Sugar- the new killer substance

A campaign group has been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.
Sugar- the new killer substanceAction on Sugar has been set up by the team behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), which has pushed for cuts to salt intake since the 1990s.

The new group aims to help people avoid “hidden sugars” and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

Sugar is a widespread presence in our food and it’s often found in unexpected places, for example a can of cola contains nine teaspoons of sugar.  Some tins of tomato soup and bottles of flavoured water have four teaspoons of sugar crammed inside. And seemingly healthy fat free yoghurt often has a high sugar content.

The primary concern is obesity- being high in sugar also means being high in calories.

Nearly two thirds of people in the UK are overweight or obese – leading to other health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some argue that the problems with sugar are even deeper than the calorie content, and that high doses of the sweet stuff can increase the risk of diseases such as a fatty liver.

The cmapaigners believe that a 20% to 30% reduction in three to five years is within reach.

Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar bit by bit so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.

It says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease in a way that “is practical, will work and will cost very little”.

The group listed flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread as just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.

Action on Sugar chairman Graham MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and set up Cash in 1996, said: “We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.

“This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods.”

Well known food and drink products and their sugar content:

  •     Starbucks caramel frappuccino with whipped cream with skimmed milk (tall): 273kcal; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Coca Cola Original (330ml): 139kcal; 9 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Muller Crunch Corner Strawberry Shortcakre Yogurt (135g): 212kcal; 6 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% Fat Vanilla Yogurt (150g): 120kcal; 5 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Kellogg’s Frosties with semi-skimmed milk (30g): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Glaceau Vitamin Water, Defence (500ml): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Heinz Classic Tomato Soup (300g): 171kcals; 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Ragu Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce (200g): 80kcals; 3 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Crunchy Oat Granola Cinnamon Bars (40g): 186kcal; 2 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Heinz Tomato Ketchup (15ml): 18kcal; 1 teaspoon of sugar

Source: Action on Sugar

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: “Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety.  Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.”

New GP contracts to reduce red tape checklists

Changes to GPs contracts will allow them to spend more time with patients.
New GP contracts to reduce red tape checklistsThe money GP surgeries received until now depended on how they performed against 969 different measures but under the new contract 300 measures will be cut- reducing form filling to free more time with patients, says the British Medial Association (BMA).

There will also be new financial incentives to encourage surgeries located close to each other to work together.

The new contract also aims to provide better care for people with early-stage cancer, for those at the end of their lives or the frail or elderly.

The Welsh government also says the changes should also help reduce the pressure on hospital A&E departments.

Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP committee, said the contract has “removed some of the bureaucratic tick-boxing type of medicine and targets that we’ve had to provide”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, she said doctors will be able to return to “looking after the individual patient, which will then mean that there will be more capacity within general practice surgeries to provide more care for the patients”.

“The whole GP practice team will see the benefits of this which should increase additional capacity because, as we know, GP practices are under enormous strain like the emergency departments are at this current time.”

“We do hope that the feedback from patients will be that they have seen the positive effects of it as well as the GPs going back to being able to manage the individual and not chasing targets.”

However the deal, which comes into effect in April, will not lead to weekend surgeries or more out-of-hours opening, but it should mean that patients will find it easier to get appointments with reduced red tape.

Highlighting the 19m appointments made with GPs last year in Wales, she said: “So actually patients are seeing GPs in huge numbers but sometimes you do wait.  In some ways the opening hours issue is a bit of a distraction to the more fundamental question of how people get to see their GPs when they need to.”

The deal should not mean GPs getting more money. In 2011/12 the average salary for a GP responsible for running a practice was £92,300, while the average pay for a family doctor employed by the surgery stood at £55,000.

“The global sum, the total amount of money, remains the same. It’s just that what people get paid for and how they get paid has been re-negotiated to allow us to modernise the contract and to prioritise those things which we know really matter to patients.”

Patients visit A&E up to 50 times a year

Some patients are going to Accident and Emergency (A&E) units more than 50 times a year.
Patients visit A&E up to 50 times a yearData from 183 sites obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed nearly 12,000 people made more than 10 visits to the same unit in 2012-13.

And a small number of those – just over 150 – attended more than 50 times.

Doctors warned that the issue, while confined to a minority of patients, was adding to the mounting pressures on the system this winter.  Many hospitals are already struggling to hit their waiting time targets- without these extra issues.

In England, the four hour target was missed in the first two weeks of December, but the numbers attending A&Es eased over the Christmas period and the target has been met for the past fortnight.

However, that overall figure masks the struggle the biggest units are facing.

Of the 144 major centres, more than 60 failed to hit the target during the Christmas week despite the number of patients dropping by nearly 10%.

Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “These figures are of great concern and provide yet more proof that our already overstretched A&E services are being put under increasingly severe strain.

“It needs to be recognised that every inappropriate attendance at the A&E would detract health professionals from attending to the genuine and often life-threatening emergencies,” she added.

She said improving access to GPs could make a big difference – before Christmas, official NHS data showed the number of people waiting longer than a week to be seen by a GP was growing.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said the figures should be seen in context – in England alone there were more than 21 million visits to A&E units last year.

“The figures presented here suggest that the number of people attending A&E frequently is relatively small when considered against the big picture.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said steps were being made to improve access to community care through the launch of a £3.8 billion joint pot in April 2015 to encourage the NHS and local government to work together.