NICE blows £500,000 on office revamp a week after rejecting bowel cancer wonder drug Avastin

And is splurging on new staff as well

Controversial rationing body NICE has spent £500,000 on a plush office refurbishment – despite turning down life-extending cancer drugs for being too expensive.

A week after causing a furore by rejecting the bowel cancer drug Avastin, it has emerged that the quango plans to expand still further by taking on more than 160 new staff.

The news, which comes as the public sector is facing massive cutbacks, will fuel criticisms of ‘ empire building’ by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

The amount spent on refurbishment – including an extended boardroom and the installation of plasma TVs – could pay for a month’s Avastin for 240 people.

NICE’s headcount has already jumped from 297 to 390 in the year to April 2010.

Now internal documents reveal it plans to increase it to 461.

They show that the organisation’s business planning director Ben Bennett described recruitment as a ‘high priority’. He also said 42 ‘recruitment campaigns’ had been launched in March and April – just before the general election.

The organisation has turned down or partially rejected more than ten cancer drugs since the election, and on Monday it ruled that bowel cancer patients could not get access to Avastin because it is not cost- effective, despite being commonly prescribed across Europe and the U.S.

NICE’s chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said the expansion was needed because it now had a much bigger job, including giving advice to GPs and hospital doctors.

He said: ‘A wider remit means more staff, which will obviously lead to a need for more space. With this in mind it is essential that our offices are adequate for our needs.’

Sir Andrew, who was knighted last year, is one of the highest-paid quango chief executives, taking home £180,000 a year – nearly £40,000 more than the Prime Minister.

Two months ago, Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies accused NICE of ’empire-building’ and talking ‘ridiculous drivel’ on public health.

Cancer expert Professor Karol Sikora said: ‘This really is outrageous. This profligacy is taking place at a time when hospitals are being forced to freeze frontline posts.’

In 2008 it emerged that NICE was spending twice as much on communications as it was on evaluating drugs.

Other quangos have also increased their payrolls in recent months, including the Financial Services Authority, energy regulator Ofgem, communications regulator Ofcom, and water regulator Ofwat.


Frail elderly patients ‘left hungry in hospitals’, admit more than two thirds of NHS nurses

NHS care of the elderly is so appalling that more than two thirds of nurses admit hospitals do not ensure frail patients receive the help they need to eat. An Age UK report found relatives routinely have to make sure their loved ones are being fed properly – while others bring in their own food. And a third of nurses said they would not trust their hospital to tackle a relative’s malnutrition.

Data shows 175,000 patients are entering hospital malnourished, and 185,000 leave malnourished each year – meaning at least 10,000 cases have been caused by the hospital stay; the highest number on record.

In 2007, a total of 239 were reported as having died of malnutrition during their stay – although the true figure is likely to be far higher because of under-reporting.

Less than a half of hospitals screen older patients for malnutrition on admission and only a third screen them during their stay.

A poll of 1,000 nurses for the charity found almost 30 per cent were not confident that it would be noticed if a relative of theirs was malnourished when entering hospital. And some 70 per cent say elderly patients are not effectively screened because of lack of time or training.

Age UK director Michelle Mitchell said: ‘The Government must introduce compulsory monitoring. Age UK is also calling for a comprehensive review of hospital mealtimes.’

The charity says the financial impact of malnutrition to the NHS is some £7.3billion a year – due to longer or avoidable hospital stays, the need for more medication and a higher risk of infection.

Last month, the Daily Mail revealed nurses were having to be reminded it is their job to feed frail patients.

A report by NHS bosses revealed 70 per cent of patients with malnutrition are never identified.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘There are a number of systems in place to ensure patients who require assistance are recognised and given the help they need.’


British teacher fired for imposing discipline wins employment tribunal

A schoolgirl simulated a sex act in class – and the teacher who disciplined her was fired by a bitchy headmistress. Now he has been vindicated.

It must rate as one of the more vulgar and indecorous moments of misconduct witnessed in a British classroom. During a science lesson with a class of bottom-set 13-year-olds at Collegiate High School in Blackpool, one girl, a known troublemaker, threw herself into the lap of a startled girl sitting nearby and began simulating a lewd sex act.

Her teacher, David Roy, was horrified. When the youngster finally stood up, she wandered around the classroom, disrupting the lesson. Eventually she slumped down upon a table, turning her back on her teacher.

Mr Roy was not prepared to talk to the girl’s back. Nor was he willing to let her disrupt the class. “So I moved the table, which was big and heavy, and in a dramatic gesture — what I would call an exaggerated fashion — she fell off,” he explains.

To Mr Roy’s frustration the lesson was ruined. “I felt sorry for the other pupils who just wanted to learn,” he says wearily. “She was a troublemaker, I knew that.”

Just how much of a troublemaker she was, Mr Roy — a mild-mannered and measured man who says he would never countenance physically abusing a pupil — would find out in the year ahead.

Though the teaching assistant who witnessed the girl’s antics later described the incident as “the worst classroom behaviour” she had ever seen, the girl lodged a complaint. Police and social services became involved and both concluded there was nothing to investigate.

When the school’s deputy head looked into the episode, which happened in September 2008, he exonerated Mr Roy of any wrongdoing. And there the matter may have rested. Instead, it would become the first salvo in campaign that ultimately cost the science master his job.

To Mr Roy’s disbelief, after two more alleged incidents, involving his disciplining of unruly pupils, he was dismissed. In spite of the fact that it was deemed he had no case to answer over the original girl’s complaint, school staff used it as a reason to sack him.

As part of the head’s investigation she did not ask the former Army officer for his version of the later incidents, but relied mainly on the word of the students involved.

She did seek the views of teachers who witnessed parts of the confrontations, but so “abused” the statements that the teachers willingly appeared as witnesses for Mr Roy when he took the school to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal. One, Allyson England, said she had been “primed” by the head teacher and a human resources officer from Blackpool council to answer questions to support their argument.

Nine days ago, a very different conclusion was reached by an employment tribunal in Manchester. Mr Roy, described as a “model teacher” by colleagues, was awarded £63,000 after winning his case. To his relief he walked out of the tribunal without a blemish on his professional reputation.

Mr Roy’s case was extreme. His supporters say that his dismissal was a moral outrage and that he was the victim of appalling injustice. But it is also the tip of the iceberg.

According to critics, today’s teachers are so bound by the rule books that there are few disciplinary methods left available to them other than to suspend pupils. Government figures show that some of the country’s most unruly children have missed the equivalent of a school term after being suspended more than 20 times in the same year. Incredibly, 1,430 pupils were sent home for bad behaviour at least 10 times in an academic year — and many 20 times.

As Nick Seaton, the chairman for the Campaign for Real Education points out, suspension is the only tool teachers still possess. “In lots of schools it is the only effective punishment left. Instead of teachers being the authority, the pupils have control. Teachers have gradually lost their authority so their only option is exclusion.”

The current situation, the critics say, is a legacy of Labour’s insistence that teaching should be “child-centred”, that pupils should dictate the pace of learning and that their voices should be listened to above all others. The result has been a spate of dismissals of talented teachers. In many cases the teacher under investigation is not even consulted.


British children’s grasp of the 3Rs at its worst in a decade: One in five struggling to spell at age seven

Children’s grasp of the three Rs after two years of school is at its worst for a decade, official figures suggested yesterday. One in five seven-year-olds – nearly 105,000 pupils – failed to reach the writing standards expected of their age this spring, struggling to use capital letters and spell single-syllable words.

One in six, or about 84,000, failed to reach expected standards in reading and nearly one in ten – 58,700 – failed to make the grade in maths.

Boys trailed girls in every tested subject, while performance by bright pupils dipped on last year.

Despite record investment in early education by the Labour government, pupils’ average scores in reading, writing and maths combined has fallen from 15.5 points in 2000 to 15.3 this year.

The Coalition responded by pledging a stronger focus on traditional teaching methods, including the back-to-basics ‘synthetic phonics’ approach to reading.

Ministers are planning a new reading test for six-year-olds to identify struggling pupils earlier. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: ‘In spite of the hard work of teachers and pupils, there are still too many seven-year-olds not reaching the expected level.

‘We need to make sure that government gives schools the support they need to get the basics right. A solid foundation in reading, writing, maths and science in the early years of education is crucial to a child’s success in later life.’

Yesterday’s results are based on ‘key stage one’ assessments of 553,000 seven-year-olds by teachers in English primary schools after formal SATs were scrapped. A sample of the assessments is cross-checked to ensure consistency across the country. They cover speaking and listening, reading, writing, maths and science.

Some 15 per cent of children failed to meet the expected national curriculum ‘level two’ in reading. It means they struggle to read simple passages or express opinions about stories.

Meanwhile 19 per cent fell short of ‘level two’ in writing. This level requires youngsters to be able to use past and present tenses, vary their sentence structures, spell common words correctly and use full stops and capital letters.

Some 11 per cent failed to make the grade in maths, meaning they struggle to count to 100, and a similar proportion in science.

Mr Gibb highlighted an ‘unacceptable’ gap in attainment between rich and poorer areas. He promised extra funds for teaching deprived pupils.

GCSEs taken by hundreds of thousands of pupils this summer were too easy, according to the qualifications watchdog. Isabel Nisbet, chief executive of Ofqual, told the Times Educational Supplement that the general GCSE science and additional science exams represented a ‘collective falling short of the standards that young people and teachers have a right to expect’.

Teenagers passed 60.9 per cent of science GCSEs and 64.7 per cent of additional science papers at grade C or above this summer.


The alleged fast-food/diabetes link

The British article excerpted below is typical of what one reads about fast food causing diabetes. The connection seems to be almost an article of faith. Yet when I looked at the evidence a couple of years ago, I could not find anything like conclusive evidence of an obesity/diabetes link, let alone a fast-food/diabetes link.

Let me state the obvious: Most fat people don’t get diabetes and you can find lots of non-obese people in any McDonald’s. Neither of those things would be true if fast food caused diabetes via obesity.

What has happened here, I suspect, is the usual epidemiological inattention to the direction of causation. It is true that those who already have diabetes do benefit by weight-loss and altering their diet but that does not mean that their diet caused the diabetes in the first place.

So what has caused the diabetes upsurge? At a guess: An interaction between genes and inactivity. Or maybe the increased stress of life in an increasingly lawless society. Or maybe both. But the research to find the real cause will not get done until this stupid obsession with fast food is abandoned. Don’t hold your breath

The first thing you see when you enter Mayday University Hospital, Croydon, is a Burger King concession next to the main reception desk. If you don’t fancy that, there is an Upper Crust, and the shop opposite has a huge display with a buy-two-get-one-free offer on packs of Revels, Maltesers and Skittles. Bags of custard-filled mini-doughnuts were half price – but they’re all sold out now.

It is a depressing scene, not least because Mayday was the focus of a recent installment of The Hospital – a hard-hitting, five-part Channel 4 series examining the immediate and long-term effects of teenage obesity, alcoholism, violence and sexually transmitted infections. They are problems which, say health experts, are in danger of crippling the NHS.

The episode at Mayday looked at the impact of diabetes, particularly the obesity-related type 2 diabetes. The TV programme followed consultant diabetologist Dr Richard Savine and his team as they struggled to convince young sufferers to take responsibility for their health.

Speaking today, Dr Savine sums up the problem. ‘When I qualified it was unheard of to find a type 2 diabetic under the age of 40. Now we are seeing teenagers with the disease. ‘They have diabetes because they have been fat since they were five years old or younger. In 20 years these people will get heart disease, be going blind, suffer strokes and need dialysis. ‘And a large proportion of them will not survive, no matter what we do.’

‘When I qualified it was unheard of to find a type 2 diabetic under the age of 40. Now we are seeing teenagers with the disease. They have diabetes because they have been fat since they were five years old or younger’

Watching nurses and doctors at the hospital – where one in five patients has diabetes – tuck into burgers and double choc-chip muffins, it is not hard to see why, with the best will in the world, their words fell mostly on deaf ears….

So what can be done? ‘We need to educate,’ he says. ‘Children are growing up with a skewed idea of what healthy eating is. ‘We need to get them to understand it isn’t normal to eat pizza or kebabs three times a week. And many patients see their health as something that doctors look after when it goes wrong.’

How does a Burger King in the hospital reception fit into that message? ‘Most patients will be fed hospital food, which is now very good,’ he answers. ‘It doesn’t matter whether the burger bar is in reception or next door – if a family brings junk food to a diabetic in hospital, you have already lost the battle.’

Of course, Mayday is not alone. Out of 170 NHS Trusts, 40 rent space to chains including Burger King, Subway and Upper Crust.


The toxic truth about vitamin supplements: How health pills millions take with barely a second thought can do more harm than good

Four years ago, I began taking the much promoted glucosamine supplement after hurting my knee in a skiing accident. Glucosamine is made from shellfish and is widely believed to promote joint health – the theory is that it speeds up the production of the protein needed to grow and maintain healthy cartilage.

Although there’s no clinical evidence of its effectiveness, my GP said it might help rebuild the damaged cartilage and improve my joint strength. I didn’t hesitate, and immediately started taking the recommended dose, 1,500 mg a day.

Not long after, I found I needed to go to the lavatory far too often – sometimes more than five times a day. I had abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas and my stools were dark and tarry. I self- diagnosed IBS.

My GP prescribed drugs to relax the bowel muscles, but they didn’t help. Then, early last year, I ran out of glucosamine and didn’t restock. My knee was better and I was taking fish oils, which were being promoted as the new miracle supplement for joints.

Within a few days, my bowels returned to normal and remained so until, after another ski accident damaging the same knee in March this year, I began taking glucosamine again.

Within a week my ‘IBS’ had returned and I made the link. I researched glucosamine and found that side-effects include diarrhoea and loose stools. I stopped again and, hey presto, everything’s back to normal.

Sales of health supplements have soared in recent years, with 40 per cent of Britons taking them. It’s such a huge market that manufacturers spend around £40 million a year just telling us about their products.

As supplements are either made from natural substances or mimic substances produced by our bodies, many people, like me, assume they cannot do any harm.

But we’re wrong, say health professionals. They point out that the health supplement industry is unregulated, which means manufacturers are not required to list potential side-effects – nor do their products have to go through costly clinical trials.

There are a handful of exceptions, such as folic acid, which is recommended for women trying to conceive. If you take a tablet of 400 micrograms (mcg) strength to help with conception, it is classed as a food.

But increase the dose to 5 mg (to treat anaemia and other conditions) and it becomes a medicine, requiring a licence. Otherwise, there are no checks and balances to protect consumers. And this worries experts.

‘Health supplements can produce ill effects,’ warns Anna Raymond, from the British Dietetic Association. ‘People take supplements randomly, but they can be toxic if taken with some medicines or in high quantities.’

Indeed, glucosamine has been linked to the death of one man. In 2004, Norman Ferrie, a 64-year-old engineer from Dundee, died of liver failure within weeks of taking the supplement. ‘The liver had been normal and something had attacked it,’ gastroenterologist Dr John Dillon, of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, told the inquest in 2008. He said there had been two other cases involving extreme reactions to the widely used supplement.

‘Increasingly, people are being taken in by the prospect of a magic pill that will make them healthy,’ says Dr Dillon. ‘Most people don’t know that glucosamine and other supplements are only licensed as a food, but are sold as a medicine. ‘It would seem fair to ask manufacturers of supplements to list serious risks.

‘Everything we need can be got from a healthy diet. The vast majority of health supplements are a waste of money. People feel fluey and start taking supplements they don’t need. They could end up with hypervitaminosis, caused by excessive amounts of supplements.’ This can lead to vomiting, lethargy and even renal failure. ‘The only time a person should take a supplement is if a doctor recommends it,’ adds Dr Dillon.

But even taking supplements on doctors’ recommendations is not risk free. Last month, it was reported that taking calcium supplements – often prescribed for osteoporosis – could raise the risk of heart attacks by 30 per cent.

And it’s not just the main ingredient than causes problems. Another risk is having an allergy to one of the constituents of a tablet, such as a binding agent or the gel coating, says nutritionist Dr Carrie Buxton, from the Health Supplement Information Service.

Despite the concerns, the Food Standards Agency says legislation on supplements is adequate. So, what can you do to ensure your safety? Dietitian Anna Raymond advises anyone who starts taking supplements should tell their GP.

More here

British police arrest man for firing warning shots near trespassers: “Landowner Christopher Bayfield, 40, was arrested on suspicion of firearms offences after the father of a five-year-old boy called the police. Mr Bayfield is believed to have taken his gun, that he apparently uses for shooting pigeon, to investigate suspicious noises heard near his five-bedroom home. Upon discovering the children, he allegedly fired a shot up in the air and warned them to leave. A police spokeswoman confirmed Mr Bayfield’s arrest, saying: ‘We were called at 6pm on Thursday evening by a man who said his five-year-old son had walked on private land. ‘We have arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of firearms offences. This man has now been bailed and no charges have been made.’ [More background here]


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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