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‘Hospital closure clause’ facing coalition revolt, spike in scarlet fever, and middle class drink linked with premature birth

The contentious Clause 119 of the Care Bill, dubbed the ‘hospital closure clause’, is facing a potential revolt from coalition MPs as it goes forward to be debated in Parliament today.

The Guardian is running a live-blog on the progress of the debate, which could enable the appointment of trust special administrators with the power to downgrade or close well-running hospitals in order to redistribute local health budgets to support failing trusts. Spearheading the revolt is Paul Burstow, the former Lib Dem health minister, who told the Guardian: ‘It feels to me that there’s a growing disquiet on the Conservative side of the coalition about these plans, plus there are Liberal Democrat MPs who share the concern.’

The number of scarlet fever cases have reached a 24-year high with 864 cases reported between the start of 2014 and the end of February, according to figures from Public Health England.

According to The Independent, outbreaks have centred on the East Midlands, with 184 cases reported in the first eight weeks of the year, and staff at Lincolnshire nursery have been issued with guidance on how to spot symptoms. Outbreaks are most common at the start of the year as the bacteria is spread through coughs and sneezes, there were 591 recorded cases at the start of 2013 and there are between 2,000 and 4,000 cases a year.

Researchers have warned that middle-class mothers are more likely to ignore health warnings and drink while pregnant, increasing their risk of having small or premature babies, reports The Telegraph.

Researchers from the University of Leeds surveyed more than 1200 women on their drinking habits prior to, and throughout, their pregnancy and found affluent women with degrees had the riskiest drinking habits. Andrew Whitelaw, professor of neonatal medicine at Bristol University said: ‘It is interesting that alcohol consumption was greatest in women from a strong economic and social background who should otherwise have the lowest risk of pre-term birth and low birth weight.’