UK COVID-19 Update: Up To 35,000 Excess Cancer Deaths Predicted

Tim Locke

July 06, 2020

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

'Worse Case' 35,000 Excess Cancer Deaths Predicted

Delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic could lead to at least 7000 excess UK deaths, or 35,000 in a 'worse case scenario', modelling by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for BBC Panorama predicted.

In April,  NHS England data showed the number of urgent cancer referrals made by GPs was down 60% on the same time last year.

The new findings are based on data from eight hospital trusts.

DATA-CAN Scientific Lead, Prof Mark Lawler, told the programme: "Obviously scientists like to be right in terms of their analysis, but I hope I'm wrong in relation to that."

Professor Karol Sikora who writes on cancer issues for Medscape UK tweeted: "I've criticised stark predictions in the past, but I think it could easily be worse than that."

Another UK Vaccine Deal 'Close'

The UK is close to signing a £500 million pound supply deal with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline for 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, the Sunday Times reported.

Clinical trials are due to start in September with Sanofi saying approval is expected in the first half of next year.

This would be in addition to a deal for the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

GPs to Contact Families of Shielded Children

New Public Health England guidance means most children and young people with health conditions won't need to be shielded after July 31st, but GPs and specialists will have to review shielding lists before names are removed.

The policy change came after evidence around the risk of COVID-19 to children was reviewed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Although shielding is being stopped in August policies stay in place in case of a second wave.

Dr Mike Linney, RCPCH registrar, said: "It is very unlikely that children under the sole care of a GP need to continue shielding."

England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, told parents: "All decisions on whether to stop shielding or carry on doing so should be based on a consultation with your child’s doctor or specialist."

A&Es 'Not Overwhelmed' by Pubs Opening

Reopening pubs in England at the weekend doesn't appear to have overwhelmed emergency departments, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said.

TV news bulletins had contrasting images of busy streets in Soho in London with drinkers close together, and quiet countryside beer gardens with people sitting several metres apart.

"In terms of the impact on EDs, anecdotal reports from around the country seem [to] suggest we have coped well. However we will not know for certain for a few weeks, both in terms of attendance and COVID-19 cases, until figures are published," RCEM president Dr Katherine Henderson commented. 

She added: "As the pictures show, and as the Chair of the Police Federation has said, it is crystal clear that drunk people cannot socially distance, and more work will be needed to figure out ways to enforce it."

Scotland's pubs opened their beer gardens today and Wales' 'stay local' rules were relaxed.

Quarantine-free travel has been announced for some international TV, film, and sports stars. However, 'bubbled' environments will be needed for events like the British Grand Prix, international cricket, the Champions League, and filming for Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible 7 and 8.

Daily Deaths and Data

At the weekend the Department of Health and Social care stopped providing daily deaths and testing data in a social media-friendly table format. "Rather than presenting data in a table on Twitter, we will direct you to our website when it is updated each day with a more detailed dataset," it tweeted.

Another 67 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Saturday, 22 on Sunday and 16 today, taking the total to 44,236. Numbers are usually lower after a weekend.

There were 97,315 tests processed yesterday. Figures for the number of people tested were last given on Friday 22nd May. Today Downing Street said daily data on the number of individuals tested for coronavirus will not return. It said NHS and care staff having regular tests could affect statistics.

Another 352 positive cases were reported today taking the total UK confirmed cases to 285,768.

MHRA Warning on COVID-19 Temperature Screening Devices

The medical regulator MHRA is warning companies not to make COVID-19 diagnosis claims over thermal camera equipment that measures skin temperature rather than core body temperature.

MHRA Director of Devices, Graeme Tunbridge, said: "Many thermal cameras and temperature screening products were originally designed for non-medical purposes, such as for building or site security. Businesses and organisations need to know that using these products for temperature screening could put people’s health at risk."

COVID-19 Long-term Recovery 

Nurses, physiotherapists, mental health, and peer support will be available online or by phone under England's new Your COVID Recovery rehab service.

Twelve weeks of personalised aftercare is being made available 'later this summer' after an initial assessment.

Continuing symptoms after recovery include breathing difficulties, tiredness, reduced muscle function, impaired ability to perform vital everyday tasks, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Last week, the COVID Trauma Response Working Group recommended that patients affected by COVID-19 need to be urgently screened for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and receive regular check-ups for at least a year.

Separately, around 10,000 COVID-19 hospital patients are expected to take part in a study on long-term health impacts led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre.

Chief Investigator Professor Chris Brightling said in a news release: "As we emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, we have new insights into the acute phase of this disease but very little information about patients’ long term needs.

"It is vitally important that we rapidly gather evidence on the longer term consequences of contracting severe COVID-19 so we can develop and test new treatment strategies for them and other people affected by future waves of the disease."

Downing Street Reception

Boris Johnson marked the 72nd birthday of the NHS yesterday by inviting St Thomas' hospital staff who cared for him during his COVID-19 treatment and recovery to Downing Street.

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


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