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This week's Friday Five: 27/1/23

Proportion of women not getting cervical cancer screening reaches 10-year high

The latest data from NHS England shows that record number of women are not being screened for cervical cancer, approximately 4.6 million women aged between 25 to 64 (roughly 30%) have never been screened or are up-to-date with their cervical testing. This represents the highest proportion in the last decade.

Despite this, cervical cancer remains the 14th most common cancer among women in the UK with around 3,200 women being diagnosed annually, a quarter of whom end up dying from it. Half of the cases of cervical cancer occur in women who have never been screened, consequently the leading Cervical Cancer Charity, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, emphasises that urgent action is required by ministers to address this high mortality rate.

Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo's Cervical cancer in the UK said: “We want to see the government step up and commit to eliminating cervical cancer in the UK…Other countries are much further along the path to ending this cancer and we do not want the UK to fall behind."

Read more at The Guardian

£150 million government funding to boost mental health services

New reports highlight that an additional £150 million of government funding will be provided to mental health urgent and emergency care services. This funding hopes to provide patients with more tailored emergency care and greater community support through services like specialised mental health ambulances (an additional 100 to be added), crisis support and improved health-based places of safety through supporting over 30 schemes providing crisis cafes, housing and other similar places. This financial support will continue up to April 2025 and hopes to relieve the current pressure faced by NHS services. This funding comes following recent NHS data which finds that individuals with mental health conditions are twice as likely to spend over 12 hours in emergency departments. The government argues that more needs to be done to ensure that individuals are receiving the best possible care in the most appropriate setting.

Discussing this additional funding Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said: "People in mental health crisis deserve compassionate care in a safe and appropriate setting…This important funding will make sure they get the help they need, while easing pressures on emergency departments and freeing up staff time – which is a huge priority for the government this winter."

Read more at GOV UK

New plant toxin to help combat antibiotic resistance

A new plant toxin called albicin has emerged as one of the strongest antibiotic candidates in decades, finding it is able to kill bacteria which are increasingly becoming more resistant to antibiotics, including E.coli and salmonella.

Previously pharmaceutical applications of this toxin were limited as scientists did not know how it interacted with its targets. However, advancements in a technique called transmission electron microscopy which allows specimens to be examined at low temperatures means that researchers across the UK, Germany and Poland have now been able to study how it works and interacts with the DNA of bacterial enzymes. They have found that the ways it interacts differs significantly from current antibiotics and therefore something which means it is likely to be effective against current antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Discussing the findings, the lead researcher Dr Dmitry Ghilarov highlights the significance of this finding, saying: "We believe this is one of the most exciting new antibiotic candidates in many years. This molecule has been around for decades. Now advances in cryo-electron microscopy has made it possible to determine structures of even the most elaborate protein-DNA complexes."

Read more at The Independent

Flu patients in England hospitals down nearly two thirds since new year

In England the number of patients in hospital with the flu have dropped by nearly two thirds (63%) since the start of the year - figures which suggest the winter wave of infection has peaked. This fall in flu levels follows a surge in cases in the run up to Christmas, which was described by health experts as the worst flu season for a decade. In the week of December 25 the rate of flu admissions reached 16.4 per 100,000, last week the figures stood at 1.4 per 100,000, marking the lowest levels since early November. Alongside this Covid-19 levels are also continuing to fall, with recent figures signalling Covid hospital admissions have fallen by 40% from January 1, the lowest since the start of December.

Despite the improvements in both flu and Covid cases Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA head of immunisation highlighted that it is still important to get vaccinated to guard against future surges. She said: “Now is the time to come forward for a Covid-19 booster if you haven’t already – whether it’s your first or if you’re eligible for an autumn booster. Come forward before Sunday February 12, when the offer comes to an end. It will top up your immunity and keep you and your loved ones protected.”

Quote of the Week

In light of the joint strike action between Nurses and Ambulance workers on February 6th health union leaders have urged Rishi Sunak to resolve these pay disputes and prevent what will be the biggest strike in NHS history.

Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite emphasises this urgent need for resolution. She said: “There’s many, many days between now and 6 February and I hope what the government do is come to their senses, get the general secretaries around the table – we will be there any time, any place, anywhere – and do this deal.”

Read more at The Guardian

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