THE JOURNEY OUT OF LOCKDOWN
Looking at business travel in a post-COVID world.
The business travel industry has dealt with many upheavals but few have come close to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world changed almost overnight, and even the most essential travel plans were cancelled indefinitely. As the business world scrambled to navigate remote working, the move to increased digitalisation has been dramatic and instant. From video conferencing to online collaboration tools, the way we work has fundamentally changed. And, with new waves of restrictions now hitting for many, it looks as though normal service isn’t going to resume anytime soon. Indeed, Bupa Global’s Executive Wellbeing Indexi highlights that executives are rethinking their business travel commitments for the long term. It shows that worldwide, executives at boardroom level spent an average of 48 days abroad or away from family last year. However, with almost half (48%) believing their mental health has benefited from travelling less during the pandemic, one in four (26%) now intend to stop all time spent away from home in the coming year.
Addressing the challenge
It’s clear that even post-lockdown many will be less inclined to travel, especially to destinations that have been heavily impacted by the virus. For those who do want to travel again, there are some practical considerations. Ensuring that appropriate pre-trip risk assessments have been made, and up to date advice is being followed, will be critical. Businesses will also need to quickly adapt and enforce travel policies based on advice on where it is safe to travel or not, to help protect the safety of employees. Perhaps more difficult to define, but equally important, is addressing the emotional aspect of travelling again. It’s normal to feel anxious and unsure about travel, or excited – if you feel that travelling has a positive effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing. For Bupa Global, it’s crucial to address these feelings proactively – and know when to seek support if you feel that worries are impinging on your mental health. Dr Luke James, Medical Director for Bupa Global & UK Insurance says: “We know that uncertainty around mental health can lead to delays in treatment, but that early diagnosis and treatment improves outcomes. Potential stresses and strains need to be recognised, and good planning can pay dividends.”
Bupa Global’s approach to mental health support
At Bupa Global we believe mental health is as important as physical health so we’ve removed mental health waiting periods and lifetime limits, to give access to the treatment you need, when you need it. Our enhanced mental health benefits are supplemented by a range of preventive health and wellbeing services such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic cover*. We also offer access to a second medical opinion from world-leading specialists and our Global Virtual Care service provides confidential access to a global network of doctors available 24/7 in multiple languages. For more information about Bupa Global health plans, visit bupaglobal.com/withyou or call 0371 705 2798 *Accessible after being a Bupa Global customer for a specific period of time as detailed in the membership guides
He says that, instead, it is better to destroy the veins with heat directed at the vein wall so that the cells undergo a process called apoptosis. The trick is to use a combination of techniques. Traditional treatment used radiofrequency ablation, but that only treats the vein it is touching; therefore, if the vein wall bulges away from the radiofrequency device, or there is a clot or scar in the vein, stopping it from being in contact during the treatment, then treatment could fail.
A high proportion of treatment now is by laser, but Whiteley says: “Saying ‘laser’ is like saying ‘car’. There are many different types of laser, just as there are many different sorts of cars.” Sonovein is one of the latest techniques to treat veins, beaming ultrasound through the skin, burning tissue only in a very focused way.
Unfortunately, my veins were too extensive and too long for this, so it was decided that I would have another new treatment called microwave ablation. This is the same technique that Whiteley used on DJ and presenter Chris Evans in 2019, which Evans showed off in the press.
Once the correct combination of techniques was decided on, it was time to book the day for the treatment. In fact, it only took an hour, and was done under local anaesthetic. While this was uncomfortable, being awake is necessary so you can advise on levels of discomfort as the microwave kills off veins. Being able to feed back to the surgeon prevents overheating and burns. This protects the skin and nerves and is why modern vein surgeons should never use general anaesthetic or sedation.
Afterwards, my leg was encased in tight bandages and I rested for 30 minutes before walking out of the surgery, into a waiting Uber and off to the train station and home. Three days later, the bandages were off and I could see a transformed, if heavily bruised, leg. Twelve weeks later, I returned for the next stage of the treatment – foam.
“Once your leg has had the veins removed, there are only three reasons why the vein should come back,” Whiteley says. “First, you haven’t had the right ones treated; second, you had the right veins treated but with the wrong technique – so maybe laser but the wrong power; or, third, new veins have opened up. This last part can be reduced by foam sclerotherapy.”
Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy is used because any bulging surface veins that have been removed during the procedure will try to regrow again. The foam stops them from growing back.
Thankfully, the foam procedure was not painful at all, and took less than an hour. My leg was then bandaged and a long stocking put over it. I had to keep it wrapped up for three weeks, which was irritating for the first day or so but soon seemed normal.
During this time, I took several long-haul flights, including a week-long trip to Hong Kong, and suffered no ill effects. In fact, I just made sure to put a stocking on the other leg, for safety’s sake, even though there were no problematic veins on that one. For showering, I had a long plastic cover called a Limbo that was very effective.
Finally, after three weeks of being bandaged up, my new leg was unveiled, free of varicose veins and ready to take its place in the world of short trousers without any unsightly bulges.
This combination of vanity and concern for health could be life-saving, according to Christopher Ogden, a consultant uro-oncologist and pioneer of robotic surgery in the UK, who attended a recent Business Traveller event at London’s Bupa Cromwell Hospital. Ogden advises prioritising mental health up until the age of 50 and thereafter concentrating on physical health, with health screenings for cardiovascular disease and cancers of the prostate and colon.
For those suffering from painful veins, especially those who travel frequently, I would advise having a general MOT to discover potential problems, and considering having them fixed. With luck, we are looking at longer lives, and treatments such as those for varicose veins can help to ensure a more comfortable duration. thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk
The microwave ablation treatment only took an hour and was done under local anaesthetic