Legal highs review launched

A new review of legal highs could finally lead to sweeping changes to UK drug legislation, the Home Office has said.
Legal highs review launchedLegal highs – officially known as psychoactive substances – are synthetic drugs which can be bought online and sometimes in shops.

The review follows concern drug laws are not flexible enough to tackle them.

Deaths from legal highs in England and Wales almost doubled to 52 last year. The government said it was “determined to clamp down on the reckless trade”.

It is estimated that across the EU one new substance a week is being detected.

Among options the review will consider is legislation modelled on US laws. In the US, drugs are automatically banned if they are “substantially similar” to the chemical structure of substances that are already illegal.

The review will also look at whether those who supply legal highs over the internet and in “head shops” should be required to prove substances are safe and are not being used as a drug. Similar laws have already been introduced in Poland and the Republic of Ireland.

The review panel – which will include police, prosecutors, health experts and local council officials – has been asked to report back in the spring 2014.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “Despite being marketed as legal alternatives to banned drugs, users cannot be sure of what they contain and the impact they will have on their health.”

“Nor can they even be sure that they are legal. Our review will consider how current legislation can be better tailored to enable the police and law enforcement officers to combat this dangerous trade and ensure those involved in breaking the law are brought to justice.”

The review is being launched on the day the government has announced a permanent ban on two party drugs which were previously legal highs. Hallucinogenic NBOMe – also known as N-Bomb – and the ecstasy-like BenzoFury were banned for a year in June.

Under legislation to be passed next year, NBOMe – a powerful hallucinogen which causes euphoria but can also lead users to feel nauseous and panicky – will be made a class-A substance.

The government has banned more than 200 substances since coming to power.

Health Direct warns that whilst many governments have often had reviews of drug policies- they have all ducked out of making any constructive decisions.

On August 02, 2006 in Risks of taking drugs compared- Scientific review of dangers of drugtaking- Drugs, the real deal we reproduced the first ranking based upon scientific evidence of harm to both individuals and society.

It was devised by government advisers – then ignored by ministers because of its controversial findings. The analysis was carried out by David Nutt, the then senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and Colin Blakemore, the chief executive of the Medical Research Council.

Children as young as 12 given nicotine patches on the NHS- which parental knowldege

Children as young as 12 are being given nicotine patches by NHS nurses at school- without the knowledge or permission from their parents.Children as young as 12 given nicotine patches on the NHSThe patches are being distributed by nurses employed by NHS South West Essex who visit schools every fortnight and speak to the children confidentially.

NHS guidelines say children as young as 12 can access nicotine patches from chemists and GPs throughout the country, but it’s up to each primary care trust what services they offer.

Parents at one school in Basildon, Essex voiced concerns that parents weren’t being told about the service.

Danielle Northcott, 39, whose 13-year-old daughter Amaris is a pupil at Basildon with Woodlands School in Takely End, Essex, where patches are distributed, said: “Woodlands is a good school and even though I didn’t know the nicotine patches were available I would rather her have that than a cigarette in her mouth.

“As parents I do think we should have been consulted on it and the school should have been clear about it.

“Some parents will not agree with the meetings between the child and the nurse being confidential and it will divide opinion. The only thing that worries me is that the patches will become a status symbol and children could want them just to look cool in front of their friends.”

NHS South West Essex employs health group Vitality to run the service.

Vitality also offers children advice on weight loss and well-being and also issues the patches to children at drop in sessions across Basildon at the Laindon Health Centre, Pitsea Health Clinic, and the Basildon Centre.

New research shows that over 30 per cent of UK smokers keep their habit under wraps and more than 50 per cent say the person they most want to hide their habit from is their mother.

A spokesman for North East London NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Vitality service, said: “Encouraging young people to quit smoking may prevent them from taking up the habit longer term, and so it is important they have somewhere to find confidential support for this.

“NHS stop smoking support is provided locally by GPs, community pharmacies and specialist stop smoking services, who are able to offer a range of advice and support on stopping smoking to people aged 12 and over, in line with NHS and NICE (National Institute of Curbing Expenditure) guidelines.

“This support is provided by healthcare professionals such as school nurses or health improvement practitioners, and may include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provided the young person is assessed as competent to consent to using this product.

“The use of NRT is fully explained to the young person.  We always encourage young people to inform their parents or carers if they are having support with quitting smoking or having NRT, but they are not obliged to do so.”


Cannabis no worse than junk food claims report

Campaigners have urged a review of drug laws after a respected independent body compared cannabis use to “moderately risky” gambling or junk food.Cannabis no worse than junk food claims reportThe publication of a six year study published by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) reveals that the £3 billion spent annually tackling drugs is not evidence-based and calls for a “wholesale review” of existing laws.

The body, part funded by the Home Office, was launched in April 2007 to provide objective analysis of drug policy, independent of government interference and special interest groups.

Its report, “A Fresh Approach to Drugs“, examined the effects of drug policy and makes recommendations ahead of the UKDPC being wound up this autumn. The report recommended recategorising the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use as a civil and not criminal offence.

It said there was an argument for amending the laws relating to growing cannabis for personal use which might “go some way to undermining the commercialisation of production”.

In England and Wales 160,000 people are given cannabis warnings each year. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse says 2.8 million people in England use drugs, but only 300,000 use heroin and crack cocaine which “cause the most problems”.

The UKDPC report said there are “some moderately selfish or risky behaviours that free societies accept will occur” and seek to limit but not prevent entirely, such as “gambling or eating junk food”.

Politicians must heed its findings and begin this review as a matter of urgency” said Danny Kushlick, of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.


Obese and smokers denied health treatments to save NHS money

The NHS has been accused of trying to save money by blocking access to surgery for smokers and obese patients as new figures show how they are routinely being denied treatments.Obese and smokers denied health treatments to save NHS moneyData shows that more than a quarter of Primary Care Trusts in England have brought in new restrictions based on patients’ lifestyle criteria in the last year.

It reveals that people are being denied IVF treatment, breast reductions and fat loss operations based on their weight and whether they smoke.

In the case of one trust, NHS Hertfordshire- a controversial ban imposed last year on knee and hip operations for anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 as well as smokers, has been extended to cover all routine surgery.

The new Hertfordshire policy, introduced in January, makes exceptions only for neurology, cardiac and cancer operations.

Freedom of Information responses from 91 PCTs, obtained by doctors’ magazine Pulse, show 25 have brought in new restrictions on treating obese patients or smokers since April 2011.

Dr Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College of GPs, said some of the restrictions, particularly for IVF, were “dreadful”.

She added: “It’s becoming the deserving and the undeserving. I think it’s discriminatory and I find it astonishing. The Government should determine what should be applied universally.”

The figures showed that the Peninsula health technology commissioning group, covering Cornwall, Devon, Torbay and Plymouth, is now banning both men and women from undergoing IVF treatment unless they have been non smokers for at least six months.

Men and women must also have a BMI of between 19 and 29.9 before they will be given certain fertility drugs.

The two PCTs covering County Durham and Darlington will not treat people for varicose veins unless they have a BMI of 30 or under, the figures also show.

The figures also showed that the three PCTs covering North Essex must not accept referrals for joint replacement surgery from people with a BMI of 40 or over.

Furthermore, all patients who smoke in the region must be referred to stop-smoking services before they will be considered for stomach surgery, breast reconstruction, breast reduction, scar revision surgery or nipple inversion treatment.

In Lincolnshire, as of June last year, patients must have had a stable BMI of 18 to 25 for at least a year before they will be considered for breast reductions.

Meanwhile, hip and knee replacements will not be given to patients who have a BMI greater than 35, or current smokers.

In Bedfordshire, access to hip and knee replacements is denied to patients with a BMI of 35 or over until after they have lost 10% of their initial body weight or moved below a BMI of 35.  Before July last year, there was no BMI cut off in the region.

Steve Nowottny, deputy editor of Pulse, said: “Rationing in the NHS is nothing new – but PCTs and clinical commissioning groups are increasingly taking the decision to ration care based on patients’ lifestyle choices.

“In some cases there may be genuine clinical justification for rationing treatment on these grounds. But there is a growing suspicion that some PCTs are now blocking access to surgery for smokers and the obese simply to help achieve ever greater efficiency savings.

“Such a policy has disturbing implications – and GPs are increasingly uneasy about the NHS providing a second-class service to patients with less healthy lifestyles.”


Obesity a derogatory word claims nanny quango NICE

The word ‘obesity’ could be considered ‘derogatory’ and public health professionals should use it with care, according to the nanny quango NICE.Obesity a derogatory word claims nanny quango NICEA quarter of adults in Britain are now obese, a figure that is due to more than double by 2050. Those from poorer backgrounds are much more likely to be obese than the more affluent.

But a government quango is now advising public health experts drawing up anti-obesity plans around the country to avoid using the ‘obese’ word itself for fear of upsetting people.

Health campaigners have night attacked the softly softly approach, describing it as “extremely patronising”.

Under draft guidance issued by the National Institute for Curbing Expenditure (Nice), those who are obese should merely be encouraged to get down to a “healthier weight”.

The guidance states that public health professionals should know “the appropriate language to use”, advising them: “Referring to ‘achieving a healthy weight’ may be more acceptable for some people.”

The document continues: “Directors of public health and local government communications leads should carefully consider the type of language and media to use to communicate about obesity.

“For example, it might be better to refer to a ‘healthier weight’ rather than ‘obesity’ – and to talk more generally about health and wellbeing or specific community issues.”

Ironically, the advice is contained in a paper that makes no bones about its subject matter: it is called Obesity: Working with Local Communities.

But Nice officials concluded that while the term was fine for health professionals to use among themselves, they should handle it with care in public.

They warned: “The term ‘obesity’ may be unhelpful – while some people may like to ‘hear it like it is’, others may consider it derogatory.”

However, Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “This is extremely patronising. They should be talking to people in an adult fashion.

“There should be no problem with using the proper terminology. If you beat around the bush then you muddy the water.”

Obesity is a medical term, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in metres.

Mr Fry went on: “Obesity is a well defined, World Health Organisation standard that everybody can understand.”

“It is the point where the individual is so overweight that they are at risk of other health problems.”

Squeamishness over use of the word is not new. When the National Child Measurement Programme was launched in 2008, Department of Health officials decided against using the words “fat” or “obese” in letters to parents. They were simply told their son or daughter was overweight.

Such fears of upsetting people are not shared by Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister. Two years ago she said that people should be told they were “fat” rather than “obese” because she felt the word was more hard-hitting.

She said: “If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried [than] if I think I am fat.”


Mollycoddled fed children develop allegies

Mollycoddling children who are allowed to become picky eaters could make them more prone to allergies later in life scientists have warned.Mollycoddled fed children develop allegies

Mothers have traditionally been told to “mollycoddle” their youngsters by avoiding high risk foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to protect them from potentially dangerous reactions.

But now there is a growing belief that the best way to avoid allergic reactions is to meet the problem head on and expose children to foods like peanuts in infancy.

Three large studies are under way at King’s College London, Cambridge University and Duke University in North Carolina to determine once and for all the best way of protecting against harmful reactions to food.

Prof Gideon Lack, of King’s College, said that until recently the nanny state had told mothers to breastfeed for up to six months before introducing their babies to other food, and keep them away from possible allergens until the age of two or three.

The idea, he said, was to “wrap the infant up in a sort of immunological cocoon and not expose them to proteins that could launch allergic reactions.

“There is a possibility that we were achieving the reverse of our intentions through this avoidance policy,” he told the Nature journal.

A 2008 study which Prof Lack co-authored suggested exactly the opposite, showing that Jewish children in Britain are ten times more likely to have a peanut allergy than those living in Israel, who eat more foods containing peanuts.

The following year the Department of Health revised its guidelines on allergies to clarify that there is not enough evidence to prove a benefit of restricting the diet of either mother or child from pregnancy to infancy.

The study into peanut allergy being conducted by Prof Lack, along with those in Cambridge and North Carolina, could help explain whether giving children controlled but increasing amounts of peanut-containing foods over time could desensitise them.

Starting in 2006, researchers began following 640 babies, half of whom are judged to be at high risk of food allergies, to see if exposing them to traces of peanuts in their early years causes them to develop adverse reactions.

Previous research at Cambridge has suggested that feeding small doses of peanut flour to allergic children every day for 30 weeks could raise their tolerance to safe levels, enabling most of the group to eat 32 peanuts with no reaction by the end of the trial.

Weight loss diets work better with WeightWatchers than the NHS

NHS weight loss programmes are more expensive and less effective than WeightWatchers, a study has found.Weight loss diets work better with WeightWatchers than the NHSDiet programmes such as Weight Watchers, Slimming World and Rosemary Conley are cheaper and far more effective than those run by the NHS’s nanny state, according to new research.

Dieters lost more weight and kept it off for longer by joining a slimming club than after having counselling from specially trained staff in GP surgeries or pharmacies, it was found.

Experts said money would be better spent on encouraging people to attend classes run by commercial companies.

The study, Comparison of range of commercial or primary care led weight reduction programmes with minimal intervention control for weight loss in obesity is published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), involved 740 obese or overweight men and women recruited from one NHS trust in Birmingham.

They were divided into six groups and attended either Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, a group-based NHS programme run by advisers and dieticians called Size Down, one-to-one counselling sessions in GP surgeries, or one-to-one counselling in pharmacies.

Another group was provided with 12 vouchers for free entrance to a local fitness centre.

At 12 weeks, data was available for 658 of the participants and 522 after one year.

All programmes achieved weight loss at 12 weeks – from an average of 1.37kg in the GP group to 4.43kg in the Weight Watchers group.

But the NHS programmes were found to be no better than the people exercising at a local fitness centre at this point.

At the one year mark, all the programmes except the GP and pharmacy groups had resulted in “significant weight loss”.

However, Weight Watchers was the only programme to achieve significantly greater weight loss than the control group – and was the best attended group.

Compared to the NHS programmes, commercially-run ones meant people typically lost an extra 2.3kg.

The authors, from the University of Birmingham, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and NHS South Birmingham concluded: “Commercially provided weight management services are more effective and cheaper than primary care based services led by specially trained staff, which are ineffective.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Weight management programmes can be very cost-effective and make losing weight easier for some people, but the best way to lose weight will be different for everyone.

“The local NHS must think about which weight management service will work best based on an individual patient’s needs.”

In September, another study conducted in the UK, Germany and Australia showed that a year-long Weight Watchers programme was far more beneficial than helpful doctor’s advice.

That study was published in The Lancet medical journal.

Breast screening- are women over examined?

Are women being over examined by an over cautious health nanny state?Breast screening- are women over examined?In an uncertain world, we want to believe in the certainty of medicine: that it is omniscient and operates in absolutes. In reality, this is far from the truth. The world of medicine reflects the world we live in; constantly in flux with multifarious contradictions.

Scientists relish this fact. However, for those on the outside, this can be bewildering. We are told one thing one minute, only for it to be ridiculed the next. With its definitions and protocols, medicine serves to give the illusion of stability when, in truth, doctors are all too often unsure.

The furore around breast screening perfectly illustrates this. It began when the Government’s cancer “tsar”, Prof Sir Mike Richards, announced that he is setting up an independent review of the NHS programme.

He has also ordered that patient leaflets, which explain the screening programme, be rewritten to take into account claims by some experts that the benefits have been exaggerated.

Understandably, this has prompted widespread confusion. The issue of breast cancer is always emotive. When I worked in breast surgery, I saw first hand the horrors of this disease on sufferers and their families, and it is vital that we do everything we can to treat and prevent it. But the debate over screening has been raging for some time within the medical community. I remember attending a lecture on this issue when I was at medical school more than 10 years ago.

The NHS screening programme was introduced by the Thatcher government following the 1987 Forrest Report, which recommended a national screening programme for breast cancer for women aged between 50 and 74. The report was based on the most up-to-date research.

But, since then, by comparing countries that have a screening programme with those that don’t, evidence has emerged suggesting that the steady fall in mortality in Western countries is not due to the screening programme, but to improved treatment and service provision.

If this is shown to be true – and it’s still a big if – then this would mean we are needlessly screening thousands of women. And there is an argument that many of the tumours detected by screening would not actually have developed into a life-threatening cancer.

For every screening test, whatever the disease, there is a margin of error. How good a test is can boil down to two things. The first is sensitivity, which measures how good the test is at giving a positive result in those who have the disease. The second is specificity, which refers to how many of those tested are disease-free and test negative.

Now, if you act on the results every time a test records a positive – in the case of breast cancer by doing invasive surgery or giving radiotherapy or chemotherapy – the sensitivity and specificity has to be very high (as near to 100 per cent as possible) to warrant a national screening programme. If it’s not sensitive enough, you’ll be giving women false reassurance when, in fact, tumours are being missed. Similarly, if it’s not specific enough, you’ll be needlessly treating people, with all the associated risks that treatment brings. It is this that is concerning some experts.

They argue that women are being over-diagnosed and over-treated because screening is not specific enough. It can pick up breast abnormalities that may look worrying when biopsied but are actually harmless. It’s a balancing act between saving lives and not causing harm by needless treatment. While doctors are used to adapting to changes in evidence, this is little consolation to women who worry about the disease.

It is perfectly sensible to have an independent review of the research, but I can’t help but think of the women who have had treatment,or are facing treatment, or those who are deciding if they should go for screening. The fact that the current debate waging in the medical establishment is part of the reflexive process that underpins science is of little comfort to them.

Let’s deal firmly with those who fail in patient care

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley should be congratulated – and it’s not often I say that – for his announcement last week that widespread spot checks on hospitals and care homes will be introduced in a drive to improve standards.

The checks will be undertaken by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It comes after the Government reviewed the findings of the first wave of unannounced visits to care of the elderly wards in the summer. Over half the hospitals inspected had problems, particularly in relation to issues around patient dignity.

Spot checks are the way to tackle this and weed out bad practice and serious failings. But, they will only have any meaning if the CQC – often felt by those campaigning for improved standards as toothless – act on what they find. We don’t need endless reports and bureaucratic stalling. If it will work, the CQC will have to use its muscle. Those in charge of wards and hospitals found to be failing must be held accountable and dealt with firmly.


Single women being offered IVF on the NHS

Single women are being offered fertility treatment by almost a fifth of NHS trusts casting doubt on the Government’s family friendly credentials.Single women being offered IVF on the NHSWomen not in relationships are receiving publicly funded IVF despite official guidance that suggests support should go to couples who have been trying without success to have a baby for several years.

Meanwhile in other parts of the country married couples are being denied help in starting a family, forcing them to spend thousands of pounds on private treatment.

It comes after a Labour nanny state law removed the requirement for fertility doctors to consider a child’s need to have a male role model before going ahead with IVF.

Critics say the Government, which David Cameron promised would be “the most family friendly we’ve ever had in this country”, should tackle the postcode lottery of IVF provision and ensure that the needs of children are put first.

Frank Field, the Labour MP who carried out a high-profile review into poverty and life chances last year, said: “It’s clearly wrong that while couples in stable relationships can’t get IVF and in other areas, single women can.

“It’s really important that Government ministers speak up for children who are the ones left out of this. It needs someone in a position of authority to reflect what most taxpayers think.”

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester who once chaired the ethics committee of Britain’s fertility watchdog, said: “The irony is that at the very time research is showing the need for both parents, we are writing fathers out of the legislation.

“It’s one thing for a mother to find herself a single parent because of tragic circumstances. It’s quite another to plan for a situation where the child comes into the world without having a father or any possibility of having a father.”

Most local health authorities stipulate that couples must have been in a relationship for two or three years to qualify for IVF treatment.

That requirement is based on guidance issued in 2004 by the National Institute for Curbing Expenditure (Nice), the NHS rationing body,.

It states: “Couples in which the woman is aged 23–39 years at the time of treatment and who have an identified cause for their fertility problems … or who have infertility of at least three years’ duration, should be offered up to three stimulated cycles of in vitro fertilisation treatment.”

The document does note that the guidelines do not address social criteria “for example, whether it is single women or same-sex couples who are seeking treatment”.

However the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 removed the reference to “the need for a father” when considering the welfare of the child when considering fertility treatment, replacing it with “the need for supportive parenting”.

Gareth Johnson MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility, said that trusts offering the service to single women were going against one of the guiding principles of IVF, “that you are treating an infertile couple, not an infertile individual”.

Mr Johnson, the Conservative MP for Dartford, said: “Speaking in a personal capacity, if you are going for IVF, you are trying to create a baby, so there should be some evidence of a stable background, which you would expect to be a couple.”

Earlier this year he led an APPG report that found startling differences between what health authorities offered in terms of IVF.

It found three-quarters of Primary Care Trusts were failing to offer three cycles of IVF, as stipulated by Nice. Each cycle comprises a woman’s ovaries being stimulated to produce eggs, which are then fertilised in vitro and implanted in the womb. Spare eggs should be frozen for use if the first attempt fails.

The report found five trusts offered no IVF at all – Warrington, West Sussex, Stockport, North Staffordshire and North Yorkshire and York. Since then, NHS West Sussex has decided to start funding IVF again.

Many trusts have also started putting in place further barriers to IVF funding – for example demanding obese women lose weight – in part to limit demand as health budgets tighten.

Against a background of increasingly scarce provision, as the NHS tries to save £20billion by 2015, Mr Johnson said the decision to offer IVF to single women was misplaced.


Daily calorie counting limits changed by nanny state

An advisory committee has concluded that the recommended daily calorie limits to maintain a healthy weight, laid down 20 years ago, have been slightly on the low side.Daily calorie counting limits changed by nanny stateIn 1991 the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) set out that the average man should be eating 2,550 calories daily, and the average woman 1,940.

After lengthy consultation, those have now been raised slightly – by a frugal 55 calories for men, but a comparatively generous 139 calories for women.

Which means 2,605 calories a day for men and 2,079 calories a day for women.

Prof Alan Jackman, chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), explained that the old figures were based on “limited available evidence”.

They have been updated to take into account advances in science and better understanding of the physical activity people took.

Sadly, that is where the good news ends.

Speaking at a briefing to launch the Government’s new “ambition” to see obesity levels falling by 2020, Prof Jackman; Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary; and Prof Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, emphasised that this was “not a licence to eat more”.

Prof Jackman said “the majority of adults” already ate much more than the new guideline amounts.

“We estimate that on average the population is eating 10 per cent more than they require,” he said.

Thus, as little over a third of the adult population is now not overweight or obese, only that minority is really entitled to an extra guilt-free indulgence.

Mr Lansley decided to unveil the Government’s new anti-obesity ambition the same day, leading to accusations of mixed messages.

The Health Secretary said Britain had to become a nation of calorie counters.

“People should have a pretty good sense of how many calories they are consuming,” he said.

Department of Health policy officers have calculated that England needs to consume five billion fewer calories daily, to ensure average weights fall to healthy levels.

That equates to enough cheeseburgers to cover 20 football pitches, or enough cafe lattes to fill four Olympic swimming pools, said a spokesman.

But Prof Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said it amounted to “peanuts”.

He added: “Sixteen dry roasted peanuts per person, per day to be precise.”

Like others, he attacked the Health Secretary’s reluctance to use stronger measures to tackle obesity, which already costs the NHS one pound in every 20 it spends.

The Prime Minister last week said a ‘fat tax’ on some foods was “something we should look at”, but yesterday Mr Lansley would only say that while taxes might have “a part to play”, they were not a “first resort”.

But Jamie Oliver, the chef and healthy eatign campaigner, dismissed the whole strategy as a “farce” and a “cop-out”, saying it was “worthless, regurgitated, patronising rubbish”.

He said: “Simply telling people what they already know – that they need to eat less and move more – is a complete cop out.  The country’s bill of health is shocking, and it’s not going to get any better over the next 30 years if a clearly defined plan isn’t put into place soon.”

“We simply can’t afford the financial or health costs of doing nothing. This Government might be able to navigate us slowly out of a recession, but it has no clue about how to make sustainable change in the short or long term, or how to inspire, enforce or empower public health.”

Dr David Haslam, a GP and chair of the National Obesity Forum, said issuing the new calorie guidelines alongside the updated anti-obesity drive was “really unhelpful”.

“It gives out entirely the wrong message,” he said. “People are going to think that they can eat that little bit more. If anything, that will add to the obesity problem.”