Tag Archives: Most

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Britons are among most at-risk in Europe for alcohol-related cancer

Britons who have two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of developing two of the most lethal forms of cancer, according to a report that confirms the link between regular alcohol consumption and the disease.

People in the UK drink the eighth most out of the European Union’s 28 member states, a report by medical group United European Gastroenterology (UEG) found.

Britons consume an average of 2.1 alcoholic drinks every day, just above the two drinks threshold that significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with either bowel or oesophageal cancer.

Those two drinks are enough to raise a person’s risk of getting bowel cancer by 21%. Anyone having four or more drinks a day is at risk of three other cancers: liver, gastric and pancreatic cancer.

The UK’s position in the league table of alcohol consumption is alongside Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Their citizens also typically have 2.1 drinks a day, which equates to 26.7 grams of alcohol daily or 12.3 litres of pure alcohol across the year.

Lithuania topped the list, with average consumption of 3.2 drinks a day, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania, whose citizens have 2.4 drinks daily.

Britons drink slightly more than either France or Germany, where the average is two drinks. In Ireland the figure is 1.9 drinks, which is also the average across the 28 EU nations. Malta and Italy, on 1.3 drinks a day, came joint last.

“These findings show clearly that because of current consumption levels in Britain we are some of the most at-risk people for developing these types of cancers,” said Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

“This is not surprising when enough alcohol is sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 50% more than the weekly limit recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.

“Alcohol is a group one carcinogen and while the evidence shows any level of drinking increases cancer risk, this risk increases in line with the level of consumption,” added Gilmore, an ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians.

The AHA says that alcohol-related health harm is so great, and awareness of the link between drink and cancer so low at just 10%, that alcohol manufacturers should be forced to put health warnings on the labels of cans and bottles.

It is also urging ministers to organise sustained campaigns to alert the public to the dangers of drinking and to introduce minimum unit pricing, as Scotland is seeking to do, in order to reduce overall consumption and damage to health.

UEG is a professional body that represents 22,000 experts in digestive diseases across the EU, and includes doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and specialists in gastrointestinal cancers.

Europe drinks more alcohol per head of population than anywhere else in the world and consumption in none of the 28 countries is rated as “light” – one drink or less per day, UEG said. The two drinks a day European average counts as “moderate” intake, which is enough to increase the risk of bowel and oesophageal cancer.

Professor Markus Peck, a member of UEG’s public affairs committee and the ex-secretary general of the European Association of the Study of the Liver, said: “One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally.

“Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties.”

It wants reduction of alcohol harm to be a key priority of the Council of the European Union under its new Estonian presidency, including tougher controls on marketing and moves to limit drinking at work, as France has introduced.

Britons are among most at-risk in Europe for alcohol-related cancer

Britons who have two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of developing two of the most lethal forms of cancer, according to a report that confirms the link between regular alcohol consumption and the disease.

People in the UK drink the eighth most out of the European Union’s 28 member states, a report by medical group United European Gastroenterology (UEG) found.

Britons consume an average of 2.1 alcoholic drinks every day, just above the two drinks threshold that significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with either bowel or oesophageal cancer.

Those two drinks are enough to raise a person’s risk of getting bowel cancer by 21%. Anyone having four or more drinks a day is at risk of three other cancers: liver, gastric and pancreatic cancer.

The UK’s position in the league table of alcohol consumption is alongside Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Their citizens also typically have 2.1 drinks a day, which equates to 26.7 grams of alcohol daily or 12.3 litres of pure alcohol across the year.

Lithuania topped the list, with average consumption of 3.2 drinks a day, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania, whose citizens have 2.4 drinks daily.

Britons drink slightly more than either France or Germany, where the average is two drinks. In Ireland the figure is 1.9 drinks, which is also the average across the 28 EU nations. Malta and Italy, on 1.3 drinks a day, came joint last.

“These findings show clearly that because of current consumption levels in Britain we are some of the most at-risk people for developing these types of cancers,” said Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

“This is not surprising when enough alcohol is sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 50% more than the weekly limit recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.

“Alcohol is a group one carcinogen and while the evidence shows any level of drinking increases cancer risk, this risk increases in line with the level of consumption,” added Gilmore, an ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians.

The AHA says that alcohol-related health harm is so great, and awareness of the link between drink and cancer so low at just 10%, that alcohol manufacturers should be forced to put health warnings on the labels of cans and bottles.

It is also urging ministers to organise sustained campaigns to alert the public to the dangers of drinking and to introduce minimum unit pricing, as Scotland is seeking to do, in order to reduce overall consumption and damage to health.

UEG is a professional body that represents 22,000 experts in digestive diseases across the EU, and includes doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and specialists in gastrointestinal cancers.

Europe drinks more alcohol per head of population than anywhere else in the world and consumption in none of the 28 countries is rated as “light” – one drink or less per day, UEG said. The two drinks a day European average counts as “moderate” intake, which is enough to increase the risk of bowel and oesophageal cancer.

Professor Markus Peck, a member of UEG’s public affairs committee and the ex-secretary general of the European Association of the Study of the Liver, said: “One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally.

“Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties.”

It wants reduction of alcohol harm to be a key priority of the Council of the European Union under its new Estonian presidency, including tougher controls on marketing and moves to limit drinking at work, as France has introduced.

Britons are among most at-risk in Europe for alcohol-related cancer

Britons who have two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of developing two of the most lethal forms of cancer, according to a report that confirms the link between regular alcohol consumption and the disease.

People in the UK drink the eighth most out of the European Union’s 28 member states, a report by medical group United European Gastroenterology (UEG) found.

Britons consume an average of 2.1 alcoholic drinks every day, just above the two drinks threshold that significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with either bowel or oesophageal cancer.

Those two drinks are enough to raise a person’s risk of getting bowel cancer by 21%. Anyone having four or more drinks a day is at risk of three other cancers: liver, gastric and pancreatic cancer.

The UK’s position in the league table of alcohol consumption is alongside Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Their citizens also typically have 2.1 drinks a day, which equates to 26.7 grams of alcohol daily or 12.3 litres of pure alcohol across the year.

Lithuania topped the list, with average consumption of 3.2 drinks a day, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania, whose citizens have 2.4 drinks daily.

Britons drink slightly more than either France or Germany, where the average is two drinks. In Ireland the figure is 1.9 drinks, which is also the average across the 28 EU nations. Malta and Italy, on 1.3 drinks a day, came joint last.

“These findings show clearly that because of current consumption levels in Britain we are some of the most at-risk people for developing these types of cancers,” said Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

“This is not surprising when enough alcohol is sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 50% more than the weekly limit recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.

“Alcohol is a group one carcinogen and while the evidence shows any level of drinking increases cancer risk, this risk increases in line with the level of consumption,” added Gilmore, an ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians.

The AHA says that alcohol-related health harm is so great, and awareness of the link between drink and cancer so low at just 10%, that alcohol manufacturers should be forced to put health warnings on the labels of cans and bottles.

It is also urging ministers to organise sustained campaigns to alert the public to the dangers of drinking and to introduce minimum unit pricing, as Scotland is seeking to do, in order to reduce overall consumption and damage to health.

UEG is a professional body that represents 22,000 experts in digestive diseases across the EU, and includes doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and specialists in gastrointestinal cancers.

Europe drinks more alcohol per head of population than anywhere else in the world and consumption in none of the 28 countries is rated as “light” – one drink or less per day, UEG said. The two drinks a day European average counts as “moderate” intake, which is enough to increase the risk of bowel and oesophageal cancer.

Professor Markus Peck, a member of UEG’s public affairs committee and the ex-secretary general of the European Association of the Study of the Liver, said: “One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally.

“Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties.”

It wants reduction of alcohol harm to be a key priority of the Council of the European Union under its new Estonian presidency, including tougher controls on marketing and moves to limit drinking at work, as France has introduced.

Britons are among most at-risk in Europe for alcohol-related cancer

Britons who have two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of developing two of the most lethal forms of cancer, according to a report that confirms the link between regular alcohol consumption and the disease.

People in the UK drink the eighth most out of the European Union’s 28 member states, a report by medical group United European Gastroenterology (UEG) found.

Britons consume an average of 2.1 alcoholic drinks every day, just above the two drinks threshold that significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with either bowel or oesophageal cancer.

Those two drinks are enough to raise a person’s risk of getting bowel cancer by 21%. Anyone having four or more drinks a day is at risk of three other cancers: liver, gastric and pancreatic cancer.

The UK’s position in the league table of alcohol consumption is alongside Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Their citizens also typically have 2.1 drinks a day, which equates to 26.7 grams of alcohol daily or 12.3 litres of pure alcohol across the year.

Lithuania topped the list, with average consumption of 3.2 drinks a day, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania, whose citizens have 2.4 drinks daily.

Britons drink slightly more than either France or Germany, where the average is two drinks. In Ireland the figure is 1.9 drinks, which is also the average across the 28 EU nations. Malta and Italy, on 1.3 drinks a day, came joint last.

“These findings show clearly that because of current consumption levels in Britain we are some of the most at-risk people for developing these types of cancers,” said Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

“This is not surprising when enough alcohol is sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 50% more than the weekly limit recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.

“Alcohol is a group one carcinogen and while the evidence shows any level of drinking increases cancer risk, this risk increases in line with the level of consumption,” added Gilmore, an ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians.

The AHA says that alcohol-related health harm is so great, and awareness of the link between drink and cancer so low at just 10%, that alcohol manufacturers should be forced to put health warnings on the labels of cans and bottles.

It is also urging ministers to organise sustained campaigns to alert the public to the dangers of drinking and to introduce minimum unit pricing, as Scotland is seeking to do, in order to reduce overall consumption and damage to health.

UEG is a professional body that represents 22,000 experts in digestive diseases across the EU, and includes doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and specialists in gastrointestinal cancers.

Europe drinks more alcohol per head of population than anywhere else in the world and consumption in none of the 28 countries is rated as “light” – one drink or less per day, UEG said. The two drinks a day European average counts as “moderate” intake, which is enough to increase the risk of bowel and oesophageal cancer.

Professor Markus Peck, a member of UEG’s public affairs committee and the ex-secretary general of the European Association of the Study of the Liver, said: “One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally.

“Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties.”

It wants reduction of alcohol harm to be a key priority of the Council of the European Union under its new Estonian presidency, including tougher controls on marketing and moves to limit drinking at work, as France has introduced.

Most of central London hospital to be sold off, plans reveal

Almost all of a central London hospital is to be sold and its services diverted to already stretched facilities around the capital under plans for NHS modernisation seen by the Guardian.

Charing Cross hospital, a flagship NHS facility in the heart of London, is to be cut to just 13% of its current size under proposals contained in sustainability and transformation plans published last year in 44 areas across England.

Many of the officially published plans lacked precise detail about how local services would change, but internal supporting documents seen by the Guardian reveal the scale of the closures at the London site.

The proposals claim much of the care currently offered at Charing Cross can be transferred to “community settings” such as local GP services, but health campaigners and clinicians say the transformation could endanger patients.

The documents include a map detailing how 13% of the current hospital site will remain, with the rest of its prime real estate in central London sold off. The plan is to introduce the changes after 2021.

The NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, is thought to be taking a particularly keen interest in what happens at Charing Cross. The site has become a battleground over planned closures of local services, and if the radical changes are adopted here it may be easier to introduce them across the rest of England.

NHS chiefs have stated as recently as March that “there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross hospital”, and in March 2015 the then prime minister, David Cameron, said it was “scaremongering” to suggest that the Charing Cross A&E departmentwas earmarked for closure. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, echoed the claims.

However, in the internal NHS documents the apparent downgrading of Charing Cross is outlined in great detail.

The plan is to axe 10 major services at Charing Cross – 24/7 A&E, emergency surgery, intensive care and a range of complex emergency and non-emergency medical and surgical treatments. The remaining services would be a series of outpatient and GP clinics, X-ray and CT scans, a pharmacy and an urgent care centre for “minor injuries and illnesses”. Around 300 acute beds will be lost.

The internal documents state: “The significant impact of reconfiguration on inpatient activity will be the movement of activity from Charing Cross and Ealing.”

The plans have sparked a row between the borough where Charing Cross is based – Labour-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham council – and the NHS North West London Collaborative of Clinical Commissioning Groups, which is driving the changes.

Stephen Cowan, the leader of the council, has accused the NHS chiefs of deliberately misleading the public about the Charing Cross plans.

“It’s like demolishing someone’s house only to tell them they have in fact not lost their house – because they’ll be given a new garden shed which will be called their ‘local house’,” said Cowan.

He said NHS chiefs had rebranded the urgent care centre for minor injuries and would be run by GPs and nurse practitioners as a local A&E.

“That still constitutes the demolition and closure of Charing Cross hospital in its current form. No one would see what is left as a hospital in any generally accepted definition of the word,” Cowan added. “A ‘local hospital’ is a clinic. A class 3 A&E is an urgent care clinic.”

A spokeswoman for North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “We are still committed to taking forward changes as agreed by the secretary of state in 2013. We have been clear that we will have local services in place to meet demand and deliver the necessary services for patients before we make any changes to Charing Cross.

“Our current focus is on delivering those new and improved services for local people. We have been clear that no changes will be made before 2021 and that for Charing Cross we will bring forward a strategic outline case in the future which sets out the capital requirement for making these changes and that remains our intention.

“As we look at changes to Charing Cross hospital we will of course continue to work closely with the council and value their important input into these discussions.”

NHS officials have accused Hammersmith & Fulham council of breaching the code of recommended practice on local authority publicity by circulating flyers to residents in March of this year warning of the closure of Charing Cross as a major hospital.

The council delayed replying due to election purdah but Cowan has recently drafted a response to NHS chiefs accusing them of “playing fast and loose with the English language” and demonstrating “a contempt for the public who you evidently hope are taken in by such misrepresentation”.

In the letter, Cowan adds that the published plans for the future of the hospital have avoided mentioning much of the detail contained in the confidential plans.

Charing Cross is thought to be one of five London hospitals that a recent government-commissioned review – by a former University College London hospital chief executive, Sir Robert Naylor – identified as each being worth more than £1bn if sold.

The NHS in England is gearing up to start selling off billions of pounds worth of land and property in order to free up cash to tackle what Naylor estimated to be a £10bn backlog of repairs to sometimes crumbling old buildings.

The Health Service Journal disclosed last week that the Department of Health was preparing to create six regional public/private partnerships covering all of England that would oversee such sales. The plan, codenamed Project Phoenix, would see the proceeds from asset sales being shared between NHS organisations and private firms. Under the plan, London and the south-east would comprise one giant, and very valuable, area.

Most of Northern Ireland strongly backs abortion law reform, survey finds

A large majority of Northern Ireland’s population are in favour of reforming the region’s strict anti-abortion laws and back legal terminations for women made pregnant through sexual violence, a new survey has found.

Nearly 80% of the public in the region believe abortion should be legal when a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, according to the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

The public attitudes survey, regarded as one of the most accurate barometers of social option in the region, also found that 73% of those polled think abortion should be legal in local hospitals in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities – that is when if a pregnancy goes full term the baby will be born dead or die shortly after birth.

Amnesty International, which has been campaigning for abortion reform in Northern Ireland, said these latest findings show there is overwhelming support for liberalising the anti-abortion regime in the province.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s campaign manager in Northern Ireland, said: “Not only do a huge majority of people in Northern Ireland want to see abortion made available to women and girls in the tragic circumstances of sexual crime or fatal foetal diagnosis, but we know from a previous Amnesty survey that they also want to see abortion decriminalised and dealt with through healthcare policy.”

She added: “Abortion is a healthcare and human rights issue. It is high time the law was changed in line with the overwhelming wishes of the public. Then women would no longer have to travel to England for an abortion and they and their medical carers would no longer be treated as potential criminals. Politicians in Northern Ireland and at Westminster must heed this demand for change.”

Many Northern Ireland politicians, including the Democratic Unionist party, who have been thrust into the role of potential kingmakers in Theresa May’s minority Conservative administration, oppose any liberalisation of the abortion laws. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.

This has resulted in thousands of women and girls having to travel to Britain for terminations in private clinics. Earlier this week the supreme court in London ruled against a mother and daughter from Northern Ireland who had wanted to establish the right to have a free abortion in an English NHS hospital.

A mother and her baby protest alongside fellow pro-choice supporters outside the Public Prosecution Office in Belfast.


A mother and her baby protest alongside fellow pro-choice supporters outside the Public Prosecution Office in Belfast. They had gathered in support of a woman who was convicted for using abortion pills. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Abortions in Northern Ireland’s hospitals are only available to women and girls where their life or health is in grave danger; only 23 were carried out in 2013-14.

The author of the report, Ann-Marie Gray, who is professor of Social Policy at Ulster University and policy director of the Access Knowledge Research institute, said: “Northern Ireland currently has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Women who are viewed as infringing these laws and those who assist them are subject to harsh criminal penalties.

“These findings, based on the views of a representative sample of the Northern Ireland public, show that abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is out of step with public opinion. There is very strong support for changes to the law in cases where the life or the health of the pregnant woman is at risk, in cases of fatal and serious foetal abnormality and where a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.”

Attempts by the former Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford to bring in limited abortion reform and allow for terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities have been vetoed by the combined votes of the DUP, some of the Ulster Unionist party and members of the Social Democratic and Labour party. In 2015 Sinn Féin changed its policy to support abortions in both parts of Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

A number of Northern Irish women are facing prosecution over procuring abortion pills from pro-choice charities via the internet. In March on International Women’s Day the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided two premises searching for abortion pills, including a workshop belonging to pro-choice Belfast campaigner Helen Crickard. No pills were found but Crickard said she felt “violated and humiliated” over the raid in the south of the city.

In 2016, a 21-year-old woman was given a suspended prison sentence for buying drugs online to induce a miscarriage. She had been reported by her flatmates after they found out she had taken the abortion pills.

A mother is facing prosecution for procuring abortion pills for her then underage daughter.