This section will carry current news briefs on topics of interest to community practitioners. The information will be posted in the public area of the site in the first instance, and the service piloted for three months.
The news briefs will contain information from journals, key organisations, media and other relevant sources with links for more detailed information.
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Improved meningitis vaccine under development
A new vaccine against meningitis A, which is more effective and cheaper to produce, may be available within four years. Early indications suggest the new vaccine can provide long-term protection against the disease, and experts at the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) plan to start clinical trials within the next year.
While meningitis A is generally very rare in the UK, other parts of the world have seen high numbers of casualties due to the illness. In sub-Saharan Africa the spread of the disease has reached epidemic proportions.
Dr F. Marc LaForce, MVP director, commented to the BBC: 'Clinical trials for the new vaccine could start as early as 2004 and the new vaccine could be ready for wide use […] within the next four to five years. Our goal is to eliminate epidemic meningitis as a public health problem.
Confusion surrounds new GP contract
Government proposals to modernise the working practises of GPs are in disarray, as doctors expressed doubts over the new contract. Senior members of the British Medical Association (BMA) abandoned a nationwide ballot involving 35,0000 GPs yesterday as it became clear many doctors did not support the settlement.
The arrangments, under deliberation for two years, are desigined to rqdically alter the way primary care services are delivered in the UK. GPs pay will be linked to the quality of treatment given but many doctors believe they would be worse off even if ghihg scores on performance indicators were achieved.
Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA;s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) stated: 'The intention of the new contract is to reward practices that offer a quality service to their patients, not to penalise them. Clearly, the GPC caanot support funding arrangements that threaten to undermine the viability of practices. 'We have decided to suspend the ballot on the acceptability of the contract temporarily, until we have analysed the nature and sixe of the problem and can put forward solutions, 'Dr Chisholm concluded.
The slow progress has attracted criticism from some charities and professional organisations. A spokesman at Barnado's argued today: 'Since last year the government has only taken a further 100,000 children out of poverty and cannot at this rate eradicate child poverty within a generation. Child poverty is still higher in Britain than in any other country in the European Union and this situation is untenable in an affluent country.
Alissa Goodman from the Institute for Fiscal Studies told the Guardian: 'The government is less than half way to meeting its target, and is now further behind schedule than it was a year ago.
Originating in Asia, the virus arrived in Europe yesterday when a passenger travelling from New York to Frankfurt was rushed to hospital exhibiting symptoms of the SARS infection. It has claimed nine lives already and over 150 cases have been reported worldwide.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO director general, commented: 'This syndrome, SARS, is now a worldwide health threat. The world needs to work together to find its cause, cure the sick, and stop its spread.
Eye Health scheme proves a success
Families of ethnic origins, people with a heating impairment or sight in only one eye and those who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa are amongst those who are deemed more likely to develop symptoms of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes and other eye-related diseases.
Jane Hutt commented: 'Up to one thousand six hundred people in Wales had taken advantage of this ground-breaking scheme by the end of December last year. Of these more than three hundred people were referred on to an eye hospital. This clearly shows that the scheme is successful in picking up potential eye health problems in vulnerable groups.'