Friday, September 07, 2007

Britain launches global healthcare plan for poor countries

Talk about the blind leading the blind!

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched an international initiative, which aims to improve healthcare and sweep away killer diseases in some of the world's poorest countries. The International Health Partnership (IHP) is bidding to help developing countries make better use of foreign aid by cutting bureaucracy and building stronger national healthcare systems. "We could be the generation that is able to say that we conquered these diseases and that, I think, places a moral duty on us to work together," Mr Brown told a press conference at his Downing Street office. "There is no greater cause than that every child in the world should be given the benefit of healthcare - that a life free from the scourge of preventable disease, a gift that was perhaps unimaginable even 10 years ago, is a gift that today can be achieved and would enrich us all."

Mr Brown said that his ultimate goal was to wipe out diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio, tuberculosis and measles. The IHP brings together bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the governments of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. It is being launched to give new impetus to efforts to meet United Nations Millennium Development Goals on issues like child mortality and the number of mothers dying in childhood.

In July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the international community was "seriously off-track" on some of the goals, which were set in 2000 and are due to be met in 2015. The first wave of developing countries which will hook up with the IHP includes Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Cambodia and Nepal. But Mr Brown said he expected other nations, both donors and developing countries, will get involved as the IHP evolves.

Officials say that over the next couple of years, the first seven countries will identify particular problems in their national health care systems before working with international partners to address them. The developing countries have committed to prioritising healthcare issues, while the donor countries have pledged to work together more - freeing up resources to fight diseases by slashing red tape - as well as providing more long-term and predictable funding.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenburg, who worked with Mr Brown on the plan, illustrated the need for more coordination between donor countries. "There are so many different countries, so many different donors, so many different UN agencies, so many different NGOs working in the same countries with the same issues but without any coordination," he said. "So it is a big problem that in many developing countries, they have to do a lot of bureaucratic work."

The project does not involve new funding, but the British Government disputes claims that this could limit its impact, saying that global aid for health has doubled since 2000. "This is about making what we do more effective, adding up to greater than the sum of its parts... It's about getting a bigger bang for your buck," a senior British Government source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Oxfam director Barbara Stocking welcomed the launch of the IHP, but said it needed extra cash to achieve its goals. "This initiative will only succeed if enough countries get behind it and if it mobilises additional aid to provide coordinated and expanded state health provision," she said. Major economies including the United States and Japan have not signed up for the IHP.


Negligent cancer screening in the NHS

A patient who found out that she had breast cancer after she was allegedly given the all-clear by a consultant told a medical disciplinary hearing that she did not want other women to suffer the same fate. Jane Andrews, from Winchester, was giving evidence at a General Medical Council hearing in Manchester yesterday into allegations that Lan Keng Lun failed to carry out breast screening assessments to the required standards at the Epping NHS Breast Screening Service at St Margaret’s Hospital.

It is alleged that eight other patients were affected by below-standard screenings at the service run by The Princess Alexandra NHS Trust. Dr Lan had been the consultant radiologist at the service since April 1998 and director of breast screening since March 2003. The hearing was told that Ms Andrews was recalled to the service after a mammogram on March 10, 2003, revealed issues, such as an abnormal lymph node, that needed further assessment. She was seen by Dr Lan on March 26, when he examined her breasts clinically and by ultrasound scan, but is alleged to have failed to take an ultrasound image of the abnormal lymph node. Ms Andrews told the hearing that Dr Lan said she had three cysts that had all yielded aspirate. However, in a letter to Ms Andrews’s GP, Dr Lan said that only two of three cysts yielded aspirate and there was a definite lump felt in the outer part of the left breast, which he claims he told her to keep an eye on.

Ms Andrews, who is in her late 50s, said Dr Lan suggested that she return after three years but advised her to continue to check her breasts in that time. She said: “As far as I was concerned the clinical outcome was satisfactory for both of us, I didn’t have any doubts I had healthy breasts.” But months later Ms Andrews felt an ache under her arm when moving furniture and discovered the lump a short time afterwards, which was diagnosed as cancer. She claims that an earlier diagnosis could have increased her chances of survival.


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