NHS told to find £1.5bn of savings to fund staff pay rise: Track and Trace underspends by £8.7bn

Will the Treasury insist that the Track and Trace £8.7bn underspend is returned to them or could it be used to pay for the pay rise (many times over)? See NAO report for details of the underpend. – Owl

NHS told to find £1.5bn of savings to fund staff pay rise, despite fears of service cuts

www.independent.co.uk

The NHS has been told to find £1.5bn of savings from within existing budgets to fund the pay rise for staff announced on Wednesday, in a move branded “brutally unfair” by nurses’ representatives.

The chaotic announcement of the 3 per cent boost for 1 million workers prompted suspicions of a battle between chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid over who pays the bill.

In the Commons, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded a commitment that the £1.5bn cost would not mean “cuts” to wider health or care spending.

But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said, shortly afterwards: “The pay uplift will be funded from within the NHS budget.”

He claimed the move would “not impact funding already earmarked for the NHS frontline”, but it was unclear how that could be avoided if savings are required.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “This pay announcement is fast unravelling. Not only is the figure scandalously low but Downing Street has been forced to admit that the money isn’t new either.

“It is brutally unfair to force the NHS to do yet more with the same money. Ministers must be honest about the impact this would have on patient care.

“The government is failing to give the NHS the money it truly needs. This current game of smoke and mirrors is dangerous for patients and nursing staff who care for them.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was clear that Mr Javid was “refusing to back up the pay settlement with the cash needed, instead expecting overstretched hospitals to find this extra money” at a time of summer crisis due to Covid and a backlog of cancelled operations.

“The NHS needs a fully funded plan to provide quality care, and bring ballooning waiting lists down,” said Mr Ashworth. “Alongside this, ministers must provide the NHS with the extra investment required to give staff a pay rise.”

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) branded the government “callous and unjust”, as it emerged that tens of thousands of NHS doctors are being excluded from the 3 per cent hike despite advice from an independent pay review body that they should be included.

Mr Hunt, now the chair of the Commons health committee, also warned against diverting cash from the care sector, fearing it “once again loses out because of pressures in the NHS”.

Nadhim Zahawi also came under fire over the plan for “vaccine passports” to enter crowded venues, starting with nightclubs from the end of September.

The minister triggered suspicions that the government might swerve a vote it is in danger of losing, by saying: “We reserve the right to mandate its use in the future.”

But, under pressure from MPs on all sides demanding a vote first, Mr Zahawi conceded parliament would have an “appropriate say on the matter”.

The minister also lifted the lid on other “crowded venues” that might be included, if the crackdown goes ahead as threatened.

He namechecked “music venues”, “business events and festivals” and “spectator sport events” – with the Premier League already known to be considering the move.

“We’ve seen in other countries, whether it’s in Holland or in Italy, the opening of nightclubs and then having to reverse that decision rapidly,” he told MPs.

“So what we’re attempting to do – the reason we have the Covid vaccination pass in place – is to work with industry in this period, whilst we give people over the age of 18 the chance to become double-vaccinated.”

However, many believe it is a phantom threat, to browbeat young people to accept vaccination by September – as Mr Johnson allegedly acknowledged in a private briefing with Tory MPs

Mr Zahawi also came under fierce pressure to bring forward the 16 August date for exempting the double vaccinated from isolation rules, if identified as a close contact of a Covid case.

Mr Hunt urged the government to “listen to public opinion and scrap the 10-day isolation requirement immediately”, provided those people tested negative for Covid with a lab test.

“Otherwise we risk losing social consent for this very, very important weapon against the virus,” he warned Mr Zahawi.

But the minister said accelerating the change would “run the risk of infection rates running away with us”, over the next few weeks.

COVID estimates updated as more people are being vaccinated

In the July 19th post: “Were we turning a corner when Boris hit the gas?” Owl wondered whether Tim Spector’s study had identified a turning point, as it has done before, or whether in this case it reflected a sampling problem.

It turns out to have been a sampling problem.

Estimates 23 July

covid.joinzoe.com

To make sure that our figures are as robust as possible, we’ve updated the way we calculate our COVID incidence figures. This means that you’ll see the numbers change.

Why is ZOE updating its COVID incidence figures ?

Many people rely on information from the ZOE COVID Study to understand what’s going on with COVID in the UK, but the situation is changing fast as the Delta variant spreads and more people get vaccinated. 

We’re constantly monitoring our data and reviewing our figures. When we looked closer at how the pandemic and people’s behaviour were influencing our estimate of new cases, we decided it was the right time to adjust our methodology.

As our ZOE app contributors and the wider population continue to take full advantage of the vaccine rollout to help tackle the pandemic, we’ve seen the number of unvaccinated people in our dataset steadily decline. 

After thorough testing, we’ve developed an updated calculation method that will allow us to continue reporting on incidence figures in the UK with confidence. 

As one of the UK’s leading studies into COVID-19, it’s our responsibility to constantly review how our survey works to keep pace with the changing situation on the ground. 

What does our updated methodology show?

Last week, we reported a plateau in new COVID cases based on our methods at the time, which relied on a small number of unvaccinated people in our dataset compared with the wider UK population. The number of daily new cases in the unvaccinated group appeared to be dropping which in turn resulted in our overall numbers trending down. This meant the figures were accurate to our dataset but didn’t represent the full picture in the UK.

Using our new methodology to adjust for this, the new estimates show that the number of daily cases in the UK is still on the rise in both vaccinated and unvaccinated groups (Graph 1).

Graph1 to show new figures for incidence in vaccinated and unvaccinated

As you see in the graph below, when we overlay our previous estimate (red line) and new adjusted estimate (orange line) in a single graph, we can see our updated methods align more closely to trends observed in government confirmed cases (blue line) (Graph 2).

Graph 2 to show new incidence figures, old incidence figures and official confirmed cases

Also, to help you see how the new incidence figures compare to the other COVID-19 surveillance studies, we’ve created the graph below, which shows us that the new figures are more closely aligned (Graph 3). 

Graph 3 to show new and old estimates compared to other COVID-19 surveillance studies

How has ZOE updated COVID incidence estimates?

The main adjustments we’ve made to our calculations are:

  • Changing the definition of ‘newly sick’ to include more people in our estimate calculations
  • Inclusion of Lateral Flow Test results
  • Adjustment by both age and vaccination status

Changing the definition of ‘newly sick’ 

We use the term ‘newly sick’ to identify app contributors who could potentially be newly infected with COVID-19 based on their symptoms. We’re now broadening the criteria that defines a contributor as ‘newly sick’ so that more people, including those who report less frequently, also fall into this category, increasing our sample size. We’re also including data reported on behalf of others e.g. parents reporting for their children. 

While a (now increased) sample of our data is used to calculate  incidence, all data collected by the ZOE COVID Study is used in the research conducted by King’s College London and has contributed to the important discoveries including: vaccine after effects, vaccine effectiveness and post-vaccination infection symptoms.

Including lateral flow tests as well as PCR tests

Historically, we only included the results of PCR tests in the survey as they were the first tests to be available and being used for the majority of testing. However, since Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) have been made widely available in the UK, we’ve seen huge numbers of LFTs logged in our app. As a result, we’re now including the results of LFTs in our incidence estimates. 

Currently, we see roughly half of all tests coming from PCR and the other half from LFTs. 

Adjusting by both age and vaccination status

Back in May, we began taking people’s vaccination status into account in our incidence estimates. With the addition of LFTs and the updated definition of ‘newly sick’ we have increased the sample size and we can now include adjustments based on age group. This accounts for our high proportion of older app contributors and vaccinations in our data set and helps control for the fact younger people are more likely to be unvaccinated and be infected in the current environment. 

What does this mean for the future? 

The ZOE COVID Study will soon reach a point where the numbers of unvaccinated people of all age groups are so low we will not be able to report COVID incidence estimates for unvaccinated people. Based on the current rates of vaccination uptake, this could happen in the next few weeks. This is something that all the COVID-19 surveillance surveys will be experiencing soon as well.

It’s something we anticipated, and we’ve arrived at this point sooner than the wider population because our loyal contributors have been so keen to get their vaccines and report them in the app!   

We’re keeping a close eye on our data as we move forward, and we’ll keep you updated when we make the decision that we are no longer able to estimate incidence in unvaccinated people.

We still need you to keep logging your health in the ZOE app!

The good news is, thanks to your amazing contributions, we have unrivalled data on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations in the real world. This means we’ll continue to be at the forefront of understanding how the pandemic is evolving in the UK and across the world. 

Together with our research colleagues at King’s College London we’re looking at:

  • COVID incidence and prevalence in vaccinated people 
  • Incidence and prevalence in different age groups of vaccinated people
  • Vaccine effectiveness against new variants 
  • The symptoms of COVID infection in vaccinated people 
  • The risk factors for getting COVID after vaccination
  • What protects vaccinated people from COVID?
  • Reinfection of vaccinated people

To help us answer these vital questions and more, all you need to do is use the ZOE COVID Study app and spend just one minute logging your health each day. Thank you.

Stay safe and keep logging.

High-risk loan needed for Cranbrook

The New Guard Still trying to sort out the legacy problems from this example of developer led town planning.

What chance Jenrick’s tree-lined streets, beautiful houses and open spaces – “Build back beautifully” – Owl

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

£40 million needed to build the town’s infrastructure

East Devon District Council’s strategic planning committee has agreed in principle that the local authority should borrow £40 million to help build Cranbrook’s infrastructure.

The money from the Public Works Loan Board, would be used as a ‘revolving’ infrastructure fund – essentially a loan that’s loaned out again. The council would lend the money to developers who might otherwise be put off by high-interest repayments if they sought loans independently. They would then invest in improving Cranbrook’s infrastructure as the town grows – whilst saving themselves around £8 million.

The motion was passed nine votes to three and will now go on to cabinet.

Council officers believe Cranbrook needs to quickly fund an additional primary school, and health and wellbeing provision as well as, potentially, a new special educational needs school and a highway upgrade works on London Road. 

The council would then recoup the cash on a ‘roof tax’ basis, in essence getting money back for every new home sold as a result of the infrastructure. If the revolving infrastructure fund is successful the council would recover all the money it loans.

Officers consider the loan high risk but nonetheless recommended it to the committee to be considered in principle. It is feared that the risk of delaying new homes in Cranbrook through lack of infrastructure is greater than the risk of the loan.

Councillor Jess Bailey (Independent, West Hill and Aylesbeare) expressed concerns, describing the size of the loan as “eye-watering” and questioning why the committee had not received more information on the finer details.

She said: “I understand that developers may not want to take the risks associated with those very large costs, but do then do the taxpayers want to?”

Cllr Bailey did not believe the plans were ready to pass onto the next stages of the decision-making process, adding: “It’s like the train’s left the station and is on the tracks and I don’t think it’s ready to leave the station.”

Cllr Mike Allen (Conservative, Honiton St. Michael’s) also took against the decision, describing the report as “inadequate.”

For those in favour, the decision was simple: the council has to take out the loan if it is to meet its housing obligations.

Councillor Mike Howe (Conservative, Clyst Valley) said: “We don’t have a choice. We have to do it, or Cranbrook will once again stall.”

“This is fundamental to Cranbrook’s expansion and without that Cranbrook expansion our five-year land supply fails – pure and simple.”

Council leader Paul Arnott (Democratic Alliance Group) said: ”We have a moral and ethical duty to the people of Cranbrook to sort this out”, noting that further details of how the loan would work would be compiled before the matter goes to cabinet.

Councillor Kevin Blakely, an Independent who represents Cranbrook on the council in a grouping called Cranbrook Voice, backed the proposals. He said: “I honestly feel, as Councillor Howe said, that we don’t have a choice in this.” He recognised the risk but said he believed the council would see its money returned.

A more detailed report on the revolving infrastructure fund will now go to the cabinet. Any final decision would then have to go through full council.

Cranbrook currently has approximately 2.350 homes and 5,500 residents. This number would grow by more than 4,000 homes bringing a total of around 18,000 people if plans set out in East Devon local plan and the draft Cranbrook plan go ahead.

The Cranbrook plan is being examined by an inspector appointed by the secretary of state.  A ruling is expected before the autumn.