The Health News United Kingdom July 24 2017


  • A decision not to vaccinate boys against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has attracted fierce criticism. Critics said vaccinating boys could help reduce the risk even further.
  • Information Governance matters. Health and care workers are allowed to discuss named patients amongst themselves, but confidential data must not be shared elsewhere, unless the data is anonymised or permitted by the patient to be shared.
  • Department of Health has published the Tobacco Control Plan for England, aiming to create a “smoke free generation” by reducing smoking rates through prevention and helping smokers to quit.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 24th of July 2017. Read by Tabetha Moreto. Health News

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection  has attracted fierce criticism. Reported cases of human papilloma virus (HPV) – thought to cause about eighty percent of cervical cancers –  have fallen sharply since girls were given the vaccine.  But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) found little evidence to justify treating boys too. Critics said vaccinating boys could help reduce the risk still further.

Across the UK, all girls aged twelve to thirteen are offered HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. Mary Ramsay,  head of immunisation at Public Health England, said:  “Evidence from around the world suggests that the risk of HPV infection in males is dramatically reduced by achieving high uptake of the HPV vaccine among girls.

“While there are some additional benefits to vaccinating both males and females,  the current models indicate that extending the programme to boys in the UK,  where the uptake in adolescent girls is consistently high (over 85%),  would not represent a good use of NHS resources.”  This initial recommendation by JCVI will now be subject to a public consultation  and a final decision will be made in October.

About fifteen percent of UK girls eligible for vaccination are currently not receiving both doses, a figure which is much higher in some areas.  Men may have sex with women too old to have had the HPV vaccination.  Men may have sex with women from other countries with no vaccination programme  Men who have sex with men are not protected by the girls’ programme.  The cost of treating HPV-related diseases is high  – treating anogenital warts alone in the UK is estimated to cost fifty eight million pounds a year,  while the additional cost of vaccinating boys has been estimated at about twenty million pounds a year.

If the NHS learned anything following the controversy  and more recently,  the ransomware attack that hit trusts up and down the country,  it’s that Information Governance matters.  People care about protecting their data,  and it has been shown it can be extremely valuable to others.  So the framework in place to protect it is not just paperwork peppered with complicated legalese,  it’s crucial to ensuring that everyone’s confidential health and care data is kept safe and secure.

Some were asking:  If encryption of consumer messaging systems is as robust as we’re led to believe,  why do we need to worry?

The answer is that  using such consumer focused tech to have clinical discussions is often illegal  as it is could potentially breach the UK Data Protection Act,  not to mention the NHS Act two thousand and six,  the Health and Social Care act two thousand and twelve  and the Human Rights Act.  Although health and care workers in direct contact with patients are allowed to discuss named patients amongst themselves,  confidential data must not be shared elsewhere,  unless the data is anonymised  or the patient has given their permission for this to happen. NHS England’s Information Governance is designed to cover all applicable UK law.  That means any technology that is developed for use by UK health and care workers must comply with this guidance to be legal  and equally importantly,  reach the right standards.

What if we use non-compliant technology?  In simple terms,  if the data is not effectively anonymised,  then there may already have been a breach.  For example,  sharing an image of a medical test result with a colleague using WhatsApp is likely to be in breach of UK law if the patient is identifiable and the patient has not given their explicit consent to have their data stored in the US.  And even if clinicians and other health and care workers believe they have ensured the info shared doesn’t identify patients,  they could still be in breach by using initials  or information which could be used alongside other sources to identify someone.

The Department of Health has published its long-awaited Tobacco Control Plan for England.

The plan aims to create a “smoke free generation”  by reducing smoking rates through prevention and helping smokers to quit.  While welcoming the plan’s publication and aims,  campaigners were quick to point out a lack of clear targets and issues around funding.  “Cuts to public health budgets have left local authorities in a very difficult position and struggling to deliver the necessary stop smoking services,” said Alison Cox,  Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention.  “It is worrying that this was not addressed at all in the plan.

She also states that we want to see the government commit to a timeline for getting smokers down to just five per cent of the population,  and to ensure every socioeconomic group is targeted to achieve this aim.  While no date is set,  the plan’s ambition is to reduce smoking prevalence to below five in one hundred people.  If this was achieved by two thousand and thirty five,  the NHS could save sixty seven million pounds per year,  avoiding ninety seven thousand five hundred new cases of smoking-related disease,  including thirty five thousand nine hundred cancers over twenty years.

The plan includes aims to reduce smoking by two thousand and twenty two among certain groups, from today’s figure of sixteen in one hundred adults to twelve in one hundred,  and from  eight in one hundred young people who smoke to three in one hundred.  Cox also welcomed the government’s commitment to tackle the health inequalities caused by smoking.

The plan aims to reduce smoking levels in pregnant women to six in one hundred from around eleven in one hundred.  For the first time  the government has also set out priorities for reducing smoking in people with mental health conditions.


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