NHS 'crisis', Navy 'threat' from Scottish Independence and 'sunny Easter washout'

Generic image of staff in a hospital ward

Health funding is on the front pages, with the Independent reporting that two in three NHS finance directors fear their organisations will fall into deficit next year.

On the back of the figures, provided by the King's Fund charity, the paper's health reporter Charlie Cooper examines the case for three options: keeping the budget steady, increasing spending, and - "the unthinkable" - finding new sources of revenue.

The Financial Times points out that an even greater number of trusts - five in six - told the think tank they were either concerned or uncertain about their prospects of balancing the books in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports a union survey suggesting nearly 60% of nurses are unable to deliver proper care overnight because of staff shortages. It hears from members of NHS staff including a psychiatric nurse who claims to have repeatedly told managers that staffing levels are not safe and a cardio nurse who says workers might not spot a person having a heart attack.

The paper's editorial column argues: "Either we spend more on health or people will die. That is the stark choice."

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Troubled waters?

The UK's First Sea Lord, Adm Sir George Zambellas, writes in the Daily Telegraph about the potential consequences of Scottish people voting for independence on 18 September.

'Somewhat proud' Brits

People wave Union Jacks

In her Independent column, Grace Dent notes that a British Social Attitudes survey has for the first time identified more people who feel "somewhat proud" (47%) than "very proud" (35%) of being British.

She writes: "Just the phrase 'somewhat proud' - rattling with stiff-upper-lipped, muted British happiness - makes my patriotic heart soar... I'll leave the bolshie, bragging 'very proud' to Americans and North Koreans."

The Daily Express, meanwhile, says there are "plenty of reasons to celebrate" the institutions that help forge our national identity. It runs through 10 of them, including the monarchy, the "cuppa", pubs, our sense of humour, manners, the countryside and even the BBC.

"An independent Scotland's claim on the Royal Navy would greatly weaken the carefully evolved whole, as bases, infrastructure, procurement, spares, personnel and training face a carve-up," he writes. "The effectiveness of the Royal Navy, following separation, would weaken the security of both nations."

Meanwhile, the Times reports that a number of former military chiefs - including four former chiefs of defence staff - have written a letter warning Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond that his plan to expel the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland could jeopardise the nation's membership of Nato and the EU.

It would cost billions of pounds, sour relations with the rest of Britain and leave the fledgling state "deeply resented", they're quoted as saying.

However, writing in the Telegraph, Benedict Brogan suggests that a narrowing of the "No" campaign's lead as the independence debate has progress has prompted suggestions that "exposing the perils of separation has, perversely, encouraged the Scots to go it alone".

He criticises both Labour and the Conservatives for lacklustre efforts in support of the Better Together campaign, something described by the Financial Times's Janan Ganesh as: "Shrill, leaderless and fizzing with all the emotional power of a bank statement."

However, he argues: "The referendum was always going to be settled by the undecided, who are not tugged by their souls one way or the other. Exposing them to practical doubts is the only way."

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Not cricket?
Composite image showing the Duke of Cambridge bowling, right, and the duchess ducking a delivery, left

Excitement over the royal tour down under shows no sign of abating and the latest photo opportunity - of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge playing cricket in Christchurch - gives the headline writers plenty of scope for fun.

Cocoa nuts

A pile of assorted unwrapped chocolates

There's perhaps a hint that some sub-editors are struggling with Lenten promises and can't wait for Easter Sunday to arrive. The Sun speaks to Steve Berry, author of The Great British Tuck Shop about his favourite chocolate adverts, including the 1970s "finger of Fudge is just enough" slogan, the lady eating a Flake in the bath and Mars's "work, rest and play" series.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express explores Neil Davey's Bluffers Guide to Chocolate for a host of "choco facts", including that the idea that Belgian chocolate is better than that of rival nations came solely from a 1980s PR campaign and the fact that white chocolate technically isn't chocolate at all because it contains no cocoa solids.

"Oops! That's just not cricket, Wills," suggests the Daily Express as it describes how Prince William sent one delivery rather too close to his wife's head. "You nearly took One's crown orf," is the Daily Star's offering, while the Sun imagines the duchess telling the prince "that's not how to bowl a maiden over" under a headline: "Kate's out Middleton stump."

Valentine Low, in the Times, recalls: "As one of the children signalled a wide, the duchess smiled and wagged her finger at the duke, a gesture that could roughly be translated as: "Darling, it's not the Bodyline Tour. It's your wife."

The Telegraph's Gordon Rayner suggests the duke "had a point to prove" having been "trounced" by his wife in a yacht race in Auckland last week. And while the duchess only managed to hit two of the four balls she faced, the writer says former New Zealand batswoman Debbie Hockley was impressed by one aspect of her play. He quotes her as saying: "I couldn't bat in heels."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail notices the duchess's outfit had been given an airing in 2011, although it says the skirt "seemed to have lengthened since its last appearance", suggesting that its owner had taken the Queen's advice on choosing lower hemlines. It also says the duchess had her hair pinned in a "finger twist" and publishes a helpful photograph to explain what that means.

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Changeable conditions
Sunbathers sit on deck chairs on Brighton beach in 2011

Forecasts for the Easter weekend are as unpredictable as the British weather, it seems.

"We are in for a Good Friday," reports the Daily Mirror, with the strapline: "Sunny Easter weekend ahead." It suggests readers can expect maximum temperatures of between 13C (55F) and 21C (70F) on Friday and Saturday.

"It's the Easter sunny," echoes the Daily Star, which reports that bookmakers have slashed odds on somewhere in the UK enjoying 20C (68F) over the Easter weekend to 6-4.

However, the Daily Telegraph warns readers to "have brollies, not barbecues" at the ready, with an Easter Sunday "washout" on the cards. "The balmy temperatures enjoyed by most of Britain over the past few days will continue before dipping on Good Friday," it says.

"Wouldn't you know it - after days of glorious sunshine, it could pour with rain over the Easter weekend," says the Mail.

Those taking a chance on a trip to the beach should at least have a good chance of finding the water clean, according to the Times. It reports the results of a Marine Conservation Society (MCS) annual survey which suggest the water is the "cleanest on record". Almost three quarters received the highest rating, it says.

However, even that news is tempered by a report in the Mail which says tough new EU safety tests could result in one in 10 British beaches being branded "no-go zones for swimmers". Ironically, it says, 39 of the beaches at risk of failing to comply with the tougher standards have been declared safe by the MCS survey. It lists Combe Martin, in Devon, Scarborough's South Bay and Spittal, in Northumberland, among those at risk.

Even if sun and clean water tempt people to take an Easter dip, the Telegraph reckons: "It is a brave swimmer who ventures into British waters before June without a wetsuit; and a reckless one who spends long in the North Sea, whatever the reason."

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