Wednesday, April 08, 2009

‘NHS culture and lack of cash delay stem-cell hopes’

The promise of stem-cell research to deliver new therapies for conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, heart disease and paralysis is being held back by funding problems and the NHS’s institutional culture, a report suggests. Although British academic stem-cell science is internationally competitive, a lack of commercial investment and NHS support is hindering its potential to help patients and create profits, scientists at the University of Nottingham have said.

Paul Martin, of its Institute of Science and Society, who led the research, said: “While the Government has identified regenerative medicine as a national priority and the US has lifted its ban on stem-cell therapy, urgent public policy action is needed if it is to become a reality.” His report, co-authored by Emma Rowley, is published as scientists gather in Oxford today for the UK Stem Cell Network’s annual conference, organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Desperate Australian mothers turn to home births

Meltdown of public hospital obstetrics in NSW. Sounds a lot like Britain

MIDWIVES in New South Wales public hospitals are supervising the labour of up to three women simultaneously because staff numbers have not kept up with the nation's baby boom. Overcrowding, lack of birth options and the closure of many rural obstetric services is forcing women into home births.

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday at least four babies had died during home births in the last nine months and another four suffered possible brain damage. One of those babies was born without the assistance of a doctor or a midwife in contravention of NSW policy which requires two midwives to be present at a home birth.

The Australian College of Midwives said chronic understaffing had turned maternity departments into factories where women were left alone in labour as midwives ran between birthing suites. The overcrowding and inability to constantly monitor women giving birth has increased the intervention and caesarean rate, spokeswoman for the college Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen said. Thirty one per cent of babies in Australia were delivered by caesarean compared to the OECD average of 22 per cent. In private hospitals the rate is 41 per cent.

The college said the factory-like treatment of women in labour was one reason they were turning to home births. Clinical director of women's health at Westmead Hospital Dr Andrew Pesce said pregnant women must get continuity of care from the same doctor or midwife through pregnancy. This option was available to just 3 per cent of pregnant women in NSW.

Meanwhile, crucial maternity services are being cut across regional NSW forcing expectant mothers to choose alternative birthing methods including home births.

Heavily pregnant women are being forced to travel up to two hours for antenatal care or for birth as many services have either being downgraded or have closed their doors across the state. There are plans to cut four midwife positions at Port Macquarie while antenatal classes could be axed at Kempsey after more than 20 years under a staffing review of the North Coast Area Health Service.

On the Far South Coast, Pambula Hospital is closing its maternity service and merging with Bega, which had caused community anger. In the Southern Highlands, there are plans to downgrade maternity services at Bowral Hospital. Blue Mountains Hospital is constantly opening and closing because it cannot get an obstetric anaesthetist.


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