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News Archives, April 2005
Monday, 25 April 2005 12:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doubt over mercury health risk
Researchers have found that mercury used in some vaccines may be less dangerous than previously believed.

Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, is widely used in vaccines but has been phased out after links to autism were found.

Only jabs for hepatitis B and influenza now contain thimerosal in the UK after a five-in-one baby vaccine for polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hib was replaced last autumn.

But now researchers from The University of Washington, after performing tests on monkeys, have found that thimerosal is less toxic than the mercury found in fish and pollution.

The monkeys were found to clear ethyl mercury – which contains thimerosal - from their blood stream faster than methyl mercury – the type found in pollution.

The researchers did not say that ethyl mercury was harmless but concluded that it was less of a health risk and called for more research as many parents currently believe the potential risks of some vaccines outweigh the benefits.

A spokeswoman for the UK drugs regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said there was strong evidence that thimerosal in vaccines did not cause health problems but it had been phased out as a precaution on advice from the World Health Organisation.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 11:22
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Africa Aids drugs bought by NHS
Shipments of Aids drugs intended for developing countries are being diverted and sold to the NHS at a profit, it emerged yesterday.

In an investigation, the BBC found that anti-retroviral drugs, supplied by pharmaceutical companies for treating Aids in Africa, are being hijacked by corrupt middlemen and sold back to health services in Britain and Europe.

The anti-retrovirals are supplied free or cut-price to help sufferers in some of the world’s poorest countries.

But the BBC learnt that shipments intended for Senegal and Kenya had ended up in the NHS after being acquired by criminals and sold on for profit in a scam known as “diversion”.

According to the BBC’s report, one purchasing manager said he had suspicions about the origins of the drugs but had bought them anyway because they were cheap and in good condition.

The British pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, has now changed the colour of its tablets as a security measure.

Earlier this year, a former bookmaker pleaded guilty to trading in Aids drugs which were sold on to the NHS.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 10:51
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Doctor sent cancer mum home to die
Susan White, 53, from Rugely, Staffs a mum with cancer was sent home to die after cancer expert Dr John Scoble of Stafford Hospital told her nothing more could be done as there was no hope of her beating the disease.

But Susan’s family refused to give up hope and her son Neil, 27, looked on the internet and found that the Christie Hospital in Manchester specialised in cancer treatment. Surgeons there insisted Susan could be operated on and now Susan has been given the all clear.

Angry Susan said: “Even though I have made a recovery, I am still furious over the way I was treated.

“If it was not for my family refusing to give up the fight I’d be 6ft under now.

“Dr Scoble seemed happy to let me go home and wait for death - it makes you wonder how many other people may have been allowed to die without proper treatment”.

Susan explained how Dr Scoble, a clinical oncologist with 23 years experience dealing with cancer victims, told her to go home when he examined her following two years of chemotherapy.

She said: “He just felt my stomach, shook his head and told me that there was nothing more he could do.

“I said ‘Are you telling me I should just go home and die?’

“He just patted me on the head and replied, ‘There is really no more that can be done. I think it's about quality of life not quantity”.

The NHS trust that runs Stafford Hospital held an inquiry into Sue’s case.

The independent review said: “The quality of care given falls significantly short of the standard expected. Dr Scoble's failure to offer surgical relief for Mrs White was a poor decision and resulted in unnecessary distress”.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 10:27
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
NHS must double nursing recruits
The NHS will need to double the number of nurses it recruits if it is to maintain current staffing levels, a union has warned.

Despite a recruitment push, thousands of nurses are leaving the health service every year out of dissatisfaction with working conditions, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.

In the past year, 20,000 UK trained nurses have been recruited with another 12,000 coming in from overseas. However, 50,000 nurses have left or retired.

If, as predicted, this annual shortfall rises to 25,000 in the coming years, 66,000 new recruits a year would be needed just to keep the workforce constant – double the current number.

The RCN report, entitled UK Nursing Labour Market, said nurses were leaving the profession because of inflexible working hours, fear of violence and changes to the pension scheme.

The report said nurses from abroad made up 45 per cent of NHS recruitment since 2001.

It added that the level of new entrants from the UK had dropped in 1997/8 due to reductions in funding for students but had steadily increased since then.

Dr Beverly Malone, chief executive of the RCN, said the Government not only had to concentrate on bringing in more nurses but in keeping them in as well.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 10:21
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Scanner delays
Consultants went public to warn that a major piece of cancer-detecting equipment was so old that it was compromising patient care. They published a series of letters to the Scottish Executive in which they had appealed unsuccessfully for help to replace the CT scanner at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary.

The consultants said they were "angry and frustrated at the failure to replace the oldest and busiest scanner" in Scotland, handling 8,000 patients a year.

The disclosure was made by Scottish Tories who revealed the text of letters between an exasperated consultant radiologist at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow and successive health ministers - first Malcolm Chisholm then Andy Kerr.

The first letter was sent to Malcolm Chisholm on July 5 last year by Dr Nigel McMillan, a consultant radiologist at the Western, complaining about the CT scanning facilities there.

"We have the most outdated machine in Scotland, if not the UK, and a similar one at Gartnavel General," said Dr McMillan.

"We are expected to perform high quality scans for acute trauma and cancer patients and the equipment is simply not appropriate for the demands and would have been automatically replaced several years ago through the NOF fund if we were in England”.

His letter went on complain the despite "strenuous" efforts by managers to have the equipment replaced, trust resources for equipment replacement were "pitifully inadequate”.

A spokeswoman for the Executive said ministers had increased money available for scanners and other similar equipment. She added: "We recognise the concerns about upgrading scanners. Health boards are responsible for planning these services for patients, and NHS Greater Glasgow has said the number one priority is replacing the Western’s CT scanner. We are committed to reducing the time patients wait for scans and other diagnostic tests. There has been a substantial increase in investment in new medical equipment”.

A spokeswoman for the health board said it was due to meet next month to allocate £12 million to replace outdated equipment over the next financial year and the Western Infirmary scanner was a priority.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 10:00
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New treatment for Alzheimer’s
In a pioneering study surgeons at San Diego's University of California have inserted genetically modified cells into the brains eight of Alzheimer’s patients to delay the onset of the disease.

It is the first to show that gene therapy could be used to combat the major disease. The study is designed to boost a naturally occurring protein that stops cell death and stimulates cell function. Out of the eight patients six patients are showing signs that the implants have successfully slowed their disease.

Professor Mark Tuszynski who led the research, said: “If validated in further clinical trials, this would represent a substantially more effective therapy than current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“This would also represent the first therapy for a human neurological disease that acts by preventing cell death”.

Harriet Millward, deputy chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said the research was very exciting, but cautioned that it would not be a complete cure for Alzheimer's.

She said they were currently funding research into drugs that mimic the action of nerve growth factor (NGF), the name given to the gene therapy involving stimulating cell function.

"In principle, if you can get the NGF into the brain successfully, this could offer a way of slowing down the decline of mental abilities in patients with Alzheimer's disease," she said.

Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Although very preliminary, the findings are consistent with previous studies in animals, and offer an extremely exciting possibility of a novel therapy.

"We very much look forward to further studies”.

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Monday, 25 April 2005 09:40
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Ideal age for women to start a family is 34
Research, Age at First Birth, Health and Mortality, which appears in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, by Prof Mirowsky, from the University of Texas, USA, claims that the ideal age for a woman to have her first baby is 34.

Prof John Mirowsky's study of more than 2,200 women found that women who gave birth around puberty developed more health problems, but these problems diminish the longer a woman delays having her first child up to the age of 34. The health benefits begin at 22, peak at 34 but fall after this age.

His findings have been questioned, however. Melanie Every, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Midwifery, argued that the key factor was social background, rather than age.

"Career women who have delayed having a family have higher incomes, better education, better diets and better housing conditions, and these factors are important," she said. "A younger woman will be better from a purely physical fitness view, but if you look at social security, finance and the child's development and health, being a little older and having more life expectancy can be helpful”.

Prof Murkowski said: "At any age, a woman who had her first child at 34 is likely to be, in health terms, 14 years younger than a woman who gave birth at 18”.

Cecilia Pyper, a senior research fellow at the department of public health at Oxford University, said: "Fertility is declining from the age of 35. For women who are just starting a family, it is pretty tight. Breast-feeding suppresses ovulation. A woman who has her first child at 34 will not be having her second until she is 37 or 38.

"I think a lot of women are looking at the age of 30 so if they run into trouble they can still have IVF and a second child”.

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Sunday, 24 April 2005 11:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
TV illnesses mimicked by patients
Patients are visiting their GPs thinking they have the illnesses featured in popular TV soaps, doctors have reported.

In a survey conducted by Norwich Union Healthcare, more than 90 per cent of GPs said that patients had reported symptoms based on newspaper, magazine and TV coverage.

Of the 200 GPs surveyed, two-thirds said that this coverage was making their patients unnecessarily concerned for their health.

GPs blamed soap opera storylines and media headlines for the increasing prevalence of patients who diagnose themselves before seeing their doctor.

In the survey, a third of consumers admitted to seeking health advice from friends and family ahead of visiting a GP.

Dr Doug Wright who carried out the survey stressed that the media can have a beneficial role in raising awareness of healthcare issues but that people should not be unduly scared by high-profile issues.

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Sunday, 24 April 2005 11:29
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Overweight people can live longest
Being a little overweight could actually be good for your health, researchers have claimed.

The Centres for Disease Control study found that people who are slightly overweight live longer than those of a normal weight. But being underweight or obese increases the risk of death.

A team of US scientists looked at health and nutrition data collected over the last 30 years.

They compared the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement – calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared – and death rates.

A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal, below 18.5 underweight and 30 and above obese.

Results showed no reduction in life expectancy among those with BMIs between 25 and 29. This would currently be considered overweight.

In contrast, there were 34,000 extra deaths among the underweight group and an extra 112,000 deaths due to obesity.

The findings have caused US government health officials to re-evaluate the number of deaths attributable to being overweight.

Based on these statistics, more people die in the US each year as a result of being underweight rather than overweight.

Nutrition experts have responded to the study by emphasising the dangers of obesity.

In the UK around one in five men and one in four women are thought to be obese.

The research appears in the Journal of the American Medical association.

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Sunday, 24 April 2005 10:36
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Gene breast cancer clue
American and Dutch researchers have published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claiming that genes which are involved in healing wounds may help predict breast cancer patients' long-term health.

The researchers claim to have found distinct "healing" gene patterns, which they believe could reflect how aggressive a breast tumour is likely to be, but they say more research was needed to see if the find would aid treatment.

Antonia Bunnin, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "In the future it could provide a further means of helping to predict patients' prognosis and may allow clinicians to personalise treatment for women with breast cancer.

"However, further research is needed to determine whether treatment decisions based on this method are beneficial”.

Laura Trapani, of Breast Cancer Care, said: "It is important for people with breast cancer to be aware that the 'wound healing process' described in the study is not related to wound healing following their breast surgery.

"Any problems with healing experienced by people after their surgery, for example infection, are not an indication of their prognosis”.

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