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News In Brief 24 March 2009
Investigation Reveals Appalling Neglect By NHS Of People With Learning Disabilities
NHS and social care staff were responsible for an ‘appalling catalogue’ of neglect of people with learning disabilities, the health and local government ombudsman said today, following an investigation into six distressing deaths.Ann Abraham, the health service ombudsman for England said the recurrence of complaints across different agencies led her office to believe that that the quality of care in the NHS and social services for people with learning disabilities was at best patchy and at worst an indictment of society.
Jerry Whit, the local government ombudsman, said that basic policy and guidance were not observed, the needs of people with learning disabilities were not accommodated and services were uncoordinated.
Big Freeze Starts To Hit Public Sector Pay
More than one million nurses, midwives and other NHS staff face losing a promised pay rise in the first sign of a salary squeeze for public sector workers.
Pay freezes, or at best minimal rises, are also expected for thousands of senior civil servants and government ministers, as Britain prepares for its first period of deflation for 50 years.
Unions have previously tried to revise pay deals upwards but, with deflation looming, this is the first time employers have used the same rules to squeeze pay.
NHS sources said that pay for doctors, who have enjoyed relatively high rises in recent years, would be squeezed and suggested that employers were ready to renege on the third year pay deal for nurses and midwives worth 2.2 per cent as hospitals struggled to pay bills.
Ambulance Service’s Computers Crash On Busy Saturday Night
London ambulance’s computer system, which controls all medical 999 calls, crashed during one of its busiest nights of the year so far.
The breakdown for almost two hours on Saturday night threw London Ambulance Service’s emergency response into chaos, forcing patients to wait more than an hour for medical help.
Politicians have called for an urgent investigation.
Drug Link-Up Offers Hope
Sufferers from amyloidosis, which causes organ failure in hundreds of people a year in Britain, can look forward to the first effective treatment for their disease, following a deal announced today between University College London (UCL) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
GSK will collaborate with a UCL team led by Mark Pepys, professor of medicine, to produce an antibody-based drug. Professor Pepys has focused his research efforts on the disease for more than 30 years.
Mike Owen, GSK’s head of biopharmaceutical research, said it was realistic to aim for clinical trials within two years.
UK Trails In European Cancer Cure Survey
The number of patients being cured of cancer is steadily climbing across Europe, according to a paper in the European Journal of Cancer. However, cure rates in England and Scotland trail those in many other countries.
For all cancers combined, Iceland had the highest cure rate among men, with at least 47%, and France and Finland among women (59%).
The country were patients were least likely to be cured of their cancer was Poland (21% of men and 38% of women). In Finland, France, Spain and Sweden about 73% of breast cancer patients were cured, while less than 60% were cured in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia.
Ethical Row Over Blood Made From Foetuses
Scientists are to produce synthetic blood made from discarded IVF embryos and aborted fetuses.
The Health Service and medical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, are funding research that could see synthetic blood transfusions from discarded embryos within three years.
The research could save thousands of lives by revolutionizing blood transplant services in the UK – and reduce the dependence on donors. However, critics say it is unethical to use embryos and fetuses in this way, no matter how many lives they could save.
Soap Link To Eczema Rise
Researchers say cases of eczema have risen by more than 40 per cent in four years, partly because of the modern obsession with cleanliness.
An estimated 5.8 million people in England – nearly one in nine of the population – suffered from the painful skin conditions in 2005, a 42 per cent increase on 2001, the study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found.
Researchers said that the frequency of bathing and use of soaps and detergents may have contributed to the prevalence of the condition, which is most likely to affect children aged between five and nine.
The scientists, led by Professor Aziz Sheikh from the University of Edinburgh, highlighted growing evidence suggesting that eczema acted as a similar trigger for other chronic allergic conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis, which has similar symptoms to hay fever.
Chicken Cuts Cancer Risk
Chicken may be a recipe for longer life, experts have said.
US scientists found eating white meat slightly reduced the risk of dying from cancer. In contrast, consuming too much red or processed meat produced a ‘modest’ increase in death risk from all causes.
More than 500,000 people’s eating habits were studied over ten years, during which 47,976 men and 23, 276 women died.
Music May Help Restore Sight To Stroke Victims
Listening to enjoyable music may help to restore sight to stroke patients with impaired vision.
Up to 60 per cent of stroke patients suffer a loss of ‘visual awareness’ caused by brain damage. Scientists at Imperial College London looked at three stroke patients who had lost awareness in half their field of vision. All three identified coloured shapes in their impaired visual field much more accurately when their favourite music was played.
Child Database Halted As Safeguards Fail
Security flaws have halted work on the internet database designed to hold the details of 11 million children and teenagers.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) admitted last night that it had uncovered problems with ContactPoint, a £224 million online database that contains the names, addresses, dates of birth and details of schools, GPs, social workers and support services of all 11 million people aged under 18 in England.
Disabled Have No Right To Choose Carers
Disabled people have no right to choose their NHS-funded carers despite complaints that current rules are robbing thousands of claimants of their ‘dignity and autonomy’, the High Court ruled, yesterday.
A case brought by a paralysed former soldier and a woman suffering from a progressive muscular disease who wanted the NHS to provide a direct grant allowing them to live independently by employing their own care staff was dismissed after a judge found that legislation prevented any such payments.
Nurses have warned that patients’ lives are regularly being put at risk because hospitals are so overstretched.
In a survey of 1,000 A&E nurses and midwives, 57 per cent said that they often saw situation in which lives were put in danger.
The YouGov poll for Channel 4 documentary ‘Confessions of a Nurse’ found that one-third said they would quit nursing and midwifery if they could find another job.
Dr Peter Carte of the Royal College of Nursing said that high quality care required enough nurses to deliver it.
Stroke victims are still being led down by the NHS, despite improvements in the service and a £12 million TV campaign, according to the press.
The government’s ‘stroke awareness’ advertisements encourage people to act quickly when recognising the symptoms, but the quality of treatment often depends on where in the UK and at what time people are admitted to hospital.
A British Disease
The number of people harming themselves deliberately has increased by a third in the past five years, according to new figures reported by the press.The biggest rise in self-harm and attempted suicide has been among young women between the ages of 16 and 24, as they struggle to cope with the pressures of modern living in Britain, say newspaper reports.
Couples will be encouraged to use in vitro fertilization treatment sparingly after a new study revealed that it could leave babies with a greater risk of developing genetic health problems.
Fertility experts said that the findings from scientists in the United States were ‘interesting’ and could change the way doctors give advice to prospective parents.