Aurora top 20, August 2013 news analysis

With August just behind us we’ve finally said goodbye to the last official month of summer which seems to have gone by in record time. Although the seasons come and go and bring with them inevitable changes in the weather, the media’s coverage of health topics has remained consistent. The NHS continues to dominate health news with all five top positions in this month’s top 20 taken by NHS issues.

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A lot of the coverage centred on the NHS budget and the Government’s tactics to manage it. Editors of the Lancet were reported to have claimed that MPs are treating the country’s much loved health service as a “bank” and a “market commodity” offering bail outs rather than scrutinising it in terms of patient care. One minister was even criticised for suggesting NHS managers take inspiration from the BBC television show Bargain Hunt when securing medical supplies!

Of course one of the main factors behind NHS money troubles is the overwhelming use of A&E units which have seen waiting times continue to stretch. Recently, musicman posted a piece on the Aurora blog discussing the strain put on the NHS when people misuse the service and how ensuring it remains the envy of the world is a responsibility we all share. This sentiment was only strengthened by the news that hospital patient care is being jeopardised by the overwhelming need to move patients from ward to ward in the face of overcrowding.

We were interested to read that the technology firm Sysmex has produced a new test (the RD-100i OSNA system) which will prevent women with breast cancer being forced to wait long periods of time to see if follow up surgery is required after initial surgery to remove tumours. Doctors will now be able to use this scan to detect whether or not a cancer has spread after initial surgery in about 30-45 minutes.

It seems instant testing is beginning to grow into somewhat of a theme. GPs will now have access to a quick test which will be able to tell if a patient has a bacterial infection, or a viral infection. This essentially makes prescribing antibiotics easier, raising hopes that doctors will make some gains in reducing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and saving the NHS money.

Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity have either made re-entries into the top 20 or moved up the chart. The Independent on Sunday quoted the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham as saying diagnosis for Alzheimer’s could potentially end up being a “postcode lottery” as NHS targets vary from area to area. If the latest research is anything to go by, diagnosis might be made more efficient by looking at how people clean their teeth! A study carried out at the University of Central Lancashire has shown that a bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivaliswhich causes gum diseases may be able to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain resulting in dementia, so I hope you’re all flossing thoroughly!

And finally, it seems more and more of us are turning into night owls who sacrifice our sleep for the benefits of staying logged on. A survey found that 50% of us are online when we’re in bed trying to sleep and that 24% of us are addicted to checking emails and social media sites when drifting off. This might explain why only 11% of us say our sleep is of good quality. This trend has also been on the Aurora radar; in May Neil Shah from the Stress Management Society delivered a lunch and learn at our office where he discussed the importance of stress management including the importance of switching off before bed.

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