As the general election rapidly approaches, unsurprisingly the media has been in an NHS political reporting frenzy. With health and social care being the hot topic on the political debates and with a complex range of issues to contend, we recommend taking a look at The King’s Fund’s useful tool to help you navigate the mains parties’ manifestos.
With the big day on Thursday, it would be rude not to discuss NHS political issues, which rose two places to take the number two spot this month. A BBC/Populus poll back in January suggested that people think the NHS is the most important issue at the election. One key topic for debate is the utilisation of private providers in the NHS. As Labour puts the main focus of their campaign onto health, one announcement has caused a stir: 5% profit capping for private NHS providers with contracts over £500,000. With 6% of services already privatised, consultant cardiologist Dr Leonid Shapiro piped up in The Daily Telegraph to argue the practicalities of this proposal given the strain on capacity already in existence and the expected steady increase in demand on the NHS in the coming years (owing to our ageing population). However, there is wiggle room in this proposition; local commissioning groups would have the right to lower or raise it to address “specific issues relating to a particular contract” as long as they can justify their decision.
A new entry at number nine this month is dementia. Self-proclaimed “biggest bitch in Britain” Katie Hopkins caused a stir after a series of remarks suggesting people with dementia are ‘bed blockers’ who would be better off dead. One controversial tweet stated “1 in 4 hospital beds is taken up by someone with dementia. The National Hotel Service. #NHS”. She was rapidly shot down after furore from charities, mental health trusts and celebrities. Worryingly though, despite its high prevalence, according to academics at Oxford University, dementia research is given 13 times less funding than cancer even though the cost to society is far greater at £11bn versus £5bn. This equates to just 8p of every £10 spent on the condition according to an article in The Daily Mail. 18-24 May is dementia awareness week, where it is hoped some of these issues will be raised and discussed.
In at number 10 this month was mental health. Following the tragic incident, when co-pilot Andreas Lubitz plunged a GermanWings plane carrying 149 people into the French Alps, Britain’s most senior psychiatrist, Simon Wessely urged for depression not to be stigmatised in an article in The Observer. Along with charities, he called for sensitivities in the way in which the crash and mental health is portrayed in the media. It seems a lack of mental health understanding also stretches to the workplace: the results of an AXA PPP study found that many bosses do not believe that having stress, depression or anxiety is a serious enough reason to take time off work. With one in four of us being affected by a mental illness at some point in our lives, it’s worrying to still see such apparent apathy for change in this area. Time for Change has long been campaigning to end discrimination in mental health and provides a specific service for the media to find information to accurately report on the topic. A key supporter of Time for Change is mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, who has done his part for awareness this week following the Channel 4 screening of The Stranger on the Bridge, an emotional and inspirational documentary detailing his journey to find the man who talked him out of jumping from Waterloo Bridge in 2008. It’s well worth a watch, just ensure to have your tissues at the ready. Mental health awareness week is coming up from 11-17 May, raising the question, how can the pharmaceutical industry help support services in this area? We want to hear your views.
And finally, much to the dismay of Fitnessfreak, new research revealed this month has cracked the conundrum as to why knuckles create a noise when fingers are pulled with a suggestion that it could be beneficial. When muscle joints are pulled apart there forms a tiny cavity filled with gas, which then collapses, creating a popping noise. It takes a while for the gas to be re-dissolved in the slippery synovial fluid in the joints, which explains why knuckles cannot be “re-cracked” immediately. Hope you have a cracking day, but spare a thought for your squeamish colleagues before loosening those knuckles!