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#GPnews: NHS trusts fail to collect tens of millions from overseas patients

15:55 A study published in the BMJ journal Sexually Transmitted Infections has found that rinsing and gargling with Listerine mouthwash could help reduce the spread of gonorrhoea.

The trial including 58 gay or bisexual men who attended a clinic in Melbourne, Australia, and had previously tested positive for gonorrhoea in their mouths and throats were split into two groups randomly assigned to either rinse and gargle with Listerine or a saline solution.

Afterwards, reseach showed the proportion of viable gonnorhoea in the throat which could infect a sexual partner was 52% among those using Listerine compared to 84% among those using the saline solution, reports the Express.

14:40 Stem cells derived from amniotic fluid, which surrounds the foetus in the womb, may help treat bone diseases, scientists have found.

So far, trials carried out by the Institute of Child Health – a collaboration of Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London – have focused on mice with osteoporosis or osteogenesis imperfecta, but human trials are planned within the next two years.

Researcher Dr Pascale Guillot, who conducted the research, told the BBC News website that the findings ‘could help people from crib to grave – from babies with brittle bone disease to pensioners with osteoporosis’.

She said: ‘I am extremely excited because this is a major breakthrough that will potentially affect everyone.

‘We are already used to putting cream on our face to slow down ageing of the skin, this will be the same for the skeleton.

‘I think in the next few years we will have ways to slow down the ageing of our skeleton to reduce fractures and pain.’

She added that the finding would also be ‘very important for space travel’; because bones become fragile in zero gravity.

12:35 A new treatment for prostate cancer has been hailed as ‘truly transformative’, reports the BBC.

The cross-European Lancet study found nearly half of men had no remaining trace of cancer after undergoing the laser treatment.

It worked by using a drug made from bacteria which becomes toxic only when exposed to light.

A red laser is inserted and when switched on kills the cancer, says the article.

Unlike traditional surgery or radiotherapy treatment, which commonly lead to bladder problems and erectile dysfunction, the treatment had no long-lasting significant side effects.

‘This changes everything,’ said Professor Mark Emberton, who tested the technique at University College London.

11:10 Scientists have found that pregnancy may alter the brain, reports the Guardian. Using MRI scans, they were able to show that levels of grey matters in certain areas of the brain associated with empathy differed in women who were new mothers, compared to those who had not been pregnant.

They found the change may last up to two years after the baby was born. Scientists believe the changes are evolutionary and help mothers care for their newborns.

09:30 NHS trusts have treated overseas patients now owing nearly £30m in unpaid bills from 2015/16, according to an investigation by the Telegraph.

The bills were for treating patients from countries exempt from reciprocal arrangements with the UK, with some trusts still chasing patients while others have written off the bills as ‘bad debt’, said the paper.

The investigation also shows that hospitals collected £21m for treatments from patients in the same year. Overseas patients came from countries including the US, India and Pakistan.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘It is important that costs are recouped from patients who are not eligible for NHS treatment, but systems to charge migrants and short term visitors need to be practical, economic and efficient and must not jeopardise access to healthcare for those who need it.

‘A doctor’s duty is to treat the patient in front of them, not to act as a border guard.

‘Sick and vulnerable patients must not be deterred from seeking necessary treatment, otherwise there may be serious consequences for their health and that of the public in general.’