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This week's Friday Five: 26/8/22

At-home medical abortions made permanent in England and Wales

Those under 10 weeks pregnant will be able to access pills needed for termination after a consultation with a doctor. Doctors must record where the abortion is taking place and where and how the woman was consulted, according to new stipulations in the law.

This measure was originally bought in to ease pressure in the face of the Covid pandemic, but the arrangement has now been extended in England and Wales. The service had already been made permanent in Scotland. This method of abortion does not require surgery or an anaesthetic, but instead involves taking two pills within 24-48 hours of one another.

Minister for Public Health Maggie Throup said: “The wellbeing and safety of women requiring access to abortion services is paramount. With these measures women will have more choice in how and where they access abortion services, while ensuring robust data is collected to ensure their continued safety.”

Read the full story in The Guardian and BBC News.

Concern raised around the number of Covid related deaths being recorded

Whilst the threat of Covid has receded, there are concerns around the number of total deaths being recorded. The number of deaths have been 12% higher than expected over the last 10 weeks, according to national statisticians for the UK.

Many factors are speculated to be at play in causing this unexpected spike. Factors include extreme heat, unhealthier post-pandemic lifestyles, the ageing population, frailty from previous Covid infection and a drop in the rate of people using the NHS post-pandemic.

There are also concerns that post-pandemic decline in those using the NHS will lead to an increase in late diagnoses for cancer and a worsening of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease. Whilst there are no signs of cancer deaths increasing, these could take some years to filter through. There is additional speculation that the struggling emergency care system could be playing a key roll, too.

Read the full story in BBC News.

Routine Covid testing to be paused for most hospital patients and care home residents in England

Most hospital patients and care home residents in England will no longer be tested for Covid unless they have symptoms. From 31 August, NHS and social care staff will also not be offered lateral flow tests unless they are sick.

The government has said that as the rate of Covid in the UK have fallen, most testing can be paused. New admissions into care homes and hospices will continue to be tested for Covid, in addition to patients with weakened immune systems who are admitted to hospital or transferred between wards.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “This reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Monkeypox antiviral drug put to trial

An antiviral drug called tecovirimat is being trialled to aid monkeypox recovery by the Oxford University team credited with finding effective drugs to treat Covid.

Monkeypox, which has been declared a global health emergency, has spread to more than 3,000 people in the UK in recent months, with more cases anticipated. Whilst the infection usually gets better on its own, recovery can take weeks, with risk of serious complications. Around 500 patients will take place in the trial, with some being treated twice-daily with tecovirimat tablets while they recover from the virus, whilst others will receive a placebo.

Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “Doing trials during outbreaks is really important, otherwise it becomes very difficult or impossible to do clinical trials of diseases that are only seen in large number during outbreaks… Monkeypox can cause distressing symptoms, even though it rarely kills, so any drug that can be demonstrated to significantly improve recovery will be welcome.”

Read the full story in The Guardian and BBC News.

Quote of the week:

Large hospital trusts are not meeting key NHS standards for mental health support in emergency departments.

Annabel Price, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ liaison faculty, said: “Despite the progress made towards achieving the ambitious core 24 standard, too many people with mental health needs in acute hospitals are still not able to receive specialist support from liaison psychiatry teams… A better understanding of the capabilities and development needs of the existing workforce will also help reach the target.”

Read the full story in HSJ.


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