Learn English in the UK or in your own countryspacerUK courses and qualifications in the UK or in your own countryspacerThe best of British arts, media and designspacerPromoting British expertise in science, engineering, technology, environment and healthspacerGovernance and the rights of peoplespacerLibraries, information centres, seminars,  knowledge networks and the information society
What is the British Council?spacerVisit our worldwide network of officesspacerRead all about our collaborative workspacerFind our services, departments, libraries, personnel, etc.
The British Council home page

Health Insight April 2001: In brief

To the top
To the top
To the top
To the top
To the top
To the top
To the top
  • Health Secretary Alan Milburn has promised that the government will shortly publish its health inequalities targets for England. He said they would concentrate on reducing infant mortality and the number of premature adult deaths. A target for 2010 will be to reduce by at least 10 per cent the gap in infant mortality rates between manual groups and the population as a whole. There will also be a target to reduce, by the same amount, the gap between the fifth of health authorities with the lowest life expectancy and the population as a whole.

Source: Press release (DoH)

  • Over 80,000 children in 510 schools across England are now receiving a free piece of fruit each school day, in the biggest government programme to improve child health and nutrition since the introduction of free school milk in 1946. The National School Fruit Scheme, the first government-funded scheme of its kind in the world, will give all four to six-year-olds in infant and nursery schools a free piece of fruit each day by 2004. The scheme follows research which shows that eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could help to prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and asthma. It is considered to be the second most effective strategy in preventing cancer after reducing smoking.

Source: Press release (DoH)

  • More people die in the home every week than in road accidents, according to a government report. In the UK, 76 people are killed in domestic accidents each week - mainly from fires, carbon monoxide poisonings, burns, drowning, accidental collisions, and DIY accidents. Road accidents kill 66 people a week. Sarah Colles, home safety advisor for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said, 'It is worrying to see that so many people are still being needlessly injured in the home each year.' She said vulnerable groups such as young people and children needed to be targeted to reduce the number of accidents in the future: 'Home safety is everyone's responsibility and we should work together in a bid to raise home safety awareness.'

Source: BBC Online

  • The public is being asked for its views on the implications of the way genes may determine certain human traits, such as aggression, antisocial behaviour, alcoholism, homosexuality and intelligence. In a consultation document, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says complex issues are being raised by the drive to uncover links between genetic makeup and human behaviour. Depending on how the discussions with the public develop, the working party responsible for the consultation may produce guidelines for researchers in the field, and launch a campaign to help explain the issues to the public. Information about the working party and some of the main issues is available on www.nuffieldfoundation.org/bioethics.

Source: BMJ 24 March

  • A major conference on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been held in London - the first main European conference on ADHD since the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued its guidelines on the controversial drug treatment Ritalin last October. NICE ruled that the drug could be prescribed on the NHS to children who were diagnosed as having serious hyperactivity problems. About 5 per cent of school children in England and Wales are thought to be suffering from ADHD.

Source: BBC Online

  • The supermarket Sainsbury's has announced that it has developed a process, which will kill bacteria on raw chicken, making it safer to eat. Sainsbury's claim the new unique system, which washes the chicken in hot water for a specific length of time, will reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter by 95 per cent , without destroying the taste of the meat. Customer trials will now be carried out. In 1999 more than 20,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning were reported. A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said it welcomed any moves to try to improve the safety of food.

Source: BBC Online

  • April is National Bowel Cancer Month in the UK. Bowel cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the UK - 17,000 people died from it in 1998. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) commissioned a survey about people's toilet habits to coincide with the launch of the initiative. The poll found that people were as uncomfortable about discussing bowel problems with their family doctor as they were about talking about sexual problems. Nine out of 10 cases of bowel cancer can be treated effectively if the disease is caught early enough, but many people leave it too late to seek treatment.

Source: BBC Online

  • The first baby to be conceived from an egg that was frozen and then thawed has been born in the UK. The child, which has been described as 'healthy' was created from an egg donated by one woman, frozen and stored before being fertilised, and placed in a second woman's womb. The procedure was carried out at the Assisted Reproduction & Gynaecology Centre, one of seven clinics in the UK to be licensed to freeze eggs by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). A spokesman for HFEA said it had decided in January 2000 that enough babies had been successfully born using the technique to license it in the UK, though he warned it still had quite a low success rate.

Source: BBC Online

  • During 2000, 113 nurses, midwives or health visitors were struck off the professional register, compared with 74 the previous year. Data from the UK Central Council for Nursing Midwifery & Health Visiting (UKCC) also show a rise in complaints against nurses, full misconduct hearings, and cautions following findings of wrongdoing. Most of the complaints were lodged by employers or managers. A UKCC spokesman said that compared with the number of nurses on the register (634,000) the number of complaints was still very small: 'We do not believe the rise in complaints reflects a fall in standards within the profession. It is more likely to reflect a change in society, where people are less prepared to accept bad practice when it occurs, which is a good thing.'

Source: BBC Online

  • Mumps may be making a comeback, the Public Health Laboratory Service has warned. There were 654 confirmed cases in England and Wales last year, up from 358 in 1999 and 121 in 1998. A major factor could be the decline in vaccination rates, as a result of public concern over the safety of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Specialists have warned that mumps can have serious complications, and have once again urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

Source: BBC Online

  • The DoH is to launch a new study into the causes of autism, at a time when there have been concerns that the condition may be becoming more common. The research will be conducted in collaboration with the Medical Research Council. It will be overseen by psychiatrist Professor Eve Johnstone of the University of Edinburgh. It is intended to take a much broader look at possible causes than has been done in previous studies. The first step will be to hold a series of meetings over the next few months involving doctors, scientists, the National Autistic Society and other interested parties.

Source: BBC Online

  • A select committee of the House of Lords has accused the Medicines Control Agency of not dealing with cannabis-based medicines in the same impartial manner that it deals with other medicines. The committee is particularly concerned that MCA's insistence on the need for further toxicological data could prevent or delay the approval of new cannabis-based treatments for multiple sclerosis.

Source: BMJ 24 March

  • An all-party group has been set up in the House of Commons to address the issue of men's health. Its first action will be to back a campaign by the Men's Health Forum to do more to tackle the problem of suicide in young men - in whom the suicide rate has risen by 55 per cent in the last 20 years. Men now live on average five years less than women and the reluctance of men to seek medical treatment at an early stage is seen as a major factor. Dr Ian Banks, President of the Men's Health Forum, described men's health as, 'a major inequality issue, particularly for those men in social classes four and five and some ethnic minorities'. He said he wanted to see the all-party group get the issue on to the government's agenda.

Source: BBC Online

  • A GP practice in Derbyshire and another in Oxford became the first pilots of a scheme to allow NHS patients to have direct on-line secure access to their own medical records. Patients at the two surgeries are now able to sit in a private place and view their records on a computer. In Oxford they will be able to see all their records over the last four years, in Derbyshire they will see only a summary but any new additions will be available in full. It is planned to extend the scheme to the entire NHS by 2004.

Source: Press release (DoH)

  • The BMA's GP committee has called for a radical rethink on prescribing, which it says is 'riddled with anomalies'. Amongst the issues that concern the committee are the fact that patients with some chronic conditions are eligible for free prescriptions and others are not. They would also like to see pharmacists allowed to prescribe some medicines. If, for example, they could prescribe children's paracetamol it would save money for poor families, as well as saving GPs' time. Another concern is that, many patients are now becoming more knowledgeable about drugs, thanks to surfing the internet, and they are now demanding that their doctors prescribe particular brands, in preference to generic products. If the advertising of prescription drugs were ever allowed on television, as is already the case in the US, then this pressure would increase. The committee is seeking the views of GPs across the country on such problems.

Source: BBC Online


Return to the main Health insight page | the main April 2001 Health insight page
  Produced in United Kingdom by The British Council © 2001. The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in England as a Charity.