As hospital waiting lists continue to grow in many countries, the number of people seeking medical treatment abroad has increased in recent times. But aside from getting treatment quicker, there are a number of other benefits associated with having medical treatment abroad, several of which we’ll outline in this article. Quicker access to treatment First and foremost, patients can receive treatment quickly. Waiting lists for certain procedures in developed countries can be months, if not years, long. In contrast, medical facilities in other countries often have shorter waiting times, which means that patients can receive treatment sooner. This can be especially important for procedures that are time-sensitive or for patients who are experiencing significant pain or discomfort. Wider range of treatments available Patients can access treatments and procedures that may not be available in their home country. Medical technology and treatments are constantly evolving, and some countries may not have the latest or most advanced treatments available. By seeking medical treatment abroad, patients may be able to access cutting-edge treatments and procedures that are not available in their home country. Higher quality care Patients often also receive better quality care abroad. Many countries that are popular for medical tourism, including France, have world-class medical facilities that are staffed by highly trained doctors and medical professionals. Patients can expect to receive the same level of care they would receive in their home country, if not better. Combine treatment with a vacation Seeking medical treatment abroad can be an opportunity for patients to combine medical care with a holiday. Many medical facilities in other countries offer packages that include accommodation and sightseeing tours, allowing patients to enjoy a vacation while also receiving medical treatment. This can make the experience of seeking medical treatment more enjoyable and less stressful. Maintain privacy Finally, seeking medical treatment abroad can be a way to maintain privacy and confidentiality. Some patients may prefer to keep their medical procedures and treatments private, and seeking medical treatment abroad can provide an opportunity to do so. Patients can receive treatment without worrying about running into acquaintances or colleagues, which can be a concern in their home country. Overall, there are numerous benefits associated with having medical treatment abroad. However, it is important to do thorough research and consult with a medical professional before deciding to seek medical treatment abroad, as there are also potential risks and drawbacks that should be taken into consideration. Partnering with a reputable organization is paramount. *Image by David Mark from Pixabay
An increasing number of British people are traveling abroad for medical care, as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) continues to struggle to serve patients amid nursing strikes and budget cuts. Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and still feeling the after effects, NHS waiting lists in England alone now stand at a record seven million. That’s seven million people who are awaiting “routine, or non-urgent, treatment”, like hip replacements, eye care and gallbladder surgery. The situation has become so severe that the chairman of the British Medical Association, Professor Philip Banfield, has described it as a “national scandal”. Talking to Sky News, Professor Banfield said: “What the pandemic has done is aggravate a situation that was deteriorating, and we have been highlighting for ten years or more so if you look at the waiting list the figures had gone from 2.6 to 4.4 million before the pandemic. It has gone over seven million now. This is an absolute national scandal.” Professor Banfield’s comments come after the Royal College of Nursing said twice as many of its members were preparing to go on strike in February if talks with the UK government remain at a stalemate. The UK government says nurses have been offered a "fair" pay deal and it has accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body "in full". As a result of the record-high waiting times, many Brits are opting to pay for their treatment privately, be it at home or abroad. Indeed, data shows the number of people in the UK searching Google for the term “private healthcare” has risen significantly to hit a record high. Meanwhile, figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network reveal the number of people self-paying for private acute care has increased by more than a third versus before the pandemic. Here at France Surgery, it is certainly something we’ve seen, too, with increased demand from UK patients seeking cardiology care and orthopedic surgery. “Before Brexit, English people came to France for healthcare purposes because they were reimbursed by the NHS. Now, they come to France because of the skyrocketing waiting lists in the UK,” said Carine Briat-Hilaire, chief executive and co-founder of France Surgery.
For people living with type 1 diabetes, finger prick tests to check blood glucose levels are a necessary part of daily life. Without them, these individuals could experience potentially life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks, where their blood sugar levels fall too low. But regular finger prick tests could become a thing of the past for people with type 1 diabetes thanks to an artificial pancreas being trialled in England. The technology includes a sensor under the skin that monitors blood glucose levels, a pump that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin the person needs and a smartphone app where they can input the number of carbohydrates they eat at meal times. NHS England says the artificial pancreas trial – which currently involves around 900 people – is the first nationwide test of the technology in the world. It also comes 100 years after the first diabetes patient received insulin injections. Prof Partha Kar, NHS national speciality adviser for diabetes, said: "Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day. "It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication." *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
Eating just two servings of avocado each week can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by a fifth, new research reveals. According to the study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, one avocado a week (equivalent to two servings) appears to cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 21% compared to people who do not eat avocado. Furthermore, by replacing half a serving of margarine, butter, egg, yoghurt, cheese or processed meats per day with the equivalent amount of avocado, people can lower their risk of heart disease by 16%-22%. Avocados contain dietary fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats and other key vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamins C, E, and K. The new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAMA), involved almost 70,000 women from the NHS Nurses’ Health Study and around 40,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, said: “We desperately need strategies to improve intake of American Heart Association-recommended healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — that are rich in vegetables and fruits. “Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits.” *Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay
Sorry, wine lovers, but new research shows that you could be hitting your daily recommended sugar intake with just two glasses of your favorite tipple. The analysis of 30 bottles of wine by Alcohol Health Alliance UK, a coalition of more than 60 organisations working together to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, found that some bottles had up to 59g of sugar – more than a glazed doughnut! In the UK, winemakers are not legally required to put nutritional information on labels. The UK's NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of "free sugars" per day, which includes sugar in fruit juices and smoothies, or sugar added to food or drink. Campaigners are calling for change, to better inform wine drinkers about how many calories and how much sugar they are consuming. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK analysis revealed it was possible for a person to hit the daily sugar limit for adults by drinking two medium-sized glasses of some wines. More telling was the discovery that lower-strength wines were among those containing the most sugar. So just because they have a lower alcohol content, it doesn't mean they are necessarily the healthier option. Next time you're in your local supermarket, have a look to see which wines have nutritional information and, if you can, opt for one that has a lower sugar content. Image by Vinotecarium from Pixabay
The UK NHS’ COVID app alerts people who have it installed to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus disease. But a surge in the number of notifications being received has led to a significant proportion of Brits simply switching the app off. According to a YouGov poll, one in five (20%) Brits have switched off the contract tracing function of the NHS COVID app, as the country experiences a so-called “pingdemic” of alerts. While anyone who is pinged by the app is not obliged by law to self-isolate, the UK government is strongly advising people to follow the advice to help curb COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 restrictions were recently lifted in England and since July 19, there are now no limits on how many people can meet or attend events; nightclubs have reopened; and table service is no longer necessary in pubs and restaurants. However, many other governments are looking at the UK as something of a guinea pig, having taken the decision to ease COVID restrictions despite surging numbers of delta variant cases. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate, so it remains to be seen if that is enough to prevent the delta variant from causing significant problems. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay
We recently wrote about how France is the first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate. Now, the UK has announced that it will use its NHS health app as a vaccine passport going forward. Part of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap for enabling international travel, the vaccine passport will allow vaccinated Britons to enjoy quarantine-free travel to certain countries this summer. The UK Government has set out plans for a "traffic light" system to be used to categorise different destinations. Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said that more details about the vaccine passport will be revealed "in the next couple of weeks", including which countries will be included on the so-called "green list". Britons will be able to travel to these destinations without having to quarantine on their return. However, travellers will still be expected to have a Covid-19 test both when departing the UK and upon their return. Mr Shapps also confirmed that the UK NHS smartphone app will be used to store people’s vaccine information, effectively making it a vaccine passport. Speaking about the possibility of vaccine passports being around for the long term, Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the UK science and technology select committee: “One reason is that Covid is not going to go away; it is going to be endemic around the world, it is going to keep resurfacing, and I think that, just as we’ve had yellow fever passports for years and years and years, we’re going to have Covid passports too”. *Image courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay
The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has been monumental. But for physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, it’s been particularly difficult. In addition to carrying out their already demanding day jobs, these individuals have had the added stress of coping with social distancing and a surge in patient numbers. It is, therefore, no wonder that a significant proportion of NHS staff in England are concerned about burnout. While it’s not often considered when talking about the benefits of telehealth, such solutions can actually help reduce the risk of physician burnout. Here’s how: - Telehealth helps improve physician work-life balance - Telehealth makes for more optimized schedules - Telehealth reduces the need to commute - Telehealth can help improve physician-patient relationships - Telehealth helps address healthcare coverage gaps, meaning physicians don’t after to overstretch themselves - Telehealth solutions allow physicians more time to look after themselves Healthcare provider burnout is a serious issue. If the very people whose jobs it is to look after us fall ill themselves, how will it bode for the rest of us? You can find out more about the telehealth services provided by us here at France Surgery by contacting us today.
The total cost in lost working time of UK employees travelling to appointments with their doctors last year was a staggering £1.5bn, new research reveals. According to a report published by health insurance firm AXA PPP Healthcare, online General Practitioner (GP) appointments could play a significant role in boosting efficiencies across both business and healthcare. The report, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), suggests that if virtual appointments were used in the first instance, the number of face-to-face GP appointments conducted last year could have been reduced by 50m. In addition, virtual appointments eliminate the need for patients to travel, thus reducing their chances of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, they allow GPs to reduce their risk of exposure too. The CEBR report also highlights how online consultations, which can be more easily booked, amended, and cancelled, would help reduce the number of missed appointments. NHS Digital figures show that this is an issue, with one in 20 GP appointments recorded as ‘did not attend’ in 2019. By enabling patients to more easily manage appointments, online GP services could free up the equivalent of 60 years of GP consultation time per year. Whether the prevalence of virtual GP services continues to grow once the COVID-10 pandemic is over remains to be seen. What is certain is that they are playing a vital role as the crisis continues.
A new 90-minute test that can distinguish if someone has COVID-19 or another seasonal illness will be highly beneficial come the flu season (December to March) in the UK, the government there has said. The “on-the-spot” swab and DNA tests can detect coronavirus and flu. They will be rolled out in hospitals and care homes across the UK starting next week. At present, a third of COVID-19 tests in the UK take at least 24 hours to process. The UK Government has said that almost half a million of the new rapid tests, called LamPORE, will be available from next week in hospitals and care homes. The investment will help the UK Government work towards hitting its target of testing all care home staff and residents — a move that’s designed to identify so-called ‘silent spreaders’ individuals who are infected but asymptomatic. In addition, thousands of DNA test machines that can analyse nose swabs will be deployed to UK NHS hospitals from September, following successful rollouts across eight London hospitals. The c. 5,000 machines will provide around 5.8m test over the coming months. While the accuracy of the new swab and DNA tests has not yet been determined, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said they are on a par with current lab-based tests.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 and gained immunity to the disease could lose it again within months, a new study from the UK suggests. According to the research by a team from King’s College London, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) could reinfect people year after year, much like common colds. Having studied the immune responses of more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, the researchers found that COVID-19 antibody levels peaked about three weeks after the onset of symptoms. [Related reading: Coronavirus: Immunity levels likely to be higher than antibody tests suggest] Blood tests revealed that while 60% of COVID-19 patients displayed a “potent” antibody response at the height of their battle with the disease, this figure fell to just 17% three months later. In some cases, antibody levels became undetectable. The findings of the study have implications when it comes to developing a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as achieving greater herd immunity. The bottom line is that if antibody levels drop over time and people are able to be reinfected seasonally, a vaccine would not actually provide any long-term benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Katie Doores, lead author from King’s College London, said: “People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around.”
While fever, tiredness and a dry cough are the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, evidence is beginning to show that a sudden loss of smell or taste could also be a sign. The latest researchers to report that a loss of smell and taste could be associated with COVID-19 are a team from King’s College London. They looked at responses from more than 400,000 people with suspected COVID-19 symptoms who entered how they were feeling into an app. Of the people who had tested positive for COVID-19 (579 individuals), three-fifths (59%) reported a loss of smell or taste. While a loss of smell or taste have not yet been added to the official list of COVID-19 symptoms published by the NHS or Public Health England, it is important to note that the current situation is rapidly evolving and this could change at any time. The King’s College researchers say that a loss of smell or taste should not be used on their own, but could be useful when considered alongside other important symptoms such as a dry cough and fever. Speaking about their findings, lead researcher Professor Tim Spector said: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.” [Related reading: Why social distancing is crucial for reducing the spread of COVID-19]
In 2018, there were nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of prostate cancer in England – around 8,000 more than in 2017, which makes it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, overtaking breast cancer for the first time. Now Public Health England says that the reason why more cases of prostate cancer are being confirmed is simply because more men are getting tested, and not because the cancer has seen a sharp rise. With 49,029 confirmed cases, prostate tops the list of common cancers in England, followed by breast with 47,476 cases. Lung and bowel cancers are the next most commonly diagnosed. The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, says that celebrity prostate cancer stories, like actor and comedian Stephen Fry’s, have helped raise awareness of the importance of having prostate cancer tests. Fry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, which he says was “thankfully caught in the nick of time". He subsequently underwent prostate cancer surgery. Prostate cancer has a high survival rate, with Cancer Research UK statistics showing that more than 8 in 10 (84%) men diagnosed with the disease in England and Wales survive for 10 years or more. But the key to successfully treating prostate cancer is to detect it early and begin treatment as soon as possible, which is why it’s crucial for men to get tested on a regular basis. Cancer tsar Prof Peter Johnson said: “As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk.”
While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.
It’s now 2020, the start of a New Year, and for many people that means following a set of resolutions, one of the most common of which will be to lose weight over the next 12 months. But if you’re keen to shed some pounds in 2020, don’t try to do it using fad diets because they don’t work and can even be harmful, says NHS England’s top doctor. Speaking about diet pills, "tea-toxes" and appetite suppressant products, Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said they are not quick fixes. Furthermore, they can even cause side effects, such as diarrhea and heart issues, he added. How to spot a fad diet? Well, according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), any diet that promises rapid weight loss of more than 2lbs (0.9kg) of body fat a week should be viewed with caution. If it sounds too good to be true, then it more than likely is – despite any celebrity recommendations it might have. The best way to get in shape safely is through sensible eating and regular exercise. Professor Powis also warned the public against using so-called ‘party drips’ as quick fix hangover cures. These nutrient therapy IV drips are usually made up of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C. But some individuals can react badly to them and, in the most serious cases, death can occur due to a toxic overdose.
A British woman has become the first in the world to receive a revolutionary new cancer therapy which involves injecting a high dose of chemotherapy directly into cancer cells. Karen Childs, from north-west London, is the first patient on the clinical trial for acoustic cluster therapy to treat cancer that has spread to her liver. During the therapy, clusters of microdroplets and microbubbles are injected into the patient at the same time as chemotherapy, which experts say will enhance its delivery. Ultrasound scans are then used to ensure the clusters “pump” the drug directly into the tumour, which should result in substantially more chemotherapy reaching cancer cells. Experts hope the technique will mean fewer doses of chemotherapy for cancer patients going forward, which should reduce side-effects. The new treatment is being trialled by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. Ms Childs, who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet that I’m the very first patient in the world to be receiving this new treatment. This trial is an exciting step for the hospital and a huge step for patients like me.” The aim of the clinical trial at this stage is to establish if the new therapy is safe and to provide data on its effectiveness. Eventually, it is hoped the treatment could be used to reduce the size of tumours prior to surgery, making them easier to remove and potentially offering more patients a cure.
The hormone oestrogen fuels the growth of many different types of breast cancer. And to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease, a drug called anastrozole is often used to block oestrogen production in post-menopausal ladies. But now new research has revealed that anastrozole actually continues to work long after a woman has stopped taking it. According to the research by a team at the Queen Mary University of London, the findings of which are published in The Lancet, anastrozole continues to reduce a woman’s cancer risk by 49% even seven years after they stop taking it. This is in addition to it halving a woman’s risk during the five years they take the drug. In other words, the benefits of taking anastrozole continue after treatment has stopped. Trials are now focussing on whether anastrozole can be used to prevent the onslaught of breast cancer and not just used once a woman has developed the disease. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: “Up until now we only knew that tamoxifen has long-lasting benefits, so it's reassuring that this study looking specifically at anastrozole, which has fewer long-term side-effects, gives better protection to women years after they stopped taking the drug.” Anastrozole is currently available on the NHS in England, but only about 10% of women who should be taking the drug actually are.
A small study in the UK has found an unlikely ally in a strain of the common cold virus in the fight against bladder cancer. For the study, the findings of which appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, 15 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer were intravenously given coxsackievirus (CVA21) ahead of scheduled surgery to remove their tumours. Post-surgery, when tissue samples were examined, there were signs the virus had targeted and killed cancer cells in the bladder. Furthermore, after the cancer cells had been killed, the virus reproduced and targeted other cancer cells. All other healthy cells were left intact. “The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein - and that leads to signalling of other immune cells to come and join the party,” said study leader Prof Hardev Pandha, from the University of Surrey and Royal Surrey County Hospital. The researchers from the University of Sussex who carried out the study said their findings could “help revolutionise treatment” for bladder cancer and reduce the risk of it recurring. Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK and affects around 10,000 new people every year. At present, treatments are either invasive, or cause toxic side effects. Moreover, constant, costly monitoring is required to ensure the cancer has not returned. Bladder cancer costs the NHS more per patient than any other cancer because of its high rate of recurrence.
Hundreds of men in the UK are trialling a new prostate cancer screening scan to see if it could eventually be offered on the NHS. Right now, there is no routine prostate cancer screening performed in the UK. Blood tests and biopsies are the most reliable ways to determine if a man has prostate cancer. The new test involves a non-invasive MRI scan that checks the inside of the body for any abnormal growths. It will be a few years yet before we know if the new scan is better than the current blood tests, scientists say, but NHS England is, nevertheless, hailing the breakthrough as a “potentially exciting development”. In the UK alone, prostate cancer claims the lives of around 11,800 men every year. It usually develops slowly, so there are often no associated signs or symptoms for many years. Prostate cancer treatment depends on its development. Doctors may suggest to monitor the situation first, while surgery and radiotherapy will be advised for others. Speaking about the new test, Karen Stalbow, from Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This trial could provide an exciting step towards our ambition for a national screening programme that enables men to get the early prostate cancer diagnosis that can save more lives.”
Hip and knee replacements last much longer than previously thought, according to a large-scale study from the UK. It’s a reality that will help both patients and surgeons determine when it is the right time to perform surgery. The study conducted by the University of Bristol analysed 25 years’ worth of operations data involving more than 500,000 patients. It found that eight out of 10 knee replacements (80%) and six out of 10 hip replacements (60%) last as long as 25 years. Until now, little has been known about the true success and longevity of replacement hips and knees – despite them being two of the most common forms of surgery carried out on the NHS. Previously, doctors have been unable to provide accurate estimates as to how long a patient’s replacement hip or knee might last. Now, they are in a much better position to give confident answers when questioned. Speaking about the findings of the research, which were published in The Lancet, Dr Jonathan Evans, orthopaedic registrar, lead study author and research fellow at Bristol Medical School, said: “At best, the NHS has only been able to say how long replacements are designed to last, rather than referring to actual evidence from multiple patients' experiences of joint replacement surgery. “Given the improvement in technology and techniques in the last 25 years, we expect that hip or knee replacements put in today may last even longer.” Follow these links to find out more about minimally invasive hip replacement surgery and minimally invasive knee surgery in France.
Workers who utilise standing desks are less tired and more engaged, new research suggests. For the research, led by a team from Loughborough University and experts from Leicester, NHS workers were given new height-adjustable desks and set goals for the amount of time they spent standing up. At the start of the year-long study, a group of 146 mainly sedentary NHS staff were split into two groups. One group were given height-adjustable workstations, also known as sit-stand desks, while the other group continued to use their traditional sitting desks. After a year, the research team assessed the amount of time workers spent sitting and working. They found that sitting time was lowered in the group with sit-stand desks by 82.39 minutes per day at 12 months. The same group also reported that they were less tired and more engaged in their work. According to the research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the sit-stand group also reported improvements in musculoskeletal problems and a better quality of life. The sedentary lifestyles many office workers today lead are often cited as one of the primary reasons for the increasing number of obese individuals. Could something as simple as a sit-stand desk be the answer to combatting this epidemic and help us start leading healthier lives?
A major study has found that eating processed meat, like bacon and sausages, may raise the risk of breast cancer in women. According to the review of studies involving more than one million women, eating higher levels of processed meat could result in a 9% greater risk of developing breast cancer. The research by a team from Harvard University’s T H Chan School of Public Health reviewed 15 related studies. It supports previous findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which suggest processed meats cause cancer. However, while the study has identified a potential link between processed meat and breast cancer, there is no clear evidence to show these types of foods are actually the cause. Furthermore, as outlined by the study authors in the International Journal of Cancer, their findings only relate to processed meat, not red meat. Bacon, sausages, salami, ham, hot dogs and corned beef are all examples of processed meat. And while it is not fully known why these foods are associated with a greater risk of cancer, it is thought that preservatives, like salt, may react with protein in the meat turning it carcinogenic. But rather than eliminating processed meat from your diet completely, the advice is simply to cut down. At present, current NHS guidelines recommend eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day. If you’re eating more than that on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to make some dietary changes.
A new report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that smokers who take advantage of local support services and stop smoking aids, like e-cigarettes, inhalers and nicotine patches, stand a much greater chance of successfully kicking the habit. Quitting smoking using willpower alone, often referred to as ‘going cold turkey,’ only works for a small number of people who try it, with just 4% remaining smoke-free after 12 months. Nevertheless, of the six in 10 smokers in England who want to quit, the majority try to do so using the cold turkey method. But by turning to a combination of local support services and nicotine replacement therapies, smokers could witness much better success, according to PHE. In fact, PHE says that 51% of smokers who utilised local support services successfully quit and this figure rose to 63% for those who incorporated an e-cigarette or similar into their efforts. To further boost the stop smoking drive in England, PHE has created the Stoptober campaign. In addition to increasing awareness about the most effective ways to quit smoking, the campaign also has its own free online personal quit plan. This plan provides personalised stop smoking advice based on a smoker’s answers to three quick questions. There’s even an official Stoptober app to help smokers stay on track and get stop smoking advice while on the go. The Stoptober campaign centres on three really good reasons to kick the smoking habit: feel healthier, save money and protect your family – can’t really argue with that!
What’s the fittest country in the world? Would you have any idea if you were asked? Even hazard a guess? Hint: It’s a country in Africa. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Uganda is the world’s most physically active country. Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the study findings are from a compilation of surveys completed in 168 countries. Just 5.5% of Ugandans do not do enough physical activity. People living in Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Togo are also getting plenty of exercise, too. In comparison, people living in Kuwait (the least active nation) have far more sedentary lifestyles, with 67% of the population not active enough. The report highlights a distinct divide between the levels of physical activity in poorer countries vs. wealthier countries. People in poorer nations are more likely to walk to work and/or have jobs that see them being physically active throughout the day. Recommended exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds Here’s what the UK’s NHS recommends: At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as cycling or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as running or a game of tennis) every week Strength exercises that work all the major muscles at least two days per week Long periods of sitting should be broken up with light activity Are you getting enough physical activity? Could a small lifestyle change enable you to? [Related reading: Open-plan offices could improve health, reduce stress]
Do you take supplements containing omega-3 fish oil in the belief they are helping to protect your heart? A new study suggests you could be wasting your money. Researchers from Cochrane analysed trials involving more than 100,000 people and discovered little proof that omega-3 supplements prevented heart disease. In fact, they say the chance of getting any benefits from such supplements is one in 1,000. However, despite this, the researchers still maintain that eating oily fish as part of a healthy diet is beneficial. Indeed, NHS guidelines state that people should try to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which, ideally, should be oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna. This is so they get enough “good” fats. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago. “Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.” Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.” Nevertheless, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the UK’s Health and Food Supplements Information Service said supplements containing omega-3 can still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish – especially as omega-3 also benefits the brain, eyes and immune function.
Most people are familiar with the phrase, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what about an egg a day? New research suggests that a daily egg may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite sometimes getting a bad press for their high cholesterol content, eggs, it seems, could help us steer clear of cardiovascular conditions, according to research published in the journal Heart. For their study, researchers from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, China analysed survey data relating to more than 500,000 individuals. Of those individuals, 461,213 were free from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes at baseline. Egg consumption among the study participants was noted and the individuals were followed up with after a median period of 8.9 years. The researchers' found that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26% lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke; a 28% lower risk of death due to this type of event; and an 18% lower risk of CVD-related mortality. Current NHS guidelines in the UK relating to egg consumption state: "although eggs contain some cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs". So, in other words, it’s not eggs that are necessarily the problem when it comes to cholesterol, but rather how you cook them. Indeed, eggs are a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.
One in eight middle-aged UK adults is at risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and death because they have a potentially serious form of liver disease. The primary cause of this disease? Being overweight, according to new research. Scans of almost 3,000 people from the UK Biobank research project showed that 12% had inflamed, fatty livers. What’s particularly alarming is the silent nature of this disease epidemic, with symptoms often not presenting themselves until permanent damage has been done. However, the condition is reversible if caught in time. The good news is that a new type of MRI scan is showing lots of promise, offering a non-invasive way to evaluate the nature and severity of liver disease. Developed by Perspectum Diagnositics, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford, the new scan utilises smart health technology called LiverMultiScan. Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, CEO of Perspectum Diagnostics said: "LiverMultiScan is a great example of a smart health technology discovered and developed by UK clinicians and scientists with clear benefits for patients, the NHS, and taxpayers. Until now, needle biopsies have been the gold standard for assessing liver disease, but they are costly, invasive, painful and carry some health risks. Meanwhile, LiverMultiScan can be used in any MRI scanner, but it is not part of routine practice yet. David Breen, associate professor of radiology at University Hospital Southampton, said: "The scan gives a map of the entire liver as opposed to a needle-core biopsy which samples just one area and can be unpleasant. "It also allows us to re-scan patients over time and see if they improve."
NHS England is in the process of introducing ‘one-stop cancer shops’ across the country, the aim of which is to afford quicker diagnoses for patients. At present, patients often face delays as they are sent for several tests to check for different forms of the illness. Despite cancer survival rates having increased over recent decades, patients who do not display obvious signs of cancer often face treatment delays. For example, individuals who have experienced unexplained weight loss, reduced appetite or abdominal pain can be referred several times for different tests, which delays valuable opportunities to begin treatment. The approach NHS England is now adopting was first introduced in Denmark and allows patients to undergo all the necessary tests under one roof. Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: "Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country. "These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated." The bottom line is that the rapid diagnosis and subsequent fast treatment of cancer is vital for saving lives. Initially, there will be 10 such centres spread across England at the following locations: Royal Free Hospital, London North Middlesex Hospital, London, University College Hospitals London Southend University Hospital Queens Hospital, Romford St James University Hospital, Leeds Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire University Hospital, South Manchester Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester Churchill Hospital, Oxford More centres will be added if the project is a success.
As part of a new obesity drive, Public Health England is telling people in the UK to “get on a diet” and wants to cut portion sizes of some of the nation’s most popular foods. Pizzas, ready meals, takeaways and processed meat will all be targeted as part of the initiative to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024. In addition, the government agency has called on the food industry to start using healthier ingredients and encourage people to choose lower calorie foods. The drive to eat healthier will not only improve the health of the nation, but also reduce the burden on the NHS associated with obesity-related illnesses. Public Health England says the cost per year of obesity to the NHS is £6 billion. Combined with the sugar reduction programme that came into effect last year and the sugary drinks levy which comes into force next month, this new initiative will also help reduce the number of calories consumed by children in the UK. Talking about the new steps, Public Heath England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: "Britain needs to go on a diet. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and it's why so many are overweight or obese." Food manufacturers, supermarkets, takeaways and fast-food outlets have all been told they need to reduce the calories in the foods such as crisps and savoury snacks, cooking sauces and dressings, ready meals and takeaways, and food-to-go like sandwiches. If these companies do not listen to PHE, the agency said it would be willing to ask the government to legislate. Guidelines suggest that women eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit themselves to 2,500.
Do you know how many calories you consume on a daily basis? If you had to estimate, how accurate do you think you would be? An analysis of Office of National Statistics data shows that one-third of people in the UK underestimate how many calories they are eating. The research shows that British men eat more than 3,000 calories a day, but claim to only eat 2,000, while women say they eat around 1,500, when, in fact, it’s closer to 2,500. The NHS says the recommended daily calorie allowance for people who want to maintain their weight is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. So why the discrepancy? It’s actually a pitfall that hampers many diet-related surveys. Many people simply forget to list everything they’ve eaten, while others deliberately underestimate because they know they are part of a poll. Public Health England guidelines state that people should be looking to consume around 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and then 600 for dinner, which leaves some extra for drinks and snacks throughout the day. Eating out is one of the hardest factors for people trying to count calories. That’s because restaurants rarely list calorie information and portion sizes vary from establishment to establishment. The bottom line is that unless you are specifically counting calories, chances are you’re underestimating your daily consumption. Why not give it a try – estimate how many calories you’re consuming and then make a conscious effort to count them, you might just be surprised at the difference.
Researchers at an Oxford hospital have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that can accurately diagnose heart and lung scans. The new AI could lead to more people being diagnosed earlier and prevent patients being sent home when they are still at risk of having a heart attack. It’s though the system will save the NHS billions of pounds by enabling various diseases to be detected much earlier. The heart disease technology will be available to NHS hospitals for free this summer. Currently, cardiologists use a person’s heartbeat to tell if there is a problem. However, even the most experienced doctors get it wrong in one in five cases. This leads to a patient being sent home when they are still at risk of a heart attack or undergoing an unnecessary operation. The AI system can pick up details on the scans that doctors cannot see, resulting in a more accurate diagnosis. So far, the system has been tested in clinical trials and the results aren’t expected to appear in a peer-reviewed journal until later this year. However, one of the system’s developers has said the data shows it greatly outperformed his fellow specialists. The government's healthcare tsar, Sir John Bell, has indicated that AI could "save the NHS". "There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS," he said.
Have you ever turned to Dr Google when you’ve been feeling under the weather? If you have, you’re not alone. Nowadays, tons of people research symptoms they’re experiencing on the world’s largest search engine. But while many of these searches confirm that the searcher is suffering from a common cold, others can see a simple sore throat query spiral off into diagnosing all sorts of rare conditions. It’s a reality that makes Googling health conditions both convenient and potentially terrifying. As the year draws to a close, the team at Google Trends has released information on the most popular heath questions people in the UK asked the search engine in 2017. Topping the list is the rather generic “why do I feel sick?” search. That’s followed by “why am I always tired?” and “what is cancer?” Have you ever heard of lupus? It seems many people have and want to know more about it, as “what is lupus?” is fourth on the list. This could be because pop icon Selena Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2015 and underwent surgery for the condition over the summer. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes sufferers to feel fatigued, have swollen or painful joints, and skin irritation or rashes. Because lupus is an autoimmune disease it is not contagious. More information about lupus, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website. The final question completing the top five is “what is sepsis?” Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can be triggered by an infection and leads to the body attacking its own organs and tissues. Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early enough and hasn’t already damaged any vital organs. More information about sepsis, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website.
A study conducted in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the UK has found that offering new mothers financial incentives in the form of shopping vouchers boosts breastfeeding rates. For the study, more than 10,000 mothers were offered up to £200 in shopping vouchers as an incentive to breastfeed. The vouchers could be used to buy food, household items, toys, clothes, books or DVDs in supermarkets and other shops. Breastfeeding levels are among the lowest in the world, with just 12% of new mothers in some areas feeding their six to eight week-old babies this way. However, with the voucher incentive scheme, breastfeeding rates in the areas involved rose by 6%. The women were given vouchers worth £120 if they signed declaration forms stating their babies had been breastfeed for the first six weeks of their lives. The mothers received a further £80 of vouchers if they were still breastfeeding after six months. Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: “Our scheme offered vouchers to mothers as a way of acknowledging the value of breastfeeding to babies and mothers and the work involved in breastfeeding. “The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered. “It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.” NHS guidelines say that babies should be exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their lives. Babies that are breastfed have fewer health problems in their younger years and are less likely to develop conditions such as diabetes when they are older. The five-year trial was funded by research councils, medical charities and Public Health England.
In a world where insufficient digital defences can see your business defamed, robbed, taken offline or even held to ransom, organisations absolutely must ensure their IT security is up to scratch. And, when it comes to cyber security, few businesses have as much to lose as healthcare providers. Not only could poor cyber security lead to patients’ records being compromised, but it could also jeopardise their care if certain systems were impacted. It’s no surprise then that the health service in England, the NHS, is looking to bolster its cyber defences in light of the numerous high-profile cyber-attacks that have occurred in recent time. However, the way in which the health service plans on doing it might come as a surprise. That’s because the NHS is looking to spend £20 million setting up a security operations centre and will also employ so-called ethical hackers to help proactively identify weaknesses in its security systems. Earlier this year, in May, one-third of UK health trusts were hit by the WannaCry worm, which demanded a ransom be paid to unlock infected PCs. In a statement, Dan Taylor, head of the data security centre at NHS Digital, said the NHS would be covered by a “near-real-time monitoring and alerting service that covers the whole health and care system”. The security operations centre would also help the NHS improve its “ability to anticipate future vulnerabilities while supporting health and care in remediating current known threats”, he said.
In a step designed to help save the NHS in England money, providers of treatment are now required to make sure patients are eligible for free care before they receive it. If they aren’t, healthcare providers will ask them to pay upfront. It is hoped the measures, which will only apply to planned, non-emergency care, will contribute to £22bn of savings needed in the NHS. Accident and emergency (A&E), general practice and infectious disease treatment will remain free to all. Once the new measures are in place, patients will be asked where they have lived over the past six months. If they have lived abroad, they will be required to prove they are eligible for free treatment on the NHS, by showing a non-UK European Health Insurance Card or similar. Speaking about the proposed changes, Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy said: “We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS as long as they make a fair financial contribution, just as the British taxpayer does. “The new regulations simply require NHS bodies to make enquiries about, and then charge, those who aren't entitled to free NHS care.” However, the British Medical Association has warned that the changes could prevent vulnerable individuals from getting treatment they need.
We recently reported that childhood obesity rates are 10 times higher today than they were in 1975. This worrying trend is only set to continue unless more is done to tackle obesity in children. So-called “sugar taxes” on soft drinks in various countries around the world and France’s decision to ban unlimited fizzy drinks in restaurants, fast food-chains, schools and holiday camps, are definitely steps in the right direction. Now, hospitals in England have laid out plans to ban the sale of any sweets or chocolate that contain more than 250 calories. Going forward, super-sized chocolate bars will become a thing of the past in hospital vending machines and canteens. In addition, pre-packed sandwiches with more than 450 calories and/or 5g of saturated fat per 100g will also be banned. Hospitals will be given a cash boost to help them facilitate the changes. The decision to ban fattening and sugary food products in hospitals is actually win-win for the National Health Service (NHS). These foods are major contributors to obesity and many other conditions/diseases, such as preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer – all of which put enormous strain on the health service. Public Health England says hospitals have an "important role" in tackling obesity and not just dealing with the consequences.
It’s a natural reaction to want to lend a helping hand when you see an older individual carrying something that looks heavy. And while it’s absolutely the right gesture and something many of us will continue do without thinking, research suggests that strength exercises are actually highly beneficial for older people. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), nearly a quarter of over-65s don’t do any strength exercises. As a result, they are putting themselves at risk of falls and other forms of ill health. Simple, yet important tasks, like gardening, vacuuming and carrying the shopping can help older people live healthier, longer lives. Current NHS guidelines advise that people should do at least two strengthening sessions per week. However, a survey carried out on behalf of the CSP found that nearly a quarter of over-65s are doing none whatsoever. Almost one in five people said they didn't know how to strength train, while a similar number said they simply didn't want to. Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, says that not everyone has to become weaker and frailer as they get older. "Research shows getting stronger brings a whole host of health benefits so it is incredibly important that people don't overlook strengthening when being active." So the next time you offer to carry an older person’s shopping and they insist that they’d rather do it themselves, remember, you could be helping them live a longer and healthier life.
A sudden chest pain often leads to people fearing the worst, which is why many, quite rightly, seek medical help right away. But two-thirds of the time, patients with chest pains will not actually have experienced a heart attack. Nevertheless, these patients still need to be assessed and given the all-clear before being sent home. Then there are the patients who have actually had a heart attack. While a heart trace, called an ECG, can quickly identify major heart attacks, it is not that good at highlighting smaller ones, which can also be life-threatening. At present, patients with a clear ECG and chest pain are then given a heart-attack blood test, called troponin. However, this needs to be repeated three hours later to check for signs of heart muscle damage. Now, a new instant blood test could change the way suspected heart attack patients are treated. The cMyC test can rule out or confirm a heart attack in less than 20 minutes, meaning well patients can be sent home quicker, while heart attack victims can get the treatment they need faster. Troponin and cMyC blood tests were carried out on nearly 2,000 people admitted to hospitals in Switzerland, Italy and Spain with acute chest pain. The cMyC test was found to be better at giving patients the all-clear within the first three hours of presenting with chest pain. According a team from King's College London, the cMyC test could be rolled out on the NHS within five years. Dr Tom Kaier, one of the lead researchers at St Thomas' Hospital, London, said: "Our research shows that the new test has the potential to reassure many thousands more patients with a single test, improving their experience and freeing up valuable hospital beds in A&E departments and wards across the country." [Related reading: What is Coronary Angioplasty?]
A girl from the UK, who unfortunately died from a brain aneurism, has helped a record eight people, including five other children, through organ donation. Jemima Layzell, from the southwest of England, who died in 2012, donated her heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, small bowel and liver. Her parents said Jemima was a very clever, compassionate and creative girl, who would have been “very proud of her legacy”. According to NHS Blood and Transplant, no other donor has ever helped so many people. Normally, an organ donation results in, on average, 2.6 transplants – a fact that highlights just how unusual Jemima’s situation is. Her heart, small bowel and pancreas were transplanted into three different people. Two people received her kidneys, while her liver was split and transplanted into a further two people. Both of her lungs were transplanted into another patient. NHS Blood and Transplant said that too many people die unnecessarily while awaiting a transplant because too many parents do not agree to donate their children’s organs. Last year, 457 people died waiting for a transplant, including 14 children. At present, there are 6,414 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK, including 176 children. Jemima’s story will hopefully encourage more people to become organ donors and help save lives after they die.
A pilot scheme in the UK has shown that speeding up access to surgery for pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed early enough boosted success rates by a third. The team from the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust that conducted the trial reduced the time to surgery for 32 patients from two months to just over two weeks. All but one had their tumours successfully removed. However, it will be two years before anyone knows if operating sooner extends lives. Nevertheless, the team said it had saved the NHS £3,200 per patient and could help hundreds of patients all over the UK. Very little progress has been made in treating pancreatic cancer since the early 1970s. Around 9,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with it each year, of which just 7% will live beyond five years. At present, only 8% of pancreatic cancer patients in the UK undergo surgery to remove their tumours. That’s because the majority are diagnosed too late and surgery is no longer an option. Keith Roberts, who led the team from Birmingham, said: “We have shown that it is possible to create a much faster path to surgery for pancreatic cancer patients within the NHS, which could have a significant impact on survival. “We carried out surgery earlier, avoided unpleasant and costly pre-surgery treatment, and yet there was no significant increase in complications post-surgery.”