Newspaper headlines: GP bonus row, Russia's motives, and Oregon shooting

  • 2 October 2015

"Highly unethical": that is the General Medical Council's verdict on a government scheme which offers GP practices cash inducements to keep to targets for outpatient referrals to hospital, the Daily Telegraph says.

The paper reports that the GMC and other doctors' groups are concerned about potential clashes of interest that may arise from the policy.

The Telegraph quotes Dr Maureen Baker of the Royal College of GPs as saying: "This is a preposterous idea. It is deeply insulting and demeaning - as well as being highly unethical - to suggest that offering GPs money will change the way in which we care for our patients.

"Most worryingly, it undermines the doctor-patient relationship and the trust that underpins it."

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The NHS says that for many patients, treatment at their local GP surgeries is more appropriate than a hospital visit.

The paper explains that at the heart of the policy is a desire to cut costs, as the NHS struggles to save £22bn by 2020.

It adds that practices can gain up to £11,000 by keeping to targets for outpatient attendances, follow-ups, A&E attendances and emergency admissions to hospitals.

A senior NHS manager says the policy does not conflict with the organisation's drive to boost cancer checks, but "for some other conditions there's clear evidence that by boosting funding of GP services, patients can get better care at their local surgery and avoid the need to go to hospital outpatients".

The paper's editorial says the scheme will "jeopardise trust in GPs".

The Daily Mirror's comment says "bribing GPs" not to refer patients for hospital tests is turning "the NHS into a cut-price market place".

"Doctors must be free to make objective decisions on medical grounds rather than receiving dangerous instructions that reduce patients to financial statistics," it adds.

The Daily Mail quotes a number of concerned patient groups and advocacy organisations.

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association says: "This is ethically wrong... there is a huge patient safety issue."

'Fires gasolined'

As Russian air strikes continue on forces opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and rumours abound of large contingents of Iranian troops heading to the war-zone, the papers continue their analysis.

David Usborne of the Independent says, "A military inferno is in the making in Syria, after Russia unleashed bombing raids on what it said were 'terrorist' targets but which, on early evidence, seemed to have included at least one CIA-backed rebel group."

Usborne says that Russia insists its position is "eye-to-eye" with the West's desire to combat Islamic State militants.

But Moscow's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov angrily hit back when his country was accused by the US of "pouring gasoline on a fire" in its bombing programme.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov insists his country's targets within Syria are Islamic State strongholds

"We know about many fires gasolined by the Pentagon in the region," he is reported as saying, adding that Russia's forces are legally in Syria at the request of its government.

The Independent's editorial says the Russian and Iranian involvement will not improve the prospects for peace in the war-torn nation.

"The prospect of a diplomatic end to Syria's nightmare has receded almost to a vanishing point," it adds.

The Guardian's diplomatic editor Julian Borger says: "Sending troops and military hardware into the middle of another country's civil war to prop up a ruthless and despised dictator rarely works out well for anyone."

Borger argues that IS will be the only beneficiaries of Russia's actions.

The paper's editorial says deals should be struck to prevent conflict between Russian and coalition aircraft and to "seize the opportunity" to safeguard those on the ground with no-fly zones, safe havens and local ceasefires designed to protect civilians.

The Times agrees that President Putin's actions will "drive civilians opposed to [Assad] into the arms of jihadists".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Bashar al-Assad: the "arsonists not the fireman", according to the Times' David Blair

Its editorial reckons that Russian realpolitik has embroiled it in a war it cannot win.

Max Hastings, writing in the Daily Mail, contends that the West has to cut a deal with Mr Putin.

"It is most unlikely that Russia can be our friend, but it can at least be a manageable neighbour," he says.

Frederick Forsyth, in the Daily Express, argues that Nato or UN troops should be deployed in Syria to create safe zones within the country for the civilian population.

"If there were such zones the rich West could pour its aid into them, helping Syrians rebuild and make new lives.

"It would cost less than settling these millions in Europe," the writer concludes.

The Daily Telegraph's chief foreign correspondent David Blair says Assad has created the vacuum in which IS can thrive, as a deliberate policy.

"He is the arsonist, not the fireman. If Russia and Iran want to fall for this ruse, there is no reason why the West should do the same," Blair continues.

"The only answer is what it has always been: Assad's departure allowing the birth of a united front against [IS]."

Country 'numb'

The shooting at a college in the US state of Oregon is a breaking story that develops too late for the first editions of the papers to carry the latest facts.

The overnight online editions report new developments.

The Daily Mail says that nine students are believed to have been shot dead at the campus in Roseburg, and the gunman is believed to have been killed by police.

The Mail names the suspected attacker as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, who the New York Times describes as a "very angry young man".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Umpqua Community College has 3,300 full-time and 16,000 part-time students on a 100 acre campus

The paper says the assailant, thought to be armed with several firearms including a rifle, is believed to have asked people their religion before opening fire.

"Shortly after the shooting, President Obama addressed the nation demanding stronger gun laws, saying that the country has become 'numb' to these mass shootings," the paper adds.

The Daily Mirror notes the murders, at the rural Umpuqua Community College, are the 45th school shooting in the US this year.

The paper says the suspected killer had left threatening messages on social media before the attack, including a post reading: "Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest."

The Daily Telegraph says the inability to reform America's gun control laws has been President Obama's "biggest frustration of his two terms in office".

In an "impassioned" press conference, the president asked his critics: "How can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?"

The paper reports: "Calling for 'common sense' reform, to enable 'young people to grow old,' he said: 'We know that states with the most guns laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths'."

Eye-catching headlines

  • Village wakes up freezing, then swelters in the sun - Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park achieved the rare distinction of recording both the UK's highest and lowest temperatures yesterday, the Times reports. The resort woke up to a chilly 1C but by mid-morning was enjoying 21C - hotter than Barcelona.
  • Nuts and dolts - A £37,000 "art installation" which aimed to make music from the sound of beech nuts dropping from a tree in Bristol has hit a snag. The Sun reports that organisers failed to notice that the tree fruited every other year and this year was nut-less.
  • How Tunbridge Wells eased the migrant crisis - The Daily Mail and other papers note the "bizarre haul" of objects donated by the citizens of the Kent town to help refugees fleeing for Europe. Items received by a local migrant aid project include cake stands, ball gowns, a novelty hat, china tea sets and tennis rackets.
  • Agnew caught out by Anneka and Ulrika - The Daily Telegraph reports that BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew had a "blonde moment", when he met former TV host Anneka Rice at a charity dinner and mistook her throughout for Ulrika Jonsson. "Aggers" tweeted his apologies after the event, the paper adds, and fortunately Ms Rice - a former Rear of the Year - "saw the funny side".

On the map

With headlines like Sink Estate and The Night The Earth Moved, no paper can resist running the dramatic pictures of a large sinkhole that has opened up in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

The 66ft-diameter, 33ft-deep hole that opened in the quiet cul-de-sac of Fontmell Close is big enough to fit a badminton court - or five New Zealand rugby teams in - the Daily Mail tells us.

Image copyright PA

The crater has forced the evacuation of 10 people from homes on its rim, and left 58 houses without gas, electricity or water, the Guardian notes.

It quotes John Hudnott of St Albans fire service, who says: "They had a sinkhole in Hemel [Hempstead] this year or last but I've never seen one like this. I have absolutely no idea how long it's going to take to get the power back on. "

The mighty hole which appeared with a sound "like an earthquake" at 1:30am had originally been a much smaller cavity, the Daily Telegraph reports.

It was first noticed on Wednesday when a postman fell into a collapsing drain, the paper adds. Royal Mail assures the Telegraph that their man was not seriously hurt.

The Times uses pictures to explain what went wrong in the suburban street: noting that the area was built on an area mined for clay in Victorian times and later filled with rubble.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption New Zealand's rugby team: big but no match for the St Albans sinkhole

As the waste "degraded" it formed a void that grew to "an unsustainable size", causing its roof to suddenly cave in.

Local resident Kevin Burgess is questioned by the paper. He tells it: "Nothing much happens in St Albans. This could put us on the map."

If you are worried that a sinkhole may be about to open up under your driveway, the Sun tells us what to look out for.

Tell-tale signs include leaning fences and trees, windows that won't shut properly and "water collecting in odd areas".

Geo hazard specialist Dr Clive Edmonds says a full building survey is the safest way to look into the risk - and any cavities found can be filled with concrete "like filling a tooth".

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