Showing posts with label NHS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NHS. Show all posts

Thursday 30 May 2024

The Erosion of Primary Care Purpose: A Critical Examination of the British Government’s Approach
The landscape of primary care in the United Kingdom has experienced transformative shifts in recent years, leading to profound implications for healthcare professionals and patients alike. This post aims to scrutinise the governmental strategies guiding primary care and illuminate the potential erosion of its foundational purpose. Drawing from my experience as an NHS clinician with a commitment to socialist principles, I critically examine these changes and discuss their ramifications for all stakeholders in the healthcare system.
The Importance of Primary Care:Primary care stands as the cornerstone of a robust healthcare system. It is the initial interaction point for individuals seeking medical assistance and offers a spectrum of services from preventive measures and disease management to orchestrating specialised care. Moreover, primary care is pivotal in enhancing public health, curtailing healthcare expenditures, and elevating patient outcomes across the board. According to a study published by the King’s Fund, strong primary care systems are linked with improved health outcomes and lower disparities between different socioeconomic groups.
Government Policies and Their Impact:Recent policies implemented by the British government have sparked widespread apprehensions regarding the trajectory of primary care. The drive towards austerity and an increasing emphasis on privatisation have shifted priorities, potentially diluting the integral role primary care plays within the health ecosystem. Critics argue that such policies divert attention from patient care towards cost-efficiency and market-driven models of health service delivery.
Underfunding and Workforce Shortages:A significant challenge plaguing primary care is chronic underfunding. Reports from the Health Foundation in 2023 indicated a real-terms decrease in primary care funding per capita over the past decade, despite rising patient demands. This underinvestment has strained the existing infrastructure and hampered the development of a resilient workforce. According to the British Medical Association (BMA), there was a deficit of nearly 6,000 GPs in 2024 alone, leading to prolonged wait times, diminished care accessibility, and potential degradation in service quality. These shortages are exacerbated by the high levels of burnout reported among primary care staff, further compromising the sustainability of healthcare services.
Fragmentation and Loss of Continuity:Market-driven reforms have fragmented primary care services, disrupting the continuity of care that is essential for effective medical practice. The proliferation of private clinics and urgent care centers has fragmented patient care pathways, eroding the personalised care model that is fundamental to primary care. Such fragmentation complicates the patient-provider relationship, crucial for a comprehensive healthcare approach. A 2022 report from the NHS Confederation highlighted that fragmentation leads to inefficient utilisation of healthcare resources and could result in poorer health outcomes for patients.
Commercialisation and Profit-Driven Care:An increasing tilt towards commercialisation has introduced a profit-over-patient ethos in primary care settings. The involvement of private entities in primary care under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models has been criticised for prioritising financial returns over patient care. Reports from the National Audit Office have critiqued several PPPs for not providing value for money, reflecting a misalignment with primary care’s patient-centered ethos. The emphasis on profitability can detract from the quality of care and lead to healthcare practices that do not necessarily align with the best interests of patients.
The Role of Socialism in Reclaiming Primary Care’s Purpose:From a socialist perspective, healthcare is a fundamental right that should be accessible, equitable, and patient-centric. To address the erosion in primary care, there is an urgent need to re-align its operations with these core values. This entails robust government funding, strategic workforce expansions, and a holistic integration of primary care services within the broader health system. Emphasising cooperative practices, patient empowerment, and comprehensive care can ensure that primary care meets the diverse needs of the community.
Conclusion:The gradual erosion of primary care’s purpose in the UK is a pressing issue that requires immediate and thoughtful action. By critically evaluating the government’s approach to primary care, it becomes possible to understand the multifaceted challenges confronting providers and patients. To reclaim the foundational goals of primary care, a collective endeavour rooted in socialist values of equality and comprehensive welfare is indispensable. Together, we can strive towards a health system that not only upholds the principles of socialism but also secures the health and prosperity of every community member.
Reference The King’s Fund - Provides research and analysis on the effectiveness of primary care and its impact on public health. (
The Health Foundation - Offers insights into funding trends and challenges in the NHS, including issues specific to primary care. (
British Medical Association (BMA) - Publishes annual reports on GP workforce shortages and the state of primary care in the UK. (

NHS Confederation - Reports on system-wide issues such as the fragmentation of healthcare services and its impacts. (

National Audit Office (NAO) - Provides assessments of public spending, including evaluations of Public-Private Partnerships in healthcare. (
Medscape and BMJ (British Medical Journal) - These medical journals often publish articles and studies related to chronic underfunding, workforce issues, and policy impacts in healthcare systems. (,

Sunday 24 December 2023

Eat Carrots and Prevent Cancer: Unveiling the Superfood's Hidden Powers
Harnessing the Power of Carrots: A Bite into Cancer Prevention
In a world constantly seeking natural ways to combat illness, a recent meta-analysis led by Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University, published by Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, brings to light the cancer-fighting properties of a familiar vegetable: the humble carrot.

Carrots: More Than Just a Crunchy Snack
The study's in-depth analysis of 50 prospective cohort studies, involving 52,000 cancer cases, reveals a striking correlation between carrot consumption and reduced cancer risk. Spanning various cancer types and geographical regions, the findings suggest that carrots cut cancer risk by 10%-20%.

The Science Behind the Orange Crunch
Carrots are known for their high beta-carotene content. However, this study focused on another compound, alpha-carotene, due to limited cancer reduction benefits seen in previous studies on beta-carotene. Remarkably, alpha-carotene levels, as measured in plasma in 30 prospective cohorts with 9,331 cancer cases, showed a relative risk reduction of 20% in cancer.

A Serving a Week Keeps the Doctor Away
The study highlights a significant linear dose-response relationship. Consuming just one serving of carrots per week can reduce cancer risk by 4±2%, while five servings can slash the risk by 20±10%. This finding underlines the practicality and accessibility of carrots as a dietary choice for cancer prevention.

A Robust Inverse Association
The authors describe the inverse relationship between carrot intake and cancer risk as “robust,” advocating for the encouragement of carrot consumption. They also call for further research into the causal mechanisms through randomised clinical trials, which could offer deeper insights into how carrots combat cancer.

Methodology and Limitations
The meta-analysis compiled data from a wide array of studies, considering different cancer types, geographic regions, and exposure types. However, it's crucial to note that all included studies were observational, not randomised clinical trials. This factor presents a limitation in definitively establishing causality between carrot intake and reduced cancer risk.

In Practice: Integrating Carrots into Daily Diets
This study's findings present a compelling case for integrating carrots into our daily diets. As a versatile and widely available vegetable, carrots can easily be incorporated into meals, offering both flavor and health benefits.

A Step Forward in Cancer Prevention
The study, funded by the Agricultural and Horticultural Board, UK, among others, stands as a testament to the potential of natural food sources in disease prevention. It paves the way for future research and reinforces the importance of a balanced, vegetable-rich diet in maintaining health and preventing illness.

Conclusion: Embracing Carrots for Health
As we navigate an era where lifestyle diseases are prevalent, simple, evidence-based dietary changes like increasing carrot intake can have profound health impacts. The study not only highlights the cancer-fighting potential of carrots but also serves as a reminder of the power of natural foods in preserving our health. So, the next time you're at the grocery store, remember to stock up on carrots - your body might just thank you for it.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Had COVID? Part of the Virus May Stick Around in Your Brain

If you or someone you know is experiencing "brain fog" after COVID-19, scientists now have a possible explanation — and it might not bring much comfort.

Researchers in Germany found that part of the virus, the spike protein, remains in the brain long after the virus clears out.


These investigators discovered the spike protein from the virus in brain tissue of animals and people after death. The finding suggests these virus fragments build up, stick around, and trigger inflammation that causes long COVID symptoms.

About 15% of COVID patients continue to have long-term effects of the infection despite their recovery, said senior study author Ali Ertürk, PhD, director of the Institute for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the Helmholtz Center Munich in Germany.


Reported neurological problems include brain fog, brain tissue loss, a decline in thinking abilities, and problems with memory, he said.

"These symptoms clearly suggest damages and long-term changes caused by SARS-CoV-2 in the brain, the exact molecular mechanisms of which are still poorly understood," Ertürk said.


The researchers also propose a way the spike protein can get into the brain in their preprint report published online before peer review April 5 on bioRxiv.

Delivered by circulating blood, the spike protein can stay inside small openings in the bone marrow of the skull called niches. It can also reside in the meninges, thin layers of cells that act as a buffer between the skull and the brain. From there, one theory goes, the spike protein uses channels to enter the brain itself.

The hope is researchers can develop treatments that block one or more steps in this process and help people avoid long COVID brain issues.


'Very Concerning'

"This is a very concerning report that literally demonstrates the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in the skull-meninges-brain axis in postmortem individuals," said Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, CA, and editor-in-chief of Medscape, WebMD's sister site for medical professionals.

Having the spike protein accumulate in structures right outside the brain and causing ongoing inflammation makes sense to Topol. The clustering of spike proteins would trigger an immune response from this niche reservoir of immune cells that cause the inflammation associated with long COVID and the symptoms such as brain fog, he said.


Problems with thinking and memory after COVID infection are relatively common. One research team found 22% of people with long COVID specifically reported this issue, on average, across 43 published studies. Even people who had mild COVID illness can develop brain fog later, Ertürk and colleagues note.


So why are researchers blaming the spike protein and not the whole COVID virus? As part of the study, they found SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA in some people after death and not in others, suggesting the virus does not need to be there to trigger brain fog. They also injected the spike protein directly into the brains of mice and showed it can cause cells to die.

Researchers also found no SARS-CoV-2 virus in the brain parenchyma, the functional tissue in the brain containing nerve cells and non-nerve (called glial) cells, but they did detect the spike protein there.

Surprising Findings

Investigators were surprised to find spike protein in the skull niches of people who survived COVID and died later from another cause. Ertürk, lead author and PhD student Zhouyi Rong, and their colleagues found spike protein in 10 of 34 skulls from people who died from non-COVID causes in 2021 and 2022.


They also found COVID can change how proteins act in and around the brain. Some of these proteins are linked to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, but have never before been linked to the virus

Another unexpected finding was how close the findings were in mice and humans. There was a "remarkable similarity of distribution of the viral spike protein and dysregulated proteins identified in the mouse and human samples," Ertürk said.

Future Treatments?

Tests for protein changes in the skull or meninges would be invasive but possible compared to sampling the parenchyma inside the brain. Even less invasive would be testing blood samples for altered proteins that could identify people most at risk of developing brain complications after COVID illness.

It will take more brain science to get there. "Designing treatment strategies for these neurological symptoms requires an in-depth knowledge of molecules dysregulated by the virus in the brain tissues," Ertürk said.

Saturday 18 March 2023

Is the Nurses' Strike Over? RCN To Recommend New Pay Offer to Members

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that they have received a new pay offer from NHS England, which it says it will recommend to members in a forthcoming vote. If accepted, this would bring an end to industrial action by nurses, 3 months after the strikes began.

The offer from the Government, which was made to all healthcare staff striking, including nurses, paramedics, 999 call handlers, midwives, security guards, and cleaners, includes a one-off payment for the 2022-23 financial year worth between £1655 and £3789, and a 5% consolidated pay increase for the 2023-24 financial year, according to the RCN.

New Pay Structure and Policy Framework on Safe Staffing

The deal also includes a new pay structure for nursing staff, which would come into force for 2024-2025. In addition, the Government had made a commitment – for the first time – to a national evidence-based policy framework on safe staffing, focusing on registered nurses, that "will draw on legislation in the rest of the UK and internationally", according to the RCN.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen sees the deal as a win for nurses.

"The Government was forced into these negotiations and to reopen the pay award as a result of the historic pressure from nursing staff. Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today," she said.

"It is not a panacea, but it is real tangible progress and the RCN's member leaders are asking fellow nursing staff to support what our negotiations have secured."

If Members Accept the Deal: 'No More Strikes'

The RCN's elected council met Thursday morning and decided that it will recommend that members vote to accept the offer in a forthcoming consultation. If members accept it, the dispute with Government and the NHS over pay will formally end. 

Negotiations with the RCN started 3 weeks ago, and all NHS unions took part in the last 10 days of talks. Aside from the RCN, UNISON, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and the British Dietetic Association will also recommend the offer to their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Strike action will continue to be paused while they are consulted.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said of the deal: "It is right that we reward our hardworking NHS staff, who showed bravery and dedication throughout the pandemic and continue to make phenomenal progress to tackle waiting lists. Importantly this deal is also affordable for the taxpayer and continues to deliver on my promise to halve inflation.

"We have taken a reasonable approach throughout and this offer is good for NHS staff, it’s good for the taxpayer, and most importantly it is good news for patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by strike action."

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation."

Next Up: Junior Doctors

Responding to news that a pay deal has been reached in principle between the Government and unions, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley said: "This is hugely positive development after months of strike action, which has seen NHS staff out on picket lines and widespread disruption to patient care, with tens of thousands of appointments postponed.
"We are very encouraged by the guarantee from the Government that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this offer. We take this to mean that the deal is fully funded rather than relying on raids on NHS budgets, taking money away from key services. This is crucial to the success of the deal.

"It is also good to see that as a result of this deal all staff will be lifted above the real living wage, something we have long called for.

"We now need to see today's progress matched by urgent movement on talks between the Government and unions representing junior doctors. As trust leaders assess the full extent of the disruption caused by this week's 72-hour walkout, their message is loud and clear: Redouble your efforts to find a way through. No more strikes."