Three-quarters of health trusts refuse couples IVF treatment and some have blanket ban
Nearly three-quarters of NHS trusts are denying women IVF treatment, according to a damning report. It warns that most Primary Care Trusts have imposed strict rules on who is allowed treatment, with some refusing to fund it altogether. Women are routinely turned down if they are deemed too young, too old, too obese or even if their husband has a child from a previous marriage.
A report by MPs has found that 73 per cent of PCTs do not offer couples three courses of IVF as advised by medical watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. This means that many infertile couples have only one or two chances to conceive before they are forced to pay for treatment privately or consider other options, such as adoption.
And five trusts – Warrington, North Yorkshire and York, West Sussex, Stockport and North Staffordshire – do not offer IVF at all.
Many others impose strict age restrictions. Some will offer treatment only to women in their late 30s, when the chances of success are far lower, while others will provide it only for women in their early 30s, but those over the age of 35 will be turned down.
For example, women in Bury will be offered IVF only if they are between the ages of 39 and 40, and many health trusts in Wales provide the treatment only to those between 38.5 and 40.
But in Hampshire and Milton Keynes, women are only eligible for treatment between 30 and 34, and only those aged 30 to 35 will be offered IVF in Bournemouth and Buckinghamshire.
Leading fertility experts have accused health trusts of denying couples ‘the opportunity to start a family of their own’.
The report, by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility, used Freedom of Information requests submitted to all 152 PCTs to establish what restrictions were in place for IVF.
It found that many had strict rules on age, weight, smoking and whether either partner already had a child, regardless of whether they had contact with them. But they had no rules on alcohol and caffeine consumption, even though excessive amounts are known to reduce the chances of conceiving.
Around one couple in seven suffers from fertility problems, and 1 per cent of babies born every year in Britain were conceived via IVF.
Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford and chairman of the APPG on Infertility, said: ‘IVF is the creation of life and gives hope to thousands of infertile couples across the UK. ‘IVF treatment was invented in Britain and so, more than any other country, we should be championing its use. ‘As chairman of the APPG on Infertility, I believe that all PCTs should be offering three cycles of treatment as recommended by the Nice guidelines.’
Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said the report showed the ‘unacceptable’ status of IVF funding in the UK.
He added: ‘The findings that the majority of PCTs do not provide eligible patients with three cycles of IVF treatment and often implement their own criteria for eligibility with no evidence base unfortunately come as no surprise and bear witness to lack of funding and prominence that infertility is given by our healthcare system.
‘The World Health Organisation recognises infertility as a physical illness that requires treatment. However, it can also cause significant emotional and psychological harm to patients. ‘By not being given fair access to fertility treatment on the NHS, patients are effectively being denied the opportunity to start a family of their own.’
Many PCTs have cut back on IVF funding in the last couple of years to try to save money. They have also reduced other non-urgent treatments, such as hip and knee replacements.
The recommendations made by Nice are only guidelines, and there are no sanctions for PCTs if they do not comply.
Racist British immigration authorities
Asylum for black brute but not for white policeman
His British great-grandfather fought for his country in the Boer War and on the Somme before the family moved to Zimbabwe. Now Guy Taylor has sought refuge in Britain, fearing a return to his native land would leave him facing persecution.
But despite his pleas for asylum in this country, immigration judges have dismissed his bid and he faces being deported.
Being sent back: Former Zimbabwe police officer Guy Taylor has been refused asylum in the UK
The 31-year-old’s case has provoked fury as it follows the decision to allow one of Robert Mugabe’s former henchmen to stay in the UK indefinitely.
Phillip Machemedze was involved in ‘savage acts of extreme violence’, including smashing a man’s jaw with pliers and then pulling out his teeth. But last month it emerged an immigration tribunal ruled he cannot be sent back to Zimbabwe, as he fears for his human rights and could face torture.
Mr Taylor, by contrast, fears he could be deported within weeks.
He was born in Zimbabwe but his great-grandfather was Welsh and served in the Army during the First World War. His mother’s great-grandfather was born in Dublin and emigrated to South Africa at the turn of the last century.
In his asylum claim, Mr Taylor said that as a former policeman and member of the opposition MDC party he would be targeted by the Zimbabwean authorities who would suspect him of being a British spy. He left the police in 2000 after it came under the influence of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party and came to Britain in 2005, where his sister lives.
But judges dismissed his case, saying they were not convinced he was a member of the MDC and that his ‘credibility’ is damaged as he lived here illegally for two years after his visitor visa expired.
Last night Mr Taylor said: ‘If I go back there I will be persecuted. ‘I fear for my safety. They are notorious for their brutality. ‘I was taken aback that this man, this torturer, can be allowed to stay in the UK and I’m not. I have got a genuine claim for asylum. ‘I have put my fears across, I have proved what’s going to happen to me, but they won’t listen.’
By contrast, Machemedze has won his case and – failing a successful appeal by the Home Office – will be allowed to stay here indefinitely. The 46-year-old former member of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation inflicted horrific injuries on Mugabe’s political opponents.
He came to Britain in 2000 but didn’t claim asylum for another eight years. His wife has been granted asylum and the couple live in Bristol.
Britain’s cotton-candy council workers
Frail pensioner paid council to remove old TV… and was ordered to drag it outside herself so workmen didn’t injure themselves
When 85-year-old Charlotte Cubitt decided to get rid of her old television, she thought it would be a straightforward process.
Although the set was far too heavy for the pensioner to move on her own, her local council offered an £11 removal service which seemed the ideal solution.
But then she hit a snag. On contacting the council, she was told by an official that staff could not enter her home and pick up the set – because of health and safety regulations. Instead, she was told she would have to drag it to the kerbside for collection.
Mrs Cubitt, from Colchester in Essex, was outraged. She said yesterday: ‘They told me I would have to put the TV outside my house because health and safety concerns prevented the men from carrying it out of the house. ‘I have seen these men and they are generally quite hefty and are employed because of their ability to handle heavy sacks of rubbish.
‘Countless times I have watched a man pick up five or six black bags – sometimes even more – and then stagger across the road to the assembly point. ‘What would be the risk of taking a TV from my house to carry it a couple of yards to sit on the kerb to await collection?’
Officials from Colchester Borough Council had suggested that the pensioner ask neighbours if they were willing to help.
But Mrs Cubitt, who still has the unwanted old-style set, said: ‘Would I be responsible if the neighbour suffered an injury? ‘I don’t understand it because the council must have insurance that would cover them, although I think it unlikely someone would be hurt carrying a television out to the road.’
The council’s deputy leader Martin Hunt, who also holds the portfolio for street and waste services, said: ‘The council is unable to collect items from inside the property because of possible insurance claims. ‘The council considers it the responsibility of the resident or their family to take the item to the agreed collection location.’
In February, the council was involved in another health and safety row when workers were banned from taking rubbish out of wheelie bins in case of injuries.
British review: ‘parents must not be ridiculed’ for complaining
Parents must feel free from “the fear of ridicule or appearing a prude” for complaining about their children being confronted by sexual imagery or commercial pressures, a report commissioned by the Government has concluded.
Parents will be encouraged to make a stand against companies, especially retailers, advertisers and broadcasters that cross the boundaries of decency. A special website designed where they can register their concerns will be set up within the next few weeks.
However, the report, which has been warmly welcomed by David Cameron, relies entirely on regulators and companies to adopt a voluntary approach, leading to some critics to say the report does not go far enough to put the brakes on “an unthinking drift towards ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation.”
The wide-ranging review has called for companies and regulators, especially Ofcom, in charge of broadcasting, to adopt a variety of measures to curb the worst of the television, music and advertising industries excesses including inappropriately raunchy performances by pop stars on family shows such as the X-Factor. It has also instigating a one-stop website which can be used by parents to register complaints and find out information.
“We need parents to be parents,” said Reg Bailey, who authored the report. “We want it to be more socially acceptable for parents and others to say that they are not happy about aspects of sexualisation and commercialisation, without fearing ridicule or appearing out of touch.”
The key recommendations suggest that advertising billboards within at least 100 metres of schools and nurseries do not display sexual imagery; music videos will have a cinema-style rating; retailers should not sell lacy, black or underwired bras to under-12s as well as no longer stocking thongs and T-shirts for toddlers with inappropriate slogans such as “future WAG” or “Dive In”.
So-called lads magazines such as Nuts and Zoo should either be sold on the top shelf or have their front cover images covered up in a “modesty sleeve”; consumers should be given the option when buying, or first turning on, a smart phone to block any adult material; and companies should no longer be allowed to pay children to promote their products in schools.
However, questions have immediately been raised about the voluntary approach, which relies on companies agreeing to change their behaviour and regulators to adopt a more censorious attitude.
Bhs, Matalan and Primark, all major childrenswear retailers are not part of the British Retail Consortium, which has been responsible for drawing up the code for stopping the sale of inappropriate clothing.
The Mothers Union, the Christian charity of which Reg Bailey is the chief executive, was one of the bodies to question whether the report was robust enough.
Rosemary Kempsell, the charity’s president, said: “We cannot agree with the review that a purely consensual approach will be the most effective and that further regulation or legislation would necessarily disempower parents.
“As the review points out several times, parents want help and support to address the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, and Government intervention is one way of achieving this. We should not be afraid to challenge industry when the welfare of our children, and their future, is at stake.”
Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, who commissioned the report, defended the voluntary approach: “One solution will not fix it.
“You don’t always change things by regulation. That’s not to say we rule out regulation. The Prime Minister has already said we will come back to this in 18 months time.” She added that she hoped the retailers that had not signed up to the pledges would follow suit.
She and Mr Bailey both admitted it would difficult for parents to “put the brakes on” when it was impossible to define “inappropriate” or “sexual” when deciding whether a advertising billboard could or could not be placed near a school.
Mr Bailey said: “It would have been very easy to get bogged down with definitions of how many metres from a school or what is a sexualised image.
“What we have tried to do is put power back in parent’s hands and let them decide. There will always be a range of views. One person’s view of what is acceptable is another’s persons unacceptable.”
He said the most important thing was for parents to feed back and complain to the regulators.
Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, is to be encouraged to take into account the concerns of parents when deciding what is and is not appropriate before the watershed. Many, Mr Bailey said, had expressed concern about the 2010 X Factor final, which sparked controversy with its sexualised performances from pop stars Rihanna and Christina Aguilera.
“That really came back very strongly that a programme that was essentially family viewing, a lot of parents felt very uneasy about some of the acts on there,” he said of the hit ITV talent show.
At last, an Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge
A private university that will take on the cream of the rejects is a simply brilliant idea, writes Boris Johnson
A few years ago, I met a man who was almost in tears of rage at the injustice that had been done to his son. I was trying to sneak out of some drinks party when he started telling me about this prodigy. His A-level scorecard was perfect; he held colours for rugby; he had been captain of the school debating team, keeper of the philately club, editor of the magazine – and yet he had been turned down by the dons of virtually every top university in the country.
What was going on, wailed my friend. This kind of thing never happened in his day, he said; and he went on to speculate that there was some kind of secret Pol Pot-style persecution of the children of the bourgeoisie. Since then I have heard many similar complaints about university admissions procedures (and I bet you have, too), and after one particularly harrowing conversation with a disappointed mum I had an idea for a brilliant business venture – a new institution that would be both socially responsible and immensely financially lucrative. I would found Reject’s College, Oxbridge. That is to say, I would find investors for a new elite academic institution, aimed squarely at the wrathful parents – many of them Oxbridge graduates – who simply could not understand how their own offspring could rack up three A-stars and grade 8 bassoon, and yet find themselves turned down.
In my mind’s eye I could see exactly how it would work: we’d get some dusty old goods yard at the back of Oxford or Cambridge. We’d turn it into a gorgeous neo-classical quadrangle, designed by Robert Adam or someone like that. We would have a prospectus full of the Reject’s College arms (Floreant Rejecti) and the lawns with snaggle-toothed lecturers leering at their pupils over a bottle of chilled white wine.
We would vindicate the principles of academic freedom, as famously outlined by Justice Felix Frankfurter, of the US Supreme Court, in 1957. That is to say, we – and I saw myself as provost or master – would decide what should be taught, how it should be taught, and whom to admit for study, and we would decide all these things on academic grounds and academic grounds alone.
Apart from that, I am afraid I was a bit vague about how exactly Reject’s College would work. So you can imagine my joy yesterday when I saw that someone had not only had my idea, but had gone one better: he had found the cash and the backing to make it happen. “Top dons to create new Oxbridge” was a headline to gladden the heart of many a grieving parent and frustrated academic. In fact, the whole thing is such unambiguously good news that I scarcely know where to begin.
It is the brainchild of Prof A C Grayling, who certainly looks and writes like a philosopher (I seem to remember some good stuff on Russell and Wittgenstein), but who turns out to have a Bransonesque practical flair. Together with Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson, Sir Christopher Ricks and various other academic superstars, he is setting up a New College of the Humanities, based in Bloomsbury.
They have found the premises, they will start taking applications from next month, and the first one-on-one Oxbridge-style tutorials will take place in autumn 2012. They will ultimately have 1,000 undergraduates, all of whom will be expected to achieve a minimum three As at A level to get in; and since this will mean a whole new higher education institution for London, so lengthening our lead as the university capital of the world, I thought it would not be too pompous if I rang up Prof Grayling to congratulate him.
He explained that the idea had first occurred to him years ago, when he was tutor for admissions at an Oxbridge college. “For every person we admitted, we turned away 12, each of whom could have done outstandingly well at the university,” he said. The trouble with Britain today, he said, was that we simply didn’t have enough elite university provision – and especially not in the humanities subjects, where teaching budgets are under such pressure.
It was absurd, he argued, that so many of our young people are going off to America to do their degrees, and he is surely right. The shortage of places in top universities is now so acute that we have 10,000 UK school leavers a year who are spending $60,000 a year on Animal House-style frat parties on the Podunk Liberal Arts Campus or other American colleges. That cash could be going into the hard-pressed British system.
Which brings us to the key question. Prof Grayling’s New College for the Humanities is going to charge a staggering £18,000 for tuition alone, and that is before we have come to the accommodation costs. How on earth are people going to afford it? He has a ready answer, in that he and his colleagues want to see 30 per cent of undergraduates receive some help with their fees, and a large proportion will have full scholarships, funded either charitably or from the fees of those who can afford to pay. It is this strong commitment to attracting students from disadvantaged families that has earned the project the support of such famous lefties as Prof Linda Colley and Sir David Cannadine.
This is not an attempt to replace the existing taxpayer-funded system or to “privatise” the universities. It is about getting more cash into the teaching of the humanities, and about additional elite provision. It is about creating a new and different model for university education, side by side with the existing system. If well handled, it could be just as successful in widening “access” as any of the current outreach programmes being pursued by other universities. It is the boldest experiment in higher education since the University of Buckingham was founded in 1983, and it fully deserves to succeed and to be imitated.
If academics are fed up with the tyranny of the Research Assessment Exercise; if they are demoralised by endless government attacks on their admissions procedures; if they feel they are being scapegoated for the weaknesses of the schools, then the New College for the Humanities shows the way. Three cheers for A C Grayling.
Make mine a Subway: Turkey sandwich diet helps British father-of-two lose five stones
A fast food fan has lost a staggering five stone in nine months by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. Carsten Renken, 41, ditched his diet of burgers, fried chicken and microwave meals after doctors warned him that he was dangerously overweight.
He made the unusual decision to eat nothing but six-inch club sandwiches filled with turkey, ham, beef and salad for lunch and dinner. Each sandwich contains 298 calories.
Mr Renken has managed to drop from 16st 8lbs [224lb] last September to 11st [154lb] today. Meanwhile his waistline shrank from 44in to 31in.
The father-of-two from Coventry, said: ‘I live a busy life so convenience was the only option, but I’ve found a fast food that works for me. ‘I couldn’t face totally giving up fast food. We all have our vices and this is mine.
‘I like Subway sandwiches but it’s important that people know I’m totally independent of the chain. I’m not doing this for money or free Subs. I’m doing this because obesity is a growing problem and I want to share my success story with everyone. ‘I want people to know that although fast food can cause the problem, it can be your way out of it too.’
The father-of-two used to consume up to 5,000 calories per day – almost twice the recommended daily allowance for men. But he knew it was time to tackle his spiraling weight during a holiday in Sweden when his 13-year-old daughter said he was the fattest man at the resort.
Mr Renken’s breakfast used to consist of a double sausage and egg McMuffin with a substantial side-order of hash browns and fries.
Lunch would be a feast of KFC fillet tower burgers or two double-bacon cheeseburgers from Burger King.
For dinner, he would munch on fatty microwave meals or indulge in large greasy portions of chips from the local chippy.
But Mr Renken is now on ‘first name terms’ with staff at his local Subway branch in Coventry.
Store manager David Rollason, 25, said: ‘Carsten has been coming here for so many months now and we always know what his order will be. ‘We’re his local Subway and he knows the service is quick. He has become a very familiar face and we always enjoy a bit of banter with each other. ‘When he first started coming here, he was very overweight, but when you line up a picture of him now with one of him then, the difference is amazing. ‘His weight loss has been so dramatic.’
Kathy Cowbrough, Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist, said: ‘What Mr Renken has done is what most people need to do to lose weight – cut the amount he is eating by controlling his portions. For him it’s made easy by having the same thing every day where he knows how that he is consuming 1,100 calories a day.
‘For weight loss depending on a person’s energy needs we recommend a deficit of 500 calories per day and aim for around 1200-1500 calories.
‘However, it would be worth him keeping a food diary and comparing it with the Eatwell plate as this gives guidance on proportions of food groups to eat to give the body the nutrients it needs. This way he can make sure he is not missing out on any crucial food groups.’