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The fight against Coronavirus

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  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak Up to date health advice from the World Health Organisation

  • 6 Demands from NHS staff to help us tackle Coronavirus Sign the health workers' petition

  • Coronavirus: where we stand Statement from Keep Our NHS Public

  • A public inquiry into the UK's coronavirus response would find a litany of failures Guadina April 1 Comment is Free: "More than three months after the virus first appeared in Wuhan, England and Wales still lack the necessary testing capacity and surveillance infrastructure to shut down the epidemic. Crucial frontline workers are still doing their jobs without adequate personal protective equipment. Public Health England (PHE) seem unable to increase the daily number of tests in line with European neighbours. As other countries acted swiftly to contain the epidemic, the UK appears indecisive and delayed, shifting late in the day from a controversial herd immunity strategy to a lockdown. History won’t look kindly on Britain’s response."

  • UK care home bosses threaten to quit over return of coronavirus patients Guardian April 2 report on the neglected issues of care homes and social care: "Care home managers have threatened to resign over new government guidelines that state they have to accept residents who have coronavirus.
    "The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents entering care homes, meaning managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.
    “Some [returning] patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the guidance says. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”
    "The guidance also states that if a home has more than one symptomatic resident, health protection teams may arrange swabbing for up to five residents to confirm the existence of an outbreak. “Testing all cases is not required as this would not change the subsequent management of an outbreak,” the guidance says."

  • Healthcare expenditure across the EU Handy comparative figures from Eurostat include the UK, and show that while the revised recent figures show UK spending just below the European average share of GDP on health, British spending per head is 15th, well below the level of most other comparable countries.

  • ‘These aren’t just numbers, they are lives’: How black Americans are dying from coronavirus – and institutional racism is blocking testing Independent April 7 report: "A senior African American politician has denounced as “devastating” a report that black people made up up to 70 per cent of coronavirus deaths in her city.
    "As anecdotal reports are increasingly being backed up by data to show people of colour in the US make up a disproportionate number of those both being infected and dying from the virus, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot launched a new effort to urge people to remain at home to try and limit its spread."

  • Medical ethics during the coronavirus pandemic Statement of principles from Doctors for Unite, which notes: "There may come a time where our healthcare system is overwhelmed. But we have not yet reached that point. How we act now affects whether the country runs out of ventilators, oxygen, protective equipment, and medication. The single priority for all UK manufacturing must be the production of these goods. There is nothing more important. We must never reach the point where a person goes without a lifesaving treatment only because it is in too short supply. "

  • Hospices warn they could close as virus hits fundraising BBC April 7 noting the problems of funding vital hospice services through charities rather than government funding: "Hospices could close as they "cannot wait any longer" for emergency funding after the coronavirus lockdown hit fundraising, charities have said.
    "Sue Ryder said it is facing a £12m gap in funds over the next three months while Marie Curie said it would need £30m to keep services running over the same period.
    "Bosses say they are helping the NHS by freeing up beds for Covid-19 patients.
    "Hospice UK estimates the sector has already lost more than £70m in revenue.
    "With charity shops closed and fundraising events such as the London Marathon as well as individual events run by charities being postponed, the charities that run end of life facilities said services may have to be closed unless the public or government, stepped in."

  • Britain faces a care crisis that could overwhelm the NHS Independent major report by Shaun Lintern April 6 on the chaotic, largely private social care system: "Britain’s fractured and underfunded social care system is at risk of collapsing within weeks due to pressure from coronavirus – piling further strain onto hospitals, an investigation by The Independent has found.
    "Across the country, care providers say they have been pushed to the brink of closure because some local councils are refusing to release emergency funding made available by the government, while many face staff shortages, a lack of equipment and too few nurses to care for extra patients being discharged by the NHS.
    "Some care-home managers have warned that the vulnerable or elderly who fall ill may be all but abandoned by local NHS services, with reports of unlawful do-not-resuscitate orders being put in place by some GPs.
    "While national efforts have focused on shoring up the health service to help it cope with a surge in coronavirus infections, experts warned not enough has been done to make sure the 18,000 care sector companies, on which the health service may rely, can withstand the next few weeks and months."

  • NHS coronavirus nurse, 23, dies after 12-hour shift 'without right protective kit' Distressing Mirror story (April 6): "A third NHS nurse has died after caring for patients sick with coronavirus.
    "John Alagos, 23, is believed to be the youngest medic in the UK to succumb to the devastating virus after he collapsed.
    "His mother, Gina Gustilo, said her son fell ill during a 12-hour shift at Watford General Hospital but was allegedly not allowed to return home due to short-staffing.
    "She says that instead, he remained at work because his ward was so short-staffed."

  • Britain has millions of coronavirus antibody tests, but they don’t work (£) Times report April 6 reveals yet another flaw in the government's approach:
    "None of the antibody tests ordered by the government is good enough to use, the new testing chief has admitted.
    "John Newton said that tests ordered from China were able to identify immunity accurately only in people who had been severely ill and that Britain was no longer hoping to buy millions of kits off the shelf.
    "Instead government scientists hope to work with companies to improve the performance of antibody tests. Professor Newton said he was “optimistic” that one would come good in months."

  • UK ministers accused of prioritising careers over lives of coronavirus victims Guardian April 6 report, linked to an article by Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, which represents the UK’s most senior public servants: “As pressure mounts over the capacity for coronavirus testing and the supply of PPE and ventilators, finding someone to blame rather than fixing the problem seems to be the priority for some at the heart of government,” said Penman. “Well-placed anonymous sources have started pointing fingers at everyone from the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, to Public Health England.
    “If mistakes have been made, ministers and civil servants will rightly be held accountable … While ministers and officials must be scrutinised for their decisions as events unfold, many of these questions will inevitably be for another day."

  • Leading surgeon at Cardiff hospital dies after contracting coronavirus Wales online April 6 reports the death of another top NHS doctor:
    "Jitendra Rathod, a cardiac surgeon, was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, before being taken to intensive care.
    "However, despite the best efforts of his colleagues, Mr Rathod died on Monday morning.
    "The tragic news was confirmed by health officials on Monday evening.
    "A statement by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: "It is with profound sadness that we must inform you that Mr Jitendra Rathod, associate specialist in cardiothoracic surgery, has passed away."

  • After this crisis, remember the NHS is not drained by migrants, but sustained by them Important Guardian article April 6 highlights key role of migrant doctors:
    "Many of these migrant doctors will be paying a hefty annual NHS surcharge for the privilege of using an NHS they staff, in addition to paying tax and national insurance contributions. This surcharge is set to rise from £400 to £624 a year this October.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, who in November declared that the NHS surcharge was going to be extended because 'it’s the National Health Service not the International Health Service', on Thursday saluted those NHS staffers who perished as 'people who came to this country to make a difference'.
    "These are likely to be temporary face- and life-saving platitudes and measures. When it’s back to business as usual, when the NHS is used as a political pawn, and blame for its underfunding is placed at the feet of migrants, remember Amged El-Hawrani and all the others who fell on its frontline to save lives. Remember their names, their faces, their stories and the families they left behind."

  • Coronavirus: Hospital A&E closes even for emergencies amid rising numbers of Covid-19 patients Worrying April 5 Independent report on Watford General: "Patients needing emergency care are being ordered to stay away from a Hertfordshire hospital after it started to run critically low on oxygen amid rising numbers of coronavirus admissions.
    "Watford General said people requiring accident and emergency treatment should go to the nearest other facility until further notice.
    "Although the temporary closure was not explicitly linked to Covid-19, The Independent understands that supplies of oxygen are in such demand by those being treated for the novel virus that it is feared they could soon run out.
    "It is believed the move makes the hospital – run by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust – the first in the country to have to offload patients as a result of demand caused by the pandemic."

  • The NHS workers wearing bin bags as protection BBC April 5 report: "Several healthcare workers in England have told the BBC of a lack of equipment in their hospitals.
    "Warned against speaking to the media, they were unwilling to talk publicly. However, one intensive care doctor from the Midlands wanted to go on record. The BBC agreed to change her name in order to protect her identity.
    "Dr Roberts describes a hospital on the brink. Intensive care is already full of coronavirus (Covid-19) patients. All operations deemed non-urgent, even the cancer clinics, have been cancelled. There is a lack of staff, a lack of critical care beds, a shortage of basic antibiotics and ventilators.
    "… However, nothing Dr Roberts describes is quite as alarming as the fact that these medical professionals, who continue to care for critically ill patients for 13 hours every day, are having to resort to fashioning personal protective equipment (PPE) out of clinical waste bags, plastic aprons and borrowed skiing goggles."

  • NHS needs a third fewer ventilators than forecast, says Hancock In yet anotherr revision of government plans and claimed action, HSJ report April 5 notes: "Matt Hancock has revealed the NHS is now aiming to have 18,000 ventilators to meet a “worst case scenario” - a reduction of more than a third from previous estimates.
    "The health and social care secretary said previous estimates of around 30,000 had reduced because of the successful impact of social distancing measures in slowing the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of people severely affected by covid-19 require mechanical ventilation to supply oxygen to their lungs.
    "Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Hancock acknowledged the number of machines currently in the system falls far short of both estimates.
    "He said: “We have between 9,000 and 10,000 ventilators within the NHS right now, and we have two thousand spare critical care beds with ventilator capacity should we need them…[and] there should be another 1,500 [in a week’s time].”

  • ExCeL owner scraps all fees for NHS to use Nightingale field hospital Guardian report April 5 shows the positive power of media and public opinion: "The ExCeL centre has U-turned on charging the NHS to turn the exhibition space into a 4,000-bed field hospital.
    "The chief executive of the London event centre, Jeremy Rees, said the deal with the health service had included some contributions to costs, but “we have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves”.
    "Rees said in a statement: “The use of ExCeL London for NHS Nightingale London has always been provided to the NHS rent-free. We joined the national effort to combat coronavirus immediately and worked in close partnership with the NHS to ensure this hospital could be up and running in a matter of days.
    “The initial agreement with the NHS included a contribution to some fixed costs. We have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves. The ExCeL London facility is fully available to the NHS, and we are here to support all their needs and requirements during this crisis.”"

  • Nearly 400 care groups 'face protection shortages' BBC April 5 report highlights the continued disconnect between government statements and reality on supplies of PPE:
    "Almost 400 care companies which provide home support across the UK have told the BBC they still do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).
    "Without protection, providers say they may not be able to care for people awaiting hospital discharge.
    "Of 481 providers, 381 - 80% - said they did not have enough PPE to be able to support older and vulnerable people.
    "The government said it was working "around the clock" to give the sector the equipment it needs."

  • Coronavirus response could create 'very serious unintended consequences' HSJ (April 5): "National NHS leaders are to take action over growing fears that the “unintended consequences” of focusing so heavily on tackling covid-19 could do more harm than the virus, HSJ has learned.
    "NHS England analysts have been tasked with the challenging task of identifying patients who may not have the virus but may be at risk of significant harm or death because they are missing vital appointments or not attending emergency departments, with both the service and public so focused on covid-19.
    "… Nuffield Trust deputy director of research Sarah Scobie said it was “a considerable worry that people are keeping away from routine and urgent health services, and also from emergency departments”.
    "She added: “The PHE data suggests there could be significant problems already developing for heart disease related conditions patients, for example. Attendances relating to myocardial infarction at emergency departments have dropped right down, whereas ambulance calls in relation to chest pain have gone right [up]. "

  • Care home boss: hospitals refusing to admit residents with coronavirus York Press April 5 report: "A York care home boss has told of her heartbreak as it is 'stretched to breaking point' by the coronavirus crisis.
    "Rachel Beckett, chair of Wellburn,which has 14 homes across the north-east including several in the York area, claims hospitals are refusing to admit any residents who test positive for the virus and the firm has received calls from local doctors instructing it to be prepared for 'multiple end of life situations.'
    She said: "We know we’re going to lose people. Hospitals are now turning their backs on us, sending residents who have been admitted with symptoms back to our homes."

  • There’s Never Been a Better Time for Us to End Private Health Insurance Than Right Now Jacobin magazine: "he US health care system is going to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic for months to come. But when the spread of the virus finally does subside, many of its impacts will be here to stay. With millions of Americans likely to need expensive hospital stays this year, our nationwide health care costs are expected to increase by as much as $251 billion, according to a new analysis. As a result, US health insurance premiums could rise by up to 40 percent in 2021, exacerbating a crisis of ever-increasing costs that already leave Americans paying far more for care than the people of any other country.
    "What this means is that we’re about to hit a fork in the road with the private insurance industry. The coronavirus is shredding insurers’ profits right now, underlining the fact that private insurance is simply not built to handle a medical crisis."

  • NHS worker quit when she was stopped from wearing face mask Guardian April 4 report on Hillingdon Hospital HCA:
    “Tracy Brennan … a healthcare assistant … said she had returned to work after self-isolating for 14 days because her daughter had shown symptoms of Covid-19. She said that patients in the ward where she was working, which was not a coronavirus treatment ward, felt comfortable with her wearing the surgical mask and some positively encouraged her to do so.
    “She wrote in the letter: “Upon arriving to work on Tuesday morning, whilst still wearing a mask, you asked me for a word in your office. You outlined to me that wearing a mask wasn’t following the trust policy and asked me to remove it. I responded stating that I wasn’t pleased with this instruction and defended myself stating that I was uncomfortable not wearing a mask while dealing with patients who may be carriers of Covid, however I adhered to the request.”

  • Government's 100,000-a-day coronavirus testing pledge 'not achievable', fear scientists Mirror April 4 report: "A government promise to test 100,000 people a day for coronavirus by the end of April is unlikely to be achievable, scientists have warned.
    "The Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) says its members are already “testing to the limit of our materials” and that a lack of vital equipment is stopping them from scaling up.
    "The body, which represents around 17,000 NHS lab scientists and staff, says it stands ready to carry out more Covid-19 tests but needs more chemical reagents, test tubes and swabs to do so.
    "The government has been facing growing pressure to increase the rate of screening as the UK - which is currently carrying out just 10,000 tests a day - has lagged behind countries such as Germany and South Korea. "

  • The Financial Times has abandoned neoliberalism – and they must never be allowed to forget this Richard Murphy, April 4 reports: "This is quite a surprising editorial comment in a UK newspaper today:
    "If there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has injected a sense of togetherness into polarised societies. But the virus, and the economic lockdowns needed to combat it, also shine a glaring light on existing inequalities — and even create new ones. Beyond defeating the disease, the great test all countries will soon face is whether current feelings of common purpose will shape society after the crisis. As western leaders learnt in the Great Depression, and after the second world war, to demand collective sacrifice you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone."

  • £55 billion of NHS PFI debt has not been written off: with so much else that now needs to be reformed if the NHS is to serve us into the future Tax expert Richard Murphy (April 3) commenting on the announcement that £13.4bn of unpayable borrowing run up by trusts in past few years to minimise deficits are to be written off. In practice the trusts were never going to be able to pay them back anyway.

  • Coronavirus hospital plans paused over potential lack of demand April 3 HSJ report notes: "Potential plans for the region — which sources told HSJ included a potential 500-bed facility in the industrial unit near Nissan’s Sunderland car factory — were halted on 1 April.
    "However, HSJ understands the region’s acute chiefs are still keen to explore options for a surge facility so they can react if the situation changes.
    "One local NHS leader told HSJ they feared the north east, where 124 covid-related deaths — or around 4 per cent of England’s total covid-19 deaths — have so far been reported, is “being lulled into a false sense of security, because the storm [is] not fully hitting here yet, but it might”.
    "Another leader in the north east expressed doubt a temporary hospital in the region will ever be signed off or fully commissioned despite several weeks of preparatory work. They told HSJ: “The field hospitals [plan] feels like a right mess”."

  • Two young nurses die as NHS braces for more coronavirus losses Guardian April 3 report: "Two nurses in their 30s have died after contracting coronavirus, and it has emerged that nurses and frontline health workers are being offered grief counselling and psychological support, with the loss of more NHS lives anticipated.
    "Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old NHS nurse from Walsall in the West Midlands, who was believed to have had no underlying health issues, died shortly after midnight on Thursday in intensive care at Walsall Manor hospital, where she had worked for 16 years.
    "Tributes were also paid to another NHS nurse, named locally as mother of three Aimee O’Rourke, who is is believed to have contracted the virus before she died. She was described as “a wonderful friend and colleague” to those who worked with her at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital in Margate, Kent."

  • NHS trust debts written off: now for a real change of regime Keep Our NHS Public comment on a policy step that is welcome in itself, but won't cost any money, save trusts any money, or increase front line funding. The loans to bridge funding gaps created since 2010 have long been unpayable, and no trusts were going to even try.

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