A Medical Device Daily

In 2004, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) recruited 8,000 more doctors, 11,200 more nurses and 3,000 more allied health professionals, Health Secretary John Reid said this week.

"These figures show a year-on-year growth in the number of doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare staff working in the NHS," Reid said. "This is having a huge impact on patients, helping them to access treatment faster and get better care."

He said that the NHS now has "more doctors, nurses, scientists and therapists than ever before." The totals include 117,000 doctors, 397,500 nurses and 128,900 scientists and other therapists.

Other highlights of the NHS staffing census show that between September 2003 and September 2004, there were:

  • More doctors in training to be GPs than ever before.
  • 1,900 more consultants, marking the biggest increase ever.
  • 1,200 more general physicians, also the biggest increase ever.
  • 900 more midwives.

Since 1997, Reid said, there are 9,200 more consultants working in the NHS, a 42.7% increase; 78,700 more qualified nurses, a 24.7% increase; and 32,600 more qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff, a 33.8% increase.

"The NHS is the world's biggest 'army for good,' employing more than 1.33 million people who make a difference every day by delivering high-quality treatment, care, advice and support to patients," Reid said. "Eighty-four per cent of those staff are directly involved in patient care which is increasingly being provided in new and better ways. Patients are not only benefiting from better care but also faster access to that care."

He saluting the NHS staff, saying, "these [are the] people who are responsible for the real changes we are seeing in patient care – the falling waiting times, the improvement in survival rates for cancer and coronary heart disease, and the changing role of the NHS from being a sickness service to a 'wellness' service through community-based initiatives."

NHS Chief Executive Sir Nigel Crisp said, "New ways of working are bringing real benefits for patients. For example, there are now more than 102,000 nurses working in the community and general practice, helping to deliver more treatment, advice and support to patients either in their homes or as close to them as possible, which has helped to put patient needs at the center of the NHS."

He added: "Increasingly we are seeing nurses and other healthcare staff taking on new roles and responsibilities, such as nurse prescribers who can prescribe drugs for a range of conditions like diabetes and asthma."

Noting that "we realize that some areas of the NHS still struggle with shortages," Crisp said that is "why we are constantly trying not only to retain our staff, but to make the NHS a more attractive employer through improved pay and conditions, flexible working and increased access to childcare."

Reid said the UK government "is committed to helping the NHS become an employer of choice and improving working conditions in order to recruit the best staff."

Another patent for IVMD

IVMD (Inverness, Scotland) said it has filed for a 12th patent for its medical diagnostic technology. It said the patent application is for the measurement of blood flow in tissue and includes the measurement of blood flow and concentration in skin and other body tissue through the non-invasive use of magnetic fields.

John Fuller, president and CEO, said the patent filing "is consistent with our strategy of patenting broad areas so that we can create a number of different products, each with large, global markets in the point-of-care arena."

He said the company's next steps will be to find "appropriate development partners to take this technology and create groundbreaking products."

Saying that blood flow and concentration "is an important consideration in many diseases," Fuller noted that skin blood flow testing already is in use for some allergies and mental health conditions. "In these cases," he said, "a reagent, applied to the skin, causes a blood flow change dependent upon sensitivity to a particular condition. Until now it was only possible to measure this visually, or with expensive Doppler ultrasound or laser measurement techniques. Hence the measurement is either very imprecise or prohibitively expensive to obtain."

He said that IVMD envisions that devices developed from this patent can provide specific outputs and be substantially less expensive and easier to use. "This can result in products that will be suitable for point-of-care use for a much larger patient population," Fuller said.

One example of the potential diagnostic use of this technology could be in the much earlier and accurate detection of schizophrenia, he said. With the prevalence rate for schizophrenia reported to be about 1.1% of the population 18 years or older, he said this means that at any one time as many as 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.

IVMD consists of two wholly owned subsidiaries based in the UK – IVMD (UK) Ltd. and Jopejo Ltd. IVMD (UK) is in the final stage of its first medical device for the cardiovascular market. Other medical conditions being addressed by its patented technology include the diabetes market and other areas where imaging is essential.