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Whistleblowers across the UK call Scottish helpline, how sunshine could be the answer for asthma and now the first preventative prostatectomy

A round-up of the health news headlines on Monday 20 May

In the headlines today, the BBC reports that over a third of calls to Scotland’s new helpline for health service whistleblowers have come from the rest of the UK.

Of 53 calls to the National Confidential Alert Line launched last month, 19 were actually from NHS staff working outside Scotland. Overall, 23 calls were about concerns over practices in the NHS and the other 11 were ‘about personnel or contractual matters’, the BBC says.

Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said: ‘It is vitally important that all NHS workers feel that they can raise any concerns they may have about patient safety and malpractice because it helps to improve our health service.’

‘We have created a way that staff can speak to an independent organisation anonymously, safely and confidentially. I have also been clear that any areas of concern have to be investigated so that lessons will be learned.’

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that the ‘sunshine vitamin’ may help asthma sufferers control their symptoms and cut down on steroid use. Research from King’s College London suggests that vitamin D could help control asthma in patients who are resistant to steroid treatment, by lowering the production of IL-17A in airways.

Study author Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz said: ‘Vitamin D could one day be used not only to treat people with steroid resistant asthma but also to reduce the doses of steroids in other asthma patients, reducing the risk of harmful side effects.’ 

‘The results are so positive that we are testing this in a clinical trial in steroid resistant asthma patients to further research the possibilities of vitamin D as a potential treatment.’ 

Finally, after the actress Angelina Jolie’s double masectomy dominated the headlines last week, a British man has become the first in the world to undergo a preventative prostatectomy on finding he has the ‘faulty’ BRCA2 gene, the Sunday Times has reported.

The 53-year-old man, married with children, wanted to avoid the fate of relatives who developed breast or prostate cancer after discovering he had the gene when taking part in an Institute of Cancer Research trial.

Doctors were reportedly persuaded to operate when tissue samples showed signs of malignant changes, but on removal it was found the prostate had a considerable level of undetected cancer.

Surgeon Professor Roger Kirby told the paper: ‘The relatively low level of cancerous cells we found in this man’s prostate before the operation would these days not normally prompt immediate surgery to remove the gland, but given what we now know about the nature of BRCA2, it was definitely the right thing to do for this patient.’

‘A number of these BRCA families have now been identified, and knowing you are a carrier is like having the sword of Damocles hanging over you. You are living in a state of constant fear. I am sure more male BRCA carriers will now follow suit.’

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