NHS Red tape ‘obstructing’ medical research
Red tape is seriously delaying trials of drugs which could cut the number of people having heart attacks and strokes, a group of leading medical academics said on Monday.
Just one study into the use of generic drugs to reduce high blood pressure needed more than 100 separate approvals from NHS research and development (R&D) committees, said Morris Brown, professor of clinical pharmacology at Cambridge University. In an open letter criticising the current system, he and his colleagues said the result was that researchers behind the £2 million British Heart Foundation-sponsored study had been forced to wait two years to get started.
Before such R&D committees were set up, under the EU’s Clinical Trials Directive 2004, the normal wait was about three months, they said. They wrote: “The whole process is frustrating and has nothing whatsoever to do with quality. It is all red tape.
“The government says the NHS budget is untouchable but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deal with unnecessary expenditure. “There is waste within the NHS and increasingly money has been spent on R&Ds which are not only ‘protective’ but impeding research. “People with hypertension are at high risk of heart attack or strokes. We have worked out already how to lower these people’s blood pressure. “Delays in getting started means more people having heart attacks or strokes which could have otherwise have been avoided.”
The system was “obstructing clinical research”, they warned.
The letter was also signed by Prof Kennedy Cruickshank, of Cardiovascular Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology at University of Manchester University, Prof Tom MacDonald, of Clinical Pharmacology at Dundee University and Prof Gordon McInnes, of Clinical Pharmacology at Glasgow University.
The study, split into three trials, is to be undertaken at nine hospital. Each trial needs the approval of the R&D committee at each hospital, and also that of R&D committees at four primary care trusts per hospital. Some of the approvals are still outstanding.
The academics said: “It is like a football team going from qualification, in our case getting the funding, then having to get permission from the town council who know nothing about football to play in each stadium.
“Then get permission to play different styles of football and then if you want spectators to come and watch the football you have to get permission from each borough to let them come to the stadium,” they wrote.
Such R&D committees were full of people “who in theory, are there to help people do research but in practice make up their roles as they go along”, they claimed, adding that they were turned down by one committee because the drugs were not approved by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice).
The British Heart Foundation had agreed to fund the four year study in 2007 to treat 1,500 patients with high blood pressure with six ‘generic’ drugs – those which have no patent, which are therefore cheaper than their branded equivalents.
One of the three trials looks at the use of losartan and hydrochlorothiazide for patients with high blood pressure who have not been treated before.
The second involves patients who still have high blood pressure despite being treated previously have been given bisoprolol, doxazosin and spironolactonen.
The third group are being given hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride, which are diuretics that rid kidneys of salt.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is unacceptable and we’re lobbying for improvements to the system to eliminate these barriers and speed up research, translating into benefits for patients. “For example, we’ve responded to a review commissioned by the Department of Health. This is due to report in the autumn and we hope that the recommendations will tackle these issues. “We’d like to reassure supporters of the BHF that their donations are not wasted on red tape. We only release funds for research when it’s up and running.”
Earl Howe, the health minister, said the Government was “determined to cut the bureaucracy involved in medical research”. But he added : “We do not agree that local research management is useless; it needs to work more consistently and efficiently.”
An independent review will report on the issue this autumn.
UK immigration: 300,000 a year let in on student visas
The number of foreigners who came to Britain on student visas rose by a third to more than 300,000 last year, prompting renewed warnings last night of a loophole in immigration law. Official figures showed that the number of students entering Britain from non-EU countries increased by more than 75,000 in 12 months, despite unprecedented demand for college and university places at home. The influx was exacerbated by a further 31,000 dependants accompanying foreign students, the figures disclosed.
It followed the introduction of Labour’s points-based immigration system which was supposed to made it harder for unskilled immigrants to come to Britain. However, the new system made it no harder for immigrants to enter the country on student visas, according to campaign groups.
The Government said that the student visa system had been open to “significant abuse”. Damian Green, the immigration minister, said there would be a thorough review of the rules.
Many students enter Britain to take legitimate degrees, with universities increasingly seeing them as a lucrative source of income at a time of cuts to higher education budgets. Recent research showed that as many as a third of universities were preparing to increase the number of foreign undergraduates they admit from September.
As well as attending traditional universities, tens of thousands of foreign students have been admitted to 600 “lower tier” colleges, at which it is easier to gain a place but which are still accredited to hand out bachelor degrees.
Last year, it emerged that some of these colleges offered qualifications in subjects such as circus skills, acupuncture and ancient medicine. Many of their students are given the right to work in Britain after graduating.
About 4,000 illegal immigrants are also thought to have taken advantage of bogus colleges to slip into the country.
Mr Green added: “We are committed to attracting the brightest and the best to the UK, and welcome legitimate students coming here for study. However, in the past there has been significant abuse of the student route, and we need to ensure that every student who comes to the UK is genuine. “Therefore I am undertaking a thorough evaluation of the student system over the coming weeks and months and I will introduce new measures to minimise abuse and tighten the system further.”
According to Home Office figures, 313,011 foreign students were granted visas in the 12 months up to March. They brought with them some 31,385 dependants. The figures were a 32 per cent increase on the 235,295 students and 24,780 dependants given visas in the previous year.
Numbers rose steadily under Labour, but last year’s increase was thought to have been the largest single rise on record. Under the points-based immmigration system, students are required to have 40 points to come to Britain.
Applicants receive 30 points for holding a course offer from a college or university, and 10 points for proving they can pay the fees and support themselves while in the country.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch, said: “There is growing evidence that the new points-based system has provided a back door to Britain for bogus students.”
The British Labour Party’s ‘crazy’ attempts to bribe illegal immigrants to go home
Labour squandered millions of pounds on ‘crazy’ schemes to bribe illegal immigrants to go home, it can be revealed. Home Office papers show how the last government was so wasteful with public money that £13million has gone missing – with officials having no idea how it was spent.
Immigration minister Damian Green has ordered an urgent internal investigation to find out if the taxpayer has been short-changed. The accounts also reveal how Labour:
* Paid £1.2million in bribes to people who never even set foot in Britain
* Gave repatriation grants to migrants from wealthy countries – including the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand
* Lavished thousands on teaching foreign preachers about life in ‘multi-cultural’ Britain
* Sent Afghans on year-long holidays to see if they would like to go home permanently
* Bribed Poles to go home in the same year their country joined the EU, meaning they became eligible to immediately return to the UK
* Handed almost £50,000 to the Ukraine to build a ‘migration advice centre’
* Wasted £25,141 on a cancelled project to support ‘artisans’ in Afghanistan
* Paid £68,235 to China – an industrial powerhouse – to strengthen its migration controls.
The accounts detail how Labour spent almost £80million on schemes designed to encourage failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to go home.
The payments – denounced as ‘bribes’ by critics – were designed to dramatically increase the number of people being removed from the UK. Ministers decided it was cheaper and easier than border guards tracking the illegal immigrants down themselves and forcibly putting them on a plane.
The Home Office also spent hundreds of thousands on grants to foreign countries so they could improve their border controls, or dissuade their citizens from travelling here.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘These crazy, badly thought-out schemes should never have received a penny of taxpayers’ money.
‘It’s good that the new government has uncovered this waste and is trying to track down where our missing money has gone, but let’s hope they also step up efforts to deport illegal immigrants more speedily. Confidence in the immigration system needs to be restored, and taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be squandered.’
Last night, Mr Green said: ‘I have launched an investigation into the money provided by the UK Border Agency to the IOM over the past five years. ‘The Agency’s finances are closely monitored, however we must ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and every penny is accounted for.’
Four men were convicted today of murdering an innocent couple by firebombing the wrong house in a botched ‘honour’ killing.
Abdullah Mohamed, 41, and his wife Ayesha, 39, were at home in bed when petrol was poured through the letterbox of their home in Blackburn, Lancashire, and set on fire. But the gang recruited to carry out the attack were supposed to target the house of a man 20 doors away who was having a secret affair with another man’s married sister.
Mr Mohammed was killed in the blaze in October last year and his wife died a week later from her injuries. Two of their three children, a girl aged 14 and a boy aged nine, were also trapped in the house but survived.
The arson attack had been arranged by London Underground systems operator Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, after he discovered his married sister was having an affair. Ibrahim had asked his best friend Habib Iqbal and two other men, Mohammed Miah and Sadek Miah (no relation), to drive up from London overnight to carry out the attack on the home of her lover.
Ibrahim, 21, of Shelley Avenue, London, Habid Iqbal, 25, of Strone Road, London, and Mohammed Miah, 19, of Pelley Road, London, and Sadek Miah, 23, of Byng Street, Isle of Dogs, London, all denied murder, but Sadek Miah pleaded guilty to manslaughter. It took a jury just 90 minutes today to convict all four defendants of murder following a six-week trial at Preston Crown Court. They are due to be sentenced tomorrow.
The court had heard that Hisamuddin Ibrahim had arranged the attack after discovering that his sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with Mohammad ‘Mo’ Ibrahim who is no relation. She was married to a cousin from India, while her sister was married to her husband’s brother.
The lovers met in April 2009 and when rumours circulated about the affair, Ibrahim was summoned to a meeting and forced to ‘swear on the Koran’ he had not been having an affair with Hafija. But she told police that her husband had found out about the affair a month before the fire and had assaulted her. Hafija reported the assault to police and said she was fearful for Mo’s safety.
Mr Brian Cummings QC, prosecuting, said during the trial: ‘Hisamuddin Ibrahim,on behalf of his family, wanted to kill Mohammed or Mo Ibrahim, to punish him for damaging the family’s honour for having an affair with his married sister Hafija Gorji.’
During the trial the jury were shown grainy CCTV images of a VW golf near to the home just prior to the fire being started and going round the block three times before parking up.
The three killers were then seen walking in the direction of the Abdullah home, and then running back to the car before fleeing the scene with the lights off. Inquiries revealed the vehicle was registered to the mother of one of the arsonists in London and had been driven up to Blackburn the previous evening.
Following the killings, Lancashire Constabulary launched one of the biggest murder inquiries ever undertaken by the force, which saw 590 statements taken, 1,486 lines of enquiry followed and seized 1,684 exhibits and had over 100 police officers and staff working on the case.
Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from Lancashire CPS, said after the trial: ‘The deaths of Mr and Mrs Mohammed have had a devastating impact not only on their family, but also on the community where they lived. Mr and Mrs Mohammed were complete strangers to the men who have today been convicted of their murder and their three children have been orphaned in a terrible case of mistaken identity. ‘All four of these defendants bear equal guilt for the murders. It was a planned and callous attack.’
Speaking after the case, Ashraf Mohammed, the 19-year-old son of Abdullah and Ayesha Mohammed, paid tribute to his parents. ‘No words can truly do justice to how amazing my parents were. They were really the most loving, kind and selfless people you could ever meet.
‘My father touched the hearts of many around the world. He was an inspiration to everyone around him and an invaluable asset to the community. He was very passionate about charity and devoted his life to helping the unfortunate and disadvantaged.
‘My mother was also a very friendly and caring lady who had a heart of gold. She was extremely kind and gentle and was always seen with a smile on her face. ‘There isn’t a day that goes by in which our family does not remember my parents and their loss has left an empty place in our hearts that can never be filled.’
Free police to do their job, says British chief
Police forces will accept cuts in numbers if front-line officers are freed from bureaucracy to “get on with the job”, a senior officer said yesterday. Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, admitted that police had been burdened by years of centrally imposed policies. He welcomed indications from Theresa May, the Home Secretary, that she was ready to reverse Labour innovations such as anti-social behaviour orders and 24-hour drinking.
“Over the years, we have constrained policing and put so much policy into place,” he said. “We need to free up that system and let the officer just get on with the job.”
Sir Hugh, who has previously warned that current police numbers were “unsustainable” given economic constraints, also warned against assuming all officers should be on the beat at all times.
Officers classed as working at their desks included murder squads and units tackling terrorism and organised crime. “We have to recognise that some officers may have to go,” Sir Hugh added, “but people in offices solve very dangerous and serious crime and bring very dangerous people to justice.”
Sir Hugh also so said that the extension of Sarah’s law across the country offers “real hope” of keeping children safer.
The scheme, introduced in response to the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted sex offender 10 years ago, allows parents to check if someone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal record for abuse. Sir Hugh said it would be “a welcome part of the armoury” used by police to protect children.
Why Jews should take Israel more seriously
Many American Jews seem to think that they will always be safe in America and that they therefore have no need of Israel. I hope they are right but I fear that they are wrong.
American tolerance and British tolerance are basically the same beast of the same ancestry so as one goes so should go the other in time. But the attitude to Jews in Britain is undoubtedly getting worse. If the dovish Shimon Peres can come out and accuse Britain of antisemitism, surely it is time to sit up and take notice.
I know that there are counter-arguments to say that America does not always march in the same direction as Britain but I think that it mostly does eventually. The recent enactment of Obamacare despite the appalling example of Britain’s “National Health Service” should give everyone pause for thought.
It is true that the enmity towards Israel and Jews generally emanates mainly from the British Left but, as in America, the Left are enormously influential regardless of whom the people elect to government. How? Because, as in America, the Left control the education system and the bureaucracy. Gramsci’s long march is nearly complete.
Thousands left confused by British grade-school results
The war on assessment goes on. Teachers hate it because it exposes incompetent teaching and parents hate it when it shows that their little treasure is no genius: “He was just having a bad day/month/year”
Children and parents will be left in confusion as national Sats results and teacher assessments for around 600,000 pupils are published together on Tuesday for the first time, education experts have warned. Pupils who sat this year’s exams face being awarded different marks in the same subject if teachers’ appraisals do not match their test scores.
Sats were designed to give parents an indication of the academic standard their child has reached and to help schools stream pupils into the correct classes. Teachers now assess each pupil’s performance over the year and grade them based on their overall ability.
But confusion arose after Ed Balls, the education secretary at the time, decided last November to publish the two sets of national figures side by side. The move was designed to placate unions which had threatened to boycott the exams after teachers claimed they were forced to drop subjects including art, history, geography and PE in the final year of primary school and drill pupils to pass the tests.
A quarter of England’s 15,000 primaries refused to stage the exams in May, meaning pupils at around 4,000 schools will be judged on their teachers’ assessments alone.
There were calls last night for the Government to publish one set of results. Prof Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, said: “Publishing the two sets of results together is confusing. If you are getting contradictory results that is a problem. But it is also information overload and what we need is good, simple, reliable information.”
Anastasia de Waal, the head of family and education at the think tank Civitas, said: “We would be much better off sticking with one system. “Testing needs to be a snapshot of what the children are learning, whereas at the moment all they are learning is the snapshot.”
Sats for 14 year-olds were scrapped along with the science exam for 11 year-olds after teachers complained they had to teach to the test, leaving gaps in the curriculum. Many secondary schools retest pupils in their first few weeks because they do not view Sats results as an accurate measure of ability.
Parents also called for the exams to be abolished, arguing that they were an unreliable measure of children’s ability. Margaret Morrissey, the founder of Parents Outloud, a campaign group, said: “Sats really should not exist. Most children do not perform that well under pressure. “It is a big possibility that they may get two different marks, and parents will be even more confused by this system than before.”
Sats tests were introduced for 11 year-olds in 1995. Teachers have been asked to assess their pupils individually since 1996, with these unofficial results released to parents alongside the test score.
Unions warned last night that pupils might receive worse marks from teachers than in their exams because they were unable to fulfil their potential in a curriculum geared towards the test.
One in five pupils could be given the wrong grade in Sats papers due to inconsistent marking, the exam watchdog Ofqual warned last month.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has admitted there are “flaws within the current testing system” and is committed to a review.
On reforming the British welfare system: “The current system is a nightmare, that it is complex, bureaucratic and riddled with perverse incentives that mean it often makes more sense for a person to be on welfare than in work. No one would ever ha[ve] designed such a system intentionally — it is just the result of one political initiative being piled on top of another, until you’re left with a Byzantine mess that makes no sense whatsoever. Given that the current system is so bad, Duncan Smith is absolutely right to want to tear it up and start again.”