Home births are cheaper than hospital for the NHS: research
This will please the homebirth advocates but is totally contrary to the usual medical advice. It looks like money talks where advocacy does not
The NHS could save millions of pounds by encouraging women having their second or third child to give birth at home, a study by Oxford University has found. Home births are around £300 cheaper to provide than hospital deliveries for women at low risk of complications, it was found.
NHS managers struggling to save money should consider promoting home births as part of any changes to maternity services, it was concluded.
For first time mothers, even those assessed as at low risk of complications, there were more problems for the baby if they gave birth at home compared with a delivery in an hospital with obstetricians, the study found.
They were up to three times more likely to suffer a stillbirth, birth injury to the child including broken bones, brain damage and respiratory problems associated with stress during birth.
The research published online in the British Medical Journal was a follow-up analysis from an earlier study on the safety of giving birth at home, in a stand-alone midwifery unit, a hospital unit staffed by midwives or in a full hospital maternity unit with on-site obstetricians.
The study examined the outcomes of 64,000 births between 2008 and 2010 in various settings in England.
The research found that women having their second or third babies, who were classed as low risk, were just as safe at home or in a midwife-only unit as they were in a hospital unit with specialist obstetricians.
Now the cost effectiveness analysis looked at the costs of the various settings. It took into account overhead costs, staffing, pain relief, medical procedures performed in hospital, length of stay in hospital and any stays in special baby care units.
It did not include long-term costs such as extra care for babies who suffered birth injuries or increased costs associated with subsequent births for women who suffered birth complications.
For women who’d had previous children, planned birth in an obstetric unit was the most expensive option at £1,142 per woman, with planned birth at home the cheapest at £780 per woman.
Co-author of the study, Liz Schroeder said: “At the time of the study, only half of the NHS Trusts in England provided women with access to a midwifery unit, and occupancy levels were often low.
“The findings of the Birthplace study may encourage women – particularly women having a second or subsequent baby – to request an ‘out of hospital’ birth. And the potential for cost savings could make offering women more choice an attractive option for the NHS.”
According to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, in 2010 in England and Wales, 2.5 per cent of women giving birth did so at home.
This was a slight drop on the previous year but a substantial decline since 1960 when one in three births were at home.
Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This and other research points out the substantial benefits of midwife led care; it is better for mothers and babies, it is better for midwives and it is better for the NHS.
“However, we are still seeing 96 per cent of births taking place in hospitals and this underlines the need to make a fundamental change in the way we deliver maternity services in this country. The Government constantly tells us it wants more for less, and this is a shining example of how that can be delivered.”
British private schools ‘risk extinction over fees’ – former top headmaster warns
Private schools are risking extinction because they are pricing themselves beyond the pockets of ‘normal’ parents,
They are losing the confidence of the public because they are increasingly the preserve of the super-rich, according to Dr Martin Stephen, who was High Master of St Paul’s School.
Parents earning more than £50,000 a year would struggle to afford many day schools, let alone boarding, he said.
In an outspoken critique, Dr Stephen warned that schools were increasingly reliant on the ‘fool’s gold’ of fees from overseas students, while ‘sucking out’ the best pupils from state schools.
It was now unlikely they would win the support of most voters if asked whether they wanted to keep them, he claimed.
‘The result is that the independent sector is becoming socially exclusive in a way not seen since Victorian times,’ he said.
‘Independent schools, like any other species, must evolve or face extinction.’
Parents with children at fee-paying schools have endured annual inflation-busting fee rises. Average boarding fees for schools in the Independent Schools Council were £25,152, while average day fees were £11,208. St Paul’s School, in Barnes, West London, charges boarders £29,466 a year and day pupils £19,674.
Dr Stephen stepped down in January 2011. Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, he said: ‘Of course, the “great” schools will survive. Apart from anything else, they thrive in a recession through the rush to quality … But for most independents, it is time for a radical rethink.’
Claims that private schools are thriving because they are turning pupils away are ‘fool’s gold’, he added. ‘The sector has become too dependent on overseas parents and is profiting from a state sector in some turmoil as a result of radical change.’
Dr Stephen said Education Secretary Michael Gove’s reforms would massively improve state education, which would ‘present independents with the same sort of challenge they last faced from grammar schools’.
Dr Stephen, the new director of education at GEMS, an international private schools group which aims to make private education ‘affordable’ for many, went on to criticise Government plans for independents to sponsor state academy schools.
‘Independents have little experience of dealing with children who don’t want to go to school and parents who don’t care if they do,’ he said.
And he criticised schemes to lure top state school students with lucrative bursaries. ‘Independent schools educate only seven per cent of children in the UK, yet they back too many schemes that “support” state schools by seeking to suck out their best pupils: a brilliant idea for independent schools, but lethal to the health of the state sector,’ he said.
Cancer chemical alert over crisps and coffee as Food Standards Agency identifies 13 at-risk products
The old acrylamide scare pops up again. It was a hot topic in California in 2005. I don’t think I need to add anything beyond what I said in 2007
Food firms have been warned about the presence of a cancer-risk chemical in everyday products ranging from crisps and chips to instant coffee and ginger biscuits.
A biscuit designed for babies and toddlers has also been caught up in the alert.
Experts are even warning families to only lightly toast their bread at home, as the chemical, called acrylamide, is more likely to form the longer and darker foods cook.
A study by the Food Standards Agency has identified 13 products containing raised levels of the chemical. In each case, officials at the local council where the supplier is based have been told to notify them.
Acrylamide, which is still being investigated by scientists, is a cooking by-product associated with frying, baking, roasting or toasting foods at very high temperatures, usually greater than 120c.
The FSA insists its findings raise no immediate risk to the public and there is no need for people to change their diet.
However, it is putting pressure on all food companies to reduce acrylamide levels because long-term consumption could increase the risk of cancer. Its official advice is also that families should ensure bread and chips they eat are only toasted or baked to the ‘lightest colour possible’.
The FSA said its study of levels of acrylamide and furan – another cancer-risk chemical – is used to identify which firms need to take action. Acrylamide is formed by a reaction between natural components in food as it cooks.
In reality it has probably been in the diet for as long as man has fried, roasted or toasted food. Manufacturers including Heinz and McVitie’s have already responded by changing their recipes.
But others, including Nestle, makers of Nescafe, say it is impossible to do so without harming the flavour and quality of their products. It added: ‘There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest any particular product has any negative impact on health in the context of acrylamide exposure.’
The FSA is required by the EU and the European Food Safety Authority to carry out the annual tests. It looked at 248 samples, from chips sold by fast-food outlets to supermarket own-label and big brand ranges. In 13 cases levels were above the ‘indicative value’ – a trigger point to tell the firm it should examine its production process.
European watchdogs have been putting pressure on food manufacturers to reduce acrylamide for almost a decade. In 2002 Swedish studies revealed high levels formed during the frying or baking of potato or cereal products.
The FSA said: ‘This raised worldwide public concern because studies in laboratory animals suggest acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans by interacting with the DNA in cells.
‘The Agency believes exposure to such chemicals should be as low as reasonably practicable.’
The latest survey found ‘an upward trend’ in acrylamide levels in processed cereal-based baby foods, excluding rusks. Importantly however, the FSA said this did not mean parents should stop giving these products to youngsters.
The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said members are ‘ensuring levels are as low as reasonably achievable’.
Heinz changed its Banana Biscotti recipe this year to reduce acrylamide to trace levels. United Biscuits, which makes McVitie’s Gingernuts, said it has cut acrylamide by 70 per cent. The firm also pledged to cut levels in its McCoy’s crisps.
Christian radio ad banned by order of a British Cabinet minister: So much for the ‘Christian fightback’, Mr Cameron
This ban would seem to prove the point that the Christian group was trying to make
David Cameron’s ‘Christian fightback’ has been undermined in the courts by one of his own Cabinet ministers.
A radio station was barred from broadcasting an advertisement on the rights of Christians at work after an intervention by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt said the advert should be kept off the air because it was ‘political’.
A High Court judge agreed yesterday and said that Premier Christian Radio was ‘trying to make changes to society’.
Mr Justice Silber ruled that the station should be banned from airing the advert, which asked for information from listeners who feel marginalised at work.
Mr Hunt is the second of Mr Cameron’s ministers seeming to go against the Prime Minister’s claim earlier this month that a ‘Christian fightback’ is under way and that ‘the values of Christianity are the values that we need’.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has opposed the rights of Christians to wear crosses at work in a submission of the Government’s views in two test cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
She has told the European judges that the Government believes Christians denied the right to wear a cross at work should find another job.
In his judgment in the Premier Radio case, Mr Justice Silber said that ‘it must be stressed that it has not been suggested in any way that the stance of the Secretary of State is in any way anti-Christian, or that his reasoning would not apply to any other religion’.
But radio station chief Peter Kerridge said the ruling was ‘wholly reminiscent of a totalitarian state’ and ‘a direct threat to the democratic right to freedom of speech’.
The case was brought after the radio advertising regulator said the 30-second advert should not be broadcast because it was ‘directed to a political end’.
The advert said that, according to surveys, 60 per cent of Christians think believers are being increasingly marginalised at work. It asked listeners to report their own experiences to its website because ‘we are concerned to get the most accurate data to inform the public debate’. The advertisement said: ‘We will then use this data to help make a fairer society.’
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, an industry-funded body which checks radio ads to ensure that they comply with the law, said the appeal should not be broadcast.
When the radio station went to court to challenge the decision, Mr Hunt stepped in to ask the judge to enforce it.
Mr Justice Silber said in his ruling: ‘The advertisement was seeking to obtain information and it stated that such information would be used to inform the public debate and to help make a fairer society. ‘This information which it was seeking would be used so as to try to make changes to society.’
He said the regulator was right to halt the advert because it was political, and he added that the rules did not break European human rights guarantees of freedom of expression.
Mr Kerridge said after the ruling: ‘Our application was dismissed because we planned to inform the public debate and help make a fairer society. ‘The decision represents a direct threat to the democratic right to freedom of speech and we intend to continue the fight through the appeal process. ‘It greatly reduces the right of ordinary people to have their say in democratic debate and, regrettably, seems to be wholly reminiscent of a totalitarian state.
‘Surely all reasonable and decent people from all walks of life would wish to see a fairer society and to engage in a robust debate as to how that society would look.’
Christians have notably failed to win any of a series of legal clashes over the past two years. Losses have included those of an Islington registrar who declined to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and a Relate counsellor who refused to give sex advice to gay couples.
In a further case, Christian hoteliers were refused the right to decline to let rooms to unmarried couples.
Unfortunate woman gravely misled by Leftist ideology
All the research says genetics is the major influence on behaviour, with family influence virtually nil. But Leftists preach the opposite. So the woman below was misled into adopting two little girls born of a feral mother
Cherry and John believed bringing up the sisters in a stable and loving home with all its middle-class trappings — a large five-bedroom house, a village school and supportive grandparents — would conquer all. They had hoped to create a happy family life and raise well-adjusted girls.
Sadly, the reality couldn’t have been more different. Despite the couple’s utmost devotion, today both daughters, now in their early 20s, are in prison.
Maryann’s crime was so shocking — she was one of a vicious gang who burnt and tortured a vulnerable woman with a red-hot iron and slashed her with a kitchen knife — that it made national newspaper headlines.
Today Cherry, 52, still struggles to comprehend what happened to her children — and admits that in many ways the adoption has ruined her life. Her marriage to John crumbled under the strain and she suffered a stroke, which doctors put down to severe stress.
So where did it all go wrong? And does this story demonstrate a child’s genetic make-up determines their future, rather than the love and care lavished on them?
‘It seems naive now but we did think time and lots of love would be enough,’ says Cherry. ‘The first sign something was wrong came shortly before we adopted the girls. We’d been to visit them at the foster parent’s house, where we saw Maryann suddenly turn on her foster mother and scratch her face.
‘It was a shocking attack — she violently grabbed the woman’s chin and really dug her nails in. But the social worker just brushed it off. She told us “once she’s in a permanent and loving home, she’ll soon settle down”. John and I believed her.’
They put the incident out of their minds, just overjoyed to be parents at last. ‘From a young age, I’d always yearned to be a mum. But when I met John I had to tell him I couldn’t give him any children. I’d already had five miscarriages in a previous relationship. I’d also had two stillborn babies and lost both of my fallopian tubes in ectopic pregnancies.’
After she and John underwent two failed courses of IVF, they decided to adopt. A year later, in January 1992, having undergone rigorous checks with social services, Cherry and John, 34, were finally approved for adoption.
Within three months, following several visits to the girls, they brought their new daughters home.
Cherry, from Bath, recalls: ‘For years I’d watched enviously as friends and family all had babies. Now I threw myself into being a mum, determined that Maryann and Nicola would have the very best of everything.
‘John and I painted the spare room pink, splashed out on brand new prams and dressed the girls in designer clothes. When I went out passers-by commented on how gorgeous they both were and I was so proud.’
The girls appeared to settle well. ‘Maryann called us “new Mummy and new Daddy” at first, but within weeks she was just calling us Mummy and Daddy.’
However, six weeks after they arrived, there was a chilling sign of the mayhem to come.
‘I had given Maryann a box of dolls,’ recalls Cherry. ‘I could hear her in her bedroom singing to herself, but when I went in I was horrified. Every single doll had been dismembered — their limbs had been wrenched off and their eyes gouged out. It must have taken all her strength. Yet, Maryann just sat there looking angelic.’
When she began playgroup, her frightening behaviour quickly escalated.
‘She couldn’t play properly with other children. If she wanted a toy, she would hit them violently. She swore and she kept soiling herself. After a matter of only weeks, the playgroup expelled her.’
Shortly after, the couple moved from their luxury flat into a large 17th century five-bedroom house in Wiltshire with rambling and formal gardens.
Maryann began at the local village school — but the same problems occurred.
‘I would turn up at school to find the teacher with a bag of stinking clothes where Maryann kept soiling herself,’ says Cherry. ‘And it wasn’t long before we were called in to see the head teacher. Maryann was out of control — she couldn’t concentrate on her work, she kept running off and taking off her clothes inappropriately in the playground. She even climbed a builder’s ladder onto the school roof.
‘She was slapping other children and stealing from them. Heartbreakingly, she had no friends — we invited people to her birthday party and no one turned up.’
Worse, the school head and social services pointed the finger at Cherry and her husband. ‘Humiliatingly we were asked if we had problems in our marriage that were making Maryann like this.’
By now Cherry had discovered in a newspaper that the girls’ biological mother had recently been imprisoned for 15 years for murder. For legal reasons, the Mail cannot reveal the full circumstances of her crime.
‘That terrified me — could Maryann have inherited any of her traits? And yet when we asked social services for help, all they gave us were parenting tips such as making reward charts. All our requests for professional help were ignored.’
Maryann’s behaviour got worse. ‘She destroyed her bedroom, pulling all her furniture apart and swinging on it and breaking it.’
With hindsight, Cherry says that as she got older Nicola, too, was prone to tantrums. ‘We didn’t realise she, too, was having behavioural difficulties, such as finding it hard to concentrate at school, because our attention was so taken up with Maryann.’
The older girl’s behaviour increasingly wore the couple down.
‘John was old-fashioned. He’d been educated privately and believed sterner discipline was the key, such as sitting on a naughty chair for long periods. But Maryann didn’t care — she could sit there for hours.
‘I believed hugging her when she had a tantrum was the answer. Nothing worked, but discussing what to do for the best caused endless heated rows between us.’
Soon John and Cherry were sleeping in separate rooms.
By the time Maryann was nine, Cherry took her to see her GP, who referred them to family counselling – but once again they were simply ‘lectured on parenting techniques’. Aged ten, Maryann was seen by an educational psychiatrist.
‘I suggested Maryann needed specialist help — but was refused because although she was causing mayhem, she wasn’t doing anything such as smoking, which they saw as a sign that a child was off the rails.’
Cherry says: ‘All of it took a huge toll on our marriage. John was often away on business and would come home and blame me for not being stricter, while I felt resentful he was away and I was left to cope on my own. The adoption and the worry had just taken over our lives. ‘Any spark John and I had was long gone and replaced by bitter blame and rows. If we hadn’t adopted, I believe we would still be together. But the strain ruined our marriage.’
The strain proved so much that Cherry had a stroke, spending six weeks in hospital while her mother looked after Maryann. ‘Despite exhaustive tests, doctors couldn’t find a cause and told me they believed it was due to severe stress.’
Maryann was to spend the rest of her teenage years going from one care home to another, committing a trail of petty crimes such as theft. Cherry continued to visit her in the homes, and never gave up on her. ‘But no one, no care home, could cope,’ she says.
By now Nicola was also becoming a problem. Cherry says: ‘Although Nicola wasn’t violent like her sister, she’d always had problems.
‘By the age of 14, she, too, was expelled from school. A year later she emptied my bank account and went on a spending spree. It was the final straw and I was forced to put Nicola into a home for troubled teens.’
The problems didn’t end there. ‘In 2010, she met a lad with similar problems and made the mistake of trying to smuggle drugs to him in prison.’
Nicola was caught and sentenced to 18 months in jail. By the time she was imprisoned, in December 2010, Maryann was also under arrest for her part in the gang attack and torture of the vulnerable woman.
She hadn’t calmed down while in care, nor when she’d been given her own flat by the council on turning 18. ‘She smashed it up and allowed drifters in,’ says Cherry. ‘It was just a slippery slope until something terrible happened.’
It did — and in March last year, Maryann, 22, was jailed for eight years after admitting false imprisonment and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
‘Ironically they have followed exactly the same pattern as their mother,’ says Cherry. Today John rarely sees the girls. Cherry occasionally visits them in prison — most recently in October last year.