April 2024 Health News
Health News – April 2024
9 April 2024
Surrey Circle Health – May Health News

Welcome to your May 2024 Health News round up of select media articles published during the past month for your perusal, whilst we welcome the warmer spring weather, with the birds in full song chirping away merrily in our gardens and parks. For the football fans amongst us with the domestic league programmes coming to their conclusions, being the culmination of much concerted efforts all season long, the Euro 2024 international championships now rears into view. Enjoy your read good people:-

3rd Protection Reporter – ONS: 21% of all adults in the UK are waiting for medical care

As of today, the NHS England waiting list consists of 7.6mn adults, with 6.3mn individuals waiting for treatment and 1mn patients appearing on the waiting list more than once. Notably, 1.4mn adults have been waiting over a year for medical care. These findings suggest that the actual figure of people currently waiting to access treatment via the NHS could be as much as 50% higher than reported by official waiting list data.

Meanwhile, of those that’ve tried to get GP appointments in the last month, 5.5mn (31%) adults said it was difficult or very difficult. Of those who managed to make contact, 1.9mn (12%) said they weren’t given an appointment for over two weeks , and 3.5mn (20%) said their GP experience was poor or very poor.

“While NHS waiting lists and difficulties accessing GP services aren’t new, this latest dataset reiterates the huge pressures currently impacting healthcare in this country. Of particular concern is the wide gap between the data reported in NHS waiting lists and the findings of the ONS survey,” said Brett Hill, Head of Health & Protection at Broadstone. He believes this gap suggests the proportion of adults in the UK now waiting for medical treatment is far higher than previously understood.

“With 21% of adults in the UK waiting to access healthcare, it highlights the huge problems for businesses when it comes to supporting the health of their employees and reducing sickness absence – an increasingly important C-suite issue,” he added.

Consequently, there’s been a record number of private healthcare admissions in the last twelve months (driven by insurance solutions) so employers can step into the healthcare gap and support staff during periods of ill-health or injury. Similarly, employers are increasingly focused on prevention and health screenings to identify risk factors or medical conditions at an earlier stage.


5th Sky News – NHS consultants in England accept pay offer to end year-long dispute and strike action

Senior doctors in England have voted to accept an improved government pay deal, bringing to an end the year-long dispute which had led to strike action. The British Medical Association (BMA), a trade union which has been representing the consultants, put the offer on pay and conditions to its members, with 83% voting in favour.

The pay deal includes changes to the review body on doctors’ and dentists’ remuneration (DDRB) and a 2.85% (£3,000) uplift for those who have been senior doctors for four to seven years, said the BMA. The offer is in addition to the 6% awarded during the DDRB process last summer.

Strike action over the last two years has heaped more pressure on the NHS, where more than seven million patients remain on waiting lists for hospital  treatment, leading to thousands of cancelled appointments and procedures.

“Without valuing doctors, we lose them”

Dr. Vishal Sharma, who chairs the BMA consultants committee, said “at the heart of this dispute was our concern for patients and the future sustainability of the NHS.”  He described the consultants’ strike action as “unprecedented” following “years of repeated real-term pay cuts.”

Dr. Sharma said: “it’s now imperative that the DDRB utilises its independence to restore doctors’ pay and prevent any further disputes from arising. We’ve reached this point not just through our tough negotiations with the government, but thanks to the resolve of consultants, who took the difficult decision to strike, and did so safely and effectively, on multiple occasions, sending a clear message that they would not back down,” he said, adding: “Without valuing doctors, we lose them. Without doctors, we have no NHS and patients suffer.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the government’s offer was “fair and reasonable” and the deal eliminated the threat of further strikes. She added: “Consultants will now be able to focus on providing the highest quality care for patients and we can consolidate our progress on waiting lists – which have fallen for the past four years months. This deal directly addresses gender pay issues in the NHS and enhances consultants’ parental leave options – representing a fair deal for consultants, patients and taxpayers.”

7th The Times – A&E in critical condition as NHS overwhelmed by patients

More than 150,000 patients were forced to wait more than 24 hours in A&E before getting a hospital bed last year, a tenfold increase on 2019, new figures show. Elderly and frail patients made up the bulk of those forced to spend a full day in emergency units before a bed could be found for them. Medical leaders said that hospitals were now too full to give people the care they needed.

Senior doctors said that the long waits were likely to lead to the death of patients after years in which NHS delays have been steadily lengthening. NHS chiefs have acknowledged the problem, which they said was caused by rising demand as they try to find alternative ways of treating people that avoid the need for hospital admissions.

Official figures show that almost 40,000 patients a month wait 12 hours in A&E for for a bed, a 50-fold increase on levels before the pandemic, and a 600-fold increase on 2015, the last time the NHS met its target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

Now  freedom of information data compiled by the Liberal Democrats shows that a significant proportion of those patients wait a full day in emergency units. Responses from 73 hospital trusts, about half the total, show 153,000 patients waited more than 24 hours in A&E before a bed could be found for them. The figure only includes patients who were ill enough to need a hospital bed, not those who could be treated and sent home.

The figure is up 17 per cent in a year after a seven-fold increase between 2021-2022. In 2019 the equivalent figure for 24-hour waits was less than 15,000. About two thirds of the patients are over 65. “It is appalling that so many elderly and vulnerable people are being forced to put up with these terrifying waits as our health service teeters on the brink,” Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said. “Behind each one of these figures is a story of someone waiting in pain, worried sick about getting the care they need.”

Adrian Boyle, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that the patients behind the statistics: “[Were] always people who are sick who need to be admitted to hospital. The majority are those who have general medical problems and are elderly with multiple conditions. Quite a lot also have mental health problems.” The college previously estimated that more than 250 patients a week died last year because of A&E delays. “We know that staying 12 hours is harmful for people so staying longer certainly won’t be good for people,” Boyle said. “For every 72 stays of 12 hours [in A&E], there will be one excess death. There was also a study in France showing that if people aged 75 spend more than 12 hours in the emergency department, they had a 5 per cent increased risk of death in the subsequent admission.”

He estimated that the NHS was still short of 10,000 beds, saying: “This is a deep-seated lack of capacity in our hospitals. We still have the least number of beds per head of any European country apart from Sweden. The pandemic will definitely have disrupted and accelerated things, but the problems were set in stone beforehand.” Failure to improve social care meant hospitals struggled to discharge frail elderly patients, Boyle said, arguing: “If you go back to 2015 all the graphs show a steady downward curve. It’s just become much more noticeable.”


28th The Guardian – ‘No one’s being honest about it’: how NHS crisis forces patients to go private

When Rosemary Duff heard how long she would have to wait for a hip replacement operation on the NHS, she felt she had no choice but to dip into her savings. “I waited a month to see my GP, then another four months to see a consultant. His opening words were ‘unless you go private, there’s an 18-month waiting list’, which was a bit of a shock,” said Duff, 71, from Norwich. “Much against my principles, I agreed to go private.”

Duff, who worked in market research before retiring, spent almost £28,000 having both hips replaced last year at a private hospital run by Circle Health Group. “A lot of money out of my savings, but my children said I should go ahead and do it!” she said. Lengthening NHS waiting lists, which hit a peak of nearly 7.8 million in England in September, have prompted more people to take out private medical insurance in recent years, despite its rising cost. Others are dipping into savings or taking out loans to pay for routine operations, often spending thousands of pounds.

To deal with the booming demand for private healthcare, insurers Axa and Aviva had to recruit and train significant numbers of extra call-centre staff last year. Discussing health conditions is not the same as making a motor claim, one senior insurance executive noted. Duff said: “I am now fully mobile again and feel like I have got my life back.” She keeps active – looking after her one-year-old granddaughter once a week, tending her allotment, walking and swimming. She is also secretary to the local Labour party. She inherited some money when her mother died last year, so the cost of the surgery “hasn’t completely wiped me out. But it has made a big hole.”

More people are following Duff and paying out of their own pocket, despite the cost. A knee replacement typically costs between £12,000 and £15,000; a new hip costs between £9,000 and £16,500, and cataract removal between £2,000 and £4,000, according to 2023 figures from health data provider LaingBuisson. Self-pay has increased to the point where it made up 28% of private hospitals’ revenue in 2022, including overseas patients, while procedures covered by medical insurance accounted for 41%, and payments from the NHS, which have tripled since 2003, accounted for 31%, says LaingBuisson. The struggling state health service has been buying cancer care, cardiology and other services from private hospital groups in recent years, prompting concerns about creeping backdoor privatisation.

The private health sector has grown steadily: the combined turnover of private hospitals, primary care (GPs) and dental services has increased almost fourfold since 2010, from £1.3bn to £4.9bn in 2023, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows. The figures are not adjusted for inflation. Some say this trend, and the government’s unwillingness to fund the NHS adequately, increasingly undermines state healthcare.

“You’ve now got more and more people who are having to pay out of their own pockets for things like dental care or operations that aren’t available on the NHS,” said David Rowland, director of the thinktank Centre for Health and the Public Interest. “You’ve got a trend there, which is the state government moving responsibility for paying for healthcare away from collective resources, taxpayer income, back on to the individual. Nobody’s being honest about the extent to which this is happening. No politician has stood up and advocated for it. It’s a trend which has been happening increasingly over the past 30 years with Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties in charge.”

UK state spending on healthcare was £283bn in 2022, according to the ONS, up 0.7% from 2021. However, adjusting for the impact of inflation, spending declined by 4.5%. Further analysis by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that the UK spent less on healthcare in 2022 as a percentage of GDP (11.3%) than the US (16.6%), Germany (12.7%) and France (12.1%).At the same time, the UK health cover market – including medical insurance and cash plans – has been growing much faster than in the past, reaching £6.7bn in 2022, up 6.1% from 2021, according to LaingBuisson.

Despite the steep average annual cost of £2,252, more people have been forking out for individual medical insurance. Those who can get cover through their employers are much better off, with the average work policy costing £975. The main players in UK medical insurance are Bupa, Axa, Aviva and Vitality, which together control more than 90% of the market. Bupa, which dates back to 1947, a year before the birth of the NHS, has 3 million UK customers, Axa nearly 3 million, Aviva 1.2 million and Vitality 1 million. This means more than 8 million people are covered by private health insurance, both individual and workplace policies – more than one in 10 people in the UK.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary told the Guardian that “the private health cover market is likely to grow, and perhaps by that point people will be much more au fait with the idea of paying out of pocket for some things, or for insurance.”


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So, there you have it good people, another four compelling reads from the health related media world of the past month, which I trust that you enjoyed. Enjoy the spring sunshine, and of course if you would like to either compare your current Private Healthcare policy, either individually or as organised through the workplace, or indeed are thinking about taking out some cover, and would like to consider some cover and costs, that’s exactly what I specialise in, having done so for over two and a half decades now, with analysis and advice without of course cost or obligation – I’m always at the end of mobile phone number that’s not changed in over three decades.

Until early summer,

Stay fit and well,

Kind regards,

Daniel Donoghue

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Specialist ‘Whole Market’ Medical Insurance Brokers

07831 259768 / 01932 620055

info@surreycirclehealth.co.uk

Surrey Circle Health – May Health News

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