Health News – October 2022
10 October 2022
December Health News
Health News – December 2022
9 December 2022
November Health News

Hello and welcome to the penultimate issue of the year, as well as for our penultimate 2 nd year anniversary! Whilst Europeans are sunbathing and swimming at their seaside’s in France, Spain, Portugal & Italy, at the end of October, with temperatures around 10 degrees higher than normal for this autumnal time of year, at least the efforts to bankrupt the Western European economy with inflated energy costs aren’t particularly working nearly as much as had no doubt been expected at present, albeit at the expense of the environment with incredible animals like the polar-bear being pushed to the edge of extinction as their natural ice-berg habitats melt quicker than ever.

With a bumper nine article spread please enjoy your Health News round-up, with particularly insightful comment from COVER’s 7 th Oct focus upon the impact of Covid bereavement, as well as Sky’s 13th Oct article upon NHS waits hitting a record high of 7 million, and also embracing the changing of the seasons, 30 th Oct’s Metro flagging up the health benefits of engaging with the more diverse autumnal weather conditions! – Enjoy!

4th Health & Protection mag: ‘AXA Health introduces group neurodiversity assessment and support service’

AXA Health has introduced a neurodiversity assessment and support service as part of its UK corporate private healthcare schemes. The service will provide members with prompt assessments, diagnosis and onward assistance to empower and support them, while addressing the challenges of long wait times and access to expert practitioners, the insurer said.

It is supported by ProblemShared and will offer an initial needs assessment and where appropriate, diagnosis and a package of post-assessment support for autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHT), dyslexia, dysgraphia and dysalculia.

The benefit will be available to add to corporate schemes at renewal from this month, and includes eligible family members aged seven years and above. Onward support includes medication reviews for ADHD, post-assessment group sessions for autism and ADHD, as well as educational guidance. AXA Health said its service aimed at helping neurodivergent members harness their strengths and manage challenges and assist in creating more inclusive workplaces.

Mike Dalby, distribution director of AXA Health said: “We’re really excited to launch this new service and help our clients support their neurodivergent talent, as well as their employees whose family members require neurodevelopmental assessments. This innovative service will help us deliver our promise of empowering individuals through better understanding their strengths and challenges and enable workplaces to create inclusive and supportive environments where people can thrive and be themselves. Working with ProblemShared will enable us to support members through the process, from initial assessment to diagnosis and support sessions, in a flexible way that works for them.”

Dr. Nick Nabarro, founder of ProblemShared, said the firm was delighted to be working with the insurer. “Together with AXA Health, we ensure that the neurodivergent members are provided with options for diagnosis, education, medication, practical assistance and further treatment where clinically appropriate” he said. “This new service represents real change and will provide true support for neurodivergent people to live their best lives.”

4th Nuffield Health group: ‘Menopause and health insurance: what support is available?’

October marks Menopause Awareness Month with the 18th October being dubbed as World Menopause Day. Menopause can affect women in varying ways and a report from Nuffield Health group has revealed that 25% of women suffer debilitating symptoms.

One in four have even considered leaving their job because of difficult side effects according to 2016’s Wellbeing of Women. What’s more, few people actually know that menopause, its symptoms and treatment options could be covered by private healthcare insurance. So, whether you’re going through it yourself or are an employer looking to support your people with the right care, keep scrolling to discover everything there is to know about menopause and private medical insurance.

Years ago, menopause wasn’t usually covered on health insurance policies but, occasionally, you could get cover for some of the symptoms. That all changed in 2020 when some of the bigger health insurance providers began to launch specific menopause support services and care plans. Now, women can benefit from menopause health insurance plans as well as personalised treatment, referrals and online apps. What’s more, these policies are available for all women – whether they’re currently menopausal or perimenopausal. This includes those who are experiencing premature menopause. Providers are also becoming more innovative in the ways that they’re supporting women with menopause and associated health issue, and are offering mental health advice. Many insurers have even joined forces to support Wellbeing of Women’s ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’ which aims to support women and give their employers the tools and resources they need.

Menopause doesn’t just present physical symptoms. In fact, this Nuffield Health group study found that nearly half of all women said they felt depressed and around a third reported feelings of anxiety. Many agreed that they felt like they were ‘going mad.’ Mental health support is now a common part of the menopause plans that are offered by health insurers. This includes access to therapies, GP referrals and specialist treatment – dependant upon the level of cover taken out.

With around 14 million working days being lost every single year because of women’s health and menopause, it’s never been more important for both individuals going through it and their employers to know what help and support is out there. For individuals, having the right policy in place can give them personalised and specialised treatment, with the peace of mind in the knowledge that they’ll be protected in this area of health life-stage that every woman goes through. For employers, offering a menopause plan as part of the standard employee health insurance scheme means that they’ll be investing in their people with the right care, that puts their employee’s health first, thereby encouraging a more engaged team.

6th COVER mag – ‘Impact of Covid-19 bereavements has ‘serious consequences’ on health and wellbeing: UK Commission on Bereavement report finds’

A wide-ranging report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on bereaved people in the UK has found there have been “serious consequences” for health and wellbeing, alongside education and economic prospects.

The UK Commission on Bereavement’s (UKCB) ‘Bereavement is Everyone’s report found that there were approximately 750,000 excess bereavements during the pandemic, with 40% of people not receiving any form of formal support needed. The 250-page report conducted a nation-wide call for evidence between Autumn 2021 and March this year, drawing over 10,000 responses from the public, as well as organisations and professionals working with bereaved people. It found that there were an estimated 6.8 million bereavements in the UK throughout 2020 and 2021 – 750,000 more than expected.

7th Sky news –‘COVID-19: ‘Concerning’ increases in COVID hospitalisations – with 250% rise in one region’

“Concerning” increases in COVID hospitalisations in the past week suggest a new wave of infections is underway, UK health officials have said. There were 9,631 people in hospital with coronavirus as of 8am on 5 October – a 37% increase on last week’s 7,024. This is also the highest figure since 3 August. The COVID-19 hospital admission rate in England is now 10.8 per 100,000 people – up from 7.5 the previous week. In the age group with the most cases – those aged 85 or over – the figure is 132.3 per 100,000 people.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)’s weekly surveillance report, the number of COVID-19 cases has also increased. Positivity increased to 8.3%. While officials have warned of a “twindemic” of COVID and flu this winter, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)’s weekly surveillance report still showed “low levels” of influenza activity. According to his ZOE Health symptom-tracking app, Professor Tim Spector said common colds are rising faster than COVID cases. COVID case rates and death rates, however, have still increased, according to the latest figures.

Commenting on the latest figures, Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA, said: “This week’s data shows concerning further increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisation rates, which are now at their highest level in months. “Outbreaks in hospitals and care homes are also on the rise.” She warned people with any symptoms of a respiratory virus to stay away from the elderly and vulnerable.

Three of nine regions nearly back to July peak levels. COVID hospital admissions increased in all English regions in the past week – with three out of nine almost back to levels seen during the July peak – when the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants surged. In the South West, there were 1,003 patients in hospitals with coronavirus – nearly as many as the 1,229 at the summer peak. The South East of England had 1,553 patients in hospital with COVID – compared to 1,985 at the summer peak. And the East of England had 1,064 – not far off the 1,432 seen in July. Although regular testing has been wound down, the latest ONS surveillance report suggests cases are rising again in the community.

As of 17 September, 857,400 people had COVID outside of a hospital or care home – one in 65 – up from one in 70 the previous week. In the same week last year, COVID cases were decreasing – while during the same period in 2020 – cases were increasing nationally, suggesting it is too early to detect a season a trend. Vulnerable groups, health and social care workers and everyone over 65 is now eligible for another booster jab. The new bivalent vaccine protects against the original Wuhan strain and the Omicron variant.

8th The Mirror – ‘One million people with mental health problems ignored by NHS in 12 months’

One patient said she only survived because her parents used £11,000 of their savings to put her in private care after she was turned away from A&E after a suicide attempt.

More than a million people with mental health problems have been ignored by the NHS in 12 months. Some 1.1 million had their referrals closed without treatment between June 2021 and 2022, according to NHS Digital.

One patient, Fiona, 36, suffers from OCD and anxiety but is often turned away from hospital. At her worst, she went to A&E near her home in Littlehampton, Sussex, every two weeks because she wanted to kill herself. She told the Sunday Mirror: “They would always say, ‘There’s no new beds.’ No matter what condition you’re in, they send you home.” Her parents used their savings to pay £11,000 to send her to the private Southampton Priority after she was turned away from Worthing Hospital’s A&E despite a suicide attempt.

Fiona now pays £104 a month in benefits for therapy and her parents fund a £180-an-hour psychiatrist every few months. She said: “I might not be here today if my parents didn’t have savings. A lot of people won’t be here today because they didn’t have that. I know people who have taken their lives because they were left with no support.”

Figures also show 108,602 children and young people were still waiting to speak to a professional after seeking support in the year to March 2021. And 74,164 were still waiting for a referral after making one contact with a professional over issues with mental health during that time. Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow mental health minister and a hospital doctor, has slammed the Government for not doing enough to help, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Monday. She said: “Referrals for children and young people with eating disorders have doubled, and referrals for children who are self-harming have tripled. In one trust, children have been waiting 79 hours in A&E. This is the direct result of Tory cuts. “

More than two-fifths of children have their referrals closed before treatment at East and North Hertfordshire CCG and East Riding of Yorkshire CCG – the highest rates in the country, say Children’s Commissioner figures. Brian Dow of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Covid-19 put huge pressure on the mental health system and many are struggling with lengthy waits. Government must prioritise mental health.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director, said: “Our world leading NHS Talking Therapies programme has helped a record number. Despite the pandemic, the NHS kept increasing access to talking therapies for anxiety or depression. “A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Mental wellbeing remains a priority for the government and we have committed to invest at least an additional £2.3 billion per year into mental health services by 2024 – giving two million more people the help they need. As laid out in Our Plan for Patients, we will improve the availability of mental health support for all ages – including access to NHS talking therapies and strengthening support in schools.”

12th The Times – ‘Operations may be delayed as NHS issues blood shortage alert’

Patients face the prospect of non-urgent operations being postponed because the NHS has critically short of donated blood. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) announced an “amber alert” for the first time, which means that hospitals have been asked to put plans in place to protect blood stocks. A spokeswoman said that the main source of the problem was staffing at blood donor centres. “Most blood donor sessions are full – we are not doing a mass appeal for donors,” she said. “We’re asking hospitals to help while we sort staffing issues and challenges with running blood donor sessions. We do need some ‘O’ group donors in some areas with availability.” The service said that the current overall blood stocks in the NHS stood at 3.1 days but that levels of ‘O’ type had fallen to below two days. ‘O negative’ blood is the universal blood type that can be given to everyone. It is vital in emergencies and when the blood type of the recipient is unknown.

Hospitals will continue with any urgent, emergency or trauma surgery, cancer surgery, transplant surgery and blood transfusions to treat people with long-term conditions, NHSBT said. However, non-urgent procedures such as hip replacements, which make up about 1 per cent of all surgery, could be pushed back. These could be swapped for other surgeries such as hernia repairs, gall-bladder removal and eye surgery, which do not require blood to be on standby.

The ’amber alert’ will last initially for week weeks, which should enable blood stocks to be rebuilt. NHSBT aims to hold at least six days of blood stocks. It said that maintaining blood stocks “has been an ongoing challenge in the aftermath of the pandemic primarily due to staff shortages and sickness but also due to a change in donor behaviour as people are less likely to visit collection centres in towns and cities”. Wendy Clark, interim chief executive of NHSBT, said: “Asking hospitals to limit their use of blood is not a step we take likely. This is a vital measure to protect patients who need blood the most. Patients are our focus. I sincerely apologise to those patients who may see their surgery postponed because of this.” Blood can only be stored for 35 days, which means there is a constant need for donations as well as for specific blood types. The NHSBT appointment system aims to balance the supply of blood with the demand from patients and hospitals. Collecting too much blood and the wrong type would mean blood is wasted and hospitals might not have the right type available for patients.

Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s acute network, said: “while this ‘amber notice’ signals concern for the NHS’s blood stock, patients should be reassured that supply needed for emergency care, cancer treatment and log-term condition management will continue unaffected.” He added: “Had the NHS not had to contend with 132,000 vacancies, there would be more resilience built into the system. We hope this is a wake-up call to the government for the need for fully funded workforce strategy for health and care.”

13th Sky news – ‘Patients waiting for routine hospital treatment in England hits record high’

In all, seven million patients were waiting to start treatment at the end of August, NHS England said. This is up from 6.8 million in July and is the highest number since records began in August 2007. It was also revealed that a total of 387,257 people in England had been waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment at the end of August, up from 377,689 at the end of July. This means that one out every 18 people on the waiting list is waiting over 12 months to begin treatment. Figures also showed that 2,646 people had been waiting over two years to begin routine hospital treatment at the end of August, slightly down from the 2,885 the previous month and markedly down from a peak of 23,778 in January this year.

NHS England has said that its target was for no patients waiting longer than two years for treatment, except in instances of complex cases or when the patient themselves chooses to delay. Ambulance waiting times were also revealed, with the wait for calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries averaging nine minutes 19 seconds. The target for these types of incidents is seven minutes. The average wait for ambulances to arrive in instances of non-life-threatening injuries was 47 minutes 59 seconds in September, over half an hour longer than the target time of 17 minutes.

The number of people waiting longer than 12 hours in A&E for a bed after being seen by a doctor also reached a new record high of 32,776 in September, up by more than 4,000 on the previous month. This figure is higher than the total recorded in the 124 months from August 2010 (since records began) to November 2020. A total of 71% of patients in England were seen within the target four hours at A&E departments across England last month, level with the worst performance ever recorded. The national target is for 95% of patients to be dealt with in under four hours, a target which has not been met since 2015.

A record number of 255,055 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in August – however only 75.6% saw a specialist within the two-week target time, the second worst performance on record.

18th Sky news – ‘NHS England setting up ‘war rooms’ to prepare for ‘toughest winter on record’’

Under the government’s winter preparation plan, which aims to help the NHS cope during the colder months, the 24/7 “care traffic control centres” are expected to be created in every local area. The hubs, led by teams of clinicians and experts, will manage demand and capacity across England by constantly tracking the number of beds available and people attending hospital. It is hoped the centres will make it easier and quicker for decisions, such as if hospitals need extra assistance or if ambulances need to be diverted, to be made. It will mark the first time a system has been used to take stock of all activity and performance within the NHS.

Rapid response teams to help people who have fallen at home are also being set up across the country to prevent unnecessary hospital trips. NHS England believes this expansion could see about 55,000 ambulance trips freed up to treat other patients each year. Under the plans, care providers will also be given more support to deal with falls, with around two in five hospital admissions from care homes currently related to patients falling over.

On top of that, NHS chiefs have vowed to roll out around-the-clock access to professional mental health advice within ambulance services to help give more people access to the correct community support. In a letter to all NHS foundation trusts, signed by the health service chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, chief financial officer Julian Kelly and chief operating officer David Sloman, staff have been told “the coming weeks and months will be difficult. We therefore all need to be prepared for things to get even tougher over the coming weeks and months. We will support you doing your best under these very difficult circumstances, including as you work with and support clinical leaders to ensure risk is managed appropriately across local systems.”

30th Metro – ‘Why ‘bad’ weather is good for you – and how to learn to love it’

Hey, autumn lovers, I hear you.

Yes, the trees are beautiful and isn’t it nice to dream of cosy evenings drinking hot chocolate but, according to the Met Office, we’re entering unsettled stormy season. We have a lot of cold, wet and windy weather to endure before we’re eating easter eggs again. Add dark evenings into the mix and it’s all pretty grim.

But what if we learned to love ‘bad’ weather? What if the blustery winds, driving rain and biting temperatures were a tonic for body and soul? According to scientific research and holistic health experts, that could be true. Not only do our vitamin D-deprived bodies need us to get outside in daylight hours to help stave off SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but exposure to the elements can boost our physical and mental wellbeing.

‘As the nights draw closer and the days get colder and wetter it can be tempting to avoid the outdoors,’ holistic energy expert Antonia Harman tells ‘However, by doing this we cut ourselves off from nature and the many benefits it can bring to our lives – particularly in boosting the energy and balance of our mind, body and soul.’

Antonia believes we need to change our attitude to ‘bad weather’, describing it as a great opportunity to practice mindfulness and remind us of our place in the world. She continues: ‘Nature and the elements are vast and universal. What we can learn from embracing bad weather is that we’re only a tiny cog in this whole system and that, like the weather, life is unpredictable and beauty can be found in every moment.’

How the sound, smell and feel of the rain is good for us

The next time it rains, talk a walk – without your umbrella. Not only will your central-heating ravaged skin thank you for the extra moisture boost, but your inner body will be cleansed too.

An MIT study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics demonstrated how effective rain is at cleansing the air. As raindrops fall through the atmosphere they attract hundreds of particles of pollutants such as soot and bacteria, pulling them to the ground. As you breathe in a clean lungful of air, you could also get a little boost from the scent. Many people love the smell of the rain and find it soothing. This fragrance, known as ‘petrichor’, is released when plant oil compounds mix with moisture droplets and are released into the air.

That air is particularly beneficial if you’re walking through a park, garden or woodland on a rainy day. Trees and plants emit phytoncides which, according to a study by Japanese researcher Qing Li, who specialises in forest-bathing, have been proven to help our bodies fight off illness. It’s no coincidence that a rainfall soundtrack can be found on almost every meditation app available.

‘The sound of the rain is magical’ says Antonia. ‘Not in a “woo woo” way – it’s been proven to help our overstimulated and active brains. The repetitive, predictable and simple sound of rain actively blocks out sudden noises and allows our brains to slip into a mild form of meditation.’ This pitter-patter is classed as ‘pink noise’. Unlike ‘white noise’ with its higher frequencies, ‘pink noise’ is a sound where low frequencies are amplified and higher ones diminished, which makes them more pleasant on the brain. ‘Pink noise’ such as rainfall is thought to increase slow wave activity in the brain which is associated with deep sleep.

The blustery benefits of windy weather

Aside from ruining a good hair day, blustery weather can uplift us in a ‘blowing away the cobwebs’
kind of way.

The Dutch even have a word for embracing windy weather for the soul – ‘uitwaaein’, which roughly translates as ‘blow out’. If they are feeling stressed or anxious, the Dutch will ‘go uitwaaen’ to feel the wind on their faces and simply let the elements (metaphorically) blow their troubles away.

Up the game by running or cycling in blustery conditions. The push back from a strong wind can turn your cardio workout into a resistance exercise helping to make you stronger. Although a combination of wet and windy weather has its downsides when working out. Firas Iskandarani, master trainer at ‘Gym-box’, recommends slower-paced strength work, such as kettle bell swings, when exercising in bad weather but warns: ‘It’s important to keep moving to keep your heart rate up and your body at a regulated temperature. You should be more aware of your surroundings and control simple variables, such as dressing appropriately – when I train in these conditions, I personally like to wear gloves and hand warmers as these ensure I have sufficient grip and can perform at my best. Your footwear should have enough grip, and try and avoid slip hazards such as wet leaves.’

Cold temperatures boost brain function

Low temperatures can be good for the brain.

Struggling to solve a knotty problem at work? Talking a walk outside in cooler temperatures could help you think outside the box, according to research. The 2014 study found that thinking in warm conditions fostered ‘relational creativity’ – seeking links and connections – while cold conditions led to more ‘referential creativity’ – abstract thinking and the ability to break away from mental habits.

Chilly conditions can also benefit the body. A study by Japanese researchers found that exercising in cold, wet conditions helped burn more calories than in moderate weather. Although it can be a little more complicated than that. When we are cold our body works hard to increase our core temperature by shivering, but when we exercise we warm up. For additional calorie burn, on top of that from exercise, we need to feel cold, so get the balance right with lighter clothing or lower-intensity activity such as walking.

Record-breaking endurance athlete Sean Conway, who has teamed up with Athletic Brewing Co. for the ‘Fit For Autumn’ campaign, knows a thing or two about embracing the elements. He tells ‘Training in the cold has definitely built my immune system to be stronger, which is definitely needed as we enter cold and flu season. The cold weather helps to keep my heart in tip-top shape, as the body is forced to work harder to pump blood around, leading to an improved cardio-vascular system. I’ve also found that it can reduce inflammation which can improve any stiffness in my joints.’

So, there you have it good people, and wasn’t that last article excellent, I found it to be a really fascinating read! Regarding the The Times report upon diminished blood supplies, one should be mindful that some of the more progressive hospitals in the USA actually promote bloodless surgery, thereby producing better surgical performance whilst achieving quicker recovery times. Mindful of the very real likelihood of both Covid as well as seasonal flu escalation over the coming weeks and months, please stay alert and take the precautions available of booster and flu jabs if eligible. Until December please stay fit and healthy.

Kind Regards

Daniel Donoghue

Managing Director

Surrey Circle Health

Whole of Market Specialist Healthcare Brokers

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