FACT: Many people who quit smoking feel in charge, feel more relaxed, have more money and are not as worried about their health.

They look and feel better, their skin looks healthier and they have more energy when they walk, play or do something active. Also they don’t smell of smoke!

Top tips:

Find ways to cope by learning from past attempts.

  • Tell everyone that you are quitting.
  • Join a stop smoking group and ask colleagues if they want to join you.
  • Try the gums/ lozenges/patches available.
  • Place stickers/pictures in places to motivate you.
  • Remember how much money you will save.
  • Congratulate yourself on your achievements.
  • Call the NHS Smokefree Helpline -0300 123 1044. • Fix a definite “quit”date.

Top tips for optimum health and wellbeing

If you’ve not already heard, this week is National Nutrition and Hydration Week. Here at Express Medicals, we aim to provide tips and tricks to keep you at your healthy best.

Did you know that in the UK alone, around 3 million people are at risk of malnutrition? That’s a staggering figure. To prevent malnutrition and dehydration related illnesses and to ensure good health and well-being, we’re giving you advice to keep you tip-top.

  1. First and foremost, don’t skip brekky!  Starting your day right with a nutritious breakfast kick-starts your metabolism.  There are even studies suggesting it may be linked to weight loss! (ref).
  2. Choose wholegrain high fibre carbohydrates such as the humble porridge. Check here for ways to spruce up your morning oats. 
  3. Variety is the spice of life – taste the rainbow and add multiple colours to your diet such as a Buddha salad bowl – find a delicious recipe here
  4. Aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day.
  5. Fish of the day – try to eat at least two portions of fish each week, preferably at least one oily fish such as mackerel or salmon. Lastly, make sure it’s sustainably sourced!
  6. Cut down on your saturates and salt –  Check nutrition labels for high fats and sugars and keep salt intake less than 6g per day.
  7. Keep active to maintain a healthy weight. Whether that’s taking a walk in your lunch-break, taking up a sport hobby or heading to the gym, it all contributes to that daily step count.

Last but not least, it’s essential to drink water throughout your day. Aim to drink about 8-10 glasses or 1-2 litres if you’re drinking from a bottle.  Getting your daily dosage has been proven to increase brain power and boost your energy levels.  It promotes healthy weight management, flushes out toxins, improves your complexion, boosts your immune system and prevents pesky headaches.

Source: British Nutrition Foundation

Need advice or help with your sleep/shift patterns?

We’re here to help: it’s our dream job.

If your job involves shift work, you’re likely to need some extra help or advice on how to maintain the right amount of sleep to keep you healthy at home, and safe at work.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to some of the largest industrial accidents in recent memory, including the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (4am); Chernobyl (1.30am); the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Our medical teams often face a range of questions from candidates who are new to, or struggling with, shift patterns. Dr Dan Hegarty deals with some common concerns, here, to help you make the right decisions.

We’ve all sat next to someone who’s fallen asleep on the train – how often have you wondered whether they were going to or coming back from work, or why they’re so tired, and what effect that will have on their performance or their colleagues’ safety?

‘Sleep issues have never been more important. Lack of sleep causes a whole range of health issues, from increased weight gain, to lack of concentration through to a number of mental health conditions. We’re working harder for longer hours – and there have never been more distractions to keep us awake.

We don’t just sleep in our bedrooms any more. We watch TV, eat, browse on electronic devices – not exactly conducive to a calm, relaxing night’s rest.

So what should we do to help ourselves to regain balance and ensure we wake up ready for the day, rather than planning when we can get back under the duvet?

What we know

Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours sleep a night, although this amount decreases with age. And, obviously, it can be harder to sleep in the daytime than at night, because it’s lighter and there are more noisy distractions.

If you’re trying to find a suitable sleep pattern that works for you, those you live with and those you work with, it can be helpful to keep a sleep diary, so you can work out when it’s best for you personally to get the best quality sleep. Once you’ve found that ideal pattern, try to stick to it. That pattern might include:

Creating a restful place to sleep

  • Sleep in a designated part of the house and make sure it’s dark, cool and comfortable
  • Ensure it’s as quiet as possible. If there is outside noise, or you’re trying to sleep while others are awake, either ask them to keep noise to a minimum (nicely, it’s not always possible) or invest in some earplugs
  • Use heavy curtains or blackout blinds to keep the room as dark as possible.

The right frame of mind

  • Go for a walk, listen to music or read a book before you go to sleep – getting into a routine helps your body know what’s coming next
  • Don’t use electronic devices as the blue light they emit can affect the quality of your sleep
  • Avoid caffeine or energy drinks: too stimulating to help a good night’s rest
  • Avoid alcohol as it lowers the quality of sleep

Other hygiene factors

  • Regular exercise can help you reach a deeper sleep. Make sure it’s not too close to bedtime though (within two hours) as that can make it harder to get to sleep
  • Try not to take your worries to bed: internal stimuli will affect your ability to get to sleep. Hardly anyone can voluntarily make themselves fall asleep instantly. If you have concerns, make a list and an action plan to deal with them, and leave it in another room to deal with when you wake up. Worrying, when you can’t do anything about it, is destructive to your physical and mental health.

If you’d like further information or sleep advice or want to find out more about our shift workers’ medical, contact our commercial team on 0207 500 6900.

Chinese New Year

Ever wonder why Chinese zodiacs are animals?

The legend goes that the Jade Emperor ordered all the animals that inhabited the Earth to congratulate him on his birthday on January 9th one year. 

He made a rule that all animals would run across a river, and each animal’s position in the zodiac would be set by its place in the race.

The rat had to stop by the river owing to the swift current. Having waited for a long time, the rat saw the ox crossing the river, so he swiftly jumped into the ox’s ear.

The kind-hearted ox did not mind at all and kept on crossing the river. After crossing it, he ran towards the palace of the Jade Emperor.

Suddenly, the rat jumped out of the ox’s ear and rushed to the feet of the Jade Emperor; therefore he won the first place, followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Which Zodiac are you?

Year of the Rat

Born in: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Personality of the Rat: People born in the Year of the Rat are instinctive, acute and alert in nature, according to Chinese zodiac analysis. This makes them brilliant business people. They can always react properly before the worst circumstances take place. They are also sophisticated and popular in social interaction. They are sanguine and very adaptable, being popular with others.

Year of the Ox

Born in: 1913, 1925,1937,1949,1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Personality of the Ox

The Ox is huge and is often used to indicate something big in size or number. People with this sign bear persistent, simple, honest and straightforward characteristics. They are leaders with strong faith and strong devotion to work.

Year of the Tiger

Born in: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Personality of the Tiger

In most cases they are powerful, independent, confident and brave. In their middle age their fate may be uneven, but after hardships they will enjoy a bright prospect. They are also likely to be dogmatic and like showing off when accomplishing something.

Year of the Rabbit

Born in:1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Personality of the Rabbit

Rabbits usually impress others with an image of tenderness, grace and sensitivity. They are romantic in relationships, they avoid arguing with others and can convert an enemy into a friend.

Year of the Dragon

Born in: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Personality of the Dragon

They are usually a group of people who are lively, intellectual and excitable. They can clearly tell right from wrong. They are upright and frank. However, they are also a bit arrogant and impatient. Female Dragons tend to be overly confident. They hate hypocrisy, gossip and slander.

Year of the Snake

Born in: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Personality of the Snake

Usually people regard Snakes as a cunning and sly animal, which likes hanging out in darkness. In fact, this animal is also a symbol of wisdom and wit. People with this sign are calm, sensitive and humorous, and most of them are gifted in literature and art.

Year of the Horse

Born in: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Personality of the Horse

They always impress upon people their dynamic, zealous and generous image. Although endowed with many shinning points, they have to face weaknesses in their characteristics.

Year of the Goat

Born in: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027,

Personality of the Goat

People born in the Year of the Goat are tender, polite, clever and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously. In their daily life they try to be economical.

Year of the Monkey

Born in: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Personality of the Monkey

The general image of Monkeys is of always being smart, clever and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth. They are lively, flexible, quick-witted and versatile. In addition, their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life.

Year of the Rooster

Born in: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

People born in the Year of Rooster have many excellent characteristics, such as being honest, bright, communicative and ambitious. Most of them are born pretty or handsome, and prefer to dress up. In daily life they seldom rely on others.

Year of the Dog

Born in: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

Personality of the Dog

People born in the Year of the Dog are usually independent, sincere, loyal and decisive according to Chinese zodiac analysis. They are not afraid of difficulties in daily life. These shining characteristics make them have harmonious relationships with the people around them.

Year of the Pig

Born in: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Personality of the Pig

People with this zodiac sign are considerate, responsible, independent and optimistic. They always show generosity and endure other people’s mistakes, which help them gain harmonious relationships. However, sometimes they behave lazy.

Why Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year?

The UK traditional uses the ‘Gregorian’ calendar which always starts in 1st January.

The Chinese follow the lunar new year, which is when there is the start of a new moon.

Wishes from Hayley Lancefield (née Lau)

According to the Chinese astrology, 2019 year of the pig is a great year to make money, and a good year to invest. Therefore, I wish you all a very healthy and prosperous year.

What is the point of Point-of-Care Testing?

Point-of-care tests [PoCTs] are a rapid, simple way to screen for drugs.

They are ideal for use in the workplace, allowing employers to obtain results within a few minutes, helping you to decide whether staff members can be allowed to continue working or should be stood down.

PoCTs are straightforward to administer on-site by members of your own staff, working as trained collectors, who don’t need to be medically-qualified. Express Medicals is expert at providing training to collectors, giving you peace of mind about the quality of the results they deliver. We can train your staff onsite, or offer you advice and help at one of our 15 clinics nationwide.

With PoCT kits, a rapid negative result means that you can send an individual back to work there and then, with minimal disruption to your business.

In the event of a positive / non-negative result, then an individual can be stood down while a further sample is then sent to the laboratory for further testing and confirmation. [This is referred to as legally defensible chain of custody testing].

Express Medicals supplies reputable proprietary kits that can be securely stored at your site. We can help you review or draft drug & alcohol policies and our Customer Support team is always on hand if you have queries. We can train your staff in the use of PoCTs and run both training courses for collectors and educational seminars about drug & alcohol issues in the workplace for supervisors and senior management.

We have built up a vast experience of occupational drug & alcohol testing in the 22 years we have been in business and have developed effective processes to pass on that information to you and your staff.

We can supply you with PoCTs for use by your own collectors. Alternatively, we can supply our experienced collectors to carry out both point-of-care testing and the collection of samples, where appropriate, for legally defensible testing at a laboratory. All our medical staff are up-to-date with the latest and best practices in the field of occupational drug testing.

For information and advice about both PoCTs [Point-of-Care Testing] and laboratory testing, please contact our Commercial Team on 020 7500 6900.

We look forward to helping you soon.

Guaranteeing Your Chain of Custody

At Express Medicals, we know that the integrity of the chain of custody process is crucial.  We have worked closely with Eurofins, one of the leading forensic labs, for many years and at no time has there ever been an investigation regarding incorrect results being issued.

Eurofins Scientific is one of the global independent market leaders in certain testing and laboratory services for genomics, discovery pharmacology, forensics, advanced material sciences and for supporting clinical studies. In addition, Eurofins is one of the key emerging players in specialty clinical diagnostic testing in Europe and the USA. With over 45,000 staff in more than 650 laboratories across 45 countries, Eurofins offers a portfolio of over 150,000 analytical methods for evaluating the safety, identity, composition, authenticity, origin and purity of biological substances and products, as well as for innovative clinical diagnostic. The Group objective is to provide its customers with high-quality services, accurate results on time and expert advice by its highly qualified staff.

DIY SOS by Hayley Lancefield

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go to a DIY SOS site with one of our occupational health technicians last month, to provide mini health check to everyone who was volunteering.

I didn’t know what to expect and I wasn’t too sure if anyone would like to know their blood pressure reading, or what their glucose or cholesterol levels were. However as soon as we got to the site and started to set up, there was instant interest from the people volunteering and especially from one of the presenters, Julian Perryman. Julian came up to me and said: “It’s good that you have come onsite today as someone felt faint yesterday”.

He then waited for us to finish setting up and was the first to get a mini health check. People started lining up, and before we knew it there was always more than five people waiting in line which I was surprised to see. There were people of all ages and one of the main reasons that they wanted a mini health check was because they had never had their blood pressure reading, glucose and cholesterol levels taken before. There were a few people who were on blood pressure tablets, and said they wanted to check if they were working, as they had to wait more than three weeks to get a GP appointment.

Many of those who had a mini health check asked the occupational health technician questions about their results and how they could get better readings. There was a funny moment when another presenter, Nick Knowles, came in and said: “I know you’re all getting your checks done, however someone has just dropped off more doughnuts and cakes. Maybe have one after your check!”.

We saw about 50 people in total and Nick came for a health check towards the end. He spent some time with us to discuss how important it is for people to not just “know their numbers” but understand them too.

There was a great community atmosphere and it was good to see everyone coming together for a great cause. It seemed like everyone in the area just wanted to get involved.

The Life of a New Account Manager at Express Medicals by Joe Richardson


Although I thoroughly enjoyed the interview process I was still a little apprehensive to start my new role as an account manager with Express Medicals. As naturally, the human mind is always a little cautious to the ‘unknown’.

However, my apprehension was soon swept aside when our Commercial Manager Rory Evans welcomed me into the business. We sat and had a coffee had a general chit-chat and he explained that there was no pressure and that I should feel comfortable to develop at my own pace and enjoy the learning process, which immediately made me feel at ease.

Rory then took me around the business and introduced me to all the different departments. After meeting everyone I certainly got the feeling that this is very much a peoples company, where everyone is genuine and gets on well as a team.

During my first month here I’ve worked closely with the senior account managers Harvey and Hayley who have been extremely helpful and I’ve learned a lot from them in such a short space of time. I have felt comfortable asking them any questions however silly they might be and they have always gone out of their way to help.

I’ve been given responsibility from the outset taking over a number of accounts, also within my first month I have recently set up and attended my first client meeting. It was a great experience to be involved in a client meeting to gain insight into what kind of questions clients may have before signing a contract with us. Rory assisted me with the client’s questions and together we successfully won some new business- which was a great feeling.

There are little quirks at this workplace that make it very special.

For example, our CEO Dan Hegarty makes it his business to walk around to all the departments and check up to see how all members of staff are doing. From previous experience it is usually the staff chasing the manager or CEO around the building to get a minute of their time, but not here, this gives everyone a real sense of value and transparency throughout the business. We also have fruit and snacks week giving us the opportunity to order our favourite fruit and snacks. In the sales and marketing department we enjoy ‘foursies’ where at four o’clock when we need that energy to make it through the end of the day, we can indulge in healthy snacks.

My previous role was as a sales consultant and coming from a fast-paced, competitive sales environment it has been extremely refreshing coming into a relaxed but yet professional atmosphere where all departments work together to ensure the best results. In addition, it is clear to see the management have complete faith and trust in the staff here to get their individual jobs done as staffs are given the flexibility to manage their own time.

Everyone has made me feel very welcome and I look forward to growing with the business!

The Construction Toolkit That Could Save A Life

Health and well-being is a topical subject and current in the construction industry. My aim is to explain how National Grid tackled the issue of stress with its staff using a process I helped design.


Business and construction need to avoid assuming men know what to do about stress. They also risk assuming men don’t want help. This starts with talking about it. We don’t have to have all the answers but let’s begin and learn from it. If we don’t know what Construction workers want, let’s ask them and listen to what they say. It’s likely it won’t be much different to what the rest of us want or need. But if we ask them, they’ll know we care and that’s what matters.


Construction workers within National Grid learnt about site safety by Health & Safety Reps. The Reps had never received training in stress and mental health. So, National Grid felt the subject of stress wasn’t discussed. Managers also struggled to support staff if they took time off for stress. The subject felt like the ‘elephant in the room’ and they began a campaign to correct this. I helped design a toolkit that recognised stress early. It equipped managers with tools to make an approach to a vulnerable employee. It also covered how to support them. The benefit of this was greater confidence when discussing the subject. It improved how easy it felt to talk about personal issues. It also increased their understanding about what people needed and helped.


Some of us are lucky enough to learn the tools we need to help us cope well in life. Loneliness when working away from home or balancing work with home life can be tough. So too can handling marital breakdown or losing someone we love. If we haven’t managed to learn these or have them taught to us by parents, then we can feel ill-equipped. Communication can also be important and talking about our emotions helpful. Not talking can have significant effect on our health. Some of the time we ‘learn’ what is acceptable, or unacceptable in our behaviour from the habits we see around us. If it is ‘negative’ to express our emotions, then we will learn not to do this. Another issue is that men often find it more difficult to talk about emotion than women. There is a good reason for this.


Women experience emotions on both sides of their brains. They have many connections within the brain to the part of it responsible for language. It is much easier for women to express what they are feeling. Men still experience emotions but find it tougher to explain. For men, it can be much harder to find the right words. So, some men may choose not to speak about things, and for some it may feel more as if they can’t. Others may use different coping mechanisms such as withdrawing or avoiding things. Some may channel their distress by taking exercise or team sports and seem to avoid talking. Because men do this it doesn’t mean they want to, and it doesn’t mean someone may not be able to help. They may be well received were they to offer. The key to helping men is to offer help but in a way that appeals to them. To do that well keep the process simple.


This is much easier to do when you know someone well such as a good friend. The question ‘how are you?’ isn’t coming from management and doesn’t feel threatening. It’s also easier to ask for help from a friend rather than a professional. So, National Grid implemented a toolkit. Reps knew to look out for someone they knew well who may be struggling with stress. They didn’t try to fix the problem themselves. They acted as a friend would. The 4 symbols that represented what this toolkit looked like are below:

I developed better expertise with this process over time and revised it. I called it a Buddy toolkit or ‘looking out for your mates’. I extended it beyond Health and Safety Reps to the workers whenever I introduced this. It was important workers didn’t have to look out for everyone they knew but watched out for their best mate. It was also important not to feel they had to fix how someone was feeling or make them feel better. All you do is watch out for your mate and check in with them. When you’ve asked how they are, if they are unhappy and you think you can help offer your own thoughts. Talk about when you’ve experienced something similar. If you don’t think you can help, direct them towards someone you know who can. On site, within the business, or outside of it. Make it your business to know what services are available then you’ll know you tried and they’ll feel they matter. Keep in touch and check in again a few days later. No pressure, but you know you are there.


With the Buddy toolkit you also pair people up within your project team. If someone is new to the team, a more experienced site worker would be better paired with them for a few weeks. This is so they can show the new person the ropes but also look out for them. Often, we are at our most isolated when lonely and we don’t know anyone. This is a risk for mental health. Yet it’s also the time when men are most likely to find out what is and isn’t ok in that culture. If they are new in, need help but don’t ask, the buddy system gives them someone they can go to.


We all need people in life and this toolkit helps. What this achieves is simple; you show you care and they feel that. If they are going to reach out, then they’ll come to you. So, look, watch and ask how they are especially if you see they aren’t themselves at any time.

Article by Sue Firth, Business Psychologist for Express Medicals

Health surveillance and hazard control in the workplace

Health surveillance and hazard control in the workplace

Health surveillance is a process of continuous monitoring of employees when they’re working in situations that could be harmful to health.

Companies need to conduct health surveillance is when hazards such as noise, manual handling, biological agents or other factors are present in the workplace and have known ill-health outcomes. Employers sometimes mistakenly consider surveillance as a method of ensuring that the workforce is not being harmed by these hazards. Although this may seem the most direct and simplest approach, it will not prevent exposure and can only confirm the unwanted outcomes. Prevention of exposure, as far as reasonably possible, is the most appropriate and only fully effective way of controlling risks to health from exposure to a known hazard in the workplace.

Health surveillance can be considered part of health risk management. It requires a systematic approach for early detection of disease and follow-up to prevent progression of ill-health and also hopefully to prevent further exposure to others. It can also be valuable for confirmation that an effective health control programme is in place such as audiometry (hearing testing) after implementation of a hearing conservation programme in the workplace, for instance.

Hierarchy of hazard control

This is a system used in industry to minimise or eliminate exposure to hazards. The infographic below is produced and used by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).