Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Benefits of breastfeeding being oversold

NHS claims about benefits of breastfeeding are false and oversold, as there is little evidence that mother’s milk protects babies against illness or allergies, says a leading experts. Michael Kramer, a professor of paediatrics who has advised the World Health Organisation and Unicef, said that much of the evidence used to persuade mothers to breastfeed was either wrong or out of date.

However, mothers who breastfed had a different outlook from those who did not and were more likely to follow advice on all health issues. That meant their families were likely to have a healthier lifestyle and that could in turn explain better outcomes for their children.

The most recent NHS leaflets given to all pregnant women and new mothers said that breastfeeding protects a baby against obesity, allergies, asthma and diabetes. This is repeated by most other public health bodies such as the Royal College of Midwives and the National Childbirth Trust.

Professor Kramer, based at McGill University, Montreal, has studied evidence on breastfeeding since 1978, and has advised the World Health Organisation, Unicef, and the Cochrane Library on breastfeeding research. Evidence that breastfeeding protects against obesity was flawed, he said. “The evidence it protects against allergies and asthma is also weak. And there is very little evidence that it reduces the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure. “I don’t favour overselling the evidence, we should not be conveying false information. I think some of the advice promulgated on obesity or allergies is false information.”

Mothers who were more likely to follow medical advice on breastfeeding were also more likely to be part of a family that acted healthily in other ways. So although breastfed babies may have better outcomes, this could easily be because of other factors.

However, he said that some claims were well founded, such as the protective effect on ear infections and gastrointestinal illnesses. “The formula milk industry jump on every piece of equivocal evidence. But the breastfeeding lobby have a way of ignoring the evidence. Both sides are not being very scientific,” he said.

Joan Wolf, an academic who has spent five years researching the medical literature on breastfeeding, said that only the benefits on gastrointestinal illnesses had been conclusively proven. “The evidence we have now is not compelling. It certainly does not justify the rhetoric,” said Ms Wolf, an assistant professor from Texas A&M University. “I’m not sure there should be a public health campaign on infant feeding in the West. “

A Department of Health spokesman defended the advice, saying that it was based on an expert review of the studies. Jacque Gerrard, the Royal College of Midwives’s director for England, said that its advice was based on “the evidence that is out there, endorsed by the Department of Health”. “Breastfeeding is the right way to produce healthy babies,” she said.


Another disastrous NHS hospital

And the boss escapes without any retribution

Deaths at Broadmoor high security hospital and other institutions will be linked to management failures in a highly critical report this week. Executives at West London Mental Health NHS Trust failed to investigate promptly “serious untoward incidents”, including patient suicides, meaning that staff were unable to learn lessons that might have prevented further deaths, an inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is expected to conclude.

The trust’s chief executive, Simon Crawford, left on Friday to take up a job at the health authority NHS London.

Services at the trust have been under scrutiny since 2004 when Peter Bryan, a cannibalistic killer awaiting trial for murder, was transferred to a medium-security ward, where he killed Richard Loudwell, another inmate.

That incident is the subject of another report, to be published next month. The report into the West London Mental Health NHS Trust was triggered after complaints from families and patient groups. An official risk assessment report by NHS London issued West London Mental Health Trust with a “red” alert rating over its governance last month.

NHS London said of Mr Crawford’s move: “Discussions have taken place between Simon Crawford and the trust and they both agreed that the time was right for Simon to move on and it would be helpful for his own development to have experience in another sector.”

His departure echoes those at Mid Staffordshire and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospital trusts, where executives left before critical findings were published. Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said that it was disgusting that chief executives appeared to be “jumping before they were pushed”. “This is a reward for failure approach,” she said. “Poor and sloppy governance of trusts leads to appalling patient care and unnecessary deaths.”

In a separate report, the CQC reported on how patients detained under the Mental Health Act in England were treated. The review, published on behalf of the former Mental Health Act Commission, found evidence of “worrying and poorly documented practices” surrounding control and restraint, patients at risk of suicide being left unmonitored and under-18s and women being transferred inappropriately to adult or mixed-sex units.


NHS is a bottomless pit for taxpayer funds

More and more bureaucrats have to be fed

The National Health Service is facing “the biggest financial crisis in its history” requiring tax rises or large cuts to other government departments just to maintain its budget, a report predicts. Spending on the NHS has doubled in a decade to more than £106 billion for next year, but the NHS needs to brace itself for a funding freeze that could last for six years, two leading think-tanks say.

The report, by the King’s Fund and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), suggests that even under the most optimistic funding scenario, the NHS will struggle to meet people’s healthcare needs without significantly increasing its productivity after 2011.

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have promised “real-terms growth” in NHS funding, or at least no cuts to the health budget in real terms if they win the next election. But these promises would inevitably result in hard decisions, such as cuts to other Whitehall budgets or an increase in tax over the period to 2017, the report says.

Over the next spending review period, from 2011-12 to 2013-14, the budget across all spending departments, including the NHS, could reduce in real terms by an average of 2.3 per cent each year, according to the IFS. These cuts could be restricted if taxes were increased, the authors of the report say. Limiting other departmental cuts to 2 per cent a year, while freezing the NHS budget over the next spending review period would require additional revenue of about £10.6 billion — equivalent to an extra £340 per family.

If, as seems likely, the NHS has at least three or four years of low or zero growth, it will be the first time in its history that it has had to go for such a long period with rising demand and little or no new money, the report says. But even if the NHS budget is not cut in real terms, future funding is likely to fall short of the population’s healthcare needs by more than £30 billion.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, said: “Everybody knows that the financial forecast is going to be bad, but we’ve tried to put some numbers on this and figure out where the cuts might come. Our analysis shows that the NHS is facing the most significant financial challenge in its history.”

In 2002, Sir Derek Wanless published a landmark report that set out the funding projections needed to maintain “solid progress” in the NHS, Mr Appleby said. The projections assumed improvements in health-related lifestyle behaviour and increased productivity in the NHS. “But even if spending is maintained or increases slightly, funding would still fall short of the solid progress mark by between £6.4 billion and £32.4 billion by 2016-17 at today’s prices,” he said. “This is equivalent to between 6 per cent and 31 per cent of the entire NHS budget.”

Part of the shortfall could, in principle, be filled by increasing productivity in the NHS. To do this, over the period from 2011-2017, the NHS would need to make gains of between £3.9 billion and £8.2 billion per year. This is equivalent to improvements of 3.7 to 7.7 per cent per year.

But the Office for National Statistics estimates that average productivity between 1997 and 2007 has fallen each year by 0.4 per cent on average, while private sector productivity growth averages about only 2 per cent a year.

“The service has enjoyed unprecedented increases in funding since the turn of the century, but those days will soon be over,” Mr Appleby said. “That is why it is crucial that the service does all it can over the next two years to prepare itself for the financial freeze that will take hold over the two coming spending review periods.”

Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “The scale of what is about to hit the healthcare system is unprecedented. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the challenge ahead.”


British Parents 'will have no say' over sex education in schools

Parents will be given barely any say in the content of sex education classes under Government plans to make the subject compulsory for children as young as five, a report warns today. Schools are currently free to draw up their own policies on sex education and are obliged to consult parents.

But proposals unveiled by Children's Secretary Ed Balls earlier this year to make the subject mandatory in primary and secondary schools will inevitably limit parents' influence, says a report from the Family Education Trust. Parents would have less power to keep explicit materials out of the classroom and object to the Government's 'misplaced' and 'counterproductive' promotion of contraceptives in lessons.

Norman Wells, the trust's director, said: 'Making personal, social and health education statutory would reduce the influence of parents over what is taught. 'Making it part of the curriculum would inevitably make schools less accountable to parents in what is a particularly sensitive and controversial subject area.' He added: 'There is a definite agenda at work to undermine the role of parents and to tear down traditional moral standards. The need for parents to be alert and vigilant has never been greater.'

Under the Government's plans, which are open to public consultation until the end of the week, primary schools would be required to teach sex and relationships education for the first time. Currently they do not have to cover the issue at all beyond the basic requirements of the science curriculum.

Draft plans suggest children aged five would learn to name parts of the body while sevenyearolds will learn about physical changes linked to puberty. Nine-year-olds would begin to learn about the facts of life.

In secondary schools sex education would become a statutory part of the national curriculum for the first time. Parents would retain their right to withdraw pupils from lessons. But hardly any exercise this amid concerns about their children being singled out by classmates or discovering the material anyway in the playground.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'Schools have an important role to play in providing effective sex and relationship education, which is essential if young people are to make responsible and well informed decisions about their lives.'


Britain's love-affair with homosexuality again

A doctor has been removed from an adoption panel because she refuses to endorse applications by homosexual couples. Dr Sheila Matthews, who is a Christian, was told that her beliefs on gay adoption were incompatible with equality legislation and council policies. The paediatrician had asked to be allowed to abstain from voting in cases involving same-sex couples. But that led to her being barred from the panel altogether.

The married mother of one said she had been 'made to pay for being honest and upholding my personal integrity'. 'I don't feel that placing children for adoption with same-sex couples is the best place for them,' said the 50-year-old doctor. 'As a Christian, I don't believe it's an appropriate lifestyle and I don't believe the outcomes for children would be as good as if they were placed with heterosexual couples.'

Dr Matthews said men and women brought different skills to parenting, with mothers more nurturing and fathers more challenging. She said children of gay adoptive parents would be more likely to be bullied. 'Professionally and personally I cannot recommend placement in a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for,' she said.

For the past five years she has analysed medical examinations of prospective adoptive parents on behalf of the panel to establish whether the candidates were healthy enough to provide longterm care for a child. Dr Matthews would then take part in the vote to decide if the candidates should be approved.
In the past, Dr Matthews had abstained from votes on same-sex parents.

But in February a homosexual couple applied to the panel - the first to do so following the introduction of equality legislation at the end of last year. Dr Matthews was happy to interpret for the panel the couple's medical assessments but was barred from participating after saying she would abstain from voting. Northamptonshire County Council told her she had been replaced on the panel because of the ' significant problems' her views created for the adoption service. In a letter she was told that her stance went against complying with the law and would not help the council attract the widest range of suitable adopters.

She has appealed against the decision and says she may be forced to go to an employment tribunal on the grounds of religious discrimination. The Christian Legal Centre is backing her case and has referred it to Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister.

The council said it was ' communicating' with Dr Matthews, who lives in Kettering, but could not comment further. More than 3,200 children were adopted in England last year - 90 by gay couples.


British jeweller in race probe over his ban on gypsies after string of raids on his shop

The global Left just cannot accept that all groups are not the same
"In the past 18 months alone jeweller Michael Plant has repeatedly been targeted by Eastern European thieves. At first he left it to the police to track down those responsible and hoped they would eventually be brought to justice. But with no sign of any arrests and still more raids, he decided to ban them from his shop - only to be threatened with prosecution for racial hatred.

'I'm not racist, but the fact is I have been targeted repeatedly by Eastern European criminals,' said Mr Plant, 62, yesterday. 'I should have a right to say which people come into my shop and not face allegations of racial discrimination. 'Obviously I don't think all of them are bad, but how can I distinguish who is good and who is bad? Some people coming in to this country illegally seem to have more rights than me.'

After each raid he called in the police to investigate but with no arrests and more stock stolen he decided to make a stand and placed a sign in his window which read: 'Sorry, we do not serve Rumanian or East European gypsies.'

After a tip-off from a member of the public, a senior police officer warned him that if it was not removed immediately he could be charged with producing racially offensive material. 'The sign was written in anger after the robbery,' said Mr Plant. 'I feared we would get more in that afternoon. 'I just put it straight in the door. The police took offence at the word "gipsies". 'I've had several robberies and the capture of criminals is very low.

Police said Mr Plant had fallen foul of the Race Relations Act which recognises gipsies and travellers as ethnic groups. A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: 'Police received a report that a shop was displaying a sign which contained writing that was deemed to be offensive. 'Officers have spoken with the owner of the shop. He has been advised that the notice is offensive and he has since removed it.

'We take all complaints of this nature extremely seriously.' [What they DON'T take seriously is theft]


British backdown on list that defamed Michael Savage

We read:
"Home Secretary Alan Johnson is to scrap his predecessor's policy of naming and shaming people banned from Britain for spreading race hate and terrorism. The U-turn follows Jacqui Smith's controversial decision two months ago to announce a list of 16 people branded as 'least wanted' in the UK.

It led to a claim for £100,000 damages by U.S. radio 'shock jock' Michael Savage, who objected to being put in the same category as Islamic hate preachers and terrorists.

The Mail on Sunday has been told that Mr Johnson believes the move was a blunder and does not propose to issue similar lists in the future. But the switch could have major legal consequences for the Government. Mr Savage is suing Ms Smith for libel over the list and abandoning the policy could make it impossible to contest his demand for damages.


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