In brief

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 07 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1270

Large cost variations revealed between NHS hospitals: The New NHS 1998 Reference Costsshows that surgical operations in England's most expensive hospitals are 58% more costly than in the least expensive. The cost of a hip replacement varies from £1834 ($2930) to £6494.

UK has new health minister: John Hutton, MP for Barrow and Furness, has been appointed parliamentary undersecretary at the Department of Health. He replaces Paul Boateng, who has moved to the Home Office in the reshuffle after the resignation of the Welsh secretary, Ron Davies.

AIDS reduces African population rates: The spread of AIDS in many African countries is reducing life expectancy and will reduce populations far below what was expected in the next 10-15 years, according to a report by the population division of the United Nations. In Botswana life expectancy has fallen to 47 from 61 in five years and is expected to fall to 41 between 2000 and 2005.

Detection of breast cancers has increased in UK: The annual review of the NHS breast screening programme shows that more women have been screened and more small cancers detected than ever before and that the programme is on target to save 1250 lives a year.

Heavy users of ecstasy may develop brain damage: Brain scans of heavy users of the recreational drug ecstasy have shown changes that may result from brain damage. A report in the Lancet(1998;352:1433-7) says that potential functional consequences may include depression, anxiety, and memory disturbance.

Britain's health department to survey sexual attitudes: The Department of Health is to commission a second national survey on sexual attitudes and lifestyles. The survey, which will be spread over three years and will cost £1.4m ($2.24m), will be carried out on a confidential basis under the auspices of the Medical Research Council.

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