News round-up (1 December 23)

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30th November 2023 about a 5 minute read

With a general election due next year, Cancer Research UK has published its manifesto for the next government. The charity says that if the government invested more in research and innovation, and addressed some of the problems in the NHS, 20,000 deaths from cancer could be prevented every year. Alzheimer’s Research UK has expressed concern about the possibility that NICE may deny life-saving drugs to dementia patients, because its cost-benefit analysis does not take into account the effect of dementia on families and the economy. NICE also makes the news for the publication of draft guidelines on menopause, which recommend that talking therapy be considered as a treatment alongside, or instead of, HRT.

At least 20,000 cancer deaths a year are avoidable, charity says

At least 20,000 cancer deaths a year could be avoided if the UK made a commitment to invest in research and innovation and to address problems with the NHS, Cancer Research UK has said.

The charity says the UK lags behind comparable countries when it comes to cancer survival rates, and has launched a manifesto of priorities for this government and the next.

It says that the next government must commit to developing a 10-year cancer plan, spearheaded by a National Cancer Council accountable to the prime minister to bring government, charities, industry and scientific experts together. Areas to focus on include: more investment in research to close an estimated £1bn funding gap; greater disease prevention; earlier diagnosis, through screening; better tests and treatments; and cutting NHS waiting lists while investing in more staff.

Dementia patients may be denied life-saving drugs

Dementia patients may be denied life-changing drugs by the NHS, because of the high cost of the new Alzheimer’s drugs.

The new drugs, lecanemab and donanemab, are the first shown to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. They may, however, be deemed too expensive for the NHS because the methodology used by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not account for the effect of dementia on families and on the economy.

The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK has urged NICE to change the way it makes its calculations, and to factor in the £10bn cost of dementia to the economy – a consequence of many carers having to give up work.

After examining its processes, however, a report from NICE’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Innovation Laboratory concluded that it should stick with its current method.

The charity said it was “unfair” to take such a narrow view, which ignored the burden dementia places on families.

Uptake of cervical screening at record low

The uptake of cervical cancer screening has fallen to a record low since the pandemic, according to new figures.

The data shows that 68.7% of 25- to 64-year-olds had attended screening within a timescale recommended for their age group – down from 72.2% in 2020.

The trends were even worse among those aged 25 to 49, who should have a smear every three years. Only 65.8% were up to date with screening, down from 70.2% in 2020.

In all, more than five million women are not up to date with their smear tests.

Government advisers are to consider improving screening rates by replacing smear tests with DIY kits that women could use at home

Women with mental health problems sent to jail

Women with severe mental illness are still being sent to jail, even though prisons are ill-equipped to offer care, a review by the NHS and Prison Service has found.  

The review draws on more than 2,250 responses from women in prison, through group discussions, one-to-one meetings, letters, postcards and drawings.

Many women and health providers view the prison environment as “unfit for purpose,” while six in 10 inmates said the “inconsistent” health and social care services across England’s 12 women’s prisons needed improvement, the review found.

Although nearly 60% of female offenders have experienced domestic abuse, the review said there was a gap in mental health care support for women who have experienced trauma, including sexual and domestic violence.

NICE recommends cognitive behavioural therapy for menopause

In new draft guidance, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended widening the treatment options for menopause.

One of the options suggested is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), because evidence shows it can help reduce menopause symptoms relating to depression, hot flushes and insomnia.

The guidance says that CBT should now be considered alongside, or as an alternative to, hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

The guidelines highlight the importance of making sure that patients know HRT is unlikely to increase or decrease their overall life expectancy, although there is some evidence showing links to cancer, dementia and stroke.

The draft guideline is open for public consultation until 5 January 2024.

A rise in online searches related to climate anxiety

Online search queries related to climate anxiety have risen, according to data gathered by Google.

Data from Google Trends shows that search queries in English about “climate anxiety” in the first 10 months of 2023 are 27 times higher than the same period in 2017.

Search queries in Portuguese have risen by 73 times, while search queries in (simplified) Chinese have risen by eight-and-a-half times, and search queries in Arabic have risen by a fifth.

Nordic countries had the biggest share of global search queries related to climate anxiety over the past five years. Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway accounted for more than 40% of search queries related to “climate anxiety”.

Google says it has also noted a global increase in search queries about the future of the planet together with queries about the environment in the last 12 months.