Inside Health

BBC Radio 4


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


Charles Bonnet Syndrome, Co-Proxamol, Men B Vaccine, Smart Tablets

February 23rd, 2016

Episode 305 of 329 episodes

Up to half a million people in the UK could have it, but it's a condition that hardly anybody has heard about: Charles Bonnet Syndrome. It happens to people who are losing their sight through age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic eye problems or glaucoma. They see vivid and often frightening visual hallucinations and these images are soundless. Judith Potts' mother Esme was in her 90's when she eventually admitted to her daughter that she was seeing frightening images of goblins and Victorian children all around her. Judith had never heard of the condition and as she tells Dr Mark Porter, neither had any of the health professionals taking care of her mother. Shocked that there was so little awareness about something that is so common, she set up an awareness group, Esme's Umbrella. Dr Dominic Ffytche, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry and an expert in visual hallucinations, tells Mark that a key area of research is why some people have Charles Bonnet Syndrome and others don't. Co-proxamol, or Distalgesic as it's better known, was a common drug for mild to moderate pain in the 1990's. But a decade ago, a review by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided that it wasn't a good painkiller and it had very worrying side effects. Its licence was withdrawn and doctors were urged to switch patients onto different medication (although it could still be prescribed on a "named patient" basis). Dr Andrew Green, Chair of the Clinical and Prescribing arm of the GP committee of the British Medical Association tells Mark he's disturbed that nearly ten years after the licence was withdrawn, thousands of patients are still being prescribed co-proxamol at a high cost to the NHS while Bedfordshire GP Dr John Lockley defends continued and careful prescribing for a tiny number of patients who can't get relief from other medication. In a week in which hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for more children to receive the Meningitis B vaccine, Dr Margaret McCartney talks to Mark about the tricky decisions involved in planning immunisation programmes. Traditional bedside paper charts, which record and monitor patients' vital signs, have been replaced in Oxford hospitals with smart PC tablets. Clinical staff enter patients' blood pressure, heart rate and temperature on the tablet and the new "smart" system provides an early warning traffic light system, alerting them if there's a deterioration in the patient's condition. This means clinicians can prioritise care and another major bonus is that the same information is available, at the touch of a button, to medical staff across Oxford's hospitals. The project is called SEND - System for Electronic Notification and Documentation - and it's a collaboration between the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Mark goes to Oxford and with intensive care consultant and SEND Project Leader Dr Peter Watkinson, sees how the new paperless system is working.