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3 Key Medical News Stories: 31st January 2019

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, 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: A no-deal Brexit and the NHS, DNA tests and social prescriptions.

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No-deal Brexit and the NHS

University Hospitals Birmingham says a no-deal Brexit is likely to see operations postponed or cancelled.

According to the latest medical news, despite the NHS stockpiling medicines in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, medicine shortages are still likely to occur due to colossal distribution challenges.

This forecasted medicine and supply shortage is one of the biggest concerns for the NHS, including low supplies for surgeries.

In a way of prioritising those most in need, non-urgent surgeries would be postponed, so as not to risk running many operations whilst medical supplies are low. The NHS already cancel and delay non-urgent operations in response to increased pressure, and although inconvenient for patients, it is a proven and trusted method.  

There is no confirmed plan for the NHS and a no-deal Brexit, but the Department of Health are working closely with the NHS, industry and supply chain to ensure access to supplies continues.

What can we learn from this?

Brexit is complex and you wouldn’t be alone in watching this medical news and thinking – what is going on here? The implications are huge for the NHS, no matter the outcome of the deal. It is important to have a grasp on the main issues the NHS faces.

These issues include, medicine supply problems due to border disruptions, staffing and the impact on scientific research and universities.

Question to think about- What do you think is the biggest challenge that Brexit poses to the NHS?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Brexit and Healthcare

NHS DNA Tests

People will be able to pay the NHS for a DNA test, as long as they share their data.

The project, led by Genomic England, will provide participants with a health report predicting their risk of conditions such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, allowing for early investigation and detection.  

With this said, the focus of the project is about the genetics of the general population. Allowing scientists to gain a greater understanding of DNA and diseases will aid the development of life-saving treatments in the future. The government plans to sequence one million genomes within 5 years.

As the genomes included in the project will belong to healthy individuals, it is inappropriate for this service to be free on the NHS, something criticised by experts. Other concerns include the generation of large amounts of data, and genetic code can be inaccurate when predicting the future.

The launch date and expected cost of the service is yet to be announced.

What can we learn from this?

As we can see from this medical news, our understanding of genetics has only just scratched the surface, but it is already undeniably important in the future of medicine.

This new project comes shortly after the completion of the 100, 000 Genome Project, which reached its goal of sequencing 100,000 genomes in December 2018.

The volunteers who pay for these DNA tests may receive news that they were not expecting, such as they carry a high risk of developing cancer.

Question to think about- How may the results of a DNA test impact on a person’s life?

Read: Empathy Questions

Social Prescriptions

“Link workers” to support GPs in prescribing social activities for GP patients.

Social prescribing is the act of prescribing activities such as exercise or art classes to patients who do not need medication.

The government has announced that there will be more than 1000 “link workers” by 2020-21. Link workers will support GPs and help patients find community activities, in the hope that it will help them take more control over their mental and physical wellbeing.  

Many current GP appointments are not directly associated with a medical problem. Instead, patients are anxious, lonely or just feel they need support handling their health.

Social prescribing is an important component of the NHS model of personalized care. By helping patients with long-term conditions to improve their health and quality of life, the number of appointments and demand on GPs should decrease.

What can we learn from this?

Pressures on primary care have been notoriously hard to manage in recent years, with an increase in patient demand and decrease in GP recruits.  

Additional support of link workers and prescribing social activities is a much-welcomed move amongst GPs. The new scheme will aim to reduce the demand on the NHS as well as provide a service to patients that will be many times more beneficial to them than medication.

Question to think about- Why do you think pressure for primary care services has increased? How would you address this issue?

Read: NHS Hot Topics: Primary Care Pressures

Words: Katie Burrell 

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