** At least a million Brits quit smoking during the coronavirus lockdowns. This is the most quitters in a single year since the 2007 smoking ban, University College London research shows.
Many of the quitters even managed it without going to their GP to get smoking cessation aids prescribed. The South East had the most people quitting in the first lockdown, with 136,000, followed by the North West with 102,000. The figures put England on course to be smokefree by 2030. Smoking in the UK is at its lowest level ever, with 14% of adults smoking in 2020, equating to nearly seven million people. More than half of all smokers want to quit, and three million now use e-cigarettes.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Covid made people more worried about health. And for young people, it changed their lifestyles, like not being able to go to the pub where they did their smoking.”
Public Health Minister Jo Churchill is set to unveil a new Tobacco Control Plan. She said: “The ambition is to reduce adult smoking to 12% or less by the end of 2022.”
** Directors of public health (DPHs) are set to become increasingly important under the government’s planned reorganisation of health and care services, the health secretary has said.
Speaking at the launch of a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Longevity on Friday 9th April, Matt Hancock said that during the Covid crisis, DPHs have “played an absolutely valuable role – essentially a mini-Chris Whitty in every upper-tier council.” He said DPHs were “one of the really good things to come out of” the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, but because the role is a “relatively new invention”, there “isn’t a professional structure.” This will change under the planned reforms, and that DPHs “will look to the chief medical officer in the new approach, as well as of course looking to the UK Health Security Agency for communicable diseases,” Matt Hancock added.
The APPG report, Levelling up Health, says that COVID-19 has exposed health inequalities, highlighting Office for National Statistics data which shows that the “10% most deprived places in England had on average double the Covid mortality rate of the least deprived.”
The report calls for the government to create a 10-year national health improvement plan to “level up health”, focusing on smoking, obesity, clean food, clean air, and healthy children. This should be developed in consultation with the local government, the local NHS, local businesses, and community organisations. The report also calls for a £3 billion health improvement fund to support local authorities with the worst population health. This would come on top of the existing public health grant, with an average of £10 million a year awarded to about 60 upper-tier councils over an initial five-year period.
In response to the recommendations set out in the report, Matt Hancock said: “I’m not against the sort of fund that is proposed in the report. But I want to go further than that. I want to bring the whole budget of the NHS in an in a local area to bear on the goal of improving healthy life expectancy”. He said he wanted a health system where the incentives were not for hospitals “to get as many people through their doors as possible” but rather “to prevent people ending up in expensive secondary care in the first place. You can do that by putting more support, more funding into the community.”
Source: Local Government Chronicle, 9 April 2021
See also: All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity - Levelling Up Health ([link removed])
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** Experts have warned that efforts to meet key NHS England ambitions to bolster community services are set to fall short without significant extra investment in staffing.
The NHS long-term plan, published in January 2019, set out two key pledges for community services, aimed at reducing pressure on acute services – to offer a two-hour crisis response service and for reablement care to be offered within two days of referral. Every health system has been asked to provide the crisis response service by April 2022, while no specific timeline has yet been set out for the reablement pledge. But experts have warned that trying to offer the crisis service in isolation will fail to reduce hospital admissions meaningfully and that neither target can consistently be met with the current staffing levels.
There are staffing shortages in many key roles within community services, such as district nurses, whose numbers have fallen by 40% since 2010. Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, said: “We are currently gathering data from directors of nursing in our networks, and the early indications are that 1,500 district nurses are needed to be trained each year rather than the 500 that are currently funded by [Health Education England].” Ms Oldham added the shortages must be addressed if the crisis response service is to become “an established element of the district nursing service in every community.”
Liz Fenton, the deputy chief nurse at Health Education England, said: “HEE listened to concerns that were raised about district nursing numbers which is why we invested £18.5 million to support those nurses who want to pursue their specialist practitioner qualifications.”
NHS England said in a statement: “The NHS is on track to deliver the NHS long-term plan commitment of a two-day standard over the next three years and has brought forward its commitment for the two-hour standard, so all patients in England receive the right community care at home, by April 2022.” It said capacity in community health services is being supported through uplifts in system baseline funding.
** Sir Paul Cosford, who has died aged 57, served as medical director and director for health protection of Public Health England (PHE) from its establishment in 2012 to 2019, when he stepped down after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
He advised the Government and led PHE’s health protection and emergency response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the 2018 Salisbury poisonings.
Paul studied Medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, and qualified as a doctor in 1987. He followed a career in mental health, working with people with severe mental illness and people with learning difficulties in northwest London, becoming a psychiatry lecturer at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in 1990. From the early 1990s, he took on various management and leadership roles in the NHS, public health and social care systems, leading programmes to deal with hospital-acquired infections and reducing cases of tuberculosis.
Paul was appointed CB in 2016 and KCB in this year’s New Year Honours for services to public health. Sir Paul Cosford was born on 20 May 1963 and died on 5 April 2021.
Source: The Telegraph, 9 April 2021
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** An ambitious plan to take overnight services through the Channel tunnel reflects a growing interest in sustainable travel.
However, major bumps in the track remain. The trains would need to be bespoke rather than sourced from existing rolling stock, driveable from each end, with a minimum length of 375 metres. They would require systems that can halt the spread of fire for the length of time a train is in the tunnel, although experts say the existence of an evacuation tunnel running parallel with the two rail tunnels makes the route extremely safe.
Last summer, the UK rail industry’s High Speed Rail Group published a report blaming the overly stringent tunnel regulations for holding back plans for sleepers. They called for the government to modernise the regulations in time for the Channel tunnel’s 30th anniversary in 2024 to consider the fact passengers are now banned from smoking.
Source: The Guardian, 11 April 2021
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