Editor’s pick from media across the UK


– Summary compiled and edited by Lola Evans – 5 December

Immensa lab errors may have led to 23 Covid-19 deaths

The UK Health Secretary Agency (UKHSA) has concluded in a report published this week that staff mistakes within the Immensa laboratory may have been responsible for 23 extra Covid-19 deaths. The private lab was paid more than £100m for PCR testing in September 2021. The contract ran for just over a month before being suspended.

Approximately 39,000 people were given negative results that should have been positive from the Wolverhampton lab. The report claims that each false negative tests caused two subsequent infections, leading to additional hospitalisations and deaths. 

Richard Gleave, UKHSA director and lead investigator, said: “It is our view that there was no single action that NHS Test and Trace could have taken differently to prevent this error arising in the private laboratory.” 



UK spent around a fifth less than European neighbours on health care in last decade

UK Health spending is 18% less on everyday health care than the average in the EU14, a recent analysis found. A report published by the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre has stated that the UK would need to spend on average an additional £40bn in order to match average pre-pandemic spending per person across the EU14. 

Researchers who conducted the analysis state that the impacts of lower spending have accumulated to the stress the NHS is under today. The UK health system was already strained pre-pandemic having fewer practising physicians and hospital beds per person compared to the EU14. Authors state that the consistent underfunding and low resources has impeded the return of services after the pandemic.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, has said it is time to weigh up some tough decisions as high quality health care cannot be sustained if we are to consistently spend less. The UK has the choice to ‘lower quality health care relative to other countries or … spend more’

REAL centre


Why do non-smokers face delays in getting a lung cancer diagnosis?

A follow-up review has been published by cancer research showing that non-smokers are more likely to delay making a second appointment with their GP following persistent lung cancer symptoms. 

Non-smokers and smokers with lung cancer were interviewed to assess similarities and differences within their ‘help-seeking behaviour’. 

The study revealed that both groups delay in making an initial appointment with their GP after dismissing their symptoms. The report stated that smokers were more vigilant of their symptoms after their first appointment until a diagnosis had been made. In contrast, non-smokers were often falsely reassured by their GP that their symptoms were not indicative of cancer. This led to patients waiting a long time before making a follow up appointment, in some cases waiting until a more distressing symptom presented itself such as coughing up blood. 

Dr Georgia Black, who led the study, states: “GPs can do quite a lot in the way they communicate to increase the patient’s vigilance. There’s a balance to be struck between being informative and encouraging without causing unnecessary anxiety.”

Cancer Research UK


Do we have ‘immunity debt’ and how could it affect our infection risk?

The rate of flu in England so far this year has been more than double the rate of pre-pandemic winters in 2018 and 2019. This could be the effect of ‘immunity debt’ where some countries are experiencing more respiratory infections than normal as a consequence of Covid-19 lockdowns.

A lack of exposure to illnesses over the last two years has caused population immunity to flu to decline. This has caused growing concerns among UK paediatricians as young children are expected to face ‘a perfect storm of health issues’. The UK Health Secretary Agency has placed emphasis on the importance of this year’s flu vaccination campaign as high rates of respiratory infections coinciding has the potential to overwhelm health services.

New Scientist


Lack of ethnic diversity among egg and sperm donor

The number of donor-conceived births has almost doubled over the past thirty years from 2,500 in 1993 to 4,100 in 2019. Despite this there is a lack of diversity among donors with Asian egg and Black sperm being under-represented by 50% in comparison to the population. This lack of diversity means people must import sperm into the UK. However there is ongoing concern as online donors may not have faced the health tests that UK clinics require.

UK donor clinics may also be favourable as they do not allow donors to be anonymous so children are allowed to contact donors once they are 18. 



Drug that delays onset of type 1 diabetes gets approval in US

A new drug postpones the onset of type 1 diabetes in young children helping them to reduce the burden of the disease in their early years.

Teplizumab, developed by the firm Proventionbio, is thought to be the first drug to successfully delay the start of any autoimmune condition. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the drug in children aged 8 and above who possess the type 1 diabetes antibodies but have a blood sugar level low enough to be non-diabetic.

Telizumab works by attacking a type of immune cell called T-cells that damage the insulin producing cells within the pancreas. So far, the drug has been successful in delaying the onset of diabetes by three years. The trial revealed higher rates of some side effects such as rashes compared to placebo infusions. 

Telizumab is currently on a fast track review pathway for use in Europe and the UK. The fast track pathway was developed for particularly innovative new drugs to help deliver them to patients quicker.

New Scientist



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