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This week's Friday Five: 8/7/22

Steve Barclay named new health and social care secretary

This Tuesday Steve Barclay was named the new health and social care secretary following Sajid Javid’s resignation. This has prompted a wide range of responses and commentary. We’ve rounded up a few:

Peter Walker writing in The Guardian has described Barclay as ‘a prime minister’s dependable servant’ describing how: ‘Under both Boris Johnson and Theresa May, Steve Barclay has proved to be one of those ministers who are rarely lauded but nonetheless greatly valued by a prime minister: hard-working, loyal – and most of all, largely uncomplaining.’ He points to Barclay’s remaining in the position of Brexit secretary when it was taken over from May by Johnson, despite their very different view of Brexit, as evidence of this adaptability.

Jim Reed writing for BBC News speculated about what Barclay will tackle first as health and social care secretary, pointing out he starts at a time when the NHS and social care are under serious pressure. He spotlights the backlog of planned operations, ambulance response times, demand for pay rises from health and social care workers and coronavirus infection rates as some of the most pressuring issues that now face Barclay.

Alastair McLellan writing in Health Service Journal said that ‘never has a politician arrived in the post of health secretary (or health and social care secretary) trailing a worse reputation than Steve Barclay.’ He points to Barclay’s ‘sceptical view of NHS bureaucracy’ as what commends him to many in the Conservative party, but equally the reason he ‘made few friends in the NHS’ during his time as junior minister in the Department of Health and Social Care and as chief secretary of the Treasury.

McLellan argues that whilst administrations led by David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson have all tried hard to build the mantra that the Conservatives are ‘the party of the NHS’, it is hard to imagine Barclay repeating that sentiment ‘with any conviction’. He calls attention to the recommendations of the pay review bodies published over the coming weeks, which are likely to suggest raises for NHS staff above levels budgeted, as the health secretary’s first big test. He concludes: ‘Can Mr Barclay be the supportive and constructive health secretary the service needs as this time of maximum stress? Very few in senior NHS leadership positions think it is likely. Let us hope they are wrong.’

Kat Lay writing for The Times, focused on the NHS Pay Review Body’s impending recommendations, saying that Barclay ‘is expected to clash with both NHS managers and unions over pay and health service funding.’ She highlights that the decision on what pay rise to offer nurses and other staff will be one of the first big decisions that he will face.

Lay quotes Carol Popplestone, chairwoman of The Royal College of Nursing council: ‘His imminent decision on NHS pay will send the first and greatest signal on the relationship Mr Barclay wants with his health and care workforce. If he doles out another real-terms pay cut before his feet are properly under the desk, our professionals will immediately lose faith in him.’

NHSE sets trusts ‘100-day challenge’ in attempt to reduce delayed discharges

With the aim of reducing delayed discharges and freeing up beds before winter, NHS England has set trusts a ‘100-day challenge’.

In a letter sent last week, David Sloman, chief operating officer of NHSE, called for the 10 ‘best practice initiatives’ to be adopted, which he said ‘can make a significant difference in facilitating discharge and improving care for patients.’ Trusts and systems have been given until 30th September to develop an infrastructure for implementing the initiatives.

Sir David’s letter said: ‘There is still significant variation between hospitals and systems as a result of the processes employed by individual trusts and their partners…As a result, there is a need to codify and systematically implement change across England to ensure consistency and drive improvement for the benefit of patients, carers, and families.’

Read the full article in Health Service Journal.

Renowned broadcaster and scientist criticises emergency services

Lord Winston, renowned broadcaster and scientist, was critical of how his 999 call was handled. He described how he faced a ‘litany of questions’, wasting precious time whilst his wife was dying in his arms.

Speaking in the chamber, Lord Winston explained: “Some months ago, as my wife lay dying in my arms, I phoned the 999 service. The man answering the call asked me a litany of questions and asked me to count her number of heartbeats per minute. That waste of time is critical. With a cardiac arrest you have only a few seconds… I had to interrupt the cardiac massage that I was giving my wife until the emergency services arrived, but, of course, they had not been called yet.’ He said it was obvious that the man who took the phone call had not been adequately trained, and called proper training for people who take these calls at such critical times.

Raising the issue of ambulance handover delays, the Labour peer and former BBC governor Lord Young of Norwood Green said: ‘People are dying as we sit in this chamber, literally thousands of them. Why? Because paramedics are waiting with trolleys in hospitals for a bed…It is a national disgrace and I want an assurance from the minister that real action is to be taken.’

Read the full story in The Times.

Two Oxford trusts bring back masks prompted by surge in cases

Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford Health have both changed their rules, reintroducing mask-wearing in clinical areas amid Covid surge.

Whilst infections are ‘still down’ on earlier peaks, it is speculated that the recent surge in cases could have an impact on treating other patients. The latest figures show that an estimated 2.3 million people or one in 30 has the virus.

Chief nurse Marie Crofts at Oxford Health said: ‘We have a duty of care to do all we can to limit the risk of infection… With Covid-19 on the increase in the community, we ask you to please wear a mask while you are with us. Together we need to do all we can to protect each other and our patients.’

Read the full story in BBC News.

Quote of the week

Researchers from Imperial College London along with other institutions have looked at clinical trials published between 1980 and last year to explore the potential for drugs used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (noradrenergic) to be repurposed as Alzheimer’s treatments: the review found ‘good evidence’ that they were likely to be successful.

A researcher involved in the review said: ‘Repurposing of established noradrenergic drugs is most likely to offer effective treatment in Alzheimer’s disease for general cognition and apathy… There is a strong rationale for further, targeted clinical trials of noradrenergic treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.’

Read the full story in The Times.


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