Tag Archives: UK

Scale of dementia death in the UK trebles in a decade

The scale of Britain’s dementia crisis is exposed in new official figures showing the proportion of people dying from conditions such as Alzheimer’s has trebled in just a decade.

A study of death registrations published by the Office for national Statistics shows a remarkable overall fall in death rates in England and Wales over the last 20 years, down 28 per cent for women and 36 per cent for men.

Death rates from heart disease, stroke and other circulatory conditions have tumbled by around 40 per cent in the last decade, while respiratory death rates were down by almost a quarter and cancer around 10 per cent.

But as medical breakthroughs and major lifestyle changes including a decline in smoking enable people to live longer, the impact of dementia is being felt more than ever.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s have overtaken heart disease as the biggest cause of death for women in recent years – accounting for just over 13 per cent of those registered last year.

It is now also the second biggest cause of death for men, just ahead of chest and lung cancers.

Overall there were just over half a million (501,424) deaths registered in England and Wales in 2014, down by 1.1 per cent on the previous year despite a growing and ageing population.

But while the proportion of women’s deaths attributed to heart disease tumbled dropped by more than a third, from 15.3 per cent to 9.4 per cent, between 2004 and 2014, the share attributed to dementia and Alzheimer’s almost trebled from 4.7 per cent to 13.4 per cent.

Meanwhile among men the proportion more than trebled, from two per cent of deaths to seven per cent.

Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “These latest figures underline a stark reality: with no treatments yet able to affect the course of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, no one currently survives a diagnosis of dementia.

“Diseases like Alzheimer’s are causing untold heartache for families across the UK, and these statistics should give us cause to redouble our efforts in the fight against them.

“Advances in medicine have helped reduce the impact of conditions like heart disease; now we must see the same to happen for dementia.

“Investment in research is vital if we are to find ways of treating and preventing dementia, and ultimately reduce the number of people dying from this devastating condition.”

The ONS said in a commentary to the figures: “Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are increasing as people live longer, with women living longer than men.

“Some of the rise over the last few decades may also be attributable to a better understanding of dementia.

“This means that doctors may be more likely to record dementia on the death certificate.”

Source The Telegraph

UK healthcare standards ‘trailing rest of developed world’

The UK would need over 75,000 more doctors and nurses to match standards in the rest of the developed world, leading health experts have warned.

The quality of care in the UK is “pretty mediocre” across several key areas, while obesity levels are “dire” and the NHS struggles to get even the “basics” right, they said.

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared the quality of healthcare across 34 countries.

The UK lags behind in key areas, including coming 21st out of 23 countries on cervical cancer survival, 20th out of 23 countries on breast and bowel cancer survival and 19th out of 31 countries on stroke.

On heart attack deaths, the UK is ranked 20th out of 32 countries. While survival after hospital admission for heart attack and stroke is improving, it is “worse than many other OECD countries”, including Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, the study said.

The UK is also a “middling to low performer” on three out of four key health areas, including quality of care and life expectancy. Furthermore, there is a need for “urgent attention” to tackle the UK’s high rates of smoking, harmful alcohol consumption and obesity.

Some 19% of adults in the OECD are obese on average, but the figure in the UK is 25%.

Spending on health is also lower in the UK than the OECD average, with “zero growth in health spending per person in real terms between 2009 and 2013”, the report said.

Countries that spend more include France, Canada, Belgium, Germany, New Zealand and Denmark.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the think tank the Nuffield Trust, who helped launch the report at a meeting in central London, said thousands more doctors and nurses were needed to match the OECD average.

The UK would need 47,700 more nurses and 26,500 more doctors to match the OECD average, he said, at a cost of an extra £5 billion a year.

The OECD average number of nurses is 9.1 per 1,000 population, while the figure in the UK is 8.2.

The UK also lags behind on numbers of doctors, with 2.8 per 1,000 population, compared to the OECD average of 3.3.

Countries with more doctors include Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Israel and Australia.

Mark Pearson, OECD deputy director of employment, labour and social affairs, said the UK was doing “outstandingly poorly” on preventing ill health by tackling issues like obesity.

He added: “While access to care in the UK is good, the quality of care is uneven and continues to lag behind that in many other OECD countries.”

He said the UK “often does not do the basic things very well”, and said the lower than average levels of public investment in healthcare was mirrored by a “somewhat mediocre performance across the board – from relatively low staffing levels, to high rates of avoidable admissions for asthma and lung disease”.

Mr Pearson said the UK “can and must do much better”, adding that in healthcare “you get what you pay for”.

The UK was spending “considerably less” on health than many of the countries it would like to compare itself to, he added.

Mr Pearson pointed to NHS achievements, including being efficient in some areas, such as lengths of stay in hospital and good performance on avoidable admissions for diabetes.

But s taffing levels were not adequate and there were still too high rates of hospital-acquired infections. Guidelines were also published but not followed, he said.

“These basic sort of things don’t seem to be done to the extent in the UK that they are done in other countries,” he said.

“I think it’s unrealistic, if you spend less, that you can expect a performance that is as good as these other countries.”

Mr Pearson said many medics were too rushed to improve the care they give.

He said: “At the moment in the NHS I think there is the risk that people do not have the time to do that.

“What they are doing is going through the processes … rather than being a learning organisation, an organisation that can improve.”

Mr Edwards added: “If people are stretched, people don’t have the bandwidth to make a change.”

Mr Edwards also said junior doctors were also relied upon to provide healthcare.

“What’s unusual about British hospitals is that when you see someone, they are quite junior.

“We use juniors to provide the backbone of the workforce in hospitals rather than (more highly qualified) doctors.”

Source Mail Online

Target of four-week cancer diagnosis

More details of plans to improve cancer care in England have been revealed.

They include a target that 95% of people should be given a diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days of being referred by a GP, by 2020. Implementing it will cost £300m a year until then.

The target – recommended by the Independent Cancer Taskforce – will be trialled in five hospitals before being rolled out nationwide if successful.

Faster diagnosis could save 11,000 lives a year, the taskforce said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK lagged behind other western European countries in cancer survival rates and the new measures would help “close the gap”.

“We know that the biggest single factor that means that our cancer survival rates lag those of France, Germany and other European countries is the fact that we have too much late diagnosis; we don’t get an answer to people quickly enough,” he said.

Mr Hunt said he was making “a very simple promise to all NHS patients” that by 2020 they would have a cancer diagnosis or an all-clear within 28 days.

However, the Department of Health later clarified that while it hoped to achieve the Independent Cancer Taskforce target of 95% by 2020, it would only be clear once trials were completed whether that was achievable.

Speeding up diagnosis would require more cancer consultants, specialist nurses, staff trained in endoscopies and diagnostic tests, Mr Hunt added.

Currently 280,000 people in England are diagnosed with cancer each year – with half surviving for at least 10 years.

‘Anxiety’

Patients are meant to see a specialist within two weeks of a GP referral under existing targets but may then face a long wait for test results, meaning a growing number of patients do not get their treatment started within the recommended 62 days.

Cancer patients will also get online access to their test results if they choose, under the new measures.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK and chairman of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, said services for diagnosing cancer were under immense pressure, which is why increased investment and extra staff were so important.

“Introducing the 28-day ambition for patients to receive a diagnosis will maximise the impact of this investment which, together with making results available online, will spare people unnecessary added anxiety and help cancer patients to begin treatment sooner,” he said.

The announcement comes after a cross-party group of MPs warned that cancer services had “lost momentum” in the past two years.

The health service has been struggling to meet waiting times and seen resources reduced, the Public Accounts Committee warned.

Juliet Bouverie of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We desperately need to see continued action from the government and the NHS to ensure that all the recommendations laid out in the recently published Cancer Strategy for England are fully funded and implemented.”

Source BBC News

UK falls short of 24,000 nurses due to cuts and immigration rules

Britain’s healthcare industry is suffering a nursing shortage of 24,000 staff this year, driven by a decline in student places, tougher immigration rules and spending cuts.

Despite a strong rise in EU immigration, 7,000 fewer nurses came to the UK in 2014-15 compared with 2003-04, according to Christie & Co, a consultancy.

Spanish nurses were the most likely to come here in 2015, followed by nurses from Portugal and Italy.

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The decline in overseas nurses was due in part to tougher immigration rules that mean they require pre-arranged sponsorship from an employer in the UK. In addition, they have to leave the country after a maximum of six years.

Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester Healthcare, the third-biggest operator of care homes in the UK and a contributor to the report, said: “We want to recruit from India, South Africa and the Philippines as these nurses are a very high calibre generally. But we cannot. We hope that with the completion of the election, the political climate will be a better one to discuss immigration policy regarding nurses. It is critical.”

But Michael Hodges, director at Christie & Co, called the shortage a “homegrown problem”, adding: “Essentially we are suffering poor workplace planning as a result of austerity measures in recent years.”

Since 2013, qualification as a registered nurse has required a three-year university degree but the number of publicly funded student places fell from 22,000 in 2008-09 to 17,000 in 2012-13. As a result 3,000 fewer graduates entered the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in 2014-15 compared with 2013-14.

Care homes — most of which are run by the private sector — are finding it hardest to recruit staff, according to the survey, which found vacancy rates were 9 per cent compared with 7 per cent in the National Health Service this year.

Over the past two years, the largest nursing home groups reported an average increase of 55 per cent in use of agency workers to fill the gaps, Christie & Co found.

The sharp rise has had a knock-on effect on costs. Agency staff cost 100 per cent more on a per hour basis than regular staff, the report said.

“Essentially we are suffering poor workplace planning as a result of austerity measures in recent years”

The NHS has also been relying more heavily on agency staff, with average health service expenditure on agency nursing estimated to have increased by 231 per cent of the past three years, according to Royal College of Nursing figures cited in the report.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, has vowed to take action over agencies “ripping off the NHS” amid reports that hospital trusts are reportedly paying up to £2,200 a shift for agency staff.

But Mr Hodges said nursing agencies were “plugging a hole and that without them the problems would be much worse”.

Staffing and low pay are a key issue in the healthcare industry. HM Revenue & Customs is investigating 100 allegations of underpayment in the sector and has promised to name and shame the offending employers. “We have started proactive investigations into six of the largest providers in the care sector,” HMRC said. “When this work is complete we will have checked the pay of around 20 per cent of the care sector workforce.”

But the industry argues that cuts in the fees paid by local authorities have eroded margins and that providers are unable to pay more.

“Operators that have a high proportion of privately funded places can subsidise the state-funded residents, but a lot of care operators are highly leveraged and the free cash flow after commitments is not very high,” said Mr Hodges.

“They need to be able to pay people a proper wage but the fees need to reflect the true cost of care and that is hard to recognise in the austerity climate.”

Source Financial Times

60% rise in Dementia in 7 years

New figures revealed that there is a 60% rise in people diagnosed with Dementia in England according to The Independent.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre show that 344,000 people in England had a diagnosis of Dementia in 2013/14. This is a rise of 319,000 from the previous year and 213,000 from when the figures were first released in 2006/07

Unfortunately these figures still do not show the full extent of Dementia suffers in England, as around half the people living with Dementia have never been diagnosed. However, experts have welcomed these increased rates as they can make it easier for suffers to get access to support and treatment once they have a decisive diagnosis.

 This rapid rise in Dementia can be attributed to an ageing population in England, as well as credited to better recordings and quicker improvements amongst Doctors at spotting the early stages of Dementia.

Hilary Evans, spokesperson for Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that the figures “give us some idea of the challenge” posed by dementia in England.

“Dementia is one of the most feared conditions for many, but an accurate and timely diagnosis can be important for people to be able to access support and existing treatments – as well as helping people to make sense of the symptoms they are experiencing,” she said. “These latest figures further underline the urgent need for better treatments to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by this devastating condition.”

Throughout the UK there is an estimated 800,000 people living with Dementia, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. This equates to 665,000 in England, 88,000 in Scotland, 45,000 in Wales and 19,000 in Northern Ireland.

A study in the USA has suggested that depression in older people may lead to a risk of dementia according to the HSCIC’s new figures. This isn’t the first time this link has been made, but it is not known whether one has any true connection with the other.

Rush University Medical School in Chicago created a study from 1,800 people, which found that people with Dementia were more likely to have signs of depression before being diagnosed. This, however, appeared to have no influence on any biological changes in the brain, which is believed to cause Dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer’s Society, said that the findings of the study, published in the journal Neurology today, were of interest.

“[It] raises the potential idea that treating depression could be a way to reduce the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” he said. “But more research is needed in order to test this before we can draw any firm conclusions.”


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Election 2015: Six ways views have changed in six weeks

It is the final day of the election campaign before the UK goes to the polls to vote for the next government. But how have people’s views changed over the past six weeks?

1. How people feel about the election

Top words that describe the campaign

At the beginning of the election campaign, between 27 and 29 March, the words most used to describe the campaign were “excited” and “interested”.

In week six, between 30 April and 5 May, people were still “interested”, but they were also “bored” and “confused” and felt the campaign had been “long”.

First survey based on 768 adults aged 18-75. Second based on 1,085 responses.

2. Which party is doing well

Which party has had the best campaign

In week one, the highest proportion of respondents (27%) thought Labour was having the most effective campaign, compared with week six, when 23% thought the Conservative Party was making the most impact.

The SNP had the biggest peak out of all the parties over the six-week period, after the seven-way party leaders’ TV debate on 2 April, when 32% of respondents said it was having the best campaign.

UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives were most commonly cited as having the “worst week” over the six-week period.

First survey based on 1,500 adults aged 18-75. Second based on 1,085 responses.

3. Who is best leader

Asked which leader had done the best overall in the campaign, 27% said the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and 24% said the Conservative Party’s David Cameron.

Asked which leader “surprised people the most”, 27% said Ms Sturgeon and 14% said Labour’s Ed Miliband.

Based on 1,085 responses between 30 April and 5 May.

4. The party people want to vote for

Has the election campaign changed your mind about how to vote

By week six, 38% of respondents said the election campaign had encouraged them to vote for the party they already supported.

About a quarter (26%) of people said the campaign had had no impact on how they intended to vote, while 9% said the campaign had encouraged them to switch their vote from one party to another.

The election campaign had put 4% of respondents off voting for any party.

Based on 1,085 adults aged 18-75.

5. The most capable prime minister

Which leader is viewed as the most capable pm

David Cameron was seen as the most capable prime minister in week one, with 38% of respondents saying they thought he would do the top job best.

The figure stood at 37% in week six.

By comparison, more people thought Ed Miliband would make the most capable prime minister in week six (24%) than week one (18%).

First survey based on 1,500 adults aged 18-75. Second based on 1,085 responses.

6. How people decide how to vote

The political parties’ national and local policies, their values and their manifestos were the most important factors in deciding how people planned to vote in mid-April (week three), but by week six, party manifestos had become less important (featuring in 65% of responses rather than 81%).

First survey based on 1,243 adults aged 18-75. Second based on 1,085 responses.

This is part of Election Uncut, an online community of more than 2,000 people, aged 18-75, from across the UK, commissioned by BBC News from Ipsos Mori.

Members of the community were recruited privately from Ipsos Mori’s online Access Panel and selected to be representative of the UK population by:

    age
    gender
    region
    work status
    voting intention

They were asked for their thoughts and opinions on a range of issues over the general election campaign.

Source BBC News

Britain has fewer doctors, nurses and crucial medical equipment than other wealthy nations

The UK has fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and crucial medical equipment than most other wealthy nations, a report has found.

There were just 2.8 doctors and 8.2 nurses for every 10,000 people in 2012, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The other wealthy countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had averages of 3.2 and 8.9 respectively, with the EIU describing the UK figures as ‘worrying’ – as there is a strong link between staff numbers and patient outcomes.

It pointed to the Mid Staffs scandal which saw hundreds die as a result of poor care, with low staffing given as a reason for the hospital’s failings.

The report also warned that although both Labour and the Tories are promising more doctors if they are in power after the General Election, self-employed GPs in the UK are already the highest-paid in the list, earning 3.6 times the average wage, meaning it would be expensive to employ more.

At the same time, too much wage restraint would put off new recruits, it added.

Salaried GPs and hospital doctors have far more modest earnings although nurses’ wages are also comparatively high, it said.

The EIU said it would be cheaper in the long term to invest in more permanent staff rather than spending millions on agency workers.

It described administrative staff as an ‘easy target’ for job cuts because their contribution to care is less obvious, but it said the administrative costs of the NHS are low compared with other countries.

The UK has fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and crucial medical equipment than most other wealthy nations, a report has found

In terms of physical resources, the report said the situation in the UK was even worse, ranked near the bottom of the OECD league with just 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 population against an OECD average of 4.8. In Japan there were 13.4 per 1,000.

The UK had less than half the amount of equipment – such as CT scanners and MRI units – than the average, at 6.8 and 8.7 for a million people.

Overall it ranked 28th out of 30 countries for healthcare resourcing, with only Israel and Turkey coming out worse.

The UK fared better on the charts for healthcare spending – in 16th place out of 30 – but the report suggested this meant it is not getting the best value for money, while the amount being spent seems to be running ahead of funding, leading to growing budget deficits at many hospitals.

It said that although the UK healthcare system holds up well against its OECD peers judged on cost-efficiency, compared with other wealthy countries, the UK does not spend much on healthcare ‘and, in terms of equipment and staffing, it shows’.

The UK was also ‘mediocre’ in terms of outcomes, with life expectancy lower than in countries such as Japan, where older people are healthier.

Cancer mortality rates are higher than the OECD average, but the prevalence of diabetes is still relatively low compared with countries including France, Germany and Japan.

There was also good news for the UK’s performance in terms of equity, where the report said it ‘outperforms’ due to the NHS principle of free care at the point of use, meaning the gap between the care received by those on low incomes and those on higher incomes is smaller than in most OECD countries.

The report’s author, Ana Nicholls, said: ‘Although recruitment has already picked up, it is clear that NHS resources are very stretched compared with those in other OECD countries.

‘A tight budget will make it hard for politicians to fulfil their promises of extra funding, but resourcing will only become a bigger issue as the population ages.’

‘GREEDY’ PRIVATE SPECIALISTS UNDER FIRE FOR ‘PREYING ON THE NEEDY’

Doctors who treat patients privately are like the ‘greedy preying on the needy’, a consultant claims.

Heart specialist John Dean said private healthcare was a ‘con’ as doctors were more worried about making a fat fee than providing the best care. The consultant – who has just given up private work – said the conduct of some private doctors ‘bordered on criminal’.

Doctors tend to keep NHS patients waiting ever longer so they pay to have private treatment, he said. And a ‘jealousy’ exists between many consultants over how much each earns privately.

About 40 per cent of the 40,000 NHS consultants do some private work. Some can more than double their salaries, which range from £75,000 to £100,000.

The rules in their contract state that they must carry out ten sessions for the NHS a week – each lasting three to four hours – but are then free to work privately.

Dr Dean, who is based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, said in an article for the BMJ that this private work ‘deprives the NHS of a valuable resource’.

The British Medical Association said doctors had to put NHS patients first. It added: ‘There should be no conflict of interest.’

Source Mail Online

British medic declared free of Ebola

A UK military medic who has been discharged from hospital after being declared free of Ebola said it was thanks to medics that she is alive.

Cpl Anna Cross was the first person in the world to be given the experimental Ebola drug MIL 77, her doctors said.

Cpl Cross, aged 25, from Cambridge, caught the virus while working as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone.

During her illness she lost 22lb (10kg) and spent 14 days being treated at London’s Royal Free Hospital.

Doctors at the hospital said they were “absolutely thrilled” she had made a full recovery.

They described the drug she was given as a close relative of the medicine ZMapp – which British nurse William Pooley received when he was treated for Ebola.

Experts at the Royal Free said MIL 77 was made in China and that a limited supply was available, should anyone need it.

It is too soon to know what role the drug played in Cpl Cross’s recovery, they added.

‘Clinging on’

The army reservist thanked the team at the hospital, saying they were, in her opinion, “the best in the world”.

She said: “They are an incredible bunch of clinicians – incredibly skilled, incredibly dedicated and incredibly professional.

“Thanks to them I’m alive.”

The military medic had been working at the British Kerry Town treatment centre in Sierra Leone for three weeks before she became ill.

But Cpl Cross, who is an intensive care nurse in the UK, said an investigation had not been able to determine how she caught the virus.

‘Complete chicken’

When first told she had Ebola she said “it was really hard for a few hours”.

She added: “Then something within me just kicked in, as it does in difficult situations.”

But when it came to telling her family about the virus she was “completely chicken”.

The military sent people to support her relatives during this time.

Doctors said she is now completely free of Ebola after being cared for in an isolation unit.

But she added: “It’s going to take time until I can just be normal and get about my normal day. Then I have to be military fit, that might take months.”

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virus expert at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is fantastic news that another individual admitted to the Royal Free has recovered from Ebola.

“She was given an experimental drug, but it is impossible to say whether or not this directly contributed to her clearing the virus.

“In order to know whether a drug does work we need experimental trials and thankfully trials of various drugs are underway in West Africa, where Ebola virus is still doggedly clinging on.”

Ebola has claimed more than 10,000 lives across the worst-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in the past 12 months.

Sourced from the BBC Online

Meningitis B vaccine deal agreed – Jeremy Hunt

All UK babies will soon have access to a vaccine against meningitis B, after a deal with drug manufacturers, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced.

The agreement with GlaxoSmithKline will mean the vaccine can be introduced on the NHS “this year”, Mr Hunt said.

Government advisers said in 2014 that every child over two months old should be given the vaccine, but negotiations over costs have delayed this process.

Mr Hunt said it was important to get value for money.

Campaigners had warned the delays put children’s lives at risk.

The drug will now be added to the national childhood immunisation scheme, meaning babies will receive the first vaccine at two months old, followed by two further doses.

Scotland’s health secretary, Shona Robison, said the vaccine would be provided to all infants in Scotland “as quickly as possible” following the deal – which was also made on behalf of the devolved government.

A Welsh government spokesman said a price for the vaccine had been negotiated and the Welsh government was “committed to being included in the UK-wide procurement for the vaccine” and to make it available in Wales “as soon as practicable”.

Northern Ireland’s health minister, Jim Wells, also welcomed the outcome of the negotiations “to secure an effective, safe and cost-effective vaccine”.
Price negotiations

Mr Hunt said he was “delighted” to have secured an agreement with GSK – the company that now manufactures the vaccine.

It followed lengthy negotiations with another supplier – Novartis – which used to own the vaccine, called Bexsero.

GSK acquired the vaccine from Novartis, which resulted in the price of the vaccine being reduced and the deal being struck, Mr Hunt said.

Case study

Ten-year-old Sofia Crockatt lost her left leg below the knee to meningitis when she was two. Despite this, she has no mobility issues and runs, goes horse riding, and takes part in athletics.

Her father Nick said the day she became sick in 2007 was “one of the worst days of our life”.

“Sofia went from being ill with what looked like a regular flu bug, to fighting for her life within hours. The speed of it is scary.

“We found out a year ago that the vaccine was available and was ready to go – we then celebrated a year ago that this vaccine was available.

“It’s just frustrating and disappointing that some people have lost their lives and limbs and bits and pieces as a result of this vaccine not being available.”

Announcing the agreement, the health secretary said he was “very proud that we will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme”.

He said that although it was “disappointing” the deal had taken so long, it was important to follow the advice of independent scientific advisors on vaccines and their costs.

“We follow that advice, because we can’t afford every single medicine, every single new vaccine on the NHS.”

Mr Hunt added: “[The deal] means we can now go ahead this year with rolling out the meningitis B vaccine and I think that’s something that families, particularly ones with young children, will really welcome.”

Sue Davie, chief executive of charity Meningitis Now, said: “To know that babies will be protected against MenB is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis.”

Chris Head, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “We are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this devastating disease is now within sight, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention.”

Linda Glennie, also of the foundation, said the vaccine was predicted to cover more than 80% of meningitis B cases.

It would protect against a more virulent strain of meningitis B increasingly found in the UK, she added.

Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that particularly affects children under the age of one. It commonly affects children under five years of age, and is also common among teenagers aged 15 to 19.

There are about 1,870 cases of meningitis B each year in the UK.

Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, confusion, vomiting and headaches. Most children will make a full recovery with early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.

It is fatal in one in 10 cases. About one in four of those who survive is left with long-term problems, such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

What is meningitis?

  •     Meningitis is an infection of the meninges – the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
  •     Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose or throat by about one in 10 people
  •     They are passed on through close contact
  •     Anyone can get meningitis but babies and young children are most vulnerable
  •     Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, agitation, confusion, vomiting and headaches

Sourced from the BBC Online

Experts debate smoking ban in outdoor public spaces

Leading health experts have called for smoking to be banned in outdoor public spaces such as parks.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, former Labour Health Minister Lord Darzi and others argue it would encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

But in the same journal, Prof Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney called the idea “paternalistic”.

The UK smoking ban introduced in 2007 covers indoor public spaces.
‘Fleeting encounters’

But Lord Darzi and Dr Oliver Keown – both based at Imperial College London – argue it should now be extended to include parks and squares.

Despite outcry over what some considered an attack on public freedom, smoking rates have fallen and attitudes to this type of measure are changing, they say.

And they give the example of New York City, where a ban in workplaces and recreational areas was extended in 2011 to cover public spaces including parks, squares and beaches.

Lord Darzi says policies need to move forward from offering potential protection from passive smoking to consider opportunities for behaviour change,

He suggests that reducing the chance of young people seeing others light up would make smoking behaviour appear less of a norm.

An extended ban would be an opportunity to celebrate healthy living, clean air and the physical activity green spaces are meant for, he argues.

But Prof Chapman says the 2007 indoor smoking ban focused on evidence of the harms of passive smoking in indoor spaces or workplaces over long periods of time.

In contrast “fleeting encounters with cigarette plumes” in wide open spaces pose “a near homeopathic level of risk to others”, he says.

He suggests the relative lack of research looking specifically at the impact of lighting up cigarettes in parks and on beaches is down to scientists appreciating that such exposures “would be so small, dissipated and transitory as to be of no concern”.

Prof Chapman says policies based on mere sightings of smokers are “redolent of totalitarian regimes in their penchants for repressing various liberties.”

He asks: “Why not extend the same reasoning to drinkers or to people wolfing down supersized orders in fast food outlets?”

‘Legal product’

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: “Tobacco is a legal product and smokers pay £10bn a year in tobacco taxation alone.

“As long as they are considerate to those around them they must be allowed to light up outside without being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable.

“We must be careful we don’t create a world only puritans can inhabit.”

Councillor Izzi Seccombe of the Local Government Association, said: “Local authorities are already running a wide range of innovative schemes to help people stub out smoking. But they have a limited health budget with competing priorities.

“By putting some of the existing tobacco duty to better use, we could do so much more.

“This is why we are calling on government to help people live healthier lives and tackle the harm caused by tobacco by reinvesting a fifth of existing duty raised on cigarettes.”

Sourced from BBC Online