Friday Five

Natural contraception, energy drinks, and medicine stockpiling – this week’s Friday 5

More than a fifth of 14 year old girls self harm

In a recent report conducted by The Children’s Society, it was found that more than a fifth of 14-year old girls in the UK say they have self-harmed.

As a part of the Millennium Cohort Study, 11,000 children born between the years 2000 and 2001 took part in a questionnaire that asked whether they had hurt themselves on purpose in the past year. 22% of girls and 9% of boys answered that they had self-harmed. Based on these figures, The Children’s Society estimates that this equates to 109,000 children who may have potentially self-harmed in the 12 month period of 2015.

Self-harm is classed as causing physical injury or distress to one’s self, including punching, hitting or burning and is a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. The NSPCC lists potential triggers for self-harming may include bullying, pressure at school or grievance.

Chief executive of The Children’s Society, Matthew Reed said: “Worries about how they look are a big issue, especially for girls, but this report shows other factors such as how they feel about their sexuality and gender stereotypes may be linked to their unhappiness.”

Read more on the BBC.


‘Misleading’ contraception app advert banned

A Facebook advert for an app that provides a natural alternative to contraception has been banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, after claims that it was “highly accurate” and “provided a clinically tested alternative to other birth control methods” were found to be misleading.

Natural Cycles requires women to take their temperature every day, from which it then uses an algorithm to calculate a woman’s daily fertility rate by monitoring changes in basal body temperature.

This follows a series of complaints and cases of users falling pregnant whilst using the app. Despite controversy, the app has more than 300,00 users who pay to use the service, and has gained approval as a medical device in Europe by German regulator, Tuv Sud, and in the US by the FDA.  Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said: “Women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

Read more on the BBC.


Theresa May calls for ban on the sale of energy drinks to children

In light of fears that energy drinks may be contributing to a multitude of health issues, including obesity, tooth decay and headaches, the government has launched a public consultation to discuss a ban of the sale of energy drinks to either under 16s or 18s. This comes after surveys from teachers unions have also suggested that energy drinks contribute to poor behaviour in the classroom, although effects on behaviour have been challenged.

Energy drinks contain high levels of sugar and caffeine and children are amongst the highest consumers of energy drinks, hence making them likely to exceed their daily recommended intake. The ban will apply to drinks containing 150mg or more of caffeine and currently such drinks must carry a warning sign for the high caffeine content.

Energy Drinks Europe refute the idea of the ban saying that “For all ages, there are much greater contributors of caffeine and sugar in the diet than energy drinks. A sales ban on energy drinks is therefore arbitrary, discriminatory and not effective.

Read more on the BBC.


Matt Hancock appoints NHS chief tech advisor

Health secretary Matt Hancock has appointed Hadley Beeman, former tech and security expert at the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, as his chief technology advisor.

Berry has been tasked with modernising the NHS as part of a major transformation programme. Her appointment comes just weeks after Hancock pledged to invest £400 million into transforming NHS technology. There have been calls to update NHS technology since the WannaCry attacks last year. The NHS are the world’s biggest buyers of fax machines and own a tenth of the world’s pagers.

In a LinkedIn post, Beeman commented: “I’m delighted to say that I’m returning to Health, to work on transforming the NHS so that every part of it can use the best tech — now and going forward.‬”

Read more in the New Statesman.


Women in England to be allowed to take abortion pill at home

Currently, women ending a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks must take two pills at a clinic, up to 48 hours apart. Under new government plans, however, the second pill can be taken home. This is to avoid the risk of women miscarrying whilst travelling home.

The chief medical officer said that this move would increase choice for women, and ensure they received safer, more dignified care.

Campaigner Claudia Craig, said that the announcement showed that “women’s voices have been heard”. Ms Craig began campaigning for home use of the abortion pull after miscarrying in the back of a taxi on her way home from taking the pill. Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it was “a major step forward for women’s healthcare”.

The Department of Health said the change would come into force by the end of 2018.

Read more on the BBC.


Quote of the week

Our quote of the week is from Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, from a letter published this week in which he assures NHS organisations that the government is prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

“Hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels.”

Hancock threatened to investigate any clinicians who built up unnecessary stocks, and that separate plans had been made for medicines with short shelf lives. Campaign group Best of Britain have warned that temporary stockpiling could cost the taxpayer up to £2bn.

Read more in the Guardian.