Daily digest March 2 2015

Healthcare stories making the headlines

Hospital to face criticism for deaths at maternity unit

Ongoing failures at a maternity unit where up to 30 newborn babies and mothers may have died are expected to be exposed by an independent report published tomorrow.

As reported in the Independent, it is thought the investigation will find that mothers and babies were put at risk because midwives and doctors at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, were at loggerheads and crucial medical notes exposing sub-standard treatment have since been lost or destroyed.

All deaths that occurred between January 2004 and June 2013 at the hospital’s maternity and neonatal services unit have been examined by investigators. The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust's response to the incidents has also been scrutinised

The investigation is chaired by former Department of Health associate medical director Bill Kirkup.


Hospital catering reforms are 'not worth a row of beans', says Leith
The government’s hospital meals reform proposals are feeble and worth less than ‘a row of over-processed beans’, food writer Prue Leith has written in the Guardian.

Minimum food standards are to be introduced to NHS catering contracts from next month, but Ms Leith accuses health secretary Jeremy Hunt of ducking the issue.

She says the hospital food standards panel established by the Department of Health has been undermined by the inclusion of food manufacturers, including one of the biggest suppliers of hospital food, onto the panel. 

Ms Leith predicts that the proposed standards, already ‘hopelessly weak’, would be buried in pages of small print that hospital administrators will be too busy to check for compliance after they are signed. 'Without monitoring and enforcement, the contracts’ only purpose will be to cover the backs of NHS trusts should they ever need someone to blame for some disaster,' she wrote.


Early signs of Alzheimer’s found in patients as young as 20
The telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease can be seen in people as young as 20, research shows.

As reported in the Daily Mail, the ‘unprecedented’ finding suggests that the disease starts to eat away at the brain half a century before symptoms develop.

The discovery raises the prospect of giving people drugs in the very earliest stages, when it is easiest to treat.

Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago examined the brains of older people with and without Alzheimer’s, as well as samples taken from 13 people aged between 20 and 66 who were free of memory problems when they died.

The results showed that beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs up the brain in Alzheimer’s, had started building up in people as young as 20.


Half of GPs plan to quit their practice before 60
More than half of family doctors say they are planning to leave the profession early, according to a survey.

The survey of 1,004 GPs across the UK, for the Inside Out programme on BBC One, found that 56 per cent said that they expected to retire or leave before they were 60.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt described the figures as worrying. 

The volume of consultations, working hours, standing within the profession and pay, as well as their portrayal in the media and workload, were among the reasons given for leaving.

Some 27 per cent of GPs cited the volume of consultations as the main reason why fewer medical students and foundation doctors were choosing to specialise in general practice, the Times has reported. 


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