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A great leap forward for woman doctors and no more Mr NICE guy

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Monday 5 December.

Female doctors have ‘laid siege to the male bastion of the medical profession’, according to the Independent, and are set to outnumber male doctors by 2017.

Despite what the BMJ called ‘a great leap forward for womankind’, ‘experts’ in the Independent feel the progressive feminisation of medicine carries its own dangers, including ‘a reluctance by women to put in the time and effort needed to attain the most senior posts and maintain medicine’s influence in the corridors of power’. Tell that to Dr Clare Gerada.

Max Pemberton in the Telegraph, meanwhile, has decided that this march towards gender equality is ‘a sign that society is failing young men’. In light of the Government’s recent switch from Cervarix to Gardasil as vaccine of choice for the NHS HPV vaccination programme, Pemberton is now pushing for the program to be extended to boys, in a continuation of his theme today of sticking up for men.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is ‘emerging evidence to suggest that it can protect against other cancers caused by HPV, such as anal and penile cancers’. The study also showed that those infected with HPV were 32 times more likely to develop oral or throat cancers. Recently, the US government voted unanimously to recommend routine use of Gardasil in boys but ‘at present health ministers are ruling out the prospect of offering the vaccination to boys here and the only option is to have it privately, with clinics routinely charging nearly £500 for the course of three injections’.

David Cameron is looking to side-step NICE in order to get cancer drugs to patients on their ‘last chance’, according to the Mail. Although the drugs will still have to go through the safety and effectiveness approvals processes of either the European Medicine’s Evaluation Agency (EMEA), or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the early access scheme will mean the MHRA can provisionally recommend certain drugs that have not yet been through NICE’s lengthy approval process, which can take up to 18 months.

The PM does seem to be slashing the red tape in the NHS, but that may be just to ensure that it’s easier to unwrap this Christmas for those businesses in the life and science industry. The Guardian reports that Labour has accused David Cameron of being willing to put ‘large chunks of the NHS up for sale’ amid concerns that patients’ records and other NHS data could be accessed by the private sector under the PM’s vision of the NHS ‘working hand-in-glove with industry’. It’s more hand-in-GP’s-filing cabinet that is causing concern for Roger Gross, from the pressure group Patient Concern, who said that allowing private firms access to NHS data would mean “the death of patient confidentiality”.