Infertility services reduced as NHS cuts costs
Childless couples are being denied infertility treatment as NHS managers try to cut costs, according to GPs. A survey of family doctors has found that 77 per cent said that their local Primary Care Trusts, which currently buy treatment, had restricted procedures such as IVF.
Women are supposed to be able to access three cycles of infertility treatment – costing more than £4,000 each – on the NHS but many areas have stopped providing it altogether.
The poll also found that four in 10 GPs (40 per cent) said eyesight services were being restricted while almost a third (30 per cent) said orthopaedic surgery, such as hip replacements, had been cut.
Some doctors (6 per cent) had even seen restrictions placed on cancer care while a tenth had seen waiting times lengthen for such services.
As a result, 39 per cent of GPs said more patients were starting to ask about going private while 31 per cent plan to make more private referrals. Even more would do so if more patients had medical insurance.
The poll of 500 GPs, carried out on behalf of the private hospital firm Spire Healthcare, provides the latest evidence that the NHS is rationing services in order to make savings of £20billion by 2015.
It comes after figures showed that patients are being denied drugs for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis, as PCT managers put more expensive treatments on “red lists” that only hospital consultants can prescribe.
Leading surgeons have also warned that trusts are delaying operations or denying them completely in order to save money, leaving patients in pain.
The situation is likely to worsen as the NHS tries to make unprecedented efficiency savings, even though it has escaped the budget cuts affecting other public services.
However it could help the Government justify its controversial reforms to the health service, which are intended to help GPs get the treatment their patients need by handing them the power to commission services as scrapping the PCT middle managers.
Dr Paul Silverston, a GP in Newmarket, said: “It is apparent that we are seeing waiting times for surgery and other services starting to increase and the recent changes in the NHS can only accelerate this trend.”
“We will sacrifice quality if necessary”
An unguarded comment by the new president of Britain’s National Union of Students shows how denigrated university education has become
From Britain’s government officials right through to anti-cuts protesters, it seems everyone agrees about one thing in relation to Higher Education: universities should be engines of social mobility. They should give a boost to students from poorer backgrounds and help them to make their way up the career and social ladders.
The newly elected president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Liam Burns, spelt this out very clearly. Speaking to the Scottish Herald before his election, he said we should put aside the archaic idea that universities should encourage the advancement of knowledge and the pursuit of truth, and welcome the fact that unis are now training grounds for youngsters who want to have brighter career prospects.
‘I think we should be honest about our priorities’, he said. ‘At the end of the day, the point of the university has changed. If you look at when only five per cent of the population went, that was about knowledge, discovery, pushing boundaries, people talked about the crème de la crème. [Now], it is about social mobility and people changing their lives. The reality is you need that bit of paper [a degree] to get into better jobs with greater earning potential and influence. So we want as many people to get one as possible, at the expense of quality if necessary.’
‘At the expense of quality…’ It is a remarkably naked assertion of the denigration of education from being about quality (knowledge, reflection, truth) to being about quantity (getting as many young people through as possible in order to improve their ‘earning potential’).
This outlook has been widespread on recent student demonstrations against the Lib-Con government’s plans to cut HE funding and enforce student fees. If young people don’t get that ‘bit of paper’ that acts as a passport to a better job, the protesters have argued, then it’s all over, we’re doomed. Student commentators described the government’s plans as a ‘breathtaking attack on social mobility’ while protesters waved banners pleading ‘Don’t cut our futures’, ‘My dream for a better future will be over’ and ‘No degree = no hope’.
When students and their representatives see the primary role of Higher Education as providing a path towards ‘greater earning potential’, then it is clear that they have bought into the idea of themselves as consumers. Apparently they are simply the consumers of a product (education), whose time at uni is really just an investment that should eventually pay off in terms of increased social mobility. Indeed, many students have even started to demand refunds for ‘poor teaching’, when universities fail to deliver and provide those measurable outcomes that students expect as a return on their investment.
If the student movement has bought into the idea of Higher Education as a kind of investment, that begs a serious question: why shouldn’t students have to pay for this service? If HE really is just about improving prospects and lifestyles, then perhaps there should be fees, much like when adults take night classes because they want to move higher up in their firm of field of work? In this sense, it is not surprising that Liam Burns, who explicitly elevates ‘earning potential’ over ‘knowledge, discovery, pushing boundaries’, reportedly believes that the idea of a free education is now ‘untenable’ outside of Scotland, and that a graduate tax, imposed upon graduates who earn above a certain threshold, is the way forward. (Burns played a key role in keeping Scotland itself fees-free.)
Once a university education is no longer treated as something that has an intrinsic value, regardless of the outcomes upon graduation, then the arguments for keeping it free, the idea of keeping it shielded from market forces, become increasingly spurious. In buying into the language of social mobility, anti-fees student campaigners are shooting themselves in the foot.
In fact, in arguing that ‘knowledge, discovery and pushing boundaries’ should be deprioritised in favour of boosting social mobility, student representatives undermine the very basis on which degrees were once seen as valuable. Degrees were traditionally a mark of academic excellence; having one made you stand out from the crowd. If, as Burns now seems to be suggesting, the quality of degrees should be compromised so that ‘the crowd’ can all be awarded one, then degrees will cease to have the cachet they once had. And organisations will have to find other ways of selecting the best employees.
Ironically, they might have to do that by falling back on older, quite problematic methods: the school-tie approach, perhaps, or the question of whether your degree is from a ‘good university’ or a ‘bad university’. The hollowing out of degrees, the elevation of quantity over quality, not only robs young people of the chance to stretch their minds and seek knowledge – it also implicitly invites organisations and institutions to develop various ways to separate people into ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ categories.
With their talk of social mobility, especially for poorer students, student representatives may think they are being radical. But in truth, they are buying into the very marketisation of HE that the coalition government itself is encouraging. Furthermore, in failing to defend the traditional role of a university, these new student consumers will find that their ‘investment’ is less likely to yield either a decent education or a passport to a brighter, more brilliant future.
One in six British schools bans conkers over “elf ‘n’ safety” fears – and leapfrog and marbles are also under threat
Traditional school games such as conkers and leapfrog are dying out because over-protective teachers have irrational fears about health and safety, a survey suggests.
Researchers found that conkers have been banned from nearly one sixth of playgrounds for fear that they could cause injury or trigger a nut allergy, even though they are not nuts.
British bulldog contests have been banned from more than a quarter of playgrounds and even innocuous games such as leapfrog and marbles are going the same way.
Of 653 heads, teachers and support staff questioned, 29 per cent said British bulldog has been banned in their school, 14 per cent said pupils are forbidden from playing conkers and 9 per cent said leapfrog had been banned. Some 5 per cent said children were prevented from playing marbles and the same percentage said chasing games, such as tag, had been stopped.
The trend has been blamed on the rise in bureaucracy and red tape in schools and an increase in the number of parents who sue. Education experts have accused ‘over-zealous’ teachers of ruining childhoods.
Tim Gill, former director of the Children’s Play Council at the National Children’s Bureau, said schools have ‘forgotten how to give children a good childhood’. He added: ‘Bumps and scrapes and dealing with life’s trials are part and parcel of growing into a confident and resilient person. ‘You can only learn through experience.’
He said teachers who insist they are hampered by red tape are ‘confused’ because ‘bureaucracy barriers are not as great as they think they are’.
The reluctance of teachers to let children play has been revealed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Its research has also shown that pupils are being taken on fewer school trips due to too much form filling, a lack of time and funding, and safety fears. One primary school teacher told researchers: ‘Apparently the main problem with conkers is that nut allergy sufferers are increasingly allergic to them.’
‘Right, Perkins, I’m just going to check your pockets for any conkers’
A secondary school teacher said: ‘Bulldog is banned because of the number of broken bones it generates.’
In total, 15 per cent of those questioned said fewer playground games and sports are played at their school now than three years ago. More than half, 55 per cent, cited concerns over pupil safety as the reason. And 42 per cent said there was a fear of being sued if a child was hurt during a game. In total, 57 per cent of those questioned said there was a growing trend of ‘risk aversion’ in schools.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘Risk in any school trip or activity should be recognised, assessed and managed, rather than avoided. ‘Young people are often less safe when there is an adult saying “be careful” – they then don’t trust their own instincts.’
Peter Cornall of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said increasing numbers of children are allergic to conkers, which are the seed of the horse chestnut tree. This is not because the conker has known allergens, but because fewer children play outside and build immunity to germs that may be on conkers. But he added: ‘Teachers are taking matters too far.’
‘What about burning poppies?’ asks man jailed for setting Koran alight
Unequal justice in Britain
A man has been jailed for 70 days today after he burnt a copy of the Koran just over a month after a Muslim got away with a paltry £50 fine for a similar offence. Andrew Ryan, 32, stole a copy of the holy book from Carlisle Library then set it on fire by a monument in the city of Carlisle.
Last month Emdadur Choudhury was fined after he burned a poppy outside the Royal Albert Hall in London on Remembrance Day while shouting ‘British soldiers burn in hell’.
As he was led down to the cells, Ryan shouted at the judge at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court today: ‘What about burning poppies?’.
Police arrested Ryan shortly the Koran burning in English Street on January 19.
Sentencing him at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Gerald Chalk said: ‘This is a case of theatrical bigotry. It was pre-planned by you as you stole the book deliberately. You went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress.’
He told Ryan that people were entitled to protest but not in the manner he chose. The court heard the defendant had six public order convictions between 2002 and 2010 including racial chanting at a football match and assault with intent to resist arrest. Judge Chalk said: ‘You are a man who has a history of violence and disorderly conduct.’
Ryan pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated harassment and theft at an earlier hearing. Prior to the hearing, a Facebook page created by the ‘English Defence League Carlisle Division’ urged visitors to support ‘Division Member’ Ryan in his court appearance.
Around 10 men sat in the public gallery but walked out when District Judge Chalk announced the sentence. Comments of ‘what a joke’ and ‘call that justice’ were made as they left the courtroom. Before he was led to the cells, Ryan said: ‘What about burning poppies?’
The court was told that Ryan’s former probation officer witnessed him shouting and waving a book at Carlisle Cross outside the Old Town Hall in the city centre.
Ryan told him he intended to burn the Koran in a protest against the Muslim faith. He failed in his first attempt with matches before he succeeded with a lighter.
Ryan then continued to shout abuse about the Muslim faith as he held the burning book, before he threw it to the floor and walked away, the court heard. He then updated his Facebook page to reveal what he had done.
Margaret Payne, defending, said: ‘Mr Ryan has said to me that the incident was silly and it is not something he would do again. ‘He wants to make it clear that it was directed towards radical Islam such as the burning of poppies and flags. ‘He would certainly not want Muslim people to think he had problems with their beliefs.
‘Mr Ryan was brought up to respect the Armed Forces. Some members of his family were in the Armed Forces and he himself served in the Army between the ages of 16 and 20 in Northern Ireland.
‘What caused him to ‘lose it’ on that day was that he had been looking at a website which had shown radical people burning poppies and abusing British troops returning from abroad.’
Unemployed Ryan was also sentenced to 30 days in jail for the theft of the book, to run concurrently. Following sentencing, Inspector Paul Marshall, of Carlisle CID, said: ‘Today’s result shows how seriously we take hate crime in the county.
‘This incident was highly unusual for Cumbria as we have such low levels of hate crime in the county. ‘However, when it does occur we investigate thoroughly so that offenders, and the local community, know that hate crime will simply not be tolerated.’
The screams must have been unbearable. High on the peaks of the Pennines, a terrified group of women, teenagers and children sat huddled in the half-finished ditches and walls of their hill fort, surrounded by gloating faces.
The men were missing, either killed in battle or taken to one side to be pressed into military service or sold for slaves by their captors. But that left the less valuable women and children to be disposed of. Any pleas for clemency fell on death ears.
Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of women, babies and children were stabbed or strangled, stripped of possessions and tossed into the ditch that encircled the fort. Then their attackers toppled a 13ft-high limestone wall over their broken bodies, covering the mass grave with a litter of rocks and soil.
The full story of that gruesome day on Fin Cop in Derbyshire 2,400 years ago, and the reason why two Iron Age clans came to blows, will never be uncovered. But the discovery of nine bodies thrown carelessly in a ditch is challenging some widely-held views about life in Iron Age Britain and whether life before the Romans was quite as peaceful as some academics like to claim.
It has become fashionable to interpret Iron Age hill forts, the 3,000 circles of banks and ditches found across the country, as farming settlements or status symbols – the prehistoric equivalent of Tudor castles and 19th century stately homes.
Dr Clive Waddington, of Archaeological Research Services which uncovered the bones, believes there could be ‘dozens or hundreds’ more bodies buried on the site. Radiocarbon dating shows that the Fin cop hill fort was built around 400BC, but was destroyed before completion.
Dr Waddington’s team, assisted by hundreds of volunteers and local schoolchildren, uncovered the bodies in two sections of a ditch, created as part of the fort’s defences. They included four babies, one who was unborn, a two-year-old toddler, a teenage boy and three adults, two of whom were definitely women and one whose sex is unknown. The bodies had been thrown in the ditch and covered with rubble from a stone wall.
‘We excavated ten metres but there is 400metres of ditch around the site, and the implication is that could be dozens – if not hundreds – of bodies there,’ said Dr Waddington.
There were no personal possessions, suggesting the captors removed any valuables. Dr Waddington believes they were massacred after the hill fort was attacked and captured by a rival chieftain.
There are clues that the hill fort was created in a hurry and that the victims knew they were at risk. ‘The ditches and fort were never finished. They had started to make a second wall but that wasn’t completed,’ he said. ‘You can tell that it was a hasty thing – they were trying to rapidly build it and it was not done on time.’
Dr Waddington said archaeologists have increasingly interpreted hill forts as status symbols, not military defences. ‘But we know from Classical sources that the British were warlike,’ he said.
‘It’s true that some of the hill forts don’t make sense as strongholds because they are not built at the top of hills, or because they are overlooked. But that probably means there is truth in both views.
‘The early castles of the 11th and 12th centuries were strongholds, but the later Tudor ones, after the invention of gunpowder, were statements of status. The same is likely to be true of the Iron Age.’
Animal bones in the ditch show they farmed cattle and pigs and kept horses.
New heart attack jab even more effective than statins
Rodent data only so far
A simple injection given to patients up to 12 hours after a heart attack or stroke could reduce their devastating effects by more than half, a new study claims.
British-based scientists have produced an antibody that reduces by more than 60 per cent the physical scarring of the heart and brain after an attack. The “milestone achievement” could also be used to stop the body attacking organ transplants.
Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble, who carried out the work at Leicester University, said that it could potentially be the “biggest breakthrough ever” in the treatment of two of the biggest killers in Britain.
Heart attacks and strokes are caused by blood flow being blocked by a clot or a bleed, starving parts of the body further down stream of oxygen. But most of the permanent damage is caused later – when circulation is eventually restored – and a “default of nature” which means the body’s own defences attack the oxygen starved cells.
This effect, which kicks in around nine to 12 hours after the attack or stroke, causes massive inflammation and more than 80 per cent of the permanent damage. It is this that often leads to death and massive reduction in the quality of life of stroke and heart attack survivors.
Now the researchers at the University of Leicester have come up with an injection which they claim effectively stops the body attacking the oxygen starved cells. This allows them to start to oxygenate normally and the permanent damage is reduced significantly.
The research has been tested on mice and more advanced mammals and has also been shown to work on human blood in the laboratory. Human trials are expected to begin within two years.
“This is potentially the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes ever,” said Prof Wilhelm, an immunologist. “We could not believe what we saw and nor could the cardiologists. What is amazing is that the drug can be given so long after the attack. “Even the slowest ambulance journey in the world is going to get you to hospital within nine hours.”
Prof Schwaeble said that the treatment could have even more of an effect than statins, the cholesterol lowering drugs taken by more than two million Britons. Around 200,000 people in Britain die from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, every year.
The team first uncovered a key molecule in the process responsible for the immune attack. After identifying the enzyme – called Mannan Binding Lectin-Associated Serine Protease-2 (MASP-2) – they then developed a antibody to knock it out. The protein – code-named OMS646 – is so effective only two injections in the first week are needed to completely neutralise MASP-2 while the heart heals itself.
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
It is anticipated that the first clinical trial will be conducted in the Leicester Biomedical Research Unit, at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.