A Seven-Day Health Service?

By Rowan Williams
  • – Government pledges 7-day health service
  • – Iraq reinforcements pledge as IS takes Ramadi
  • – China house prices fall for eighth consecutive month


Prime Minister David Cameron will today renew his pledge to transform Britain’s National Health Service into the world’s first seven day-a-week health service. Currently, reduced rate of care at weekends means patients admitted at weekends are more likely to die than those admitted midweek. The government will also renew its commitment to increase NHS spending by £8 billion annually by 2020, and promise to recruit 5,000 new GPs. One doctors’ representative group, the British Medical Association, has questioned how expanded healthcare and new doctors could be delivered given the current doctor shortage. Healthcare unions have threatened strike action if extending operating hours requires cutting existing payments for working during antisocial hours. The government has also backed plans to make £22 billion in efficiency savings in the NHS, as well as increase funding.

The Iraqi government will send Iran-backed Shia militias to the town of Ramadi, after the town fell to militant Islamic State (IS) extremists on Monday. About 500 people, both soldiers and civilians, are believed to have been killed in the fighting in the city over the past few days. Soldiers and civilians were seen fleeing the city 70 miles west of Baghdad, while IS has released a statement confirming its total control of the city. The United States, which is leading an anti-IS coalition in the region, has said it believes Ramadi can be recaptured. Shia militias had previously proved instrumental in retaking the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, though reports had emerged of violence and looting from militiamen. Local officials, who are largely of the Sunni minority, had previously promised the defence of Ramadi, and will be reluctant to call in Shia reinforcements.

House prices in China fell for the eighth consecutive month in April, as the country’s real estate sector continues to hold back its economy. Prices were down 6.1 percent from a year previous – the same fall as in March. Some analysts have pointed to two consecutive months of equal decline as a sign that the market is ‘bottoming out’, and could slowly begin a recovery in the near future. Prices were seen to rise for the first time in a year in Shanghai, and for the second consecutive month in Beijing. Prices continue to decline in smaller cities, however. China’s property sector accounts for 20 percent of its economy. Authorities have been taking steps to spur on growth in China’s cooling economy, cutting interest rates earlier this month for the third time since November.

The Papers

The National Health Service, and wider government spending plans, make the headlines today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that new GPs will “transform the NHS” and ensure patients can be treated seven days a week. The Prime Minister admitted his “shock at weekend death rates”, and is to pledge more staff and faster access to drugs, the paper writes. The Independent reports that nurses may “strike over seven-day NHS plans”, however, if NHS expansion plans involve cutting weekend pay. Discontent is mounting in other industries, the paper writes, with rail workers to strike and teachers threatening action. The Financial Times leads with news of “100,000 job cuts” over five years in Whitehall as Chancellor George Osborne “tightens grip” to save money in the civil service. £10 billion in spending reductions are “sought by 2017-18”, the paper writes. The Guardian leads with news that leaving the EU “may be in UK interest”, according to leading UK manufacturer JCB. Leaving Europe would be best “unless bureaucracy can be cut”, the firm said. Such bureaucracy holds back business, the firm said. The Times leads with news that the UK’s biggest union, Unite, is holding Labour to “ransom over leadership”. Unite leader Len McCluskey said that the party “must champion workers”, the paper reports. McCluskey “turned his fire on Blairites” in a speech, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On Sino-US ties: US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to China over the weekend received some coverage in the UK media, with discussions over the South China Sea receiving particular attention. The BBC reports that Kerry expressed concerns over China’s land reclamation efforts in the region, writing that Kerry intended to give a “stern message” to China. The US is concerned that “new Chinese assets, like military capable runways, will alter the balance of power”, the BBC writes. The Daily Telegraph writes that China rejected the US’ concerns, warning “that it had an ‘unshakeable’ commitment to such interests”. Originally hoping to hold preparation talks ahead of an economic forums, dialogue was instead “overshadowed” by the South China Sea, the paper writes. The Guardian’s agency piece writes that China “politely but pointedly dismissed Washington’s push for a diplomatic solution” over land reclamation concerns.

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