Sometimes a dog can be better for a patient than hospital

Suffering patients may need to just be asked ‘tell me about your pet’

An elderly patient is admitted to hospital after a fall at home. He is stunned after the fall but, thankfully, uninjured. It takes him a few days to recover but as soon as he able, he wants to go home. The physiotherapist wants to work with him, the social worker wants to examine his support system, but all he wants to do is go home. We feel he is not yet safe. He acknowledges that a worse event could happen but still, he wants to go home. Theories are posited as to why.

Maybe the concussion is worse than we first thought. Maybe he is cognitively impaired and unable to make decisions about his safety, in which case a state-appointed guardian may be needed. Maybe he doesn’t like the other patients, in which case he could be placated by moving him to another room. It is the beginning of a month of medical rounds for me and he is the handover without a plan.

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Air pollution cuts global average lifespan by nearly two years – study

New analysis calls toxic air the greatest threat to human health, finding it shortens lives by up to six years in pollution hotspots

Air pollution cuts the average lifespan of people around the globe by almost two years, according to a new analysis, making it the single greatest threat to human health.

The research looked at the particulate pollution produced by the burning of fossil fuel by vehicles and industry. It found that in many parts of the worst-affected nations – India and China – lifespans were being shortened by six years.

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Diabetes: the inventor trying to make injections pain-free

Many diabetics find the process of injecting themselves distressing. Could a strange-looking new device be the answer?

Peter Bailey wasn’t sure how people would react to his invention at the culmination of the Design Council’s Spark programme. He had won £15,000 from Spark in 2016 for his product to make self-injecting easier for people with diabetes, and had already spent the money on tools to start mass producing it.

During that process, however, he had discovered some fairly major issues. “I gave it the drop test on my hard bathroom floor and it sprung apart.” So he totally redesigned the product, eking out the last of the prize money to re-tool.

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Big pharma ‘failing to develop urgent drugs for poorest countries’

Two-thirds of treatments identified by WHO yet to be developed, says monitor group

The world’s biggest pharmaceutical firms have failed to develop two-thirds of the 139 urgently needed treatments in developing countries, according to an independent report, which highlights the need for medicines including an infants’ vaccine for cholera.

The report by the Access to Medicine Foundation, which monitors 20 major drugs companies and the availability of their medicines in low to middle income countries, found that most firms focus on infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis but had failed to focus on other serious ailments.

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Mental health hospital admissions linked to cocaine use treble in 10 years

NHS data shows significant rise, with increased availability of the drug amid government cuts blamed

The number of hospital admissions for “mental disorders” linked to the use of cocaine has almost trebled in the past decade, official figures show.

NHS Digital data has shown that in England between 2017-18 there were 14,470 admissions to hospital where patients suffered from “mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine”. The number was up year-on-year, substantially higher than the 5,148 between 2007-8. The figures did not distinguish between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.

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Charities risk becoming irrelevant, warns new report

Voluntary sector must stop chasing government contracts and go back to fighting for communities in need

Health Connections Mendip (HCM) never set out to be a model for anything. However, this deceptively simple project in the small Somerset town of Frome is being talked about, not just as a blueprint for community revitalisation, but as a road to renewal for a UK charity sector struggling to maintain its relevance and public confidence in an age of great social upheaval and public distrust.

The work of HCM, based in a GP practice, has attracted attention mainly because of a startling research study which suggests that when people with health conditions are supported by community groups and volunteers, both they and the NHS benefit. The findings are provisional, but they show that over the three years of the study, while emergency hospital admissions in Somerset rose by 29%, in Frome they fell by 17%.

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Mental health patients have been thrown down the Brexit rabbit-hole | Zoe Williams

Normal government has effectively ceased, leaving a crucial health review on hold

The whole thing reads like a misprint: if you present at your GP’s with mild to moderate depression or anxiety, you will wait, on average, six weeks for treatment, which itself sounds like a significant amount of time. But if you arrive with a very severe mental illness – schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – you will wait much longer, 14 weeks, just for an assessment. The average wait for treatment to begin is 19 weeks. One in six people wait longer than six months. Parking the human beings for a second, it makes no sense as a system: physical and mental health are not equivalent, and having a psychotic episode is not the same as breaking your leg. But in the broadest possible terms, this is like fast-streaming people with arthritis while leaving cancer sufferers in a half-year limbo. It’s not a system anyone would design; it’s hard to fathom how it could simply evolve.

Reading the report from the charity Rethink Mental Illness, though, you cannot park the human beings for very long. Heartbreaking testimonies leap off the page: “These answers were on behalf of my husband, who sadly took his own life six weeks ago … I truly believe that, if he had received therapy sooner, he would still be here.” “I was left for months at a time with no contact from my community psychiatric nurse. Following a suicide attempt, I did not hear from them for a month.”

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How to curb your drinking on cold winter nights

A study has linked lower temperatures and less sunshine with increased boozing. Can it help us combat binge drinking?

The colder and darker the weather, the boozier we become, says a study published in the Journal of Hepatology. Data from more than 190 countries found a strong correlation between lower temperatures and fewer sunshine hours and higher alcohol consumption. With winter on its way and binge-drinking rates in Britain already among the highest in the world, can the research help combat the nation’s problems with drink?

“We can’t change the weather; we can’t all move to Spain, especially in a post-Brexit era,” wrote Dr Peter McCann, co-author of the study and a medical adviser to Castle Craig Hospital, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in the Scottish Borders. McCann pointed to solutions that have worked well in Nordic countries, such as Iceland, which he says has successfully reduced teenage drinking and substance abuse by increasing participation in sport and other organised activities, and restricting time spent outdoors in the evening.

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