The NHS jobs boom: 66,000 more put on payroll in Labour’s pre-poll spree
“Under Labour, the number of managers increased six times as fast as the number of nurses”
Health Service staff numbers swelled to a record high before the general election as Labour went on an end-of-term spending spree, figures revealed yesterday. Staffing levels jumped by 66,000 in just 12 months to 1.626 million, confirming the NHS as one of the biggest employers in the world.
The 4.2 per cent increase in NHS workers between March 2009 and March 2010 pushed the total number employed in the bloated public sector up to 6.09 million, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Gordon Brown sanctioned ever higher levels of spending ahead of May’s polling day despite the desperate state of the public finances.
The dramatic increase in the workforce has highlighted the scale of the job facing the Coalition. Chancellor George Osborne plans to slash annual borrowing from a record £155billion last year to £20billion in 2016.
Although overall NHS funding will be protected in the forthcoming spending review, the Department of Health is looking for savings of £15billion to £20billion to plough back into the front line. It said staff numbers have already started to fall as it embarks on plans to reduce management costs by 45 per cent by 2014, saving £850million.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘Under Labour, the number of managers increased six times as fast as the number of nurses. While good management is essential, over-management is not.’ He pledged that ‘every penny saved’ in the bureaucracy savings would be reinvested in patient care.
Fiona McEvoy, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, warned that Mr Brown’s pre-election largesse would prove a serious long-term financial burden. ‘The escalating size of the public sector has been hugely detrimental to economic growth and created a fiscal crisis,’ she said. ‘The legacy of this excessive recruitment threatens to cost taxpayers a fortune for many years to come.’
Some 600,000 public sector workers are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the Coalition cuts, says the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Treasury watchdog.
With NHS funding safeguarded, it means other departments such as defence and education face cuts of up to 40 per cent. Opponents claim such drastic measures could tip the UK back into recession.
Student visa crackdown as British immigration minister vows to cut number of arrivals by tens of thousands
A massive shake-up of the immigration system will slash tens of thousands from the number of foreign students flocking into Britain. Immigration minister Damian Green will also drastically reduce the number of work permits and marriage visas given to non-EU nationals under plans to cut net migration by at least half.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Green said it had become ‘starkly clear’ he must reduce the numbers being given permission to enter and stay in every category of immigration controls.
Long-standing impact: Immigration minister Damian Green believes that only students who will have a positive impact on the country should be granted student visas
It comes after surprise figures UK showed net migration leapt by a fifth last year, to 196,000.
Mr Green revealed his main target will be student visas. He today publishes research showing that – astonishingly – fewer than half of foreign students are undertaking degree-level courses.
Mr Green said it showed the image people had of foreign students attending the UK’s most prestigious universities – paying large tuition fees which kept many institutions afloat – was wrong.
More than 90,000 of them are in fact in the private sector at smaller colleges, offering the likes of GCSEs or vocational training. These students could now face being barred from the UK, although Mr Green says he is unlikely to impose a ‘cap’ on student numbers. Instead, he will focus on making it harder to be allowed to come here.
Mr Green said the Home Office study also revealed that a fifth of those students granted visas for a temporary stay are still here five years later, meaning they have a long-standing impact on the UK’s rapidly rising population levels.
In the 12 months to June this year, 362,015 foreign students were allowed to come and study in the UK – up 35 per cent on the previous year.
There remain huge concerns that many of them are attending so-called bogus colleges which repeatedly slipped through the net under Labour.
The clampdown on foreign students will build on the cap the Government has already announced on economic migrants.
This has sparked rows within the Coalition – particularly with LibDem Business Secretary Vince Cable, and Tory universities spokesman David Willetts. They are likely to agitate against the student crackdown as well.
But Mr Green effectively sent a message when he suggested he had little choice if David Cameron’s promise to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ was to be met.
The Prime Minister has said he would like to go even further by returning the figure to that of the mid-1990s – when it was around 50,000.
Mr Green told the Mail: ‘We’ve announced a limit, that’s been controversial. What is transparently clear from this evidence is that the limit itself isn’t enough to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.
‘We need to look at all immigration routes into the UK and set new rules that mean that the migrants that we get do represent the brightest and the best, and are the migrants we need.’ Mr Green added: ‘We think of this as a temporary route, but for many people it clearly isn’t.
‘Between 2004 and 2010, the number of students coming here has risen hugely, more than 300,000 student visas along with dependants were issued in the year to June 2010. ‘One can draw one’s own conclusions about what will happen long-term.
‘I want a student visa system which encourages the entry of good students to highly trusted institutions but which scrutinises much more closely or cuts out entirely those who are less beneficial to this country.’
What about my human rights, asks woman beaten unconscious by asylum-seeker ex-lover freed by British immigration judge
A dangerous criminal who has no legal right to be in Britain has gone on the run after a judge ruled that to detain him would violate his human rights. Failed asylum seeker Kawa ali Azad, who carries knives and is described by his ex-partner as ‘completely unbalanced,’ was granted his freedom from an immigration centre in March.
Azad, an Iraqi Kurd, who has six convictions for violence, immediately breached the bail terms of the release by failing to appear at a police station to have an electronic tag fitted. He then breached a lifetime restraining order by making threats against his ex-partner. Police have had to move her and their son and give them a new identity because of his repeated harassment.
Azad, 34, has now been on the run for more than five months – and police admit they have no idea where he is. They are so concerned about the risk he poses to his ex-partner Tania Doherty that she has been ordered not to visit family and friends and to carry an ‘abduction pack’ with the details and DNA of her son of four, in case he is snatched.
Miss Doherty, whose new name cannot be disclosed, says she is terrified he will return to kidnap their son or hurt her family – both of which he has threatened. ‘I just cannot believe he was released,’ she says. ‘I am disgusted. ‘He has attacked me in broad daylight and threatened to kill me and members of my family. I really fear for my son.’
Azad has been convicted of a string of violent offences, as well as dangerous driving, since he arrived in Britain.
When Miss Doherty ended their relationship in 2006, he battered, harassed and assaulted her for two years. This culminated in an attack in which he beat her unconscious as she sat on a beach in Eastbourne with their son before attempting to snatch the boy.
Azad was jailed for 12 months after the attack. Following his release from prison the Border Agency tried to deport him and he was flown to Baghdad airport. But Iraqi authorities refused to accept him and he was sent back to Colnbrook immigration removal centre near Heathrow.
He was detained because he no longer had any legal right to stay in the country. When he was at first refused bail from the centre he flew into a rage, damaging a courtroom and having to be restrained by staff.
But in March this year an immigration judge decided to release him against the advice of police and the Home Office – on the grounds that detaining him was violating his human rights.
As soon as he was freed, Azad breached his bail by not turning up to be tagged and began leaving threatening messages on a phone belonging to his ex-partner, thus violating the lifetime restraining order preventing him from contacting her.
Miss Doherty says she is furious that, while Azad enjoys his freedom, she and her son are forced to live in fear. ‘Human rights are a joke as far as I’m concerned,’
Miss Doherty said. ‘Having to give my son a new name was the most upsetting part – it was like I lost a part of him. ‘I have had to move away from all my friends and family so I feel totally isolated – all because of him.’
A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said the Home Office had ‘strongly opposed’ the decision to release Azad. ‘We removed Mr Azad in October 2009, but the Iraqi authorities refused to accept him,’ the spokesman said.
‘Following his return to the UK Mr Azad was released on bail by an immigration judge. He has since absconded and we have shared his details with the police.’
Sussex Police said it had been searching for Kawa ali Azad ‘who we seek to arrest and interview on suspicion he breached a Restraining Order’.
The Immigration and Asylum Tribunal refused to discuss why one of its judges had released Azad.
Catholic church accuses BBC of ‘anti-Christian’ bias
Britain’s most senior Catholic has accused the BBC of harbouring an institutional bias against “Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular”. Cardinal Keith O’Brien said the BBC’s news coverage is contaminated by “a radically secular and socially liberal mindset”.
The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh said the corporation’s intolerance of religion is equivalent to its “massive” political bias against the Conservatives in the 1980s.
He also accused the corporation of plotting a “hatchet job” on the Vatican in a documentary about clerical sex abuse on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain.
Cardinal O’Brien believes that atheists like Professor Richard Dawkins are given a disproportionate amount of airtime while mainstream Christian views are marginalised.
He is also angered by a 15 per cent slump in religious programming over the past 20 years and believes the broadcaster should appoint a religion editor to address the decline.
He said: “This week the BBC’s director general [Mark Thompson] admitted that the corporation had displayed ‘massive bias’ in its political coverage throughout the 1980s, acknowledging the existence of an institutional political bias.”
“Our detailed research into BBC news coverage of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, together with a systematic analysis of output by the Catholic church, has revealed a consistent anti-Christian institutional bias.”
He added that insiders at the BBC had privately admitted that there is a cultural intolerance of Christianity at the corporation. “Senior news managers have admitted to the Catholic church that a radically secular and socially liberal mindset pervades their newsrooms. “This sadly taints BBC news and current affairs coverage of religious issues, particularly matters of Christian beliefs.”
Cardinal O’Brien joined calls by the Church of England for the BBC to appoint a religion editor to spearhead the corporation’s coverage of faith issues.
The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester and the Church of England’s lead spokesman on communications, made the request last month in a submission to the BBC Trust’s ongoing review of BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 7. He wrote: “We see no logical distinction between the genre of arts, science and business (all of which include reflecting and discerning between different opinions and perspectives, and have BBC editors) and that of religion.”
Cardinal O’Brien also voiced fears that the broadcaster will use a forthcoming documentary called Benedict –Trials of a Pope to humiliate the pontiff on the eve of his visit to Britain.
The programme, which charts the clerical child abuse crisis that has dogged the Catholic church, has been made by Mark Dowd, a homosexual former Dominican friar. It will be aired on September 15.
Senior Catholic figures have suggested that the Pope could meet with victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests when he visits Britain later this month. Cardinal Vincent Nichols told BBC1’ Andrew Marr show yesterday: “The pattern of his last five or six visits has been that he has met victims of abuse. “But the rules are very clear, that is done without any pre-announcement, it is done in private and it is done confidentially, which is quite right and proper so I think we have to wait and see.”
The BBC dismissed Cardinal O’Brien’s criticism of its religious coverage and denied that it had marginalised mainstream religious issues, which it said were placed “at the heart” of its schedule.
A spokeswoman said: “The BBC’s commitment to religious broadcasting is unequivocal. BBC news and current affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and works closely with BBC Religion, ensuring topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all BBC networks.”
In response to the Cardinal’s attack on the forthcoming documentary by Mr Dowd, she said: “Mark is just one presenter in a range of programming that will include live news and events coverage of the visit itself, and other documentaries across radio and TV.”
Yes, we do need government: Just not as much of it as many seem to think
No, I’ve not read Tony’s maunderings and no, I’m not going to. However, there is one interesting little story that’s emerged:
The former Prime Minister describes how he supported pension reforms proposed by Adair Turner but these were opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time. Lord Turner recommended raising the State pension age and restoring some linkage with earnings – both changes now planned by the Coalition Government – but Mr Brown was thought to be against these reforms. Now we know just how much so.
Mr Blair’s book ‘A Journey’ says: “We had been having a huge set-to about Adair Turner’s pension proposals. John Hutton (the pensions secretary) and I both thought them right but Gordon disagreed.
“He was in a venomous mood and I can truthfully say it was the ugliest meeting we had ever had…the temperature which was already below freezing point went Arctic.”
Mr Blair goes on to relate how Mr Brown threatened to call for an inquiry into allegations that wealthy friends of the Prime Minister had gained seats in the House of Lords after making donations to the Labour Party. Mr Blair claims Mr Brown said he would expose what became known as the ‘cash for honours’ scandal unless Lord Turner’s proposals were dropped.
Government is needed because there really are some collective action problems that cannot be solved without the existence of government (sorry anarchists!). But that does not mean that all of the problems of the world are amenable to government action and that we thus require a government so large as to try and solve all such problems.
For, as we can see, those who actually make up government do not in fact attempt to solve those problems. They’re far too much like the rest of us fallible human beings, willing to snit and scrabble for short term advantage for themselves while ignoring the large scale and long term problems.
No, I don’t say this was unique to Brown: James Buchanan received the Nobel for pointing out that all politicians, all bureaucrats, are susceptible to exactly the same urges. They are, after all, just people and people everywhere react to incentives.
All of which leads us to he conclusion that while we do require government to solve those problems that only government can solve we really don’t want them doing anything at all other than what only government can do. For the rest of it we’ll make our own mistakes thanks very much.
British exams to be brought in line with world’s toughest tests
Wake me up when it happens — JR
Examinations will be toughened up to meet standards set in other countries such as Singapore, South Korea and China, according to the Coalition. Ofqual, the exams regulator, will be ordered to gather test papers from some of the world’s most respected education systems and benchmark domestic qualifications against them.
It is likely to lead to a dramatic rise in the standards teenagers will be expected to meet to gain good grades in A-levels and GCSEs.
The announcement comes amid fears that exams are becoming too easy and failing to keep pace with those in other countries. This summer almost three-in-10 A-levels were graded at least an A and the number of Cs awarded at GCSE increased for the 22nd year in a row.
Speaking on Monday, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said action would be taken to “restore confidence” to the examinations system. This includes an overhaul of Ofqual, the watchdog established by Labour to vet standards in school and college tests. It comes just weeks after the regulator admitted that this year’s GCSE science papers were too easy.
Mr Gove said: “Last month the exams regulator Ofqual acknowledged that the GCSE science exams were not set at a high enough standard. I’ve been saying this for years. “But the previous Government chose to ignore my warnings and they defended a status quo that was in their interest but was actively damaging the education of hundreds of thousands of children a year.”
He said the creation of a “more assertive” qualifications regulator, with the power to order exam boards to toughen up their tests, was “critical to restoring confidence in our exams system”. “We will legislate to strengthen Ofqual and give a new regulator the powers they need to enforce rigorous standard,” he said.
“We will ask Ofqual to report on how our exams compare with those in other countries so we can measure the questions our 11, 16 and 18 year olds sit against those sat by their contemporaries in India, China, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
“Our young people will increasingly be competing for jobs and university places on a global level and we can’t afford to have our young people sitting exams which aren’t competitive with the world’s best.”
The move forms part of a sweeping overhaul of the exams system. As revealed yesterday, the Coalition will also introduce a school leaving certificate to tackle a decline in the number of pupils studying subjects such as languages and science in secondary schools.
An English Baccalaureate will be awarded to pupils who gain five A* to C grade GCSEs in English, maths, a science, a foreign language and one humanities subject. At the same time, panels of academics, exam boards and learned societies will be asked to script A-level syllabuses and test papers to restore rigour to the education system.
Why Army-style fitness workouts are all pain and NO gain
This sounds right to me. But but I have done no exercise for over 50 years so I suppose it would — JR
Taking a stroll on a grassy common these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that National Service still existed. Increasingly, green spaces across the country are taken up with puffed-out people in bibs performing gruelling exercises. Their faces getting pinker by the minute, they run and jump about under the eyes of a watchful leader.
But this is no Army training camp, nor is it a team-building exercise for a large investment bank. Rather, it is a group of people participating in a military fitness class – and they’re supposed to be having fun.
Over recent years, this no-frills bootcamp-style training has been adopted by fitness professionals and organisations everywhere. Every day more people flock to join the sweaty throng, perhaps as a result of our increasing awareness of obesity, or because classes like these cost approximately a quarter of the average personal training session (about £10 a class in comparison to more than £40 for an hour’s one-on-one training).
By far the best known of such outdoor fitness providers is British Military Fitness (BMF), running classes nationwide, with 100 a week in London alone. But should you be signing up?
Dr Ralph Rogers, consultant in sports medicine at the London Orthopaedic Clinic, worries that these kinds of bootcamps result in injury, not weight loss and fitness. He says: ‘Exercise needs to be done gradually, with proper supervision, otherwise there is a risk of injury. I would never recommend an overweight patient to do one of these military bootcamps. When you overload the body, the result is injury – anything from shin splints to back problems – and, in this kind of environment, people make things worse by trying to soldier on.
‘Neither the psychological aspect of why someone is overweight or the nutritional aspect is addressed by a bootcamp. Even fit people can hurt themselves by being over zealous.’
Osteopath Paul Raw agrees: ‘I’ve seen a lot of ex-soldiers with bad backs because the idea of military-style training is to push yourself beyond your limit. This means the likelihood of eventual injury is high. It’s a British thing I think, to assume that exercise must equal pain. ‘As an osteopath I look to the quality of the exercise. Just being tired from it isn’t always productive.’
As a personal trainer, I have worked with clients from all walks of life. Everybody is individual, with different strengths and weaknesses, and making someone do lots of press-ups when they can’t even do a single one properly is a recipe for a bad back.
And if the ratio of instructor to participant is about 1:20, clearly the instructor does not have enough eyes to ensure everybody is doing everything right.
Sit-ups are one of the main culprits when it comes to developing back problems through exercise. From what I have witnessed, all those who pay their £48 BMF monthly membership fee (not including the £50 joining fee) are encouraged to do lots of sit-ups.
Yet such exercises are appropriate only for those with no lower back or postural issues – a small percentage of the population – and even then there are preferable exercises less likely to encourage a rounding of the shoulders or put pressure on the spine.
Stretches can be similarly problematic. Placing your hands in the small of the back and squeezing your elbows together is one way of stretching out your chest, but getting your partner to hold your elbows from behind and force them together, as I witnessed recently, is damaging.
The one being stretched will only arch their back to relieve the pain in the shoulder. We start with a natural arch in the back, but if it is increased, the segments in between spinal discs are further squeezed, creating compression. Over time, this can cause problems, the kind which only the orthopaedic industry will profit from.
And then there is the endless jogging, upon which the military bootcamp is founded: ‘Running is integral to improving fitness,’ says the well-spoken chap in the video voiceovers on the BMF website. But this is only partially true.
Certainly running is good for cardiovascular fitness, but so is swimming. If you are carrying extra weight, fast walking is better than jogging, the impact of which can cause lower back pain and exacerbate existing injuries.
But the majority of BMF leaders don’t know if their clients have such problems because they provide no screening at the outset. This is typical of most bootcamps. All you need to do before participating in a class is to register online, fill in a health form and liability waiver.
When we questioned BMF about this, Simon Richman, London area manager, said: ‘The health form has a list of injury questions.’ In fact, while the form does contain health questions, they are standard ones regarding things like allergies, heart issues, blood pressure and asthma.
‘The onus is on the participant to tell us about any injuries themselves,’ Richman added. ‘But we do check at the beginning of the class whether there are any first-timers and they can ask questions if they need.’
But this courtesy doesn’t seem to extend to everyone, as Catherine Cooper, 34, experienced. A former county tennis player, Catherine wanted to regain lost fitness. She was living in South-West London when she tried an enjoyable free introductory session with BMF.
According to Cooper, the instructors asked who was a first-timer. She says: ‘They were particularly nice to those people. But I went again after paying my membership fee and they were more arrogant. ‘I told them I had a knee injury from skiing, and that it was playing up from all the squats, but they insisted I continue. It was like they were on some kind of power trip.
‘I argued with the instructor, but he carried on being aggressive and telling me to continue. Luckily I refused, so my knee did not get worse. It was only at the end of the session that he apologised, but by then it was too late. I knew I would never go back.’
Simon Richman says: ‘It is our company ethos that everyone has a military or service background, but on top of this they must have a recognised fitness qualification, which includes being a physical training instructor in the services.’ They must then complete a day’s training course and shadow other classes before passing an assessment rendering them proficient to teach without supervision. ‘We are all about creating a welcoming, motivating environment and not about humiliation,’ he says.
So the intention is there, even if it does not convert to reality: surely no self-respecting adult really enjoys performing a wheelbarrow (crawling along the floor on your hands while another holds your legs behind you)?
There are more dignified ways of honing your core strength, which do not risk back injury to such a high degree. If you can’t afford personal training, it is worth saving up to get an assessment from a sports therapist.
You’ll learn what you should and shouldn’t do before joining group exercise. If you were buying a house or a car, you would most likely do any necessary research, so why treat your health and fitness any differently?
Cockroaches could help combat MRSA and E.coli
This sounds very good news but the bureaucracy of getting new drugs through the approval process means that nobody will benefit for at least 10 years
Cockroaches and locusts contain powerful antibiotic molecules in their brains that could be used to develop new treatments against MRSA and E-coli, scientists have discovered. Scientists at Nottingham University found that the insects, which are widely reviled for their dirty image, could actually be more of a health benefit than a health risk.
They have identified up to nine different molecules in the tissues of cockroaches and locusts that are toxic to bacteria and they hope will pave the way for new treatments for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections.
The tissues of the brain and nervous system of the insects were able to kill more than 90% of MRSA and E.coli bacteria, without harming human cells.
Simon Lee, a postgraduate researcher who is presenting his work at the Society for General Microbiology’s autumn meeting in Nottingham, said: “We hope that these molecules could eventually be developed into treatments for E. coli and MRSA infections that are increasingly resistant to current drugs.
“Also, these new antibiotics could potentially provide alternatives to currently available drugs that may be effective but have serious and unwanted side effects,” he said.
Amazing what you can get away with if you are a pop star
“Controversial singer Morrissey has been accused of ‘crude racism’ after describing Chinese people as a ‘subspecies’ because of their treatment of animals.
The star, a well-known vegetarian and animal rights campaigner, said the treatment of Chinese circus animals was ‘absolutely horrific’.
He told poet Simon Armitage in an interview in Guardian Weekend magazine: ‘Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? ‘Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.’
Last year the former Smiths front man, whose old band released an album entitled Meat Is Murder, quit the Coachella festival in California, complaining about the smell of meat cooking.
In a 2006 interview he said he supported ‘the efforts of the Animal Rights Militia in England’.
He has long courted controversy and been accused of flirting with far-right views. In 1992 he was criticised after he appeared on stage wrapped in the Union flag. His song National Front Disco, released in the same year, contains the lines: ‘You want the day to come sooner/When you’ve settled the score’.
In 2007 the singer, who now lives in Los Angeles, said immigration had changed the face of England but later denied being racist.