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News Archives, October 2005
Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:27
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Baby waited two hours for treatment while doctor rode unicycle
Health bosses from South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust have apologised to the mother of a six-month-old boy after the baby was forced to wait two hours for treatment while a doctor rode around on a unicycle.

Paula Dadswell said she first spotted the doctor on the unicycle when she arrived at South Tyneside District Hospital with her son James who she suspected of having gastroenteritis.

When the same doctor eventually came over to examine the child she confronted him over his behaviour.

"We took one look at the doctor and said 'you must be joking," she said. "His face went bright red.

"We had been asking for someone to see James for two hours and we had even told the doctor that he probably shouldn't be cycling around in case he hurt someone."

James was not found to have gastroenteritis and made a full recovery but Ms Dadswell, 33, later contacted health chiefs with her complaint and received a letter of apology.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: "The child in question was not neglected and his care was not compromised in any way.

"Of course we are sorry if distress was inadvertently caused to his mother and we have offered her our apologies.

"But let's also remember that we should try to make hospital wards less intimidating places for patients, particularly children and not apologise for making a stay in hospital as happy a time as possible.

"We regularly provide diversions that are not directly related to medical care.

"We have involved musicians, artists and others in trying to create a friendly and warm atmosphere and on a day-to-day basis the staff of our children's unit make every effort themselves to provide a welcoming and happy environment.

"This is an important part of the overall approach for caring for children at what is a vulnerable time.

"Many parents have commented favourably on this approach and indeed about the unicycle."

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:05
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Gene map may lead to personalised treatments
Scientists hope to develop personalised drug treatments for diseases after completing a map of the main differences in the human genome.

An international team mapped the entire genome of 296 people, identifying tiny differences in key parts of the DNA. The findings will make it easier to identify genetic variations linked to common diseases.

Humans are 99.9 per cent genetically identical, with the remaining genes accounting for the differences between individuals. Many of the differences are accounted for by single letter differences in DNA called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of which there are around 10 million.

The “HapMap” study looked at people from Africa, the Far East western Europe and found some 300,000 SNPs which provided 90 per cent of the information gatherable from examining all 10 million.

The researchers say this will reduce the cost of genetic research 20 fold.

UK scientists have already identified a genetic defect that leads to impaired vision in the elderly, while other researchers are looking into data on conditions including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Professor Peter Donnelly, of Oxford University, one of the lead authors of the research, told the BBC News website: "HapMap heralds a new era in medical research.

"This report describes a remarkable step in our journey to understand human biology and disease.

"The human genome sequence provided us with the list of many of the parts to make a human.

"The HapMap provides us with indicators - like Post-It notes - which we can focus on in looking for genes involved in common disease."

Dr Panos Deloukas, from the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, said: "It has been both fascinating and rewarding to be part of this collaborative enterprise that has already mapped one million SNPs and will shortly add another two million to the map."

But Dr Jim Wilson, of the Medical Research Council's Human Genetic Unit in Edinburgh, said there were some drawbacks to HapMap.

"How well does this relate to rare variations - which might be very important.

"And how well do these three populations who were studied match what happens in other populations.

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 11:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Pregnant women warned of iron risks
An Australian study has found that women who take iron supplements during pregnancy could be putting their unborn child at risk of developing behavioural problems.

Iron supplements are commonly used by pregnant women because carrying a baby can cause the body’s natural iron levels to fall. However, a study of more than 400 women by the University of Adelaide found a “statistically significant difference” in the number of children born with problems.

The researchers were attempting to confirm whether iron supplements prevented anaemia, which they did, They also looked into whether children born to women who used iron supplements had a higher IQ, as previous studies have suggested.

At the start of the study, the 430 participants all had normal iron levels. Half of the women then took 20mg daily supplements throughout their pregnancy.

When tested at four years of age, the children whose mothers had taken the supplements had no IQ advantage over the others.

However, the team found a significant difference in problems such as hyperactivity and social interaction when the mothers completed questionnaires about their children’s behaviour.

Maria Makrides, who led the research, said it wasn’t clear what role the iron played in affecting this outcome and added that the number of children with problems was small.

"We don't want to over-interpret our finding but, on the other hand, we don't want to sweep it under the carpet," said Dr Makrides.

It is thought that too much iron can overload the liver and make it difficult for oxygen to pass through the placenta, affecting neuronal functioning.

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 11:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Quarantine blunder in Parrot bird flu case
Government vets have been criticised for contravening European law by advising private bird importers to mix consignments of birds from different parts of the world in the same quarantine facility.

European regulations forbid such a practice because of the risks of spreading bird flu but it is believed that a licensed facility in Essex was used to quarantine a consignment of parrots from South America in the same unit as a consignment of exotic birds from Taiwan.

On Monday the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reported that a parrot from Surinam had become infected with the H5N1 strain of avian flu after being housed with birds from Taiwan.

Christiana Senni, of the World Parrot Trust, said: "It's unbelievable that Defra can't understand the detail of the EU regulation on quarantines, which clearly states that each quarantine unit should hold only birds of the same consignment," she said.

"This, of course, is an obvious requirement, otherwise the whole principle of quarantine would be useless, as this latest incident showed."

Ms Senni cited the wording of the EU regulations governing bird quarantine, which states quarantine units much be kept operationally and physically separated from each other "and in which each unit contains only birds of the same consignment, with the same health status and being therefore one epidemiological unit".

Philip Tod, a spokesman for the European Commission, said: "The European Commission has so far received no information which suggests the UK authorities have breached the requirements. The UK authorities are still investigating the circumstances in this case and the Commission will wait for the outcome of that investigation to properly assess the situation."

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 10:52
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Prime Minister defeated over smoking ban
Tony Blair has been forced to abandon his amendments to Labour’s smoking ban after a Cabinet feud over proposed changes to the legislation.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt will today announce that the Bill will revert to the outline presented in Labour’s election manifesto, an outline she considered flawed and wanted to change.

Smoking will be banned in enclosed spaces, but not pubs that do not serve food or in clubs. However, the bill will promise better protection for bar staff – an indication that the arguments over details are far from over.

The presentation of the Bill in its original form marks a victory for the Defence Secretary and former health secretary, John Reid, who insisted that private members clubs must remain exempt from any smoking ban.

Ms Hewitt is believed to have privately warned colleagues that the Bill as it stands is unworkable because pubs could simply circumvent it by no longer selling food.

She had put forward the idea of enclosed smoking rooms, or “smoking carriages”, in pubs to protect staff and other customers from smokers and had support from Culture secretary Tessa Jowell. However, the domestic affairs cabinet committee, chaired by Jack Straw, ended without an agreement.

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 10:35
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Police admit to mental health stigmatisation
The Metropolitan police have admitted to perpetuating the stereotype of people with mental illness as especially prone to violence, The Guardian has reported.

Police chiefs have promised reforms to the practice of using police cells to detain vulnerable people who are suffering from a disintegration of their mental health.

Officers said the unauthorised leaking of mental health records gave a false impression of the danger posed by individuals, and added that problems were often caused when uniformed police officers accompanied social workers in detaining a patient under the Mental Health Act.

A review by police and NHS chiefs in London said: "We recognise that people who experience mental illness are far more likely to be a victim of crime than a perpetrator."

Brian Paddick, deputy assistant commissioner, promised training to educate officers about the need for patient confidentiality, while police and NHS organisations have agreed to develop a network of “places for safety” where people with mental health problems in London can be treated.

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 10:24
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Binge drinking rife among under 25s
Nearly half of men under 25 and a third of women in the same age group binge-drink on nights out, a survey has found.

The Bupa Wellness study revealed that most do not keep track of what they drink and deny they are binge drinkers, while many think it will not affect their health.

Binge drinking is defined by the government as, for women, drinking six units in a short space of time, and for men, drinking eight units.

The Bupa figures, suggesting that 47 per cent of young men and 35 per cent of young women are binging on nights out, are published less than four weeks before the extension to pub opening hours comes into effect.

Eight in ten of those questioned said they did not keep track of their drinking, while one in six said they thought the extended opening hours would allow them to drink more. Fifteen per cent admitted taking one day off work a year with a hangover.

Peter Mace, medical director of Bupa Wellness, said: "Drinking limits are not as easily defined as they once were. There is no such thing as a standard drink any more.

"A pint of beer or glass of wine is served in a variety of strengths and sizes so it's confusing for people to know exactly how much is safe to drink.

"What is clear is that people who storm the bars or who drink excessively at home on a regular basis will face serious health issues in the years to come."

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Thursday, 27 October 2005 09:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
British hospitals spend £9m on art
According to official figures by the Department of Health (DoH) hospitals in England spent £9 million on art and design projects in the past two years.

The DoH claims that most of the money came from charitable donations specifically given for art purchases.

A spokesman for the DoH said "The money that involved NHS grants went on improving the hospital environment.

"NHS money has never gone to purchase a work of art”.

He added donations to buy art could not be spent on anything else. But Tim Loughton, the Tory health spokesman, said: "Many people readily give to charities but I am sure they will be alarmed that their money is going on works of art rather than on cancer care and other equipment”.

A recent study showed a significant fall in blood pressure among patients who had been exposed to art and music while waiting for operations.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2005 12:20
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
McDonald’s to put nutritional information on packaging
The fast food company McDonald’s has announced it is to start printing nutritional information, including fat, salt, calorie and carbohydrate contents, on the packaging of its burgers and fries.

The company, famous for its Big Mac burger, which contains 30g of fat, has been accused of contributing to the rise in levels of obesity and related health problems.

Chief executive Jim Skinner said the company hoped to have the new packaging in 20,000 of its 30,000 restaurants by the end of 2006.

"We think this the absolutely easiest way to communicate it," Mr Skinner said.

"We've given them what they asked for and then people take responsibility about whether they add it up or not add it up."

McDonald’s has recently introduced salads and fruit to its menus and announced that its mascot Ronald McDonald is to get a sporty new makeover to encourage children to live healthier lifestyles.

However, critics say that most of the company’s products are unhealthy and fattening at a time when obesity levels are soaring.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2005 12:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Free eye checks for Scots
Advanced eye examinations are to be made available for free on the NHS in Scotland, The Scotsman has reported.

The Scottish Executive is set to announce its long awaited proposals to provide free eye checks for everybody, regardless of income, but the newspaper reports that deputy health minister Lewis McDonald will go much further than anticipated.

The minister is expected to announce plans to cover the cost of major eye examinations for those deemed most at risk of developing serious problems giving Scotland a level of eye care unrivalled in the UK.

An executive spokesperson said: "It really will put Scotland some way ahead of the rest of the country. It is a ground-breaking agreement."

The announcement will quell fears that the original proposals would simply provide free eye checks for thousands of middle class families and deprive those most in need.

One Lib Dem MSP said: "We fought hard for this. There were attempts to water it down and change it, but we held out and now we have secured it."

The plans will cost the Executive million of pounds, with a simple eye test costing between £15 and £20 and a detailed exam up to three times as much.

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