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The waiting game

Nicholson says NHS managers ‘in denial’, Scottish cancer wait times missed and why a problem shared really is halved

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 26 June.

The BBC is reporting today on comments from Sir David Nicholson made to MPs, in which he admits a ‘culture of denial’ when it comes to handling complaints to the NHS and that managers were more concerned with maintaining their reputations and meeting targets than responding to the needs of patients.

Sir David reportedly added that while a ‘dramatic’ transformation is now taking place in the organisation in the wake of scandals, management is dragging its heels. He said: ‘The leadership of the NHS – not everywhere – is having difficulty coming to terms with that and is slightly behind it.’

Elsewhere The Herald reports that cancer treatment wait targets have been missed in Scotland, according to latest figures. Over the first quarter of the year, eight out of 14 regional boards failed to meet the target of 95% of patients starting cancer treatment within 62 days of urgent referral. Overall, 94.4% were treated within this time, but the rate was 90.2% for NHS Highland and just 83.3% in Orkney.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ‘In this last quarter, 94.4% of those urgently referred started treatment within 62 days, although this is against a target of 95%, over half of these patients started treatment within only 37 days. While the target was only missed by 0.6%, we are working closely with boards to help improve their performance.’

And over at the Daily Mail is the story that talking to others about problems releases the ‘happiness’ hormone oxytocin, perhaps underlying the old adage that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Canadian researchers set up a simulated conversation for 100 study participants so that they would feel social rejection – or being snubbed.  They gave a nasal spray containing oxytocin to half the people before the conversation, while the other half received a placebo spray.

Among people who reported feeling particularly distressed after being snubbed, those that sniffed the oxytocin were more likely to report trusting in other people afterwards than those who used the placebo spray. In contrast, the oxytocin had no effect on people who were not emotionally affected by the rejection.

Oxytocin is linked to emotional bonding and the researchers believe it promotes reaching out and befriending others. They say their findings could help people with mental health conditions characterized by high levels of stress and low levels of social support, such as depression.

Co-researcher Christopher Cardoso said: ‘If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals.’

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