Thursday, June 28, 2012

Healthcare news: this week on the health pages

In the news this week - the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that nearly a quarter of NHS services were failing to meet 'essential standards' in England and Wales.

Areas of particular concern centred on things including staffing levels, 'compromised' management of medicines, and record keeping.

The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing is quoted as saying: 

It is shocking that more than one in four locations inspected in this report have failed to meet even essential standards of quality and safety… this presents a long overdue wake-up call for the Government. Those locations in question must be brought up to standard as a matter of urgency

The news of this research will no doubt be seized upon by the opposition, while providing the coalition plenty to think about when it comes to making improvements to the service. The health minister has responded to the CQC report saying that the government is "determined to drive up standards for everyone".

There is a good prĂ©cis of the report's main points here

In other healthcare news, this time from a private health insurance perspective, HI magazine reports that "waiting times, patient experience and availability of drugs and treatments all set to worsen". The article says that these factors could see an uptick in demand for PMI - while the majority of  NHS bosses surveyed believe that waiting times will increase as financial pressure on the system continue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Health costs and obesity

Given the amount of space devoted to obesity as a topic within the health and wellness media, you'd maybe think that obesity was a major strain on NHS resources.

But according to the findings of a recent study, it looks as though this may not be the case. Research was carried out by the UK's Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), who believe that ...

argument in favour of fat taxes could be on the grounds of the obese imposing a disproportionate burden on the British National Health Service. However, against this there is some evidence that the obese have shorter life expectancies and therefore are less likely to require the even greater long term costs of geriatric care.

You can read this very interesting (and thought provoking) article in full here.

It's difficult to say whether a fat tax would have much efficacy - especially in light of the fact that we're not in a situation of talking from experience - only informed conjecture as to what might happen. 

And while it may be the case that obese people have shorter life expectancies - it would still be a reflection on the nation's health as a whole if the status quo were to go unchanged and people die younger due to being overweight to this degree.

So, though there may be a link between obesity and the NHS - the onus will still be on government to ensure as many as possible live as healthy as possible regardless of whether that means the individual require geriatric care later on.

the question is whether a 'fat tax' would have a slimming effect on the nation. What do you think?

Friday, June 22, 2012

One in ten patients affected by BMA action

According to the Department of Health, one in ten patients have been disrupted due to the British Medical Association’s (BMA) industrial action.  The disruptions included missed operations, outpatient appointments and treatments that will need to be rescheduled in the near future.  As a result of the action, around 25% of surgeries in the UK operated under reduced services due to doctors’ action yesterday.  The action yesterday marked the first day of this level of protest in 37 years and was caused by the controversial pension reforms proposed by the Government. 

In London alone the action resulted in around 490 operations and 3,200 outpatient appointments alone; however the level of action varied across the UK with some not bothering to reschedule treatments that had been previously arranged for the day. 

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, stated that in the run up to the BMA action, their main focus was to make sure that the action would cause the least amount of disruption to patients as possible; the issue between the Government and doctors should not be passed onto the patients.  He was pleased with the overall level of services and cooperation of doctors throughout the day.  Of course the strike action affected thousands of patients across the UK, some expecting an operation yesterday, others missing important appointments.  He believes the BMA should provide further help in making sure all those missed operations and appointments are rescheduled as quickly as possible. 

The last time strike action took place in 1975 as a result of a contractual dispute, where consultants ceased goodwill activities and junior doctors worked to a 40 hour work week as a result of dissatisfaction with the progress of contract negotiations.  It is believed what with all the recent negative press the NHS have been receiving lately that more people are likely to consider private health insurance options; yesterday’s strikes are probably more than likely another reason for people to consider the move.  If you are tempted to make the move yourself, provider of health insurance,Health-on-Line offer cover comparison on their site with the options to customise your cover.  

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Potential Low Turnout For GP Strike

Thursdays intended GP’s strike looks set to involve an underwhelming number of participants, with only a quarter of practices in the country informing their primary care trust that they intend to strike. This is the first time in nearly 40 years that doctors have taken industrial action. 

Of the 20 primary care organisations polled, 281 of 1,265 practices have informed the NHS management that they intend to strike. It is thought that up to 100,000 doctors with BMA membership would strike against the pension reforms proposed by the government.

Pulse magazine had reported that NHS managers notified hundreds of GP surgeries to inform them of the possibility of compensation claims being lodged if they were found to be in breach of contract.
The Royal College of Midwives has urged its members to continue working as normal on Thursday, so as not to undermine the strike action. 

Andrew Lansley, the British health secretary, believes the strike could result in as many as 30,000 operations being cancelled, the postponement of up to 58,000 diagnostic tests and the rescheduling of around 200,000 outpatient appointments. The disruption to GP appointments could be far greater, with an estimated 1.25 million being delayed as a result of the strike.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 Facts About Ultrasound Screening You May Not Have Known About

Ultrasound tests use high-frequency sound waves that bounce off internal structures of the body to produce an electronic image that can then be analyzed for problems. Ultrasound is painless, non-invasive and can be used to detect a variety of disorders. Screening tests are often done using ultrasound to find problems before symptoms develop. 

Ultrasound Screenings Cannot Detect Osteoporosis Accurately

Some diagnostic companies offer ultrasound screenings for a number of different medical problems. These often include screening for osteoporosis, a disorder in which the bones become thinner and more vulnerable to fractures. It can lead to severe disability in older people. However, ultrasound screening has been found to be less accurate than bone density tests for detecting the early signs of this bone disease. Additional tests using bone density scanners are required to accurately detect the presence of osteoporosis. 

Ultrasound Screening Can Give False Positives
Ultrasound screening does not always give a clear picture of abnormalities in the internal organs. This inaccuracy can lead to false positive results that can cause patients unnecessary fear and worry about possible illness. In addition, ultrasound inaccuracy increases the need for other tests to confirm the results, leading to increased costs. Experts recommend that ultrasound screening be used for those disorders that have a high degree of diagnostic accuracy to prevent unnecessary patient stress and redundancy of testing. 

Ultrasound Screening For Breast Cancer Can Save Lives
Detecting breast cancer is one of the areas in which ultrasound health screening has been found to help save lives. Mammograms are the preferred method of detecting breast cancer because this type of testing has a high degree of accuracy. However, ultrasound screening can be helpful in detecting cancers in women with extremely dense breast tissue. For women who have a high risk of developing breast cancer because of family history or other factors, regular ultrasound screening in between mammogram testing can help to find cancers in the early stages and increase their ability to survive this disease. 

Ultrasound is Recommend to Detect Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms in Men
Ultrasound screening can be useful in detecting certain vascular conditions that may not show symptoms. Abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the blood vessel that supplies blood to the lower part of the heart. The aneurysm can rupture causing an emergency medical situation. The aneurysm often grows slowly and causes no symptoms, until it begins to produce pain in the stomach or back. Men between the ages of 65 to 75 who have smoked are at high risk for this condition. Ultrasound screening can help to detect this condition so that adequate medical monitoring and treatment can begin. 

Ultrasound Screening Can Help Detect Down’s Syndrome
Ultrasound has been used for decades to monitor the development of the fetus during pregnancy. It can be a very useful tool for determining the age of the fetus and for detecting physical abnormalities in the fetus and the placenta. Ultrasound can also help to detect Down’s Syndrome, a developmental abnormality, when the physician or patient wishes to avoid more invasive testing methods. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Health at work: could it work better?

How often have you or your colleagues been off work sick in the last year?

Most of us will have been off at some point for one reason or another - be it with the kind of cold or mild flu that lays us low for a day or two.

Thankfully much less common is the need for long-term sickness absence. And an article in the Telegraph recently shows that, while not as common as the odd day or two off ill here and there, it's still a pretty considerable expense - with long term sickness absence being estimated at a whopping £3.1 billion yearly cost to the private sector.

However, the picture isn't quite as bad as it may seem at first sight. Sickness absence as a whole is less than it has been at times in the past. According to this release by the UK Press Association, 178 million working days were lost to sickness in 1993 compared to 131 million in 2011, this is based on official figres from the National office for Statistics.

There are various means by which businesses can help to minimise sickness absence generally - these can include some measures such as the following

  • providing an employee assistance program
  • promoting health and wellbeing within the organisation
  • draw up and put into practice an occupational health scheme
  • provide private healthcare insurance for staff

For more info on sickness absence management, check out the CIPD website (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) - and there's also some good online resources from the Health & Safety Executive and the government's Business Link site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

National Health Service - national satisfaction?

A new survey has shown that public satisfaction with the running of the NHS saw something of a marked drop between 2010 and 2011.

The survey, which was carried out by health charity The King's Fund, indicates that the public's satisfaction levels have dropped from their 2010 percentage of 70 down to 58%. The charity says that this is the biggest one-year drop since the yearly survey first began back in 1983. 

While the figures  are bound to cause concern within the coalition, the charity does point out that the current level of 58% satisfaction is in fact still towards the higher end of the scale, even if this is a record fall. It's also pointed out that given the standard of care offered by the NHS the public's expectations from the service are possibly higher than they would have been two decades ago or more.

Reasons for the fall in satisfaction levels could be down to a combination of factors - changes to the service arising from reforms within the NHS could be a factor, while all the controversy surrounding them in the press could also have an effect on public opinion. It's worth pointing out that the survey took in a sample of the general public as opposed to a specific group who had recently used the service - so in a way it's a poll of opinion and perception rather than simply a set of marks for treatment received. Of course, that's not to say that many surveyed would themselves have been recently in receipt of NHS treatment. 

The King's Fund blog points out that "interpreting satisfaction polls can be difficult" but concedes that "the overall picture is disappointing", and shoes an overall picture of "discontent and worry". The blog accompanying the news of the survey also makes the point that important satisfaction points such as waiting times haven't actually changed all that much -although for the coalition this must surely be a very definite sign from the public that not only is there uncertainty generally, but that specifics like waiting times, if they were to increase, would have an effect on future survey results.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Healthcare and age - requirements over time

When we're young, we obviously have a different set of healthcare needs from the ones we have later in life. Of course, if we're very young it's not even something we think about at all, that kind of responsibility belonging to our mum or dad or both.

Part of the reason for these changing needs is that we can often have a different lifestyle from one decade to the next. Some of us may swap playing rugby for playing golf, for instance - the change of course meaning leaving behind the risk of rugby injuries and introducing the risk of golf related health issues such as golfer elbow.

And when we reach our later years, of course, there are a number of health issues to watch out for that are more likely to affect older people - such as prostate cancer, arthritis and so on.

Making sure that you can meet all your healthcare needs doesn't have to be an expensive process - and it doesn't even require a lot of effort - private health insurance quote from Health-on-Line for example means that you can choose basic cover and then additional cover to suit your needs so that you won't need to pay for any medical cover that you don't actually need.

There is one aspect of healthcare that's the same at any age, however - and that's the importance of promt treatment. And with private medical insurance it means you don't have to worry about long waiting lists.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Telehealth: latest healthcare news

Do you know teleheath? It's a concept that's more or less certain to loom larger in the lives of all of us as the technological curve continues on its exponential course. At the moment, it's not something all of us are likely to have encountered but as time goes on we're likely to see it emerge as more central healthcare tool.What is telehealth? Essentially it really just means using telecommunications technologies to provide healthcare info and services - NHS24 being an example.

A recent news report bring the development that "silver surfers" (internet users in their 50s and beyond) are keen to interact with health services more often, and are a demographic that's been shown to interact positively with financial institutions while using online bank services.

The prime minister has stated that “three million people will benefit from a major telehealth and telecare rollout” according to the article, published on the PS public service news site.