How Safe is your Medical Cabinet?

Medicine Cabinets provide a safe and convenient storage place for all your medical essentials such as your first aid kit, headache tablets, creams and ointments. But homeowners need to take great caution when it comes to the safe and secure storage of prescribed medicines. Prescribed medicines can be extremely potent and are potentially lethal when they fall into the wrong hands. Particular care needs to be taken when there are small children around, who may think the tablets look like ‘sweets’, and have no idea of how dangerous they could be.

If you feel that there is potential for your medicines to get into the wrong hands, we would recommend storing them in a locked security safe. That way you have full control over who has access to your medicines and there is a much lower chance of young children inadvertently swallowing what could potentially be a lethal drug.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RSPA) provide guidelines to help reduce the chance of children becoming poisened:

  • Keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard
  • Wherever possible, buy products in child resistant containers
  • Always store chemicals in their original containers
  • Dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals safely
More than 28,000 children receive treatment for poisoning, or suspected poisoning accidents every year – isn’t it worth sparing a thought and taking steps to reduce this statistic!

Minister Calls for Efficiency Drive across Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland

Speaking at the Healthcare Financial Management Association annual conference in Belfast recently, the Minister for Health called for efficiencies across health and social care in Northern Ireland.  Referring to the consultation document ‘Transforming Your Care’, Mr Poots said: “Looking to the future, all the signs are that Health and Social Care is unlikely to be able to rely on the growth in funding it has received in the past – even with the best protection the Executive can afford.”

The consultation document Transforming Your Care: Vision to Action highlighted that Northern Ireland has a growing and ageing population and those with disabilities are living longer. The report recognised that while there is much to celebrate about this position, there is an increasing difficulty in meeting the future health and social care needs of people in Northern Ireland.

The consultation document is focused on providing more services in the community, and closer to where people live. The main areas proposed for change in the consultation document include:

  • primary care
  • use of new technology
  • statutory residential homes
  • mental health services
  • acute services
  • maternity care
  • palliative care

One of the specific themes of Transforming Your Care is the increased use of individualised budgets and self-directed support. The document states: ‘Care should be based on the specific needs of each individual (‘personalisation’) and more of the decisions should be taken by the individual patient or client. This could take the form of Direct Payments where a person receives a cash payment to arrange their own support.’

While a number of membership bodies have welcomed this and other recommendations contained within the document, it was recently reported in the News Letter that some organisations including Unison have voiced their concerns. Speaking to the paper a Unison spokesperson said that “…much of [the report] is a charter for privatisation.” With the consultation process to continue over the coming months it will be interesting to see how other responses contribute to this crucial debate about the future provision of health and social care within Northern Ireland.

  1. The consultation document, Transforming Your Care: From Vision to Actions, can be accessed on-line at
  2. Private Health Insurance NI compares the leading health cover providers across the UK, including Northern Ireland, providing you with a choice of health care cover options. For a free, no obligation quote, simply complete our on-line form, in the strictest of confidence, and we will help you find a range of medical insurance options.

NHS acute hospital care is “on the brink of collapse”

In a new research report published by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) it is claimed that NHS acute hospital care is “on the brink of collapse”. The hard-hitting report, ‘Hospitals on the edge? The time for action’, states that there are a third fewer general and acute beds now than there were 25 years ago.

The report highlights that in the last decade alone there has been a 37% increase in emergency admissions, with nearly two thirds (65%) of people being admitted to hospital over 65 years old – an increasing number are frail or have a diagnosis of dementia. For those with these multiple, complex needs, the report claims that hospital buildings, services and staff are not equipped to deal with them. The body responsible for the report, the NCP, is calling for better promotion of patient-centred care, the redesign of services to better meet patients’ needs, access to expert services seven days a week and improvements to primary care with increased out of hours GP services. “But it is true that the NHS needs fundamental reform to cope with the challenges of the future. “To truly provide dignity in care for older people, we need to see even more care out of hospitals. That’s why we are modernising the NHS and putting the people who best understand patient’s needs, doctors and nurses, in charge.”

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) plays a leading role in the delivery of high-quality patient care by setting standards of medical practice and promoting clinical excellence. We provide physicians in the United Kingdom and overseas with education, training and support throughout their careers. As an independent body representing over 27,500 fellows and members worldwide, we advise and work with government, the public, patients and other professions to improve health and healthcare.

Competition commission to review Private Health Insurance

Private Health Insurance hit the headlines last week when the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the industry to the Competition Commission. One of the main concerns being raised is that consumers aren’t getting the best deal due to growing consultant costs which many private healthcare providers feel is not putting the patient at the heart of matter.

Put simply, private health insurance is managed by either regular monthly instalments or a lump sum payment and ensures that you or your family receive prompt medical care for acute health conditions or everyday treatments, such as dental, optical or physiotherapist care, whenever you need it. The beauty of private health insurance is that there are no lengthy waiting lists and policies are modular which allows you to select which modules of cover you and/or your family need according to your budget.

Some of the main areas of concern that private medical insurers will welcome as part of the Competition Commission review include the issue of competition squeezing due to growing hospital networks, regional imbalances being brought about due to national charging, and increasingly the concerns about higher and higher incentives being paid to consultants. For many when economic times are tough, quite often their insurance policies often seem a luxury that they can’t afford. However, with many affordable plans and schemes available it really is worth taking a fresh look at private health insurance. From basic cover through to cash health plans, there are a range of solutions to suit most people’s needs and pockets. As the Competition Review unfolds, no doubt we’ll hear even more good news for policy holders and hopefully reduced premiums too.

Waiting List Statistics for Northern Ireland – what’s behind the figures?

It’s fair to say that few of us like to wait. Whether it’s waiting to be served at a supermarket checkout or finding that there are lots of people ahead of us in the ticket queue; we know that this is time that we could be using to do something else. So why would we want to wait for something as important as our healthcare?

At Private Health Insurance NI we often hear from people when enquiring about health insurance, that one of the main reasons why they want to change is because they don’t wish to be put on a lengthy waiting list for their medical treatment. Whether it’s waiting for a diagnostic test or simply waiting on an appointment from a consultant, we all want what’s best for us and our family’s health when we need it most.

Much has been said over the years by successive governments about reducing hospital waiting lists and as the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots, releases the latest Waiting List Statistics for Northern Ireland*, we take a closer look at what’s behind these figures**.

From April 2011, the Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times stated that at least half of patients should not wait any longer than nine weeks for their first outpatient appointment, all routine diagnostic tests should be reported on within four weeks and that at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than 13 weeks for inpatient or day case treatment.

As the latest statistics are released the figures suggest that with the exception of outpatient waiting times, there has been a slight increase in the overall waiting lists for both diagnostic and inpatient admissions in the past year. The overall figures are set out below.

  1. Waiting Times for a First Outpatient Appointment
    “The total number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment at the end of December 2011 was 124,100.
    This represented a decrease of 6,683 (-5.1%) on the number waiting at the end of September 2011 (130,783) and a decrease of 489 (-0.4%) on the number waiting at the same time last year (124,589).
  2. Waiting Times for a Diagnostic Service
    “The total number of patients waiting at the end of December 2011 for a diagnostic service was 65,379, an increase of 3,270 (+5.3%) on the previous quarter (62,109), and an increase of 3,378 (+5.4%) on the number waiting at the end of December 2010 (62,001).”
  3. Waiting Times for Inpatient Admission
    “The total number of patients waiting for treatment at the end of December 2011 was 56,470.

This total has decreased by 523 (-0.9%) compared with the previous quarter (56,993), but has increased by 5,701 (+11.2%) compared with the same quarter in the previous year (50,769).”

As can be seen from the figures, whilst there have been marked improvements in some areas there’s still some way to go before waiting lists become a thing of the past within the health system in Northern Ireland.

At Private Health Insurance NI we can help you and your family find the best PMI solution to meet your needs. With access to some of the top private healthcare facilities across Northern Ireland, no waiting lists and the reassurance of private facilities in comfortable surroundings,  private health insurance will give you and your family peace of mind every time.

*The above figures include all privately funded patients waiting for treatment in Health Service hospitals and those patients who are resident outside Northern Ireland.

** Further information is available from

How ‘appy’ are you about your health?

How many of us these days rely on smartphone technology to keep track and manage our everyday lives? Whether it’s downloading apps to help us manage our work commitments from calendaring to emails, or keeping in touch with friends and family through social media apps, or simply accessing games online to amuse the children when out and about – many of us our turning to technology to keep track of our day-today affairs for work and pleasure.

How many of us though use technology to manage our health? With the government now committed to transforming the way the health service is managed, we might just see the day when health-related apps become very much part of our everyday healthcare regime.

Speaking recently at the NICON conference on ‘Transforming Your Care – the Review of Health and Social Care’, The Minister for Health, Mr Poots gave a stark warning that the Health Service in Northern Ireland needed to undergo a planned and managed change programme over the next five years.

As he outlined his vision, Minister Poots highlighted that due to Northern Ireland’s fast growing population; the way healthcare is managed would have to change significantly over the next five years, saying: “There will be a significant shift from provision of services in hospitals to provision of services closer to home; in the community and/or GP surgeries, where it is safe and effective to do so”.

The Minister also alluded to the health services needing to make more and better use of technology in managing the delivery of these services.  With an increasing population using smartphone technology to manage their everyday life, the Minister suggested that, “There is an opportunity for greater use of technology to support the delivery of services…We must capitalise on this and exploit other opportunities where technology can support the delivery of effective services.”

His sentiments echoed that of the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, when last year he launched the Maps and Apps competition to find the most innovative and popular apps for managing health, saying:

“I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.

“Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free.”

Undoubtedly technology will continue to transform the way we live our lives and with the vision set out by UK government and Northern Ireland health department alike, for many of us, it will be a transformation in how we manage our health as well.


  1. The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots MLA, announced a review of Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland in June 2011.
    The review ‘Transforming Your Care, the Review of Health and Social Care’ can be accessed through the following link
  2. Launched by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, on 22nd August 2010, Maps and Apps was a six week competition to find and subsequently showcase the most popular apps for health.