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Has NHS ‘stockpiled’ cash reserves, Hunt to reassess hospital closures, and the folly of ‘low in fat’ foods



This morning’s broadsheets mull over the financial state of the health service – reporting on a new Audit Commission report which suggests the NHS has stockpiled cash reserves of almost £4bn despite a doubling the number of hospital and primary care trusts in the red.

The Daily Telegraph says two per cent of the entire NHS budget – half of which was not spent in 2011-12 alone – is sitting in the bank, even as cuts have increased and the number of nurses has reduced.

Yet despite the surplus, more than twice as many hospital trusts and PCTs were in deficit at the end of the 2011-12 financial year than the previous year – 34 compared to 15. The number of foundation trusts in the red more than tripled from six to 21, their collective deficit ballooning from £27m to £130m.

The Guardian quotes Christina McAnea, head of health at the union Unison as saying: “It is a tragedy that £4bn is sitting in the bank when struggling hospitals are rationing patient care, closing wards, and nurses are losing their jobs.”

 

Meanwhile The Independent says Jeremy Hunt has ordered a fresh political assessment of controversial plans to shut hospital casualty units as one of his first acts as Health Secretary.

The move will raise hopes of a reprieve for a number of accident and emergency departments threatened with closure as NHS trusts cast around for savings.

The Indie says Mr Hunt has been charged by the Prime Minister with drawing some of the political sting from the National Health Service and has told Tory colleagues he wants a new examination of all the proposals, which he would ultimately have to approve. A source close to him said: “There will be a new approach to this issue. Trusts still need to cut costs, but it doesn’t have to be through closures.”

 

The Telegraph says there is a “conspiracy of silence” between patients and doctors over dementia, with both sides reluctant to raise the the issue.

A survey of 200 British doctors, sponsored by drugs firm Eli Lilly, found only one in four raised the matter with patients they suspected of having the early signs of dementia.

In addition, the doctors thought only a quarter of patients raised the possibility soon after they thought they had signs of the disease.

In the other half of cases, the patient eventually initiated the conversation – but only after an average of seven-and-a-half months.

 

And several papers including the Daily Mail report on a survey by Which? suggesting many foods marketed as ‘low in fat’ contain the same number of calories as the standard options – and some have more sugar.

The Mail says the survey found that six out of ten consumers eat low-fat and light products several times a week, thinking they are a healthier option.

But many of the products have minimal differences in calorie content compared to their standard counterparts and some are still rated as red under the traffic light labelling system.

The paper gives the example of a standard McVitie’s chocolate digestive biscuit which contains 85 calories – while a ‘light’ one has 77. The difference of eight calories could be burned off in less than a minute of swimming or running, the Mail says.