NHS doctors run out of flu vaccine: Pregnant women and elderly turned away from surgeries and told to get jab at the supermarket
Doctors have run out of flu jabs amid one of the worst outbreaks of the illness in more than a decade.
Many surgeries failed to order sufficient doses earlier this winter and some admit they have no idea when extra supplies will arrive.
Pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes are being refused appointments or told to call back in a few weeks. Doctors have been urging these high-risk cases to come in for jabs.
Some patients are being told to pick up vaccines at Tesco or pharmacies that have supplies before having them administered at surgeries. So far 39 people have died from flu, the vast majority with the swine-flu strain, and infection rates among the under-fives are the highest in years.
Half the country’s intensive care beds have been given over to the 738 flu patients fighting for their lives.
Many critical units are full and some dangerously-ill patients are being transferred to hospitals more than 40 miles away. Trusts have cancelled vital cancer operations and heart surgery to ensure life-support machines are kept free.
The shortage of jabs raises the possibility that many more people will need hospital treatment in the coming weeks.
Demand for vaccine is expected to intensify today when the national flu awareness campaign is reinstated to help prevent the spread of infection.
Geoff Martin, of the NHS pressure group London Health Emergency, said the situation was ridiculous. `The Government have just launched their flu awareness campaign and now there is a vaccine shortage,’ he added. `Clearly there has been a complete lack of planning as is always the case whenever the country faces any sort of crisis.’
Mothers trying to get the jab for their very young children before they return to school next week are also being told there are no vaccines.
The Government has decided not to give the jabs to the under-5s on the NHS – even though they are hardest hit by this year’s outbreak. Some parents have responded by paying privately.
One elderly patient was told by Waterside Medical Practice near Portsmouth that they had no vaccine left at the surgery for her 72-year-old husband but that she could collect some on prescription from Tesco.
However the pharmacy at their nearest branch of the supermarket chain had run out and he has still not had the jab four weeks later.
Latest figures show that significantly fewer people have been vaccinated against flu compared with previous years – and critics say the shortages are to blame.
Just 43 per cent of those in at-risk groups under the age of 65 – a category that includes pregnant women – have had the jab, 20 per cent fewer than last year.
Siobhan Freeguard of the Netmums website said: `Members have been coming forward expressing their frustration that they cannot get the jab. `Pregnant women are being made aware of the danger of swine flu in the media and not being able to get the vaccine is adding to their angst and anxiety. `Doctors and midwives will probably be just as frustrated as they have been urging pregnant women to get the jab and now they can’t.’
Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: `On the one hand the Government is telling high-risk people to go and see their GP and get a vaccine. `But when they try to make an appointment they are told there are no vaccines left. `This is extremely contradictory. A lot of high-risk people are not getting the vaccines and we would have expected surgeries and the Department of Health to have planned for this sort of situation.’
Although there is not thought to be a national shortage of flu vaccines, many individual GP surgeries have run out of stock because they did not order enough supplies earlier this winter.
One mother, a hospital worker who has two young children with long-term health conditions, was told by her surgery that they had `no idea’ when they would have more jabs. She posted a message on Netmums saying: `I had my two children aged four years and 17 months booked in for the flu jabs earlier this week. Both were unwell so I had to postpone and was told to call back today to rearrange. ‘I called in today to book new appointments to be told they had run out of vaccines and didn’t have any idea when they would be receiving any more.’
Pregnant women have also been posting messages on the Mumsnet website saying they have been unable to get hold of the jab.
Experts warn that Britain is now on course for a full-scale flu epidemic, which is classified as more than 200 cases per 100,000 people.
The latest figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners show that there are 124 cases per 100,000, a rise of 40 per cent in the past week.
A Department of Health spokesman said: `GPs have already been asked to check their stocks. If they have run out, they have already been advised to work with neighbouring practices or the PCT to obtain further supplies. `The vaccine manufacturers/suppliers still have stocks available for ordering.’
Burka sketch on British TV program sparks outrage
“Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear co-stars have sparked religious outrage after dressing up in burkas on the Boxing Day special. Clarkson and Richard Hammond decided to dress in niqabs, a form of the burka where everything but the eyes are covered, in order to disguise themselves on the road.
They also got James May in on the act when they greeted him from hospital after he fell and hit his head on rocks in the Syrian desert.
But their joke backfired after they were slammed by Muslims for mocking their religion. Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary, said: “The burka is a symbol of our religion and people should not make jokes about it in any way. “It would have been equally bad even if they’d not been in a country mainly populated by Muslims.”
The BBC said it had not yet assessed viewer reaction and a spokesman for the show would not comment.
This is not the first time Clarkson has caused a storm over a burka. In July he told Top Gear viewers that he had seen a Muslim woman wearing saucy underwear beneath her gown.
Herbal drug crackdown: Europe to ban hundreds of natural remedies in UK next year
About time. If orthodox drugs can be prescribed only after rigorous scrutiny of their safety and efficacy, why should herbal remedies escape the same scrutiny? “Natural” molecules can be highly toxic in some cases — e.g. ricin
Patients are set to lose access to hundreds of herbal medicines next year, as European regulations come into force.
Sales of all herbal remedies, except for a small number of popular products for ‘mild’ illness such as echinacea for colds, will be banned to the public from May 1.
Under the new law traditional products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner.
Almost 2,500 UK qualified herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners will lose the right to supply a wide range of herbal medicines, because they are not signed up to the statutory regulation scheme.
And practitioners have complained that the cost of obtaining licenses are beyond their means. Many traditional medicines are made up of a number of herbs and the Alliance for Natural Health estimates a license for each herb costs in the region of £100,000.
The ANH added that so far no Chinese or ayurvedic medicines had been licensed.
Jane Gray President National Institute of Medical Herbalists, said: ‘The fact is that a very large number of our members will lose access to at least some of their medicines. ‘I estimate that the impact on my own practice is that I will lose somewhere between 15-20 per cent of my business.
‘A good proportion of our members who carry no dispensary at all will lose access to everything except what is available over-the-counter- which is an extremely limited range of herbal medicines and certainly not enough to address the needs of the full range of medical conditions that we see.’
The directive was introduced due to growing safety concerns about the side effects of many alternative medicines.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has issued over 10 safety alerts in the past two years. The banned herb Aristolochia caused kidney failure in more than 100 women after they were given it at a slimming clinic in Belgium. Meanwhile black cohosh used by many menopausal women has been linked to liver damage.
But herbal practitioners warn consumers may end up buying potentially dangerous supplies from the black market.
At least six million Britons have consulted a herbal practitioner in the past two years, according to research.
Leading medical herbalist Dr Ann Walker said: ‘At present patients have access to top quality herbal products that are manufactured only for professional use, but we won’t be allowed to supply them. ‘Traditional remedies from China and India will only be available through the internet or backstreet suppliers, which could pose a serious health risk to the public.’
Irish emigrants means Britain will not reach its immigration target
Immigration to Britain in “unlikely” to significantly fall next year due to the turbulent state of the Eurozone, a leading think-tank has warned. Over 100,000 Irish people are expected to leave Ireland over the next 12 months and many of these are likely to travel to Britain considering the level of proximity and lack of a language barrier. The influx of Irish citizens will have an impact on Britain’s target to lower migration.
Proposals to impose a cap and gradually bring down migration levels will fail as there are few restrictions on workers coming from the EU.
The Institute for Public Policy Research has warned that net migration is unlikely to fall below 200,000 in the coming year. This contradicts the Government’s pledge to restrict immigration from “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”.
Since the beginning of 2007 workers from the newest EU member countries such as Bulgaria and Romania have largely needed to apply for work permits in order to work in the UK. However that restriction is due to be lifted in December 2011, which means that thousands more could be tempted to emigrate.
Britain could see migration increase further if citizens from other economically challenged countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece choose to relocate to Britain. In contrast fewer Britons are currently moving abroad, as they weakness of the pound has made it difficult for many to leave.
With the influx of those coming from European countries, the Home Secretary Theresa May has imposed a cap on non-EU economic migrants. From April, no more than 21,700 will be permitted to work and live in Britain.
However Nick Pearse, the Director of the The Institute for Public Policy Research, said this would not have a great effect on the overall migration levels. “The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the Government has already put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging.”
“Bringing down the level of immigration, which has been high in recent years, is a legitimate policy goal. But this should be done by making long-term and sustainable reforms to the structure of our economy and labour market,” he added.
How a dog in class can make reading a pet subject
Children who don’t like books are being helped to read – by a friendly dog called Breeze who visits their school. One little boy who hadn’t spoken in school for two years has been happily sitting down reading aloud to the pet.
The trial of the Read2Dogs scheme, run by the charity Pets As Therapy, has been deemed so successful that it is to be offered to schools nationwide next year. It has been taking place at Westfields Junior School in Yateley, Hampshire, encouraged by head Karine George. Teacher Debbie Jones said: ‘I didn’t know what to think of the idea when I heard it but you just have to see the confidence the children gain when they read to the dog.’
The school found that all 20 of the pupils who took part in the scheme – all reluctant readers – felt more confident about reading afterwards. While only three of them had regularly read aloud to their parents before the trial, all of them did so afterwards.
Remarkably, 60 per cent of the children improved their reading age by three months or more in just six weeks, and all the pupils’ reading ages advanced by at least two months.
Nine-year-old Ellen Parker has been reading to golden retriever Breeze. She said: ‘I try to think about stories that Breeze might like, interesting ones. ‘I’m reading her a story about a rabbit and a badger who go on a picnic. I think she likes that because it’s about animals. ‘I can tell she’s listening because she wants to have a little stroke when you’re reading; she doesn’t wander around, she sits down.’