News in brief 261007

Life expectancy up despite rise in obesity
The latest Health Profile for England shows that life expectancy continues to increase, with early deaths from circulatory disease and cancer falling. But the DoH also reports a rise in obesity, diabetes and alcohol-related admissions. Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said these issues were being tackled. Full details at istics/DH_079716.

Patient choice results fall
For the first time since it began in May 2006, the DoH patient choice survey has shown a decline in the number of patients who recall being offered a choice of hospital for outpatient services. The latest MORI poll of 75,000 people was carried out in May this year and shows just 44 per cent report being offered choice, compared with 48 per cent in March 2007. However, the latest figures still show more patients recall being offered choice now than in May 2006, when just 30 per cent said they had been offered a choice of hospital for their first outpatient appointment. Full details at istics/DH_079657.

DoH focuses on health inequalities
Inequalities are back at the top of the health agenda, with health secretary Alan Johnson's announcement last month of a strategic review, due to be published in spring 2008. Dr Fiona Adshead, England's deputy CMO, told the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) conference on primary care redesign in London last week that the health gap between rich and poor remained wide and in some areas was getting wider.

Increase in drug addicts seeking treatment
The number of drug addicts in England accessing treatment has increased by 130 per cent since 1998, National Treatment Agency figures show. In 2006/07, an estimated 195,000 people were being treated for drug problems. Three out of four continue for 12 weeks or longer, indicating successful treatment outcome. Among adults, the most commonly misused drug was heroin (66 per cent); in under-18s it was cannabis (75 per cent). Full details at

PCTs to be measured on clinical engagement
Continuous engagement with clinicians will become a key competency for which PCTs will be held accountable under the DoH's new vision of world-class commissioning. Clinical engagement will join 13 other competencies that PCTs are expected to develop as one of the three building blocks of the DoH's redesign of primary care. Other competencies include actuarial skills, population engagement and choice, competition and contestability, Mark Britnell, NHS director general for commissioning and system management, told the NAPC conference last week.

Public support for opt-out organ donation
Public backing for presumed consent for organ donation is growing, according to the BMA. In a YouGov poll of 2,000 adults this month, 64 per cent said the UK should move to a system of presumed consent. Around a quarter of participants were already on the organ donor list. In a similar survey in 2004, the BMA found that 60 per cent of the public were in favour of an 'opt-out' donor scheme.

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