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Found 171 results
  1. News Article
    Patients could be put at risk by plans to allow local NHS bodies to oversee the quality of health screening programmes for diseases such as breast and bowel cancer, experts have suggested. At the moment, NHS England runs the Screening Quality Assurance Service (SQAS) to make sure local organisations comply with national standards, are safe and can be subject to inspections. There are 11 national screening programmes in England, including those for breast, cervical and bowel cancer, plus antenatal and newborn screening, abdominal aortic aneurysm and diabetic eye screening. At the moment, screening programmes must report all safety incidents to the SQAS and the SQAS inspectors visit local sites to pick up urgent issues and make recommendations. Now, a report in the British Medical Journal questions plans by NHS England to allow local bodies to have more control. Sue Cohen, former national lead of screening quality assurance at Public Health England, told the BMJ that devolving responsibility for SQAS to local organisations would be a “retrograde” step. She pointed to previous issues, such as in Kent where a lack of oversight of a cervical screening programme led to women with cancer not being picked up. She said: “If you don’t have a quality assurance service that is properly resourced and has that ability to keep a national view, you will simply not have the oversight of the system and there is a bigger risk of incidents going undetected.” Read full story Source: Medscape News, 22 May 2024
  2. Content Article
    In this long read, inews health correspondent Paul Gallagher looks at the processes now in place to ensure patient safety in blood transfusions and mitigate the risk of another infected blood scandal. He talks to Will Irving, Professor of Virology at the University of Nottingham, who outlines at although the risk is low, there may be transmission risks associated with blood transfusions that we are not yet aware of. The article also describes the work of the Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) committee, which has been collecting and analysing anonymised information on adverse events and reactions in blood transfusion from all healthcare organisations that are involved in the transfusion of blood and blood components in the UK since 1996.
  3. Content Article
    Women with learning disabilities are less likely to access cervical and breast cancer screening when compared to the general population. In this study, the Social Ecological Model (SEM) was used to examine the inequalities faced by women with learning disabilities in accessing cervical and breast cancer screening in England. The study highlighted the following barriers to access for women with learning disabilities:Women with learning disabilities may lack knowledge of cancer symptoms and cancer screening, as well as being scared about the process and getting the results. The attitudes of family and paid carers towards screening may influence women with learning disabilities' decisions as to whether screening is seen as favourable; support and training may ensure unbiased perspectives. Barriers associated with how cancer screening programmes are designed, such as postal invitations which assumes an ability to read. Screening staff need to be aware of the general needs of people with learning disabilities, such as the benefits of easy-to-read documents. Multidisciplinary working is required so reasonable adjustments can be embedded into cancer screening pathways.The authors suggest that multiple methods to reduce the inequalities faced by women with learning disabilities are needed, and that these can be achieved through reasonable adjustments. Embedding reasonable adjustments can support women with learning disabilities in making an informed decision and accessing screening if they choose to. This may result in women with learning disabilities getting a timely cancer diagnosis.
  4. Content Article
    It’s well known that diagnosis at an early stage of cancer dramatically increases chances of survival. Current NHS policy is focused on diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage and improving the speed with which patients receive a definitive diagnosis. This article from the Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation presents graphical data illustrating that the NHS is seriously off course in achieving these aims. It examines the reasons for delays to diagnosis including difficulties patients face in getting their concerns and symptoms taken seriously, the role of deprivation in increasing diagnostic inequalities and pressures due to increasing numbers of referrals. It also looks at the role screening has to play in achieving earlier diagnosis and highlights issues with patients understanding the information they are given.
  5. News Article
    A new trial to gather evidence on screening methods to detect prostate cancer is set to be led by researchers at Imperial College London, working alongside UCL, Queen Mary University of London and the Institute of Cancer Research. The £42million TRANSFORM screening trial, backed by charity Prostate Cancer UK, aims to find the best way to screen for prostate cancer and double the number of lives it could save. Previous trials using PSA blood tests and biopsies have shown that it is possible to prevent between 8% and 20% of prostate cancer deaths depending on how regularly patients are screened. But healthy people can potentially be harmed by this approach. Currently, there are more than 12,000 prostate cancer deaths in the UK alone, and this could mean thousands of lives saved each year in the UK. TRANSFORM will bring together leading prostate cancer researchers to test new approaches that have the potential to more than double the impact of screening, and ultimately reduce prostate cancer deaths by up to 40%. Read full story Source: Imperial College, 1 May 2024
  6. Content Article
    Surgical Site Infections (SSIs) can have subtle, early signs that are not readily identifiable. This study aimed to develop a machine learning algorithm that could identify early SSIs based on thermal images. Images were taken of surgical incisions on 193 patients who underwent a variety of surgical procedures, but only five of these patients developed SSIs, which limited testing of the models developed. However, the authors were able to generate two models to successfully segment wounds. This proof-of-concept demonstrates that computer vision has the potential to support future surgical applications.
  7. News Article
    England’s NHS Ombudsman has warned that cancer patients could be put at risk because of over-stretched and exhausted health staff working in a system at breaking point and delays in diagnosis and treatment. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) revealed that between April 2020 and December 2023, his Office carried out 1,019 investigations related to cancer. Of those 185 were upheld or partly upheld. Issues with diagnosis and treatment were the most common cancer-related issues investigated by PHSO. These issues included treatment delays, misdiagnosis, failure to identify cancer, the mismanagement of conditions, and pain management. Complaints about cancer care also included concerns about poor communication, complaint handling, referrals, and end-of-life care. Most investigations were about lung cancer, followed by breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The Ombudsman recently closed an investigation around the death of Sandra Eastwood whose cancer was not diagnosed for almost a year after scans were not read correctly. The delay meant she missed out on the chance of treatment which has a 95% survival rate. In 2021, PHSO published a report about recurrent failings in the way X-rays and scans are reported on and followed up across the NHS service. Mr Behrens said, “What happened to Mrs Eastwood was unacceptable and her family’s grief will no doubt have been compounded by knowing that mistakes were made in her care. “Her case also shows, in the most tragic of ways, that while some progress has been made on my recommendations to improve imaging services, it is not enough and more must be done. “Government must act now to prioritise this issue and protect more patients from harm.” Read full story Source: Parliamentary Health and Health Service Ombudsman, 9 March 2024
  8. Content Article
    Elective care refers to when patients receive non-urgent treatment, normally in hospital, including, tests and scans, outpatient care, surgery and cancer treatment. The NHS is currently seeing long waiting times for some elective procedures, with the Government setting an ambition to reduce elective waiting times to less than a year by 2025. Increased waiting times mean patients have to wait longer for the care they need. This can lead to patients suffering increased pain, their condition may worsen, or they may develop other illnesses associated with the reason that they are waiting for elective care. This can cause both physical harm and mental distress to patients, their families, and carers. The Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) Senior Safety Investigator, Neil Alexander, blogs about the challenges facing the NHS in tackling the elective care backlog and how learning from our investigation reports may be able to help the NHS rise to this challenge.
  9. Content Article
    Spina bifida develops early in the embryonic stage of pregnancy but is not usually detected until the midterm (20 week) ultrasound scan.  Shine conducted a survey to assess the antenatal care experiences of parents to children with spina bifida. Volunteers were recruited via social media and 71 eligible (UK-based) responses were received, revealing numerous elements of antenatal care in need of significant improvement. Shine have published the findings and recommendations for improving antenatal diagnosis and care for spina bifida. 
  10. News Article
    Mothers of babies who died or suffered brain damage from a Group B Strep (GBS) infection say routine screening is needed. Oliver Plumb, from the charity Group B Strep Support, said it was a "small number of babies" exposed to the bacteria that developed a serious and potentially fatal infection. He said around 800 babies a year developed the infection - which is about two babies a day - and about one a week will die, while another a week will be left with a lifelong disability. "It's a heart-breaking start to life for families and that often the first they hear of Group B Strep is when their baby is sick or in intensive care". The charity has called for GBS to be a notifiable disease to make it a legal responsibility for infections to be reported. It added that current figures could be "missing around one fifth of the infections". There was a "postcode lottery" in terms of how many families will hear about GBS, he said. The charity also backed calls for screening. "In the UK we don't sadly have a routine testing programme, that's at odds with much of the rest of the high-income world. " A DHSC spokesperson said a public consultation on the notifiable diseases list was carried out last year. "DHSC and UKHSA are considering the responses and confirmation of any changes will be published in due course," they said. Several reasons for not recommending routine screening have been given by the committee, including that results can change in the last few weeks of labour, and that GBS does not cause infection in every baby. Read full story Source: BBC News, 26 February 2024 Further reading on the hub: Leading for safety: A conversation with Jane Plumb, Founder of Group B Strep Support
  11. Content Article
    Preventable conditions are costing the NHS and wider society hundreds of billions of pounds and leading to reduced quality of life for large numbers of people. This paper from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change proposes ways in which the NHS can use existing tools for screening and preventing ill health, to make the UK healthier and more productive and reduce pressure on the health system. It suggests a prevention programme that uses AI to highlight risk factors and screen individuals most likely to develop chronic health conditions.
  12. News Article
    England’s largest hospital trust has written to GPs warning their patients face 15-week waits for routine MRIs, ultrasound and CT scans. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust in central London said it was prioritising suspected cancer and other “urgent cases”, meaning “unfortunately waiting times for routine patients are now an average of 15-16 weeks for an appointment against a target of six weeks”. This is much worse than national averages, which December figures showed were 3.2 weeks, 2.5 weeks and 3.3 weeks for MRI, CT and ultrasound waits respectively. It its letter to GPs in Lambeth and Southwark – its main patches – GSTT said: “Current imaging referral demand outstrips capacity, despite these services consistently delivering near 120 per cent levels of activity compared to 2019-20. “The radiology service is exploring multiple routes to increase imaging capacity, including increased weekend working, insourcing and outsourcing contracts, but there is still a significant shortfall of slots every week.” In particular, it said primary care staff should expect long waits for the reporting of routine MRI scans. Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 13 February 2024
  13. Content Article
    The promise of diagnosing conditions early is an exciting one. But there are fears among some health professionals that more screening might not be entirely helpful. In this programme, the BBC's Health Correspondent Matthew Hill finds out whether screening programmes can really help us live both better and longer lives. He asks whether diagnosing conditions decades before they might affect us causes more harm than good. He also examines what lessons from the past could tell us about the current surge in screening and considers some of the dilemmas it might present us with.
  14. Content Article
    The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) annual report on their work to enforce the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations in England has been published. The regulations protect people from the dangers of being accidentally or unintentionally exposed to ionising radiation in a healthcare setting. Errors can happen when healthcare providers use ionising radiation to diagnose or treat people. Healthcare providers must notify CQC about these. The report gives a breakdown of the number and type errors that CQC was notified about between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023. The report also presents the key findings from our inspection and enforcement activity in that time.
  15. Content Article
    In October 2021 the government announced plans for new community diagnostic centres (CDCs) across England. The ambition was that these centres would provide people with increased and more convenient access to diagnostics tests, and would lead to earlier diagnosis and reduce pressure on hospitals. Two years on, with 127 centres open and 1,563,400 patients waiting for a diagnostic test as of the end of August 2023, how are community diagnostic centres getting on and what challenges are they facing?  
  16. News Article
    Women affected by a review of cervical smears in the Southern Health Trust have said they are "angry, frustrated and scared" for their future. About 17,500 patients in the trust are to have their previous smears re-checked as part of a major review of cervical screening dating back to 2008. Some of these women will be recalled to have new smear tests carried out. But the process has not started yet and will take at least six months to complete. Letters were sent out by the trust earlier this month to those affected. The Southern Trust says it expects to recall around 4,000 women for a new smear test after it reviews 17,368 historic slides. The Trust's medical director, Dr Steve Austin, told its board meeting that the review of slides was expected to start next week. It also emerged that the number of calls from concerned women has increased with many asking for more "specialist" answers. Read full story Source: BBC News, 27 October 2023
  17. News Article
    Some patients in England are waiting up to two-and-a-half years for important diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, MRI and CT scans, according to figures seen by the Guardian. The longest waits were two-and-a-half years for an MRI scan, almost two years for an ultrasound and a year for a CT scan, responses to freedom of information requests by the Liberal Democrats show. People with heart problems are among the worst affected. Examples from NHS trusts included a 49-week wait for an echocardiogram and a 475-day wait for an angiography. Under the NHS constitution, patients should wait less than six weeks for diagnostic tests. The target is for only 1% to wait more than six weeks, but now 25% of all patients do so, according to research from the House of Commons library, commissioned by the Lib Dems. Ed Davey, the leader of the Lib Dems, said: “What this Conservative government has done to the NHS is nothing short of a national scandal. Millions are forced to wait in pain and discomfort, anxiously wondering when they will get a diagnosis, let alone treatment. “We cannot fix our economy without fixing our NHS. People can’t get back to work when they’re stuck waiting to see a GP, get a diagnosis or start treatment. The longer they wait, the worse their health gets and the greater the stress for themselves and their loved ones." Read full story Source: The Guardian, 24 September 2023
  18. News Article
    People living with long Covid after being admitted to hospital are more likely to show some damage to major organs, according to a new study. MRI scans revealed patients were three times more likely to have some abnormalities in multiple organs such as the lungs, brain and kidneys. Researchers believe there is a link with the severity of the illness. It is hoped the UK study will help in the development of more effective treatments for Long Covid. The study, published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, looked at 259 patients who fell so ill with the virus that they were admitted to hospital. Five months after they were discharged, MRI scans of their major organs showed some significant differences when compared to a group of 52 people who had never had Covid. The biggest impact was seen on the lungs, where the scans were 14 times more likely to show abnormalities. MRI scans were also three times more likely to show some abnormalities in the brain - and twice as likely in the kidneys - among people who had had severe Covid. Dr Betty Raman, from the University of Oxford and one of the lead investigators on the study, says it is clear that those living with long Covid symptoms are more likely to have experienced some organ damage. She said: "The patient's age, how severely ill they were with Covid, as well as if they had other illnesses at the same time, were all significant factors in whether or not we found damage to these important organs in the body." Read full story Source: BBC News, 23 September 2023
  19. News Article
    Women could be screened for cervical cancer every five years instead of every three and as many cancers could still be prevented, a new study suggests. Researchers at King’s College London said that screening women aged 24 to 49 who test negative for human papillomavirus (HPV) at five-year intervals prevented as many cancers as screening every three years. The study of 1.3 million women in England, published in the BMJ, found that women in this age group were less likely to develop clinically relevant cervical lesions, abnormal changes of the cells that line the cervix known as CIN3+, and cervical cancer three years after a negative HPV screen compared to a negative smear test. Lead author Dr Matejka Rebolj, senior epidemiologist at King’s College London, said the results were “very reassuring”. She added: “They build on previous research that shows that following the introduction of HPV testing for cervical screening, a five-year interval is at least as safe as the previous three-year interval. “Changing to five-yearly screening will mean we can prevent just as many cancers as before, while allowing for fewer screens.” Read full story Source: The Independent, 31 May 2022
  20. News Article
    NHS Scotland is to change the way women are called to breast cancer detection appointments after major recent errors in the screening programme. Some eligible for screening were not invited because they had moved between GP practices or were aged over 71 by the time their practice was called. Women aged 50 to 70 are invited for appointments once every three years, based on their GP practice. It emerged hundreds of women in NHS Lothian may have missed screenings. The health board said in January that 369 women considered to have a higher risk of developing the disease may not have received appointments at the right time. A major review of the programme in Scotland has made 17 recommendations to strengthen and improve services. They include: A more "person-centred" approach based on calling individual women - rather than the GP practice where they are registered - to set their next test date. Greater flexibility of appointments to provide better access and uptake, with more contact such as texts or phone calls to keep appointments on patients' radar. An online appointment cancellation and rebooking system to provide greater individual convenience. Evening and weekend appointments and more availability in rural and semi-urban locations. Read full story Source: BBC News, 24 May 2022
  21. News Article
    A record 2.7 million people were referred for cancer checks in the last year, NHS England has said. It comes after figures suggested the Covid pandemic saw numbers dramatically decline in 2020. But at least 30,000 people are still waiting to start treatment. Charities have welcomed the increase in referrals but warned of the "devastating" impact the pandemic has had on cancer care. Referrals for suspected cancer remain at about 16% higher than pre-pandemic levels and rose overall from 2.4 million to 2,65m in the past 12 months. Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said there were still 30,000 people who had not started treatment due to the pandemic but that the new figures suggested some progress. She said: "We are going further and faster than ever before in our ambitions to diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage so that we can save more lives." It is "vital that we keep these referral rates high", she added. Read full story Source: BBC News, 2 May 2022
  22. News Article
    NHS leaders are urging people to attend vital lung cancer check-ups as figures reveal almost two-thirds of those invited are not coming forward. The NHS targeted lung health check service offered in some parts of England aims to help diagnose cancer at an earlier stage when treatment may be more successful. Current and former smokers aged between 55 and 74 are invited to speak to a healthcare professional and, if they have a higher chance of developing lung cancer, are offered a scan of their lungs. Doctors are keen to reach those who may not have sought help for symptoms during the pandemic and could be living with undiagnosed lung cancer. People diagnosed at the earliest stage are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those whose cancer is caught late, according to the NHS. The NHS has already diagnosed 600 people with the disease in travelling trucks, which visit convenient community sites across the UK, such as supermarkets and sports centres, aiming to make it easier for people to access check-ups. But figures show only a third (35%) of patients go to their lung health check when invited by the NHS. “These lung checks can save lives,” said Dame Cally Palmer, the NHS cancer director. “By going out into communities we find more people who may not have otherwise realised they have lung cancer, with hundreds already diagnosed and hundreds of thousands due to be invited." Read full story Source: The Guardian, 19 April 2022
  23. News Article
    More than 200 women were affected by failures in Ireland’s CervicalCheck screening system. It emerged in 2018 that 221 women and families were not told about misreported smear tests. The Minister for Health said that non-disclosure issues which arose in the cervical check screening controversy will be legislated for to prevent it from happening again. Stephen Donnelly said new legislation will address the negligence issues and ensure that the failure to inform the women of the clinical audit of their screening will “never happen again”. Mr Donnelly was discussing a number of amendments at the committee stage of Ireland's Patient Safety Bill. The new legislation will require the mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents, and sets out a list of incidents which must be reported to the health watchdog, Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). Mr Donnelly said that he will introduce an amendment at the report stage of the Bill that will provide for non-disclosure and will deal with issues around delayed diagnosis and delayed screening. Mr Donnelly said: “I’ve had lengthy discussions with the department on this and it doesn’t fit neatly with this Bill because the serious patient safety issues which result in death or serious harm, they are very clear and binary. “Legislating around delayed diagnosis and delayed screening, it is really complex and doesn’t fit neatly in this Bill, however my view is that the non-disclosure that happened in cervical check, even though it doesn’t neatly fit here, should still be legislated for." Read full story Source: The Independent, 11 March 2022
  24. News Article
    Less than half of women are being seen following an urgent breast cancer referral, as NHS performance drops to a new low. ‘Alarming’ new NHS figures have shown just 47% of women in England referred “urgently” for breast cancer symptoms were seen by a specialist within two weeks. For women without symptoms but referred urgently to see a specialist, just 49% were seen within two weeks. In both cases this is the first time since records began that less than 50% cent of women were seen. Within some trusts less than 10% of women referred with symptoms were seen within two weeks, with less than two per cent of women referred to United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust being seen within this time frame in January. Wes Streeting, Labour shadow health secretary said: “I know from experience the importance of an early cancer diagnosis and quick treatment. It is appalling that most suspected breast cancer patients are left waiting so long before being seen, with the insecurity of not knowing." Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “It’s alarming that in January, for the first time, less than half of women 47.5 per cent in England who were urgently referred with potential breast cancer symptoms, were seen by a specialist within two weeks." “...the government must consider what immediate steps it can take to reverse this rapid decline. Agonising delays must be replaced with prompt diagnoses for all women – and the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance of treatment being successful.” Read full story Source: The Independent, 11 March 2022
  25. News Article
    A Scottish hospital has become the first in the UK and one of the first in the world to pilot using artificial intelligence (AI) in its cervical cancer screening programme. University Hospital Monklands has increased capacity by around 25% and improved analysis turn-around times with the measure, which experts said could “revolutionise” the screening process. The system, from medical technology company Hologic, creates digital images of cervical smear slides from samples that have tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). These are then reviewed using an advanced algorithm, which quickly assesses the cells in the sample and highlights the most relevant to medical experts, saving them time in identifying and analysing abnormalities. “Preliminary results from the pilot are promising, as the team at University Hospital Monklands has increased capacity by around 25 per cent in the slide assessment and improved analysis turn-around times, as well as allowing screeners to dedicate more time to training on the latest technologies and dealing with difficult-to-diagnose cases,” says Allan Wilson, consultant biomedical scientist at NHS Lanarkshire who is leading the pilot. "Through AI and digital diagnostics, we have the potential to improve outcomes for women not only in Scotland, but around the world.” Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, welcomed the pilot. “Catching cervical cell changes means they can be treated to prevent them from developing into cervical cancer,” she said. Read full story Source: The Scotsman, 4 March 2022
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