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News Archives, August 2005
Tuesday, 30 August 2005 11:29
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Dental chief and university in talks over deferments
Scotland’s chief dental officer, Ray Watkins, has held “constructive” talks with Dundee University staff after it emerged that the university was offering prospective dental students £2,000 to postpone their enrolment due to a shortage of available places.

The cash offer provoked an angry response from politicians and members of the public at a time when Scotland is suffering from a severe shortage of NHS dentists.

Mr Watkins said: “Last week the Deputy Health Minister highlighted the fact that our priority is not just on getting more students through our dental schools, but on making sure that we get more dentists committed to the NHS at the end of their training.

“Today I have had a very constructive meeting. I shall now feedback to ministers and they will respond fully in due course.”

The school, one of only two in Scotland, was left oversubscribed after the number of applications rose by 40 per cent this year.

The SNP’s Richard Lochhead said in The Times that the Executive should fund extra training places. “The hundreds of thousands of Scots who are not registered with a dentist will be wanting as many new dentists trained up as soon as possible.”

“The chief dental officer should go back to his political masters and demand resources to plug the funding gap that will allow our dental schools to take on more students.”

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 11:19
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Scotland’s health improving
The Scottish Executive announced at NHS Health Scotland’s Annual Review yesterday that the country is moving away from its image as “the sick man of Europe”.

Health Minister Andy Kerr said that measures such as the forthcoming ban on smoking in public places, along with the fact that increasing numbers of Scots are exercising as part of their daily routine, was creating a healthier population.

However, he emphasised that there is a long way to go before Scotland can consider itself a healthy nation.

Mr Kerr said: "We must tackle the major health inequalities which persist in our society and NHS Health Scotland have a crucial role to play in this.

"It is important to improve Scotland's overall health through better diet and increasing the uptake of physical activity. Walking, cycling and jogging are just three of the ways to build physical activity into everyday life.

"Lifting the smoking blanket from our pubs, clubs and restaurants is undoubtedly the most significant measure in a generation to improve the nation's health.

"I am determined we will turn Scotland's poor health record around. The people of Scotland deserve a healthier, happier and longer future."

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 11:11
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
UN attacks US over Aids interference
The United Nation’s special envoy on fighting Aids in Africa has accused the United States of jeopardising the efforts made by Uganda to contain the disease.

Speaking to the BBC, Stephen Lewis said that interference from Washington was taking the focus off the importance of condoms by emphasising abstinence.

Mr Lewis said: "Over the last eight to 10 months, there's been a very significant decline in the use of condoms, significantly orchestrated by the policies of government."

"At the moment, the government of Uganda appears to be under the influence of the American policy through the presidential initiative of emphasising abstinence far and away over condoms," he said.

He added that he thought the religious right in the US was influencing President Bush’s policy.

However, Ugandan officials denied that there has been a change in policy and a senior US official has rejected Mr Lewis’s claims, saying that condom use is central to the administration’s strategy.

"The statements that I have heard are completely untrue and completely mischaracterise effective prevention programmes," Mark Dybul, deputy US global Aids co-ordinator said.

The UN envoy said there had been a shortage of condoms in Uganda and that condoms had tripled in price.

But Ugandan Health Minister Mike Mikula dismissed the claims. He said: "The weight of the ABC is all equal in that abstinence has been one of the critical strengths of Uganda's ability to reduce the prevalence in the country.

"And obviously, being faithful, which is the B has equally done very well. But condoms and the distribution of condoms continues unabated."

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 10:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
New drug in MRSA fight
Scientists have taken a step towards preventing future outbreaks of hospital superbugs by developing a drug that destroys their defences.

The team from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, created synthetic versions of the cephalosporin class of drugs which were found to kill a rare but dangerous strain of MRSA that is known to be resistant to antibiotics and vancomycin – the last line of defence against the superbug.

Cephalodporin works by impairing the bug’s ability to form a cell wall to shield it from antibiotics.

Shahriar Mobashery, who worked on the study, said: "We are the first to demonstrate this unique strategy, which could provide a new line of defence against the growing problem of antibiotic resistance."

Mark Enright, an MRSA expert at Imperial College London, said in The Guardian: "If vancomycin resistance becomes common, it's a nightmare scenario in many ways. Thousands already die from MRSA and vancomycin is really the drug of last resort to tackle the infections.

"If it stops working there's not much else to turn to."

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 10:25
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Stroke study reveals “worrying” ignorance
A study by The Stroke Association has revealed a “worrying” level of ignorance among the general public about the risk of stroke.

It is thought that 50,000 strokes – the third biggest killer in the UK – could be prevented each year with appropriate improvements in health.

The survey of 1,964 adults showed that respondents greatly underestimated their risk of having a stroke in comparison to experiencing other events.

Almost twice as many people felt that they were at a greater risk of being mugged than of having a stroke. However, official figures show that while a mugging occurs up to every 13 minutes, someone has a stroke every five minutes.

Joe Korner, The Stroke Association’s Director of Communications, said: “Stroke is the UK's biggest cause of disability and the third biggest killer.

“The lack of awareness of the risk factors, particularly high blood pressure, is very worrying. Up to 40 per cent of strokes could be prevented.

“The survey results show that people over estimate their risk of being mugged, which they can do nothing about, whilst under estimating their risk of stroke, which they can do something about.

“Much more must be done to educate the general public about how to reduce their risk of stroke, especially by having their blood pressure checked regularly. Better blood pressure control and reducing other risk factors could significantly reduce the number of strokes."

The study revealed that unhealthy lifestyle choices were largely to blame for the increased stroke risk faced by the general public.

Of those questioned, 28 per cent of respondents had been told they have high blood pressure, increasing their risk of stroke by seven times and 29 per cent were smokers, doubling their risk.

Some 23 per cent of respondents admitted to drinking six units or more of alcohol during a night out. The Office of National Statistics considers ‘binge drinking’, which increases the risk of stroke five-fold, to be eight or more units for men and six or more units for women, on at least one day in the week.

Dr Brian Crichton, a GP from Solihull and Honorary Teaching Fellow at Warwick University, said: “These results confirm what many GPs have long felt, that more needs to be done to raise awareness of risk factors for stroke and encourage people to take early action.

“People are unaware that making even small changes to their lifestyle such as controlling high blood pressure, cutting down on alcohol intake and stopping smoking, can have a dramatic impact on their risk of having a stroke.”

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Monday, 29 August 2005 12:47
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
C-sections linked to tooth decay in babies
Researchers from New York University have discovered that babies born by Caesarean section are more likely to suffer from tooth decay in later life.

Scientists found that C-section babies became infected by a cavity causing bacterium a year before babies who were born naturally.

The team examined 29 C-section babies and found that, on average, the bacterium streptococcus mutans appeared after 17 months, 12 months earlier than was the case among the 127 natural birth babies also monitored for the study.

Streptococcus mutans appears above the gum line on the surface of the teeth and turns food into cavity causing acids.

Lead researcher Dr Yihong Li said: "Vaginally-delivered infants offer oral bacteria a less hospitable environment.

"They develop more resistance to these bacteria in their first year of life, in part because of exposure to a greater variety and intensity of bacteria from their mothers and the surrounding environment at birth.

"C-section babies have less bacterial exposure at birth, and therefore less resistance."

However, he also acknowledged that a number of social factors also play a role. The C-section mothers in the study also had higher levels of tooth decay, a history of sexually transmitted disease and low family incomes.

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Monday, 29 August 2005 12:23
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Public back a reduction in abortion time limit
A survey has revealed that the majority of the British public would support a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions.

Fifty eight per cent of the 2,432 adult respondents said abortions should not be carried out after the 20th week of pregnancy, while 19 per cent said the limit should be 12 weeks. Twenty seven per cent said the current limit of 24 weeks should remain.

Nine per cent of those questioned in the Daily Telegraph pole said the limit should be less than 12 weeks, while six per cent said abortions should be illegal altogether and two per cent said terminations should permitted up to birth.

In England and Wales 180,000 women had terminations in 2003, with a further 9,100 performed on non-residents. The number of abortions carried out between 22 and 24 weeks accounted for less than 2 per cent of the total.

New legislation in the US will require doctors to inform patients having abortions beyond the 20th week that the foetus will probably feel pain, despite recent research concluding that this is only likely beyond 30 weeks of pregnancy.

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Monday, 29 August 2005 12:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Prosecutions for assaults on NHS staff rise
New figures released by the department of Health have revealed a 15-fold increase in prosecutions of people who physically assault NHS staff.

Steps taken by the NHS Security Management Service to tackle the problem have been reflected in the statistics, with 759 prosecutions in 2004-5 compared to just 52 in 2002-3.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said : "Although I am pleased with this increase, it also illustrates the extent of the problem.

"Working with the NHS Security Management Service (SMS), I am determined to reduce the number of violent incidents occurring in the NHS.

"NHS staff should not have to tolerate abuse."

Jim Gee, SMS chief executive, added: "The vast majority of the public find violence against NHS staff to be completely unacceptable.

"The small but anti-social minority who carry out such attacks should understand that we shall take the toughest possible action against them."

The SMS has installed a raft of new measures to tackle the problem, including establishing a Legal Protection Unit to pursue prosecutions, and a team of Local Security Management Specialists to help with police investigations.

In June this year a man was sentenced to life in prison after a nurse suffered minor lacerations in a stabbing at York Hospital in 2004.

Tom Sandford, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: "There has historically been a very small number of prosecutions and these [new] figures come from a very low starting base."

"We should be doing everything we can to recruit and retain nurses - nurses who feel secure and valued can then get on with the job of caring for patients without worrying about being attacked.

"There is still a long way to go and much more that can be done.

"The political will is there from the government and politicians across all parties to really tackle this problem, and we will be pressuring the government to maintain this momentum."

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Monday, 29 August 2005 11:53
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Mad cow disease blood test offers protection for blood transfusions
Scientists are close to developing a blood test for the human form of mad cow disease which will help to ensure that it is not transmitted by blood transplants.

There is currently no effective way of detecting BSE or vCJD in the blood but researchers from the University of Texas have said they can now identify prions (blood proteins) carrying the infection using a new technique.

Professor Claudio Soto, who led the University of Texas team, said: “The concentration of infectious prion protein in blood is far too small to be detected by the methods used to detect it in the brain, but we know it’s still enough to spread the disease.

“The key to our success was developing a technique using sound waves that would amplify the quantity of this protein a million fold, raising it to a detectable level.”

The scientists used the technique, known as protein misfolding cyclic amplification, to detect prions in 16 out of 18 infected hamsters.

Prof Soto said: “The next step will be detecting prions in the blood of animals before they detect clinical symptoms and applying technology to human blood samples.”

Cases of BSE in British cattle have been declining since 1992 but scientists believe that millions of people could have been infected by the disease, which has an incubation period of up to 40 years, during the epidemic of the 1980s.

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Monday, 29 August 2005 11:28
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Coffee tops healthy food study
Researchers in the US have found that coffee can contribute far more healthy antioxidants to the average diet than fruit and vegetables.

Antioxidants rid the body of free radicals – destructive molecules that can damage DNA and cause cancer and heart disease.

The US team measured the antioxidant content of more than 100 products, including nuts, spices, oils, fruits, vegetables and beverages.

Coffee was found to be easily the biggest provider per serving, with black tea second and bananas, dry beans and corn also good sources.

Professor Joe Vinson, of Scranton University, Pennsylvania, who led the study, said: "Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source - nothing else comes close."

The UK is thought reflect a similar trend, with 46 per cent of the population drinking 70 million cups of coffee a day.

Coffee has been previously linked to a reduced risk of type two diabetes, liver and colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease, but Prof Vinson added that people should only drink one or two cups a day.

"Unfortunately, consumers are still not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which are better for you from an overall nutritional point of view," he said.

A spokesman for the British Coffee Association said: "This study reconfirms the fact that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups a day not only is perfectly safe but may confer health benefits."

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