Tag Archives: Reduce

NHS urges 1.4m staff to have flu jab to reduce risk of epidemic

NHS bosses are writing to all 1.4 million staff to say they must have the winter flu jab as soon as possible to reduce the risk of them infecting patients who might die.

Those who decline the jab will have to tell the NHS trust that employs them why, and it will have to record their reasons, as part of a bid to drive up what the NHS admits are “disappointing” staff take-up rates.

The move comes as the chairman of NHS England admitted on Thursday that health service chiefs were “more scared than we have ever been” about how bad winter could be. There is a strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with flu sufferers, Prof Sir Malcolm Grant said.

The prospect of a flu epidemic presented a real crisis, added Grant. NHS leaders are seriously concerned that Britain could be hit by its biggest flu outbreak in years this winter. There is acute anxiety because Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing their worst flu season for many years with struggling to cope.

NHS bosses have got tough on staff’s jab uptake as part of a new series of “intensified cross-NHS winter preparations” in a bid to reduce the estimated 8,000 annual deaths from flu in England and Wales.

They are sending out letters to healthcare workers across England urging them to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to reduce the risk of them passing on the flu virus to vulnerable patients, especially older people and those with breathing problems such as asthma, pneumonia and emphysema. It is staff’s professional duty to have the jab, they say.

The letter says: “As winter approaches it is worth reminding ourselves that flu can have serious and even fatal consequences.

“Healthcare workers, as members of the general population, are susceptible to flu. When coupled with the potential for a third of flu cases being transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, it means patients are at particular risk.”

Although a record proportion of NHS staff received the jab last year – 63% – in some trusts as few as 20% of staff took up the offer of free vaccination at work.

In another previously unused tactic, NHS England bosses are writing to all 234 NHS trusts telling them to do much more to ensure staff have the jab. “We require each NHS organisation to ensure that each and every eligible member of staff is personally offered the flu vaccine, and then either signs the consent form or states if they decline to do so,” that letter says.

Grant, speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Bournemouth, said: “We face winter better prepared than we have ever been, but more scared than we have ever been.

“We have the strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with people suffering flu.”

The NHS is expanding its £237m winter flu campaign by offering free vaccination for the first time to over 1 million people who work in care homes, at a cost of £10m, and also to the 670,000 eight- and nine-year-old pupils in school year four. Those aged two, three and four will be offered a flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray rather than an injection, however.

In all, 21 million people in England will be offered free immunisation on the NHS. They include pregnant women and anyone over 65 and anyone deemed at clinical risk, for example due to asthma.

“This move to help keep care workers stay well during flu season is a really positive step by the NHS. Not only will it help to protect thousands of care home residents from getting sick, but it sends a strong signal about the importance of social care staff in providing an integrated health and care service,” said Imelda Redmond, the national director of the campaign group Healthwatch England.

Last winter, 133 people died as a direct result of flu after being treated in an intensive care or high-dependency unit in England, Public Health England said.

The NHS has also responded to the widespread shortage of A&E doctors by deciding to expand the number of doctors training to become specialists in emergency medicine from 300 to 400 a year for four years from next year. Currently, about 6,300 different grades of medics work in A&E units across England.

NHS urges 1.4m staff to have flu jab to reduce risk of epidemic

NHS bosses are writing to all 1.4 million staff to say they must have the winter flu jab as soon as possible to reduce the risk of them infecting patients who might die.

Those who decline the jab will have to tell the NHS trust that employs them why, and it will have to record their reasons, as part of a bid to drive up what the NHS admits are “disappointing” staff take-up rates.

The move comes as the chairman of NHS England admitted on Thursday that health service chiefs were “more scared than we have ever been” about how bad winter could be. There is a strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with flu sufferers, Prof Sir Malcolm Grant said.

The prospect of a flu epidemic presented a real crisis, added Grant. NHS leaders are seriously concerned that Britain could be hit by its biggest flu outbreak in years this winter. There is acute anxiety because Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing their worst flu season for many years with struggling to cope.

NHS bosses have got tough on staff’s jab uptake as part of a new series of “intensified cross-NHS winter preparations” in a bid to reduce the estimated 8,000 annual deaths from flu in England and Wales.

They are sending out letters to healthcare workers across England urging them to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to reduce the risk of them passing on the flu virus to vulnerable patients, especially older people and those with breathing problems such as asthma, pneumonia and emphysema. It is staff’s professional duty to have the jab, they say.

The letter says: “As winter approaches it is worth reminding ourselves that flu can have serious and even fatal consequences.

“Healthcare workers, as members of the general population, are susceptible to flu. When coupled with the potential for a third of flu cases being transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, it means patients are at particular risk.”

Although a record proportion of NHS staff received the jab last year – 63% – in some trusts as few as 20% of staff took up the offer of free vaccination at work.

In another previously unused tactic, NHS England bosses are writing to all 234 NHS trusts telling them to do much more to ensure staff have the jab. “We require each NHS organisation to ensure that each and every eligible member of staff is personally offered the flu vaccine, and then either signs the consent form or states if they decline to do so,” that letter says.

Grant, speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Bournemouth, said: “We face winter better prepared than we have ever been, but more scared than we have ever been.

“We have the strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with people suffering flu.”

The NHS is expanding its £237m winter flu campaign by offering free vaccination for the first time to over 1 million people who work in care homes, at a cost of £10m, and also to the 670,000 eight- and nine-year-old pupils in school year four. Those aged two, three and four will be offered a flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray rather than an injection, however.

In all, 21 million people in England will be offered free immunisation on the NHS. They include pregnant women and anyone over 65 and anyone deemed at clinical risk, for example due to asthma.

“This move to help keep care workers stay well during flu season is a really positive step by the NHS. Not only will it help to protect thousands of care home residents from getting sick, but it sends a strong signal about the importance of social care staff in providing an integrated health and care service,” said Imelda Redmond, the national director of the campaign group Healthwatch England.

Last winter, 133 people died as a direct result of flu after being treated in an intensive care or high-dependency unit in England, Public Health England said.

The NHS has also responded to the widespread shortage of A&E doctors by deciding to expand the number of doctors training to become specialists in emergency medicine from 300 to 400 a year for four years from next year. Currently, about 6,300 different grades of medics work in A&E units across England.

Test for breast cancer risk could reduce pre-emptive mastectomies

A genetic test that accurately predicts the risk of developing breast cancer could soon be used on high-risk groups.

Researchers behind the test say it could reduce the number of women choosing pre-emptive mastectomy surgery as they will be able to make more informed decisions about their care.

The blood test looks at 18 genetic variations, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), known to affect the chances of getting breast cancer.

It will initially only be available at St Mary’s hospital and Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester to women having tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

A study carried out by researchers at the hospitals and the University of Manchester analysed the DNA of 451 women with a family history of breast cancer who had developed the disease, using the information alongside other factors to predict an overall risk estimate.

Many of the women who were originally in the high-risk category were reclassified to a lower risk category, where risk-reducing breast removal surgery is not recommended.

The study suggested the number of women with BRCA1 and 2 mutations who choose to have a mastectomy could be reduced from 50% to about 36%.

Becky Measures, who had a mastectomy at Wythenshawe hospital 11 years ago after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, said: “When they find that they have the BRCA1/2 gene, many women fear that they have to take action immediately. The new test will give women more options and help them to make a more informed decision.”

Probably the most famous person to have undergone the surgery is actor Angelina Jolie, who made the decision after learning she had an up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer, a disease her mother had died of.

Following the revelation, referrals for the gene mutation tests more than doubled in the UK, which doctors described as the “Angelina effect”.

While all women with a BRCA gene mutation are given this same risk figure of 87%, it is actually much more complex and different for every person.

A breast cancer charity described the more tailored approach as an exciting development.

Lester Barr, the chairman of Prevent Breast Cancer, which partly funded the research, said: “With more accurate genetic testing, we can better predict a woman’s risk of developing the disease and therefore offer the appropriate advice and support, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“It’s so exciting to see this additional test go into clinical practice, as it’s this more tailored method that will help us on our mission to protect future generations from breast cancer.”

The research was led by Prof Gareth Evans, a medical genetics expert at the University of Manchester and Saint Mary’s hospital.

“This new test will help women at risk of familial breast cancer to make more informed decisions about their care,” Evans said. “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are just part of what we should be looking for when assessing risk and in Manchester we plan to incorporate screening for these new genetic markers in clinical practice within the next six months.”

Test for breast cancer risk could reduce pre-emptive mastectomies

A genetic test that accurately predicts the risk of developing breast cancer could soon be used on high-risk groups.

Researchers behind the test say it could reduce the number of women choosing pre-emptive mastectomy surgery as they will be able to make more informed decisions about their care.

The blood test looks at 18 genetic variations, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), known to affect the chances of getting breast cancer.

It will initially only be available at St Mary’s hospital and Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester to women having tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

A study carried out by researchers at the hospitals and the University of Manchester analysed the DNA of 451 women with a family history of breast cancer who had developed the disease, using the information alongside other factors to predict an overall risk estimate.

Many of the women who were originally in the high-risk category were reclassified to a lower risk category, where risk-reducing breast removal surgery is not recommended.

The study suggested the number of women with BRCA1 and 2 mutations who choose to have a mastectomy could be reduced from 50% to about 36%.

Becky Measures, who had a mastectomy at Wythenshawe hospital 11 years ago after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, said: “When they find that they have the BRCA1/2 gene, many women fear that they have to take action immediately. The new test will give women more options and help them to make a more informed decision.”

Probably the most famous person to have undergone the surgery is actor Angelina Jolie, who made the decision after learning she had an up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer, a disease her mother had died of.

Following the revelation, referrals for the gene mutation tests more than doubled in the UK, which doctors described as the “Angelina effect”.

While all women with a BRCA gene mutation are given this same risk figure of 87%, it is actually much more complex and different for every person.

A breast cancer charity described the more tailored approach as an exciting development.

Lester Barr, the chairman of Prevent Breast Cancer, which partly funded the research, said: “With more accurate genetic testing, we can better predict a woman’s risk of developing the disease and therefore offer the appropriate advice and support, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“It’s so exciting to see this additional test go into clinical practice, as it’s this more tailored method that will help us on our mission to protect future generations from breast cancer.”

The research was led by Prof Gareth Evans, a medical genetics expert at the University of Manchester and Saint Mary’s hospital.

“This new test will help women at risk of familial breast cancer to make more informed decisions about their care,” Evans said. “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are just part of what we should be looking for when assessing risk and in Manchester we plan to incorporate screening for these new genetic markers in clinical practice within the next six months.”

Test for breast cancer risk could reduce pre-emptive mastectomies

A genetic test that accurately predicts the risk of developing breast cancer could soon be used on high-risk groups.

Researchers behind the test say it could reduce the number of women choosing pre-emptive mastectomy surgery as they will be able to make more informed decisions about their care.

The blood test looks at 18 genetic variations, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), known to affect the chances of getting breast cancer.

It will initially only be available at St Mary’s hospital and Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester to women having tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

A study carried out by researchers at MFT and the University of Manchester analysed the DNA of 451 women with a family history of breast cancer who had developed the disease, using the information alongside other factors to predict an overall risk estimate.

Many of the women who were originally in the high-risk category were reclassified to a lower risk category, where risk-reducing breast-removal surgery is not recommended.

The study suggested the number of women with BRCA1 and 2 mutations who choose to have a mastectomy could be reduced from 50% to about 36%.

Becky Measures, who had a mastectomy at Wythenshawe Hospital 11 years ago after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, said: “When they find that they have the BRCA1/2 gene many women fear that they have to take action immediately.

“The new test will give women more options and help them to make a more informed decision,” she added.

Probably the most famous person to have undergone the surgery is Angelina Jolie, who made the decision after learning she had an up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer, a disease her mother had died of.

Following the revelation, referrals for the gene mutation tests more than doubled in the UK, which doctors described as the “Angelina effect”.

While all women with a BRCA gene mutation are given this same risk figure of 87%, it is actually much more complex than that, and different for every person.

A breast cancer charity described the more tailored approach as an exciting development.

Lester Barr, chairman of Prevent Breast Cancer, which partly funded the research, said: “With more accurate genetic testing, we can better predict a woman’s risk of developing the disease and therefore offer the appropriate advice and support, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“It’s so exciting to see this additional test go into clinical practice, as it’s this more tailored method that will help us on our mission to protect future generations from breast cancer.”

The research was led by Prof Gareth Evans, a medical genetics expert at the University of Manchester and Saint Mary’s Hospital.

“This new test will help women at risk of familial breast cancer to make more informed decisions about their care,” Evans said. “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are just part of what we should be looking for when assessing risk and in Manchester we plan to incorporate screening for these new genetic markers in clinical practice within the next six months.”

What’s stopping pharmacies doing more to reduce pressure on GPs? | David Brindle

When a woman recently walked into Thorrun Govind’s high-street pharmacy in Bolton seeking help for a common infection, Govind quickly knew what to prescribe. But because the woman said she had not had the medication before, Govind had to check with her GP practice. They insisted the woman go in.

“It’s crazy,” says Govind. “Here’s a busy practice telling a busy woman, who was at work, that she had to call them to see if they could fit her in. If she’d lied and said she had had the medication before, I could have given it to her and she could have started the treatment.”

The anecdote sums up the frustration of many of the UK’s 14,000 community pharmacists that they are not being allowed to do more to ease the pressure on NHS services, despite repeated assurances by ministers and officials that they want them to do so. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told the NHS Confederation conference in June: “I feel we haven’t exploited the tremendous skills that pharmacists have nearly as effectively as we might.”

New research, the first of its kind, suggests that pharmacies could make a much more effective contribution to tackling health inequalities if the commissioning of public health services by local councils was more consistent and targeted on need.

Certain services, including those covering help to stop smoking, sexual health and needle exchanges for drug users, became councils’ responsibility in England in 2013. Annual funding has since been cut by £531m – including a highly controversial in-year reduction of £200m in 2015-16 – but the research reveals widespread disparities in how the money is used and whether it is spent in line with known patterns of ill health. “This study reveals a mismatch between the health needs of local populations and the services commissioned, which is concerning,” says Robbie Turner, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s director for England.

The research has produced the first map of services commissioned from pharmacies across England. Using freedom of information requests, a joint team from Liverpool John Moores University and the Medway School of Pharmacy , based at the universities of Kent and Greenwich, compiled data from 97% of councils and tracked a total of 833 services commissioned in 2014-15.

chemist


‘At least 95% of people living in the most deprived areas live within 20 minutes’ walk of a pharmacy.’ Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Photos

Almost all councils commissioned at least one sexual health service – the most common being emergency hormonal contraception, or the morning-after pill, and chlamydia screening and treatment. All of them commissioned supervised consumption of methadone or another drug substitute. However, only 47% of pharmacies were appointed to provide the morning-after pill and only 52% provided supervised consumption of drug substitutes.

Nearly half of English pharmacies provided services to help people to stop smoking, the most frequently commissioned “lifestyle modification” service. But fewer than one in three councils commissioned NHS health checks, barely one in five an alcohol service – and just six out of the total 148 surveyed were paying for weight management advice and support.

The researchers established that of the 14 councils that did not commission a smoking cessation service, seven of them had higher smoking rates than the national average. Of the 48 councils that did commission NHS health checks, 31 were in areas with below-average diabetes rates and 29 had below-average death rates from heart disease.Meanwhile, only six of the 30 areas that had the highest heart disease death rates commissioned health checks – and just nine of the 22 councils commissioning alcohol screening had above-average rates for drink-related hospital admissions.

Published by the online medical journal BMJ Open, the study concludes that the commissioning of services is “poorly correlated to potential need”. While reasons for this are not clear and require investigation, the team says, the findings indicate that councils should take a more strategic approach when deciding how best pharmacies can help improve public health, perhaps employing regional or national approaches.

This message has been well received by the pharmacy sector. Helga Mangion, policy manager of the National Pharmacy Association and a practising pharmacist, says: “Local pharmacies have a long track record of health improvement, but we want to be engaged more thoroughly to address identified need, including in deprived communities.”

In Bolton, Govind is passionate about doing more. Aged 24 and qualified just a year, she represents a new generation of pharmacists who see the future of the profession as much more closely integrated with the broader health and care system and want greater recognition of their skills.

“People say, ‘I’ll go to the GP about this.’ They don’t understand that we have a consultation room, I am fully trained and, if I have their consent, I can access their summary care record and get a note of the medicines they have. I have all the tools.

“It costs the NHS £45 for a GP appointment, plus the cost of dispensing the medication and the cost of the drug itself. If a minor ailments service was commissioned from community pharmacies nationally, it would save a lot of money and take a lot of pressure off the system.”

Smoker with a Quit ring


‘Of the 14 councils that did not commission a smoking cessation service, seven of them had higher smoking rates than the national average.’ Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Typically, a pharmacy is paid £12 for each morning-after pill dispensed, £10 for each vaccination against hepatitis B and £2 for each supervision of methadone consumption (plus reimbursed cost of the medication in all cases).

Govind works for the Lancashire-based Sykes chain of pharmacies. Of its 18 branches, she says only two are commissioned to provide a minor ailments service. All offer the morning-after pill, but whether it is free depends on the local council’s commissioning arrangements. In contrast, women in Wales and Scotland can obtain emergency hormonal contraception free at pharmacies, but the Westminster government continues to resist pressure to extend the right across England and women face paying up to £30. Some Sykes branches are commissioned to offer chlamydia screening, she says, while “most” offer supervised methadone consumption.

Adam Mackridge, the study’s co-author and reader in public health pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores, says: “With in excess of 1 million people visiting a community pharmacy every day, they have long been championed as a potential setting for the delivery of public health services to local communities. At the moment, this is not matched well enough to potential need and so we may be missing opportunities to support health and wellbeing. For example, we know that NHS health checks and screening for risky alcohol use are not available in many areas with significant potential to benefit.”

One of the big arguments for making more use of high-street pharmacies is that at least 95% of people living in the most deprived areas live within 20 minutes’ walk of a pharmacy. Cuts to pharmacies’ national funding, which the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee says leave them with 7.5% less money this year than in 2015-16, could force closures that imperil that reach – especially in poorer communities where across-the-counter spending is low and cannot cushion such a reduction.

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the community wellbeing board at the Local Government Association, which represents councils, says: “Pharmacies have the potential to play a critical role in improving the health of communities by offering convenient and equitable access to health improvement services. But we are clear that community pharmacies themselves need to change and do more to explain what they can offer to local public health commissioners.”

Secret NHS cost-cutting drive to reduce hospital referrals revealed

GPs are being urged to get backing from a panel of other doctors in order to refer patients to hospital as part of a secret cost-cutting drive, it has been reported.

A leaked NHS England memo tells health trusts to review referrals weekly by September in a bid to cut numbers by about 30%, according to Pulse magazine.

Pulse, a specialist publication for doctors, said the leaked document promised “significant additional funding” for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who established the schemes this year.

The magazine said individual GPs would still be responsible for making the final decision over the referral process and the peer review would represent good practice to ensure that “all options are explored and that patients are seen and treated in the right place, at the right time and as quickly as possible”.

An NHS England spokesman said: “Clinical peer reviews are a simple way for GPs to support each other and help patients get the best care, from the right person, at the right time without having to make unnecessary trips to hospital.

“More than half of CCGs have already implemented some sort of peer review system, with Luton seeing an 8% drop in hospital referrals, and the latest NHS England guidance will help ensure best practice is shared to remaining local commissioners.”

The referrals process has attracted criticism before. It was revealed in January that NHS bodies were paying millions of pounds to private firms that blocked patients from being sent to hospital by family doctors.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) investigation sent freedom of information requests to all 211 CCGs in England. Of 184 that responded, 72 (39%) said they commissioned some form of referral management scheme to help manage outpatient demand at their local hospitals.

Almost a third (32%) of the schemes were provided by private companies, while a further 29% were provided in-house and 11% by local NHS trusts.

Sixty-nine percent of CCGs with schemes gave details of operating costs. These CCGs combined had spent at least £57m on schemes since April 2013, the investigation found.

A survey published last year also found almost one in four cancer patients needed to see their GP at least three times before getting referred to hospital.

The National Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2015, which examined the experiences of more than 71,000 cancer patients, found that 24% of patients saw a family doctor about the health problem caused by cancer at least three times before being referred to hospital.

Pizza and crisps makers urged to reduce fat to tackle childhood obesity

Public health bosses are urging food manufacturers to make chips, pizzas, crisps and burgers healthier, opening a second front in efforts to tackle childhood obesity.

Public Health England wants to go further than the focus on cutting sugar by demanding firms that make products eaten regularly by children ensure they are far less fattening by reducing the calories in them.

The new emphasis on sources of calories from ingredients other than sugar has been prompted by growing concern that children’s waistlines are expanding because they are copying adults by consuming 200-300 calories too many per day.

Over 40,000 deaths a year – one in 10 – are linked to people being dangerously overweight, health experts say.

PHE will start by investigating how many calories these types of foods popular with children contain and issue what ministers say will be “strong guidance” on reformulating them, and exhort manufacturers and retailers to act to improve children’s health.

“A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese and an excess of calories – not just excess sugar consumption – is the root cause of this,” said Duncan Selbie, PHE’s chief executive.

The move marks the latest stage of the government’s bid to reduce childhood obesity, which has been heavily criticised by health and children’s groups as too weak. Within weeks of becoming prime minister in July last year, Theresa May watered down what under her predecessor David Cameron was due to be a more robust strategy on the subject. Under May it became just a “plan for action”.

The initiative follows what PHE says is the “real progress” achieved over the past year in persuading manufacturers of sugary foods and soft drinks to cut the amount of sugar in their products. Nestle, Greggs, Starbucks, Kellogg’s and other firms have all pledged to do that, as have the makers of Lucozade and Ribena, and supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and M&S.

They have done so with nine types of sugary foods, including breakfast cereals, cakes, ice-cream, biscuits and yogurt. But health experts claim that the introduction next April of the sugar levy is as key to why some soft drinks ranges are cutting sugar content as their desire to join the fight against childhood obesity.

However, health campaigners warn that the drive to make such foodstuffs less calorific, which also includes sandwiches and ready meals, may fail because companies do not have to take part.

PHE’s new calorie reduction plan is “welcome in principle but short on detail”, said Malcolm Clark, the coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign.

“Beyond passing a sugary drinks tax into law, the government has so far provided thin gruel for parents and health professionals keen to see significant progress on tackling childhood obesity.”

Prof Graham MacGregor, chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar, said the sugar tax should be extended to confectionery.

Pizza and crisps makers urged to reduce fat to tackle childhood obesity

Public health bosses are urging food manufacturers to make chips, pizzas, crisps and burgers healthier, opening a second front in efforts to tackle childhood obesity.

Public Health England wants to go further than the focus on cutting sugar by demanding firms that make products eaten regularly by children ensure they are far less fattening by reducing the calories in them.

The new emphasis on sources of calories from ingredients other than sugar has been prompted by growing concern that children’s waistlines are expanding because they are copying adults by consuming 200-300 calories too many per day.

Over 40,000 deaths a year – one in 10 – are linked to people being dangerously overweight, health experts say.

PHE will start by investigating how many calories these types of foods popular with children contain and issue what ministers say will be “strong guidance” on reformulating them, and exhort manufacturers and retailers to act to improve children’s health.

“A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese and an excess of calories – not just excess sugar consumption – is the root cause of this,” said Duncan Selbie, PHE’s chief executive.

The move marks the latest stage of the government’s bid to reduce childhood obesity, which has been heavily criticised by health and children’s groups as too weak. Within weeks of becoming prime minister in July last year, Theresa May watered down what under her predecessor David Cameron was due to be a more robust strategy on the subject. Under May it became just a “plan for action”.

The initiative follows what PHE says is the “real progress” achieved over the past year in persuading manufacturers of sugary foods and soft drinks to cut the amount of sugar in their products. Nestle, Greggs, Starbucks, Kellogg’s and other firms have all pledged to do that, as have the makers of Lucozade and Ribena, and supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and M&S.

They have done so with nine types of sugary foods, including breakfast cereals, cakes, ice-cream, biscuits and yogurt. But health experts claim that the introduction next April of the sugar levy is as key to why some soft drinks ranges are cutting sugar content as their desire to join the fight against childhood obesity.

However, health campaigners warn that the drive to make such foodstuffs less calorific, which also includes sandwiches and ready meals, may fail because companies do not have to take part.

PHE’s new calorie reduction plan is “welcome in principle but short on detail”, said Malcolm Clark, the coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign.

“Beyond passing a sugary drinks tax into law, the government has so far provided thin gruel for parents and health professionals keen to see significant progress on tackling childhood obesity.”

Prof Graham MacGregor, chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar, said the sugar tax should be extended to confectionery.

Pizza and crisps makers urged to reduce fat to tackle childhood obesity

Public health bosses are urging food manufacturers to make chips, pizzas, crisps and burgers healthier, opening a second front in efforts to tackle childhood obesity.

Public Health England wants to go further than the focus on cutting sugar by demanding firms that make products eaten regularly by children ensure they are far less fattening by reducing the calories in them.

The new emphasis on sources of calories from ingredients other than sugar has been prompted by growing concern that children’s waistlines are expanding because they are copying adults by consuming 200-300 calories too many per day.

Over 40,000 deaths a year – one in 10 – are linked to people being dangerously overweight, health experts say.

PHE will start by investigating how many calories these types of foods popular with children contain and issue what ministers say will be “strong guidance” on reformulating them, and exhort manufacturers and retailers to act to improve children’s health.

“A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese and an excess of calories – not just excess sugar consumption – is the root cause of this,” said Duncan Selbie, PHE’s chief executive.

The move marks the latest stage of the government’s bid to reduce childhood obesity, which has been heavily criticised by health and children’s groups as too weak. Within weeks of becoming prime minister in July last year, Theresa May watered down what under her predecessor David Cameron was due to be a more robust strategy on the subject. Under May it became just a “plan for action”.

The initiative follows what PHE says is the “real progress” achieved over the past year in persuading manufacturers of sugary foods and soft drinks to cut the amount of sugar in their products. Nestle, Greggs, Starbucks, Kellogg’s and other firms have all pledged to do that, as have the makers of Lucozade and Ribena, and supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and M&S.

They have done so with nine types of sugary foods, including breakfast cereals, cakes, ice-cream, biscuits and yogurt. But health experts claim that the introduction next April of the sugar levy is as key to why some soft drinks ranges are cutting sugar content as their desire to join the fight against childhood obesity.

However, health campaigners warn that the drive to make such foodstuffs less calorific, which also includes sandwiches and ready meals, may fail because companies do not have to take part.

PHE’s new calorie reduction plan is “welcome in principle but short on detail”, said Malcolm Clark, the coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign.

“Beyond passing a sugary drinks tax into law, the government has so far provided thin gruel for parents and health professionals keen to see significant progress on tackling childhood obesity.”

Prof Graham MacGregor, chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar, said the sugar tax should be extended to confectionery.