12 Days of Thinking #12daysofthinking

To take us to 2017, the University of Sheffield has asked academics to reflect on the most pressing issues of our time. Join in the chat on Twitter using the hashtag #12daysofthinking

Day 5: Health

Controversial 'three-parent baby' technique given go-ahead in historic decision

Professor Allan PaceyProfessor Allan Pacey, Fertility Expert from the University of Sheffield's Department of Oncology & Metabolism

"Mitochondrial disease has a devastating effect on the lives of families and currently there is no cure. Therefore, I am delighted to hear that the HFEA have now given the final go-ahead for licences to be issued which will allow women whose families are affected by mitochondrial disease to have access to the new technique of mitochondrial donation.

"This decision is a testament to the hard work of the doctors and scientists in the UK who have undertaken years of painstaking work in order to get to this stage, as well as the support of our parliamentarians and regulators who have spent time carefully considering the issue. I truly hope that 2017 sees the technique used to revolutionise the lives of UK families who have suffered as a consequence of this debilitating disorder. What a great end to the year.”

The right treatment at the right time for the right person

Winston Hide, Professor of Computational Biology at the University of SheffieldProfessor Win Hide

“Will 2017 be the year of precision medicine? UK Genome medicine is going great guns but a long road to climb.
Precision medicine means the right treatment at the right time for the right person. Genomics gives us genes or markers that can point out if we will respond well or not to things such as a blood anticlotting agent for instance.
To get there we need a sea change in the community. We need other technologies to change - health records - social networks - the way we interact with doctors and our health data.”

Landmark ruling for alcohol minimum pricing

Professor Petra MeierProfessor Petra Meier, from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research

"Alcohol contributes significantly to illness and premature death in the UK. In 2016, the highest Scottish court ruled against a legal challenge from industry: a Minimum Unit Pricing policy for alcohol is justified on public health grounds. Sheffield University evidence played a major role showing that taxation is much less effective at targeting heavy drinkers. Implementation in 2017 would improve public health and save the NHS money. It is expected that Wales, Northern Ireland, RoI and maybe even England would follow suit.”

NICE make u-turn on dental guidelines regarding antibiotic administration

Professor Martin ThornhillProfessor Martin Thornhill, from the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield

“Endocarditis is a frequently fatal heart condition where 35-45% of cases are caused by mouth bacteria. Most countries recommend antibiotic-prophylaxis before invasive dental procedures to protect those at high-risk, but NICE guidelines recommended against this in the UK. We showed that endocarditis incidence increased following these guidelines and NICE have now changed them to make it clear that antibiotic-prophylaxis is appropriate in some individuals. We are now quantifying the level of endocarditis risk in those with different predisposing heart conditions."

Why the pressure on our emergency services is growing

Professor Steve GoodacreProfessor Steve Goodacre, from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)

“In the UK we are living longer and have increasing options for treating serious illness and injury. This is often reported as bad news because it is putting pressure on our ambulance services and emergency departments. It is vital that we look at ways to deliver urgent and emergency care so that we can live longer lives and receive better care. ”

Professor Jon NichollIt's not the ageing population which is causing the NHS crisis

Professor Jon Nicholl, Dean of the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield (SchARR)

"Let us hope that in 2017 our leaders will have the will and clarity of mind to focus on adding quality of life to years rather than years to life. Too much priority is given to treatments that sustain life, and thereby incur more costs, rather than interventions that improve life.
It is not an ageing population that is causing the NHS crisis, but new healthcare technologies that keep people alive at any cost – regardless of quality of life."