UK COVID-19 Daily: 1 in 6 maternity staff seropositive

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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These are the latest UK coronavirus stories you need to know.

1 in 6 Maternity Staff Seropositive

The largest study to date of COVID-19 antibody prevalence in maternity healthcare workers reveals that 1 out of 6 were seropositive, of whom 1 out of 3 were asymptomatic.

The study, published in Anaesthesia, used antibody testing in 200 maternity healthcare professionals from two maternity units - University College London Hospital and St George's Hospital London.

Seroconversion was more than twice as prevalent in UK obstetric healthcare workers as in the general population of the UK but results were similar to estimates in the general population in Greater London.

Seroconversion among obstetric staff also appeared to be lower than rates in other frontline healthcare worker groups.

PHE vs ONS Stats

Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has analysed the disparity between Office for National Statistics (ONS) COVID-19 death data and the daily figures produced by Public Health England (PHE).

In July it was this group that found PHE hadn't set a time limit for deaths after a positive test, unlike in the rest of the UK where it was set at 28 days. This meant no recovery was possible and unrelated causes of death inflated the daily numbers. This led to England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordering a pause in daily death publication and a review of methodology. However, daily numbers continue to be published.

ONS data includes deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned on a death certificate even if there was no positive test.

In a blog post CEBM said: "The disparity between the numbers according to the ONS criteria and those reported by Public Health England is more marked than before. PHE deaths are currently between two and three times higher than ONS."

The post continued: "we are expecting the UK PHE numbers to be revised imminently. We consider the widening difference between the ONS and the PHE data shows further why this is a necessary step".

Mental Health 'Rising Tide' 

A report by the NHS Confederation warns of a 'rising tide' of demand for mental health services due to COVID-19 and lockdown.

"During the peak of the crisis, there was a 30-40% reduction in mental health referrals. Since the lift in lockdown restrictions, providers anecdotally report that referrals are rising to above pre-COVID-19 levels," it said.

It identified three main drivers of demand:
  • People who would have been referred to services had the pandemic not struck

  • People requiring more support due to a deterioration of their mental health during the pandemic

  • New demand driven by people needing support due to the wider impacts of the pandemic, such as self-isolation and increases in substance abuse and domestic violence

The report said that "some providers are working on the expectation of a 20% increase across all services. However, while responding to this demand, they will face reductions in their capacity due to infection control and social distancing measures, with some providers estimating a 10–30% reduction in capacity."

As well as concerns over patients it said: "The impact of COVID-19 on the mental wellbeing of staff has been substantial. Mental health services have not yet seen the peak of demand and there are serious concerns over staff burnout, particularly among BME staff who are at greater risk."

Misleading Face Mask Ad Banned

An advert for face masks giving "protection against bacteria and viruses" has been banned for being misleading.

Easylife's advert appeared in The Sun newspaper in May before face coverings became mandatory in some settings in most of the UK.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the company "had not provided adequate evidence to substantiate the impression given by the ad, that the masks shown were able and likely to help protect the wearer from infection with COVID-19".

The regulator also challenged claims that the masks were sourced separately to NHS requirements and did not impact on NHS supplies.

Adapted from Medscape UK.