News round-up 19 August

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18th August 2022 about a 4 minute read

The Covid pandemic is still making the headlines. This week, the UK became the first country to approve a Moderna vaccine that protects against both the original Covid virus and the latest Omicron strain – welcome news, given new research suggesting that catching Covid can increase risk of brain fog and dementia. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to show promise, with a pilot in Somerset finding that AI can help clinicians detect lung cancer on X-rays. Meanwhile, NICE has updated its Evidence Standards Framework to include evidence requirements on AI and other data-driven technologies to make sure they offer value.

UK becomes first country to approve dual-strain vaccine

The UK has become the first country to approve a vaccine that protects against both the original Covid virus and the more recent Omicron variant.

The Spikevax vaccine, produced by Moderna, will now form part of the autumn booster campaign. The company says 13 million doses of the vaccine will be available this year. Not everyone will have the opportunity to receive Spikevax, however, as 26 million people will become eligible for a booster in the autumn.

Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: “What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armoury to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”

NHS chiefs fear cyber attackers have accessed patient data

NHS executives are concerned that patient data may have been accessed after a cyberattack last week on the IT firm Advanced.

Advanced, which provides electronic patient records to several trusts and most NHS 111 providers, has, according to a report in HSJ, has received “some demands” from the attackers, though it is not known what these were.

Government agencies such as the National Crime Agency and GCHQ are working to identify the extent of the damage caused by the attackers. Leaders of affected mental health trusts have said the situation is “pretty desperate” and that staff are unable to access vital patient records.

Artificial intelligence helping Somerset clinicians detect lung cancer faster

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust is piloting the use of an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that is enabling radiologists to detect lung cancer more quickly on X-rays.

The software, called Behold.AI red dot, is designed to reduce the time it takes to diagnose patients for lung cancer. Early results have shown that the software has helped clinicians to reduce by half the time from the initial X-ray screening to a CT scan.

The red dot algorithm was developed in collaboration with NHS consultant radiologists. It provides a subset of abnormal X-rays with a high probability of lung cancer, and another subset of X-rays with a very high likelihood of being normal. Dr Paul Burn, a consultant radiologist at Somerset, said: “By prioritising which X-rays need urgent attention from a radiologist, AI helped us to reduce the average time from chest X-ray to CT scan from seven to 2.8 days.” He said that the reduction in time was the result of a combination of both AI and speeding up CT bookings.

Covid linked to raised risk of brain fog and dementia

Having Covid-19 creates a higher risk of experiencing neurological and psychiatric conditions, including brain fog, dementia and psychosis, two years after the illness, according to new study published in Lancet Psychiatry.

The study, from the University of Oxford and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, analysed 1.28m Covid-19 cases over two years. It found that adults aged 64 and under who had Covid-19 had a higher risk of brain fog compared with those who had other respiratory infections. In those aged 65 and over who had Covid-19, there was a higher occurrence of brain fog, dementia and psychotic disorders compared with those who previously had a different respiratory infection.

NICE updates evidence standards framework to include AI and data-driven tech

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has updated its evidence standards framework (ESF), originally published in 2018, to make sure that digital health technologies (DHTs) are “clinically effective and offer value to the health and care system”.

The update, published this month, includes evidence requirements on artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven technologies with adaptive algorithms. NICE says it has aligned the guidance “with regulatory requirements and made it easier to use”, and “outlined a subset of early deployment standards that can be used within evidence generation programmes”.

The evidence standards framework (ESF) is for use by evaluators and decision-makers to identity the digital health technologies likely to benefit users and the health and care system.