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Patients would 'embrace' care.data if they understood it, jet lag cure, crackdown on slum landlords and exploding cells to fight cancer

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Friday 21 March.

Patients would embrace the controversial care.data records sharing system as a ‘no-brainer’ if they knew the real reasons behind its introduction, the head of the Medical Research Council said in an interview reported in The Guardian.

Professor Sir John Savill said that the wealth of information available would represent the ‘best laboratory in the world’ and could be used to drive on research to bring improvements in healthcare. He said: ‘The act of studying de-identified data in a safe haven without specific consent does not to my mind threaten confidentiality.’

Night workers and people with jet lag could soon have an instant method of re-adjusting their body clock – a pill. The Daily Telegraph says that the medication – developed by Manchester University researchers – suppresses a certain enzyme and enables the body to get itself back in synch. Lead researcher Dr David Bechtold said: ‘As this work progresses in clinical terms we may be able to enhance the body clock’s ability to deal with shift and how the maladaption of the clock contributes to diseases such as diabetes.’

Students are calling for tough measures against landlords who expose them to health risks in dirty homes infested with mice and insects. The Daily Mail reports on an investigation by the National Union of Students, which concluded that almost a quarter of student accommodation has slugs, rodents or other infestation. Condensation, cold rooms and mould were also common. NUS vice-president for welfare Colum McGuire said: ‘Our research has raised alarming health and safety issues and we are calling for more effective enforcement of standards to ensure students’ homes are fit for study.’

Swedish scientists believe they have found a new way of trying to defeat cancer – by exploding the cells, according to The Independent.

They gave mice Vacquinol-1, which causes the outer wall of a cancer cell to collapse, and the cell to explode. ‘This is an entirely new mechanism for cancer treatment,’ said one of the researchers, Patrik Ernfors, a professor of tissue biology at the Karolinska Institute.

Readers' comments (2)

  • John Saville does his own campaign no good by just slagging off those who oppose it...he should read another more enlightening Guardian article of 17th March and perhaps this will help him to revise his opinion. ie Online Tool has already been used to 'share' one billion NHS records with a marketing company which has links with the pharmaceutical firm. Where are the whistleblowers in all this by the way.?thousands must have known about the abuse of confidentiality going on

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  • There is undoubtedly a considerable amount of potentially valuable data contained within the health records of perhaps 100 million or more records of current and past patients. Unfortunately the Care.data team thought that they knew better than anyone else and they could bludgeon their way into people's lives with scant regard for the fears of the individual patient and an apparent disregard of the data issues.

    To protect the patient the data should be anonymised within the GP practice ie at source, and there should be a guarantee, not just a politicians promise, that there will be no possibility of reverse engineering to reconnect to the individual. Any attempt by anyone, at any time, to do so will be a criminal offence, in perpetuity.

    There must also be an appreciation that in this large database, there will be a considerable proportion of errors, especially in historic records. We do not have positive patient identification, certainly not in A&E or the community and most hospitals still use hand written wrist bands. Patients arrive, often confused with carers in a similar state and identification can be unreliable. Elderly patients are often known by preferred name rather than true name, expanding the scope for error. Although, eventually, the true identity may be made it is not uncommon for some data to be sent between various hospital departments and agencies which are not always rigorously checked and updated. With historical records the risk of error is even worse as the "integrated" systems were simply not.

    Care.data could have been a valuable resource if there had been a clear effort to ensure that both the patients were treated with respect and that the data quality could be reliably assessed and improved.

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