MidMeds Social – September 2016



MidMeds Social | September




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


Thursday 29th September

Taking a common kind of painkiller is linked to an increased risk of heart failure, a study suggests.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen and diclofenac, are commonly used to treat pain and inflammation.

The British Medical Journal study looked at 10 million people, aged 77 on average, who took the drugs.

UK experts said the findings had little relevance for most under-65s but were a possible concern for elderly patients.

The study analysed data for the 10 million users - who were from the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany - and compared them with people who did not take the drugs.

The researchers, from University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, found taking NSAIDs increased the risk of being taken to hospital with heart failure by 19%.

Since most people in the study were older - and those on NSAIDs were, in general, in poorer health - UK experts said the findings had very little relevance for most under-65s but may be a concern for elderly patients.

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 28th September

Junior doctors are waiting to hear whether England's High Court will agree to stop the government imposing a new contract.

The group Justice for Health says it mounted the legal challenge because the contract is "unsafe and unsustainable".

The Department of Health says the case is without merit.

Ministers insist the new contract is needed to improve levels of medical cover in hospitals at weekends so that the NHS can deliver seven-day services.

The dispute over the contract, which is due to be rolled out from October, has already led to thousands of hospital operations and appointments being cancelled during a series of junior doctor strikes.

Junior doctors had planned a run of five-day strikes in the four months leading up to Christmas, but recently called these off following concerns over patient safety.

Read more: here (External link)


Tuesday 27th September

If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night and immediately checked your phone then you're not alone.

People in the UK have never been more addicted to their smartphones, according to a report from Deloitte.

One in three adults check for messages at night, and admit their overuse is causing rows with their partners.

For some, FOMO - or the fear of missing out - leaves them in the grip of an addiction to their devices, according to the survey.

"What smartphones enable people to do is to keep tags of what's happening, what people are saying, what people are posting. You can do that throughout the day and what smartphones are encouraging people to do is to do that at night," Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte told Today.

But Mr Lee said the overuse was a "temporary thing" driven by the relative newness of smartphones.

"We're getting used to how to use this tech which let's remind ourselves is just nine years old. When we have something new we tend to overreact to it," he added.

Read more: here (External link)


Monday 26th September

Health problems related to poor diet, drinking and smoking are costing the NHS in England more than £11bn each year, officials say.

Public Health England (PHE) says that unless they are tackled more effectively the NHS will become unaffordable.

It warns conditions such as diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis are a new and untreatable epidemic.

But the town of Fleetwood, Lancashire, plans to tackle these problems head on.

Around four out of 10 middle-aged people already have a long-term condition for which there is currently no cure.

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff of PHE says these conditions pose a real threat to the future sustainability of the health service.

"When you look back to Victorian times, we worried about things like diphtheria and polio, and we've actually managed to conquer those now.

"The new threats are things like diabetes and chronic bronchitis. They could overwhelm us."

"They are illnesses for which there is no cure, and they cost the NHS more than £11bn each year. That's a phenomenal amount of money and more than that, it is taking years off people's lives."

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 22nd September

Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have pledged $3bn (£2.3bn) to fund medical research over the next decade.

At a press conference in San Francisco, they said their ultimate goal was to "cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century".

The funds will be distributed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which they created in December 2015.

Tech leaders are increasingly turning their attention to health.

Earlier in the week, Microsoft said it intended to "solve" cancer by using artificial intelligence tools.

Google's DeepMind unit is working with the NHS to find a way to use computers to more accurately diagnose diseases.

And IBM and MIT announced a tie-up earlier this week to develop AI-based systems that could help clinicians improve the care of elderly and disabled patients.

Even so, the Chan Zuckerberg plan is marked by its ambition.

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 21st September

Wearing an activity device that counts how many steps you have taken does not appear to improve the chances of losing weight, research suggests.

The two-year long study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) included nearly 500 overweight volunteers who were asked to diet and take more exercise.

Half were given a fitness tracker to help them keep tabs.

This group had lost less weight than the other one by the end of the trial.

The study authors say this does not mean people should ditch the technology altogether, but neither should they put too much faith in them, at least as a slimming aid.

Read more: here (External link)


Tuesday 20th September

Smoking rates in England have fallen to the lowest on record, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

In 2015, 16.9% of adults described themselves as smokers, compared with 19.3% in 2012.

Experts say the decrease may be partly thanks to the availability of e-cigarettes.

More than a million people said they vaped as they tried to quit and 700,000 used a licensed nicotine replacement product such as patches or gum.

Out of the 2.5 million smokers who tried to kick the habit, a fifth were successful.

According to Public Health England, this is the highest recorded successful quitting rate to date - six years ago the success rate was around one in seven.

Read more: here (External link)


Monday 19th September

Researchers from Switzerland have confirmed what most of us already know - drinking a single glass of beer can make people more sociable.

The team from University Hospital in Basel tested 60 healthy people, with an equal number of men and women drinking alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer.

They took part in a range of tasks, including a face recognition test, empathy test and sexual arousal test.

The lead researcher said there had been little previous research in this area.

Prof Matthias Liechti explained: "Although many people drink beer and know its effects through personal experience there is surprisingly little scientific data on its effects on the processing of emotional social information."

The desire to be with others, in a happy, talkative and open environment increased in the group which drank the alcoholic beer and was more marked in women and those with higher initial inhibitions.

As well as enabling the participants to recognise happy faces more quickly, the beer also enhanced participants' emotional empathy, particularly in those with lower levels of initial empathy.

Read more: here (External link)


Friday 16th September

A heart and chest hospital has become the UK's first to be rated "outstanding" for the specialist treatment it offers.

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is "of exceptional quality", the Care Quality Commission chief inspector of hospitals said.

It becomes the eighth trust in England and the first in Cheshire and Merseyside to be given the rating.

Chairman Neil Large praised the trust's 1,500 staff and volunteers.

"This rating pays testament to the dedication and professionalism of the team," Mr Large said on behalf of the trust.

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 15th September

Napping for more than an hour during the day could be a warning sign for type-2 diabetes, Japanese researchers suggest.

They found the link after analysing observational studies involving more than 300,000 people.

UK experts said people with long-term illnesses and undiagnosed diabetes often felt tired during the day.

But they said there was no evidence that napping caused or increased the risk of diabetes.

The large study, carried out by scientists at the University of Tokyo, is being presented at a meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Munich.

Their research found there was a link between long daytime naps of more than 60 minutes and a 45% increased risk of type-2 diabetes, compared with no daytime napping - but there was no link with naps of less than 40 minutes.

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 14th September

The rise in popularity of e-cigarettes in the UK may have resulted in more successful attempts to quit smoking, according to UK researchers.

The British Medical Journal work looked at trends in quit rates and support in England from 2006 to 2015.

E-cigarettes seem to have had no effect on the number of people trying to quit, but more have actually managed to stop.

The authors say vaping may have helped about 18,000 extra people in England successfully give up smoking in 2015.

The team, from University College London and Cancer Research UK, say theirs is an observational study, and therefore cannot prove direct cause and effect.

One smoking expert said it appeared e-cigarettes were a "major contributor" to the trend.

But health professionals say the most effective way to quit smoking remains through prescription medication and professional support from free local NHS stop-smoking services.

Electronic cigarettes are not yet widely available on the NHS.

Read more: here (External link)


Tuesday 13th September

Health warnings have been made ahead of what could be the hottest September day in the UK for more than 50 years.

Temperatures in the upper 20Cs have been forecast in England until Friday, with London possibly reaching 31C (88F) on Tuesday, the Met Office said.

The East of England, the South East, and the East Midlands are also expected to have some of the hottest weather.

Public Health England and NHS England have both urged caution, saying the weather can pose a risk to health.

NHS England has declared a level-two heat alert, which means there is a high chance that an average temperature of 30C (86F) by day and 15C (59F) overnight will occur over the next two to three days.

These temperatures can have a "significant effect" on a person's health if they last for at least two days and the night in between, it said.

The last time temperatures were above 30C (86F) in September was in 2006 in Kew Gardens, which hit 30.5C (87F) on 11 September.

If temperatures rise above 31.6C (88.9F), which was reached at Gatwick on 2 September 1961, then it will be the hottest day for 55 years.

Read more: here (External link)


Monday 12th September

A seven-day NHS is "impossible" to achieve with the current funding and staffing levels, the chief executive of NHS Providers says.

Chris Hopson told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that "something has to give" and there should be a debate about which services to sacrifice "rather than pretend the gap doesn't exist".

Figures show waiting times and delayed hospital discharges at record levels.

The government says it is giving NHS England the £10bn it asked for.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for a "seven-day NHS" since 2015 afterhis department concluded that there was a "clear link between poorer outcomes for patients and uneven service provision at the weekend".

Read more: here (External link)



Friday 9th September:

The benefits of the cholesterol-reducing drug statins are underestimated and the harms exaggerated, a major review suggests.

Published in the Lancet and backed by a number of major health organisations, it says statins lower heart attack and stroke risk.

The review also suggests side effects such as muscle pain do occur, although in relatively few people.

But critics say healthy people are unnecessarily taking medication.

Dummy drug effect

Statins reduce the build-up of fatty plaques that lead to blockages in blood vessels. According to the report authors:

  • About six million people are currently taking statins in the UK
  • Of those, two million are on them because they have already had a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event
  • The remaining four million take statins because of risk factors such as age, blood pressure or diabetes
  • Up to two million more should possibly take statins

The Lancet review, led by Prof Rory Collins from the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford, looked at the available evidence for the effects of taking an average 40mg daily dose of statins in 10,000 patients over five years.

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 8th September:

Babies born by Caesarean are at higher risk of becoming obese, especially compared with siblings born by vaginal delivery, a large study suggests.

Writing in JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers said this might be because babies born vaginally are exposed to healthy gut bacteria that play an important role in regulating diet.

The study followed more than 22,000 babies into adulthood.

But experts said there were likely to be many different factors at work.

These include the diet of the mother, whether she had diabetes during pregnancy and whether the baby was breastfed.

Babies born via Caesarean are less likely to be breastfed, and this has been shown to lead to an increased risk of obesity. Children's diets also have an effect on their future weight.

Read more: here (External link)



Wednesday 7th September:

Patients in England will soon be able to enter symptoms online and receive tailored advice or a call back from a health professional.

Details of the new online NHS 111 service will be outlined in a speech by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Manchester on Wednesday.

The NHS.uk website will allow patients to book appointments, access medical records and order prescriptions.

The initiatives are part of moves towards a paperless NHS.

It was announced in February this year that £4bn had been set aside for the IT initiative.

The new online triage system is part of an expansion of the current NHS 111 non-emergency phone line service.

The service is being developed with leading clinicians and will be piloted before the public can use it.

The relaunched NHS website will also allow patients to compare how well their local health services perform in areas of dementia, diabetes and learning disability services.

Data on maternity, cancer and mental health data will be added in the autumn.

The site will also have a new collection of NHS-approved health apps to guide patient choice.

Read more: here (External link)


Tuesday 6th September:

Taking Vitamin D supplements in addition to asthma medication appears to cut the risk of severe asthma attacks, a review of evidence suggests.

An independent review by the Cochrane research body of nine clinical trials found it also cut the rate of asthma attacks needing steroid treatment.

But researchers say it is unclear whether it only helps patients who are vitamin D deficient.

They say more studies are needed before they can give patients official advice.

They recommend talking to a GP or pharmacist to get advice before taking a vitamin D supplement.

The Cochrane review's lead author, Professor Adrian Martineau, said they found vitamin D "significantly reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks, without causing side effects".

They found taking vitamin D reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring a hospital admission or a visit to A&E from 6% to 3%.

They also found the rate of asthma attacks needing steroid treatment dropped from 0.44 to 0.28 attacks per person per year.

But they found that vitamin D did not improve lung function or day-to-day asthma symptoms.

Read more: here (External link)



Monday 5th September:

A move that could have seen obese patients refused surgery in an attempt to save money is to be reviewed after national NHS bosses intervened.

A proposed restriction by the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group would have seen non-life threatening procedures delayed by a year for those with a body mass index exceeding 30.

The rule would also apply to smokers.

NHS England, which can intervene as the CCG is under special measures, said the group had agreed to rethink the move.

Under the move, obese patients in the Vale of York area could have secured a referral in less than a year if they shed 10% of their weight.

Similarly, if smokers refused to quit they would face having procedures delayed for up to six months, which could be accelerated if they stopped smoking for eight weeks.

The CCG said the proposals, announced as part of a package of measures being considered to reduce costs, came at a time when the local system was under "severe pressure".

The new rules would only apply to elective surgery for non-life threatening procedures, for example hip and knee operations.

Read more: here (External link)



Friday 2nd September:

More than two billion people could be at risk from Zika virus outbreaks in parts of Africa and Asia, according to scientists writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Populations in India, Indonesia and Nigeria are some of the most vulnerable to transmission, the researchers said.

They used data on air traveller numbers to help model their predictions.

However, they acknowledge that immunity to the virus could already exist in some areas and could reduce the risk.

The research team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and the University of Toronto, Canada, said "vast numbers" of people were living in environments where it would be hard to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.

They looked at factors such as the numbers of people who travelled from Zika-affected areas in South America to Africa and Asia, the presence of mosquitoes that can pass on the virus, and the climate in the regions to assess which countries could be most at risk from an outbreak.

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 1st September:

Anonymised CT and MRI scans from 700 former University College London Hospital radiotherapy patients will be analysed by Google's artificial intelligence division, DeepMind.

The aim is to develop an algorithm that can automatically differentiate between healthy and cancerous tissues.

This "segmentation" is necessary in patients with head and neck cancers.

And it is hoped the time it takes to design targeted radiotherapy treatments could be cut from four hours to one.

"Clinicians will remain responsible for deciding radiotherapy treatment plans,"UCLH said.

Read more: here (External link)