UK COVID-19 Update: NHS Treatment Figures, Blood Clots After AZ Vaccine Analysis

Peter Russell

August 12, 2021

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

NHS Recovery

The NHS said it was continuing to make progress on non-urgent care despite experiencing one of its busiest summers ever.

It released figures showing that the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for care in England dropped by almost 25,000 while those waiting more than year fell by almost 32,000.

The NHS saw more than 8 million elective patients since the start of the pandemic last March, while seeing over 420,000 COVID patients, NHS England said.

There were 70,000 A&E attendances a day in July, almost 20,000 more each day than during the same period in 2020.

Average waiting time for elective care is down for the fourth month in a row to 10.4 weeks, it said.

More diagnostic tests were carried out this month than at any point over the last year with almost two million tests carried out in July – up by more than 747,000 on the same period last year.

Around a quarter of a million people were checked for cancer in June, the second highest number on record, and more than 27,000 people started treatment for cancer in the same period, a 42% increase on June last year.

The ambulance service reported intense pressure in July, responding to more than a million calls – the highest number ever recorded.

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: "NHS staff have made effective use of the additional resources made available to us to recover services which were inevitably disrupted during the pandemic, and we are continuing to tackle the COVID backlog."

Blood Clots Following Vaccine

UK scientists have identified the markers associated with rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine.

A team led by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust carried out a prospective cohort study involving patients with suspected vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) who were hospitalised after receiving the vaccine between March and June this year.

The scientists evaluated 294 patients, identifying 170 definite cases and 50 probable cases.

In their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine , overall mortality rate of those presenting to hospitals with definite or probable VITT was 22%.

Mortality associated with VITT was highest among patients with a low platelet count and intracranial haemorrhage, they said.

Specifically, they reported that the odds of death:

  • By a factor of 1.7 for every 50% decrease in the baseline platelet count

  • By a factor of 1.2 for every increase of 10,000 fibrinogen-equivalent units in the baseline d-dimer level

  • By a factor of 1.7 for every 50% decrease in the baseline fibrinogen level

Treatment remained uncertain, the scientists concluded, but identification of prognostic markers could aid management of the condition.

Commenting on the study to the Science Media Centre, Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: "It was already known that the prognosis for someone with VITT is pretty bad, and it was also already known that it’s not at all common. 

"Nothing has really changed on the balance of risks and benefits of vaccination".

Self-isolation Rule Change

People in England who have had 2 doses of a COVID vaccine, or are aged under 18, will no longer have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID, the Government confirmed.

Ministers said the change, which will come into effect on August 16, was the result of the "remarkable" vaccine rollout.

However, anyone who tests positive following a PCR test will still be legally required to self-isolate, irrespective of their vaccination status or age.

Dr Jenny Harries, the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, said: "Although two doses of vaccine will greatly reduce your own risk of becoming unwell with Covid-19, it is still possible to contract the virus and pass it to others. So, if you develop symptoms at any time – vaccinated or not – you should get a test and be very careful in your contact with others until you have received a negative test result."

From Monday, 'bubbles' will end for all children under 18, social distancing will no longer be necessary, and schools will not have to stagger start and finish times.

More News in Brief

  • New Zealand announced that its borders would remain closed until at least the end of the year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said an "elimination strategy" was the best way to prevent outbreaks of COVID and protect economic activity, the BBC reported.

  • The UK economy grew by 4.8% between April and June as many businesses were able to emerge from lockdown. The largest beneficiaries were in the wholesale and retail trades, accommodation and food services, the  Office for National Statistics said. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told the BBC he was "not complacent" and that the economy would take time to recover from the "significant shock" caused by the pandemic.

  • Schools will take part in trials which involve having air purifiers and ultraviolet light installed indoors to combat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory diseases, it was reported. Initial studies will take place in 30 schools in Bradford, according to the i newspaper.

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


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