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3 Key Medical News Stories: 19th July 2018

Heatwave NHS

Welcome back to our Weekly News Summary, bringing you the most up-to-date news in healthcare and making it relevant to you as a medical school applicant.

This week, we will discuss the following topics: health implications of the heatwave, impact of smartphone technology on reducing health inequalities and the importance of confidentiality with personal data.

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Increased use of NHS services during heatwave

This year’s heatwave has been much appreciated by many, but has also been marked by an increased use of NHS services for a variety of reasons. The usual suspects are to be expected – dehydration, sunstroke and sunburn.

However, this year there has also been an increase in those attending healthcare services for insect bites, as biting insects have been able to thrive in the hot weather. Patients attending have often required antibiotics, with painful bites that have become infected and will take a while to heal.

What can we learn from this?

There are a few learning points which can be taken from this news item. Firstly, it prompts you to consider external factors that impact healthcare, and how different environments can result in different healthcare needs. Interviews are increasingly scenario and discussion based, and having an example like this to back up your points can be helpful.

Question to think about: what factors influence demands on the NHS? Read more about challenges facing the NHS here!

Smartphone technology reducing health inequalities

A prize-winning ophthalmologist, Dr Andrew Bastawrous, has invented a smartphone-based system to deliver eye care. The idea came to him after he completed his PhD on the eye health of a rural population in Kenya, and realised that their access to ophthalmologists was far less than in countries such as the US and UK.

After attempting to use £100,000 worth of eye-equipment to build clinics, he found that infrastructural issues made this venture unsuccessful. However, he then realised that around 80% of the population own a smartphone – and this was the beginning of the idea for his digital app, entitled “Peek”. His trial, now published, has shown that Peek can be used successfully by non-healthcare professionals help more children get the glasses they need.

What can we learn from this?

Issues raised by this story include the importance of understanding global health, and that money cannot always resolve healthcare problems if not directed properly. It further highlights the increasing potential for technology to reduce health inequalities, and it is good to be aware of these advances as they are likely to change the face of healthcare in coming years.

Question to think about: why do health inequalities exist, both within the UK and internationally? See our complete guide to medical ethics for more interesting discussion points!


Why not try one of our quizzes?


Improper use of personal data

A company called “Emma’s Diary”, which offers health advice to pregnant women and new parents, and is promoted by the Royal College of General Practitioners, has been threatened with a fine for unlawfully sharing over a million people’s data with the Labour Party.

The business’ privacy policy made no mention of political parties when listing which third parties would have access to their data for marketing purposes.  It only amended the policy in January when the Information Commissioner’s Office told the company that they were investigating them. This has been argued to be a breach of the Data Protection Act’s transparency requirements, and may even be a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. However, the company denies these findings.

What can we learn from this?

Although not a direct healthcare provider or part of the NHS, the company’s breach of trust in this case can be used as a comparison to a healthcare professional’s responsibility to keep data confidential. It is interesting to consider the new challenges that technology and electronic data storage bring to the issues surrounding confidentiality, and this will affect the NHS more and more as it becomes reliant on electronic records.

Question to think about: what responsibility will you have as a healthcare professional to keep personal data confidential? Read more about confidentiality here!

Words: Mariam Al-Attar

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