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#GPnews: GPs can’t help sleep-deprived elderly (they’re on lion watch)

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15:00 ‘This is why you don’t sleep as well as you get older – and why your GP probably can’t help,’ says a Sun newspaper headline today.

In fact, poor sleep in older people is an ‘ancient throwback’ to when men lived in caves and it fell to elders to look out for predators, according to a study which examined a hunter-gatherer community in Tanzania.

Researcher Dr David Samson, from Duke University in North Carolina, said: ‘The idea that there’s a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during night-time sleep.’

His research teammate Professor Charlie Nunn, an expert in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, said: ‘Any time you have a mixed-age group population, some go to bed early, some later.

‘If you’re older you’re more of a morning lark. If you’re younger you’re more of a night owl.

‘A lot of older people go to doctors complaining that they wake up early and can’t get back to sleep.

‘But maybe there’s nothing wrong with them. Maybe some of the medical issues we have today could be explained not as disorders, but as a relic of an evolutionary past in which they were beneficial.’

11:00 Doctor leaders are also concerned about planned public health cuts.

Dr Iain Kennedy, BMA public health committee chair, said: ‘Cuts like this signify a huge step backwards for public health, and will have a damaging impact on people’s health and wellbeing, inevitably costing the NHS far more in the long term.

‘At a time when a third of Britons are projected to be obese by 2030, when smoking accounts for around 100,000 deaths a year in the UK, and when there’s been a significant rise in the number of cases of sexually transmitted infections, public health services are more vital than ever in delivering preventative care.

‘We have seen successive governments fail to deliver a sustainable, long-term plan to improve public health.

‘The Government must ensure public health receives the funding it desperately needs, alongside work to improve the provision of sexual health services, tighten regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol and expand support for people to quit smoking.’

09:50 The Department of Health has claimed it has ‘a strong track record’ on public health, reports the Telegraph this morning.

The DH was commenting on a report from the King’s Fund, which warned councils are cutting spending on things like smoking cessation and sexual health services by £85m, and which we cover in full here.

A spokesperson said: ‘We have a strong track record on public health—cancer survival and dementia diagnosis are at a record high whilst smoking rates and teen pregnancies are at an all-time low.

‘Over the current spending period we will invest more than £16bn in local government public health services.

‘Moreover, we have shown that we are willing to take tough action to protect the public’s health—introducing standardised packaging of cigarettes, a Soft Drinks Industry Levy and a world leading childhood obesity plan.’

The King’s Fund’s expert said that ‘at a time when the rate of syphilis is at its highest level for 70 years, to cut spending on sexual health services is the falsest of false economies’.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and former chair of the GMC said: ‘The Government’s whole approach to reforming health care has been based on the promise of a radical upgrade in prevention and public health, yet all we have seen is cut after cut in this budget. It is self defeating to reduce public health spending while looking to transform care.

‘Our members report direct cuts to front-line services, including the treatment of substance misuse, smoking cessation and sexual health. Further gaps in out-of-hospital and social care funding intensifies the pressures on health services.’