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NICE is losing its credibility

NICE is 'losing credibility' as an independent prescribing adviser and must not become a regulatory body, the BMA annual conference has concluded.

Delegates voted for a motion criticising NICE for undermining doctors' prescribing freedom, although they pulled back from condemning it as 'completely discredited'.

Dr Robin Arnold, a consultant psychiatrist from Bristol, told delegates: 'Evidence-based medicine is a limited tool that can help us, but this is being abused.'

STIs are continuing to rise

Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show sexually transmitted infections are continuing to rise.

The HPA said the figures were 'disappointing' but stressed that rates had slowed in recent years and there were fewer new diagnoses of some infections. The numbers of new diagnoses in 2004 showed an overall rise of 2 per cent on the previous year.

Chlamydia increased by 8 per cent and syphilis by 37 per cent, but new cases of gonorrhoea fell by 10 per cent.

Mentally ill get poor care

People with severe mental illness are still receiving substandard care and have death rates three times those of the general population, according to a new report.

In particular, poor physical care is helping to reduce patients' life expectancy by up to 15 years, the report concludes.

Paul Corry of the charity Rethink, which contributed to the report along with Sane and the Royal College of Nursing, said the findings showed those affected by serious mental illness were 'being neglected and offered an unacceptable level of care'.

GP fears on centralised notes

GPs have warned the BMA conference that putting patients' notes in a central computer system could threaten privacy and confidentiality.

Patients are themselves unconvinced that Government plans for a centralised system will be secure, according to a new survey released by the BMA which found that 81 per cent of respondents had concerns that people other than health care professionals could gain access to their records.

Asthma surges in the storms

High pollen counts and recent thunderstorms have caused a surge in the number of asthma attacks.

The MET office reported that the recent storms had coincided with a six-fold increase in the number of hospital admissions for breathing problems.

Asthma UK warned that pollen counts had exceeded all records this June and said people should speak to their GP or nurse about what to do if their asthma gets worse.

Nurse prescribing supported

Doctors are generally positive about nurse supplementary prescribing but are not convinced it reduces their workload, a new Department of Health report has concluded.

The University of Southampton study also reported doctors' concerns that the clinical skills required to do the job properly should not be underestimated. They also expressed concern about the time needed to mentor nurses taking on an extended role, and the lack of financial reward for doing this.

The generally positive report highlighted that 'nurses tend to be slower and more protocol-driven in their consultations'.

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