Ms Patel for help with the cancelled £20m deal after an introduction from Mr Jassal, who previously worked as her adviser and has twice stood as a Conservative parliamentary candidate.”

  • (14 May 2021) ‘GASLIT BY GOVERNMENT’ NHS Staff Tell of Mental Health Impact of PPE Shortages Byline Times May 14: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, PPE contracts have been awarded to friends and associates of the Conservative Party, including to companies that had no previous experience of procuring or developing medical-grade personal protective equipment.
    “The Health Secretary Matt Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully in failing to publish COVID-19 contracts within the 30 day period required by law. The National Audit Office has also criticised PPE procurement practices – including evidence of a VIP lane for some suppliers.
    “But the PPE procurement crisis goes beyond allegations of cronyism and corruption. It has had a traumatising impact on the mental health of NHS workers who faced the “terror” of working in a pandemic knowing they were not fully protected.
    “A survey of 2,733 healthcare workers by the University of Roehampton found that one-third of respondents reported severe levels of depression and anxiety, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Insufficient PPE and lack of workplace preparation were linked to the most severe mental health symptoms, as well as the loss of colleagues. More than 800 healthcare workers have died since the start of the pandemic.”

  • (14 May 2021) Lockdown lifting should be delayed if Indian variant spreads out of control, says NHS leaders Independent May 14: "“If the Indian variant of coronavirus spreads out of control, ministers must be prepared to delay relaxing lockdown, NHS leaders have warned.
    “The NHS Confederation, which represents more than 500 health and care organisations across the UK, urged the government not to delay taking action regardless of how unpopular such a move would be. Chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “With growing concern around the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19, the government must be guided by the data.
    “If there is any indication that the spread is no longer sufficiently under control, it must be prepared to adjust the timetable for easing lockdown, however unpopular that decision may be. There is also the real risk that the virus could mutate further if allowed to spread unchecked.”
    “His comments come as the latest data showed cases of the Indian variant show the number of cases across the UK has risen from 520 last week, to 1,313 cases this week. Most are in the North West of England and some in London, Public Health England said.”

  • (14 May 2021) Rise in patients at Bolton Hospital as Indian variant spreads. Most of the patients admitted to hospital were eligible for the Covid vaccine but had not had the jab Independent report May 14: “Hospital bosses in Bolton have told The Independent they have seen a rise in patients being admitted sick with coronavirus, some needing intensive care.
    “The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust medical director said a majority of the sick patients had not been vaccinated but would have been eligible for the jabs.
    “Dr Francis Andrews urged everyone in the area who was offered the vaccine to have it.
    “He said: “Whilst the numbers of people in the hospital with Covid-19 are still currently low compared to previous peaks, we have seen a modest increase in patients admitted with confirmed Covid-19 over the last week. A small number are requiring intensive care.
    “The increase in admissions is seen across the age range from 35-65. The majority of patients have not received a vaccination dose, but many would have been eligible.”

  • (13 May 2021) ‘Government Could Have Saved More Than 100,000 Lives During Pandemic’ Byline Times May 13: “Sir David King, who served as the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor from 2000 to 2007, estimates that two-thirds of the estimated 150,000 deaths during the COVID-19 crisis could have been prevented, if the Government had implemented a strong, early lockdown during the first wave of the disease, alongside a more effective test, trace and isolate strategy.
    “The [vaccine] roll-out has been understood literally as a lifesaver by the Government,” King told Byline Times. “It is a lifesaver.” However, other “lifesavers” have been missed by the Government. “How many deaths could have been avoided with quick action on find, test, trace, isolate and support, but also going into lockdown when it all became too desperate?… In excess of 100,000.”
    Sir David places particular emphasis on the early months of the pandemic – from January to April – as the source of the UK’s high death toll.
    “You’ve got to get ahead of a pandemic,” he said – pointing out that Chinese scientists published a definitive report on COVID-19, its transmission and its effect on humans, on 23 January 2020 – a full two months before Boris Johnson’s Government implemented the first nationwide lockdown.”

  • (13 May 2021) Sharp rise in children waiting for treatment in London for eating disorders ITV news May 13: "“There's been an alarming rise in the number of children in London waiting for treatment for eating disorders, according to figures from NHS England.
    “Between January and March the figure increased nearly five-fold compared to a year ago, with 40% more children also receiving treatment.
    “The number of children waiting for treatment last year between January and March was 39. For the same period this year that number rose to 187
    “During the same period, the number of children receiving hospital treatment for an eating disorder rose from 263 last year to 365 this year
    “At Great Ormond Street Hospital in central London a pilot scheme is tackling the waiting list for beds by expanding the outpatient service.
    “But the hospital said the uncertainty of the pandemic created a 'perfect storm' for children prone to eating disorders.”

  • (13 May 2021) Blackburn health chiefs ‘stopped from vaccinating all over-18s’ Pulse Today article May 13: "Blackburn with Darwen’s public health director has told the BBC that he was stopped by Government officials from rolling out vaccines to all over-18s next week.
    "Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council had briefly announced that the measures would be introduced next week to go hand in hand with surge testing in the area, amid concerns about outbreaks of the Indian variant of the virus.
    "Professor Dominic Harrison told Breakfast on BBC Radio Lancashire: ‘I am furious. I cannot understand why [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] or Department of Health and Social Care are stopping local directors of public health from taking the action they know will halt this surge of the Indian variant.’
    "Residents had already been urged by the council to be cautious after a rise in cases of Covid-19 after a number of cases of the Indian variant had been reported in the North West.
    "The European Medicines Agency has said there is promising evidence that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against the Indian variant."

  • (13 May 2021) Nearly half of eye patients at Hancock’s local trust waiting more than a year HSJ report May 13: “The East of England has been revealed as the worst-performing region for long ophthalmology waits, with almost half the waiting list at one acute trust already breaching the 52-week milestone.
    “Eleven per cent of the region’s 59,000 ophthalmology patients had already been waiting more than a year for treatment at the end of February, compared to 6 per cent in London, the best performing region.
    “West Suffolk Foundation Trust — which is in health and social care secretary Matt Hancock’s local constituency — had by far the biggest problem on this measure of any trust in England, with 42 per cent of the waiting list (660 patients) referred for treatment more than a year ago.
    “Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust had the next highest proportion of year-plus ophthalmology patients, at 29 per cent of its total list.”

  • (13 May 2021) The NHS Covid legacy - long waits and lives at risk BBC News May 13: “In-depth analysis by BBC News has found:
    • nearly a third of hospitals have seen long waits balloon with over 10% of patients going a year without treatment
    • major disruption to cancer services, with some hospitals struggling to treat half of their patients within the target time of two months
    • concern growing for 45,000 "missing cancer patients", after drops in GP referrals and screening services across the UK
    “It comes as NHS England has launched a £160m initiative to tackle the growing waiting lists.
    “A network of "accelerator" areas is being established to pilot new initiatives, including extra clinics at weekends, virtual assessments at home and new clinics that can complete high numbers of cataract operations.”

  • (12 May 2021) The UK's state-run investment bank won't say where it spent £1 billion of taxpayer money Business Insider May 12: “The UK's state-run economic development bank has refused to say who received more than £1 billion ($1.38 billion) it gave out in taxpayer-funded loans to startup companies.
    “The British Business Bank, the 100% government-owned bank for small and medium-sized enterprises, has disbursed more than £1.1 billion of convertible loan agreements to 1,140 companies as part of its "Future Fund" scheme.
    “… The lack of transparency over who got the money, or what they did with it, is of concern because the government has repeatedly awarded lucrative contracts to friends of ministers in Boris Johnson's government.
    “For instance, a man who ran a pub near health secretary Matt Hancock's house won a £30 million ($31.4 million) contract to provide personal protective equipment — despite having no experience in the industry — after sending WhatsApp messages to Hancock.”

  • (12 May 2021) Virtual wards and at-home antibiotic kits part of £160m funding to cut NHS waiting lists Independent May 12 report on a stable door-locking exercise that offers too little, too late, with just £160m shared between 12 of the 42 Integrated Care Systems: “Virtual wards, at-home antibiotic kits and using artificial intelligence in GP surgeries are among new initiatives to be trialled as part £160m funding to tackle waiting lists in the NHS.
    “NHS England announced the funding to aid in the health service’s recovery after the pandemic, after figures last month revealed the number of people waiting to begin hospital treatment in England had risen to a new record.
    “A total of 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February - the highest figure since records began in August 2007.
    “But NHS England said indicators suggest operations and other elective activity were at four-fifths of pre-pandemic levels in April, which is "well ahead" of the 70 per cent threshold set out in official guidance.”

  • (12 May 2021) Why money spend on public health is a sound investment May 12 blog by public health expert Greg Fell:
    "When public health stops meningitis outbreaks, or prevents toxic poisonings, or lowers infant mortality, it should be front page news. But you never see such headlines. As a practical example smoking prevalence has been coming down for decades. This hasn’t happened by magic.
    "Tobacco control policy has saved countless deaths over decades, yet rarely if ever gets any headlines, thus public health professionals don’t quite capture the same place in public imagination as other groups. Perhaps covid might change that a bit, it is up to us to capitalise on this."

  • (11 May 2021) ‘A slap in the face’: Hundreds of frontline Covid doctors told they won’t have jobs from August Independent May 11: “Hundreds of doctors working on the front line during the Covid pandemic have been told they won’t have jobs in the NHS training scheme from August, despite the health service being dependent on them to tackle surgical backlogs.
    “Almost 700 anaesthetists – who had key roles caring for critically ill patients struggling to breathe during the Covid surges – have been dropped from the NHS training scheme and are unable to progress in their careers because of a shortage in places.
    “One junior doctor listed 40 jobs across the country that he would have considered moving to, but had been rejected for every single one, despite ranking in the top third of candidates nationally.
    “He told The Independent that the news was a “slap in the face” after the past year and that he felt “let down” after giving so much during the pandemic.”

  • (10 May 2021) Tax dodging concerns over small firms used to pay NHS test-and-trace workers Guardian May 10 on yet another aspect of the sleaze and dodgy practice of private sector contractors who gained contracts during the pandemic:
    "The Guardian investigated after sources working at Covid-19 call centres, testing sites, mobile testing units and laboratories raised concerns about their payslips and employment terms.
    "Headed by the Conservative peer Dido Harding, NHS test and trace has become one of the biggest sources of new jobs during the pandemic, with a workforce of 50,000.
    "Most of its staff are supplied not by the National Health Service, but by outsourcing giants including Serco and G4S, and dozens of recruitment agencies in a broad contracting network.
    "Tax experts and unions fear weak controls by outsourcers and government agencies, and a complex chain of companies supplying labour for the service, which was created from scratch a year ago, have raised questions over the transparency of the system and left it wide open to abuse."

  • (9 May 2021) Mail on Sunday leads campaign to make GPs see all patients face to face once again May 9 article Mail on spurious Sunday “campaign” to vilify by demanding they do what they are already doing: GPs didn't stop seeing patients, haven't stopped seeing them, despite lack of promised support. Heil on Sunday claims:

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

  • (9 May 2021) Johnson will vow to repair damaged NHS to lock in election gains Guardian May 9 with a highly optimistic reading of vague comments from Johnson camp, with no real new money in sight:
    "Boris Johnson will put repairing the NHS at the heart of his next programme for government, as his team draws up plans to lock in the huge local election gains in the north of England and Midlands.
    "With more NHS funding inevitable after the damage and delays caused by Covid-19, Downing St wants to neutralise an issue that could undermine progress among voters who have switched to the Tories. The NHS England head, Sir Simon Stevens, has already said cancer care and extra funding needs to be a priority. NHS waiting lists are seen as one of the government’s major vulnerabilities.
    “We have to be honest with the public about the damage done to the NHS by coronavirus and the scale of the challenge ahead,” a No 10 source said. “Now, more than ever, the NHS is the government’s priority – and recovery of patient services is at the heart of that. We need to achieve a national recovery that spreads opportunity and transforms the whole UK, and this Queen’s speech will have that ambition at its core.”

  • (8 May 2021) Thousands of doctors and nurses being pressured to work extra hours unpaid Independent May 8 revealing the extent to which the dedication of NHS staff is being relentlessly exploited:
    "In a survey of 5,500 doctors last month, the British Medical Association found 58 per cent had worked extra hours with more than a quarter, 28 per cent saying they were unpaid. More than two-fifths of doctors said the felt pressured by their employer to do extra hours.
    "A third of medics said they had skipped breaks with 60 per cent reporting a higher than normal level of fatigue.
    "Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon Ram Moorthy, from Berkshire, said: “We haven’t had a break since the first wave, we're being asked to do a lot of additional work to catch up and I honestly don’t know how long the workforce can continue working beyond maximum effort. The fact is, it’s going to take a lot more than shattered doctor’s goodwill for the health service to get through these backlogs.”
    "In July last year the Royal College of Nursing found a third of all nursing staff were working longer hours with 40 per cent not being paid for their time."

  • (6 May 2021) Nurses Hail Passage of Safe Staffing Bills US Public News Service report May 6 on the passing of Bill through both houses of New York state legislature to impose safe staffing levels and monitor the effectiveness of the change -- sadly to remain largely on paper unless Governor Andrew Cuomo comes off the fence and agrees to to sign the Bill.
    "The bills, Senate Bill 1168A and Senate Bill 6346 passed in both the state Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support. Once signed into law, they will affect every hospital and nursing home in the state, both public and private.
    "Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said hospitals will ultimately be required to abide by minimum nurse-to-patient ratios set by clinical staffing committees annually, and nursing homes will have to meet standards for daily nursing time for each resident.
    "This law is a pathway toward getting the kind of support that patients need in order to get the care that they deserve," Sheridan-Gonzalez stated."

  • (6 May 2021) LSE–Lancet Commission on the future of the NHS: re-laying the foundations for an equitable and efficient health and care service after COVID-19 A new Commission sets out a long-term vision for the NHS: working together for a publicly funded, integrated, and innovative service that improves health and reduces inequalities for all. Sadly it relies on increases in income tax and regressive taxes such as National Insurance Contributions and VAT to pay for it, making it unlikely to happen and diverting from the need to tax corporations and the billionaires.
    It makes seven recommendations, and associated sub-recommendations, for both the short term and long term, with a 10-year timeline.
    “First, increase investment in the NHS, social care, and public health. This Commission proposes that yearly increases in funding of at least 4%, in real terms, are needed for health, social care, and public health.
    “Second, improve resource management across health and care at national, local, and treatment levels.
    “Third, develop a sustainable, skilled, and fit for purpose health and care workforce to meet changing health and care needs.
    “Fourth, strengthen prevention of disease and disability and preparedness to protect against major threats to health.
    “Fifth, optimise diagnosis to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities.
    “Sixth, develop the culture, capacity, and capability to become a so-called learning health and care system (ie, in which data-enabled infrastructures are routinely used to support policy and planning, public health, and personalisation of care).
    “Finally, improve integration between health care, social care, and public health and across different providers, including the third sector (ie, charity and voluntary organisations).”

  • (6 May 2021) Infection rules for NHS staff leave them at risk from airborne Covid, warn experts Independent May 6: "Pressure is growing on the government to change its stance on coronavirus infection rules which it is feared may leave NHS staff and patients at risk from airborne transmission.
    "Experts told The Independent the current guidance from Public Health England (PHE), which effectively says staff working on general wards can rely on just surgical masks for protection, was “outdated and potentially misleading” and put NHS staff at risk.
    "At the start of the pandemic the emphasis on stopping infection was focused around droplets containing the virus both in the air over short distances and on surfaces. Increasingly scientists have begun to warn the virus can also spread through much smaller aerosols which can remain airborne for a lot longer and over further distances.
    "On Friday, the World Health Organisation updated its information on how Covid spreads to acknowledge the risk of aerosols and last month papers released by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said health workers may need to use better protection for longer.
    "According to the Health and Safety Executive there were nearly 20,000 notifications of suspected workplace infections involving staff in a health or care setting in the 12 months to April this year, with 271 deaths. This is likely to be a substantial underestimate and only includes cases where there is reasonable evidence staff were infected at work."

  • (5 May 2021) Ministers urged to reveal details of £2bn Covid deals with private health firms Guardian May 5: "“The government has been urged to publish details of up to £2bn in Covid-19 contracts awarded to private healthcare companies, including some that have helped fund the Conservative party.
    “… The NHS has said enlisting independent hospitals helped add 6,500 beds, freeing space to treat Covid-19 patients and allowing elective procedures to continue.
    “But the Good Law Project, which has repeatedly raised concerns about cronyism and opacity in public procurement, said a lack of transparency about the terms of the contracts was concerning.
    “… The first of two groups of contracts, running from March to December 2020, had 26 firms initially enlisted to provide extra capacity, to a value of £1.6bn.
    “The government said it did not pay for beds and staff that were not needed, adding that in the end only 17 firms provided services, at cost price.
    “Accounts for Practice Plus Group, which won £76.3m of work under the contract, raise questions about this assertion. They state that it worked on a “cost plus” basis, using a “cost plus pricing formula”.

  • (4 May 2021) Sir Simon Stevens steps down – the end of an era? This King's Fund blog by Nick Timmins May 4 is slightly less obsequious in its hero worship than some of the eulogies to the departing bureaucrat, but more extravagant in its praise for ... Jeremy Hunt!
    “If there is a criticism it is that he was probably a better strategist than manager and the surprise might be that only relatively recently did he appoint a proper chief operating officer to help better implement the drive for integrated care systems.
    “There has been real progress. But slower than he would have hoped. It is decidedly varied, with much still to do. And then, of course, there is the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “The eventual public inquiry will ask questions. Not least about the discharge to care homes of thousands of patients, untested for Covid-19, as the NHS cleared the decks to cope.”

  • (4 May 2021) ‘Ill-judged’ bonus hike for AstraZeneca boss prompts investor anger Guardian May 4:
    “AstraZeneca is facing mounting opposition over its plans to award its chief executive, Pascal Soriot, a big increase in bonuses, with three investor advisory groups calling on shareholders to vote against the policy.
    “Pirc, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) have all flagged concerns over moves to raise the maximum share bonus Soriot can receive under a long-term plan from 550% of his £1.3m base salary to 650%.
    “AZ also plans to hoist Soriot’s maximum annual bonus to 250% of salary from 200%, depending on performance targets being hit.
    “The advisory groups recommended investors vote against the pay policy at next Tuesday’s annual meeting.”

  • (4 May 2021) Boris Johnson delays social care reform amid cost fears Times May 4 with the latest decision to kick a can of worms further down the road:
    "Boris Johnson is expected to delay the announcement of plans for overhauling social care funding until after the Queen’s Speech over concerns in government that it will require cuts or tax rises worth up to £5 billion a year.
    "The prime minister met Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last month to discuss funding for social care, and more talks are expected in coming weeks. Johnson has taken a keen interest in a decade-long plan from Sir Andrew Dilnot, an expert in social care funding, that would cap care costs for individuals at £45,000 with the state covering the rest.
    "The Queen’s Speech, on May 11, setting out the government’s legislative programme, is expected to mention the prime minister’s promise to come forward with plans for the funding of social care this year, but will not give detail."

  • (4 May 2021) Simon Stevens: How heavy hitter changed the NHS BBC May 4 with another buttock clenchingly sycophantic eulogy to the departing NHS England boss who has presided over years of decline in performance in acute and mental health care while busily promoting more top-down reorganisation: but it does allow one criticism:
    "As the first Covid-19 wave subsided, he was able, rightly, to say the NHS had coped in the face of the extraordinary surge in Covid-19 patient numbers.
    "But the emergency Nightingale Hospitals, created from scratch at large expense, were barely used.
    "And this was something Sir Simon and his senior NHS colleagues were less willing to talk about."

  • (3 May 2021) Non-NHS healthcare providers given £96bn in a decade, says Labour Guardian May 3: "More than £96bn of health service funding has gone to non-NHS providers of care over the last decade, including private firms such as Virgin Care, research has revealed.
    "The amount of money flowing out of the NHS in England to for-profit companies, voluntary groups and not-for-profits has grown from £8.4bn in 2010 to £14.4bn last year – a 72% jump.
    "Private firms received £9.7bn of that £14.4bn for undertaking work such as planned operations, CT and other diagnostic scans, and community services such as district nursing, according to the Labour party analysis of NHS England’s annual reports and summarised accounts.
    "Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said: “It’s clear that under the Conservatives, spending on private health companies has spiralled out of control.”

  • (3 May 2021) NHS faces exodus of doctors after Covid pandemic, survey finds Guardian May 3:
    "Thousands of UK doctors are planning to quit the NHS after the Covid pandemic because they are exhausted by their workloads and worried about their mental health, a survey has revealed.
    "Almost one in three may retire early while a quarter are considering taking a career break and a fifth are weighing up quitting the health service to do something else.
    "Long hours, high demand for care, the impact of the pandemic and unpleasant working environments are taking their toll on medics, the British Medical Association findings show.
    "In a survey of 5,521 doctors 1,352 (31.9%) of the 4,258 who replied to a question about whether their career plans had changed over the last 12 months said they were now more likely to retire early than they were last year – more than double the 14% who said the same in June 2020."

  • (3 May 2021) The NHS is being privatised by stealth under the cover of a pandemic Guardian May 3 comment by Corbyn advisor Andrew Fisher:
    "Cronyism and outsourcing have defined the government’s response to the pandemic, from the “VIP lane” for personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers with connections to the Tory party to the privatised track and trace system so flawed it was described by Sage as only being of “marginal impact”. But less attention has been paid to what the longer-term impact of these decisions might be.
    "Far from being an aberration, the government’s pandemic response reflects its commitment to embedding private interests at the heart of the state and stealthily chipping away at our most valued national institution.
    "As Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser, and the special representative for climate change under Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary, recently told the Guardian, the government is slipping through plans to “effectively privatise the NHS by stealth” in “the name of a pandemic”.
    "This story of privatisation is not one of wholesale transfer, such as the sell-off of British Gas or Royal Mail, but rather of a gradual hollowing out, a process that has been further accelerated by the pandemic and will continue under the Johnson government.
    "In 2010, for example, the NHS spent £4.1bn on private sector contracts; by 2019, this had more than doubled to £9.2bn."

  • (30 Apr 2021) Women and babies at risk at hospital where doctors are censored and midwives fear working Independent April 30, with revelations of safety breaches at Worcestershire Royal Hospital:
    "The maternity department’s clinical director resigned from her role earlier this month and in a damning internal message, leaked to The Independent, she criticised senior bosses at the trust for censoring her for speaking out about the “gridlocked system” and “unacceptably long delays” for some women.
    "Consultant obstetrician Catherine Hillman said her role as clinical director was no longer tenable after a message she posted was taken down on the instruction of managers. She said the maternity unit was “at best precariously safe” and that she now realised it was “heresy to question the safety and validity of the situation and I am unable to continue to hold this party line.”

  • (29 Apr 2021) Test and trace would have been more successful if run by local authorities: Hunt Messenger newspapers April 29 report of Jeremy Hunt going rogue on a key question:
    He "told the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ Spring Conference: “I think that local Government has done heroically well in the pandemic overall and my own view is we should have asked it to do more.
    “I think we would have had more success with our contact tracing programme if we’d run it through local Government as the primary place that it operated from.”
    He added: “My observation would be: why has the vaccine programme been a success? Because it’s been very locally led. And that has meant you had local NHS people, local Government people, local public services, local volunteers.
    “And I think that one of the reasons we’ve had low compliance with requests to self-isolate…is because the request comes from someone in a call centre 300 miles away, not from a local authority that is in a better position – it would need the support to do this of course – but would be in a better position to monitor whether compliance was actually taking place".”

  • (28 Apr 2021) Coronavirus Politics: The Comparative Politics and Policy of COVID-19 An important new book, available for free download, identifies key threads in the global comparative discussion that continue to shed light on COVID-19 and shape debates about what it means for scholarship in health and comparative politics.
    It brings together over 30 authors versed in politics and the health issues in order to understand the health policy decisions, the public health interventions, the social policy decisions, their interactions, and the reasons.
    The book’s coverage is global, with a wide range of key and exemplary countries, and contains a mixture of comparative, thematic, and templated country studies. All go beyond reporting and monitoring to develop explanations that draw on the authors' expertise while engaging in structured conversations across the book.

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

  • (28 Apr 2021) Woman dies after Indian police ‘take oxygen cylinder from family for VIP’ in fairness even the Daily Torygraph (April 28) appears shocked by the callousness of these latest government cuts in vital aid even as ministers prattle on about Global Britain:
    "The UK government is set to almost entirely cut funding for polio eradication despite the world being tantalisingly close to ending the disease, which mainly affects children.
    "The UK will cut its funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) by 95 per cent, from £100m to £5m, according to a report by Devex.
    "The cut comes amid a swathe of funding reductions as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) tackles the move to slash overseas aid spending from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent.
    "On Tuesday, the Telegraph revealed that UK funding to help the world's poorest get access to clean water will be cut by 80 per cent.
    "Polio, which remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, causes paralysis and mainly affects children. "

  • (26 Apr 2021) Health minister refuses meeting with NHS workers over 1% pay offer Nursing Notes April 26 on the dismissive response from minister:
    "Health Minister Helen Whatley has declined to meet NHS workers and discuss how they feel about the Government’s 1% pay recommendation.
    "GMB invited the Conservative MP and Health Minister to meet frontline NHS workers so they could explain how they feel about the Government’s 1% pay recommendation.
    "A representative for Ms Whatley said she was too busy and declined their invitation; “We wanted to thank you for raising this issue with the Minister of State for Care and for requesting a meeting.
    “As we are sure you can appreciate the Minister is getting many requests for her time currently, and unfortunately she is unable to meet at the moment.”
    "Speaking in a previous Westminster Hall debate, Ms Whatley said pay was ‘rarely mentioned’ when she spoke to health workers and suggested they instead wanted more staff, time off, and to feel valued and supported."

  • (26 Apr 2021) "Commercial partners" could take over "entirety" of planned imaging networks (£)HSJ report April 26 on the latest explicit plans for privatisation from NHS England, even while they prattle on about "integration":
    “New diagnostic imaging networks will be of such scale that they will be ‘significant operation businesses in their own right’ and will ‘need a distinct identity and arm’s length separation from the trusts’, NHS England has said.
    “Guidance published yesterday gave trusts “until 2023” to set up diagnostic networks which will have their “own distinct leadership [and] governance arrangements” and will be responsible for asset management, financing, quality, staffing and location of all elective and non elective imaging across England.
    “… In new operational guidance, NHS England has outlined seven models the networks can take, which include “outsourcing the service in its entirety, including ownership of the capital assets required for delivery of the service, to a commercial partner”.”

  • (26 Apr 2021) Labour: Ministers must reveal Covid contract links BBC News April 26:
    "“Labour is calling for ministers to publish all contacts and links they have with firms awarded government contracts during the Covid crisis.
    “In March 2020, emergency measures let the government speed up buying things like PPE and ventilators by directly awarding contracts rather than tenders.
    “But since then, ministers have faced accusations of offering a "VIP fast-track" to the contracts for friends.
    “… The call comes as a lobbying row continues to surround Westminster, following revelations that former prime minister David Cameron texted ministers on behalf of a firm he worked for - Greensill Capital - during the crisis.
    “Last week, the BBC also revealed that businessman Sir James Dyson directly texted Boris Johnson about tax issues during the pandemic, which the PM then said he would "fix".”

  • (26 Apr 2021) Boris Johnson said he ‘would rather let bodies pile high’ than impose third lockdown, reports claim Independent April 26:
    "Boris Johnson has been accused of saying that he would rather allow “bodies [to] pile high in their thousands” than impose another national lockdown.
    "It was reported that the prime minister made the remark after he ordered the second lockdown at the end of October.
    "Downing Street has strongly denied that Mr Johnson made the comment and said it was “just another lie”. But the Daily Mail said the sources who allege he made the comment back their claim.
    "They say Mr Johnson lost his temper and “raged” after agreeing to new restrictions following a meeting in No 10, allegedly adding: “No more ****ing lockdowns - let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
    "A spokesperson for the Labour Party said in response to the report: “If this report is true, then these are truly shocking and sickening comments from Boris Johnson. It is hard to imagine how families who have lost loved ones to Covid will feel reading them. Boris Johnson must make a public statement as soon as possible in his response to this report.”

  • (26 Apr 2021) Three NHS patients ‘mutilated’ by surgeon in a single week prompts shake-up at NHS trust Shocking Independent April 26 story on failed standards at Norfolk & Norwich Hospital:
    "An RAF veteran has been left with life-changing injuries after being “mutilated” by an NHS surgeon during what should have been a routine procedure.
    "Paul Tooth, 64, has been permanently left with tubes going in and out of his body which he needs to continually recycle bile produced by his liver.
    "The previously fit and active father-of-two has lost five stone in weight and can barely leave his house after the surgery last year.
    "It was supposed to be a routine gall bladder removal, but the surgeon inexplicably took out Paul’s bile duct and hepatic duct, which link the liver to the intestines, as well as damaging the liver itself, making a repair impossible.
    "Although he has won his legal battle against the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, Paul believes what happened to him raises bigger safety questions for the trust after he learned he was one of three patients harmed by the same surgeon just days apart."

  • (25 Apr 2021) Mental health patients ‘missed out on care’ during Covid Guardian April 25:
    "Mental health patients found their conditions deteriorated during the pandemic because the NHS switched from in-person help to support by telephone, video and text messages, new research reveals.
    "Many reported a lower quality of care, according to a study by University College London; others had trouble accessing medication, had appointments cancelled or felt the loss of face-to-face help meant they “were missing out on care”.
    "Researchers led by Dr Brynmor Lloyd-Evans found that, for many patients, the switch to remote care heightened the isolation and loneliness they were already feeling because they could no longer see friends and family.
    “People with pre-existing mental health conditions experienced serious disruptions to their access to, and the quality of, mental healthcare as a result of the pandemic. The opportunities and challenges of remote mental healthcare were an important aspect of our findings,” Lloyd-Evans and colleagues write in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology."

  • (25 Apr 2021) Social services chief: we’ve failed to learn lessons from Covid Observer April 25:
    "Failures by successive governments to fix the care system led to countless avoidable care home deaths from Covid, England’s most senior social services leader has said.
    "James Bullion, who steps down next week as president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, told the Observer he was angry at the unfairness of the effect of Covid on the poorest and most marginalised people in society and frustrated that ministers had still not laid out how they intended to reform social care.
    “I suppose the anger is about the impact of the pandemic on the people who are most vulnerable and the poorest – rough sleepers, disabled people, older and frail people,” he said.
    “When we look at the number of deaths, we see disproportionately more black and minority ethnic people affected, more people who’ve got social care needs, and so on.
    "And that includes social care workers – it’s not very well known, but more social care workers have died than health workers. They are generally low-paid women and many of them from the black and minority ethnic population.”

  • (25 Apr 2021) Outrage as No 10 rules out urgent inquiry into Covid mistakes Observer report April 25 on government retreat from Boris Johnson's promise of an inquiry:
    "The government has caused anger among bereaved families by telling them it will be too busy to start an inquiry into the UK’s handling of the Covid pandemic for months.
    "In a six-page letter to lawyers for thousands of families calling for an immediate statutory public inquiry, the government said “an inquiry now is not appropriate” and “the very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock”. It said “it is not anticipated that the government’s workload will ease in the coming months”.
    "In a position statement that appears to kick Boris Johnson’s promise of an inquiry into the long grass, the government told the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group its “entire focus” was on delivering vaccines and preparing for “the effects of the third wave of the virus currently being experienced in neighbouring countries”. The letter, sent on 1 April, also said mechanisms to learn lessons were already in place, citing inquiries by committees of MPs and the National Audit Office (NAO)."

  • (25 Apr 2021) Matt Hancock may be forced to reveal politicians behind 'VIP' Covid contract bids Mirror report:
    "Matt Hancock could be forced to reveal names of politicians behind “VIP” Covid-19 contract bids after officials blocked them out.
    "A High Court judge is set to rule next week whether the Health Secretary must identify MPs, ministers and Tory associates who fast-tracked firms that won £1.7billion of contracts when the pandemic first hit.
    "In a case brought by campaign group Good Law Project, black lines were drawn over names of those who recommended firms and decided who got what.
    "Normal competition rules were suspended as the Government raced for PPE and ventilators. It led to what one lawyer in the Good Law Project described as a “red carpet to riches” for friends of ministers and MPs."

  • (23 Apr 2021) NHS increases surgery sessions to tackle hospital waiting lists Guardian April 23 reports the positive news that four London trusts are collaborating to reduce waiting lists for treatment -- but irritatingly fails to identify them:
    “Four trusts spanning 10 acute and specialist hospitals in west and north-west London have joined forces to treat each other’s patients in a move to tackle the huge numbers seeking care.
    “Figures collated by the trusts and shared with the Guardian show how dramatically waiting lists have increased across that area, as they have across England as a whole, as a result of the widespread suspension of normal NHS care over the last year.
    “The number of patients at the four trusts waiting at least a year from their referral until they are treated has grown from just 20 pre-pandemic to 5,737.
    “Between January last year and the same month this year the proportion of people with cancer receiving their first treatment from Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust within 62 days of being urgently referred by their GP fell from 82% to 73.8%. The NHS constitution says that 85% of such care, such as surgery or chemotherapy, should begin within the specified 62 days.”

  • (23 Apr 2021) Oxford malaria vaccine proves highly effective in Burkina Faso trial Guardian April 23:
    "A vaccine against malaria has been shown to be highly effective in trials in Africa, holding out the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children every year.
    "The vaccine, developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over 12 months.
    "The hunt for a malaria vaccine has been going on the best part of a century. One, the Mosquirix vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has been through lengthy clinical trials but is only partially effective, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years. It is being piloted by the World Health Organization in parts of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
    "The Oxford vaccine is the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy against the mosquito-borne parasite disease. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries."

  • (23 Apr 2021) Lobbying scandal: Race for PPE held up by demands from ‘VIP’ suppliers (£) Times report April 23:
    “Civil servants were unable to buy PPE quickly at the height of the pandemic last year because they were “drowning” in offers from suppliers with links to the government, emails have shown.
    “In correspondence made public after legal action, officials expressed annoyance that VIP suppliers were allowed to “jump to the front of the queue”. Civil servants said that the number of requests they had to process from “high priority contacts” had hurt their ability to accept offers from other suppliers.
    “Applications to supply PPE to the government were ten times more likely to be successful if they came with a recommendation from someone in government, a report by the National Audit Office found last year.
    “… Transparency International, the campaign group, said this week that a fifth of PPE contracts totalling £3.7 billion had raised a “red flag” for potential corruption.”

  • (22 Apr 2021) Covid-19: Government race review “misused evidence,” says Marmot BMJ April 22 report:
    "A review commissioned by the government that dismissed the notion that structural racism may have contributed to poor health outcomes among ethnic minority groups during the covid-19 pandemic was guilty of a “misuse of evidence,” a world expert on health inequalities has said.
    "Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, said that the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities,1 chaired by Tony Sewell, failed to acknowledge that racism could account for the “adverse distribution of socioeconomic characteristics” that cause health inequalities when it selectively quoted his evidence.
    "But although the report has been roundly condemned for concluding that there was “no evidence of systemic or institutional racism” in the UK,2 Marmot said the reaction to it had given him some hope. “Because of their misuse of evidence, it has been widely criticised,” he said. “That makes me hopeful that the truth, the evidence, can actually carry the day. We need the evidence out there, we need people discussing it, and we need to get our national politicians responsive to it.”
    "Marmot was speaking at an online Westminster Health Forum event on 20 April, where he also argued that the UK’s high excess mortality during the covid-19 pandemic was caused by austerity policies, increased social and economic inequality, and cuts to public services over the past decade that had left the UK “unhealthy coming into the pandemic.”

  • (22 Apr 2021) Explosive emails show how the Government’s VIP lane caused chaos in PPE procurement Good Law Project report April 22:
    "“Explosive emails revealed in a hearing on our legal challenge over direct awards of PPE contracts show civil servants raising the alarm that they were “drowning in VIP requests” from political connections that do not have “the correct certification or pass due diligence”.
    “One email shows a civil servant warning that when VIPs “jump to the front of the queue it then has a knock on effect to the remaining offers of help.”
    “For ordinary people the pandemic was a tragedy. But for well-connected VIPs it was the chance of a lifetime – huge fortunes were up for grabs. “What this civil servant is saying is that it became more of a tragedy because so many VIPs – overwhelmingly introduced by Ministers – were interfering with civil servants’ ability to purchase the PPE needed by healthcare workers on the frontline.
    “Remember Ayanda, the company linked to Liz Truss, fast-tracked through the VIP Lane – who supplied £155m worth of unusable face masks to the NHS frontline? This email shows Ayanda threatening to escalate their bid to ministerial level and another includes a civil servant warning of the Ayanda deal “the bar seems to have been lowered on this one.”
    “This is the cost of cronyism – good administration suffers, efficient buying of PPE suffers.”

  • (22 Apr 2021) Fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags for possible corruption’ Guardian April 22:
    "One in five government Covid contracts awarded between February and November 2020 contained one or more red flags for possible corruption and require urgent further investigation, a respected campaign group has warned.
    "Transparency International UK said a “seriously flawed” arrangement, whereby companies bidding for contracts were prioritised if they were referred into a “VIP lane” by their political connections, had “damaged trust in the integrity of the pandemic response”.
    "The group said Boris Johnson’s government must urgently disclose the identities of companies awarded public money through the VIP lane, which was set up by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care in the early days of the pandemic.
    "The government has so far refused to name the companies granted public money through the scheme, citing “commercial confidentiality”. It has previously claimed the purpose of the arrangement was to triage large numbers of offers to help from the private sector."

  • (21 Apr 2021) Vaccines are working: charts that show the Covid endgame FT report April 21:
    “It is easy to feel as if the coronavirus pandemic is getting out of control again. The rate of new cases hit a record last week, with 5.2m people around the world getting infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
    “Three months ago, many in India were celebrating the prospect that the country was approaching herd immunity; now the number of new cases is growing at an alarming rate.
    “… But the flurry of depressing headlines cannot disguise one thing: it is now clear that the vaccines are working. In countries where cases have been falling in recent months, the vaccines have saved lives. And in countries that are still struggling to suppress a third or fourth wave, the vaccines have also saved lives.
    “An FT analysis of data from five countries — each facing very different scenarios — finds that rates of infections, hospitalisation and death have traced a lower path among the older, most vaccinated age groups than among younger cohorts, who are least likely to have received the jab.”

  • (21 Apr 2021) Top medic criticises Government over attention given to Dyson ventilator i-News April 26:
    “A senior medic who led the development of a ventilator to tackle the first wave of Covid-19 last year has criticised the way Sir James Dyson was given attention by the Government despite having no clinical expertise.
    “Andrew Farmery, professor of anaesthetics at Oxford University, spearheaded the OxVent project in response to the Government’s appeal for help for ventilators in March last year.
    “Sir James has come under scrutiny after it emerged Prime Minister Boris Johnson had agreed by text message to “fix” tax changes the vacuum tycoon wanted in return for the development of a Dyson ventilator.“Prof Farmery told i on Wednesday the Dyson prototype was “never a goer” and said it is his view that Sir James and the Prime Minister “both knew it wasn’t going to actually happen”.
    “The Government wanted the ventilator shortage to be solved by “UK PLC” rather than “anonymous university nerds”, Prof Farmery said.”

  • (21 Apr 2021) Government confirms no Coronavirus bonus for health and care staff in England Nursing Notes April 21:
    "The Government has confirmed there will be no COVID bonus for health and care staff in England.
    "It comes after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all agreed a one-time payment of at least £500 to all health and social care workers for their efforts during the pandemic.
    "A recent petition with over 14,000 signatures called upon Downing Street to honour a similar payment in England.
    "In response to the petition, the Government confirmed there would be no bonus for workers in England; “We are immensely grateful to our health and social care workforce. We are not currently planning to pay £500 bonuses but are exploring ways to improve recognition of health and social care staff.
    “The Government hugely values and appreciates all our NHS and social care staff. We are working hard to ensure that all health and social care workers feel supported and safe to continue the fight against Covid-19.
    “Covid-19 has placed a huge strain on public finances and the economic outlook remains uncertain."

  • (21 Apr 2021) ‘The system has collapsed’: India’s descent into Covid hell Guardian April 21:
    "[India] has descended into a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Almost 1.6 million cases have been registered in a week, bringing total cases to more than 15 million. In the space of just 12 days, the Covid positivity rate doubled to 17%, while in Delhi it hit 30%. Hospitals across the country have filled to capacity but this time it is predominately the young taking up the beds; in Delhi, 65% of cases are under 40 years old.
    "While the unprecedented spread of the virus has been partly blamed on a more contagious variant that has emerged in India, Modi’s government has also been accused of failures of political leadership from the top, with lax attitudes emulated by state and local leaders from all parties and even health officials across the country, which led many to falsely believe in recent months that India had defeated Covid."

  • (21 Apr 2021) Why is India seeing such a huge surge in Covid-19 cases? Guardian April 21:
    "“The health minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in March that the country had entered the “endgame” of the virus but cases were already beginning to take off by that point. Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India’s pandemic, told the Associated Press that India had failed to learn from second or third surges in countries including Brazil and the UK, to ensure it was ready for a similar situation.
    “The discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in India has caused widespread concern and has been blamed as one of the main factors driving the wave of cases. The variant is known as B.1.617 and has two unusual mutations: E484Q and L425R. This so-called “double mutant” variant is believed to be more transmissible than previous strains.”

  • (20 Apr 2021) Ageing NHS hospitals hit by sewage leaks, power failures and rat infestations as maintenance backlog hits £9 billion Independent April 20 with some grim chapter and verse on the implications of the soaring £9bn backlog in NHS maintenance as buildings crumble:
    “Raw sewage flooding wards, power failures, and rat infestations were just some of more than 1,200 critical incidents at NHS trusts in the past year caused by ageing equipment and crumbling infrastructure.
    “NHS leaders have said more investment is needed to reverse a backlog in buildings maintenance across the health service which has now reached an unprecedented £9bn. The situation is getting worse, with the backlog costs rising by 60 per cent in four years.
    “In some hospitals the problems have become so severe they are affecting patient care leading to wards being closed, operations delayed and in some cases posing genuine risks to safety.
    “… Jonathan Grieve, from MyJobQuote.co.uk which unearthed the data, said: “When we see figures like these it is plain to see that the NHS is in dire need of more money to support basic infrastructural requirements. By investing in the NHS now, it will enable staff to care for patients to a much higher standard.”

  • (20 Apr 2021) Revealed: £102.6 million to ex-No10 advisor More revelations from the Good Law project April 20:
    "We already knew that Boris Johnson had misled Parliament when he insisted in February that all COVID contracts were “on the record”. Now we’ve uncovered a new contract that makes further nonsense of that claim.
    "In July 2020 Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited was handed a £102.6 million Government PPE contract – without any competition. Though it was awarded the multi-million pound deal to supply face masks last July, Government failed to publish any details relating to the contract until March this year. In fact, it was only after our lawyers wrote to Government about Pharmaceuticals Direct that this lucrative contract was disclosed, long after Boris Johnson claimed all contract details were on the record. The company’s named representative was a man named Samir Jassal.
    "Samir Jassal is a well-connected figure within the Conservative Party. A two-time Conservative Party parliamentary candidate and former councillor, he has met Boris Johnson on at least three occasions, with the last meeting held in October 2020.
    "According to his LinkedIn profile, he was an adviser in No.10 during David Cameron’s premiership in 2015 and has worked with several other prominent Conservative Party figures, including the Home Secretary Priti Patel and Minister Zac Goldsmith. Jassal has also donated £4,000 to the Conservative Party in recent years."

  • (20 Apr 2021) Covid contracts: PPE fixer who was Tory donor named in admin error BBC News April 20 on how the embarrassing facts only emerged by accident:
    "Although the deal, for protective masks for hospital workers, was signed last year, the details only came to light in March after a court rebuked the government for failing to publish contracts within the legal time frame. Health Secretary Matt Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully for this failure.
    "Even when the deal involving Mr Jassal was finally published, the contact details for the supplier were blacked out. Full contracts are routinely redacted when published by the government.
    "However, in what appears to have been a clerical error, a separate document published with the contract gives Mr Jassal's name. He is listed as the "supplier's contact" to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited, the company paid to supply the masks."

  • (18 Apr 2021) NHS England chair faces demands to explain role in Greensill lobbying Observer April 18 on the way the Cameron lobbying scandal impacts on the NHS:
    “The Conservative peer who chairs NHS England is facing demands to explain why he helped arrange for Greensill Capital to lobby senior health service bosses, with Labour describing his role as “shocking”.
    “David Prior is facing questions over a meeting he organised between the now collapsed finance firm’s founder Lex Greensill and the overall boss of the NHS and its chief financial officer.
    “Lord Prior – a former Tory MP, health minister and Tory party deputy chair – also helped to facilitate a meeting at which Lex Greensill was able to lobby Lady Harding, the Tory peer who chairs NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator.
    “That encounter led to Greensill being able to meet the chief executives of a number of NHS hospital trusts whose support he was seeking for a scheme to let the NHS’s 1.4m staff in England be paid daily by Greensill, via an app called Earnd, rather than monthly in what Labour said was a latter-day “junk bonds” exercise.”

  • (18 Apr 2021) My Little Crony An updated interactive visualization of the links between Tory politicians and firms winning government contracts -- valuable resource in tracking the corruption.

  • (18 Apr 2021) Serco brazens out Covid calamity as the profits roll in Observer April 18:
    “What do you do when your company finds itself at the centre of a controversy? Some companies draw up delicately worded apologies or at least look for convenient scapegoats, but Serco has taken the more traditional approach during the pandemic: stick to your position and insist there’s nothing to see here.
    “The outsourcing company will be winning no popularity prizes any time soon, not least because of its role in the UK’s expensive test-and-trace programme. The National Audit Office said there was no evidence the £22bn programme had reduced rates of Covid-19 in England.
    “Serco chief executive Rupert Soames, a grandson of Winston Churchill whose brother is former Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, has staunchly defended his company’s role, and said the test and trace team had done “bloody well”.
    “The rewards for Serco for that and other work have certainly been generous. In March it revealed that Soames had been paid £4.9m for 2020. Shareholders were also happy, enjoying a £17m dividend payout after Serco doubled profits in 2020 as Covid-19 contracts boosted revenues.

  • (18 Apr 2021) No 10 adviser Eddie Lister owns shares in a firm awarded £1m in government and NHS contracts Mail in Sunday April 18:
    "Eddie Lister, one of the Prime Minister's most senior advisers, owns shares in a company that has won nearly £1 million in Government and NHS contracts, I can reveal.
    "The Tory peer has more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser.
    "Four years ago, Johnson Controls (no relation to Boris) merged with Tyco, where Lister worked for more than a decade as, wait for it, 'director of government relations' before Mayor Boris brought him to City Hall and then Downing Street."

  • (17 Apr 2021) David Cameron rode the wave of Covid to target the NHS Times April 17 revelations on the attempt to foist a Greensill project on to the NHS:
    “Cameron, … was writing with a pitch from “one of the businesses I now work with”: Greensill Capital, whose Earnd app was being piloted in several NHS trusts. By offering daily payment, he explained, “it addresses one of your key priorities: helping all NHS employees’ welfare, morale and wellbeing”.
    “Cameron then made a striking claim: his old protégé, the health secretary, whom he had already lobbied over private drinks, backed Greensill’s idea. “As you can imagine, Matt Hancock ... as well as the many Trust CEOs are extremely positive about this innovative offer.”
    “He also reiterated Greensill’s claim that the pandemic had created a moral case for a product, which, until that point, the NHS had not used widely. “This is of such potential importance in contributing to the priority of doing all we can to help NHS employees at the current time,” the former prime minister added.
    “All he needed was for NHSX to speed up the process, and grant it access to the data of NHS employees. As Cameron put it: “Our ask is about electronic staff records, as Earnd will be much slicker if it can obtain access to employee data ... I think some help from you would go a long way.” He signed off: “Finally, and importantly, once this is all over, it would be great to see you again — maybe for lunch? Let’s stay in touch!”
    “Within months, Cameron had got what he wanted. In October, Earnd unveiled a partnership to deliver rapid payment to up to half a million NHS staff, having secured deals to get access to, and in some cases pay for, the sought-after data.”

  • (16 Apr 2021) ‘Staff have been treated like cannon fodder’: NHS bosses issue stark warning on future of health service Independent April 16:
    "Hundreds of senior NHS managers have voiced their fears for the future of the health service amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis without a significant pay rise to help retain staff on the front line.
    "A survey of more than 800 senior NHS managers has revealed the extreme pressure some have been working under, with many working 20 or more hours of unpaid extra hours each week.
    "More than 90 per cent backed a significant pay rise for NHS staff to try and head off a feared exodus of nurses, doctors and other staff leaving the NHS after the pandemic. This would help shore up the service as it faces the daunting task of tackling record waiting lists now totalling 4.7 million patients.
    "Some managers said that the government’s planned 1 per cent pay rise was an “insult” and made them feel “worthless”, according to the survey run by the Managers in Partnership union."

  • (16 Apr 2021) Matt Hancock Holds Shares In Sister's Firm Who Won NHS Contracts Huffington Post April 16 on the latest revelations about Matt Hancock:
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock has a stake in his sister’s company that has recently won NHS contracts, it has emerged as questions are raised over the links between the Tory government and the private sector.
    "In the latest edition of the register of members of parliament’s interests, Hancock is shown to hold at least a 15% share in a company called Topwood Limited, with the declaration made last month.
    "Last month, Topwood won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal services, including the shredding of confidential documents.
    "According to Companies House, one of the directors of the firm is Emily Gilruth, the older sister of the Tory cabinet minister. The connection was revealed by the Bywire news website.
    "Health Service Journal also found Topwood has been in line for health contracts in England, securing a place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework for “confidential waste destruction and disposal” in 2019, just months after Hancock became secretary of state. The framework is effectively a shortlist of providers available to the local NHS. The HSJ added that Hancock did not declare his association with the firm in any of the published ministerial interests declarations of recent years."

  • (15 Apr 2021) Hospital waiting lists in England at longest since records began Guardian April 15:
    "Hospital waiting lists in England are longer than at any time since records began and nearly 388,000 people have waited more than a year to start treatment.
    "The NHS England data for February exposes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health service.
    "About 4.7 million people are now waiting for hospital treatment, the highest number since at least August 2007. The number of people waiting for 52 weeks or more is higher than at any time in more than 13 years.
    "Referrals for urgent cancer treatment were also down 8% on last year, with 15,475 fewer people being sent for help. Fewer people were admitted to accident and emergency departments, down by more than 50,000 to 503,913 in March compared with the same time in 2019, before the pandemic hit."

  • (14 Apr 2021) Revealed: ‘COVID goldrush’ firms receiving millions under UK furlough scheme Another Open Democracy revelation of the dodgy dealings during the pandemic:
    “Companies awarded huge COVID contracts by the government have received millions in support payments through the furlough scheme, openDemocracy can reveal.
    “Among the firms given furlough payments are a digital marketing business that won an £19.5m contract to provide personal protective equipment, and a controversial science company once hired by Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave.
    “The revelations come amid growing concerns about COVID cronyism and lobbying in government and days after HMRC announced it was launching a clampdown on poor families who were mistakenly overpaid tax credits as long as 17 years ago.
    “OpenDemocracy’s investigation also found that Greensill Capital, the collapsed finance firm at the centre of the David Cameron lobbying scandal, has been receiving payments from the government’s wage subsidy scheme.”

  • (14 Apr 2021) Lockdown easing will ‘inevitably’ lead to rise in deaths and hospitalisations, Boris Johnson warns Independent April 14 warns us to adopt the brace position for more bad news to come:
    “Hospitalisations and deaths will rise “inevitably” as the lockdown is lifted, Boris Johnson has warned the public.
    “The dramatic falls in infections were achieved primarily because of the tough restrictions – rather than the vaccination programme, the prime minister said.
    “The bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown,” Mr Johnson said. “So, as we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, that sadly we will see more hospitalisations and deaths – and people have just got to understand that.”
    “However, the prime minister insisted the key future dates for lifting curbs – on 17 May and 21 June – would go ahead as planned, on the current data.”

  • (14 Apr 2021) U.S. trade czar meets unions, companies as pressure mounts for IP waiver to boost vaccinations Reuters report April 14 showing the Biden regime far more responsive than Johnson government to need for global vaccination to contain the pandemic -- and action to force grudging drug companies into line:
    “U.S. trade czar Katherine Tai is meeting with unions, industry executives and advocacy groups as Washington faces mounting pressure to back a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights to accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.
    “…Tai, who helped broker Sunday’s agreement in a thorny trade case involving South Korean battery makers, is seeking input before a virtual World Trade Organization meeting on the issue on Wednesday.
    “Tai met with representatives from more than 20 unions, including the AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Association of Flight Attendants, her office said. She underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to increasing COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution, both at home and worldwide, USTR said, seeking the organizations’ views on increasing vaccine availability and preventing the emergence and spread of new variants.
    “Biden’s top trade negotiator also met with officials from eight groups, including Public Citizen, Oxfam America, Human Rights Watch and Doctors without Borders, who want Washington to change course and allow an increase in the production of vaccines.
    “WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will convene major manufacturers, banking officials and ministers from wealthy and developing countries on Wednesday to discuss vaccine export restrictions and a waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 drugs.”

  • (14 Apr 2021) Maternity units told to meet target staffing levels by next April Independent April 14 following up on its coverage of the poor quality of maternity care in a number of trusts and belated action to address it:
    "NHS maternity units have been told they have until next April to increase the numbers of midwives on wards to expected levels after a near £100 million investment.
    "NHS England has told hospitals they must bring staffing levels for midwives up the levels needed to meet their planned demand from mothers and to ensure women get safe care.
    "In a letter to NHS trusts, England’s chief nurse Ruth May said she expected hospitals to use their share of a recent £96 million investment by NHS England to boost staffing levels along with extra spending from local budgets."

  • (13 Apr 2021) 4.6m people missed out on hospital treatment in England in 2020 Guardian April 13 exclusive on Health Foundation research, with some shocking figures on how far the NHS has to go to catch up after Covid:
    "More than 4.5 million people missed out on hospital treatment in England last year due to the disruption to the NHS caused by Covid, with growing numbers turning to crowdfunding to pay for cancer drugs and operations.
    "The number of patients having planned surgery such as a joint replacement plummeted from 16.62 million in 2019 to just under 12 million last year – a drop of 4.64 million people – an analysis of NHS hospital activity by the Health Foundation reveals.
    "The fall was mainly caused by hospitals suspending many of their normal services as they focused on the influx of people severely ill with coronavirus, which resulted in operating theatres being turned into makeshift intensive care units and surgical staff being repurposed to fight the pandemic.
    "At the same time GPs referred 6 million fewer people to have diagnostic tests and treatment in hospital as a result of the disruption to care …"

  • (13 Apr 2021) Nigel Boardman: from GQ list to chairing Greensill lobbying inquiry Guardian April 13:
    “The corporate lawyer chosen to chair the inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal was once named one of GQ’s most connected men in Britain – but his close connections in the world of finance and politics are set to come under scrutiny.
    “Nigel Boardman was a long-term partner at the international law firm Slaughter and May, a role he left in 2019, though he continues to be a senior consultant at the firm.
    “Slaughter and May is deeply connected to the coronavirus loan scheme that David Cameron sought to access on behalf of Greensill Capital – repeatedly texting the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on its behalf.
    “Lawyers from the firm were “working as an integrated team with Treasury legal advisers” as the Treasury set up the Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF), announced by Sunak on 17 March 2020, according to a release on the firm’s website.”

  • (13 Apr 2021) Thousands of doctors have quit the NHS for overseas amid row over visas for elderly parents i-News April 13 with an everyday story of the consequences of institutionalised racism in Priti Patel's brutal Home Office:
    "Thousands of GPs and consultants have left the NHS over the last six years to move overseas with the row over visas for elderly parents one of the main reasons behind the “staggering” exodus, according to doctors.
    "Figures obtained from the General Medical Council (GMC) reveal that since 2015 more than 2,000 GPs and specialists have left for another country and asked to be erased from the UK register. More than 4,000 non-specialists, such as junior doctors, have quit their jobs and moved abroad.
    "Doctors said the latest figures make a mockery of the Government’s economic argument for severely restricting the number of adult dependent relative (ADR) visas for elderly parents of NHS staff. The Coalition Government’s hostile environment policy led to a change in the rules in 2012 that led to an immediate collapse in the number of visas granted."

  • (13 Apr 2021) Mental Health Matters: Celebrity death among cascade of concern over eating disorders (£)HSJ report April 13 on a still unresolved gap in NHS mental health care:
    "Yesterday’s tragic news of the death of a former Big Brother star comes after a month of headlines about people struggling with an eating disorder.
    "Much of that news, including in HSJ, has focused on the recent dramatic rise in demand for eating disorder services, which the NHS is unable to cope with.
    "Despite much talk of how coronavirus has impacted on the NHS, eating disorder services were already broken before the pandemic."

  • (13 Apr 2021) David Cameron facing scrutiny over £123m Illumina health contract (£) Times April 13 report on yet more shenanigans from ex PM David Cameron – this time lobbying for a US health corporation:
    "David Cameron is facing new questions over lobbying after an American healthcare company he acts for as a paid adviser secured a £123 million contract with the Department of Health.
    "Illumina was awarded the sum a week after the former prime minister appeared with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, at a genomics conference in September 2019.
    "Cameron has denied lobbying on any Illumina contracts, saying that his role at the company was purely to promote the benefits of genome sequencing.
    "The conference coincided with a £200 million expansion in the government’s sequencing programme. A week later Genomics England, a health department body, awarded Illumina the £123 million contract without competition."

  • (12 Apr 2021) Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs Reuters report April 12 on consequences of chronically low bed provision in Ontario:
    “Canada’s most populous province is cancelling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.
    “The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.
    “Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.
    “Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly cancelled elective surgeries. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.”

  • (12 Apr 2021) The Guardian view on mental health: this emergency requires a response Guardian Editorial April 12:
    "The toll on the UK’s mental health caused by the pandemic is becoming much clearer. The dismaying, if unsurprising, news as shops and businesses reopen is that fears that Covid would result in higher levels of mental illness have been borne out.
    "What is particularly disturbing about the warning issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on Friday is that it most strongly applies to children.
    "There were 80,226 more under-18s referred to NHS mental health services in England between April and December last year than in the same period in 2019.
    "The number of children and young people needing emergency care rose 20% to 18,269, while the number of adults needing emergency treatment reached a record high of 159,347.
    "Parity of esteem for mental health was supposedly enshrined in law in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. But the promise was not fulfilled."

  • (12 Apr 2021) Sixty seconds on . . . a covid-19 inquiry BMJ April 12 giving a welcome plug to Keep Our NHS Public's People's Covid Inquiry, chaired by Michael Mansfield:
    "The informal People’s Covid Inquiry (www.peoplescovidinquiry.com), convened by the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, is filling the gap, receiving testimony from experts, key workers, and the public at fortnightly hearings.8 The inquiry’s panellist Neena Modi, professor of neonatal medicine, told The BMJ, “If ever there was a time to ask questions, it has got to be now.”
    "I hope this is about more than blame
    "The inquiry’s chair, the human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC, told The BMJ that the “focus is the present predicament” and “the rebuild of public health.” The inquiry aims to publish recommendations, establish accountability, and bring justice. “We endeavour to ask the questions everyone wants answers to,” he said."

  • (11 Apr 2021) Downing Street rewrote ‘independent’ report on race, experts claim Observer April 11 indicating that the Sewell report denying institutional racism was neither independent nor written by the commission members:
    "The Observer has been told that significant sections of the report published on 31 March, which were criticised and debunked by health professionals, academics, business chiefs and crime experts, were not written by the 12 commissioners who were appointed last July.
    "The 258-page document was not made available to be read in full or signed off by the group, which included scientist and BBC broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Samir Shah, former chair of the Runnymede Trust, nor were they made aware of its 24 final recommendations. Instead, the finished report, it is alleged, was produced by No 10.
    "Kunle Olulode, an anti-racism activist and director of the charity Voice4Change, is the first commissioner to condemn the government publicly for its lack of transparency. In a statement to the Observer, Olulode’s charity was scathing of the way evidence was cherrypicked, distorted and denied in the final document."

  • (10 Apr 2021) Protesters advocate for legislation to alleviate burden of medical debt lawsuits Johns-Hopkins Newsletter with more news on the US health care system and how it’s viewed by patients, April 10:
    “End Medical Debt Maryland held a rally at the Hopkins Hospital Billings building on April 3 to protest against the practice of suing patients over medical debt. End Medical Debt Maryland is a coalition of 58 organizations that are advocating for the Medical Debt Protection Act to be passed at the Maryland General Assembly this spring.
    “Numerous Baltimore residents shared their stories of financial and emotional distress incurred from the hardships of medical debt. The protesters also distributed “Know Your Rights” flyers around the neighborhood.
    “Brig Dumais, coalition chair of End Medical Debt Maryland, emphasized that residents of East Baltimore are most likely to be sued for medical debt, notably Black people, single mothers and low-income essential workers. According to Dumais, at least 17% of Marylanders currently have medical debt in collections, with the median debt totaled around $944.
    “Ending medical debt is not only a patients’ rights issue. It’s a worker’s rights issue. It’s a social justice issue and a gender justice issue,” they said. “We all know that for wealthy institutions, $944 is just a drop in the bucket. For a working family, $944 makes a difference between making rent or having food on the table or not.”

  • (10 Apr 2021) David Cameron lobbied No 10 and Hancock for Greensill (£) Times report April 10 into more of the sleazy dealings of David Cameron and Lex Greensill, this time adding in an NHS component:
    "Cameron brought Greensill to a “private drink” with the health secretary in October 2019
    "Cameron and Greensill lobbied Matt Hancock to introduce a payment scheme that was later rolled out within the NHS.
    "With the help of one of Cameron’s former ministers, Greensill, 44, also met with Dido Harding, the then head of NHS Improvement, and Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, to pitch his ideas.
    "Greensill later launched a partnership with NHS Shared Business Services, jointly run by Hancock’s department allowing up to 400,000 NHS staff to be paid daily
    "The Australian banker planned to make money from the scheme, which was awarded without tender or an open process."

  • (9 Apr 2021) Children bearing brunt of ‘terrifying’ coronavirus mental health crisis Independent April 9 with shocking new figures from Royal College of Psychiatrists:
    “Experts from the Royal College of Psychiatrists have warned the problem facing the country will get worse before it gets better with new analysis revealing almost 400,000 children and 2.2 million adults sought help for mental health problems during the crisis.
    “While the effect of lockdown and coronavirus has affected people of all ages, children appear to be particularly susceptible.
    “Some 80,226 more children and young people were referred to specialist mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28 per cent on the same months in 2019 to 372,438.
    "Meanwhile, 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million.”

  • (7 Apr 2021) Working backwards with No. 10 Equalities expert Roger Kline April 7 rubbishes the government commissioned Sewell report that claims institutional racism is not an issue in Britain any more:
    "The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report is part of a political project mapped out some time ago.
    "In 2017, Munira Mirza, the (now) head of the No 10 Policy Unit, who commissioned the Sewell Commission) dismissed the concept of institutional racism claiming “a lot of people in politics thinks it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism”.
    "In 2019, Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said ”too much ground had been ceded to the Left on issues of identity […] We need to reassert the value of individual and character above the particular type of group you might happen to be a member of […] I think there’s been too much identity politics in Britain”.
    "Nine months ago, Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities Minister, having claimed (falsely as the subsequent leaks confirmed) that the Fenton Review on COVID-19 did not make recommendations, then “hit back at claims ‘systemic injustice’ is the reason ethnic minorities are more likely to die from coronavirus in England.”

  • (7 Apr 2021) UK public health expert criticises No 10 race report ‘shortcomings’ Guardian April 7:
    "An inquiry into racial disparities used outdated references and notably underplayed the impact of structural racism in health outcomes, the UK’s leading authority on public health has said, in a new blow to the credibility of the much-criticised report.
    "Sir Michael Marmot, who led a pioneering work into health inequalities in 2010, which was updated a decade later, said that while there was “much that is good” in the report’s chapter on public health, he was concerned about “shortcomings” in its approach.
    "Writing for the Guardian, Marmot said the report by the Downing Street-appointed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred) had cited his 2010 study but did not consider the 2020 update or a subsequent study he led on structural factors behind varying Covid outcomes.
    "Marmot also criticised the report’s contention that health inequalities should be considered an outcome of factors such as deprivation and poor housing rather than ethnicity. Such social conditions “are themselves the result of longstanding inequalities and structural racism”, he noted."

  • (7 Apr 2021) Maternity compensation claims cost NHS £4 billion Independent April 7 reveals the sky high cash cost of chronic failures of care:
    "Failures in maternity care over the past decade have left more than 1,200 children permanently brain damaged and cost taxpayers more than £4 billion in compensation, new data has revealed.
    "According to NHS Resolution, which handles compensation claims on behalf of the NHS, the number of maternity claims has increased dramatically from 391 in 2009 to 765 in 2019-20.
    "The figures, obtained by specialist birth and brain injury law firm JMW, underline the consequences of maternity safety errors in the NHS with 1,226 children left with cerebral palsy as a result of negligence during their birth when children are starved of oxygen. The data also includes more than 1,000 deaths and 386 cases of the loss of a baby, as a result of errors.
    "There are more than 1,000 serious incidents in NHS maternity units every year with almost two fifths of maternity units needing to improve on safety, according to the Care Quality Commission."

  • (7 Apr 2021) COVID-19 in Brazil: Country records 4,195 deaths in a single day as commuters pack trains Sky News April 7 on a pandemic fuelled by right wing populism:
    "More than 4,000 COVID deaths have been recorded in a single day in Brazil, with one doctor comparing the country's crisis to a "biological Fukushima".
    "The outbreak is overwhelming hospitals in the South American nation - and scientists are forecasting that the surge in fatalities will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the US.
    "Even though Brazil's population is two-thirds that of America's, the country's overall death tolls from COVID-19 now stands at 337,000 - second only to the US on 555,000."

  • (6 Apr 2021) The Covid crisis is very far from over Tax expert Richard Murphy's blog warning that there are clear signs of panic in the latest government announcements and reliance on unreliable lateral flow tests:
    “There is no elimination strategy of any sort now apparent. The end of the impact of the pandemic is no longer anticipated. The idea that this might be over has gone. Instead the only goal is to keep the NHS functioning.
    “The aim is no bigger than that. It is simply containment. In other words, we as individuals and the risks from Covid that we face are the bargaining chips in an equation that is all the government thinks it has left available to it because despite all the bravado no strategy, including vaccination, has yet worked.
    “That this new containment strategy is based on desperation is indicated by the fact that it is based on lateral flow tests that are not licenced for the negative testing role they are being given, and for which they are not well suited because of their well known false negative rate. Will that really work then? And will people want to partake? And why will they unless there is compulsion from an enforced use of an app based on those tests?
    “Given that it is thought that only one in four people with Covid symptoms are currently thought to ask for a test the chance of a serious uptake on this new scheme which is targeted at those without symptoms seems low, especially with such poor support being made available for those required to isolate. The government must know that.
    “… Worse though, I think that the government has set itself up to fail again. It seems certain that SAGE does too. They forecast another wave of Covid in July and August at least as serious as that we have just been through. They could be wrong, of course. But logic is on their side.”

  • (6 Apr 2021) Brain disorders affect 1 in 3 Covid survivors, large UK study shows Financial Times April 6: “One in three people who have suffered from Covid-19 was diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months of infection, according to scientists who have carried out the largest study of the mental health effects of coronavirus.
    “They found that Covid-19 was 44 per cent more likely to cause neurological and mental problems than a case of influenza of comparable severity.
    “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic and the fact that many of these conditions are chronic,” said Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at Oxford university and the project leader.
    “As a result, healthcare systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary and secondary care,” he added.”

  • (6 Apr 2021) A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders - study Reuters April 6:
    "“One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said on Tuesday.
    “Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.
    “Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19. “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who co-led the work.
    “Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them”.”

  • (5 Apr 2021) Communities with high virus rates 'left behind' due to Tory public health cuts Mirror April 5 highlighting another avoidable widening of health inequalities:

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

  • (5 Apr 2021) Government must ‘proceed with caution’ on mass testing, as BMA voices concern about accuracy of results BMA April 5 press release quoting chair Chaand Nagpaul:
    "He said: “The rollout of rapid twice-weekly testing for all adults could help to identify some cases of those who have Covid-19 but don’t show symptoms which would otherwise go undetected – if those people then self-isolate this will minimise spread.
    “However, it is vital that the public is made aware of the limitation and accuracy of these tests. Recent research into lateral flow tests suggests they can pick up about over half of people with symptoms but significantly fewer of those who have Covid-19 but don’t have any symptoms.
    “Further, there is evidence of even a lower detection of positive cases if people carry out the tests themselves.
    “Therefore, negative tests could provide false reassurance to many people who have Covid-19 but do not have symptoms and who will be contagious. If they then mix more freely, that could be seriously counterproductive and rapidly spread infection.
    “Given concerns about the level accuracy of these tests, the BMA believes the Government must therefore, proceed with caution and a negative test must not be used as a basis for people to mix without mitigations, but should only be used as a complementary exercise to other vital measures, such as social distancing and the wearing of face masks in public spaces. These tests must not be used as a mechanism of how to unlock the country."

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

  • (5 Apr 2021) Tests to be offered twice-weekly to all in England BBC News April 5 on the controversial extension of lateral flow testing, which does not point out the new scheme at 2 tests per person per week could cost over £700 per person – 7 times the per capital budget for primary care:
    “Everyone in England is to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday, under an extension of the government's testing programme.
    “The lateral flow kits, which can provide results in around 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.
    “The health secretary said it would help squash any outbreaks as lockdown eases.
    "But critics of the programme say it risks becoming a "scandalous" waste of money.”

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

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

  • (4 Apr 2021) Black and Asian deaths from covid-19 are due to poverty and racism, not genetics, Vitamin D or lifestyle Spoiler alert in this headline to an undated article researched before, but published by Doctors in Unite just after the publication of the widely-discredited government-commissioned report:
    "This paper was completed just before the publication of a government commissioned report into “racial and ethnic disparities in the UK”, by a panel chaired by Tony Sewell. Its findings are unsurprising given the well-known racism denialist views of Sewell and others on the panel, and is consistent with the government’s policy of denial and indifference to racism in the UK today, and as the historian David Olusoga says, the false choice it presents to the nation between addressing racial inequalities or class disadvantage.
    "The main contention of the report, that structural and institutional racism do not exist, is flatly contradicted by the SAGE report, as outlined above. (The SAGE report is not mentioned at all in the Sewell report, despite the fact that the committee has much greater expertise). The health section of the report has been roundly condemned by public health and primary care experts who state that it ignores decades of evidence of the causes of racial disparities in health. [25]
    "The Sewell report also suggests “genetic risk factors” as a cause of disparities in Covid deaths, which the SAGE report expressly also rejects, stating there is no evidence for such speculation. We have dealt comprehensively with this above. In the words of Lady Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered by white racists in 1993, the Sewell report “will give the green light to racists” in this country."

  • (4 Apr 2021) Boris Johnson urged to sack Tory peer who denied Covid pandemic and said Chinese ‘fake videos started this’ Independent April 4 highlights the bizarre views of one of the many loopy Tory right wingers that prop up Johnson's government:
    "A Conservative peer has denied the pandemic exists and blamed Chinese “fake videos” for fears about Covid-19, sparking calls for her to be sacked from her government job.
    "Helena Morrissey, a director at the Foreign Office, suggested the crisis has been exaggerated because people are not “dropping dead in the street”.
    “The data shows we are NOT in a pandemic,” tweeted the peer, who was sent to the House of Lords by Boris Johnson last year. If people were dropping dead in the street we would notice & not go to M&S and have all those football matches."

  • (4 Apr 2021) Europe’s third wave: ‘It’s spreading fast and it’s spreading everywhere’ FT April 4:
    “More than a year after the start of the pandemic, Europe is enduring a grim spring. Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths are rising in many countries as the continent grapples with a more infectious variant, a shortage of vaccines and public weariness with lockdowns.
    “In France “the epidemic is spreading fast, and it’s spreading everywhere,” prime minister Jean Castex told parliament on Thursday after President Emmanuel Macron announced the country’s third nationwide lockdown, which includes travel restrictions and school closures and extends a 7pm-6am curfew.
    “In two weeks, Castex said, the number of recorded new cases in France had risen 55 per cent to about 38,000 a day. This two-week growth compares with a rise of 95 per cent in Belgium and 48 per cent in the Netherlands in a similar timeframe; in Germany, they have risen 75 per cent. Part of this increase reflects an expansion in testing.
    “The latest pandemic surge in Europe, triggered by the spread of the now dominant B.1.1.7 strain of the virus first noted in England, is often called a “third wave”, but observed across the continent as a whole it is more like a confused sea in which some national epidemics are worsening, some are reaching their peak and others are declining.”

  • (3 Apr 2021) Undermining the AstraZeneca jab is a dangerous act of political folly Guardian April 3:
    “… we should note that among Covid’s many impacts, clotting events are included. Crucially, the chances of getting a clot through infection with the Covid virus are several orders of magnitude more likely than are the chances of getting a clot from the vaccine. Hence the robust defence of the AstraZeneca vaccine by most UK doctors and scientists.
    “Nevertheless, swaths of Europe continue to restrict its use at a time when many nations are suffering third waves of Covid-19 cases and have said they are desperate for vaccine supplies. It is a baffling response.
    “It is the one approved vaccine that can be easily shipped and does not need complicated refrigeration. But if its safety is constantly undermined by individual national regulators across Europe, developing countries will be hesitant to use it. Why should they accept a vaccine at which western society turns up its nose?”

  • (3 Apr 2021) Strain on NHS as tens of thousands of staff suffer long Covid Guardian April 3 on the shockingly high number of NHS staff facing long term debilitating health consequences of their role in combatting the virus:
    "Intense pressures on the already overstretched NHS are being exacerbated by the tens of thousands of health staff who are sick with long Covid, doctors and hospital bosses say.
    "At least 122,000 NHS personnel have the condition, the Office for National Statistics disclosed in a detailed report that showed 1.1 million people in the UK were affected by the condition. That is more than any other occupational group and ahead of teachers, of whom 114,000 have it.
    "Patient care is being hit because many of those struggling with long Covid are only able to work part-time, are too unwell to perform their usual duties, or often need time off because they are in pain, exhausted or have “brain fog”."

  • (3 Apr 2021) 21-year-old died after dialling 999 from his hospital bed Shocking April 3 Independent report demonstrating nursing staff ignorance of symptoms of sickle cell disease that affects afro caribbean people:
    "A young NHS patient suffering a sickle cell crisis called 999 from his hospital bed to request oxygen, an inquest into his death was told.
    "Evan Nathan Smith, 21, died on 25 April 2019 at North Middlesex Hospital, in Edmonton, north London, after suffering from sepsis following a procedure to remove a gallbladder stent.
    "The inquest heard Smith told his family he called the London Ambulance Service because he thought it was the only way to get the help he needed.
    "Nursing staff told Smith he did not need oxygen when he requested it in the early hours of 23 April, despite a doctor telling the inquest he had “impressed” on the nurses he should have it."

  • (2 Apr 2021) “Cuts To Life-Saving Research Are Unavoidable”: How The Pandemic Will Have A Devastating Lasting Impact On Charities Detailed article in Politics Home April 2 warning of knock on impact on a range of charities after a year of lockdowns and restrictions:
    “Prior to the pandemic hitting in March 2020, the country’s charitable organisations were in pretty good shape. Research from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations found that in the year before the pandemic the sector’s income hit £53.5 billion, 47% of which came from public donations.
    “But, the picture wasn’t perfect. 59% of charity leaders told the Charities Aid Foundation in 2019 that fundraising was their biggest concern, with increased demand for their services (33%) and a drop in government funding (32%) coming up second and third.
    “Part of that anxiety stems from the fact that, according to research by the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham, 21% of charities surveyed had just one month’s expenditure in reserves.”

  • (2 Apr 2021) 'A truly frightening backlog': ex-NHS chief warns of delays in vital care Former NHS boss Sir David Nicholson's outspoken comments to the Guardian April 2 accompanied by some alarming figures:
    "The widespread suspension of normal NHS diagnostic tests and surgery during the pandemic as hospitals prioritised Covid care has left the service in England with a record 4.59 million people waiting for hospital treatment.
    "That number is set to rise to what the NHS Confederation believes could be as much as 6.9m cases by the end of the year as people on a “hidden waiting list” – who put off seeking help after discovering symptoms of illness – finally visit a GP.
    "According to the most recent figures, the number of people who have been waiting for at least a year has rocketed from 1,613 before the pandemic struck to 304,044.
    Under the NHS Constitution, 92% of people waiting are meant to be treated within 18 weeks. However, a third of the 4.59 million people have already waited longer than that."

  • (2 Apr 2021) Institutional racism exists in UK and healthcare, says head of NHS race body Independent April 2 with another response to the widely derided government report claiming institutional racism does not exist:
    "Institutional racism exists both in the UK and within the NHS, according to the independent NHS Race and Health Observatory.
    "In a strongly worded response to Wednesday’s controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the chair of the body said she was disappointed with its conclusions.
    "The NHS group was set up last year in response to widespread concerns over the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities. It aims to investigate the links between race and health.
    "In a statement on Thursday, its chair Marie Gabriel said: “The observatory believes that tackling persistent ethnic and racial disparities in health, and across society, is absolutely the right thing to do.
    “However, as an evidence-led organisation, the observatory was disappointed by several of the headline conclusions of the report, including those on the causes of ethnic inequalities.
    “The evidence it cites is clear: institutional racism exists in this country, it exists in the organisations that make up our health and care system, and it exists across wider public establishments.”

  • (2 Apr 2021) Solving global vaccine inequity requires new incentives for pharmaceutical companies Important BMJ article April 2:
    "In a pandemic, we as a global community have two urgent interests: that life saving vaccines and treatments be created, manufactured, and distributed, and that the disease be quickly contained and eliminated worldwide without a potentially catastrophic resurgence.
    "The financial interests of pharmaceutical shareholders accord with our first interest, but not always with the second. Their companies earn more if the disease is not eliminated—whether or not that is their explicit intention. Moreover, product allocations go to the highest bidders, rather than to where need is greatest or the pandemic may be contained most effectively. Today, impoverished regions are disproportionately lacking access to covid-19 vaccines, largely as a result of financial and political inequities.
    "Highlighting this divergence of interests is a criticism not of pharmaceutical firms and their shareholders, but of our governments and ultimately some citizens of wealthy countries who have played outsized roles in how the pharmaceutical industry operates. They have designed the sector so that if firms want to serve global interests well, they must decide and act against their own financial interests. We cannot expect them to always put their very best effort into this."

  • (2 Apr 2021) Government facing threat of legal action over PPE links to modern slavery Independent April 2 on another grim aspect of the handing of huge covid procurement contracts to cronies of ministers:
    "The government is facing legal action over links between personal protective equipment and alleged modern slavery.
    "A case is mounting against the government’s failure to address labour abuses in the NHS supply chain, The Independent understands, despite repeated promises made by the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care to crack down.
    "Wilson Solicitors, a London firm, has written to the DHSC raising concerns over how gloves made by Malaysian manufacturers with a history of exploiting workers have been provided to frontline healthcare staff.
    "Throughout the pandemic, NHS doctors and nurses have used gloves produced by Brightway, Supermax and Top Glove. All three are accused of “dire human rights abuses” by Wilson Solicitors. The companies deny the claims and insist they comply with Malaysian labour regulations."

  • (2 Apr 2021) Long Covid: More than a million experiencing symptoms in UK, official data shows Independent April 2:
    "More than a million people in Britain are suffering from signs of long Covid, the Office for National Statistics has said.
    "This is a significant increase in previous estimates of persistent and debilitating symptoms and follows the January surge in coronavirus.
    "The ONS says 1.1 million have reported symptoms lasting beyond four weeks that were not explained by anything else.
    "Long Covid can include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, so called “brain fog” as well as serious damage to the kidneys, heart and lungs."

  • (1 Apr 2021) A new public health body for the UK BMJ editorial April 1 by public health expert Gabriel Scally on the launch of the sinister new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA that has replaced Public Health England:
    "The new name for the organisation and short, two page policy paper make clear that the new entity is to be part of the UK’s national infrastructure and security system. It also states that UKHSA will have a core function in driving economic growth as an integral part of what politicians term “UK plc.” In particular, it is envisaged as “acting as an engine” for the life sciences and diagnostics industry.
    "A critical weakness of the UK’s pandemic response has been the overreliance on technological solutions to the detriment of proved public health interventions—such as quarantine and local find, test, trace, isolate, and support systems. One enduring problem has been the misleadingly named NHS Test and Trace programme.5 The UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has been scathing of both the enormous cost of this system, designed and operated by the private sector, and its lack of effectiveness.
    "The emergence of a powerful medical-industrial complex was first described in the US in the 1960s.
    "In the UK, the influence of this sector of the economy increased after 2010 as it took advantage of the contracting of core NHS services to the private sector. In its pandemic response, the government pivoted away from public health and NHS functions and organisations.
    "Taking advantage of the emergency to dispense with normal tendering and contracting procedures, funding on a colossal scale was passed to the private sector. Similarly, in data analytics, the government has engaged state security organisations and the private sector to provide crucial information on covid-19.
    "Against this background, it is likely that the creation of UKHSA will be seen by many as a further step in the growth of a centralised and secretive state apparatus with the close engagement of private sector interests."

  • (1 Apr 2021) Birmingham's Nightingale Hospital closes without treating a single patient Birmingham Live April 1 report on another one of the hospitals that could be kitted out in record time in a conference centre, but could never be staffed to care for Covid patients.
    "Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital is to close today without treating a single patient.
    "The facility at the NEC complex, which cost nearly £65million, was set up last April in anticipation of soaring numbers of coronavirus patients.
    "In September it was said to be on “high alert” following an increase in cases, but was never used. It will close along with all the other Nightingale hospitals, apart from London and Sunderland, which will stay open for vaccinations."

  • (1 Apr 2021) In Doug Ford’s Ontario, COVID-19 lockdowns have become meaningless Andre Picard in Toronto Globe and Mail April 1 on the neoliberal provincial government that is failing so badly to combat the pandemic:
    “If a lockdown is going to have a real impact on slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it requires, for starters, a stay-at-home order and a curfew.
    “The “tough new measures” announced on Thursday include virtually no restrictions on movement or activities. For all intents and purposes, nothing has changed; so, if new infections have been soaring for the past few weeks, what do we expect they will do now?
    “You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or a modeller to answer that question. But, for the record, the latest models predict up to 6,000 cases daily, an increase from about 2,500 currently, and a doubling of patients in intensive care to 800 from the current 421 by the end of the month.”

  • (1 Apr 2021) Racism in healthcare is real and it matters Independent's Shaun Lintern refutes the widely discredited government report claiming institutionalised racism is a thing of the past:
    “It is surprising to see the report appearing to play down the inequalities that are known to exist between different ethnic minorities and their experiences and access to healthcare. The commission suggests there is no racism at play and instead points to wider more complex reasons such as deprivation, education, employment and so on.
    “The report says: “The commission rejects the common view that ethnic minorities have universally worse health outcomes compared with White people, the picture is much more variable.”
    “It highlights that ethnic minorities have better outcomes for some key measures like life expectancy, overall mortality and key diseases and conditions, adding: “This evidence clearly suggests that ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK but deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors.”
    “But this is a strange analysis, for most experts agree that structural racism within society is one of the factors that contributes to deprivation. It is a cycle which affects social mobility, your life chances, where you live, what sort of house and lifestyle you can adopt.
    “Racism is woven through many of the ingredients that make up the complex factors that contribute to health inequalities, whereas the report seems to argue they are separate contributors.”

  • (1 Apr 2021) Only one in three of trust’s black Caribbean staff vaccinated Worrying HSJ report April 1:
    "Just over a third of black Caribbean staff have been vaccinated at one of the London acutes most heavily impacted by the pandemic, new data has revealed.
    "Uptake among staff from a black background at London North West University Healthcare Trust is substantially below the level recorded for staff overall, its board papers have shown, reflecting a fundamental challenge facing the vaccine programme in wider society.
    "The figure at LNWUH is likely to reflect similar low takeup among some minority ethnic groups among NHS staff in some other trusts, and in the general population — as previously reported by HSJ — but shows it is a serious ongoing issue several months into the campaign.
    "Uptake is lowest among the staff from a Black Caribbean background, with just 36 per cent of 499 staff members vaccinated. This rises slightly to 39 per cent among the 132 staff from a ‘black other’ background and 54 per cent for 724 staff from a black African background."

  • (1 Apr 2021) Fewer than a quarter with Covid symptoms request test, UK study finds Guardian report April 1:
    "Fewer than a quarter of people in the UK with Covid symptoms are requesting a test, while only half say they are fully self-isolating after symptoms develop, researchers have found.
    "People in the UK must self-isolate for 10 days if they have Covid, with the period beginning from the onset of symptoms or, if there are no symptoms, from the day of a positive test result.
    "However, data from the Covid-19 rapid survey of adherence to interventions and responses (Corsair) study, conducted by researchers from institutions including King’s College London, Public Health England and University College London and published in the BMJ, suggests compliance is far from universal."

  • (1 Apr 2021) Families march for public inquiry into mental health patient deaths Independent April 1 on the campaign to expose failures in Essex mental health services – and the government response: another rigged "Inquiry" by an NHS England bureaucrat who has defended Essex MH services:
    "Families demanding a public inquiry into dozens of mental health patient deaths in Essex have criticised ministers after they appointed a former NHS England director to lead a new investigation.
    "Dozens of families whose loved ones died under the care of North Essex Partnership University Trust held a protest rally outside the offices of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in London on Wednesday.
    "There are almost 70 families supporting the campaign who want the government to set up a full public inquiry, with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence on oath.
    "Mental health minister Nadine Dorries has rejected that and instead commissioned an investigation that will only be able to rely on the goodwill of witnesses with no formal powers.
    "The government has also appointed Dr Geraldine Strathdee, a consultant psychiatrist and former national clinical director for mental health at NHS England until 2016, to lead the inquiry. She was given the role without families being consulted."

  • (31 Mar 2021) New Zealand raises minimum wage and increases taxes on the rich Guardian March 31 with yet another story in which New Zealand shows what could be done but is not being done in Britain (or even aspired to by the current opposition leadership)
    "New Zealand is raising its minimum wage to $20 an hour and increasing the top tax rate for the country’s highest earners to 39%.
    "The changes will be rolled out on Thursday, alongside small increases to unemployment and sickness benefits. The government estimates the minimum wage increase – a rise of $1.14 per hour – will affect up to 175,500 workers, and increase wages across the economy by $216m.
    "The new top tax rate will apply to anyone earning more than $180,000 a year, about 2% of New Zealanders. The government estimates it will bring in an additional $550m in revenue this year."

  • (31 Mar 2021) Ambulance service worst affected when it comes to impact of Covid on mental health, reveals charity Morning Star March 31: "The mental health of ambulance service workers has been the hardest hit of all emergency staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey from charity Mind reveals.
    "Contributions from almost 4,000 staff and volunteers in the police, fire and ambulance services shows that mental health has worsened across the board, but that ambulance workers have been the worst affected.
    "They are the most likely to say their mental health has worsened, with a massive 77 per cent reporting a deterioration over the last year, as opposed to two thirds of police and fire workers.
    "The highest proportion of respondents saying they have “poor” mental health are within the ambulance service, at almost one in three (32 per cent).
    "This compares with 23 per cent of those in the police and 20 per cent of firefighters."

  • (31 Mar 2021) Adherence to the test, trace, and isolate system in the UK: results from 37 nationally representative surveys Valuable study in BMJ (March 31) on the effectiveness of testing when so many people cannot afford to stop work even when testing positive:
    “The ability of the test, trace, and isolate system to keep rates of infection under control relies on how well people adhere to guidance on testing, provide details of contacts, and self-isolate, which in turn depends on their knowledge, motivation, and opportunity to do so.
    “From when an infected person develops symptoms to when their contacts are allowed to come out of quarantine, adherence might break down at multiple stages. In the UK, knowledge of the symptoms of covid-19 has been shown to be poor.
    “Financial constraints and cramped accommodation have been identified as factors that affect whether people will remain at home during the pandemic. Some evidence suggests that men and younger age groups are less adherent to covid-19 restrictions, as are those who think they have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.”
    The article concludes: “Levels of adherence to test, trace, and isolate are low, although some improvement has occurred over time. Practical support and financial reimbursement are likely to improve adherence. Targeting messaging and policies to men, younger age groups, and key workers might also be necessary.”

  • (31 Mar 2021) Irish Examiner View: How is this queue dodge different? Irish Examiner March 31 highlights the objectionable two-tier heavily private health care system in Ireland:
    “… our entire health system is predicated on the kind of paid-for privilege that saw teachers from St Gerard’s private school near Bray, and the staff and managers at Park Academy, which runs private creches used by Beacon staff, vaccinated long before official schedules suggested they might be. This institutionalised queue-jumping is the very epitome of our grossly unfair health system …
    “… over recent years thousands of people have had to travel from the South West on the Belfast-or-Blind bus to try to save their sight. They are forced to do this because our cataract services are so inadequate that they face up to four years on a waiting list for an operation that takes just minutes but changes lives dramatically.
    “Those with cataract issues in a position to pay via one insurance company or another — the VHI Positive cohort — face no such delays and can expect an early appointment at one of the 18 private hospitals that operate under the umbrella of the Private Hospitals' Association.”

  • (31 Mar 2021) Structural racism is a fundamental cause and driver of ethnic disparities in health BMJ March 31:
    “The much-delayed UK government report on race disparities has devoted 30 pages to disparities in health. The report claims that “for many key health outcomes including life expectancy and overall mortality… ethnic minority groups have better outcomes than the White population.” It further claims that “genetic risk factors” along with “cultural” and “behavioural” factors have led to the disparities seen in covid-19.
    “The 30 page section on health in the report claims to undo several decades of irrefutable peer reviewed research evidence on ethnic disparities, previous governments’ reports, and independent reviews all reaching similar conclusions: ethnic minorities have the worst health outcomes on almost all health parameters.
    “The report’s conclusions, recommendations, and cherry-picked data to support a particular narrative shows why it should have been externally peer reviewed by independent health experts and scientists. Furthermore, we would expect that a report with such lofty ambitions of presenting a “new race agenda” would have at least one health expert or a biomedical scientist on the commission. It included a space scientist, a retired diplomat, a politics graduate, a TV presenter and an English literature graduate, but no one with an academic background in health inequalities.
    “The report also concludes that deprivation, “family structures,” and geography—not ethnicity, are key risk factors for health inequalities. However, it ignores the overwhelming evidence that systemic racism, in particular residential segregation, which is rising in the UK, is a major driver of ethnic differences in socioeconomic status.”

  • (31 Mar 2021) Vaccines: Is Bill Gates the answer? Roger Steer in Brave New Europe (March 31) highlighting the role of Bill Gates in upholding intellectual property rights and patent laws that are limiting the access of poorer countries to vital vaccines and other drugs:
    "That the resources found by Bill Gates to support the existing arrangements ($1.5bn) is vital to the current arrangements is placed in perspective by the sums committed by the UK government alone to date on Track and Trace (£37bn). The Economist calculated the global cost of the Covid pandemic at just over $10trn. In Europe alone the costs are $2trn.
    "What is remarkable in this story is not that there is not a perfectly credible alternative range of measures that could be taken to speed up the delivery of vaccines but that the process of managing the pandemic has been high-jacked by one man, with a vested interest in maintaining the credibility of the existing IP regime.
    "But as Mazzucato has … pointed out in the Entrepreneurial State the pharma/biotech/medico legal complex is the second highest spending sector in the US on lobbying and payments to politicians, second only to the arms industry. It doesn’t explain the Bill Gates factor but explains that politicians have got used to knowing on which side of the bread the butter is."

  • (31 Mar 2021) Privatisation of York Hospital’s Emergency Department Petition launched by York Labour MP Rachael Maskell calling on the Government "to recognise that the proposal to outsource work done by the Emergency Department of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is ill-conceived, poorly timed and against the interests of patients; to prevent this outsourcing to the private sector; and to revise these plans for York Teaching Hospital only when the Government has published its White Paper and subsequent Bill on NHS reorganisation."

  • (31 Mar 2021) UNISON welcomes Imperial College Healthcare’s decision to keep staff on NHS contracts UNISON London region press release March 31:
    "Over 1000 cleaners, porters, and catering staff at Imperial College Healthcare trust are celebrating today (Wednesday) after the trust announced it will continue to directly employ them following negotiations with UNISON.
    "The staff, who were previously employed by Sodexo, were brought back in-house temporarily in April 2020, which was up for review this month.
    "The trust will now start the process of consulting staff to move them over to full NHS (Agenda for Change) terms and conditions, ending the unfair disparity of a two-tier workforce the union said."

  • (31 Mar 2021) See How Rich Countries Got to the Front of the Vaccine Line New York Times March 31:
    “More than half a billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide so far, and well over three-quarters of them have been used by the world’s richest countries. The reason, experts say, lies in how — and when — deals for doses were struck.
    “In the early days of the pandemic, when drug makers were just starting to develop vaccines, placing orders for any of them was a risk. Wealthier countries could mitigate that risk by placing orders for multiple vaccines and, by doing so, tied up doses that smaller countries may have otherwise purchased, according to experts.
    “As a result, most higher-income countries were able to pre-order enough vaccines to cover their populations several times over, while others had trouble securing any doses at all. Throughout 2020, even middle-income countries had difficulties winning contracts.
    “We saw it with countries like Peru and Mexico,” said Andrea Taylor, a researcher at Duke University who is studying the vaccine purchase agreements. “Money wasn’t the problem for them. They have the financing to make the purchases, but they couldn’t get to the front of the line.”

  • (31 Mar 2021) Coronavirus surge could be worse than the last for the Americas: PAHO Reuters report March 31:
    “Countries in the Americas could see a worse surge in coronavirus cases than the previous surge last year, with Brazil, Uruguay and Cuba already suffering more, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
    “Director Carissa Etienne said the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer, following holidays where people grouped together and spread cases, had prompted spikes. She urged citizens to stay at home and governments to think hard before lowering movement restrictions.
    “So far this year, over 19.7 million COVID cases and 475,000 related deaths have been reported in the Americas, she said.
    “Vaccines are rolling out - 124 million people have received one dose and 58 million have received two, PAHO said. More have begun to arrive through the COVAX vaccines alliance, a total of 2.5 million in the past 30 days, with all countries in the region to receive some COVAX doses in the next week, according to PAHO assistant director Jarbas Barbosa.
    “Vaccine supply “continues to be our greatest challenge,” admitted Etienne, saying the organisation was “scouring” the globe for more supply, asking countries to hand over surpluses.”

  • (31 Mar 2021) UK scientists warn of 'catastrophic' impact of funding cuts Guardian March 31:
    "Senior scientists fear that deep cuts to government research spending will have “catastrophic” consequences for the UK, with projects cancelled midway through and some of the brightest minds moving to other countries.
    "Hundreds of research projects tackling issues from the Covid pandemic to antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis are already being axed after the country’s main science funder, UK Research and Innovation, told universities its budget for official development assistance (ODA) grants had been cut from £245m to £125m.
    "But with the UK now out of Europe, the funder may also have to find up to £2bn per year from its existing £8.5bn budget for British scientists to join research under the EU’s international Horizon programme. The move, which could imperil 18,000 research jobs, would reverse the past two years of science budget rises."

  • (31 Mar 2021) Revealed: New team of health advisers in number 10 (£) HSJ report March 31 on recruitment of Centene UK boss Samantha Jones as one of Johnson's new expanded team of health advisors:
    "Former hospital chief and NHS England director Samantha Jones has been appointed as Boris Johnson’s health adviser, HSJ can reveal, while a former NHS Improvement boss is also now advising on health in Number 10.
    "Samantha Jones is currently chief executive of Operose Health, the UK arm of US health giant Centene, a post she took up in January 2019.
    "She confirmed to HSJ she would be taking up a civil service role in number 10 shortly and is leaving Operose. Her title in Number 10 will be expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care delivery, HSJ understands. She will work in the policy unit.
    "It has also been confirmed to HSJ that Adrian Masters, a former director at Monitor, NHS Improvement and Public Health England, and director of health delivery in Downing Street in the 2000s, rejoined Number 10 earlier this year as an expert adviser on elective care recovery."

  • (30 Mar 2021) NHSX team behind beleaguered contact tracing app now working on vaccine passports Independent March 30 on yet another bungled contracting process handing fresh responsibility to those who have proved so inept in the recent past:
    "The team behind the beleaguered development of the government's contact tracing app has turned its attention to vaccine passports, MPs have been told.
    "Cabinet office minister Michael Gove on Monday launched a charm offensive to convince sceptical MPs of the need for the certificates, which are controversial with civil liberties campaigners.
    "Mr Gove, who is leading the government's review into whether the policy is needed, held a one hour video call with the group as part of a "listening exercise".
    "But The Times newspaper reports that the minister caused consternation when he revealed that NHSX, the developers behind the contact tracing app, had begun developing a passport system.
    “At that point lots of people on the call said ‘oh no!’,” one MP told The Times."

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

  • (30 Mar 2021) Over half London's healthcare workers 'considered quitting' due to pandemic pressures, ITV News London survey reveals ITV News March 30 on a UNISON survey:
    "Over half of London's healthcare workers, including NHS staff, have considered quitting due to the pressures of the pandemic, a survey by ITV News London survey has found.
    "The report, with healthcare union UNISON, also revealed how hundreds of medics felt "overwhelmed" by the level of stress at work.
    "71% overwhelmed by work-related stress
    "55% considered quitting
    "25% sought help for mental health
    "10% taken time off for work-related stress
    "More than 2,000 people responded to the survey and the London director of Unison said it showed more needed to be done."

  • (30 Mar 2021) One in four NHS workers more likely to quit than a year ago, survey finds Guardian March 30: "A quarter of NHS workers are more likely to quit their job than a year ago because they are unhappy about their pay, frustrated by understaffing and exhausted by Covid-19, a survey suggests.
    "The findings have prompted warnings that the health service is facing a potential “deadly exodus” of key personnel just as it tries to restart normal care after the pandemic.
    "A representative poll of 1,006 health professionals across the UK by YouGov for the IPPR thinktank found that the pandemic has left one in four more likely to leave than a year ago. That includes 29% of nurses and midwives, occupations in which the NHS has major shortages.
    "Ministers must initiate a “new deal” for NHS staff that involves a decent pay rise, better benefits, more flexible working and fewer administrative tasks, the IPPR said."

  • (30 Mar 2021) Hospital Charged Family Almost $40K for 12 COVID Tests so They Could Return to Work, School Newsweek insight into the rip-off world of US health care:
    "A New York hospital reportedly charged one family nearly $40,000 for a dozen coronavirus tests that were required for them to return to work and school.
    "The New York Times reported on Tuesday afternoon that Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, which is owned by Northwell Health, has repeatedly charged patients thousands of dollars for virus tests that typically cost less than $200. The hospital has billed the tests—which insurance or the U.S. government is generally required to cover—as a "moderately complex" emergency room visit, tacking on additional charges.
    "One family that did their testing at Lenox Hill reportedly racked up $39,314 for just 12 tests. The virus testing was necessary for the family members to return to work and school. Several other patients' bills for one test reportedly hovered just below or above $3,000—which is roughly 30 times the cost of a typical test."

  • (29 Mar 2021)