Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

What are some fallouts of Davos 2023?

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The annual meeting of world leaders including business leaders, at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort at Davos, included the usual topics of Trade, Tech and Climate Change, but this year Davos had far reaching implications, hardly contemplated.

Davos 2023 was the 53rd meeting this year, with the Forum President Borge Brende giving the closing remarks on 21 January 2023, summarising with the words: “We can shape a more resilient, sustainable and equitable future, but the only way to do so, is together.” The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterras stressed on 18th January, “There was no perfect solution in a perfect storm.” The sense of unity was contained in the messages, from Alain Berset (President Swiss Confederation) to Sanna Marin (Prime Minister,Finland) and Andrzej Duda (President of Poland) – all of whom expressed their continued support for Ukraine.

The need for collaboration is beyond Ukraine as global inter-world crises requires moral interlinked solutions, including supply chain disruption, with a looming global recession expected according to some economists later this year.

Kristina Georgieva, MD of IMF stated: “As we navigate an uncertain economic outlook about the future of work we need reskilling in order to prepare current and future workforces.

Agriculture and Food, Cybersecurity, Forests,Digital Economy, Trade and Investment also featured in the discussions among business and other leaders.

The Focus at Davos 2023

The focus was on the tension between quality and speed of action. There is the war in Ukraine, which has sent energy and food prices soaring. The resulting inflationary pressures have ignited a global cost of living crisis, leading to social unrest worldwide.

According to The Guardian, China may be forced to make friends again with the West.

This was seen at Davos, with Beijing hinting it may adopt a less hostile approach. Vice President of China, Liu He appeared at Davos to “assure foreign investors that after 3 years of COVID-19 disruption, China was open for business”. Proof of the pudding was when he stated: “We have to abandon the Cold War mentality, we must open up wider and make it work better.”

A number of themes also emerged from Davos. India’s Action, India’s Phenomenal Growth was reflected in responses from political and private leaders at Davos, this year. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has predicted India will become the Third $10 Trillion economy by 2035, thanks to its demographic dividend. This was

also highlighted with top priority by India’s large delegation at Davos, during India’s current G20 Presidency until November 2023.

What was not stated but is now seen happening after Davos 2023?

About a quarter of the countries of the world are in debt, distress or on the brink of it. At Davos every one of the multilateral organisations that keep tabs on the financial fragility of poor countries did express concern on debt solutions.

As countries are having trouble paying their debts amid slower global growth, rising interest rates, urgent action was canvassed. In the case of Argentina and Brazil we are told are wanting to amalgamate their currencies. A new currency, the Austral may be introduced, which it is hoped will be more stable than the Argentinian Peso. The similarities between Brazil and Argentina debt problem is only skin deep. Argentina’s debt was mostly external; Brazil’s is mostly internal. Both sought Debt Restructuring by the IMF.

In the case of Sri Lanka both, India and China were “told to?” adjust with Sri Lanka in restructuring.

India pledged confirmation of its willingness to extend financial assurances as well as freeze debt for two years. India stated in its communique: “We hereby confirm our strong support for Sri Lanka’s prospective EFF (Extended Fund Facility) Support Plan and commit to supporting Sri Lanka with Financial/Debt Relief consistent with restoring Sri Lanka Public Debt Sustainability under the IMF Support Programme ensuring that the Programme is fully financed as projected by IMF Debt Relief. It is to be provided by Export Import Bank of India”.

China followed suit on 21` January 2023 and responded direct to Sri Lanka’s request on re-scheduling its Debt as a pledge to Bail Out by IMF, with an offer for a two year moratorium.

Japan and the Paris Club have already confirmed their financial assurances.

This gives Sri Lanka the potential for a total of $5 Billion that could be generated from these multilateral lenders. Davos was not the lever to this Bail out, it was World Public Opinion and Sri Lanka’s valid and reasonable request.

Three Ways to Restructure Debt?

“As to the debt problem itself, there are only three ways out:

1) An internal adjustment economically and politically within, a nation entailing a return to the free market system.

     2) An assumption of bad debt loss by the lending institutions, if a country is unable to repay its loans, or

 3) An assumption of risk on the part of the governments of creditor nations (and ultimately on their taxpayers.

The world’s biggest Tech Show at Las Vegas

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Tech titans and gadget geeks were all at Vegas last week January 5-8, 2023, for CES – The Consumer Electronics Show. It is the premier event of the entire technology eco-system. It is the world’s gathering for the business of consumer technologies and new innovations. Who would doubt that it has to be in “Las Vegas Convention Center”, Nevada, US ofA.

BMW Chairman and CEO, Oliver Zipse was there among many business moguls/ dignitaries, to showcase how the future of mobility by car can merge the real and virtual worlds and present BMW’s vision of the “ultimate digital driving machine”. I leave it to my readers to create rather than elucidate. In this short piece,

Capturing imagination

In a world full of uncertainty and imponderables, it is no longer enough to capture a consumer’s attention, you have to capture the public’s imagination and learn how inventions are winning the hearts and minds of their devoted fans but followers.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we are told the show was extraordinary, From the Robot “Wowwee” Dog, which has one million combinations of lights, sounds and personality traits, displaying texts and emoji’s when it wags it tail, to the colourful cars and fridges which changes colour to match your outfit or mood, BMW’s i-Vision Dee,(which stands for Digital Emotional Experience) the idea is to provide a more personal and customised driving experience, designed to push the boundaries between  physical with the virtual “digital perception” worlds. This so called, “fun model” will arrive in 2025. 

The CES Show, always has something utterly bonkers. This year the slot was reserved exclusively for “Withings U-Scan”, Wi-Fi connected, Urine Analyser, as you sit on your porcelain throne. Results are reported on the App – Alongside. The advert states it is an actionable tip to improve health.

The great thing about CES, in my opinion is discovering “Tech you never knew you needed”. This is shown in L’Oreal’s brilliant at Home Electronic Eyebrow make-up applicant. All you have to do is fire up the App ,Scan your face, choose the desired Shape, Thickness and Effect, say the instructions, then run it across your face,

But, for us men, it is LG brand’s Colour changing Cool Box –Mood-Up Fridge, to keep cans of beer, it can be customised to match your mood or your kitchen colour scheme.

It has a built in Bluetooth speaker, which will even sync with music for when you are in the party mood.

For the Laptop enthusiast, Lenovo “Yoga Book” 91, is completely rewriting the rules of portable computing, with multi-tasking, dual screen OLED Laptop, with No Key pad or Track Pad in sight. Instead, the Laptop comes bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard, stylus and stand, enabling it to prop up vertically on a desk or table. This seems to be the future of folding Laptops.

Life is but a dream?

Need I say that everything in the world of tomorrow. Is but a dream, an escape from reality. It is all about building your own connection, both physical as well as personal connection and community in a “Nonstop World”. To us oldies, it threatens “Reality”.

It seems as if we play life in a world of new experience. But it is not the world of tomorrow, but according to the CEO of Delta Airlines, USA, it will free Wi-Fi for all who fly their airlines from 1 February 2023.

How close to real life and health is all this experience?

Let us not be fooled, with all this “Americanism”. Visitors to the Show heard about the exploring ways that Technology Innovation is enabling, and in my view, impacting our health, in particular. We are warned that there is going to be a new model of patient care – one that blends in person care with virtual diagnostic and other tools for a more holistic and accessible patient experience, leading to better health outcomes.

My question is providing access to economic mobility, including physical mobility as we age, is the object for a changing world order, but how much of this commands everyone’s free choice and how much is imposed in the name of progress? This is an ethical question, which needs an ethical resolution?

What goes up, must come down!

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Energy prices have shot up in recent months, but recent mild weather in UK and over Europe, according to The Guardian, is driving down wholesale gas prices. The milder conditions have reduced demand for heating and have contributed efforts by the Government, Business and particularly households, to cut their energy consumption and their bills.

Norway has helped the effort in UK to fill gas storage facilities with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

Consolation for the hard pressed

The question on the minds of consumers is that if wholesale gas prices is sustained, consumers could reap benefits in a few months.

Britain has averted power cuts during one week of sub-zero cold snap in December 2022, without emergency measures. The rationale is that energy suppliers typically buy their Gas and Electricity in advance allowing them to fix some of their costs. This means wholesale price rises and falls are not immediately passed on to consumers. But, we cannot read much into this optimism.

How much have prices fallen?

On Wednesday, 4 January 2023, Gas price closed at 155p/per therm compared with 200p/per therm at start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Oil prices as the pumps have also come down with Brent crude $150 per barrel. But, this is no argument for delay of imposition of a “Windfall Tax” on oil companies. However, according to Exxon Mobil, such a tax would result in lower investment in fossil fuel extraction. What about Climate Change?

Noticeable change in mortgage rates and CPI

With the dawn of the New Year, mortgage rates which have increased exponentially over the past 12 months, peaked around 6.65% after previous Chancellor Kwarteng Mini Budget, have since come down to below 6% – 5.99% for a two year fixed mortgage and 5.78% for a 5 year fixed mortgage, When you consider a year ago in January 2022, it is miniscule.

The latest figures seem to suggest inflation has peaked as CPI fell to 10.7% in November 2022, from a 41 year high of 11.1% in October 2022.

What is the New Year tweaking?

“What goes up, must come down,” is a phrase often quoted by politicians, around the world. But just the other day, Halifax research has revealed that over the past 40 odd years house prices have gone sky high, making it impossible for young people wanting to get on to the property ladder in UK.

The days of owning a property in UK is beyond the reach of many who are unable to save enough in their working career to place the required 10% deposit for a house mortgage. The new mantra is “Shared Ownership” rather than outright mortgage.

The days of thinking of an Englishman’s home as his castle, is long over. Over the past years there has been a staggering +974% in house price increase seen since 1983.

Thus, while at present there is a drop in house prices in London due to cost of living pressures driven by higher food and energy cost, when viewed through a historical lens, a 10% or even a 15% drop over the next few months, would only represent a minor blip. House and Flats prices in London, in my opinion, would never ever reach a drop of more than 5% as house building has never met demand. We would very soon be competing with Europe, to be a nation of renters, not owners of property.

An erudite Buddhist Teacher, monk, and friend

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I was saddened to hear about the passing of a great teacher, a dear friend who I had known since 1984 in London, and who always welcomed me at the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre at Kingsbury, Brent, London NW7 1NB, without reservation.

The Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Nakaya MahaThero passed away on 19 December 2022 at Northwick Park Hospital after a prolonged illness. The cremation takes place at Hendon Crematorium at 09.45 a.m. on 31 December 2022.

 The Ven. PiyadassiThero was a well-known, highly respected monk. He hailed from a dignified family, comfortably well-off in Sri Lanka. Entering monastic life must have indeed been, a difficult choice.

He came to London as a missionary from Sri Lanka, as a young monk, an understudy of the educationist, Late Most Ven. Saddatissa Thero, in early 1984, took over the ongoing missionary work, in a quarter of London which was much the favourite residential area of Sri Lankans, but without a Buddhist Temple.

It had been prepared ready for the teachings of The Buddha, but with the demise of one of the notable missionaries, NayakaThero, Ven. Saddhatissa in the late 1980s, there was a vacuum which had to be filled by a visionary, to carry on the onerous duties. of the late missionary,

It was also a time of much turmoil in Sri Lanka due to civil strife and the unease had spilt over to London and the UK. Many Sri Lankans were eager to congregate, but fear was understandably profoundly rooted in our psyche.

Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Thero was a simple, trusting mind who brought home the message of The Buddha, in being able to perform a role of bringing solace and comfort to a broken community of Buddhists and also Sri Lankans.

As the years rolled by, Galayaye Piyadassi Thero was given the accolade by late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, elevating his service to citizens and country, by the award of the title, MBE, hardly ever before conferred on a Buddhist monk.

He continued his monastic work without fanfare and organised many functions for the Buddhist and Sri Lankan communities, including the Buddha Jayanti celebration and the annual remembrance of the World Peace Day of Prayer for Inter-religions as for the annual Tsunami Remembrance Day each December.

He will be sadly missed by not only the Buddhist community but by many Inter-Faith dignitaries in the Borough of Brent, for spreading the message of oneness. Hiscontinuedmission of being an unpublicised religious Visitor to nearby hospitals to comfort the sick, is legendary, before he became indisposed himself, over recent times.,

Sri Lankans in London had a mentor who will be sadly missed. At the same time, Buddhist temples in our homeland will lose the undivided contact due to his charitable and fundraising activities, which he silently carried on, even with his disability over recent years.

What was Christmas like fifty years ago in England and today?

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All I saw of snow before I landed in England some fifty years ago, was the scene of winter on a Christmas card. It was an experience I can never forget, of hands and ears frozen and people throwing snowballs for fun at each other, whilst building a snowman outside their homes and decorating the Christmas tree with fancy lights inside.

Christmas, as we know it today, resembles nothing of its past. A lot of what happened would shock us today. Binge eating and drinking, in many forms, rowdiness lubricated by alcohol on trains and the Underground on Christmas Eve, made travel a danger. Merrymaking would edge into making trouble. Today, there are cameras on trains and at stations and security is tight.

It was then mostly a family occasion. The gathering of family and friends the night before Christmas, for carols, mistletoe and mulled wine. Whilst on Christmas Day, 25 December, it was Christmas lunch, called “Dinner” with turkey and trimmings, served with cranberry sauce, mince pies and plum pudding for afters, shared with inner members of the family circle, with exchange gifts before the revelry.  

Christmas then and now, is a fusion of the pious and the pagan, the sacred and the profane. Most of its traditions are historical either borrowed or relatively recent.

According to the latest Census, in 2021 Britain is a minority Christian country, People of other faiths are now celebrating Christmas, more than the native population, which seems strange.

But besides the changing fashions of consumerism and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, there remains something that has outlived, outlasted centuries of pagan culture and the real enchantment of the spirit of fellowship, the good tidings at Christmas time and the love of God to be one amongst us.

Some of the things people hardly talk about now is the increasingly secularised holiday, marked by a season of good cheer and festive fun, punctuated by long-forgotten English superstitions or traditions of mistletoe and wine, Santa and the reindeer, the late Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Message, now King Charles III first Christmas TV Message and Pope Francis’“Urbi et Orbi” message to the world.

Understandably this year there is only hope of a subdued celebration with all the travel strike chaos and cost of living inconvenience.

Besides, divisions in life today and years past, go to the very heart of Christmas, to the gatherings at Midnight Mass, to the celebrations at the dining table with fun and frolic.

The shifting Christmas landscape

Times have changed in a big way in these fifty years. What would you do if you could get the time back that you spent shopping for gifts and for food for Christmas?

Back then, people thought it was weird to stop at one shop for everything you needed or wanted. You had the butcher for your meat and turkey, the bakery for your cakes, likewise, it was so-called specialist places where you did your shopping. You could do the “normal” thing and do your High Street shopping errands individually, going shop to shop.

There were no all-embracing Supermarkets for all your needs. Time was not at a premium then? What surprises most people today is; how much cheaper it was than going shop to shop, looking for bargains especially as Christmas presents, without today’s inflation.

What you now think might be a bargain at today’s Supermarket, could actually still be full of hidden costs. We then had value for money or at least thought we had, by shopping at Woolworth’s for value, now that choice has gone, disappeared with the passage of time? But we now have Prime Mart instead

What about other changes in these years?

Convenience and choice was lacking years ago. Today you can forget about the chore of meals and the joys of cooking your Christmas Family Dinner, with food delivered to your doorstep. Years ago we did not have the convenience of so-called “perfect selection” of measured portions of food, choice diets for vegans and vegetarians, and specialist counters for specialist health foods, less salt and less sugar diets. Today, we have “free from” food.

Today everything is wrapped up in measured units of calories and weight markings. This cuts out the stressful meal planning, as well as the wastage which makes it easier by selection of the meal type that is right for you. There is so much of choice today than in years past. Today, we have shelves stacked with varied variety. The choice is unbelievable. But, at the same time, there is a “cost factor”? Have we over the years become lazy?

What ways has Christmas changed?

The festive season may be packed with traditions, but Christmas is also an occasion which has changed with the times, but with religion focussed on the love of God for Man. It is down to world events, advances in people’s behaviour and perception, as well as technology or simply popular additions to the celebrations that never went away.

With the postal strike, people are resorting to sending “E-Cards” on the internet, instead.

With the rail strike people are staying at home instead of travelling.

With the Nurses and Ambulances on strike, we guess there would be less crowds at A&E?

With regard to the reflection of life in giving gifts, and toys, in particular, some companies are making toys more eco-friendly. Some companies are also cutting down on single-use plastic and boosting sustainability. Lego is a toy that is still very popular as a gift for children, but plant-based colours are now in use.

Parents are setting up cash Trust Funds for children this year, instead of gifting toys. Although Christmas will be very different for many this year, the spirit of Christmas will still linger on amidst the difficult times.

The Unions v The Government of UK

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The strikes up and down the country in the cold winter at end of 2022 and early 2023 as many would state, is to test the nerve of the Conservative Government.

It has been seen to be coming for many months, but Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, like his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, has painted the Trade Unions, as well as the Labour Opposition for supporting picket lines, as the enemies of ordinary hard working Brits, blaming them for causing the chaos in the run up to Christmas.

It has in one sense worked as 49% of the British public is opposed to some of the Unions, particularly, the RMT Rail Union as greedy. Some other unions like the Transport Salaried Staff (TSSA) last week voted to accept Network Rail’s offer of at least 9% for this year and next with Network Rail promising to make no compulsory redundancies until 31 January 2025.

Private Contractors have agreed pay offers with Unions

Other Unions, like Unite have also accepted an improved pay offer for the Ground Handling Staff at Heathrow Airport from their Private Contractor, Menzies. So have planned strikes by Security Guards on Eurostar to Paris on December 16 and 18th were similarly suspended while they considered a fresh pay offer from Contractor, Mities.

We read that Rolls Royce, a unit of Germany’s BMW, had agreed a very generous pay offer with the Union, Unite, on 16 December 2022, worth 14.8% and up to 17%, the largest single pay deal in the history of the factory at Goodwood, West Sussex,Southern England.

Another well-known name, EasyJet agreed to raise base pay by 7.5% in France and averted a French Cabin crew strike over Christmas.

While many Private Companies have seen it constructive to make peace with their Unions,

The British Government has been holding firm, even with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Is Nurses Pay more important in today’s political scene?

The two professions, one the Train Drivers (RMT) on an average salary of £59,000 pa with fewer vacancies and Nurses on just under £35,000, with 45,000 odd nursing vacancies across England, there is public sympathy (66% at a recent poll) with the Nurses.

The Sunak Government is left with little choice but to make a climb down in his fight with the Nurses, who are willing to also come to a reasonable deal.

It may be a “U Turn,” the second time in his recent six weeks that P.M.Sunak would have to cave in, similarly to his change on his housing agenda, on the building of onshore wind farms.

With MP’s salaries on £84,000 and some “moonlighting” there is a hue and cry to help the Nurses. The Big Issue is who deserves a pay rise at present, a Nurse or a Train Driver?

Can you compare Train Drivers to Nurses?  Train Drivers have six (6) months training inside the train cab, while Nurses need up to six (6) years training on the hospital floor. However, in a sense it is not comparing like with like and here is the difficulty from the Government’s standpoint.

We all know the NHS needs a major overhaul and an efficiency drive. But look at it another way, the average Nurse’s salary is four (4) times the State Pension. But, will we be better off rapidly reaching the “Cost of Insurance” based Health Care, like the United States, or Germany.

The main question on people’s minds is: “Will Private Medicine be a more effective service than the NHS, we have got used to over decades?

I leave it to you to decide, which is better?

Personalised Medicine through routine Genome sequencing in UK

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The world of medicine and diagnostics has over generations gone through tremendous change. The 20th century itself, has witnessed many revolutionary advances in health care. Research into the causes of infectious diseases, the development of vaccines and pharmaceuticals have conquered devastating illness such as polio, smallpox, Ebola and now COVID-19. The first successful organ transplant took place in 1954, now prolonging the lives of heart and other transplants. Over the past decade and since December 2021 alone, better understanding of the mechanisms that cause lung collapse, has improved the ability not only to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, but has been a milestone in medical progress. Innovation is underlying that progress, Accelerating change with many new technologies and medical interventions provide new options for specialist care and treatment, and perhaps future investment?

From Project to Platform Genomics England

The latest development is Genome Sequence. Genome England is a UK Government and NHS research body, planning to turn science into healthcare, through technology.

Since July 2018, as part of the 65th anniversary celebrations of NHS, the UK Department of Health and Social Care was tasked with the project to sequence 100,000 whole genomics from NHS patients with rare diseases, especially with common cancers. After a successful completion of a pilot project, this body is now planning to screen up to 200,000 new born in 2023 to gather data on rare diseases, many of them are genetic.

It is an ethics approved research pilot project for parents to find out what their new born child’s life is going to be like? It is a person centred screening, research and analysis of new born to inform parents with their consent to make informed choices for rare disease, heath care until the child is grown up to be able to make the child’s own choices for necessary treatment.

The impact of the project is to make genomics part of routine check, perhaps similar to advance breast cancer screen, or the PSA Test, but in much greater detail. This is in order to collect data resource to focus for “gene alterations” in a specific list of genes that may increase the risk of rare or incurable disease.

The future of diagnostics and how the data is used?

At the heart of any new development is ethics, consent and security of information. Parents and children should feel satisfied that the data collected is with their consent, ethical and secure.

We are informed that the parents and the children will be able to build in a regular review of their condition, look for any abnormalities that may arise, making sure that the clinical pathways and guidance are safe and robust.

It is anticipated that the future of a condition may not appear until a child is 8 or 10 years old, when the child is mature and be able to make own choices and/orre-consent.

Who has access to the data?

As it stands, maintaining data security and protecting the individual privacy is top priority. The data is solely in the hands of the Secretary of State for Health and the NHS. The DNA profile data will never be used for Insurance or Marketing purposes, nor for speculative searches.

Genomics England data will not be available without permission or presentation of a Court Order.

However, the data will be used for finding new treatments and possibly cure for a wide range of health conditions, improving analysis, for developing new drug platforms and diagnostic tests, suggest clinical trials and/or relevant research.

How can the World benefit with Genome Sequence?

India is projected to surpass China as the most populated country on14 April 2023. According to UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs, India’s population is projected to be 1,425,775,850. This will be the first time that a country other than China has held the top population statistics, since 1750 when China last overtook India (vide 27th edition UN World Population Prospects)

For India, current estimates suggest the population will continue to grow, although at a slightly slower rate.

China’s population growth has been in decline since 1980 when the Chinese Government implemented its “One Child Policy,” only rescinded in 2016. China is not the only country to experience declining fertility rates.

However, some other countries in African Continent, with large populations are expected to increase in numbers in the next 30 years. They include Democratic Republic of Congo,

Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Rapid expansion in population and Genome Sequence?

This rapid expansion of population growth opens opportunities not only for Infrastructure development, but more especially for Health Care investment.

We can see the need for Genome Sequence in these countries of population growth in the not too distant future?

Will we see UK moving in by investing more in these population dense countries with its new technology? What will be my child like when it grows up will dominate their thinking? The United Kingdom has never missed a chance of moving in investment in medical research?


For those wishing to view the London Genome Conference

“A Conference on Genome Sequence is planned in London on the 13 December 2022 at 8.30 am GMT. Kindly see details below which will be available by webinar on the Internet.

Key areas for discussion include:

  • opportunities – latest thinking on the use and potential of genomics to improve public health and develop personalised medicine – next steps for data use – genomics in screening
  • R&D – priorities for supporting innovation and collaborating on evaluation at UK level – systems to support innovative therapies – integration of health and genomic data in research
  • pathogen genomic sequencing – taking forward lessons from systems used during the pandemic – the next steps for embedding capacity and scalability within the system
  • implementation – the way forward for genomic transformation in the NHS
  • pharmacogenomics – its role in drug discovery and prescribing – what has been learned from early developments – patient engagement – options for scaling up use in clinical practice
  • collaboration and investment across the UK – key considerations for sharing data and key findings, and for surveillance
  • developing genomic healthcare services – improving pathways – priorities for workforce education – reducing regional variation in implementation – opportunities for patient engagement.

During the conference delegates will hear from Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics; NHS England and NHS Improvement; Dr Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health in Wales, Welsh Government; and Dr Richard Scott, Chief Medical Officer, Genomics England; Consultant, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children; and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Institute of Child Health, University College London.

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from the Department of Health, NI; Office for Life Sciences; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government

© Copyright HEE Genomics Education Programme


What are some of the new technology applications in the Ukrainian war?

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Every war in history has spun new weaponry. The Ukrainian war is also a test ground for new applications, new weapons, According to The Economist, a live tracker at HALO Trust in Scotland, is able to chart Russian bombings, the kind of weapons used, within hours of each incident. This has given Ukraine access to a range of innovations.

Russia too has been prompted to boost its arsenal. This war according to President Putin is not going to end soon. This war has taken things from “abstract to reality”. Who would have contemplated the vision that North Korea will at some time in the near future assist Russia? Who would have contemplated that Ukraine would someday invade its border with the might of Russia?

What is the nature of any war?

To laymen, the nature of war has not fundamentally changed? But, numerous predictions have been made recently how new technologies would function and fare on a battlefield of the future?

We gather emerging technologies like, “hypersonics, drones, electronic warfare, jamming cyber weapons and particularly disinformation” have been emerging and evolving military technologies in the Ukraine battlefield, according to Brookings Institute.

Ukraine was able to get from the United States and its NATO allies, hundreds of armoured vehicles, 155mm Howitzers, HIMARS rockets, 1000’s of Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft weapons.

But, there are more high profile, advanced weapons that US will not provide Ukraine due to political sensitivities. Will US which has now developed a new version of the Stealth Bomber, think of its delivery to Ukraine? All these new technologies developed by US are “classified tech”. But, US has got its NATO ally, Germany, to deliver its first IRIS-T surface to air missile system, to Ukraine?  

The war in Ukraine is seen as a test case?

The war in Ukraine is seen as a test case for “wars of the future”? Although flashy technological transformations are being contemplated, the change to new warfare technology is not on offer.

Sensor based technologies are being seen in a variety of likely settings. We see operational data being collected for Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, there is the training of “online volunteers” who are able to intercept communication among the Russian military units on the warfront in Ukraine.

One of the most innovative war format is skilled military and non-military online volunteers from all locations in the world joining the battlefront “virtually supporting” Ukrainian ground forces. Small “Special Operation” teams are making it difficult to avoid detection of incoming drone warfare.

Not to mention, “social media” too is playing “SMART warfare” to counter disinformation.

What we are witnessing is technology used for civilian use is being used for warfare?

Could you believe, “Crowd Funding” is also being used for military purchases?

How we see Russia counteracting?

Russia too is not inactive. It is using military AI to further use in defence applications. We see “Cyber warfare” is on, in a big way. For its part Russian Oligarchs around the world are not sitting on their laurels. They are pumping in for the war effort. Russia has been able to deploy numerous Iranian produced “Shahed 136 Kamikazi” drones against critical energy infrastructure, such as Ukrainian energy grid for blackouts, blowing up gas pipeline, among others, for maximum impact damage to civilian infrastructure, especially in the bleak Ukrainian winter.

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

ISR is coordinating Russian troop movements and directing civilian strikes in Ukraine. But. is finding it at a disadvantage to combat Ukrainian ingenuity. The culture of innovation is ingrained in the psyche of Ukraine. It has proven very effective and decisive on the battlefield, so essential for long term Ukrainian security. Ukrainians are by nature very creative, with much ingenuity for precision strikes. Robotic and autonomous systems has enabled the flow of information for improvising improvements how “modern tech” is designed and used.

Although Russia’s war has been the driving force all along since February 2022, Ukrainian morale and ingenuity is enabling it to be more agile, faster, with the improbable possibility of sometime in the not too distant future, of even invading its border with Western Russia, which Russia has already contemplated.

For its part Russian experience is relying on its superiority in manpower and of its allies, including North Korea, Syria and Iran for its lifeline needs.

Defence spending in the West

The Ukrainian war has not only impacted technological innovation but has boosted defence spending in US and the West. “Defence is no longer an abstract, but a reality.”

The impact of sanctions, the US$60 ceiling on Russian oil, is ratcheting, it is not all that is contemplated by the US and its NATO allies. At some stage the West may even contemplate removal of Russia as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.

President Putin has said that the war in Ukraine is a long drawn out war and Russia is not “sitting and waiting” for things to happen. What next in Russian arsenal, is on the minds of all nations?

The shifting demands faced by the NHS

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3 mins read

Nobody talks of the ageing population in UK, they think it is only applicable in Japan. Nobody contemplates of the workforce in UK is reducing while the population is growing, especially after the mass exodus of migrant labour from Europe after Brexit. People are needing more care with GP’s unable to cope at their practice surgeries. People are needing more care this winter, allowing for more strike action disrupting ordinary life.

Prevention of disease, illness, according to the adage, is better than cure. Care, not only of older people, but of society is a necessity. Of course, we have a responsibility to help order people to live healthier lives, but we also have a “duty to protect” the young who are unable to cope with the stresses of life after COVID-19. They are at the forefront of depression, unable to find suitable employment opportunities. To put it simply, they are finding it near difficult, “to secure connected lives”.

The challenges faced by the NHS today are many. The main problem being lack of proper communication, or rather, a breakdown in communication. As the saying goes, “water, water, everywhere, but nothing to drink”. During the last decade the NHS has had workforce cuts, shortage of nurses, doctors, consultants, but at the same time an increase in hospital patrol security officers, to quell any disturbances, with an equally decrease in the hospital beds. No one, neither the Medics; the Hospital Administrators; the NHS; the Government; or even social media, have had the courage of their conviction, to state that better communication is needed, both within the service and external, to explain the “system malaise”.  

Why has there been a lack of communication?

The irony is that with the growth of digital technology, the internet, the apps, and the mobile, people of all ages across society around the world, seem to be more lonelier and isolated in their problems. The NHS is not an exception in this respect.  Have we ripped the heart out of our lives? Has Covid-19 and remote working made us “lose our humanity” or the need for personal interaction, on every level? Have we lost the need to care for others? Have our GP’s lost the human touch in remote consultation?

Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge in communication over the past 18 months has been adjustment in terms of logistics, technology, working practice, making cultural alignment. In many, if not most cases, it ultimately turned out to be feasible, productive, and somewhat popular work pattern, as flexible working, at present, suited both worker and employer. With the growth of new ways of working, as new technologies emerge, the NHS must also adopt and adapt technology that improves service for patients, as well as help their staff, at every level to do their jobs efficiently and efficaciously.

Why is change in the NHS so difficult?

The issue to highlight is that technology must be patient appropriate. New ways of working in patient care must not exclude old people who need the “language of kindness” in health service. Is time or cost of delivery a constraint? As we age, as we get older, we tend to get long term conditions and need more social care. The number people over 60 according to ONS, is expected to increase to 18.5 million in 2025; 75% of 73 year olds need care. There is more than one (1) long term condition, rising to 82% of 85 year olds. Selling a family home to pay for Care Home treatment, should not the sole criteria of Care. The Government must provide some funding for volunteer care services and to Local Bodies.

Change needs to be locally led with role of NHS England to support those delivering care.

NHS Trusts must make this change happen. Of course there may be performance limitations.

Optimising wellbeing of the young is another area of concern. Paul Farmer, CEO MIND, a mental charity, has highlighted challenges including mental health and wellbeing of the young millennials, caused largely by the sudden change in the way we work, after COVID- 19.  A recent study by NHS reported in Glamour magazine stated,  a quarter of 17-19 year olds have a probable mental disorder. Mental health has failed to recover since the pandemic among the young. The new generation Application Tracking System (ATS) and how employers utilise technology, how they advertise jobs, the language they use and process they follow, may cause mental stress to the young and needs scrutiny?

The vision for the future

The vision for the future is greater focus in prevention, patients more in control of Health Care and the spread of compassion and kindness in delivery of care services to both young and old. In this respect NHS Trusts to act firmly and fairly, with the provision of service delivery in Hospitals and GP Surgeries. Para Medics and Pharmacies to help GP’s with Government legislation put in place soon in health assessments and prescription of medication for people.

Why is there a winter of discontent in UK?

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3 mins read

The widespread industrial unrest in the run up to Christmas and into January 2023, is nothing new, as workers all over Britain demand better pay and working conditions. Their leverage is to cause the most amount of tolerance, inconvenience and resilience.

We’ve just come out of summer and autumn with rail and postal strikes, now we face strike action planned by Nurses, Teachers, Train drivers, Emergency services, Ambulance drivers, Civil Servants, all jumping on the bandwagon. After a decade of wage stagnation workers across the country are now calling for pay rises that match inflation. However, it is fair to say, that during the past decade inflation was below 2 %, but has now overshot expectation.  

The last time there was a winter of discontent that I can remember?

I reckon it was during the days of Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan.

I can remember the winter between November 1978 and February 1979 when rubbish on the streets piled up, not cleared for days, perhaps, weeks as “Bin men” Council workers went on strike. First, it was the private and later the public sector Trade Union workers, demanding Pay rises greater than offered by the Labour government. It was no joke, when lights used to flicker as power cuts made us to keep candles at the ready. Domestic services in hospitals were on poverty wages of £39.50 per week at that time.

We cannot of course, compare today’s scenario to either the days of the General Strike of 1926 or the strike in 1978/79. But, a picture is building of what this winter 2022/23 will look like.

Why the strikes in NHS, in particular?

How many of you know that 25,000 Nursing staff left their job in the past year, with staff shortages affecting patient safety?

How many know there are 47,000 unfilled NHS Registered Nursing posts in England alone?

Has this shortage anything to do with the minimum 5, sometimes 10 hour wait at A& E wards in hospitals up and down the country?

Nurses in UK are going on strike for the first time, the first official strike in their 106 year history, on 15 and 20th December 2022. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced it has reluctantly called a national strike over pay and patient safety. It said their action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses.

Emergency care will still be provided, under a “life–preserving care model,” but routine services are expected to be affected by the strike. RCN stated the level of service during walk outs will be that dialysis and planned surgery cancelled.

Nurses are paid according to their level of seniority and how many years’ experience they have. The Nursing career is not a bed of roses, but a bed of patience?

For those who hope to apply to fill these empty nursing posts, almost all nursing staff are on contracts under a system introduced in 2004 to bring together different pay scales across the NHS.

A newly qualified Nurse under 2 years’ experience earns £27,055 in England, topped up by London Weighting Allowance rising to £32,934 after four (4) years. A Senior Nurse – Matron earns £48,526 to £54,619 after five (5) years.

RCN Nursing Union is asking for 19 % pay rise. This Union wants a rise of rise of 4.5% above the Retail Price Index (RPI); a pay hike of 19.2%, which the Government says is unaffordable and unacceptable. National inflation is currently at 12.6%,

The Government accepted the Independent Pay Service body recommendation for 1 million workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year equivalent around 4 to 5% for most nurses.

The Government also states that for every one (1) percent rise it costs £700 million taking the total demand to £10 billion or 6.5 % of the total NHS Budget.

When are some of the other Unions on strike?

Railways, 40 million RMT members –

Walk out on December 13-14; 16-17; January 3-4; 5-7, 2023.

Postal Workers, 120 million CMU members –

Walk out on November 30; December 1, 9, 11, 13-15; 17, 23-24.

Buses in London, Unite Members –

Almost 1000 bus drivers to stage a series of strikes for 10 intermittent days in December.

Teachers   750,000 NEU and NASUWT members –

Balloting for strike action voting closing on 9 and 13th January 2023.

Emergency Services – 15 million Ambulance Staff/ Para Medic members, also thinking of strike action, of some sort, perhaps, a work to rule.

Will strikes cripple Britain?

The Unions believe that the wave of strikes hitting “every sector of the economy” this winter, will help get a square deal for their members.

But neither the Government, nor the General Public believe, that other being greatly inconvenienced, they will not be “broken”?

The Government wants a fair deal to keep the economy afloat; while “what the people expect, is that they get at least a square meal in a round can,” this Christmas, at an affordable price.

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