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Tory policy head George Freeman argues for ‘tweaks’ to stop benefits ruling entailing £3.6bn bill and PIP eligibility for ‘anxiety’
The head of Theresa May’s policy unit has been criticised for suggesting welfare spending should prioritise “really disabled people” rather than those with mental health problems, prompting Labour to redouble efforts to reverse controversial changes to disability benefit in next month’s budget.
The Tory MP, George Freeman, said reforms to personal independence payments (PIPs) were needed to stop the government becoming liable for more than £3.6bn, following a ruling by the upper tribunal on Thursday.
Maps have revealed “hotspots” of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses in England, based on the amount of medication prescribed by GPs.
The analysis by the University of East London showed North Kesteven, in Lincolnshire, had the highest rates.
The lowest rate of schizophrenia prescriptions was in East Dorset.
However, explaining the pattern across England is complicated and the research team says the maps pose a lot of questions.
They were developed using anonymous prescription records that are collected from doctors’ surgeries in England.
“Public bickering” between the prime minister and the NHS is an “insult to taxpayers” who want clear information on health funding, MPs have said.
The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised a dispute between Theresa May and NHS England boss Simon Stevens over finances.
Its report also censured the government for “plundering” NHS funds.
The Department of Health said the hospital sector had £1.3bn more compared with this time last year.
A spokeswoman said: “We are united behind the ambition to make the NHS the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world.”
But Mr Stevens, who appeared before the PAC in January, contradicted these government claims.
Speaking to the committee, he said it was “stretching it” for the government to say so and that there were “substantial funding pressures”.
The PAC called on both sides to work together “in the best interests of patients”.
It warned that the government’s “repeated raids” on NHS investment funds to meet day-to-day spending were potentially damaging.
The committee cited figures covering 2015 to 2016, when the Department of Health used £950m out of the NHS’ separate £4.5bn capital budget to meet everyday running costs.
It also said that NHS England itself has “much more to do” before the public is convinced that reforms to health and care services “are not just a cover for cuts”.
Last week, NHS trusts reported an £886m deficit in the last nine months of 2016.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: “The NHS as we know it is under threat from growing and unsustainable financial pressures.”
She added: “The government seems unable to get its own house in order, plundering NHS investment funds to plug holes elsewhere.”
The report made several recommendations, including:
A “clear and transparent recovery plan” targeting NHS bodies and health economies in severe financial difficulty, by March 2017
A report by July 2017 on how NHS finances are affecting patient care
An end to using NHS capital budgets to meet day-to-day revenue spending, which is “not good value for the taxpayer”
NHS England and NHS Improvement to set out how they will support the worst-performing areas and “convince the public of the benefits of the plans”
An assessment of the impact of financial pressure on social care, by July 2017
A report into whether there is capacity for NHS bodies to “deliver everything they are expected” to in terms of care and services, by March 2017
An NHS England spokeswoman said the PAC was right to highlight pressures and called for “fundamental agreement”.
She said the NHS would “clearly set out a realistic and agreed game plan for the next two years” by the end of March.
Healthcare professionals who carry out disability benefits assessments for the government complete as much as 60 per cent of their reports before they meet the disabled person they are supposed to be assessing, according to a disgraced former assessor.
Paramedic Alan Barham was sacked after being exposed last year by an undercover reporter working for Channel 4′s Dispatches. But he has now contacted Disability News Service (DNS) to protest about the way he has been treated, claiming that he has been made a “scapegoat” by Capita, the outsourcing company he was working for, but which sacked him after the documentary was aired. He also claims that personal independence payment (PIP) claimants are frequently “ripped off” by assessors who fail to complete their reports fairly, although he insists that he was not guilty of such practices himself. And he claims that nearly everything he was caught saying by Dispatches – for which he now faces the possibility of being struck off by his regulatory body – was standard practice, and was therefore “driven by Capita”. Barham is facing a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) disciplinary hearing over comments he was filmed making about the way he carried out PIP assessments. HCPC has decided that separate allegations that he lied in a report he wrote after assessing a disabled woman’s eligibility for PIP will not be dealt with by a disciplinary hearing. Barham claims he is innocent of most of the charges against him, insisting that he was only following instructions and guidelines laid down by Capita. And he says he is set to sue Capita for making him “a scapegoat for their protocols”, and that the fallout from the documentary has led to the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his business. He told DNS: “I hope they crash and burn, I really do. Capita is a monster. I’m not. They are.”
The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers.
Restoring the function of the organ – which helps control blood sugar levels – reversed symptoms of diabetes in animal experiments.
The study, published in the journal Cell, says the diet reboots the body.
Experts said the findings were “potentially very exciting” as they could become a new treatment for the disease.
People are advised not to try this without medical advice.
In the experiments, mice were put on a modified form of the “fasting-mimicking diet”.
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