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Archive for February, 2011

NHS hospital admissions due to alcohol could rise to 1.5 million year- charity warns

February 28, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, Cancer, Doctors, GPs, Health Direct, Heart Disease, National Health Service, NHS, NHS Deaths, Risk of Drugs, Uncategorized

Health Direct wonders if you have had a good weekend as the number of admissions to hospital in the UK because of problem drinking could rise to 1.5 million a year by 2015, a charity says.
NHS hospital admissions due to alcohol could rise to 1.5 million year- charity warnsAlcohol Concern estimates that alcohol abuse will cost the NHS £3.7bn annually if nothing is done to stop the increase.

It wants alcohol specialists to be employed in all hospitals and GP practices.

The Department of Health said it would publish a new alcohol strategy in the summer.

Thousands of people die each year as a result of their drinking, mostly as a result of alcoholic liver disease. Drinking is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

The charity says the number of people being treated in hospital for alcohol misuse has gone from 500,000 in 2002-3 to 1.1 million in 2009-10.

It states that 1.5 million people will need treating every year by the end of the Parliament, if there is no new investment in alcohol services to stop the rise.

The report calls for specialist alcohol health workers to be employed across the health service. It claims this will in fact save the NHS £3 for every £1 spent.

Don Shenker, chief executive at Alcohol Concern, said: “With the prime minister saying that NHS is becoming ‘increasingly unaffordable’, we can show how billions can be saved simply by introducing alcohol health workers in hospitals to help patients reduce their drinking.

“As problem drinking costs the country so dear, a modest investment in supporting problem drinkers will lead to a three-fold saving, surely a necessity in an economic downturn.”

Primary care trusts in England, which are being abolished as part of government changes to the health service, are criticised in the report for not dedicating enough of their budgets to alcohol problems.

The authors identify the transfer of powers to GPs as an “ideal chance” to transform alcohol services.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Misuse of alcohol can cause significant harm and the government has wasted no time in taking tough action to tackle problem drinking, including plans to stop supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost and working to introduce a tougher licensing regime.

“It is clear we need a bold new approach to tackling this and other public health issues because so many of the life-style driven health problems are already at alarming levels.

“That is why the newly published strategy for public health sets out plans to ring-fence public health spending, devolve power and budgets to local communities, and work across areas from behavioural science to education to improve public health.

“We will also be publishing a new alcohol strategy to follow on from the Public Health White Paper in the summer.”

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12428856

NHS still missing safety alerts campaigners warn

February 25, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, Health, Health Professionals, National Health Service, NHS, NHS Deaths, red tape, Uncategorized

Too many NHS health trusts are still not responding to patient safety alerts in England, campaigners warn.
NHS still missing safety alerts campaigners warnAlerts are issued when potentially harmful situations are identified in health settings, such as the risk of overdoses or using medical equipment.

Department of Health data showed there were over 650 cases of NHS trusts not complying with alerts within deadline.

This is a 50% fall from last year, but Action against Medical Accidents said there was no excuse for non-compliance.

The charity first highlighted the issue last year when it obtained the figures under a freedom of information request.

But now the government has started publishing the figures itself.

The latest data, from January, showed that there were 654 instances of patient safety alerts not having been complied with – half the figure from August.

In total there were 203 trusts which had failed to comply with at least one alert, while five trusts had not complied with 10 or more alerts.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents, said: “There can be no excuse for not implementing these alerts. Each alert not complied with means patients are being put at unnecessary risk. Lives are being lost as a result.”

But he added: “We welcome the fact that as a result of the pressure we have brought to bear, there has been a significant improvement in compliance.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Although progress has been made, much more needs to be done across the system. We expect trusts to comply with safety alerts.”

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12527071

NHS shamed over callous treatment of elderly

February 24, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, Doctors, Health Professionals, National Health Service, NHS, NHS Deaths, Nurses, red tape, Uncategorized

The National Health Service is condemned over its inhumane treatment of elderly patients in an official report that finds hospitals are failing to meet “even the most basic standards of care” for the over-65s.
NHS shamed over callous treatment of elderly patientsA study of pensioners who suffered appalling treatment at the hands of doctors and nurses says that half were not given enough to eat or drink.

One family member said the maltreatment amounted to “euthanasia”.

Some were left unwashed or in soiled clothes, while others were forgotten after being sent home or given the wrong medication.

In several cases considered by the Health Service Ombudsman, patients died without loved ones by their sides because of the “casual indifference” of staff and their “bewildering disregard” for people’s needs.

The damning report warns that extra money will not help the NHS meet required standards of care and that more problems are likely as the population ages.

Ann Abraham, who as health ombudsman carries out independent investigation of complaints against the health service, said: “The findings of my investigations reveal an attitude – both personal and institutional – which fails to recognise the humanity and individuality of the people concerned and to respond to them with sensitivity, compassion and professionalism.

“The reasonable expectation that an older person or their family may have of dignified, pain-free end of life care in clean surroundings in hospital is not being fulfilled. Instead, these accounts present a picture of NHS provision that is failing to meet even the most basic standards of care.

“These often harrowing accounts should cause every member of NHS staff who reads this report to pause and ask themselves if any of their patients could suffer in the same way.

“I know from my caseload that in many cases, the answer must be ‘yes’.”

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: “The inhumane treatment of older people described in this report is sickening and should send shock waves through the NHS and Government.

“It’s difficult to imagine us allowing any other group of people to suffer this indignity and neglect, yet we know this is just the tip of the iceberg. Appalling treatment of older people in the health service is far too common.”

Under Labour, health spending in England tripled to reach more than £100 billion a year. A new “NHS Constitution” set out the service’s commitment to human rights, high-quality care and respect for patients and their families.

Yet the Ombudsman said her office’s investigations into the cases of 10 people over 65, which took place between 2009 and last year, showed the “stark contrast” between the NHS’s stated principles and the treatment patients received.

The patients had all been loving, active people of a generation that “didn’t like to make a fuss”. They had simply wanted to be cared for properly and die peacefully – but they all suffered “unnecessary pain, indignity and distress while in the care of the NHS”. As a result, “they were transformed from alert and able individuals to people who were dehydrated, malnourished or unable to communicate”.

Half of them did not consume adequate food or water, some were not washed, others were discharged in a “shambolic” fashion, while in many cases their suffering was ignored.

Nine of the 10 died while in NHS care or soon afterwards, and the Ombudsman upheld the complaints made about the care received by all 10.

The report says it is “incomprehensible” that the NHS needs to be told that its patients should be provided with clean and comfortable surroundings, assistance with eating, drinking water and the ability to call for help. “Yet the most basic of human needs are too often neglected.”

The Ombudsman warned that the cases detailed in the report were not exceptional, with almost one in five of the 9,000 complaints it received last year concerning the care of older people.

The report notes that by 2034, 23 per cent of the population will be over 65, with rising levels of dementia placing additional burdens on care. But “extra resource alone will not help” as some staff are guilty of an “ignominious failure to look beyond a patient’s clinical condition”, and an “apparent indifference” to “appalling standards of care”.

The Ombudsman said that “real and urgent change” was needed, including listening to older people and their families, as well as learning from mistakes.

Paul Burstow, the care services minister, said: “This report exposes the urgent need to update our NHS. We need a culture where poor practice is challenged and quality is the watchword. The dignity of frail older people should never be sidelined.”

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: “Attitudes need to change. Older patients need to be treated with respect and compassion, not as an inconvenience. It is a sick joke that we have an NHS constitution that tells us what rights we have when being treated by the NHS – but it is clear that to the majority of older patients it is not worth the paper it is written on.”

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/NHS-shamed-over-callous-treatment-of-elderly

How to Treat Varicose Veins

February 24, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Health Direct, Uncategorized

Varicose Veins are unsightly blue or purple bulging veins that may be lumpy or knobbly in appearance. They are a fairly common affliction, affecting three in 10 adults, and occur when the valves in a vein weaken and fail to work properly.

These valves normally keep the blood flowing effectively through the veins and to the heart. If they become damaged the blood can flow back into the vein and collect. This causes the vein to swell and can produce that distinctive ‘lumpy’ appearance of varicose veins.

As well as an unpleasant appearance, there can be other varicose veins symptoms. Many people with varicose veins describe them as aching or throbbing, and they can be quite uncomfortable, particularly when standing or during warm weather.

Some sufferers may get relief from varicose veins symptoms by raising their legs or using compression stockings. Compression stockings work by squeezing the legs and encouraging the blood to flow towards the heart. They can help to relieve the aching described by varicose veins sufferers. They have not, though, been shown to actually improve existing varicose veins or prevent the formation of new ones.

Compression stockings can also be uncomfortable to wear and time needs to be taken to get the correct fit. They can also cause dry, flaky skin (sufferers should apply emollient cream to prevent this). It is important to replace compression stockings every three to six months as they can lose their effectiveness over time.

Compression tights are available as an alternative to compression stockings, but these are not generally offered on the NHS.

Those who are looking for a more permanent solution should consider undergoing surgical varicose veins treatment. A common surgery used to remove large varicose veins, available on the NHS, is known as litigation and stripping. This procedure involves tying off the affected vein and then removing it through an incision in the leg.

This method is fairly invasive and is carried out under general anaesthetic. Side effects can include pain, bruising and bleeding, but more serious complications are rare. Litigation and stripping has a recovery period of between one and three weeks.

For small to medium-sized varicose veins, sclerotherapy may be a suitable option. This treatment involves injecting a chemical into the vein which causes scarring and seals it closed. This is a less invasive treatment after which the patient should be able to return to work immediately.

Radiofrequency ablation is another treatment. It involves heating the wall of the varicose vein using radiofrequency energy, which causes the vein to collapse and seal shut. This treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic. Another similar method is endovenous laser treatment. Instead of using radiofrequency, this treatment uses a laser to heat the vein.

Radiofrequency ablation and endovenous laser treatment are not generally available on the NHS. Patients who are considering seeking treatment for varicose veins should discuss the various options with their GP in order to determine the most suitable treatment for them.

Sacked drugs adviser demands apology from Home Office

February 23, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Conservatives, Drugs, Health Professionals, Risk of Drugs, Uncategorized

A row over a disgraced GP sacked from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for controversial views including linking homosexuality with child abuse intensified as it emerged that a Home Office report makes the same point.
Sacked drugs adviser demands apology from Home OfficeThe appointment last month of Dr Hans Christian Raabe – who takes a hard line against drug use – was welcomed by anti-drugs campaigners. A media backlash prompted the Home Office to sack Dr Raabe over his 2005 comments linking homosexuality and child sex offences.

Dr Raabe said that he is considering taking legal action against the Home Office unless he receives an apology. He pointed to a research report by the Home Office – Sex Offending Against Children: Understanding the Risk – which states: “Bradford et al (1988) suggested reasonably that approximately 20 to 33 per cent of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature.”

He pointed out that this is a similar statistic to that cited in the academic paper he co-authored in 2005, claiming 25 per cent of child sex abuse is homosexual. “This is quite hypocritical and very bizarre indeed. I am being sacked by the Home Office for stating what a Home Office document says,” the Manchester GP said.

“I volunteered for unpaid public service and feel as though my personal and professional reputation has been shamefully destroyed by the Government, for saying something it says itself. My appointment has been revoked based on the wrong perception that I could potentially discriminate against gay people; something I have never done, either in my private or professional life. The real issue is that there was a campaign to get rid of me. I suspect it’s a group of people that are for a more liberal drug policy and perhaps want to legalise drugs.”

Anti-drugs campaigners yesterday called on the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to apologise for “an unjustifiable personal and professional attack by her ministry”. David Raynes, from the National Drug Prevention Alliance, described Dr Raabe’s sacking as “a vicious and personal witch hunt orchestrated by pro-drugs campaigners” and said “there remains a cabal of people on the committee who are sympathetic to the legalisation of all drugs. It can ill afford to lose people who act as a balance against this view”.

The Home Office said: “Dr Raabe’s failure to disclose a controversial report which, among other things, links homosexuality to paedophilia raises concerns over his credibility to provide balanced advice on drug misuse issues and impacts on the smooth running of the ACMD.”

Other controversial figures appointed to the expert body last month include a former cocaine addict and a drugs researcher who has downplayed the risks of ecstasy.

From: http://www.independent.co.uk/sacked-drugs-adviser-demands-apology-from-home-office

Labour’s Private Finance Initiative- NHS hospitals will cost taxpayers 60 years of pain

February 22, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: National Health Service, NHS, NHS Waste, red tape, Uncategorized

Under Labour’s Private Finance Initiative schemes, British taxpayers are committed to pay £229 billion for new hospitals, schools and other projects with a capital value of just £56 billion.
Labour's Private Finance Initiative- NHS hospitals will cost taxpayers 60 years of painSeveral contracts are due to run for 60 years, documents released under freedom of information requests show, meaning taxpayers will be paying for the projects for generations to come.

Private contractors who agreed PFI deals with the Labour Government are set to make billions of pounds in profit, with some due to see returns of up to 71 per cent.

In the first of a series of reports, The Daily Telegraph discloses the heavy costs and administrative burdens caused by PFIs. The deals are a way of building large public projects using private finance, which were relied upon by the Labour government. The disclosures will lend weight to MPs calling on PFI companies to refund a share of their profits to the taxpayer.

The PFI deals include:

• A hospital which charged £52,000 for a job that cost £750. Demolishing a shelter for smokers resulted in the PFI contractor charging £2,600 a year for the “extra cleaning”.

• A hospital in Bromley, south London, which will cost the NHS £1.2 billion, more than 10 times what it is worth.

• Military dog kennels which would have ended up costing more per night than a room in the Park Lane Hilton, London. The deal to replace facilities at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray resulted in the sacking of the contractor and the scrapping of the contract.

Under a PFI, a private contractor builds a school, hospital or other asset, then owns it for typically between 25 and 35 years, effectively renting it to the taxpayer for that time. In exchange, the contractor has responsibility for maintenance.

Treasury papers suggest that payments on PFI contracts already signed run until 2048. The Daily Telegraph has uncovered deals, signed in the late 1990s, which include special clauses meaning that they last for up to six decades.

So a 21 year-old leaving university this year will pay taxes for the PFI until they are almost 70. By then, some of the facilities will have been obsolete for years. Political pressure on the PFIs, introduced by John Major but greatly expanded when Gordon Brown was chancellor, was mounting last night after The Telegraph established the scale of profit-making by some of those involved.

An almost unknown City company, Innisfree, with only 14 staff, is the largest single player in the PFI market, owning or co-owning 269 PFI schools and 28 hospitals.

According to accounts filed at Companies House, Innisfree’s profit margin was 53 per cent last year. A successful FTSE 100 company makes margins of around 6 per cent. David Metter, the founder and chief executive of Innisfree, owns almost three-quarters of the company and collected pay and dividends of £8.6 million last year.

“Innisfree have made money like it is going out of style,” said Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP for Hereford. “A tiny number of individuals have made more money for less work than any other group of people I can think of.” Innisfree said its directors were at a conference in Chamonix yesterday and unable to comment.

Mr Norman heads a new cross-party group of MPs demanding that Innisfree and other PFI beneficiaries return a portion of their profits to the taxpayer. “It’s a scandal that so many projects have been so expensive to the taxpayer,” he said yesterday. “There is a great deal of excess value in the PFI which should properly be shared with taxpayers.”

Labour’s last health secretary, Andy Burnham, who was in charge of 221 PFI projects, admitted last year: “We made mistakes. I’m not defending every pen-stroke of the PFI contracts we signed.”

Innisfree co-owns the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley, opened in 2003, which cost an estimated £118 million to build and equip according to Treasury figures. However, Treasury calculations seen by The Daily Telegraph indicate the NHS will have paid Innisfree and its PFI partners a total of £1.21 billion for the hospital over the 35-year life of the contract, but this does include support services.

The National Audit Office says the deal will produce a return for the PFI contractors of 70.6 per cent.

Jean Shaoul, a professor of public accountability at Manchester University Business School, said using the private sector as an intermediary to raise finance to build hospitals and to run them is “far more expensive than if the Government were to do it itself”. Carl Emmerson, the acting director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “Where you can be very confident about the service you want for the whole period of the contract, as with a road, it can work. In schools and hospitals, where needs change, it’s much harder to get value for money.”

In Belfast, a school closed after seven years but the PFI contractor must be paid £370,000 a year for the next 16 years.

From:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Private-Finance-Initiative-hospitals-will-bring-taxpayers-60-years-of-pain

Nanny state’s drug ban may have done harm rather than good official research finds

February 21, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, Drugs, NHS Deaths, Risk of Drugs, Uncategorized

The ban on designer drug miaow miaow (mephedrone) has not only failed to reduce its availability but it may even have driven some users to harder drugs, according to a new report.Nanny state's drug ban may have done harm rather than good official research findsA survey by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs has revealed that users have noticed little difference in their ability to get hold of mephedrone, which is nicknamed miaow miaow, since it was banned.

The report, the key findings of which are to be published this week and is the first authoritative survey of mephedrone users since the government added the drug to the list of banned substances in April 2010, reveals that more than half of those questioned had noticed no change in the availability of the drug in their area.

It also shows that 44 per cent of those who have used mephedrone said the ban made them more likely to use the Class A party drug ecstasy instead.

Professor David Nutt, a leading psychopahrmacologist who chairs the committee and has been an outspoken critic of the Home Office’s approach to tackling recreational drugs which led to him being sacked as head of the government’s official drug advisory council, said banning mephedrone did not appear to have been effective.

He warned that the move, which came after mephedrone had been linked to a number of deaths which were later found not to be attributable to the drug, could be driving demand for other new drugs.

It comes after recent research revealed that 40 new synthetic drugs have flooded into the UK during the past year.

Professor Nutt said: “It is not at all clear that the ban on mephedrone has helped to reduce harm.  The ban has not greatly affected the availability of mephedrone because people were stockpiling before the ban came in but also because it has been very difficult to stop it from coming into the country.

“The government will look at this survey and say that not everyone will continue to use it and some people have been put off, so the ban is working, but we are also seeing people who did use mephedrone using other things like ecstasy and cocaine.

“One of the dangers of the approach that has been taken is that if we ban every new drug without a balanced view, then people will keep making more new drugs to replace them and eventually they will make something that is extremely toxic which, when kids take it, they will die.

“So we could be provoking harm by the way we are handling these new drugs.”

Mephedrone was added to the list of banned substances by the Labour Government in April 2010 and was classified as Class B alongside cannabis and amphetamines.

Possession of mephedrone now carries a maximum sentence of five years while supplying the drug can lead to 14 year imprisonment.

There was intense media pressure to ban mephedrone after it was linked to a number of deaths around the country.

On Thursday a coroner warned against taking the drug after two young men discovered hanging in woodland in Northumberland were found to have taken it.

But Professor Nutt insists that compared to other illicit substances, mephedrone is hard to overdose on and in the majority of cases where it has been linked to deaths the drug was subsequently not found to have been implicated.

The new survey, which questioned 1,500 drug users in an online questionnaire, found that 58 per cent of the respondents said they were less likely to use mephedrone since the ban, but 45 per cent said they would still try to get hold of it despite the ban and 51 per cent said the ban had not affected availability of the drug.

A fifth of those who responded said they had experienced a negative reaction to mephedrone after taking it but the drug was ranked eighth in a list of 13 harmful drugs with alcohol, tobacco, heroin and cocaine ahead of it.

Professor Nutt is now calling for the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to review the ban on mephedrone and said future classifications of new drugs needed to be informed by scientific evidence on the effects and harm that the drugs can cause.

He said: “We need to learn lessons from the knee jerk reaction of a new drug that led to mephedrone being banned. What we have done now is to move users into contact with users and that is potentially very deleterious.

“There is the risk that dealers will encourage users onto other drugs.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Ban-on-miaow-miaow-may-have-done-harm-rather-than-good-report-suggests

Health Direct has repeatedly warned that the current drug classification process is fundamentally flawed

On October 12, 2010 we posted : Drug users are turning to legal highs at http://www.healthdirect.co.uk/2010/10/drug-users-are-turning-to-legal-highs.html
where young adults are turning to so called legal highs as they seek alternatives to other drugs, according to experts.

Prof Nutt siad- “Comparatively, mephedrone is not a potent drug. We don’t know if a healthy young person can die from an average dose and you would have to take an awful lot to overdose. There are drugs out there on which it is possible to overdose on 100mg.”

For GPs appointment- call NHS Health Direct if you want to see your doctor

February 18, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Conservatives, Doctors, Health Direct, National Health Service, NHS, NHS Direct, Uncategorized

Patients will have to contact a call centre to arrange GP appointments under plans for NHS Health Direct to handle bookings for local doctors’ surgeries.For GPs appointment- call NHS Health Direct if you want to see your doctorAnyone wanting an appointment will first have to contact NHS Direct by dialling 111, which will be used as the new non-emergency medical number.

Call centre staff would then make their booking remotely, meaning patients would no longer speak to a GP receptionist directly.

The scheme is being tested by 20 practices in Surrey, and appears to have the backing of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.

Doctors behind the proposal believe it will make booking appointments easier, but patients’ groups fear that many will find having to book through a call centre “hugely frustrating”.

There are also concerns that it could erode the role of dedicated GP receptionists – many of whom build up a close rapport with their doctors’ patients – with people having to deal with anonymous call centre staff with little medical experience instead. Unions believe thousands of receptionists could lose their jobs.

The move follows a report commissioned by the Department of Health last year that said millions of pounds could be saved each year if national or regional call centres were set up to handle GP appointments.

Exact details of the Surrey pilot have yet to be decided, but under one option patients would ring 111, ask for NHS Direct and then speak to a call centre worker who would book their appointment remotely. The doctors involved insist it will free receptionists to carry out other administrative duties.

Dr Joe McGilligan, a doctor in Redhill, Surrey, said: “Everyone in the NHS has to become more efficient and this is one way of doing that.”

Emphasising that he wanted to make life easier for patients, he said: “People complain about telephone services in GPs’ surgeries all the time. We only have a fixed number of lines.”

Patients would still have the option to ask to be put through directly to the surgery if they wanted to speak to a receptionist, he said. Another option was for the 111 number to run in tandem with GP surgery numbers.

“If it was up to me I’d launch this tomorrow, but it will be within six months,” Dr McGilligan told Pulse magazine.

Papers from NHS Direct show that the service is now in talks about handling GP appointments for hundreds of thousands of patients.

NHS Direct has already held talks with GP consortia in Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and London, according to Pulse, while managers also plan to discuss the idea with doctors in Birmingham, Torquay and south Gloucestershire.

NHS Direct is already booking out-of-hours GP appointments in several areas.

Dr Brian Gaffney, medical director of NHS Direct and a GP in Downpatrick, Co Down, said doctors were “keen to work with us”. “We know as GPs we can’t cope with demand for our practice appointments,” he said.

But other doctors and Unison, which represents receptionists, fear any move to centralise bookings could harm patient care. Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said: “We’ve all waited on the phone to get through to a call centre, with irritating muzak playing in the background. It’s a hugely frustrating, depersonalised, even upsetting experience, made even worse if you are ill or caring for a sick child or elderly relative.

“A properly funded receptionist, who knows their patients and can treat them with dignity, respect, and urgency, is what patients want.”

Dr Philip Cox, a GP from Buxton, Derbyshire, called the idea “ludicrous”. He said: “It will cause chaos and patients will be totally frustrated.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, cautioned that people would not want their receptionist to be replaced. “Patients want local services with people that know them.”

Before Christmas, the Department of Health distanced itself from the idea of centralising bookings, saying there were “no plans” for a national call centre. But last month, Mr Lansley indicated he was in favour, saying he hoped patients “will be able to make bookings” through the 111 number.

From: Call-NHS-Health- Direct-if-you-want-to-visit-your-doctor

NHS buys PFI hospital and saves £14 million

February 17, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, Health, NHS Waste, red tape, Uncategorized

A hospital trust will save £14million after becoming the first in the country to buy its way out of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal.
NHS buys PFI hospital and saves £14 millionThe NHS body was due to pay £2m a year for the next two decades to the private firm that built West Park Hospital in Darlington, County Durham.

But after reviewing the costs, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Foundation Trust decided to take advantage of a break clause in the deal.

It paid £18m upfront to get out of the PFI contract 23 years early, but it now owns the hospital outright and expects to save £14m over the course of the deal once maintenance and inflation is taken into account.

The move, disclosed in the Health Service Journal, comes after The Daily Telegraph uncovered evidence that hospitals are closing accident and emergency departments in order to pay the interest on PFI deals for new buildings.

Some PFI hospitals – built and run by private firms and effectively rented back to the state – will end up costing taxpayers more than 10 times their capital value.

“We concluded that the best option was to exercise what exists in the PFI projects, which is a clause called ‘voluntary termination’,” said Colin Martin, Director of Finance at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys trust.

“It effectively means we pay off the mortgage early.”

However he added that the trust – which runs mental health services in County Durham, the Tees Valley and along the North Yorkshire coast – did not regret the original deal and was committed to two other PFI deals.

“We wouldn’t have had the hospital if we’d waited for the traditional financing route,” Mr Martin said.

PFI deals became the preferred way of paying for public sector infrastructure projects under Labour, as they allowed new buildings to be constructed while avoiding large initial outlays of money.

Under the complex deals, private contractors carry out the building work then own the structure for up to 35 years, while the public sector body gives them annual interest and repays the capital sum as well as paying for maintenance.

However because of the length of the deals and the amount of interest involved, taxpayers end up paying several times the original value of the project.

In the first known example of an NHS hospital buying its way out of a PFI deal, the North-East mental health trust decided to purchase West Park Hospital outright.

It had agreed a 32-year deal with Norwich Union Public Private Partnership Fund to build the 116-bed facility, which opened its doors in 2004.

The hospital – which is also home to the trust’s headquarters – cost £16m to build but under the deal, the trust was paying the contractors £1.4m a year in interest payments and a further £600,000 in maintenance and paying back the principal.

In 2009, the trust reviewed its PFI deals and decided it had enough cash in the bank to pay the £18m break clause and so buy West Park outright. It gave the project company the required statutory notice and after the legal process was completed, the deal ended in December.

Treasury figures suggest it would have the remainder of the deal would have cost a further £32m, so it has saved £14m by getting out of it.

However it is unlikely the pioneering move will be copied by many other trusts, as most PFI deals are so large as to make early repayment impractical.

Aviva, the company that now runs the PFI firm that built West Park, was unavailable for comment.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Hospital-saves-14m-by-getting-out-of-PFI-deal

Breast cancer will hit one in eight women research finds

February 16, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cancer, Doctors, Health, National Health Service, NHS, NHS Direct, postcode lottery, Uncategorized, weight loss

One in eight women will develop breast cancer as rates have risen over the past decade, according to new figures.
Breast cancer will hit one in eight women research findsThe number of middle aged women contracting the disease has increased particularly sharply, with lifestyle factors partly to blame.

British women are drinking and eating more than before, and exercising less, as well as having babies later in life which also adds to risk.

However early diagnosis and survival rates are improving, with two-thirds of breast cancer sufferers now surviving 20 years or more.

The new figures were published by Cancer Research UK to coincide with World Cancer Day.

Sara Hiom, the leading charity’s director of health information, said: “Women cannot change their genes but small changes in everyday habits can help to reduce cancer risk.

“Cutting back on alcohol by keeping within government recommended limits of no more than 14 units a week (a small drink a day) helps.

“Taking more exercise and eating a diet high in fibre but low in saturated fat can help maintain a healthy weight – which in turn reduces breast cancer risk.

“Women should also discuss hormone replacement therapy with their doctor as long-term use can raise breast cancer risk.

“Mammograms will pick up breast cancers early on before they can be felt as a lump or spotted through other visible changes and we know that the earlier a cancer is detected the more successful treatment is likely to be so women can benefit by taking up invitations to breast screening.”

The data, obtained from the Office for National Statistics, show that in 1999 there were 42,400 women diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain.

By 2008 that figure had risen by 3.5 per cent to reach 47,700, meaning that the lifetime risk has risen from one in nine women to one in eight.

The biggest rise in cases – more than 6 per cent – was among women aged between 50 and 69, while rates dropped slightly among younger generations.

Almost half of those who develop breast tumours are middle-aged, while a third are pensioners and just one in five aged between 25 and 49.

Cancer Research said there is “good news” on survival thanks to improved technology, with three-quarters of women living for at least 10 years after being diagnosis with breast cancer.

Around 1.5 million women are screened for breast cancer in Britain every year and screening every three years will soon be extended to those aged between 47 and 73.

Dr Rachel Greig, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “These figures are a wake up call and should not be ignored. More women are developing breast cancer and, although survival is improving thanks to breakthroughs in breast awareness, screening and treatment, we clearly have much further to go.

“Some risk factors, such as getting older, cannot be changed but the good news is that others can. By drinking less, maintaining a healthy weight and getting physically active, women can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.”

Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “These figures confirm what Macmillan professionals are seeing on the ground, that breast cancer is continuing to increase.

“There is some good news in that earlier diagnosis and better treatments mean that more women are surviving their cancer. In fact, there are now almost 550,000 women living with a breast cancer diagnosis in the UK.

“Therefore it is vitally important that resources are better used to ensure women get the care and support they need to have a good quality of life after treatment.”

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Breast-cancer-will-hit-one-in-eight-women-study-indicates