Author Archives: Adam Kirkman

NHS breast cancer screening failure: What you need to know

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says up to 270 women may have died due to an IT failure that prevented some women from receiving their final routine breast-cancer mammogram invitation.

He told the Commons that up to 450,000 women didn’t get a letter to inform them of their screening. Mr Hunt has now announced an independent review and apologised “whole-heartedly” for the failure.

WNOL takes an in-depth look at some of the key facts behind the scandal.

What is breast cancer screening?

Breast cancer screening is a service offered on the NHS that aims to detect breast cancers at an early stage, often when they’re too small to see or feel. This is done by using an X-ray process called a mammogram.

Currently, this service is routinely offered every three years to all UK women aged 50-70.

The AgeX trial has been looking at the risks and benefits of offering the screening to women aged 47 up to the age of 73 to see if it is worth expanding the service.

Breast Screening Programme England, 2016-17: Women ScreenedBreast Screening Programme England, 2016-17: Cancer Detection

According to NHS Digital, 2,2 million women were screened in 2016-17 and more than 18,000 cancers were detected (see graphic above, reproduced courtesy of NHS Digital).

NHS figures show that in the UK, about one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, with the chances of it developing increasing with age. The chances of a woman developing breast cancer in her 20s is about one in 1,732.

What went wrong with the service?

Jeremy Hunt says the issue dates back to 2009 but was only detected in January, due to a new IT system introduced by Public health England that detected a number of women over 68 hadn’t received a letter inviting them for their last mammogram in the three years before their 71st birthday.

The Home Secretary said that the failure to send the affected women their invitation letters was due to a “disastrous computer error”. It hasn’t yet been confirmed if anyone died directly as a result of the error, but Mr Hunt said the estimates are that between 135 and 270 women may have had their life shortened.

What happens next?

It is estimated that 309,000 of the women affected are still alive. Mr Hunt said the NHS will contact these women to go for a screening if they are still residing in the UK and registered with a GP.

Any women between the ages of 68-71 who haven’t been contacted by the end of May are likely to have not been affected by the IT failure.

Women above the age of 72 will be offered access to a breast screening helpline number to help them decide if they require treatment or not.

The breast screening helpline number: 0800 169 2692

There is more information at the NHS Choices website

Why is London becoming more violent?

Recent news has shown that London’s murder rate has exceeded New York’s. Although London may have taken the crown when it comes to murder rates this year, it’s being compared against a New York that is currently seeing a record low period of homicides, with last year being the least recorded number of murders in the city since records began.

2018 London vs NewYork

Sources: Metropolitan Police and the NYPD (New York Police Department).

On the other hand, London has seen an increase in murders over the past few years. As seen below, 2014 saw 83 murders in the capital, the lowest number in the last nine years. In the years since, the city has seen a rise, partly due to recent terror attacks, but also due to other domestic issues. The year of 2018 is on track to become one of the worst years London has seen in terms of murders.


Source: The Home Office

Why is the murder rate rising?

The capitals murder rate is driven by a recent surge in knife crime. Of the 55 murders this year, 35 of them have been committed with knives. Part of the blame has been put on police cutbacks, part is on gang culture, and part has been put on the police’s stop and search policy being reduced.

There has been an additional 300 police officers deployed in the worst affected areas of London in an attempt to combat this recent spike in violent crime. The additional numbers follow on from Sadiq Khan’s comments that there needs to be more “intelligence-led” stop and searches by police in order to increase arrests and keep people safe.

Knife Crime

With so many lives taken, and families destroyed already this year, it seems like too little too late. There’s too much blame being pointed in the wrong areas. Sure, less police on the streets make it harder for them to prevent these incidents. Maybe stop and search does need to be ramped up again? There was even a suggestion on a recent radio 4 broadcast that ‘drill music’ is to blame. As preposterous as that sounds, that is how far some people are willing to stretch in these troubling times.

Who’s being affected?

I spoke to a young man involved in a gang in London, 16 years old, who shall remain anonymous at his request. He told me that most of his friends who are in gangs or associated with them end up there because they have no one else. Many of them have been expelled from school, come from broken homes or have no positive role models in their lives. He told me that “if you have no one else, a gang is like a new family that has your back no matter what”. He told me how his dad had left home when he was very young, and his mum isn’t able to keep him and his two brothers in line. He says he feels guilty, but he takes advantage of that fact. This young man explains how he doesn’t carry a knife for fun, but: “if I don’t have a knife then they will, at least if I have one I’ve got a chance”.

Below is one of the stories from the Home Office’s #knifefree campaign. 

What can be done?

It seems that it’s not just up to more policing, more potentially discriminatory policing techniques, and certainly not up to stopping a music genre to fix this issue. This issue is much more of a social one. There needs to be more support available for vulnerable young people, and for them to still be treated like vulnerable young people, not gangsters. One of the recent stabbing victims was a 13 year old child, his perpetrators being two 16 year old’s and another 13 year old.

That’s not to say more police won’t help, it certainly won’t make it worse. More police on the streets does mean more neighbourhood policing, and neighbourhood policing can be an important step to building bridges between young people and authority. Last year, an independent police think tank – the Police Foundation – concluded that: “It is clear that the cuts imposed in the years of austerity have substantially diminished the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing in many areas.”

New laws are also coming into place that will tighten up restrictions on buying knives online and make it illegal to sell acid to under-18’s . Are these restrictions going to be enough to halt the capitals rise in violent crimes? London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, recently came across somewhat unfavourably during an exclusive interview with LBC regarding the recent spike in violent crime. Many people think the Mayor’s response so far has not been strong enough.

What is ‘eSports’?

With around 335 million people tuning into eSports events worldwide in 2017, it might be time to get clued up on what it actually is.


Inside of the KeyArena, Seattle, playing host to Dota 2’s The International 2016.

What is eSports?

ESports – also known as competitive video gaming – is the organised competing of online multiplayer video games. Similar to traditional sports, these competitive video games have a series of leagues and tournaments, and are viewed by millions of people. The simplest way to understand it is competitive gaming at a professional level.

If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, head over to to watch the action.

Which games are eSports?

The two most popular types of eSports currently are first-person shooters and MOBA’s, but a plethora of others are out there too. First-person shooters, also referred to as FPS’s, tend to be team based games, with differing objectives. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the most popular FPS eSport at the moment, with two teams of five taking it in turns defending an objective and attacking it. Along with completing the objective, teams can win by simply eliminating all of the enemy opponents.

MOBA’s (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’s) share the 5v5 team dynamic, but in these games players have a wide choice of characters to play as, which all have differing abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. League of Legends and Dota 2 are the most popular eSports MOBA’s currently, with the victor being the team that destroys the other teams base first.

These aren’t the only competitive games being played right now. FIFA, online card games, fighting games (Street Fighter), real time strategy games (Starcraft), and other more niche games are out there too.

Why are so many people watching?

Where there’s money, there’s people. Dota 2’s most recent big tournament – The International 2017 – boasted a prize pool of $24 million. This isn’t the only reason so many people are watching right now, but as you can imagine, as the amount of money in the scene rises, the competition, the production, and the quality of the events rise too.


The success of these tournaments is partly due to the tech-raised generation pushing it forward. Many of the viewers of eSports are people who’ve grown up playing these games, so the chance to watch it at the highest level is a no-brainer really. When you have a good understanding of how these games work, the complexity of them makes them all the more appealing.

So, how can I learn about the games so I can watch them?

There’s a nice article over at DotEsports that has a brief rundown of how each game works. Although you might be in the deep end a little bit here, having a scan of this should help.

Ultimately, the best way to get an idea of what is going on is to jump straight into watching. At first it’s going to be hard to follow, but the more you see the more you’ll understand. As mentioned before, the go to platform for eSports is, be sure to check it out.

Playing the titles that interest you most will also give you a sense of how the game works as you learn the mechanics and intricacies yourself. You can download League of Legends or Dota 2 for free, whilst Counter-Strike will cost you £11.99 on the gaming platform Steam.

Happy fragging!


Esports commentator Anders Blume shares his story

Discovering eSports was almost like a “religious experience” for Anders Blume, the now voice of Counter-Strike, a title awarded by fans.

Anders is one of the largest play-by-play commentators in the growing eSports scene (also known as pro gaming or competitive video games). He grew up in the small town of Farum, Denmark, playing video games from a young age. It was in early 2013 when Anders did his first cast (commentary) of a match of Counter-Strike, the 5v5 competitive first person shooter. It wasn’t long before this side project of his allowed him to cast matches to sold out arena’s and millions of concurrent viewers online.

Q: When did you get into Counter-Strike?

A: I got into Counter-Strike because a friend of mine took me to a LAN café in the centre of Copenhagen. That was not the first time I’d ever been to a LAN café but it was the first time I’d tried playing Counter-Strike, and that was in 1999. I would say I walked away from that experience thinking “This is something else, this was too much fun”. I just kept coming back.

Q: What do you think it is about Counter-Strike that was different than other games you’d played?

A: It’s hard to say. In retrospect I think it has to do with a great mix of being able to play as a team but that each individual member of the team can do enough to change the outcome of the game. Also it has an infinitely deep or high skill ceiling, you can always become better at the game in some way and that’s just very appealing I think. Back then, at the time, maybe there was that feeling and we just didn’t know how to say it but, it was almost like having some sort of religious experience walking away from that game. I remember the train ride home and everything. I remember how – for lack of a better word – ‘high’ we all were on just having played the game. It might also have that kind of childhood nostalgia to it, but it was something like that.

Q: Did you ever compete in Counter-Strike?

A: Yeah, I did. The landscape is so different now. I think if you tried to measure it against the modern landscape it would be hard to find a fitting way to do that. We started off with a friends-based team, then eventually some of us wanted to play a bit more so we had to find other people online that we thought were good at the game. Obviously, the kind of sponsorships you could get back then were ridiculous compared to today, so it was all just sort of, hobby level. But yeah, we did take it seriously.

DH Leipzig16 NaVi with trophy

Q: What were you doing before you started casting?

A: Well I came out of High School in 2006. So, between 2006 and 2013 I did a bunch of different things all at once. I started doing physics at University and then that didn’t really work out. Then I did Biology and that didn’t really work out. Then I did English and almost got my bachelors in that by the time I’d started casting. In-between all of those things, I’d go back to this one job that I’d had all along, which was database development that I’d sort of learned on the side, at a local company. So that’s where I was at for a long time I would say, no real sense of direction.

Q: So, after hopping around a few subjects at University and working on the side, what made you try casting out?

A: Well, every time I would have time off from University, I would inevitably think to myself “Man, I want to be good at something”. I bought a really nice electronic piano that cost way too much money, and thought I’d learn how to play the piano, that must be nice? Or I thought I’d write a short story, just like 50 pages or something. I had all these, let’s call them ‘creative outlets’ – things that I wanted to do basically. They were a way to try and escape because I knew I wasn’t doing something that I wanted to do. The casting was one of the things I tried, and it just worked. That was just it, the first time I did it I knew like “Shit, this is too good” you know? I have to keep doing this.

Q: Had you always admired casting in traditional sports and wanted to give it a go, or directly through eSports?

A: Well I was never really in to traditional sports so I don’t even know much about football or any other commentary at all but yeah, I was listening to a lot of other people casting Counter-Strike specifically. I thought that they were missing a bunch of stuff that’s going on. I think I even messaged them and told them you know “Listen, you guys are really missing out on some of the details in this game”. And then nothing happened. So, I thought. Okay. What if I do it? What if I try and talk about the game? I have a headset and I have the internet so I’ll do it. And I did. The first night was maybe ten people watching, and maybe seven of them were just my friends. Then the next night it was 20 and maybe still seven of them were my friends. Then a week in it was like over a hundred. When I say those numbers now it sounds kind of ridiculous, but back then it was a hell of a lot of people.

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ESLone New York, this crowd is amazing.

A post shared by Anders Blume (@rofanders) on

Q:What was it like going from seven viewers to over a million in the space of a few years?

A: What I did in the beginning was think to myself “How big of an auditorium would I have to rent to get these hundred people and talk to them in real life?”. That mental image helped me a lot in thinking you know, now we have 500 people, now we have 1000 people. That’s so many people you know?

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers who aren’t very much aware of eSports?

A: I’ll say this. In case you are someone who is wandering around in life and is not really sure what you want to be or where to go, one of the huge upsides of working in eSports is that the foundations haven’t really settled yet. If you are someone who wants to test, build and create different or strange things, there’s a bigger chance you’ll be able to do it within E-sports than some of the other places that have existed for a long time. Those places have traditions and a culture of doing things a certain way. There may be a lot more risk here but there’s also a lot more potential. It might be worth thinking about that if you’re going to architect your career in a given direction, that there is a field out there that is growing and growing. You might have a lot of freedom to do weird things, whether you are in advertising, or PR, or Coding or whatever. All these kinds of fields are relevant to eSports and have a lot of room for expansion.

Follow Anders on twitter here: @OnFireAnders