'Ageist' NHS, Bieber 'busted' and Gove's good reports

There's mixed news when it comes to healthcare in Friday's papers.

The Times and Daily Mail lead on claims that pensioners with cancer are being denied life-saving care by some doctors, who see them as "too old" for treatment.

Macmillan Cancer Support, they report, drew that conclusion after comparing survival rates for British patients with those from the continent.

"What an inhumane way to treat the people whose lifetime of paying taxes helped build the Health Service," says the Mail, in a comment titled: "Betrayal of elderly."

There's better news in the Daily Express, which hails a "revolutionary implant" that could "transform the lives" of millions of people with diabetes. It says the device, about the size of a wristwatch, can be placed in the abdominal cavity to release a precise amount of insulin into the bloodstream, although trials will not start for another two years.

Meanwhile, the Sun is positively excited about the end of "Viagra rationing". It says 1.5 million men will be given a "much-needed lift" when the Department of Health stops limiting prescriptions, as cheap, generic alternatives become available.

Obsolete equipment

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While such medical advancements are widely welcomed, the papers lament the demise of a device "that is emblematic of doctors around the world".

As the Daily Telegraph points out: "The cold sensation of the doctor's stethoscope has been familiar to patients for decades." But the equipment is "breathing its last after 200 years" - usurped by ultrasound technology - reports the Independent, in light of an editorial in the World Heart Federation's journal.

It hears from the British Medical Association's Dr Andrew Collier, who still cherishes his first one, saying: "It is your first tangible grip on the medical profession. You hold it dear." But his colleague, GP Tom Black, envisages a reprieve for the "stetho", telling the Times he "couldn't do a surgery without one" and pointing out that they aren't used solely for hearts but to detect chest infections.

"I don't think hand-held ultrasounds would fulfil the function as well," he says, confessing that he sometimes listens to patients' chests when it's not really necessary - because he feels it builds confidence and trust. The Times uses a photo of George Clooney in medical drama ER to demonstrate the appearance of a doctor who inspires trust.

Mind the gap

Ministers' claims that living standards are rising, based on figures showing that - for all but the richest 10% - take-home pay rose faster than inflation last year, come in for some examination. The Sun declares a "cost-of-living victory" for the coalition over Labour.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock, writing in the Times, insists the government's economic plan is "based on the facts" and the paper's editorial says there is every reason to believe that disposable income "will follow headline growth figures in a positive direction".

However, reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, FT Weekend magazine editor Caroline Daniel said: "Figures came out this week saying that average earnings have only risen by 0.9% over the last year, which is below inflation."

The Daily Record's Westminster editor, Torcuil Crichton, added: "In the real world, people are £300 per year worse off."

The Daily Mirror points to Joseph Rowntree Foundation research suggesting more than 10 million people "do not enjoy an acceptable standard of living" and gives space to Trades Union Congress boss Frances O'Grady, who declares: "Britain needs a pay rise."

Samuel Brittan, in the Financial Times, examines ways to address the "genuinely disturbing changes in the distribution of income and wealth" but wishes economists would be less fixated on the "cliche" of "inequality".

The Telegraph's Jeremy Warner finds the wealth gap has even "taken centre stage" at the World Economic Forum in Davos - "out of self-interest, as much as moral indignation" - where the elite are seeking ways to drive demand for a sustained recovery.

Fallen star?

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"Bustin Bieber," is the Sun's front page headline, accompanying a picture of pop singer Justin posing next to a yellow Lamborghini while wearing a heavy gold chain over an open shirt.

It's overlaid with the police mugshots (above) in which the teenager can be seen grinning after his arrest on suspicion of drag-racing under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. Inside, the paper quotes a policeman's account of the arrest, peppered with asterisks, and a force spokesman saying Bieber had been "a little belligerent".

Lia Nicholls, editor of the Sun's showbiz section Bizarre, isn't surprised, saying Bieber's been "acting like a nugget" for months. The Times merely calls him "troubled" and a "fallen star", recalling previous incidents such as a police raid on Bieber's home, him upsetting visitors to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and how he arrived late for a London concert.

The Daily Star's editorial says Bieber's "cocky mugshot shows he's lapping up the controversy", adding: "He might not be laughing when his young fans' parents find out. If they cut off the money supply, he'll be just another washed-up has-been."

Gove's good reports

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The Guardian notes how data shows girls' schools to be leading the GCSE league tables in England and hears from the headteacher of the one with "the most spectacular top grades". Dame Helen Hyde credits the success of Watford Grammar to "outstanding teachers" and the freedom offered by academy status.

The Independent notes the "massive swing" towards pupils taking traditional subjects and declares that Education Secretary Michael Gove is "delivering spectacular results", awarding him "full marks". However, it says the changes have not come without cost, having "strained to breaking point" relations between the government and teachers.

Perhaps with that in mind, Mr Gove writes in the Daily Telegraph that the successes of checking grade inflation and reducing the number of children taught in failing secondaries by 250,000 are "a credit to teachers".

But it's not all good news, as Telegraph education editor Graeme Paton points out. Pupils at England's worst performing schools are still leaving with average grades of D and E, he reports.

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