Can the new coronavirus pass from pregnant women to babies?

As the new coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes more of a concern for people around the world, fact and myth are increasingly being confused, particularly due to misinformation and unofficial advice being casually shared. Online and unmoderated parenting groups are rife with this misinformation, meaning that parents and prospective parents are unnecessarily overwhelmed trying to understand what is best for their families.
Cord blood collection company, Smart Cells, discusses and summarises the most up to date advice for pregnant women and their families with regard to the new coronavirus.
No official advice has yet been issued by the UK government for pregnant women and babies concerning coronavirus. A recent study, however, carried out in Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak, of pregnant women infected with the virus has confirmed that it may not spread during pregnancy.
The study is limited so far: they were able to observe 9 women between the ages of 26 and 40 who were infected with the new coronavirus. The research team led by Professor Zhang Yuanzhen of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China stated that all of the pregnant women had contracted pneumonia as a result of the viral infection and were in late stages of pregnancy. They have all recovered from the disease following treatment with antibiotics and oxygen. Six of these also received antiviral treatment.
This study tested the newborns and found no sign of COVID-19 infection. Six of the babies were tested for the virus through the umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid and placental samples, none of which were COVID-19 positive. These findings were published in online medical journal, The Lancet, on 12th February 2020.
The reason for this study being carried out was due to previous reports of a baby born to a woman infected with the coronavirus which did test positive for COVID-19 within 36 hours of birth, however it is not clear whether, in this case, this was contracted before or after birth.
The new study suggests that intrauterine infections are impossible, however the research team has emphasised that their findings were based on a small number of cases collected in a short period of time. In addition, these cases include only women who are in the third trimester and who delivered via caesarean section. As a result, it is still unclear how the infection affects mothers and babies in the first or second trimester and whether the infection can be passed from mother to child during vaginal childbirth.
Professor Zhang Yuanzhen said in the journal press release:
“It is important to note that this case lacks many important clinical details, so we cannot draw conclusions about whether intrauterine infection is possible from this case. Nevertheless, we should still continue to pay special attention to newborns born to pregnant women with COVID-19 pneumonia to help prevent infection in this group.”
In the coming days, guidance will be published by the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland for healthcare professionals on how best to handle coronavirus in pregnancy, including the effects on pregnant women and fetuses, as well as advice for those who have been exposed, travel advice and postnatal management.

Huijun Chen et al. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. The Lancet, 2020, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30360-3.
Jie Qiao. What are the risks of COVID-19 infection in pregnant women?. The Lancet, 2020, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30365-2.

For more information, please contact Smart Cells’ PR team Bronco on 01765 608530. 

About Smart Cells


Incorporated in July 2000, Smart Cells was the first cord blood stem cell storage company in the UK. Smart Cells were also the first UK private company to have successfully released stored cord blood units to transplant centres worldwide, to treat children with a range of illnesses. Smart Cells uses internationally recognised and proven technologies to ensure a high-quality world-class service.

Smart Cells have released more stem cells units for transplant use than any other private cord blood bank in the UK. Find out more about their transplants here

Smart Cells have a team of phlebotomists (blood collection specialists) operating on a 24/7 basis. This service has dedicated staff, emergency telephone numbers and call out personnel which save new parents the inconvenience of having to find, book and manage this service for themselves. They also have partner labs in Spain and South Africa as well as a disaster recovery unit with a PLC in the rare event of the company going bankrupt.

The UK lab is situated 3 miles from Heathrow Airport so that all international samples arrive as quickly as possible. Smart Cells have collected samples from over 70 countries and have offices in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and the Far East.

New BBI Scanner delivers step-change in Pressure Injury prevention

Prevention made real: BBI (Europe) Ltd’s innovative technology delivering 90% (weighted) reduction1 in Pressure lnjuries/Pressure Ulcers incidence in Acute Care Sites

BBI is a pioneer in biometric-sensor based medical devices, developing point of care diagnostic solutions for early identification and monitoring of chronic, preventable conditions. In the European market since 2014, BBI’s first product to market was the SEM Scanner, which is a hand-held, wireless device which objectively alerts clinicians to specific anatomical areas of a patient’s body at increased risk for developing pressure injuries/pressure ulcers (PI/PUs).2

BBI was founded in 2009 through a technology license from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a relentless commitment to using technology to improve the way that health care is delivered. 

In 2019, the SEM Scanner received recognition and accreditation for its innovative technology and evidence based results across a number of international territories:

  • November 2019: The 2019 Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers/Injuries: Clinical Practice Guideline recognised the critical significance of the SEM biomarker as PI/Us develop.3
  • May 2019: UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a Medtech innovation Briefing (MIB) on BBI’s SEM Scanner
  • January 2019: BBI began marketing the SEM Scanner in the USA having received U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) marketing authorisation for the SEM Scanner in December 2018; becoming the world’s first FDA-authorised PI/U risk assessment device.

In 2020, BBI is launching ProvizioTM SEM Scanner: the next generation SEM Scanner and the first hand-held, wireless PI/PU risk assessment device with data transfer capabilities. By digitally enhancing the existing care pathway across all healthcare settings, BBI is creating a new paradigm for PI/PU prevention.

The scale of the PI/PU problem in the UK

PI/PUs can unfortunately affect anyone who is immobile for a period of time, with the elderly and chronically ill being at most risk. Despite being mostly avoidable, PI/PUs are the most reported cause of harm in the NHS4; causing acute pain, extending stays in hospital and even leading to fatal complications in severe cases.5

Figures from BBI research estimates one out of every 22 people in England currently have an open wound on their skin caused by a PI/PU and 14 per cent of these expose the bone6

The care of PI/PUs places a significant drain on already stretched healthcare services in the UK. Research from NHS Improvement7 shows that treating pressure damage costs the NHS more than £3.8m per day, and that a huge 1,700-2,000 patients per month develop PI/PUs.

Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request from NHS Resolution (formerly the NHS Litigation Authority) reveal the increasing financial impact of pressure ulcer claims against NHS Trusts from the year 2014/15 to 2017/18 (latest figures available) 8:

  • 43% increase in the number of claims received for PI/PUs from 279 to 399

  • A total of £72,404,574 paid in claims during these four years and an increase of 53% from £13,618,669 (2014/15) to £20,828,669 (2017/18)

Through collaborating with medical institutions, BBI has demonstrated the SEM Scanner, when used as an adjunct to current standard of care, can identify increased risk of PI/PUs on the sacrum and heels five days*2 before it becomes visible on the skin surface. This is welcome for patients at risk, as not all incipient damage will progress to a PI/PU especially when anatomically-specific interventions are applied before damage manifests at the skin’s surface. The SEM Scanner has been proven to result in an 90% (weighted) reduction in hospital acquired PI/PUs in Acute Care sites whilst a 47% reduction was shown in a Hospice Care facility and lastly 27% reduction in Community Care.1

Commenting on these figures, Martin Burns, CEO, BBI said “We do not need to see increasing PI/PU numbers like this, especially when devices like the new ProvizioTM SEM Scanner can make prevention a reality. A growing number of Tissue Viability Nurses (TVNs) have developed their own updated care protocols and are using these collaboratively with BBI’s innovative technology to achieve reductions in PI/PUs incidence; on average achieving an 90% (weighted) reduction in Acute Care sites1. This updated approach is allowing these forward-thinking TVNs to keep their patients free from harm, freeing up NHS beds, using less nursing time to treat patients with PI/PUs , and are saving their facilities money.”

Used in UK

To date in the UK&I alone, BBI has collaborated with more than 46 different healthcare facilities who now have experience of using BBI’s SEM Scanner within a number of different settings including:

    • Medical

    • Orthopedic

    • Elderly Care

    • Intensive Care

    • Vascular Care

    • End Of Life Care

    • Surgical

    • Stroke / Rehabilitation

    • Renal

The SEM Scanner is CE Mark approved. It is currently in full commercial launch in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Australia and the USA.


Over the past three years, the evidence based results and innovative technology of the SEM Scanner has been recognised with it receiving seven major awards, including:

  • BioNow Product of the Year Award’ 2019
  • Patient Safety Innovation Award’ in the North-West Coast Research and Innovation Awards 2019
  • Most Innovative Product’ from the Journal of Wound Care awards 2018
  • Best Innovation in Medical Technology’ from the Health Service Journal awards 2018

In selecting the SEM Scanner from technologies across all health care fields, judges for Health Service Journal, which covers publicly-funded healthcare, said: “This winner was a genuine game changer. It uses physics to change the way this condition is identified and prevented through earlier treatment. This has a massive impact for patients across hospitals and the community and has applicability across all economies in the UK. It will save substantial amounts of money and time for the NHS.”

PI/PU Prevention Advisory Board (supported by an educational grant by BBI (Europe) Ltd – established 2017)

Its aim: To review and develop PI/PU prevention guidance and risk assessment tools in clinical practice, education and research. The aim being to improve clinical knowledge, patient experience and drive quality outcomes.

In 2019 the Advisory Board released a booklet ‘Implementing Early Identification of Increased Risk of Pressure Ulcer in Care Pathways’.

Its members:

  • Professor Karen Ousey, Director, Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention, University of Huddersfield
  • Jacqui Fletcher, Independent Healthcare Consultant, Jacqui Fletcher Limited
  • Jeanette Milne, Clinical Lead, Tissue Viability, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Glenn Smith, Nurse Prescriber, St Helens Medical Centre, Isle of Wight
  • Alison Schofield, Tissue Viability Service Lead & Clinical Nurse Specialist and Trust Quality Pressure Ulcer Prevention Clinical Lead, North Lincolnshire & Goole NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mark Collier, Independent Healthcare Consultant
  • Louise O’Connor, Lead Nurse, Tissue Viability, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust



  1. Wood Z., et al. (2020). Reducing Pressure Injury (PI) Incidence through the Introduction of Technology. Accepted for NPIAP, Houston, US
  2. Okonkwo H., et al. (2020). A blinded clinical study using a subepidermal moisture Biocapacitance measurement device for early detection of pressure injuries. Wound Repair and Regeneration 1-11
  3. European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel and Pan Pacific Pressure Injury Alliance. (2019). Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers/Injuries: Clinical Practice Guideline. The International Guideline. Emily Hasler Ed.). EPUAP/NPIAP/PPPIA
  4. NHS Safety Thermometer, NHS Digital. (2018)
  5. Deaths from selected causes, ONS (2015). Available at Accessed February 2018
  6. Number of PUs calculation: 4.4% (NHS Safety Thermometer prevalence Oct 2019) multiplied by 55,977,200 (
  7. NHS Improvement. (2018). Pressure ulcers: revised definition and measurement
  8. Information obtained under the FOI Act from NHS Resolution (3630). (2019)


About BBI: 

BBI (Bruin Biometrics), is a pioneer in modernising health care with biometric sensor technology for early identification and monitoring of chronic, preventable conditions in collaboration with clinicians. BBI has been the recipient of multiple awards with recognition from organisations such as Journal of Wound Care, Health Service Journal and Frost & Sullivan. BBI is based in Los Angeles and maintains a European office in Manchester, UK. 

For additional information, visit

Researchers to investigate method of growing new blood vessels

A new treatment for stimulating the growth of new blood vessels in the heart will be investigated by researchers at the University of Bristol thanks to funding of over £100,000 from national charity Heart Research UK.

A heart attack is caused by a blockage of one or more coronary arteries of the heart, which prevents blood and oxygen reaching the heart muscle.

Treatment for heart attacks include reopening the blocked coronary artery with stents or bypass surgery, though there are limitations with these treatments. Reopening coronary arteries is often insufficient to achieve a complete salvage of the heart, and the damage caused by a heart attack can lead to heart failure.

A potential new treatment is to increase the blood flow to damaged heart tissue by using drugs that encourage the body to grow new blood vessels.

The project will be led by Prof Paolo Madeddu, Chair of Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Bristol, who, along with his team, discovered that an excess of a protein called BACH1 can prevent blood vessel formation.

Prof Madeddu and his team hope to show that the use of BACH1 inhibitors can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. If successful, this would be the first step in developing them into drug treatments for heart disease. This would result in improved quality of life and reduced risk of developing heart failure.

Also, this treatment may benefit people suffering from other diseases where new vessel growth is needed, such as poor blood circulation in the legs, or damage to other organs, such as the kidney, brain and eyes.

Prof Madeddu said: “The use of BACH1 inhibitors is a very promising area of study that promises to have a huge impact on the way that we treat a wide range of conditions.

“If we are successful, the door will be opened for a whole new method of treating people who have suffered damage to their hearts. The ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels will allow us to drastically improve the quality of life of patients who may be at risk of heart failure.

“We’re very grateful to Heart Research UK for allowing us to undertake this research.”

Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK, said:We are delighted to be supporting the research of Prof Madeddu and his team, which has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of people developing heart failure after a heart attack.

“Our Translational Research Project Grants are all about bridging the gap between laboratory-based scientific research and patient care – they aim to bring the latest developments to patients as soon as possible.

 “The dedication we see from UK researchers is both encouraging and impressive and Heart Research UK is so proud to be part of it.”

The £107,726 Translational Research Project grant was awarded to the University of Bristol as part of Heart Research UK’s annual awards for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

Last year, Heart Research UK awarded more than £1.6 million in grants for medical research projects across the UK. To date, the charity has invested more than £25 million in medical research via its grants programme.

Project to predict cardiovascular events at University of Manchester receives Heart Research UK grant

A project at the University of Manchester aiming to develop a new tool for predicting the risk of a cardiovascular event or death in patients who have already suffered a heart attack has received a grant of almost £150,000 from national charity Heart Research UK.

In the UK, around 7 million people are living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is responsible for one in four deaths.

People with CVD are up to five times more likely to have a stroke, are six times more likely to die compared to those without, and up to half of them suffer a second heart attack.

There are currently no methods to predict the risk in this group of patients, so there is an urgent need for such tools to help assess the risk of future cardiovascular events and deaths in patients who already have CVD.

The project, which will be led by Prof Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University and Honorary Professor of Population Health at the University of Manchester, will use medical data to develop a tool that predicts the risk of a future cardiovascular event or death, in people who have already had a heart attack with the aim of improving care of patients with CVD.

The development of such a tool would improve the quality of care for patients with CVD by helping GPs to identify patients at higher risk of future cardiovascular events and death, meaning that lifestyle changes can be made or appropriate medical treatment given to reduce their risk.

Prof Mamas said: “This is an incredibly exciting project that we hope will be able to make a real difference to survivors of heart attacks. If we can accurately predict the likelihood of them suffering another cardiovascular event, then we can intervene early and hopefully reduce their risk.

“This will not only help to improve their quality of life, but could ensure that patients receive care tailored to their condition, increasing its effectiveness and helping to reduce the strain on our health service.”

Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK, said:We are delighted to be supporting the work of Prof Mamas and his team, which has the potential to have a big impact on how effective we can be at preventing people suffering from a cardiovascular event.

“Our Translational Research Project Grants are all about bridging the gap between laboratory-based scientific research and patient care – they aim to bring the latest developments to patients as soon as possible.

 “The dedication we see from UK researchers is both encouraging and impressive and we at Heart Research UK are proud to be part of it.”

The £147,816 Translational Research Project grant was awarded to the University of Manchester as part of Heart Research UK’s annual awards for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.


Last year, Heart Research UK awarded more than £1.6 million in grants for medical research projects across the UK. To date, the charity has invested more than £25 million in medical research via its grants programme.


Survey highlights growing concern for patient safety amongst theatre practitioners

  • 86% of theatre practitioners witnessed bullying within the perioperative environment
  • 39% of theatre practitioners asked to do things outside of their role scope
  • 86% of theatre practitioners concerned about patient safety due to bullying in the workplace

Poor mental health amongst nurses and the effect it has on patient care is one of the most talked-about issues in healthcare, but a recent survey carried out by the Association for Perioperative Practice has highlighted that these issues could extend far beyond nurses and in fact appear to be prevalent in an area where patient safety is equally as vital; the operating theatre.

According to the survey of just under 800 theatre practitioners, an alarming 86% feel concerned about staff wellbeing and the effect it is having on patient safety, with the results indicating that bullying is one of the major factors raising their concern.

Of those who took part, again 86% said they had witnessed bullying within the perioperative environment on more than one occasion, with 71% of these stating they had also been a victim of bullying themselves.

In addition, when asked whether they would feel able to speak up and report the instances of bullying towards them, whilst 73% said they felt they could, over a quarter of respondentssaid they felt they would be too scared to make a formal complaint.

Whilst bullying in the operating theatre was the biggest concern for respondents, the survey also indicated that an alarming number of theatre practitioners – 39% – are often asked to do things that fall outside of their scope of practice.

What’s more, 25% of these indicated that when asked to perform things they are not qualified to or allowed to do under their scope of practice, they felt too scared to say no.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Dawn Stott CEO of the association said: “We are all very aware of the concerns about poor mental health amongst perioperative professionals but it’s alarming to hear about the impact practitioners feel it’s having on patient safety.

“It’s more important than ever that we find ways to improve the negative culture within operating theatres and help practitioners maintain the high quality of patient care they expect and strive to provide.”

The independent, anonymous online survey was completed by 712 theatre practitioners from across the UK, all of who stated they were registered healthcare professionals and whose roles fell under the umbrella of operating department practitioners, theatre nurses, scrub nurses, anaesthetists or recovery nurses.

The results constitute phase one of AfPP’s survey analysis, which will be published in three phases as part of their Caring for those who Care campaign.

The campaign, which will look at how best to improve negative cultures within the operating theatre as well raising awareness of the impact on patient safety, will be a core focus for AfPP throughout 2020.

Charity Launches Nationwide Survey to Understand Challenges of Perioperative Workforce

The Association for Perioperative Practice has launched a nationwide survey in a bid to better understand the challenges faced by those working within the operating theatre and associated areas.

The online survey, which aims to identify the prevalence and effects of issues such as bullying, pressure and the level of support from senior members of the operating theatre, comprises a series of questions relating to best practice, culture, and behaviour within the perioperative environment.

Respondents will be asked to select whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the question they are presented with.

The Harrogate-based charity has purposely ensured responses will be kept completely anonymous so that theatre practitioners and students have a safe outlet where they can communicate their experiences and concerns honestly.

Dawn Stott, CEO of the association said: “We are continually looking for ways to support the perioperative workforce and understand how certain issues affect patient safety and outcomes.

“Whilst we know that working within the perioperative environment is an extremely rewarding profession, we’ve recognised that for some, it can bring challenges. Some of these challenges are perfectly normal and unpreventable, but some are considered unacceptable.

“We want to provide a safe space for people to communicate these challenges so that we can gain a better understanding of the severance and tailor the support we provide.”

As the leading membership organisation for the perioperative workforce, the Association for Perioperative Practice put patient and staff safety at the heart of all they do.

For almost 60 years they have worked to enhance skills and knowledge within operating departments, sterile services departments and associated areas.

Their mission is to improve standards of care and patient safety within the perioperative arena by determining correct standards and promoting best practice, facilitating education and practice development, providing professional support services for perioperative practitioners, providing a forum for partnership with industry and shaping healthcare policy in the UK.

They developed the survey following worldwide claims that the environment in which healthcare workers are working is rapidly declining, causing severe burnout and a variety of preventable mental health struggles.

The charity believes that by obtaining first-hand knowledge of the issues those working in the theatre environment are facing, they can further enhance their support to members and the wider perioperative community.

Dawn added:  “As an organisation, we take patient outcomes and the wellbeing of all perioperative practitioners very seriously.

“What we want to do is obtain an accurate understanding of the issues they may be facing, but also understand the percentage of people they affect so that we can campaign for change.

“There’s a lot of negativity in the media at the moment, so we also hope to highlight that in some perioperative environments, many healthcare workers have very positive experiences.

“By also communicating the positives, we hope to raise awareness that a perioperative career can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable.”

Data collected from the survey will be analysed internally and used to drive a nine-month campaign focusing specifically on the importance of creating a positive perioperative environment and how this aids best practice, correct standards of surgery and leads to better patient outcomes.

Those working within the perioperative environment and associated areas are invited to provide their honest thoughts and feedback via the online survey here, throughout the whole of December.


Anaphylaxis charity offers guidance for families and young people living with allergies

Since the Anaphylaxis Campaign was founded 25 years ago hospital admissions for children and young people has increased sharply with latest figures from NHS Digital showing a 70% rise in children under 18 in the last five years.

Although there is no single cause for the rising prevalence of allergy and numerous possible reasons are still under debate, it’s important that the right support and information is available to those affected.

Living with the risk of anaphylaxis can be stressful for both parent and child and we receive a high number of calls to our National Helpline concerning children and young people, including questions on bullying and the psychological impact of having an allergy. We’ve created educational and supportive initiatives to make sure young people are not only safe but also feel supported throughout their development.

In schools, we believe staff should be regularly trained on how to deal with allergies and anaphylaxis. Medications such as auto adrenaline injectors (AAIs) should always be available and pupils should not be excluded from activities because of their allergies.

We offer free primary and secondary resources as part of our Making Schools Safer Project which include lesson plans and assembly presentations, and this year the number of downloads of these resources has increased by over half (52%) showing a growing interest in allergy awareness.

Parents and carers of young children, as well as school staff, can also take our free 45-minute online AllergyWise courses to gain a greater understanding of what anaphylaxis is and how to respond in an emergency situation.

16 to 25 year olds are a high risk group, disproportionately more prone to die from an allergic reaction than other age groups.  As they reach adulthood, they may engage in more risk taking behaviour including experimenting with new foods, travelling alone or with friends, reluctance to share information and resistance to carrying AAIs on them at all times.

Some young people can often feel embarrassed when speaking about their allergy, and working with the Food Standards Agency and Allergy UK, the #EasytoASK campaign aims to empower young people, make them aware of their right to safe food, and raise awareness amongst peers and food businesses.

University will often be the first-time they have to manage their allergies on their own and many face challenges living in shared accommodation and going on nights out. We provide more information on these subjects on our website.

In 2020, we’re planning to host our first Teen Away Days aimed at 11 to 17-year olds who have severe allergies. These events are designed to encourage individuals to share their experiences in a supportive environment and build confidence within their peer group.

Our Chief Executive Lynne Regent said:

“As young people are more at risk it’s very important that those who work closely or spend time with children and young people are knowledgeable on what to do in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

“It’s also not just about creating a safer environment, but ensuring young people aren’t excluded and that they feel supported and confident to discuss their allergies.”

The Anaphylaxis Campaign is the only UK charity operating solely for the people at risk from severe allergic reactions If you have an allergy or care for someone who does or if you work in education, healthcare or the food industry and need information or support on allergies, you contact our helpline team by calling 01252 542029 or email

Technology social enterprise Appt Health wins Innovate UK funding to improve population health

The UK government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, has awarded a promising technology start-up funding to ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while reducing health inequalities.

Appt Health plans to take on this Grand Challenge mission by working with care providers to increase the uptake of screening programmes in the UK, while ensuring their methods are accessible to all.

Currently, England has 11 screening programmes delivered by primary care providers. These range from bowel and cervical cancer screening to heart health risk factor identification programmes.

As it stands, screening rates are well below the national targets that were set out for them. For example, the NHS Health Check, which is designed to spot the early signs of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, has seen just 35% of those eligible attending an appointment.

Research suggests that inaccessible appointments, lack of understanding of their purpose, and difficulty for GP practice staff to efficiently invite patients is part of the underlying problem resulting in low uptake rates.

Working closely with healthcare commissioners and front-line care providers, Appt Health is in the process of building a software solution to the problem. They will create a platform that integrates into GP practice administration systems, automatically messaging eligible patients with a series of invitations designed to engage the public in their healthcare journey.

The social enterprise is currently utilising the Innovate UK funding to conduct an at-scale randomised control trial in 18 GP practices in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, one of the UKs most deprived regions.

The trial will provide evidence that Appt can deliver on their goal of consistently achieving 65% uptake of the NHS Health Check, with significantly less effort from GP practice staff.

The Appt Health team has provided us with an exclusive update on the first round of invitations sent to patients, which was an optimised SMS message that allowed patients to choose and book a suitable time for themselves by simply responding to the SMS.

The first SMS invitation achieved a 45% booking rate, meaning more than 600 people in Barking & Dagenham who received one of Appt’s special text messages booked themselves into an NHS Health Check appointment.

The full trial will be completed by April 2020, with a full report due to be released by the social enterprise and Barking and Dagenham local authority soon afterwards.

A source of inspiration for amputees!

Here’s a blog post by Lasse with the purpose of giving a source of inspiration that can be shared amongst open-minded people that might need a push in the right direction and a tiny bit of motivation.

I started this since I got contacted by people in different life situations with the question, “how do you do it (sports, yoga, running, etc.) in your situation?”. This made me write a book, “Landing on my feet,” focusing primarily on new amputees, which then lead me to start the Instagram with the same name full of videos, pictures, and how-to’s, which you can see here. I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the things I share, and it’s almost turning into a small community of both extreme sports amputees, normal amputees, normal people, and athletes as well.

Today Lasse is in a position where he can continually push boundaries and mindset to live with fewer and fewer limitations. As an example, he practices yoga, running, power tumbling/gymnastics, CrossFit, biking, and rowing every week, which he shares on his Instagram to inspire others.

If you have any feedback or ideas for collaboration, he would love to hear back from you! So feel free to check out both the Instagram and the book, and share it if you find it relevant 🙂


Lack of funding leads to people with Severe Mental illness struggling to access Support

It has been estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year with the British Medical association describing mental illness as “the single largest burden of disease in the UK.” Despite government pledges to put mental health on equal footing with physical health it has been shown that mental health services are understaffed and underfunded. As a result, it has been shown that people with Severe Mental Illnesses are struggling to access treatment for their conditions.

Parity of Esteem

The Health and Social care act of 2012 created a legal responsibility for there to be a ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical conditions. This means that mental health would be valued as much as physical health. However, despite mental health problems accounting for 23% of the burden of disease in the UK it was found by the mental health dashboard that CCGs only spent 13% of funding on mental health services.

Reducing the Stigma surrounding Mental Health

In recent years there has been a reduction of the stigma surrounding mental health among the general public moreover not only are people more accepting of someone with a mental health condition, a survey into British social attitudes towards mental health found that people spend longer thinking about their own mental health and are more willing to seek help for problems they experience with their mental health. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) state

As we raise awareness, more people rightly ask for professional support’.

However, as mental health becomes increasingly destigmatised it is becoming clearer that there is a lack of resources for the amount and complexity of conditions people seeking support from mental health services require. One of the key reasons for this is that the NHS is significantly underfunded. Although the mental health services are currently receiving unprecedented funding and support from the government It has been found that if the NHS increased the proportion of people with mental health conditions it treats to 70% by 2033 then spending would have to increase by £27 billion.

Short Staffed

Many mental health roles are being left unfulfilled with it being found that 1 in 10 consultant psychiatrists roles are vacant and although there has been an increase in the number of people being able to access talk therapies such as CBT there are not enough people in specialist positions that can provide support for people with more severe mental health illnesses. As these people have more complex mental health needs they often have to wait the longest to receive help.

Waiting Times

It has been shown that in recent years increased funding has allowed 89% of people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety to access psychological therapy within six weeks of referral. However, the British Medical Association has found that people with more severe mental health illnesses had to wait longer with some people having to wait up to two years for treatment. The British medical society says

Without the right therapy, some patients deteriorate and become more vulnerable, being passed from GP surgeries to emergency departments unable to find the most appropriate treatment for their illness.”

Unfortunately, it is often the case that the health of people with a mental health condition deteriorates before they are able to receive help. The charity young minds recently found that three quarters of young people’s health deteriorated while waiting for treatment. Indeed, in a survey of mental health surveys users by the royal college of psychiatrists and the mental health charity rethink found that one user was told that they would have to wait six months before to access child and adolescence mental health services unless they went to A & E the user commented:

you shouldn’t be told [that]. Why should I have to reach that point?”

Preventing the worsening of mental health conditions is particularly important in light of evidence that suggests early intervention is the best way of reducing the severity of the condition for example with schizophrenia it has been suggested that an effective way of preventing someone with schizophrenia having later psychotic episodes is to prevent the first psychotic episode from occurring. However less than 0.1% of total annual NHS budget is spent on prevention and it has been found that when people with severe mental health illnesses first went to their GPs they were unable to access treatment because although they were showing some symptoms of a condition they did not yet meet the criteria for a mental health condition.

There is also the problem of people having to travel far from their home to receive treatment with it being found that at end of June 2018, there were 645 inappropriate out-of-area bed placements. this can delay recovery and make it more difficult for families, carers and friends to visit. Yet again the people most affected by this are those with more severe mental health illnesses. All this evidence shows that although there has been significant attention and funding directed towards mental health more needs to be done so that people with severe mental illnesses can access support.

Article by University of Birmingham intern Natasha Osborn Patel