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Independents' Day

Breakthrough in atrial fibrillation diagnosis, guidelines to cut back on pills and sunbeds receive a tanning from experts

A roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 17th January

NICE has backed a new blood pressure measuring device that can help GPs routinely spot more patients with atrial fibrillation.

The device, called WatchBP Home A, has an inflatable cuff that goes around the patient’s arm that allows it to check a patient’s pulse at the same time as measuring blood pressure, the BBC reports.

NICE recommends it should be used for anyone suspected to have high blood pressure.

If people over 65 were to be checked with the WatchBP Home A device, it could save the NHS about £26m and benefit about 400,000 people, says NICE.

Professor Carole Longson from NICE said: ‘The guidance is not about screening for atrial fibrillation, but about the benefits that the device offers in helping to pick up atrial fibrillation by chance in people with suspected high blood pressure or those being screened for high blood pressure, in primary care.’

Meanwhile, new guidelines released by the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Psychological Society suggest GPs slash prescriptions of painkillers and sleeping pills amid concerns that patients are becoming addicted, the Daily Mail reports.

The guidelines warn about the long-term side-effects of some pills, particularly benzodiazepines and painkillers containing codeine. A Harvard University study last year found pensioners who had taken the pills were 50% more likely to develop dementia.

Finally, in this cold spell, the Telegraph warns fake sunseekers that sunbeds are twice as dangerous as lying in the midday Mediterranean sun and most exceed safety standards.

Researchers at the University of Dundee tested levels of UV radiation from 400 sunbeds in England and found that nine in ten of the sunbeds tested emitted UV radiation at levels above British and EU standards. One of the sunbeds produced a skin cancer risk six times higher than the sun.

The British and European standard was introduced in 2003 and sets out a maximum level of UV radiation to be emitted by sunbeds used for cosmetic purposes.

But the strength of UV from sunbeds was found to be no different in those areas where the licensing of sunbeds is required compared to unlicensed areas.

Gary Lipman, chairman of The Sunbed Association said: ‘The findings of this study are two years out of date. If the study was undertaken today the results would be dramatically different.’

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