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Hunt sends ‘hit squads’ into failing hospitals, how the NHS is swindled over cod liver oil tablets and the chilli nasal spray to ease shingles pain

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 16 July.

The long-anticipated Keogh report on high mortality rates at 14 hospital trusts across England dominates all the headlines this morning. The five-month inquiry into higher than expected death rates, led by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, has found poor care and poor leadership at 11 of the trusts.

The Guardian reports that health secretary Jeremy Hunt is going to parachute in ‘hit squads’ of regulators at five, while the other six will be put into special measures, in an attempt to deal with their problems. Meanwhile the Telegraph reports on how the Tories are training their sites on shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, claiming he failed to act when concerns started to be raised back in 2009, when he was health secretary.

For his part, Mr Burnham has hit back saying the current government failed to heed the warnings he left them, and that it is using the scandal to undermine public confidence in the NHS.

The Telegraph also reports today on another prescription drugs pricing scandal affecting the NHS, this time the vastly inflated cost of cod liver oil capsules. According to the paper, the NHS is paying up to £89.50 for the same amount of capsules that would cost £3.50 on the high street.

The NHS has confirmed the problem exists and announced the situation is being reviewed. Health minister Lord Howe said: ‘While doctors should have the power to prescribe the medicines they think best for their patients, those medicines must also be good value for money.  

‘In a time of austerity, anything the health service provides should get the best possible value for taxpayers. Officials are working to see how the NHS can get a better deal on products like these.’

Finally, the Daily Mail reports on a potential new way to treat facial pain associated with shingles – a nasal spray containing capsaicin. The spray is thought to block postherpetic neuralgia affecting the trigeminal nerve. Researchers have set up a trial of the spray in 40 patients with facial postherpetic neuralgia, after previously showing a patch containing capsaicin helped reduce pain in people with postherpetic neuralgia affecting the body.

Dr Michael Platt, lead clinician for pain medicine at Imperial College London, commented: ‘It is an interesting concept. We know capsaicin in cream and patch form can be effective for nerve pain. It works because the burning sensation desensitises or numbs the nerve carrying pain signals. 

‘But people using this spray may need a local anaesthetic.’

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