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Sunday, 23 July 2006 09:59
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New medical research claims that the contraceptive pill saves the lives of up to 3,000 women a year in the UK and Europe.

A number of studies now suggest that the Pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer significantly. One study, reported in the British Journal of Cancer this week, found a protective effect of up to 50 per cent for Pill users, while another, reported in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, found a similar effect after analysing data on the use of the Pill since its introduction.

According to the studies, women who use the contraceptive pill reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer by more than a third, and the longer they take it for, the greater the protection.

Carlo La Vecchia of the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche in Milan, one of the world's leading experts on cancer, says that ovarian cancer cases have dropped in recent years: "Ovarian cancer incidence and mortality for younger generations have been declining in most developed countries, and the decline has been greatest in countries where oral contraceptive use had spread earlier”.

"The favourable effect against ovarian cancer risk persists for years after Pill use has ceased, and it is not confined to any particular type of Pill,'' says Dr La Vecchia. "Since the incidence of ovarian cancer is already appreciable in middle age, and survival from the disease is unsatisfactory, the protection of Pill use corresponds to the avoidance of 3,000 to 5,000 ovarian cancer cases, and consequently 2,000 to 3,000 deaths a year in Europe." He added that similar numbers were benefiting from taking the Pill in the US.

Another report based on a separate study, by researchers at the University of Wales, say the Pill's effects against the cancer are substantial: "The oral contraceptive pill has a substantial and long-lasting effect on the prevention of ovarian and endometrial cancer and is one of the best examples of large-scale chemoprevention in the developed world”.

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Sunday, 23 July 2006 09:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
The Sunday paper Scotland on Sunday revealed that blood supplies to Scottish hospitals are to be cut back after it was discovered that they throw away 19,000 donated units a year.

The paper can reveal that the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service has issued new restrictions to prevent the waste, amid fears that it will discourage donors from giving blood.

Yesterday, Professor Ian Franklin, national medical and scientific director of the SNBTS, said it was reviewing the amount of blood being sent out to hospitals amid plummeting donor numbers and a decrease in the number of transfusions.

Under the Blood Express initiative, the SNBTS will hold on to more supplies at its central blood banks in hospitals in Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It will limit supplies to Scotland's remaining hospitals. In emergencies, supplies can be sent from the nearest blood bank. Medical centres in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland will be exempt from the scheme because they are so remote.

But the revelation that thousands of units of blood have been thrown away has angered patients' groups and opposition politicians, following numerous urgent pleas for donations from the service.

Franklin said: "We want to make maximum use of the donor's gift. Although we can collect enough blood, it is getting harder and harder to do it. We always worry about compassion fatigue.

"The Blood Express programme is educating nurses and doctors about the appropriate use of blood and maximising the delivery of blood to patients, while minimising stockpiles, increasing efficiency and making sure stock does not go out of date.

"We do not want stock levels to be so low that there is no contingency there should they need it. We do get occasions where one patient needs up to 60 units of blood. That will stretch things and we will have to move stocks around, so we do need a comfort zone”.


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Sunday, 23 July 2006 09:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A Scottish cardiac surgeon Ciro Campanella is offering heart patients who go under the knife each year keyhole surgery.

The consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is planning a revolutionary heart bypass operation that will allow patients to leave hospital just one day after undergoing surgery.

Patients who need major heart surgery normally have to endure traumatic operations, during which the chest is cut open and the ribs separated to allow doctors to reach their heart. It takes weeks for them to recover.

But Campanella is using endoscopic implements that are inserted through a tiny incision in the patient's chest.

He claims the small hole needed to reach the heart can heal and allow patients to get back on their feet faster than in the traditional operation. He is aiming to begin carrying out "short-stay" procedures by the autumn.

It will be the first time patients who have had major heart surgery can leave after just a few hours in hospital, and is expected to revolutionise heart surgery. The risk of infection will also be dramatically reduced, while waiting times will be cut, freeing up beds for other patients.

"We are looking at this for selected patients," said Campanella. "There needs to be some fine tuning before we can definitely say we can do the surgery endoscopically and have the patients going away the following day.

"Unless you try to push forward, there will be no progress in terms of helping patients.

"The bottom line is that the disruption of the normal anatomy of the body is very minimal”.

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Sunday, 23 July 2006 09:19
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
According to a study to be published in the Journal of Hospital Infection hospital staffs are failing to wash their hands after touching patients carrying the superbug MRSA.

In a study by Elizabeth Jenner and Ben Fletcher from Hertfordshire University, they followed 71 staff on a hospital ward over a week, with some of the patients they cared for being in isolation because they were known to have the MRSA infection.

They found that on 22 per cent of occasions, staffs failed to wash their hands after contact with MRSA patients, increasing the risk that it would be spread to the next patient they touched - despite the fact that the staff knew they were being observed.

While studying more than 1,000 occasions when nurses and doctors came into contact with patients, they also found that for a quarter of that time, they also failed to wash after contact with patients' faeces and, for 38 per cent of the time, failed to wash their hands after contact with blood. All these factors increase the risks of germs spreading on a ward.

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 10:11
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Prof Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer said yesterday that billions of pounds of NHS money is being wasted every year because of variations in treatment which give rise to thousands of unnecessary operations.

Launching his annual report for England, Prof Sir Liam Donaldson, called for an end to the "unacceptable" variations which were endemic, costly and unfair.

He said some of the variation in clinical practice was on account of the preferences and habits of doctors and hospitals rather than on the needs of the patients.

For example, he said that some hospitals around the country have continued to carry out hysterectomies to treat women with excessive menstrual bleeding even though guidelines recommend that effective drugs may be used instead.

While hysterectomy rates have fallen by as much as 64% in north and central London, they have dropped by only 15% in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.

Sir Liam said: "In my view, this level of variation in clinical practice is not acceptable."

"If hysterectomy in England could be reduced to an appropriate level across the country we would avoid nearly 6,000 operations and save more than £15 million annually”.

Prescribing patterns, tonsillectomy rates among children and treatment of people with coronary heart disease also vary unacceptably across the country, he said.

Sir Liam also warned that public health campaign budgets for areas like smoking and obesity should not be "raided" to pay for NHS deficits.

Sir Liam has also unveiled plans to set up a committee to discuss the ethical questions surrounding pandemic flu, such as who should get priority for the vaccine and on what basis critical care beds would be allocated.

Sir Liam said: "I am setting down a challenge to commissioners of health services - to reaffirm their commitment to the principle of equity and ensure their patients receive a fair service and the care they need”.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Steve Webb MP said: "This report shows that health inequalities still run deeply through our society.”People still face an unfair postcode lottery in accessing health services across the country, which bears little relation to need.

"Health needs around the country would be best met by democratic community bodies giving local people a direct say in the services they need”.

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This report is a big wake-up call for the Government.

"We know there are initiatives that work and would improve health outcomes, but are not being rolled out because of financial problems in other parts of the NHS. Ring-fenced budgets must be allocated, so that the budget is not subordinated to external pressures”.

Joe Korner of The Stroke Association welcomed Sir Liam's report.

He said: "Stroke services are patchy across the country and it is vital that these are improved to save lives and improve outcomes for the estimated 150,000 people that have a stroke in the UK each year”.

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We must make sure treatments are available to people who need them. Treatment must be based on need rather than postcode, and commissioning should consistently consider socio economic status and ethnicity”.

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 09:58
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Multiple Sclerosis sufferers are to be offered the hope of a normal life after doctors pioneered a wonder drug treatment.

A five-year study, due to be published in next months Journal of Neurology, found that patients with the aggressive form of MS had a reduced relapse rate of 90% under the regime. The drastic reduction means that patients who would have faced bedridden lives will now be able to work and raise families uninterrupted.

The treatment, which was tested at the Walton Centre for Neurology in Liverpool, involves a limited course of the cancer drug Mitoxantrone, followed by the disease-moderating drug Copaxone. Results were so successful that a full study is now being initiated at 10 centres across the UK, for which volunteers are being sought.

Dr Mike Boggild, the consultant neurologist who led the research, said the two drugs appeared to have a powerful combined effect.

He said: "This regime has proved remarkably effective in patients with early MS and a poor prognosis.

"Though there are certain risks, associated particularly with the use of Mitoxantrone, we have been able to limit these by using this agent for just a short induction period.

"Balanced against the high risk of early disability for these patients, the outcomes appear to justify this approach”.

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 09:45
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Following complaints from Scottish mental health campaigners the soft drinks giant Coca-Cola yesterday axed an advert that referred to "psychos".

The ad, which has appeared in newspapers and on billboards, was part of the campaign for the new product Coca-Cola Zero - which is designed to taste like normal Coke but without the sugar.

The campaign points out that many things in life would be better without a downside - in this case "blind dates without the psychos".

But those working with people with mental illness failed to see the funny side.

Linda Dunion, the See Me campaign director, said: "Psycho is a term we are trying to dissuade people from using. It is used to trivialise serious mental illness and as a shorthand for horrendous crime”.

Ms Dunion said people with mental illness felt belittled and ridiculed by the term and such advertising was undermining the campaign's own efforts to tackle stigma.

"It is not necessary for them to be using an advert that might offend people”.

Ms Dunion said it was "fantastic news" Coca-Cola had decided to stop using the ad.

The company apologised for any offence and said: "The insights used are tongue-in-cheek and designed to be humorous and appeal to our target audience.

"It was never our intention to offend people."

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 09:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
The Health Protection Agency has said that contaminated Cadbury's chocolate was the most likely cause of an outbreak of salmonella poisoning.

In a statement, the agency said 13 of the people it had interviewed reported eating Cadbury's products.

Another person said they had eaten confectionary, but did not know the brand.

The National Public Health Service in Wales also reported a person who had eaten a Cadbury's product.

The agency's Outbreak Control Team (OCT) said: "After carefully considering all the available evidence the OCT concluded that consumption of products made by Cadbury Schweppes was the most credible explanation for the outbreak of salmonella Montevideo”.

The agency also noted the number of cases of reported salmonella dropped following the firms voluntary product recall and said the geographical distribution of cases suggested the outbreak was caused by a nationally distributed food.

Cadbury's has agreed to improve its testing procedures after experts working for the Food Standards Agency said they were not up to modern standards.

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 09:25
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Diabetes UK, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and Ask About Medicines who commissioned a study, claims that two-thirds of the two million people with diabetes in the UK do not take their medication as prescribed.

The study found:
• Half of diabetes patients in the UK have depression.
• One in five suffers preventable complications as a result of neglecting to take their medicine.
• More than 60% of pregnant women with diabetes do not realise that stillbirth is a possible complication of not managing their condition or that their baby could be born with congenital malformations such as a heart defect or breathing problems.
• Almost a third of diabetics (32%) do not realise heart disease is a common complication of diabetes.
• More than a third of sufferers in the UK do not realise they will have the condition for life.
• Half of patients do not realise that diabetes may reduce life expectancy.

The study also found one in three did not understand what their medication was for or how to take it because they felt stupid asking questions.

Experts warn failure to manage diabetes properly can have serious consequences.

Simon O'Neill, director of care and policy at Diabetes UK, said: "Short-termism is a great enemy of good diabetes care.

"As this research shows, many people struggle to realise the importance of taking their medicines, especially if the consequences are not immediately apparent despite the fact that damage caused by not taking their medicines is irreparable.

"Good diabetes management could be seen to be similar to a pension plan - invest now to gain benefits in the future as in both situations there is no going back”.

Joanne Shaw, chair of Ask About Medicine, said: "It's vital that people with diabetes are encouraged and empowered to ask questions, as patients who have a good knowledge of their treatment options are better equipped to make informed decisions about medicines and other treatments”.

Richard Tiner, ABPI medical director, said there was no substitute for a good open relationship between diabetes patients and healthcare professionals.

"We hope the report will serve as a call to action to healthcare professionals to experiment with information prescriptions for their patients and encourage them to ask questions about their condition and treatment”.

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Saturday, 22 July 2006 09:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Sir Liam Donaldson England's Chief Medical Officer has suggested that all newborn babies should be checked for jaundice to prevent unnecessary deaths from a related brain disease.

In his annual report, Sir Liam Donaldson called for more advice for parents about the warning signs of kernicterus.

He also asked the Government to consider offering a screening blood test to all new babies.

Sir Liam said: "We need to raise awareness among health professionals and parents to help tackle this preventable disease.

"I would like to see a national register of kernicterus, education and training programmes for health professionals and explicit advice for parents on what to look out for when they leave hospital and finally I would ask the National Screening Committee to consider the cost effectiveness of a bilirubin blood test to help identify the risk of kernicterus”.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is due to publish guidance on postnatal care which will include a section on jaundice recommending surveillance and investigation of any severe cases.

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