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Premature birth risks, NHS telehealth drive and stocking up on the pill… for Christmas?

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Tuesday 6 December.

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Monday 5 December.

The annual stockpiling of supplies for the Christmas holidays is a long-established phenomenon. On Christmas Eve, the rush to the supermarkets to grab a week's supply of Quality Street, vol-au-vents and mince pies is as much a tradition for some families as blazing rows with relatives are for others. And this year, according to the Telegraph, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service is also encouraging women to ‘stock up on the emergency contraceptive over the Christmas period'; quite what sort of office parties they have at the BPAS is anybody's guess. 

To cope with the increased demand, the pill will be available, for free, after a 15 minute consultation over the phone with a nurse. The Telegraph raises concerns that underage children will ‘almost certainly' obtain pills through the scheme by lying about their age. Andrew Lansley said he would prefer the pill was issued after a face-to-face interview but didn't say he was prepared to intervene.

Premature babies are much more likely to develop behavioural problems than those born after 37 weeks, according to a study reported in the Independent this morning. This news is coupled with the fact that the rate of premature births has risen by 30% in the last 30 years, a development attributed to the proliferation of older mothers and rising obesity.

The risk of babies developing learning or physical problems if born before 26 weeks are already well-known, but the new research, conducted at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, suggests that there are still significant risks for babies born between 32-35 weeks. ‘The results showed that they had higher rates of emotional and behavioural problems at age four on all the measures used,'we're told. The problems are thought to be caused by the subtle effects of brain damage when the foetus is separated too early from the womb.

NHS monitoring equipment is to be installed in the homes of ‘millions of patients' according the Times, in a move which apparently is ‘like having a doctor in your house'. The news comes after David Cameron's NHS speech yesterday touched on his plans for the increased use of telehealth technology, which allows patients to monitor their own vital signs at home.

A trial of 6,000 patients with conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes showed that telehealth cuts deaths by 45% and emergency hospital admissions by 21%. The Times says that telehealth, by spotting problems early, will allow patients to live more independent lives and ‘reduces the time they need to spend at a GP surgery or in a hospital'.

And finally, most of the papers seem to agree that the Euro crisis has been major news this week and the Mail is no exception. It carries a story on page three which reveals that ‘eurocrats' in Brussels have rejected the health claims of royal jelly. The European Food Safety Authority reportedly ruled that there is ‘no scientific evidence for any apparent health-giving properties in the jelly'. It had previously been claimed that royal jelly lowered cholesterol, boosted the immune system and even fought aging.

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