Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NHS children's emergency doctor high on gas

"Chahal" is an Indian surname

A DOCTOR inhaled laughing gas for "fun" while he was treating children in an emergency ward, a medical tribunal has been told. The paediatrician, Dr Jonathan Chahal, who work at Royal Liverpool Hospital in England’s north was found out when nurses overheard him giggling in a resuscitation room in 2007, the tribunal heard. The 33-year-old doctor then allegedly persuaded several nurses to breathe in the anaesthetic gas Entonox after telling them: "It makes me feel floaty."

The drug has a warning from manufacturers saying people should not use machinery for up to 12 hours after taking it, the General Medical Council was told.

The Daily Mail reports that the tribunal was told how nurses Christine Timmons and Siobhan Fitzgerald were on duty at 2pm on June 27 when they went into the resuscitation room and spotted Chahal taking Entonox. "There was a blue canister behind the desk and it made a characteristic hissing sound," counsel for the General Medical Council Craig Sephton said. "They were invited by Dr Chahal to sample the Entonox. "Siobhan Fitzgerald was on duty that evening at 9.15pm she was talking to a colleague when they heard the sound of giggling from the resuscitation room.

"They went in and found the doctor taking Entonox again. They got into a discussion and he asked them if they had tried it before. He said it was fun and made him feel floaty. He invited them to do it so they did."

Just days later two other nurses, Briony Routledge and Amanda Howe, were on duty at the emergency ward when they spotted Chahal using Entonox consistently throughout the night. Mr Sephton added: "He offered it to them and also offered it to a student nurse Helen Aspinall - two of them accepted Doctor Chahal's offer."

Chahal was later quizzed by bosses who asked about his use of "recreational drugs." He said he smoked cannabis as a student but otherwise nothing. But Mr Sephton said one doctor took hair samples from Chahal - tests of which showed he had taken cocaine.

The doctor denies his fitness to practise was impaired.


Nutty old Lovelock is at it again

Climate war could kill nearly all of us, leaving survivors in the Stone Age, apparently

We need a climate change 'Churchill' to lead us away from planet-wide devastation, writes James Lovelock in the latest edition of Conservation magazine. 'We have enjoyed 12,000 years of climate peace since the last shift from a glacial age to an interglacial one,' says Lovelock.

In a small way, the plight of the British in 1940 resembles the state of the civilized world now. At that time we had had nearly a decade of the well-intentioned but quite wrong belief that peace was all that mattered.

The followers of the peace lobbies of the 1930s resembled the environmentalist movements now; their intentions were more than good but wholly inappropriate for the war that was about to start. It is time to wake up and realize that Gaia, the Earth system, is no cozy mother that nurtures humans and can be propitiated by gestures such as carbon trading or sustainable20development.

Gaia, even though we are a part of her, will always dictate the terms of peace. I am stirred by the thought that Gaia has existed for more than a quarter the age of the universe and that it has taken this long for a species to evolve that can think, communicate, and store its thoughts and experiences.

If we can keep civilization alive through this century perhaps there is a chance that our descendants will one day serve Gaia and assist her in the fine-tuned self-regulation of the climate and composition of our planet.

We have enjoyed 12,000 years of climate peace since the last shift from a glacial age to an interglacial one. Before long, we may face planet-wide devastation worse even than unrestricted nuclear war between superpowers. The climate war could kill nearly all of us and leave the few survivors living a Stone Age existence. But in several places in the world, including the U.K., we have a chance of surviving and even of living well.

For that to be possible, we have to make our lifeboats seaworthy now. Back in May 1940, we in the UK awoke to find facing us across the Channel a wholly hostile continental force about to invade. We were alone without an effective ally but fortunate to have a new leader, Winston Churchill, whose moving words stirred the whole nation from its lethargy: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

We all need modern Churchills to lead us from the clinging, flabby, consensual thinking of the late twentieth century and to bind our nations with a single-minded effort to wage a difficult war.



The UK's Met Office has had its funding for climate research slashed by a quarter, following withdrawal of financial support by the government's Ministry of Defence (MoD). The loss of £4.3 million (US$7.0 million) in funding from the MoD will affect the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter, the world-class climate modelling institute whose researchers made key contributions to the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.

"This news comes as a shock," says climate scientist Martin Parry, formerly at the Met Office and now at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. "The UK's core modelling work on climate change has been funded from this source, up to now." "Global and regional security will be threatened by climate change, and the MoD is hopelessly wrong to think it is outside its responsibility," adds Parry, who co-chaired the IPCC's working group on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

In a statement, an MoD spokesperson said that the cuts, which will come into effect immediately, were made with a view to "prioritizing success in current operations, such as Afghanistan".

This will be the first time that Met Office climate research has gone without MoD cash, according to a Met Office spokesman. The office became an executive agency of the ministry in 1990 and a commercialized trading fund in 1996. By 2008, one-sixth of its budget of £176.5 million came from commercial services. But government, and the MoD in particular, has continued to be its main customer and funder.

In 2007, the MoD signed a three-year deal worth £12 million with the Met Office, to part-fund its Integrated Climate Programme (ICP), which makes up the bulk of its climate research. Although the MoD has withdrawn its remaining funding, a Met Office spokesman insisted that the programme is not threatened. The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is committed to providing £4 million per year in funding up until 2011 to ICP, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will provide approximately £10 million in annual funding over the same period.

The Met Office is now in negotiations with these departments, and with the Department for International Development (DfID), in an effort to recoup some of the lost funding. "If they don't recoup it, they are going to be in serious trouble," said Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. "Losing 25% of your funding is a huge deal. Five percent is generally containable, but 25% is not an amount you can hope to absorb easily."...


Composting is bad for your health

Giant compost heaps used to recycle garden waste and leftover food could be harming the health of those living nearby, experts have warned. Researchers fear the industrial-scale sites increase rates of asthma, respiratory infections and skin complaints among locals unless they are correctly regulated.

There are already nearly a hundred commercial composting facilities in the UK, handling more than 1.7million tons of waste per year. The number is expected to double as councils scramble to meet Government targets for recycling organic household waste.

But critics warn that the sites lead to increased numbers of rats and flies which help to spread disease. Compost also contains bacteria, spores and fungi that can become airborne in emissions known as bioaerosols, which are potentially harmful to humans. A Government-backed study by the Environment Agency and Cranfield University has already found that among 44 sites examined, only eight had produced adequate risk assessments on protecting the surrounding area from bioaerosols.

Studies on workers at composting sites have also shown that there is a risk of respiratory infections from organisms that thrive in decaying organic matter and diseases such as farmer's lung, a common cause of breathing difficulties among farm workers. Peter Sykes, head of the centre for public protection at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, said: 'There is certainly an occupational risk to people working in compost sites, but the risk to residents living nearby is less well known. 'It depends on how the waste is being turned, the weather and the landscape itself.'

A survey of 132 residents living near a composting facility in Coven, Wolverhampton, carried out for Ken Purchase, MP for Wolverhampton North East, found that 66 felt the health of someone in their family had been harmed by the facility. Mr Purchase said: 'What is clear is that the nuisance is persistent and that the smell alone prevents residents enjoying the pleasure of their gardens and, in some cases, means doors and windows have to remain shut even on good summer days.'

It usually takes three months for organic waste to turn into usable compost, during which time temperatures inside the compost heaps can hit nearly 150F (65C).

In most sites waste is piled up in the open and regularly turned over by heavy machinery, which aids composition but spreads dust.

The Environment Agency is now producing new guidance for composting sites on how to reduce their emissions.

The UK produces more than 100million tons of food and other organic waste each year but currently just 2.8million tons are sent for composting.

Trelawney Dampney, managing director of Dorset-based Eco Sustainable Solutions and a director at the Association for Organics Recycling, said the industry was aware of the concerns and followed Environment Agency guidance to try to avoid any risk to the public. He said: 'The Environment Agency advises that all sites should be more than 250 yards from residential dwellings because within 250 yards the exposure to bioaerosols could be reasonably high, especially if they are down wind.'


All I wanted was a parcel. I got an earful

By Giles Coren

One bright, dusty, midsummer-quiet afternoon last week the doorbell rang and I looked out of the window (to avoid making the long descent from study to street only to find a kid with a box of J Cloths for sale or some pair of credulous bozos with good news about the Lord) and saw that it was the postman.

Well, not exactly the postman. What I had seen was a Parcelforce van, which is better still. Now that Parcelforce is the large-object wing of the Post Office, the Parcelforce guy is more exciting than Postie himself, since Postie is now protected by safety-in-the-workplace guidelines from carrying anything that I might eat, drink, read or hang on the wall.

So I bustled to the door full of the joy of the day, ready to hail the fellow with my breeziest “good afternoon” and take delivery of whatever jolliness he had in his bag. But as I opened it, my hair and whiskers were fair blown back by loud music, a thumping beat and the shouted words: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch! I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah, bitch!”

I was more than a little startled. The postman in question, however, a wiry, sullen-looking fellow, maybe 25 years old, with a Parcelforce beanie pulled low on his brow, seemed blissfully unbothered as he wordlessly handed me an electronic thing to sign. And indeed, when I looked out past him towards the noise, I saw that it emanated from his own vehicle, the aforementioned little red van, as little and red as Postman Pat’s, which was double-parked outside my house, in my quiet suburban street, with the windows open and this loud, aggressive rap booming from it: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch!”

As he held the electronic thing in my face, the postman (and I insist on calling him a postman, despite his no doubt being officially known at Parcelforce as a “delivery solutions operative”, or some such, because he was delivering my post and was in the pay of Royal Mail Group Ltd) was actually nodding his head to this vile music.

When I was a kid, our postman, Derek, used to whistle as he came down the path with our letters. He may have been whistling a tune whose original words were, “I’m gonna **** you, bitch!” but I doubt it. It was usually Colonel Bogey.

I honestly didn’t know where to look. My house is 50 yards from a primary school. I might have been a little old lady (more than likely if you’re looking for a front door to be answered at three in the afternoon) or a mother with children. How can it possibly be acceptable for a man from the Royal Mail, the Royal bloody Mail, going about what is in theory Her Majesty’s business, to be declaring as he rings your mother’s doorbell, my mother’s doorbell, anybody’s mother’s doorbell, on a quiet June afternoon: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch!”?

The man can listen to that kind of sick, sexist drivel in his own time, if he wants. And I dare say that the manager of whatever rap band it was he was listening to will have some excuse up his sleeve about how the song only reflects the sexist and aggressive mores of the street, without specifically endorsing them, but, I swear, if he showed up round my place with that kind of specious bilge I would specifically endorse his face for him.

I grasp that people under 25, people born into the iPod age, cannot conceive of music as anything but a constant backdrop. Music is no longer a thing to be enjoyed for its own sake, at gigs and festivals and in pubs and clubs and at home on a stereo, but is a vain and impotent declaration of self to be blared from cars and phones and laptops and headsets at all times — a constant somatic comfort to the dull, blunt, flabby modern brain. But to crawl the streets of the city playing offensive rap music on full volume with the windows wound down is the sort of carry-on you expect from teenage hoodlums, stabby little respec’-seekers and bug-eyed gang-rapists on crack. Not an employee of the Royal Mail. Not your bloody postman.

I didn’t know what to say to the man. So I didn’t say anything. Maybe if I had he would have shanked me for dissing his tunes. I don’t know, maybe that’s what they teach postmen to do these days.

Maybe, with all these threats to its business from e-mail and private sector courier companies, the Post Office is planning to go a different way to modernise. Maybe it is going to train postmen to carry blades, slouch down the street with their trousers round their knees, pouting and scowling and playing rape anthems on their phones, and asking people what they are staring at, so that they can stab them to death.

Or, I don’t know, maybe, “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah bitch! Yeah bitch!” is the message the Royal Mail is really trying to send us.

The tune, and its bone-headed, soul-sickening lyrics, stayed with me all day. Try how I might, I simply could not dislodge it from my brain, even with a constant, quiet, wistful repetition of “Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat . . .”


No comments: