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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Rural health issues

Rural healthcare is being neglected, according to a British Medical Association report, Healthcare in a rural setting, which found that health policies developed for urban areas do not work for rural areas. Remoteness, lack of public transport services and the centralisation of health services means that many people in rural areas have difficulties in accessing healthcare. The report calls for improvements to transport and innovative healthcare services and recommends that medical students should be encouraged to take placements in rural areas.

Postcode lottery persists

Cancer patients living in northern England are twice as likely to die than patients living in the south, a Public Accounts Committee report has revealed. It looks at damning evidence of the so-called 'postcode lottery', noting that cancer death rates of 190 per 100,000 strike people in Manchester, but only 100 per 100,000 in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. ìThe Department of Health and the NHS need to tackle the underlying reasons behind the health divide,î said committee chairman, Edward Leigh.

Patient choice uncertainty

The government may miss the deadline for its much-hyped patient choice target, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said. When the NAO asked 1,500 GPs whether they were aware that, by the end of the year, patients would be allowed to choose a hospital to be treated at from a list of three or four hospitals, just 50 per cent knew about the plans. A computer scheme allowing patients to choose the date and time of their appointment is also well behind schedule, reports suggest.

Disability issues

Doctors who wrongly sign people off as 'disabled' could face ìretraining and revalidationî, as part of the government's planned Office for Disability Issues. The government plans to set up the office in the hope of improving the lives of disabled people over the next 20 years. As part of the process, the performance of GPs who sign people off as sick or disabled will be monitored. The British Medical Association attacked the plans arguing that GPs ìare not there to police the benefits systemî.

30th September 2008

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