Reprieve for the NHS pen pushers: Seven in ten will keep their jobs despite ‘biggest shake up ever’
It was billed as the biggest shake-up in the 62-year history of the NHS, with family doctors handed control of spending. But ministers admitted yesterday that despite changes costing £1.4billion, the new health service would in many ways be the same as the old one.
Although Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had promised a ‘bonfire of the bureaucrats’ by abolishing dozens of NHS organisations, he revealed that up to 70 per cent of their staff would in fact be kept on.
He added that GPs, whose salaries have already rocketed to an average of £105,000, will receive generous bonuses for their new responsibilities which begin in April 2013. And there was even a warning that the huge upheaval could harm patient care as staff uncertain about their future take their eye off the ball.
The Health and Social Care Bill, published yesterday, will see responsibility for spending £80billion of NHS funding handed from managers in primary care trusts to consortia of GPs. Its other main points are:
* Patients allowed to choose where they are treated – including free private care if necessary
* Councils and public given new powers to stop local A&E and maternity units closing
* Many more NHS operations and treatments provided by private companies and charities.
* Hit squads of matrons sent into hospitals to check on elderly care
* Redundancies among 21,000 staff – but up to seven in ten managers will keep their job.
Before the election, Mr Lansley pledged to slash the number of managers and after taking office he said that would be achieved by scrapping 152 PCTs and the ten strategic health authorities.
But a co-ordinating document published alongside the Bill says that between 50 and 70 per cent of managers are likely to be retained and employed by GP consortia and the new NHS Commissioning Board.
If the number retained is as high as 70 per cent, this would equate to some 40,000 retaining their jobs. The document said the cost of the 21,000 redundancies will be up to £1billion in payouts.
Another £400million will go on other costs related to the reforms, including dealing with IT and property. The £1.4billion total would be enough to pay the salaries of almost 67,000 nurses. But ministers say long-term savings will outweigh the up-front costs.
Mr Lansley accepted that although there would be a slight reduction in the number of bureaucrats in his new-look NHS, many would still be needed to help GPs run the administrative side of their new consortia on high salaries.
‘There are managers in the NHS who are by any standards well paid,’ he said. ‘There will continue to be managers in the NHS who are by any standards well paid, in the hospital sector and in the management of commissioning activities. We are not abolishing management in the commissioning activity. It is only about 40 per cent of the total staffing in administration being reduced.
‘Remember, the PCTs even today have about 50,000 administrators, and 15,000 are senior managers. There is one manager in a PCT for every three GPs. ‘That is a considerable management resource and, even when we reduce it – as we will – there will be a considerable managerial resource to back up the new GP consortia.’
A document, published alongside the Bill, admits there are ‘risks’ to both patient care and financial stringency from the transition.
The potential loss of key personnel and skills from PCTs, the possibility of double running costs and the fact that staff might become ‘preoccupied’ with what is happening to their jobs could all harm the health service. ‘Given the structural changes, NHS staff may be less focused on patient care during the transition,’ it said.
‘Sorry there’s been a mistake!’ Woman awarded five-figure payout after leg is needlessly amputated
A mother has won more than £10,000 compensation from the NHS after doctors cut off her leg by mistake. Michelle Richards, 43, had her right leg removed above the knee after doctors diagnosed a rare bone infection called osteomyeltitis. She was told the only way to stop the life-threatening infection spreading was to have the limb amputated.
But when the leg bone was examined post-op there was no evidence of the disease and Mrs Richards was told: ‘Sorry there’s been a mistake’.
The mother-of-three won a five-figure compensation payout in an out-of-court settlement. Health chiefs also apologised for a breach of their duty of care at Glan Clwyd hospital in North Wales where the operation was carried out in 2006.
Mrs Richards had already had a below the knee amputation on the same leg in 1995, partially as a result of her Spina Bifida. She started to have problems with her ‘stump’ in 2005. She said: ‘I had an odd kind of pain in my stump and a rash so I went in to see the consultant. ‘At the consultation he told me the only solution (to stop the infection spreading) was to have an amputation.’
Michelle added: ‘I went in for the amputation and believed I was making the right choice – I never really questioned it. ‘But after the operation I started to realise something was wrong. ‘I asked for the results because I wanted to reassure myself I had done the right thing, But when the consultant refused to give them to me alarm bells began to ring.’
Michelle was referred back to her family doctor who saw the test results and confirmed her worst fears. She said: ‘There was no sign of osteomyeltitis at all. I was devastated – I expected them to find something.’
Spina bifida sufferer Michelle yesterday won the undisclosed sum from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board who admitted medical negligence.
Michelle, of Towyn, Conwy, North Wales, said: ‘My fight was never about the money but I’m glad I’ve reached a settlement and it’s good to get some acknowledgement of what they have done to me. ‘I don’t want anybody else to suffer what I’ve had to suffer. I would also like the board to ensure they change their procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.’
The Health Board yesterday confirmed it had admitted liability and settled damages with Mrs Richards. Board chief executive Mary Burrows’s letter to Michelle said: ‘On behalf of the staff involved in relation to your medical treatment I would like to apologise for the mistake that was made.
‘Further investigation should have been performed before proceeding to an above knee amputation. ‘Failure to do so represented a breach of the duty of care owed to you by the health board’s staff.
‘I would like to say sorry on their behalf for the impact of the above knee amputation has had upon your life and for the additional distress that may have been caused to you as a result of bringing the clinical negligence claim.’
Anti-male bigotry in Britain
Crazed phone calls, sinister threats, vile sex slurs – so why did the police treat a female stalker as a joke?
My experience is not at all as bad as that described below but I was once chased around London by a female stalker and I was the one who ended up in a police cell as a result. Fortunately, my pursuer gave up at that point and I was soon released. So I can vouch for such things happening in Britain — JR
One summer evening in 2009 I was cycling home when I heard a voice shout out my name. Even before I looked, I knew who it was. A quick glance confirmed it, so I pedalled faster, past Somerfield, towards the street in which I live. To my horror, the person started sprinting after me.
As I reached the steps up to my front door, I could only stare in bewilderment as she came haring around the corner. Panic rushed over me as my key would not go in the lock and the distance between us began to shrink to a few yards. Thankfully, I got in just in time and slammed the door as she bounded up the steps.
It might sound melodramatic but I bent down and shouted through the letterbox, not for the first – or the last – time, that I was going to call the police.
You see, the woman in question was my stalker. Yes, that’s right, me – a strapping 6ft 3in, 37-year-old man. I have a female stalker called Karen, who also happens to be not altogether unattractive and in her early 40s.
If you find this notion rather risible – aren’t stalkers supposed to be pathetic lonely single men, forlornly loitering outside TV studios to catch a glimpse of their favourite female newsreader? – then you’re not alone.
Everybody seems to find it funny that I have been stalked for the best part of two years – my friends; casual acquaintances, who hear the S-word and chuckle without considering the stress that real stalking causes; and even the police.
Not all the police, but a significant few. When you have had a uniformed officer, to whom you are giving your first statement, suddenly crack up laughing at your plight (`I’m really sorry, mate, but she sounds -mental’), you start to wonder if that’s going to be a standard reaction.
I first met Karen at my local pub in summer 2008, when she recognised me as being a member of the same dating website as her. The second time I met her was the weekend after I had just split up with my then girlfriend, and I’d gone to the same pub to drown my sorrows. We got talking in more depth, she was down-to-earth, quirky and flirty, and in the time-honoured tradition of the Great British Rebound, we ended up in bed.
In the wee small hours of the next morning, I woke up and, through bleary eyes, saw a beatifically-grinning Karen tell me that she loved me. There and then, I had a tiny -premonition of how bad things would get.
Frankly, I had no desire to see Karen again, certainly not after her declarations, but I did the classic man thing of ignoring her emails and texts rather than nipping it in the bud – a big mistake.
Over the course of the next 16 months, Karen’s actions provided me with a constant series of `firsts’ to tick off. A week after our initial -meeting, she turned up drunk at my home for the first time, at pub chucking-out time, -slurring and begging entry.
In April, she made her first twin-pronged attempt to rouse me from my slumbers, -showing up to ring me on my mobile and hammer on my front door between calls, and then left her first abusive voicemail.
‘When I gave my statement, a uniformed officer cracked up laughing, “I’m really sorry, mate, but she sounds -mental”‘
May saw the arrival of the first handwritten, hand-delivered letter begging forgiveness, two pages long, not a lick of sense on either page. And July brought that unnerving pursuit, the first time anyone had ever chased me in the street.
To my friends, to my work colleagues, this was all still a source of hilarity – after all, she seemed to be on some kind of two-to-three-month cycle, her drunken visits a sporadic inconvenience rather than anything about which I needed to feel threatened. ‘How’s the stalker?’ they would josh, and I would tell them the latest. All good fun.
It stopped being all good fun in November. I was out on the step one evening chatting to neighbours when Karen came -stumbling down the street. She was substantially more drunk than I had ever seen her before, screaming abuse, bizarrely, about my failed -aspirations as a novelist.
The next day I left my flat to find her again loitering outside. When I told her that I’d had enough and that I’d be calling the police imminently, she delivered her killer blow. `If you do,’ she said calmly, `I’ll tell them you drugged me and sexually assaulted me.’
Two things happened in that instant: I stopped feeling any -lingering sympathy I may have had for Karen, and I stopped finding -anything funny about the situation.
It took one more `first’ before I went to the police, however: after six more months of worrying, insomnia and creeping paranoia, I finally knew what had to be done when, in May last year, Karen forced her way into my home, bounding up the steps to burst through the front door before I could react – her first use of physical force.
She began to shout abuse very directly at my face, so that when I went outside to get away from her and call the police, luckily she -followed. I was then able to slip back inside, slam the door, and, as she -continued to hammer on the door and roar insults, make the call.
To their credit, the police arrived in time to intercept her as she stumbled off, but not before some other firsts: explicit physical threats, and explicit use of the word `rape’.
The next day, I went to my local police station to give a full statement (and have it laughed at by the PC on duty) and play them tapes of three abusive voicemails that Karen had obligingly left after being interviewed by police at the scene.
Within a few days, I had been assigned a case officer, and Karen had been arrested, whereupon she made good her threat and counter-alleged sexual assault. And that’s when the legal system kicked in.
As a man alleging harassment against a woman, I just had my case officer. Karen, meanwhile, was able, as a victim of an alleged sexual assault, to turn to Victim Support and the free legal aid that it provided, legal aid that tried to make her nonsensical claims stand up.
My case officer, it turned out, wasn’t great. Awkward on the phone, cagey and slapdash, he never got round to interviewing any of my suggested witnesses. And when I emailed him fresh evidence of harassment at the end of last year, I never heard back.
When you have an allegation of sexual assault against you – however ridiculous – a constant feeling of nausea settles in your gut and does not leave. My fear was now that I would end up in court, and lose my job. As for any official support channels for me? Either there weren’t any – or the police had neglected to tell me about them.
One thing it did achieve, though, was finally uniting my friends in non-mirthful solidarity behind me – female friends were outraged that a woman would falsely allege something so serious, an issue that I’d guess affects them all deeply. My male friends, I think, were secretly relieved it was not happening to them.
But I did have the evidence – -those voicemails. A few weeks later, in late August, Karen was issued with a -harassment warning prohibiting her from contacting me. It wasn’t the same as a restraining order that would have prevented her from coming within a certain distance of me but it provided a firm assurance that if the harassment continued, she would be prosecuted.
Meanwhile her case against me dragged on for months. The -common-or-garden insomnia I’d been experiencing for six months became fevered nightmares of -violence, and at work as a journalist, my temper was constantly on edge.
A potential relationship foundered – night terrors made it impossible for me to share a bed with anyone, and besides, it’s not like I was thinking about sex anyway. My anger that I was left in this horrific limbo ate away at me; I drank alone at weekends, just so that I would fall asleep before I started hearing noises in the dark outside.
If all this sounds melodramatic, then I guess the unique combination of being stalked and having a serious sexual allegation against you makes one prone to melodrama. I’ve visited war zones for work in the past, but believe me, I felt more fear in those awful few months.
They eventually called me in to the station in October. I arrived 20 minutes early for the appointment, and spent it vomiting into a bin out of sheer terror. Karen had a three-strong case team working on her allegations against me, who were everything my own case officer had not been.
They calmly, reassuringly explained to me that my presence there was a mere formality to -complete the process that had been set in motion by Karen’s initial addled allegations (for which she was still receiving Victim Support). I was in and out in 30 minutes.
The next time I heard from the police six or seven weeks later, it was to tell me that no more action was being taken on Karen’s case against me. The reason? Apparently her statement had made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
And no, she wasn’t prosecuted for -wasting police time. But to be -honest, at the time all I cared was that her ridiculous claims weren’t going any further.
So, end of story. Except it isn’t. Indeed, I’m not even sure where the end is. For one thing, Karen has already started to bend the rules of her warning, starting online Scrabble games on Facebook with me, using a false profile. The games enabled her to leave further rambling messages for me to read, blaming the whole sorry affair on me.
But that’s not my prime concern right now – I am. The nightmares are now a nightly fixture, so too the sudden flashes of impotent rage about what she got away with, about all the legal help she got, about the help I needed and didn’t get.
It bothers me that every day is tinged with fear that she’ll come back, maybe with a knife in her hand. I know I have to move away from the area, but at the moment, I’d just take a decent, uninterrupted night’s sleep. And I can’t even get that.
Foreigners take two out of three new British jobs as statistics reveal nearly 200,000 vacancies were filled by those born overseas
These figures will not be much of a surprise in Australia. As Australians sometimes say in their splendid slanguage: “A Pom wouldn’t work in an iron lung”. In other words, Britons are seen as characteristically work-shy
Just a third of all jobs created last year went to British-born workers, official figures indicate. They show that only 100,000 of the 297,000 workers who began new posts between July and September 2010 were native Britons. Of the rest, 90,000 were born in Poland and other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, and the remainder were born elsewhere in the world.
The summer figures from the Office for National Statistics are the latest available and are understood to be representative of the whole year.
The analysis, published in the ONS journal Economic and Labour Market Review, also showed that while a million jobs have become available in Britain over the past six years, there are now a third of a million fewer British-born people in work.
Since the beginning of 2004, the number of British-born people in jobs has gone down by 334,000, while nearly 1.3million foreign-born individuals have found work in the UK. Of these, 530,000 were from Eastern Europe and 770,000 from elsewhere in the world.
Sir Andrew Green, of the think-tank MigrationWatch, said: ‘These latest figures can only be described as spectacular. There are no fixed numbers of jobs in an economy but it is very hard to escape the conclusion that foreign-born workers are taking jobs that might be done by British workers.’
Asylum seeker who killed girl in hit and run ‘should be deported’, says immigration minister
The father of a girl left dying in the road after being mown down by a failed asylum seeker has been handed a major boost in his bid to have him deported. Aso Mohammed Ibrahim knocked down Amy Houston, 12, and fled the scene leaving her under the wheels of his car. He was arrested and served four months in prison but launched legal action to be allowed leave to remain in the UK.
Last year his fight against deportation was successful after he argued sending him home would breach his right to a ‘private and family life’ under the Human Rights Act as he had fathered two children here.
But Amy’s father, Paul Houston, 41, has continued to campaign for Ibrahim to be deported claiming the Act had become nothing more than a charter for thieves, killers, terrorists and illegal immigrants. Now he has been handed fresh hope after his campaign was backed by immigration minister Damian Green. In a letter to Mr Houston, the immigration minister said: ‘I agree that Mr Ibrahim should not be allowed to remain in the United Kingdom.
‘Mr Ibrahim was convicted of committing an offence that led to the tragic death of Amy Houston and it is my personal view that he should be removed.’
His support comes as it was announced the case was set to go before the High Court in London. The Home Office has granted UK Borders Agency bosses permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn the Upper Immigration Tribunal’s decision to allow Ibrahim to stay in Britain.
Ibrahim, 33, arrived in Britain hidden in the back of a lorry in January 2001. His application for asylum was refused and a subsequent appeal in November 2002 failed, but he was never sent home.
Amy was killed in 2003 after she was hit by a Rover driven by Ibrahim who then fled the scene leaving the girl crying in pain under the wheels. The Iraqi Kurd was jailed for just four months after admitting driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.
Since his release from prison he has racked up a string of criminal convictions, including more driving offences, harassment and cautions for burglary and theft.
But Ibrahim embarked on a relationship with Christina Richardson and they had two children, Harry, four, and Zara, three. He was able to escape deportation from the UK by using the Human Rights Act to successfully argue he had a right to a family life.
The UK Border Agency launched a last-ditch appeal against that decision in an attempt to have him kicked out. But at a hearing in Manchester in November immigration judges, Deborah Taylor and Clive Lane, rejected the appeal. Now senior judge in the High Court will now review case documents to determine whether an appeal can be heard.
Mr Houston said: ‘I’m hopeful we will be given an appeal and we will finally be able to argue that Mr Ibrahim should have been deported years ago.’
Two mothers and their toddler children banned from council-funded playgroup – for being BRITISH
Two British mothers have been banned from a publicly funded women’s group and creche because it was set up exclusively for foreigners.
Emma Knightley and Kimberley Wildman thought the group would be the ideal way for them and their children to make friends. They were encouraged to come by a mixed-race friend who attends meetings despite being born and raised in Britain. But when they arrived for their first session, a female volunteer told them they weren’t welcome because they were British-born.
The Making Links group in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was set up to help integrate foreigners and their children aged under five into the community. It receives money from the town council and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
But yesterday legal experts warned the group could be in breach of the Race Relations Act, and faces action in a civil court which could order it to pay compensation.
Nationality and race are protected under last year’s Equality Act. This states that people have a right not to be discriminated against, harassed or victimised because of these factors.
But the Race Relations Act 1976 gives permission for a form of positive discrimination, for example in providing funding for gay or lesbian groups, or advertising for a female social worker to help women who have been victims of domestic violence.
Caroline Herbert, an expert in discrimation law, said the two women could claim discrimination. She added: `A case could be brought in a civil court, which could award compensation.’
Shop worker Miss Knightley, 25, who lives in the town with her 21-month-old daughter Imogen, said: `The first thing I was asked about was my nationality and when I said I was British I was told we had to leave.
`She said “Are you not aware this is for foreign people only?” I said I knew it was trying to integrate people into the community but didn’t realise that meant British people and their children were banned. `I felt humiliated. You wouldn’t get away with a British-only mum and children’s group.’
Trainee midwife Miss Wildman, 27, who has two daughters, Georgia, five, and 18-month-old Olivia, added: `It’s a real shame. `I want my children to play with children from other races and integrate in the community because that stops discrimination.’
When the pair were challenged last week, Miss Knightley pointed out that their friend, who is of Indian and Malaysian descent, was born and bred in Britain too. The volunteer replied: `But her parents aren’t.’
Ministers said the group was `divisive’ and `racist’. Last night the Department of Communities and Local Government announced it would effectively abolish it by cutting its public funding.
Communities and local government minister Bob Neill said: `It is a real cause for concern that monies allocated for community development are being spent in such a divisive manner. `Rather than building good community relations, such an insensitive approach that seemingly discriminates against British people threatens to undermine community cohesion.’
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly, whose Huntingdon constituency includes St Neots, added: `I’m upset to hear that constituents have had a racist experience. There is a question here of legality and also of sensitivity. Teaching people how to integrate involves allowing people to integrate.’
Victory for common sense as history and geography lessons go back to basics in British schools
History and geography lessons are to go back to basics, with children expected to learn about key figures and facts as part of an overhaul of the curriculum. Education Secretary Michael Gove, who is launching his review today, has pledged to undo Labour’s ‘profound mistakes’ and restore ‘academic rigour’ to the classroom.
He said the curriculum was not fit for purpose after Labour stripped out the need for youngsters to learn any key facts in history, geography, English and music.
In 2007, Labour cut key historical figures such as Winston Churchill from a list of figures recommended for teaching to allow teachers more flexibility. At present, the only historical figures in the entire secondary history curriculum are William Wilberforce, the architect of the abolition of the slave trade, and Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave whose autobiography helped persuade MPs to ban slavery.
The secondary geography curriculum does not mention a single country apart from the UK or any continents, rivers, oceans, mountains or cities. It does, however, mention the European Union and global warming.
And the secondary music curriculum fails to mention a single composer, musician or piece of music.
At the same time Labour made the curriculum ‘overly prescriptive’, increasing the secondary curriculum to 281 pages, compared with 52 pages in Finland – a country with world leading education standards.
Mr Gove said Labour’s attack on the curriculum had led to England ‘plummeting in international league tables and widening the gap between rich and poor’. The curriculum would be slimmed down to cover the only ‘essential knowledge’ children need, he added. The Coalition argues that there should be a core knowledge that pupils should have to take their place as ‘educated members of society’.
It means that as well as learning about key historical figures in history lessons, English classes could focus on great British writers like Dickens and Austen.
However teachers’ unions did not welcome the announcement. Chris Keates, of the NASUWT, said: ‘Teachers want another curriculum review like a hole in the head. ‘This is a pointless review when ministers have already determined that children should have a 1950s-style curriculum.’
British school science ‘undermined by poor teachers and laboratories’, say MPs
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren are failing to study science to a high standard after being turned off the subject by poor teachers and unsafe laboratories, according to MPs. Just 20 per cent of pupils in England took separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics last year because of key failures in secondary education, it was claimed.
The Commons public accounts committee said reforms introduced by the last Government had led to a rise in the status of school science but warned that lessons were still dogged by “slow progress” in vital areas.
In a report published today, the cross-party group said there were not enough new teachers with “strong subject knowledge” in science and maths entering the profession.
The Department for Education is currently falling short of targets to ensure that at least a quarter of science teachers have a degree in physics and almost all mathematics lessons are taught by specialist maths teachers, the report warned.
MPs also said there was evidence that science facilities were “unsatisfactory and even unsafe” in up to a quarter of secondary schools but the Government has abandoned targets for improving crumbing laboratories.
Margaret Hodge, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “There has been an impressive increase in the availability and take up of GCSE triple science; and, at the same time, attainment in maths, biology, chemistry and physics at this level has improved. “But the picture is far from rosy. Many pupils are still not offered triple science as an option, and those living in areas of high deprivation are most likely to be missing out.”
She added: “We need a coherent national approach to ensure that the key success factors – such as GCSE triple science, specialist teachers, good quality science facilities, good careers advice and programmes to increase take-up and achievement – are available throughout the country, especially in the most disadvantaged communities.”
The report – “Educating the Next Generation of Scientists” – said the number of teenagers in England taking separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics had increased by 150 per cent between 2004 and 2009.
More students are also opting to take A-level chemistry and physics in the sixth-form.
But the report warned that many pupils who could benefit from rigorous courses in the subject were “still missing out”.
Only 20 per cent of pupils took GCSEs in all three sciences last summer, MPs said. Almost a third of secondary schools – usually in poor areas – failed to even offer pupils the option of taking separate sciences, meaning they were far less likely to study them beyond the age of 16.
The report also warned that pupils were let down by poor advice about science and maths-based carers in some schools.
MPs recommended that ministers order an audit of schools to plug gaps in the number of secondaries failing to offer separate science GCSEs and consider fresh measures to increase the number of students opting to train as science and maths teachers.
Despite a cut in the amount of money set aside for school buildings, the committee also said an urgent review of science facilities should be carried out to update unsafe labs.
Forget five, now it’s eight portions of fruit and veg a day for good health (?)
The Marmot’s at it again. Epidemiogical rubbish, of course. International comparisons are very dicey. There could be many differences in different national populations other than their diets. Just let one fact sink in: Southern Europeans have a much more vegetarian diet than Australians do yet Australians live longer! If the Marmot reads this (unlikely) he would no doubt want to say: “Yes. But there are many other differences …”. To which I would say: “Precisely”
For years the advice has been clear: eating five portions a day of fruit and vegetables is the key to a healthy life. But five may no longer be enough.
A study has found that to get maximum defence against heart disease, you need to eat at least eight daily servings of fresh food.
The Government’s five-a-day advice has its roots in World Health Organisation guidelines to include 14oz of vegetables in a daily diet. But there have been doubts over whether eating more than this level of fruit and veg meant even greater health benefits. Now the new study suggests every extra portion provides added protection.
Significantly, those in the highest category – eating eight or more a day – have a 22 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who consume three portions, the UK average. A ‘portion’ weighs just under 3oz, equal to a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot.
The findings come from an ongoing European investigation into diet and health, looking at 300,000 people in eight countries. Dr Francesca Crowe, of Oxford University, is working on the project. She said that although ischaemic heart disease (IHD) – the most common form – was less likely in those who ate lots of vegetables, it could be explained because these people might also have healthier lifestyles.
However, the study specifically showed a reduced risk of dying from IHD of around four per cent for each additional portion of fruit and veg consumed above the lowest category, which was those who ate two or fewer portions.
The average intake of fruit and vegetables across all the countries in the study was five portions. People in Greece, Italy and Spain ate more and those in Sweden less.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of the University College London, said the findings were of ‘huge practical importance’. He said: ‘Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death. A reduction of 22 per cent is huge. There would need to be big shift in dietary patterns to achieve this healthy consumption of eight portions a day. It is worth trying to move in that direction.’
Scientists have previously suggested 15,000 lives a year could be saved if everyone ate five a day.
Drug offers new hope in treatment of deadly form of skin cancer
SCIENTISTS have heralded a new therapy for one of the deadliest forms of cancer after trials showed a new drug can extend the lives of patients with advanced malignant melanoma.
Patients taking the new drug, which attacks a genetic mutation found in about half of all cases of the aggressive skin cancer, live significantly longer than those given standard treatment, a landmark study has found.
Preliminary results suggest that the drug, known as RG7204 or PLX4032, is the first melanoma therapy with a proven benefit on survival. Though the cancer is treatable if caught early, fewer than 10 per cent of patients survive for a year if it has spread.
The trial has been so successful that Roche, the drug company, has ended its control arm, so that participants who had received a placebo can now take the active drug.
While RG7204 is suitable for only the half of melanoma patients whose tumours carry the right mutation, and only 80 per cent of these respond, scientists said it would transform treatment of the disease.
Richard Marais, Professor of Molecular Oncology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “What this means is that now, for the first time in melanoma, we have a treatment that actually works for an appreciable proportion of patients.”
James Larkin, of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: “This is an incredibly exciting breakthrough. Malignant melanoma is a very difficult disease to treat and with a growing incidence in younger people the results of this trial are very encouraging.”
The drug also marks a milestone in the development of personalised genetic medicine, as it was designed to target a genetic mutation that is found in about 50 per cent of melanoma patients. The mutated gene, called BRAF, was identified in 2002 by a British team led by Professor Mike Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge.
The company is also developing a diagnostic test for the BRAF gene targeted by RG7204, to identify which patients can benefit. Such targeted treatment is considered to be the next frontier of cancer medicine.
In a separate study, published in the journal Nature, a team led by Dr Andy Futreal, of the Sanger Institute, has identified a gene that is mutated in one in three cases of kidney cancer.