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Health News – January 2023
2 January 2023
December Health News

Dear SCH monthly Health News reader, 

Welcome to the last edition of the year, completing the 2nd full year of uninterrupted monthly Health News! With health-related issues having never holding a higher resonance, as always, it’s difficult to decide what to leave out, whilst keeping it at a ‘bite-sized’ reading length for your enjoyment – In between viewing world cup matches, trusting that you enjoy these half dozen articles chosen this month! :- 

4th The London Evening Standard – ‘Vaccine apathy’ slowing down London’s Covid booster rollout

Vaccine “apathy” is slowing down the rollout of London’s Covid-19 booster jab, a top health professor has warned, as figures revealed that the capital continues to lag behind other regions on vaccination. Just over a third (33.2 per cent) of people aged 50 and over had received their autumn booster jab in London as of October 26, by far the lowest proportion in England. In comparison, over half of adults aged over 50 in the South West had received their booster. London was at least ten per cent behind every other region, according to Government statistics. 

Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, warned that patients were displaying signs of “vaccine apathy” and had complained they have “already had enough” Covid-19 jabs. “People are forgetting about Covid-19 because it’s not in the news agenda, whereas before it was on the front page for two years in a row”, he told the Standard. “But it is still a threat and people can become hospitalised or die. It also still causes problems for the NHS, even if it is not as dangerous as it was two years ago. It isn’t over yet.”

While fears of a “twindemic” of flu and Covid cases this autumn have eased amid plateauing Covid infection rates, Prof Majeed said there was still a prospect of a significant wave of cases in the New Year. “This current wave appears to have peaked at a slightly lower level, but the real threat will probably come later this year between December and February. Infection rates might be dropping but we are not over this yet.”

4th COVER/The Exeter – Over 18 million adults struggling to access GP appointments 

Over 18 million adults have experienced delays or struggled to access GP appointments in the past year, according to The Exeter. New research from the provider which surveyed 2,000 employed and 2,000 self-employed adults, found that despite increases in NHS waiting times, only 13% of respondents turned to private or remote GP services which can in most cases be available via individual or group healthcare policies. With NHS appointment delays rising, the report found that only 11% of surveyed adults were confident that the NHS could meet their needs if they fell ill, rather than seeking private medical attention. The difficulty in seeing a GP has sparked wellbeing issues, according to The Exeter, with almost half of those surveyed.

10th ITV News – Nurses feel ‘humiliated’ going to foodbanks after shifts, strike leader says 

A nurses union leader has warned that the NHS will not be “fit for purpose” if the “crisis in nursing”, which has led to historic industrial action, is not urgently addressed. Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Pat Cullen said that “we have pushed nurses to the brink”, as she described how some low-paid workers felt humiliated for having to pick up food parcels at foodbanks after long and gruelling shifts. 

Calling the strike over pay a “defining moment” in the nursing profession, the union boss said that patients and the general public “deserve better. They have turned their anger into action on behalf of their patients,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday. “If we do not address the crisis in nursing, and if we don’t address it through treating them decently with a proper pay wage, that they can look after their families and stop living on a knife-edge at home, and then when they come into work and having to worry about looking after their patients, then we are not going to have a health service that is fit for purpose and our patients are not going to be treated properly,” she added. 

She said the reasons why many patients are on long waiting lists is because the nursing workforce has been “depleted” year on year, with 47,000 vacant nursing posts in England alone. During industrial action, the health service will turn its attention to treating emergency patients in a “life-preserving care model,” with sources saying some hospitals on strike days will have staffing levels similar to those over Christmas. 

Some of the most serious cancer cases could still be treated, while urgent diagnostic procedures and assessments will be staffed if they are needed to gather data on potentially life-threatening conditions or those that could lead to permanent disability. Ms. Cullen confirmed that maternity services will not be affected by the action. While urgent and emergency care will also be protected, the strikes will impact on routine services, such as planned operations, including knee and hip replacements, district nursing and mental health care. 

The strike will be the first time UK-wide action is taken by RCN members in its 106-year history. 

16th BUPA – Six self-help tips for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) 

As we head into the winter months, it’s understandable if you’re worried about your mental health and wellbeing. Some people get a type of depression in the winter called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Not everyone gets SAD, but here I’ll explain what it is and offer some tips to help you cope over the coming months, says Mental Health Nurse BUPA Global Case Manager, Fatmata Kamara.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that usually happens at the same time of year. It’s thought that changes during autumn and winter, such as fewer hours of daylight, can negatively impact your mood. The darker days can disrupt your body’s internal ‘clock’ and affect the parts of your brain that make mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. Seasonal affective disorder is sometimes called seasonal depression, winter blues, or winter depression.

How do you know if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

The main symptoms of SAD include:

  • Having trouble waking up, and sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Feeling more hungry than usual and craving stodgy and sugary carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Finding it hard to stay connected with family and friends
  • Feeling anxious, irritable and experiencing a low mood
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Feeling heavy, sluggish and moving slowly
  • Feeling helpless or having suicidal thoughts

The symptoms of SAD often get better during the spring and summer months.

How can seasonal affective disorder (SAD) be treated?

It’s not completely clear what happens when you have SAD – more research is needed so that doctors can direct people to the best possible treatments. Some people find that light therapy helps to ease their symptoms. This involves using an artificial lightbox to mimic the effects of sunlight during the dark winter months. You can buy a SAD light box or SAD lamp to use, however you should speak to your doctor first for advice. Other treatment options for seasonal affective disorder are the same as those used for other forms of depression, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and anti-depressants. 

Six self-help tips to help cope with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  1. Get outside during daylight

If the decrease in daylight hours is affecting your mood, try to make the most of them and get outside when you can. Even a cloudy day will provide your body with the light it’s craving. So, whether it’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, or something you fit into your lunch break, wrap up warm and head out into the great outdoors. 

  1. Brighten up your environment

If you work indoors, try to let as much sunlight into your working environment as possible. Open any curtains or blinds and sit by a window if you can. As well as making your environment bright, you could also try bringing the outside world in with some indoor plants to help you feel a bit closer to nature.

  1. Eat well 

It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to make sure your brain gets everything it needs to function properly. Try to eat little and often, and drink enough water throughout the day to help keep your brain energised and hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol too, as this can make you feel worse. 

  1. Exercise (outdoors – if you can!) 

Doing regular physical activity can help with low mood as well as improve your physical health. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends exercise for depression because it can help with mental wellbeing. Exercise can also help to improve your sleep. So, getting outside and moving if you’re feeling low might just help to take your mind off things and lift your mood. It doesn’t have to be too intensive – go for a walk, gentle jog or cycle if you feel up to it.

  1.  Keep a diary

It can sometimes help to keep a diary (either on paper or using an app on your phone). By making notes of your SAD symptoms, you can pick up on any patterns. This could help you to understand what makes you feel better, and what makes you feel worse. 

  1. Plan ahead 

If you recognise patterns of feeling low, it can help to plan ahead for those difficult days. This might involve stocking up on things you need, and freezing meals in case you don’t have energy to cook. You might also think about rearranging meetings or events for another time or planning some relaxing activities. Think about what might work well for you. 

Where to get help for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) 

If you think you might have SAD, contact a GP. Getting professional help when you need it is really important. Your GP will be able to look at your own personal situation and suggest treatment options that are right for you. It may help to keep a diary your symptoms to see it you can spot a seasonal pattern of SAD.    

19th The Sun – Boy, 16, referred for hospital checks given NHS appointment in June 2025

The teenager must wait 951 days before he can be assessed for a urology-related problem. His dad was staggered when the confirmation arrived from Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

He said: “We expected a nine-month wait, but to be told it is more than two-and-a-half years – I was just incredulous. “If nothing changes my son will have this problem until he is 18.”

The Trust blamed Covid and recruitment woes. A spokesman said: “We apologise. The length of the wait is rare.” He said the Trust is working with other hospitals to cut wait times.

25th The Independent – Nurses’ strikes: Full list of hospital trusts hit – see your area

Thousands of patients are likely to have their appointments or surgery cancelled or post-poned when nurses go out on strike for two days next month. Nursing staff at more than 150 NHS organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to take to picket lines in the first ever national walkout, on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December.

Their union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said it was calling strikes after the government “turned down” its offer of formal, detailed negotiations following an unprecedented vote over action for more pay. In Scotland, union chiefs have held off announcing strike action after the government there reopened NHS pay negotiations. The RCN says emergency care will be maintained during the strikes to preserve life or to prevent permanent disability, but non-urgent care will be cut back.

Nurses are campaigning for a pay rise of 5 per cent above RPI inflation to overcome what it says are real-terms pay cuts. It says thousands of “burned out, underpaid nursing staff” have left the profession. The RCN says that despite a pay rise of around £1,400 in the summer, experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards.

Figures show that nursing vacancies are at a record high of 47,000, meaning staff are stretched and regularly working beyond the end of their shifts. Other health unions are also balloting workers for industrial action. Midwives and physiotherapists are voting on strikes too, while a ballot of junior doctors opens in the new year. The RCN union said it would announce next week which NHS employers would be hit, but this is the full list of hospitals and trusts where nurses voted for action and that are likely to suffer:

Cambridge University, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Cambridgeshire Community, Derbyshire Community, Derbyshire, East Midlands Ambulance, East Suffolk & North Essex, Hertfordshire, Kettering, Norfolk & Norwich University, Norfolk & Suffolk, Norfolk Community, Northamptonshire, Nottingham University, Nottinghamshire, Royal Papworth, West Suffolk, Imperial College, Guys & St. Thomas’, Great Ormond St. Children’s, Hounslow & Richmond Community, St. George’s University, Kings College, Royal Marsden, Tavistock & Portman, University College London, Mersey Care, Tameside & Glossop Integrated Care, Liverpool Heart & Chest, Lancashire Teaching, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, The Christie, Wrightington Wigan & Leigh, Countess of Chester, North West Ambulance, Liverpool University, Mid Cheshire, Bridgewater Community, Wirral Community, Wirral University, Liverpool Women’s, St. Helens & Knowsley Teaching, Alder Hey Children’s, The Walton Centre, Cheshire & Wirral Partnership, North East Ambulance, University Hospitals of Morcombe Bay, Northumbria, County Durham & Darlington, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne, South Tees, Kent Community, East Sussex, University Hospitals Sussex, South East Ambulances, Sussex Community, Sussex Partnership, Queen Victoria, Southern Health, Oxford University, Portsmouth, University Hospital Southampton, South Central Ambulances, Solent, Royal Berkshire, Oxford Health, Cornwall Partnership, Devon Partnership, South Western Ambulances, Dorset Healthcare University, Gloucestershire, North Bristol, Torbay & South Devon, University Hospitals Plymouth, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston, Dorset County, Gloucestershire, Royal Devon University, Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health, Great Western, Salisbury, Somerset, Royal Cornwall, Royal United Hospitals Bath, Midlands Partnership, Hertfordshire & Worcestershire, The Royal Orthopaedic, Worcestershire Acute, Shropshire Community, University Hospitals Birmingham, Birmingham Women’s & Children’s, Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic, Dudley Integrated, Sheffield, Barnsley, York & Scarborough, Leeds Community, Bradford Teaching, Harrogate & District, Leeds Teaching, Sheffield Teaching, Sheffield Children’s.

Wales –  

Cardiff & Vale University, Powys Teaching, Welsh Ambulances HQ, Hywel Dda University, Swansea Bay University, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University, Betsi Cadwaladr University, Velindre.

Northern Ireland – 

Practise & Education Council, Southern, Western, Belfast, Business Services, Regulation & Quality Improvement, Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion, Public Health Agency, Northern Health.

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The stand-out headline to finish 2022 is of course that for the first time ever since the formation of the NHS in 1948, the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) are supporting strike action – Historically receiving around half the income of their US counter-parts, the current cost-of-living-crisis having exasperated their household budgets, having worked harder and longer these past pandemic ridden years, with many of their colleagues having since ‘flown the nest’ giving them even more of a workload – Desperate measures they feel are necessary in order to be listened to, in efforts to ‘keep their heads above water’ financially, in order to continue looking after the nation’s health. 

With NHS care in this desperate situation with now 7.2 million reported as being officially occupying NHS waiting lists, please feel free to contact me for a PMI Quote, currently insured or not.

Please stay warm, enjoying the ‘business-end’ of the world’s most popular sport’s world cup, mindful of this winter’s increased colds, flus & viruses’ capacity to incapacitate, enjoying your rest and recuperation, whatever means that might take.

Until 2023,

Kind regards,

Daniel Donoghue

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Specialist Whole of Market PMI Brokers 

December Health News

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