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Media Watch: An irreverent look at some of the biggest health stories in the media


By Valeria Fiore
15 February 2019

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Valeria Fiore takes an irreverent look at some of the biggest health stories in the media.

Social care green paper: undefined ETA

Another paper that we have been waiting to be published… Yes, another! Is no doubt – the adult social care green paper and apparently it’s due soon but let’s not hold our breath.

According to the latest newsletter by the Local Government Association (LGA), sent out on 14 February, the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said he is committed to publishing the green paper ‘before April’.

The LGA said that Mr Hancock attended the LGA Community Wellbeing Board meeting on 29 January and thanked the ‘LGA for keeping this vital issue in the public eye’ through the publication of their own green paper.

In all its past attempts to publish it, the Government has never been very specific about when the green paper is actually due to come out.

It feels like we are waiting for a movie: the green paper was initially anticipated for ‘summer 2017’, to be later postponed to the end of 2017 and later again to ‘summer 2018’.

Expected to come out together with the NHS long term plan ‘in the autumn’ and later again ‘before the end of 2018’, the green paper will now be published as a ‘sequel’ to the long term plan.

This leaves us pondering about how the expression ‘Cinderella service’ is used to refer to social care.

Disappointingly, Mr Hancock has also only visited three care homes despite having been to 22 hospitals since starting his role in July 2018.

The health and social care secretary, who forgot to add ‘social care’ to his title when he tweeted about taking his role last year, really seems to be the only one who needs a reminder about how important social care is.

NHS loyalty card, anyone?

Not for regular customers only. If you are wondering what that is, don’t worry, you haven’t been living under a rock. There’s no such a thing – yet.

Speaking at the Royal Society of Medicine following the publication of the Topol Review in February, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that ‘Tesco has more sophisticated and efficient systems than the NHS’.

Looking up to the groceries giant, he said that Tesco knows its customers’ preferences ‘through loyalty cards, where [they] shop through store IDs, and what [they] buy through the items scanned at the checkout’.

Mr Hancock was surely raising a few fair points on the use of technology in the NHS, which he said has the potential of making NHS services safer and more efficient.

But he later added that Tesco uses the information it collects on its customers to make deliveries and ‘market their goods to shoppers with personalised discount vouchers’, saying that ‘in the NHS, we don’t have anything like that’.

Well, another thing the NHS doesn’t have is enough staff. The NHS workforce is already overstretched – we are missing over 40,000 nurses, to mention just one figure – how much more can we ask our existing workforce to do?

Before introducing any new technology, the Government should make sure there is enough staff first if it wants to guarantee patients’ safety.

Get your five a day – if you can

As if we hadn’t already enough temptations diverting us away from making healthy food choices, it could become even more difficult for us all to hit our recommended ‘five a day’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In January, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock told the Health and Social Care Committee that the supply of medicines will be prioritised over ‘vital food’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

However, his statement came after researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, and the Medical University of Gdańsk warned that the UK is particularly reliant on fruit and vegetable imports – 84% and 48% respectively in 2017.

In a study published in the BMJ Open in January, they also said that the intake of food and vegetables – which is already low in the UK – will fall further under all possible Brexit scenarios.

Rising fruit and vegetable prices could be the cause of 12,400 extra deaths from heart disease and stroke over the next decade, the researchers found.

Maybe the Government should reconsider its position on this issue. Providing better access to healthy food could reduce the need for medicines for many of us, after all.

As the saying goes, ‘one apple a day keeps the doctor away’.

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