|"A guide for parents to help them improve their child’s body confidence has been developed with funding from the Home Office" |
|"Hospitals and hospital doctors and nurses provide the poorest quality of care to dying people, a national survey of bereaved relatives shows" |
|"BACP has been invited to be one of the healthcare professions membership organisations to pilot the new voluntary registers being introduced by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE)" |
|"Fewer than one in two people with dementia have a formal diagnosis, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (APPG) says" |
|"A mobile phone app that warns the recipient if a message is bad news has been developed by a computer research team at Portsmouth University" |
|"Denying people access to psychological therapies is a ‘massive inequality within the NHS’, says a new report" |
Young people who use cannabis on a regular basis may suffer long-term damage to their intelligence, attention and memory
In the news
Teenage cannabis use leaves lasting damage
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 27/08/12
Young people who use cannabis on a regular basis may suffer long-term damage to their intelligence, attention and memory, a New Zealand study shows. The study used data from a cohort of 1037 children born in Dunedin in 1972–73 who have been tracked over the years to research long-term health outcomes. Five per cent of the group were considered dependent on cannabis or were using it more than once a week before age 18. Those who first started using cannabis in adolescence showed an average decline in IQ of eight points between age 13 and 38 years, as measured by IQ tests. Friends and relatives interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks. Giving up cannabis made no difference to the damage to mental ability, the researchers say.
Person-centred counsellors ‘have more empathy’
Source: Counselling Psychology Quarterly 23/08/12
Person-centred counselling students have greater empathy than cognitive-behavioural student therapists, a new study reveals. But empathy levels are higher among women across both therapeutic approaches, the study also found. The researchers compared 70 postgraduate students drawn from UK colleges: 48 women and 22 men. Of these 31 were studying person-centred (PC) counselling, 22 were studying cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and 18 control subjects were enrolled on a range of other social science courses. The PC students scored higher for empathic concern than those in the other two groups. Levels of empathy were comparable between the men and women in the PC group, but the women in the other two groups scored slightly higher than the men. The study also examined ‘perspective-taking’ – ie the extent to which the students tried to ‘look at every side of situations’. They found no difference overall between the PC and CBT groups overall, but both groups scored higher than the control group, indicating that counselling students overall are better at perspective-taking than postgraduate students in general. The researchers say the findings could be
Father’s age linked to higher autism risk
Source: Nature 23/08/12
Children of older fathers may be more at risk of autism, schizophrenia and other conditions linked to genetic mutations, a study of the Icelandic population has found. The study shows that these genetic conditions in children are directly related to the age of their father when they were conceived, as are the number of genetic mutations the children inherit. deCODE Genetics holds genetic information on most Icelanders. Its researchers examined the whole-genome sequences of 78 trios of a mother, father and child to search for mutations in the child that were not present in either parent and that must therefore have arisen spontaneously in the egg, sperm or embryo. Fathers passed on nearly four times as many new mutations as mothers: on average, 55 versus 14. The father’s age also accounted for nearly all of the variation in the number of new mutations in a child’s genome, and the number of new mutations being passed on increased with paternal age. The risk to children remains very low, the researchers say, as the incidence of these illnesses is also very low in the population. Moreover, mutations generate genetic diversity, which is vital for human evolutionary development.
Family important to men’s mental health
Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 23/08/12
People with fewer friends and relations have poorer mental wellbeing, a new study shows. The study, conducted by researchers at University College London, used information collected from 3169 men and 3512 women born in the UK in 1958 to calculate the size and composition of their social networks at age 45 and the associations with their psychological wellbeing at age 50. The research found that men and women with smaller friendship networks at age 45 had poorer psychological wellbeing at age 50, regardless of education, income and previous mental health and that a smaller kinship network was associated with poorer psychological wellbeing in men. The researchers say that kinship networks appear to be particularly important for men’s wellbeing. The research also found that smaller kinship networks are associated with continuing in education after age 16 and being single.
Report backs Family Nurse Partnerships in UK
Source: Department of Health 23/08/12
The Department of Health’s Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) programme is on course to achieve its target coverage by 2015, a new report shows. The Department of Health has published three reports on FNP: group FNP, eligibility criteria for the FNP and effective delivery of FNP. The studies were carried out by the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck, University of London. Overall, the evaluation shows that FNP, which was originally pioneered in the US, can work well in a UK context. The Department of health says there are currently some 9,100 places on FNP programmes in 80 local authorities and it expects places to double to 13,000 by April 2015.
Mind publishes new Big Book of Benefits
Source: Mind 22/08/12
Mind has published the 12th edition of its long-running Big Book of Benefits. The book, which summarises new and current benefits available to people with mental health problems, has expanded to 280 pages, with information, tips, tactics and sample forms aimed at people with mental health problems and welfare rights advisers and others helping people complete benefits applications. Written by welfare rights expert Judy Stenger with Tom Messere, the revised 12th edition includes a number of key updates, including the Work Programme, Employment Support Allowance, the Social Fund reforms and updated information on the Personal Independence Payment. It costs £16.49 from Mind.
Support website launched for Irish survivors in Britain
Source: Federation of Irish Societies 22/08/12
A national website for survivors of institutional abuse living in Britain has been launched by the Federation of Irish Societies (FIS). The FIS is the representative body for the Irish voluntary and community sectors in Britain. The website is part of a wider programme of work by the Federation to support survivors, which has been funded by St Stephen’s Green Trust. The website will publicise national and local events hosted by survivor groups in London and the Midlands.
Heart attacks linked to depression in spouses
Source: European Heart Journal 21/08/12
Wives and husbands of people who have a sudden heart attack are at increased risk of depression and anxiety, even if their partner survives, a Danish study shows. The researchers studied 16,506 spouses of people who died from a sudden heart attack between 1997 and 2008 and 44,566 spouses of patients who survived. They then compared this data with health data on 49,518 people whose partners died from other causes and 131,563 people whose partner was admitted to hospital for a non-fatal condition unrelated to a sudden heart attack. Partners of heart attack victims were three times more likely to start taking antidepressants in the year following the heart attack, and their use of antidepressants increased by 17, the study showed. Use of anxiety drugs also rose. The researchers say the difference may be the suddenness of the heart attack, which appears to have a psychological impact on the spouse similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pre-natal stress may cause long-term harm
Source: PLOS ONE 21/08/12
Prenatal maternal stress may be linked to heart problems in the child’s later life, a long-term study suggests. The research used data from the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) study. Data were collected by questionnaire at gestational week 16 on maternal depressive symptoms, general anxiety, pregnancy-related anxiety, parenting daily hassles, job strain and stress levels. Blood pressure and hypertension in the women’s offspring were measured at age 5–7 years. A total of 2968 children were included in the final analysis. One stressor made no difference but the mother’s exposure to three to four prenatal psychosocial stressors was associated with higher blood pressure and hypertension in their child in comparison with the children of mothers with no prenatal stressors. There was no difference between the sexes. The researchers conclude that investigation of maternal prenatal stress may help predict cardiovascular health in their offspring.
Older mothers are better mothers
Source: British Medical Journal 21/08/12
Older women are better mothers, a large-scale study of UK children suggests. The study used data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study and a national evaluation of the Sure Start programme to assess 31,257 children at age nine months, 24,781 children at age three and 22,504 children at age five on a number of health and development measures. It found that, independent of personal and family characteristics and parity, children of mothers aged 40+ had better outcomes. The risk of unintentional injuries requiring medical attention was lower, as were hospital admission rates; immunisation rates were higher; language development was better, and the children of older mothers had fewer social and emotional difficulties. However children of older mothers were more likely to be overweight and, while this difference was not statistically significant once the mother’s own body mass index was accounted for, the researchers say this should be a matter of concern for health professionals. But they say the findings should dispel some of the concerns raised about the possible risks to their children if older people use fertility treatments to help them conceive.
Cochrane reviews fail to report funding sources
Source: British Medical Journal 21/08/12
Cochrane systematic reviews frequently fail to identify who funded the drug trials they include, a study published in the British Medical Journal says. This means that potential conflicts of interest may be overlooked, the authors say. The researchers examined 151 systematic reviews of drug interventions published in 2010 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Just 30 per cent reported the funding sources of the trials included in the reviews. Of those, only 30 (20%) reported the funding sources for all included trials and 16 (11%) reported funding sources for only some of the trials. Only 16 of the 151 Cochrane reviews examined (11%) provided any information on author–industry financial ties or author–industry employment. The paper argues that, given the well-documented influence of receipt of industry funding on drug trials and how they are conducted, reported and interpreted, Cochrane should require authors of systematic reviews and meta-analyses to report the funding sources of all included trials or to report that trial funding sources were not disclosed.
Forgiveness linked to mental health
Source: Journal of Religion and Health 20/08/12
Personality, not spirituality, may explain the links found between religious faith and mental wellbeing in a recent study. The study sought to compare differences in spirituality, religiosity, personality and health between faith traditions and the degree to which demographic, spiritual, religious, and personality variables predicted health outcomes. A total of 160 people from five different faith traditions – Buddhists (40), Catholics (41), Jews (22), Muslims (26), and Protestants (31) – took part. No significant differences were found in health outcomes between the five faiths. Better mental health was significantly associated with increased spirituality, increased extraversion and decreased neuroticism but further analysis showed that the personality traits were the primary influences and that, of the spiritual variables, only forgiveness had any bearing on mental health outcomes.
Older people more vulnerable to scams
Source: PLOS ONE 20/08/12
Cognitive decline makes older people more vulnerable to scams and less able to make good decisions, a study shows. The study tested the decision-making abilities and susceptibility to scams of 420 cognitively healthy older people without dementia or other cognitive impairment. Cognitive function data were collected over an average of 5.5 years prior to the decision-making assessment. Analysis showed that people with more rapid cognitive decline were likely to make poorer decisions and were at higher risk of being taken in by scams, even if they had no dementia symptoms or cognitive impairment. Poorer decision-making and susceptibility to scams were both associated with greater age, less education and higher cognitive function. Men were more likely than women to retain good decision-making ability but no less likely to be taken in by scams. The researchers conclude that poor decision-making is a direct consequence of cognitive decline, and that even very subtle age-related changes in cognition have detrimental effects on judgment.
NICE consults on quality standards for dementia
Source: NICE 16/08/12
People with dementia and their carers should have a greater say in their care and support, new draft standards published for consultation by NICE say. Under the Health and Social Care Act (2012), NICE is now required to produce quality standards and guidance on all aspects of social care in England. The draft quality standard on dementia contains 13 ‘statements’ on levels of care and support that people with dementia and their carers can expect from local authority social care services. NICE has also published draft standards for looked-after children and young people. The deadline for responses is 16 October.
Ofsted warns of child protection risk to disabled children
Source: Ofsted 22/08/12
Disabled children are slipping through the child protection net, Ofsted, the education and children’s services inspectorate, has warned. An Ofsted review of 12 local authorities and found that, while many children and their families receive good multi-agency early support, children with child protection needs are often overlooked. Ofsted inspectors found cases in which poor care amounted to neglect. Disabled children are more likely to be abused than children without disabilities but are less likely than other children to be subject to child protection. Some 3.8% of the 42,700 children in England subject to a child protection plan have a disability, compared with 11 per cent of children in need overall. Ofsted says that too often local authorities focus on supporting the parents, and overlook the child’s needs for protection and the impact of poor parenting on the child. The report calls for greater awareness among all agencies of the potential child protection needs of disabled children, for better and more coordinated assessments, and for more effective monitoring by Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards.
Singing ‘good for mental health’
Source: Canterbury Christchurch University 20/08/12
Taking part in singing groups improves older people’s physical and mental health, research by Canterbury Christchurch University’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health shows. The two-year controlled study compared two groups of 240 volunteers who were all aged over 60 years. One group took part in weekly singing sessions over three months and the other didn't. Participants were assessed using a quality of life (QoL) questionnaire with both physical and mental health components and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) to measure anxiety and depression. The people in the singing groups had much high mental and physical health scores, significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores and improved quality of life scores.
Echinacea products alert for children
Source: MHRA 20/08/12
Children under 12 should not be given oral herbal products containing echinacea, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned. Echinacea is a herbal treatment commonly used to alleviate symptoms of colds and flu. Based on advice from the European Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (HMPC) and the UK Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee (HMAC), the MHRA says there is a low risk of allergic reactions in children under 12 but these reactions can be severe. It says risks of side effects in older children and adults are reduced because they weigh more and catch fewer colds so are less likely to take echinacea. Echinacea products that are currently licensed for children aged six to 12 years are being being re-labelled in the light of the advice, but the MHRA says there are many unlicensed echinacea products on sale in the UK and that parents should not give them to children under 12 years. The MHRA says the decision is ‘precautionary’ and that children who have been given echinacea in the past are not at risk.
Antidepressant prescribing reaches record levels in Wales
Source: BBC Wales 17/08/12
Prescriptions for antidepressants in Wales are increasing, alongside long waiting lists for talking therapies. The figures were obtained by BBC Wales from a Freedom of Information request. More than 3.8 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in Wales in 2011, a rate of 1.24 per head, compared with 1.18 in Northern Ireland, 0.89 in Scotland and 0.88 in England, and representing an increase of eight per cent over the previous year, similar to increases in England and Scotland. Waits of up to 10 months for cognitive behavioural therapy and other talking treatments were also recorded. NICE guidelines recommend that antidepressants should not be routinely prescribed to people with persistent mild or moderate depression or anxiety and talking therapies should be considered instead. But doctors in Wales say GPs often have no choice because of lack of alternatives. The Welsh Government says it is investing £3.5 million in mental health services.
‘Super-agers’ stay mentally young
Source: Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 17/08/12
Some 80-year old people have the brain and memory capacities of people aged 30 years younger, a US study has found. Researchers at the Northwestern University in Chicago compared the brain thickness and memory ability of a group of 12 people in their early 80s with a group of peers and a group of 50-65 year olds. The 12 so-called SuperAgers were still living active, healthy lives and had no history of neurological or psychiatric problems. The study showed that the SuperAgers had memories as good as those of the 50–65 age group and significantly better than their peers. The research also found that their brains had not atrophied and that their overall brain thickness was better than that of the 50–65 age range, especially in the frontal regions that control control decision-making, empathy and emotion.
Cancer care ratings improve overall
Source: Department of Health 17/08/12
The NHS Cancer Patient Experience Survey for 2011/12 shows a continuing overall improvement in care and treatment, the Department of Health says. Of the 160 NHS trusts in England taking part, 98 (61%) have improved on their previous results and 88 per cent of patients rate their care as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. However the survey also reported continuing failures in care: only 70 per cent of patients said their views were taken into account about their treatment; just 61 per cent (down on the 62% recorded in 2010/11) said there were always or nearly always enough nurses to care for them on the ward and nearly half (46%) said they hadn’t been able to discuss their fears and worries with hospital staff as much as they needed. Only 24 per cent had been offered a written care plan (a new requirement) and fewer than three quarters (73%) said they had completely understood what was wrong with them. There were also disparities between patient groups: men tended to be more satisfied with their care than women were; people from ethnic minority groups were also less satisfied; gay and lesbian patients were less likely to feel they had been treated with dignity and respect, and older and younger groups were less positive about their treatment, as were people with long-term conditions.
Government pledges to improve healthcare for the homelessness
Source: Department for Communities and Local Government 16/08/12
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a new report setting out what the Government will do to prevent homelessness. In its contribution to the report by the Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness, the Department of Health has pledged to improve the collection of information on the health of homeless people and the recording of homeless patients in the health system, to fund Homeless Link to work with five local authorities to pioneer new ways of identifying and working with homeless people with drug/alcohol and mental health problems, to ensure doctors do not discharge patients without ensuring their housing needs are dealt with first, and to take steps to explore ways in which health professionals can contribute to reducing health inequalities and preventing homelessness among vulnerable and excluded groups. The DCLG says its aim in this report is to look upstream, ‘to think about how services can be managed in a way that prevents all households, regardless of whether they are families, couples, or single people, from reaching a crisis point where they are faced with homelessness.’
How nasty can we get?
Source: PLoSONE 15/08/12
Following in the footsteps of the infamous Stanford Prison experiment, a new study has devised a way to measure levels of spitefulness in a population. The study used a method based on the process used in second price auctions. These auctions are structured in a way that allows a spiteful bidder to deliberately increase the price that the winning bidder must pay for the item without risking having to pay the amount themselves. The study found that two thirds (67.6%) of potentially spiteful bids were deliberately spiteful, and that a third (31.1%) were maximally spiteful. They also found a high degree of consistency: 13 out of the 45 bidders were maximally spiteful at least 50% of the time, and 14 were not at all spiteful at least 50% of the time. Overall 73.3% were consistently non-spiteful. However a trend towards increased spitefulness over time was traced to the 12 people whose bidding behaviour was inconsistent – most (10) became more spiteful over time.
Department of Health to review cosmetic procedures
Source: Department of Health 15/08/12
The Department of Health is seeking the public’s views on how the cosmetic surgery industry should be regulated, following the recent PiP breast implant controversy. It says it wants to know if people think the industry is adequately regulated, whether people get enough information before proceeding with survey, and how to ensure patients receive adequate after care. A recent survey by the Department of Health found that people are more likely to be concerned about the cost than the quality of the surgery and aftercare. Two thirds (67 per cent) of those questioned considered cost as a factor when deciding whether or not to have cosmetic surgery (66 per cent for non-surgical procedures); only half (54 per cent for surgery, 50 per cent for non-surgical procedures) said they took the qualifications of their practitioner into consideration and less than half (44 per cent for surgery, 36 per cent for non-surgical procedures) considered the quality of their aftercare. The call for evidence can be completed online at http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/08/cosmetic-procedures/http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/08/cosmetic-procedures/
Mindfulness therapies aid depression
Source: European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling 14/08/12
Therapies with a mindfulness component are effective in reducing symptoms of depression, a meta-analysis shows. The review covered 11 studies of therapeutic approaches in which mindfulness was a major component. The treatments included mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), mindful awareness practice (MAP) to treat ADHD and mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT). Analysis showed a large mean reduction score in current depressive symptomatology of 8.73 points on the Beck depression inventory (BDI). The researchers say the findings do not establish conclusively that the mindfulness component was responsible for these improvements, as they were unable to separate out the constituent factors in each approach, but that there is clearly ‘considerable therapeutic gain’ from these therapies.
Recession linked to increase in abortion requests
Source: Insight Research Group 14/08/12
More women are asking for an abortion because of financial worries, GPs say. In a survey of 300 GPs conducted by the Insight Research Group to explore the health impacts of the recession, a fifth (one in 20) said that they had seen an increase in women asking for an abortion for financial reasons, and a third said couples were putting off starting a family until the economic climate improves. GPs also reported increases in stomach and digestive problems, and more than three quarters said there had been an increase in mental health problems linked to the economic climate. More than half of the GPs said they had seen increases in obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and panic attacks and alcohol abuse, particularly among men. Those most affected by the recession-related health problems were people aged 36 to 45 (49%), people with children and married or cohabiting people (58%), GPs said.
Big Lottery big spend on mental health
Source: Big Lottery Fund 14/08/12
The Big Lottery Fund has announced a £13 million in grants to voluntary sector mental health groups in England. A total of 55 mental health groups will receive funding from the Reaching Communities award. They include the national charity Rethink Mental Illness, which has been awarded £320,000 for its national telephone, email and letter support service; £290,994 to Herefordshire Mind to develop its adult learning programme for people with mental health problems; £287,330 to YMCA Black Country Group for its project to improve the health and health care of people with mental health problems; £300,000 to Trust Links in Southend to establish a community garden and provide horticultural training and activities for adults and young people with mental health problems, and £380,635 for Veterans at Ease in County Durham, to provide therapy and support to veterans and their families and help them find employment and voluntary work.
National action plan tackles faith-based child abuse
Source: Department for Education 14/08/12
The Department for Education has published a national action plan aimed at stopped abuse of children linked to faith or belief. The plan was created by a national working group of national and local government representatives, faith leaders, voluntary sector organisations and the Metropolitan Police. The action plan is intended to help raise awareness of the issue and to encourage individuals and communities to take practical steps to prevent it. It is organised into four themes: engaging communities, empowering practitioners, supporting victims and witnesses,and communicating key messages and sets out actions for Government, local agencies, voluntary and faith and community sector partners. The plan has been welcomed by the Victoria Climbie Foundation UK, which says the plan draws together existing information and resources a sets out a cohesive approach but that agencies need to ‘work more effectively with families’ to help children and young people at risk.
Counselling in Scottish schools a ‘missed opportunity’
Source: BACP 13/08/12
BACP has criticised the Scottish Government for overlooking school-based counselling in its new mental health strategy. The new strategy sets out 36 commitments to be delivered by 2015 to improve access to psychological therapies and to mental health services for younger people and to reduce and prevent suicide and address stigma and discrimination. Other commitments include working more effectively with families and carers and improving identification and treatment of comorbid depression and alcohol dependence. But BACP chief executive Laurie Clarke says the strategy fails to recognise the role of schools in relation to children’s mental health and wellbeing. ‘With an average of three children in every class having a mental health problem, specialist counselling services in schools are a cost-effective way of intervening before mental illness develops and preventing long-term mental health problems among the next generation. Estimates show that every pound spent on such services will save the NHS in Scotland £3 over the long term,’ Clarke said.
Dyslexia link to drug dependence
Source: Mental Health and Substance Abuse 09/08/12
People with dyslexia may be at greater risk of drug dependency, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of Stirling tested 50 clients receiving treatment for drug dependency and found that 40 per cent had dyslexia, compared with an estimated prevalence of four to five per cent in the general population. They also found that the drug users with dyslexia had significantly more problematic behaviours than their non-dyslexic peers. The researchers says there appears to be a strong association between drug dependence and a diagnosis of dyslexia and that the dyslexia could influence clients’ experience of and use of treatment. They say more research is needed to explore the reasons for the link and any causal factors.
PCTs criticised for poor care of people with chronic fatigue syndrome
Source: Action for ME 09/08/12
A third of PCTs are failing to provide adequate specialist care for people with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), the campaign organisation Action for ME says. A survey, conducted through Freedom of Information requests, found that only 15 out of 151 PCTs in England and two of the 14 Scottish health boards have an agreed ME/CFS care pathway, as recommended by NICE. The Welsh health boards said they don’t use care pathways and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board said it was ‘working towards’ adopting the NICE guidelines. Just 16 of the 151 English PCTs and one Scottish health board were able to provide information on how many children they had referred to specialist ME/CFS services. Funding per person ranged from nil to £382. A study published in the British Medical Journal also highlights inequity in access to treatment. It found that 12 PCTs provide no specialist CFS/ME service at all and a six-fold variation in referral and assessment rates between services. It estimates that some two million adults in England do not have access to a specialist CFS/ME service.
Migrant children at greater autism risk
Source: British Journal of Psychiatry 01/08/12
Children of migrant families are at higher risk of autism spectrum disorder, a Danish study reveals. The study researched the total child population of Stockholm County between 2001 and 2007. In total, 4952 children with autism spectrum disorder were identified: 2855 with high-functioning autism and 2097 with low-functioning autism. Children of migrant parents were at increased risk of low-functioning autism. This risk was heightened among those whose parents migrated from least developed countries, and highest when migration occurred around pregnancy, suggesting environmental factors play a key role. However children of migrant parents were at lower risk of high-functioning autism. Parental age, income or obstetric complications did not fully explain the different levels of risk. The researchers say their study suggests that high and low-functioning autism may have different causes.
Depression link to early death
Source: British Medical Journal 01/08/12
People with even very low levels of depression are at increased risk of early death from heart disease and other causes, a new study shows. Links between mental ill health and premature death are already known but this is the first general population study to examine the links with psychological distress across the full range of severity, including very mild depression. Researchers interviewed 68,000 participants drawn from the General Household Survey between 1994 and 2004 and followed up mortality data to 2008. The study found a very clear association between psychological distress at all levels of severity, including a 20 per cent increased risk of all-cause mortality, 29 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease death and 29 per cent increased risk of death from external causes. Higher risk of cancer death was associated only with psychological distress at higher levels, where it was associated with a 41% increase in mortality rates. The mortality risks increased with increasing severity of psychological distress.
Antidepressants lead huge rise in prescriptions
Source: Health & Social Care Information Centre 31/07/12
Prescriptions for antidepressants rose by just over nine percent last year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) says. Just under 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in England in 2011 – a 3.9 million item increase on 2010. This is the largest rise in any of the 200 sections listed within the British National Formulary, which categorises all prescribed drugs in England. The Central Nervous System chapter, which includes antidepressants and other sections relating to mental health and neurological conditions, also saw the biggest increase in items of any of the 15 BNF chapters over the same period: 172.4 million items were dispensed, an 8.9 million item (5.4 per cent) rise on the previous year. This chapter also totaled the biggest cost (£1.954 million) and greatest increase in cost (£80.6 million) in 2011. Prescribing rates overall have risen but net costs have fallen, possibly due to the increase in use of generic forms of commonly prescribed drugs.
Charity highlights total costs of eating disorders
Source: Beat 31/07/12
Eating disorders cost the national economy in England £1.25 billion a year, a report for the eating disorder charity Beat has found. The report, by Pro Bono Economics, calculates the overall costs to society, the NHS, employers and employees. Overall healthcare costs are estimated at £80–£100m, costs of reduced earnings up to £2.9 billion, and costs of mortality and morbidity up to £6.6 billion. The report also calculates that GP consultations on anorexia and bulimia cost £4.2 million annually, that eating disorders account for some 98,000 inpatient hospital days per year at a cost of £510 per day, outpatient treatments total some £3 million, and private provision adds up to some £25–£30 million a year.
Dog walkers do it more often
Source: Kennel Club 31/07/12
Some 60 per cent of British people think they are less active this year than last and just four per cent say the Olympics have inspired them to get fit, a new survey reveals. But dog owners buck this national trend: 50 per cent of people who own a dog say their dog inspires them to get more active, and 58 per cent say they exercise more than four times a week. Just one in five people who don’t own a dog take this much exercise, the survey found. The research was carried out by the Kennel Club ahead of its International Agility Festival in August. The Kennel Club has launched a Get Fit with Fido Challenge to encourage dogs and their owners to get fit together.
Department of Health consults on public health guidance
Source: Department of Health 31/07/12
Proposals for the duties of health and wellbeing boards have been published for public consultation by the Department of Health. The draft guidance sets out a framework for NHS and local government to work together to undertake joint strategic needs assessments (JSNA) and joint health and wellbeing strategies (JHWS) to inform local commissioning. The guidance sets out duties that underpin JSNAs and JHWSs to be undertaken by clinical commissioning groups and local authorities through health and wellbeing boards from April 2013, explains how JSNAs and JHWSs will fit together with commissioning plans in the health and care system and explains how the JSNA and JHWS process will enable the NHS and local government to make real improvements to the health and wellbeing of local people. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 28 September 2012.
Work fitness doctors ‘work to targets’
Source: Guardian 27/07/12
Doctors carrying out the work capability assessments to test if incapacity benefit claimants are fit for work are being told to limit the number of people they find eligible for benefits, an undercover film suggests. Dr Steve Bick, a GP, applied to work with Atos, the company carrying out the WCAs for the Department for work and Pensions, and secretly filmed his training for a Channel 4 Dispatches programme. The film shows Bick being told by his trainer that he will be monitored over the number of applicants he finds eligible for disability benefits and that he should keep the rate below 13 per cent. The DWP has said it is ‘nonsense’ to suggest assessors work to targets, and that their results are monitored to ensure they keep to an average. Currently high numbers of unsuccessful applicants get their decision overturned on appeal: 41 per cent appeal and 30 per cent subsequently obtain the benefit.
Investment in mental health services falls
Source: Department of Health 27/07/12
Investment in NHS mental health services for working age adults fell by -1.0 per cent to £6.629 billion in 2011/12, or £198.3 per head, annual figures produced for the Department of Health show. Investment in older people’s mental health services also fell by -3.1 per cent, to £2.83 billion or £341.2 per head. For working age adults, secure services and psychiatric intensive care units continue to absorb the lion’s £1 billion share of funding, followed by inpatient acute services and community mental health care. Investment in IAPT and non-IAPT psychological therapies increased significantly by 6 per cent to £368 million. A total of 126,949 patients are now receiving talking treatments through IAPT. Investment in direct payments also rose by 3.5 per cent to £31 million. Investment in intensive community treatments (assertive outreach, crisis/home treatment and early intervention) fell overall by £29.3 million, with only early intervention receiving a rise in funding. There was no increase in the amount spent on non-statutory sector services (25.9 per cent) for working age adults.
Study seeks factors to explain child conduct disorder
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 27/07/12
A study of children with pre-school conduct disorder has found clues to its early identification and treatment. The study of Scottish children for whom behavioural data at ages three, four and five were available found that children with persistent conduct problems were more likely to have mothers who smoked during pregnancy, more likely to be living in poverty, less likely to be living with both parents, more likely to be in poor general health and to have communication problems, more likely to have a parent who supports smacking, and less likely to be taken to play with other children. The researchers say these associations may be helpful in identifying children at higher risk of major social difficulties.
Forum calls for schools survey of children’s wellbeing
Source: Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum 26/07/12
The independent Children and Young People's Health Outcomes Forum has published proposals that it says would improve NHS care of children and young people, including those with mental health problems. Specifically in relation to mental health care, the Forum says prevalence of mental ill health among children and young people should be surveyed every three years and there should be a school-based survey of wellbeing, including prevalence of bullying and stigma in relation to mental ill health. The Forum says NHS children’s and young people’s services should be set four additional outcome indicators to add to the NHS Outcomes Framework that measures their performance. These are: time from first seeing a doctor to diagnosis or start of treatment, integration of care, transition from children’s to adult services, and access to age-appropriate services, especially for teenagers. Report of mental health subgroup
Illicit drug use down among teens
Source: Home Office 26/07/12
Illicit drug use among young people aged 16-24 remains at record-breaking low levels, the Home Office’s Crime Survey for England and Wales shows. The rate has remained stable over 2011/12 at 19% of the age group (1.3 million). Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug among young adults, followed by powder cocaine. Among all adults aged 16 to 59, nearly three million people have used an illicit drug in the last year; in most cases this was cannabis. Use of ecstasy, hallucinogens such as LSD and magic mushrooms and amphetamines has also continued to fall. The proportion of adults who have used cannabis in the last 12 months fell from 9.5 per cent in 1996 to 6.6 per cent in 2009–10 and stands at 6.9% in 2011–12. Levels of any drug use in the last year were highest among the 16–19 (19.6%) and 20–24 (19.0%) age groups and cannabis was the most commonly used type of drug. Class A drug use was highest among 20– 29 year olds (7.2% of 20– 24 year olds and 5.9% of 25– 29 year olds).
Think tank calls for help for child victims of domestic violence
Source: Centre for Social Justice 25/07/12
Children living in homes where there is domestic violence should be offered counselling and therapy, a new report from the Centre for Social Justice think tank says. The CJS says some three million children in the UK are exposed to the harm caused by violence in the home. It says Government policy on domestic violence focuses too narrowly on the needs of the mother, when there is plenty of evidence that children in the home also suffer long-term damage to their physical and mental health, healthy development and educational attainment and are at high risk of violence and abuse in adult life. The Government should put early intervention and support for families at the heart of an expanded domestic abuse agenda, including funds for pilot programmes aimed a rebuilding mother–child and father–child relationships following domestic abuse. The CJS is also calling for the Government to introduce a new crime of ‘coercive control’.
Libyan conflict may trigger PTSD epidemic
Source: PLoSONE 13/07/12
Hundreds of thousands of cases of severe PTSD and depression are likely to follow the Libyan conflict, estimates suggests. Researchers in Australia based their calculations on a 12.4 per cent estimated prevalence of PTDS among populations exposed to high-level political terror and trauma, and 19.8 per cent prevalence of severe depression. Across six main urban conurbations in Libya and two displaced persons’ camps totalling 1,236,000 people, some 123,200 cases of severe PTSD and 228,100 of severe depression can be expected, the researchers say. Half the people with PTSD will also suffer severe depression. The researchers have calculated that 154 full-time staff will be needed to care for traumatised victims of the conflict, requiring a substantial increase to existing resources.
Fewer schoolchildren taking drugs
Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre 26/07/12
Fewer secondary schoolchildren are taking drugs and smoking rates have also fallen over the past ten years, new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show. Drug-taking among secondary school children fell by 12 percentage points from 29 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds in 2001 to 17 per cent in 2011. The percentages of children who said they had taken drugs in the last year also fell across all age groups. Just one in four 11 to 15-year-olds reported that they had smoked at least once – the lowest proportion since the survey began in 1982. The percentage who smoked at least one cigarette a week halved from 10 per cent in 2001 to five per cent in 2011. Alcohol use also dropped, from 65 per cent in 2001 to 45 per cent in 2001.
Children of the Troubles at higher suicide risk
Source: Queen’s University Belfast 25/07/12
People who grew up in the worst years of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles' are at higher risk of suicide, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have found. Analysis of death registration data over the last 40 years shows that men aged 35–44 have the highest suicide rate (41 per 100,000 by 2010), followed closely by the 25–34 and 45–54 age groups, meaning that children who grew up in the worst years of violence, between 1969 and 1977–78, are at greatest risk and have the most rapidly increasing rates of all age groups. Overall suicide rates for both men and women in Northern Ireland doubled in the decade following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, from 8.6 per 100,000 of the population in 1998 to 16 per 100,000 by 2010. Suicide rates for men went from 13 per 100,000 of the population in 1997 to 24 per 100,000 by 2008; for women the increase was from 3.9 to 7.3 over the same period.
Happiness index published
Source: Office for National Statistics 24/07/12
The UK’s first ever national ‘happiness’ index has been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The index measures levels of life satisfaction, how much people feel what they do is worthwhile, and levels of happiness and anxiety. Senior executives and professional occupational groups report the highest life satisfaction and worthwhile ratings; machine operatives the least. People in London are the most anxious in the UK; people in Thurrock and Luton are among the least happy. People in Rutland, Orkney and the Shetlands report the highest levels of wellbeing, as do teenagers (16–19 years) and the younger retired (65–79). Black African and Caribbean people report the lowest life satisfaction and highest anxiety levels. Women have higher levels of wellbeing than men, but also report higher levels of anxiety.
Study links armed combat with domestic violence
Source: BBC 24/07/12
One in eight soldiers has attacked someone after returning from active combat deployment, researchers at the Kings Centre for Military health Research have found. A study, funded by the Ministry of Defence, of 13,000 Army personnel found that soldiers involved in direct combat in Iraq and Afghanistan were twice as likely to have hit someone since they returned home. A third of the victims were family members, and most were wives or girlfriends. Soldiers who had experienced more than one traumatic event were more likely to be violent.
Mental health implementation framework launched
Source: Department of Health 24/07/12
The Department of Health has launched a national framework setting out how its 2011 mental health strategy, No Health Without Mental Health, will be implemented on the ground. The framework was co-produced with five mental health organisations – Mind, Rethink, Turning Point, the Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation – and spells out the roles of Government and other national organisations, including the newly formed Public Health England, and local employers, schools, local authorities and health services in achieving the strategy’s aims. Counselling in primary care, schools and workplaces is among the actions highlighted in the framework as important to achieving the Government's goals for mental health.
Direct payments to be piloted in residential care
Source: Department of Health 24/07/12
The Department of Health is inviting local authorities to bid to take part in a pilot programme to introduce direct payments in residential care homes. Currently people living in residential care homes are excluded from the direct payments scheme. But the Law Commission’s review of social care recommended that the scheme should be extended to people in residential homes, and a commitment to pilot a small number of schemes was included in the recently published social care white paper. The deadline for expressions of interest is 5 October 2012.
Neighbourhood status influences mental health
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 23/07/12
How people feel about their home and the social status of their neighbourhood has a significant influence on their mental health, according to new research. Researchers in Scotland surveyed 4615 residents in deprived areas of Glasgow using the WEMWEBS mental wellbeing scale. They found that people who believed they had a better house and lived in a better area that included richer people had higher levels of mental wellbeing than others. The researchers say income inequality in deprived areas may in fact be beneficial as it may reflect a positive perception that the neighbourhood is going up in the world.
Domestic violence prosecutions rise
Source: Crown Prosecution Service 23/07/12
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has achieved a significant rise in both prosecutions and convictions for violence against women and girls. The number of prosecutions for violence against women and girls rose by 21 per cent, from 75,000 in 2007/08 to 91,000 in 2011/12. Convictions have risen by 29 per cent over the same period, from 52,000 to nearly 67,000, meaning that 15,000 more offenders are being convicted than four years ago. The CPS says the increased rates are due to its 2008 strategy for tackling violence against women and girls, including special training for all CPS prosecutors and guidance on issues such as prostitution and trafficking, stalking, cybercrimes, female genital mutilation, child abuse and child sexual exploitation. A 40 per cent drop in domestic violence incidents since 1995 is also thought to explain the fall in the murder rate in England and Wales to its lowest level for nearly 30 years. More than two thirds of murders involve a partner or an ex-partner or other family members.
Modern men pay price for vanity
Source: Sovereign Health Care 19/07/12
Men are risking their health for the sake of their appearance, a recent survey suggests. The survey of 1,000 men found that one in five used a sunbed regularly, despite the known skin cancer risk; one in ten used potentially dangerous cosmetic treatments bought online and self-administered, such as tanning injections, teeth bleaching and dermal fillers, and 60 per cent wore fashionable shoes even if they didn’t fit. Nearly half (44%) said they had experienced illness or pain as a consequence, included back pain and blisters and side effects from unlicensed treatments. Most (81%) said they sacrificed essential eye and dental checks and held off collecting medication prescriptions to pay for cosmetic treatments.
Psychosocial support ‘ineffective’ for dementia
Source: British Medical Journal 17/07/12
A trial comparing outcomes from an early intervention programme of counselling, psychosocial education and support for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease and their primary care-givers appears to have no significant benefits, a Danish study has found. The study randomly assigned 330 people being treated in outpatients for Alzheimer’s disease and their primary carer to receive either treatment as usual or treatment as usual plus the DAISY counselling and support programme. At 12 months no significant differences were found between the mental health and quality of life ratings of the two groups, although there was a small, non-significantly lower rate of depression in the DAISY group, which the researchers say may merit further research.
Government reviews work capability assessments
Source: Hansard 17/07/12
The Government is reviewing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process in relation specifically to people with mental health problems, Minister for Employment Chris Grayling has said. In a written answer to MP Annette Brooke, Grayling reported that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responding to concerns raised about the WCA specifically in relation to people with mental health problems, because their condition can fluctuate in severity. Grayling said that Professor Harrington, who is currently conducting a second independent review of the WCA, is working with the main mental health charities to explore ways to improve the mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors used in the assessment so they provide a better picture of the person’s work capacities. He said the Department of Health is also working with mental health charities to improve the ESA50 Employment Support Allowance questionnaire so that it is better able to reflect the frequency, severity and duration of symptoms and how they affect the employment capacities of people with mental health conditions.
UK confirmed as nation of couch potatoes
Source: The Lancet 18/07/12
People in the UK are among the least active in the world, research published in a special physical activity issue of the Lancet shows. Researchers in Brazil compared data on how many adults in 122 countries take the recommended minimum levels of daily physical exercise to maintain physical fitness and good health. The UK ranks third from bottom, with 63.3% per cent of adults failing to exercise enough. Only in Malta (71.9%) and Serbia (68.3%) are adults less active. Countries with the most physically active populations are Greece, with a 16 per cent inactivity rate, Estonia (17%) and the Netherlands (18%). UK inactivity rates are higher than in the US (41%) and Ireland (53%). Worldwide, a third of adults and four out of five adolescents (80%) take insufficient physical exercise. Another study in the same issue of The Lancet calculates that lack of physical activity causes six to 10 per cent of all cases of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and breast and bowel cancer.
MPs call on Government to value the environment
Source: House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee 17/07/12
A cross-party group of MPs has criticised the Government for failing to deliver on its self-proclaimed ‘green’ policy-making. In a report on the National Environment White Paper The Natural Choice, published a year ago, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee criticises the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for not taking steps to implement the White Paper’s proposals and failing to ensure that government policy-making recognises the economic contribution of natural environments to the national economy. The committee says Defra must set targets linked to public funds for increasing public engagement with nature and that the Departments for Health and Education must establish a system to measure gains in public health and educational attainment through contact with nature.
Managers’ stress levels rise
Source: Chartered Management Institute 17/07/12
Managers are working longer hours in more stressful conditions to cope with the recession, with serious effects on their physical and mental health, according to a new report from the Chartered Management Institute. The Quality of Working Life 2012 surveyed over 1,300 managers in 2007 and 2012. Stress levels, insomnia, feeling unable to cope and depression have risen among managers over the five-year period; 63 per cent of managers who are parents said they were worried about the impact of working long hours on their relationships with their children; more than half the managers (59%) were worried about their stress levels and 54 per cent said their physical health had suffered. More than a quarter (28%) reported poorer health over the past three months; 42 per cent reported suffering from symptoms of stress (up from 35 per cent in 2007) and 18 per cent reported suffering from depression (up from 15 per cent in 2007).
Alzheimer’s treatment halts decline
Source: Alzheimer’s Association 17/07/12
A plasma-based drug developed to treat immune deficiency may halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, results from a small-scale study suggest. The study, conducted at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, treated 16 patients with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg). Of the 11 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s who received varied doses of IVIg over 36 months, the four on the highest dose throughout showed no decline in cognitive functioning, memory, daily functioning or mood. The five patients who received a placebo initially continued to decline cognitively and physically until they were given IVIg, when their decline slowed. The results were released at the US Alzheimer’s Association international conference in Vancouver, 16–19 July. The researchers say the sample size is small but they are ‘very enthusiastic’ about the results.
MPs raise concerns about GP commissioning
Source: Mind 17/07/12
GPs may not know enough about mental health to be able to commission services effectively, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health (APPG MH) has warned. In a report on the Government’s reform of the NHS, which introduces GP commissioning, the MPs also say people with mental health problems must be actively encouraged to engage with local decision-making processes toe ensure services meet their needs. The APPG fears that the new commissioning system will lead to greater fragmentation of health and social care services and that people seeking help will have to undergo multiple assessments. They also say that too few people with mental health problems are currently able to access personal health budgets and many don’t understand what they are for and will need support to make use of them.
Fewer dementia patients prescribed antipsychotics
Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre 17/07/12
Antipsychotic prescribing for people with dementia has fallen sharply in the past six years, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Antipsychotic medication can be fatal for people with dementia. The first ever national primary care audit of antipsychotic prescribing for people with dementia shows the percentage of dementia patients being prescribed antipsychotic drugs fell by ten points in the last six years, from 17 per cent in 2006 to seven per cent in 2011. The number of people with dementia receiving a prescription of antipsychotic medication fell by 52 per cent from 2008 to 2011. However, in some regions prescribing rates are up to six times higher than in other areas. The audit also found an increase of 68 per cent in dementia diagnosis rates in the years 2006 to 2011, with a higher prevalence among women (66 per cent). The majority of people diagnosed with dementia (95%) were aged 65 and over.
Use of deprivation of liberty safeguards rises
Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre 17/07/12
The number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) applications rose to 11,400 in 2011/2012 – a 27 per cent increase from 2010/11 and 59 per cent up on 2009/2010 when they were first introduced, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. However there was no change in the proportion of applications that were authorised (56%). DoLS were introduced to safeguard the rights of people who lack capacity to consent to or refuse medical treatment. Most applications were for people aged over 74 (58%) and 53 per cent were for people with dementia. However the report also reveals wide regional variations; the East Midlands had the highest rate of applications at 51 per 100,000 population and London the least, at 17 per 100,000. The HSCIC says the increase in use of DoLS is unexpected.
Rural gays at high risk of mental distress
Source: Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 17/07/12
Young gay people living in rural areas are at higher risk mental distress than their urban peers, a study in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health reveals. The study of 469 adolescent gay people also found that a stronger sense of belonging at school and within family networks was associated with lower levels of emotional distress. But a mentoring relationship made no difference. The researchers say more should be done to build social networks for young gays in rural areas.
Government publishes online draft Care and Support Bill
Source: Department of Health 17/07/12
The Department of Health’s draft Care and Support Bill has been published online for public and professional comment. The Bill sets out the legal mechanisms for delivering the Government’s social care reforms. It includes proposed new statutory principles that place individual wellbeing at the heart of care and support provision; new duties on local authorities to provide information, advice and prevention services and ensure breadth of choice in care and support services; legal entitlements to care and support, including support for carers; access to personal budgets as an integral part of people’s care and support plans; new duties that safeguard people’s right to the same levels of care and support wherever they live, and a new statutory framework for adult safeguarding. The consultation ends on 19 October 2012.
CQC finds poor practice in minority of abortion clinics
Source: Care Quality Commission 12/07/12
The Care Quality Commission has not found widespread breaches of the Abortion Act in a review of abortion clinics to check their compliance with the law. The Government requested the special investigation after doctors in one private clinic were found to be routinely pre-signing the HSA1 forms that certify that all the conditions for an abortion have been met. The forms should be signed by two doctors. The CQC found evidence of pre-signing in 14 out of 249 abortion clinics, all operated by NHS Trusts. But it says it found no evidence that women experienced any problems because of this and that all the clinics have now introduced monitoring and training to ensure it no longer happens. However LIFE, the pro-life charity, says it has anecdotal evidence from ‘hundreds of women’ who say they feel rushed, unsupported, misled or misinformed before their abortion.
New guidance published on victim support
Source: Royal College of Psychiatrists 11/07/12
Nearly half of all those injured through violent attack develop mental health problems, but health services are not recognising their needs, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said. The RCPsych has published guidance on the care and treatment of victims and witnesses of violence, including sexual violence, and people affected by homicide. Some 40 per cent of victims will go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance misuse problems, the College says. The guidance sets out a stepped care pathway to show how emergency departments, GPs and the criminal justice system can work better together to identify those people who show signs of mental ill health and provide them with information about relevant support services.
Suicides rise among older men
Source: National Confidential Inquiry into Suicides and Homicides 11/07/12
Numbers of suicides among people aged 45 to 64 years have risen in recent years, despite an overall downward trend in suicides across all age groups, the latest annual report from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide shows. The report covers the years 2000–2010. Suicides rates also continue to be much higher among men. Mental health charities have also voiced concerns that the numbers of suicides among people in the care of acute community mental health services have increased, despite an overall fall in suicide rates among mental health patients. Inpatient suicides dropped by 62 per cent, but suicides among patients of crisis resolution/home treatment teams are now twice the inpatient rate. The report also highlights increasing suicide deaths among people using alcohol in Scotland and Northern Ireland; increased suicides among drug users in Scotland and a continued rise in suicides in Northern Ireland, in contrast with the other three UK countries.
Primary care study claims success for online CBT
Source: PLoSONE 05/07/12
Online CBT with therapist support may be as effective as routine therapy, a Dutch study suggests. A sample of 1500 adult patients referred by their GP for therapy for depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout were offered a therapist-assisted online CBT intervention of between five (for post-traumatic stress) and 16 weeks (for depression). The participants were followed up for 12 months. Nearly three quarters (71 per cent) completed the treatment. Although a third were lost to contact at six weeks post-treatment and two thirds at one year, the researchers says that the 55 per cent improvement and 40 per cent recovery rate for the whole sample (71% and 52% of completers respectively) is evidence that the online intervention is as effective as routine care.
MoD stats show higher PTSD among active service veterans
Source: Defence Analytic Services and Advice 03/07/12
Soldiers who have served ore than once in active combat duty are at greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, the latest Ministry of Defence data on mental health reveal. In the first three months of 2012, 1,472 armed forces personnel sought help for mental health problems for the first time. Rates for Army and RAF personnel were significantly higher than for Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel. Women and non-commissioned ranks were at greater risk of mental health problems than officers, and reservists were at higher risk than full-time personnel. But the data also reveal that soldiers serving more than one tour of active combat duty in Afghanistan were at 6.5 times greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and those who served more than one tour in Iraq were 4.5 times more likely to experience PTSD.
Women denied access to sexual health services
Source: Family Planning Association 10/07/12
Up to one third of women in England do not have access to a comprehensive contraception and sexual health service, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on sexual and reproductive health in the UK has said. The APPG’s report, Healthy Women, Health Lives?, says that 40% of women with unwanted pregnancies who contacted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said they had problems accessing their GP or a local contraceptive and sexual health (CASH) clinic for contraceptive. In some areas PCTs are restricting access to contraception and advice to women under 25, or only offering long-acting reversible methods of contraception, to save money. But, the report says, GPs are not available at times convenient for working women and don’t offer the full choice of methods, if any at all. The MPs say the Government must bring forward the delayed launch of its promised sexual health policy and ensure all women have access to the full range of services, to avoid the higher costs of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease.
White paper sets out social care reforms
Source: Department of Health 11/07/12
The Department of Health has published a white paper for consultation setting out its plans for what it calls the ‘most comprehensive overhaul’ of the social care system since 1948. Caring for our Future: reforming care and support aims to transform the organisation and delivery of social care so it is genuinely person-centred. Personal budgets will become a legal right and the Department of Health will improve access to individual advice on developing personal care and support plans. A national minimum eligibility threshold for social care will be introduced so people can move home without fearing they will lose care services. ‘Contracting by the minute’ will be banned so that homecare visits are no longer restricted to specific time limits. A new code of conduct and minimum training standards will be introduced for care workers, and more care workers will be trained. A Chief Social Worker will also be appointed to provide leadership for the social work profession.
Legality ‘does not increase euthanasia rates’
Source: Lancet 11/07/12
Legal euthanasia does not increase the number of people with incurable illnesses choosing to end their own lives, a review of mortality rates in the Netherlands suggests. The Netherlands introduced legal euthanasia in 2002. The review assessed frequency and characteristics of euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and other end-of-life practices in 2010 and trends since 1990. In 2010, 2.8 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands were the result of euthanasia. This was higher than the 1·7% in 2005, but comparable with rates in 2001 and 1995. Ending of life without an explicit patient request occurred less often in 2010 than in previous years. Continuous deep sedation until death was used more frequently in 2010 than in 2005 and 0.4 per cent of deaths in 2010 followed the person’s own decision to stop eating and drinking in order to end their life. In half of these cases the patient had made a euthanasia request that was not granted.
Therapists fail on outcomes test
Source: Psychotherapy Research 10/07/12
Therapists are no better at predicting outcomes from group therapy than they are with individual clients, new research suggests. The research compared outcomes for 64 participants in 10 therapy groups (four outpatient and six inpatient) to test the accuracy of the therapists’ predictions and also to see if the group leaders’ and group members’ perceptions of the therapeutic relationship concurred. The group leaders’ predictions of outcomes were accurate in only 13 per cent of cases (four out of 31); their most successful prediction was ‘no significant change’. And just three out of 18 (16.7%) of the group leaders’ assessments of the quality of therapeutic relationship concurred with those of the participants. These were all in the outpatient settings. The researchers say their findings provide yet further evidence to support the use of outcomes measures to give continuous feedback to therapists in both group and individual therapy.
Middle-aged women bear the brunt of recession
Middle-aged women are by far the worst hit by the recession and spending cuts, according to figures obtained by the Labour Party. Women in the age group 50–64 are caring for both for their own children and for their elderly parents, are the most disadvantaged by the changes to retirement age, and are most vulnerable to unemployment and redundancy, Labour says. Its analysis shows that unemployment among women in this age group has risen by 16 per cent in the past year, in comparison with 11 per cent across women of all working ages and a one per cent drop among men aged 50–64. Labour also says women in their mid-50s have been unfairly penalised by the sudden pension age changes, with some losing up to £11,000 as a result.
Doctors urged to report child abuse fears
Source: General Medical Council 10/07/12
The General Medical Council has published new guidance to encourage doctors to report concerns about possible child abuse. The GMC says it will support doctors against complaints by parents if they act on genuinely held fears about a child's welfare and follow the GMC recommended procedures for reporting their concerns. The guidance states: ‘Taking action will be justified, even if it turns out that the child or young person is not at risk of, or suffering, abuse or neglect, as long as the concerns are honestly-held and reasonable, and the doctor takes action through appropriate channels.’ Local authority applications to the courts by local authorities to take a child into care have risen sharply since the death of Baby P. There were 1,727 applications in April and May in England – 14.1% higher than the same months in 2011.
Government hails work programme success
Source: Guardian 09/07/12
One in four people enrolled on the Government’s controversial Work Programme came off benefits for 13 continuous weeks, new data show. An analysis of 28,600 people who joined the programme in June 2011 found that 7,000 – some 24% – had stopped claiming benefits for 13 weeks during the next nine months and 14 per cent stopped claiming benefits for 26 weeks. But the analysis does not show that the people who stopped claiming had found employment. ERSA, the trade association for the welfare to work sector, published data in May showing that 18–26 per cent of Work Programme participants had found work.
BACP to pilot new voluntary register
Source: BACP 06/07/12
BACP has been invited by the CHRE (Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence) to be one of the first health and social care membership organisations to pilot its new voluntary register accreditation scheme. The CHRE is developing a system of national standards and accreditation for voluntary registers held by health and social care professional bodies, as an alternative to statutory regulation. The pilot will begin in September, ahead of the official launch of the scheme in November, when the CHRE will become the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. BACP is setting up a new, arm’s length regulatory department, with an independent chair and appointed members, which will operate separately from its membership support and professional development functions.
Adoption process to be speeded up
Source: Guardian 06/07/12
The Government is to introduce a new Fostering for Adoption scheme that it hopes will speed up the adoption process. Under the scheme, children will be able to live with their prospective adoptive family while the legal procedures are completed. Legal processes can delay adoptions by as much as 15 months. Statistics show that half of all babies taken into local authority care aged under one month were adopted, but it took up to 15 months before they could move into their new family home. The Government has promised legislation ‘as soon as possible’ to implement the new scheme.
Children's charities warn number of troubled families will soar
Source: Guardian 06/07/12
Numbers of children living in troubled families in the UK will increase by 54,000 over the next four years, a coalition of children’s charities has warned. Research commissioned by Action for Children, the NSPCC and the Children's Society calculates that the Government’s austerity plans will mean the poorest households will lose £3,000 a year, or eight per cent of their annual income, by 2015, with a resulting rise in the number of troubled families to 150,000, and in the number of children in these families to 365,000. The Government is investing £448 million in a scheme to turn around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by 2015.
Early home life affects child development
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community health 05/07/12
A child’s home environment can significantly affect their development, regardless of their family’s socio-economic status and ethnicity, a new study shows. Researchers collected data on children in 2711 families participating in a longitudinal population-based study, and assessed the quality of their home life (learning environment and the physical environment) from their first few months of life through to age three years. The study found that poorer quality learning environments, but not physical environments, were associated with vocabulary delay and more internalising problems in toddlerhood, independently of socioeconomic circumstances and national origin.
Obesity in childhood linked with adult depression
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community health 05/07/12
Obesity in childhood and adolescence is linked with depression in adulthood in women, a follow-up study shows. The study followed up nearly 92,000 female registered nurses over 12 years. Compared with normal weight women of the same age, women who were in the two largest categories of body shape at age 10 had both higher prevalence and higher incidence of depression. These results were also found at age 20, and for body mass index (BMI) at age 18. The researchers say obesity in childhood is a clear risk factor for later depression.
Shortened care visits ‘put elderly at risk’
Source: UKHCA 05/07/12
Nearly three quarters of homecare visits to elderly and disabled people in England last just 30 minutes, a survey by the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) shows. A total of 739 homecare providers, who together provide some 90 per cent of the homecare commissioned by the UK’s 211 local authorities, responded to the survey. One third said the length of visits allowed under their contracts to local authorities is so short ‘that the dignity of people receiving the service is at risk’. One in ten visits are for less than 15 minutes.
Nods and grunts are ok
Source: Psychotherapy Research 04/07/12
Therapists who use both verbal and non-verbal ways to acknowledge what clients are saying could be getting better outcomes than those who use just one or the other. Participants in a study designed to measure perceptions of therapist empathy and therapeutic alliance rated therapists who nodded and said ‘mmm’ more highly than those who used only one technique. Those who stayed silent were also rated higher, suggesting that clients prefer consistency. The 320 participants – mainly college students and people in their early 20s – were shown brief psychotherapy videos in which therapists used verbal and/or non-verbal techniques.
Outcomes improve with therapist feedback
Source: Psychotherapy Research 04/07/12
Providing therapists with continuous feedback on progress and a checklist of actions to take when the client isn’t progressing as expected can radically improve outcomes, research shows. However not all therapists are able to use the tools effectively. In a randomised controlled trial, 370 patients were assigned to receive either treatment as usual or to a condition where the therapist received feedback and was prompted to use a problem-solving tool (a list of recommended interventions). The six therapists all provided both options. At the end of the treatment, patients in the experimental condition showed significantly more improvement than those in the usual treatment group, regardless of the number of sessions. Patients in the condition group had half the deterioration rates in comparison with patients who received treatment as usual. However only half the six therapists achieved these improved results.
Government consults on new NHS objectives
Source: Department of Health 04/07/12
The Department of Health is asking for the public’s views on a set of new objectives for the NHS. The 22 draft objectives are set out under five main headings in a ‘mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board’. Under the first heading, ‘Improving our health and healthcare’, the objectives include ‘a collaborative programme of action to achieve the ambition that mental health should be on a par with physical health’. The second cluster of objectives seeks to ‘put patients first’ by extending shared decision-making and choice, improving information, making services more integrated around individual need and improving the support the NHS gives to carers. The three other headings cover the NHS contribution to public services and economic growth, effective commissioning and financial management. The deadline for responses is 26 September.
More psychological help needed for people with skin conditions
Source: British Association of Dermatologists 03/07/12
The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) says the government should increase funding for psychological support to help people with skin conditions. One in two people will suffer from some form of skin problem every year and one in four will see their GP for help. Acne, eczema and psoriasis are the most common. But BAD says skin problems are often accompanied by mental distress. In BAD’s own research, 17 per cent of patients needed psychological support to help them cope with psychological conditions secondary to their skin condition; 14 per cent had psychological conditions that worsened their skin condition; three per cent had primary psychiatric disorders and for eight per cent the skin condition was exacerbating their psychiatric problems. Yet two of the nine specialist psychodermatology services in the UK have closed since 2003 and BAD fears more will go as trusts seek to cut costs.
Glaxo fined for major health fraud
Source: Wall Street Journal 03/07/12
GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has been fined $3 billion by the US Government after admitting to illegally promoting two antidepressants and withholding information about the safety of a diabetes drug, Avandia. Avandia now carries a ‘black box’ warning and is banned in Europe. Glaxo admitted marketing the antidepressant Paxil for young people even though the drug was not licensed for this use. It also helped prepare an article published in a medical journal that falsely claimed that Paxil was effective in treating depression in young people. It marketed another antidepressant, Wellbutrin, for conditions for which it wasn’t licensed, including weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addiction and ADHD. Glaxo said it had ‘learned from the mistakes that were made’.
Smacking may raise risk of mental illness
People who were smacked as children are at greater risk of mental health problems in adulthood, new research shows. The US study is the first to examine the link between mental ill health and smacking, as distinct from severe physical or sexual abuse. The retrospective study of 34,600 adults found that people who recalled being smacked as children were at two to seven per cent greater risk of mental health problems in adult life, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, anorexia, bulimia, alcohol misuse and personality disorder. Some six per cent said they were smacked in childhood. Children who were smacked were 59 per cent more likely to have alcohol dependence, 41 per cent more like to have depression and 24 per cent more likely to have panic disorder than children who were not smacked. UK law allows parents to smack their children provided it doesn’t cause ‘reddening of the skin’. Worldwide, 32 countries have a total ban on physical punishment of children.
Source: Pediatrics 02/07/12
Dissociative identities ‘are not fantasies’
Source: PLoSONE 29/07/12
The different identity states found in dissociative identity disorder (DID) are real and not the artefacts of fantasy, role enactment or suggestion, a study has found. Researchers compared 11 people with DID with 18 controls, 10 of whom were asked to simulate high and lower fantasy-prone DID behaviours. The study found clear differences in psychophysiological and cerebral bloodflow patterns between the people with DID and those in the simulation groups, which the researchers say provides proof that people with DID are not ‘pretending’.
Trauma may ‘vaccinate’ against mental illness
Source: PLoSONE 29/07/12
Women with past experience of trauma have higher emotional resilience than women with no traumatic experiences in life, a study shows. The study assessed 238 women, including 122 breast cancer survivors and 116 with no history of cancer, for emotional resilience and presence of current or lifetime experience of mental illness. It found that that women with current mental health problems were much more likely to report low resilience and that those with medium and higher levels of resilience were twice as likely to have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. Among those with a current mental disorder, low resilience was more common among those with pure anxiety disorder. The researchers say the finding is surprising, given the weight of previous research linking childhood abuse with lower resilience level in adults, but it might be that trauma has a ‘vaccination’ effect.
Defining successful ‘return to work’
Source: PLoSONE 29/07/12
Employers and employees have different definitions of a ‘successful’ return to work following sick leave. In a recent study, line managers and occupational health practitioners cited ‘sustainability’ and ‘at-work functioning’ as the key criteria for successful return to work; employees were more likely to rate ‘sustainability’, ‘job satisfaction’, ‘work–home balance’ and ‘mental functioning’ as the most important criteria. The researchers say there is some overlap but that the differences are important, especially when evaluating the outcomes of return-to-work interventions.
Even horses get the blues
Source: PLoSONE 28/07/12
Horses can experience depression, and female horses may be more at risk, a new study has found. Researchers observed the behaviour of 59 working horses in their home environments. Depression was assessed from posture, anxiety levels and plasma cortisol levels. They found that 24 per cent of the horses met the withdrawn atypical posture criteria. In comparison with ‘non-withdrawn’ horses, these horses appeared more indifferent to environmental stimuli and reacted more emotionally to challenging situations. They also had lower plasma cortisol levels. The researchers say horses could provide an animal model of depression for further research.