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Review slams NHS complaints handling, concerns swaddling is damaging babies’ hips... and good news for green-fingered over-60s

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 29 October.

Patient complaints are met with an attitude of ‘delay, deny and defend’ in the NHS, according to a damning parliamentary report. Co-author and Labour MP Ann Clwyd said a defensive approach to patient concerns is ‘deeply entrenched’, The Times reports. The review of 2,500 submissions detailed cases of failures to communicate, ‘slapdash’ care and ‘pompous and condescending doctors and nurses’. It found patients were sometimes scared to complain because of fears or reprisals, or put off by confusing procedures.

Mrs Clwyd, who has complained about the poor care her husband received when he died in hospital last year, called for an end to the culture of denial.

She said: ‘When I made public the circumstances of my own husband’s death last year, I was shocked by the deluge of correspondence from people whose experience of hospitals was heart-breaking.’

‘The days of delay, deny, and defend must end, and hospitals must become open, learning organisations.’

The BBC reports concerns that a resurgence of swaddling is damaging babies’ hips. Professor Nicholas Clarke, from Southampton University Hospital, says the technique in which the babies’ arms and legs are bound to the body with blankets is damaging babies’ developing hips, leading to problems in later life. 

Writing in the Archives of Disease and Childhood, Professor Clarke says swaddling has become popular again because of its perceived calming effects, helping to stop excessive crying and colic and to promote sleep. But he says tightly wrapping babies’ extended legs together prevents healthy hip development, which requires the legs to be able to bend up and out at the hips.  

Jane Munro, from the Royal College of Midwives, said the college advises parents to avoid swaddling because it poses ‘significant’ problems for the baby and also raises the risks of overheating and cot death.

There is slightly more cheery news for the over-60s this morning though, at least for those who don’t fancy the gym.  New research shows daily activities such as gardening and DIY are just as good as other forms of exercise at warding off vascular disease. The study from Sweden of nearly 4,000 people aged 60 years and over showed daily gardening or DIY cut their risk of heart attacks and stroke and prolonged their life by as much as 30%, reports The Guardian. Even elderly people who trained for marathons were at no less risk than the potterers.

Authors of the study, which is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said their findings are important because people in this age group tend to spend more of their active day performing these kinds of activities ‘as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels’.  

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