Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Medical care overseas

It's the holiday season - at last. Time to think about the year gone by, eat some nice healthy low fat turkey meat - and maybe even take a little trip abroad.

If you find yourself overseas then there's a good chance you will have thought out all the different things to make sure you've organised before making the trip. Things like cancelling the newspaper deliver while you're away and getting your health travel insurance sorted.

Travel insurance is extremely important and you'd simply assume that every single person who went abroad would have purchases travel cover. Not so. In fact - and this is really quite amazing - around a fifth of travellers aren't covered. But it's not down to an overly laid back, "oh whatever" kind of attitude when people go uninsured. In fact it's often down to a mistaken belief that the government would pay for any treatment needed.

In the case of people who are living abroad longer term, in most cases experts strongly recommend international medical insurance - this is because treatment can be expensive and in some countries the state medicla facilities can be quite basic. This type of cover also includes medical repatriation - which is very dear indeed if you haven't got expat cover and end up having to pay for it out of your own funds

For an interesting look around various world country's health systems in brief, then take a look at the travel section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website - it's very useful for finding out in which countries you need medical insurance. the site also has useful information on the general safety of places including a guide to the number of annual visitors who've required consular assistance in the past year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Health news roundup

Hi and welcome back to Your Private Healthcare Insurance Blog. I'm unwell today (this cold/ flu thing that's going around), so in lieu of a post proper - here are some of the most interesting health stories in the news right now.

The £100 genome. In the near-decade since the Human Genome Project was declared complete in 2003, things in the world of genetic study have moved on apace, and according to the health news this week we could be within sight of an era where your "entire DNA" could be mapped at very little cost. A huge breakthrough in terms of the potential for improved health care, but what are the privacy implications?

Athletes and Ibuprofen. Taken as a prophylactic against muscle pain, Ibuprofen is on the shopping list for a lot of athletes. But could it be doing more harm than good? According to recent research, it may be causing intestinal damage, but the long-term effects are as yet unknown.

The secret to longer life? Have children, according to new research from Denmark, using data from tens of thousands couples treated at IVF clinics in the country

The effects of energy drinks - the Guardian's readers share their experiences (and opinions) of enerhy drinks in this interesting article. For the record, I myself avoid carbonated drinks but I have tried one of those little 5mil energy drinks capsule bottles. They were being given away as part of a promotion - but to be honest I have no idea if I felt energetic afterwards! (It was three years ago...)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dental health latest - news from around the web

For quite a long time there's been talk of how gun health could have some link to heart health, bu tthe nature of this link isn't yet known - and may not be a causal one. Basically one theory is that  people for whom  diseased gums are an issue may also be people who are less likely to maintain recommended exercise levels and perhaps not eat such a healthy diet. So it may a be a holistic health issue rather than there being a risk of diseased gums causing heart disease - indeed, there have been reports this year that it's a 'coincidental association'.

And on the Dentistry website this week is the news that bad gums could also be linked to other problems. Quoting from a study in the Journal of Sexual medicine, the article states that "men in their thirties, who had inflamed gums caused by severe periodontal disease, were three times more likely to suffer from erection problems". Again, this could be a 'coincidental' association but either way it's a reminder to keep the gums as well as the rest of the lifestyle as healthy as possible too.

In other dental news, the BBC reports that a device known as the "Tianjie Dental Falcon" - a hand-held x-ray device - poses a health risk due to 'accumulated radiation' in users such as dental nurses.

Meanwhile, for people without dental insurance it means going to the dentists knowing that you'll need to foot the bill, and it can sometimes be confusing knowing what's what - and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is encouraging people to get more info on their rights. The OFT's Right To Smile campaign page has all the info on it and is well worth a look. Especially if you're unsure about what's involved in treatment charges and so on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Support needed for workers with cancer

When we talk about cancer, obviously we're not talking about just one single disease - since there are over 200 different types of cancer.

As such, this also just as obviously means that there will be a high degree of variance in terms of diagnoses as well as prognoses.

And in the workplace there are currently over half a million people with some form of cancer (560,000 to be more precise) according to new research carried out by Oxford Economics. And the contribution to the economy from a number of people this large is of course significant, running to 16 billion pounds annually.

With improved detection rates over time, and resultant higher number of people being diagnosed plus greater survival rates, it's estimated that the number of people in the workplace with cancer could actually almost double to a million people - meaning that greater support for people with any form of the disease will be imperative as we move forward.

Currently there are 63,000 people with cancer who would prefer to be in work but are unable to make this happen due to various barriers making it too difficult. The Oxford Economics study throws up some important issues that will be of interest to HR strategists as well as those interested in workplace wellbeing strategies.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

The cost of smoking: a business health issue

The cost of smoking is now so high that it's a surprise anyone still smokes. In the last century, cigarettes went from being a cheap commodity and used by the majority to something expensive and used, if not by the few exactly, then certainly by an ever decreasing minority.

And luckily, the whole world seems to be cleaning up its act on smoking. Offices, shops, workplaces don't even have a smoking room anymore. And trains don't have a smoking carriage - which is a relief since if you ever had to walk through one it was like being kippered.

However, as the many who've successfully given up smoking will tell you - it can sometimes be difficult to kick the habit. But there are more and more products available to help with this, and what with all the restrictions on smoking these days, such as the bar and restaurant smoking ban - it's easier to get through a day and not actually find oneself in many situations where the people around are smoking.

There's loads of good info online for anyone looking to start stopping smoking. Healthcare insurance provider AXA PPP healthcare has a useful set of fact sheets including a detailed one on smoking cessation. NHS choices also has some good content on this subject.

There was a report in the Guardian not long ago that said smoking costs businesses in the UK £1.4bn in lost productivity due to the higher number of sick leave days taken by those who smoke. And according to recent research smokers are about a third more likely to take time off due to sickness.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Health news: "unacceptable" care levels in NHS wards and care homes

According to a report in today's newspaper health pages, there is concern about the quality of care on hospital wards and care homes due to the lack of training provided for healthcare assistants, and calls for them to be trained to NVQ standard. Some of the 'basic tasks' that nurses once performed as part of their job are now done by 50,000 'low-paid and unregulated' healthcare assistants.

One of the concerns is that while healthcare assistants can serve patients food and ensure they're hydrated, they're not trained in spotting the symptoms of dehydrations or changes in a patient's body head. According to the Telegraph's article on this story, there have been deaths from starvation, thirst and bed sores.

The report, which was commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing, had this to say:

The commission finds it unacceptable that staff whose competence is not regulated or monitored are caring for vulnerable citizens.

It's undoubtedly the case that there will need to be some kind of a structured and accredited training for healthcare assistants.

We'll cover more on this story in time to come - and hopefully the training spoken of in the report will be devised and implemented soon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Obama on healthcare

Did you hear that Barack Obama won the election? Of course you did. here is a clip of President Obama talking about the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are we as insured as we should be?

Life insurance is a pretty essential thing to have if you have a mortgage - otherwise it could mean that the money left owing on the property would lead to the house being taken back by the bank. Which in terms of scenarios is far from ideal - unless, perhaps, you live alone without dependants and aren't minded about the value being transferred back.

And in an article in Health Insurance magazine this week, there's some interesting info on just how well (or otherwise) insured we are generally. Apparently - according to a study that's been carried out - while a many of us have a mortgage that is still being paid off, about a tenth of people don't have life insurance which would mean that if they died then they could be leaving their family without a home.

In terms of insurance it's sometimes the case that people will also often forget which financial products they have - and sometimes what the cover includes.For instance the report in the news over the summer that some people were going on holiday without dental insurance while others were unsure if their policy covered dental treatment. In terms of private medical insurance there are different levels of cover available, so if you're looking at getting life assurance or a pension for the first time it's also well worth checking out the different levels of health coverage available. Like life assurance, medical cover is affordable and you can choose the things you require - meaning peace of mind should you require any of the treatment you're eligible for on the policy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Health and flying

If it's a short journey we need to undertake - say, a mile - then often it's not just healthy but more fun just to walk - especially if the weather is nice and the traffic is heavy. Cycling's also good too, as it's a healthy way for getting from A to B. So long as A and B aren't that far apart, of course. And the longer the journey, the less chance there is of finding an alternative means of transport.

Sure, you *could* travel from London to Sydney without the aid of an aeroplane. But it would be a bit of a trek. So, what can we do to make sure our flights are as healthy as they can be?

Make sure you know the facts about deep vein thrombosis - and how it can be avoided. This is something that is important to do if you intend on long distance travel. Things that help include doing leg exercises and if possible getting up out of your seat every so often for a short walk. This page on preventing DVT has some good info. And importantly, it recommends that you see your doctor in the time prior to embarking on your journey if you are at risk of DVT.

Cosmic radiation. Interestingly, radiation levels are higher at the altitudes a plane flies at than on the ground. Cosmic radiation (in other words, radiation that's from space) is occasionally mentioned with regards to flying and health but most people won't travel in the air enough for there to be enough exposure that it would have any effect. And even in the case of pilots and other airline staff who are the most frequent flyers out of all of us, there's no proven link between this and any ill health effects.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smoking and health advice

About the author: Jen Jones writes on topics including medical insurance abroad and workplace wellbeing, on a selection of UK blogs and websites.

While we all know by now - or at the very least should have a very strong inkling - that smoking is bad for us, it doesn't mean that the health advice is going to stop.

In fact, as long as there are smokers around, expect to see the same warnings pop up every time you read about smoking,

  • it's bad for your gums
  • it increases heart disease risk
  • it increases the risk for various forms of cancer
  • it makes your breath smell
  • it increases your chances of having a smoke
... and so forth.

And if you're ever in a dentist or doctor's surgery you may well get advice on certain health problems. And in a lot of cases one of the things you'll be advised to do - if you haven't already done - is avoid smoking. In fact a dentist will tell you that after an extraction you can't smoke at all for a number of days.

The advice - not really surprising - is to quit smoking completely, either by going cold turkey or by using one of the various types of nicotine replacement therapy that are available: these include patches, sprays, gum, inhalers, and so on.

But some new advice is now being dispensed, which is aimed at those who are finding it harder to quit. According to a BBC Health news report that appeared this week, smoking rates - while having dropped a lot between the 1950s and the year 2000 - have hovered around the same level (20%) for the last decade or so. And the new guidelines encourage smokes who are finding it hard to stop smoking to inhale less and cut down.

The NHS choices site advises that cutting out smoking is of course still the best way to go about being healthy - and it seems that that the new guidelines from NICE are aimed at helping the 'highly dependent' at least make some headway in consuming less.

Monday, October 8, 2012

AXA PPP healthcare expands open referral

Private medical insurance provider AXA PPP healthcare has enhanced its corporate health insurance offering with the introduction of its new Healthcare Pathway policy. The policy uses an open referral process and means that there will now be a wider range of hospitals available under the scheme.

What does 'open referral' mean?

Well, previously what would happen without open referral is that someone who was requiring treatment that the private medical insurance policy they held covered them for, they would be given the name of a consultant by their doctor. With open referral, instead of the patient being referred to a consultant in this way, they are provided with a list of consultants by their insurer - and they make the choice from this list.

Currently, open referral isn't the most common choice for big organisations, but the insurer's direcotr of sales and client relationships has said that the company hopes that this will be the default choice within two to there years.

One of the big benefits of PMI - whether you purchase a policy for yourself or its provided by an employer is the aspect of choice - and open referral being rolled out to more hospitals will certainly give corporate clients a wider choice.

It was also reported recently that sales of business health insurance have increased year on year - perhaps down to a continuing need for firms to attract and retain the best staff as the competition for talent remauns strong. Of course it's also the case that - as studies have shown - providing staff with wellbeing benefits has the potential to postively affect sickness absence in terms of reducing it, as well as increase employee engagement rates.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hospitals and and food: healthier plates?

Last year, Jamie Oliver added his voice to a campaign aimed at improving the healthy factor of food within NHS hospitals in England – and there were also calls for vending machines selling sweets and crisps to be removed.

Oliver has of course been famous for the last few years for his healthy eating crusades, memorably showing people on his television programmes just how much sugar or fat they eat by dumping a month or year’s worth into a container in one go, with horrified looks from the audience.
Then of course there was Oliver’s valiant attempt to promote healthy eating within a school across the Atlantic.  Holding up a selection of fairly ordinary vegetables, many of the class pupils he asked were unable to identify even the most common among them.

Obviously mass catering on a budget does present its challenges – as Oliver found out while working to improve the food in a UK school. I don’t remember the exact amount of budget the school had available for each meal, but it really wasn’t very much at all. However a report on the subject by the Daily Mail last year gave the example of two NHS trusts in England who cook all their food fresh on site and source their ingredients from independent local suppliers.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is aiming to make hospitals places of improved healthy eating with his Healthy Hospital Food Initiative – with public hospitals taking measures to decrease the amount of calories in the meals served to patients, while cutting down on the sale of things like crisps and sweets.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The reasons why people choose PMI

Of all the things that are important in life, health is right up there at the top. Having enough money to get by is of course a top priority for all of us, and for many it's also good to have some cash spare for going on holiday in an exotic location or driving a prestige car.

But health remains the number one. So it's no wonder that we try and keep our consumption of fatty foods low, and make sure there's plenty of fruit and vegetables in our diet. And staying active too - with a gym nearby or a nice park to go for a walk in, being active can also be good fun - so much so that when we're laid low with a cold or flue, we miss our fitness activities and can't wait to get back to the pool for a swim or the local park for a brisk stroll.

And there are a number of ways that we can help to keep our wellbeing and healthy levels up. Things like stress management techniques can help us to deal with the stresses and strains that affect us all at some point in our lives - and there have even been news stories saying that mindfulness meditation can positively affect the human brain.

Having peace of mind is valuable too - family medical insurance means knowing that if you or one of your family requires any treatment that's covered under the policy, they'll be seen in surroundings that are well equipped and also you'll be able to avoid waiting lists too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Smoking and the workplace

Older readers of our blog will probably remember the days when smoking was just an inescapable fact of everyday life. people smoked on the bus, at their desk in the office - and even in shops. It's incredible to think back to those days now. And it's a fair bet that even if a modern day smoker was to travel back in time to the 1960s or 70s, even they would find the sheer prevalance of smoking in enclosed public spaces to be excessive.

Of course, as time passed, bit by bit smoking was eradicated. Smokers in offices by the mid 1980s were only allowed to indulge the habit in a closed off room in the building. Needless to say, if you ever had to enter one of these rooms to speak to someone within, the air was heavy with cigarette smoke - a fug, a cloud - rendering the air almost opaque.

Around the same time, a lot of bus companies made the top deck the only smoking area. And in time, offices would only allow staff to smoke out in the street, off the premises. And smoking was banned on public transport. And smoking in public buildings was finally stubbed out in the middle of the last decade when it was prohibited in bars and restaurants.

And how quickly we got used to it. Nobody - not even smokers themselves (or none that I've met, at any rate) - ever gets nostalgic about the old days.

This week brings news of a development from the US, where -never mind smoking being banned - where one city has made the decision not to employ smokers, in an effort to cut spending on health insurance. This news follows that of another authority which still hires smokers but requires them to pay towards the raised insurance premium.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stopping smoking and being healthier

As the nights begin to get longer and the summer recedes into recent memory, it's a good time to think about all the things we do to stay healthy. Perhaps, for instance, there's a temptation - when the temperature dips below summer levels - to reach for the comfort food. But then when you think of all the great food that's in season during the autumn, there are comfort options that are very healthy, such as pumpkin soup. And of course when it's colder it might not be so much fun to exercise - but there's always the welcoming lights of the gym instead.

And autumn - if you're a smoker - is a good time to think about giving up on tobacco products for good. Stopping smoking is pretty much the health mantra no matter what area of your health you're trying to improve on. Whether it's to increase your fitness levels, improve oral health, or reduce the risk of serious disease - stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do.

The UK health campaign Stoptober is designed to help people give up for good, and it has an interesting basis - the idea is that by challenging people to stay off cigarettes or other smoking products for four weeks, then it increases the likelihood of being able to stop smoking for good.

In terms of health and wellbeing for the autumn time there are also some other things worth thinking about, including:

  • Looking at getting a health eating plan together
  • Refreshing your fitness plan
  • Looking at private healthcare options
  • If you're busy at work and have too much to do, having a look at the various stress management techniques available to keep you mentally alert and focussed during your working day.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Insomnia and health

For many of us, the often-quote figure of 8 hours sleep a night is just that - an often-quoted figure rather than a realistic amount of time spent sleeping during the night time.

The reasons for not getting enough sleep are many, and can include things like:

  • too many caffeinated drinks before bed
  • body clock affected by long haul travel
  • a new arrival in the family
  • coughs and colds
  • worries about work or other life challenges
  • indigestion
  • toothache

The examples above of course are down to specific causes and in many cases will be temporary. But for many, lack of sleep is more persistent. So it's understandable that people seek a way to deal with it - but according to recent news, the use of sleeping pills could bring risks with it. Essentially, what's happening is that many who are experiencing problems with sleep may be using non prescription products to deal with sleeplessness rather than looking at possible root causes for the lack of sleep.

And while many of the causes of sleeplessness may be down to things like eating too late at night, some of the things that can make people unable to sleep are more serious - such as asthma and heart disease.

So, if you're having trouble sleeping, the best thing to do is, of course, seek advice from the doctor.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Health news: preventing cancer

In the past it was something that many of us would have perhaps been reluctant to discuss, but thanks to the great work of charities and health professionals, more and more of us are aware of what we can do to reduce our risk of various forms of cancer.

From self-checking for symptoms of testicular cancer and breast cancer, to healthy eating and skin care, most of us these days are much more aware of the things we need to do to stay healthy and minimise the risks. And of course it goes without saying that maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and keeping within the recommended alcohol intake limits' won't just help us lower our cancer risk, they'll also mean we're healthier and feel better in general.

And as time progresses survival rates are improving, according to NHS Choices, for most cancers. While this is great news, it looks as if there could be room for improvement. New figures released this week by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) show that almost a quarter of all cancers are diagnosed while the patient is in hospital for emergency treatment. In some cases this happens when the patient was admitted for something other than symptoms relating to the cancer, but received the diagnosis after undergoing routine tests.

There is some good online info on cancer available from government health sites and private health insurance providers - including advice on cancer prevention as well as information on various types of the disease. 

The figures for older people being diagnosed in A&E is currently higher than the overall figures at around a third, which may well mean that at some point in the future we'll see some initiatives in reducing the figure and ensuring as many cases of the disease are diagnosed as early as possible.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

1 in 3 postpone doctor visits for unusual changes

Recent study findings from Cancer Research UK indicate that one in three people would postpone a visit to their doctor if they found 'unusual or persistent' changes on their body, in the hope that the symptoms would go away.

In an online poll conducted by the charity along with market research organisation YouGov, which surveyed more than 20,000 respondents, it was also found that some of the reasons for not going to the doctor in this situation included reluctance to waste their doctor's time in case it turned out not to be serious, and in some cases embarrassment.

Of course, if you read up on any of the advice for cancer symptom self-checking, it's always stated that you're strongly advised to get things checked out if you find anything untoward.

Cancer survival rates have improved a lot over the past few decades and one of the reasons is dwon to earlier detection. For more info, get over to the Cancer Research site's spot cancer early pages, where you'll find loads of great useful information - and even a nifty app to help.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A healthy heart - and why stress is the enemy

According to recently published research findings, it looks like the amount of stress we encounter at work should be something we need to pay close attention to – in order to try and stay as stress free as we possibly can. The research was based on information from over 20 studies in Europe into the effects of stress, and apparently it indicates that job stress can increase the risk of heart attacks.

The NHS Choices website – often useful for a very balanced view of the stories that dominate the health headlines – describes the findings as ‘plausible’ and makes mention of the fact that many research projects that have taken place in the past also suggest a link between job stress ‘and the risk of coronary heart disease’. However, as the research paper states – and the NHS site reminds us – the increased risk is “much smaller” than those posed by smoking or not taking exercise.

If you’re looking for some useful online resources on stress, then there’s a good range of webistes and pages out there. Insurance provider AXAPPP healthcare has a stress centre are on its website, providing fact sheets on the topic plus a range of articles designed to help you find strategies for stress management and reduction.

Stress has been in the news a fair bit recently. And the news last week that hospital admissions in England for people suffering from stress has risen this year just goes to highlight the importance of acknowledging the effect it can have on us, and also the need to make stress management a priority within UK health and wellbeing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rise of the health apps

Where do you go for your health information? Maybe you have a medical dictionary, or follow the health stories in the newspapers. Now that the smartphone era has really arrived – and the mobile web begins to overtake the desktop web – there has been a massive change in the way we access information. With all the various app stores that have grown up over the last few years, there’s now a bewildering array of health apps available. Everything from aerobic exercise workouts to teeth brushing guides, there is pretty much an app for everything these days.

And it’s not just health apps for those looking to keep fit or find out more about a specific condition – there are now tablet apps designed by and for health professionals too.

But how successful are health apps? While just about everyone has played Angry Birds on their smartphone, it seems that health apps might still have a way to go before they’re being used by a majority of smartphone owners. A report in the social media and tech news site Mashable published in July gave some interesting stats on the use of health apps. Interestingly, while 88% of people in the States have a mobile phone, only 10% of people have actually downloaded health apps, according to the article.

This may well just be down to the fact that these apps are relatively new, and it may take time before more people become aware of them and try them out. There’s also the obvious fact that apps are going to become more and more sophisticated in time to come, so it’s likely that we will see a step change in the use of this type of app going forward.

Do you use health apps? Let us know in the comments.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Affordable health insurance: budgeting your spend

In times when the wider economic backdrop isn't quite as bright as we would obviously prefer it to be, it's natural to want to make a few savings here and there. Things like:
  • choosing a higher MPG model when purchasing your next vehicle
  • trading down when buying groceries
  • visiting the cinema and making fewer trips for other leisure activities
  • staycationing - in other words, taking your holidays closer to home
Chances are that if you ever do market research type surveys such as YouGov polls, then you'll have encountered a fair few questionnaires about household expenses and the savings you've been aiming to make during the time since the downturn became a reality for all of us back in 2008.
    When it comes to medical cover, then there is actually a good variety of options available for you and your family where you can make savings. Cheap health insurance plans mean you can select the level of cover that you require - and it also means not paying for anything that you don't need.

    How it works is that you choose the basic cover, then if you require any cover additionally you can add more depending on the coverage that suits your needs. On top of this there are other ways of brining down the cost - such as adding an excess to your health cover policy. Another way to bring down the cost is if your provider has a type of insurance whereby you're treated on the NHS if the waiting list is within a certain time, and if the list is longer than the specified time, you get private treatment at soonest available date.

    Keeping yourself healthy in a recession doesn't mean having to spend more money than you need to, which is why insurance providers offer affordable policy types. And since they're flexible they give you a choice in terms of what level of cover you can purchase.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    health news: stress levels rising?

    Stress is probably something that many of us have encountered at some point during our lives. The symptoms of stress can be fairly unpleasant – disturbed sleep, upset stomach, anxiety and so on. And so, too can the health risks – while stress isn’t – according to the British Heart Foundation – a ‘direct risk factor’ for cardiovascular disease, some of the ways we deal with it may be risky. Examples of this are things like smoking to deal with stress, and also eating too much or drinking too much alcohol.

    Managing stress is a definite health plus – and if you’re looking at ways to manage stress you might find that it also helps you approach stressful situations in a different way. Recognising stress triggers and understanding what causes you to become stressed means that you’ll be able to look at situations with objectivity and manage stress accordingly.

    Some of the recommended ways of managing stress will also have benefits in other areas of your life – for instance getting exercise and staying active are well known ways to fight stress. And they will, of course, also help to keep your weight in check, and your fitness levels up.  

    This week in the health pages there was an interesting statistic making the headlines – a 7 percent rise in English hospital admissions due to stress. The reason for the rise could be down to a combination of factors but leading mental health organisation The Mental health Foundation believe it could be a result of the recession . It could also be that people in work feel they have to stay later and get more done during the working day in a recession.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    British people living longer, healthier says report

    When historians of the future look back to the hundred years or so between the beginning of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, one of the salient features of this period of time that they're likely to marvel at is just how much the quality of people's health changed over this time. And how it all happened despite a worldwide population boom.

    To illustrate this more clearly, let's look at some figures, courtesy of the UK Parliament's "Trends in statistics since 1900" paper. Some of this stuff really is fascinating:

    In 1901 baby boys were expected to live until the age of 45, while baby girls fared slightly better with an average life expectancy of 49.

    In 2012? Well, let's just say things have improved dramatically - it's now 78 for boys at birth and 82 for girls.

    Let's bear in mind, though, that life expectancy is just a statistic, and that there were people born in 1901 who were still alive in 2001. But the averages do tell a story - while nobody can predict individual futures, as a society we started living longer and continue to increase our longevity. So my chances of living longer are better, although how long I actually do live is down partly to luck, environment, lifestyle, and other factors.

    Things like individual health insurance, technological advance, enlightened attitudes towards nutrition - and also mental health - plus the availability of health and wellbeing information on the internet - all have their part to play as well.

    Another thing to think about when looking at longevity statistics is that, again, they're really just a number interms of what they say about the quality of life that people have. So, the 1901 figure of 45 for men may seem very low now - but on top of that even those who did outlive that number for some years may well have had one of the diseases that were widespread at the time.

    Recently it was found that the 'healthy life expectancy' of people in England has increased. This is the period of our older years where we expect to be free of ailments. The figure for Scotland is down slightly, however -believed to be in part due to higher rates of smoking and other lifestyle factors.

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Private healthcare trusts to run NHS services?

    The headlines are perhaps a little bit more dramatic than the reality - which is often the case. But the news that an ailing NHS trust in South London could potentially be run by a private healthcare trust is interesting for a number of reasons. Not least of which is that, if this proposed solution came to pass, it could conceivably have an effect on how we view the running of services and maybe move towards a more dynamic situation whereby services can be sustainable and - most importantly of all - people can get the services they require without the operation losing money.

    At the moment it's simply a matter of private healthcare trusts being asked if, in theory, they would like to take over this trust. According to news reports the trust in question had accrued 150 million pounds of debt since coming into existence three years ago, and has long waiting times for treatment and also longer than average A&E waiting times.

    Of course, if this trust was run by a private trust, it wouldn't wholly amount to the setting of a healthcare precedent in the UK - since earlier this year  an NHS hospital has been run by a private company with early signs of success including shortened waiting times.

    However, what we could see in the coming months and years is the beginning of a healthcare paradigm shift whereby the already complementary public and private healthcare systems see more in terms of working alongside each other to provide treatment.

    Friday, August 31, 2012

    The benefits of PMI

    If you're thinking about taking out private medical insurance there will be a few things you want to weigh up like the affordability of cover, and what the advantages of PMI are going to be.

    Many people have private health cover via their employer and so receive all the benefits either at a reduced rate or with their employer paying for the insurance. This makes sense for a lot of employers as it means there's less sickness absence and staff needing treatment don't have to go on a waiting list, some of which can be up to 18 weeks from referral for certain types of treatment.

    If however your employer doesn't provide health insurance, then it's easy to get a quote and set it up - and there are also private medical insurance plans which are affordable since you can choose the level of cover you require, so you're not paying for anything you don't need.

    Advantages of PMI include

    Flexibility - more control over where and when your treatment takes place. With some types of cover you can choose to go private if the NHS waiting list is longer than a certain period of weeks.

    Peace of mind - knowing that treatment will be prompt and in comfortable surroundings

    Drug treatments - approved drugs and treatments are available sooner than they often are elsewhere.

    Choosing PMI also means that you will be able to relax in the knowledge that in the event you need any treatment you're eligible for, that you'll have the support you need when you need it, minimising any disruption to your work and home life.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Cancer treatment under private health care

    This video gives us some information on cancer treatment (and innovative cyberknife surgery) under private health care. Well worth a look if you want to find out more about cancer care in a private medical setting:

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Health and holidays: the wellbeing balance

    Are you self employed? If so, do you take a holiday in the summer each year?

    A recent study has shown that many self employed people never take a holiday - and while the majority still do take some time off now and then, there's still a large minority who don't. It's highly possible that there's a link between the lower number of self employed people taking holidays than employed workers, and the similarly low level of sickness absence too.

    Of course, for people who run their own business it's understandable that time off is at a premium. And that goes for time off ill as well as it does for holidays. This is one of the reasons that self employed health insurance can be useful for people whose business is a one man operation, since it means that treatment can take place more quickly and when treatment is required then if you're covered for that particular treatment then there's no need to worry about waiting lists and the delay that they cause to treatment.

    And obviously - given the current economic climate since 2008 - businesses have to be their most competitive and efficient - and that means making sure staff are as healthy as possible. If you're self employed then it's imperative not to let wellbeing take second place. There are bigger SME businesses also providing medical cover for staff as a benefit - and studies have shown that health and wellbeing benefits really do have an effect on staff engagement, productivity, and even profitability.

    Figures for the year so far that levels of self employment continue to rise - it's believed that this could be due in part to people going freelance after redundancy. So now is as good a time as ever to look at the challenges facing self-employed people and ways in which this mode of employment - which is very important to the economy - can look to improved work/ life balance and wellbeing.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Health months: are you ready for Blue September?

    Have you heard of Blue September?

    It's an awareness event that's getting more and more attention as August draws to a close and we enter the Autumn months. The idea is to deliver a serious message about the cancers that men can suffer from, including testicular cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and others.

    If you head across to the site at there are loads of good ideas for fundraising events you can hold and info on how the money raised is used for things including research into kidney cancer.

    Blue September is a great idea and hopefully the awareness monthwill be an even bigger success this year, so why not have a look at the site and see what events you could hold within your own workplace or with friends?

    The Blue September site also has some quite enlightening statistics about cancer and men's health. For instance, did you know that 42% of men die before age 75 - and that nearly a quarter (22%) of men die before the retirement age of 65? The site also points us to this link from cancer research entitles "The excess burden of cancer in men in the UK". the document goes into some detail about male cancer in the UK, with a breakdown of the top ten most common types.

    As always, early detection is important - so if you're unsure about what to look for have a word with your doctor who will be able to tell you the kind of checks you can perform on yourself and what symptoms to look out for.

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Life expectancy and health

    Following on from our previous post on differences in life expectancy, another survey was published recently that the majority of people in the uK would be happy to live to the age of 83, while only a quarter of us would like to live to 100.

    Getting the congratulatory birthday card from the monarch was probably something of a rare occurrence in earlier times. But these days given the advances in medical technology and better health advice available from the internet - it's a fair bet that the number of centenarians will only increase in the coming decades. By how much is anyone's guess - but if these things reach an exponential track, then the concept of an ageing society could change into a reality where people post-retirement make up a very big segment of the populace.

    What age do you want to live to? It's a difficult question, really, since there's never an ideal time to shuffle off this mortal coil. But given that longevity and good health are inextricably linked, the desire to have a 'good innings' is undoubtedly connected to a healthy attitude to life.

    Things that could definitely help us live longer include all the usual health commands: don't smoke, keep alcohol intake well within the recommended amounts, eat your vegetables, and do on. But what else can we do to ensure a long and happy life? Things to think about would include:

    - looking into the psychology of positive thinking. By many accounts positivity can have a real effect
    - being mindful not just of diet, but looking at the diets of long living nations such as Japan and seeing what we could learn
    - looking at the benefits of private medical insurance and what it can do in terms of prompt treatment and quality of healthcare.
    - taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that takes in everything from mental health and stress management to new ways of learning and developing.

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Health - a class divide?

    It's long been known that different socio-economic groups fare differently when it comes to health - and as one nation may have a different infant mortality rate from the next, so one neighbourhood in a city may have a different average life expectancy from its neighbours.

    This reality was highlighted memorably in the recent Tube Map life expectancy - a schematic that shows the scattering of different longevity averages for areas of London. In some cases the difference of a few miles can mean as much as over a decade's difference - and this is just one city. 

    Recent research by the King's Fund shows that disparities in life expectancy are unlikely to be eradicated overnight, or indeed at any point in the near future. Two of the key points in their recent paper on the subject highlight this -

    First, the overall number of people in the UK who 'engage in three or four unhealthy behaviours' declined in the five years between 2003- 8 by a not inconsiderable eight percent. In terms of a nation getting healthier, that's actually a very impressive figure as long as the momentum continues. 

    However, the decrease in unhealthy behaviours, says the King's Fund, were "seen mainly among those in higher socio-economic and educational groups". Further, people with no qualifications "were more than five times as likely to enagage" in all four of behaviours, whereas five years before they were only three times more likely to.

    The King's Fund says that this health polarisation could lead to inequality and 'avoidable pressure' on the health service.


    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Health stories: Unhappy Mondays?

    We're all familiar with the scenario - the alarm clock goes off, we wake up and think "oh no, it's Monday". After a few seconds of forlornly wondering where the weekend went and why did it have to pass so fast, we get up and we get on with it. And so another week starts.

    But it looks like the widely held opinion that Monday is a low point in the week could actually be not entirely accurate after all. A new report published in The Journal of Positive Psychology on the subject of 'day of the week effects' suggests that there are other days when we don't feel to great either - those being Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

    The study does however suggest that there is a positive Friday effect but no difference in mood between Saturdays and Sundays.

    In other news, it's been predicted that the rate of cancer in people over the age of 65 could treble by the year 2040 - a rise to 23%. According to NHS Choices, though, we should remember that "the figures are only predictions and have been calculated based on estimates and assumptions". Given that cancer generally affects more people of more advanced years and the population is ageing, it does seem plausible that the figures will rise. Some are arguing that the numbers could put a strain on the health service while there could also potentially be higher uptake of medical insurance as a result.

    Another point the NHS choices site makes is that given futire advancements in technology for treatment are uncertain, predicting the future is never easy.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    International NHS?

    It's being reported today that in the future the NHS may be able to sell its services abroad. This will be facilitated by the Department of Health and the UK Trade and Investment Department and could potentially see some big NHS names such as Great Ormond Street provide treatment abroad.

    The idea behind the concept is that by providing charged for services internationally, the revenue generated will help the service at home and be of wider benefit to the UK economy. Also, it's been pointed out that the momentum of the Chinese and Indian economies could mean that the international healthcare market will open up even further in time.

    In terms of medical tourism, one of the top destinations right now is Dubai - which even has a "healthcare city" - basically a super-agglomeration comprised of two hospitals and 100 outpatient medical centres staffed by 3000 medical professionals. Impressive stuff.

    What do you think of the plan to sell NHS services abroad, and the NHS to become a 'brand'? Let us know in the comments - we'd love to hear from you.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Health news headlines this week

    Here's a quick roundup from the news headlines in the health pages this week.

    Baldness cure on the cards? The Telegraph reports that a treatment could be available within a couple of years. This will no doubt arouse a great amount of interest - we'll follow the story as it happens.

    Rise in diabetes. It's being reported this week that Scotland's diabetes rates continue to increase, with nearly quarter of a million people suffering from the condition - or 4.7% of the population.

    The effect of sickness absence from work has also been making the news, with a recent survey indicating that only just over half of employers believing they're "well equipped" to deal with the problem. Being 'well equipped' isn't defined in this context but presumably the better equipped employers will have a health and wellbeing strategy, provide group medical insurance, EAPs and so on.

    The Guardian posits an interesting theory today regarding Obamacare - namely that the President's affordable care act will mean the US being short of doctors - tens of thousands of them. This is because so many currently uninsured Americans will have access to healthcare. So the possibility, according to the story, is that the US shortfall could be made up in part by UK doctors leaving for jobs across the pond. Which could then cause a shortage here.

    And that's all from us just now. If you have any comments on the above stories, then please leave us a comment - we's love to hear from you!

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Office fitness

    Exercise is something most of us don't get enough of, for whatever reason. So why not do some exercising at work? The examples here offer a range of effective ways to keep fit at the comfort of your desk.

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    NHS operation rationing condemned by eye surgeons

    English: Naval Station Everett, Wash (Jan. 29,...

    Recently the NHS has come under fire for rationing certain procedures including cataract operations, knee operations and hip replacements.  Eye surgeons have recently spoke out against this saying that thousands of patients are being put at risk at more than half of the NHS trusts as a result of this. 

    Due to the cutbacks, those waiting for treatment have to suffer unnecessarily, being left unable to read, write or drive for long periods of time as a result of the ever increasing waiting periods.  Eye specialists have attacked this move, labelling it as unfairly restricting operations for those requiring surgery and stating that is putting their lives at risk. 

    The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Collegeof Optometrists and the Optical Confederation have released a joint statement urging the primary care trusts to ditch their rationing that is resulting in patients having to wait for even longer periods of time. 

    According to the group, some patients with cataracts in both eyes are only being treated for one, which leaves people unable to judge distances properly and become increasingly more likely to cause accidents.  Professor Harminder Dua, president of the Royall College of Ophthalmologists, stated that he is deeply concerned about the rationing of cataracts surgeries through increasing the vision threshold required to qualify for surgery. 

    He believes that if a cataract is negatively affecting a person’s life, they should be able to qualify for the relevant treatment.  It should also be noted however that the patient should know the risks involved in such a surgery and should be qualified from a health standpoint to be suitable for the operation. 

    Elizabeth Wade of the Primary Care Trust Network has come back to this response detailing the massive financial strain the NHS is currently under because of the reforms.  As a result, commissioners and the primary care trusts must work within their means whilst offering the highest quality of care for their patients within those budgets.  The Department of Health does not provide guidelines for the maximum amount of time a patient should have to wait before being able to receive an operation. 

    If this is a concern for you or someone you know, going private may be the solution to have these kinds of issues impact your life as little as possible.  Healthcare provider Health-on-Line offer a number of options and you can get a private medical insurance quote online now.  

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    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Summer safety abroad

    Going abroad during the summer is pretty much everybody's idea of a great time. The sun, the sea, the nightlife - not to mention the food, the shopping, the sports activities. Plus the general summer happiness and fun.

    But with all the fun of going abroad there are a couple of things that we all need to make sure we remember. The first one is to remember your passport and your sun screen. And the second one is to make sure you've got the right medical cover. For instance if you're doing any sports such as kitesurfing or maybe even playing rugby - then you'll need to make sure you're covered for all eventualities. Even if you're not planning on anything spectacularly energetic, health cover is still a must.

    And if this is a point that needs highlighting, then recent news figures posted by the Foreign Office should help to do this very well indeed. The annual British Behaviour Abroad report published by the government shows that last year an average of seventy people a week were hospitalised overseas. Incredibly, out of 2000 people interviewed for the survey very nearly half (48%) of respondents didn't know that without travel insurance they'd have to pay for medical bills in the event of treatment being required. In addition to this, the Foreign Office say they see many instances where people have invalidated their policy by things like not declaring a pre existing condition.

    The moral of the story is this: make sure you get travel or international medical insurance before you set off on your travels.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Dental work and the recession

    It's only natural that during times of economic squeeze people will try to save a bit of money here and there, by trading down at the supermarket for cheaper brands, or maybe cancelling a magazine subscription. However it seems that in some cases people are - due to the recession - deferring or even cancelling dental work.

    Given the amount that some dental treatment can cost - even if it's just some root canal work and a couple of white fillings - it's no wonder that sometimes people are reluctant to shell out for a trip to the dentists. Sometimes it can be a pain in the wallet.

    In fact, in a survey of dentists by the British Dental Association last year, two thirds of practitioners reported that they had seen customers either hold off on dental treatment or cancel it completely.

    However, the BDA board chairman commented at the time that putting things off isn't the best decision either health-wise or in terms of money:

    "Neglecting your oral health can increase both the complexity of the problems you face and the cost of the treatment you must eventually have."

    In other words, if you decide that you will postpone treatment, then the treatment you will need in the future could well be more extensive, and costlier as a result. Making sure your teeth are in order is also important during a recession when jobs are harder to come by and we all need to present ourselves well - so it's always advisable to get the treatment that you require rather than assume it will sort itself out or not continue to develop.

    Buying a dental plan is one way to ensure that you'll be able to get the treatment you require without any unexpected bumps to the bank balance. This kind of plan means that up to certain limits you can claim back the money for crowns, fillings and other things like x-rays too.

    Have you ever felt tempted to cancel dental work due to the recession? Please let us know in the comments.

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    E-health research centres: a health care move forward

    Last week it was reported that the drug testing facilities for the London 2012 Olympics will be turned into a permanent research centre - so when all the international athletes have packed up their kit and flown off home to all four corners of the globe, the legacy of London 2012 will partly be to the benefit of UK health care generally. The HM Government website's news room has this information on the purpose of the e-health centre initiative:

    "The new centres will enable the UK to make more effective use of electronic health data – a field with huge possibilities for health care delivery and the understanding of disease"

    The other planned e-health centres along with the London one (greater London, actually: it's based at Harlow) are to be established in Dundee, Manchester, and Swansea. Described by the Prime Minister as "an impressive example of collaboration between top-class research, the NHS and industry" the ehealth centres will use electronically stored health data to find new insights into disease and thus help with health care delivery.

    This is all good news and potentially cutting edge UK research - we'll revisit this story in time when the e-health centres' work is underway and hopefully bringing some interesting results. Until then, though, the Olympics continue and the UK summer - despite a bit of rain here and there - welcomes millions of tourists to London to watch the games and also check out the history and culture available in the capital.

    Monday, July 30, 2012

    Olympic athletes to receive free dental care during London 2012

    In order to make sure those gold medal winners smiles are looking their best for London 2012 coverage, the overseas Olympic athletes are being provided with free dental care at a private Polyclinic at the Olympic Park.

    This also means that any work that the athletes were unable to access in their home country, due to factors such as high costs, can now be carried out free of charge.  If athletes are receiving treatment for dental health issues at the Olympic village, the National Health Foundation, organised by the British Dental Health Foundationsaid this should help with their overall performance during the games.  Looking after your dental health not only helps to maintain a healthy mouth, your general health will also benefit substantially. 

    Generally athletes are in a strong position for oral health as people who regularly exercise are less likely to develop problems that could lead to gum disease and other dental worries.  There is also a large number of links between overall health benefiting from good oral hygiene and is said to benefit issues including lung disease heart issues and diabetes. 

    One problem that athletes may find is that they are at risk of dental erosion through supplementing their training with sports and energy drinks to aid performance and recovery.  Due to the high sugar nature of these drinks, they wear away at the enamel coating on the teeth which can cause cavities requiring fillings and tooth loss in more extreme cases. 

    If you have budding athletes in the family or if you just have active children, it is important to try regulating the amount of acidic and sugary food and drinks they consume.  If younger adults and children continue to use energy drinks they will face a great number of dental problems in later life.  If they are consuming acidic and sugary drinks, one way to minimise damage to the teeth is to drink through a straw.  Other proactive things that can be done are making sure the child regularly brushes their teeth and visits the dentist.  Another proactive option is to get dental insurance so they will be protected in the event that they will need treatment and will be covered and receive quality care.  

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    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Awe-Inspiring Moments Can Improve Mental Health

    Psychologists have claimed that regular ‘awe-inspiring’ experiences can have a positive impact on our mental health and can make us nicer, friendlier people. They also say they can help people deal with stress better and cope with modern day living more effectively. 

    These kinds of overwhelming experiences can slow down people’s perception of time, and can bring their attention to the present moment. This ability to live ‘in the moment’ can be key to improving people’s mental state. 

    The study on a group of volunteers found that those who were experiencing awe felt they had more time to spare. This change in attitude prompted them to feel they had more patience and were willing to sacrifice more time helping others. 

    The experiments included asking people to write about previous awe-inspiring events in their life, as well as showing volunteers videos of ‘vast images’ of natural phenomena and astronauts in space.

    Melanie Rudd, from Stanford University in California, concluded: "A small dose of awe even gave participants a momentary boost in life satisfaction... and underscored the importance of cultivating awe in everyday life."

    The researchers added: "Our studies ... demonstrated that awe can be elicited by a walk down memory lane, a brief story, or even a 60-second commercial."