Friday Five

Winter rescue package for face-to-face GP appointments, accurate lateral flow tests and the British government’s ‘historic public health failure’ – this week’s Friday Five

£250 winter rescue package unveiled in attempt to boost face-to-face GP consultations

Emergency funding of £250 million is being handed to GPs in an attempt to increase face-to-face appointments amid mounting criticism about the fall in face-to-face appointments since the beginning of the pandemic.

Whilst 80% of appointments were held in person before the pandemic, it fell to 54% in January and has not increased significantly since the relaxation of restrictions.

The funding is part of the extra £5bn Covid fund announced last month to help the NHS through to the end of the year. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live. I also want to thank GPs and their teams for their enormous efforts in the most challenging times in living memory.”

Read the full story in the BBC.

 

One-third of women unable to access correct contraception during pandemic

 Research by Preventx, a sexual health testing service, has revealed that almost one-third of women seeking long-acting contraceptives such as coils or implants were unable to do so during the pandemic. 

Sexual health clinic services were hit badly by the pandemic with many services forced to shut or run reduced clinics. This meant that it was difficult for women to obtain any long-acting reversible contraceptive choices (LARC) due to these requiring face-to-face appointments which have largely been suspended as consultations are carried out remotely via phone or video call. 

Ruth Poole, chief executive of Preventx, which works with the NHS, said: “Lack of access to both long-acting contraception and sexual health testing services have had a significant impact on people and will result in a negative impact on health inequalities.”. 

Read the full story in the Independent.

Lateral flow tests more accurate than first thought

Researchers at University College London have said that lateral flow tests are a “very useful public health too” for stopping the spread of the virus despite being less accurate than PCR tests.

Government guidance says people must get a follow-up PCR test after a positive lateral flow result to confirm they have Covid but this has been criticised as creating confusion about whether people should isolate or not.

Based on the UCL research, Prof Irene Petersen, lead study author, said people who get a positive lateral flow result “should trust them and stay at home”. Prof Michael Mina, from Harvard School of Public Health, also part of the research team, said the lateral flow tests could “catch nearly everyone who is currently a serious risk to public health” when viral loads are at their peak.

Read the full story in the BBC.

 

British government’s response to early pandemic a “historic public health failure”

Following a year-long inquiry conducted by two committees of the House of Commons, a report has criticised the government’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced.”

Although the report highlighted some successes, such as the development and deployment of the vaccine, the 150-page document listed dozens of failures that led to thousands of avoidable deaths. Examples listed include insufficient community testing capacity, an inadequate test-and-trace system, an unwillingness to challenge scientific advice, and placing too much emphasis on avoiding lockdowns.

The lawmakers concluded that “Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic — and the advice that led to them — rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced… Painful though it is, the UK must learn what lessons it can of why this happened if we are to ensure it is not repeated.”

Read the full story in the Washington Post.


Quote of the week

A senior A&E consultant in London and president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, has spoken out about abuse of NHS staff

“People are being angry – very angry – with us. They are angry about long waits, about having to stand outside emergency departments in queues, about delays in ambulances coming, including to take their relative home from hospital. The public haven’t really caught up with how struggling the whole NHS is… Emergency care doctors have been living a life of threats for years. But we’re more vulnerable because everyone in the workforce is completely shattered and the last thing they need is dealing with these issues, and having a public that doesn’t understand the pressures we are under and are taking out their frustrations on us when we are going as hard as we can.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.