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News Archives, March 2005
Sunday, 27 March 2005 11:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Reid attacks Tory proposals for NHS spending
Health Secretary John Reid has launched an attack on Conservative proposals for NHS spending.

Mr Reid was speaking at the unveiling of a Labour campaign poster which reads 'Warning. The Tories Will Bring In Charges For Hospital Operations'.

He said the Tories would introduce "a new form of charge" for hospital operations which would be part paid for by the NHS and part paid for by the patient.

"The Tories will use the money diverted from the NHS as a subsidy, but only for those who can afford to pay thousands of pounds out of their own pockets in the first place," he said
Under the Tory policy a patient could choose to be treated at an independent hospital instead of an NHS facility. If it charged more for an operation than the NHS, the patient would be entitled to 50% of the NHS cost as a contribution towards the bill.

Mr Reid said that proposal would effectively create a charge for basic operations and claimed the cost of a heart by-pass would be £11,500. He said patients would pay £2,550 for a cataract operation, £6,650 for a hip replacement, £7,550 for a knee replacement and £3,800 for a hysterectomy.

Mr Reid said: "This plan represents a breach of the founding principle of the NHS that access to treatment should be according to medical need, not ability to pay. This Tory policy of cuts and charges is unfair and immoral”.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: "Under the next Conservative government, NHS treatment will remain free as now. Patients will be treated according to need, not ability to pay, nor distorted by government targets”.

He added: "The big difference between Conservatives and Labour is that only the Conservatives will reduce bureaucracy and waste and get resources into front-line care; so that we will stop the scandal that - as nurses reported to the Nursing Times - there is not enough time to clean beds between patients and they don't have access to 24/7 cleaning.

"The choice is clear: longer waits and dirty hospitals under Labour; shorter waits and cleaner hospitals under the Conservatives”.

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Sunday, 27 March 2005 10:43
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
MS drug could help reduce asthma attacks
A team from the University of Southampton found a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis could help reduce asthma attacks caused by the common cold virus.

The team found the cold virus was able to replicate at much higher levels in the lung cells of asthma patients.

But this replication was largely blocked in the laboratory when the cells were exposed to a form of the Anti-MS Drug interferon-B.

Researcher Professor Donna Davies said: "The results suggest that inhaled interferon-B could be used in the treatment or prevention of rhinovirus-induced asthma attacks, thereby cutting the number of hospitalisations of asthma-sufferers during the cold season”.

Dr Richard Russell, a chest specialist at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, and a spokesman for the British Lung Foundation, told the BBC News website more research was required as the current study had been carried out in the lab, and not in patients.

But he said: "This research is potentially very important.

"We know that viruses are the main cause of exacerbated asthma symptoms in this country, and anything which could prevent the damage that people suffer as a result of viral infections would be very helpful”.

Professor Martyn Partridge, of the charity Asthma UK, said: "All of the evidence does indeed suggest that many attacks of asthma are precipitated by viral infections.

"The current approach is therefore to teach those with asthma how to increase their asthma therapy to regain control of their condition.

"This latest work suggests that an approach directly on the virus may be feasible in the future but many detailed clinical studies will be needed first to confirm that this alternate strategy is effective”.

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Saturday, 26 March 2005 10:43
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Too many tots stricken by MRSA
Hospitals reported 52 child cases of MRSA to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) last year. This suggests that at least one child catches the deadly MRSA superbug every week in Britain’s hospitals and a horrifying Sun survey suggests the nationwide toll could be even higher.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Figures suggest just one child under the age of one has died each year. But it’s still too many. We’re funding specialist research”.

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Saturday, 26 March 2005 10:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Boy of 11 weighs 22 stone
Joe Hara an 11-year old boy has become one of the first children to be considered for a stomach banding operation as he weighs 22-stone.

He is one of a number of morbidly obese children who is being treated at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Joe was taken to the hospital with a hernia caused by his weight. He was considered for surgery but is now trying to lose weight with the support of Shine, a course that offers nutritional advice, psychological support and exercise. In the past month he has lost 19lb.

He said: “They told me that I had to lose half my body weight or I could need an operation. I felt scared and my Mum got upset.

“The nurse in my school told me about the course. I didn’t want to do exercise at first. I wouldn’t have thought about going swimming before but they let me wear a T-shirt. I enjoyed it.

“I used to eat three bags of crisps a day and I got bullied at school. I don’t do PE at school; I sometimes don’t go to school that day. I used to get my Mum to write letters, or my teacher would let me stay in the office.

“I used to sit in front of the TV, legs up, eating and playing on my PlayStation, but now I’d like to do badminton and table tennis. I feel happier since starting the course. I weigh less and I’m proud of myself”.

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Saturday, 26 March 2005 10:17
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
NHS may get safety syringes
According to health service union’s safety syringes may be introduced for all medical staff across Scotland after a landmark legal ruling.

The syringes where introduced five years ago but where rejected because of the cost now Andy Kerr, the health minister has ordered a review of the legal ruling that said the equipment’s introduction could not be rejected on cost grounds alone.

The health union Unison claim that needle stick injuries cost the NHS in Scotland around £5.5 million a year in follow-up tests and compensation, with more than 20,000 health service staffs accidentally pricked by syringes each year.

Unison official Jim Devine said: "Every health board in Scotland will have to take on board the implications of this decision, which is that they have to discard the old-style needles and introduce safety needles throughout the health service”.

Mr Andy Kerr has ordered a review to determine where it might be appropriate to introduce safety syringes.

Mr Kerr said that the retractable needles used in some of the pilot projects had apparently not worked very well.

However, he said there were certain locations where their introduction needed to be considered.

"I want to get a review of this to ensure that we are protecting our staff, which is absolutely vital for me.

"We want to respond to their concerns but also ensure that we continue with good clinical services as well”.

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Saturday, 26 March 2005 09:52
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Warning do you have lung cancer?
UK researchers claim that people could be dying of lung cancer because they fail to spot and act on early warning signs.

The researchers interviewed 22 recently diagnosed lung cancer patients and found that many had experienced symptoms for months before going to their doctors.

None of the 22 interviewed realised that their tiredness, coughs and breathlessness might be serious or even symptoms of lung cancer.

Professor Jessica Corner, of Macmillan Cancer Relief and professor of palliative care at the University of Southampton, said: "There is a clear need for different approaches to public health whereby people at risk are encouraged to be more conscious of their health and to the possibility that they may develop lung cancer.

"This may lead to earlier presentation, faster diagnosis and better outcomes”.

A spokesman from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said: "Early diagnosis of lung cancer is vitally important. Survival rates are poor simply because people are diagnosed too late.

"People need to be aware of the early symptoms of lung cancer. Some ignore their symptoms or do not think it will happen to them and do not go to their doctor. It's tragic.

"Get these symptoms checked out by a doctor, especially if you are a smoker”.

All but one of the patients in the study was current or former smokers.

"You must go to your doctor and ask for a chest x-ray," he said.

He called for a national campaign to raise public awareness.

Dr Siow-Ming Lee of Cancer Research UK cautioned that the study was small and that more research was needed to determine whether earlier detection would save lives.

She said: "Diagnosis of lung cancer, including earlier diagnosis to improve prognosis, can be a very emotional and complex issue.

"Attempts to date using sophisticated spiral CT scan technology and molecular markers in high-risk patients to pick up early lung cancer have so far not improved lung cancer mortality”.

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Friday, 25 March 2005 11:00
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Nurses to perform surgery
The Department of Health will publish a consultation document to give healthcare professionals a clear, educational training programme to become a "surgical care practitioner". As well as carrying out simple surgical procedures, these workers will be trained to care for patients before and after surgery.

Health Minister Lord Warner said:

“The NHS is working hard to give patients faster access to care.

“By developing the roles of healthcare staff we are able to offer patients skilled practitioners who are able to carry out simple surgical procedures – freeing up doctors to deal with more difficult cases.

“The role of a surgical care practitioner is not a new one – some NHS staff have been performing this type of role since 1989.

“We hope that by creating a detailed educational curriculum framework it will encourage healthcare professionals to develop their skills and formalise the role of surgical care practitioners nationwide”.

Hugh Phillips, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said:

“The Royal College of Surgeons of England recognises that safe patient care is founded on good team working. It welcomes surgical care practitioners as members of the extended surgical team. The College has enshrined in the curriculum framework for surgical care practitioners, the standards it will expect of those qualifying to practice in this role, and will continue to influence their development. The College would wish to approve those institutions that would offer programmes of education and training”.

Jill Biggins, National Chairman of The National Association of Assistants in Surgical Practice said:

“We are pleased to participate in the creation of the first generic surgical care practitioner curriculum framework, and view the launch of this document as a key milestone in the evolution of the SCP role.

“Training for non-medically qualified practitioners within the surgical team has been diverse over the last decade; this document brings together assets from all of the existing training programmes.

“The proposed curriculum framework formalises training and education, setting clear national standards and values for all surgical care practitioners. The document clarifies levels of supervision and reaffirms the importance of working within the surgical team.

“NAASP encourages all practicing surgical care practitioners, educationalists, surgeons and managers to read this document carefully and comment during the consultation period”.
Professor Sir Ara Darzi, Surgical Advisor to the Department of Health said:

“I have worked closely with several surgical care practitioners throughout my career who have proved invaluable both in the high quality care that they offer patients and the support that they offer surgeons.

“I am pleased to support the development of a national curriculum framework for surgical care practitioners that recognises their skills and encourages career development in others”.

Mr Simon Eccles, Chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors' Committee said:
"We welcome well-thought out measures to expand the clinical team, expand capacity to perform operations, and for nurses to extend their skills into areas such as minor surgery.

"But we are concerned over how these proposals would be implemented. Doctors in training must get as much experience as possible to hone their skills, as they train to be the surgeons of tomorrow.

"These proposals don't account for how a new raft of people performing surgery - but who are not doctors and will not be taking responsibility for patients - would be matched to the workload and development of the surgical team as a whole.

"Patient safety must be guaranteed, but the proposals don't deal with the significant demands on consultants' time which will be spent supervising both their surgical trainees and surgical care practitioners. It is also important that experienced surgeons are immediately available to intervene in any surgery if required.

"The title surgical care practitioner is leading to confusion. Patients must know when their carer is not a doctor.

"These proposals must be better thought through. We are happy to work with the Modernisation Agency to help ensure the best care for patients”.

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Friday, 25 March 2005 10:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Six killers that claim millions of children's lives
Professor Robert Black, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, carried out a study with a team from the World Health Organisation (WHO), they claim the six causes of deaths that are chiefly to blame for the 10.6 million lives lost worldwide each year are pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, blood infection in newborn babies, premature delivery and asphyxia at birth.

Of these the biggest killer was pneumonia, which was blamed for 19% of deaths in older children. Together with blood infection, or sepsis, pneumonia also caused 10% of newborn deaths.

Diarrhoea accounted for 18% of deaths, while malaria and asphyxia were both responsible for 8%. Preterm delivery killed a further 10%.

Poor nutrition was an underlying cause of more than half of all the deaths, said the researchers reporting in The Lancet medical journal.

Professor Robert Black said: "Achievement of the millennium development goals of reducing child mortality by two thirds from the 1990 rate will depend on renewed efforts to prevent and control pneumonia, diarrhoea and under nutrition in all WHO regions, and malaria in the Africa region.

"In all regions, deaths in the neonatal period (first month of life), primarily due to preterm delivery, sepsis or pneumonia, and birth asphyxia, should also be addressed. The new estimates of the causes of child deaths should be used to guide public health policies and programmes”.

In an accompanying commentary, Peter Byass from Umea University in Sweden wrote: "Counting the world's children is not all that is involved in making the world's children count. It is important to look at the single most important determinant of childhood health - which has to be poverty.

"Childhood mortality is strongly inversely correlated with per-capita health expenditure. In today's world, an Ethiopian child is over 30 times more likely than a western European to die before his or her fifth birthday”.

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Friday, 25 March 2005 09:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Superbug out of control in developing world
Researchers at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan, claim that Superbugs are out of control in many children's hospitals in developing countries with rates of drug-resistant infection of babies having reached alarming levels.

Writing in The Lancet, the team led by Dr Anita Zaidi, said they had seen dangerous practices such as disinfected respiratory tubing hanging over an open drain with urine and waste splashing on them, reconnection of intravenous infusion-system components that have fallen on heavily contaminated floors, and numerous lapses in hand-hygiene practice.

They added: "These are probably routine and everyday occurrences in many, if not most, nurseries [in hospitals] in the poorest parts of the developing world.

"Unfortunately, hospitals in developing countries are hotbeds of infection transmission, and expectations of improved neonatal outcome are being subverted by hospital-acquired infections and their associated morbidity, mortality and cost”.

They said the infections could be put down to a lack of knowledge and training, together with an inadequate infrastructure and too few resources.

The researchers added: "When hospitals are seen as institutions where children experience poor outcomes at great cost, people in the communities in which they live are less likely to seek institutional care”.

"Scarce resources are currently being wasted on flawed or ineffective care in developing countries.

"Infection control in hospitals of developing countries must become part of the international agenda for health-systems improvement”.

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Friday, 25 March 2005 09:27
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New child pneumonia jab
In a four-year study in The Gambia, supported by a broad coalition of international partners including the World Health Organization and the UK Medical Research Council, they claim to have found a vaccine against pneumonia that could save the lives of tens of thousands of African children.

The vaccine, against the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, reduced the number of deaths among a population of 17,000 children in The Gambia by 16%.

Professor Felicity Cutts, from the Medical Research Council, who led the four-year study, said: "The trial results are highly positive and promising, and most importantly, they demonstrate that pneumococcal vaccination can prevent these serious infections even in a rural African setting”.

Co-research Professor Brian Greenwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "This is the first time we have really had proof that the vaccine prevents pneumonia deaths.

"There have been very few interventions that have had this effect on deaths since bed nets for malaria."

Dr Lee Jong-wook, director-general of WHO, said the task now was to make the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine widely available to children in Africa.

"Immunizing children with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in developing countries will be a critical intervention towards achieving a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate, a Millennium Development Goal," he added.

A spokeswoman from UNICEF said: "In The Gambia, routine immunization is high, and the outcome of this study will compliment further the efforts of UNICEF in its role in child survival".

Professor Greenwood said provision across Africa was patchy, with some countries having good access to vaccines and others having poor access.
He said at $150 a head, cost was a big issue.

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