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This week's Friday Five: 03/2/23

88,000 hospital appointments have been cancelled over the last 7 weeks

Following industrial action by nurses and ambulance workers, figures released this week find that hospitals in England have cancelled 88,000 appointments over the last seven weeks. Approximately 56,000 outpatient appointments, many of which a patient was due to see a consultant, have been rearranged because of the strikes beginning on 15 December. Mental health services have also been affected with 1,752 sessions with mental health specialists and 19,432 appointments with community services being postponed.

Saffron Cordery, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, discusses the impact of this industrial action, saying: "Strike escalation will cause serious and profound damage to the NHS in the long term. The government has the power to end this disruption right now by talking to the unions about working conditions and, crucially, pay for this financial year.”

Read more at The Guardian

Two-year plan to help recover urgent and emergency care services

This week the NHS published their two-year plan to help address current pressure facing urgent and emergency care services.

Some of the key points included:

  • Frontline capacity will be increased with 800 new ambulances, including 100 specialist mental health vehicles. An additional 5,000 sustainable hospital beds will also be added, supported by a £1 billion dedicated fund.

  • A strong push to meet the NHS's two major recovery ambitions. This includes achieving an A&E four-hour performance of 76% by March 2024 and improving category two ambulance response times to a 30-minute average over the next year (with further improvements the following year).

  • Urgent care in the community is to be expanded to help reduce the pressure currently facing emergency services. Community services are to run for a minimum of 12 hours a day responding to calls normally requiring an ambulance crew.

  • Further plans to free up hospital space and ensure more timely hospital discharge for patients. Following the success of virtual wards, an initiative which sees patients receive high-tech care at home, up to 50,000 patients a month are to benefit from this initiative by the end of 2023/24.

Discussing this new plan, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “It will take time to get there but our plan will cut long waiting times by increasing the number of ambulances, staff and beds – stopping the bottlenecks outside A&E and making sure patients are seen and discharged quickly. If we meet this ambition, it will represent one of the fastest and longest sustained improvements in emergency waiting times in NHS history."

Read the full report here

New study finds link between long-term pollution exposure and mental health conditions

A new study led by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Beijing, and Imperial College London, has found a link between long-term exposure to low levels of air pollution and depression and anxiety. Through tracking the incidence of depression and anxiety in almost 500,000 UK adults over an 11-year period, researchers found that individuals living in areas with higher levels of pollution were more likely to suffer from episodes of mental illness, even when air quality was within official limits.

Following the publication of this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry researchers have argued that their findings highlight a need for more robust regulations to address air pollution control - hoping policymakers will take urgent action.

Anna Hansell, professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of Leicester reported that this study contributes to growing literature which supports a lowering of legal limits to air pollution. She said: "This study provides further evidence on potential impacts of air pollution on the brain.”

Read more at The Guardian

New blood test may detect Alzheimer's disease years before diagnosis

New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London has developed a blood-based test that researchers predict could help identify Alzheimer's disease over 3 years before it is diagnosed.

The research supports the idea that components in human blood can serve to influence the formation of new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis. To explore the early changes, researchers collected blood samples from 56 people with mild cognitive impairment (a condition which makes it more likely one will develop Alzheimer's) over a number of years. Of those 56 people involved in the study, 36 went on to develop Alzheimer's. An analysis of the blood samples provided found changes in neurogenesis present around 3.5 years before the clinical diagnosis.

Discussing the findings and impact of this research, Dr Edina Silajdzic, the study's joint first author said: “Our findings are extremely important, potentially allowing us to predict onset of Alzheimer’s early in a non-invasive fashion.”

Read more at The Independent

Quote of the Week

Yesterday it was announced that England has succeeded in meeting the new targets set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for eliminating mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission.

John Stewart, Director for Specialised Commissioning and interim Director of Commercial Medicines at NHS England, said: "We are pleased WHO has confirmed England has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, thanks to universal screening and immunisation benefitting more than 9 in 10 infants. Through screening programmes and national medicines deals that give NHS patients access to the latest drugs, England is also on track to become the first country to eliminate hepatitis C, which will be a landmark international achievement in public health."

Read more at GOV UK

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