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EU increases checks on migrant workers

The European Union is considering an alert system for overseas health workers who have been struck off or suspended, and the introduction of English language testing, reports the UK’s Nursing Times. The proposals put forward by the European Commission recommend a system where professional regulators must alert each other if a health professional is no longer allowed to practice. A “professional card”, or an electronic certificate, has also been proposed which could be exchanged between regulators. The commission has also recommended new procedures for updating the list of EU-recognised professional qualifications to ensure they meet current minimum standards. The proposed checks would put the EU in line with Australia, which introduced new English language testing requirements for overseas trained nurses when it moved to a system of national registration in 2010. The Royal College of Nursing in the UK welcomed the proposed new rules but also called for recency of practice standards to be introduced, as in Australia. “It is surely a risk to patient safety that a nurse who has not worked for a number of years could, in theory, come to the UK from another EU country and register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council,” said the general secretary, Peter Carter. The EC’s draft proposals will be considered by the European Parliament and Council this year with a view to passing new laws later in the year.

Seniors rejected for organ transplants

Thousands of US senior citizens classed as good candidates for a kidney transplant are not being put on waiting lists by their doctors, according to a study. Researchers estimate that between 1999 and 2006, about 9000 adults over 65 would have been “excellent” transplant candidates and about 40,000 others were “good” candidates. None, however, were given the chance. “Doctors routinely tell older people they are not good candidates for kidney transplants, but many of them are if they are carefully selected,” said transplant surgeon Dorry Segev, an associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. In 2007, only 10.4 per cent of dialysis patients between the ages of 65 and 74 were on waiting lists, compared with 33.5 per cent of 18 to 44 year olds and 21.9 per cent of those aged 45-64. Those aged 65 and older, however, make up over 50 per cent of people with end-stage renal disease in the US. Segev said research showed medical biases that disadvantaged older people were widely held and based on outdated statistics and beliefs. The statistical model predicted how well older adults would fare post operation, taking into account age, smoking, diabetes and 16 other health-related variables. The study showed 10 per cent of older patients would get kidneys from living relatives or friends, which would have little impact on the nation-wide shortage of deceased donor kidneys. Research also shows that older kidney transplant recipients do well with kidneys from older donors, organs that are otherwise rejected for use in younger patients. The study appears in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

Night shift health risks

Working the graveyard shift should be classified as an occupational health hazard, the editors of journal PLoS Medicine have argued. Chief editor Dr Virginia Barbour said research shows that night-shift workers' bad eating habits and disrupted circadian rhythms increase their risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Barbour and her fellow editors cited a study of 69,269 nurses that the journal published earlier in December. The study found that workers on rotating night shifts were more likely to develop diabetes over 20 years compared with nurses who worked during the day. AAP

India almost polio-free

Once the world’s epicentre of polio, India is on track to becoming free of the disease, the World Health Organisation has announced. January marked a year since the last registered case of polio in India, which has undertaken a massive child immunisation program to help eradicate the disease. WHO director-general Margaret Chan, said India’s success is arguably its greatest public health achievement but she called on the nation to remain vigilant. WHO will declare India polio-free if there are no new infections for two more years. This health milestone will reduce the number of polio-endemic countries to three: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

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