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Ill-treatment to be criminal offence, NHS England £90m to diagnose two-thirds of dementia, and fears of 'needless' mastectomies cause drop in screening

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Friday 28 February

In The Guardian today, news that a new DH consultation document proposes ‘wilful neglect or ill-treatment’ by health professionals should be a criminal offence punishable by a £5,000 fine and/or five years in jail.

The recommendation initially came from an advisory group, chaired by Don Berwick, in light of revelations about care in Mid Staffordshire foundation trust, but ministers will expand its scope to include private health providers. Care and support minister Norman Lamb told The Guardian: ‘This is not about punishing honest mistakes – it is about closing the gap in current laws so that this type of poor care cannot go unpunished.’

The Independent reports that part of Jeremy Hunt’s bid to boost the UK’s dementia care will be see NHS England investing £90m next year in a bid to diagnose two-thirds of sufferers by March 2015.

This is part of a package of changes which include increased research funding and training 190,000 employees across major retailers to become ‘dementia friends’ able to spot symptoms and support dementia sufferers. NHS England’s funding will target areas with long dementia diagnosis waits, Mr Hunt told the paper: ‘To have variation in diagnosis rates from a few weeks to close to six months is totally unacceptable and I am pleased that the NHS England have agreed to address this within the funding they have available.’

And finally, The Mail reports that women’s fears over being ‘needlessly’ referred for mastectomies have resulted in a drop in the numbers attending breast cancer screening programs, for the second year in a row.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal that 76.4% of women age 53 to 70 had been screened in the last three years as of 31 March 2013, a drop in the 77%coverage for the same time in 2012. The decline follows a change to the NHS leaflet inviting women for screening, which was modified to reflect uncertainties in the process. It now states: ‘Overall, for every woman who has her life saved from breast cancer, about three women are diagnosed with a cancer that would never have become life-threatening.’

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