Category Archives: Medical News

New blood clot drug recommended to NHS for heart patients treatments

Heart patients could benefit from a new blood thinning drug which could help cut their risk of stroke, guidance recommends.

Government regulator NICE says that patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AF), an irregular and sometimes faster heartbeat, can now use Rivaroxiban in replacement of the existing drug Warfarin. (more…)

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MPs condemn poor value from hi-tech equipment

The report says the NHS in England has hi-tech scanners and radiotherapy equipment worth £1bn. This includes Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography scanners, which are mainly used for diagnosis, and Linear Accelerator machines for cancer treatment. The report warns that a lot of this equipment will need to be replaced and currently purchasing processes are wasteful, failing to take advantage of bulk-buying to get a better deal.

Margaret Hodge MP Chair for Public Accounts Committee stated, “The Department of Health is accountable for securing value for money in health spending but has no way of getting trusts to work together or tell them how to buy their equipment”. The report says that while the Department of Health is held accountable for value for money, responsibility for buying and deploying the equipment lies at local level – an approach it describes as “fragmented and unco-ordinated”.

The report calls for orders for expensive equipment to be “bundled together” across trusts so that they can exploit their joint buying power. The MPs also highlight big variations in how effectively the equipment is used. They say the average number of scans per CT machine varies from about 7,800 to almost 22,000 per year. The chair of the PAC, Margaret Hodge MP, said its members were “shocked” by the unacceptable response times for certain conditions. “A modern NHS should not allow 50% of people who have a stroke to wait more than 24 hours for a scan,” she said.

The chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, called for urgent action from the Department of Health: “It is incredibly alarming that there is such huge variation in the number of scans being performed throughout the country. How is it that we have all this expensive equipment laying idle when at the end of August, some 11,119 people had been waiting more than six weeks for a diagnostic test at an NHS hospital, compared with 5,795 a year ago?”

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‘Alarming’ basic care provided to the elderly in hospital

Common areas of concern included a lack of support for those who needed help eating, poor hygiene and curtains not being closed properly. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he would encourage whistle-blowers to highlight any concerns they had about the standard of hospital care for the elderly. He said: “We expect that staff across the NHS, if they see examples of poor care they blow the whistle on that, which is precisely why we have introduced changes to the staff contract.”

The inspections were ordered by Mr Lansley after several highly critical reports by campaigners, including the Patients Association. The 100 sites inspected – representing more than a third of the total number in England – were chosen through a combination of random selection and because previous research had flagged up concerns about standards.

CQC chair Dame Jo Williams said: “The fact that over half of hospitals were falling short to some degree in the basic care they provided to elderly people is truly alarming and deeply disappointing. This report must result in action.”

Mr Lansley added: “Everyone admitted to hospital deserves to be treated as an individual, with compassion and dignity. We must never lose sight of the fact that the most important people in the NHS are its patients.”

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GPs will face English language test

Mr Lansley told the Conservative Party conference that GPs would be vetted to ensure they had adequate language skills and could communicate properly, a move to evidence “absolute commitment” to guarantee patient safety. Further pledges include a reduction in bureaucracy and spending on management consultants.

The pledge on language skills, which applies to the NHS in England, comes after the case of Daniel Ubani, a German locum doctor who gave 70-year-old David Gray a fatal painkiller overdose on his first and only shift in Britain in February 2008. Investigations found Dr Ubani had been rejected for work in Leeds because of his poor English skills. A UK coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing and accused Dr Ubani of gross negligence.

In his speech, Mr Lansley said proficient language skills were equally as important as proper medical qualifications when it came to doctors being able to practise in England. The rules will be changed to ensure that NHS officials have a duty to check the English language skills of all new foreign doctors before they can be employed, and the General Medical Council will be empowered to take action against doctors when there are concerns about their ability to speak English.

Mr Lansley said, “This is not about discriminating, we have always appreciated how much overseas doctors and nurses give to our NHS. It is simply about our absolute commitment to put patient safety first. We will change the law to ensure that any doctor from overseas who does not have a proper level of English will not be able to treat patients in our NHS.”

Doctors who want to work in the UK have to be registered with the GMC. Currently, only those from outside the European Economic Area are routinely checked for language skills.

Niall Dickenson, GMC Chief Executive, commenting on Mr Lansley’s announcement said it was “good news for patients, until today we had a glaring hole in our regulatory defences. The government has now signalled this will be closed so that doctors coming from the European Union can communicate to the standard required of all other doctors on our register.”

However, Labour Shadow Health Secretary, John Healey, cited an open letter signed by more than 400 doctors and health specialists to the House of Lords urging peers to reject the controversial Health and Social Care Bill in a vote later this month.

John Healey said, “Patients and NHS staff can already see long waits returning and their services being cut back, as £2bn gets blown on an upheaval that no one wants and no one voted for”. Andrew Lansley and David Cameron are both in denial about the scale of opposition to the plans, and together they have failed to show that they are listening to the ever expanding chorus of concern about the Tories’ wasteful reorganisation of the NHS.”

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TB: Plan to tackle rise in drug-resistant cases

The WHO estimates there are 81,000 cases of drug-resistant TB a year in Europe, although many countries are failing to diagnose it. The plan aims to increase diagnosis and access to treatment. Experts believe it has the potential to save several billion pounds and 120,000 lives by 2015. Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the countries with the highest burden of illness.

In 2009, there were 58 cases of drug-resistant TB in the UK. Resistance can arise if patients fail to complete their course of medication. Dr Ibrahim Abubakar Health Protection Agency, said: “We cannot be complacent – the cost of each case can be several hundred thousand pounds. The larger numbers in Eastern Europe represent a failure to take action. TB is an airborne infection which still proves fatal in about 7% of cases. Almost half of patients with the multi-drug resistant form of the disease die.

The WHO has praised the UK\’s \”Find and Treat\” service, which uses a mobile X-ray van to screen homeless people and drug addicts for TB. Dr Ogtay Gozalov, from the WHO\’s Europe office, said: \”It\’s not just the vulnerable populations like migrants and prisoners – all of us could be exposed. If member states don\’t take action now, there could be a dramatic situation in the future.\”

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NHS staff dispute Cameron claim of support for reforms

During Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Milliband stated that in newspaper articles published this week, the British Medical Association, Royal College of GPs and Midwives had still “all rejected your bill”. Nevertheless, Mr Cameron insisted that “now you’ve got the Royal College of GPs, the physicians, the nurses, people working in the health service supporting the changes we’re making”.

The Royal College of Nursing has issued a statement saying it still has “very serious concerns” whilst the Royal College of GPs said it was “extremely worried” about some aspects.  The health bill was cleared at its Common stages with approval by 65 MPs, despite criticism from some Liberal Democrats as well as Labour. The bill will now progress to the House of Lords where opposition is expected.

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Treatment for remote stroke patients facilitated by HD video conferencing

The telemedicine project will allow doctors to assess stroke victims in hospitals remotely, to decide if they need a treatment known as thrombolysis. The project will include the delivery of an IP VPN. It will connect doctors with core infrastructure supporting high definition (HD) video and audio. The VPN will include a hosted VC gatekeeper, directory service, HD multi-conference bridge and recording appliances. A portable video conferencing tool called a telecart will be positioned at the patient\’s bedside in A&E or the stroke unit.

Paul Davis, Consultant Stroke physician at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: \”Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within 4.5 hours of the onset of their stroke so time is core to this treatment and telestroke will help improve the speed of patient diagnosis. We are using technology to take the stroke specialists to the patient, rather than moving the patient long distances, around rural areas, to where the specialists work. In an acute stroke, time is of the essence and the sooner treatment can be provided, the better.\”

Virgin Media Business works with infrastructure and security specialist Imerja to develop the bespoke service. Shuja Punekar, consultant physician of cerebro-vascular medicine, said the video conferencing technology has the potential to save the NHS millions per year in reducing the number of stroke victims requiring specialist care. The average saving per patient who undergo this treatment will be up to £50,000 per year, said Punekar. \”Our hospital provides thrombolysis treatment to around 8-10% of patients during nine to five hours, using video conferencing for out of hours treatment we expect this to increase to around 15%”. The network could be used to assess patients in further areas of treatment and advise non-specialist doctors in other fields.

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Ex NHS boss recommends more hospitals should close

Lord Crisp said:  “In the late 1990s waiting lists, A&E and standards in cardiac care were the big issues and we dealt with them. But the challenge now is dealing with the numbers of older people and those with long-term conditions. They need support in the community. That means a shift away from hospitals. There will be less need for large hospital outpatient departments and some services and whole hospitals will need to close or be merged with others.\”

Dialysis is increasingly conducted in the community, while GPs are taking on more responsibility for things such as minor surgery and diabetes care. Lord Crisps’ remarks come as ministers are considering the future of A&E, maternity services and children\’s units at three hospitals in north London. Under the plans drawn up by the local NHS one hospital – Chase Farm – could lose its services.  Local campaigners have been fighting the proposals and a decision is expected in the coming weeks. The decision is seen as a key moment in the government\’s policy on hospital changes because, in opposition, the Tories promised to fight such closures.

Lord Crisp has admitted the NHS under his stewardship in the Blair years should have scaled back on hospital services. In particular, he admitted that the scale of hospital building projects probably went too far. More than 100 new hospitals or rebuilds were given the go-ahead. He said: \”By 2005 there was no hospital that was not thinking it was going to grow. We had major problems with very bad facilities, [but] perhaps we could have built smaller or consolidated on fewer sites.”

However, it is essential any changes made are done to benefit patients and not just to save money, and that they should be carried out with proper consultation and engagement. Lord Crisp\’s intervention comes after similar warnings by various experts. The King\’s Fund and NHS Confederation have both put the case for scaling back on hospital care in recent months.

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, agreed the government should not be afraid of making difficult decisions. She said: \”What is the point of having brand new hospital buildings if there are not enough funds to treat people in them?\” However, she also warned: \”We must never forget that by merging services, there will be patients who may struggle to get to them because they are too far away.\”

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Lansley facing vote of no confidence over radial NHS Reforms

Mr Lansley was also recently accused of having ‘no guts’ after his office declined an invitation to address a conference hosted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Liverpool. Rather than attend the conference he will instead hold a question and answer session with 60 nurses as part of the Governments listening exercise.

Last year Mr Lansley announced plans for radical changes to the way the National Health Service works in a white paper titled ‘Equity & Excellence: Liberating the NHS’. If fully implemented the changes will see:

  • All 10 Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) abolished
  • All 152 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) abolished
  • General Practitioners (GPs) given responsibility for managing hospital, mental health & community services
  • Patients given more performance related information by a new body called HealthWatch
  • Patients given control of their Medical Records
  • All NHS Trusts achieve Foundation Status by 2013

The abolition of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will affect more than 60,000 managers and in their place hundreds of GP consortiums will be created and given the responsibility for much of the £105bn health budget. The bottom up rather than top down reorganisation has been called ‘the most radical change in NHS history’. One of the major long term aims of the restructuring is to achieve significant cost savings by removing layers of bureaucracy in the form of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts. It has been reported that once implemented management costs (currently standing at £1.85 Billion) would be slashed by 46% over the next four years (a saving of £850 million).

Trade Unions have been piling pressure on the Government recently in an effort to halt or reduce the scale of public sector job cuts. The Coalition Government has been on a major cost cutting exercise ever since coming to power in an effort to reduce the fiscal deficit and get the country back on an even keel.

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Diane Jarvis resigns from Healthcare Locums (HCL)

Last month Mrs Bleasdale resigned from the board of Healthcare Locums (HCL), the business she founded in 2003, a month after the company’s shares were suspended amid ‘serious accounting irregularities’. In last month’s statement HCL said that “Kathleen Veronica Bleasdale has resigned from the board of directors of the company with immediate effect. This does not affect her status as an employee of the company. Healthmark UK has formally withdrawn its notice requisitioning a general meeting of the company, details of which were announced on 8 February 2011. As a result of the withdrawal of the general meeting requisition, the company is no longer required to send a circular to shareholders convening a general meeting.”

HCL also announced that the audit of its financial results for the year to 31st December 2010 will begin next week and final results will be announced in due course.

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