Health Matters – July 2023

8 subjects this month!!!

  • 75th Birthday Party
  • Consultant Strikes
  • Cost of Living
  • Speak Up
  • Children & Covid
  • Children & Measles
  • Fertility Treatments IVF
  • St Albans Hospital Elective Hub



  1. 75th Birthday – We should start with the fact that, earlier in the month, we found ourselves celebrating a new logo, a 75th-anniversary badge, tea parties with cakes iced in blue, talks in schools, a photography competition, endless articles by health correspondents, and even some specially made bunting.


Is this 75th anniversary really a cause for celebration or does it signal a system in old age, creaking its way into a sad decline? Should it be pensioned off? Or does the long-awaited workforce plan signal investment in the NHS that could give it a new lease of life?


Certainly not everyone is celebrating. Not the 15,000 local people currently on a waiting list, 3,000 of whom have been waiting for more than a year. And not the nurses, doctors, ambulance workers, porters and other staff involved in recent or planned strikes.

But despite all the current challenges, the NHS survives and retains the principles of fair access and financial protection that were enshrined 75 years ago. I certainly hope that will continue for another 75 years!


  1. Doctors’ Strikes – this is a bad week for Doctors’ Strikes – we had the Junior Doctors out on Monday and Tuesday and the Consultants are out Thursday and Friday. Most planned appointments at Watford and the Lister have being postponed, Consultants will stop seeing many patients, and will not be around to supervise the junior doctors.

They will provide so-called Christmas Day cover, which means that emergency care and a key ward rounds will be covered. But that’s it! This is all over pay; whilst the Junior Doctors are pushing for a 35% increase to cover the salary loss they have experienced since 2008 the Consultants are pushing for 11% cost of living increase.

Further, the Radiographers (who scan patients) are coming out on strike at a number of Trusts (including Watford) next Monday/ Tuesday, and the Consultants are out again on August 24/15. During strike days, Surgeries and Pharmacies are operating normally. So if you have a health concern on a strike day all 999 if it’s life threatening and 111 if it isn’t.

  1. Cost of Living – as you probably remember, dear listener, I’m a Trustee of Healthwatch and we released a report today on the impact of the rising cost of living in Hertfordshire. Here are the headline statistics:-
  • 81% of respondents had reduced their energy bills
  • 63% had gone out less
  • 61% bought cheaper food
  • 40% had reduced car journeys or their use of public transport
  • 39% had not gone on holiday

I could go on but the report went on to focus on the impact on 6 different groups:

  • Families under 54 – really hit by mortgage rates as well as energy, food and the cost of equipping children for school
  • Single Families – 93% were very concerned about the impact of inflation versus 72% overall. Food, rent, energy and prescriptions were highlighted
  • Ethnicity – people from minority groups were hit proportionately harder by the cost of living and there was evidence that this group may be more reluctant to seek help.
  • Disabled and Long Term Conditions – were equally hit harder than the average with people especially reporting problems accessing equipment, and getting to medical appointments.
  • Carers – reported real coping issues, esp being unable to reduce their energy bills due to the needs of the patient for whom they’re caring.
  • Just about managing – this group had typically made significant changes to their lifestyle and had looked at alternative ways to increase their income.

If you would like to read the report then go to

In all cases, the impact on people’s physical and mental health was significant! So what help is there? For a complete overview of the help available go to

The help falls into categories such as:

  • Money Advice
  • Energy Support
  • Food Support
  • NHS Support
  • Support for Families &
  • Holiday Activities for Kids

And one number that is there to support you at any time is Herts Help on 0300 123 4044


  1. Speak Up – Have you experienced poor service of healthcare? If so, did you highlight it to the organisation concerned in the form of a complaint? In the past people have invariably felt hesitant to highlight a problem – either, it’s easy to ignore it on the basis that it’s happened and there’s nothing you can do to change it, or the fear that the complaint will be ignored or treated as a white-wash exercise.

But the way that complaints are handled has changed from July 1st and it’s an interesting change. You can still complain directly to the organisation about which you’ve had a poor experience, but better, you can complain to our local commissioning organisation – the Integrated Care Board. They will then investigate it fully and ensure that any lessons that need to be learned from the incident are learned – no whitewashing!!!!!!!

You can contact the ICB  in the following ways.

And if you feel reluctant to complain, either because you’re not sure how to articulate the issue, or you don’t have the confidence to do it, then there is an advocacy service that will support you. Just contact POhWER on 0300-123-4044



  1. Children and The Covid Lockdown – a recent research study compared babies who had lived through lockdown to a comparable cohort pre-lockdown. The results, whilst predictable, are still interesting:-
  • Smaller Social Groups – lockdown meant that activities such as parent and baby groups were called off, and there were no visits to other homes. One in four babies had not met another child their own age by their first birthday.
  • Poorer Speech – fewer pandemic babies had said their first word,
  • Fewer could point or wave “bye-bye”, on the other hand there was
  • Better parental bonding with the new baby and more family time due to the lockdown restrictions.
  • more babies could crawl.
  1. Children Covid and Measles – one other impact of Covid has been on Measles; the Measles jab (known as MMR) should be given at 12 months and followed up with a second one at age 5. The problem was that, during Covid, many children missed their jabs; that especially affects the children age 5 that missed their jabs as they are now in the school system and are unprotected.

The measles virus spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person, making it easily transmissible in close quarters such as schools. It’s known to be one of the most infectious pathogens affecting humans.

There is clear evidence that outbreaks are occurring in London and we are definitely exposed to it in St Alban. If there is a new disease outbreak then it can be controlled by emergency vaccination and management of contacts. But loss of immunity makes the virus escape more likely and could lead to large, uncontrollable outbreaks.


  1. Fertility Treatments IVF – have you, or someone you know experienced issues over fertility treatment? Well our local Commissioners want to know!!! There is a consultation now and you can find full details here

Now I am not going to go through the details here – please read the material on the web site. But what patients tell me is that there are so many hoops to jump through that people feel the pain is not worth the gain!!!

Whilst this consultation doesn’t change anything significantly the survey does ask people about their experience so if you know someone then please pass them this link and ask them to feedback how they truly feel. In my view, this change is really “fiddling while Rome burns”, and if you agree with that, then tell them that Rome is burning!!!! And, of course, if you have great experience of the service tell them that too!

8. SACH Elective Hub – the plans are still being developed for the new elective hub at the City Hospital. This will be a facility for the whole of Herts and West Essex to address the backlog. It plans to open in April next year although they’re still waiting for confirmation that the money is forthcoming!

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.

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