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News Archives, December 2005
Friday, 30 December 2005 12:52
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
GP wants to return to work following murder acquittal
Dr Howard Martin, the retired GP under investigation over the deaths of 12 patients having been cleared of murdering three seriously ill men, has announced he wanted to return to work.

Dr Martin, 71, was acquitted of killing the three men with large overdoses of morphine following an eight-week trial at Teeside crown court.

The doctor, who used to practice in County Durham and now lives in North Wales, said he was “appalled” at not being allowed to practice following his acquittal as he missed being a doctor

Speaking to the North Wales Daily Post, Dr Martin said: "I took the Hippocratic oath. I have believed and practised that for 50 years. I am appalled really that I am not allowed now.

"I spent 50 years being a doctor. I miss being a doctor.

"If you have a heart attack and you need morphine then you should have it. Doctors have now been frightened away from it. It's a very real problem."

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 12:42
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
“Thousands die alone”, report finds
A study by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow has found that thousands of people die alone, uncared for and in poverty.

Figures from a survey of 182 English councils show around 60 people a week die alone without support from family and friends, with men two-and-a-half times more likely to die on their own than women.

The research found that the 182 councils carried out 11,004 funerals between 2000 and 2004 for people without friends or family to finance or make the arrangements. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of these funerals were for men.

The report - Dying Alone: Assessing isolation, loneliness and poverty – said that although the figures only provided a “snapshot” of the situation across England, they revealed "a stark picture of isolation, loneliness and in many cases impoverishment".

Mr Burstow, a member of the Commons Health Committee, said: "These figures are a sobering reminder that thousands of older people across the country not only live, but also die alone, uncared for and often in poverty.

"Being cut off from friends, family and neighbours undermines all quality of life.

"It is an indictment of society that too many people are left to fade away, unable to make ends meet and lonely on the fringe of our communities.

"We all have a responsibility to look out and care for vulnerable neighbours, friends and relatives, not just at this time of year."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said there had been significant funding increases for social services and support schemes in recent years.

The spokesperson said: "We are doing a great deal to ensure the elderly receive the care and support they need to live safely in their own homes."

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 12:21
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
South Korean clone work further discredited
A panel of experts has ruled that the disgraced South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk did not produce any individually tailored stem cells as claimed.

Dr Hwang resigned from Soul National University last week after the panel said some of his research had been fabricated.

In May, Dr Hwang claimed his team had extracted material from cloned human embryos which exactly matched the DNA of 11 patients.

The finding was a breakthrough as individually tailored stem cells were seen as vital to treating diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Last week the panel ruled that nine of the 11 stem cell lines were fabricated. It has now concluded that all of the data was false after investigators failed to find stem cells matching the DNA of patient tissues

"It is the panel's judgement that Professor Hwang's team does not have the scientific data to prove that they (patient-specific stem cells) were made," researcher Roe Jung-hye said.

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 12:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
New breast cancer drug prevents recurrence
A major study has revealed that the breast cancer drug Femara may give women a better chance of beating the disease.

The New England Journal of Medicine research showed that, in women whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, the drug cut the risk of the cancer returning by 29 per cent compared with the current standard treatment tamoxifen.

The study also found the drug was of most benefit to women at highest risk of recurrence.

The findings prompted the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to approve the drug for postmenopausal women with early stage breast cancer earlier this month.

Researchers looked at 8,000 women, including 400 from the UK, and found that Femara cut the risk of the disease returning for those who has already undergone chemotherapy by 28 per cent compared to tamoxifen. Overall, there was a 27 per cent
Reduction in the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body compared to the standard treatment, and a 19 per cent drop in the risk of the cancer returning.

Femara is an aromatase inhibitor which works by stopping the natural production of oestrogen – the hormone behind the growth and recurrence of many breast cancers.

Nigel Bundred, a professor in surgical oncology at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, said: "These results are fantastic news and give hope to women with breast cancer - especially those at high risk of their cancer recurring.

"They show that Femara is more effective than tamoxifen when given to women after surgery and offers even greater advantages to these particularly vulnerable women."

Liz Caroll, from charity Breast Cancer Care, said: "These results further suggest the benefits of using aromatase inhibitors over tamoxifen in treating early Invasive breast cancer and indicate that many more lives could be saved.

"Many women, like those we support, with breast cancer will welcome the news that they might benefit from this new treatment option, as will the healthcare professionals treating them."

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 11:38
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Helpline calls hit Christmas peak
The NHS telephone advice line, NHS Direct, received a record number of calls over the Christmas weekend, figures have revealed.

The volume of calls between December 24 and December 27 was up five per cent on last year, while traffic on the NHS Direct website increased by 32 per cent on a year ago.

Call centre reports have revealed that the top three symptoms reported by callers were abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, while sore throats, coughs, earache, toothache, fever and chest pain were also common complaints.

NHS Direct call centres handled 103, 086 calls over the four day break, while the website had 74,881 hits.

Mike Sadler, medical director for the service, said demand peaked on Tuesday morning as it appeared many patients were not aware that GP surgeries were closed and had turned to NHS Direct when they realised they would not get an appointment.

A spokeswoman for the helpline said the most noticeable change had been the shift of traffic towards the website.

"We have been trying to encourage people to visit the website first. It's full of useful medical information. After reading that patients can make a phone call if they think the condition is urgent," she said.

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 11:17
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Tranquilliser banned over abuse fears
A popular tranquilliser was yesterday banned by the government after becoming popular with clubbers on the underground dance scene.

Ketamine – manufactured for humans and animals and sold under the brand name Ketalar – will become a Class C at the turn of the year.

Doses of 100mg can produce euphoria and energy rushes, while doses of 200mg can lead to hallucinations.

Home Office minister Paul Goggins said: "Ketamine presents serious health risks and must be subject to strict controls to provide a considerable deterrent to those seeking to import and supply the drug."

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 11:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
School pupils eating more fruit
A survey has revealed that primary pupils across Scotland are eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, The Scotsman has reported.

The study looked at the impact of the Scottish Executive's drive to provide all primary one and two pupils with free fresh fruit three times each week.

The poll of a quarter of all Scottish primary schools and all local authorities found 60 per cent said that pupils were eating more fresh fruit and vegetables at lunchtime as a result of the scheme.

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Thursday, 29 December 2005 11:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Legislate for better health says leader of Scotland's doctors
One of Scotland's leading doctors has today (Thursday 29 December 2005) called upon the Scottish Executive to introduce a system of routine health impact assessments to be applied to all policies and legislation.

The British Medical Association believes that this move would best serve Scottish health priorities and would have a greater impact on improving the health and lives of the population, rather than focussing on politically driven targets which fail to address the fundamental problems at the root of Scotland’s poor public health record.

Dr Peter Terry, chairman of the BMA in Scotland said: "Scotland's doctors have welcomed the Health Minister’s commitment to introduce a long term public health strategy but this can only be achieved with a co-ordinated approach across all of the Ministerial portfolios of our administration.

"Many factors in society contribute to the public‘s health and by integrating health assessments into education and social policy, for example, every decision made would be an investment in the future health of our population. This approach would make a real difference to people’s health, more so than the introduction of politically driven targets.

"The NHS alone cannot deliver the wider Executive responsibilities for improving the public’s health. Linked strategies across departments are needed to make a real and consistent difference to health."

Dr Terry highlighted the recently published Kerr Report on the health service in Scotland which marked a turning point towards greater collaboration within the health service and across wider public services.

He said: "We have seen this approach work in some areas of policy-making, but achieving co-ordinated working on the ground between health, education, social services, housing and transport policy is a challenge that requires sustained cross-departmental collaboration and the development of synergistic policies.

"By conducting a routine independent assessment of public health impact as part of the legislative process, we can ensure that the Scottish Parliament is making laws that are improving the lives and health of its population."

Looking forward to the year ahead, Dr Terry congratulated Scotland’s leaders for its courage in legislating for smoke free public places, coming into force in Spring.

"2006 could signal a real shift in Scotland’s health with the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, which comes into effect in March. The benefits of this will be evident from day one," he said.

"Scotland is leading the rest of the UK with its bold and comprehensive smoke-free legislation while Ministers at Westminster dither over inappropriate concessions. MPs should be looking north to follow our example rather than conceding to the arguments of the tobacco industry. Our Parliament should be proud of its achievements in health over the last 12 months – let us continue to make efforts to improve our national health in the coming years. We can all do better."

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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 12:42
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Family link to heart problems
Having a brother or sister with cardiovascular disease increases the likelihood of an individual developing problems of their own, an American study has found.

Scientists studied data on 5,000 people and found that middle-aged adults with a sibling suffering from CVD have a 45 per cent increased risk of the same illness.

It is widely held that a family history of CVD is linked to an increased risk of the condition but the researchers from US Framingham Heart Study say there is a lack of evidence on exactly how much the threat is increased.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they said: "Sibling CVD should be considered as important as parental premature CVD in the assessment of risk."

An early shared environment may be a factor, with people developing poor eating or exercising habits in childhood, they added.

Belinda Linden, head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation, said on the BBC News website: "This study reinforces the evidence that although the genes we inherit from our parents can influence our risk of heart disease, the interaction between our genes and our lifestyle is probably more influential than our genes alone.

"The results highlight how important our lifestyle is, even as we grow up, in determining long term risk of heart disease.

"The good news is that whilst we can't change our genes, most people can take simple lifestyle steps to reduce the risk of heart disease for themselves and their families."

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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 12:27
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
New scanner “could save babies’ lives”
A new portable brain scanner, being developed by scientists from University College London, could aid treatment and possibly save the lives of premature and newborn babies.

The MONSTIR scanner will create images used to diagnose and assess conditions such as brain haemorrhages and will mean critically ill babies no longer need to be moved to stationary scanning facilities.

Brain scans are currently performed on small babies using either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses large and static scanners and can require the baby to be sedated, or ultrasound, which can be performed at the cot side but does not show how the brain is actually functioning.

MONSTIR uses a technique called optical tomography to generate images of how the brain is working by passing light through body tissues and using a computer to build a three dimensional image.

This allows doctors to see which parts of the brain are receiving oxygen, where blood is situated, and evidence of brain damage.

Researcher Dr Adam Gibson said: "The technology we're developing has the potential to produce high-quality images at the cot side and is also cheaper than MRI.

"It could make an important contribution to the care and treatment of critically ill babies."

Henry Scowcroft, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "This is exciting work. Finding out what is going on inside the body quickly and non-invasively is an important goal for medical researchers.

"Current technology such as MRI and PET is extremely valuable but also expensive and cumbersome to use.

"Developing a smaller, more mobile imaging machine would be extremely useful."

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