Thursday, March 29, 2012

Business Incentives to Help Conquer Sick Days

Many businesses large and small have now taken action to prevent their employees from going off unwell and eating into company margins whilst doing so.  Sick days are currently costing UK businesses and the economy £13 billion per year and more and more employers have been introducing incentives such as gym memberships, employee assistance programmes and personal medical insurance programmes to stem the amount of sick days being taken across the country.  We have put together a quick overview of what’s on offer with some employers and how they look to have a positive impact.

Many employers have, for a while now, have been offering private medical insurance as an incentive or a tool in which to manage their employee’s health.  There are many variations in which PMI is offered and lots of different levels of coverage ranging from those who have their own businesses who would opt for a self employed healthinsurance to grander schemes for larger companies such as group health insurance.  The idea behind these plans was to improve employee’s healthcare and have them back to work quicker as PMi’s  provide quicker, more efficient treatments and well as the flexibility to choose when treatments are undertaken.

An incentive lots of businesses are using is the provision of gym memberships at a discount rate and offering partnership schemes with gyms such as Pure Gym or Virgin Health clubs.  Many may even have the set up in their buildings to provide a work out area for those before and after work.  Employers see this as a wise investment because if their workforce is fitter then that can see off infections and colds that someone who is possibly less fit would be more susceptible to, thus less work days off.

What is becoming more and more common is the introduction of employee assistance programmes (EAP’s) where identifying staff who maybe suffering from work related issues such as stress or may have external pressures in their personal lives.   An EAP will provide help and advice 24 hours a day and can also involve face to face counselling to support an employee’s state of well being.  This can also be linked to limiting their exposure with the long term costs associated with stress and would incur extra premiums with a PMI supplier, income protection and critical illness. 

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Andrew Lansley warns NHS will collapse without reform

The proposed NHS reform is being defended by the health secretary Andrew Lansley as the solution to make sure the services don’t deteriorate and ensure that it can carry forward to the future. 

According to Lansley, the NHS will not survive without the reform and it will experience potential crises if left as it is currently operating.  Costs including looking after the increasing aging population and experimental new drug treatments are ramping up the costs to unsustainable levels, resulting in what he believes to be a required change to the way the NHS is structured.  If changes are not made, the level of service offered to patients will begin to deteriorate without substantial extra funding and so a rethink in how it operates is required.

With the biggest shake up to the NHS since its inception in 1948, the reform has come under mass criticism from medical professionals.  Lansley believes however that there is now a certain level of confusion around the reform, with critics distorting the information around what the framework actually hopes to achieve and how it will go about doing so.

Lansley’s strong stance on the reform has come under fire from his Labour opposition as operating under a siege mentality where he is incorrectly dismissing any criticism to his plans.  Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary has commented that this mentality is keeping Lansley from seeing the bigger picture, with his failure to listen to others.  Further, Burnham has pointed out that the NHS has been independently judged as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

The report is now in its seventh day in the review stage at the House of Lords.  They will concentrate on sections including the regulation of assistants in health care and social workers, as well as the role of Public Health England chair.  Labour are also trying to use the commencement clause that would see implementation pushed back to 2016 instead of the proposed 2012 start date.  Excluding any unforeseen changes the bill is expected to gain approval on the 20th of March.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Interesting clip on the history of the X-ray. Did you know its discovery was accidental? Press play and find out more...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Reduce health risks with short breaks every twenty minutes at work

Scientists have advised that we should aim for short breaks of around 2 minutes every 20 minutes at work in order to reduce health risks associated with low levels of activity at work.  Research for the journal Diabetes Care has discovered that these short breaks help to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes caused by high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream. 

After eating, levels of glucose and insulin in the body rise providing cells with blood sugar which is converted to energy or stored for later.  When sitting the muscles in the body are relaxed and don’t help the body to break this down.

The study, conducted with nineteen adults – all who didn’t get regular exercise and classed as overweight where tested over the course of three days, monitoring their blood sugar and insulin levels.  Each person was monitored over a period of 7 hours each day in an office-like environment to mimic working conditions. 
On each of the study days participants consumed a sugary drink 2 hours into the day to monitor blood sugar levels under different levels of activity.  The first day participants only moved about for bathroom breaks, spending the rest of the time sitting at their desk.  The second day, participants were encouraged to break every 20 minutes for about 2 minutes each break.  The third day had the same stipulations however each person was to do slightly more vigorous activity during each break.

The first day showed that each participant experienced large spikes in both blood sugar and insulin levels when no activity was undertaken.  The second day revealed that a small amount of activity every 20 minutes had the ability to reduce levels by around 24%.  The third day, where participants were encouraged to do more vigorous activity, resulted in even lower spikes of blood sugar and insulin levels around the 30% mark showing that the greater the level of activity, the better the results.

Being an employer means you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your employees and you should actively encourage your workers to take short breaks now and again.  Of course, if you are a small business you are generally worried about keeping your workers motivated and productive.  These small breaks may result in cost savings through fewer sick days and reduced small business health insurance premiums.  For the sake of 6 minutes every hour, you could save yourself a lot in the long run.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Safety fear hospitals not deterring patients

Safety fears at a number of hospitals in the UK appear to be having no effect on patient numbers a recent report monitoring attendance records has uncovered recently.

The study has come about after a recent report developed by the Healthcare Commission that widely criticised a number of health concerns across a number of hospitals operated by the NHS.  The report was widely covered gaining a significant amount of national news coverage.  This however, appears to have had little to no effect on patient numbers at the three hospitals studied by the Imperial College London.

Both university hospitals, Leicester Trust and Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust saw no difference in the number of patients received after the initial report was released.  The only one to see a fall was Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells which saw a 12% drop over a 3 month period and a 14% drop over six months before rising to normal levels following the report.

The lead author of the report Anthony Laverty was surprised by the information he however thinks that relying on a reaction from releasing such information to the public in the hope that it will spark a change is a risky practice.  He believes that for any real changes to be made, it will come from internal pressures worried about reputational damage rather than those patients concerned with receiving the best care possible.
It is understood that these types of studies are generally aimed at those responsible for the standards of quality at hospitals, such as the managers and clinicians in an attempt to try and impact the way the hospitals operate.  Patient choice should however always be considered but as the study points out, it does not seem to be a key force in improving the quality of care.

The research pointed out that geographical location of a hospital and recommendations from friends and family play a large role in when a patient is considering where to meet their healthcare needs.  The quality of service is no doubt important however it takes a back seat to these more pressing concerns.  The BMJ recently reported around issues of patient choice and competition and commented that this is still an area that needs more investigation before any true deductions can be made.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saving On Your Health Insurance

The current economy is causing many people to drastically cut back on their outgoings, with the majority of industries starting to struggle as people become more selective with their spending. Naturally the first thing most people do without are ‘luxury’ items and services, and some people put health insurance in this category.

While many people are supplied with policies through a group health insurance scheme funded by their employer many pay for it themselves and rather than simply cancel their policy they should look at various ways to cut costs.

Firstly they should understand the types of cover available and try to match it up with their circumstances. Younger people are far less likely to claim on their policy, so they may be able to save by downgrading to a plan which is less comprehensive.  Many insurers offer highly flexible cover which you can match to your needs, so excluding treatments you feel you are unlikely to need can bring down the cost significantly.

Many companies now offer policies known as Cash Plans, which basically allow you to claim back a predetermined amount of the cost of your treatment. This can cover a range of treatments, with everything from dental work to chiropractic treatments available. There’s typically an annual limit on how much you can claim back, and obviously the higher you want the limit to be the more expensive your policy will be, but it can be a very cost effective way to save on essential healthcare treatments.

Lastly, it helps to shop around. Compare health insuranceplans from a range of companies and see who offers you the best deal. Many businesses and websites will do most of the hard work on your behalf, so it is often worthwhile contacting several places to get a wider range of quotes. It’s a competitive marketplace so companies will generally do all they can to win your business so don’t be rushed in to a decision and make sure you get the right level of cover at the right price. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Crowning Technique for Teeth

Tooth model
Image via Wikipedia
No one likes going to the dentist, least of all those who may have had issues with their teeth over the years.  Whether it is because of requiring a painful filling or a tightening up of the braces it's never pleasant having someone poking away at your mouth.

However new treatments are now being tested to make that trip a little more forgiving.  Experts are trialling a new, pain free method which would not involve the dreaded dentist drill and early signs show that the method is more effective than the conventional method. 

The new method involves keeping the decay in the tooth rather than use the more traditional method of scraping it out.  The NHS have already invested £3 million into the method, such is the success of the project.

The unfortunate news, for the moment anyway, is that it's only suitable for milk teeth, which means that only children will benefit from the new procedure.  

Fillings are normally carried out by drilling the decay from the tooth and packing the exposed area with filling.  The new method is carried out by simply slipping a metal crown over the effected area and cemented into place.  No anaesthetic is required and whilst the area is covered the decay will cease or slow down as no bacteria or oxygen will gain access to the area.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Average Briton will spend 13.7 thousand hours waiting for doctor’s appointments

A recent report provided by the health insurance company Health-on-linediscovered that the average UK resident will spend almost fourteen thousand hours waiting for doctor’s appointments, spend fourteen nights in hospital and forty-six hours in GP waiting rooms.  Further to this the study found out that the average person will wait almost an hour and a half in A&E but the same people will wait over nineteen hours before deciding to visit hospital on average. 

The study discovered further interesting information regarding the average person’s ailments and illnesses over the course of their lifetime and provided these interesting statistics in an infographic found on the HOL Blog

The comprehensive study finished off with information a little more up-beat than the rest – the average Briton will live three years longer than the previous generation with the average life expectancy rising from 77 to 80 years of age.  The main reason for this is stated as the decline in mortality rates from serious illnesses come about from advancements in medicine.

It is important to take into consideration with these kinds of statistics that no one person lives their life the same and that you are responsible for your health and wellbeing.  It is important to keep in consideration what your diet consists of, how much exercise you get and if you are responsible for children, keep these things in mind for them as having a healthy diet and getting regular exercise will help keep you on track for the long-term.