Smart Cells supports Rare Disease Day 2018 with social campaign

There are more than 6000 known rare diseases and over 30 million people living daily with them. 28th February marks Rare Disease Day 2018, a date that highlights awareness around these conditions and the need for more research into them. Private cord blood company, Smart Cells, has chosen to support Rare Disease Day this year by running a social media campaign across their platforms.

If you’re living with a rare disease, which is defined by the European Union as one which affects less than 1 in 2000 people, you might feel alone with your condition. Treatments and cures can be few and far between; misdiagnoses and delayed treatment for rare diseases are common. This is due to the rarity of the conditions meaning that the opportunity to research them is so small, and scientific knowledge surrounding them is lacking.

The theme for this year’s Rare Disease Day is research and patient participation. Encouraging healthcare professionals, policy makers and researchers to seize the opportunity for research with current patients can make a world of difference to developments for those being diagnosed or treated currently and in the future.

This is why Smart Cells have chosen to show their support for Rare Disease Day 2018. Thanks to occasions like this, awareness has increased significantly. The first Rare Disease Day events took place in 2008 in just 18 countries; in 2017, 94 countries participated. Several conditions that Smart Cells’ audience live with can be categorised as rare diseases, and so their campaign aims to increase their awareness of what is being done to support them as well as encouraging them to participate in research that could potentially help future patients with these conditions.

Smart Cells’ social media campaign aims to cover the following four bases:

·         What is Rare Disease Day?

·         What can you do to help for Rare Disease Day?

·         What is a rare disease?

·         Two examples of rare diseases: Thalassemia Major and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.

The imagery will be shared on Smart Cells’ blog and social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – in the run up to Rare Disease Day 2018 and on the day itself.

The complications of smoking long term on your health

Dangers of Smoking

Dangers of Smoking

10 million people smoke in the UK however although it is commonly acknowledged that smoking is bad for your health many people do not know the extent of damage with the UK society of Psychiatrists describing it as the “the biggest and most avoidable cause of death in the UK.” As 100,000 people die from smoking every year in the UK. Futhermore smoking is costly for the individual and society a someone who smokes in the UK spends on average £3000 a year on cigarettes and smoking is estimated to cost the NHS £2 billion a year.

Although smoking has generally declined among the population in recent years there has been an increased interest in Electronic cigarettes among the younger generation. With the amount of young people vaping doubling between 2011 and 2012 in the US. Although manufacturers have been criticised for trying to encourage younger people to smoke by adding a variety of different flavours to their products such as grape, lime and orange to name a few the health effects of vaping are described by the NHS website as being “only a fraction” of the risk of cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tar or carbon monoxide. Nevertheless, the vapour still contains propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine, flavourings and potentially toxic carbonyls.


Smoking increases the likelihood of developing many different types of cancer with one of three cancer related death linked to smoking. Theese includes Kidney, Stomach, Mouth and Lungs. This is due to cigarettes containing over 70 cariogenic ingredients which damage DNA and lead to mutation and growth which can result in cancer. Lung cancer is strongly related with smoking with nine out of ten lung cancers being attributed to smoking. Smoking also affects the lungs by it causes 84% of deaths from obstructive pulmonary disease. The risk of developing kidney cancer from smoking is great as the more cigarettes smoked the greater the risk as the risk of developing cancer is doubled if smoke twenty cigarettes a day compared to ten. Nevertheless, this risk can be reduced if smoking is stopped. In five years smokers who stop completely half this risk of cancer and after twenty years the risk of head and neck cancer is the same as non-smokers.

Cardiovascular related diseases

Heart related conditions are also strongly related to smoking as the tar and nicotine in cigarettes thickens blood and increases blood pressure increasing the risk of damage to artery walls and blood clotting which can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a self-perpetuating cycle where clots form in the arteries reducing blood flow to organs and can cause heart attacks and strokes and organ failure. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes makes the heart work faster which also contributes to atherosclerosis. Carbon monoxide also reduces the amount of oxygenated blood in the body by displacing oxygen by binding to haemoglobin to form bind to oxygen. Therefore, there is less oxygen available for organs which can result in organ failure. Similarly, to cancer the risk of CHD other heart related conditions increases with the amount of cigarettes consumed and reduces if smoking stops as after one year of not smoking the risk is reduced by half.

Other health effects on the Body

Other physical conditions associated with smoking include reduced fertility in men and women as the fertility of women who smoke is only 72% of women who don’t smoke. As smoking can affect egg production, fertilization and growth of the baby. Futhermore the sperm count of men who smoke is significantly reduced as smoking can cause less motile sperm, a smaller amount of sperm and sperm that is abnormally shaped. Long term smoking can cause further health effects that interfere with the smokers quality of life these include chronic bronchitis and persistent coughing as well as threatening conditions such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mental health effects

As well having physical effect smoking can also result in mental health problems as there has been shown to be a link between smoking and the onset of anxiety and depression. Also, Nicotine withdrawal from people trying to stop smoking can worsen depression. Futhermore smoking is also associated with increased risk of dementia. As four studies by the royal college of physicians with an overall sample size of almost 10,000 found a positive correlation between smoking and dementia.

Stopping Smoking

Many of the treatments for stopping smoking can be obtained through visiting your GP and the NHS stop service. Theese treatments include Nicotine replacement therapy which can be in the form of skin patches, chewing gum, inhalants, tablets and nasal or mouth spray. Theese act in different ways as patches slowly diffuse nicotine into the blood stream whereas chewing gum and nasal and mouth sprays work instantly although the NHS advise using more than one method at the same time for the best results. A GP can also prescribe drugs such as Varenicline and Bupropion to help with Nicotine craving.

Reference list:

  1. Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Psychiatrists. Smoking and mental health. London: RCP, 2013. Royal College of Psychiatrists Council Report CR178 available at:

Article by University of Birmingham intern Natasha Osborn Patel

Australian flu from a UK perspective

Aussie flu

Aussie flu

Flu season this year has been especially bad with Strain H3N2 of Influenza A dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’ has been said to be taking over the UK. Last year it caused havoc in Australia with an estimated 29,000 admissions of confirmed influenza since April 2017. Figures from Public Health England show that so far this season there have been 1,850 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 83% of them have been associated with influenza A. The Chief medical officer for England Dame Sally Davies warns “flu can kill and it is important we all take it seriously”. with GP rate of Influenza like Illnesses remaining very high throughout the country with areas including Lincolnshire, west midlands, and Cornwell affected. But how many cases of influenza can Aussie flu account for? how is Aussie flu different to normal flu? And is it deadlier? Well the symptoms are very similar to other influenza strains:

  •  sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • dry, chesty cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain

It has been reported that H3N2 killed 300 people in Australia however an investigation by the Australian Government Department of health found that mortality rates are consistent with previous years with the largest number of deaths among the elderly, With death rates highest among the over eighties. A similar pattern can be seen in the UK as out of the two hundred and sixteen acute respiratory outbreaks one hundred and sixty-nine were from care homes. Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director says “We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. The A(H3N2) strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups”. However out of 598 hospitalised confirmed influenza cases 26 were influenza A(H1N1),48 influenza A(H3N2), 158 influenza A(unknown subtype) and 366 influenza B). As with other flu strands the Elderly, young, pregnant women and those with prexisiting conditions are the most vulnerable. With statistically significant excess all-cause mortality by week of death was seen through the EuroMOMO algorithm in the 65+ year olds in England.

to protect yourself from H3N2 and other strains of flu this year the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Studies in the UK from 2017 show that the vaccine is was 40.6% in 18-64 year olds, with no significant effectiveness in ≥65 year olds and 83% of which were associated with influenza A, and 1,254 cases (68%) were in adults 65 years of age or older.VE was 57% for A(H3N2) for 2-17 year olds receiving quadrivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine and 78.6% for influenza B. East Kent Hospitals warns of the “tragic effects” of influenza and encourages people to get the jab. “30% of infections being asymptomatic and a similar proportion with only mild respiratory symptoms. Such individuals, with mild or no symptoms, can still pass on the virus to vulnerable people” so it seems well worth getting the Jab which is free for over 65s, adults over 18 at risk of flu, pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 2 years at risk of flu. The shot is available at GP surgeries, Pharmacies and Midwifery services for pregnant women. Dame Sally Davies states “the best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu jab.” Of course all the normal NHS guidelines to influenza still apply with the NHS relaunching the campaign “Catch it, Kill it, Bin it” NHS choices states “Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family from getting ill” and suggests these simple tips for staying well:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  2. Stay home when you are sick.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  5. Clean your hands.
  6. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  8. Practice other good health habits.
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
  10. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.$File/2017-season-summary-22112017.pdf

Article by University of Birmingham intern Natasha Osborn Patel

Tackling Child Obesity in the UK

The government, schools and sports clubs in the local community are all doing their part to tackle the child obesity problems we are facing at the moment. In the UK, we all need to be getting the right amount of exercise to stay healthy. While the focus is on children, adults too need to be active.

It’s the responsibility of everyone to tackle obesity and health problems. This means we all need to be spending time on our feet, away from screens and out and about. From sports tours to walking clubs, there are many ways you can start getting active in your community and helping others to do so as well.

  1. Start Small

You don’t need to become a marathon runner overnight. Even starting small, you’ll be able to see the positive difference a bit of exercise can make . Why not walk to the bank on Saturday morning, rather than take the car? Or join the children on their trampoline after school? Simply starting to get active and doing something can spur you on to do more. Public Health for England has developed the Active 10 app to get people walking for at least 10 minutes a day. This makes it simple and easy to start.

  1. Join a Local Team

If you look hard enough, you’re bound to find loads of local teams in your community; from groups for children, all the way up to elderly aquafit classes. You might find a sporting group which you’ve never heard of before but are keen to try.

If you have the chance to join a local team or club, do it. Not only are you keeping active, but it also gives you the chance to meet a whole new group of people. Joining a club means you have the opportunity to take part in rugby festivals and sports tours across the UK and beyond.

  1. Find Local Tournaments and Events

Local tournaments are a great way to get active and involved. There are some amazing tournaments and partnerships happening up and down the country, so keep an eye out to see what’s happening near you.

For example, Ospreys in the Community was launched in 2015. miTour have become their official event partner and there will be a large mini and junior rugby festival in April 2018 called the Ospreys Challenge. They will also run run other events in the local community.

  1. Discover the World with Sports Tours

If you’re a keen traveller, did you know that joining a local sports team could open up adventures for travelling? Sports tours organised by a travel company is a great way to see the world and play sport as well.

There are some amazing opportunities for children to travel, explore and stay active with sports tours. It’s another way to get to know the community and communities far from home while staying healthy. So much adventure is waiting!

  1. Start Your Own Team

Can’t find a team or club you want to join? Why not start your own get-together of people? Whether you want to make a five-a-side football team or simply get a small group together to go walking once a week, you can be the change and the cog that gets it moving. If you see a gap in your community, there is nothing to stop you from starting the process.

Why wait? Start small tomorrow and by 2018, you could be healthier and happier with your lifestyle.

John O’Leary is a director of miTour — a first-class sports tour and travel company. They’ve partnered up with Ospreys in the Community to bring sports to everybody and create unique events to get communities active.

Birmingham hospitals merger cleared by CMA

The CMA has cleared the merger between two Birmingham hospital trusts, after finding that it is likely to benefit patients in the local area.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that, whilst the merger between Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) could give rise to competition concerns across a number of elective specialties, these were outweighed by the substantial improvements to patient care that were expected to arise.

In reaching this view, the CMA has placed significant weight on the advice on probable benefits from NHS Improvement, the sector regulator, which strongly supports the merger.

NHS Improvement advised the CMA that HEFT had experienced sustained difficulties in governance, quality of care and finances since 2012, which successive management teams had been unable to address.

It also advised that the appointment of the UHB management to HEFT’s executive team in October 2015 has already given rise to a number of benefits, such as reduced waiting times and improvements in the quality and safety of patient care for all HEFT patients. However, these improvements and a number of other longer-term benefits would disappear without the merger and the continued presence of the UHB management at HEFT.

The CMA found that HEFT would be a relatively weak competitor to UHB without the merger and that both parties were experiencing capacity constraints.

The CMA compared this to the wide-ranging nature of the benefits identified by the hospitals and NHS Improvement, which would benefit most patients at HEFT. It also examined UHB’s track record and the results already delivered at HEFT since October 2015.

On the basis of the available evidence in this case, the CMA found that the benefits put forward by the hospital trusts outweighed the CMA’s potential competition concerns.

The merger will therefore not be referred for an in-depth investigation.

Kate Collyer, Deputy Chief Economic Adviser and the decision maker in this case, said:

“We have found this merger will have substantial benefits to the healthcare of patients in the Birmingham and Solihull local area.”

“This is the first time the CMA has cleared an NHS hospital merger on the basis of patient benefits at phase 1 and reflects the quality of the benefits case put forward in this instance and the consistent and detailed advice of NHS Improvement.”

“The hospitals involved presented clear evidence and a well reasoned case”.

“Competition currently plays a limited role in the NHS, as health commissioners and regulators have instead emphasised co-operative working to handle growing demand for NHS services.”

“However, given the scale of the potential impact on patients in Birmingham and Solihull, it was appropriate for the CMA to examine this transaction to determine whether any loss of choice or competition would be outweighed by improvements undertaken by the Parties and overseen by NHS Improvement.”

All other information relating to this investigation can be found on the case page.


Responding to the latest delayed transfers of care figures published today by NHS England, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“No one’s elderly parent, grandparents or friends should be left unnecessarily in a hospital bed, when they could be treated in the comfort and dignity of their own home.

“Councils are absolutely committed to reducing the level of delayed transfers of care from the NHS and are working with providers and hospitals to help reduce pressures on health services.

“Across the country nearly six out of 10 people delayed in hospital are unable to leave because they require further NHS services, with just over a third awaiting support from council social care.

“The scale of underfunding councils have faced in recent years is placing the care provider market under huge pressure, making it more difficult to discharge people from hospital back to their homes and communities.

“The £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget was a step in the right direction, yet councils still face an annual social care funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020.

“For this money to be spent effectively, councils need to be given full freedom and flexibility to invest it in the areas where it is most needed.

“The recent announcement around how this should be spent shows this freedom is very much lacking. Setting councils what will at least in some cases be unachievable reduction targets for delayed transfers is unhelpful, and it is disappointing councils are being hit with even further pressures at a time when services are already strained and overstretched.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care.”


Responding to a new study by Healthwatch on people’s experiences of care homes, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Councils want to see everyone receive high quality care and for care homes to be of a high standard that meet people’s needs, going beyond simply getting washed and dressed but living as independent and fulfilling a life as possible.

“While it is clear that in some places, there is work to be done and areas for improvement, it is encouraging to note that most people have said the care they receive is good.

“The recent Care Quality Commission report also found that the majority of care provided for adults is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

“Councils, as commissioners, work closely with providers who deliver services to ensure both the availability of high quality care and continuous improvement.

“But this study is yet another reminder of the stark reality of the funding crisis facing adult social care, and the urgent need to bring desperately needed stability to the provider market.

“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care. This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services.”


Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with growing demand for support leading to 75 per cent of councils in England overspending on their children’s services budgets by more than half a billion pounds, council leaders warn.

New analysis by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, reveals that in 2015/16 councils surpassed their children’s social care budgets by £605 million in order to protect children at immediate risk of harm.

Councils have faced an unprecedented surge in demand for children’s social care support over recent years, which is showing little sign of abating. More than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – a 140 per cent increase in just 10 years.

The number of children on child protection plans increased by almost 24,000 over the same period, while ongoing cuts to local authority budgets are forcing many areas to make extremely difficult decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce resources.

The LGA is warning that the pressures facing children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable, with a £2 billion funding gap expected by 2020. Unless urgent action is taken to reduce the number of families relying on the children’s social care system for support, this gap will continue to grow.

The huge financial pressures councils are under, coupled with the spike in demand for child protection support, mean that the limited money councils have available is increasingly being taken up with the provision of urgent help for children and families already at crisis point, leaving very little to invest in early intervention.

LGA analysis shows that government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has been cut by almost £500 million since 2013, and is projected to drop by a further £183 million by 2020 – representing a 40 per cent reduction by the end of the decade. Without this funding, councils have found it increasingly difficult to invest in the early help services that can prevent children entering the social care system, and help to manage needs within families to avoid them escalating.

The struggle faced by councils attempting to balance increased demand alongside reduced funding is perhaps most starkly illustrated by the closure of 365 children’s centres and 603 youth centres since 2012, as local authorities are forced to make difficult decisions about the way in which they deliver these services.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children’s services overspend in their local areas shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children’s social care, both now and in the near future.

“Councils have done everything they can to respond to the growing financial crisis in children’s social care, including reducing costs where they can and finding new ways of working. However, they are at the point where there are very few savings left to find without having a real and lasting impact upon crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on.

“With councils facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services in just three years’ time it is more important than ever that the Government prioritises spending in this area.

“There is no question that early intervention can help to limit the need for children to enter the social care system, lay the groundwork for improved performance at school and even help to ease future pressure on adult social care by reducing the pressure on services for vulnerable adults.

“However, cuts to the Early Intervention Grant have exacerbated a difficult situation where councils cannot afford to withdraw services for children in immediate need of protection to invest in early help instead.

“The reality is that services for the care and protection of vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point. Government must commit to the life chances of children and young people by acting urgently to address the growing funding gap.”


Responding to an NHS Digital survey published today on carers experiencing financial difficulties and social isolation, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Unpaid carers play an invaluable role in looking after those with care and support needs, and are estimated to save the economy £132 billion a year. Without the incredible work of carers, social care and the NHS would collapse.

“The findings of this report and the link between financial problems caused by caring, and social isolation, highlight the need for government to set out how it will address the needs of carers in its long-awaited Carers Strategy.

“Supporting carers is fundamentally important to local government, and we fully backed the important changes brought in by the Care Act to improve the lives of carers, in particular the move to ensure that carers are recognised in law in the same way as those they care for.

“The whole sector needs to work together to identify carers, support carers in employment, and ensure they are able to maintain their own health and wellbeing, while raising awareness amongst the wider community of the vital work they do.

“However, the continuing underfunding of adult social care has limited councils’ ability to provide support to people with care needs and their carers.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care.”


Responding to the new Public Health England report ‘Health Profile for England’, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“This ground-breaking PHE analysis shows how deprivation can lead to long-term ill health and premature death for the most deprived.

“We know that those living in the most deprived communities experience poorer mental health, higher rates of smoking and greater levels of obesity than the more affluent. They spend more years in ill health and they die sooner. Reducing health inequalities is an economic and social challenge as well as a moral one.

“Since 2013, local government has been responsible for public health in England and has specific responsibilities to tackle health inequalities as well as improving the public’s health overall.

“Local authorities and their public health teams understand how to use their traditional functions in conjunction with their newly acquired public health expertise to maximise the role councils can play in closing the unjust health inequalities gap. But reductions in councils’ public health grants of more than £530 million by the end of the decade will impact on councils’ ability to continue this good work.

“Central government has to play its part in reducing poverty and breaking the link between deprivation, ill health and lower life expectancy.”