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Nicholson pressure increases, coffee leads to underweight babies and Government to tackle child mortality

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 19 February.

The pressure on NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson shows no sign of abating, with the Daily Mail reporting that he praised Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust leaders during the height of the crisis. The Mail got its hands on a letter in which Sir David congratulated the trust in 2005 for its ‘progress in target areas’. It was thought up to 300 patients died because of poor care that year.

The letter noted improvements on hitting targets for waiting times in casualty, cancer treatment, surgery and outpatients. The Mail also reports that around 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for him to resign, although we report this morning that GP leaders will not be joining the angry mob.

Staying with the Mail, it reports that pregnant women who have a couple of mugs of coffee a day risk having an underweight baby. A Norwegian study of 60,000 pregnancies over a ten year period showed a clear link between caffeine and birth weight, with 200 to 300mg a day raising the odds of the child being classed as small for the length of the pregnancy by up to 62%.

The study, in the BMC Medicine journal, also showed that coffee, especially instant coffee, lengthened the time the baby is in the womb. However, the study found no link between coffee and premature births.

Finally, the Government is set to announce a new pledge on child deaths, which will lead to increasing data collected by the NHS and local authorities, a survey to generate details of local health problems and launching colour coded health maps to highlight trends for conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

The Guardian reports that the mortality rate for children aged zero to 14 years has moved from the average to one of the worst in Europe. The pledge is part of the government’s response to the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, which was set up in January 2012

Health minister Dan Poulter said: ‘The pledge that we are making demonstrates how all parts of the system will play their part and work together to improve children’s health. There is already a lot of good work going on but we want the NHS to do even more to improve care for children and young people and reduce the mortality rate.’

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