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3 Key Medical News Stories: 10th January 2019

NHS medical news

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! Once again, 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: the new NHS Plan, diagnosing heart conditions and supporting healthy lifestyles.

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Introducing the New NHS Plan

The new NHS 10-year plan focuses on prevention, with the hope of saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

This medical news follows the announcement that the NHS budget will grow by £20bn a year by 2023. To ensure the money is used wisely, the government called for a long-term plan to be made.

The plan focuses on GPs, mental health and community care. NHS England believes that through preventative methods, the new plan could save up to 500,000 lives.  

The money boost will help pay for a number of initiatives, including mental health support in schools, 24-hour access to mental health crisis care via NHS 111, new testing centres for cancer patients and more social prescribing.

Some describe the plan as a “practical, costed and phased route map”, but on the other-hand, there are concerns about staffing and the continued under-funding of social care.

What can we learn from this?

This plan for the NHS maps out the next 10 years, meaning it describes the NHS that you may well be stepping into as a junior doctor in a few years’ time! Therefore, for yourself and interviews, knowing about this plan is beneficial.

Although the NHS will be grateful for the £20bn a year boost, it is never just as simple as that! If social care does not also get the additional help, the problems associated with an underfunded social system will continue to worsen. Nevertheless, extra funding and services for mental health, GPs and community care is a big step in the right direction!

Question to think about- What are the current challenges NHS funding is facing?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – NHS Funding


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Diagnosing Heart Conditions

Researchers have discovered two biomarkers that could lead to better detection of atrial fibrillation.

Latest medical news reveals that Atrial fibrillation (AF), currently screened for using ECGs, is the most common arrhythmia in the UK.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have found that two biomarkers, the hormone BNP and the protein fibroblast growth factor-23, have strong links with the disease.

The discovery means AF can be screened for with a simple blood test in community settings. As AF is often detected too late, this is an important step towards early detection and therefore prevention of complications, such as stroke.  

The earlier this disease is detected, the earlier the patients can begin to take anticoagulants, which are potentially life-saving drugs.

What can we learn from this?

AF is an abnormal heart rhythm, meaning the atria (upper chambers of the heart), contract in an uncoordinated way. Some causes include high blood pressure and heart valve disease. The main concern with AF is the increased risk of blood clots and stroke.

Early detection for many diseases is of vital importance, particularly AF, as many cases are detected after patients have suffered life-threatening complications like a stroke.

Question to think about- Discuss some interesting research you have recently read about.

Read: Depth and breadth of interest questions

Supporting Healthy Lifestyles

Hospitals will provide help for inpatients who smoke or drink heavily.

Alcohol and smoking are two of the biggest causes of disease and premature death, according to recent medical news. This has a huge impact on the NHS and alcohol-related harm costs NHS England £3.5bn a year.

A new scheme providing specialist support for patients is aiming to reduce the demand on A+E. Specialist Alcohol Care Teams in several locations across the UK have shown to significantly reduce A+E attendances, ambulance callouts and readmissions.

The teams offer support to patients and advice on how to give up drinking, including counselling.

After its initial success, the scheme is due to expand to 50 hospitals with the most need for this service. In addition, every smoker who is admitted to hospital will be offered specialised support to quit.

What can we learn from this?

This is another example of how preventative medicine will play a big role in the future of the NHS. It is arguable that to keep the NHS sustainable, a reduction in demand is necessary.

A way to do this is to prevent the diseases occurring in the first place. Alcohol, smoking and diet are the big three lifestyle measures that contribute most to poor health, so it is no surprise the NHS are tackling alcohol and smoking habits.

Question to think about- A+E departments often do not hit waiting time targets, according to statistics in medical news. How can we reduce the demand for A+E?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – A+E waiting times

Words: Katie Burrell

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