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Health News – October 2023
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Health News – December 2023
4 December 2023
November 2023 Health News

Dear loyal SCH reader,
Welcome to your autumn edition of your favourite health news round up! With the nights drawing in, and the sun eagerly anticipated through windows and extra layers, as the leaves start to fall, I trust that you enjoy these four hand-picked articles from the past month :-

11th BBC News – The NHS must modernise or die, Wes Streeting says:

The NHS must modernise or die, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting says. In a speech to the Labour Party Conference, he said the ageing population and rise in conditions such as heart disease, dementia and diabetes threatened to ”bankrupt” the NHS.

Mr. Streeting promised a Labour government would prioritise services in the community and mental health, and that would form part of “fundamental and deep” reforms, including changes to social care. Abolishing non-dom tax status, which allows “non-domiciled individuals” – UK residents whose permanent is outside the UK – to avoid paying UK tax on money they made outside the UK, would help pay for more operations, scans and appointments.

Mr. Streeting also promised more GPs and closer integration between the community and hospitals, creating what he called a neighbourhood health service. Currently, the system was too focused on hospitals and dealing with late diagnosis and treatment, he said. “Pouring ever increasing amounts of money into a system that isn’t working is wasteful in every sense,” he told delegates.

‘Healthiest generation’

Labour would also support Rishi Sunak’s plan to increase the smoking age year by year until it was banned, Mr. Streeting said. Mr. Streeting said Labour aimed to create the “healthiest generation that ever lived.” On social care, he said a Labour government would create a national care service – at the moment, access to support such as places in care homes and help at home is means-tested so only the poorest receive state funding.

Joint walkout

Mr. Streeting also urged the current government to return to the negotiating table to solve the pay dispute with doctors. With no new strikes announced following last week’s joint walkout last week by junior doctors and consultants, there was now a “window of opportunity,” he said.

But he accused the prime minister of being more interested in exploiting the dispute than trying to solve it – Mr. Sunak has blamed it for the failure to reduce the hospital waiting list. The government has given junior doctors an average rise of nearly 9%, and consultants 6%, in line with the independent pay review body’s recommendations. The British Medical Association wants however much more – as much as 35% for junior doctors.

12th The Independent – Number of Covid-19 hospital patients  in England rises to five-month high:

As a fresh sign that the virus is circulating more widely among the population, as the NHS continues to roll out the latest Covid booster vaccine, with more than a third of people aged 65 and over in England now estimated to have received the jab.

There were 4,413 patients in hospital testing positive for Covid-19 as of October 8, according to NHS England. This is up 14% on the previous week and is the highest total since May 4. But it is still some way below the level seen during the winter of 2022/23, when the total reached nearly 10,000, and is well below the peak of 34,000 during winter 2020/21.

The rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions in England is also continuing to climb, standing at 6.1 per 100,000 people in the week to October 8, up from 5.7 the previous week and 4.3 a fortnight earlier. The rate reached 11.4 per 100,000 people over Christmas 2022. Rates are highest among people aged 85 and over, at 62.7 per 100,000-, and 75-84-year-olds, at 30.00 per 100,000.

There are currently no official estimates of the prevalence of Covid-19 among the UK population, meaning hospital admissions are the only regular guide to possible changes in how the virus is circulating. Testing for Covid-19 has also been scaled back sharply, so there is not as much data available for analysis.

Infection levels will be monitored this winter under a new study run jointly by the UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) and the ONS (Office for National Statistics). It is a scaled-down version of the Covid infection survey that ran for nearly three years and was considered the “gold standard” for measuring prevalence of the virus.

The new study will run from November 2023 to March 2024 and will involve as many as 32,000 lateral flow tests being carried out each week. Up to 200,000 members of the public will be invited to take part – a smaller number than in the original survey, but the results will be broadly representative of the population as a whole.

23rd BBC News – Biggest cervical cancer drug advance in 20 years hailed:

Scientists say they may have made the biggest breakthrough in treating cervical cancer in 20 years, using a course of existing, cheap drugs ahead of usual radiotherapy treatment. Trial findings, revealed at the ESMO medical conference, show the approach reduced the risk of women dying from the disease by 35%.

Cancer Research UK, which funded the work, called the results “remarkable.” It hopes clinics will soon start doing the same for patients. Cervical cancer affects thousands of women each year in the UK, many  in their early 30s. Despite improvements in radiotherapy care, cancer returns in up to a third of cases, meaning new approaches are very much needed.

Dr. Iain Foulkes, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Timing is everything when you’re treating cancer. A growing body of evidence is showing the value of additional rounds of chemotherapy before other treatments like surgery and radiotherapy in several other cancers. Not only can it reduce the chances of cancer coming back, but it can also be delivered quickly using drugs already available worldwide. We’re excited for the improvements this trial could bring to cervical cancer treatment and hope short courses of induction chemotherapy will be rapidly adopted in the clinic.”

In the study, 250 women with cervical cancer received the new treatment – an intensive six-week course of carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy, followed by the “usual” treatment of radiotherapy plus weekly cisplatin and brachytherapy, known as chemoradiation. Another 250 women – the control group – received only the usual chemoradiation. Five years later, 80% of those who had received the new treatment were alive and 73% had not seen their cancer return or spread.

Dr. Mary McCormack, lead investigator of the trial from UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH, said: “Our trial shows that this short course of additional chemotherapy delivered immediately before the standard CRT can reduce the risk of cancer returning or death by 35%. This is the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years.” She told the BBC’s Today programme: “The important thing here is that if patients are alive and well, without the cancer recurring at five years, then they are very likely to be cured, so that’s what makes this very exciting.”

Because the two chemotherapy drugs are cheap, accessible and already approved for use in patients, experts say they could become a new standard of care relatively quickly. However, they caution that not every woman with cervical cancer might get the same beneficial outcomes from the treatment. Many of the women in the study had cancers that had not yet started to spread elsewhere in the body. It is unclear how well the therapy work for women with more advanced disease. The drugs can also cause unwelcome side effects, including sickness or nausea, and hair loss.

25th COVER Magazine – Nearly 7 million adults in UK have private medical insurance: Broadstone

Analysis by Broadstone employee benefits solutions has found that the number of adults with private medical insurance (PMI) has increased by one million over the past five years.

The independent consultancy analysed data from the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Financial Lives Survey, published in July, and found that 13% of adults have PMI cover, equivalent to 6.9 million people.

Of those with a PMI policy, three quarters (76%) held cover through an employee benefits package, while 19% of workers were self-funding. Adults aged between 35-44 and 45-54 years old had the highest level of coverage, both at 22%.

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There you have it for another month dear reader! With Covid still hanging around like a bad smell, please continue to be mindful of this nasty contagion as we head into winter, with all the usual flu type lurgies typically at this time of year spreading like wildfire. As we start to ‘baton down the hatches’ as the season really starts to turn, don’t shy away from outdoor exercise, being the very thing that helps our immune systems stand up to these seasonal onslaughts!

Kind regards,

Daniel Donoghue,

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Whole of Market Specialist PMI Broker

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