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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Childhood obesity – prevention is better than cure

I fully support this article by Sustrans Cymru.

To maintain good health and keep obesity at bay and other serious illnesses in later life, it is recommended that children have at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day, such as brisk walking, running, or cycling. But, research suggests that currently only around half of seven to 11 year olds manage to do this. So it's essential to get kids moving. And the journey to and from school is the perfect place to start. We know that, particularly in deprived areas, many parents are scared to let their children go outside because the roads are so busy. That is why we are in favour of 20mph zones in urban areas, and specifically around schools in Wales.

The number of children travelling to school by car has doubled over the last 20 years. Getting youngsters into the habit of cycling to school has obvious environmental benefits, and of course, helps with the fight against childhood obesity too. That’s why the Bike It project being trialled in three areas in Wales is such a good idea. It helps to establish cycling to school as part of a routine, not a one-off occurrence.

There is no precise figure of how much obesity costs the NHS, but every year the health service spends at least £2 billion on treating ill health caused by poor diet. Estimates indicate that, if current trends continue, at least one fifth of boys and one third of girls will be obese by 2020. Therefore the cost to the health service is likely to increase unless measures are put in place to halt this growing problem.

We need now, more than ever, to be focussing on preventing childhood obesity. We know that parents want to do the best for their children and getting them out of the car more is certainly one way of doing so.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Revalidation in Wales

Just to make you aware of a revalidation event which BMA Cymru Wales is organising, to be held in Cardiff on October 21st 2009.

Chairman of the General Medical Council, Professor Peter Rubin will be speaking at the event and wants to hear doctors' views about how revalidation should be implemented in Wales.

This event is open to ALL doctors (whether a BMA member or not)in Wales.

If you would like to attend please email BMA Cymru Wales CEO Sarah Miller -

It would be good to get as many doctors there as possible, to get a wide range of views.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Chairman of Welsh Council Invites Questions

The Welsh Secretary’s blog is part of a wide range of social media initiatives to ensure communication with our members is as accessible and wide-ranging as possible.

While trying to keep our members and anyone else who reads this blog up to date with current activities, hot topics and general policy position of BMA Cymru Wales, it is also an opportunity for YOU to put questions to the BMA.

Our Chairman of Welsh Council, Andrew Dearden, is particularly keen to receive feedback or questions from our members, whether it concerns junior doctor issues, our Option 7 Campaign, EWTD, etc. So if you have any questions for Andrew please post them here. In fact, if you have questions for any of the Chairs of our committees (GPs, Consultants, Public Health, Medical Students etc) I know they would be delighted to hear form you.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Local authority continues to put profit before health

I have some serious concerns to share on here about the conduct of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, in particular, the way in which it appears to be dragging its feet over the removal of sunbeds in three of its leisure centres across the county.

Back in May, a Vale Scrutiny Committee recommended in a report to the Cabinet that the sunbeds should be removed. The Council have met three times since then and, in what can only be described as a “reckless failure to uphold their duty of care to the local population,” each time they have failed to consider the issue or take action.

The sunbeds are making a profit of around £15,000 a year for the Vale Council.

Now that the authority is in recess over the summer it will be September, at the earliest, that the recommendation to remove them can be put back on the agenda.

It is a step in the right direction that the dangers of using sunbeds have been recognised by the Scrutiny Committee, but it is difficult to see why the council have not yet taken action. I sincerely hope it simply isn't down to the finance the sunbeds generate. Surely local authorities have a duty of care to the people they represent and a duty to promote public health don’t they?

The Vale is not the only Council to have sunbeds in its leisure centres – Wrexham and Flintshire also do and we have called on them to take action too. Leisure centres, especially those owned by local authorities, should be places where people go for healthy exercise and recreation. Local Authorities should be leading on health protection. It’s absurd that sunbeds are even there. Just one session a month will double the average individual's annual dose of ultraviolet radiation and it’s well known that this increases the risk of cancer, skin and eye problems in later life.

The BMA has been a strong advocate for increasing community access to local leisure facilities and playing fields and has called for increased provision and investment to secure their future.

If leisure centres wish to diversify the facilities on offer, this should not be to the detriment of health and well-being. For instance, the beauty studio at Penarth Leisure Centre should offer fake tan sprays rather than the two sunbeds it currently hosts.

BMA Cymru Wales has campaigned for the tanning industry to be regulated for many years and when we give evidence to National Assembly’s Health Committee next month this is exactly what we’ll be calling for. Across the board we’ll be asking for tough action on sunbeds - including unmanned and coin-operated ones.

In the meantime we are calling on the Vale, and other Councils to act responsibly on behalf of the people they represent by removing the sunbeds at the earliest opportunity.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Juniors affected by exams mix up need our support

This really is an awful situation that these four young people are currently faced with and it’s very difficult to imagine how they must be feeling right now. That’s why BMA Cymru Wales will be doing everything possible to offer as much help and support as we can to get them through this.

Rest assured too, we will be seeking answers as to how such a fundamental error occurred and what changes will be made to make sure such serious mistakes are not repeated. However, at this moment in time, the key focus of our efforts is to ensure that those involved receive all the support we can provide.

Don’t delay in getting children protected against measles

I couldn’t agree more with this Western Mail article and the need to make sure children have been vaccinated against measles before the start of the new school year in Wales, in a few weeks time.

It’s only two counties in Wales which aren’t affected by measles, and with around 45,000 youngsters currently unprotected, this outbreak is only likely to get worse when schools go back after the summer holidays.

I have blogged on here before about the need for children to be vaccinated, particularly those who’re school-age and how damaging the unfounded allegations about the MMR jab from several years ago were, with the effects still it seems being felt today. So I think the need for a concerted drive to increase public awareness about the common misconceptions associated with the MMR jab has never been greater, as September approaches.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

EWTD highlights the growing need for BMA Cymru Wales’ Option 7 Campaign

This Sunday Times article just goes to show how important and timely BMA Cymru Wales’ Option 7 Campaign is. Although this article refers to Scotland, the situation is more than likely being replicated in other parts of the UK. The Option 7 Campaign (named after the option on the BMA hotline) was originally set up because we were hearing of instances of intimidation/harassment/bullying of junior doctors before the introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) and chances are this has just exacerbated things. EWTD stipulates that juniors must not work more than 48 hours a week, but there are of course easy ways to get around this legislation, such as juniors being told to under report the amount of hours they are clocking up in any given week.

The European Commission must do more than “threaten” to investigate these allegations highlighted in The Sunday Times, it has a duty to do so, for the safety of both patients and NHS staff.

Junior doctors in Wales can also report their concerns to the BMA and they don’t need be a member to do so. Any information given will be kept completely confidential. Help us to help juniors by ringing the BMA on 0300 123 123 3 and select option seven.

Show your support for the Option 7 Campaign on facebook too, by joining one of our groups, follow the links below.

BMA Cymru Wales Option 7 Campaign facebook group

BMA Cymru Wales Option 7 Campaign Supporters of junior doctors facebook group

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

More warnings over health risks linked to alcohol

Health warnings in the news again concerning alcohol, but this is one that is perhaps not so well known. How many of us actually realised that drink could be linked to oral cancers? Cigarettes - definitely. But alcohol? It’s usually liver disease that is seen as being the number one health problem associated with alcohol, so could that soon be superceded?

It seems this is yet another reason for why drink should be consumed in moderation and to not accept the “binge drinking” culture that is so much the norm in the UK. This report from Cancer Research UK highlights that about three-quarters of oral cancers are thought to be caused by drinking alcohol and smoking.

The BMA has often outlined how doctors witness the devastation of alcohol on patients and the crippling effect it has on the NHS. So what price could we all soon be paying for the treatment of this huge increase in conditions like mouth cancer?

Just last month we repeated our calls at the BMA’s annual conference to have a minimum price for a unit of alcohol introduced by the UK government, partly because of the increased burden of alcohol-related diseases and complications on our nation’s health.

All the following points were agreed upon by members in July.


ii) believe that a minimum pricing strategy would not unduly disadvantage responsible alcohol consumers;
iii) call for all alcoholic beverages to have clearer labelling indicating alcoholic content and unit value;
iv) call on the BMA to lobby government for a total ban on alcohol advertising in the media;
v) demand that revenue obtained from increased prices should be used for the prevention of alcohol misuse and the rehabilitation of alcohol abusers.

And reports like this one today just add more ammunition to our fight.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Tamiflu isn’t a wonder drug

This piece of BMJ research certainly grabbed the attention of the media yesterday. Though at the moment, anything to do with flu seems to get picked up on and linked to swine flu in some way.

As the research itself actually details “it is difficult to know the extent to which the findings can be generalised to children in the current swine flu pandemic but, based on current evidence, the effects of antivirals on reducing the course of illness or preventing complications might be limited.”

This is not to say that all children should not be given anitvirals like tamiflu. What perhaps we need to bear in mind is that we are learning more about antivirals, the more we use them. And while we know they are safe, we also know that vomiting and diarrhoea can occur in some children and adults who take them.

GPs have always said that doctors need to balance the risk of major complications from swine flu and the risks of side-effects from antivirals.

The more we learn about these drugs the more we will know how to treat patients with the most up-to-date clinical evidence. Tamiflu has a place in dealing with and containing the spread of swine flu, but it’s not a “cure all”.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Boxing bouts are not what youngsters need

This Daily Mail article made for uncomfortable weekend reading.

The BMA supports sports and hobbies aimed at improving children’s wellbeing and fitness, but not to the detriment of their long term health, which boxing can cause, such as potential brain damage.

It seems that it’s only schools in England who are looking at competing in these first inter-school boxing tournaments, which haven’t been around since the 1960s. Surely that’s where they should remain.

The BMA has campaigned for a ban on boxing since 1982 due to the physical dangers and harm it can cause. It can lead to brain damage, acute brain haemorrhage and eye, ear and nose damage. There is evidence that boxing not only causes acute brain injury but also chronic brain damage, which is sustained over a long period of time by those who survive a career in boxing. It may take many years before boxers and ex-boxers find out they are suffering from brain damage.

In 2005 the World Medical Association [WMA] stated that “Boxing is a dangerous sport. Unlike most other sports, its basic intent is to produce bodily harm in the opponent. Boxing can result in death and produce an alarming incidence of chronic brain injury. For this reason, the WMA recommends that boxing be banned.”

The re-introduction of boxing for youngsters leads to a bigger and more serious question for us as a society when, on the one hand, we’ve got repeated examples of young people attacking others on the streets and kicking them to death, which we seem to hear about far too often. It is then made difficult to explain to these youngsters who indulge in that kind of behaviour that they shouldn’t, when on the television they see adults punching each other, until one of them is knocked to the floor. It’s not really setting the best example now is it?

‘Boxing, an update from the Board of Science’ – the full report can be found on the BMA website at :

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Action not words now needed on organ donation

Around 30* people will have died in Wales in the last year, waiting for a transplant on the organ donor register.

That's why BMA Cmyru Wales is calling for action to be taken by the Welsh Assembly Government with regard to possible changes to the organ donation system.

It’s also a year since the Assembly’s Health Committee rejected any ideas to change the organ donation system in Wales.

This led to the Welsh Assembly Government’s wider consultation on the matter, which has just closed.

We submitted a response to this consultation, reiterating calls for a “soft” system of presumed consent to be introduced and to do so sooner rather than later, before more lives are lost.

There are several reasons why the BMA believes that such a system would produce a far higher potential donor rate than at present and in turn, save more lives.

The main difficulty with the current system is that where, as in the majority of cases, relatives do not know what their loved ones wishes are, they frequently, and understandably, opt for the default position, which is not to donate. This would be addressed by the introduction of an opt-out system where the default position would change in favour of donation. We recognise this is a subject many people hold strong views about and as such, those who do not want to donate their organs will sign up to opt out.

The number of people on the organ donor register has doubled since 2001, from 8 million to more than 16 million. But the gap between the number of organs available and those needed continues to grow, with around 1,000 people dying each year in the UK waiting for an organ.

Presuming consent rather than presuming objection is also more likely to achieve the aim of respecting the wishes of the deceased person. Given the very high level of support for organ donation expressed in repeated surveys (up to 90%) it is reasonable to presume that those who die without making their views known are in the majority who want to donate, rather than the minority who do not. With such a shift towards making donation the default position this reflects a positive view of donation, demonstrating the very strong support for it within society. Therefore, over time donation would come to be seen as the norm, rather than the exception.

Added to this is the fact that there is significant and growing public and professional support for such a shift. Recent public opinion polls show around 60-70% support for a shift to an opt-out system of consent for organ donation. This is consistent with the views found in the Assembly’s own public engagement exercise.

The time really has come, before more people die waiting in vain, the Welsh Assembly Government needs to stop procrastinating and seek an LCO (Legislative Competence Order) from Westminster to bring in a soft system of presumed consent.

*The figure of 30 people dying in the past year in Wales is based on 150 people dying in Wales waiting on the organ donor register in the last 5 years.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

New Option 7 Campaign facebook group - for supporters of junior doctors

In addition to the last bog post, unveiling the launch of BMA Cymru Wales' Option 7 Campaign, we have now set up an additional facebook group, for friends/ colleagues/ family members of junior doctors in Wales to show their support for the cause.

Join the BMA Cymru Wales Option 7 Campaign - supporters of junior doctors facebook group and post your message of support too.

And thanks to everyone who has already joined the group(s) and are supporting our campaign!