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Preview: Latest news from the public and voluntary sectors, including health, children, local government and social care, plus SocietyGua

Society | The Guardian



Latest Society news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:36:26 GMT2017-04-25T20:36:26Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Council spending on 'neighbourhood' services falls by £3bn since 2011

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:36:49 GMT2017-04-25T07:36:49Z

Cuts to services such as bin collection, planning and pothole repair amount to dismantling of core functions of local government, says report

English councils’ spending on neighbourhood services, such as bins, planning, potholes and leisure, has fallen by more than £3bn in the past five years, research has found.

A report, published by the benchmarking group, the Association for Public Service Excellence (Apse), says the huge cuts to funding and the wide variations between authorities in funding services were “changing the very nature of local government.”

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Cancer symptoms often missed by GPs in England, study suggests

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 23:05:32 GMT2017-04-24T23:05:32Z

Analysis of 4,637 people diagnosed in A&E in 2010 finds 41% had visited GP three or more times with possible signs of cancer

Thousands of people diagnosed with cancer in A&E every year have visited their GP three times or more with symptoms, research has shown.

The study found that 71% of all patients diagnosed in accident and emergency departments had seen their GP at least once with symptoms that turned out to be cancer. The remainder had never visited their GP.

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Public service workers: tell us what you want from the next government

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:32:25 GMT2017-04-24T13:32:25Z

We want to hear from health staff, care workers, civil servants, local government and charities about the election pledges you want on 8 June

In the run-up to June’s general election, almost every aspect of our public services and social policy feels at breaking point: we’re in the midst of an NHS crisis, a social care crisis, a housing crisis, a local government funding crisis and a civil service staffing crisis, not to mention a collapse in public trust for charities.

The election will be dominated by Brexit, but domestic policies are equally vital – and must not be swept under the rug. It will be up to all those professionals working for and with the public to make that case. So we’d like to know what you want to see from all the parties as top election priorities.

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School holidays leave 3 million children at risk of hunger, report says

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 21:01:29 GMT2017-04-24T21:01:29Z

Cross-party group of MPs and peers cites evidence of children existing on diets of crisps when school canteens are shut

Up to 3 million children risk going hungry during the school holidays, leaving them vulnerable to malnutrition and undermining their education and life chances, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has warned.

Its report cited evidence of children existing on holiday diets of crisps, hungry youngsters unable to take part in a football tournament because “their bodies simply gave up”, and others surviving on stodgy, unhealthy diets “bought to fill hungry stomachs”.

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Food banks report record demand amid universal credit chaos

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 23:01:32 GMT2017-04-24T23:01:32Z

Charity calls for immediate reduction in six-week wait for first benefit payment after handing out 1,182,954 emergency parcels

Food banks handed out a record number of meals last year after the chaotic introduction of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare overhaul, left claimants unable to afford meals when their benefits were delayed.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, announced that it provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis in 2016-17, up 6.4% on the previous year’s total of 1,109,000.

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Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh 'facing directorship ban'

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:22:23 GMT2017-04-24T11:22:23Z

Insolvency Service reportedly wants to disqualify ex-board members including Alan Yentob over roles in collapsed charity

Former board members of the collapsed charity Kids Company – including its founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh, and the former BBC chief Alan Yentob – face being banned from serving as company directors, according to reports.

Related: A year after the Kids Company's demise, what have we learned?

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‘What election?’: West Midlands mayoral race struggles to overcome apathy

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 06:15:40 GMT2017-04-25T06:15:40Z

A reinvented Birmingham is booming, while the wider West Midlands faces real hardship. What can a single elected mayor for metropolises as different as Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry really do to turn the tide?

Two retired teachers are giggling in the restaurant in John Lewis’s Birmingham department store. I’ve just told them that Britain’s second city was ranked ahead of Rome, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Miami and Dubai in the global Mercer Quality of Living Report 2017.

“It’s probably because we have more miles of canals than Venice,” says Susan. “And more trees than Paris,” chimes in Beryl. “Oh yeah, and don’t forget Birmingham is apparently Britain’s jihadi capital,” Susan adds. “That’s got to count for something.”

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How the MoD’s plan to privatise military housing ended in disaster

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:30:38 GMT2017-04-25T04:30:38Z

In 1996, the Ministry of Defence decided to sell off its housing stock. The financier Guy Hands bought it up in a deal that would make his investors billions – and have catastrophic consequences for both the military and the taxpayer

In the village of St Eval, a former RAF base in Cornwall, the streets are named after aeroplanes. There is a Lancaster Crescent, a Lincoln Row, a Botha Road. The former officers’ houses are grand and generous, looking out over the village green. Other houses look west, across fields, towards the rough Cornish coastline. Spitfires once whipped down the runway, which now lies abandoned. “It’s a lovely place to live,” one resident, Trevor Windsor, told me last autumn, as he prodded at his pretty front garden. “You just hear the lawnmowers every so often, and the birds singing and the children up at the school. It’s a bucolic idyll, you might say.”

Two decades ago, this idyll was disrupted by the noisy arrival of a lorry. Residents watched on as a team of builders proceeded to knock down the walls of one of the village houses, leaving the roof intact. “They lifted up the house roof,” remembered resident Barbara Hough. “Then bricked up the walls and put the roof back on top. They did that, one house after the next, all the way up Halifax Road.”

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Mayor to subsidise 'naked' homes solution to London housing crisis

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 06:00:04 GMT2017-04-24T06:00:04Z

Sadiq Khan adds weight to scheme to construct spartan apartments that will sell for up to 40% less than usual new-builds

Who needs internal walls or a fitted kitchen anyway? As house prices soar ever further out of reach, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, is to subsidise a new generation of ultra-basic “naked” homes that will sell for up to 40% less than standard new builds.

The apartments will have no partition walls, no flooring and wall finishes, only basic plumbing and absolutely no decoration. The only recognisable part of a kitchen will be a sink. The upside of this spartan approach is a price tag of between £150,000 and £340,000, in reach for buyers on average incomes in a city where the average home now costs £580,000.

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Obesity epidemic in Latin America is 'frightening', says UN report

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:29:41 GMT2017-04-25T19:29:41Z

Two thirds of people in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are now overweight or obese, driven by changing diets and more sedentary lifestyles

More than two-thirds of people living in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are overweight or obese, costing their economies tens of billions of dollars every year, driving rates of disease and straining health services, according to a new UN report.

While the number of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has halved in the past 25 years, the region is now struggling to combat an obesity epidemic.

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Child locked in cell for more than 23 hours a day at Feltham, high court told

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:49:00 GMT2017-04-25T15:49:00Z

‘Single unlock’ regime at youth offender institution breaches boy’s rights and constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, lawyer says

A child has been held in “prolonged periods of solitary confinement” at Feltham young offender institution, locked in his cell for 23 and a half hours a day and denied the education to which he is legally entitled, the high court has heard.

The teenager, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, cannot be identified. His lawyer Dan Squires QC told the court that the prison regime, known as “single unlock”, breached the boy’s rights and constituted inhuman and degrading treatment.

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Author Joanna Cannon: why I’m going back to the psychiatric wards

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:00:06 GMT2017-04-25T13:00:06Z

The bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep talks about how she quit psychiatry to become a writer but can’t stay away from the NHS

Joanna Cannon’s to-do list for next month includes attending the British Book Industry Awards in which her bestselling debut novel has been shortlisted, and pouring tea for people with dementia and their carers in a village hall.

Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, who quit psychiatry more than two years ago to concentrate on writing, is returning to the NHS as a volunteer with Arts for Health. Its programme, run by South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS foundation trust, brings creative arts to patients. Tea-making aside, she is keen to help patients understand their own life story through “reading for wellbeing” groups and creative writing.

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Health trust apologises for families' distress over stored organs

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:43:13 GMT2017-04-24T14:43:13Z

Internal inquiry launched after 2015 audit at South Tyneside district hospital found samples kept without relatives’ knowledge

A health trust has apologised to the relatives of dead people whose tissue and organs were stored without their families’ knowledge.

Police have contacted 39 families after a 2015 audit at South Tyneside district hospital in South Shields found samples taken following unexplained deaths had been kept “longer than necessary”.

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The legal highs ban, one year on: what are your experiences?

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:10:06 GMT2017-04-24T11:10:06Z

Last May the government banned novel psychoactive substances. What impact has this had? We want to hear from drug workers and former users

The government put in place a blanket ban on novel psychoactive substances (NPS), formerly legal highs, at the beginning of May 2016. The Psychoactive Substances Act meant that it was no longer legal to buy these drugs online and in headshops. But what has the impact been nearly a year on?

A survey of the street drug market in Britain by DrugWise, an online drug information service, found that the act had succeeded in its headline goals: high street outlets selling these substances have been shut down.

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Paedophile hunters jeopardising police work, says senior officer

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:03:49 GMT2017-04-24T11:03:49Z

Revealing identity of suspected child abusers gives suspect opportunity to destroy crucial evidence, police chief warns

Stings by self-styled paedophile hunters – who pose as children online to catch potential sexual predators – are diverting “significant resources” into the protection of suspects, police chiefs have said.

After a court ruled in favour of a group that argued that it should face no official oversight, Ch Con Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the group’s activities could jeopardise investigations.

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How a digital NHS saves time and money – and transforms care | Afzal Chaudhry

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:14:32 GMT2017-04-25T11:14:32Z

Our hospital trust has introduced systems that released appointments and allow staff to spend more quality time with patients

Imagine this scenario: a patient arrives at hospital for an appointment or an emergency, or is admitted for treatment and the clinical team can see their medical record in its entirety, wherever and whenever they need to.

At Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust, that is what we set out to achieve when, seven years ago, we decided to invest in a sustainable digital future for our hospitals. Rather than relying on paper-based processes and simply replacing outdated technology as it became obsolete, we wanted to transform the way we care for our patients.

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Metro mayors sound great. But they can’t save local parks and pools | Peter Hetherington

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:00:05 GMT2017-04-25T11:00:05Z

New mayors will be elected on 4 May in England. But what good are they in the face of chronic local government cuts?

City parks lie overgrown and abandoned; swimming pools and leisure centres shuttered; libraries locked up; local bus services axed; youth services scrapped; roads so badly potholed that hundreds of miles face closure. If the list of cutbacks is endless across the country, you can be sure of one thing. There’s worse to come.

Related: England's new metro mayors will have influential role in NHS | Richard Vize

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How can councils tackle homelessness? Andrew Walker

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 06:44:56 GMT2017-04-25T06:44:56Z

With very little extra cash, councils need new ideas to join up local services and tackle the growing challenge of homelessness

The homelessness reduction bill, which looks set to gain royal assent and become law before parliament breaks up for the general election, seeks to tackle the growing problem of homelessness by focusing on prevention in local areas. Not for the first time the burden has been passed to local authorities to take action, with very little funding to accompany it.

Some councils have already developed interesting new ideas to meet this challenge head on. The government and other local authorities should look to these as the building blocks of a more substantive, long-term strategy.

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It's a deadly fallacy that eating disorders are a teenage illness

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:00:29 GMT2017-04-24T07:00:29Z

Most patients with an eating disorder are adults. The lack of specialist services could prove fatal

Sophie* developed an eating disorder when she was 11 years old. With the help of child eating disorder services, she got better and by the age of 16 had achieved a stable weight. But her A-levels proved tough and she relapsed. This time, she had to face the challenge of navigating adult eating disorder services as a vulnerable teenager. When she was finally referred to me nearly eight months after her relapse, she was 19 years old with a BMI of nine.

I worked as a consultant psychiatrist in child eating disorders before moving to adult services in Oxford. When the government announced in the Five Year Forward View a £30m investment for eating disorders in child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) each year until 2021, I was delighted. We know early intervention offers the best chance of recovery and it’s great to see that 66 new specialist services have been set up across the country.

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Housing associations have lost their way | Steve Hilditch

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 06:43:05 GMT2017-04-24T06:43:05Z

Too many housing associations have focused on being developers. They have lost sight of their mission to provide good homes at genuinely affordable prices

I recently spoke at a large meeting, organised by Westminster North MP Karen Buck, of angry tenants and shared owners from a housing association.

They fumed about poor repair services, high rents, shoddy standards in new homes, and the enormous salary of their association’s chief executive. They were the embodiment of the issues raised by John Harris in his recent Guardian articles.

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Marginal gains: the election machine you won't see until 8 June | Dave Smith

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 09:03:09 GMT2017-04-22T09:03:09Z

Who’ll be first to declare the general election results? In Sunderland, as elsewhere, the race is now on ahead of polling night

With the unexpected announcement of a snap general election in just six weeks’ time, an extensive election machinery needs to be cranked into action three years earlier than planned.

Given that local elections were already taking place in many areas in May, this might not seem such a big deal, but for returning officers all over the country a general election is always something else entirely.

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Are we ready for a grown-up election debate on the NHS and social care? | Niall Dickson

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 11:34:20 GMT2017-04-21T11:34:20Z

Reform, funding, management – these are the issues NHS leaders want to see discussed in election campaigns

In an age when experts are no longer de rigeur, it may be asking too much for the political debate about the future of health and social care to be nuanced, balanced and informed. Were it to be so, it would surely be the first time we had achieved such dizzy heights in the bare knuckled fight of an election campaign.

So what would be good to hear? First, an acknowledgement that all the main parties are culpable for severe underfunding of social care – arguably both at national and local level. The additional sums announced in the budget are welcome but not sufficient. The government has promised fundamental reform but again all parties, including the Conservatives, have made such promises before and then failed to deliver.

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If you don't feel rich on £70k it is because of a broken housing system | Dawn Foster

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 05:50:11 GMT2017-04-21T05:50:11Z

High-earners will get short shrift for complaining about being squeezed, unless they extend that sympathy to people hit even harder by the housing crisis

With yet another election kicking off after last year’s referendum, multiple party leadership debates, and two years after the last general election, ludicrous arguments over small details of party policy have begun in earnest.

This week, shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced that Labour, if elected, planned to increase tax rates for the rich. Pressed on how he defined “rich”, McDonnell said: “We believe the rich will be above £70,000 to £80,000 a year and that’s roughly defined as what people feel is an earning whereby people feel they can pay more.” There ensued on social media an argument that earning £70,000 did not constitute being rich: the Guardian crunched the numbers and came down on McDonnell’s side, which did little to quell vocal masses who insisted it was almost a piddling sum.

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Could a big Tory win help civil service cope with Brexit? | David Walker

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 06:44:39 GMT2017-04-19T06:44:39Z

Cuts have left the civil service scrambling, but Theresa May will need an efficient Whitehall machine to get her through Brexit

Whitehall goes into purdah pondering two big questions and a teaser, assuming Theresa May wins big on 8 June.

The teaser is how long it will be before a successor to cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Haywood is sighted. He is not going to go on for the length of a parliament; he isn’t a member of her Praetorian guard and the job isn’t what it used to be.

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Poppy Jaman: ‘I think there’s a wave of change coming in mental health’

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 14:00:31 GMT2017-04-18T14:00:31Z

The chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England says going into every secondary school is just the beginning of a new approach to mental illness

Poppy Jaman, chief executive of the not-for-profit Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE), believes Theresa May meant business when she pledged in January to make mental health a priority. Despite ministers being accused of breaking their promises after £800m in cash earmarked for mental health was last month redirected to offsetting wider NHS budget problems, Jaman argues that the government will come good.

Related: Prince Harry grief revelations draw praise from mental health experts

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Neglected no more: ending trachoma, an infectious eye disease rooted in poverty

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:53:10 GMT2017-04-24T10:53:10Z

Trachoma is a preventable disease that can lead to blindness. Now a collaborative approach is driving it out of the world’s poorest regions

In proportion to their collective contribution to human suffering, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have received insufficient attention. Today, thanks to incremental progress in the science of public health, growing programmatic experience and commitment from endemic country governments, donors and other partners, we are better equipped than ever before to recognise, prevent, control, eliminate and eradicate them.

Related: Eliminating infectious blindness in Nigeria – in pictures

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Obesity blamed for sharp rise in kidney cancer in UK

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 23:01:25 GMT2017-04-23T23:01:25Z

Cancer Research UK says disease has risen 40% in last decade, and threatens to become one of the fastest growing cancers

Obesity is to blame for a surge in kidney cancer in the UK, causing an extra 20,000 cases in the last 10 years, according to a leading charity.

Cancer Research UK says that new cases of kidney cancer have risen steeply, by 40% over the past decade.

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Rise in hospital admissions for infants triggers call for NHS overhaul

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 17:28:42 GMT2017-04-23T17:28:42Z

Report by thinktanks raises concerns about number of weaknesses in NHS care of children and young people

The number of infants admitted to hospital for emergency care for conditions such as bronchitis and jaundice has risen sharply in the past decade.

More young children are also ending up spending time in hospital being treated for tonsillitis, breathing problems, drug poisonings and infections, new NHS figures show.

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We’re worlds apart, but like Prince Harry I had to face up to depression

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 23:05:27 GMT2017-04-22T23:05:27Z

Prince Harry has spoken of his bereavement, Tony Howard recalls how therapy helped him with the loss of his brother-in-law

Turning the corner into my mother-in-law’s street some years ago, it hit me. Michael’s car wasn’t there. Which meant Michael wasn’t there. And Michael wasn’t there because he was gone and none of us would ever see him again. We wouldn’t hear him laugh, we would never again be the butt of his jokes and none of us would share again in his generosity.

The moment of that dreadful realisation came back last week, reading Prince Harry’s comments about mental health and his battle with bereavement. Although our circumstances couldn’t be more different – my issues manifested themselves on a north Manchester council estate, rather than in a royal residence – the feelings of loss and subsequent pain will have been very similar.

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Diet has a vital role to play in dealing with the menopause | Letters

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 23:05:27 GMT2017-04-22T23:05:27Z

It’s not an illness, it’s just a fact of life

While I applaud publicising and myth-busting the menopause (“I just coped, as others do: breaking the silence about the menopause”, In Focus), I am sorry that nowhere in the article did you mention diet as a means of dealing with menopausal side-effects.

The beginning of my menopause was a nightly sheet-wringing affair and daily having to pull over in the car to urgently strip off before I melted. About that time, I exchanged meat and dairy products for tofu and soya milk alternatives. Soon afterwards, the sweats subsided, then stopped. I thought I was one of the lucky ones, but I then learned that an oriental diet, low in meat and dairy and high in soya, which contains phytoestrogens, was the more likely reason. Menopause is not an illness, it’s a fact of life, and the reaction to administer drugs to treat the symptoms is sad.

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Smokers and obese patients face more curbs on NHS surgery

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 21:00:24 GMT2017-04-22T21:00:24Z

Anger as plan to extend ‘lifestyle rationing’ for hip and knee operations is revealed in letter

NHS bosses are planning a massive expansion of the controversial rationing that forces smokers and obese patients to wait months in pain before they can have surgery, a leaked letter reveals.

The move will see local NHS bodies across England implement restrictions on access to treatment that will hit what doctors’ leaders believe will be tens of thousands of patients.

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England's new metro mayors will have influential role in NHS | Richard Vize

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:05:08 GMT2017-04-22T08:05:08Z

Voters in six regions are to elect mayors, who could provide the biggest surprise when it comes to health policies

While Labour will be desperate to push the NHS to the centre of the general election campaign, and the Liberal Democrats will be emphasising their commitment to mental health services, it is the six regional mayors being elected for the first time in May who could provide the biggest surprise when it comes to health policies.

The exact powers of the six – covering Tees Valley, Greater Manchester, Liverpool city region, West Midlands, West of England and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough – vary depending on the deal each region reached with the government, but none of them will control the NHS.

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Prince Harry, mental health and the need for a more caring society | Letters

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:13:29 GMT2017-04-21T16:13:29Z

In my view, those who try to come up with totalising explanations of mental health are misguided (Letters, 20 April). It’s neither purely social nor purely individualistic, though effective help should start from actually listening to and honouring the individual case. Often in practice it does not, and I would agree with Professor Read that a biogenetic medical model is generally inappropriate and can actually be damaging. It also goes radically unacknowledged that there are various different types of bereavement, some of which are far more traumatic than others, and are not directly comparable. The effects of traumatic sudden bereavement experienced in childhood or adolescence can last for years and ultimately for a lifetime, as the princes have now highlighted. It is known that this type of bereavement can sometimes result in lasting shock followed by delayed grief years later, yet there is often little or no acknowledgment readily available, never mind any effective support.

On top of this, and especially in a culture of competition, the bereaved are often subjected to cutting comments, judgments and dismissals. Sometimes these are from those who claim to know what it’s like because their grandparent or cat has died, while sometimes they are from people in medical or authority positions whose callous judgmental ignorance can be devastating. Why does it require the intervention of princes to highlight the issue? At least they get taken seriously.
LE Collier
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

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Should link between dementia and artificial sweeteners be taken with a pinch of salt?

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:42:00 GMT2017-04-21T15:42:00Z

How people’s capacity for forgetfulness and lies may have impacted on research tying stroke and dementia to diet drinks

They were supposed to be the healthy alternative to their sugar-rich siblings. But now lovers of diet colas and other low-calorie drinks have been hit by news that will radically undermine those credentials: a counterintuitive study suggesting a link to stroke and dementia.

The study in the journal Stroke may cause a rethink among those worried about obesity, diabetes or a possible early heart attack from sugar-rich drinks who have been considering making a change. It comes to the alarming conclusion that people polishing off one can a day of artificially sweetened drink are nearly three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia.

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NHS and medical devices regulator tried to limit scandal over vaginal mesh implants

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:19:34 GMT2017-04-21T15:19:34Z

Minutes show NHS England and MHRA worked together to try to ‘avoid media attention’ of problems faced by women

NHS bosses and the watchdog that oversees medical devices tried to limit public exposure of the scandal over vaginal mesh implants that have harmed hundreds of women.

Minutes of a meeting held in October 2016 show that NHS England and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) agreed to “avoid media attention” over the implants, despite the fact they were seeking to encourage patients to report any complications.

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Almost untreatable superbug CPE poses serious threat to patients, doctors warn

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:00:18 GMT2017-04-21T15:00:18Z

Immune to some of the last-line antibiotics available to hospitals, cases of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae are on the rise, NHS data reveals

Read the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s report on the rise of CPE

Doctors are warning that the rise of an almost untreatable superbug, immune to some of the last-line antibiotics available to hospitals, poses a serious threat to patients.

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'Hopeless': how senior doctor described NHS maternity unit's testing regime

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:44:08 GMT2017-04-21T14:44:08Z

Emails to GP reveal concerns about ‘fax and forget’ culture at Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust, where baby deaths are under investigation

A senior figure in an NHS trust’s maternity unit under investigation over avoidable baby deaths has admitted that some practices in the unit were “hopeless”.

Andrew Tapp, medical director of women and children’s services at Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust, said in an email to a GP: “I think there are real problems here.” The GP had raised concerns about the maternity’s unit’s communication of test results.

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We're working with children in care to improve mental health | Tony Hunter

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 07:20:12 GMT2017-04-21T07:20:12Z

More than 70% of children in care have mental health problems; an expert panel is drawing up an action plan

It’s good news that mental health in general, and children’s mental health in particular, is being given increasing attention by the media and greater consideration by policymakers. Yet the mental health and wellbeing of children in care is too often marginalised in these debates. More than 70% of children in care have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Perhaps you just assume that it goes with the territory and there’s not much that can be done about it. This is absolutely not the case.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie) has started a new project, commissioned by the departments of health and education, to ensure that children in care have access to high-quality services, based on a clear assessment of need, from a range of professionals working across different agencies. The project is likely to suggest significant changes to the way assessments are conducted for children in care, which could have a big impact on up to 70,000 care-experienced children and young people.

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The government is jeopardising progress on child sexual exploitation | Richard Scorer

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:01:37 GMT2017-04-25T08:01:37Z

Proposal in children and social work bill to cut local safeguarding boards will make it harder for agencies to work together to protect vulnerable young people

“A bad idea drawn up by Whitehall that has not been properly evaluated or impact-assessed.” This was Lord Ramsbotham’s scathing verdict on clause 29 of the children and social work bill, the controversial provision allowing local authorities to opt out of legal obligations to vulnerable children.

Quite rightly, the government has abandoned that clause after a concerted campaign by children’s charities. But in the furore over clause 29, other equally misguided parts of the bill have escaped proper scrutiny.

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Social care green paper is an opportunity too important to be missed | Peter Beresford

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:19:20 GMT2017-04-24T10:19:20Z

Short-termism rules in domestic politics, but two new reports expose the problems austerity has built up for policymakers

The government committed itself to reviewing the crisis-ridden funding of social care with a new green paper shortly before Theresa May called the general election. Two new high-profile reports, however, highlight how difficult and far-reaching a task this is likely to be for whatever government comes into power in June.

The present administration has had two major self-imposed constraints in relation to social care: its commitment to maintaining “austerity”-style spending limits and its ideological belief in the “small state”. However, as these reports suggest, this may be the biggest ever testing ground for such propositions and political parties contending for power may need to offer something very different if they want to make any real impact on the social care crisis.

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'I felt betrayed': EU nationals on working in social care after the Brexit vote

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 07:24:59 GMT2017-04-20T07:24:59Z

More than 90,000 European care workers in the UK are living in limbo, none the wiser about how they will be affected by Brexit. Here are some of their stories

Article 50 has been triggered, beginning the countdown to the UK’s exit from the European Union. Yet none of the 92,000 EU nationals working in the care sector here are any the wiser as to how it will affect them.

So far, Theresa May has refused to guarantee the rights of approximately 3.3 million EU nationals currently living in the UK, with campaign groups claiming they are being used as “bargaining chips”. These people are living in limbo.

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Child victims of sexual abuse in families let down by system: report

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 23:01:11 GMT2017-04-19T23:01:11Z

Children’s commissioner for England catalogues series of failings and calls for urgent changes to services provided

Child victims of sexual abuse within families are being let down by the system, the children’s commissioner for England has said.

Young people are often left to report the abuse themselves when the authorities fail to pick up on signs, a report by the commissioner’s office found.

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Social work: the emergency service that should be celebrated, not demonised

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 12:56:28 GMT2017-04-19T12:56:28Z

I was saved from an abusive relationship by social services. Now I’m studying to be a social worker and want the public to know all the good they do

A national radio station recently celebrated the work of the emergency services – ambulances, police, firefighters – and it was enlightening to listen to different perspectives, including those of professionals working on the frontline. I waited in vain, however, to hear any mention of one perennially overlooked and unappreciated emergency service that supports people and families of all ages, 365 days a year, in very difficult circumstances.

This is a service whose clients increase in number year on year, at the same time as funding is repeatedly slashed. Yet unlike with the NHS, for example, there never seems to be a public outcry or series of passionate calls to protect it. Instead, this service is more often looked down upon by the public and berated by the media.

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Man for all reasons

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 14:00:31 GMT2017-04-18T14:00:31Z

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Housing crisis: more than 200,000 homes in England lie empty

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 18:15:35 GMT2017-04-20T18:15:35Z

Birmingham is the city outside London with the most unused properties, followed by Bradford and Liverpool, new figures show

More than 200,000 homes in England with a total value of £43bn were empty for at least six months during 2016 despite the desperate shortage of properties to rent and buy.

According to official figures, Birmingham was the worst affected city outside London with 4,397 empty homes worth an estimated £956m, followed by Bradford and Liverpool.

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Scotland hosts groundbreaking wind energy project to build new homes

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 06:30:13 GMT2017-04-19T06:30:13Z

Housing association invests in electricity-generating turbines that will fund affordable homes in rural Scotland

Amid the rolling hills and woodland pastures of south-east Scotland, a wind of change is blowing through communities where low wages and casual work sit uneasily alongside the popular image of timeless market towns and pretty coastal villages.

High above rich arable land by the North Sea, three tall wind turbines, blades spinning wildly, have started generating electricity for the national grid with two social purposes: to sell energy and use the income to deliver hundreds of new homes in a scattered rural community while, at the same time, providing additional funds for similar schemes elsewhere in Scotland.

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Urban regeneration: a tragedy for council tenants' health | Rev Paul Nicolson

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 11:25:31 GMT2017-04-18T11:25:31Z

Demolishing the homes of the UK’s most deprived renters does nothing to increase their income and can never improve their health or wellbeing

Any discussion about urgent regeneration needs to include an understanding of the depth of poverty in the most deprived council homes that local authorities seem so keen to demolish.

Since April 2013, local authorities have been responsible for improving the health of their local population and for public health services. When it comes to regeneration, however, their emphasis is on buildings and nice open spaces.

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Guilt by association: the housing developments that went sour

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 15:24:16 GMT2017-04-14T15:24:16Z

Housing associations have been run for the good of tenants and communities since the 19th century. But with many new developments plagued by shoddy building and a priority on profit, are they leaving their best ideals behind?

The Caulfield Park housing development in west London sits on a little bit of televisual history. The estate it replaced in South Acton was once the filming location for the fictional Nelson Mandela House, the high-rise home of the Trotter family in Only Fools and Horses.

These days, Del Boy and Rodney and their wideboy antics are, of course, long gone. For the current residents of the seven-storey blocks, the people now doing the misselling are their landlords.

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London councils trying to force homeless families out of capital

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:11:22 GMT2017-04-14T13:11:22Z

Some councils are making ‘take it or leave it’ offers to families to be housed as far away as Birmingham, despite disruption to jobs and school

A handful of London councils are making aggressive use of legal powers to make “take or leave it” offers of housing in locations far away from the capital in an attempt to permanently resettle hundreds of homeless families.

Officials are giving households 24 hours to accept private rented homes in the West Midlands, Essex and the south-east, warning that if they refuse the council will consider them to have become “intentionally homeless” and withdraw support.

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Charities should be campaigning in this election | Vicky Browning

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 06:23:04 GMT2017-04-24T06:23:04Z

The only way this general election will return a government that understands the needs of a diverse range of communities is through hearing the voice of charities

When we began writing our report on the public benefit of charity campaigning, we did not realise its relevance would be quite so immediate. But Theresa May’s snap election on 8 June has thrown the issue into sharp focus.

After years of negative political rhetoric about charity campaigning, it is time to refocus and reclaim the debate. Campaigning is part of charitable history and it is a fundamental part of our philosophy. Charities have contributed to some of the most progressive social and environmental changes in UK history. A strong charitable voice is vital for a healthy democracy.

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How can I run in the 2018 London Marathon?

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 07:23:07 GMT2017-04-23T07:23:07Z

If you’ve been bitten by the marathon bug or inspired by watching those running in the capital, here’s how to apply for a place at next year’s big race

The London Marathon is an astonishing spectacle of athleticism and camaraderie, one that inspires adulation, awe and a tiny little voice in your head that says: I could do that, if I wanted to. Couldn’t I?

And as if you needed another excuse to don fluorescent lycra gear, eschew cake and set out on a gruelling, drizzle-drenched training programme, the London Marathon is also one of the biggest charity events of the year. Last year, runners raised £59.4m, setting a new world record for fundraising in a single day. That takes the total amount raised by the event to more than £830m since it was first launched in 1981.

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Environmental charities allowed to challenge changes to court cost rules

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:57:59 GMT2017-04-21T12:57:59Z

High court judge has agreed to limit RSPB, ClientEarth and FoE’s costs liabilities to £10,000 in their action against the Ministry of Justice’s changes to costs cap

Three environmental charities have been given permission to challenge court regulations which they say make it too financially risky to bring cases over air pollution standards or the expansion of Heathrow airport.

A high court judge has agreed to limit costs liabilities of the RSPB, ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth to £10,000 in their action against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) which introduced the new rules earlier this year.

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We carry on giving, but isn’t charity an offence to basic dignity? | John Harris

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-04-21T06:00:12Z

Schools and hospitals are, more and more, surviving on donations – a sign of how Darwinian our nation has become

Someone needs cancer treatment only available in Germany. Someone else is leading a 187-mile bike ride across India to pay for research into brain tumours. Top right is a team of swimmers with learning disabilities who want to attend an international competition in Sheffield; bottom left is a girl who desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. And all around are numbers that dance in front of your eyes: “£64,994 raised by 2,773 supporters … £1,044 raised by 47 supporters … £900 raised by 23 supporters.”

The online donation platform JustGiving seemingly soothes the world’s ills with a sleek, altruistic efficiency the pre-digital world could get nowhere near. Since its foundation in 2001, it claims to have raised $4.2bn (£3.3bn) for “good causes” in 164 countries.

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Crackdown on migrants forces NHS doctors to 'act as border guards'

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:22:23 GMT2017-04-20T13:22:23Z

Charity condemns government guidance allowing Home Office to access details of undocumented migrants seeking care

A medical charity has launched a campaign against government guidance that “makes border guards of doctors” by allowing the Home Office to access details of undocumented migrants who seek NHS treatment.

Doctors of the World runs clinics for undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers. It has assisted numerous patients, some pregnant and some with cancer, who are afraid of accessing NHS healthcare due to concerns that a visit to the doctor could lead to deportation.

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Charities: weathering worst of the storms? | David Brindle

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 06:43:14 GMT2017-04-19T06:43:14Z

A rise in volunteering and activism suggests some storms have been weathered, as annual NCVO conference looks to the positives for the sector

The word is that Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), is going to be upbeat when he gives his “state of the sector” address to the annual conference of the voluntary sector umbrella group on Thursday 20 April. Curious, then, that the motivational speaker following later is survivalist Bear Grylls.

Will the assembled charity leaders be captivated more by Etherington’s reasons to be cheerful or by Grylls’ tips for wrestling alligators? After seven years of austerity, many charity bosses must feel up to their armpits in the latter.

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Who better to help vulnerable young people than old ducks? | Fay Wertheimer

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 12:59:29 GMT2017-04-18T12:59:29Z

As volunteer Fay Wertheimer discovered when she helped out at a homeless hostel for young women, age has its advantages

How would vulnerable 16- to 25-year-old young women react to an ancient do-gooder in their homeless hostel? I was wary. My last girls-only stint was attempting to teach in a 1970s lock-up approved school. To minimise chances of girls “bunking it”, all staff hobbled round with classroom keys hidden in their shoes. Sighting anything male transformed our pupils into obscenity-screeching harridans. Tension was rife. Our focus was containment, not compassion, so mentoring was off-limits. They, however, taught me about self-harming and hot-matchstick tattooing, proudly flaunting pairs of individually named boobs and young bellies to be forever disfigured by arrows pointing to more intimate bodily regions below.

So, 40 years on, any all-girls environment, even this one – a safe haven opposite my old family house – seemed a no-no.

Continue reading...Fay Wertheimer is ‘an old hand at volunteering’.Fay Wertheimer is ‘an old hand at volunteering’.


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My family was hit by a bus driver with road rage | Sarah Hope

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 10:38:01 GMT2017-04-25T10:38:01Z

My safety campaign has uncovered shocking facts. I want to ensure no other family suffers like ours, by keeping drivers calm behind the wheel

My name is Sarah Hope. I am a wife and a mother to three children – Barnaby, 16, Sapphire, 14, and Pollyanna, who is 12.

Ten years ago, on 25 April 2007, my mother Elizabeth came to stay in our house in Mortlake, south London, to visit my twin sister, Victoria, who was in the Chelsea and Westminster hospital a few miles away after giving birth to a healthy baby boy two days earlier.

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No politics, please. A guide to election purdah | Jane Dudman

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 09:29:44 GMT2017-04-20T09:29:44Z

Here’s our short guide on what local government officers and civil servants can and cannot do in the run-up to the June general election

If you’re one of the UK’s 400,000 civil servants, you will already know not to tell anyone who you’re going to vote for in the June general election.

Ahead of the election on 8 June, civil servants enter the pre-election period known as purdah, when what they do is restricted. Guidance (pdf), which takes effect from 21 April 2017, is published by the Cabinet Office.

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Can technology really keep people safe from crime on public transport?

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 06:46:50 GMT2017-04-25T06:46:50Z

Letting people text transport police has pushed up figures for some crimes. The real answer is to make technology part of a wider safety approach

It’s a problem those who travel by train are likely to have faced: what to do when a peaceful carriage is invaded by rowdy drunks? Last year, on a London Euston-bound train, one passenger responded to just that situation by discreetly sending a text message to the British Transport Police (BTP). Twenty minutes later, on arrival at Euston, officers boarded the train and arrested the five men responsible.

Bad behaviour, whether it involves drunkenness, sexual harassment, brawling or verbal abuse, is unfortunately a feature of travelling on public transport. BTP figures for 2015-16 show 48,718 crimes were committed on trains and at stations in England and Wales, although these figures have reduced by 39% since 2005-6.

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What does it take to build a resilient city?

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 05:50:19 GMT2017-04-20T05:50:19Z

Local mayors, the private sector and grassroots organisations all have their part to play in building resilient cities, said our panel of urban development experts

We recently ran a livechat on the Guardian public leaders network, where our expert panellists discussed resilient cities. Some of the topics included:

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What is the Midlands engine and what will it do for the region?

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 10:09:13 GMT2017-04-18T10:09:13Z

Worth £218bn, the Midlands’ economy still lags behind the rest of the UK. The government wants it to compete with London and the northern powerhouse

The home of William Shakespeare, Rebecca Adlington and Julie Walters, not to mention Wedgwood, Cadbury’s chocolate and world heritage site Ironbridge Gorge, the Midlands is famous for many things. But the government is aiming to shine more of a spotlight on the region, recently punting out £7bn of projects to international investors, from a national space park to a £2bn transport hub.

So what is the Midlands engine and what will it do for the region’s economy and residents?

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Minecraft in urban planning: how digital natives are shaking up governments

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 05:50:12 GMT2017-04-05T05:50:12Z

Governments are waking up to the idea that curious citizens can be a powerful digital resource and are breathing life into archaic systems

When we think of governments and technology, the image that springs to mind is more likely to be clunky computers and red tape than it is nimble innovators.

But things are changing. The geeks in jeans are making their way into government and starting to shake things up.

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Can Rhyl shake its 'Crap Town' label and become a short-break star?

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 06:24:19 GMT2017-04-13T06:24:19Z

Once known for bucket-and-spade holidays, Rhyl has since seen high unemployment. But a £33m regeneration of the Welsh town is underway

It was summertime when Katey Howell, 34, first visited Rhyl, and she was bowled over by a town where everyone “seemed really happy”. The north Wales seaside resort was “full of holidaymakers, had a beach you could walk to and a good range of shops”. In 2004, Howell moved from Manchester to be with her future husband. “It seemed like a nice thing to do, to get away from city life and move down here.”

Rhyl’s glory days – when families from Merseyside and the Midlands would gather during Factory Fortnight to enjoy the beach, the funfair and fish and chips eaten al fresco – are long gone. Assembly member Ann Jones, who has lived in the area all her life, says the introduction of cheap flights to Spain and guarantee of a better climate started a slow decline that saw magnificent seafront Victorian B&Bs turned into flats.

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The sugar conspiracy | Ian Leslie

Thu, 07 Apr 2016 05:00:15 GMT2016-04-07T05:00:15Z

In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?

Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

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Virgin Care wins £700m contract to run 200 NHS and social care services

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:10:45 GMT2016-11-11T13:10:45Z

Deal for Bath and north-east Somerset area sparks new fears about private firms’ role in providing publicly funded healthcare

Sir Richard Branson’s health firm, Virgin Care, has won a £700m contract to deliver 200 types of NHS and social care services to more than 200,000 people in Bath and north-east Somerset.

The contract, which was approved on Thursday, has sparked new fears about private health firms expanding their role in the provision of publicly funded health services.

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Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show

Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:19:43 GMT2015-08-27T20:19:43Z

Campaigners demand welfare overhaul after statistics reveal 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after being declared able to work

Nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work, according to new data that has prompted campaigners and Labour leadership contenders to call for an overhaul of the government’s welfare regime.

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed that during the period December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were found fit for work.

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Teenage hackers motivated by morality not money, study finds

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:28:50 GMT2017-04-21T08:28:50Z

Young people attack computer networks to impress friends and challenge political system, crime research shows

Teenage hackers are motivated by idealism and impressing their mates rather than money, according to a study by the National Crime Agency.

The law enforcement organisation interviewed teenagers and children as young as 12 who had been arrested or cautioned for computer-based crimes.

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Having cancer is not a fight or a battle

Fri, 25 Apr 2014 10:00:00 GMT2014-04-25T10:00:00Z

Why is military language used to describe cancer? These words are meant to help patients but can have the opposite effect

"She lost her brave fight." If anyone mutters those words after my death, wherever I am, I will curse them.

I would like to be remembered for the positive impact I have made on the world, for fun times and for my relationships with others, not as a loser. When I do die, I will have defied the prognosis for my type of cancer and achieved a great deal with my life. I do not want to feel a failure about something beyond my control. I refuse to believe my death will be because I didn't battle hard enough.

Continue reading...'In my world, having cancer is not a fight at all … Some days cancer has the upper hand, other days I do.' Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar'In my world, having cancer is not a fight at all … Some days cancer has the upper hand, other days I do.' Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar


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‘I just coped’: Kirsty Wark on breaking the silence about menopause

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 23:05:15 GMT2017-04-15T23:05:15Z

Wark’s BBC documentary is the latest example of articulate women talking about ‘the change’

‘The most disconcerting side-effects were disturbed sleep and night sweats, waking up literally wrung out, with no discernible pattern to either,” says Kirsty Wark. She sounds as measured, informed and professional as is her norm when presenting Newsnight but Wark is talking about something much more personal than current affairs: her menopause.

Wark is fronting a documentary that will air on BBC1 on Thursday: The Menopause and Me. Her involvement in the programme comes from her own sudden and unexpected experience. She had a “medical menopause” at the age of 47, after a hysterectomy and after coming off hormone replacement therapy(HRT) because of fears over its reported link to breast cancer.

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Watch how the measles outbreak spreads when kids get vaccinated – and when they don't

Thu, 05 Feb 2015 11:15:03 GMT2015-02-05T11:15:03Z

If you take 10 communities and run a simulation, it’s easy to see why we need as many members of the ‘herd’ as possible to get vaccines – before it’s too late

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