News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 15 January 2021

Media Summary

UK set to step up coronavirus vaccinations
Financial Times, George Parker, Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, Chris Giles & Mure Dickie, 15 January

The Financial Times reports that Britain could have enough Coronavirus vaccines to give jabs to more than 500,000 people each day next week, under plans to dramatically accelerate the UK programme, revealed in a mistakenly published Scottish government document.

The document suggests that Britain should have secured enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate most of the 15m most-vulnerable people that the government is aiming to offer the jab to by mid-February — if the NHS programme works effectively.

The document, published online by the Scottish government on Wednesday, was later withdrawn, but it showed that vaccines supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna are scheduled to arrive in significant quantities until the early summer.

This story was also reported in The Times.

 

Pharmacies in Wales call for inclusion in vaccine rollout
ITV News, Editorial Team, 15 January

ITV News reports that Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) has said that just one health board has enquired about interest from pharmacists in helping distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, while none of those that have already volunteered have yet been commissioned.

On Thursday, CPW said it had written to Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething about the lack of contact with pharmacists, and expressed its “readiness and eagerness” to be involved with the vaccine rollout.

In a statement, CPW said: “At a minimum, all community pharmacies who currently deliver flu vaccine should be immediately invited to participate and absolutely no community pharmacy that expresses an interest should be turned down.

“There are more than 600 pharmacies already accredited to deliver flu vaccines, and that if all did just ten Covid vaccinations every day, it would amount to more than 6,000 additional doses being administered every day in a convenient and accessible setting.”

 

UK could “become the world’s foremost nation for drug security,” says FarmaTrust
European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 14 January

With the UK leaving the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) earlier this month, European Pharmaceutical Review reports that FarmaTrust is calling on the UK government to take the opportunity modernise the UK’s drug security system.

According to the enterprise, the UK could become the world’s foremost nation for drug security by implementing blockchain-based technologies, which, it said, are more advanced and future-proof than the solutions implemented by the FMD. It added that these technologies would position the UK ahead of the US, whose Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) is widely acknowledged as the current gold standard.

A statement from Farmatrust said; “While we currently have an active fake medicines risk for the UK – especially with the scale of COVID-19 immunisation programme – it is also an ideal moment to re-evaluate our entire medicines supply chain. Blockchain-based solutions – which are immutable by definition – were not widely available when the EU directives came in and can provide far greater visibility and a full custody of medicines. It is a future-proof solution that undoubtedly advanced nations will gradually switch to.”

 

Almost 100,000 NHS staff off sick as number absent due to Covid doubles
The Telegraph, Laura Donnelly, 14 January

The Telegraph reports that nearly 100,000 NHS staff are now off sick, with a doubling of the number absent because of COVID-19, new figures show.

Official figures reveal that 99,934 NHS workers were on sick leave last week – one in 10 of the workforce. Of those, 49,704 were either sick with COVID-19 or forced to self-isolate because of contact with a positive case.

Saffron Cordery, the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said the numbers were “worrying.” She added: “The data shows that, across England, almost 100,000 NHS staff were absent from work, with almost 50 per cent linked to COVID-19 related sickness or self-isolation, on January 6.”

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2019–21
Health and Social Care Committee, 15 January

The Government’s response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s recent report on “Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond” has been published.

  • On the increased use of digital technology in healthcare services, the Government want to “embed and extend these changes” to support the health and care system’s recovery from the pandemic.
  • It is “very likely” that ongoing investment into enhanced health and wellbeing for health and care staff will be required for at least the next three years.
  • The Government is confident that there will be a consistent supply of PPE this winter. Since the initial PPE Plan in April, the UK PPE supply chain has stabilised; there are around 32 billion PPE items on order and there is a strategic stockpile of approximately 4 months’ stock of each product category stored in warehouses.

The full response can be found here.

 

Community pharmacy should be used to its potential in vaccination program, but it must be done safely
Pharmacist’s Defence Association Press Release, 15 January

The Pharmacist’s Defence Association has published a press release in support of community pharmacy involvement in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, but has insisted that safe levels of pharmacist workload must be a key consideration.

The PDA have said that “if employers are willing to be flexible and maintain safety as a priority, any remaining barriers to utilising community pharmacy to its full potential as an important part of the vaccination programme can be resolved by government making the right decisions on supplies and funding.”

You can read the full press release here.

 

House of Commons, Written Question, 14 January

Daisy Cooper (Liberal Demcrat, St Albans): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of re-opening the COVID-19 vaccination centre application process to community pharmacies which have the capacity to deliver at least 100 vaccines per week.

 

Northern Ireland Assembly, Written Question, 14 January

Martina Anderso (Sinn Fein, Foyle): To ask the Minister of Health to detail the staff within pharmacy settings who will be entitled to a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the roll-out to community pharmacy.

 

Full Coverage

UK set to step up coronavirus vaccinations
Financial Times, George Parker, Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, Chris Giles & Mure Dickie, 15 January

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. Please access the article here.

 

Pharmacies in Wales call for inclusion in vaccine rollout
ITV News, Editorial Team, 15 January

Pharmacies must be allowed to help with the rollout of Wales’ coronavirus vaccination programme, a group representing those in the profession has said.

Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) said just one health board has enquired about interest from pharmacists in helping distribute the jab, while none of those that have already volunteered have yet been commissioned.

On Thursday, CPW said it had written to Health Minister Vaughan Gething about the lack of contact with pharmacists, and expressed its “readiness and eagerness” to be involved with the vaccine rollout.

In a statement, it said: “Everything needs to be sped up.

“At a minimum, all community pharmacies who currently deliver flu vaccine should be immediately invited to participate and absolutely no community pharmacy that expresses an interest should be turned down.”

It said there were more than 600 pharmacies already accredited to deliver flu vaccines, and that if all did just ten Covid vaccinations every day, it would amount to more than 6,000 additional doses being administered every day “in a convenient and accessible setting”.

In England, six pharmacies started administering doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday, with NHS England aiming for more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week being able to give vaccines by the end of January.

The Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Health Minister, Andrew RT Davies, said CPW’s statement was a “damning indictment” of the Welsh Government’s management of the pandemic.

Mr Davies said: “This dither and delay could cost lives and livelihoods and it’s now imperative the First Minister eases the pressure on the health minister and appoints a dedicated vaccinations minister to deliver the rollout at rapid speed.”

In the Senedd on Tuesday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a pilot for vaccinations at a community pharmacy would begin in North Wales by the end of this week.

The Welsh Government said it welcomed the offer by pharmacists and that primary care contractors, including dentists and opticians, would be invited to help with the rollout “in the weeks and months ahead”.

Meanwhile at Westminster on Thursday, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told the Welsh Affairs Committee there was a “significant balance” of Covid vaccines not being used which could have already been administered to priority groups.

Mr Hart was asked by committee chairman Stephen Crabb MP whether there was a supply problem getting vaccines to Wales from the UK Government, after he was told a batch of vaccines had failed to arrive at a surgery in his constituency.

Mr Hart said: “Somewhere in the system in Wales there is a significant balance, even as we speak, of vaccines which have been delivered and haven’t been issued to either GP surgeries or other clinical settings where they might be administered.

“So I don’t know why that is the case.

“All I do know is that the 300,000 vaccines have been delivered. And yet only roughly a third of those have been administered. I’m not in a position to answer why that might be.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said Wales received more than 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine during December, of which 50% had to be kept in reserve for second doses under rules in place at the time.

However, a change in the rules since December 30 means second doses can now be given up to 12 weeks after the first, meaning vaccines no longer need to be kept in reserve.

The spokesman said: “We are expecting to use all this stock by mid-February.

“Health boards are receiving a weekly allocation based on priority group population share to meet this timetable.”

 

UK could “become the world’s foremost nation for drug security,” says FarmaTrust
European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 14 January

The UK is currently struggling to secure its medicines supply chain having left the EU, and consequently the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), on the 1 January 2021. However, rather than viewing drug supply security and authenticity as an insurmountable problem, FarmaTrust is calling on the UK government to take the opportunity modernise the UK’s drug security system.

The UK-based global medical authentication provider added that supply chain security is especially important with the world’s largest ever mass immunisation program currently under way for COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the enterprise, the UK could become the world’s foremost nation for drug security by implementing blockchain-based technologies, which, it said, are more advanced and future proof than the solutions implemented by the FMD. It added that these technologies would position the UK ahead of the US, whose Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) is widely acknowledged as the current gold standard.

“While we currently have an active fake medicines risk for the UK – especially with the scale of COVID-19 immunisation programme – it is also an ideal moment to re-evaluate our entire medicines supply chain. Blockchain-based solutions – which are immutable by definition – were not widely available when the EU directives came in and can provide far greater visibility and a full custody of medicines. It is a future-proof solution that undoubtedly advanced nations will gradually switch to and, with Brexit, the UK has the opportunity to implement the world’s safest medicine supply chain right now.

“This type of solution will also prevent critical medicines being diverted away from UK shores and identify sub-standard drugs quickly for recall all in real-time – currently not possible with the EU’s FMD solution. It means patients and doctors will be reassured, as they will have a transparent digital record of every medicines journey from factory to pharmacy or surgery. With even the exact details of shipping and storage conditions retained – which is so critical to many medicines’ efficacy, for example, several of the recent COVID-19 vaccines which require extreme cold storage,” commented Raja Sharif, Chief Executive Officer at FarmaTrust.

Estimates suggest that one in seven medicines are counterfeit. The EU’s FMD (FMD, 2011/62/EU) and Delegated Regulation (EU/2016/161) were designed to secure medicine within the EU. However, the UK no longer has access to this system and many experts warn that without action, the UK is at risk of having counterfeit medicines enter its healthcare system.

SecurMed, the UK National Medicines Verification Organisation (UKNMVO), announced to solution providers in October 2020 that, with the exception of Northern Ireland – which will remain using the European system – mainland UK will be removed from the database used to track serialised medicine digital barcodes in Europe. While, the Department of Health and Social Care are aware of this issues, FarmaTrust said they are yet to comment.

 

Almost 100,000 NHS staff off sick as number absent due to Covid doubles
The Telegraph, Laura Donnelly, 14 January

Nearly 100,000 NHS staff are now off sick, with a doubling of the number absent because of Covid, new figures show.

Official figures reveal that 99,934 NHS workers were on sick leave last week – one in 10 of the workforce. Of those, 49,704 were either sick with Covid or forced to self-isolate because of contact with a positive case. The figure is almost twice the 27,593 recorded a month ago.

Saffron Cordery, the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said the numbers were “worrying”.

She said: “The data shows that, across England, almost 100,000 NHS staff were absent from work, with almost 50 per cent linked to Covid-19 related sickness or self-isolation, on January 6.

“This is a great cause for concern because, despite extraordinary efforts by front line staff, it can translate into longer waits for care and places significant additional strain on colleagues who are still able to work.

“In time, COVID-19 vaccinations will reduce staff absences and the risks from exposure of front line staff to the virus.”

The workers’ union Unison said the data “underlines the urgency” for a speedy vaccine rollout and it was “essential” that staff receive ongoing support.

The union’s Head of Health, Sara Gorton, said: “These stark figures confirm what exhausted health workers already know – the NHS is under overwhelming strain.”

“Staffing levels were already low pre-pandemic. Now employees are suffering the consequences. They’re having to deal with excessive workloads as colleagues go sick or self-isolate. This underlines the urgency of the vaccine rollout. It’s also essential that staff who fall ill receive ongoing support.”

Healthcare unions are calling for all staff to be prioritised for the Covid vaccination amid the rising sickness rates.

Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s chair of council, said this week that Covid staff sickness was having a “real impact” on the ability to provide services and could hit the vaccination programme.

He said: “Health and care workers must be vaccinated now… If we see more staff falling ill, that will have a direct impact on the NHS’s ability to provide care and it will be patients that will suffer.”

Meanwhile, senior NHS managers are being offered counselling and Army mentorship to prevent burnout. Health officials said the scheme, run by the Association of Clinical Psychologists, would offer senior managers three to six sessions of therapy.

NHS England’s announcement said: “We recognise that some of our senior leaders may be experiencing anxiety, depression or burnout for which they would value a brief psychological intervention.”

Managers are also being offered mentoring from the Centre for Army Leadership. Successful applicants are matched with “an experienced Army leadership mentor.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 15 January 2021

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