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Why squaddies are drunks, Eurocrats want to regulate prunes and Andrew Lansley thinks management gurus can save the NHS

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 15 December.

First off, the Guardian reports that Mr Lansley has ordered an ‘independent assessment’ of the competence of NHS trust boards. Management consultancies such as McKinsey are to be invited to tender for contracts next year.

The move follows a report by the Public Accounts Committee which found that half of NHS trusts are unlikely to meet a 2014 deadline to achieve Foundation Trust status due to financial problems and issues of ‘leadership capability’.

The Guardian’s report also quotes Pulse’s story about the resignation of the chairman of the Medical Staff Committee in North Cumbria as an example of the squeeze on hospital activity.

Another symptom of the pressure on hospitals emerges in research by the Alzheimer’s Society and consultancy MHP Mandate, quoted in The Times (paywall). It found that emergency hospital admissions for dementia have risen by 12% in the past five years, and  that one in four beds are occupied by patients with dementia.

Another parliamentary report found that alcohol misuse is twice as high in the military, with 13% of soldiers having a drink problem, compared to 6% of civilians. General Gerry Berragan told MPs that soldiers often return from stressful tours of duty, find themselves with time and money on their hands, and so drink, says the Guardian.

The first of two tragic deaths in today’s news is that of 20-year-old mother Desiree Phillips. She took ‘a few extra’  paracetamol tablets to alleviate the pain of a minor breast operation and died from liver failure, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Another fatality is in the Daily Mail , in what the paper calls the worst case of anorexia doctors had ever seen. Kate Chilver, who weighed 4.7 stone, died when her organs failed due to a lack of blood supply.

Finally, Brussels bashing is being revived as a popular national sport in our newspapers after David Cameron’s recent treaty veto. The Telegraph reports that the EU has banned the humble prune from being promoted as a laxative because its effect cannot be proven. A classic case of trying to regulate on what keeps us regular.