An experience of an NHS mental health ward
Carefully designed to make your illness worse
Three-quarters of Britons suffer from depression at some point in their lives. While this is often managed with counselling and medication, every year many people end up in hospital on psychiatric wards. But are they really the best place for such patients? Writer KERRY HIATT, suffering from terrible anxiety, admitted herself and was traumatised by her experience. For the sake of the other patients, we are not identifying the hospital.
A huge television set dominates the dimly-lit room. It’s 1pm, but children’s cartoons are on a continuous loop and the people slumped in armchairs stare numbly at the flashing images.
Opposite me, a man in a worn suit and stained overcoat empties a handful of old cigarette butts from his pocket on to the coffee table and examines them.
As I timidly look around, I see a toothless older woman staring at me, a snarl curling her lip. I turn away but out of the corner of my eye, I catch her making obscene gestures.
The walls appear to be covered with hand prints and unidentifiable smears; the only decoration a handwritten poster listing banned items; nail clippers, razors, tweezers, lighters, medication, belts, shoe strings, spiral bound notebooks, jewellery and underwired bras.
Two cagey-looking men are exchanging money in the corner and my heart begins to race in case I’ve witnessed something I shouldn’t have. I hear the front door slam and lock automatically as the staff come and go. Am I in prison? In fact, I’m an inpatient at a mental health unit in London.
Just a week before, I’d been leading a normal life. In fact, life was good: I had a wealth of great friends and had recently married. My husband Joe and I were living in a beautiful rented home in London, and my career as a journalist and author was flourishing; Joe, a web developer, was also doing well.
I was on top of the world, until, seemingly overnight, everything changed.
It started with feeling I couldn’t get out of bed for work one Monday morning — but after a few days of exhaustion, slumped on the sofa, I began to feel overcome by feelings of worthlessness, failure and inexplicable guilt.
I kept having this image of myself lying in a bathtub with slashed wrists. I would shake uncontrollably, twitch nervously and had ferocious nightmares — when I managed to sleep.
Work emails went unanswered, calls from family and friends were ignored and if my husband tried to suggest something to make me feel better, he would experience the wrath of a temper I didn’t even know I had.
I couldn’t help myself. Nothing had changed in my life, yet I was hopeless and wanted life to end.
I had no idea why this was happening — and I was terrified, but of what I didn’t know. I had suffered from depression for years and, at 22, was put on an antidepressant, Citalopram; with this, my moods settled with just occasional bouts of feeling low.
‘Men and women roamed the halls aimlessly, some screamed and shouted, while others stared into the distance with an alarming lack of awareness’
But this was the worst bout of depression I had ever experienced.
With my close friend Cathy, Joe took me to our GP — me wearing my pyjamas and panicking about the thought of being outside.
Shaking and sobbing, I begged my doctor to tell me why I was feeling this way. But, instead, he asked whether I’d had any suicidal thoughts and whether I thought I would act on them. I admitted that I had and that dying seemed like the simplest answer.
I knew they weren’t the answers a normal person would give, but I was beyond caring. I just wanted someone to take care of me. Wasn’t this what every TV show, magazine article and online support group instructed you to do when you were considering suicide; seek help?
My GP, a young doctor, conferred with his colleagues and decided I should be transferred to the nearby mental health unit.
I was afraid, but Joe and Cathy were incredibly supportive, telling me that being in the unit would keep me safe until I felt better.
From the outside the building looked like any other hospital, complete with a bright, clean waiting room and smiley receptionists. I had a long talk with one of the emergency assessment team in a cosy room.
The doctors’ conclusion was that I was suffering a breakdown and was a high suicide risk, and needed to be admitted to 24 hours-a-day psychiatric care for a few days to be supported through the worst of it.
I was flooded with relief. This was a breakdown, it was temporary and people were going to support me. I was safe and I was going to be OK.
‘I was supposed to be safe from myself here, yet I had everything I needed to inflict serious personal damage’
The relief was short-lived. Escorted to a ward on another floor of the building, where the door slammed shut and locked behind me, I encountered the real hospital.
The air was stiflingly hot and smelled of unwashed bodies and cooking. Men and women roamed the halls aimlessly, some screamed and shouted, while others stared into the distance with an alarming lack of awareness.
Some looked like the normal well-dressed types you’d see on any High Street — but others wore filthy clothes and were extremely dishevelled.
By the way some patients behaved, it became apparent that some were suffering with far more than just depression. I was surprised that people with different mental illnesses were grouped together.
In all honesty, I was frightened beyond belief.
Needing to calm my nerves, I asked if I could go outside for a cigarette. Without speaking, a casually-dressed nurse pointed to a door, which led to a small, cramped outdoor cage.
The moment I stepped in, three male patients — one in his 20s, the others middle-aged — followed me.
I was shocked by their stained clothes, unwashed hair and filthy hands. They began to paw at me and, although I asked them to stop, they forced me back into a cramped corner, blocking my escape.
They demanded my cigarettes, and I handed them over, seizing the chance to flee to the nurses’ station.
A nurse listened to my story with a slightly sceptical look before leading me to a women-only lounge with two sofas and a TV. ‘You’ll be safe here,’ she said slowly as if talking to a child. Did she think I had made it up?
‘I’ll keep an eye on the door to make sure nobody comes in. We don’t have any available rooms so you’ll have to stay here until we do.’ She closed the door.
I wept. I loathed myself for being so afraid. But I felt so alone and vulnerable in a place where I had truly believed I would get help and be safe.
Still suffering from my crippling depression, I cried so long and so hard that I wondered whether it was actually possible to die from sadness.
When I tried to find a tissue in my handbag, my fingers brushed against something sharp stashed at the bottom. Emptying the contents, I found a pair of tweezers, some antidepressants and various generic painkillers.
I was supposed to be safe from myself here, yet I had everything I needed to inflict serious personal damage.
Curling up on the sofa, I closed my eyes and tried to forget about the bag’s contents.
I awoke hours later to a shirtless, barefoot man hovering beside me, unbuttoning his jeans.
Paralysed with fear, it took a few seconds for me to scream, which startled him and attracted the attention of a passing male nurse who pulled him away and ushered him out of the lounge.
‘Your room is ready now,’ was all he said to me. ‘I’ll show you where it is. It’s on a women-only corridor, you’ll be OK there.’
My heart was thudding as he led me to a room. At least it was clean; containing a single bed, wardrobe and a desk. I might be safer.
‘I’ll need to look through your things and take anything that might be dangerous.’ I emptied my bag allowing everything — pills and tweezers, too — to clatter on to the desk. ‘I’ve had these things for hours,’ I told him. ‘I could have hurt myself.’
‘Did you?’ I shook my head and he shrugged before departing with anything that could be considered dangerous. ‘That’s all right then.’
Within seconds of him closing the door, male patients swamped the glass window to stare in at me. Clearly no one was bothered about enforcing the women-only rule.
Too afraid to sleep, I lay down and pulled a sheet over my head.
Sometime later, my door was flung open by a woman trailing a suitcase behind her.
‘What’s this b**** doing in my room?’ she screamed, glaring at me. ‘I only left this morning and you’ve given my room away.’
No sooner had she left, a nurse came to tell me it was dinner time.
By now I was constantly shaking with nerves. She told me eating would make me feel better.
In the main lounge, other patients were already queuing for food. Listening to their chatter, I was shocked to discover that some had been living in the unit — a small space with no real outdoor access — for as long as nine months.
At the kitchen window, I received a huge mound of pasta covered with watered down cheese sauce and four green beans. A ball of instant mash potato was slapped on the side, and a wedge of cake so hard and flavourless that it was difficult to chew let alone swallow. It’s hard to see how anyone could start to feel better on this diet.
Plastic cutlery was thrown and people wailed at the dining tables.
We ate unsupervised, the staff gathered in their office — joking and eating their ordered-in pizzas, which had just been delivered.
The woman who claimed I had stolen her room glared at me with ferocious intensity.
She and several others noisily berated my atrocious behaviour. I tried to avoid making eye contact with her.
Another woman, maybe in her early 30s, wore fashionable pyjamas and a dressing gown, warned me to eat everything and try to stay in the communal areas or ‘else the staff will think you’re in a bad way’.
A man who’d been living on the ward for six months and was allowed day release was regaling others with tales of the gun he had bought on a nearby council estate. When another patient alerted him to ‘the new girl’, he sneered: ‘She won’t say anything. It wouldn’t be worth her life.’
To say I was relieved to see my husband and best friend walk through the door for visiting hours is an understatement.
But the moment they arrived, a beaming nurse ushered me into a room to take my blood pressure and weight. ‘Everyone has to be assessed when they arrive,’ she smiled, despite my explaining I’d been there all day.
When I finally sat down with my visitors, another nurse bounded up with a welcome pack full of toiletries and information on ‘my stay’ making it sound more like a jolly hotel jaunt.
‘I am convinced that a mental health ward is not the best place to receive treatment for depression’
The staff had barely spoken to me throughout the day, let alone offered me any support, despite being on suicide watch. But now visiting hours had arrived it seemed everyone was on their best behaviour.
Shaking and tearful, I told Joe of what had happened in the past 12 hours. He made straight for the nurses’ station and demanded to see a doctor.
The doctor was sympathetic and apologised profusely, explaining the unit was for anyone in the local area who had some kind of mental illness; those suffering from depression were grouped with schizophrenics and others.
She said I was not the kind of person — young, attractive and professional — that was usually admitted, so I was bound to generate curiosity among other patients.
That didn’t explain why my neighbour at dinner was on the ward. But, frankly, I wasn’t in a state to argue her case and gratefully accepted the offer of care from a home treatment team to help my anxiety.
The team would be on call 24 hours a day, would turn up at random intervals, offer counselling and change my medication if they saw fit.
The home treatment team were, in fact, fantastic, and I felt incredibly well cared for.
They visited me several times a day; they prescribed Lorazepam — a drug used to treat anxiety — and, after three or four months, I settled back into my old lifestyle, going back to work and socialising.
But I know I was one of the lucky ones. So many people isolate themselves when they feel depressed, and it would be very easy to find yourself completely alone on a mental health ward with no visitors and no outside help.
When I spoke to MIND — the mental health charity — about what happened, they told me it was not uncommon for people to report similar experiences.
How utterly terrifying — the awful things I went through could really happen to anyone.
But I had Joe to fight my corner. Without him, the staff might not have listened to me or believed what had happened.
A year on, I still can’t forget the fear of that experience. It certainly won’t stop me seeking help, but I am convinced that a mental health ward is not the best place to receive treatment for depression.
Schizophrenic man hooked on cannabis stabbed stranger 81 times… after NHS said he ‘posed no danger’
The family of a man murdered in his bed by a paranoid schizophrenic labelled the investigation into his death a ‘whitewash’ after it found no-one was to blame. Landscape gardener Daniel Quelch, 33, suffered 81 knife wounds in a frenzied attack after Benjamin Frankum broke into his parents’ bungalow.
Frankum, 25, then calmly told Mr Quelch’s two terrified young children that ‘Daddy was a bad man’ and he was going to be their ‘new daddy’.
An independent inquiry into cannabis-user Frankum’s NHS care and treatment revealed that he had been assessed for detention under the Mental Health Act weeks before the killing – but was not found to be a danger to the public. The report concluded that Mr Quelch’s murder could neither have been ‘predicted nor prevented’.
But his parents Barbara, 62, and Ernie, 66, said that NHS South East Coast, which had been responsible for Frankum’s care since 2001, had seriously failed in his treatment. Company director Mrs Quelch said: ‘We hold this NHS trust responsible for the death of our son as it did not look after Frankum properly and did not act on the warning signs. He was released into the community without proper support or monitoring.
‘He started smoking cannabis again, could not keep his house or himself clean and stopped taking his medication. ‘Even Frankum’s family were concerned and they told us that they were literally screaming down the phone at his care co-ordinator that he was not taking his medication. ‘Yet nothing was done and seven weeks later he murdered our son.’
At the time of Mr Quelch’s death, Frankum was living in a shared house in Littlehampton, West Sussex, supported by a housing association, after moving out of a residential home in May 2007.
From 2001 to 2006 the former boarding-school pupil had been in hospital, where he was diagnosed with ‘treatment resistant’ schizophrenia that was kept under control by the drug clozapine.
The report’s authors said that the killer was already a regular cannabis smoker when he first came into contact with the NHS aged 19, and had been for at least a year, if not more. But they had not been able to establish whether he used ordinary cannabis or super-strength skunk.
During the summer of 2007, Frankum’s family, the housing association and care services were ‘increasingly concerned’ about his behaviour, according to the report. But professional teams decided the situation did not justify sectioning him.
In August 2007 he broke into his grandmother’s house, stealing knives and jewellery – but still nothing was done. Then in the early hours of August 23 Frankum went to his mother’s house near Maidenhead, Berkshire, and crashed his stepfather’s car into the swimming pool. He then walked over a neighbouring field, broke into a house and stabbed Mr Quelch, whom he did not know, as he slept beside his two-year-old son.
After the children woke up, he put the blood-stained knife down on the bed to fetch them cans of Coca-Cola and yogurt, telling them he was their ‘new daddy’.
When Mrs Quelch came home after walking her dogs, she saw Frankum on the drive covered in blood and wearing only boxer shorts. He told her he was from MI5 and that he wanted to ask her some questions, but she stayed in her car and rang the police.
Two years ago a jury at Reading Crown Court found Frankum was responsible for the killing, after he was deemed unfit to plead, and ordered him to be detained in Broadmoor Hospital indefinitely.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, who conducted the £100,000 independent inquiry, said: ‘Although we found areas where his care could have been better, we could find no evidence that the killing could have been predicted or prevented.
‘In May 2007 he deteriorated quite rapidly in the new (residential housing association) home. We found no evidence in his past that showed he was a threat. When he started to deteriorate, the care co-ordinator increased his visits, discussed his concerns with colleagues and arranged for him to be assessed by two experienced colleagues to see if he should be detained under the Mental Health Act.’
Mr Quelch’s family pointed out that the two assessments were made by a locum psychiatrist and a social worker – not by Frankum’s consultant psychiatrist, who told the inquiry that had a formal assessment been completed, he would have been sectioned [compulsorily confined]
Victims of anti-social behaviour can name and shame police who don’t help them, says British government crime boss
Home Secretary Theresa May is ordering police to ‘reclaim the streets’ from louts they have allowed to run riot. Anyone who feels to have been repeatedly ignored by officers when complaining about loutish behaviour will be given new powers to demand action.
Officers will also be instructed to treat vandalism and low-level thuggery as a crime – rather than ‘anti-social behaviour’ which is the problem of town halls.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail on the eve of her speech to the Tory conference, Mrs May revealed that the public will be given formal rights to complain to superiors if police do not respond to multiple complaints.
It is hoped that the prospect of an officer being named in a complaint by a harassed member of the public will lead to thuggish behaviour being treated far more seriously.
The Home Secretary’s decision follows a blistering report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, who said police have staged a 30-year ‘retreat from the streets’. Sir Denis O’Connor said that, as a result, the ‘disease’ of anti-social behaviour had been allowed to blight Britain.
Mrs May said she wanted to get rid of the term ‘anti-social behaviour’ – which was largely coined by the last Labour government. Instead, it should be called what it is – ‘crime and disorder’, she said.
‘By calling it anti-social behaviour, it made it seem less important and it made it seem less of a crime. It is a crime. Dealing with this is about cutting crime and the job of the police is cutting crime. ‘Part of the problem is that people feel they are reporting things that are wrong but they are not seeing any action. As a society we need to reclaim the streets, and part of that is about police being on the streets and being visible.’
In her speech today, Mrs May will spell out how police will face a formal investigation by the local Community Safety Partnership if they ignore repeated pleas for help from the public. The partnership – a panel which includes local police chiefs – will then have to explain what action is being taken to new locally-elected police commissioners.
It is a direct response to the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled 18-year-old daughter. Miss Pilkington, who was being tormented by a gang of youths, made 33 desperate 999 calls over seven years. But she was accused of ‘over-reacting’ and, unable to bear the torment any more, she killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire.
Mrs May will announce the appointment of Baroness Newlove – whose husband Garry was murdered after standing up to drunken vandals – as the Government’s new ‘champion for active, safer communities’.
She will say: ‘Too often we hear stories of victims who are passed from pillar to post, from the police to environmental services to the housing department before being passed back to the police again. ‘We hear about victims who call the police on dozens of occasions but aren’t taken seriously and in many cases are ignored altogether. So as part of our reforms to antisocial behaviour powers, we will give victims and communities the right to force the authorities to take action where they fail to do so.’
The HMIC’s study found millions of acts of drunken loutishness and vandalism are going unreported as they have become ‘normalised’.
The basic task of keeping the peace had been relegated to a ‘second-order consideration’ for officers who were obsessed with meeting targets for recorded crimes, he added.
The ‘Stop the Rot’ report showed that last year, 3.5million acts of anti-social behaviour were reported. But this represents only one in four of the estimated real total, meaning an astonishing 14million such incidents were carried out – one every two seconds.
The report warned that police forces are routinely ignoring thousands of repeat victims of harassment and thuggery. Forces often mark such calls as ‘low priority’ because they do not qualify as crimes. As a result, no action is taken.
A separate HMIC report in July found that just 11 per cent of officers are visible and available to the public at any one time, and more were available on Monday morning than when they might most be needed, on Saturday nights when there is more drunken aggression.
Mrs May indicated she will forge ahead with plans to scrap the antisocial behaviour order, which she said had become a badge of honour among thugs. She wants to replace the Asbo with a far simpler, less bureaucratic punishment to keep thugs in check.
Labour introduced a multitude of policies aimed at combating antisocial behaviour, including Asbos. But last year Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted Labour had ‘coasted’ on the issue.
The lengths you need to go to in order to get help against louts in Britain
Mother stands in front of train
When a gang of drunken football yobs began hurling foul abuse at a mother and her five-year-old son on a train, she presumed someone would intervene. But the driver refused to call the police or stop the train and the guard was nowhere to be seen.
Faced with giving in or standing up to the 30-strong group, Lisa Robinson decided to take them on.
When the train reached her station she got off and stood in front of it, refusing to move until the driver called police. Rail company Arriva then terminated the train there, leaving the abusive fans to make their own way home.
Yesterday Mrs Robinson said: ‘It was a terrifying experience, but I’m glad I did it. It was a victory for ordinary people.’
The 41-year-old mother had been on a day out with her husband Peter, 61, and their son Harry to celebrate his fifth birthday. The couple, civil servants from Ystrad Mynach near Caerphilly in South Wales, had taken Harry to Cardiff before returning home on the Arriva service.
As they boarded the two-carriage train on Saturday September 25, they realised it was full of drunken Cardiff City fans who had just seen their team beat Millwall.
The family tried to ignore the shouting and swearing hooligans, but when the train arrived at a station and the gang began abusing a woman on the platform, Mrs Robinson decided to intervene. ‘I walked down to the group and asked the main perpetrator to stop swearing,’ she said. ‘They then turned their abuse on me, calling me a ‘‘dyke’’ and a string of four-letter words.
‘Nobody said anything. I was terrified. I wanted to alert the guard, but there was no way into the next carriage so we were completely trapped. ‘Then they swore at my husband, who was sitting with Harry, and taunted him about his age. By the time the train set off again I was crying and shaking.’ She was so frightened she pulled the emergency handle at the next station.
But she said that when the driver got into the carriage, he simply reset the alarm and went back to drive the train, ignoring her husband’s request to call the police.
Mrs Robinson added: ‘The train carried on for another two stops, with the abuse continuing, until it arrived at our station, Ystrad Mynach. When I got off I had Harry in my arms and he was crying. The driver completely ignored us and told us to take it up with the guard. We had not seen one for the entire journey – I think he had been too frightened to intervene.
‘It was then I decided to take direct action. I spoke to the driver who again ignored me – he wouldn’t even take his sunglasses off to talk to me. ‘So I handed Harry to Peter, got on to the tracks and stopped the train from leaving the station. Some of the football yobs got off to give me more abuse and take pictures of me on their mobiles.’
She said the guard then appeared and asked her to move, which she refused to do. She eventually moved after the station controller promised her he would not move the train and that the police would be called. Two British Transport Police officers arrived and, after discussions with railway officials, the train was terminated.
Mrs Robinson said yesterday that she was glad she had made a stand and would do it again. ‘I think too often these yobs are allowed to get away with it,’ she added. ‘When the thugs started kicking off, one woman said to me that I should accept it as it was just the world we live in. But I refuse to live in a society where this sort of thing goes unpunished.
‘Arriva sent me flowers and apologies, but what they really need to do is plan to make sure these things don’t happen. They knew there was a football game on and should have laid on extra staff. Instead, they had one guard who I’m convinced was hiding in the other carriage. ‘I still can’t believe the driver ignored my husband when he asked him to phone the police.’
Peter Northcott, head of stations at Arriva Trains Wales, said: ‘We take all complaints very seriously and I personally contacted Mr and Mrs Robinson on the day of this incident. A full investigation is taking place with the British Transport Police.’
A spokesman for British Transport Police said: ‘Inquiries, including viewing CCTV and speaking to witnesses who were on the train, which was travelling between Penarth and Bargoed, are ongoing.’
British Charity Commission covers up for a Warmist crook
Next weekend, as delegates from 194 countries gather in South Korea for a crucial meeting of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, their big talking point will be whether the IPCC’s chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri should resign – as a recent report from the world’s leading scientific academies seemed strongly to hint he should. The delegates face a dilemma. If they sack him, it would be a serious blow to the reputation of the panel, which has been central to the global warming scare since its founding in 1988. If he stays, it could severely damage the authority of its next major report, due in four years’ time.
Last winter, Dr Pachauri’s reputation took a hammering. On the one hand, there was the exposure of all those glaring and alarmist scientific errors in the IPCC’s last major report, produced under his guidance in 2007. On the other was the revelation in this newspaper of how his prestige as the “world’s top climate official” had coincided with a massive expansion in the fortunes of Teri, his Delhi-based research institute. Not only had Pachauri been appointed as an adviser to some of the richest banks and investment funds in the world, but Teri’s empire had mushroomed to include branches in Europe, North America, Dubai, Japan and South-East Asia.
When Dr Richard North and I came to examine this empire, our interest was drawn to Teri Europe, based in a suburban house in south London, which is registered under British law as a charity and is obliged to publish its accounts on the Charity Commission website. When we looked at these, however, they seemed rather odd. The figures showed the charity’s income and expenditure rising steadily in its early years – but from 2006 onwards they suddenly plunged to below £10,000 a year.
This was significant because £10,000 is the threshold below which a charity does not have to publish full accounts. Yet we knew that in these years Teri Europe was rapidly expanding, receiving sums way above that threshold. These included several payments from the UK government, such as £30,000 for the services of an employee of Dr Pachauri’s Delhi office to act as his co-editor on the IPCC’s 2007 Synthesis Report.
When we approached Teri Europe with our evidence, the charity’s secretary immediately admitted that there were “anomalies” in the accounts. The Charity Commission agreed to investigate. Not the least point of interest was that the charity’s trustees – “responsible,” in the commission’s words, “for approving the accounts before submission” – included, alongside Dr Pachauri, two other luminaries of the global warming establishment. Sir John Houghton was a founder of the IPCC, and had long played a key role in it. Sir Crispin Tickell was one of Houghton’s most influential allies back in 1988, as “our man at the UN” and as the adviser who talked Mrs Thatcher into enthusiasm for global warming at that crucial moment (a fervour she later disavowed).
Since it seemed that both Teri Europe and the trustees were in serious breach of the Charity Commission’s rules, this has led over recent months to a protracted series of exchanges with the commission.
First, the names of Houghton and Tickell swiftly disappeared from the list of trustees. Then, in May, after an audit by a firm of accountants, the commission’s website showed dramatically revised figures for one of the three years in question. The charity’s income for 2008 had now risen from £8,000 to £103,980, its expenditure from £3,000 to £97,419. But the figures for the previous two years were unchanged. The commission explained that it had allowed this “to save the charity a considerable amount in accounting fees”. It also claimed that the errors were due to the charity’s “inexperience in preparing accounts”, though the figures for earlier years showed no sign of “inexperience”.
I therefore put 10 searching questions to the commission. Why, for instance, was its website continuing to give false information? Would the commission show equal leniency to other bodies found to have provided misleading accounts, since normally a charity would be severely penalised for such offences?
When eventually I had a lengthy response it didn’t give a direct answer to any of my questions, except to say they were not prepared to disclose the date on which Houghton and Tickell had resigned as trustees. But clearly the commission had been embarrassed by my questions, since over the next few weeks revised figures for two more years appeared online. Income for 2007 rose from £9,000 to £49,878, for 2006 from £7,000 to £16,610 – showing that nearly £150,000 had not previously been disclosed. And, as can be seen from the commission’s website, the accounts are now shown to have been up to “1,246 days overdue”.
Doubtless, compared to the difficulties Dr Pachauri may face next weekend in holding on to the post which has helped him so to extend his institute’s fortunes, these accounting anomalies in one of its branches may seem pretty small beer. But an important question remains: why, when they came to light, did the Charity Commission struggle so long and hard to give this particular charity such an extraordinarily easy ride?
Grammar for graduates: British building society [Thrift] hires teacher to improve recruits’ written English
Bosses at a building society are so concerned about workers’ written English that they are giving them grammar lessons, it has emerged. The Leeds Building Society realised it had a problem when senior executives looked at internal reports produced by recent graduates and couldn’t understand them.
Managers feared that badly written letters would irritate its customers – many of whom are part of a generation well-schooled in the three Rs. If staff could misplace a comma in a letter, they might also misplace a figure, they worried.
And so, the 135-year-old firm, one of Britain’s oldest financial institutions, has recruited a retired A-level English teacher to give staff a proper grounding in traditional grammar and punctuation.
Staff of all ages have joined the classes, which cover punctuation, parts of speech, sentences, paragraph construction and concise writing, the building society said. It denied standards had slipped, but one manager said: ‘The executives could not understand the reports being sent to them.’
Kim Rebecchi, sales and marketing director, said: ‘We felt that, while the standard of formal English within the society was strong, our employees are from very varied and diverse educational backgrounds, as well as being from many different age groups.
‘This means that, while style and quality are good and broadly the same, there are some areas for improvement and we particularly wanted to create a more formal and consistent approach to our writing, focusing on clarity and brevity.’
Four sessions have been laid on for 20 staff by a teacher in Leeds. Mrs Rebecchi added that the sessions had proved ‘thought-provoking’ and sparked ‘healthy debate’.
The building society, founded in 1875, is among growing numbers of firms offering training in the three Rs to recruits from school and college. About one in five employers run some form of remedial training, according to the CBI.
Even teaching assistants at a primary school in Havant, near Portsmouth, are to be given English lessons, it has emerged, after criticism from inspectors. Ofsted warned their poor grammar and use of slang set a bad example to pupils at Trosnant Junior School.
Meanwhile, a series of industry bosses have questioned the calibre of jobseekers. Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s chief executive, has warned that standards were ‘still woefully low in too many schools’ and Sir Stuart Rose, Marks & Spencer’s boss, said too many school-leavers ‘cannot do reading… cannot do arithmetic… cannot do writing’. Sir Michael Rake, BT’s chairman, said education standards were a ‘disgrace’ after receiving applications from ‘illiterate’ school-leavers.
Critics claim teachers and lecturers fail to correct rigorously students’ slips. They also say exams and syllabuses don’t put enough emphasis on standards of English.
Last year, separate research found that British students have a worse grasp of English than many from overseas. A study at Imperial College London found British undergraduates made three times more grammatical and spelling errors than counterparts from Singapore, China and Indonesia, who count English as their second language.
Dr Bernard Lamb, who did the research, said: ‘We need to raise the very poor standards of English of the home students by more demanding syllabuses and exams, more explicit teaching and examining of English (including grammar, spelling and punctuation), and by consistent and constructive correction of errors.’
Nothing Wrong With Our Graph
Dr. David Whitehouse
The GWPF’s graph, displayed on the GWPF’s homepage masthead, showing that the global average annual temperature hasn’t changed this century, drawn against a nice blue backdrop, is making a few people see red. Why this is I don’t exactly know as their logic, in contrast to their anger, isn’t entirely clear. Perhaps it is because it neatly summarises the uncertainties in climate science as well as common misconceptions (as was the intention) that some commentators find too uncomfortable to address, instead becoming deniers of basic scientific data. It certainly seems a difficult fact for some, but inconvenience is one thing, facts are another.
Those who complain that the graph is wrong, if they are to be fair and consistent, should now target the Royal Society in their sights as it has admitted this in its recent brochure on the science of climate change that the recent spell of warming ended in 2000.
It is not alone. The Journal Science has said the pause in global temperatures is real, as do many refereed scientific papers in numerous journals. Also in State of the Climate in 2008, a special supplement to the August Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, no less, confirmed that in the past ten years the HadCRUT3 temperature data (there are problems with this data set regarding its reliability and how it calculates averages but it is probably the best we’ve got) shows no increase whatsoever. Their analysis showed that the world warmed by 0.07 +/- 0.07 deg C from 1999 to 2008, not the 0.20 deg C expected by the IPCC. Corrected for the large 1998 El Nino event (that made 1998 the hottest year on record) and its sister La Nina, the last decade’s trend is perfectly flat. There were even comments in the so-called Climategate emails along the lines of the temperature not increasing and “it’s a travesty” that we can’t explain it.
Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit also holds this view, saying yes in a BBC interview in response to the question; Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically significant global warming.
We live in the warmest decade, no one doubts that (though possibly not as warm as it was 1000, 2000 and 3000 years ago), and this explains why the world’s warmest years are clustered during that period. Look at the order of the warmest years, however, and you will see they are jumbled up and sit well within each other’s errors of measurement. There is no upward trend, just a plateau.
The latest warm period began in 1980. This means we have had 30 years of it. It is clear from looking at the data that it is composed of two distinct periods and it is not cherry picking to identify these as they stand out in the data. There is the period 1980 – 1995 when the world warmed, and the period 1995 – 2010 when it didn’t increase its temperature. We are told, by some, that 30 years is about the minimum for statistically significant climatic data to emerge. However, at 15 years each these two periods are now of equal statistical significance. If the standstill continues then it will soon become the dominant climatic factor of the past 30 years.
It is interesting to also note that the warming between 1980 and 1990 was not in itself statistically significant. This means that it was only the 5-year warming period 1990 -1995 (before it ceased) that has made all the difference to the statistics and significance of Earth’s warming in the past 30 years!
No climate computer model predicted the recent standstill but they have been used with hindsight to explain it. It has been suggested that natural cycles, oceanic cooling and solar influences, are responsible. The Met Office Hadley Centre ran a series of computer climate predictions all of which had programmed into them the 0.20 deg C long-term IPCC trend. They found that in many of the computer runs there were decade-long standstills, but none of 15 years. If one took that 15-year figure at face value it would mean that the data already accumulated has falsified the IPCC’s basic assumptions about the rate of warming. However, bearing in mind that the proposed explanation for the hiatus was arrived at post-hoc and relies on the same computer models that failed to predict it, one should be cautious. Modelling is one thing, real-world data is another and we should never confuse the two.
So whilst a few might not like it, there is nothing wrong with the GWPF’s temperature graph which is based on freely available HadCRUT3 data. In fact, it would be scientifically justifiable to replace it with a constant straight line with data scattered around the mean (the scatter between 2009 and previous years is insignificant). The graph is a useful discussion point that illuminates some of the problems in climatic research today. It has achieved its purpose in encapsulating a basic scientific fact about climate change and in stimulating debate.