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Thursday, 20 July 2006 10:22
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Researchers from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), claim that children from wealthy and rural parts of the country are more likely to get leukaemia and other childhood cancers.

COMARE examined more than 32,000 cases of cancers in children under 15. It found clusters varying by more than would be expected through random distribution.

The scientists do not know conclusively why this happens. But they think one explanation might be the "dirty hypothesis" which suggests that children brought up in too clean an environment develops impaired immune systems.

COMARE chairman Professor Alex Elliott said the report raised a "whole host of questions" that required further research.

"It is not clear why childhood cancers tend to cluster like this.

"Much attention has been given to interactions between exposure to infections and immune responses.

"Other possible explanations have also been considered, including exposure to environmental agents”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "This is an important finding and could lead to a better understanding of the causes of such cancers”.

But the Health Protection Agency said there was no current consensus for the clustering.

"It may lend weight to the hypothesis that common infections may have a role in initiating or promoting the growth of cancer cells, assuming cancer is a multi-stage process.

"However, it is also possible that some local environmental factors could be involved”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 10:10
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A study by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH) found that money is being diverted away from mental health trusts to cover NHS deficits in England.

The report, Under Pressure found that almost two thirds (63%) of mental health trusts have been asked to underspend by an average of 3% for the year 2006/07.

Angela Greatley, chief executive of SCMH, said: "Our survey shows that mental health trusts are successfully managing their finances. But many are having to make cuts to staff and services to get by.

"It is very worrying that mental health trusts are being squeezed to pay for the overspends of acute trusts using the new Payment by Results system.

"It is essential to maintain that principle that the needs of mental health service users and their families are not compromised by financial pressures elsewhere in the system”.

Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents over 90% of NHS organisations, said: "It is vitally important that NHS organisations that succeed and achieve financial balance are rewarded for their efforts and don't see money taken away because other parts of the NHS are overspending”.

Sophie Corlett, policy director of mental health charity Mind, said: "This timely report adds to the growing evidence for what we already know -- that when it comes to money, mental health is always last in line.

"These services are an easy target, often not considered as essential as other health provision. But mental health can be a life or death issue”.

But Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "There is no evidence to suggest that mental health services are being disproportionately affected by the current funding situation.

"I know that last year, 11 trusts made small funding cuts to their mental health services, but these came to only 0.3% of last year's total investment in adult mental health.

"I know that many NHS organisations have to make tough financial decisions at the moment, and it is right that they look at how they deliver services to patients in the most efficient way possible. Improving financial management does not mean compromising services for patients”.

Shadow Health Minister Tim Loughton, of the conservative party, said: "The Government continues to be complicit with mental health services being treated as the Cinderella services of the NHS”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 09:57
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
According to research people in lower social classes are biologically older than those in higher classes.

The claim follows the discovery of accelerated ageing among working class volunteers, leaving them biologically older than those higher up the social ladder.

Genetic tests revealed that being working class could add the equivalent of seven years to a person's age, whilst marrying "below" herself added years to a woman's biological age, scientists report in the journal Aging Cell today.

Professor Tim Spector, lead researcher on the study and director of the Twin Research Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, London, said: "Not only does social class effect health and age-related disease, but seems to have an impact on the ageing process itself.

"This obviously begs the question 'Why?'

"The theory we have come up with is that it is related to the stress of being in that social status compared to someone who is not in that social status.

"The strain of being in that job, the effort-reward imbalance, self esteem and just generally the psychological stress of having lots of areas you cannot control in your life are perhaps more important than we have realised”.

He said this may have a biological impact on the body, making cells divide more quickly and reducing the telomere length.

Thomas von Zglinicki, professor of cellular gerontology at the Institute of Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, said: "We did a similar study about two years ago, but we did not find a significant correlation between telomere length and socio-economic status.

"We expected to find it, and we were quite disappointed when we didn't.

He said the correlation between telomere length and social class in this new research was on the verge of being statistically significant.

"I still think this data and ours go reasonably well together. There is probably some effect of social status on telomere length.

"However, it is astonishingly weak, given the fact that socio-economic status is a very important determinant of health and of life-span, so I would have expected a much stronger effect”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 09:18
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Outrage was sparked yesterday as condoms for 13 year-olds could soon be on sale in Britain.

Yesterday the new-style contraceptives went on sale in Germany and the makers Durex want to launch them in the UK next year.

But campaigners were furious last night over the move, claiming it will fuel an under-age sex boom.

The condom is 49mm wide — compared to the 52mm standard version — and is easier to put on.

Durex says it is designed for the younger, less experienced users.

A spokesman said: “It is aimed at youths between 13 and 16, where a not insignificant number engage in unprotected sex”.

The average British teens first have sex at 15. And we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.

Matthew O’Gorman, of Christian charity LIFE, blasted the launch as “sick and irresponsible”.

He added: “We know that teenagers engage in risky behaviour. If it’s messing around on roads or taking drugs, we teach them not to — because it’s bad for them.

“But when it comes to sex, we do the opposite — by throwing condoms at the problem”.

But the Family Planning Association welcomed the move, adding: “All initiatives that promote young people to have safe sex should be encouraged”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 09:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Eleven members of staff who work at a meat processing plant in Bridge of Allan in Stirlingshire, Scotland, have contracted a rare infection known as Q fever.

Q-fever is a rare infection caused by the Coxiella burnetii organism, which lives in farm animals such as sheep, cattle and goats as well as wild animals and ticks.

Humans can catch the infection from contact with animals or from drinking unpasteurised milk.

It can also spread if people inhale dust that contains particles of infected animal tissue.

Within a few weeks of becoming infected a person will experience a high fever, severe cough, headaches and muscle pains. However, many will fight off the infection without needing treatment.

When this is the case the symptoms disappear after one or two weeks. However, some people can develop more severe problems.

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said: "While we would not expect there to be any cases in people who do not work at the plant, there is a small theoretical risk of contracting Q-fever by air-borne spread within a half-mile radius of the plant.

"We will be increasing our surveillance and have contacted GPs in this area to notify NHS Forth Valley if any patient presents with a flu-like illness of this nature”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 08:57
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A £48m digital communications system is to be introduced to Scotland's ambulance sercice.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said yesterday the switch to the new radio service, which promises to bring an end to reception problems, is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

It has decided to drop its current analogue system to invest in the 02 Airwave digital radio network. It guarantees that ambulance staff can stay in instant communication, even in remote areas or within the confined spaces of buildings and tunnels, where radio coverage has often failed in the past.

Adrian Lucas, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "The benefits of the new system will enable us to deliver higher standards of care to patients in every part of Scotland, as well as improved safety for our frontline staff”.

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Thursday, 20 July 2006 08:42
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A report from the Royal College of Physicians and the MS Trust says that the care that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) receive is of "low quality and inadequate quantity'.

The report says that thousands of people with the condition in England were left to face a daily struggle with disability.

It found that most of the seven recommendations made by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) three years ago had not been adopted and that services, in general, were "in a sorry state".

Professor Dame Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the findings suggested MS was a low priority in the NHS.

"This audit is disappointing for patients, who looked for improvements following the issue of NICE guidelines.

"It reminds us that merely setting service standards, without adequate arrangements for quality assurance, falls short of what patients are right to expect”.

Christine Jones, chief executive of the MS Trust said the disease was ignored because it was difficult to treat.

"There are some pockets of excellent practice but services for people with MS are, in the main, in a very sorry state and we can ill-afford to waste two years in putting the situation right”.

Dr Gillian Leng, of NICE, said: "At the time of the guideline's publication in November 2003 it was widely seen as representing a catalyst for change that would inform a more joined-up approach to service delivery in an area of healthcare that had not, until then, benefited from the application of a consistent and coherent national approach.

"But, as this report indicates, the NHS can do more to implement the guideline's key recommendations in order to ensure that people with MS are receiving the best possible levels of care”.

A Department of Health spokesman said it expected the NHS to take "full account" of the NICE guidelines.

"They are now included in the national standards used to measure local NHS performance and are taken in to consideration by the Healthcare Commission when they produce their annual reports on NHS bodies”.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2006 10:27
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Leading pharmacologists said yesterday that patients are being put at risk from adverse reactions to drugs because doctors are not properly trained in prescribing drugs.

Top doctors said the problem was being caused because the General Medical Council (GMC) was placing less emphasis on pharmacology in UK medical schools.

They also said the risk was being compounded by the use of more complex medicines in the health service.

Recent research suggests that about one in 16 hospital admissions is caused by adverse reactions to drugs, most of which are avoid-able. One recent study put the cost of the problem to the National Health Service at £466 million.

Prof Sir Michael Rawlins, the chairman of the Government's medicines watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) blamed the GMC, which is responsible for undergraduate medical education, for falling levels of knowledge.

Prof Rawlins, who is a professor of clinical pharmacology at Newcastle University, said: "There has been a decline in the teaching of pharmacology and that has an effect on basic drug safety. The competence of young doctors in prescribing is a very serious problem. Frankly, the GMC have not made sure that young doctors are taught to prescribe safely”.

Prof David Webb, the chairman of the Scottish Medicines Consortium and a professor of therapeutics and clinical pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, said medical students were privately expressing concerns at their own lack of prescribing knowledge.

He said: "Patients are becoming ill and some are dying as a result of poor prescribing. There is no doubt about that. A substantial proportion of that is undoubtedly avoidable. Our medical schools could be training much better and safer doctors.

"The increasing focus on performance targets within the health service has marginalised specialities such as CPT where performance is difficult to measure. Distinct courses and assessments in CPT, formerly a staple in the curriculum, are disappearing”.

A study published two years ago found that at two hospitals on Merseyside, 1,225 patients aged 17 or over out of 18,820 were admitted as a result of adverse drug reactions. Other research has suggested that between five and 10 per cent of all hospital inpatients experience an adverse drug reaction during their stay.

A spokesman for the GMC said: "We refute the suggestion that medical undergraduates are failing to learn to prescribe properly. It is clearly stated in our guidance that medical students must be taught to prescribe safely and effectively”.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2006 09:46
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New research suggests that breakfast cereals can contain the same amount of sugar as a chocolate bar and almost as much fat as sausages.

A study by the consumer group Which? found that more than three-quarters of cereals it tested had high sugar levels, a fifth had high levels of salt, while seven per cent were high in saturated fat.

Sue Davies, the magazine's chief policy adviser, said: "While manufacturers have made some efforts to reduce salt levels in breakfast cereals, we still found lots of products with high levels of salt as well as high levels of sugar.

"Despite their healthy image, some cereals also have high levels of fat and saturates. With so much public concern about obesity and diet-related disease, we're particularly concerned that most cereals marketed to children are still high in sugar, and many are high in salt, too”.

Mrs Davies added: "We want manufacturers to make further cuts to salt levels, reduce fat - including saturates - and sugar and remove all unnecessary trans-fats, as well as marketing their products more responsibly.

"They can also help consumers make easier, healthier choices by applying the Food Standard Agency's traffic light labelling system to their products. That way people can identify cereals high in fat, salt and sugar at a glance."

The Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers said breakfast cereals contributed a "nutritionally insignificant" amount of fat to the average diet, while salt levels had fallen in cereals by a third between 1998 and 2005.

"On average, cereals also contribute less than six per cent of the average daily sugar intake in children," a spokesman said.

"There is no evidence to show that breakfast cereals make a significant contribution to energy, fat or sugar in the diet of the UK population.

"Furthermore there is no evidence to show that reducing energy density or the sugar content of breakfast cereals would make a change to the population's body weight”.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2006 09:36
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that drink-related deaths have more than doubled in Britain in just over a decade.

The numbers shot up from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,380 in 2004, the figures also indicated alcohol-related death rates are much higher for men than women, with the gap widening in recent years.

In 2004 the male death rate, at 17.7 per 100,000, was twice that for women (8.5), with men accounting for more than two-thirds of the total number of deaths. In 1991, the levels were 9.1 per 100,000 for men, and 5.0 for women.

The figures show, middle-aged men in 2004 had a death rate over three times that for men aged 15-34, almost twice the rate for men aged 55-74, and two and a half times the rate for men aged over 75.

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "Women in higher earning professional groups are drinking more".

"Heavy sessional drinking is concentrated among younger girls but something like liver cirrhosis is a disease of chronic drinking which takes time to take effect”.

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