Trial begins of AI scan that could reduce risk of stillbirth and other conditions
Scientists are launching a trial of a new scanning technique that could identify women at high risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth and pre-eclampsia, by analysing their placentas. Some hospitals within the NHS are beginning to introduce a screening algorithm that uses routinely collected antenatal data, including an ultrasound measure of uterine blood supply, to calculate women’s risk of pre-eclampsia, which could enable doctors to intervene with additional screening, or early delivery of the baby where necessary.
The technology uses artificial intelligence to analyse ultrasound images taken during women’s 12-week scan and assign them a risk score – similar to the first trimester risk assessment for Down’s syndrome routinely offered at this point in women’s pregnancies. Those deemed at high risk could be offered additional scans or drugs to reduce their risk of adverse outcomes. Each day, approximately eight families in the UK are affected by stillbirth, with foetal growth restriction – a condition where the baby is smaller than expected, or its growth slows or stops during pregnancy – the single biggest risk factor.
Prof Sally Collins, a consultant obstetrician and medical lead for women’s health at Perspectum Ltd said: “What we’ve come up with is a fully automated, artificial intelligence method for seeing and measuring the placenta, and the blood supply at its interface with the uterus, so suddenly, we have a computer tool that can tell you the size and the vascularity of the placenta in real time,”
Read the full story in The Guardian.
Covid infections rising again across UK – ONS
Covid infections are increasing across the UK with about one in 25 people infected, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In Scotland, 300,000 people – one in 18 – have coronavirus, the highest level recorded during the pandemic. A sub-variant of Omicron, called BA.2, is now thought to be the most common strain in most of the UK.
The ONS says it’s too early to say what’s behind the rise in cases but some scientists believe the BA.2 variant’s increased transmissibility, recent easing of restrictions and waning immunity from the vaccines could all be factors. The ONS infection survey, which tests thousands of people randomly in households across the UK, estimates that 2.6 million people would have tested positive in the week ending 5 March – up from 2.4 million the previous week – roughly one in 27. Older age groups are now experiencing rising levels of infection with 2.9% of over-70s testing positive in England – the highest level since mid-January.
Asked if there were worries about sub-variants Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government had “no concerns at all”.He said Omicron had been the last variant to be considered of concern but that the country had “successfully navigated” it, but he said the government continued to monitor the situation “very carefully”. “There’s a world-class surveillance system in place, and whilst in some regions we have seen a modest rise in infections, overall case numbers are still very low and hospitalisation numbers are way below their peak,” he said.
Read the full story in BBC News.
£1bn private hospital to open in central London
A new 184-bed private hospital is about to open in London, the second-largest in the capital, where patients will enjoy views of Buckingham Palace and will be treated by doctors understood to be paid up to £350,000 a year. The opening of the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic’s first London hospital at the end of this month comes at a time when the private health sector is booming.
With 29 intensive care unit beds and eight operating theatres staffed by 1,200 people, the eight-storey site – estimated by analysts to have cost £1bn – will add to concerns about the emergence of a two-tier healthcare system. While targeting UK patients with private health insurance or the growing number of people who are paying for treatment themselves, along with overseas patients, the Cleveland Clinic London is also in talks about providing complex procedures for NHS patients to help reduce waiting lists.
Brian Donley, an orthopaedic surgeon who is now chief executive of the clinic, said: “We are in those discussions with all different parts of London, with different NHS trusts on how we can support [reducing] that backlog. We do expect to see some NHS patients, in particular around complex care, in particular around diagnostics.” A spokesperson said these would mainly be tests for heart disease.
Read the full story in The Guardian .
All UK travel rules to end on Friday, says government
Currently, everyone travelling to the UK must complete a passenger locator form before they arrive and travellers who are not fully vaccinated have to take a Covid test before departure, fill in the form, and book and pay for a PCR test after arriving. Grant Shapps confirmed in a tweet that these rules will end at 04:00 on Friday. His announcement means that passengers who are not fully vaccinated will no longer have to take Covid tests before and after travelling to the UK and the passenger locator form will no longer be necessary either.
Mr Shapps tweeted: “These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.” When any new Covid strains appear in the future, the government said its default approach would be to use “the least-stringent measures” for restricting travel. The government’s “Living with Covid” plan said new measures at the border would only be considered in “extreme circumstances”.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The removal of all remaining UK travel restrictions is the final important step towards frictionless air travel, helping to further restore consumer confidence as we welcome more customers back to the skies this spring and summer. To uphold the experience of all travellers, it’s vital that the UK Government works closely with industry to ensure the UK border is ready for increasing passengers, as international travel ramps up.”
Read the full story in BBC News.
Quote of the week
New “priority advice” for the NHS has suggested that pregnant women be asked how much alcohol they are drinking and the answer recorded in their medical notes. An earlier draft of the recommendations for NHS staff in England and Wales suggested transferring data on a woman’s alcohol intake to her child’s medical notes – but this has now been dropped, following concern women who needed help might hide their drinking. The Royal College of Midwives spokeswoman Lia Brigante said:
“As there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the RCM believes it is appropriate and important to advise women that the safest approach is to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy and advocates for this. We are pleased to see that the recommendation to record alcohol consumption and to then transfer this to a child’s record has been reconsidered. This had the potential to disrupt or prevent the development of a trusting relationship between a woman and her midwife.”
Read more in BBC News.