Nursing shortages highlighted in cancer survey

Huge variations in standards of cancer care have been highlighted in a major survey of patients – with 70 per cent of sufferers in some areas concerned about nursing shortages.

While cancer care has improved in a number of areas – with more people saying they were treated with dignity and respect – there has been a rise in concerns about nurse staffing levels, the report found.

The Department of Health conducted the largest ever survey of cancer patients in England, with almost 68,000 people questioned. It found the number of cancer patients who said there were not enough nurses on duty when they received treatment has increased from one in four to one in three in the last decade, since a similar survey was carried out. In some areas 70 per cent of patients said there were not enough nurses.

The National Cancer Patient Experience Survey also found that fewer people completely understood the explanations they were given by doctors about what was wrong with them. Of those treated in the first three months of 2010, one in four did not complete understand what was wrong with them compared to almost one in six in the survey conducted in 2000. This also varied by the type of cancer people had and where they were treated.

No individual trusts were named in the report but separate documents on each trust will be published at a later date and will be available on the NHS Choices website.

Overall patients who were given the name of a clinical nurse specialist who would oversee their care received better care. Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We’ve known for a long time that nurse specialists make a huge impact on the lives of people with cancer, coordinating their care, providing information and emotional support.

“However it is extremely disappointing that too many patients are not given the full range of support they need. Help with financial information is particularly poor. “Of the cancer patients who wanted financial information only half were given any, this dropped to just 35 per cent for those with prostate cancer. Such variation in the support provided to people with different types of cancer is simply unacceptable in today’s NHS.”

The key findings from the survey were:

– Almost one in five felt they should have been seen by a hospital doctor sooner than they were.

– In some areas four in ten patients waited longer than four weeks from GP referral to first hospital appointment.

– Fewer patients aged over 75 were given information about financial help (45 per cent) than those aged 16 to 25 (80 per cent).

– More than one in six said staff did not do everything they could to control pain.

– Four in ten said they did not receive enough care and support after leaving hospital.

Paul Burstow, Care Service Minister, said: “Effective cancer care isn’t just about clinical evidence, we must also listen and learn from people affected by cancer. “More can be done for those with cancer. The Coalition Government’s aim is simple – to get cancer survival rates up there with the best in the world. To do this we need to make the best possible use of the resources available.

“That is why in less than six months, the Coalition Government has set in motion a raft of measures to accelerate progress including an early signs and symptoms awareness campaign that will launch in January, more money for screening and investing in cutting edge therapies.

“These studies provide the NHS with an essential insight into the views and experience of patients. It is a powerful tool for improving services.”

An independent economic study, commissioned by the Department of Health entitled One to one support for cancer patients, has also been published today. The study looked at seven cancers and found that offering one-to-one support for cancer patients could save the NHS around £89 million by improving care and reducing unnecessary hospital stays and GP visits.


England’s migrant baby boom leaves schools 500,000 places short

England needs more than half a million extra primary school places before the end of the decade, ministers have admitted. By the Government’s own calculations, 543 new nursery and primary schools are needed within eight years.

The immigrant baby boom has put unprecedented strain on an education system that is already struggling under a surge in pupil numbers. Ministers described the shortfall as a ‘major issue’, and one campaign group claimed it could cost the taxpayer £40billion.

The predictions follow the chaos at the start of this school year which left hundreds of pupils without a place and thousands taught in makeshift classrooms.

The figures are released as the Department of Education is forced to slash its capital budget – the fund for the building of new schools – by 60 per cent by 2014/15. Statisticians put the trend down to the rising population of foreign-born women of childbearing age.

An official count yesterday showed the number of people living in Britain who were born abroad has more than doubled over 30 years. And birth rate figures show the UK population is now increasing in line with the post-war baby boom. It has risen by 10 per cent over the last 25 years and is expected to rise by 16 per cent over the next 25. Despite this, the Labour government closed more than 1,000 primary schools from 1999 while allowing record immigration.

Every region of England will see surging pupil numbers with London, the South East and the Midlands worst hit. The South West will be the least affected.

The Department of Education said the number of primary school pupils, currently 3.96million, will increase to 4.5million in 2018, an increase of 540,000. The number of nursery and primary schools needed to accommodate the surge must rise from today’s 3,986 to 4,529.

Meanwhile, Government spending on school buildings will fall from £7.6billion this year to £4.9billion next year and £3.4billion in 2014/2015. It has launched a capital spending review to assess where the reduced funding should be targeted. Schools minister Lord Hill said: ‘It’s clear that rising pupil numbers are a major issue facing the schools system. ‘We will continue to work very closely with local authorities, particularly in London, to ensure that we meet rising demand for school places effectively over coming years.

‘Our new Free School policy also has a part to play in allowing teachers, parents and charities to set up new schools in areas where there is a shortage of places.’

The immigration baby boom has resulted in doubling in number of pupils who do not speak English as their first language. Currently the figure stands at 16 per cent of students and is set to increase to 23 per cent in 2018. It is most marked in London where in some boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets, youngsters with a different mother tongue make up nearly 80 per cent of primary pupils.

School place shortages caused mayhem at the start of the school year in September. Councils in many parts of the country, including London and Birmingham, were massively oversubscribed. As term started Brent, in North West London, had 210 four-year-olds without a reception class place but only 24 vacancies. Officials in Newham had to put four classes in a church hall and hundreds of other schools used temporary buildings.

The Office for National Statistics population figures show an 11 per cent increase in immigration in Labour years. The foreign-born population includes around 1.3million from the Asian sub-continent and a similar number from Africa. People born in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand together total slightly under 900,000.

Campaign group MigrationWatch put the cost of additional school places at £40billion.


British stores airbrush Christ out of Christmas cards

Supermarkets were accused of ‘airbrushing Christ out of Christmas’ yesterday after it emerged that less than one per cent of cards they stock have religious themes. Many stores display hundreds of different Christmas cards yet offer just a handful featuring traditional Christian scenes. Some had no cards at all with religious references in their extensive ranges.

The Daily Mail visited major outlets of the big four supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons – in seven towns and cities. Out of 5,363 cards sold individually or in multipacks, just 45 featured Christian scenes such as the Nativity – 0.8 per cent. The worst offender was Morrisons, which had six out of a range of 973 cards, or 0.6 per cent.

Second worst was Tesco, despite chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, a practising Catholic, writing to a customer in October to tell her: ‘We have increased the number of Christmas cards that will be available with a religious theme this year.’

Dr Don Horrocks, of the Evangelical Alliance, said supermarkets were ‘airbrushing Christ out of Christmas’. He added: ‘There has been a rise in cards that say “Season’s greetings” or “Happy holidays” which is evidence of the speeding up of the trend of stripping the religion out of Christian festivals.’

Stephen Green, of Christian Voice, said: ‘The situation is caused by managers subscribing to political correctness and the idea that in some way Christian cards are offensive to other religions. This is simply not true.’

Anas Altikriti, of the Muslim Association of Britain, said he was ‘worried’ at the increasing secularisation of Britain. He added: ‘People who are looking for proper choice of Christmas cards should raise it with the store manager.’

The Mail was contacted by a Tesco customer earlier this week who said her local store in Ely, Cambridgeshire, had just a ‘handful’ of cards with religious themes last year – and still had only three out of 67 last month, despite a personal assurance from Sir Terry. After she had repeatedly contacted customer services, she received a letter from the company chief. ‘Sir Terry promised more cards this year,’ she said. ‘But the selection of cards with anything relating to the true meaning of Christmas was tiny, so he has not kept his word.’

Tesco said it had doubled the range of religiously themed cards this year but refused to give numbers, saying they ‘vary from store to store’.

An Asda spokesman said: ‘We sell five different Christmas cards that have religious sentiment and traditional designs.’

Morrisons said: ‘We stock types of cards that appeal to our customers.’

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: ‘The ranges that appear in our stores reflect what our customers want to buy.’


A classic of British bureaucracy

‘Incompetent’ rail bosses sent vital de-icing trains for servicing during the big freeze as passengers were left marooned by weather. Whether public or private, a British bureaucrat just loves messing other people’s lives up. It gives them a pathetic feeling of power

Rail chiefs sent two vital de-icing trains away for servicing at the height of the big freeze, it was revealed today. Network Rail and the train company SouthEastern have been condemned for ‘total incompetance’ by Michael Fallon, Tory MP for Sevenoaks in Kent.

Greg Clark, Tory MP for nearby Tunbridge Wells said he was ‘flabbergasted’ that the Network Rail trains were sent in for maintenance in winter rather than the summer leaving passengers to face ‘total chaos.’

Rail bosses apologised for the fiasco after the disclosure was made to Kent MPs during an ‘angry’ meeting with Charles Horton, managing director of rail operator SouthEastern – which is set to increase its fares in the New Year by up to 13 per cent.

The showdown meeting with MPs was held at the House of Commons following massive public criticism about the way Southeastern dealt with the recent sub-zero conditions. The operator has been accused by union leaders of being ‘caught out’ by the cold snap, with its services collapsing into ‘total chaos’.

At the height of the big-freeze, the wintry conditions passengers were left standed overnight on a snowed in train. Southeastern’s 8.05pm train from Charing Cross to Hastings train was forced to shut down north of Orpington as an insulating layer of ice blocked the electricity from getting to the rail. Passengers were stranded until 5.30am on December 1.

Network Rail sent another train to try and rescue the broken-down one but that became stuck too, so they had to resort to manual de-icing.

Southeastern’s lines are particularly prone to snow problems because, instead of overhead lines, rails are electrified – and these are worse affected in freezing conditions.

The firm admitted that when the Hastings train finally arrived into Orpington station some passengers refused to get on the replacement buses, preferring to remain on the train. Another train was stranded in Petts Wood overnight.

Network Rail said it had brought in ‘extra resources’ from other parts of the network which were not affected by the severe weather.

But Mr Fallon said: ‘The total incompetence of this farcical situation beggars belief. ‘Passengers who are paying through the nose for an appalling service were let down badly. ‘They don’t deserve to keep their franchise.’

He said there was a ‘blame game’ going on between the train company and Network Rail adding that the number of de-icing trains had in any case been whittled down from eight to just two over the last 20-odd years.

Mr Clark said: ‘It is farcical that de-icing trains should go in for maintenance in the winter, when they are needed, rather than during the summer, when they are not.’

‘Southeastern has let down its customers by failing to run trains and by failing to communicate with the public.’ He added: ‘Although the amount of snow was exceptional, I was flabbergasted to be told by Charles Horton that two of Network Rail’s crucial de-icing trains had been sent away for their annual service at the end of November so were out of action last week.

Network Rail sought to defend its actions. A spokesman said: ‘During last week’s winter weather in Kent, we brought in extra resources from other parts of the network which were not affected. These more modern locomotives were able to do much more than the piece of kit that was being upgraded.

‘We apologise to passengers who faced disruption last week and pay tribute to the Network Rail people and train operator staff who worked 24 hours a day in Arctic conditions to enable the best possible train service to run.’

Mr Clark said that Southeastern’s communication with passengers during the freezing temperatures was ‘utter chaos’ adding: ‘Travellers couldn’t tell from the company’s own website, from station announcements, from the telephone line or from information given to broadcasters what they were supposed to do’. ‘Passengers were able to find out more from each other using Twitter than they were from the company that was taking their money.’

He was ‘not persuaded’ by the meeting that Southeastern ‘fully recognise the scale of their ineptitude on communications.’ Mr Clark asked Mr Horton to offer a ‘goodwill discount’ to customers.

Mr Horton apologised to customers: ‘We are sorry that many of our passengers had severely disrupted services last week due to the snow and icy conditions on the track.’ He said ice on the conductor rail ‘makes it impossible for trains to draw electricity, causing major disruption’.

‘Network Rail worked hard to clear the snow and keep the rails free of ice, but despite their efforts large parts of the network were closed due to the very heavy snowfall.’ ‘We accept that there were shortcomings in information provision and this made the disruption even more frustrating for passengers.’

At the height of the freeze, commuters on Southeastern, which will be inflicting rises of up to 13 per cent on season tickets in the New Year, suffered more than half its services cancelled completely.

The meeting followed the announcement that workers at Southeastern are to be balloted for strikes in a row over jobs.


Pagan prisoners in Britain given time off to worship the Sun God

Hundreds of criminals are to be given four days a year off prison work – to celebrate pagan festivals. Prison governors have been issued with a list of eight annual pagan holidays and told pagan inmates can choose four to celebrate.

The festivals include Imbolc – The Festival of the Lactating Sheep – which falls on February 1 and is dedicated to the goddess Brighid. Another is the festival of Beltane, which falls in early May, devotees are urged to celebrate the Sun God with ‘unabashed sexuality and promiscuity’. The Yule festival involves pagans ‘casting spells’ and dressing up as ghosts.

Pagan inmates may even be allowed special food and drink on their days off. Traditional pagan food include Ewe’s milk for Imbolc, Simnel Cake and eggs on Spring Equinox and Roast Goose on Autumn Equinox. On Samhain – celebrated on Halloween – pagans by tradition go apple bobbing.

It is the latest in a series of rulings to protect convicts’ rights and ensure equality among different faiths.

New guidelines entitled ‘Religious Festival dates for 2011’ state that all prison staff must be made aware of the pagan festival dates. It states: ‘The Prison Service is committed to ensuring that prisoners from all religious faiths are given the opportunity and facilities to practise their religions.’

It lists the eight main festivals before adding: ‘Most Pagans celebrate the eight festivals set out, but depending on the particular tradition would attach particular significance to certain days.’

‘Because of variations in emphasis between different Pagan traditions it has been agreed with the Pagan Federation that prisoners may choose four festivals on which they should not be required to work.’

Prisons are told they must prepare specific foods if it is a requirement of a prisoner’s religion. But the guidance states the food should be prepared inside prison kitchens and the cost must be ‘proportionate to the number of prisoners involved’.

Paganism was first recognised by the Prison Service as a religion more than nine years ago. The number of prisoners declaring themselves as pagan has tripled in six years to 366 last year.

Worshippers are allowed to keep tarot cards, a hoodless robe and a twig to use as a wand in their cell. They can also keep incense, a piece of jewellery and rune stones. Skyclad, or naked worship, is banned.

Pagan inmate Mark Stewart, who is serving a three year term for drug dealing at HMP Elmley in Kent, wrote to prisoners’ newspaper Inside Time this month to complain about how Pagans are treated.

He claimed Pagans had been ‘sidelined’ and ‘marginalised’ in favour of more popular religions. He wrote: ‘There is a perception amongst most people that Pagans are devil worshippers, etc, but that is so far from the truth. ‘I am an earth loving person who thanks Mother Earth, spirits and ancestors for what I have today. ‘I do practise witchcraft, but only for good.’

Sources said there was ‘no question’ of prisoners being served roast goose or boar.

A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘The Prison Service issues annually a list of religious festival dates for the year ahead – this includes key dates on which prisoners registered in that affiliation can be excused from work.’

It comes a day after it emerged that an underworld crime boss jailed for the murder of two grandparents has won the right to be called ‘Mr’ by prison guards.

Colin Gunn complained that he was not treated with sufficient respect and, under guidelines introduced by Labour, prison officers are required to address inmates as they wish.


Rioting protesters in London mask the real problem facing today’s British students

Universities are shoddy, state-directed and underfunded – with too little inclination for teaching

Channel 4 News on Thursday night spoke of “tens of thousands of students” protesting in Parliament Square. The only word not open to question in that phrase is “of”. Demonstrators are usually wildly inaccurate about their numbers, and the media report their estimates almost uncritically.

There weren’t tens of thousands – it was more like a few hundred – and we can have little idea whether those who urinated on the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, swung from the Union Flag on the Cenotaph, stove in the doors of HM Revenue and Customs or attacked the car carrying the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were enjoying what they call the “right” to higher education. Most troublemakers were wearing masks. Some of those interviewed could barely speak English.

On the same evening, BBC News cut to a reporter, Ben Brown, who was sharing his camera space with protesters who yelled, on cue, round the illegal fire they had lit. The BBC was almost literally fanning the flames. The next morning, the Today programme’s attitude to the attack on the royal car was to joke about whether the vehicle was a Rolls Royce.

On Channel 4, the reporter Alex Thomson spoke of rioters “regaining Parliament Square as a place of protest for the people of this country”. The mob had scored the word “No” in huge letters on the grass of the square. The protest, he opined, was “all rather British”. Perhaps it was, but not in the happy way that he meant. It displayed our peculiar contemporary gift for treating nasty behaviour with collective complacency.

The constant protests in Parliament Square in recent years – sometimes violent, and always ugly and inconvenient – are not the proud property of “the people of this country”. They are, in effect, an alliance between small groups of extreme, politically motivated people and the state-protected television media who always report them indulgently.

From inside the House of Commons, the Labour MP Tristram Hunt spoke of the place as being a “bubble”, guarded from the anger outside. But at least MPs are elected. Really it is the square itself which has become the bubble. It is a public space, one of the most important in this country. But the authorities allow it to become a stage-set for gangs who deprive us, the public, of what is ours. On Thursday, the police did their best, but they are up against a political and media culture which thinks that letting extremists control the streets is a mark of “tolerance”.

I read in another newspaper yesterday that “such stupid, graceless acts of violence do nothing to help the cause of student protest”. This is correct only if such acts are punished and, where possible, prevented. They are not stupid at all, if, by performing them, their perpetrators gain a handle on the levers of power. As after the last riot, the Coalition is not serious enough about dealing with the problem.

And I do not solely mean dealing with its public-order aspects. I mean also arguing robustly for the policy. The increase in tuition fees, carried by only 21 votes, is inevitably unpopular. Its economic necessity, its educational advantages, and the fairness of its accompanying loan system have to be explained over and over again. To avoid alienating Lib Dem activists even further, the Conservatives have tended to treat the subject as if it were their junior partner’s private grief, and have said little about it. The political tactic is understandable, but it has left a vacuum in the public debate, a vacuum filled by the cries of “Tory scum”.

For the Coalition, despite appearances to the contrary, Thursday’s events will have done good. It was moving to watch poor old Vince Cable, his nostrils uncomfortably “kettled” by his half-moon spectacles, argue his case to Parliament. He did so without relish, but honestly, as a good minister must. It was the first time in living memory that a Liberal has had to take an unpleasant measure through the Commons. It was the party’s coming of age. Commentators expressed surprise yesterday morning that Liberal MPs were not at one another’s throats. Of course they weren’t! They had proved that they are a party of government which can – just – handle a revolt. The dissenters paraded their consciences and the ministers got their way: honour was satisfied.

But what happens next could be even harder than the struggle just ended. In the endlessly misleading debate about fairness which accompanies a period of cuts, it is not only a question of fairness between rich and poor. It is also a matter of fairness between the generations.

No one has thought more about this than the Universities Minister, David Willetts. His book The Pinch, published this year, is subtitled “How the baby boomers took their children’s future – and why they should give it back.” His “classic boomer”, born in 1955, enjoyed much higher peak earnings, pension rights and asset values than his parents, whereas his children, now aged, say, 25, “may well have had to pay for their university education, so they started work with a large amount of student debt.” “They could well have no assets,” Mr Willetts goes on, “once their debts have been deducted, for another decade at least”. So is Mr Willetts’s current policy exactly the sort of boomer bad behaviour he attacks?

In fact, it is dire necessity. The boomer generation willed the end – the over-rapid expansion of university education. John Major disastrously decided to abolish polytechnics and pretend they were all universities instead. Successive governments failed, as was inevitable, to will the means.

It is logic, therefore, that students must pay more. But when you pay more for something, you become more aware of its deficiencies. Those borrowing between £20,000-£40,000 for their period of study will notice that many of their universities teach them little. This is not true only of the high-drop-out-rate duds – working title: The University of the South Circular – but also of some well-known ones. I have met the parents of arts students at Bristol who tell me their children have endured three years of education without a single academic knowing their name.

Next week, hundreds of thousands of students will come home for Christmas. Many of their parents, asking them about their term, will feel dissatisfied. They will hear of the lack of engagement from the dons and the shortage of well-directed, intellectually demanding education. The reason for this is that we have developed a shoddy, state-directed, underfunded system.

The answer lies not in higher state funding – which is both impossible and undesirable – but in universities that can set their own standards and students who can choose. A loans system is a necessary means to this, but if, by the next election, it isn’t working, then the Coalition will be seen to have damaged the rising generation. When people believe that about a government, it cannot survive.


One in four British trainee teachers is a dunce: Thousands struggle to pass simple literacy and numeracy tests

You almost have to be dumb to want to work in a British “Comprehensive”

Almost one in four trainee teachers cannot do simple sums and a fifth have problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation, worrying figures revealed yesterday. Thousands repeatedly flunk basic numeracy and literacy tests and seek unlimited resits to pass. Critics fear the poor quality of the next generation of teachers will have a devastating impact on their pupils.

Trainees have to pass basic skills tests in literacy, numeracy and ICT (information and communication technology) before they can qualify as teachers. The pass marks are just 60 per cent.

The latest figures from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) reveal that in 2008/9 33,517 trainees passed their numeracy and literacy tests.

Some 77.7 per cent passed their numeracy test first time; 9.5 per cent (3,190) made two attempts and 12.8 per cent (4,298) – or one in eight – had at least three attempts. In literacy, 80 per cent (26,814) passed first time; 11.6 per cent (3,892) had two attempts and 8.4 per cent had at least three.

The figures do not detail how many times trainees resit the tests beyond three. However one is reported to have taken the tests 27 times before achieving the pass rate.

Standards were far higher five years ago when would-be teachers sailed through their tests without relying on retakes. For example, of the 32,717 trainees who passed their numeracy test in the academic year 2003/4, a respectable 83.6 per cent did so first time.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the tests are not ‘rocket science’. He said: ‘It’s a very basic assessment so it’s very worrying that so many would-be teachers are not competent in basic literacy and numeracy. ‘The fact they seem to be getting worse is especially concerning. If a teacher cannot tell what is appropriate or what is a mistake in maths, then how are young people going to learn?

‘The Government is right to crack down here as we are just perpetuating the poor use of language and lack of skills in maths if we allow people who cannot handle words and numbers into the classroom.’

The skills tests were introduced by Labour amid concerns that teacher training did not guarantee a thorough enough grounding in literacy, numeracy and comprehension. Passing the numeracy test has been a requirement of Qualified Teacher Status since 2000. Passing tests in literacy and ICT were made compulsory the following year.

Students currently sit the online tests in the final year of their teacher training. They were originally allowed only four or five attempts to pass the tests. But Labour scrapped the rule in 2001 and gave trainees unlimited resits.

The numeracy test lasts 48 minutes and contains 12 mental arithmetic questions to be completed without the aid of a calculator. Candidates are allowed to use pen and paper.

There are also longer questions involving interpreting statistical information and working out basic percentages and ratios.

The 45-minute literacy test is in four parts – spelling, grammar, punctuation and comprehension.



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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