September 2023 Health News
Health News – September 2023
4 September 2023
November 2023 Health News
Health News – November 2023
6 November 2023
Robotic Surgery

Hello dear SCH Health News reader, welcome to your autumn edition of your favourite health news round-up! With routines returning after summer travels, the autumnal weeks being historically a key time in the year when folk focus upon health matters, if you’d like to review your healthcare provision, I’d be only too pleased to have a 10/15-minute phone discussion with you soonest. In the meantime, please enjoy these four articles from September :-

4th Sept – The Guardian: Covid testing to be scaled up in England as winter pressure on NHS draws near

A new variant and waning immunity mean surveillance that had been wound down since pandemic will be increased. Coronavirus testing and monitoring are set to be scaled up for the winter, the UK’s public health agency has said, as pressures on the health service are expected to rise in the coming months.

Scientists warned last month that the UK was nearly “flying blind” when it comes  to Covid, because many of the surveillance programmes that were in place at the height of the pandemic have been wound down. Now the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed that it is planning to boost testing and surveillance as winter approaches.

The announcement has been made as schools and universities in England prepare for the return of students this week after the summer break, employees head back to work and indoor gatherings become more common – factors that are known to increase the risk of respiratory infections, including Covid, spreading.

Prof Steven Riley, the director general of data, analytics and surveillance at the UKHSA, said: “Planned scaling up of testing and community surveillance for the winter season, when health pressures usually rise, is in progress and UKHSA will make a further announcement regarding community surveillance plans for this winter shortly. Protecting the public from Covid-19 remains one of our top priorities. We continue to monitor the threat posed by Covid-19 through our range of surveillance systems and geonomics capabilities, which report on infection rates, hospitalisations and the risks posed by new variants.”

The UKHSA announced last week that the autumn Covid and flu vaccination programme in England was being brought forward to September to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected as the winter draws near. A new variant, BA.2.86, which has been detected in a number of countries around the world including the UK, the US and Denmark, is probably behind the shift. The variant is being closely monitored because it contains a large number of mutations that might help it to evade immune defences – although experts say little is currently known about how big an impact it may have.

Prof John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the discovery of the variant in a number of countries in a short space of time was one reason for concern. Another is the large number of genetic differences compared with other Omicron subvariants. “It is definitely concerning, there’s no question about that,” he said. “The good news is we haven’t seen it suddenly take off anywhere.”

Edmunds said there were still many unknowns about the variant, making it difficult to assess how much of a risk it posed – including whether it would cause more severe disease than other variants in circulation. One reason for that, he said, is that there was less data available. “Our surveillance has been much reduced, so we are slightly blinded compared to where we have been in the past,” he said. “If you compare it to where we were with Omicron, it’s really very different in terms of just the quality of our surveillance.” Dr. Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Berne and the University of Geneva, agreed, adding that time was needed to see how the situation progresses. “If the ‘slow start’ is real, it may eventually fade away, could linger on at a low frequency, or further mutations could enhance transmission and lead to faster spread,” she said.

Hodcroft said at the moment there was no cause for undue worry about the coming months. But she added: “We should be realistic that we often see waves and that for many people, immunity has waned as they haven’t been boosted or infected in a while. At the same time, we have to return from holidays, restart of schools, and resumption of a lot of business travel and meetings – all things we know contribute to respiratory viruses being able to get around.”

11th Sept – Daily Mail: The number of people with preventable cancers is set to reach 184,000

UK cancer timebomb: 184,000 Brits diagnosed with preventable cancer this year – costing economy £78billion, according to a study. Around four out of ten cancers are classed as preventable as they are caused by drinking, smoking, obesity and exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

These factors will be behind 43,000 cases of lung cancer, 23,000 of bowel cancer, 17,500 of skin cancer, analysis by consultancy Frontier Economics suggests. The numbers of preventable cancers are increasing each year, up from around 155,000 in 2019/2020 – and will cost the country around 3.5 per cent of GDP this year.

Cancer incidence will keep increasing as the population ages and as factors such as obesity increase, the report warns. The total cost of all preventable cancers between 2023 and 2040 will hit a staggering £1.26trillion during this time if current trends continue. The analysis suggests that smoking was behind the majority of the 43,000 avoidable lung cancer cases (72.2 per cent), while others were triggered by people’s jobs (13.2 per cent). Exposure to chemicals in the shipbuilding and construction industry have been linked to lung cancer.

Eating too little fibre (28 per cent), too much processed meat (12.8 per cent) and being overweight or obese (11.5 per cent) was blamed for 23,000 preventable bowel cancer cases. Exposure to UV radiation was thought to be behind 85.5 per cent of the 17,500 melanoma cases the UK is expected to log this year. Being overweight (8.3 per cent) and drinking too much alcohol (8 per cent) was blamed for 14,000 preventable cases of breast cancer. Of the remaining 86,500 avoidable cases of the disease, tobacco (15.1 per cent) and too much weight (6.3 per cent) were the main triggers.

Matthew Bell, director at Frontier Economics said: ‘Experts estimate that nearly 40 per cent of UK cancer cases are preventable, through actions such as reducing tobacco use, obesity and exposure to UV radiation.‘ Reducing the sizable number of people with these cancers could be a central element to reducing some costs for the NHS, and more significantly improving productivity, growth and the lives of countless people and their families.

The study estimated that cases of cancer are going to keep increasing, mainly due to population increases rather than changes in cancer incidence rates. The research estimates that in 2040 there will be approximately 226,000 new preventable cancer cases (from 184,000 in 2023), and between 2023 to 2040 there will be a total of 3.7million new preventable cancer cases.

‘If recent trends continue, smoking could cause around one million more cancer cases in the UK between now and 2040, and more than 21million UK adults could be obese, which would increase their risk of over 13 types of cancer.’ Dr. Sadie Boniface, head of research, Institute of Alcohol Studies, comments: ‘Since 1988, alcohol has been classified a group 1 carcinogen by the IARC, alongside tobacco and asbestos.

‘In 2020 alone, almost 17,000 cancers due to alcohol were diagnosed in the UK. To turn the tide on alcohol-related cancers, and alcohol harm generally where deaths are currently at record levels, we need policies to tackle cheap alcohol, reduce availability, and limit marketing.’

14th Sept – ITV News: Record number of people waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England

Health leaders warn the ‘very hard task’ of tackling the backlog becomes ‘almost impossible’ amid ongoing strike action, ITV News Health and Science Correspondent Martin Stew reports. NHS waiting lists in England hit a new high, with a record 7.68 million people yet to start routine treatment, new figures have revealed.

Between the end of July and June, the number of people waiting for their care to begin rose by 110,000, as strike action by NHS consultants and junior doctors continued to lead to tens of thousands of cancelled appointments. A £200 million “winter resilience” fund has been unveiled by the government, in response, which Rishi Sunak has said will help ensure patients “get the care that they need.” But the latest figures are evidence that the prime minister is not closing in on his key pledge to cut waiting lists. In January, he said “lists will fall, and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

Growing waiting lists

Data released by NHS England, on Thursday, showed that the number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment is now at its highest point, since records began in August 2007. Other key takeaways include:

  • Some 7,289 people are estimated to have been waiting more than 18 months to begin treatment at the end of July – up from 7,177 at the end of June.
  • An estimated 389,952 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks for their care to start at the end of the same month – compared with June, this is up from 383,083.
  • In an update on waiting times for cancer patients, the data showed that although the number of urgent referrals made by GPs was marginally up, the amount who saw a specialist within two weeks had in fact fell by 3% to 77.5%.
  • NHS England had set itself a target of 93% of patients receiving a specialist appointment in two weeks, but it is one of several targets the government has jointly agreed to scrap from October to streamline performance standards.
  • The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England from a decision to admit to actually being admitted was 28,859 in August – an increase of 21% from 23,934 the previous month.
  • Average response times for ambulances dealing with the most urgent  incidents – defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – fell by four seconds to eight minutes and 17 seconds. This is still however above the target standard response time of seven minutes.

‘Winter resilience’ fund

Department of Health and Social Care officials said a £200 million “winter resilience” fund, which was made public on Thursday, will help ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible. Officials said the money will also help hospitals keep up with pre-planned surgeries and operations to cut down the record waiting list.

Health commentators have however questioned how far the money will go amid the ongoing strikes by doctors. Last winter was branded as one of the worst on record for the NHS and hospital bosses have been planning for months to prevent the same happening this winter.

18th Sept – ITV News: NHS braced for week of disruption as consultants and junior doctors strike

NHS leaders have warned that strikes by junior doctors and consultants this week will cause unprecedented disruption for patients, amid a historic joint walkout. Planned care is likely to come to a halt with thousands of appointments cancelled, as the row with the government over pay and working conditions continues.

Consultants in England will walk out for 48 hours from Tuesday, and will be joined by their junior colleagues on Wednesday. Junior doctors will then continue their strike on Thursday and Friday. Both consultants and junior doctors will then strike together on October 2, 3 and 4.

Ahead of the strike action, NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis warned the health service had “never seen this kind of industrial action in its history.” He added: “This week’s first ever joint action means almost all planned care will come to a stop and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed, which is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, and poses an enormous challenge for colleagues across the NHS.”

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery warned that strikes cannot become the new normal, hitting out at the lack of “meaningful dialogue” between the government and medics. Ms. Cordery added: “We need this dispute to be resolved, and fast, but there is a deep and growing frustration among trust leaders at the sheer lack of action to even start to break this deadlock. We cannot allow strikes to become business as usual for the NHS.”  

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We’ve already seen 900,000 appointments cancelled as a result of strikes and the co-ordinated action next week will create further disruption for patients and fellow NHS staff. We accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full, meaning doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctors getting 8.8%. Consultants are receiving a 6% pay rise and are already in the top 2% of earners in the country.” 

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There you go for another month good people, trusting that you enjoyed that round up. Evidently there has never been a more opportune time to get your healthcare organised, or to make sure that you’ve gotten the best deal, and with 25 years industry experience you’re sure to get some top advice, by completing my online form! Until November please keep well, and out of GP surgeries and hospitals.

Kind regards,

Daniel Donoghue,

Whole of Market Broker,

MD, Surrey Circle Health

Robotic surgery in theatre at the
HCA Wellington hospital in St. John’s Wood

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