Panorama

10:35pm Tuesday 13 November on BBC ONE

An exclusive documentary about a group of severely brain injured patients and the efforts made to help them to communicate with the outside world.

Panorama spent more than a year with vegetative and minimally conscious patients in Britain and Canada. All the patients are men who suffered horrendous brain injuries in accidents.

The research is led by British neuroscientist Professor Adrian Owen, based at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and the University of Cambridge.

Professor Owen has previously shown that nearly one in five vegetative patients are in fact, conscious.

His team use brain scanning – functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) – to detect hidden awareness in patients and to enable them to communicate.

The BBC’s Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh witnesses the moment when a patient regarded as vegetative for more than a decade is able to answer a series of questions while inside a brain scanner.

Other vegetative or minimally conscious patients are shown capable of reasoning and memory, which the scientists use to enable them to communicate using the power of thought.

The findings could have profound implications for the patients and their families as well as for scientists and medical staff.

What questions do the parents want to ask their sons – do they know who they are, do they remember things after their accident, are they in pain?

The documentary reveals the emotional journey of the families, the painstaking assessments and care of medical staff, and the remarkable scientific research which is revealing hidden awareness.

9:00pm Tuesday 11 September on BBC ONE

Drugs, anti-social behaviour, family break-ups and joblessness: all part of life on Britain’s poorest housing estates. Filming with families, kids and police, as well as undercover with drug dealers, Panorama spent months on one estate in Blackburn finding out what it’s like to live and grow up there.

The Shadsworth Estate is on the outskirts of Blackburn in the North West of England. More than 2,000 people live on the estate, one of the most deprived in the country. There’s eight year old Oshi who’s desperate to see his Dad after a two year absence. Jordan, who at only 15, is threatening to leave his family home because of the trouble and 20-year-old Jessie whose behaviour frightens other residents and keeps landing him in prison.

Going undercover on the estate, Panorama reveals drug dealers selling ‘wiz’ or amphetamines for as little as five pounds and the growing popularity of a drug called ‘Bubble’ – a manufactured chemical that used to be legal but is now banned and which is easily and cheaply available to residents of all ages.

The programme also meets family of four, the Lancasters. Andy and Vicky were both out of work for a time last year and although Andy now has two cleaning jobs, they have just �2 left to spare after rent, food and bills each week and want a better life for their children.

Richard Bilton asks is this really a picture of ‘Broken Britain’ – a place at the edge of where the state can make a difference?

8:30pm Monday 3 September on BBC ONE

As the emergency services face pressure from both budget cuts and increasing demand, Dial 999… And Wait? investigates claims that lives are being put at risk.

In 2010, the government scrapped targets for police response times to 999 calls. A Panorama survey reveals the areas where it now takes police more than 15 minutes to respond to 1 in 5 emergency calls and the constabulary where officers are taking more than an hour to arrive on the scene at almost half of their priority calls – the stage below an emergency but still requiring an emergency response.

As fire services face a new round of cuts, Panorama analyses a government report which says that response times have increased by 22 per cent.

In recent years, most ambulance trusts have failed to meet their target of reaching 75 per cent of their most urgent calls within eight minutes. As they make a concerted push to tackle this, Panorama speaks to whistle-blowers who claim that some trusts are re-classifying emergency calls as non-urgent ?to meet response targets. The programme also investigates the area where nearly half of stroke victims can take an hour or more to get to hospital.

The government says that savings can be made without hurting frontline services and point to decreasing crime rates and fewer fire deaths. Reporter Declan Lawn asks whether these figures could start to turn.

A nationwide study into the expansion of supermarkets in the UK – the first of its kind – found that somewhere in the UK one of the “big four” gets planning permission every working day of the year. Supermarkets – What Price Cheap Food? is a Panorama special on Wednesday 22 December at 9pm on BBC One.

Over the last two years, 577 new stores have been approved. Tesco is out in front with 392, Sainsburys have 111, Morrisons 41 and Asda 33.

BBC Panorama, in collaboration with BBC Nations and Regions, asked each of the UK’s planning authorities how many new supermarkets they have sanctioned over the last two years from small metros to the mega stores.

London will have the most new stores with 110 approved. Birmingham and Glasgow will have 15 new stores, Leicester 12 and 11 each in Leeds and Bristol. There will be 10 in Durham – Northern Ireland, Edinburgh and Nottingham will each have eight.

Some local authorities enter into agreements with supermarkets to provide new community facilities, as part of the deal for allowing a new store.

In Seaton, Devon, Tesco offered the council a new sports centre and funding for arts projects. In Bishop’s Waltham, Sainsbury’s will be building a new doctors’ surgery if they get permission for a new supermarket. The BBC study found that at least one in five of the stores approved in the last two years have involved additional development.

Some of the agreements are staggering in their size. In Gateshead, Tesco have offered £150m to help recreate the town. There are also plans for swimming pools, libraries, schools and even a Tesco-built police station.

Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, of River Cottage, in Devon, is against the expansion and tells the programme: “Such is the power of the supermarkets, they are effectively rearranging the entire landscape to suit their business practices.

“You don’t need to explain the attraction of cheap food, everybody likes saving money, but the effect of that simple drive to bring down price – it’s massively altering the way we produce food, the scale on which we produce food. This is costing us in our landscape, this is costing us our, our food culture, this is, this is changing, the quality of the land that we walk on, potentially even the quality of the air that we breathe. I mean, this is big stuff.”

Stephen Robinson, of the British Retail Consortium, says: “What supermarkets have done is produce a fantastic range of quality food at very affordable prices and, indeed, healthier foods in a way that 50 years ago, 20 years ago, we couldn’t possibly have.

“What we do know that in the last 10 years there’s been modest consistent expansion. But remember, this brings in investment to parts of Britain, this brings jobs, training and it also provides choice to customers and, at the end of the day, customers don’t want to shop somewhere they don’t have to – we don’t force them.”

In response to the charge the supermarkets are destroying the High Street, he says: “I think that’s not to do with supermarkets or any other one sector. You might as well choose the internet and accuse that of having closed shops on the High Street.”

David Holdsworth, Controller English Regions at the BBC, said: “We wanted to understand the impact of the growth of supermarkets on local communities and, alongside Panorama, we will be looking at this on depth on our local TV, radio and online services.”

Sixty-two per cent of people agree that people should automatically go to jail for carrying a knife in public, a poll commissioned by the BBC’s Panorama suggests.

Sixty-one per cent of those surveyed disagree that the current law is enough to stop under-16s carrying a knife.

The results of the poll complement the Panorama programme Jailed For Knife – to be broadcast tonight at 8.30pm on BBC One – where reporter Raphael Rowe obtains access to young offenders in prison serving sentences for knife crime.

In a series of thoughtful and sobering interviews conducted in their cells, Raphael Rowe asks tough questions of five young men who have wounded or killed with a knife.

The programme raises questions about whether or not the law has been tough enough for those caught in possession of a knife.

One young man from Nottingham explains how he was released on bail after stabbing and injuring someone – only to stab and wound someone else.

Asked about the threat of prison, he replies: “Never thought about it, you know, that’s being truthful, I never even thought about that, like… everyone thinks, ‘oh, yeah, I can do this and I’ll get away with it, it’s gonna be nothing’.”

Most of the young offenders regret the fact that they did not have someone to talk to them when they were younger, on their own level, about the consequences of carrying a knife.

Another offender said: “You have to relate to us or to, to the people. If you don’t relate then whether you’re talking sense or not I’m not gonna take it on board because I, it’s just, I think, I think you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Statistics from the Panorama survey suggest that the vast majority of 16-24 year olds agree with them – 90% said that more young people should hear firsthand experiences of knife crime from reformed young offenders.

As the survey also suggests, 43% of people agree that under-16s caught with a knife should automatically go to jail for their first offence – something which 42% of 16-24 year olds polled agreed with.

In a similar vein, some of the young offenders Raphael Rowe spoke to felt that young people found in possession of a knife should automatically get a prison sentence of at least four years (the current maximum sentence).

A third offender said: “I’ve seen people come in and out of here – three or four times since I’ve been in jail for a knife or GBH – 18 months – to be honest I agree with the people when I read the papers that sentences should be longer – it should be a sentence that’s going to get through to them not this in and out of jail business.”

With exclusive access to Alan Johnston, his family and the behind-the-scenes hostage negotiators, a Panorama special on BBC One tells the extraordinary story of the BBC correspondent’s 114 days held in captivity by the Army of Islam, a fanatical jihadist group in Gaza.

In a revealing interview with Jeremy Vine, Alan recalls the moments he feared he would be executed and explains how he composed himself in the face of death threats from his captors.

He tells of how his car was ambushed on the day of his kidnapping: “Very quickly he was alongside me pointing the gun through the door. I was vaguely aware of another gunman coming out of the other side of the kidnappers’ car and I knew immediately what was happening.”

When he was taken to a room in an apartment in Gaza: “The handcuffs were uncomfortably biting into my wrists and I felt I might ease that by-by sitting up, and it was this moment, I just had … an image of myself sitting there in that dingy room, handcuffed, a hood over my head and this profound feeling that I was at the lowest, lowest ebb of my life, in real danger, frightened.”

Of his kidnappers’ motives he says: “If you want to make jihad against Britain from Gaza, you have very few options. There’s no … large British diplomatic presence, there’s no British school, no British Airways, no British business. There’s just the BBC. And even in the BBC, there’s only one British citizen. It was me, and they had me.”

He adds: “I used to sometimes think rather bleakly that … of my place where I was being held, I used to think of it to myself as the Hotel Jihad and I used to think that all the dawns were false in the Hotel Jihad.”

During negotiations for his release, an email from the kidnappers said: “If we don’t get a positive message soon, we will end the negotiations and will send you a video of his slaughter. Then you will be negotiating not for him but for his body. We are serious. We have enough butchers to fill many refrigerators.”

The BBC reply read: “It is not necessary to threaten to harm Alan. We know that it is in your power to do this. But this will not help anyone to get what you want.”

Alan reveals how he was forced to film a propaganda video for the Army of Islam and why he was made to don an explosive belt before appearing in front of their cameras.

“He said rather chillingly that if I wanted my freedom I needed to cooperate, and I did, I was worried at that point, I thought I’m not gonna mess around with this video thing. I knew what they want, they want me to make a full statement of the jihadi world view. They hold all the cards. I tried to obstruct that process, but I, I need to cooperate now.”

“And Khamees said that it was being decided whether I would be put to death, maybe Friday, maybe before Friday, maybe afterwards. I asked him how it would be done. And he said it would be done in ‘the Zakawi way’.”

“I imagined being put into that red suit that they would make me wear for any video work. I imagined perhaps one of them in a hood, imagined one of them stepping up, imagined having a knee in my back or the back of my neck and then my throat being cut.”

During his captivity, a group claimed that Alan had been killed and this was widely reported. “And when I heard that, that I was said to have been executed, I just felt the air come out of my lungs, you know it was the most shocking thing I ever, perhaps will ever, hear in my life. And I just of course thought of how that would play for my parents.”

Alan describes how the kidnap reached a climax as the fighting intensified between Fatah and Hamas in the streets below the kidnappers hideout and how he was finally released, fearing he would be shot right up until the very moment of his dramatic handover.

This documentary also reveals the behind-the-scenes story of the hostage negotiators who corresponded by email with shadowy go-betweens to try and secure Alan’s release from a ruthless clan known as “the Sopranos” of Gaza.

Kidnapped: The Alan Johnston Story – a Panorama special, Thursday 25 October, 9pm, BBC One

Panorama’s return to peak time on BBC One is reaching not just bigger, but younger audiences – compared to its previous Sunday night slot.

The programme is reaching a significantly younger audience in its new Monday evening slot – with the first three programmes of Panorama’s new run adding one million viewers under the age of 55, when compared with the age profile of those watching in 2006.

Panorama’s new audience profile has 28% of viewers in the 16 to 34 age group, compared with 12% in this category on average in 2006.

Almost 20% of Panorama’s audience comprises viewers aged 25 to 34. In 2006, the programme’s audience was made up of less than 10% of viewers in this age group.

The audience profile for the first three programmes in the new run of Panorama is also considerably younger than the 2006 average for the 8.30 to 9pm slot on BBC Onr.

The programme is currently attracting an audience with an average age of 46. This compares to an average age for Panorama of 56 in 2006.

Panorama’s audience is also the youngest of the three current affairs programmes currently scheduled on a Monday evening (the others being Dispatches and Tonight).

This year, Panorama presented by Jeremy Vine has averaged 3.6 million viewers per episode in a run which has looked at IVF treatment, the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko and the anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

This compares to an average audience of 2.6 million last year, on Sunday nights.

According to overnight figures, Monday night’s Panorama – Should I Fight Back? – was watched by 4.1 million, a 16% share of the available audience.

The programme audience peaked at 4.4 million for the second half. This is the highest audience figure in the programme’s new run.

The audience Appreciation Index scores for the first three weeks have also been excellent at 80, 81 and 81. These are all above the average AI for Panorama in 2006, which was 78.

George Entwistle, BBC Head of TV Current Affairs, said: “These figures are very encouraging, as they indicate that current affairs can bring in new and younger audiences.

“The new format is clearly helping to engage with a wider range of people than ever before.

“Yet, at the same time Panorama is continuing to do what it has always done – achieving significant journalistic impact, by tackling complex and important issues.”

Panorama – on BBC One tonight at 8.30pm – has found evidence that the man named as Britain’s most successful test-tube baby doctor has been offering unnecessary and unproven therapies to women seeking fertility treatment, potentially risking their health by offering unproven treatments.

Mr Mohamed Taranissi, whose wealth is calculated by Sunday Times Rich List researchers to be £38million, has produced 2,300 babies in the past seven years for clients who regard him as a miracle maker.

But, although he is renowned for his personal dedication to his patients, his critics question the reliability of some of his statistics and some of his controversial treatments.

Mr Taranissi, who is interviewed in the programme, says he is a victim of red tape and angrily rejects allegations against him.

He is currently the subject of an investigation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) whose spokeswoman tells Panorama: “We’ve had unique problems in the regulation of these clinics. We have struggled to gain the information that we’ve wanted … we have struggled to gain access to carry out even routine inspections … we’ve been challenged at every step of the way.”

Panorama used undercover patients and secret cameras to investigate the private baby business.

The footage was then shown to some of Britain’s top fertility experts who were unaware of where it was filmed.

It revealed:

Mohamed Taranissi’s Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre (ARGC) clinic in London offering a 26-year-old undercover reporter IVF treatment which could cost her up to £13,000 in some circumstances despite neither her, nor her partner, having any history of fertility problems.

The same clinic offering a treatment involving a blood transfusion of a concentrated mix of human antibodies. Treatment described by fertility expert Professor Lord Robert Winston as having “no basis, no justification”. Another expert, Dr Ashley Moffett, says: “We have no idea what they [the antibodies] will do to the baby.”

Following a blood test on the reporter Mr Taranissi’s clinician says that the “antibodies were found to be high”, and suggests that she enrols for immune therapies. But one of Panorama’s experts who sees the results describes them as completely normal.

The undercover reporter is told she needs blood tests involving 18 phials of blood being taken from her arm at a cost of £780. But Panorama’s experts dismissed the test as valueless – “peripheral blood from your arm has no correlation at all with what’s going on inside the uterus” (Professor Lesley Regan).

Panorama has discovered that many of Mr Taranissi’s older and harder to treat patients have actually been treated at another clinic he owns which has a much lower success rate than that of his main clinic.

And the programme has uncovered evidence showing that Mr Taranissi has also been defying the HFEA’s regulations and risking a jail term by continuing to carry out IVF treatments at this second clinic which no longer has a licence.

Watching the secret filming Professor Robert Winston comments: “… Frankly it makes you weep for the medical profession, because it is too embarrassing to watch. In my view it is quite shocking.”

Despite neither her, nor her partner, showing any history of fertility problems the reporter is offered costly IVF treatment.

A doctor at Mr Taranissi’s clinic advises her: “If it is IVF it is £4,000, so on this you need to add the blood tests.”

The ‘patient’ asks how much they are and is told: “They would go up to £1,000, £1,500.” Before the doctor adds that this is: “Per cycle and on top of that you have to add your medication, the drugs, that is another £1,500.”

On average, couples needing IVF can go through up to four cycles, which could equate to £21,000 at Taranissi’s clinic.

A second undercover patient with a similar medical status is correctly told she does not require treatment.

Professor Fauser said: “This is a 26-year-old woman trying to get pregnant for 11 or 12 months. You know, already issues like IVF and IUI were mentioned and in a condition like this they shouldn’t be mentioned at all. These treatments, you know, are way … should be way out of the discussion at that stage.”

Professor Lieberman said: “This 26-year-old has been led along a garden path of a whole lot of events which are totally unnecessary at this stage.”

The reporter is also given misleading advice – she’s told at Mr Taranissi’s clinic: “There is another procedure in which we look at the lining of the womb, cleanse the lining of the womb before we do the transfer and that costs £1,000.”

Responding to the advice offered, expert, Professor Bart Fauser, said: “These are all just magic words … completely meaningless…”

When Mr Taranissi was asked by reporter Kate Silverton whether he thought that the information given to the patient was misleading, he said: “I don’t think it is misleading because if you look again at the medical literature … I mean, it is … a known fact and there are actually scientific papers that have looked at that.

“It is something that could be associated with improved implantation … This can actually clean things inside the cavity or the tubes sometimes might be blocked and this can just flush them out.”

When the results of the immune blood tests return, Mr Taranissi’s clinician says: “Some of these antibodies were found to be high,” and the clinic suggests the 26-year-old ‘patient’ enrol for full IVF treatment involving a transfusion of antibodies and a course of steroids.

But on seeing the test results Dr Ashley Moffett, expert on Immunology in Pregnancy at Cambridge University, said: “Actually I did see the results, and they were all completely normal. So that it’s … having seen that these results are completely normal it is even more strange that he should actually say, this doctor, that she needs to go ahead with treatment.”

If the ‘patient’ did go ahead with this treatment, the full cost of the IVF cycle could come to around £10,000.

The treatment is available in two other clinics in the UK and some in the United States but some of the programme’s experts described it as untested and potentially dangerous.

Dr Ashley Moffett said: “These are antibodies prepared from thousands of people and the batches have a lot of antibodies that could actually react with cells of the baby’s. And these antibodies will cross the placenta. We have no idea what they will do to the baby.”

Professor Bart Fauser said: “One way or the other practices like this should be stopped in a civilised country. For me there’s no question about it. This is insane really, and this cannot be defended by any reasonable argument. I’m shocked. Unbelievable.”

Mrs Geeta Nargund, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at St George’s Hospital, said: “… it’s very sad indeed for this vulnerable woman to be in that situation where she’s being given this twisted information and, on top of that, a huge cost.”

Using the Freedom of Information Act Panorama has obtained figures showing how Mr Taranissi treats some older patients at his second clinic, the Reproductive Genetics Institute (RGI).

The birth rates at the RGI were consistently much lower than the ARGC.

Mr Taranissi says this is because they require specific treatments and not because it helps boost his success rate at his main clinic, a suspicion being investigated by the regulator.

When interviewed about Taranissi’s track record for compliance with the HFE Act and the HFEA code of practice, Angela McNabb, CEO of the HFEA, said: “The vast majority of clinics in the UK comply well with the standards that are set out. That hasn’t been the case with this centre.

“In fact, we’ve struggled to gain a good co-operative working relationship where we can resolve some of the issues that we have. And we’ve been challenged at every step of the way.”

Panorama has also discovered that Mr Taranissi has continued giving treatments to patients at his second clinic, the RGI – even though its license was not renewed at the end of 2005 due to a lack of required data, and despite it being a criminal offence to operate in an unlicensed clinic.

In an interview for the programme Mr Taranissi told Panorama that he continued operating his second clinic without a licence because he had: “… hundreds of patients going through cycles, and stuff like that … it was almost impossible for me to turn the patients away. There was no way I could have stopped…”

Before adding: “… I’m the one who is sticking his neck out for that and I don’t understand why should I be stopped from working because of paperwork.”

Mr Taranissi was asked if he was concerned about the potential health risks of the antibody transfusion.

He said: “We are worried but potentially anything that you do or drug can be seen in ten years or 20 years as having unknown problems. If we want to think like this.”

Mr Taranissi went on to say that “all the potential issues are explained in black and white” to patients.

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