Newspaper headlines: Cancer funding fears, and the 'train that's always late'

The decision to cut NHS funding for various cancer treatments is covered in many of Tuesday's papers.

The Daily Telegraph says that 25 different treatments will no longer be offered by the service from April, in a bid to save money.

Image copyright Roche
Image caption Bowel cancer treatment Bevacizumab is one of the 25 drugs no longer available on the NHS

"Eight thousand cancer patients are likely to have their lives cut short" by the decision, the paper continues, adding that "charities accused health officials of taking 'a dramatic step backwards' and destroying a lifeline which prolongs the survival of thousands".

"Cases for whom funding is agreed before April will continue to receive the drugs on the NHS, which is likely to mean a desperate scrabble on behalf of terminally ill patients as the deadline looms," it says.

The Telegraph adds that the move has been taken by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) which says it can no longer afford to pay for all treatments and had taken "tough decisions" to prioritise those which gave "the best results".

The paper quotes Saima al Qadhi of the Breast Cancer Care charity as saying the fund was "falling apart" while health officials and the pharmaceutical industry had failed to find any long-term solution to how to pay for cancer treatment.

The Independent says the CDF - an England-only body set up by the Coalition government in 2010 - was due to overspend by £100m in the forthcoming financial year.

It notes: "Many experts have called for the Cancer Drugs Fund to be discontinued and its spending power handed over to the wider NHS, arguing that a specific fund for cancer patients discriminates against patients with other diseases."

In his editor's letter in the i newspaper, Oliver Duff writes: "Pharma firms have excelled at developing new ways to treat cancer, but not affordably. They should have done more. They still could.

"One pharma boss complains that he hadn't been given the chance to drop the price - 'We are happy to be flexible to ensure that the Cancer Drugs Fund is not overspent' - although not so happy as to have shouted about this before."

Calling for a new deal to be struck, Duff notes that cancer drug prices have risen four times faster than inflation, and he says the country cannot afford to write a blank cheque to the drugs' firms.

The Daily Mail's editorial says that the idea of a fund to bypass the "rationing" of cancer drugs seems just like a "hollow" political pledge now.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Ovarian cancer cells

"With colossal bureaucratic waste elsewhere, what sense can it make to cut spending that directly improves patients' lives?"

In an unrelated front page story, the Independent reports that life expectancy has shown a "statistically significant" but "unexpected" decline in parts of England.

Public Health England was alerted to the trend, the paper says, by an email from a Lancashire council that said life expectancy at 85 has declined in Blackburn and Darwen.

The paper adds that the figure is being investigated, but there are warnings that "cuts to social care and pressures on the NHS may be contributing to earlier deaths".

Huge encroachment

There is widespread coverage of the incident where social media accounts of the US military's Central Command were hacked by persons posting pro-Islamic State comments - as President Obama delivered a speech on cyber-security.

The Daily Mail says the hackers posted "threatening messages against troops, their families and the home addresses of 4-star US generals", as well as maps purporting to show secret information.

The paper adds: "Most of the information leaked is readily available online according to the Washington Post, but the breach is still embarrassing for CentCom which is in overall command of the US-led coalition military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria."

A White House official - speaking to the paper's website on condition of anonymity - said the hack was a "complete embarrassment" and the president's office is "freaking out".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption US Central Command's YouTube channel, as well as its Twitter feed, was hacked and flooded with Jihadist propaganda videos

However the paper reports that Pentagon spokesman said the US military viewed the hacking as "a prank more than vandalism".

The Daily Mirror says "public confidence will be dented by the penetration of the world's most powerful military force by a group claiming to be Islamic State.

"People are entitled to expect US Central Command to be an electronic fortress rather than a playground for hackers".

The Independent reports it is not the first time "CyberCaliphate" hackers sympathetic to IS have hacked high-profile US sites.

"The group that appears to be responsible for the hack of Central Command's Twitter account, attacked a Maryland news station last week and a New Mexico newspaper last month," the paper says.

On the subject of cyber security, the Guardian leads on how David Cameron has pledged to give new powers to the security services to look at encrypted communications, if he stays in power in May.

The proposed new laws "would provide a new legal framework for Britain's GCHQ and other intelligence agencies to crack the communications of terror suspects if there was specific intelligence of an imminent attack", the paper says.

The PM's stance has been attacked by his coalition deputy Nick Clegg, who told a journalists' meeting: "The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens."

Writing in the paper, journalist Henry Porter says security chiefs need "cash not new powers".

"No one wants to hamper the security services, but at the same time we must be extraordinarily careful not to harm the essence of our freedom," Porter argues.

"That was surely one message that welled up from the march for liberty, equality and fraternity in Paris on Sunday - a message all those killed at Charlie Hebdo would undoubtedly have subscribed to."

He lists a number of high-profile terrorist killers, including the Paris attackers, who were already under electronic and physical surveillance, noting: "It is impossible to predict the behaviour of any number of individuals".

Image copyright PA
Image caption GCHQ at Cheltenham: The hub of the UK's state surveillance operations

In the Daily Telegraph, assistant editor Philip Johnston takes up the theme, arguing that security services "inevitably" ask for more powers after a terrorist attack, but the various ideas floated by politicians almost inevitably "fall by the wayside".

"What does all this legislative backtracking tell us about ourselves? Does it just highlight the pathetic weakness of our country's institutions in the face of the Islamist menace; or does it point to their strength in upholding the liberties that the terrorists despise?

"Arguably, the checks and balances of Parliament and the courts have given the police and security agencies the powers they need. But they always want more," he writes.

"But it is already possible for the security agencies to listen in on conversations of suspected terrorists provided they have a warrant. The Prime Minister is suggesting a far wider power to eavesdrop than has so far been considered acceptable.

"Yet this would have made no difference in Paris, where the terrorists were already well known to the police, and who failed to use their power effectively. In the end, vigilance and acting on intelligence are the best weapons to deploy against the gunmen - not more laws that undermine the very freedoms we seek to defend."

'Quite limited'

Metro, a free newspaper largely targeted at commuters, is never short of horror stories from those using Britain's public transport network.

But in the story of the 07:29 from Brighton to London Victoria, it may have hit the mother lode.

The paper says official documents have shown the Southern Rail service was not on time on any of its 240 journeys to the capital in 2014.

One traveller is quoted as saying: "'I don't expect to arrive on time. The train always slows down.

"The Brits put up with it but it's always been the same, trains have always been bad in this country."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brighton: Don't expect a fast getaway

"The new revelation comes only a week after rail commuters - who fork up to £5,000 a year for a season ticket - were forced to pay 2.5 percent more for their fares," Metro adds.

Southern Rail chief David Scorey says: "I don't think we're delivering the level of performance customers expect."

But he adds that demand for seats and trains makes the network his company operates seem like the M25 at rush hour.

"If there is the most minor of problem or delay on a train, another train can be thrown off its path or slot on the network by a couple of minutes which can sometimes then snowball," he tells the paper.

"The options of what we can do are quite limited," he concludes.

The Times editorial imagines an exchange between two Southern Rail employees.

"Is a late train that's always late actually late?" muses one.

"Yes. Yes it is. 240 times in 2014," replies the other.

"No, no. I mean like if nobody is there to hear it, does a tree falling in a forest make any sound?" the philosophical railwayman continues.

"Don't care if it falls in the forest. Only if it falls on the line. And it's bound to happen, eventually," his more literally minded colleague responds.

Brighton line commuters may appreciate the Waiting For Godot-like quality of the Times' sketch while they do some waiting of their own.

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