Flu season this year has been especially bad with Strain H3N2 of Influenza A dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’ has been said to be taking over the UK. Last year it caused havoc in Australia with an estimated 29,000 admissions of confirmed influenza since April 2017. Figures from Public Health England show that so far this season there have been 1,850 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 83% of them have been associated with influenza A. The Chief medical officer for England Dame Sally Davies warns “flu can kill and it is important we all take it seriously”. with GP rate of Influenza like Illnesses remaining very high throughout the country with areas including Lincolnshire, west midlands, and Cornwell affected. But how many cases of influenza can Aussie flu account for? how is Aussie flu different to normal flu? And is it deadlier? Well the symptoms are very similar to other influenza strains:
sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
feeling tired or exhausted
dry, chesty cough
loss of appetite
diarrhoea or tummy pain
It has been reported that H3N2 killed 300 people in Australia however an investigation by the Australian Government Department of health found that mortality rates are consistent with previous years with the largest number of deaths among the elderly, With death rates highest among the over eighties. A similar pattern can be seen in the UK as out of the two hundred and sixteen acute respiratory outbreaks one hundred and sixty-nine were from care homes. Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director says “We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. The A(H3N2) strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups”. However out of 598 hospitalised confirmed influenza cases 26 were influenza A(H1N1),48 influenza A(H3N2), 158 influenza A(unknown subtype) and 366 influenza B). As with other flu strands the Elderly, young, pregnant women and those with prexisiting conditions are the most vulnerable. With statistically significant excess all-cause mortality by week of death was seen through the EuroMOMO algorithm in the 65+ year olds in England.
to protect yourself from H3N2 and other strains of flu this year the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Studies in the UK from 2017 show that the vaccine is was 40.6% in 18-64 year olds, with no significant effectiveness in ≥65 year olds and 83% of which were associated with influenza A, and 1,254 cases (68%) were in adults 65 years of age or older.VE was 57% for A(H3N2) for 2-17 year olds receiving quadrivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine and 78.6% for influenza B. East Kent Hospitals warns of the “tragic effects” of influenza and encourages people to get the jab. “30% of infections being asymptomatic and a similar proportion with only mild respiratory symptoms. Such individuals, with mild or no symptoms, can still pass on the virus to vulnerable people” so it seems well worth getting the Jab which is free for over 65s, adults over 18 at risk of flu, pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 2 years at risk of flu. The shot is available at GP surgeries, Pharmacies and Midwifery services for pregnant women. Dame Sally Davies states “the best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu jab.” Of course all the normal NHS guidelines to influenza still apply with the NHS relaunching the campaign “Catch it, Kill it, Bin it” NHS choices states “Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family from getting ill” and suggests these simple tips for staying well:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
The government, schools and sports clubs in the local community are all doing their part to tackle the child obesity problems we are facing at the moment. In the UK, we all need to be getting the right amount of exercise to stay healthy. While the focus is on children, adults too need to be active.
It’s the responsibility of everyone to tackle obesity and health problems. This means we all need to be spending time on our feet, away from screens and out and about. From sports tours to walking clubs, there are many ways you can start getting active in your community and helping others to do so as well.
You don’t need to become a marathon runner overnight. Even starting small, you’ll be able to see the positive difference a bit of exercise can make . Why not walk to the bank on Saturday morning, rather than take the car? Or join the children on their trampoline after school? Simply starting to get active and doing something can spur you on to do more. Public Health for England has developed the Active 10 app to get people walking for at least 10 minutes a day. This makes it simple and easy to start.
Join a Local Team
If you look hard enough, you’re bound to find loads of local teams in your community; from groups for children, all the way up to elderly aquafit classes. You might find a sporting group which you’ve never heard of before but are keen to try.
If you have the chance to join a local team or club, do it. Not only are you keeping active, but it also gives you the chance to meet a whole new group of people. Joining a club means you have the opportunity to take part in rugby festivals and sports tours across the UK and beyond.
Find Local Tournaments and Events
Local tournaments are a great way to get active and involved. There are some amazing tournaments and partnerships happening up and down the country, so keep an eye out to see what’s happening near you.
For example, Ospreys in the Community was launched in 2015. miTour have become their official event partner and there will be a large mini and junior rugby festival in April 2018 called the Ospreys Challenge. They will also run run other events in the local community.
Discover the World with Sports Tours
If you’re a keen traveller, did you know that joining a local sports team could open up adventures for travelling? Sports tours organised by a travel company is a great way to see the world and play sport as well.
There are some amazing opportunities for children to travel, explore and stay active with sports tours. It’s another way to get to know the community and communities far from home while staying healthy. So much adventure is waiting!
Start Your Own Team
Can’t find a team or club you want to join? Why not start your own get-together of people? Whether you want to make a five-a-side football team or simply get a small group together to go walking once a week, you can be the change and the cog that gets it moving. If you see a gap in your community, there is nothing to stop you from starting the process.
Why wait? Start small tomorrow and by 2018, you could be healthier and happier with your lifestyle.
John O’Leary is a director of miTour — a first-class sports tour and travel company. They’ve partnered up with Ospreys in the Community to bring sports to everybody and create unique events to get communities active.
The CMA has cleared the merger between two Birmingham hospital trusts, after finding that it is likely to benefit patients in the local area.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that, whilst the merger between Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) could give rise to competition concerns across a number of elective specialties, these were outweighed by the substantial improvements to patient care that were expected to arise.
In reaching this view, the CMA has placed significant weight on the advice on probable benefits from NHS Improvement, the sector regulator, which strongly supports the merger.
NHS Improvement advised the CMA that HEFT had experienced sustained difficulties in governance, quality of care and finances since 2012, which successive management teams had been unable to address.
It also advised that the appointment of the UHB management to HEFT’s executive team in October 2015 has already given rise to a number of benefits, such as reduced waiting times and improvements in the quality and safety of patient care for all HEFT patients. However, these improvements and a number of other longer-term benefits would disappear without the merger and the continued presence of the UHB management at HEFT.
The CMA found that HEFT would be a relatively weak competitor to UHB without the merger and that both parties were experiencing capacity constraints.
The CMA compared this to the wide-ranging nature of the benefits identified by the hospitals and NHS Improvement, which would benefit most patients at HEFT. It also examined UHB’s track record and the results already delivered at HEFT since October 2015.
On the basis of the available evidence in this case, the CMA found that the benefits put forward by the hospital trusts outweighed the CMA’s potential competition concerns.
The merger will therefore not be referred for an in-depth investigation.
Kate Collyer, Deputy Chief Economic Adviser and the decision maker in this case, said:
“We have found this merger will have substantial benefits to the healthcare of patients in the Birmingham and Solihull local area.”
“This is the first time the CMA has cleared an NHS hospital merger on the basis of patient benefits at phase 1 and reflects the quality of the benefits case put forward in this instance and the consistent and detailed advice of NHS Improvement.”
“The hospitals involved presented clear evidence and a well reasoned case”.
“Competition currently plays a limited role in the NHS, as health commissioners and regulators have instead emphasised co-operative working to handle growing demand for NHS services.”
“However, given the scale of the potential impact on patients in Birmingham and Solihull, it was appropriate for the CMA to examine this transaction to determine whether any loss of choice or competition would be outweighed by improvements undertaken by the Parties and overseen by NHS Improvement.”
All other information relating to this investigation can be found on the case page.
Responding to the latest delayed transfers of care figures published today by NHS England, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“No one’s elderly parent, grandparents or friends should be left unnecessarily in a hospital bed, when they could be treated in the comfort and dignity of their own home.
“Councils are absolutely committed to reducing the level of delayed transfers of care from the NHS and are working with providers and hospitals to help reduce pressures on health services.
“Across the country nearly six out of 10 people delayed in hospital are unable to leave because they require further NHS services, with just over a third awaiting support from council social care.
“The scale of underfunding councils have faced in recent years is placing the care provider market under huge pressure, making it more difficult to discharge people from hospital back to their homes and communities.
“The £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget was a step in the right direction, yet councils still face an annual social care funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020.
“For this money to be spent effectively, councils need to be given full freedom and flexibility to invest it in the areas where it is most needed.
“The recent announcement around how this should be spent shows this freedom is very much lacking. Setting councils what will at least in some cases be unachievable reduction targets for delayed transfers is unhelpful, and it is disappointing councils are being hit with even further pressures at a time when services are already strained and overstretched.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care.”
Responding to a new study by Healthwatch on people’s experiences of care homes, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Councils want to see everyone receive high quality care and for care homes to be of a high standard that meet people’s needs, going beyond simply getting washed and dressed but living as independent and fulfilling a life as possible.
“While it is clear that in some places, there is work to be done and areas for improvement, it is encouraging to note that most people have said the care they receive is good.
“The recent Care Quality Commission report also found that the majority of care provided for adults is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
“Councils, as commissioners, work closely with providers who deliver services to ensure both the availability of high quality care and continuous improvement.
“But this study is yet another reminder of the stark reality of the funding crisis facing adult social care, and the urgent need to bring desperately needed stability to the provider market.
“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care. This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services.”
Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with growing demand for support leading to 75 per cent of councils in England overspending on their children’s services budgets by more than half a billion pounds, council leaders warn.
New analysis by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, reveals that in 2015/16 councils surpassed their children’s social care budgets by £605 million in order to protect children at immediate risk of harm.
Councils have faced an unprecedented surge in demand for children’s social care support over recent years, which is showing little sign of abating. More than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – a 140 per cent increase in just 10 years.
The number of children on child protection plans increased by almost 24,000 over the same period, while ongoing cuts to local authority budgets are forcing many areas to make extremely difficult decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce resources.
The LGA is warning that the pressures facing children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable, with a £2 billion funding gap expected by 2020. Unless urgent action is taken to reduce the number of families relying on the children’s social care system for support, this gap will continue to grow.
The huge financial pressures councils are under, coupled with the spike in demand for child protection support, mean that the limited money councils have available is increasingly being taken up with the provision of urgent help for children and families already at crisis point, leaving very little to invest in early intervention.
LGA analysis shows that government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has been cut by almost £500 million since 2013, and is projected to drop by a further £183 million by 2020 – representing a 40 per cent reduction by the end of the decade. Without this funding, councils have found it increasingly difficult to invest in the early help services that can prevent children entering the social care system, and help to manage needs within families to avoid them escalating.
The struggle faced by councils attempting to balance increased demand alongside reduced funding is perhaps most starkly illustrated by the closure of 365 children’s centres and 603 youth centres since 2012, as local authorities are forced to make difficult decisions about the way in which they deliver these services.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children’s services overspend in their local areas shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children’s social care, both now and in the near future.
“Councils have done everything they can to respond to the growing financial crisis in children’s social care, including reducing costs where they can and finding new ways of working. However, they are at the point where there are very few savings left to find without having a real and lasting impact upon crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on.
“With councils facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services in just three years’ time it is more important than ever that the Government prioritises spending in this area.
“There is no question that early intervention can help to limit the need for children to enter the social care system, lay the groundwork for improved performance at school and even help to ease future pressure on adult social care by reducing the pressure on services for vulnerable adults.
“However, cuts to the Early Intervention Grant have exacerbated a difficult situation where councils cannot afford to withdraw services for children in immediate need of protection to invest in early help instead.
“The reality is that services for the care and protection of vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point. Government must commit to the life chances of children and young people by acting urgently to address the growing funding gap.”
Responding to an NHS Digital survey published today on carers experiencing financial difficulties and social isolation, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Unpaid carers play an invaluable role in looking after those with care and support needs, and are estimated to save the economy £132 billion a year. Without the incredible work of carers, social care and the NHS would collapse.
“The findings of this report and the link between financial problems caused by caring, and social isolation, highlight the need for government to set out how it will address the needs of carers in its long-awaited Carers Strategy.
“Supporting carers is fundamentally important to local government, and we fully backed the important changes brought in by the Care Act to improve the lives of carers, in particular the move to ensure that carers are recognised in law in the same way as those they care for.
“The whole sector needs to work together to identify carers, support carers in employment, and ensure they are able to maintain their own health and wellbeing, while raising awareness amongst the wider community of the vital work they do.
“However, the continuing underfunding of adult social care has limited councils’ ability to provide support to people with care needs and their carers.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care.”
Responding to the new Public Health England report ‘Health Profile for England’, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This ground-breaking PHE analysis shows how deprivation can lead to long-term ill health and premature death for the most deprived.
“We know that those living in the most deprived communities experience poorer mental health, higher rates of smoking and greater levels of obesity than the more affluent. They spend more years in ill health and they die sooner. Reducing health inequalities is an economic and social challenge as well as a moral one.
“Since 2013, local government has been responsible for public health in England and has specific responsibilities to tackle health inequalities as well as improving the public’s health overall.
“Local authorities and their public health teams understand how to use their traditional functions in conjunction with their newly acquired public health expertise to maximise the role councils can play in closing the unjust health inequalities gap. But reductions in councils’ public health grants of more than £530 million by the end of the decade will impact on councils’ ability to continue this good work.
“Central government has to play its part in reducing poverty and breaking the link between deprivation, ill health and lower life expectancy.”
A team of volunteers has been recruited to help spot friends and relatives at risk of a stroke.
The AF Ambassadors have been signed up by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, to identify people who may have atrial fibrillation (AF) – an irregular heart rate which can lead to a life-threatening stroke.
One in five strokes is caused by AF and the North West has one of the highest AF related stroke rates in the UK. Each stroke costs the NHS and social care services around £24,000 in the first year alone.
The Innovation Agency is spreading the use of AliveCor Kardia devices – portable Electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors which attach to the back of a mobile smartphone and display a heart rate reading on an app.
AliveCor’s technology captures the heart rate of the user in just 30 seconds and shows an alert if the user’s heart rate is outside the normal range.
When this happens, the Ambassador will advise the person to visit their GP as soon as possible and will email an ECG trace to the user’s doctor or send it to the person themselves so they can show it to a healthcare professional.
Kim Hughes, a stroke survivor from Walton, is one of the first AF Ambassadors. She said:
“A quarter of people who have a stroke are under 65 and I was just 33 when I had mine. I didn’t even realise I’d had a stroke. I just lost all the feeling down one side. I was trying to do my daughter’s hair and I couldn’t move my arms properly then afterwards I kept getting migraines and was sleeping all the time.”
Following a brain scan at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Kim was shocked to discover that she’d had a stroke. “I thought strokes only happened to older people – I was petrified.” she said.
It has been 11 years since Kim had her stroke and she is living proof that life can be good again. She said: “The first three years were really hard but I would like to reassure survivors that there is life after stroke. Keeping positive helps, as well as setting yourself small goals each day.”
Kim keeps herself busy volunteering for The Brain Charity at The Walton Centre and is enjoying her new role as an AF Ambassador.
“I want to help prevent strokes because I know the damage they can cause to the victims and their families. I’m going to be testing people for AF at the Disability Awareness Day in Warrington this weekend.”
Scott Smith, community development manager for the Stroke Association, has also become an AF ambassador. He said: “AF is a contributing factor in up to one in five strokes in the UK and it is estimated there could be another half a million people in the UK with undiagnosed AF.
“Prevention of strokes is one of our aims so we’re delighted to be working with the Innovation Agency. If using the app can prevent one person having a stroke then it’s worth it every time.”
Debbie Parkinson, Patient and Public Involvement Lead for the Innovation Agency said: “Our new AF Ambassadors will help to spread the word about AF and hopefully raise awareness in their communities and reduce the incidence of strokes.
“We have tasked them to test 50 people each on their Kardia Mobile. It’s a brilliant innovation and very easy to use.”
A group of parents who each lost a teenager to meningitis have issued a hard-hitting warning to other parents to ensure their children take up a lifesaving vaccine against the disease.
Parents including; Michelle Bresnahan, Paul Gentry, Julia Styles and Ailsa Sugrue – are spearheading charity Meningitis Now’s campaign to increase Men ACWY vaccine uptake amongst young adults.
United in their grief, they have taken the brave step to speak out about the pain of their loss to prevent similar tragedies happening to other families.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Michelle Bresnahan said: “We all know only too well how devastating this disease can be and have seen the worst it can do, destroying young lives and tearing apart those who remain.
“We want to appeal to all parents to ensure their children are vaccinated, especially those who are heading off to university this autumn.
“We’re also calling on parents to ask another parent in their son’s or daughter’s friendship group to do likewise – the more awareness we can raise the better.
“If by speaking out and sharing our tragic stories we can persuade other parents and their children to act then our children’s deaths will not have been in vain.
“No one should be left counting the cost of inaction when there is a quick and effective vaccination freely available.”
Meningitis Now’s campaign coincides with a campaign by Public Health England to increase vaccination rates among young people.
The Men ACWY vaccine has been offered to all 17 and 18-year-olds and all university entrants, aged 19-25, free on the NHS since August 2015, to combat the rise in Men W cases in adolescents. But cases continue to increase in England, from 30 in 2011/12 to 210 last year (2015/16), up from 176 the previous year.
Meanwhile uptake of the vaccine across the country remains stubbornly low at about one-third of those eligible.
Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive at Meningitis Now, said: “This is a brave step by these parents to speak out and a timely reminder to others to make sure young people get the Men ACWY vaccine.
“Teenagers are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population.
“Over 17 per cent of all cases of Men W occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.
“We remain deeply concerned about the low level of vaccine uptake – just 33% last year, which remains disappointingly below the 2015 uptake rate of 38%.”
“It’s vital that young people and their parents are not complacent about the threat of meningitis – we urge them to take up this lifesaving vaccine.”
Those who are due to leave school this summer, or who are aged 17 – 18 and not in school (born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999) are now eligible for the vaccine and should contact their GP practice.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE said:
“The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.
“We have seen a rapid increase in Men W cases across England in recent years and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.
“Young people are particularly at risk as they are carriers of the disease. Being in confined environments with close contact, such university halls, hostels when travelling, or attending festivals, increase the chances of infection if unprotected.
“Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.”
New entrants to higher education (university freshers) are also eligible. Anyone who is eligible and has missed vaccination in previous years remains eligible up to their 25th birthday and is urged to have the MenACWY vaccine.“
Meningitis Now is working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need.
It does this by funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis and rebuilding futures by providing dedicated support to people living with the impact of the disease.