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News Archives, June 2005
Wednesday, 29 June 2005 13:47
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
BMA to address database fears
Doctors at the British Medical Association conference in Manchester are to debate the issues surrounding the computerisation of medical records amid fears the move could threaten patient confidentiality.

The NHS’s £6.2bn IT upgrade will see records moved onto a national database allowing staff to access the information from wherever the patient is being treated.

Patients will also be able to book appointments online and create an electronic prescription system.

However, a BMA survey has revealed that many patients are worried about the system’s security.

Dr Richard Vautrey, from the BMA's GP committee, said: "Doctors have a fundamental duty to protect the confidentiality of the information that patients tell them.

"And many doctors remained concerned that we seem to be sleepwalking into a system where a significant amount of personal and medical information is held on a national database without either us or patients fully understanding the long-term implications."

"An IT system is only as secure as its weakest link.

"There are access controls so that doctors or other health professionals can only access what information is relevant.

"For example, if a consultant is treating someone for a stomach complaint there is probably no need for them to know the person has had an abortion.

"But our fears are that people will share their access controls, or others will hack into the system for commercial gain."

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 12:43
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
HIV drug target unlikely to be met
The World Health Organisation has admitted that the target of distributing HIV drugs to three million people by the end of the year is unlikely to be met.

The “three by five” target of getting Aids drugs to three million people by the end of 2005 was set in 2003 when just 400,000 people were receiving the drugs.

Officials have said that even if the goal is not reached, great progress has been made and the target had served its purpose by encouraging the improvement.

WHO figures for January revealed that 700,000 people were receiving the drugs.

Dr Kim Jim of the HIV/Aids programme said: "It is going to be extremely difficult to reach that target, but the point is that we are going to get to three million.

"The scale-up is happening in every single country in the world."

In many countries a lack of staff and funding has held back progress on drug dissemination and WHO officials are hopeful that next week’s meeting of the G8 will result in a cash boost.

However, aid agencies have been warned that only half the funds needed for HIV treatment this year will be made available.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 11:55
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Parents fail to encourage kids to eat healthily
Research by the consumer group Mintel has found that a third of parents pay little attention to their children’s diet, despite rising obesity levels.

In a poll of 25,000 parents, more than half said they tried to control the amount of sugar eaten by their children, while 42 per cent said they tried to control their offspring’s fat intake.

One in three parents said they had little interest in their children’s dietary habits, while one in six described there parenting as “indulgent” and admitted they gave their child whatever they wanted regardless of the nutritional value.

Mintel also surveyed 4,500 children, with 72 per cent claiming to know the importance of a balanced diet but most not reflecting this knowledge in their eating habits.

Nearly 70 per cent said they often snacked on crisps, chocolate, fruit, sweets and biscuits between meals.

Maria Elustondo of Mintel said: “The time has come to take action and to move away from simply who is to blame. Although messages about the importance of leading a healthy life seem to be getting through, too many parents are still unsure about how to put a healthy diet into practice.

“Parents need practical suggestions, such as how to ensure their child eats five portions of fruit and veg a day, to make leading a healthy life as easy as possible.”

She added: “Children need to be educated on the benefits of a healthy diet for themselves, in order to understand how it affects their lifestyles.”

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 11:14
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Doctors may strike over pensions
The British Medical Association conference in Manchester yesterday threatened to ballot for industrial action if the Government presses ahead with plans to reduce NHS pensions and increase the retirement age from 60 to 65.

Health professionals said the moves would increase staffing problems and sickness levels and would probably lead to doctors retiring earlier rather than later.

Dr Charles Saunders of the BMA Scottish consultants committee stressed that patient care would not suffer as any strike action would affect administrative work only.

He said that changing the pension scheme from final salary to average salary would disadvantage working mothers who take enforced career breaks.

“People feel very, very threatened that what they had planned for their retirement is being potentially interfered with, particularly because it is a government that is not prepared to listen to their concerns,” he added.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 10:59
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Anorexia linked to undetected autism
A leading expert yesterday suggested that severe anorexia may be linked to undetected autism in women.

Professor Christopher Gillberg of Strathclyde University said autism – a condition which affects a person’s ability to communicate and socially interact – can make anorexic patients unresponsive to treatment.

An obsession with calorie counting may be a signal of autism in women, said Professor Gillberg. The defect is generally regarded as a male problem as it affects up to four times more boys than girls.

He added that anorexic patients who were also autistic would not respond to standard psychotherapy treatments.

"Our research has shown that a small but important minority of all teenage girls with anorexia nervosa in the general population meet diagnostic criteria for autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome or atypical autism.

"I've seen quite a number of cases where the anorexia has become completely entrenched because people haven't understood that underlying the eating disorder is autism.

"If you have an autism spectrum disorder you have great difficulty even understanding basic concepts about other people's thoughts and feelings, which means anything said in a family-therapy session is likely to be misconstrued by the affected individual who will not grasp what is going on in that particular context.

"Instead they need much more concrete, one-to-one interventions."

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 10:44
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Hewitt wins doctors respect but attacked over A&E waiting
Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, yesterday escaped the tong lashing many had predicted at the British Medical Association’s Manchester conference after earning the respect of doctors during a round of questioning, The Guardian newspaper has reported

In the first address by a health minister in 100 years of BMA conferences, Ms Hewitt was heckled as she defended the Government’s partial ban on smoking in public places, but received sustained applause when she left.

Defending the Government’s stance she said: “As public attitudes continue to strengthen, it is probably only a matter of time before we end up in the same position as Scotland and Ireland [where smoking will be banned in all public spaces].

Ms Hewitt said that NHS reforms would continue apace and promised to lift the ban on NHS consultants undertaking private sector work in a bid to cut NHS waiting lists.

The most severe rebuke of the Health Secretary came from senior house officer Jennie Blackwell who said that accident and emergency targets had turned her hospital into a “war zone” as patients were removed from A&E before they breached target of 98 per cent seen within four hours.

“We have patients strewn all over the unit, sitting in non-medical areas with serious medical conditions,” she said.

“It is frankly dangerous…Morale is suffering terribly. We all dread going to work, especially in the winter. Please, please, please reduce this target of 98 per cent as it’s awful for patients and awful for us.”

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 10:15
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Cancer risk to nuclear workers
Exposure to low levels of radiation has been linked to a slightly increased risk of developing cancer by the largest and most comprehensive study ever of nuclear power workers.

Some 400,000 workers from 15 countries including Britain were surveyed by the International Agency for research on Cancer (IARC).

Researchers discovered that 1 to 2 per cent of cancer deaths in the surveyed group may have been caused by exposure to low levels of radiation.

The survey is the first of its kind on the long-term effects of radiation. The last major research on the effects of radiation - carried out after the atomic bombs were dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 – only gave scientists and idea of the effects of sudden exposure.

The IARC study examined nuclear workers from a range of positions, including power plants, research and waste management.

At the end of the survey there had been 196 leukaemia deaths and 6,519 deaths from other cancers.

“Many of the subjects in this study worked in the early years of the industry when doses tended to be higher than they are today, however,” the IARC said.

“Only a small proportion of cancer deaths would therefore be expected to occur from low-dose chronic exposures to X- and gamma-radiation among current nuclear workers and in the general population.”

Peter Boyle, director of the IARC, added: “These results provide the most precise and comprehensive direct estimates of cancer risk after protracted exposure to low doses of ionising radiation.

“They strengthen the scientific basis of radiation protection standards for environmental, occupational, and medical diagnostic exposures.”

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 10:11
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Pioneering heart pump
George Carter, 57, from Romford, Essex, a patient at Papworth Hospital near Cambridge has become the first person outside Australia to get a revolutionary artificial heart.

He has been fitted with a VentrAssist - which is a sixth of the size of traditional heart pumps. The pump that was pioneered in Australia runs off a battery which is powered by a rechargeable battery pack that the patient can wear on a belt or backpack, and in future VentrAssist could be an alternative to heart transplants.

Steven Tsui, the consultant cardiac surgeon who leads the Papworth team which performed the operation, said: "We are delighted to see Mr. Carter doing so well now, having been very ill for some months beforehand. "His quality of life has been transformed with the VentrAssist and he can safely go home to wait for a suitable donor heart and have a heart transplant.

"We are very excited to be involved with this clinical trial and so far, we have been most impressed by the device”.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 09:49
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
People with severe mental illness are still receiving sub-standard levels of physical care
A group of leading experts, charities and professional organisations have published a report called Running On Empty. The report claims that people with severe mental illness are still receiving sub-standard levels of physical care, and are three times more likely to die early than the general population.

Figures show that people with severe mental illness have up to five times the risk of the general population of diabetes, and twice the risk of cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases.

The report warns that the tendency to dismiss and neglect the physical health of people with severe mental illness is having a fatal effect.

Paul Corry of the charity Rethink said: "The report reveals that those affected by serious mental illness are being neglected and offered an unacceptable level of care, despite being more at risk of some of the most common physical illnesses than the general population”.

Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive of Sane, said "we endorse this report and its call to action to improve the physical healthcare of those with mental illness”.

The National institute for Mental Health in England said work was under way to spread good practice across Britain.

"We look forward to working closely with those involved in developing this report to address this serious issue”.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005 09:28
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Doctor was paid £6500 for one week's out-of-hours cover
Scottish health board figures released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that family doctors are earning up to £180 an hour for treating patients in the evening, overnight and at weekends.

GPs can make up to £1,500 a night under contracts negotiated following the European Working Time Directive. The directive's cap on working hours allowed doctors to pass responsibility for care in the evenings, overnight and at weekends to health boards.

Doctors who are employed by boards on a contract are free to work as many hours as they wish, because they are not covered by the European laws.

Figures showed that a GP who works in Dumfries and Galloway made £6,500 for a week’s work out of hours over Christmas. In a typical week, a GP in Argyll and Clyde earned nearly £2,000.

Andrew Walker, a health economist at Glasgow University, said: “GPs are starting to look like the footballers of the health service. We hear about footballers earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week. The GPs are not quite at that level but certainly too ordinary people the sums will sound very high.

“I think what people do place at a very high premium is the access to GP out of hours. This might be the cost of it, the unavoidable cost of providing in the 21st century a medical service out of hours, and we might have to swallow this”.

The British Medical Association said: “Some of these headline figures sound high, but it is not unusual to be talking about ten-hour shifts for days on end. You try calling out a plumber or an electrician in Christmas week and see what they charge”.

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