UK COVID-19 Daily: medical school numbers cap lifting confirmed

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

Medical School Numbers Cap Lifting Confirmed

The cap on medical school places in England has been lifted after pressure from doctors' groups.

There were concerns about A level students missing out on places after those admitted with the abandoned 'algorithm' grades were joined by those upgraded after teacher assessments.

The Department for Education also said additional teaching grant funding will be provided to increase capacity in medical, nursing, and some other courses.

Commenting, Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "Today's decision is really welcome news for many hardworking A-Level students who could see their dream of medical school fading away through no fault of their own. In tandem, it is vital that universities and the NHS receive the resources they need to ensure that these students receive the full experience they deserve.

"This situation also acts as a reminder that we need to plan for a large phased expansion of places which will help place the NHS workforce on a more sustainable footing. If we don't we are setting ourselves up for another decade of workforce shortages which is totally avoidable.

"Ahead of the comprehensive spending review, we urge the Government to make clear its commitment to double the number of medical school places."

Long COVID Study

The DISCOVER Study of COVID-19 patients at Bristol's Southmead Hospital has found three quarters (81 out of 110) had ongoing symptoms 3 months after discharge, and many were still experiencing poor quality of life.

Continuing problems described in the preprint include issues with breathlessness, excessive fatigue, and muscle aches.

Research project lead Dr David Arnold from North Bristol NHS Trust commented: "This research helps to describe what many coronavirus patients have been telling us: they are still breathless, tired, and not sleeping well months after admission. Reassuringly, however, abnormalities on X-rays and breathing tests are rare in this group. Further work in the DISCOVER project will help us to understand why this is, and how we can help coronavirus sufferers."

Apps Unlikely to Contain COVID-19

Contact tracing apps are unlikely to be effective without good uptake and support from concurrent control measures, according to a UCL systematic review published in Lancet Digital Health.

Researchers reviewed 4033 papers published between 1 Jan 2000 and 14 April 2020 of which 15 provided useful data.

Lead author Dr Isobel Braithwaite commented: "Although automated contact tracing shows some promise in helping reduce transmission of COVID-19 within communities, our research highlighted the urgent need for further evaluation of these apps within public health practice, as none of the studies we found provided real-world evidence of their effectiveness, and to improve our understanding of how they could support manual contact tracing systems."

On Wednesday, a Cochrane rapid review of digital contact tracing technologies reached similar conclusions.

NHS Sickness Rates

Sickness rates for April 2020 have been published showing the overall sickness absence rate for England was 6.2%.

Anxiety/stress/depression/other psychiatric illnesses were the most commonly reported reason for absence at 20.9%.

NHS Digital said sickness was highest in London at 7.2% and lowest in the South West at 4.5%.

The highest sickness rates were seen in ambulance Trusts (7.3%) and lowest in clinical commissioning groups (2.3%).

ONS Data on Disabled People

The Office for National Statistics has published data showing people with disabilities were more likely (75%) than non-disabled people (66%) to report being 'very worried' or 'somewhat worried' about the effect of COVID-19 on their life.

Disabled people were also more likely than non-disabled people to report that the pandemic is affecting their wellbeing due to worsening mental health (46% vs 18%), loneliness (42% vs 29%), and feeling like a burden on others (25% vs 8%).

It also found 13% of disabled people were most concerned about their access to healthcare and treatment, compared with only 3% of non-disabled people, and 25% of disabled people said they were currently receiving treatment for only some of their preexisting conditions compared with 7% of non-disabled people.

Grasping the Social Care 'Nettle'

The NHS Confederation says it is time to 'grasp the nettle' when it comes to social care.

In a new report, it said health and social care are "intrinsically linked", and that "A well-fundedand good quality social care sector is fundamental to a well-performing NHS. Without social care reform leading to a sustainable system, backed up by a long-term funding settlement, the NHS will not be able to deliver high-quality care in the wake of the pandemic."

Adapted from Medscape UK.