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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories

Doubts about MMR will cost lives, say doctors
Continued doubts about the safety of the MMR vaccine will cost lives, a group of leading paediatricians has warned. In an open letter in the Lancet, they pleaded for the media and health professionals to stop questioning a vaccine they say science has proved to be safe. A 1998 paper, also published in the Lancet, linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism but has since been discredited. However, immunisation rates have dropped in recent years. The Department of Health has welcomed the move by the group of doctors. ìIt is extremely important that parents protect their children from these preventable diseases - MMR is the safest and most effective vaccine,î said a DoH spokesman.

NICE recommends limited use for Alimta
Eli Lilly's treatment, Alimta, for the asbestos-linked cancer, mesothelioma, should not be widely prescribed on the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided. The cost-benefit watchdog said the drug should only be recommended for use in new or ongoing clinical trials. Lilly said it would appeal the decision. ìThis is a major blow for patients with mesothelioma, many of whom were unwittingly exposed to asbestos in their working lives making submarines, ships, boilers and trains,î said Dr Joanna Nakielny, medical director of Lilly UK. ìThis treatment does not save lives, but it can prolong the lives of patients and also improve the quality of the time they have left.î

NHS offers no choice - BMA survey
More than half of residents in England do not believe the NHS offers choice, a British Medical Association (BMA) survey of 1,077 people has suggested. Patients have been given the option of different hospitals for non-emergency treatment since the start of this year but the survey found 55 per cent did not believe there was a choice, while many thought hospitals were the wrong target area. In the poll, 69 per cent of people said choice was very important in relation to ìhaving a say in things generallyî and ìtiming of treatmentî - compared to 50 per cent who cited the place of treatment. BMA chairman James Johnson said ministers had been wrong to place so much emphasis on hospitals when in many areas the question of choice was academic as there was only one local hospital.

BMA leadership urged to fight NHS reform
The British Medical Association's (BMA) annual conference has backed a motion accusing the organisation's leadership of failing to effectively oppose government attempts to make the NHS more market-driven. Although doctors at the conference decided not to affiliate the BMA with anti-private sector campaigners Keep Our NHS Public, they did say the BMA needed to be more proactive against government policies on the NHS. BMA chairman James Johnson defended the leadership's approach, saying ìif we went along [to meetings with ministers] and just said we don't like your policies, we would not be invited backî.

30th September 2008


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