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NHS reform 'delays', traffic fumes and life inside the diving bell

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 24 February.

By Alisdair Stirling

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 24 February.

Transferring commissioning and budgets to GPs under the NHS reforms could take longer than planned, the Daily Telegraph reports. Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, in an interview with the paper said a full-scale handover would take longer than envisaged and may not be complete by 2013.

Sir David, who will play head the new NHS Commissioning Board, said in an interview: 'The idea that we are going to say: 'Here's £80?billion – go and do your best' is not the way it will work.' Sir David told the Telegraph that he was overseeing pilot schemes and 'much of it will be about how they do over the next couple of years'.

A spokesman for the Department of Health added: 'The majority of GP consortia will make the deadline by 2013 and there will be an option to authorise with conditions if need be'.

Traffic fumes trigger more than eight times as many heart attacks as taking cocaine, according to another report in the Telegraph. If an individual with heart disease takes cocaine, their chance of having a heart attack increases 26-fold. If a person with heart disease is exposed to heavy traffic fumes, their chance of having one increases by 5%, the newspaper says.

Scientists at Hasselt University and the Catholic University of Leuven, both in Belgium, came to their conclusions in a paper published in The Lancet after looking at 36 studies on heart attack risk factors in people with heart disease. Risks examined included taking physical exertion, having sex, eating a large meal, drinking alcohol or coffee, smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine. They calculated that cocaine was therefore responsible for 0.9% of heart attacks, and traffic fumes for 7.4%.

Many of the newspapers also cover our story yesterday that NHS trusts are blocking one in eight GP referrals, with the Guardian quoting John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, saying the findings are a 'real concern'.

The Independent is one of the papers reporting the news that most people suffering from 'locked-in' syndrome are happy. The survey of 168 people with the syndrome, whose main means of communication is through blinking, found most said they were happy. Only four said they would opt for euthanasia if available.

The findings by Professor Steven Laureys, an expert in the syndrome from the neurology department of the University Hospital of Liège, also in Belgium, were were published in BMJ Open. The most famous patient with the syndrome was Jean Dominique Bauby, author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the bestseller later made into a film, which described the life of the former editor after he suffered a stroke.

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

Daily Digest

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