Tag Archives: government

Cutting A&E attendance is not rocket science

UnknownWith all political eyes now on the NHS, the relentless rise in patients using A&E as a first port of call has even more significance. Recent research shows that one of the main reasons people head straight for A&E rather than any of the other NHS urgent services is that they simply do not understand how they work.

Research done by Resonant-a London based agency specialising in behaviour change and social marketing recently worked across three major South London hospitals to try and find a solution. What they found was that parents in particular do not know the difference between urgent care, walk in services and minor injury units. More importantly they found that this patient group do not know why and when to use them. In fact the only services universally understood were GPs and A&E.

Resonant devised an intervention called Get It Right which tackled this problem head on and delivered an 18% drop in demand on A&E services in this area of London. After much collaboration with local people and a variety of community groups Resonant came up with a simple and engaging guide to local services which gave local families across southwest London the confidence and capability to use other parts of the urgent and primary care network to access the care they needed.

John Isitt, Director of Resonant says: “Local NHS organisations have not learned that it is not enough to tell people not to go to A&E. Instead it is vital to address people’s underlying motivations, anxieties by making the system simpler for them. Managing demand is not the answer to the whole problem but it is an effective, evidenced and good return on investment”.

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How to be dementia friendly!

I am now officially a dementia friend.  Dementia Friends is a joint initiative between Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK to try and raise awareness of what exactly Dementia is. I duly registered online and turned up at the local library where Josette Simon (a very beautiful and talented actor) was ready to tell us all about how we could help.

I was a little bit nervous I would be asked to befriend someone with dementia. Both my parents lived with the condition and it was a very difficult time for all the family. However Josette had a lively way of describing why ‘there is more to a person than the dementia’.

She explained the five things we should all know about dementia. Firstly it is NOT a natural part of ageing. It is caused by diseases of the brain, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s. Dementia is more than just losing memory, it can affect thinking, communication and undertaking everyday tasks.

However, it is possible to live well with dementia-especially if everyone in society plays their part in being more understanding of those who have it and trying to make people with dementia feel included in their communities.

Josette, being a brilliant actor, had a fabulous way with words. She explained how dementia affects two main parts of the brain-the Hippocampus which is where we store our memories and the Amygdala which is really ‘who we are’.

She compared the Hippocampus to a rather shoddily built bookcase which when dementia strikes rocks back and forth displacing all the books. The books on the top shelves represent the most recent memories and the bottom bookshelf represents childhood memories.

She then compared the Amygdala to an extremely well built and solid oak bookcase which represents the ‘who we are’ bit. That does not change when dementia strikes. She then told a poignant story about someone whose mother was living with Alzheimer’s. Often she would wonder if it was worth visiting because her mother would soon forget her visit.

But once she understood about the ‘bookcase’ she realised that although her mum may have forgotten her visit she she still knew her daughter and what she meant to her. So although her memory might have been going she never forgot her family and the warm feelings they all evoked.

If I took away one thing from that meeting it was that dementia is not the frightening thing I once thought but that with a little help and understanding we can all be ‘imagesdementia friends’.

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The myth of saturated fat and heart disease

ImageAn article in the BMJ today by leading cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra of Croydon University Hospital in the British Medical Journal today states that it is time to “bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease”.

In the article he also blames the food industry for lowering saturated fat levels in food by replacing it with sugar which also contributes to heart disease.

He believes that saturated fat has been “demonised” and the link with heart disease is not fully supported by scientific evidence.

“Adopting a Mediterranean diet – olive oil, nuts, oily fish, plenty of fruit and vegetables and a moderate amount of red wine – after a heart attack is almost three times as powerful in reducing mortality as taking a statin” he writes.

The saturated fat link to heart disease was first put about in 1953 when a respected US physician Dr Ancel Keys published a paper comparing saturated fat intake and heart disease mortality.

Keys looked at six countries in which higher saturated fat intake correlated with high rates of heart disease.

However, what Keys conveniently ignored was that data from 16 other countries did not fit his theory. This tenuous link between saturated fat and heart disease became enshrined in the public consciousness and has remained so ever since.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a US cardiologist who’s been practicing for over 30 years and is the author of The Great Cholesterol Myth, does not believe cholesterol is the bad guy in the heart disease mystery. “Cholesterol may be at the scene of the crime for heart disease, but it’s not the perpetrator,” he says.

Sinatra is among a growing number of doctors who believe that inflammation rather than cholesterol is the real villain of the piece.

Inflammation is caused by a number of things but sugar in our diet is a major factor-particularly high fructose corn sugar which is present in so many fizzy drinks. “Sugar damages arteries, increases blood pressure, and ages your organs” he explains.

Yet still doctors are prescribing more statins than ever. Cholesterol-lowering has become a huge global industry, generating at least $29 billion each year.

More and more health professionals are beginning to believe we have been focusing too hard on cholesterol and may be missing the point. If we have spent the last fifty years chasing the wrong demons the greatest sadness is the lost opportunity to tackle heart disease.

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Filed under Current affairs, Medical and health

Drinking too much? Say Hello Sunday Morning


A new report by MPs is set to warn that the alcohol industry is in the ‘last chance saloon’ and should face heavier regulation if it fails to take action to curb dangerous drinking.

The inquiry into the Government’s strategy on alcohol is expected to conclude that pledges by manufacturers to foster responsible drinking habits have come to nothing, with little action on binge drinking and too much marketing still aimed at the young.

In Australia one man believes that governments have got it wrong on binge drinking. Two years ago 25 year old Chris Raine from Brisbane set up an innovative website called Hello Sunday Morning .

‘I was working for an advertising agency and we were asked to design a campaign around binge drinking. I went to the pub with my boss to brainstorm some ideas and I suddenly thought this is ridiculous. I am trying to tell other young people why they shouldn’t be drinking and here I am downing pints of beer!’ he laughs.

Chris resigned the same day and started to ask himself some serious questions about his drinking and where he was heading with his life. ‘I decided to commit to giving up drinking for a year and record my experiences on a blog. People started sending in posts of support and that was how Hello Sunday Morning was born’ he adds.

The beauty of HSM is that it is an online entity which doesn’t require people to be in any particular place. It has no international boundaries and people feel free to dip in and out as and when they feel the need for online support. There is something unique about the anonymity of it which attracts people-the website now has more than 5000 HSMers supporting one another.

The rule of thumb is a three month break from the booze-enough time for people to undergo a fundamental shift in thinking about their drinking habits but short enough for them to fall off the wagon (if it really isn’t their thing). It has nothing to do with AA nor is it a finger wagging exercise about the horrors of binge drinking. ‘It’s a way of helping people take a break from drinking and get their priorities in order’ says Raine.

Izzy Lindsell is a 22 year old student who only began drinking on her 18th birthday but pretty soon became a binge drinker. ‘All my friends were pretty much drinking until they were so drunk they would fall over’ she explains. ‘I was beginning to do the same and it didn’t make me happy. I needed to rethink why I was drinking so much. It took a gap year trip to Ayers Rock to make me realize I wanted to stop for a while and reassess my life’ she says.

When she came home she discovered HSM and decided to give up drinking for a year. ‘It was really helpful to have all the other HSMers cheering me on. I have done it twice now but each time I fall off the wagon at five months. That seems to be my limit which is fine. ‘Stopping drinking for a while has helped me to realize I don’t need it to be sociable or for confidence. In other words drinking no longer defines who I am’ she says.

Izzy Lindell joined HSM this year

So could the UK government learn anything from HSM? Raine admits it is hard for governments to tackle the binge drinking culture. ‘They do their best but it’s usually too based in logic rather than passion or a narrative. The thing about HSM is it’s not prescriptive in any way. People just sign up and give it a go. It’s about people using it in whatever way they can and making any rules they want.

‘I would like to think that more social enterprises could be created to solve difficult problems that governments are facing and I can’t see any reason why these problems couldn’t be tackled in partnership over next decade or so’ he explains.

Go to www.hellosundaymorning.com.au

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July 16, 2012 · 11:23 am