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3 Key Medical News Stories: 17th January 2019

Key Medical News

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up!

Once more, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications. Joining us this week: Child mental health services, HIV prevention drugs and a new breast cancer risk test.

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Child Mental Health Services

MPs reveal that only a third of children and young people receive the mental health treatment they need from the NHS.

The latest medical news revealed that one in eight young people between the ages 5-19 have a mental health disorder, and increasing numbers are suffering from emotional disorders.

Two-thirds of young people seeking treatment experience long waiting lists or simply being turned away. A recent report found that the problem is likely to continue for many years.

This report comes at a time when the NHS long-term plan is also headlining the news. The long-term plan focuses heavily on mental health services.

Meg Hillier MP, said children and young people are currently being “failed by the NHS” and their committee will be watching the real-life impact of the NHS 10-year plan.

What can we learn from this?

Mental health services are in great demand and are one of the biggest challenges for the NHS. The long-term plan aims to tackle this challenge, but there are many concerns about how realistic the plan is.

Child mental health disorders are of particular importance, as there are huge long-term implications for their health, education and work prospects.

The main goal is to provide easily accessible services and early interventions, provided by good staff with the right skills.

Question to think about- What are the main issues surrounding child mental health services and how could they be improved?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Mental Health


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HIV Prevention Drugs

A HIV prevention drug with a 99% success rate will become available to 13,000 extra patients.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill taken daily or prior to sex in order to prevent HIV infection. The drug is available to those at high risk of contracting HIV, including gay and bisexual men, trans-women, sex workers and partners of those who are HIV positive.

The first trial began in October 2017 with 10,000 spaces. Demand for PrEP is now overwhelming, and many sexual health clinics have to turn patients away due to a lack of spaces on the trial. There are currently 13,000 spaces.

In response to the demand and a call for expansion, NHS England have announced the funding to double the amount of spaces available for PrEP.

It’s evident that the drug has a huge potential and there is a hope that PrEP will have a long-term role in NHS sexual health services.

What can we learn from this?

Despite campaigns and headlines in the medical news, HIV remains a taboo topic for many, particularly amongst some ethnic groups and women. The availability of this drug in itself is groundbreaking, as not too long ago HIV was considered a death sentence. Now we can take a simple pill to stop it in its tracks.

As a medical professional, HIV is unique in terms of patient confidentiality and the law. The GMC recommends informing sexual partners of patients with HIV, if you think they are at risk and the patient cannot be persuaded to do so themselves.

Question to think about- Discuss the issues of confidentiality when a HIV patient refuses to tell their partner of their diagnosis.

Read: 4 Pillars of Medical Ethics – Confidentiality

Breast Cancer Risk

A step forward in cancer screening, as experts develop a new test to predict breast cancer risk.  

It’s widely recognised that early detection of breast cancer is favourable and potentially lifesaving. Experts have created a test, combining a multitude of factors in order to determine a woman’s risk.

According to the latest medical news, this test includes family history, weight and hundreds of genetic markers. It is the first tool of its kind to combine so many elements and provide such a comprehensive assessment.

Currently on trial, the test isn’t yet available on the NHS. However, it is hoped that it will be able to identify large numbers of women with varying levels of risk. In the long-term, the test aims to facilitate earlier diagnoses of breast cancer and therefore increase chances of survival.

What can we learn from this?

55,000 women per year are diagnosed with breast cancer, with a large proportion having one or more risk factors for the disease.

This test will allow doctors to screen for the breast cancer risk factors rather than the disease itself. This allows for identification of those at risk and tailoring support for those patients. Support could include advice on lifestyle changes, more scans, additional appointments or other preventative options.

Question to think about- How important do you think preventative medicine is within the NHS?

Read: NHS Hot Topics Questions

Words: Katie Burrell

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