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News Archives, March 2005
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 17:07
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
National NHS staff survey
The Healthcare Commission publishes its second national NHS staff survey. It is the largest workforce survey in the world with over 217,000 NHS staff from 572 organizations in England taking part.

The Healthcare Commission found a quarter of medical staff were abused or harassed by patients in the last year, with 14% being physically attacked.

Healthcare Commission Chief Executive Anna Walker said:

"It is clear from this survey that NHS staff remain committed to providing good patient care and helping their colleagues. Staffs are generally satisfied with their work, and there are welcomed increases in the number of staff receiving training and appraisals. However, it is worrying that little has changed with regards to the harassment and violence towards NHS staff. A staggering 15 percent of staff said they had been physically attacked at work in the past 12 months. The fact that over a third of staff say they suffer from work related stress is a major concern, which trusts must tackle".

Karen Jennings, head of health at public sector union Unison, said more action was needed to reduce the attacks against staff.

"Although there are no dramatic changes from last year's survey, it's very disturbing to see that the levels of violence and harassment.

"We fully support zero tolerance in NHS trusts, but we would like to see violent offenders prosecuted and facing tougher penalties in the courts.”We need to make it clear that violence against health workers will not be tolerated and offenders will have the book thrown at them”.

Health Secretary John Reid admitted improvements were needed, but he also said the positive results should be recognised.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2005 11:18
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Elderly to choose own care
A green paper published by Health Secretary John Reid will show that people using social care and other local authority services should be given individual budgets so that they can buy in the services they need, according to proposals to radically reform social care.

Ministers would like to see elderly and disabled people themselves being able to decide on their care not social workers, They also plan for adult services in each English area to get different agencies working together.

Health Secretary John Reid said:

"Individual budgets will put a stop to the revolving door of care and care assistants because they will allow people to purchase the care they want. They will be able to choose their own carer or instead of receiving institutional care opt to go on a holiday that will benefit them, and their families, in other ways.

"Our society is changing, the population is getting older. Advances in health and social care mean that health and well-being are improving, people are living longer and more children with complex and multiple disabilities are now surviving to adulthood. Social care should be about helping people maintain their independence, giving them real control over their lives and giving them real choice in the services they use. Services must recognise the changing world, our changing attitudes and our ageing population.

"This Green Paper is the third part of our vision for the delivery of health and social care services in England. It sits alongside the NHS Improvement Plan and Choosing Health, the Public Health White Paper. This vision is one of inclusion, where an individual's need for care does not reduce them to total dependency and also makes sure that their carers and staffs are empowered to help them shape their own lives”.

Stephen Ladyman, Community Minister at the Department of Health, said:

"People's expectations of social care are low. People have been confronted with services which are complex to access, which don't deliver the care they want and which take away an individual's right to make a decision about their life. In a society that values and promotes independence, people who use care services have often been ignored. This is simply the way services have developed over the years but it cannot continue. More people will be using social care in the future. We must look at the way services are delivered.

"This Green Paper sets out our vision. This vision includes individual budgets and extra care housing. It looks at how we involve carers and the voluntary sector more in the provision of care. It includes how we get health and social care to work better together and how we take advantage of technology.

"Make no mistake; services will be driven by the users of those services, not the managers. Individuals will be enabled to make choices. And the services provided will be person-centered, proactive and seamless.

"The outcomes will be improvements in health and quality of life, giving people the opportunity to make a positive contribution and to exercise choice and control, freedom from discrimination and harassment, economic wellbeing and personal dignity”.

Jo Williams - Chief Executive - Mencap, said:

"The vision and principles in the Green Paper are very exciting. They concern the most excluded people in society and from our point of view people with profound learning disabilities often feel marginalised. We will want to see how the proposals translate into action.

"I recognise that this is a 10-15 year strategy and we will need to identify along the way how successful we are in achieving the vision that is set out”.

Tony Hunter, President, Association of Directors of Social Services said:

"We welcome the Green Paper because the principles underlying it are fundamental to all social care services, and were echoed in the joint ADSS-LGA statement 'All Our Tomorrows'. ADSS believes that if the Green Paper is translated into the outcomes envisaged this will enhance the dignity and well-being of many thousands of people. We welcome also the modernising agenda and the strengthening of local partnerships to create the right environment for change”.

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive, Carers UK said:

"We welcome the importance in the Green Paper of the role and contribution that carers make to their families and to the community. Particularly pleasing is the focus on equality of opportunity for carers, including the recognition of their right to a life outside caring. Many carers increasingly combine work with care, and it is critical that the right support is put into families to enable them to be economically active for as long as possible”.

Lynne Berry, Chief Executive, General Social Care Council, said:

"I am very pleased at the focus in the Green Paper on the continued importance of social workers. The proposed new roles of broker and navigator also offer some exciting possibilities. I look forward to engaging in the debate around the training and support that social care staffs need to work in these new and imaginative ways”.

Paul Cann, Director of Policy, Help The Aged, said:

"We welcome the drive of policy, heralded by the Green Paper, to give people independence, greater choice and control in meeting their needs for care. We must break out of the cycle of responding, too late and expensively, to people's needs and to do this the cut in low level services must be reversed. Help the Aged will contribute positively to the debate about ensuring that a whole range of good-quality care is available to people, regardless of where they live or how much money they have”.

David Behan, Chief Inspector, Commission for Social Care Inspection, said:

"The Commission for Social Care Inspection warmly welcomes the themes set out in this important Green Paper. We share the belief that putting people at the centre of everything we do is key to improving the lives of adults who use services.

"Social care services are vital for many hundreds of thousands of adults. It is essential that those services enhance the opportunities and quality of life of those who use them, promoting fuller and more satisfying lives, rather than encouraging dependency and loss of autonomy.

"Whilst we recognise that the arrangements for regulation and inspection are going to change in the future, we continue to have an important role to play in helping to modernise the way social care is delivered and we will be working with the Government and many other stakeholders to play our part in taking forward this new vision”.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2005 10:30
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MPs demand action Hepatitis C
MPs have said that the Government's battle against hepatitis C infections lacks urgency and funding.

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hepatology said an action plan launched last year was "inadequate". The committee of MPs called on the Government to revise its plans as a "matter of urgency".

The MPs' report - The Hepatitis C Scandal - calls for greater investment from the Government to deal with the virus and a proactive screening programme to target at-risk groups. It said these should include women who have had a Caesarean birth and people who received a blood transfusion before screening for the virus was introduced in 1991.

David Amess, chairman of the APPG, said: "This report highlights the need for the NHS, and the individual Primary Care Trusts within it, to move hepatitis C much further up the agenda.

"It became clear during our investigation that the levels of service available were inadequate to cope well with even the current level of treatment offered to the 10-20% of people living with the virus who have been diagnosed.

"The Government should review as a matter of urgency both current service provision and plan for the inevitable increased burdens”.

Charles Gore, chief executive of leading the Hepatitis C Trust, said: "We are going to have to face the consequences of this disease and it is better to do it sooner rather than later.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people out there with hepatitis C who at the moment are undiagnosed and are a risk to themselves because they are not getting treatment and a risk to others because they could infect them".

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Our Hepatitis C Action Plan will help ensure that people who are infected with the disease are referred for specialist assessment and treatment and also take precautionary measures so that their infection isn't passed on to others.

"The awareness-raising campaigns for health professionals and the public are a crucial factor in helping combat the disease”.

She said the Action Plan which was currently being implemented across the NHS also set out a framework for improvements to prevention, diagnosis and treatment services and to boost research.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2005 10:10
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Traffic fumes could damage human DNA
Scientists at Taiwan's National Defence Medical Centre claim that exposure to traffic fumes could damage human DNA.

The researchers, writing in the journal Occupational and Environmental Health, studied a small group of female motorway toll booth operators who worked 10 km south of Taipei, Taiwan, the country's busiest toll station.

They measured the amount of the chemical 1-OHPG in the urine of 47 toll booth workers and 27 female officer workers. They also measured levels of 8-OHdG - an indicator of DNA damage caused by oxygen free radical activity in the body. They also took blood samples to measure the levels of circulating nitric oxide, which indicates harmful oxidation linked with traffic fumes.

The operators worked in eight hour shifts, for four consecutive days, before taking a day off. During their shift, they took breaks of between 30 and 45 minutes every couple of hours. They regularly changed lane booth, working a rotation system.

Smoking also increases the amount of urinary 8-OHdG, and there were more smokers among the office workers.

But levels of urinary 8-OHdG were an average of 90% higher among the non-smoking toll booth operators than they were among the office workers. Levels of nitric oxide were an average of 30% higher.

The levels of 1-OHPG were strongly linked to the levels of 8-OHdG. The higher the 1-OHPG, the higher was the 8-OHdG. And this held true even after adjusting for smoking or mode of transport to work.

The authors conclude that traffic fumes boost oxygen free radical activity and therefore DNA damage, and that environmental levels should be curbed to protect people's health.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2005 09:45
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Pushy parents bad for children’s health
A study by the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, claims that pushy parents can damage their children's health.

The researchers say parents of children with functional abdominal pain" (FAP) show symptoms of anger and hostility towards the medical profession and may be reluctant to accept medical reassurance.

Writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Dr Keith Lindley and colleagues investigated 23 cases of FAP. The children, whose average age was 14, had all been diagnosed with severe abdominal pain, with no obvious organic (physical) cause, which had greatly disrupted their lives.

They had been given the normal battery of tests for severe abdominal pain, including blood samples, ultrasound, and endoscopy, in accordance with clinical guidelines.

Fifteen of the children had already seen between two and seven consultants at the time of referral. Seven parents were subsequently unhappy with the choice of investigations and requested other procedures for which there was no accepted indication. Two families had their requests granted through referral elsewhere.

Twelve families made a formal complaint to the hospital or their MP about some aspect of care.

Despite the fact that psychological factors are known to have a role in this condition, only 13 families accepted referral to psychological services. In 12, a significant degree of family conflict/dysfunction and a lack of insight into the consequences of parental behaviour on illness pattern were evident.

Eleven of these children improved after psychological support and resumed normal activities within a year.

Ten families refused psychological help, and only three of these children eventually improved. In each of these three cases, the families had eventually realised the impact of psychological factors.

The authors suggest that their findings illustrate the dangers of 'healthcare consumerism' in families who lack insight into the derivation of their children's symptoms.

Dr Lindley says: "Robust systems are needed to protect the child and perhaps his or her physician from the effects of health care consumerism”.

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Monday, 21 March 2005 11:02
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New study shows natural yoghurt can beat bad breath
Japanese researchers presented their findings on a study on sugarless yogurt at the International Association for Dental Research's annual meeting, they claim that sugarless yoghurt could help people beat bad breath and also fight tooth decay and gum disease.

The British Dental Health Foundation, which provides impartial dental advice to the public, welcomed the research.

Volunteers who took part in the study were given strict instructions on oral hygiene, diet and medication intake. They spent two weeks avoiding yoghurts and similar foods, like cheese, then the scientists took saliva and tongue coating samples to measure bacteria levels and odour-causing compounds, including hydrogen sulphide, the volunteers then had to consume 90 grams of yoghurt a day for six weeks.

At the end of the study, researchers took saliva and tongue coating samples again and found hydrogen sulphide levels decreased in 80% of the volunteers.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "The foundation has long been drawing people's attention to sugar-free yoghurts as a healthy snack, so it is pleasing to hear that it may have oral health benefits we were previously unaware of.

"Frequent consumption of sugary snacks is the principle cause of tooth decay, which can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort.

"Although this research is still in the early stages there is no doubt that sugar-free yoghurts provide a much healthier alternative to sweets and chocolate, and we would encourage snackers to incorporate them into their diet”.

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Monday, 21 March 2005 10:41
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Prostate cancer awareness week
A survey by the Prostate Cancer Charity found that many men are putting themselves at risk of prostate cancer because nine out of ten men do not know what the prostate gland is or does.

The survey found that fewer than half of UK adults did not realise the importance of the prostate gland and one in ten believed that both men and women had one.

Now the Prostate Cancer Charity is launching a campaign to improve awareness and the risks of prostate Cancer at the start of Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, which runs to 27 March.

They are taking the messages about prostate awareness out into the community, where men aged over 45 actually are. A targeted campaign will distribute specially designed beer mats and posters to pubs and clubs around the UK. Other prostate information will be distributed in supermarkets, bus stations, factories, community centres… ...any place where men are likely to be!

John Neate, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "If all men knew what the prostate gland does, where it is and how it can go wrong it would help them realise that as they get older they are more at risk of prostate cancer.

"The prostate gland is now the most likely part of the male body to become cancerous, and one in 11 UK men is now at risk of prostate cancer”.

The prostate cancer campaign is supported by celebrities including the motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss and film star Ray Winstone.

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Monday, 21 March 2005 09:58
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Trouble ahead for commonly used treatments for head lice
Liverpool's School of Tropical Medicine and the National Public Health Service for Wales conducted a study on commonly used treatments for head lice.

They studied 30 schools in Wales and found a high level of resistance to pyrethroid-based insecticides one of the main chemicals used in lotions to treat head lice.

Dr Daniel Thomas, of the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: "Our recommendation is that the chemical malathion is more likely to control head lice.

"Parents should ask the chemist for advice about which products to use. And it will say on the side of the box what chemicals the product contains”.

He said parents of affected children should also check their own hair, and use a lotion if they found live lice there.

Professor Janet Hemingway, director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: "We were able to show that there was a pyrethroid resistance.

"That means the lotion doesn't work as well as it should do, and you don't clear the infestation.

"It's not a major health problem, but it's a very significant social issue for parents and their children”.

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Sunday, 20 March 2005 10:22
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Crohn's could be misdiagnosed as anorexia
Child health specialist Professor Ian Booth warned a British Society of Gastroenterology conference in Birmingham, that some children who are very thin are being misdiagnosed as anorexic when they could have Crohn's disease an inflammation of the digestive tract.

The diagnosis problems arise when children and teenagers are extremely thin and failing to thrive he said doctors should be aware Crohn's could be a possible diagnosis.

Professor Booth told the BBC News website: "This is an issue which is numerically very small, but individually very important.

"Growth failure in the absence of intestinal symptoms can be an important presentation of Crohn's in adolescents.

"The other important presentation is in wasting - as in malnutrition - so much so that presenting this way in adolescence; it is sometimes confused with anorexia nervosa”.

He said concerns about misdiagnosing children had first been raised 40 years ago, but cases were still being seen.

Professor Booth cited the case of a girl who had suffered from low grade intestinal symptoms for several years.

Her main symptom was a refusal to eat. She also had growth failure.

"She was diagnosed by psychiatrists as anorexic and was admitted for in-patient treatment," he said.

"She was exposed to a fairly punitive style management of anorexia. It was eventually recognised after about six months in hospital that she had small bowel Crohn's disease”.

He added: "Crohn's disease can present as growth failure or sometimes masquerade as anorexia nervosa.

"But mistakenly treating them for anorexia can cause damage to their psyche”.

Richard Driscoll, director of the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease, said his organisation received several reports each year of patients being misdiagnosed as anorexic.

"Young teenagers may be losing weight and then they stop eating because their condition makes it painful to eat.

"If they haven't got any other symptoms, their condition can be classed as anorexia.

"It's not something that happens frequently, but it does occur”.

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Sunday, 20 March 2005 10:06
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Sex health services need to improve
A report by the Health Select Committee is to warn of a crisis in soaring rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among the young.

The report New Developments in Sexual Health and HIV/Aids Policy – said that sexual health services were struggling to cope with the rise in STIs, which have gone up 11% in two years, and a doubling in demand for clinics since 1997.

Committee chairman David Hinchliffe said: "Rates of sexually transmitted infections are still rising and sexual health services are more overstretched than ever.

"It is particularly important that sexual health services are able to meet the extra demand that will be generated by the Government's planned health education campaign”.

Shadow health minister Simon Burns said the report was a "damning indictment" of the Government's failure to prevent the rise in STIs.

"Labour's failure has allowed the situation to reach epidemic proportions and is yet another example of the money the Government is spending on the NHS failing to get to badly needed frontline services”.

Nick Partridge, director of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Unless HIV treatment is provided to all who need it in the UK, helping to suppress their viral load and keeping them in touch with health workers, we will see a higher level of transmission of the virus - and nobody wants that”.

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