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News Archives, August 2005
Saturday, 27 August 2005 12:41
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Sleep study to examine snoring affect
Researchers from City Hospital in Nottingham are investigating whether snoring during pregnancy can affect a baby’s health through lack of oxygen.

Birth weight is thought to be restricted by a lack of oxygen during sleep and scientists will use a £6,000 grant from Action Medical Research to study the link between apnoea – where a person stops breathing for a short time during sleep – and birth weight.

Prof Jim Thornton of City Hospital, part of the study team, said: "My interest in this goes back many years when I had a patient who had the classic signs of sleep apnoea - loud snoring and low oxygen levels during sleep.

"She went on to lose her baby, which her scans had shown to be very small.

"We know that oxygen levels can have an impact on intrauterine growth."

He added that there have been cases where pregnant women have lost a baby during a severe asthma attack, again indicating a link with oxygen levels.

"There are many reasons for low birth weight, of course, but sleep apnoea is very easy to treat and if there is a link, it's something we can quickly put right and so help prevent growth restriction in an unborn baby," he said.

The team is handing out questionnaires and using equipment to monitor patients as part of the study.

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Saturday, 27 August 2005 12:29
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Merck considers settling Vioxx cases
The US pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck has revealed it is considering settling a number of lawsuits concerning its controversial painkiller Vioxx.

The drug was withdrawn last year after researchers found it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Merck was recently ordered to pay out £141m after a Texas jury found the firm had been negligent in a case where Vioxx had caused a man’s death.

The company is now facing thousands of lawsuits from around the world, including at least 120 from Britain.

Kent Jarrell, a Merck spokesman, said the firm would initially consider cases where patients took the drug for 18 months or more with minimal heart risk factor.

The move comes only days after Merck said it would fight each and every personal injury lawsuit as the company appeared keen to deter anyone without a watertight case from taking action.

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Saturday, 27 August 2005 12:15
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Finnish bird flu the first case in Europe
The first strain of bird flu to be detected in Europe was reported yesterday by Finland’s agriculture ministry after a possible case of the disease was found in a seagull in the town of Oulu.

A global outbreak has been feared since the avian virus recently spread from Asia into Russia and Kazakhstan.

"As a result of a monitoring programme in Finland, we have made an initial finding of a possible bird flu virus in a seagull," the ministry said in a statement. "The studies are ongoing and a final result will come in three weeks."

The Netherlands and Germany recently implemented emergency measures to prevent the infection of poultry after the Russian discovery caused experts to re-evaluate the opinion that there was only a minimal chance of it reaching Europe.

The Finnish ministry said it had been improving disease protection for poultry facilities "systematically over several years".

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Saturday, 27 August 2005 11:43
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doctors concerns over NHS cash crisis
The British Medical Association has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt expressing concern over the threat to patient care posed by the financial crisis gripping the NHS.

Doctors’ leaders said job losses and service cutbacks could be inevitable after a quarter of NHS trusts posted a deficit last year.

Two NHS trusts have already frozen the recruitment of nurses and administrators and a number of accident and emergency units across the country have been downgraded in a bid to save money.

Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said further cuts would “pose significant threat to patient care and innovation in the NHS”.

"We are deeply concerned that managers running frightened for their jobs are making knee-jerk decisions about the reduction or closure of services in response to short-term funding problems."

Deputy chairman Jonathan Fielden said that the upper reaches of the NHS had failed to filter down money to the frontline where it was most needed.

But Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said on the BBC News website that she was disappointed with the BMA’s stance on the issue.

"It is simply untrue to say that managers who are taking decisions about how to balance their budgets, while maintaining high quality clinical services, have no appreciation of the long-term consequences for patients services as the BMA alleges."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Patient safety is top priority for the NHS and any actions that trusts take to manage to reduce the deficits should not lower the quality of care provided to patients.

"We have encouraged the NHS to use a range of strategies in order to reach financial balance without reducing spending on agency staff."

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Friday, 26 August 2005 13:31
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Waiting list hits all time low
The latest waiting list figures have revealed that fewer people are currently waiting for an NHS operation in England and Wales than at any time in the past 17 years.

At the end of July 813,700 people were on the waiting list, a drop of 10,200 since June and 59,000 since last July.

Only 15 patients waited more than nine months for their operation, with two waiting longer than a year.

The government has pledged to cut waiting times for all patients to a maximum of six months by December.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "This is more evidence of real progress.

"The NHS is working hard to make sure patients have the fastest possible access to treatment.

"The average wait is currently eight weeks and by the end of the year the longest anyone will wait for an operation will be six months.

"But we know there is more to do.

"That is why for the first time in the history of the NHS, we are tackling the hidden waits.

"This is being done through massive extra investment in diagnostic capacity and the introduction a choice of hospital to have your scan."

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Friday, 26 August 2005 12:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Ageing gene discovery may improve quality of life for elderly
Researchers from the University of Texas have discovered an ageing gene that can be manipulated to make mice live 30 per cent longer than normal.

Humans have a very similar version of the gene and the scientists hope they will soon be able to use the discovery to improve quality of life in our declining years.

People with defective versions of the Klotho gene are known to age early and researchers found that by boosting the gene’s activity, they were able to help mice live for three years instead of two.

"It could be one of the significant steps for developing anti-ageing therapy," Dr Makoto Kuro-o told Science magazine.

Klotho is important to the ageing process because it delays the effects of growing old, such as the weakening of bones and the clogging of arteries.

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Friday, 26 August 2005 12:18
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Stress levels high among cancer doctors
A study by Cancer Research UK has found that cancer specialists are increasingly suffering from emotional exhaustion due to the enormous pressures of the job.

Working conditions have deteriorated and stress levels have increased significantly, with the proportion of consultants reporting distress rising from 27 per cent to 32 per cent since 1994, researchers found.

The report, published in The Lancet, blamed understaffing, high workloads, government targets and poor support for the trend.

The 2000 Cancer Plan was introduced to ensure that patients would wait no longer than two months from referral to treatment by the end of this year. The plan also increased the workload of NHS cancer specialists by one third.

Cath Taylor, from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, said on the BBC Health website: "It appears to be in part due to increased stress from being poorly resourced and having responsibility for the quality of the work of other staff, together with trying to meet the expectations of relatives.

"On top of this, these consultants have an enormous workload coupled with insufficient levels of satisfaction from some areas of their work."

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Cancer specialists are under enormous pressure and need support.

"Many seem to be 'running on empty' - they're delivering high quality care to patients, but somewhere along the line it's been forgotten that we need to care for the doctors as well."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Eighty percent of staff now say they have access to counselling services and the Department has also published specialist support for consultants on the responsibilities of taking on such a position.

"There's been an expansion of consultant numbers and we're committed to ensuring this continues."

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Friday, 26 August 2005 11:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Study dismisses homeopathy
A study published in The Lancet medical journal has dismissed homeopathy as “no better than dummy drugs” and called on doctors to be more honest with patients about the “lack of benefits” provides by alternative medicines.

The call comes after a review by Swiss and UK scientists of 110 trials found no evidence that homeopathy is any more effective than placebos.

Professor Matthais Egger, from the University of Berne, and a UK team from the University of Bristol compared 110 trials of homeopathy drugs with 110 trials of their conventional counterparts but were unable to establish that homeopathic remedies were effective above and beyond the placebo effect.

Professor Egger said: "We acknowledge to prove a negative is impossible.

"But good large studies of homeopathy do not show a difference between the placebo and the homeopathic remedy, whereas in the case of conventional medicines you still see an effect."

However, The Lancet also includes a draft report by the World Health Organisation that claims the majority of peer reviewed papers published in the last 40 years have shown that homeopathy is more effective than dummy pills in placebo-controlled trials.

And a spokeswoman for the Society of Homeopaths said on the BBC News website: "Many previous studies have demonstrated that homeopathy has an effect over and above placebo.

"It has been established beyond doubt and accepted by many researchers, that the placebo-controlled randomised controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy."

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Friday, 26 August 2005 11:35
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Health Minister calls for innovation amid A&E reform row
The Scottish Executive’s Health Minister, Andy Kerr, yesterday called on the NHS to be more innovative in its provision of patient care amid a row over plans to down-scale accident and emergency facilities.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran announced on Wednesday that inpatient services were to be reformed, with A&E services moved to Crosshouse hospital in Kilmarnock and “community casualty units” set up in Girvan, Cumnock and Irvine.

Tory MSP for Ayr, John Scott, has vowed to fight the plans “tooth and nail” and Mr Kerr said he would look carefully at the final plans.

The Health Minister said that ministers wanted to see services “as local as possible and as specialised as necessary”.

“The NHS should be looking at new and innovative ways to deliver care which is better for patients,” he added.

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Friday, 26 August 2005 11:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Future dentists paid to stay away
Opposition MPs yesterday blasted the Scottish Executive’s dentistry record after it was revealed that Dundee University was offering dental training applicants cash to defer their studies - despite the chronic shortage of NHS dentists across Scotland - after receiving an “unprecedented” number of acceptances.

SNP MSP for North East Scotland, Richard Lochhead, called for the Executive to use funds promised for dentistry to provide extra training places.

“Scotland needs a government that will treat this issue with urgency — not complacency,” he said. “The Government’s credibility on this issue is in tatters — we have a shortage of dentists and dental schools are underfunded and we hear about action plans to support NHS dentistry but dentists continue to leave the NHS.

“It beggars belief that government ministers are on the one hand boasting about record investment in dentistry when dental schools are being forced to turn away students due to a lack of funding. Only by training more dentists can the crisis in NHS dentistry be tackled.”

The Executive announced £150m of funding for dentists in Scotland after reports that hundreds of people were queuing outside surgeries to register with NHS practices.

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