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Heart attack patients told to make own way to hospital as Covid surge hits northern England | Coronavirus



Heart attack patients calling 999 in parts of northern England are being asked to get a lift instead of waiting for an ambulance as hospitals in the region experience more than double the growth rate in numbers of Covid patients compared with London.

Four more NHS trusts in England – all outside London – declared “critical incidents” on Tuesday amid soaring staff absences, rising numbers of Covid patients and growing pressure on emergency services.

Covid infections in England’s regions

There is cautious optimism that cases and hospitalisations in the capital – which was the centre of the Omicron variant outbreak – are beginning to level off. However, hospitals at the other end of the country are experiencing the fastest growth in Covid occupancy, according to an analysis of official NHS data by the Guardian.

The highest rate of growth in England is in the north-east and Yorkshire, where the number of Covid patients in hospitals has more than doubled – up 122% – in one week. There were 1,975 Covid patients in hospitals on Monday, compared with fewer than half that – 889 – the week before.

NHS pressures in the north-east have become so intense that ambulance workers in the area have begun asking patients with suspected heart attacks and strokes to get a lift to hospital with family or friends instead of waiting for an ambulance, amid high staff absences and an “unprecedented” surge in demand, it emerged on Tuesday.

An internal note at North East ambulance service NHS foundation trust said that where there was likely to be a risk from the delay in an ambulance reaching a patient, call handlers should “consider asking the patient to be transported by friends or family”, the Health Service Journal reported.

The second-fastest growth rate in hospital Covid occupancy is in the north-west, which recorded a rise of 94% in the last seven days. It means all parts of northern England have more than double the growth rate experienced in London, which was 46% between 27 December and 3 January.

The number of Covid patients in hospitals in the Midlands has risen 74% in the last seven days, with Covid occupancy up 58% in the south-east, 55% in the east and 43% in the south-west.

Overall, the daily count of confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital in England has increased by 68% in the last week, according to the analysis. There were 14,210 patients on Monday, compared with 8,474 a week ago. This remains significantly below the 34,336 peak of 18 January 2021.

However, health leaders said in some parts of the NHS, Covid staff absences and the backlog of non-Covid care were having a worse impact this winter than last year, meaning the steep rises in Covid occupancy were still causing major challenges.

The deepening crisis in hospitals was highlighted further on Tuesday when it emerged four more NHS trusts had declaredcritical incidents amid staff absences and soaring demand for care.

The Guardian revealed on Monday that at least six NHS trusts in England had declared such incidents, which are announced when trusts believe they may no longer be able to provide a range of critical services. Declaring an incident enables local health chiefs to call for help from staff and other organisations, and creates a formal interim emergency governance structure to make prioritisation decisions at speed, for example redeploying staff or reprioritising services.

On Tuesday, University hospitals Plymouth NHS trust, Great Western hospitals NHS foundation trust, Blackpool teaching hospitals NHS foundation trust and University hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust all confirmed they had also declared critical incidents.

Trish Armstrong-Child, the chief executive of Blackpool teaching hospitals, said an “internal critical incident” was declared due to “operational challenges across the organisation”. These included Blackpool Victoria hospital running at “full capacity”, long waits in A&E, and “high staff sickness absence levels of above 10%”. Outbreaks of Covid in Blackpool had also resulted in more people being admitted to the hospital each day than the number being discharged.

Acknowledging that the north of England could experience even more pressure on hospitals in the coming weeks, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, the director of public health for Lancashire county council, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the county was at “the foothills” of an Omicron wave.

He said: “Lancashire is beginning to experience what London did at the beginning of last month and, of course, London is better resourced and the infrastructures are well organised compared to other regions, so we are bracing ourselves for a tsunami of Omicron cases in Lancashire.

“But this is all meaning that we are not able to concentrate on the non-Covid issues, that’s really needing to be addressed immediately as well, so it’s a double challenge we face: not only fighting Covid but all the other pent-up demand and need due to non-Covid issues.”

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year



In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart


17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus



Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer



Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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