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Health bill ‘threatens children’, PIP scandal could happen again, hospital waiting times rise

A round-up of the health news in the papers on Friday 17 February

The health bill has been called a lot of things since it became a flagship policy, with the latest being a ‘threat to children', according to the headline in the Telegraph (not on web). That's from more than 150 paediatricians in The Lancet  who said the bill would have an ‘extremely damaging effect' on the health of children.

The PIP scandal rumbles on this week after a warning from medical regulators that it ‘would be impossible' to prevent a repeat occurrence in the future, the Times (paywall) reports. Professor Sir Kent Woods, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, has defended the safeguards currently in place, saying it could not be expected to detect fraud and needed only ‘incremental improvements'.

Professor Woods said: ‘There is no country in the world that is completely happy with its medical devices regulation', in what is the ultimate ‘so why bother trying' argument.

In France and numerous other countries, women have been advised to have their PIP implants removed at state expense. Meanwhile, in Britain, the Department of Health says the risks of surgery do not justify preventive removal but that private clinics have a duty of care to anxious patients. However, ‘ultimately, the NHS funds removal if private clinics refuse'.

The NHS Constitution gives patients the right to treatment within 18 weeks of seeing their GP, but the number of those having to wait longer continues to increase year on year as figures reach 22,600, as reported in the Guardian (not on web).

8.4% of inpatients treated in December 2011 waited longer than 18 weeks, a figure which keeps within the Government's target of treating 90% of patients within the allotted time. However, 32 NHS trusts missed this target, compared with just 18 when the coalition Government to came to power in May 2010. 

Some clinicians have expressed concerns that the 18-week target leads some trusts to ‘play the system' by ignoring patients who have already passed the limit and concentrating on those just under it, leading to much longer waits for some.