Britain’s health service is running out of blood test tubes and doctors say it could lead to a ‘catastrophe’

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  • A supply chain issue has meant that blood test tubes haven’t been able to reach the UK.
  • This has meant doctors have been told only to perform emergency blood tests.
  • One doctor told Insider that this is causing “huge anxiety” amongst the medical community.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The UK is running out of blood test tubes, causing some sectors of the National Health Service (NHS) to grind to a halt.

As a result, non-urgent blood tests have had to be suspended, appointments canceled, and patients and doctors alike are concerned.

One of the problems is that the NHS relies on a single supplier, Becton Dickinson (BD), for their testing tubes.

They have not publicly disclosed the reason for the supply chain issues, which many believe are linked to border and supply challenges linked to Brexit, which has also caused a range of food shortages in the UK.

It’s not just blood test tubes that the UK lacks but flu jabs, too, according to the British Medical Association vice-chairman David Wrigley, who spoke to the BBC on the issue.

With COVID-19 still very much part of daily life and winter around the corner, anxieties are beginning to mount.

As a result, doctors have been told they must reduce their testing by up to 25%, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

Dr. Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said in a statement: “It is shocking that this situation has been allowed to develop – in particular, the apparent over-reliance on one manufacturer and the woeful lack of any kind of reserve supply.

“The manufacturers should also have to explain how they allowed stocks to run so low that patients will now suffer as a result. If we don’t get on top of this shortage – and quickly – then we could very easily end up in a catastrophic position, particularly in hospitals where patients come to serious harm.”

Dr. Julia Patterson, a medical doctor who runs Every Doctor, an advocacy group for doctors in the UK, told Insider: “It’s a nightmare. They’re one of the essential tools in our diagnostic toolkit as clinicians, and so to have your access to doing diagnostic blood tests removed, mostly, is really difficult and really stressful – and it can put patients at risk.”

That’s a huge anxiety to doctors. You don’t want your patient to become an emergency because you can’t do blood tests.”

BD has promised to deliver 9 million imported blood tubes to the NHS this week for immediate distribution.

In a statement to Insider, BD said it also increased its manufacturing capacity by 20%: “We expect the situation to stabilize and recover through September, based on the volume of tubes we are supplying to the UK,” it said.

A UK Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson added: “We have secured tens of millions of additional blood tubes, including importing additional supplies from the EU and the US, which will be available to the NHS soon, and there continues to be stock in place to ensure clinically urgent testing continues.

“Patient safety is always the top priority, and we continue to work closely with NHS England, the devolved administrations, and the NHS to minimize any impact on patient care.”

Being the backbone of many diagnostic investigations, a shortage of blood test tubes is terrifying at the best of times.

But now, amid more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases in the UK every day and rising COVID deaths, the panic begins to rise, according to the NHS. Bring in the oncoming winter and a delay in flu jabs – the striking reality of this crisis becomes clearer.

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Being double-vaccinated gives 50-60% protection from the Delta variant, study finds

covid vaccine uk
  • An English study has found that having two vaccines against COVID-19 protects against the Delta variant by 50-60%.
  • This is slightly lower than once thought, but the scientists leading the study say this is due to the random sample.
  • This study affirms that the vaccine – any approved vaccine – significantly protects from COVID-19.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new study has found that fully vaccinated people have their risk of infection from the COVID-19 Delta variant reduced by 50-60%.

Researchers at Imperial College London found that people with a vaccine were half as likely to test positive for COVID-19 – including asymptomatic infections.

Considering those who had a symptomatic infection, they were at least 59% less likely to contract the illness when double vaccinated.

These estimations are lower than previous data presented by Public Health Data, which shows two doses of Pfizer’s shot was 88% effective at preventing the symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, compared to 93.7% against the Alpha variant.

However, this study did not separate for the effectiveness of different vaccines, and the researchers said this was no reason for shock or concern, considering that PHE estimates were based on those who have symptoms and get tested, while the Imperial study was on a random sample of the population, designed to pick up more people.

“We’re looking at effectiveness against infection amongst a random sample of the general population, which includes asymptomatic individuals,” said Imperial epidemiologist Paul Elliot, according to Reuters, noting that the study tested people without symptoms, who may not have otherwise got a test: “So again, it’s a different bunch of people.”

The study also re-established a link between COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, which began to wain, but now the Delta variant is causing to rise again.

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Anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist tells rally that healthcare workers fighting COVID could face Nuremberg-style trials

Kate Shemirani speaks to thousands of protesters during the demonstration.
Kate Shemirani speaks to thousands of protesters during the demonstration. Demonstrators protest in Trafalgar Square, London as part of the Worldwide Rally for Freedom. Protesters are demonstrating against the vaccine passport, Covid-19 vaccination for children and a raft of other coronavirus restrictions.

  • Thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest the use of COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Kate Shemirani – a former nurse who was struck off – compared the use of the jabs to Nazi-era medical testing.
  • Several other high-profile conspiracy theorists spoke at the event, including David Icke and Piers Corbyn.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mass anti-vaxx protests occurred in London last night, with one conspiracy theorist causing outrage for telling doctors and nurses that they could be tried and hung in Nuremberg-style trials.

Speaking at the protests were several renowned right-wing conspiracy theorists, including David Icke, Katie Hopkins – who just got refused entry to Australia for refusing to produce COVID-19 documentation – and Gillian McKeith.

The protest, dubbed a “worldwide rally for freedom,” in London’s Trafalgar Square was held five days after England lifted most of its COVID restrictions.

Read more: Gaia was a wildly popular yoga brand. Now it’s a publicly traded Netflix rival pushing conspiracy theories while employees fear the CEO is invading their dreams.

Kate Shemirani, a former nurse who was struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council in June 2021 for spreading COVID misinformation, addressed the crowd.

She told them: “Get their names [of doctors and nurses]. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremberg Trials, the doctors and nurses stood trial, and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus… and stand with us, the people,” reported The Independent.

Shemirani’s comments have caused a major uproar – not just for endangering and undermining the efforts of healthcare workers in the pandemic – but also for their antisemitic overtones.

The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals held after World War II to convict Nazis of their war crimes, including six million Jews and other minorities for medical trials.

The documentation from the Nursing and Midwifery council’s case against Shemirani shows the scale of her conspiratorial beliefs – including stating that “you can’t catch a virus,” describing the “genocidal” NHS as “murdering patients,” and claiming that vaccines have been “rushed through” because “they want to kill you.”

Joining Shemirani was David Icke, an infamous conspiracy theorist who told crowds, “staggering numbers of people worldwide will die from the fake vaccination.” He added: “It’s the pandemic of the fake vaccinated.”

David Icke speaks to the protesters during the demonstration
David Icke speaks to the protesters during the demonstration

Piers Corbyn – brother of the former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – also spoke, saying, “you’re much more likely to die or get ill from the jab that you are from COVID.”

The UK has one of the highest vaccination rates globally, with 80% of adults have received at least one dose and 55.4% both. These rates are linking to low hospitalization in the UK.

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Google offered snippets of incorrect guidance to UK users on self-isolating after being exposed to COVID-19

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Google’s drop-down menu has been serving up incorrect advice to those who have been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with COVID-19.

  • Google reportedly showed UK users incorrect guidance on the rules around COVID-19 self-isolation.
  • The Guardian found Google offered incorrect snippets of advice through its ‘common questions’ box.
  • The error appears to have been removed. Google said some snippets didn’t always offer the full context.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Google reportedly served UK users incorrect snippets of government guidance on self-isolating after being exposed to COVID-19.

The tech giant has been working to counteract misinformation around the pandemic over the past year, banning websites from running ads on “dangerous content” that goes against scientific consensus, and joining a fact-checking group created by British charity Full Fact to help stop inaccuracies about the virus from spreading online

According to The Guardian on Monday, however, Google wrongly served up incorrect sections of UK government guidance as part of its automated “common questions” drop-down feature.

Google COVID common questions
Google’s common questions feature pulls responses to user search queries from official sources.

In the UK, individuals contacted by the National Health Service’s test-and-trace system, or pinged by their COVID-19 app, are required to isolate for 10 days from the date of exposure. This guidance sticks even if the person has tested negative for the virus, as symptoms can still manifest.

But The Guardian found Google’s drop-down feature for related queries, such as “Can I stop self-isolating if I test negative for COVID-19?” The answer offered read: “If your test is negative, you will no longer be required to self-isolate.”

On the official government guidance page, however, this advice is clearly for those that have been isolating because they have developed symptoms common to those with COVID-19, such as a cough or fever, but subsequently test negative.

Google appears to have removed the answer from its “common questions” feature overnight, and it was no longer showing on Tuesday when Insider entered a similar search query.

Google told The Guardian that while the search snippets were reviewed by medical professionals, they “may be presented alongside queries that are not relevant or do not provide the full context.”

“Common questions and answers in Google search are generated by Google. The Government Digital Service (GDS) works to ensure that all gov.uk information is clear and can be accessed directly from search engines, such as Google,” a UK government spokesperson said.

“Gov.uk plays a critical role in helping people and businesses get the latest information and support in response to the pandemic. COVID-19 content and services are regularly kept up to date to ensure that they reflect the latest government policy.”

Insider approached Google for further comment.

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (mcoulter@businessinsider.com). Reach out using a nonwork device.

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Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t just expose the royal family – it also revealed just how the broken US healthcare system is

Oprah "what"
Oprah’s reaction to Meghan Markle’s claim that a member of the royal family was concerned over her baby’s skin color.

  • Oprah interviewed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a highly anticipated CBS special.
  • Viewers from the UK were shocked by how many pharmaceutical ads ran during the American broadcast.
  • Their medical costs are covered by the government, and their reactions expose how broken the US healthcare system is.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In the year since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from their official duties as extensions of the British monarchy, scandalous, albeit unverified accusations came about from either side of the conflict. It all culminated in the royal couple’s primetime interview with Oprah, which revealed allegations of racism and abuse.

While the interview exposed the royal family’s callous treatment of Harry and Meghan, the conversation it drove online inadvertently exposed how broken the US healthcare system is. The interview aired from 8 pm to 10 pm Eastern in the United States, meaning that UK residents had to stay awake until the early morning hours to watch. As they did so, they became shocked and concerned by the existence of something Americans consider normal: a swarm of pharmaceutical ads.

“watching american adverts during the megan and harry oprah interview is so surreal, why are so many of them for meds?” tweeted one UK-based viewer.

“HELP why are all american ads about medicines??” tweeted another.

The answer is just as ridiculous as the existence of the ads themselves. The United States’ healthcare system was constructed on the idea of making money. Helping sick people is just a side effect.

Money is the motive

It’s easy to forget just how messed up the US healthcare system is – we Americans have lived with it our whole lives, which makes it “normal” – but the reaction to pharmaceutical advertisements by people living in Europe illustrate just how convoluted the American arrangement is.

“American adverts make me feel like I’m in some post-apocalyptic world” one viewer tweeted.

That’s because in the UK, the vast majority of people’s healthcare is administered by the National Health Service (NHS). When you get sick, you go to the doctor and are cared for at no cost “at the point of use,” meaning that the service itself is subsidized by taxes, but the actual care is free. If you are sick, you go to the doctor and are treated at no cost. If you have an accident, you are delivered to the hospital and operated on at no cost.

You don’t need insurance in the UK because it is provided through the NHS. Some supplemental insurance can be added, but only 10.5% of UK residents have that extra insurance.

Since the government is the almost exclusive buyer of medicines, the NHS negotiates a rate that it pays pharmaceutical companies and then provides the medicines to NHS users. Therefore, there’s no reason for pharma companies to aggressively advertise, and, in fact, these types of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads are banned in the UK.

In America however, pharmaceutical companies are competing to win over consumers and drive up their profits. Instead of having a nonprofit government entity to negotiate on their behalf, average Americans either have to fend for themselves or rely on insurance companies – who are also profit-driven – to negotiate the price for them.

That’s also where the ads come in. There are often multiple, competing brands of any given medication, so drug ads are designed to drive people towards more expensive name brand drugs and push people to try drugs they may not need. All of this is moot in a UK-style system where the government does the negotiating with drug companies.

The results of the profit-driven US model are devastating. Let’s use diabetes type 1 for example, a condition where the body can’t make enough insulin, which causes high blood pressure and affects more than 1 million Americans.

There are three competing insulin manufacturers in the US, the lack of competition and ability to negotiate for higher profits has in turn driven the cost of insulin so high that people are engaging in “insulin rationing,” or using less insulin than they should be, to make the doses last longer. This sort of rationing has led in some cases to death. The Twitter user above may have been joking when they described this as “post-apocalyptic,” but a system where it’s necessary to ration anything you need to live fits pretty squarely into that definition.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry raked in $1.3 trillion, with a “t,” in 2019.

And on top of these drug costs, American also have to deal with soaring insurance premiums and high, uncertain costs for basic needs, like ambulances.

It makes sense how dumbfounded UK viewers were when they saw American commercials for medication. They live in a system that doesn’t penalize you for something you cannot control.

The need for an American universal healthcare system, like Medicare For All, only intensifies with time. As long as our healthcare system prioritizes profit over people, we will continue to look ridiculous to the rest of the world.

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Boris Johnson is cutting nurses’ pay in real-terms after telling them ‘we owe you more than words can say’

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in the weekly “Clap for Our Carers” event in Downing Street on May 28, 2020 in London, United Kingdom

  • Boris Johnson has been criticised for announcing a 1% payrise for NHS workers this year
  • Nurses said the pay increase would only amount to £3.50 a week in take-home pay, which amounted to a cut after inflation.
  • The government said pay awards should be “both fair and affordable.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Boris Johnson faced heavy criticism from unions and political opponents today after revealing he plans to give NHS staff an increase to their basic pay of just 1%, months after telling nurses “we owe you more than words can say” for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1% figure covers 2021 and 2022 and was published in a Department of Health document this week. Labour said the figure amounted to a real-terms pay cut for NHS staff due to inflation.

It comes after Boris Johnson in May last year paid tribute to NHS nurses after he was admitted to intensive care with COVID-19.

“You continue to cast light on the darkest moments of our lives. And for that we owe you more than words can say,” the prime minister said in a video message addressed to nurses.

The government said the pay increase reflected the fact that “COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on both public and NHS finances” and said pay awards should be “both fair and affordable.”

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) called the decision “pitiful and bitterly disappointing” and said the pay review would amount to only an extra £3.50 a week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

“The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,” said Donna Kinnair, the RCN chief executive.

“If the Pay Review Body accepts the government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

“Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.

“Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff,” she said.

“The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,”  The group called for a 12.5% increase for nursing salaries.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, on Friday criticized the government’s decision on Twitter.

Sharing a Daily Mirror front-page which branded the pay deal an “insult to NHS heroes,” Starmer said: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay. Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.”

Sarah Gorton, the head of health at the trade union Unison, said the 1% pay rise was “the worst kind of insult the government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.”

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame, go back to the drawing board and come up with the kind of pay rise that matches the astounding efforts staff have gone to in the past year,” she said.

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Hospital officials apologize for UK ad showing Santa Claus with COVID-19, saying it wasn’t meant for children

Santa Claus with coronavirus NHS The Gift
Santa Claus being wheeled into a hospital in “The Gift,” an ad from the NHS.

  • UK government officials apologized for a Christmas charity ad showing Santa Claus nearly dying from COVID-19 in hospital, saying the spot wasn’t meant for children. 
  • The National Health Service scrubbed “The Gift” from its YouTube channel, as did those involved with the making of it. 
  • A top YouTube comment on the video read: “Absolutely disgusting. Total misstep. As if kids have not been through enough. Shame shame shame on you!”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Not even Santa Claus is immune from the coronavirus, according to a UK government ad showing him being rushed into a hospital at death’s door.

The advertisement, called “The Gift,” begins with an older man with a white beard being ushered into an National Health Service (NHS) emergency room. He’s on a hospital bed. NHS staff hovers over him, shining a light into his face. He’s being given oxygen. By the end of the 90-second spot, he’s recovered. After leaving the hospital, an NHS staffer figures out his true identity: Jolly Old St. Nicholas. 

After the ad appeared late last week, it was removed from the NHS YouTube account and others that had posted it. As of Sunday, “The Gift” had been scrubbed from almost everywhere.

Santa The Gift NHS
A screenshot of “The Gift” ad, showing Santa Claus recovering from COVID-19.

In a statement, NHS Charities Together apologized to kids who had seen the ad, but also said that it “isn’t aimed at children and hasn’t been shown on TV.” The charity said it had at first received positive feedback, but chatter on social media quickly turned sour. 

“We worked closely with the team behind the ad to make sure it was produced responsibly and it was cleared for use by the relevant regulatory authority. However, we are sorry to the parents of any young children who have been upset by watching the ad and to the young children themselves, they were not the intended audience for it,” the charity said in a statement on Saturday. 

By midday Sunday, the only version available on YouTube seemed to be from a children’s talent agency, which said it had been involved in making the spot. That version was also removed Sunday afternoon. 

Comments left on the video before it was removed ranged from confused to outraged.

The top comment read: “Absolutely disgusting. Total misstep. As if kids have not been through enough. Shame shame shame on you!”

Santa in hospital NHS "The Gift"
Santa Claus looking over lists of naughty and nice children in “The Gift” ad from the NHS.

The spot was produced by Iris, a digital media agency, according to a brief posted on Campaign Live, a site that collects information about advertisements. Ads of the World said “The Gift” was NHS Charities Together’s first Christmas campaign. 

Actual NHS staffers were invited to be in the film, according to The Drum

In a statement, NHS said: “We created our Christmas campaign to highlight the ongoing commitment and hard work of NHS staff and volunteers to keep us safe and well in what has been and continues to be a really challenging time for the NHS.”

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England due to begin mass vaccinating people on Tuesday. ‘This coming week will be a historic moment,’ said the Health Secretary.

Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine clinical trial, vaccination of first volunteer
A volunteer receives an experimental vaccination for the coronavirus in a clinical trial at the University of Maryland’s medical school.

  • England will start administering COVID-19 vaccinations beginning on December 8.
  • The National Health Service (NHS) said in an official statement the first people to get the vaccine will be people over 80, care home workers, and NHS workers who are at “higher risk.”
  • The first batch of vaccinations will be done at hospitals around the country, with GP surgeries starting to administer injections starting the week beginning December 14. 
  • As more doses of the vaccine become available, the NHS plans to set up mass injection centers in sporting venues and conference spaces.
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

England’s National Health Service (NHS) has released the details of its official rollout of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which will begin early next week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.

“We are prioritizing the most vulnerable first and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.”

The UK became the first country to authorize the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which Pfizer says is 95% effective.

The NHS said vaccinations would begin on Tuesday and that the first “wave” of injections will be done at 50 hospital hubs.

“People aged 80 and over as well as care home workers will be first to receive the jab, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk,” the NHS said in a statement. 

The NHS said patients aged 80 or over who are already in hospital as an outpatient or being discharged home after a hospital stay would be among the first to get the vaccine. Hospitals will also start inviting over-80s to come in for a jab and talk to care home providers to get their staff vaccinated.

“Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from COVID,” the NHS said.

Patients will need to return for a booster jab 21 days after the initial injection, the NHS said.

“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday. The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness,” NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said in a statement.

“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large-scale vaccination programs – from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs – hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease,” he added.

The NHS said that the following week – starting December 14 – a small number of GP surgeries will start administering the vaccine. Eventually, the vaccine’s rollout will include large-scale vaccination centers in sporting venues and conference spaces, according to the NHS press release.

Pfizer told the BBC on Wednesday, December 2, that the UK will receive 800,000 doses of the vaccine this coming week – meaning the first wave of two-shot vaccinations will be enough for roughly 400,000 people.

In total, the UK has ordered roughly 40 million doses, meaning it will have enough to vaccinate 20 million out of its population of 66.7 million.

The UK has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday recording over 60,000 total deaths. Counting all deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate, the UK has surpassed 75,000.

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