November 2023 Health News
Health News – November 2023
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Health News – January 2024
5 January 2024
December news

Hello SCH reader, and welcome to your wintery edition of your favourite monthly health news round-up. As the weather turns decidedly colder and snowy, please curl up with a hot drink and enjoy these four selected articles from the past month, bringing you up to speed with some of the more significant health-related articles from the past few weeks –

2nd The Guardian – Pandemic hit brain health of over-50s, study finds

The pandemic caused sustained harm to the brain health of the over-50s, rapidly speeding up people’s cognitive decline, regardless of whether they caught Covid, researchers have discovered.

Almost 780 million people were killed or made ill by Covid, according to the World Health Organisation. Experts are now learning more about the indirect effects of the crisis. A new study has found cognitive function and working memory in older adults declined more quickly during the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 to February 2021, even if they were not infected with the virus. The trend continued into 2021-22, suggesting an impact beyond the initial lockdowns.

The research is the largest of its kind to link the pandemic conditions – and the lifestyle changes triggered by lockdowns and other Covid restrictions – to sustained cognitive decline. The acceleration in cognitive decline was exasperated by a number of factors after the arrival of Covid, the researchers said. These included an increase in loneliness and depression, a fall in exercise and higher alcohol consumption, as well as the effects of the disease itself.

The study, led by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, was published in the Lancet Healthy Longevity journal. Anne Corbett, a professor in dementia research and the lead at Exeter for the Protect study, said: “Our findings suggest that lockdowns and other restrictions we experienced during the pandemic have had a real lasting impact on brain health in people aged 50 and over, even after the lockdowns ended.

“This raises the important question of whether people are at a potentially higher risk of cognitive decline, which can lead to dementia. It is now more important than ever to make sure we are supporting people with early cognitive decline.”

10th Health & Protection Mag – NHS waiting list increases to fresh high of 7.77 million

The NHS waiting list in England has increased once again to another record with 7.77 million people now on the list. For the first time, NHS England revealed there are 6.5 million individual patients are on the waiting list, meaning more than one million people are waiting for more than one treatment or procedure. The number of people on the waiting list has been steadily increasing since the pandemic and stood at 7.75 million in August, having broken the seven million mark in August last year. It was at 4.4 million before the pandemic hit in February 2020.

It is likely the waiting list will have surpassed 8.0 million people by August of next year, according to the Health Foundation, which also noted that strikes accounted for a very small proportion of the growing backlog. “Ministers have been quick to blame industrial action for the lack of progress in reducing the waiting list but the roots of this crisis lie in a decade of underinvestment in the NHS, a failure to address chronic staff shortages and the longstanding neglect of social care,” the body said.

However, the NHS said today it is treating more people than before the pandemic, with 25,256 more elective appointments and procedures carried out in September compared with the same month in 2019. It said this was despite the first joint strike action in NHS history by junior doctors and consultants, which saw 129,913 appointments rescheduled.

There was some improvement in reducing long waits for patients with year-long waits down by 5,500 in September to 391,122, and waits of more than 65 weeks have more than halved to 109,138 since peaking at 233,051 in June 2021. Waits of over one year are now down to 5% of the waiting list, the NHS added.

Strain is Building

Brett Hill, head of health and protection at Broadstone, said: “With every passing month, the strain on the NHS is building with the growing backlog pushing the public health service to breaking point. It is an ominous sign of the winter pressures to come where the NHS performance typically struggles amid the cold, wet weather, and with energy costs showing little sign of letting up health chiefs should be preparing for another difficult period.”

“It is evident now that employers are responding rapidly to protect their staff from the worst of the current health problems. Investing in early warning systems such as screening programmes and digital GP services can help employees catch health issues earlier, speeding up diagnoses and treatment.”

“Difficulties in accessing NHS treatment are driving higher claims on health insurance policies, yet while this places upwards pressures on premiums, CEOs also recognise the tangible benefit and return on investment that these schemes offer which is reflected in the record levels of insured private health admissions we are now seeing.”

Ongoing Pressures

Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “Today’s figures are a stark reminder of the ongoing pressures the NHS is facing, particularly in emergency care with significant demand for ambulances and A&E, as we head into what we are expecting to be another challenging winter in the health service.”

“Despite these ongoing pressures, including 10 months of strikes, the NHS has made progress on its three recovery plans, and it is important to recognise the incredible efforts of staff who are seeing and treating many more people than pre-pandemic – delivering record numbers of diagnostic tests and checks, treating more people for cancer at an earlier stage, and completing thousands more routine procedures.”

23rd The Independent – Eye patients forced to go private or go blind due to soaring NHS waiting lists

Waiting times for NHS ophthalmology services, which accounts for almost 10 percent of the 7.8 million national backlog, have forced 81 percent of patients to pay for private healthcare, according to a survey by the Association of Optometrists (AOP). The increasing waiting times come as The Independent reveals the story of a woman who was forced to pay £3,000 for private care after she faced a three-week wait for emergency sight-saving treatment on the NHS. If she had waited just one more week there was a 30 percent chance she would’ve gone blind.

Writing for The Independent, she said: “I frequently think about those other distressed souls that I shared the emergency waiting room with a few weekends ago. How many of them had savings to raid or a supportive family to offer help? I wonder which of them needed emergency treatment that day to save their sight and who was offered the appointment that I had turned down. The one that quite possibly came too late.”

Some 640,736 people are waiting for NHS ophthalmology appointments in England alone – an increase of 12,000 since March – with 20,000 waiting for more than a year. Adam Sampson, chief executive of the AOP, warned eye care in the UK was in a desperate situation with many “forced to spend their savings on private treatment to avoid losing their sight.” The organisation has said waiting times for hospital care could be significantly reduced if optometrists were funded to provide some NHS hospital services.

Earlier this year, NHS England sent out a letter admitting that “ophthalmology is currently the busiest outpatient speciality” and promised to give patients access to new diagnostic services to cut wait times before they see a consultant. In its survey of 1,000 optometrists, the AOP found 79 percent said patients had experienced delays of 12 months or more for hospital care, follow-up appointments or treatments. This was up from 72 percent on last year.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment, has been calling for an eye health strategy in the UK. She said: “England is the only country in the UK without an eye health strategy. Despite the worrying backlog, the government still refuses to introduce a strategy that will ensure better health outcomes for patients.”

“A national approach will remove the post-code lottery of care and reduce the risk of patients getting stuck on hospital waiting lists and in turn prevent the avoidable and irreversible sight loss we’re seeing today.” Mr. Adamson has written to junior health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom asking for urgent action, and to all MPs setting out the “crisis” within the sector. In a letter to Dame Leadsom, he said: “The NHS should always be free at point of need. And in the middle of this turmoil, it is deeply concerning that the ministerial health team have again changed significantly following the latest cabinet reshuffle. Optometry has already been recognised as the right solution and a way out of this emergency. Optometrists are qualified to provide many of the extended services needed to cut waiting times while also being available on high streets across the UK.”

“But we need action now to end the variability in commissioning which is blunting the impact of eye care services in England. Which is why we’re calling on the new parliamentary under-secretary of state for primary care and public health, Dame Andrea Leadsom, to take urgent steps and double down on the commitments made by her predecessor, Neil O’Brien.”

27th Sussex World newspaper – Movember and proactivity in health – Eastbourne man emphasises importance of private medical insurance

Stjohn Van Niftrik, a Sussex electrician and gas engineer professional, and trustee of the Matthew 25 mission, caring for the most vulnerable in society, underscores the human centred approach of having a Private Medical Insurance Broker (PMI Broker) after a Gleason score 10 metastatic prostate cancer diagnosis in 2018.

In line with the Movember movement, advocating men’s health awareness and early disease detection, PMI Brokers play a vital part in health management. In 2018, around his 50th birthday, Stjohn received a diagnosis of a rare form of prostate cancer, one that initially passed undetected by the NHS as his symptoms were not typical of those of a cancer patient. It was through his PMI provider where he got a second opinion that he was referred to a Urologist and received a timely diagnosis and care.

Stjohn’s PMI Broker navigated his complex medical landscape by directly registering his claim, securing an Oncologist, and guaranteeing access to a CT & PET Scan at the Royal Marsden hospital. This expedited treatment trajectory stands testament to the critical role of PMI Brokers during health crises. Stjohn is now not showing any signs of the disease and has been clear for the last 18 months. Stjohn states: “Men can be less likely than women to regularly check their health. There’s still a stigma around discussing men’s health issues, but it’s crucial we raise awareness of the importance of early disease detection. Awareness campaigns like Movember and the human-centred service of brokers are crucial in challenging this status-quo.”

“I would never have anticipated my PMI broker to be so instrumental in ensuring I had access to all the benefits my policy had to offer, as many like myself may think a broker simply sets up the cover and that’s it, but they actually understand all the intricacies of your policy and help you navigate the complex systems which let you deal with the diagnosis in hand.”

The PMI broker’s work in this case highlights just how PMI Brokers can be instrumental during a health crisis. With an understanding of the PMI market and the services it offers, they facilitate faster treatment, choice of hospital and doctor, improved facilities, and privacy in a single or twin room, among other advantages. Men’s health proactivity serves as Movember’s guiding principle, a value shared by Stjohn’s PMI Broker Victoria Healthcare who state: “PMI policies embrace this philosophy, notably offering preventative solutions like health screenings and wellbeing checks. They can also be personalised to individual needs and financial constraints, promoting broad-based access to healthcare.”

“Young men, in particular, can capitalise on this flexibility as they are more likely to have less of a medical history which could mean fewer exclusions and a wider reach of coverage, from critical illness to allowances for dental care and private GP services. Investing in PMI at a young age safeguard not just present, but future health needs,” continues Victoria Healthcare’s Vicki Nicol.  

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Well, there you have it for the final month of 2023 dear reader, with some interesting reads about the dementia inducing consequences post-pandemic, the ever-increasing NHS waiting list up to seven and three quarter million now, with the ratcheted-up pressures upon eye-patients, as well as a real strong PMI Broker testimony from the South Coast. Of course, there’s no need to travel to the seaside to get your Private Healthcare tailored to your needs and requirements, whilst not hiding behind the ‘I’m alright Jack, the wife will push me to get an early diagnosis’ brigade!  – I’m here ready and waiting 24/7 for all your PMI demands – Please pick up the phone or drop me a ‘mail and put me to the test!!

Until 2024, take care,

Please stay well & warm,

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Donoghue

MD of Surrey Circle Health

Whole of Market Specialist PMI Brokers

December news

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