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218 records found from year 2006
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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 09:55
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The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has told three appeal judges that it is not up to a court to decide if expert witnesses should be immune from disciplinary action.

"Dangerous expert witnesses and practitioners ... should be prevented from continuing to endanger the court process," Roger Henderson QC, for the General Medical Council (GMC), told the hearing at the appeal court in London.

The GMC is appealing against a high court ruling last February clearing a retired paediatrician, Professor Sir Roy Meadow, of serious professional misconduct. Sir Roy gave misleading statistical evidence at the trial of Sally Clark, who served nearly four years in prison before her convictions for murdering her two young sons were quashed in 2003 on a second appeal.

Lord Goldsmith told a panel of three judges sitting in London he was not seeking to raise any issues about Sir Roy's conduct, or the GMC's decision to strike him off.

However, he said immunity for expert witnesses should not be an issue for the court to have to decide.

He said: "It is crucially important that expert witnesses should assist the court conscientiously and objectively, rather than being tempted to give any evidence that suits their client's case.

"To that end, the threat of fitness to practice proceedings against them provides an important check which is calculated to assist significantly in the administration of justice and also to promote public confidence in the judicial process”.

John Batt, a lawyer who advised Mrs Clark's legal team, said he was also concerned about the ruling.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The effect of this new law by Mr Justice Collins is it, in effect, neuters any professional bodies... that have experts who give evidence in court.

"It means they can't take any action against them no matter how badly they behave”.

But Tom Magner, from the Society of Expert Witnesses, said it was "essential" for experts to be protected by the courts from disciplinary action by professional bodies.

He said: "If expert witnesses are deterred... it restricts the pool of expertise that's available to the courts and must therefore effect the ability of the court to make fair decisions”.

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Saturday, 08 July 2006 08:03
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A study measuring the link between health and wealth on people from poorer backgrounds found that they are unhealthier and die earlier than the rich.

Poorer people in their fifties were 10 times more likely to die earlier than those who are richer, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) said.

For two years, researchers at the IFS and the University of London followed the lives of nearly 9,000 people in England born before 1952.

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) focused on areas including health, work, spending, receipt of healthcare, social participation and cognitive ability.

The study examined how each of these areas varies according to an individual's level of wealth.

Key findings of the study included:
• Those with middle incomes and wealth were most likely to stay in work as they approach State Pension Age.
• The rich typically took early retirement, often drawing a final salary pension. The poor often stopped work because of ill-health or disability.
• Eight times as many people from the lowest income groups had trouble with literacy and numeracy than the wealthiest grouping.
• Nearly a third of people aged over 75 in the lowest income groups could not afford to spend money on basic necessities.
• Under the age of 75, the relatively rich reported better health and were less likely to suffer disease or severe pain.
• Poorer people were more likely to be obese than those on high incomes.

As for provision of healthcare, the study found little difference in the treatment given to rich or poor.

"Few differences in the quality of healthcare were reported by wealthier respondents compared with poorer respondents," said Dr Nick Steel, of the University of East Anglia and one of the report's authors.

"This suggests that healthcare for the intervention studied is provided equitably to those in need, regardless of socio-economic status, for those who have seen a doctor or nurse”.

The study's authors noted that "less glamorous" conditions, including urinary incontinence, recurrent falls and poor balance, seemed to be less well treated than conditions that were of "greater public health importance", such as hypertension.

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Friday, 07 July 2006 08:31
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) a health watchdog claim that child vaccination rates may be falling to risky levels after a new IT system was installed.

Ten out of London's 31 Primary Care Trusts have installed new software to manage the vaccine programme as part of a £6.8bn overhaul of NHS computers.

But only two PCTs - Barking and Dagenham, and Havering - have been able to supply data for the past year.

The information shows a fall in MMR vaccine rates by up to 10% and the five-in-one jab, which protects from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib disease, by up to 19% in the past year.

The HPA warned falls of this magnitude "not only indicate individual children may be at risk, but also represent a major public health threat".

HPA immunisation expert Natasha Crowcroft said it was being investigated.

"It is by no means certain whether they are true falls in coverage over the last year or if indeed, they just reflect data quality problems relating to the implementation of the new child health systems”.

Richard Bacon, a Tory MP and member of the Commons' Public Accounts Committee, said: "The national vaccination programme has been one of the NHS's greatest successes”.

But he added the IT upgrade appeared to be "destroying it at a touch of a button".

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb described it as "shambolic".

"We are not talking about the latest software for SimCity - real lives are at risk if we get this wrong”.

A spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health said the new system was implemented at short notice because the previous supplier "withdrew support for its ageing system from the market".

"We acknowledge there have been issues with the new computer system which we regret. The alternative of no computer system would have been far worse”.

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Wednesday, 05 July 2006 11:08
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A damning report has raised serious concerns about the treatment and care of people with learning disabilities.

The Healthcare Commission, the health service regulator, has ordered a national review of all NHS and private residential and day units that care for thousands of people with learning disabilities. Inspectors found evidence of a "systematic'' and a "malicious'' campaign of institutionalised abuse over several years in Cornwall.

It included "kicking, shoving and dragging, belittling, goading and mocking … withholding food, giving cold showers, overzealous or premature use of restraint, poor attitude towards people who used services, poor atmosphere, roughness, care not provided, lack of dignity and respect and no privacy".

There were allegations of sexual abuse by fellow residents and one man had his skull fractured in an attack by another with learning disabilities.

People's money has also been misused and the Commission for Social Care Inspection and Health Commission have referred these cases to the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service.

The inquiry by the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection was into care provided by the Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, following complaints raised by the East Cornwall Mencap Society.

One investigator, Christine Braithwaite, said at a briefing in Falmouth: "Senior staff commented that it was the worst case of widespread abuse of patients with learning difficulties they had ever seen”.

David Congdon, of Mencap, said: "The extent of abuse in Cornwall has been truly appalling. It is quite horrific that this has been allowed to continue for as long as it has”.

Lezlie Boswell, the new chief executive of the trust, said yesterday: "The failings which have been brought to light are shocking and shameful. There are no excuses.

"My job now is to turn the services around. I will not accept bad practice. What is vital from now on is that staff and carers are supported to report mistakes and concerns”.

In a joint statement Anna Walker, the chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, and David Behan, the chief inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, said that in the light of events in Cornwall it was "right to ask about the state of these services around the country".
The Healthcare Commission has already intervened at a private unit for adolescents in Norfolk which closed and has been asked by Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust, south London, to investigate allegations of sexual and physical abuse. "We are not saying that the abusive behaviour we found in Cornwall is happening everywhere," a spokesman said. "But sadly Cornwall is not the only service where serious allegations have been made in recent months”.

An investigation by Devon and Cornwall police using powers under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults Act has begun into allegations made by or on behalf of 40 patients.

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Wednesday, 05 July 2006 10:19
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
The German company, TeGenero, which made the drug that left six people seriously ill during a clinical trial, has filed for insolvency.

The six men suffered organ failure after taking part in the drug trial at Northwick Park Hospital, north-west London, in March. Two others taking placebos were unharmed.

The company said their "unforeseeable adverse reactions" in trials of the drug TGN1412, manufactured as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis, "have made it impossible to attract the investment necessary for the company to continue operations".

Ann Alexander of law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents two of the men, said: "I am not surprised that this company has filed for insolvency. However, I am surprised they have chosen to do so before the compensation claims were even considered, thereby causing further alarm and psychological distress for our clients”.

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Wednesday, 05 July 2006 09:53
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Scientists, from the University College London, have proved that a hot water bottle on the tummy can ease period pain.

The research, led by Dr Brian King, found that heat provided relief from internal pains, such as cystitis and period cramps, for up to an hour.

"The pain of colic, cystitis and period pain is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to, or over-distension of hollow organs such as the bowel or uterus, causing local tissue damage and activating pain receptors," Dr King said.

"The heat doesn't just provide comfort and have a placebo effect; it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work”.

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Tuesday, 04 July 2006 09:32
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Terry Wallis, 42, from Arkansas, America, a car crash victim who awoke after 19 years in a "minimally conscious state" has helped neuroscientists discover that the brain retains some ability to repair itself.

Scientists believe that nerve cells in the relatively undamaged areas of Terry Wallis's brain grew new connections during the years after his crash in 1984. Three years ago, the 42-year-old recovered some ability to talk and was able to move his left side. However, he still believed it was 1984 - the year his daughter, Amber, was born and the year of his accident.

Using new techniques to study the structure and the workings of his brain, Dr Henning Voss, of Weill Cornell Medical College's Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Centre in New York, and three other institutions, observed distinctive features that were interpreted as the regrowth of axons - the long filaments that extend from nerve cells that make up the white matter of the brain.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, said Mr Wallis's brain may have been trying to re-establish connections that would allow functions such as motor control and speech to resume. They compared his post-recovery brain structure and function over 18 months - during which time his legs showed some signs of recovery - with 20 healthy individuals and a coma patient in a more severe state who had not shown any improvement.

Dr Adrian Pini, a neuroscientist from King's College London, said: "They definitely have evidence of re-myelination, which would improve the speed of conduction and connectivity of different cells, improving function.

"But the distinction is whether or not the axons were already there, and whether they had been lying about but without any myelin, or whether axon re-growth has occurred and appropriate connections have started to sprout across the brain.

"It is difficult to be sure using this technique”.

In an accompanying article, Steven Laureys, of the University of Liege, Belgium, said: "The findings of Voss and his co-workers will increase our understanding of severely brain-damaged patients and their 'miracle' recovery of consciousness”.

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Tuesday, 04 July 2006 08:59
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Researchers at University College London have developed technology that enables artificial limbs to be directly attached to a human skeleton.

The technique, called Intraosseous Transcutaneous Amputation Prosthesis (ITAP), involves securing a titanium rod directly into the bone.

The metal implant passes through the skin and the artificial limb can be directly attached to it.

Risk of infection, which could be caused by bacteria passing from the external limb through the rod to the bone, is avoided because the skin tissue meshes around the rod to form a seal.

Dr Paul Unwin, managing director of Stanmore Implants Worldwide, a medical devices company that worked in collaborated with the scientists, said: "The mobility of tissue is a big factor; you don't want the tissue to rip away from the piece of metal, so you need a structure under the skin that will allow the dermal tissues to attach into the metal.

"What we had seen in the deer antlers was that it is very much to do with the structure and shape of the bone, and the porosity of the bone.

"The tissue attaches in with long fibres, and it is like anchors attaching directly into it”.

He said that early clinical trials, which had taken places at Mount Vernon Hospital, Middlesex, on a small group of patients who had lost fingers or thumbs had been very encouraging.

The next stage, he added, would be to carry out trials on upper and lower limb replacements.

Zafar Khan, chairman of the Limbless Association, said: "As an amputee, residual limbs are currently inserted into a socket, to which a prosthetic limb is attached.

"And when you walk or use the limb there is a movement and that causes rubbing and pressure sores. The real benefit is that would not happen with this new technique.

"But on the downside, I would still be worried about infection”.

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Monday, 03 July 2006 10:47
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Researchers, from Kings College London and University College London, claim that Scottish babies are "programmed" to become fat while still in the womb due to women's poor diets.

The researchers found that at birth Scots babies weighed an average of 7.7lb. This compared to 7.6lb in Northern Ireland and England and 7.5lb in Wales.

By the age of nine months, Scottish infants still weighed more - 20lb compared to 19.8lb in Wales, 19.7lb in England and 19.6lb in Northern Ireland.

Professor Steve Bloom, an obesity expert at Imperial College London, said it was likely genes play some part in obesity but it was not the only factor.

He said: "The other factors that play an increasingly important role are simply lack of exercise and eating too much.

"Genes only play a small part. Tackling weight problems is still in your own hands."

Dr David Haslam, the clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, agreed that other factors also had responsibility for the current obesity epidemic.

"There is now research to suggest that at every stage in life there are factors which influence obesity," he said.

"At the moment every stage of the cycle is wrong and needs looking at. Until that happens it is like a vicious circle where a mother is imprinting her baby with a faulty metabolism which is passed on in the genes and just keeps on being passed on”.

Dr Haslam said it was "crucial" that women were educated about the effects their diet could have on their unborn child.

He said governments also had a role to play in improving opportunities to take exercise, such as creating more cycle lanes, and improving nutrition in schools.

An Executive spokeswoman said: "Across the board we are committed to Scotland shaking off its sick man of Europe tag. To do that we have to make sure youngsters across Scotland are adopting healthy habits and lifestyles from a young age”.

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Monday, 03 July 2006 10:23
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Clinical psychologists from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London have found that one in three people in the UK regularly suffer paranoid or suspicious fears.

The team interviewed 1,200 people about whether they had thoughts about others doing them harm.

They found levels of paranoia were much higher than previously suspected - and almost as high as those for depression and anxiety.

The study found that:
• Over 40% of people regularly worry that negative comments are being made about them
• 27% think that people deliberately try to irritate them
• 20% worry about being observed or followed
• 10% think that someone has it in for them
• 5% worry that there is a conspiracy to harm them.

Researcher Dr Daniel Freeman said: "We were astonished at how common paranoia and suspicion are amongst the population.

"Understandably there are certain instances when it is important to practice caution, such as taking money from a cash machine without alerting too much attention and walking down a poorly-lit street at night.

"Following last year's London bombings, it is natural that underground train travellers are more vigilant than before.

"However, our research demonstrates that there can be a tendency to exaggerate our fears."

"Our study shows just how many of us are worrying - probably unnecessarily - about something that might not happen instead of getting on with the more enjoyable and productive parts of our lives.

"We also found in our study that these suspicious thoughts can cause real distress”.

Dr David Harper, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of East London, agreed that paranoid thoughts were probably more common than people realised.

He said: "People need to realise that these sorts of thoughts are not that rare, and should not be too frightened by them”.

Dr Harper said there was probably something about contemporary Western society which encouraged feelings of paranoia.

"There are surveys to show that people are much less willing to trust others than they once were," he said.

He suggested the media had helped create a climate of suspicion by playing on people's fears.

A new website - - is being launched to provide information on paranoid thoughts, advice on seeking help, and opportunities for people to share their experiences.

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