News round-up (17 September)

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17th September 2021 about a 4 minute read

This week, we saw the NHS Autumn/Winter plan, and with the ever-pending government reshuffle finally taking place, we see some further change to the Ministerial team at DHSC. There has also been much, much more…

Shake-up at Department of Health and Social Care

It’s all change at DHSC, as two ministers have been given places in Cabinet. Nadine Dorries, previously the minister responsible for patient safety, suicide and mental health, is now secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, while vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is the new education secretary.

Dorries’s replacement at the DHSC will inherit a demanding brief, which will include responding to the women’s health consultation that took place this summer, attracting more than 100,000 responses. It will also involve overseeing the government’s £500m Covid-19 mental health  and wellbeing recovery action plan.

HSIB report identifies safety risks in maternity during pandemic

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has issued a report analysing 37 maternity investigation reports into intrapartum stillbirths between April and June last year. The review was prompted by an increase in referrals.

The report found that many safety risks identified in the review were already known to maternity services, but were further exacerbated by the pandemic. These included sustainability of staffing levels in maternity units.

It made several recommendations, including a requirement that NHSX develop specifications for electronic patient record (EPR) systems that require adherence to standards for exchanging maternity health care information. The report also said that DHSC should commission a review to improve the reliability of existing assessment tools for fetal growth and fetal heart rate to minimise the risk for babies.

Phase 3 of booster vaccinations begins

This week the NHS has started delivering Covid-19 booster jabs to people in eligible groups, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI advised that five groups receive a booster jab this autumn: those living in residential care homes for older adults; all adults aged 50 years or over; frontline health and social care workers’ all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19; and adult carers; and adult household contacts (aged 16 or over) of immunosuppressed individuals.

Moorfields develops AI algorithm to detect eye disease

Moorfields Eye Hospital has developed an algorithm that can detect a type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects 1.5m people in the UK. The algorithm, which was developed using 984 optical coherence tomography (OCT) eye scans taken from 200 patients, is able to detect geographic atrophy, a severe, irreversible form of AMD that leads to blindness.

Currently, examination of an eye scan to determine the precise nature of the geographic atrophy is time-consuming and prone to error. The new algorithm is able, in a fraction of a second, to match and even outperform human specialists. Although there is currently no effective treatment for the condition, promising research is underway, and the use of AI tools to detect the disease could lead to treatments being offered early.

Salford patients first to adopt ground-breaking Long Covid app

People in Salford who have long Covid are using a mobile phone app to log their symptoms and track their recovery.

The app, developed by Elaros in partnership with The University of Leeds NHS Trust, enables patients to self-report the impact their symptoms are having on their health and wellbeing. The patients answer a series of questions both about their health status pre-Covid and now. That information is then uploaded to the patient record. As well as helping patients see their own progress, it will enable GPs to have a better idea of how patients are doing and adjust treatment accordingly. The app will also help with recording data about long Covid at a national level.