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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories

Doctors urge intervention over brain cancer drugs
Doctors have urged Patricia Hewitt to ensure that two new brain tumour drugs are made available to the public.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, 36 clinicians say that temozolomide and carmustine implants are a cost-effective, major advance in the treatment of the aggressive form of brain cancer known as high-grade glioma.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) initially rejected the treatments, but is due to begin its final assessment of the treatments within weeks.

Professor Roy Rampling of Western Infirmary in Glasgow said: ìNICE is ignoring the evidenceÖ[It] simply isn't doing its job properly.î The drug assessment body has responded by stressing that there is no ban on prescribing licensed drugs that are yet to be appraised.

Ms Hewitt has previously intervened in a drug access row, the result of which was that North Stoke Primary Care Trust reversed a decision it had made to deny Roche's treatment Herceptin, a breast cancer drug.

GPs emphasise potential in new government white paper
Dr Mayur Lakhani, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has voiced GP support for the new government white paper, Our Health, Our Care, Our Say.

In a live online webcast, Dr Lakhani said: ìI would urge all doctors to see the opportunities in the White Paper and to avoid complacency. We are starting from a strong position and command the support of patients.

ìThe White Paper provides new direction for the way in which we deliver quality services and is good news for patients. It is also good news for GPs as it reinforces our key role in community health.î

Productivity rate falls in the NHS
NHS productivity has been falling year-on-year according to the accepted measurement of productivity, says new research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Using the standard comparison of NHS outputs to inputs, which is used by the Bank of England and the Treasury to inform policy, productivity has been shown to be falling by 0.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent a year between 1995 and 2004.

However, the ONS has said that if the inclusion of other factors such as patient experience, survival rates and the rise in poulation earnings were included, NHS productivity seemed to rise by an average of 0.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent a year.

Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, focused on the methods showing a rise in productivity and called for their use in future. She said: ìThe Department of Health is now working with the ONS towards an even more comprehensive measurement.î

Poor results in fight against child obesity
A recent joint report by the Healthcare Commission, National Audit Office and Audit Commission has warned that targets set to halt the rise of childhood obesity might not be met.

To meet the targets, set in 2004 by the Public Service Agreement (PSA), the report calls for clear leadership, greater clarity and direction, better definition of roles, strengthening of partnerships and more support for front-line staff from the Departments of Health, Education, and Culture, Media and Sport.

Audit Commission chief executive, Steve Bundred, said: ìThe Government is facing a significant challenge, but it is tackling it head on.î

Obesity grew from 9.6 per cent in 1995 to 13.7 per cent in 2003 and it costs the NHS and UK economy around £3.3 billion a year.

30th September 2008

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