Patients ‘at risk’ at flagship children’s hospital, warn leaked papers
And a lot of the problems trace to the fact that the chief executive, Jane Collins, is a nickel-plated bitch. But she is supported by some colleagues who share her bureaucratic mentality or who fear her wrath
The crisis at the world’s most famous children’s hospital have been laid bare by damning leaked documents. In emails, letters and secret internal reports, consultants at Great Ormond Street Hospital say that vital medical services have been “destroyed,” patient safety is “at risk” and they have been “harassed and targeted” by management for raising their concerns.
In one of the leaked letters, Dr Cathy Owens, one of the world’s most eminent child radiologists and herself a Great Ormond Street consultant, says there is a “culture of fear” in the hospital with “malicious and vexatious targeting” of doctors who complain. She says her department is in a “dire situation” after steep job cuts and a number of experienced consultants being forced from their posts.
Dr Owens is the current general secretary, and former president, of the European Society of Paediatric Radiology.
Radiology – the use of X-rays, ultrasound, MRI scans and other imaging to diagnose and treat diseases – lies at the heart of any hospital and the leaked documents make clear that the problems are having serious knock-on effects on many other areas. However, the shortcomings are not confined to one department.
Official reports produced by the hospital itself, and also seen by The Sunday Telegraph, say that there are “serious and ongoing problems” at Great Ormond Street with “significant implications for clinical care.”
One report, a risk register dated 26 April this year, states that the hospital has “serious” difficulties with paying its bills. This has, says the document, resulted in “suppliers putting us on hold and refusing to deliver further stock” with “significant implications for clinical care, particularly [in] haemophilia and laboratory medicine.”
The report says that the hospital suffers from an “ongoing lack” of basic medical equipment, including intravenous fluid pumps, feeding pumps and “vital signs monitoring equipment.” It describes this as a “high” risk to patient safety.
The report also says that demand for the hospital’s services “exceeds [its] capacity,” with “patients being refused,” “delays in children commencing [treatment]” and “children not treated in designated clinical areas.” Sources said that some children had to be treated in corridors or waiting rooms.
Doctors in the hospital’s intensive care unit, which featured in a recent BBC documentary series, are understood to have expressed serious concern about the lack of night emergency cover.
Christine Hall, emeritus professor at Great Ormond Street, and a former consultant at the hospital who remains in close contact with colleagues there, said: “They and I have grave concerns about the management at the hospital, which has failed on all levels from the top down, fostered a divisive atmosphere and failed patients, who are not getting the treatment they need. I have been told of patients where the lack of communication has resulted in mishaps.
“It was a fantastic place, but its reputation has become tarnished. I speak to other clinicians around the country, and they all ask: what is going on there?”
Professor Hall said that the radiology department had “declined from a former centre of excellence to a general level of mediocrity” with “devastating effects on the very patients we are meant to care about.”
Great Ormond Street is already under serious pressure for its failings in the Baby P case. It employed the doctors at the Haringey clinic where an inexperienced locum consultant missed the fact that baby Peter Connolly had a broken back.
The year before he died, one of the permanent consultants at the clinic, Dr Kim Holt, was removed from her job after warning of the “very high risk” of a tragedy at the understaffed clinic. The hospital subsequently tried to silence her with a £120,000 payoff, which she refused. Dr Holt has since received an apology from Great Ormond Street, though she has still not been reinstated.
Last month, the Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, who is Dr Holt’s MP, called on Great Ormond Street’s chief executive, Jane Collins, to resign after it emerged that the hospital had edited an internal investigation into the Baby P case to remove key criticisms of itself.
In an editorial the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, said: “If Great Ormond Street’s management team had been in Wigan they would almost certainly have departed by now. Perhaps Great Ormond Street is just too important to be seen to fail, even when a child dies.”
In this week’s edition of The Lancet, an anonymous group of Great Ormond Street consultants calls for “strong ministerial intervention” and an independent inquiry, adding: “We are alarmed about the way in which senior management has treated individuals who have voiced concerns, not just in the case of Baby P, but also in relation to other clinical risks within the Trust.”
This is believed to be a reference to Dr Owens, who was targeted in a similar way to Dr Holt, according to her letter. After raising concerns, says the letter, she was accused of wrongly claiming car parking and congestion charge expenses, which she denies, and subjected to an official investigation.
She remains in her job, however. “What has happened to her has been absolutely appalling and unbelievable,” said Professor Hall. Dr Owens declined to comment last night.
In radiology, the official risk register appears to substantiate Dr Owens’ concerns. It says that following the departures of experienced staff the skills available are “not adequate to cover [the] demands” on the service. It says the problem is particularly acute in musculo-skeletal radiology, a specialism which covers child abuse cases, known as “non-accidental injuries.”
In an email circulated last year, a Great Ormond Street consultant says the hospital is now in the “extraordinary” position of having a radiology department with “no-one to reliably report on non-accidental injuries.” The musculo-skeletal service “has been destroyed,” the consultant says, causing “deep unhappiness” for staff who are “struggling with a huge workload.”
Another consultant at the hospital told The Sunday Telegraph: “It is very difficult work because children’s bones don’t necessarily follow the book. It needs expertise and experience, and without it a natural anatomical variant [in a child’s bone] might be misdiagnosed as a fracture – or the other way round. Diagnosing child abuse where none exists is devastating for families. Failing to diagnose it where it has taken place is devastating for the child. There are clear risks for the users of this service.”
Although Great Ormond Street still enjoys high standing among the general public, its quality rating has been steadily downgraded in recent years by the NHS inspectorate, the Care Quality Commission, from “excellent” to “good” to “fair.”
Ms Featherstone said: “These latest disclosures are consistent with everything I know from my own three years closely following the hospital. They only strengthen my belief that Great Ormond Street needs a new start.”
A hospital spokesman said the dissent was coming from only a “minority of consultants” and inisted that there was “no evidence that anyone has been targeted for raising concerns.” He said Great Ormond Street was introducing five new beds to address capacity problems and planned to “speed up finance and obtain more equipment.”
He added: “We absolutely deny that there is any climate of fear and absolutely reject the characterisation of the [radiology] department and its service, which will anger nearly all its staff.” The hospital says the department “at least matches that of any other children’s hospital.”
Seven Great Ormond Street consultants have written a counter-letter to the Lancet insisting that “the large majority” of departments at Great Ormond Street “are happy and feel supported by hospital management.”
Ms Collins, who last year fought off an attempted no-confidence vote by 40 Great Ormond Street consultants, called a meeting of her supporters last week, at which she received a standing ovation.
In an email to medical staff the next day, the BMA representative at Great Ormond Street, Dr Steve White, who was present, said the “unseemly” and “triumphalist” end to the event had left him “ashamed of the institution where I work” for the first time in a 30-year career in medicine.
“We would have done well to mark the end of the meeting by standing in dignified silence to respect the memory of Baby Peter and in quiet contemplation of the fact that we failed him utterly,” Dr White said. “Any member of the general public who witnessed the last five minutes of the meeting would have been absolutely appalled.”
On the 200th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon, why won’t Britain be celebrating Waterloo?
The 200th anniversary of Waterloo, one of Britain’s greatest military triumphs, will pass with barely a murmur of commemoration, according to details slipped out by ministers.
There will be no national celebration of the battle in which Napoleon was finally overthrown to mark its bicentennial in four years.
Instead, there will be only ‘initiatives’ at army museums and ‘some commemorative activity’ at former homes of the Duke of Wellington, who led the British into battle.
The decision to play down the anniversary in June 2015 contrasts with the major events organised to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007.
They included a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and an apology on behalf of the nation by then prime minister Tony Blair.
It also appears to be a retreat from the attitude to the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005, which was widely celebrated.
Yesterday MPs and peers condemned the failure to mark the Waterloo anniversary. Lord Laird, the crossbench Ulster peer who drew the admission from ministers, said: ‘I am disappointed. There should be a national event about Waterloo. It would be good for tourism and teaching history.
‘People who don’t understand history are like children, doomed to be always going round in circles.’
Waterloo, fought a few miles south of Brussels on June 18, 1815, marked the final destruction of Napoleon’s army and the end of his bloody 16-year reign as dictator of France and much of Europe. Often regarded as the
British Army’s greatest victory under its greatest general, it led to a generation of peace in Europe and kept Britain free of war on the continent for a century.
Baroness Rawlings, a junior minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is in charge of marking the anniversary, told peers: ‘Initiatives are being organised by a number of national and regional military museums to mark the occasion, including the National Army Museum and relevant regimental museums, which come under the remit of the Ministry of Defence.’
She added: ‘There is also likely to be some commemorative activity at associated heritage sites such as Apsley House, the home of the Duke of Wellington, and Walmer Castle.’
Critics of the low-key approach believe underplaying the significance of the event may be influenced by apprehensions over the reaction in France and modern-day Brussels, where some regard Napoleon as a champion of European unity.
Education expert Robert Whelan, from the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘Waterloo is a battle of the most immense importance, not just for the Britain, but for the whole of Europe.
‘Britain was fighting a dictator who had conquered Europe with a loss of life comparable to that in the Second World War. If we had not resisted, history would have been very different.
‘Why are we not thinking of building something like the Millennium Dome to mark the event? You can hardly overstate its importance.’
Tory MP and former Army officer Julian Brazier said: ‘The French co-operated in the celebrations of the Trafalgar anniversary. Sometimes people who think the French do not like us to commemorate our military victories mistake the psyche of that nation.’
A spokesman for the DCMS said: ‘A Government-endorsed Waterloo 200 committee, which includes historians and other interested parties, has been established for a number of years and is considering how the anniversary might be marked.’
“Climategate”: The Muir Russell inquiry was in the pocket of the UEA — whom they were supposed to be investigating
And in the best Green/Left tradition, the UEA lied about that. A short excerpt below
More developments from Bishop Hill on the strange relationship between the University of East Anglia and the supposedly “independent” Muir Russell review. On yet another occasion, the University gave untrue answers in order to avoid FOI disclosure, an untrue answer that led to several follow-up FOI requests that they were unable to subvert, but which ultimately showed the mendacity of the original refusal.
In this case, the original request from David Holland in December 2010 (see CA post here) was for the documents, that “in the view of the University, comprises the contractual basis under which Sir Muir and his team operated and under which the University was contractually obliged to pay the sums that you have disclosed”. The request was not limited to Muir Russell, but included, for example, the retainer of professionals, including Luther Pendragon and lawyers.
Please provide me copies of the Correspondence between the University and Sir Muir Russell that, in the view of the University, comprises the contractual basis under which Sir Muir and his team operated and under which the University was contractually obliged to pay the sums that you have disclosed of what, I assume, is taxpayers money.
Please advise me as to how the disbursements were made. For instance, were the fees of the legal advisors paid directly by the University? If not who paid and how were they reimbursed.
In its response, the University denied the existence of relevant documents:
The University does not consider that there was a contractual relationship with Sir Muir Russell or the inquiry team; it was by way of a public appointment (as is commonplace in these circumstances). Nonetheless, it may be helpful to you in understanding the terms on which the appointment was made if we refer you to the agreed terms of reference (see: http://www.ccereview.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT.pdf, p.22)
In the past, we’ve speculated on what the Climate Change Email Review was as a legal entity – most of which has resulted from disinformation from the University of East Anglia.
After examining the invoices, invoice approval process and invoice payment process, I don’t think that there can be any serious doubt as to the legal status of the Climate Change Email Review: that it was nothing more than a university committee with outside members.
We now know (and while we may have suspected this, we did not “know” this) that the Review did not have a bank account nor did it invoice the university for interim payments nor did it pay its members according to invoices and then re-invoice the university. It bore no marks of independent legal existence.
As a comparison, consider the Investigation Committee formed by Penn State in respect to Mann. Let’s suppose that such an Investigation Committee established a mailing address in a separate building. That wouldn’t establish a legal existence for the Investigation Committee separate from the University. Suppose now that the Investigation Committee included members from another university or from a professional society. It still remains a university committee with outside consultants. Same thing applies here even when all the members are outside consultants.
The invoices show that the Muir Russell Email Review was a university committee with outside members. Muir Russell was nothing more than a consultant to the university with a fee agreement. The university directly paid all invoices sent to the committee and, in many cases (as shown above) the invoices were directly approved and paid within the registrar’s office.
British Government invests £670,000 trying to create strawberry resistant to climate change
Wouldn’t it be simpler to let strawberry cultivation move further North? And Florida strawberry growers will be amazed to hear that strawberries don’t grown in warm climates. I kinda think that importing a few cultivars from Florida would cost a lot less than £670,000
Scientists are trying to create new types of strawberries which are resistant to climate change to ensure the fruit stays at the top of Britain’s summer menu. Consumer demand for fresh strawberries in the UK has been growing since the early 1990s and at Wimbledon alone, tennis fans consume an estimated 60,000lb during the fortnight-long tennis tournament.
Now scientists at East Malling Research are attempting to develop new varieties of strawberries which are better able to cope with the predicted impacts of rising temperatures in the UK, including hotter, drier summers. It is hoped the new types of strawberry will need less water and chemicals to grow, reducing their environmental impact.
The Environment Department, which is funding the research, said varieties were being bred by crossing UK and foreign types of strawberries with traits such as being more disease resistant, producing a large amount of fruit or tolerance to higher temperatures. The new strawberries are being grown in field trials and assessed in the £670,000 research project.
Dr David Simpson, from East Malling Research, said: ‘Consumer demand for fresh strawberries in the UK has been growing year-on-year since the early 1990s. ‘The British growers have done a great job of increasing their productivity to satisfy demand between April and October.
‘The future will be challenging due to the impacts of climate change and the withdrawal of many pesticides, but the breeding programme at EMR is using the latest scientific approaches to develop a range of varieties that will meet the needs of our growers for the future.’
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: ‘Strawberries are quite simply the taste of the summer, as inherently British as Wimbledon itself. ‘Innovative research such as this may revolutionise the way we grow the nation’s favourite berry.’
Has Warmism lost its way?
Even The Guardian (below) seems to think so: “Anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, anti-flying: the green movement may have alienated more people than it has won over, and there are now calls for a new kind of environmentalism”
In 2008 prizewinning environmentalist author Mark Lynas experienced a “eureka moment”. Reading the hostile comments underneath an article outlining his objections to GM foods on the Guardian website, he decided his critics were probably right.
A couple of years later, Lynas had another eureka moment when he read Stewart Brand’s book, Whole Earth Discipline, in which the American writer tore up the green rulebook and came out in favour of urbanisation, nuclear power and genetic engineering. A few months ago, Lynas appeared in a TV documentary, What the Green Movement Got Wrong, alongside Brand – and inside the ruins of Chernobyl which, he argued, had not been nearly as devastating a disaster as most people think.
Next week Lynas publishes a new book, The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans, in which he takes his argument with the green movement a step further. The book accuses the greens of having helped cause climate change through their opposition to nuclear power, and calls this a “gargantuan error, and one that will echo down the ages”.
“Anyone who still marches against nuclear today,” he writes, “as many thousands of people did in Germany following the Fukushima accident, is in my view just as bad for the climate as textbook eco-villains like the big oil companies.”
The idea for Lynas’s new book came to him in another “moment of revelation” two years ago. Lynas, who is a part-time climate adviser to the Maldives government (he is also a visiting researcher at Oxford university), was invited to sit in on the meetings of a group of scientists in Sweden. The group were aiming to flesh out the concept of “planetary boundaries”, coined by sustainability expert Johan Rockström.
The best-known of these so-called boundaries is the climate-change one – the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But there are boundaries too for biodiversity, nitrogen, and ocean acidification. The idea is that, beyond these limits, Earth’s systems will begin to break down.
Lynas’s revelation was that these new rules about how to live on Earth should immediately replace many older green ideas, and over drinks he and Rockström agreed that Lynas would write a book with the aim of popularising them. But the most attention-grabbing passages in the book come in Lynas’s denunciations of the green movement, and when we talk he makes no attempt to play them down. Instead he draws my attention to his blog, where over the past fortnight he has enthusiastically joined in attacks on a recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on renewable energy. And he argues that “the green movement in itself is dying – I’m an environmentalist but not a green”.
Lynas, who describes himself as a “recovering activist”, was involved in direct action in his student days. He joined protests against the Newbury bypass and Manchester airport, and was heavily involved in the anti-GM movement of the 1990s, ripping up sweetcorn and sugarbeet crops from fields in East Anglia, and on occasion being chased by police and police dogs.
But is he a maverick iconoclast, stirring up controversy for the media by turning on his old allies? Or are the views expressed in his book symptomatic of broader divisions?
Eighteen months after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, there are signs of wider frustration. With no sign of progress in setting global emissions limits, a steady stream of reports gives cause for alarm to those who are already worried. Last week it was the turn of the oceans, with a warning about pollution and overfishing, last month a sudden upsurge in Amazon deforestation. This week climate sceptic Michele Bachmann launched her bid to become the next US president, while the EU was forced to put off a vote toughening emissions targets following reports that Tory MEPs were planning to reject it.
“People think that getting some publicity, having some tea with a minister and civil servants, lobbying parliamentarians, is making a difference, but it’s not,” says Charles Secrett, the former Friends of the Earth director who two weeks ago wrote an article accusing the organisation of being bureaucratic and out of touch. “Protest ain’t going to win the day. Nor is a sort of incremental engagement with government and industry. The movement as a whole has got to collaborate more, pool resources – money, staff, ideas – and generate real cross-party pressure.”
Novelist Ian McEwan spent years researching renewable energy for his 2010 novel, Solar, and says when he began “there was a positive mood for action, a public awakening. Now I think everyone has fallen back to sleep. Copenhagen was something of a fiasco, and the UEA emails didn’t help. And the ideological deniers are well organised. At this point I don’t see change coming from a bottom-up process, from a kind of peasants’ revolt. I think the consumer moment has passed and people have got bored.”
This feeling of a missed opportunity, and of 2009 as a high-water mark in public engagement with the issues, finds many echoes. Though activists trumpet their recent successes in having seen off the third runway at Heathrow and a new fleet of coal-fired power stations, as well as helping persuade David Cameron to commit the UK to a strict timetable for cutting emissions, they admit that disappointment after Copenhagen, and uncertainty about the future, have been difficult to manage.
Tamsin Omond of direct action group Climate Rush remembers this is a heady time. “2009 was the year we said we would do one action a month, and we did. Everyone saw this as the one chance and the feeling of momentum – that we only had to work really hard until December, and then we could have a rest – was really present. Everything we did would get in the papers and journalists were phoning up all the time. I was completely caught up in it.”
I was caught up in it myself: in 2009 I joined the Green party and stood as a candidate in a council byelection a few months before Caroline Lucas was elected Britain’s first Green MP. It was the year Age of Stupid director Franny Armstrong had the idea for 10:10, on her way to a debate with Ed Miliband, and launched the campaign at Tate Modern and in a special issue of G2. And it was the year newspapers around the world, led by the Guardian in an unprecedented gesture of editorial solidarity, printed the same leading article demanding action on global warming on their front pages.
Post-Copenhagen, consensus is harder to find. The recent ructions boil down to three issues. The first is nuclear power, with Guardian columnist George Monbiot, former Greenpeace director Stephen Tindale and McEwan among those to agree with Lynas that atomic energy is vital if we are to wean the world off fossil fuels.
Another disagreement is summed up by Charles Secrett’s complaints about Friends of the Earth. Some activists believe that the big, long-established NGOs need to get better at mobilising their supporters and achieving a greater degree of focus and coordination, as well as building up links with nimbler and more dynamic direct-action campaigns.
But the biggest issue of all is the nature of environmental politics. Is the green movement a leftwing, anti-capitalist movement? Mark Lynas believes it is, and that those who style themselves as greens should be marginalised and allowed to die off so that they can be replaced by a new breed of market-friendly environmentalists like him. “If it becomes a culture war like the debate over abortion or something, you can’t win,” he says. “I want an environmental movement that is happy with capitalism, which goes out there and says yes rather than no, and is rigorous about the way it treats science. The green movement needs a clause-four moment – the Labour party had to go through that.”
Those within the green mainstream reject this analysis outright. Jonathon Porritt argues that social justice is intrinsic to the sustainability agenda, while Greenpeace director John Sauven points out that the charity has worked closely with all the main political parties in Britain and with multinational corporations abroad. “It’s a very broad camp, isn’t it? On the one hand you’ve got the anti-capitalists, and then you’ve got quite a strong body within the Conservative party that takes the environmental agenda very seriously – John Gummer’s quality of life report was an excellent piece of work.”
He believes Lynas over-eggs the nuclear point, and that the power of the economic and political interests aligned against change – above all the US fossil fuel lobby – must be understood. Others point out that there is already a strong emphasis on green growth and development, and the economic opportunity represented by the new industrial revolution that we need to carry us into a post-carbon world.
But Lynas is not alone in believing that the intense focus on aviation has been offputting, and there is general agreement that Britain must learn from the US, where many Tea Party supporters believe climate science is a socialist conspiracy. This week energy minister Greg Barker suggested that a debate started by Margaret Thatcher had been hijacked by the centre left.
Campaigners cite the Heathrow and forestry protests as examples of what a broader coalition of interests can achieve if they go about it in the right way. Climate Rush’s Tamsin Omond coordinated a “Saving the Forests” letter to the Daily Telegraph with The Lady editor Rachel Johnson, and says: “If we haven’t been good enough at appealing to people across the board then we are missing a trick. We are all on the same planet, we have a ballooning population, diminishing resources and a changing climate, and we really need to grow up and see the situation for what it is. You can say these things to people who have never voted anything other than Tory. I have said them and I don’t think it’s impossible at all. We need to be talking to everyone.”
McEwan says the green movement is not to blame if climate change has slipped down the agenda. “I think it’s got a lot to do with human nature. Most issues have a narrative, with the sense of an ending or resolution – the referendum is passed, the government falls – but this really is a lifetime story, and not just our lifetime, but our children’s and their children’s. We are decades away from the point where we say, ‘We’ve finally deflected the rising curve of Co2 emissions, so let’s have one last push to fix it for good.’ We’ve made no impact on this rising curve as yet, and it’s hard to keep interest and optimism alive.”
And he adds: “I’ve never voted for the Tories, but I’d make my judgments at the next general election based entirely on the respective parties’ attitudes and intentions in matters of climate change. This is the overwhelming issue that encloses all others. If Cameron and friends came up with a more feasible and effective plan than Miliband, then I would have to vote for it. I think that’s all we, as citizens, can do.”
British Health and Safety fears are ‘taking the joy out of playtime’
Misguided “jobsworths” have turned playgrounds into joyless no-go zones and risk harming children’s education for fear of being sued, the chairman of the Health and Safety Executive has warned.
Bureaucrats were using health and safety rules as a “feeble” excuse to stop people enjoying themselves, Judith Hackitt told The Daily Telegraph. “Cynical” authorities employed them as cover for cost-cutting, she added.
“The creeping culture of risk-aversion and fear of litigation also puts at risk our children’s education and preparation for adult life,” she said. “Children today are denied – often on spurious health and safety grounds – many of the formative experiences that shaped my generation. “Playgrounds have become joyless, for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring.”
Miss Hackitt said the “gloves are off” and her organisation would target officials or employers who wrongly used health and safety to stop everyday activities. “In many cases, the people behind these unreasonable rulings are well-meaning but misguided jobsworths. They may have the public interest at heart but they simply make the wrong call,” she said.
“But a trend of far more concern to me is the use of health and safety as a convenient excuse by employers and other organisations cynically looking for a way to disguise their real motives.” These included concerns over the cost or complexity of an activity, requirements for insurance, and, “most of all”, a fear of being sued for personal injury.
That had nothing to do with health and safety law and but related to the rise of no-win, no-fee claims, she added.
A litany of what she called “daft decisions” in recent years has included ordering children to wear goggles to play conkers, banning running at a pancake race and stopping firefighters using the station pole.
Miss Hackitt’s intervention came as Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, told teachers yesterday not to cancel school trips because of “misguided” concerns. The Department for Education cut its guidance on health and safety for schools from 150 pages to eight.
Miss Hackitt spoke to the Telegraph after publicly criticising Wimbledon authorities for closing Murray Mount, where fans watch on a big screen, because of fears that people would slip.
She said: “Health and safety has surely become one of the most well-worn and dispiriting phrases in the English language. From news reports to TV dramas, it has become convenient shorthand for someone, somewhere, stopping someone from doing something they want to. “Our message to bureaucrats who perpetuate these myths is clear. Own your own decisions. “Don’t use health and safety law as a convenient scapegoat or we will challenge you.”
Children ‘face liver disease epidemic’ because of poor diet and lack of exercise (?)
A top liver expert has warned that hundreds of thousands of children may have a potentially fatal condition associated with alcoholics due to their poor diets and lack of physical activity.
Professor Martin Lombard, the Department of Health’s first liver tsar, says rising levels of obesity mean as many as half-a-million children under the age of 15 could have an early form of fatty liver disease, which can lead to cancer, strokes and heart problems.
However, Prof Lombard has been criticised for basing his figures on the average number of obese adults who develop fatty liver disease, rather than clinical evidence.
Conservative MP Dan Poulter, a former doctor, said: ‘I’m wary about making assumptions without hard clinical evidence. We risk scaring parents unnecessarily.’
Hospital liver units have reported seeing increasing numbers of young people with fatty liver disease – which Prof Lombard calls a ‘silent killer’ because it is symptomless until it becomes very serious.
Beetroot juice again
It does appear that nitrates in beetroot juice induce temporary vasodilation but lots of things do that — including alcohol. I know which one I would rather drink. And would not athletes using it be banned for using a “performance-enhancing drug”?
Beetroot juice could help athletes beat the best. The brightly-coloured juice gives cyclists such a boost that they can shave vital seconds off their time, Exeter University research shows.
The benefits of beetroot juice don’t end there, with previous studies from the university crediting it with increasing stamina. Lowering blood pressure, warding off dementia, and even giving pensioners the extra energy they need to make a trip to the shops, could all also be in its power.
While the list of benefits may seem remarkable, scientists say the can be explained by the abundance of nitrite in the veg. Once inside the body the chemical gets to work widening the blood vessels, speeding oxygen flow to the muscles – including the brain – and allowing them make the most of the oxygen breathed in.
In the latest study, the Exeter team asked nine men who cycle competitively to compete in time trials over 2.5 miles and 10 miles. Before setting off, they drank just under a pint of beetroot juice. They repeated the two routes on a different day, but this time fuelled by beetroot juice missing its nitrite.
When the cyclists drank the nitrite-rich, ordinary beetroot juice they were 11 seconds quicker over the shorter distance and 45 seconds quicker over the longer route. While this may not sound like much, the top two riders in last year’s Tour de France were separated by just 39 seconds.
Tests on the Exeter cyclists showed that the nitrite allowed their muscles and hearts to work more efficiently, the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reports.
Researcher Professor Andrew Jones said: ‘This is the first time we’ve studied the effects of beetroot juice, and the high nitrite levels found in it, on simulated competition. ‘These findings show an improvement in performance that, at competition level, could make a real difference – particularly in an event like the Tour de France where winning margins can be tight.’
And it is not just professional athletes who could benefit, with better use of oxygen making it easier for the old and frail to complete everyday tasks, including summoning up the energy needed to walk to the shops.
The study used shop-bought beetroot juice but home-made versions should also be beneficial.
However, there could be an unexpected consequence. A quirk of genetics means that eating beetroot leaves some people producing purple urine, or ‘beeturia’ as it is known to scientists.