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Crackdown on ‘health tourism’, the shocking rate of suicide in young men and hope for premature babies

In the headlines today is the news that David Cameron will be announcing a crackdown on so-called ‘health tourism’. According to the Independent, one of the toughest measures aimed at putting off would-be migrants to the UK will be the tightening up of charges for NHS treatment for temporary migrants from outside the European Economic Area.

‘We should be clear that what we have is a free National Health Service, not a free International Health Service,’ the Prime Minister will apparently be saying.

His speech comes at a time of an ‘arms race’ on immigration among the main political parties, the paper says, aimed at deterring immigrants from both inside and outside the EU.

Meanwhile a Sunday Times investigation, also picked up by both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail this morning, uncovers a controversial trade in donor organs from the NHS which are being used for private foreign patients. Over the past two years, King’s College NHS Foundation Trust has transplanted 19 livers to fee-paying patients from Greece, Cyprus, Kuwait, Libya and Dubai.

According to the paper, a Government report triggered by the paper’s own investigation recommended four years ago that the practice should be banned. But the trust claims that EU rules mean European patients are entitled to transplants using British donor organs, while non-EU nationals are entitled to a donor organ if it is unsuitable for NHS patients.

Elsewhere the Metro reports that suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in Britain. According to a report from the Campaign Against Living Miserably  (CALM), three young males take their own life every day. The charity blames the recession for many of the deaths, which rose significantly in 2011, to 4,552 men.  Most are in the age group 33-44 years, in which suicide now reportedly accounts for more deaths than road accidents, murder and HIV/AIDS combined.

Finally, on a more positive note – a new role for stem cells could be in healing a fatal gut disease affecting premature babies, the BBC reports. Early animal studies show that stem cells taken from amniotic fluid can repair gut tissue damaged as a result of the condition necrotizing enterocolitis. This severe inflammation affects one in 10 babies and can result in serious infection, with around 40% of babies who require surgery to repair the damage dying.

The study, funded by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, showed that injection of amniotic stem cells in rat models of necrotizing enterocolitis increased survival rates.

‘What appears to be happening is a direct effect on calming inflammation and also stimulating resident stem calls in the gut to be more efficient at repairing the intestines,’ said researcher Dr Simon Eaton from the Institute of Child Health.

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