Estimated read time 4 min read
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Why do people always wait until January to get fit?

Published1 hour agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBy Annabel RackhamHealth reporterThe start of January has become synonymous with lifestyle changes – many new-year’s resolutions involve getting fit, losing weight and changing eating habits.It is all down to the fresh-start effect – most people believe choosing a set point, such as a new year, will help motivate them to reach a particular goal.But research suggests this does not always work, particularly for fitness.And there are a few reasons why those thinking about getting into exercise should bring their 2024 resolutions forward a few weeks.Why do people wait until January?The first month of a new year is seen as a transition point and has been adopted as a time that marks a new beginning.Psychology professor Dr John Norcross has been researching new-year’s resolutions for more than 40 years. And his findings suggest the most popular concern physical health, with more than a third of the thousands of people he has examined saying their main goal is to improve it.The second most popular category is weight loss, with 20% of participants saying they want to slim down and 13% they want to change their eating habits.But when Dr Norcross followed those making these resolutions, he found a third had given up after a month – and after six, most had. Image source, Getty ImagesHealth and diet expert Dr Duane Mellor tells BBC News: “It can feel harder to to start exercising in winter – and we artificially put in new-year’s resolutions, which are set with the best intentions, at sort of that time of year, when we feel we should do better.”And a lot of this comes from trying to recover from the “excess food and alcohol” consumed over the Christmas period, which, when coupled with less movement during colder days, leaves some feeling sluggish and in need of change.Why might it be better to start in December?”From a behavioural point of view, it’s more sensible to start doing exercise earlier in winter or later in autumn, as our natural habitats, our environment and our way of living, tends to slow down this type of time of year,” Dr Mellor says.”With the darkening nights, our minds push away from [thinking about being active] so going against that can be a real strong positive.” Dr Mellor advises finding a routine that works in the late autumn and early winter period, while also “trying to maintain a healthy way of eating”, so when the new year rolls around, healthier habits are already in place.As gyms struggle, how can the UK tackle inactivity?Friends could be key to finding fitness motivationHow your daily step count can help heart and headMany choose, running, the gym or group exercise classes as the place to kickstart a health journey – 12.5 million people took part in this type of activity last year, according to Sport England.But typically, workout spaces are a lot busier in January than December, thanks to resolutions.Image source, Getty ImagesPure Gym, which has 327 branches in the UK, and more than a million members, tells BBC News January is their busiest month, with November and December the quietest. And in January 2023, their gyms were nearly 40% busier than November and December 2022.Parkrun, which puts on free outdoor running events, tells BBC News they “usually see a strong upturn in January, particularly in the first Saturday of the new year”. And in January 2023, they had more than 50,000 registrations in the UK, compared with 26,000 in December 2022. Personal trainer and fitness coach Morgan Brazier tells BBC News January fitness goals put too much pressure on people to achieve.”If someone says they are going to start in January and make this massive change, if for whatever reason that doesn’t work out, they can feel a sense of guilt and think the year has already started off badly,” she says.Image source, Getty ImagesNew starters can be put off by regular or experienced users – but with gyms so much quieter around Christmas, they can “feel more comfortable”, with the time and space to build confidence by learning how to use machines or develop techniques.Ms Brazier’s other tips include:Have an induction when joining a gym – most offer them and it will help work out where everything isGo in with a plan – lots of free resources are available online to help structure a workoutBring a friend to a workout – it will increase confidence, especially if they are more advancedTry out a class and turn up early to speak to the instructor More on this storyAs gyms struggle, how can the UK tackle inactivity?Published20 SeptemberFriends could be key to finding fitness motivationPublished19 October 2022How your daily step count can help heart and headPublished4 April

Estimated read time 5 min read
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A tale of two very different Covid inquiries

Published13 hours agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, UK COVID-19 INQUIRYBy Lisa SummersScotland Health CorrespondentFor weeks we have heard apologies, finger-pointing, and denials at the UK Covid Inquiry hearings in London. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, a very different narrative of personal Covid stories is being replayed. It will be at least another year before the Scottish inquiry hears from former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and those who were in charge at the time but in London a parade of former ministers and the prime minister at the time, Boris Johnson, have already given evidence.This has led to the UK inquiry hearing of WhatsApp exchanges depicting a “toxic” atmosphere in Downing Street and a “flip-flopping” PM who was veering around like a shopping trolley.However, instead of questioning ministers as they are in London, the Scottish inquiry has seen witness after witness arrive in the small inquiry room on George Street to relive those terrible months during which their lives changed forever. Sons, daughters, husbands, wives and parents – all telling heartbreaking stories of guilt and frustration as loved ones died alone in hospital or in care homes.They have told of the virus spreading within families with fatal consequences, of grief-stricken relatives who could only attend a funeral from the car park and of desperate pleas for exemptions to the rules so they could hold a loved one’s hand during their last moments.Image source, PA MediaThe inquiry heard Caroleanne Stewart’s story of paramedics arriving at her brother’s house but refusing to get out of the ambulance. It was told they drove off leaving Derek slumped over the driveway, his lips purple and struggling to breath. A transport ambulance eventually took him to hospital where he deteriorated further. He died in May 2020 in ICU.Gillian Grant’s grandmother died in a Covid outbreak at an East Dunbartonshire care home. Ms Grant said she only found out a “do not resuscitate” order had been placed on her grandmother without her consent, as she was preparing for the inquiry with lawyers.Diane Montgomery’s feeling about the care her mother received was that “more people are dying in care homes because they can’t see their loved ones, than dying of Covid”.Sharon Mair, a former BBC employee, described the “hurt, anger, disregard” she felt on learning that her mother’s funeral took place on the same day as a party in Downing Street.Her poignant testimony was delivered while Boris Johnson sat in another witness box 400 miles away.Image source, PA MediaHere in Scotland the starting point for the chairman, Lord Brailsford, is the impact of the pandemic and hearing from those for whom the consequences were the most devastating. This stage is only about marking the horror that people faced in these moments, with witnesses spared a courtroom-style grilling. It is a deliberately softer approach by Scotland’s inquiry underlined by the fact that, unusually for public inquiries, witnesses in this phase are not giving evidence under oath.This is in stark contrast to the evidence from the witnesses called to appear during this phase of the London hearings before Lady Hallett. So-called Module 2 is aimed at discovering how well the heart of government was functioning at key moments. But those testifying have sometimes resorted to desperately defending the positions they took or pointing the finger of blame at others.This week former PM Boris Johnson was asked about 5,000 missing WhatsApp messages from the early days of the pandemic but, in contrast, no-one in the Scottish government has yet appeared to give evidence on why senior figures wiped messages or used an auto-delete function.Nicola Sturgeon has previously told reporters there had been a Scottish government policy on social media messaging which advised their deletion after 30 days.Humza Yousaf, the former heath secretary who is now first minister, said government business wasn’t routinely done over WhatsApp and ministers were not told to delete messages to prevent potential embarrassment for the administration.The inquiry in Scotland will continue to hear evidence from bereaved relatives until Tuesday when it will pause until February.This is to allow the UK Inquiry to come north of the border to continue its investigations. From 16 January, Lady Hallett will chair two weeks of public hearings at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. That is when the public will be able to hear from former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her colleagues and advisors about the key decisions they made. When the Scottish inquiry returns, there will be further impact hearings in the area of health and social care.There was a memorandum of understanding that the two inquiries would avoid duplication but because of its different structure, it will be at least 2025 before the Scottish inquiry takes its turn to question ministers and officials about their actions. Image source, PA MediaBefore that, much of next year will be focused on exploring the further impacts on young people in education, and on businesses. More deeply raw emotion is likely to be expressed.There are recurring questions such as: Why did the rules feel so arbitrary? Why did this system that was supposed to protect people fail for their loved ones? Why did it feel that the desperate needs of the most vulnerable were often less important than others?These are the kind of questions that both the Scottish and UK inquiries aim to address, in their own ways.They want to find out how decisions were made, how they were the implemented and what consequences they had. The end goal of each inquiry is the same, to find out what lessons can be learned, but the route they are taking is strikingly different.More on this storyFive takeaways from Johnson at the Covid inquiryPublished2 days agoContrite, shorn of theatrics – Johnson’s first day at inquiryPublished3 days agoFamily did not approve gran’s ‘do not resuscitate’ planPublished23 NovemberWhat is Scotland’s Covid inquiry investigating?Published24 October’Moronic’: Vicious Covid WhatsApps reveal No 10 battlesPublished31 October

Estimated read time 7 min read
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Parkinson’s Disease: ‘You can have a career after diagnosis’

Published20 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Nikki Fox/BBCBy Nikki FoxBBC East health correspondentTincy Jose is a junior sister working in urgent care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. When the 45-year-old reported symptoms to her GP, she said a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease completely overwhelmed her. But she has managed to turn her journey into “a calling” – to support and encourage others with the condition. This is her story.Something under my shoe?Image source, Kevin Saddington/BBC”It was a night shift and the corridors in the hospital were really quiet. I was walking along, and noticed that my right footstep noise was louder than my left. Initially I thought there was something stuck under my shoe, so I lifted it to check, but there wasn’t. I didn’t go to the doctor straight away as I didn’t want him to think I was silly. Being a nurse, working and taking care of the family, you don’t always consider your own health. After my colleagues noticed my symptoms, I went to my GP and he referred me to a neurologist.While waiting for a diagnosis, I noticed some stiffness in my shoulder, then I went to Mass and the prayer card I was holding in my right hand was shaking.I started to think something was really wrong, but I didn’t want to think too much about it. Image source, Tricia Yourkevich/BBCWhile reading the BBC website, I came across an article on Dr Paul Sinha, from the TV programme, The Chase. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. There was a link to his blog which explained his symptoms. He talked about stiffness in his shoulder and limping. I thought, am I going that way? I read it again and again.When you hear the words ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ you know it’s an incurable and progressive condition. It was overwhelming me.’My mind went blank’Image source, Nikki Fox/BBCI was at work when I received the diagnosis over the phone. The first thing that came into my mind was being a mum of young children. My mind and brain went blank. Even though I was expecting it, I felt like I was in a different world.The neurologist told me to take time to accept it and said he had prescribed me medication. He booked an appointment for six weeks’ time. I put the phone down, turned around and my colleague said: ‘Are you ok?’ – I couldn’t talk. Then, from nowhere my matron stood in front of me. I thought God had sent her. She took me into her office and gave me a chair. I just burst out in tears. She gave me time and space to calm down. She said: ‘Remember there is a treatment. You can still progress in your career, you can see your children growing up, you can spend time with them.’ She told me to prepare my mind and that nothing was going to stop me.’Out of hibernation’Image source, Queen Elizabeth HospitalIt took me nearly one and a half years to disclose the diagnosis to all of my colleagues. But I gradually realised there was a purpose to it. I believe it was ‘a calling’.Normally I’m calm and quiet, but I wanted to raise awareness and started to come out of my hibernation because of that.I’m a member of an informal group of NHS professionals diagnosed with the disease. There are 40 members across the UK, Ireland and Australia. We are trying to raise awareness about the importance of timely medication for those with Parkinson’s in hospital. The medications control the symptoms and if there is a delay in giving it, the symptoms will reappear. If this delay is more than 30 minutes, it can affect the patients’ ability to walk and talk – and a person’s discharge home. According to Parkinson’s UK, 58% of patients admitted to hospital, didn’t get their medication on time, every time.The charity also gave me the opportunity to meet the minister for disabled people, Tom Pursglove. I explained how I am living with Parkinson’s and the medication campaign. I also spoke to him about the importance of adding Parkinson’s to the prescription exemption list and how we feel more specialists need to be recruited.[A spokesperson for NHS England said: “While local NHS trusts are each responsible for their own medicines policy, NHS England has commissioned a range of support, information and resources for organisations on this issue, which have been used by hundreds of health professionals – we will continue to encourage their use so patients in hospital can get their medication in a timely way.”]’There is life after diagnosis’Image source, Queen Elizabeth HospitalParkinson’s has more than 40 symptoms. Not everyone feels the same, but it does affect movement. If you are getting towards the end of a busy day, you may feel incredibly tired. You get stressed easily and my writing has slowed down, but working with a supportive team helps.I want to show others that there is life after diagnosis. I have had the opportunity to develop my career, progressing from a band five nurse to a band six junior sister. You have to be active and confident you can continue your work.Recently I was awarded the ‘Best Nurse of the Year’ from MalayalamUK. Malayalam is a language spoken in Kerala in India, where I lived before relocating to the UK in 2008.Tincy’s mantraI believe to live well with Parkinson’s, you have to be a ‘PARKINSON’:Positivity helps you to go forwardActive nature improves your movementResilience helps to face your challengesKind to yourself Insightful thinking is power to be purposefulNurturing skills will help to support othersSelf confidence is mandatory Optimism will help you achieve dreamsNoble attitude leads you to positive outcome’Super mum’If you are struggling, you need to get support. Your mind is your weapon.The former president of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said: ‘Life is very similar to a boxing ring. The defeat is not declared when you fall down, but it is declared when you fail to rise up.’ The same way that when you receive a long term diagnosis, it is not the end of your career or your life. It is not the end of your world. There will be more opportunities, but if you’re not looking for the door or knocking on it, you won’t find the opportunities.On the first Mother’s Day after my diagnosis, my son wrote ‘super mum’ on my card. I asked him: “Why did you write that?”. He said: “You are a super mum because you have Parkinson’s, you’re still working and looking after us.” That made me cry. I’m so grateful for them supporting and helping me.I will continue my work until I can.”Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email [email protected] on this storyParkinson’s implant restores man’s walkPublished6 November’My NHS hell waiting for surgery and information’Published29 OctoberGut problems may be early warning of Parkinson’sPublished25 AugustParkinson’s disease device trialled at hospitalPublished11 AprilRelated Internet LinksThe Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s LynnParkinson’s disease – NHSThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Estimated read time 2 min read
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New test to prevent hearing loss in newborns

Image source, Getty ImagesMark NormanBBC South East Health Correspondent Published4 hours agoA new genetic test has been made available in Brighton to help prevent hearing loss in vulnerable newborns. The Royal Sussex County Hospital says the test will help identify newborn babies at risk from hearing loss if treated with a common antibiotic. For some babies a single dose of the antibiotic gentamicin can sometimes cause severe irreversible hearing loss. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends gentamicin as the first-choice antibiotic treatment for neonatal infections.The test, which involves taking a gentle cheek swab, can determine whether a critically ill baby has a single gene change that could cause permanent hearing loss if they are treated with gentamicin.Neonatal registrar Dr Jodie Nguyen said the hospital admits around 450 new-born babies each year. “Many will be unwell and require antibiotics. For those carrying this genetic variation, even a single dose of gentamicin can sometimes cause severe irreversible hearing loss,” she said. “Until now, we have not been able to test for this gene prior to administering antibiotics because genetic testing takes at least a few days, and we must give antibiotics quickly – within one hour – in order for them to be the most effective against infection.”Dr Cassie Lawn, consultant neonatologist and clinical lead at the trust, said: “These results can also provide important information for the rest of the family too as the gene is inherited down the maternal line. “So, if it is detected in the baby, the mother and any siblings from the maternal side are also likely to carry the gene change and should also avoid gentamicin.”Follow BBC South East on Facebook,

Estimated read time 4 min read
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Blood test shows if organs are ageing fast or slowly

Published30 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBy Michelle RobertsDigital health editorSimilar to doing an MOT on a car, scientists believe they can run a blood test to check how fast a person’s internal organs are ageing, and even predict which ones might soon fail. The Stanford University team say they can monitor 11 major body parts, including the heart, brain and lungs. They tried it on thousands of adults, mostly middle-aged or older.One in five reasonably healthy adults aged 50-plus might have at least one fast-ageing organ, the results suggest. And one to two in every 100 might have several organs that test older than their birthday years. While the idea of the check-up might be scary, it could be an opportunity to intervene and change course, the researchers say. Image source, Getty ImagesKnowing which organs are in rapid decline could help reveal what health issues may be looming, the researchers say in the journal Nature.Organ age gapFor example, an “old-for-its-time” heart increases the risk of heart failure, while a rapidly ageing brain might be more prone to dementia. In the study, having one or more organs ageing fast was linked with a higher risk of certain diseases and death over the next 15 years.The body parts they checked include:BrainHeartLiverLungIntestineKidneyFatBlood vessels (arteries)Immune tissueMusclePancreasThe blood test looks for levels of thousands of proteins to give clues on which organs are ageing at different rates. The pattern of proteins detected appeared to be specific to particular organs. Researchers trained a machine-learning algorithm to make the predictions using lots of blood test results and patient data. One of the investigators, Dr Tony Wyss-Coray, explained: “When we compared each of these organs’ biological age for each individual with its counterparts among a large group of people without obvious severe diseases, we found that 18.4% of those aged 50 or older had at least one organ aging significantly more rapidly than the average. “And we found that these individuals are at heightened risk for disease in that particular organ in the next 15 years.”The university has now submitted the paperwork to patent the test, in case it can be used and sold in the future. More studies are needed to check how good it really is at predicting organ age and health before that though. Some of Dr Wyss-Coray’s earlier work suggests the biological ageing process is not steady but comes in bursts, with some rapid accelerations in people’s mid-30s, early-60s and late-70s. Prof James Timmons, an expert in age-related health and diseases at Queen Mary University of London, has also been studying blood markers of biological age. His work focuses on detectable gene changes, rather than proteins. He said the latest findings by Dr Wyss-Coray were impressive, but needed validating in more people, particularly younger ones from diverse ethnic backgrounds. “Is this ageing or a new way to detect early age-related disease biomarkers? The authors favour the former, I don’t think the latter is ruled out,” he said.Dr Wyss-Coray said: “If we can reproduce this finding in 50,000 or 100,000 individuals it will mean that by monitoring the health of individual organs in apparently healthy people, we might be able to find organs that are undergoing accelerated ageing in people’s bodies, and we might be able to treat people before they get sick.” Prof Paul Sheils, an expert in the biology of ageing at Glasgow University, said it was still important to look at the whole body, not just individual organs, to build the most accurate picture of a person’s health. Caroline Abrahams from the charity Age UK said it while it was great that science was exploring earlier detection of serious age-related diseases, consideration was needed about how people might feel living with the knowledge. Should it become a reality, she said people would want emotional and clinical support alongside the test results and that the NHS would need to be ready for that – and have the funding to provide it. More on this storyTest shows how old your body really isPublished7 September 2015Related Internet LinksNature journalThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Estimated read time 3 min read
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Covid inquiry: Bereaved daughters want lessons learned

Published15 hours agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingBy Dawn Limbu & Paul BarltropBBC News, LondonTwo women whose mothers died in care homes from Covid said they want to hear why “thousands of people died needlessly on Boris Johnson’s watch”.Jane Wier, from Cirencester, attended the Covid inquiry in London with the Covid-19 Families campaign group.Former Prime Minister Mr Johnson is the latest political figure to give evidence to the public inquiry examining the response to the pandemic.He apologised for the pain, loss and suffering during the pandemic.But Ms Wier said answers were needed so that lessons could be learned for the future.”I’m not sure that what we heard today is going to be sufficient to enable that to happen,” she addedLast week, the former health secretary Matt Hancock told the inquiry that entering lockdown three weeks earlier would have cut deaths in the first Covid wave by 90%.In the first of two days of testimony, Mr Johnson said he should have “twigged” the seriousness of Covid sooner, conceding earlier action could have been taken against the virus.He said he had underestimated the “scale and the pace of the challenge” posed but that this was also true of scientists and the “entire Whitehall establishment”.Image source, PA MediaMr Johnson insisted ministers did their “level best” in the circumstances and defended his record in office.The enquiry asked Mr Johnson about the weeks before the first lockdown, including the controversial decision to let Cheltenham Festival go ahead in March 2020.He said that, with hindsight, mass gatherings should have been stopped earlier and admitted mistakes were made.The former PM added that “there were unquestionably things we should have done differently” and said he took “personal responsibility for all decisions made”.Image source, ReutersMs Wier was joined at the enquiry by fellow campaigner Nicola, who asked not to disclose her surname. She also lost her mother to Covid.”She has no voice now and we need to know that lessons have been learnt so that in future, people won’t have to go through the same as we’ve been through,” she said.Nicola said she was “shocked” by today’s inquiry, saying she felt Mr Johnson had not explained where he thought he went wrong.Dr Kit Yates, senior lecturer at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at University of Bath criticised the government’s actions during the pandemic.”Many decisions were taken that probably weren’t in the country’s best interest,” he said.”Things like if we had stopped to think about the mathematical implications of the forecast and we’d believed them – we might have operated differently,” added Dr Yates.Mr Johnson will return for a second day of questioning on Thursday at 10:00 GMTFollow BBC West on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: [email protected] More on this storyBoris Johnson returns for day two of evidence at Covid inquiryPublished1 day agoWhat is the UK Covid inquiry and how does it work?Published16 minutes agoEight tough questions facing Johnson on CovidPublished1 day agoLockdown should have been weeks earlier – HancockPublished6 days agoRelated Internet LinksUK Covid-19 InquiryThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Estimated read time 5 min read
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I should have twigged Covid risk earlier, admits Boris Johnson

Published1 hour agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersBy Paul SeddonPolitics reporterBoris Johnson has said he should have “twigged” the seriousness of Covid sooner, conceding earlier action could have been taken against the virus.Giving evidence to the Covid inquiry, the former prime minister said he had underestimated the “scale and the pace of the challenge” posed.But he said this was also true of scientists and the “entire Whitehall establishment”.And he insisted ministers did their “level best” in the circumstances.In the first of two days of testimony, Mr Johnson sought to defend his record in office, which has come in for criticism from other witnesses who have given evidence to the inquiry.He defended the timing of the first lockdown, saying that modelling had been incorrect and he had been advised not to impose measures too early.He admitted to a “certain amount of incoherence in our thinking,” but added: “Once we decided to act, I think it was pretty fast from flash to bang.”More on Covid and the Covid InquiryLIVE: Follow the latest updates from the Covid inquiryWhat is the UK Covid inquiry and how does it work? How inquiry is exposing deep flaws in Covid decision-makingThe private WhatsApp messages from inside Downing StreetWhat to do if you have Covid: Can you go to work or school?He began his testimony by saying he was sorry for the “pain and the loss and the suffering” people experienced during the pandemic.His comments were interrupted by protesters, who were ordered to leave the inquiry room. Some members of bereaved families stood up holding pieces of paper, spelling out the message: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.”Mr Johnson has been criticised for being slow to make decisions during the pandemic and being unable to make up his mind about what to do.Over several hours of questioning by lead inquiry lawyer Hugo Keith KC he put in a measured performance, which largely lacked the tetchy exchanges seen during his grilling over Partygate by a committee of MPs earlier this year.But the former prime minister had to take back an accusation that Mr Keith had suggested he “put his feet up” at his official country retreat during the 2020 February half-term, adding he had confused it with comments from someone else.And he choked up when he described the return of the virus after the first national lockdown, describing 2020 as a “tragic, tragic year”.Mr Johnson defended his overall approach to the pandemic, adding that Covid had required “completely novel” measures and it was his job to “go through the arguments”.He added that people within government had collectively been reluctant to believe worse-case predictions about the impact of the virus, given the experience of previous diseases.”It would certainly be fair to say of me, the entire Whitehall establishment, scientific community included, that we underestimated the scale and the pace of the challenge,” he said.He added that he was subsequently “rattled” by scenes of chaos in northern Italy in mid-February, when pictures of swamped hospitals hit the world’s media.”We should have collectively twigged much sooner. I should have twigged,” he added.Over more than five hours of testimony, he also:Said the gender balance of his team should have been better and “too many meetings were male-dominated”Admitted he had been unable to retrieve around 5,000 WhatsApp messages from his old phone between January and June 2020, blaming technical problems Denied deleting any messages, adding he had done “his best” to hand over all relevant evidence to the inquirySaid he regretted describing long Covid as “bollocks” in a handwritten note on a document from October 2020Conceded he should not have shaken hands with patients during a hospital visit in March 2020, adding he should have been more “precautionary”He added, however, that given what is known now, mass gatherings should have been stopped earlier than they were.”With hindsight, as a symbol of government earnestness rather than just being guided by the science, we should perhaps have done that,” he said.He also defended his decision to keep Matt Hancock as health secretary, despite being urged to sack him by his former adviser Dominic Cummings, telling the inquiry he considered him a “good communicator”.WhatsApp messages He rejected suggestions that expletive-laden WhatsApp messages between his advisers revealed by the inquiry showed a “toxic” culture in his Downing Street operation.The language in the messages reflected the “deep anxiety” of people doing their best, he said.He added it also showed that the people around him were “naturally self-critical, and critical of others,” adding that this was “creatively useful” when it came to making decisions.And he revealed that he had spoken to former civil servant Helen MacNamara, who has previously accused him of failing to tackle “misogynistic language” used about her in a WhatsApp group by Mr Cummings.”I don’t remember seeing it at the time, but I must have seen it because I was on the group,” he told the inquiry.”I have rang Helen MacNamara to apologise to her for not having called it out.”More on this storyLockdown should have been weeks earlier – HancockPublished5 days agoCovid inquiry: Key points from Cummings evidencePublished31 October

Estimated read time 5 min read
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I should have twigged Covid risk earlier, admits Boris Johnson

Published1 hour agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersBy Paul SeddonPolitics reporterBoris Johnson has said he should have “twigged” the seriousness of Covid sooner, conceding earlier action could have been taken against the virus.Giving evidence to the Covid inquiry, the former prime minister said he had underestimated the “scale and the pace of the challenge” posed.But he said this was also true of scientists and the “entire Whitehall establishment”.And he insisted ministers did their “level best” in the circumstances.In the first of two days of testimony, Mr Johnson sought to defend his record in office, which has come in for criticism from other witnesses who have given evidence to the inquiry.He defended the timing of the first lockdown, saying that modelling had been incorrect and he had been advised not to impose measures too early.He admitted to a “certain amount of incoherence in our thinking,” but added: “Once we decided to act, I think it was pretty fast from flash to bang.”More on Covid and the Covid InquiryLIVE: Follow the latest updates from the Covid inquiryWhat is the UK Covid inquiry and how does it work? How inquiry is exposing deep flaws in Covid decision-makingThe private WhatsApp messages from inside Downing StreetWhat to do if you have Covid: Can you go to work or school?He began his testimony by saying he was sorry for the “pain and the loss and the suffering” people experienced during the pandemic.His comments were interrupted by protesters, who were ordered to leave the inquiry room. Some members of bereaved families stood up holding pieces of paper, spelling out the message: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.”Mr Johnson has been criticised for being slow to make decisions during the pandemic and being unable to make up his mind about what to do.Over several hours of questioning by lead inquiry lawyer Hugo Keith KC he put in a measured performance, which largely lacked the tetchy exchanges seen during his grilling over Partygate by a committee of MPs earlier this year.But the former prime minister had to take back an accusation that Mr Keith had suggested he “put his feet up” at his official country retreat during the 2020 February half-term, adding he had confused it with comments from someone else.And he choked up when he described the return of the virus after the first national lockdown, describing 2020 as a “tragic, tragic year”.Mr Johnson defended his overall approach to the pandemic, adding that Covid had required “completely novel” measures and it was his job to “go through the arguments”.He added that people within government had collectively been reluctant to believe worse-case predictions about the impact of the virus, given the experience of previous diseases.”It would certainly be fair to say of me, the entire Whitehall establishment, scientific community included, that we underestimated the scale and the pace of the challenge,” he said.He added that he was subsequently “rattled” by scenes of chaos in northern Italy in mid-February, when pictures of swamped hospitals hit the world’s media.”We should have collectively twigged much sooner. I should have twigged,” he added.Over more than five hours of testimony, he also:Said the gender balance of his team should have been better and “too many meetings were male-dominated”Admitted he had been unable to retrieve around 5,000 WhatsApp messages from his old phone between January and June 2020, blaming technical problems Denied deleting any messages, adding he had done “his best” to hand over all relevant evidence to the inquirySaid he regretted describing long Covid as “bollocks” in a handwritten note on a document from October 2020Conceded he should not have shaken hands with patients during a hospital visit in March 2020, adding he should have been more “precautionary”He added, however, that given what is known now, mass gatherings should have been stopped earlier than they were.”With hindsight, as a symbol of government earnestness rather than just being guided by the science, we should perhaps have done that,” he said.He also defended his decision to keep Matt Hancock as health secretary, despite being urged to sack him by his former adviser Dominic Cummings, telling the inquiry he considered him a “good communicator”.WhatsApp messages He rejected suggestions that expletive-laden WhatsApp messages between his advisers revealed by the inquiry showed a “toxic” culture in his Downing Street operation.The language in the messages reflected the “deep anxiety” of people doing their best, he said.He added it also showed that the people around him were “naturally self-critical, and critical of others,” adding that this was “creatively useful” when it came to making decisions.And he revealed that he had spoken to former civil servant Helen MacNamara, who has previously accused him of failing to tackle “misogynistic language” used about her in a WhatsApp group by Mr Cummings.”I don’t remember seeing it at the time, but I must have seen it because I was on the group,” he told the inquiry.”I have rang Helen MacNamara to apologise to her for not having called it out.”More on this storyLockdown should have been weeks earlier – HancockPublished5 days agoCovid inquiry: Key points from Cummings evidencePublished31 October

Estimated read time 5 min read
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Covid study: mRNA vaccines could be fine-tuned

Published37 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PA MediaBy Michelle RobertsDigital health editorThe revolutionary messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology in some Covid vaccines given to millions of people could be fine-tuned for even greater accuracy, UK scientists say.Genetic instructions in the jab could be tweaked to avoid a harmless tiny “slip” sometimes seen as the body reads the code, the Medical Research Council team suggest. Existing mRNA vaccines are effective and safe, they say. Future ones could fight more diseases.The partly government-funded study, published in the journal Nature, involved detailed lab work on the original Pfizer-BioNTech shot that, three years ago, became the first of its kind to be used to protect people in the pandemic.Image source, PA MediaBy studying mice and then 21 volunteers who had received the vaccine, the researchers discovered about one in three people might experience the slip error.One of the biggest success stories in medicine, the mRNA shots, which include one made by Moderna, have protected millions of lives, the researchers say. And understanding and updating the science should help mRNA technology tackle more diseases, possibly even cancer, in the future.UK plan for national mRNA cancer vaccine advanceCovid mRNA vaccines work by showing the body’s cells a bit of genetic code from the pandemic virus. This cannot cause infection but can teach the body how to defend itself against Covid-19. The body reads and translates the code using its own cell machinery, called ribosomes.The immune system then uses the instructions to make special protective proteins, called antibodies, that can fight Covid. Skips forwardIt is the translation process in the ribosomes that can go slightly wrong, the researchers say. The end result is still great protection – but there can be a few extra, unintended proteins made too.Thankfully, these cause no physical issues, the researchers say, based on real-life evidence from the millions of people, including teenagers and children, vaccinated.Had there been any problems, they would have been spotted early on, they say. Translating the code is a bit like reading a sentence of three-letter words, such as: “The cat ate the fat rat.”The ribosome occasionally skips forward by a letter or place, called a frameshift, to read: “The cat a tet hef atr.”And the researchers found a simple tweak to some of the code could eradicate these errors, without affecting the desired end product – protection against a dangerous disease. Slip-resistant codingLead researcher Dr James Thaventhiran said: “Research has shown beyond doubt that mRNA vaccination against Covid-19 is safe. “Billions of doses of the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines have been safely delivered, saving lives worldwide.”We need to ensure that mRNA vaccines of the future are as reliable. “Our demonstration of ‘slip-resistant’ mRNAs is a vital contribution to future safety of this medicine platform.”Co-researcher Prof Anne Willis said: “This is really important because this technology is amazing and it is going to be revolutionary as a new medicine platform for all sorts of things.”‘Easy fix’Prof Stephen Griffin, an expert in cancer virology, at the University of Leeds, called it a landmark study. “It matters that we understand that these events are possible – but it by no means implies that the well established population-safety record for these vaccines, which have been administered more than 13 billion times since 2021, should be questioned,” he said.”Moreover, now this has been identified, there is an easy fix.”Future mRNA vaccines should use the slip-resistant coding, the researchers say, as it is scientifically possible some unintended proteins might be capable of triggering an unwanted immune response or side effect. Any treatment or vaccine can have possible risks or side effects, although not everybody experiences them. Lisa Shaw: Presenter’s death due to complications of Covid vaccineUnder 40s offered alternative to AZ vaccineMore common ones with Covid vaccines are mild and short-lived:a sore arm from the injectionfeeling tireda headachefeeling achyIn the UK, about 53 million people received a first dose of Covid vaccine, 50 million a second and more than 40 million a third or booster, according to official data.Safety continues to be monitored. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which does that monitoring in the UK, says the benefits of the vaccines in preventing Covid-19 and serious complications associated with Covid-19 far outweigh any currently known side effects in the majority of patients.Dr Alison Cave, MHRA chief safety officer, added: “Emerging information is kept under review. We ask anyone who suspects they have experienced a side effect linked with their COVID-19 vaccine to report it via our Yellow Card scheme website.”There have been rare cases of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – following the mRNA Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines in the UK and it has been listed as a very rare side effect. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine used early in the pandemic works slightly differently to mRNA vaccines. It has also had some very rare reported side effects, with some people developing dangerous blood clots.’Promising platform’Pfizer said: “We welcome independent research and academic discourse to advance the science of mRNA technology. “The Covid-19 pandemic provided the first opportunity for the use of mRNA platforms. “To date, hundreds of millions of doses of our Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally, establishing a positive benefit-risk profile. “We continue to advance mRNA research and, together with the scientific community, explore new applications for this promising platform to help prevent and treat the spectrum of human disease.”More on this storyCould Covid vaccine technology crack cancer?Published15 October 2022Presenter’s death due to Covid vaccine complicationsPublished26 August 2021Related Internet LinksNatureMHRA – Covid vaccine safetyThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Estimated read time 3 min read
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Data breach by Addenbrooke’s Hospital reveals patient information

Published21 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingA hospital trust has apologised after the private information of more than 22,000 patients was released in two data breaches. The leaks, in 2020 and 2021, concerned maternity and cancer patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the breaches had “only recently come to light”. The details shared included names, hospital numbers and some medical data.The trust said no home addresses or dates of birth were included, adding: “We have found no evidence in either case of the information being accessed or shared any further.””I want to apologise to all of our patients for two data breaches, which happened in 2020 and 2021, and which have recently come to light,” Mr Sinker said.”Both were the result of mistakenly including patient information in Excel spreadsheets in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests.”Image source, PA MediaThe first case related to data provided about maternity patients in a FOI request via the What Do They Know website. The website group alerted the trust to the breach and removed the information from their own website, said Mr Sinker.In a statement, Mr Sinker explained: “In responding to the request, we mistakenly shared some personal data which was not immediately visible in the spreadsheet we provided but which could be accessed via a ‘pivot table’.”This data related to 22,073 patients booked for maternity care at The Rosie Hospital between 2 January 2016 and 31 December 2019.”It included the names and hospital numbers of patients and their birth outcomes.”‘Unacceptable errors’Following discovery of the breach, the trust said it undertook a review of all the FOI requests (some 8,000) it had responded to in the past 10 years. “In doing this, we discovered one further case where patient data was mistakenly contained in a spreadsheet sent in 2021 as part of a FOI response to Wilmington PLC. “We have requested confirmation from Wilmington PLC that it has been deleted.”That data related to 373 cancer patients on clinical trials and included their names, hospital numbers and some medical information, he said.”While there is no evidence in either case of the information being accessed or shared beyond the original recipients, we recognise that such errors are unacceptable given our clear duty to maintain the confidentiality of patient information,” Mr Sinker added.”We want to apologise unreservedly to our patients for the worry and concern that this news may cause.”Follow East of England news on Facebook, Instagram and X. Got a story? Email [email protected] or WhatsApp on 0800 169 1830More on this storyPolice probe hospital medic’s qualificationsPublished18 AugustHospital breached duty of care over stroke patientPublished20 May 2022Related Internet LinksCambridge University Hospitals – Addenbrookes, Rosie & ResearchThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.