The BMJ Today: Coca-Cola . . . for real?

Coca-Cola tackling obesity might sound surprising, not least if we consider the close relationship the soft drinks manufacturer enjoys with the rotund Father Christmas.

But the company recently announced that it was extending its scheme to tackle obesity (piloted last year in Birmingham) to 50 parks in three English cities, committing £20m to help local councils set up activities such as running, cycling, rounders, tai chi, and bushcraft.

In her column in The BMJ this week, Margaret McCartney casts a trademark critical eye over proceedings, arguing that while the move is allowing Coca-Cola to tick the box for corporate social responsibility, the company is unduly benefitting from the advertising space its products are being afforded.

In her view, local councils have been too willing to advertise the scheme on their websites, and should insist that any cash received should come free of adverts—or not at all.

One area that could do with some extra cash is GP premises, with a new BMA survey revealing that inadequate buildings are preventing many surgeries from improving the services they offer.

Key findings from the survey, reported in more detail here, include four in 10 GP practices saying they were unable to deliver adequate services to patients, and seven in 10 practices (six in 10 in Scotland) said their premises were too small to offer any extra services. Six in 10 GPs said that they cannot relocate to more suitable premises because of a lack of resources.

Unfortunately, this trend may not reverse anytime soon, with a new report from the Nuffield Trust warning that the NHS is heading towards a financial crisis.

While the health service has shown remarkable resilience up until now in coping with the unprecedented squeeze in funding, the report concludes it is now reaching “a tipping point,” with urgent action required to safeguard services.

Gareth Iacobucci is news reporter for The BMJ.