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News Archives, November 2005
Wednesday, 30 November 2005 12:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Executive to introduce new donation law
The Scottish Executive is set to approve a new law on organ donation that will bring clarity to the issue of consent and give doctors greater authority to remove organs for transplant.

The Human Tissue (Scotland) Bill would strengthen the current “opting in system” for organ transplants but the British Medical Association has said the changes will not be as effective as an “opt out system” which it believes would save 50 patients a year.

In “opting in” a person makes it clear before their death, through a donor card or by telling relatives, that he or she wants their organs to be used. However, if the person has not left instructions before their death, relatives must then decide what is to be done with the organs.

The Scottish Executive and Holyrood’s health committee decided that Scotland is not yet ready to introduce the “opt out” system used in countries such as Belgium, whereby organs can be used for transplants unless the person states before death that he or she does not wish them to be.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 12:21
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Renewed push for total ban on smoking
The government has come under renewed pressure from ministers to amend the Health Bill to include a total ban on smoking in public places.

The bill is set to introduce a partial ban on smoking that would exempt private clubs and non-food pubs.

However, former health secretary Frank Dobson has labelled the measures “half-baked and half-hearted”, despite Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt’s claim that the bill strikes the right balance.

Ms Hewitt is believed to have favoured a total ban until her predecessor John Reid voiced his strong opposition.

Mr Dobson said a partial ban would be bad for the working class and widen the “health gap” between rich and poor.

"Pubs, clubs and bars serving booze but no food are mainly located in poor neighbourhoods and serve working class people," he said.

"So this partial ban would be good for the health of middle class people but bad for the health of working class people."

But opening the second reading debate of the bill, Ms Hewitt said: "In framing this legislation ... we are striking a balance between two extremes: an over-prescriptive state on the one hand and on the other an irresponsibly laissez-faire government.

"We are responding to the clear wish of the public on the one hand to be protected from other people's smoking in public places - particularly in restaurants - and on the other hand to allow people who want to have a cigarette with a drink to do so."

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 12:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
£10 million to study bird flu
The Medical Research Council has announced a £10 million plan to set up research programmes into bird flu and other emerging infectious diseases in a bid to encourage the sharing of valuable medical information and science between countries.

The funds will be used to establish how people become infected with bird flu, how it spreads, and whether drug resistant strains are emerging. The programme will also look at how hospitals are treating patients and which approaches work best.

The MRC sent a delegation to China and Vietnam earlier this month amid concerns that new cases were not being reported but Sir John Skehel, director of the National Institute for Medical Research, who travelled with the researchers, said he was satisfied that this was not the case.

Professor Colin Blakemore, MRC chief executive, said he was still hopeful that the virus could be prevented from crossing over into the human population this winter.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The situation certainly hasn't gone away. Infection amongst birds is certainly spreading with migration of birds as expected this year, as it has to some extent in previous years.

"Mutation could happen at any time and anywhere there are infected birds.

"We know that the virus can transmit to human beings if a mutation were to happen, or if the virus were to be recombined with a conventional seasonal flu virus.

"There's always a possibility of transition into pandemic form."

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 11:24
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Fears over electronic records threat to confidentiality
A global poll of more than 200 patient organisations, including 50 in England, has revealed widespread concern that electronic medical records could put patient confidentiality at risk.

The survey showed that people who have experienced problems with stigmatisation, such as HIV or mental health patients, are especially worried about facing greater discrimination should the security of their details be compromised.

New electronic healthcare systems will allow doctors to access patient records from wherever they happen to be and the Health and Social Campaigners News International research found a general enthusiasm for the technology.

However, 64 per cent of campaigners in England expressed fears that patient confidentiality would be threatened by the move, while a third of groups said the technology was not yet sufficient to develop a comprehensive medical records system.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 11:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Taller children have higher IQs
Researchers form the University of Bristol have discovered a link between a child’s IQ and the level of growth hormone circulating in their blood which they say explains why children who grow taller, grow smarter.

The findings could explain why some shorter children do poorly at school. Taller children often have higher IQs and short children treated with growth hormone have seen their IQs improve.

The researchers studied 547 children who completed an intelligence test at age eight and were then measured for levels of insulin growth factor (IGF) in their blood. Higher IGF levels were linked to higher IQs.

IGF is key to physical growth and organ development during childhood and levels are influenced by diet. Children who eat more dairy produce and drink more milk in early life have higher levels.
Professor David Gunnell, who led the study, said: "Poor foetal and post-natal growth are associated with impaired neurodevelopment. Low birthweight babies experience delays in reaching motor milestones and on average have slightly lower IQs than babies of normal weight."
"Short stature - a measure of poor post-natal growth and nutrition - is associated with low scores in tests of cognitive function and poor educational achievement.

"The findings are published in the US journal, Pediatrics.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 10:46
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Breast cancer drug could affect other services
European academics have warned health authorities to consider the budgetary implications of providing women with the breast cancer drug Herceptin because of its high cost.

Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, has said that all women with early stage breast cancer must have access to the drug, despite it currently being licensed for advanced breast cancer only.

However, a paper in the Annals of Oncology medical journal has warned that the financial implications of providing the drug could mean resources have to be moved from other areas.

Belgian economist Mattais Neyt, of Ghent University, found that treating all advanced breast cancer patients in his country with Herceptin – around 750 a year – would cost around £17.5 million. That amount would be doubled if the drug were to be extended to all women with early stage breast cancer.

In Britain, with as many as 5,000 women per year diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, the annual bill could reach £107 million.

"This means countries should not rush into prescribing it before working out the implications very carefully and being prepared to re-allocate resources, get rid of other treatments that are no longer cost-effective and drive a hard bargain over the price of the drug," he writes.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 10:26
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Cells technology breakthrough for paralysis
Surgeons are to begin performing operations on young people who have suffered nerve damaged using a revolutionary technology that could cure the patient of paralyses, The Guardian has reported.

The operations will use a technique developed by neuroscientist Geoffrey Raisman, of University College London, who discovered 20 years ago that cells from the lining of the nose could regenerate themselves. It is hoped that these cells can be used to bridge across severed nerves, allowing the fibres to knit back together.

The initial operations will not cure people with the most severe paralyses, but could heal patients whose nerves have been damaged because their arm has been pulled out of the spinal cord – a common motorcycling injury which has been inoperable until now.

"I don't know that it will work, but I think it will work," Prof Raisman said yesterday. "If you forced me to bet, I would bet on it working.

"I have been patient. I didn't jump in the dark. I have grown through the research all these years. It was in 1985 I discovered the cells. It has taken 20 years before I felt we had the technology to apply this to people.

"After spending this amount of time developing it, I'm not in a hurry. This is not the final stage, but it is the crucial stage of the research.

"If this works well, it opens the door to an enormous area. This is a door which has never been opened: to repair injuries to the brain and spinal cord caused by the disconnection of nerve fibres.

"The best possible outcome will be that these patients will get a return of sensation to the arm and a reduction of the pain associated with that injury."

If successful, the procedure could be refined to treat people in wheelchairs and, potentially, other nerve injuries such as blindness and deafness.

"This is proof of principle," Prof Raisman said. "If it is proved, I think there will be so much publicity we will be lucky to stay in the field. It will be like a tidal wave. But the only race I'm in is the human race. This has got an enormous future but I don't have the illusion I'm going to see it all the way through."

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Wednesday, 30 November 2005 09:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Student doctors paint bleak future
A survey by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the British Medical Association (BMA) claims that the doctors of the future fear that a loss of medical professionalism will lead to many medics leaving the job entirely.

The survey of more than 2,000 future doctors found that 80% felt that a decrease in medical professionalism would mean many more doctors leaving the profession.

It also found that trainees and students were worried that factors external to medicine were affecting the key values that support the doctor-patient relationship.

The main factors judged as having a detrimental effect on medical professionalism included the expectations of the public and politicians set in the context of limited financial resources.

Dr Declan Chard, chair of the RCP's trainees committee, said: "Junior doctors and medical students believe that professionalism is not optional but an essential part of being a doctor - it is at the core of our relationship with patients.

"Sadly many trainees believe that medical professionalism is being challenged to a degree that they may consider leaving medicine.

"Ultimately this will have a negative effect on patient care.

"If the NHS hopes to retain its doctors and fully support them in their work, it should more overtly value medical professionalism”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The new junior doctors training programme Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) is designed to raise the standards of training and improve the relationship between doctor and patient so that patients receive high quality care from skilled, professional, empathic doctors.

"The BMA and all relevant Royal Colleges were heavily involved in deciding the curriculum programme for MMC”.

She said patient safety and care was always top priority adding: "Although European Working Time Directive compliance is a local matter, we gave support through the Hospital at Night pilots which included good practice on shift and role design".

She said NHS funding had also improved and that targets were helping patients to get treatment faster.

Dr Chard said: "While MMC usefully addresses many training issues, it has not necessarily looked at the professional values that underpin medical practice".

"Also, trainees have a number of concerns about shift working patterns, introduced as a result of the EWTD. While shorter working hours allow doctors to be more refreshed and ready to work, patient care and training appears to be more fragmented”.

He said that continuity of care may have been compromised. "Through continuity of care, junior doctors gain valuable educational feedback, and I believe this encourages commitment to individual patients from admission to discharge”.

The survey results come ahead of a report on medical professionalism due to be published by the RCP next week.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2005 13:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Government calls for home care for terminally ill children
Terminally ill children in England should be able to receive specialist care at home instead of hospital, the government says.

The Department of Health has told local health chiefs that care should be tailored to individuals’ needs and should include the option of care at home using nurse-led community services.

A Commons Health Committee report last year found that many terminally ill patients were denied their wish to die at home.

Care Services Minister Liam Byrne said: "Very ill children who need palliative care deserve much more choice about the way they receive that care.

"Many families tell us they want more care at home, so we're asking the NHS to change.

"If a child wants to stay at home, they should be allowed to do so.

"It is the very least they deserve."

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Tuesday, 29 November 2005 12:45
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Feeling overweight can be in the mind
Scientists from University College London and the Institute of Neurology say they have found they key to why some people feel fat, even if they are thin, after identifying the part of the brain that determines a person’s perception of their weight.

The findings are based on brain scans of volunteers experiencing a body size illusion. The scans pinpointed an area called the posterior parietal cortex which is located at the side of the head above the ear.

The illusion was created using a vibrating device placed on the wrists of the 17 participants to stimulate the tendon and trick them into thinking the joint was bending, even though it was not

The volunteers felt their wrists bending into their waists, creating the illusion that their waists were shrinking. The brain scans revealed increased activity in the posterior parietal cortex at the same time.

Lead researcher Dr Henrick Ehrsson said: "Unlike more elementary bodily senses such as limb movement, touch and pain, there are no specialized receptors in the body that send information to the brain about the size and shape of body parts.

"Instead, the brain appears to create a map of the body by integrating signals from the relevant body parts such as skin, joints and muscles, along with visual cues."

He said that studies have shown that damage to the posterior parietal cortex can cause people to think that the size and shape of their body has changed.

"People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder who have problems with judging the size of their body might similarly have a distorted representation of their body image in the parietal cortex." he said.

"These are areas which would be worth exploring in future research,"

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