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  1. Violence reduction link to alcohol price

    Britain's emergency departments experienced a reduction in victims of serious violence last year - probably because of reduced rates of binge drinking, according to a new study.

    The numbers of injuries of this kind fell by 12%, according to the research by Cardiff University.

    It represented some 32,780 fewer patients than in 2012 - a total of 234,509 cases.

    The study led to renewed calls for minimum pricing for alcohol amid suggestions that an increase in the price of drink had contributed.

    Researcher Professor Jonathan Shepherd said: "Another probable explanation is changes in alcohol habits. Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youth who don’t drink alcohol at all has risen sharply.

    "Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable. For people most prone to involvement in violence, those aged 18-30, falls in disposable income are probably an important factor."

    He added: "Continuing, substantial decreases in serious violence are welcome for citizens, communities and in combating the fear of crime. They also decrease the costs of violence to health services and the criminal justice system and reduce pressures on hard pressed A&Es late at night at the weekend."

    The British Medical Association said the cost of alcohol had been a key factor.

    Chair of the BMA board of science Professor Sheila Hollins said: "Alcohol misuse places serious strain on a number of already overstretched public services which is why doctors, the police and emergency services all support minimum unit pricing.

    "Prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure, and if the government is serious about tackling alcohol related harm, it needs review its position on minimum unit pricing, which would reduce harm amongst the heaviest drinkers while leaving responsible drinkers largely unaffected."

  2. New end of life care review

    A new national review of end of life care is set to be launched as a result of findings of the new round of hospital inspections, it has been reported.

    The review is to be launched by hospitals chief inspector Professor Mike Richards.

    He said patients faced an "unacceptable" lottery of care.

    He says that patients dying from cancer may be getting better care than those with dementia or terminal heart disease.

    He said: "There are big geographic variations, but it is not as simple as a north/south divide or London versus the rest.

    “The south west comes out well but so does the north east... we need to understand these variations so we can improve the quality of care."

    He added: “The level of variation is unacceptable; we need to understand why this is, in order to help the areas doing badly to do better.”

    The CQC review comes on top of a government-commissioned review aimed at replacing the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway.

  3. Storage costs may hamper vaccine use - MSF

    Some vaccines could be used more cheaply in poor countries if the cost of storage was reduced, campaigners have warned.

    New research suggests that at least one vaccine, against tetanus, could be used without cold storage.

    The findings were released by Médecins Sans Frontières in advance of World Immunisation Week.

    The organisation said pharmaceutical companies probably had information about the heat sensitivity of other vaccines.

    The organisation said a study by its research arm, Epicentre, has shown that a tetanus toxoid vaccine stayed effective for up to 30 days in a controlled temperature chain in conditions reaching 40C.

    The study was conducted in Chad and involved a vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.

    Researcher Dr Rebecca Grais said: "This result I hope will encourage clear guidelines on the more flexible use of the tetanus toxoid vaccine in controlled temperature conditions, so that more people who live in remote areas can be immunised.”

    MSF vaccine adviser Kate Elder said: “To ease the burden of the cold chain, we need pharmaceutical companies to use their existing data, and generate new information where needed, to show the true heat stability of their vaccines and demonstrate that some are effective when used outside of the strictest cold chain.

    She added: "This is a barrier that can be addressed and overcome; it’s a question of political will and of acting to meet the needs of kids in developing countries rather than just for the economic bottom-line."

    The World Health Organisation said it was marking the week by encouraging the spread of information about vaccines to encourage families to ensure they are up to date.

    It is studying the use of social media and mobile phones to spread the news.

    A spokesman said: "40 years on, the job is still not done. More than 22 million of the world’s children (about one-fifth of infants) are still not being immunised with basic vaccines."

  4. Climbing students plan to study mountain sickness

    Medical students will be practising their climbing today in preparation for a research project 5,300 metres above sea level.

    The students at Edinburgh University will be setting off for Bolivia next month on the fourth trip of its kind organised by the university.

    Some 30 students and graduates will take part in the trip, known as APEX 4 - the Altitude Physiology Expeditions.

    They plan to research high altitude pulmonary oedema and high altitude cerebral oedema, together with acute mountain sickness.

    Fourth year medical student Shona Main, who is leading the expedition, said: "This expedition will provide an invaluable opportunity to improve our understanding of these potentially fatal conditions.

    "It will also help us to improve management of the sickest and most vulnerable patients in intensive care units around the world."

    Dr Kenneth Baillie, who launched the project, said: "It is a privilege to work with such a driven and inspiring group of students.

    "The research they have planned at high altitude will help us to understand why patients' lungs fill up with fluid during critical illness back home at sea level. Ultimately their research could lead to important advances in the ways we treat patients on life support with severe lung problems."

 

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