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This week's Friday Five 20/1/23

Further February nurse strike action announced

On Monday it was announced by the Royal College of Nursing that two new nurse strikes will be held in February (6th &7th) across England and Wales if there is no further movements on pay. While English and Welsh governments have given an average of 4.75% to NHS staff guaranteeing everyone a minimum £1,400 pay increase, the union has asked for a 5% increase above the RPI rate of inflation - figures which currently stand at 14%. Next month's walk-outs are expected to be the largest so far affecting all but one Welsh health board and over a third of all NHS trusts in England.

RCN general Secretary Pat Cullen discusses the rationale underlying further strike action. He said: "It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking this week and again in three weeks. Rather than negotiate, Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action again. We're doing this in a desperate bid to get him and ministers to rescue the NHS. The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs - patient care is suffering like never before."

Read more at BBC News

Technology to be used to improve patient safety during surgery

On Monday the Times announced that technology which is currently used by doctors to watch surgery remotely is to be used by the NHS to help reduce deadly errors. Cameras are installed in operating theatre to establish a "borderless room" through which specialists can join in globally to provide a second opinion or share instructions during operations.

The software platform, Proximie, is already used by a fifth of NHS trusts for emergency, cancer and routine surgery performance evaluation and training purposes. However, Health Leaders believe that this new software could help address wider issues of safety concerns - something which remains essential in light of recent figures showing a 30% increase in patient safety incidents from 2015, leading to 426 deaths between 2021-2022 alone.

Discussing the reasons behind this rise in safety incidents, The Patient Safety in Surgery report argued it is a likely consequence of increasing staff shortages. It said: "Where surgeries do go ahead without the full number of expected staff in the operating room patient safety could be compromised". Through digitising operating theatres the report highlights that this technology can help reduce the impact of staff shortages and ensure quality patient care is maintained.

Read more at The Times

Study finds newborn screening for SMA improves mobility outcomes

A new study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health finds that screening newborns for a rare genetic condition causing progressive muscle weakness can lead to significant mobility improvements among children with the disease through allowing earlier intervention. Researchers in Australia found the majority of newborns diagnosed with type one spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) were able to walk independently/or with help two years after being diagnosed if they had access to early treatment. Sadly, those who were diagnosed after the onset of symptoms (average age of 4 months), lacked key mobility functions - most children were only able to sit unassisted.

Currently, newborn screenings for this condition are only available in select countries including the US, Japan, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, Norway and Germany. In the UK, the UK National Screening Committee is discussing introducing this screening as a feature of The Newborn Genome Programme - a research project which aims to diagnose and treat rare genetic disorders through sequencing the DNA of 100,000 newborns.

The study's author Dr Arlene D'Silva hopes that the publishing of this new research will mean more countries choose to implement these screenings across their health services, saying: “We believe our findings justify broader implementation of newborn screening for SMA.”

Read more at The Independent

NICE publishes new guidance for antidepressant drug withdrawal

According to new information published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reducing antidepressant dosages should be carried out in increments by medical professionals to help reduce the symptoms associated with drug withdrawal in patients.

This information was published as part of the NICE information about how mental healthcare improvements can be implemented across England and Wales. A committee of experts found that community care services should work more with patients to agree treatment plans, including addressing whether it is right for them to come off medication and over what period this withdrawal should take place. The NICE also indicated that more needs to be done to address how mental health care is currently delivered. This includes the removal of language barriers across mental health services, ensuring all services are culturally appropriate and providing additional attention to adults with depression from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Dr Paul Chrisp, who is leading these NICE guidelines discusses the rationale underlying some of these changes. He said: "In many cases, people experience withdrawal symptoms, and the length of time it takes them to safely come off these drugs can vary, which is why our committee's useful and useable statement for a staged withdrawal over time from these drugs is to be welcomed."

Read more at BBC News

Quote of the Week

On Thursday a joint committee in charge of reviewing the government's draft Mental Health Bill argued that changes must be made to help address existing racial inequalities. Baroness Buscombe, chair of the joint committee on the draft Mental Health Bill highlighted that members welcome the reforms suggested under the draft bill and that ministers must act to present these changes to Parliament.

She said: “To drive reform, we urge the creation of a new Mental Health Commissioner to monitor the implementation of the bill and to speak up for patients, families and carers. We believe stronger measures are needed to bring about change, in particular to tackle racial disparity in the use of the Mental Health Act. The failure to date is unacceptable and inexcusable.”

Read more at The Independent


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