Health Tracker

by May 14, 2012 No Comments

02.05.12: National Multiple Sclerosis Week

Multiple sclerosis is an issue very close to SNP MSP George Adam’s heart, he told MSPs as he opened the debate on national Multiple Sclerosis Week.

Adam’s wife of 16 years, Stacey, is one of the 10,500 people in Scotland who are living with MS.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world and two new cases of MS are diagnosed in Scotland every 24 hours. Adams argued that he would like Scotland to look at providing Vitamin D as a preventative measure.

“If we could prevent families like Stacey’s from having to learn that, at the age of 16, their child has the disease that would make things a lot better,” he said.

Adam’s motion congratulated the MS Society Scotland and its local branches for its “excellent work” supporting those affected by MS. However, it added that this work is being “undermined by savage cuts to disability benefits including Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance, with people with MS being among those hardest hit because of the complex, fluctuating and often hidden nature of the condition and its symptoms.” “

It is important to see the people behind the condition,” Adams said in closing. “We must remember that when we make decisions.”

Responding to the debate Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government shares the MS Society’s view that “everyone with MS should be able to access the care and support that they need.”

He added: “Given the prevalence of MS in Scotland, it is extremely important that we achieve that.”

Several members, including Adam, mentioned Vitamin D deficiency during the debate. Matheson told members that Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns has asked the scientific advisory committee on nutrition to undertake a full review of Vitamin D supplementation, and to include links to MS and other conditions.

“That process is under way, and it will take a considerable amount of time to examine all the peer-reviewed evidence,” he said.

“We expect to have the committee’s draft report and finalised recommendations in 2014. At that point, we will be happy to inform Parliament of those recommendations and the actions that we will take as a Government. I am sure that members will recognise that, in order to deal effectively with the issue of Vitamin D, we must ensure that we are clear about the clinical consequences of going down that particular route. We must have clear clinical evidence in order to justify any changes in the present arrangements.”

 

26.04.12: Robot-assisted surgery

MSPs debated UCAN’s campaign for robot-assisted surgery. The north-east-based urological cancer charity is aiming to raise £2.5m by 2013 to secure “pioneering” robotic equipment for the provision of keyhole surgery in the area.

Leading the debate, North East Scotland Labour MSP Richard Baker said the campaign for robotassisted surgery to be based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary “offers the opportunity for a step change in the treatment of those whose conditions would benefit from the new surgical technology.”

He explained: “The robotically assisted surgical system is an advanced tool that enables precision surgery to be carried out for many more patients and which speeds up operating times and reduces recovery times. Three of the four most common cancers—prostate, bowel and ovarian—as well as gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, can be treated using the robotic equipment.”

Baker quoted Professor Sam McClinton, who is consultant urological surgeon at ARI and the chairman of UCAN, who said: “Robotic-assisted surgery is the best technology currently available for minimally invasive surgery and we want to … buy this advanced equipment and the updated theatres to properly house it.”

There are currently 26 robotically assisted surgical systems in use in England but as yet none in Scotland so the scheme would be a first for Scotland, Baker said.

“UCAN is launching the fundraising efforts to bring the technology to Scotland, and I hope that ministers will assist in whatever way possible,” he added.

Responding for the Scottish Government, Public Health Minister Michael Matheson praised the work of UCAN and said its commitment to raising awareness of neurological cancers and early diagnosis fits very well with the Scottish Government’s approach in the detect cancer early programme.

The decision to introduce new treatments must be based on sound evidence of safe use and clinical and cost effectiveness, Matheson said. He told members that the Scottish Health Technologies Group will provide advice to NHS Scotland on the results of a health technology assessment that is currently being undertaken by the University of Aberdeen, comparing robotic versus laparoscopic surgery for localised prostate cancer.

“We expect to have that report in September this year, at which point we will be able to evaluate how we move forward with such surgery in the NHS in Scotland,” he said.

01.05.12: Psychoactive medication

Labour MSP Richard Simpson asked what percentage of patients in care homes are prescribed antipsychotic medication and whether all such patients were initially given treatments other than medication.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon replied: “This information is not held centrally.

“The dementia standards state that NHS boards must ensure that systems are in place to ensure that capacity to consent to treatment (including the prescribing of psychoactive medication) is considered and that appropriate documentation is in place, in line with Part 5 of The Adults With Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.

“They also state that services must demonstrate knowledge of whether the person with dementia has appointed someone as their welfare power of attorney or if there is a welfare guardian; and that any challenging behaviour must always be addressed by means of an integrated assessment to establish the cause and put a care plan in place to manage it, in line with the relevant SIGN clinical guidelines.

“We have a specific commitment in the national dementia strategy to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of psychoactive medication, in recognition of the fact that this is a key driver in helping the reconfiguration of service provision and the range of response in this key area – and ensuring that care is at all times safe, appropriate and personcentred.

“We are currently considering the findings and recommendations of an academic report we commissioned into time trends in the prescribing of antipsychotic and other psychotropic medications to older people with dementia between 2001-11 and the report will inform a commitment to reduce inappropriate prescribing of psychoactive medication to be finalised this year.

“The report shows that, based on its sample and methodology, since 2009 there has been a decline in the initiation of new antipsychotics and a moderately decreasing trend in antipsychotic use. The report shows that in the first quarter of 2011 the rate of older people with dementia being prescribed an antipsychotic is the lowest level over the entire 2001-11 period.

“On publication, a copy of the report will be placed in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Bib. number 53915).”

 

Events diary

15-16 May

Telehealthcare summit, a Holyrood magazine event, Hilton Glasgow Hotel

13-14 June

Connect: The future of public service delivery, A Holyrood magazine event Hilton Glasgow Hotel

Katie Mackintosh Katie Mackintosh

Katie is Holyrood magazine's Health Correspondent and has been with the magazine since 2005. She has an MA in Sociology with Gender from Edinburgh University and a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Napier University. Katie has been named PPA Scotland Feature Writer of the Year three times - in 2008, 2009, and again in 2013. She was also shortlisted for magazine writer of the year at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. An Aberdonian by birth but a Glaswegian by nature, she now lives in Fife with her husband and young...

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