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MPs call for clampdown on agency staff in the NHS, vote on ‘three-person’ IVF and smartphone sleep concerns

MPs have called for a clampdown on NHS hospitals using expensive agency staff, The Telegraph reports this morning.

The Public Accounts Committee said taxpayers money is being wasted by hospitals employing agency doctors and nurses, with consultants typically getting £1,700 a day.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: ‘It costs the taxpayer £400,000 to train an emergency consultant, but there are claims that some consultants are choosing to leave the NHS to work on an agency basis at a substantial cost to the NHS, with typical charges of £1,760 per day.’

Meanwhile the BBC leads on the Commons vote today on whether to give the go-ahead to new IVF technology, which would allow the creation of embryos from the DNA of three people -both the biological parents and the mitochondrial DNA of a third donor.

The modified version of IVF is aimed at correcting devastating inherited mitochondrial diseases.

Some faith groups and campaigning organisations are opposed to the move, citing concerns over safety, the destruction of embryos and the move to ‘designer babies’.

David King, from Human Genetics Alert, said: ‘Once you cross the ethical line, it is very hard not to take the next step of designer babies. All our experience says we are pushed down slopes by thousands of people who are paid to make sure we go that way.’

Reproductive ethicist Dr Gillian Lockwood said the move would only involve a small change in legislation and that the technique involves only a tiny amount of non-parental DNA.

Dr Lockwood said: ‘Less than a tenth of one per cent of the genome is actually going to be affected. It is not part of what makes us genetically who we are. It doesn’t affect height, eye colour, intelligence, musicality. It simply allows the batteries to work properly.’

Lastly, too much exposure to smartphone screens is mucking up children’s sleep patterns, according to research reported in The Independent.

A Norwegian study found teenagers who spent more than four hours a day looking at screens had a 49% greater risk of taking longer than an hour to fall asleep, and were three and a half times more likely to sleep for under five hours a night.

Study author Dr Mari Hysing said it was important that public health guidelines not be restricted to TVs and computers.

She said: ‘Parents should be aware of the use of all types of electronic devices in the bedroom. At a minimum, keep the night-time screen-free in the bedroom, and ideally be logged off an hour or so before they go to sleep.’