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Also in the press

Industrial action by GPs; NHS failing to deal with mental illness; call to rank hospitals by cancer survival rates; and scientific papers free online

Monday, 18 June 2012


A handful of stories covering family doctor industrial action over pensions, planned for next Thursday, offered little support to striking GPs.

The Guardian (p8) and the Daily Telegraph (p8) reported that health secretary Andrew Lansley has urged doctors to work next Saturday to clear the backlog as a strike could lead to 1.25 million GP appointments being cancelled.

The Daily Telegraph revealed a poll by YouGov had shown the public are opposed to industrial action.

The Guardian said GPs are likely to give Lansley's demand for weekend-working short shrift.

The Sunday Times said that on the eve of the first doctors' strike in 37 years, new officials figures had shown that more than 100 GPs have recently retired with pension pots worth more than 3.5 million pounds each.

Matthew Parris in The Times (p23) on Saturday commented that much of the average GP's job consists of acting as a "glorified receptionist" and, as such, could be carried out by "physician assistants" at a third of the cost. Parris said the strike action on Thursday could accelerate the polarisation of jobs within surgeries.

Victorian Coren, writing in The Observer (p36) on Sunday, was the sole voice on the doctors' side. She suggested the government was preparing to "raid" GP pensions under the guise of pensions reform rather than just making "cutbacks", with the funds set to be used to cover unfunded commitments elsewhere.

Coren added that public sympathy for striking GPs could be boosted by giving pharmacists the right to allocate drugs, as well as selling them, while adults could be barred from seeking legal redress should side-effects arise from incorrect dosing "which is, surely, the doctors' fear".

The story is continued in Monday's press, with The Daily Telegraph (p1, 19) and the Daily Mail (p4) both reporting on concerns over possible gaps in the health service while doctors are on strike.


The NHS is failing people with mental illness with effective psychological treatments not being widely available to patients, report Monday's Daily Telegraph (p10), The Guardian (p7), The Independent (p9) and The Times (p1, 2).

The Telegraph says that, according to a study by the Mental Health Policy Group at the London School of Economics (LSE), the "under-treatment of mental illness is the most 'glaring case of health inequality' in Britain".

The paper says that two-fifths of patients who suffer anxiety or depression can recover if they are treated by means such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

The Guardian describes the NHS's neglect of mental illness as "scandalous". The Times says that, according to the report, using modern therapies would pay for themselves in long-term health savings.

An accompanying Guardian comment piece (p20), written by professor Richard Layard, at LSE's Centre for Economic Performance, says change needs to come from within the health service and from each doctor.

"Until we give more care to our troubled souls we shall struggle to build a better society," he says.


According to the national clinical director for cancer, professor sir Mike Richards, Britain's cancer survival rates would improve if doctors were obliged to compete against each other through the ranking of hospitals on survival rates, reported the Daily Telegraph (p12) on Saturday.

The Telegraph described how the 'cancer tsar' believes doctors in underperforming departments would feel compelled to improve their services if patients had cancer survival rate information at their fingertips.

If patients were able to make more informed decisions about where to receive treatment, that would also increase pressure to improve, said Professor Richards. He added that a guide would also help health commissions "who want to be buying services that provide good outcomes and value for money."

The cancer tsar also called for patient waiting times and satisfaction to be ranked and argued for faster diagnoses so cancer sufferers can reap the benefits of improved treatment.

Richards told the Telegraph: "We know that cancer survival in the UK is poorer than that in countries like Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway. It's very similar to cancer survival in Denmark. It is very clear that one of the major reasons for this is late diagnosis."


Scientific papers are to be available free online to the public in a government-backed project to open up knowledge at the expense of Britain's academic publishers, reports Monday's Independent (p13).

Detailed proposals are to be announced on Tuesday, the paper says, with the main aim to make the UK a world leader in technological innovation and to prevent publicly funded research "going behind the paywalls of journals".

The paper points out that thousands of academics are boycotting the world's biggest publisher Reed Elsevier, in protest at its fees, and in support of a shake-up of academic publishing.

However, the paper says that publishing insiders privately warn that this will hit a growing UK business and allow the rest of the world free access to British research.

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