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News Archives, October 2005
Sunday, 30 October 2005 09:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Hospital acquired infections were responsible for 400 deaths
New figures published by the Scottish Executive which was a response to a written question by the Scottish National party’s Stewart Stevenson, shows that the number of hospital acquired infections were responsible for the deaths of more than 400 patients in Scotland last year.

The figures show that methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a superbug that does not respond to antibiotics, was a direct cause of 42 deaths, while clostridium difficile, a virulent stomach bug, was responsible for 98 deaths.

The death rate from MRSA and clostridium difficile has risen by more than 40% since 2001 and is marginally higher than in England.

The statistics will cause further embarrassment to the Scottish executive, which was forced to admit earlier this year that its £15m drive to tackle the menace of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) had failed to curb their spread.

Professor Hugh Pennington, the microbiologist and expert on HAIs based at Aberdeen University, said the death toll from both bugs in Scotland is unacceptable. “These figures are obviously too high, most of these deaths are preventable,” he said. “Both bugs have strains which have specialised in spreading in hospitals. If we had cleaner hospitals which dealt with infections more effectively then we could pretty well get rid of them.

“It is too early to say whether what we are doing now will solve the problem. I have my doubts that it will reduce the levels of MRSA to what we could reduce it to. Countries such as Holland and Norway have virtually eradicated the bugs from their hospitals”.

Margaret Davidson, chief executive of the Scotland Patients’ Association, added: “These figures are appalling. One death is too many, 400 are simply not acceptable. The Scottish executive’s initiatives have not worked and they must now do something to finally get rid of these bugs”.

Every year more than 33,000 patients develop infections in hospital. HAIs cost the National Health Service £186m and are responsible for the loss of 380,000 bed days every year.

The Scottish Executive said: “Across the NHS we have invested £15m in a comprehensive infection control campaign to combat the problem of healthcare associated infections. Good hand hygiene, prudent antibiotic prescribing and comprehensive staff training all play a vital role in controlling infection and we now have measures in place for this”.

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Sunday, 30 October 2005 08:51
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Flu jab may be fatal
An inquiry by the Government's Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) which is one of the independent advisory committees established under the Medicines Act (Section 4) which advises the UK Licensing Authority (Government Health Ministers) on the quality, efficacy and safety of medicines in order to ensure that appropriate public health standards are met and maintained, claims that winter flu jabs are being linked to an increased risk of life-threatening illness among the elderly.

Many pensioners who are taking Warfarin to ward off strokes have suffered internal bleeding after flu jabs, leading to fears of potentially fatal interactions between the vaccine and blood-thinning medication.

The inquiry was prompted due to six pensioners at the same surgery were reported to have suffered internal bleeding after having the jab.

Medical records going back 35 years show a further 25 cases of suspected serious interactions between Warfarin and the flu vaccine.

CSM experts were concerned that the flu jab - which is mainly aimed at the over-65s, who are a target group for anti-stroke medication - could be destabilising Warfarin and increasing the risk of fatal internal bleeding.

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Sunday, 30 October 2005 08:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Ministers fail to fill nursing posts
Scottish Ministers are to come under attack this week over evidence that their failure to fill nursing posts in Scotland has led to a massive increase in the number of staff from Third World countries.

Figures obtained by the Sunday paper Scotland on Sunday show a four-fold increase in the number of nurses from developing nations working in Britain since 1998.

Statistics from the Department for International Development show that in 1998 just one Malawian nurse was registered as working in Britain. By 2003, that figure had risen to 57. Also, only 52 Filipino nurses worked in the UK in 1998, but by 2003 that had risen to 5,594. There are currently 2,445 vacant nursing posts in Scotland, according to the Royal College of Nursing - 4.5% of the total. The figure is the highest for the past 10 years.

Critics will insist this week that recruitment efforts must be stepped up in the UK.

Fiona McPeg, of the Institute for International Health and Development at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh, said: "We are trying to have a health service on the cheap so we have high vacancy rates. The result is that we suck in workers from Malawi.

"We can't allow politicians to get away with generously offering aid when their actions aren't helping the underlying reasons for the problem”.

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Sunday, 30 October 2005 08:22
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
NHS services could be run by the high street
Speaking at a health conference in Birmingham Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said that supermarkets and high-street chemists could be allowed to provide NHS services in the future.

Ms Hewitt said that GPs in London were already sending patients to a weight-loss programme run by a chemist and that she would look to see if the idea could be expanded.

Ms Hewitt told the BBC: "One of the ideas that came up in one of the earlier consultations was exactly that - could you have Boots or a supermarket or whoever, some other organisation or a charity or voluntary group providing more services for NHS patients and on the NHS”.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 11:42
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Treatment for bowel cancer to be more widely available
Campaigners have welcomed moves to make a treatment for bowel cancer more widely available on the NHS in England and Wales.

Draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended a combination treatment, which includes the drug Eloxatin, should be available for NHS patients.

It is believed that Eloxatin, used with 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and folinic acid (FA), offers a potential cure for patients with early stage bowel cancer.

The NICE recommendations came in draft guidance, which will be sent out to consultation before final guidance is issued in June for doctors in England and Wales.

International trials show that adding Eloxatin to the standard chemotherapy combination helps reduce the risk of relapse after surgery by 25%.

Hilary Whitaker, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "It's impossible to overstate the importance of this decision by NICE for the thousands of people diagnosed every year with early stage bowel cancer.

"We want all eligible patients to have access to the best chance of cure and although the final guidance may take some months to be confirmed, patients should start speaking now to their clinicians to ensure that they are offered the option of the most effective treatment for their particular type of bowel cancer".

There is no ban on prescribing drugs that had not been appraised by NICE. Doctors can prescribe at their discretion.

Dr Harpreet Wasan, medical oncologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, said: "This is a landmark decision by NICE in the treatment of bowel cancer, which will be welcomed by clinicians and patients alike”.

NICE said the proposals would have to be consulted on before any decision was taken.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 11:29
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
The morning-after pill from chemists has nearly doubled in a year
A report from the Office for National Statistics shows that the proportion of women buying the morning after pill over the counter has nearly doubled in a year.

Chemists have been allowed to sell the morning-after pill without a GP prescription since 2001.

The proportion of women obtaining the morning-after pill from their own GP or practice nurse fell from 41% in 2003/04 to 33% in 2004/05 but the proportion getting it from a family planning clinic remained stable at 21%.

Toni Belfield, of the Family Planning Association, said: "It is understandable that women will find their local pharmacy an easier place to get hold of emergency pills, because of longer opening hours and greater accessibility.

"This is important because emergency hormonal contraception is only effective within 72 hours of unprotected sex so the sooner women get hold of it the better”.

She said it was important that women be made aware that they could also obtain it free from their GP or Family Planning Clinic.

She added that sexually active people should also be alert to the risk of sexually transmitted infections and practice safe sex.

David Pruce, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, said: "We are issuing thousands of leaflets over the next few weeks through pharmacies to highlight the importance of safe sex and explaining how people can get help for sexually transmitted illnesses".

A spokesman from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said women should be aware that emergency contraception could cause what he termed abortion because it can stop a fertilised egg from implanting as well as working by stopping an egg being released in some women.

"For that reason we oppose its use. We are against the destruction of unborn children.

"We also oppose greater and easier access and availability to such powerful drugs, which we fear is happening.

"They are so freely available they are seen as a safety net for contraceptive failure”.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 10:49
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Psoriasis is linked to heart trouble
A Swedish study found that people severely afflicted by psoriasis a skin disorder have a significantly increased risk of dying from heart disease.

The study found that patients hospitalised with the skin disorder were 50 per cent more likely to die from a heart condition than expected.

The extra risk grew sharply as patients got younger, rising to 162 per cent for those admitted under the age of 40. When severe psoriasis sufferers aged 40-59 were hospitalised, the risk was 91 per cent higher than in the average population.

The findings emerge from a Swedish study of almost 9,000 psoriasis patients admitted to dermatology wards and more than 19,000 out- patients.

They suggest a genetic defect linking the skin condition and heart problems.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 10:35
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Waiting times on the up
Figures on the Department of Health website shows that the number of patients in England waiting over nine months for an NHS operation almost tripled in September.

The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 9 months at the end of September 2005, was 69. Of these 69, 6 were English residents waiting in Welsh hospitals.

At the end of September, of the 69 waiting over 9 months, 9 patients for whom English commissioners are responsible were waiting over 12 months.

The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 6 months at the end of September 2005 was 33,500, a decrease of 5,700 (12.5%) from August, and a fall of 41,800 (55.5%) from September 2004.

The total number of patients waiting to be admitted to NHS hospitals in England at the end of September 2005 was 804,600; a fall of 500 (0.1%) since the end of August 2005, and a fall of 52,200 (6.1%) since September 2004.

The Department of Health has said that by the end of the year no patient will have to wait more than six months to be admitted for elective treatment.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 10:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Women having premature babies could be sent hundreds of miles away to give birth
Hospital bosses at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's neonatal unit have defended contingency plans to fly women having premature babies to units as far away as Belfast.

Women due to give birth at the hospital could be transferred to a number of different locations to give birth because the neonatal unit at the hospital is full.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said one pregnant woman had recently gone to Ayrshire to give birth and another expectant mother had gone to Dundee.

She added: "If our unit is reaching full capacity and a woman is coming in to deliver prematurely then we would phone the National Bed Bureau to find out the closest place they can go.

"The mothers will then go and give birth. Once we have got room and it is clinically appropriate, we get mother and baby back to Aberdeen”.

The official added: "We sit down the mums and explain all this to them.

"It is obviously a very stressful time for them and they will be told that they might go to Belfast but it is explained that that would be very rare".

Expectant mother Wendy Bowie, from Fraserburgh, said: "The thought of having to travel that kind of distance is scary.

"Of course if there was any risk to your baby then you would travel to the end of the earth but the whole thing is so traumatic that you need the support of your family and friends”.

She went on: "They can't all be around you if you are miles away.

"The local hospitals should be dealing with the local births which would take the pressure off Aberdeen Royal Infirmary who could concentrate on the premature births”.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Shona Robison said: "It is time the managers at NHS Grampian looked at whether the capacity of the unit is sufficient to meet the area that it serves and whether the number of cots are adequate”.

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Saturday, 29 October 2005 09:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Dyslexia gene could lead to earlier tests
Scientists from Yale School of Medicine, America, claim that they have identified a gene that may cause dyslexia, a major breakthrough that could help bring earlier diagnosis of the condition.

Dr Jeffrey Gruen and his team found that an alteration in the gene on chromosome six, called DCDC2, led to disruption in the formation of brain circuits that make it possible to read.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in Salt Lake City, Utah, yesterday and published simultaneously in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Gruen and his team studied 153 families with members who had dyslexia.

By comparing specific DNA markers they found many of the people with dyslexia were missing a large portion of genetic material in the DCDC2 gene.

Dr Gruen said; "The gene itself is expressed in reading centres of the brain where it modulates migration of neurons. This very architecture of brain circuitry is necessary for normal reading.

"We now have strong statistical evidence that a large number of dyslexic cases - perhaps as many as 20% - are due to the DCDC2 gene”.

The research was welcomed by experts and dyslexics as proof the condition is caused by subtle differences in the brain rather than a lack of motivation or emotional difficulties in children.

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