Health briefing


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

New fitness-to-drive guidelines on the way

A COMPREHENSIVE set of new fitness-to-drive guidelines have been developed for Irish doctors.

Prof Des ONeill, national programme director for traffic medicine, led the development of the guidelines, which will be used to assess car and motorbike drivers. Conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnoea, drug and alcohol abuse, and health events such as heart attacks and strokes are covered by the guidelines. The guidelines have been sent to the Road Safety Authority for approval, and Prof O’Neill hopes they will be rolled out before the end of the year.

Over the last decade Irish doctors have provided in excess of 600,000 medical certificates of fitness to drive, Prof O’Neill said. Entitled Sláinte agus Tiomáint, the new guidelines will replace the old basic Green Book guidelines and UK ones that doctors in the Republic use.

Speaking at a special traffic medicine clinical meeting for doctors at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, in Dublin last week, Prof O’Neill said while the new guidelines are more comprehensive and evidence-based than the current ones, they still allow flexibility and aim to keep as many people on the road as possible.

We are looking at better ways of assessing all drivers, which focus on function, assessing strategic and tactical thinking and it’s about not getting obsessed with reaction times.

“The people with the best reaction times on the roads are the 18-30 year olds and they are the people with the highest number of accidents, he said.

A second set of fitness to drive guidelines for heavy vehicle drivers will also be developed by the programme.

TV mâitre d’ talks about transplant

TV PERSONALITY and mâitre d’ John Healy will speak about his recent heart transplant at a public meeting this evening. Healy had been living with heart failure since November 2009 and was on the transplant waiting list for 16 months before he underwent his five-hour operation in March.

Organised by the Forum on End of Life in Ireland, the meeting takes place in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin from 6pm to 7.30pm. There are about 650 Irish people on waiting lists for a transplant.

Gene research gives hope to Parkinson's patients

NEW GENE research may give hope to people with Parkinson’s disease, a major international conference in Dublin heard last week.

Scientists from the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute revealed that they have isolated a new gene called RME-8 from a family with a high incidence of Parkinson’s disease.

Many have exhibited clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease, while others were revealed to have had the disease following a series of postmortems.

The research was revealed at the 16th international congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, which was held in the Convention Centre Dublin last week.

Some 5,000 international delegates turned up for one of the biggest medical conferences held in Ireland.

Prof Tim Lynch, a clinical specialist in Parkinson’s disease, said the discovery was the latest “piece in the puzzle” of trying to discover why some people get Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than 10 million people worldwide, including 8,000 in Ireland.

“In the old days it was thought to be environmental and that has changed since the first genes were discovered that are identified with Parkinson’s disease,” he said. He said the possibilities of gene therapy gave some hope to potential Parkinson’s sufferers as there is no cure for the disease at present.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s include trembling in hands, arms, legs, and face, stiffness in the limbs and torso, as well as slow movement and poor balance and coordination.