Evidence grows that many over-60s get second class care from the NHS
Rosemary Hobbs spent at least two years suffering from undiagnosed ovarian cancer. When it was finally picked up, she had a tumour the size of a cricket ball in her right side. Rosemary, 69, a former nurse, knows she was lucky – after the tumour was removed, she has made a full recovery. But she is aware how easily the cancer could have been missed.
‘During my nurse’s training, many years ago, we were warned about ovarian cancer. It has few symptoms – except an expanding waistline – and it is easy to miss. But I never thought it would happen to me.’
Rosemary is one of the thousands of over-60s who, despite awareness campaigns and government initiatives, gets short-changed when it comes to diagnosing serious illness.
While most will be screened for breast cancer and given statins to reduce the chance of heart disease, they are still at risk of many other conditions – some life-threatening – that can get dismissed as ‘inevitable ageing’.
Even when diagnosed, they won’t get the same treatment as a younger person. Earlier this month it was revealed that older women with breast cancer are less likely to be diagnosed or given surgery on the NHS than younger patients – and have a worse chance of being offered treatment, according to a survey of cancer specialists.
The over-60s tend not to be offered the most aggressive forms of therapy for cancer, agrees Dr Arun Ghosh, who treats mainly older patients at Spire Liverpool Hospital.
His advice to patients is: ‘Give your GP lots of evidence that you’ll benefit from the therapy so they can present a good case to the Primary Care Trust.’
Rosemary’s struggle to get a diagnosis began when she was due to have an operation for a broken foot. Doctors warned that her blood results were showing a dangerously large number of white cells, which fight infection – a sign the body might be fighting an as-yet- undiagnosed disease.
‘I was warned I might have leukaemia, but the results came back clear,’ she says. With hindsight, Rosemary, who lives near Plymouth, Devon, with her husband Chris, 74, a retired engineer, realised she’d been feeling unwell and exhausted for some time. ‘I kept telling my GP something felt wrong, but she clearly thought it was hormonal,’ she says.
A year later, Rosemary began to need the loo more frequently. She reckons the tumour must have been pressing on her bladder – a more frequent need to urinate is recognised symptom of ovarian cancer.
Her GP then considered diabetes – ‘my blood sugar levels were fluctuating all the time’ but this also proved incorrect. Then 12 months later Rosemary started feeling bloated – another classic sign of ovarian cancer.
She went to the GP again, who said she didn’t have time to examine her and instead booked her in for a scan a fortnight later. At the scan, the tumour was spotted and she was rushed into surgery days later.
The cancer had not spread, so Rosemary did not need further treatment, though she was closely monitored for the following few years. ‘I was lucky, but I did lose all confidence in my GP and changed practice. I’d warn others that if you feel something is not right, do be persistent. Your life may depend on it.’
When it comes to diagnosis, one issue is that a patient may have several diseases – perhaps heart disease, asthma and Parkinson’s.
‘Doctors also need to keep an open mind: they shouldn’t just assume a fall is due to age, it might be due to a condition such as anaemia that is treatable,’ says Dr Giles Durward of Spire Southampton Hospital, who specialises in elderly care.
Sometimes government guidelines decide what GPs can offer patients dependent on age, says Dr Ghosh. But it’s not simply age discrimination that’s the problem – often patients don’t realise their symptoms are significant and not just a sign of ageing, and fail to seek help.
Graduate tax and private colleges at heart of new British higher education blueprint
Private universities will flourish and struggling institutions will be allowed to fail, if the coalition has its way with the future of higher education
Vince Cable Vince Cable warned that the Labour government’s target of extending higher education to 50% of the population is likely to be scrapped. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images
The government signalled the biggest shakeup of Britain’s universities in a generation today, with a blueprint for higher education in which the highest-earning graduates would pay extra taxes to fund degrees, private universities would flourish and struggling institutions would be allowed to fail.
Vince Cable, the cabinet minister responsible for higher education, also raised the prospect of quotas to ensure state school pupils were guaranteed places at Britain’s best universities, breaking the private school stranglehold on Oxbridge.
Comparing the existing system of tuition fees to a “poll tax” that graduates paid regardless of their income, the skills secretary argued it was fairer for people to pay according to their earning power.
He said: “It surely can’t be right that a teacher or care worker or research scientist is expected to pay the same graduate contribution as a top commercial lawyer or surgeon or City analyst whose graduate premium is so much bigger.”
Graduates earned on average £100,000 more than non-graduates in their life-time, Cable said, and there are significant premiums for degrees such as medicine.
Cable said he had asked Lord Browne, the businessman conducting a review of student finance, to look at a variable graduate tax tied to earnings. Low earners may end up paying less than they currently do for their degrees while those with high incomes pay more. A spokesman for the inquiry said Browne was not unhappy about the apparent pre-empting of his report.
The graduate tax would replace the current system, under which the government lends money to students to cover the cost of their degree courses and graduates pay this back once they start earning more than £15,000.
Phasing out tuition fees is a crucial part of Liberal Democrat education policy. Any moves by the coalition to raise fees – or even keep the status quo – could prove divisive. Lib Dem MPs will be allowed to abstain from any vote on fees under the coalition agreement.
Cable warned that the Labour government’s target of extending higher education to 50% of the population was likely to be scrapped, questioning whether it was sensible or affordable. Figures from the university admissions service, Ucas, underlined the pressure on university places: universities have received more than 660,000 applications and a record 170,000 students are thought likely to be denied a place this autumn.
Cable told an audience of vice- chancellors at South Bank University in London: “What we have is an urgent problem. Universities are going to have to ask how they can do more for less. There will probably be less public funding per student … quite possibly fewer students coming straight from school to do three-year degrees.” Universities had to be prepared for a period of contraction. “Britain is a poorer country than two years ago and future spending had to be adjusted accordingly.”
He stunned the vice-chancellors by announcing that struggling universities would be left to go bankrupt. But he said students would still be protected. “It would be similar to banks,” he said. “They can fail, but their depositors are still protected.”
The government wants to increase the number of private companies offering higher education that is not subsidised by the state. This increased competition would mean some publicly funded universities could struggle to recruit enough students and be forced to close. Experts said at least 20 universities could close in the next few years if this were allowed to happen. At least five universities are known to be on an “at risk” list because they are heavily indebted.
Cable’s proposals mark a departure from the current regime and the biggest change to universities since the early 1990s, when at least 40 polytechnics became universities and higher education was expanded.
He suggested that universities reserve places for pupils “from each of a wide range of schools” to ensure the brightest children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were not denied the chance of going on to higher education. But he did not want to repeat Gordon Brown’s mistake of “trying to dictate Oxbridge admissions”. In 2000 Brown, who was chancellor at the time, labelled Oxford’s decision to reject Laura Spence, a state school pupil, “an absolute scandal”.
The Russell Group of leading research universities said Cable’s graduate tax would not work. Wendy Piatt, its director general, said: “It would lead to many years before revenue from the tax became available so until then there would be a requirement for a very major upfront investment in universities by government – a very costly solution.”
Million+, a lobby group for former polytechnics, questioned whether graduates paying more for their degrees squared with the government’s commitment to social mobility.
However, students welcomed a graduate tax. The National Union of Students argued for a tax in its submission to Browne. Aaron Porter, NUS president, said: “The fair solution is to abolish tuition fees and ensure that graduate contributions are based on actual earnings in the real world.”
The shadow universities minister, David Lammy, said: “This a PR exercise from a man whose party have just completed the biggest U-turn in their history.”
Up to a quarter of a million British students could miss out on university places
Almost a quarter of a million students will miss out on a university place after worries about the economy helped to produce a sharp rise in applications. More than 660,000 people applied for a university place this autumn, up almost 12 per cent on last year’s record-breaking figures.
There were 68,000 more applications this year compared with 2009 after growing numbers opted for education instead of trying to find a job. There was also a significant increase in applications from would-be mature students and those who missed out on places last year.
Applications from foreign candidates were also up by 15 per cent, with 100,000 overseas students seeking places, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said.
School leavers who would traditionally take the places could be disappointed and the University and College Union, the main lecturers’ union, warned of a “lost generation” who would miss out on higher education.
The number of places for British and European Union students is capped and vice-chancellors face fines if they exceed their limits, which will be set later this year.
Last year, 373,793 British and European students were awarded places on undergraduate courses at English universities when 592,312 had applied for places. This year 660,953 have applied, including 54,254 from outside the EU, meaning around 225,000 students, a record number, will miss out.
So far the Coalition has promised that just 8,000 extra full-time and 2,000 part-time undergraduate places will be available, mostly on maths and science courses. The overall budget for higher education is being cut by £200 million and David Willetts, the universities minister, admitted there was not the “capacity to meet such a surge in demand”.
Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Today’s figures make frightening reading.
“Other countries are increasing the number of graduates to compete in a high-skill knowledge economy, yet our government seems intent on doing the opposite. “It is not scaremongering to talk about a lost generation of learners. “It is disgraceful that thousands of applicants will be denied the chance to fulfil their potential at university. The decision not to fund student places properly and to make savage cuts to higher education will come back and haunt this country and will lead to a huge skills deficit.”
The rise in applications occurred despite warnings that the number of places available during clearing, where candidates are matched to spare places, could be cut by half.
Applications from older people were up more than 20 per cent on the previous year, continuing a recent growth in those wanting to become mature students.
There were around 90,000 applications from people aged 25 and over. There was also a 24 per cent rise in those who had applied in previous years, after an unprecedented squeeze on places last year.
Some subjects leading to public sector jobs proved particularly popular, despite imminent cuts in state spending. Nursing was the biggest area of growth, with a 62 per cent increase in applications, followed by design studies (34 per cent) and social work (27 per cent).
Some rejected candidates will seek places through clearing, but university chiefs have warned that the places available through that method could be half the 22,000 offered last year.
“Funding restrictions from government mean that universities will not be able to take on extra students to meet this demand,” Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said. “It is quite likely, therefore, that more qualified applicants will fail to secure places this year. Applicants may have to be more flexible in their choices.”
Prof Les Ebdon, the chairman of the university think tank million+ and vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: “It will be a tragic waste of talent if highly qualified students miss out on a university place in 2010. Instead of fining universities if they recruit more students than they have been allocated, the Government should now fund additional university places in 2010 if they want to be serious about their commitment to social mobility.”
The Department for Business, which oversees higher education, accepted that some candidates will miss out. A spokesman said: “The Government recognises the important role graduates play in our economy and society, which is why, in these tough times, we provided funding for a further 10,000 students to begin their studies this year. But university is not always the right option for young people.
“Demand from employers for skilled workers is rising so we are investing in further education and we are funding 50,000 new high-quality apprenticeships.”
Climategate and the Big Green Lie
Even a Warmist is dismayed by the crookedness in climate “science”:
By way of preamble, let me remind you where I stand on climate change. I think climate science points to a risk that the world needs to take seriously. I think energy policy should be intelligently directed towards mitigating this risk. I am for a carbon tax.
I also believe that the Climategate emails revealed, to an extent that surprised even me (and I am difficult to surprise), an ethos of suffocating groupthink and intellectual corruption. The scandal attracted enormous attention in the US, and support for a new energy policy has fallen. In sum, the scientists concerned brought their own discipline into disrepute, and set back the prospects for a better energy policy.
I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would be severe. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.
The Penn State inquiry exonerating Michael Mann — the paleoclimatologist who came up with “the hockey stick” — would be difficult to parody. Three of four allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry announces that, for “lack of credible evidence”, it will not even investigate them. (At this, MIT’s Richard Lindzen tells the committee, “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these issues are explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?” The report continues: “The Investigatory Committee did not respond to Dr Lindzen’s statement. Instead, [his] attention was directed to the fourth allegation.”)
Moving on, the report then says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers — so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false.
You think I exaggerate?
This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research…
Had Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions…
Clearly, Dr. Mann’s reporting of his research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers. This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his work been outside of accepted practices in his field.
In short, the case for the prosecution is never heard. Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one of them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed, with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.
Further “vindication” of the Climategate emailers was to follow, of course, in Muir Russell’s equally probing investigation. To be fair, Russell manages to issue a criticism or two. He says the scientists were sometimes “misleading” — but without meaning to be (a plea which, in the case of the “trick to hide the decline”, is an insult to one’s intelligence). On the apparent conspiracy to subvert peer review, it found that the “allegations cannot be upheld” — but, as the impressively even-handed Fred Pearce of the Guardian notes, this was partly on the grounds that “the roles of CRU scientists and others could not be distinguished from those of colleagues. There was ‘team responsibility’.” Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of the university which houses CRU, calls this “exoneration”.
I am glad to see The Economist, which I criticized for making light of the initial scandal, taking a balanced view of these unsatisfactory proceedings. My only quarrels with its report are quibbles. For instance, in the second paragraph it says: ” The reports conclude that the science of climate is sound…”
Actually, they don’t, as the article’s last paragraph makes clear:
An earlier report on climategate from the House of Commons assumed that a subsequent probe by a panel under Lord Oxburgh, a former academic and chairman of Shell, would deal with the science. The Oxburgh report, though, sought to show only that the science was not fraudulent or systematically flawed, not that it was actually reliable. And nor did Sir Muir, with this third report, think judging the science was his job.
Like Pearce, The Economist rightly draws attention to the failure of the Russell inquiry to ask Phil Jones of the CRU whether he actually deleted any emails to defeat FoI requests. It calls this omission “rather remarkable”. Pearce calls it “extraordinary”.
Myself, I would prefer to call it “astonishing and indefensible”. I don’t see how, having spotted this, the magazine can conclude that the report, overall, was “thorough, but it will not satisfy all the critics.” (Well, the critics make such unreasonable demands! Look into the charges, they say. Hear from the other side. Ask the obvious questions. It never stops: you just can’t satisfy these people.)
However, The Economist is calling for the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri to go. That’s good.
So where does this leave us? Walter Russell Mead is always worth reading on this subject, and I usually agree with him — but I think his summing up in this case is not quite right.
Greens who feared and climate skeptics who hoped that the rash of investigations following Climategate and Glaciergate and all the other problems would reveal some gaping obvious flaws in the science of climate change were watching the wrong thing. The Big Green Lie (or Delusion, to be charitable) isn’t so much that climate change is happening and that it is very likely caused or at least exacerbated by human activity. The Big Lie is that the green movement is a source of coherent or responsible counsel about what to do.
He’s right, of course, that the green movement is not trusted as an adviser on what to do. So what? Its counsel on policy is not required. Nor, for that matter, is a complex international treaty of the sort that Copenhagen failed to produce. Congress and the administration can get to the right policy — an explicit or implicit carbon tax; subsidies for low-carbon energy — without the greens’ input, so long as public opinion is convinced that the problem is real and needs to be addressed.
It’s not the extreme or otherwise ill-advised policy recommendations of the greens that have turned opinion against action of any kind, though I grant you they’re no help. It’s the diminished credibility of the claim that we have a problem in the first place. That is why Climategate mattered. And that is why these absurd “vindications” of the climate scientists involved also matter.
The economic burdens of mitigating climate change will not be shouldered until a sufficient number of voters believe the problem is real, serious, and pressing. Restoring confidence in climate science has to come first. That, in turn, means trusting voters with all of the doubts and unanswered questions — with inconvenient data as well as data that confirm the story — instead of misleading them (unintentionally, of course) into believing that everything is cut and dried. The inquiries could have started that process. They have further delayed it.
Turning Britain into a nation full of suspects
‘A man’s home is his castle’. Rarely has this 400-year-old quipped defence against the arbitrary exercise of state power seemed quite as quaint as it does today. Because whatever else a man’s home is, whatever else he feels his private sphere to be, it is certainly not impermeable. In fact, due to a whole raft of legislation over the past 10 years, our private existence has never been quite so transparent. The state, should it so wish, can read our emails, can check which websites we visit, can watch us take our dogs for walks, can follow us on our way to work…in fact, the possibilities for state surveillance are endless. And the chief reason for this is a spectacularly snide piece of legislation called the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
Just hours before the House of Commons broke up for its summer recess in 2000, RIPA came into force. This Act granted the police, the intelligence services, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue unprecedented power to check upon all our communications, from intercepting emails to compelling internet service providers to hand over information about our surfing habits. So alongside the power to watch and monitor our real world activity (‘direct surveillance’), these state bodies could check upon our virtual toings and froings, too, so as to ‘obtain a picture of [a person’s] life, activities and associates’. The justification given back then for such explosively intrusive potential was internet crime and paedophilia.
As the Noughties progressed, and New Labour’s distrust of people deepened, so RIPA grew. Its liberty-snubbing surveillance powers, once the preserve of law-enforcement agencies, were extended – albeit in a slightly limited form – ever further into the public sphere. By 2002, 500-or-so more public bodies had been given the power to peep and pry, including the National Health Service, the Food Standards Agency, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Charity Commission, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, and, as it turned out, snoop-happy local councils. The number of organisations now in possession of investigatory powers stands at nearly 800.
However, quite why so many of the state’s tentacles were now being equipped with the power to check-up on people, to root around in their private existence, was never quite clear. In September 2003, as the issue of terrorism got added to the list of excuses for this intrusion, then home office minister Caroline Flint did have an attempt at justifying the expansion of RIPA: ‘These proposals are about vital investigatory tools being used now to prevent and detect crime and, in some cases, save lives.’
There is certainly no doubting that these ‘vital investigatory tools’ were being used. In 2008, for instance, it was estimated that there was something in the region of 3,000 RIPA operations active on any given day. Sadly for Flint, this was not evidence of widespread paedophilic depravity or terrorist plotting. In fact, what was shocking about the vast majority of RIPA operations lay not in what was being spied upon but in the sheer pettiness of the spy. Given that by far the largest portion of RIPA operations were undertaken not by MI6 but by those bastions of litter-picking vigilance, local councils, perhaps that is not surprising. As numerous reports have since revealed, over the past few years local councils have used investigatory powers to check for, amongst other heinous crimes: fly-tipping, dog fouling, retailers selling furniture not up to fire safety standards, cleaners pulling sickies and care assistants claiming too much on travel expenses. It was even revealed that Westminster borough council authorised a spying operation on greengrocers refusing to convert from imperial to metric measures.
While the stories of state snooping have been laughable for their triviality, what RIPA represents – a transformation in the relationship between state and civil society – is rather more serious. Effectively, it renders state intrusion into our private lives routine. No longer does it take something exceptional, such as grounds for suspecting that someone is about to commit a murder, for the state to authorise a stakeout. Rather, under RIPA, all that is necessary is for a council official to query whether a family really does live in the catchment area for a particular school – as happened to a Devonshire couple and their children in 2008 – and that family can then have their everyday activity monitored and scrutinised by the state. In RIPA, then, the state’s changing relationship with civil society gains legal form. We as citizens come to be viewed as potential objects of suspicion – and investigation. Our private activity, far from being of no interest to the state unless it breaks the law, is suspect in advance. We cannot be trusted, therefore we must be watched.
At the same time as the state’s power of surveillance, and its distrust of private individuals, has been cemented under RIPA, so the state is able to withhold those same investigatory powers from non-state bodies and persons. Thus while it might be okay for the state to check our emails and watch our movements – in 2008 the equivalent of one in 78 adults came under some form of surveillance by the authorities – for an investigative journalist to do likewise, to peer, for example, into the life of a public figure is criminalised. Hence last year the broadsheet Guardian newspaper claimed that journalists for the tabloid News of the World had broken the law when reports that they had allegedly hacked the phones of several public figures emerged. If RIPA legitimises massive, and – as the numerous tales of council-stalking woe indicate – unjustified state intrusion into our lives with one hand, with the other it makes the attempt of a private individual to do likewise illegitimate. To pry, to poke around and to spy is the state’s right and its alone. It denies to the private individual what it wants to arrogate to itself.
The continued existence of RIPA – despite the recent, largely bureaucratic changes made to the way in which local councils can use it – degrades those in whose name the little-loved Labour government introduced it. It transforms our everyday activities, no matter how mundane, whether that’s sending emails, taking dogs for a walk or taking your kids your school into suspect, possibly dodgy activities. By allowing so many with so little justification, to monitor our behaviour, to peek at our emailed thoughts, divests us not just of our privacy, but what that entails, namely our freedom to exercise our own judgement about how best lead our lives. Under RIPA, the right to make that judgement now belongs to the state.
Anti-Islamic crusader launches recruitment drive in UK
Controversial anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders has pledged to form an international ‘freedom alliance’ to spread his gospel of Muslim intolerance across western nations – including the UK.
Wilders, whose Freedom Party made big gains in the Netherlands general election in June, says Britain along with Canada, the U.S., France and Germany are the core states he wants to target.
The politician made a speech outlining his plans today in The Hague.
Once banned by Britain as a hatemonger, Wilders was allowed in to speak with MPs at Westminster in March to expand on his thesis that Islam is a “fascist” religion entirely incompatible with democracies.
He says he has chosen the five western nations to spread his message based on the fact that all have high levels of Muslim immigrants, liberal democratic processes and all face Islamic terror threats.
He also cited a recent crime study in Germany claiming young Muslim males are more prone to violence than any other immigrant group. The study said the findings will probably hold up in other countries with high Muslim populations where hardline Muslim clerics wield undue influence over young male followers.
The study, based on interviews with 45,000 boys and girls aged 14 to 16, also concluded that male supremacist views and a preference for violent videos and computer games link closely with mosque attendance among the young.
Wilders, who is still slated to stand trial in Holland in the autumn on race-hate charges, believes Britain in line with the others should end all immigration from Islamic nations.
‘I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies, the less freedom that we get,” he said recently.
‘I believe we should have a stop of the mass immigration from Islamic countries, not because the people are bad, but because they bring a culture that really is against everything in our own values.’
Guarded permanently by an armed security detachment, Wilders became a target for assassination after making the film Fitna. Although only 17 minutes long, Fitna shows selected excerpts of the Koran, interspersed with media clips and newspaper cuttings showing or describing acts of violence and hatred by Muslims.
The film attempts to demonstrate that the Muslim holy book motivates its followers to hate all who violate Islamic teachings. Consequently, the film argues that Islam encourage acts of terrorism, antisemitism, violence against women, violence in general, subjugation of ‘infidels’ and is firmly against homosexuals.
He has in the past compared Islam to Nazism, the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s hate-filled autobiography Mein Kampf, and branded Islam ‘retarded’.
In Holland he boosted the showing of his party in the general election by mooting a tax on Islamic headscarves and banning the Koran altogether.
‘Wicked’ woman who cried rape is jailed for three years in Britain despite being seven months pregnant
There is an epidemic of false rape claims in Britain but at least the Brits do jail some of the liars
A young woman who ripped her clothes and gave herself a black eye to support her rape lies was yesterday jailed for three years. Leyla Ibrahim, described as wicked by a judge, is seven months pregnant and will give birth in prison.
Her false rape claims started a £150,000 police investigation in which four students were arrested and subjected to humiliating examinations.
They were questioned for nearly three days during which time one attempted suicide. They were later victims of public abuse, and one has since left the area.
But the 22-year-old woman had invented the whole incident in order to teach her friends a lesson after they abandoned her at the end of a night out, a judge said.
The four wrongly accused – two of whom were under 16 – are still suffering as a result of the stigma caused by the false allegations, Carlisle Crown Court was told.
All were ‘subject to name calling and abuse in the street’ following their arrests, with one describing the ordeal as torture.
Another said he was devastated by the harrowing experience and had been unable to eat or sleep. One suspect complained: ‘We were treated like s*** and not a stint (sic) of an apology.’ Even the doctor in the case described the examinations as ‘intimate, embarrassing and uncomfortable’.
A senior police source said the four were still ‘really struggling’ with the aftermath of the case.
Millions swear by fish oil pills but now some experts say they’re a waste of money – so who’s right?
They are so popular and the object of so much research that we would expect a few positive effects by chance alone. And a few positive effects are all that have been shown.
Some of the claims below are extravagant: “It’s also not disputed that fish oil is essential for unborn babies’ brains”. My wife took no fish oil and ate no fish that I can remember while she was pregnant with our son and he is now doing his Ph.D. in mathematics. Where did we go wrong?
I also note that London Metropolitan University figures prominently below. They seem to be something of a haven for food faddism
Are omega-3 fatty acids vital for our health or simply today’s version of snake oil? Over the past few years we’ve read of the fantastic benefits of omega-3s, found in fish oils.
Last week scientists reported that women who take fish oil supplements reduce their risk of breast cancer by a third. But while experts agree omega-3 pills can cut the risk of heart disease and are vital for brain development in the womb, opinion is divided over other benefits.
Tom Sanders, professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, and Professor Amanda Kirby, specialist in developmental disorders at the University of Wales, have dismissed many – but not all – of the benefits of omega-3 pills.
However, neuroscientists and nutritionists recently told a London conference that many Britons’ health is at risk as they aren’t getting enough omega-3 from fish.
‘There’s an epidemic of brain and mental disorders in the UK, such as ADHD, depression and cerebral palsy, which cost the Government £77 billion a year,’ says Professor Michael Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry at London Metropolitan University. ‘The evidence shows the lack of omega-3 from fish in our diet is a major factor.’
This clash of scientific opinion makes things confusing – do we need fish oil pills or not? Here we look at the evidence to help you make the right choice…
WHY DO SOME EXPERTS DISMISS FISH OIL PILLS?
The reputation of omega-3s as a panacea has made them a popular supplement. Found naturally in oily fish, such as mackerel and sardines, they are added to many foods from eggs to orange juice, while capsules are found on chemists’ shelves.
Official bodies, such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA), say you can get enough from eating oily fish. But not everyone likes oily fish, so millions have taken omega-3 in a pill form.
Such pills are the best-selling supplements in Britain. Professor Sanders says we’re wasting our money. The results of recent trials testing the benefits of fish oil pills on the brain found them no better than a placebo.
A trial of 450 school pupils by Professor Kirby found no difference in reading, spelling or handwriting between those who got fish oil for a year and those on a placebo. Another trial failed to show that fish oil supplements helped keep elderly patients’ minds sharp.
Other studies have proved equally disappointing. The results of a review of research into the benefits of omega-3 on children with ADHD were too inconsistent to draw any conclusions.
A review of the effects on depression and mental health problems found no benefit. Professor Crawford disputes this. Since the Seventies, he believed the rise in heart disease was down to lack of omegas. ‘I predicted that a lack of good fats was going to eventually show up as damage to the brain. That is what is happening.’
But haven’t studies shown that supplements don’t boost mental performance? ‘If you want to have a big impact on the brain, the crucial time is just before and after birth,’ says Crawford. He dismisses the trial that found no effect on primary school pupils.
‘The way the benefit was measured was very wishywashy,’ he says. ‘It relied on the mothers’ opinion.’ More reliable, he says, is evidence presented at the recent conference, which showed a measurable effect of fish oil on children’s brains.
Robert McNamara, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, gave healthy eight to ten-year-old boys a dose of either 0.4 grams or 1.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo every day for eight weeks.
When he then scanned their brains while they were doing a task requiring them to focus, he found the areas needed for attention were more active in those who’d had the fish oil, but not the placebo.
Omega-3 supplements might also benefit adults at a high risk of developing a psychotic disorder, a study published in the Archives Of General Psychiatry found. Only five per cent of the patients who took a daily 1.2 gram omega-3 supplement later became seriously mentally ill, while more than a quarter of those in the placebo group progressed to severe psychosis.
SO WHAT ARE FISH OILS GOOD FOR?
Even sceptics agree that some of the claims for fish oil have good evidence to back them up. The strongest of these is that omega-3s cut the risk of heart disease if you have had a heart attack. It’s also not disputed that fish oil is essential for unborn babies’ brains.
Evidence that it reduces pain and inflammation if you have arthritis is also strong. The jury is out on other claims. Omega-3s have been tried as a treatment for asthma, with limited success.
Results are better for macular degeneration, which damages the centre of the eye and can lead to blindness. One study of more than 3,500 patients in 2006 found those eating the most fish cut their risk of developing the disease in half.