Speaking to the health and social care select committee on Friday, Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, confirmed the NHS is planning for PTSD referrals for frontline staff. She said:
We know it’s been a high stress environment. We’re planning mental health support right now.
She said ensuring hospital teams offered support through good supervision, debriefs after shifts and making sure shift patterns allowed staff to recuperate would be crucial. “The military are very good at this,” she said.
Murdoch added that trusts were investing more in occupational and mental health support for staff and that national helplines with third sector organisations, such as Samaritans, had been set up to support staff.
Responding to MPs’ questions, Murdoch also said that there appeared to have been an overall drop of around 30-40% in referrals of members of the public to mental health services. But she added that there was no evidence currently for a spike in suicides or self-harm:
We absolutely have not seen that. We’re pretty certain that levels of anxiety and distress will have increased for young people. Everyone’s more worried. Lots of people are sleeping less.
The committee heard further evidence that cancer services were being disrupted, with urgent two-week referrals dropping by 63% last week, which Dame Cally Palmer, the national cancer director for NHS England, said was a concern:
Early detection is vital for survival.
She added that it was crucial that screening programmes, many of which have been paused, be restarted.
There have been no national instructions on screening. It’s important to make sure that rescheduled screening take place, especially bowel cancer. Cancers are slow growing so 4-6 weeks should not affect survival but we need to get that turned back on.
It is easy to see why it could be thrilling fiction for our times: it has a mysterious and fatal virus, an epidemiologist hero, a desperate search for a vaccine and murky political skullduggery. It also features a green monkey.
But whether it is the moment for Stanley Johnson, the father of Boris Johnson, to be pushing his 40-year-old novel for a new release is another question.
Nonetheless, British publishers have been invited to consider reissuing Johnson senior’s 1982 thriller The Marburg Virus, the Guardian has learned. His agent is so convinced of his ability to effectively publicise a reissue that his pitch describes him as “a tireless self-promoter”.
Needleworkers at Exeter cathedral, the Company of Tapisers, have been making scrubs for the NHS and have completed 10 sets, with another 14 in progress, since beginning production two weeks ago.
The group said the biggest challenge has been finding suitable fabric for volunteers to work on, with materials from as far away as Bradford being requested to meet specifications.
The Company of Tapisers has been making vestments, kneelers, banners, cushions, and even rugs and ropes at the cathedral since 1933.
At her daily briefing, Nicola Sturgeon was probed about overnight briefings suggesting that Boris Johnson’s optimistic tone yesterday was putting at risk her own message that progress remains very fragile and could easily be reversed if people relax their adherence to lockdown guidelines.
The first minister said she was “not convinced there is a huge substantive difference” between what she and the prime minister were saying, adding that she was “choosing to use my own words”.
Insisting that she doesn’t want to diminish positive messages from the downward trend in hospital and intensive care admissions, she reiterated “it is too early to say that the light is not going to be extinguished”.
She also warned “if we are premature in these decisions and the virus runs away from us…it will do even more damage to the economy”.
Announcing the increase in testing capacity and eligibility, Sturgeon also underlined this “should not be an exercise in driving up the numbers”.
Sturgeon warned the tests can be unpleasant and invasive, especially for frail older people, adding that “yes volumes are important…but these must be clinically driven decisions”. She said the focus on capacity and objectives of testing was more important than the numbers.
at 8.42am EDT
‘Face coverings have ‘weak but positive effect’ in slowing spread – lobby briefing key points
Here are the main takeaways from this afternoon’s Downing Street briefing:
Ministers have not yet made a final decision on whether the public will be advised to use face coverings, the prime minister’s spokesman has insisted at the daily lobby briefing. Boris Johnson told yesterday’s press conference:
I do think face masks will be useful, both for epidemiological reasons, and to give people the confidence that it is safe to go back to work.
But his spokesman said no final decision had yet been taken:
Ministers are still considering how we move forward with face coverings, in terms of the precise advice.
The advice we have received, based on the science, shows a weak but also positive effect in reducing transmission from … asymptomatic members of the public, where social distancing is not possible.
And he suggested the prime minister was not referring to medical masks.
We’re talking about face covering. We’re certainly not thinking about anything that might take PPE supplies away from the NHS, or care workers, or others.
With the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, expected to host this evening’s daily press conference, the PM’s spokesman did not reveal whether the 100,000-a-day testing target had been met. But he said:
The health secretary’s target has been very effective in driving up capacity in the system. Capacity is what’s really important.”
He confirmed that 81,611 tests had taken place in the 24 hours to 9am on Thursday.
The spokesman also didn’t rule out government support for ailing airlines:
We’ve been clear we’re prepared to enter discussions with individual companies seeking bespoke support as a last resort.
Although, he also pointed out the firms are eligible for many of the government’s other business support measures.
at 8.21am EDT
A brand new edition of the popular Top Trumps card game, honouring Covid-19 key and essential workers, hits the shops on Monday.
It hails key and essential workers working on the frontline during the pandemic, from doctors and nurses to less high profile sectors such as pest controllers, midwives and sea merchants. Politicians and journalists are also included.
One of the four scoring sections in the new game is “unsung heroes”, where the partners of key workers come out top with a maximum 10 out of 10.
at 8.08am EDT
Further 40 deaths in Scotland, taking total to 1,515
Nicola Sturgeon has started her daily briefing by confirming 11,654 positive cases of coronavirus in Scotland, an increase of 301 from the day before.
There are now 1,809 patients in hospital with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, an increase of 61 from the previous day; of these patients, 110 are in intensive care.
The first minister also said that 2,659 patients who had the virus had left hospital since 5 March.
In the last 24 hours there were a further 40 deaths registered of patients who had a positive test for the virus, taking that daily total to 1,515.
Sturgeon also set out a chunk of detail on testing, as promised. Active lab capacity in NHS Scotland is now at 4,350 tests a week, and added to the UK’s Lighthouse lab in Glasgow this means that the country now has the capacity for 8,350 tests a day.
In terms of actual tests carried out, a total of 4,661 were carried out yesterday, a combination of 2,537 NHS tests and 2,124 from the UK government’s regional drive-through centres.
She also announced a significant expansion in eligibility for testing – all residents and staff in care homes with cases will now be tested. There will also be sample testing in other care homes, access to drive-through centres for the over-65s and those few workers who have to leave home for work but aren’t already eligible.
at 8.09am EDT
Yesterday we reported that the Children’s Commissioner Scotland and a coalition of charities had written to supermarket chief executives urging them to stop the barring and abuse of single parents shopping for essentials with their children.
As of this morning, three have replied to the letter.
Marks and Spencer was first off the mark, saying they had given “clear guidance…that it may be necessary for parents to bring their children shopping with them and under no circumstances should a family be turned away”. Co-op acknowledged the points made and gave assurances for the future, while ScotMid insisted that children would not be restricted in stores.