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Lansley's 'substantive' changes to NHS reforms; health benefits of window-shopping and how hospitals are tackling waiting lists

Our round-up of the health headlines on Thursday 7 April.

By Christian Duffin

Our round-up of the health headlines on Thursday 7 April.

The sickest patients in the NHS are being neglected because surgeons are forced to focus on hitting waiting list targets, according to the The Telegraph, which refers to a letter sent to the newspaper by the presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons, the College of Emergency Medicine and other medical associations.

Patients with the greatest need are often squeezed into the operating room ‘at the end of the day' so that less ill patients are seen within the 18-week referral to treatment target, the newspaper claims.

Thousands of British lives will be saved each year through the introduction of a five-minute screening test for 55-59 year-olds, the Daily Mail says. It works by detecting and removing tiny polyps in the bowel. The UK National Screening Committee has recommended the FlexiSig test which involves using flexible sigmoidoscopy, a thin tube that checks for abnormalities in the lower bowel.

The newspaper quotes Harpal Kumar, head of Cancer Research UK, as saying: ‘Because it will prevent so many cancers, adding this test to the bowel screening programme will spare tens of thousands of families the suffering associated with a cancer diagnosis, while saving the NHS money.'

Meanwhile, cancer services are to take a hit after it emerged that all of the UK networks face ‘big reductions' in funding. The Times (paywall) reported the grim news and said that all five of London's cancer networks face cuts of 40%. Mike Hobday, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support is reported as saying that ‘patients risk a serious decline in services, potentially leading to a return of the extremes of postcode lottery and in the worst case a significant impact on survival rates.'

The Independent describes health secretary Andrew Lansley's plans for ‘substantive changes' to his health reform strategy. Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to order Mr Lansley give local councils a role, alongside hospital doctors and nurses, it is reported.

Four key areas are earmarked for changes: ‘choice and competition, public accountability and patient involvement, education and training to support the modernisation plans, and involving different health professionals.' But health minister Simon Burns was enigmatic during an interview on Radio 4' World at One programme, the Independent said. Mr Burns told his interviewee: ‘It would be inappropriate of me at the beginning of an independent process…to start saying categorically what we are definitely going to do.'

Shopping will help you live longer, The Telegraph reports. Scientists followed about 2,000 over-65s and found that those who took retail therapy virtually every day were a quarter less likely to die over the study period that the ‘the average person'. The researchers, from Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes, said: ‘Elderly people may window shop, obtain prescribed drugs, bank, walk for exercise, seek companionship and avoid loneliness.'

Spotted a story we've missed? Let us know, and we'll update the digest throughout the day...

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