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DH ‘fiddles’ pension strike numbers, wake up to caffeine risks and buy a shed to stay healthy

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 1 December.

The impact of yesterday’s public sector strikes over pensions fills the news this morning. The Times (login required) reports that industrial action by NHS staff meant 6,000 non-urgent operations and tens of thousands of out-patient appointments, including some for chemotherapy, were postponed. The paper also reveals that the London Ambulance Service drafted in police to support them in responding to emergency calls amid the disruption.

The Daily Mail backs Prime Minister David Cameron’s view that the strikes were a ‘damp squib’ and triumphantly declares that ‘militant union leaders failed in their campaign to bring Britain to its knees yesterday.’ Yet over at The Guardian, health unions accused the Department of Health of ‘fiddling the figures’ to claim that only 79,000 NHS staff did not turn up for work yesterday. Unions say 400,000 NHS staff were part of the strikes.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph claims that thousands of public sector workers used the strike as an excuse to go Christmas shopping and reveals that the BBC had to apologise after TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson suggested on air that strikers should be ‘executed in front of their families’.

The Independent fills its front four pages with coverage of World AIDS Day. In an opinion piece, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that ‘the goal of an AIDS-free generation is possible.’ However, The Independent’s Health editor Jeremy Laurance says that the ‘gap between rhetoric and reality on AIDS has widened to a chasm’.

Restrictions on NHS workers with HIV could be relaxed after a review found an ‘extremely low risk of the disease being passed to patients, reports the Telegraph. Some countries already permit HIV positive doctors and dentist to work, but despite evidence that any risk is ‘negligible’ the UK still has tough restrictions in place. The Daily Mail says the risk of a patient catching HIV from an NHS worker lies somewhere between one in 1.7 million and one in 5 million.

The Telegraph reports that discrepancies in the strength of high street coffees are ‘potentially putting pregnant women at greater risk of miscarriage or a baby having a lower birth rate’. The paper cites a Glasgow University study that shows some cups of coffee contain up to six times as much caffeine as those produced by rival outlets.

And finally, The Daily Mail urges everyone to improve your health by…getting a garden shed. The paper cites a study published in the BMJ suggesting that the ‘peaceful retreat may help lower blood pressure.’