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Hospital doctors with an 'unmanageable' workload, a 'functional cure' for HIV, and how one in 20 Britons now has diabetes

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Monday 4 March

An ‘alarming’ threat to patient safety is being posed by the unmanageable workload faced by hospital doctors, the Telegraph reported today.

A report by the Royal College of Physicians found a ‘worrying correlation’ between low consultant staffing levels and high death rates, especially in hospitals in provincial areas, who struggle with recruitment and retention.

The college found that medical registrars were being excessively overworked, as 96% who responded to their survey described their workload as heavy (59%) or unmanageable (37%), while only 4% said it was ‘about right’ .

The problem is most serious at nights and weekends in district general hospitals, where retaining staff is much more challenging than for the big teaching hospitals, a large number of which are in London. These hospitals tend to keep their trainee doctors, as nationwide five out of six stay where they train.

The College is particularly worried about the lack of geriatricians, as the number of elderly people being admitted continues to grow. In 2011 half of vacancies for such posts remained unfilled due mainly to lack of applicants.

Ms Suzie Hughes, chairman of the college’s patient and carer network, said: ‘The potential threat to patient care is alarming. Physicians are now reporting that patients are at risk of being unsafe.

“If this is not urgently addressed, frail elderly people who require hospital care will be poorly serviced by the NHS. We cannot risk providing substandard care to such a vulnerable group.’

The Guardian brings us news of US doctors who have made medical history, by finding a ‘cure’ for a two-year-old from Mississippi born with HIV.

The infant- who has not been named to protect their privacy- needs no medication, has a normal life expectancy and is highly unlikely to be infectious to others, doctors believe.

Though they are not clear on why the treatment has been effective, the surprise success raises hopes that the virus could be eradicated among newborns in future.

Dr Hannah Gay, who cared for the child at the University of Mississippi medical centre, said this amounted to the first ‘functional cure’ of an HIV-infected child, where standard tests for the virus are negative, but it is likely that a tiny amount remains in their body.

She said: ‘Now, after at least one year of taking no medicine, this child’s blood remains free of virus even on the most sensitive tests available.’

She added: ‘We expect that this baby has great chances for a long, healthy life. We are certainly hoping that this approach could lead to the same outcome in many other high-risk babies.’

The Daily Mail brings a stark warning: that one in 20 Britons is now suffering from diabetes, as cases rise by more than a third in six years.

Analysis of official data by Diabetes UK charity and Tesco found that 132, 000 patients were found to have the condition in the last year, adding to the 2,912, 000 existing sufferers in 2011.

This brings the total to 3.04 million- 4.6% of the UK population- compared with 2.2 million six years ago.

They also estimated that a further 850, 000 people are thought to have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, which is largely blamed on obesity.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the soaring numbers marked a ‘public health emergency’.

Diabetes UK and Tesco are launching a national partnership aiming to raise £10million to fund a public awareness campaign on type 2 diabetes risk factors, and will fund research into a vaccine for type 1 diabetes.

Ms Young said: ‘We are hugely concerned that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has reached three million for the first time and there is no reason to think this will mark the end of what has been a rapid rise.

‘Instead, all the projections suggest it will be a grim staging post on the road towards a public health emergency and this unfolding tragedy is already putting huge pressure on the NHS and will have potentially devastating consequences for those people who develop the condition.

‘But this is not inevitable. By identifying those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, we can ensure they start getting support to make the kind of lifestyle changes that can help prevent it. And by making sure people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes are already getting the care and support they need, we can help them avoid the devastating complications diabetes can cause.’




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