Major operations ‘rationed’ as NHS budgets bite
Health authorities have started to “ration” major operations to save money as NHS budgets begin to be squeezed. The result is a new postcode lottery of care, say critics, with health trusts across the country making different decisions on what operations they will do depending on what their books look like. Hip and knee replacements are among those affected.
Jane Copson, a 41-year-old teacher, was due to have a hip replacement yesterday (FRI) at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. Ten days ago she heard the operation had been deferred and she would have to start the process all over again with a referral from her GP.
She recieved a letter from her primary care trust (PCT), NHS Warwickshire, telling her: “It is not expected that you will receive your treatment before April 2011.” That is the start of the next financial year, when all trusts receive a fresh injection of funds. Total hip replacements cost the NHS from £4,000 to £7,000.
Miss Copson, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, said: “My postcode is CV11. If I had lived 20 minutes’ drive away, in a street with a CV1 through to CV6 postcode, I would have been in Coventry and I would have had my operation. “Instead, ‘my operation’ has gone to a lady who does live there. That was my slot. And, for no good reason, it’s gone.”
Fifteen years ago she broke her left pelvis in five places. It was pinned back together, but she was told she would need a replacement in a decade. Last year she developed arthritis in her hip, which has steadily got worse.
Miss Copson, who has a two-year-old son called Ben, said of the deferral: “To say I was devastated when I heard is an understatement. I spent the whole weekend in tears.” She is now on a powerful opiate-based painkiller but said she woke up frequently at night in pain.
Surgeons say the practice of delaying such operations is a new but growing trend. One said: “Other PCTs are watching to see if Warwickshire get away with this and will use this as a way to postpone even making a decision on operations – not actually doing them – until the start of their next financial year next April. It’s a way of rationing operations.”
NHS Warwickshire has blamed the deferral on an “unexpected rise in demand” for surgery, which would lead to a £10 million overspend if it continued to fund operations at the same rate. A spokesman said it must “by statute” balance its end-of-year books. “About half is being saved by reconsidering some referrals; the rest by use of reserves and making other savings,” he said.
He argued the situation had arisen because the Labour government had created an “inflationary system” in which all health bodies expected receive more and more money each year. Hospitals increased their budgets by carrying out more operations quicker, he said, but this relied on PCTs to pay for them.
Now that the NHS budget had essentially been frozen, the system was being forced to adjust. “We have seen sustained levels of growth for years,” he said. “Now we are in a different world.”
However, he said of Miss Copson’s hip replacement: “If she needs it now, we will do it now.”
This week’s false rape claim from Britain
A pregnant woman who took part in an alcohol-fuelled sex session with three men has been jailed for a year after lying to police that she had been raped. Sabrina Johnson, 25, performed sex acts on the three strangers she had met while walking home from a night out, Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex heard.
The following morning when she woke up, hung over and late for work, she told her boss that she had been dragged into a park by two strangers and forced to perform oral sex on them. Horrified workmates urged Johnson to report the attack to police, and detectives spent 311 hours investigating the alleged crime, at a cost of some £6,753.
The investigation continued until one of the men involved came forward with a voice recording that he had made on his mobile phone of Johnson consenting to the sex game.
Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC jailed the three-months pregnant supermarket worker for 12 months after she pleaded guilty to a perverting the course of justice. He said her lies had caused fear: ‘This was an allegation of a terrifying nature. There was heightened public fear of rapists, an atmosphere of fear that was created wholly unnecessarily.’ He added that it was only thanks to the mobile phone voice recording that the men were cleared.
He added: ‘You had sexual relations with them and played some kind of sex game. One of the males, a prudent gentleman, recorded your consent on his mobile phone, including your image. But for his doing so he would have been very likely in deep trouble.’
The court heard that one of the men involved, none of whom have been named, contacted police when he saw an e-fit which resembled him. Judge Goldstaub said: ‘The men had to make statements and supply their DNA to police officers, and it must have been a frightening experience, particularly for the man you identified. ‘All he could say was that you had consented, but defendants often say so in rape cases, and juries are often invited not to believe them. ‘The effects on the victim wrongly accused can be appalling, and might well have been in this case.’
The court heard Johnson had downed five gin and tonics, a glass of wine and Sambuca shots on a night out in her home town of Chelmsford on June 4 this year. She was walking home when she met three men in the street and they invited her for a drink in a nearby flat. The brunette played a drinking game with the men before performing oral sex on all three of them.
The court heard that the trainee assistant supermarket manager woke up the following morning with a hangover and was due to start work at the Co-op supermarket at 6am. She did not get into work until 12.45pm and told her boss it was because she had been attacked.
Prosecuting, Samantha Lawther told the court that Johnson had already received a warning from work for being late and her boss asked if she had a crime reference number. She later called the police and repeated her lies.
She told police that two men had dragged her from a cycle path into a wooded nature reserve area in Central Park, Chelmsford, and forced her to perform oral sex on them. She underwent a medical examination and specially trained officers interviewed her on video.
Johnson took officers to the park and showed them where the ‘rapists’ had attacked her. She claimed a group of women had walked past on a nearby path and scared off the attackers. Detectives cordoned off part of the park, put up yellow boards appealing for witnesses and publicised the bogus attack in a bid to bring witnesses forward. In the appeals Johnson was described as a ‘defenceless young woman’ and said to be ‘badly traumatised by her ordeal’.
A team of 21 officers worked on the investigation and extra detectives and police officers were were drafted in to patrol the area in order to allay community fears.
CCTV cameras from the town were scoured for the bogus rapists. Johnson gave police detailed descriptions of the men including their clothes and helped officers create e-fits which resembled two of the innocent men. One of the men saw the e-fit and contacted police. All three men were questioned and had DNA swabs taken but they were never charged because one of them had a damning recording on his phone of Johnson consenting to the sex game.
Johnson confessed when she was confronted with her lies, the court heard. She told officers: ‘Things just started getting bigger and bigger and I could not stop it. ‘I realise what I have done. It’s appalling, I’m ashamed of myself. I’m really sorry.’
Her solicitor, Peter Barlex, told the court in mitigation that Johnson only had a vague memory of what had happened because she had been drinking. He added that she had been badly affected by a diet which restricted her to 410 calories a day and prohibits solid food. Mr Barlex said Johnson was very sorry for lying and apologised to police and all victims of rape.
He told the court that the defendant had only contacted police at the urging of her ex-partner and workmates. He said ‘It was a situation that got out of hand and she could not get out of it.’
Speaking outside court Detective Chief Inspector Mark Wheeler from Essex Police said he hoped Johnson’s lies would not stop genuine victims coming forward. He added: ‘Stranger rape is a very rare offence in this county. Essex Police will do everything possible to support the victims and bring the offender to justice. ‘We encourage victims to contact the police and they will be interviewed by specially trained officers and dealt with sensitively.’ [Will the accused men also be dealt with sensitively? There is every reason to]
Some sanity about “Frankenfood” in Britain
Ministers want to allow the unrestricted sale of meat and milk from so-called Frankenfarm animals. They are ready to reject the idea of a ban as ‘disproportionate in terms of food safety and animal welfare’.
The move was immediately condemned by campaigners who warned that cloning poses a serious threat to animal welfare.
Ministers are backing unrestricted sale of meat and milk from Identical cloned cows like these on Scotland’s Isle of Skye
Ministers are backing unrestricted sale of meat and milk from cloned cows like these on Scotland’s Isle of Skye
It will also trigger a fierce consumer backlash, with evidence that the vast majority of people oppose clone farming on welfare and ethical grounds. Many are also fearful about eating clone food amid concerns there has been too little research to guarantee its safety. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming point to high levels of miscarriage, organ failure and gigantism among new-born clones.
The policy, drawn up on the orders of the controversial Conservative Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, would also rule out labelling. The details emerged in a document published by the Food Standards Agency. It revealed: ‘The Government considers that a ban or a temporary suspension on cloning, the use of cloned animals and the marketing of food from cloned animals would be disproportionate in terms of food safety and animal welfare.’
This is the first time the new Coalition government’s policy, supporting clone farming, has been made public.
Its position would effectively allow the most radical shift in British food and farming in a generation. In theory, meat and milk from clones and their offspring could go on sale legally within a matter of months.
Clone animals would be used for food and to breed herds of unnatural, supersize animals capable of producing vast quantities of meat and milk.
The policy has been adopted by ministers without any public consultation. The only surveys of UK consumers carried out by the FSA and the European Food Safety Authority have demonstrated massive opposition.
Despite this, Mrs Spelman plans to lobby the EU and other governments to effectively abandon any regulation.
The European Commission recently proposed a temporary five-year ban on the sale of meat and milk from clones. But to the disappointment of campaigners, it backed allowing food from the offspring of clones to go into supermarkets.
The documents published by the FSA make clear the Government wants no restrictions. They state: ‘The Government recognises that cloning is a relatively new technique and that the welfare of clones and of their surrogate dams must be protected.’
But it argues that existing laws are sufficient to deal with the welfare of animals and there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to justify a ban.
Recently, a Government advisory committee said that, in its view, there was no difference in meat and milk from clone animals. The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes advised it was ‘unlikely to present any food safety risk’.
However, the experts admitted there was a lack of safety research. The committee also noted consumers would want to see any food from clone animals labelled. This would not happen if the UK gets its way.
A study by the FSA in 2008 found consumers do not want clone food on their plates. The majority considered it a dangerous manipulation of nature and potentially harmful.
The FSA study was conducted by analysts at Creative Research. Its director, Dr Steve Griggs, said ‘the more consumers learned about cloning, the greater and more widespread were the objections’. Mrs Spelman appears to have overridden these concerns.
However, she will not have the final say as other European governments are highly sceptical about the technology and will argue for tough controls.
Chief policy adviser to Compassion in World Farming, Peter Stevenson, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ by Mrs Spelman’s position.
‘This Coalition pledged to give a high priority to animal welfare, yet supporting cloning does completely the opposite. The Government also presents itself as a champion of honest labelling, yet it is proposing a clone food free for all without any requirement for labels.’
Students should be judged on ‘potential’, says Oxford admissions chief
If he really did want to do that, he would be using IQ tests. They are the best predictor of educational success — and they are almost totally unaffected by home background
Universities should consider giving priority to pupils with good grades from poor performing schools, according to Oxford’s head of admissions. Students gaining a string of good grades at sink schools “may have more potential” than those with similar scores from elite schools and colleges, it was claimed.
Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions at Oxford, said universities should have “no hesitation” about taking students’ backgrounds into consideration during the applications process.
The comments are likely to fuel controversy over “social engineering” in university admissions. Headmasters have warned that the use of “contextual data” – including students’ school, family background and social class – risks penalising pupils with good results from top-performing independent schools.
It comes amid rising competition for university places. Demand for degree courses is expected to reach record levels next year as students scramble to get in to higher education before a sharp rise in tuition fees in 2012.
But the Sutton Trust – a charity campaigning to improve levels of social mobility – insisted universities still had a duty to “take into account the educational context of students when deciding whom to admit”.
It came as a report from the charity suggested that teenagers admitted on to degree courses with relatively low GCSE and A-level performed just as well as those with better grades. The study said a comprehensive school pupil with three Bs at A-level was just as likely to get a good degree as those admitted from private school with two As and a B.
Comprehensive students with average A-levels and GCSEs actually did better at university compared with privately-educated pupils with the same grades, the report added.
The Sutton Trust said this proved that universities were justified in making lower offers to pupils from poor-performing comprehensives. “The use of data about the educational context in which students have obtained their qualifications, particularly the type of school attended, should be encouraged when comparing the attainment of [higher education] candidates,” the study said.
Many top universities currently use contextual data during the applications process.
Addressing a conference in central London on Thursday, Mr Nicholson told how Oxford’s medical school looked into the number of A* grades applicants scored at GCSE – then compared scores with the overall performance of their school. “A student who gets five A*s from a school where nobody gets A*s may have more potential than a student who gets five A*s where the average student gets seven or eight A*s,” he said.
Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum, he said contextual data gave admissions tutors “an indication, if used rightly, of [students’] potential” to do well in a degree course. He said he had “no hestitation” in employing “evidence-based use of contextual information” during applications.
Meanwhile, the Sutton Trust study was condemned by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 250 top independent schools.
“This is just one of a number of studies of university outcomes which come to contradictory conclusions about the influence of different types of school education,” said a spokesman.
“Independent schools share universities’ enthusiasm to identify academic promise as well as prior attainment but this latest study does beg the question of why some comprehensive school students are evidently so less well prepared for A levels than those in independent schools.”
Britain’s Warmist Pope can’t get to Cancun climate conference — too much snow
Vicky Pope, head of the climate predictions programme at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, was stuck at Gatwick airport this week, a victim of Britain’s brutal cold snap.
Ironically, she was on her way to Cancún to announce, together with the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation, that 2010 had provisionally tied with 1998 as the hottest year on record.
Scientists from the Noaaa and Nasa, the two other institutes that provide data on global temperatures were wisely staying put in the US, having already stated that it looked like being the hottest year ever.
The pushy parents of modern-day radicalism
Showbiz mothers who make their daughters do tapdance don’t have a patch on the middle-class parents dropping their kids off at student demos
It has become de rigueur in recent years to look down one’s nose at pushy parents. To be snobby about those mums (it’s mostly mums) who make little Olivia do 20 hours of tap a week in the hope that she’ll grow up to be a twenty-first century Ginger Rogers or at least the new Bonnie Langford.
But those parents with stars in their eyes don’t have a patch on a far more respectable breed of pushy parent: the political pushy parent, who sends their kids on anti-government demonstrations, complete with packed lunches, in the hope that they’ll grow up to be a twenty-first century Sylvia Pankhurst or at least a new Tariq Ali. These mums and dads are ‘living through their kids’ in a far more serious and sad way than the showbiz ones.
Probably the most striking thing about last week’s student demo against the Lib-Con government’s cuts and tuition fees agenda was not the protest itself – which, like all youth protests, was loud, bracing and had some good points as well as bad ones – but rather the sad-dad effect.
It was the way in which university lecturers, teachers, journalists and middle-class parents – the respectable adult world – gave a vigorous nod of approval to the demonstration, fantasising that it was some kind of genetic or educational extension of their own inner youthful radicalism. It is a shocking indictment of contemporary adult society that it is now effectively pushing forward children – what it rather patronisingly refers to as ‘the Harry Potter generation’ – to do its dirty work for it.
Like that fortysomething uncle who insists on wearing skinny jeans, or the greying dad who quotes N-Dubz (‘As Dappy wisely says…’), certain sections of adult society couldn’t resist bopping awkwardly on the sidelines of last Wednesday’s protest in central London. The results were often highly embarrassing. ‘Wow’, said one newspaper reporter, ‘the atmosphere in Trafalgar Square is fantastic’. ‘The excitement of bunking off school AND climbing public statues AND swearing in front of police is very obvious’, she continued, sounding for all the world like that drama teacher we all had – maxi-dress, ridiculous earrings, penchant for Victoria Wood – who’d say things like: ‘In my class anything goes, even rude words!’
Lots of adults were explicitly trying to recapture their own youths through their effusiveness over Wednesday’s demo. One mum, approving of her daughter Alice’s decision to bunk off school, told the Observer that it stirred ‘memories of her own radical youth’ – all those ‘Greenpeace sit-ins and Free Nelson Mandela marches’. Yet for other overexcited, presumably older adult observers, the protesters were like the ‘angelic spirits of 1968’: these youth have given us ‘pictures of revolution, the real thing, in its romantic and large-minded soixante-huitard form’, said one, no doubt teary-eyed hack. This is pure projection, with variously aged adult cheerleaders insisting ‘it’s just like the Eighties!’ or ‘it’s just like the Sixties!’.
Most embarrassing of all (certainly for any self-respecting young radical) was the open involvement of parents and other adults in facilitating and bringing to a conclusion the youthful demonstration. One newspaper says that the parents of some of the younger protesters, the 14- to 17-year-olds who bunked off school, ‘had dropped their children, by car, at the start of the demo’. These kids reportedly had ‘snack lunches and bottled water thoughtfully provided by their parents’.
When the children were kettled by the cops, their parents ‘frantically’ texted them advice and phoned both the Metropolitan Police and the BBC to complain and to get updates. One mother says a ‘very sympathetic policewoman’ on the Met’s helpline offered her ‘reassurance’. I remember when it was considered embarrassing if your mum phoned a mate’s house to check if you were okay during a sleepover. But to phone the cops to find out, in the words of one demo-approving dad, ‘when our children will be home’? That’s the death-knell of radicalism right there.
The institutions of adult society effectively gave children permission to be on the demo. Some headteachers made no effort to prevent their pupils from leaving school premises, with the head of Camden School for Girls even hinting that she admired her school’s 200 bunking protesters. For some in the teaching and university worlds, it seems, this was less a 1968-style revolution than a kind of educational field trip, an extension of those citizenship classes in which children are taught about the importance of voting and community activism. As one adult observer said, ‘many un-enfranchised schoolkids showed virtually no interest in politics’, but this demo ‘changed everything’. Maybe they’ll get that A* now.
What this adult sanctioning and glee over Wednesday’s demo really reveals is an adult world that now pushes its children to do its political work for it. Teachers, university workers and journalists, like many others, are concerned about the Lib-Cons’ cuts agenda and the future of British society more broadly. But lacking any serious ideas, bereft of an effective language in which to articulate and pursue their concerns, they hide behind groups of children instead, hoping that the young ones’ fresh-facedness, their energy, their implacable anger (at least as excitedly talked up by the adult observers), will land a political blow where their own ideas and ideals have failed.
So journalists describe the protest as a ‘children’s crusade’, a combination of innocence and anger, in an attempt to present it, and the specific anti-Lib-Con ideas that they hope are driving it, as beyond question, as an utterly un-ignorable stand against Cameron and Co. After all, who would want to challenge, far less mistreat, ‘the Harry Potter generation’, with their cute placards saying ‘Dumbledore wouldn’t stand for this shit’?
A group of academics and journalists wrote to a newspaper about the importance of protesting against the government’s ‘cuts to state support for higher education’ – but they presented themselves as ‘parents of sixth-form school students concerned at the tactics adopted by the police at the demonstration’. Here, grown-ups are trying to turn kids into ventriloquist’s dummies for their own political agendas – and trying to warn off the state and the Lib-Con political machine by effectively saying: ‘Don’t touch the kids, their protest is pure and childlike!’
At the same time there’s a large serving of self-loathing in some of the baby-boomers’ booming praise for the youthful protesters. Many of the adult observers of the current student demos are really saying that youngsters are right to kick back against us, the selfish, planet-destroying adults. The reason the youth are angry, said one commentator, is because we, ‘their parents’ generation’, have ‘handed them a global meltdown: global warming, global debt and global insecurity’.
This dynamic – where adults effectively welcome what they see as youthful punishment of the adult world for its numerous sins – captures what lies behind today’s broader anti-boomer outlook: not so much a serious or independent youthful questioning of contemporary society, as a kind of internal corrosion of adult authority itself, a collapse of commitment to old ideals like liberty and risk-taking. Another reason many of today’s adults love the look and sound of the current student protests is because, like political S&Mers, they think they deserve a good kicking.
Of course cross-generational solidarity is no bad thing. But this isn’t that. This is pretty vacant adult actors sanctioning and flattering youthful protesters for their own fairly narrow political benefit. The kids may be all right, but the adults aren’t.