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PR and Med Ed news in brief

Our weekly round-up of healthcare PR stories

Pincer movement
Virgo Health PR and the Policy Partnership are giving their support to a new campaign, Fair Play for Children's Hospices, aimed at rallying further government support and funding for children's hospices in the UK. Children's hospice services currently get a small and unpredictable level of funding from the government and rely mainly on fundraising for support. Yet, according to figures from a poll by YouGov, around 94 per cent of people in the UK believe sustained, long-term funding for children's hospice services is vital and 73 per cent think that most of the funding should come from the government. While the government has recently pledged a ?27m cash boost for children's hospices, this money will last less than three months. Work on the campaign so far has included building a website (www.fairplayforchildren.org.uk) which will be followed by a major consumer lobbying drive. The agencies are drumming up support for Fair Play, which is backed by the Association of Children's Hospices and chaired by Neil Bruce Copp OBE, by directing traffic to the website where, rather than being asked to make donations, people will be asked to `click and pledge' their support.

Concerns over Ritalin use
Parent groups and education experts in Scotland have called for the review of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment guidelines to be accelerated, as they believe that children could be needlessly prescribed medication for the condition. The guidelines are currently under review, but will not be available until 2008, some four year after an investigation into the use of the drug in Scotland was launched following a tenfold increase in prescription rates. Dr Gwynedd Lloyd, head of Educational Studies at Edinburgh University, has warned that doctors are too keen to label children as having ADHD without proper investigation into other possible causes and are prescribing amphetamine-based drugs, such as Ritalin, unnecessarily. Last year, 46,000 individual prescriptions were written for Ritalin. The NHS has refuted claims that the review process has been delayed. However, pressure to publish guidelines has intensified following report that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued a severe advisory warning against Ritalin following 25 deaths. The Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has expressed its intention to review its advice in the wake of US reports.

Call to arms
Some 70 per cent of families in the UK caring for someone with a severe learning disability are nearing breaking point, according to figures from Mencap. The charity is now calling for councils to give respite care to every family caring for an adult or child with severe learning problems. The poll of 353 families in England and Northern Ireland revealed that 60 per cent do not get the support they need. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have learning disabilities, yet just 251,000 qualify for disability living allowance. Payments are given only to those with learning disabilities who are also suffering from conditions, such as cerebral palsy, autism or epilepsy. Mencap is campaigning for families and carers to receive an allowance to enable them to take a minimum of a one-week break.

Navigating the maze
Changes to the health service mean that the NHS needs, and is calling for, more medical and educational support and tools than ever before. But with strict guidelines from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry declaring that the offer of medical education cannot be combined with promotional activities, what is the best way to ensure that such services benefit both healthcare professionals and the bottom line? Philippa Mallaband, consultant at Chandler Chicco Agency and Eric Walsh, regional account director at Takeda UK will aim to provide the answers at a PM Society briefing taking place at Altana Pharma's offices on September 18. For more information on how to book go to www.pmsociety.org.uk/events or contact Vivien Bennett on 01403 264898.

2nd September 2008

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