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Healthcare assistants taking blood and inserting drips, air pollution linked to lung cancer and heart failure and the consequences of shift work for women hoping to conceive

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 10 July

Elderly patients are being placed at risk because healthcare assistants are carrying out tasks which should be done by fully trained doctors and nurses, a Government review has concluded.

Healthcare assistants are left to take blood and insert drips, but receive no ‘consistent’ preparation for such work, the report by writer and health campaigner Camilla Cavendish found. As part of her review she called for healthcare assistants to receive standard training.

The review found the importance of training support staff properly is recognised in some areas. But Ms Cavendish said: ‘Overall, training is neither sufficiently consistent, nor sufficiently well supervised, to guarantee the safety of all patients and users in health and social care.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the findings but stopped short of promising to introduce the recommendation for compulsory basic training.

Pulse’s investigation into data breaches in hospitals yesterday is picked up by a number of the nationals today, including the Daily Express which claims the figures show the NHS is ‘blatantly disregarding patient confidentiality’.

Bad news for those living in smoggy cities over at the Guardian. Air pollution is linked to a higher risk of lung cancer and heart failure, according to two studies.

Levels of air pollution in the UK are higher than those recommended by the European Union - but even the EU-recommended levels could have fatal consequences.

Although smoking is a far bigger cause of lung cancer, a significant number of people will get the disease because of where they live, a paper in the Lancet Oncology journal found.

The study, codenamed Escape, combined data from 17 cohort studies in nine European countries, covering a total of almost 313,000 people, the size giving it greater authority than previous work.

The second study, published by the Lancet, showed that even short-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of being admitted to hospital with and dying of heart failure.

And finally, the Daily Mail brings worrying news for women working night shifts, as a study found that 80% find it harder to have a baby.

Erratic work patterns carry higher risk of miscarriage, irregular periods and fertility problems compared to a nine to five routine, the study found.

Researchers by Southampton University found that shift workers are twice as likely to be classed as sub-fertile, meaning they fail to get pregnant within a year.

They studied more than 100,000 women and revealed that working any patterns other than day shifts increased the risk of the menstrual cycle being sisrupted by a fifth. Miscarriages were almost a third more common.

But researcher Dr Linden Stocker said the study cannot rule out other factors, such as shift workers leading an unhealthier lifestyle by being more likely to eat badly or do less exercise.

She told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology: ‘We don’t fully understand why shift workers have an increased risk of certain diseases but obviously shift work impacts on your biological functioning, your psychological functioning and your social functioning.’

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

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