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‘Black market’ allows foreign patients to buy their way onto GP surgery lists, UK comes bottom in ovarian cancer survival study, and the dangers of sunbeds

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 3 October

The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have both reported the results of a BBC Panorama investigation on health tourism. The investigation has uncovered a thriving black market in which foreign patients are buying their way on to GP surgery lists for up to £1,000 a time.

The BBC says that the industry is likely to have cost the NHS over £40 million in the last four years. Although, one MP has described this figure as being just “the tip of the iceberg”.

Panorama found that a third of England’s hospitals failed to check that their patients have lived in the UK for the past 12 months

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who is campaigning for tougher regulation on health tourism, said: ‘This is nothing short of abuse of precious NHS resources. It’s highly irresponsible of somebody to be making money out of patients who are vulnerable.

‘The law is clear: if you’re not eligible for free treatment then you should be paying for it.’

The film Britain’s Secret Health Tourists is due to be aired tonight.

Elsewhere, the Guardian today reports on the findings of an ovarian cancer study that shows women diagnosed with the disease are less likely to survive in the UK than in other countries around the world.

The study, carried out by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, compared UK ovarian cancer records with Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway. In the UK, 69% of women survived for more than a year after diagnosis compared with 72% in Denmark and 74-75% in the other three countries.

Experts hope that the results will allow the UK to improve its diagnosis and treatment of the disease in future.

The new Conservative minister for women, Maria Miller, has backed calls to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks.

She told the Telegraph it was “common sense” to lower the legal limit at which a pregnancy can be terminated in order to “reflect the way science has moved on”.

However, as highlighted in the Guardian, the Department of Health as yet, has no plans to review the current laws on abortion.

Meanwhile in the Daily Mail, it was reported that sunbeds have been found to increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, particularly in those individuals who start to use sunbeds before the age of 25.

Further to this, The Telegraph says sunbeds are accountable for 1 in 20 cases of malignant melanomas.

The results emphasise the need to follow the example of the US and introduce a 10% ‘tan tax’ on all indoor tanning services. Although, as highlighted by Simon Williams in the BMJ, such a move is unlikely to put many people off using sunbeds.

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