The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.
The Government has confirmed that more than 25 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes 95% of people aged 65 and over, and nine in 10 of those clinically extremely vulnerable.
The announcement comes as a letter from NHS England has said that health services should stop booking under-50s for their first-dose appointments for the whole of April. The letter explained that the move was necessary because of a ‘significant reduction in weekly supply’.
However, speaking at the Downing Street Press Conference on Wednesday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the vaccination roll-out and confirmed that the Government is on track to offer the first dose of the vaccine to all over-50s by 15 April, as well as all adults by the end of July.
He confirmed that from Wednesday all people over 50 are invited to come forward and get their first Covid-19 jab. He also highlighted the importance of the vaccine rollout and showed data which demonstrates that after a first dose, protection against hospitalisation is around 80% and protection against death is around 85%.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has responded to the news of potential vaccine supply issues, he said: ‘This disruption to supply is disappointing and will understandably be frustrating for patients, as it will be to GP teams running vaccination sites who want to protect as many people as quickly as possible – but we continue to receive assurances that this delay is temporary, and the vaccination programme remains on target.’
Digitalisation of the health services
The Health Foundation published research this week on the positives of the use of healthcare technology during the pandemic. It found that around three fifths of NHS users increased their use of technology to access care during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and an overwhelming majority of these (83%) viewed their experience positively. However, when compared to traditional models of care, NHS users are not so favourable to the use of technology in health services. Notably, NHS users 55 and older reported slightly higher proportions of negative experiences with the digitalisation of the health services.
The Health Foundation recommends that there should be more research on the use of the technology in the NHS to ensure quality in long-term digitalisation of services, and so that changes are user centred. They also call for a refresh of the NHS Long Term Plan to optimise the use of recent technological innovations to meet longer term quality and productivity goals.
Today the Health Secretary confirmed more NHS hospital trusts would benefit from the Digital Aspirants programme. 32 more trusts will now join those already participating in the programme. Seven will get up to £6m each over the next three years. The rest will get £250k seed funding to help them develop business cases for further digital investment.
Impact of Covid-19 on health services
A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research this week claims that the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan risk being severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic without a significant funding boost. It has suggested a £12bn blueprint to ‘build back better’, and made recommendations including creating a sustainable workforce, greater funding for the NHS, upgrading digital care and reforming social care making it free at the point of use.
Marking a year since the first Covid-19 lockdown was announced
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a report on the impact of the pandemic a year on from when the first lockdown was announced. Since March 2020 more than 140,000 people have now died with Covid-19 in the UK. The number of adults in critical care in hospitals was far higher than previous winters. In the last week of January 2021, more than 5,000 adult critical care beds a day were occupied in hospitals in England, compared with around 3,000 a day in the same week in 2020.
The report also highlighted the wider impacts of the pandemic, including on the labour market, unemployment, the economy, and crime.
NHS Providers said that the report lays bare the terrible toll of Covid-19 and the ‘immense pressure’ on the NHS over the past year.