Homeopathy ‘biologically implausible’
Homeopathic treatments funded by the NHS are “biologically implausible” and risk damaging patients’ health by discouraging them from getting proper treatment, a leading researcher has claimed.
Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, said homeopathic remedies had not been proven to work in clinical trials.
People who still maintain the treatments are effective are “ignoring or misrepresenting the best evidence available”, he added.
Homeopathy could even be dangerous because it is sometimes used instead of scientifically proven medical procedures such as immunisations, he added.
Prof Ernst, a former homeopathist, is an outspoken critic of unproven treatments provided on the NHS. He once labelled the Prince of Wales a “snake-oil salesman” because of his support for “unproven and disproved” medicine.
The NHS spends about £4 million a year on homeopathy, which is based on the theory that patients can be cured through exposure to a diluted form of the substance that caused their symptoms.
Writing in The Biologist magazine Prof Ernst, now a professor of complementary medicine, said this belief “Is in contrast with the laws of physics, chemistry and pharmacology. Homeopathy is thus biologically implausible.”
He said: “Homeopathy could be (and often is) used as an alternative to effective interventions. For example, the advice from homeopaths not to immunise has become a major cause of low vaccination rates.”
The strategy of using homeopathy as a placebo can only work if doctors hide the truth from their patients, he added.
Homeopathists insist that the form of treatment is not suited to the design of conventional clinical trials because they do not take into account the benefit that many patients have been shown to experience in observational studies.
They say that the method of administering extremely diluted substances works by triggering the body’s natural healing systems, which can lessen symptoms and lead to eventual cures.
Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, said: “The UK spends billions of pounds every year ensuring that the new and existing conventional medicines we take are effective, safe and fit for purpose.
“It makes no sense to allow other treatments available through public expenditure to be made available without application of the same rigorous standards. That is what is happening with homeopathic treatments. It needs to stop.”
Síle Lane of the Sense About Science campaign group added: “When a treatment like homeopathy is offered by the NHS, people will think the evidence for it has undergone the same level of scrutiny as conventional medicine.
“It misleads people into thinking there is something in it when there isn’t.”
Wear your cross every day with pride: Head of Scottish Catholics wades into crucifix row
The head of the Catholic church in Scotland has added his voice to growing calls for Christians to be allowed to express their beliefs at work.
In his Easter Sunday homily, Cardinal Keith O’Brien will urge Christians to ‘wear proudly a symbol of the cross of Christ on their garments each and every day of their lives’.
Speaking at Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Cathedral tomorrow, he will quote Pope Benedict XVI, who said Christians ‘need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles’.
He will add: ‘I know that many of you do wear such a cross of Christ, not in any ostentatious way, not in a way that might harm you at your work or recreation, but a simple indication that you value the role of Jesus Christ in the history of the world, that you are trying to live by Christ’s standards in your own daily life.’
His message will give further weight to a campaign led by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey which calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to back the legal rights of Christians at work.
He will say: ‘I hope that increasing numbers of Christians adopt the practice of wearing a cross in a simple and discreet way as a symbol of their beliefs.
‘Easter provides the ideal time to remind ourselves of the centrality of the cross in our Christian faith.
‘A simple lapel cross pin costs around £1. Since this is less than a chocolate Easter egg, I hope many people will consider giving some as gifts and wearing them with pride.’
Lord Carey wants the Prime Minister to press for greater legal protection for Christians who have been sacked for following their consciences when a group of test cases are heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg next month.
Four Christians are taking legal action at a landmark hearing because they believe British laws have failed to protect their human rights to wear religious symbols or opt out of gay rights legislation.
The cases include those of Shirley Chaplin, a Devon nurse banned from working on the wards after she failed to hide a cross she had worn since she was 16, and Gary MacFarlane, who was sacked as a Relate counsellor after suggesting he would refuse to provide sexual therapy to gay couples.
The judges will also examine the cases of Nadia Eweida, a check-in clerk for British Airways who was told to remove her small crucifix at work, and registrar Lilian Ladele, who lost her job at Islington town hall, North London, after refusing to officiate at civil partnerships.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Wearing a religious symbol is entirely a matter for individual members of staff. We have no policy as an employer.’
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: ‘The Scottish Parliament does not have a specific policy for staff displaying religious symbols in their work attire.’
NHS Scotland advises health boards to ‘conduct a full risk assessment’ to ensure that their local dress code policy ‘is appropriate for different categories of staff and should look to support staff in complying with both the needs of the service and any religious or cultural requirements’.
Products of Britain’s welfare state don’t want to work
As the country plunges into the depths of a record youth unemployment crisis – with one in four youngsters now out of work – you might expect any jobs would be snapped up within hours.
But a landlady has condemned Britain’s ‘stay-in-bed’ generation of youngsters after spending six months fruitlessly searching for trainee chef.
Despite one in six 16 to 24-year-olds currently being part of the unenviable NEET tribe – short for not in education, employment or training – Janette Harrop, 53, has been unable to fill the pub’s vacancies.
She has set up five interviews every week on average, but said only half of applicants have turned up. And those offered a job, which pays the minimum wage, have failed to show up for work.
Now Janette and husband Tom, 55, who run the Old Original pub in Scouthead, near Oldham, Greater Manchester, have criticised the culture of ‘spoiling’ youngsters with pocket money instead of instilling a basic work ethic in them.
It comes 24 hours after deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the £1billion ‘youth contract’ scheme in a bid to create jobs for youngsters after figures revealed more than a million 16 to 24-year-olds are without a job, more than at any time since records began in 1992.
Mrs Harrop said: ‘Our pub is a fantastic place to work – it’s a young hard working team and another youngster would fit in and enjoy working here. ‘But we are struggling to find that person to become an apprentice because of lack of reliability. I have to say it’s not an easy job and it’s not a doddle but it’s one you can get a lot out of and hopefully have a whole career in.
‘We’ve had about 30 people apply but barely half of those turn up for interviews. It just wastes my time as well waiting for them. ‘After a bit you’re a bit cynical and just think they won’t turn up, so I wait 20 minutes and then I won’t wait any longer because I’m too busy.
‘Most of them just don’t turn up, they’re full of enthusiasm over the phone and then they don’t bother. Some of them you ask for a trial and they might start off okay but then they just let you down. ‘People come to work here then realise the shifts are unsociable hours. That’s when they realise their friends are out doing other things whilst they are working. It doesn’t help and they let us down. ‘All we want to do is give someone a chance but it’s just finding that person.’
The post as a trainee chef would involve the chance to train on a local college course so the person would be a fully qualified chef at the end.
The position includes food preparation, cooking, cleaning, learning to keep the books and at the beginning is a 30 hour week, with most mornings starting at rather leisurely 10am.
Mr and Mrs Harrop expected hordes of eager youngsters wanting to snap up the trainee chef job and advertised in local shops, the job centre, the pub itself and local colleges, last October.
But despite youth unemployment being at an all-time high the couple had just 30 people apply for the position – with only half bothering to turn up for the interview. One hopeful blamed his lack of bus fare for not being able to come while others just never even called. When the applicants were invited for trial weeks they would often just stop coming without warning.
Janette thinks a lack of commitment to hard work and more of a focus on their social life has led to the record numbers of young people who are out of work across the country.
Mrs Harrop added: ‘Since we first advertised the job in schools, colleges and the job centre, we’ve had an average of about five interviews set up every week. I’m lucky if two of the applicants turn up. ‘The people who have taken the job have been unreliable, claiming they’ve got no bus fare and making excuses week after week.
‘Some youngsters are only too keen to stay in bed on a work day because they have been enjoying themselves the night before and we’ve allowed them to get away with it.
‘I think we spoil our children now. In our day we had to do paper rounds or milk rounds, you got yourself prepared for work.
‘But whilst the world’s changed due to safety worries, it does make work suddenly come as a bit of a shock.
‘I think a lot of youngsters go out at night and can’t be bothered in the morning. But it’s not that early, it’s a 10am start for us – a lot of jobs are a 7am or 8 am start.
‘It is unsociable hours and we are out of the way and it is a big commitment but it’s a job.
‘I know they want to do both, going out and working, but they just can’t when it comes to the next day and getting up, they’re not fit for work.
‘We want them by the end to be a fully qualified chef. It’s like any job the money isn’t fantastic at the start but you work your way up, it’s a career.
‘We’re looking to employ someone who we can send to college. They’d be doing NVQ certificates to do the job professionally and long term. We’re offering someone the chance of further education.’
Minimum wages for apprentices start at £2.60 an hour between the aged of 16 and 19 or £3.68 hourly pay for employees aged between 16 and 17 and £4.98 for 18 to 20 year olds. Over 21s can get a minimum of £6.08.
On Tuesday Mr Clegg said youth unemployment was akin to a ‘ticking time bomb.’ His youth contract is designed to get young people ‘earning or learning.’
‘It does matter how women look on TV’: Former BBC correspondent Michael Cole says ageing female broadcasters should stop complaining about sexism
A former BBC correspondent has claimed that female broadcasters should stop complaining about ageism and sexism, claiming ‘it does matter how you look on TV.’ Michael Cole, 69, also said producers had a right to choose presenters ‘regardless of age, gender, colour or race’.
Writing exclusively in the latest edition of Press Gazette magazine, Cole said men were just as likely to suffer from discrimination at the BBC and claimed to have endured five years of rejection because he looked too young.
‘I have to smile every time a middle-aged female television presenter comes out of the shrubbery complaining that her honour has been tarnished by those wicked people at the BBC who have failed to promote her, to renew her contract or, in extreme cases, sacked her,’ said Cole.
‘What do these women expect? It matters how you look on television. The studio lights aren’t kind to ageing skin. Without exception, they all got their first jobs on the box when they were young. And they got those jobs, at least in part, because of their looks.’
Cole said producers should be free to choose presenters ‘regardless of age, gender, colour or race’ and argued that casting was one of the most potent factors in the success of any programme.
‘The creative process should not be skewed, and the producer’s freedom constrained, because any woman believes she has the right to a permanent place in a visual medium,’ he said.
‘There aren’t any gorgons on television and with the possible exception of Patrick Moore, there aren’t any strange-looking presenters either. Gargoyles are for cathedrals.’
Cole, who was a correspondent at the BBC between 1968 and 1988 and twice won Royal Television Awards for best home news story, argued that ‘all of us, men and women and children, prefer to see young, good-looking people, unless we are very unusual indeed’.
He went on to claim that women were not the only victims of ‘lookism’, `ageism’ or any other pejorative term they use when trying to hold back time and extend their television careers’.
Men were just as likely to suffer from discrimination because of the way they look, said Cole, who claimed to be the victim of prejudice ‘every bit as disheartening as anything a TV sofa queen has ever had to suffer’.
Cole, who joined the Harrods and House of Fraser group as director of public affairs in 1988, said that for five years he had to endure rejection at the BBC ‘not because I looked too old, but because I looked too young’. He went to recount his struggle to land a position on the BBC desk in London, but claimed that ‘unlike the women who complain of unfairness, I said nothing’.
‘I know Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford, Anna Ford, Selina Scott and Julia Somerville,’ he added. ‘I have worked with them. Without exception, I like them. They are all talented broadcasters.
‘Instead of complaining, women on TV should feel fortunate that they have natural gifts that men can never hope to match.’
He added: ‘Look at the male news presenters: Mark Austin, Alastair Stewart, James Mates, Chris Eykin, Ben Brown, Nicholas Owen. All of them have been successful on-the-road reporters with a body of great stories to their credit.
‘Consider the women news presenters: Natasha Kaplinsky, Julie Etchingham, Fiona Bruce and all the stars of breakfast television. They may do a serviceable studio interview and sometimes have to present a bulletin from abroad.
‘But they are really there, on our screens, because they are attractive women who can read the teleprompter convincingly and they wear some beautiful jackets.’
The BBC declined to comment.
At the beginning of the year a tribunal ruled the BBC was guilty of ageism after axing Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly.
The tribunal found that O’Reilly, 53, had been dropped because of her age and victimised by management over newspaper stories that criticised the corporation for letting older presenters go.
The BBC apologised to O’Reilly and promised to overhaul its recruitment and appointment process.
British School taken over by street gangs: Staff warn over safety threats after pupil arrests
The headteacher of a secondary school has admitted that his staff fear for their safety following a series of student arrests last month.
Pupils at Copland Community School in Wembley, North London are troubling the 100-strong staff after youngsters were reported to the police for actual bodily harm, harassment and possession of a weapon.
That has led to urgent appeals from the teachers, who have written to the Board of Governors complaining over a ‘hard-core (group) in each year who are forming what amount to in-school gangs’.
The letter reads: ‘We as staff have long-standing concerns regarding pupil behaviour the safety of pupils and staff is being compromised. ‘A significant proportion of the student body (40 per cent) share these concerns and do not feel safe at school. ‘Serious incidents occur daily and examples of violence, aggression, defiance, bullying and non-compliance are far too common.
Plunked echoed those sentiments adding: ‘There are problems with ganfs and things like this all over the place; it is not something that is specific to this school.
‘There have been a lot of improvements at the school, we are a fairly new team. ‘We are all working together to improve the school. The school does face significant challenges, but it will be a journey of improvement.’
On March 3 a 15-year-old boy appeared at Brent Youth Court on April 2 charged with possession of an article with a blade on the premises of Copland School. He admitted the charge at an earlier hearing and was given a youth rehabilitation order.
Ten days later on March 13 a report was made to police of ABH (actual bodily harm), and the following day a report of harassment was lodged. Finally on March 22 a case of disorderly conduct was reported and a 17-year-old boy was charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the incident.
British Judges ordered to end ‘right to family life’ farce
Judges are to be ordered by ministers to end the “abuse” of human rights laws which allows foreign criminals to claim the right to a “family life” to avoid being deported.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has declared that new immigration rules will be in place by the summer to make it “absolutely clear” that those who have committed a crime, broken immigration rules or cannot support themselves must not be allowed to stay.
The move, which follows a Home Office consultation into Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), represents a victory for The Sunday Telegraph which launched a campaign on the issue last year under the slogan: “End the Human Rights Farce.”
Mrs May said in an interview with this newspaper: “By the summer, I will have changed the immigration rules so that we can end the abuse of the right to a family life.”
She added that she believes the measures will be “widely supported” both by politicians from all sides and the public and adds: “Believe you me, I get as frustrated as anybody when I see somebody who should not be in this country remaining in this country.”
In a wide-ranging interview at the end of a bruising political week for the Home Secretary, she also served notice she would not back down in the row with the Liberal Democrats over plans to give law enforcement agencies new powers to investigate on-line communications including visits to Facebook, eBay and Skype which have been dubbed a “snooper’s charter.”
Despite Lib Dem vows to block the move from appearing in next month’s Queen’s Speech and signs that the planned Bill would only be published in draft, Mrs May vowed swift action.
“Obviously the longer you leave it, the quicker technology can move on,” she says “I would expect us to be able to do this in a Bill in the next session [of parliament].”
Mrs May also signals movement in the case of Abu Qatada, the radical cleric whose deportation to Jordan was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year. She discloses a group of British officials went to the country last week, in the wake of her own visit last month, and that the “momentum” is being kept up.
“The public want him to be deported, I want him to be deported,” Mrs May says.
It is the government’s proposed action on the right to a family life, though, that is likely most to please Conservative MPs and supporters looking for some positive policy moves following weeks which have seen the party take a series of political hits over tax changes in the Budget and claims ministers fuelled panic over planned strike by tanker drivers.
By the end of July, ministers will change immigration rules so that Article 8 of the ECHR can only be used as a barrier to deportation in “rare and exceptional cases.” The new rules will come into force within a month of being published.
Judges will be specifically told that the “family life” right will not prevent the removal of a foreign national when they have been convicted of a criminal offence, have breached immigration rules or are unable to maintain themselves and their families without being a drain on the state.
Home Office sources said legislation passed under Labour, the 2007 UK Borders Act, muddied the waters on deportation by creating an exemption if human rights were breached – and that until now judges had “no clear steer on how that exemption should be interpreted.”
Ministers are well aware that their new rules will be immediately challenged in court and are prepared to consider further changes if they are not sufficient. Rewriting UK law – the ultimate step – would have major international consequences and would be unlikely to be done without a government having a specific mandate to do so after a general election.
Mrs May, who last year declared her personal preference was to scrap the Human Rights Act altogether, saaid: “I have every confidence it [her rule changes] will work. If it doesn’t, if it is tested in the courts and we find there’s a problem, we’ll obviously look at other measures, but I’m confident in what we’re proposing to do.”
The Sunday Telegraph’s campaign for change has been supported by leading politicians, including one of Mrs May’s Labour predecessors at the Home Office, Jacqui Smith, and the former Tory shadow home secretary, David Davis.
The newspaper called for action after complaints that a number of British judges were ignoring key provisions built into Article 8 which allow deportations – including “the prevention of disorder or crime.” Criminals who lose their cases in Britain are able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Cases highlighted in the last few months include:
* Joseph Lissa, who was branded a war criminal by a judge after admitting commanding fighters in a civil war in his homeland of Sierra Leone. The Home Office refused him permission to remain but Lissa, a driving instructor in Huddersfield, won an appeal on the grounds he had married a British woman and fathered a child here.
* Taoufik Didi, a Moroccan bigamist sentenced to three years in jail for selling cocaine to undercover police officers. He was given a deportation order but told immigration judges he had been in a relationship with a British woman for 10 years and that the couple intended to start a family. Didi, based in London, won his appeal.
* Gary Ellis, a violent drug dealer living in North London, who twice avoided being sent home to Jamaica after citing Article 8 in the wake of two separate convictions. On both occasions, he told judges he was entitled to a family life with his girlfriend and young daughter.