In the UK, things in the healthcare sector are evolving at a dizzying rate. As the country’s healthcare system continues to bow under the increasing strain put upon it by the Covid-19 pandemic, around 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against the coronavirus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is currently self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, thanked the doctors, nurses and other former medical professionals who had returned to the NHS, as well as some 750,000 members of the public who had responded to the NHS’ call for volunteer responders.
Many grounded airline staff have also been offered work in the fight against the coronavirus, with many of those willing to volunteer their services (in exchange for pay through the Government retention scheme, and in some cases also food and accommodation) to begin work at the temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital London, which is due to open this week, with 4,000 to 5,000 beds set up specifically for treating patients with Covid-19.
The Ministry of Defence has been helping to set up the temporary hospital, which is located within the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands.
Three additional temporary hospitals are also being built in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, with the NHS reporting that additional sites across the UK were also being considered.
And now for the tech update: Dyson has designed a type of ventilator in response to a call on behalf of the NHS and, subject to the devices passing the appropriate medical test, the UK Government will be getting 10,000 in to help with the coronavirus crisis.
The UK Government estimates that the NHS will need at least 30,000 ventilators to deal with the expected wave of Covid-19 patients. Currently, it only has 8,000. Having – allegedly – missed the deadline for joining the EU ventilator scheme, and in lieu of Dyson’s ventilators for the time being, the government has suggested that it can procure an additional 8,000 from existing domestic and international suppliers.
The UK, like many other countries, is also dangerously short of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies. The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that many hospitals and GP practices are facing ‘life-threatening shortages’ of PPE. In response, Johnson is to chair a meeting with his cabinet by video link to decide how to respond.
“While the government has been forthcoming in letting us know that protection is on the way, there are still doctors and other NHS staff who today, tomorrow and in the coming week, may face the daunting prospect of having to consider treating patients without adequate protection,” said Dr Rob Harwood from the BMA. “Having seen the tragic deaths of medics in Italy and now closer to home here in the UK, doctors and NHS staff have every right to be concerned, knowing that a lack of adequate protection is not only dangerous, it may be fatal.”
While NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has asserted that the government is ‘pulling out all the stops’ to ensure the NHS gets enough PPE, he noted that it was ‘a huge logistics exercise’ to get this done.
And, finally, in a move to try to quell the increasing anxiety brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, the UK Government has announced a £5-million grant for leading mental health charities.
Administered by Mind, this money will fund additional services for people struggling with their mental wellbeing during this time, GOV.UK explained. These services include NHS-operated phone calls, facetiming, skype or digitally enabled therapy packages, as well as an enhanced crisis response service 24/7.
Commenting on the funding package offered, Claire Murdoch, NHS Mental Health Director, said: “We are determined to respond to people’s needs during this challenging time and working with our partners across the health sector and in the community, NHS mental health services will be there through what is undoubtedly one of the greatest healthcare challenges the NHS has ever faced.”