January 2024 Health News
Health News – January 2024
5 January 2024
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4 March 2024
February’s Health News

Hello dear reader and welcome to issue 35 of your favourite health news monthly round-up! A month into the new year, having had some seasonal colder weather, although recording the warmest January day on record, with the wars in Ukraine & The Middle East dragging on, whilst the football season enters into the second half ‘business-end’ of the season – Please enjoy these four articles from The Daily Mail, The Times, LinkedIn & BBC News :-   

11th Daily Mail: Britain’s Cancer Catastrophe: Grim Analysis of Six of the Deadliest Types Reveals UK Survival Rates are amongst Worst in World

UK survival rates for six of the deadliest cancers ‘lag woefully behind’ other high-income countries, shocking data shows. The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, a coalition of cancer charities, found the UK had among the lowest five-year survival rates for cancers classed as ‘less survivable.’

Just 16 per cent of Brits diagnosed with one of these forms of the disease – lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach – live for five years, on average. Experts blamed delays in diagnosis and slow access to treatment and urged the Government to commit to improving treatment options.

Many patients with a less survivable cancer will only be diagnosed after an emergency hospital admission or urgent GP referral after symptoms have become severe, at which point the disease is harder to treat – leaving survival chances slim.

Five Year Cancer Survival Rates by Country

The data, based on research published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, tracked survival rates across 29 countries from 2010 to 2013. Analysis by the taskforce found the UK ranked as low as 27th for lung cancer, with just 13.3 per cent living for five years after diagnosis. For comparison, the figure is nearly twice as high in Korea (25.1 per cent), the top performer for lung, oesophagus and stomach cancer.

The UK came 26th for stomach cancer, with just 20.7 per cent of patients seeing their fifth year after diagnosis. The figure stood at 68.9 per cent in Korea. For pancreatic cancer, the UK recorded 25th position (6.8 per cent) and 22nd for brain (26.3 per cent) Of the 29 nations, it was also 21st and 14th for liver and oesophageal cancers respectively (13 per cent and 15.7 per cent).

The countries with the highest five-year survival rates for these cancers were Korea, Belgium, the US, Australia and China. The taskforce also estimated that if survival rates in the UK were comparable to those for patients in these countries, then 8,000 lives could be saved each year, adding to the just over 15,000 that currently survive these six cancers for five years.

More than 90,000 people are diagnosed with these six cancers in the UK each year, leading to more than 67,000 deaths annually – around half of all cancer deaths. Just 16 per cent of Brits, on average, survive for five years after being diagnosed with these cancers. The taskforce  is working to increase this to 28 per cent by 2029.

Experts believe delays in diagnosis and slow access to treatment are behind the UK’s lethal gap in survival rates. Around 70 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients in the UK receive no treatment at all, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK. Just one in ten receive surgery – the only potentially curative treatment.

Since 2020/21, early cancer diagnosis has been one of three priority areas for primary care networks, in which local GP practices work with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services. The NHS Long Term Plan, published in 2019, sets out that 75 per cent of people with cancer should be diagnosed early, at either stage one or two, by 2028.

Cancer care though effectively ground to a halt for some patients when the pandemic first reached the UK’s shores, with appointments cancelled and diagnostic scans delayed because of the Government’s devotion to protecting the NHS. Experts have estimated 40,000 cancers went undiagnosed during the first year of the pandemic alone.

NHS cancer services are repeatedly failing to achieve their targets. Just 89.4 per cent waiting a month or less for their first cancer treatment to begin after a decision to proceed with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The target is 96 per cent but this has never been met. Fewer than two-thirds (63.1 per cent) of patients started their first cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral. NHS guidelines state 85 per cent of cancer patients should be treated within this timeframe. But this target has never been met.

17th The Times: ‘Worst Drug Shortages Ever’ Putting Patients (and Pharmacists) at Risk

Shortages of medicines including diabetes drugs, cancer treatments and hormone replacement therapy are putting patient safety at risk, experts have warned. Pharmacists are facing aggression and abuse from customers as they deal with the “worst ever” shortages, sector leaders said, describing the system as “unviable and broken.”

The problems include manufacturing difficulties, missing key ingredients and global demand putting pressure on supplies, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said. Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said the situation was “the worst we have ever seen.” She added: “Our supply system is consistently unable to cope as soon as the demand for a medicine goes up – for example, scabies medicines, ADHD medicines, diabetes medication, some cancer medications, HRT – the list continues. Every week we get a message informing us that a particular popular medicine is going to be out of stock for a period of time.”

The association has 4,500 members, which make up 52 per cent of independent community pharmacies. Hannbeck added she had highlighted the problem to government officials, but no action had been taken. “Patients are without their medicines and in some cases at risk of harm, pharmacists are out of pocket, exhausted, and yet it seems the officials refuse to see the seriousness of this situation,” she said.

Sami Pinarbasi, 38 a historical researcher, said it had been a “nightmare” to get 40mg of Lisdexamfetamine for his ADHT each month. “Every time I have to get a prescription, I ring about between 30 to 40 pharmacies, so it’s just been really hard to get hold of the stuff,” he said.

Hannbeck told the PA news agency that frontline pharmacists were “regularly witnessing the stress that these shortages cause for patients, but they feel helpless,” with some spending hours on the phone every day trying to source medicines. “As pharmacists we are worried that some of these medicines’ shortages have an impact on patient safety because it affects their treatment, in some cases delays their treatment, or,  as some patients  report, their symptoms return when they cannot get hold of their medicines.” She added that many pharmacists were reporting increased levels of abuse and aggression from patients because they could not get their medicines.

16th The Guardian: NHS Spends a ‘Staggering’ £10bn on Temporary Staff

Ministers are facing calls to tackle the NHS’s chronic lack of staff as figures reveal that the bill for hiring temporary frontline workers has soared to more than £10bn a year. Hospitals and GP surgeries across the UK are paying a record £4.6bn for agency personnel and another £5.8bn for doctors and nurses on staff to do extra “bank” shifts to plug gaps in rotas.

Widespread short staffing has increasingly forced the service in all four home nations to hand colossal sums to employment agencies to hire stand-in workers. In England alone, the bill for agency staff, particularly nurses and GPs, has risen from £3bn to £3.5bn over the past year – a 16% rise, including doctors who can cost more than £5,000 to hire for a single shift.

The Royal College of Nursing said the levels of agency spending were “staggering.” It would be cheaper to employ more nurses as staff instead of having tens of thousands of vacancies, the general secretary Pat Cullen said. The NHS in England currently has 42,306 vacant nursing posts. The NHS’s outlay on bank staff – who do extra shifts at their own or a nearby hospital to earn extra money – has risen even more sharply than agency spending. In England it has more than trebled from £1.8bn in 2015/16 to £5.8bn in 2022/23, according to a report by specialist healthcare data analysts LaingBuisson.

Many parts of the health service – including A&Es, maternity services, GP practices and intensive care units – are struggling to overcome severe and longstanding staff shortages. Lack of personnel is forcing hospitals to cancel operations, delay treatment and even induced births of babies. Trusts in England are paying up to £5,234 to hire an agency doctor and up to £2,140 for an agency midwife to undertake a single shift, Labour research has found. The Northern Care Alliance trust in Greater Manchester spent £21m in 2021/22 on agency doctors and £16.7m in 2022/23 on midwives it sourced through agencies.  

25th BBC News: NHS Consultants Reject Offer of Double Pay Rise

Consultants have rejected the latest pay offer from the government in England – by the narrowest of margins. The British Medical Association urged ministers to better the deal, after 51% voted against it, with a 65% turnout. The deal offered was worth an extra 4.95%, on average, in basic pay from this month – and would have come on top of the 6% rise granted in April.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said she was disappointed the “fair and reasonable” offer had been rejected. “The government is carefully considering the next steps,” she added. Consultants staged four walkouts last year. They have a strike mandate until June but have yet to announce further action.

The contract changes linked to the offer included:

  • Ending one of the merit-awards systems that top up basic pay – so the rise would have cost the government only 3.45% more – which would have mostly affected younger consultants
  • Streamlining the banding system – to ensure consultants spent less time at the bottom and rose to the top more quickly, which aimed to help those taking time out for childcare

The BMA had also agreed to stop pushing for premium rates of up to £269-an-hour for consultants to work overtime.

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So, there you have it good people, another edition all ‘sewn-up’ and in order to put the health scene into perspective as I was talking to my doctor this week during a consultation, without knowing my vocation, she said to quote “You may’ve seen in the news that the NHS is broken” – Says it all when your GP glibly comes out with that line!! Anyone know of an experienced specialist broker to ask for some free, non-obligatory advice?! Until next month, take care of yourself.

Yours sincerely

Daniel Donoghue

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Whole of Market Specialist PMI Brokers

February’s Health News

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