A selection of recent news stories relating to the NHS and public health.

Smear campaign

An NHS cervical screening programme was launched this week, to encourage take-up of cervical smear tests, which has dropped to a 20-year low, and is currently failing to meet its 80% target.  Women aged 25-64 should be screened every 3 years.  You can download resources to take part in the campaign from Public Health England’s website. Full details of the campaign are all over social media.


Sanitary produces available for free in hospitals

astonishingly, sanitary towels and tampons have not been freely available in many hospitals, and in some cases, not even available to purchase in on-site shops.  The British Medical Association has campaigned for this, pointing out that razors have long been freely available to male patients in hospitals. From this summer, towels and tampons will be available, for free, to female patients who require them.  For more on this, see the BBC website.


Opt-out for organ donation

The parliamentary bill on organ donation has been passed by parliament and will come into effect in 2020.  This will introduce an opt-out system of organ donation, rather than the present opt-in system, meaning that a person has to choose NOT to donate their organs after their death. Families will still have the right to refuse, but consent will be presumed, unless refusal has been recorded on the NHS Organ Donor Register. It is hoped that this change will open up the conversation around donation, and bring more potentially life-saving organs into the system.  For more information, see the NHS Organ Donation website.


Five-year framework for GP Services contract

In January 2019 NHS England and the BMA General Practitioners Committee in England published a five-year framework for GP Contract reform to implement The NHS Long Term Plan, which will set the direction for primary care, as well as addressing the core challenges facing GPs. Many of the items included in it are internal issues, but for patients receiving care, and organisations working alongside GP practices to provide support to those people, there are some interesting points.

Primary Care Networks are being introduced, to be the ‘building blocks’ of Integrated Care Systems, which will work with other stakeholders and health workers, giving a service that should be more integrated.  A technical powerpoint presentation for GP practices, explaining more about this, can be found online.


Increase in ‘Victorian diseases’

An increase in ‘Victorian diseases’ such as rickets and scarlet fever has been reported by NHS England. A rise of 24% was reported from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), rickets (vitamin D deficiency), gout and other similar illnesses.  It is believed that this is linked to a rise in food poverty in children. You can find a report on this in The Independent and the BBC.


World Health Organisation top 10 threats to health in 2019

WHO has published it annual list of the 10 most dangerous threats to our health this year.

These are:

  • Air pollution and climate change, with air pollution causing lung diseases, and other threats arising from general climate change including malnutrition, malaria, and heat stress.
  • Non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Global influenza pandemic
  • Fragile and vulnerable settings, eg refugee camps, famine-hit areas, etc
  • Antimicrobial resistance, strains of diseases and viruses that are resistant to current drugs
  • Ebola and other high-threat pathogens
  • Weak primary health care
  • Vaccine hesitancy, the reducing uptake of vaccinations to prevent common diseases, leading to resurgences in diseases that were almost eradicated, for example, measles.
  • Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, occurring in rainy seasons in places such as Bangladesh, but which is spreading, and is usually fatal in around 20% of cases.
  • HIV, with a focus on prevention and treatment for people who are out of the normal primary care systems, such as those in prison, and sex workers.

You can read the full report on the WHO website.