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Hospital death rates published, the ‘forever young’ drug and breast-feeding at work

By Laura Passi

Our roundup of health news headlines on Monday 29 November.

NHS shamed by third-rate hospitals: Needless deaths and thousands of blunders exposed' says the Daily Mail this morning. The figures come from the annual Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2010, based on information collected by hospitals, the Department of Health and Office for National Statistics.

We're told: ‘Death rates at 19 hospital trusts are alarmingly high and tens of thousands of patients are suffering blunders at the hands of careless and incompetent doctors and nurses.' Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is quoted as saying, with masterly understatement: ‘This report shows we can do better'.'

Walking six miles a week boosts the brain' according to the Independent, which publishes research led by Dr Cyrus Raji, from the department of radiology at Pittsburgh University. It found that healthy people who walk six miles a week ‘have bigger brains, better memories and improved mental function compared with couch potatoes'.

Walking may also be the best way to preserve mental and physical health in old age - among older people 'showing signs of forgetfulness, walking even five miles a week – a daily 20-minute trip to the shops – slowed the progression of their condition.'

Talking of old people. The Daily Mail presents the news that scientists have discovered the elixir of youth. Scientists, led by Dr Ronald DePinho at Harvard University, have found ‘a drug that switches on a key enzyme … called telomerase.'

‘Dr DePinho succeeded in shocking the enzyme back to life in mice that had prematurely aged in a way designed to mimic the human ageing process.' Expecting the ageing process to halt or slow down, imagine his surprise when he realised he'd reversed it.

Andrew Lansley says workplaces must help mothers who want to breastfeed' says The Observer. In a bid to increase the rate of breastfeeding ministers will suggest that ‘workplaces should offer mothers private rooms where they can breastfeed their babies or express milk for them,' as well as flexible breaks and fridges to store their milk.

‘Lansley wants to help narrow the gap in breastfeeding rates between women in routine and manual jobs – where 66% of new mothers breastfeed – and those in professional occupations, 88% of whom breastfeed.'

And finally, children will be given plastic cards to swipe on lamp-posts to track them on their way to school, under 1984-style Government plans to get more kids walking.

The plans – revealed by the Guardian today – are part of a ‘radical' plan for public health announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley. Now all he has to do is get rid of all the chip shops they walk past on the way.

Spotted a story we've missed? Let us know, and we'll update the digest throughout the day...

Daily Digest