Thank you for reading this short article.
So, what is group A streptococcus (GAS)? Well, it is a bacteria, or a germ. The name is derived from the Greek words meaning ‘a chain’ (streptos) of berries (coccus), as can be seen above, it looks like a chain of berries. It is a common bacterium that is found on the skin of humans. It is also found in the throat, and rarely causes illness. However, GAS does cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious.
We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. The bacteria usually cause a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.
In very rare circumstances, this bacterium can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
iGAS is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated, and we can stop the infection becoming serious. There has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under 10 and sadly, a small number of deaths.
What is important is to understand that GAS infections are common and normally mild. It is important however to be vigilant regarding the symptoms detailed below, and if you are concerned, call the Harvey Rhys Clinic and our team will advise you and arrange a prompt medical assessment.
How is it spread?
GAS is spread by close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.
Some people can have the bacteria present in their body without feeling unwell or showing any symptoms of infections and while they can pass it on, the risk of spread is much greater when a person is unwell.
What infections does GAS cause & how do you treat them?
GAS causes infections in the skin, soft tissue and respiratory tract. It’s responsible for infections such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis (sore throat), scarlet fever, impetigo and cellulitis among others.
While infections like these can be unpleasant, they rarely become serious.
When treated with antibiotics, an unwell person with a mild illness like tonsilitis stops being contagious around 24 hours after starting their medication and can return to nursery or school if well enough.
We are currently seeing high numbers of scarlet fever cases across England, and we are diagnosing and treating the disease locally at present.
The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).
A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash makes your skin feel rough, like sandpaper. The rash will be less visible on darker skin but will still feel like sandpaper. More information on scarlet fever can be found on the NHS website, including photos.
What is invasive group A strep (iGAS)?
The most serious infections linked to GAS come from invasive group A strep, known as iGAS.
This can happen when a person has sores or open wounds that allow the bacteria to get into the tissue, breaches in their respiratory tract after a viral illness, or in a person who has a health condition that decreases their immunity to infection. When the immune system is compromised, a person is more vulnerable to invasive disease.
Which infections does invasive group A strep cause?
iGAS can cause Necrotising fasciitis, a very rare infection whereby the bacteria multiply and grow along deep tissues of body, necrotising pneumonia, a chest infection, and Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome are some of the most severe but rare forms of invasive group A strep.
What is being done to investigate the rise in cases in children?
Investigations are underway following reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract Group A Strep infection in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness.
Currently, there is no evidence that a new strain is circulating. The increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria.
It isn’t possible to say for certain what is causing higher than usual rates of these infections. There is likely a combination of factors, including increased social mixing compared to the previous years as well as increases in other respiratory viruses.
What should parents look out for?
It’s always concerning when a child is unwell. GAS infections cause various symptoms such as sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches.
It can be difficult to know exactly when to seek medical advice, however, as members of The Harvey Rhys Clinic you have the knowledge that we will always see a poorly child on the same day. Not just children get infected of course, so can adults.
GAS can cause several different diseases. The main ones are listed below.
If your child is not drinking, eating, is lethargic, with high temperatures and is not passing urine as regular as normal we would advise you seek medical advice, the Harvey Rhys Clinic will always see an ill child on the same day*.
As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement. This is a Blog, as such is for guidance and medical advice should always be requested if you have any concerns.
We always advocate when a child is poorly you maintain fluids at least 50% of the child’s normally daily volume and ensure passing urine at least 6-8 hourly.
Contact Harvey Rhys Clinic if your child is getting worse despite paracetamol or ibuprofen if:
- The temperature has lasted more than five days
- Your child is feeding or eating much less than normal, especially if they are drooling or appear in pain when swallowing
- Your baby has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more, is crying without tears, or shows other signs of dehydration
- Your baby is under three months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than three months and has a temperature of 39°C or higher
- Your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
- Your child is drowsy (much more sleepy than normal) or irritable (unable to settle them with cuddles, toys, TV or snacks – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite any fever coming down)
Parents should call 999 or go to A&E if:
- Your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs or using their neck muscles to breathe
- There are long pauses (more than 10 seconds) when your child breathes
- Your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
- Your child feels very cold or clammy to touch
- Your child is difficult to wake up or keep awake
- Your child has severe pains in their arms, legs neck or back
- Your child has a painful, red area of skin, especially if it is getting bigger quickly
In summary, Step A infections are common, the germ can be carried in the throat and skin of humans with no adverse effects, research suggests that approximate 5% of us carry this bacterium on our skin. It can cause mild illness such as a sore throat, impetigo, scarlet fever. Only in very rare situations can it cause the invasive form iGAS which is serious. However, with vigilance and prompt treatment we can prevent iGAS. If you are worried about your child’s health, please contact our team who will be only too happy to assist.
To find out more about memberships with Harvey Rhys Clinic,
book your membership discovery call
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’, yet millions of us in the UK fail to practice this in our everyday lives. Preventative healthcare is a combination of medical practices designed to indicate early detection or even avoid chronic disease and illness.
Below are 5 of the most impactful and universal preventative healthcare measures that are key to supporting longevity by keeping serious health problems at bay.
Blood Pressure Test
A blood pressure test is one of the most important screening methods to identify risk factors for serious disease in adults. Standard tests are quick, easy, and non-intrusive – yet one-third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure and many won’t realise it.
Most of the time high blood pressure (or hypertension) has no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong. Testing regularly for high blood pressure can significantly reduce incidents of strokes, heart failure and coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that helps your body make cells. We all need cholesterol in our bodies to stay healthy, but having too much can clog up your arteries and lead to serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
Public Health England estimates that up to 60% of adults have high cholesterol, which is known as a silent killer because it often presents no symptoms. By going to a GP and getting a simple blood test, high cholesterol can be easily identified. This can then be managed effectively through lifestyle changes and, when needed, daily medication.
Around 4 in 10 UK cancer cases every year could be prevented. This startling statistic would equate to thousands of lives being saved, as one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. The key to beating cancer is early detection through preventative screenings.
There are many types of cancers, and for this reason, there are a number of different screenings and diagnostic tests available. Screenings look for early signs of cancer in people without symptoms as well as those at increased risk of cancer. The chances of successful treatment and long-term recovery are dramatically increased by early detection.
Almost 5 million people in the UK have diabetes and Diabetes UK estimates that a staggering 13.6 million could also be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Like many diseases, early detection is important as complications can begin 5 years before some people actually discover they have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes screening tests are a good preventative method for catching the development of diabetes at an early stage.
This can help reduce the risk of a person going on to develop devastating complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, strokes and more life-threatening conditions.
Annual Health Checks:
Regular health checks can benefit everyone and are a great way to assess your overall risk of a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Regular health checks carried out by the same clinician also guarantees ‘continuity of care’ as you’ll consistently have all of your medical records and data in one place, ensuring that you and your family stay on top of your health long-term.
It’s clear that when it comes to living a long, healthy life the importance of preventative healthcare is paramount. You may not be able to control every illness life throws at you, but taking a proactive approach towards your health and well-being significantly reduces the risk of sickness and serious chronic diseases.
Speak to our team about how you can be proactive.
Primary healthcare in the UK is largely reactive, which means only visiting a GP when an illness or health issue arises. Yet many medical conditions could be detected earlier, managed better, and even prevented, by following a proactive healthcare plan.
The World Health Organisation, (WHO), estimates that at least 80% of all heart diseases, stroke and type 2 diabetes could be prevented and that up to 50% of all cancers are preventable. Statistics like these clearly signal a greater need for preventative healthcare. But what is it and why does it matter?
Reactive versus preventative:
Reactive healthcare leaves clinicians and patients waiting until after symptoms appear. For example, you may visit a GP if you have a fever or general body aches and pains. Symptoms appear, an ailment occurs and then we react.
Reactive healthcare is necessary yet these types of visits to the GP are less likely to flag underlying conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease, and diabetes. For instance, did you know that over half a million people in the UK have diabetes without knowing it? And more than 4 million people have undiagnosed blood pressure. These figures would be significantly lower if a preventative healthcare approach was practiced more widely.
Preventative healthcare is about the measures that you can take today to avoid any potential health issues tomorrow. It helps to keep people well for longer by focusing on prevention rather than cure. Almost every illness and chronic disease are easier to manage in its earlier stages. It is far more effective to avert a health crisis than it is to react to one.
Key benefits of preventative healthcare:
- Earlier detection of underlying illnesses and medical conditions.
- Helps clinicians get closer to patients to more effectively plan for a healthier future.
- Clinicians interact with patients more frequently, building trust.
- Less duplication. Patients don’t have to repeat themselves to GPs enabling more time to care.
- Access to regular health checks.
- Helps to build a long-term personalised health plan taking into account family history and other health risks.
- Reduces acute hospital admissions and ‘out of hours’ care.
- Patients receiving preventative healthcare describe high levels of satisfaction.
Preventative healthcare through regular health checks:
Annual health screenings are vital when it comes to being proactive and staying on top of your health. Health screenings are thorough and highly personalised as our GPs and clinicians believe in understanding you and your health within the context of your lifestyle and family history.
Whilst we can’t live completely risk free when it comes to our health, we can at least take control and do our best to reduce these risks. Preventative healthcare will not only extend your life but will promote happiness and wellbeing.
Continuity of care is the jewel in the crown of UK general practice as it is highly valued by both patients and GPs alike. But what is it and why does it matter?
What is continuity of care?
Seeing the same GP and healthcare team long-term is hugely beneficial to a patient. It allows patients and clinicians to develop a relationship of trust. GPs are able to build accurate care plans through in-depth knowledge of family history and also ensure that a patient’s records are passed seamlessly between different parts of the health service. Many GPs would agree that continuity of care is the essence of good general practice.
Why does it matter?
In 2018, the British Journal of General Practice carried out the largest ever study into ‘continuity of care’ and the positive effects it has on a patient. Researchers analysed the health records of over 4.5 million people and their findings were remarkable.
Patients who’d had the same family doctor for many years were 30% less likely to need out of hours services and 30% less likely to require acute hospitalisation. The study also revealed a 25% reduction in mortality rates when compared with patients who’d been registered with their GP for under a year.
There are other benefits too. By getting to know and trust a GP, patients are more likely to follow lifestyle advice, attend regular screenings and vaccination appointments as well as sticking with treatments and prescribed medications. They’re also less likely to question whether to ‘bother’ their doctor for so-called minor complaints such as a common cold. This over time results in fewer referrals.
Key benefits of continuity of care:
- Increased understanding and trust within the doctor / patient relationship.
- Improved insight into patient issues.
- Consistency in reviewing and managing a patient’s medical records.
- Reduces acute hospital admissions and ‘out of hours’ care.
- Studies have shown it is strongly associated with lower mortality rates.
- Higher levels of patient and GP satisfaction.
- Better overall healthcare outcomes.
Is it still attainable in post-pandemic Britain?
Once upon a time continuity of care was common practice in the UK when most people would have been able to name their ‘family doctor’ and average households would have been cared for by the same GP for a number of years.
However, in more recent times, leading practitioners have expressed concerns that the push towards working ‘at scale’ is putting a huge strain on the NHS and that continuity of care is declining rapidly.
Many larger practices are overpopulated leading to what has been labelled as ‘taxi-rank’ medicine where few people see the same GP. Add to this a recent pandemic with a shift away from face-to-face consultations and the odds become further stacked against it.
How do I access the best continuity of care?
It doesn’t take long to build the foundations of continuity of care. Research has shown that patients’ relationships with their doctors are typically deepened over their first eight meetings, while a doctor’s sense of responsibility for a patient was increased after two meetings.
These days more and more people are turning to private GP practices in order to access first-class continuity of care. This is because many private clinics are founded on the model of the traditional family doctor relationship and have core values that are built on delivering the highest standard of continuity of care.
Private family GPs know the person sitting in front of them, their preferences, their healthcare and support needs. They have the time and resources to be able to deliver this long-term – putting you back in control of your health and well-being.
To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we look at Her Majesty’s secrets to a long healthy life. At 96 years-old, Queen Elizabeth has reigned longer than any British monarch that has preceded her. She is also the world’s oldest head of state. Her late husband, Prince Philip reached the ripe old age of 99 and the Queen Mother lived to see 101, a particularly rare feat for a woman born in 1900. So what is the Royals’ secret to longevity?
Happy marriage and a healthy lifestyle.
The Queen and Prince Philip were married for 73 years and research has suggested that a long, happy marriage could help you live longer. The Queen, of course, has a very healthy diet and has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor pursuits such as horse riding and long country walks. She rode until the age of 95 and was said to be disappointed when she was forced to hang up her riding boots for good.
Royal health checks
It’s no secret that the Royal Family have access to the world’s best healthcare. But the key to any good primary care is getting regular health checks.
The Queen regularly attends King Edward VII hospital for routine checks-ups and ‘pre-scheduled’ health checks. This is what’s known as proactive healthcare. These Royal MOT’s have always been a vital part of the Queen’s health care regime, ensuring that she has remained on top of her health for 70 successful years on the throne
Everyone can benefit from regular health checks
It’s not just the Queen that can benefit from regular health checks. An annual visit to the doctor has long been considered to be the foundation of good primary care.
Clinical evidence shows that Annual Health Checks are more beneficial and can identify undetected health conditions earlier. An annual health MOT can tell you whether you’re at higher risk of getting certain health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. It can also increase your chances of successful treatment and cure.
Harvey Rhys health checks
Upon joining every member will have an initial health check, which includes health screenings and a detailed ‘outcome review’ produced by our clinical scientist. This will be followed up by annual health checks to give our team an understanding of your health so they can manage your situation long-term. Over 60s receive health checks twice yearly.
During her 70 years reign, the Queen has led by example yet access to great healthcare isn’t exclusively reserved for the Royals. Perhaps we could become a healthier nation as a whole if, like the Queen, we went for regular health checks.
It is estimated that fewer than half of UK patients regularly see their own doctor with millions of patients also facing delayed GP appointments.
This is due to a rising population and an increase in sick patients, which has left many practices understaffed and overworked. As a result, GP leaders have expressed concerns that ‘continuity of care’ and traditional family doctors are becoming a thing of the past.
It’s a fact of life that sudden and unexpected illness can happen anytime. But wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘go to’ person when medical issues do arise? I say ‘person’ because that’s what a first-rate GP is; a caring person treating a person in need. A good family GP will take time to listen to a patient’s stories and their concerns without clock-watching, this is followed up with consistent long-term support.
Continuity of care has always been at the heart of the general practice in the UK. So how do we stop this from becoming a thing of the past? How do we make sure that consistent, personalised primary healthcare doesn’t disappear forever?
Many people are turning to family-run private GP clinics where core values of traditional GP services are very much alive and practised daily. Here are the key benefits of having a family doctor for you and your family:
Quick access to longer appointments.
It’s not fair for a sick patient to have to explain their background and symptoms in only a few minutes. It’s also not fair for a GP to be expected to assess, diagnose and treat a patient during this short time. Private, family-run GP clinics are able to offer longer, more thorough consultations resulting in a more personal and caring service.
In-depth knowledge of your personal and family history.
A family doctor has a close relationship with each of its patients. Treating families from generation-to-generation can help aid a doctor to compile accurate records and have in-depth knowledge of family history. This in turn allows the doctor to be able to identify trends and genetic tendencies within your family. By building a relationship, a doctor can truly get to know you and your family! It is the very essence of ‘continuity of care’.
Assurance that you’ll find the best secondary care.
Secondary care is when a patient requires a referral to a medical specialist. This could be for cancer or chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis. On the NHS, waiting times for secondary care can be months. Private GP’s often have close working relationships with ‘highly sought after’ specialists and hospitals, meaning faster referrals and quicker diagnosis, which can be vital when treating cancer and heart conditions.
Complete peace of mind.
In our busy day-to-day lives, having a peaceful mindset cannot be undervalued. Simply knowing that your family’s medical issues are being handled by someone who is dedicated and familiar with each of you is one less thing to worry about alone. Right? So imagine also knowing that you’ll receive speedier access to support, personalised care, quicker diagnosis, less duplication and more consistent, proactive, coordinated primary care… Well, that may just be something priceless!