Monthly Archives: July 2010

Dogs have it made when it comes to medical treatment

Border Terrier
Image by onkel_wart via Flickr

Would we be better off being treated by Vets?

A spell in hospital resulted in such bruised arms,  I had to wear long sleeves – otherwise people might have thought I was a drug addict.

Whilst there a technician spent 30 minutes trying to take blood from me, then threw her tray of instruments down on my bed and rushed off.  Eventually, after hours of consultation, they woke me up at midnight with a doctor to do the Vampire act.

Shortly after I came out of hospital I had to take one of my dogs to the Vet.  Whilst there, he told me he would have to do blood tests, and I freaked out.  How was I going to keep a lively dog calm when being poked with painful needles?

A few seconds later, the Vet laid down a syringe, full of blood, with a happy dog lying on the examining coach.  I gasped, and explained to the Vet what had happened to me.

“Aahh yes”, said the Vet.  “But if we hurt our patients they bite us”.

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Why Consultants are costing NHS millions

Wiser than most consultants

Employing someone to tell you what you know

A journalist’s life can be fun, with invitations to lunch at the Ivy etc.  But – often there is a down-side.  I know I won’t get much sympathy, but recently I have been driven to distraction sitting in meetings run by Consultants employed by NHS, cancer charities etc.  So when this old story popped up in my Inbox I read and re-read it, thinking this says it all.

Sid, a farmer, was overseeing his stock in a remote moorland pasture in  North Yorkshire, when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the farmer, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Sid looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing stock and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASApage on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany .

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the farmer and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Sid.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the back of his car.

Then Sid says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”  The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a Consultant for our Government”, says Sid.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answered the farmer. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of pounds worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about how working people make a living – or about cows, for that matter.  This is a herd of sheep. …

Now give me back my dog!

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Never too old for cancer treatment

Addressing the needs of older cancer patients

by Saul Wisnia

Bill Gurney with his oncologist Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, and longtime life partner Mary Kay Lowe

Bill Gurney (101) with his oncologist Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, and longtime life partner Mary Kay Lowe

Don’t ever let doctors tell you, you are ‘too old’ for cancer treatment – Bill Gurney would certainly disagree.  Logging on to the Dana -Farber Cancer Institute website, there was this wonderful  story:

The front-desk facilitator saw the patient’s birth date on her screen — June 27, 1908 — and for a moment wondered if there was a mistake. Then she glanced up at the stately gentleman standing before her.

Even in an era when advanced treatment approaches allow more patients than ever to live with and beyond cancer, Bill Gurney is unique. With his 102nd birthday coming up next month, the Cape Cod, USA,  resident and colon cancer survivor is quite possibly the oldest person ever treated at Dana-Farber.

“I’m flattered,” Gurney said with a laugh when informed of his “oldest patient” status during a recent appointment.

Asked the secret to his longevity, even in the wake of a serious illness, he explained: “There is an old song that goes  ‘A sunny disposition is all that you can wish.’ That’s my motto. I’m not a worrier.”

Gurney is, however, in excellent physical health overall, which his Dana-Farber oncologist Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, says is a key for any older cancer patient.  Proving that exercise is especially good for cancer patients, he  still does a combined 50 push-ups and sit-ups every day, and hopes to get back to golfing this summer after a two-year hiatus. A retired attorney who graduated from Yale in 1930, he is a shade under 6 feet tall and weighs about 170 pounds, roughly the same weight he was as a pilot during World War II.

Given these facts, Fuchs felt comfortable in 2008 recommending the then-99-year-old for treatment when consulted about Gurney’s case by a surgeon at Cape Cod Hospital.

“We’re seeing more and more people who are diagnosed with cancer in their 80s, 90s, or, in Bill’s case, beyond,” says Fuchs.  “Part of this reflects that people are living longer and better. In some cases, you might find other health problems that would make one hesitate to pursue surgery or further treatment, but we felt a robust gentleman like Mr. Gurney should have both.”

So those hospital administrators who put elderly people in ‘special’ wards, and are reluctant to operate – take note!  Not every elderly patient can handle surgery, but it they are fit, age should not be a barrier.

Now, an international team including Fuchs’ Dana-Farber colleagues Nadine Jackson McCleary, MD, MPH, and Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, are forming a large clinical trial of older colorectal cancer patients to establish better methods for assessing their condition.

It’s never too late have treatment; just ask Bill Gurney, who went nearly 80 years between hospital visits before his diagnosis.

Story courtesy of Saul Wisnia, Senior Publications Editor-Writer

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Lymphoedema treatment just got more accessible

How to apply for NHS funding

Two years ago it took several letters and an approach to my MEP, before I got my first course of MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) funded by the PCT.

Today, I don’t know if they saw my name at top of paper, or if it has genuinely got easier to get funding, but £1,000 of further treatment has just been authorised.

Here’s what I did to get this approved :

1.  Found therapist who is trained in Vodder method.  The one I chose was recommended by the Lymphoedema Support Network, and this is important as the therapist needs to have all the approved qualifications, otherwise PCT will refuse funding.

2.  Went to see therapist Sossi Yerissian, who gave me an in-depth hour long interview, examined me, then told me what she could do for me.   Sossi wrote a letter for me  describing what treatment she advised.

3.  Went to see my doctor at the local NHS Practice and handed over Sossi’s letter.  She wrote off  asking for funding for the course of treatment and included Sossi’s letter for evidence.

4.  There was a delay of several weeks, so I phoned commioners Business Manager to ask what was causing this hold-up. It was a matter of two small items missing from the doctor’s letter, and I was able to fill these in over the phone.

5. Ten days later a letter arrived they would grant funding for the above treatment”.

6.  The whole process actually took two months.

So just ASK!

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Lufthansa follows David Cameron's advice

The new coalition Government has highlighted better health care in Europe

Now, Lufthansa is making Medical Travel To Germany easier

With David Cameron and Andrew Lansley saying they want to improve medical care in Britain, to bring it up to European standards, Lufthansa has just made travelling to Germany for medical reasons a whole lot easier.

Ever since the election, I have been trying to find out what UK patients have to do to access this promised healthcare;  having just spent two days on the phone to the Dept. Health, trying to find out who has been tasked with looking into European healthcare, and seeing what can be done to copy this in the NHS, I was told by an official

“These questions cover a wide range of areas, and would involve me speaking to five or more policy officials, taking up a great deal of mine and my colleagues time, in order for me to get answers for you. And, once we have answers, you are likely to have follow-up questions.

….. In the meantime I would suggest you speak to local NHS services, or charities, for anecdotal evidence of how links are being forged with European health services”.

Talk about a cop-out! Isn’t it lovely that these officials think they aren’t there to do anything – but in my naivety I thought they were paid by the taxpayer to provide answers to sensible questions.

However, if you don’t want to wait until the NHS drags itself up by its old-fashioned bootlaces to crawl in to twenty-first century medicine, international patient consultant Premier Healthcare Germany, based in Hamburg, assists patients from around the world in selecting and obtaining high quality medical treatment in Germany. Germany is internationally renowned for its focus on quality, scientific research, and evidence based medicine while still maintaining an affordable cost for treatment.

The scheme offers

•Reduced fares in economy, business, and first class due to the cooperation with Premier Healthcare Germany
•Mixed cabin class option: fly to Germany in economy class and return in business class, e.g. after a hip replacement
•Free itinerary changes offer patients flexibility in case of changes in their medical condition
•Hassle-free medical trip planning due to combined medical and travel expertise of Lufthansa and Premier Healthcare Germany
•An opportunity to earn miles in Lufthansa’s award-winning Miles and More frequent flyer program

“This cooperation is easy for Lufthansa to implement and it means so much for us, an emerging company that strives to make medical treatment in Germany accessible for everyone,” said Olaf Haase, Director of Clinical Affairs and one of the founders of Premier Healthcare Germany. “Being mobile and having easy access to Germany is the fundamental key to any medical travel. With this cooperation, we can offer transportation that goes far beyond the simple booking of a seat.”

Lufthansa offers wheel chair service, to complete intensive care units onboard its aircraft,  and has become a leading provider in medical mobility.”

As Premier says, “Medical travel needs to be well planned and organized. It is for this reason that patients sometimes shy away from it. The task of travelling to another country for treatment often seems daunting. This is often due to the logistic efforts involved. Only the very few Internet savvy and travel experienced individuals find it easy to plan and execute a medical trip. For others, it can be a project with unpredictable complexity.

Having been treated in Germany for side effects from hormonal cancer drugs, I would go back tomorrow – especially as massage is very much a part of German healthcare.  But be warened – therapists usually stay in the room when you undress, and find it very funny that British men always keep their socks on – even though the are naked!

I found the doctors extremely efficient, although unlikely to provide the personal information on their website that we might access for British healthcare professionals.  When I queried this, I found out their Health Ministry keeps a much more rigorous eye on qualifications, etc. so Germans aren’t so obsessed with looking up their doctor’s qualifications on the web.  However, Premier Healthcare does have information on its website about many of its top surgeons, which must have been prepared for us Britons!

More information:

Olaf Haase

Director of Marketing and Clinical Affairs
Member of the Board
Phone: +49 163 286 9344
Michael G. Meurs
Director Business Development
Member of the Board
Phone: +31 651 26 9282

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Trying out skincare for the future

It pays to be brave!

I love Elemis products, and when they offered me a Complexion Analysis I jumped at the chance  – then half way to Oxford Street realised that maybe I didn’t really want to know what I had done to my skin during all the years!

I was booked into one of their new SpaPod centres, and thinking that these were probably small and tucked away in a number of major department stores, I didn’t have much in expectations.  Boy – I soon realised these are seriously useful centres in the fight against ageing.

Elemis has a special camera in these SpaPods that takes photos of your face, then prints out scary looking photos with the exact number of wrinkles, spots, open pores and UV spots I had on my face.  I know, I know – I should take better care of my skin – but this really bought it home to me, and I could actually see what condition my skin was in.

First – the good news was that I only had three wrinkles;  this was thanks to using good skin creams such as Elemis on a regular basis.  I am doing something right!  But – I have lots of pores, and Sarah, the knowledgeable and very helpful Consultant, said I must exfoliate my facial skin twice a week.

I scored high on cleansing – Sarah congratulated me on NOT using facial wipes, and said she could always tell when customers used these as they left whitish powder marks on the skin, and were very bad for it.  So the Elemis Cream Cleanser and Soothing Apricot Toner I am using were doing their work well.

The wrinkles were kept at bay using their brilliant Pro-Collagen Eye Renewal cream, and my favourite Cream Moisturising  Mask;  Sarah gave me a tip – if I used it at night I didn’t have to wipe it off – just leave it to soak in.  Now that’s a helpful time-saving tip!  Another tip was just put a small dab of Eye Renewal cream on one finger-tip, rub opposite finger together, then that is all you need to spread on the lines under your eyes – much less than one would think.

If you have ever wondered what those pretty pink and green capsules were on the Elemis counters, Sarah showed me how to use these, and said they were excellent to counter the effects of drugs on our skin.  Use a course of them 3 – 4 times a year, she recommended, and kindly gave me a sample jar, before taking me next door to give me a blissful facial.

All in all, if you want to give yourself a treat, boost your skin when it is ‘drug laden’, and learn a lot about looking after your skin, book yourself in to the nearest Elemis counter for a Skin Consultation, Facial Mapping and Facial – this is skincare of the future, and jolly well should be prescribed on the NHS.  I am sure my facial and skin analysis did me far more good than any of the drugs that were draining away my moisture from my face.

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When you need to buy painkillers

We all know what pain is. Everyone experiences pain at some point. Almost 10 million Britons suffer pain almost daily.

Sometimes we hardly notice pain, but on other occasions it is so severe that we take a painkiller (analgesic) to lessen the pain until it goes away.

Sometimes we need to get short-term relief from pain, and it makes sense to go to a reputable Pharmacy or Chemist and ask their advice.

Painkillers are safe and effective medicines if used appropriately and according to the instructions and information on the product package.

If you want to buy pain killers over the counter (OTC), always take either a prescription form or the packets of medicines you take to show the Pharmacist;  they can then check that something you are taking won’t react with another of your drugs.

The vast majority of people do use painkillers correctly when they have a problem that requires pain relief. The following e-feature bulletin brought to you by the over the counter medicine experts at the PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain), looks at the safe management of pain with over the counter medicines and how various painkillers actually work.

What OTC painkillers are available and how do they work?

There are three main types of OTC painkillers:

Paracetamol relieves pain and fever. How it does this is still debated but it influences pain messages in the nervous system and reduces the production of some pain related chemicals.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) eg aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen are particularly helpful for pain associated with inflammation such as muscle and joint pains, acute strains and sprains. They work by influencing the production of inflammatory mediators and so change the body’s response to pain.

Codeine and dihydrocodeine are effective pain relievers belonging to the opioid group of medicines which block pain messages in the brain and spinal cord. They work by mimicking the naturally occurring pain reducing chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals of the brain.

Because painkillers work in different ways, some products contain more than one type of painkiller. For example, aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be combined with codeine. Combining codeine with other analgesics produces stronger pain relief which is particularly effective for ailments such as migraine, backache, dental pain and period pain.. Such a combination offers pain relief when a single ingredient is not effective.

Painkilling ingredients may also be combined with:

Caffeine. Caffeine may improve pain relief. Caffeine is found in coffee and tea and the amounts of caffeine contained in some OTC painkillers are similar to those found in a cup of tea or coffee.
Doxylamine. This substance acts as a muscle relaxant, a property thought to be beneficial in pain such as headache.

How to use painkillers effectively and safely

OTC painkillers can be used to manage various types of pain such as headache and migraine, toothache, period pain, minor injuries, strains and sprains, backache, muscle aches and joint pains.
Always read the information in the leaflet and pack. Know the names of the ingredients you are taking as it can be dangerous to take more than one painkiller with the same active ingredient.
Some painkillers can only be used to treat specific conditions.
Painkillers containing codeine or dihydrocodeine should only be used for short term treatment of acute, moderate pain which is not relieved by aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac or naproxen alone.
Painkillers should not be taken more frequently than stated in the instructions on the leaflet or pack.
Keeping a pain diary with the times of day that pain killers are taken can help ensure the most effective use of painkillers.
A doctor or pharmacist should be consulted if painkillers are needed continuously for longer than 3 days and/or the person suffers from lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, low mood or restricted movement due to the presence of pain.
An OTC painkiller should not be used to top up the effects of a prescription painkiller without asking the doctor or pharmacist.

Unwanted effects

All medicines can cause unwanted side effects if not used properly or according to the pack’s instructions. Used in the short-term OTC painkillers do not generally cause troublesome side effects but if painkillers are used long-term, then the extent and severity of side effects may increase.

Changes to OTC medicines containing codeine/dihydrocodeine

Products containing codeine are restricted to sale in pharmacies and cannot be sold without the supervision of a pharmacist or trained assistant.  The pack size for OTC medicines containing codeine / dihydrocodeine is now legally limited to 32 tablets. Pharmacists are not allowed to sell larger packs. This amount provides at least three days treatment which is more than enough for the short-term pain relief of occasional headaches, muscle or joint pain, toothache, period pain etc.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the safe use of OTC medicines containing codeine, the makers of OTC medicines are in the process of voluntarily adding prominent labelling onto packs to tell people that regular use of codeine can lead to dependence and that users should consult their doctor after 3 days of continuous use of a codeine product.

The advice relates only to OTC use.  Doctors can still prescribe analgesics containing codeine / dihydrocodeine for more than three days for patients suffering from ailments that require long-term pain relief, such as arthritis.


To help promote appropriate use of OTC analgesics, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) and the British Pain Society (BPS) have published a leaflet that explains how to manage pain effectively using OTC medicines.

The ‘Managing your pain effectively using “Over the Counter” (OTC) Medicines’ leaflet covers information areas such as:

  • The safe use of medicines in managing pain
  • How different OTC painkillers work
  • The importance of reading all pack instructions, labelling and the need to understand different OTC pain management ingredients
  • Guidance on recognising mismanagement of OTC medicines
  • Recognising issues such as chronic daily headache
  • Making the best use of all OTC analgesics

A downloadable version of the leaflet and further information on over the counter medicines can be found at, and also .


Nicky Smith, Nexus Healthcare                                   0207 052 8850

Jenna Coles, Nexus Healthcare                                  0207 052 8854
Emma Sanderson, Nexus Healthcare                          0207 052 8853