January isn’t just about broken New Year’s resolutions and winter blues…
There’s been a flurry of activity within the health sector this month – here’s our dissection of the headlines:
1. Junior Doctors’ Strikes
Tensions between the British government and medical community have come to a head this January. A series of strikes have been organised by the BMA in response to a highly contentious new contract for junior doctors. The main points of the debate include payment for weekend work, career progression, and protection against over-working doctors.
This industrial action represents the first of its kind in 40 years and has received significant public support. The government is now in discussion with doctors’ unions to try and produce a more agreeable contract.
For a brief overview of the main debate, see this article.
2. New Guidelines on Alcohol Consumption
Turning over a new leaf this January? Britain’s chief medical officers suggest you start with your alcohol intake.
The government has released a new set of NHS guidance on alcohol which recommend a weekly intake of no more than 14 units: the equivalent of 9 small glasses of wine or 7 pints of beer. People are also advised to have several alcohol-free days a week. The advice is based on the proportional relationship between increased cancer risk and high-level alcohol consumption.
Breaking with international precedent, these guidelines now recommend the same intake for men as women, although officers stress ‘there is no safe level of drinking for either sex’. As the first revision to drinking guidelines in 20 years, they now represent one of the strictest drinking guidelines in the world – experts are hopeful that other countries will shortly follow the UK’s example.
3. Progress on Abortion Legislation Stalled in Northern Ireland
Earlier this month, Arlene Foster – Northern Ireland’s first female leader – vowed against extending the 1967 Abortion Act to the region. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has recently addressed the UN, calling for Northern Irish abortion legislation to be revised. However, legislative change is still moving too slowly for many women.
Abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, with the exception of cases where women’s lives and health are in grave danger – only 23 women qualified for this legal exception between 2013 and 2014. As such, many women journey to the UK to terminate their pregnancies and a black market of charity-funded abortion pills is gaining traction.
4. January Cold Snap
Feeling the chill? After enjoying the mildest December since records began, winter is back with a vengeance. Among other undesirable side effects, the biting cold brings with it an increased risk of catching the flu.
Senior citizens have been urged to stay inside and those most at risk – over 65s, pregnant women, those have suffered a stroke or who have diabetes, asthma, or disease of the lung, heart, kidney or liver – are encouraged to get the flu jab as soon as possible.
You can get the flu vaccination from your GP or at a LloydsPharmacy – those classed as ‘at-risk’ can get the flu jab for free.
For more information, see our doctors’ guide on everything you need to know about the flu.
5. Biggest Health Concerns for 2016 Revealed
Healthwatch have released their annual survey covering the nation’s top health concerns for the year ahead.
The demand for greater access to mental health services came out as this year’s top health issue, followed closely by last year’s prime concern – improved primary care services. The survey revealed a growing desire among the public for greater control over their own healthcare. Some suggested the idea of self-referral for mental health support, greater use of peer support networks and a call for greater education on mental health in schools.
For more on this survey, read the Healthwatch review here.
6. The Reason Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Stick
Have you already given up on your New Year’s resolutions? Don’t feel bad – blame science. The RSA released the ‘Easier Said Than Done’ report earlier this month looking at why we struggle with healthy behaviours – such as eating well, exercising, and getting quality sleep.
The report takes a look at behavioural science to present solutions and strategies to help those struggling to make the move to a healthier lifestyle.
Click here for the full report.
7. Neolithic Mummy Had a Sore Tummy
A new study on the 5,300-year-old Iceman mummy ‘Otezi’, discovered in a European glacier in 1991, reveals that he was suffering from a common stomach bug still endured today.
The bacterium Helicobacter Pylori is found in 50% of today’s population and can lead to inflammation of the stomach lining as well as stomach ulcers. It is the latest in a list of health discoveries for the ailing Iceman, who also suffered from arthritis, heel fractures, and a shoulder wound.
To read more about Otezi’s bacterial troubles, see the full journal article here.