Sunday, 21 December 2014

Slower ambulance response fears

A number of Sunday's papers lead with health stories. The Mail on Sunday says the paper has seen documents suggesting that NHS England is poised to more than double the target time ambulances are supposed to take to reach critically ill patients.

You know that Christmas Day is looming when the papers carry more features, festive quizzes, star interviews and lists than they do news articles.
Amid the slightly lighter fare than usual, several of Sunday's papers take a look at the future of NHS services.
The Mail on Sunday leads on documents it has seen suggesting NHS England want to more than double the target time ambulances can take to reach critically ill patients.
The paper says the leaked memo - which it says shows the plans have been approved - means the service will now set a 19 minute target instead of the current eight.
The Mail adds that the document also shows that NHS bosses want to delay the implementation of the change after the general election, in May.
The proposed change comes as doctors warn that the emergency service is under severe pressure.
Headlining its page "Caution: don't be ill this Christmas" the paper notes that eight of England's ambulance services say they are under "severe pressure" and two - Yorkshire and London - say the situation is "critical".
The new targets apply to response times for "red 2" incidents, including patients with strokes, seizures, and many car crash situations, the Mail explains.
"Doctors say it is often very hard to tell if a situation is immediately life threatening [a "red 1" incident] or not over the phone," it adds.
The paper quotes former government "cancer tsar" Sir Roger Boyle as saying the move will "risk lives".
The Observer pinpoints one of the reasons emergency services are under pressure - changing lifestyles.
The paper says Britons in the 18-34 age group are increasingly heading straight to A&E departments rather than wait for a GP appointment.
The Observer writes, "the findings suggest that, despite repeated promises by successive governments to make GP services more accessible, the NHS is still failing to cater for a working population that wants family doctors to be available at times that fit in with busy working lives."
It adds the move to bypass doctors' surgeries has added to growing pressure on the country's A&E units.
The Independent on Sunday explains the situation is exacerbated in places by a lack of trained GPs.
The situation is particularly difficult in the north-east of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and the East Midlands, the paper adds.
The Royal College of General Practitioners tells the paper that the "pull of London and the south-east" is leaving some areas with a shortage of applicants.
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'Terrible accidents'
If you're driving over the festive period you may be pulled over by police wanting to use what the Sun calls the "spitalyzer".
The new kit to be carried by police will test a saliva sample within seconds to see if drivers have taken any of 16 types of drug.
The Sun explains the tests will include prescribed drugs which may impair driving and "legal highs".
The drug tests, part of a crackdown on drug-driving, will first be deployed by Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Gloucestershire police forces, the paper adds.


"Suspects... can escape prosecution if they claim to be unable to give a blood sample for religious or medical reasons, allowing time for the drugs to leave their bodies," the paper notes.The Daily Telegraph, which leads on the story, says the new kit will save police having to go through the current "cumbersome" testing process, which involves having to give a blood sample at a police station and wait days for the result to come back.
Officials estimate that drug-driving causes 200 deaths in Britain every year, the Telegraph reports, but the offence is 50 times less likely to be detected and prosecuted than drink-driving.
Police minister Mike Penning, who has approved the kits for use, tells the paper he has always wanted to do something about the issue, having seen the results of drug-driving accidents when he worked as a fireman.
"Being impaired by taking medication or drugs or legal highs, if that impairs your driving ability, you're going to cause accidents and kill people - and kill yourself. It is just the same as someone who is drunk," he tells the Telegraph.
"The key is it's not just about illegal drugs. If you go and get a prescription for strong painkillers it will say on there, 'This may cause drowsiness, do not use heavy equipment and do not drive'.
"People sadly do, and then you have terrible accidents. We are not penalising motorists. We are trying to keep people safe, exactly as we do with drink."

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