NHS to be ‘tested to limit’ in 2011
The NHS will be “tested to the limit” in 2011 due to the combination of an “unprecedented financial challenge” and an “unnecessarily ambitious programme of reform in England”, the British Medical Association has warned. In his new year message to members, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA Council, said the next 12 months would constitute a “defining year”.
The message was another criticism of organisational changes laid out in the Coalition’s White Paper in the summer, which will see primary care trusts and strategic health authorities abolished.
Dr Meldrum said: “There is no doubt that 2011 will be an exceptionally testing time for the NHS, patients and the profession. “Set against a backdrop of an unprecedented financial challenge, with efficiency savings of at least £20 billion being sought in England alone, the Government is pushing ahead, at break-neck speed, with an unnecessarily ambitious programme of reform in England.”
He criticised the Government’s response to its consultation on the White Paper as “a missed opportunity” to demonstrate “that it genuinely was listening to the concerns that many had put forward”.
While he noted the BMA supported some of the proposals – namely of putting doctors in charge of most of the NHS budget, he said there were “significant risks created by the process of rushed and unnecessarily risky transition, particularly at a time of such financial stringency”. He concluded: “2011 will be a defining year – one in which the NHS will be tested to the limit.”
UK will NOT hit its target to cut immigration in 2011, coalition warned
Immigration to Britain is ‘unlikely’ to fall significantly next year because of the parlous state of the Eurozone, a leading think-tank warns today. Plans to impose a cap and gradually bring down migration levels will falter because there is nothing the Government can do to stop workers from the EU coming to Britain, it says.
The Institute for Public Policy Research adds that the effect will be amplified as restrictions on some eastern European workers end next year. As a result, net migration is unlikely to fall much below 200,000 in 2011 – about the same annual level it has been for much of the last decade, the IPPR concludes. This runs counter to the Government’s pledge to restrict immigration from ‘hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands’.
Since January 2007, workers from the newest EU countries, Bulgaria and Romania, have largely needed to apply for work permits to work in the UK. That restriction is due to be lifted in December 2011, meaning that thousands more could be tempted to move to take advantage of the relatively healthy British economy.
Around 120,000 Irish people are expected to leave the Republic’s crisis-hit economy in 2010 and 2011, with many likely to head to Britain where there is no language barrier or work restrictions.
Migration could even increase if more people from other economically troubled countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece choose to move to Britain. They do not come under the annual cap which will be introduced in April. Meanwhile fewer Britons are moving abroad. The exodus of UK citizens fell sharply to just over 30,000 in the year to March 2010.
This compared with 130,000 in the year to March 2008. Countries favoured by British sun-lovers, such as Spain and the United Arab Emirates, were wiped out economically, making them less attractive destinations for jobseekers. The weak pound has also made it too expensive for many pensioners and students to move abroad.
But universities have been trying to attract higher numbers of foreign students, with the number of study-related visas expected to top 300,000 in 2011. Prime Minister David Cameron even boasted on a recent trip to China that fees for foreign students would come down, even though fees for British students are almost trebling.
Ministers have since said they would stem foreign student numbers for fear that many are overstaying their visas, but the changes are not likely to be in place to make a difference next year.
And workers from eastern Europe are continuing to move to Britain in large numbers. Newcomers from Lithuania and Latvia alone increased from 25,000 to 40,000 in the last year.
Requirements for workers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia to register will also be scrapped from April 2011.
Home Secretary Theresa May has imposed a cap on non-EU economic migrants. From April, no more than 21,700 will be able to come to Britain. But Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR, said this would barely make a dent on overall immigration levels. He said: ‘IPPR analysis suggests a sharp drop in immigration is unlikely to happen in 2011 on current trends, so ministers must be careful to manage down public expectations.
‘The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the Government has already put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging.’ He added: ‘Bringing down the level of immigration, which has been high in recent years, is a legitimate policy goal. But this should be done by making long-term and sustainable reforms to the structure of our economy and labour market.’
The report comes as a survey showed that immigration topped the list of concerns for British voters. In May 2009, 39 per cent of Britons said that immigration was one of their top three concerns. By September 2010, this had risen to 43 per cent.
In America, just 26 per cent listed immigration as one of their top three concerns, while in Sweden only 10 per cent found it a pressing issue.
This winter set to be Britain’s coldest in 300 YEARS
If you thought last week was as cold as you could bear it, brace yourself. Forecasters say the worst is yet to come, and this winter could be the harshest since the Thames froze over more than three centuries ago. Temperatures for December are the coldest on record, with the average reading close to minus 1c – almost six degrees below normal.
And with forecasters warning that this winter’s ‘mini ice age’ might last until mid-March, this winter could be the worst since 1683-84 when a fair was held on the Thames.
Met Office figures show that the average temperature from December 1, the first day of winter, to December 28 was a bitter minus 0.8c (30.5f). This equals the record December low of 1890.
But, with the mercury traditionally at its lowest in January and February, and more bracing weather on the way, this winter could bring the biggest freeze in 327 years.
Forecaster Brian Gaze of The Weather Outlook said: ‘It’s very unusual to have a sub-zero month – the last one at any time of year was February 1986. ‘January and February are expected to be significantly colder than average, with further snow for most of the country, and it will be no surprise at all if this persists until mid-March. Net weather forecaster Ian Michael Waite said: ‘We expect January to be colder than average – there’s no way we’re moving out of this mini ice age any time soon.’
During 1683-84, the coldest winter on record, average temperatures of minus 1.17c (31.7f) between December and February saw the frozen Thames turn into a winter wonderland of puppet shows, food stalls, horse races and ice bowling.
John Evelyn, a contemporary of Samuel Pepys wrote of the frost fair: ‘Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, as in the streets; sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cooks, tippling and other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water.’
The figures come from the Central England Temperature record, which contains data for an area enclosed by London, Bristol and Manchester from 1659 to the present day.
Met Office spokesman Dave Britton said: ‘What has been quite unprecedented has been the prolonged nature of the cold. ‘We have had some colder spells in December but what has been quite noticeable about this one is quite how prolonged it was and the amount of snow we had.’
With milder weather forecast for the next few days, we still have some way to go to beat the coldest month on record. In January 1795, temperatures averaged just minus 3.1c (26.4f).
No Correlation Between Arctic Ice And Northern Hemisphere Snow Extent
There has been amazing amounts of noise from the climate science community claiming that the extensive snow cover this year is due to a lack of Arctic ice. But as you can see in the graph above, there is no correlation between Arctic ice extent and snow cover. Some years have more snow, some years have less snow. Arctic ice has nothing to do with it.
Plans to increase university fees leave British parents querying value of higher education
Controversial plans to raise university fees to £9,000 a year are leaving parents concerned about the cost and questioning the value of higher education. A survey reveals almost a third of the parents said they no longer expected to be able to afford to help pay their child’s fees, which means they will be unlikely to be able to go to university.
The survey of more than 1,000 parents, conducted by parenting website Netmums, reveals their deep fears over higher fees. They worry that they will be unable to help their children with the cost of university, while others say they will have to start saving now.
The Government policy, which sparked riots in London and demonstrations around the country last month, means English universities will be able to charge students up to £6,000 per year in fees from 2012. In ‘exceptional circumstances’ fees could be as much as £9,000.
Almost one in five said they were unlikely to be able to help fund the cost of the fees, but were happy that their child could apply for a Government loan to cover the cost. And more than one in 10 (11.3 per cent) said they no longer wanted their child to go due to the fee rise and the debt they would leave with.
A third of those questioned said they planned to start saving now to help their child in the future, while half said they would make sacrifices in their own lives in order for their child to go to university.. Some 13 per cent said they would consider sending their child to university abroad rather than in the UK.
In total, just 11.2 per cent said they still expected to be able to fund a university education.
And many parents were concerned that the latest fee rise would not be the last. Almost nine in 10 said they were worried that fees would have increased again by the time their child was ready to go to university.
The poll also raised questions among parents about the value of higher education.
Just over four in 10 said a university degree was worth it, simply for its educational value, while only 14.6 per cent of parents believed you need a degree to get a good job.
A quarter of parents said it was possible to work your way up in a career without a degree, while 16.7 per cent said that unless a graduate was going into a specific profession, such as medicine or teaching, then a degree was ‘a waste of money’.
Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard said: ‘The proposed rise in tuition fees will have a huge impact on parents, ultimately leaving some unable to send their children to university.
‘It’s clear that many are beginning to question the value of a degree if it leaves children with crippling debts, and it’s likely we will see a rise in school-leavers seeking work or apprenticeships straight after their A-levels.
‘It’s a shame that the cost will put many people off going to university, which a majority of mums believe can be a seminal part in someone’s life in terms of experiences, not just education.’
The survey findings also show that nearly two-thirds (63.3 per cent) of parents questioned believed that university was a right, not a privilege, and despite the cost, the vast majority (93.3 per cent) still wanted their child to go to university.