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Leeds heart ops could restart this week, NHS Scotland launches whistleblower line and bowel cancer rates soar in men

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thuesday 2 April 2013

Health chiefs at Leeds General Infirmary are expecting they can reverse Sir Bruce Keogh’s controversial decision to call a halt on all heart surgery at the hospital this week.

They claim the mortality figures Sir Bruce cited are ‘wrong’ - and now NHS England is reportedly ‘hopeful’ that operations can restart soon, the Telegraph reports. The hospital’s paediatric heart unit was suspended last Thursday because figures showed death rates were twice as high as would be expected, but clinicians have challenged the validity and completeness of the data.

A spokesman from the hospital said: ‘As we have stressed, the data and the other information raise questions. They do not provide answers. These are for the Trust’s review to determine.’

Local MP Greg Mulholland said: ‘This is very clearly the start of a climbdown by NHS England. The decision taken on Thursday was not justifiable and [was] reckless because to jump in on the basis of data that had not been properly verified and turned out to be flawed is irresponsible.’

Meanwhile NHS staff in Scotland have from today got their own whistleblower helpline. The Scotsman says that this will help staff ‘highlight concerns about Scotland’s health services without fear of losing their jobs’, adding that Scottish health secretary Alex Reid has insisted that the free hotline will allow staff to report concerns ‘safely and confidentially’.

The hotline, which is being run by an independent group called Public Concern at Work, comes after the Francis inquiry into failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, but was also demanded after a scandal at NHS Lothian, where patients were removed from waiting lists if they refused to travel to England for treatment, the paper explains.

Former GP and Labour’s public health spokesman, Richard Simpson told the paper the hotline should have been introduced years ago. He said: ‘I hope that they make sure it’s properly resourced and that all staff are informed about their rights to call it.’

Finally, a Cancer Research UK study out today shows that bowel cancer rates have gone up disproportionately in recent decades among men compared with women, the BBC reports. It says rates in men have increased by more than a quarter in the past 35 years, whereas in women they have risen by just 6% over the same period.

National Cancer Research Network director Professor Matthew Seymour, from Leeds University, said that while an ageing population is part of the reason - as with many cancers, the risk of bowel cancer goes up as we get older – even taking this into account, ‘we still see that the risk has gone up in men’.

It is unclear what the cause is, but it may be linked to obesity and poor diet, in particular high intakes of red and processed meat along with low fibre.

In absolute terms, bowel cancer cases in men rose from 45 per 100,000 in 1975-1977 to 58 per 100,000 in 2008-2010,

Stephanie Moore, whose father, the legendary footballer Bobby Moore, died of the cancer in 1993, said that despite the improving survival rates: ‘It’s vital we continue to fund research to fight this disease as these new statistics show.’

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