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No warts removed on NHS, curry blamed for obesity in Birmingham and why sleep may help you score

By Christian Duffin

Our roundup of health news headlines on Tuesday 14 December.

Men and 20-somethings are the social groups most likely to fail to turn up to hospital appointments – and their absences cost the NHS almost £700 million last year, The Times reports (no link, due to paywall).

Statistics from the NHS Information Centre revealed that there were 6.7 million no-shows, up from just under six million in the previous 12 months. The increase is largely because there were nine million more outpatient appointments last year; a result of increased demand for chronic disease treatment and care for older people, and hospital policy of bringing in patients as day cases rather than in-patient admissions.

Birminghams battles with the bulge are highlighted in the Daily Mail, which reports that nearly a third of adults in the West Midlands are obese. The region has the highest levels of obesity in the EU, closely followed by the North East at 28%, says the paper, drawing on statistics from the Association of Public Health Observatories.

The Mail puts the problem down to excessive curry eating. Professor Steve Field, former chair of the Royal College of GPs, and a GP in the West Midlands, said he was ‘appalled' and called on the locals to ‘take responsibility for the their own health, take more exercise, and eat sensibly.'

Hospitals will face fines if the put patients on mixed-sex wards after April next year, the Daily Telegraph claims. It predicts that the Government will today outline a system of financial penalties, although A&E units will be exempt if it considered to be in the best interest of the patient.

The Guardian reports doctors' ideas for helping the NHS achieve its goal of making £20 billion savings by 2014/2015. Charging patients for minor cosmetic operations such as wart removals and other skin growths are among them. The ideas are contained in a report by the NHS Confederation. Some doctors argue in the report that money could be saved by reducing ‘unnecessary' patient referrals to hospitals by GPs.

The Daily Telegraph draws on the same report, Clinical Responses to the Downturn, and highlights some doctors' views that there are too many operations on minor varicose vein problems.

Eight hours sleep a night really does make us healthier and more attractive, report several papers including The Independent. The paper draws this conclusion from a Swedish study in which untrained observers were shown photos of faces of volunteers who had been deprived of sleep. The observers judged them to be less healthy and good looking than photos of the same volunteers when well rested.

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

Daily Digest - 14 Dec 2010