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£25m investment in maternity services, CMO bashes homeopathy and a tool to calculate your 'new' BMI

A roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 24 January

Homeopathy has been dismissed as ‘rubbish’ by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, according to the Daily Mail.

Dame Sally said she was ‘perpetually surprised’ it is available on the NHS and voiced concerns about homeopathic ‘peddlers’.

The bashing occurred while she was giving evidence to the House of Commons’ science and technology committee, where she said that homeopathy does not work past the placebo effect.

Her concerns come despite the fact that it has been endorsed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who in 2007 signed an early day motion backing its use on the NHS. The health service spends £4 million a year on homeopathic hospitals, prescriptions and referrals.

NHS maternity units are to share a £25 million fund to cope with the baby boom and improve the experience of childbirth, the Guardian reports today.

More than 100 hospitals in England will share the £25 million to purchase extra birthing pools, more family rooms for dads to sleep over and extra midwife-led units.

Some hospitals will install en-suite facilities for expectant mothers, as well as rooms where relatives can mourn the loss of a baby.

Despite a decade-long baby boom with births at their highest rate for 40 years, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has previously warned that maternity services across the UK are at a ‘tipping point’ because the NHS has 5,000 fewer midwives than necessary to cope with the rising number of births.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said the investment would results in ‘positive changes’ up and down the country. However shadow health minister Dianne Abbott warned that NHS maternity services were still ‘dangerously fragile’ and that £25 million alone would not change that.

Over at the BBC we find news that will make women want to stub out their cigarettes. The changing habits of female smokers, such as starting earlier and smoking more cigarettes, mean women are far more likely to die as a result of smoking than they were in the 1960s.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at data from more than two million women in the US found increased risks of lung cancer and death rates catching up with men.

Medical records from women between 2000 and 2010 showed they were 25 times more likely to die from lung cancer than a non-smoking friend. This compared with medical records of women in the 1960s which showed they were only three times more likely to die than their non-smoking peers.

It follows a similar pattern in men, who reached a similar level in the 1980s.

Speaking after that study, Professor Sir Richard Peto, from Oxford University, put it bluntly. ‘If women smoke like men, they die like men,’ he said.

And finally, the Telegraph provides us with a handy tool to calculate our ‘new’ BMI, after researchers at Oxford University found a flaw in the current formula measuring the relationship between height and weight.

Under the revamped formula, researchers said shorter people could be ‘fatter than they think’, and could gain a point.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It is a shame that Britons have to experience the bigotry and hatred of homeopathic critics such as Ms. Davies - and that is what is, since the argument is of course nothing to do with evidence.

    In over 95% of all trials comparing homeopathy versus standard conventional medical treatments, homeopathy is either equal or superior. The effect sizes from homeopathic treatment of for instance, eczema and asthma are equivalent to effects sizes for use of corticosteroids - as demonstrated in multiple real world studies.

    The observational and cohort studies all show a very high level of effectiveness for homeopathy in nearly every chronic illness. RCTs are more mixed, due to inadequately designed and powered trials - unlike pharmaceutical trials, those who conduct homeopathic RCT's don't have billion dollar budgets to first do a dozen test run studies (which are never published) to find the design that highlights the drug most effectively. Nevertheless, the % of positive versus negative homeopathic RCTs is EXACLTLY the same as with conventional medicine.

    Edzard Ernst says placebos have small effect sizes. Clearly he hasn't done his homework, b/c the effect sizes of homeopathic treatment are very large - often eclipsing the most effective drugs available - and this is demonstrated in dozens and dozens of studies.

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  • Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it helps if you know what you're talking about, and Dame Sally has clearly demonstrated she doesn't know anything at all about Homeopathy or it's results. The people and doctors of Cuba have a very different opinion, based on their experience, and Homeopathy is used for millions of people there...successfully! Seeing is believing, go and see.

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