The healthmatters blog; commentary, observation and review
Celebrity chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver has been recognised by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) for his contribution to advancing the cause of public health in the UK. The award for Outstanding Contribution to Championing the Public’s Health was announced at the RSPH Awards 2016, the UK’s premier national health and wellbeing awards event, held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London on 27th October.
Jamie Oliver received the award in recognition of both his high profile campaigning on childhood obesity and the on-the-ground community work of his Food Foundation. Jamie’s campaigning has been widely credited as having been key in pushing the government to introduce the sugar levy on soft drinks, a key pillar of action to tackle childhood obesity recommended by many public health organisations, including RSPH. Meanwhile, the Food Foundation’s Ministry of Food Centres have seen great success in getting people in communities across the UK passionate about healthy food.
Jamie Oliver is also featured talking about his work on childhood obesity in RSPH’s new film, Championing the Public’s Health, which was premiered at the award ceremony. The film is a collaboration with ITN Productions which takes a topical look at current public health challenges and initiatives. See the film here.
Nurses are three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year than the average person (14% compared with 4.4% nationally) according to new research, published in a report by Cavell Nurses’ Trust.
Skint, shaken yet still caring. But who is caring for our nurses?’ includes findings from a survey of more than 2,200 nurses, midwives and health care assistants (HCAs) and reveals that those in the profession are also twice as likely to be unable to afford basic necessities as the average person and more than two in five nurses have a physical or mental health condition expected to last longer than a year. The charity, which gives money and support to nurses, midwives and HCAs facing a crisis, commissioned the survey to gauge the quality of life of nursing professionals.
According to the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse (NCSPVA) one of the many, complex reasons nurses are experiencing higher levels of domestic abuse is because of the values they uphold in their daily roles, such as care, compassion and courage. The report also revealed that one in every seven (14%) nurses has experienced domestic abuse in the past year and that one in 50 (2.2%) nurses has been injured as a result of domestic violence in the last year.
Claire Richards, Institute of Health and Society, NCSPVA, said: “The values that nurses adhere to in their career – including the six Cs of nursing: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage, commitment – may increase the likelihood of them staying with an abusive partner for reasons of altruism or a possible belief their partner needs them. Nurses may see their partner’s behaviour as part of a wider problem, such as depression, unemployment or a drink problem that they seek to treat or heal.”
For further information go to www.cavellnursestrust.org/research
New research shows that half (49%) of teenage boys (aged 16-18) in the UK would not feel comfortable talking to their fathers about their mental health (including stress, anxiety and depression). When asked why, more than a third said it was because their father doesn’t talk about his feelings and 31% said they wouldn’t want to burden them.
The survey revealed that over half of young men (54%) who are experiencing mental health problems ‘put a brave face on’ or ‘keep it to themselves.’ The poll of 16-18 year old men was published by Time to Change, the campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to change public attitudes towards mental wellness. The research, which found that a quarter (27%) of teenage boys experience mental health problems at least once a week, aims to uncover the extent to which teenage boys’ attitudes and behaviour towards mental health are influenced by their fathers.
While many teenage boys considered talking about mental health with their fathers to be off limits, Time to Change highlights the positive impact of role modelling behaviour from fathers to sons. 70% of sons felt completely comfortable talking about their mental health when this had been encouraged by their father. The research also showed that virtually all teenage boys who were comfortable opening up to their father about their mental condition (98%) said that they would want to have a similarly open relationship with their sons in the future.
Time to Change is now urging all fathers to talk more openly, so that if and when their sons develop mental health problems in the future, they can be on hand with support. The newly released research also offers a helpful insight into how teenage boys would like their dads to reach out. The majority of young people wanted their fathers to talk to them (57%) with others stating a preference for a less direct approach such as going out somewhere together (26%).
Over the next five years, Time to Change will introduce a targeted campaign to encourage men to think and act differently about mental health problems and be more open and supportive of friends, family and colleagues.
For advice and tips visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
It’s official – dog owners in the UK are fitter and healthier than people without dogs, according to a new study.
Research indicates that people who own a dog are likely to exercise at least three times more a week than the rest of the nation, as they walk or run for an average of 74 minutes every day, in addition to their normal exercise.
In the process, dog owners will cover an average distance of 1092 miles a year on foot, compared to the 364 miles walked by those who don’t have a one.
The research found that not only did owning a dog affect the amount of walking a person does, but also that dog walkers were more active overall.
As well as walking around the neighbourhood daily, it emerged dog owners are more likely to walk than drive anywhere, more likely to take the stairs than the lift, and are generally always on their feet.
In contrast, people who don’t own a dog only keep fit twice a week, and walk for just 18 minutes a day.
A resounding 73 per cent of owners say they love the fact they manage to get so much exercise now they own a dog, with the majority feeling fitter, healthier and more energetic since owning a dog, and not just in body, but in spirit too.
One in three dog owners said walking their dogs allowed them to de-stress after work, and a quarter felt it helped them to escape their busy schedules.
A spokeswoman for Butcher’s Pet Care, which commissioned the research into 2,000 dog owners, said: “It’s fantastic that owners and their dogs involved in our research are so fit and healthy with the majority going for walks at least twice a day, and this is having a positive impact on their owner’s health which is great to see.
“We know dog owners will walk far more than the average adult, as exercising their dog becomes part of their daily routine. Rather than relaxing in the garden dog owners are likely to be running around playing, and instead of nipping down the corner shop in the car, they’ll put the dog on the lead and walk.
“There are also some great social aspects to owning a dog, such as chatting with other owners when out walking – almost one in ten surveyed said they had met one of their closest friends walking their dog.
“Overall it’s safe to say that dog owners are generally more active and spend more time up and about than those people who don’t have a dog to look after – it’s a really great lifestyle choice!”
The poll reveals the average owner spends 58 minutes a day walking with the dog – which equates to approximately 3 miles a day and 21 miles over the course of one week.
This means dog lovers are walking an incredible 351 hours a year, covering a distance of 1092 miles.
In addition to miles walked, owners are chasing their dog around the garden for 16 minutes every day, that’s 97 hours every year.
And the average dog owner also goes for a jog with their dog between two and three times a week for good measure.
Researchers discovered the bigger the breed of the dog, the fitter dog owners were too, with Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs and Boxers needing the most number of walks per day.
A fifth of dog owners like the fact they get to meet and bump into other people when out and about, while a third make the most of the only fresh air they’ll get during the day.
Interestingly, one in 10 people will happily use walking the dog as an excuse to avoid a nagging partner, while one in 20 use the time to catch-up on the phone with their mum or dad.
A quarter of people polled like dog walking as they can escape a hectic schedule and 14 per cent say it is good to get technology-free time.
Some lucky dogs don’t just benefit from walks with their owner – the study indicated one in 10 dogs attend group walking classes, while six per cent go to agility classes.
Four per cent of dogs go to doga – the practise of yoga for dogs.
The Butcher’s Pet Care Spokeswoman continues: “Decades ago, owners very rarely needed to walk their dog as they were often just let out into the garden or roamed the local area freely, but times have changed! It is now up to the owners to keep their dogs fit and due to this their fitness levels have increased too.
“We carried out the research to highlight the many benefits of owning a dog and we hope that it will encourage more dog owners to focus on the health of their pets which includes taking them on regular walks, but also feeding them a natural, meat based and wholesome diet, as the two go hand in hand.”
Butcher’s is a British, family owned company whose heritage in farming and as butchers stretches three generations. In 1987 Graham Baker, Butcher’s Pet Care founder launched their first canned dog food, Butcher’s Tripe Mix, which has come to symbolize the brand’s values of natural meaty goodness without the use of wheat and soya fillers and their proud meat heritage. For nearly 30 years Butcher’s have used their unique skills and meat expertise to specialise in making great tasting meaty meals that dogs love and thrive on.
This year will see Butcher’s celebrate its roots by rebranding its packaging to bring back the iconic butcher of the 1980s.
BREAKDOWN OF STATISTICS
58 minutes walking with the dog
16 minutes running around the garden with the dog
Dog owners – walk / run for total of 74 minutes each day excluding normal exercise, averaging 3 miles
3 miles x 7 days = 21 miles a week
21 miles x 52 weeks = 1092 miles a year
Non dog owners – walk / run for total of 18 minutes each day excluding normal exercise, averaging 1 mile
1 mile x 7 days = 7 miles a week
7 miles x 52 weeks = 364 miles a year
A third of the UK population spent at least one year in relative income poverty between 2011 and 2014.
Traditionally policymakers and anti-poverty organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) have focused on boosting people’s economic capital (e.g., income) and human capital (e.g., educational attainment) to reduce poverty. While investments in these areas have led to important gains in opportunity for many Britons, emerging research from behavioural science shows that other less tangible resources, which derive from psychological, social and cultural processes, significantly influence people’s ability to overcome disadvantage.
The Behavioural Insights team (BIT) was commissioned by JRF to examine the role of individual decisions in shaping people’s experiences of poverty in the UK and to identify the drivers of these decisions. This reflects JRF’s interest in looking beyond traditional, structural drivers of poverty. Our findings, based on a review of the published literature, are presented in a new report, launched today.
Building on the concepts of economic and human capital, our report proposes a more expansive capital-based model of poverty and decision-making, encompassing environmental, social, character and cognitive capital (Figure 1). For example, an individual may use their social capital (e.g., trusted social connections) to identify labour market opportunities; but being low in environmental capital (e.g., overcrowded housing) may reduce opportunities for parents to talk with their child in ways that build their human capital (e.g., speech development).
Figure 1. Types of capital resources (including examples)
We applied our capital model to six key decision areas that influence poverty in the UK:
- choosing low-cost credit;
- accumulating savings;
- moving into work from unemployment;
- accessing government entitlements;
- responsive parenting; and
- applying to post-secondary education.
Under each of these six headings, we explain both how a lack of the different types of capital influence individual decisions, and we showcase potential interventions to overcome the negative effects.
The good news is that, while interventions to boost economic and human capital often take a long time to produce results, investing in a person’s psychological resources can often have very fast and wide-ranging benefits. For example, one study we reviewed found that people in poverty performed better on tests (equivalent to a 10 point increase in IQ), and were more likely to consider making use of programmes that would benefit them, if they had recently been asked to recall a proud moment or past achievement (Hall, Zhao, & Shafir, 2014). By comparison, another study we reviewed found that when low-income students were asked to answer demographic questions about their parents’ income and occupations before a test, they performed worse than the low-income students who were not asked these questions (Spencer & Castano, 2007). This psychological perspective of inequality in the UK highlights that processes which build in small empowering interactions between users and service providers, at key moments, can potentially boost a person’s psychological resources which can, in turn, increase their ability to overcome disadvantage.
To give you a flavour of the report, below we explain some of the ways that cognitive, character and social capital influence social mobility, via decision-making.
Cognitive capital: Timely prompts and the take-up of entitlements
Despite the obvious financial benefits, many people on low incomes do not take up the welfare payments they are entitled to. Research shows that money worries can absorb cognitive bandwidth, leaving less cognitive resources to make optimal decisions (Mullainathan & Shafir, 2014). A UK study which examined the impact of GPs offering advice to older people about their welfare entitlements found no real improvement in health outcomes but 58 per cent of participants gained a welfare benefit (Mackintosh et al., 2006). Some benefits were non-financial, such as a disability parking permit, but the median financial award was £58 per household per week. This highlights that there may be many timely opportunities for trusted service providers to encourage people to take-up entitlements that could benefit them, for example at the Post Office.
Character capital: Self-efficacy and responsive parenting
A parent’s belief in their own capabilities can have a significant effect on how they parent, and has been shown to affect their child’s educational attainment. Parenting self-efficacy is bolstered by parental education and social support (Seefeldt, Denton, Galper, & Younoszai, 1999; Young, 2011). Conversely, stressors linked with living in poverty, such as financial strain, have been shown to undermine a parent’s self-efficacy, diminishing their belief in their abilities and perceived control (Carroll, 2013; Machida, Taylor, & Kim, 2002).
A number of parenting interventions involving home visits by health workers have had positive effects in preventing intergenerational poverty. The most successful interventions help parents build on existing parenting practices, rather than introduce lots of new information, which increases parental self-efficacy and reinforces positive habits. A trial in Jamaica found that 20 years after home visits to new parents, adults who had been in the treatment group as children were earning 25 per cent more than those who had been in the control group (Gertler et al., 2014).
Social capital: Social networks and applying to post-secondary education
Qualitative research from the UK shows that when young people from less well-off backgrounds make career decisions, they value and rely on informal information (from their social networks) more than formal information (such as careers services) (Greenbank & Hepworth, 2008).
Similarly, a quantitative US study found that high school graduates were more likely to enrol in college if their friends planned to attend college and if their parents were involved in the school they attended (e.g., contacting the school to volunteer time in the classroom or discuss academic matters). Regardless of a student’s own friends and parents, there was an additional positive effect on college enrolment from social capital at the school level: college enrolment was related to the average number of students that reported that most or all of their friends planned to attend college, and average parent-initiated contact with the school about academic matters (Perna & Titus, 2005).
These findings highlight that policymakers should look for ways to use the powerful role of social networks to support young people in their decision to stay in education.
The report presents 18 specific policy recommendations. Below we provide just one key take-way:
Cognitive load test: We argue that policymakers should not reduce the value of their investments in anti-poverty programmes through complex and stigmatising application processes and eligibility checks which absorb cognitive bandwidth. We all have limited mental processing capacity to reason, to focus, to learn new ideas, and to resist temptation. The worries involved in making ends meet every day already deplete bandwidth so government services aiming to tackle disadvantage – such as savings schemes, employment advice and parenting programmes – should be required to pass a cognitive load test to ensure these services do not make it harder for people on low incomes to make good decisions for themselves.
Investing in traditional forms of capital – economic and human – remains important for reducing poverty in the UK but understanding how less tangible forms of capital influence decision-making is useful in two respects: first, it can help to explain why some well-intentioned interventions may fail; and second, it can open up a new set of tools to address poverty.
You can read a summary of the findings from this report here.
October 20, 2016 Kizzy Gandy
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the world’s longest established public health body, is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone, RSPH commissioned artist Thomas Moore to reimagine William Hogarth’s infamous 1751 cartoon Gin Lane – which depicts the debilitating effects of the gin crisis then sweeping London – for the 21st century. The new artwork, which reflects some of the biggest public health challenges now facing British society, was unveiled on Wednesday 19 October 2016 at RSPH’s Annual General Meeting and can be seen at the RSPH’s historic home at 28 Portland Place, London.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The original Gin Lane depicts concern with some of the leading challenges to the public’s health in the 18th century – not just alcoholism, but other leading killers of the time including infectious diseases and malnutrition. The leading threats to the public’s health have changed over time with infectious diseases now supplanted by the growth in non-communicable diseases such as those caused by obesity, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing.
“On our 160th anniversary, Gin Lane 2016 gives us a valuable opportunity to reflect on the challenges to the public’s health that we now face and will inspire us to find new and innovative solutions to tackle these problems. We hope that when we look back on this piece of artwork in another 160 years, many of the health issues it depicts will be a thing of past.”
Artist Thomas Moore said: “When I contacted the RSPH for this commission, I told them that – as an avid Hogarth fan with an interest in public health – I was the man for the job. After being commissioned for the piece, I can honestly say that I’ve given it everything. Hogarth was the grandfather of the cartoon, so I treated this project with the respect it rightly deserved. Recreating Gin Lane over the past few months has completely consumed me. Hogarth – I hope you approve.”
The overall scene is the same street as in the original Gin Lane, but has been developed and modernised so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.
- The central character has been reinvented. Where the original depicts a mother who is drunk and too pre-occupied with taking snuff to care for her baby, Gin Lane 2016 instead shows the mother preoccupied with eating junk food, which she has also fed to her child.
- A pawnbroker is one of the significant and thriving businesses in the original piece. In the modern version, this has been replaced by one of the payday lenders which have become a feature of many high streets, and are perhaps a 21stcentury equivalent. The desperation of one of the customers leaving the payday lender represents the mental ill health associated with debt.
- The chicken shop is a representative feature of the obesogenic environment which is at the heart of Gin Lane 2016 – busy, vibrant, and packed full of glum looking customers.
- The man contemplating throwing himself off the top of a building is a nod to the original in which a barber is seen hanging, having committed suicide because his customers could no longer afford a haircut. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
- The original arch has been converted into Gin Lane tube station, with commuters glued to their smart phones – a depiction of a busy, potentially lonely existence.
- Junk food adverts provide another reflection of the ubiquitous power of marketing in our obesogenic environment.
- The distillery from the original has become a busy pub with rowdy drunk customers.
- A news vendor hands out a paper with a headline about the threat posed by obesity.
A new study has highlighted the scope of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tools available worldwide and outlined their impact on people with mental health needs.
The study from RAND Europe, commissioned by the education and social service company Ingeus, showed that computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools, which are online platforms or mobile applications to help tackle common mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety or insomnia, have grown significantly in the past two years. These tools are available in a number of countries, including Australia, China, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.
Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools aim to address a variety of mental health conditions, with the study finding that these largely had a positive impact on users. It also found that condition-specific tools could reduce the symptoms of other conditions. For example, a tool to help those with insomnia could simultaneously reduce symptoms of depression.
Despite the overall positive impact, the study revealed that some groups with mental health needs are less likely to participate in treatment (or trials) of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools than others. For example, the average user was a woman in her late 30s with a university degree and in full-time employment. However, computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools specifically focused on people with depression had a more equal proportion of male and female participants, while those specifically for people with anxiety disorders had somewhat younger and less-well-educated participants.
A previous RAND Europe study in 2014 suggested that providing access to online mental health assessment and support, such as computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools, could help to reach a large proportion of the UK population with mental health needs at a relatively low cost. Common mental health problems affect over a quarter of adults in England (26 per cent) and incur increasing costs to individuals, employers and governments. However, access to mental health services is limited.
Chris van Stolk, lead researcher and vice president at RAND Europe, says: “Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy offers a range of promising solutions to support those with mental health needs. These can help people less likely to talk with their GP or therapist. However, our study showed a risk that these solutions could be failing to reach certain groups, such as unemployed men.”
He continues: “There are a range of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy applications and other platforms available worldwide that meet a diverse range of mental health needs. These are not the ‘silver bullet’ to solving common mental health problems, but are largely effective at providing a sufficient level of support to those with mental health needs.”
Barry Fletcher, chief operations officer for Ingeus, says: “This informative and timely report provides a useful insight into the rapidly changing market for computerised cognitive behavioural therapy tools, as well as the ways in which they can be best utilised to support individuals with mental health needs”.
He continues: “One thing that we are learning both from this report and from our own experience of delivering services across a range of sectors, is that for individuals with complex needs, often the best solutions can be found in blended support, including greater use of technology. This report provides a useful evidence-based guide as to how services in the future might utilise these innovative new technologies that are now developing a strong evidence base.”
The report provides a systematic assessment of post-2013 literature on computerised cognitive behavioural therapy platforms. The aim was to have up-to-date evidence, particularly around the availability, use and effectiveness of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy platforms.
To view the report visit Randeurope:
– ENDS –
The Lambeth GP Food Co-op is a co-operative of patients, doctors and local residents who have come together to build food growing gardens in GP surgeries. The Lambeth GP Food Co-op began in 2013 and over the past three years, we have successfully worked to:
- Create 11 food growing gardens in Lambeth GP surgeries.
- Partner with King’s College Hospital, building the Jennie Lee garden.
Help improve the health and wellbeing, diet and nutrition of hundreds of Lambeth patients.
- Implement a local sustainable food supply chain enabling patient grown fruit and vegetables to be sold at King’s College Hospital in partnership with Medirest/Compass.
- Raise awareness of malnutrition and poor diet in collaboration with the Lambeth and Southwark Malnutrition Project, Feeding Britain and other food -focused organisations.
- Influence current health thinking on gardening and its contribution to improving health and wellbeing – King’s Fund Report, Gardening and Health 2016.
- Recently awarded the Best Sustainable Food Initiative in the NHS by Public Health England and the NHS Sustainability Unit.
One of our lettuces grown by patients won third prize in last year’s Royal Horticultural Society’s London competition.
We are proud to have created the first community-led health co-operative working in and for the NHS. In the words of Dr Phil Hammond The Lambeth GP Food Co-op “shows the power of cooperation and collaboration, and the kindness and shared purpose that is at the heart of the NHS.”
There is more work to do and we are passionately committed to improving people’s lives through gardening and mutual support, but to continue our work we need your help. Not only to keep the show on the road but to undertake something much more sustainable and long lasting. We believe that we can build on our achievements so far and create a social co-operative that lasts.
With your investment, we will be in a strong position to respond to the many opportunities that are coming our way. We wish to reduce our dependency on external grants and be able to generate income in the future. By investing in the Lambeth GP Food Co-op, we are offering you a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a co-owner of a social business that is committed to doing good. Having a share in the Lambeth GP Food Co-op gives you an opportunity to help shape our future. We are confident that we can generate significant income in the future. We have applied to HMRC for Advance Assurance for Social Investment Tax Relief that would enable you to reclaim 30% of whatever you invest against your income tax.
Our future business opportunities include working with and supporting GPs in other boroughs to reduce social isolation and poor health outcomes by building more food growing gardens. We also wish to work with Children’s hospitals to build food growing gardens for children in long stay wards. This follows an initial invitation from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to submit a preliminary proposal.
We can only succeed in the future with your support. We invite you to join us on the next stage of our journey by investing in us. You can do this by visiting our Crowdfunder page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/lambeth-gp-food-co-op. On this page, you will find more information about making a financial contribution. Alternatively, you can send your cheque to Lambeth GP Food Co-op, Canterbury House, 1 Royal Street, London SE1 7LL.
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us by email or phone 0790 883 4203.
Lambeth GP Food Co-op, Canterbury House, 1 Royal Street, London, SE1 7LL www.lgpfc.co.uk
The News from Nowhere team pick up on some Capita woes, with some eye catching personnel moves, and hear of some interesting re-positioning of the private healthcare market incentivising private patients to have their care delivered in the public sector.
Turn around at ‘Capita’?
Many support services for General Practice, including payments to practices, enrolling new medical staff, providing necessary official documents (like sickness certificates), moving records between practices, registering new patients and managing staff pension arrangements, were centralised and out-sourced in 2015 to the commercial company ‘Capita’, in a £330 million NHS contract.
Rebecca Thomas at the Health Services Journal has unearthed a story of commercial failure HSJ October 13. Complaints about ‘Capita’s performance were made by the BMA, and triggered a remedial intervention by NHS England, including embedding what sounds like a NHS turn-around team in ‘Capita’, with daily reviews of performance. Ironically, the person at NHS England who ran these primary care support services before they were out-sourced to ‘Capita’, Jill Matthews, has been made a ‘stakeholder director’ in ‘’Capita’ whilst two senior members of Capita have been removed from managing the contract.
Elsewhere in the marketplace the chief executive of the UK’s largest independent hospital group called on private hospitals and medical insurers to work closer together to improve the value of the private healthcare offering and to ensure it meets people’s needs. Speaking at the LaingBuisson, Private Acute Healthcare Conference on 12th October 2016, to an audience of investors, directors, finance executives, insurers and hospital operators, Jill Watts urged hospital operators and insurers to seek ways to add real value to insured patients and to relieve the pressures on the NHS.
Noting that the take-up of private health insurance has been in decline since 2008, with levels only recently stabilising, Jill Watts said:
“We’ve heard time and again from insurers that private hospitals need to be more affordable in order to reinvigorate the market. But price is not the issue – the issue is how we can attract more people back into private healthcare and offer a broader range of services which will put more balance into the overall system.
“More and more, we are seeing narrower insurance products with exclusion clauses emerge. And we continue to see them give incentives for private patients to have their care delivered in the public sector. This just devalues the insurance product and puts additional pressure on the NHS. The reality is that even if you do have access to top level private insurance you are still likely to have to rely on the public sector at some stage to meet your overall health needs.
“Unlike other countries where private hospitals play a much larger role in the delivery of the nation’s healthcare, the UK private sector has traditionally had a limited offering mainly focused around elective surgical procedures. The range of services offered does not really match the growing demand for healthcare in the UK.
“As the pressure on the overall system builds and waiting lists in the NHS grow, we are seeing an increasing number of people that are prepared to pay for their own care. Certainly a core part of our strategy at BMI Healthcare is our investment in broadening the range of services that we offer, particularly in our flagship sites where we have the capability to offer a much broader range of services outside of the traditional surgical model.
“It is pleasing that insurers and hospitals are starting to work closer together to be more assertive in actively influencing the shape of our future. As an industry, we do need to take a more strategic approach to finding ways to alleviate pressure away from the NHS.
“The private sector has a lot to offer the overall system and we have a long track record of delivering excellent patient outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction in a cost effective way. We need to take a more active role in positioning ourselves to governments as supporting and complementing the NHS to reduce the overall pressure on the system, not in competition with it.”
The rise on rise of technology has triggered a fourth industrial revolution. No industry has been able to avoid this new paradigm – and the healthcare industry is certainly no exception. From the introduction of connected medical devices, to the introduction of the electronic health records (EHR), tech is set to change the healthcare experience for both the patient and doctor.
But as technology transforms patient expectations, the NHS is facing its own pressures. A growing and aging population, governmental reforms, and stringent funding demands are pushing healthcare professionals to breaking point as they must deliver quality medical care for a rapidly expanding list of patients, who are becoming more and more health conscious.
Face to face time with patients is frequently cited by doctors’ as their greatest motivator, yet administrative tasks are highly taxing on a doctor’s time. Most physicians report that they spend more than 50 per cent of their working day compiling, reviewing and updating clinical documentation.
As the health system powers towards its target of a paperless NHS by 2020, the archaic documentation process continues to pose a significant challenge to doctors for whom the EHRs are yet another administrative process. A more intelligent process must be instigated if healthcare professionals are to spend more time with patients while producing high quality clinical records.
A smarter approach Rather than merely expecting doctors to digitise their records, the NHS should be looking at what technologies will enable healthcare professionals to produce digital records in a more efficient and accurate way. This is not only crucial to ensure that clinical documents are prepared quickly so doctors can see their next patient, but also to support them in creating more complete records of the patient story which supports effective long term treatment.
Many health trusts are now turning to speech recognition technology to support their practice in creating patient documents. Beyond the speed advantage of using speech-enabled clinical documentation, talking through the patients history enable doctors to provide a clearer insight into the patient’s habits and lifestyle. Recent research has shown that a significant part (68 per cent) of the patient record is ‘narrative’. This extra information can play an important role in building the real patient story, which goes beyond simply documenting symptoms and prescriptions, and supports a more holistic, preventative approach to healthcare.
While some healthcare professionals may feel sceptical about introducing more technology into the doctors’ surgery, research suggests that 58% of patients feel that the use of technology in the clinical setting improves healthcare experiences.
Currently, the most notable technology in the exam room is the use of desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. 69% of people are noticing technology becoming increasingly implemented by doctors, and 97% of these people were comfortable with its use.
However, health professionals shouldn’t limit themselves to simply implementing the technology that we are more accustomed to as consumers, and instead look to the innovations that are truly revolutionising the way that people work.
Utilising speech-enabled has the ability in healthcare to give doctors more time, help them create more accurate records, and reduce the burden of the EHRs. We must harness this potential if we are to help doctors be effective and efficient at work, and provide a better patient journey.
Simon Wallace, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Nuance Communications