Banned Alzheimer’s drugs now finally available on NHS thanks to newspaper campaign
Today marks the final victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign to reverse the ban on drugs for the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Hundreds of thousands of patients could benefit after the NHS rationing body NICE confirmed a decision taken last October to allow treatment at any stage – not just when patients have moderate disease.
Previously patients had been forced to wait until their symptoms worsened before they could get medicines readily available in most other countries. The ban on three drugs Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl was universally condemned by doctors, patients and their families.
Revised guidelines will allow doctors to prescribe them to patients with mild symptoms, rather than waiting for them to deteriorate, including a new skin patch for Exelon.
The U-turn by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence means the drug Ebixa, also known as memantine, can be prescribed for the first time to severely ill patients. A survey shows three out of five GPs are likely to recall Alzheimer’s patients with mild symptoms who were previously denied treatment for reassessment. Around three quarters of 205 family doctors surveyed say management of the disease will change, with almost half claiming the drugs will be more widely used.
The ban was imposed in 2007 despite a legal challenge partly funded by Daily Mail readers incensed over the limits on drugs costing just £2.50 a day. NICE previously claimed the NHS could not afford to offer drugs to all eligible patients, but has reviewed that decision using a different computer model to assess their cost-effectiveness. It concludes the benefits are worthwhile compared with full-time care at a cost of up to £40,000 a year.
A report by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry found the drugs could delay admission to care by between one and two months on average.
Andrew Chidgey, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said:‘This is a victory for people with Alzheimer’s and their carers, many of whom have been campaigning for this day for years. ‘These drugs don’t work for everyone, but for some people they can radically improve their quality of life.’
Around 465,000 people live with Alzheimer’s in the UK and 62,000 are diagnosed each year, yet fewer than 50,000 patients are currently prescribed drugs. The Daily Mail campaigned vigorously with the Alzheimer’s Society, celebrities and physicians. The Alzheimer’s Society has paid tribute to Daily Mail readers, who raised £230,000 in a week towards the court battle.
How NHS general wards double the chance of patients dying from heart disease
Patients needing hospital treatment for heart failure are twice as likely to die on a general ward as on specialist cardiology wards, a national audit found.
Women are less likely to get proper treatment than men, although death rates are similar.
More than 700,000 people live with heart failure, which occurs when damage to the heart leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body.
Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness and swollen ankles, and it can lead to premature death.
In 2006-07, heart failure accounted for more than a quarter of a million hospital admissions in England and Wales and cost the NHS £563million.
Details from a national audit published online in the journal Heart looked at 86 hospitals between April 2008 and March 2009 when 6,000 patients, with an average age of 78, were admitted with the condition. Appropriate investigations were not always carried out, it showed.
Half of patients were admitted to cardiology wards – mostly younger men – with 75 per cent given a heart trace monitor test (echocardiogram).
But only 65 per cent of those admitted to general medical wards had an echocardiogram
Those admitted to general medical wards were twice as likely to die as those admitted to cardiology wards, even after taking account of other risk factors, the study found.
Research leader Professor John Cleland, of Hull University’s department of cardiology, said: ‘Currently, hospital provision of care is suboptimal and the outcome of patients poor.’
Previous research shows death rates from heart failure in British hospitals are twice the European average, partly because of late diagnosis and treatment that fails to control symptoms.
The christening without much Christianity: Church of England to offer ‘baptism lite’ to attract non-worshippers
Church of England baptism services may be re-written to remove some references to Christianity. The plan for a new ‘baptism lite’ service designed to make christenings more interesting to non-churchgoers will be considered next month by the Church’s parliament, the General Synod.
Supporters say the baptism service should be ‘expressed in culturally appropriate and accessible language’ that is readily understood by ‘non-theologically versed Britons’.
But traditionalist clergy said the idea amounted to ‘dumbing down’.
The new service would be used at 150,000 christenings each year. If the plan is accepted, it will be the third full re-write of the baptism ceremony in around 30 years – the version in the Church’s Book of Common Prayer went virtually unaltered for more than 400 years until 1980.
Complaints centre on three sections of the baptism service from the Church’s latest prayer book, Common Worship, authorised for use in 1997. In one, parents, godparents or an adult being baptised are asked to ‘reject the devil and all rebellion against God’ and to renounce ‘the deceit and corruption of evil’. They are asked to ‘submit to Christ as Lord’.
The Reverend Dr Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, who is putting the plans before the synod, said in a paper that ‘there remains some unhappiness about the language not being earthed enough’. He added: ‘The concern is one of the language not making strong enough connections to life choices in such a way that it can be heard.’
Dr Stratford and his supporters have also called for a new version of prayers that refer to the symbolic role of water in baptism. He said that among clergy from poor and inner city parishes ‘there was a strong plea for a shorter prayer in direct but poetic language that allows the Gospel to resonate better with people’s experience of life’. He added: ‘This was not a plea for a prayer in Scouse, but for a prayer that the majority of non-theologically versed Britons would understand.’
A third part of the service was condemned as too long and not ‘direct’.
Stephen Parkinson, of the Anglo-Catholic Forward in Faith organisation, said there were problems with the 1997 service, but added: ‘Simply dumbing it down is not the answer.’
Bishops indicated yesterday that if the Synod accepts the argument a committee will be instructed to begin writing a new baptism service, but they warned that such re-writing would raise arguments over faith and doctrine.
William Fittall, secretary general of the synod, said that bishops are ‘clear that now is not the time to embark on the long and complex process involved in such a revision or replacement’.
‘It’s a sledgehammer for British businesses’: Ten month paternity leave for fathers savaged by city chiefs
Allowing fathers to take up to ten months of paternity leave would be a ‘sledgehammer to business’, it was claimed last night. Under plans outlined yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, couples could be allowed to divide up their joint parental leave into chunks of a few weeks at a time – increasing the disruption for employers. Fathers may also be offered an extra six weeks of ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ leave to encourage them to take time off.
The British Chambers of Commerce said the proposals were a ‘sledgehammer’ to business while employment lawyers said they could have a ‘chilling’ effect on recruitment.
The Institute of Directors warned that the policy would make it impossible for businesses to plan, adding: ‘If employees were given the opportunity to take leave in short blocks, the system would become virtually unmanageable.’
Employment law barrister Daniel Barnett warned the change could put firms off employing young people at all. He said: ‘It sounds noble, but is deeply impractical. It will have a chilling impact on recruitment practice.’
Embarrassingly, it emerged that David Cameron had spoken out against similar Labour proposals while in opposition. In 2006, he said: ‘The massive extension of paternity leave owes a bit more to political correctness than the realities of life. It could be very disruptive, particularly to small business.’
Mr Clegg said the Coalition would press ahead in April with Labour’s plans to allow new parents to share up to six months of paid maternity leave – with the intention of increasing that to ten months in due course.
But Downing Street yesterday stressed that the ten-month proposal would not be introduced until 2015.
Popular broadcasting personality lambasts BBC’s red-tape and political corectness
Sir Terry Wogan has attacked the BBC, saying its obsession with red tape is tantamount to ‘lunatics taking over the asylum’. The veteran broadcaster warned that the corporation is in danger of censoring its talent in the wake of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand phone prank scandal.
He compared its approach with the public sector’s obsession with unnecessary and restrictive health and safety regulations.
The BBC tightened up procedures governing suitable broadcast content, known as ‘compliance’, after 54,000 people complained about Ross and Brand’s abusive messages to Andrew Sachs on a Radio 2 show.
‘Today, lunatics have taken over the asylum,’ Sir Terry, 72, told Radio Times. ‘Agents and publicists rule and the BBC even sends people to monitor interviews in the name of “compliance”. It is so restrictive.’
However, Sir Terry also criticised the next generation on screen, branding comedian Frankie Boyle as ‘too strong’ and warning that Ricky Gervais ‘walked a tightrope’.
He said of Piers Morgan’s U.S. role as CNN chat show host: ‘People confuse longevity with merit. Morgan is shameless and fearless enough to succeed.
‘There’s nothing to be gained from being an aggressive interviewer. Clive Anderson proved if you’re sharp, possibly nasty, you last six months as you won’t have any guests. People only appear on radio and TV if they’ve something to sell.’
He added that executives are more concerned about pay packets than the prestige of working for a world-renowned public service broadcaster.
Now one of the BBC’s highest-paid stars earning more than £800,000 for his Sunday Radio 2 show, he insisted money should not be the driving force for working at the BBC. Three years ago he accused bosses of lacking ‘old-fashioned thoroughness’.
British Labour Party’s failed initiative on private schools as just one-third of independents report interest
Parents have snubbed Labour’s attempt to give poorer pupils bursaries to top private schools, a report reveals today. Just one-third of independent prep schools have seen a ‘reasonable’ level of interest in bursary places from prospective parents – despite legislation forcing schools to offer them.
Private schools say it meant they were forced to waste valuable resources complying with red-tape in a ‘failed bid at social engineering’. Headmasters believe the measure was a ‘cheap political trick’ and ‘an attack on private schools’. They want the legislation axed or relaxed so they can be given the freedom to benefit the public in the way they see fit.
David Hansom, of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said: ‘These results show that the provision of 100 per cent bursaries is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise for the Charity Commission and the demand from parents simply is not there.’
Independent schools are run as charities and must show they provide ‘public benefit’ to maintain their charity status. Charity Commission legislation, which came into force in September 2010, set out rules prescribing how schools should make places available to poorer pupils, ushering a shift from scholarships to means-tested bursaries.
It forced many to hire extra staff to deal with the red tape involved in complying as any school failing to meet the requirements risks losing its charitable tax breaks. And less well-off independents were forced to pass on the cost of bursaries to fee-paying parents, which has in turn made them even further out of reach for many.
A survey by the Independent Schools Council, which represents private schools, shows that just 33 per cent of schools thought interest in their bursaries was good or better.
Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it was too early to judge whether the new measures were a success and added that many parents will be put off by the additional costs of sending their children to a private school.