Your morning summary of digital health news, information and events to know about if you want to be “in the know”.   

👇 News  

🧫 Genomic surveillance laboratories in the UK and South Africa, renowned for their work identifying new variants during the Covid-19 pandemic, have joined forces to identify emerging threats from infectious diseases.  The Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Genomic Surveillance Unit (GSU) and Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) have announced a new partnership to coordinate the genomic surveillance of infectious diseases globally. This close relationship will allow teams in the UK and South Africa to share resources, coordinate strategies, and powerfully support partners in disease surveillance globally, including viruses carried by mosquitoes, water-borne diseases, respiratory viruses and other diseases with pandemic potential. 

Last January, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with STAT, revealed that at least a dozen brands of asparaginase, a key childhood chemotherapy drug, had failed quality tests, putting an estimated 70,000 children in more than 90 countries at risk. A year later, almost nothing has changed, STAT reports. The WHO has issued no alert about the problematic cancer drug and national drug regulators around the world have not taken meaningful action, with both sides claiming communication breakdowns and a lack of evidence. 

🔐 The Private Healthcare Information Network  – the independent, not-for-profit company which collects data to help patients make more informed decisions – has achieved Cyber Essentials accreditation as part of its ongoing work to ensure the healthcare data it collects is kept secure. The government-backed, Cyber Essentials Scheme covers the basics of cyber security in an organisation’s IT system. Implementation of these controls can significantly reduce the risk of prevalent but unskilled cyber-attacks. The Scheme is reported to help increase security against common cyber-attacks by 80%. 

🦿 A Scottish medical paper exploring the prospect of 3D printing hip and knee joint replacements mixed with a patient’s own biological cells into the body has gained international recognition. The research paper, co-authored by orthopaedic specialists at NHS Golden Jubilee in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, investigated the use of 3-dimensional biological printing (3D bio-printing) technology with patient stem cells and other substances found in bones like calcium in order to create “scaffolds” that could help regenerate bone defects in the body.  

🖥 UK health solutions provider Simplyhealth is using Salesforce Einstein, Service Cloud, and Sales Cloud to power productivity across its business through AI-powered customer experiences, enabling its services to become more accessible and easy to use. Simplyhealth is now using  Einstein for Service to transform agent efficiency with conversational AI. Time to reply to customer email inquiries with a knowledge GPT-enabled response, with the appropriate human checks in place, has reduced from 12 minutes to just one minute since its launch. Salesforce AI is already credited with resolving around 10% of Simplyhealth emails that were sent during November and December 2023. With the reduction in work time to send these emails, service agents are using this extra time to focus on more engagement with customers, with a particular focus on their most vulnerable customers.

❓ Did you know that? 

At least three in five A&E departments in England currently fall below the waiting standards pledged under the NHS Constitution, a study by has found. The East of England, North East and Yorkshire, and London have the highest number of A&E departments that have patients wait over four hours. The research is based on a three-month average of the NHS data from July to September 2023. It has found that at least 122 out of 203 A&E departments in England miss the target of having 95% of all A&E patients admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours from arrival. 

📖 What we’re reading 

Improving outpatient care – especially as part of elective recovery efforts – is  a key priority for the NHS, with an ambition for health systems to reduce follow-up outpatient attendances by 25% from 2019/20 levels by March this year. One intervention is patient-initiated follow-up, which allows people to request an appointment as and when they need one, rather than following a fixed appointment schedule. Although the number of patients on PIFU pathways has steadily increased month on month to over 200,000 in September 2023, it is still only a small proportion of all outpatient activity, equating to approximately 3% of people attending outpatient clinics altogether. This Nuffield Trust blog looks at how PIFU could impact patient care. 

🚨 Next week’s events 

Monday 29 January, House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee – Future cancer inquiry

Thursday 1 February, University of Oxford – Digital Care Hub, the Institute for Ethics in AI and Reuben College, Oxford, and Casson Consulting, co-host an AI roundtable event