Foreign NHS doctor fears, meningitis from cat and David Cameron's 'new zeal' for God

  • 18 April 2014

Calls for stricter assessments of foreign-trained doctors feature on some front pages, after a study suggested that many lacked the necessary skills to work in the UK.

"Doctors from outside the EU who want to practise in Britain must pass a General Medical Council exam meant to ensure they are at the same level as graduates from UK medical schools," explains the Times.

But the Daily Telegraph says that researchers found there was no formal mechanism to ensure the test was as tough as assessments taken by British doctors.

It quotes the research as saying the majority of the 88,000 foreign doctors in the health service would fail exams if they were held to the same standards.

The paper's editorial column blames the problem on poor planning. "If we seriously intend to recalibrate the NHS to make it less hospital-centred, then we need to apply the highest standards to front-line services."

One young patient who's had cause to thank her local health services beams out from the front of the Daily Mail. Sparkle Anderson, three, is pictured with Chesney the cat.

But it was as a result of the family pet licking her baby bottle that she ended up fighting for life in hospital with meningitis, when she was just three weeks old, the paper says.

The bug that nearly killed Sparkle - pasteurella multocida - is common in domestic animals, including cats and dogs, explains the Daily Mirror.

However, it is described by one meningitis charity worker as "very, very rare".

Politics and religion

Appropriately, perhaps, on Good Friday, there is much talk of religion in the press - notably surrounding David Cameron's declaration that Britain should be "more confident about our status as a Christian country".

Cartoonists give their take, with the Telegraph's Adams imagining the PM shouting "hallelujah!!" from a pulpit while waving the Conservative manifesto. Peter Brookes, in the Times, refers to Bishops' criticism of coalition welfare policies by picturing Mr Cameron striding across a heavenly cloud, clutching five loaves and two fishes, and saying: "This should help the food banks out."

Fraser Nelson, in the Telegraph, recalls a time when the Conservative hierarchy seemed "suspicious" of religion, and suggests ministers were forced to "cover it up". The PM's "new zeal for Christianity", says the writer, reflects a gradual shift in attitude across government - "a 'normalisation' of faith" led by Baroness Warsi.

The Times quotes polls that suggests Mr Cameron's statements will sit well with "key target voter groups", such as UKIP supporters. And its editorial says the PM "is not wrong to seek religious inspiration in the aim of bettering people's lives".

Mary Dejevsky, in the Independent, writes: "It is possible to respect Mr Cameron for putting his religious faith out there, not least in the quite modest and very British way in which he did in the Church Times, while suspecting that purposes other than personal witness and observance at Eastertide might be at work... Even if he did not mean to score any political points, this is how his contribution can be construed."

And the Guardian's Polly Toynbee catches "a whiff of culture wars [and] a dog whistle to those who lean to UKIP" behind the "syrupy God act".

#crucifyJesus

While the PM has declared that religion can help people to have a moral code, the Daily Mail says his civil servants are being "given lessons on religion amid fears many have no understanding of Christianity and other faiths".

AN Wilson - writing in the Telegraph - bemoans how society "forgets to remember" Good Friday's significance. He describes his "completely irrational" outrage at hot cross buns having toffee fudge or Belgian chocolate added to them, or people heading to the races on the day that "Jesus was crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross".

Pondering whether the Easter story is relevant in the modern world, the Sun hears from three Christian ministers. One imagines how the drama would have unfolded on social media, with the Twitter hashtag #crucifyJesus, while the paper mocks up a Facebook profile for Jesus - complete with friend request from Judas Iscariot. Another relates the story to Coronation Street and imagines how its protagonists would have performed on The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Nadine Linge, writing in the Daily Star, explains the "Holy truth" to those struggling to work out the significance of hot cross buns, Easter eggs and bunnies. However, the paper's main focus is on the "barbecue and booze bonanza" expected to be enjoyed by many Britons this weekend.

The Daily Express promises a "sunshine start to the great Easter getaway", with temperatures reaching 19C (66F) before the weather turns showery and blustery on Sunday. The Mirror is less optimistic. It reports a "chaotic start" to the holiday weekend, with rail and car passengers delayed en route to France. With more hold-ups expected, it predicts a "Long Good Friday".

'Supreme storyteller'

Papers mark the death of Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with the Independent quoting the president of his native Colombia declaring "a thousand years of sadness" at his loss.

The Times's obituary notes that the works of Marquez have outsold everything in the Spanish language, except for the Bible. "His novels are at the heart of the genre of magic realism, in which the real and the surreal blend effortlessly, and fantastical events are presented in a straightforward, often matter-of-fact manner."

This "extraordinary zest and originality" is captured in a contemporary review of One Hundred Years of Solitude, published on the Guardian's website. David Gallagher writes: "At a time when the novel appears to many to have generally burnt itself out, Latin Americans have boisterously resuscitated the genre by presenting sheer original subject matter in a vigorous language and a correspondingly original form."

Independent literary editor Boyd Tonkin describes "Gabo" as the "best-loved novelist of the entire postwar period", adding: "This supreme storyteller managed, via the magic of his art, to alter the shape of his country's and his continent's reality".

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