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Daily digest March 17 2015

Missed the news? Read our summary of the latest health stories here

Hidden army of pharmacists could ease crisis in GP numbers

Patients visiting their GP surgery with long-term health problems such as asthma and high blood pressure could be given an appointment with an in-house pharmacist instead of a doctor, according to radical proposals aimed at bringing down waiting times.

The plan, announced today by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, would see pharmacists have a greater role in running surgeries, take control of GP surgery medicine stocks, liaise with local hospitals and care homes about prescriptions, and even treat patients.

Although many GP surgeries already have pharmacy counters on site, the RCGP argues they would also relieve pressure on GPs’ waiting lists by seeing those patients whose main reason for visiting was medicines-related, the Independent reports.

Read more on the Independent website: click here

Obese women at higher risk of developing cancer

Around 18,000 women develop cancer every year because they are overweight or obese, the Mirror reports.

Cancer Research UK has revealed the results of data analysis which shows that obese women have a one in four chance of a range of cancers, 40% higher than women with a healthy weight.

Why obesity raises the risk of cancer is unknown, but one theory is that it is linked to fat cell production of hormones, ­especially oestrogen, which, it is suspected, can help cancer develop. Cancer Research UK's head of health information Julie Sharp said: 'Lifestyle changes, like not smoking, a healthy weight, a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol, are the big opportunities to reduce cancer risk.'

Read more on the Daily Mirror website: click here

Campaigners warn that privatisation plan threatens cancer care

Cancer care for patients in Staffordshire could be cut after it is taken over by profit-driven firms in the biggest privatisation of NHS services yet, campaigners warn.

The warning follows the publication on Monday of a secret document prepared by the four local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Staffordshire involved in the outsourcing deal, the Guardian reports.

The CCGs plan to appoint one company to act as the ‘prime provider’ of cancer services, including diagnosis, treatment and aftercare, with that firm then sub-contracting more services.

Campaigners – including Kate Godfrey, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stafford in the general election – claim that the document proves that the winning bidder of the £700 million contract would be ‘given ‘discretion’ to design services they would like to deliver, slash spend per patient and propose the payment structures most beneficial to themselves.

Read more on the Guardian website: click here

Hawking’s plea for motor neurone disease voices

Stephen Hawking has made a heartfelt plea to stop people with motor neurone disease dying without a voice, the Daily Mail reports.

The Motor Neurone Disease Association, of which the scientist is a patron, reveals that NHS funding gaps and the rapidly progressive nature of the illness mean many patients die while waiting to be assessed for the communication equipment they need.

Professor Hawking, who lost the ability to speak in 1985 and who now talks through a speech synthesiser with a distinctive electronic voice, said: ‘Everyone should be able to access speech therapy and the range of communication equipment out there – no one should die without a voice.’

Read more on the Daily Mail website: click here

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