The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership

‘Scary’ Australia flu puts UK on alert

“Scary” figures from Australia on their flu outbreak have prompted warnings that the UK should perhaps prepare for this threat with vaccinations and more cash set aside.

The latest figures for Australia show nearly 94,000 confirmed cases of flu so far this year, far above the levels seen in previous years – last year the total number was around 12,000. Weekly figures for the beginning of June are on a par with the numbers of cases normally seen in July and August, the height of the Australian flu season.

The very high figures may just show an early-peaking outbreak rather than an epidemic but are causing concern in the UK.

Royal College of Emergency Medicine president Taj Hassan said the Australian figures looked “very scary indeed… Perhaps we need to start vaccination early and set aside some money.”

But Public Health England said that flu activity in Australia was not necessarily a predictor of the UK’s flu season. And it’s worth remembering that when the winter before last (2017-18) was particularly terrible for the NHS it was blamed in large part on a bad outbreak of flu – but the winter just gone was also very bad, despite there being lesser impact from the virus. 

Gould wants a more tech-savvy Treasury

As he prepares to officially take on the role of chief executive of NHSX in July, Matthew Gould has said one of the biggest challenges for the new unit will be persuading Treasury officials to increase investment in health technology.

Addressing delegates at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester this week, Mr Gould said there is “misplaced” scepticism within the Treasury over the need for additional health tech funding.

He added that while there is “a ton of evidence that well-judged investment in technology will lead to better outcomes”, it will be challenging to persuade the Treasury that “this time it is worth investing in”.

This contrasts Matt Hancock’s attitude to health tech – who last month said he wants to “unlock the full potential of health technology” within the NHS, as he announced the rollout of fibre optic broadband across all GP practices and hospitals.

At the time, the secretary of state added technology “is the future for our 21st century healthcare system and a central part of our NHS long-term plan.”