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PR news in brief

Our weekly round up of PR and medical education stories.

Meningitis alert for parents

Parents are being warned to look out for signs of meningitis and blood poisoning in children and young people, as a debate begins on whether babies should be routinely vaccinated against some of the most life-threatening cases. The government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said it was vital that parents and carers knew how to spot the dangers so that they could seek urgent medical attention. Fever, restlessness and vomiting - symptoms similar to those of colds or flu - can rapidly deteriorate into serious illness. About 350 people, 10 per cent of the British cases, die each year, according to some estimates.

Scald injuries in the spotlight

More awareness of the potential risk of scalding toddlers is needed. This follows a study by Dorothy Drago, a product safety consultant, which revealed that there is little understanding of the potential for kitchen burns and scalds. Of the estimated 17,237 burns treated in the emergency department during 1997 to 2002, nearly 66 per cent were scalds resulting from hot liquids, and 34 per cent were thermal burns from contact with some hot surface. "I'd like to see parents become as aware of the danger of hot liquid as they seem to be about, say, the danger of small parts," said Drago.

Handsets under threat

One of the Government's leading public health advisers will reiterate his previous demands that the public should have better access to information about handset emission levels. Sir William Stewart, chairman of both the Health Protection Agency and the National Radiation Protection Board, will give a warning on January 11, that children should only use mobile phones for essential calls until doubts over potential health hazards have been resolved. Meanwhile, the NRPB, a statutory body that provides public information on radiation hazards, is to issue new advice on mobiles tomorrow.

Mental health helpline closes

Thousands of Britain's most desperate and isolated people will be deprived of access to the country's largest mental health helpline after a £1m cut in government funding. Saneline, run by the charity Sane, is being forced to close two of its three national centres, with the loss of 127 trained volunteers and 13 full-time staff. The lack of Department of Health funding will mean the closure at the end of March of the charity's offices in Bristol and Macclesfield, leaving only a helpline based in London up and running. Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of Sane, said: "We are very sad and disappointed to have to take this step."

Health Direction launches database

Health Direction has announced the launch of its new diabetes database for the NHS and pharmaceutical companies. Diabetes Disease Tracker is full of information linked to PCOs, Trusts, Practices, Strategic Health Authorities and National Organisations. It also covers Pathways, Clinical Governance, Clinical Services, Disease Registers, Training and Education, Health Promotion, Prescribing and Research and Development. Commenting on the launch, Duncan Alexander, managing director of Health Direction said: ìThe Disease Tracker enables our clients to identify and engage PCOs that are at the forefront of improving care in a particular disease area, to identify and engage PCOs in the greatest need of help in achieving national targets and to find PCOs that have a high incidence of either disease or risk factors.î

2nd September 2008

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