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NHS DigitisationDigital services provided by the NHS have seen a huge increase in usage throughout 2020 as a result of social distancing and the need to access healthcare remotely. Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, tech services provided by NHS Digital have seen unprecedented levels of usage by both patients and frontline staff. Some of the NHS technologies that have seen the biggest increases are listed below:

NHS website
The NHS website is one of the biggest health-related websites in the world; usually attracting around 360m visits a year, which is around 30 million visits a month. It has been a key platform in the NHS’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and at the time of publishing had already had an estimated 803m visits this year. The number of users peaked in March 2020 with 120m estimated visits (the highest ever) and again in September 2020 with 81m estimated visits. There have been 160m direct visits to the coronavirus hub landing page since the end of January 2020.

An innovative blood test that may spot more than 50 types of cancer will be piloted by the NHS in a world-leading programme was announced by NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

illuminaThe Galleri blood test, developed by GRAIL, can detect early stage cancers through a simple blood test, and will be piloted with 165,000 patients in a world-first deal struck by NHS England. Research on patients with signs of cancer has already found that the test, which checks for molecular changes, can identify many types that are difficult to diagnose early, such as head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some blood cancers.

If the NHS programme shows the test also works as expected for people without symptoms it will be rolled out to become routinely available. The test could help meet the NHS Long Term Plan goal of increasing the proportion of cancers caught early, which can be the key to reducing cancer mortality. Patients whose condition is diagnosed at ‘stage one’ typically have between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four’.

mhraErik Hansson, the European Commission’s deputy head of devices, was an expert panelist at the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society’ 2020 Euro Convergence. The plenary, held on 26 October 2020, discussed global perspectives on the 2020 regulatory landscape with 16 other regulatory experts from organizations including government agencies, notified bodies and manufacturers. Hansson leads the European Commission’s operational team dealing with the implementation of the EU Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) and In Vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR), that will manage the changes recently deferred to 2021, and the coordination between EU member states and other stakeholders.

The European Parliament and Council approved the proposal to delay the full implementation of the Medical Device Regulation 2017/745 (MDR) for one year to 26 May 2021. This means that the full applicability of the MDR will fall outside of the transition period agreed with the EU.

This postponement will provide much-needed relief to the medical devices industry and the EU Member States for which the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an immense burden. The public health crisis has created a demand for substantial additional resources, as well as an increased availability of important medical devices such as medical gloves, surgical masks, equipment for intensive care and other medical equipment.

NHS Covid appMore than one million people have downloaded the government's contact-tracing app for England and Wales within its first day of release. NHS Covid-19 instructs users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were nearby someone who has the virus. It also has a check-in scanner to alert owners if a venue they have visited is found to be an outbreak hotspot. Anyone aged 16 and over is being asked to install it. The government plans to give its own download tally on Monday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the app "helps us to find more people who are at risk of having the virus" that human contact tracers are unable to find. "Everybody who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves, helping to protect their loved ones, helping to protect their community because the more people who download it, the more effective it will be," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

covid19 testThe NHS is trialling a breath test that could detect the coronavirus in just 10 minutes. The device uses an electronic nose to capture chemicals floating in a person’s breath, and compares them to the biomarkers of the virus.

A trial has begun at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey, which aims to determine whether nanotechnology biomarker tagging can be used to detect Covid-19 infection.

NHS doctors are testing out the machine, which could give results in as little as 10 minutes, its creators say. The device works by the analysing the chemicals in the air someone breathes out after they blow into a mouthpiece for a minute, and is already used for other illnesses. Manufacturers of the kit say it could be a 'game-changer' because it is so much faster than a swab test, but it is too early in trials to know how accurate it is.

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