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‘Virtual ward’ to treat hospital patients, OECD recommends NHS spending cuts and how yoghurt treats depression

The NHS should begin to treat some patients in ‘virtual wards’ as opposed to in hospital, consultants have urged. The Guardian writes about a report urging for patients to be treated in their homes instead, with regular visits from health staff.

The proposed service could create 5,800 ‘virtual beds’ and would relieve the pressures on overcrowded hospitals with bed shortages, an NHS specialty consultancy firm working with the NHS Confederation argued. A few hospitals have already adopted the method and are treating up to 35 patients a week this way.

And perhaps hospitals will have to take the advice, as The Telegraph reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has advised the UK Government to consider lifting the ring fence on the NHS budget. The international economic think-tank said the UK may need to re-think its policy to protect the NHS from spending cuts as ‘much more needs to be done’ to resolve the UK’s poor financial situation.

Jørgen Elmeskov, the OECD’s deputy chief economist, said: ‘We are perhaps somewhat doubtful [as] to the idea of ring-fencing certain spending areas. That tends to lead to deeper cuts in other areas which may not be warranted.’

Meanwhile the BBC reports that the ‘global war on drugs’ may be causing millions of needless hepatitis C infections. The Global Commission on Drug Policy has warned that repressive law enforcement is driving high rates of infection among peope who inject drugs, putting them at risk of fatal and debilitating liver disease.

In response, they say governments should decriminalise drug use and direct more resources into treatment and prevention such as providing schemes where users get access to sterile needles.

But, to finish off on a high, the Daily Mail reports that in the future we may be able to treat depression with… yoghurt.

US scientists have linked gut bacteria stimulated by probiotic yoghurts to emotion and pain. Subjects were asked to eat probiotic yoghurt twice daily and then carry out a task requiring ‘emotional attention’. They found those that had eaten yoghurt had increased decision-making skills.