Medical card holders will be treated for minor ailments at pharmacies

A pilot scheme that will see medical card holders treated for minor ailments at a pharmacy instead of a GP office is to be rolled out in March, the Irish Examiner reports.

The aim of the scheme is to relieve GPs of some of the workload associated with the General Medical Services Scheme (GMS).

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said it is estimated that minor ailments represent 18% of a GPs workload in the UK, costing the NHS some €2.5bn a year.

At present, GMS patients present at a GP surgery to obtain a prescription, even when the appropriate treatment is non-prescription medication.

The proposed Minor Ailment Scheme will enable medical card patients to receive treatment for minor ailments free of charge at their local pharmacy.

Global pharma groups reveal tie-up with universities

Three of the world’s biggest pharmaceuticals groups have teamed up with a trio of Britain’s top universities to create a £40m fund to help turn promising scientific research into new medicines, the Financial Times reports.

AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline of the UK and Johnson & Johnson of the US will contribute financing and expertise to the collaboration with Cambridge university, Imperial College London and University College London.

The initiative, which is to be called the Apollo Therapeutics Fund, is one of the clearest signs yet of the trend towards greater collaboration among pharma groups and between industry and academia in the search for new drugs.

Chronic fatigue syndrome on rise among 16-year-olds

Chronic fatigue syndrome is more common than previously thought, particularly among girls at the age of 16, research by the University of Bristol suggests, the BBC reports.

Persistent exhaustion was found to affect 2% of 16-year-olds - and almost twice as many girls as boys.

Children from poorer families were also more likely to have the condition.

The Bristol study, published in Pediatrics, asked more than 5,700 parents and their children about their experiences of persistent exhaustion.

Paint in children's playgrounds still contains dangerous levels of lead

Paint on equipment in children’s playground contains up to 60 times the recommended levels of lead, scientists have discovered, the Telegraph reports.

Environmental researchers from Plymouth University analysed the level of toxic metals used on climbing frames, swings, roundabouts and slides at 50 play parks in the south of England.

They found that even playgrounds that were less than a decade old had potentially dangerous levels of lead paint.

Agency midwives cost 'wasteful' NHS trusts £18m

Agency midwives cost “wasteful” NHS trusts almost £18m in one year, according to new figures – enough to employ 511 full-time staff, the Independent reports.

Spending soared by 75.7 per cent in two years, rising from £10m in 2012 to £17.8m in 2014, data obtained by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) through Freedom of Information requests shows.

The variation in the amount of agency spending between the 136 trusts in England is stark.

While one trust spent just £358 between 2012 and 2014, another paid out nearly £4.5m in the same period. More than 11 trusts spent in excess of £1m on agency staff over three years.

NHS fast-tracks drug docetaxel for advanced prostate cancer patients

The NHS has fast-tracked a drug that can extend the lives of men with advancedprostate cancer by more than a year following clinical studies, and it can now be prescribed immediately, the Guardian reports.

The announcement scraps the previous guidelines that patients had to wait for the chemotherapy drug docetaxel until existing hormone-based treatments had stopped working.

Prostate is the most common cancer in men in the UK, affecting one in eight at some point. More than 38,000 men are diagnosed, and more than 9,000 men die from the condition each year.

The drug could offer hope of extended life for about 4,560 men each year whose cases are already advanced, and incurable, when diagnosed.