Saturday, 28 June 2014

Patients facing longer Gp waits

Patients 'facing longer GP waits'
June 25, 2014 07:27

Medical students give their reasons for favouring alternatives to general practice
By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent
Longer waits to see a GP in the UK are "becoming the norm", the British Medical Association is warning.

BMA GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said "chronic underfunding" meant patients were often having to wait one or two weeks for an appointment.

Some patients struggled to get an appointment, he said. Data from the GP patient survey in England shows one in 10 could not last time they tried.

The government said measures addressing the issue were already in place.

Dr Nagpaul will highlight the issue of funding coupled with rising demand in a speech at the BMA's annual conference on Wednesday.

He will point out that annual consultations have risen by 40 million in England alone since 2008, hitting 340 million a year at the last count.

But he will tell delegates in Harrogate that the increase has come at a time when the amount spent on general practice as a share of the NHS budget has been falling.

Complex conditions

Figures from the Royal College of GPs show that in 2005-6 it stood at 10.7% of NHS spending, but by 2011-12 it had dropped to 8.4%.

Ahead of the speech Dr Nagpaul told the BBC: "Demand is outstripping supply. The patients we are seeing have more complex conditions and yet we still only have 10 minutes for each consultation - that is woefully inadequate.

"General practice is chronically under-funded and that is beginning to have an impact on the patient experience."

He added waits of "one or two weeks were becoming the norm" for patients, although he said those needing urgent appointments would always be seen quickly.

His warning was backed up by the Patients Association.

Its chief executive, Katherine Murphy, said: "We hear daily from patients that they can't get appointments. It's even worse for those who want a named doctor for continuity of care. They are having to wait two or three weeks. It is becoming a real issue.

"We need more investment in general practice, but I think we also need greater flexibility from doctors - it can no longer be a nine to five service."

The Department of Health said this was already happening via its £50m Challenge Fund.

'Not affordable'

More than 1,100 practices - one in eight of those in England - have signed up to the initiative to extend opening hours and make greater use of technologies such as Skype and e-mail.

A spokesman added the measures should make access "more convenient" for patients.

"People need to see a GP at a time to suit them," he said.

But Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, a GP based in Truro, said: "There is a drive towards convenience general practice, and actually we do need an open and honest debate with the public about what general practice is actually funded for.

"We're struggling to cope with providing the need, let alone the convenience of what I call the Martini practice - seven days a week, any time, any place, anywhere. That, unfortunately, is not affordable."

Dr McCarron-Nash also said many practices were failing to recruit doctors.

"Why would you want to be a partner when actually [there is] liability in owning a practice, employing the staff, all the extra work that actually comes with being an employer, along with the workload demands?

"Young doctors are leaving the UK, they're deciding not to be GPs."

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "It is getting harder and harder to get a GP appointment under David Cameron's government.

"The lack of access to GPs is forcing many people to use much more expensive A&E departments.

"The next Labour government will invest £100m to help patients to get a GP appointment - either within 48 hours or a same-day consultation with a doctor or nurse for those who need it."

BBC © 2014

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Phones carry bacterial 'fingerprint'
June 24, 2014 11:11
By Helen Briggs
Health editor, BBC News website

The bugs from our bodies end up on our smartphones
Smartphones reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, say US scientists.

More than 80% of the common bacteria that make up our personal bacterial "fingerprints" end up on their screens, a study suggests.

Personal possessions, such as phones, might be useful for tracking the spread of bacteria, they report in PeerJ.

They reflect our microbiome - the trillions of different micro-organisms that live in and on our bodies.

Mobile phone users have been found to touch their devices on average 150 times a day.

Scientists have found an overlap between the collection of micro-organisms naturally present on our bodies and those on the screens of smartphones.

They say this could one day be used to track people's exposure to bacteria.

In the study, biologists from the University of Oregon sequenced the DNA of microbes found on the index fingers and thumbs of 17 people.

They also took swabs of the subjects' smartphones.

A total of 7,000 different types of bacteria were found in 51 samples.


On average, 22% of bacterial families overlapped on fingers and phones.

Some 82% of the most common bacteria present on participants' fingers were also found on their phones.

They included three families that are commonly found on the skin or in the mouth - Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium.

Men and women both shared bacteria with their phones, but the connection was stronger in women.

Bacteria are naturally present on our skin and in our mouths
Lead researcher Dr James Meadow said while the sample size was small, the findings were "revealing".

"This project was a proof-of-concept to see if our favourite and most closely held possessions microbially resemble us," he said.

"We are ultimately interested in the possibility of using personal effects as a non-invasive way to monitor our health and our contact with the surrounding environment."

The researchers say there is no evidence that mobile phones present any more infection risk than any other possession.

But they say our phones might one day be used to study whether people have been exposed to certain bacteria, particularly healthcare workers.

Emotional connection

The study confirms that "we share more than an emotional connection with our phones - they carry our personal microbiome", Dr Meadow added.

There is increasing scientific interest in the human microbiome - the population of trillions of micro-organisms that live in our gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere on our bodies.

Bacteria can be harmful but they can also have beneficial effects, particularly in the gut, by digesting food and making essential nutrients and vitamins.

BBC © 2014

Monday, 23 June 2014

Polio virus sample found in Brazil
June 23, 2014 17:55

Children are most vulnerable to the highly infectious disease but vaccines offer protection
A strain of the polio virus has been found at an international airport in Brazil, but there are no human cases, the World Health Organization has said.

A WHO statement released on Monday said the virus was found in samples taken from sewage at Viracopos International Airport in Sao Paulo state in March.

It said the local population's high immunity to the disease "appears to have prevented transmission".

Brazil has been polio-free since 1989 and has high vaccination coverage.

The virus was found in "sewage only" and subsequent analysis of similar samples have either been negative or only positive for "non-polio enteroviruses", the organisation said.

The WHO said the sample was a close match with a recent strain isolated in a case in Equatorial Guinea.

The risk of the polio virus spreading from Equatorial Guinea is described as "high" by the UN agency, but it said the risk from Brazil remained "very low".

Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. There is no cure for the disease but it can be prevented by immunisation.

Brazil's last national immunisation campaign was conducted a year ago and coverage in Sao Paulo state has been higher than 95%, the WHO said.

Polio: the facts

•A highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children under five

•Can cause irreversible paralysis

•There is no cure, but polio vaccine given multiple times can protect a child for life

•Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are the only countries left with endemic polio

BBC © 2014

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Diabetes gene 'raises risk tenfold'
June 19, 2014 01:01
By Helen Briggs
BBC News

Greenland: Type 2 diabetes cases are rising as lifestyles change
A genetic susceptibility that gives a tenfold increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes has been discovered.

The gene mutation, found in the population of Greenland, will give clues to the different causes of the condition, say Danish scientists.

The research, published in Nature, adds to evidence genetics plays a role in the chances of developing diabetes.

Other factors included lifestyle, with obesity and a bad diet increasing risks, said a diabetes charity.

Several susceptibility genes have been linked with diabetes, meaning that if an individual is carrying one of these genes they face a greater risk of developing diabetes.

Danish researchers say the new mutation is present in almost one in five of Greenlanders.

But Prof Torben Hansen, of the University of Copenhagen, said it was not found in other European, Chinese or African-American populations, suggesting type 2 diabetes has multiple causes.

The gene variation raised the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to ten times, he told BBC News.

"We have identified a new and novel type 2 diabetes gene with a huge increased risk due to insulin resistance in muscle," he added.

"Type 2 diabetes is not just one disease, it's many diseases."

Balanced diet

In the long term, this kind of research could help provide new ways to prevent and treat the condition, said Richard Elliott, research communications manager at Diabetes UK.

"Until we know more, maintaining a healthy weight by eating a healthy balanced diet and enjoying regular physical activity is the best way to prevent type 2 diabetes," he said.

Greenland: The island's population is only 57,000
Greenlanders are a historically small and isolated population - established by a very small number of individuals.

The island has undergone a rapid transformation from a traditional hunting and fishing society to a modern lifestyle, with an increasing rate of Western diseases.

Type 2 diabetes was once very rare on the island, but it has increased dramatically in the past 50 years.

Blood sugar

Prof Torben Hansen and colleagues screened for genetic links to type 2 diabetes in 2,575 people living in Greenland.

They discovered that a mutation in a gene called TBC1D4, present in 17% of the population studied, increased risk.

The effects are several times larger than any previous findings.

Unlike other mutations that have been found, it causes problems with the regulation of blood sugar levels after eating.

BBC © 2014