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Monday, December 26, 2011

Denmark introduces taxes on fatty foods and products

Denmark has imposed the world’s first “fat tax” in a drive to slim its population and cut heart disease.The move may increase pressure for a similar tax in the UK, which suffers from the highest levels of obesity in Europe.

Starting from this Saturday, Danes will pay an extra 30p on each pack of butter, 8p on a pack of crisps, and an extra 13p on a pound of mince, as a result of the tax.

The tax is expected to raise about £140 million, and cut consumption of saturated fat by close to 10pc, and butter consumption by 15pc.

“It’s the first ever fat-tax,” said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, who has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods.

“It’s very interesting. We haven’t had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real.” The tax will be levied at 2.5 per Kg of saturated fat and will be levied at the point of sale from wholesalers to retailers.

Less than 10pc of Danes are clinically obese, putting them slightly below the European average.

But researchers at Denmark’s Institute for Food and Economic estimate that close to 4pc of the country’s premature deaths are a result of excess consumption of saturated fats.

For Britain, where more than 20pc of the population is obese, the number will be considerably higher.

A 2007 study by Mr Rayner’s group concluded that a combination of taxes on healthy foods and tax breaks on fruit and vegetables could save 3,200 lives a year in the UK.

Health Minister Andrew Lansley has up until now resisted calls for taxes on unhealthy foods, but Mr Rayner said they were the only credible way to combat Britain’s obesity problem.

“I think we’re going to have them in Britain whether Mr Lansley wants them or not, because the obesity crisis in the UK is such that we need to take more action.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dismantling NHS IT computer scheme could cost more money

Dismantling Labour’s disastrous £12 billion NHS IT programme may cost taxpayers more than keeping it going.Ministers announced on Thursday that they will speed up the scrapping of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT)  after a review concluded “there can be no confidence that the programme has delivered or can be delivered as originally conceived”.

It confirmed earlier reports that the central part of the scheme, allowing NHS staff across England to access any patient’s details, was unworkable while costs had increases and deadlines were missed.

The governance board of the programme will now be scrapped, and local trusts will be given the freedom to develop their own versions of the electronic care record rather than having the rules dictated by Whitehall. A new Cabinet Office oversight committee will monitor future IT investment to ensure money is not wasted.

But many trusts across England have large contracts with private suppliers to supply their care record systems, and their cancellation could leave taxpayers even more out of pocket.

The Department of Health’s own chief information officer, Christine Connelly, told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee in May that a £3bn deal with CSC to deliver systems in the north, midlands and east of England would cost more to get out of than to keep going.

She said: “Potentially, if you ask me about the absolute maximum, we could be exposed to a higher cost than the cost to complete the contract as it stands today.”

A decision will be made on the future of the contract later in the autumn.

However the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority said that some parts of the £12.7bn programme had worked and would be retained, including the NHSmail email system and the Choose and Book process of arranging hospital referrals.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said: “Labour’s NHS IT Programme let down the NHS and wasted taxpayers’ money by imposing a top-down IT system on the local NHS, which didn’t fit their needs.

“We will be moving to an innovative new system driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money from IT systems that better meet the needs of a modernised NHS.”

Roger Goss, co-director of the pressure group Patient Concern said: “Thank goodness politicians have decided to stop money being poured into a huge bottomless pit. Now we must pray that they don’t sanction pouring it into endless incompatible regional pits.”

Doctors and dentists to receive new tax warning letters

About 2,500 doctors and dentists have been targeted by the tax authorities as probable tax dodgers.HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will send them warning letters in the next few days, telling them to pay within 21 days or face possible prosecution.

The threats are part of the Revenue’s efforts to recover unpaid tax owed by various professions and trades.

People selling on internet marketplaces, and electricians, will be targeted early next year.

As well as doctors and dentists, HMRC has already been paying special attention to the tax affairs of restaurant owners and their staff, plumbers, private tutors and scrap metal dealers, as well as people with money hidden in offshore bank accounts.

Last month, the Revenue added to its list of potential miscreants, announcing it would also be focusing on wealthy people who own homes abroad, as well as commodity traders.

Gary Ashford of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) said doctors and dentists should not ignore the Revenue’s latest letters.

“HMRC will either ‘make a determination’, which would result in the taxpayer incurring significant additional charges, or refer the case to their criminal investigations department with a view to prosecution,” he said.

“They have offered the carrot of a relatively low penalty rate for doctors to get their affairs in order and 1,500 health professionals took it up, bringing in £10m for the Exchequer.

“Now they are wielding the stick at those who have not come forward,” he said.

Mr Ashford pointed out that the Revenue had been gleaning information from employers of doctors and dentists, such as locum agencies, drug companies and medical insurance firms.

“What we are now seeing is HMRC starting to use that information, to identify who has not notified HMRC of all their tax liabilities,” Mr Ashford pointed out.

Doctors call for separate daily and weekly alcohol drinking limits

Drinkers should be given separate daily and weekly alcohol limits to prevent them consuming their entire recommended allowance at the weekend, a leading doctor has said.Prof Nick Heather, of Alcohol Research UK, said current guidelines which stipulate people’s average drinking habits fail to tackle the problem of binge drinking.

He told MPs there should be two types of limit, one which dictates how much people can safely drink “on average” and one which should “stipulate an amount that should never be exceeded”.

The Department of Health previously stated that men and women should not exceed 21 and 18 units of alcohol per week respectively.

It now advises men should not “regularly” exceed three to four units of alcohol per day, with women not drinking on average more than two or three units, but people still mistakenly believe they can store up their alcohol allowance by abstaining during the week and consume excessive amounts on Friday and Saturday nights.

Prof Heather told MPs that there is a key distinction between chronic illness caused by regular heavy drinking and the injuries resulting from drunkenness after binge drinking.

As well as advising how much alcohol people can safely drink on a regular basis health authorities ought to specify that no more than eight units should be consumed in a single day, equivalent to about three 175ml glasses of wine or four pints of lager, he suggested.

He said: “The form that guidelines should take should be this, for example. Men should not drink more than X units per week, probably 21, and never more than Y units in a day, which might be eight, and as well there should be at least two days of abstinence.

“We should revert to the old weekly limits for the average guideline and have another daily limit which would never be exceeded on any day.”

Senior medical experts urged the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, which is examining the evidence on alcohol guidelines, not to raise the current recommended drinking limits.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, Royal College of Physicians special adviser on alcohol and chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the “tide of harm” in Britain’s hospitals made it imperitave alcohol levels do not rise.

He said: “As someone who still looks after people with liver disease, and with hospital admissions rising, I think that any recommendation to increase limits would add to the tide of harm that we are seeing in our hospitals every day.  Given the burden of harm that we’ve got, it’s vital that levels are not increased at this point.”

Doctors from overseas must speak English or be banned Lansley to tell Conservative Party Conference

Foreign doctors who cannot speak English are to be banned from working in NHS hospitals and clinics, the Health Secretary will announce today.The NHS will introduce mandatory language tests for doctors moving to Britain after training elsewhere in the European Union.

The decision follows a series of cases in which patients have died or suffered poor care as a result of doctors speaking sub-standard English.

The issue was brought to national attention three years ago when Dr Daniel Ubani, a German-trained GP on his first out-of-hours shift in Britain, killed David Gray, 70, by giving him 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference today, Andrew Lansley will say that the Medical Act will be amended so that doctors must speak good English to practise in Britain.

“I am determined that doctors who come from overseas to work here in our NHS must not only have the right qualifications, but also the language skills to practise here,” the Health Secretary is expected to say. “We will amend the Medical Act to ensure that any doctor from overseas who can’t use a decent level of English is not able to treat NHS patients. This is not about discriminating; we’ve always appreciated how much overseas doctors and nurses give to our NHS. It is simply about our absolute commitment to put patients’ safety first.”

There are more than 88,000 foreign-trained doctors registered to work in Britain, including 22,758 from Europe. They account for almost a third of the total.

Under the proposals, local NHS trusts would have a duty to check the language skills of foreign-trained doctors before they can be employed. In addition, the General Medical Council would be given powers to take action against doctors when there were concerns about their ability to speak English. At present, only doctors from outside the European Economic Area are routinely scrutinised for their language skills before being registered by the GMC.

This means that doctors from Canada or Australia are routinely tested for their language skills while those from countries such as Poland and France are not.

It had previously been thought that European Union laws ensuring the freedom of movement of labour prevented language testing. However, the European Commission has recently stated that the language tests would be legal.

Dr Ubani, who admitted he had never heard of the drug he gave to Mr Gray, was struck off by the GMC in June last year but still practises in Germany. His poor English meant he was refused work by the NHS in West Yorkshire but was accepted in Cornwall and Camb-ridgeshire, where he saw Mr Gray.

Since the case, the GMC and other NHS leaders have repeatedly warned that some foreign doctors’ language skills are so poor that patients are being put at risk.

Compulsory language tests for foreign doctors will raise concerns that the NHS could be left short-staffed, such is its reliance on overseas medics. Ministers believe that the majority will reach the necessary standard of English.

Mr Lansley will today deliver a robust defence of the Government’s health policy, saying that money is being diverted from cutting bureaucracy to front-line services.

“Unlike Labour, we will make sure that every penny of our investment goes right to the patients who matter, not the huge Labour bureaucracy which we inherited,” he will say. “And all that is why, since the election, we now have 1,500 more doctors and 5,000 fewer managers in the NHS.”

He will also claim that hospital infection rates have fallen and the number of people being treated in mixed-sex wards has fallen by more than 90 per cent over the past eight months.

Drinking wine could help to stop sunburn

Drinking wine or eating grapes could protect you from sunburn, according to a new study that found a chemical in the fruit can limit cell damage.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun are the leading environmental cause of skin complaints, premature ageing, sun burn and even skin cancer.

But in another nod towards the healthy mediteranean diet, Spanish scientists found substances in the grapes protect cells from the damage.

Already cosmetic companies are registering interest in the hope of making sun creams or pills that copy the process.

The University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council looked at the chemical reaction in the skin when hit by UV rays from the sun.

They found that flavonoids in the grapes can stop the chemical reaction that causes cells to die and therefore skin damage.

The study, carried out in vitro in the laboratory, has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, said it proves grapes could help protect the skin from sun burn and even skin cancer.

She said the research could help to develop skin creams and other products to protect skin from sun damage.

“This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation, as well as increasing our understanding of the mechanism by which they act”, she said.

The study also adds to the popular image of the healthy and tanned population of the mediteranean.

Previous research has put the low cancer rates and good health down to tomatoes, olive oil and even red wine.

Early success in prostate cancer drug trial gives patients promising future

A London hospital’s trial of a prostate cancer drug has been stopped early because it was so successful doctors felt it would be “unethical” to deny the treatment to other patients.Medics halted tests of the life-extending drug because it would have been “unethical” not to offer the treatment to all 922 cancer sufferers taking part in the trial.

Patients who were given the drug found that it eased pain and caused only minor side effects.

The new drug accurately targets tumours using alpha radiation, which doctors conducting the study said is the most effective form of radiation to eliminate cancer because it limits damage to surrounding tissue.

Dr Chris Parker, lead researcher on the project at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: “It’s more damaging. It takes one, two, three hits to kill a cancer cell compared with thousands of hits for beta particles.”

The drug, Radium-223 Chloride – known as Alpharadin TM – will also do less damage to surrounding tissue because it accurately targets calls, the doctors said.

Speaking at an international gathering of cancer experts, Dr Parker, a consultant clinical oncologist, said: “They have such a tiny range, a few millionths of a metre. So we can be sure that the damage is being done where it should be.”

Patients taking the drug has a 30 per cent lower rate of death compared top patients taking a placebo pill.

“It would have been unethical not to offer the active treatment to those taking placebo,” Dr. Parker said.

Radium-223 has “a completely different safety profile” to chemotherapy, he added.

The trial’s results were presented this week at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm.

The researchers, who have pointed out the urgent need for an effective treatment for prostate cancer, will now submit their findings for approval by regulators.

Prof Gillies McKenna, Cancer Research UK’s radiotherapy expert said: “This appears to be an important study using a highly targeted form of radiation to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.”

“This research looks very promising and could be an important addition to approaches available to treat secondary tumours – and should be investigated further.”

Even moderate exercise cuts heart disease risk

August 02, 2011 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Doctors, Health, Healthcare, Heart Disease, NHS Deaths, Preventable Crisis, Uncategorized

Doing moderate exercise even for short amounts of time is still good for your heart- and your health according to new research.
Academics estimate that just two and a half hours of cycling or brisk walking every week is enough to lower heart disease risk by 14 per cent.

However they add that people who do even more exercise will be healthier.

The Department of Health recommends that adults carry out at least 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity” each week as well as “muscle-strengthening activities” twice a week.

Jacob Sattelmair, of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in America, said: “The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines – even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better – 150 minutes of exercise per week is beneficial, 300 minutes per week will give even more benefits.”

His paper, published in the journal Circulation, looked at 33 previous academic studies of physical activity and heart disease, nine of which measured leisure activity quantitatively.

Analysis suggested that those who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week had a 14 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who reported taking part in no exercise.

However those who took more exercise had an even lower risk.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Every hour of TV watching shortens life by 22 minutes

Every hour spent watching television shortens the viewer’s life by 22 minutes, academics warn.Anyone who spends six hours a day in front of the goggle box is at risk of dying five years sooner than those who enjoy more active pastimes, it is claimed.

Researchers say that watching too much TV is as dangerous as smoking or being overweight, and that the “ubiquitous sedentary behaviour” should be seen as a “public health problem”.

Experts from the University of Queensland, Australia, write: “TV viewing time may have adverse health consequences that rival those of lack of physical activity, obesity and smoking; every single hour of TV viewed may shorten life by as much as 22 minutes.”

Referring to Australian and American guidelines that suggest children should spend no more than two hours a day in front of a screen, the academics conclude: “With further corroborative evidence, a public health case could be made that adults also need to limit the time spent watching TV.”

Although health campaigners – and parents – have long warned of the dangers of watching too much television, its effects on life expectancy have never before been calculated.

In a paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr J Lennert Veerman and colleagues looked at the results of a survey of 11,247 Australians taken in 1999-2000, which asked about time spent watching TV, and also mortality figures for the country.

They constructed a model in which they compared life expectancy for adults who watch TV to those who did not, and worked out that every hour spent glued to the screen shortened life by 21.8 minutes.

For those in the top 1 per cent of the population who watch six hours of programmes a day, they “can expect to live 4.8 years less than a person who does not watch TV”.

The researchers say that watching TV is among the most common forms of sedentary behaviour, along with sitting in cars.

“Because TV viewing is a ubiquitous behaviour that occupies significant portions of adults’ leisure time, its effects are significant for overall population health.”

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, said: “Physical activity offers huge benefits and these studies back what we already know – that doing a little bit of physical activity each day brings health benefits and a sedentary lifestyle carries additional risks.

“That’s why the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recently updated their advice on physical activity to be more flexible, right from babyhood to adult life.  Adults, for example, can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of 10 minutes or more and for the first time we have provided guidelines on reducing sedentary time.”

“We hope these studies will help more people realise that there are many ways to get exercise – activities like walking at a good pace or digging the garden over can count too.”

Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Sedentary behaviour such as vegging in front of the TV is practically a cultural institution these days and it’s good to relax for a while, but this study supports the view that too much of it can be bad for our health.

“Many of us make a conscious decision not to smoke because we know it’s bad for us, and this study suggests that more of us should make the same kind of pledge about lounging around and watching lots of TV.

“Introducing more activity to our daily lives, whether it’s walking to the shops instead of taking the bus, using the stairs instead of the lift or taking up active hobbies like sport or gardening mean we won’t spend as much time in front of the TV where we’re likely to pile on the pounds.”

Exercise should be standard part of cancer care

All patients getting cancer treatment should be told to do two and a half hours of physical exercise every week, says a report by Macmillan Cancer Support.
Being advised to rest and take it easy after treatment is an outdated view the charity says.

Research shows that exercise can reduce the risk of dying from cancer and minimise the side effects of treatment.

The Department of Health says local initiatives can get people moving.

Macmillan’s report, Move More, says that of the two million cancer survivors in the UK, around 1.6 million are not physically active enough.

Adult cancer patients and cancer survivors should undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, the reports says, which is what the Department of Health guidelines recommend.

In the report, the American College of Sports Medicine also recommends that exercise is safe during and after most types of cancer treatment and says survivors should avoid inactivity.

Getting active, the report says, can help people overcome the effects of cancer and its treatments, such as fatigue and weight gain.

“The evidence review shows that physical exercise does not increase fatigue during treatment, and can in fact boost energy after treatment. It can also lower their chances of getting heart disease and osteoporosis.”

“Also, doing recommended levels of physical activity may reduce the chance of dying from the disease. It may also help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.”

Previous research shows that exercising to the recommended levels can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring by 40%. For prostate cancer the risk of dying from the disease is reduced by up to 30%.

Bowel cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease can be cut by around 50% by doing around six hours of moderate physical activity a week.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said physical activity was very important to the survival and recovery process.
Woman jogging Keeping active after treatment for cancer is now recommended by cancer experts

“Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the gruelling ordeal of treatment all over again.

“It doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim, all count.”

Traditionally cancer patients were told to rest after their cancer treatment, but the report says this approach could put cancer patients at risk.

Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and a leading clinical oncologist said: “The advice that I would have previously given to one of my patients would have been to ‘take it easy’.

“This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines.”

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, was a little more cautious.

“Anything that improves wellbeing and reduces treatment side effects for cancer survivors has to be a good thing.

“But the evidence that exercise has a bearing on survival is not conclusive. It is important to remember that no two cancer patients are the same, so rehabilitation programmes that include physical activity will need to be tailored to the individual.”

Fair skinned people may need extra vitamin D supplements

Fair skinned people who are prone to sunburn may need to take health supplements to ensure they get enough vitamin D, say experts.It appears that those with pale skin, while not deficient, may still be lacking in the essential vitamin that the body makes from sunlight.

The Cancer Research UK charity say that even with a lot of sun exposure, those with fair skin may not be able to make enough vitamin D.

And too much sun causes skin cancer.

Clearly, for this reason, increasing sun exposure is not the way to achieve higher vitamin D levels in the fair-skinned population, say the researchers. But taking supplements could be.

Their work examined 1,200 people.

Of these, 730 were found to have “lower than optimal” vitamin D levels – and many of these were people with very pale, freckled skin.

Supplements are already recommended for groups at higher risk of deficiency. This includes people with dark skin, such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, and people who wear full-body coverings, as well as the elderly, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people who avoid the sun.

Based on the latest findings, it appears that pale-skinned people should be added to this list.

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth.

A level less than 25nmol/L in the blood is a deficiency, but experts increasingly believe that lower than 60nmol/L are suboptimal and can also be damaging to health.

Most people get enough vitamin D with short exposures to the sun (10 to 15 minutes a day). A small amount also comes from the diet in foods like oily fish and dairy products.

But people with fair skin do not seem to be able to get enough, according to Prof Julia Newton-Bishop and her team at the University of Leeds.

Part of the reason might be that people who burn easily are more likely to cover up and avoid the sun.

But some fair-skinned individuals also appear to be less able to make and process vitamin D in the body, regardless of how long they sit in the sun for.

Hazel Nunn, of Cancer Research UK, explains how to increase vitamin D levels if you’re pale

Prof Newton-Bishop said: “It’s very difficult to give easy advice that everyone can follow. There’s no one-size-fits-all.  However, fair-skinned individuals who burn easily are not able to make enough vitamin D from sunlight and so may need to take vitamin D supplements.”

Hazel Nunn, of Cancer Research UK, said: “It is about striking a balance between the benefits and harms of sun exposure.

“People with fair skin are at higher risk of developing skin cancer and should take care to avoid over-exposure to the sun’s rays.  If people are concerned about their vitamin D levels, they should see their doctor who may recommend a vitamin D test.”

Fertility doctors attack unethical £20 IVF raffle

A nationwide lottery offering couples the chance to win IVF fertility treatment was strongly criticised. At its launch, a UK-based charity offered people – couples or singles of both sexes – the chance to win £25,000 for a round of IVF treatment at a “top clinic”, in return for a £20 ticket.

The lottery is being organised by the charity To Hatch, founded by Camille Strachan, 38, to help people who are struggling to conceive. The winner of the lottery, which is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, will be randomly selected by a computer in September. Further monthly draws are then planned.

Ms Strachan says she hoped the lottery “can ease the burden on the NHS and reduce the stress on some of those who are struggling.”

It is understood that a number of UK clinics have refused to participate, sparking rumours that a clinic in Barbados would be one of the destinations. Ms Strachan has declined to reveal which “top” clinics would offer the treatment.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have criticised the move as “wrong and entirely inappropriate”. They described it as running “counter to the ethos that underpins our regulatory system and clinical practice”.

Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and a spokesperson for the British Fertility Society, said: “In my view it’s a slippery slope to be dishing out healthcare like this, particularly when it comes to children. My mother and father used to say they found me under a gooseberry bush – can you imagine telling a child that he or she was won in a raffle?

“Ethics aside, I think it is precisely the current postcode lottery of NHS funding which makes this charity think it can make this venture a success. Couples either find they can’t get access to NHS treatment or they get only a single attempt and therefore need to fund any further treatment privately if that is unsuccessful.”

Despite criticism of the charity, public responses on internet chat forums were mixed. Although the majority expressed misgivings, hundreds of people indicated on Facebook and Twitter that they intended to buy tickets.

Many took the view that the lottery is a good idea, given what is widely perceived as a cut in the provision of IVF treatment on the NHS.

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission, which regulates lotteries, said: “The commission plays no statutory role in judging ethical questions that fall outside of the Gambling Act 2005. A licence is granted if all the criteria are met.”

Gastric band weight loss ops on the rise for under 25s

The number of under 25s being given weight loss surgery on the NHS in England has quadrupled over the last three years.That includes people being fitted with a gastric band, having their stomach stapled, or having a gastric bypass.

Between 2006 and 2007, 55 people under the age of 25 had one of these operations, but between 2009 and 2010 the number had risen to 210.

That included 34 teenagers, some as young as 15.

Doctors and eating disorder groups say they are worried about the rise, claiming the NHS in many cases is not giving young people the support they need before and after the surgery.

Gastric bands are given to overweight people to help them lose weight quickly. They work by reducing the size of a patient’s stomach, therefore limiting the amount of food they can eat.

The eating disorder charity Beat says too often this is not being treated as a life-changing procedure.

Beat’s chief executive Susan Ringwood says: “Having a gastric band fitted is a very serious operation that has long-term, permanent consequences, yet we know young people are not always being given this information and that is very concerning”.

The group says patients aren’t getting the support they need after the surgery, when their bodies are likely to be struggling to adjust to the change in diet.

Patients can also be vulnerable to anxiety and depression, says the charity.

Dr Samantha Scholtz, an NHS psychiatrist who prepares people for gastric band surgery, admits aftercare across the NHS is ‘patchy’.

“Every single patient that has bariatric surgery should have some sort of psychological intervention”, she says.  “We are essentially removing food from someone’s life, doing something artificial”.

The Department of Health says people are only given bariatric surgery after being assessed by a doctor, who will decide on the best type of weight-loss treatment for each individual.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Girls now eight times more likely to live to 100 than 80 years ago

A baby girl born today is eight times more likely to live to 100 than one born 80 years ago, government figures have indicated.
The analysis also shows that 20 year-olds are three times more likely to reach 100 than their grandparents, and twice as likely as their parents.

The rapidly ageing population in the UK suggests that by 2066 there will be half a million people aged 100 or more.

Ministers will use the information to argue that reform of pensions is vital and more people must take provision for their retirement seriously.

Lord McFall of Alcluith, the former chairman of the Treasury select committee, published a report into retirement schemes and said workers planning to retire after 2020 faced a “bleak old age”.

Ministers will highlight the change in life expectancy and why people’s perceptions of what they need to do for retirement has to change.

Steve Webb, the pensions minister, said: “These figures show just how great the differences in life expectancy between generations really are.

“The dramatic speed at which life expectancy is changing means that we need to radically rethink our perceptions about our later lives. We simply can’t look to our grandparents’ experience of retirement as a model for our own. We will live longer and we will have to save more. “

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that women have a far greater chance of reaching 100 than men.

A man born in 1931 only has a 2.5 per cent chance of reaching 100, while a woman has a 5.1 per cent chance. But the rapidly changing life expectancy is reflected in the statistics for 2011. A girl born this year has a 33.7 per cent chance of reaching 100, while a boy has a 26 per cent chance of doing so.

The figures also show that a boy born in 1961 has a 10 per cent chance of reaching his centenary, while a girl born in the same year has a 16 per cent chance of living to 100.

A man born in 1991 has a 19.2 per cent of getting to 100, while a woman has a greater chance at 26.5 per cent.

Actuarial estimates of life expectancy, which guide pension calculations, are often underestimates which cause problems when people plan for their retirement.

The report by Lord McFall said the “golden generation” of retirement schemes was coming to an end — 14?million workers will retire with pensions far smaller than their parents’.

Lord McFall, who is chairman of the independent Workplace Retirement Income Commission, found that almost three quarters of private sector staff would be unable to “adequately exist” when they retired due to a low level of savings.

It is in stark contrast to those retiring now. Figures show that the net income of today’s pensioners has grown by 47 per cent in real terms since 1999.

Lord McFall said: “A golden sunset is giving way to a bleak dawn.”

A chart released by the DWP details the chances of each age group reaching 100. It shows that the chances decrease each year as you grow older, but then start getting better again from the age of 83.

At 83, you have on average a 7.2 per cent chance of getting to three figures. At 85, the chances are 7.4 per cent; at 90 it is 9.3 per cent and if you survive until 99, your chance of reaching 100 is 67.6 per cent.

Glasgow Royal Infirmary protest at PFI parking fee hike

Health workers at a Glasgow hospital are staging a protest later over a 113% increase in parking fees.The monthly cost of a permit for the multi-storey at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI) has risen from £42 to £89.50.

Parking fees at most Scottish hospitals were abolished in 2009 but remained at three sites where car parks were built under Labour’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) .

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said a limited number of £25 permits were available for staff who needed cars.

The multi-storey car park, which opened in 2005, is owned by Impreglio Car Parking and managed by Apcoa under contract to the health board.

Approximately 940 subsidised permits are issued with priority given to staff such as consultants who need to travel between different sites.

Other staff can apply for these permits, but demand outstrips availability and not all applicants are successful.

At the time, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon urged health boards to limit and reduce the charges until the contracts came to an end.

In September, the issue was raised in the Scottish parliament by Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White.

She was told that the first minister sympathised with the staff, but the Scottish Government was bound by the terms of the PFI agreement signed by the previous Labour administration.

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Unfortunately, as the car park is privately-owned, we do not have any control over any tariff increases that Impreglio choose to make.”

Health effects of holidays fade within fortnight

The beneficial effects of a holiday on health and wellbeing fade out within just a fortnight of coming home, according to psychologists.
Research has found that workers return to the office happier, healthier and with more energy, particularly if their in-tray hasn’t built up too much in their absence, and are even better at solving problems.

However the improvements in a holidaymaker’s mood start to fade within the first week back, even before their suntans do, and after two weeks they are just as tired as they were before they jetted off.

But rather than giving up on holidays as a waste of time and money, academics say the solution – which may prove rather costly as well as unpopular with employers – is for staff to take time off more often.

Jessica de Bloom, a researcher in health psychology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said: “Although the beneficial effects fade out quickly, not having any holidays/vacations would probably be very problematic because the strain would accumulate over time.

“Vacations give people the opportunity to (re)connect to family, partner and friends. They help us to ‘refill our batteries’, remain productive and perform on high levels.

“The fact that the after-effects are short-lived only emphasises that we should go on a vacation more frequently in order to keep our levels of health and well-being high.”

Her findings feature in a review by The Psychologist, the publication of The British Psychological Society, of existing studies on the mental and physical effects of taking a break from work.

She measured the well-being 96 Dutch workers two weeks before they went away, while they were on holiday, and for several weeks after their return.

Although the workers came back refreshed, most of the benefits faded away within the first week they were back at their desks and the longest-lasting effect, on fatigue, was gone after a fortnight.

Separate research involving 131 German teachers found that the benefits of taking a two-week Easter break – in feeling less tired and more engaged with work – had gone after a month, although the effects faded more slowly among those who were able to relax after school.

Other studies have found that getting away from it all can make trigger “leisure sickness”, with 3 to 4 per cent of those questioned claiming they suffered from illnesses more on holidays and weekends than at work. One researcher has even suggested that going away in a car and staying in a tent are linked to increase risk of heart attacks among people with existing problems.

But for those who only have a small amount of annual leave to take, and not enough money to go somewhere exotic, all is not lost.

Several studies have shown that the length of a holiday is not important and that happy memories will linger even if not every day is filled with excitement or relaxation.

Simon Kemp at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, questioning 49 holidaymakers, found that the mood of their “most memorable or unusual” 24 hours away set the tone for their overall memory of the vacation.

The “rosy-view effect” has also shown that people anticipate and recall holidays more than they actually enjoy them as they occur, since they forget the minor irritations at the airport or the hotel.

And when 26 German and Danish families were asked about their favourite parts of a trip by a researcher at Aalborg University, a common answer among parents and children was the simple act of sitting down together to enjoy an ice cream.

Health lottery launched to raise £50 million

A new health lottery is launched today with the aim of generating up to £50 million a year for health causes.The Health Lottery – run by Northern & Shell, which owns Channel 5 and Express newspapers – offers a £100,000 top prize for matching five numbers from 50.

The launch was hosted by television presenter Eamonn Holmes, who will also front the live draw to be shown on ITV1 and Channel 5 each Saturday from October 8.

He said: “It’s such a great idea, I am really excited about being part of something that not only makes people smile every week, but also has the ability to change lives in the longer term.

“In these difficult economic times, the Health Lottery will inject a sizeable amount of new money into that local network, and the projects that are supported will help people live longer, healthier lives.”

Twenty pence from tickets, which cost £1, will go towards health-related good causes.

Matching three numbers wins £50 and four numbers £500.

No matter how many people win, everyone will get the advertised prize, the Health Lottery said.

John Hume, chief executive of the People’s Health Trust, said: “We will be working directly with communities to identify practical and sustainable ways in which funding from the Health Lottery can have real impacts on health and well-being in communities experiencing significant disadvantages.”

Martin Hall, chief executive of the Health Lottery said: “The Health Lottery game is a fresh new alternative which has one single good cause at its heart – health.

“We will be offering people the opportunity to win a life-changing amount of money while at the same time contributing to tackling real health issues in their own communities.

“It is an exciting new launch which will benefit every community in Great Britain.”

But the launch attracted criticism from Sir Stephen Bubb, of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, who dubbed it a “disgraceful new development”.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

With the clocks going back and nights getting longer, some specialists are arguing that coffee bars, which provide high-strength lighting along with their lattes, might help the one in five people who suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression triggered by lack of light in winter. An estimated 7 per cent of Britain’s population suffer from SAD, with a further 17 per cent experiencing a milder form of the condition, commonly known as the “winter blues”. SAD kicks in as the days get shorter, the loss of natural daylight triggering depressive symptoms such as lethargy, a lack of interest in sex and sleep problems.

Light cafés have taken off in Sweden, which has nearly a million SAD sufferers and where winter gloom is a far greater problem than in the UK. Stockholm, for example, gets only five hours of daylight in the winter months. But the city’s commuters can stop off in cafés, such as the Iglo, and sit bathed in UV-free lighting to the strength of 3,000 lux (the technical measure of brightness).

This intense light, which compares with the 200-500 lux emitted by domestic or office lighting, simulates natural light and is thought to correct the hormone imbalance that causes SAD, although its effectiveness has not been conclusively proved.

Dr Victoria Revell, an expert in chronobiology (the study of circadian rhythms) at the University of Surrey, says that the cafés would benefit British SAD sufferers.

“They are beneficial both physiologically and socially. Using light therapy in this way can help our sleep patterns, energy levels and performance.”

Dr Revell explains: “One key role of light is to synchronise our circadian body clock to the 24-hour day.” SAD sufferers, she says, require a higher light intensity to regulate their body clocks. In the winter, when light levels are lower, they produce too much melatonin (the hormone which helps us sleep) and less of the “feel-good” hormone, serotonin.

The latest thinking is that the disorder has genetic origins. In America, for example, research suggests that mutations in a gene associated with melanopsin – a light-sensitive pigment in the retina of the eye thought to help regulate our circadian rhythms – may be involved.

Not all doctors agree: the Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends 30 minutes to one hour of light therapy daily, which some studies show is effective for 50-85 per cent of cases. Commercial lightboxes vary in price from £35 to £200, depending on the light intensity delivered, but 2,500 lux is the minimum needed to work. Some light devices are portable for travel or office use.

Hundreds of preteen children treated for eating disorders

Almost 600 children below the age of 13 have been treated in hospital for eating disorders in the past three years, new figures have revealed.
The statistics include 197 children between the ages of five and nine – with cases within this age group almost doubling over the period.

Experts blamed the trend on a “pernicious” celebrity culture which glorified size zero figures, leaving increasing numbers of young girls struggling to cope with their growing bodies.

The figures, from 35 NHS hospitals in England, show more than 2,100 children were treated for eating disorders before they reached their sixteenth birthday.

They include 98 children aged between five and seven at the time of treatment and 99 aged eight or nine. Almost 400 were between the ages of 10 and 12, while more than 1,500 were aged 13 to 15.

Even these statistics, disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, are likely to be an underestimate.

Some NHS hospitals treating such patients refused to provide any data, while among the 35 hospitals, some would only disclose the figures for those children admitted to wards after becoming dangerously emaciated – excluding those undergoing psychiatric therapy as outpatients.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of eating disorders charity B-eat said the figures reflected alarming trends in society, with young children “internalising” messages from celebrity magazines, which idealised the thinnest figures.

“A number of factors combine to trigger eating disorders; biology and genetics play a large part in their development, but so do cultural pressures, and body image seems to be influencing younger children much more over the past decade,” she added.

Research carried out by the charity with the Brownies found that even by the age of seven, girls who looked at outline drawing of women thought the thinner ones were happier and more popular than those with slightly larger outlines.

Mrs Ringwood said young girls felt increasingly frightened by the prospect of gaining weight in puberty. She said: “Children are receiving very pernicious messages.

“The ideal figure promoted for women these days is that of a girl, not an adult women. Girls see the pictures in magazines of extremely thin women and think that is how they should be.

“That can leave them fearful of puberty, and almost trying to stave it off.”

In 2009, Kate Moss, the supermodel, was accused of encouraging girls to become anorexic when she said she lived by the phrase ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ – a mantra of pro-anorexic groups.

While disorders among men are increasing, cases involving boys were often sparked by specific incidents, such as being bullied because of their weight, she said.

Separate research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry earlier this year suggests one in five children diagnosed with an eating disorder have a history of early feeding problems, such as fussy eating.

Almost half of those diagnosed with disorders by the age of 12 had a close family member with a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.

The study by the University College London’s Institute of Child Health found more than 80 per cent of cases involved girls, with anorexia – which involves drastically reducing the intake of food and drink – far more common than bulimia – which involves sufferers binge eating and then making themselves sick.

Last year a survey of women suffering from anorexia found almost half said they had a problem with food by the age of 10.

Experts say there is no clear relationship between “fussy eating” and the later development of a disorder.

But Mrs Ringwood said some particular behaviours with food – such as cutting it into tiny pieces, or insisting that foods were eaten separately, could indicate early signs of a more significant problem.

Other types of behaviour which had nothing to do with food could provide some clues, she said.

“If children become very rigid in their routines and get upset if changes are made that can be an indicator of the type of anxiety associated with disorders,” she said.

Even young children who were trying to restrict their diet could be stealthy about it, she said, hiding food up their sleeves at mealtimes, in order to throw it away.

Killer quango NICE rejects MS pill as too costly

The Government’s drugs spending watchdog has decided that the first pill to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) is too costly to be prescribed on the NHS.The draft decision dashes the hopes of thousands of sufferers with the auto-immune disease who receive little benefit from current drugs.

There was enormous excitement among Britain’s 100,000 MS sufferers in January when EU drugs regulators gave fingolimod preliminary marketing approval.

Novartis, which markets fingolimod under the brand name Gilenya, subsequently applied for it to be prescribed on the NHS in situations where existing drugs do not work.

To receive these drugs, called interferon therapy, patients either have to self-inject every few days or go to hospital for supervised infusions.

A trial, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that fingolimod halved the number of disabling relapses compared with interferon beta.

However, the National Institute of Curbing Expenditure (Nice) has decided that – at £20,000 a year – fingolimod “would not be a cost effective use of NHS resources”.

Prof Carole Longson from Nice said: “Unfortunately our independent committee wasn’t given sufficient evidence to show that fingolimod could reduce relapses considerably better than the other treatments currently being used.”

MS charities last night said the decision was “disappointing”.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, warned: “It will leave some people with no effective treatment option.”

He added: “Access to MS treatments in the UK is very poor – in fact people with MS would be better off living almost anywhere else in Europe, and this decision will only deepen that inequality.”

The German health service is already paying for 2,000 people to receive fingolimod for highly active relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).

Fingolimod is an immumosuppressant and, while it is well tolerated by most patients, it does have side effects in some.

Labour own goal on postcode lottery claims

Deprived areas in England will lose out to affluent parts of the country under health spending reforms Labour has claimed- despite repeatedly creating those same postcode lotteries when they were in power.
Changes to funding formulas means poor health rates will be given less consideration when cash is allocated, the party said.

It suggested areas like Manchester and the London borough of Tower Hamlets would lose out to parts of the wealthy south east, such as Surrey and Hampshire.

Labour based the claims on an assessment of funding reforms by public health bodies in Manchester.

But the government has disputed the allegations and claimed Labour’s figures were misleading.

Department of Health officials said primary care budgets in Surrey and Tower Hamlets would go up by a similar amount this year.

The Conservatives claimed every area would have suffered health funding cuts under Labour.

A Conservative party spokesman said: “This is yet another own goal from Labour. If they had won the last election, the NHS would now be being cut by £28 billion across the country. Every area would have seen spending on the NHS cut – as it is in Labour-run Wales.

“This Government is increasing spending on the NHS in real terms over this parliament, and every region of the country will receive more money as a result of this investment.”

Health Direct has repeatedly tracked Labour’s proud boast when it was in power of creating postcode lotteries based on it’s voting constituencies:

Labour wasted cancer cash on NHS salaries and PFI schemes

Cancer care on the NHS lags behind that in many other developed countries because Labour wasted billions of pounds on PFI schemes, bureaucracy and inflated salaries for managers. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that, despite record spending on health care, cancer survival rates in Britain are worse than in Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Survival rates for breast cancer, prostate cancer and cervical cancer were below the average for the 34 developed countries in the study.

Mr Lansley lays the blame for the poor performance on the previous government’s failure to make sure that extra investment in the NHS reached the front line. He claims patient care was ignored in favour of increased salaries and botched computer systems.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Lansley says: “Unfortunately this report shows how much work there is to do to deal with Labour’s legacy of neglect and mismanagement of our NHS.

“They hugely increased spending on the Health Service, but wasted much of it on managers, failed IT projects and unsustainable PFI projects.

“They failed to focus on what really matters – patients – which is why we still have some of the worst cancer outcomes amongst comparable countries.”

Under Labour, spending on the NHS trebled, reaching almost £100 billion in 2009, but money for treating cancer still lags behind much of the rest of the world.

A report by the Policy Exchange think tank last year found that England spent around 5.6 per cent of its health care budget on cancer care, compared with 7.7 per cent in France, 9.6 per cent in Germany and 9.2 per cent in America.

In September it emerged that private finance initiatives, introduced by Labour to fund capital projects, have left 60 NHS hospitals on the “brink of financial collapse”. Meanwhile, the pay of NHS chief executives has risen, with typical earnings now more than £150,000.

The OECD figures reveal that the best breast cancer survival rates were in the US, where 89.3 per cent of women were alive five years after being diagnosed. The average across all OECD countries was 83.5 per cent, while in the UK it was 81.3 per cent.

Survival rates for cervical cancer were worse. Norway topped the table with 78.2 per cent still alive after five years, compared with 58 per cent of women in the UK. There were also more hospital admissions for asthma and other lung conditions than the average and infant mortality was higher.

The report also showed that consultations by doctors have fallen, and were below he OECD average in 2009.

Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The NHS provides some excellent care but it does fall down on many counts. We know from patients phoning our helpline that the quality of care that they have experienced can be very poor and sometimes it is downright neglectful.

“Rather than trying to tackle the issue of poor care, the Department of Health is demanding that the NHS makes £20 billion of efficiency savings while spending a million pounds a day on a reform plan that doctors, nurses, patients and NHS managers all say risks irrevocably damaging the NHS.”

Luxury car makers build bigger cars for fat drivers

Luxury car makers are building bigger cars as a result of drivers and passengers becoming more overweight. Typical family cars have become more than a foot wider and almost double the weight over the past 50 years as manufacturers struggle with the world’s obesity crisis.

Consequently some luxury manufacturers have begun road testing the next generation of larger sized vehicles.

In plans dubbed “plump my ride” – in a play of words from the television show Pimp My Ride – BMW has recruited 800 volunteers, ranging from the slim to the obese, for a study to gauge how obesity affects mobility while driving.

The unnamed volunteers were put through a series of tests designed in part to examine factors such as getting in and out of cars or looking over their shoulder while reversing.

“People are getting more obese and we want to find out how that limits their range of motion and how our vehicles can adapt to the changing needs of our customers,” Ralf Kaiser, a member of BMW’s ergonomics team, told the Sunday Times.

“We know that a lot of overweight and obese people have problems in daily life, and in the car this starts with getting in and getting out.  In general, these aren’t sporty people. We already have things like the parking distance control, which shows obstacles on a screen when you are reversing.”

He added: “For someone who can find it difficult to turn 140 degrees to look behind them, they can now just look at the screen.  The study will mean we can look at things more scientifically and build a car that at least 95 per cent of people can use.”

Mercedes has unveiled plans to strengthen grab handles above its doors, in part to help heavier passengers support themselves.

Porsche, meanwhile, is installing “electrically-powered steering columns” on top-of-the-range models that rise when the engine is switched off.

Over the past decade, Honda has widened its seats by up to 2 inches to accommodate larger bottoms while its new range of vehicles will also have buttons that will allow for so called “sausage fingers”.

Other manufacturers are installing reversing aids and blind spot detectors as standard.

According to the latest figures a Ford Prefect was 4ft 9in wide with an 18 inch long seat cushion in 1953. This compared to a 2011 Ford Focus that was 6ft 1in wide with a 23 inch long seat cushion.

Government statistics show that more than 60 per cent of adults in England and a third of 10 and 11-year-olds are obese.

In August The Lancet medical journal said that by 2030 more than 11m would classed as obese, with a body mass index (BMI) above 30, compared with a healthy BMI score of between 18.5 and 25.

Obesity and chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes cost Britain £20 billion a year in terms of lost productivity, it was claimed last month.

It was recently disclosed that over the past five years Yorkshire Ambulance Service spent nearly £10 million on specialist vehicles to transport obese patients.

Speaking earlier this month at a launch that unveiled plans to cut obesity levels by 2020, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said Britain had to become a nation of calorie counters to counter the obesity crisis.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making music can help overcome depression

It might not have worked for such legendarily gloomy composers as Beethoven, Schumann or Morrissey, but according to academics making music can help overcome depression.
Researchers found that adults who were given music therapy sessions, in which they played drums or instruments such as xylophones, showed fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety than those who just had standard counselling.

They suggest that it helped patients express their emotions as well as well as being a pleasurable activity in its own right.

Professor Jaakko Erkkilä, who led the study at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, said: “We found that people often expressed their inner pressure and feelings by drumming or with the tones produced with a mallet instrument. Some people described their playing experience as cathartic.”

Prof Christian Gold added: “Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care including medication, psychotherapy and counselling, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety.

“Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way – even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.”

The clinical trial, the results of which are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved the study of 79 people aged between 18 and 50 who had been diagnosed with depression.

Of these, 46 received anti-depressants, psychotherapy and counselling while the other 33 were also offered 20 music therapy sessions.

The hour-long sessions involved a trained music therapist helping the patients make music using an African djembe drum and a digital mallet instrument, with their tunes recorded so they could be listened to later.

The participants in each group were followed up afterwards, with the researchers finding that those who had the music therapy had “significantly” fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety three months later.

Differences remained after six months but they were no longer statistically significant.

The fact that most of the music group attended 18 out of the 20 sessions they were offered suggested they were interested in it.

In an accompanying editorial Dr Mike Crawford, Reader in Mental Health Services Research at Imperial College London, said: “This is a high-quality randomised trial of music therapy specifically for depression, and the results suggest that it can improve the mood and general functioning of people with depression.

“Music-making is social, pleasurable and meaningful. It has been argued that music making engages people in ways that words may simply not be able to.”

Men are more prone to type 2 diabetes than women

Researchers say they have discovered why men may be more likely than women to develop type 2 diabetes – they are biologically more susceptible. Men need to gain far less weight than women to develop the condition, study findings suggest.

The Glasgow University team found men developed the disease at a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than women.

They believe distribution of the body fat is important – men tend to store it in their liver and around the waist.

Women, meanwhile, have greater amounts of ‘safe’ subcutaneous fat stored on the thighs and hips, for example.

This means women need to accumulate more fat overall than men to develop the harmful fat deposits linked with diabetes, the researchers explain in the journal Diabetologia.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by too much sugar in the blood which occurs when the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels in several different organs becomes disturbed. The condition is linked to excess fat in some of these organs such as the liver and muscles.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, who led the research, said: “Previous research has indicated that middle-aged men are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than women and one possible explanation is that men have to gain less weight than women to develop the condition.

“In other words, men appear to be at higher risk for diabetes.”

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 51,920 men and 43,137 women in Scotland with diabetes, taking into consideration body weight and obesity using the BMI measurement based on height and weight.

The results showed women developed diabetes at a heavier BMI than men – the mean BMI at diabetes diagnosis in men was 31.83 but 33.69 in women.

The researchers say this helps explain why men have higher rates of diabetes in many parts of the world.

Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “It is worrying that men develop type 2 diabetes at a higher rate than their female counterparts. Research like this will help us understand reasons why and provide greater insight into what we can do to improve prevention of type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes UK is calling on both men and women to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by losing any excess weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet and by taking regular physical activity.”

Men biologically wired to care for children

In a blow to the nanny state’s view of fatherdom, new research has found that there is a biological reason why so many men suddenly discover their caring side when they become fathers. A study found that men’s testosterone levels fell by around a third in the days and months after their partner gave birth.

The more caring side of a man’s character emerged as levels of the hormones fell, said scientists, who believe that the process is nature’s way of trying to ensure that fathers stay for the long  haul of child–rearing.

They found that men with higher testosterone levels – associated with dominant and aggressive behaviour – were both more likely to secure a partner and father children.

But after the birth itself  testosterone levels in these men dropped.

“Humans are unusual among mammals in that our offspring are dependent upon older individuals for feeding and protection for more than a decade,” said Christopher Kuzawa, a faculty fellow at the  Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Chicago, and a coauthor of the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Raising human offspring  is such an effort that it is cooperative by necessity, and our study shows that human fathers are biologically wired to help with the job.”

Lee Gettler, an anthropology doctoral student who also worked on the study, added: “It’s not the case that men with lower testosterone are simply more likely to become fathers.  On the contrary, the men who started with high testosterone were more likely to become fathers, but once they did, their testosterone went down substantially.”

It was the act of child care that seemed to reduce testosterone, he explained.

“Our findings suggest that this is especially true for fathers who become the most involved with child care.”

The biggest effect appears to be temporary, in the period immediately after bringing home the baby, with levels rising slowly after that, although not returning to pre–fatherhood levels.

The team studied 624 men in their twenties in the Philippines and followed them for four–and–a–half years. Dr Allan Pacey, a male sexual health expert at Sheffield University, commented: “To see  dramatic changes in response to family life is intriguing. The observations could make some evolutionary sense if we accept the idea that men with lower testosterone levels are more likely to be monogamous with their partner and care for children.

“However, it would be important to check that link between testosterone levels and behaviour to be certain.”

The study found that testosterone levels fell on average by 34 per cent when men became fathers, with the biggest falls in those most involved in childcare.

Dr Pacey added that, as high levels of testosterone were also associated with a strong sex drive, lower levels could reduce the chances of a man ‘straying’. However, he cautioned that the paper did  not prove that.

He added: ‘Testosterone is the key hormone that defines male physiology. We know that levels correlate with a man’s sex drive, his risk–taking behaviour and social dominance. It has also been suggested that it may increase his attractiveness to women and help him find a mate.”

Midwife shortages in England risking lives

Parts of England are facing big midwife shortages putting mothers and babies at risk midwives have warned. The Royal College of Midwives says a 22% rise in births over 20 years has led to shortfalls across England, but some areas are worse than others – it highlights the East Midlands and East.

The RCM wants 4,700 more midwives and says the prime minister has backed away from a pledge to raise numbers.

The Department of Health said record numbers of midwives were now being trained.

Midwives say births are becoming increasingly complex because of growing numbers of obese and older mothers-to-be, who often need extra support.

The Royal College of Midwives says the extra 4,700 midwives are needed across England to keep pace with the added pressures.

And it says a new analysis of midwife numbers across England reveals big variations – with limited shortages in some areas and serious shortfalls in others.

The calculations were done by measuring the number of midwives in an area against the number of babies born there. The RCM estimates that one midwife is needed for every 28 hospital births and 35 births in a midwife-led unit or at home.

The North East and North West of England had a shortfall of less than 10%.

But according to the figures, the East Midlands and East of England need 41% more midwives, and the South East is also more than a third short of staff.

The college says the disparity is down to different levels of investment in different areas; women living in places with bigger shortfalls are at risk of having less choice over how and where they give birth.

It says Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have midwife shortages at the moment.

“This is a real problem in England,” said Cathy Warwick, RCM General Secretary. “We believe women should have the same choice over giving birth wherever they live. Once you get to really critical shortfalls, maternity services won’t be safe.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the head of midwifery at Wansbeck hospital in Northumberland, where they say they have enough staff to offer high-quality care.

Janice McNichol has delivered more than 1,000 babies in her career, and prides herself on making sure every mother has a positive experience.

“It’s about safety and quality of care,” she said. “Making sure midwives are there when mum needs them, to answer questions and help her through the process.”

The charity Action against Medical Accidents, AVMA, said the situation in some areas was desperate.

“Having a baby should be the happiest time in a couple’s life, but failure to deal with this problem is all too often turning it into a tragedy,” said AVMA chief executive Pater Walsh.

“Maternity services should be the NHS’s first priority for improving patient safety and having enough trained midwives is an absolute must.”

Moderate wine drinking may help weight loss

Drinking just a glass of wine a day may actually help weight loss researchers now believe.  In a study that will raise the spirits of anyone driven to stick to soft drinks for the sake of their waistline, academics say previous assumptions about a link between alcohol and obesity have been inaccurate.

Their analysis of previous research shows that although heavy drinkers are likely to put on weight, those who just enjoy an occasional tipple are unlikely to pile on the pounds.

In fact, connoisseurs of less fattening drinks such as wine may even lose weight as well as being at lower risk of developing diabetes.

“Light-to-moderate alcohol intake, especially wine intake, may be more likely to protect against weight gain, whereas consumption of spirits has been positively associated with weight gain,” says the paper by researchers at Navarro University in Spain, which has been reviewed by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.

The paper, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, states that “alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain” as 1 gram of alcohol has an energy content of 7.1 calories.

But analysis of 31 studies published between 1984 and 2010 found they were “contradictory” and did not “conclusively confirm” a link between drinking and weight gain.

The papers that did find a link tended to involve studies of heavy drinking, so the Spanish researchers suggest: “It is possible that heavy drinkers may experience such an effect more commonly than light drinkers.”

They say more research should be carried out into the role of “different types of alcoholic beverages”. A pint of lager contains about 200 calories, twice as many as in a glass of wine.

“The type of alcoholic beverage might play an important role in modifying the effect of alcohol consumption on weight gain.”

Members of the forum, commenting on the new paper, agree: “While it is common for individuals, especially women, to state that they avoid all alcohol consumption because they ‘do not want to gain weight,’ data are very limited on this subject.”

They cite studies that show heavy drinking is linked to weight gain but regular drinking is not: “These results suggest that the frequent consumption of small amounts of alcohol is the optimal drinking pattern associated with a lower risk of obesity.”

Other research has suggested that moderate drinkers are at 30 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes, and that even obese people should not abstain from alcohol for this reason.

Moderate drinkers have also been found to be at between 16 per cent and 25 per cent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which in turn makes them more likely to have a stroke or coronary artery disease.

Research on the effects of alcohol on weight has also been complicated by the fact that heavy drinkers have traditionally also smoked cigarettes, which lower the risk of obesity.

Few studies have looked at diet, previous weight gain or loss or “binge drinking” among subjects.

Mollycoddled fed children develop allegies

Mollycoddling children who are allowed to become picky eaters could make them more prone to allergies later in life scientists have warned.

Mothers have traditionally been told to “mollycoddle” their youngsters by avoiding high risk foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to protect them from potentially dangerous reactions.

But now there is a growing belief that the best way to avoid allergic reactions is to meet the problem head on and expose children to foods like peanuts in infancy.

Three large studies are under way at King’s College London, Cambridge University and Duke University in North Carolina to determine once and for all the best way of protecting against harmful reactions to food.

Prof Gideon Lack, of King’s College, said that until recently the nanny state had told mothers to breastfeed for up to six months before introducing their babies to other food, and keep them away from possible allergens until the age of two or three.

The idea, he said, was to “wrap the infant up in a sort of immunological cocoon and not expose them to proteins that could launch allergic reactions.

“There is a possibility that we were achieving the reverse of our intentions through this avoidance policy,” he told the Nature journal.

A 2008 study which Prof Lack co-authored suggested exactly the opposite, showing that Jewish children in Britain are ten times more likely to have a peanut allergy than those living in Israel, who eat more foods containing peanuts.

The following year the Department of Health revised its guidelines on allergies to clarify that there is not enough evidence to prove a benefit of restricting the diet of either mother or child from pregnancy to infancy.

The study into peanut allergy being conducted by Prof Lack, along with those in Cambridge and North Carolina, could help explain whether giving children controlled but increasing amounts of peanut-containing foods over time could desensitise them.

Starting in 2006, researchers began following 640 babies, half of whom are judged to be at high risk of food allergies, to see if exposing them to traces of peanuts in their early years causes them to develop adverse reactions.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nanny state bans cigarette vending machines

The nanny state banned in England cigarette vending machines over the weekend. The Department of Health said the ban had been introduced to prevent under-age sales to children and to support adults who were trying to quit.

The rest of the UK is expected to implement a similar ban next year.

Some pub landlords say it is a further threat to a livelihood that has already been damaged by the smoking ban.

But Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation have welcomed the move.

According to the Department of Health, nearly all adult smokers started smoking before they turned 18.  Of the children who regularly smoke, 11% buy their cigarettes from vending machines.

It is also estimated that 35 million cigarettes are sold illegally through vending machines to children every year.

Under the new rules, pub landlords will still be able to sell cigarettes from behind the bar but they must ensure all tobacco advertising on vending machines is removed. Any person found guilty of displaying cigarette adverts on a vending machine could face imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of £5,000, or both.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said smoking was “one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health”, with more than eight million people in England still smoking, causing more than 80,000 deaths each year.

He said: “Cigarette vending machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for children to purchase cigarettes from them.

“The ban on cigarette sales from vending machines will protect children by making cigarettes less accessible to them – we want to do everything we can to encourage young people not to start smoking in the first place.”

Jo Butcher, the National Children’s Bureau’s programme director of health and wellbeing, welcomed the ban and said a person’s lifetime smoking or non-smoking behaviour was “heavily influenced” by decisions in their adolescence.

“Children and young people tell us that external influences make it even more difficult for them to choose healthier lifestyles.

“It’s essential that we create environments that improve health and tobacco legislation is an important part of public health protection and promotion,” she said.

Charities have also welcomed the ban.

Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the British Heart Foundation, said thousands of children at risk of this “deadly addiction” regularly got tobacco from vending machines, “which conveniently don’t ask them to prove their age”.

“These children are often blissfully unaware of the damage smoking does to their health and, by the time they realise, they’re hooked.

“Scrapping these machines cuts off an easy source of tobacco for existing young smokers and makes it harder for a new generation to start.

“We’re encouraging landlords to remove machines completely now so they – and any left-over branding – don’t act as dusty old adverts for tobacco,” she said.

Eileen Streets, director of tobacco control at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said she hoped the ban would play a “significant part in stopping many children becoming the next generation of lung cancer victims”.

Jean King, of Cancer Research UK, added: “Tobacco kills half of all long-term users and is responsible for one in four cancer deaths.

“Cancer Research UK is determined to protect children from tobacco marketing and through our Out of Sight Out of Mind campaign we are continuing to work for legislation to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.”

But the British Beer and Pub Association described the ban as “an unnecessary measure”.

A spokesman said the machines were there for the convenience of adult customers, and that the association did not believe they played a role in childhood smoking.

Although cigarettes can be sold by bar staff, the spokesman said many pubs would not opt to introduce that, as it raised issues about having a “high-value” item behind the bar and interfered with serving drinks.

Other measures to protect young people from the dangers of smoking are also on the way.

In April 2012, large retailers in England and Scotland will have to get rid of all tobacco displays. Small shops will be expected to comply from April 2015.

Wales and Northern Ireland plan to implement similar regulations.

The government is also due to begin a public consultation before the end of the year on whether to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes in order to lessen their marketing appeal to young people, help make health warnings more effective and help reduce the number of smokers.

Nanny state wants to ban the Great British Fryup Breakfast

Nanny state government targets are putting the great British Breakfast under threat. For many, a plate of bacon, sausage and eggs makes the perfect start to a buzy day.

But Government nanny state targets are about to put the great British breakfast under threat.

Butchers and other food retailers say health diktats to reduce salt levels could ruin the taste of some of our favourite dishes, with producers of bacon and sausages facing the greatest difficulties.

More than 60 food firms and supermarkets have pledged to meet salt reduction targets agreed by the Coalition.

But as the deadline grows closer, they fear compromising the familiar tastes valued by customers unless extra additives are introduced. They also fear risking safety, because of the role of salt as a preservative.

Some independent butchers have said they have no intention of changing cherished recipes to meet the demands of the “salt police”.

At least 80 per cent of sausages sold in Britain currently fall short of the government’s 2012 target, which allows 1.13g of salt per 100g of food. Popular brands such as Richmond contain twice that amount.

Own brand packs of bacon on sale at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose all contain more salt than the future 2.88g per 100g limit for bacon.

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, Deputy Food Director for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it was “pointless” to put huge efforts into reducing salt if only left consumers adding large amounts themselves at the dinner table.

“Our members have made fantastic progress reducing the levels of salt in food in recent years,” she said. “In some cases we’ve come as far as we can without help from science. If salt is reduced further there’s a danger that products will no longer taste the way customers want them to.”

The BRC and the Food and Drink Federation have drawn up a list of eight foods for which it is proving difficult to reduce salt content without losing flavour or risking safety. In addition to bacon and sausages, the list also includes soft cheeses, cakes, and sauces such as pesto.

Research will be conducted from next month to see if any new processes or ingredients can be found to overcome the problems.

In total, 62 retailers and manufacturers, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Asda have pledged to meet dozens of salt reduction targets by next year.

Their promises were part of a ‘public health responsibility deal’ set by the Coalition before it handed responsibility for nutrition policies from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to the Department of Health.

It is aimed at helping consumers follow health advice to limit their salt intake to 6g a day, in order to prevent high blood pressure that can lead to strokes and heart disease.

Previous targets, brought in last year, have provoked a backlash from fans of HP sauce who said their favourite brand had been left tasting “bland” and “disgusting” after a drastic cut in salt content.

The sauce used to contain 2.1g of salt per 100g, as well as malt vinegar, molasses, dates and tamarind, but the content was reduced to 1.3g to meet last year’s targets.

Internal FSA documents, dated May 2009, state: “Maintaining product binding and succulence in sausages has proved challenging whilst reducing levels of sodium.”

It says some reductions had been achieved, though they fell well short of next year’s commitment.

The same analysis warns of the difficulties of attaining an even dispersal of salt in bacon, and the impact of laws restricting the use of nitrates as a preservative.

Maureen Strong, nutrition manager for the British Pig Executive, said: “When the work first started on these targets, it was led by statisticians, not microbiologists.

“Research showed that the initial targets they drew up would have caused a rise in salmonella, botulism and E.coli.

“They have been altered since then, and we have all tried to work together, but some of the targets for next year are nigh on impossible – at least without too great a compromise.”

She added: “If you want to reduce the salt in sausages, that often means a whole lot more additives. I don’t know if that is what customers are asking for.”

Those most affected by the changes are food suppliers to major retailers. Independent butchers not signed up to the responsibility deal do not have to meet hit the targets, but some feel failure to meet the new standards could be viewed badly by health-conscious customers.

Mick Norkett, founder of the East London Sausage Company, based in Walthamstow, said he would try to meet next year’s targets.

“We do our best to keep the levels low, but salt is a preservative, and in sausages, it is in the skins as well as the sausage meat,” he said.

“If you are having a fry up, and trying to be keep salt levels down, I think the best thing is to stop adding salt at the table, and to avoid slathering on ketchups and beans that are packed full of the stuff.”

Mr Norkett, a butcher for almost 40 years, said reaching the targets would be more difficult for supermarkets that need a long shelf life for their products.

Stuart Higginson, from Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, has run his butchers with his wife Pauline for 28 years.

His sausages meet current Government limits of 1.4g per 100g, which came in last year, but he is not prepared to sacrifice flavour in order to meet next year’s demands.

Mr Higginson, 61, from said: “I’ve never had anyone come in and ask for sausages or bacon with less salt in them.

“I think the government are overdoing this; most of us don’t have bacon and sausages every day, and we want to get some enjoyment from our food when we eat it, not just eat to live.”

New drug could help obese patients lose tenth of their weight in just one month

A new drug which destroys blood supply to fatty tissue could help people lose a tenth of their body weight in just one month, a study indicates. Obese rhesus monkeys lost on average 11 per cent of their body weight after four weeks of the experimental treatment.

Body mass index (BMI) and waistline also were reduced, while all three measures were unchanged in untreated control monkeys.

Imaging studies also showed a substantial decrease in body fat among treated animals.

A research team led by scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre carried out the study.

Co-senior author Professor Renata Pasqualini, at the David H. Koch Centre for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers, said: “Development of this compound for human use would provide a non-surgical way to actually reduce accumulated white fat, in contrast to current weight-loss drugs that attempt to control appetite or prevent absorption of dietary fat.”

She said previous attempts to treat obesity have predominantly focused on drugs aimed at suppressing appetite or increasing metabolism, but these efforts have been hampered by their toxic side-effects.

The MD Anderson group designed a new drug, which includes a homing agent that binds to a protein on the surface of fat-supporting blood vessels and a synthetic peptide that triggers cell death.

Their blood supply gone, fat cells are reabsorbed and metabolised.

Co-senior author Professor Wadih Arap, said: “Obesity is a major risk factor for developing cancer, roughly the equivalent of tobacco use, and both are potentially reversible.”

In earlier preclinical research, obese mice lost about 30 per cent of their body weight with the drug, now called Adipotide.

The drug acts on white adipose tissue, the scientific name for the unhealthy type of fat that accumulates under the skin and around the abdomen, and is a disease and mortality predictor.

Prof Pasqualini said: “Most drugs against obesity fail in transition between rodents and primates.  We’re greatly encouraged to see substantial weight loss in a primate model of obesity that closely matches the human condition.”

The primate model also shares other physiological features associated with human obesity, such as metabolic syndrome, characterised by an increased resistance to insulin, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Adipotide-treated monkeys showed marked improvements in insulin resistance – using about 50 per cent less insulin after treatment.

Now the research team are preparing for a clinical trial in which obese prostate cancer patients would receive daily injections of Adipotide for 28 consecutive days.

Prof Arap said: “The question is, will their prostate cancer become better if we can reduce their body weight and the associated health risks?”

He said some prostate cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy, cause weight gain.

Greater weight can lead to arthritis, which in turn causes inactivity that leads to more weight gain.

Fat cells also secrete growth hormones that cancer cells thrive on.

Weight, BMI and abdominal circumference all continued to drop for three weeks after treatment ended before turning back up during the eighth week of the study.

Treated monkeys’ abdominal fat levels fell by 27 per cent during the study. Fat levels increased slightly in the control group.

Lean monkeys did not lose weight in a separate study to test for potential effects of the drug in non-obese animals, indicating that the drug’s effect may be selective for obese subjects.

Monkeys in the studies remained bright and alert throughout, interacting with caretakers and demonstrating no signs of nausea or food avoidance.

This is potentially an important finding since unpleasant side-effects have limited the use of approved drugs that reduce fat absorption in the intestines.

The principal side effects were noted in the kidneys.

Study first author Dr Kirstin Barnhart, a veterinary clinical pathologist said: “The renal effect was dose-dependent, predictable and reversible.”

NHS 111 health direct number- 1 in 8 calls unanswered

One in eight calls to the NHS’s new non emergency health direct phone number are going unanswered, amid reports people are having to wait over half an hour. Ministers want 111 to be the only number people need to call in England, “if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life threatening situation”.

But a pilot in four areas – Luton, County Durham and Darlington, Lincolnshire, and Nottingham – is highlighting worrying problems.

Official statistics show that in September, 12 per cent of calls went unanswered.

Across the four areas there were 33,707 calls to the service.

The Department of Health expects 12 million calls a year to the free 111 number in England, based on scaling up that figure.

Writing on the NHS’s own web page about the 111 number, one caller expressed frustration at being unable to get through despite waiting 35 minutes.

“All I wanted was a bit of advice. I now need to go to work and have had no help from anyone,” the caller wrote. “I had the sense to take pain killers myself, hope this new service gets better.”

A month ago Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, announced that 111 would be rolled out nationwide by April 2013, abolishing the concept of “out-of-hours” care. It is also meant to encompass NHS Direct.

The Department of Health claimed the September statistics showed an “encouraging picture”.

A spokesman said: “Lessons learned from the pilots will ensure that when the service is rolled out nationally it will provide people with a first class service.”

He added: “We know that unanswered calls are usually callers who get through to the NHS 111 message and hang up. This could be because they wanted to speak to their GP practice, but it was still in the ‘out of hours’ period and they were therefore transferred to NHS 111.

“This figure does not mean patients are receiving a poor service.”

A spokesman for NHS Direct echoed this, saying the vast majority of the 12 per cent of unanswered calls were of people who chose to hang up, after learning they were being put through to the 111 service when they wanted to speak directly to their GP.

NHS hospitals crippled by labour’s PFI scheme

Patient care is under threat at more than 60 NHS hospitals which are “on the brink of financial collapse” because of costly private finance initiative schemes the Health Secretary warns. Andrew Lansley says he has been contacted by 22 health service trusts which claim their “clinical and financial stability” is being undermined by the costs of the contracts, which the Labour government used extensively to fund public sector projects.

The trusts in jeopardy include Barts and the London, Oxford Radcliffe, North Bristol, St Helens and Knowsley, and Portsmouth.

Between them the trusts run more than 60 hospitals which care for 12 million patients.

There is already evidence that waiting lists for non–urgent operations have begun to rise as hospitals delay treatment to save money. Adding to this are growing fears over the impact of the financial crisis on care this winter.

Under the PFI deals, a private contractor builds a hospital or school. It owns the building for up to 35 years, and during this period the public sector must pay interest and repay the cost of construction, as well as paying the contractor to maintain the building.

However, the total cost of the deals is often far more than the value of the assets. As a result, Mr Lansley says, the 22 trusts “cannot afford” to pay for their schemes, which in total are worth more than £5.4billion, because the required payments have risen sharply in the wake of the recession.

Mr Lansley said: “Over the last year, we’ve been working to expose the mess Labour left us with, and the truth is that some hospitals have been landed with PFI deals they simply cannot afford.

“Like the economy, Labour has brought some parts of the NHS to the brink of financial collapse. Tough solutions may be needed for these problems, but we’ll help the NHS overcome them. We will not make the sick pay for Labour’s debt crisis.”

He said hospitals would not be allowed to collapse financially.

“There are many hospitals that are well run, do not have a legacy of debt and do have projects which are perfectly sustainable. My point is that we have looked since the election and are working together with individual trusts to arrive at a place where they are financially, and in terms of the quality of their services, sustainable for the future. We can only do that if we work closely with them,” he said.

“This is about making very clear that we are not only working on unsustainable PFIs, but also working with legacy debt that the NHS has been left with, working on the IT programmes which were on an unsustainable scale of contractual commitments that didn’t meet the need of the NHS’s customers.

“Across the board, we have to tackle Labour’s legacy of poor value formoney and debt.”

Over the next few weeks, Department of Health officials and executives at the 22 trusts will develop detailed plans for dealing with the crisis. Their proposals are expected to include significant cost–cutting and the renegotiation of PFI contracts.

Money will also be moved from NHS trusts that are in better financial shape to cover the debt costs at those that are struggling. However, officials are braced for the need to use Whitehall funds to bail out some hospitals.

Among the trusts which have contacted Mr Lansley to inform him of their severe financial problems are several London institutions, including South London Healthcare, Barking, Havering and Redbridge, and North Middlesex.

Outside the capital, other trusts to have approached the health department include Wye Valley, Worcester Acute Hospitals, Mid Yorkshire, and Walsall.

After the general election last year, Mr Lansley ordered officials to establish why some NHS hospitals were under–performing. The health department is assessing the financial position of every hospital. It is understood that the PFI costs have emerged as a leading factor in poor patient care in some areas.

The Health Secretary decided to disclose the list of hospitals in difficulty and is expected to announce the rescue plans for each trust next month.

Taxpayers are having to pay more than £200 billion for schools, hospitals and other projects whose capital value is little more than £50 billion.

In one example, a hospital in Bromley, south east London, will ultimately cost the NHS £1.2 billion, more than 10 times what it is worth. Another hospital was charged £52,000 for maintenance that cost £750. The annual cost of the schemes is almost £400 for each household.

The public payments for PFI deals are typically linked to inflation and therefore the cost to taxpayers has increased by up to a third since the beginning of the credit crisis, according to the National Audit Office. Last month, MPs on the Treasury select committee effectively called for a moratorium on new PFI projects, which it said were “like a drug” as the costs were not apparent at the outset.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, has tightened the rules on the deals.

Earlier this year, John Healey, the shadow health secretary, admitted in an interview that Labour ministers had failed when negotiating the multi–million pound schemes for hospitals.

“There is definitely a case for saying we were poor at PFI, poor at negotiating PFI contracts at the outset,” he said.

Companies who run PFI schemes boast profit margins of up to 71 per cent on the projects, but have come under growing pressure from MPs and ministers to return some of their “windfall profits”.

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