Dept. of Health finally admits to a flu vaccine shortage
Emergency stocks are being released to combat local shortages of flu vaccine as experts said the disease may be peaking. A review is to be carried out into whether vaccines should be purchased centrally next year in order to avoid shortages.
Currently GPs order directly from manufacturers the number of doses they estimate will be needed for their patients in the risk groups.
Officials said that although there should be enough vaccine in the system as a whole, there appeared to be a mismatch between where the stocks were and where the patients who needed it were. Practices are being asked to share any surplus with neighbours and manufacturers have been asked how many doses can be brought in from Europe if necessary.
In the meantime, GPs will be able to order from the 12.7m doses of pandemic vaccine still being held by government for patients in the risk groups which includes the over 65s, under 65s with other illnesses and pregnant women.
Questions were being asked why this was not considered sooner. It comes as:
– Deaths confirmed as linked to flu have increased by 11 over the last week to reach 50 this winter.
– The number of people in intensive care peaked earlier this week at 850.
– Hundreds of operations around the country are being cancelled as hospitals free up beds to treat flu patients.
From Monday GPs and local NHS organisations will be able to order stocks of pandemic vaccine, called Pandemrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline.
It protects against only the H1N1 swine flu strain where as the seasonal flu vaccines, made by a number of manufacturers, protects against this strain and two others, H3N2 and a B strain.
Those who are given the pandemic vaccine will not be protected against H3N2 or the B strain of flu but the majority of those who have fallen ill this winter have had swine flu and it has accounted for 45 out of the 50 deaths.
The announcement came as the latest figures suggested this winter’s flu season may be reaching a plateau as the number of GP consultations about flu symptoms dropped from 124 per 100,000 to 98 in England. However this was based on a three-day week up until January 2nd.
Other data also suggested the disease may be peaking as the proportion of calls to NHS Direct about symptoms dropped below ten per cent and intensive care beds being used for flu patients increased only marginally from 738 to 783 or 22 per cent of the total number of intensive care beds in England.
Vaccine uptake amongst those deemed at risk and eligible for the jab on the NHS has caught up to last year’s levels but some experts have warned that GPs may not have ordered enough to cope.
Dr Tarit Mukhopadhyay, from University College London, said: “It would seem, however, that errors were made in not ordering enough vaccine from the manufacturers, correctly identifying the ‘at risk’ groups and deciding to drop the flu jab ad campaign.”
However Professor Dame Sally Davies, the interim chief medical officer for England, said: “We are hearing some stories of the (seasonal flu) vaccine being in one place and the patient being somewhere else. “The data we have suggests there should be enough in the system. “The message to the public is if they need the vaccine because they are in an at-risk group, they should come forward because we have it in the system.”
Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the ‘worried well’ were partially to blame for shortages of the seasonal flu vaccine. She said: “What we normally do is order the same historical levels (of vaccine) plus a little bit more. “I think the problem this time around has been the increased number of people taking private prescriptions to pharmacists.” This had left a stock shortfall among NHS providers, she argued.
However, she denied that the decision to use pandemic vaccine stocks had been made too late, saying that it was only now that GPs were running out of the seasonal flu vaccine, which protects against swine flu and two other strains. She described the decision to use remaining stocks of swine flu vaccine as “a very good solution”. “The flu that we are seeing at the moment, the really vicious flu that has been causing all the harm, is swine flu. “If you have vaccine left over it seems sensible to use this. It’s a very good solution.”
Geoff Martin, chairman of the anti-cuts campaign group Health Emergency, said resorting to last year’s stock of swine flu vaccines because of a shortage in the seasonal jab was “a complete shambles”. Mr Martin said: “It smacks of panic measures and crisis management and it makes you wonder ‘what next?’.
“Are they going to start raiding the nation’s bathroom cabinet to try to get them through this? This is a measure of the abject failure on the part of the Government to plan for a flu outbreak that everybody knew was coming.”
It was predicted at the end of the pandemic that the H1N1 swine full strain would be back and would become one of the strains in circulation during ordinary winter flu seasons for the next few years and vaccine manufacturers ensured it was included in the new vaccines made for this winter.
The weight of flu cases on hospitals across the country has caused hundreds of surgical operations planned for this week to be postponed. Hip and knee replacements and heart surgery are among those put back.
Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, said: “Elective [pre-planned] activity goes down considerably over Christmas and New Year. “We would expect elective activity to increase in the next few days but some parts of the country are having to delay that.”
Fake foreign students vanish into black market jobs and cost British taxpayers £493 million a year
Bogus students from overseas are costing taxpayers up to £493million a year, a report claims. The study by think-tank Migrationwatch says tens of thousands of foreign students are ‘disappearing underground’ to take jobs on the black market.
They are filling up to 32,000 posts which could be legally held by the 2.5million unemployed British workers, the report says. It adds that the cost of paying unemployment and housing benefit to those who lose out to bogus students is as much as £471million a year.
And because the NHS does not carry out stringent checks on those needing emergency treatment, the study estimates the illegal workers cost a further £16million in health care. Educating their children is estimated at an additional £6million.
Migrationwatch chairman Sir Andrew Green called on the Government to clamp down on bogus students. He said: ‘By working illegally they take a job that would otherwise be available for a British worker who remains unemployed.’ He added: ‘Such illegal workers also tend to hold down wages at the lower end and enable unscrupulous employers to compete unfairly with honest employers who offer decent wages and conditions.’
Immigration minister Damian Green said the Coalition was committed to ensuring that ‘those who come to the UK to study are genuine and are not using a student visa to gain work’. He added: ‘Tough enforcement is the cornerstone of our immigration policy.’
Useless and stupid British police again
They’re too lily-livered to tackle real crime. Easy work and soft targets are all they go for. A long way from the British police of old
Musical theatre may not be to everyone’s liking, but Anne-Marie Carroll’s passion for song and dance is hardly a crime. Yet somehow the mother of two aroused the suspicion of vice squad officers on her way to rehearsals with an amateur dramatics society.
The registration number of her company car was recorded by police trying to prosecute kerb crawlers in a red light district. Much to the 45-year-old’s disgust and embarrassment, a police letter was sent to her company and opened by her boss. Fortunately the managing director happens to be Mrs Carroll’s twin brother Nicholas, who realised a mistake had been made.
The strongly worded letter, which began ‘Dear Sir’, stated that West Yorkshire Police had a policy of vigorously investigating and prosecuting offences of kerb crawling in Bradford. It informed the car’s owner that her Volvo estate had been sighted by officers who needed to speak to her as soon as possible to ‘confirm you have not committed any offences’. To add insult to injury, the letter stated that the sighting would be ‘kept on record’.
Mrs Carroll, the family cleaning firm’s sales director, was so infuriated with the ‘lazy policing’ that she has spoken out for fear that men driving company cars could be unfairly accused of kerb crawling. She said police did not stop or question her on the night and failed to establish she was a lone woman and what she was doing.
‘My concern is with innocent people who, like me, drive company cars,’ she said. ‘A letter will go to their employers. Being a woman, it removes 90 per cent of the doubt that I was actually kerb crawling. ‘But if I were a man I could protest my innocence until I was blue in the face and people wouldn’t believe me. ‘To send it to someone’s workplace, not knowing who might see it, is irresponsible. ‘It casts aspersions immediately and once that aspersion has been cast there would always be doubt as to what they were doing.’
Mrs Carroll’s parked car was ‘observed’ at 7.30pm on December 9 near the Bradford Catholic Players rehearsal venue in the city’s red light district – where crossbow cannibal Stephen Griffiths stalked his victims. She knew nothing about being caught in the vice squad net until the letter arrived ten days later.
Mrs Carroll added: ‘I drove up to the venue the same way I have for 26 years and parked up outside it. ‘I wasn’t slowing down regularly or acting suspiciously. I was flabbergasted when the letter arrived.’ She said that last year a man from the amateur group was stopped and taken into a police van to explain what he was doing. Police promised not to stop people using the rehearsal room in future, she added.
Mrs Carroll, who lives in Bingley with husband Matthew, 42, an account director, is applying to have the sighting removed from police records.
Superintendent Angela Williams, of West Yorkshire Police, said: ‘The tactic to target the men who solicit women has been used for a number of years … and with notable success. ‘Letters are sent out following detailed observations of a vehicle’s movements and the registered owner is contacted whether it is an individual or a business.’ Drivers found to have ‘legitimate reason for their activity’ are removed from records, she added.
Must not warn other motorists to slow down in Britain — and other oppression of decent citizens by British police
A similar prosecution was recently thrown out in the USA and a similar charge against me some years ago in Australia was dropped after it was concluded that no offence had been committed — JR
There are certainly some forces who could do with a primer in customer service. In Grimsby, for instance, a 64-year-old motorist has been convicted of obstruction because he flashed his lights at drivers coming in the opposite direction to warn them of a speed trap ahead.
Semi-retired Michael Thompson was accused of perverting the course of justice after being stopped on the A46. Although Mr Thompson argued that he was doing his ‘civic duty’, the Crown Prosecution Service took up the case ‘in the public interest’. The court fined him £175, ordered him to pay £250 costs and slapped on a £15 victim surcharge.
Presiding magistrate Jean Ellerton said: ‘We found that your flashing of your headlights was an obstruction, we found that you knew this action would cause vehicles to slow down and cause other motorists to avoid the speed trap and avoid prosecution.’
And your point is, pet? For years, the Old Bill has insisted that the purpose of speed traps is to encourage safe driving and enforce the speed limit — not to secure convictions and raise money. Mr Thompson’s prosecution blows that argument out of the water.
By warning other drivers of the speed trap, he was encouraging them to slow down and drive safely. So what’s the problem? In what way was he obstructing the police, other than preventing them nicking people? Silly question. That’s exactly why he was prosecuted.
Mr Thompson says that the policeman who stopped him was a ‘Rambo character’ who acted like ‘Judge Dredd’. Sounds about right.
Unfortunately, there are coppers who measure their success by the number of arrests they make, no matter how trivial the alleged offence, not by the number of lives they save or the number of crimes they prevent.
They delight in showing us who’s boss and deliberately antagonising law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. What’s worse is when they are supported by senior officers, the allegedly-independent CPS and, especially, the magistrates who are supposed to uphold justice. This case should never have reached court. And when it did, it should have been thrown out.
A few months ago, I brought you the story of photographer Dave Hogan’s run-in with a stroppy WPC and a probationer in North London. He was given a ticket and a patronising lecture for using a mobile phone while driving — even though he could prove he was stationary at a red traffic light and hadn’t made or received a call at the time alleged on the summons.
Dave gave in and paid up when he realised it would cost him a minimum of £2,000 and a shedload of aggravation to fight the £60 fixed penalty in court. But his faith in the police took a nosedive.
For the past two-and-half months, another motorist has been in a running battle with police chiefs after being given a ticket for ‘driving without a seatbelt’. Austin Musgrave-Brown, 67, unfastened his safety belt while he was sitting in stationary traffic in Lowestoft, with his handbrake on and his engine switched off, as he waited in a queue for the town’s drawbridge on the A12 to lower.
‘When the bridge came down, I put my seatbelt back on before starting the engine and continuing,’ he said. Half a mile later he was pulled over a given a fixed penalty notice. ‘At no time was I ever driving without a seatbelt, not one inch,’ said Mr Musgrave-Brown, who has now made an official complaint.
But the officer who stopped him said he might have suffered from whiplash if his car had been shunted from the rear while he was parked and was therefore committing an offence.
‘The police have been so over the top with this. Surely the officer could have shown some common sense without treating me as a petty crook. ‘It would have been easy for me to accept everything and not do anything about it, but I was appalled at the way I was treated,’ said Mr Musgrave-Brown.
Well done, Suffolk Police. It’s some achievement to make an enemy of a respectable, retired Hoseasons Holidays executive with a clean driving licence.
I know that by tonight, I’ll have received a flood of emails containing similar complaints, not just from aggrieved motorists. Proper coppers (especially in the CID) are dismayed at the actions of these zealots, who only serve to damage relations between police and the public and make their job ten times more difficult.
The Government keeps telling us the war on motorists is over. But no one seems to have told the Old Bill.
Victory for honesty and decency over the vindictive and irresponsible bureaucracy at a British school
“I cried and cried when they told me I’d won”: Dinner lady speaks out after tribunal rules she was unfairly fired for telling parents of bullying
A School dinner lady who was sacked after inadvertently speaking to a pupil’s parents about a bullying incident wept for joy after winning an employment tribunal, she revealed yesterday. Carol Hill, 60, has endured a 19-month ordeal since helping seven-year-old Chloe David, who had been tied to a fence and whipped with a skipping rope by four children.
When she later bumped into the schoolgirl’s parents at a Beaver Scouts meeting, she assumed they had been told and asked how she was – only to discover they had been informed she had suffered a ‘minor accident’.
Mrs Hill was suspended by headteacher Debbie Crabb and spoke to a newspaper about her distress. She was dismissed three months later for breaching confidentiality and bringing the school into disrepute.
But an employment tribunal has now ruled she was unfairly dismissed from Great Tey Primary School, near Colchester. A further hearing next month will decide whether she should be reinstated and how much compensation she should receive.
‘When I was told I had won I couldn’t believe it. I cried and I couldn’t stop,’ said Mrs Hill, who described her treatment as ‘barmy and ridiculous’. ‘I lost weight and my hair thinned because of the stress. My husband Ron and I have had our ups and downs too. We’ve argued and it was all my fault because I was so anxious and worried. ‘I’m not like that normally and I have apologised to him – he’s such a laid-back person and has acted as a buffer for me.
‘The worst part was not being at the school any more. Not because of the money – I only got about £125 a month – but because of the job itself. I love kids and to be taken away from them like I was some sort of criminal was heartbreaking.’
Mrs Hill, who has been working as a cleaner since losing her job, added she would not have a problem returning to the school. ‘I have been cleared, so I will happily walk back in. It’s not like my path crossed with the headteacher’s all that much anyway,’ she said.
The mother-of-two, who worked one hour a day at the school, was patrolling the playground in June 2009 when a pupil told her another child was being bullied. She found the sobbing victim tied to a chain-link fence, with rope burns on her wrist and whip marks on her legs. The bullies were punished by being made to miss part of their lunch break.
When Chloe went home, she was given an ‘accident notification letter’ from the school which mentioned her injuries but not how they happened. She was too upset to tell her parents, Scott and Claire, any more and it was only when Mrs Hill, who lives in Great Tey, started chatting to them innocently that evening that they learned the truth.
She was suspended after the couple raised concerns with the school and sacked shortly afterwards, despite Mr David calling for her to be allowed to return to her job.
An appeal was dismissed in November 2009, even though Ed Balls, then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, wrote to the chairman of governors demanding an investigation into the school’s ‘totally inadequate’ handling of the affair.
During the hearing at Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal in November, headteacher Mrs Crabb said Mrs Hill had been sacked for talking to the press. But the tribunal yesterday ruled that the governors had not carried out a reasonable investigation into the allegations and that the disciplinary and appeal hearing were not fair.
The remedies hearing, when Mrs Hill will be told whether she can be reinstated and compensated, will be held on February 2 and 3.
Father-of-four Mr David, who took Chloe and her younger brother Cameron, five, out of the school after Mrs Hill was dismissed, said she had been used as a scapegoat to cover the school’s lack of action. ‘We were disgusted [at the dismissal]. Carol’s whole life was the school and making the children happy,’ he added.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which represented Mrs Hill at the tribunal, said: ‘Unison has always believed in her case.’
A spokesman for Great Tey School and Essex County Council admitted the dismissal procedures had been flawed but said the tribunal had found against Mrs Hill in some areas, including that she was ‘not acting in good faith when speaking to the press’. He added: ‘The claimant’s predominant motive was self-interest and to a lesser extent antagonism towards Mrs Crabb. The tribunal also ruled that disclosures were not protected under the Employment Rights Act, therefore she was not acting as a whistleblower.
‘The council and school will now be considering all the options before making any further decisions or announcements.’ The council also disputed Unison’s interpretation of the tribunal’s lengthy judgment, claiming it was ‘inaccurate’ to say Mrs Hill had won her claim for unfair dismissal.
Mrs Crabb told the panel that Mrs Hill was sacked for committing the ‘offence’ of ‘going to the press’. Mrs Hill’s decision to give details of the incident to the child’s parents was a breach of confidentiality which would have earned her a ‘final warning’, said Mrs Crabb. But by ‘talking’ to a journalist, Mrs Hill brought the school into disrepute and had to be dismissed, she added.
A Unison spokeswoman added: ‘The tribunal has upheld Carol Hill’s complaint of unfair dismissal. ‘The employment tribunal found that Carol’s dismissal was procedurally unfair, in that the (school) did not carry out a reasonable investigation into the allegations against Carol, and that the disciplinary and appeal hearings were not fair hearings.’
Unison said the tribunal panel would consider whether Mrs Hill should be compensated and reinstated at a hearing in Bury St Edmunds on February 2. General secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘It has been a long and very difficult wait for this ruling from the employment tribunal for Carol and her family over Christmas and the New Year.
‘I am sure they will be very pleased that the wait is over and the tribunal has found in her favour. She now faces another month until the remedies hearing and that cannot be easy. Unison has always believed in her case and we will be there to support her at the hearing.’
Mrs Hill added: ‘The remedies hearing will be the last step in a very long and hard journey.’