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Public faces ‘care injustice’ as NHS struggles

The public is facing a growing “care injustice” as people are finding it more difficult to get help ..

The public is facing a growing "care injustice" as people are finding it more difficult to get help in England, the regulator is warning.

The Care Quality Commission highlighted growing hospital waiting lists, delays at A&E and record dissatisfaction levels with GPs in its annual report.

Mental health and old-age care were also becoming harder to access.

And the report said even where there was care available many people only had the choice of failing services.

In its 130-page review, the regulator pointed to

  • the lack of out-of-hours GP care
  • rising rates of preventable admissions to hospitals
  • overcrowding on wards and worsening A&E waiting times
  • the growing waiting list for routine operations
  • mental health patients being made to travel long distances for treatment
  • older people going without the help they need for daily tasks such as washing and dressing

Don Redding, of the patient group, National Voices, said it was clear the system was "malfunctioning" and the report should act as a "loud alarm bell".

He urged the government and NHS leaders to take notice as they prepare to publish their 10-year NHS plan later in the autumn, setting out how the extra funding for the health service will be spent in the coming years.

The report is being published as the BBC relaunches its NHS Tracker project, which enables users to find out how their local areas are performing on cancer, A&E, hospital care and mental health services.

Which places are struggling the most?

The CQC is particularly worried about four areas of the country where access to good hospital and social care is problematic.

These have been named as the Isle of Wight, Kent, Wirral and Portsmouth.

People in these areas are hit by both struggling hospitals and poorer-than-average care services, with inspectors worried things are going to get better in the future.

In Kent there are seven local hospitals that are all judged to be not good enough, while one in three nursing homes is failing.

The Isle of Wight's only hospital has an inadequate rating and a third of care homes are failing.

In Wirral, half the nursing homes are judged not good enough along with the two local hospitals, while nearly half of home care services in Portsmouth and its main hospital are not up to scratch.

Does this mean services are getting worse?

No. Overall, the CQC said the majority of services were rated as good or outstanding and the quality of care was being maintained.

In fact, on each measure, there has been a small increase in the number of good and outstanding performers on the year before.

However, that should not be interpreted as a definitive sign of improvement.

The CQC prioritises the worst-performing services for reinspection which means the overall picture is more likely to improve than deteriorate, because the poorest performers cannot get a lower rating.

Instead, the problem being highlighted is more a matter of it getting harder to access services.

People are waiting longer for treatment, going without or – in the case of mental health care – sometimes having to travel long distances for treatment.

What has gone wrong?

It is a simple matter of supply and demand. The ageing population and rise in illnesses such as diabetes means more and more people need care.

While the NHS budget has been rising, it has not been enough to keep up with the growing numbers of people needing treatment.

There are shortages of staff in key areas – 12% of nurse posts and 9% of doctor posts are vacant.

But the CQC is also clear there is a structural problem.

The nature of illness, which means people rely on ongoing care for incurable conditions like dementia, is placing a greater reliance on the way the NHS works with care services, such as nursing homes and help in the home for tasks such as washing and dressing.

Care services are organised by councils or rely on people paying for it privately.

It has created a situation where growing numbers are simply going without help in their later years.

The CQC pointed to figures showing the numbers not receiving the care they need has increased nearly a fifth in two years to 1.4 million – that is nearly one in seven older people.

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said it has got so bad that it has become "pot luck" whether you can get help.

What is being done about this?

The Department of Health and Social Care said action is being taken.

It pointed to the increased funding for the NHS that was announced by the prime minister in the summer.

That will mean by 2023 the budget will have risen by more than £20bn a year in real terms.

There is also a big emphasis being placed on the NHS to work closely with care services.

On top of this, ministers have promised to reform the funding system for social care, with a Green Paper expected to be published later this year.

A spokesman added: "We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world – and this starts by ensuring every single patient in this country receives the highest quality of care, no matter where they live."

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The organization helping to bring new drugs for rare diseases to market

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval o..

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval on Friday to begin a clinical trial for a new pediatric brain cancer drug, one that might have ended up overlooked by pharmaceutical companies.

The lead researcher on the team, Dr. Teresa Purzner has already beat impossible odds. The neurosurgeon and mom of three managed to get the approval in record time and with little money thanks to the help of a team of scientific altruists called SPARK.

The development of new medications in the United States is driven by pharmaceutical companies; researchers at universities rarely bring their discoveries to the bedside. For every 10,000 potential new medicines sitting on laboratory shelves around the country, only one will ever reach patients in need, according to the National Institutes of Health. Why? Because the process can take 10 to 15 years, costing upwards of a billion dollars per drug.

As a result, the number of new medications approved by the FDA has remained stagnant at about 31 per year over the past 10 years. The majority of these medications are similar to already existing ones, and many target diseases for which there are large markets — like hypertension and high cholesterol — and therefore, a return on investment.

Enter SPARK, a non-profit program created in partnership between Stanford University and volunteers from the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and investment industries, which helps academic researchers bring their discoveries to patients. Since its founding, SPARK has given special consideration to projects typically neglected by pharmaceutical companies, including rare diseases and diseases affecting children.

Purzner put her neurosurgery practice on pause to study medulloblastoma, a type of childhood brain cancer. Compared to diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol, which affect millions of Americans, medulloblastoma is rare, affecting only 250 to 500 children every year.

“Theres something especially poignant about seeing children —beautiful, wonderful, innocent things — and seeing the impact of the therapies we are giving them. The medications, the radiation therapies impact their cognition, their quality of life and their ability to function as independent adults in the future,” Purzner said in an interview with ABC News.

Purzner had a clear goal: to find a targeted therapy that could shut down the basic biochemical pathway responsible for the development of this cancer, and she did. She tested the potential drug in mice with good results, and she just received FDA approval to test it in clinical trials, which she will do through the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. She did it all in five years and for a price tag of $500,000.

“To get from my initial findings in the lab to the point where the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium picked it up for clinical trials would have never happened without the help of SPARK… they gave me a clear pathway and made me believe it was possible,” said Purzner.

Every year, SPARK provides 10 teams with funding and expert mentorship to promote efficient and cost-effective drug development. (more…)

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Widowed father works with congresswoman on legislation to prevent maternal deaths

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

“I was overjoyed. I reme..

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

"I was overjoyed. I remember thinking my family is complete," Charles Johnson told ABC News.

But then he looked down and saw his wife Kiras catheter turn pink and then red with blood.

April 12, 2016 was supposed to be a joyous day for the Johnson family, but it turned into a "nightmare."

Ten hours later, Kira Johnson died as a result of internal bleeding following a cesarean section.

Now, two years later, Johnson is raising two children on his own and advocating to rectify the country's maternal health policies and regulations to prevent anyone else from sharing the same tragedy. Johnson took to Capitol Hill to share his wife's story before members of Congress, working alongside a congresswoman who experienced her own personal difficulties during pregnancy.

Charles and Kira Johnson welcomed their first son Charles V. in 2014. He was delivered via C-section. Two years later, the Johnson family relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles and learned they were expecting their second baby boy.

"Kira and I had always wanted two boys," Johnson said. "I was excited."

The Johnsons decided to have Langston delivered at Cedars Sinai medical center, a non-profit hospital that is currently ranked as the eighth best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Charles Johnson said his wife was in exceptional health and that she took all the necessary prenatal measures to ensure their second child would be born healthy. Since their first son was born via C-section, the doctor suggested the same for their second. (more…)

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States look to breathalyze convicted drunk drivers to reduce fatalities

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that ha..

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that have laws requiring drivers with drunken-driving convictions to install breathalyzers in vehicles they own or operate.

Researchers, public health advocates and political leaders believe these laws are helping reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

The gadgets, known as ignition interlock devices, are mounted on the steering wheel of a vehicle and prevent it from starting if the drivers blood-alcohol reading is above a predetermined level.

In California, the breathalyzers are mandatory only for repeat offenders. Five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana and Ohio — have similar laws. Thirty-two states and D.C. require the devices even for first-time offenders.

The advent of such laws across the United States in the past 15 years has been accompanied by some good news: Deaths involving drunken driving are only about half of what they were in the early 1980s, though they have ticked back up in recent years. The long-term decline is largely attributable to greater public awareness, stricter seat belt enforcement and the establishment in 2000 of a nationwide legal blood-alcohol threshold of 0.08 percent — far below the 0.15 percent standard commonly used before then.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the author of the California law, said breathalyzers in cars will make roads safer than under the current law, which generally relies on license restrictions and suspensions.

“Weve seen people on a suspended license continue to drive and continue to cause destruction,” said Hill, who lost his best friend to drunken driving in the 1980s.

There is some evidence that the breathalyzers have an impact. Nationally, from 2006 to 2016, ignition-locking breathalyzers prevented 2.3 million attempts to drive by people with a blood-alcohol level at or above 0.08 percent — the legal threshold for driving under the influence — according to a 2017 report by the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Emma McGinty, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that laws requiring interlocks for all DUI offenders were associated with a 7 percent drop in the rate of fatal crashes caused by drunken drivers. Another study found that laws covering all offenders were associated with 15 percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities compared with states that have less stringent laws. (more…)

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