Vital Signs

MORE than half the population are ignorant of one of the most basic rules of first aid - to call an ambulance immediately if someone has a cardiac arrest.

A survey carried out for the British Heart Foundation found three-quarters believed that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage could alone save a patient's life and many said that was what they would do first. The foundation last week launched a pounds 1m appeal for defibrillators - machines that deliver an electric shock which is necessary to re-start the heart. Mouth-to-mouth and heart massage can keep the patient's blood oxygenated until the defibrillator arrives but it cannot restart the heart.

MANY couples seeking fertility treatment consult the league tables published by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which give pregnancy and live birth rate for each test tube baby clinic. But the information may be less useful than it seems. Experts who applied a new statistical technique to the data found only five of the 52 clinics could be confidently ranked in the top quarter and only one in the bottom quarter.

They say in the British Medical Journal that the high degree of uncertainty about the rankings suggests they should not be taken too seriously. The finding does not bode well for the Government's plans to include death rates in hospital league tables from next October.

A NEW medicine for high blood pressure and angina was withdrawn from sale around the world yesterday because of concern about the way it interacts with other drugs. Manufacturers Roche Products Ltd voluntarily decided to stop selling Posicor, which was launched last year and is marketed in 38 countries, including Britain.

Roche decided the complex precautions needed to avoid the drug interactions could not guarantee that patients would not be affected. The company said in a statement: "As patient well-being is of highest priority to Roche, the company has preferred to voluntarily withdraw the compound from all markets."

THE number of suicides in the Irish Republic increased by 14 per cent last year to a total of 433 - and included eight children between the ages of eight and 14, according to figures released yesterday.

Most of the deaths were among the young and middle-aged, and the vast majority, 355, were men. Earlier this year, a government-appointed task force that investigated the growing number of suicides recommended better training and education for doctors and health professionals in recognising and treating those at risk and urged improved psychological counselling in schools.

LESS than half of children do the recommended amount of exercise to stay fit and healthy, according to a survey published today. Children should spend at least 30 minutes a day and ideally seven hours a week in physical activity, but one in five does less than two hours a week.

The survey of 2,000 parents and their children carried out for Norwich Union Healthcare found that eight out of 10 parents think that physical exercise is as important as school work, but two in three believe children are less fit today than when they grew up.

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