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Age discrimination in cancer treatment, control of painkillers, bonus for GPs asking about drinking habits, and doctors working 7 days a week "unaffordable"

OnMedica staff

Monday, 26 March 2012

AGE DISCRIMINATION DENIES CANCER TREATMENT FOR ELDERLY

The Daily Telegraph (p1,2), The Guardian (p8), The Times (p8), The Daily Mail (p32) on Monday report that, according to a report, thousands of elderly people are dying early because age discrimination in the NHS is denying them cancer treatment.

Charity Macmillan Cancer Support claimed that a lack of treatment or insufficient treatment is contributing to 14,000 deaths a year among the over-75s. The report, “The Age Old Excuse: the under treatment of older cancer patients”, said treatment options were recommended on the basis of age rather than a patient’s fitness.

Deaths from cancer are reducing in most age groups, but are doing so at a slower rate in those aged 74 to 84 and are increasing in those aged 85 and over.

Among a number of reasons, which the report highlighted, the Telegraph says: “Few clinical trials involve older people so clinicians are lacking evidence of how effective drugs may be, and few cancer specialists have had training in care of the elderly”.

RECALL OF AN OVER-THE-COUNTER PAINKILLER

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has issued a drug alert to healthcare professionals after it emerged that thousands of packets of an over-the-counter painkiller manufactured by Wockhardt U.K. Ltd contained higher-strength tablets that are normally only available on prescription, reported The Independent (p24) and the Daily Telegraph (p10) on Saturday.

The Independent said Wockhardt is co-ordinating the recall of the batch of 40,000 packets which could contain doses of 30mg/500mg of co-codamol rather than the over-the-counter dose of 8mg/500mg.

“PAINKILLERS SHOULD BE CAREFULLY CONTROLLED”

The author of an article in the Daily Mail’s Life & Style section (p45) on Monday advocates that all painkillers, including paracetamol, should be “carefully controlled - because we have become a nation of massive pill-poppers”.

The author argues that even though paracetemol is a common painkiller and is easily available over the counter without a prescription, it can have “devastating” effects on the liver, even if someone takes “a few more” tablets than the recommended daily dose.

The drug produces a by-product known as NAPQI, which attacks the liver. As it gradually accumulates, it can result in a “staggered overdose”.

The author says there is now a “new danger” as 39,000 packs of co-codamol, containing paracetemol and codeine, which are three times stronger than the dose stated on the packet, have gone on sale by mistake.

CASH INCENTIVE FOR GPs ASKING ABOUT PATIENTS’ DRINKING HABITS

The Daily Mail (p12) reports that GPs could be paid bonuses for quizzing patients about their drinking habits and that it could become part of the QOF scheme.

The paper notes the guidance drawn up by the Home Office could constitute a “controversial” bonus scheme, but that Officials have insisted “it is only one of many proposals being considered to help tackle binge drinking.”

“THERE IS NO MONEY” FOR DOCTORS TO WORK SEVEN DAYS A WEEK 

The Daily Telegraph (p14) reports on Monday the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that attempts to make hospitals work seven days a week are unaffordable because the move will cost the NHS billions of pounds a year.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee says there is no money to pay for such an expansion of services “during a time of austerity”, reports the paper.

A week ago, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, said “he wanted to be in a position where the service was ‘indistinguishable on a Saturday from a Wednesday’, because ‘people get sick seven days a week’,” says the paper.

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