‘Babies at risk’ as third of NHS maternity units cut staff
Mothers and newborn babies are put at risk by a growing crisis in maternity services, a damning report by senior midwives warns. At least one in three labour wards – already struggling to cope with soaring birth rates – are being forced to axe staff as part of stringent NHS cuts.
In addition, two thirds of units are so short-staffed that mothers and their babies cannot be cared for properly – although hundreds of vacancies remain unfilled.
The morale of overworked maternity staff has plummeted to such an extent that half are considering quitting their jobs, figures show.
Up to a third of maternity units in England are being forced to axe staff, the report by the Royal College of Midwives found. It warns that they are being forced to cope with increasing numbers of ‘high-risk’ labours as expectant mothers now tend to be older and more obese.
This means that more of their time is spent dealing with premature births, Caesarean sections and other complications – leaving them less time to support other women on the ward.
Figures show that although the number of midwives has increased over the past ten years, it has simply not kept pace with the soaring numbers going into labour. Britain is in the grip of a baby boom, partly driven by immigration. In the past decade, the birth rate has gone up by almost a fifth and there are more than 670,000 babies born every year. But the number of midwives has increased by just 12 per cent, meaning scores of units are understaffed.
The report, to be presented at the Royal College of Midwives conference in Manchester today, found hundreds of posts across the country remain unfilled. In some parts of Britain, the staff vacancies rate is five times higher than what is deemed acceptable for services to be properly delivered.
Health experts say midwife vacancy rates should not rise above 3 per cent. However, in London the figure is 15 per cent, while in the East of England it is 8 per cent. The figures are similarly high in the East Midlands and South East.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said: ‘The shortages are not going to put safety at risk but they having an effect on the softer elements of care.’ Standards of care will worsen if cutbacks continue, she warned, adding: ‘We were starting to see improvements, and now my worry is that it could now all come tumbling down.’
Campaigners warn that lives are already being endangered. There are worrying signs that maternity units are failing to cope with soaring demand. The National Childbirth Trust has warned that more than half of new mothers feel frightened or alone because midwives do not have enough time to look after them. And last month it emerged that women at London’s Kings College hospital were forced to give birth in waiting rooms due to a lack of beds.
Geoff Martin of pressure group London Health Emergency said: ‘There’s a daily lottery for mothers giving birth in London and we are in no doubt lives are being put at risk.’
Experts also point out that more women have complicated labours caused by higher levels of obesity coupled with delayed motherhood. Overweight or older expectant mothers are more likely to have a premature birth, suffer from pre-eclampsia or have small babies who require intensive care.
Tony Falconer, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘As well as need for more midwives, there is a need for more consultants to deal with the increase in high-risk pregnancies.’
British tuition fee protest: 18-year-old student arrested
Police have arrested an 18-year-old college student in connection with the throwing of a fire extinguisher at police from the roof of Conservative Party headquarters.
The man, believed to be the long-haired protester pictured in photographs released by police yesterday, was arrested in Southampton by Scotland Yard officers on Monday night. He is expected to be transferred to London on Tuesday for formal questioning.
The canister landed inches away from a group of police officers 70ft below. One officer admitted had it hit him “somebody would have been visiting my wife and children and saying either I was dead, or very, very seriously injured”.
The new pictures emerged as the president of the university lecturers union joined more than 20 other senior academics in controversially supporting the demonstrators who rioted at Millbank Tower last week.
Images of the student, who was wearing a black leather jacket and a scarf, were captured by Sky News. He was seen entering the Milbank Tower building, holding a pink and yellow placard. Having accessed the roof, a similar looking long-haired suspect is seen picking up the extinguisher and throwing it over the roof with his right hand.
A protester standing beside him immediately ran away from the edge of the roof, apparently aware of the gravity of the offence.
The wanted man walked away calmly, before looking up to the skies at a television helicopter, and then wrapping a scarf around his face to help disguise himself. He left the roof area via a stairwell and disappearing into the crowds.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said earlier on Monday: “This is a person the police would be interested in speaking to in connection with the incident.”
A total of 57 people have been arrested and bailed after violence erupted during the student fees protests in London last week. Several students were seen holding fire extinguishers on the roof of the Tory HQ during the protests. Jackson Potter, a 23-year-old student, believed to be one of them, was arrested in Cambridge on Friday. The Anglia Ruskin University student was later released on police bail.
Meanwhile, Alan Whitaker, the president of the University and College Union (UCU) and National Executive Committee, signed a statement saying they stand by those who were arrested. “We will not side with those who condemn violence against windows and property but will not condemn or even name the long-term violence of cuts that will scar the lives of hundreds of thousands by denying them access to the education of their choice,” the statement said.
British voters to be asked to provide signatures at polling stations as Government moves to crack down on electoral fraud
Long overdue. The abuses multiplied under Labour party rule. This would be just a dream in many American States as Democrats hang on tenaciously to the opportunity for corruption
Voters will have to give their date of birth, supply a signature and national insurance number at polling stations by the time of the next election in a clamp down on widespread electoral fraud.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will set out tough new measures for voter identification in a keynote speech today. He will warn that the political system has fallen ‘dangerously out of step’ with life in Britain and that politics remains ‘closed, remote, elite’.
Mr Clegg will announce a new bill on constitutional reform to sort out the chaotic electoral register. He will say: ‘People must have confidence in the system, and know that it is secure against fraud. So we are committed to tackling fraud by speeding up the move to individual – as opposed to household – registration.’
New security measures will be in place by 2014, in time for the next general election. The previous government had planned to delay tougher rules until after polling day.
The move is expected to clean up the electoral fraud witnessed in areas such as Tower Hamlets, where thousands of bogus voters appeared on the roll weeks before the general election. Labour supporters were accused of packing the electoral roll with relatives living overseas or inventing phantom voters.
Mr Clegg will warn that the government would still have to deal with the millions of people who are not on the electoral register. Around 3.5 million have slipped off the roll – more than the populations of Greater Manchester and Birmingham put together.
In the annual Political Studies Association/Hansard Society lecture in London, Mr Clegg will say:‘The Coalition Government is clear: these missing millions must be given back their voice. There is no magic wand solution; but, equally, there is no excuse for inaction.’
From next year local authorities will compare other databases to the electoral register to identify missing voters. Mr Clegg will say: ‘We’ve already launched the process, and local authorities are bidding now to run schemes to test what works best. ‘The Coalition Government is clear: these missing millions must be given back their voice. There is no magic wand solution; but, equally, there is no excuse for inaction.’ ‘Council officers will be able help these people to get on the register. And, if it works, it could be rolled out across the rest of the country.’
The problem of slipping off the register is worst among the young, black and ethnic minority communities and in poorer areas.
Mr Clegg will signal that voting would never be compulsory the way it is in countries such as Australia, saying registration would always be down to individual choice.
More frequent boundary reviews will also be unveiled to end the ‘outdated, haphazard arrangements we inherited from Labour’.
An attempt by Labour to scupper the coalition government’s plans for a boundary shake up was narrowly defeated yesterday by just 14 votes. The government overturned Labour’s attempts to delay the planned redrawing of constituencies, which is tied to a referendum on changing the voting system in the knife-edge vote in House of Lords.
Labour’s ex Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, had argued that because the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill protected the constituency boundaries of the Western Isles and Orkney and the Shetlands, it was ‘hybrid’ and had to be referred to a panel of parliamentary clerks.
If the clerks had ruled that the Bill was hybrid – which means it applies to a specific group differently than to the general public – the timetable for the referendum on the Alternative Vote system would have been thrown into chaos.
Ministers are intent on holding the referendum next May, despite warnings from the Electoral Commission that the timetable is already slipping.
Bonanza for lawyers coming to an end in Britain
Ministers pledged yesterday to take an axe to the compensation culture and slash lawyers’ multi-million-pound earnings. State legal aid will no longer pay for claims against hospitals and doctors or schools and colleges, over immigration or welfare benefit disputes or for divorce lawyers, said Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.
Unprecedented reforms to the £2.1billion-a-year legal aid system will mean that more than half a million court cases annually will no longer be funded by taxpayers. The guiding principle will be that it is available only for civil cases when ‘life or liberty’ is at stake. This will include allegations of domestic violence, child abduction or forced marriage.
Much of the price of reining in legal aid spending will fall on the legal profession, which will see fees to solicitors and barristers cut by more than £400million a year over the next decade.
The Justice Secretary told MPs: ‘Legal aid has expanded so much that it is now one of the most expensive in the world, costing the public purse more than £2billion a year. ‘It is now available for a very wide range of issues, including some which do not require any legal expertise to resolve. It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying.’
The reform plans were published in a consultation paper which recommends an end to legal aid in most family and divorce cases, medical negligence, education, employment, immigration, welfare benefits and some housing disputes.
It also promises a major shake-up of the controversial ‘no-win no-fee’ system which fuels many compensation culture claims. If the proposals go ahead, lawyers in no-win, no-fee cases will be prevented from claiming success fees from the losing side. These can be as high as the damages the loser must pay.
They will no longer be able to make the loser pay high insurance charges. The reforms say they should be paid from the winnings of their clients, taking a maximum of 25 per cent of the damages. To help meet their costs, judges would raise damages orders by 10 per cent.
Ministers said the cost of legal aid to each taxpayer in the country is £38 a year. This figure compares with an equivalent £3 a year for taxpayers in France and £5 in Germany. Legal aid was first offered in 1949 to provide lawyers in court for the poor.
A major expansion of the system went ahead in the early 1970s. The effect has been that the bill to the taxpayer has gone up sevenfold over the past 25 years, and for 20 years governments have been trying to scale it back.
The reform plans would mean that anyone trying, for example, to sue a hospital would have to pay for their own lawyers or find a lawyer willing to do a no-win, no-fee deal, or, known in legal jargon as a conditional fee agreement. Such cases were, Mr Clarke said, ‘not generally speaking of sufficient priority to justify funding at the taxpayer’s expense’.
Civil payments will continue to be paid for asylum cases, mental health cases, for debt and housing disputes where somebody is in danger of being made homeless, and in ‘public’ family law cases in which children are being taken into state care.
In divorce and family break-up, someone who alleges a partner has been violent can ask a judge to throw him – almost always a male partner – out of their home. Such cases will continue to be covered.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said the legal aid proposals would prevent ordinary people getting ‘access to justice’. Instead, the solicitors’ professional body called for a new tax on alcohol to cover the cost of legal aid. The idea would mean that anyone buying a drink in a pub or a bottle of wine in a supermarket would be contributing to the earnings of lawyers.
Humorless British police provoke backlash
“He missed the plane. Now thousands of annoyed internet users say authorities missed the joke.
When Paul Chambers was arrested and fined for posting a jocular message to micro-blogging site Twitter in which he threatened to blow up northern England’s Robin Hood Airport if it didn’t reopen in time for his flight, it caused a minor stir.
Now that a court has turned down his appeal, the internet has come alive with outrage, with thousands of online fans posting comic threats to the regional airport out of solidarity.
Many have added the tag “IAmSpartacus” to their posts – a reference to the Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 epic Spartacus, in which the titular hero’s fellow rebels all assume his identity in a gesture of solidarity.
The act of online revolt – the AP counted about 5000 posts carrying the “IAmSpartacus” tag within two hours – seems to have cowed authorities.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police, which originally arrested Chambers, scoffed and said “no” when asked if police planned on arresting any of Chambers’s online fans.
But she refused to answer when asked why the thousands of jokey threats to blow Robin Hood Airport “sky high” would be treated any differently from Chambers’s original tweet that resulted in his arrest.
The Spartacus reference was Twitter’s top trending subject worldwide, while rights groups in Britain weighed the implications of Chambers’s failed appeal, warning that the so-called “Twitter joke trial” had set an ugly precedent for free speech online.
Police and prosecutors “seem to have completely ignored the notion of context, which is a very dangerous thing,” said Padraig Reidy of the London-based Index on Censorship. “If he genuinely intended to blow up the airport, he wouldn’t have tweeted it. It’s obviously a joke.”
Chambers’s lawyer, David Allen Green, said his client’s case should never have gone to court.
According to accounts carried on Green’s blog and in the British media, the 27-year-old was alarmed when heavy snow closed Robin Hood Airport, from which he was due to fly in order to see a friend he had met online.
In a message posted to dozens of followers on January 6, he stated: “Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get [it] together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
The tweet might have faded into the obscurity of internet had it not been discovered by an airport duty manager browsing the internet five days later. The manager forwarded the offending tweet to his station manager, and – even though the threat was deemed “non-credible” – it was passed on to police.
On January 13, a week after the post, Chambers was arrested and questioned. The case file notes that “there is no evidence at this stage that this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter as a joke for only his close friends to see”, but he was charged and convicted in any case.
Rejecting Chambers’s appeal on Thursday last week, Judge Jacqueline Davies at Doncaster Crown Court ordered him to pay £2000 ($3300) in prosecution costs, in addition to a £385 fine.
Writer and actor Stephen Fry – one of several celebrities backing Chambers’s cause – offered financial help, tweeting “whatever they fine you, I’ll pay”.
Green said his client, who has since lost his job, was still considering his legal options.
He should appeal the verdict further but the costs of that would probably be prohibitive. Judge Jacqueline Davies is clearly a nickel-plated b*tch. Maybe she was hormonal at the time.
Phil Jones rehabilitated?
There has just appeared in “Nature” magazine a large and sympathetic article about climate-crook Phil Jones. It accepts all his assertions at face value. Below is one blogger’s comment on the matter
In 2008, in an message titled “IPCC and FOI“, Phil Jones asked Michael Mann to delete emails he might have gotten from Kieth Briffa, assuring him that Briffa would delete such emails as well. He said ’they’ was going to get in touch with Caspar Ammann asking him to delete emails too. Responding to Jones, Michael Mann replied sphinx-like, that he would get in touch with Eugene Wahl about the matter.
Four scientists – Kieth Briffa, Michael Mann, Caspar Ammann, Eugene Wahl – all being set into motion by Phil Jones, deleting emails relating to the IPCC fourth assessment report – this is the picture we get, from one the emails in Climategate. The alleged email exchange is below:
laughable that CA would claim to have discovered the problem. They would have run off to the Wall Street Journal for an exclusive were that to have been true.
I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
talk to you later,
Phil Jones wrote:
Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!
Now, a year after these series of exchanges were made public by Climategate, Jones, we are informed by Nature magazine, deleted the emails from just “bravado”.
“We just thought if they’re going to ask for more, we might as well not have them”
Apparently Jones deleted these emails, to “simplify his life”, by “not having them”, if they were requested by people “in the future”. Mindblowing.
The Nature article potrays Jones’ story through Climategate year One. He is shown as a sensitive man, sucked into a vortex of reactive maneuvers, outwitting critics, bloggers and sceptics, deleting emails in the process. As much as one hopes for more transparency and data openness, one hopes Jones finds the right rationalizations to put his mind at rest first. Meanwhile the skeptics are not going to get anything in the near future, it seems.
Here is an interesting bit of “search-box” investigation you can perform. Look for the words ‘denier’ or ’fossil-fuel’ in the article – you might just be surprised by the results.