Thousands wait more than four hours to be seen in A&E
The number of patients left to wait up to 12 hours for an emergency hospital bed rose by almost a third in the first six months of the year, according to official figures.
Almost 67,000 patients admitted to A&E departments could not be seen for between four and 12 hours amid concerns thousands had to wait in corridors or on trolleys.
Under Department of Health targets, hospitals should admit or discharge 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours.
But in the worst-performing trust – Surrey and Sussex Healthcare – more than one in five had to wait more than four hours for a bed, according to the Times.
Experts said the figures showed the financial pressures hospitals are currently facing.
Mike Clancy, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: “It’s a high pressure system and small changes in demand make a big change in waiting. We are asking wards to handle more patients faster.”
The data was analysed by the health care journal HSJ, which found Northampton General Hospital, Royal Free Hampstead, North Bristol and Wye Valley were among the institutions with poor records for waiting times.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours for treatment at A&E departments in Scotland has more than doubled since 2008, with targets missed in the cases of 882 people.
Professor Matthew Cooke, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care at the Department of Health, said: “This should not be referred to as waiting time as it is time that includes assessment and treatment.
“Once a decision to admit a patient to a ward from A&E is taken, they should be transferred as quickly as possible so that the best treatment for their condition can be given in the most appropriate setting.
“This is why we gave hospitals greater flexibility in allowing more patients who need to remain in A&E longer for vital tests, observation or treatment. For patients admitted to A&E via an ambulance, the average wait to be seen by a doctor is only 49 minutes.
“Modern A&E departments provide a more comprehensive service, with specialist expertise, than has historically been the case. This would mean some patients get the best treatment for them in the A&E department and so would spend longer there. This does not mean that they are still waiting.”
Triumph for a British selective school
Alistair Brownlee, Britain’s gold medal-winning triathlete, has backed The Daily Telegraph’s Keep the Flame Alive campaign and revealed the critical role that was played by his former school, Bradford Grammar, in his journey to Olympic glory.
As the London Olympics approach their final weekend, the campaign aims to further increase the number of volunteers in sport and ensure that competitive sport is accessible to children in all schools.
Brownlee, whose brother Jonny also won bronze, doubts that he would have made it to the top of the podium at these Olympics were it not for the extracurricular, and largely voluntary, input of his teachers.
“So much comes down to chance,” said Brownlee. “I think one of the biggest things about legacy is that it’s not about money. It’s about the attitude. It’s about inspiring teachers at schools to go that little bit further to help their kids learn a sport. It’s about inspiring the kids themselves to try sport. It’s about inspiring parents to take their kids to the local club.
“It’s about giving people that attitude to give it a go, to enjoy doing it and wanting to compete. If anything comes out of the Olympics, legacy-wise, that is the most important thing.
“I wholeheartedly back the Telegraph’s ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ initiative. For a ‘legacy’ to be fulfilled we need the basic infrastructure in place to help achieve it and big components in making that a reality are attracting more volunteers in sport and to ensure schools include sport as a vital part of the curriculum.”
Brownlee, 24, feels fortunate that he and his brother had the opportunity to develop their rare athletic talent from a young age at Bradford Grammar. “I was lucky enough to go to a school which gave flexibility around education and sport,” he said.
“We had a 1hr 30min lunch break and were able to train during this time. My school career was absolutely crucial to me. As an endurance athlete, some of the most important years are maybe when you are 16, 17, and 18. For me getting that right was very important and my school allowed me to do that.
“It was actually a French teacher who was really into running and he took groups of lads out running of a lunch-time. It created a culture where you could go running every lunch-time in the school. If that hadn’t have happened, I probably wouldn’t have got into running that much and then never done that well at triathlon.
“It was also the attitude of the school – the fact that a teacher was willing to give up his lunchtimes and weekends to take groups of boys running.”
Brownlee added: “Schools are really, really important. It gives you access to every kid in the country. It gives you a massive pool of people to see who might be talented at different sports. It allows kids to try sports. Kids can be inspired all they want but if they can’t go out and try a sport then it’s no good. And the school should be the avenue to try those sports.
“In the same way as you have to inspire the parents and teachers of the next generation, you also have to inspire the officials and the coaches, the people who give up their spare time. One of the fantastic things about sport in this country is that you can go to local running clubs and find people who give up their spare time to coach children and adults.
“Everywhere I have been involved all through sport there has been hundreds of volunteers involved – people who give up their spare time for the love of the sport. But, to inspire more kids, you need to inspire more volunteers to help them.”
Kevin Riley, the head of Bradford Grammar, said that the school had tried to give equal encouragement to pupils, regardless of whether their sport was traditionally a mainstream activity.
“The school has always had this sense that if you are good at something, we will develop it,” he said. “The Brownlees, as good as they are athletically, you would have thought the school might have said, ‘never mind all this running around and swimming lark, you need to play rugby and cricket’. But it didn’t, the school developed their individual talent because it was very obvious from an early age and the school really encouraged that.”
Benefits of statins are exaggerated and not always the best way to prevent heart disease, study claims
The word is getting out
Statins are not the best way to prevent heart disease, according to new research.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs are taken by seven million people in the UK, costing the NHS £450million a year.
Conventional medical wisdom states they are a good ‘cure-all’ treatment for heart disease, but making dietary changes could be a more effective tactic, say scientists.
Professor Kausik Ray, of St George’s Healthcare Trust in London, said statins are an effective treatment for many people with heart problems, especially if they have already had a heart attack or stroke.
However, this accounts for only a small amount of patients who are actually prescribed statins. The majority are given to people seen to be ‘at risk’ of the disease.
Professor Ray says it is very difficult to predict who is at risk.
He told Mail Online that cost was the biggest driver to prescribe statins to people at lower and lower risk from heart disease.
He said: ‘Statins are cheap and fairly safe. The costs of the drugs are as low as £1.30 a month compared to £24 a month a few years ago.
‘However, the cost from heart disease for hospital admissions, investigations, stents and bypasses is huge.’
He added to The Sun: ‘For people with no family history of heart problems and others deemed a low risk, other approaches should be used, like eating a good diet full of fish, lean meat, vegetables and low in saturated fat.’
He is one of the experts who has taken part in a documentary due to be released in September, called ‘Statin Nation.’
The director Justin Smith claims the benefits of statins are routinely exaggerated and that the pharmaceutical industry is partly to blame. He told Mail Online: ‘Creating a drug is a costly and lengthy process so they are encouraging more patients to take existing drugs.’
Mr Smith worked for four years as a personal trainer and nutritional coach before writing the book ‘$29 Billion Reasons to Lie About Cholesterol’ in 2009.
He said he made the crowd-funded documentary because he believes doctors are being provided with too much information that favours the drugs industry.
However, Professor Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart Foundation, contested this saying: ‘The most commonly used statins are off patent, which means the drug cmopanies no longer have any financial incentive in expanding the market.
‘It is the medical community who is pushing for wider use of statins since they are convinced by the evidence this will reduce heart attacks and strokes in the future.’
Mr Smith also pointed to a 2008 study by Allender et al in Coronary Heart Disease Statistics, which found the heart disease rate did not decline between 1994 and 2006 in men aged 65 to 94 yet high cholesterol levels dropped by 40 per cent.
He added that average cholesterol levels in the UK are low when compared with the rest of Europe, yet the UK has one of the highest rates of heart attacks
Mr Smith said: ‘I hope that the film will prompt more people to ask their doctor questions like: if I take this cholesterol medication, how much longer might I live? ‘This question is important because most people will not receive life extension from statins.’
He added that negative side-effects of statins were not given enough prominence.
However, Maureen Talbot, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Statins are now a very important part of the lives of millions of people and play a vital role in both lowering cholesterol and helping prevent heart attacks.
‘Their importance shouldn’t be underestimated and the potential risk of side effects are outweighed by the proven benefits. The use of statins is the main reason why fewer people have high cholesterol levels now compared to 20 years ago.
‘Your body will always make cholesterol so if you stop taking a statin it’s likely your cholesterol levels will rise. So, if you’re prescribed a statin make sure you take it every day because they’re most beneficial when you take them on a long-term basis. If you develop side effects see your GP as the medicine or dose can be changed. ‘
But she added: ‘It’s worth remembering though that you may be able head off the prospect of being prescribed statins by eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping physically active and maintaining a healthy weight and body shape.’
Rip up your lawns, they’re as bad as gas-guzzlers, says British gardening expert
If your lush green lawn is your pride and joy, you should be feeling a little bit guilty, at least according to one expert.
Bob Flowerdew, one of Britain’s leading organic gardeners, has claimed that maintaining a luscious green lawn is as bad for the environment as ‘driving a gas-guzzling vehicle’.
The 58-year-old Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist urged homeowners to tear up their lawns and replace them with perennial plants – or concrete.
Writing in Amateur Gardening magazine, he advises: ‘I think it’s time to get rid of our lawns. Dig up your lawn, I say. Turn the area into something else.’
But other experts – including the editor of the magazine – have dismissed the claims.
In his column, Flowerdew explains: ‘With the prediction of drier summers ahead and the increasing frequency of hosepipe bans, browned-out turf all summer is going to become more and more likely.
‘Indeed, having a green lawn may even become seen as heinous a sin as driving a gas-guzzling vehicle.
‘So why do we not admit that the time and effort needed to maintain a lawn is now too much?’
He suggests replacing turf with drought-tolerant perennial plants, stepping stones or solid concrete, which will never ‘need watering, feeding, aerating, scarifying or mowing’.
Flowerdew, author of several organic gardening guides, goes on: ‘Suddenly we would do away with the irritation of one after another of our neighbours mowing around us.’
But Paul Dawson, managing director of turf grower Rolawn, said: ‘Lawns have significant environmental benefits, producing oxygen, filtering water back into aquifers and reducing flooding.’
Tim Rumball, editor of Amateur Gardening, said: ‘It’s a load of old compost. Take away the lawn and you’re left with a jungle and nowhere to walk, relax and enjoy all your efforts.’
Nigel Lawson warns against Green protectionism
Former UK chancellor warns Europe, US against setting up trade barriers to developing nations
Nigel Lawson believes it is wrong for the West to use environmental concerns as a weapon to beat China. “It is wrong in two ways. It is wrong morally because it is asking them to slow their development down,” says the former British chancellor of the exchequer who is now well known as a leading climate change skeptic.
“It is also wrong in practical terms because it is quite clear they are not going to do it (reduce carbon emissions sufficiently). China is not abandoning coal. It is going ahead with its coal-fired power stations.”
Lawson, a remarkably youthful 80, was speaking over morning coffee at the House of Lords, whose debates he regularly attends.
He is best known as one of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s key ministers in the 1980s but since the publication of his book An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming four years ago, he has also found notoriety as a bete noire of the Green Movement.
Some in the environmental movement refuse to engage with him, saying that he is recycling the arguments of the American oil industry and other vested interests.
He insists, however, that by going against what now seems a majority view he is not part of some new “Flat Earth” movement.
“You have to analyze what you mean by majority opinion. I think it is the majority opinion of the political classes in the West. It is not, however, the majority opinion of the public as whole. All the opinion polls show a high degree of skepticism among ordinary people, who often have more common sense than the political classes,” he says.
Lawson says he has been recently talking with the 88-year-old renowned British-born American physicist Freeman Dyson, who is on the advisory board of his think tank, The Global Warming Policy Foundation, which he founded in 2009.
Dyson was over from the United States to mark his 60 years as a member of The Royal Society, the 350-year-old British scientific body.
“He says the only thing that is certain about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is that it is very good for plant growth and that the warming effect is extremely uncertain,” he says.
Lawson does believe that China is unfairly lectured to on climate change and thinks the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 was something of a debacle when no international agreement could be reached. China, India and other developing countries felt the terms too onerous.
“It certainly was an accident. It was a great macho thing for the European Union, which was then not in as shaky a state as it is now, to show world leadership,” he says.
“They set these hugely ambitious objectives and it was a great humiliation for them that they brought on themselves.”
He is dismissive of a lot of the claims made be environmentalists such as those set out by former US vice-president Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth. He says the argument that 11 of the last 12 years have been the warmest on record is very misleading.
“It is generally accepted there has been no serious warming trend over the past 10 to 15 years. Even if the rate of growth flattens out, each year is going to be warmer than the previous year. The important thing is that it has completely flattened out,” he says.
Lawson, a former leading financial journalist and editor of The Spectator magazine in the 1960s, is regarded as being one of the UK’s most influential chancellors of the post-war period.
He was one of the principal architects of the Thatcherite free market liberalization of the British economy.
But he also presided over a bust of the economy in the late-1980s when interest rates soared to stem inflation and the housing market crashed.
He believes the current economic downturn is of a different scale to then and there may be a lot worse to come. “I don’t think it is fully played out yet. The reason why it is much worse this time is the banking element. The banks weren’t all that fine last time but they didn’t go bust.”
Lawson says it is the rise of countries like China that is one of the few reasons for optimism.
“I think it is the most important development on the economic front since my time in office and I absolutely welcome it. I think it is great,” he says.
“It means the world is a much more competitive place but on the whole it is an excellent thing. It has taken millions of people out of poverty and provides a huge market for exports.”
Sexism row as Muslim children’s play centre in Britain bans fathers and all boys aged over nine
But it sounds like they will get a pass over it
A children’s play centre has barred fathers from attending with their children and is now facing an investigation by equality watchdogs.
Kids Go Wild is believed to be the first such play centre in the country to introduce a ‘women only’ policy – which also bans boys over the age of nine.
Bosses at the centre, which opened less than a fortnight ago, claim the policy was instigated for ‘cultural reasons’ and was in the interests of the ‘predominantly Asian’ local community.
Even so, yesterday Muslims in the Sparkhill suburb of Birmingham were among those who condemned the restrictions, which were advertised on a poster outside the centre. It reads: ‘Ladies and children only. No boys over nine allowed.’
Councillor Habib Rehman, a Muslim father-of-four, said it was a ‘worrying situation’. He added: ‘There’s something wrong when a dad can’t take his kids to a play centre.’
Ruksana Ayub, a Muslim mother-of-one, said while Muslim women may feel ‘more able to relax’ in a setting where they don’t ‘feel they have to cover up’, she thought it ‘quite shocking in this day and age that men aren’t allowed in’.
Another resident, who only gave her name as Gemma, said: ‘I have four boys, luckily all under the age of nine, but if one of them was older, I wouldn’t be able to take any of them.
According to the 2001 census, Muslims make up 54 per cent of the 30,000 population of Sparkhill – more than double the number of Christians.
The manager of Kids Go Wild, who would not give her name, said: ‘It’s a predominantly Asian community here and we’re catering for that.
‘It’s not that men are an issue, ladies are more comfortable around women. Ladies have not questioned [the ban]. They’ve been asking for it.’
Emma Cross, of Manchester-based law firm Pannone and a specialist in discrimination law, said: ‘Under the Equality Act it can be lawful to limit your services to one gender or religious group, but you must be able to “objectively justify” what you have done.
‘To my mind it would be difficult for the centre to show it has met this test when it could have offered women-only sessions or days of the week instead.’
An Equality and Human Rights Commission spokesman said: ‘The Equality Act does allow for some services to be just for women or men-only, but this is the exception not the norm and must pass a strict test to be justifiable.
‘We will look into why Kids Go Wild is a women-only service.’ If the commission’s lawyer considered the play centre’s policy to be discriminatory, it would ask Kids Go Wild to change it, the spokesman added.
Strange homosexual pornography OK, says British jury
The Emma West referred to below ranted about immigrants while on public transport
The Libertarian Alliance welcomes the acquittal of Simon Walsh on the charge of possessing “extreme pornography.” It sees the acquittal as a victory for freedom of expression.
Simon Walsh, a barrister and former adviser to the Mayor of London, was charged with possessing images of acts between consenting adults. The law used was section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which outlaws pornography depicting acts which would cause “serious harm to the anus, breast or genitals”. On Thursday the 9th August 2012, the jury acquitted him on all counts
Speaking today, Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, made these points:
1. There should be no law against the creation and publishing of any image depicting acts between consenting adults. Doubtless, the more extreme the act, the more investigation there should be regarding the reality of consent. In this case, however, it was reasonably plain that the parties had consented and were enjoying themselves.
2. There should be no law against the mere possession of any image. Possession of images should be used as evidence of involvement in illegal acts. But laws against possession in itself are a licence for the police to fabricate evidence.
3. The acquittal of Mr Walsh should be seen as a victory for free expression and a vindication of our ancient system of trial by jury. However, the main target of censorship by the British State is no longer sexual expression but dissidence against political correctness. The Libertarian Alliance notes that Emma West, a white working class Londoner arrested in 2011 and charged with “hate crimes,” has still not been brought to trial. There have been repeated and ill-explained delays, and there is reason to believe that the authorities are hoping to wear her down by delay into pleading guilty. They are frightened that, as with Mr Walsh, their oppressive laws against freedom of expression will not bear scrutiny by a jury of twelve ordinary people.
More background here