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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.

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