Health took a back seat this week as the news was dominated by atrocities in Syria, the resignation of Chris Huhne and the snow that Media Watch was so sceptical about last week.
But as the Health Bill returned to the Lords, pressure increased on the government. Writing in the Observer, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “We have three months to prevent great damage being done to the NHS.” Many might agree with him, but it hardly had the ring of Tony Blair’s “24 hours to save the NHS” speech.
Otherwise it was a mixed bag of stories with proposed “bailouts” for seven PFI hospitals, further research suggesting that hospital patients were more likely to die if admitted at weekends, and the £23m annual cost to the NHS of translation services all featuring in several papers. In the Daily Mail, 2020Health chief executive Julia Manning suggested the translation costs were “incredible” at a time when the NHS was attempting to save £20bn.
The government’s call for people to prevent disease by avoiding drinking slightly more than the recommended alcohol limits was also widely reported. But feedback from readers suggested a degree of health scare fatigue. On the Independent’s website one reader calculated this meant the lifetime risk of developing mouth cancer increased from 0.002 per cent to 0.006 per cent. Another pointed out that oral sex had already been blamed for mouth cancer, ending, intriguingly, “now it’s too late”.
It was the Sun which, uncharacteristically, provided relief from the gloom. It reported on artwork designed to calm children on the way to the operating theatre at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. The mural is formed of photographs of children lying down surrounded by household objects to form skyscrapers. The headline? “Docs said I need art surgery.”