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News Archives, September 2005
Monday, 26 September 2005 11:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Indonesian bird flu death toll rises
The death toll from bird flu in Indonesia has risen to six after a young girl and a 27-year-old woman died last week after being exposed to the H5N1 virus, the BBC News website has reported

Around 20 people have been hospitalised with flu-like symptoms and several recent fatalities are being investigated for links to the deadly disease, which has already
killed dozens of people across Asia.

The virus is not yet transmittable between humans but experts fear of a global flu pandemic should it combine with a strain of human influenza.

Siti, Fadila, Supari, the Indonesian Health Minister, last week warned that Indonesia could be facing an epidemic, and although the comments were played down by other government officials, the authorities have implemented “extraordinary” measures, including forcing suspected bird flu sufferers to receive hospital treatment.

The Jakarta outbreak has been particularly worrying because of the proximity between birds and humans. Many households keep chickens for food and caged birds for pets.

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Monday, 26 September 2005 10:47
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Health patrols plan met with scepticism
Plans to use “health enforcers” to patrol deprived areas and encourage residents with the highest risk of major health problems to visit their GP were received a sceptical reaction last night.

Ministers believe the scheme will tackle death and disease in the poorest parts of Scotland but critics expressed concern that progress would be “vague”, not cost effective and produce few long-term benefits.

Frank Sullivan, a professor of community health at Dundee University, said: "The health service is having to run just to keep up with the patients who perceive they need treatment without adding those who are unaware.

"If we had a magic wand, we could wave it over everyone to find out what is wrong. In reality there is no simple test."

The plans were revealed last week by Professor David Kerr, a cancer specialist who recently completed a review of the NHS in Scotland, and backed by Andy Kerr, the health minister.

"Currently, care can be reactive, hospital-centred and geared towards acute conditions," said the health minister.

"Tackling conditions and potential conditions in advance can pay massive dividends down the line."

The Executive has come under pressure to improve the country’s healthcare provision after a study last year showed the life expectancy gap between rich and poor was widening.

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Monday, 26 September 2005 10:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Left handed women face increased breast cancer risk
Left-handed women face an increased risk of developing breast cancer at an early age, new research published online by the British Medical Journal has revealed.

Researchers in the Netherlands discovered that women who are born left handed may have been exposed to higher levels of sex hormones in the womb and are subsequently twice as likely to be diagnosed with pre-menopausal breast cancer.

The team from University Medical Centre, Utrecht, studied more than 12,000 women born between 1932 and 1941.

The findings were adjusted for risk factors such as body weight, smoking habits, family history and financial status but left-handed women were still found to be 2.41 times more likely to develop breast cancer before the menopause.

It is thought that left-handedness may be induced by exposure to higher levels of oestrogen in the womb and the scientists believe this exposure also increases the risk of cancer.

“Although the underlying mechanisms remain elusive, our results support the hypothesis that left handedness is related to increased risk of breast cancer,” they conclude.

Liz Carroll, head of services at Breast Cancer Care, said: “It is important to remember that the single biggest risk factor for breast cancer is age - 80 per cent of women diagnosed with this disease are over 50.”

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Monday, 26 September 2005 09:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Big mums too fat for operating tables
Dr Alan Mathers of Glasgow's Princess Royal Maternity Hospital claims that fat and pregnant "super-mums" are causing a major headache for hospitals in Scotland because operating tables are not strong enough to support them.

Dr Mathers also revealed that birth defects were being missed because ultrasound waves can't penetrate deep layers of fat in obese women.

Dr Mathers said the available equipment could not cope with obese pregnant women, often weighing more than 20 stone.

"With some women, you have to cut through 12 inches of fat before you get to the uterus," he said.

"In America, they have surgical instruments that are one and a half times longer than normal, just to operate on fat people. That equipment will be necessary in this country”.

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Monday, 26 September 2005 09:17
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Doctors need training in child nutrition
Professor Alan Lucas, from University College London's Institute of Child Health claims that doctors are not given enough training in child nutrition which can be vital to good health in adulthood.

The professor said the lack of medical training in paediatric nutrition was a serious problem. He suggested that childhood nutrition now needed to be developed as an independent area of practice.

Research has shown that how babies are fed in the early months of life can influence their risk of heart disease later on.

Professor Lucas said that "slow grown" babies - infants who are fed to gain weight gradually - appeared to have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes in later life and that almost every sick baby in neonatal intensive care had crucial nutritional problems”.

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Sunday, 25 September 2005 11:27
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Less help from volunteers in disease outbreaks
Researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health claim that healthcare workers are more likely to volunteer to help out after an environmental disaster rather than a disease outbreak.

The researchers assessed the ability and willingness of staff in New York to report to work in emergencies.

They found that eighty-four per cent of the 6,000 surveyed were willing to report for duty after an environmental disaster.

But just 48% said they would do the same during an outbreak of Sars, and over half said they would work during a radiological event, and 61% in the event of a smallpox epidemic.

Kristine Qureshi, who led the research, said: "Although we might assume that healthcare employees have an obligation to respond to these high impact events, our findings indicate that personal obligations, as well as concerns for their own safety play a pivotal role in workers' willingness to report to work”.

Robyn Gershon, associate professor of sociomedical sciences, at the Mailman School's National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, who also worked on the study, added: "Employers must recognise that their healthcare workers are likely to be as concerned or even more concerned about their safety than the average citizen, because they have a greater understanding of the risks involved”.

The research team say their findings are of practical importance because of the need to recognise a full workforce might not be available in such circumstances.

"If adequate numbers of staff members do not report to work, it could result in a situation where hospitals are unable to meet needs”.

Dr Qureshi added: "In terms of addressing workers fears, and therefore, their willingness to work, healthcare administrators should talk to their workers about their concerns regarding exposure and contagion, and, importantly, reassure them by describing in detail all of the steps the facility is planning to take to assure their safety”.

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Sunday, 25 September 2005 11:16
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Dental charity issues mouth cancer warning
The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) Britain’s leading oral health charity is warning people of all ages that they have to start checking their mouth regularly if they are to stop the increasing number of mouth cancer deaths.

Mouth cancer was once considered to be something which only affected older males, the condition is now becoming much more common in younger people and women. The ratio of women to men suffering with mouth cancer has grown by a third in the last 10 years though men are still twice as likely to develop the condition.

The most common causes of mouth cancer are smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. In fact, people who do both are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition. Poor diet is also a contributory factor.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, commented: “In the UK, mouth cancer kills one person every five hours and it is no longer just older males who need to be worried about developing mouth cancer – the condition can strike anyone.

“Regular self-examination is now the norm for breast cancer and testicular cancer, and it needs to be the same for mouth cancer.

“Of course you can cut your risk considerably by leading a healthy lifestyle, so giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol and eating a healthy diet is still very important.

“However, with one in four younger sufferers living healthily prior to developing the condition, the importance of self-examination cannot be underestimated”.

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Sunday, 25 September 2005 11:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New test for Alzheimer's
A new simple blood test that can detect Alzheimer's disease has been developed by scientists at the Norwegian biotechnology firm DiaGenic ASA and at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo.

The new tests identifies the illness by its genetic fingerprint, it is claimed to be the first definitive test and could help doctors to delay the onset of symptoms.

Previously doctors have struggled to identify Alzheimer's through memory tests and by ruling out other possibilities. Even then only a post-mortem examination can confirm a diagnosis.

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Saturday, 24 September 2005 11:05
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NHS trusts plan to reduce services
A third of NHS trusts in England are planning to reduce services because of funding shortfalls, research has suggested.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that three out of four NHS trusts in England were facing a cash shortfall.

These interim new figures are revealed today [24/09/05] in a BMA survey sent to 530 medical directors in England. To date, completed questionnaires have been received from 120 respondents.

Key figures include:
• Three quarters of respondents [72.8%] report that their trust is facing a funding shortfall in the current financial year. The predicted shortfall ranges from £0.2million to £25 million, with an average predicted shortfall of £6.2 million.
• A third of respondents [37.6%] report that their trust is intending to reduce services as a result of any shortfall. Intended reductions in services include bed closures, staff redundancies and a freeze on recruitment, reduced elective services, and ward closures, withdrawal of staff development and training, and reduction in patient transport services.
• More than a third [37.8%] of respondents report that funding agreements with the primary care trusts have been changed at short notice in this financial year. The reasons include funding shortfalls, cutbacks and pressures, often at the strategic health authority level.
• Almost half of respondents [47.3%] report that their trust is intending to freeze recruitment as a result of funding shortfalls and a quarter [26.8%] report that their trust is considering staff redundancies.
• Medical staffs are to be included in recruitment freezes [47.9%]; with 1 in 7 [14%] saying redundancies would also include medical staff.

The BMA wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, on 26 August 2005 raising its fears about NHS trusts in financial crisis. However, a reply from Lord Warner shows the Government is still in denial about the problem.

Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants’ Committee, Dr Paul Miller, said today:

“It is hard to understand why at a time when the Government has invested unprecedented funding in the health service that Trusts may have to lay off staff and close wards. Something is going terribly wrong when patients pay the price for these financial problems and the Government’s lack of joined-up thinking.

He added: “Despite increased NHS funding, the health service is still suffering financial difficulties. Why is this? NHS trusts are facing the biggest and most radical reform in health policy since the inception of the NHS. What trusts need is support, not being thrown into the deep end, left to sink or swim.

“If the Government persists with the introduction of a market-based system for health care there must be a level playing field for all providers. It is financial madness to guarantee private providers huge volumes of work, often at a higher cost than the NHS, while NHS hospitals are deprived of essential funding and their facilities are being left idle.

“We urge the Government to work with doctors and all health care workers to integrate properly the welcome extra capacity and improve financial and clinical management so patients receive the best possible treatment, at the best value for money, but do not suffer on the basis of economic ideology”.

Dr Miller will continue to raise the BMA’s concerns with Government when the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, speaks at a BMA/UNISON fringe meeting at the forthcoming Labour Party conference.

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Saturday, 24 September 2005 10:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
First-aid tips on your iPod
St John Ambulance has become the first charity to offer First Aid for people to download information onto their MP3 players, phones or CDs.

iFIRSTAID offers advice on the steps someone should take if they come across an accident scene.

The charity said it was prompted by a 25% increase in enquiries about First Aid courses following the terrorist attacks on London.

Andrew New, senior training officer at St John Ambulance, said: "We heard from many people who had wanted to help the injured but were not confident to administer first aid.

"Now that MP3 players are so popular our iFIRSTAID downloads will make first aid guidance available for people when they need it, where they need it, in the format they need it”.

You can access and download the files online at

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