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.”
More than 20 million people in Britain are physically inactive and increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation. The charity has warned that the lack of exercise by such a large proportion of the British population is costing the NHS a staggering £1.2bn each year. Women are 36% more likely than men to be physically inactive, which the report defines as not meeting the UK government's guidelines for physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week. However, despite the report finding that 11.8 million women were physically inactive compared with 8.3 million men, it is actually men who sit down for longer (78 days a year compared to 74 for women). Furthermore, inactivity levels differ by region. For example, 47% (2.7 million) of people living in the North West of England were found to be inactive, whereas people in the South East had the lowest rate at 34%. Over five million deaths across the world each year are attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, as well as one in six deaths from any cause. Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.
A leading bariatric surgeon in the UK has urged the government to offer gastric surgery to patients regardless of their weight. According to Professor Francesco Rubino, the Chair of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Kings College, thousands of type-2 diabetes patients in the UK are missing out on vital weight loss surgery because they do not meet the NHS's guidelines when it comes to weight. That's because, at present, only type-2 diabetes patients who have a BMI of over 30 are currently eligible for bariatric surgery. Rubino says that weight loss surgery is "the closest thing to a cure" and should be used more often. In the UK, there are around 3.6 million people with type-2 diabetes, which costs the NHS up to £10 billion a year to treat. However, approximately 15% of sufferers are "normal weight" and so don't qualify for weight loss surgery under the NHS's current guidelines. "The biggest barrier we have is primarily one of stigma against obesity. The vast majority of the public believes this is a cosmetic intervention and unfortunately many physicians think the same way," said Rubino. Rubino also highlighted that weight loss surgeries, which manipulate the stomach or small intestine, do not just help people lose weight, but actually influence insulin production by altering hormones in the person's gut. "More than 50% of people with type 2 diabetes can enjoy long term remission. Another 30 or 40% enjoy a major improvement," he added.
One hour of "brisk exercise" each day can offset the risk of early death for people who are desk-bound in their working lives, according to scientists. The study of physical activity - the results of which were published in The Lancet - analysed data from more than one million people to see how being inactive affects people's health. Watching TV was found to be worse than sitting at a desk. This is because of the associated habits that go with it, like snacking. However, even people who sit at a desk for eight hours a day because of their jobs can compensate by undertaking an hour of physical activity. In fact, the research found that desk-bound workers who were physically active had a significantly lower risk of death than people who weren't physically active and only sat for a few hours. At present, NHS guidelines recommend people do at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. The new research suggests that is insufficient for many. Being inactive has long been linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and accounts for around 5.3 million deaths globally each year. For comparison, smoking accounts for around 5.1 million. Prof Ulf Ekelund, Lead author of the study, from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University, said that people don't even need to do sport or go the gym to exercise. "It’s OK doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour," he said.
Surgeons in the UK have said that the number of weight loss operations performed on the NHS each year needs to rise dramatically, so that people become healthier and the health service itself saves money. Writing recently in the British Medical Journal, the bariatric surgeons said that less than 1% of people who could benefit from weight loss surgery are getting treatment, and the numbers are actually dropping, despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes. [Related article: Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes] The surgeons also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to weight loss surgery, and that there are 2.6 million people in the country who stand to benefit from surgery. According to the surgeons, people who have stomach shrinking operations lose 25-35% of their body weight, on average, in just a year. In comparison, the average loss through diets and weight loss drugs is just 7% a year. It's thought that a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese - the second highest rate in Europe behind Hungary - and this reality is putting a huge strain on NHS resources and funds. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has previously indicated that surgery should be considered for severely obese people who have unsuccessfully tried all other means to lose weight. Find out more about bariatric surgery with us in France here.
Many parents try to prevent their kids from consuming too many soft drinks and opt instead for 'healthy' smoothies and natural fruit juices. But new research published in the online journal BMJ Open, shows that many of these so-called healthy options can contain as much as 13mg/100ml of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2.5 tsps in a 3.5oz serving - roughly two-thirds of a child's recommended daily intake. In fact, the research paper goes so far as to describe the sugar levels found in some natural juices, smoothies and fruit drinks as "unacceptably high". The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 3-4 tsps of sugar per day for children and 5 tsps for teenagers. It's a similar story in the UK, where NHS guidelines state no more than 4 tsps for children (aged 4-6) and 5 tsps at age 7-1o. However, according to Yale Health, the average American consumes a whopping 22 tsps of added sugar every single day. For teenagers, this figure is even higher at 34 tsps. Is it any surprise, though, when you consider that a single can of soda contains around 10 tsps alone. The researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and London in the UK found that 40% of the 203 products they analysed contained more than 4 tsps of sugar; made up largely of "free" sugars - those added by the drink producer and not occurring naturally. However, when quizzed about his team's findings, Dr. Simon Capewell's advice was that people shouldn't reduce their fruit intake. "No. Fruit is very good for the health. Vegetables likewise. Indeed, we would recommend unlimited fruit and vegetables," he said. The team does recommend consuming fruit whole, though, and not just in juice form.
A new study suggests that hundreds of thousands of cancer patients could be spared from risky surgery if scanners rather than scalpels are used to check tumours. At present, head and neck tumours are treated using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, once treatment has finished, surgery is required to visually check whether the growth has disappeared. This involves an operation that can take up to three hours and sees patients needing at least a week in hospital to recover. Furthermore, the operation can leave patients disfigured and/or risk nerve damage, which can lead to movement problems in the arms. A study of 564 patients, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 80% of patients could be spared surgery by undergoing cancer scans instead. Even more intriguing is the fact that survival rates remained the same. Using a radioactive dye, which is picked up by rapidly-dividing cancer cells, Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) can see if cancer in the head or neck is still active following treatment. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Hisham Mehanna, from the University of Birmingham, said: "We can now use this new technology to save patients having a debilitating operation and identify those that need the operation rather than give it to everybody." The scanning approach is also good news for the NHS as it saves around £1,492 per patient.
Mention the words 'cold turkey' to anyone who's trying to give up smoking and they'll likely tell you that a gradual approach, which includes nicotine patches, gum and/or mouth spray, is the best way to go. But a new study has now added support to the camp that believes quitting smoking is more successful if you stop altogether (cold turkey) and don't try doing it gradually over a period of time. For the research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, 700 long-term heavy smokers in England - who wanted to kick the habit - were split into two groups. Half were told to pick a day when they would give up smoking entirely and the other half were told to quit smoking gradually. The researchers found that after six months, the 15.5% of the gradual-cessation group had managed to abstain from cigarettes, compared to 22% of the cold turkey group. Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether." Advice from the NHS says that people who want to give up smoking should pick a convenient date to quit and stick to it. Furthermore, the NHS says that sticking to the "not a drag" rule can also really help.
British citizens residing in the south of England could soon see themselves travelling to Calais to undergo surgical procedures if a new deal is finalised by the NHS. The South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group, which covers a population of some 202,000 people in the Folkestone and Dover area, drew up the proposals so that patients requiring routine operations and treatment could undergo them in France. It would not only allow said patients to be treated quicker, but would also drive down overall hospital waiting times. Two hospitals in Calais, the Centre Hospitalier de Calais and the Fondation Hospitale, would provide treatment for cataracts, orthopaedics, gynaecology and other routine procedures. Patients will be able to arrange treatment in France via their GPs and while the cost of travel and expenses would need to be footed by the individual, the NHS would pick up the bill for the medical treatment. The option to be treated in France would only be available if the patient discussed it with their GP, Hazel Carpenter from South Kent CCG told the BBC. It’s a situation that has arisen because the two French healthcare providers, along with several from the UK, threw their hats into the ring when the NHS trust invited such organisations to apply "We carried out a careful assessment of the services they offer and are visiting sites," said Carpenter. "The two French providers, among others, fulfilled our criteria and we expect to finalise a contract with them,” she added. Damian Collins, an MP for Folkestone and Hythe in Kent, welcomed the idea, saying it was sensible due to the fact that France is actually closer and more accessible than some parts of London. He also described the hospital in Calais as “fantastic”. Photo: Centre Hospitalier de Calais