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Crackdown on GP patient nationality checks makes front pages, colds snaps sees death spike, NHS set for £1bn agency nursing bill

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines

Today’s Daily Mail front page is coverage of Pulse’s story that GP patients will be asked for proof of nationality in a bid to improve the cost recovery from their home nations.

Pulse’s story, which has also been picked up by Sky News today and the Telegraph found that the pilots will begin in areas with high numbers of EU migrants where surgeries will have to check if they’re eligible for free NHS care.

A DH spokesperson told Pulse: ‘We are absolutely committed to improving the way the NHS recovers costs from international visitors for primary care. We’re now planning to pilot different ways of doing this effectively without burdening busy GPs.’

Flu outbreaks and a post-Christmas winter freeze across large parts of the UK has seen the national death rate increase by a third on the annual average for this time of year, the Guardian reports.

The ONS registered 28,800 deaths in the fortnight ending23 January, 32% higher than the average of the previous five years with an increase of more than 7,0000 deaths amongst the over 65’s.

Dr Richard Pebody, PHE’s head of seasonal flu surveillance, said: ‘Throughout the winter season, PHE also encourages the early prescribing of antivirals for the treatment of flu and prophylaxis of vulnerable populations to reduce their risk of serious illness’ – advice that has put them at odds with GP leaders.

And finally, NHS spending on agency nurses has more than doubled in the past two years, leaving the health service on track for a £1bn locum nurse bill by the end of the financial year the Telegraph reports.

A Royal College of Nursing report found that in 2012/13 168 trusts spent £327m on nursing staff, and predicts that the same organisations are on track this year for a £714m spend. So the total bill for all 220 trusts could be more than £980m.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive, said: ‘This report shows the true financial cost of a health service which takes a ‘payday loans’ attitude towards workforce planning, leaving itself at the mercy of agencies because it refused to invest sensibly in the past.’

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