UK COVID-19 Update: Burnout at 'Emergency Level', 'Downbeat' Data?

Tim Locke

June 08, 2021

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

Burnout at 'Emergency Level'

A Commons Health and Social Care Committee report finds NHS and social care workforce burnout in England has reached an emergency level during the pandemic requiring a total overhaul of workforce planning.

Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt said: "Workforce burnout across the NHS and care systems now presents an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services.

"An absence of proper, detailed workforce planning has contributed to this, and was exposed by the pandemic with its many demands on staff. However, staff shortages existed long before COVID-19.

"Staff face unacceptable pressure with chronic excessive workload identified as a key driver of workforce burnout. It will simply not be possible to address the backlog caused by the pandemic unless these issues are addressed."

Royal College of GPs' Chair, Professor Martin Marshall, said the report "highlights the intense pressure that colleagues have faced".

Dr David Wrigley for the BMA said: "We believe the current level of staff burnout and stress presents a worrying risk to the future functioning of the health and care system and safe patient care."

Commenting on burnout ahead of the report, Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "The health service is in a precarious position."

The Department of Health and Social Care DHSC said: "We recognise the pressures that staff have faced during this time and the Government is doing everything it can to support their wellbeing."

'Downbeat' Data?

The Times said ministers had a "downbeat" briefing on the latest data yesterday from Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty and Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Reports said the planned 21 June data for England's next lockdown easing could be delayed by 2 weeks.

Today, England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced extra support for the North West to tackle the delta variant. "This includes rapid response teams, putting in extra testing, military support, and supervised in-school testing," he told the Commons.

He said the Government faces a "challenging decision" on lifting lockdown.

Yesterday, we launched a rapid online reader poll asking: Should England's next planned easing of lockdown go ahead?

At the time of writing there were 565 responses with 72% saying 'no', and 28% saying 'yes'.

Vaccination Entering 'Home Straight'

Today marks 6 months since the UK's world-first COVID vaccination programme began. Now Wales has opened bookings up to all ages, and England to over-25s.

However, many people reported problems trying to book appointments this morning, with long queues, and 25 to 29-year-olds being told they weren't eligible.

So far, 76.8% of over-18s have had a first dose, and 53% a second dose.

NHS England Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said today is "a watershed moment as the world-beating NHS vaccination programme enters the home straight of our race to offer everyone their first dose".

Professor Sheila Bird, formerly programme leader, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said more detailed vaccination data is needed.

"England is shy to tell us per age-group how citizens received Oxford/AstraZeneca versus Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines. This matters  - on principle because it is in the public interest  - and also because vaccine-effectiveness after 2nd dose against the delta variant is reckoned to be higher for the mRNA vaccines although protection after 1st dose may be only one-third of vaccinees, irrespective of vaccine-type," she told the Science Media Centre.

Deaths & Shielding

The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 28 May was 3.1% below the 5-year average, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

COVID-19 accounted for 1% of all deaths, lower than the previous week.

Weekly COVID-19 deaths are below 100 for the first time in almost 9 months.

Separate ONS data show 45% of clinically extremely vulnerable people in England continued to shield 17-22 May despite high awareness of shielding being paused.

Tim Gibbs from ONS said: "This isn’t surprising considering the higher risk COVID-19 poses for this group.

"Given this, I’m pleased to see the majority of those in this group have had two doses of the vaccine, offering them protection from the virus."

Aspirin 'Does Not Improve COVID-19 Survival' 

Oxford's RECOVERY trial found aspirin does not improve survival for hospitalised  COVID-19 patients. The drug was tested due to the increased risk of blood clots with COVID-19.

In the trial, 7351 patients were randomised to aspirin 150 mg once daily and compared with 7541 patients randomised to usual care alone between November and March.

Joint Chief Investigator, Professor Peter Horby, said: "Although aspirin was associated with a small increase in the likelihood of being discharged alive this does not seem to be sufficient to justify its widespread use for patients hospitalised with COVID-19."

Joint Chief Investigator, Professor Martin Landray, said: "Aspirin is inexpensive and widely used in other diseases to reduce the risk of blood clots so it is disappointing that it did not have a major impact for these patients. This is why large randomised trials are so important – to establish which treatments work and which do not."

Professor Anthony Gordon, Imperial College London, commented via the Science Media Centre: "Importantly there were no major safety concerns and so the REMAP-CAP trial continues to evaluate aspirin and other similar drugs to prevent blood clots, in combination with other treatments in the sickest patients with COVID-19 in intensive care."

More News

  • Plant-based diets, or pescatarian diets, were associated with lower odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19, according to an observational six country study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health.   Those following low carbohydrate, high protein diets had greater odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19.

  • The Guardian reported on secondary schools in some areas reintroducing mask wearing to reduce infections, despite Government guidance ending mask use last month.

  • Environment Secretary George Eustice urged people not to go on holiday abroad this summer, telling Sky News: "My advice to people would be holiday at home."

  • The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported on a classified document from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California in May last year that concluded that SARS-CoV-2 could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

  • The latest incentive for Americans to have a COVID-19 jab is free cannabis joints in a deal approved by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Meanwhile, in Germany, David Hasselhoff is fronting a vaccination campaign.

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


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