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Hunt blames doctors for low dementia diagnosis, new breast cancer treatment and BMA enters drug debate

A roundup of the health news headlines on Tuesday 15 January

The Daily Mail has hit out at GPs this morning, quoting Jeremy Hunt saying that doctors are to blame for dementia diagnosis rates.

The paper writes that GPs are refusing to send patients for crucial tests to spot dementia because they believe there is no point, according to the Health Secretary.

Jeremy Hunt blames shockingly low diagnosis rates on a ‘grim fatalism’ among doctors coupled with an ignorance of symptoms. His comments came as figures revealed nearly 400,000 dementia sufferers in Britain have never been given a formal diagnosis.

The statistics obtained by the Alzheimer’s Society also found some NHS trusts are spotting only a third of all cases.

Mr Hunt said: ‘As with cancer in the past, too many health professionals are not aware of the symptoms. Some even believe that without effective cure there is no point putting people through the anxiety of a memory test - even though drugs can help stave off the condition for several years.

‘It is a grim fatalism we need to shake off. Not just within our Health Service but in society as a whole.’

Over at The Telegraph, the morning health headlines include NICE plans to DNA test women with familial breast cancer and offer them drugs.

Women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be offered genetic tests, the guidance said. They should also be offered annual screening tests instead of the standard three-yearly and may be advised to start them at an earlier age.

NICE also recommended that women at high risk be offered the anti-cancer drug Tamoxifen or an alternative for five years to try and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Tamoxifen has not been used in this way before and is not currently licensed for prevention in women who have not previously been diagnosed with breast cancer.

A recent study found taking tamoxifen for five years as a preventive measure prevented 29 breast cancer cases and nine breast cancer deaths per 1,000 women treated.

Meanwhile, the BMA has entered the debate on illegal drug use, writes the BBC this morning.

UK drugs policy needs a stronger health focus as criminalisation is deterring users from seeking help, say doctors.

Although illicit drug use has been declining in the UK, long-term problematic drug use and drug-related deaths are not decreasing, says the British Medical Association.

Its Board of Science says evidence shows the current prohibitive approach to drug use is not working.

It says doctors should inform drugs policy to put patients’ needs first.

 


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