Media Watch 28/1/15

By Rowan Williams

Over one million adults in the UK may have been wrongly diagnosed as asthmatic and be receiving unnecessary medication as a result, a public health watchdog has warned. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), studies showed that up to 30 percent of the 4.1 million people in Britain receiving treatment for asthma showed no clinical evidence of having the condition. Under new NICE guidelines currently under consultation, doctors have been encouraged to use more clinical tests to diagnose asthma before jumping to a misdiagnosis. In the wake of the news, asthma charities have stressed that under-diagnosis and under-treatment of asthma still leads to deaths in Britain, where three people die from asthma every day. Experts have warned against those receiving treatment from stopping their medication without seeking medical advice. Some asthma drugs can have significant side effects.

Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband has come under fire from Tony Blair supporters who have claimed that his election campaign’s focus on the National Health Service (NHS) risks losing the party the general election. Critics, including former Health Secretary Alan Milburn, warned that a failure to focus on economic issues would risk causing a repeat of the Labour Party’s 1992 election defeat. With the general election now less than 100 days away, Ed Miliband’s supporters were forced to defend the party leader by highlighting Labour’s planned 10-year campaign to merge health and care services. While Miliband was attacked for using the NHS as a ‘comfort zone’ campaign, one recent poll by ComRes and ITV News showed that the NHS, where the Labour Party is believed to be the most trustworthy, was the most important issue to voters. The same poll, however, also showed respondents preferring David Cameron over Ed Miliband in a straight choice for Prime Minister.

The Chinese yuan became the fifth most used payment currency in December 2014, overtaking the Canadian and Australian dollar, according to transaction company Swift. In another sign of China’s economic ascendancy, the Chinese currency was used in 2.17 percent of global payments in December, gaining ground on the Japanese yen, which is currently used in 2.69 percent of global payments. While the US dollar, the euro, and the British pound currently remain firmly ahead as the top three most commonly used currencies, yuan payments grew by a total of 102 percent in 2014, while the average growth for other currencies stood at just 4.4 percent.

The Papers

The Labour Party makes the headlines in a few political stories on the front pages today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that the party is in “election chaos” over the National Health Service (NHS), after party Leader Ed Miliband was accused of running a “comfort zone campaign” and refused to endorse the Shadow Health Secretary. The Times, meanwhile, writes in its headline that the Labour Party’s “NHS strategy will bring ‘poll catastrophe'”, quoting former Health Secretary Alan Milburn’s attack on Miliband. Milburn called Miliband’s campaign a “pale imitation” of Neil Kinnock’s “disastrous 1992 campaign”, the paper writes. The Financial Times writes that following news the UK economy has grown at its fastest pace since the credit crunch, Ed Miliband has been “urged to defend Labour’s economic record”. The UK economy grew 2.6 percent in 2014, the paper also writes. The Independent’s headline is simply a quote from the public inquiry into the murder of Russian Alexander Litvinenko – “‘An act of nuclear terrorism that put thousands at risk'”. The inquiry into Litvinenko’s death began on Monday, with The Independent reporting that Litvinenko allegedly survived an “earlier poisoning attempt”. The Guardian’s headline, meanwhile, writes of “Europe’s great plane data grab”, with the paper revealing that under new European Commission anti-terror laws, 42 separate pieces of information on airline passengers will be collected and stored for up to five years.

British Media on China

On China’s coal use: after an article in The Guardian on Tuesday reported that China’s coal production fell for the first time this century in 2014, a Guardian editorial printed on Wednesday wrote that China’s move away from coal is “Excellent news for the planet – if it’s true”. The piece notes that China is “the biggest emitter of carbon, and coal the overwhelming culprit”. While the falling figures is a good sign, the paper raises concerns about China’s “rapidly rising oil imports”, as well as “the question of trust in the numbers”. The piece ends by stating China’s recent emission reduction pledges give “new reason to hope that its belated environmental efforts might be bearing fruit”.

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