Saturday, June 28, 2008

A third of British secondary schools have a sex clinic

Nearly 1,000 secondary schools are providing `sexual health services' for their pupils. It means a million youngsters can get contraception, morning-after pills, pregnancy tests and tests for sexually transmitted diseases without any possibility that their parents will be told. A high proportion of secondary pupils are under 16 - the legal age of consent.

The rapid spread of sex services through schools with pupils as young as 11 has been hailed by campaigners who want sex education made compulsory and extended to primaries. Parents can find, however, that their children have not just been given contraception without their family's knowledge. In 2004 there was an outcry after it was revealed that 14-year-old Melissa Smith was given abortion pills without her mother being told. She was encouraged to have the termination by a 28-year-old health worker at her school sex clinic.

The survey of schools was carried out by the Sex Education Forum, an organisation run by the National Children's Bureau, a œ12million-a-year campaign group largely funded by taxpayers. Researcher Lucy Emmerson said: `We are encouraged to find that so many schools are providing sexual health services on-site. This is key to reducing teenage pregnancy rates and improving sexual health.' The survey was made public after a week which saw abortion hit record levels, with a 21 per cent rise among girls of 13 and a 10 per cent increase among under-16s.

Critics say giving out contraception in schools increases pregnancy and abortion by signalling that it is all right for young teenagers to have sex. Jill Kirby, of the centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies, said: `This is the normalisation of sex for pupils without the consent of parents.'

The survey was carried out among 2,185 schools, two-thirds of the secondaries in England. It found that 29 per cent had an `on-site sexual health service' - defined as distributing condoms and testing for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. One in six of these schools gave pupils the morning-after pill, while one school in 20 offered contraceptive options, with prescriptions available for the Pill, injections or implants.

Sexual advice and the distribution of condoms by schools is a key plank of the Government's 138 million pound Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which was intended to halve the number of pregnancies among under-18s between 1998 and 2010 but is acknowledged to be failing.

Miss Emmerson said parents should not worry about what their children might be offered at school. She said: `Parents with children in those schools will know that the support services will involve sexual health advice and what the range of services on offer are. Also, health professionals always encourage the young person to talk to their parents about any problems.'

Patricia Morgan, a researcher and author on family matters, said: `There is no evidence that giving out condoms works. Children have sex, you get pregnancies and abortions and the spread of infections. If you want progress you should start by telling children not to have sex.'

Government guidelines say that where children under 13 are thought to be having sex, police should be brought in. But opponents say that breaches the children's privacy and makes them less likely to seek help.



Householders will be warned today to expect five years of higher home energy bills to pay for a green power revolution. John Hutton, the Business Secretary, will outline plans for a massive shift away from fossil fuels to wind, solar and tidal power, but will add that the change comes at a price. "We think there will be a cost," he told The Times yesterday.

The plan, which he calls the biggest shake-up in Britain's power generation since the Industrial Revolution, requires 100 billion pounds of new investment but would lead to five years of higher gas and electricity bills from about 2015, he said.

Homeowners will be given financial incentives to fit their roofs with solar panels and there will be ambitious targets to increase their use from 90,000 today to seven million within the next 12 years. The plan also envisages a 90 per cent increase in the use of ground and air-source heat pumps that provide "free" heat by tapping the warmth in the air or the earth. Mr Hutton will also outline a "feed-in tariff" allowing homes that generate surplus electricity to sell it to the national grid as an incentive to switch.

The news comes a day after the chiefs of the big six energy companies gave warning that energy bills, which have already risen more than 15 per cent this year, would rise again within the next few months because of the rising price of oil.

Mr Hutton said the renewable cost would be "relatively modest", set against the current increases in the prices of coal, oil and gas and the scale would depend on movements in world oil prices. But he said that it was a necessary price to pay if Britain was serious about addressing climate change and switching to green technology.

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IVF severely limited in the home of IVF

Lots of women outside Britain have 10 or more treatments to get a baby. And infertility is a very common disorder

Thousands of infertile couples are being denied IVF that should be funded by the NHS because only 9 of 151 health trusts are offering the recommended level of therapy. A total of 94 per cent of primary care trusts in England are still not providing the three free cycles of IVF that should be available under national guidelines issued in 2004, government figures have revealed.

The survey of IVF provision last year also showed that all but a few trusts have imposed tough criteria for free fertility treatment, rejecting patients who smoke or who already have children, including those from previous relationships. Most of those that offered treatment paid for one cycle, and four trusts provided none at all. The results - the first to incorporate figures from every trust in England - were published yesterday by the Department of Health. They show that a postcode lottery for IVF is flourishing despite guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The NHS financial watchdog recommended in 2004 that three cycles should be available to infertile couples in which the woman is aged between 23 and 39. Women's chances of conceiving are considerably better when more cycles are offered, to the extent that NICE identified three cycles as cost-effective. The advice is not binding, and the Government has provided no extra funds for it to be put into effect. The Department of Health has asked trusts to provide at least one cycle, and to move towards implementing it in full.

About one in six couples is affected by infertility. Almost 45,000 cycles of IVF are performed in the UK each year, but the level of NHS provision means that more than 30,000 of these are conducted privately, at an average cost of about 2,000 pounds per cycle.

The new figures were published as doctors prepare to celebrate the 30th birthday of Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, who was born in Oldham on July 25, 1978. Oldham is one of the nine trusts - all in the North West of England - that provide three cycles.

Susan Seenan, of the patient support charity Infertility Network UK, said: "Thirty years after the inception of IVF treatment, in the country that pioneered IVF, and four years after the NICE guideline, it is a complete disgrace that only nine PCTs are offering three free cycles. "We are also disappointed that some PCTs are still offering no cycles at all, and that most are adding social criteria that make it difficult and unfair for patients to access the treatment they need. "There is a real need for a standard set of eligibility criteria that operate nationwide."

The survey was published on the Department of Health's website in response to a parliamentary question from Sally Keeble, the Labour MP for Northampton North. It does not include data from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. It found that seven PCTs offer three cycles - Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale; Bury; East Lancashire; Stockport; Tameside & Glossop; Traf-ford; and Blackburn with Darwen. Central Lancashire offers two or three cycles, and Oldham "a maximum of three". The four PCTs that have suspended free IVF treatment were North Lincolnshire, North Staffordshire, North Yorkshire and York, and Stoke on Trent, though the latter has since resumed provision.

About two-thirds of the trusts (100) offer one cycle, while 35 offer two, and three did not provide full information. More than half (86) specify that a couple must have no children, while another 46 impose other restrictions such as no children from the current relationship, or not more than one child. The survey found that 35 trusts specify no smoking, 30 say that patients must be in a stable relationship, and 33 impose age restrictions beyond those in the NICE guidelines.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We recognise that there are local variations in the provision of IVF and that this does cause distress to many childless couples who feel that they are not getting the treatment they need. "NICE published their guide recommendations that trusts provide up to three cycles of IVF in February 2004. But NICE and the Department of Health realised that this could not be immediately implanted and so trusts were encouraged to use this as a goal they move towards. The first step is for all PCTs to offer at least one cycle of IVF and the vast majority do so, with almost a third already offering more than one cycle."


What fun! "Labour came a humiliating fifth place behind the BNP and the Greens last night in the Henley by-election caused by Boris Johnson's election as London Mayor. Gordon Brown's first anniversary as Labour leader began with the party securing only 1,066 votes, losing its 500 pounds deposit, and having its working majority in the House of Commons cut to 65, as John Howell, the Conservative candidate, succeeded Mr Johnson in the Oxfordshire seat. The Liberal Democrats consolidated their position in second place"

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