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#GPnews: UK university hails discovery of new antibiotic effective against MRSA

15:15 The University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre say their researchers have discovered a new antibiotic which is very potent against MRSA.

The antibiotic comes from a new strain of bacteria found on an African plant ant, and they have named the new antibiotics formicamycins, after the Latin formica, meaning ant.

Professor Matt Hutchings from UEA said: ’We have been exploring the chemical ecology of protective symbioses formed between antibiotic-producing bacteria and fungus-growing insects to better understand how these associations are formed and explore them as a new source of anti-infective drugs.

’Kenyan plant-ants live in symbiosis with thorny acacia trees. They live and breed in domatia – which are hollowed out structures which the plant evolved to house them – and grow fungus in them for food. In return, they protect the plants from large herbivores including elephants, which won’t eat plants covered in ants.

’We tested formicamycins against clinical isolates of MRSA and vancomycin-resistant Enteroccocus faecium (VRE) and found that they are very potent inhibitors of these organisms.’

11:45 NHS managers must not use seven-day targets as a factor when deciding which hospitals to keep open and which to downgrade or close, a leading health  think-tank has warned.

Nuffield Trust looked at the precursor to the Government seven-day standard, the London Quality Standard (LQS), finding that while it worked well as a quality improvement programme, where it was used in a punitive way – to threaten hospitals with closure – it undermined clinical engagement, demotivated staff and detracted attention from the aim of patient safety.

Dr Louella Vaughan, fellow in health policy at the Nuffield Trust said:  ’Where the LQS was successful, this was due to high levels of engagement from clinicians. That evaporated where the threat of hospital closures or downgrades was used as a ‘stick’ to enforce adherence to the standards.

’This should act as a warning sign for anyone currently involved in the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) being put in place across the country. Many of these imply that the ability to comply with national seven-day standards – the successor to the LQS – will influence which hospitals stay open.

‘Our research shows that using standards in this way would be a serious mistake. Not only could it harm crucial working relationships between doctors and managers, but it could mean major decisions being made on evidence not strong enough to justify them.’ 

The 21 LQSs for acute care included having consultants work seven days as well as speeding up when patients get scans or other tests, improvinh the assessments patients get on arriving at hospital, and enhancing communication between patients and doctors. Read the research report here.

10:55 Public concern with the NHS is at its highest levels since 2003, the latest Ipsos MORI/Economist Issues Index has shown.

Almost half (49%) of people in the UK consider the struggling NHS to be one of the biggest issues facing Britain, with concern rising nine percentage points since December.

However when asked what is the single biggest issue facing Britain, Brexit takes the lead cited by 27% of the British public, followed by 17% who think the NHS is the biggest concern.

09:30 A transgender police officer has been enlisted by NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG to help local GPs gain a better understanding of the plight of patients with gender dysphoria.

According to the Essex Daily Gazette, formerly male Essex Police sergeant Gina Denham says she personally underwent eight or nine ‘unnecessary’ counselling sessions – which she felt were an attempt to ‘cure’ her – before getting an appropriate referral.

She said: ‘One of the biggest barriers and potential cost to the NHS is our GPs sending [transgender patients] to have counselling when they are meant to be referred to a gender clinic. The GP just seems to ignore your request and sends you to counselling to try to cure you.

’We don’t want GPs to refer people to counselling as the automatic step.’