MidMeds Social – December 2016

 

 

MidMeds Social | December

 

 

 


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

 

Friday 30th December

Britain's leading GP says she is "profoundly concerned" about how doctors will cope with demand over the busy winter period.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs Council, said general practice was "skating on thin ice", warning: "Something has to give".

Some people wait weeks to see a doctor, with potentially serious results, the Staffordshire-based GP said.

NHS England said GPs would be getting extra funding to extend services.

'The big fear'

Dr Stokes-Lampard told the Press Association some patients were already waiting two or three weeks to see GPs for non-urgent matters such as suspect lumps or bleeding problems.

But if they wait three to four weeks "the non-urgent stuff may be becoming urgent," she added.

"With lumps or bleeding problems or things that could be signs of serious disease, my profound concern is that people will delay seeking help for things that could potentially be life-threatening or life-changing if they are not tackled swiftly.

She went on: "As a service that is already skating on thin ice - a service that is stretched incredibly thinly - something has to give.

"Well, what do you do? If you've got to deal with people who are acutely sick on the day because people need help, then chronic disease management will disappear."

Describing chronic disease management as "the most phenomenal success story of the NHS", she added that her "big fear" was that this would be affected "because we are too busy fire-fighting the urgent stuff".

It that happened, "The knock-on consequences could take years to manifest but they will be very serious indeed," said Dr Stokes-Lampard.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Friday 28th December

NHS hospitals appear to be making more money than ever from parking fees.

A report from the Press Association says hospitals in England collected more than £120m last year - up by 5%.

Many trusts defended the charges, saying the money was put back into patient care or maintaining car parks.

But the chief executive of the Patients Association said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free, while patients in England had to pay.

Of the 120 trusts asked by PA, 89 responded to the Freedom of Information request on the charges.

The responses showed £120,662,650 had been collected in car park fees over 2015/16, up from £114,873,867 the year before.

Only 27 trusts responded to a question about parking fines, but they showed over £2m had been collected in a four year period, with over £635,000 collected this year alone.

The figure which each trust accrued varied, partly as a consequence of their size. But more than half were making over £1m in car park fees in a year.

The investigation also found that almost half of all NHS trusts charged disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.

Hospital car parking fees were abolished in Scotland and Wales in 2008, although a small number of hospitals still charge as they are signed up to private contracts to manage their parking facilities.

However, fees are allowed to be charged in Northern Ireland.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Friday 23rd December

An experimental vaccine has been found to be highly effective against the deadly Ebola virus.

The trial was conducted in Guinea, one of the West African countries most affected by an outbreak of Ebola that ended this year.

Results, published in British medical journal The Lancet, show that of nearly 6,000 people receiving the vaccine, all were free of the virus 10 days later.

In a group of the same size not vaccinated, 23 later developed Ebola.

The director of British-based medical research institute the Wellcome Trust described the findings as "remarkable".

"Had a vaccine been available earlier in the Ebola epidemic, thousands of lives might have been saved," Jeremy Farrar said.

"We have to get ahead of the curve and make promising diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for diseases we know could be a threat in the future."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 22nd December

The NHS will pay for 10 blind patients to have "bionic eyes" to help treat an inherited form of blindness.

The bionic eye is a retinal implant which interprets images captured by a miniature video camera worn on a pair of glasses.

Five patients will be treated at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and five at Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2017.

They will be monitored for a year afterwards to see how they get on in everyday life.

"I'm delighted," said Prof Paulo Stanga from the Manchester hospital.

He has been involved in earlier trials of the Argus II Bionic Eye, made by the company Second Sight, in retinitis pigmentosa.

He added: "It surpassed all of our expectations when we realised that one of the retinitis pigmentosa patients using the bionic eye could identify large letters for the first time in his adult life."

This disease, which is often passed down through families, destroys the light-sensing cells in the retina. It leads to vision loss and eventually blindness.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Wednesday 21st December

Eating processed meat might make asthma symptoms worse, say researchers.

Consuming more than four portions a week is a risk, suggests the study of nearly 1,000 French people, published in the journal Thorax.

The researchers believe it could be a preservative called nitrite used in meats such as sausages, salami and ham that aggravates the airways.

But experts say the link has not been proved and more investigations are needed.

Rather than worry about one type of food, people should be eating a healthy and varied diet, they advise.

Processed meat has already been linked with cancer.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 19th December

NHS hospitals in England are so full that a shortage of beds is putting patients at an increased risk of infection, according to a report.

An analysis of bed occupancy rates by the Nuffield Trust reveals that more than 95% of beds in hospitals were used every day last winter.

Hospitals try not to exceed 85% so they can deal with sudden admissions rises.

NHS England has written to hospitals urging them to stop routine surgery over the Christmas and New Year period.

It is standard practice for the NHS to cut back on elective surgery over the holiday period to free up more beds for emergency admissions.

But this year the message has been "strengthened" and is more detailed, the BBC has discovered.

Previous research has linked a shortage of beds to long delays in emergency departments and higher infection rates.

Hospitals aim to avoid high bed occupancy rates to ensure that emergency patients can be admitted quickly.

They also don't want patients to be moved around or placed on inappropriate wards to make room for other patients, and they need to have some slack in the system when numbers of admissions rise very quickly.

Controlling infections and keeping everything clean can also be a problem if hospitals are too full.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Friday 16th December

NHS hospitals in England are so full that a shortage of beds is putting patients at an increased risk of infection, according to a report.

An analysis of bed occupancy rates by the Nuffield Trust reveals that more than 95% of beds in hospitals were used every day last winter.

Hospitals try not to exceed 85% so that they can clean beds between patients and deal with sudden admissions rises.

NHS England said plans were in hand for maximising hospital beds this winter.

Previous research has linked a shortage of beds to long delays in emergency departments and higher infection rates.

Hospitals aim to avoid high bed occupancy rates to ensure that emergency patients can be admitted quickly.

They also don't want patients to be moved around or placed on inappropriate wards to make room for other patients, and they need to have some slack in the system when numbers of admissions rise very quickly.

Controlling infections and keeping everything clean can also be a problem if hospitals are too full.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 15th December

The UK's fertility regulator is about to make a historic decision on whether to allow the creation of babies from three people.

The technique prevents babies being born with deadly genetic diseases.

Three-person IVF has been backed by MPs and peers, got ethical approval and has been shown to be scientifically ready.

A meeting of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on Thursday will decide whether to give the final go-ahead.

If it does, the first such baby could, at the earliest, be born towards the end of 2017.

The baby would have all the genetic information from its mother and father, plus a tiny amount from a donor woman.

The fertility technique has been developed to prevent deadly mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondria are the tiny structures in every cell that convert food into useable energy.

Defective mitochondria affect one in 200 babies. In severe cases it can leave the child with insufficient energy to keep their heart beating, sustain the brain or move muscles.

Mitochondria are passed on only from the mother, so a second donor egg is needed to create healthy children.

But as mitochondria have their own genetic code, it means resulting children have DNA from three people.

They would have 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman - a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Wednesday 14th December

Viruses can evolve to become more aggressive in men than in women - at least in theory, a study suggests.

The report, published in Nature Communications, argues there is a benefit to a virus "going easy" in women as it helps it spread.

Some infections are known to be less deadly in women, but this is largely put down to differences in the immune system.

Experts said the findings were intriguing.

Viruses have ways of spreading that are unique to women - such as to a child in the womb, during birth or breastfeeding.

Scientists at Royal Holloway University in London used mathematics to model whether this altered the way viruses behaved.

Their findings suggest there may be an advantage to infections being less aggressive in women as reducing the risk of killing the mother increases the chance of infecting the child.

Dr Francisco Ubeda, one of the researchers, said: "Viruses may be evolving to be less dangerous to women, looking to preserve the female population, the virus wants to be passed from mother to child, either through breastfeeding, or just through giving birth."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 13th December

Brain tests at the age of three appear to predict a child's future chance of success in life, say researchers.

Low cognitive test scores for skills like language indicate less developed brains, possibly caused by too little stimulation in early life, they say.

These youngsters are more likely to become criminals, dependent on welfare or chronically ill unless they are given support later on, they add.

Their study in New Zealand appears in the journal, Nature Human Behaviour.

The US researchers from Duke University say the findings highlight the importance of early life experiences and interventions to support vulnerable youngsters.

Although the study followed people in New Zealand, the investigators believe that the results could apply to other countries.

They followed the lives of more than 1,000 children. Those who had low test scores for language, behavioural, movement and cognitive skills at three years old went on to account for more than 80% of crimes, required 78% of prescriptions and received 66% of social welfare payments in adulthood.

It is known that disadvantaged people use a greater share of services. While many of the children in the study who were behind in brain development came from disadvantaged backgrounds, poverty was not the only link with poor futures.

When the researchers took out children below the poverty line in a separate analysis they found that a similar proportion of middle class children who scored low in tests when they were three also went on to experience difficulties when they were older.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 12th December

A campaign led by medical professionals is calling for all diesel cars to be banned from London.

Doctors Against Diesel claim 9,400 Londoners a year die prematurely from breathing in toxic fumes from diesel engines.

Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have committed to a ban on diesel vehicles by 2025.

Opponents to the campaign have called the proposals "impractical" and warned a blanket ban could "backfire".

Doctors Against Diesel - comprising doctors, nurses and health professionals - are calling for Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to commit to phasing out diesel vehicles from London.

Mr Khan has already said he wants to get rid of diesel buses by 2018.

A spokesman for the mayor said he has no legal powers to ban cars in London and is calling on the government "to face its responsibility and implement a national diesel scrappage scheme now".

"The mayor has more than doubled air quality funding and is doing everything in his power to tackle London's toxic air and rid the city of the most polluting vehicles, but he cannot do this alone" the spokesman added.

Read more: here (External link)


 

Thursday 8th December

Online ads for food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar aimed at children are to be banned under new rules from advertisers.

The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) said its restrictions would also apply to all other media where under-16s made up a quarter of the audience.

The rules are an attempt to help tackle obesity when children are spending more time online than ever before.

But critics say the new rules do not go far enough and may not have any impact.

They point to the thousands of children watching TV shows and videos online not specifically targeted at children, which these rules will not cover.

Protecting children

However, the advertisers' body said the move would lead to "a major reduction" in the number of "junk food" ads seen by children on platforms such as YouTube and children's games websites.

And it said the new rules would bring non-broadcast media, such as online, social media, cinema and billboard advertising, in line with TV rules introduced in 2007, which restricted the advertising of junk food during children's TV programmes.

The CAP said the rules were a response to research suggesting children aged five to 15 spent about 15 hours online every week - overtaking time spent watching TV.

Last month, the World Health Organization warned that governments should be protecting children from targeted junk food adverts in apps, social media and video blogs.

While the CAP acknowledged the impact of the rule changes could be small, it said they demonstrated the industry was putting "the protection of children at the heart of its work".

Read more: here (External link)


 

Tuesday 6th December

The UK government has published draft legislation for a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, which is set to begin from April 2018.

There will be two bands - one for soft drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml and a higher one for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

Ministers hope it will help tackle the nation's obesity problem.

Many companies have already begun cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks.

Pure fruit juices will be exempt - but health officials stress people should limit consumption of these beverages to no more than 150ml per day.

Likewise, sugary milkshake and yogurt drinks will also be excluded.

Ministers were concerned that teenagers, particularly girls, were not getting enough calcium and so taxing these drinks might be counterproductive.

The government has said it expects the levy to raise £520m in the first year.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.

This amounts to an extra 6p on a regular can of Fanta and Sprite, and an extra 8p on a regular can of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Irn-Bru.

Health campaigners have broadly welcomed the initiative.

Dr Max Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "We are very pleased to see government moving forward with this draft legislation.

"The sugary drinks that will be affected by this tax have no nutritional benefit and often contain levels of sugar that are above a child's daily recommended limit.

"These drinks are a major contributor to the high sugar intakes of children, particularly teenagers, and we are in no doubt that they are, in part, contributing to this country's obesity crisis."

Read more: here (External link)


 

Monday 5th December

Junior doctors in the UK fear they are missing out on crucial training because of increasing workloads, a report by the General Medical Council suggests.

In its survey of more than 50,000 junior doctors, 43% said their daytime workload was "heavy" or "very heavy".

The GMC says time allocated for training must be protected so junior doctors can gain the experience and skills they need for their development.

Health ministers say improving support for training is a priority.

In the survey, many of the doctors training to be consultants and senior GPs said they frequently had to cope with problems beyond their expertise.

And those who complained of a heavy workload said they were three times more likely to leave a teaching session to deal with a clinical call.

Read more: here (External link)


 

 

Thursday 1st December

Junior doctors in the UK fear they are missing out on crucial training because of increasing workloads, a report by the General Medical Council suggests.

In its survey of more than 50,000 junior doctors, 43% said their daytime workload was "heavy" or "very heavy".

The GMC says time allocated for training must be protected so junior doctors can gain the experience and skills they need for their development.

Health ministers say improving support for training is a priority.

In the survey, many of the doctors training to be consultants and senior GPs said they frequently had to cope with problems beyond their expertise.

And those who complained of a heavy workload said they were three times more likely to leave a teaching session to deal with a clinical call.

Read more: here (External link)