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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round of NHS and healthcare stories

NHS changes threaten A&E services

NHS emergency services could be put at risk as market forces become increasingly influential. According to the health service watchdog, the Audit Commission, the new payment by results system - rewarding NHS trusts for individual jobs done - is so stringent that certain hospital departments, particularly A&E services, will be forced to close.

The commission joined the voices of dissent, including consumer organisation Which? and Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary, when it said: ìThe level of risk inherent in the current policyÖis too great.î It has called for a basic fund to protect A&E services.

The Department of Health has refuted the claims, saying: ìThere is no evidence to suggest problems with the use of tariff within A&E.î The new system costs £50m in administration fees and replaces contracts in which hospitals received a set amount of funding regardless of their workload.

More people surviving breast cancer

Approximately two thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for at least 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK experts. Women aged between 50 and 69 now have a 72 per cent chance of living for a further 20 years. A decade ago, women had an overall chance of 54 per cent of surviving for 10 years only, and a 44 per cent chance of surviving for 20.

The report was compiled by Cancer Research UK epidemiologist, Professor Michel Coleman, by analysing National Statistics on breast cancer between 1971 and 2001. Prof Coleman identified early detection screening and innovative treatments as the catalysts for improvement.

Primary care trusts facing severe cuts

The Department of Health (DOH) is planning to drastically reduce the number of Britain's 302 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

An application has been made to the Strategic Health Authorities urging them to cut the number of trusts to less than 150. Sir Nigel Crisp, Chief Executive of the DOH, claimed that £250m could be saved by such a move. He said: ìThese funds can then be redirected straight to front-line services.î

The PCTs were created three years ago, by the then Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, and cost over £63m. He is believed to be furious at the party's volte-face. Some critics are calling the move a reversion to inherited Conservative health practices.

30th September 2008

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