MidMeds Social – November 2016

 

 

MidMeds Social | November

 

 

 


Links to articles featured throughout the MidMeds social media network in November 2016

 

Wednesday 30th November

Aspiring nurses can soon enrol on a new on-the-job apprenticeship role, the government says.

From September 2017, up to 1,000 NHS staff will be able to take up the training without having to go down the conventional university route to get a nursing degree.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says it complements the nursing associate role announced a year ago.

Both initiatives aim to offer flexible routes into nursing in England.

They might also give students an affordable way to train, since ministers plan to scrap student bursaries for nurses in September 2017.

Student nurses at university are currently entitled to bursaries of £4,500 to £5,500 if they live in London - on top of a grant of £1,000 each year during their course.

The course fees are also covered.

But the government has proposed scrapping these and introducing university fees to bring health staff in line with other students.

The NHS will still provide some financial support towards expenses such as travel costs for placements.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 29th November

Health bosses have approved plans to delay routine surgery for smokers and obese people.

The restrictions, brought in by NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), mean overweight patients will have to lose 10% of their weight before surgery.

Smokers face a six-month delay.

Clare Marx, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), said that "patients should be treated equally according to their symptoms".

The CCG said only elective surgery for non-life threatening procedures, such as hip and knee operations, would be affected.

The new rule will be introduced in January.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 24th November

Predatory bacteria - that eat others of their kind - could be a new weapon in the fight against superbugs, say UK researchers.

Experiments showed a dose of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus acted like a "living antibiotic" to help clear an otherwise lethal infection.

The animal studies, published in Current Biology, suggested there would be no side effects.

Experts said the approach was unusual, but should not be overlooked.

Fear of an antibiotic apocalypse, caused by growing levels of bacteria resisting the drugs, has led to scientists trying other approaches.

Bdellovibrio is a fast-swimming bacterium that works its way inside other bacteria where it devours its hosts' insides and swells in size.

Deadly dose

Once it has finished feeding it replicates and bursts out of its now dead host.

The team at Imperial College London and the University of Nottingham tried using Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus to kill a common cause of food poisoning.

Shigella bacteria make 160 million people ill each year, and more than a million die, largely through contaminated food.

Tests in a laboratory dish showed the predatory bacteria caused the population of superbug Shigella to collapse 4,000-fold.

Further tests in fish larvae showed a deadly dose of the superbug led to only 25% surviving for three days.

But when the fish larvae were also "infected" with the predator, survival soared to 60%.

Dr Serge Mostowy, from Imperial College London, told the BBC: "It is definitely a creative approach and what is special is the inability of the host to develop resistance."

He added: "It's an important milestone in research into the use of a living antibiotic that could be used in animals and humans."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Wednesday 23rd November

Pathology departments in NHS hospitals around the UK are struggling to cope with rising requests for cancer tests, Cancer Research UK has warned.

Without more staff to meet the demand, long waits for test results could become the norm, says the charity.

One in two of us will have cancer at some point, and getting it diagnosed early is vital.

The government says it is investing in cancer services, which includes having the right number and mix of staff.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 22nd November

Patients could have to show proof of identity to get some NHS care, the senior civil servant at the Department of Health has said.

Chris Wormald told a Commons committee it was a controversial move but already happened in some NHS trusts.

The NHS has "a lot further to go" in reclaiming money for treating foreign visitors, he said.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier raised concerns that some British residents might not have passports or other ID.

Mr Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, which is responsible for the NHS in England, told the Public Accounts Committee: "We have some trusts that are looking at asking for two forms of ID before treatment.

"Now that is obviously quite a controversial thing to do but... those are the kinds of things we want to look at.

"We don't have evaluated results of those yet, but what those trusts are reporting is that does lead to an increase in identification."

He added: "There are individual trusts like Peterborough who are doing that, who are reporting that it makes a big difference and there you are saying 'Please come with two forms of identity, your passport and your address' and they use that to check whether people are eligible or not.

"Now it is obviously quite a controversial thing to do to say to the entire population 'You now have to prove identity'."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 21st November

The mosquito-borne Zika virus will no longer be treated as an international medical emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared.

By lifting its nine-month-old declaration, the UN's health agency is acknowledging that Zika is here to stay.

The infection has been linked to severe birth defects in almost 30 countries.

These include microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and restricted brain development.

The WHO says more than 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations have been reported in Brazil alone.

Although the virus is mostly spread by mosquitoes, it can also be sexually transmitted.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Friday 18th November

Patients in England will see rising waiting times, rationing and cuts in the number of staff unless the NHS gets more money, health bosses say.

A five-year plan to increase the budget by £8bn a year by 2020 was only set out last year, but now hospital bosses have warned that is not enough.

Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said the settlement needed to be redrawn.

However, the Department of Health said "tough economic decisions" had allowed it "to invest in our NHS".

It comes ahead of the Autumn Statement next Wednesday when ministers will set out their spending plans.

This will be the first time the government under Theresa May's leadership has outlined its priorities.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Wednesday 16th November

In a shed next to his Portsmouth home, former soldier Paul Quinn plugs into state-of-the-art technology, costing only £20 and operated through his iPad, to manage his chronic, life-threatening respiratory disease. He exercises there with his wife Elizabeth, guided by printouts of routines he has pasted to the walls.

Since the 64-year-old started using the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) management app he has lost weight, his depression has lifted, he sees his GP once a year (compared with twice-monthly visits previously) and he has not needed hospital treatment for 18 months. Quinn says he has his life back. This is not what he expected three years ago after developing acute breathing problems and being diagnosed with COPD. At that time he was handed an end-of-life pamphlet.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 15th November

An email that was accidentally sent to all the NHS's staff in England has caused havoc.

One of the health system's employees fired off the message on Monday morning without realising they had copied in 840,000 of their co-workers.

The action quickly clogged up the system and was exacerbated by users hitting "reply all" to complain.

The distribution list was disabled at 10:00 GMT, but some users continue to have problems.

The secure email system is used by NHS staff and other approved organisations to discuss healthcare and related activities.

"It's driving me bananas," one doctor - who asked not to be identified - told the BBC.

"The thing is hundreds of people have been replying to all.

"My NHS email is very important to me because it's the only secure way I can send and receive anything safely about my patients.

"So, this is a major problem [and] potentially a risk to patients."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 14th November

Sore throat sufferers will be encouraged to visit their pharmacist instead of their GP for an on-the-spot test to see if they need antibiotics.

The walk-in service is aimed at reducing doctor appointments and to help reduce the over-use of antibiotics, NHS England said.

It is hoped the scheme could result in fewer visits to GPs -potentially saving the NHS millions of pounds a year.

But pharmacies say cuts in funding to the sector could jeopardise the scheme.

The Sore Throat Test and Treat service, which has been trialled in 35 Boots pharmacies, will determine if an illness is caused by a virus - meaning drugs will not help - or a bacterial infection.

Results from a throat swab, which measures sugars on the tongue, are provided in five minutes. Patients who can be helped by antibiotics will be prescribed them by the pharmacist and not have to see a GP.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the scheme will be rolled out across the country over the coming year.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 10th November

People who were in the scouts or guides in childhood have better mental health in later life, a study suggests.

Analysis of a study of 10,000 people found ex-members were 15% less likely than other adults to suffer anxiety or mood disorders at the age of 50.

Researchers believe it could be the lessons in resilience and resolve that such organisations offer that has a lasting positive impact.

The researchers were from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities.

They looked at data from a lifelong study of almost 10,000 people from across the UK who were born in November 1958, known as the National Child Development Study.

About a quarter of study participants had been in the scouts or guides.

The researchers said their findings indicated that programmes that help children develop skills such as self-reliance and teamwork, and encourage being active outdoors, may have lifelong benefits.

Attending the guides or scouts may help build resilience against common stresses in life, or it may increase a person's chances of achieving more in life, so that they are less likely to experience such stresses, the team suggested.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 10th November

People who were in the scouts or guides in childhood have better mental health in later life, a study suggests.

Analysis of a study of 10,000 people found ex-members were 15% less likely than other adults to suffer anxiety or mood disorders at the age of 50.

Researchers believe it could be the lessons in resilience and resolve that such organisations offer that has a lasting positive impact.

The researchers were from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities.

They looked at data from a lifelong study of almost 10,000 people from across the UK who were born in November 1958, known as the National Child Development Study.

About a quarter of study participants had been in the scouts or guides.

Self-reliance

The researchers said their findings indicated that programmes that help children develop skills such as self-reliance and teamwork, and encourage being active outdoors, may have lifelong benefits.

Attending the guides or scouts may help build resilience against common stresses in life, or it may increase a person's chances of achieving more in life, so that they are less likely to experience such stresses, the team suggested.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 8th November

Care home residents can now travel to new places or back in time, without even leaving their armchairs, thanks to virtual reality, one of the latest technology innovations to enter the health and care sector.

Virtual Reality (VR) which is used in real life medical emergencies, during medical training and as a form of therapy, has been embraced by a number of care homes which are incorporating virtual reality into their activity and reminiscence sessions.

Residents can now access a whole new world and are able to visit beaches, the countryside, parks, towns and even experience what it is like in the Arctic.

Countrywide Care Homes Ltd and Helen McArdle Care Ltd have been holding virtual reality reminiscence sessions in their homes as part of their regular reminiscence and activity sessions, working with North East based company, reminiscience Ltd, which plans to expand across the UK.

Embrace's Dovecote nursing home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne has found the virtual reality reminiscence sessions to be so effective it has invested in a headset.

Activities coordinator, Chelsey Jackson said: “We have found that by using the headsets, it has decreased anxiety in some residents along with being able to relax residents. The headsets are also used as a scenery change to those residents who are unable to go out due to illness.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 7th November

Bacteria living deep inside the digestive system seem to alter how cancer drugs work, a study suggests.

Immunotherapies - which harness the body's own defences to fight tumours - can clear even terminal cancer in a small proportion of patients.

However, a small study by the University of Texas found those harbouring a more diverse community of gut bugs are more likely to benefit.

Cancer Research UK said understanding gut bugs had "great potential".

The human body is home to trillions of micro-organisms - estimates suggest our own tissues are so heavily outnumbered that our bodies are just 10% human.

And a growing wealth of studies shows these microbes can influence our immune systems and have been implicated in auto-immune diseases and allergies.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Friday 4th November

The study, in the journal Science, was carried out by an international group, including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The analysis shows a direct link between the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime and the number of mutations in tumour DNA.

The authors found that, on average, smoking a packet of cigarettes a day led to:

  • 150 mutations in each lung cell every year
  • 97 in the larynx or voice box
  • 23 in the mouth
  • 18 in the bladder
  • six in the liver

Joint lead author Prof Sir Mike Stratton, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "The more mutations there are, the higher the chance that these will occur in the key genes that we call cancer genes, which convert a normal cell into a cancer cell."

The researchers said that in tissues such as the lung, which are directly exposed to smoke, they could find the mutational signature of the chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 60 are carcinogens.

However, they could not find this same pattern in tissues such as the bladder, which are not directly exposed.

Prof Stratton said in these organs smoking seemed to be accelerating a natural mutational process, but how it did this was "mysterious and complex".

He said the same investigative approach could be used with other cancers where the underlying causes were less well understood.

"By looking in the genomes of the cancers, we will find the archaeological traces of past exposures which have been responsible for generating the cancers and that may potentially lead to prevention," he said.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 3rd November

The way the NHS in England is organised is hindering its ability to meet its challenges, a review led by former Health Secretary Alan Milburn says.

Mr Milburn said the current system was "confused and complex".

The review, for consultants PwC, called for a gradual evolution of the structures, saying those who worked in the health service supported reform.

But the Department of Health said its plan for the future would be "delivered within the NHS's existing structures".

The PwC report was critical of the changes introduced in 2012 by then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, which have resulted in the creation of "myriad" national organisations, including:

  • NHS England
  • NHS Improvement
  • Health Education England
  • Public Health England

The consultancy said it meant hospitals and other services faced the "daunting challenge of managing competing requirements".

Read more: here (External link)


 

Wednesday 2nd November

This study may be of interest to those in the field of sports medicine. It calculates the speed that walkers, joggers and cyclists may travel at to minimise the pollution they potentially inhale.

It also finds that these values turn out to be those that many pedestrians and cyclists would travel at in any case.

And, somewhat unsurprisingly, this speed would go down as you go uphill because of the increased effort and breathing rate required.

Fitter people who run or cycle fast for sport are, however, naturally likely to exceed this minimum speed requirement, both on the flat and speed gradients.

This could potentially expose them to more pollution, although care should be taken not to speculate too widely on the possible implications of this.

These equations use valid assumptions and previously collected data, but are only estimates. These aren't definite figures or recommendations on the speeds a person should walk or cycle at.

Many things may influence how much pollution a person is exposed to – not least the environment they're travelling in, whether an urban area or countryside.

And pollution exposure doesn't clearly and automatically equate to increased health risks, such as asthma, cancer or stroke.

The benefits of cycling, such as improved fitness and the preventative effect exercise has against a range of chronic diseases, may well outweigh the risks.

Some cyclists now choose to wear a face mask to protect against air pollution. If you decide to buy one, it's recommended you get one that contains sub-micron filters, as this will help protect against the most dangerous types of pollution particles.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 1st November

Adele has opened up about her battle with postnatal depression after the birth of her son, Angelo.

The singer told Vanity Fair magazine that she felt, at the time, like she had made "the worst decision" of her life.

The 28-year old goes on to say that she "loves her son more than anything" but admits she really struggled adjusting to motherhood.

"I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate," she says.

Angelo is now four and Adele's only child with partner Simon Konecki.

He advised her to talk to other mothers about her concerns. She says she refused at first but the depression "lifted" once she confided in a friend who had a child and realised she wasn't alone.

She goes on to say that taking an afternoon a week to herself improved the situation.

"A friend of mine said, 'Really? Don't you feel bad?' I said, 'I do, but not as bad as I'd feel if I didn't do it.' It makes you a better mum if you give yourself a better time."

Read more: here (External link)