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Friends and family test ‘failed by 36 hospital wards’, man awaits right-to-die ruling and a new risk model for breast cancer

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 31 July.

All over the headlines today are findings from the new NHS ‘friends and family’ test, which reveal that patients would not recommend 36 hospital wards in England to a relative.

The results come from around 400,000 responses to the survey, covering 4,500 wards.

NHS England said the findings contained some ‘home truths’, but that it was ‘early data’ that should be interpreted carefully.

Jocelyn Cornwell, director of the Point of Care Foundation, an independent charity said: ‘Collecting feedback is really important, but I think the question patients are asked doesn’t make sense.

‘Some hospitals were using much better methods of collecting feedback. But they’ve had to abandon what they were doing and replace it with this rather blunt instrument.’

In other news, the BBC reports the story of a man awaiting a Court of Appeal ruling today on whether he can be helped to die. Paul Lamb, who was paralysed from the neck down after a car accident 23 years ago, wants the law changed so he can kill himself with the help of a doctor.

Mr Lamb has no function in any of his limbs apart from a little movement in his right hand and says he is in constant pain, needs 24-hour care and that his life consists of ‘being fed and watered’.

In a statement to the courts, he said: ‘I am in pain every single hour of every single day. I have lived with these conditions for a lot of years and have given it my best shot.

‘Now I feel worn out and I am genuinely fed up with my life. I feel I cannot and do not want to keep living. I feel trapped by the situation and have no way out.

‘I am fed up of going through the motions of life rather than living it. I feel enough is enough.’

And over at the Telegraph, there is news of a new technique for predicting a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The paper reports that researchers from the US National Cancer Institute have developed a formula based on the woman’s age, number of children, diet, lifestyle, weight, use of contraception and whether they have had hormone treatment, which can be used to identify whether they need to be more regularly screened than usual.

In a trial of nearly 122,000 women, the team found the risk of breast cancer in women over 50 ranged from 4% to 35% over 20 years, and that the formula accurately predicted those that developed breast cancer.

Dr Ruth Pfeiffer, who led the work, said: ‘These models might assist in clinical decision making related to the risks of these cancers.

‘Using risk models to select individuals for screening or other interventions usually requires high discriminatory accuracy.

‘Well calibrated risk models, even those with modest discriminatory accuracy, have several public health applications.These include designing cancer prevention trials, assessing the absolute burden of disease n the population and in sub groups and gauging the potential absolute reductions in risk from preventive strategies.’

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