Comment // Health

Debi Evans Blog: 4 April 2023

This April Fool story made me laugh, and don’t we need more laughter these days! However, as the world focuses on the arrest of President Trump, I’ve been keeping my eyes on the MHRA. Please make sure you watch the news on April 5th for another exclusive. Meanwhile…  

Covid-19 Jabs

If you thought the Covid narrative had gone away, you would be mistaken. Whilst the engines that have been driving the Covid agenda may not sound as loud, they are being fired up for the next round of jabs. The UKHSA are keen to inform us that although the overall Covid-19 hospital admission rate has decreased, older people over the age of 75 continue to be the largest group with severe illness who are admitted to hospital. Spring boosters here we come, although the word ‘booster’ is misleading as many of our elderly will be re re re re re re boosted, some on their 6th or 7th booster already.   So roll up your sleeve, it’s about to start all over again. This week the next phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme starts for everyone in care homes. Do you have an elderly relative in a care home? Do you know they will be targeted for another jab? Apparently, over 5 million vulnerable people over the age of 75 in care homes are 'eligible'. ‘Roving’ NHS teams will be visiting all care homes to ‘offer protection’. Of course, if anyone else believes they may be eligible, the NHS will be only too happy to grab and jab you too. This time you can book with ease through the trusty NHS app. Book now and look forward to your jab the week commencing 17 April. This is the first time initial invitations will be sent through the NHS app, but don’t worry if you don’t have or want the app, a text message will be sent instead. No one will get left out. Anyone else thought of ditching their phone, even the old ones? It seems that just by having a phone, any phone, you will be found.  

Bird Flu

Has anyone given any thought to all of our beautiful birds who have been in lockup since before Christmas and not allowed to see the light of day because of Avian Influenza (bird flu)? There appears to be no let up and the birds must remain locked indoors as bird flu now appears to be ‘jumping species’ with mammals now affected. The UKHSA has updated its risk assessment to level three, known as ‘limited mammalian transmission’, after ten bush dogs who died at an unnamed zoo in England were found to have H5N1 influenza virus.   I am sure those reading will feel reassured to know that the UKHSA and SPI-M group have collaborated together to produce the modelling of what would happen in a human pandemic of Avian Flu. The very same SPI-M group is headed by Professor Neil Ferguson, who notoriously needs no introduction. By his projections, 1:20 humans could die if infected with bird flu.   It is clear to me from listening to both the NHS Integration Board meeting and the MHRA Board meeting, that Avian Influenza is very much on the agenda and that the UK Government is planning for a big flu vaccination drive this summer/winter.  

Private Health Cover Doubled

I have been waiting for this story to hit the headlines, and I didn’t have to wait long as the Express brings an exclusive on private health care. With NHS waiting lists currently sitting at over 7 million and set to increase to a projected 12 million, many are spending their savings, or worse, going into debt in order to afford private health care. Worryingly, a study carried out for the Sunday Express by Broadstone showed a rise in ‘pay as you go’ treatment not covered by insurance. Currently, overall satisfaction with the NHS stands at 29%, and with junior doctors about to strike for another 4 days in April, the situation doesn’t look as though it will improve anytime soon. Whilst you may get faster treatment privately, is it any better? A revealing interview with our friend Fran Adamson suggests private medicine may not be quite what it is cracked up to be.  

3rd Thumb

No, I am not joking, I only wish I were. I wonder if anyone remembers the advert featuring cats with thumbs. What a cat could get up to with two thumbs, imagine a human with 3! And how would we even adapt to another digit on the side of our hands? Dani Clode is a young researcher and augmentation designer who has designed a 3D prosthetic thumb controlled by the feet! Spoiler warning, her website is very strange but horrifyingly real. Using pressure sensors placed under the toes to detect for movement, they relay information via Bluetooth to a strap connected to the ‘third thumb’.    It appears we are being launched into the prosthetic era. Society 5.0 where augmentation with machines will be the new norm. I am old enough to remember the Bionic Man on television. Science fiction has once again become a reality and prosthetics will become the new reality. What will you choose? Legs that run at the speed of light? Eyes that can see for miles? Or perhaps an arm that will pick up heavy weights as well as perform precision fine skills. According to the Daily Mail, we could all have wings, extra arms or tentacles in next few decades. I’m only glad I won’t be here to see it.  

Digital Twins

UK Column have reported on Digital twins a number of times. How many of you took notice of what a digital twin actually is? This might be what's causing the concern from many experts, that AI is becoming too powerful, too dangerous and too intelligent to be trusted. I have a strong suspicion it is. A digital twin has capabilities far beyond our control. As I see it, ChatGP was the catalyst for even more advanced AI such as an AI technology which will enable humans to ‘live on after death’, apparently as soon as 2050. Even after you are dead, your loved ones will be able to continue communicating with your eternal ‘digital twin’. As if that's not bad enough, using Neuro Linguistic Programming, looks and personality are captured to make the experience of your faked loved one ‘real’. Would you want to talk to your loved ones after they die? Would they want to talk to you? If this comes into being, then the term ‘Rest In Peace’ would cease to exist.    The warnings are out there, AI super smart intelligence is here, but do we need it, do we want it, and do we like it? Whilst Artificial Intelligence may be useful to humans, it could also destroy them. Watch this space as the worldwide debate heats up.  

Nudge Nudge Wink Wink

The ‘Nudge Unit’ has become one of our regular contributors on UK Column. Established in the Cabinet Office in 2010 on David Cameron’s watch, it now has operations around the world. The Behavioural Insights team, as it is otherwise known, has Dr David Halpern at its helm. Its purpose is to alter our behaviour to suit an agenda using subtle behavioural nudges. Brian Gerrish originally highlighted a 2010 paper entitled MINDSPACE, which has since been superceded by many others including EAST. Most reading will know that Professor Susan Michie heads up the unit, which also includes her husband, Professor Robert West. Let’s jump ahead to see what is in store for us now and the immediate future. It won’t surprise you to know that nudges to increase influenza vaccination uptake are now going to be ‘electronic’. A recent study in Denmark sent electronic letters to all those aged over 65 years to offer and encourage them to take a flu vaccine. It should be noted that care homes were not included and only private homes were targeted. Not surprisingly, increases in uptake were modest. However, the cost, time and ability to send multiple letters all at once has proven very helpful. Watch this space as a text or email could be pinging on your phone in the near future.  

Cost of Dying

In the UK there over 695,000 deaths in 2020, the most deaths in a single year since 1918 according to Statista. In 2021, the average cost of dying in the United Kingdom is approximately £8,864, whereas in 2022 it is £9,200. Cremations are always cheaper than burials wherever you are in the country. An average burial in the UK is £1,700 compared to a cremation at £823. With most spending £206+ on flowers alone, it appears to be a lucrative business for funeral directors and florists.  

In Brief

The Telegraph – The NHS was never the envy of the world, but now it’s a disaster. Has the NHS become the new ‘religion’? What was once regarded as the ‘jewel in UK crown’ is now not fit for purpose. The Herald Scotland – Dr Mark Harper calls on Scottish MSP’s to support ‘wild swimming’, which would allegedly save the NHS a fortune. It is worth bearing in mind that most rivers and coastal waters in the UK are contaminated with sewage. Perhaps Dr Harper forgot that subtle detail? Daily Mail – More than 12,000 children are waiting over a year to see community health services due to the Covid-19 backlog. Officials are calling it a ‘disturbing crisis’. I bet they don’t have to wait long to get a vaccination they don’t need? Just an observation. London Economic Schools, councils and police stations are to receive portraits of King Charles at a cost of £8million to the taxpayer. It has been called a ‘fitting tribute’, I would call it a total waste of money.   And now for some other topics I’ve been looking into…  

15 Minute Cities - 20 Minute Neighbourhoods - Smart Cities 

It is humbling and uplifting to see so many rising up and rallying against 15 minute cities and 20 minute neighbourhoods. We will be featuring more of these local heroes in up and coming interviews. This week I promised to give a short explanation of the differences between smart cities, 15 minute cities and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Many are confusing them, and whilst they are similar, there are subtle differences. You may not need a smart meter, for example, in a 20 minute neighbourhood, whereas in a smart city, there is no choice. Whichever the title your area will fall under, you can be sure it is just another way for authorities to know where you are at all times, and of course, what you are doing. George Orwell’s 1984 has arrived.   15 minute cities -  in order to ‘cut’ down on emissions and traffic jams, cars will be a thing of the past and Shanks pony will be the new ‘normal’. You will now be able to shop, learn, relax and keep well within 15 minutes of your city home. Autonomous transportation will replace cars so you can rest assured you’ll be breathing in clean air. Of course, it is yet another way for the King’s government to keep you safe, whilst knowing where you are at all times. Smart City - a city full of ‘smart technology’ and cycle lanes. Technology, innovation and connection are the three big ambitions. Big data, robots, surveillance, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are what you will look forward to. Smart meters, smart people, smart hospitals, smart transport. You name it, it will be ‘smart’.  How smart do you need to be to live in a ‘smart city’? Stupid, I would suggest. 20 minute neighbourhoods – This is the scheme planned for rural areas, towns and villages. Another cunning way to keep us all within walking distance from our homes. 20 minute neighbourhoods are hailed as areas which will ‘boost’ the quality of life for everyone. Think of how lovely it will be to bump into people for a chat and hook up with your friends for a drink? No more drink driving problems, walk! 10 mins there, 10 mins back.  Financial services, jobs, leisure and plenty of public open spaces filled with liquid trees and a variety of housing to suit all wallets! Neighbourhoods will be ‘connected’ with other neighbourhoods, although I am not sure if any of us will be able to travel to those other neighbourhoods without a permit or permission.  

Banks Don’t Keep Much Cash in Branch

We are hearing from many who are struggling to get money out of their accounts without answering twenty questions. Did you know most banks (the ones that are left) don’t keep cash in the branch? After hearing about this, I decided to do some amateur sleuth work. A friend who does a lot of work for the Parents Teacher Association was asked to gather some change for a cake sale being held at a local primary school. A float of loose change was needed with some £5 notes. I went into our main Halifax branch to grab some cash, and yes, you guessed, there was no change available. After begging for £30 in £1 coins and £10 in £2 coins, plus £40 in £5 notes, that was my lot. Apparently, I had drained the bank dry. So if you want cash, be prepared to have to answer 20 questions and be prepared to wait whilst they order cash in.  

Liquid Trees

Honestly, you haven’t read wrong and I haven’t made a typing error. Have you ever wondered why trees are being cut down all over the place? Perhaps it is because there will be ‘liquid trees’ in their place. Large containers filled with bright green gloop will be the new ‘normal’. I couldn’t believe it either. This ridiculous idea was born in Serbia where ‘air quality’ is very poor. To improve air quality in cities, what could be better than a tank of 600 litres of water mixed together with microalgae that binds carbon dioxide and produces pure oxygen? I did have to check to make sure this was not an April Fools joke, sadly it wasn’t and it appears real. Fancy sitting on a bench next to a tank full of gloop?   

And Finally

In these interesting times, many of us will also be celebrating Holy week. I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a peaceful and blessed Easter. Question everything and keep your eyes on the signs around you for they are there in abundance. I wish you strength, discernment and happiness.  Until next week, Debi   Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord but they that deal truly are his delight Proverbs 12.22