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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

BMA Cymru Wales supports the call for a ban on smoking in cars carrying children

You may have read this article in the news today.

BMA Cymru Wales fully supports the call for a ban on smoking in cars carrying children.

Anything that can be done to reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and ill-health as a result of smoking must be given serious consideration.

Exposure of non-smokers to second hand smoke - known as passive smoking, consists primarily of non-inhaled sidestream smoke, together with exhaled smoke.

Almost 85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless gases. Only the particulate matter, in the form of smoke, is visible. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4000 toxins, including over 50 that are known to cause cancer.

Passive smoking causes illness, including fatal illness. It also worsens existing health problems.

Smoking affects many parts of the body which are listed below – in the hope that any smokers reading this will seriously consider kicking the habit!

Smoking attacks the brain. The chemicals in smoke cause the lining of the arteries in the brain to become porous which allows cholesterol, white cells and blood clots to stick to them. Clogging arteries which supply blood to the brain leaves smokers at risk of a stroke.

Passive smoking is associated with a variety of health problems in children. It increases the prevalence of lower respiratory tract illness such as pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, coughing and wheezing. Second-hand smoke can also cause asthma in children. It also exacerbates the condition in those who are already affected. Passive smoking is also associated with cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Smoking damages the eyes because it reduces the levels of plasma antioxidant – a substance in the bloodstream which protects retinal cells.

Smoking affects the nose. Smoking irritates the delicate membranes of the respiratory tract – including those inside the nose.

Smoking affects the mouth. The use of tobacco is connected to 90 per cent of oral cancers, including lip, tongue and palate. Many of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke are carcinogenic, and therefore, when the tissues of the mouth are bathed in toxic substances, this can lead to oral cancer.

Smoking affects the skin. Every in inhalation creates thousands of wrinkle-forming free radicals which attack collagen, cell membranes and the skin’s fatty layer. It is also thought that smoking impairs blood flow and lowers levels of Vitamin A which is vital for healthy skin, growth, so producing a dull, dry complexion.

Smoking affects the throat. The toxic content of smoke damages the delicate membranes of the larynx, making the smoker prone to laryngitis and in more severe cases – cancer of the larynx.

Smoking affects the lungs. Lungs are so vulnerable to damage because the tar that forms from burning tobacco and clogging the cillia – tiny hairs that protect the lungs from dirt and infection settles in them, damaging the surfaces.

Smoking damages the stomach. Chronic cigarette smoke may increase the amount of acid secreted by the stomach causing peptic ulcers – lesions in the lining of the stomach. Smoking is also linked to Crohn’s disease – an inflammation deep in the lining of the intestine.

Smoking affects the heart. Tobacco smoke produces carbon monoxide – a highly poisonous gas which combines with haemoglobin in the blood and makes breathing difficult. This reduces the body’s ability to carry oxygen – putting the heart under strain. Smokers also have a higher risk of hardening and narrowing of the arteries which can cause a wide range of cardiovascular problems.

Smoking affects the bones. Female smokers face an increased risk of developing osteoporosis – a condition that reduces bone substance and results in fragile bones that are liable to fracture.

We have a collective responsibility in society to protect children from the harms of second hand smoke. It is vital that we de-normalise the deadly habit and try to prevent the onset of smoking in young people.

What do you think of the call to ban smoking in cars carrying children? Join the debate and leave a comment.

Monday, 22 March 2010

400 doctors short in Wales

The BBC have reported today that Wales is short of almost 400 doctors.

These problems come as no surprise to us at the BMA, having predicted that these shortages would happen at some point.

For some time now we have been trying to meet with representatives from the WAG, to see how we can work together, drawing on the experience of front line doctors, especially juniors, to look for some solutions to the situation.

The levels of a lack of middle grade and junior doctors right across Wales is clearly unacceptable to both our members and people needing hospital treatment and this does not look like changing in the immediate future. The Health Minister should treat this situation with urgency.

The high level of middle grade and junior doctor vacancies means that consultants are left picking up the pieces where there are gaps in rotas.

This is compromising consultants’ ability to deliver routine daily work, and there is no evidence that hospitals are adjusting services to take these shortfalls into account.

Without doubt, the rates of work being undertaken cannot be sustained with the current levels of staffing. Hospital managers must address this now, working with clinical colleagues.

The idea for our latest campaign "We'll Keep a Welcome", which aims to attract Welsh students who have left the country to study medicine to return to Wales to train as doctors, came about in an effort to tackle the problem of the severe shortage of doctors in Wales.

The safety of both NHS staff and patients is key, and we will need sustainable solutions for the future if NHS Wales is to deliver and maintain the quality and capacity of services that the people of Wales deserve.

Friday, 12 March 2010

GMC consultation on the revalidation of doctors

The GMC is consulting on its plans for the revalidation of doctors.

We asked Niall Dickson, the new Chief Executive of the GMC a few questions about the consultation when he visited Cardiff this week.

Take a look here:

To have your say or to find out more, please visit

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Welsh Medical Students Committee Update

An update from Tom Combellack, Chair of the BMA Welsh Medical Students Committee.

The past three months have been very productive for the BMA Welsh medical students committee.

We have been focusing on finance, medical education, welfare and administration, as well as developing topics for debate at next month’s BMA annual medical students conference.

And we have successfully established a good working relationship with the new dean of medicine at Cardiff. At our regular meetings, it is clear that our opinions are being listened to and that our suggestions have been followed up and acted upon by the medical school.

These include having a clearer administrative structure, improving communication, addressing teaching inconsistency across Wales, and highlighting the importance of internet access for students on placements.

Throughout our exchanges the dean has been explicit about the issues leading to last year’s examination problems and the changes that have been made to ensure such a scenario does not happen again.

We are actively feeding into the Welsh healthcare funding review, and are working closely with the key stakeholders to ensure that medical students are not taken for granted and that any myths about medical student finances are dispelled.

The MSC’s Need for Change report on medical student finance and results from the focus groups for the English NHS bursary consultation have been instrumental in sending a clear message about our plight.

Medical student placements are currently financed through a funding stream known as the service increment for teaching. This helps the NHS meet the extra costs associated with teaching medical students. The WMSC believes it lacks accountability, and we intend to push for a more transparent system. In 2006, we used the Freedom of Information Act to ask trusts in Wales how the money was spent. Their answers showed it was not always spent the way it should be. We have now asked the same question. We will compare the results, and that analysis will influence our policy.

WMSC vice-chair Rob Seal, has been developing a finance questionnaire for graduate students.

Financially, these students form a very vulnerable group, and the results of the questionnaire will also shape our future work.

If you would like to raise any issues or enquire about our work, then please contact us via Lynn Steer by emailing

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Wales could lead the way…..

Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams has laid an early day motion backing Wales’ decision to explore moving to a system of presumed consent. It says:

“That this House welcomes the announcement by the Welsh Assembly Government that Wales will move to a system of presumed consent, based on a soft opt-out system for organ donation; congratulates the patients and organisations, led by the Kidney Wales Foundation, on persuading the Welsh Assembly Government to take this step; recognises the overwhelming public support for such a move; and, following a free vote in the National Assembly for Wales, looks forward to supporting that move in this House, alongside a strengthened infrastructure to support the change.”

View the signatories here

This EDM has good cross-party support, and I hope to see more signatures added to the list over the next few weeks.

I’m glad that the Welsh Assembly Government are willing to take the lead, and send a clear message to the rest of the UK that a 'soft' system of presumed consent would increase donation rates and save Welsh lives.

BMA Cymru Wales believe that moving to a system of presumed consent, where it is assumed that people are willing to donate their organs after death unless they opt out, combined with other reforms to the transplant infrastructure, would play an important part in improving the organ donation system so that more lives can be saved.

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 fact is, that people are dying while waiting for an organ transplant. It is vital therefore, that we increase the number of donors available, and we believe that a system of presumed consent with safeguards will do this.

A shift towards making donation the default position would reflect a positive view of donation, demonstrating the very strong support for it within society today. Therefore, over time donation would come to be seen as the norm, rather than the exception.

BMA Cymru Wales want what's best for patients, and ensuring a supply of organs that will meet current and growing demand must remain our ultimate goal.

Monday, 1 March 2010

We’ll Keep a Welcome/Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad

Today we are launching a new campaign "We'll Keep a Welcome" to attract Welsh students who have left the country to study medicine, to return to Wales to train as doctors.

We felt that St. David’s day was the perfect day for our launch.

BMA Cymru Wales will be contacting all schools in Wales to reach out to those prospective medical students before they leave for university.

All students will be sent packs which will include letters from me, as well as from Welsh postgraduate dean Derek Gallen, along with information about training in Wales and posters to put up in medical schools.

The idea for the campaign came about in an effort to tackle the problem of the severe shortage of junior, staff-grade and associate specialist doctors in Wales.

We have a facebook group to accompany the campaign, which is a great resource for keeping in touch and receiving news on what’s going on in Wales - until it’s time for those students to come home.

Here is the link to our facebook group - join it and spread the word!