Posted by: Nicholas Swetenham | March 23, 2009

The week in medical news

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday 16 March 2009 – Student Fitness to Practice


The General Medical Council publishes new guidance for students. An article in the Telegraph about student Fitness to Practice (sFTP). We at the BMA are worried that it is ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and that sFTP will be invoked not only for breaches of professional behaviour but also for more minor incidents. I would encourage students to carefully read it. Note for example under ‘areas of concern’

Persistent inappropriate attitude
or behaviour

  • Uncommitted to work
  • Neglect of administrative tasks
  • Poor time management
  • Non-attendance
  • Poor communication skills
  • Failure to accept and follow educational advice

Tuesday 17 March 2009 – Minimum Alcohol Plan Proposal

The proposal from Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson to put a 50p minimum price on a unit of alcohol to discourage binge drinking on cheap booze is met with a mixed reaction, mostly negative: see comments in the Guardian, Telegraph and a cynical analysis from Pulse. Reaction from NHS Blog Doctor.

Wednesday 18 March 2009 – Mid Staffordshire Hospital Scandal Update

Alan Johnson apologised for excess deaths at Stafford Hospital – see Guardian. The BBC asks what lessons are to be learnt from this incident. An extensive reaciton from NHS Blog Doctor. The Hospital is declared not fit for purpose – Times ;see also this commentary.

Thursday 19 March 2009 – Death of Natasha Richardson


The untimely death of actress Natasha Richardson sparks a blogosphere debate about the merits of the Canadian socialised health system. KevinMD asks whether she was failed by the system. NHS Blog Doctor argues in defence of socialised medicine these two posts and concludes that if a doctor had been brave or stupid enough to drill burr holes in her skull without an MRI he might have saved her but the legal liability environment discouraged anyone from doing so.

Friday 20 March 2009 – Hewitt seeks assisted suicide law change

Patricia Hewitt discusses setting into stone the non-prosecution of people for assisted suicide abroad. Many Britons travel to Switzerland to seek assistance from the NGO Dignitas; the current practice in case law is not to seek to prosecute these people.

Saturday 21 – Evidence base of PSA prostate cancer screening shattered but still widely practiced in US


Two new papers in the New England Journal of Medicine (one and two) were misleadingly reported by the British press. See Ben Goldacre at Bad Science:

Why would the American and the Australian journalists say something completely different to the British ones, about the very same evidence?

Bad Science

Sunday 22 March 2009 – Jade Goody dies


Jade Goody, the popular but controversial reality TV star, died at home in her sleep this weekend. Many people including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition led tributes to her (BBC). See also articles on the effect of her highly publicised illness on cervical cancer screening rates and her obituary. Again, her death sparks a debate over whether she was failed by the health system: see US view on The Blog That Ate Manhattan and UK view on NHS Blog Doctor.

I would like to wish my condolences to the families of Natasha Richardson and Jade Goody.


  1. I personally think the suggested changes to the sFTP are fair, they are things that any reasonable person can manage. Several of them would be directly involved in practice as well, why not get into good habits early.

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