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Manchester NHS hospital that saw 18 Covid-19 deaths last week fights an outbreak

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manchester nhs hospital that saw 18 covid 19 deaths last week fights an outbreak

One hospital in Manchester accounted for a third of all Covid-19 deaths in England last week, it was revealed today amid fears the life-threatening disease is spreading between wards. 

Tameside General Hospital, in Ashton-under-Lyne, suffered 18 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus fatalities in the week to September 10, treble the six fatalities the week prior.

Figures from NHS England, which records all deaths in the country’s hospitals, show a total of 52 victims were registered in the same week. 

Some of the infected patients who died at the 500-bed Tameside General Hospital had been admitted for other illnesses before catching the coronavirus during their hospital stay, sources have claimed. 

Health chiefs are now investigating the spate of deaths but the hospital insists it is a ‘routine review’ during the pandemic. 

The NHS checked last week whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied. 

It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset apologised last week after an investigation found 18 people may have died there after contracting the infection while getting treatment there in May. 

Tameside General Hospital saw a surge of Covid-19 deaths in the week to September 10, double the six fatalities the week prior

Tameside General Hospital saw a surge of Covid-19 deaths in the week to September 10, double the six fatalities the week prior

Tameside General Hospital saw a surge of Covid-19 deaths in the week to September 10, double the six fatalities the week prior

The NHS reviewed whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied. Pictured: Staff 'Clap for Carers' on May 14

The NHS reviewed whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied. Pictured: Staff 'Clap for Carers' on May 14

The NHS reviewed whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied. Pictured: Staff ‘Clap for Carers’ on May 14

Tameside is one of the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester, which has been hit by local Covid-related restrictions. 

It is currently battling one of the highest infection rates of Covid-19 in England, with 107.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to data. This is almost four times higher than the country’s average (26). 

Some 244 positive test results were reported in Tameside in just one week to September 12, up from 148 the week prior, suggesting the spread is not slowing. 

However testing has been increasing in the area, according to Public Health England data – from 118 per 100,00 people in the week to August 30 to 154 per 100,000 in the week to September 6 – which may contribute to the higher case numbers.   

Tameside General Hospital, which serves the surrounding area of Tameside and the town of Glossop in Derbyshire, experienced a dramatic spike in Covid-19 deaths last week, described by The Guardian as ‘sudden and unexplained’.

NHS ‘WORKING IN THE DARK’ WITHOUT COVID-19 TESTS FOR STAFF 

A lack of testing is contributing to staff absences across the NHS, putting services at risk, health leaders have warned.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, said hospitals in Bristol, Leeds and London had raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of tests available for NHS staff.

It warned that the recovery of normal NHS services was being put in jeopardy, while preparations for the winter pressures of Covid-19 and seasonal flu were being hampered.

NHS staff are having to self-isolate due an inability to get a test for themselves or family members, it said.

Testing has come under intense scrutiny after people across England reported they were unable to book tests, or were being offered tests hundreds of miles away.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there was a lack of detailed operational information on the shortages, such as how long they will last.

He said: ‘The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.

‘They need to know all this information so that they can plan accordingly.

‘For example, trusts need to know if they should try to create or re-establish their own testing facilities as quickly as possible.’

Mr Hopson said the health service ‘simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests, not being able to come into work’ and patients unable to be tested.

‘There is a significant impact and a growing impact on the NHS, and that is a problem,’ he added.

‘Nobody knows how widespread this problem is, nobody knows how long it’s going to go on for, nobody knows, for example, given that there are scarcities of tests, about who’s going to be prioritised for those tests that are available.’

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A further two people died of Covid-19 at Tameside hospital over the weekend.

It is currently unclear how many of the 18 Tameside patients died after catching Covid-19, while at hospital for another reason.

Well-placed NHS sources confirmed that at least some of the cases were the result of nosocomial infection – transmission within a hospital.

But hospital sources insisted that ‘the majority’ of the 18 people had Covid-19 before they came in, suggesting there has been an increase in admissions for the disease in Tameside as a result of rising cases.

It is understood that of the 35 new hospital admissions in Greater Manchester in the week to September 8, 10 of those were at Tameside Hospital, Manchester Evening News reported.

The number of deaths linked to the nosocomial outbreak is reportedly ‘low’.

The source said: ‘We test all patients who are being admitted. Some of them came back as positive [after they were tested] even though they were asymptomatic.’

Another official told the paper: ‘The deaths fall into three categories: community transmission, probable hospital-acquired infection and actual hospital-acquired infection.

‘There are a few of each so far. We know that some were related to the outbreak of hospital-acquired Covid.’

All 18 are thought to have been elderly and to have had one or more underlying illnesses, and the hospital pointed out that its patients are typically of an older population. This means that if they did test positive for Covid-19, they may be noted down as a ‘Covid-19 death’, even if it was their existing condition or age that was the root cause.

But it raises fears of a hospital-acquired Covid-19 outbreak – one of the first documented in the UK.

An outbreak is defined by Public Health England as two or more ‘laboratory confirmed cases (COVID-19, influenza or other respiratory pathogen) linked to a particular setting’. 

Hospitals have to take extreme care to protect staff and patients from nosocomial infection.

Wards are full of people vulnerable to severe Covid-19 – those with underlying health conditions, the elderly and people who have had surgery and are at risk of infection.   

NHS bosses say up to a fifth of Covid-19 patients in several hospitals have contracted the disease while already being treated there for another illness.

And papers published by Sage, the scientific group advising the Government during the pandemic, show that, at the peak of the crisis, transmission within hospitals was believed to account for up to 22 per cent of hospitalised patients and up to 11 per cent of deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned hospital acquired Covid-19 has caused an ‘epidemic’ of deaths during the pandemic.  

The NHS last week stepped in to review the situation at Tameside General Hospital. A spokesperson told MailOnline this is a standard procedure undertaken throughout English hospitals ‘to look at patient deaths regarding Covid’. They did not clarify what it is prompted by.

The NHS tested all admitted patients and checked staff were wearing the right personal protective equipment – which varies depending on the section of the hospital they work in.

They were satisfied that hygiene practices to prevent hospital coronavirus spread were robust enough, a hospital source said, adding: ‘There were no issues.’

Public Health England will examine the medical history of each of the 18 fatalities to identify how many had Covid-19 when they arrived and how many got it after being admitted.

It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset issued an apology last week after an investigation found that 18 people may have died after contracted the infection while getting treatment there in May

It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset issued an apology last week after an investigation found that 18 people may have died after contracted the infection while getting treatment there in May

It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset issued an apology last week after an investigation found that 18 people may have died after contracted the infection while getting treatment there in May

CASES ARE SOARING AMONG MIDDLE-AGED PEOPLE IN ENGLAND… AND HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS ARE ON THE UP, DATA SHOWS 

Covid-19 cases are soaring among middle-aged people in England and have soared by upwards of 90 per cent in a fortnight as the outbreak continues to grow, official figures show.

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20.

The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks.

Fears of a second wave are growing as the number of Britons being diagnosed with Covid-19 each day has topped 3,000 for the first time since May. Ministers have also been spooked by spiralling outbreaks in Spain and France and rising hospital admissions.

Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August. 

But government officials believe a second wave of Covid-19 in Britain would not be nearly as bad as the first — which killed between 40 and 55,000 people — because we are better at containing and treating the virus now.

The experts believe a combination of local lockdowns, social distancing measures and medical breakthroughs would substantially reduce both the death rate and number of cases.

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Dr Kailash Chand, the chair of Tameside Healthwatch, a local patient watchdog, who was a GP in the area for 20 years said he was ‘really concerned’ of the deaths at Tameside hospital.

‘I’m also concerned to hear of this outbreak at Tameside of hospital-acquired Covid, which is well-known to pose a significant risk to hospitals and their patients.

‘There needs to be an investigation and we need to learn the lessons if something has gone wrong here.’

It comes after the borough’s director of public health, Jeanelle de Gruchy, said local restrictions on socialising imposed on Greater Manchester ‘haven’t had the impact that we would have hoped’.

She told a meeting on September 10: ‘Unfortunately every day is currently bringing a rise in the rates. The latest data suggests that the rate is going up really quite quickly now.

‘We have got activity in the hospital which means that we’ve got an increase in over 65s.

‘We’re a bit ahead of everyone else I think, so the increase in community transmission is very worrying in that it’s now impacting on our care homes and in older people in the community

‘And it’s also unfortunately translating into deaths.’

A statement given to MailOnline from Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS trust, which runs the hospital and serves 250,000 people, said: ‘We are working with Public Health England and other partners to fully understand the recent number of deaths, but we know that our local population is older with many pre-existing health conditions and that COVID-19 prevalence is higher in our local area.

‘We continue to prioritise infection prevention in our hospital and patients should continue to attend their appointments wearing a face covering, maintain social distancing and regularly wash their hands.’

Outbreaks of Covid-19 related to the uncontrolled spread in hospitals has been scarcely reported during the pandemic. However, hospital acquisition of the coronavirus has been a common occurrence during the pandemic despite infection control.

Last week one hospital ‘apologised unreservedly’ to the families of patients who contracted coronavirus and died while in its care in May.

Weston General Hospital temporarily stopped accepting new patients, including to its accident and emergency department on May 25, causing huge concern for residents. It reopened fully in June.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust said it had carried out a ‘robust’ internal investigation to uncover what had gone wrong.

The trust’s medical director Dr William Oldfield said the trust had reviewed the clinical notes of everyone who was an inpatient at the hospital between May 5 and 24 who had Covid-19 either on arrival or later in their stay.

Dr Oldfield said: ‘During the investigation we identified 31 patients who have sadly passed away having contracted coronavirus infection whilst they were an inpatient in the hospital.

‘A detailed review into each of these individuals was undertaken.

‘To our profound regret, in 18 of these patients the infection may have contributed to their death.

‘We are deeply sorry for this.’

Dr Oldfield said the trust’s investigation had not identified a single cause of the outbreak but a number of factors may have contributed, including the layout of the hospital and small numbers of staff.  

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20

The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren't as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks

The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren't as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks

The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks 

Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August

Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August

Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August

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Health

Was James Cracknell’s 100-mile run over five days with no food the daftest stunt ever?

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was james cracknells 100 mile run over five days with no food the daftest stunt ever

He has trekked 370 miles of Arabian desert, rowed naked across 2,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, survived a traumatic brain injury during a 2010 cycling accident, and was part of Cambridge University’s triumphant team in last year’s Boat Race.

It would be fair to say that Olympic champion James Cracknell enjoys a challenge. But was his latest stunt, which he completed last week, his riskiest yet?

Last Saturday, the 48-year-old father-of-three embarked on what would seem, at first glance, a relatively harmless, if impressive, endeavour: running 100 miles over five days. Only, as he revealed to his 90,000 Twitter followers, he had decided to do so without eating anything for the duration.

Cracknell and his seven team-mates – including bloggers and healthcare professionals – fuelled themselves on water and the occasional black coffee. Two of the group have type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce insulin – the hormone needed to metabolise food for fuel – meaning they are at an increased risk of a potentially fatal seizure if they go for too long without food.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stunt has been branded ‘dangerous’, ‘irresponsible’ and, in the words of Dr Giles Yeo, a Cambridge University obesity expert, ‘a really, really stupid idea’.

Cracknell, however, has a point to prove. He has claimed the body can fuel itself on its fat stores alone, and that the daily 260g of carbohydrates recommended by UK health guidelines has no scientific basis.

James Cracknell's 100-mile run over five days has been branded 'dangerous', 'irresponsible' and, in the words of Dr Giles Yeo, a Cambridge University obesity expert, 'a really, really stupid idea'

James Cracknell's 100-mile run over five days has been branded 'dangerous', 'irresponsible' and, in the words of Dr Giles Yeo, a Cambridge University obesity expert, 'a really, really stupid idea'

James Cracknell’s 100-mile run over five days has been branded ‘dangerous’, ‘irresponsible’ and, in the words of Dr Giles Yeo, a Cambridge University obesity expert, ‘a really, really stupid idea’

The theory, popular with many low-carb converts, is that once the body runs out of carbohydrates – rapidly converted to sugar and utilised for energy – it burns fat, prompting speedier weight loss.

His second goal is to show that a low-carb diet is an effective therapeutic treatment for diabetes and beneficial for pre-diabetics.

Despite the criticism from some medics, others were supportive. Four healthcare professionals, including an NHS GP and a specialist in child eating disorders, were involved in the challenge, with some participating themselves. And former Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson, who claims he lost 8st as a result of cutting carbs, wrote: ‘I wish I was with you!’

So, is it really as stupid an idea as it might seem? According to daily YouTube videos posted by Cracknell’s fellow runner Steve Bennett, founder of supplement company Primal Living, the challenge was a ‘science-breaking’ success, with participants finishing on ‘high energy’ and with no health complications.

But according to Renee McGregor, a specialist dietician who works with Team GB athletes, they had a lucky escape.

What’s the difference…between gallstones and kidney stones? 

Gallstones result from a chemical imbalance in bile, a substance involved in fat digestion. 

When symptoms occur, it’s often after eating fatty foods. If the stones become trapped or cause inflammation, they may be removed by keyhole surgery.

Kidney stones, which are made of crystallised chemicals, can result in agonising pain and kidney damage. 

Extreme dehydration, certain drugs and high-protein diets can increase the risk of them developing. The pain they cause may lead to hospitalisation. 

Small stones may be passed in urine. Larger ones can require surgery.

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Cracknell’s health claims about the benefits of fasted exercise – especially for type 1 diabetics – is ‘scarily incorrect’, says McGregor.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, which studies have shown can, in some cases, be put into remission via a weight-loss diet, type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system and cannot be treated with lifestyle changes alone. Type 1 diabetics need regular injections of the vital hormone insulin, which helps the body absorb sugar, used for energy, from food. And for them, eating nothing at all can be fatal, especially while exercising, says Dr Yeo.

‘First there’s a chance of hypoglycaemia, when the blood sugar levels drop drastically, risking brain damage, coma, or even sudden death,’ he adds. ‘Even if you’ve eating lots previously and you’re not injecting insulin – keeping blood sugar high – exercising for long periods while starving yourself makes hypoglycaemia more likely. The dangerous drops in blood sugar can happen at a moment’s notice in type 1 diabetics.’

Then there’s the risk that the blood could become dangerously acidic, a state known as ketoacidosis, which Dr Yeo says could also become fatal ‘within hours’. ‘Acidic compounds called ketones build up when the body burns its own fat,’ he explains. ‘But this can quickly become uncontrolled in people with type 1 diabetes. Even a slight increase in the acidity of the blood could put you in a coma within hours, if left untreated.’

According to NHS guidance, a blood ketone level above 0.6mmol is a cause for concern. On day four of the challenge, participant Jon Furniss, an engineer who has type 1 diabetes, wrote on his Twitter feed that his ketones measured 5.8mmol – more than eight times the NHS’s safe limit.

Furniss added: ‘Ketones alone do not signal ketoacidosis, that happens after VERY high blood glucose. My BG [blood glucose, or blood sugar level] has been normal throughout.’

Yet a wealth of medical studies contradict this.

Low-carb diet club diabetes.co.uk says: ‘In most cases, ketoacidosis in people with diabetes will be accompanied by high sugar levels. However, ketoacidosis can also occur at low or normal blood glucose levels. This may occur if someone who is insulin dependent neither eats nor takes sufficient insulin for a prolonged period of time.’

And the risks of a fasting marathon don’t apply only to diabetics – it could harm healthy people, too.

‘Research shows that even two or three 60-minute sessions of exercise without eating before can dramatically suppress the immune system because of an increase in stress hormones, ‘ says McGregor.

Cracknell claims the body can fuel itself on its fat stores alone, and that the daily 260g of carbohydrates recommended by UK health guidelines has no scientific basis

Cracknell claims the body can fuel itself on its fat stores alone, and that the daily 260g of carbohydrates recommended by UK health guidelines has no scientific basis

Cracknell claims the body can fuel itself on its fat stores alone, and that the daily 260g of carbohydrates recommended by UK health guidelines has no scientific basis

‘Studies on marathon runners show that competitors are highly susceptible to bacterial and viral infections for a week afterwards, which isn’t ideal at this current time. Even after five days of fasting while exercising there’s likely to be a dramatic drop in sex hormones, affecting everything from cognitive function to bone health to fertility.’

Professor Mike Gleeson, an expert in exercise physiology at Loughborough University, has serious concerns. ‘It doesn’t take long to become deficient in minerals and vitamins we don’t store well, including Vitamins C and B – essential for healthy blood cells and providing organs and muscle with enough energy to function. You’ll quickly become deficient in protein, so you’re likely to lose quite a bit of muscle.’

And rather than improving athletic performance, as suggested by some of Cracknell’s supporters, running on empty will hinder it.

What to read, watch and do 

READ

The Courage To Care: A Call For Compassion

Christie Watson, a former nurse who returned to work in critical care during the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, shares inspirational stories about those who work on hospital wards and the bravery of the patients and families they care for.

Vintage Publishing, £16.99

The Courage To Care: A Call For Compassion

The Courage To Care: A Call For Compassion

The Courage To Care: A Call For Compassion

WATCH

Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia

Former international cricket star Freddie Flintoff opens up about his eating disorder of 20 years. He meets other sufferers and specialists across the UK in an effort to find out more.

Tomorrow, 9pm, BBC1

DO

The Oxford Science + Ideas Festival

A month-long series of live experiments, talks and virtual activities for children and adults, covering everything from vaccines and new drugs to climate science and quantum physics.

October 1 to 31

if-oxford.com/events

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‘It’s hard for the body to use fat for energy, and when it can’t be broken down quickly enough, the body will begin to break down muscle, increasing the risk of strains,’ says McGregor. ‘Most people would eventually just hit a wall.’

And this, say the experts, is why carbohydrates are crucial. ‘When we consume carbs, they’re broken down into glucose and absorbed into cells where it’s used for energy. But this process also triggers the release of chemicals that help break down fat, which can then also be used as fuel,’ says Dr Yeo.

Tellingly, on day two, more than 20 miles into the challenge, Steve Bennett reported feeling ‘thoroughly miserable’ and ‘void of energy’. He said: ‘I feel lousy and miserable. My feet ache, my knees ache, my toes ache – and we still have three days to go.’

According to McGregor, carbohydrates are the body’s ‘preferred currency for energy’. ‘The body is very efficient at converting glucose to energy,’ she says. ‘And muscles will only get bigger and stronger if there are sufficient carb stores in the system.’

So if you wish to partake in an extreme physical challenge, such as a 100-mile run, what should you eat? At least two pasta bowls’ worth of carbohydrates daily, and roughly three chicken breasts’ worth of protein, say the experts.

Renee McGregor adds: ‘Beforehand, eat something slow-releasing, such as porridge or toast with a banana and peanut butter, and then stop every couple of hours to fuel again on something similar. Trying to eat less isn’t just pointless, it’s harmful.’

Did Cracknell prove what he set out to prove? On Thursday, Bennett reported that all the participants had completed the challenge, then had a ‘nice meal’. ‘All our markers were stable throughout, and all finished with high energy and spirits,’ he added.

It’s been hinted a documentary is planned that will give full details. Dr Yeo is sceptical anything could be gained from such an experiment, saying: ‘It doesn’t prove anything. It’s an entirely pointless exercise.’

And McGregor has a stark warning for anyone considering giving it a go: ‘I wouldn’t recommend anyone tries this, especially those with type 1 diabetes. It’s too dangerous.’

In a statement, James Cracknell said that all eight participants completed the challenge, with ‘no issues whatsoever’ – and insisted it was ‘thoroughly researched’ and carried out after consultation with experts. He said: ‘The project was set up to explore the potential of fat-burning metabolism in diabetes and sport by taking it to extremes.

‘Renee McGregor is quite right, this should not be repeated by people with type 1 diabetes – it was never the point of this project to be a recommendation. No type 1 diabetics should undertake changes to their management without medical consultation. and they should never stop taking insulin as this can be fatal.’

He added: ‘The project was not reckless or stupid but a serious scientific endeavour.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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BARNEY CALMAN investigates the appalling tragedy of the elderly kept apart from their loved ones

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barney calman investigates the appalling tragedy of the elderly kept apart from their loved ones

The woman on the phone is in pieces. ‘I’ve been in lockdown in my care home since March, and they won’t release me,’ she sobs. ‘My husband lives here, too, but they won’t let me see him. He’s in another room, on a different floor. He is 100 and he has dementia. He needs me. It’s wicked. Just wicked.’

Her name is Margaret and she is almost 92 years old. She has lived through a world war. She can remember times when scarlet fever, typhoid and polio killed thousands every year.

‘But this is so much worse, because of what they’re doing to us,’ she continues.

Before the pandemic struck and residents were confined to the home, she’d visit the local gym twice a week – and even made the local news for doing so.

After we speak, I find the interview. In it, she’s quoted saying: ‘My advice to you all, whatever age you are, is to keep active. Avoid getting bored and fill your lives with things that can keep your mind and body healthy. You are never too old.’

A nurse in PPE speaks to a resident at the Wren Hall care home in Nottingham

A nurse in PPE speaks to a resident at the Wren Hall care home in Nottingham

A nurse in PPE speaks to a resident at the Wren Hall care home in Nottingham 

The Margaret I spoke to couldn’t have been more different. Crushed. Angry. Afraid.

Staying fit also helped her control the symptoms of chronic lung disease. Having been cooped up since March, her condition has now worsened considerably.

She told me: ‘They say I’m being shielded for my health but no one has asked us, and they don’t think about how what they’re doing is making us suffer.

‘I’m not scared of this virus. Not a bit. And I understand the risk. But my husband and I are in our last years and I am frightened I won’t see him again if this goes on for much longer.’

Over the past three weeks, The Mail on Sunday has reported on a new crisis engulfing Britain’s care homes: thousands of residents who have been kept in almost complete lockdown since March.

Visits are barred, or drastically limited. Families have been torn apart – blocked from seeing loved ones. Residents held captive in their rooms.

We’ve now received hundreds of emails, letters and calls like Margaret’s, each telling a similarly harrowing story.

A husband who once spent hours every evening with his wife, reduced to gazing at her through a locked glass window once a week for 15 minutes. Children, forced to watch as their once-happy parents wither and waste away, starved of any contact, comfort or love.

Parents seeing their young disabled children forcibly held down by care home staff, simply for trying to give their mum or dad a hug.

George had a visit from a loved one through a window at Digby Manor Residential Care Home, Birmingham

George had a visit from a loved one through a window at Digby Manor Residential Care Home, Birmingham

George had a visit from a loved one through a window at Digby Manor Residential Care Home, Birmingham

It goes on and on. A sea of misery. This newspaper raised the alarm earlier this month, as dementia charity John’s Campaign launched a legal bid to try to force the Department of Health and Social Care to revise guidance that it says has led to this situation.

The instructions, published by the Government in July, make limiting infections a priority above all else. But the lack of any other clear directive has led to many care homes implementing blanket bans. And these are, arguably, in breach of human rights.

Last week, the Government responded. Or rather, they emailed the John’s Campaign legal team, Leigh Day, to say they couldn’t respond yet because they were ‘extremely busy dealing with the pandemic’. But this is the pandemic.

Now the Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned that it, too, believes emergency corona legislation – passed without the scrutiny of Parliament – risks infringing human rights.

In its report, published last week, chairman Harriet Harman singled out the blanket bans on care home visits for being ‘unjustifiable’. Another word that came up a lot was ‘disproportionate’.

Having spoken to scores of families, I’m simply left wondering how, in a supposedly civilised society, is this happening at all. John’s Campaign lawyers Leigh Day say that if the Government doesn’t stop fobbing them off, and respond fully, at end of the month they will go to the High Court regardless. Because, make no mistake, this kind of treatment is also lethal.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia already kill hundreds of people each day – but numbers have risen by a disturbing 52 per cent since these measures began. And no one should be surprised when numbers continue to climb, as the detrimental effect of sensory deprivation, seclusion and long-term solitary confinement are well known.

Government decision-making is, they say, being led by the science. But clearly they missed the decades of research in to how such torturous conditions can cause rapid mental and physical deterioration even in young, fit people.

Dementia charity John’s Campaign launched a legal bid to try to force the Department of Health and Social Care to revise guidance that it says has led to this situation

Dementia charity John’s Campaign launched a legal bid to try to force the Department of Health and Social Care to revise guidance that it says has led to this situation

Dementia charity John’s Campaign launched a legal bid to try to force the Department of Health and Social Care to revise guidance that it says has led to this situation

Interestingly, many of these studies were done in high-security prisons. And that’s just how the current care home situation is described, over and over, in the emails and letters and calls: it’s like being in prison. Worse, in fact – as there is no end in sight. How can this be allowed to go on?

The situation for those in care, if anything, has worsened over the past weeks. With Covid cases rising across the country, local lockdowns mean further tightening of rules.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned people from going into each other’s homes, plunging elderly people still living at home into further isolation. And this is intended to go on for six months.

Of course, those most vulnerable to corona shouldn’t be exposed unnecessarily. But many will die as a direct result of these measures.

And it will be a horrible, drawn-out and lonely death.

One that leaves only lingering guilt for those left behind, who have told us time and time again that they will never forgive themselves for not fighting harder.

Of course they feel like that. But really, there was nothing they could have done.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has often spoken about the ‘protective ring’ he promised to throw around the elderly in care. Is this really what he meant?

It’s a complex situation, without doubt. But the risk posed by a handful of consistent visitors is low, so there must be another way.

Mr Hancock, who was too busy with the pandemic to respond to the care homes crisis did, last week, seem to have time to do an interview with Sky News on the sex lives of students.

But soon, with a looming judicial review, ever more angry MPs, and as calls for a full public inquiry continue to grow, he will have nowhere to hide.

Meanwhile, Margaret lives in terror of her eye check-up at the local hospital – because, when she gets back, she will be put into the ‘solitary confinement’ of quarantine for two weeks.

Locked in her room. Alone.

‘I don’t know how much longer I can go on,’ she says. ‘I just want my life back.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Pets can get Covid… but do you really need a virus mask for your dog?

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pets can get covid but do you really need a virus mask for your dog

When the Great Plague hit London in 1665, many believed it was the end of days. But for some it was an opportunity. Doctors ‘prescribed’ lucky charms, such as dead toads, to ward off the disease if worn around the neck. ‘Plague water’, apparently made from powdered unicorn horn, fetched a high price, while victims were directed to rub dead pigeons on their sores.

Today, with a global Covid death toll of about one million, it seems that once again there are those ready to cash in, with everything from vitamin supplements to face masks for pets, all said to protect us from the pandemic.

So are they brilliant breakthroughs… or useless junk? We asked experts for their verdict on six of the most eye-catching Covid-proofing products on the market.

FACEMASKS FOR DOGS

Yudote Dogs Face Mask, £8.99

THEY SAY

Masks for dogs exploded in popularity in China at the start of the pandemic, due to fears the virus could be spread to pets. Amazon sells a host of designs, and Yudote’s version supposedly protects against ‘smog, smoke, chemicals, mould, allergies and more’.

Masks for dogs exploded in popularity in China at the start of the pandemic, due to fears the virus could be spread to pets

Masks for dogs exploded in popularity in China at the start of the pandemic, due to fears the virus could be spread to pets

Masks for dogs exploded in popularity in China at the start of the pandemic, due to fears the virus could be spread to pets

EXPERT VERDICT

Can pets even catch coronavirus? The answer, according to Dorothee Bienzle, professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, is yes. ‘Our research has shown that cats can get infected and exhibit symptoms,’ she says. But cats are more likely to get sick than dogs, which have been less likely to show symptoms in studies.

Crucially, Prof Bienzle says it is still unknown whether pets can pass Covid to their owners – but it seems unlikely.

Even so, doggy face masks are not the solution. Prof Bienzle says: ‘The risk of a dog choking on the mask is a greater risk than the small chance it would protect them from Covid.’

CANNABIS OIL TO FIX YOUR COVID ANXIETY

Love Hemp 3% CBD Oil, £19.99, pictured below

THEY SAY

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of more than 100 chemicals in the cannabis plant. It has no narcotic effect, but advocates say it has medicinal benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to halting epileptic fits. Love Hemp boss Tony Calamita suggests customers are using such products to treat Covid-related stresses.

EXPERT VERDICT

Studies that have found psychological benefits of CBD involve medical-grade products with far higher concentrations of the substance than you’ll find on the high street, according to psychiatrist Amir Englund, from King’s College London.

A reduction in paranoid symptoms has been found in psychosis and schizophrenia patients – but only with substances made up of at least 98 per cent CBD. Love Hemp’s oil contains just three per cent. Also, there’s no good evidence that CBD oil eases anxiety or improves sleep.

Advocates of CBD say it has medicinal benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to halting epileptic fits

Advocates of CBD say it has medicinal benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to halting epileptic fits

Advocates of CBD say it has medicinal benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to halting epileptic fits

AN IMMUNITY DRIP

Gallery Aesthetics Immunity IV, from £40

THEY SAY

Vitamin drips – intravenous (IV) doses of Vitamins C, D, B12 and others – have soared in popularity over the past few years, with some online companies offering treatments at your office and even in shopping malls.

Facebook advertisements for Gallery Aesthetics’ Immunity IV drip say ‘With our current health crisis, you NEED to boost your immune system’, claiming the treatments are ‘a great way to help keep your immune system strong – IV vitamins are absorbed at 100 per cent’.

EXPERT VERDICT

Vitamin drips have been widely criticised, with NHS England Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis warning that they risk ‘significant damage to health’.

Doctors say the needles risk skin infections, bruising, pain and inflammation of the vein, if not delivered by a medical professional. And Marcela Fiuza, of the British Dietetic Association, says that while there’s some evidence that doses of Vitamin C and D can help ward off infections in those who are deficient, ‘there is no evidence to suggest high doses of either will protect against coronavirus’.

SKIN PRODUCTS TO CURE MASK ACNE

Dr Jart+ Cryo Rubber So Cool Duo, £19.68

THEY SAY

Korean skincare giant Dr Jart+ say ‘wearing protective face masks can lead to breakouts’. To combat this, it has launched a range of products, including cleansers, designed to combat what it calls ‘maskne’ – acne caused by masks.

EXPERT VERDICT

Wearing a mask could increase spots in some people, says dermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed. She says that hormones, genetics and bacteria that gets on to the skin are the main factors for acne, but adds: ‘Anything that generates friction, such as a mask, could cause more dirt and sweat to collect, increasing the risk of spots.’

So will Dr Jart+’s treatment tackle this? Perhaps, says Dr Ahmed. ‘It contains hyaluronic acid, which is highly moisturising, so it’ll prevent dry and flaky dead skin cells getting trapped – which can cause spots. Their mask is also very cold. This could destroy bacteria on the skin too.’

ANTI-VIRUS DIET

The 21-Day Immunity Plan, £8.42, pictured above

THEY SAY

There’s growing evidence that being overweight puts you at greater risk of coronavirus, and this book, by cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, claims to ‘rapidly improve your metabolic health… and likely reduce the risk of severe effects from Covid-19’.

There's growing evidence that being overweight puts you at greater risk of coronavirus, and this book, by cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, claims to 'rapidly improve your metabolic health… and likely reduce the risk of severe effects from Covid-19'

There's growing evidence that being overweight puts you at greater risk of coronavirus, and this book, by cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, claims to 'rapidly improve your metabolic health… and likely reduce the risk of severe effects from Covid-19'

There’s growing evidence that being overweight puts you at greater risk of coronavirus, and this book, by cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, claims to ‘rapidly improve your metabolic health… and likely reduce the risk of severe effects from Covid-19’

EXPERT VERDICT

The book contains healthy eating advice that may bring weight loss. But dietician Alexia Dempsey says the link between weight and Covid illness isn’t clear-cut, and adds: ‘There’s no proof that changing your diet for a short period will stop you getting seriously ill or make any difference to the immune system.’

THE VIRUS-FIGHTING DOOR HANDLE

Green Facilities Purehold Pull Handle Cover, £29.99

THEY SAY

Makers say this plastic and silver cover for door handles kills 99.9 per cent of bacteria on contact. While Covid-19 is a virus, not bacteria, the firm’s website implies the product can tackle it.

EXPERT VERDICT

Dr Tina Joshi, lecturer in molecular microbiology at Plymouth University, says that silver is antibacterial but is not known to be effective against viruses. She also says the handle would get less effective over time. ‘It might also lure people into a false sense of security, making them think there’s no need to wash their hands, which would be even more risky,’ she adds.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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