Archive | March, 2008

Special Needs Pupils Denied Treatment

31 Mar

Special Needs Pupils Denied Treatment

By J. P. Anderson

THOUSANDS of primary schoolchildren with special needs are being denied vital treatment because of Government delays in providing psychological assessments.
According to school principals, psychological services are being delivered “like war-time rations,” with parents and the St Vincent de Paul society asked to pay for private assessments.
The Government had committed to raising the number of school psychologists to 200 by the end of 2009, but to date the level is at 138.

More than €100,000 was spent by the St Vincent de Paul in 2006 on psychological assessments for vulnerable children, while last year the society spent up to €50,000 in the Dublin area alone for the service. It’s understood that, by September of this year, 80% of the student population will be covered by the service.
Recruitment of new psychologists has proven difficult because of professionals’ reluctance to give up private practice.
According to the Irish Primary Principals’ Network, “not enough is being done at government level” to provide resources in this area for children.
“Schools, principals, teachers and children have nothing but praise for the National Educational Psychological Service [NEPS],” said network PRO and Dublin-based former principal John Curran yesterday.
“The only criticism is that they want more service, not less. Principals tell us that there can be significant delays in accessing services from NEPS where they have a NEPS psychologist assigned and the situation is even worse in schools where the NEPS service is not available.”
There is also a “pressing need” for clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, play therapists, counsellors and translators for the country’s schoolchildren.
St Vincent de Paul president Professor John Monaghan said that, while improvements have been made to the system, the charity is still paying for hundreds of psychological assessments for children. “It still raises the question about the inordinate delays,” he said.
The St Vincent de Paul holds regular meetings with NEPS and department officials in an attempt to maintain improvements.
The Department of Education said that “a significant expansion” in the number of NEPS psychologists is under way, “with a view to all schools receiving a direct service within the next two years”.

Processed Meats Linked To Bowel Cancer Warning

31 Mar

Processed Meats Linked To Bowel Cancer

By J. P. Anderson

Eating just one sausage or around three rashers of bacon a day can increase the risk of developing bowel cancer by a fifth, an expert warned.

Just 1.8oz (50g) of processed meat daily increases the chances of getting bowel cancer by around 20%.

The charity World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said more needed to be done to get across the message that people who eat processed meat regularly are putting their health at risk.

Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF, said there was convincing evidence of a link between processed meats and cancer.

Processed meat is defined as that which is preserved by smoking, curing, salting or the addition of preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, hot dogs and processed sausages. Hamburgers and minced meat counts if it has been preserved with salt or chemical additives.

Prof Wiseman said research has shown that only 30% of Britons were aware that eating processed meat increases cancer risk.

He added: "We are surer now than ever before that eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer and this is why WCRF recommends that people avoid eating it.

"The evidence is that whether you are talking about bacon, ham or pastrami – the safest amount to eat is none at all. When you consider that eating 50g of processed meat a day can increase your risk of bowel cancer by about a fifth, it is clear that you can make a positive difference by cutting out as much as possible.

"We do recommend that people avoid it completely, but it is not a case of all or nothing. Cutting down the amount of processed meat you eat can also reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer.

"But we need to do more to get this message across because if two thirds of people don’t know about the link between processed meat and bowel cancer, then they are not in a position to be able to make informed decisions about whether to eat it or not."

Dublin Protest Rally Over Health Service

29 Mar

Dublin Protest Rally Over Health Service

By J. P. Anderson

Several thousand people marched through Dublin city centre this afternoon in protest at the state of the health service.

Among those in attendance was Conor MacLiam, the husband of Susie Long, who died last October of cancer having been unable to get a diagnosis in good time because of long waiting lists.
Trade unions, patient and hospital groups called on the public to join the march to demonstrate their anger and frustration at the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Patients Together had hoped as many as 50,000 would turn but the figure was much less. There was no official estimate.
The march went from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square to Leinster House this afternoon.
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was among the politicians at today’s rally.
He said that contrary to the claims of Minister for Health Mary Harney and HSE chief executive Brendan Drumm, health cuts were affecting patient care.
He said Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had promised improvement in the health service but instead the situations have worsened.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is under pressure about his finances but the "chaos" in our health service "is the biggest reason for the Taoiseach to go", Mr Ó Caoláin said.

Over Use Of Painkillers May Cause Addiction

29 Mar

Minister Expresses Concern about Use of Over the Counter Painkillers and Prescription Drugs

By J. P. Anderson

The Government Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy,

 Mr Pat Carey TD, during an RTE TV interview expressed his serious concern about the

levels of use and abuse of ‘over the counter’ pain killers and some prescription drugs.

Also, published previously, on 27/08/2007: One of the country’s leading pharmacists urged a rethink on how some painkillers are sold as concerns mount about legal drug abuse.

Darragh O’Loughlin, a senior member of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU), believes tighter controls on potentially lethal codeine-based drugs could stem addiction levels.

"If codeine-based painkillers were only available following a proper consultation with a pharmacist, you would have to explain your symptoms," Pharmacist Darragh O’Loughlin, senior member of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union

Customers buying the likes of Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus should be screened before being sold the over-the-counter medication that can lead to dependency, he suggested.

"If codeine-based painkillers were only available following a proper consultation with a pharmacist, you would have to explain your symptoms," said Mr O’Loughlin.

"And if the pharmacist was satisfied it was the right medicine before supplying, I think that would make it less likely that people would have problems with it."

Little research has been published on the extent of codeine and other painkiller addiction in Ireland. Although anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a widespread problem.

The IPU – which represents 1,600 pharmacists in Ireland – and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, an industry body, have unveiled an awareness campaign.

Posters and leaflets are to be issued to chemists urging customers to seek out advice and help, if necessary, when using painkillers.

Codeine is an opiate, from the same family as morphine and heroin, and so can be addictive in the same way as the other two more notorious drugs. Both Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus make up the vast majority of codeine-based painkillers sold over the counter in Ireland, according to the IPU.

Mr O’Loughlin insisted harsher restrictions, like making the painkillers prescription-only, would be counter-productive leading to strain on the health service.

Irish Pharmacists warn against overuse of codeine Source: Irish Pharmaceutical Union 04 Sep 2006 Irish pharmacists are warning against the overuse of codeine, an opium-based drug, which is widely used in certain pain killers such as Solpadeine® and Nurofen Plus®.
“These medicines, which are available directly from your pharmacist, are very effective in relieving the symptoms of headaches and other forms of pain. Irish pharmacists often recommend these medicines to treat pain,” said Darragh O’Loughlin, Galway pharmacist and Chairman of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union’s Community Pharmacy Committee. “However, prolonged regular use, except under medical supervision, may lead to physical and psychological dependence (addiction) and result in withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness and irritability once the patient stops taking the medication. Pharmacists always recommend consulting your doctor if symptoms have not eased with a couple of days’ treatment using over-the-counter medicines.

48% Of Tobacco Retailers Sold Cigarettes To Minors

28 Mar

48% of Tobacco Retailers Sold Cigarettes to Minors

By J. P. Anderson

SHOP owners came under fire last night after a survey showed

almost half of retailers were willing to sell cigarettes to minors.

The Office of Tobacco Control’s research was a serious indictment of retailers and pub and hotel owners after it revealed the extent to which youngsters could get their hands on cigarettes.
Researchers went undercover with children under 18 years of age, attempting to buy cigarettes in 1,526 shops and licensed premises. The audit, carried out in August last year, found 48% of staff in shops sold packets to minors. Furthermore, when it came to the ages of those undercover, almost one in three 15-year-olds could have purchased cigarettes.

Health Minister Mary Harney said the survey was “shocking”. Retailers had to demand identification from teenagers buying cigarettes, she insisted.
“Please ask for IDs. If you don’t, you’re encouraging young people to begin a journey of disease, addiction and premature death.”
Laws to restrict tobacco advertisements in stores are still pending. Ms Harney said these would be affected soon.
However, the Irish Cancer Society said there was still an immense amount of work to be done in relation to more tobacco control measures.
“Government policy should not continue to facilitate access by the tobacco industry to young people living in Ireland,” said its health promotion manager Norma Cronin.
The research, Tobacco Control and the Irish Retail Environment, also looked at ways minors were prevented from buying cigarettes, the areas where IDs were least requested and the extent of tobacco advertisements in shops.
The undercover minors were prevented from buying cigarettes in 54% of premises with token-operated vending machines.
Areas in the south of the country were the worst for sales to minors, where some 54% of staff sold cigarettes to those underage.
Overall, 92% of stores visited had some form of tobacco advertising.
The second part of the research looked at attitudes to advertising as well as harsher measures to restrict smoking.

Among 1,034 people quizzed, it found more than two-thirds backed a total ban on tobacco advertisements in stores to prevent young people taking up the habit.
Retailer representatives said they were disappointed with the survey’s results.
“Our members who sold tobacco to minors in this instance must take responsibility.
“We are committed to eradicating the sale of tobacco to under-18s and the failure rate in this instance is, obviously, unacceptably high,” said Vincent Jennings of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association.
Mr Jennings reiterated a call to make the Garda Age Card mandatory for everyone in Ireland between the ages of 18 and 23.
He said Ireland was one of a minority of EU countries that still did not have an identity card culture for age verification.
Tobacco access: The reality * 48% of shops were willing to sell cigarettes to minors.
* 64% of minors could buy packets in pub and hotel machines.
* 45% of stores had confectionery beside tobacco displays.
* 8/10 people think special licences should be issued for places selling cigarettes.
* Refusal rates were lowest in garages, with 54% of minors able to buy packets.
* 40% of places had cigarettes displayed on open shelves.

UK Study: 40% Of Teens In Poor Areas Binge Drink

28 Mar

UK Study: 40% of Teens in Poor Areas Binge Drink

By J. P. Anderson

Teenagers are drinking 44 bottles of wine or 177 pints of beer a year each, a new study into under-age alcohol intake and violence shows.
The figures relate to 15- to 16-year-olds in the North West of England and stem from a study of 9,833 such youngsters.

The report, produced by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, Trading Standards North West and the Home Office, showed of 190,000 15- to 16-year-olds 57,000 binge-drinks by taking five or more drinks in one session.

Also, as many as 40% of teenagers in poor areas binge drink; just under half of those surveyed drank at least once a week, with 40% of girls and 42% of boys later involved in violence.

Poor children were 45% more likely to be violent after drinking than children in affluent areas, the report said.

Professor Mark Bellis, co-author of the report and director of the Centre for Public Health, said: "These figures highlight the sheer quantity of alcohol being consumed by under-age drinkers across the North West.

"Sadly, there is still practically no information publicly available on what is a safe amount of alcohol for children to consume or on how parents can best moderate their children’s drinking.

"All too often such bingeing and violence not only damages children’s lives but also results in whole communities feeling threatened by gangs of drunk teenagers."

The findings are published just weeks after three teenagers were jailed for the murder of father-of-three Garry Newlove, 47, in Warrington.

On Thursday, Brendan Harris, 15, was convicted of murdering Goth Sophie Lancaster in Lancashire after drinking two litres of cider, a bottle of Stella Artois and peach schnapps.

British Authorities Examine Background Of Abandoned Boy

27 Mar

British Authorities Examine Background of Abandoned Boy Known as Gurrinder Singh

By J. P. Anderson

Officials in Britain are examining the background of a nine-year-old boy found abandoned at a London bus stop in a bid to substantiate claims by a couple in India that he is their kidnapped son.

Ganga Prasad and Bindia Devi say the boy, known as Gurrinder Singh, is in fact their son Sintu Prasad, who vanished outside their Indian home three years ago.

The Sikh boy, who speaks only Punjabi, wandered into a health centre in Southall, west London, last week after earlier being dumped at a bus stop.

Police said he later told them he had been deserted by a white "uncle" with whom he had been living after his parents died. He had come to Britain two or three years ago.

When his picture appeared on Indian television, the couple, from Aurangabad in the eastern state of Bihar, said the boy resembled their son who had been snatched in 2005.

Bindia Devi, who believes she is his mother, told Indian media: "It is a miracle for us and a ray of hope."

Since their claim earlier this week, authorities in both countries have been working to establish the boy’s true identity.

Some reports said he may be the victim of child trafficking.

On Thursday, police in Bihar told Reuters they had sent a boy’s photograph, resembling Gurrinder, and relevant background information to the Indian High Commission in London.

"He was about six when he was reported missing, we were told by his parents," the director general of police in Bihar, Ashish Ranjan Sinha told Reuters by telephone.

"We have sent all concerned information about the missing boy to the Indian High Commission in London."

A Commission spokeswoman said they had not received the photograph and wanted to find out more about the boy.

"We are writing to the Metropolitan police (to verify his identification) whilst we are trying to get his photograph," she said. "We want to get more details about him."

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said Gurrinder was currently in care.

"We are aware of the claims being made and we are looking into these at the moment," she said. She declined to comment further.