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Minimum ward staffing, £10 to see your GP and is there a link between long-term use of the pill and glaucoma?

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 19 November.

The publication of the Government’s response to the Francis Report is today’s big health story, with the Guardian reporting Jeremy Hunt will call for the introduction of ‘monthly mandatory reporting of numbers of staff on hospital wards but will reject a fixed minimum nurse-patient ratio’.

Hunt is expected to ask NICE to draw up a plan for minimum staffing levels in wards according to the size of ward, acuteness of patient illness, age profile and other factors.

The Guardian also notes plans to employ 3,700 more nurses by the end of the financial year, a figure which shadow health secretary Andy Burnham says will fail to match the 6,000 nursing jobs he says have been lost under the current Government.

Increasing prescription charges to £10 and charging £10 for a GP appointment are among the proposals outlined in a new report from centre-right think tank Reform aimed at plugging the NHS funding gap, the BBC reports.

With the NHS funding shortfall expected to hit £20bn by 2020, prescription charges coupled with a rise in the cost of Prescription Prepayment Certificates from £104 to £120 would raise an additional £134 million annually.

Thomas Cawston, research director at Reform, said: ‘Few will want to debate higher NHS charges but the funding outlook for the service makes it unavoidable.’

The Mail also quotes a recent Pulse poll of 440 GPs which found that 51% were in favour of making patients pay for GP appointments.

The Telegraph carries a story which suggests that women who have taken any form of oral contraceptive for more than three years are 2.05 times more likely to report that they have been diagnosed with glaucoma.

Researchers at the University of California reviewed 3,406 women over 40, who had all had an eye test and completed interviews about their reproductive health and vision.

While the findings do not prove that long-term use of the pill causes glaucoma, researchers said the study should result in further screening.

Presenting the findings, Professor Shan Lin said: ‘Women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist.’

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