NHS fraudbusting unit gains more staff

Twenty more staff are to join NHS fraudbuster Jim Gee's investigation unit. Its expansion, at a cost of 330,000 a year, doubles the number of investigators working on prescription fraud, and represents a 50 per cent increase in those working centrally on all NHS fraud. Government estimates say patients who evade prescription charges cost the NHS 90m a year, while 15m is lost through theft and counterfeiting. The fraud investigation unit, based at the Prescription Pricing Authority, is currently investigating 393 cases worth an estimated 15m, and 42 suspects are currently on bail after arrest. Some of the new staff will work on the pharmacy reward scheme, which offers cash to pharmacists who foil frauds.

Housing priority system patchy, research shows

The medical priority system used by local authorities in allocating council houses 'responds well' to people with physical problems but not as well for those with social or mental health problems, according to research for the Scottish Office. It found that councils' procedures differed widely, and the information and advice given to applicants was 'variable, and in some cases inadequate'. Around 65,000 applications for medical priority are made in Scotland each year. Scottish housing minister Calum MacDonald promised that the recommendations in the report would be acted on.

Housing Allocations and Medical Priority in Scotland. Stationery Office. 6.

HEA aims to shock the young out of smoking

The Health Education Authority announced 'a return to shock tactics' with the launch of its new anti-smoking campaign. Under the slogan 'every cigarette is doing you damage', the campaign, aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, uses 'frank and hard-hitting images' of the effects of smoking on the hearts, lungs, brain and mouth. Its launch came as the HEA revealed a drop in the number of young smokers. Between 1996 and 1997, the proportion of young women smokers fell by 4 per cent to 29 per cent; the proportion of young men by 1 per cent to 35 per cent. The HEA also launched a 'quit smoking website' at www.lifesaver.co.uk

Hospital transfers last of its acute services

The final transfer of acute services from Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, gets under way next week. Though the move represents a defeat for the campaign backed by local MPs - including former Conservative health minister David Mellor and his successor, Labour MP Tony Colman - over many years, the hospital will continue to offer a nurse-led minor injuries centre. Twelve wards will transfer to Kingston and St George's Hospital during August as all acute inpatient services leave, to be followed by the burns unit, which is transferring to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in October.

Novel approach to publishing annual report

Iechyd Morgannwg health authority public health director Peter Donnelly has published his annual report in the form of a novel. Bethan's Story follows a pregnant teenager, her boyfriend and family through a year of their lives. Dr Donnelly said the experimental format was a bid to reach a wider audience.

Bethan's Story. From Iechyd Morgannwg HA, 41 High Street, Swansea SA1 1LT. 10.

Three hospitals fail A&E waiting-time standards

Three hospitals failed to meet Patient's Charter standards for accident and emergency department waiting times during a 'casualty watch' exercise across Northern Ireland last week, according to local health and social services councils. The hospitals, all covered by Eastern health and social services board, were named as Mater Hospital, Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and Ulster Hospital.