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The divergence of minimum unit pricing policy across the UK

A paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine discusses the implementation of a minimum unit pricing policy across the UK. Above recommended levels of intake, alcohol use is associated with harm including hypertension, haemorrhagic stroke, liver disease, mental health disorders and cancers, as well as accidents, injuries and assaults. The 2015 UK Global Burden of Disease study indicates that 2.9% of disability-adjusted life years and 1.9% of mortality are attributable to alcohol use, and the 2013 Health Survey for England found that 23% of men and 16% of women in England drink at levels associated with risk to health.

Despite the ongoing discussion about minimum unit pricing policy across the UK, and although it is difficult to predict what it would take for the Westminster Government to revert to a minimum unit pricing policy, any minimum unit pricing policy that does come to be implemented in Scotland or England and Wales will only be implemented because the rel…
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Evaluation of the NHS Health Check Programme in reaching under-served groups

A recent paper from my department published in the journal BMC Health Services Research assessed how effective the NHS Health Check Programme was in reaching under-served groups.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of premature mortality and a major contributor of health inequalities in England. Compared to more affluent and white counterparts, deprived people and ethnic minorities tend to die younger due to preventable CVD associated with lifestyle. In addition, deprived, ethnic minorities and younger people are less likely to be served by CVD prevention services. This study assessed the effectiveness of community-based outreach providers in delivering England’s National Health Services (NHS) Health Check programme, a CVD preventive programme to under-served groups.

Between January 2008 and October 2013, community outreach providers delivered a preventive CVD programme to 50,573 individuals, in their local communities, in a single consultation without prescheduled appo…

Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries

Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

They are dying even though they are not technically considered obese. Of the 4.0 million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, nearly 40% occurred among  people whose body mass index (BMI) fell below the threshold considered “obese.”

The findings represent “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis,” according to the authors of the paper published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.  In the UK, nearly a quarter of the adult population – 24.2% or 12 million people – is considered obese. Additionally, 1 million British children are obese, comprising 7.5% of all children in the UK.

Among the 20 most populous countries, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults was in the Unite…

Sophie the very helpful dragon

A story for five-year olds

Written by Professor Azeem Majeed

Sophie the dragon was sad. Why was Sophie sad? Because the children in the nearby village wouldn’t play with her. Each time Sophie approached the children, they would run away screaming. She often asked her mother why the children would not play with her.

“It’s because the people of the village are afraid of dragons.” Her mother said. “The village chief, Donald, has told the villagers that dragons are terrible creatures; that we will burn down their houses, eat their farm animals, and carry off their children.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say.” Said Sophie. “We dragons are kind and gentle, and want to help others”.

“True.” Said Sophie’s mother. “But Donald is their chief and the other villagers believe what he says.”

One day, Sophie could see the villagers collecting wood and placing it into a big pile in the middle of the village green.

“What are they doing?” Sophie asked her mother. “It will be bonfire night soon.” Replied …

Current and future perspectives on the management of polypharmacy

A paper published in the journal BMC Family Practice discusses the management of polypharmacy (the concurrent use of multiple medications by one individual). Because of ageing populations, the growth in the number of people with multi-morbidity and greater compliance with disease-specific guidelines, polypharmacy is becoming increasingly common.

Although the correct drug treatment in patients with complex medical problems can improve clinical outcomes, quality of life and life expectancy, polypharmacy is also associated with an increased risk of adverse drug events, some severe enough to result in hospital admission and even death. Hence, having systems in place to ensure that medications are started only when there is a suitable indication, ensuring patients are fully aware of the benefits and complications that may arise from their treatment, and reviewing patients regularly to ensure their medication regime remains appropriate, are essential.

The development and rapid uptake of el…

Changes in the Roles of Health Care Professionals in Primary Care in England's National Health Service

In an article published in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, Dr Sonia Kumar and I discuss the change in the roles of doctors and other health professionals in England’s NHS. Primary care in England has seen a slow but steady expansion in the roles and numbers of non-medical health care professionals over the last 50 years. In the next 5 to 10 years, the use of non-medical professionals will expand rapidly in primary care, with currently unknown consequences for patient outcomes and England’s NHS. Doctors in England will find their traditional professional autonomy slowly decreasing as they increasingly work in multi-professional teams; and the education and professional development of our medical students and doctors need to change to reflect these new ways of working.

A further challenge (and opportunity) for doctors arises from the rapid advances we are seeing in information technology. Through the Internet and Web sites such as NHS Choices, patients in the United Kingdom …

Does charging different user fees for primary and secondary care affect first-contacts with primary healthcare?

Policy-makers in many countries are increasingly considering charging people different fees for using primary and secondary care services (differential user charges). The aim of such 'differential fees' is to encourage use of primary health care in health systems with limited gate keeping.

We carried out a systematic review to evaluate the impact of introducing differential user charges on service utilisation. We reviewed studies published from January 1990 until June 2015. We extracted data from the studies meeting defined eligibility criteria and assessed study quality using an established checklist. We synthesized evidence narratively.

Eight studies from six countries met our eligibility criteria. The overall study quality was low, with diversity in populations, interventions, settings, and methods. Five studies examined the introduction of or increase in user charges for secondary care, with four showing decreased secondary care utilisation, and three showing increased pr…