Health

NHS hernia mesh felt like ‘scratching from inside’

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NHS England is using mesh to repair hernias too often, leaving many patients in chronic pain, surgeons have told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

Leila Hackett had an umbilical hernia mesh repair in 2013.

“Straightaway I could feel the mesh,” she said. “It was like somebody scratching you from inside your body, it’s so unpleasant and constant.”

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

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BMA chief: NHS is ‘running on fumes’

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Doctor in hospital wardImage copyrightPA

The NHS in England is “running on fumes”, the leader of the British Medical Association is warning.

Dr Mark Porter hit out at the government at the start of the union’s annual conference.

He accused ministers of putting patients at risk and “picking the pockets” of NHS staff because of the squeeze on wages.

But ministers rejected the criticisms, saying they were putting more money into the health service.

Dr Porter launched the attack as doctors gathered in Bournemouth.

He said: “We have a government trying to keep the health service running on nothing but fumes. A health service at breaking point.

“Run by ministers who wilfully ignore the pleas of the profession and the impact on patients.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. It is the result of an explicit political choice.”

Image copyrightBMA
Image caption Dr Mark Porter said: “The government wants a world-class NHS with a third class settlement.”

He went on to point out that compared to other developed economies, less was being spent on the NHS than other health systems.

And he said this was having a direct impact on patients, pointing to the rise in the numbers of patients facing long waits for a bed following an emergency admission – up four-fold in five years – as proof.

“The government wants a world-class NHS with a third class settlement,” he said.

It comes as the BMA unveiled the results of a poll of more than 1,000 adults on the state of the NHS.

It found:

  • 82% were worried about the future of the NHS
  • 62% expected the NHS to get worse in the coming years
  • More people were dissatisfied with the NHS – 43% – than were satisfied – 33%

But a Department of Health spokesman said: “This does a disservice to the achievements of NHS staff.”

He said the NHS was seeing the “highest cancer survival rates ever”, improving mental health services and better access to GPs.

He also added independent polling showed pubic satisfaction rates were also high in contrast to the BMA poll.

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Midge Ure and Tony Hadley back Kenny Thomas daughter appeal

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Soul singer Kenny Thomas has spoken of his efforts to raise funds so his four-year-old daughter can receive alternative treatment for a brain tumour.

Thomas started an online appeal after his daughter, Christina, was diagnosed with a midbrain glioma in February.

Doctors said chemotherapy would not prolong her life so the family decided to raise funds for an alternative treatment.

His colleagues in the music industry also arranged a charity concert. Stars like Midge Ure and Tony Hadley performed at the concert earlier this month.

Thomas, who lives in Norfolk, had hits in the 90s, including Thinking About Your Love.

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UK’s first heart pump targets 2018 clinical trial

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Illustration of a pump attached to a heart
Image caption Researchers have suggested heart pumps could help solve the shortage of heart donors

The UK’s first artificial heart pump has moved a step closer to being used on patients, scientists have said.

It has been developed at Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science 2 by Calon Cardio, and clinical trials are due to begin in late 2018 with the aim of a full rollout two years later.

The pump is implanted into the failing heart and should last about 10 years.

Stuart McConchie, chief executive of Calon Cardio, said it was the most-advanced pump of its kind.

“This is for a very sick group of people and there are millions of them in the world, and hundreds of thousands in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is the first British pump to be built for this purpose: to treat blood which is flowing through the pump extremely gently and not to do any damage to the blood.

“There are other pumps that have been built that do cause some damage to the blood and, as a result, patients have adverse events that diminish the impact of the implantation and the treatment.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCalon Cardio boss Stuart McConchie said its was the most advanced pump of its kind

“Reliability of these pumps has been established for several years but blood handling is a problem. If they break up red blood cells or white blood cells or damage proteins then there is a cost of that.”

The pump is commonly known as a ventricular assist device (VAD) and the one being developed in Swansea is called a MiniVAD.

After being implanted directly into the heart, it is driven by an embedded electric motor and powered by a battery pack worn by the user.

Image copyrightCalon Cardio
Image caption Diagram of the MiniVAD system which is attached to a battery pack

Mr McConchie said the device was designed to “assist the heart itself and not to replace it”.

The last VAD produced was sold to one of the world’s major cardiovascular companies for $3.4bn (about £2.6bn), he added.

But while there is a huge monetary value to the product, Mr McConchie said the key aspect is that it will improve a patient’s quality of life.

“If we can demonstrate that we have reduced the adverse events, you have something that’s much more forgettable that’s put inside the body,” he added.

“Patients don’t have to go back into hospital for correction of any adverse events, so the absolute cost benefit becomes substantial.

“That means the NHS, for example, or a healthcare provider in other countries like the United States, don’t have as much cost in treating the patient who has a ventricle assist device and the benefit to society comes with that.”

Mr McConchie said the patient experience was “much, much better” if they do not have to visit the hospital frequently.

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Kid, 4, steals show during sickle cell Derbyshire chat

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Watch four-year-old Gabriel stealing the show on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

Gabriel and his mother Edith were on to discuss his sickle cell disease, when he got distracted by the set.

The NHS has launched an appeal for more donations from African and Caribbean people in order to treat patients with the disease.

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‘Asthma is a killer – it took away my miracle daughter’

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Ten-year-old girl who died from asthmaImage copyrightMr and Mrs Dennis
Image caption Olivia Dennis was 10 when she died from an asthma attack

Lisa Dennis is looking at photos of her daughter Olivia – a blonde girl with a radiant smile.

These are special moments, frozen in time. Olivia died four years ago, aged 10, after having an asthma attack.

Her parents did not even know their gymnastics-loving daughter had the condition.

But Olivia is not the only child to lose their life to asthma.

According to the latest data for England and Wales, 37 children and teenagers died from the disease in 2014.

The figure has risen over the past five years. But many of these deaths are thought to be preventable.

Lisa vividly remembers the night Olivia died. It was a bitterly cold night, and they were at home in Kent.

Struggling to breathe

Lisa, who is married and has a younger son, told BBC News: “We’d tried so long to have children, and when she came along, it was just a miracle for us.

“Olivia was a really special, beautiful girl.

“That night, she was on all fours on the bed – and struggling to breathe.

“She collapsed onto the floor. I tried CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation], but unfortunately it didn’t work.

Image copyrightMr and Mrs Dennis
Image caption Olivia’s parents want an end to complacency about asthma

“I’ll never forget being at the hospital and the consultant asking us if Olivia was asthmatic.

“I said, ‘No, but she has an inhaler.’ He said to us there and then, ‘Your daughter is asthmatic.'”

Lisa’s ongoing grief is compounded by her frustration about what she says is a lack of awareness of asthma.

She had been given an inhaler for an allergy, but Lisa says the word “asthma” was never mentioned to the family, and the medicine was issued by repeat prescription.


Asthma: What you need to know

  • Asthma is a common but unpredictable illness
  • It affects the airways and can lead to shortness of breath, coughing and a tight feeling in the chest
  • One in 11 children is affected
  • Inhalers need to be used regularly and effectively
  • The blue inhalers provide relief during an attack, while the brown ones are for more regular use to prevent flare-ups
  • Steroids via an inhaler reduce the inflammation from asthma
  • The UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Europe

The feeling is shared by Dr Satish Rao, from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, who runs an NHS service in the West Midlands for difficult asthma cases.

He said: “One of the biggest frustrations for us is the complacency among healthcare professionals about asthma in children and young people.

“We have struggled to convince professionals that asthma is a serious illness, and that patients can die from a severe attack.

“It’s probably because it’s a common illness, and quite often we hear staff saying, ‘Oh, it’s just asthma.'”

Dr Rao believes many deaths could be prevented by better information about when to seek medical help.

And he is aware of 16 cases in his region where schools have to work very closely with families and give them extra support to make sure the children keep their condition under control.

‘Asthma is a killer’

The number of child asthma deaths has risen steadily from 17 in 2010 to 37 in 2014.

Portsmouth GP Dr Andy Whittamore, who is also Asthma UK’s clinical lead, says it can be difficult to get young patients to adhere to taking their medicine.

He said: “With children particularly, there’s lots of fear about the medicine itself – and from their parents too.

“Steroids have got a bad press because of abuse by bodybuilders and doping in the Olympics.

“But the doses we give are in very low levels – and if taken correctly, they only go directly into the lungs.”

These misconceptions can be fuelled by stigma, with asthmatic children in particular not wanting to be seen as weak or inferior.

Asthma UK has even found that teenagers sometimes shied away from using inhalers because they thought their shape resembled that of sex toys.

Bereaved mother Lisa believes much more can be done.

She said: “Everyone needs to look at their children – especially anyone with an inhaler – because asthma is a killer.

“And I think doctors need to recognise that and make families aware because this is serious, desperately serious.”

Lisa wants to see awareness posters in GP surgeries, more regular reviews and plans for young asthma patients, and an improved inhaler design so the actual device contains advice for bystanders helping with an attack.

These are simple measures, which could help save lives.

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Meet the designer making clothes for diabetic women

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You’ve heard of plus-size, tall and petite, but have you ever heard of clothes for women with diabetes?

Budding fashion designer Natalie Balmain has type 1 diabetes and created a range of clothes which she says will help women manage the condition.

This clip is originally from 5 live.

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Danger map reveals health threat zone

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Danger mapImage copyrightEcoHealthAlliance

South America is a hotbed of potential viruses that could be the next major threat to the world’s health, according to “danger maps”.

The EcoHealth Alliance in New York looked at mammals, the viruses they harbour and how they come into contact with people.

It revealed bats carry more potential threats than other mammals.

The researchers hope the knowledge could be used to prevent the next HIV, Ebola or flu.

Some of the most worrying infections have made the jump from animals to people – the world’s largest Ebola outbreak seemed to start in bats, while HIV came from chimpanzees.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Bats were predicted to have the most “missing” viruses

The researchers’ challenge – and it was far from easy – was to predict from where the next could emerge.

They looked at all 586 viruses known to infect 754 species of mammal. This included 188 zoonotic infections – those that have infected both humans and other mammals.

But they also knew some species had been studied in incredible detail while others had been practically ignored.

So the researchers used the information they did know to fill the gaps in their knowledge and estimate which species were harbouring viruses with the potential to infect people.

The study, published in the journal Nature, predicts 17 zoonotic infections in every species of bat and 10 in every species of primate and rodent.

The team then mapped the ranges of species and the infections they carry to work out where the world’s danger zones are.

Image copyrightEcoHealth Alliance
Image caption The risk of viruses coming from bats was global, but concentrated in South America

Image copyrightEcoHealth Alliance
Image caption The threat from primates was in tropical regions

The threat from rodents was again global, but with a concentration in South America.

Dr Kevin Olival, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: “The missing hotspots are different for different groups of mammals in different parts of the world, but the bat signal overwhelms some of the others.

“But I’m not scared of bats, it’s not the bat’s fault.”

The researchers hope their maps will help the world prepare for the next infection that makes the jump.

Dr Olival added: “Our take-home message is these diseases are emerging because of the human impact on the environment. Our answer is minimise our contact with wildlife, including through hunting and habitat destruction.”

James Lloyd-Smith. from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “Although most pandemics are zoonoses, most zoonoses do not cause pandemics.

“[The] predictions are best used to prioritise research and viral surveillance efforts, not to drive specific policy decisions.”

The researchers’ next project will look at birds which are another source of zoonotic infections such as avian flu.

Follow James on Twitter.

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Ebola virus burial teams ‘saved thousands of lives’

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTulip Mazumdar’s video diary of her day with the burial team

They were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extremely dangerous times.

Now new research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.

More than 28,000 people were infected with Ebola in 2014-2015. Of those, 11,310 people died.

The worst affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic.

Ebola: A day with the burial team

Ebola volunteers offered group therapy in Sierra Leone (video)

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey meets disease survivors

Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak.

Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Many Ebola burial workers were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students

Image copyrightMark Georgiou
Image caption Some Ebola burial workers were stigmatised in their communities because of their work

Within months, the epidemic had become the worst public health emergency of modern times.

The study, published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal, used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme.

Researchers focussed on 45 unsafe community burials and the 310 people who were identified as having had contact with the infected bodies. They found, on average, just over two people went on to develop Ebola for every unsafe community burial that took place.

The bigger risk was to those who cared for a loved one with Ebola before their death. Researchers found many more infections could have been prevented if the sick were treated in hospital rather than by their families and communities.

However, using these estimates, the study suggested safe and dignified burials by Red Cross volunteers prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.

The authors said these are conservative estimates.

They highlighted a number of limitations in the study, including the challenges of collecting very personal and sensitive information about funerals, and the length of time between when some of the burials took place and when the data was collected.

Ending the war

Hundreds of paid volunteers took on the grim task of collecting bodies from people’s homes in full personal protective gear, while also having to manage the grieving families and communities.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption It is estimated that dignified burials prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola

Image copyrightEPA
Image caption The work of the burial teams is thought to have played a major role in reducing the impact of the Ebola virus

They were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students. Many carried out the relentless and dangerous work for months.

Some were stigmatised in their communities, because people became scared they might bring the virus home with them.

In reality, they were helping to stem world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak.

“It was very difficult work,” said Red Cross volunteer Mohamed Kamara who I spent a day with as he collected bodies in Sierra Leone in January 2015.

“It’s good news that people realise the impact of what we did to help end the transmission of Ebola,” he said while reacting to the findings of the study from the capital Freetown.

“Some people didn’t even want to come near us at that time.

“But the team we worked with helped give us the courage to do this important work… and we ended this war.”


Red Cross safe and dignified burials

  • Teams managed over 47,000 burials
  • Carried out more than 50% of all burials during the outbreak
  • All deaths at home were presumed to be Ebola
  • About 1,500 Red Cross volunteers involved in burials

Ebola ‘super-spreaders’ cause most cases

Where are Sierra Leone’s missing Ebola millions?

Successful Ebola vaccine will be fast-tracked for use


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