In brief

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 16 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4936

London practices “beset by blockages in flow”: General practices in London are unable to meet rising demands for appointments, the Londonwide Local Medical Committees have said in evidence to the House of Commons Health Committee’s inquiry into the pressure on primary care. A poll found that 70% of 531 practices had at least one GP who planned to retire in the next five years and that 10% were thinking of quitting. Michelle Drage, chief executive officer of the committees, blamed a shortage of health visitors, mental health services, and social service leaders for GPs missing important illnesses and for more consultations and longer waiting times.

New cancer diagnosis target set: Five hospitals in England are to pilot a new target to diagnose suspected cancer within 28 days, before the programme is rolled out across the country by 2020, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said. Other measures intended to be in place by 2020 include around 20 000 more people a year having their cancers genetically tested, access to tests results online, and extra support for recovery, including help with depression. Giles Maskell, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said that the NHS was “currently a million miles” from being able to deliver the targets “without a clear plan to recruit and train more radiologists.”

Surgeons in Australia and New Zealand report bullying: Half of fellows and trainees in surgery in Australia and New Zealand said that they had been subjected to discrimination, bullying, or sexual harassment, an advisory group for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has found.1 The problem crossed all surgical specialties, with senior surgeons and consultants the primary source of the problems. Rob Knowles, chair of the advisory group, said, “Now that the extent and impact of these issues is clear, there can be no turning back . . . We have been shocked by what we have heard. The time for action has come.”

Asthma admissions peak in September: More than 3550 children with uncontrolled asthma were admitted to hospital in England in September 2013, shows an analysis by the charity Asthma UK. This was an increase of 6.3% on the previous September, 73% more than the monthly average (2048), and a 293% rise from the previous month (903). It is thought that the “back to school” peak is caused by factors such as increases in colds and flu and a lower resilience to asthma triggers among children whose drug taking routine may have slipped over the summer.

Preparing cancer patients improves outcomes: Providing patients with cancer who are in work with information about their disease, its treatment, and its likely effect on working life and education nearly doubles their chances of a positive treatment outcome (defined as completion of treatment with no further signs or symptoms of cancer), a study in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care has found.2 The study of nearly 3500 cancer patients in employment also found that patients who received information about treatment side effects had worse odds of a positive treatment outcome. Education lowers stress and uncertainty, while information about side effects can increase stress and interfere with recovery, said the author.

Larger portion sizes lead to overeating: Larger portions, packages, and tableware lead to higher consumption of food and drink, a Cochrane review has found.3 The research said that eliminating larger portions from the diet could reduce energy intake by up to 16% (279 kilocalories a day) among UK adults or by up to 29% (527 kilocalories a day) among US adults. Gareth Hollands, who led the review, said, “Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink, by reducing their size, availability, and appeal in shops, restaurants, and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating.”

Government defines seven day services: The government has responded to calls from the BMA for a definition of seven day services by confirming that the focus would be on the delivery of urgent and emergency care, rather than seven day elective care. More detail was still needed on how the service would be staffed and funded, said the BMA.

Top executives quit Addenbrooke’s: Keith Neil, chief executive of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge since 2012, has resigned from his post ahead of a report from the Care Quality Commission next week. The chief finance officer at the hospital, which is running a weekly deficit of £1.2m, has also resigned.

Shadow health team appointed: The UK Labour Party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has appointed Heidi Alexander as shadow health secretary. The MP for Lewisham East has campaigned against the closure of her local emergency department at Lewisham Hospital and voted against the coalition government’s health service reorganisations.4 Corbyn also appointed Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, to the new post of shadow mental health minister.

Plain soap is as effective as antibacterial soap: Antibacterial soap that contains triclosan is no more effective than ordinary soap at reducing bacterial contamination on the hands when used in real life situations, concludes a study in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. In two experiments plain and antibacterial soap each led to a significant reduction in bacterial populations.5


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4936


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