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#GPnews: NHS 111 call handlers to be replaced with ‘AI chatbot’

15:45 New NHS Alliance has announced that its GP co-chair, Dr Mark Spencer, has stepped down.

Dr Spencer, who will remain on the New NHS Alliance’s national executive, has stepped down to focus on his leadership role with ‘A Healthier Fleetwood’.

New NHS Alliance said Dr Spencer ‘has been instrumental in the re-launch of the Alliance, which now focuses on addressing health inequalities by “infecting the health system with wellness”.’

It also said Dr Spencer has, in his role as a Fleetwood GP, ‘led by example’, including by ‘featuring in a series of BBC programmes as “the doctor who wants to make his town better”‘.

New NHS Alliance co-chair – Queen’s Nurse Heather Henry – said: ‘Mark has been instrumental in completely re-launching New NHS Alliance. He is an ambassador for our approach to “health creation” – a social model of health – in primary care. He will continue his influence through our national executive.’

New NHS Alliance continues to have a GP in the vice chair role – south east London GP Dr Brian Fisher.

14:30 The NHS 111 service in London is trialling a new app for users, which replaces a call handler asking questions with an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, the Telegraph reports.

The app, developed by tech company Babylon Health – which already offers £25 private video GP consultations – sees the user inputting their symptoms prompting follow-up questions from the chatbot.

At the end of the exchange, the app advises the patient how to proceed to care for themselves or access NHS services.

12:20 Sticking to a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fats, can reduce the shrinkage of brains found in older people, according to a new report.

University of Edinburgh researchers scanned the brains of 401 people in their 70s without dementia who had provided information of their eating habits, reports the BBC.

They found that after three years, those that stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had greater brain volume.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Luciano said: ‘As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells, which can affect learning and memory.

‘This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health.’

09:30 Living close to a busy road may cause the onset of dementia in some people, researchers have found.

A study published in the Lancet focusing on almost two million people living in Ontario, Canada, concluded that 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic.

According to the BBC, study authors suggested noise, ultrafine particles, nitrogen oxides and particles from tyre-wear could be factors behind the link.

Report author Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario, said: ‘Increasing population growth and urbanisation have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.

‘More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise.’

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