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News Archives, August 2005
Friday, 26 August 2005 10:52
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Eleven per cent of Scots wait more than four hours in A&E
A survey by the Scottish Executive has found that more than 130,000 patients a year have to wait longer than four hours to be seen in accident and emergency, with the delays rising by an hour on average over five years.

The New Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Scotland’s vanguard private finance initiative hospital, had the worst hold ups with one-third of patients waiting longer than the four-hour A&E target before being discharged or transferred.

The report has emerged amid a row over plans to close the A&E department at Ayr Hospital, the latest facility to face down grading.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's Holyrood leader, said: "The health minister must take action to reduce this figure if he wants to improve standards of patient care.

"This revelation will only add to concerns about A&E centralisation, such as that announced today by NHS Ayrshire & Arran."

Scotland has set a target of 2007 for meeting the four-hour standard for A&E patients. However, as recently as 2000, 90 per cent of patients in Scotland were dealt with in less than three hours. Now 90 per cent have to wait almost four hours to be seen.

Jason Long, an A&E consultant in Glasgow, said: "We are getting more elderly patients . . . getting people into beds has also been more difficult. That is probably because we have a more elderly population as well."

"[The four hour target] is a laudable thing to try and achieve and I think it will be possible, but it will need a lot of work and I do not think it can be done without some resource from the centre."

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Friday, 26 August 2005 10:37
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Family hopeful after Charlotte appeal fails
The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected a plea by the parents of a terminally-ill baby, Charlotte Wyatt, to force doctors to resuscitate her should she stop breathing.

However, the family are still hopeful that the decision can be reversed after the judges ordered an urgent review of her medical condition because of her “astonishing” improvement over the past year.

A court ruled last October that Doctors from St Mary’s hospital in Portsmouth should not have to resuscitate Charlotte, who is blind, deaf and severely disabled, if she suffered from respiratory failure.

That decision was upheld by the high court in March. Yesterday’s appeal argued that the judge had not taken Charlotte’s improving health into account.

Speaking after the ruling, Lords Justice Laws, Wall and Lloyd said the previous decision should stand but added: “We attach high importance to the up-to-date position being properly investigated with a view to deciding if the declaration should continue.”

A year ago Charlotte lived most of her life in an oxygen box but she now spends several hours a day with just a nasal tube. It is expected that she will be allowed to go home should her condition continue to improve.

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 12:16
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
US obesity rates rising
A study by the Trust for America’s Health has found that the rate of adult obesity in the US is increasing faster than ever before.

Obesity rates rose in 48 states in the last 12 months, with the national level increasing from 23.7 per cent to 24.5 per cent.

In 10 states, more than one in four adults are now obese, with Mississippi ranked the highest, followed by Alabama and West Virginia.

The for America’s Health said that the findings prove that current policies are failing and warned that the current proportion of the population who are overweight or obese (64.5 per cent) could rise to 73 per cent by 2008.

The cost of such a rise is projected to be in the billions of dollars as related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease would also sharply increase putting a strain on the county’s health resources.

Executive director Shelley Hearne, said: "We have reached a state of policy paralysis in regards to obesity.

"We need more and better data so we can make decisions to get out of the debate limbo in which we are stuck.

"We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the US and it's time we dealt with it."

Dr Ian Campbell, chairman of the National Obesity Forum in the UK, warned that the same was happening in other Western countries.

"We have seen this year on year rise in obesity in the US that has been mirrored in the UK," he said on the BBC News website. “We know we are only about seven years behind them.

"When will we in this country wake up and smell the coffee?

"The Americans have woken up to it before and clearly they are still in a state of policy paralysis.

"In this country, the government is working very hard to try and develop a stratgety for obesity but at the moment very little practically is being done.

"It really is time that we got our finger out and started making real changes.

"This is no cosmetic irritation, it is a serious medical problem."

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 11:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Court to hear parents plea for daughter's right to life
The Court of Appeal is to hear a plea from the parents of a brain-damaged baby over her right to life after a court judged that doctors should not resuscitate her.

Darren and Debbie Wyatt, from Portsmouth, will present a doctors letter explaining that 22-month-old Charlotte – who has serious lung, brain, and kidney damage – has made excellent progress.

Doctors at St Mary’s hospital won the legal right not to resuscitate the child last October after arguing that her condition was so severe that she had “no feeling other than continuing pain”.

But Charlotte, who spends most of her time in an oxygen box, is now said to be responding to loud noise, bright images and even smiles.

Mr Justice Healy, who in April renewed the court order allowing the hospital to let her die, stressed at the time that he would review the decision if any developments were made over the year.

The hospital is not expected to change its stance at today’s hearing.

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 11:36
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
London hospital sparks patient information rush
A flood of hospital information is expected to soon be available to patients after St George’s hospital in London became the first in Britain to publish its death rates online.

From today, the public can use the website to view death rates for every speciality, with the information eventually expected to provide performance comparisons across the country.

The Patient’s Association chairman Michael Summers welcomed the move which is eventually expected to provide performance comparisons across the country.

“We thoroughly approve of the move and very much hope that others will follow,” he said.

“We hope the Government will become involved so that patients can compare hospital against hospital.”

However, doctors have cautioned that the complexity of cases dealt with by individual hospitals makes death rate comparisons meaningless.

The British Medical Association said: “We believe it is important that patients have the information they need about doctors treating them. But we are concerned that simply publishing crude figures will be misleading as they are dependent on many factors, importantly an individual’s current health status.”

But Peter Homa, the chief executive of St George’s said that such factors would be taken into account when statistics were published.

“There may be some who say that we are oversimplifying, that this is too complex for the public to understand, or that they do not agree with our risk-adjustment system,” he said.

“We appreciate those sorts of concerns, but we feel that we have really begun to get a good balance between risk adjustment on one hand, and ease of understanding on the other.

“Our patients are increasingly well informed, and will very shortly be in a position to make choices about where they go for their treatment. Many factors will play a part in those choices, and issues such as car parking and cleanliness will be important.

“However, we also know that the more serious and complex the operation, the more the clinical safety, record and reputation of the hospital will be a factor for the patient, in consultation with their GP.

“By using carefully developed risk adjustment systems, in a format that is easy to understand, we can show our patients not only that we have high standards in patient safety, but also that they are steadily improving.”

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 10:50
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
IVF unaffected by stress
A study by Swedish scientists has found that the stress and anxiety felt by women undergoing fertility treatment does not affect their chances of becoming pregnant.

Some previous studies have suggested a link between psychological stress levels and the success of IVF treatment, but the team from University Hospital, Gothenburg, found no connection.

Researchers questioned 139 women undergoing IVF treatment about their physical and emotional well-being, general health and relationship with their partner.

Fifty eight of the women went on to become pregnant but the results from the questionnaires showed no difference between them and the women who failed to conceive.

Dr Lisbeth Anderheim, who worked on the study, said: "This means that we can use these findings to reassure women, and this information should, in itself, help to reduce their stress and worry levels."

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 10:38
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Anger at foetus pain claim
Anti-abortion campaigners were yesterday said to be “very very concerned” over suggestions by US scientists that foetuses feel no pain until they are 28 weeks old.

It is currently held that unborn babies can feel pain when the reach 20 weeks old. But a review of medical evidence by researchers from the University of California found that foetuses are unlikely to feel pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy (28 weeks).

The finding supports the belief of some British experts who have argued that, despite being responsive to stimuli, the state of semi-sleep in which foetuses live means they are not capable of feeling pain.

The study could potentially have a serious impact on abortion laws, with campaigners using the factor of foetal pain to dissuade women from seeking terminations.

Dr Nancy Chescheir, chairwoman of obstetrics and gynaecology at Vanderbilt University and a board director at the Society of Maternal-Foetal Medicine, said: "The article will help to develop some consensus on when foetuses feel pain. To date, there hasn't been any."

But critics hit out at the findings, claiming the report’s authors were not qualified to make such claims.

"They have stuck their hands into a hornets' nest," said Dr Kanwaljeet Anand, a foetal pain researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

"This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be. This is not the last word - definitely not."

A spokesman for LIFE, the pro-life UK charity, said the research went against the general consensus.

"Experts from both sides of the debate broadly agree that foetuses can respond to stimuli between the ages of 23-28 weeks so although we have not seen the report we would be sceptical about its findings," he said.

"The extent to which foetuses can feel pain is open to debate and it may be that they can respond to stimuli even before 23 weeks of age. To try to create a benchmark for when foetuses do and do not feel pain is misleading."

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 10:18
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Winter vomiting bug hits wards
Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary hospital has been forced to close three wards after 12 patients contracted the winter vomiting virus; this is the fourth time this year that the hospital has been hit by the highly infectious bug.

Doctors say that none of the patients are cause for concern, but no-one else will be admitted to the wards in the meantime.

Dr Syed Ahmed, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "Staffs in the hospital have put in place all the relevant control measures to limit the spread of the illness.

"We are working closely with the hospital infection control team to monitor the situation”.

Winter vomiting is the name that is given to the combination of diarrhoea and vomiting which normally strikes in the winter months.

A hospital spokeswoman says the bug is still quite common during the summer months too. She said: "It is an illness people can contract all year round.

"We have seen a rise in cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community recently. The illness seems to have moved into the hospital.

"We have closed the wards to new admissions because it is routine to do so when more than three patients show symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting”.

Margaret Hinds, of the Health Service Forum South East, said: "Hot-bedding is a problem in Glasgow hospitals.

"Staffs are so keen to move one patient out and the next patient in that they can't possibly have enough time to clean the beds. We need more cleaning staff”.

The last major outbreak in Glasgow was in May when three wards at the Victoria were closed, along with one at Gartnavel and another at Drumchapel Hospital.

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 10:17
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doctors call for complete smoking ban
The British Medical Association yesterday repeated its call for a more comprehensive smoking ban with a warning that the current proposals represent a death sentence for some bar staff.

The BMA warning came in response to plans to delay the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs until 2008 and to exempt pubs not serving food from the ban.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Head of Science and Ethics, said: “Each year of delay condemns around 50 hospitality workers to die as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke while at work – this is totally unacceptable and completely unnecessary.”

“Doctors feel extremely passionate about this issue because we see first hand the devastation second-hand smoke causes to our patients’ lives.

“When we asked our members to lobby their MPs on this matter, over 1000 did so within 12 hours of our request. To date over 1700 doctors have contacted their MPs calling on them to urge the Government in Westminster to rethink its proposals.”

She added: “The medical profession is united in its calls for a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces. Recent research reports that second-hand smoke kills 30 people each day.

“The situation in New York, Ireland and other cities and countries that have gone smokefree show that these policies do not harm business, they do not cost jobs.

“The policies are popular, they encourage people to quit and they protect health and save lives. What possible argument is there for NOT implementing a total ban?”

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 10:02
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Boots to give free screening
Boots the chemist are offering free screening for the sexual disease Chlamydia across London. As Chlamydia is the most common sexual infection in the UK.

Test kits will be offered over the counter to people aged 16 to 24. And will offer consultations in private areas for anybody who needs to discuses their concerns.

The new screening service will also be available to the partners of anyone who tested positive, regardless of age.

Boots expects to provide around 50,000 screenings a year.

If this proves to be successful the Department of Health scheme could spread nationwide.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: “It’s important we make screening and treatment services accessible”.

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