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This week's Friday Five: 14/4/23

Around one in five calls to NHS 111 in England are cancelled

An analysis by the Liberal Democrats reveals that in the last 12 months approximately

3.6 million patient calls to NHS 111 in England have been cancelled due to long-waiting times. The national helpline service, which operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week, was originally established to help make it easier and quicker for patients seeking medical treatment either for physical or mental health problems. However, the analysis by the House of Common's Library highlights that as callers are waiting long periods to speak to someone roughly one in five calls end up being cancelled. In 2022, this led to 3,682,516 calls to NHS 111 being abandoned, suggesting that daily around 10,000 callers are potentially not receiving medical advice/treatment.

Discussing the impact of this data, the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey said: It is completely unacceptable that so many people in need of urgent medical advice are struggling to get through to NHS 111. Staff are exhausted, patients are left in pain, but still Conservative ministers are burying their heads in the sand."

Read more at The Guardian

New NHS testing programme to help patients with cancer causing conditions

A new testing programme is being rolled out by the NHS which aims to help identify patients with Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition which increases the risk of developing certain cancers including ovarian, pancreatic, and bowel cancer.

In England, it is estimated that approximately 1 in 400 people have Lynch syndrome, equating to roughly 175,000 people in England. However, the condition often remains undiagnosed with only 5% of people aware that they have the condition. The national programme aims to ensure that all people diagnosed with bowel and endometrial cancers are offered this genomic testing for Lynch syndrome. This aims to identify those with the condition and provide them with access to more personalised cancer care/treatment alongside genetic testing for family members and relatives.

Discussing the impact of this programme NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This cutting-edge genetic test is helping to identify thousands of people who are living with Lynch syndrome – meaning we can work with them to reduce their risk of cancer, and provide more personalised and effective treatment if they do need it."

Read more at NHS England

Junior doctors' strike deemed the most disruptive yet

This week across England, junior doctors have begun a four-day walkout. This walkout is expected to be the most disruptive in NHS history with healthcare leaders predicting approximately over 250,000 appointments and operations could be cancelled. Some hospitals have predicted up to half of their planned treatments could be affected.

The British Medical Association (BMA) have highlighted that help is still available for those who need it, with plans in place to prevent some doctors from striking when lives are in immediate danger. This approach is in line with trade union laws which says that life-and-limb cover must be provided. However, doctors have highlighted that this week's industrial action is as much about maintaining patient safety as it is about pay, with current pay levels impacting recruitment and spurring many doctors to leave their profession.

Discussing the impact of this industrial action, Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair of the BMA, said that she hopes that this round of industrial action will be the last. Speaking to BBC breakfast she said: "This is not a situation where we are fixed in our position. We are looking for negotiations and Steve Barclay isn't even willing to talk to us. He hasn't put any offer at all on the table. If we want to start a negotiation there has to be two sides in the discussion. We are the only side in the discussion at the moment."

Read more at BBC News

Air pollution associated with increased dementia risk

New research published in the BMJ journal finds that exposure to air pollution is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia, a risk that occurs below the levels in the UK, US, and EU air quality standards.

This research comes from experts at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health which evaluated 14 studies, examining the link between dementia and exposure to fine particulate matter. Fine particulate matter is an air pollutant which is comprised of small solid or liquid substances which are inhaled by people as they breathe. The researcher's analysis highlights that for every two micrograms per cubic metre increase in average annual particulate matter the risk of dementia increased by 4%. The research found no association between ozone, a gas formed in the air due to reactions between pollutants, and dementia.

Discussing the impact of these research findings, Dr Susan Michell, head of policy at Alzheimer's Research UK said: "Poor air quality is a significant public health issue, and this new review helps to cement the relationship between certain types of air pollution and dementia risk. But as individuals there’s little we can do about the air we breathe. So it’s vital the government leads from the front in reducing air pollution and the resulting harm to our brain health."

Read more at The Guardian

Quote of the week

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that children aged between 6 months to 4 years who are clinically vulnerable should receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. This guidance comes after new coronavirus data highlights that infants and young children with underlying medical conditions are over 7 times more likely to be admitted to paediatric intensive care units.

Discussing this new guidance, Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said: "COVID-19 is still in circulation, with thousands of new cases reported every week. The extra protection offered by the vaccine could be important for young children in clinical risk groups, who are at greater risk of severe illness. The virus is not going away so I would encourage all parents to bring their child forward if they are eligible."

Read more at GOV UK

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