The changing face of death

  • 10 April 2015
  • From the section Health
Heart
Chronic conditions such as heart disease have replaced infectious diseases as the biggest killer

There are few things guaranteed in life. Death - along with taxes, as the saying goes - is one of them. But what we die of has and is continuing to change.

A hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the scourge of the nation. As the 1800s drew to a close, more than a third of all deaths were caused by the likes of small pox, measles, cholera, tuberculosis and diphtheria.

Now, thanks to medical advances - and vaccines in particular - the burden of infectious illnesses has been reduced significantly. Smallpox has been eradicated.

This has, in turn, had a huge impact on life expectancy. Before World War One, nearly two thirds of deaths were among the under-60s. Now only one in 10 is.

But as the population has aged, there has been a rapid growth in chronic conditions. Half of all deaths are now linked to circulatory problems - like heart disease - and cancers. This has had major implications for the way the NHS works, with an estimated 70% of the budget spent on long-term conditions like these.

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Is cancer care at a crossroads?

  • 25 March 2015
  • From the section Health
Radiotherapy

Cancer is already the leading cause of death in the UK. And, thanks to the ageing population, it is estimated that soon half of us will get it at some point in our lives.

But with the number of cases on the rise, there are signs that all is not well with how the NHS is responding.

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How bad has winter been for the NHS?

  • 13 March 2015
  • From the section Health
Stretcher

This has been the most difficult winter for the NHS for a long time. Wherever you live in the UK, local services have been under strain.

The four-hour target to be seen in A&E has been missed in each nation - and that has had a knock-on effect on other parts of the hospital system.

Read full article How bad has winter been for the NHS?

Why not introduce more NHS charges?

  • 11 March 2015
  • From the section Health
Stethoscope and calculator

In the early 1950s, the NHS was going through a tough period. Money was tight and demand was rising. So ministers came up with a radical plan - they introduced charges for dentistry, prescriptions and spectacles.

The move in 1952 was controversial, but did enough to get the NHS out of a tricky hole. With the finances tight again, should extending charges be under consideration now?

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Are anti-smoking measures working?

  • 11 March 2015
  • From the section Health
smoking

Along with Australia, the UK can probably claim to be the toughest nation in the world when it comes to trying to stub out smoking.

Take a look at what has happened over the past decade. There has been a ban on smoking in public places, the introduction of graphic warnings on packs and a ban on shops displaying tobacco products.

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Is another NHS scandal brewing?

  • 4 March 2015
  • From the section Health
Morecambe Bay report

Lethal. Shocking. Unacceptable. Dysfunctional. Failures at every level. So said the report into maternity care at Cumbria's Furness General Hospital.

But as was pointed out repeatedly as the inquiry published its findings on Tuesday, the parallels with Stafford Hospital are chillingly similar. In fact, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt went as far as calling it a "second" Stafford Hospital - albeit it on a smaller scale.

Read full article Is another NHS scandal brewing?

Savile: Why the risks are real in today's NHS

  • 26 February 2015
  • From the section Health
Jimmy Savile on Jim'll Fix It
Savile used his celebrity to gain access to NHS hospitals

It is easy to say Jimmy Savile's abuse of patients, staff and visitors on NHS premises would not happen in today's health service.

But the report published by barrister Kate Lampard on the lessons learned from the 44 NHS investigations shows this would be dangerously complacent.

Read full article Savile: Why the risks are real in today's NHS

Greater Manchester: The start of something big?

  • 25 February 2015
  • From the section Health
Sign showing change of direction

Ever since the NHS was created in 1948, it has remained separate to the council-run care system that oversees help in the home with tasks such as washing and dressing and care home places.

But as the decades have gone by and health care has shifted from curing illnesses to helping people manage long-term conditions such as dementia and heart disease, there has been an increasing sense that the two systems need to become more joined up.

Read full article Greater Manchester: The start of something big?

NHS privatisation: Why the fuss?

  • 20 February 2015
  • From the section Health
Surgeons

The words privatisation and NHS together are enough to start a fight in an empty room. But what exactly do we mean by it? And why does the issue make many so angry?

London's Cromwell Hospital, run by Bupa, does a good trade in NHS patients at its gamma knife radiosurgery centre. About a third of the patients with brain tumours seen there are sent by the NHS, costing the health service nearly £7,300 a go.

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Does the (care) cap fit?

  • 28 January 2015
  • From the section Health
Couple

There are three main dictionary definitions of a cap: a soft, flat hat, a protective cover or lid and an upper limit on spending or borrowing. The cap on care costs for the over 65s is, arguably, none of these.

The first two are, of course, obvious. But the third? Let me explain why.

Read full article Does the (care) cap fit?