NHS drug to tackle sight loss that could help thousands is given the green light

At long last. Only under socialized medicine would there be hesitation about saving people’s sight

Thousands of people at risk of losing their sight from a diabetes-related condition could benefit from a new drug approved for NHS use. The rationing body Nice has finally given the go ahead for Lucentis after the makers dropped the price.

The drug treats diabetic macular oedema (DMO), which affects around 50,000 Britons causing problems with reading, driving and recognising faces. This offers fresh hope for people with a serious and common complication of diabetes.

Currently laser treatment is used to stabilise the condition which if left untreated causes 30 per cent of patients to go blind.

Clinical trials show Lucentis, given as an injection in the eye, is the first treatment that can help reverse vision loss for some patients.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) last year said the drug was not ‘a good use of NHS resources’ at £750 for each monthly injection.

Four UK charities failed in their appeal to stop the proposed ban, but Nice re-visited the decision after makers Novartis cut the price by an undisclosed amount.

Nice tried to ban Lucentis before, when it was initially licensed for another cause of blindness called wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, in 2007. It would have meant patients had to go blind in one eye first but Nice was forced into a U-turn after thousands of protests.

Lucentis is one of the most costly drugs for the NHS, which spent £130 million on the treatment in 2010, although patient access scheme for AMD patients capped the cost at £10,400 for 14 injections or more.

However, consultant ophthalmologist Ben Burton, from the James Paget University Hospital, Great Yarmouth, said the drug was one of the great breakthroughs in eye disease.

He said ‘This has the impact of insulin, penicillin or steroids in our field. It prevents loss of vision and means older people at risk retain the ability to drive a car, and live independent lives. ‘Up until now, most patients could only receive laser treatment on the NHS, which usually just stops their vision worsening but does not necessarily improve it.’

The drug is more effective than laser treatment, although that will still be used for some patients, he added.

Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaigns at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), one of the charities which appealed against the proposed ban, said at least 5,000 new diabetic patients a year could be eligible for the drug, which has a better chance of saving their sight than existing treatment.

When injected into the eye, the drug also known as raniizumab, slows the leakage of small blood vessels in the retina.

Barring appeals, draft guidance from Nice will be confirmed in February, when local trusts will have to find funding for the treatment.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said ‘We are delighted that Nice have reconsidered their previous decision, and that this draft guidance recommends that Lucentis is made available on the NHS, as this would mean more people with diabetes would have a better opportunity to preserve and possibly improve their vision.

‘We have campaigned vigorously for this outcome for the past two years and so welcome this result and hope this is reflected in the final guidance when it is issued next month.’

Professor Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at Nice, said ‘Nice is pleased to recommend ranibizumab as a treatment option for some people with visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema in new draft guidance.

‘In November 2011, Nice published guidance which did not recommend the drug as an effective use of NHS resources. ‘However, following the submission of a revised patient access scheme, we have conducted a rapid review of the original guidance.‘

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said ‘We are delighted that Nice have reconsidered their previous decision, and that this draft guidance recommends that Lucentis is made available on the NHS, as this would mean more people with diabetes would have a better opportunity to preserve and possibly improve their vision.

‘We have campaigned vigorously for this outcome for the past two years and so welcome this result and hope this is reflected in the final guidance when it is issued next month.’

SOURCE

NHS hospital which promoted hypnosis as cure for serious medical conditions ordered to remove leaflet by advertising watchdog

Quackery

An NHS hospital has been found guilty of making bogus claims about the benefits of hypnosis for serious medical conditions.

The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine has been told to withdraw a leaflet it issued promoting hypnosis treatment for a number of conditions including mental health problems and irritable bowel syndrome.

The hospital, whose patron is the Queen, is part of the group of University College London Hospitals NHS trust and calls itself the largest public sector provider of integrated medicine in Europe.

Apart from hypnosis, its clinicians offer various alternative medical therapies including homeopathy and acupuncture.

A leaflet issued by the London hospital headed ‘Medical and Clinical Hypnosis’ made a number of impressive claims for the treatment.

It boasted: ‘Hypnosis can benefit almost anyone to improve their physical, emotional and mental health.’

It then went on to provide a long list of conditions which it could help alleviate including problems with the immune, nervous and gastro-intestinal systems.

The leaflet said hypnosis could also help sufferers with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia.

The benefits of hypnosis were questioned by a campaigning group called the Nightingale Collaboration which was set up to challenge claims made for quack treatments.

It made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority(ASA), which ruled that most of the hospital’s claims for hypnotherapy could not be substantiated.

The hospital provided a raft of clinical studies and research papers to back up their claims, however these failed to satisfy the advertising watchdog.

Its decision calls into question the use of hypnosis in the NHS, where millions of pounds of public money is spent offering the controversial therapy.

The ASA said there is evidence that hypnotherapy can help relieve anxiety, confidence issues and minor skin conditions, but it said the hospital was wrong to make wider claims about improving mental and physical health.

It said most of the trials and studies presented by the hospital to justify its claims were too small to provide meaningful conclusions.

‘We concluded that the claim ‘Hypnosis can benefit almost anyone to improve their physical, emotional and mental health’ exaggerated the potential benefit to patients’ mental and physical health and was therefore misleading,’ it said.

Similarly, the hospital was unable to provide convincing evidence of benefits for the immune, nervous or gastro-intestinal systems.

The ASA did side with the hospital over claims that hypnosis can help people cope with the effects of chronic pain, such as headaches, cancer pain and rheumatism.

However, it banned the hospital from issuing the leaflet again and told executives to make sure that they have ‘robust evidence’ to substantiate medical claims in any future publications.

It said: ‘In summary, we considered that the body of evidence provided by RLHIM, as a whole, had supported the notion that hypnotherapy might help people to cope with and manage pain, and with perceived relief of pain.

‘However, we considered that the leaflet had misleadingly implied more: that hypnotherapy could treat or cure the conditions listed, an interpretation for which we had not seen suitably robust evidence.’

The hospital said it took the ASA ruling ‘very seriously’. It added: ‘We will make the necessary changes to bring our patient information in line with their guidance. In the meantime we have withdrawn the leaflet concerned and have amended our website accordingly.’

SOURCE

Enough illegal migrants to fill three cities the size of Newcastle: Home Office reports that 863,000 are living in the UK

Britain is hosting enough illegal immigrants to fill three cities the size of Newcastle, according to border officials.

A Home Office report says an estimated 70 per cent of the 863,000 illegal migrants are living in London.

The study also reveals that 10,000 foreigners who had no legal right to live in Britain have been granted permission to stay under the so-called 14-year rule.

It means they managed to stay in the country for so long without being booted out that the Government has now given up the fight.

Ministers say the situation is a legacy of Labour’s shambolic handling of border controls.

The illegal immigrants are a mixture of those who sneaked into Britain in the back of lorries and those who arrived on visas but never went home.

Officials, overwhelmed by the foreign prisoners scandal and a deluge of asylum claims, did not have the resources to track them down.

The ‘robust estimate’ of how many illegals are living in the UK comes from the London School of Economics, and is included in a study titled Practical Measures for Reducing Irregular Migration. Ministers accept the figure.

The Home Office says the top five countries from which the illegals have arrived are believed to be India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh.

This is based on the nationalities of those people the authorities have detected.

Last night Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: ‘It’s no surprise that after years of uncontrolled immigration, we have a sizeable illegal immigrant population in Britain.

‘We are determined to get immigration under control, and in the past year net migration has fallen by a quarter. We also want to get tough on illegal immigration.’

The illegal population – more than three times the 275,000 who live in Newcastle – will add sharply to the number of foreign-born nationals living here legally.

Earlier this month, the official Census showed that 7.5million people who were born abroad were living here in 2011, of whom more than half have arrived since 2001.

The Home Office study sets out for the first time how many beneficiaries there have been of the 14-year rule.

This states that, once a migrant has lived in the UK for this long, he or she will have established a right to a family life and should not normally be kicked out.

Between 2004 and 2011, 9,266 ‘irregular migrants’ were granted permission to stay, including a record figure of 2,062 in 2010.

The total is now understood to have breached the 10,000 barrier.

SOURCE

British pupils to learn Byron and Blake by heart in poetry drive

Teenagers will be encouraged to learn classic works by Byron, Blake, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats off by heart under new plans designed to improve understanding of poetry in schools, it was announced today.

A new anthology featuring 130 poems has been published as part of a Government-backed programme designed to promote the subject at the end of secondary education.

Thousands of 14- to 18-year-olds will be expected to learn and recite the poems from their memory in a competition led by Sir Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate, it was announced.

The collection – featuring a range of poems from the 14th century to the present day – is intended to present schoolchildren with a broad sweep of the genre over more than 600 years.

It includes pieces such as John Donne’s The Good-Morrow, extracts from Paradise Lost by John Milton, William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence, Lord Byron’s The Destruction of Sennacherib, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias and John Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale.

The anthology also includes modern poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Simon Armitage and the current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said the move was intended to pass the nation’s “cultural legacy on to the next generation”.

It comes after claims from Sir Andrew that many schools were shunning more “difficult” poems in favour of verse that narrowly appealed to their interests.

He suggested that teachers needed to be equipped with a “wider range” of poetry needed to inspire pupils instead of using English lessons as a “means of ticking yet another set of boxes”.

Ofsted, the education watchdog, has also previously warned that classical poetry was losing out to nonsense verse in the classroom.

Launching the competition on Monday, Sir Andrew said the anthology was intended to feature “familiar poems from the canon alongside less well-known pieces”.

“In every case, we preferred poems that make a powerful impact when they are heard aloud – not because they are theatrical, but because they dramatise experiences that surprise us into a new apprehension of ourselves and our capacity for imagining, thinking and marvelling,” he said.

Mr Gove added: “The richness and diversity of this anthology will ensure that more children than ever will be captivated by the work of many great poets.”

As part of the competition, pupils will be encouraged to memorise one poem published before 1914 and another after 1914. Pupils will be judged on their recital skills at a school and county level before a final at the National Portrait Gallery in London in April.

More than 250 schools and colleges have signed up so far.

The Department for Education, which is providing £500,000 funding to The Poetry Archive to develop and run the competition, said the scheme was intended to promote an understanding of the subject and enable pupils to develop “self-confidence and creative understanding”.

It is also hoped that it will give teachers the opportunity to extend and develop their teaching of poetry and allow children to cover a more broad range of verse, officials said.

Tom Payne, the Telegraph’s poetry critic, said the anthology was a “good-looking list” but insisted some pupils and teachers would “hate some of the poems here”.

“I do think the list looks a little on the serious side – students do need reminding that poetry is fun,” he said. “A good many poets here have written good and memorable comic stuff, but even Betjeman is represented by something elegiac.”

He also said that there was a danger presenting more modern poems alongside earlier verse.

“It’s a real risk offering contemporary work, however wonderful it seems now,” he said. “We don’t yet know how vital it will be to these children, who will, after all, be carrying this stuff in their heads into their nineties and beyond.”

SOURCE

Primary school league tables 2012: Combining shows with studies at England’s top school


No black or Asian faces. Putnam would understand

From putting on a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to achieving the best test results in the country, everyone at Ashurst Church of England Primary gets involved in the school’s success.

The tiny rural village primary near Steyning in West Sussex was the only school in England where every 11-year-old pupil exceeded the expected standard for their age in both English and maths this year.

Janet Williams, the head teacher, said the school of 61 pupils aged between four and 11 was “more or less one large family”. The staff know all the children very well and support their individual needs.

Pupils also take part in a wide range of non-academic activities, from the chess club, which has beaten much bigger schools to reach the finals of the Sussex junior tournament three times in the past 15 years, to the annual spring music festival and Christmas play, which this year was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about the Biblical story of Joseph.

Mrs Williams said: “You want to make sure your children are sufficiently prepared for the tests, but they form just part of the children’s curriculum.

“We have a wholly enriched curriculum. We do a huge amount of work by way of the performing arts – theatre, drama, music, plays. The children will do all of them.

“Each and every person contributes wholly. We’re trying to look at the whole child and potential can lie in various places.”

SOURCE

Global warming at a standstill, new Met Office figures show

The Met Office has downgraded its forecast for global warming to suggest that by 2017 temperatures will have remained about the same for two decades.

A new scientific model has revised previous figures for the next five years downwards by around a fifth.

The forecast compares how much higher average world temperatures are likely to be than the “long-term average” from 1971-2000.

It had been thought that this would be 0.54C during the period 2012 -2016 but new data puts the figure for the 2013-2017 period at 0.43C.

This figure is little higher than the 0.40C recorded in 1998, the warmest year in the Met Office Hadley Centre’s 160-year record – suggesting global warming will have stalled in the intervening two-decade period.

However, it is thought that factors such as ocean current patterns may be behind the slowdown and scientists say the “variability” in climate change does not alter the long-term trend of rising temperatures.

The new annual forecast, published on December 24, is the first to make use of the Met Office’s latest climate model, HadGEM3, which it said “includes a comprehensive set of improvements based on the latest scientific understanding”.

It suggests that global average temperature will remain between 0.28C and 0.59C above the long-term average “with values most likely to be about 0.43C higher than average”.

The Met Office said: “This is an extremely challenging area of research not least because long-term comprehensive observations of the ocean do not exist to help us understand how the global oceans behave over decadal and longer timescales.

“As with all areas of science, our knowledge is continually increasing and it is therefore not surprising that our models and predictive skill will continue to improve.

“The fact that the new model predicts less warming, globally, for the coming five years does not necessarily tell us anything about long-term predictions of climate change for the coming century.”

Labour MP Graham Stringer accused the Met Office of “burying bad news” by releasing the data on Christmas Eve and said it should give up climate change forecasts as well as long-term predictions.

He said: “They failed completely with their models to predict the flattening out of global warming. I think that they are just trying to bury bad news that their predictions in the medium and long-term have been pretty poor.”

Figures from last November, showing that 2012 would be cooler than average for the past decade, had already indicated that global warming was slowing down.

Dr Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office, said at the time that the past decade had been the warmest on record.

But he pointed out that warming has slowed down since 2000, in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s.

“Although the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record, warming has not been as rapid since 2000 as over the longer period since the 1970s,” he said. “This variability in global temperatures is not unusual, with several periods lasting a decade or more with little or no warming since the instrumental record began.

“We are investigating why the temperature rise at the surface has slowed in recent years, including how ocean heat content changes and the effects of aerosols from atmospheric pollution may have influenced global climate.”

Dr Stott warned that global warming could speed up again at any time, and insisted that the general pattern of warming was not in doubt.

SOURCE

‘Stay at home’ mothers snubbed by British government

Not that there’s that many left in broke Britain

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are being urged to bring forward proposals to help “stay at home” mothers after the Coalition’s plans to overhaul child benefit and plans for a new child care tax allowance appeared to snub them.

Campaigners and Tory MPs including a former minister rounded on the Government, insisting that parents who looked after their children rather than go to work were being “discriminated against” by Coalition tax policies.

Changes introduced on Monday cut child benefit for 1.1million families where a single earner is paid more than £60,000 a year, including many which have a mother at home looking after the children.

At the same time, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister sketched out plans in the Coalition’s Mid Term Review of support for working mothers, which are likely to let working mothers claim back £2,000 per child per year to cover child care costs.

However, critics complained that the interests of 1.2 million parents who choose to stay at home to care for their children were overlooked, with only a vague commitment to help married couples through the tax system.

Several Cabinet minister are understood to have “major reservations” about the Prime Minister’s failure to introduce the marriage tax break. One minister said that Mr Cameron “needs to be looking at what can be done for stay-at-home mothers as a matter of urgency.”

The 52-page review included 180 policy measures which Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, have committed the Coalition to delivering by the next general election, expected in May 2015.

The document included commitments to helping people onto the housing ladder, further investment in infrastructure and a new way of funding pensions, but it was criticised by business leaders and campaigners for not including enough detail,

On tax breaks for married couples, the review included a vague commitment to “ensure that provision is made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on proposals to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples”.

However, MPs and campaigners said they were are worried the wording does not actually commit the Government to introducing a tax break for married couples, only for the Lib Dems to abstain from any vote on the proposals.

Tim Loughton, the Tory MP and the Coalition’s former children’s minister, said: “There is an army of parents who work hard at home to bring up their children who are losing out on child benefit and other allowances now.

“They need a Conservative-led Government to put into practice what it said on the tin in our manifesto and deliver a transferable married couples tax allowance in the next Budget before time runs out.

“Trotting out tired mantras about accommodating the voting sensitivities of Lib Dem MPs with very different views on the family just won’t wash anymore.

“Decent parents doing a good job of bringing up their children in increasingly difficult circumstances have already waited too long for a go.”

Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mother’s Union and an adviser to Mr Cameron on childhood issues, complained that marriage was at present not supported by the tax system.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “Marriage, as the best stable environment for both couples and their children, seems unsupported by current fiscal policy.

“I call on the Government to honour their commitment to support married couples through the tax system by introducing transferable tax allowances for married couples.”

Dominic Raab MP said: “Tax breaks for childcare costs will be a massive boon for hard-pressed families, and do more for working women than Labour achieved in 13 years.

“But, we risk creating another category of ‘have nots’, and eroding family choice, unless it also applies to working couples with a stay at home Mum or Dad.”

Last night senior Number 10 sources insisted that the plan to introduce a tax break for married couples, which would benefit stay-at-home mothers, would be announced “in due course”, most likely in the March 20 Budget this year.

SOURCE

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About jonjayray

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