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Private firms to pick up NHS slack, why flu medicine could do more harm than good and rickets on the rise

Top of the Guardian’s health pages today is the news that the NHS ‘may ask private health firms to help if there is a patient surge’. The paper reports that in anticipation of high numbers of patients attending A&E, Sir Bruce Keogh has announced his intention to ask private companies to carry out already-scheduled operations to relieve the pressure on NHS hospitals ‘when the going gets rough in winter ‘.

Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, there are warnings that avoiding A&E and struggling through the winter sniffles to get to work could do more harm than good. The paper reports that taking flu medication so you can keep going to the office puts colleagues at risk of catching the flu themselves as ‘medication increases the amount of virus in the body’, according to new research.

The study’s lead author Professor David Earn, professor of mathematics at McMaster University in Canada, said taking pills that reduce fever and mask other symptoms ‘might be at the cost of infecting others’.

He added: ‘Because fever can actually help lower the amount of virus in a sick person’s body and reduce the chance of transmitting disease to others, taking drugs that reduce fever can increase transmission. We’ve discovered that this increase has significant effects when we scale up to the level of the whole population.’

Also in the Telegraph is news of a hand held device which fires magnetic pulses into the brain to help relieve migraines. According to the paper: ‘The transcranial magnetic stimulator has been recommended by NICE after clinical trials showed it was effective at reducing pain.’

Of 164 patients treated with the device during trials, 39% were found to be pain free after two hours. And 30% were still without pain after 24 hours.’

And finally, the Daily Mail reports that rickets is on the rise among children who increasingly stay indoors. According to figures from the NHS ‘there were 833 hospital admissions for children suffering from the condition which is caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the financial year 2012-13. Ten years earlier the figure was just 190.’

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…