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New rights for mental health patients and major health inequality in Scotland

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 13 December

The Guardian announced today the Department of Health will introduce new rights for patients with mental health problems so they can have a say over what care they receive.

From April 2014 patients will be able to choose which specialist they see for treatment. Currently those with mental health problems are unable to choose which psychiatrists they visit.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that giving patients with mental health conditions more choice and control over their treatment would increase the chances of them making a good recovery.

The BBC reported how the watchdog Audit Scotland has found that there is still major health inequality in Scotland.

It said that despite improvements there was still ‘substantial differences’ between the health of people from poorer backgrounds and those who were better-off. The report said that in the worst cases men in deprived areas died 11 years earlier than men in affluent areas, while the gap for women was 7.5 years.

It also said that GPs play a crucial role in reducing health inequalities, but currently they were not distributed correctly to regions of higher ill health.

Finally the Daily Mail warns that the number of cases of winter flu is 72 per cent higher than this time last year.

Some hospital wards have to close due to fears at the high number of norovirus cases. The Health Protection Agency says that figures may in fact be even higher as many people don’t go to their GP. They estimate that for every confirmed case there will be 288 other cases in the community.

It has also not yet reached the peak of the flu season. Infection rates tend to reach an annual high in January and February so the numbers of cases are set to get even worse.

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