By the time you read this, the United Kingdom will officially be out of mourning for the late Queen Elizabeth II. Were you someone whose NHS appointment or surgery on the day of the funeral was cancelled? Perhaps you were expecting to bury or say goodbye to a loved one on the same day that one person, whom very few people knew personally, was lowered into the ground. How fortunate that the Magistrates' Court remained open to deal with the young man charged for a public order offence when he tried to touch the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall. Did you think the wall-to-wall coverage and extended twelve-day mourning period was necessary? Are you as fatigued of it all as I am? Apologies in advance to those who feel differently. Perhaps some just took it too far?
The UK Column often reports (and will continue to do so) on Covid-19, all-cause mortality, serious adverse reactions, the MHRA and the dangers of the gene technology injections for all generations—and, yes, my radar is looking at Israel.
For my blog this week, I want to highlight some news that you may have missed along the way, but that may affect you, your friends or family in the near future. Today, amongst other things, I am looking at Operation Rapture, the Medical Metaverse, NHS Behaviour, angels in human form, the King, the Prince and the climate.
However, firstly an apology and correction. In a news broadcast a couple of weeks ago, I incorrectly introduced Thérèse Coffey, the new Health Secretary, as a ‘pharmacist’ who is running the NHS. Thanks to a very kind and supportive viewer (and retired pharmacist), I was informed that although Coffey has a PhD in chemistry, this does not make her a pharmacist. A pharmacist studies wide and varied subjects including chemical composition, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, physiology, disease and pathology relating to medicines, and how they are manufactured, absorbed, distributed and excreted. The wide knowledge base of a qualified pharmacist includes the complexity of manufacture from stability, integrity, toxicology and therapeutic benefits. A pharmacist working in industry generally manages a team of scientists, due to his wide scope of knowledge, and a good example in the field is Dr Phillip Altman. If you have not read his report on the Covid injections, it is well worth reading and available from the World Council for Health.
Thérèse Coffey's PhD in chemistry—not pharmacology—will have been focused on organic and inorganic chemicals and their role in industries such as oil, chemical engineering and cosmetics, but not necessarily on chemical applications in drugs or medicines. I do hope that clarifies, and again, apologies to all pharmacists for my error.
A big shout out to all the wonderful UK Column family of viewers and listeners for keeping me up to date on so much news that I may have missed. It is reassuring to know that there are so many eyes watching what is going on. Information cascades are exactly that—a flood of information, disinformation and misinformation—so filtering it all out can be very time consuming. I get some amazing e-mails, and I do read all of them. I try hard to reply wherever I can. Going forward, our message is always the same: please don’t rely on anyone else’s research. Always check information for yourself, do your own research and question everything.
What have ministers been up to? What to expect this week
The ‘cost of living crisis’ has not been buried along with Her Majesty the Queen. Whilst all eyes have been on royalty this past week, the Cabinet Office and new ministers have had some time away from the limelight to plan ahead. All parliamentary business has been suspended as a mark of respect to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. As soon as the UK is out of an official mourning period, it will be full steam ahead.
20 September — A time to address the cost of living and energy support package, including business support package
21 September — Liz Truss expected to deliver speech in New York at the United Nations General Assembly
22 September — Statement from our new Health Secretary with regard to the severe delays in the NHS – listen out for the new catchphrase A, B ,C, D
23 September — Chancellor expected to announce a ‘mini-budget’
As if it isn’t already hard enough to get an appointment with our GPs, now we are told that there will be many more wanting and needing appointments due to the Queen’s death. Apparently, there may be many who may feel destabilised after the loss of the Queen. But more importantly, it would appear that many won’t turn up for appointments. These patients are marked as DNA (Did Not Attend). GPs are being urged to have a plan for this in order to save as much time as possible. Are we getting ready to see fines for appointments missed?
Warnings of significant hospital structural failure in the East of England has prompted an emergency scheme known as Operation Rapture, which would come into effect should hospitals collapse. Concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks were first raised in 2018 following the collapse of a school roof in Essex. RAAC was widely used in construction in the 1960s to 1980s and is said to be much weaker than traditional concrete.
Under the operation, ambulances would be diverted to nearby sites and non-urgent beds freed up to house patients being transferred from crumbling buildings. The Government has set aside £100 million to carry out urgent remediation works at seven hospitals using the same concrete. They include the West Suffolk Hospital, Hinchingbrooke Hospital near Huntingdon, and the Queen Elizabeth and James Paget hospitals in Norfolk, as well as Airedale in West Yorkshire, Leighton in Cheshire and Frimley Park in Surrey.
In 2020, hospital trusts participated in Exercise Hodges, which simulated a scenario in preparation.
Documents have revealed that bosses at West Suffolk NHS Foundation hired a law firm to assess its risk of being charged with corporate manslaughter should the hospital collapse and kill patients and staff.
Luckily, UK Column’s David Scott can offer excellent engineering advice and opinion. He has a wealth of experience and knows all the history. I am sure he will have plenty to say on this in the days and weeks to come.
NHS behavioural science
Behavioural science has spread throughout pretty much every part of our lives, and nowhere more so than the NHS. According to ‘experts’ like ‘Stalin’s nanny’ Professor Susan Michie, Head of the Behavioural Insights Team (sometimes known as the ‘Nudge Team’), people’s behaviours are a major determinant of their health. Who would have known that one carefully-worded text message encouraging people to donate their organs would add 100,000 extra donors to the list? And this is all thanks to the dedicated hard work by our behavioural scientists, surely.
Our behaviour has been monitored and nudged for decades. Remember when fresh bakeries appeared in supermarkets? The smell of freshly-baked bread draws us in for a reason. Using bigger plates and shorter, wider glasses means customers eat and drink more. How many of you have been tempted by a chocolate bar placed strategically near the till whilst waiting at the checkout at a supermarket? I confess I have.
Healthcare is no different. Dr Dominic King, a behavioural scientist at Imperial College, found that pumping the clean smell of soap outside a hospital intensive care unit increased hand washing by medical staff. Will lives be saved as a result? A similar reduction of risk has come from a redesigned hospital prescription chart. More than 1 in 15 hospital prescriptions contains some kind of error, usually because the handwriting is illegible or some information is missing. Bungled prescriptions are the most frequent cause of avoidable harm to patients in hospital.
So the next time you follow a walk this way line along a corridor floor, adhere to an illogical one-way system when you visit a health practice or outpatient department, ask yourself why. Are you being ‘nudged’ in the wrong direction?
And the Queen’s death was no exception. Behavioural scientists were consulted to judge how the public would react to tightly-forming queues, and the trajectory of mass grief and public behaviour at public events was mapped out.
London School of Economics and its behavioural research
Were you aware that the London School of Economics is a world-leading hub for behavioural research? The LSE's vision is to be a global leader in the facilitation of world-class behavioural research and teaching, and to act as a cornerstone of an interdisciplinary community in behaviour science. The Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science describes its role as investigating the human mind and behaviour in a societal context, and conducting what it describes as cutting-edge psychological and behavioural research that is both based in and applied to the real world. Everyone at the LSE behavioural department seems very interested in protecting patients’ ‘safety’. It’s a pity no-one thought to ‘nudge’ the MHRA into putting safety first.
Operation Golden Orb
This is the codename for King Charles III's coronation, which is rumoured to be taking place next spring or summer. Will it be held on 2 June, the same day as Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, or will it be given another date and stripped back to a more modest affair? The King will be crowned with St Edward’s Crown, made of solid gold and encrusted with more than 400 gemstones, including rubies, garnets and sapphires. There are likely to be over 8,000 ,guests and Westminster Abbey will be packed to the rafters.
After a long, hard winter, maybe a coronation will give the country something to look forward to. But how many of us will be looking forward with optimism? By the time the King is crowned, he will be approaching his mid-seventies. Perhaps this is a reason for “his vision for a smaller, more modern monarchy”?
The Queen Consort will wear the platinum and diamond crown made for the Queen Mother’s coronation in 1937. Controversially, one of those diamonds is the Koh-i-Noor, which some claim was stolen from India.
King Charles III and AstraZeneca
King Charles III has a very cosy relationship with AstraZeneca (AZ). He formally opened a new £1 billion research and development facility for them in Cambridge, launched as the company aims to fuel the growth of its drug pipeline. According to Clarence House, AstraZeneca will play a central role from now on in the national strategy to deliver life-changing medicines, and will employ more than 2,000 people working in ‘therapy’, drug discovery and drug development once the facility is fully operational. To see a copy of the royal opening speech, click here.
The links with AstraZeneca don’t stop there, as we have previously reported on UK Column News. AstraZeneca is a major partner of with King Charles’ Terra Carta project. Amongst the senior staff working at AZ is the late Princess of Wales' bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, who has moved from his previous role with the United Nations to become the head of security at AZ. There's nothing like keeping close to the Royals. Perhaps too close?
Terra Carta v. Earthshot, The Royal Foundation
Last week, we reported on Terra Carta, founded in 2021 by the then Prince Charles, in an attempt to fuse public, private and philanthropy funding to create a supposed Earth Charter. It will be interesting to see how this dovetails with his son’s Earthshot Project. Prince William, who has now replaced his father as Prince of Wales, was due to attend the Earthshot Prize for Innovation Summit in New York City on 22 September. He has decided not to attend due to his grandmother’s recent death.
It appears a lot is going in in New York on Wednesday: our very own Prime Minister, Liz Truss, is due to make a speech at United Nations General Assembly. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, said:
Accelerating the world’s climate progress requires us to take urgent, ambitious action from every angle, we have been glad to support the Earthshot Prize from the beginning and we look forward to helping even more climate leaders get their promising ideas off the ground.
The Earthshot Prize and the Global Alliance Partners include leading global organisations and philanthropists which act as strategic funding partners to the Prize—including the Aga Khan Development Network, Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Breakthrough Energy Foundation, Coleman Family Ventures, and DP World in partnership with Dubai EXPO 2020. And that was only the listing from A to D.
The crisis in getting patients to timely treatment continues, with hospitals full and ambulances being held outside the Accident & Emergency departments, waiting for hours. The Royal Liverpool Hospital has issued a full capacity alert to staff, as doctors struggle to free up beds. This is not an isolated case; many hospitals across the UK are experiencing the same. I am guessing a full day of cancelled appointments on the day of the State Funeral hasn’t helped.
The ambulance service is not having a very good time all round, lately having had to apologise to the family doctor for distress caused to a deceased patient’s GP after a discharge summary blamed general practice for ‘causing problems’.
The metaverse is an immersive internet experience, a hybrid of physical and virtual reality. It is a simulated digital 3D environment which will combine the already much-hyped technologies of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Projections indicate that our youngsters will be spending the accumulated equivalent of up to three days a week immersed in the metaverse socialising, gaming, working and living an ‘artificial life’, with seemingly no rules or restrictions.
I am sure this might seem exciting for many; however, it terrifies me. Where will this lead? What does it mean in everyday life for all of us? Will we all become immersed in a metaverse which, as yet, does not even have a clear definition? The most likely answer is ‘yes’. The metaverse spans all domains of life, including health and ‘self-healthcare’ (keep an ear open for that phrase; you will be hearing it often in the future).
Have you noticed that all the movers and shakers appear eager to grab a share of the booming health sector? As we watch Amazon drift into the healthcare market, it is worth noting that that giant is far from alone. Our physical and mental health will all have a place in the metaverse. Mental health companies with names such as ‘Headspace’ and ‘Replica’ appear to be first out of the blocks, followed closely by companies such as Peloton, Apple Fitness, Facebook (now rebranded Meta)—and even IKEA has hinted at an interest in the metaverse marketplace for health.
There are too many implications of health becoming a cornerstone of the metaverse for one blog; it is deserving of an article in its own right. So, in the interests of brevity, I will highlight a couple of my observations. Pharmaceutical marketing experts are keen to use the metaverse as an emerging means of communication, a perennial obsession of marketers. The metaverse is jumping ahead of the other available digital technologies because the next big change on the way is how we interact with the world around us. Big Pharma can create patient communities in the metaverse, so—instead of talking to each other face to face or online—they could ‘virtually sit’ with patients all over the world with the same condition in the same space, to share what they are going through. We will become familiar with the term ‘patient communities’.
Helping the doctor of the future is another way Big Pharma can contrive to get involved. GlaxoSmithKline developed an award-winning virtual reality headset experience to simulate the sensation of migraine for sufferers’ loved ones. Klick Health’s SymPulse ‘Empathy’ device stimulates muscles and nerves in a person’s arms to replicate Parkinson’s tremors.
Advertising is another reason why Big Pharma is exploring the metaverse. Who knew that in 2017 Pfizer created an educational game within Minecraft called ‘Hemocraft’, for children with haemophilia, which focuses on inculcating in them the virtues of staying prepared and sticking to their treatment plans (sounds like behavioural nudges to me)? HemMobile, a custom wristband to help people living with haemophilia, is an approach to education and ‘tracking’ (sounds like surveillance to me). Haemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder in which the body is unable to create proper blood clots. It is estimated to affect 400,000 people worldwide. This is just the tip of a very big metaberg.
Facebook/Meta, Microsoft and US technology company Treatment are the architects of the medical metaverse. If you thought all that was too much to process, wait for Veyond Metaverse to create the first virtual hospital, employing haptic technology (making people feel skin-touch feedback remotely, using electronic signals).
What does this mean for all of us in the future? A deinstitutionalisation of healthcare? The metaverse bandwagon runs the risk of at least decentralising healthcare, resulting in health systems as we know them (the NHS and overseas counterparts) no longer being required. This is a huge leap, and one that will happen quickly. Are you ready for your doctor to become an avatar?
Batteries made from sea shells, and DIY breast cancer home kits
The latest great ideas from the World Economic Forum, who are pleased to tell you more in their latest video short.
The Exposé News
The Daily Exposé again lives up to its name with its latest article on the MHRA's conflicts of interest, entitled Corruption: Government documents prove Bill Gates is primary funder of UK medicine regulator despite owning major shares in Pfizer and BioNTech.
Another recent article by the Exposé, headlined Government publishes horrific figures on COVID Vaccine Deaths: 1 in 482 dead within a month, 1 in 246 dead within 60 days, and 1 in 73 dead by May 2022, is also compelling.
The Light Newspaper
The Light is a highly recommended print newspaper distributed in Britain and Ireland, with excellent, well-researched articles. You can view the latest edition online here.
Medical school reduced to four years
Ever since the start of the pandemic (or, as Dr Piers Robinson calls it, the Covid event), UK Column has been questioning who it is that we are actually seeing when we speak to or see our treating doctor. Are they doctors or noctors? What is an associate physician? Most people expect to see a doctor who has gone through minimum of 11 years of training to qualify to run a surgery in the community. All that appears to have changed in Britain: a new training concept aims to reduce the training for GPs to four years.
To put this into perspective, as a trained State-Registered Nurse, I had to complete a minimum of three years' training. I would not have felt confident to carry out the role of a doctor with just one extra year. So who are you seeing? Ask next time.
More strikes are planned for 1 and 5 October. Will this impact the governing Conservative Party's annual conference? Rumours abound regarding the Government forging ahead with a swathe of railway ticket office closures, threatening to inflame further an already rising tension with the railway workers' unions. Although no final decision has been made, the reality is that we are seeing the final months of the familiar face-to-face assistance that we are all so used to.
A record number of borrowers are signing up for mortgages with repayment terms of more than 30 years, as the housing crisis forces first time buyers into a lifetime of debt (perhaps this is part of the plan?). According to the Sunday Telegraph's Business and Money supplement, two-fifths of first time buyers and home movers in June took out a mortgage with a term of three decades or longer, according to UK Finance. The traditional 25-year term has now become unaffordable to the majority.
As officials grapple to get a grip on rampant inflation, Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, and eight members of the Monetary Committee were expected to meet last week to make a decision on future interest rates, but have delayed their decision following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Around the world
Earthquakes — As many of you know, I like to keep my eye on volcanoes, earthquakes and space weather. The seismic activity is continuing to increase, with more big earthquakes being felt around the world. The latest at the time of writing is a 6.6-magnitude earthquake in Taiwan.
Covid-19 origins — As scientists scratch their heads over the origins of Covid-19, the possibility that the ‘virus’ was leaked from a lab in the USA has not been ruled out. There has been a huge backlash since the Lancet voiced a similar line.
Denmark has stopped administering Covid vaccines to almost everyone under the age of 50. A social media post went viral with the news, but Reuters fact-checkers were keen to pour cold water on it—well, tepid.
China — After the World Health Organisation announced the end of the pandemic was in sight, China has shut down the video of that announcement, saying it was far too early and that a zero-Covid policy would remain in force in the country.
Scotland — A massive ‘fireball’ seen streaking across the sky has officially been declared a meteor.
A positive note to end on
Silent angels in human form do exist. I would like to voice warmest gratitude to all those staff within the NHS and care homes who are fully aware of what is going on and are doing all they can to stop it and to protect their patients.
I had the honour of meeting and interviewing a highly qualified and experienced nurse, who, despite unimaginable personal experiences, has returned to the care profession to save patients from an early death. Humble and modest, these angels are among us, and while we are quick to call out those working in the profession as being complicit in the agenda and not caring, that is not an honest description of many.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all those who, like brave Elena (watch our interview with her on UK Column in the near future; it’s one you won’t forget), continue quietly in the background to fight for our elderly, sick and vulnerable by keeping them safe and holding their hands.