Friday, January 15, 2021

Review of Children's Social Care

An independent review of children’s social care has been launched today, delivering on the Conservative manifesto promise to look at the care system in order to make sure children and young adults get the support they need.

  • We want to tackle the problems that mean the children’s social care system is not always delivering a better quality of life and improved outcomes for those it is designed to help, despite the best efforts of hardworking and dedicated social workers.
     
  • Led by Josh MacAlister – the founder of social work charity Frontline – our bold and wide-ranging review will aim to raise the bar for vulnerable children. The review will reshape how children interact with the care system and will address major challenges such as the increase in numbers of looked after children, the inconsistencies in children’s social care practice, outcomes across the country, and the failure of the system to provide enough stable homes for children.
     
  • We want to radically reform the system and support the most vulnerable children so they experience the benefits of a stable, loving home – improving their life prospects and ensuring they are not held back from the futures they deserve.

Further update: making sure children are properly fed

The Prime Minister has thanked Marcus Rashford and others for their letter regarding children’s food provision – and will respond shortly.

  • It is fantastic that these people are so passionate about children’s nutrition – and, as Marcus Rashford points out in his letter, we share the same goals in ensuring all children have access to enough healthy, good quality food. The Prime Minister spoke to Marcus Rashford earlier this week. He will consider the requests of the letter and respond in due course.
     
  • As children are learning from home, the government has taken steps to maintain support for those children who would’ve received free school meals through vouchers and food parcels. The government has also put in place the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, to help families pay for food and bills – including through the February half term – alongside the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which is now expanded to £220 million. 
     
  • This is in addition to £280 billion of economic support, and steps are also being made to deliver targeted help to the most vulnerable in society, for example through the Universal Credit uplift.

School meals

The Prime Minister and Education Secretary have made it clear that some of the images of food parcels circulated online this week are completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school lunches we expect for our children.

  • The government is committed to doing everything we can to ensure no child goes hungry during the pandemic, and the images of substandard food parcels we saw online earlier this week were completely unacceptable.
     
  • On Wednesday the Education Secretary met with leading food suppliers to make it clear in no uncertain terms that food parcels must meet the high standards we have set out in our guidance, so every child is in receipt of food which can be used to provide healthy lunches across the week.
     
  • We will continue to demand that the standards we have set out are adhered so every child eligible can benefit from a healthy and nutritious lunch while they are learning at home.

Protecting our NHS

On Wednesday the Prime Minister warned that our NHS is facing enormous pressures from the new variant of COVID-19. 

This week, tragically we recorded the highest daily reported number of fatalities from Covid-19 in our fight against this virus since it first appeared almost a year ago. So health experts and the government are once again urging the British people to stay at home and save lives.

  • Our NHS is facing perhaps the most dangerous situation anyone can remember, and as the number of cases continue to rise at alarming levels, many hospitals around the country will be in real difficulties soon if we do not stop the virus in its current trajectory. 
     
  • In this perilous stage of the pandemic, we must all play our part by following the rules to help save as many lives as possible. Although we are all tired of living under restrictions, now is the moment we must find our collective resolve to support our NHS through this critical moment by following one very clear message: stay at home, protect the NHS and saves lives. 
     
  • Unlike last Spring we now have a clear way out, but as we roll out the largest vaccination programme in our nation’s history, none of us can allow these hopes to make us complacent in our continued fight against the virus.


Quote of the day 15th January 2021

"Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible."

This quote is sometimes attributed to Einstein, as in the image below, and is also sometimes attributed to the graphic artist Maurice Escher. The "Quote Investigator" website argues that "The original version of the adage was written in Spanish by Miguel de Unamuno who should receive credit." 



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Helping victims of domestic abuse

From today victims of domestic abuse will be able to safely access vital support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK through a new codeword scheme – offering a vital lifeline to those who are not safe in their own home.

  • Home should always be a safe place, but in asking the public to once more stay at home in our efforts to tackle the virus, it it, sadly, necessary to take account of the impact these restrictions may have on the ability of those confined to living with an abuser to reach out for help. 
     
  • That is why the government has worked with independent pharmacies and Boots to introduce the Ask for ANI scheme, which enables those at risk or suffering from abuse to seek immediate support, discreetly and safely, by using the codeword they can speak to a trained pharmacy worker in a private space about accessing vital support or police help .The Prime Minister committed to launching this at our Hidden Harms summit last year. 
     
  • The government will continue to do everything possible to ensure vital services and support are available to those who cannot call home a safe place.

Reforming the Mental Health Act

 

  • This week the government published a White Paper on Reforming the Mental Health Act White Paper. 
  • This act dates back to the 1980s. I remember having to apply it when I acted as a manager for the purpose of Mental Health Act appeals back in that decade. It wasn't perfect then - it is seriously out of date now.
  • So I am very pleased to see that mental health laws will be brought into the 21st century by reforming the a law which is nearly 40 years old,  delivering on a key promise in the Conservative manifesto
  • The aim is to ensure our health service works for all and that we deliver parity between mental and physical health services. These reforms will rightly see people not just as patients, but as individuals, with rights, preferences, and expertise, who are able to rely on a system which supports them and only intervenes proportionately, and which has their health and wellbeing at the core of the new system. 
     
  • This is a significant moment in how we support those with serious mental health issues, which will give people more autonomy over their care and will tackle disparities for all who access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

These landmark reforms aim to end the stigma of mental illness once and for all:

Following Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018, the government is modernising our legislation and ensuring patients are put at the centre of decisions about their own care…

  • Patients will have more choice and control over their treatment – ensuring it works for them.  We will consult on a number of proposed changes including the introduction of ‘Advance Choice Documents’ – enabling people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital – and the right to choose a ‘Nominated Person’ to look after their interests if they aren’t able to do so themselves. We are also looking to expand the role of ‘Independent Mental Health Advocates’ to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the Act.
     
  • There will be parity between mental health and physical health services – so everyone has access to the best healthcare. The government is already investing over £400 million to eradicate dormitories in mental health facilities in response to Sir Simon’s recommendations and has made a commitment to level up access to mental health services and rebuild better than before, so people admitted to hospital can receive care in a modern and genuinely therapeutic environment. High impact changes are already under way – including vital investment in the mental health estate, and work to pilot and develop the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework.
     
  • These reforms will tackle disparities for all who access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Black people are over four times more likely to be detained under the Act and over ten times more likely to be subject to a Community Treatment Order – and we will tackle this disproportionate number by introducing a new national framework. This will be a practical tool which enables Mental Health Trusts to understand what steps it needs to take to improve Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities’ mental health outcomes. In addition, improved culturally appropriate advocacy services will be piloted where needed, so people from BAME backgrounds can be better supported by people who understand their needs.
     
  • WThere will change the way people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law. A mental health inpatient setting is often not the best place to meet their specific needs – and our proposals set out that neither learning disability nor autism should be considered a mental disorder for which someone can be detained for treatment under Section 3 of the Act.
     
  • We will improve the system for those with serious mental illnesses within the criminal justice system. Prisons should be places where offenders are punished and rehabilitated, not a holding pen for people whose primary issue is their mental health. We are therefore proposing a 28-day time limit to speed up the transfer of prisoners to hospital, ending unnecessary delays and ensuring they get the right treatment at the right time. We are also ending the outdated practice of using prisons as ‘places of safety’ for defendants with acute mental illness. Instead, judges will work with medical professionals to ensure defendants can always be taken directly to a healthcare setting from court.

Four principles will shape our approach to reforming legislation, policy and practice:

  • Choice and autonomy – ensuring service users’ views and choices are respected
  • Least restriction – ensuring the Act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way
  • Therapeutic benefit – ensuring patients are supported to get better, so they can be discharged from the Act
  • The person as an individual – ensuring patients are viewed and treated as rounded individuals

Positive third party comments:

  • The President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said our reforms will ‘ensure that patients are heard, their choices respected and that they are supported to get better in the least restrictive way’. Adrian James said: ‘The Royal College of Psychiatrists welcomes the publication of the White Paper. This is a great opportunity to modernise mental health law and improve safeguards and support for people in a mental health crisis. The reform of the Mental Health Act will help ensure that patients are heard, their choices respected and that they are supported to get better in the least restrictive way’.
  • The CEO of Rethink Mental Illness descried our proposals as ‘a hugely significant milestone in a long struggle for change’. Mark Winstanley said: ‘The publication of the White Paper to reform the Mental Health Act is a hugely significant milestone in a long struggle for change. Many people will take for granted their right to have choice and control over the medical treatment they receive. But thousands of people every year who are severely affected by mental illness and who are detained under the Act lose those rights and temporarily their liberty. The proposals set out in the White Paper, all informed by the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, give real hope for a more person-centred and principled Mental Health Act which better reflects how a modern society thinks about mental illness’.

Quote of the day 14th January 2020


 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Midweek music spot: J. S. Bach: Prelude & Fugue in e-minor BWV 548 a.k.a. "The Wedge"

Vaccination update over 2.8 million doses administered.

 OVER 2.8 MILLION vaccination doses have been administered so far across the United Kingdom

Britain has vaccinated more people than any other country in Europe, and we were the first country to approve both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Over the last seven days, we have delivered more than double the amount of vaccination doses than any other European country with the exception of Denmark.

Britain is in fourth place in the world for vaccinations per capita, behind only Israel, the UAE and Bahrain – a testament to British science.

We have carried out over 2.8 million vaccinations across the United Kingdom, and by the end of next week, hope to have set up 1,200 GP-led, pharmacy-led and hospital vaccine delivery sites, along with our 7 giant vaccination centres.

Our Vaccines Delivery Plan, the largest vaccination programme in British history, outlines how we will vaccinate tens of millions of people by spring – saving thousands of lives and providing a road map back to normal life.

Human rights in China

Yesterday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned China’s treatment of Uigher people in a statement setting out new measures to prevent UK companies benefiting from forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province in their supply chains.

  • The treatment of Uigher people in internment camps in China is horrific and we know from satellite imagery that the camps have factories inside them and that Uighers are routinely subject to forced labour.
     
  • These practices have no place in the twenty-first century, and we have been clear that UK companies should not profit from forced labour either directly or in their supply chains. That’s why we have issued new guidance to companies operating in the province, and will review export controls to Xinjiang – the province where thousands of Uighers are detained.
     
  • These new measures send a clear message that these violations of human rights are unacceptable, and will help safeguard UK businesses and public bodies from any involvement or linkage with them.

Playing our part in controlling the virus

Yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel underlined the need for people to follow the rules that are in place, and urged everyone to do their part to reduce transmission so we ease pressures on the NHS and save lives.

  • Millions of people across the UK are fully engaged in what is a collective effort to stop the spread of this awful disease, and our ability to get through the coming weeks and months depends on every one of us continuing to contribute by doing their part and following the rules.
     
  • For the small minority who aren’t playing their part, our selfless police – who are out there risking their own lives to keep all of us safe – will enforce the regulations and issue fines to those who think the rules don’t apply to them.
     
  • The government is working closely with councils and the police to enforce the rules, and will continue to back them to do so to protect the NHS and save lives.

Reforming Mental Health

Britain's mental health laws date from the 1980s and in many ways are out-of-date and not suited to modern British society,

So today, the government is announcing major reforms to the Mental Health Act to give individuals more control over the services they receive, delivering on the commitment in the Conservative manifesto to improve people’s experience under the Act and ensure their care and treatment works for them.

  • People too often feel disempowered and excluded from decisions about their care in a mental health crisis, which is why at the last election we promised to put patients at the centre of decisions that affect them, as part of our plan to drive parity between mental and physical health support.
     
  • Set out in a White Paper the government is publishing today; our reforms will lead to greater choice and autonomy for patients who experience a mental health crisis and ensure services better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and autism. They will also ensure the Act is used in the least restrictive way, so that patients get the care they need to recover.
     
  • This is a significant moment in how Britain will support those with serious mental health issues which will give patients more autonomy over their care and end the disparities in how people access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds, for good.

Free school meals must be of a high standard

The government is investigating reports of sub-standard free school meals packages being distributed to families across the country and have demanded urgent answers from the suppliers.

  • The images circulated on social media yesterday were completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school meals we expect to be sent to children.
     
  • Within hours of the images appearing, Ministers met with the supplier in question and made clear in no uncertain terms that their parcel was not good enough. They have rightly apologised and assured the Government that immediate action has been taken, and there will be no further deliveries of poor quality parcels.
     
  • As Trudy Harrison MP wrote yesterday in an FB post shared on this blog, we want to make sure free school meals are of a high standard. We will continue to demand that any caterers who are not meeting that high standard must urgently improve the quality of lunches they provide to eligible children – this will make sure every one of them receives a healthy, nutritious lunch that will give them the fuel they need to focus on learning at home.

Quote of the day 13th January 2021

"There is no time to be lost in rolling out vaccinations across Europe. Despite the impression of chaos in the United States during the twilight of the Trump administration, the Americans have vaccinated more of their population than any European country except the UK, which in turn has exceeded the entire EU.


But there is one nation that has put the whole world to shame. Israel has already vaccinated 21 per cent of its population, despite initial resistance from many people in both the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities. Rabbis and imams were enlisted to support the campaign and, once a critical mass had been inoculated, fear of being left out kicked in."


(Daniel Johnson, from a piece on The Article site, "While Europe argues about vaccination, Israel gets it done. And the UK?" which you can read in full here.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Trudy Harrison MP writes

A message from Trudy Harrison MP, on her Facebook page, to parents in Copeland about the meal parcels being sent to feed children who would normally get free school meals (where the school is not sending a voucher with the cash equivalent)


"There are some shocking images of crap beige food being posted, allegedly to replace the meal a child would receive from their school if in receipt of free school meals and not getting vouchers.  

If your hamper lacks the DfE’s clear requirements please contact me at Trudy.Harrison.mp@parliament.uk or call 01229 718333 and I’ll liaise with the school.  

Anything less is unacceptable to me and to DfE. 

Well done Andy Pratt Ltd. that’s what is expected."




More help for disadvantaged children to learn online

Today the government has announced the rollout of an additional 300,000 laptops and tablets, to help disadvantaged children and young people learn at home while we all play our part, staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

  • From the start of this pandemic, the government has worked to ensure that every child across our nation has had access to their education - despite the difficult situation we have all faced. Nobody wants any child, through background or circumstance, to be unable to access the high quality education they deserve. 
     
  • This announcement, backed by an addition £100 million, will help rollout 300,000 additional devices to disadvantaged children and young people who need the most help with access to technology through the pandemic. These additional laptops and tablets will bring the total provided through the Get Help with Technology Programme to 1.3 million devices – which we are already rolling out at speed with 100,000 devices delivered to schools last week and three-quarters of a million devices expected to be delivered by end of this week. 
     
  • These additional devices will help add to the significant support being made available to help schools deliver high-quality online learning for every child in this country. Combining this with the continued heroic work of schools and teachers, we can work together to ensure that no child’s education is hindered through background, location or circumstance.

Tuesday music spot: Christopher Tin - Sogno di Volare ("The Dream of Flight"), Civilisation VI Theme

Vaccination update

Last night, the government published the largest vaccination programme in British history, outlining how it is planned to vaccinate tens of millions of people by spring – saving thousands of lives and providing a road map back to normal life. 

But this does not mean we can be complacent and everyone must continue to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. 

  • Thanks to the hard work of our NHS and British science, we have started our country’s largest ever vaccination programme. The next few months will present a significant opportunity for us to turn the tide of battle against Covid – saving thousands of lives and starting us on the road to normality. 
     
  • Under our new programme, by the end of January, everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or have access to the vaccine via mobile teams. This programme will allow us to deliver at least two million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and with all residents and staff in over 10,000 care homes across the country will be offered a vaccine by the end of the month.
     
  • This will be made possible by rapidly expanding our programme including;

    • over 80,000 health professionals
       
    • over 200,000 additional members of the public expressing their interest in helping with the non-clinical elements of the rollout 
       
    • a total of 2,700 vaccine sites – including 206 hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and around 1,200 local vaccination sites - including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams
       
  • Through this vaccination programme, we can bring more reassurance and hope back to people’s lives after a difficult year. If we all continue to play our part, staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives while the vaccine is rolled out, we can slowly begin to return to the normality we are all looking forward to.


Quote of the day 12th January 2021

 "This weekend, and with the moral courage of Ecuador or Paraguay declaring war on Germany in February 1945, Twitter finally decided to ban Donald Trump."


(Ed West, one of many interesting or amusing points in an article on "Unherd" called "Can Twitter exist in a democracy" which asks whether social media platforms like Twitter are undermining the values essential to the democracies which spawned them.

You can read the full article here.)


Monday, January 11, 2021

A warning from the Chief Medical Officer

The Chief Medical Officer has warned that we are facing perhaps our most serious moment yet in the battle against coronavirus, and has called on the British public to play their part by continuing to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. 

  • Our NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember, and if the virus continues on its current trajectory, many hospitals will be in real difficulties very soon. NHS staff are doing their absolute best, but even they have limits.
     
  • The British public have made an extraordinary effort so far. Of course, we are all tired of restrictions, but we need to find the collective strength to get through the critical stage and save as many lives as we can. The message is clear: to drive the numbers down, we must stay at home as much as possible. Every unnecessary interaction we have could be the link in a chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end.
     
  • These restrictions will not last forever. Vaccines and new treatments offer us hope and a clear way out, but we cannot afford to let our justified optimism for the future come at the expense of difficult action today. By following the rules, we will save lives and help normal life return more swiftly.

New vaccination Centres open

Today the first seven NHS Vaccination Centres opened around the country, helping to accelerate the rollout of our vaccine programme so we can protect the most vulnerable and save lives.

  • Through the vaccine delivery plan, some 2.6 million doses of  Covid-19 vaccine have been given to about 2.3 million people. The government and NHS are working flat out to ramp up this rollout to protect the most vulnerable from this virus. 
     
  • That is why today seven large scale NHS Vaccination Centres opened. These will be able to deliver thousands of the life-saving jabs each week, and will take the total number of vaccination sites across the country to around 1,200, including GP-led and hospital services, by the end of this week.
     
  • These new sites will help us to deliver vaccines to everyone in the top four priority cohorts by the middle of February, saving thousands of lives and helping us start to return to normal in the future.

The Covid-19 UK vaccines delivery plan

Today the government published the Covid-19 UK Vaccines Delivery Plan, setting out how the biggest vaccination programme in British history will be implemented, to protect all those who need it most as quickly as possible.

  • The delivery of a safe, effective vaccine is the best way to protect the most vulnerable and save thousands of lives – and it is important to reassure the British people that the NHS is fully prepared to deliver this vaccine over the weeks and months ahead.
     
  • That is why later today the government is publishing a Vaccines Delivery Plan, which will set out ambitions for the coming weeks and months to expand the vaccination programme as fast as possible. The plan also outlines the time, effort and resources that have gone and will go into ensuring the British people are protected from the scourge of this virus.
     
  • This battle plan will be the keystone of our exit out of the pandemic, but only if we all continue to play our part by staying at home, following the rules and keeping hands, face, space at the forefront of our minds when out and about.



Monday music spot: Bach's variations on "Wake, O Wake"

An old favourite: This cantata is Johann Sebastian Bach's variations on the theme of the hymn tune "Wachet Auf" which is German for "Wake, O wake." 

The best known variation, which occurs about two thirds of the way through, is the one which was used by Lloyds Bank for their "black horse" series of TV advert.

My personal favourite one is the first one.

Both these two variations are often played on their own. The first one is known in my family as "Not the black horse because, when asking my wife to that piece on a CD player, (for example when we were on a journey somewhere and it was best to keep my own eyes and hands on the road and the wheel respectively,) I would ask her to put on the "Not the black horse" piece to distinguish the first variation from the one Lloyds Bank used in their advertising.

Obviously this performance of the full set includes both the "Not the black horse" variation, and later the "black horse" one.

Protecting Renters and Rough Sleepers

Last week, the Housing Secretary announced extra support to help protect renters as well as those rough sleeping from the effects of Covid-19.

  • The winter months are especially difficult for those sleeping rough, and with this new variant of the virus spreading more rapidly across the country, we must do all we can to protect those sleeping rough at this dangerous moment in our fight against coronavirus. 
     
  • Backed by an additional £10 million in funding, all councils in England will be redoubling their efforts to help accommodate those currently sleeping rough wherever possible, and ensure they are registered with a GP. The government has also extended the ban on bailiff evictions for all but the most egregious cases for at least 6 weeks.
      
  • These measures will help save lives by protecting those who are sleeping rough and ensuring that renters aren’t evicted while we all continue to play our part by staying at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.

Quote of the day 11th January 2021

"Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all stay home, protect the NHS and save lives."

(Professor Chris Whitty, government Chief Medical Officer, speaking as part of the "Act like you have the virus" government information campaign)




Sunday, January 10, 2021

Community Testing

From today the government is expanding asymptomatic community testing to all local authorities across England, enabling them to target test all those who are unable to work from home during national lockdown. 

  • With roughly a third of people who have coronavirus showing no symptoms, targeted asymptomatic transmission testing is one of the most highly effective weapons we have in breaking the chains of transmission. We know that rapid, regular testing led at a local level can have a significant impact in identifying positive cases quickly. 
     
  • That is why the government is now expanding this offer to every local authority across England to encourage them to target test workers who cannot work from home. The government is asking employers to work with us to scale up workforce testing - helping us build on the millions of asymptomatic critical workers who are being tested every week such as NHS patient facing staff, care home staff and our plans for rapid testing of staff and students in schools and colleges across the country. 
     
  • It is vital that we all do everything we can to keep the virus under control, and while the single most important action we can all take is to stay at home, expanding our efforts of identifying and isolating every positive case will help us stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

Latest statement from the Chief Medical Officer

In a statement today the Chief Medical Officer has warned that we are facing perhaps our most serious moment yet in the battle against coronavirus, and called on the British public to play their part by continuing to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. 

  • Our NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember, and if the virus continues on its current trajectory, many hospitals will be in real difficulties very soon. NHS staff are doing their absolute best but even they have limits. 
     
  • The British public have made an extraordinary effort so far. Of course, we are all tired of restrictions, but we need to find the collective strength to get through the critical stage and save as many lives as we can. Our message is clear: to drive the numbers down, we must stay home. Every unnecessary interaction you have could be the link in a chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end. 
     
  • These restrictions will not last forever. Vaccines and new treatments offer us hope and a clear way out, but we cannot afford to let our justified optimism for the future come at the expense of difficult action today. By following the rules, we will save lives and help normal life return more swiftly. 


Moderna CIVD-19 vaccine becomes third approved vaccine in the UK

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna has this week been given regulatory approval for supply by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 

This follows a thorough and rigorous assessment by the MHRA’s teams of scientists, including advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines, which reviewed in depth all the data to ensure this vaccine meets the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

This is the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use by the MHRA and is the second mRNA vaccine (the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine approved in December 2020 is also an mRNA vaccine).

MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine described the approval as:


"more encouraging news to the public and the healthcare sector. Having a third COVID-19 vaccine approved for supply following a robust and thorough assessment of all the available data is an important goal to have achieved and I am proud that the agency has helped to make this a reality.

The progress we are now making for vaccines on the regulatory front, whilst not cutting any corners, is helping in our global fight against this disease and ultimately helping to save lives. I want to echo that our goal is always to put the protection of the public first.

Once in use, all COVID-19 vaccines are continually monitored by the MHRA. This ensures that the benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 continue to far outweigh any potential side-effects. Meantime, even if you have had a vaccine it is vital that everyone follows the national lockdown restrictions and remembers ‘stay alert, protect the NHS and save lives’ at all times.2

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Expert Working Group of the Independent Commission on Human Medicines said:


"We are delighted to be able to give a positive recommendation for the Moderna vaccine which will help in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

As with all the COVID-19 vaccine data we have seen to date, we have ensured a robust and thorough safety assessment has been carried out with the independent experts that sit on this group.

See Information for Healthcare Professionals, and Information for UK recipients.

Vaccine Background

This Moderna vaccine works by injecting a small part of the COVID-19 virus’ genetic code, which triggers an immune response and creates antibodies in the human body able to fight the virus. The dosage for this specific vaccine requires two doses to be given. It is recommended to administer the second dose 28 days after the first. It is approved for use in people 18 years and over, and it can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women following a discussion with their healthcare provider on the benefits and risks. It can be stored at -20°C for up to six months.


For more information see the government website here.

Sunday music spot: Baba Yetu - Christopher Tin (with translation)

Quote of the day 10th January 2020

“If there is one absolute iron law in politics, which has applied, does apply, and will apply in any political system created by the human race, it is this.”

“There will always be a conservative faction — and it will always be powerful. In fact, except in times of revolution and great upheaval, it will usually tend to be dominant.”

“When I say ‘conservative,’ I am not referring to any particular political philosophy. I am using the term in lower case, so to speak. I am referring to the basic attitude of most people that unless conditions are intolerable it is usually better to err on the side of caution.”


(Eric Flint - speech given to a character in his novel "1636: the Ottoman onslaught."

It may perhaps add some context to this speech to add that Eric Flint describes himself as a socialist and the character to whom he gives this speech is also on the left. The speech is made by a radical reminding her fellow radicals that there may be issues that conservatives are right about.

It is also the case that intelligent conservatives, whether with a upper or lower case 'c' at the beginning, should equally recognise that no political philosophy has a monopoly of wisdom and people on the left may occasionally get things right too.)

)

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Saturday music spot "The Bare Necessities" Song from "The Jungle Book"

Warning - beware of text messages from Fraudsters pretending to offer COVID vaccinations

I am warned by Cumbria police that the criminal leeches who try to latch on to so many essential facets of modern society and use them to try to rob innocent people of their money have now latched onto the COVID vaccination programme.

Apparently a very plausible looking text is circulating which  starts with a text message informing the recipient that they are eligible to apply for the new vaccine and to click on the link in the text message.  The user is then led to a webpage, which looks very convincing and asks them to complete some details, in order for them to be able to apply for the vaccine.

 

The details asked for:

Name

Address

Date of birth

Proof of address

Card payment details


Be warned - if you get such a text or find such a website that these are fraudsters looking to steal your money.

More details of the scam can be found on the Neighbourhood Watch website here.

Always be very careful of anyone who contacts you online and asks for this sort of information.

 

Quote of the day 9th January 2020

“The kind of people who stand outside of hospitals and say covid is a hoax and this kind of thing, I really do think they need to grow up.”  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson responds to COVID conspiracy theorists. 

Backing Mr Johnson’s debunking of such claims, Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, said this sort of claim is a life threatening ‘lie’ which is ‘an insult’ to frontline workers working hard throughout the pandemic. 

 Sir Simon said: “It is a lie. 

He added 
"If you sneak into a hospital in an empty corridor at 9 o clock at night and film that particular corridor and then stick it up on social media and say this proves that hospitals are empty and the whole thing is a hoax, you are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people but it is an insult for the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances. 

 “There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is obviously untrue.”

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday music spot: "Let it go" from Frozen

With much of the country covered with a carpet of snow today - we even have snow on the ground in Whitehaven, and I think we are still in single figures for the number of times snow has settled in the fifteen year's we've lived here - I thought "Let it Go" from Frozen was an appropriate music spot ...

Remote learning support during the third lockdown

The government is taking steps to improve remote learning opportunities for disadvantaged children who lack internet access so that they can continue their remote education.

  • The Department for Education has worked closely with the telecommunications sector since the start of the pandemic to help ensure disadvantaged children who lack internet access at home can continue their remote education.
     
  • DfE considered a range of options, including BT Hotspot, and decided on schemes that ensured pupils who needed it were provided a reliable and consistent internet connection.
     
  • The government is taking action to eliminate barriers to remote learning for our poorest students by working with the country’s leading mobile operators to deliver free internet access, through the Get Help with Technology Programme. This sits alongside more than 54,000 4G routers delivered to schools and colleges to support families without internet access.

New COVID-19 treatments pass clinical trials

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that new lifesaving treatments for coronavirus have passed rigorous clinical trials – and will be available through the NHS immediately – helping to potentially save thousands of lives. 

  • British scientific research has contributed to the creation of new lifesaving treatments – Tocilizumab and Sarilumab – which, when added to the armoury of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus.
     
  • Tocilizumab and Sarilumab have been found to reduce the risk of death for critically ill patients by almost a quarter and have cut time spent in intensive care by as much as ten days. Updated guidance will be issued today, encouraging NHS trusts across the UK to use these drugs to treat patients in intensive care units, with immediate effect.
     
  • This is evidence of the UK’s excellent research infrastructure and life sciences industry advancing global understanding of this disease, which has been achieved  both through Britain's own programme of clinical research and through our very large contributions to international studies.

New Border controls

The government has announced additional mandatory measures at the border, so that people will need to provide a negative coronavirus test before entry into the UK. This will help control the coronavirus as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out at pace over the coming weeks.

  • Britain already has significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally – such as in Denmark and South Africa – we must take further precautions now.
     
  • From next week, people entering the UK from abroad will be required to present a negative coronavirus test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure. People will also still be required to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of their test result, as an additional layer of safety, if they are arriving from countries not on the Travel Corridor list.
     
  • This will provide a further line of defence, helping control the virus as Britain rolls out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.

Nearly 1.5 million people vaccinated

Nearly a million and a half people have now been vaccinated in Britain with at least the first part of a vaccine approved following extensive clinical trials. 

The number of vaccinations per head of population in the UK is fourth in the world (after Bahrain, Israel and the UAE) which is a testament to British science, as we are leading the world from the front in science, research and development.

So far the number of people vaccinated is

 1.26 million people in England,

113,000 in Scotland,

49,000 in Wales,

and 46,000 in Northern Ireland.

So altogether, nearly 1.5 million people across the UK have now received their first dose and within 2-3 weeks all of them will have a considerable degree of immunity.

Hundreds more vaccination sites are being set up across the country in a rapid acceleration of the UK vaccination programme. 

Yesterday, GP sites started rolling out the vaccine – and the Prime Minister has confirmed that, by the end of next week, there will be 1,000 GP-led sites providing vaccines, 223 hospital sites, seven giant vaccination centres and a first wave of 200 community pharmacies.

Taken together, these should have the capacity to deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccines per day by 15 January – and it is our plan that everyone should have a vaccination available within a radius of ten miles.

The aim is to have offered a vaccine to every elderly care home resident by the end of January.

The government is introducing a National Booking Service to help make the process of booking and accessing an appointment easier for those offered a vaccine in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.





Quote of the day 8th January 2020

"Justice must always be tempered with mercy. Trump himself has shown nobody any mercy. If he is fortunate enough to receive it, he should do the decent thing: retire to his golf course" ...  "and live out his life in penitence and obscurity."


(Daniel Johnson, conclusion of an article called "A reckoning is due for the siege of the capitol. Trump deserves no mercy" about on whether Donald Trump should be prosecuted or pardoned in a few days time when he leaves or is removed from office, which you can read here.)

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Reforming leasehold tenure

Today the government announced reforms to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy their own homes and extend their leases, expanding the opportunity of home ownership for millions of people across the country.

  • Across the country, people are struggling to realise the dream of owning their own home, but find the reality of being a leaseholder far too bureaucratic, burdensome and expensive.
     
  • That is why, as part of the biggest reforms to English property  law  for  forty years, the government is are giving millions of leaseholders the right to extend their lease by a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent, which could save households thousands of pounds.
     
  • These reforms will make it cheaper and simpler for leaseholders to buy their own properties, making home ownership fairer, more secure and more accessible for millions of people

PM condemns riots in the USA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel have all condemned the violence that took place at the US Capitol yesterday, and the PM has urged a peaceful transition of power to take place.

  • The scenes at the US Congress yesterday were disgraceful.
     
  • The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.

Watch out for ice and snow if you have reason to be out today

None of us should leave home unless we have an essential reason as described in the latest special legislation approved yesterday by parliament - e.g. to seek healthcare, to work if one is an essential worker who cannot work from home, to get food. 

But if you do have to go outdoors, watch out for ice and snow. 

I just had a legitimate reason to visit West Cumberland hospital: just going out to the car the ground was treacherous and it took a while to completely clear ice off the car windows so that it was safe to drive.

If you have an essential reason to go outside, please take care; otherwise please



Quote of the day 7th January 2020

 


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Fantastic news for West Cumbria as government refuses to block West Cumbria Mining proposals

The proposal for a new mining facility in the Whitehaven and St Bees area to produce Coking coal for the British and European steel industry, which has been approved three times by Cumbria County Council, moved a step closer to being approved today as the government confirmed that they will not try to block the application.

This is very welcome news: I spoke in favour of the application, much of which is located in the area I represent. It has overwhelming support among the public in the Whitehaven and St Bees area - the vast majority of the opposition comes from at the nearest the opposite side of the county and in many cases the opposite side of the country.

The application was approved by councillors of all parties: the first two votes were unanimous, in the most recent vote, after members of the county council's DC&R committee had been put under sustained and enormous pressure by vociferous opponents of the proposal, the West Cumbria Mining application was supported by the great majority of members of the planning committee including a majority of councillors on the committee from all three political parties, plus the independent member.

The application also has the support of the local MP and all the other Conservative MPs representing seats in Cumbria. Cumbria’s Conservative MPs described today’s announcement as ‘great day for West Cumbria’.

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, said: 

“I have consistently fully supported the West Cumbria Mining Project which will bring considerable investment, hundreds of well-paid permanent jobs, apprenticeship opportunities, skills training for young people, opportunities for local suppliers and Woodhouse Colliery will be sited in an area which has been one of Copeland’s more deprived areas.

“I very much welcome that West Cumbria Mining have indicated that 80 per cent of jobs will be sourced locally and that is good news for Copeland.

“West Cumbria Mining will be an innovative leader in coking coal extraction. I welcome the news that the government has decided not to call in the original planning decision.

“I would now urge West Cumbria Mining and Cumbria County Council to work closely together on the remaining legal planning obligations to get this project over the line.”

When operational the mine will supply metallurgical coal to the UK and international steel industry, deliver hundreds of local jobs and support a first-class supply chain across the county.

Mark Kirkbride, chief executive of West Cumbria Mining, said: “I am delighted that the holding direction has been lifted following what has been an extremely rigorous planning process.

“My team and I are now looking forward to concluding planning sign-off and then being able to commence preparatory steps to begin site work later this year.

“WCM would like to thank all those people and organisations, both in the local community and further afield, who have supported the project over the past six years with particular thanks to Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Workington MP Mark Jenkinson, Copeland mayor Mike Starkie and Allerdale deputy leader Mike Johnson.”


Midweek music spot: Blow, blow thou winter wind by Thomas Arne

Quote of the day 6th January 2020

 


Schools and learning during the present COVID lockdown

Later today the Education Secretary will set out the steps the government is taking to support students in the months ahead, as it has, very sadly and as a last resort, been necessary to ask schools and colleges to shut once more in our efforts to tackle the virus and save lives. 

  • In taking the difficult decision to close schools and colleges across the country once again, it is essential that we support young people to learn at home, ensuring they have receive the best possible remote education and we have already delivered 560,000 laptops and tablets to students, with hundreds of thousands more on the way. 
     
  • Everyone understands that this decision will be felt most keenly by those students who were due to sit their A Levels and GCSEs in the summer, which is why the government is working alongside Ofqual to find alternative arrangements to these exams so it is possible to make sure these students receive the grades which reflect the hard work they’ve done, and will continue to do. 
     
  • Education continues to be a national priority – and the new national restrictions do not change that. We all know important each day in the classroom is to a child’s education, and it is vital that saving people from this virus, and the steps we must all take to fight it, do not come at the cost of our young people’s life chances.