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Genes, ghosts and Gould: this week’s Friday Five

Genome sequencing to diagnose children

All seriously ill children in England with an unexplained disorder will be eligible for genome analysis, which involves mapping a person’s entire genetic code, from next year.

It follows a project at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge university, which found that one in four children in intensive care had a genetic disorder.

Researchers were able to give a diagnosis within two to three weeks, which sometimes led to a change in treatment or spared children further invasive tests. In each case, the whole genome of the child and both their parents were sequenced, which showed whether a gene fault had been passed on.

Read more in the BBC.

GP ‘ghost patients’ to be investigated by NHS fraud squad

The NHS fraud squad is investigating GPs in England amid suspicions they are claiming for non-existent patients.

Doctors get an average of £150 a year for each patient on their list, but records show there were 3.6 million more patients in the system last year than there were people in England. The discrepancy prompted NHS England to employ a company to start chasing up these so-called ghost patients. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority is now launching its own investigation.

Doctors’ leaders have always insisted the issue of ghost patients most often has an innocent explanation, such as instances where patients have died or moved without the knowledge of their GP.

Read more in the BBC.

Mental health crisis: students want parents to be told

Two-thirds of students support universities being able to warn parents if students have a mental health crisis, an annual survey suggests. There have been concerns about student suicides and the survey indicated worsening levels of anxiety on campus.

Only 14% reported “life satisfaction”, in this study of 14,000 UK students. And most thought even though students were independent adults, universities should in an emergency be allowed to disclose information to parents.

Read more in the BBC.

Fortifying flour with folic acid

The government is consulting on plans to add folic acid to flour in the UK to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.

Pregnant women are already advised to take folic acid, but many do not. It is estimated fortifying flour with folic acid could prevent up to 200 birth defects a year.

Mandatory fortification would mean everybody who ate foods such as bread would get more folic acid, but scientists have advised the government the recommended level is safe.

Read more in the BBC.


Quote of the week

The health service is “in danger of creating unrealistic expectation and demand” in terms of digitalisation.

At an event held by techUK on 10 June, Matthew Gould was quizzed about the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme – NHS England’s flagship programme designed to create a group of reference sites for NHS digitisation that provide standardised blueprints for other trusts to follow.

He also said that, “For me part of the job is standards but also supporting the system, getting resources into the system to raise the standards of digitalisation”, and too many trusts are “just trying to get through the day” and expecting them to do “100 whizzy things is not realistic”.

Read more in Digital Health.


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