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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

Experts fears massive flu epidemic

24th December 2008

A sharp rise in the number of people contacting their doctors with extreme cold-like symptoms could herald the biggest flu outbreak for nine years, it has been warned.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said 69 people in every 100,000 have inundated family doctors complaining of flu symptoms.

This is nearly a three-quarter increase from the 40 people per 100,000 doctors were seeing the previous week.

The increase was biggest among the over 65s, with numbers going from 18 people per 100,000 population to 45 – a massive 151% rise.

Douglas Fleming, a director at the RCGP’s Birmingham Research Unit, said the rates had risen across all regions, adding: “The recent increase is suggestive of an influenza outbreak greater than any seen in the last eight years.”

The 15 to 44 age group scored the highest for patients visiting GPs with symptoms of flu, at 80 per 100,000 population, up 47% on the previous week.

A total of 76 people aged 45 to 64 per 100,000 population booked GP appointments due to flu, an increase of 122%.

The Department of Health’s director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury said: “Flu has started earlier this year than last year and the figures show an increase in the number of people consulting their GPs with flu-like illnesses.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

RCGP

Branson superbug comments rejected

The Royal College of Nursing has responded to criticism from Sir Richard Branson over what he described as “horrific” hospital infection rates.

The Virgin tycoon and recently-appointed vice-president of the Patients Association has called for all hospital staff to be screened for the superbug MRSA and receive immediate treatment if infected.

But a Royal College of Nursing spokesman said that nurses and other healthcare staff were already playing a large role in the reduction of healthcare associated infections.

He added: “Whilst we welcome this debate and accept screening of staff in certain clinical circumstances is of benefit, we feel it is important to note that this is only one part of a large jigsaw.

“It is measures such as hand hygiene, correct cleaning of equipment and the environment, good antibiotic controls and staff education that need to be enhanced to give the greatest impact.”

Although infection rates for MRSA are falling across the UK, with the most recent quarterly figures showing a 33% drop year on year, Sir Richard is calling for more to be done.

He told the BBC: “There have been some improvements, but the facts speak for themselves – and the facts are still horrific.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

Royal College of Nursing

Happy Holidays to all our visitors

The www.hospitalhealthcare.com team is taking a well-earned break over the festive period, so this site won’t be updated until 5 January 2009.

As soon as we get back we’ll post the latest news and give a round-up of what’s been happening while we’ve been away.

We wish all our readers and users a very happy holidaytime and a hearty and healthy New Year.

More poor children in intensive care

23rd December 2008

Intensive care admissions are almost twice as likely among children from deprived backgrounds than among those from more affluent homes, according to new research.

However, once these children were receiving treatment in hospital, they were just as likely to survive as richer patients, the research by experts at the universities of Leeds and Leicester, UK, found.

The study is the largest ever national audit of admissions to paediatric intensive care in England and Wales, and analysed the details of more than 40,000 children admitted to 29 paediatric intensive care units over four years to 2007.

Around one in a thousand children were admitted to intensive care during that time, with data showing that those from the poorest fifth of the population were more likely to be admitted than those from the most affluent fifth.

Dr Roger Parslow, senior lecturer in the paediatric epidemiology group at the University of Leeds and one of the study’s authors said: “This is the first truly national audit of paediatric intensive care.

“It has a very high quality data-set which has brought to light a number of important issues which should now be examined in more detail.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

University of Leeds

Zero tolerance for hand hygiene

The Scottish government in the UK, is to introduce a zero tolerance regime on hand hygiene for hospital staff from January 2009.

Doctors and nurses who repeatedly fail to comply with hand washing guidelines could be sacked under tough new rules to prevent the spread of superbugs. An aide to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said it was “unacceptable” for medical staff to flout hygiene rules.

Ministers previously set a 90% target for hand washing, but they now believe that target has been achieved ahead of schedule.

The aide said: “Hand hygiene is an important part of our drive to tackle healthcare associated infection. NHS Scotland has met the target to achieve at least 90% compliance.

“We are now adopting a zero tolerance approach to non compliance and all boards are expected to implement this policy from January.”

“It is unacceptable for staff to fail to comply with hand hygiene guidance. All staff must ensure the safest possible environment for patients.

“Zero tolerance means just that, and all staff should be in no doubt that the highest standards are expected.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

NHS Scotland

Pathology service “could be better”

22nd December 2008

A review into NHS pathology services has suggested a number of recommendations to improve the quality and safety of the service.

According to the independent review of NHS Pathology services, the system could be made more responsive to the needs of patients, and a number of things could be done to make substantial annual savings.

Around 70% of decisions on diagnosis and treatment are made by pathologists, and the growing need for personalised care is due to increase the workload of the pathology service, making the need for a more efficient service even greater, the review found.

Recommendations included a faster turnaround time of test results and enhancing IT connectivity.

The review also suggested that a centralised management structure should be used to co-ordinate all areas of the service, and that by using new technology as soon as it becomes available to improve diagnosis.

Dr Ian Barnes, the clinical lead for the Department of Health Pathology said: “The review has found much good work already under way, but there is room for improvement and the review has highlighted key areas for us to take forward. We have examined the review’s recommendations in detail and now begun the process to determine how services can be enhanced.”

Copyright Press Association 2008NHS Pathology Services

Alcohol sees hospital numbers rise

A study of crime and hospital admissions related to alcohol misuse has named the North West the area most affected by excessive drinking.

Manchester, UK, has the highest level of harm from alcohol across a range of factors. The city is closely followed by Salford, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Rochdale.

The study was based on previously published figures showing there were around 800,000 hospital admissions in England linked to alcohol in 2006/07 – up 9% on the previous year, and an extra 174 admissions every day.

Overall, seven out of the top 10 areas in England with the greatest level of harm in 2006/07 were in the North West.

According to the Local Alcohol Profiles for England study, Wokingham in Berkshire had the lowest level of harm in the country, followed by Mid Bedfordshire, Three Rivers in Hertfordshire, Castle Point in Essex and North Kesteven in Lincolnshire, UK.

Dr Karen Tocque, director of science and strategy for the North West Public Health Observatory, who carried out the study said: “No area of England can escape the fact that alcohol is having some negative influence on their residents.

“Each year, people living in each community become a victim of a crime, are unable to work, are admitted to hospital or may even die – all because of alcohol.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

North West Public Health Observatory

MRSA cases down 33% on last year

19th December 2008

Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has shown that MRSA cases have fallen by 33% compared with the same period last year.

Figures also showed there were 725 cases in July to September – down 13% on the previous quarter – when there were 837 cases reported.

Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the HPA’s centre for infections, said: “This continued reduction in cases of MRSA is testament to the huge efforts being made across the NHS to tackle the problem of healthcare-associated infections.

“To ensure this downward trend continues, we cannot be complacent. We must all play our part – the public and healthcare workers – by ensuring the infection control measures that have made the current fight against MRSA so successful remain in place.”

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “This is big news for patients and a huge credit to all NHS staff.

“The sustained reductions show that the NHS is coming to grips with MRSA – it must not lose the momentum.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

BMA split on working hours move

The BMA’s junior doctors committee has said that it is right that time spent on call in hospital should count towards doctors’ total working hours.

Its chairman, Dr Andy Thornley, was speaking in the wake of the  421-273 vote by MEPs to remove Britain`s opt-out from Europe’s Working Time Directive by the end of 2011.

Dr Thornley said said: “Patients should be relieved that the European Parliament has rejected an amendment which could have led to junior doctors being resident in hospitals for excessively long periods with little chance of proper uninterrupted rest.”

But Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: “Those doctors who have individual control of their working lives should be able to use their professional judgment to decide whether it is safe for them to opt out.

“Patients deserve safe, high-quality care. The NHS desperately needs an expansion in the number of consultants, yet removing the flexibility of the opt-out will deny patients access to some of the UK’s most experienced doctors.”

Although welcomed by unions, employers have said it is folly to curb the flexibility of employers and staff in the midst of a major recession.

Copyright Press Association 2008

All hospitals “independent by 2012”

18th December 2008

All state-owned hospitals could gain independence by 2012, according to the regulator of foundation trusts.

William Moyes, the chairman of Monitor, said he expects 40 foundation hospitals to be created each year leaving just 20, which are unable to pass due to financial regulations.

He said the remaining few are “not commercially viable” to be made into foundations and if the government wants to keep the service in those areas, “it must either give it a subsidy, as it does with rural transport, or allow a merger with a more viable trust”.

Currently, there are 112 acute and mental health trusts that remain under Whitehall control, but he said he has reached the halfway point in the process of changing the NHS from a government controlled industry into a network of competing organisations.

The announcement comes after the Monitor board, which is responsible for deciding when hospitals are ready for independence, approved the 113th foundation hospital.

The next to gain independence will be Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals on January 1.

Once all the hospitals reach foundation status the management of the hospitals “will not be the day-to-day business of government”.

Copyright Press Association 2008

Monitor