The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
The target to achieve 100,000 covid-19 tests by the end of April is likely to be remembered as one of the more infamous government commitments of 2020.
After days of intense scrutiny over small testing numbers, accelerated by emerging reports of NHS staff dying from covid-19, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock set the “ambitious” target in early April.
For several weeks, it seemed unlikely that target would be hit – with numbers below 20,000 – but this week has seen a dramatic rise, and Mr Hancock proudly announced the government had met its target with 122,000 tests carried out yesterday.
However, a senior source told HSJ the Department of Health and Social Care changed its counting mechanism – something the DHSC denies – to now include tests that have been sent to people’s homes. Previously tests were counted when samples were processed at labs.
With more than 27,000 tests included in the 122,000 figure actually comprising tests that have been sent to people’s homes, and not necessarily returned – it seems prudent to ask if Mr Hancock is counting his chickens before they’ve hatched.
Eating disorders: most in need, least supported
Today the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead for eating disorders warned that the most at-risk patients were the ones who will receive the least support during the pandemic.
Most mental health services have moved to providing telephone and digital consultations, as social isolation measures meant face to face services had to be ceased in most cases. However, consultant psychiatrist Dr Agnes Ayton said those with the most severe illnesses would not be supported as effectively by digital consultations.
She also warned that the poor state of NHS inpatient units has meant trusts have had to restrict their capacity. It is well known that much of the NHS mental health estate is not fit for purpose: patients in most units share bathrooms, rather than benefit from access to single en-suite rooms, for example.
It is certainly not an issue confined to eating disorder services and brings up an important question of how the mental health services can safely manage covid-19 whilst also not restricting admissions.