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This week's Friday Five: 10/2/23

New test to preserve babies hearing approved by NHS

A new test is to become available through the NHS to help preserve the hearing of newborn babies. Approximately 1,250 babies in England and Wales are born with a change to their genetic code that increases their sensitivity to the regularly used antibiotic Gentamicin. When taken by these infants the medication becomes toxic binding to the hair cells in their ears, resulting in permanent hearing loss. Until this point, there has been no test available that could provide results fast enough to check whether infants had this sensitivity before antibiotics were administered. Ultimately, concerns regarding antibiotic resistance mean that this medication is still regularly used.

A new genedrive kit, which analyses cells taken from the baby's cheek, has now been developed to help quickly identify babies with this susceptibility. Initial trials of the test in intensive care units across England have found it was able to identify individuals who were at risk of hearing loss within 26 minutes and did not delay the treatment pathway. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has provisionally approved the use of this test across the NHS.

Mark Chapman, Interim director of medical technology at NICE, discussed the impact of this, saying: "Hearing loss has a substantial impact on the quality of the life of the baby and their family. Having this test available to NHS staff can avoid the risk of hearing loss in babies with the variant who need treatment with antibiotics."

Read more at BBC News

New projects announced to improve sexual health and HIV outcomes

This week the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the implementation of new projects to improve sexual health and HIV outcomes. These projects include raising awareness of sexual health risks and offering monkeypox (mpox) vaccinations in non-clinical settings including pubs and music festivals to increase uptake from minority groups.

To achieve this, each community-based, voluntary sector organisation has been given up to £30,000 as part of a £200,000 monkeypox and sexual health (STI and HIV) outreach and engagement activity fund. This funding hopes to support individuals who are anxious about getting tested, and those struggling to take their HIV medication alongside increasing the knowledge and access to sexual health information and testing.

Discussing these changes, Kate Folkard, Head of Programme Delivery for Sexual Health and Blood Born Viruses at UKHSA said: "The innovation and reach of voluntary and community sector organisations is a vital piece in the puzzle of how we effectively tackle sexual health inequality across England. These projects span the length and breadth of the country and will provide a valuable set of resources in England to build on the achievements already seen in the response to the mpox outbreak."

Read more at GOV UK

NHS tech funding falls below £1bn

HSJ reports that following significant changes across funding, NHS England's technology budget is now worth less than £1bn. These funding changes have led to limited resources available for different technology programmes including NHSE's scheme which helps trusts obtain electronic patient records (EPRs).

HSJ highlights that with less than £1bn left in tech funding to cover the next two financial years, there is further doubt as to whether NHSE will be able to support trusts to reach their 2025 digitisation targets. Historically, NHSE has funded at least 50% of the EPRs for trusts. Without this funding, it could mean that around a dozen trusts in need of EPRs are unable to get them.

Amidst these difficulties a spokesperson from NHS England said: “We continue to prioritise our Spending Review funding to deliver our tech and other priorities in line with patient need. The NHS remains firmly committed to our digital strategy from supporting hospitals to adopt electronic patient record systems to transforming how patients access NHS services through the NHS App.”

Read more at HSJ

New NICE guidance recommends digital mental health technologies for children

As part of their rapid healthcare guidance, NICE recommends mental health technologies for children and young people. This includes four digital technologies which can help individuals aged between 5 to 18 years with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. These technologies are to be rolled out once approved by NHS England for meeting the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC).

These four technologies are comprised of a mix of games, quizzes and videos and are based on principles developed by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. They are to be available for GPs as an initial treatment option to provide earlier support for young people while evidence is being gathered about their treatment needs. Once approved these technologies will be accessed as a set of self-guided tools available across a range of devices including mobile phones, tablets or computers.

Discussing the impact of this new guidance, Mark Chapman interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE said: “Patient experts told our committee that mental health services are in high demand, access varies widely across the country, and there is an unmet need when it comes to receiving treatment while on waiting lists to see specialists. These four technologies offer low-risk options to children and young people who need to begin treatment as soon as possible."

Read more at NICE

Quote of the Week

On Monday and Tuesday, nurses across 73 trusts in England went on strike - figures which have increased from the industrial action in January (55 trusts) and December (44 trusts). Across Scotland and Wales strike action remains suspended following increased negotiations over pay and working conditions.

Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nurses in England argues that urgent action is needed to support nurses in England, saying: “England is now being left behind and Rishi Sunak is punishing nurses here by refusing to negotiate and pay people fairly. In Scotland and Wales nurses are being offered more and strikes are currently cancelled. England’s nurses cannot be left the lowest paid in the UK. The prime minister must act and stop these strikes.”

Read more at The Guardian


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