UK COVID-19 Daily: Death of 'Living Legend' Doctor

Tim Locke

April 01, 2020

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Death of 'Living Legend' Doctor

A semi-retired doctor has died after testing positive for the virus. 

Dr Alfa Sa’adu was 68. He was working one day a week, but not on the frontline, his family said.

His LinkedIn profile said he graduated from University College Hospital Medical School in 1976, later worked at Barts Hospital, and became a consultant in geriatric medicine in 1994. He later became medical director at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

His son Dani said on social media: "He had been fighting the virus for 2 weeks but he could not fight anymore. The NHS were amazing and did everything they could.

"My Dad was a living legend, worked for the NHS for nearly 40 years saving people's lives here and in Africa.

"Up until he got sick, he was working part-time saving people."

The Princess Alexandra Hospital chief executive, Lance McCarthy, said in a statement: "Alfa was well-known at the trust for his passion for ensuring our patients received high quality care.

"He was a committed member of the team and is remembered fondly by many. His family and friends are in our thoughts at this sad time."

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust said: "Dr Sa'adu had most recently worked at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn. He was held in high regard by everyone he worked with."

The Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain said it was "sad to announce the death of one of our eminent members," describing Dr Sa'adu as "an astute and compassionate clinician, teacher, trainer and researcher".

The former President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "He will be sorely missed."

Overall, UK COVID-19 hospital deaths announced today rose by 563 to 2352, the biggest daily increase so far.

Of particular concern was the death of a 13-year-old boy from London who had no known underlying health conditions. Experts said it underlined the need for better understanding of the novel coronavirus and the importance of social distancing and other precautions.

'Crisis Within a Crisis'

Health unions, including the Royal College of Midwives, supported by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) have called the continuing PPE supply problems "a crisis within a crisis" and called on the Government to urgently increase supplies to frontline staff.

"Workers are told not to speak out. They are effectively gagged to stop them raising their concerns," the statement said.

"Workers are being exposed to unreasonable and unnecessary risk by the ongoing failure to provide key workers with adequate PPE.   

“Every day we hear from our members that despite repeated assurances from Government, people are being asked to work with inadequate or out-of-date protective equipment – and that is where PPE is being provided at all."  

The BMA also asked the Government for clarity of what staff should do, and what risks to take, when PPE is unavailable.

BMA Consultants Committee Chair Dr Rob Harwood, said: "Having seen the tragic deaths of medics in Italy and now closer to home here in the UK, doctors and NHS staff have every right to be concerned, knowing that a lack of adequate protection is not only dangerous, it may be fatal."

Also today, it emerged that "petrified" staff at Southend Hospital in Essex have written to managers warning they could "limit services" to patients with coronavirus "to a bare minimum", because of concerns over the availability of PPE. The hospital told the BBC it was complying with Public Health England guidance.

At the daily Downing Street briefing, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Professor  Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England medical director were asked if they accepted that health workers are being put into a dangerous situation and that urgent action is needed to keep them safe.

Mr Sharma reiterated PPE delivery numbers and Prof Doyle said: "It is absolutely our commitment to protect frontline staff, and we are in touch with a wide range of leaders - clinical leaders, nursing leaders, community leaders, and the trade unions, and they are aware of our intention. 

"We are working very rapidly at the moment to ensure that the deliveries reach where they're needed… and also that our guidance is easily understood, and people understand what they actually need to keep them safe in the circumstances they're in."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today told the Scottish Parliament that making sure NHS staff have the PPE they need was a priority: "There is an absolutely fundamental principle, it's the key, and it is one that I, the Health Secretary, and the entire government takes extremely seriously. Given everything that healthcare workers are doing to protect us right now, we must do everything we can to protect them." 

PPE Guidance Review Awaited

The consultants group HCSA called for guidance to be strengthened on doctor’s use of PPE in clinical and non-clinical settings. HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni said Public Health England needs to "ensure that all staff and patients within the hospital are mandated to wear surgical masks both in clinical and non-clinical areas, as evidenced from the Italian transmission to staff being greater in non-COVID areas, reflecting the high degree of asymptomatic spread".

The Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said: "We’ve been calling for clarity on the PPE guidance so frontline clinicians can feel as safe as possible as they treat and care for patients.

"This is an issue of great concern and urgency for trust leaders and it’s frustrating that the review is taking so long.

"We hope and expect that this document, backed by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges which represents all the key medical specialties, will resolve outstanding questions over the appropriate and sustainable use of this kit."

Ethical Guidance

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has issued ethical guidelines for NHS frontline doctors. It says that despite the pandemic, they still need to ensure that care is provided in a fair and equitable way. Resources should still be allocated according to continual assessment so that patients in most need are prioritised.

The guidance reminds doctors of the importance of discussing ongoing care wishes with patients and their carers, and recording these decisions.

More News In Brief

  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued two more sets of rapid guidance on COVID-19. The latest guidelines cover radiotherapy and haematopoietic stem cell transplantation.  

  • Social distancing and the lockdown could be reducing transmission. In a non-peer reviewed paper, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that before the lockdown one positive person would infect 2.6 other people. The rate is now 0.62. The results are based on an email survey of 1356 UK adults.

  • The risk of death from COVID-19 is 1.38% overall, according to a new University College London study. However, the fatality rate rises with age, from well below 1% among children aged 9 years or younger to nearly 8% for seniors aged 80 years or older, the latest statistics show.

  • The Guardian reported on a GP surgery in Wales that's apologised after suggesting that some patients with serious illnesses completed do not resuscitate forms in case they contracted COVID-19. Llynfi surgery, in Maesteg near Port Talbot, wrote that it would have several benefits, including: "1/ your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999. 2/ scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a greater chance." The local health board said the surgery had now apologised for any distress caused.

  • A first-of-its-kind cancer coronavirus registry in the world has been launched in the UK, Univadis from Medscape reported. The ‘UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Scheme’ will track the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients who have tested positive. Dr Vinton Cheng from the University of Leeds said: "Patients with cancer need to know that the NHS will continue to look after them and will identify and learn from cases. The monitoring system is the first step to help the NHS achieve these aims for cancer patients." 

  • Sky News reported that a woman was fined £660 for refusing to tell police why she was out during the lockdown. Police said the woman wouldn't explain her reason for essential travel when they spoke to her on a platform at Newcastle railway station.

  • Wimbledon and the Edinburgh Festival were cancelled. The All England Club said: "Our efforts will now be focused on contributing to the emergency response and supporting those affected by the coronavirus crisis." Nicola Sturgeon called the Edinburgh decision "heartbreaking".

  • Prince Charles has issued a video message after coming out of isolation following his positive COVID-19 test. "This is a strange, frustrating and often distressing experience when the presence of family and friends is no longer possible and the normal structures of life are suddenly removed," he said. He called medical staff "the backbone of our remarkable NHS," adding: "Our thoughts and prayers are very much with those marvellous people whose extraordinary skills and utter, selfless devotion to duty and the care of their patients make us so very proud."

  • Technology experts have raised security concerns over Downing Street's online cabinet meetings after the PM's Zoom meeting ID was seen in a tweet. The Register said: "Fortunately that appears to have been password protected. That's a good thing because miscreants hijacking unprotected Zoom calls is a thing."

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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