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Clegg submits last ditch amendments to health bill, new sleeping pills risk, and doctors ‘acting like vets’ with dementia patients

A round-up of the health news in the papers on Tuesday 28 February.

Nick Clegg’s eleventh hour call for changes to the Health and Social Care Bill dominates today’s medical headlines. Most papers including the Times (paywall) and the Independent report how the deputy prime minister has suddenly decided he wants the/his Government to water down the reforms to prevent a ‘US-style’ market led system. But the Prime Minister’s spokesman says the Government will not agree to Clegg’s advocated amendments when the bill goes back to the Commons.

It comes despite the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) becoming the latest professional body to lean against the reform bill, with an overwhelming 79% of members in opposition in yesterday’s meeting. The physicians will hold a ballot next week to see whether they will formally oppose the bill.

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports on a new US study which shows hypnotics are linked to an increased risk of death. The BMJ Open Journal’s study identified a four-fold increase in deaths, with those taking over 18 pills a year three times more likely to die than patients without sleeping tablets. People taking the sleeping pills were also 35% more likely to develop cancer. 

The report is also covered in Daily Telegraph, where Malcolm Lader, professor of clinical pharmacology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, refutes the study, claiming with 18 doses a year and three times the mortality ‘you would have people dropping like flies’. But study leader Dr Daniel Kripke  claims ‘the meagre benefits of hypnotics, as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest, would not justify substantial risks. A consensus is developing that cognitive behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics’.

Finally, the Daily Mail reports on a study which criticises doctors care of patients with dementia, accusing them of acting like vets with dementia patients’. The analysis – which looked at medical staff’s attitude towards dementia, combined interviews with 60 doctors, nurses and other healthcare members – and was conducted by Professor John Gladman at Nottingham University. The study will be incorporated into a huge report geared towards respect for older patients, set to be published by the NHS confederation, the Local Government Association and Age UK tomorrow.