This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

The docbot will see you now

NHS England delays Hep-C drug over cost, NICE guidance for stretched A&Es and stress hampers empathy

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines

NHS England is under fire for blocking the introduction of a highly-effective and NICE approved drug for Hepatitis-C over cost fears, The Telegraph reports.

The £660-a-day treatment, sofosbuvir, was approved on the grounds that it is a cost effective way of treating patients who would go on to require high costly intervention – one in three Hep-C sufferers develops liver cirrhosis and require a liver transplant at a cost of around £50,000.

But NHS England is understood to have delayed the cost because it will cost £1bn for every 20,000 who require treatment, and Charles Gore, chief of executive of the Hepatitis C Trust,said: ‘It is undoubtedly a high cost. The unfortunate thing is there are an awful lot of people who need it.’

And it’s a busy day for NICE, as The Guardian reports the watchdog has released draft guidelines on how A&E departments should manage high demand, including moving patients to alternative locations if the department lacks capacity.

The guidance states that during unexpected surges in A&E attendance staff should be drafted in from other wards and departments, and an on-call rota should be used to ensure nursing levels don’t drop too low.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: ‘This clear guidance is welcome, but many hospitals are nowhere near this level. The Government needs to set out how it will meet this plan.’

And finally, GPs over-stressed by the storm of workload demands could be sacrificing one of their most important skills, as the BBC reports that high stress levels create a barrier to empathising with strangers.

Research, published in Current Biology, treated undergraduates with a stress hormone blocking drug and noted a significant increase in how much pain they believed a stranger - whose hand was plunged into cold water - was in.

Dr Jeffrey Mogil, study author and neuroscientist from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said his team’s findings suggest that the stress system in the brain can have a ‘veto’ on our empathy system.

Have your say