Friday Five

HPV vaccine saves thousands of lives, Sage scientist steps down, ambulance waiting time quadruples and limited access to abortions – this week’s Friday Five

HPV vaccine saves thousands of women from cervical cancer

A study has found that the NHS vaccination programme to prevent cervical cancer has stopped thousands of women from developing the disease and experiencing pre-cancerous changes to cells.

In the first proof that the programme is saving lives, the Cancer Research UK-funded study found that cervical cancer rates in women offered the vaccine between the ages of 12 and 13 (now in their 20s) were 87% lower than in an unvaccinated population. There were also reductions in cervical cancer rates of 62% in women offered vaccination between the ages of 14 and 16, and 34% in women aged 16 to 18 when vaccination was introduced.

Professor Peter Sasieni, lead study author, from King’s College London, said: “It’s been incredible to see the impact of HPV vaccination and now we can prove it prevented hundreds of women from developing cancer in England…We’ve known for many years that HPV vaccination is very effective in preventing particular strains of the virus, but to see the real-life impact of the vaccine has been truly rewarding.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Sage scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar steps down

Sire Jeremy Farrar, who has been part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) since the start of the pandemic has stepped down in order to focus on his work as director of medical charity the Wellcome Trust.

Sir Jeremy had expressed frustration with the government last year, writing in his book that he had considered resigning from Sage in September 2020 as cases were rising in part due to the newly-opened economy, and the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. He also wrote in Spike: The Virus vs The People that he felt in summer 2020 that not enough had been done to plan for the coming winter.

In his statement confirming he had left Sage, he said: “The Covid-19 crisis is a long way from over, with the global situation deeply troubling…The high levels of transmission seen in the UK remain concerning, but I stepped down as a participant of Sage knowing ministers had been provided with most of the key science advice needed over the winter months.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Thousands are left waiting over an hour in ambulances at A&E

The number of patients left to wait in ambulances for more than an hour outside hospital accident and emergency departments has quadrupled in a year, according to official data. Leaked NHS statistics reveal that about 28,900 ambulance handovers lasting more than an hour were recorded in England last month, compared with 7,800 in the same month last year.

Last week NHS chiefs ordered hospital trusts to “eliminate” ambulance queues outside hospitals after two deaths were linked to handover delays. A letter sent to all trusts warned that there was a “risk to patient safety” and instructed them to stop using ambulances as emergency “cubicles”.

NHS England said: “The NHS has already set out a ten-point action plan to prepare for significant demand this winter, and has now gone further by writing to trusts and systems asking for further, system-wide action to be taken to prevent ambulance handover delays with immediate effect.”

Read the full story in The Times.

 

Women unable to access abortions with NHS under pressure

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a reproductive healthcare charity that provides abortions, has warned that a growing number of women are being forced to continue pregnancies against their will because pressures on the NHS mean no abortion services are available, a charity has warned.

BPAS added that it had seen requests for advice surge since lockdown restrictions ended. The number of women needing an abortion in the second trimester, a surgical procedure, is also growing, the charity warned in a report. The charity said that it had been unable to find abortion services before the 24-week gestation cut-off for six women in September and five in the first two weeks of October. Earlier this year that happened no more than once a month.

A spokeswoman said: “We are just one provider and our challenges are reflected across the sector, so sadly there will be more women than just those captured by BPAS data.”

Read the full story in The Times.


Quote of the week

The UK medicines regulator has approved the first pill designed to treat symptomatic Covid, molnupiravir. In clinical trials the pill, originally developed to treat flu, cut the risk of hospitalisation or death by about half. Health secretary Sajid Javid said the treatment was a “gamechanger” for the most frail and immunosuppressed and in a statement said:

“Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid.”

Read the full story in BBC News.