"Frankincense 'fights cancer'," is the festive health headline from the Mail Online. The "aromatic substance from the Nativity story could help treat ovarian tumours," it says. The news is based on a University of Leicester press release entitled "Christmas gift brings treatment hope for cancer patients". In tests, Leicester University researchers found that a chemical in frankincense killed cells from hard-to-treat tumours.
Unfortunately, many more Christmases are likely to pass before anyone is treated with frankincense for ovarian cancer. This is because the news is based on positive early findings from research carried out on the AKBA compound found in frankincense and ovarian cancer cells in a lab.
The press release says the researchers have been able to show the ability of the compound to combat cancer cells in late-stage ovarian cancer. This is festive news, and the press team at the University of Leicester should be congratulated for their ingenuity.
However, limited conclusions can be drawn from the preliminary findings of this laboratory study as it is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. And some of the claims should not be taken at face value; in particular the press release's claim that frankincense has no known side effects. Such claims would need rigorous scientific evaluation before they could be verified.
This research is still at a very early stage and as the press release points out, frankincense is yet to be studied for the treatment of ovarian cancer in humans.
While the use of frankincense as a cancer cure may still be a long way off, you may be surprised to learn that all three of Jesus' nativity gifts have been explored for their medical properties.
The government has published a full response to the 290 recommendations made by Robert Francis, following the public inquiry in to the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. This follows the government's initial response in February 2013, which included the introduction of a new hospital inspection regime and legislation for a duty of candour on NHS organisations so they have to be open with families and patients when things go wrong
Actions on safety and openness include:
NHS Direct announced earlier this year that it would seek to withdraw from its NHS 111 contracts, and Commissioners have now identified alternative providers. NHS Direct's 111 staff and call centres are due to transfer to five Ambulance Trusts by the end of November, details of which are currently being finalised. In the light of these transfers, the Board of NHS Direct has reviewed its future as a viable independent organisation and, in agreement with the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England, has arrived at a decision to cease operations at the end of this financial year.
No patient services will be affected by the Board's decision, as we expect each of the services that NHS Direct is commissioned to provide beyond March 2014, will be transferred to other organisations, together with the staff who provide them. At its Board meeting on Monday 28 October, NHS Direct NHS Trust will launch a formal consultation on the implications for staff of this decision. It is hoped that the number of redundancies arising will be kept to a minimum through transfer and redeployment of staff to other organisations.
In September NHS England confirmed that the telephone contingency service, which has been providing in support of NHS 111 in some areas of England, will cease at the end of February 2014. It is NHS England's intention, at this stage, not to continue to commission the Dental Nurse Assessment Service or the Complex Health Information and Medicines Enquiry Service beyond 31 March 2014. As a result, we expect all elements of the original 0845 telephone service will cease by March 2014. These intentions are subject to ratification by NHS England's Board.
Chair of NHS Direct, Joanne Shaw, said "The closure of NHS Direct marks the end of its 15 years of continuous innovation, during which time it has led the world in remote health assessment, advice and information. It is an enormous privilege to have been part of this journey, and I look back over my 10 years with NHS Direct with gratitude and respect for the staff who have created this exceptional service. I look forward to seeing other organisations take forward a number of the services developed by NHS Direct, and I wish them well as they exploit the ever-growing reach and power of technology, to provide value to patients and the NHS."
Elite hospitals handed contracts to transform ‘special measures’ hospitals
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has set out the Government’s plans to help prevent future failures of care and safety at NHS hospitals.
In the wake of the scandal over standards at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and subsequent Keogh Review which looked at 14 NHS Trusts with high mortality rates, 11 of those Trusts have already been placed in ‘special measures’.
The UK has become the drug and alcohol "addictions capital of Europe", a think tank has warned.
The Centre for Social Justice - set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - said drink and drug abuse cost the UK £36bn a year.
Its report warned that the UK has become a hub for websites peddling potentially dangerous "legal highs". The CSJ also criticised the government for failing to tackle heroin addiction and cheaply available alcohol. The report, No Quick Fix, found that last year 52 people in England and Wales died after taking legal highs, up from 28 the previous year.