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News Archives, September 2005
Wednesday, 28 September 2005 12:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Debts threaten senior doctors
Fears have arisen that the NHS budget crisis may lead to a loss of senior doctors in England after Oxfordshire Mental Healthcare Trust said it was looking to cut seven consultant posts by March.

Half of NHS trusts have been forced to consider recruitment freezes this year after one in four health service organisations posted a deficit for the financial year.

The Oxford Mental Healthcare Trust has managed to balance the books in recent years but was ordered by regional health bosses to make savings of £5.9m to help other local trusts reduce their deficit.

Julie Waldron, the trust’s chief executive, said officials had fought against the move but had reluctantly accepted that “radical measures” were needed.

"We continue to believe that there is every need for more investment, not reductions, in mental health funding and we shall ask primary care trusts to reconsider their decision," she said.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, said that trusts faced “tough decisions”.

But Jonathan Fielden of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee said that cutting consultant posts had been unheard of for 20 years.

"This is the culmination of what we have been saying for many months, the NHS is facing severe deficit problems and it will hit services," he said.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 11:56
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Anti-depressants should be last resort for young people, watchdog warns
The NHS drug watchdog has ruled that young people suffering from depression should be offered a course of psychological therapy before medication is administered.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said that drugs should only be offered in cases of moderate or severe illness.

A study by the charity Sane found that over 80 per cent of young people suffering from depression are given medication and only 6 per cent any form of counselling, with campaigners blaming a shortage of qualified therapists.

A common class of anti-depressants called SSRIs has already been made unavailable to young people in the UK because the drugs are believed to increase the risk of suicide.

NICE has also warned that depression is often missed in young people and said that health professionals, teachers and community workers should be trained to detect symptoms of the condition.

Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, said: "Psychological treatments are the most effective way to treat depression in children and young people.

"It is important that children and young people taking anti-depressants do not stop taking them abruptly, but we would advise people to talk to their GP at their next regular review about whether a psychological treatment may be a more effective treatment option."

Professor Louis Appleby, National Director for Mental Health, said more than £300m was being invested in mental health services for young people.

"We know that not everyone who needs treatment is able to access it easily or quickly and expertise and services are not equally distributed around the country.

"These resources are going towards providing more staff, better services and faster and easier access to those services around the country."

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 10:56
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Euthanasia doctor struck off
A former United Nations doctor who tried to help his friend commit suicide has promised to continue his campaign for a change in the euthanasia laws, despite being struck off the medical register yesterday.

The General Medical Council ruled that Dr Michael Irwin’s actions in travelling to the Isle of Man with the intention of giving his friend Patrick Kneen an overdose of sleeping pills to help him die had been unprofessional, inappropriate, irresponsible and likely to bring the medical profession into disrepute.

Mr Kneen was ultimately too ill to take the pills and died naturally a few days after slipping into a coma.

Dr Irwin, 74, was cautioned by police after admitting he had planned the suicide when questioned after Mr Kneen’s death in October 2003.

He told the GMC: "Your decision today from a professional point of view will mean very little to me. I don't want to sound arrogant but I've been retired for 15 years.

"I assure you I will continue to campaign to see a change in the law to legalise doctor-assisted suicide."

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 10:44
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Anti-tobacco icon praises Scottish ban
The man whose fight against the tobacco industry inspired the Hollywood film The Insider has praised Scotland for introducing a smoking ban despite an atmosphere of “intimidation”.

A report by the anti-smoking group ASH Scotland yesterday revealed the alleged tactics used by the tobacco industry to stop the ban, including playing down the risk of passive smoking, exaggerating the risks to the hospitality industry and promoting ventilation systems that have been shown to be ineffective.

Dr Jeffrey Wigand, whose fight to expose the tobacco industry was depicted in the 1999 film starring Al Pachino and Russell Crowe, said doctors and campaigners had done well to stave of the pressure exerted by the multi-million-pound business.

He said the tobacco industry has attempted to derail the anti-smoking movement in every country, lobbying against bans and employing “legions of lawyers” to defend the industry.

"Anywhere going smoke free - the industry tactic is to create obfuscation, controversy and intimidation," he said.

But Tim Lord, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, said the industry had never hidden its opinion.

"Our arguments centre around freedom of choice and what the public wants," he said.

"The science of environmental tobacco smoke and the fact that ventilation does work, these are legitimate areas for discussion."

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 10:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
MRSA found on five babies in Scottish hospital
The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley has revealed that five babies in its care have become colonised with the hospital acquired infection MRSA.

It is not known whether the infection was brought into the hospital or acquired on the ward but none of the infected children are thought to have been adversely affected by the bug.

One has been allowed home while the others are being monitored in the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit.

Dr Elizabeth Biggs, control of infection doctor at the hospital, said: "Colonisation means that the MRSA bacterium has been found to be present on the individual at that time but that it was not causing an infection."

The hospital has now stepped up its infection control measures.

Consultant paediatrician, Dr Graham Stewart, said: "The parents of the children identified with MRSA have been kept fully informed and we will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis."

Professor Ian Gould, a microbiologist at Aberdeen University, told The Scotsman it was extremely rare to find MRSA on children in the UK. "It can lead to very serious infections... but the most intriguing question is how they get it in the first place."

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 10:23
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Breast cancer treatments failing to tackle the causes
A report by the UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer has accused the government and the “cancer establishment” of failing to tackle the causes of the illness.

The group also suggests that environmental pollutants have been a major factor behind the significant rise in breast cancer cases.

"We need a massive rethink of priorities," said Diana Ward of Breast Cancer UK, the principal author of the report, which was funded by the European Public Health Alliance Environment Network, Unison, the Co-Op Bank and the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign. "Government and the cancer establishment promote treatment and control and call this prevention. It's a travesty of the meaning of the word."

Professor Andrew Watterson, head of the occupational and environmental research group at the University of Stirling, added: "I think they are flagging up an area that in other countries is being addressed much more seriously. US toxicologists are very concerned about this.

"There is some evidence about the contraceptive pill having caused a problem, albeit a small one, but it is one of those areas where we have people saying there isn't a problem when there isn't evidence that that is the case."

Breast cancer cases have risen steadily over the past 50 years and between 1996 and 2001, the number of women with the illness went up from one in 12 to one in nine.

"Women have been sold the myth that breast cancer is normal and inevitable. It's not," Ms Ward said. "Breast cancer is preventable, but government and the cancer industry determinedly ignore the evidence."

The report reveals that 350 toxic chemicals have been found in breast milk, with fatty tissue known to store toxins, and some plastics chemicals, detergents and pesticides mimic natural hormones such as oestrogen, while many breast tumours are oestrogen dependent.

"We have got the introduction into the environment and into our bodies of tens of thousands of very complex chemicals," said Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist who is quoted in the report. "We have no tools for analysing a mixture of this complexity."

He added: "We need to be addressing the preventative side and trying to get the breast cancer rates down to where they were."

A Department of Health statement said the causes of breast cancer were complex. "The World Health Organisation's international programme on chemical safety concluded in 2002 that there is no direct evidence that environmental chemicals (endocrine disruptors) are a cause of breast cancer."

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 09:27
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Flu jab crisis
Scottish patient’s lives will be put at risk this winter due to a 4 week delay in the supply of the flu vaccine.

Health officials say the setback is down to a delay in chemicals being shipped to a manufacturer who supply Scotland.

Due to this delay GPs have been advised not to schedule any patients for the injection or advertise the scheme in their surgeries.

People were supposed to receive their injections in the first week of October but thousands will be forced to wait until November.

The British Medical Association who represent Scottish GPs, last night warned the delay could have serious consequences for the sick and elderly.

Dr Dean Marshall, deputy chairman of the Scottish general practitioners committee, said: "Usually at this time of year, GPs across Scotland would be gearing up to immunise hundreds of thousands of people to protect them from the flu.

"However, because of delays in receiving the vaccine, many practices are unable to set up their clinics and are falling behind”.

Margaret Davidson, chairwoman of Scotland Patient Association, said lives were being put at risk.

She said: "Many, many Scots rely on this jab to see them through the winter. Any delay, especially one as long as this, could result in deaths.

"I hope it doesn't come to that but that is the reality. It's terrible news for the elderly and seriously ill people who get this jab”.

An Executive spokesman said: "This year some suppliers have delayed delivery of vaccines by two to four weeks.

"As a result of this delay, we have asked GPs and community pharmacists to liaise closely to ensure that they have a sufficient stock of vaccine before publicising their local campaigns and scheduling patients for clinics."

The spokesman said that some supplies had begun to arrive in Scotland, though most would be delayed until the start of November.

He added: "Although there was also a delay last year, we still managed to meet our targets.

"We still expect that supplies will be in place to ensure that those eligible are vaccinated”.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 08:56
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Ban on junk food from school vending machines
Under a change in the law which is to be announced today by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, state and private schools will have to stock healthy food and drinks in vending machines.

Sweets, chocolates and fizzy drinks will not be available anywhere in schools in the drive to end the "scandal" of children on junk food diets.

In her speech to the Labour party conference, the education secretary is expected to promote the need for children to have a healthy diet at school.

She will say: "I am absolutely clear that the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end”.

"So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September.

"And because children need healthy options throughout the school day I can also announce that from next September no school will be able to have vending machines selling crisps, chocolates, or sugary fizzy drinks”.

Plans to raise the standard of school food will not benefit pupils in local authorities where there is no school meals service.

Joe Harvey, the director of the Health Education Trust, which has advised the Government on healthy eating in schools, said it was time for schools to abandon their reliance on the quick fix of junk food.

On BBC Radio Five Live, he said: "Why is it that head teachers and governing bodies have been prepared to accept really quite high levels of profit from food and drink that they know very well is not good for the children that they're responsible for?

"They're not there to make a profit for the confectionary and soft drink industry. They're there to care for children”.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 12:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Young women taking risks when drunk
A survey entitled “Anatomy of a big night out” has found that increasing numbers of young women take sexual risks and are vulnerable to assaults after drinking.

The Portman Group study, which surveyed 500 women and 500 men aged 18 to 30, revealed that over a third of young women had been sexually assaulted while drunk and 34 per cent had had unprotected sex.

Women were also found to be more likely to become aggressive while drunk than men, with more than half admitting to getting into arguments, compared with 45 per cent of males, and 27 per cent of women revealing they had been arrested while drunk, compared to 16 per cent of men.

And nearly one in five female respondents (19 per cent) said they had been injured through an accident while drunk, compared to 14 per cent of men.

The survey was conducted as part of the Portman Group’s “drinks diary” campaign, which encourages people to log their drink consumption.

The study also looked at the reasons why people chose to drink heavily, with nearly a third of men and women saying they drank when they had had a bad day or week, 31 per cent saying they drank to boost their confidence and 34 per cent citing peer pressure.

Portman Group chief executive Jean Coussins said: "What is most alarming of all is the fact that young women seem to be risking more than young men.

"They are getting into more fights, more arguments and are being arrested or cautioned by the police more than young men."

The free drinks diary is available at

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 12:00
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Cotton extract to soothe psoriasis sufferers
People who suffer from the skin condition psoriasis could be set to benefit from the discovery that gossypol, an extract of the cotton plant, can be used to soothe the inflammation.

Scientists from Sunderland University now hope to develop a cream that could be used by the UK’s one million sufferers.

The pharmaceutical properties of gossypol have previously been investigated as a possible male contraceptive, although no product was ever licensed.

Dr Kalliopi Dodou, who led the research, will tell the British Pharmaceutical Conference on Tuesday that gossypol prevents the spread of psoriasis and reduces inflammation.

Psoriasis is a genetic condition that causes patches of red, scaly skin to appear when injury or infection triggers an over-production of keratinocyte skin cells.

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