Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs blamed for avoidable child deaths, an effective breast cancer campaign and why new parents should refrain from bickering

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 27 March.

The Independent brings uncomfortable news this morning, covering a study which concludes almost 2,000 British children die each year from ‘avoidable’ causes because GPs lack training in paediatric care.

Dr Ingrid Wolfe, programme director for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, who led the study, said the deaths were a ‘national scandal’, with the UK at the bottom of a European league made up of the 15 members states of the European Union ranked according to the number of excess child deaths.

The UK child mortality rate is more than 60% higher than that of the best performer, Sweden, which sets the benchmark for excess deaths. In Sweden, fewer than 30 children in every 100,000 die, compared with more than 47 per 100,000 in the UK.

The researchers blamed Britain’s health system, saying it had not adapted to meet children’s needs. The UK has one of the highest child death rates from pneumonia, twice as high as Sweden’s and three times those of France and Austria, even though the condition can be treated with antibiotics. In place of infectious diseases that were dominant a generation ago, today’s children are more likely to face such chronic problems as asthma, diabetes or behavioural difficulties.

Dr Wolfe said British GPs required more paediatric training and should work more closely with child specialists, as family doctors do in Sweden.

The Telegraph also brings news on children’s health with reports that parents who argue in front of their baby cause them lasting damage because they are likely to suffer from stress in later life.

US research found that exposure to even moderate stresses could have an impact on the way in which the brain functions in later years. The researchers discovered that hearing arguments between parents, even when babies were asleep, affects the way in which they process emotional tones of voice.

Babies from homes with a lot of conflict displayed increased stress levels when they were exposed to angry tones of voice.

In turn, this response may make them more likely to become anxious as adults because they are less able to cope with and regulate their emotions, the researchers from the University of Oregon claimed. The way in which exposure to arguments affects a child’s brain has, in previous research, been linked to mood disorders developing from adolescence onwards.

The researchers pointed out that infants’ brains are highly ‘plastic’, which is necessary to allow them to develop in response to the environments and encounters they experience.

And finally in Scotland, The Herald reports that thousands more women have contacted their GP with breast cancer symptoms in Scotland following a hard-hitting television advertising campaign.

New figures show a 50% rise in the number of women going to their doctor between September and November last year - up from 13,900 in 2011 to 21,000.

Actress and comedian Elaine C Smith features in the commercial, which was the first in the UK to show real pictures of women’s breasts affected by cancer.

Before Christmas it emerged the surge in patient numbers was putting breast cancer screening services under strain, and Robert Calderwood, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said if the trend continued the health board would need more resources to cope with demand.

But James Jopling, Scotland director for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, welcomed the rise in women seeking advice about breast cancer symptoms.

He said: ‘We know early detection can save lives, as the earlier a diagnosis is made the better the chance of successful treatment.’

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Scotland, with nearly 4,500 women diagnosed every year.

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

Have your say