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#GPnews: NHS preparing for ‘worst’ winter flu season

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16:55 The NHS is braced for the ‘worst flu season in history’, reports the Telegraph.

NHS chief Simon Stevens warned ‘pressures are going to be real’, as flu levels are expected to be high due to having been ‘heavy’ in Australia and New Zealand, which are just coming out of the season.

Mr Stevens said: ‘The signs from Australia and New Zealand – who are just coming out of their winter – are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals down there have struggled to cope.

‘We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.’

15:30 NHS England is ‘decisively’ reversing general practice funding erosion, its chief executive Simon Stevens has said.

Speaking today at the Health and Care Innovation Expo conference today, Mr Stevens said: ‘I think people would be surprised to hear that the cost of two A&E visits is more than the cost of a year’s worth of GP care – and yet we have let our investment in primary care erode over the course of the last decade.

‘So that’s why we’re decisively putting our thumb on the scales to reverse that trend.’

This was being done by creating ‘fuzzier boundaries’ between primary and secondary care, he added.

He said: ‘That’s why it’s not just about more GPs, it’s about expanding the multi-disciplinary team, that’s why we’re making direct investments in clinical pharmacists and in mental health therapists.

‘And it’s also about redesigning work at the individual practice and the groups of practices, particularly now a lot of places wanting to organise the 30-50,000 population hub.’

11:55 An investigation carried out by BBC South West Inside Out has found that drug addicts are cheaply bying pregabalin from contacts who receive the tablets on prescription.

In the report, available in full on BBC iPlayer, addicts interviewed say ‘most’ of their supply comes via this route.

It shows long-time drug addict Martin Hopkins from Plymouth, Devon, who mixes pregabalin with heroin, saying how he wants to raise awareness among doctors.

He says the drugs have ‘flooded the city’, adding: ‘The chemists, the doctors have got to know about this.’

According to the BBC’s report, there were four deaths linked to pregabalin in England and Wales five years ago, while last year this had risen to 111.

But Professor Richard Byng, a GP and part-time researcher at the University of Plymouth, says that for GPs it can be ‘very difficult’ to tell apart patients with a genuine need from those who are selling the drugs on.

Read advice from three separate GPs on how to handle such a situation here.

10:00 There is ‘surprisingly limited’ evidence that light drinking of alcohol when pregnant is harmful to the baby, UK researchers have suggested.

The paper by Bristol University researchers, published by the BMJ and widely reported in the news this morning, did stress pregnant women should still avoid drinking as per current guidelines ‘just in case’.

However the researchers said that women who have had small amounts should be reassured they were unlikely to have harmed their baby, reports the BBC.