News round-up (May 6)

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6th May 2021 about a 4 minute read

As we await the results of the elections, and look forward to Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech, here’s a selection of stories we thought were worth a read this week …

Queen’s Speech 2021: Seven laws promised in the last speech haven’t been delivered 16 months on

The iNews website reports that the last State Opening of Parliament in December 2019 saw more than 20 pieces of legislation promised by ministers

Seven new laws which the Government planned to introduce before the next Queen’s Speech have not made it on to the statute book as promised, while talks on social care have still not begun after more than a year.

A 16-month session of Parliament ended last week and on Tuesday the Queen will unveil a list of Government priorities for the year ahead.

The Prime Minister has declared that 44 laws have been passed in the last session, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing in the Commons chamber which slows down proceedings.

Mental health symptoms quadruple across NHS healthcare workers during Covid-19

The University of Roehampton published results from the largest research study into the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of healthcare workers in the UK.

It revealed a 300% increase in those suffering from the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression during the first wave of the pandemic, compared to before it started.

Full results of the study are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open. Researchers surveyed 2,773 workers across all levels of the NHS from 52 UK NHS trusts, shortly after the first peak of the pandemic in April and May 2020.

AI startup wins contract to predict future requirements for the NHS

Tech Crunch website reports that Faculty, a venture capital-backed artificial intelligence startup, has won a tender to work with the NHS to make better predictions about patients, based on data drawn from how it handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faculty will work with NHS England and NHS Improvement to build on the Early Warning System (EWS) it developed for the service during the pandemic. 

Based on Bayesian hierarchical modeling, Faculty says the EWS uses aggregate data (for example, COVID-19 positive case numbers, 111 calls and mobility data) to warn hospitals about potential spikes in cases so they can divert staff, beds and equipment needed. 

This learning will now be applied across the whole of the service, for issues other than the pure pandemic response, such as improving service delivery and patient care and predicting A&E demand and winter pressures.

Personalised medications possible with 3D printing

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are investigating technology for 3D ‘print’ pills which could mean customised medicines may one day be manufactured to patients’ individual needs.

The team, including staff at Loughborough University, identified a new method to allow the 3D printing of medicine in highly porous structures, which can be used to regulate the rate of drug release from the medicine to the body when taken orally.

The approach could benefit patients on multiple tablets such as elderly people and those with complicated conditions such as cancer, mental illness and inflammatory bowel disease.

Full results of the project are published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Transforming the UK into a life sciences superpower

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) annual conference that there was a growing recognition of the important role of antivirals. 

He said they would be important in the future handling of the pandemic because they can treat people early, to stop mild disease becoming more serious.

They could also prove useful as a prophylactic in settings where someone has tested positive.

Can we live to 200?

The New York Times Magazine notes that in the last century, the average human life expectancy doubled. 

It publishes a ‘roadmap’ to the innovations that could play a role in further extending life-span. 

These range from life-extending supplements and ‘healthful living through chemistry’  to the normalizing of masks and ‘exercise in a pill.’

Other innovations highlighted include individually cultivated microbiomes and cellular reprogramming in which triggering a handful of genes can rejuvenate organs.



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