NHS refuses to help a deformed baby on the grounds that his disability is “mainly cosmetic”

He plays a bad-tempered, curmudgeonly GP with an appalling bedside manner. However, in the case of Martin Clunes, it would seem that life does not imitate art. The actor has come to the aid of a baby boy who played his newborn son in the TV series and who needs urgent funds for vital medical equipment.

Six-month-old Alfie Cane, who played the GP’s newborn baby James Henry, has a rare condition which means he cannot support his head. He also has a misshapen skull, which could cause serious complications if left untreated.

His parents Tilly, 31, and Adrian, 40, need to raise £2,000 to pay for a helmet which can strengthen Alfie’s muscles and reshape his skull as it grows.

But after hearing of Alfie’s plight, Clunes donated hundreds of pounds worth of memorabilia that they can auction off.

Mr and Mrs Cane, who live in Truro, Cornwall, with their three other children Victoria 13, Marcus, 11 and Billy, four, were told by the NHS that their son’s condition was mainly cosmetic, so he would have to join a long waiting list to see a specialist.

Knowing Alfie would have a better chance of improvement the earlier he was treated, they sought private care – an expensive, but for them, necessary decision.

Alfie’s helmet – which he will wear for 24 hours a day for 18 months – will cost £2,000, money his parents say they simply do not have. But thanks to Clunes, he should have it in the next few weeks.


Doctor training ‘must be revamped’

Doctors must be trained differently because current education systems have left them ill-prepared for the arrival of cutting-edge medicine, the new head of the Academy of Medical Sciences has claimed.

The next decade is expected to see rapid advances in medicine, especially in futuristic fields like genetics and stem cell therapy.

But there is a risk that when new and improved methods of diagnosis and treatment arrive, doctors could be left behind due to our rigid and traditional postgraduate training programmes, Prof Sir John Tooke said.

Prof Tooke, who assumes the role as head of the Academy of Medical Sciences today, claimed that “unparalleled opportunities” in modern science could be lost unless a “talent pipeline” is created to train doctors to exploit them.

He said: “If I have one criticism of the way we develop the medical and scientific workforce, it is that we are not sufficiently orientated to who we should be developing to pick up those challenges.

Training curricula, he said, should be revised to ensure that they include the latest research to come out of Britain’s academic institutions and keep junior doctors up to date with the latest developments.

He added: “We are not preparing people adequately for the type of exciting future opportunities that will present themselves.

“Medicine, as any other profession, must evolve to meet society’s needs and that is what we aim to do.”

Prof Sir John Bell, the departing head of the organisation, said Britain’s system of training doctors entirely within the NHS was at odds with countries like the US and Sweden where there is a partnership between universities and the health service.

He said: “For reasons I can’t understand the NHS took postgraduate training and said, ‘We don’t need the universities, we will do it on our own.’

“What we have ended up with, I think, is a very inflexible postgraduate training system that takes on average twice as long to train a doctor as any other country in the world – so it is inefficient – and doesn’t really get them to do enough of the kind of opportunities and challenges that they are going to have in their professional careers.”

Scientific advances and the increasing use of digital patient records – which make monitoring individual doctors’ performance much easier – mean that their role is changing “almost beyond recognition”, he added.

In the future, doctors “will live in an existence where they have to practise clinical medicine within guidelines of accepted practise, not as free agents who can do whatever they think they should do with individual patients – and I think in the end, that is probably better for patients,” he said.


Net migration to Britain hits a record 252,000, despite PM’s vow to slash numbers

David Cameron was facing a new headache yesterday after it emerged that net migration hit a record 252,000 last year.

The Prime Minister – who has promised to reduce the figure to the ‘tens of thousands’ – now faces a bigger challenge than when the Tories came to power. In 2009, Labour’s last full year in office, net migration – the difference between the number of people entering the UK and the number leaving – was just under 200,000.

Mr Cameron, who conceded that hitting his pledge may now take ‘some time’, has once again been hit by the global economic downturn.

The number arriving in the UK, which includes immigrants and Britons returning from more than a year overseas, remained broadly stable at 591,000 last year. But the number leaving – only 339,000 – was at its lowest for ten years, so net migration was 252,000.

Emigration for work fell to its lowest level since 2006, reflecting the chaos in the eurozone and other countries where people would normally seek employment.

The number of British citizens emigrating was 136,000, its lowest since 1998. Emigration by non-Britons was 203,000, a drop of 25,000 on 2009. If net migration remains at 2010 levels, the population will swell by one million every four years.

The previous high for a calendar year was 245,000 in 2004 – although mid-year data for the 12 months to June 2005 reached 260,000.

Labour said the figures showed the Government could ‘not be trusted’ to bring immigration under control.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch, said: ‘Net migration in 2010 was more than five times the level of 1997 when Labour came to power. ‘It is absolutely vital to get this down to less than 40,000 if we are to keep our population below 70million.’

The data came from the Office for National Statistics, which also released provisional figures for the 12 months to both March 2011 and September 2011. These showed net migration falling slightly, giving a glimmer of hope to the Tories. Immigration Minister Damian Green said the Government remained committed to reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ during this parliament.

He said that after peaking in September last year, the numbers had started to come down.

Mr Green added: ‘These figures show that the Government was right to take swift action to overhaul the immigration system. ‘Latest quarterly figures show a decrease in the number of student and work visas issued compared to a year earlier – an early sign that our policies are starting to take effect.’

Downing Street said Mr Cameron stood by his election promise on cutting migration. Asked whether he thought it could be achieved, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: ‘Yes, he does, but clearly that process is going to take some time.’ The Government was ‘taking action across the board’, he added.

The number of potential illegal immigrants turned away at ports and airports slumped by 12 per cent during a controversial pilot scheme to relax border checks.

Between July and September only 4,141 foreigners were denied entry, down from 4,730 during the same period a year earlier. The fall coincided with border guards being instructed not to check the biometric chips in passports belonging to EU citizens.


I will end the sicknote culture that acts as ‘conveyor belt to a life on benefits’, says British PM

A sicknote culture in the workplace is acting as a ‘conveyor belt to a life on benefits’, David Cameron warns today. At least one in five of those who are absent on long-term sick leave should either never have been signed off in the first place or could go back to work, the Government believes.

The Prime Minister, speaking to the Daily Mail, said he would press ahead with recommendations from an expert report to strip family doctors of the power to sign people off work long-term.

Businesses are being hit with a £9billion bill every year thanks to the 300,000 people who are slipping out of work and on to sick pay and then welfare handouts, he said.

Mr Cameron revealed he had asked ministers to draw up plans for an independent service which would assess workers’ fitness ‘more quickly and efficiently’.

An expert report for Downing Street suggested more than three-quarters of GPs admitted they had signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health.

It also found that public sector workers are almost twice as likely to go off sick as those in the private sector. While privately employed workers take an average four days off sick each year, those in the public sector take seven, with council workers taking nine.

Mr Cameron said that attempting to steer Britain through the economic ‘storm’ raging across Europe meant not just helping people get jobs, but ensuring that those in work stay in it too.

‘Part of that means getting a proper grip of sickness absence in this country,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘Every year more than 300,000 people fall out of work and on to health-related benefits. Many… fall ill, get signed off by their GP, their fitness isn’t checked again; and before they know it they’re on a conveyer belt to a life on benefits.

‘Of course some of these people genuinely can’t work, and we must support them. That’s only fair. But it’s also fair that those who can return to work should be supported to do so. We need to end the something for nothing culture.’

The Prime Minister said it was clear that the ‘whole system is a mess’ and ‘incredibly frustrating’ for everyone involved. ‘It’s frustrating for business, as it costs them £9billion a year, and it’s frustrating for GPs too, many of whom resent being asked to sign the sicknotes,’ he said. ‘They want to focus on making people better, not spend their time policing the benefit system.’

Mr Cameron said he was alarmed by evidence of the scale of the problem from a report by Dame Carol Black, a world-leading expert on health at work, and David Frost, the former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

‘While 90 per cent of sickness cases are short-term – that stomach bug or flu that we all suffer from occasionally – nearly half of all days lost to sickness absence are because of cases that last four weeks or more,’ he said.

He also expressed concern at the spiralling number of sickness claims from those with ‘manageable conditions like stress or backache where a life on benefits is not an inevitability and where early intervention can really make a difference in preventing needless job loss’.

Mr Cameron backed the idea of passing responsibility for signing workers off sick long-term from GPs to a new, independent service.

‘The independent service would be free to all employers from four weeks of sickness absence, with the option for employers to pay for it earlier,’ he said. ‘It would provide an in-depth assessment of an individual’s physical and mental function. So if they’re unable to work, they’ll be helped – but if they are fit, they’ll be identified and supported back into the workplace.

‘This doesn’t just mean better advice for employees and employers in making the adjustments necessary for a faster return to work. It’s also potentially a vital step in getting to grips with sickness fraud.

‘So, for example, in cases where a foreign worker comes here to get a job and then goes back home to be signed off sick and is never seen again – the employer could simply reject the foreign sicknote and refer the employee to the independent assessment. If the employee refuses to attend the assessment, he or she will get no sick pay and ultimately could be fired.’

Mr Cameron said he had asked welfare reform minister Lord Freud and employment minister Edward Davey to draw up a ‘robust and effective’ new system ‘as soon as possible’. ‘We can’t shy away from this problem. We have to end the sicknote culture in this country, and that is what we will do,’ he said.

The Prime Minister’s proposal is likely to prove highly controversial, with critics claiming it is a way of forcing sick people back to work. It is also likely to alarm some Lib Dem MPs who believe the Government’s welfare reforms are moving too quickly.

A similar independent scheme for assessing people on Employment and Support Allowance – the new name for incapacity benefit – has provoked a storm of protest from disability groups.

The report from Dame Carol and Mr Frost suggested that ‘more generous’ sick pay on offer in the public sector was likely to be a factor in high sickness rates, as was the high level of trade union activity.

Civil servants, it said, took an average 8.2 days off sick last year. But while those at the Treasury took just 3.2 days, those at the Northern Ireland Office took 12.1 days.

The highest rates were found among ambulance staff and healthcare assistants who took almost 14 days a year off sick on average. By contrast, nurses and midwives took 2.3.

The study found that overall, sickness costs the economy £15billion a year, with 140million working days lost. Of those who move on to health-related state benefits, two-thirds are men over 50.


Portrait of Waterloo hero that has hung in a court for generations ‘must be removed as he approved torture as colonial governor’

As one of the Duke of Wellington’s most skilful generals, he fought on the frontline of some of the bloodiest Napoleonic wars and was the highest ranking officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo.

So it is perhaps unsurprising that, to celebrate Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton’s military heroism, a large portrait of the Welshman hangs inside the court house in Carmarthen, South Wales.

But today it emerged that a row has broken out about the painting, which lawyers claim is offensive and should not be displayed behind the judge’s chair in Carmarthen Crown Court.

They say Sir Thomas’s reputation as a cruel and brutal colonial governor – he was military governor of Trinidad at the turn of the 19th century, where he was accused of torturing a young slave girl – mean his image should not be associated with modern equality and justice.

However, Carmarthenshire Museum, who own the 8ft x 4ft portrait, disagree and say it was specifically commissioned for the court house, where it has lived for the past 182 years, and should stay.

Criminal lawyer Kate Williams, who is among those calling for the painting to be taken down, said: ‘I appreciate the painting for historical purposes and that he (Picton) was a figure of note.

‘But I find it very offensive that someone who was not only a known slaver, but also allegedly tortured a slave, should have his picture in a place where the values of justice are served.

‘It’s fair to say he has a murky past and it is inappropriate to have his picture in a modern court of law, where we are supposed to represent the principles of equality and justice for all.

‘I think people might misread the prominence of the picture as saying he has done something worthwhile to contribute towards justice, which really isn’t the case.’

Sir Thomas, who was born in Poyston, Pembrokeshire, in 1758, was appointed military governor of Trinidad following the British victory in 1797 where he oversaw the production of sugar by slaves on the island’s plantations. But he operated a brutally authoritarian regime which lead to accusations of slave torture, false imprisonment and execution.

In 1806 he was called back to Britain and faced trial in London over claims he authorised the torture of a 13-year-old girl, Louisa Calderon, who was accused of robbery, by forcing her to stand on a sharpened wooden peg while suspended from the ceiling.

This form of torture was dubbed ‘Pictoning’ at the trial and, although he was found guilty, Sir Thomas later overturned his conviction on appeal and went on to resume his military career.

His greatest successes came in Spain, where he was instrumental in the Battle of Vitoria, helping Wellington eventually claim victory in the Peninsular War.

Sir Thomas was killed after being was shot through the temple by a musket ball at the Battle of Waterloo, where, Welsh folklore contends, he fought in his top hat and tails because his uniform had not arrived at the frontline in time.

His military reputation was so high after his death that several colonial frontier towns in Canada, Australia and New Zealand were named after him and he remains the only Welshman to be buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

His statue is among 12 ‘Heroes of Wales’, in Cardiff’s City Hall, a comprehensive school in Pembrokeshire is named after him and there is also another monument to him in Carmarthen.

The portrait, by Sir Martin Archer Shee, was presented to the former Carmarthen Borough Council on September 2 1829. It was placed in the town’s Guildhall – which is now used as a court – and has been hanging in the same spot ever since.

Ann Dorset, a spokeswoman for the museum, said that although Sir Thomas was a ‘cruel and brutal’ governor of Trinidad, he was a ‘a man of his time’ and should not be judged by today’s standards.

‘Picton was a very well respected general but on the other hand he was regarded as a rough and tough man and a great disciplinarian. ‘He was a great leader of men and these wars were tough. ‘It was hand to hand fighting and they were not like the battles of today. He would have been right in the middle of it. ‘I think we have to accept Picton warts and all and not judge him by today’s standards.’

Richard Goodridge, former mayor of Carmarthen, said removing the painting would be churlish. He said: ‘Louisa Calderon suffered no ill effects from the treatment she received and required no medical attention afterwards. ‘After she was released from custody she walked more than a mile to the store where the crime took place, smoking a cigar.

‘In February 1810 the court ordered Picton’s recognisance and no further action ever took place. He was, and remains to this day, innocent of all the charges.

‘Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, despite what history may think of his unconventional ways, was an extremely popular officer and was killed in action at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 — the most senior officer to die for his country.’


Lord Lawson & Lord Turnbull Respond To Britain’s climate boss

In a letter sent to Chris Huhne today, Lord Lawson and Lord Turnbull respond to the Secretary of State’s letter of 18 November

Dear Secretary of State

We are pleased that you have decided that a public response to growing criticism of your climate policies is now required. We regret, however, that you do not address our main arguments and key concerns. Neither are we impressed by evidently ill-advised assertions.

For a start, you make the mistake of connecting the reality of 20th century global warming, which no one doubts, with the various causes for it. You claim that the evidence for man’s influence is getting stronger every year, yet you fail to provide any empirical evidence for this statement.

In reality, over the past few years there has been a growing realisation among scientists that other influences (such as solar, stratospheric water vapour, oceanic cycles, to name but the most dominant) are likely to be more significant than previously thought. These factors have seriously impinged on estimates of the magnitude of mankind’s influence.

Your faith in the conclusion of Australia’s Garnaut Review – that there has been no change in the rate of global warming in recent years – is wholly at odds with the latest scientific work and even the Government’s own Met Office: Most research papers published in the last 12 months confirm that there has been no warming trend in the last 10 years.

It is true that the fundamental greenhouse effect yields only a 1.2°C increase for a doubling of CO2 (so-called climate sensitivity) and that larger increases depend upon various feedback mechanisms. There is no convincing evidence, however, to support your assertion that the increase of the level of water vapour in the atmosphere (as a result of doubling of CO2) would (other things being equal) raise global average temperature by around 3°C.

In reality, the magnitude of water vapor feedbacks, positive as well as negative (such as increased cloud cover and precipitation) remains a poorly understood subject. Do you seriously belief that only ‘one or two people’ (sic) have published research that shows moderate rather than catastrophic warming in the next 100 years?

You do not seem to appreciate the incomplete state of scientific knowledge regarding these extremely complex feedbacks. In reality, most scientists will tell you that we do not know all of them; and that most of those we do know, we understand only rudimentary.

What is more, estimates for climate sensitivity in the peer reviewed literature have been going down. You and your advisers will no doubt take a look at the latest research findings on this very subject by Schmittner et al. published this week in the journal Science. This is yet another study that corroborates a low estimate of climate sensitivity and concludes that “these results imply a lower probability of imminent extreme climate change than previously thought.”

Your faith in the integrity of the IPCC process is no less ill-advised. There have been three reports on the IPCC – by the InterAcademy Council in 2010; the recent book by Donna Laframboise; and the report by Professor Ross McKitrick published recently by the GWPF (a copy of which is attached). You and your advisers need to study all three as they all identify a common set shortcomings in the IPCC’s scientific approach and its working methods.

The IPCC seeks to present itself as embodying the independent, impartial advice of the world’s best scientists in the field. All three reports reveal serious flaws in this claim – its lack of transparency in how the so-called experts are chosen, its resistance to views challenging its orthodoxy, its lack of proper governance to deal with conflicts of interest, its excessive use of non-peer reviewed (grey literature), and its infiltration by activists from environmental pressure groups.

We are surprised that you have been so slow to recognise that the IPCC, which has influenced a great deal of UK policy, no longer carries the credibility necessary to persuade society of the massive changes it is advocating. It should be drastically reformed or wound up and replaced.

We note that you appear to be denying the charge on unilateralism in UK policy. This is curious as you and your predecessors were keen to boast that the Climate Change Act made Britain a world leader in decarbonisation. And you personally have been urging the EU to adopt even more ambitious targets, fortunately unsuccessfully.

Admittedly, you limit your claim that Britain has not adopted unilateral policies to “until 2020,” but even this ceiling is at odds with the introduction of the carbon floor price which you wish to introduce in the next couple of years. This scheme most certainly is a unilateral folly which is already having a devastating effect on manufacturing and energy-intensive industries – which, of course, are also concerned about what is planned for after 2020.

In reality, the UK stands alone as the only country in the world to impose long-term legally binding CO2 emissions targets. No other country in the world is willing to inflict such unilateral burden on its business sector and economy.

Even within the EU Commission major concerns about its unilateral targets have begun to surface. The EU is now seriously considering to discontinue its unilateral decarbonisation in the absence of a global agreement.

Whether you like it or not, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has pledged that the government will no longer be bound by unilateral decarbonisation targets that cut CO2 emissions in Britain faster and deeper than other countries in Europe. We trust that his promise to abandon the path of green unilateralism will be followed, sooner rather than later, by a less extreme and more pragmatic policy.

Received via email

According to a report in The Economist, the Isle of Wight has been designated as Britain’s first ‘eco’ island

The plan is to make the island self-sufficient in energy by smothering it with wind farms and solar panels. It’s the brainchild of an outfit called Ecoisland (geddit?), which is described as ‘so green that the invitations it sent to an event at Britain’s House of Commons were printed on recycled paper embedded with meadow-flower seeds (just plant, water and watch them grow)’.

The report continues: ‘Ecoisland plans to . . . insulate houses better, make greater use of geothermal, wind and tidal energy, and generate power from waste. There are also plans for electric vehicles that residents and visitors alike can hire.

‘Locally grown food would be delivered through island-wide supply hubs. A concerted effort is under way to reduce water use and capture more rainwater (about one-third of the island’s fresh water at present is pumped from the mainland).’

All very commendable, you might think. But they’re not doing this simply for the sake of saving the polar bears.

Someone has worked out there’s a nice drink in it for them — which is why the project is being sponsored by multi-national companies such as IBM and Toshiba. While the idea of generating all our energy supplies from natural, sustainable sources is hugely attractive in theory — and would certainly have found favour with the 1970 Isle of Wight pop festival crowd — the problem is that it doesn’t work in practice and is hideously expensive.

Already, every household in Britain is set to pay £280 a year over the odds for gas and electricity to fund the Government’s ‘green’ agenda, which amounts to little more than bunging foreign firms billions of pounds to clutter up our beautiful, world-heritage site countryside and our outstanding natural coastline with utterly useless War of the Worlds windmills.

I wonder if anyone has bothered to ask the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight if they want to be forced to drive rented electric cars, knit their own toilet paper and have their scenery desecrated by hopelessly inefficient solar panels and wind turbines sprouting like triffids. And having to pay through the nose for the privilege.

What have they done to deserve being singled out for a expensive eco-experiment?

In future, the only tourists prepared to travel to the island will be woolly-headed Guardian readers posing for pictures in front of an artificial forest of aluminium windmills before retreating to their over-priced, wood-fired Stoke Newington slums, where they can revel in the snapshots of their eco-friendly vacation on their nuclear-powered iPads over bowls of meadow-flower muesli.


Casual sex and ‘bad touching’: Guess what British eight-year-olds are learning at school these days

Official pornography

The camera pans to the bedroom. Soon, a computer-generated image of a naked man and woman appear on my screen. They begin to chase each other around the room; she tickles him flirtatiously with a feather; he responds by hitting her with a pillow. They start to kiss and caress. The next moment they leap onto the sheets and begin having sex in a variety of different sexual positions.

The voiceover informs us: ‘The man’s penis slides inside the woman’s vagina. It’s very exciting for both of them.’

A late night adult show on Channel 4, perhaps? An animated version of the Kama Sutra? Or a free CD that comes with a copy of Loaded or any number of other lad mags or soft porn publications?

Well, it is a Channel 4 production (they’re rather good at that kind of thing, after all). But shockingly, the target audience for this film is children as young as eight, and the film could soon be showing at a primary school near you.

The DVD also features information about masturbation, orgasms (including an animated sequence depicting ejaculation), casual sex and ‘good and bad touching’. The list of X-rated topics is almost endless.

In one section, a group of boys who look no more than ten are shown in a public toilet where there is a condom machine on the wall. ‘They have even got different flavours,’ one of the youngsters observes.

Not surprisingly, the film, entitled, Living And Growing, is causing concern among parents across the country. It is now being shown to youngsters at scores of primary schools.

Admittedly, the world is a very different place to the one many of us grew up in. But are we really to believe that explaining the ‘facts of life,’ in explicit detail, to youngsters, many of whom still believe in Father Christmas, could help solve the teenage pregnancy epidemic or reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents?

Surely, even the most liberal-minded members of the last Labour government, which championed the controversial policy, would be left feeling a little queasy at some of the material now finding its way into primary school classrooms in the name of Sex And Relationship Education (SRE).

The examples we have highlighted are just a sample of the controversial subject matter now being peddled to our very youngest pupils; it’s not even the worst of it either.

Labour, of course, wanted to make SRE compulsory in all primaries, just as it is in all secondary schools, but it failed to win cross-party support and was forced to abandon the initiative. Instead, the decision on whether or not to introduce such lessons remained with governors.

Yet, nearly two years on, what seemed like a victory for common sense is proving to be quite the opposite. Under Department of Education guidelines, any primary school planning to introduce SRE has a duty to consult parents, to ensure they have an ‘input’ and their voice is heard. ‘It is essential that schools involve parents in developing and reviewing their sex education policy,’ the guidelines state.

‘Schools should ensure that pupils are protected from teaching materials that are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.

‘Governors and headteachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised, both on materials which are offered to schools and on sensitive material to be used in the classroom.’

But many schools have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of simply paying lip service to the consultation process; sending out letters which ‘play down’ the content of proposed classes and holding meetings at inconvenient times for mums and dads.

And, by the time such meetings are held, schools have already invested considerable time and money in choosing from a variety of SRE packages and can be reluctant to discard them.

Those parents who have complained say they have come under pressure to conform from headteachers or been forced to remove their sons or daughters from SRE lessons.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why such classes — driven by the powerful sex education lobby (including groups like fpa, formerly the Family Planning Clinic, and the Brook sexual health advice service) — are now being extended to more than a fifth of UK primaries. That’s at least 3,400 schools and nearly one million pupils.

Almost all of them will see, if they haven’t already, the Channel 4 DVD showing on my computer.

Entitled All About Us: Living And Growing, it was produced by Channel 4 in ‘response to requests from teachers and heads for a resource that promotes sex and relationship education as a developmental process, beginning in the early years at an appropriate level and progressing through childhood and adolescence.’

Childhood? Would any youngster aged between eight and 11, the intended audience, have much of a childhood left after watching it?

Children such as eight-year-old Jasmine Hague, who attends Grenoside Primary School in Sheffield, which was planning to use the film in sex education classes before her mother and other parents kicked up a fuss. ‘I’m not the sort of person who normally complains and I’m definitely not a prude,’ said her mother Luana, a single parent. ‘But I feel strongly about this. It’s just not appropriate.’

Up to 20 families are now said to be prepared to pull their children out of SRE classes if they are introduced at Grenoside. It is becoming a familiar story all over Britain.


British university admissions: best pupils ‘losing out’

In part because of England’s insane policy of basing admission offers on “expected” High School exam results, not actual ones

Teachers may be hurting pupils’ chances of getting into university by predicting high grades for them – because higher predictions can lead to higher offers. Some admissions chiefs like to get a range of abilities and skills on their courses and so make a range of offers.

Academically strong pupils with higher predicted grades may therefore have to get higher grades to secure a place, while those predicted lower grades may get lower offers if they can persuade admissions staff they have other qualities.

The problem is that the admissions systems vary considerably and are complicated, according to the report in the Times Educational Supplement.

A pupil predicted three top grades at A-level may be made an offer of AAA, whereas a candidate expected to achieve As and Bs may be offered AAB or ABB for the same course.

Roberta Georghiou, the head of Bury Grammar School for Girls in Greater Manchester and co-chairman of the Independent Schools’ Universities Committee, said: “The danger is that universities admit candidates who are unable to capitalise on the opportunity they have been offered, while others who meet the criteria are excluded.”

Pia Pollock, the admissions policy adviser at Manchester University, said: “Some of our academic schools use what we call a range of offers to ensure that they recruit and select the best students.” Lower offers were made to candidates unlikely to achieve the highest grades if they could convince staff that they had the potential to succeed, she added.

Details of the variation in admission systems were laid bare in a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Students and their teachers are being put in a difficult position by the complexity of the university admissions system and the lack of predictable patterns, with each university setting its own rules,” said Dr William Richardson, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.


Asthmatics given new hope with new air cleaning machine

The average improvement over placebo does not seem to be great but the machine may benefit some more than others

A purification device that cleans the air while asthma sufferers sleep dramatically reduces their symptons during the day, a study has concluded. Researchers reported the drug-free bedside air filter signficantly reduced patients’ symptons such as wheezing and tight chests.

The temperature controlled laminar airflow treatment, called Protexo, filters out airborne triggers such as dust particles and mites, pet hairs and powders that cause irritiation and inflamation of the lungs.

Asthma specialists said the low-cost device led to such an improvement in patients’ quality of life, that it should be made be available on the NHS. They say the machine achieved results equivalent to those made by expensive drugs and would lead to less time in hospital meaning its £4000 cost would pay for itself. It is also quiet and easy to use.

“This device makes a significant difference to people’s lives, with an effect as big as very expensive treatments, and it helps prevent the triggers of the disease,” said Prof John Warner, a consultant paediatrician at St Mary’s Hospital and professor of paediatrics at Imperial College London, who led the study.

“Our findings support the importance of focusing exposure control interventions on the breathing zone, and highlight the role of nocturnal exposures in precipitating airway inflammation and symptoms in patients with atopic asthma.”

The European study of patients, aged seven to 70, found those who used the device recorded 15 per cent better quality of life scores after a year than those given a dummy machine.

Protexo protects the breathing area of people with asthma from allergenic agents with the help of a flow of slightly cooled air around them at night.

Asthma, usually caused by an allergy to airborne dust, pollen or pollution, affects more than 5.1 million Britons and experts warn the number of sufferers is on the rise.

The main medication currently involves taking two types of inhaled drugs, which either help to reduce the frequency of attacks or instantly open up constricted airways, helping breathing.

The researchers, whose findings are published online in the journal Thorax, said Protexo worked by displacing warmer air containing irritants and allergens such as house dust mite and pet hairs with the slightly colder air.

The aim is to stave off the abnormal immune response that triggers an allergic reaction including the airway narrowing typical of an asthma attack by preventing the sleeper breathing in the irritants and allergens. All of the 281 participants in the study from six countries were non-smokers and had poorly controlled allergic (atopic) asthma. A total of 189 patients slept with the Protexo just above their bed for 12 months with 92 others having a placebo.

A validated score was used to assess quality of life before and after the study period along with assessments of symptom control, lung capacity, airway inflammation and biological indicators of a systemic allergic response.

A steeper fall in nitric oxide – an indicator of inflammation – was seen among those using Protexo and this was particularly noticeable among those with more severe asthma.

Those using the device also had significantly smaller increases in another indicator of persistent and more severe inflammation – a chemical known as IgE (immunoglobulin E).

Annabelle Abrahams, 14, from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, who has had asthma since she was four, took part in the trial. “I slept badly because I couldn’t breathe, doing PE or running around with my friends was difficult and I had asthma attacks if I laughed too much,” she said. “My schoolwork suffered because I was tired and off sick a lot.”

With the help of the machine, Annabelle now sleeps through the night without coughing. “I’ve seen a dramatic change and real improvement in my asthma,” she said. “I sleep better, have fewer chest infections and enjoy PE and sport.”

The impact was greatest among those whose asthma required the most medication yet whose symptoms were the most poorly controlled – a group who “represent a significant area of unmet need,” said Prof Warner.

Prof Warner said there were fewer hospital admissions among the group using Protexo. “The reason nocturnal TLA is successful where so many other approaches have failed may be the profound reduction in inhaled aeroallergen exposure, which this treatment achieves,” he said.

Despite advances in the treatment of asthma, the condition is still very distressing for a significant proportion of patients.

Previous attempts to filter or purify airflow have not met with a great deal of success.

Prof Warned pointed to other research suggesting night time allergen exposure has the greatest impact on symptom severity, possibly because of changes in circulating hormone levels and immune responsiveness prompted by the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm.

The machine, which uses the same energy as a lightbulb but is not yet available for private purchase, costs around £2,000 for six months’ use.



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s