NHS hospital is putting patients up in five-star hotel rooms

A sad commentary on the inefficiencies of their own arrangements

Patients on the NHS are staying in opulent £275-a-night hotel rooms paid for by taxpayers. They are treated in a specialist unit by day but stay overnight in the five-star May Fair in Central London – described as a ‘legendary luxury hotel with a glamorous past’ – because 24-hour hospital care is considered too expensive.

Even the most basic rooms boast plush hand-made wool carpets, Sicilian marble bathrooms, designer furniture and Bang & Olufsen televisions.

Patients with cancer and blood disorders who require daily treatment but can do without 24-hour care are eligible for the perk.

Last night a campaign group said it showed that even at a time of austerity the NHS was ‘still engaged in wasteful practices’.

In all, one trust, University College London Hospitals (UCLH), has spent nearly £1 million on luxury hotels across the capital in the past three years. Some hotel rooms are even fitted with emergency buttons connected to the UCLH flagship hospital in Euston. Last night the trust argued that it was often cheaper for patients to sleep in hotels rather than hospital beds.

However, some of the savings of the scheme are swallowed up by keeping beds open in case they are needed. And critics questioned whether it was necessary in the current economic climate to accommodate patients in such luxury. ‘It speaks volumes about the extortionate cost of our health service,’ said the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Earlier this year, the Government set out plans for the NHS to save £20 billion by cutting thousands of jobs. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is planning to scrap primary care trusts and strategic health authorities and hand control to GPs and private companies.

Details of the hotel scheme were obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act. They show that UCLH regularly placed patients in the May Fair where suites cost £3,600 a night and the bar sells a £150 martini cocktail.

Opened by George V in 1927, the hotel is less than two miles from University College Hospital where its guests are treated in its Ambulatory Care Unit.

The hotel’s website says: ‘There are five-star luxury hotels, and then there is The May Fair: an icon of expressive contemporary design, bringing together boutique attention to detail with grand hotel service.’

The trust also uses eight four-star Radisson hotels across the capital and four-star establishments from the Millennium, Hilton and Copthorne chains in Mayfair, Bloomsbury and Kensington.

Many charge more than £150 a night. Along with the University College Hospital in Euston, the trust controls five other hospitals: the Eastman Dental Hospital, the Heart Hospital, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.

A UCLH spokesman said: ‘For certain treatments, it is cheaper for patients to stay in a hotel than a hospital bed. It also means that in-patient beds can be used for the very sick who need them the most.’

However, Fiona McEvoy, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘What’s most worrying is that it costs more to accommodate a patient on an NHS ward than it does to put them up in a five-star hotel in central London.

Many will feel this speaks volumes about the extortionate cost of our health service. Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue and though it’s good to see that there’s some effort to keep down costs there’s little doubt that patients could be just as comfortable without taxpayers having to break the bank for luxury hotels in these difficult times.’

Although UCLH spent £980,895 on hotels for patients over three years, 23 other NHS trusts across Britain spent a total of £1.5 million between them in the same period. Many trusts say if a patient has an early operation, does not live near the hospital and does not require hospital treatment the night before, they will put them in a hotel to prevent a ‘blockage of hospital beds’.

But with Government budgets being squeezed, in many cases the choice of hotels will inevitably raise eyebrows. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals paid £165 a night for a room at the four-star Rutland Hotel. It offers some rooms with king-size beds, 32in LCD televisions, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries and a fruit and chocolate platter.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust put a patient in the four-star Marriott Portsmouth at a rate of £136 a night. The hotel has a spa, sauna, steam room, gym and swimming pool. And King’s College Hospital in London used the four-star £120-a-night Church Street Hotel in Camberwell. The Latin America-themed hotel has been described as ‘delightfully idiosyncratic – a hotel unlike any other in the capital’.

UCLH declined to disclose the cost of individual stays, saying only that it received a ‘significant discount’. Where possible, it said, most of its patients stay in the four-star Radisson Edwardian Grafton at a special rate of £120 a night.

A spokesman said: ‘This is the closest and most convenient hotel and has adapted its rooms with emergency buttons connected to the hospital. Our best estimate of keeping a patient in a hospital bed overnight is more than £300. ‘We are looking to build our own patient hotel to do this even more cost effectively.’

He said cancer patients surveyed were unanimously in favour and the ‘outstanding and cost-effective’ scheme had allowed the hospital to increase the number of patients treated and reduce waiting lists.

The spokesman did not respond to requests to comment on whether the use of five-star hotels was appropriate or whether the trust may place patients in them again. Several hospitals, including Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, have already set up in-house patient hotels.


A small personal note on customer service in Australia and Britain

A Sunday morning reflection

I have spent time in England on three occasions — including a Sabbatical year. There are a lot of similarities between England and Australia (the constant flow of English immigrants to Australia helps ensure that) but I noted one major difference: How customers are treated in shops, cafes and the like.

I am always pleased by the almost universal cheerful and friendly service I get in such establishments in Australia but in England customers tend to be treated like a bad smell. Just getting staff to recognize your presence is not always easy. Hence the old tradition of the “floor walker” — immortalized in the TV comedy series “Are you being served”.

Fortunately, however, most small businesses in England (particularly London) have now been taken over by people from the Indian subcontinent — and all it usually takes to get good service from them is a smile.

But how did the English become such unhappy people? It seems to go back to a sense of entitlement. They mostly seem to think that they should not have to work at all — and routine work in particular is greatly disliked. And the millions of Brits who have never worked and live on welfare payments is some testimony to that. “Pommy bludgers” are also a byword in Australia: Australians who see much of the English almost always end up seeing them as being in general work-shy.

So whence the sense of entitlement behind all that? It seems to be partly the result of official British propaganda, which the English are very good at. They are very good at trumpeting their own virtues in particular — sometimes in an understated way but propaganda can be all the more effective for that. Even Hitler admired British wartime propaganda — and he knew more than a little about that subject.

British government propaganda these days is nowhere as jingoistic as it once was but memories of empire persist and Britons almost universally believe that Britain saved the world from Hitler. The fact that over 80% of German wartime military casualties were on the Eastern front is rarely mentioned. It was Russia that defeated Hitler.

But perhaps the biggest source of the sense of entitlement is the welfare State. Since 1945 Britain has had an extensive and generous system of welfare payments which make work optional. Successive Britain governments have made it clear that Britons are ENTITLED to support from the government, come what may. So no wonder that those who do choose to work for whatever reason feel that they should not really have to.

It seems to me that Britons who have some go in them tend to emigrate — to Australia, Canada, the USA etc. Britons abroad and Britons in Britain sometimes seem like two different races to me — JR

Deaf diplomat who sued British diplomatic service for discrimination loses fight

Jane Cordell, a deaf foreign diplomat who sued the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for discrimination, has lost her case at an employment tribunal.

Ms Cordell, 44, joined the FCO in 2001, and was offered the post of deputy head of mission on Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, earlier this year. Soon afterwards, however, the FCO revoked the offer on the basis that the high cost of providing Ms Cordell with specialist interpreters, estimated at around œ0.5 million over the course of a two-year posting, made the position unfeasible.

Ms Cordell took her case to a London employment tribunal, where she was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), but lost the case this week.

In the ruling, the tribunal said: “The likely annual cost amounted to five times the claimant’s salary or, put another way, it would have paid salaries for five more employees at the claimant’s grade. we are aware, of course, that the FCO has a large overall budget, but the likely costs of these adjustments would have to be met from existing resources.”

In a statement, Ms Cordell said: “I am proud of working for the FCO and of making a positive difference, particularly in Poland where I helped raise awareness of disability issues. I am also proud to have brought my case to tribunal. People with disabilities and long-term illnesses who want to be economically active and independent need answers to the questions the case poses.”

A spokesman for the EHRC said said that the outcome of the trial was disappointing. “It has left her career in a state of limbo as she has no clarity around what level of adjustments the FCO will fund – a decision which directly influences whether she can be posted abroad in the future.

“It is important that reasonable adjustments are provided to allow disabled people to participate fully in the workforce and allow talented people like Jane to realise their full potential.”

According to a recent EHRC report on fairness in Britain, only around 50 per cent of disabled people are employed compared to 79 per cent of non-disabled adults. For those disabled people who are employed, there is on average an 11 per cent pay gap between what they earn and what a non-disabled man earns.


Some realism about race and racism in a prominent British Leftist magazine

Words below from “Prospect” magazine — by Munira Mirza, who is of Pakistani ancestry but who had all her education in England.

The following articles are by people who want to change the way in which racism and diversity are discussed in Britain and question the assumptions of some “official anti-racism.” None of them is white and therefore cannot be easily dismissed as ignorant, naive, or unwittingly prejudiced. They write about the effect of anti-racist policies in education, psychiatry and the arts. It is because they care about equality and our common humanity that they wish to challenge some of the assumptions in policymaking today.

The authors make some common points. Race is no longer the significant disadvantage it is often portrayed to be. In a range of areas-educational attainment, career progression, rates of criminality, social mobility-class and socio-economic background are more important. Indeed, a number of ethnic groups in Britain, particularly Indians and Chinese, perform better than average in many areas. Today a higher proportion of people from ethnic minorities enter university than white people and these second and third generation Britons make ambitious career choices.

Perhaps most importantly, we are afraid to discuss race in an honest way, even with our colleagues and friends. The famous Ali G phrase, “Is it cos I is black?” is funny precisely because it hits a nerve. Many of us have seen an innocent remark misinterpreted as racist. Being falsely accused of racism is, at best, unpleasant and at worst, can destroy a career. Meanwhile, some people from ethnic minorities are left unsure whether an opportunity or promotion has been given to them on the basis of merit or box ticking, and can face the quiet resentment of colleagues.

Much more here

British schools regulator praises Islamic schools which oppose Western lifestyle

And they’re not backing down

Ofsted and the Charity Commission are today accused of “whitewashing” hardline Islamic schools which are helping to radicalise a new generation of young British Muslims. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established that the education watchdog has published positive reports praising Muslim schools for their contribution to community cohesion — even in the case of a school which openly states that Muslims “oppose the lifestyle of the West”.

The Ofsted inspector responsible for many of the reports, Michele Messaoudi, has been accused of having links to radical Islamist organisations. This newspaper can reveal that another recent Ofsted inspector, Akram Khan-Cheema, is the chief executive of a radical Muslim educational foundation, IBERR.

Its website describes Islamic schools as “one of the most important factors which protect Muslim children from the onslaught of Euro-centrism, homosexuality, racism, and secular traditions”.

Ofsted has also passed the inspection of dozens of Muslim schools to a new private “faith schools watchdog”, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which is co-controlled by Islamic schools’ own lobbying and trade body, the Association of Muslim Schools. The Bridge Schools Inspectorate allows Muslim head teachers to inspect each other’s schools.

Among the schools directly inspected by Ofsted was the Madani Girls’ School, a private Islamic school in London’s East End. Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said it made pupils “aware of their future role as proactive young British Muslim women” and left them “well-prepared for life in a multicultural society”.

However, the Madani Girls’ School’s own website openly states: “If we oppose the lifestyle of the West, then it does not seem sensible that the teachers and the system which represents that lifestyle should educate our children.” It says that under western education “our children will distance themselves from Islam until there is nothing left but their beautiful names”.

Last month, this newspaper revealed how girls at the school were being forced to wear the Islamic veil, a fact that was not mentioned in its 2008 Ofsted report. The Madani School declined to comment last night.

Ofsted also inspected the Tawhid Boys’ School in Hackney, north London. Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said the curriculum was “good … broad and balanced in Key Stages 2 and 3”. However, the school’s prospectus says that the curriculum is kept strictly “within the bounds of Sharia [Islamic law].” Its art syllabus bans pupils from drawing human beings, animals and objects that Islam deems “unlawful”. The school did not return calls.

Mrs Messaoudi also wrote the Ofsted report cited by Ed Balls, the then schools secretary, as “clearing” schools run by supporters of the racist, extremist sect Hizb ut Tahrir. The schools, the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation establishments in Haringey, north London, and Slough, Berks, received more than £113,000 of public funding and became the subject of national controversy after being exposed in The Sunday Telegraph.

One of the Foundation’s trustees, Farah Ahmed, who is also headmistress of the Slough school, wrote a chapter in a Hizb ut Tahrir pamphlet attacking the National Curriculum for its “systematic indoctrination” of Muslim children “to build model British citizens”. She criticised “attempts to integrate Muslim children” into British society as an effort “to produce new generations that reject Islam”.

She described English as “one of the most damaging subjects” a school can teach and attacked fairy tales, saying that these “reflect secular and immoral beliefs that contradict the viewpoint of Islam”. She also attacked the “obvious dangers” of Shakespeare, including “Romeo and Juliet, which advocates disobeying parents and premarital relations”. Mrs Messaoudi’s Ofsted report on the Haringey school said it was “satisfactory.”

However, an earlier Ofsted report by a different inspector, only seven months before, had described the school as “inadequate” and had said “more could be done to promote cultural tolerance and harmony”.

The Charity Commission also investigated the school after The Sunday Telegraph articles. It ruled that there were no concerns over the public funding, saying that since the main Hizb ut Tahrir trustee, Yusra Hamilton, had resigned, it was “not necessary for the commission to examine further the impact of her being a trustee”.

However, Mrs Hamilton only resigned after being exposed in this newspaper, and was a trustee of the schools at the time the public money was paid. She continues to work with children as a volunteer at the Haringey school.

Mrs Ahmed has confirmed that she was a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, and refused to deny that she still shared its views.

“This report is deeply intellectually dishonest,” said Hannah Stuart, of the Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank, which has closely investigated Hizb ut Tahrir. “You can clearly see that they knew exactly what went on, yet bent over backwards to cover their own backs.”

The Charity Commission said last night that it had found “no evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology was being taught at or brought into the school”.

Mrs Messaoudi has written a book published by the Islamic Foundation, Britain’s foremost centre of Islamist intellectual thought.

According to the website of the hardline Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” (GPU) conference, both she and Mr Khan-Cheema were judges for its education awards held last week. GPU is organised by the Islam Channel, a digital TV station which hosts a number of fundamentalist and extremist presenters. A number of extremists spoke at the GPU event, though moderates also appeared, and items glorifying terrorism were on open sale there. Mrs Messaoudi was also listed as a judge for the 2008 GPU awards.

Mrs Messaoudi declined to comment last night. However, Ofsted, speaking on behalf of Mrs Messaoudi and Mr Khan-Cheema, said they were both “experienced professionals and we have no reason to doubt their ability in conducting inspections”.

It said Mrs Messaoudi’s clearing of the Shakhsiyah school was in a report “specifically designed as a follow-up to ensure that the school had undertaken the improvements required as a result of our first inspection”.

Nord Anglia Education, which employed Mr Khan-Cheema on contract to Ofsted, declined to comment.

Sources said Mrs Messaoudi had criticised some Muslim schools for Ofsted and her judgments of the Madani School were not wholly uncritical. Ofsted said its inspections generally were “thorough, rigorous and methodical”.

Many Muslim schools, however, are not inspected by Ofsted at all. Within the past two years, the watchdog has passed the scrutiny of many private “faith” schools to the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, a joint venture between the Christian Schools’ Trust and the Association of Muslim Schools.

Unlike “mainline” Ofsted inspections, which are carried out entirely by professional inspectors, BSI inspections of Muslim schools are often done by a team of three which always includes one head teacher of another Muslim school.

The BSI report into Bury Park Educational Institute, a mixed but gender-segregated Muslim secondary in Luton, claims that “the quality of education is good” even though the report itself admits that girls at the school get less teaching than boys.

“Some aspects of National Curriculum subjects are in a few respects currently less for the girls than for the boys,” it says, and there is not yet “full, equal access to National Curriculum subjects” between girls and boys.

Girls, says the report, are sometimes denied the opportunity for PE, “which they say they miss”. There is no suggestion that Bury Park teaches separatist views or opposition to British society.

One of the BSI inspectors who wrote the report into Bury Park, Ibrahim Hewitt, is chairman of the controversial charity Interpal, which is banned in the United States having been accused of supporting the terrorist group Hamas.

Interpal insists that it does not support Hamas and the Charity Commission has cleared Interpal. Mr Hewitt is also a headmaster of a Muslim school in Leicester and a senior member of the ruling “shura”, or executive committee, of the Association of Muslim Schools.

Mohammed Mukadam, a spokesman for BSI and also chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said: “All our inspections are led by former HMIs [professional inspectors]. “The conflict of interest argument would be valid if our head teachers were leading the inspections, but there is no conflict of interest. Our schools tell us that BSI inspections are much more rigorous than Ofsted’s.”

On behalf of the AMS, he admitted: “There are some schools which are actively opposed to certain British values. But a new generation of schools is coming in with a better understanding of the British context.”

Ms Stuart, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “A whole generation is being brought up to at the very least suspect, and perhaps even despise, the society they will have to live in. This is deeply worrying for the future of community cohesion. “By whitewashing these schools, Ofsted and the Charity Commission are being negligent in their responsibility to protect children in their formative years.”


Possible early warning signs for prostate cancer discovered

Let’s hope there’s something in this. How many false positives you get from any resultant test would be the big issue

Scientists have discovered potential early warning signs for prostate cancer that could be used to spot the disease before symptoms emerge. Researchers at Bristol University identified two proteins that are present in higher levels in men with prostate cancer, which kills 10,000 a year in Britain.

The proteins are called ‘growth factors’ that regulate normal growth and development in organs and tissue, especially in the womb and during childhood.

Dr Mari-Anne Rowlands, a cancer epidemiologist and the lead author of the study, said: “It’s too early to be certain but these results suggest that we may have identified potential new biomarkers for very early prostate cancer in men with no symptoms.

“Now we need more research to determine whether levels of these potential biomarkers predict which prostate cancers detected by screening might progress to become life-threatening.”

She and her colleagues compared a range of biomarkers, in 2,686 men with prostate cancer and 2,766 men without the condition. Currently doctors rely on measuring Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), which rises in response to the presence of cancerous tissue. However, the test does not flag up the cancer very early and is also not very accurate. It often falsely indicates a problem where none exists.

Professor Malcolm Mason, of Cancer Research UK, said of the Bristol University research: “This study could be a very important step forward in identifying men who should be screened.”

The results are being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool on Monday.


Prince Andrew criticizes British defence chiefs: “The Duke of York has attacked the “hopeless” Ministry of Defence for failing to order armoured vehicles that could save soldiers’ lives. He accused defence chiefs of sitting on their “fat backsides” and stalling on bringing in British-built Rangers, which are said to have three times the blast resistance of troop carriers currently in use. His comments are likely to embarrass David Cameron, who has insisted that defence cuts will not compromise the safety of those serving in Afghanistan. They also amounted to a breach of protocol, which dictates that members of the Royal family should avoid expressing political views. The Duke was applauded by relatives of fallen soldiers. The 50-year-old Duke, a former Royal Navy helicopter pilot and colonel-in-chief of five Army regiments, has regularly visited Afghanistan to see the challenges faced by British service personnel.”

Anglican bishops set to resign over the ordination of women: “Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to announce the resignation of two bishops on Monday, in the first of what is feared will be a wave of departures from the Church of England by traditionalists converting to Roman Catholicism. The Bishop of Richborough, the Right Rev Keith Newton, 58, is expected to become leader or the Anglican Ordinariate, set up to provide Catholic refuge to Anglicans who leave the Church of England over the issue of women bishops. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Right Rev Andrew Burnham, 63, is also expected to join the Ordinariate, along with the Bishop of Fulham, the Right Rev John Broadhurst, who announced last month that he will be resigning at the end of the year.”


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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