Why scratching that itch really does make it worse

Mother was right: scratching an itch really does make it worse.

Research shows that while scratching provides temporary relief, it triggers the production of a brain chemical that makes the itch even more maddening.

Appropriately, the research was carried out by scientists at Washington University’s Centre for the Study of the Itch in the US.

After experimenting on mice, they concluded that scratching initially helps by creating pain. Nerve cells in the spinal cord are kept busy transmitting pain signals to the brain, leaving fewer to tell the brain about the itch.

But when the brain registers the soreness caused by our fingernails scraping across our skin, it releases serotonin.

This is meant to dull the pain but also intensifies the itch, leading to a vicious circle of more scratching, more serotonin being released – and more itching.

It is thought that serotonin has the same effect in humans, raising hope of better treatment for conditions that lead to unbearable itching, including eczema, which affects up to six million Britons, kidney disease and cancer.

Those on Dialysis often suffer severe itching as a result of their kidney failure.

And some cancer patients find their painkillers irritate their skin so much that they have to cut back on their medication

MacRae, F. Daily Mail 31 October 2014, p. 5.

NHS spends £2m on iPhones and iPads….for pen-pushers

More than £2million of taxpayers’ cash has been spent buying iPhones and iPads for bureaucrats in NHS quangos.

Thousands of staff at NHS England and Public Health England set up under the Coalition’s reforms to save money, have been provided with smartphones and tablet computers. The Government insists they help staff work more flexibly, but the gadgets are all for managers – not doctors and nurses.

New details of spending on technology emerged in response to a parliamentary question by shadow public health minister Luciana Berger. The published data shows that NHS England and Public Health England, both formed last year, were the biggest spenders on iPads and iPhones.

The total bill for NHS England was £1.2million  and included 2,300 iPhones and more than 250 iPads, Public Health England also bought more than 2,000 iPhones in a total bill of £350,000. Other health bodies also ran up substantial bills, while the Department of Health itself has spent almost £40,000 on four iPhones and 95 iPads.

Labour MP Karl Turner said: ‘At a time when the NHS is in crisis, out-of-touch Tory ministers are splashing more than £2million on iPhones and iPads for pen-pushers.

‘Labour is promising  an extra £2.5billion beyond Tory plans – which will be spent on patients, not office perks.’

The Government has been repeatedly criticised for the controversial reorganisation of the NHS, which saw primary care trusts abolished and a new network of quangos and clinical bodies set up instead. The changes were designed to reduce the number of managers and put decision-making in the hands of doctors.

It was originally claimed that the controversial shake-up, which was not included in either Coalition party’s manifesto, would save £7.7billion, but the figure was later downgraded to £6billion.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Employers across the world are embracing technology such as smartphones and tablets because they allow staff to be more flexible  and efficient, and in the case of the public sector provide better value for money for taxpayers.

‘Our bureaucracy-busting reforms to the NHS are saving £1.5billion a year. There are also over 13,500 more frontline staff and 7,000 fewer managers in the NHS since May 2010.’

Matt Chorley. Daily Mail 30th October 2014, p. 10.