New animation created to improve general public’s understanding of dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK  | March 2018  | Bryan Cranston confronts misunderstanding of dementia…using an orange

A new animation created by Aardman Animations and starring Bryan Cranston, has been released as part of a campaign to address misunderstanding around dementia – using nothing more than an orange.  The animation follows a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, which asked the general public what they think dementia is and who it affects, only 23% of British adults specifically mentioned brain disease or degeneration (Alzheimer’s Research UK). 


The two minute film centres on an orange that gradually strips away to demonstrate how the diseases that cause dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s, physically attack the brain. Through damage caused by the disease, the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s can weigh around 140 grams less than a healthy brain – about the weight of an orange.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Bryan Cranston’s support of our #ShareTheOrange campaign will help bring global attention to an important truth – that dementia is not an inevitability of age, but is caused by diseases that we can fight. The condition has been blighted by misconceptions for generations, and it’s now time to turn our fatalism into hope, and research holds the key to overcoming the diseases that drive the symptoms. By sharing this film and joining the millions who shared our first campaign film, we can educate and inspire around dementia, and make it our next great medical research success story. Research has made major breakthroughs in other disease areas in the past generation, and people with dementia must now benefit from the same.”

The full news item is available from Alzheimer’s Research UK 

Adding extra years to life and extra life to those years: local government guide to healthy ageing

Local Government Authority   | March 2018  | Adding extra years to life and extra life to those years Local government guide to healthy ageing

In the last decade the number of people living in England aged over 65 has increased by  20 per cent, which is equivalent to 1.7 million extra older people.  Life expectancy has risen: on average a 65 year old female can expect to live for around 21 further years, and for a male this is about 19 more years. The largest increase is in those aged over 85, where life expectancy has risen by almost a third. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years and to gather momentum.
According to the Local Government Authority (LGA) people living longer has  consequences for health and social care services as far too many of those later years are being spent in poor health. 

Ageing pop
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This report includes 8 case studies ranging  from exercise classes in Haringey and Oxfordshire, to the council in Ealing helping to connect residents to reduce loneliness and tackle isolation. In addition Lancashire County Council have tackled falls in over 65s in a programme that has since been rolled across the country.



The full report can be downloaded from Local Government Authority here 

Free mindfulness programme launches

A new e-Learning programme from MindEd and Health Education England has been launched to support health professionals better understand mindfulness. It can be accessed from the e-Learning for Healthcare website and is free to registered users.

mindfulness eflh
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The programme is an introduction to mindfulness and aims to

  • Define mindfulness
  • Identify the key components of mindfulness
  • Describe the evidence base for mindfulness
  • Evaluate whether mindfulness may be an appropriate approach for someone
  • List the sources of further information and where to signpost people to for more resources and support

Further details about the programme can be read here 

NHS Digital data shows a quarter of patients in England access online GP services

NHS Digital  | March 2018  | Dramatic annual surge in online GP services as patients sign up for convenience

2017 saw a 42 per cent increase in patients accessing online GP services, as 14 million benefitted from the convenience of booking appointments, ordering  repeat prescriptions and view their medical records.

The statistics released by NHS Digital show that nearly a quarter of patients in England, 13.9 million, are registered to use online services. The figures show an average of one million appointments are being made or cancelled online every month, and nearly 2.3 million prescriptions ordered online, as practices and their patients are increasingly using digital technology.


GP practices that use the technology are receiving fewer patient calls and less patients failing to attend appointment, which means the time saved can be used on other activities within the GP practice.

Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer for the NHS said: “We’re delighted to see an almost doubling in the numbers of people accessing digital services in GP practices since last year. We’ve worked hard to support practice staff to be able to offer these services to their patients. The work to improve GP engagement, patient awareness and the patient experience is resulting in more sign-ups and better use of these vital services. This is just one example of how we are increasing the use of technology in the NHS to empower people to take more control of their health, wellbeing and care.”

The full piece can be read at NHS Digital 

Ageism in society contributing to low self-worth in older people finds Age UK research

Age UK |  March 2018  | Struggling to cope with later life: Qualitative research on growing older in challenging circumstances

A new report produced by Age UK highlights feelings of apathy in almost a million people over 65 (936,642) who say their lives have little or no meaning; with 20% of those 85 or over experiencing  these feelings compared to 10% of those between 55 and 65. Age UK’s findings are the results of qualitative research with Britain Thinks and included  interviews with people a mini focus groups with friends and relatives and a practitioner-focused workshop. The interviewees (65 years+) who had led busy a lives discussed their feelings that their contributions are long forgotten and that their lives lack purpose.  Age UK explain people in this age group may also be experiences challenges such as bereavement, ill-health and social isolation that may compound these feelings and make it harder for an older person. Depression in this age group is experienced by 22% of males and 28% of females, but 85% of older people receive no help from the NHS.

Analysis of the data showed a lack of connectivity with the wider world,  the researchers found examples of both exclusion and self- exclusion.  As well as a lack of motivation regarding self-care, which included not keeping on top of household tasks, neglecting personal hygiene, not eating well or taking prescribed medications
factors which Age UK say could potentially undermine their wellbeing.

There was also a sense of being ‘stuck’, although those with ‘concerned observers’ (professionals, relatives and friends) had tried to help them.

The interviewers also noted the participant’s perception that society does not value older people, and generally there is a very negative perspective on ageing. This  helped to compound the interviewees negative feelings, intensifying their feelings of hopelessness.

Age UK’s tips for older people stuck in a rut

Age UK’s top tips for older people who get stuck in a rut and those who care about them or work with them are:

  1. Listen to older people’s histories and value their contributions
  2. Understand the causes and spot the danger signs
  3. Use a person-centred approach that starts where older people are
  4. Family and friends can be a life line – support them to be so
  5. Find a way to return purpose to life
  6. Emotional support often needs backing up with practical action
  7. Professionals can make a big difference – but need the time to be able to do so
    (Age UK)

The report Struggling to cope with later life can be read at Age UK

The full press release is available from Age UK

Funding opportunity available to UK and Chinese researchers to help tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Department of Health and Social Care, Innovate UK & Steven Brine |  March 2018   | UK-China collaboration to tackle antimicrobial resistance

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will invest up to £10 million in UK businesses and academics who work in conjunction with Chinese scientists to advance work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The fund is to support the development and, where appropriate, clinical evaluation of new products or services, which must be of value in addressing the threat from AMR.

Innovate UK will deliver the funding to UK researchers (£750,000) and The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology  will invest up to 60 million Renminbi (RMB) to fund the project.  Projects can last up to 3 years.

UK applicants must demonstrate that projects are primarily and directly relevant to the needs of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs), including China, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). There must be a clear economic and societal benefit to LMICs from their proposed project. The competition will open on 3 April 2018  (Innovation Funding Service)

Projects must address the specified criteria at DHSC here  

Full details including eligibility criteria are available from DHSC 


CQC publish briefing paper on approved mental health professional services

Care Quality Commission  |  March 2018  | Briefing: Mental Health Act – Approved Mental Health Professional services

Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found wide variation in how mental health services are delivered. They have produced a briefing paper that outlines their findings following a  review of the way Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHP) services are being delivered across the country. The review occurred in response to a recommendation that CQC and the Department of Health and Social Care look at the effectiveness of the current monitoring of AMHP services. 

In 2017, CQC visited 23 local authorities, 10 NHS trusts and two independent mental health service providers.  They interviewed and held focus groups with over 60 detained patients, 30 carers and more than 250 staff including AMHP service leads, local authority staff and AMHPs. The interviews and focus groups were informal to encourage participants to share their experiences, these later informed the national report.

From this discussion they identified a number of factors that contribute to the AMHP role:

  • Leadership: Most AMHPs described good peer support, supervision and training arrangements.
  • Recognising the value of the AMHP role: Across most services, AMHPs felt that their skills, expertise and knowledge base were recognised in their local area teams.
  • Innovation and partnership: AMHPs reported that reduced access to partner agencies could create delays when organising assessments.
  • Crisis and prevention: AMHPs shared positive examples of how improved access to crisis services helped them deliver least restrictive alternatives for patients.

They have also found a number of barriers to the AMHP role these include:

  • Acute care system capacity: AMHPs reported that a national reduction in beds affected their ability to complete assessments in a timely manner.
  • Workforce: AMHPs talked about difficulties in the  recruitment and retention of AMHPs
  • Variation in health and social care integration: Integration of services varied across areas and services.
  • Mental health commissioning: AMHPs recognised the importance of good, integrated, local commissioning arrangements to their role.

The paper also contains what the inspectors found, next steps as well as examples of good practice.  The briefing paper is available to download from CQC 


6 ways to improve services for people with autism

Healthwatch  |  March 2018  | Six ways we can improve services for people with autism

Healthwatch have published six recommendations to improve services for individuals with autism; these are based on consultation with people with autism, their families and carers about their experiences of health and care services.  Patients with autism may find accessing health and care services problematic and stressful, as new environments and sensory changes can cause anxiety, it is crucial therefore that health professionals have an awareness of individual’s needs and an understanding of how they can make the experience as easy as possible (Healthwatch). 


1.   There’s a lack of awareness and understanding of autism among some health and care professionals.

Discussion suggested some health professionals, particularly GPs, have a lack of understanding about autism and knowledge about appropriate services to refer them to. Services can help by ensuring their staff are trained to meet the needs of people with autism.

2.   Health and care settings aren’t always flexible enough to adapt to their needs.

Health and care settings should provide more flexibility to adapt to autistic people’s needs. For instance, parents who have an autistic child  told Healthwatch that GP appointments are often not long enough to meet the needs of people with communication difficulties.

Healthwatch recommend health and care settings should provide more flexibility to adapt to autistic people’s needs.

3.   Waiting times for diagnosis can be long.
People have told Healthwatch they can experience long delays in being diagnosed.  Delays in diagnosis mean longer waits for treatment and support, especially at school for children.

4.   Many people with autism aren’t receiving the support they need.

Healthwatch noted a lack of support while waiting for an assessment, added to the pressure on parents and carers and caused unnecessary stress to people with autism.

In some areas, there’s also a lack of support services for people living with autism, including getting an education and health and care plan, and employment and independent living support.

5.   People need more comprehensive and accessible information on the services available.

People with ASD are not always aware of  what autism services are available, lack of information can be a barrier to accessing this support.

Parents and carers would also like more information and training about autism and their role as a carer, so they can better meet the needs of the person they are caring for.

6.   There is a gap in mental health support for children and young people with autism
Accessing children and young people’s mental health services can be an issue for people with autism.

In some cases, young people have been refused support from mental health services, as they say they cannot meet the needs of patients with autism. This often means services aren’t tailored to people’s specific needs, and they either receive no treatment, or the support they do get isn’t effective.


UK wide trial of MenB vaccine for 24000 16 to 18 year olds

NIHR  | March 2018  | World leading NHS meningitis vaccine trial for teenagers

NIHR is funding a trial of teenagers   to take part in the Be on the TEAM (Teenagers Against Meningitis) trial, led by the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford with funding and support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).  The researchers are investigating whether giving a group B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine to teenagers reduces carriage of this bacteria in their throat, potentially providing protection to all ages from this dangerous infection (NIHR).


The research trial is recruiting 24000 students, aged 16 to 18  one group of 8,000 will get 4CMenB while another 8,000 will get MenB-fHBP. The vaccines will be given at the start of the study and six months later. The remaining third of the sample will be the control group, initially they will not  receive the  vaccine, to enable swabs to be taken 12 months apart and results compared to those in the other groups, to examine the difference.  Following this the control group will get the 4CMenB vaccine so they will benefit from the protection it provides.

The trial is voluntary and will be conducted through schools in at least 14 sites in England, Scotland and Wales. The study will be recruiting over 18 months starting in April 2018.

Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of charity Meningitis Now, said:  “We’re delighted to see this vaccine trial being rolled out and would urge everyone who can to get involved and help make a real difference in the fight against meningitis.”


Meningitis Now Teenagers; join the TEAM 

In the media:

BBC News Teenagers urged to take part in meningitis B vaccine trial

Opportunity to shape the medical workforce curriculum

NHS Workforce |  March 2018 | Help shape the future medical workforce curriculum

NHS Workforce is creating an employer reference group to help shape the future of medical workforce curricula. It is looking for volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and across all levels of responsibility within NHS organisations, representing the clinical, workforce and educational views of employers, and with an interest in curricula development.

Full details at NHS Workforce