The healthmatters blog; commentary, observation and review
VitalityHealth today announced it has teamed with the Financial Times to launch Britain’s Healthiest Workplace. The survey will measure employer and employee responses to questions about health and lifestyle, providing an overview of Britain’s workplace culture and an understanding of how health can be improved.
The survey, originally launched as Britain’s Healthiest Company in 2013, has become the UK’s largest annual workplace wellness survey. The 2015 survey received over 32,500 employee responses from 112 companies. With its rebrand, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is set to become more inclusive and will incorporate a wider range of workplaces ranging from private sector to third sector and public sector, giving a holistic overview of the nation’s health. And for the first time companies with a workforce of just 20 employees or more will also become eligible to take part in the survey.
Britain’s Healthiest Workplace will culminate with an awards ceremony in London in September 2016. Previous winners of Britain’s Healthiest Company include Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Adidas UK, Nomura and Sweaty Betty.
The Financial Times will publish a report incorporating the findings of the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey. Titled ‘Health at Work’, the report will be published in September 2016.
Neville Koopowitz, CEO at VitalityHealth, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Financial Times for the launch of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace. As workplace wellness becomes an increasingly pertinent issue around the UK’s boardrooms, we are proud to celebrate those organisations that are championing healthy employee behaviour and investing in the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff.”
“The Financial Times is keen to increase debate and action on workplace health,” said Andrew Jack, the FT’s head of curated content. “It is an issue of growing importance for employers and employees of all sorts around the world, and good practices to improve prevention and wellbeing make good personal and business sense.”
Britain’s Healthiest Workplace was developed by VitalityHealth and is delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe, the Financial Times and Mercer.
Registration for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is now open and all companies with 20 employees or more are encouraged to register. Registration will close on 18 March 2016. To register go to healthiestworkplace.co.uk
BOWEL cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at the earliest stage if it is picked up by screening, according to new figures* released by Cancer Research UK and Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network today (Friday).
For the first time, data shows the stage (one to four) at which cancer is detected by the different routes to diagnosis – through screening, by a GP referral**, or as an emergency.
Of the cases picked up by bowel screening (where the stage at diagnosis was known), more than one third (37 per cent) were caught at the earliest stage (stage one) while fewer than one in ten (8 per cent) were advanced (stage four).
This compares to four in ten (40 per cent) of bowel cancers diagnosed as an emergency being stage four for those cases with known stage. The figures also show that more than a fifth (22 per cent) of bowel cancers were advanced (stage four) by the time people go to the doctor and are then diagnosed.
Patients whose cancers are picked up at an earlier stage almost always have better chances of survival because treatment is more likely to be effective than it is for those diagnosed at a later stage.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “For the first time we’re able to see specifically how advanced or how early cancers are when they are diagnosed via different routes within the health system.
“Early diagnosis means better survival and late diagnosis is bad news for patients, so we need to learn how to avoid it. This new information really helps us understand the best ways to diagnose cancer and where the health service should target resources.
“Bowel cancer in particular has a lot of room for improvement, so it’s great news that there’s a recommendation to use a new updated bowel cancer screening test called FIT. We know this is an easier test for people to use at home and that both men and women are more likely to use it, so it’s vital this is rolled out as quickly as possible across England. It’s also important that people go to their doctor if they notice symptoms such as blood in their poo or a change in their normal bowel habit such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation, even if they’ve recently had a bowel screening test.”
The full publication also contains data about people in England diagnosed in 2012 and 2013 by stage for bladder, breast, bowel (colorectal), kidney, lung, melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, ovarian, prostate and uterine cancers.
Of the total 574,500 cases diagnosed in 2012 and 2013, screening picked up the highest proportion of early stage cancers – 63 per cent stage one (19, 486) vs three per cent stage four (823).
Of the cancer types included in analysis, screening is available for breast cancer for women and bowel cancer for men and women.
Dr Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England, said: “This new research on the stage at which people are diagnosed suggests that screening has an important part to play in achieving earlier diagnosis of bowel cancer. Everyone aged 60 to 74 in England receives an invitation to be screened along with some information to help them decide.”
Of those patients diagnosed following a GP referral, just over a third (34 per cent) were stage one compared to just over a fifth (22 per cent) at stage four.
More than half (58 per cent) of all cancers diagnosed as an emergency were diagnosed at stage four compared to around a tenth (11 per cent) at stage one.
* Full publication available on request
** GPs can either send patients through a routine referral or an urgent referral for tests depending on the symptoms.
Britain’s spending on its health service is falling by international standards and, by 2020, will be £43bn less a year than the average spent by its European neighbours, according to research by the King’s Fund.
The UK is devoting a diminishing proportion of GDP in health and is now a lowly 13th out of the original 15 EU members in terms of investment, an analysis for the Guardian by the thinktank’s chief economist shows.
Prof John Appleby also found that the government’s decision to increase the NHS’s budget by far less than the anticipated growth in GDP meant the service would miss out on what would have been an extra £16bn by 2020.
Ministers highlight that they are giving the NHS in England an increasing share of overall government spending, ringfencing its budget and handing it annual increases totalling £8.4bn in real terms by 2020-21, despite very tight public finances.
But the King’s Fund figures have cast doubt on ministers’ repeated claims that they are giving the NHS generous cash settlements. Critics argue that Britain is becoming “the sick person of Europe” in terms of health spending because the sector receives one of the lowest levels of investment compared with many European countries, such as France and Germany.
Appleby warns that Britain’s status as an increasingly “low spender” might mean the NHS cannot deliver improvements in the quality of care and outcomes from treatment that patients want.
“No amount of spin from ministers can disguise the fact that this decade is set to be marked by the longest and deepest squeeze on NHS finances in a generation. Our country is increasingly looking like the sick person of Europe, with spending on health falling far behind other neighbouring countries,” said Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary.
“This squeeze on health spending is bad for the NHS and it is bad for patients. It is clear that our health service is going to need much more money than this government is prepared to spend.”
That health spending as a proportion of GDP has been “slipping backwards” means Britain is now behind Finland and Slovenia on that measure, according to a league table of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 34 member countries, Appleby added.
In an article for the King’s Fund detailing his findings, Appleby writes: “UK GDP is forecast to grow in real terms by around 15.2% between 2014-15 and 2020-21. But on current plans, UK NHS spending will grow by much less – 5.2%.
“This is equivalent to around £7bn in real terms, increasing from £135bn in 2014-15 to £142bn in 2020-21. But if spending kept pace with growth in the economy, by 2020-21 the UK NHS would be spending around £158bn at today’s prices – £16bn more than planned.”
The latest OECD data shows that the UK spent 8.5% of its total GDP on healthcare in 2013, though that includes a small amount of private spending, such as private medical insurance. “This placed the UK 13th out of the original 15 countries of the EU and 1.7 percentage points lower than the EU-14’s level,” Appleby said, referring to the EU 15 without the UK.
“If we were to close this gap solely by increasing NHS spending, and assuming that health spending in other UK countries was in line with the 2015 spending review plans for England, by 2020-21 it would take an increase of 30% – £43bn – in real terms to match the EU-14’s level of spend in 2013, taking total NHS spending to £185bn.”
The result of failing to keep pace with international health spending is that the gap has started to widen between Britain and many of its neighbours.
“Whatever the flaws of international comparisons, it’s clear that the UK is currently a relatively low spender on healthcare, with a prospect of sinking further down the international league tables,” Appleby said.
When he was prime minister in 2000, Tony Blair promised to increase health spending to the then EU average of 8.5% of GDP, a pledge Labour fulfilled under Gordon Brown in 2009.
However, given the huge sums thrown up by both Appleby’s calculations, Alexander refused to say whether Labour would commit to increasing health spending to either the EU average, which is now 10.1%, or as a proportionate share of rising GDP.
Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat health minister in the coalition until last May, said the Office for Budget Responsibility had recently acknowledged that the NHS in England would receive a falling percentage of national income until 2020.
Lamb said: “These new figure show why we can’t just keep sleepwalking into a disaster. The NHS and care systems will crash if we carry on as we are because the current amount [going into the NHS] is not enough and everyone in the NHS knows it.”
He called for political parties and others to join in a “national conversation” on how much money the health and social care systems would need in coming years, given the ageing population, and how it should be paid for.
Stephen Dorrell, the ex-Conservative health secretary who is now the chair of the NHS Confederation, said he suspected ministers would give the NHS in England more than the promised £10bn before 2020 and that funding would grow again, by somewhere between £16bn and £43bn, soon after 2020.
Ministers declined to comment on Appleby’s figures. The Department of Health said it was giving the NHS the extra money that its chief executive, Simon Stevens, had said it needed by 2020 in order to keep providing good care while also changing how services operate.
“Rather than there being a political decision about levels of spending on healthcare, for the first time ever, the NHS said collectively in the Five Year Forward View what it needed for the future to transform services for patients,” a spokesman said.
“We’re meeting our side of the bargain, with £10bn more from a strong economy, raising the NHS budget to the highest level in its history and increasing spending every year. We will also ensure the NHS gives good value for taxpayers.”
CANCER MOST FEARED DISEASE IN BRITAIN – BUT MORE THAN 8 MILLION BRITISH ADULTS TAKE NO ACTION TO REDUCE THEIR RISK
- British adults more worried about being diagnosed with cancer than other serious illnesses
- Yet more than 8 million say they take no action at all to reduce their risk
- Only a third do regular exercise (37%) or maintain a healthy weight (37%) to reduce their risk of developing the disease
- Half (54%) are confused by conflicting reports on the causes of cancer
- High proportions of the population did not identify weight (62%), diet (61%) or smoking (29%) as influencing a person’s risk of developing cancer
More than eight million British adults (17%) admit they take no preventive action to reduce their risk of developing cancer, despite it being the most feared serious illness in Britain, new research from Aviva shows.
More people are worried about being diagnosed with cancer (58%) than dementia/Alzheimer’s (45%), heart disease (34%) or a stroke (32%). Women are particularly worried about being diagnosed with cancer (62% vs. 54% of men), perhaps because breast cancer – which predominantly affects women – is the most common cancer.2
Despite this, millions are failing to take simple lifestyle precautions to reduce their risk of developing the disease. Only a third say they maintain a healthy weight (37%) or do regular exercise (37%) to help prevent the disease developing. And despite overexposure to UV radiation being the main cause of skin cancer3, less than half (46%) minimise their exposure to the sun or use a high factor sun cream.
Advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) states that processed meats such as bacon and sausages can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, while red meats are considered likely to be carcinogenic4. However, only 29% of British adults have cut down on this food group to reduce their risk.
Table 1: Many fail to take active steps to reduce their risk of developing cancer
|Which, if any of the following do you do to reduce your risk of developing cancer?||% who do this|
|Minimise exposure to sun or use sun-cream||46%|
|Maintaining a healthy weight||37%|
|Limit consumption of red/processed meat||29%|
|I do not take any steps to reduce my risk of cancer||17%|
Lack of understanding around cancer prevention leaves Britain at risk
An estimated four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented, largely through lifestyle changes5. However, the lack of action being taken to reduce the chance of developing the disease is partly due to poor understanding among British adults of the factors that increase cancer risk.
For example, although tobacco is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer in the world, 29% of British adults did not identify smoking as a cancer risk factor. An even larger proportion did not identify diet (61%) and weight (62%) as influencing a person’s risk of developing cancer, despite these being major causes6. And although it has been proven to cause seven types of cancer6, over half (56%) did not identify consumption of alcohol as a cancer risk factor.
Understanding is particularly poor among younger age groups – only 57% of 18-24s believe smoking to be a cancer risk factor, compared to 79% of over 65s.
This lack of understanding is worsened by conflicting reports on the causes of cancer. More than half (54%) of British adults say they feel confused by reports of what to do and what not to do to reduce their risk. Among these, 26% say it makes them feel worried about what to do for the best, while 21% become ambivalent about cancer advice as a result.
British adults positive about future of cancer treatments and survival rates
Positivity about the progress being made in treatments and survival rates for cancer could be another reason people are failing to take preventive measures. More than three quarters of British adults (78%) expect to see cancer survival rates improve over the next 20 years, while four in five (82%) believe cancer drugs and treatments will improve in the same period.
People are also optimistic that a cure for cancer will be found in the next 50 years, with half (50%) in agreement.
Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director for Aviva UK Health says,
“We now know that one in two people born after 1960 in the UK7 will get cancer in their lifetime. It has become very much embedded in the psyche of the nation, and represents one of people’s greatest health fears. Yet despite our high collective awareness of the disease, too many are failing to take any action at all to reduce their cancer risk. This is compounded by a lack of awareness surrounding the main causes of cancer, despite many high profile campaigns.
“It’s estimated that four in 10 cases of cancer can be prevented, largely through lifestyle changes5. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet will not only reduce your risk of cancer, but other serious illnesses such as type II diabetes and heart disease too. The same is true of smoking – it can be a hard habit to kick, but the fact this is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the world should act as strong motivation. Cancer drugs and survival rates may be expected to improve, but that is no reason to become complacent. Prevention is ultimately much more effective than treatment.”
Upcoming EU data protection ruling gives green light for sharing patient data across health and care sector
Proposed changes to data protection under new EU legislation could provide a significant opportunity for further integration across health and care services and change the way that we deliver care to patients, according to the NHS European Office.
The NHS European Office, part of the NHS Confederation, represents the NHS in the European Union and believes that the upcoming EU Data Protection Package will provide increased flexibility for staff to access medical records, as long as they have a legitimate reason to do so.
An announcement on the Package, which is designed to ensure a more harmonised approach to data protection and privacy across the European Union, is due in early 2016, however the final decisions are expected to be made this week. An informal decision has already been made on the 15th December.
Current data protection legislation makes it difficult for those outside of a regulated profession to access data. This put NHS professionals working alongside local authorities, social workers and charity staff in a difficult position when it came to sharing data. The NHS European Office, has been working to shape changes to the legislation to support greater innovation, research and integration in the NHS. The expected changes in the legislation will mean that those with a legitimate reason to access personal data could have the right to do so as long as national rules or legislation allow it. So while the common law duty of confidentiality remains, national laws and rules could make it easier and clearer for the health service to share data with other organisations in a more joined-up way.
The integration of health and social care, with housing and other services is one of the key issues for today’s NHS. According to the Nuffield Trust analysis released this month, just 3.6 per cent of patients took up over a third of bed capacity in hospitals last winter (1). The majority of these patients were frail and elderly. To ease pressure off hospitals there must be closer partnerships between hospitals, community services and social services so that we can improve the care that we deliver to older people in particular. The sharing of patient data is critical for allowing this process to happen.
Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS European Office, said:
“Integration is one of the greatest priorities when developing new models of care and data is a key element when it comes to putting this into practice.
“It is important that we alleviate the burden of data sharing across health and social care. We have worked hard to highlight the need for a more flexible legal framework, which could remove a critical obstacle to the provision of integrated care for an elderly population, often living with two or more chronic conditions.
“While it is vital to maintain confidentiality for personal data, the need for professionals to handle data more effectively and break down the information barriers to allow care to be delivered in a more effective manner has to be acknowledged.
“This will help in developing radical new ways to deliver services as well as support some of the digital projects which are bringing together hospital, GP, admin and audit data to improve delivery and help identify patients who most need health and social care support.”
The NHS European Office has also argued for a clear legal framework on appropriate use of personal data in health research. Critical medical discoveries, such as establishing the link between smoking and cancer, would not have been possible without using personal data. During negotiations, disproportionate limits on the use of personal data in health research were proposed that would have threatened crucial studies across Europe. However the NHS European Office, working in partnership with a group of leading non-commercial research organisations, has been able to push for a legal framework which ensures appropriate and meaningful safeguards and strikes the right balance between protecting the interests of individuals, while enabling research that benefits us all.
Despite many positive changes achieved, one negative change envisaged by the new legislation is that all information should be provided free of charge to the data subject (patient), meaning the NHS could be financially burdened.
Currently the NHS can charge an administrative fee for ‘subject access requests’ where an NHS organisation provides a copy of a person’s medical record.
Although there are no centralised figures on this, it is estimated that a medium-sized district Trust can receive around 50 requests every week. The acute sector could potentially be receiving over 400 000 such requests each year. Under the new rules this information will have to be provided free of charge, so funds to cover this service will need to be found from elsewhere in the Trust’s budget.
A recent paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies shows that, unsurprisingly, some of the differences in national subjective wellbeing are attributable to genetic factors. The authors found that national percentages of very happy people across the most recent World Values Surveys are consistently and highly correlated with national prevalence of the rs324420 A allele in the FAAH gene, involved in the hydrolysis of anandamide, a substance that reportedly enhances sensory pleasure and helps reduce pain. They also found that climatic differences are also significantly associated with national differences in happiness, whereas economic wealth, recent economic growth, rule of law, pathogen prevalence and the distribution of the short versus long alleles in the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 are not significant predictors of national happiness.
Countries with high percentages of very happy people comprise mostly northern Latin American countries, with relatively high percentages of Amerindians or people of mixed Euro-American descent, as well as West African countries. The main tribes of Nigeria—Hausa and Yoruba—are next in the ranking. The lowest prevalence of the A allele is found in some Arab and East Asian nations.
. Differences in happiness between Northern and Central or South Europeans also seem attributable to the genetic differences between them, since Northern Europeans have a much higher prevalence of the A allele. North European countries with high percentages of very happy people and high prevalences of the A allele include the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Shaun Subel, Director at VitalityHealth, comments on Blue Monday: “Mental wellbeing is proven to link to both productivity and physical wellbeing, meaning individuals’ physical health and work output are at risk when they suffer from stress or depression. Research from Britain’s Healthiest Company shows that almost three quarters (73%) of the working population are suffering from at least one aspect of work-related stress. The most common sources of such stress are unrealistic demands and time pressures in the workplace (51%), not being consulted about change (31%), and a lack of control in the tasks people are doing at work (27%).
“These stresses may be felt more acutely around Blue Monday as employees struggle to cope with the short winter days, cold weather and low motivation levels they may be experiencing at this time of year. We also know that there are many other sources of stress, unrelated to the workplace, which can have a parallel impact on productivity. One source of stress especially associated with this time of year is financial concerns, which our results show affects 23% of respondents.
“Companies are increasingly aware of the effects of poor mental health on work performance and wellbeing, and many are putting measures in place to counteract the ill effects of stress and low morale. Almost 60% (59%) of companies provide stress management information and a third of companies offer work-life balance programmes (34%) and stress management programmes (32%). However, despite growing awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace, it remains for many a complex and emotive issue, and therefore better communication and authentic support from leadership is crucial in informing employees of the benefits of engaging with these initiatives to help reduce stress and improve morale.”
On Monday (18 January 2016) new rules enter into force governing the free movement of professionals (including health professionals) around the European Union (EU). It is a success for the NHS in Europe that will help the service maintain its workforce and keep patients safe.
Existing EU law provides for holders of certain qualifications, such as medical and nursing qualifications, to have their qualifications recognised in EU countries other than the one in which they trained. This means they can practise across the EU with the minimum of barriers and delay.
Key changes for the NHS in the updated rules are:
- Speeded up online procedures for registering general care nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists
- Introduction of an EU-wide warning system to guard against rogue professionals entering the UK from other EU countries and vice-versa
- Stronger language controls so that regulators can check incomers’ language skills
- Updated minimum training requirements for doctors, general care nurses, dentists, midwives and pharmacists
- A requirement for all EU countries to encourage continuing professional development and report on progress
- The possibility of more EU-qualified practitioners providing “temporary and occasional “ services, requiring more vigilant checks by employers
- Longer term, the possibility of changes to the content and standard of training curricula for healthcare professions.
Elisabetta Zanon, Director of the NHS Confederation’s European Office, said:
“More than any other country in the EU (with the tiny exception of Luxembourg) the UK relies on doctors, nurses and other health professionals trained elsewhere. We couldn’t run the NHS without them. So we welcome moves to cut red tape and encourage people to relocate.
“It’s vitally important that patients are protected from unsafe practitioners as people’s lives are in their hands. That’s why the NHS European Office fought hard for this legislation to include a warning system. It means that, in future, regulatory bodies across the EU will have to alert each other within three calendar days about any registrant who has been banned from practising, even temporarily, to prevent them ’job shopping’ around Europe.
“Our successful lobbying has also resulted in stronger English language checks for healthcare practitioners seeking registration in the UK. We’re delighted that these innovations will make patients in the UK and elsewhere safer.
“We will keep influencing future developments, especially where we think they may not be beneficial. Our job is to stay ahead of the game so that the NHS benefits from the contribution of well qualified incomers without jeopardising high quality care.”
A snap survey by the Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM) has revealed that six in 10 healthcare managers (58%) back strike action being taken by junior NHS doctors in England, with more than four in 10 (43%) saying they ‘strongly support’ it. A third (33%) said they opposed the action.
IHM, which represents almost 3,000 health and social care managers at all levels of the health service across the UK, surveyed members on the day of the first of three planned strikes (12 January 2016), receiving more than 300 responses.
When asked whether managers should join the strike to support junior doctors, the majority (70%) said no, with two in 10 (23%) in favour.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of IHM, said: “Although the junior doctors’ strike may give healthcare managers a headache in the short term, it is notable that a majority of our members are supportive of the action, suggesting junior doctors have legitimate concerns that need to be resolved. This situation is symptomatic of an NHS in which managers and clinicians alike are being asked to do more with less, and Government investment is failing to keep pace with the increasing strain it is being put under.
“It is vital that the Government and the BMA get back around the table to resolve this crisis and avert the prospect of more damaging industrial action. However, in the long term, it must be recognised that the NHS is simply not sustainable without significant further investment to keep existing vital services safe and in preventive efforts to lessen the ever growing demand for them.”
We’re set to have one of the coldest Januarys in years. As winds batter the UK, it can be tempting to stay indoors and hide from the chill, particularly for the elderly. Cosying up under a blanket and sitting by the radiator might be one way of keeping warm, but it could put you at risk of serious illness.
This winter, mobility aids specialists Millercare are raising awareness of circulatory health issues that plague the UK public in colder periods. Cold weather and inactivity are a potentially lethal combination. Slowing our circulation, a lack of mobility in winter could lead to numerous issues, including slow healing of wounds, swelling and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
DVT affects 1 in 1,000 people in the UK. Whilst you might be able to see it coming from pain and swelling around the calf area, there’s also a chance that no symptoms will show at all.
So, how can we prevent the onset of DVT?
1. Get out of bed as soon as possible – Get up and move around after a night of sleep, instead of lying in. Whilst it’s tempting to stay in the warmth, you need to get on your feet after minimal movement throughout the night.
2. Watch out for swelling – Compression socks are an absolute must for the elderly and don’t have to be worn exclusively on long-haul flights. You should also seek a wide-fit slipper if you find your feet swell over your shoes.
3. Massaging – Focusing on the back of your legs, you can instantly stimulate the blood flow in the targeted area. However, you should seek advice from a professional first. Osteopath & Clinic Founder of TotalHealthClinics, Ben Barker, says: “Massages can be particularly effective for improving circulation because they can stimulate both parts of the circulatory system; the cardiovascular and the lymphatic. However, if you’re already suffering from DVT, massages can be damaging and aren’t recommended.”
4. Ben also suggests hydrotherapy: “Using alternative submission into both hot and cold water, the blood vessels will be consistently stimulated. The blood will rush to the skin in order to regulate the temperature and then be forced back when hot water is introduced.” A foot bath could be used to mimic this sensation in the home.
5. Move your feet whilst sitting – Ben explains: “The deep veins of the lower legs weave themselves around the calf muscles and each time you take a step; the calf muscles squeeze the blood back up the leg. This is increased if you have a good walking action, with a full ‘heel-toe’ action. The blood passes through a one-way valve that stops the blood falling back down. So, the best tip for healthy circulation is to make sure your calf pump works well.”
Anyone can do this from the comfort of their own chair with the help of a Happy Legs Seated Walking Machine. Perfect for the elderly who cannot go out to exercise, this handy piece of equipment keeps your legs active from the comfort of your own chair. Moving your feet gently in a step-by-step formation and mimicking the body’s natural gait cycle, this gadget is clinically proven to aid blood circulation and gives you the much needed exercise you might not otherwise get in winter.
6. Watch your diet – If you’re overweight, you could be at higher risk of suffering DVT. A little light exercise and controlled portions of food can help you reduce your risk.
7. Stop smoking – It can be harder for the elderly to quit as they’re likely to have developed their habit over the years. However, the toxic chemicals in cigarettes can thicken the blood and heighten your risk. Cutting down gradually could help.
8. Keep warm – Whilst it may sound like an obvious one, keeping warm is imperative for the elderly. Microwaveable bean bags and hot water bottles will ensure your feet don’t get cold and will stimulate the blood flow to your legs.
Stewart Clough from Millercare says: “Winter is a difficult time for many vulnerable people in the UK. If you know someone in need, it’s best to keep a closer eye on them at this time of year and encourage them out of the house if possible. If not, regular light exercise and massaging is imperative to combat the effects of immobility. Even those who can’t get up and about much can ensure they’re keeping active with handy tech such as seated walking machines. Sometimes DVT shows no signs at all before it’s too late, so it’s much better to be safe and not sorry.”