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Sajid Javid: patients on waiting lists need not go private as ‘NHS can manage’

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Sajid Javid: patients on waiting lists need not go private as ‘NHS can manage’

Sajid Javid has urged patients stuck on lengthy waiting lists not to go private, insisting “the NHS can manage it,” as he pledged to use his position as the first minority ethnic health secretary to tackle racial disparities in health.

Speaking to the Guardian as he marks 100 days in the post, the health secretary declined to say when the NHS would be able to clear the post-pandemic backlog.

But asked if he would encourage patients to resort to using private healthcare to expedite their treatment, Javid said: “No. That’s always a choice for people that can afford it, and that’s up to them. But it’s not certainly something I would be recommending to anyone.”

He added: “I don’t want a situation where too many more people just stop [using the health service] … because I want them to use the NHS. The NHS can manage it.”

Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said last week that long waiting lists were in danger of leading to privatisation of the NHS, as patients desert it in favour of private providers.

The Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank recently suggested that eliminating the backlog in cancer care alone could take more than a decade.

The government recently announced a 1 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions, with most of the revenue initially going to the NHS, and switching to social care in later years.

As well as dealing with the legacy of the coronavirus crisis, Javid said he wanted to tackle the inequalities that mean healthy life expectancy is 20 years higher in Richmond-upon-Thames than Blackpool, where he gave a recent speech.

“With Covid, we’ve all seen that it’s had a different effect on people depending on perhaps where they live, what their income was, what their race was in some cases. Lots of people have said Covid is a great leveller but it is nothing of the sort – it is anything but that.”

He gave the example of the pulse oximeters that were used to assess patients’ oxygen levels and determine whether they should receive treatment in hospital. “They were giving the wrong readings, generally, for anyone that had dark skin – because they were designed for caucasians,” he said.

“As a result, you were less likely to end up on oxygen if you were black or brown, because the reading was just wrong.”

Asked if that could partly explain higher death rates among minority ethnic people, he said: “I think it’s a reason,” though suggested that BAME people were also more likely to be in frontline jobs such as transport or health workers.

Javid, who is the son of a Pakistani bus driver, said his background gave him a new perspective. “As the first health secretary from an ethnic minority background I think I feel able to say things about racial disparities that others couldn’t say,” he said.

He said tackling these inequalities would mean a cross-government effort and that he was examining effective ways of tackling tobacco and alcohol use, and obesity. “I want to find out the best ways to do it,” he said.

He praised the sugar tax levied on sweetened drinks in 2018, saying it had encouraged manufacturers to reformulate their products – though said he was not considering specific new tax proposals. But asked whether he would consider tax as a way of tackling health disparities, he said, “Instinctively I don’t like it.”

Javid raised the question of whether companies target advertising for unhealthy products such as junk food at less affluent areas, where health outcomes tend to be poorer.

“Just picking Blackpool as an example, I wonder whether companies – tobacco companies, certain food companies – whether they target certain areas more themselves. I mean anecdotally, when I was in Blackpool, in the driving rain, going around, it just seems there’s a lot more adverts on stuff like alcohol everywhere than I notice in Bromsgrove, for example.”

Javid said that the health and social care bill currently before parliament includes limits on junk food advertising to children, but dropped a hint that he would like to go further. “I’m almost one step ahead of that,” he said.

But Javid’s claim to be ready to tackle health disparities came as the Health Foundation thinktank and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) pointed out in a new analysis that the public health grant had been cut by 24% in real terms per capita since 2015-16 – equivalent to £43 a head in Blackpool, for example.

Jim McManus, interim director of the ADPH, said: “Investing in local public health is critical to levelling up, preparing for the future threats and building a more prevention-focused health and care system.”

Javid praised the healthcare workers who have been on the frontline during the pandemic. He said: “When it comes to GPs, they’ve done a brilliant job and continue to work incredibly hard, and if we want them to meet more people, which I do, offer more face to face appointments, then I have got to work with them in partnership and see what we can do.

“I’ve asked both GP leaders and also my department to think about what more we can do.”

Javid suggested he was considering a new “covenant” for healthcare workers, along the lines of those the government has signed with the police and members of the military, setting out the government’s responsibilities to support them.

“I am just thinking about what more we can do in law to support health and social care workers,” he said.

Asked whether there could be more serious penalties for those who attack health workers, Javid said: “You could. One thing I did for police and emergency workers was to increase the penalties. I will think about what I can do.”

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NAFDAC bans sale of Dex Luxury bar soap in Nigeria

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control, (NAFDAC) has placed a ban on the sale of Dex Luxury bar soap in Nigeria.

The agency explained that the ban was due to Butyphenyl Methylpropional, BMHCA, content in the product.

This was contained in a post on the Agency’s X handle on Thursday.

According to the post, the European Union, EU, banned the product due to the risk of harming the reproductive system of users, causing harm to the health of the unborn child, and cause skin sensitization.

“Although this product is not on the NAFDAC database, importers, distributors, retailers, and consumers are advised to exercise caution and vigilance within the supply chain to avoid the importation, distribution, sale, and use of the above-mentioned product”, the agency added.

 

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Health

No outbreak of Lassa fever in any local govt- Kogi Govt

Nigeria identifies three drugs for Lassa fever treatment

Kogi State Government has debunked any outbreak of Lassa fever across the 21 local government areas of the State.

Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Abdulazeez Adams Adeiza while reacting to a viral video of an alleged lassa fever outbreak, noted that a student who was admitted to the Federal Teaching Hospital Lokoja did not die of lassa fever.

According to the Commissioner, it was reported that the student died of hemorrhagic fever.

The Commissioner explained that the deceased student who was admitted at the Federal Teaching Hospital Lokoja presented complaints of fever and bleeding from the gum.

He added that the patient was being investigated and managed, while samples were taken and sent to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) Abuja, but before the result was released, he had lost his life.

The Commissioner said the result came out to be negative for lassa fever.

In his words, ”the suspected case has turned out to be negative for lassa fever.

“It is not only lassa fever that can make a patient to present bleeding from the gum. Other reasons could include blood dyscrasias and bleeding disorders”.

He advised members of the public to disregard the report as no case of lassa fever has been reported in the state

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UCH workers directed to stop working by 4pm over continuous blackout

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) which is the umbrella body of unions at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, Oyo state, has directed all employees of the health institution to commence work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily from Tuesday, April 2. 

The directive came after the tertiary health institution was disconnected by the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, (IBEDC) over N495 million debt accrued in over six years.

Addressing newsmen, chairman of JAC, Oludayo Olabampe stated that it is no longer safe to continue to attend to patients under the circumstances. He also said that workers would embark on strike if power is not restored.

He said;

“Workers would now work from 8 am to 4 pm only because it is dangerous and risky to attend to patients in that situation. We held a meeting with the management this morning but the issue is that there is no electricity. So, from today, Tuesday, April 2, we will work until 4 p.m. We are not attending to any patient after 4 p.m.

“This means that we won’t admit patients because the nurses that will take care of them will not be available after 4 p.m. and you don’t expect patients to be on their own from 4 p.m. till 8 a.m. the following day.

“If patients need blood tests, the lab will not work, if they need radiography, the radiographers will not work, and the dieticians in charge of their food too will not work after 4 p.m. We also gave management another 14-day ultimatum which started counting from March 27, and if after 14 days power is not restored, we will embark on warning strike.”

Commenting on the development, the chief medical director of UCH, Jesse Otegbayo, alleged that IBEDC was billing the hospital as an industry. He stated that the union did not formally notify management before making such a decision.

He said;

“I have not heard about that, if they are going to do that, they should write to management officially, and then the management will respond. There are rules that govern government service, you can’t just decide what hours you work and expect to be paid full-time.

“If they go ahead to do that without informing management officially, management has a way of applying the rules to pay them for the number of hours which they worked. The proper thing is for them to put it in writing because they didn’t write officially to the management before taking the decision.”

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