Tag Archives: Public Health England

Productivity: how most British businesses are standing on the brake

Employee Health Protection
Not healthy – business spend a fortune on accelerating productivity, but peanuts on taking the brakes off

OK, so we’re lagging behind if you believe the Office for Budget Responsibility. Not keeping up, hanging onto our shekels, not investing in the future.

Doesn’t look like it with the new start-ups making the headlines. New ideas, new technology, the front-runners are showing the world.

Across the board though, there’s no doubt performance could be better. Bigger, more established businesses are not so quick to jump in the gaps – and too many cut corners with low income immigrant labour.

They might look like they’re trying to go places, but the fact is that pretty well all of them are standing on the brake. Holding back, without even knowing they’re doing it.

But as winter draws in and the days get colder, the evidence becomes more obvious.

The first sneeze, the first sore throat, the first coughing attack in the office. A team member gamely pushing themselves at their desk, determined not to give in to whatever bug it is – common cold, H3N2 Aussie flu virus, MERS, SARS, or any one of a billion possible illnesses.

No protection against germs

And that’s the clue – being unwell at work. Trying to keep going, but feeling like death warmed up – at what kind of capability level? 60% of their normal? 40%? 25%?

Under-powered performance and under-powered concentration. So the work load suffers and accuracy with it. Lots of good intentions, but unwell staff are unable to deliver their best – which means productivity can only take a dive.

And how long will it be before other team members start coughing too? Everyone sharing the same work space, breathing the same air, touching the same things – it’s going to happen isn’t it? What goes around, comes around – a setback is almost inevitable.

Which is what we mean by standing on the brake.

Because what do most businesses do about protecting staff from colds and flu – or anything else for that matter? A company flu jab, maybe – and that’s your lot.

And how about prevention?

It’s winter – so expectations  are high for norovirus,  the vomiting bug, to appear. What measures are taken against that?

Or legionnaire’s disease, a pneumonia-like killer that spreads through the air via the HVAC system? Neglect that one and it can cost millions in health and safety fines, as G4S Cash Solutions found out.

What about duty of care?

Also on top of the health risk, other hazards like mould and damp can trigger a £5K spot fine. Or as one charity found out, £12,000 in compensation and six months of expensive renovations.

That’s in addition to the 30 other notifiable diseases listed by Public Health England – along with 60 notifiable organisms that present a significant risk to human health. 90 illnesses any business is liable for if found negligent in duty of care.

All of which are expensive oversights to make. But a drop in the ocean compared to on-going unwell-at-work costs and the impact of under-performance on productivity.

Because unlike time off for sick leave, which for most people is just 6 days a year according to the CIPD – being unwell at work is likely to be 10 times that at 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Three working months of under-powered performance. And that’s for EVERY team member – from the lowliest apprentice to the top-ranking CEO – because we’re all human. No wonder productivity is less than it could be!

And the cause?

Germs holding us back

Sure, we’re exposed to germs all the time, so some of them may have come from outside.

Reality is though that we spend 90% of our time indoor, particularly in winter – and most of our waking hours are spent at work. So it’s no surprise our workplace is where we’re exposed the most.

On top of which, because we can’t see germs, we don’t imagine we’re at risk. We LOOK clean, therefore we are. But again in reality:

There’s another dimension too. Germs are so tiny, they’re airborne most of the time. And around 80% of any room space we work in is air.

We might clean our workplace thoroughly, scrub every surface within an inch of its life, but there’s no way to scrub the air. And in a study prepared for the Wall Street Journal, germs were found to spread from the front door handle to more than half the office in less than four hours.

Up in the air – and waiting

Uh huh, the air. We share it, we breathe it, we move through it – and all the time we’re immersed in germs, surrounded by them, constantly in contact.

Sometimes we fall victim, sometimes we’re lucky. We get something and throw it off quickly, or it has us seriously out of action for several days. We’re at constant hazard, yet how many businesses provide protection against it?

Surprisingly, nobody thinks about it, accepting getting unwell as a fact of life. Productivity with the brake on, even when money and technology are trying to accelerate it.

Yet releasing the brake is easy. Mist the place up with an effective biocide like ionised hydrogen peroxide, and ALL germs are eliminated in under an hour depending on room size. Throughout the air space, across all surfaces, and into all the nooks and crannies too.

Back to 100%

And with no germs to catch, there are no illnesses to fall victim to. Those three lost working months are restored, with team members able to perform at full capacity all the time – 33% more than they could previously.

33% better productivity.

The brake is well and truly off – there’s nothing to hold back from a rapidly brightening future.

Full throttle – look out world!

Antibiotics crisis: what Public Health England is NOT telling us

Doctor with capsule
Antibiotics might save lives quick – they’re also the slow-burning fuse to world srtarvation

Antibiotics crisis is an understatement – it’s an all-out world-wide calamity.

“One of the most dangerous global crises facing the modern world today,” says Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England.

But he’s not telling us why.

Antibiotic resistance is the impending threat he refers to – and he’s not wrong.

Ramping up fast is the failure of ALL antibiotics to halt infections caused by bacteria – and with it, the complete collapse of modern medicine.

According to England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, without antibiotics minor infections become deadly – while surgery, chemotherapy and caesareans simply become too dangerous.

Wake up, world!

It’s a little late to be surprised. Since antibiotics were first discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, we’ve known that sooner or later bacteria would develop immunity.

Bacteria are the world’s hardiest survivors  – and imagining that we would be safe from them with antibiotics was always going to be wishful thinking.

Over billions of years, bacteria have learnt to survive freezing, boiling, living without  oxygen or water, in acid or alkaline environments, in light or pitch darkness. What makes us think we can succeed where the elements haven’t?

The track record is not good. So far, we’ve been lucky if an antibiotic succeeds for more than 10 years.  A few examples:

  • Tetracycline introduced 1950, resistance identified 1959.
  • Erythromycin introduced 1953, resistance identified 1968.
  • Methicillin introduced 1960, resistance identified 1962.
  • Gentamycin introduced 1967, resistance identified 1979.
  • Vancomycin introduced 1972, resistance identified 1988.
  • Ceftazidime introduced 1985, resistance identified 1987.
  • Levofloxacin introduced 1996, resistance identified THE SAME YEAR.
  • Ceftaroline introduced 2010, resistance identified 2011.

Devastating stuff.

Which is why medics are jumping up and down about overuse accelerating this resistance – putting the brakes on the public demanding our Twenty-First Century miracle cure. Because as many as 25% of all antibiotic prescriptions are totally unnecessary.

Tip of the iceberg

But that’s not the real problem, or even the beginning of it.

It’s antibiotics’ amazing side effect we’re turning our backs on. And already it makes the whole resistance issue look like a sideshow.

Ever since antibiotics started being used, researchers noted their extraordinary ability to promote growth. Bodies grew quicker, bulked up heavier, super-developing in months instead of years.

They didn’t need a full strength dose either – the kind to clobber an infection. A little and often was enough, a regular under-dose to start the growth spurt and keep it going.

Don’t believe it? Then ask yourself what’s the real reason two thirds of us are overweight or obese – and a third of our kids too? Animals get antibiotics, we eat them, we bulk up same as they do.

Wholesale overuse worldwide

Today 280,000 TONNES of antibiotics are pumped into farming animals around the world. Supposedly restricted to comply with overuse regulations. But actually a necessity to sustain the explosion of world human population.

From 2½ billion in the 1950s when antibiotics began to be used in any volume, to the 7½ billion we are today. Essential to produce the the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep that currently feed us.

And right there is the Catch 22.

Modern factory farm methods are so concentrated and so intense that animals literally live on top of each other. Crowded, living in each other’s filth, conditions are so unhygienic that antibiotics really are essential for survival. On top of the growth boosting function they’re already administered for.

And guess what?

Antibiotics are starting to fail for farm animals too. They HAVE to be used to keep up numbers, but fight a losing battle against increasing antimicrobial resistance.

End of the world coming

Which means it’s going to happen.

One day soon, animals will start to die. Penned into slum-like conditions with no protection, an epidemic that will sweep through them like wildfire.

Containing it will be impossible, because there’ll be no defence. The antibiotics won’t work, so things can only go one way.

Which means wholesale animal deaths worldwide.

And the end of the food supply that sustains the extra 5 billion people that we have become since antibiotics enabled such huge production capability.

Two thirds of the world population.

Because bacteria always win.

Because we’re too stupid to realise that defence against them is a moving target, that they will always evolve to find a way round.

We’re all going to die

And that by the time we wake up to that fact, we’ll be dead.

Antibiotics crisis is right. And that’s what Public Health England aren’t telling us.

It really could be the end of the world.

Shrink sweet sizes? Really? When ALL other foods already contain super-fattening drugs?

Woman with rolling pin
Lay off the sugar if you like – but those super-fattening drugs are in everything else you eat

Public Health England might want to rethink this one. Because shrinking sweet sizes to cut obesity will most likely achieve nothing.

Nothing except irate sweet eaters who eat double to compensate.

Oh sure, the sugar in sweets DOES contribute to making us all fatter.

But one Snickers bar a week is not exactly going to blow us up like an elephant.

It takes several a day – on top of pigging out on everything else – to do that.

Gorging ourselves stupid. Eating too much – of everything. Absorbing too much for our bodies to take, so they bulk up.

Exactly what farmers do to get animals ready for market. As quickly as possible – money, money, money.

Gut bacteria on the fritz

Which is why they feed them drugs to fatten them up. Deliberately obese-ifying them. From an egg to a roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From newborn calf to an Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

And the drugs they use are antibiotics. Added to feedstuffs in small doses. Just right to tip animals’ gut bacteria into always wanting food. Becoming more efficient at extracting nutrients from it too. The proven way to bulk up fast.

Proven, right?

Because aren’t drugs frequently tested on animals before they’re let loose on humans? To see if they work properly – or head off any Frankenstein side-effects?

Yes, well. Farmers worldwide have proved the case well and truly – and do so every day.  As they have done since antibiotics were discovered 50 years ago. Today they’re using 240,000 tonnes of the stuff a year.

Which is how they produce the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep that keep us fed.

And how they pushed food production to feed us all. From the 2½ billion people we were 50 years ago – to the7½ billion we are today. All off exactly the same available land.

Get the picture? The planet isn’t any bigger since back then – what’s different is the antibiotics.

So yes, proven. Antibiotics obese-ify animals, which means they obese-ify us too. The world’s most efficient super-fattening growth boosters. Which is how come today two thirds of us are porkers.

Proven super-fatteners

Proven beyond doubt.

Which sort of says that cutting sweet sizes down by a fifth isn’t exactly going to crack it. People will get fat anyway, from the other stuff that they eat. Fat and getting fatter, even if they’ve never chomped a Snickers.

Now of course, the powers that be will tell you this isn’t possible. That there aren’t any antibiotics in the foods we eat. Farmers feed them to their animals, yes – but doses are withdrawn weeks before market and all meat is antibiotics-free.

If only. Because to feed 7½ billion people requires factory farm methods to sustain enough food supply.

CAFOs these farms are called – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Animals crowded into intensive growing areas – so much on top of each other that antibiotics are necessary just to help them survive.

OK, so health authorities know this. And they’re concerned too, for the effect any antibiotics in the meat might have on humans. Specifically carcinogenic, toxic or allergenic effects.

Antimicrobal resistance & MRLs

And of course superbugs. Harmful bacteria that have become immune to antibiotics and cannot be treated. Top of the list being carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), neisseria gonorrhoeae, clostridium difficile, multi drug-resistant acinetobacter – and the only one most of us have heard of – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

All of which raise the scary reality that modern medicine is back to the Dark Ages. Soon heart bypass surgery, C-section births and hip replacements will no longer possible because the drugs won’t work against infection.

That said, there’s still antibiotics in our food. Because while levels are reduced to make it safe for us to eat, they’re not removed entirely. Trace residues are still allowed as long as they conform to legal Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs).

Still there in our food, but only in little bits.

Precisely the way antibiotics are administered to livestock to obese-ify them.

And precisely the way we ingest them when we eat animal meat. Little drip-drip doses, just enough to tip our gut bacteria out of balance and our appetites jammed on full throttle.

If only it stopped there.

Universally obese

You see, most animals only absorb 20% of the food value that they eat. The rest is excreted as waste – Nature’s way of providing nutrients to enrich the soil and promote plant life.

Manure and fertiliser for plant crops. Vital at today’s population volumes. So that antibiotics-laden enrichment finds its way into everything else that we eat. Grains crops, cereals, vegetables, fruit – often in higher concentrations than with animal meat.

And not monitored either because nobody twigs there’s antibiotics in their food source.

It’s also how antibiotics in animal meat sneak back – in higher volumes than regulations allow.

Not all meat is monitored and tested, the logistics are impossible. Any checks are intermittent and random.

Meanwhile, the calf that’s eating grass or feed from sugar beet is still chowing down its daily dose of antibiotics. Grown back into its food by the very manure it pooed out in the first place.

And in water too, because the stuff seeps down into the water table, to be carried in streams to our river system. So when our drinking water comes from the Thames, it quite probably has antibiotics in it.

Sugar tax or sugar hoax?

Harsh reality, huh?

And we haven’t had a Snickers or a Coke since the start of this page – yet already we’re full of antibiotics making us fatter.

Not good, PSE. Not good at all. And there’s a sugar craving coming on.

Better watch the Great British Bake Off.

We can’t eat sweets, so we’ll have to get our hit some other way.

Picture Copyright: sumners / 123RF Stock Photo

Sugar tax, rubbish! Our kids are getting fat from antibiotics. Just like us.

Empty capsules
If we didn’t have antibiotics in the first place, none of this would have happened

Yes, we’re all getting fat. Us and our kids together.

In the last 20 years, something has started us. And since then we’re getting fatter and fatter.

Not from sugary drinks either, so a sugar tax will never work.

Just like it hasn’t worked in Mexico – a ho-hum failure after all the ra-ra.

Once upon a time, we were thin

We never used to be like this. Back in the 90s, we were all pretty trim. In the 80s and 70s, we were practically skinny.

But now, today, we’re a bunch of bulging porkers.

That’s 130 years after Coca Cola was invented (1886). 89 years after Lucozade (1927). And 70 years after Irn Bru (1946).

A few realities for the sugar taxers.

We were not fat when Coke started in the Nineteenth Century. We were not fat for most of the Twentieth Century, during which a whole slew of other popular drinks started.

Not in the 50s. Not in the 60s. Not in the 70s. And only some of us in the 80s.

So it’s not sugary drinks doing it. If Coke was the culprit, how come none of this getting fat business showed up in the first hundred years?

Fatter and fatter

But we ARE definitely getting fat.

On average, men are a whole stone heavier than in 1954 – and THREE INCHES bigger around the waist.  In the last 30 years alone, obesity rates have trebled.

And here’s the score. Two thirds of UK adults are already overweight or obese. So are one third of our kids.

OK, so try this little experiment.

Get yourself two 2-litre bottles of whichever of Public Health England’s super-bad guys you fancy. Now chug those two bottles, one after the other, all in one go.

Can’t be done, can it? Your body won’t let you. Too much of a good thing, your system can’t handle it. Which is natural, right? The body says NO to too much. In this case, too much bulk. There’s not enough space.

Which is what it’s supposed to do.

The same process works with everything we eat and drink. The body knows what it wants – and how much it wants. And shuts off when it’s had enough – satisfied.

But just  look at us. We ARE getting fat when we’re not supposed to. Especially kids.

The body’s NO switch is glitched and keeps saying YES. Nothing to do with Coke. How come?

The real villain

You’re not going to like this. Because it starts when worried Mums first take us to the doctor – fever, swollen glands and glazed eyes. Do something, do something, give us special medicine.

It’s when we first started on antibiotics.

Antibiotics, hmm. Always an iffy question with kids. But antibiotics are miracle drugs, so we push for them. And these days we strong-arm our GPs so much that 10 million of all prescriptions written out for antibiotics are unnecessary.

Worse, as helicopter parents, we keep pushing antibiotics over and over. Sniff, sniff, antibiotics. Teensy tummy problem, antibiotics. So for example, by the time they’re 20, the average American child has had antibiotics SEVENTEEN times.

Which leads us to the awkward truth that most doctors know but prefer not to talk about. That children given antibiotics by the age of two are likely to become obese by the time they’re five.

Huh?

Somehow antibiotics switch their metabolism so they DO drink too many sugary drinks. AND eat too much pizza. AND pig out on burgers with double fries. AND all the other high octane power foods people eat on the go when time is short.

Power food and drink

High octane foods, right? Not “junk”. There’s nothing bad in them to make the body ill. And there’s nothing wrong with the nutrition packed into them either. They just pack more of a charge than other foods – a super-quick boost that satisfies hunger fast.

Which is what the body goes for when its hunger switch says YES. Fill up now – quick, quick.

There might be no need, but that is what the hunger switch says. Go, Go, Go! And a burger you can eat with one hand walking down the street. A quick, high-nutrition charge in minutes.

So we’re getting fat, not because pop foods and drink are bad for us, but because our hunger switch is jammed on YES. We keep eating and keep eating. And like the drink-chugging experiment we tried a moment ago, we only stop when there’s physically no space for more.

All of which we can thank antibiotics for. And this getting fat business is no joke. Because our miracle drugs are the cause of a world-wide obesity epidemic that is rapidly taking us over.

How can we be so sure?

Super growth boosters

Well, who uses antibiotics?

The medical sector, yes. But did you know that around 80% of antibiotics used world-wide are actually used on farms to feed to livestock? 240 THOUSAND TONNES of them every year.

And do you know why?

Since antibiotics were first discovered, their major use has been as GROWTH BOOSTERS. They’re fed to animals to fatten them up. Make them develop bigger, meatier, faster.

Exactly what happens with us.

Every year they’re shovelled into the 1.4 billion cattle, 19 billion chickens, 1 billion sheep and 1 billion pigs that feed us. Vitally necessary to sustain the 7½ billion human beings we have become since our 2½ billion only 50 years ago. A rocketing threefold increase only possible through antibiotics.

And that’s why we’re getting fat.

Every day, every mouthful

Our starting shove is antibiotics we get from the quack while we’re small. Followed by daily top-up doses from the meat we eat laced with antibiotic residues.

And not just meat. The same animals’ manure fertilises our plant crops, so there’s antibiotics in all the fruit, grain and vegetables we eat too.

Because our metabolisms are so similar, our bodies respond like the animals do. They get fat, so we get fat. And with constant antibiotics in our ongoing diets, we keep getting fatter and fatter. Short of ignoring our bodies and eating less, there is no way to avoid it.

Which is why the whole sugar tax thing makes no sense. It’s treating symptoms, not cause. We might just as well tax spinach, or milk, or sausages. Choose any category, let’s tax that.

Yes, we eat and drink too much – but that’s everything across the board, not just sugary stuff.

The real issue is to control our antibiotics intake.

Next to impossible with the demands on world food supplies. Without them, production would fall to the way they were 50 years ago – and 5 billion people would go hungry.

In other words, keep using antibiotics or starve. Big problems for the medics, big problems for the farmers. But until our leaders sort that one out, we’re going to keep getting fat.

Can we top up your Coke?

Picture Copyright: kirillica / 123RF Stock Photo

How to keep well when flu jabs don’t work

All frosted up
Flu germs are everywhere –
don’t let them get you

Cold and getting colder.

All that stuff sweeping in from Siberia.

The polar bear’s pyjamas.

Worse, according to Public Health England, this year’s anti-flu vaccine is barely effective – working in only 3% of cases.

Defences are down

Not good, particularly if you’re older.

Because this year’s nasty, a mutation from the H3N2 strain of the flu virus, particularly affects the elderly. (Tweet this)

Despite the £100 million spent on flu vaccination annually, this mutation has smartly glitched the guessing game that world health authorities play every winter – deciding which variants of flu virus will be “fashionable” this year.

You still need a flu jab, because other types are still around and each year’s vaccine can usually clobber about three.

But H3N2 has decided otherwise and mutated so much, that this year’s vaccine is about as effective as water.

Flu is not all

Woe and grief, yes – but it’s a useful wakeup call.

You see, it’s not just this year’s flu vaccine that doesn’t work.

It’s a whole slew of medicines – starting with antibiotics.

Big time mutation across the board has made many pathogens immune to them.

So if you’re rushed to hospital with complications from catching flu – cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis or asthma for example – doctors are going to think twice before giving you anything.

Overuse of antibiotics in the last 50 years means that, increasingly, they stop working altogether.

Maybe not so bad with your flu complications – medics can quickly put you on oxygen.

But it’s a disaster for medicine across the board – just about every major procedure in any hospital could fail without them.

Back to the Dark Ages

Any kind of surgery – any incision or breach of the body’s skin – is suddenly a major infection threat. Which is why the big worry among health experts is HAIs – Hospital Acquired Infections.

You go to hospital to have your hernia repaired. But MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) gets in to your surgery area and you’re lucky to escape with your life.

Exactly the headache every surgeon faces with even the simplest case.

But what can you do?

The flu virus is out there and raging rampant. What’s to stop it getting you?

Better than cure

Prevention is what. Simple avoidance.

Alright, you can’t do much in the big outdoors. If it’s your turn to breathe in some H3N2 cells on the rampage, that’s just unlucky.

You also can’t do much if Hooligan Harry sneezes all over you in the lift or Underground. Especially when us Brits are about the most unhygienic people around and never wash our hands enough.

But you can clobber germs indoors so nothing lingers. Sterilise the place when nobody’s around so the germ threshold sinks to zero.

Twenty minutes misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide spray completely destroys all viruses and bacteria. Any room you treat with this stuff is totally sterile.

Which is a lot better defence in your workplace or home than the quick vacuum and dust that most places get.

And why take chances when you can be totally sure?

Especially with so much flu around.

Every year, between 250,000 and 500,000 people die from it worldwide.

Don’t let one of them be you.