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News Archives, March 2005
Thursday, 31 March 2005 12:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Spot checks to replace star rating in hospitals
The Healthcare Commission has announced that routine hospital inspections are to be abandoned in favour of spot checks.

The new system aims to reduce regulatory burdens while giving the public a more accurate picture of performance. It will for the first time offer patient and public representatives a formal role in judging the quality of services.

Local authorities and patients groups will also be invited to comment on how the health services are doing, as part of an annual appraisal of all NHS trusts in England.

Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of the Commission, said: "We are taking a radical first step towards modernising the regulation of our health services. We have created a system to identify poor performance without fettering those doing well.

"We are offering the public a richer picture of performance while cutting through the bureaucracy that frustrates people actually delivering services. We must now work with all parties to make sure this programme is delivered”.

Mr James Johnson, Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said:

"In its consultation with the Healthcare Commission, the BMA has sought to ensure that any new healthcare checking system is practical, meaningful for patients, and supports doctors' work in delivering the best possible patient care.

"The Commission's new system - the Annual Health Check - has addressed many of our concerns. Its emphasis on reducing bureaucracy, cutting the costs of inspection substantially, and focussing on healthcare across the NHS and private sectors, are all welcome measures.

"We are also pleased that patients and staff are heavily involved, and that the process itself is open to review. We look forward to examining the new system, and working with the Commission to address any remaining concerns”.

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Thursday, 31 March 2005 11:51
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Winning triggers violence at sports events
A study suggests that football and rugby fans become more violent when their international team is victorious rather than losing.

Figures from A&E units in Cardiff published in the British Medical Journal showed that Welsh fans of football or rugby were at more risk when their national team emerged victorious.

The researchers base their findings on the numbers of people requiring emergency medical treatment for assault at the time of international rugby and football matches in one capital city (Cardiff) in Wales.

With a population of 300,000, Cardiff is the largest city in Wales.
International rugby and football matches are the most popular spectator sport in Wales, and matches often attract in excess of 70,000 fans.

The research team tracked the number of assault cases presenting to the only emergency medicine department in Cardiff between May 1995 and April 2002. The emergency medicine facility is about a mile from the national stadium.

During this time, 106 home and away matches took place: 74 rugby matches and 32 football matches. And almost 27,000 assault cases required emergency treatment.

On average, 30 cases of assault required medical attention on the day of the match and the day after. Attendance peaked just before midnight on the day of the match.

On days when no match had been played, the average number of assault cases fell to 21.

When the researchers took into account whether the match was home or away, and won or lost, they found that the result had a significant impact on the figures.

When Wales won its matches, the average number of assault injuries seen was 33; when Wales lost, the average dropped to 25. At weekends, the number of assault injuries was also around a third higher when matches were played than when there were no matches. Whether the matches were played at home or away had little impact on the rates. It was the score and match attendance that mattered.

"These analyses suggest that assault may not be the result of negative factors associated with a national team losing, but the result of positive event (winning)," say the researchers.

A win may also boost levels of self confidence, assertiveness or patriotism, all of which might lead to violence, they add. Other research shows that domestic violence is more likely when the male assailant's local team wins.

Winning is also likely to be associated with the celebratory downing of alcohol, a factor that is well known to increase the risk of violence, they say.

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Thursday, 31 March 2005 11:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Live 30 extra years on the pill
Professor Speakman, head of zoology at the University of Aberdeen has been awarded £450,000 by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to develop a pill that could add 30 years to the human lifespan. He is to investigate how the body’s metabolism can be altered, extending life.

Extra thyroxine - which is produced naturally in a gland in the throat - seems to lead to fewer free radicals, atoms which damage body tissue, being produced.

Professor Speakman, claims that if the four-year study on mice is successful and an appropriate dosage of thyroxine is found, trials on humans may begin in the next decade.

Professor Speakman said: “This grant will allow us to do experiments to see if we can put up the metabolic rate and get the correct thyroxine to create this. The difference between the age of a short-lived mouse and a long-lived mouse, converted into humans, we are looking at an increase in around 30 years.

“It will be a healthy extension; nobody wants an extra 30 years in a nursing home.

“We are looking at giving people an extra 30 years of productive life”.

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Thursday, 31 March 2005 10:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
First UK cases of rare disease found in gay men
Researchers from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections have reported the first UK cases of a previously rare disease in gay men.

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) had been considered relatively rare until 2003 when around 100 cases were reported in gay men in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with further cases in France, Germany, Belgium and the US, but the researcher say it was likely LGV had been present in the UK for some time, with cases going undiagnosed.

Last year, one of the UK's leading HIV charities, The Terrence Higgins Trust, and the Health Protection Agency, which monitors cases of the disease, took steps to alert clinicians and those most at risk to the spread of the infection.

In January 2005, the first 24 cases were reported in the UK, mostly from sexual health clinics in London. All were in gay men, 17 of whom were HIV positive. Four also had hepatitis C infection.

Five thought they had caught the infection in mainland Europe, while the others said they had become infected in the UK. By mid February, a total of 34 cases had been reported.

The infection usually manifests as an ulcer or papule, and symptoms usually include rectal inflammation (proctitis), rectal pain and bleeding, straining, constipation and abdominal pain. The infection may also be accompanied by fever and malaise.

These can be treated with a three week course of antibiotics.

But sometimes the primary ulcer goes unnoticed, and if left untreated, this can progress to chronic infection with the formation of skin pouches (fistulas), abscesses, and narrowing of the anus as well as problems with the lymphatic system.

In these cases, surgery is often necessary.

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Thursday, 31 March 2005 10:34
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Late developers vulnerable to high risk sexually transmitted diseases
Research by the University of Manchester have published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections that late developers may be more susceptible to high risk sexually transmitted infections than sexually precocious younger teens.

They claim that sexual maturity, rather than age at first sex, seems to be a critical factor.

The researchers studied 127 young women from three sexual health clinics. All of them had started having periods within the preceding five years or were aged 17 years and under.

The young women were screened for genital infections, including chlamydia, wart virus (human papillomavirus or HPV), and bacterial vaginosis.

Almost two thirds of the young women tested positive for HPV, half of which were the high risk types associated with the development of cervical cancer. Over half of those infected with HPV had at least one other infection.

Around one in four tested positive for chlamydia, which is associated with infertility.

Specific behaviour patterns had specific effects on particular infections.

A recent new partner or use of a condom was associated with a lower risk of chlamydial infection, while the use of emergency contraception doubled the risk. Sex during a period also increased the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Smoking conferred protection against HPV.

But sexual maturity had a significant impact on all three infections.

Researcher Dr Loretta Brabin told the BBC News website: "Our findings dispel the myth that vulnerability to sexual infection is all about the age of onset of sexual activity and high risk behaviour”.

But she stressed no young woman should indulge in risky sexual behaviour - particularly as this research suggested they were more likely to contract multiple sexual infections.

Dr Simon Barton, of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection were influenced by a number of factors, including a person's genetic make up and whether they already had other infections.

He added it was "important that young women entering a new relationship do emphasise the use of contraception".

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Thursday, 31 March 2005 09:52
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Prevent IVF errors with barcodes
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are considering whether to introduce barcodes or electronic tags to mark eggs, sperm and embryos to prevent IVF blunders.

Scientists are developing a system that an alarm would sound if the wrong egg and sperm were placed too close to each other.

Safeguards in the IVF process are needed after a mistake at Leeds General Infirmary which led to the birth of mixed-race twins to a white couple in 2002, due to labels on sperm samples being misread.

A HFEA spokesman said the authority was always looking for new ways to ensure safety and consistency in laboratory practice, but added the safety to the embryos in any new technique was "paramount".

We don't expect major changes in the short term as these techniques are still in their infancy," he added.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2005 18:07
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Breakthrough in breast cancer blocking protein
Researchers at Ireland's Royal College of Surgeons have made a major breakthrough in breast cancer research which could potentially increase the lifespan of a sufferer by 30 per cent.

Dr Judith Harmey of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) said that researchers had taken a successful step with the development of novel protein capable of blocking the breast cancer growth factor.

"It has been shown in a pre-clinical model that it can inhibit breast tumour growth, increase survival by 30 per cent and reduce secondary growths in bones," Dr Harmey said.

"The secondary growth in bone is what kills the majority of people”.

Dr Harmey added there was a considerable amount of work to be done and it would be three or four years before the research could potentially be used on people with breast cancer.

"We are absolutely delighted, it has worked better than ever expected," she said. "Possibly in the future (it will be used), it is some way down the line, we have to make it in pharmaceutical form and check for toxicity”.

Ed Yong, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said it was too early to know if the protein's potential would be realised.

"These findings are very preliminary but are certainly promising. More research is needed to determine if this new protein has a future as a cancer treatment.

"And it will eventually have to undergo rigorous clinical trials in humans.

"Cancer Research UK is supporting studies aimed at finding similar agents, which can block the development of a tumour's blood vessels.
"These molecules effectively starve tumours, making them a potentially powerful way of treating cancers”.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2005 17:51
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
MRSA cover-up Mr Blair
Prime Minister Tony Blair was questioned by an audience of patients and medical staff at the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, where he was hit with claims that hospitals are covering up the extent of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus the MRSA superbug - after a mother said she only discovered she had been infected during a Caesarean from her midwife's notes.

Patient Rebecca Russell questioned Mr Blair during a Sky News question and answer session on health.

She explained to Mr Blair that she was infected with MRSA when she went into hospital to have a baby and had to have a Caesarean operation. She did not name the hospital.

She said: "They sent me home, and the only way I found out was from my midwife writing into my post-natal case notes. They never told me. They covered it up. And when we asked them, they still denied it. And now I am here with an open wound which could take up to 12 months to heal".

Mr Blair responded: "I'm very sorry about your individual case and I hope the trust is looking into it.

"It is important, though, that we recognise that it is still very rare that people contract this. What has happened is not that the amount of hospital-acquired infection has risen, but the amount that is resistant to antibiotics has risen."

Ms Russell's mother, Sandra McKellar, told Mr Blair: "It has been covered up ... At the end of the day, it has been covered up. And this is where it has got to stop. You are not getting the right total, how many people have contracted MRSA or how many people have died of MRSA?"
Mr Blair said: "Obviously that is not the practice that should have happened at the hospital”.

He went on: "The important thing is to make sure that we are actually taking the measures inside hospitals that are going to reduce the possibility of getting it ... We have got to knock this out of the system”.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2005 17:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
First National Mental Health and Ethnicity Census
Mental health services across England and Wales will take part in 'Count Me In: the first National Mental Health and Ethnicity Census.

The census will give a snapshot of all inpatients in NHS and independent mental health facilities in England and Wales and will provide a benchmark against which future improvements can be measured. Information on ethnicity, language, religion, any periods of seclusion and recorded injury to patients will all be collected as part of the census.

Professor Kamlesh Patel, Chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission and a commissioner at the Healthcare Commission said: "It is crucial that mental health service providers register their involvement in the census. Ethnic monitoring has been required of NHS providers since 1995 - so it's definitely time for providers to tackle this much neglected area. Mental health service providers need to show how they are catering for the needs of Black and ethnic minority groups. By taking part in the census, service providers will make a positive step towards developing culturally relevant and appropriate services”.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said:
"The Count Me In census will enable mental health services to focus more sensitively on the needs of black and minority ethnic service users. Currently, poor monitoring of ethnicity means that healthcare providers are not always getting it right when it comes to this patient group. I know the mental health service is as keen as the Healthcare Commission is to see improvement in this area".

Chris Heginbotham, chief executive of the Mental Health Act Commission said:

"The Census will provide a benchmark against which to measure improvements in mental health care for Black and minority ethnic service users. All providers must use this opportunity to develop culturally relevant and appropriate services”.

Professor Louis Appleby, National Director for Mental Health said:

"We welcome this as an essential part of our aim to eliminate inequalities in what services provide and in particular in ending the disproportionate use of the MHA in young black patients”.

Marcel Vige, Manager of Diverse Minds at the mental health charity Mind said:

"Mind welcomes this move to address the needs of the black and ethnic minority communities. Our primary concern is how this information will contribute to improving the long-standing problems faced by the sorely neglected black and ethnic minority service users”.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2005 10:38
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Acupuncture can lower high blood pressure
Researchers from the University of California carried out tests on rats and found acupuncture combined with electronic stimulation can lower high blood pressure.

Results of the tests on showed that the treatment lowered raised blood pressure by as much as 50%. The researchers are now testing to see whether the technique will have the same effect in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Dr Longhurst who led the study said: "This suggests that acupuncture can be an excellent complement to other medical treatments, especially for those treating the cardiac system”.

But he added: "This type of electro acupuncture is only effective on elevated blood pressure levels, such as those present in hypertension, and the treatment has no impact on standing blood pressure rates”.

He said that acupuncture triggered the release of chemicals in the brain that in turn dampened the response of the cardiovascular system.

Belinda Linden, of the British Heart Foundation, said the research would need to be supported by controlled clinical trials before being applied as an accepted form of blood pressure control for humans.

"So our message remains the same - high blood pressure is best controlled by keeping your weight down, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, cutting your salt intake, increasing physical activity and if needed, taking appropriate medications."

Dr Mike Cummings, medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society, said the study was interesting, but he would not recommend patients sought acupuncture treatment for high blood pressure "at this stage".

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