top of page

This week's Friday Five: 24/2/23

People on mental health waiting lists told not to turn to chatbots

People awaiting mental health treatment have been warned not to talk to chatbots as an alternative to therapy. This comes after an analysis by Future Care Capital (FCC) which revealed that currently one in four patients are waiting over 90 days between their first and second NHS talking therapy appointment.

Additionally the FCC found that 87% of people who were struggling with their mental health are now using apps to support them, with 31% highlighting that they are accessing these online tools as they did not want to wait for face-to-face support.

Chatbots, initially released to be digital therapists, have become more popular. However, new language models like ChatGPT have not been designed for this purpose.

Dr Lauren Evans, director of research and innovation at FFC, emphasises that more thorough testing of these interventions are needed and that these should not be used in replace of face-to-face therapy with a medical professional. To help support people in need of mental health support, the FCC have developed a guide which directs people towards trusted apps and platforms.

Discussing this, Dr Lauren Evans said: "Digital tools are not a substitute for in-person mental health treatment, but can be used in conjunction with professional support and may help people waiting between treatment sessions."

Read more at Sky News

Junior doctors plan 72 hour strikes in England

On Monday, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced that 98% of junior doctor members (on a 77% ballot turnout) have voted in favour of industrial action. Next month, junior doctors across England are to go on a 72 hour strike if the government refuses to resolve current pay disputes - over the last 15 years junior doctor's pay has fallen by 26%. While the dates of these strikes are yet to be announced, trusts have said emergency cover will be required to ensure that patient safety is maintained during this time.

Discussing the BMA's announcement, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: "We hugely value the work of junior doctors and it is deeply disappointing some union members have voted for strike action. I’ve met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss what is fair and affordable, as well as wider concerns around conditions and workload. I want to continue discussing how we can make the make the NHS a better place to work for all.”

Read more at HSJ

New CPR machine to help more patients experiencing cardiac arrest

A new advanced CPR machine, named E-CPR, has become available to patients who do not respond to the traditional CPR. The new service, available in the Thames Valley region involves linking patients to an artificial lung machine and hopes to help people suffering from cardiac arrest. When connected to the machine, blood is pumped through an artificial lung external to the body, helping patients whose own circulatory system is not functioning. Patients will then receive CPR when attached to the machine.

Results from a small scale study in 2020 found that this treatment can improve survival rates compared to traditional CPR. The machine, which is already available across some hospitals, is to be extended to include patients outside of hospital.

Discussing this new intervention, Dr James Raitt, research lead at Thames Valley Air Ambulance said: "Our critical care crews have been trained to quickly identify the patients who will benefit the most from E-CPR and then enact our procedures for ensuring the patient arrives as quickly as possible for the treatment.”

Read more at The Independent

Spinal nerve cell stimulation to help stroke victims

Researchers have developed a new intervention to help restore movements in stroke survivors. Globally, about one in four people will experience a stroke in their lifetime, among those who survive many are left with long-term motor problems include paralysis or movement difficulties. Consequently, every day tasks like getting dressed, eating and writing becomes extremely difficult.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have explored how the connections between the brain and spinal cord are disrupted. They noted that while some signals responsible for controlling arm and hand movements are still able to get through, the connections are too weak to enable movement and muscular control.

The team, writing in the journal Nature Medicine, have sought to restore these motor functions through implanting electrodes in the brains of two stroke patients. These electrodes were used to stimulate the sensory neurones communicating with the limbs, amplifying the muscles to move. The results from the study found that when the stimulation was turned on the arm and hand strength improved alongside the range of movements the participant's could make.

Discussing the impact of this new intervention one of the study's participants, Heather Rendulic, said: "The most challenging part of my condition is living one-handed in a two-handed world. When the [electrode] stimulation is on, I feel like I now have control of my arm and my hand again that I haven’t had in over nine years.”

Read more at The Guardian

Quote of the Week

Thousands of NHS staff are expected to struggle after national funding for mental health hubs supporting key workers ends next month. The hubs, which were originally set up to support NHS workers following Covid, are being forced to either close or reduce their services as the NHS and department for health and social care have not confirmed continued funding for 2023-2024.

Discussing the impact of this, Professor Mike Wang, chair of the Association of Clinical Psychologists said: “There is a clinical responsibility, not to remove a service from individuals who are vulnerable, and in difficulty … the problem with that is that the funding ceases at the end of March and that’s absolutely no time at all to make any [future] provision.”

Read more at The Independent

bottom of page