Newspaper headlines: Slower ambulance response fears, and roadside drug tests

You know that Christmas Day is looming when the papers carry more features, festive quizzes, star interviews and lists than they do news articles.

Amid the slightly lighter fare than usual, several of Sunday's papers take a look at the future of NHS services.

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The Mail on Sunday leads on documents it has seen suggesting NHS England want to more than double the target time ambulances can take to reach critically ill patients.

The paper says the leaked memo - which it says shows the plans have been approved - means the service will now set a 19 minute target instead of the current eight.

The Mail adds that the document also shows that NHS bosses want to delay the implementation of the change after the general election, in May.

The proposed change comes as doctors warn that the emergency service is under severe pressure.

Headlining its page "Caution: don't be ill this Christmas" the paper notes that eight of England's ambulance services say they are under "severe pressure" and two - Yorkshire and London - say the situation is "critical".

The new targets apply to response times for "red 2" incidents, including patients with strokes, seizures, and many car crash situations, the Mail explains.

"Doctors say it is often very hard to tell if a situation is immediately life threatening [a "red 1" incident] or not over the phone," it adds.

The paper quotes former government "cancer tsar" Sir Roger Boyle as saying the move will "risk lives".

The Observer pinpoints one of the reasons emergency services are under pressure - changing lifestyles.

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The paper says Britons in the 18-34 age group are increasingly heading straight to A&E departments rather than wait for a GP appointment.

The Observer writes, "the findings suggest that, despite repeated promises by successive governments to make GP services more accessible, the NHS is still failing to cater for a working population that wants family doctors to be available at times that fit in with busy working lives."

It adds the move to bypass doctors' surgeries has added to growing pressure on the country's A&E units.

The Independent on Sunday explains the situation is exacerbated in places by a lack of trained GPs.

The situation is particularly difficult in the north-east of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and the East Midlands, the paper adds.

In these areas up to one in three places for trainee family doctors can be unfilled.

The Royal College of General Practitioners tells the paper that the "pull of London and the south-east" is leaving some areas with a shortage of applicants.


'Terrible accidents'

If you're driving over the festive period you may be pulled over by police wanting to use what the Sun calls the "spitalyzer".

The new kit to be carried by police will test a saliva sample within seconds to see if drivers have taken any of 16 types of drug.

The Sun explains the tests will include prescribed drugs which may impair driving and "legal highs".

The drug tests, part of a crackdown on drug-driving, will first be deployed by Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Gloucestershire police forces, the paper adds.

Image caption Several strong painkillers, some anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping tablets can make driving unsafe, police say

The Daily Telegraph, which leads on the story, says the new kit will save police having to go through the current "cumbersome" testing process, which involves having to give a blood sample at a police station and wait days for the result to come back.

"Suspects... can escape prosecution if they claim to be unable to give a blood sample for religious or medical reasons, allowing time for the drugs to leave their bodies," the paper notes.

Officials estimate that drug-driving causes 200 deaths in Britain every year, the Telegraph reports, but the offence is 50 times less likely to be detected and prosecuted than drink-driving.

Police minister Mike Penning, who has approved the kits for use, tells the paper he has always wanted to do something about the issue, having seen the results of drug-driving accidents when he worked as a fireman.

"Being impaired by taking medication or drugs or legal highs, if that impairs your driving ability, you're going to cause accidents and kill people - and kill yourself. It is just the same as someone who is drunk," he tells the Telegraph.

"The key is it's not just about illegal drugs. If you go and get a prescription for strong painkillers it will say on there, 'This may cause drowsiness, do not use heavy equipment and do not drive'.

"People sadly do, and then you have terrible accidents. We are not penalising motorists. We are trying to keep people safe, exactly as we do with drink."


'Powerhouses of knowledge'

The Sunday Times's top story is a plan from the Home Secretary Theresa May to ensure foreign students leave the country once they have graduated.

The paper says the "hardline move" is part of Mrs May's effort to "stake a claim to No 10" should David Cameron lose the next election, and is likely to "bolster her support from the Tory right".

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Image caption Imperial College: one of London's "powerhouse" centres of scientific resaearch

The home secretary has said she wants to move towards "zero net student migration", the Times adds.

Her plan would involve universities and colleges being fined and stripped of the right to sponsor foreign students if they do not ensure they return to their homelands after completing their courses. Foreign graduates would only be able to apply for a British work permit from abroad.

The paper notes that official figures show 121,000 non-EU students came to Britain last year - but only 51,000 left.

Mrs May has told the prime minister that unless action is taken over foreign students staying in Britain, the government will never reach their immigration targets.

The Times says the move comes as Mrs May is embroiled in a row with No 10 over the removal of two of her top aides from the Conservative candidates list.

It adds some Tories have accused two aides - Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson - of "declaring war" on David Cameron's leadership of the party, in an effort to support a future bid for the top job from Mrs May.

The student plan has not met with the approval of Liberal Democrats in government, with Vince Cable saying there "is not a chance in hell" of it becoming law while his party is in coalition.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is also quoted, saying: "It is a very bad idea to get rid of people who have spent years training to be physicists and computer programmers.

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Image caption Nick Clegg

"We've invested a lot in these people and to turf them out for the sake of some figures doesn't make sense."

More concern about changes in the university sector can be found in a story in the Observer.

The paper says the government is looking at changing the way funding for academic research is funded, and critics fear this could both spell the end of research funds for "unfashionable subjects" such as ancient Greek, but also concentrate cash in the hands of a few, mainly south-east-based "elite" institutions.

Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College and King's College London could all be gainers, while newer universities were likely to lose out.

The move would accentuate the creation of "knowledge economy" jobs in London and the south-east, while areas such as the West Midlands, the north-east and south-west of England and Scotland have lost such jobs.

Shadow universities minister Liam Byrne tells the paper he opposes the change, "We need our universities to become powerhouses of the knowledge economy all over Britain, not just in London and the south-east."


'They are Saturday night'

One televisual goliath has slain all before it in the battle for ratings and newspaper coverage - Strictly Come Dancing.

The celebrity ballroom contest - won last night by TV presenter Caroline Flack - had a "thrilling finale", according to the Sunday Express.

The paper notes, "the 12th series has consistently pulled audiences of more than nine million viewers, despite fears for its popularity after Bruce Forsyth retired.

The Mail on Sunday says "theatre stardom" could beckon for Flack, 35, after "wowing audiences" on the show.

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Image caption Caroline Flack: a "phoney amateur" according to the Sunday Times, a winner according to the public

The paper says she has previously been mainly known as a presenter on ITV2 spin-off shows, but the win could lead a "remarkable turnaround" in her career.

Jonathan Shalit, one of Britain's biggest talent agents, was effusive in his praise for the series' finale.

He tells the Mail, "none of the finalists are traditionally BBC1 faces, which is very exciting for all their careers.

"All four are sexy, they are young, they are exciting, they are glamorous, they are Saturday night."

The Daily Star Sunday says the finalists are set to net "deals worth millions of pounds".

"Around 12million viewers tuned in to see the celebs and their professional partners compete in last night's big final, making it one of the best-watched in the show's history.

"Now the series is over, they are due to consider the raft of deals over the next week," the paper explains.

Not everyone has been a fan, however.

In her review in the Times, Camilla Long says, "this was the year of tears - tears of abject boredom as the dead-eyed finalists ground their way mirthlessly through painfully perfect paso dobles and immaculate charlestons."

The show, Long says, has become "an increasingly streamlined and sexless American styled series where all the most tasteless and controversial contestants were tragically booted off early."

Flack's victory has now cemented her position as "a fully fledged z-lister", Long says.

Admit it. You're just after an invite to join the dancers in 2015, Camilla!

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