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Health news weekly: from energy bill prescriptions to hugging grandparents

November 25, 2022

We know it can be difficult and time-consuming to wade through all the news about healthcare (much of it doom and gloom) which is why we’re here to keep you up to date with all the latest news, discoveries and innovations in our weekly round-up:

Weekly Living Room Health News Hugging Grandparent

Patients being prescribed heating for conditions affected by cold

A new trial scheme called the Warm Home Prescription is seeing doctors prescribing heating to patients with conditions made worse by the cold. The scheme works by paying the energy bills of eligible low income patients, thereby avoiding the cost of hospital care if their condition worsens.

The pilot scheme achieved strong results for 28 initial patients, and is now being expanded to a further 1,150 homes. Cold homes are estimated to cause 10,000 deaths every year, while costing the NHS £860m a year in treatment for conditions affected by low temperatures – but these figures come from research completed prior to the cost of living crisis, which is likely to make the impact of the cold on patients and the NHS even more severe.

New life-extending treatment for oesophagus cancer on NHS

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of Nivolumab, a drug used to treat rare forms of gastroesophageal (throat and stomach) cancer. The new guidelines mean 3000 people in the UK will be eligible for the treatment.

The drug – also known as Opdivo – is a targeted immunotherapy that has been formulated to recognise and attach itself to a particular protein that can shut down the body’s immune system. In doing so, clinical trials have shown that the number of people achieving long-term remission could increase from 4 per cent to 8 per cent.

New study: no need to wait six months to try for baby after pregnancy loss

Until now, World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance has suggested that women should wait at least six months to try for another baby after a miscarriage or abortion. The research also goes against WHO guidance that women should wait at least two years after a live birth before becoming pregnant again.

Researchers from the Curtin School of Population Health in Perth, Australia, looked at data from 49,058 births after miscarriage and 23,707 births following abortion in Norway between 2008-2016. Their findings suggest that women could attempt pregnancy “soon after” after a previous miscarriage or abortion without a significantly elevated risk of preterm birth, having a baby that was small or large for its gestational age, or the mother developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

Alzheimer’s drug that could slow cognitive decline to be made available

A breakthrough Alzheimer’s drug that studies have shown to slow cognitive decline and reduce the plaque associated with dementia could be made available as early as 2023.

Lecanemab is a drug designed to target and clear amyloid – a protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients – and researchers found that it successfully reduced symptom progression by 27% over an 18 month period.

Picking up grandchildren from school can improve mental health, study finds

Research suggests that grandparents who pick up their grandchildren from schools or take them to playgroups could feel mentally improved by staving off feelings of loneliness.

The study, carried out at King’s College London, reviewed 28 previous studies involving 191,652 over-50s in 21 countries, one of which found that adults aged over 60 years who spent on average 12  hours each week looking after grandchildren were 60% less likely to feel lonely than those who don’t. By contrast, those who looked after a spouse with an illness or disability were found to be more prone to loneliness.

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