Friday Five

Pre-departure tests scrapped, ‘work from office’ for mental health, staff shortages in hospitals and urgent action required to tackle waiting lists – this week’s Friday Five

Pre-departure travel tests to be scrapped for travellers entering the UK

The government has announced this week that pre-departure tests will end for fully vaccinated travellers and day two PCRs will be replaced by lateral flow tests.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained that the current Covid testing system for those travelling had served its purpose but due to the widespread and worldwide nature of Omicron it was no longer an effective tool.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Shapps explained that ‘by reducing testing requirements for fully vaxxed passengers to just a lateral flow post-arrival, we’re supporting the safe reopening of international travel. We’ll do a review of travel measures by the end of Jan to ensure a stable system is in place for 2022’

Read the full story in BBC News.

Some UK firms will allow ‘work from office’ to support mental health of workers

Despite instruction from the government, under ‘Plan B’ Covid restrictions, that employees should work from home, some companies have told workers that they can continue to come to the office if required for their mental health.

Amid growing concern about the impact that two years of restrictions have had on mental health it appears that employers are taking a more flexible approach to the government’s advice which is not legally mandatory. The accountancy firm PwC and the law firm Slaughter and May are among large businesses publicly paving the way for prioritising employees mental health above government advice.

Kevin Ellis, the boss of PwC, said on Wednesday: “There’s no denying this will be a challenge for some sectors. The majority of our people had returned to the office two to three days a week. It’s the busy season for audit and there’s also lots of deal activity that benefits from some in-person meetings.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Hospital trusts declare critical incidents over staff shortages

Several hospital trusts including University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and Great Western Hospitals have declared critical incidents amid staff shortages and rising pressures due to Covid-19.

A critical incident is declared when health bosses are concerned they cannot provide priority services including treatment for cancer or heart disease patients. It is not unusual for a small number of trusts to declare this at this point of the year as the start of January is the busiest for the NHS. However, higher admissions and absences due to Covid are likely to make these critical incidents become more common.

Aaron Cummins, whose trust serves patients in Lancashire and south Cumbria, wrote in an internal message to staff: “Sadly, despite everyone’s best efforts, many of our patients are still receiving a level of care and experience that falls below the level of standards we would like.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

 

MPs call for urgent action to tackle NHS treatment waiting list

MPs have said that plans to tackle the elective backlog and other services struggling in the wake of the Covid pandemic could be derailed by emergency care demands and a lack of staff.

With about 6 million people waiting for planned treatment, the backlog caused by the pandemic is a major challenge as more people seek care, according to the cross-party health and social care committee.

The committee chair, Jeremy Hunt, also called for short-term measures to tackle the crisis: “We need to go a lot further. We’ve got 6 million people on the waiting list, we’ve got a crisis in our A&E departments, a record number of 999 calls, double the referrals to children and young people’s mental health in some areas,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday.

Read the full story in BBC News.


Quote of the week

UK officials have confirmed that a person living in the south-west of England has caught bird flu an extremely rare condition and all close contacts of the person are being monitored. Prof Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at the UK Health Security Agency, said:

“While the risk of avian flu to the general public is very low, we know that some strains do have the potential to spread to humans and that’s why we have robust systems in place to detect these early and take action. Currently there is no evidence that this strain detected in the UK can spread from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we continue to monitor the situation closely”

Read the full story in BBC News.