Friday Five

Babies, HIV and the cloud- this week’s Friday Five

Hancock introducing mandatory IT standards for the NHS

In a document published on Wednesday, Hancock said that the NHS should move data and IT systems to the cloud, using a system similar to Microsoft or Amazon, where they would benefit from “the resilience and backups of some of the most cyber-aware and heavily invested companies in the world”.

Hancock also outline mandatory standards that suppliers must meet, including using a patient NHS number, demonstrating data security and clinical safety, and enabling the free flow of information.

Hancock also repeated similar comments made at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, where he criticised the relationships between the NHS and IT suppliers, In the document he states that, “contracts should be short and avoid lock-in, enabling teams and organisations to swap in and out of better, cheaper services as they become available.”

NHS chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles said the standards would: “Set the health service in England on track to be the world leader in innovative healthcare.”

Read more in the HSJ (£).


MPs “shocked” by low flu vaccine rates among social care staff

A report from the House of Commons science and technology select committee says that only 25% of social care staff caring for the elderly and vulnerable are vaccinated against flu. Data on vaccine take up by staff is also not routinely collected.

Last year’s flu season was the worst for seven years and many elderly people ended up in hospital due to complications, despite an vaccine uptake of 72.6% of people in the vulnerable over-65 age group. This is because the vaccine may only be 50% or 60% protective, and thus emphasising the need for vaccination also of those who care for the elderly. In up to half of all cases, people can have the flu without symptoms, so carers can pass the virus on without knowing they have it.

“It’s outrageous that so few social care staff appear to be vaccinated,” said Norman Lamb MP, committee chair. “Some of our most vulnerable people are living in care homes and more must be done to protect them. Everyone caring for the elderly and infirm should see it as a professional duty to minimise the risk of passing on flu. The government should aim for 100% vaccination of social care workers to ensure the protection of those most vulnerable to the effects of flu.”

Read more in the Guardian.


Folic acid will be added to flour

After resisting for nearly 30 years, the government has announced that folic acid will be added to all flour to stop children being born with birth defects, such as spina bfida.

Every day in the UK, on average two women have a termination of pregnancy because of a neural tube defect and every week two women give birth to an affected child. In Chile, which has the highest levels of fortification, the measure is believed to prevent up to 80 per cent of potential NTD cases.

In 1991, a trial established a link between neural tube defects and low levels of folic acid in mothers during the early stages of pregnancy. 81 countries subsequently introduced mandatory additions of folic acid to flour, as only a third of women follow advice to supplement it into their diet. Following pressures from scientists and recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, the UK will now follow suit.

“A government decision to introduce mandatory fortification will mean a major positive impact for the health and well-being of babies born in the future,” said Kate Steele, Chief Executive of charity Shine, which helps families of children with neural tube defects. In many cases, it will be the difference between life and death.”

A Department of Health and Social care spokesperson said: “Ministers are considering expert advice and will respond in due course.”

Read more in The Telegraph.


STPs to create five year plans

Health economies have been told to create five-year plans by autumn 2019, to set out how they will improve services and achieve financial sustainability.

In a letter to local leaders on Tuesday, NHS England and NHS Improvement said sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs) will be expected to develop and agree their plans during 2019-2020

The letter, from chief executives Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton, said, “This will give you and your teams sufficient time to consider the outputs of the NHS long term plan in late autumn and the spending review 2019 capital settlement; and to engage with patients, the public and local stakeholders before finalising your strategic plans. It will be extremely important that you develop your plans with the proper engagement of all parts of your local systems and that they provide robust and credible solutions for the challenges you will face in caring for your local populations over the next five years.”

Read more in the HSJ (£).

NHS told to offer PrEP

HIV/AIDs charities have called for the NHS to immediately commit to a national rollout of a breakthrough preventative treatment after results from an Australian trial showed it cut new transmissions by 25% in a year.

In research published in The Lancet on Wednesday, it was demonstrated that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment has a rapid effectiveness in a real world setting. In the year after the PrEP roll out in 2016, new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in New South Wales, Australia fell to their lowest levels since records began.

The NHS is currently running its own three year assessment of Truvada PrEP to assess its cost effectiveness and it has already expanded the number of people being enrolled beyond the 10,000 initially planned. However, the National AIDS Trust has said that people are being put at risk of infection because they cannot access the trial and the scheme should be rolled out nationwide – particularly as a patent ruling last month has meant its costs have fallen significantly.

Read more in the Independent.


Quote of the week

Our quote of the week comes Elizabeth Moulder in a letter she wrote to all junior doctors in the Guardian’s Blood, sweat and tears series.

“You feel that you are slowing everyone down, they’d be better without you there, and that you’re not cut out to be a doctor. Every doctor has felt like this. Every doctor has pretended not to feel like this…. You will find it gets easier, and you will get through it because you have insight. You are asking for support and you are talking to your friends and family. You are doing just fine. You will rotate on, you will find a job that excites and inspires, and scares you a little less. The greatest thing about a medical degree is there is a specialty for everyone, and you will find the job that suits you. Meanwhile, please keep on caring.”

Read more in the Guardian.