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#GPnews: Health secretary sets out plan for safer maternity care

16:20 British people consume more calories from alcoholic drinks than soft drinks, leading some people to suggest alcohol consumption needs reducing more urgently than sugar to beat the obesity epidemic.

An international analysis suggests people in the UK consume 106 calories per day from alcoholic drinks, compared to 98 from sugary soft drinks, reports the Guardian.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the alcohol health alliance, said: ‘In the UK, alcoholic drinks above 1.2% ABV are currently exempt from having to provide calorie information. This research demonstrates clearly that this exemption should now end.

‘The public have the right to know what is in their drinks, so they can make informed choices about their consumption. These labels should make the public aware, for example, that a pint of standard-strength beer contains around 180 calories, about the same as a packet of crisps, and that a large glass of red wine contains around 200 calories, roughly equivalent to the calories found in a doughnut.’

The Government has said it will introduce a ‘sugar tax’ on sweetened soft drinks from 2018 in a bid to curb the childhood obesity epidemic.

13:53 NHS England has announced a £400,000 fund to develop new mental health-focused digital technology.

It has invited ‘innovators’ who will compete to become one of 6-8 projects to be funded through development.

They will then potentially ‘become endorsed and nationally promoted within the NHS’, NHS England promised.

It said this comes as the recent Mental Health Five Year Forward View forecast that digital technology will be playing a big role as mental health services progress.

Juliet Bauer, director of digital experience at NHS England, said they are ‘particularly interested in tools that support the mental health of young people and families’ which ‘might include more self-care at home, managing conditions before they escalate and building mental resilience’.

She said: ‘There are lots of digital technologies claiming to help people manage their mental health but it is hard for practitioners to assess their effectiveness and their safety for use.

‘Using this fund we can rapidly develop and scale currently available, evidenced based tools. The Lab’s successes will mean more people can manage and care for their mental health using a set of high quality, evidence-based and safe digital tools with NHS endorsement.

11:39 On the topic of childbirth, the health secretary has today announced a ‘safer maternity care action plan’, which includes looking into setting up an alternative resolution space for when things have gone wrong at birth, with independent external investigators determining whether a family has a claim for compensation from the NHS, rather than going via the courts.

The Government will also look into creating a ‘safe space’ for clinicians to discuss ‘things that go wrong’ without fearing this could be used against them in court or professional misconduct hearings; a £250k ‘innovation fund’ for ideas to improve maternity care and the introduction of CCG ratings for maternity care.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ’Our NHS maternity staff do a fantastic job under huge pressure. But even though we have made much progress, our stillbirth rates are still amongst the highest in Western Europe and many on the frontline say there is still too much of a blame culture when things go wrong – often caused by fear of litigation or worry about damage to reputation and careers.

‘These comprehensive measures will give practical support to help trusts improve their approach to safety – and help to foster an open and transparent culture so that the courts become a last resort not an automatic first step. By learning from proven methods in countries like Sweden we hope to achieve a dramatic reduction in the number of tragedies where babies are lost or injured for life.’

10.00 Artificial sweeteners found in soft drinks may reduce female fertility, a study has found.

The Telegraph reports on a study of 524 women who consumed diet soft drinks and put artificial sweetener in coffee, finding the quality of eggs and embryos deteriorated.

Professor Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: ’This is a very interesting study that suggests the false promise of artificial sweeteners that are found in soft drinks and added to drinks, such as coffee, may have a significant effect on the quality and fertility of woman’s eggs and this may further impact on the chances of conception.

’These findings are highly significant to our population. There should be more scrutiny of food additives and better information available to the public and, in particular, those wishing to conceive.’