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NHS spends £2bn on locums, magic mushrooms to treat depression and the chemical in red meat that raises cholesterol

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Monday 8 April

Trainee doctors are being paid more than £2,000 a day for locum shifts in NHS hospitals, a Telegraph investigation found. In some cases doctors were being paid rates of £15,000 a week, the equivalent of £700,000 a year, while ministers warned NHS managers that the costs were spiralling out of control.

Hospitals spent more than £2 billion on locum doctors in three years, with hundreds of millions spent on doctors via agencies, which a take a cut of the payment.

The Telegraph uncovered cases such as a consultant cardiologist hired for £15,000 a week by North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and one lucky locum paid £2, 794 for 24 hours cover in the A&E department at North Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Foundation trust.

Health minister Dan Poulter said the market had been fuelled as a result of the previous Government’s decision to sign up to the European Working Time Directive, which sets a maximum 48-hour-week for doctors.

However, he added that the best NHS trusts did not rely heavily on locums, and that the excess spending was frankly, a sign of poor management and a need to get a grip.

A former Government drugs tsar, has been awarded more than £5000,000 of public money to carry out a world-first trial using magic mushrooms to treat depression, the Daily Mail reports.

Professor David Nutt, who was sacked in 2009 over views that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol, wants to investigate the use of the chemical psilocybin - found in fungi known as ‘magic mushrooms’- treat depression.

But he said his research, which is funded by the Medical Research Council, is being hampered by ‘insane’ and ‘archaic’ drug laws dealing with magic mushrooms, ecstasy and cannabis. Only four hospitals in the UK have a licence to hold psilocybin – and Professor Nutt said the Home Office refused to tell him which they were.

Speaking ahead of the British Neuroscience Association’s festival of neuroscience this week, Professor Nutt said that archaic laws are hindering medical research. He said: ‘Finding a company to provide this illegal drug has, as yet, proved impossible.’

The BBC brings us the news that a chemical found in red meat ‘damages the heart’, according to US scientists. A study in the journal Nature found that cartinine in red meat was broken down by bacteria in the gut, kicking off a chain of events which resulted in higher levels of cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.

Experiments on mice and people showed that bacteria in the gut could eat cartinine. It was broken into a gas, which was converted in the liver to a chemical called TMAO. In the study, TMAO was strongly linked with the build up of fatty deposits in blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease and death.

The news adds to the raft of research suggesting regularly eating red meat may be unhealthy.

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