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QOF under fire, sickness benefit squeeze and why babies are not afraid of snakes

By Christian Duffin

Our roundup of health news headlines on Wednesday 26 January.

Huge sums of money were ‘wasted’ by the previous Government in QOF payments to GPs for things that they were already doing, several newspapers claim this morning.

The reports relate to a research paper by Harvard University in America and Nottingham Medical School, which analysed the effect of the QOF scheme on the care of patients with high blood pressure.

Researchers said the payment threshold was set ‘too low to trigger any improvement in care’ and would have been better spent on making people more aware of the dangers of hypertension, The Telegraph says.

The Daily Mail quoted Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the BMA’s GPC, who defended the QOF. Dr Buckman said: ‘Other studies have shown that it has improved care and treatment for people with diabetes and reduced the number of heart attacks and deaths, particularly in deprived areas.’

The Times reports that more than two million people could be forced off sickness benefits after assessments showed that fewer than one in 10 who wanted to claim were eligible (pay wall). The story relates to Department of Work and Pensions figures, which also indicate that about eight out of ten of those seeking to claim incapacity benefit were either found to be fit to work or dropped their application rather than submit to tough new tests.

Fear of animals such as snakes and spiders is not innate but something we learn, The Daily Mail reports. The newspaper cites a research project from Rutgers University in Newark, USA. Researchers showed seven-month-old babies two videos side by side, one of a snake and another of a non-threatening animal while at the same time playing them a recording of a fearful human voice of a happy one.

The babies seemingly spent more time looking at the snake footage when listening to fearful voice, but showed no fear themselves. Past studies, says the Daily Mail, have shown that people can be taught to fear almost anything, including flowers and mushrooms.

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

Daily digest