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BBC Radio 4 - Medical Matters

Inside Health

Dr Mark Porter demystifies health issues, separating fact from fiction and bringing clarity to conflicting health advice, with the help of regular contributor GP Margaret McCartney

Inside Health

  • Social prescribing, Topical steroid withdrawal, Pulmonary arterial hypertension
    Every GP surgery should provide access to a dedicated social prescriber, according to the Royal College of GPs. Supporting peoples' non-medical needs - including housing, finance and social care - will, it is hoped, free up GP time for urgent medical care and at the same time, provide much-needed access to activities in the community. Arabella describes how social prescribing worked for her. A support worker helped her to join a choir, sort out finances and plan how to return to work after a period of serious illness. Dr Marie Polley, senior lecturer in health sciences at the University of Westminster and co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network (with Dr Michael Dixon) tells Dr Mark Porter that social prescribing will be embedded within medical and social care in the next decade as long as the voluntary sector is supported. Steroid cream and ointments - like hydrocortisone, clobetasone and betamethasone - are used to treat a number of skin problems. But for some patients long-term topical steroid use can lead to painful, disfiguring and debilitating skin flare-ups. Some call this condition topical steroid addiction. But consultant dermatologist Dr Tony Bewley from Bart's Health in London tells Mark that health care professionals prefer the term topical steroid withdrawal syndrome. He sees the condition fairly often in his clinic and reassures sufferers that there is treatment available. We're used to having our blood pressure checked using a cuff on our arms but we can also have high blood pressure in our lungs. Pulmonary hypertension tends to put our hearts under strain and causes breathlessness. It can be caused by a range of diseases but in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) the raised pressure is due to constriction of the blood vessels. This narrowing of the arteries makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood through the lungs, leading to breathlessness. Inside Health's Dr Margaret McCartney visits the Scottish national specialist centre for the disease at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow's Clydebank. She talks to Lorraine who is living with the disease, to pulmonary vascular consultant Dr Colin Church and watches a team led by Dr Martin Johnson performing right heart catheterisation, the gold standard diagnostic test for the disease. Producer: Fiona Hill.

  • Aspirin, Stroke, Best Interests, Lasting Power of Attorney, Bawa Garba
    If you are taking low dose aspirin - typically 75 mg day - to protect against heart attack or stroke and you haven't been weighed then there is a good chance you are on the wrong dose. And from prevention to treatment; a new way of managing the most common form of stroke by grabbing the blockage in the brain and pulling it out. Charlotte Smith tells her story of a remarkable recovery from the procedure whilst she was pregnant with her second child. Plus a continuation of our guide to the help available when people lose the capacity to make decisions about their care. This week Mark Porter explains Best Interest Decisions and Lasting Power of Attorney. And GP Dr Margaret McCartney reflects on the Hadiza Bawa Garba case.

  • Running, cycling and knee health, Adrenaline and cardiac arrest, Artificial eyes
    Does running damage your knees? And is cycling any better? Runner, cyclist, GP and Inside Health regular, Dr Margaret McCartney goes to the new Motion Analysis Lab at Glasgow's Jubilee Hospital and asks orthopaedic surgeon and competitive cyclist Jason Roberts about the latest evidence. Around 30,000 people a year suffer cardiac arrest - their heart suddenly stops pumping blood around their body - and fewer than one in ten survive. Paramedics and ambulance crews will give CPR and use a defibrillator to try to restart the heart, and for the past 50 plus years, most patients will be given a shot of adrenaline too. But a landmark new study funded by the government and run by Warwick Medical School reveals that giving adrenaline barely increases survival and almost doubles the risk of severe brain damage. Dr Margaret McCartney discusses likely changes to policy with Dr Mark Porter. It's said that eyes are the windows to the soul - and certainly looking into other peoples' is the key part of human interaction. But what if one of yours isn't real? Sixty thousand people in the UK have an artificial eye and Europe's largest maxillo-facial laboratory at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead offers a bespoke service where specialists make individual eyes from live sittings. Susan lost one eye as a child and she tells Mark that her latest prosthesis is her favourite. Why? Because it's almost half the weight of eyes she's had fitted before. Dr Emma Worrall, principal prosthetist, has invented a lighter sphere. In a lightbulb moment sitting in a café stirring a sugar cube into her coffee and watching it melt, Emma tells Mark that she realised she could build the plastic sphere around sugar, drill a tiny hole, then melt the sugar out of the middle! Twenty patients at the hospital are now benefiting from lighter eyes (which means less surgery). And there's another plus. The new eyes float in the swimming pool and the sea! Producer: Fiona Hill.

  • Weaning Babies, Seeing the Same Doctor Saves Lives, NHS Research, Mental Capacity
    The relationship between when babies are weaned and the amount of time they sleep has hit the headlines after a new study has been published. Now UNICEF has got involved. Margaret McCartney reviews the evidence. Also proof that seeing the same GP saves lives. Mark Porter meets the man behind new research on mortality and continuity of care, Sir Denis Pereira Gray, who also works in the same GP surgery as his father and grandfather did. And a guide to Mental Capacity, an issue that touches many people but is increasingly pressing as more families manage elderly relatives living with dementia. Plus research and the NHS charter.

  • Biosimilars, Insomnia, Abortion at home
    Copycat biologic drugs, to treat conditions from arthritis and psoriasis to breast cancer and lymphoma, could save hundreds of millions of pounds off the NHS drugs bill. Called biosimilars, these close copies give the same clinical benefit at a fraction of the cost. Up to now the problem has been take-up, but a new initiative led by the specialist UK cancer centre, London's Royal Marsden, run across the NHS Cancer Vanguard, has demonstrated that patients can be switched effectively onto the cheaper drugs. Chief pharmacist at the Royal Marsden, Dr Jatinder Harchowal, who led the national staff education programme, tells Mark that getting clinicians and patients on board was key to achieving an 80% take up for the blood cancer biosimilar, rituximab. This month a biosimilar copy of the breast and stomach cancer drug, Herceptin (generic name trastuzumab) is being introduced to patients too. Imogen had sleep problems for almost 30 years and she admits that at times, her insomnia left her in a desperate state. For years she took sleeping tablets but she ended up increasing the dosage, to no effect. Eventually she found help at Queen Victoria Hospital's Sleep Disorder Clinic in East Grinstead. Mark visits the clinic and finds out from its Clinical Director Dr Peter Venn that sleeping tablets aren't the answer to insomnia and cognitive behaviour therapy, which Imogen used, is the best treatment. Scotland has led the UK nations in allowing early medical abortion at home. Wales in the past 10 days has followed their lead. So where does this leave England? Dr Margaret McCartney reports from Glasgow about the choice now available for Scottish women who opt for a medical termination. Since last autumn the second pill that induces the breakdown of the womb lining can be taken at home, a practice that already happens in Scandinavia and parts of the USA. Dr Audrey Brown, a consultant in sexual and reproductive healthcare, tells Margaret that the impetus for the change in practice in Scotland came directly from women who didn't want to make the second clinic visit for the second set of drugs and risk cramping and bleeding on the way home. A woman who has opted for early medical abortion at home in Scotland shares her experience with Inside Health. Producer: Fiona Hill.