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1.
Lancet Reg Health Eur ; 9: 100223, 2021 Oct.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1466769

ABSTRACT

Health systems worldwide are experiencing profound shocks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with increased attention to health system resilience and researching ways to endure shocks. Pre-COVID-19, Ireland had begun a ten-year programme of reform, Sláintecare, aiming to deliver universal, timely access to integrated care. This study examines whether and how the Irish government's pandemic response contributed to health system reform and increased resilience including delivering universal healthcare. Documentary analysis identified and critiqued relevant government, health system and budgetary documents, published March 2020 - May 2021. Thirteen national policy documents were found, showing increased policy rhetoric and intent to implement reform, demonstrated by increased policy alignment with and budgetary allocation to Sláintecare, alongside implementation of key innovations. Ireland's health system response to COVID-19 offers a unique opportunity to advance understanding of government efforts to reform amidst a global pandemic. It indicated policy intent and funding to manage the Irish COVID-19 crisis, but to also build health system resilience through implementing Sláintecare. This case study has international significance, enabling policy development with potential for long-term health system transformation.

2.
Health Policy ; 2021 Jul 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1293806

ABSTRACT

This paper compares health policy responses to COVID-19 in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States of America (US) from January to November 2020, with the aim of facilitating cross-country learning. Evidence is taken from the COVID-19 Health System Response Monitor, a joint initiative of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and the European Commission, which has documented country responses to COVID-19 using a structured template completed by country experts. We show all countries faced common challenges during the pandemic, including difficulties in scaling-up testing capacity, implementing timely and appropriate containment measures amid much uncertainty and overcoming shortages of health and social care workers, personal protective equipment and other medical technologies. Country responses to address these issues were similar in many ways, but dissimilar in others, reflecting differences in health system organization and financing, political leadership and governance structures. In the US, lack of universal health coverage have created barriers to accessing care, while political pushback against scientific leadership has likely undermined the crisis response. Our findings highlight the importance of consistent messaging and alignment between health experts and political leadership to increase the level of compliance with public health measures, alongside the need to invest in health infrastructure and training and retaining an adequate domestic health workforce. Building on innovations in care delivery seen during the pandemic, including increased use of digital technology, can also help inform development of more resilient health systems longer-term.

3.
HRB Open Res ; 3: 70, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1138934

ABSTRACT

All over the world, health systems are responding to the major shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is causing urgent and fast-paced change in the delivery of health and social care as well as highlighting pre-existing deficiencies and inequalities in the health system and broader society. In Ireland, COVID-19 is occurring during the second full year of Sláintecare's implementation - Ireland's 10-year plan for health reform to deliver universal access to timely, integrated care. This research will coproduce a Living Implementation Framework with Evaluation (LIFE) linking evidence, policy and practice that feeds into real-world Sláintecare implementation. In partnership with senior leadership in the Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office, the Department of Health and the HSE, the researchers will scope, document, measure and analyse the Sláintecare relevant COVID-19 responses using qualitative and quantitative methods. The LIFE will initially take the form of a live spreadsheet which contains the COVID-19 responses most relevant to Sláintecare. For each response, 3-4 indicators will be collected which enables monitoring overtime. The spreadsheet will be accompanied by a series of rapid reviews, narrative descriptions of multiple case studies, research papers, stakeholder engagement and formative feedback. These collectively make up the 'LIFE', informing dialogue with the project partners, which is happening in real time (living), influencing health policy and system decision-making and implementation as the project progresses. The LIFE will inform health system reform in Ireland in the months and years after the emergence of COVID-19 as well as contributing to international health systems and policy research.

4.
EBioMedicine ; 65: 103259, 2021 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1116568

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: SARS-CoV-2 serology is used to identify prior infection at individual and at population level. Extended longitudinal studies with multi-timepoint sampling to evaluate dynamic changes in antibody levels are required to identify the time horizon in which these applications of serology are valid, and to explore the longevity of protective humoral immunity. METHODS: Healthcare workers were recruited to a prospective cohort study from the first SARS-CoV-2 epidemic peak in London, undergoing weekly symptom screen, viral PCR and blood sampling over 16-21 weeks. Serological analysis (n =12,990) was performed using semi-quantitative Euroimmun IgG to viral spike S1 domain and Roche total antibody to viral nucleocapsid protein (NP) assays. Comparisons were made to pseudovirus neutralizing antibody measurements. FINDINGS: A total of 157/729 (21.5%) participants developed positive SARS-CoV-2 serology by one or other assay, of whom 31.0% were asymptomatic and there were no deaths. Peak Euroimmun anti-S1 and Roche anti-NP measurements correlated (r = 0.57, p<0.0001) but only anti-S1 measurements correlated with near-contemporary pseudovirus neutralising antibody titres (measured at 16-18 weeks, r = 0.57, p<0.0001). By 21 weeks' follow-up, 31/143 (21.7%) anti-S1 and 6/150 (4.0%) anti-NP measurements reverted to negative. Mathematical modelling revealed faster clearance of anti-S1 compared to anti-NP (median half-life of 2.5 weeks versus 4.0 weeks), earlier transition to lower levels of antibody production (median of 8 versus 13 weeks), and greater reductions in relative antibody production rate after the transition (median of 35% versus 50%). INTERPRETATION: Mild SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with heterogeneous serological responses in Euroimmun anti-S1 and Roche anti-NP assays. Anti-S1 responses showed faster rates of clearance, more rapid transition from high to low level production rate and greater reduction in production rate after this transition. In mild infection, anti-S1 serology alone may underestimate incident infections. The mechanisms that underpin faster clearance and lower rates of sustained anti-S1 production may impact on the longevity of humoral immunity. FUNDING: Charitable donations via Barts Charity, Wellcome Trust, NIHR.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Viral/blood , COVID-19/blood , Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , COVID-19/diagnosis , Health Personnel/statistics & numerical data , Humans , Immunoglobulin A/blood , Immunoglobulin G/blood , Phosphoproteins/immunology , Protein Domains/immunology
5.
Health Policy ; 125(3): 277-283, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1111618

ABSTRACT

The Sláintecare report developed by political consensus sets out a ten year plan for achieving Universal Health Care (UHC) in Ireland. This paper evaluates the design and progress of the report to mid 2020, but with some reflection on the new COVID 19 era, particularly as it relates to the expansion of entitlements to achieve UHC. The authors explore how close Sláintecare is to the UHC ideal. They also review the phased strategy of implementation in Sláintecare that utilises a systems-thinking approach with interlinkages between entitlements, funding, capacity and implementation. Finally the authors review the Sláintecare milestones against the reality of implementation since the publication of the report in 2017, cognisant of government policy and practice. Some of the initial assumptions around the context of Sláintecare were not realised and there has been limited progress made toward expanding entitlements, and certainly short of the original plan. Nevertheless there have been positive developments in that there is evidence that Government's Implementation Strategy and Action Plans are focussing on reforming a complex adaptive system rather than implementing a blueprint with such initiatives as integrated care pilots and citizen engagement. The authors find that this may help the system change but it risks losing some of the essential elements of entitlement expansion in favour of organisational change.


Subject(s)
Health Care Reform/economics , Health Plan Implementation/economics , Health Policy , Universal Health Care , COVID-19 , Health Expenditures , Humans , Ireland , Policy Making
7.
Surgeon ; 19(1): 33-36, 2021 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1065609

ABSTRACT

The current climate is one of uncertainty and immeasurable tragedy for people afflicted by the pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. As professionals, we have a duty of care towards all patients especially the vulnerable and those suffering with life-threatening illnesses such as oral cancer. We present a safe & objective triaging method for afflicted with this disease in the prevailing morbid situation.


Subject(s)
Algorithms , COVID-19/complications , Head and Neck Neoplasms/surgery , Infection Control/methods , Medical Oncology/methods , Triage/methods , Follow-Up Studies , Humans , Neoplasm Recurrence, Local , Pandemics , Risk Assessment , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2
8.
HRB Open Res ; 3: 73, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1068022

ABSTRACT

Background: Over the last several years, homelessness has increased in Ireland and across Europe. Rates have recently declined since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but it is unclear whether emergency housing measures will remain in place permanently. Populations experiencing long-term homelessness face a higher burden of multi-morbidity at an earlier age than housed populations and have poorer health outcomes. However, this population also has more difficulty accessing appropriate health services. A realist review by the authors found that important health system contexts which impact access are resourcing, training, funding cycles, health system fragmentation, health system goals, how care is organised, culture, leadership and flexibility of care delivery. Using a realist evaluation approach, this research will explore and refine key system-level factors, highlighted in our realist review, in a local health care system. Aim: The aim of this study is to understand how funding procedures and health system performance management impact service settings, staff, providers and their ability to make services accessible to populations experiencing homelessness. Methods: A realist evaluation will be undertaken to explain how funding and health system performance management impact healthcare accessibility for populations experiencing homelessness. Data will be collected using qualitative and realist interview techniques and focus group methodology. Secondary data such as policy documents and budgets will utilised. The analysis will follow Pawson and Tilley's iterative phases starting with building an Initial programme theory, then data collection, data analysis, synthesis and finally building a refined programme theory. Conclusion: Building on a realist review conducted by the same research team, this study will further test and refine findings that explain how health system factors impact healthcare accessibility for populations experiencing homelessness. The study has the potential to inform policy makers, health planners and managers of contextual factors that can be modified to increase healthcare accessibility.

9.
Strengthening health systems resilience: Key concepts and strategies ; 2020.
Article | LitCovid | ID: covidwho-832135

ABSTRACT

Health system resilience is key to coping with catastrophic events, such as the economic crisis and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but there is much confusion about what resilience means, how to strengthen it and how to assess it. For operational and assessment purposes, and to foster a more consistent understanding and use of the key concepts, we adopt the following definitions of health system resilience and shock: Health system resilience is the ability to prepare for, manage (absorb, adapt and transform) and learn from shocks. Shock is a sudden and extreme change which impacts on a health system, and is thus different from the predictable and enduring health system stresses, such as population ageing. A shock cycle has four stages: Stage 1: Preparedness;Stage 2: Shock onset and alert;Stage 3: Shock impact and management;and Stage 4: Recovery and learning. Based on the existing literature and emerging evidence from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we identify strategies for enhancing resilience and map them on to the key health systems functions: Governance: effective and participatory leadership with strong vision and communication;coordination of activities across government and key stakeholders;an organizational learning culture that is responsive to crises;effective information systems and flows;and surveillance enabling timely detection of shocks and their impact. Financing: ensuring sufficient monetary resources in the system and flexibility to reallocate and inject extra funds;ensuring stability of health system funding through countercyclical health financing mechanisms and reserves;purchasing flexibility and reallocation of funding to meet changing needs;and comprehensive health coverage. Resources: appropriate level and distribution of human and physical resources;ability to increase capacity to cope with a sudden surge in demand;and motivated and well-supported workforce. Service delivery: alternative and flexible approaches to deliver care. Assessing how each function is placed in terms of the strategies above can allow a country to identify the potential sources of vulnerability and plan for further action (to enhance resilience or the capacity to respond). Resilience can also be assessed after the crisis, providing an evaluation of the handling of the crisis. Assessment of health system resilience is crisis- and context-specific. It is important to employ a range of both quantitative and qualitative metrics that allow evaluation of particular aspects of health system resilience in order to provide a meaningful overall assessment. Analysing experiences of other countries provides useful lessons for policy-makers implementing resilience-enhancing strategies. It is particularly important to learn in the aftermath of the shock and make the link between recovering from the shock to preparedness for future shocks, which is an area often neglected once the health system returns to post-shock 'normality'.

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