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#GPnews: DH instructs public health chiefs to focus on cutting NHS costs

16:00 Toddlers who use touchscreen devices have poorer sleeping patterns, a new study has found.

This comes as three quarters of children aged six months to three years use smartphones or tablets every day, the researchers from Birkbeck University of London and King’s College said.

Dr Tim Smith, a senior lecturer in the department for psychological sciences at Birkbeck, told the Independent: ‘Parents are wondering what the potential impact might be on their children, but the technology is such a recent introduction into family life that the science isn’t really there to inform parents, or give them guidelines on how they should be using them.

‘We didn’t have a daily diary in the study, so we didn’t know exactly when the children are using the devices, but the total time they used the device during the day was associated with these sleep differences.’

14:15 UK children are widely struggling with loneliness, according to the leading charity for young people.

NSPCC said it has held counselling sessions for over 4,000 children who were feeling lonely last year, related to issues with family and friendships but also online social media pressures.

Sky News quotes John Cameron, head of helplines at the charity, as saying: ‘I think certainly children are under more pressure now. They’re finding it very difficult to talk to their parents.

‘Parents are understandably very, very busy and children have high expectations of themselves because when they see things online and through the media there are images that they try to live up to.

‘But often they’re impossible to live up to, so there is a sense of failure.’

11:45 The Department of Health has asked Public Health England to join in efforts to reduce the cost of NHS services, by focusing on public health initiatives that are going to drive down costs for the health service.

In a remit letter for 2017/18, published today, DH said PHE should focus on working to reduce NHS demand, and to ‘prioritise activities with the greatest impact on the public’s health in order to support improved value for money’.

It listed as particularly important PHE goals:

  • ‘supporting the implementation and delivery of Sustainability and Transformation Plans, helping NHS and local government commissioners to deliver savings, and to prioritise activities with the greatest impact on the public’s health in order to support improved value for money;
  • support NHS England in delivering a two year programme, that will promote the implementation of preventative interventions at scale by the NHS, in collaboration with local health and care partners; and
  • developing proposals to make better use of behavioural science to help people take more control of their health, with a focus on increasing uptake of prevention programmes, to reduce demand on the NHS.’

09:50 The Royal College of Nursing is surveying 270,000 members on their willingness to strike over low pay.

Should the poll, which closes 7 May, reveal an appetite for action, the college will open a ballot on strike action.

The Independent reports that this comes as some nurses are ‘struggling to make ends meet’, following years of capped rises.

Janet Davies, general secretary of the RCN, said: ‘If the Government expects to fill the soaring number of vacant jobs, it must value nursing staff more than it has in recent years. The false economy is driving people away from the profession.

‘Years of real-terms pay cuts have left too many struggling to make ends meet. Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets.’

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