News from Nowhere 89 August 2020

North/South divide 

England’s North-South divide affects everything in the NHS including health services research and development. Overall, the North of England receives £4 billion less investment per year in health research and development (R&D) than the South. It receives just £72 of health R&D investment per person, compared to £168 in the South.

A report, The Science Based Economy, from the IPPR think tank, argues this inequality is incompatible with government commitments to level up the UK economy.  To meet the government’s target of spending 2.4 per cent of GDP on R&D by 2027, the UK needs to double annual public life science investment, the authors say. This means delivering £90 billion in life science investment from all sources by the end of 2027. The authors say the UK has underinvested in Research and Development for decades – falling short of the OECD average by a total of £222 billion since 1985.

We need to be better prepared against ‘health disruptions’, but in the IPPR’s opinion R&D funding needs to be steered towards the North to level up health science investment. How can we disagree? Alas, NfN moles outside the Golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London are pessimistic about loosening the South’s grip on research investment.

Source: Thomas C, Nanda S  The Science Based Economy; the role of health research IPPR July 2020

Sheep, goats and others

The people at the Kings College Policy Unit have been at it again, sorting us into our species, clans and tribes. Whilst the country went into lockdown in an unusually unified way, we are coming out of lock down in factions – the Trusting, the Dissenting and the Frustrated – according to a survey of 2,254 UK residents aged 16 to 75 conducted by Ipsos MORI between 20th-22nd May.  

“The Trusting” (38% of the sample) are very worried about the health impacts of the virus, but are still by far the most likely to be putting their trust in government. Six in 10 support the relaxation measures announced on 10 May – the highest of any group and the only group with majority approval. But the Trusting still have a very high view of the health risks: nine in 10 see Covid-19 as a risk to others, and the group estimates they have a 45% chance of being hospitalised if they catch the virus. The Trusting voted Conservative over Labour by 57% to 20% in 2019, and Leave over Remain by 63% to 37% in 2016.

“The Dissenting” (also 38% of the sample) are the most worried about the health risks, and most critical of the government’s response. Nine in 10 think the lockdown is being eased too fast, and just one in 10 support the relaxation measures announced on 10 May. One in 10 trust the government to handle the crisis and 3 in 10 trust the information it provides – the lowest of the groups. 44% think the authorities are deliberately reducing or hiding the coronavirus death toll. The group estimates they have a 47% chance of being hospitalised from the virus. They are the most accepting of restrictions staying in place over the very long term if no vaccine is available. Dissenters voted Labour over Conservative by 52% to 16% in 2019, and Remain over Leave by 67% to 33% in 2016.

“The Frustrated” (24% of the sample) are the least worried about the health risks, most likely to be finding lockdown hard, and most likely to think the restrictions should be lifted faster, to assist the economy. The most ambivalent on the government’s response, but a third think the number of coronavirus deaths is being deliberately exaggerated by the authorities – the most of any group. The Frustrated are most likely to be facing job losses and financial difficulties. The group estimates they have a 26% chance of being hospitalised from the virus – much lower than the other two groups. The Frustrated voted Conservative over Labour by 42% to 32% in 2019, and Leave over Remain by 56% to 44% in 2016.



If – like News from Nowhere moles – you warm to a bare-knuckle political fight entertain yourselves with Bloomberg Opinion’s article The UK’s Response to Covid-19 Has Been World-Class, published on July 22nd. The author, Tyler Cowen, argues that the UK has done more than any other to stop the spread of the coronavirus. His argument turns on the trial of Dexamethosone as therapy, led by Oxford University, and the leading contender in the vaccine race being Oxford University (working with Big Pharma company AstraZeneca).

The story is lopsided but the comments are fab! The 60 or so responses uploaded to the Bloomberg website in the first 48 hours after publication were frank and forthright. Check ‘em out you muppets! (Their term not ours)


In the wrong place at the wrong time

Why has the Cumberlege Report sunk without trace? You know, the one that threatened that the government and healthcare system “will not be forgiven” if they fail to act on a report which reveals “institutional” resistance in the NHS to patient safety concerns. It reviewed three different problems: pelvic mesh implants; the prescription of a hazardous pregnancy test withdrawn from use in the 1970s; and the damaging effects of sodium valproate, an anti-epileptic drug, when taken in pregnancy.

A lot of explanations for the report’s demise were expressed in a HSJ podcast. The report sent the wrong message by being too critical about the NHS at a time when it was being clapped across the political divide. It was too obviously a weapon for former Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to use in his crusade for quality improvement in the NHS (and his bid for the Tory Leadership contest). It was too sweeping in its conclusions and recommendations, and too widely boycotted by stakeholders

Source: HSJ Daily Insight Podcast: Why the Cumberlege report is being buried  Sat 11/07/2020

Healthworkers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your promissory estoppel!

The Socialist Health Association is in a bad state. Nothing new there say the more cynical  NfN moles, ‘twas ever thus. The current round of faction fighting about matters constitutional and financial introduces to News from Nowhere the important political concept of promissory estoppel. What is this, you ask? The doctrine of promissory estoppel allows an injured party to recover on a promise upon which s/he relied, and then suffered a loss as a result. Got it? Quite what this means for the SHA will become clearer, fairly soon, but it’s a change from thinking about pandemics, winter pressures, lengthening waiting lists and all that NHS stuff.

Sources: SHA emails, Skwawkbox 23rd July 2020

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