Margaret McCartney

Up to now, doctors have issued a small but vital piece of paper, the sick note, to confirm that a patient is unfit to work. This extends beyond the seven days which an employee can self-certify first. But now the certificate, known as a Med 3, is being replaced by a system of “fit notes”, about which I have several doubts.

Instead of highlighting an illness that prevents a certain type of work, the new fit notes will point out what a patient might be able to do instead. This has been celebrated as a great advance for everyone, most notably the economy – as if people unable to work in “sick note Britain” are lounging around in the sun, drinking beer in some kind of immoral stupor.

Continue reading ‘The sick note is poorly’

By Rebecca Knight

When my maternity leave ended, I hemmed and hawed over childcare options. My friends who had hired nannies conceded it was the more expensive route, but, they told me, children in daycare get sick more often, which means taking days off from work, and spending more time at the pediatrician’s office. That didn’t sound like fun.

My circle of daycare-devoted working mothers told me that it was not only the more economical solution, but that it was a boon to socialisation. They admitted their kids did seem to be afflicted with more colds and coughs compared with children who had nannies, but that these respiratory illnesses had a counterbalancing positive benefit: daycare kids have lower rates of asthma and allergies later in life. It sounded plausible at the time.

By Rebecca Knight

Have you ever worked for a boss who rarely took a vacation, and wouldn’t dream of leaving the office early to take her mother to the doctor, or see her son’s school recital?

I have. It was miserable. It was one of my first jobs out of university. I felt like I wasn’t entitled to a holiday; after all, if my superior wasn’t taking time away from the office, I didn’t deserve to either. And God forbid I have any personal obligations outside of
my professional ones: my boss didn’t have them, and neither should I.

With the UK government warning employers to prepare for up to an eighth of their employees to be absent from work because of swine flu in the coming weeks, some businesses could be stretched to the limit.

There again, things could get worse still if current discussions lead to recommendations to keep schools closed after the summer holidays until a swine flu vaccine is prepared and given to children. That would mean more staff staying at home to look after them - just when business is picking up after the break.

So how is your business coping with the swine flu outbreak? Is it a serious threat to the recovery of the UK economy? What is the impact of the on the workplace, and your ability to operate? Share your views by clicking here or on the link below.

Margaret McCartney

The Fair Access to the Professions report is just out.

The bottom line is that there are not many students studying medicine or law from lower social classes. According to the British Medical Association, just 4 per cent of medical students are from lower social classes.

I for one am not convinced that it therefore all about “raising aspirations”. A longer course means more tuition fees, as well as less time to take on a part-time job: medical students currently graduate with debt of about £19,000, estimated to increase to £37,000 once changes in tuition fees have filtered through to those starting their course after 2006.

Nor can doctors assume to walk into a job on graduation – thanks to the NHS Medical Training Application Service (MTAS), doctors have been entirely unsure where, or if, their next training job will start. I would not expect anyone – at least anyone without a family to bankroll their career choice – to think that medicine would be a secure option.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives unveiled their plan for health reform this week. Barack Obama endorsed it. This process has weeks still to run, and the measure is unlikely to become law in its present form. How fortunate that is. The Democrats’ position on health reform endangers US prosperity.The aim of universal health insurance is admirable. The present system is horribly unfair, and it imposes a heavy economic burden. No question, it needs reform. But Democrats seem intent on folding this wholly desirable goal into a bill that may actually do more harm than good.

Continue reading “The Democrats’ unfit health plan”

By Rebecca Knight

I’ve always bragged about the ease and convenience of working from the home. It’s the great benefit of self-employment: I do my interviews and write my stories and still manage to squeeze in household chores and errands.

It’s economical, too: when I get hungry, I whip up a sandwich in my very own kitchen. And, of course, I have the luxury of not having to commute to and from an office every day. Jealous? Turns out I shouldn’t be so smug.

By Rebecca Knight

When you have a sore throat, a sinus problem, or a sprained ankle, who do you call? Your primary care doctor. These docs are also the folks you turn to for chronic care and preventative care, and for immunisations and cancer screenings.

But the ranks of these reliable folks are thinning. The US faces a looming shortage of primary care doctors in the coming years; in fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the overall shortage may grow to 124,400 by 2025. The numbers are worrying: as Baby Boomers age and disease rates for obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates, access to these doctors is critical.

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

In rapidly aging Japan, a bit of black humour has it that the only profitable businesses will soon be mortuaries and nursing homes. Dark as it sounds, that formulation may be too sunny in one respect: the latter of those businesses, nursing care, is looking like a bust.

According to Teikoku Databank, a research firm, 26 operators of nursing homes or in-home nursing services went bankrupt last year, up from four in 2004 and the highest number on record. In spite of soaring demand – there are now 4.5m elderly Japanese who need at least some help taking care of themselves, against 2.6m in 2000 – providers are having trouble making a go of it.

By Rhymer Rigby

At Wheeler Interests, a Virginia-based property development company, plans are under way to get employees canoeing.

“We’re building a dock and pier and I’d like to get six kayaks and canoes,” says chief executive Jon Wheeler. The company is committed to providing the “right type of culture and environment for employees and this includes physical exercise”.

The company headquarters, explains Mr Wheeler, sits on a tributary of the Lynnhaven River and the idea is to let staff go canoeing and kayaking at lunchtime.

Health and science blog (Archived)

This blog, part of the FT's health series, is a forum for readers interested in the science, policy, management, technology, business and delivery of healthcare.

This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

About our regular bloggers

Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow