UK newspaper review: New jail threat for NHS staff

Author Ian Leslie and Times defence editor Deborah Haynes discuss the morning's papers.

News of prison sentences for NHS staff who neglect or mistreat their patients makes the front pages of some of Saturday's papers.

The i and the Guardian both say the move is aimed at preventing any repeat of the Mid-Staffs scandal, but is likely to prove controversial.

The i's sister paper, the Independent, is vehement in its opposition to the plan, saying its effect will be "to continue the blame game that got the NHS into this mess in the first place". "Nobody who understands the NHS could support this latest intervention," its leader column writes.

In total contrast, though, the Daily Mirror uses its editorial to praise the move. It argues the threat of jail will give "reassurance" to million of patients and their families.

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, the defence editor of the Times, Deborah Haynes, says she is amazed it wasn't already illegal for a doctor or nurse to wilfully mistreat a patient.

Author Ian Leslie agrees, but says he regards the move as "an inevitable response" to the Mid-Staffs scandal in which poor care was believed to have contributed to hundreds of deaths. He says even critics of the NHS would agree such appalling care was very unusual, but nevertheless the threat of jail is needed to "shift the balance" back towards greater responsibility on individual members of staff.

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Change in China

The Independent splashes on China relaxing its one-child policy, choosing the headline "Great leap forward". The paper says it is a necessary move to tackle the "demographic nightmare" of an ageing population and "a serious deficit of women" caused by families favouring male infants.

Chinese girls jumps over a skipping rope held by her parents China needs more young people to support its increasing numbers of elderly

However, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Daily Telegraph, isn't sure action will come soon enough. He says even rapid implementation will have "no impact on the work force for almost 20 years", adding: "The risk for China is that it will become the first country to grow old before it is rich."

The Financial Times' leader column says China may have decided to "make its social controls less onerous... but the party has still not abandoned the illiberal idea that the state can and should control where people live or how they choose to have children".

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PM and climate change
David Cameron in Sri Lanka David Cameron has hit the headlines for a range of reasons during the Commonwealth summit

David Cameron has taken "a swipe at sceptics", according to the Times' front page, by linking climate change and natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan that has devastated the Philippines.

It seems the Sun is right behind those sceptics though, asking in its leader column: "Why does the PM treat anyone who questions global warming as if they had claimed to have seen Elvis in Tesco?" It says the scientific community is "not unanimous" on climate change, and it is time to properly debate the coalition's "wildly optimistic - and hugely expensive -plans to slash UK emissions".

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Commonwealth in the spotlight

The Commonwealth's latest summit is getting a lot more attention than usual, and several papers have taken the opportunity to consider the institution itself.

From the tabloids...

Dire warnings of bad weather continue unabated this week in the Daily Express. The Daily Star though has ten top tips you help you survive, including:

  • Drink whisky or a hot toddy
  • Eat spicy curry to warm the cockles
  • Relax in a nice, warm, steamy sauna

The Guardian describes it as "a jumble of nations" whose "modern purpose is unclear" and "importance hard to gauge". The paper says it could do some real good in Sri Lanka, but must ensure "work really begins on turning the Commonwealth charter, the worthy statement of values issued earlier this year, from a rhetorical pipe dream into a basis for policy".

Philip Murphy, in the Independent, however, cannot be so optimistic. The director of London University's Institute of Commonwealth Studies thinks the organisation as it stands "has reached the end of its useful life" - at least as far as the UK is concerned. In the past, he says, the Commonwealth helped challenge apartheid, "but a subsequent attempt to reinvent it as a champion of democracy has failed to give it an equivalent sense of purpose".

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Good times return

A snippet on the front page of the Financial Times leads to an interesting tale inside the paper about the return of Christmas to the City. "After years of yuletide austerity" firms are booking parties once again, it reports, but still bankers "vilified by politicians and the public... are wary of being seen to splash too much money around". Gone are the old days of funfairs, bucking broncos and "unfettered consumption of alcohol". Fun may be back, the FT says, but as one of its contributors puts it: "It's under the radar."

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Crown jewels
Duchess of Cornwall The Boucheron tiara was a favourite of the Queen Mother

Away from the politics at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, a lot of the papers are fascinated by the details of the Duchess of Cornwall's latest outfit at the event.

The Sun points out that her tiara was once owned by the Queen Mother and was loaned to her by the Queen.

"Dazzling" is the word of the day for the Daily Telegraph. Like most papers, it shows the Duchess's photograph alongside that of the Queen Mother in the aforementioned tiara.

"As the hostess, it was Camilla's job to shine and she did not disappoint", says Rebecca English, covering the event in Colombo for the Daily Mail. On the tiara front, she says Charles will have been "particularly touched" at its presence given that "he adored his grandmother and loves to see his wife in her jewellery".

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Roma row

A number of papers look more closely at claims made earlier this week by former Home Secretary David Blunkett about the risk of rioting in his home city of Sheffield if tensions continue to grow between local people and new Roma arrivals.

From the tabloids...

If you thought red or white was a dilemma, you'll now have to factor orange wine into the mix too. The Daily Mail says Marks and Spencer is introducing the amber nectar from Georgia.

Helen Pidd, of the Guardian, has been out with a group of residents in the Page Hall area who patrol at night to try to disperse groups of Roma people gathered on the streets. One man, who runs a chip shop, tells her: "If something doesn't change round here there will be a pitched battle."

According to the Daily Express, Roma migrants are "boasting" that they receive five times more on benefits in the UK than they would at home - something the paper says is angering long-term residents.

"Fear, loathing and prejudice" is the Daily Mail's headline, atop a piece by its reporter Sue Reid, who also visited the area. "For their part, the Roma say they have done nothing wrong and are the victims of racism", she writes, but goes on to say that in her view, there is "plenty to grumble about".

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Cartoon corner

The Times depicts the health secretary in two ways - as "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hunt". One image shows him pledging to improve patient care, while the other, of a stooping figure dressed in black, shows him closing a walk-in centre and holding "NHS For Sale" signs.

Matt, in the Telegraph, meanwhile, picks on Princess Anne's call earlier this week for horsemeat to become a staple foodstuff. His sketch is of a commentator at a show jumping arena saying: "That's four penalty points to Princess Anne for inappropriate use of the knife and fork."

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Showbiz snippets

Saturday's Sun claims some reality TV clairvoyance, boasting on its front page that it already knows who will win the X Factor despite there being four weeks of the competition left.

Among the mass of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here stories, the Daily Mirror has the rather surprising news that double Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington is afraid of the sea.

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