Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

More Tea Vicar?

cup-of-teaAt last we may have the answer to the question; why do vicars seem to live to a ripe old age? Well, according to nutrition expert Dr Carrie Ruxton a good old cup of tea can help us fight heart disease, it improves our brain power and leads to us living longer. So the polite retort oft used to cover up an embarrassing bottom burp is actually helping to give your local parson a more healthy life.

The link between tea and men of the cloth goes back a long way, even Sydney Smith (1771 to 1845), an Anglican clergyman and writer had a strong liking for the Camellia infusion and once said, ‘I always fear that creation will expire before teatime’. England used to sail the world on a sea of tea and many a conflict has been resolved over a cuppa or three.

Tea is our answer to any incident, no matter how tragic, be it the blitz, a death in the family, fire, flood or just a bruised pride. I expect that when they announce the end of the world the English will stiffen their upper lip, put on the kettle, get out their best Sunday china and have one last cup of tea.


Will You Risk Getting An Arm Full

swine_flu_vaccine1I always thought it took years of trials and testing before drugs and vaccines to got government approval, but come the threat of a mass of drippy noses, chesty coughs and sweaty foreheads, with the occasional death thrown in just to keep the media happy, we get the panacea turning up faster than the toes of swine flu’s first victims.

The jab will be first offered to the vulnerable such as the immunosuppressed, pregnant women and those with health problems. Hmm, well that should be good test of the efficacy of the vaccine and its side effects. So by the time they get round to offering to stick needles into us middle aged healthy but unfit individuals we will know if it is safe.

The press will be very keen to seek out the first instant of a bad reaction to the jab and the target of their criticism will be the government. Then again if the whole swine flu episode turns out to be less of a threat than seasonal flu, the same press will criticise the government for over reacting and wasting money. Through all this we will have to decide if we will take it in the arm, a tough one for those at the front of the queue.

A Quieter Time For Non Listeners

MP3 PlayerThe problem of noise induced deafness has been known about for many years, it was a common problem among workers in heavy industry and the subject of health and safety training in the 1970s. The news that volume limiters may be made compulsory on MP3 players seem to be a reasonable step forward, but, as is often the case, its not as simple as that.

The use of limiters is not new, even the most popular range of music players, the iPods, have been sold with a software control that allows a maximum volume level to be set and removed which makes them a bit of an irrelevance as it can, like the new proposal, be ignored. One must ask why bother in the first case if it will just be left unused.

I would suggest another area where volume levels should be controlled in some way are night clubs and music concerts. I would think the damage done to my own hearing is due to the many nights spent, during my youth, in clubs and concert venues being blasted with sound far above even the levels on the old heavy industries. Often my ears would still be ringing the next day, proof something was not right.

A Little Snifter For The Weekend Sir?

boozeThe dire warnings of ill health and death, the high cost due to excess taxation and the ban on advertising is slowly making smoking a socially unacceptable habit. Now the BMA wants the same to happen to alcohol to help reduce the problems of binge drinking and ill health that is inflicting many of our younger generation.

Compared to city centres across the rest of Europe its clear we have a big problem, our youth seems to have lost touched with normal behaviour and only find fun and enjoyment in getting so drunk they cannot stand up. Its almost become a competition to see who can drink the most before passing out and getting rushed to A & E. Kids as young as nine and ten are also joining in the party and starting to suffer the health problems that used to be the exclusive province of hardened drinkers of many years.

Ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship, certainly, use booze ASBOs, yes, increase the cost, why not, go ahead; but also tackle the pubs, bars and off licenses that sell to under age drinkers, make stupid offers that encourage binge drinking and serve people who are clearly intoxicated. Very few licensed premises have lost there right to sell alcohol or been shut down because of the social problems they are causing. A bit of firmness would also help eliminate the problem.

Hospitals Are Dangerous Places

nurseMost people working in the health service, even those not directly involved in patient care, can recount a horror story or two about an ill served patient or terrible mishap, even if only told third hand. Over the 30 plus years I worked in the NHS I heard about lot of unpleasant incidences, witnessed several and investigated a few. The fact is not everyone who works in the health service has the patient’s best interests as their top priorities or are fully competent in the job they are employed to undertake.

The report from the Patients Association should not be surprising, any large organisation will have its problems and it would be naïve to think otherwise. What is surprising is that these individuals do not get found out and reported by their peers or the systems in place to check such things do not happen. Yes we should vilify the offenders but also take to task those who stand-by without acting to protect the patient.

Interestingly other than to condemn the perpetrators, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, seemed more concerned that the facts of the abuse were made public. He said it, “might undermine the public’s confidence in the world-class care they can expect to receive from the NHS”. No what undermines the public’s confidence is the fact it happened. Another example of complaining about the messenger instead of acting on the message.

The Cold Water And Chocolate Cake Diet

black forest gateauxThis is a weird old world filled with some people who like to investigate some daft ideas and subjects. Today the news papers contained two unrelated stories about weight loss. In the first researchers have discovered that staring at an image of junk food may encourage people to eat more healthily and loose excess weight. Interestingly they use the word ‘may’ so its not proven and could be totally incorrect, staring at junk food may just make you eat junk food. After all the last time I looked in the window of a cake shop that is full of luscious cakes and inviting pastries I did not get an overwhelming urge to run off and consume a lettuce sandwich.

The second weight loss story is about the way the body uses brown fat to generate heat to keep us warm by boosting your metabolism which in turn makes you burn up the white fat that accumulates in all the places you don’t want fat such as your stomach and thighs. By sitting with your feet in a bowl of cold water your body will begin the process of generating heat and ultimately the unwanted white fat. Of course, just turning down the central heating would have the same effect and save money.

So there you have it, the new fad diet the cold water and chocolate cake diet. All you need to do is put up a large photo of a black forest gateaux on the wall and concentrate on the image while soaking your feet in ice cold water bath. Nothing could be easier. I expect the country’s obesity problem to be solved as soon as photos of cake can be prescribed by our GPs.

Swine Flu Profits

Swin FluSwine Flu may have caused panic around the world and tested the organisational powers of many health services but it is also providing an economic boost to many commercial sectors. The makers of Tamiflu, are obviously benefiting from the huge increase in dispensing and the vaccine manufacturers will benefit once the current trials are complete and approval is received from the Medicines Agency. Telecommunications companies have also generated more income from setting up and running the call centres which aim to reduce the workload of GPs.

Now the GPs will be benefiting from the fees they will receive for administering the swine flu vaccine. At present GPs get £7.51 for each vaccination they undertake including the seasonal flu vaccinations. That equates to a total fee of £100 million to treat 13 million people, the current estimate for how many will be in the risk category. That is £3,000 per GP, not bad going for the caring profession. But then with GPs able to earn over £200,000 a year the idea of it being a caring profession has long gone.

The new GP contract introduced six years ago reduce a GP’s workload but increased their pay by a substantial amount. It also re-emphasised the system of paying GPs for the individual services they provide in addition to their NHS contract fee. Each time the government want to introduce a new initiative of health screening programme the GPs seek a few for providing the service. The cost is getting so high the government will eventually have to call a halt, then we shall see why people become GPs, for compassion or cash?

Loosing Face To Cancer

facial prosteticNews of the increase in oral cancer brings back memories of the horrendous impact of some facial and oral cancers. The removal of these growths can involve major surgery that leaves the patient, even with the most advanced plastic and reconstructed surgery, badly disfigured. While working for the NHS I met a man who had undergone the Commando Operation. This had resulted in the removal of almost half his face from above his right eye down to the right side of his mouth, and from the left side of his nose almost back to his right ear.

This left a large hole in the side of his face covered by skin graft around the edges and mucus membranes across the rest. The Maxillofacial Technician at the hospital had built a prosthetic to fill the hole that included a false eye. It was held in place by small magnets that had been fixed into the remaining bones around the hole. Hand crafted from a from a pliable, life like, plastic it took several minutes looking at the gentleman’s face before you realised something was different. When he wore dark glasses there was no sigh that his face was anything but normal.

For the patient, the operation had saved his life but left him so disfigured he found it almost impossible to go out in public. However, the skill of one of the NHS’s lower paid members of staff had given him back his confidence and his life. There are thousands of back room people who contribute an immeasurable amount to the work of the NHS but get little reward or recognition. Fifteen years after the Technician retired his one man department has more than quadrupled in size, a measure of both the increased demand for their services and the improvements in prosthetic technology.

Healthcare For All, A Communist Conspiracy?

USA Health careBarack Obama is trying to sort out the inequalities of the American health care system where 46 million people have no health care insurance, most from the working classes and most being native Americans or immigrants. The situation is getting worse as business cut back their employee costs by reducing the level of cover provided to the bare minimum or withdrawing the perk altogether. You would have thought the country’s politicians would be keen to resolve the problem and actively working to find a solution. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bill Obama is trying to get through Congress has a mix of measures that attempts to meet the needs of the many pressure groups who only want to see changes made on their terms. The problem he faces is two fold. Firstly many of these pressure groups have diametrically opposite views and would never find common ground; secondly many people see the provision of a universal health care service as a socialist policy; and socialism is too close to communism to be any part of the American Way.

The one option Obama has not discussed or considered is the model of healthcare used in the majority of the developed world; one provided by the government and paid for through taxation, sometimes with the option to add an element of private care or to substitute it entirely. Obama knows this model would have the conservative right taking to the streets in their thousands and jeopardise his chance of a second term even though he has only just started his first. He has made some brave decisions and completely changes many policies of the previous administration, on this matter, however, he seems to have gone soft.

Its Good For You, Er, No Its Bad For You

omega3Recently published research has suggested that good fats in the form of polyunsaturates, or more correctly the linoleic acid they contain, may increase the incidents of inflammatory bowel disease. A similar finding was also discovered for omega 3 fatty acid found in oily fish. However, another research project claims that high levels of omega 3 fatty acid helps prevent age-related macular degeneration, a significant cause of blindness in the elderly; it is also thought to be of benefit to the heart.

These contradictions are becoming increasingly common as scientists delve into the minutiae of the human body and nutrition. All they serve to prove is the body is an incredibly complex organism and the best life style choice is moderation and variety in all things edible; never was the term ‘balanced diet’ more appropriate. Unfortunately many people have become detached from the idea of a balanced diet, they have become addicted to high fat, high salt foods, ready made meals and ready prepared foods.

These items go under the very inappropriate banner of convenience foods, an aid to the fast pace of modern life. The truth is they cost more, are no quicker to prepare and contain a whole range of chemicals to compensate for the poor quality ingredients. Fortunately, one way people are getting back in touch with real food is by growing their own, either on a vegetable patch or on an allotment. The satisfaction of serving a meal where all the fruit and vegetables have been grown yourself is immeasurable. The taste is pretty good too.