Content editor, Joanna Lowy, comments on all things health-related, and gives you a sneaky peek into her news-based medical musings of the week. Sometimes controversial, other times humorous, always straight from the heart; here you get to know the girl behind the facts! Enjoy!
Comments welcome and invited!
Itâs been an important week for the elderly, what with an influential think-tank warning that a generation of abandoned pensioners has been created, a study bigging up retirement claiming that it âmay do a mind goodâ, and the âdeath of the death taxâ, which means that those nearing the end of life no longer have to pay for the privilege.
Itâs great that both the minds, bodies, and pockets, of the ageing population is being thought about, really.
According to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the growing trend of people moving to find work has left millions of pensioners without care, so itâs with a huge sigh of relief that we welcome new Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smithâs call for the Government to address the âlooming crisisâ in social care.
Similarly, findings that retirement can lead to reductions in tiredness and depression have led Swedish researchers to plant just the tiniest glimmer of hope in the most optimistic of us that the retirement age may be lowered (wishful thinking, I know, but still). Itâs nice to know that the elderly are being thought about.
So you can imagine my utter disbelief on being told by my boyfriend that whilst visiting the doctorâs this week (and being allowed in prior to the surgery opening because of a specifically booked early appointment), an old man was left outside in the below freezing temperatures which we are currently fighting for 15 long minutes until they officially opened.
Somehow, I donât think this is what the CSJ meant when they referred to the âincreasing numbers of pensionersâ who are being left in âsufferingâ, nor what the Swedish researchers meant when they claimed that âretirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise.â
It would be funny if it wasnât so ridiculously absurd. Truth be told, Iâd be horrified even if it had been my boyfriend who was made to wait outside at this time of year, let alone an old man who is clearly already not in the best of health.
Unless, that is, the GPâs of that particular surgery have decided to join the âdrastic efficiency programmeâ which is to cut unplanned hospital admissions by a fifth, as of yet another brutal Government target unleashed this week. And if that is the case, well, I hope someone had the decency to put him out of his misery.
Disclosure: The following does not refer to all dentists! âOpen wide, and say ahhh. Thereâs a good girl. Now Iâm just going to recline your chair for just a few minutes and have a look in your mouth âŚ.â
But the chair never stopped descending, down into the abyss of the evil dentistâs lair, where I was never to be seen, or heard from again.
And then I would wake up, breaking out in a cold-sweat. This nightmare was one of two equally horrifying which were to plague my early years (the other involved a blood-filled swimming pool-no-one would think I had nothing but a loving childhood!)
The swimming pool one I never understood, because I have always loved to swim. But this one made perfect sense to me. I was absolutely petrified of the dentistâs chair (although I never did know which came first; the irrational fear, or the terrifying nightmare.)
And so, every time I visited the dentist, I would refuse to use the chair. Being absolutely tiny, this didnât really matter, because the dentist would always patiently stand over me and examine my mouth vertically, as opposed to horizontally.
Of course, I grew out of this, and I now no longer have a fear of the dentistâs chair. But you can imagine my amusement this morning at walking past the dentist surgery which shares the same building as my office, to notice a prominent sign which is imprinted on the glass front door reading, âNervous patients welcome.â Because my irrational fear of the dentist is not so irrational. While there are no reliable statistics, having a dentist phobia is, although not really understood, extremely common. So all power to the dentist surgery next door, which has understood the fear, and tackled it head on by attempting to alleviate it from as many patientâs minds as possible, because although the invitation could be read in a sinister way, that would probably be the irrational fear talking.
But unfortunately, friendly invitations, reward stickers, and a lollipop (in a movement which I have coined âpre-empting the fearâ), may be old fashioned in this day and age. Because it would seem that the chair, the forceps, and the drill, are no longer the dentist evils which should be at the forefront of our minds.
âDentist admits fraud chargeâ; âDentist denies faking own death for insurance claimâ; itâs not been a good few weeks for dentists, headline-wise, as they seem to be suffering so severely from the economic downturn, theyâre doing everything in their power to drill (yes-poor, I know), us out of our money. Since when did dentists become so dishonest? Itâs the complete antithesis of the stereotypical image of the grinning mouth doctor explicitly advertising every single intrusive instrument they are going to use on you, whether you need it or not (again, the irrational fear talking).
So it may not be the wisest of ideas, in current times, to entice would-be patients into your dental surgery by playing on their nerves. After all, if some high-earning dentists are worrying about their economic situation, and responding to it in the ways that the above articles suggest, just imagine the additional fears this will attach to your already nervous patients.
The NHS. We love them. No-one can argue with the fantastic work they do, and the millions of lives they save each year (well, some can, but thatâs not really the point, is it?) But thereâs one thing that really angers me, and thatâs having to pay for parking when visiting.
You might think Iâm a bit late with this comment, after all, surely this is old news? But after a recent article caught my attention, I feel compelled to moan about this issue which has actually bothered me for years.
Hospital workers this week said it is a âjokeâ that they have to pay to park their cars at work, and it is. Employees at Burtonâs Queenâs Hospital in Staffordshire flooded the Mailâs website this week with complaints of having to pay ?11 a month to park in the staff car parks, and worker Amanda Bally was just one of many to have her say. âI know it is only ?11 a monthâ, she states, âbut when you think of ?132 a year, it is a lotâ. But hang on just one second.
Before anyone starts jumping on the bandwagon, letâs spare a moment for both patients and visitors who are also not only obliged to pay for the privilege of, er, going to hospital, but are facing fees of up to 58 times higher than the average NHS worker. Because letâs say, an NHS employee works a minimum of 40 hours a week (and that really is minimum), then by dividing this into their monthly fee of ?11, we can see they are spending just 0.069 pence an hour. Compare this with the maximum band of ?4 per hour that the coalition government recently announced is acceptable for hospitals to charge visitors, and youâve got a colossal discrepancy.
It makes absolutely no sense. By all means, stop child benefits, cut university places, and increase VAT, if necessary, but for goodness sake, kicking those that are already obviously down by charging an extortionate amount of money to receive medical care? Surely this just defeats the whole purpose of a free health service!
Headlines like âNHS budget escapes Osborneâs cutsâ have been excitedly filling the healthcare pages of the media since plans were announced (intermittently, of course, in between an equal number of challenges to these claims in the form of headlines such as âNHS facing ?6bn a year shortfallâ) , but ultimately, if the real beneficiaries of the NHS were truly being protected, these disgusting fees (which, by the way, have existed for almost as long as I can remember), would have at least been reduced, if not scrapped altogether.
After all, if the two shopping centres which I so habitually frequent can still allow me to park for free, then what the hell does the NHS think they are doing?