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NHS postcode lottery revealed, GPs ‘should test all new patients for HIV’ and a top contender for Unlikely Public Health Intervention of the Year

By Steve Nowottny

Our roundup of health news headlines on Friday 26 November

Lots of coverage of the new ‘NHS atlas' published by the Department of Health yesterday, which as none of the papers are slow to point out reveals the ‘postcode lottery' faced by many patients.

The Daily Telegraph highlights discrepancies such as a 14-fold difference in spending on broken hips and a 38-fold difference in rates of obesity surgery, while the Daily Mail leads with an aggregate figure: ‘three quarters of all stroke victims are missing out on treatment which could drastically improve their chances of recovery'.

The Times (no link unfortunately) reports that an NHS hospital has been franchised out to a private company for the first time – Circle Health will take over debt-stricken Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. It's a move BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has described as ‘an untested and potentially worrying experiment'.

The BBC is among several media outlets to cover a WHO report which has found that passive smoking is responsible for 600,000 deaths a year – the Independent points out that that figure represents ‘1% of all the world's deaths'.

The Guardian reports a warning from Health Protection Agency experts that a quarter of British people with HIV do not know it – in total it's estimated that 86,500 people in the UK are infected.

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the agency, said: ‘The HPA would like to see increased access to … testing in areas where rates of HIV infection are high. Pilot studies have shown that in these areas testing all adults registering at GPs or accessing certain hospital services can make an impact.'

And finally, a new contender for Unlikely Public Health Intervention of the Year comes courtesy of the Daily Mail, which reports that ‘health police' in North East Lincolnshire have ‘become so concerned at the "health" implications of excessive salt consumption they have spent £335 buying "healthier" salt shakers for fish and chip shops.

The new salt dispensers have just five holes, compared to the 17 in the previous versions.

The Mail adds: ‘While critics claim the nanny state scheme is a waste of money, council chiefs insist the purchase or 120 dispensers will "reduce hospital admissions" in the long run and save public cash.'

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

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