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Trusting that you’re keeping well, welcome to your spring into summer enlightening health news newsletter! With the football season hanging up its boots for another season, as that terribly English game of cricket takes central sports stage for the next quarter, the sunshine looks to be here to stay for the whole of June. So, no reason for not enjoying your garden &/or getting out into nature allowing the biophilic effects to positively affect your health and wellbeing. Enjoy these cherry-picked articles from the past few weeks :-

21ST The Guardian Nurses in England offered ‘golden hellos’ as trusts try to ease staff crisis

Nurses in parts of England are being offered “golden hellos” of up to £4,500 to work in the NHS – and not quit – amid fierce competition for staff. As the government and the Royal College of Nursing remain in deadlock over pay, some NHS trusts desperate to fill posts have launched their own schemes to attract and retain recruits. The incentives – which include bonuses staggered over two years and relocation packages of up to £8,000 – vary by area and come as the health service grapples with critical shortages and high staff turnover.

One trust, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership, which provides services to 2 million patients in the north-west, is offering £4,500 bonus to nurses joining its mental health and learning disability teams. The money is paid in three instalments – £1,500 on accepting a post, £1,500 after 12 months and £1,500 after two years – on condition that all of it is repaid if they leave within six months, and 50% repaid if they leave within a year. The trust is also offering up to £8,000 to clinical staff joining the trust who live more than 40 miles away and need to relocate.

Leeds and York Partnership, which provides mental health and learning disability services, is offering a £1,000 “golden hello” to experienced nursing staff joining its older people’s inpatient team. The trust said it offered financial incentives for “difficult to recruit” roles and worked with local partners to ensure payments did not put it an advantage over neighbouring trusts. At nearby Humber Teaching NHS foundation trust, new band-five nurses are offered a “non-recurrent £3,000 golden hello” regardless of speciality, according to a notice on its website.

NHS trusts in Cambridge, Essex and Hertfordshire are also offering incentives. In the capital, West London NHS trust is offering a £3,000 bonus paid over a year to mental health nurses taking up jobs with a starting salary of £25,655, according to a current job listing. The payments, which are decided locally at each trust’s discretion, come amid the dispute between the government and the RCN. While most health unions accepted the government’s pay offer of a 5% rise and one-off payment for NHS workers earlier this month, the RCN did not. Its members will now vote on whether to hold another six months of industrial action.

Patricia Marquis, the RCN’s director for England, said the offer of “ad-hoc local financial incentives” by NHS trusts was a “desperate” measure that would not solve the workforce crisis. “While it may help to attract nurses to those trusts deciding to do this, it is simply moving the problem from one trust to the next and creating a false sense of security that does not address the real problem,” she said. “The NHS needs a national solution to the national nursing workforce crisis – and that’s fair pay for nursing.” Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS services employing 1.2 million staff in England, said trusts were forced to use the incentives by high vacancy rates and “staff reporting high levels of burnout. Trust leaders need to put patient safety first, often forcing them to consider a range of staffing options including recruitment incentives, expensive agency staffing and international recruitment to plug gaps in rotas”, she said. 

In the year to June 2022, 40,365 NHS nurses in England left active service – equivalent to one in nine, according to the Nuffield Trust.  NHS Digital data shows that of those, about 15,000 nurses resigned, with 4,000 citing work-life balance as the reason.

22nd amii – Welcomes new private healthcare booking system

We welcome the news that patients will soon be able to use the NHS app to opt for private hospital treatment. The push to reduce waiting times relies on more patients opting to use private healthcare, so the move is aimed at making life as easy as possible for those considering a private alternative for their routine treatment.

amii hopes that the news will help private healthcare providers play their part in reducing the NHS waiting list, utilising the capacity in the sector and supporting a healthier population. Our executive chairman Dave Middleton said: “It is pleasing to see steps being taken to support further collaboration between the NHS and the private sector.

“At a time when the NHS is under unrelenting pressure, the government has recognised that making the process easier for patients who are open to private healthcare is a key factor in reducing waiting times for routine treatment. I’m looking forward to seeing further details of how it will work in practice for our members.”

12th City AM – The NHS crisis has a long tail, private GPs should become the norm for firms 

NHS waiting lists are not going to disappear anytime soon, but the health of the workforce is crucial to the economy. Businesses should make private GPs and other healthcare a standard offering, writes Brett Hill.

This summer, the NHS will celebrate its 75th birthday in the throes of a crisis. The public health service can no longer guarantee the health of the country’s workforce – and businesses, perversely, are both bearing the brunt of this whilst offering the government a route out of the current crisis. The deterioration of the health of the UK and its workforce can be found everywhere you look. Official NHS waiting lists have surged past seven million – an increase of around 3 million compared to before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, one in five (21 per cent) adults are currently waiting for some form of NHS care – whether that is for an appointment, a referral, a test or to start receiving treatment – according to a recent ONS study. That’s 11 million adults unable to access timely healthcare, 7 million of whom are “persistent waiters.” Outside of the NHS, the ripples of this health and wellbeing crisis are now beginning to reach businesses in London and across the country. Over 2.5 million people are reported economically inactive due to long-term sickness – a number that has surged by over 150,000 in just the past year.

Meanwhile, the damaging consequences of an unhealthy workforce on productivity were exposed by recent data, which uncovered that over 185 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2022. It marked the highest number on record and a significant increase from the pre-pandemic level of 138 million in 2019. The UK needs to tackle this public health crisis urgently before its debilitating effect on global competitiveness, productivity and growth becomes embedded and engenders further economic damage.

This is where businesses can – and should – play an integral role. That is because companies are increasingly recognising that they must support the health, and the wealth, of the nation if they are to protect their own bottom line and future growth prospects. Given this, it is little surprise that employer healthcare is now a C-suite issue – a matter that is absolutely mission critical to achieving growth and success.

Jeremy Hunt spent a significant amount of his focus in the spring budget on occupational health and its impact on the business community. It is encouraging the government acknowledges the place of the NHS not just to fulfil the mission critical role of keeping the country healthy, but to enable our workers to do their jobs. But this crisis, clearly, has a long tail. This means in the medium term it is businesses role to fill the gap. They can’t simply delegate responsibility to Downing Street. By taking steps like offering private healthcare options, implementing occupational health strategies and providing digital GP services, businesses can improve their employees’ access to healthcare. 

It means that employees can receive earlier diagnoses and treatment, preventing long-term absences that can arise from health conditions becoming more complex or severe when left untreated, forcing staff to take time off work. A structure that proactively supports employees before they become unwell will help to safeguard businesses from having to grapple with crippling staffing shortages, costly recurring hiring processes or significant declines in productivity. To compliment the efforts of government and employers, the surge in demand for private healthcare in recent years is driving a burst in innovation from insurers and other service providers to ensure that these employee benefits can be offered at good value for both corporates and workers.

While the short to mid-term future for the NHS may be bleak, an increasing focus on wellbeing in the workplace could be driving a permanent re-alignment in how we think about healthcare in this country. It is time for businesses to recognise this change and get ahead of the game before they lose competitive advantage.

5th Jan Forbes – Control Your Tech Before It Controls You

In today’s world, as business leaders, it is more and more challenging to stay focused and in control of your work. As technology advances, the risks are also evolving. For example, how often did you look for a piece of information (like the name of someone) on social media and finally end up scrolling from post to post for hours? You (and your teams) can’t afford this, as this distracts you from reaching your business goals. This article is about giving you the power of being “indistractable.”

A while back, I met a brilliant young computer programmer who’d had a strict upbringing and had never tried alcohol. In his 20s, he was accepted into a prestigious school in Paris, where he found parties with alcohol were almost unavoidable: They were routes to developing social ties with his classmates, joining working groups on subjects that interested him and making connections for future networking. After participating in a drinking game at one of these events, he came to value the social confidence alcohol gave him. He became a regular and heavy drinker, even drinking alone before social events to give him a boost. His behaviour on nights out became uncontrolled and inappropriate. Eventually, a family tragedy drove him to a closer and more destructive relationship with alcohol. He began constantly drinking, never leaving his house and lost his job.

Coming from a culture where alcohol is forbidden, he had never learned to appreciate the subtleties of wine tasting or the historical and cultural importance of alcohol – only its ability to get him drunk. More importantly, he had not grown up knowing its dangers or how to consume it responsibly.

Our Relationship With Technolgy

In some ways, we’re all like this in our relationship with our smartphones. They are new to us: We don’t come from a culture with centuries of wisdom about using them responsibly (the iPhone was launched as recently as 2007). All we know is that they make it easier and more comfortable for us to socialize with others. But do we realize the risks?

The statistics show how much time we spend on our devices and how dependent we are on them. According to Nielsen Research, in 2018, the time Americans spent using computers and smartphones, watching TV and playing video games added up to over 11 hours per day, a number that has likely gone up since the pandemic. Earlier media, like movies, TV shows or magazines, have consumed our time and attention. But internet-era tech is more insidious because it’s evolving so rapidly and because it’s so tailored to its users. Tech companies harvest consumer data, including engagement metrics that show what attracts and keeps people’s interest and what doesn’t. Leveraging this, they keep people hooked and generate revenue from the ads they receive on their screens.

The Hidden Costs –

While technology helps bring people closer together socially, especially across long distances, it opens up a new world of issues. 

Distraction

People spend about five hours per day on their devices. Always-on technology can distract you and erode your ability to focus at work. You might pick up your device to look up something specific but end up losing hours to mindless scrolling or being distracted from your task by notifications and recommendations. This lost productivity can severely impact your career. In fact, smartphone use can interrupt your workflow and prevent you from achieving concentration.

Addiction

Most people find it increasingly difficult to live without their phones or the internet, especially business leaders who need to be available and connected for most of the day. About 88% of Americans feel uneasy about leaving their phone at home when they go out. But according to recent research, internet addiction “is a significant predictor of depression, anxiety, and stress in young people.”

Technolgy As A Means, Not An End

I use LinkedIn to share my interests and passions and promote my writing. It’s a valuable tool for many professionals. But I started to find that chasing likes and followers had become an end in itself. My motivation had shifted from “sharing a passion with people” to “getting more followers,” which was, to me, a sign that I was becoming addicted.

I was able to step back and “detox” by using apps to schedule a week’s worth of posts in advance so that I only needed to interact with social media once a week. This meant I wasn’t checking likes and follower counts all the time, and without that constant feedback, I stopped making those metrics the main goal of my posts.

Insights From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT and similar approaches enable us to analyze links between our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Try to consciously notice the thoughts and emotions that lead you to crave time on social media or other digital distractions. In my case, I noticed the craving often resulted from social anxiety. Just identifying the emotion is helpful: It enables you to distance yourself from it. Then you can challenge the belief linked to the emotion and explore whether it’s a rational response or a cognitive distortion.

Practicing mindfulness helped me identify these unconscious beliefs and break the automatic link between an emotion (like social anxiety), a belief (like “everyone hates me”) and the resulting behavior (like fishing for likes on social media).

Developing Cultural Wisdom About Technology

Wine-drinking cultures have had thousands of years to develop laws and societal expectations about how to consume wine safely. Within these constraints, we can enjoy alcohol for its taste and its cultural significance. As business leaders, we need to do the same for technology. We have a responsibility to our young people – just as we teach them to read and write, we need to teach them how to consume technology safely and wisely and how to harness it for good. This starts by educating ourselves on the opportunities and threats of these new technologies.  

29th TIME – China Might Have 65 Million COVID Cases a Week by June. How Worried Should the World Be?

Last week when a Chinese senior health advisor projected 65 million COVID-19 cases per week in China by June, some health experts sounded the alarm. China has been facing a new COVID-19 wave fueled by the XBB variant since April. Data from Zhong Nanshan – a respiratory disease doctor who was among the first to confirm COVID-19’s easy transmissibility – provided a rare insight into how the disease could possibly be spreading in China almost six months after Beijing abruptly ended its draconian zero-COVID strategy.

Since pivoting to “living with the virus” policy from early December, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention stopped updating weekly infections. But the sudden relaxation of anti-epidemic protocols also led to an estimated 37 million new infections a day weeks later. By January, experts said they believed almost 80% of China’s 1.4 billion population had already been infected in this first wave. For the second wave since April, Zhong’s modeling revealed that the XBB variant is expected to cause 40 million infections weekly by May, going up to 65 million in June. This goes against the grain of Chinese health officials’ estimate that the wave had peaked in April. In Beijing, the number of new infections recorded between May 15 and 21 grew four times in four weeks.

While Zhong said vaccines targeting this specific variant will be rolled out soon, the projection of new COVID-19 infections nonetheless frazzled markets. China’s collective immunity has always been in question: a refusal to use foreign-sourced mRNA vaccines meant the public got inoculated against COVID-19 with a jab that proved less effective in preventing infection during early clinical trials, says researchers, and the stringent virus containment protocols restricted the possibility of developing natural immunity.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells TIME that although only mass testing can detect the true extent of the COVID-19 surge, the population has obtained some immunity from the preceding wave. “We shouldn’t worry if China doesn’t worry,” Huang says. “Public health officials try to downplay the severity of this second wave. The Chinese people seem to have learned to co-exist with the virus. There’s that social adaptability.” Compared to countries like the U.S. and Australia, China has just begun transitioning COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic disease. Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Deakin University in Australia, says the new wave “tests the effectiveness of their vaccines and their boosters,” adding that Beijing must ensure everyone’s vaccines are up to date – especially the elderly and the vulnerable population.

Chinese data a concern

With the virus continuing to circulate in China coupled with a waning public immunity, the possibility of a new, more dangerous sub-variant emerging still exists, Bennett adds, although the likelihood is much smaller now. The latest mutations in the genetic makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have not been significantly different from the last major variant, Omicron, and the symptoms of infections are relatively milder. “It’s somewhat reassuring, thus, now a year and a half into Omicron, that we haven’t seen a major shift that’s either undermined our immunity, our testing capability, and importantly, antivirals,” Bennett adds. 

But another factor that affects the prognosis for China is its willingness to share information. Independent experts have been skeptical of China’s official COVID-19 figures, forcing many to record their own statistics. A delayed release in China’s marriage and funeral data for the October-December 2022 period has also raised speculation that the country has yet to determine the true extent of the infection spread of its first wave. Vincent Pang, an assistant professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, says data on the spread and impact of COVID-19 will only be of use if shared with others on a global, well-regulated platform, so that these countries can perform their own risk assessment. “Infectious disease does not respect geographical boundaries,” he tells TIME. “No one is safe until everyone is ready and safe.”

30th The Guardian – Record rise in people using private healthcare amid NHS frustration 

Record numbers of people are paying for private healthcare, spending up to £3,200 on having a cataract removed and £15,075 on a new hip, amid growing frustration at NHS waiting lists. Across the UK last year 272,000 people used their own funds to cover the cost of having an operation or diagnostic procedure at a private hospital. That was up from 262,000 the year before and a sharp rise on the 199,000 who did so in 2019, the year before the Covid pandemic struck.

Private hospitals also set another record during 2022 by treating 820,000 inpatients and day case patients overall – more than in any previous year, according to figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), a specialist data collection organisation that tracks activity in the sector. Besides the 272,000 who paid themselves, the other 547,000 had their treatment using a private medical insurance policy – the highest number since 2019.

The data prompted speculation that the NHS’s inability to meet waiting time targets could make paying for private healthcare “a new normal” in Britain, despite state-funded care being free. Ian Gargan, PHIN’s chief executive, said “long NHS waiting lists and uncertainty around how long you’ll be waiting” were driving the surge in private healthcare. “For some people, paying for their own treatment is more cost-effective that not being able to work while they await a new knee or hip replacement, for instance.”

The top five most common procedures private hospitals carried out last year were cataract surgery (76,000), chemotherapy (66,000), an upper gastrointestinal diagnostic test (38,000), colonoscopy to test for bowel cancer (31,000) and a new hip (30,000). The figures do not include NHS patients who had private hospital care paid for by the health service. Keep Our NHS Public said it was “shameful” that more and more people were feeling obliged to use private healthcare as a result of the government neglecting the NHS.

Dr. John Puntis, the group co-chair, said: “It should come as no surprise that when the government has run the NHS down to a state of near-collapse, more people are opting to go private. Private healthcare providers are making hay as those people who can afford health insurance or scrape the necessary funds together for treatment choose the independent sector. It is absolutely shameful that in 2023, in the sixth richest world economy, we can’t diagnose and treat life-threatening illnesses such as cancer in a timely fashion,” added Puntis, a retired consultant paediatrician.

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Until the heady days of July good people please enjoy the ongoing June sunshine, making time to relax in it, being so good for us of course! Before reaching for the suncream straight away its good to let the sun’s warmth in for the first 15/20 minutes in order to help the body develop vitamin D, thereby helping to protect against skin cancers.

Take good care,

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Donoghue

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Specialist Private Medical Insurance Broker

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