INDEPENDENT 2024-02-09 18:04:01


Tory peer slams Domino’s over ‘egregious’ Easter Cream Egg cookie

A Conservative former health minister has slammed Domino’s for making a Cadbury Creme Egg cookie to celebrate Easter.

Tory peer Lord Bethell said the “egregious” product, which is a whole Creme Egg inside a Domino’s cookie, is targeted at children and will fuel the “appalling” decline in child health in the UK.

He called Cadbury and Domino’s executives “a bunch of morons” and said the companies’ boards and shareholders “should be ashamed of themselves”.

Just days after a report warned children are being “betrayed” as the UK fails to give them a healthy start to life, Lord Bethell said the companies are “taking the p***”.

He told The Independent: “Creme Egg and Domino’s have sat together and said, ‘what shall we do together?’ and that is what they have come up with.”

Videos of Creme Eggs and recipes inspired by the seasonal chocolate have gone viral on social media platforms including TikTok, generating tens of millions of views.

And Lord Bethell said: “So your great idea, oh genius food brands, is to follow TikTok and produce a recipe with your great brands behind it and use social media to market it to children.

“It is a total abdication of responsibility, you are curators of two of the biggest food brands in the country… and this is where you end up? With the Creme Egg cookie?”

“Have you got nothing better to do with your lives? It is beyond ridiculous, what a bunch of morons,” he added.

Domino’s hit back at the criticism of the product, which is available from Monday, saying the crossover “brings together two much loved, iconic brands”.

“At just over 370 calories per cookie, they are in line with the content of many other treats available on the high street such as frappes and croissants,” a spokesman said.

“We know our customers love to share our existing cookies, and we expect they will do the same with the new Crème Egg cookies,” they added.

Lord Bethell, who served as a junior health minister during the pandemic, said he is all for companies deciding what food products to make “if they make sensible decisions”.

But the healthy eating campaigner said “they’re not”.

“We hand these companies the keys to making lots of money by selling food to our kids, and this is what they do with the privilege,” he said.

He added: “Give me a break… they are totally taking the p***.”

His comments come after academics highlighted the “appalling decline” of the health of children under the age of five in the UK – with soaring rates of obesity and tooth decay.

A report by the Academy for Medical Sciences found that, in recent years, progress on child health has “stalled”.

Key concerns outlined in the report include:

Glasgow University’s Professor Helen Minnis, co-chairwoman of the report, said: “Child deaths are rising, infant survival lags behind comparable countries, and preventable physical and mental health issues plague our youngest citizens.

“The science is clear – we are betraying our children. Unless the health of babies and young children is urgently prioritised, we condemn many to a life of poorer health and lost potential. The time to act is now.”

Co-chairman Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, from the University of Oxford, said: “There are huge challenges for the NHS today, driven by the growing pressures on health and social care from an ageing population.

“Even more disconcerting is the evidence cited in our Academy of Medical Sciences report of an appalling decline in the health of our children, which makes for an even more bleak outlook for their future.

“There is clear evidence in the report that tackling childhood health conditions, addressing inequalities and providing early years social support can change the future of health and prosperity.”

Revealed: Patients made pregnant and raped in mental health wards

Dozens of new allegations of sexual assault and abuse, including claims of rape and of patients being made pregnant, have emerged following this newspaper’s investigation into Britain’s mental health wards.

One patient with a mental health disorder became pregnant by a member of staff. Allegations of rape, and of children being groomed by healthcare assistants, were among the 40 horrifying new reports of abuse made against rogue NHS Trusts.

The investigation, conducted by The Independent, alongside Sky News, revealed more than 20,000 allegations of sexual assault and harassment across more than 30 NHS England mental health trusts since 2019.

Several patients, who have come forward with their own harrowing stories, had allegedly been harmed by healthcare assistants, who currently are not regulated.

Natalie, whose name has been changed, was one of several patients groomed and asked to share sexually explicit photos by a healthcare assistant working at a children’s mental health ward in 2020.

Natalie, who was 16 at the time, told The Independent: “The first few conversations [after I was discharged] were very innocent. However after weeks and months, he started speaking in a sexual nature, asking me to send explicit photos of myself, posting explicit photos of himself and asking to meet up for sexual advances, I didn’t realise it at the time, but he was grooming me; this was all over Snapchat.

“I feel and still feel very small, and that I wasn’t looked at as a person [by the hospital], and they only saw me as a patient with no feelings that mattered. It felt like another incident at … that just got swept under the rug.”

The staff member was convicted of multiple crimes, including two counts of making indecent images of children, one count of stalking and two breaches of an interim sexual risk order. A judge released him from custody at his sentencing hearing, according to the National Crime Agency.

The staff member had served seven months on remand and was unable to attend rehabilitation courses in prison. He was sentenced to 25 days of rehabilitation, 150 hours of unpaid work, and given a five-year sex offender notification requirement, and a five-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

In further horrific cases of abuse identified by Sky News and The Independent, a vulnerable patient fell pregnant after sex attacks in hospitals.

The patient, represented by solicitors Irwin Mitchell, fell pregnant while she was an inpatient at the Priory in Surrey. In 2022, a healthcare worker was convicted of sexual assault and jailed. His victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, remains in care.

Joy Popock, a patient being treated at Homerton University Hospital, claims she was told to go to her room and stop crying after making allegations that a drunk patient had groped her breasts while on a mixed-sex ward in 2007.

East London NHS Foundation Trust, which now runs the hospital, said it is “deeply concerned” about the alleged incident and the continued distress it had caused, but said all of its “adult work age” wards are single-sex.

The trust said it encourages all support service users and staff to report incidents of this nature to the police and its incident reporting system and that it has signed up to the NHS sexual safety charter.

In a further incident, patient Jacqueline Dean says she was sedated and raped by two staff members at a psychiatric hospital in Doncaster in 2017.

“I wasn’t even able to move, I was paralysed. I could see everything. I could feel everything. [But] I couldn’t do anything. Not anything at all,” she said.

Following her allegation of rape, Jacqueline was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The incident was reported to the police, but did not result in a conviction.

In response to her allegations, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust said it can confirm that six years ago it received a complaint which was investigated by the police. It said the trust concluded it should not proceed further as it did not believe a crime had been committed.

In a fourth story, Eleanor from Yorkshire, whose name has been changed, said she had been abused for six weeks by a healthcare assistant at Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust in 2008.

She reported the alleged abuse in 2012 after she had been discharged, which triggered an investigation by the trust and police. However, no police charges were brought.

She told The Independent that the trust’s response “was horrible”. She said: “Everything that I thought was compassionate care [and] the norm was not.”

The reports follow a major inquiry into sexual abuse by two consultant psychiatrists of several vulnerable female patients. The inquiry made several recommendations for the NHS.

Eleanor said: “The abuse was reframed as promiscuity [by staff] who said it was symptomatic of a personality disorder. It left me feeling suicidal and wanting to die … It has completely, destroyed my trust in the NHS as a whole.”

Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust said it was aware of the original allegation. The trust said it is currently looking into allegations by the patient brought to its attention this week and due to the length of time that has passed since the alleged events took place, it cannot make specific comments at this time.

The scandal comes during a week-long national awareness campaign around sexual abuse.

Politicians are now demanding action, including Tory MP Sir Charles Walker. He told The Independent: “Hospital wards need to be safe places for patients and staff.

“The fact that this is not the case in many mental health inpatient environments is enormously concerning. We need to understand why mental health wards are not safe and why issues of sexual assault seem to be so pronounced. We need to know why this is going on.”

One senior NHS manager working in a mental health trust, told The Independent: “I do think some organisations don’t believe patients fundamentally. I think there’s a real reluctance to acknowledge the really bad things that have gone on: ‘Oh that couldn’t possibly have happened.’ Because we work in mental health, I don’t think people are always believed.

“But in my experience mental health services [also attract] not-so-good people; we work with vulnerable people and those bad people out there know that.”

She added that private hospitals were worse as they “close ranks” when allegations are made.

NHS nurse, Leanne Patrick told The Independent: “Despite the demonstrable impact on staff wellbeing and patient safety, the NHS is failing to adequately address sexual violence.

“The NHS needs to move away from being reactive and develop a solid prevention strategy and it needs to begin with valuing the lives, wellbeing and dignity of women and girls. At present it cannot even commit to single-sex wards, despite evidence of harm.”

NHS England was approached for comment and asked how hospitals are held to account for safeguarding patients against sexual assault. It said its current “sexual safety standards” are guidance and that there are no mandatory standards.

It said “Trusts are expected to follow guidance and are responsible for acting in accordance with the law, safeguarding patients and reporting sexual safety incidents”.

This story was updated to include a response from Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust and NHS England.

Long-time Tory Rod Stewart says Labour should win next election

Long-time Tory Rod Stewarthas thrown his weight behind Labour’s Keir Starmer ahead of a general election this year.

The British rocker, 79, slammed “lying f***ing public schoolboy” Boris Johnson and called for the Conservatives to be booted out of No10 following a string of unelected prime ministers.

Keir Starmer and Labour deserve a crack at it,” he toldThe Times in an interview on Friday. “If there was anyone else we could vote for, then maybe, but they should be given a shot.”

Stewart, who moved back to the UK last year after three decades living in Los Angeles, said he was watching “what the Conservatives get up to”.

“Well, I liked Boris Johnson,” he said. “He was a good figurehead, but he turned out to be a lying f***ing public schoolboy. He got found out and things haven’t been much better since. How many prime ministers have we had that haven’t been voted for? What’s all that about?”

His remark is at odds with comments made in June 2023 when he admitted he was “still a bit of a fan” of the former prime minister in the wake of a report, which found Johnson had mislead parliament over illegal gathering in Downing Street during the pandemic.

“I was and still am a bit of a fan of Boris because I think he’s got wonderful charisma,” the “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” star told Sky News.

He added: “But you know, you knew what you were getting with Boris, so it’s not unusual. He’s told a few porkies over the years. So I’m not surprised.

“He’s in big trouble now. But how is he going to make a comeback? I don’t know. Maybe he should talk to me. I’ve been making comebacks for years.”

Six months earlier, the self-professed “long-time Tory” surprised Sky News viewers when he joined a live phone-in about the NHS Crisis, declaring that he had “never seen it so bad”.

“I personally have been a Tory for a long time but I think this government should stand down now and give the Labour Party a go at it,” he told viewers during his unscheduled appearance.

During the call, he also offered to pay for “10 or 20” hospital scans after patients shared their experiences of long waiting lists in the NHS.

He revealed that his desire to help had been sparked by his visit to a private clinic that was basically “empty”.

“There are people dying because they cannot get scans. Now listen to me, I don’t need the publicity, I just want to do some good things and this, I think is a good thing. If other people follow me, I’d love it.”

He told The Times that he felt a duty to help the British public after being knighted by Prince William in 2016.

“I want to live up to that reputation. I’m a knight — I should do some f***ing good!” he said. “But it’s a double-edged sword. You help out but people say, ‘Oh, he must have an album out.’ Which is so far from the truth.”

Stewart was widely praised in 2019 for disclosing the news that he had been cleared of prostate cancer after privately receiving treatment for the disease for three years.

While appearing at a fundraising event for the Prostate Project and European Tour Foundation – alongside his former Faces bandmates, Ronnie Rood and Kenney Jones – Stewart said that he had learned of his diagnosis in February 2016 following a routine medical check-up, and had gone into remission in July.

“No one knows this, but I thought this was about time I told everybody,” he said. “I’m in the clear now, simply because I caught it early. I have so many tests.”

Addressing men in the audience, Stewart said: “Guys, you’ve got to really go to the doctor. Finger up the bum, no harm done.”

Stewart is releasing his next album Swing Fever, a collaboration with Jools Holland, on 23 February.

Putin mocks Tucker Carlson in freewheeling interview: Updates

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson released his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who started with a long diatribe on Russian history and its relationship with Ukraine.

The two-hour, seven-minute interview was recorded on 6 February and released in full shortly before 6pm ET on Thursday. Carlson travelled to Moscow for Putin’s first interview with a Western media figure since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

Putin repeated his argument that Ukraine wasn’t a real country which was shaped by the “will” of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

When Carlson requested that jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich be allowed to return to the US with Carlson and his crew as a show of “goodwill” from Putin, the Russian leader said that his “goodwill” had run out, complaining about the lack of reciprocity from the West.

Asked why he doesn’t call President Joe Biden and work out a solution in Ukraine, Putin asked: “What’s there to work out?”

“Stop supplying weapons and it will be over within weeks,” he added.

Putin also claimed that peace talks had at one point “reached a very high stage of coordination of positions … they were almost finalized”.

Exotic ‘dinosaur-like’ turtle that can bite through bone found in UK

A dangerous turtle capable of biting through bones has been found in a tarn in Cumbria.

An alligator snapping turtle, which is usually found in swamps and freshwater rivers in Florida, Texas and other southern parts of the United States, are known to have extremely powerful jaws.

The creature was spotted by Great Urswick residents in the tarn – which is a small lake – on the edge of the village.

After it was identified, parish councillor Denise Chamberlain took it to Wild Side Vets in Barrow.

“It was starting to look quite sorry for itself. I rang various agencies who were unhelpful. Everyone thought it was a terrapin – it’s not,” she told the Westmorland Gazette.

The turtle is now in the care of the local vets, who have been described as the “heroes” of the story.

The animals are known for their tocky armoured carapcae, which gives them a prehistoric appearance that often draws comparisons to dinosaurs.

Unlike other species of snapping turtles, their eyes are located on the sides of their head rather than their front, while their tails are long and thick.

They usually can grown to some 80 to 100cm and weigh between 70 to 90kg, and usually live to around 45 years.

According to the Britannica website, they are capable of exterting a force of several hundred newtons, and can easily break bone and have been known to sever human fingers.

Unmissable New York State experiences

Did Rishi really mean to suggest Boris Johnson could make a comeback?

Rishi Sunak has been subjected to the personal profile treatment by ITV, featuring a previously unseen photo of him as a boy in front of a caravan… and an interview with Anushka Asthana in which he “doesn’t rule out” Boris Johnson returning to the cabinet.

“Doesn’t rule out” is being used in the journalistic sense, in which he also “didn’t rule out” flying to Mars and back in time for tea. It was not so much that Sunak “didn’t rule out” Johnson following Lord Cameron back to the front rank, but that he didn’t answer the question at all.

He told Asthana: “I’m proud of the work that we did together. And we worked well together for a long time…”

Labour’s green contortions are a foretaste of trouble ahead

Confirmation that global warming has exceeded 1.5C over the past year will rightly be seen as a flashing red light on the climate crisis dashboard.

As responsible news organisations – including The Independent – have reported, there are short-term factors behind this rise, notably the El Nino natural variation in winds and sea surface temperatures. And while that warning level set by the Paris climate agreement has not yet been breached by long-term average temperatures, the latest figures reinforce the likelihood that the long-term average will breach that 1.5C threshold within the next decade.

So it looks like bad timing for the Labour Party, which is likely to form a government by the end of the year, to announce the same day that it is retreating from its central policy aimed at minimising climate change.