Category: Health & Care

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Hares and tortoises in the Covid-19 vaccine race

Giuseppe Bignardi

Countries acting individually will not deliver the number of vaccines the world needs (Zosia Kmietowicz in the British Medical Journal on 6 February). Joint vaccine procurement schemes, as used by the EU and the African Union, are slower to set up but ensure equitable vaccine distribution at lower prices.

Coronavirus: the blame game?

Alex Davison

The reason we were trying to keep infection rates down from the beginning has been to protect the NHS from becoming ‘overwhelmed’, with cases on top of the normal level of patients. But the truth is that the NHS is overwhelmed because it is underfunded in an ongoing effort to privatise healthcare and continue to bolster the pockets of the very richest not only in our own country but also the richest in the world.

Vaccine nationalism or solidarity?

Giuseppe Bignardi

Do vaccines produced in a country ‘belong’ to that country, until all needs of that country have been satisfied? This is the policy of the US administration and appears to be at the centre of the recent dispute between Astra Zeneca (AZ) and the EU.

Save the student!

James Robinson

“The lack of social interaction is really difficult. The practical elements of my research were limited by the laboratory being closed, and I lost out on valuable research time. To adjust my work schedule was really challenging, and I have found the entire process stressful.”

Singing to breathe : help at hand for Long Covid

Carol Westall

People with Long Covid will be taught the breathing techniques of top tenors to help them overcome symptoms in a new NHS England therapy. Imperial College and English National Opera (ENO) teamed together for this programme in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The programme uses the techniques used for singers to improve quality of breath and help manage the anxiety that breathlessness often produces. Singing is shown to help retrain breathing, so ENO Breathe is using lullabies and singing exercises to help improve those with shortness of breath.

Ignored, marginalized, disbelieved: this is Long Covid

Carol Westall

The evidence given was compelling and heart wrenching. It showed a lack of belief from some people, sadly including teachers and health care professionals. Schools ask for proof of the illness but of course, there isn’t any. What do parents do with a new illness?

Will todays parliamentary debate be the first step in preventing people with Long Covid believing they are forgotten and left behind?

Carol Westall

“There is nothing mild about Long Covid. Take Jane. She emailed me to say she’s 32, and was previously healthy and fit. Not your stereotypical person ‘at risk’ from coronavirus. Long Covid has affected her since April. She now has neurocognitive and mobility problems, and has crushing fatigue. Her partner, she told me, “has essentially become a full-time carer”. She’s not unique, she’s not an outlier – lots of people like Jane have emailed me.”

“Disabled and ignored”: the reality of Long-Covid

Carol Westall

Long Covid can destroy the quality of life, the ability to walk, work or eat without difficulty. It presents as a range of different symptoms suffered by people weeks or months after being infected, some of whom weren’t particularly ill with the virus in the first place. Fatigue is the most common problem, but breathlessness, a cough that won’t go away, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches and loss of smell and taste have all been reported.

Covid-19 vaccines: efficacy and safety

Giuseppe Bignardi

It is too early to say what is the most effective vaccine. None of the vaccine studies have yet been completed and we do not know what the efficacy is in the long-term or in relation to virus variants or in specific sub-groups such as immunocompromised patients.

“Every breath you take”

Carol Westall

“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every time you ache
Every sound you make
We watch over you….
Oh don’t you fear, ICU is here
When your poor heart aches
And your life’s at stake…. “

Urgent essential actions to alleviate family poverty on Tyneside and in the North East

Sally Young

Over four million children nationally are now affected by child poverty. This is unacceptable. Moreover, help to give every child the best start in life is diminishing. It is true that funding has been provided for free childcare for children aged three and four and also for some two-year olds although not all can access it as there is insufficient provision for what is needed

Dissolving into nature: an antidote to excess

Nicola Tipton

Squelching through mud, straightway the wood embraced me. Filled me with its magic; light filtering from the sun, low in the December sky. Chased away my troubled early dreams. Ears strained to hear the whispering wisdom of the trees … splendid in their nakedness… above white noise of distant traffic. Constant now, unlike April’s lockdown. M25. Where are all those people essentially travelling to? Small birds sing unseen and a crow calls.

Cardiac Arrest: an international rescue in the ‘heart’ of London

Peter Benson

John and I talked dozens of times over the following hours and days, has the pub or police called, is she still alive? We did not know but as the hours turned into days and the days into weeks, we were confident she was still alive and the stress started to ease away. We never got the call or a letter in the post.

MP’s letter to the PM: back to normal after Easter?

Carol Westall

With cases once again rising across the country combined with the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas, we can already expect another deadly surge in cases early in the new year. The NAO’s worrying findings, however, raise the prospect of further spikes throughout 2021 and contradict the government’s claim that we will be ‘back to normal after Easter”.

First commons debate on Long Covid is secured by Layla Moran MP

Jane Neville

Layla Moran MP said: ‘I’m pleased we’ve been able to secure this important debate on Long Covid, which is long overdue. The APPG on Coronavirus, which I chair, has submitted recommendations to the Government on this, and the debate will give us the opportunity to hold them to account and represent our constituents suffering from it.

Opinion

It’s beginning to (not) look a lot like Christmas: greetings from Ireland

Judi Sutherland

Here in Ireland we had a longer autumn lockdown than you’ve suffered in the UK, including a 5km travel restriction from mid-October to December 1st, and even now, a request to stay within our county. In our case, that would allow us to sample the delights of Dublin City, but we have restrained ourselves, having no wish to actually go looking for the virus, like the famous shellfish vendor; “She died of a fever, and no-one could save her, and that was the end of poor Molly Malone”.

Parental grief: coping with bereavement at Christmas

Carol Westall

Henry Dancer Days is a charity supporting children with cancer and helping their families with life changing essentials. This includes providing support with physiotherapy equipment to help with winter heating bills, and even buying tablets and mobile phones enabling the young people to have a crucial connection with loved ones during their long spells in hospital getting treatment.

Virus at the centre of Britain

Kim Sanderson

“I’ve really got a bee in my little Northern bonnet today. The ‘Breaking News’ that London is moving into Tier 3 has really highlighted how embarrassingly biased and London-centric this country’s media is. When the focus was on infection rates in the North, we were branded ‘rule breakers’ and the restrictions deemed ‘too complex for people to understand’. Now that infections are rising in the South East, the focus is entirely on a new strain of the virus and how this MUST be affecting the rise in infection rate. Hours and hours on @bbcradio4 explaining how Tier 3 affects what you can and can’t do. Where was this programming for those in Newcastle who have lived under the harshest restrictions for months? Both the government and media in this country treat the North as if it’s a grey, distant land of simpletons and quite frankly, I’m f****** bored of it. #NorthernNotStupid”

Poetry Corner

ctrl-alt-del

Suzanne Fairless-Aitken

After centuries of conflict
weapons are finally downed.
The cruellest disease has silenced guns,
until a vaccine can be found.

All party parliamentary group and March for Change launch interim report on the coronavirus pandemic

Kate Bredin

Dr Whitford spoke about the more effective use of local public health teams by all the devolved nations. She expressed disappointment that after a lot of progress in Scotland over the summer with no deaths for six weeks of people who had tested positive for the virus, too much of a relaxation being signalled from Westminster had effectively undone the work. She expressed concern about the planned relaxation this Christmas potentially coming at a very high cost.

Homelessness is blighting the north of England – a radical housing programme could alleviate it

Stephen Lambert

Although the number of rough sleepers in Newcastle is much lower than Manchester and other core cities, with up to 20 individuals sleeping out in the city centre on any given night, many thousands more make up the ‘hidden homeless’. Some sofa-surf in friends’ flats. Others sleep in cars or stay in charity-run hostels, grotty B&B hotels and other costly forms of temporary accommodation. According to the housing campaign group Shelter, a staggering 320,000 people are homeless in modern Britain.

International day for disabled people: the need for an inclusive approach

Julie Ward

In 1984 I found myself running an arts and disability agency for the north of England, and encountered the tail-end of the mass segregation programme that had resulted in millions of people with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities being locked away in large institutions, forced to do menial work for pocket money and with little say about any aspect of their lives. The arts activities that my organisation ran often opened up deep emotional scars from years of abandonment, disregard and abuse. Paintings, poems and performances were littered with powerful symbols of imprisonment and freedom.

Covid-19: a catastrophe for women

Ann Schofield

Women on low pay, are not just having to choose between the basics of eating and heating, as many families living in poverty prior to Covid-19 had to do. They must now choose between food, warmth and all the required expensive sanitizers and masks needed to keep their families safe. In ensuring their family’s survival, many women are going without essentials. This includes safe, hygienic sanitary products which they can no longer afford and aren’t freely available because of the closure of centres and schools that distribute them.

Johnson, Patel and accountability: a personal account of bullying

Anne Greaves

I don’t know what marks someone out as a victim or what makes someone a bully, but bullying seems to be widespread. My older daughter Helen was bullied all through high school. She was just different, and that’s not allowed, apparently. She was difficult, wayward and demanding but she was also bright, funny, creative and loving. She was certainly not a girly girl, and that was a no-no back in the 90s when she was at school. I’m hoping things have improved since.

Covid-19 spending lacks scrutiny and is often misdirected

Giuseppe Bignardi

The lateral flow test that the government intends for mass testing is potentially less sensitive than RT-PCR, especially when used by self-trained members of the public. Is there a point in using tests that miss half or more of the infection cases? The introduction of population screening, with awareness of the test results, is likely to inform behaviour, but misplaced ‘reassurance from missed cases could potentially increase [infection] transmission’.