Friday Five

Waiting list concerns, inappropriate DNARS, and Hancock defends government handling of pandemic – this week’s Friday Five

NHS waiting lists reach 5m for first time

Latest NHS figures show more than 5 million people are waiting for hospital treatment in England.

The highest number since February 2007, the waiting list has seen increases of 5.4% in March and a further 3.4% in April.

385,490 people have been waiting more than 1 year for NHS treatment. However, Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, highlighted that this number has fallen by 50,000. and commented that: “despite the extensive disruption to care caused by the pandemic, it’s encouraging that today’s figures show routine operations, cancer and mental health care have now all rebounded sharply.”

Read the full story in the Guardian.

‘Inappropriate’ ‘do not resuscitate orders’ for people with mental illness and learning disabilities

Patients with mental illness and learning disabilities were increasingly subject to ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNAR) decisions, according to a Telegraph investigation.

Doctors have highlighted an increase in ‘blanket’ DNAR decisions for the elderly and vulnerable during the pandemic. In March 2020, healthcare professionals were reminded that “learning disability… should never be a  reason for issuing a DNAR order or be used to describe the underlying, or only, cause of death”. Despite this, families have come forward with evidence of DNARs for patients with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Dan Scorer, from charity Mencap, said that the practice “quite literally put their lives in danger”.

Read the full story in the Telegraph.

MPs question Matt Hancock on lockdown timings

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended the timing of the national lockdown in March 2020, saying that any earlier would have contradicted scientific advice.

MPs also raised other criticisms of the government made recently by Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former aide. Hancock rejected claims that he had lied to Boris Johnson about care home testing and defended PPE provision in care homes.

Read the full story in the BBC.

GP data sharing programme delayed

A national GP programme due to be launched on 1 July has been delayed for two months after data sharing concerns.

The scheme aims to use patient data for researching new treatments and planning future NHS services. People can choose not to be involved but Interim chief executive of NHSD, Simon Bolton, highlighted that “the more people that opt out, or if the people opting out are disproportionately from a specific group, the less useful the data is for researching new medical treatments like dexamethasone or for planning… sustainable NHS services.”

Sir Ian Diamond, leading statistician, and Helen Stokes-Lampard, GP and chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, are now working on how best to implement the project for its delayed launch.

Read the full story in the HSJ.


Quote of the week

Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University, says scientists have placed too much importance on the lockdown strategy to tackle coronavirus. Speaking on the topic, he said:

“This was the single biggest public health mistake, possibly of all history, in terms of the scope of the harm that it’s caused.”

Listen to Prof Bhattacharya speak on the Telegraph podcast here.