Media Watch 6/3/15

By Rowan Williams

The importance of the four-hour maximum waiting time target in Britain’s A&E services distorts priorities and should be downgraded, health experts have said. The call comes from the Nuffield Trust after a winter where all four parts of the UK missed their targets on waiting times. Under current targets in England, 95 percent of patients should be dealt with within four hours of arrival at A&E. In England, only 92 percent of patients are dealt with within the time limit. According to the think tank, the focus on waiting times can shift the focus from other important issues such as ambulance delays and bed waiting times. The number of patients leaving A&E without being seen, or patient satisfaction surveys, could also be used to give a more comprehensive picture of the performance of Britain’s A&E services. The Nuffield Trust’s briefing document on the topic stated that hospitals have spent too much time and energy on meeting the target that could be better spent elsewhere.

Archaeologists and officials have reacted with outrage to the looting and bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq. Leaders from the world’s cultural bodies have decried the destruction of Iraqi heritage. Nimrud, which dates back to the 13th century BC, had been the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire, at the time the most powerful state on earth. Some of the city’s most famous relics had previously been removed by archaeologists, and are now in museums including the British Museum. The site lies just south-east of Mosul, a city currently under the control of IS. IS is known to regard Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous. The assault comes one week after a video was released showing IS militants smashing museum statues and carvings in Mosul. The damage wreaked by IS has also included attacks on rival Muslim places of worship, and has been notable for its swift and comprehensive rate of destruction.

Nine people have been injured in a knife attack carried out at a train station in Guangzhou, China, with one of the two assailants shot dead by police and the other captured. The attack took place on Friday morning. No possible motives for the crime have been released yet, though the timing of the attack – just one day after the opening of China’s annual National People’s Congress legislative meeting – could suggest a political side to the attacks. Knife attacks in train stations in China have become a common public concern after an attack in Kunming train station in March 2014 that left 29 civilians dead. That attack had been blamed on Uighur separatists.

The Papers

A few political stories make the front pages today, especially the issue of politicians’ TV debates. The Guardian leads with news that the Prime Minister has been told to “stop cowering over TV debates” by other party leaders. Broadcasters have been urged by other parties “to use empty chair if Cameron refuses to take part” in the debates, the paper writes. The Independent calls the issue “The great debate debacle”, writing that plans for the debates lie “in turmoil as leaders fail to resolve differences”. The Prime Minister could even be ‘empty chaired’ in a head-to-head debate with opposition leader Ed Miliband, according to the paper. The Daily Telegraph leads with a warning from former Prime Minister John Major to Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband that “Labour must say no to SNP”. According to Major, a Labour Party coalition with the Scottish National Party “could break up the UK”. The Times reports that a “new Tory rebellion” has been stirred by a Treasury plans for a defence spending freeze. Defence spending would fall below Nato’s spending target after the general election – less than two percent of the national income. The Financial Times leads with news of a “Knife-edge bidding war” for US$21 billion biotech company Pharmacyclics. The company’s acquisition by AbbVie is just one of a continuing trend of high-value healthcare deals in recent months.

British Media on China

On Guangzhou station knife attack: Friday’s knife attack at Guangzhou railway station received coverage from most major UK media outlets, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph. The BBC reports that suspicions the attack “may be political in nature will be reinforced by the timing” being so close to the meeting of the National People’s Congress. The Daily Telegraph features an at-the-scene interview, and mentions unconfirmed reports that “a third assailant had managed to escape”. The Independent and The Guardian both draw parallels between knife attacks at train stations in China and knife attacks carried out at schools in in the country.

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