Russia 'crisis talks', NHS fears and Great Escape survivor in papers

Concerns about the NHS are raised in several different stories in Monday's newspapers.

The Guardian, Sun and the the i all feature claims made on the BBC's Panorama programme that fraud is costing the NHS £5bn a year - more than 20 times the government's official figures - with at least £1bn being lost because of financial errors.

Tea threat

Tea and biscuits

Busy and stressed-out workers have stopped making a cuppa for their colleagues - threatening the end to the great British tea round, the Daily Mail and Daily Express report.

A survey by the Royal Voluntary Service charity found workers claiming they are too busy to make tea or coffee for everyone.

A third of workers admit they would rather just make themselves a drink and get back to work. They are also said to resort to waiting until people aren't around or offering when people have just made themselves one.

The i's headline highlights the fact that the amount cited in the programme is "equal to its entire budget for cancer treatment".

Despite the Department of Health disputing the figures, in an editorial the Sun says ministers "cannot ignore" the fact that such a level of fraud would be enough to pay for 244,000 nurses, and amount to about 5% of the total NHS budget.

Different budgetary concerns are highlighted in an interview in the Financial Times, with the departing chief executive of the NHS in England. Sir David Nicholson says the service needs an extra £2bn as "very tight" finances are threatening to push it into the red for the first time since 2006.

His worries centre on the creation of a £3.8bn fund to treat more people in the community but which Sir David says would take money from hospital budgets.

Meanwhile, the plight of doctors attracts the attention of the leader writers.

It comes after the Royal College of General Practitioners warned of funding pressures and a British Medical Association survey suggested that nearly six in 10 GPs are considering early retirement because of increasing workloads.

The Daily Mirror says "relentless, politically motivated assaults on the NHS and its staff by the Conservatives and cheerleaders are undermining morale, while perpetual reductions in living standards by freezing pay or imposing below-inflation wage rises are debilitating".

For the Daily Mail it is "patients, not GPs" who are getting the "raw deal". It says a "disastrous contract" negotiated under Labour has meant Britain's GPs are the best paid in the western world and, as they also no longer have to work out of hours, there is more pressure on hospitals.

Government pay restraint is "justified", adds the Mail.

The Daily Telegraph sees challenges ahead for the NHS in England's new chief executive Simon Stevens and some merit in the arguments of the doctors. It agrees it was "short-sighted" of the government to allocate GPs an ever smaller share of the NHS budget when they are being expected to relieve pressure on hospitals.

But it says "GPs need to demonstrate that they are in a position to take on the function of hospitals". People will not find their protestations convincing "if more is not done to provide better out-of-hours care and greater flexibility with bookings".

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'Most important meeting'

There is much analysis of the tensions between Russia and the international community as US President Barack Obama and other world leaders get ready to discuss the crisis in Crimea at a series of meetings in the Hague.

The Times sees President Obama's visit as the "most important of his presidency", noting that he has been accused by opponents in Washington of helping to fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression by "projecting US weakness".

Samantha Cameron waits to take part in Sport Relief charity run in Oxford on 23 March 2014 Samantha Cameron's charity race efforts for Sport Relief didn't go unnoticed - her red onesie makes a splash in almost every paper

It says he also faces "varying degrees of reluctance" from the UK, France and Germany as he tries to persuade them to put their economic interests aside by agreeing tougher sanctions.

In an editorial, the Times says that while it would be "unrealistic" to expect China to back the West's isolation of Russia over Crimea, the US and the EU should seek to discourage Beijing from striking a gas deal with the Kremlin which needs to demonstrate it will not be wounded by sanctions.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the former head of the Army Lord Dannatt suggests Britain should make a "military statement" to Russia by retaining 3,000 soldiers in Germany in a reverse of planned defence cuts. This would signal that it "takes its defence responsibilities seriously, not only on behalf of its citizens but on behalf of our EU and Nato".

Meanwhile, in Belbek, Crimea, the Independent's Kim Sengupta looks into the whereabouts of Ukrainian Army Colonel Yuli Mamchur - "a symbol of defiance against overwhelming odds in the last tempestuous weeks in Crimea". He was last seen on Saturday being driven away for a meeting with senior officers of the Russian forces which had stormed his air base in Belbek.

"It is an indication of the fame that the fighter pilot has had thrust upon him that senior politicians in Ukraine have been vocal in demanding that he is freed, and asking for international help," he writes.

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Green Belt fears

A report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England that claims rural towns and villages are being placed under "threat" by 700,000 new homes in the countryside is examined.


The Daily Mail says the report suggests that almost 200,000 of the homes will be built on Green Belt land following government changes to planning laws.

The Daily Telegraph runs the story under the headline "fears for traditional English village life" but it also quotes Planning Minister Nick Boles as saying that Green Belt development is at its lowest level for more than 20 years. He adds the CPRE report was "inaccurate, exaggerated and based on a spurious analysis of the facts".

The story makes the front page of the Times which reports that councils are said to be coming under growing pressure to allocate land to meet house-building targets.

In an editorial, the Times says the CPRE's "note of alarm" is not wholly without merit.

But it reckons much green belt land is "underwhelming scrubland" close to urban areas "bursting at the seams". While not all green belt land should be protected "this does not entail that none of it should".

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Saved by a name

As a ceremony takes place in Zagan in Poland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Great Escape - the breakout from Nazi prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft Three immortalised in the 1963 film - the Daily Telegraph carries an interview with the last surviving British escapee.

Chips tradition

Fish and chips

Councillors in Liverpool want to ban people from eating chips with their fingers, says the Daily Mirror.

The proposed rules will apply to city centre businesses with outdoor seating areas which could be ordered to serve all food on plates with cutlery, rather than in paper bags or polystyrene trays.

Liverpool Council's enterprise chief said it was intended to tackle littering.

The Daily Express sees the plan as an end to the "tradition of eating fish and chips with your fingers out of the paper".

Dick Churchill, 94 - who, along with fellow escapee Paul Royle, an Australian, are now the only living link to the event - believes that despite its cost in human lives it was a worthwhile venture.

The airman had been a prisoner of war since September 1940 when forced to bail out over the Netherlands.

"If you are a POW long enough, other factors come into play. You could become a dope, and sit out war. Or you try to do something that's likely to get you out and give you a chance of getting home - after all, three did get home," he tells the paper.

Having been among the 76 prisoners of war to have successfully tunnelled out on the night of 24 March 1944, Mr Churchill was recaptured three days later, when his hiding place in a barn was discovered.

He believes the thought that he might be related to the wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was enough to give his captors second thoughts about including him among the 50 recaptured servicemen who were shot as punishment for their actions.

"I think it was my name. I'm pretty certain. I'm not related to Churchill, to my knowledge. But they thought I might be, and went further than thinking it."

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