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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round up of NHS and healthcare stories

E-record confidentiality `guaranteed'

The NHS has undertaken to see that medical information held on new e-records is safe from confidentiality breaches by allowing patients to withhold sensitive data. The option is an attempt to address concerns within the medical community about the confidentiality of e-records, and would allow patients to `hide' certain parts of medical history, such as mental illness or abortions for example, by omitting them from their e-record. While patients will be warned that withholding any information could risk compromising their current or future treatment, the NHS hopes that by empowering patients and educating them on the ways and means employed to hold their medical information the less likely they will be to insist that some items remain absent.

GP premises upgraded through PPP

Many small and ìpoor quality local [GP] surgeriesî are being refurbished and upgraded across the UK with the use of money provided through a unique public-private partnership, known as Lift (Local Improvement Finance Trust). The deal, whereby £195m of public health funds is used to bring and bolster private investment into local premises, hands the ownership and management of the buildings to the private companies. The public sector stake in Lift is owned half locally and half by Partnerships for Health, itself a joint venture between the DoH and facilitator Partnerships UK. Plans exist to refurbish 50 healthcare premises during 2005.

UK fertility clinic `postcode lottery'

The chance for infertile couples undergoing fertility treatment to conceive a baby varies considerably and is dependent on the `quality' of their local fertility clinic, according to industry regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Fertility clinics are not attributed an NHS star-rating, even though couples may now be eligible to receive one course of IVF free of charge through the NHS, though the HFEA has issued a list of 80 clinics around the UK indicating their average live birth success rates. Topping the list is London's Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre, where on average, 59 per cent of women under 35 have a baby successfully using fresh eggs. Couples should note, however, that as the chances of carrying a baby deteriorate with age, some clinics specialising in treating younger women may appear to have higher than average birth rates.

Pay-for-doctor system kicks off

A new system whereby patients pay £55 for an on-demand evening or weekend appointment with a GP has proven to be popular in its first month of operation. Chaucer Doc, a Kent-based partnership comprising 25 doctors working shifts at the private Chaucer Hospital, was set up in the wake of changes to NHS contracts that saw GPs' (former) responsibility for providing out of hours care placed at the doorstep of struggling Primary Care Trusts. Stephen Gough, executive director at the Chaucer Hospital, said: ìWe're open and on call until midnight every nightî - suitable in particular, he added, for people taken ill outside normal surgery hours, or for busy London commuters whose timetables make it difficult to see a doctor during the day.

MRSA mutation kills `super fit marine'

A highly virulent, methycillin-resistant mutation of hospital superbug MRSA has caused the death of a `super fit' 18-year old marine who scratched his legs on gorse bushes during a training session. An expert in microbiology, who gave evidence at the inquest into the death of Royal Marine Richard Campbell-Smith, said she had not seen the rare strain of deadly bacteria for 15 years, until recently. Cases of Panton-Valentine leukocidin toxicity are the most serious manifestations of community-acquired MRSA and often lead to a fatal form of necrotising pneumonia. Marina Morgan, of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, spoke of the difficulty in detecting the mutant strain, and hence some cases may have slipped through in the past.

30th September 2008

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