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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

Pets on the NHS

Patients could receive pets as part of a new NHS pilot scheme aimed at reducing the number of hospital admissions. The therapeutic benefits of pets, such as dogs, have been well documented as they are thought to offer companionship to the depressed, aid with physiotherapy in stroke patients, and provide familiarity to special needs patients and those in residential homes. It is also hoped that the scheme, sponsored by the Department of Health's national primary care development team, can reduce the costs associated with hospital admission, which are currently around £4,200 per person. However, a spokesman for London's Lewisham Primary Care Trust, where the pilot will kick off in September, said that receiving a dog is just one option available to patients. Other options include the provision of specially adapted chairs, a heater, transport to social clubs or an overnight carer.

NHS hair replacement

Some 2,250 British women go bald every year, double the number in 1995, and the cause of their alopecia remains a mystery. However, stress is suspected as a major contributing factor. To combat the growing problem, hair loss `treatment studios', funded by Primary Care Trusts, have been set up, enabling GPs to offer free hair extensions to some patients. These studios also treat cancer patients, who have lost their hair as a side effect of chemotherapy, as well as those with trichotillomania (impulsive hair pulling). However, not everyone is happy with developments. One NHS doctor lamented anonymously: ìI worry that this will end up with women who simply want to have nicer hair, claiming they're experiencing emotional trauma - we already have people getting boob jobs on the health service.î

A&E warned over care quality

Accident and emergency departments may have thought they could relax after appearing to have successfully reduced waiting times, but according to the Healthcare Commission, A&E now needs to urgently improve the `quality' of its care. In a study of 170 A&E units, the NHS watchdog found that the administration of pain relief was much too slow - only 53 per cent of children in pain and 42 per cent of patients with hip fractures received pain relief within one hour of arrival. Pain relief should be administered within 20 minutes, according to A&E recommendations. The new criticisms have raised fears that `speed treatments' are reducing the quality of work in NHS A&E units.

More negligence claims to cost billions

The NHS has set aside £8bn to deal with negligence claims over the next decade, as litigation costs continue to rise. Last year alone, the NHS Litigation Authority had to pay out £503m in claims and legal costs. The government hopes to curb the rising cost of clinical negligence claims in a new Bill, to be introduced later this year. The controversial Bill has been designed to keep negligence cases out of court, reducing potential fees and payments.

30th September 2008

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