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Lansley faces ‘trench warfare’ over commissioning plans, waiting lists rise after targets scrapped and lungs have tastebuds, apparently

By Steve Nowottny

Our roundup of health news headlines on Monday 25 October.

Will Andrew Lansley's plans for GPs to take on commissioning responsibility actually benefit patients?

That's the question asked of 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors by the website, on behalf of the King's Fund - and as the Guardian and others report this morning, the results don't make pretty reading for the health secretary.

Just 23% of doctors agree the the shake-up will lead to higher standards of care, and if anything GPs are even more sceptical than their hospital counterparts - 41% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the changes would benefit patients, compared with 39% of doctors.

The findings, an analysis piece in the Guardian concludes, could mean 'trench warfare' between the Government and senior doctors as the health bill progresses through Parliament.

And while poor support for the Government's plans from the profession isn't a new story - Pulse, after all, reported last month that GP support had fallen away signficantly since the launch of the plans in July - it's worth noting that the King's Fund is bigging up the statistical significance of its findings. The Guardian sternly states: 'The findings are significant because the 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors who participated were chosen for being representative – they were not just random, self-selecting, respondents, as has happened in previous surveys.' (Frankly, the Daily Digest can't help but take it a little personally...)

We've heard a lot of political rhetoric about the need to scrap pointless NHS targets in recent months - but what will be the effect when they're actually gone? Well, it's obviously early days, but the Daily Mail is one of several papers to report an alarming rise in the number of patients waiting more than six weeks for cancer tests since the Government axed the 18-week target. In August, 5,795 people waited more than six weeks for MRIs, ultrasounds and other diagnostic tests, up 86% from the equivalent figure of 3,109 in June.

The BBC has the horrific story - and horrifying video - of an agency nurse working for the NHS who was filmed accidentally switching off her patient's life-support machine.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett was left brain-damaged after the incident, which was captured on a webcam he had asked a friend to set up for him after previously raising concerns about his care.

And finally, after that rather grim start to the week, let's end with a classic story from the 'Who knew?' school of science journalism - 'Lungs have taste-buds' is is an arresting headline in the Daily Telegraph today.

According to research published in Nature Medicine, human lungs can detect bitter tastes in exactly the way as the tongue can, and respond in a particular way. The paper reports: 'The team from University of Maryland School of Medicine found that contrary to what they thought would happen, the airways in the lungs opened in response to a bitter taste'. Who knew?

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

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