NHS operates a ‘closed-shop’ market
Patients have to put up with longer waits and poor service because surgeons and managers are “freezing out” private firms from the NHS, a think-tank claims today. The Civitas report paints a picture of a “closed shop” NHS in which hospital staff are vehemently opposed to the market.
They routinely awards contracts to in-house-providers rather than commercial operators – even if it means patients or tax payers get a worse deal, found James Gubb, head of the health unit at Civitas.
He interviewed NHS and private contractor staff for his report, Refusing Treatment. In it he argued: “Existing NHS providers use their muscle and connections to keep providing services even when faster, higher quality care is on offer elsewhere.
“The results are that the benefits of a decentralised and innovative NHS are being denied to patients who have to wait longer for treatment and fail to access the most appropriate services.”
Mr Gubb found many staff believed extra competition would inevitably lead to the break-up of the health service. One NHS executive told him: “I do not believe many people have bought into the idea that the NHS is the organisation that procures health care for the public and where that health care is delivered should not matter.”
For this reason the report concluded: “There remains a culture of supporting local NHS providers, often regardless of the quality of other organisations: NHS, voluntary or private.” Tactics included “predatory pricing” by hospital trusts in areas that were open to competition, by off-loading overheads on to other services.
The anti-market bias also fostered low productivity and high absenteeism, according to Mr Gubb’s evidence. One private provider told him: “I know for a fact that a surgeon in an unnamed NHS trust takes 2½ hours to do a hip replacement that he does in 45 minutes at [one of our hospitals].”
Another executive said: “It’s a question of having the will. Four surgeons didn’t turn up for work here yesterday, blaming the snow. In the private sector they’d all turn up… In the health service there just isn’t the will to work too hard, because you won’t get fired and you’ve got your pension.”
With the Coalition pushing to open up the NHS to greater competition, Mr Gubb – an advocate of greater private sector involvement – warned internal resistance would hinder progress.
He said: “The Coalition Government has put a lot of faith in the power of the market to meet the NHS’s unnerving productivity challenge. The problem is the Coalition isn’t addressing the real issues as to why the market currently isn’t delivering: the overwhelming power of hospitals and the closed-shop ‘we can do it alone because we’re the NHS’ attitude so prevalent across the organisation.”
His position is almost the polar opposite of that taken by the British Medical Association, which warned last week that increasing competition would damage the health service. The BMA believes private firms “cherry-pick” the most profitable services, like providing routine operations in independent sector treatment centres, leaving the NHS to carry the can for more expensive ones.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, its chairman of council, said that while he was not “ideologically against” markets, the BMA thought competition cost the NHS more in terms of cash leaving the service, than it saved in terms of increased efficiencies.
Ex-Marxist head wants to axe bad British teachers and drive out the unions
A deputy headmistress delivered a damning indictment on state schools yesterday, saying she hoped education reforms would smash teaching unions. In the most passionate moment yet at the Tory autumn conference, Katharine Birbalsingh attacked a state system which she said was ‘broken as it keeps poor children poor’.
The former Marxist confessed she had voted Tory for the first time at the general election, saying that teachers were too ‘blinded by leftist ideology’ and refused to admit they were failing children.
After a decade of teaching in state schools, the 37-year-old Oxford graduate plans to publish a book exposing the ‘chaos’ in the system. Miss Birbalsingh later told the Mail she hoped the Coalition push for free schools – which will be able to set their own pay and conditions – would reduce the influence of unions.
Her intervention came as Education Secretary Michael Gove pledged to give heads more powers to discipline children and put teachers back in charge.
During a fringe event, Miss Birbalsingh laid bare the failures of state schools, where, far too often, teachers were expected to be social workers as well. She said: ‘In schools and in society, we need high expectations, of everyone, even if you’re black, or live on a council estate – why can’t they sit exams at the end of the year? ‘We need to instil competition amongst the kids and help build their motivation by ensuring they’re not given everything and that they are held to account for what they do.
‘We have a situation where standards have been so dumbed down that even the children know it. ‘When I give them past exam papers to do from 1998, they groan and beg for a 2005 or 6 paper, because they know it’ll be easier.’
She added: ‘Exclusion quotas bind our headteachers, league tables have all of us pursuing targets and grades. Instead of teaching properly … the ordinary child … is lost in a sea of bureaucracy handed down from the well meaning.’
Ranking children by ability was viewed as poisonous by teachers, she said, which meant that pupils ‘live in darkness, without any idea of how they compare to those around them, let alone to those who are educated in the private sector’.
She added: ‘Black underachievement is due in part to the chaos of our classrooms, and in part, to the accusation of racism. ‘If you keep telling teachers that they’re racist for trying to discipline black boys, and if you keep telling heads that they’re racist for trying to exclude black boys, in the end, the schools stop reprimanding these children. ‘Black children underachieve because of what the well-meaning liberal does to him.’
Miss Birbalsingh, who has just started as a deputy head teacher at St Michaels and All Angels Academy in South London, said the biggest problem in the system was the destruction of behavioural and academic standards.
‘I don’t think ordinary parents have any idea about what goes on in their schools. But it is totally and utterly chaotic. Teachers spend most of their time telling children to sit down or stop disrupting the class rather than teaching.’
Miss Birbalsingh said there was a conspiracy of silence in staffrooms because teachers were too afraid of being branded as failures if they admitted how bad the true picture was. ‘League tables tell you nothing about how good a school really is, just how good the school is at playing the system and picking the easier exams,’ she said. ‘I’d like to see bad teachers getting fired and heads given the powers to discipline children.’
The daughter of immigrant parents from the Caribbean, Miss Birbalsingh said she remained ‘on the fence’ over free schools as she was worried that unqualified people would run them. But she added: ‘I suspect the rationale for free schools is to get the unions out. If they achieve that, it will be worth it because the unions are keeping bad teachers and bad support staff from being fired.’
At conference yesterday, Mr Gove announced that head teachers will be given powers to punish students who misbehave on the way to and from school. ‘At the moment heads are prevented from dealing with their pupils if they run wild in a shopping mall or behave anti-socially in town centres,’ he said. ‘So we will change the rules to send one clear and consistent message. Heads will have the freedom they need to keep pupils in line – any time, any place, anywhere.
‘We have to stop treating adults like children and children like adults. Under this Government we will ensure that the balance of power in the classroom changes – and teachers are back in charge.’
History, grammar and spelling will return to the heart of the school curriculum, Michael Gove vowed yesterday. Warning against the ‘trashing of our past’ and poor standards of English, the Education Secretary said children were leaving school without knowing their nation’s history or being able to communicate properly.
He said he ‘couldn’t live’ with himself if he stopped ‘pressing, pushing, fighting’ to give every child the chance to succeed. ‘It is every child’s right to be taught how to communicate clearly,’ he said, as he attacked the way that the ‘basic building blocks of English have been demolished’. Mr Gove added: ‘Thousands of children leave school unable to compose a proper sentence, ignorant of basic grammar, incapable of writing a clear and accurate letter.’
Examiners will take account of spelling, punctuation and grammar when marking tests, he said.
He spoke of the need to go back to traditional subjects of maths and science. ‘We urgently need to ensure our children study rigorous disciplines instead of pseudo-subjects. Otherwise we will be left behind,’ he said.
He attacked the piecemeal approach to history, where children are given a mix of topics at primary, ‘a cursory run through Henry VIII, and Hitler at secondary’ before giving up the subject at 14. He has asked historian Simon Schama to advise on putting British history at the heart of the curriculum.
Mr Gove also called for tougher school discipline standards, but said he drew the line at hitting children.
Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, said children ‘are being failed through the testing and assessment regime’. ‘It leads to a narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test,’ she said.
The lazy British police again
Policeman abandoned unconscious man to die by side of road… and then lied to hide his actions. Australians tend to see the British generally as work-shy and that certainly applies to their police
A policeman who left an unconscious man to die by the side of a road before inventing a story to cover his tracks has been found guilty of misconduct.
Former traffic officer Pc David Driver, 36, wrote false witness statements in his notebook after he found out 26-year-old Steven Hathaway had died. He told bosses he had spoken to Mr Hathaway and his friend who were outside a house in the picturesque Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.
But in fact Mr Hathaway had been comatose from drink and drugs and his friend barely able to stand when Driver left them in the middle of a freezing night on Valentine’s Day last year. Less than an hour later Mr Hathaway died at the scene.
On Tuesday Driver admitted misconduct in a public office on the first day of his trial at Worcester Crown Court. The court heard Mr Hathaway might have survived if Driver had called an ambulance.
David Jackson, prosecuting, said an inquest had yet to be held but added: ‘There is evidence that the cold had been a contributory factor, which Driver should have been aware of and acted upon. ‘That doesn’t make him legally responsible for the death, but it is a relevant factor.’
Driver was an officer for Gloucestershire Police when he spotted Mr Hathaway and another man lying on a pavement outside a house in Moore Road, Bourton-on-the-Water at 1.30am on Valentine’s Day last year. He spoke to Mr Hathaway’s friend who was also drunk before leaving them.
Ten minutes later a passing motorist saw the men and dialled 999 and two different police officers attended the scene. They called an ambulance but paramedics could not detect a pulse for Mr Hathaway and he was pronounced dead at 2.35am.
Judge Alistair McGreath said Driver ‘panicked’ after learning of Mr Hathaway’s death and concocted a false report to cover his back. He said: ‘He [Driver] said they were both capable and, critically, that neither of them were unconscious and incapably lying on the ground.’
Following Mr Hathaway’s death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (PICC) launched an investigation and Driver resigned from Gloucestershire Police. In February he pleaded guilty to neglecting his duty as a police officer and perverting the course of justice.
On Tuesday Judge McGreath adjourned the case and bailed Driver before sentencing on November 12. He told him: ‘It is important that you understand I will pass on you the sentence that is appropriate on the information that I have. ‘Being out on bail says nothing at all about what that sentence will be.’
Yet another false rape claim in Britain
Any conviction for rape in Britain would have to be regarded as unsafe unless there were independant witnesses actually present at the time
A horsewoman who claimed her boyfriend fed her a Pringles sandwich laced with diazepam to make her drowsy before raping her is facing jail. Kate Woodhead’s fiction extended to salacious details about him being ‘turned on’ as he pulled off her jodhpurs, a court heard. But after a three-week trial, a jury decided that her story was a pack of lies.
She made it up to get back at Porsche-driving Paul Joseph because she feared he was having an affair and thought he was about to walk out on her, Guildford Crown Court heard. During the case she was granted anonymity under an order made by the judge. But this was lifted when she was convicted.
The court heard that Mr Joseph, an IT consultant, divorced his wife in 2007 to be with Woodhead, who ran a business providing horses and carriages for weddings. They moved into a rented lodge with a stable block in Wisley, Surrey.
In the early hours of April 10 last year Woodhead went with a friend to a police station to accuse Mr Joseph of rape. She told officers she would pursue her complaint only if they promised not to approach her boyfriend until after she had sorted out her affairs, including the house.
She went home in a ‘friendly and jovial mood’, the jury was told, and the couple continued to share the house and enjoy sex while he remained in ignorance of what was happening behind his back.
The friend who accompanied her to the police station told the court Woodhead said she intended to make Mr Joseph pay for the ‘other woman’ and he ‘wouldn’t know what had hit him’.
Prosecutor Hugh Forgan said: ‘The allegation of rape is entirely fictitious. The pair had a topsy-turvy relationship and at the time of the allegation they were sleeping in separate beds. ‘However they still had a sex life, in fact she even had sex with him the day after going to the police crying rape.’
Their relationship ended after a furious row when Mr Joseph found a large number of condoms in a drawer and became convinced Woodhead was selling herself for sex. Woodhead kicked him out, changed the locks and obtained a court order banning him from the premises.
She packed his belongings, including a top-of-the-range Bang and Olufsen stereo, expensive art prints, and the desk from his study, into a horsebox. They were driven away and were never seen again.
In another ‘malicious’ act, she lied to the DVLA, transferring ownership of his Porsche Carrera and BMW motorbike to her name, intending to sell them. She was arrested after her friend went back to the police to tell them she thought the rape scenario was made up. The rape allegation against Mr Joseph was dropped and no action taken against him.
Cross-examining Mr Joseph, Andrew Turton, defending Woodhead, suggested that he made her a sandwich of Pringles and diazepam, then when she became drowsy he carried her to bed, and was ‘turned on’ by removing her jodhpurs before having sex with her without her consent.
Mr Joseph said: ‘A Pringle sandwich laced with diazepam must have been the driest ever. You’d think you could taste it. I wouldn’t eat it.’
The jury found Woodhead guilty of perverting the course of justice, fraud and two counts of theft. She had denied all the charges. Remanding her on bail until sentencing next month, Judge Neil Stewart said a custodial sentence was ‘almost inevitable’.
Light drinking in pregnancy makes the offspring smarter and better behaved
And what a tizzy that finding is provoking! “Experts” (i.e. believers in the conventional wisdom) don’t want to believe the evidence. They do however eventually get around to realizing — now that it suits them — that correlation is not causation and that women who can drink in a controlled manner are probably smarter anyway — and pass that on to their children genetically. The results do nonetheless suggest that moderate drinking is not harmful
Experts warn mothers-to-be should not raise a glass to new British research showing “light drinking” during pregnancy has no detrimental effect.
The study tracked the long-term health of more than 11,500 British children born at the start of the decade and it found no sign of harm – and perhaps even a benefit – from mums who drank low levels of alcohol throughout their pregnancy.
The finding runs counter to official advice for Australia’s impending mums and experts say there were factors that may have skewed the data and abstinence remained the safest approach.
“The finding … was that children exposed to light drinking in pregnancy had better cognitive ability at age five years in comparison to children of mothers who did not drink during pregnancy,” said Dr Lucy Burns, senior lecturer and chief investigator at the University of NSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. “This was, however, only one of the many outcomes in the report, the majority of which found no improvements in child functioning.
“Given the increasing body of knowledge now showing that alcohol disrupts brain development in the foetus … it seems most sensible to continue to promote abstinence during pregnancy as the best approach.”
The study rated new mothers from either teetotal through to light drinkers (one or two standard drinks a week), moderate drinkers (three to six drinks weekly or five at any one time), and binge or heavy drinkers (seven or more drinks a week or six in any one sitting) during their pregnancy.
About 60 per cent of the mums abstained during pregnancy while one in four (26 per cent) were light drinkers, one in 20 (5.5 per cent) were moderate drinkers and 2.5 per cent were heavy drinkers.
Their children’s development was assessed at ages three and five years.
Heavy drinking mums were more likely to have children who were hyperactive and with behavioural and emotional problems. But, in a surprise result, children of light drinkers were found to be 30 per cent less likely to have behavioural problems compared to mothers who abstained.
Professor Wayne Hall, from the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health, said it was “highly unlikely” that light drinking alone carried a benefit for children.
“It is much more likely that women who report drinking these small quantities have children at lower risk of developing behaviour disorders because they have better diets, are healthier, use antenatal care, are better educated (and) probably drink alcohol with meals.”
These benefits were unlikely to have been completely factored out by the researchers, Professor Hall said.
The expert reaction came as an Australian study was also released showing low levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy did not increase the risk of birth defect.
The study of 4,700 women who gave birth in Western Australia between 1995 and 1997 did however show drinking more than seven standard drinks a week during the first trimester carried a four-fold increased risk of birth defects.
“While this finding may provide some reassurance to mothers who unknowingly consumed alcohol before they knew they were pregnant, the best advice is still to follow the national guidelines that advise expecting mums to avoid alcohol in pregnancy,” said Dr Colleen O’Leary from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
The official advice of NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) is “for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option”.
British climate activist Jo Abbess thinks the eco-Fascist video is just fine
Abbess is best known for getting the BBC to censor one of their stories.
She first reveals below, mockingly, that she knows the 10:10 video is ecofascist but then goes on to approve of it. That would once have been called “nailing your colours to the mast”. Should we say “Heil Abbess”? No doubt she would like that. She does seem a lonely soul — determined to take out her own unhappiness on mainstream society
In a critical stage of the the battle to win hearts and minds with a massive global campaign, Franny Armstrong has decided to blow up every ounce of credibility she has ever earned** by agreeing to produce what has to be the most repulsive**, sick** little film in the entire universe.
Or not. Depending on whether you find the viral transmission of outrageously disgusting** YouTube movies humourous. Or not.
It’ll certainly get the 10:10 campaign through to people, but maybe not quite in the way she intended. I’m thinking fatwas**.
So much for decades of trying to convince people that the green movement isn’t all about world domination through domestic fascism and mind control.
Wave goodbye to all that hard work to sell the concept that eco-living is about a shared vision, building bridges and finding common ground – no pressure.
Eco-fascism. It’s right back there on the agenda now, thanks to you, Franny**.
And it’s going to encourage very nasty e-mails. Which we really don’t need. Oh goody. It’s already attracted enough complaints about violence for you to take it down from the 10:10 website. Good call, I’d say :-
** No relationships were harmed in the making of this post – it’s all intended to be ironic. If you didn’t realise that, sorry, but it should have been really obvious. Franny Armstrong is a fabulous individual, as everybody knows, and the 10:10 campaign is ultra cool. It’s a shame that this mini-movie didn’t work for so many people. We’re all different, and we all have a different sense of humour, and that’s great. Go on, pass the YouTube link on to someone and start a conversation. No pressure.
UK to overhaul welfare, child benefits: “Britain will cap payments to jobless families and scrap child benefits for high earners in a sweeping overhaul of the country’s welfare system, George Osborne, the Treasury chief, said yesterday. … Osborne said Britain’s coalition government would introduce a new welfare cap to make sure families in which both parents are unemployed do not receive more in benefits than an average family earns in wages. Osborne also announced parents who earn more than $70,000 per year will lose child benefit payments from 2013. Currently, all families are paid $32 a week for their eldest child and about $20 for other children.”
How to kill off a recovery: “One of the things which can be very difficult to get over to a certain type is this idea that fiscal or monetary stimulus are not the only things which can aid a recovery in a battered economy.It really isn’t that the State must do more: there is also the argument that in other areas the State must do less. For example, those streamers of red tape with which we festoon industry.”