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This week's Friday Five: 17/2/23

More people are not collecting medications because of prescription costs

Findings from a survey of 269 pharmacies in England have shown an increase in the number of patients not collecting their medications because of the cost of prescriptions. Despite prescriptions being free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, most adults in England (except those exempt for medical reasons) have to pay for their prescriptions - which are £9.35 per item.

The results from the survey found that half of the pharmacists said they have observed an increase in the number of patients asking whether they could "do without" their prescription with an increase in patients not collecting their medications. Two-thirds of pharmacists experienced patients asking if cheaper alternatives (over-the-counter substitutes) were available. This has since prompted the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to renew its call for patients with long-term conditions in England to access free prescriptions and ensure that support is provided to individuals who are struggling due to the cost of living crisis.

Thorrun Govind, a pharmacist and chair of the RPS discussed these prescription charges saying: "Prescription charges are an unfair tax on health, which disadvantages working people on lower incomes who are already struggling with food and energy bills. We urgently need an overhaul of the system in England to ensure it supports access to medicines for people with long-term conditions at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis."

Read more at The Guardian

Government fund has failed to reduce hospital discharge delays

A HSJ report finds that a high-profile £250 million government fund has failed to deliver any significant reductions in delayed discharges. On the 9th of January, Steve Barclay announced that a fund would be allocated to urgently free up hospital capacity. This included £200 million being provided to buy step-down residential care beds. NHS England highlighted that this funding should bring "immediate improvements" especially in light of last week's strikes.

Official data showed that in the week the funding was announced 14,035 patients were still in hospitals despite being medically fit for discharge - equating to roughly one in seven beds occupied. However, these figures barely changed in the week to the 5th of February where an average of 13,975 patients are still in hospital despite not meeting the clinical criteria to reside. Since the funding was announced, the number of patients whose discharge has been delayed has increased in 17 of the 42 integrated care systems.

NHS England said in a statement: "…social care continues to face significant challenges which inevitably is having a knock-on impact and the NHS is working closely with those colleagues to ensure they have the capacity to receive patients from hospital.”

Read more at HSJ

Rare genetic disorder cured for the first time on the NHS

A 19-month-old child, Teddi Shaw, born with a rare genetic disorder becomes the first person to be cured on the NHS with a revolutionary new gene therapy. Teddi suffers from metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) an inherited condition which causes damage to the nervous system and organs. However, following NHS England striking a deal to buy Libmeldy, she has now been given a second lease on life. The drug Libmeldy, which was released last year, can correct the genetic cause of MLD by replacing the faulty gene with a functional copy directly into the patient's stem cells. It is one of the world's most expensive drugs with a list price of £2.8 million. However, the supplier Orchard Therapeutics has agreed to provide the drug at an undisclosed discounted price.

Discussing the impact of this new treatment, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "This is a huge moment of hope for parents and their babies who are born with this devastating inherited disorder, that can now be treated with a single round of revolutionary treatment at a specialist centre on the NHS.”

Read more at Health Tech World

Over half of long Covid patients experience organ damage

A new study exploring the effects of long Covid finds that over half of long Covid patients suffer from organ damage in the year following their initial symptoms. The study found that even those who were not initially severely affected when they first caught the virus experienced persistent long-term symptoms including breathlessness and impaired cognitive functions.

Over 500 people were included in the SAGE study, a third of whom were healthcare workers. Of these participants, 62% experienced organ impairments in the 6 months following their Covid diagnosis. To examine the full extent of these health problems, each participant was given an MRI scan six months after their initial diagnosis. The results showed that 59% had problems with one organ, and over a quarter had problems with multiple organs. Interestingly, the study showed that the symptoms people experienced (extreme breathlessness, cognitive dysfunction) showed improvements between six and 12 months after the initial diagnosis.

Discussing the impact of this study Amitava Banerjee, professor of clinical data science at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said: "Organ impairment in long COVID has implications for symptoms, quality of life and longer-term health, signalling the need for prevention and integrated care for long COVID patients."

Read more at Sky News

Quote of the week

GOV UK reports that across England tens of thousands of patients are expected to benefit from faster access to life-saving medical care as an additional 19 community diagnostic centres are forecasted to open this week. These centres will deliver approximately 3 million tests, scans and checks.

NHS National Director of Elective recovery, Sir James Mackey said: "These 19 new centres will boost access for tens of thousands more patients and build on the great work of NHS staff in recovering services, helping the NHS deliver an extra 9 million tests a year by 2025 – an increase in capacity of more than a quarter on pre-pandemic levels."

Read more at GOV UK

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