Buckman refutes Patient Association claims, the problems with energy drinks and breast cancer advice
A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Friday 22 March.
GP leaders have said a damning report based on a Patients Association survey of 3,000 of its members and supporters shows the effects of Government interference.
The BBC writes that Patients in England do not feel safe relying on GP out-of-hours care and are struggling to get access to doctors during normal hours, and if the problems persisted, the service would lose the trust of the public completely.
It says four out of every five of those polled said they would not feel safe relying on the NHS out-of-hours service for a potentially urgent medical problem.
Nearly half of those who had used an out-of-hours provider in the past two years said they were not satisfied with the service they had received. Some 61% said they had had to wait longer than 48 hours to book an appointment with a GP and more than a third had had to take a day off work to attend.
The Patients Association said that it was essential the GP system was reviewed to ensure the problems did not mount and said CCGs should raise awareness about the options available to people when GP surgeries are closed.
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman commented: ‘GPs across the country are working extremely hard to see as many patients as possible as quickly and promptly as possible. Nearly nine out of 10 patients reported that they had a good overall experience in the most recent GP patient survey that was answered by close to a million respondents.’
But he added: ‘Many GP practices are struggling to cope with a combination of government targets, falling resources and rising workload.’
The Telegraph meanwhile is reporting on a US study which raised concerns about consumption of energy drinks, after it was found they can trigger cardiac arrect.
The drinks, which often contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants like taurine, raise blood pressure and could raise the chance of having an irregular heartbeat, they concluded after looking at results from seven studies.
The US doctors said the evidence energy drinks raised blood pressure was “convincing and concerning”. Specifically, they found energy drinks raised systolic blood pressure by 3.5 points.
It also lengthened a phase of the heart’s electrical cycle called the ‘QT interval’. Having a long QT interval is a sign a person is at greater risk of suffering from an irregular heartbeat, which can be fatal.
They concluded that drinking one to three cans raised the QT interval by ten milliseconds.
Professor Sachin Shah from the University of the Pacific in California, said: ‘Doctors are generally concerned if patients experience an additional 30 milliseconds in their QT interval from baseline. The correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning, and more studies are needed to assess the impact on the heart rhythm.’
He added: ‘Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink. People with health concerns or those who are older might have more heart-related side effects from energy drinks.’
Moving on to The Guardian, the newspaper reports that women who stop taking tablets to prevent breast cancer returning before the end of the recommended five years risk an earlier death, according to research.
A study carried out on nearly 3,400 women in Tayside, Scotland, found that only half who had been given tamoxifen, or one of a class of newer antihormone drugs called aromatase inhibitors, after breast cancer treatment were still taking the pills at the end of five years. Some had stopped; others reduced the dose.
Those who had given up after three years were three times more likely to die of breast cancer, during the follow-up period of the study, than those who took the pills for 80% of the time for all five years.
They looked at the numbers of prescriptions for tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors that were collected over five years by 3,361 women treated for breast cancer in Tayside – which was the best indicator they could find of how well women were complying with the drug treatment regime. The women had all started taking the drugs at some point between 1993 and 2008. All the data was anonymised.
Those women who had collected less than 80% of the drugs prescribed for a year were classified in the study published in the British Journal of Cancer as having ‘low adherence’ to the treatment.
Most women took the drugs as prescribed to begin with – in the first year, they collected 90% of their tablets. But this gradually dropped over subsequent years, to 82%, 77% and then 59%. By the end of the fifth year, half the women were collecting only 51% of their prescriptions.
Many women complain of the side-effects of the hormonal drugs. The most common are menopausal-type symptoms, such as hot flushes and sweating. Other people feel sick or suffer indigestion or put on weight. Less common are depression, headaches, blood clots and vision problems.
The research was carried out by Dr Colin McCowan of the University of Glasgow, with colleagues from the University of Dundee, funded by the charity Breast Cancer Campaign.
Dr McCowan said: ‘We’re now looking at why women are finding it harder to take medication for extended periods of time and we do know that side effects can be a real issue for women on long term treatments such as tamoxifen. This is why women need the support of their clinicians so that they can discuss any problems they are having rather than stopping taking treatments.’