Parents’ desperate race to raise £225,000 in just 12 days so their son, 7, can have life-saving cancer treatment
The NHS is NOT there when you really need it
The parents of a seven-year-old boy are desperately trying to raise £225,000 in 11 days so he can have life-saving treatment for a brain tumour that was originally diagnosed as a migraine.
Jasmine and Rad Novakovic are making a desperate public appeal to help send son Alex for specialist radiotherapy in America.
From a standing start, the couple have already succeeded in raising almost £60,000 from well-wishers in just three days.
Alex complained of headaches and nausea for three months and Jasmine, 41, took him several times to her GP and for hospital tests. But instead of diagnosing his brain tumour, doctors diagnosed a migraine and even suspected scarlet fever.
It was only when Alex collapsed suddenly at the dinner table on November 15 that he was correctly diagnosed by doctors at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.
But by then his malignant brain tumour was so far advanced that it was thought to be terminal.
Since then, Alex has had endless tests, scans, surgery and intensive chemotherapy for his stage 4 tumour.
At one stage, he was given only days to live but neurosurgeons managed to remove some of the tumour.
Few hospitals worldwide offer the proton radiotherapy Alex needs quickly to survive and nearly all have long waiting lists.
But Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said it can treat Alex for six weeks from April 30 and doctors there say there is every chance he would make a full recovery.
The expensive proton beam treatment is not available on the NHS and Jasmine and husband Rad, 53, have to pay the hospital fees up front.
There are other conventional radiotherapy options in this country but there would be more side effects and his chances of survival would be slim.
Alex, who has three sisters – Kristina, 13, Victoria, 11 and Elizabeth, 3 – has been off school since November.
Jasmine is trying to get celebrities to highlight Alex’s plight and singer Joss Stone and TV presenter Jeff Brazier have already lent their support.
Joss alerted all her fans on Facebook and since then donations have poured in with £56,500 raised in just three days.
Jasmine said: ‘I feel devastated that his brain tumour could have been picked up much earlier. ‘One of the John Radcliffe surgeons said that even a month sooner would have meant a better prognosis.
‘I can’t describe how awful it has been since Alex collapsed. To be given the news that the tumour was terminal and there was nothing they could do was soul-destroying.
‘They said that the tumour had progressed so rapidly that they had to try and take as much out as possible. ‘Alex recovered from that remarkably well and since then he has been having chemotherapy.
‘He lost his hair but he is a strong, brave, mature boy. I have told him I am trying to get him better treatment in America and he understands that.
‘Conventional radiotherapy targets not just the cancer but all the healthy organs and tissue and we have been told Alex would have a slim chance of survival. Proton radiotherapy only targets the cancer.
‘We’ve been warned it was unlikely anyone would take Alex because of his prognosis. ‘There are long waiting lists; so many people are turned away; and we would not have time to organise it anyway.’
But Jasmine’s brother Daniel O’Brien, 31, contacted Massachusetts General Hospital and persuaded them to review Alex’s scans.
Jasmine said: ‘They e-mailed me and said that Alex would be a great candidate for proton radiotherapy and that they felt he had every chance of being cured.
‘I have spoken to mothers of other English children who have had the treatment there and made a full recovery.
‘I am flabbergasted that this opportunity has arisen as a result of my brother pushing it. Getting this opportunity to go to Boston feels like winning the lottery.
‘The last few months have been like a bad dream in and out of hospitals. This has given me so much hope.’
How I’ll weed out the health tourists, Minister acts
Foreigners travelling to Britain to take advantage of our free health service will be denied treatment under radical plans for a shake-up of the system of personal NHS identification numbers.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants only permanent British residents to qualify for anything other than emergency care free of charge.
He believes non-UK residents are granted NHS numbers – which entitle them to free care – far too easily. In many cases, anyone who turns up at a GP surgery is given a number.
On referral to hospital, no further questions about their entitlement are asked – meaning that ‘health tourists’ or those who have fallen ill unexpectedly while in this country are given unlimited free access to the NHS, Government sources say.
Mr Hunt said the system was ‘completely unacceptable’. He has proposed that in future, anyone with a ‘questionable’ residency status should be issued with only a temporary NHS number.
It would mean that if they tried to access anything other than accident and emergency departments, they would be charged.
‘It is completely unacceptable that people are abusing the NHS and accessing free care they are not entitled to,’ the Health Secretary told the Daily Mail.
‘Changing the way the NHS number is used is just one stage of my plan to shut down free NHS care for those who are not entitled to it.’
It is expected that hospitals or surgeries would be under a new obligation to check whether patients are entitled to free care.
They would be able to refer cases to a central body – probably NHS England – which would determine what should be charged.
Sources said a consultation will determine the best way of requiring people to prove residency, possibly through council tax records or the electoral roll.
The Government has promised a crackdown on health tourism, but until now it has been unclear how it would work.
Ministers have also been criticised for underestimating the scale of the problem, with official statistics suggesting it costs taxpayers around £20million a year. But earlier this month the Mail revealed a senior doctor’s warning that the true cost is likely to run into billions of pounds.
Professor J Meirion Thomas, consultant surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said the NHS had become the ‘world’s maternity wing’ as foreign expectant mothers arrive just to give birth.
Mr Hunt will unveil his proposals for an overhaul in a document on health tourism to be published in the next few months.
Anyone whose chargeable status was in question would in future receive a number that only gives temporary access, for example if they needed lifesaving treatment.
A Department of Health source said: ‘The system and processes we have in place to identify those who should pay are weak or poorly implemented.
‘Often, NHS numbers are allocated after a person registers at a GP practice, where current charging rules do not apply. On referral to secondary care with an NHS number, too often no further questions about entitlement are asked.’
Hospitals in England and Wales are supposed to ensure NHS patients have lived in the UK for the previous 12 months, and chase payment for non-emergency treatment from visitors.
But dozens of hospital trusts admit they do not check.
Long school summer holidays should be consigned to history, British education boss declares, as he warns of more strikes by teaching unions
The traditional long summer school holiday is a relic of the 19th century and must be consigned to history, Michael Gove declared today.
The Education Secretary said it was wrong that terms were still scheduled for a time when children were needed to help out on farms and most mothers stayed-at-home.
And he warned of more strikes ahead, accusing unions of lacking ambition and putting the needs of teachers before those of children in their care.
Some schools have already overhauled their term patterns, abolishing the long six-week summer holiday.
But Mr Gove wants every school to follow suit, with longer days and shorter holidays.
He told an education conference: ‘We can’t afford an education system that was essentially set in the nineteenth century.’
The government has previously suggested the school day lasting from 7.30am to 5.30pm, boosting learning and making it easier for parents to go to work.
Mr Gove said ‘some of the best schools in the country’ recognise the need to change the structure of the school term and move to a longer school day.
New powers for headteachers to pay good teachers more could also be used to increase school hours, he said.
‘It’s consistent with the pressures of a modern society. I also think it’s going to be family friendly,’ Mr Gove told the event organised by the Spectator magazine.
‘The structure of the school term and the school day was designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy.
‘I remember half term in October when I was at school in Aberdeen was called the tattie holiday – the period when kids would go to the fields to pick potatoes. It was also at a time when the majority of mums stayed home.
‘That world no longer exists, and we can’t afford to have an education system that was essentially, set in the nineteenth century.’
Mr Gove also renewed his attack on teaching unions, accusing them of fostering a ‘culture of low expectations’ which is holding children back.
He added: ‘One of the tragedies of our time is that the teaching unions have chosen to put the interests of adults, ahead of the needs of our children. And that is why sadly, the unions, as a voice of teachers is diminishing.
‘My challenge not to teachers, but to teaching unions – is to do a better job.’
Asked if Britain was facing more strikes in schools, he replied: ‘Yes. There seems to be a competition between the NUT and NASUWT to compete for members, with each one trying to out radical the other.
‘I think that this is a golden opportunity for teachers to prove what they can achieve.’
He urged the unions to set up a Free School, offering to find them a building and provide funding.
In a speech he said that pupils are at a ‘significant handicap’ compared to youngsters in East Asian nations who benefit from extra tuition and support from teachers.
Mr Gove said: ‘One of the striking things about East Asia is that they do not have what we have in England, is the automatic assumption that you divide children into the achievers and the others, the academic and the vocational.
‘They believe that every child can be educated. The assumption is that all children at every year will absorb and learn the curriculum. And their expectations are higher than in this country.
‘School days are longer, school holidays are shorter. The expectation is that to succeed, hard work is at the heart of everything.
‘And if you look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday – and we compare it to the extra tuition and support that children are receiving elsewhere – then we are fighting or actually running in this global race in a way that ensures that we start with a significant handicap.’
The old acrylamide scare never seems to go away
It was big in California eight years ago so I suppose it was due to hit Britain about now. Debunked here
Raised levels of a chemical linked to cancer have been found in a range of foods from KFC meals to breakfast cereals. Food watchdogs identified the increased quantities of acrylamide in 14 popular products.
The chemical is formed when foods are roasted, toasted or fried at very high temperatures.
Scientists say it is potentially carcinogenic if consumed regularly over a lifetime.
The Food Standards Agency tested 300 products to understand the scale of the problem.
The largest amount was found in crisps, including a number of expensive brands such as Burts Sea Salted crisps.
There were also raised levels in Tesco ready salted crisps, Tayto cheese and onion crisps, Seabrook Sea Salted crisps, Pipers Anglesey sea salt crisps and the Co-op’s Sea Salt and Chardonnay crisps.
Manufacturers suggested the problem was caused by last year’s bad weather which changed sugar levels in potatoes, which in turn created more acrylamide.
In terms of take-out food, raised levels were found in a sample of KFC fries bought at a restaurant in Congleton, Cheshire, and a fish and chip shop in the town.
Breakfast cereals containing bran, which is cooked at a particularly high temperature, also contained more acrylamide.
Raised levels were found in Tesco bran flakes, Sainsbury’s wholegrain bran flakes, the Co-op’s wheat bran flakes and puffed wheat sold by the Good Grain Company.
Higher than expected levels were also found in Fox’s Ginger biscuits and TUC biscuits.
The FSA stresses it does not consider the levels of the chemical found to be dangerous, however it is keen that they are brought down as a precautionary measure.
A spokesman said: ‘We will work with the relevant local authority to encourage food manufacturers to review their acrylamide reduction strategies.’
The watchdog said there is no need for the public to give up the foods named in its survey, however it gave advice on how people can reduce exposure.
This includes cooking chips only to a light golden colour while advising that ‘bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable’.
It said manufacturers’ instructions for frying or oven-heating foods, such as chips, should be followed carefully.
KFC said it has contacted all of its outlets to ensure cooking methods are designed to guarantee low acrylamide levels. It added: ‘We believe that this was a one–off anomalous result as the levels in every other test carried out on KFC fries were significantly lower.’
Burt’s said the wet weather had changed the character of potatoes to create higher levels of the unwanted chemical.
As a result, it is switching to new varieties that should reduce the level and is improving its sorting process to remove overcooked crisps.
Tesco said: ‘Food safety is incredibly important to us, and we are working closely with our suppliers to ensure all acrylamide levels are below the recommended indicative value.’
Let British farms grow GM food, says PM’s personal scientific adviser: Top adviser backs calls to relax rules on crops
Calls to relax the rules on GM crops were backed yesterday by the nation’s chief scientist. Sir Mark Walport said the rise of genetically modified food was ‘inexorable’ and there was a ‘strong case’ for it to be grown in Britain.
So far biotech firms have been deterred from growing GM crops in Europe by the tightest controls in the world.
But controversially Sir Mark, who is David Cameron’s personal scientific adviser, said the food was proving its worth and production is increasing globally.
‘It is inexorably rising up the agenda again because as a technology it is showing its value more and more, obviously in terms of the crops that are able to feed the world,’ he added.
‘The job of a scientific adviser is to set out the scientific case and that scientific case is becoming stronger and stronger.’
But Peter Riley, of campaign group GM Freeze, said: ‘The public remains extremely sceptical about the safety of GM foods and the benefits that are said to come from them.
Politicians and scientific leaders need to look at other food options that do not come with such a large risk.
‘The push for GM is being orchestrated by large industry rather than in the interest of the consumer or public health.’
Sir Mark said it was his ‘job to advise on the science and it is then the politician’s job to decide how to use that … The final decision is a political decision’.
His comments – in his first public speech in the job – are the latest indication that the GM lobby is rapidly gaining influence after years of public hostility.
Earlier this month, four major supermarkets ended bans on farm suppliers giving GM feed to animals producing meat, milk and eggs.
The vast majority of those foods sold in Britain will now come from animals raised on a GM diet.
However, a survey by the Food Standards Agency last year found two in three people believe food from animals given a GM diet should be described as such.
And a British Science Association study showed public support for so-called Frankenstein Foods declining from 46 per cent in 2002 to just 27 per cent now.
Campaign groups have also raised concerns over ministers’ secret meetings with GM lobby groups – details of which emerged only following freedom of information requests.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson last year came out as keen proponent of GM crops, dismissing consumer fears as ‘humbug’.
And, days ago, scientists called on ministers to back technology which could produce genetically modified salmon, pigs and cattle.
Speaking after his address to the University of Cambridge’s centre for science and policy’s annual conference, Sir Mark said GM crops could provide important potential benefits for food production.
He added: ‘For every genetic modification you have to ask what plant, what gene and for what purpose. The case will be strong for some and not strong for others. Each case has be decided on its merits.’
Asked for examples of crops that would benefit British farming, Sir Mark said: ‘If it were possible for instance to develop a blight-resistant potato, then that would be a valuable thing to do.’
He also said that ‘golden rice’ –genetically modified rice that contains higher levels of vitamin A to reduce blindness and other diseases in the developing world – had ‘been around for some time’.
Biotech firms such as Monsanto have ensured that 80 per cent of the soya grown in the US and Brazil is GM.
It is one of the reasons why British supermarkets have now been forced to allow GM-fed produce into the food chain.
The first GM meat and fish could also go on sale this summer. Authorities in the US are expected to grant approval to Aquabounty salmon, which has been modified to grow twice as fast as normal.
Hot sausage ban at the BBC: Workers told they must not pick up heated food or make their own toast in case they burn themselves
BBC workers are fuming after being told they are not allowed to pick up ‘hot sausages’ with tongs or make their own toast – in case they burn themselves.
Workers have complained to chiefs at the Beeb after the BBC Club took over running the canteen from another provider at the Media Centre in White City in Wood Lane, north west London, last week.
The BBC Club – set up as a private members club for BBC employees in 1924 – was put in charge of the cafe on April 2.
But after just over a week in charge, BBC staff are complaining that a ‘new health and safety crackdown’ has meant they can no longer make their own toast or pick up hot sausages – even with the tongs provided.
BBC worker Chris Malpas, who works in technology support, said service was ‘chaotic’ since the BBC Club took over. He wrote: ‘I fail to see how the now-club-run canteen at the Media Centre is supposed to be an improvement on what was available in White City previously.
‘Not only does the counter/till service become chaotic when there are more than two people waiting, but at almost 35 years old I am suddenly no longer deemed qualified enough to prepare my own toast at breakfast time. ‘This in spite of the fact that, as far as I can recall, I have never once trapped my hand in a toaster slot, or indeed suffered third degree burns whilst picking up sausages with tongs.
‘I live in hope that these are just ‘teething issues’ but I fear that this is perhaps the BBC’s way of encouraging us in W12 to dine elsewhere.’
Other BBC workers have also complained, saying it’s ‘health and safety gone mad’.
One, who asked not to be named, said today: ‘I was told I couldn’t pick up two sausages with the tongs to put in a roll because I might burn myself. ‘The sausages were hardly sizzling hot, so there wasn’t much chance of that in the first place, but I resent the fact that someone in a pinny can tell me I can’t take care of myself. I’m perfectly capable of making a meal at home, so can easily manage a bit of self service.’
He also said that toasters available for self-service previously had been ‘moved’ and that workers had to ask canteen staff for slices of ‘warmed bread’ rather than make it themselves.
BBC staff are notoriously ‘grumpy’ about canteen food, with various employees complaining or ‘rock hard baked potatoes, bad tuna and cold chips’ and huge 20-minute long queues to get served at the BBC’s new œ1bn revamped Broadcasting House HQ in London’s West End.
The BBC canteen has long been the butt of jokes by comics, with Ronnie Corbett, Peter Sellers and Terry Wogan all having a pop at it in the past.
Terry Wogan calls Beeb tea ‘the evil brew’ and Peter Sellers once joked on the Goon show in the mid-50s: ‘Lunch is now being served in the BBC canteen. Doctors are standing by.’
Commenting on catering issues previously, a BBC spokesman said that ‘any staff with comments on catering’ were encouraged to ‘give feedback’ to suppliers.
Must not praise Margaret Thatcher
Britain’s two most powerful civil servants were today accused of having ‘prostituted your high office’ after writing an article about Margaret Thatcher.
Labour MP Paul Flynn launched a lengthy attack against Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir Bob Kerslake, before storming out of a Commons committee.
The mandarins had praised the Iron Lady as a ‘kind and considerate boss’ who would make shepherd’s pie for staff when working late in Downing Street.
Sir Jeremy, the Cabinet Secretary, and Sir Bob, the head of the civil service, were forced to deny being pressured into writing the piece by Tory strategists as they were accused of breaching rules on impartiality for Whitehall staff.
The two men were giving evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee. Civil servants are supposed to remain impartial because they have to work with all political parties if they win a general elections.
Mr Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, began the session with a 10 minute attack on the article.
He said: ‘The main controversy going on in the country may have passed you by is on the verdict on Margaret Thatcher’s period in government, this is something which divides this country, it’s the hottest political issue of the moment.
‘You penned an article that was entirely sycophantic, no kind of criticism whatsoever. This is not what civil servants traditionally should do.’
Sir Jeremy refused to apologise for the article, insisting it was ‘about the civil service relationship with Margaret Thatcher as a person, as a human being’.
Sir Bob added: ‘The article is not intended to be a comment on her policies, critical or otherwise.’