NHS chief ‘must go’ over hospital horror: Relatives of patients who died demand his resignation
The head of the NHS is facing calls to resign over his role in one of the worst hospital scandals in history.
Sir David Nicholson helped appoint the chief executive who presided over Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust at a time when up to 1,200 patients died through neglect.
He is one of numerous executives who prospered despite their links to the scandal, described yesterday by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as a ‘shocking betrayal of NHS founding values’.
Today Sir David, who was appointed chief executive of the NHS in 2006, earns more than £200,000 a year.
Between 400 and 1,200 patients are thought to have died at Stafford hospital from 2005 to 2008, with some left so thirsty they were forced to drink water from vases next to their beds.
Later this month a report will call for sweeping changes to the Health Service to ensure such a disaster cannot happen again.
It will describe a ‘culture of fear’ at Mid Staffordshire, which runs two hospitals, Stafford and Cannock Chase, with managers more obsessed with meeting targets than protecting patients.
In January 2006 Sir David, at the time head of a regional health authority, was on a panel of NHS managers that interviewed Mr Yeates and appointed him as full-time chief executive of the trust.
The decision was made even though Mr Yeates had no formal management training. He resigned in 2009 and received a reported £400,000 pay-off.
But the career of Sir David – a member of the Communist Party until 1983 – has blossomed. He was also recently appointed chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, a new body that will oversee hospitals and GP services.
Although he is expected to be heavily criticised in the forthcoming report, it is unlikely that he will be sacked as he is such a powerful figure in the Health Service.
But relatives of patients who died say he must resign or be sacked because his position is untenable.
Julie Bailey, who helped expose Stafford hospital’s failings following the death of her mother Bella and started the campaign group Cure the NHS, said: ‘Our relatives suffered at the hands of these professionals. Nobody spoke out and nobody was there to protect them.’
Not a single nurse or doctor working at the hospital at the time has been struck off.
The Mail understands that 37 nurses were referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, but 25 were not deemed to have done wrong. Another 11 are still having their cases considered by the watchdog, nearly five years later. One was handed a three-month suspension, but she was already planning to retire.
While 41 doctors were referred to their regulator, the General Medical Council, not one has yet been struck off.
The failings at Mid Staffordshire emerged in March 2009 in a report by the Healthcare Commission which described how sick and dying patients were ‘routinely neglected’, ‘inhumanely treated’ and ‘bullied’.
Its findings prompted a public inquiry lasting two years, chaired by Robert Francis QC.
He will present his findings later this month and is expected to call for sweeping changes to the NHS, including better regulation of managers and an overhaul of nurses’ training.
British hospitals not ready for winter — as usual
More than 100 ambulance patients had to wait to be admitted to
hospital as staff struggled to cope with demand due to winter sickness bugs.
Hospitals say they have been so overwhelmed by people suffering from sickness bugs that paramedics were forced to care for 999 patients and ambulances stacked up outside hospitals.
Ambulances were left queuing outside several hospitals in Greater
Manchester – including Wythenhsawe Hospital, Pennine Acute Trust’s
North Manchester General, Royal Oldham, Rochdale Infirmary and
Fairfield Hospital in Bury – as the norovirus crisis hit the region.
At the height of the problems, Tameside Hospital’s A&E unit was so
overwhelmed that, 113 ambulance patients waited more than half an hour before they could be admitted to hospital between December 20 and 30.
At Tameside ambulances queued in loading bays and paramedics had to care for them in waiting areas until overstretched hospital staff were able to care for them.
Medics also struggled to find space for everyone who needed to be
admitted – with every one of the 485 beds at Tameside Hospital full on December 30. A spokeswoman for Tameside Hospital said: ‘Like many other hospitals across the country, we have experienced unusually high levels of patients requiring hospital treatment.
‘Many of our patients have been seriously ill arriving at the hospital by ambulance. This increased demand from our local population was not linked to any specific issues, such as norovirus, but to a wide variety of complex health problems.’
Bob Williams, acting chief executive at North West Ambulance Service, said: ‘This winter has been an extremely busy time for the whole of the NHS. The system is under increasing pressure due to a number of factors such as increases in norovirus, flu and children’s respiratory problems.
‘We always expect a high increase in demand during this time, and this was planned for by increasing resources which included 13 rapid response vehicles, more than 50 extra emergency ambulances and extra staff within the trust’s emergency operation centres.
‘At particular times through the festive period, when activity levels were exceptionally high, we did experience some surges of demand resulting in ambulances waiting to discharge patients at hospitals.
Deport first, ask questions later: ‘Fed up’ British PM reveals plans to remove terror suspects before they launch appeals
Terror suspects could face a new system of being deported before they get the chance to hold a full appeal, David Cameron revealed yesterday.
The Prime Minister said he was ‘fed up’ with the likes of hate-preacher Abu Qatada using a string of human rights appeals to remain in the UK. Mr Cameron went on: ‘That’s why I’m keen to move to a policy where we deport first, and suspects can appeal later.’
Under this new arrangement, deportees would only be able to appeal against the decision while still in this country – suspending their removal – if they faced ‘a real risk of serious, irreversible harm’.
Currently, nobody can be put on a plane until all their appeals to British courts – and Strasbourg – have been exhausted. The proposals go further than ministers have ever previously suggested.
But last night government officials were unable to provide further details of how the new regime would operate. It was also unclear whether it would apply only to suspected terrorists.
Currently, there are 4,000 foreign rapists, muggers and other criminals walking the streets who the UK cannot kick out.
New rules limited only to the extradition of terror suspects would fall far short of the demands made by Tory MPs for a wide-ranging overhaul of human rights law.
There are also question marks over whether Mr Cameron’s idea would be acceptable to either the Liberal Democrats or, crucially, the European Court of Human Rights.
Ministers would have to explain how, in the event of a terror suspect winning their appeal from overseas, they would be able to locate the terror suspect and bring them back to Britain. Strasbourg has taken a hard-line on removing anybody to a country where torture or ill-treatment takes place.
Qatada’s deportation to Jordan was blocked by Strasbourg on the grounds not that he would be harmed himself, but that some of the evidence used against him may have been obtained by torture. He is currently living in a £400,000 London house – paid for by the taxpayer – pending an appeal by Home Secretary Theresa May.
Last night Tory MP Dominic Raab, who has campaigned to stop the abuse of human rights law by foreign criminals, said: ‘The Prime Minister is absolutely right to embrace fundamental deportation reform.
‘For it to work, we will need an Act of Parliament that lays down the law in clear terms, so ingenious judges with other agendas – at home and in Strasbourg – can’t subvert the common sense system the British public want put in place.’
In October last year, Home Secretary Theresa May said there was a need to reduce ‘the wholly unacceptable delays’ that have occurred in the extradition process for terror suspects. She said there was ‘scope for reforming rights of appeal, streamlining the stages, expediting cases through the court and looking again at the provision of legal aid for terrorist suspects’.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron also voiced frustration with the pace of change on immigration reform, which he said was ‘just an issue where there is quite a profound disagreement between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives’. The Prime Minister said it is ‘an issue of the absolute centre ground of British politics”
British Labour party risks being seen as party for scroungers after opposing benefits squeeze, says prominent member
Labour risks being seen as the party of ‘scroungers’ by opposing a squeeze on benefits, according to former home secretary Jacqui Smith.
Railing against her party’s position on welfare, the former minister said party activists were being told on the doorstep that Labour was lacking ideas to cut the deficit.
Ed Miliband has ordered his party to vote against freezing rises in benefit payments to 1 per cent for the next three years in the Commons tomorrow, instead of the inflation rate which is currently 2.7 per cent.
The Labour leader has argued that most of those who will be affected are in work because the cap will also apply to tax credits. He called the policy an attack on ‘strivers’.
But tensions within his party emerged last month when a senior Labour figure had described the policy as ‘politically suicidal’ and revealed a ‘caucus of new Labour figures’ were set against it.
This is because it left the party open to charges that it sided with ‘scroungers’ and was ‘in denial over the need to cut the benefits bill’.
Yesterday Miss Smith weighed in to the debate, saying: ‘Frankly you can count me into this ‘caucus’. It would include a large number of people [Labour canvassers] who’ve knocked on doors recently and been told the problem for Labour is that they think we caused the deficit and they’re not yet convinced we know how we’ll solve it.
‘The Tories want to paint us as a party which cares more about those unwilling to work than those struggling in work.’
A number of polls showing high levels of public support for a cap have painted Labour into a corner over its opposition to a freeze which would apply across the board except for carers benefits, some disability payments and the basic state pension.
The Treasury released figures yesterday showing that by opposing cuts to welfare spending, Labour would have saddled every working family with £5,000 of national debt by the next General Election.
They claim all welfare savings, including the move to aggregate most benefits into a Universal Credit, the 1 per cent cap, changes to child and housing benefit and council tax, and a crackdown on fraud and error in the system will save £83billion by 2015-16.
However Labour say 60 per cent of those who would be affected are in work and would be left struggling.
Ahead of the vote on the Welfare Uprating Bill, David Cameron said this argument was ‘very odd’ as they had backed a 1 per cent pay freeze for public sector workers, who the Prime Minister said ‘work hard and do absolutely vital jobs’.
Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘The Labour party agree with the 1 per cent increase in public sector pay but they don’t agree with the 1 per cent cap on welfare. It’s a very odd argument to say people out of work, their incomes should be going up faster than people in work – we don’t think that is right.’
Tory chairman Grant Shapps admitted there were probably ‘a very small number’ of ‘shirkers’ who preferred not to work. But he said the system under Labour was ‘blatently unfair’ and so complex it prevented people working more hours.
Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: ‘This government are handing a £107,000 tax cut to millionaires but hitting millions of soldiers, nurses, cashiers and electricians with a strivers’ tax that will cost them hundreds of pounds a year.’
Yesterday Ed Balls attacked the ‘lies’ about benefit scroungers yesterday, saying two thirds of those affects are in work, on low or middle incomes and two thirds and these are women.
The shadow chancellor also backed the Government’s cap on benefits of £26,000 per family to ‘get a grip on the benefits bill’, but that it should be higher in London, saying it could lead to homelessness if set too low.
He said: ‘There are people looking for work, who currently can’t find work because the economy is in a bad state. These aren’t the feckless, the work shy, people behind curtains whilst others go to work, these are striving people.
‘And why should they see their incomes cut while our Prime Minister at the same time is cutting taxes for the richest people?’
From Baby P to this hospital of horrors, the Welfare State is protecting callous and incompetent staff
More than five years ago, the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, identified at first only as Baby P, shocked the nation.
The child had suffered more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and his brother, all of whom were jailed for causing or allowing the death of a child.
What so appalled people was not just the cruelty of these three but the neglect and incompetence of the social workers, health officials and police officers in Haringey, North London, who, despite seeing the child on some 60 occasions, had nevertheless left him to his terrible fate.
The Director of Haringey children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, was sacked — although subsequently the Court of Appeal held that she had been unfairly dismissed. In a rare interview, she has now said she contemplated suicide in the wake of the controversy and is living on benefits because she is unemployable.
Such remarks will strike many as self-serving, turning herself into the victim, rather than the child her department so catastrophically abandoned. However, although her absence of contrition continues to jar, she makes a fair point that, while she was vilified, no one in the NHS or police lost their job over the way they, in turn, failed Baby P.
But this is all-too common in welfare services. Scandal follows scandal — and yet hardly anyone ever seems to be held to account.
Another example occurred at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, where over three years from 2005 between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly as managers ruthlessly cut costs — particularly nursing numbers — to meet targets the Labour government laid down to win ‘foundation’ hospital status.
Doctors were diverted from critically-ill patients in order to deal with less serious cases to meet the target of discharging all patients from Accident & Emergency units within four hours of admission.
Vulnerable patients were left starving, in soiled bedsheets or screaming in pain. Some became so dehydrated they drank from flower vases. And those nurses who tried to protest were threatened by others.
According to accounts leaked at the weekend, the report on the scandal by Robert Francis QC due out this week will call for an overhaul of regulations to ensure poor managers are weeded out, and better training for nurses and healthcare assistants.
Apparently, the report will damn not just the Mid-Staffordshire management but a ‘culture of fear’ from Whitehall down to the wards, as managers became fixated on meeting targets and protecting ministers from political criticism.
Countless families in Mid-Staffordshire have been left grieving for loved ones who were, in effect, killed by the National Health Service. Justice surely required sackings going right to the top and maybe even criminal prosecutions.
Yet astoundingly hardly any of the executives who presided over the scandal was disciplined. The hospital’s director of nursing was suspended from the nursing register and then chose to retire.
Complaints about 41 doctors and at least 29 further nurses were sent to their professional bodies, yet none has been struck off.
More jaw-droppingly, others — including Martin Yeates, the Trust’s former chief executive, who refused to give evidence to the inquiry on medical grounds — have subsequently been appointed to other senior positions in the health sector.
Cynthia Bower was chief executive of West Midlands strategic health authority, whose year-long inquiry into the Mid-Staffordshire Trust wrongly rejected its alarmingly high death rates as a statistical error.
Yet one month after this report was produced, she was promoted to run the Care Quality Commission, the health and social care regulator — only to resign last February after severe criticism of the Commission’s failure to police hospitals and care homes. Well, there’s a surprise.
Most astonishing of all, Sir David Nicholson, who ran the health authority responsible for supervising Mid-Staffordshire from August 2005 to April 2006, went on to become the chief executive of the NHS.
He was recently appointed to run the NHS Commissioning Board, the key new body created to oversee GP services.
Sir David blithely dismissed the Mid-Staffordshire scandal as a one-off problem rather than a symptom of systemic NHS failings. His position is now surely untenable.
But how could he and others responsible for this scandal ever have gone on to top NHS jobs? This is surely not so much a National Health Service as a national madhouse.
The short answer is that state-run services invariably put managers first and the public last — because as passive recipients of the Welfare State, the public have no leverage over it. The people running welfare services are accountable not to those recipients but to the State that pays their wages and keeps the funds rolling in regardless.
They use such feather-bedding to look after their own interests, protect their political paymasters’ backs — and do what those paymasters tell them.
The result is the pernicious ‘tick-box culture’ which focuses on targets that enable politicians to boast of false achievements rather than address people’s real needs. Just as this was the bane of Mid-Staffordshire, so it was in Haringey. Sharon Shoesmith’s great defence was always that ‘correct procedures’ had been followed; she even produced a pie chart to ‘prove’ her department’s effectiveness.
The Mid-Staffordshire scandal most certainly was not a one-off. As the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged, there have been four NHS scandals since then, with many other patients being shockingly neglected, bullied or abused.
Without doubt, even more such horrors are occurring in the hospital service, with more Baby P-type abuses taking place under the noses of social workers, health officials and police officers.
Part of the reason is loss of competence. Social work had the stuffing knocked out of it decades ago when it replaced specialist child care officers with general social workers. For their part, the police have become frighteningly demoralised by top-down bullying and control.
And nursing lost the plot more than a decade ago when it decided that feminism meant ‘caring’ was demeaning to women.
Yet the shocking extent of the cruelty, neglect and sheer absence of humanity now on show in the health and social services surely tells us something else. The notion that state-run services are the only way to ensure compassion is totally wrong. Altruism is a moral concept — and it is morality which has gone missing here.
Far from engendering altruism, the Welfare State has all but destroyed it. Altruism comes from acting against one’s own self-interest in a spirit of vocation.
But the Welfare State has created a culture of entitlement. In the NHS, this has fostered an attitude among many staff that patients should be grateful for what they get. That, in turn, has encouraged a resentment which dehumanises those whose needs are seen as overwhelming.
This is seen most starkly in the systematic ill-treatment and neglect of elderly and incapable patients.
In social services, meanwhile, the obsession with equality has replaced professionalism with a paralysing political correctness. The result is that when ethnic or sexual minorities commit abuses, these offences are invariably ignored.
The Welfare State — and most particularly the NHS — is seen as the ultimate example of compassion. In fact, it leaves patients and clients powerless, while protecting and even rewarding gross incompetence, and worse, by staff.
That’s why inquiry after inquiry follows scandal after scandal. And it’s why reform of the kind demanded by this week’s Francis report is not possible without a far more fundamental change of approach.
The Government must stop bowing down to the sacred cow of the NHS and rethink the basis of the Welfare State if care services are to become, in the Health Secretary’s words, ‘worthy of a civilised country’.
Altruism and compassion have to be, once again, enabled rather than stifled.
And no amount of self-justification by Sharon Shoesmith or hand-wringing over Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust will bring that about.
How feminism is to blame for the breakdown of the family
By British Left-winger Diane Abbott!
Feminism is partly to blame for the breakdown of the family, one of Labour’s most senior female politicians has said. Diane Abbott, the party’s public health spokesman, said that major issues facing society ‘stem from family breakdown’.
And in a surprise admission from one of the Left’s most outspoken feminists, she conceded that women’s rights campaigners have neglected the family.
Miss Abbott, a divorced mother with one son, also highlighted the harmful impact on society of internet pornography and fast food.
Perhaps most surprising, however, is her argument that Left-wingers and feminists should make family breakdown a key battleground rather than leave the issue to Conservatives.
In an interview with The Guardian, she said: ‘Those of us who came of age at the height of feminism had very mixed views about the family, since it seemed to be defined as a heterosexual thing with a certificate, children and mum at home.’
But she said the Left had to recognise that ‘some of the biggest public health issues stem from family breakdown’, explaining: ‘Doctors say to me that so many of the drug and alcohol problems they see stem from family difficulties.’
In a nod to Labour orthodoxy, Miss Abbott said: ‘When I talk about stable families, I do not only mean the heterosexual, 2.1-children set-up, but also extended families or same-sex relationships.’
But she added: ‘I still believe some kind of stable family structure is vital and that is what most people want around them. I do not think we should abandon that terrain to the Right.’
Miss Abbott’s intervention is remarkable since it echoes the views of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
Miss Abbott, who stood for the Labour leadership in 2010, said local authorities should have stronger powers to ban the spread of fried chicken shops and other fast food outlets, adding: ‘For too many children, fast food is not a treat but a dietary staple.’
Miss Abbott also threw her support behind Tory MP Claire Perry’s crusade to introduce controls on viewing internet pornography.
‘Children very young, ten or 11, can go online and see stuff they could not have bought in a newsagent 20 years ago,’ she said. ‘This crude pornification is new, and leads to the objectification of the human body, especially girls’ bodies.’
Miss Abbott also said she had come to support school uniforms – traditionally opposed by the Left – to combat the modern obsession with designer brands. She said: ‘There are these young mums that do not necessarily read to their children, they do not take them to the library, but they think they are good mums because their children are dressed in brand names from top to bottom.’
Head teacher among EIGHTEEN staff to quit £11m British school over threats and physical assaults
Staff are leaving an £11million school for boys with ‘challenging behaviour’ in droves because they fear for their safety, two unions have said.
The headteacher, two teachers, seven governers and eight other members of staff have quit the Foremost School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in just one year thanks to inadequate alarms, communication equipment and poor design that prevents them from monitoring pupils.
The £11m facility opened in February to cater for students who have been removed from mainstream education because of difficult behaviour.
Some, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said, exhibited ‘extreme’ behaviour. Sources, quoted by the Daily Star, say staff have been forced to endure threats of violence and physical assaults from pupils.
The school is designed to cater for 40 pupils, but there are just 16 in attendance currently.
The NUT and Unison both say they have voiced fears to North Yorkshire County Council over the design of the buildings, where staff are expected to maintain ‘line of sight’ contact with students and colleagues.
Teachers say students can easily give teachers the slip and open fire doors.
One of the sources said: ‘The building is such that sometimes we physically lose sight of these children and that’s not conducive to maintaining the level of care we are responsible to deliver.’
Other sources spoke of ‘serious situations’ but declined to go into detail about them. They also said three teachers and the headteacher quit not long after it opened.
Unison’s Stella Smethurst said: ‘Things are not working well at the school and it’s the same issues coming around again and again, relating to the safety of the building, safety of staff and also the pupils.’
North Yorkshire County Council was not available for comment. They have previously stated the school has had ‘a challenging year’, but safety was a priority.
The battle to find a decent government-funded school in Britain gets ever harder
Parents are flooding an elite group of grammar schools, faith schools and flagship academies with more than a thousand applications, it was revealed.
Experts warned that demand for the most sought-after places was being driven by an increase in the number of recession-hit parents seeking a top-quality free education as an alternative to private schools.
But the sheer number of applications for England’s top schools has led to the introduction of controversial admissions rules designed to stop middle-class parents “playing the system” to secure places.
Around one-in-six of the most oversubscribed are selecting equal numbers of high, middle and low-ability pupils or using lotteries to engineer a more comprehensive intake, figures show.
The move means that some pupils could be overlooked in favour of peers living further away from the school gates.
The Department for Education insisted it had introduced new powers to enable the most oversubscribed state schools to expand, creating additional capacity.
But the latest figures suggest that tens of thousands of parents are still being left disappointed.
The Telegraph requested data on the most oversubscribed schools in each council area. Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show:
* A Muslim secondary in Birmingham – the Al-Hijrah – was the country’s most sought-after school, with 18 pupils competing for each of its 60 places;
* Two grammar schools in Slough – Herschel and Langley – had 14 and 13 applications for each place, respectively;
* The Harris Academy in Crystal Palace, south London, was the most sought-after school without a religious ethos or academic selection, with 2,212 applications for 180 places – 12 pupils for each vacancy;
* In total, 20 schools in England had at least eight applications per place;
* The majority of England’s most popular schools had secured academy status, giving them complete control over admissions and the curriculum, while one-in-eight were grammar schools and one-in-six were faith schools.
The disclosure came as The Good Schools Guide – established 26 years ago with a focus on helping parents secure the best private education – started running its first dedicated state school consultancy service because of the sheer demand for places at “Rolls Royce state schools”.
Janette Wallis, the guide’s senior editor, said it had seen a sharp rise in parents seeking a top state school after being priced out of fee-paying education.
“Grammars, top faith comprehensives and academies are more in demand than ever,” she said. “There are some brilliant ‘supercomps’ out there now, often led by superheads and getting super results.
“In most cases, however, these highest achieving comprehensives have some element of selection, whether via geography, church attendance or a percentage admitted on the basis of aptitude.”
Matt Richards, founder and senior partner of School Appeals Services, said some families made unrealistic applications, adding: “It is still the case that many parents don’t make preferences that are achievable. You may get hundreds of kids sitting a grammar school entrance test when their parents know they don’t have a hope in hell of getting in.”
The Telegraph requested data on the three most oversubscribed schools in each council area, although some authorities could only name one or two schools.
In all, 102 out of 152 authorities in England supplied complete figures relating to 291 schools.
Parents can usually apply to between three and six schools each, although heads have to treat each application equally and cannot prioritise families naming a school as their first preference.
Rules introduced under Labour also gave heads the power to impose new admissions systems to give all pupils a fairer chance of accessing top schools – stopping middle-class families “buying” their way in by moving into the local catchment area.
Under the move, schools can place all or some pupils into a “lottery” and award places using a random ballot. They can also use “fair banding”, in which applicants sit aptitude tests and an equal number of high, middle and low achieving pupils win places.
According to figures, 47 out of 291 used at least one of these admissions processes. Eight used both systems, while 12 ran lotteries and 27 employed fair banding.
Parents in London were most likely to face these admissions rules, although they were also employed by popular schools in Bradford, Manchester, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Northampton, Middlesbrough and Brighton.
Al-Hijrah School, in the Bordesley Green area of Birmingham, which had 1,101 applications for 60 places this year, currently uses random allocation.
But Mrs Wallis said: “Lotteries and fair banding drive many parents’ blood pressure through the ceiling.
“Most parents we speak to hate lottery-style admissions policies because it feels arbitrary. Fair banding has an underpinning of logic but drives parents mad when a child in different band from their son or daughter gets a school place even though the child lives further from the school than they do.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are creating thousands more school places and raising standards throughout the country so that every child has the chance to go to a good local school.
“We have made £2.7 billion available since 2011 for those local authorities that face the greatest pressure on places and this month we announced an extra £1 billion to build new free schools and academies and expand existing good schools.
“Last year we revised the admissions code to make it fairer and simpler for all parents and we have banned councils from using lotteries as the principal method of allocating school places.”
A daily tomato pill to cut heart attacks: Drug ‘boosts blood flow and artery health’
This lycopene story has been around for a while now. Only so far tested for a short period on a small group of elderly patients who have already had heart attacks. May not generalize
No one would much like the idea of eating 6lb of tomatoes a day. But if their goodness was popped in an easy-to-swallow pill that you were told might prevent strokes and heart attacks you would probably be putting in an order tomorrow.
Researchers believe they may have come up with just that after trials on the supplement Ateronon.
The daily pill contains a chemical called lycopene which makes tomatoes red and is known to break down fatty deposits in the arteries.
A Cambridge University study found taking the capsule boosted blood flow and improved the lining of vessels in patients with pre-existing heart conditions. It also increased the flexibility of their arteries by 50 per cent.
The scientists believe it could limit the damage caused by heart disease – responsible for 180,000 deaths a year – and help cut the 49,000 deaths a year from strokes.
They also hope it could benefit those with arthritis, diabetes and even slow the progress of cancer.
Each pill provides the equivalent of eating around 6lb of ripe tomatoes.
Studies have shown eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in tomatoes, fish, vegetables, nuts and olive oil can significantly reduce cholesterol and help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Preliminary results from a two-month trial, in which the pill was given to 36 heart disease patients and 36 healthy volunteers with an average age of 67, were presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.
It was shown to improve the function of the endothelium – the layer of cells lining blood vessels. It also boosted their sensitivity to nitric oxide, the gas which triggers the dilation of the arteries in response to exercise.
Ian Wilkinson, of Cambridge University’s clinical trials unit, said: ‘These results are potentially very significant, but we need more trials to see if they translate into fewer heart attacks and strokes.’
Peter Kirkpatrick, a leading neurosurgeon and medical adviser to CamNutra, which has developed Ateronon, said: ‘It is too early to come to firm conclusions, but the results from this trial are far better than anything we could have hoped for.’
Further studies are planned, with researchers hoping it could offer an alternative to statins for heart disease sufferers who cannot take the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Mike Knapton, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Although this showed lycopene improved blood flow in people with heart disease, that’s a long way from demonstrating that taking it could improve outcomes for people with heart disease.
The best way to get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.’