Doctor denied NHS cancer treatment lives, thanks to a newspaper
Smiling happily as she teaches medicine in Africa, this is the young doctor who was ‘betrayed’ by Britain’s healthcare postcode lottery. Becky Smith, 30, was told she could be dead within 18 months after her breast cancer was missed four times and health chiefs refused to fund a breakthrough treatment.
The Daily Mail told in May how her local NHS trust had denied funding for the £23,000 treatment, despite it being freely available from 40 other trusts across Britain.
Dr Smith won a funding U-turn after the Mail highlighted her case, and has now had the drug therapy, which she hopes will help to prolong her life. Together with months of chemotherapy and other treatment, it has stabilised her condition and left her well enough to realise her dream of teaching her skills to doctors in Africa.
Dr Smith flew to Tanzania within days of finishing her latest round of chemotherapy, and has just completed a two-week stint of voluntary work at a hospital there. She said: ‘I am so grateful that I have had this chance – I have no symptoms at the moment, I’m not ill and I don’t feel ill. ‘For the first time in months, I don’t feel like a cancer patient. It goes to show what is possible, even with a terminal diagnosis. ‘But it’s only possible if you’re given the treatment you need to give you a fighting chance.’
Dr Smith found a pea-sized lump in her left breast in April 2008, when she was 28 and working at High Wycombe Hospital in Buckinghamshire. She went to her GP but was told to wait a month because she was considered too young to have breast cancer and it was more likely to be a cyst.
She returned to her doctor in June and was referred to a specialist cancer clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She was given an ultrasound scan and examination but was told the lump was a benign cyst which posed no risk to her health.
But by December 2008 the lump had grown to the size of a golf ball and she returned to see a third GP at her local practice. Again, her fears were dismissed.
Dr Smith, a urologist, then asked a cancer care nurse at her own hospital for help. A scan revealed three lumps in her breast and she was diagnosed with cancer the day after her 29th birthday. Worse still, further scans found it had spread to her liver and her spine, where it was inoperable.
She had a mastectomy to remove the breast cancer, and doctors believe she could live for ten to 20 years with the tumours in her spine, if they can treat her liver cancer. Specialists recommended she receive Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, but her local primary care trust in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, refused to fund it. It said there was not enough evidence that it was cost-effective, or that it would be successful.
Dr Smith was faced with having to cancel her wedding to childhood sweetheart Simon Morton to pay for the treatment, or allowing her retired parents to remortgage their house.
Within days of the Mail reporting her plight, generous readers had pledged more than £12,000 to help her. But she won an appeal against the funding decision, and completed her last round of treatment in November. It is too early to know if it has successfully shrunk the tumours in her liver enough for them to be removed or destroyed, but preliminary scans have shown an improvement.
Meanwhile, Dr Smith married her fiance, a chartered engineer, in July and was able to carry out charity work on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, where average life expectancy is just 47.
Before her cancer diagnosis, she had been due to do a year’s voluntary work at the Makunduchi Hospital on the island, but was forced to cancel it while she had treatment. Dr Smith said: ‘It’s been wonderful to be back in a hospital and working alongside doctors again.’
British universities accused of ‘dumbing down’ over plans to include work experience in degree marks
Universities have been criticised over plans to award students extra marks towards their degrees if they can show ‘corporate skills’. Several institutions, including the University of Leicester, University College London and Durham University, are considering ways to reward experience gained in the workplace.
Undergraduates on all Leicester’s courses could earn credits for showing they can run workshops or make a good presentation, while Durham is considering awarding marks for work experience. UCL’s career unit has met with employers to discuss how to accredit skills.
Vocationally-orientated degrees, such as engineering, have long included compulsory workplaces skills courses, but this is thought to be the first time that the move has been planned for academic courses such as English literature.
But James Ladyman, a professor of philosophy at Bristol University, accused universities of short-sightedness and said learning to think was the skill graduates most needed in order to succeed in the workplace. ‘Incorporating corporate skills into the curriculum is short-term thinking,’ he told the Guardian. ‘The point about education is that it equips you for the long-term. Now we have this emphasis on the cash-value of a degree.’
Mike Molesworth, senior lecturer in consumer cultures at Bournemouth University told the newspaper that some universities were now ‘reducing their ambition to churning out cheap, job-ready young people to fill the immediate skills gaps identified by corporations’.
A nasty British bureaucracy again
Suppressing normal human activity gets them off: Owner faces £1,000 fine over ‘lost cat’ poster. But louts running wild in the streets and intimidating people is beneath their notice
Desperate to find his missing cat Wookie, Mike Harding put up posters throughout the neighbourhood offering a reward for its safe return.
And it was not long before he received a phone call. Not from someone who had found the pet, however, but from the council saying he was breaking the law.
An official letter the following day accused him of causing ‘urban decay’ with his ‘fly-posting’ and ordered him to remove the signs immediately or face a £1,000 fine. He rushed around the streets in sub-zero temperatures to tear down the posters and finally finished at 3am on Christmas Eve – six hours before the deadline he had been given.
Mr Harding, 44, a driving instructor from Bedford, said the woman caller told him he should not have put up posters. ‘I said I was really sorry. I didn’t know I was breaking any laws and I would take them down. She asked me for my address and it was all very affable – I thought they were sending me some guidance in the post.
‘But when I got home from work on December 23 at 8.30pm I found the letter warning I would be prosecuted if the posters weren’t removed by 9am on December 24 at the latest. I had to walk around town in the snow and ice when it was minus nine degrees. ‘I’m a law-abiding citizen yet I’m being threatened with a £1,000 fine for looking for my cat. You would think the council would have some compassion.’
Mr Harding, who lives with his partner Rachael Claridge, 32, has had the seven-year-old cat since it was a kitten. Wookie went missing in late November and his owner immediately set about printing 35 posters which he attached to lampposts, trees and parking meters. Most were held in place with cable ties but when they ran out he used tacks on four trees.
The letter from Bedford Borough Council warned: ‘Fly-posting is unsightly and now considered to be a contributory factor to urban decay. Contravention of the Act may lead to a fine of up to £1,000. This warning will be kept on record and should any further offences be committed the council will prosecute.’
The authority defended its actions yesterday, saying: ‘Our environmental enforcement team discovered more than 20 posters. Some were nailed to trees. Mr Harding has removed the posters and we are satisfied that this matter has been resolved.’
Sadly for Wookie’s owner, however, the matter remains far from resolved. His cat is still missing.
Soya-based fertility treatment may cut miscarriages and boost pregnancy up to six-fold
Yesterday is was green vegetables that were the miracle cure. What next? The figures as reported are impressive, however, so there may be something in it. Note that the patients all had apparent problems so we may simply be seeing here the correction of a nutritional deficiency — something that might not generalize to other women
An experimental fertility treatment increases the odds of an IVF pregnancy up to six times while also inhibiting chemicals which cause miscarriages, a study has found. When women who had gone through IVF time and time again without success were given a soya-based substance, half became pregnant. In contrast, fewer than one in ten of those who had conventional fertility treatment alone conceived.
The doctors behind the remarkable study believe that the Intralipid liquid, a fat and calorie-rich potion normally used when tube-feeding very sick patients, could help many more women achieve their dream of motherhood.
Improving success rates would spare women the emotional and financial pain of going through repeated IVF treatments, only for them to fail. The liquid also stems the production by the body of harmful chemicals which can lead to miscarriage.
George Ndukwe, of the Care fertility clinic in Nottingham, said: ‘Every day in my clinic I see women who have had numerous IVF cycles all with the same negative outcome and no baby. ‘I also regularly see couples who have suffered the misery of repeated miscarriages. ‘People talk about the financial implications but the emotional one is as bad or, I would say, worse. ‘These women are at the bottom of a dark pit and can’t climb out and can’t see the light. We are devoting our attention to finding answers when nature goes wrong.’
Dr Ndukwe, the clinic’s medical director, believes that up to one in four women who struggle conceiving have faulty immune systems.
It is thought that extra high levels of white blood cells called natural killer cells ‘fight’ the pregnancy by triggering the production of chemicals that attack the placenta or the embryo.
The chemicals are already known to trigger rheumatoid arthritis and the arthritis drug Humira has shown promise in boosting pregnancy rates. However, it costs up to £2,000 per patient and does not work for everyone.
At around £200 per woman, Intralipid, which is given through a drip around a week before a woman has IVF, is much cheaper.
And the latest research, to be presented at a British Fertility Society conference on Thursday, shows it is also more effective at stemming production of the harmful chemicals.
Dr Ndukwe said: ‘This infusion is inexpensive, well tolerated and easy to administer.’
The fertility expert ran his trial on a group of women who had failed to become pregnant despite enduring an average of six IVF attempts each. One woman had tried and failed at IVF 12 times. Half of those treated became pregnant, compared with just 9 per cent of those not given the fatty substance.
Other doctors are trying to use steroids to lower levels of natural killer cells in the body. Professor Siobhan Quenby, of Solihull Hospital and Warwick University, has already successfully used an asthma drug to curb the immune system response in a pilot trial of women who had suffered repeated miscarriages.
An implant to alleviate arthritis
Good if the implant lasts over time
Chris Blundell is consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield. He says:
The big toes take about 70 per cent of the body’s weight, so there are enormous pressures acting on a relatively small joint. It is, therefore, not surprising that there are high rates of wear and tear, and osteoarthritis in this area as people get older.
The pain often leads to patients walking or moving differently, which puts extra stress and strain on other joints, such as the knee.
It can also lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can place sufferers at risk of weight gain and cardiovascular disease.
The current treatment for severe osteoarthritis of the big toe is arthrodesis, or fusion, in which we insert a metal strip into the joint between the two bones and fuse the bones together with screws so that they no longer rub against each other. This is usually performed on younger people.
Although fusions do get rid of the pain, the toe is permanently rigid and no longer bends at the joint. In older people, osteoarthritis can be treated on occasions by removing the toe joint altogether.
This new toe implant, made by the American company Carticept, provides a new surface in the joint to stop the ends of the bones rubbing. It is circular, about the size of a large pill, and made of hydrogel, the substance used in contact lenses, which is 60 per cent water and 40 per cent polymer.
The material is designed to have flexibility similar to that of human cartilage, and is strong enough to withstand the load put on the joint. It’s a relatively new material and is being looked at for use in other joints.
The big advantage over fusion is that the implant preserves the joint, which means that the toe can be bent. The procedure takes about 30 minutes.
First, an inch-long incision is made above the joint, so the ends of both bones are exposed. The end of the bone that connects the toe to the foot is then drilled to create a small pocket so that we can insert the implant. Because it is similar to cartilage, it cushions the joint on both sides.
Once the implant is in place, the incision is stitched and the patient goes home.
We are one of four hospitals in the UK which are carrying out these procedures as part of a research study. About 12 people in the UK have had the operation so far.
Britain’s windmills have been consuming more electricity than they generate’ — and other Warmist follies
This is the season for quizzes. So fingers on buzzers, here’s your starter for ten. In percentage terms, how much electricity do Britain’s 3,150 wind turbines supply to the National Grid? Is it: a) five per cent; b) ten per cent; or c) 20 per cent? Come on, I’m going to have to hurry you. No conferring.
Time’s up. The correct answer is: none of the above. Yesterday afternoon, the figure was just 1.6 per cent, according to the official website of the wholesale electricity market.
Over the past three weeks, with demand for power at record levels because of the freezing weather, there have been days when the contribution of our forests of wind turbines has been precisely nothing.
It gets better. As the temperature has plummeted, the turbines have had to be heated to prevent them seizing up. Consequently, they have been consuming more electricity than they generate.
Even on a good day they rarely work above a quarter of their theoretical capacity. And in high winds they have to be switched off altogether to prevent damage. At best, the combined output of these monstrosities is equal only to that of a single, medium-sized, gas-fired power station.
To make matters worse, there is no way of storing the electricity generated on the rare occasions when they are working.
Yet the Government is ploughing ahead with plans to erect 12,500 of these War Of The Worlds windmills in the sea and across our green and pleasant. Some of them will be up to three times the size of the present structures.
Every time I drive up to North Norfolk, another crop of turbines has sprouted from the soil, disfiguring the scenery for miles around.
Swaffham, the picturesque location of Stephen Fry’s TV series Kingdom, is virtually surrounded. None of them ever seems to be turning. They just stand there, ominously, like invaders from outer space laying siege to the town. Billions of pounds are being wasted on these worse-than-useless blots on the landscape. We’d be better off spending the money on snow ploughs.
While we’re on the subject of snow, Britain’s most tenacious ‘climate change denier’ Christopher Booker, occasionally of this parish, has just revealed the real reason why this country was so ill-prepared for the Arctic weather.
Airports, rail operators and local authorities all subscribe to the Met Office’s long-term forecasts. And over the past few years, the Met Office has become evangelical about ‘man-made global warming’.
Every weather forecast is now extruded through the prism of so-called climate change, even when all evidence points to the fact that the Earth is actually getting colder.
The Met Office’s predictions are based on a computer model which assumes ever-rising temperatures — so much so that it forecast that this winter would be significantly milder than the past two years.
Even though the winters of 2008 and 2009 were ferociously cold, they were dismissed as ‘random events’. The Met Office put the odds on a third harsh winter no higher than 20-1.
Those responsible for keeping our transport network running were stupid enough to swallow this bogus, optimistic forecast, and consequently failed to make proper provision for the blizzards which duly followed.
This, of course, was the same Met Office which predicted a ‘barbecue summer’ shortly before Britain was hit by gales and widespread flooding.
For this wildly inaccurate and deliberately skewed service, the British taxpayer is charged a staggering £200million a year.
Needless to say, the head of the Met Office is not even a weatherman. He’s a leading ‘climate change activist’ who buys into the propaganda pumped out by the fanatics at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) — exposed for blatantly suppressing evidence which contradicts their messianic belief in ‘global warming’.
Back in 2000, the CRU’s Dr David Viner told The Independent that winter snowfalls would soon be a thing of the past. ‘Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,’ he predicted confidently.
Even when they are proved wrong, the warmists will never admit it. They simply move the goalposts — which is how global warming morphed into ‘climate change’.
You can’t argue with them. That’s because ‘climate change’ isn’t a science, it’s a religion. Sceptics are trashed as heretics. The climate change lobby is a curious mix of cultists and cynical opportunists. As I write, Sky News is spotlighting a project on Humberside aimed at brainwashing children into believing that wind is the fuel of the future.
Call Me Dave bangs on about all the jobs which will be created by the ‘green economy’ — ignoring the fact that almost all Britain’s wind turbines are built and installed by foreign firms.
The defining characteristic of all fanatics is that they have no sense of the ridiculous. According to the BBC, Town Halls across the country have been appealing to owners of 4x4s to offer lifts to ‘essential staff’ during the cold snap. These would be the same 4x4s which these very same councils want to ban, because they cause global warming and kill polar bears.
You couldn’t make it up.