Health authority spends £2.6m – to provide hospital with an extra FOUR parking bays
Typical bureaucratic irresponsibility
Health chiefs have been accused of wasting taxpayer money after spending £2.6million on a new hospital car park – which adds just four extra spaces to the existing parking lot.
The original 223-space car park at Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, Mid Wales, is being replaced by a new multi-storey car park – with 227 spaces. The upgrade, which will be completed in December, works out at £655,000 for each extra space at a time when the NHS is making huge cuts in patient care.
Public spending watchdog The Taxpayers’ Alliance has blasted the decision as ‘shocking’. Alliance campaign manager Fiona McEvoy said: “It’s vital every penny of public money delivers real value to the taxpayer, and in this case it looks as though health bosses could have spent a lot less with the same results.’
And the Conservatives’ leader in Wales Nick Bourne also rounded on the decision, saying: ‘It seems ludicrous when public money is so scarce. ‘It should be spent on frontline services such as doctors and nurses, not on expensive car park schemes that don’t generate enough additional spaces to make a considerable difference.’
But a spokesman for the Hywel Dda Health Board, which runs the hospital, defended the decision, saying that the revamp resulted in other benefits. ‘This work has included improving access to the site, demolition and rebuilding work, road and service engineering, installation of fibre optic cabling and re-routing main utilities,’ she said. ‘All of this has been essential to free up space for the new build element of the Front of House scheme and has been an integral part of the largest capital investment in the hospital’s history.
“This investment has been subject to significant scrutiny. ‘In fact a recent review of the design of the whole project was undertaken which resulted in a far more cost-effective scheme.’
Six-monthly jab ‘will help beat osteoporosis’
A cheap six-monthly jab for the crippling bone disorder osteoporosis is to be made available on the NHS. Post-menopausal women at increased risk of fractures should be treated with Prolia if other treatments are unsuitable, says the drug rationing body Nice.
Trials of the drug in women show it dramatically cuts the number of spine and hip fractures and even helps bones to regrow.
The treatment, which works out at £1 a day, could provide a new option for one in four women who cannot tolerate existing medication because it causes serious stomach side effects. An estimated 170,000 women a year are unable to take bisphosphonates and risk their bones deteriorating further without treatment.
The new drug, which is also known as denosumab, has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Prolia works in a different way to existing medicines as it stimulates patients’ immune systems to block a protein called rank ligand, which regulates the activity of cells that break down bone. The drug reduces the activity of these cells throughout the body, increasing bone density and strength.
Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline, the companies who are co-marketing denosumab, welcomed the NICE decision.
John Kearney, General Manager at Amgen said: ‘Amgen researchers were the first to discover a fundamental biochemical pathway that controls bone remodelling almost fifteen years ago and we are thrilled that this discovery has led today to patients having access on the NHS to a convenient treatment that really has been shown to be highly effective in preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis.’
Send all violent criminals to court: Top British judge warns far too many are being given just a caution
England’s most senior judge has demanded an end to a criminal justice scandal which sees thousands of violent and persistent offenders getting off with cautions. Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said that thugs who injure others should always be taken before the courts rather than being given a slap on the wrist – so they have to answer to magistrates for their crimes.
He told MPs that it was ‘demeaning’ to the victims of violent crimes if prosecutors do not bother taking offenders to court, which could see them being sent to jail. The intervention is a direct attack on the Crown Prosecution Service and on Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who wants to see fewer offenders go to jail and fewer courts to try them in.
Last year 27,305 people guilty of violence against the person were let off with a caution after pleading guilty – 39 per cent of the total number of violent offenders. It is believed they include people guilty of conspiracy to murder, kidnapping, child neglect and inflicting life-threatening wounds. Joyriders who kill people have even got off in the past.
Critics say the cautions do nothing to instill confidence in the public that justice is being done.
Lord Judge said he also wanted to see all persistent offenders being forced to go to court. Between 2000 and 2008, half a million are let off with cautions after four or more offences.
There are fears the situation will get worse as a result of Mr Clarke’s plans to cut the number of people being sent to jail by scrapping sentences of six months or less.
Lord Judge made his comments days after clashing with the Justice Secretary over his plans to close dozens of courts, which has also led to fears that fewer criminals will face magistrates. Appearing before the Commons justice select committee yesterday, Lord Judge said he accepted that in some cases, a person of good character ‘does something silly’ in what is clearly a one-off incident – meaning they could be safely given a caution.
But he added: ‘I do actually feel that in relation to persistent offenders; if they offend, they should be brought to court. The judgment should be made by the court. ‘And I believe that somebody who commits an offence of violence which causes injury should be brought to court. It’s a matter of public record then. ‘And there’s the issue of how victims feel about a non-appearance in court. It’s demeaning of a victim of a violent crime to be told, “We are not going to take this individual to court”.’
He said it was right and proper for the CPS to decide not to take a case forward if there is not enough evidence. But he added: ‘You can’t, in my view, not take a case which includes violence against a person to court simply because it’s not a good idea. If you’ve got the evidence, you should take them to court and let the magistrates decide.’
Criminologist David Green, director of the Civitas think tank, said: ‘Everyone in the criminal world regards a caution as essentially nothing, and they send the message to the victim that they are of little consequence.’ He added: ‘If Mr Clarke continues on the road he has set out on, it is hard to see any other consequence than the number of cautions for violent offences going up.’
Not sending someone to court is called an ‘out-of-court disposal’ and is given to those who admit they are guilty. But they are supposed to be handed out only for minor offences. However, as well as being given to those who have committed violence, they are being given to persistent offenders.
In 2007, the last year for which figures were published, 357 cautions were given to people guilty of threat of conspiracy to murder, 43 per cent of the total offenders. A total of 276 cautions were handed out to those guilty of wounding or other acts endangering life; 1,175 for cruelty or neglect of children; 30 for child abduction; three for abandoning a child under two years and two for procuring an illegal abortion. One person was even cautioned for causing death by aggravated vehicle taking.
Lord Judge, who has a long reputation of standing up for common-sense justice, wrote to Mr Clarke last week to demand a re-think of plans to close 157 magistrates and county courts in a bid to save £2billion.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘We would normally expect those accused of committing violent offences to be brought to court. The more serious the offence the more important it is that the offender be prosecuted. ‘Operational decisions in individual cases are a matter for the police and CPS on the ground.’
British government to crack down on legal piranhas at last
No-win, no-fee deals are to be scrapped under a radical shake-up of the courts to stop ambulance-chasing lawyers from cashing in on frivolous cases. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced yesterday that he will scrap lucrative success fees which allow lawyers to double their bill at the expense of the person or organisation that loses the case.
NHS trusts have been driven to pay up before a case comes to court to avoid the peril of huge costs of going to trial.
The payouts have been blamed for having a ‘chilling’ effect on freedom of speech since they have driven scientists, writers and newspapers to settle even flimsy accusations of libel out of court rather than risk the huge costs of losing a case.
Britain will now move to a system in which lawyers take a share of the damages awarded to the winner – the same as the American system. Damages are likely to be increased by 10 per cent to ensure that those who win a case still receive the money they deserve.
Mr Clarke said he has accepted the findings of a review by Lord Justice Jackson, published earlier this year. He recommended an end to the top-up fees for lawyers, which make the loser pay a penalty of 100 per cent of the costs, and found that some made off with fees costing ten times the level of the damages awarded.
Labour had intended to slash ‘success fees’ to 10 per cent of costs. But the Justice Secretary has decided to scrap them altogether.
Mr Clarke told Radio 4’s Law in Action programme: ‘You should not have a situation where, regardless of however frivolous the claim is, the sensible thing for the defendant to do is to settle, get out, before the legal costs start running up.’
The Ministry of Justice is now working on plans for legislation to be introduced early next year.
In a second move, the Government plans to strengthen freedom of speech, by introducing protections that will stop libel laws being used to stifle free expression and censor books and newspapers. Mr Clarke plans to introduce an explicit defence of public interest to enshrine freedom of expression, as well as preserving the right of public figures to protect their reputation.
Legislation on that will be drawn up next year and could come into force in 2012.
Taken together, Ministry of Justice officials say the new guidelines will ensure that legitimate libel cases can go ahead but prevent big corporations from silencing academics and journalists who make fair criticism of their activities.
The issue was highlighted when science writer Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association after he claimed there was little evidence chiropractic treatments helped children with asthma. The BCA eventually dropped the case but only after Mr Singh had lost two years earnings and run up £20,000 legal costs.
Strange British attack on “rich” university graduates
A PENALTY for paying off your loan??
Successful graduates who wish to avoid being burdened with decades of debt could be hit with mortgage style redemption penalties if they pay off their student loan early.
The fees, likely to run to thousands of pounds, would also be levied on parents who saved up to pay upfront for the cost of putting their child through university rather than see them saddled with long-term debt.
It is understood that the redemption penalties are being considered as a means of stopping those who can afford to avoiding the higher rates of interest which are due to be levied on students loans for better off graduates.
In last week’s spending review, George Osborne, the Chancellor, confirmed that university fees are set to rise from their current rate of £3,290 from start of the 2012 academic year.
The new level has yet to be set, but Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed that the Government would reject the recommendation of the recent review of university financing, led by Lord Browne, the former head of BP, that the cap on university fees be lifted altogether.
Instead, ministers are understood to be preparing to propose a new fee of around £7,000-a-year, to be paid off by loans with tiered rates of interest depending on how much the graduate earned in future.
A redemption penalty would stop the better off avoiding higher interest rates by paying off a loan early – and would be seen as a sop to Liberal Democrats who have taken flak over the tuition fees rise after signing a pre-election pledge to scrap them altogether.
Lord Browne had suggested that no redemption penalty be imposed. But Vince Cable, the Lib Democrat Business Secretary, confirmed that ministers were examining ways to make the new system more “progressive” before detailed plans were set out in a few weeks’ time.
He said: “High-earning graduates will be paying more later in their life, but in a progressive way relating to their ability to pay. “There is an issue about people who go on to very high-earning jobs and who therefore pay off relatively quickly and we do have to think about how to find a way by which they make some sort of contribution towards low-earning graduates. “It’s a tricky technical problem but we’re working on it.”
Mr Cable confirmed that ministers had already decided not to proceed with Lord Browne’s suggestion that universities be permitted to charge unlimited amounts, with a levy on any fee above £6,000 to be paid to the Government to spend on bursaries and grants. “I don’t think there’s any prospect of having unlimited fees – that simply isn’t going to arise,” he told Sky News.
“We’re looking at this very carefully, what Browne had to say – but I think that particular approach was one we’re not going to pursue.” His words echoed those of Mr Clegg, who told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I am uneasy about the idea that you, in theory, have unlimited fees. So we are looking at something which would be more restrained.”
The Liberal Democrat leadership is braced for a sizeable rebellion by the party’s backbenchers when the plans come before Parliament.
A number of Lib Dems represent university towns and would face a sizeable backlash from students if they supported a rise in tuition fees after fighting the general election on a promise to abolish them.
Must not laugh at politically correct language
What the heck are “special needs” anyway? I sometimes have a special need for a cheeseburger. Does that count?
“The BBC has apologised after Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson described a car as “speciale needs”.
Britain’s broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, investigated after the joke, made by Clarkson about a Ferrari owned by co-host James May, provoked complaints.
The F430 Speciale “looked like a simpleton” and should have been called “Speciale Needs”, Clarkson said on the BBC2 show.
Comparing it to a newer model, he said the car “was a bit wrong – that smiling front end – it looked like a simpleton – should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs”.
Charities criticised the remark, with the National Autistic Society saying it perpetuated “the prejudice and bullying which people with disabilities have to cope with”.
The regulator said: “While obviously intended as a joke and not aimed directly at an individual with learning difficulties, the comment could easily be understood as ridiculing people in society with a particular physical disability or learning difficulty.”
It concluded that because the BBC had apologised, decided not to repeat the comment, and said it was not intended to make fun of those with special needs, the case was resolved.
Clarkson, 50, who is reported to be paid £2 million ($3 million) a year by the BBC, is used to provoking outrage with his remarks.
He sparked anger when he asked Richard Hammond if he was “mental” when he returned to the show following a near-fatal car crash and in 2008 his joke about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes led to complaints.
A year later, he called then prime minister Gordon Brown a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” during a press conference in Australia and, in comments made to Top Gear magazine, he accused TV bosses of being fixated with having “black Muslim lesbians” on TV to balance out the amount of white, heterosexual males.
Clarkson sure is a straight talker. He repeatedly says whatever comes into his head, regardless of whether it is “correct” or not. But his show is so popular that he gets away with it. His show is basically about cars but lots of people probably tune in for a breath of fresh air amid all the stifling British political correctness.