Children’s heart surgery unit at Oxford hospital to close following baby deaths

The children’s heart surgery unit of the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford where four babies died is preparing to close following a government review. Heart operations on children were suspended at the hospital earlier this year after the babies died within a few months of a new surgeon starting work there.

The NHS Safe and Sustainable review team has assessed the 11 paediatric heart centres in England in a bid to decide which are to become larger, regional centres of excellence, and which are to close.

In a steering group meeting held yesterday, it was decided the John Radcliffe Hospital was the least likely of the 11 to meet all of the quality standards needed. The hospital today described the decision as “disappointing”. In a statement posted on its website, a spokesman said: “This is very disappointing news for Oxford.

“The John Radcliffe Hospital is one of the smallest centres in the country, but we had hoped that the Safe and Sustainable team would recognise the potential that Oxford has in terms of geographical location and the presence of other connected clinical services on site.”

Children’s heart surgery was suspended at the unit, the smallest in England, in March after four babies died under the care of surgeon Caner Salih. An investigation carried out by the South Central strategic health authority published a report on the deaths in July and concluded Mr Saligh was not to blame, but highlighted issues within the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals (ORH) NHS Trust, including a lack of preparation for his arrival.

The spokesman continued: “The ORH board will now wish to consider the implications of this recommendation and will want to continue discussions with the Safe and Sustainable team about the future of specialist children’s heart services.

“We know our patients, their families and our staff will be very disappointed at this news and hope they will continue to participate in shaping the future of children’s cardiac services when the formal consultation begins in the new year.”

Andrew Stevens, director of planning and information at the hospital trust, said: “Oxford is one of the smallest centres and the main thrust of the Safe and Sustainable review is that there should be fewer, larger paediatric cardiac surgery centres in the future. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that Oxford was felt to have the highest mountain to climb.”

Just 120 or so operations a year were carried out at the unit each year. An inquest into the death of one of the babies, Natalie Lo, who died aged 23 days, is to be held in Oxford at the end of the month.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The Safe and Sustainable review has made an interim recommendation that potential configuration options for surgery should not include John Radcliffe Hospital. “Children’s cardiac surgery can be very complex and often involves very sick children. The Safe and Sustainable review of children’s cardiac services was commissioned to ensure that services are fit for the future. “We want to make sure that children have the best possible outcomes and that parents can choose the best care for their child.

“No final decision will be made on the future of the children’s heart surgery service at the John Radcliffe Hospital until the outcome of a full public consultation is known in 2011. “Local parents, NHS staff and the public will have the opportunity to make their views known during the consultation process.”

The Oxford centre will continue to provide specialised cardiology services for children, carrying out assessment work and ongoing care, but not surgery.


Decade-long immigration boom means Britain needs 550,000 extra school places by 2016

Britain will need 550,000 more school places by 2016 to educate the children of immigrants, a study claimed last night. And over the next decade this will rise to one million extra places – at a total cost of about £100billion.

The Migrationwatch report blames the aftermath of Labour’s ‘open door’ immigration policy. Last year, providing schooling to the children of people born overseas cost £4.5billion – the equivalent of almost £13million every day – according to the pressure group. Its analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, and includes children who have arrived in the UK from overseas, and those born in Britain to migrant parents.

It comes at a time when primary school places are in huge demand, and the Government is attempting to slash between £7 billion and £14 billion from the education budget.

Migrationwatch said that between 1998 and 2009 – the years in which critics say Labour’s open door immigration policy operated – the number of school places required by the children of immigrants was almost 630,000.

By analysing ONS population projections, Migrationwatch also concluded that over the next ten years one million more school places will be needed because of immigration. This is primarily due to children being born to immigrants.

Between now and 2016, 550,000 more places will be required. Based on the cost of providing each school place, the total cost will be £40billion. Educating children of immigrants in state schools would cost around £195billion over a 25-year period, the report adds.

Migrationwatch said the quadrupling in net migration – the difference between the number of people arriving in the UK, and those leaving – was responsible. Many of those coming here were young people, who decided to have children, contributing to a ‘baby boom’. Between 1998 and 2009, total births increased by 11 per cent, Migrationwatch says.

Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman, said: ‘Almost every family in England is being affected by the growing crisis over school places but no one will talk about its causes. ‘These are some of the consequences of one of the most reckless and unpopular policies of any government in generations and they are now coming home to roost.’

Last month, the Mail revealed how hundreds of children had been left with no primary school place at the start of term. Thousands of other children are having to be taught in makeshift classrooms.

The problems were blamed on the surge in the number of young children and recession-fuelled departures from private schools.

The Coalition has acknowledged that the shortage of primary places is ‘critical’. Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘Ministers are clear that dealing with the demand for school places is an immediate priority – that is why we are transforming the school building programme to meet demand where it is most needed. ‘We are fully committed to reducing net migration back down to the tens of thousands [a year] rather than the hundreds of thousands.’


UK resumes Zimbabwe deportations

BRITAIN announced Thursday that it is resuming deportations to Zimbabwe after ministers decided that “the political situation is relatively stable and the humanitarian situation has greatly improved” since President Robert Mugabe agreed to share power with his opposition rivals in February last year.

Immigration lawyers said the announcement came as a surprise given that a tribunal is sitting later this month to set a new country guidance case for Zimbabwe.

The move also came just under a month after a minister told parliament Britain was “not starting enforced returns yet by any means” to Zimbabwe.

“It’s difficult to understand the logic of the ministers in putting the cart before the horse by amending the policy now and putting unnecessary political pressure on the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal judges,” immigration solicitor Yvonne Gwashawanhu said in London.

She added: “The Upper Tier Tribunal has listed before it the Zimbabwean country guidance case for hearing shortly and it is difficult to see how the judges can be expected to ignore this latest development. “Needless to say, there will now be a flurry of activity within the Zimbabwean community in the UK.”

Matthew Coats, the UK Border Agency’s head of immigration said enforced removals would resume after the country guidance case judgement is handed down, which lawyers expect to happen before Christmas.

Coats said: “When we do recommence enforced removals, they will be taken forward in a carefully planned and phased way. “We take our international responsibilities seriously and we will continue to grant protection to those Zimbabweans that need it. However, it is essential that we maintain the principle that each application for protection is considered on its individual merits and that returns are taken forward on a similar basis. “The courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection.”

The UK Border Agency sent a research team to Zimbabwe in August to track down asylum seekers who returned voluntarily and also conduct interviews with human rights groups about potential safety risks for returnees.

The fact finding team released its report two weeks ago, and lawyer Gwashawanhu described its findings as “one-sided” and accused the team of “asking leading questions calculated to produce a desired response.” Human rights groups say an election planned for next year could see a new flare-up of political violence.

Britain suspended forced removals to Zimbabwe in 2005 due to a political crisis engulfing the country at the time.

In 2008, Home Office figures showed there were 7,500 failed asylum seekers living in Britain.


As career criminals with 100 convictions are spared jail in Britain, MPs ask… What DOES get you locked up?

Thousands of career criminals are being spared jail despite having amassed at least 50 convictions. Almost 2,700 were handed a community sentence after being found guilty more than 50 times before. Incredibly, 315 offenders even received a non-custodial punishment after 100 or more previous offences.

The figures, seen by the Mail, also show more than 13,000 on at least their 30th offence received a community penalty – widely derided as ‘soft’ by critics. It means offenders who are convicted of 30 or more crimes are 1,000 times more likely to be given a community sentence or a fine than end up in prison.

MPs and experts said the alarming revelations showed why Kenneth Clarke should be imprisoning more convicts – not fewer. Criminologist Dr David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, said even more prolific offenders could escape jail in future. ‘It’s all very well giving out community sentences for minor offences – but if you’re on your 101st conviction, then it’s evidence of being a career criminal,’ he added. ‘I would have thought a long custodial sentence would be appropriate for these people, who will have been committing crimes more or less every day for all their adult life. If they do allow career criminals to roam the streets, we can safely say there will be a rise in crime.’

Tory backbencher Philip Davies said: ‘These statistics show what a joke the criminal justice system has become. You have to work very hard to get into prison nowadays. ‘No wonder people have lost faith in the criminal justice system when we see people carrying out literally hundreds of crimes and getting off time and time again.’

But the Justice Secretary yesterday remained defiant over his plans to hand out community punishments rather than short jail terms. He said: ‘Simply banging up more and more people for longer without actively seeking to change them is not going to protect the public. I do not think prison is or should be a numbers game’.

The re-offending figures, which are for 2008, were revealed last week by Justice Minister Crispin Blunt following a parliamentary question. They show that the problem of repeat offending has been getting worse. In 2006, a total of 179 criminals were spared jail after 100 convictions – not much more than half of the 315 figure in 2008. And whereas in 2002 a total of 1,200 had 50 or more convictions, that had soared to 2,670 in 2008.

Some of the figures were published earlier this year, buried in an annex of a document of sentencing statistics. The Ministry of Justice document reveals that repeat offending is getting worse. The proportion of sentences given to offenders with 15 or more previous convictions or cautions has risen from 17 per cent in 2000 to 28 per cent in 2008.

Graham Jones, the Labour MP who asked the question, said: ‘These figures seem to show that the “prison doesn’t work” idea put forward by the Conservatives is wrong.’

Despite how hard it has become to earn a custodial sentence, Mr Clarke is still insisting there are too many convicts sent to jail for six months or less. He wants to replace these sentences – given to around 50,000 offenders each year – with ‘tougher community’ penalties.

Yesterday, he said: ‘The army of short term prisoners we have at the moment, who have a particularly bad record of re-offending within six months of being released, is too big and we’ve got to find some sensible community sentences.’

Governors say it will slash jail numbers by 7,000 at any one time – with some prisons closing because there are too few inmates.

The vast majority of those convicted of a range of offences are have been convicted of the same crime before.

Mr Clarke provoked anger among the Tory grassroots earlier this year by declaring that prison ‘doesn’t work’ – ripping up almost 20 years of party policy. But he has stuck doggedly to the position that short-jail sentences are ‘ineffective’ and ‘absurd’. He says that – with 60 per cent of jailed inmates re-offending on release – the system must be changed.

The government is carrying out a sentencing review, which is due to report back within weeks. It will rule out scrapping short sentences altogether. But community punishments are likely to be toughened by making offenders wear an electronic tag. Officials hope this will persuade magistrates to use the punishment instead of jail.

In yesterday’s speech to the Prison Governors Association, Mr Clarke reiterated his plan to encourage inmates to work a 40-hour week, in return for the minimum wage. He also said he wanted to modern versions of Victorian prisons with a new focus on hard work and discipline.

He also said he wanted an ‘intensive effort to start developing drug-free wings’ in prisons, getting inmates off drugs altogether, and wanted regimes which prepared prisoners for an ‘ordinary honest life outside’.

Only this week, we heard that judges and magistrates are being told to send fewer violent thugs to prison. Now those found guilty of actual, or even grievous, bodily harm will not be going to prison at all, particularly if they are young or express remorse.

Makes you wonder who we’ll be letting off next? Rapists? Murderers?

Ken Clarke, our new Justice Secretary, may have come to the highly convenient, money-saving conclusion that prison sentences do not reduce crime – which I don’t believe – but I’m more inclined to side with former Home Secretary Michael Howard and his famous ‘prison works’ speech.

It addressed the problems of criminals and criminality in a way that the latest milksop, so-called ‘community payback’, never will. A couple of weeks loafing around in high-visibility jackets? Oh yes, I’m quite sure that will get hardened criminals back on the straight and narrow, Mr Clarke.

At the grassroots level, the judicial system is a currently a mess, where something as serious as shoplifting can earn you an £80 fixed penalty fine, while dropping a cigarette butt can land you with a £1,000 fine.

It’s a world where the police keep telling us that crime is falling but only, I’m convinced, because they’re letting repeat young offenders off with warning after warning, caution after caution.

Sometimes I wonder why they don’t just raise the age of criminal responsibility to 20 and solve the whole problem of youth crime overnight.


Save us from red tape, beg British local councils: Labour issued 74,000 pages of rules in a decade

Local government bureaucrats have had to follow 74,000 pages of new rules and instructions handed down by Whitehall over the past decade, council chiefs complained yesterday. The forest of red tape was a product of 4,000 different laws and circulars covering everything from parish council election advice to carbon reduction targets.

The direct cost to taxpayers of demands sent down by ministers to town halls amounts to £900 million a year and the overall losses could be as high as £2.5 billion annually, the Local Government Association said. It demanded simplification of the rules that govern local councils and an end to central government guidelines that give detailed instructions on how town halls should carry out their duties.

According to a report published by the umbrella body for local councils, the burden has amounted to 40 pages of regulation for every day that Parliament has been sitting since 2000. The rules include 2,000 pages of planning guidance issued by John Prescott and other Labour ministers to try to impose national policies on housebuilding, development in green fields, and traveller sites.

There were 1,300 pages sent out last year in one manual from the Department of Work and Pensions instructing local officials how to pay out Housing Benefit.

And targets issued by the Communities Department in 2008 required town halls to increase the number of new businesses started in their area, cut the re-offending rates of local criminals, and get more people to stop smoking.

Even since May and the arrival of the Coalition government, councils have been given 1,355 pages of rules thanks to 67 new laws which have come into effect.

The page count produced a plea for mercy from LGA chairman Baroness Margaret Eaton. She said: ‘An avalanche of paperwork has descended on town halls across the country in the past decade. ‘There is no justification for the amount of form-filling, data returns, reviews and micromanagement being foisted on local government.

Red tape of this kind wastes valuable time and resources which councils need to spend delivering services.’

The Association appealed for instructions to councils on how to carry out their legal duties to be scrapped, for consolidation of local government laws into a simplified codebook, and for an end to demands for statistics and information on whether targets have been reached.

Lady Eaton said: ‘Councils are well aware of their responsiblities towards their residents. What they need are the freedoms which will allow them to make the money go further and do more for everyone.’

Ministers yesterday announced one cutback on red-tape with the withdrawal of 4,700 Whitehall targets set under the regulations on ‘Local Area Agreements’.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also said central government demands for information would be simplified. He said: ‘National targets tend to mean that councils are constantly working on things which matter to Whitehall, regardless of what local residents think. I’d much rather councils were tackling local issues.

The money being spent on form fillers and bean counters could be far better spent helping elderly people to stay in their homes.’


Bad behaviour ’caused by mixed ability classes’

Mixed ability classes may be fuelling bad behaviour in [British] schools, MPs have been warned. Tom Burkard, research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, said slower pupils became frustrated after being left behind by brighter classmates.

Addressing the Commons Education Select Committee, he warned that large numbers of children found lessons “totally and utterly meaningless” when they were pitched at the wrong level.

Mr Burkard, a former special needs teacher, told how the majority of truants skipped school because they dreaded lessons “they didn’t like or a teacher they couldn’t stand”.

Psychologists also told MPs that indiscipline was being caused by aggressive behaviour among adults who acted as poor role models for young children.

The comments were made as part of a new select committee inquiry into standards of behaviour in state schools – and tactics employed to promote discipline in the classroom.

According to official figures, behaviour is still not good enough in more than a fifth of secondary schools in England. At least 700 state comprehensives are failing to keep order to a high standard, it was revealed.

Mr Burkard said mixed lessons – in which staff are forced to teach children with a range of academic abilities – were contributing to the problem. Around half of all lessons in schools are in mixed ability groups, with children normally segregated only in a small number of academic subjects.

Mr Burkard said children at the lower end of the ability range or those diagnosed with special needs often had problems with “working memory” – the process of putting words into sentences, taking in information and forming conclusions. “If you don’t have this ability and you are sat in a mixed ability class, which is relying to a large extent on your own investigations, you are going to find the whole procedure totally and utterly meaningless,” he said.

“If you are lucky, the child will sit at the back of the class and do very little. If not, they are going to act up. This is one of the things we have to take into consideration.”

He said a drive – launched under Labour – to tailor education to individual children’s needs was “an absolute fantasy” because teachers did not have enough time.

However, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, rejected the claims. The union leader – former head of English at a north London comprehensive – told how mixed ability classes worked well in her former school while behaviour in the bottom sets was “appalling”.

In evidence to MPs, others educationalists said parents were undermining schools’ attempts to instill discipline in the classroom. Many children copied behaviour they saw at home or on the street, it was claimed.

David Moore, an education consultant and former senior Ofsted inspector, told the hearing: “If you go into any shopping area on a Saturday and you watch parents interacting with their youngsters you can see why the youngsters behave the way that they do, because they model the behaviour of the adults.”

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said “less automatic respect” for people in authority may be to blame.

“I suspect we would see behaviours not terribly away far from here that might be described as low-level disruption, people talking over one another, interrupting, not always showing respect for the other speaker,” she said.

“So I think we can’t say it’s just children’s behaviour. We actually have to look at it in context of the behaviour we see around us, lots of emoting, road rage – it’s all there and it’s not children’s fault those things occur.”


Must not criticize an airline?

Ryanair is an Irish budget carrier that operates many services out of Britain:

“A website set up to criticise Ryanair has been shut down by an internet watchdog – because it proved so popular it earned its owner money. The founder of – whose strapline was ‘The World’s Most Hated Airline’ – was forced to surrender the web address after the budget carrier complained to the domain name dispute resolution service.

Yesterday the watchdog, called Nominet, ruled that the stinging criticism and passenger ‘horror stories’ published on the site were not sufficient grounds for it to be scrapped. However it ruled that a small profit made by Robert Tyler from sponsored links on the site meant he abused domain name rules.

Disgruntled passengers’ comments have filled the pages of the website since it was set up three years ago by Mr Tyler, of Walthamstow, East London.


Weird: Criticism is not allowed if you make money out of it! A lot of blogs do a lot of criticizing and also have advertising on them. Are they in trouble? Thus is just a weak excuse to shut down criticism of a very arrogant business.


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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