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A 'paperless' NHS, new research on autism and the secret ingredient inside Tesco burgers

A roundup of the health news headlines on Wednesday 16th January

Some children ‘grow out’ of autism, according to psychologists, in research which challenges the view that it is a permanent, incurable condition.

The Independent reports that psychologists believe identifying what helped children with autism transition to function like their peers could lead to effective therapies.

Researchers funded by the US National Institutes of Health identified 34 children and young adults ranging in age from eight to 21 who appeared to have ‘grown out’ of autism when compared with two other groups matched for age and sex.

It was, however, noted that the children ususally had a mild form of the condition and a slightly higher IQ than one of the comparative groups of children with ‘high functioning’ autism - meaning they showed expert skills, such as in drawing or maths.

Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut, who led the study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, said: ‘All children with autistic spectrum disorders are capable of making progress with intensive therapy, but with our current state of knowledge most do not achieve the kind of optimal outcome that we are studying.’

‘Our hope is that further research will help us better understand the mechanisms of change so that each child can have the best possible life.’

The Guardian brings us the news of a ‘paperless NHS’, allowing patients to see their medical records online and for them to be easily shared between all parts of the health and social care services.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will launch the project on Wednesday alongside a report claiming it could save nearly £5bn a year, after the costs are taken into account.

He added it should also improve patient care and save lives.

He said:‘More importantly [than money] it can save billions of hours of time so nurses can spend more time with patients if they are not behind the nurses.

‘And I think it can save thousands of lives. A lot of the safety problems in the NHS – people being prescribed with the wrong medication, and “never events”where people have the wrong arm amputated – it’s wrong to say technology is the panacea but it can make a big, big difference.’

And lastly, bad news for those who for those who like a good burger. According to the Telegraph, burgers on sale in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores were found to contain… horse meat.

The investigation was carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, but it was established that mainland Britain was also affected.

The equine meat wasn’t just confined to burgers - more than a third (37 per cent) of the products tested in Ireland contained horse DNA.

The vast majority (85 per cent) also contained pig DNA, which would raise problems for Jewish and Muslim people who may have unwittingly eaten pig, despite it being against their beliefs.

Officials have said there is no public health risk, but the supermarkets involved all released statements saying they would pull the affected products from their shelves and launch an investigation into the how the meat ended up in their products.

Tim Smith, the group technical director of Tesco, said: ‘The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.’

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