This site is intended for health professionals only

#GPnews: Government ‘may face legal challenge’ over soft drink sugar tax

16:10 The Government’s Budget – which announced that there would be a tax placed on manufacturers of sugary soft drinks from 2018 – may face a legal challenge from parts of the drinks industry, several newspapers have been speculating.

The Telegraph quotes Dominic Watkins, head of food law at legal firm DWF, as saying: ‘The devil is in the detail of what the proposal actually is, the question has to be whether this has an anti-competitive effect on the British market, especially when compared to other EU markets.’

Others speculated the tax was ‘unfair’ because it affected only manufacturers of soft drinks and not, for example, fruit juices.

But the National Obesity Forum called on the Government to roll it out to all sugary drinks, with a spokesperson saying the levy, as proposed, was ‘not tough enough to have a real effect tackling childhood obesity’.

14:10 The masks worn by some people to try to prevent catching viruses may soon actually be able to stop the spread of flu, if scientists are to be believed.

The Independent reports on the new invention, a fabric coating blocking the viral particles that cause influenza, which could be used to ‘line masks and air filters’.

The inventors said the coating has a similar formation to the carbohydrate structures covering the cells of the oesophagus.

13.35 NICE has made a U-turn over access on the NHS to a prostate cancer drug that can delay the need for chemotherapy, reports the BBC.

Having previously said arbiraterone was not cost effective until the cancer was more advanced, NICE will now recommend early access to the drug for patients with prostate cancer in England.

The hormone therapy, also known as Zytiga, used to cost £3,000 a month but the NHS has reached a deal with its manufacturer Janssen for a lower price of £2,300, says the report.

It was already available to patients in Scotland and will also become available to patients in Wales.

11:45 NHS England has produced its first-ever guidance on how to prevent stillbirths, reports the Guardian.

The Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle advises pregnant women to quit smoking to reduce the risk of stillbirth, which affects one in 200 pregnancies in the UK.

Expectant mothers will also be given an advice leaflet on reduced foetal movement by pregnancy week 24.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the risk of stillbirth would be reduced if ‘all pregnant mums were encouraged to quit smoking, if proper monitoring takes place during pregnancy and if maternity providers listen carefully when pregnant women report worries about their baby’s movements’.

Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said it was ‘unacceptable’ that England has worse stillbirth rates compared to the rest of Europe, blaming a shortage of midwives.

She said: ‘England remains 2,600 full time midwives short of the number it needs. So while this guidance is welcome and valuable, we must have the right numbers of staff to ensure it is implemented correctly.’

11:00 The leader of the Scottish Labour party has pledged to guarantee all patients with a GP appointment within 48 hours if the party wins the election in May. 

Speaking at the party’s conference in Glasgow on Saturday, Kezia Dugdale also said the Scottish Labour party would pump £500m into primary care over the next five years – and will use the cash to expand the role of pharmacies and increase support staff in GP practices, reports Scotland’s’ STV News

The 48-appointment appointment policy was previosuly mooted by former Labour leader Ed Miliband in the lead up to the UK general election last year – who claimed it was a ‘scandal’ that patients were forced to wait more than a week for an appointment. 

But, at the time, the GPC argued the policy was ‘misguided’ and ignored the real problems facing general practice. 

9:55 Good morning, and welcome to the live blog. 

A big story which broke over the weekend was on the extraordinary claim made on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show by the former Lib Dem cabinet minister David Laws, that the NHS chief executive Simon Stevens was ‘leant on’ by Number 10 to revise his estimates of how much funding the health service needed, reports the Telegraph

Mr Laws claimed that Mr Stevens had aksed Downing Street that the NHS needed to find £30bn, and that £15bn could be found through efficiency savings.

However, the Lib Dem minster was subsequently told that it was unlikely he would get the funding he wanted. 

Mr Laws said: ‘The problem seems to be that when he then took that figure to the Conservatives in Number 10, they said ‘you must be kidding, there is no way the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will sign up to that figure, you better get that figure down if you want it to be taken seriously.

‘He did that, reduced therefore the demand to £8bn.’