Category Archives: Diet & Fitness

Boots apologises over morning-after pill pricing row

Boots has said it is “truly sorry” for the way it responded to a campaign calling for it to cut the price of emergency contraception and said it is looking for cheaper alternatives.

The announcement, late on Friday night, came after news that the women’s parliamentary Labour party (PLP) had written to the store’s chief pharmacist to express “deep concern” about the company’s refusal to reduce the price of emergency contraception, and as calls for a boycott continue to grow.

Boots had said on Thursday it would not lower the cost of the morning-after pill despite a campaign from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a leading provider of abortion care, with its chief pharmacist, Marc Donovan, stating that the company did not want to be accused of “incentivising inappropriate use”.

Campaigners said the statement was insulting and sexist, and on Friday Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe – where the Boots headquarters is located – said she was also writing a letter to the company asking it to make clear its reasons for not reducing prices.

Jess Phillips (@jessphillips)

Labour women join @bpas1968 in their campaign to demand @BootsUK rethink moral judgements and sheepish assertions on emergency contraceptive pic.twitter.com/y5N670TQ4I

July 21, 2017

The Labour letter, signed by the chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour party, Jess Phillips, as well as a number of prominent MPs including Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves, said: “Boots is the largest high-street pharmacy in the UK, and 90% of the population lives within 10 minutes of one of their shops.

“It is therefore completely unacceptable that British women have been paying up to £30 for a pill that costs a fraction of that to produce. The high cost of emergency contraception at Boots is preventing women from accessing it when needed.”

Both Tesco and Superdrug halved the price of their emergency contraceptive following the BPAS campaign, but Boots continues to charge £28.25 for Levonelle emergency contraceptive (the leading brand) and £26.75 for its own generic version. Tesco now charges £13.50 for Levonelle and Superdrug £13.49 for a generic version. In France, the tablet costs £5.50.

bpas (@bpas1968)

This is why Boots refuse to reduce the price of emergency contraception. Angry? Email @BootsUK now: https://t.co/g8NW8VAHX3 #JustSayNon pic.twitter.com/ohk3GBkBJs

July 20, 2017

“Boots’ justification infantalises women and places a moral judgment on them,” Phillips told the Guardian. “Their pricing is clearly for commercial gain as Tesco and Superdrug have addressed this issue with sensible pricing.

“Women do not need to be disincentivised by Boots to make personal choices about their bodies. We women go to Boots for our products, not moral guidance. Public opinion is not on their side so if they are worried about complaints they are listening to the wrong voices and customers should vote with their feet.”

Phillips said she did not believe Boots “would ever pass moral judgment on men’s contraceptives”. “Do they give a lecture on consent with all condom purchases?” she said.

In a recent YouGov survey, the median cost suggested by women for emergency contraception was £8, and the median cost suggested by men was £5. Almost a third of women and a quarter of men, the Labour letter added, believed emergency contraception should be free of charge.

“Concern about adverse criticism from pressure groups seems a very strange reason not to do the right thing,” Soubry said. “This is perfectly proper and lawful treatment. I’ve always found Boots to be an excellent business company, they employ a lot of people in my constituency, they are a valued employer and they’ve always had a strong desire to do the right thing throughout the whole of their long history. So not doing this doesn’t sit with the way Boots normally operates and the high standing it has locally.

“I would hope that they would be true to their tradition of doing the right thing, and doing the right thing is not giving in to pressure from the noisiest quarters. I am asking them for what reasons they are not reducing the cost of the morning-after pill given that other companies have reduced the charge. I urge them to reduce prices in accordance with their competitors.”

The MP Stella Creasy tweeted that Boots’ decision “contravenes consumer rights act given adds disproportionate charge which is not advertised”, while the writer Marian Keyes was among those condemning the company on Twitter, saying she would be “withdrawing my (considerable) custom”.

stellacreasy (@stellacreasy)

This is awful @BootsUK @BootsHelp & also contravenes consumer rights act given adds disproportionate charge which is not advertised.. https://t.co/DAvDiN1hAq

July 21, 2017

Announcing the retailer’s change of stance on Friday night, a spokesman for Boots said: “Pharmacy and care for customers are at the heart of everything we do, and as such we are truly sorry that our poor choice of words in describing our position on emergency hormonal contraception has caused offence and misunderstanding, and we sincerely apologise.”

In his original response to campaigners, Donovan said that Boots considered the issue very carefully but pointed out that the morning-after pill is already available for free in community pharmacies and NHS services.

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party, which had joined forces with BPAS to call for a boycott using the hashtag #justsaynon, said that the morning-after pill can be difficult to access for free on the NHS, with appointments at GP surgeries or family planning clinics hard to obtain at short notice.

“Many women will need to buy these pills over the counter, and it is irresponsible and exploitative for retailers to charge over the odds for them … Boots’ approach to this concern is indicative of a society that prioritises profit over women’s health and wellbeing,” Walker said.

Ann Clwyd MP, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sexual and reproductive health, said: “Boots need to wise up. The reality is there are too many unwanted births. How come the tablets are available in France for £5.50? A case of Boots’ profit priority, I would say.”

Prurience review – come and join the self-help group for porn addicts

Chris is our group leader, a sandy-haired man sporting a baseball cap and a caring smile. He wants us to talk about the first time we saw pornography. People in the circle shift uncomfortably in their seats.

Nobody wants to catch Chris’s eye. Slowly, people begin to speak. Somebody tells of finding the builders’ stash of magazines hidden in a skip, another talks of a boys-only school trip to Holland and discovering adult channels on Dutch TV. An older man, Rick, makes the point that, for his generation, a first sexual experience often came before widespread exposure to porn.

The cabaret star Christopher Green’s Prurience, originally developed with the Sick! festival, describes itself as “an experiential entertainment about porn”. But that’s not all it is. Green is testing the limits of theatre, the role of audience participation, the line between the real and fictional worlds, and just how much he can muck around with the audience’s heads. He has form in this department, most notably with The Frozen Scream, a disappointing immersive-theatre collaboration with the novelist Sarah Waters at Wales Millennium Centre in 2015.

Prurience ‘founder’ Amelia Atkins joins the session.


Prurience ‘founder’ Amelia Atkins joins the session. Photograph: James W Norton

Unlike that project, this is no horror show. Quite the contrary – it’s often very funny and genuinely discomforting, largely because the dramaturgy is much sharper and tighter. It immediately solves the crucial central problem of so much immersive theatre in justifying our presence in the piece. Punchdrunk deal with it by putting the audience in masks so we become shadows at the spectacle. In Prurience, we are all participants in an Alcoholics Anonymous-style therapy group for porn addicts founded by former porn actor Amelia Atkins (played brilliantly on film by Pippa Winslow), whose stick-on face of permanent concern makes her look as if she is suffering from a really bad case of constipation.

You leave your bag and your inhibitions at the door, stick on a name badge, help yourself to herbal tea and biscuits (“for those who haven’t yet dealt with their sugar addiction”) and allow yourself to sink into the welcoming world of self-help groups. We are invited to join in the group singalong and shut our eyes and raise our hands if we have ever run along a street for the sheer joy of it, or sat on the edge of our bed and cried. What’s fascinating is how prepared people are to play along, even though the entire thing has a lightly satirical edge. We are drawn in almost without realising it.

Soon we move on to the sharing: there’s a young biochemist who believes that his erectile dysfunction is a result of watching too much porn from the age of 11 which has shaped his neural pathways. And there’s a woman who gets off from watching gay male porn, although she draws the line at fisting because it reminds her too much of her job as a vet.

But gradually it becomes apparent from the fixed smile of Chris — played by Green himself — that there are rumblings of discontent among regular attenders at the group. What is its function? Is porn addiction a real thing? Are therapy groups such as Atkins’ Prurience merely cult-like money spinners, part of a capitalism conspiracy that on one hand sells us porn and then tries to sell us the apparent cure? Maybe porn, food, drugs and social media have simply become a substitute for the other certainties – such as faith – that we used to believe in.

Prurience shares similar territory with David Hare’s 2000 Royal Court play My Zinc Bed in the way its raises the possibility that therapy groups substitute one kind of addiction for the addiction of public confession and how it inspects whether anyone really wants to be totally cured of desire. But it is way more interesting than Hare’s play because of the way it genuinely tries to marry form and content. We are sitting in a room pretending we are in a therapy group that is discussing people’s disconnection from the real world because of porn. It’s a piece of fiction about an addiction that some scientists dispute even exists.

If you want an idea of just how discombobulating the entire experience is, suffice to say that the post-show discussion doesn’t take place where you might expect. There were a few dislocating moments when I genuinely considered the possibility that everyone in the room was an actor apart from the five people I knew.

Prurience doesn’t entirely succeed in keeping all the balls in the air, but at its fiendish, exhilarating best it makes you question not just attitudes to porn but how we experience reality.

Prurience review – come and join the self-help group for porn addicts

Chris is our group leader, a sandy-haired man sporting a baseball cap and a caring smile. He wants us to talk about the first time we saw pornography. People in the circle shift uncomfortably in their seats.

Nobody wants to catch Chris’s eye. Slowly, people begin to speak. Somebody tells of finding the builders’ stash of magazines hidden in a skip, another talks of a boys-only school trip to Holland and discovering adult channels on Dutch TV. An older man, Rick, makes the point that, for his generation, a first sexual experience often came before widespread exposure to porn.

The cabaret star Christopher Green’s Prurience, originally developed with the Sick! festival, describes itself as “an experiential entertainment about porn”. But that’s not all it is. Green is testing the limits of theatre, the role of audience participation, the line between the real and fictional worlds, and just how much he can muck around with the audience’s heads. He has form in this department, most notably with The Frozen Scream, a disappointing immersive-theatre collaboration with the novelist Sarah Waters at Wales Millennium Centre in 2015.

Prurience ‘founder’ Amelia Atkins joins the session.


Prurience ‘founder’ Amelia Atkins joins the session. Photograph: James W Norton

Unlike that project, this is no horror show. Quite the contrary – it’s often very funny and genuinely discomforting, largely because the dramaturgy is much sharper and tighter. It immediately solves the crucial central problem of so much immersive theatre in justifying our presence in the piece. Punchdrunk deal with it by putting the audience in masks so we become shadows at the spectacle. In Prurience, we are all participants in an Alcoholics Anonymous-style therapy group for porn addicts founded by former porn actor Amelia Atkins (played brilliantly on film by Pippa Winslow), whose stick-on face of permanent concern makes her look as if she is suffering from a really bad case of constipation.

You leave your bag and your inhibitions at the door, stick on a name badge, help yourself to herbal tea and biscuits (“for those who haven’t yet dealt with their sugar addiction”) and allow yourself to sink into the welcoming world of self-help groups. We are invited to join in the group singalong and shut our eyes and raise our hands if we have ever run along a street for the sheer joy of it, or sat on the edge of our bed and cried. What’s fascinating is how prepared people are to play along, even though the entire thing has a lightly satirical edge. We are drawn in almost without realising it.

Soon we move on to the sharing: there’s a young biochemist who believes that his erectile dysfunction is a result of watching too much porn from the age of 11 which has shaped his neural pathways. And there’s a woman who gets off from watching gay male porn, although she draws the line at fisting because it reminds her too much of her job as a vet.

But gradually it becomes apparent from the fixed smile of Chris — played by Green himself — that there are rumblings of discontent among regular attenders at the group. What is its function? Is porn addiction a real thing? Are therapy groups such as Atkins’ Prurience merely cult-like money spinners, part of a capitalism conspiracy that on one hand sells us porn and then tries to sell us the apparent cure? Maybe porn, food, drugs and social media have simply become a substitute for the other certainties – such as faith – that we used to believe in.

Prurience shares similar territory with David Hare’s 2000 Royal Court play My Zinc Bed in the way its raises the possibility that therapy groups substitute one kind of addiction for the addiction of public confession and how it inspects whether anyone really wants to be totally cured of desire. But it is way more interesting than Hare’s play because of the way it genuinely tries to marry form and content. We are sitting in a room pretending we are in a therapy group that is discussing people’s disconnection from the real world because of porn. It’s a piece of fiction about an addiction that some scientists dispute even exists.

If you want an idea of just how discombobulating the entire experience is, suffice to say that the post-show discussion doesn’t take place where you might expect. There were a few dislocating moments when I genuinely considered the possibility that everyone in the room was an actor apart from the five people I knew.

Prurience doesn’t entirely succeed in keeping all the balls in the air, but at its fiendish, exhilarating best it makes you question not just attitudes to porn but how we experience reality.

Nursing shortages fuelling delayed discharge from hospital

There is no doubt that delays in arranging follow-on social care are causing more older people to be stranded in hospital. But a new analysis of the problem says shortage of district nurses is at least as big a factor.

The number of district nurses in the UK has plummeted by 44% since 2010 when counted as full-time jobs, according to the analysis of NHS data by consultancy Christie & Co (pdf).

The trend is described as a “key trigger” of hospital admissions of older people and of subsequent delayed discharge. District and other community nurses play a crucial role in treating people in their own homes or in care homes when they might otherwise be referred to hospital.

Since 2008, numbers of people aged 60 and over admitted to hospital have soared 65%, the analysis finds.

Michael Hodges, head of care consultancy at Christie & Co, says ministers are missing the bigger, more complex picture behind delayed discharge by focusing narrowly on blockages in the social care system.

“We need to take a much more rounded view of the whole health and social care system,” he says, “including workforce planning for essential roles like district and community nurses and a proper assessment of what more social care providers could offer to ease pressure on hospitals.”

According to a breakdown of delayed discharge figures by Christie & Co, some of the areas said by the NHS to have the worst problems have ample capacity in local care homes to accept older people from hospital for short-term “reablement”.

Homes in Birmingham, which is said to have the biggest delayed discharge challenge, are shown to be operating at only 77.5% capacity. Those in Hampshire, which is said to have the second most severe problem measured by number of days of discharge delays, are running at 84.2%.

“There are great opportunities – and not just for a quick fix,” says Hodges. “I really hope that somehow the politicians look at it properly and strategically for the long term.”

The analysis includes a survey of fees paid to care homes for state-funded residents by 123 English councils, four in five of the total, plus figures for fees charged by more than 200 care providers.

On average, “base” fees offered by councils are shown to have increased by 3%-4% this year. But providers have been able to negotiate better terms for care of older people, with an average uplift of 5.2%.

By contrast, fees for “specialist” care such as learning disability or low-secure accommodation have risen by only 1.9% on average – the second successive year to show such disparity.

Hodges says providers are starting to think twice about investment in specialist care and suggests policymakers need “urgently” to look at funding for this part of the social care sector.

The survey confirms a continuing trend of care home providers squeezing self-funding residents, with an average fee increase of 6.3% for private payers and as big a rise as 9.8% in one case.

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Half of pupils expelled from school have mental health issue, study finds

Half of all pupils expelled from school are suffering from a recognised mental health problem, according to a study.

Those who are permanently excluded find themselves at a significant disadvantage, with only one in a hundred going on to attain five good GCSEs, which are often used as a benchmark of academic success.

The majority will end up in prison, says the study by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which estimates that of the 86,000-strong prison population, more then 54,000 were excluded at school.

The IPPR says its research lays bare the “broken system” facing excluded pupils. It flags up high levels of mental health issues among permanently excluded students – at least one in two, compared with one in 50 pupils in the wider population.

The thinktank also highlights the disadvantages such children face, as those excluded are four times more likely to grow up in poverty and twice as likely to be living in care. They are also seven times more likely to have special educational needs than those who are not excluded, the report claims.

After exclusion, the study says there is a downward spiral of underachievement, with teachers in schools catering for excluded pupils twice as likely to have no educational qualifications.

Kiran Gill, an IPPR associate fellow and founder of The Difference, which works to improve mental health provision for excluded pupils, described the system as “burningly unjust”.

She said: “Theresa May says she is committed to improving the mental health of young people. Addressing the most vulnerable children being thrown out of England’s schools is a good place to start. Because unequal treatment of mental health may be an injustice, but the discrimination of school exclusions is a crime.

“If the government is serious about real action on mental health, there needs to be dedicated funding and thought through solutions rather than sticking plasters on the symptoms of the problem.”

The IPPR research was published before the government’s latest annual figures on permanent and fixed period exclusions from schools in England in 2015-16, which is scheduled to be released on Thursday.

Responding to the report, the Department for Education said any decision to exclude should be lawful, reasonable and fair, and should only be used as a last resort in response to serious breaches of a school’s behaviour policy.

“This government is committed to working with local authorities and schools to ensure children in alternative provision receive a high quality education,” a DfE spokesperson said.

“We are strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff and have announced plans for every secondary school to be offered mental health first aid training. Later this year we will publish a green paper with proposals for further improving mental health services.”

  • In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here