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NHS rations ops for obese and smokers, local mental health spending 'too low' and GPs should give placebos for coughs

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

The NHS is planning to ration routine operations for obese people and smokers, the Daily Mirror reveals this morning.

NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG is proposing to restrict hip and knee operations in a bid to hit targets as part of the Government’s £20 billion cuts to health spending by next year.

Ex-Labour health minister and Devon MP Ben Bradshaw told the paper: ‘This shows the unsustainable pressure NHS funds are under. Devon is not alone in suffering this huge financial deficit. Implications for services are horrendous.’

Meanwhile local authorities are spending too little on preventing mental health problems in their communities, according to a report on the BBC.

Leading charity Mind has found that they spend only 1.4% of their health budgets on interventions to prevent mental health problems, promote good mental health and ensure good physical health for people with mental health issues.

A freedom of information request showed local government spent £40 million in 2014/15 on public mental health, compared with £76 million on increasing physical activity, £160 million on anti-smoking initiatives and £671 million on sexual health services in 2014/15.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: ‘Mind’s findings show that while local authorities are happy to spend on preventing physical health problems, their equivalent spending on mental health is unacceptably low. Local authorities need much clearer guidance and support on how best to tackle mental health problems.’

Lastly, GPs might be better to prescribe children a placebo for coughs and colds rather than advise ‘watching waiting’ to parents, says The Telegraph.

Apparently a study in JAMA Neurology showed both the treatment being tested - agave nectar - and a grape-flavoured placebo drink resulted in significant improvements in symptoms reported by parents, when compared with no treatment.

The authors wrote: ‘While it is somewhat disappointing that agave nectar does not appear to offer added benefit over a placebo, these findings suggest that the common clinical advice of watchful waiting with no treatment may not be the best advice for parents whose infants and toddlers are struggling with cough and its associated sleep disruption.

‘Both physicians and parents want symptomatic relief for children with these common and annoying illnesses. The significant placebo effect found warrants consideration as health care providers and parents determine how best to manage the disruptive symptoms that occur in the setting of upper respiratory tract infections among young children.’

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