SCH April Health News
Health News – April 2023
3 April 2023
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Health News – June 2023
7 June 2023

Dear SCH Reader, Welcome to another edition of a snapshot of the past month’s health-related news headlines that have been in the media. Three years on, as we’re getting more used again to the more normal pre-covid world, without lockdowns & masks, The Telegraph ran an interesting article focusing upon the cause of this dreadful pandemic, as included. Along with the other 3 articles as ever please enjoy your reading: –

7th The Times – Strike to ‘overwhelm’ A&E

Up to half of doctors in England will be absent during four days of junior doctors’ strikes next week, senior clinicians have warned. The planned walkout has triggered concerns that patients could be put at risk as the NHS is likely to be under extreme pressure after the bank holiday weekend.

The British Medical Association said yesterday that it would call off the 96-hour walkout, due to begin on Tuesday, if ministers set out a “credible offer” to restore junior doctor pay to 2008 levels. However, Professor Philip Banfield, chairman of the BMA council, warned that, without progress, consultants and their juniors could walk out together in future strikes. Consultants are due to ballot next month and the union is “prepared for the long haul”, he said.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said: “There is no doubt that next week will be even more challenging for NHS services, with the pressures caused by a bank holiday weekend combined with four days of industrial action – where, for 96 hours, hospitals will be without up to half of the medical workforce.” The medical workforce refers to doctors and does not include other healthcare professionals such as nurses.

A junior doctor’s strike last month resulted in 175,000 appointments and operations being cancelled, with up to 29,243 staff absent each of the three days. More than a quarter of a million cancellations are expected next week. The union has not agreed to any areas to be exempt from strike action, and NHS leaders say it will be harder this time to protect areas including emergency treatment, maternity and neonatal care. The strikes immediately follow the Easter bank holiday weekend and many consultants who stepped down to cover the last strikes will be on annual leave.

Dr. Simon Steddon, chief medical officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust in London, said patients might come to harm, saying there would be “further delays and longer waits for patients”, adding: “Many people whose appointments or procedures are being cancelled will now have experienced this on multiple occasions, which is incredibly distressing for our patients, and their friends and families”, warning that “the impact of these strikes on patient care will be extensive and on a scale we’ve not seen before.”

18th The Telegraph – Covid pandemic most likely caused by Wuhan lab leak, US report concludes

Chinese researchers may have begun developing two Covid vaccines in November 2019, before the official start of the outbreak, a US senate report has claimed. The claims come in a 300-page document, which concluded that the pandemic most likely came from a lab leak and was the result of a “research-related incident” in Wuhan.

It said the theory that Covid-19 jumped from animals to humans in a market no longer deserved the “presumption of accuracy”, further arguing that Chinese researchers appeared to begin development of at least two Covid vaccines at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in November 2019, meaning “SARS-CoV-2 would have been present at the WIV before the known outbreak of the pandemic.” The claims give further credence to the lab leak theory and support accusations that China covered up early cases of the outbreak.

The 300-page report, released to Axios, was the full version of a 35-page summary published in October by the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee. Ten findings from the US Senate report: –

  • China was creating vaccines early – and one of the creators has mysteriously died
  • WIV might have been selling lab animals for human consumption
  • A new start date for the pandemic – October 28 to November 10, 2019, when cases of mystery illness rocket, noticed by US diplomats.
  • WIV filed 12 patents to improve biosecurity including new door seals and ventilation in six months before pandemic
  • Wuhan officials carried out an emergency airport drill on September 18, 2019, to identify passengers infected with novel coronavirus
  • Social media reports show outbreaks of Covid-like illness near Wuhan animal experiment campuses in December 2019
  • Pandemic might have been started by two spillover events two weeks apart
  • WIV had collected 20,000 bat samples by 2019
  • Scientists were working with centrifuges that could have sprayed virus into the air

It said: “The Covid-19 pandemic was, more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident. New information, made publicly available and independently verifiable, could change this assessment. However, the hypothesis of a natural zoonotic origin no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt, or the presumption of accuracy.”

The report suggested that advocates of the natural transmission theory “must provide clear and convincing evidence” for their argument. It concluded: “The preponderance of information affirms the plausibility of of a research-related incident that was likely unintentional resulting from failures of biosafety containment during vaccine-related research.”

No evidence proving a natural spillover

Scientists, and US intelligence, have been divided over whether the pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had been collecting and manipulating bat viruses, or from a natural spillover at a Wuhan market selling live animals. The report said there were “anomalies” between Covid-19 and other diseases that have spilled over naturally from animals to humans. And it said, three years on, no critical evidence had been found proving there was a natural spillover. It added that there had not been spillovers of the virus in numerous places at numerous times, as might be expected if that was the cause.

The report also noted that the type of bats carrying the closest virus to Covid-19 lived over 1,000 miles away from Wuhan. However, the lab had collected over 200 coronaviruses, and employees had been photographed handling bats with inadequate protective gear, the report said. Scientists there had been involved in research aimed at preventing future pandemics, and had sought funding to engineer coronaviruses, it said.

The report said: “A research-related incident is consistent with the early epidemiology (of Covid-19) showing rapid spread of the virus in Wuhan, with the earliest calls for assistance being located near the WIV’s original campus in central Wuhan. “In short, human errors, mechanical failure, animal bites, animal escapes, inadequate training, insufficient funding, and pressure for results can lead to an escape of virulent pathogens, which could, in turn, infect animals and humans and lead to a release of a virus from a lab.”

No definitive conclusion

However, the report did not offer a “definitive” conclusion on the origin of the pandemic. It said: “More information is needed to arrive at a more precise, if not a definitive, understanding of the origins…and how the Covid-19 pandemic began. Governments, leaders, public health officials, and scientists involved in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and working to prevent future pandemics, must commit to greater transparency, engagement, and responsibility in their efforts.”

Last month, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, said Covid “most likely” leaked from the Wuhan lab. Mr. Wray said: “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.” The US Department of Energy has also concluded that a lab leak and natural transmission theories. Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said last month there was not a “definitive answer” yet. He said: “Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other, and a number have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure.”

18th The Telegraph – The NHS is in crisis – Is it time you went private?

With NHS waiting lists at record highs, more and more people are turning to private healthcare. Mark Bailie, chief of Comparethemarket.com, said on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg last week the comparison site now gets 90,000 to 100,000 visitors a month looking for private medical insurance (PMI), an 80% surge in three months.

Meanwhile, a recent YouGov survey found one in eight Britons (13%) have used private healthcare in the last year, a third of whom were doing so for the first time ever. The extreme pressure on the NHS is driving growing numbers of people to seek treatment privately. More than seven million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of February, the highest since records began, according to figures from NHS England.

However, the demand for PMI has been growing ever since the pandemic, experts said. Five and a half million people were covered by individual and group PMI policies in 2021, according to the latest data from the Association of British Insurers. This is the largest number of people covered by PMI since 2009. The insurer Aviva said the number of people taking out PMI has surged by 100,000 every year since 2020. A spokesman said: “We have noted many individuals considering private health insurance for the first time, including significant interest from younger age groups who traditionally would not have viewed private health insurance as a priority.”

How much does it cost and what do you get for your money?

More people are going private to beat long queues for operations, GP appointments and dental work. The average cost of a typical comprehensive PMI policy is £1,033 per year, or £86 per month, according to research by private healthcare information website MyTribe Insurance. Plans are especially expensive for older policyholders, with a 70-year-old paying £2,158 per year, double what a 50-year-old will usually pay.

But many people are deciding it is worth the cost to access treatment sooner. According to the recent YouGov survey, the main reason households went private was for speed. More than half (53pc) said they got treatment privately because they believed it would be quicker. Graeme Trudgill, of British Insurance Broker’s Association, a trade body, said: “As well as playing a part in relieving pressure on the NHS, having private medical insurance allows you to receive treatment quickly or at your convenience, causing less disruption to your life and alleviating the stress of waiting to be seen.”

A comprehensive plan will cover treatment for acute illnesses and injuries such as knee replacements and cataract surgery, which are some of the most common procedures conducted under PMI, according to consultants Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN). Conditions such as cancer and heart disease are also covered, and it is these long-term illnesses that often push people to go private. The waiting times for conditions like cancer can be significantly shorter. Tim Cowan, of PMI brokers Anderson Health, said: “Treatment of cancer has come under considerable time constraint pressure recently with the NHS.”

Mr. Cowan said in recent years there had also been a huge spike in private claims for mental health issues, where waiting times on the NHS can also be also extremely long. Dentistry, he added, is another area where it is far easier to get treatment privately than if you go through the NHS. However, PMI premiums will be higher if you want treatment for dentistry, mental health services or treatment from a chiropractor or osteopath.

There are also some conditions that most PMI plans will not cover. Chronic conditions like diabetes, epilepsy and asthma will usually be excluded. It is possible to get cover for these with more expensive international policies, such as Bupa Global, however customers should expect to pay double. Mr. Cowan said in some areas, however, NHS services were typically considered to be better, pointing specifically to maternity care. “Childbirth is one of the areas the NHS tends to excel in, regardless of the current state of play,” he said.

“Routine childbirth is not covered on UK PMI plans although it can be covered on the more expensive International plans by way of a 10-month moratorium. UK PMI plans normally only cover complications in childbirth but not elective procedures such as caesarian section.” Most PMI policies offer telephone, video or online private GP consultations. For an additional cost, some offer face-to-face consultations with a private GP. Some policies will offer routine health checks which are not covered by the NHS. To pay less for your insurance, you may want to consider cutting some aspects of your cover. You could increase your policy’s excess or reduce the number of hospitals available to you in your plan

22nd The Mirror – GP change from next month will impact MILLIONS of patients across the UK

An important change is being made to doctors’ appointments that is set to impact millions. A month after it was announced the 8am telephone scramble would be scrapped, another decision has been made. From May 15th, the NHS will implement a change where GPs that cannot offer an appointment right away will be obliged to provide people with an assessment there and then. Alternatively, they can signpost them to an “appropriate medical service.”

Dr. Kieran Sharrock, acting chairman of the general practitioners committee in England, said: “Without investment to do more, practices have to free up resources from elsewhere. This hasn’t been properly considered. Ramping up GPworkload, and without the support needed, will lead to more GPs leaving the profession. Ultimately, it’s our patients who suffer most, and this means more of them will be left waiting longer for care they desperately need,” reports BirminghamLive.

NHS director of primary care Dr. Ursula Montgomery said: “GP teams have worked hard to deliver record numbers of appointments with half a million more delivered each week last year compared to pre-pandemic, and this new contract aims to build on this further with more access for patients. As well as providing same day care to more than two fifths of patients, GP teams will step-up preventive action against heart attacks and strokes over the next year.”

“As well as providing same day care to more than two fifths of patients, GP teams will also step-up preventive action against heart attacks and strokes over the next year. Prof Aruna Garcea, primary care chair at the NHS Confederation, said: “Primary care is carrying out 11% more appointments than before the pandemic, which is particularly impressive given their patients tend to present with multiple and more complex needs.” It comes as total full-time-equivalent GP numbers continue to drop despite growing demand from the aging population. Practices have also been told they will need to offer automatic access to future patient records through the NHS app.

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Trusting that you enjoyed that round-up, as the weather warms up, with nature in full bloom, now’s the time to get out there in the countryside and soak it up, countryside or coast, walking of course being a great free exercise that most of us can engage in. Whatever you’re up to though, please stay healthy!

Until June (wow that’ll be summer then!)

Yours sincerely

Daniel Donoghue

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Whole of Market Specialist Medical Insurance Brokers

Nursing strikes 2023

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