UK COVID-19 Update: PPE Planning, Brain Complications, Free Parking 

Tim Locke

July 08, 2020

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

MPs Demand Robust Second Wave PPE Plans

The Commons Public Accounts Committee says supplies of PPE must be guaranteed ahead of a possible second wave of COVID-19 this winter.

In a report it said it is vital supply problems don't happen again: "Although the Department [of Health and Social Care] says it is committed to building up PPE stocks to meet longer-term demand, we are not convinced that it is treating the matter with sufficient urgency or that the procurement is robust enough."

BMA Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, commented: "With the threat of a second wave still very much a possibility, doctors and their colleagues need cast-iron guarantees from Government that the failures of the past months will not be repeated, that there will be enough of the right PPE and that it will be properly tested, quality-controlled and safe to use."

Free Staff Hospital Parking Ending

Free staff parking in English hospitals was introduced in March but the concession is ending.

Health minister Edward Argar gave a written answer to a question from Labour's Rachael Maskell. He said nothing had changed yet. "However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.

"We also want the NHS to deliver on the Government’s commitment on free hospital parking for those in greatest need, the disabled, frequent outpatient attendees, parents who have sick children that are staying overnight in hospital and staff working nightshifts.

"Implementation of this commitment has been on hold whilst the NHS has been managing the COVID-19 pandemic and devoting its hospital parking capacity to staff and other facilities necessary for managing the pandemic."

However, at Prime Ministers' Questions Boris Johnson said: "Hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for this pandemic. They're free now, and we are going to get on with our manifesto commitment to make them free for patients who need them as well."

The BMA said staff shouldn't have to pay parking fees just to go to work, and that reintroducing these fees during the current pandemic is "a rebuff to the sacrifices we've made".

More Evidence of Brain-Related COVID-19 Complications 

UCL research has added to growing evidence of neurological complications of COVID-19, including delirium, brain inflammation, stroke, and nerve damage.

The findings are published in the journal Brain and are based on 43 cases of people aged 16-85 treated at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCLH, who had either confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

"We identified a higher than expected number of people with neurological conditions such as brain inflammation, which did not always correlate with the severity of respiratory symptoms," joint Senior Author Dr Michael Zandi commented.

"We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19. Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic, perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic, remains to be seen."

OpenSAFELY: COVID-19 Death Risk Factors

More insights into the factors associated with death with COVID-19 are shown after analysis of the pseudonymous records of more than 17 million NHS patients using the OpenSAFELY platform have been published in Nature.

Compared with people with White ethnicity, Black and South Asian people were at higher risk even after adjustment for other factors (HR 1.48, 1.30–1.69 and 1.44, 1.32–1.58, respectively).

Deprivation, obesity, and other comorbidities also increased mortality risk.

Dr Ben Goldacre from Oxford's EBM Datalab tweeted: "This is by far the largest cohort study ever conducted on COVID-19. It shows the awesome power of UK NHS data, and the power of open methods."

PM 'Didn't Blame Care Homes'

Boris Johnson was tackled at Prime Ministers' Questions over his comments about care homes not following procedures.

"The last thing I want to do is to blame care workers for what has happened or for any of them to think that I was blaming them because they've worked hard, incredibly hard throughout this crisis looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our country and doing an outstanding job," the PM said.

However, he did not apologise for his remarks and said it was "simply not the case" that he blamed care workers.

Earlier this week he said in a TV interview: "We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have."

JBC Stepping Up, SAGE Stepping Back?

The BBC reported that the new Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) is to take a more central role in coordinating the response to COVID-19, and the SAGE scientific committee will meet less often.

Professor Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging, UCL, commented via the Science Media Centre: "It is important that the JBC learns lessons from the COVID-19 response to date.  One issue that was underestimated is the importance of medical equipment, like PPE, ventilators, and testing kits in managing a pandemic.  It is essential that JBC has access to expertise on these sorts of technologies: the way they are developed and regulated, and their performance. SAGE seemed to have limited expertise in these areas."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 126 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today, taking the total to 44,517.

There were 125,978 tests processed yesterday.

Another 630 positive cases were reported today taking the total UK confirmed cases to 286,979.

Hillingdon Hospital in west London is closed to emergency admissions due to a COVID-19 outbreak. In a statement the hospital said: "An outbreak of COVID-19 was declared on Friday, July 3rd 2020. As of Tuesday, July 7th, 70 members of staff are now isolating, a number of whom have tested positive for COVID-19.

"As a result, the trust has taken the precautionary decision to close Hillingdon Hospital to emergency ambulances and emergency admissions. The trust is managing the outbreak in line with Public Health England guidance."

Scotland's Flights Rules

Scotland will have no 14-day quarantine for people flying in from of a list of 57 destinations from Friday.

Many European countries are on the list but not Spain.

England announced its 'travel corridor' plan last week.

CQC to Review Collaboration

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is to start reviewing how health and social care services work collaboratively in local areas in England to learn lessons from COVID-19.

This follows the CQC's report: Beyond barriers: how older people move between health and care in England.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs commented: "We look forward to working with the CQC to explore ways in which the positive changes we have seen during the pandemic can be embedded in the longer-term to improve the care we give to our patients post-COVID."

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

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