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Having worked for a private medical insurance provider, I have been exposed to a lot of stories in relation to health services provided by people who have insurance with regards to consultants and private hospitals.
Firstly when considering this debate it's important to note that a lot of the time with private health insurance, quite a lot of the time you will be receiving your private treatment in NHS hospitals. This is largely due to the fact that MRI/CT scanners and other complex diagnostic tools are more commonly found in publicly funded hospitals. The main benefit therefore with private healthcare is that you get these tests much quicker than you otherwise would - you'll still be exposed to the same conditions that NHS patients are in many cases.
In terms of surgery it's a different story, you can choose to have your surgery in a private hospital - BMI or Nuffield hospitals are a good example. In these places, levels of MRSA are much lower and again, you can have the surgery much quicker than normal and at a time largely of your choosing. There a few detracting points however. Medical insurance companies will only pay for you to be in the hospital for a certain amount of time, depending on what operation you have. If you don't feel you are ready or it's inconvenient for you to go back because perhaps there isn't someone to look after you, the medical insurance company won't make allowances. There has to be a medical necessity for you being there. For example, if you've had a knee replacement and you can't walk for a few days or cook for yourself, the insurance company won't pay for you to remain in private healthcare - it's your responsibility to take care of your 'social' needs. On the NHS, you may get the extra few nights you need. The best point of Private insurance is that the aftercare you get in terms of the level of therapies (i.e. physio) that you can get is much better than on the NHS. After a hip replacement, you may get 2 or 3 follow-up physio sessions with the NHS - with private healthcare you normally get at least £500 worth which will normally buy you at least 10 sessions and with a physio of your choice.
A really good point of orivate healthcare is that you can choose which consultant performs any surgery you require. Generally the list of surgeons you can choose from will contain surgeons that have at least 5 years experience working for the NHS and will have been reccomended by 2 of their peers. It is important to note that these consultants will be working for the NHS as well, no consultant can solely take on private patients who are claiming on their medical insurance. Particular issues come into play here - firstly fatigue and secondly you may have to accomodate their schedule rather than vice versa.
Overall, private healthcare is a must if you can afford it simply on the basis of convenience, causing the least disruption to your work and getting the tests you need as quickly as possible to ensure you get the most effective medical treatment as timely as possible.
This is obviously a contentious subject among some circles but to me, the idea of abolishing the monarchy is absurd and would cost the country hundrends of millions of pounds in re-writing statute law all to save the taxpayer on average around £3.
That's a totally pragmatic view clearly but let's take a look at other reasons. Firstly, many historical commentators have pointed out that the mere presence of constitutional monarch would prevent the rise of despot dictator of the ilk of Hitler. Going back to the 2nd World War, no one would ever conceive that that King George would have asked Oswald Mosley to form a government and it would be reasonable to assume that Queen Elizabeth wouldn't consent to a similar figure these days - Nick Griffin springs to mind.
Secondly, you only have to visit Horse Guards Parade or Buckingham Palace or the Princess Diana memorial to realise the fascination that the hold world has in our monarchy. If you ask people in places ranging from Japan to America they immediately associate Britain with the Monarchy. Americans especially love Britain's history and heritage, much of which is intrinsically linked to the Monarchy. Take that away and you're taking away a large part this nation's image, pride and heritage.
The presence of the Queen also goes to great lengths to maintain good and healthy relations worldwide between Britain and other countries. If you asked the people of any nation who they would like Britain to send to visit them who are they going to say? Gordon Brown - ha. The Queen everytime.
If the cost to the taxpayer to maintain this nation's pride, image and heritage as well as maintaining amiable relations with other countries, and ensuring substantial tourist income is £3 per person - what a bargain.
This is probably one of the most straightforward issues in my mind.
I grew up with both parents smoking around me and I absolutely detested it and as a result never smoked a cigarette. The smell is abhorrent and more importantly, so are the effects it has on you.
In my mind, the very possibility that a person's smoking can inflict upon a non-smoker potentially life threatening illnesses should make the smoking of cigarettes in public banned outright. There's nothing more annoying than stepping off a train, getting through the barriers and outside the station to be then assaulted with carcinogenic smoke that makes your clothes smell.
It's not even as though I can take reasonable steps to avoid it either - I have to walk out the exit of the train station, there's no other way for me to go. If smoking in the work place is banned on the basis that it's not fair for people to work under such conditions than smoking in public places should be banned on the basis that its not fair for me to live under such conditions.
The main thing that gets me are the counter-arguments - 'Well where can we smoke then?'. How about just quit, it's better for you, it's better for me, it's better for everyone. 'But we need to smoke' - No you don't. Not anywhere near more so than I need to breathe clean air.
End of rant.
Coca Cola Zero was launched in 2006 as an effort to directly go head to head with Pepsi Max - a product that Pepsi had had great success with. Interestingly the product is marketed as being sugar free in every country it is sold apart from the USA, Canada and Taiwan where it is marketed as being calorie free. The product was also aimed at young men who associated 'diet' products (such as Diet Coke) as being a woman's drink. This was particularly evident in the UK where Cheryl Cole was used to spearhead the launch, a move ostentatiously designed to attract the attention of young men.
The drink itself is fairly similar to that of Classic Coca Cola and in my opinion, certainly an improvement on Diet Coke. I don't mean that I feel more manly drinking it, more that I genuinely prefer the taste as it is closer to that of Classic Coca Cola. In all countries the ingredients are generally the same although an intersting point is that Potassium Benzoate and Potassium Citrate are only included in the USA version. This is because these compounds are known to decompose into benzenes - a carcinogen. Don't buy this in America basically.
A typical 330 ml can will provide absolutely 0 calories, 0 fat and 0 sugars whilst only containing 2% of your RDA for sodium. It does contain Caffeine however and that should be taken into account if you are on diets or an otherwise caffeine controlled diet. Other than that, a great alternative to Coca Cola and far better tasting than Diet Coke.
Terry's Chocolate Orange is a chocolate bar that is around 15 cm long and is shaped like a series of orange segments that are melded together with the end segment with it's exposed side having engravings that are are comparable to the apperance of an actual orange segment. Otherwise it is presented as a ball (i.e. like an orange) and can be divided into segments which all have the aforementioned engravings.
The chocolate orange was first introduced in the 1930s following the introduction of a chocolate apple in the 1920s. It quickly rose in popularity, leading to the chocolate apple eventually to be phased out.
The chocolate itself is normally found in two varieties - milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Personally, I love the dark chocolate version - the dark chocolately taste compliments the orange flavour more successfully than its milk chocolate counterpart. The ball presentation provides too much of a temptation, this stuff is devilishly addictive so I would reccomend sticking to the bar version of this product. Having said that, a chocolate orange ball is a great stocking filler around the christmas season and a great novelty product.
Per bar, a milk chocolate terry's chocolate orange will provide 212 calories and 12 grams of fat. A little of the heavy side since you will still be hungry after this. That's probably the point though - this stuff tastes so good you will want more. A great chocolate bar with no equal in the market of fruit flavoured chocolate.
My girlfriend bought a Wii Fit one day and having watched her use it a few times I thought that it looked like a waste of time and a poor substitute for exercising outside or else wise taking part in actual sport.
The main reason for this was that she spent a great deal of time doing the jogging game and the step aerobic music game. I pointed out that the jogging thing misrepresents how much exercise you are doing and is completely fradulent in telling you how far you have run - it would take far more effort to run a mile on the roads than it would to run a Wii Fit mile. At that stage, I dismissed Wii Fit as a gimmick with little more practical use than to weigh yourself and measure your BMI.
One day this began to change. When I was off work I got a bit bored and I decided to explore more of the options. Being a rugby playing sort of fellow I looked at the strength exercises and gave them a go. As I performed more and more of these exercises and accrued minutes in my Wii Fit piggy bank, I began to unlock more exercises - it became strangely addictive. Eventually I was unlocking 'challenges' which were more or less keep going til you can't do it anymore. Moreover, the rage the game induced in me when telling me I wasn't doing press-ups properly only spurred me to do more.
By the time I had unlocked most of the exercises I was performing each one in turn - one after the other on the increased repetitions and in some cases, myself versus my Wii Fit personal trainer. It actually became a fairly decent workout and when engaging in the Yoga exercises that get suggested after certain strength exercises, it became a good way of toning.
Another really good point with regards to Wii Fit is that in many of the exercises are designed to incorporate some element of core muscle targeting - a group that is comprised of abdominals, obliques and the deep muscles in your back which play a big role in balancing your body. The great thing about this, as any boxer will tell you, is that your core is where a great proportion of your strength comes from and I was really impressed that such a level of though had been incorporated into the game's design.
The Yoga exercises are an excellent support to this fact and really help you improve your balance. The Wii Fit board is the perfect gauge for this and is a great aid to ensuring that you can see yourself improving. The board also ensures that you are doing the exercises properly and goes to great lengths to make sure that you are getting the greatest benefits from the exercises and not simply cutting corners.
Some of the balance games are really great fun as well, and an excellent aid to exercising your abdominal and oblique muscles in a way that most people wouldn't imagine.
Whilst I have become greatly impressed by this game, I have to say that the Aerobic Exercises are disappointing and are really quite low impact. However, given that Nintendo developed this game knowing that it would be played in the living room, you can't really hold this against them. Conducting any form of aerobic exercise in your living room is unrealistic at best and Nintendo have done a great job in coming up with some practical exercises.
All in all, this is a great tool and provides a brilliant incentive to people who are trying to lose weight - the daily weigh in and BMI measure will really help keep you on track. Well done Nintendo.
Obviously this is quite a topical issue at the moment.
So what is the current strike all about at the moment? Well at the end of 2007, the Post Office and the CWU signed an agreement labelled the Pay and Modernisation agreement in which the CWU agreed that there would be job cuts along the path to modernise the Royal Mail. However, the CWU are now arguing that the Royal Mail haven't been full and frank over how many cuts there will be and fear a large loss of jobs and an increase in part time workers. There's also the issue of a 7bn Pension deficit.
Lets look at the pay and conditions of postmen. Nationally, a postman's average salary is £23k and in London this rises to £28k. To put other public sector roles into perspective, an Armed Forces officer would earn £28k on joining. A new policeman will earn £24k in what is a challenging and dangerous job. A private solider in the Helmand province, one of the most dangerous places on Earth, could be earning as little £17k. Is that fair? Can soldiers or policemen strike? Exactly.
So the CWU has reccomended to its workers that they should strike over this. I wonder why - anyone who joined the Royal Mail before April 2008 was entitled to a final salary pension scheme. That would be a pension where you get something along the lines of a lump sum of 3x the highest salary (lets say £28k x 3 = £84,000) you ever earned during your service on retirement as well as a pension of half your highest salary for life. If the Royal Mail make people redundant in the name of modernisation then these people will lose out on this pension.
So does the Royal Mail need to modernise? In 2008, the Royal Mail made £56m from a turnover of £6.7bn. That is an absolutely terrible return on such a massive turnover. The Royal Mail need to modernise otherwise they'll end up making a loss. If that means job cuts then so be it - the numbers of letters and parcels being delivered has fallen by 10% in the last year. You can't justify employing the same number of post men when the amount of work is reducing. They aren't a charity, they're a public body. If they start making a loss, guess who picks up the bill? The taxpayer.
It's about time the Royal Mail was privatised. If that were the case, bosses wouldn't hesitate to make job cuts. It would be the only way to start making major inroads to the pensions blackhole. There's absolutely no need to keep this in the public hands. Privatise it and encourage competition from over companies like DHL - it's the best way to ensure a top class service in this country.
Nestle's Yorkie bar was originally produced by Rowntree's and takes it name from the city where the Rowntree's factory was situated at it's inception - York. Originally the brainchild of Eric Nicoli of the Rowntree company, in 1976 he made use of Rowntree's future markets position to launch Yorkie using the cheaper cocoa that their position allowed them.
The bar itself is predominantly aimed at men and once carried the controversial 'Yorkie - it's not for girls' slogan in advertising promotions at the turn of the century. This marketing strategy led to many complaints in the UK from people who branded the strategy as sexist and distasteful. Nestle, who had purchased the product by this time, hit back by producing a girls version in pink wrapping.
The normal Yorkie bar is a chunkier version of Cadbury's Milk Chocolate bar but feels to me to be less dense and slightly more cocoa in flavour in my opinion. The bar is segmented into blocks which allow you to separate the bar easily into pieces and notably more so than Cadbury's milk chocolate bar. Yorkie also comes in a variety of flavours - white chocolate, honeycomb and dark chocolate. My favourite is by far and away the raisin and biscuit flavour that gives you a fantastic crunchy sensation whilst allowing you the added bonus of the fruit.
Slightly bad on the nutritional front - an Orgininal Yorkie bar will have 367 calories and 21.5 grams of fat. Probably one to have once in a blue moon. Having said that, it will satisfy your mid morning sugar cravings. Nice chocolate bar.
Walker's Quavers crisps are a light potato snack that are shaped like rectangles that have been curled up at the sides making for a uniquely shaped crisp item. Quavers were made my Smiths up until 1997 when the brand was bought by Walkers.
Originally only available in Cheese flavour, since its acquisition by Walkers, Quavers has now become available in Bacon, Prawn Cocktail and Salt and Vinegar and underwent a massive relaunch in 2007 when its manufacture was changed so that the reconstituted potato was now cooked in Sunseed Oil, bringing it into line with Walkers other products.
I have to say that in terms of crisps, Quavers are up there near the top of my list for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the taste is quite lovely - my favourite is the Cheese flavour despite Prawn Cocktail being my normal flavour of choice. They are delightfully crunchy and the cheese flavour is superior to that which Wotsits offers.
The main reason I'm in favour of them is because, nutritionally, they are healthier than their counterparts. With the introduction of Sunseed Oil, the levels of saturate fat were reduced by 80% which is a massive improvement and I'm happy to say that the taste didn't suffer. Per pack, you're only taking 87 calories on board and you're also only getting 7% of your salt RDA which is absolutely tremendous.
All in all, a great crisp snack that might benefit from a greater variety in flavours. However, most other brands can't allow you to have more than one pack without beating yourself up over it in the way Quavers can!
Pot Noodles are an instant 'ramen' noodle snack that comes available in a wide range of flavours. It is a dehydrated mixture of noodles, vegetable pieces, meat in some cases and powders which give each variety its overriding flavour. Most varieties of Pot Noodles normally come pre-packed with some form of sauce sachet - in the case of Beef & Tomato, Tomato Sauce.
Pot Noodles were first launched in the United Kingdom in 1979 and annually, around 155 million units are sold. In recent times, Pot Noodles came under fire for being very unhealthy and as such, in 2006 a major effort was made to produce these in a way that was much healthier. The end result was a massive reduction in salt content which was the major bone of contention.
The product itself is really convenient, taking around 5 minutes to prepare. You simply boil a kettle and fill the pot up to the mark, allowing it to stand for around 3 minutes. You give it a stir and let it stand for a further 2 minutes before adding the sauce sachet. All in all, with flavours like Chinese Chow Mein, Beef and Tomato and Tikka Masala, you get a great range of variety - for the particularly adventurous there is even the likes of Doner Kebab to try.
For me however, this product is still far too unhealthy to consider a proper and viable snack. Whilst the efforts to make it more healthy have brought the calorie count down to a reasonable 154, you're still getting 25% of your daily salt allowance which is far too much for me to condone.
Martin Rogan is a Northern Irish professional heavyweight boxer who gained widespread fame in the United Kingdom when he won Sky Sports' Prizefighter competition in 2008, beating David Dolan by unanimous decison in the final of the knockout competition.
Nicknamed 'The Entertainer' or more simply 'Rogie', Martin Rogan started his career a bit late at the age of 33 having spent most of his life as a taxi driver - a profession he would keep on doing until his prizefighter triumph.
Having been triumphant in his maiden Prizefighter outing, Martin Rogan then set up a big money fight against haphazard Olympic gold medallist English boxer Audley 'A-Force' Harrison at the Excel Exhibition centre. In a gruelling 10 round match, Martin Rogan was announced the winner by the referee who scored the contest 96-95.
In his next fight, Rogan claimd the Commonwealth Heavyweight championship by stopping Matt Skelton in the 11th round in what was described as a fight of the year contender. This thrilling match was really a case of two fighters going at it from the word go with momentum passing from boxer to boxer rapidly and no quarter being given. However, following an 11th round onslaught, the referee stepped in to hand Rogan victory.
In his maiden defence however, Rogan would lose the title in rather controversial circumstances to Sam Sexton. At a number of stages in the fight, many thought it was just a matter of seconds before Rogan would finish off his opponent who appeared to be out on his legs but on each occasion, Rogan failed to press home his advantage. In the 8th round, with Rogan's left eye closing up, the ringside Doctor stepped in and stopped the fight, handing Sexton the title.
Since then, Rogan has been chasing a rematch with Sexton in an effort to claim the title which he feels is rightfully his.
This is an interesting topic for me and a fairly emotive one given that it has plunged me into £15,000 worth of debt!
I suppose the most publicised benefit of a degree is that it gives you greater access to a wider range of jobs, particularly those that are reserved for graduates. Before I joined University, a survery had revealed that 40% of jobs on an annual basis are reserved for graduates - these jobs inherently being better paid as well. For some of my friends, this has certainly turned out to be the case. One of my friends is earning 28k as a physiotherapist with the RAF having graduated this year, another of my friends has got a job with Barclay's Capital and is on 35k (plus all those lovely bankers bonuses). Both these jobs are ones you can't have without some sort of higher education qualification.
In my case, I left Royal Holloway, University of London with a 2:1 in Psychology and having achieved 3 As at A-level. Did that help me? No. Countless CVs and applications later for various graduate schemes got me nowhere. Whilst jobs that weren't just for graduates were met with an answer of 'not enough experience'. Not sure how I'm meant to get too much experience whilst in full time education. (Luckily I do have a great job now, that's paid well and has great benefits. Didn't have to be a graduate to do it though!). For 6 months following my degree, I worked as an assistant manager in a pub before taking a job working for Bupa. Hardly the big, high powered jobs I was looking for.
Admittedly, I did graduate into the biggest recession Britain has experienced for a long long while and that certainly hasn't helped. Many graduates I know are doing manual work; a friend of mine who has a Masters in History is working on a building site.
The one thing my time at university did bestow upon me was a real appreciation for what you have to do when mum and dad aren't there to pay the bills. You understand how to sort bills out, how to pay the rent on time, how to budget for food and books and how to make what money's left over stretch as far as possible. None of these things I would have had a clue about had I been thrust into the working world at the tender age of 18. The indenpence and resilience that I gained at university and the confidence that has been borne from it have proved invaluable thus far. Doesn't have anything to do with my actual degree though.
There aren't many ways of putting it - do a degree that will immediately catapult you into some sort of profession (law, engineering etc) if you want it to mean something. Otherwise your degree simply becomes one big life experience that is largely alcohol fuelled. Great fun though.
Carlsberg or Carlsberg Pilsner is a lager that was originally brewed in 1904 and can be found to have an ABV of 3.8% - 4.2% depending on where you are in the world. Unfortunately, if you are in England, it's going to be 3.8% Known in other parts of the world has Hof, the Danish word for court, as it is a lager which is by royal appointment to the Royal Danish Court.
Back in my student days, thriftyness was one of my virtues and regurlarly upon visiting the Student's Union a pint of Carslberg at £1.70 always seemed like a good idea. And it was - eventually I got drunk and my wallet hadn't taken a huge battering. The downside was that this beer tasted watery, failed to keep a good head and was not particularly lively.
Giving Carlsberg the benefit of the doubt having been served to be my people who, let's be honest, don't really know how to keep beer, I sampled it in other pubs - both company run establishments and free houses. Alas, even in these places, Carlsberg failed to redeem itself. It doesn't taste terrible - it just doesn't taste like you're really drinking beer.
However, in these tough economic times, Carlsberg does serve the purpose of being cheap - especially when bough in bulk from supermarkets where 32 cans can often be purchased for £15. Even better news for the thrifty is that it can now be found at Wetherspoon pubs at the low low price of £1.80 in some instances.
I may be being a tad unfair, I do like stronger lagers that bombard me with a strong taste so don't take my word as gospel over this. But you know what? Probably the best lager in the world? Probably not.
Possibly one of the most annoying products out there simply for the reason that it is only available around the Easter and Christmas period!!!
Cadbury's mini eggs were first introduced back in 1967 and has been produced in a number of variations, the most recent being 'Micro Mini Eggs' which are an even smaller version. The egg itself is a miniature egg shaped piece of Cadbury's milk chocolate coated in a hard sugary shell in varying colours. It is claimed tha the yellow eggs have a distinctive flavour, but I am yet to discern it.
I think these things are awesome. A family sharing size bag of 200 grams worth of eggs is easily eaten in one sitting - you will keep noticing to your horror that whilst your mouth has about 2 or 3 eggs nestling inside, your hand is already in the bag searching for your stomach's next victim. There are a few ways to combat this - firstly put an egg in your mouth and simply let it melt, the taste is unbelievable as the melting inner chocolate slowly seeps out of the disintegrating shell. Secondly - chop off your hands.
The eggs, as mentioned, are terribly addictive. From the immediate satisfying 'crunch' to the well known tried and tested cadbury's chocolate, this confectionary item is an utter delight.
Per 12 pieces, mini eggs will provide 190 calories (ouch!) as well as 8 grams of fat. I'm sorry for the bad news, but I don't to become culpable for Britain's increasing obesity crisis!
A great confectionary item that's only downfall is the fact you can't buy it whenever you want throughout the year.
Saisbury's tortilla chips - a cost effective food item for when you invite friends around to watch a movie or for pre-going out festivities.
I first discovered this item in Sainsburys having already filled my basket with houmous, taramasalate, salsa, sour cream - you name it - and I was looking for something to dip in them having already secured my customary pitta bread. I was doing all this in preparation for some pals coming round to watch the football.
Having ventured down the the crisps and savoury snacks aisle and pilfered through your doritos and kettle chips and baulked at their prices, I came across this little number. For 25p you can get a 100 grams of these things. I thought - I'll take 8. The verdict? My friends thought they were Doritos. Job done in my eyes.
One negative thing I would say about these is that they are very salty and the chips themselves are a little chewy. I'm being very picky here thought, for the 25 pence per bag I'd paid I though they were a great bargain.
Nutritionally, half a pack will cost you 242 calories and 11 grams of fat. So not the most healthy but still a great product to buy for when you're having parties or inviting friends round and you want finger food. All in all, a great find.