Content editor, Joanna Lowy, comments on all things health-related, and gives you a sneaky peek into her news-based medical musings of the week. Sometimes controversial, other times humorous, always straight from the heart; here you get to know the girl behind the facts! Enjoy! Comments welcome and invited!
When I first saw headlines yesterday claiming that Heathrow bosses were under pressure to justify night flights, I honestly believed that it was for the benefit of the passengers. And I genuinely could not believe what I was expecting to read: that we have become so ridiculously precious we can no longer fly during sleeping hours.
Of course, the pressure has not stemmed out of any concern for the passengers, but for the 100,000 west Londoners who live near the airport and are allegedly sick of the 15 flights that land over their houses between 11.30 PM and 6 AM every single day.
My initial disbelief, albeit misguided, did not, however, waver. Especially on learning that these 15 night flights boost the economy by £340m and 6,600 jobs each year.
Are we really to prioritise the needs of 100,000 people over the 60 million odd living in the UK, who, let’s face it, could really do without another economical slump?
It’s not even as if those living close to the airport are suffering in silence, either. I’m sure it’s less than pleasant hearing the distinctive roar of the aeroplane’s huge engine, no matter what the time of day. But that’s why Heathrow has dedicated a section of their website to ‘Noise in your area’; outlining exactly where and when flights are going to be, providing information on moving to the area, and explaining how best to report noise, all in the wider context of the Noise action plan which is updated and re-published every five years. Not to mention the compensation schemes already available to homeowners affected by noise, which give money towards things like double glazing and relocation.
I don’t want to get in to the highly contentious third runway, but if these proposals are realised and night fights are scrapped from Heathrow, we’d be taking the controversy to a whole new level.
“London - and the country at large - depend on aviation”, reads a statement by Boris Johnson on the Mayor of London’s website. “The connectivity it provides is vital for the success of our businesses and enriches both our economy and society.”
True, he is against a third runway at Heathrow. But I’m not sure he would support proposals to scrap night flights, either, if his above statement is anything to go by.
The whole thing becomes even clearer in light of other news out yesterday of plans for Delta Air Lines to add destinations and increase flights to LAX, America’s third busiest airport. By July it is anticipated to have almost doubled the flights it had in 2006.
To my mind, the only thing about a night flight that would make it inhuman is if it were to become extinct. And if that does happen, I’m sure a fair number of us will be on the first day flight outta here.
I’ve never really taken much notice of award ceremonies. They come and go, as do the multitude of celebrities with the multitude of designer dresses and the multitude of tears, speeches and mock-shock.
But for some reason, I have been a bit more attuned to them this year. What with the Baftas, the Brits and the Oscars, to name but a few, there seems to be no end to the countless celebrities adorned with a shiny trophy on their arm.
Doubtless accompanying every single ceremony is the criticism, scepticism and raised eyebrows which seem to challenge each and every winner as if to force a justification for why they have won. Take Anne Hathaway, par example, Bafta winner for her supporting role as Fantine in Les Mis. For every person who recounts her unbelievable performance with awe and sheer delight at her very worthy win, there will be another five who scathingly retort at how little she was actually on screen.
But love her or hate her, no one can doubt that after that performance, and irrelevant of whether or not she won, she deserved to be in the line up.
After all, she delivered.
Which is more than can be said for Kate Middleton (WARNING: This has nothing to do with Mantelpiece), who has not yet had her baby.
I have a lot of respect for the Duchess of Cambridge - it was not that long ago that I spoke publicly in defence of her right to privacy as a pregnant woman. And I think she is a truly worthy role model and upstanding member of the Royal Family.
But she is not yet a mum. Simple as that. Her Foxy Bingo nomination as Celebrity Mum of the Year is, therefore, baffling.
Is it because the unborn child is constantly adorned in beautiful dresses and on-trend pieces from the latest season, all from the inside of her mother’s womb? Or maybe it comes down to the way Kate was pictured this week gently caressing the bump?
Personally, I do not think one can judge how good a celebrity mum is merely from paparazzi pictures and often inaccurate media reports accompanying them, and therefore fail to take the countless accolades intended to applaud them seriously, as it is. But holding up a mum-to-be as an example of perfect motherhood is not only insulting to those mothers who are actually mothers, but is also tempting fate somewhat. Not to be morbid, but just imagine the horrendous scene of a woman who has somehow lost her baby with a Mum of the Year award still up on her mantelpiece. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Imagine the horror of giving an Oscar to an actor before he’s finished filming, or a singer before her song has been released. There would be uproar, and rightly so.
I do hope that this time next year we will all be looking to the Duchess of Cambridge, not only as a perfect princess but a perfect mother. But until then, and once again, let’s just leave this poor woman to carry her unborn child in peace.
I’m not very old, it’s true. But I have been around long enough to amass a small number of less-than-perfect experiences at the walk in centre.
It’s normally the absurd waiting times, which in itself are usually enough to deter me from making the trip to the walk in centre in the first place. But even when I have deemed the ailment serious enough to barter endless hours of my time, it’s not almost the most pleasant of experiences – a recent example seeing my mother and I being led around like headless chickens whilst the doctor tried to find an empty room.
Which is why I am, quite frankly, horrified at today’s announcements that four A&E departments across North West London are to be closed or downgraded – leaving three out of eight boroughs without one and almost two million people without a major hospital. But it’s fine, because all four hospitals will retain a walk in centre to treat non-life threatening injuries for the 70% of A&E patients the NHS deems unnecessary – right?
70%?! On top of all those who are already there? Are they having a laugh? They might as well change the name from a walk in centre to a housing shelter, what with the inevitable endless delays which are sure to ensue – especially after recent reports that A&E waits are the highest they’ve been for a decade. At least then they would be killing two birds with one stone.
And this is all following the recent closures in Lewisham and preceding the two A&E departments which are expected to close in South West London following a meeting of health bosses on Thursday.
It all looks even worse when viewed through the glasses of former government A&E tsar, Matthew Cooke, who said just yesterday that the NHS is obsessed with waiting time targets, prompting fears that the focus is on quantity rather than quality.
If they really are scrapping A&E departments so as to set the waiting time dial back to 0, they’re going to be in for a nasty surprise as waiting times at walk in clinics become simply impossible. Not to mention the very real fact that even if, as the NHS has said, 70% of A&E patients are surplus to requirements, the poor 30% who really need the service are going to have travel further out in order to get it. Which kind of makes the whole ‘accident and emergency’ thing a bit of a paradox.
I desperately hope that I will live out the rest of my days in perfect health. But somehow I think that in 25 years from now, assuming these plans do go ahead, I will remember the small number of less-than-perfect experiences at the walk in centre as some of the best healthcare services of my life.
The Father of the Bride himself, Steve Martin, has become a dad for the first time at the ripe age of 67. I would say the ripe old age, but apparently, if the internet is anything to go by, no one seems to have actually taken any exception to how old he is.
In fact, scrolling down to the comment section of the Daily Mail website, those who have questioned the appropriateness of such a life-changing decision at his age have been virtually lynched by the majority who ‘could not be happier’ for the actor.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Mr Cheaper by the Dozen. But do I think having a child at the age of 67 is the right thing to do? Absolutely not.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic, or incur the wrath of the red arrow, but like it or not, the older you are the riskier having a child becomes. Sometimes I wonder if people realise fully just how equal the partnership of conceiving a child is. There’s a reason that women have a cut-off point in which they are physically no longer able to carry a child into this world, and just because the male counterpart is not involved in the actual carrying of the foetus does not mean that they can, or should, father a child whenever they fancy.
Not to mention the other necessary evils of fathering a child in the later stages of life; namely the fact that you will not be there for them for as long as you should be.
And it’s not just a one-off here and there by those in the public eye and thus, those who clearly think their bank balance is the justification to everything.
Figures released a few weeks ago by the ONS show that the number of men over 50 who are having children has increased by 40% in the last 12 years. And according to the accompanying article in the Daily Mail, it could be down to the fact that men are following famous older fathers.
And this might be down to the fact that although we seem to blindly support older celebrity fathers, we will simultaneously criticise the normal plebs who do the same. After all, there’s no shortage of criticism under this Daily Mail article, and no red arrows lynching the overwhelming opinion that it is not good news.
We need to remember that celebrities, no matter how good looking, funny or clever are, at the end of the day, human. They don’t carry magical sperm and do not live any longer than anyone else. Maybe if we took them off the pedestal they are so often perched upon once in a while, normal people would not see fit to follow in their footsteps.
The kids might be alright. But is this good enough?
When I was about six years old, I ran across the road without looking. My parents’ horror quickly became my own when they subsequently made me wear a harness to school for about a week. At the time I thought I would never forgive them. But 20 odd years later and an overly careful approach to road safety, I now hold this up as a beacon of importance.
Children run across the road. Simple. But as parents, educators and a government supposedly intended to protect its citizens, we have a duty to teach them otherwise. Before today I would not have thought that anyone would want, let alone be able to contradict this. But I was wrong.
As of this morning, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it is to axe the television adverts teaching children to cross the road safely which have been broadcast for 60 years.
The vital importance of these adverts is unarguable. According to reported figures, 260 children were killed on Britain’s roads each year in the mid 90s. By 2010 this had fallen to 55 but in 2011 rose again to 60.
Yet this has not stopped the DfT slashing the budget for road safety publicity from £19 million to just £3.9 million. Even more concerning is the subsequent distribution of this, with the majority spent on targeting drink drivers over the Christmas period, £1.3 million warning drivers to look out for motorcyclists, and the remainder, a meagre £78,000, on keeping children safe. That’s just 2% of the overall road safety budget.
The statement that their adverts will still be available online is an even further disservice to our young ones, as we all know how safe the internet is for children.
Sadly, it seems to be a common theme, what with the childcare reforms relaxing the staff-child ratio also seemingly proposed at the expense of children.
Why did the children cross the road? I don’t know, but you can bet your bottom dollar it has something to do with the fact that they hadn’t seen an advert.