Rickets returns, Observer? Tell us something we DON’T know!

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era - or even earlier.

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era – or even earlier.

Thanks to Unemployed in Tyne and Wear for pointing out this Observer article:

“Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.

“The public health professionals’ body will call for a national food policy, including a sugar tax, as concerns rise over malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in British children. It will also appeal for all political parties to back a living wage to help combat the illnesses.

“Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.”

The shocking aspect of this article is that it has taken reporters at The Observer so long to realise what is going on; Vox Political pointed out the rise of this problem almost two years ago!

In the article The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society, published on December 22, 2012, VP stated: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.”

Nearly a year after that – and almost a year ago – in October 2013, The Independent cottoned on to the fact that standards of health were in relapse.

Vox Political‘s article ‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets? (October 24, 2013) had this to say: “David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

“The disease was thought to have been eradicated in the UK but, in a damning indictment of modern political priorities, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has admitted that 40 per cent of our children – that’s two-fifths of all the children in the country – now have some kind of vitamin D deficiency. Current figures for full-blown rickets are not available.”

It continued: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?

“The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme, according to Dame Sally’s report, as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures ‘could save the economy billions’.

“The neglect created in our health system by more than three decades of neoliberal political rule has had a devastating effect on the nation’s children. According to Dame Sally, while our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it is now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.

“The highest death rates are in deprived areas – in the northwest, northern cities and some of London’s poorer boroughs, with 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people under 17.

“Dame Sally said: ‘I think this is something, as a country, we should feel profoundly ashamed about – I do.'”

The most damning aspect of the Observer article was the comment from Carmel McConnell, founder of the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides a free breakfast to 8,500 British schoolchildren in need each morning.

She said teachers in the schools where she worked expected to see a dramatic decline in the health of their pupils as they return after the holidays: “Teachers tell us they know even with free school meals it will take two to three weeks to get their kids back up to the weight they were at the end of the last school term because their families cannot afford the food during the holidays.”

Dr John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health placed the blame squarely on the Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. He said in the Observer article: “Food prices up 12 per cent, fuel prices up double-figure percentages and wages down is a toxic combination, forcing more people to eat unhealthily.”

The Vox Political article of October last year ended with a re-worked Biblical quotation, changed to fit the modern philosophy of David Cameron and his Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Considering the latest findings, it is even more appropriate today: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”

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  1. philipburdekin September 2, 2014 at 9:42 am - Reply

    These idiots in power are costing the country £ billions, do they not have any sense about what is happening to the citizens of Britain? The clocks are going backwards and now we have DEFINITE proof in the return of these diseases and illnesses.
    They take cash from the NHS at a time when it’s most needed. I shall rejoice when Cameron and the rest of his fools murderers and thieves are kicked out on their arses.

    WON’T BE LONG, 2015

  2. Tisme's Cares September 2, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Rickets is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D. This comes from exposure to sunlight. It is involved in the body’s uptake and absorbtion of calcium essential for the strengthening of bones. In adults, Rickets is called Osteomalciaia. Poor diet does not cause rickets per se. We do not have foods in this country enhanced with vitamin D. Other vitamins,yes, but not Vitamin D. Once you have a deficiency in vitamin D eating calcium rich foods will not help, you need to replace the vitamin D to enable the absorbtion of calcium.

    We have in recent years endured some of the harshest winters on record, including several years “without a summer”. It is the closeting of people in their homes, without access to outside spaces, disabled people being unable to leave their homes for want of access to independent transport like wheelchairs or care support, children who spend their days shut in their rooms on computer games, older people being left bedbound or housebound for want of care… THESE are the problems that are causing rickets – not diet.

    I know this as I care for my severely disabled son who does now have rickets. It has taken me some 5 years to fight for his right to access to an electric wheelchair. He spent the past 4 years totally bedbound and the past 9 months totally housebound unable to even get outside in the garden. This is what causes rickets – not poor diet.

    • Mike Sivier September 2, 2014 at 10:18 am - Reply

      I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that diet is not a severe problem in Conservative-led Britain? All the evidence suggests the exact opposite.
      While I appreciate what you’re saying about Rickets, the article is reporting the findings of the UK’s chief medical officer and the Faculty of Public Health, who both say that poor diet also contributes.

      • Michele Witchy Eve September 3, 2014 at 6:16 am - Reply

        Being old enough to remember getting free milk at school decades ago, the original reason for introducing free milk was to combat poor diets and stop rickets – via calcium uptake. This dietary concern has not been revised by the medical profession to date. In fact, only a couple of years ago the media reported that modern-day rickets could be due to children not drinking full-fat milk during their first 5 years or so, as well as the suggestion that a too-high factor sunblock may be to blame (coinciding suspiciously with the introduction of coalition welfare reforms). Therefore, that suggests diet plays as much a part as any other factors, if not more. From what various govt.-backed health experts have said over the years while sunlight is important, it requires no more than about 30 minutes per day exposure (on an average winter day) as the body cannot process any more vit D from sunlight than is done during that 30 minutes or so. The rest we have to find in our diet.

      • Tisme's Cares September 3, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

        Mike of course diet contributes to rickets – people need calcium in their diet. But it is not the cause. You can only obtain 10% of the vitamin D your body needs from the food you eat. This is a much deeper problem than just malnutrition is what I’m saying – this is caused by a crisis in care – a lack of resources for children, disabled and the elderly. The loss of income of the unemployed means you cannot go out – where is there to go if you have no money? How can you get there? So you just stay indoors. Its an appalling situation which has been created by successive governments and which has escalated under the LibDems with their current policies. There are very few foods in the UK which have vitamin D as a supplement. I was told by my son’s GP that the Government has a policy of not allowing vitamin D to be added to food (unlike Vitamins C and E for example).


  3. Nick September 2, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

    just living as a sick or disabled person in the uk is bad enough but for the government to inflict poverty on those unable to fight back like the very young is a wicked thing to be doing

    as i say it’s bad enough just being sick and disabled in the uk and now it seams anyone is fair game for poverty and to hell with any consequences

  4. Jim Round September 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    An even deeper investigation needs to be carried out here.
    What IS being fed to those suffering from rickets, if they DO have a poor diet, WHY do they.
    Are they able to prepare a decent meal? If not WHY not.
    There are plenty of websites, such as Money Saving Expert, that have advice about budgeting and special offers on food shopping.
    I was involved with a scheme that helped familes with things like this, cooking actual three course, rather than ping meals. A lot of the time it was that people, due to various circumstances, simply did not know HOW to budget or shop for and cook the best ingredients.
    IMHO the soloution lies in schemes like these.

    • Mike Sivier September 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      You may have a point – but you also come across as an apologist for government policies that deny people the wherewithal to provide nutritious food for themselves.

      • Jim Round September 2, 2014 at 6:22 pm - Reply

        No Mike, you know that I can’t stand this government or it’s divisive policies.
        I’m advocating responsibility.

        • Mike Sivier September 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm - Reply

          Don’t shoot the messenger!
          Look at what you wrote dispassionately and you’ll see it for yourself.

      • Jim Round September 3, 2014 at 4:42 am - Reply

        As I said, there should be more help for people in these situations.
        Another issue is that people most affected by these policies are unlikely to vote, the government knows this, which is why they have a vendetta against the unemployed and disabled.
        A point worth noting in history is unrest in Tonypandy before WW1, what followed was a large, sometimes inconspicous recruitment drive in the area by the forces, promising the young men and miners bed and board in return for service.
        If you see any adverts for the forces at foodbanks, be afraid, be very afraid.

        • Mike Sivier September 3, 2014 at 9:08 am - Reply

          I certainly wouldn’t argue with that.

    • Michele Witchy Eve September 3, 2014 at 6:32 am - Reply

      Jim Round, even the best, most creative cook in the world needs something to cook on. Many of the people at the sharp end of society regularly can’t afford the gas/electric to do the cooking with, as many foodbanks will testify. It is near impossible to provide a half-decent diet from cold/uncooked and (of necessity) cheap food.

  5. Florence September 2, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I feel that we can rage all we want, and ask the rhetorical questions about the ConDems, but basically it boils down to the fact – they just don’t care. They treat their farm livestock better, because it has value to them, but the working classes, unwaged, ill, disabled, we have no value. The working poor can only expect to be exploited. The fate of the rest of us is of zero interest to the 1%-ers, whatever suffering is inflicted. They do not consider us properly human, one suspects. What would the rich ever know about being hungry, or malnourished? It is so far beyond anything they may have experienced.

    Watching “The Mill” and “The Real Mill” highlighted how the working classes organised and fought back against the free marketeers, especially on the issue of child labour. Let us not allow another generation of the bloated and privileged see it as their right to self-enrich through the exploitation of working class children (in the modern case, through poverty wages of their families, and food poverty).

  6. jaypot2012 September 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    Why am I not surprised? So many illnesses that had been eradicated from this country are back, and with a vengeance.
    I do believe that food is a main reason for rickets to be back – we have more sunshine now than we did in the smoggy cities a hundred or so years ago, so it can’t all be blamed on that. The food that we eat now (at least the majority of poor and poorly waged do), is sub-standard and is cheap and nasty. Yes, there are ways to get meals that are wholesome and cheap to make, but you have to have money in the first place to buy the ingredients to last for a whole week or fortnight.
    There a a huge amount of working poor, with both parents working, and it is hard to make healthy meals when you get home from work to start yet another day’s work with children, cooking, housework etc.
    Don’t blame the people, they didn’t deserve this austerity drive whilst the rich can throw away more than a family could eat, in just one sitting!

  7. Jane Hartley Jacques September 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Think there’s two things here, prevalence of vitamin D deficiency- very common, and is being tested more for so being found more. It is very common in the elderly as well. The climate is probably the biggest cause of this and supplements are probably needed to keep body stores optimal. Rickets as a disease is not common and as stated figures are not available. I am not sure why gout is referred to as a Victorian disease. This is still with us and has never gone away.
    This Goverment can be blamed for many things, poor diets, poverty and food banks included. Whether they can be blamed for low vitamin D levels in a northern European country may be dubious. I speak as someone with low vitamin D levels. Incidentally when my daughter was under 5 years old we got free vitamin drops from the nurse for her. Maybe we can blame the Goverment for not sending the drops to each child lol.

    • Mike Sivier September 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome to your opinion but, as mentioned in the article, senior medical experts disagree.

  8. Jane Hartley Jacques September 4, 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Studies by Holvig et al in 2008 showed similar problems in Norway with insufficient levels of vitamin D in much of the population. There had also been recent occasional cases of rickets there. It would be useful too know if the rickets cases had any other factors since it has been stated in this paper. Being given cod liver oil as a child was actually right as is rich in vitamin D.

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