Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lifesaving drugs to be "cut" by the NHS

Only 4,000 people are affected so who cares? Not the NHS

A two-year-old boy suffering from a rare heart and lung condition is being kept alive by Viagra. Oliver Sherwood takes the drug four times a day to control pulmonary hypertension (PH), a condition that causes chronic high blood pressure. Viagra improves blood flow and can help open veins and capillaries to aid circulation in cases such as Oliver's. However, his future health is under threat because of proposed cuts by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government's drug rationing agency. As Oliver grows up he will need to switch to more expensive treatments to control his condition, such as Epoprostenol and Iloprost, which may not be available if the cuts go ahead.

His mother, Sarah, 34, has launched a petition to keep funding for PH treatments on the NHS. Mrs Sherwood, a part-time nurse who lives in Hucclecote, Glos, with her husband Howard, 43, and older son William, five, said: "Viagra is an expensive drug but it's actually one of the cheapest to treat PH. "When he started taking it the change was fantastic - I had my little boy back. "Cutting any of these treatments to save money is scandalous when lives are at stake."

PH causes the blood pressure in the arteries in the lungs to rise, putting strain on the heart and reducing blood oxygen levels. Oliver cannot walk more than a few steps without getting out of breath and a simple chest infection could kill him. Only 4,000 people in Britain have the condition and the survival rate for most patients is about five years. Only five children a year are diagnosed with PH - which usually affects middle-aged women and can lead to heart failure and damage to the lungs.


Muslims attack Christians in BRITAIN

No longer just in the Middle East

The wife of a clergyman beaten up in a faith-hate attack outside his church described the community's shock and distress yesterday after taking the Palm Sunday service on her husband's behalf. Canon Michael Ainsworth is expected to be released from hospital early this week after being attacked 12 days ago in East London. The attack has led to fears of an increasing number of religiously aggravated attacks on Christian clergy and concerns that the problem is overlooked by police and prosecutors.

Speaking after giving the service at St George's-in-the-East Church in Shadwell, the Rev Janina Ainsworth, 57, who is also a priest in the Church of England, said that the couple had taken much strength from the support offered from around the country. "There is a lot of shock and distress around the congregation and the area," she said. "We're so grateful for all the messages of support and love from friends and the wider community. Quite clearly, there are mindless individuals in every community under the influence of drink and drugs who will engage in random acts of violence."

Canon Ainsworth, 57, who was wearing his clerical collar, was punched and kicked by two Asian youths while another shouted religious abuse outside St George's on March 5. He suffered cuts, bruises and two black eyes. He was discharged from St Bartholomew's hospital but later readmitted following complications to an injury.

Canon Ainsworth moved to St George's at the end of last year after his wife was appointed as the first female chief education officer for the Church of England. Mrs Ainsworth said: "Normally community relations here are very good. We have had very strong messages of support from the East London Mosque and Tower Hamlets Mosque, with whom we've got good relations. "Clearly, the Muslim community is very shocked. These individuals were under the influence and this was a random act, but it may well be that some good can come out of it. "Michael is making a good recovery and he should be back home early next week. He doesn't want to castigate the whole community, he feels this is an isolated incident. "We do know that in this area there is no concerted campaign against Christians and Christian buildings."

The church has been targeted in the past, with bricks thrown through the windows of the 18th-century building. On Good Friday last year, worshippers were showered with glass during a service. Allan Ramanoop, an Asian member of the parochial church council, said that parishioners were often too scared to challenge the gangs. "I've been physically threatened and verbally abused on the steps of the church," he said. "On one occasion, youths shouted: `This should not be a church, this should be a mosque, you should not be here'. "I just walked away from it - you are too frightened to challenge them. We have church windows smashed two to three times a month. The youths are antiChristian. It's terrible what they have done to Canon Ainsworth."

It was feared that the incident might inflame tension in the area, which is in the heart of Tower Hamlets where more than half the residents are from ethnic minority groups. A third are of Bangladeshi origin.

In January one of the Church of England's most senior bishops said that Islamic extemists had created "no-go" areas across Britain where it was too dangerous for nonMuslims to enter. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church's only Asian bishop, said that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.

Worshippers at St George's suggested that youth thuggery, rather than religious bigotry, may be more to blame. Thomas Beckett, 50, said: "I have heard that this church is an island in the middle of a Muslim community. But you don't expect this sort of attack to happen - you don't expect Muslims to be attacked either."Michael Saward, 75, the former vicar, said: "Nothing like this has happened in this area before, although I have been attacked in the past so I can understand what he's going through. "We have had windows smashed here but we don't know by who."

Nick Tolson, a former police officer who set up the National Churchwatch safety scheme, said that there had been an increase in faith hate attacks on clergy. "The harassment is usually coming from young Asian men - often, but not exclusively, Muslim," he said. "The police and prosecutors will classify an attack on a mosque or Muslim as a hate crime but not if it is a church or a vicar. These aren't targeted attacks, they are spontaneous, but [the victims] are being singled out because of their faith and should be dealt with in the same way as other members of the community."

The Crown Prosecution Service reported last month that cases aggravated by religious factors had fallen by 37.2 per cent, with reports of 27 prosecutions in the past year. In the 23 cases where the religion was known, 17 victims were Muslim, three as Christian, two as Jewish and one as Sikh. Scotland Yard said that allegations of faith hate crimes had fallen by a half between 2005-06 and 2006-07 to 417. [Because people are too scared to report them]


Royal college warns abortions can lead to mental illness

Women may be at risk of mental health breakdowns if they have abortions, a medical royal college has warned. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they are counselled on the possible risk to their mental health. This overturns the consensus that has stood for decades that the risk to mental health of continuing with an unwanted pregnancy outweighs the risks of living with the possible regrets of having an abortion.

MPs will shortly vote on a proposal to reduce the upper time limit for abortions "for social reasons" from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, a move not backed by the government. A Sunday Times poll today shows 59% of women would support such a reduction, with only 28% backing the status quo. Taken together, just under half (48%) of men and women want a reduction to 20 weeks, while 35% want to retain 24 weeks. Some MPs also want women to have a "cooling off" period in which they would be made aware of the possible consequences of the abortion, including the impact on their mental health, before they could go ahead.

More than 90% of the 200,000 terminations in Britain every year are believed to be carried out because doctors believe that continuing with the pregnancy would cause greater mental strain.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends updating abortion information leaflets to include details of the risks of depression. "Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information," it says. Several studies, including research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2006, concluded that abortion in young women might be associated with risks of mental health problems.

The controversy intensified earlier this year when an inquest in Cornwall heard that a talented artist hanged herself because she was overcome with grief after aborting her twins. Emma Beck, 30, left a note saying: "Living is hell for me. I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum. I want to be with my babies; they need me, no one else does."

The college's revised stance was welcomed by Nadine Dorries, a Conservative MP campaigning for a statutory cooling-off period: "For doctors to process a woman's request for an abortion without providing the support, information and help women need at this time of crisis I regard almost as a form of abuse," she said.

Dawn Primarolo, the health minister, will this week appeal to MPs to ignore attempts to reduce the time limit on abortion when new laws on fertility treatment and embryo research come before parliament.

Dr Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: "How can a doctor now justify an abortion [on mental health grounds] if psychiatrists are questioning whether there is any clear evidence that continuing with the pregnancy leads to mental health problems."


British classrooms have become war zones, battered and threatened teachers say

Violence in the classroom is on the increase, but it is not only the pupils who are the victims, according to a survey that has found that nearly a third of teachers have been punched, kicked, bitten or pinched by children or attacked with weapons or missiles. More than half of teachers say that their school’s policy on pupils’ poor behaviour is not tough enough and two thirds have considered leaving the profession because of physical aggression, verbal abuse and threats.

The survey, published today by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, suggests that excluding the most violent youngsters does not help because they will repeat the pattern of violence at neighbouring schools. Mary Bousted, the union’s general secretary, said that no teacher should have to put up with the behaviour seen in schools today. “Not only is poor behaviour driving teaching staff away at an alarming rate, it is also damaging the chances of other pupils during lessons by causing major disruptions,” she said.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Torquay today, Ms Bousted said that one in ten teachers had received physical injuries in the classroom. Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression. Three per cent of teachers said that they had been involved in incidents involving knives, two thirds had been punched, nearly a half kicked and a third had been threatened.

The survey follows news last month that airport-style metal detectors are to be installed at hundreds of school gates. Official figures also suggest that schools are finding it increasingly difficult to exclude violent pupils because of the growing tendency by governors and appeal panels to overturn the head’s decision. Between 1997 and 2007 permanent exclusions fell by 25 per cent to 9,170 cases nationwide. But over the same period the proportion of expulsions overruled by panels rose from 20 to 24 per cent.

Jean Roberts took early retirement from her post as a deputy head of a primary school in West London because she could no longer stand having to restrain children physically. “Over the years, we are increasingly seeing children who are disturbed, with very little ability to communicate other than through biting or pulling hair. Some are barely socialised when they arrive,” she said. “They kick or they throw things when they are in an extreme state of anger.”

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms. The findings coincide with comments from Jim Rose, the Government’s adviser on the primary curriculum, who said that part of the role of primary schools was to socialise children and teach them how to behave. “Where else would they get it if they don’t get it at home?” he said.



Street lights in suburban areas are to be switched off after midnight as part of council plans to save energy. A series of trial blackouts will be carried out over the next few weeks by local authorities in the Home Counties, Hampshire and Essex among others. Buckinghamshire council is reported to be switching off more than 1,700 lights along 25 miles of road in an attempt to meet energy targets. It says the scheme will save 100,000 pounds and reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 600 tons a year. If the trials are successful, all street lamps across the country could be turned off between midnight and 5am.

Other areas taking part in the scheme include Maldon and Uttlesford in Essex, while parts of Hampshire have already carried out pilots.

Residents' groups, police organisations and motoring groups have expressed fear that the darkness could cause increases in crime and road traffic accidents. A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: "The councils are considering these schemes to both reduce their energy budget and cut down on emissions. "Areas where street lights will be turned off will be on routes there is little need for them."


An example of inherited politics in Britain: "He was given up for adoption at birth. He never knew his biological parents. And for 36 years he knew nothing of his personal and political roots, or what drove him from youth to pursue the Liberal tradition. Now Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat MP, has revealed the extraordinary story of how he discovered his real mother - and that he is descended from a prominent Liberal who served in the House of Commons for almost 30 years. Finding his mother was shock enough; discovering that politics really is in his blood was almost more overwhelming. "The odds on my having followed in my great-grandfather's footsteps as a Liberal MP were minuscule," he said. "In that moment I felt everything I thought I knew about why I am who I am was turned upside-down. In the battle between nature and nurture, nature seemed to be having a laugh."

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