The government has come under attack for a change to its proposed reform of social care, which critics say will hit the poorest the hardest. There are also grim statistics from the NHS on waiting times and 999 calls. But there’s potentially good news from scientists on how natural Covid immunity could help develop better vaccines.
The government has announced changes to its new policy on social care. It announced in September that from October 2023 no one in England would pay more than £86,000 in fees for personal care, such as washing, dressing and food.
This week, however, it said that the cap of £86,000 would only include money that individuals paid themselves, not the means-tested funding they received from councils.
Critics have said that the decision will hit poor people the hardest. Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “if you own a £1m house in the home counties, over 90% of your assets are protected. If you’ve got a terrace house in Hartlepool worth £70,000 you can lose almost everything.”
University College London researchers have said that an understanding of how some people were already resistant to the Covid virus when the pandemic started could help scientists make more effective vaccines.
A study published in Nature found that one in 10 people who showed signs of being exposed to the virus never had symptoms or tested positive. Blood samples showed that these people had protective T-cells which recognised and killed the Covid cells. Current vaccines are aimed at the spike protein on the outside of the Covid virus, but the rare T-cells were able to attack the proteins on the inside of the virus. These internal proteins are present in all coronaviruses, including the common cold, which suggests that if we could target them with a vaccine, it would protect against all coronaviruses and new Covid variants.
The number of patients spending more than two years on the NHS waiting list rose 28% from 9,754 to a 12,491 between August and September, according to new NHS England data.
The waiting list as a whole grew to a record level of 5.8 million in September, up from 4.3 million in September 2020.
Of those waiting more than two years, the biggest number, at 2,665, was for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as such as hip and knee replacements,.
The same figures revealed that in October NHS 999 services had the busiest ever month, with ambulance staff responding to more than 82,000 life-threatening call-outs.
The NHS has chosen 46 technology suppliers for a framework that will provide NHS organisations with specialist clinical systems, digital records and printing services.
The framework, known as Digital Documents Solutions (DDS), came into effect at the start of last month and is worth £5bn over the course of its four-year term. It is run by the NHS London Procurement Partnership (LPP), hosted by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
The framework will cover “all digital document solutions plus any associated hardware or software”. This can include, for example, printing, document storage, document management solutions and workflow processes.
Seven NHS trusts have been chosen to take part in in NHSX’s Digital Aspirant Plus (DA+) programme, to speed the take up of electronic patient records (EPR).
Although increasing number of trusts are adopting EPRs, some still use paper-based record systems. NHSX, which is responsible for technology policy in the NHS, has decided that seven trusts will each receive £250,000 to create a business case for adopting EPR systems. NHS will oversee the projects and provide funding, matched by each trust, to cover the cost of the EPRs.
Four of those chosen are acute trusts, while the other three are community and mental health trusts.