Research questions link between low serotonin and depression, real-terms pay cuts for NHS staff and longer A&E waits for mental health patients – this week’s Friday Five
New research questions the link between chemical imbalance and depression
UCL scientists have conducted a major review into if low serotonin levels are responsible for depression, finding that there is ‘no clear evidence’ to support the link.
The studies lead author, Joanna Moncrieff, points out that many people take antidepressants as they are led to believe depression had a biochemical cause, and that this research demonstrates this belief is not grounded in evidence. Instead, the review found, depression may be more strongly connected to traumatic and stressful life events.
Moncrieff said: ‘Our view is that patients should not be told that depression is caused by low serotonin or by a chemical imbalance, and they should not be led to believe that antidepressants work by targeting these unproven abnormalities…. We do not understand what antidepressants are doing to the brain exactly, and giving people this sort of misinformation prevents them from making an informed decision about whether to take antidepressants or not.’
New gene therapy trial cuts bleeding risk in haemophilia B patients
Researchers have found that a single injection of gene therapy, called FLT180a, removed the need for haemophilia B patients to inject themselves weekly for clotting factors.
Haemophilia is a rare condition that impacts on the blood’s ability to clot, people with the condition are lacking clotting factors and are therefore at risk of heavy bleeding from cuts. In the 26-week trial, experts found a single treatment with FLT180a removed the need for regular injection by correcting their genetic fault in nine out of ten patients with severe or moderately severe haemophilia.
The study’s lead author, Prof Pratima Chowdary, from UCL, said: ‘Removing the need for haemophilia patients to regularly inject themselves with the missing protein is an important step in improving their quality of life… The long-term follow-up study will monitor the patients for durability of expression and surveillance for late effects.’
Senior NHS staff on Agenda for Change receive much lower pay rises than those given to the majority of staff
The recent pay announcements have revealed that bands 8 and 9 will receive much lower pay rises than those given to the majority of staff.
A staff member at the top of Band 8a will receive a pay rise of 2.6 per cent, whilst staff at the top of band 9 will see their pay rise go up by just 1.3 per cent. In contrast, under the new proposals, which have been accepted by the government, band 6 and 7 are guaranteed a 4 per cent uplift.
Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership warned that this real-terms pay cut could lead to staff considering their future in the health service and that the award ‘isn’t good enough for staff at all levels, but it’s especially raw for managers.’ Restell added: ‘Ministers can dress up this award as much as they like, but inflation is 9.4 per cent so it wipes at least 7 per cent from band 8 and 9 salaries in real terms.’
Mental health patients forced to wait several days at A&E
Mental health patients arriving at emergency departments in crisis are facing increasingly long waits for an inpatients bed, with some being forced to wait several days.
Whilst early intervention for patients in mental health crisis is deemed crucial in care and recovery, services are unable to meet demands. NHS England has pointed to record numbers of people seeking mental health support, and has said efforts are being made to invest in crisis support teams.
RCEM president Katherine Henderson said: ‘We have massive concern for this patient group. We feel they are getting a really poor deal at the moment… The bottom line is there are not enough mental health beds. There are not enough community mental health services to support patients and perhaps therefore prevent a crisis and the need for beds in the first place.’
A recent report published by The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recommends short and long term actions for dealing with covid and future health emergencies, arguing for the need for a single national command centre for the pandemic response.
Head of the institute, Dr Henry Dowlen, said in a statement: ‘The government is missing two big pieces of the puzzle in managing Covid-19 – a centralised command and control response covering businesses, schools and hospitals, and basing communications on evidence rather than assumptions… Covid-19 is here to stay but we haven’t learned how to effectively manage our new reality yet – the government needs to reset the national approach so it is more strategic and restores trust with the public.’