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Conflicts of interest and drunk MPs – another day, another digest

Our round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 5 October.

GPs at a health centre in York have written to patients saying the NHS will no longer fund minor operations and instead offering to carry out the procedures for a fee, the Guardian reports.

The letter says that patients are advised that for a number of minor surgical procedures, such as ingrowing toenails, mole removal and chopping out warts and cysts, they would have to go private.

Four ‘local service providers who offer the procedure privately', are identified in the letter, including HBG Ltd, which it admits is ‘a company that is wholly owned by the practice'. The price list of treatments range from £56 to remove a skin tag to £243 for lipomas. RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, warns the Telegraph that this sort of ‘conflict of interest' will become commonplace under the Health and Social Care Bill.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley, would no doubt approve, with ‘his confidence in his pro-market NHS bill' demonstrated, the Guardian says, by the introduction of a voucher scheme for 50,000 patients with long-term conditions who will be able to buy their own treatment.

The Telegraph reports the health secretary also said English language tests for foreign doctors would prevent poor treatment following the Daniel Ubani case in which an out of hours German GP killed a patient with a morphine overdose.

The NHS is spending almost £25m a year on supplies of an antidepressant drug despite evidence that it has little clinical advantage over an almost identical medication which costs a fraction of the price.

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the Independent has raised questions about the only independent study to find evidence that the drug, Cipralex, is clinically more effective than its out-of-patent predecessor, Cipramil. Both have a similar main ingredient but Cipralex costs £14.91, while the older Cipramil is available for just £1.31.

GP turned Tory MP for Totnes Dr Sarah Woolaston is also reported in the Telegraph [not on website] as saying that she has been shocked at the number of her fellow MPs being so drunk that they have ‘no idea what they are voting for'. Calling for a change in culture at Westminster she asked: ‘Who would go to see a surgeon who had just drunk a bottle of wine at lunchtime?'