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News Archives, August 2005
Wednesday, 31 August 2005 13:00
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Campaign group warns of smoking risk to limbs
The campaign group Smoking and Health (Ash) has warned that smoking can increase the risk of peripheral arterial disease – which affects circulation and can lead to gangrene and limb amputations – by 16 times.

The report by Ash said that people generally know very little about the condition, which occurs because narrowing of the arteries makes it difficult for blood to reach some parts of the body.

Ash found that 2.7 million Britons over 55-years-of-age have some degree of PAD. One third of PAD patients die within five years and half within 10 years of diagnosis.

The condition presents no significant symptoms and is usually first detected when the patient suffers a heart attack or stroke.

Deborah Arnott, director of Ash, said: "Quite literally, smoking can cost an arm and a leg if people with arterial disease don't stop smoking.

"Doctors and health professionals should warn patients who smoke of the risk of arterial disease and offer them advice on ways to quit."

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 12:38
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New drug to treat malaria
The World Health Organisation is to recommend the drug artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria after trials showed it is more effective than current therapy.

The Lancet study found that the drug, derived from traditional Chinese medicine, cut deaths from the illness by more than a third.

The trial, funded by the Welcome Trust, compared artesunate with quinine – the drug currently used to fight malaria. Only 15 per cent of adults who received the new treatment died, compared to 22 per cent who were given quinine.

Prof Nick White, who led the research, said: "The difference in mortality is huge. For between every 11 and 20 patients who come into hospital you save one life.

"Until this, there has never been any trial in severe malaria which showed a clear difference in mortality between the two treatments."

Dr Peter Olumese from WHO and Roll Back Malaria said on the BBC News website: "For the first time they have shown a mortality advantage of artesunate over quinine.

"Now we can make recommendations that in areas of low disease transmission, artesunate would be a preferred option over quinine for adults with severe malaria."

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 12:07
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NHS spending must be curtailed, report says
The professional services firm PwC has warned that UK public expenditure will continue to rise as a share of national income unless the government reduces the scope of the NHS in the future.

Spending is expected to increase as a percentage of gross domestic product from 43 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050 as an aging population pushes up healthcare spending.

This rise will be partly offset if the government succeeds with its “very challenging” target of increasing employment levels from 75 per cent to 80 per cent.

However, the PwC report found that future governments will have to adopt a much tougher stance on public spending in areas such as health care and child poverty.

Macroeconomics expert John Hawksworth, said the government had failed to predict the rising demands on the NHS.

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 11:56
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Debt hit trust cancels operations
An NHS trust is cancelling all non-urgent surgery at a hospital and closing the waiting list at another as it bids to reduce its predicted deficit of £68m, The Daily Telegraph has reported.

Cutbacks by the Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust will see 92 operating sessions cut to 50 and overall hospital treatment cut by 25 per cent, with the measures expected to be in place for the next seven months.

Thousands of patients will have to travel to neighbouring towns for medical treatment.

The trust has also frozen recruitment, with senior nurses expected to return to “front line” duties to pick up the slack. Around 55,000 follow-up appointments have been transferred to GP surgeries.

The trust, which was “zero rated” in this year’s hospital league tables, expects to save around £17m.

Tony Gordon-Wright, medical director of the trust, said: “Our first commitment continues to be to those patients who are seriously ill who need emergency treatment promptly.

“This would include patients with cancer, a life- or limb-threatening condition or one which might leave them seriously disabled.

“However, we are facing a serious financial situation which needs to be addressed.”

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 11:25
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Mobile phones safe over ten-year period
A wide-ranging study by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London has found that regular mobile phone use for up to 10 years does not cause brain tumours.

Researchers said there was no link between acoustic neuroma and the number of years a patient had used a mobile phone. They added that the total number of hours that phones were used for was not a factor.

Acoustic neuromas are benign tumours that grow in the area where people usually hold their handsets, leading to speculation about a link to mobile phone use.

An international team of scientists from Britain, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden studied 678 people with acoustic neuroma, comparing their mobile phone use over 10 years with that of 3,553 people who had not developed the tumour.

A spokesman for the Institute of Cancer Research said: "The study suggests there is no substantial risk of this tumour in the first 10 years after starting mobile phone use. However, an increased risk after longer term use could not be ruled out."

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, senior investigator at the Institute, warned that longer-term impacts may yet come to light.

"There has been public concern about whether there is a link between brain cancer risk and use of mobile phones," Professor Swerdlow said.

"The results of our study suggest that there is no substantial risk in the first decade after starting use. Whether there are longer-term risks remains unknown reflecting the fact that this is a relatively recent technology."

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 11:01
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Hunger quelling plant may provide diet boost
A Scottish company that specialises in natural ingredients has commissioned a study of a plant used by 12th century monks to suppress appetite in the hope that it could be used to provide a new diet pill.

Archaeologists found ancient texts describing how Augustinian monks of South Aisle, outside Edinburgh, chewed the plant to quash their appetite “for many weeks”.

Dr Brian Moffat, who is directing the dig at South Aisle, said: "We're looking at a plant that has been forgotten, although evidence shows it has been in use for at least seven or eight centuries all over Europe.

"The bitter vetch plant, Lathyrus linifolius, features in any plant book. It is even more remarkable that no-one has heard of its older uses.

"We believe it was traditionally used by peasant farmers who harvested it in case their crops failed. They would eat two or three of the tubers, which are the size of a pea, and they didn't feel hungry. They feel no need to eat and drink and this lasts for weeks, sometimes into months.

"The plant was also handed round in the court of Charles II in 1685, helping people who were living well to diet."

A spokesman for the company Highland Natural Products yesterday refused to discuss plans for using the plant as a diet pill ingredient because the information was “commercially sensitive”.

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005 10:47
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Bowel cancer screening programme announced
The Scottish Executive is to provide bowel cancer screening for everyone in Scotland between the ages of 50 and 74 in a move that could save 150 lives every year.

The programme, which has already been piloted in Tayside, Grampian and Fife, will be rolled out from March 2007 and will be available nationwide from 2009.

Scotland has one of Europe’s highest death rates from bowel cancer, with 1,550 people killed by the disease last year.

Faecal occult blood testing kits will be sent to 650,000 50 to 74-year-olds so they can provide stool samples at home to return for testing.

Andy Kerr, the health minister, said: "If a cancer is identified early, treatment can be delivered quickly and survival rates improve."

The scheme, which will cost £19.5m, is more comprehensive than the equivalent programme in England, which will cover people aged 60 to 69 when it is launched in 2006.

However, campaigners are concerned that the “embarrassment factor” in sending in stool samples will dissuade people from using the service. In the pilot regions, only 60 per cent of people agreed to be screened.

Derek Napier, the chief executive of the Scottish-based Association for International Cancer Research, said: "People in Scotland, as in other parts of the UK, are quite literally dying of embarrassment from a disease which is one of the most treatable, if detected early enough."

But Neil Brookes, the chief executive of Colon Cancer Concern, said that he expected the profile of the campaign to increase awareness of the seriousness of bowel cancer.

"Screening will, at a stroke, help to raise the profile of the disease and encourage people to be much more active in seeking to prevent it," he said.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 12:53
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Asthma linked to emotions
A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison say the have found evidence that certain emotions can lead to brain activity which brings on asthma attacks.

Scientists found a link between that part of the brain that controls information about disease symptoms and the part that processes emotions.

The team, led by Dr Richard Davidson, monitored the brain responses of six volunteers with mild asthma when exposed to three categories of words – asthma-related words, non-asthma-related words and neutral words.

The participants were also exposed to asthma triggers such as ragweed and dust-mites.

The anterior cingulate cortexand the insula brain regions responded to the asthma-related words, while brain activity was also linked to physical reactions from the inhaled allergens.

The researchers said: "These brain areas may be hyperresponsive to disease-specific emotions."

They added that this, in turn, might contribute to a worsening of symptoms.

Chairman of the British Lung Foundation Dr Mark Britton said on the BBC news website: "These are interesting findings.

"We have always known that asthma and a patient's personality and emotions are very intrinsically bound up with each other.

"We do need further research into this."

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 12:21
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Cancer spending hits record high
A government enquiry has revealed that spending on cancer services has reached a record level.

Professor Mike Richards, the National Director for Cancer, undertook the study following concerns that cancer money was being diverted elsewhere in the NHS.

He found that since 2000/01, an additional £639m has been spent on cancer care - £69m more than pledged in the 2000 Cancer Plan.

Professor Richards found that cancer spending had included £192m on drugs and £230m on specialist services, £113m on new equipment and £103m on training and palliative care.

He said: "These figures show that the money being allocated to cancer services is making a real difference, with more drugs, staff and equipment being provided.

"More money than ever before is now going into tackling the disease and thousands of lives are being saved."

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "We have some of the fastest falling death rates from cancer in Europe.

"The latest figures show that cancer mortality has fallen by over 12% in the last six years.

"This equates to around 33,000 lives saved over this period.

"There's still more to do, but we are delivering better treatment, more quickly, to more people than ever before and there are thousands of people alive and well who would not be without these improvements."

Cancer charity Macmillan Cancer relief raised concerns over the use of funds in 2003, complaining of a lack of transparency and widespread inconsistencies in the allocation and tracking of money.

Peter Cardy, chief executive, said: "Macmillan will keep up the pressure on the Department of Health because this tracking exercise happened for one reason - charities and MPs asked why cancer money wasn't getting spent where it's meant.

"Much more still needs to be done to meet the NHS cancer targets and modernise cancer services to improve the quality of the entire patient journey.

"Cancer is a unique condition which requires special attention and continued investment.

"Cancer must remain a local and national disease priority throughout the UK."

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Tuesday, 30 August 2005 12:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Artificial wombs within 20 years
Scientists have predicted that artificial wombs will be used to bring human foetuses to full term out with a woman’s body within 20 years.

The technology will be used to nurture very premature babies and reduce the risk of associated health problems. It might also be used instead of surrogate mothers by those who cannot have children naturally.

However, Richard Ashcroft, of Imperial College London, warned that that the technology could lead to a “foetal rescue act”, whereby pregnant women with drug or alcohol problems would have their foetuses forcibly removed.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse,” he said.

He also expressed concern that women would use the procedure out of convenience rather than necessity, as has become the case with caesarean sections.

But Frida Simonstein, of Ben Gurion University in Israel, said that the ethical challenges presented by the development would be fully debated before it is put into use.

“Society now expects better outcomes for premature babies. Society also demands improvement in IVF effectiveness. Yet society should be equally aware that these demands require research that leads to the development of an artificial womb,“ she said.

“We must start discussing this topic now while we have still enough time to decide what we may want, and why.”

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