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News Archives, June 2005
Tuesday, 28 June 2005 13:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doctors call for total smoking ban in Northern Ireland
The British Medical Association has described the Government’ decision not to implement an immediate blanket ban on smoking in Northern Ireland as “very disappointing”.

Health minister Shaun Woodward today announced he would wait until the end of the year before deciding whether to bring in a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces.

"The remaining few months will be about whether it is a total ban or a partial ban," he said.

But Dr Brian Patterson, BMA(NI) Chairman, responded by saying: “We welcome Minister Woodward’s announcement today but anything that falls short of a total ban would not provide protection for all workers and non-smokers.

“We fully appreciate the difficulties the Government faces when attempting to introduce legislation of this nature. The Republic of Ireland faced the same problems yet were able to find solutions. Similarly in Scotland where comprehensive legislation is currently going through in preparation for a total ban there in April next year.

“The ban on smoking in the workplace has been a major success in the south of Ireland. This is a very small island so one must ask why people living in the north should be denied the same health protection as those living in the Republic.

“We know that the majority of people here want the full protection that a complete end to smoking in all public places offers. This is further demonstrated by the 91% who voted for a total ban in the recent consultation.

“We congratulate the Minister on taking the step forward in recognising that passive smoking must be stopped. However he must make sure that it is stopped for everyone and only a total ban will achieve this. There can be no inequity where public health is concerned.

“We urge him to take the same bold step as the Republic of Ireland and Scotland and when does he will find the British Medical Association strong in its support of him.”

Dr Peter Maguire, the BMA’s Deputy Board of Science Chairman and consultant anaesthetist in Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry, said the BMA campaign would continue for a complete ban. “I cannot express enough our frustration and disappointment that the health of all Northern Ireland workers is not protected in the same way as in the south of Ireland.

“Doctors have campaigned vigorously for the introduction of a complete ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and this campaign will continue until we achieve that goal.

“Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable disease that we see every day as doctors. It is our duty to speak out and ensure that all workers, especially those in the hospitality sector, are assured of a healthy, safe working environment.”

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 12:42
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Minority care study
The University of Edinburgh has launched a study into the care of terminally ill Sikh and Muslim patients.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, who will look into the needs of patients and carers, said that palliative care services were too focused on elderly patients and ignored the needs of migrants who often die from diseases at a much younger age.

"No effective national provisions are in place for training of healthcare professionals in transcultural medicine, and few professionals will therefore have real opportunity to learn about death rites in different cultures," he said.

"The importance of these and other rites of passage need to be understood by caregivers."

Professor Sheikh will recruit 25 terminally ill Sikh and Muslim patients from GP surgeries, hospices and community centres.

Damyanti Patel, Macmillan's National Network Development Coordinator for Black and Ethnic Minorities, said on the BBC Health website: "There is no special training given to medical students and student nurses, but there should be.

"Some patients will have many, many visitors. It is not the culture to send a card or flowers. You go and visit to show you care."

She added that religious and cultural factors, such as dress, food and gender, needed more consideration.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 12:20
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Doctors to debate assisted death
Doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual representatives meeting in Manchester are set to debate a relaxation of the euthanasia laws.

The debate comes after Lord Joffe announced he would reintroduce his bill calling for the right to die to be relaxed.

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA’s ethics committee, said it was time to look again at assisted suicide - where the patient is given the means to end their own life, and euthanasia - where the patients is too week to kill themselves and appoints someone else to do it for them.

"The BMA has always maintained there is no difference and has remained opposed to a change in the law," he said.

"But there are some suggestions that there are mixed opinions within the profession.

"Talking about it and re-examining the issue is the responsible thing to do."

Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill proposed “enabling a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal illness to receive medical assistance to die at his/her own considered and persistent request”.

But a House of Lords Select Committee said that a clear distinction must be made between assisted suicide and euthanasia before future legislation could be passed.

On motion to the BMA conference proposed that the body take a neutral position while the bill is debated, while another called for the BMA to back the bill.

Lord Joffe said the outcome of the doctor’s debate would be crucial to the formation of the new bill.

"I am particularly interested in the views of doctors on the distinction between assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia and whether my bill should be limited to one or the other, or should include both," he said.

"Increasingly doctors are recognising that a new understanding about end of life matters is required that gives the patient the final say. At the same time, we must respect and protect the position of medical professionals. I want the law to be transparent for everybody."

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 12:00
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Gates to fund world disease fight
Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of software giant Microsoft, is today expected to award some the largest individual research grants in history to scientists working on cures for a range of diseases.

Mr Gates will donate £240m to 43 projects, with the largest grant of £11m going to a team from Imperial College London researching therapies for tuberculosis. Another London project looking into Aids vaccines is set to receive £10.7m.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing the grants as part of its Grand Challenges in Global Health project to tackle disease through prevention, treatment and cure.

One of the projects set to benefit is attempting to use genetic modification to provide better nutrition in the world’s poorest countries. Another is exploring ways to preserve vaccines in harmless bacteria so that they need not be refrigerated, with others designing sprays and powders to replace injections.

Mr Gates said: “It is shocking how little research is directed towards the diseases of the world’s poorest countries. By harnessing the world’s capacity for scientific innovation, I believe we can transform health in the developing world and transform millions of lives.”

Richard Klausner, Gates’ chief science expert, selected the 43 projects from more than 1,500 applications and said that he hoped the opportunities would create excitement and momentum in the scientific field.

“In terms of engaging directly with laboratories run by scientists, these are the largest grants we have made,” Dr Klausner said.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 11:16
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Online poker is a mental health gamble
A mental health charity has warned that poker websites and other forms of online gambling could pose serious dangers for many users.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

"Many, many people, including young people, are gambling from the comfort of their own homes, or from work.

"For some, occasional gambling that becomes an addiction can lead to problems - not just debt, but relationship breakdowns and problems at work."

"Players can become isolated, avoiding social contact with family members, friends and colleagues, and lose interest in other activities.

"Compounded with financial worries, the mental health implications are serious, and charities like the Mental Health Foundation need to offer their support."

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 11:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Back pain treatment to slash costs
A Scottish surgeon has developed an artificial disc that could change the face of treatment for back pain.

Douglas Wardlaw, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon with NHS Grampian said the new keyhole method would minimise damage to surrounding tissue and shorten the recovery period.

The procedure involves using a tube to remove the damaged part of an unstable disc and replace it with a balloon type structure which is then filled with gel. Patients can receive the treatment as outpatients.

Chronic back pain costs the NHS £400m a year and the economy as a whole £6bn.

It is hoped that by replacing current surgical procedures, whereby vertebrae are fused and damaged discs replaced in open surgery, the artificial disc could lead to massive savings for the health service.

“They will be able to return to their normal lives more quickly and therefore there will be significant savings to the NHS,” he said.

Funding has been granted and a project is underway to further develop the artificial disc over the next three years.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:54
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doctors to ditch their traditional white coats
Doctors are looking to ditch their traditional white coats for ER style scrubs to help the fight against superbugs such as MRSA.

The British Medical Association (BMA) was told at its conference in Manchester that rates of hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA, continued to rise and urgent action was needed to tackle the problem.

The idea of wearing scrubs that was proposed will now go back to the organisation for further consideration.

Dr Andrew Butterworth, a junior doctor from Salford, said: "Health professionals should really lead the way on this and we should take on some responsibility ourselves.

"It has been highlighted that watches, rings, ties, white coats and cuffs have been areas for breeding, or at least holding these infections. I propose that as doctors, nurses and other health professionals we should lead the way by using items of clothing that have been properly laundered by hospitals.

"Given the popularity of hospital-based dramas like ER, it is now acceptable for doctors to wear scrubs in hospitals," he said.

The conference heard that even white coats, taken home by doctors for washing, were no longer acceptable in some hospitals and had been banned.

Not all doctors agreed. Dr Andrew Davis from Cardiff thought hospitals that found it hard to provide parking spaces for doctors would find it even harder to produce a supply of clean clothes. "Scrubs look less professional. Patients would rather see us in clean shirts and ties rather than pouncing around in badly fitting pyjamas," he said.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:46
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
IVF stroke victim wins damages
A woman who was left brain damaged after receiving IVF treatment, yesterday won a substantial damages.

The 34-year-old mother of one, who cannot be named for legal reasons, developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation – a known side affect of fertility treatment that, in rare cases, can cause fluids to leak from the ovaries and accumulate in the chest and abdomen.

The court heard that the woman’s surgeon, Paul Rainsbury, from the BUPA Roding hospital, Ilford, had known of her symptoms but told her they were mild and said that her severely distended stomach “probably meant she was pregnant”.

She later suffered a miscarriage and subsequently had a stroke after experiencing severe neurological symptoms.

Her barrister, James Badenoch, told the court that the surgeon had been guilty of negligence.

“The steps he took were limited entirely to telling her to get an ambulance and get herself to hospital,” Mr Badenoch said.

The court heard that the patient now had great difficulty with her speech, mobility, reasoning and decision-making and relied on her family for help as her marriage had ended.

A message from the woman was read out for the court.

"IVF. I was so happy," it said. "Looked forward to my newborn baby. Unfortunately miscarried. Baby die. Disaster happen. Then stroke. Disaster. Now my face fine, but my body will never be the same.

"My son is torn apart. One year hospital and now wheelchair. Why me? Still bubbly but inside my body and brain cry, cry, cry."

Mr Rainsbury’s representative told the court that there was evidence to suggest that the woman’s symptoms were in fact still mild when she was admitted to hospital. He added that Mr Rainsbury did not admit liability.

The judge approved an undisclosed settlement.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:20
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Psoriasis ointment cure
Scientists from Newcastle University have developed a new treatment for the painful skin condition psoriasis, it has been claimed.

Psoriasis is a genetic condition affecting around one million people in the UK that causes thick, red skin to grow due to an over-production of skin cells.

Professor Nick Reynolds and Dr Mark Birch-Machin believe that the ointment dithranol – derived from the araroba tree found in the Amazon rainforest - represents a breakthrough in the treatment of the condition.

Tests showed that the ointment killed off skin cells by targeting the mitochondria – the energy source of the cell.

“Dithranol is a very effective treatment for episodes of psoriasis and it has been around for a long time, since the early 1900s,” Professor Reynolds said.

“By studying the action of the drug, we wanted to gain a better understanding of how it works.”

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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New drug raises hopes
A drug Anastrozole, which is marketed as Arimidex, that is used for breast cancer will today be licensed for use in all older patients.

The drug substantially reduces the risk of the disease returning or spreading and gives better disease-free survival rates.

Trials show women taking Arimidex are ten per cent more likely to be alive after five years than with other treatment. It also reduces the risk of cancer returning by 26 per cent more than the current best drug Tamoxifen with fewer side effects.

Today's granting of a new licence by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency makes it available for early-stage treatment.

Rob Carpenter, a consultant surgical oncologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, said: "This is the moment we have been waiting for. This news marks the beginning of a whole new era in breast cancer management”.

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