Thursday, March 12, 2009

The British government is waging a malevolent class war by punishing all academic excellence

While top universities find themselves penalised, with money being taken away from them to fund places at lesser universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, we learn of the complete collapse of education standards further down the line. The headmaster of Eton, Tony Little, told a conference that clever pupils `wrestle with questions of crippling simplicity' at GCSE because they cannot believe that there isn't more to such questions than appears to be the case.

Worse still, the brightest are penalised because the standards are so low. He related how one Eton pupil gained five A grades at A-level but failed a sixth exam altogether. Eton sent the `ungraded' paper to two university dons who said the work was of the standard normally achieved in a first class honours degree. Mr Little said the boy was given almost no marks because he used `intelligence and flair' and refused to answer the question in the formulaic way demanded by examiners.

What an extraordinary situation this country is now in, that in order to pass a public examination ostensibly designed to test academic achievement a candidate now has to express dullness, stupidity and narrow intellectual reach!

The reason is the fact that these exams are now dominated by a `tick-box' approach, which requires candidates to deliver in their answers a list of expected sound-bites for the examiners to tick off. As Little observed, it is an approach that `makes no allowance for lateral thinking, for creative extension or wit.' Indeed, such expressions of intellectual ability or flair are actually penalised - because such knowledge or brilliance does not appear on the examiners' check-lists. So the more able the candidate, the more likely he or she now is to fail. Truly, an education system straight out of Lewis Carroll.

Now independent schools are moving towards dropping GCSEs altogether because they are such a farce. But in truth, this problem has beset A-level and GCSE for years. The problem is so bad it's certainly not just the top independent schools that are tearing out their hair. As Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul's boys' school said, heads from all types of secondary schools now shared a `deep concern at what is seen as the comparative neglect of academic education and the needs of a significant number of our gifted and talented children'.

No wonder so few pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are making it to good universities - causing `social mobility', or the progression of poor people up through the social classes, to go into reverse.

But instead of acknowledging the disaster in our schools and the profound collapse of education standards - caused by more than two decades of benighted education theories pushing `equality' and the inertia or worse of successive governments -ministers are still determined to press on with their malevolent `class war' by punishing academic excellence still further. So some 400m pounds will be hurled next year at the former polytechnics - which are more likely to target sixth-formers from poor backgrounds - despite claims that overall student numbers have barely increased in recent years. At the same time, universities such as Imperial College London and the London School of Economics, which were recently named among the best in the world, have seen their research funds cut.

Britain's education system was once acknowledged to be the finest in the world. It produced a class of people who went out and governed that world. Now, in no small measure because its intelligentsia has turned upon that class precisely because it once governed the world and was therefore `racist', `colonialist' and exploitative, Britain has developed an education system which risks giving itself no significant future in the world at all.


Why is school selection fine, when it's done on the basis of daddy's wallet, and wrong when it's done of the basis of the child's ability? Beats me

And so that time of year comes round again when thousands of [British] parents will discover that 'school choice' is a joke, and their child has not got into the school they wanted for him. All kinds of things will have helped decide his destination. But hardly anywhere, except in Northern Ireland and a couple of English counties, will the child's academic ability have any influence on which school he goes to. Even in those English counties, ability will count for less than it should because England's rare remaining grammar schools are so besieged by parents prepared to do almost anything to get a good secondary education, worth at least 60,000 pounds in post-tax income, for free.

His parents' wealth will be the main influence - not through fees, but through the devout socialist's method of paying fees - buying your way into the catchment area of a desirable school, and then telling all your friends how much you believe in state education.Though quite why anyone would want to believe in such a thing, I am not sure.

I agree that there are other methods (I go into them all in my forthcoming book, 'The Broken Compass'). But the catchment area technique is supreme, and adopted by a lot of hypocrites who claim they are against privilege, as well as by others who just see it as a perfectly reasonable way of buying something important - getting double value for a nice house in a good area, in fact.

There are many problems with this arrangement, the biggest being that bright children in poor homes are utterly barred from good schools, a terrible crime which makes me grind my teeth whenever I think about it. I am sure that a few of the usual suspects will still try to argue that this system is preferable to the supposedly cruel selection of the 11-plus. I can't see how they can continue to believe this, honestly. Ability's obviously a better guide than wealth, if you have to choose. And we do.

But the other thing that is perhaps wrong with it is that it creates two kinds of complacency. Even the best state schools aren't that good any more, because the comprehensive system has forced the dilution of exams and curriculum to a far lower level than used to exist. So even that 'good' state school is only good by the unexacting standards of GCSEs, A levels and the OFSTED classroom police. And it will go on getting worse as long as the system is unreformed.

The other kind of complacency is political. The better-off classes ought to be outraged at the betrayal of the nation, and the trashing of its future, caused by the comprehensive cataclysm. It will in the end help to destroy the peace and prosperity we seem to think are ours by right - but aren't. But because it does not affect them immediately and personally, they let it pass.

New Labour are, I think, aware of this. They continue to press, bit by bit, for the egalitarian wrecking of our whole education system. They know that their deep hopes of an egalitarian society depend more on this than on any other project. But precisely because it matters so much to them, they proceed with great caution.

They have their fingers on the windpipes of Oxford and Cambridge, through funding threats linked to pressure to give more places to state school applicants. They likewise have their fingers on the windpipes of the independent schools through the new, militant Charity Commission run by Dame 'Suzi' Leather. They are working, through 'adjudication' on the ability of the Roman Catholic secondary schools to select (now that Mr Blair's children have been educated) and are beginning to find ways of menacing Church primary schools.

The first shots have been fired (by think tanks, as usual) in what will be a long war designed to drag them down to the bog standard and erase their religious element. They have done as much as they can to besiege Northern Ireland's grammar schools, in alliance with the IRA. The 'Academies', whose alleged benefits are unproven anyway, face more and more attempts to regulate and regiment them into Bog Lane methods and aims. The remaining English grammar schools are under never-ending pressure of one kind or another, designed to demoralise them and force them into the comprehensive fold.

Everyone sensible should be in revolt over this. Politics should be in turmoil over the dogmatic destruction of a precious national resource, over the waste, the slamming of educational doors in the faces of the poor.

And if New Labour had pressed ahead with schemes to end the catchment system, and allocate places by lottery, then the direct and obvious personal interests of the middle class would have coincided with their political interests (which they are not so good at spotting), and the Tory-Labour-Liberal coalition against good education would have been blown apart by parental fury.

The Schools Secretary (I know he calls himself by another name, but who cares?) Ed Balls, like all cunning revolutionaries, had the sense to see that it was too early to take this step. That is why Mr Balls has retreated on plans to make such lottery schemes more widespread. But they haven't gone away. Schools are the principal battleground of the modern class war, comprehensive education is the true 'Clause Four' of New Labour (now accepted by the Tories too) and the Left will not give up on their education revolution until every last escape route from mediocrity has been closed.


8,000 patients malnourished after staying in NHS hospitals

More than 8,000 patients left hospital last year after becoming malnourished while under NHS care. Despite ministers' promises, this total was a 16.5 per cent increase on the previous year - and more than double the number when Labour came to power. Critics said it was shameful the NHS was sending patients home in worse condition than before treatment.

Last year 148,946 were admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition or another severe nutritional deficiency, but 157,175 were discharged with the same condition. It means 8,229 people arrived without nutrition problems but left hospital malnourished.

The Daily Mail's Dignity for the Elderly Campaign has highlighted the scandal of old people not being fed properly in hospital. The food is often so unappetising that patients do not eat, and sometimes it is placed out of their reach and taken away untouched. Nurses often claim they are too busy to help patients eat their food. Malnutrition has soared as 13million meals each year are thrown away by the NHS.

Age Concern says 60 per cent of older patients, who occupy two-thirds of general hospital beds, are at risk of worsening health or becoming malnourished. Gordon Lishman, the charity's director general, said: 'The malnutrition of older people is still a huge problem in hospitals up and down the country.' He added: 'Food, and help with eating, must be recognised by ward staff as an essential part of patient care.'

Alison Smith, a senior dietician at the British Dietetic Association, said: 'The biggest problem in the vast majority of hospitals is that some patients simply can't eat the food they are given without help, which they don't always get.' She added: 'Food is a form of medication and if staff begin to see it that way they will take it more seriously.'

The figures, released by the NHS Information Centre, found that in 2007-08, 3,008 were discharged with full-blown malnutrition, 139,140 had nutritional anaemia and 15,027 left with other nutritional deficiencies. The total of 157,175 is more than double the 75,431 recorded the year Labour came to power. And the 8,229 whose malnutrition was caused by the NHS is also more than double the 3,336 in 1997-98.

Under pressure from the Government, those who need help with eating are served meals on red trays. However, one in three trusts have still not implemented the system. Michael Summers, chairman of the Patients Association, said: ' Sometimes food is taken away untouched from a patient who wants to eat it but can't without assistance. 'The red trays are being ignored and as a result a very high proportion of elderly patients are leaving hospitals malnourished.' Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'It is essential that patients are given good-quality, nourishing food.' A spokesman for the Department of Health said 'Good food is important for all patients and we have recognised this as a priority issue.'


NHS hospitals spend less on their patients' food than prisons on their inmates

Some hospital patients have less money spent on their meals than criminals. Last year, ten hospitals spent less on breakfast, lunch and an evening meal than the 2.12 pounds a day allocated for food by the prison service. One hospital spent just one pound.

Ministers promised action to improve the quality of hospital food two years ago, saying some elderly patients were being served nothing more than a scoop of grey mashed potato. Experts say cost-cutting hospitals are increasingly moving to soup and sandwiches to save money. Others are buying food that is prepared off site, frozen and then defrosted in the hospital.

The figures from the NHS Information Centre also expose shocking waste, with some trusts throwing away a third of meals entirely untouched. A total of 11million meals a year are thrown away uneaten.

Earlier this week it emerged that more than 8,000 patients left hospital malnourished even though they had been admitted with no nutritional problems. This was up 16.5 per cent in a year and was more than double the figure when Labour came to power.

The figures on hospital food spending have been condemned by doctors, patients groups, and opposition politicians. Dr Mike Stroud of the hospital nutrition charity BAPEN said: 'The catering budget is an easy target in trusts which are pushed for money. Some have gone to soups, cold meals and sandwiches in a bid to cut costs. 'But this is a false economy: food is an integral part of treatment, not just part of the hotel service. Studies have shown that patients who eat well recover better.'

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien said: 'More people are now coming out of hospital malnourished than went in. Is it any surprise when the Government is prepared to allow some hospitals to spend less on their patients than they spend on food for prisoners?'

The figures revealed that average daily spending on hospital food across England was 6.97, compared with 9.87 in Wales. The figures do not cover Scotland. But some are spending much smaller amounts. The figures show that the Kevin White Unit at Sefton Health Park, a mental health hospital on Merseyside, spends just 1 pound on its patients. However, the local trust said this was not a true reflection of the full cost as some meals are provided on a different site and transferred. Next is Nelson Hospital, a mental health facility in South London, on 1.53. The lowest general hospital on the league table is Hemel Hempstead on 1.93. The general hospital with the highest spending is Bristol Hospital, where 16.80 is spent per patient per day.


Insane British bureaucrats: It's too wet for swimming when it rains!

They are tinpot Hitlers who just like harassing people

For those hardy souls who enjoy an outdoor dip, a little extra water seems unlikely to be a major deterrent. But the threat of a spot of rain - when combined with the implacable nature of 'elf and safety regulations - look like succeeding where the cold and the wind have failed. Swimmers at one outdoor pool have been warned they may be banned from taking a dip whenever the heavens open.

The bizarre measure came to light at the popular London Fields Lido in Hackney, East London, during a brief burst of rain. Customers arriving at the baths were advised to wait outside while the downpour was monitored. Eventually the rain eased and the swimmers were allowed to go about their exercise. Staff at the Olympic- sized pool informed them that rain could cloud the water and make it difficult for lifeguards to see the bottom. One swimmer said: 'It was difficult to believe that what I was hearing was serious. The idea that it could be too wet to swim seems almost incredible, but that was what they were actually saying.'

Hackney Council, which runs the Lido, said swimmers would be warned at the earliest opportunity about possible rain-related closures. A spokesman said: 'In exceptional circumstances the pool may be required to be closed in order to protect users' safety. 'For example, exceptionally heavy rain or foggy conditions can distort the clarity of the water, restricting lifeguards' visibility and their ability to keep swimmers safe.'

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said: 'This rule is ridiculous and the ultimate example of risk avoidance. 'If we continue down this mad path of mindless health and safety rules it will get even worse. There's no common sense and this is just a continuation of the growing nanny state that prevents people from doing more and more things.'

A raft of contentious health and safety rules have been introduced at swimming pools during recent years. Many now insist that anyone taking more than two children under eight for a swim must be accompanied by at least another adult. It means that a parent of three young children is not allowed to take his or her family swimming.

Meanwhile, managers at the Crystal Palace National Sport Centre in South London barred the public from swimming in half of the pool's eight lanes amid fears lifeguards may not be able to see them properly. The rule was introduced despite senior staff reporting they had never experienced that kind of problem.

And retired civil servant Alan Treece, 64, was ordered out of Erith Sports Centre in Bromley, Kent, in 2006 for breaching health and safety rules by diving into the pool. Guidelines required swimmers to gently lower themselves in instead.


New battle for Britain

Warning to tourists - it is now illegal to take a photo of a London bobby (policeman). The time-honored tradition of tourists having their pictures taken with London cops is being dealt a silly death blow by those who control the British nanny-state. The British are not only losing their economic prosperity, but their civil liberties as well.

Will Britain again become the "sick man of Europe"? A quarter-century ago, Margaret Thatcher led Britain out of an economic wilderness and enabled it to have the fastest-growing economy among the four big countries in the European Union. Today, however, under Gordon Brown's Labor government, Britain is rapidly rushing backward with pre-Thatcherite economic policies. Taxes are being raised, government spending is soaring, and deficits, as in the United States and most other countries, are projected to reach record levels. Despite the Thatcher reforms, government spending was only reduced to about 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) while the United States was able to keep government spending at about one-third of GDP for the last quarter-century.

The British public sector is almost certain to grow to about 48 percent of GDP, while the U.S. government spending will grow to the old British level of 40 percent of GDP. The large countries within the EU that had government sectors approaching 50 percent of GDP (i.e., France, Germany and Italy) grew at about half the rate of the United States over the last 25 years, with Britain falling in between. Thus it is reasonable to expect British growth to fall to the anemic levels of the other big EU countries and the United States. to drop to the old British levels.

Britain had the first big bank to fail - Northern Rock - as a result of the global financial crisis. The government nationalized not only Northern Rock, but now has also effectively done so with its recent takeover of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The London property price bubble has burst, and, as in the United States, many people are no longer making their mortgage payments.

As the government attempts to prop up the banks and other affected industries, while expanding the social safety net, deficits will soar. The British will add more than $1 trillion in new debt in the next few years, while its economy is less than one-sixth that of the United States.

As a result, public sector debt will rise from the current relatively prudent 40 percent of GDP to well more than 100 percent in the next couple of years. Britain has relied on foreigners to buy much of its debt, but this is unlikely to continue as many countries increase their own debt issuance severalfold.

As a result, interest rates will rise, greatly increasing debt service costs. This, in turn, will put further pressure on the pound, making foreign investment in Britain even less attractive. The U.K. economic establishment is all worried about deflation while it should be worried about the potential for a high rate of inflation from all the new deficit spending.

Civil libertarians on both the left and right are increasingly concerned that Britain is drifting toward becoming a police state. The government has been trying to obtain the right to detain anyone up to 42 days without bringing charges, which would severely undermine the centuries' old right of habeas corpus. Police monitoring cameras in London are more pervasive than in any other city in the world. Public demonstrations near Parliament and other government buildings are restricted more and more. British libel laws are much more restrictive than those in the United States and have effectively make it increasingly difficult to charge public officials with wrongdoing.

The British are also feeling increasingly oppressed by the surge in growth of regulations by both their own government and that of the EU. The cost of regulation has soared by 74 percent in just the last three years. Worse yet, the number of laws and rules the British are now subject to has grown by two and a half times in the last 10 years.

For good reason, the British are increasingly feeling less free, as the politicians in Brussels and Westminster raid their pocketbooks and strip them of their independence. As in the 1940 Battle of Britain, the current struggle to keep Britain both free from control by Europe and from its own bureaucratic class depends on the courage of the young men and women of those fair isles to stand and fight for liberty.


Muslim protest arrests over British Army homecoming

Two people were arrested after a protest against the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment as they paraded through Luton yesterday. The Prime Minister said in a statement: "The whole country is proud of our brave servicemen and women who serve their country with great distinction and courage. "That pride in our Armed Forces was shown once again today when thousands turned out to welcome the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment. It is therefore disappointing that a tiny minority tried, but ultimately failed, to disrupt today's event."

The battalion were returning from their second six-month tour in Iraq in two years. The mainly Muslim protesters held cards with slogans including "Anglian Soldiers: Butchers of Basra" and "Anglian Soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists". Protesters accused the soldiers of "gloating" about "killing innocent women and children". Crowds began a counter-demonstration and two people were arrested.

Shahid Malik, the Justice Minister, said that "all decent people, irrespective of religion, will be sickened by the antics of this group of extremists".


Number of illegal immigrants in Britain 'may be nearing 1 million'

As many as 947,000 illegal immigrants could be living in Britain, more than double a previous Home Office estimate. A study by the London School of Economics found evidence of a massive surge in the illegal population since 2001. Their estimate includes hundreds of thousands of failed asylum seekers, visa overstayers and children born to illegal immigrant parents. The report puts the total living here illegally at between 524,000 and 947,000, with a 'central estimate' of 725,000. An equivalent study commissioned by the Home Office in 2005 put the figure at just 430,000.

The LSE study was commissioned by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. Mr Johnson has used the findings to argue in favour of an amnesty for illegal immigrants. He said it would be 'morally right' for those who have been in Britain for several years to be allowed to live here legally, so that they contributed to tax revenues. Both the Government and the Conservatives strongly oppose such a move, claiming it would make Britain even more attractive for illegal migrants.

Mr Johnson commissioned the LSE last November to 'explore the implications' of an amnesty for London. Its draft findings were made public yesterday. At current deportation rates, it would take 34 years to clear a backlog of 725,000 illegal immigrants. An amnesty based on five years of residency would cover almost two-thirds of all illegal immigrants, or around 450,000. Mr Johnson told BBC1's Panorama: 'If people are going to be here and we've chronically failed to kick them out, it's morally right that they should contribute in their taxes to the rest of society.' He added that the amnesty would not be open to those with a criminal record, or those who could not support themselves.

Opponents of amnesties insist they encourage further illegal immigration. In Italy an amnesty in 1988 allowed 119,000 foreigners to settle. But when the exercise was repeated in 2002 the figure soared to 700,000. In Spain, the figure rose from 44,000 in 1985 to 700,000 in 2005.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: 'What unfortunately would happen is that people traffickers and others would see that as a pull factor to get people to the UK illegally and we would end up with a bigger problem. 'The proposal for an amnesty starts with a conversation in London with the best of intentions and it ends up with dead bodies in the back of lorries in northern France.'

Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green said: 'The problem with amnesties is that they store up trouble for the future as people will always expect another one. 'The long-term effect of an amnesty is therefore to encourage more illegal immigration.'

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said: 'We have the biggest recession in memory, two million unemployed, heading up for three million. 'Is it really suggested that British jobs should go to illegal workers? It just makes no sense at all.'


More grave statin side-effects

Lower intelligence, memory problems, nightmares, depression, suicide... Statins are the wonder drug for cutting cholesterol. But evidence of severe side-effects keeps piling up

Could statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by more than three million Britons, be doing more harm than good to many thousands of patients? This is the rather alarming suggestion to emerge from two new studies. The research challenges the medical convention that lowering your cholesterol is always a good thing - indeed, they suggest statins may affect intelligence, cause depression and even raise the risk of suicide. The studies add to a growing body of evidence that having low cholesterol levels may prove as dangerous as having high readings.

This has huge implications for British proposals to offer statins to all men over 50 and women over 60, even if they don't have a high cholesterol count. The NHS spends more than o500 million a year on statins. The drugs are commonly prescribed to cut the level of so-called 'bad' LDL cholesterol that our livers create. In patients vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes, the drugs reduce the risk of fatty deposits gathering in their bloodstream and causing life-threatening blood clots.

But cholesterol is also produced by the brain, where it is used to release vital chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells. Now a study by Iowa State University suggests that statins inhibit this vital process. When brain cells are deprived of cholesterol, they are five times less effective at releasing chemical messengers, says the research, published in the highly respected journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences.

'If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect how smart you are and how well you remember things,' says Yeon-Kyun Shin, the biophysics professor behind the study. 'This may lead to depression and irrational acts.' He believes this is directly caused by disruption in the neurotransmitter release in the brain. Indeed, statins were implicated in the suicide in April 2007 of London teacher Allan Woolley. After being prescribed the drug simvastatin, the housemaster at University College School in Hampstead complained of blackouts, insomnia and nightmares before he then killed himself by standing in front of a train. His family and friends said his death was completely out of character. The coroner ruled that the drug 'was involved' in his suicide.

Shin's findings reinforce another new study, which found that men with a combination of low cholesterol and depression are seven times more likely to die prematurely from suicide, accidents and other unnatural causes than men with only depression.

Scientists who followed nearly 4,500 Vietnam veterans over a 15-year period say the disturbing findings may be due to low blood cholesterol reducing levels of the brain's feel-good chemical messenger, serotonin. Low serotonin is linked to depression, anger, sleep loss and other problems, says Dr Joseph Boscarino, of the American Geisinger research institute, who did the research. 'While it's generally understood that having low cholesterol is a good health sign, combined with other factors, it could actually put a person at risk,' says the report. In fact, there is a significant body of evidence to show that low cholesterol may be as dangerous as high cholesterol.

These reputable studies show how people with markedly low levels of cholesterol are more likely to die from a variety of causes, including strokes, certain cancers, liver disease, lung disease and suicide. The deaths from these other causes mount so quickly that the mortality rate for those with low cholesterol equals the rate for people with very high cholesterol, who are likely to die from heart disease.

The findings do not question the standard medical advice that people with high blood cholesterol should diet or take statins. Current guidelines from the Department of Health say that the maximum healthy total cholesterol level should be less than 5.0 millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/l). But researchers worried about the harmful effects of low cholesterol estimate that the danger threshold may be just below 4.0mmol/l.

One report claims that women on low-cholesterol diets may face infertility problems. This small study of 300 patients by the Toronto Infertility Clinic says that cholesterol is essential for creating the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone.

Other U.S. research found that women with low cholesterol could be twice as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety problems. Even more worrying, studies of older people have found that those on low- cholesterol diets have a much higher rate of stroke, possibly because cholesterol has a protective effect in mature brain linings.

But the link between low cholesterol, decreased serotonin and dangerous behaviour is particularly strong and disturbing. A study of 80,000 Swedes, for example, shows that men who murder in a fit of rage tend to have below-average cholesterol. Irish doctors report that cholesterol levels are significantly lower in people who have been admitted to hospital after harming themselves. Research in the animal kingdom supports the existence of this problem: studies of captive monkeys reveal that they become abnormally aggressive when put on low-fat diets. And studies on mice indicate that cholesterol may help the brain to suppress reckless impulses.

Meanwhile, the NHS continues to prescribe ever more statins. There is no doubt that statins are life- saving drugs for people who have already had a heart attack. But the guidelines are constantly being revised. Until 2006, statins were prescribed only to men and women under 75 who had a 20 per cent risk of developing coronary heart disease within ten years. Now, the NHS recommends they are given to any adult with a total cholesterol of more than 5.0mmol/l who is thought at risk.

Moving forward, the Government argues that giving all men over 50 and women over 60 a daily dose of statins would save lives, NHS funds and doctors' time. However, Dr Alastair Dobbin, a GP based in Edinburgh, is highly critical of the policy. He has written in the British Medical Journal severely criticising the 'statins for all' approach. He believes it's an expensive waste of time that leaves millions of people falsely reassured and which may have damaging side-effects. 'The new Iowa study shows that we should be really cautious about handing out statins the way we do,' he says. 'We should be very careful about giving a drug to healthy people where there is any risk of any side-effects.'

He adds: 'Research shows that in people over 69 who've had no symptoms of diabetes, angina, stroke or heart attack, statins don't reduce mortality. 'They're invaluable for patients who have had these symptoms, but there's no scientific case for giving them to anyone else. 'It's a sheer waste of money, but the Government is ignoring the research.

'On the other hand, studies have found that patients have suffered memory loss with statins - some people have been unable to even recognise their spouse - yet the problem has disappeared after they stopped taking the drug.' Yet rather than investigating the disturbing links with statins further, the medical establishment has largely hushed, ignored or discredited them, for fear of confusing the 'high cholesterol is bad' message.

One campaign group, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, includes on its website a list of academic research articles and letters it feels have been unfairly rejected by medical journals. For the sake of everyone's health, and to save the NHS millions it hasn't got, perhaps the answer is to rewrite the public health message to read: moderation in all things - including cholesterol control.


The idea that low cholesterol could be bad for you isn't the only health message that's been revised. Here are some others:

EGGS: Only last month, research backed by the British Nutrition Foundation put cholesterol-rich eggs firmly back on our healthy menus. For years, eggs had been associated with an increased risk of heart disease; this has been shown to be wrong.

BACKS: Conventional wisdom held that a bad back should be treated with bed rest. But experts changed their minds, and now stress the importance of movement and exercise.

TONSILS: A tonsillectomy was once almost a childhood rite of passage but are now so discredited that children who do need their tonsils removed can't get the operation.

NUTS: For ten years, pregnant and breastfeeding women were advised not to eat peanuts if there was a family history of allergies. But last December, the Food Safety Agency said it was no longer backing the policy because 'current evidence' does not support it.

MAGGOTS AND LEECHES: These were banned from mainstream therapy after the NHS was formed in 1948. But, in recent years, maggots have been used to keep wounds clean, and leeches to help healing after surgery.

NYMPHOMANIA: This was regarded as a mental illness until the Sixties. These days, women who don't have a strong sex drive are thought to be 'unwell', suffering from Female Sexual Dysfunction.


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