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A&E departments miss four-hour target, seven-year-olds admitted for alcohol 'addiction' and should we go back to 'whipping out tonsils'?

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 3 April

The NHS has failed to meet its target of dealing with 95% of A&E patients within four hours for the last two months, the Guardian reports.

The health service has missed the target in each of the nine last weeks, with 93.3% of patients being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in the week ending 24 March - the most recent week for which data is available.

The four-hour target covers A&E units at major hospitals, specialist hospitals and minor injury units or urgent care centres.

Major hospitals are under the most intense pressure, with hospitals offering consultant-led A&E care – which treat more than 60% of all emergency patients- not having met the target for 26 consecutive weeks.

In the week ending 24th March, 27 273 of the total of 272, 505 emergency patients- some 10%- were not admitted transferred or discharged within four hours.

The data follows the news that the East of England ambulance service erected a ‘major incident tent’ outside Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to relieve pressure on its A&E unit over the Easter weekend.

Over at the Telegraph, a Finnish study has prompted a call for doctors to return to the 1950s culture of whipping tonsils out - in spite of the cost - after finding the surgery reduces repeat sore throats by 40%.

Researchers studied patients with recurring pharyngitis and found that just 4% visited their doctor with a severe sore throat in the five months after having their tonsils removed, compared with 43% of those who were still waiting for the surgery.

British doctors said this was evidence that tonsillectomies, which have become much less common in recent decades, should be more widely used.

Researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland followed 86 patients aged 14 and above with recurring pharyngitis, 46 of whom had been randomly chosen for a tonsillectomy and 40 of whom were placed on a waiting list.

During the five month study period only two tonsillectomy patients visited a doctor with a severe sore throat compared with 17 in the waiting list group.

Eighteen patients who had been given the surgery (39%) reported experiencing a sore throat during the five month period, compared with 32 of the untreated patients (80%).

In the 1950s about 200,000 children and young adults had their tonsils removed each year, but the cost of the procedure has since made it much less common.

Data from 2009-10 shows that the number of operations per year has dropped below 50,000, with patients given alternative treatments such as antibiotics instead.

The Daily Mail brings the shocking news that children as young as seven are being admitted to hospital with alcohol addiction.

Over the four-year period between 2008 and 2012, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show, some 380 children aged 10 or under were treated for alcohol intoxication.

The figures are likely to be higher as 67 of the trusts failed or refused to provide the data.

The paper uncovered one alarming example of a seven-year-old boy said to be ‘addicted’ to alcohol, who was treated at a hospital in Sussex.

‘The primary diagnosis was a mental and behavioural disorder due to acute intoxication with alcohol,’ a report from the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said.

In another case, a 10-year-old boy was admitted to hospital in Devon after drinking so much he collapsed.

At least 25 girls and boys aged between seven and ten were taken to hospital to get help for an alcohol-induced disorder and hundreds more were rushed to A&E because they were drunk, though not necessarily suffering from an ongoing issue with alcohol.

Sometimes the alcohol was ingested accidentally, but the data did not always specify if this was the case.

Nick Barton, chief executive of the charity Action on Addiction, said children who suffered from alcohol problems were likely to have an alcoholic parent.

He said: ‘Children who grow up in homes where their parents have alcohol and drug problems are seven times more likely to develop substance misuse problems themselves.’

‘A recent study indicated that 22% of children live with a parent who drinks hazardously.’

‘A particularly worrying finding was the lack of awareness among parents about the effects of their drinking on their children.’

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…

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