Friday Five

Pioneering radiotherapy, contaminated blood scandal and multidrug-resistant TB – this week’s Friday Five

Pioneering radiotherapy treatment

The first patient in the UK, Barry Dolling, has been treated with the MR Linac, which simultaneously scans tumours inside the body while delivering X-ray radiation beams. The machine seamlessly combines MRI and radiotherapy without interference. This allows clinicians to adjust treatment in real time, making it highly accurate and will hopefully result in less side effects.

Dr Alison Tree, consultant oncologist described the treatment as “a dream come true” and “This allows us to see the cancer more clearly and make sure the radiation goes where it is needed and not where it can cause harm.” The treatment also allows higher doses of radiation to be administered, enabling patients to recover more quickly.

Read more on the BBC.


Contaminated blood scandal: the government apologises

At the start of an inquiry looking into how patients were given infected blood during the 1970s and 1980s, the government has issued an apology, expressing their “sorrow and regret”

As many as 30,000 people are thought to have been infected by blood products imported into the UK from the US. The government recognises that “things happened that should not have happened” with infections having a “devastating” impact on individuals and their families.

There have been previous inquiries into the scandal, but after decades of campaigning by victims, this is the first UK-wide public inquiry that can compel witnesses to testify and is expected to last nearly 2 years.

Read more on the BBC.


Ambulance service deemed insufficient 

A new report produced for NHS Improvement has declared that the ambulance services in the UK are severely insufficient.

In July eight out of 10 services missed their seven-minute target for answering the most life-threatening emergencies. Potential problems contributing to this stark occurrence have been picked up by the regulator and include, 1 in 4 ambulances being older than 7 years, severe delays in implementation of technology and the highest rates of staff sick days in the NHS.

The review said tackling the problems identified could save £500m a year by 2021 – money that could then be reinvested into services. However, The government has already taken some action. Earlier this year £36.3m of funding was provided to pay for 256 new ambulances.

Read more in the BBC.


India battling with rise of multidrug-resistant TB in children 

MDR TB has become a huge problem among children in India. A multitude of problems contributes to this including the apparent poverty stigma associated with the disease, resulting in children being shunned by other children or parents in fear their own child might contract the disease.

TB is harder to diagnose in children as they do not present visible symptoms but if undiagnosed can lead to severe health defects. Current practice includes testing all members of a family for TB if one person is diagnosed. Similarly, children who are not yet presenting symptoms of TB should still be treated with antibiotics to prevent future infection. However, this is not routinely performed due to concerns from health professionals administering antibiotics with side effects to seemingly healthy individuals and confusion over the best drug to use. Only 11% of children under 5 in India currently receive this treatment.

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, a scientific group, sets this as an example of how children with TB are neglected, with Paul Jensen, director of policy, at the union stating it as an abuse of their human rights; “Their rights to health are being systematically violated by health systems all around the world.”

Find out more about The Union and their work at https://www.theunion.org/

Read more in The Independent.


NHS England national director leaving to join Google Deepmind Health 

Michael Macdonnell who has been in the posting of NHS England’s Director of Strategy since last year is leaving to become head of partnerships and delivery at the Google AI Firm, Deepmind Health.

In his current role, Macdonnell has been one of the key architects of the development of integrated care systems, but also helped draw up the five year forward view and founding the system transformation group. His role at Google Deepmind will see him strengthening Deepmind’s partnerships in the NHS and overseas with the aim of applying AI to clinical practice.

Read more on the HSJ.


Quote of the week

Our quote of the week is from NHS England, in response to the published STP tech framework, giving tech suppliers access to an estimated £300m of new NHS spending on digital technology.

“This new framework will make it far simpler for NHS hospitals to introduce groundbreaking new technologies that can help their clinicians provide better care.”

Read more on the HSJ website.