Friday Five

Gadgets, gonorrhoea and, of course, the Long Term Plan – this week’s Friday Five

CQC appoints new chief inspector

The Care Quality Commission has appointed a new chief inspector for primary and integrated care – Rosie Benneyworth. She will lead on CQC inspections for all primary medical services, including general practice, pharmacy and dentistry and integrated care.

Benneyworth is a GP and vice chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and is also director of strategic clinical services transformation for Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.

She is taking over from Professor Steven Field, who was the first chief inspector appointed for primary care and has been in post since 2013.

Ian Trenholm, chief executive for the CQC, said: “We’re delighted that Dr Rosie Benneyworth will be joining us. Rosie brings invaluable experience of health and care from a range of perspectives in her roles as a GP, her work at NICE and most recently leading Strategic Clinical Services Transformation at Somerset CCG.”

Read more in the HSJ (£).


‘Super gonorrhoea’ hits UK

Two women in the UK have been infected with super gonorrhoea, a strain resistant to antibiotic treatment, it was announced by Public Health England (PHE) this week. Both women have since been cured, but it has sparked concern from health officials and news outlets across the country.

There is no personal connection or established chain of sexual partners that links the two women, but both were infected with a version of gonorrhoea that was resistant to the first choice antibiotics – a combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Officials are investigating possible links to a European “party destination” and  are trying to contact the women’s sexual partners in the UK.

Last year officials warned that a Briton had contracted the “world’s worst ever” case of super gonorrhoea, which occurred after the man had a sexual encounter with a woman in south-east Asia.

Dr Nick Phin, from Public Health England, said it was “unfair” to say super gonorrhoea was currently circulating in the UK. But he told the BBC, “it really brings home the message that these organisms will spread globally and you can get them in the UK.”

Read more in The Telegraph.


NHS to expand cochlear implant eligibility 

Hundreds more deaf people whose hearing loss is too severe for conventional hearing aids will be eligible to receive implants on the NHS after National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced it would scale back the previously strict criteria. Britain previously had “strictest criteria in the developed world for accessing cochlear implants,” the National Deaf Children’s Society said.

Cochlear implants consist of a microphone, processor and transmitter worn outside the body and a receiver and electrodes under the skin which send signals into the auditory nerves and brain.

The change comes after NICE, which evaluates cost effectiveness of NHS treatments, reviewed definitions of profound deafness from being unable to hear sounds above 90 decibels in two or more frequencies, to 80Db.

Estimates say that around 850 adults and children could benefit each year.

Read more in the Independent.


Common drugs may treat mental illness

Researchers at University College London have found that cheap drugs used to treat diabetes and heart problems may have potential to treat mental illness. Their study found that the number of times patients needed hospital treatment fell by up to a fifth when they took the drugs. But experts say the results now need to be tested in clinical trials.

The researchers focused on statins – which may calm inflammation linked to mental health problems or help the body absorb anti-psychotic medication, blood pressure drugs – which may alter the calcium signalling in the brain that has been linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and type 2 diabetes drug metformin – which may alter mood. They analysed life-long medical records of 142,691 people in Sweden who had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other severe mental illnesses, and the number of times each was admitted to a psychiatric hospital clinic when they were taking those medications and when they were not. Results showed a 10-20% reduction in the number of admissions when on the medications.

Dr James MacCabe, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “These findings are very compelling. [They] strongly suggest a potential role for repurposing these drugs to improve mental health outcomes.”

Professor Naveed Sattar, from University of Glasgow, remains sceptical, however, and says: “I would be strongly cautious with these findings and would only change my mind if effects are proven to be robust in a randomised trial.”

Read more on BBC


CES 2019 unveils innovative health gadgets

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off this week in Las Vegas, and although the event is mostly dominated by smart-TVS, self-driving cars and smartphones, there were a couple of interesting health innovations announced.

Samsung, already known in the health sector for their partnership with Babylon, unveiled the Samsung Bot Care. This robot aims to assist users in their daily health routine, including reading blood pressure and heart rate, monitoring sleep cycles and managing stress with music therapy. It has not been announced whether the Bot will be made available commercially.

Samsung has developed health-related products in the past, including an app to aid Alzheimer’s patients, an app to help the visually impaired and a device for those with lung issues that facilitates breathing exercises.

Also unveiled were gadgets that analyse a person’s breath to monitor metabolism. Both Lumen and FoodMarble are pocket-sized devices that help people make diet choices by informing them of how well they are digesting or burning calories. Lumen, which measures carbon dioxide expulsion, has raised almost $2m in crowdfunding and is due to go on sale this summer at $299. Conversely, FoodMarble measures hydrogen levels in breath. It was released in December and has already had $1m worth of orders.

One expert has expressed doubts, however. “There is only limited scientific research showing that these validated tests carried out in a hospital environment can tell you what foods you are sensitive to,” said Kevin Whelan, a professor of diatetics at King’s College London.

Read more on Endgadget.com and the BBC.


Quote of the week

“Our Long Term Plan will ensure the NHS continues to be there, free at the point of use, based on clinical need, not ability to pay, better resourced with more staff.” – Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for the Department for Health and Social Care.

We’re sure you’ve heard about the Long Term Plan‘s release on Monday. Read our chief executive Zoe Bedford’s thoughts on the plan here. And if you’re interested in what others had to say on the day of its release, check out our summary.