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NHS opts out of pay deals, healthcare premiums soar and how to detect Alzheimer’s early

The NHS is at risk of ‘fragmenting’ as hospitals opt out of national pay deals, the Labour Party has warned. 

The Guardian reports Labour claims that 31 NHS trusts are considering breaking away from wage agreements with staff in the South-west facing pay cuts. 

It says that the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, will tell parliament that ministers are pushing for regional agreements as a way of saving money in the health service. In a Commons vote today, as part of Labour’s Living Wage campaign, Burnham will call on the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to ‘step in, stop the breakaway and defend the principle of national pay in the NHS’.  

It will highlight the case of NHS staff in 20 hospitals in the south-west of England which have been warned that they face seeing their pay cut, annual leave reduced and sickness benefits pared back in order to safeguard the jobs of 6,000 workers. It will also point out that in the north-east, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS foundation trust plans to sack more than 5,000 staff next year and rehire them on reduced terms and conditions.

Elsewhere the Daily Mail warns its readers that private health cover could ‘force’ patients into the hands of ‘cut-price doctors.’

It says that soaring hospital and medical costs mean private medical insurers are desperately looking to find ways to slash costs.

Premiums across all private medical insurance companies have jumped 52 per cent in the past decade to an average of £1,070 a year, according to figures from analysts Laing & Buisson.

And in other news the BBC reports that Alzheimer’s disease can be detected ‘decades’ before symptoms show.

It reports that some of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease have been found in the brain, more than two decades before the first symptoms usually appear.

Treating the disease early is thought to be vital in order to prevent damage to memory and thinking.

A study, published in the Lancet Neurology, found differences in the brains of people destined to develop an early form of Alzheimer’s.

A team at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona looked at a group of patients who have familial Alzheimer’s. A genetic mutation means they nearly always get the disease in their 40s. Alzheimer’s normally becomes apparent after the age of 75.

Brain scans of 20 people with the mutation, aged between 18 and 26, already showed differences compared with those from 24 people who were not destined to develop early Alzheimer’s.

The fluid which bathes the brain and spinal cord also had higher levels of a protein called beta-amyloid.

The researchers said differences could be detected “more than two decades before” symptoms would appear in these high-risk patients.