Communications Update: Friday 25th September

Swine flu cases rise

The number of cases of swine flu diagnosed in the past week has doubled for the second week in a row, prompting suggestions that we are entering the second wave of the pandemic. The Health Protection Agency suggested there were 9,000 new cases last week, 4,000 more than the week before.

Cancer machines "under-used"

Data analysed by the Taxpayers Alliance suggests that expensive equipment used to treat illnesses such as cancer is under-used. Only 11 out of 187 Trusts used the Linac radiotherapy machine the recommended number of times. PET scanners, used to diagnose cancer, are used an average of 956 times a year compared to the DH "recommended usage" figure of 2000-2500 times.

Daily Telegraph p24

Critically ill patients turned away in hospital beds crisis

Patients in need of life-saving treatment are being turned away from London hospitals every day because of a shortage of intensive care beds. The Evening Standard reports that some are being forced to travel as far as Scotland or Wales due to a shortage of beds. In the past year there have been 1,940 occasions when a hospital in the capital has closed its doors to new patients

Hope of a breakthrough in the development of an AIDS vaccine

Scientists have announced that a vaccine has been developed which reduces the risk of contracting HIV by a third. Scientists believe the vaccine, which is a combination of two previous treatments, could be the first step towards even better protection.

Should heroin be available on the NHS?

A feature article in The Times debates whether heroin should be available on the NHS. The article follows suggestions by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, that prescribing the drug to addicts would help to cut crime.

Parliamentary business

• Both Houses are in recess

Other parliamentary news

• Statistics published: Alcohol and Tobacco Bulletins - July
• Big Care Debate in Norwich - Ministerial attendance tbc