One in five mothers left alone in labour as NHS maternity care ‘still letting down women’
At least one in five women is still left alone and worried at some point during labour and birth, according to the biggest survey of its kind. The report on maternity care in NHS hospitals found that 22 per cent of women said they were left alone by midwives or doctors and worried as a result.
Twelve per cent of the women interviewed were alone during labour, 6 per cent shortly after birth and 4 per cent during labour and shortly after birth. The 22 per cent figure is a slight fall on the previous survey in 2007.
Although the study of 25,000 women in England found improvements in NHS maternity services, campaigners said the shortcomings reflected continuing shortages of midwives.
The report, published today, found 92 per cent of women ranked their overall care as good, very good or excellent, but a total of 13 per cent said care during labour and birth was poor or fair at best. In addition, more than half of mothers are giving birth in the ‘wrong’ position in NHS hospitals. The report found a significant increase since 2007 in the proportion of women giving birth lying down or lying down with their legs in stirrups.
Among those not needing assistance to give birth, 38 per cent gave birth lying down, up from 35 per cent. A further 16 per cent were supported with stirrups, up from 14 per cent. This contravenes official guidance to the NHS which encourages women to move around during labour, only lying down when clinically necessary, because it is better for mother and baby.
About one in ten women said they were not able to move around at all during labour. The women taking part in the survey carried out by the Care Quality Commission were cared for at 144 NHS Trusts in England providing maternity services.
CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said: ‘Whilst many women report feeling involved in their care it is particularly concerning that over a fifth of women are left alone during labour or birth when it worries them and it seems too many are not being encouraged to take more active birthing positions.’
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives said the report showed there was ‘still much to do’ and called for an increase in midwives. The RCM says the NHS needs at least 3,000 more midwives. She said: ‘It is of vital importance that progress in ensuring high-quality maternity services continues, despite the difficult economic climate and a real terms fall in NHS funding. ‘This is why it is imperative that this government honours its pledge to employ more midwives to cope with the pressures created by continuingly high birth rates.’
The survey comes as Public Health Minister Anne Milton launches a new service for expectant mothers and their partners to enable them to compare and rate maternity services across the NHS. ‘It is vital we help people get enough information to make the right choice for themselves,’ she said.
‘We let in some crazies’… British leader claimed Labour went soft on radical Muslims
David Cameron told the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Labour government ‘let in some crazies’, leaked diplomatic documents have revealed. In secret meetings before becoming Prime Minister, he promised the Americans he would toughen policy towards Pakistan.
Mr Cameron and George Osborne met Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks. The American put them under pressure to do more to combat terrorism by making use of the ‘striking connections’ between the Pakistani community in the UK and militants in their ‘home country’.
Mr Holbrooke reported to Washington: ‘On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had “gotten it wrong domestically”… he argued that PM Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups… “We let in some crazies,” Cameron said, “and didn’t wake up soon enough”.’
The Conservatives also promised the U.S. before the election that they would be tougher on Pakistan – because unlike Labour they did not depend on votes from people with Pakistani connections. Liam Fox, who is now defence secretary, criticised Labour for their pro-Pakistan approach in cables given to WikiLeaks.
David Cameron has apparently has apparently shifted the UK’s stance towards Pakistan since he was elected. He visited India on a trade mission in June before telling Pakistan ‘not to face both ways’ when it came to tackling terrorism.
U.S. ambassador to the UK Louis Susman was told that ‘the Conservatives are “less dependant” than the Labour party on votes from the British-Pakistani community.’ Mr Susman added in the cable: ‘Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s (Her Majesty’s Government) foreign relations on the subcontinent are “skewed to Pakistan”.’
Britain has ‘deep concerns’ about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, WikiLeaks documents showed. Documents from the latest cache of leaked US cables demonstrate that the UK and the US have similar anxieties about Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal. US officials are quoted citing the danger of Pakistani fissile material finding its way into the hands of extremists.
Employers WILL be allowed to favour women and blacks in Britain
Employers are to be allowed to discriminate in favour of women, black and disabled job candidates under controversial new laws. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone insisted the shake-up announced yesterday was not about ‘political correctness’ but making the workplace fairer.
The legislation was drawn up by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman but has been adopted by the Coalition. Other elements of Labour’s Equality Act, including compulsory ‘gender pay audits’ for firms, have been scrapped.
But the Government’s decision to press on with so-called ‘positive action’ will alarm business leaders and Right-wing Tories.
The change in the law, designed to address under-representation of certain groups in the workplace, will enable firms to choose women, ethnic minorities or disabled people ahead of equally qualified white male, able-bodied applicants without the risk of being sued.
It will also apply to gay and transgender people. In theory, men could also be favoured in some areas where they are under-represented, such as primary teaching.
Miss Featherstone said the changes would give women and others a fairer deal in the workplace. ‘These plans are absolutely not about political correctness, or red tape, or quotas,’ she said. ‘It is about giving employers the choice to make their workforce more diverse.’
From April next year, employers will be allowed to start to use the measure as part of their recruitment process. Formal guidance will be published in the new year.
Ministers said they would ‘apply voluntary positive action in recruitment and promotion processes when faced with candidates of equal merit, to address under-representation in the workforce’.
But it emerged that when determining whether candidates are equally qualified, employers will not have to judge solely on the basis of qualifications. They will also be able to take into account ‘general ability, suitability, competence and experience’. That will raise concerns that employers’ judgments could be highly subjective and trigger legal action for unfair discrimination by rejected candidates.
The Government’s equalities strategy said the change in the law did not mean that employers could introduce ‘quotas’ or give someone a job simply because they are female, disabled or from an ethnic minority.
But David Green, director of think-tank Civitas, said the legislation imposed ‘illiberal requirements on employers’. ‘For centuries liberals have fought for individuals to be judged on their own merits not according to their class or race,’ he said. ‘The Government is now to require employers to discriminate on grounds of “group identity”, not personal qualities.’
The equality strategy also proposed schemes to promote equality for homosexuals, such as ‘gay-friendly’ workplaces.
Ministers are also in talks over allowing same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in church, a crackdown on ‘irresponsible’ and sexualised advertising, and clothing that forces children to grow up too young.
Generations ‘damaged by too-soft parenting’, says British poverty tsar who wants marriage lessons for children
A collapse in ‘tough love’ parenting means many children’s chances of succeeding in life are wrecked before they even start school, David Cameron’s poverty adviser says today.
Former Labour minister Frank Field says marriage and parenting lessons should be introduced in schools, developmental checks brought in for every child at two-and-a-half and benefits withdrawn from feckless mothers and fathers.
In a major report for the Prime Minister, he highlights ‘horrifying’ research showing it is possible to predict whether children will hold down jobs and how successful they will be as adults by the age of two-and-a-half.
He says the decline in parental standards began in the late 1960s with the ‘loss of deference’, leaving children increasingly confused about what was acceptable behaviour. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Field said there was clear evidence that two parents are generally more successful than one at bringing up children – and argued that pupils should be taught so in schools.
The MP launched a scathing attack on his own party’s record in determining poverty purely in cash terms, arguing that the approach has been counterproductive.
He also criticised Chancellor George Osborne for increasing child tax credits for less well-off children. The £2.5billion cost would have been better spent boosting the work of children’s centres to try to improve parenting, Mr Field said.
A key recommendation of his report is that Sure Start centres – currently run by local authorities – should be handed over to GPs, groups of parents and charities, who would run them as co-operatives. They should, in future, play host to ante-natal and post-natal classes, registration of births and applications for child benefit so that all parents engage with them. Parents would be offered midwifery and maternity advice, a home visiting service and a wide network of voluntary support.
Health visitors, Mr Field says, should conduct compulsory checks on all toddlers’ cognitive, language, social and emotional development.
Mr Field said free nursery care – or even welfare payments – should be withdrawn from problem parents who refused to co-operate. ‘I think we have to move to a welfare contract,’ he said. ‘When you go to work, you have an employment contract. When you get benefit, you should have a welfare contract.’
Mr Field said that ethnic minority youngsters often do far better than their white counterparts as their families have retained traditional values. He said while most children brought up in poor families stay poor, ‘Chinese children from poor families as a group do better than all other non-poor children, except non-poor Chinese children. ‘Growing up in an ethnically Chinese family in England is enough to overcome all the disadvantages of being poor.’
On the theme of ‘tough love’, Mr Field added: ‘We used to set clear boundaries, and we loved children but they also knew what the rules were.’
Mr Field, whose attempted reforms were thwarted when he was Labour’s welfare minister, added: ‘A child might have thought they were the most important person in the world, but there were, say, four other people in a household and so to get along, you had to negotiate that. ‘But that was all swept away in the whole, wider loss of deference.
‘At the same time we also decided to do this gigantic experiment in world history where we didn’t insist that fathers who begat children had to pay for them and that taxpayers would take over.
‘We need to rethink. When you look at young children at two-and-a-half, at that point and then at five years you can predict where children can be in their 20s – whether they are going to have jobs and what sort of jobs.’ At school, parenting would be taught across the curriculum.
‘Children should come through school with quite a lot of knowledge about parenting. We don’t want it as a subject – it should be taught as parts of other subjects,’ Mr Field said. ‘So in science, children would learn about the importance of those early years on a child’s brain, and in English, they’d read books contrasting different styles of parenting.
‘One of the things that would be taught at schools is that all other things being equal, two parents do a better job than one parent. ‘That doesn’t mean to say that some one-parent families don’t do brilliantly, or that some two-parent families aren’t hopeless. But as a group, it does make a difference.’
Today Mr Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg will write to Mr Field saying his report ‘marks a vital moment in the history of our efforts to tackle poverty and disadvantage’.
Britain’s Green taxes to stymie job creation
An onslaught of punitive environmental taxes is to be unveiled next year in a drive to turn Britain into a “low carbon economy”. Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne will spearhead the green tax plans on business and households in an attempt to shift the burden of tax from income and profits to production and consumption.
But the move last night raised fears of sharp hikes in energy bills plus petrol and diesel prices, adding to costs for firms already struggling in the fragile economic climate. The blitz was signalled in an economic growth discussion paper ministers released earlier this week.
Green revenues accounts for about 8.1 per cent of taxes. But Mr Huhne wants green tax receipts, up £500 million last year at £39.5 billion, to hit £50 billion within five years.
Supermarket chain Morrisons said: “We would like to build more stores and employ more people. “But this is not going to help growth.”
The Shame Of Green Britain: One Third Of Welsh and Scots can’t afford to keep warm
The numbers of those living in fuel poverty rose to 26% in Wales and nearly 33% in Scotland in 2008, according to figures published on Friday. The latest statistics for fuel poverty and energy efficiency indicate that 332,000 households in Wales and nearly a third of all households in Scotland were spending more than 10% of their household incomes on fuel bills.
Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson said that while the statistics show the scale of the challenge, the Assembly Government has spent £134 million improving the energy efficiency of 124,000 households in the region.
“However, the last few years have seen significant rises in fuel prices, and there is no doubt that has hindered our efforts to tackle this problem,” she admitted.
She pledged to work with the UK Government on tackling fuel poverty and said that the budget for Wales’ Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) budget has been increased to £22.7 million in 2009-10.
The Scottish figures tell a similar story with 140,000 homes having benefitted from improved insulation. “However, it is bitterly cold and we know many hard-pressed households are struggling with fuel bills,” says Scottish Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil. Pricing is particularly crucial, he said, with the figures indicating that over 42,000 households move into fuel poverty with every 5% increase in bills.
He urged Ofgem, which announced a review of fuel costs on Friday, and the Government to ensure that prices are fair and transparent.
Britain should end the madness of “predicted” High School exam results
The current nonsensical system is a prize example of British eccentricity. I won’t even try to explain it
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said exam boards should be required to mark tests quicker to give teenagers time to apply for degrees over the summer. Currently, applications are made on the basis of predicted results but as many as half of estimated grades turn out to be wrong.
There are also fears that the quality of predictions differs wildly between schools – often pushing students onto courses ill-suited for their needs.
Students usually sit final exams in May and courses are only confirmed when grades are published in mid-to-late August. It gives candidates just a few weeks to appeal against results and find places through the clearing system if they have fallen short of predicted grades.
Speaking on Thursday, Mrs Curnock Cook said Britain should move to a post-qualifications admissions system. She said examiners should “speed up the marking” of tests to allow pupils to apply for degree courses in early summer before starting university in September or October.
Ucas has already launched a review into the points-based tariff used to award places on degree courses following concerns that it fails to differentiate between students’ qualifications.
The move could give institutions greater freedom to prioritise candidates taking the toughest courses at school and sixth-form college.
Mrs Curnock Cook said: “I have come to the conclusion that probably the biggest single reform that we can do in the qualifications arena and higher education is to move to a post-qualifications admissions system. “This is something that’s been put in the ‘too difficult to handle box’ for a very long time.
“I have to say that I was quite shocked to have a circular from [exam boards] setting out the A-level results day dates for the next five years. And it is still that same Thursday in August. “You know, guys, what’s happened to technology? I cannot believe that in the next five years we cannot speed up the marking of exams.”
The comments were made in a speech to the Westminster Education Forum in central London.
Similar proposals were made by a leading official from the former Department for Education and Skills five years ago. But they were rejected amid claims that they would not leave enough time for rigorous academic selection. It could also have a serious impact on university interviews and aptitude tests staged by the most selective universities.