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Independents' Day

GP first to test out paperless scripts

London GP crisis worsening

NHS services in London are at breaking point because of the worsening shortage of GPs, a report by the King's Fund warns.

Vacancies in London are at 7 per cent, double the rate for the rest of England.

A total of 424 vacancies were outstanding between April 2003 and May 2004, despite a headcount increase of 637 GPs in the preceeding nine months. The report said GP shortages were likely to increase.

GMC rewrites guidelines

The GMC is to rewrite its Good Medical Practice guidelines later this year to make them easier for patients to understand.

The guidelines will be more concise and provide supporting guidance through case studies and examples of bad practice.

An informal consultation by the council on reviewing the guidelines received 95 responses from patients and medical organisations.

The guidelines will be updated following a formal consultation in the autumn.

Shipman Inquiry cost £21m

The five-year inquiry into mass murderer Harold Shipman has cost taxpayers almost £21 million, the Government has revealed. Costs included £35,000 for legal representation for Shipman's wife.

In a Commons written answer, health minister John Hutton disclosed that the biggest expense, accounting for £10.6 million, was legal fees.

The inquiry began gathering evidence in November 2000 and is expected to be decommissioned at the end of this month.

Other bills included £6.2 million in IT costs, £2.4 million in equipment rental, maintenance and hospitality, £1.2 milion in publicising its work, £1.9 million in staff costs and £436,000 in administration. Inquiry chair Dame Janet Smith's salary was not paid by the inquiry but under the normal terms of a High Court judge.

Flu vaccine problems solved

The Government has lifted the suspension on Chiron's licence to manufacture the influenza vaccine after being satisfied that problems in the manufacturing process have been resolved.

GPs had to cancel clinics and scramble around for alternative supplies after Chiron was unable to fulfil orders for 2.4 million doses at the start of the flu campaign in October.

But the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency this week announced that satisfactory progress had been made in improving the manufacturing process. Chiron is now free to resume manufacture.

GPs get mobile panic button

A panic button device to offer more security to GPs doing house calls and other health service staff working alone has been launched by the NHS. If doctors find themselves in a vulnerable or violent situation they can press the button, hidden on an identity badge.

It transmits their location to a 24-hour control room and a microphone records what is going on using mobile phone technology.

More data confirm MMR safety

The rate of autism continued to rise in Japan after MMR was withdrawn and replaced with single vaccines,researchers claim.

The joint UK and Japanese study, which has not yet been published, appears to provide further evidence that MMR and autism are not linked. Researchers studied 30,000 children and found the rate of autism more than doubled from 1988 to 1996, during a period when MMR uptake fell sharply. Japan withdrew the MMR vaccine in 1993 after concerns over the mumps component but now has plans to introduce another version.

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