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News Archives, August 2005
Thursday, 25 August 2005 09:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Stone to boost hospital aura
A £70,000 piece of Brazilian stone has been installed at the entrance of the University College Hospital in London hoping that it would make it more welcoming.

The polished piece of granite, entitled Monolith and Shadow is part of the Hospital's Art in the Hospital project.

Last night the stone, looking like a giant pebble, was criticized by patient groups and medical staff who believe the cash should have been spent on healing the sick.

But the money has been raised by donations, many from staff and patients.

Peter Burroughs from the hospital said: "This money was specifically donated for art in the new hospital and could not have been used for patient care”.

GP Dr John Cormack, a spokesman for the British Medical Association, said: “When most people donate to charity they want it to go to doctors, equipment, that sort of thing.

“People who donated the money may be understandably annoyed.

“If they want to use art in hospitals to help patients, they should use art that is inexpensive or free. Otherwise they are going to attract criticism”.

Louise Boden, chief nurse at the hospital, said: "A healing environment is crucial to a positive patient experience.

"There is increasing evidence that a welcoming and interesting atmosphere improves both patient well-being and staff morale, even speeding recovery in some cases”.

Independent charity King's Fund, which promotes better health, gave £35,000 towards the project.

Daniel Reynolds said: "There is a growing body of evidence that improving hospital environments actually helps to reduce violence on wards, boosts recruitment and retention of staff".

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Thursday, 25 August 2005 09:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Britain's workers stand for worse conditions
Up to 11 million British workers could face serious health problems because they have to stand at work, and are offered less protection than employees in the Victorian era claims a new report from the TUC published today (Thursday).

The trade union organisation TUC claims that standing for too long contributes to 200,000 workers with leg ailments being off sick for two million days a year.

Factory workers, library staff, teachers, train drivers, printers, engineers, casino workers and shop staff are said to be among employees at risk. The union says that simple adjustments to working practices or better flooring and protective clothing could reduce illness absence.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "It's quite incredible that some staff today would be better off under Victorian working conditions.

"There really isn't any need for the excessive standing on the job that this report highlights. Most jobs don't need people to be on their feet all day and bosses need to get over the fact that someone sat down is protecting their health, not being lazy.

"Simple adjustments to the way millions of people work will save countless sick days each year and stop British workers from, in some cases, dying on their feet”.

Rory O'Neill, editor of the TUC-backed health and safety magazine Hazards, who conducted the research, said workers faced being disabled, or even dying, because of health problems caused by standing up.

"Protracted periods on your feet are not necessary. In Sweden, for example, it is rare for workers to be required to stand for more than two hours per day.

"Employers in the UK should get off their backsides and provide more seating, more rest breaks and better-designed workstations and jobs”.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 12:41
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Aspirin reduces risk of bowel cancer
A Harvard Medical school study of 83,000 women has found that taking aspirin regularly for a decade or more significantly reduces the risk of bowel cancer.

However, the doses required also increased the risk of gut bleeds and researchers are planning further studies to establish whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Of the volunteers studied, 962 developed bowel cancer over a 20-year period. But among those who regularly took aspirin, there was a 23 per cent reduction in the risk of bowel cancer compared to those who did not use the drug.

And women who took more than 14 doses of aspirin per week over a 10 year period had a 53 per cent lower relative risk.

The cancer suppressing effects of the drug appeared to be linked to dosage.

Women who took two to five aspirins per week had an 11 per cent lower relative risk; women who took six to 14 aspirins per week had a 22 per cent lower relative risk; and women who took more than 14 aspirins per week had their relative risk reduced by 32 per cent.

Dr Andrew Chan, who led the research, said: "Our study supports a possible role for aspirin in cancer prevention.

"However, any substantial impact of aspirin on cancer necessitates early initiation and prolonged, consistent use.

"Moreover, optimal chemoprevention may require substantially higher doses of aspirin than currently recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular disease."

But Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, warned: "High doses of aspirin are needed to reduce bowel cancer risk, and these could cause bleeding in the digestive system.

"Future studies need to weigh up all of the risks and benefits of high doses of aspirin before recommendations can be made.

"Besides taking aspirin, there are many other ways of reducing the risk of bowel cancer such as keeping a healthy bodyweight, being active and eating lots of fibre and fish and less red or processed meat."

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 12:24
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
10 million GP appointments missed
A survey by Developing Patient Partnerships has revealed that around 10 million GP appointments are missed every year at a cost of £180 million to the NHS.

The GPs surveyed said that the main excuse given was forgetfulness, with 70 per cent of family doctors saying they would consider removing repeat offenders from their register, and two-thirds believing that patients should be charged for missing an appointment.

Respondents said missed appointments led to increased waiting times and wasted resources. Most doctors said the problem made it harder to meet primary care targets.

Developing Patient Partnerships spokesman, Dr Terry John, said on the BBC News website: "These results are disappointing especially if we consider that each GP appointment costs £18.

"On the bright side, most practices believe that this figure can be reduced through effective communication about the impact of missed appointments."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Missed appointments matter. They waste GPs' time and NHS' - and so taxpayers' - resources.

"Patients are right to expect a modernised responsive and accessible service.

"But for their part, patients have a responsibility to keep or cancel appointments."

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 12:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Advisory body calls for child cancer treatment reform
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has called for a reform of the cancer treatment provided for young people in England and Wales.

The NHS advisory body said that all under 19s receiving cancer care should be moved out of adult and paediatric wards which can hinder recovery, and treated in wards specially designed to meet their needs.

The health service currently has eight dedicated cancer units for young people which provide facilities such as computer games and pool tables.

While NICE has not called for more of the units to be built, the organisation said that NHS trusts should do more to tailor services to the needs of adolescents.

Peter Littlejohns, who led the team which called for the reform, said: "The distinct needs of young people with cancer have been increasingly recognised over recent years.

"Many young people do not feel comfortable within the paediatric setting, but they have unique needs that may not be addressed within adult services."

The number of children and young people diagnosed with cancer each year has risen by 50 per cent in the last 30 years, with 2,000 now diagnosed each year.

Simon Davies, chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: "The recognition that teenagers and young adults have a right to specialist facilities finally brings health service in line with other walks of life such as education and social care.

"The fact that NICE has recommended that age-appropriate, safe and effective services are provided with the necessary training for health professionals at every stage at all levels is music to our ears."

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 11:59
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Placebos trigger natural pain killers
Scientists in the US researching the placebo effect have found that when a person takes a medicine that they believe will relieve pain, the brain releases its own natural pain killing chemicals.

Researchers believe the study explains why ‘dummy’ therapies with no active ingredients often have medical benefits.

Many conventional and alternative therapies rely heavily on the placebo effect, with 80 per cent of the benefits of SSRI antidepressants thought to be produced by the mind.

The University of Michigan team studied the brain activity of 14 healthy male volunteers who were given pain-inducing injections in their jaw muscles.

Brain activity was also monitored as the men were given regular doses of what they believed to be a pain-relieving drug. The drug was in fact a placebo.

The volunteers were then asked to describe the level of pain they were feeling at 15-second intervals, with the results revealing that those who received the placebo experienced significantly less pain than those who received the jaw injection alone.

Research leader, Jon-Kar Zubieta, said: “This study deals another blow to the idea that the placebo effect is a purely psychological phenomenon.”

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 11:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Professor blasts Prince’s alternative medicine study
A leading expert has dismissed the findings of a report commissioned by the Prince of Wales to examine the health benefits and financial savings associated with alternative medicines as “outrageous and deeply flawed”.

The Prince, an enthusiastic backer of complimentary medicines, hoped to persuade the Government offer more of them on the NHS by claiming they could save the heath service billions of pounds.

The initial findings of the report, authored by Christopher Smallwood, former chief economics advisor to Barclays Bank, suggest that the NHS could save between £500 million and £3.5 billion by offering spinal manipulation therapies as a standard NHS treatment.

Furthermore, the report claims that £480 million would be saved if one in 10 GPs offered homeopathic treatments as an alternative to standard pharmaceuticals, and that £38 million could be saved by prescribing the herbal remedy St John’s wort to 10 per cent of depression patients.

But Britain’s leading expert in the field, Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Exeter, said that the findings contradicted medical and scientific evidence which suggest that the NHS would incur a cost if it provided alternative medicines.

“These are outrageous estimates without any strong evidence to support them,” Professor Ernst said. “The report glosses over the science and its methodology is deeply flawed.

“It is highly selective in its use of evidence and it looks like the conclusions have been written before everything else. It is based on such poor science it’s just hair-raising. The Prince of Wales also seems to have overstepped his constitutional role.

“They have selected all the positive evidence and left out all the negative studies. They have overinterpreted and misinterpreted the data they do include. They changed the study’s methodology repeatedly as they went along, which is a well-known source of error and bias.”

The Prince’s communications secretary, Paddy Harverson, rejected claims that anyone had tried to influence the conclusions of the report.

“It is entirely inappropriate for anyone to be commenting on the report when it has not even been completed, let alone published,” he said.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 10:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Brits take 78 million sick days
A report by Benenden Healthcare Society has revealed that British workers claimed 78 million sick days in the past year, with 10 per cent of workers taking more than three weeks off sick.

Some 13.9 million people were found to have taken at least one sick day in the past year, with two million admitting to taking three weeks off.

Women were more likely to be off sick, with 54 per cent taking at least one day compared to 46 per cent of men.

Furthermore, 68 per cent of workers in the 16-24 age group were off for at least one day, way above the 50 per cent average for the workforce as a whole.

Geographically, Scottish workers were absent for the shortest periods, while people in the north-west of England took the most sick leave, with 12 per cent having taken more than three weeks off in the past year (compared to just two per cent of Scots).

Jakki Stubbington, of Benenden Healthcare, said: "Most workers will need to take sick leave at some time, and in most cases it will only usually last a few days.

"However, as the research shows, some employees are taking off far more time on an annual basis, which can be costly to the employer. It is concerning that over two million workers have taken more than three weeks off work in just one year. This means almost 6 per cent of the year spent off ill.

"We would recommend that businesses look to deploy some sort of healthcare benefit to try and reduce the levels of absence."

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 10:24
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
TV show linked to middle aged eating disorders
A leading specialist has blamed the hit television series Desperate Housewives for an increase in the number of middle-aged women suffering from potentially life threatening eating disorders.

The broadcasting of the show, which features a host of slim actresses, has coincided with a rise in older women suffering from anorexia and bulimia in the UK. In Scotland, the number of women between the ages of 30 and 50 being treated for anorexia has increased four fold.

Dr Chris Freeman, consultant psychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said in Closer magazine: "Desperate Housewives is a very popular programme showing older women who are attractive and have rampant love lives.

"They're also thin and it puts pressure on women in their thirties, forties and fifties to think that it is possible to have this glamorous lifestyle and a great sex life if you're skinny.

"I believe it's influencing women to have eating disorders. Lots of women diet and lose weight quickly, but they aren't obsessive and perfectionist enough to sustain it.

"They might discover that, if they make themselves sick after eating, they can keep their weight down. That's the start of an eating disorder."

However, Dr Alex Yellowlees, medical director of the Priory Hospital in Glasgow, said it was too simplistic to link eating disorders with television characters.

He said in The Scotsman: "There is a 20 per cent mortality rate among women with eating disorders and there is no evidence to suggest their illness has been driven by vanity.

"These women are not all the same. Some have had the illness all their lives and it only comes to medical attention in their thirties or forties. Others never develop the full-blown illness and others have had it triggered off by something in their lives.

"I don't like the phrase 'Desperate Housewives syndrome' because it does affect all women and it sounds quite cruel. But we need to choose our role models very carefully, because if they are dysfunctional then it could hold serious consequences.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 09:20
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Nosebleeds can be an early warning sign
Health experts have warned that frequent nosebleeds could be a sign of a much more serious medical condition, and are urging people who suffer to see their GP.

More than two nosebleeds a month might be a sign of an underlying problem with blood-clotting, such as von Willebrand's disorder, and would warrant a trip to the GP, they said.

Dr Gerry Dolan, consultant haematologist at Queen's Medical Centre Hospital, Nottingham, said: "Nosebleeds are usually more annoying than serious, but if you are suffering from more than two nosebleeds a month, it is strongly advised that you visit your GP for assessment, particularly if you have a family history of bleeding.

“The most common causes of nosebleeds are injury, the climate, colds and allergies. Nosebleeds are also common in pregnancy and for those people on prescribed blood thinning drugs”.

Roddy Morrison, chairman of the Haemophilia Society, said: "Some 20,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. However, it is estimated that a further 1% of the population remain undiagnosed.

"There are risks associated with undiagnosed bleeding disorders if patients undergo invasive surgery or bleed after childbirth, as well as many other impacts on general quality of life.

"If you suffer from a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand's, your symptoms will differ according to the severity of the condition.

"However, in the more severe cases, your symptoms are likely to include persistent nosebleeds, bruising, prolonged bleeding after surgery and, for women, heavy periods”.

One in four people suffers regular nosebleeds. Yet 74 per cent are unaware of the potentially serious nature of regular nosebleeds.

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