British government orders action on NHS ‘chemical cosh’ which kills thousands
Ministers are to order a clampdown on the use of drugs which kill thousands of elderly people every year
Doctors will be told to stop prescribing too many medications which act as a “chemical cosh” for those with dementia, and shorten the lives of 1,800 people a year. The action is part of a plan to improve the care of those with dementia, by improving the training of nurses and doctors, and closely monitoring the quality of services provided by care homes and hospitals.
Care homes will be told to review the use of all medications given to people with dementia, to reduce the numbers of people prescribed antipsychotic drugs which should only be used as a last resort.
Last year a major report found that 180,000 patients are prescribed the treatments each year, despite the fact they do not benefit three quarters of those given them, and can cause death, or major side effects, such as strokes.
Care Minister Paul Burstow has been campaigning for years against the misuse of such drugs. He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Far too many prescriptions of antipsychotics are not clinically justified and can lead to premature death. We want to dramatically cut the use of these drugs among elderly people.
On Tuesday, he will announce a plan, expected to be backed by around £200m funding, to improve all aspects of dementia care, so that sufferers are diagnosed earlier, and receive better care when they are in hospitals and care homes.
Training for GPs will be boosted, so that the condition is detected sooner, with more people referred to specialist clinics which can distinguish between everyday memory problems and the first signs of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. All local services will be required to publish detailed information about the quality of service they provide.
Mr Burstow said: “The system at the moment often works around failure and crisis management of elderly care. We must change that. “Large numbers of people are left undiagnosed with dementia which means patients and their families don’t know what is happening or how to plan ahead until it is too late. “We want to get earlier identification so patients can have a more dignified journey through the condition.”
Prof Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia, said staff caring for those with dementia needed to try to find alternative ways to deal with patients when they became agitated. In one pilot scheme, two thirds of residents in a care home who were on antipsychotic medication were taken off the drugs after their cases were reviewed. Alternative strategies, such as attempting to detect the triggers for agitation, could be more effective, said Prof Burns.
The professor of old age psychiatry at the University of Manchester cited the case of an elderly widow with dementia who became anxious every evening at 6pm. After sensitive questioning, staff realised that her agitation stemmed from thinking that she ought to be preparing her husband’s evening meal. Once she was given the task of setting tables for other residents at the end of each day, her anxiety was reduced.
More than 700,000 people in Britain are believed to suffer from dementia, a figure which is predicted to rise to more than 1 million within a decade, as the population ages. Among those over the age of 65, one in three will die with a form of the disease.
Prof Burns said: “We know that two thirds of people suffering from dementia never get a diagnosis, which should be the starting point to ensure that they can get support and interventions which can help to delay crises”.
“Red Ed” becomes leader of the British Labour Party
What Labour MPs were calling the doomsday scenario has happened. David Miliband won amongst Labour MPs and party members but a massive union vote delivered the leadership for his brother Ed. Opponents are already asking what legitimacy a party leader has who lost among both his own MPs and party members.
But this campaign has shown that Ed Miliband is a formidable opponent. He was by far the most natural politician of the five candidates. He has the communication skills that a modern politician so desperately needs.
The Ed Miliband campaign first became convinced that they were going to win when Lord Mandelson started attacking Ed. They believed Mandelson’s intervention showed that the party establishment was rattled and that the insurgent had the momentum.
This fight with the leading representative of the party’s old guard might have presaged Ed’s victory, but it also hints at the trouble to come. Many in the Labour Party fear they have elected someone who can win an internal leadership election but not a General Election. They worry that the reason Neil Kinnock has backed Ed Miliband so vigorously is that he sees him as his political heir.
At the start of this contest, David Miliband had the money and the big- name backing. The Chancellor and the Home Secretary from the last Government were both behind him and his campaign was being run by the man who had co-ordinated Labour’s General Election efforts. But Ed always had something that David didn’t have: an understanding of how to make the party love him.
The attacks on Ed Miliband from the Blairite old guard have been so strident because they fear what he represents – the end of the New Labour project. They are right. He heralds a distinct move to the Left.
Ed Miliband is not a politician searching for the centre ground. Instead, he is an ideological Left-winger. He wants higher taxes, more spending and more regulation.
During his leadership campaign, he made, according to the Tories, £28 billion worth of spending commitments at a time when Britain urgently needs spending cuts to deal with its unsustainable deficit.
The Tories have long wanted Ed Miliband to win. When I asked a Cabinet minister recently which Miliband he’d prefer to take on, he danced a little jig of joy as he said Ed. The Tories can’t believe that Labour have elected a candidate who wants to move the party on from the strategy that won it three Election victories.
Already, the Tories are planning to push him constantly to say what he would do about the deficit. In the words of one Tory involved in the preparations for dealing with the new Labour leader, ‘the deficit is the one thing that they can’t deal with’.
I Think, Therefore I’m Guilty
Everyone can agree that today’s Britain — which we’re always being told has become so much more liberal — is the very model of a forward-looking, tolerant society in which freedom of expression is paramount. Correct?
If only. In fact, the intellectual trend in Britain is a remorseless slide towards a dark age of intolerance, reverting to a reason-suppressing, heresy-hunting culture in which certain opinions are being turned into thought crimes.
Astoundingly, people are being arrested by the police — even if the case against them eventually falls — because of what they have said. They are not inciting violence or any criminal activity. They are merely expressing a point of view. Yet for that they may find the police feeling their collars.
It is difficult to say when, exactly, the priorities of the British police shifted from the prevention of criminal offences towards criminalising people for causing offence. The police have become the thin blue line against the Wrong Opinion. Instead of protecting society against oppression, British police officers have become the agents of oppression.
Freedom of religious expression, for example, is a bedrock principle of an open society. Yet if Christians express their religious opposition to homosexuality, they are treated like criminals.
Dale McAlpine, a Christian preacher in Cumbria, was carted off by the police, locked in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour after telling a passer-by that he believed homosexuality was a crime against God.
Harry Hammond, an evangelist, was convicted of a public order offence and fined for holding a placard saying ‘Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’ at a street demonstration in Bournemouth — even though he was attacked by members of the public who poured soil and water over him.
Pensioners have even found the police on their doorstep accusing them of ‘hate crime’ for objecting to the local council about a gay pride march or merely asking if they could distribute Christian leaflets alongside the gay rights literature.
Such Christians are far from alone in finding that certain opinions are now forbidden. Across public life — in academic, legal, governmental, scientific and media circles and beyond — an atmosphere is being engendered which is inimical to independent thought.
And this is often amplified to incendiary levels through the electronic lynch-mob of the internet. Writers who bust the boundaries of permitted thinking may become the target of frenzied denunciation by a global army of haters whipping up a campaign for the dissident to be boycotted, banned or sacked.
After Jan Moir suggested in the Daily Mail that the death of the gay Boyzone singer Stephen Gately was linked to a louche lifestyle, she was subjected to a fireball of vilification on the internet, Twitter and Facebook.
The Crown Prosecution Service then said ‘the Metropolitan Police passed the article’ to them ‘to determine whether or not any crime had been committed’, but Moir would not be prosecuted.
Prosecuted! For making what at most was a tasteless remark? What on earth has Britain come to when the CPS entertains this as a serious possibility?
Moir’s particular thought crime was unwittingly to desecrate the hallowed shrine of victim culture. Certain groups of ‘victimised’ people — lone mothers, ethnic minorities, Muslims, gays — enjoy a kind of Protected Species status, in that they must never be offended; nor can any fault ever be laid at their door.
To offend or criticise them is to be guilty of hate crime. But since hatred is a subjective notion, this has opened the way for an oppressive culture of coercion, double standards and injustice.
Offending such groups has become a hanging offence — and that includes protesting against this very phenomenon.
It took Robin Page, chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust, some five years to clear his name after he was arrested for remarking at a 2002 rally against the government’s anti-hunting laws: ‘If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you.’
To enforce the dogma of thought crime, language has been hijacked and turned inside out. Dissent has been relabelled as either hatred or insanity. Those who disagree with current orthodoxies are therefore deemed to be either bad or mad.
These modern heretics are demonised as Europhobes, homophobes, xenophobes or Islamophobes. They can therefore safely be purged from all positions of influence and their ideas trashed without any discussion.
The taunt of ‘phobia’, or irrational fear, is used along with outright accusations of insanity to place rational dissent beyond the pale. As the former Today programme editor Rod Liddle recently revealed, a BBC apparatchik said to him of Lord Pearson of Rannoch and other Eurosceptics (whose views happen to be shared by half or more of the population): ‘Rod, you do realise that these people are mad?’
Just such a charge was made by totalitarian movements from the medieval Catholic church by way of the Jacobins all the way to Stalin’s secret police.
In similar vein, the rational anxieties of millions about mass immigration or militant Islam destroying the culture of the country are held merely to demonstrate that ordinary people are racist bigots or Islamophobes.
The great gift bequeathed to us by the 18th-century Enlightenment is the freedom to disagree. This is now in eclipse. The intelligentsia — the supposed custodians of reason and intellectual freedom — has turned itself into an inquisition, complete with an index of prohibited ideas.
Nowhere is this more starkly displayed than in the hounding of scientists and others who question man-made global warming theory.
Such sceptics are vilified, smeared, denied funding and even — according to the renowned meteorologist and IPCC reviewer Professor Richard Lindzen — intimidated into telling lies to shore up the theory.
Assertions wholly inimical to science, such as ‘the argument is over’ or that global warming is the belief of a scientific ‘consensus’ — the claim once used by the medieval church to stifle Galileo — are deployed to ensure the argument is over before it can begin.
More viciously still, these dissenters have been dubbed ‘climate change deniers’ to equate their views with Holocaust denial. Not only are they thus likened to Nazi sympathisers, but rejecting man-made global warming theory — for which many of the best brains in climate-related science say there is scant or no evidence — is equated with the genocide of the Jews.
Without the freedom to question and argue, science cannot thrive — and without science, reason would be crippled and modernity would grind to a halt. Which is of course the aim of the environmental movement, whose roots lie in a stream of pagan, irrational and proto-fascist thinking which goes back to the counter-Enlightenment.
‘Politically correct’ views all derive from anti-Western, secular ideologies such as anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, utilitarianism, feminism, multiculturalism and environmentalism. These all share the aim of overturning the established order in the West.
So any groups who have power within that order can never be offended or hurt because they are themselves offensive and hurtful, while ‘powerless’ groups can never be other than victims.
This obsession with power is, of course, a Marxist position; indeed, ‘political correctness’ is a form of cultural Marxism. But how has good old empirical, pragmatic, anti-ideological Britain succumbed to such extremism?
Part of the explanation is that, with the collapse of Soviet communism, the left shifted its focus from economics and politics to the cultural arena. Employing Gramsci’s tactic of ‘the long march through the institutions’, it captured the citadels of the culture for a variety of utopian ideas.
Class divisions would give way to equality, capitalist despoliation of the earth would be replaced by pre-lapsarian agrarian communes and all hatred, prejudice and irrationality would be excised from the human heart.
Like all ideologies, these utopian fantasies wrenched facts and evidence to fit their governing idea. Independent thought thus became impossible — which inevitably resulted in an attack upon freedom, because reason and liberty are inseparable bed-fellows.
Because these creeds purported to embody unchallengeable truths, they could permit no dissent. Reason was thus replaced by bullying, intimidation and the suppression of debate.
What we are living through is therefore a fresh mutation of the previous despotisms of first the medieval church and then the totalitarian political movements of the 20th century.
The West has now fallen victim to a third variation on the theme: cultural totalitarianism, or a dictatorship of virtue. For, in a pattern that goes back to the French Revolution, the left believes that its secular, materialistic, individualistic and utilitarian values represent not a point of view but virtue itself.
To oppose such coercive behaviour or uphold factual evidence in the face of ideological distortion is thus to be damned automatically as evil, mad and extreme.
But here’s the really striking thing. Progressive intellectuals who scorn ‘the right’ as knuckle-dragging extremists are themselves promoting a range of secular fantasies which uncannily mirror pre-Enlightenment religious fanaticism.
Anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, environmentalism, scientism, egalitarianism, anti-racism, libertinism, moral relativism and multiculturalism are all quasi-religious movements — evangelical, dogmatic, millenarian and with enforcement mechanisms to stamp out heresy.
Some would call all this tyranny. But to progressives, tyranny occurs only when their utopia is denied. Virtue therefore has to be coerced for the good of the people at the receiving end.
Since progressivism is all about creating the perfect society, it is therefore incontestably virtuous; and so — like Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety, like Stalinism, like Islam — it is incapable of doing anything bad. Unlike everyone else, of course, for whom it follows they can do nothing but bad.
Accordingly, progressives feel justified in trying to stifle all dissent. Never engaging with the actual argument, they instead use gratuitous abuse to turn their opponents into pariahs (while they themselves, failing to grasp the point about evidence, characterise all reasoned arguments against them as outrageous ‘insults’).
So if you are a white Christian man upholding traditional family values and expressing a desire to stop immigration and leave the EU, while being sceptical of man-made global warming and believing that Darwinian evolution does not explain the origin of life on earth, Britain is no longer your country.
But don’t worry. Utopia is taking its place. The police are on their way to tell you.
Each teaching post ‘chased by 17 applicants’
Desperation for jobs in Scotland
There were more than 75,000 applications for just 4,520 teacher jobs in Scotland. Every teaching vacancy in Scotland is being chased by an average of 17 applicants, according to official figures. The competition for the posts varied from 49 for each job in Stirling to three per vacancy in Shetland.
The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the details through freedom of information requests, said the figures showed teachers’ talents were “being wasted”. Education Secretary Michael Russell said the numbers were “a concern”.
In total, 75,579 applications were made for 4,520 vacancies in 2009-10 – an average of about 17 for each position. The average number of applications per job included 14 in Aberdeenshire, 21 in Dundee, 27 in Edinburgh and six in Glasgow.
Lib Dem education spokeswoman Margaret Smith said the figures “will be deeply concerning for teachers”. She added: “The SNP said they would maintain the record number of teachers they inherited from the previous executive but teacher numbers are down by 3,000.
“Scotland’s young people are also missing out on the opportunity to learn from newly-trained, enthusiastic teachers who have a wealth of talent and skill, being wasted as they struggle to find jobs.”
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “The difficulties faced by teachers looking for a post is a concern. “Scotland is already unique in guaranteeing a year’s employment after graduation from initial teacher education, but we want to do more and we are examining ways we can provide further help.
“While recent figures show that teacher unemployment is lower in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, we are still working hard to address the issue and have cut student intake, which will reduce competition for jobs.”
Screen time leads to saggy faces for women (?)
This is just one person’s opinion. It’s not even epidemiology
A leading cosmetic surgeon has identified a growing phenomenon described as ‘computer face’ among professional women who work for long hours in front of their computers.
Dr Michael Prager, a Botox specialist, said that, of all his clientele, office workers were most likely to show premature signs of ageing. “If you are one of the unfortunate people who frown or squint while they are concentrating at the screen then, over time, you will inevitably end up with frown lines,'” he said.
“What is perhaps more surprising is the number of women with saggy jowls because they are sitting in one position for so long. “If you spend most of the time looking down then the neck muscles shorten and go saggy, eventually giving you a second neck.
He warned the problem is set to get worse as a generation grows up using computers throughout their working life. He said: “The women I am seeing at the moment have only been using computers at work for the last decade or so. “But women in their 20s have grown up with them and use them for every single task. It will be completely different for them and I think the problem is going to become much, much worse. “In another ten years, they could be looking quite awful.”
Dr Prager, who has a practice near Harley Street, said he encourages his clients to put a mirror next to their computer so they can see if they are frowning at the screen. He said: “When people are stressed or thinking hard about something then they will often put on a “grumpy face” without even knowing what they are doing. “When my clients put a mirror next to their desk they are often shocked by the angry, frowning face which stares back at them.”
According to Dr Prager there are several simple steps which can help stave off ‘computer face’, such as regular screen breaks and stretching the neck muscles. He added, perhaps not surprisingly, that after a couple of sessions of Botox, the habit of ‘grumpy face’ can be overcome.
New Scientist permits the sun to join the climate club
It does seem as if the AGW establishment are preparing the ground for admitting that the sun is perhaps critical for climate. The New Scientist runs an editorial today grudgingly admitting that “The sun’s activity has a place in climate science”.
FOR many years, any mention of the sun’s influence on climate has been greeted with suspicion.
People who believe human activity has no effect on the climate staked a claim on the sun’s role, declaring it responsible for the long-term warming trend in global temperatures. Climate scientists were often uneasy about discussing it, fearful that any concession would be misunderstood by the public and seen as an admission that climate sceptics are right.
No one has ever denied that the sun has an effect on climate. But the consensus view has always been that variations in the sun’s activity, such as the 11-year sunspot cycle, have insignificant effects. While this remains true, the latest findings show that the sun might be significant on a more regional scale. It seems changes in solar activity can have consequences ranging from higher rainfall in the tropics to extreme weather events in the north.
But then they go out of their way in this article (see “The sun joins the climate club”) to denigrate the sun.
THE idea that changes in the sun’s activity can influence the climate is making a comeback, after years of scientific vilification, thanks to major advances in our understanding of the atmosphere.
The findings do not suggest – as climate sceptics frequently do – that we can blame the rise of global temperatures since the early 20th century on the sun. “There are extravagant claims for the effects of the sun on global climate,” says Giles Harrison, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Reading, UK. “They are not supported.”
Where solar effects may play a role is in influencing regional weather patterns over the coming decades. Predictions on these scales of time and space are crucial for nations seeking to prepare for the future.
Over the famous 11-year solar cycle, the sun’s brightness varies by just 0.1 per cent. This was seen as too small a change to impinge on the global climate system, so solar effects have generally been left out of climate models. However, the latest research has changed this view, and the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due in 2013, will include solar effects in its models.
But the sun does not much care (Beware the Icarus Syndrome) I think for the scientific establishment and will continue to do its own thing.