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This week's Friday Five: 12/8/22

90% of NHS dentists not accepting new patients

New research by the BBC has found that 9/10 NHS dental practices are not accepting new adult patients, and 8/10 practices are not taking on children.

Researchers contacted nearly every NHS dental practice in the country to find that the vast majority were not accepting any new patients and that waiting times could be at least a year.

Chairman of the British Dental Association Eddie Crouch says: “Patients are having teeth removed because it’s a cheaper option than actually saving the teeth. The whole system is set up for health inequalities, and that significantly needs to change.”

Read the full article in BBC News.

NHS hit two year wait target

New NHS figures reveal that the backlog of 22,500 patients waiting at least 2 years for scans, checks and surgery has been cut to less than 200.

This is the NHS’ first milestone in its plan to tackle the Covid backlogs. The NHS employed innovative techniques such as robotic surgery as well as requiring patients to travel to receive care at different locations across the country to be seen as quickly as possible.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The next phase will focus on patients waiting longer than 18 months, building on the fantastic work already done, and, while it is a significant challenge, our remarkable staff have shown that, when we are given the tools and resources we need, the NHS delivers for our patients.”

Read the full story in ITV News.

50% increase in use of antipsychotic drugs in care homes since 2018

New research has found that there has been a 50% increase in the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia patients in care homes since 2018.

Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to treat patients with schizophrenia who experience hallucinations. They have powerful sedative effects which can control agitation in people with dementia. However, elderly patients are at risk of more severe side effects such as stroke and accelerated decline.

Dr Richard Oakley, from the Alzheimer’s Society said: “Alzheimer’s Society has been campaigning for a move away from the model of ‘medicate first’ and funded research into alternatives to antipsychotic prescriptions, focused on putting people living with dementia at the centre of their own care. This drug-free, tailored care can help avoid the loss of lives associated with the harmful side effects of antipsychotic medications.”

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

Low sodium salt substitutes can reduce risk of heart attack, stroke and early death

An evidence review of clinical trials involving nearly 32,000 participants has found that using salt substitutes leads to positive health outcomes and reduced mortality.

High levels of sodium present in salt can increase blood pressure and lead to subsequent health issues including heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Salt substitutes replace sodium chloride with potassium. The authors of the study found that blood pressure reductions were consistent across a broad range of geographical regions and patient characteristics and that salt substitutes had a protective effect against mortality and cardiovascular events.

The authors of the study said: “These findings are unlikely to reflect the play of chance and support the adoption of salt substitutes in clinical practice and public health policy as a strategy to reduce dietary sodium intake, increase dietary potassium intake, lower blood pressure and prevent major cardiovascular events,” the researchers write of the new study.

Read the full story in The Guardian, and the full research paper in Heart.

Quote of the week:

A new consensus statement from cancer experts have said that all cancer patients must have their cancers genetically tested. Identifying specific mutations can guide patients towards tailored and potentially more effective treatment.

Sally Hayton, a patient with Stage 4 lung cancer, underwent genetic testing and has survived nearly 8 years past her initial life expectancy. She says: “It’s essential biomarker testing becomes mainstream. If a mutation shows up with a specific treatment available, that could give people extra years and a higher quality of life.”

Read the full story in The Times.

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