Intensive care crisis: Britain has fewer beds than almost every other nation
Britain has the fewest intensive care hospital beds in the developed world – putting patients’ lives at risk in the event of a terrorist atrocity or major disaster, researchers warned yesterday.
We are lagging far behind our European neighbours, both in terms of ICU beds per 100 hospital beds and ICU beds per 100,000 of population. The NHS has only 3.5 ICU beds per 100,000 people – seven times fewer than European leaders Germany, which has 24.6.
Only Trinidad and Tobago (2.1), and Sri Lanka (1.6) have fewer beds per 100,000 of population, says a review published by The Lancet journal. In the UK, official figures put the total number of critical care beds at around 3,400.
Critical care specialist Dr Gordon Rubenfeld, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto – who carried out the review – said: ‘It is clear that the UK is at the low end of ICU bed capacity, and thus would have decreased ability to cope with a large scale disaster with many critically injured casualties.’
The UK also devotes less space to intensive care with 1.2 ICU beds to every 100 in a hospital – the least of all the European countries surveyed.
Intensive care specialist Dr Kevin Gunning, a council member of the Intensive Care Society who works at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said: ‘The problem is the UK is always playing catch-up.
Dr Rubenfeld’s review says acts of terrorism, natural disasters and pandemics of illness such as swine flu and the respiratory disease SARS ‘can quickly overwhelm local healthcare infrastructure even with mild to moderate numbers of casualties’.
The review pointed out that critical care is a resource many assume will always be available in high-income countries, but is not given the priority it deserves by health-policy makers.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘The number of beds has increased and continues to increase but more does need to be done in some areas.
‘It is for local healthcare commissioners and providers to assess the number of critical care beds needed locally to meet the demands of their population.’
Pregnant Muslim ordered to remove her veil in British court because magistrates can’t see her face
A pregnant Muslim woman was ordered by magistrates to remove her veil while she gave evidence against her violent ex-partner yesterday. Georgina Richards, 36, initially refused for religious reasons but reluctantly agreed when magistrates said they might not accept her evidence if they could not see her ‘facial expressions’.
The case at Leicester Magistrates Court was held up for over an hour while magistrates agreed to hear her evidence from behind a screen.
Chairman of the bench Lawrence Faulkner told her: ‘We need to see a person’s facial expressions to assess the evidence they are giving. ‘If you refuse to remove your veil, we may not be able to accept your evidence.’
Miss Richards, who is heavily pregnant, gave evidence against her ex-partner Ismail Mangera, 30, from behind a screen in the courtroom.
Mr Mangera was found guilty of punching Miss Richards in the face and scrawling abuse on her front door.
But after the hearing, Miss Richards hit out at the magistrates for forcing her to remove her veil. She said: ‘I was a bit unhappy that he told me to take my veil off. ‘They put screens up next to me but I didn’t really want to do it. ‘But I thought the case would be dropped if I didn’t take it off. ‘It just made me feel uncomfortable. They wanted to see the expression on my face but I don’t think it really matters, I think I could have done it with my veil on.’ ‘Now I just feel relieved that I’ve said what I’ve got to say.’
Miss Richards told the court her religion states she should not remove her veil in front of men in public.
Magistrates heard that Mr Mangera attacked Miss Richards, mother to three of the couple’s children and eight months pregnant with their fourth, between April 1 and April 30.
The magistrates warned Mangera he was facing jail. Sentencing was deferred until October 20 to allow a probation report to be produced.
The rise of Britain’s ‘Shameless generation’ after drop in court cases under Labour government
The horrifying scale of benefit fraud by the ‘Shameless’ generation can be revealed by the Daily Mail today. During Labour’s final two years in power, prosecutions for false claims slumped and overpayments soared. The figures come during a week in which the Tories pledged to clamp down on abuse of the welfare system by introducing a £500-a-week payments cap.
Jeremy Hunt, the party’s Culture Secretary, added to the controversy by suggesting the workshy should stop having children if they could not afford them.
Now Freedom of Information requests have found that prosecutions of benefit cheats have fallen by 11 per cent in the past year, while cases of overpayments have gone up by 13 per cent. The statistics make a mockery of the anti-fraud slogan at the Department for Work and Pensions: ‘It’s not if we catch you; it’s when.’
Cases of overpayment soared to 499,204 in 2009/10 compared with 439,966 the year before. But only a tiny number of the fraudsters are taken to court. In 2009/10, just 7,765 cases led to prosecutions compared with 8,701 in 2008/9. The amount of money recovered has risen over the past year from £280million to £294.4million but by far less than the estimated amount of overpayment.
Last night, Emma Boon of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘These figures show the dire state of our welfare system. Taxpayers’ money has been leaking out of the cracks at HMRC, with overpayments rising at an alarming rate. ‘Their problems have to be addressed immediately to stop our money that’s meant to help the poor simply being wasted.’
Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘These figures are a sad indictment of Britain’s benefits system as a result of the mismanagement of the Labour government.’
Welfare reform dominated the past week’s Conservative conference, with Chancellor George Osborne coming under attack for cuts to child benefit which penalised stay-at-home mums. He has proposed a £26,000 a year cap on welfare payments – in line with the average take home wage.
Lord Steel, Liberal leader from 1976 to 1988, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he sympathised with plans to tackle welfare dependency. ‘All MPs have had people come into their surgeries who say their next door neighbours are living off the state,’ he said. ‘When I was an MP there were people who used to deliberately get themselves pregnant in order to jump the housing queue – and that is reprehensible both from the point of view of the parents and the children.’
The Leftist head-teacher who sent home the teacher who spoke out at British Conservative conference
Attacks on free speech are routine for Leftists
The head who sent home a teacher for speaking about school failures at the Tory conference was an ardent Blair supporter, it is said.
Katharine Birbalsingh had electrified the conference with a searing account of Britain’s ‘broken’ state schools. But her performance horrified the headmistress at her South London school, who is reported to have described Tony Blair as ‘the most wonderful prime minister in the world’.
And last night, in a highly unusual intervention which reflected the tensions within the educational establishment, the school issued a statement criticising Miss Birbalsingh for misrepresenting her school, insulting teachers and exploiting pupils.
Miss Birbalsingh, 37, joined St Michael and All Angels Church of England Academy only last month as deputy head. But when she returned from the Tory conference in Birmingham, she was told by the school’s executive head, Dr Irene Bishop, that she should work from home ‘while her position was reviewed’.
However, yesterday, as parents rallied round the French teacher, insisting that staff should be free to speak their minds, the school said she could return to work on Monday.
Miss Birbalsingh, who was educated at state schools before going to Oxford University, had been the surprise star of the Tory conference, earning a standing ovation. She condemned a ‘culture of excuses’ and attacked a system that is ‘broken’ because it ‘keeps poor children poor’.
The former Marxist told of her ‘devastation’ at being kept out of the classroom while she waited to hear if she had been formally suspended or sacked by Dr Bishop, who also runs St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School, in South London, which was used to launch Labour’s 2001 election campaign.
Dr Bishop reportedly described Tony Blair as ‘the most wonderful Prime Minister in the world’ after joining him on stage as he announced his bid for re-election, although she later denied having said that and admitted she feared the school had been ‘used by Labour’.