• Date: 30 March 2015

CHEAPER BY THE BUNNY The Health and Social Care Information Centre recently published figures on GP funding in England revealing that the cost of primary care was on average £136 per registered patient. Pulse reporting on the announcement helpfully pointed out that this amounted to less than an annual Sky TV subscription which costs £238 per year. The magazine noted that £136 also can’t get you the yearly rise in the price of a season train ticket from Guildford to London, a trip to the cinema every fortnight, one haircut per month or a daily Mars bar. An anonymous reader on the Pulse website further commented: “Just got a quote from PetPlan for a year’s health insurance for a rabbit; £175.80. No cover for the first 14 days and £65 excess per new illness.”

WAITING ROOM SCIENCE Diary abhors thievery of any kind – even when it might serve a public service. Researchers from New Zealand have recently reported on the findings of an ambitious study designed to shine a light on the murky world of waiting room magazine theft. In the study, 87 magazines were placed in the waiting room of a general practice in Auckland. Titles ranged from high-minded magazines such as The Economist and National Geographic to ‘gossipy’ entertainment publications defined as having five or more photos of celebrities on the cover. Twice a week the researchers checked back and within a month nearly half had disappeared including all but one of the 27 “gossipy magazines” – yet all 15 copies of The Economist remained. Research team leader Professor Bruce Arroll commented: “Quantification of this phenomena was urgently needed… Future research in waiting room science would include identifying who or what is responsible for the removal of magazines.”

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES Caucasian women with blue or green eyes are apparently better at tolerating pain and distress than their brown eyed counterparts. A study by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh on 58 pregnant women found those with light coloured eyes seemed to experience less pain when giving birth. Light-eyed women also experienced less postbirth distress. The reason for the discrepancy is thought to be genetic. Genes determining eye colour are also linked to other features such as levels of melanin – the pigment that makes eyes darker – which has been connected to pain. Melanin might also make brown-eyed people more susceptible to alcohol than those with light eyes. It’s not all bad news, however, as increased melanin means brown eyed people have quicker reaction times and are therefore better at throwing a Frisbee at a target.

SAVED BY SULPHIDE You may think it a rather whiffy inconvenience, but the smell of flatulence could help stave off serious illnesses like cancer according to some unlikely new research published in Medicinal Chemistry Communications. A team at Exeter University found that hydrogen sulphide – produced by bacteria as it breaks down food in the gut – plays a key role in protecting cells and fighting illness. They noticed how cells stressed by disease try to draw in enzymes to generate their own tiny quantities of the chemical which helps to preserve mitochondria and prevent the cell from dying. The researchers have now created a compound called AP39 designed to help the body produce just the right amount of hydrogen sulphide in the hope it could be used to treat illnesses like stroke, heart failure and diabetes. Now, where did I put that tin of beans?…

GOLDEN HELLOS Fresh from telling NHS staff they should lose weight and get fit, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has also recently been endearing himself to GPs. In a speech to the RCGP conference he suggested GPs stop complaining so much as they are putting off potential trainees. “There’s a balancing act to be struck here - a conundrum. Quite rightly you are telling it as it is in general practice at the moment… but the danger is that wake-up call sounds like a proposition to young doctors, that you want to steer clear of general practice.” The recently announced move by NHS England to offer “golden hellos” to new GPs might go some way to making the specialty more attractive. Indeed, Leicester City Council’s health and wellbeing board is already offering £20,000 cash incentives to attract new GPs to the city. Similar schemes in Essex have been using funding from Health Education England to offer golden hellos worth £10,000 and one practice in Doncaster is putting up £20,000 of its own budget to fill a long-vacant partner post. Sadly Diary is more familiar with the golden goodbye.

TOO TIRED FOR ETHICS It seems there are more reasons to be wary of those relentlessly cheerful early risers who leap out of bed at the crack of dawn to hit the gym or get a head start on their emails. So-called “larks” become less honest as the day goes on, according to research by Georgetown University in the US. By the evening, they are more likely to act unethically than those who enjoy a bit of a lie-in. In a study of 200 students given problem solving tests and games, early risers were more likely to cheat and inflate their scores in the evening. Night owls can’t claim too much moral superiority, however, as they tended to tell lies earlier in the day when they were still tired. The study noted that “ethical behaviour arises when people ‘match’ their situations”.

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GPST is published twice a year and distributed to MDDUS members in GP training throughout the UK. It provides a mix of articles on risk, medico-legal and regulatory matters as well as general features and profiles of interest to trainee GPs. Browse all current and back issues below.
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