Category Archives: Health

Unprecedented demand for cancer helpline

The number of calls from people with cancer facing difficulties at work has shot up over two years — with some employers reported to be breaking the law — a leading cancer charity has revealed.

Macmillan logo

New figures from Macmillan Cancer Support show a 74% increase in calls to its support line on a range of work-related issues such as discrimination and even dismissal, as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

A YouGov poll for the charity reveals that one in five (20%) employees who returned to work after cancer reported facing discriminatory treatment, such as demotion and worryingly more than a fifth (22%) of managers also have concerns about employing someone who has or has had cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Support is now expanding its dedicated Work Support Service helpline to meet rising demand — with the charity receiving nearly 3,000 (2,987) calls about work issues this year alone.

It is also warning bosses they are breaking the law if they don’t provide the necessary support, such as reasonable adjustments, to employees with cancer — which is classed as a disability under the Equality Act.

While most of the 1,500 people polled (87%) who were employed when diagnosed with cancer said it was important to continue working after their diagnosis, employers’ ‘misconceptions’ add to the large number of difficulties already facing the 890,000 people of working age with the disease.

For example, more than a third (34%) of managers worry their employee would not stay long in the job and nearly a tenth (8%) fear someone could use their illness as an excuse not to pull their weight at work.

Around one in eight managers have concerns about the impact of the diagnosis on other staff, with some worried it could cause awkwardness (13%) or resentment (12%) among colleagues.

Sadly, the research also found some workers with cancer did experience a lack of understanding of their needs from their employer (9%) and colleagues (8%). Others even lost their jobs (4%) as a result of their diagnosis.

Former web developer Jordan Taylor, 24, from Telford, Shropshire, was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year and said: “Before I was diagnosed my colleagues felt like a family, but as time went on their attitude towards me completely changed.

“When I returned to work after treatment I was called into a meeting by my boss, who said performance was down in my absence and that companies had complained. There was no time to ease back into my role or any mention of reasonable adjustments to help me during recovery.

“Shortly after my return, I was told my whole team was facing redundancy. A few colleagues insinuated that it was my fault, even though I was ill — it was awful and caused me a huge amount of worry.”

Liz Egan, Working Through Cancer Programme Lead at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We know how important it is to many people to work during cancer treatment, or return to employment afterwards, and this is entirely possible with the right support. Unfortunately, however, many bosses have misconceptions about employees with a cancer diagnosis.

“The rise in calls we have experienced to our helpline is staggering and shows just how vital it is that people with cancer have support and advice with their choices around work. We want to be able to support everyone living with cancer who needs us and are reliant on generous donations from the public to provide services like this.”

The charity is also helping thousands of employers through its Macmillan At Work scheme. As well as offering a free toolkit, resources and advice, the charity also offers specialist training sessions for line managers and HR professionals to help them feel equipped and confident supporting staff with cancer who want to stay in work during treatment or return to work after.

Macmillan Cancer Support and its team of trained work support advisors for employees with cancer can be called for free help and support on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday — Friday, 9am-5pm). Information is also available at

Report reveals health impact of air pollution

Particles in air pollution cause a wide range of damaging effects to the cardiovascular system, according to a landmark new report.
Air Pollution photo

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) report found that air pollution can cause damage to the cardiovascular system in the following ways:

  • increasing blood pressure
  • making the blood more likely to clot
  • the build-up of fatty materials inside the arteries, reducing the space through which blood can flow – also known as atherosclerosis
  • altering the heart’s normal electrical rhythm – also referred to as arrhythmias
  • causing inflammatory effects on the cardiovascular system – or systemic inflammation.

COMEAP advises the government on all matters concerning the health effects of air pollutants and this new report marks the most comprehensive review to date, examining the studies conducted over the past decade on the potential biological mechanisms by which exposure to air pollution results in adverse cardiovascular health effects.

In the report, COMEAP found clear evidence that exposure to small particles of air pollution has a wide range of effects on the cardiovascular system, including irregular heartbeat and blood clots. The COMEAP report also provides recommendations where new research is needed to get a more precise understanding of the impact of air pollution on cardiovascular health.

It follows the publication of a COMEAP report in July this year, which estimated that long-term exposure to the air pollution mixture in the UK contributes to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year. The WHO also estimate that almost six in ten deaths related to outdoor air pollution being caused by a heart attack or stroke.

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Chief Executive Simon Gillespie said: “This thorough report gives us a clear view of the damaging impact air pollution has on our heart and circulatory system. While there are steps that people can take to reduce their exposure to air pollution we can’t expect people to move house to avoid air pollution – Government and public bodies must be acting right now to make all areas safe and protect people from these harms.

“We were reassured to see that the Government’s draft clean air strategy had a focus on health, but we need a commitment to WHO guideline limits for particulate air pollution in UK law to drive action to better protect the nation from the damage to health caused by air pollution.

“Having these targets in law will also help to improve the lives of those currently living with heart and circulatory diseases, as we know they are particularly affected by air pollution.”

Click here to read the COMEAP’s report.

Action on Hearing Loss launches online resource for employers

National charity Action on Hearing Loss is launching a comprehensive new online guide for HR professionals and employers on how to best support both prospective and current staff with hearing loss and deafness.

Action on Hearing Loss logoThe Employer Guide has been developed in response to research conducted by the charity which found that more than half of people with deafness had been mocked or teased about their condition in their workplace, and that more than a third had felt bullied by their colleagues.

The guide will offer support on how to make workplaces more accessible for people with deafness and hearing loss – from simple deaf awareness tips for staff and management to providing more detailed information on how to take advantage of the Government’s Access to Work scheme to cover the cost of additional communication support.

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables people to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality

As part of the launch the charity invites everyone to take an online quiz to find out how much they know about hearing loss in the workplace, which can be found here:

The new guide forms the latest part of Action on Hearing Loss’ Working for Change campaign, which is seeking to break down the barriers faced by people with deafness and hearing loss when accessing and progressing in employment.

Dr. Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Although there are around five million people of working age in the UK with some form of deafness and hearing loss, the results of our survey indicate there is a profound lack of awareness and understanding of its impact.

“It doesn’t have to be like this, however. There are a number of ways HR professionals and employers can educate themselves and their staff. Deafness and hearing loss do not limit anyone’s capacity for excellence, and we want employers to make the most of this huge pool of talent by enabling existing and prospective staff with deafness and hearing loss to thrive in the workplace.

“This guide is not only a resource that can educate employers and staff about hearing loss and deafness, it also sets out best practice and explains what support there is, such as the Government’s Access to Work scheme, to create an inclusive environment. We believe that the more educated and aware people are about deafness and hearing loss, such negative attitudes will become a thing of the past.”

To read Action on Hearing Loss’ Employer Guide and for other available resources, click here.

Research reveals postcode lottery of care

Responses to a Freedom of Information request to local authorities have revealed a worrying postcode lottery of care, Royal London has revealed.

Royal London logoThe insurance company contacted 150 local authorities, of which 125 responded. The replies show a huge variation in both the amount councils will pay towards care home costs, and the extent to which people have to ‘haggle’ with their local authority to get a good deal.  Elderly people who enter care in a ‘crisis’ situation and do not have family members to advocate on their behalf could lose out when it comes to negotiating care fee packages, according to Royal London.

The research identified three different approaches taken by local authorities to funding care:

  • Authorities which have a fixed ceiling for care home funding which they will not exceed, regardless of actual care costs
  • Authorities which have a published ceiling but which regularly exceed it on a case-by-case basis
  • Authorities which say they have no set fee limit but negotiate each placement on a case by case basis

Commenting on the findings, Dominic Carter, Alzheimer’s Society Senior Policy Officer, said:  “The unacceptable postcode lottery of care that people face nationwide has been exacerbated by a lamentable lack of funding from Government. Local authorities have been left with precious little resource to provide the care people with dementia need.

“Because people with dementia have such complex needs, places in care homes are on average seven to ten per cent more expensive – but the rates local authorities pay hardly ever recognise this additional cost. On top of this, the report today highlights how much local authority funding differs across the country, heaping even more financial pressure on families in unlucky postcodes.

“The Government says it is committed to reforming social care, but we need to see enough funding to provide good quality, affordable care for everyone with dementia, no matter where they live.”

Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, added: “We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live.  The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country.

“Whilst responding to individual needs and circumstances sounds like a good thing, it is very likely that older people who have vocal family members to support them will be able to strike a better deal. Local authorities must be very careful to ensure that they do not take advantage of the poor bargaining power of vulnerable elderly people, leading them to accept the cheapest care provision rather than the most suitable”.

Report shines light on mental health services

In its annual State of Care report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent regulator of health and social care services in England – has found some improvements in mental health services, but has also highlighted areas of concern and challenges that services must overcome around high demand, workforce shortages, unsuitable facilities and outdated services.

Mind logoWhile there have been many improvements, a greater proportion of mental health services were found to have deteriorated in quality compared with other parts of the NHS. Of services originally rated as good, 26 per cent of mental health services dropped at least one rating. This is in comparison to 23 per cent of adult social care services, 18 per cent of acute hospitals and two per cent of GP surgeries.

The CQC said it was surprised and concerned that 73 per cent of mental health beds are on locked rehabilitation wards, as it suggests an outdated approach to care in which people are institutionalised rather than helped to recover and live independently.

Also, many facilities were found not to meet safety standards, with fixtures and fittings that could be used in suicide attempts and examples of medicines not being stored securely.

Responding to the report,  Chief Executive of Mind Paul Farmer said: “It’s very concerning to see that, as of July this year, more mental health services had deteriorated in quality than other parts of the NHS and that issues of safety, among others, have not been addressed despite being raised in previous reports. It shows the scale of the challenge facing NHS mental health services; we have a sound plan for starting to improve services over the next few years but after decades of neglect and underfunding it is going to take sustained effort and investment over many years to reverse the damage that has been done.

“That the CQC continues to highlight the same basic ward safety issues time and time again is very worrying. When someone is in hospital for their mental health, they are at their most vulnerable and they and their loved ones should be able to trust that they are receiving care in a safe, therapeutic environment. We are concerned to see that many facilities don’t meet the needs of people with mental health problems, and that inspections continue to reveal examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care.

“The prevalence of locked mental health rehabilitation wards is particularly alarming, and highlights the need for the review of the Mental Health Act recently announced by the Government. This review must thoroughly explore the problems with the current Act in full consultation with people with experience of being treated under it, so that future legislation is fit for purpose and put the rights and needs of the person in crisis first.

“Last year, a five year plan for improving mental health services was launched, with a commitment by the NHS to spend £1 billion more on mental health services by 2020-21. This is a good plan and we need to see it delivered in every local area. The CQC report reiterates the need for that funding to be invested in services on the ground, so that we can start building NHS mental health services that will carry us in to the future.”

Stand Up To Cancer is back

Stars of stage and screen are joining forces and channelling their inner rebel to launch Stand Up To Cancer 2017, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.

Launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer raises money to support game-changing cancer research that will save lives here in the UK.

To mark the campaign’s return and encourage the nation to join the rebellion against cancer, Alan Carr, Davina McCall, Kirstie Allsopp, Scarlett Moffatt and a host of other celebrities have raided their dressing up boxes and transformed into their rebel hero.

Other rebels with a cause include, Aisling Bea, Anita Rani, Ann Widdecombe, David Coulthard, James Morrison, Jamie Laing, Kimberly Wyatt, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Laura Whitmore, Steve Jones and Susan Wokoma.

Davina McCall, who lost her sister to the disease, said: “Getting involved in Stand Up To Cancer is a no-brainer when you think that one in two of us is going to get cancer at some point in our lives. But cancer doesn’t have to be the really scary word that it used to be. Thanks to research, there’s real hope and there are great prospects for the future. It’s something that we can absolutely conquer by raising money and supporting Stand Up To Cancer’s scientists.

“I chose Joan of Arc as my rebel hero because she was French, and I’m half French. She’s the ultimate strong woman. She felt that she had a destiny in her life, and even though it was incredibly dangerous and there were no other women doing what she was doing, she went and she fought. I just think she’s a very strong, incredible role model and in some ways reminds me of Stand Up To Cancer – rebelling against this awful disease by taking a different, bolder route.”

Krishnan Guru-Murthy, presenter of Channel 4 news, added: “I had a little trepidation about dressing up as Jimi Hendrix in case I didn’t do him justice. When I told my eleven-year-old what I was doing he looked at me and said, ‘You’re just so embarrassing’. But it’s for a great cause!”

Rachel Carr, head of Stand Up To Cancer, said: “The UK’s spirit and determination to join forces against cancer has never been stronger. Our scientists are carrying out work that will change what it means to get a cancer diagnosis, speeding up the development of kinder, more effective treatments. We’re making huge progress and this is just the start. We hope that people across the UK will be inspired by our brilliant celebrity supporters to get involved, join the rebellion and stop cancer in its tracks.”

The celebrities’ rebel choices include Billy Idol (Jamie Laing), Cyndi Lauper (Laura Whitmore), Florence Nightingale (Ann Widdecombe), Jimi Hendrix (Krishnan Guru-Murthy), Joan of Arc (Davina McCall), Katniss Everdeen (Scarlett Moffatt), Marlon Brando (Alan Carr), M.I.A (Anita Rani), Princess Leia (Aisling Bea), the Queen (Kirstie Allsopp), Steve McQueen (James Morrison), Thelma and Louise (David Coulthard and Steve Jones), Tina Turner (Susan Wokoma) and Vivienne Westwood (Kimberly Wyatt).

The Stand Up To Cancer campaign will continue throughout September and October and there’s lots of ways that people can get involved. From being a ‘hair raiser’ and waxing or shaving body parts to raise cash, dusting off aprons to create and sell ‘ballsy bakes’, or getting sponsored to take part in ‘Game On’, Stand Up To Cancer’s gaming marathon, there’s more than one way to rebel this autumn.

For more information on Stand Up To Cancer, visit

Next UK Government must commit to no more disability benefit cuts

The MS Society has launched an open letter to political party leaders urging them to protect disability benefits under the next UK Government.

Parliament Twilight

The MS Society has launched the letter as a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium. This is a national coalition of more than 80 charities and organisations, which makes their message even stronger.

The Society is standing up for more than 13 million disabled people in the UK, who spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. That’s #13millionlives.

The MS Society recently asked its campaigns community what issues matter most at this election. Hundreds of people contacted the Society, but there was one issue that stood out – disability benefits.

Recent changes have led to stressful assessments and delays, and tighter eligibility criteria. These issues have made life more difficult for many people with MS.

The MS: Enough campaign was launched by the MS Society to bring attention to welfare issues affecting people with MS. Many people with MS are having to make difficult choices, choices such as whether they can afford basic essentials, attend hospital appointments or spend time with family and friends.

MS Society Chief Executive Michelle Mitchell says: “Financial support is vital for people with MS to live independent lives and participate fully in society.

“We have a crucial opportunity to make our voice heard before the election. We’re urging Party Leaders to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next Parliament.”

Add your name to the open letter to Party Leaders. Tell the next Government to make no more cuts to disability benefits.

>> Add your name, call for no more cuts

Prince Harry invites Lesotho choir to perform with Coldplay

Prince Harry has invited a choir from Lesotho in Africa to perform alongside supergroup Coldplay at his Sentebale charity concert at Kensington Palace on Tuesday 28 June.

Basotho Youth Choir rehearsal in MCC

The Basotho Youth Choir rehearse at the ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre

Last week six boys and six girls aged 7-19 arrived from southern Africa in London. They flew from a country with a population of just 2 million to join a bill headlined by a band whose twitter followers top 7 million. It is the furthest any have ever travelled from home. Their flights were supported by Avios travel rewards which is also arranging a sight-seeing tour of the UK capital.

Among the 12-strong Basotho Youth Choir is 16-year-old Relebohile ‘Mutsu’ Potsane. He was just four when Prince Harry first met him during his 2004 gap year visit to the country where one in three children are orphans, only one in five have access to primary school education and more than half the population lives in poverty. Prince Harry founded Sentebale – ‘forget me not’ – in 2006 with Prince Seeiso, who will also be at the concert, to help young people affected by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

MASERU, LESOTHO - NOVEMBER 26:  Prince Harry hugs 'Mutso' a young boy he made friends with on his first visit to lesotho at the Official Opening of the new Mamohato Children's Centre on October 17, 2015 in Maseru, Lesotho. In a photography project supported by Getty Images the vulnerable children at the Mamohato Camp have been using Instant photography as an educational tool to build interpersonnel skills and creativity. The Sentebale Mamohato Children's Centre at Thaba Bosiu just outside Maseu is Sentebale's first purpose built camp for the disadvantaged and HIV positive childen of Lesotho. Getty Images  Sentebale is a charity started by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho ten years ago to help the vulnerable children of Lesotho.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Prince Harry;Mutsu Potsane

Prince Harry greets Mutsu at the opening of the ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre in November 2015

The choir members have all been supported by Sentebale’s Secondary School Bursaries programme – which covers the cost of school fees, uniform and books for some of Lesotho’s most disadvantaged children without the family structures to care for them – and Care for Vulnerable Children Programme which enables families and communities to provide care, health and education for those most in need.

Music and singing is at the heart of Basotho culture and before arriving in London the choir has spent time rehearsing at Sentebale’s ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre. Its opening in November 2015 was the last time Prince Harry saw Mutsu before they were reunited today in Croydon. The choir was busy rehearsing with Grammy and BRIT Award singer Joss Stone, who visited Lesotho in her role as Sentebale ambassador in 2014, when Prince Harry made a surprise appearance.

Sentebale today revealed that Stone and Sentebale’s first appointed Ambassador, Argentine high-goal polo player, Nacho Figueras have been added to the concert line-up, and that British journalist and novelist Tom Bradby will MC. They join British soul singer songwriter Laura Mvula, African-Norwegian duo Nico and Vinz and BRIT Award-nominated spoken word artist and Sentebale ambassador George Mpanga, aka George the Poet, who visited Lesotho in 2015 for the opening of the Mamohato Children’s Centre. In addition, up-and-coming classical-crossover soprano Alicia Lowes will provide pre-concert entertainment as guests arrive.

Despite progress to reduce the number of new HIV infections globally over the past 20 years and ensure those living with HIV access treatment, HIV is still the number one cause of death in 10-19 year olds in Africa. Lesotho has the world’s second highest HIV infection rate and of 21,000 young people aged 10-19 living with HIV just 30 per cent access treatment. Stigma is the biggest barrier to youth care and Sentebale hopes its charity concert – the first open-air pop concert on the East Lawn – will raise vital funds and awareness. The 3,000 tickets sold-out in less than an hour in May.

Cathy Ferrier, CEO of Sentebale, said: “The world has committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 but ignorance and misunderstanding continues to undermine those efforts. Stigma, discrimination and lack of education about HIV/AIDS means young people in Africa are increasingly dying when AIDS-related deaths are in decline for all other age groups. Together we have an opportunity to end an epidemic that has defined public health for a generation but it won’t go away unless we act now. The Sentebale concert is all about bringing people together to make a difference.”

Sentebale carries out HIV testing and counselling to ensure the other 70 per cent of 10-19 year olds in Lesotho living with HIV access treatment. The charity also provides care and education to orphans, children with disabilities and young shepherds or ‘herd boys’, and last year delivered over 60,000 hours of psychosocial support. Its concert is sponsored and supported by The Handa Foundation, Quintessentially Foundation, Huntswood, Avios, Getty Images, The&Partnership and The BRIT School.

For more information visit or follow @Sentebale #SentebaleConcert

Muscular dystrophy drama ‘Don’t Take My Baby’ wins BAFTA

TV drama ‘Don’t Take My Baby’, about a young person with muscular dystrophy, has won a BAFTA for Best Single Drama at this year’s BAFTA Awards in London.

IMG_1340-270x200At the beginning of 2015, BBC Three made contact with Muscular Dystrophy UK – the charity for people living with muscle-wasting conditions – as they were making a drama featuring a lead character called Anna who had Minicore Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy (MMMD).

The drama would tell the story of a young disabled couple who have a baby together but are constantly and intensely supervised by social services, who are concerned the couple cannot look after the child due to their physical disabilities.

BBC Three wanted to find a young person who had MMMD who could tell actress Ruth Madeley about living with MMMD.

Laura Bizzey who has MMMD agreed to visit Ruth on set and said: “Ruth and I chatted for a long time about the role she was playing and I tried to give as much detail about how MMMD affects me on a day-to-day basis and told her about any other restrictions I have that could be portrayed in the character.”

Following on from the BAFTA win, Laura said: “I sat watching the BAFTAs with my fingers tightly crossed, hoping that ‘Don’t Take My Baby’ would win the BAFTA for best single drama. When it came to their category and DTMB was read out as the winner, I was elated!! So, so incredible and well deserved!!

“A truly great drama, created by an amazing team of people – I am so so proud that all their hard work has been acknowledged and that people have been able to see not only the quality of the acting and production, but also the raw truth of what disabled parents have to deal with when they have children.”

Muscular Dystrophy UK is delighted that big channels and programmes are recognising the need to put rare conditions at the forefront of stories, but more still needs to be done around diversity in the media. Jack Thorne, who wrote Don’t Take My Baby, highlighted the problems that exist in his acceptance speech.

“We’re having a wonderful debate about diversity at the moment and trying to sort out the problems in our industry, and the sector that seems to get missed out quite a lot of the time is disability. The cuts to access to work are making it very difficult for theatre, film and TV companies to employ disabled talent and that’s wrong and that’s got to change.”

To find out more about muscular dystrophy, visit

Mum ran for charity every single day of the year

Sorrel Hodgson

Over 200 supporters turned out to run, cheer and crack open the champagne as Sorrel Hodgson completed an amazing year of running for the Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T) Society.

Every single day of 2015, Sorrel ran at least 5 km (3.1 miles), clocking up an amazing 1,825 km or 1,134 miles – the equivalent of running from her home town of Nottingham to the very southernmost tip of Spain.

Sorrel has a busy life. She works with people with learning difficulties and has three young children. She found out about A-T as her children go to the same school as Kaid Betts, who has A-T. Sorrel became friends with Kaid’s mother Jo, herself an active supporter of the Society.

Ataxia-Telangiectasia, or A-T, is a rare and complex genetic disorder. It is often referred to as a ‘multi-system’ disorder because it affects a number of different systems within the body. Amongst the most significant of these are increasing difficulty in controlling and co-ordinating movements (ataxia), reduced efficiency of the immune system leading to more frequent infections (immunodeficiency) and an increased risk in developing cancers, in particular leukaemia and lymphoma.

Sorrel was moved and inspired by Kaid and Jo and last New Year, surprising even herself, she made her commitment to run 5 km a day to raise funds for the A-T Society.

She had never done anything like it before, and most of her friends thought she was crazy and would never keep it up. But keep at it she did, running day after day, come rain, wind or shine, work days and holidays alike.

Once they realised she was serious, Sorrel has had great support from her friends, and on her final run over 200 of them turned out either to run alongside her or to cheer her over the line. And in addition to raising over £2,000, she generated fantastic publicity in the local press.

William Davis, chief executive of the A-T Society said: “This is an awesome achievement and Sorrel is an inspiration to us all. She has shown that with imagination and determination anyone can achieve great things. She has made a massive contribution to the Society and to people living with A-T.”

The A-T Society aims to improve the quality of life and quality of care for people living with A-T while actively promoting research to lengthen lives and ultimately bring about a cure.

If you would like to recognise Sorrel’s extraordinary run, please visit her fundraising page.