Saturday, December 08, 2007

Brainless British medical bureaucrats

How they hate private medicine! And being nearly twice as successful as many of your competitors is just not playing the game!

Britain’s most controversial fertility doctor has also been named its most successful, by the IVF watchdog that wants to ban him from running his clinic. Mohammed Taranissi’s Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London has the highest success rate of any British centre offering IVF, according to figures released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Almost two thirds of Mr Taranissi’s IVF patients who were aged under 35 and used their own eggs had a baby in 2005, his best result and one of the highest success rates of any clinic in the world. His clinic’s birth rate of 60.7 per cent was twice the national average of 29.6 per cent, and easily outstripped the next best performer, the Lister Fertility Clinic in London, which achieved a rate of 43.1 per cent for the same patient group.

The doctor’s second clinic, the Reproductive Genetics Institute, was fourth in the league table. His position will embarrass the HFEA, which decided in July to strip him of his right to be “person responsible” for the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre after saying that he treated patients at the Reproductive Genetics Institute without a licence. The Reproductive Genetics Institute has been closed and Mr Taranissi has been issued a temporary licence to operate until the middle of next month, when his appeal is expected to be heard. If it fails, he is likely to bring the issue to judicial review.

The High Court recently found that HFEA used unlawful warrants to raid the two clinics in January this year for evidence. Mr Taranissi is also suing the BBC programme Panorama for libel.

Critics of Mr Taranissi claim that he has achieved his high success rate by transferring multiple embryos. Mr Taranissi’s two clinics figure highly in the table for multiple births, which are the biggest side-effect of IVF treatment. The Reproductive Genetics Institute was third in the multiple births table, with 33 per cent of its births twins and 1 per cent triplets; the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre was fourth, with 32 per cent of its births twins and 1 per cent triplets. The Salisbury Fertility Centre had the highest twin rate at 38 per cent, followed by the Peninsular Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Exeter, at 36 per cent. The HFEA is trying to reduce the multiple birth rate from 24 per cent to 10 per cent.

Mr Taranissi said yesterday that high twin and triplet rate was the result of a higher embryo implantation rate in general. “We have a system where we work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and it shows that you can get outstanding results by doing every stage of the procedure at the right time,” he said. “It would be odd if we did not have a high twin rate. It is a reflection of our higher implantation rate.”

The 2005 HFEA figures support this, as both IVF success rates and multiple births rose in spite of fresh controls on the number of embryos that doctors may transfer. The national success rate was 29.6 per cent for women under 35 and 21.6 per cent overall, up from 28.1 per cent and 20.6 per cent the previous year. The proportion of multiple births rose from 22.7 per cent to 24 per cent.

The new figures are published today as part of the HFEA’s new Find a Clinic website ( guide), which includes details of every licensed fertility centre in Britain. Alan Doran, the HFEA’s interim chief executive, said: “Good and comprehensive information is vital for any patient making choices about their treatment options. “Statistics are just one of the many things patients need to consider when choosing a clinic. Their age, location, which treatments are available and what the clinic offers to support them are also absolutely key to helping them make informed decisions.” He added: “Multiple births continue to be a concern because of the increased risk to mothers and babies. That is why we announced this week that we will be working with the professional bodies to develop a strategy to reduce multiple births.”


Sperm donor ordered to pay lesbian couple

A British firefighter who donated his sperm so a lesbian couple could have two babies is being forced to pay thousands of pounds in child support. Andy Bathie, 37, initially agreed to help Sharon and Terri Arnold after being assured he would not have to be involved in the upbringing of their young boy and girl or have any financial responsibility towards them. But the British government's Child Support Agency has begun docking his pay to force him to contribute to the children's upbringing because the lesbian couple have split up.

Mr Bathie has launched unprecedented court action in an attempt to ensure he cannot be recognised as a legal parent to the children. "These women wanted to be parents and take on all the responsibilities that brings," he told the Evening Standard newspaper. "I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family. "And now I can't afford to have children with my own wife - it's crippling me financially."


Britain: National test scores are annulled after cheating by teachers is exposed

Five schools caught cheating in national tests were stripped of their results yesterday. Investigators found evidence of malpractice in the Key Stage 2 Sats tests taken by 11-year-olds. Four of the schools lost all their marks in English, maths and science, and a fifth had its results removed for English. Two of them were among the best primaries in England in previous years, but will now be at the bottom of the league tables.

Teachers' unions said that the excessive pressure of targets and league tables was driving some teachers to cheat. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It is deeply sad to see some schools fall into the trap of malpractice. This demonstrates the extreme pressure that some schools and some teachers feel to perform to targets which may not reflect the ability of the children in their midst. "We need an assessment system that promotes professional integrity and this one does not."

Mr Brookes criticised ministers for failing to listen to schools' concerns over the tests. Figures show that the number of schools accused of amending their pupils' results rose from 101 in 2005 to 115 last year. A report into maladministration said that examples of this included teachers who had previous knowledge of the questions coaching children for the test. They were also alleged to have given pupils too much help during the test or to have made changes to their papers after the exam.

About 500 schools are investigated by the National Assessment Agency each year, after parents, teachers or test-markers raise concerns. The five found guilty of malpractice included St Charles's Catholic Primary School, in Liverpool. The teacher at the centre of that incident is thought to have buckled under pressure and subsequently left the school.

Examiners contacted the NAA after noticing that tests at Brockswood Primary School, in Hemel Hempstead, and St Bernadette's Roman Catholic School, in St Albans. The schools are in Hertfordshire and a county council spokeswoman said: "The NAA found that test papers had been altered. Investigators were called in but it was not possible to identify how alterations had been made in either case. However, it was felt that lax administrative procedures had contributed." The test results were also annulled for Springfield Community Primary School in Hackney, East London. William Cowper Primary School, in Birmingham, was stripped of its English results.

Teachers who falsify results run the risk of ruining their careers. In the past six years the General Teaching Council has heard 30 such cases.


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