NHS needs to take responsible approach to financial crisis
By Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing
With MPs discussing fundamental NHS reform at the same time as jobs, pay and pensions are under threat; I am disturbed as to how little attention is being paid to making the NHS itself a more efficient organisation.
The NHS, as the country’s largest employer, has an important role to play in helping us get out of financial turmoil. Staff have acted responsibly in accepting the reasons behind a two-year pay freeze. This has come alongside further job losses, greater pension contributions and a proposed freeze to incremental pay. It strikes me that there is an urgent need to look at just where the NHS could, and should, be saving money.
At a time when the NHS in England needs to make £20 billion of savings, getting the most out of every pound spent has never been more important. There are two opinions on how the NHS can play its part. The first is a simple one: drastically cut back on staff costs, ignoring the long term impact this has on patient care. Then there is the second approach: consider the long-term solutions to the savings challenge.
It will come as no surprise that I do not favour the first approach. If even more financial pressure is piled on staff it will result in a demoralised workforce, struggling to make ends meet. Alongside this, employers are freezing vacancies to make short-term savings, not replacing staff who retire or leave. The result, in some areas, is too few staff caring for very high numbers of patients. This approach is illogical and unnecessary; there are millions of pounds squandered in the NHS every single day.
Tackling this waste properly is the solution favoured by the second approach.
The Royal College of Nursing is aware of numerous areas of waste in the system. For example, we question whether PFI arrangements, with their inflexible terms committing around £229 billion of taxpayers’ money for deals with a value of some £56 billion, are a good deal. Contracts often run unchanged for many decades, costing the NHS a scandalous amount more than it should be paying. Instead of renegotiating terms and conditions of the staff working to keep the NHS moving, it is these PFI deals that should be renegotiated to ensure the taxpayer is getting good value for money.
It is remarkable that in today’s networked world, different wards in the same Trust can spend hugely varying amounts ordering equipment and supplies. This inefficiency costs the service more than £1 billion a year. Just this week, the National Audit Office highlighted that hospitals are overpaying for basic supplies to the tune of £500 million a year.
Financial waste exists in every corner of the NHS. Nurses often find thousands of pounds worth of unused medication in patient’s homes, no longer needed but delivered on repeat prescription. Just in England, it has been estimated wasteful prescriptions costs £300 million a year.
Professor Steve Boorman’s review of NHS health and wellbeing proved that £555 million could be saved each year by properly supporting staff. Saving money and improving health can go hand in hand. Similarly, pressure ulcers cost the NHS up to £2billion a year, yet most are preventable with the right levels of skilled staff, training and equipment.
The RCN’s own research shows that at least £350 million is spent by NHS organisations on management consultants each year; enough to pay for 330 fully staffed medical wards with 28 beds, 9,160 staff nurses, 3.1 million community midwife visits or 267,647 bed days in a neonatal intensive care unit. This figure is likely to be much higher as the Department of Health has said that consultancy spend by just Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities was some £313 million over a year long period. This is in addition to almost £500 million that the Department of Health is said to have spent directly on management consultancy contracts. This comes to around a billion pounds in total.
Where is the value for the taxpayer in this management spend?
The cost of NHS reorganisation set out in the Health and Social Care Bill has been estimated at between £2 – £3 billion. We have many concerns around the detail of the Bill. However, we have to fundamentally question the timing as employers make a concerted effort to reduce their pay bill. To make these reforms when the purse is full would be hard, to do so now represents an unprecedented challenge.
In light of this scandalous financial waste, staff cutbacks should be the last thing that NHS employers look at when addressing their financial challenges. Piling pressure on staff without addressing these inefficiencies will not help the government’s NHS reform programme in the long-term. We need an intelligent solution to fix complex problems.
I’m victim of PC vendetta, says Christian drug expert as he is fired from British government advisory panel before he even started
A Christian GP claimed last night that he had been ‘sacrificed on the altar of political correctness’ after being sacked as a government drugs adviser. Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, a respected family doctor, was dismissed for holding ‘embarrassing’ views about homosexuality. He was appointed to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs less than a month ago and had not even had the chance to attend a meeting.
Home Office officials said he had failed to disclose being co-author of a study suggesting a link between homosexuality and paedophilia.
Anti-drugs campaigners described his sacking as an outrage. Many had welcomed him as a breath of fresh air on the ACMD, which has repeatedly called for softer attitudes to drugs, such as cannabis and ecstasy. By contrast Dr Raabe believes that children should be told to ‘say No’, rather than being told the safest way to consume a banned substance.
Dr Raabe told the Daily Mail: ‘I have been discriminated against because of my opinions and beliefs which are in keeping with the teaching of the major Churches. This sets a dangerous precedent: Are we saying that being a Christian is now a bar to public office?’
He added: ‘My appointment has been revoked based on the wrong perception that I could potentially discriminate against gay people – something I have never done; neither in my private nor professional life. Even the Home Office has not questioned my knowledge and expertise in matters relating to substance misuse and drug policy. ‘My appointment has merely been revoked as a result of my views on matters completely unrelated to drug policy.’
Dr Raabe was appointed to the ACMD by drugs minister James Brokenshire on January 10. But he immediately came under attack from unnamed drugs experts in Left-wing newspapers, a BBC internet blog and former members of the ACMD.
Following the criticism, Dr Raabe received a letter from the Home Office saying it was ‘minded to reconsider’ the appointment. Today it will confirm he has been sacked from the unpaid, three-year post. The department said he has been dismissed for failure to disclose a report which ‘raises concerns over his credibility to provide balanced advice on drug misuse issues’.
The comments on homosexuality and paedophilia attributed to Dr Raabe were taken from a scientific paper he co-wrote with six other medical practitioners six years ago. The paper, ‘Gay Marriage’ and Homosexuality: Some Medical Comments, drew conclusions from research and studies by other academics. Using this data Dr Raabe and his colleagues concluded that there is a ‘disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles’ and warn this is of ‘grave concern’.
Officials say that, as part of the interview process, Dr Raabe was specifically asked to disclose anything about his professional or personal history that might cause embarrassment to the Home Office or ACMD. The Home Office said it had made it clear his dismissal has been made irrespective of his religious beliefs or declared political activity.
But Dr Raabe said: ‘In my case – holding on to traditional Christian views – I am being discriminated against by a Home Office Minister and am being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
David Raynes, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said there had been a ‘witch-hunt’ against Dr Raabe. Mary Brett, trustee of drugs prevention charity Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: ‘This is absolutely outrageous. It is a bad, bad decision.’
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: ‘Dr Raabe’s appointment to the ACMD has been revoked and we will be starting a recruitment campaign for a replacement GP shortly.’
A new height of nastiness from the British police
Persecuting the innocent is about all they are good for but this takes the cake
An elderly couple have been arrested on suspicion of the manslaughter of their daughter who was so blighted by obsessive compulsive disorder she spent up to 20 hours a day in the shower. Samantha Hancox, 40, was found dead in an armchair at the home she had hardly left in 18 years for fear of coming into contact with germs.
Her parents Ken and Marion Hancox dialled 999 but were later questioned for seven hours after being arrested and taken to a police station to be fingerprinted.
A post mortem examination revealed their daughter, their only child, died of dehydration and a skin infection.
Mr Hancox, 76, who has bone cancer, and his 77-year-old wife are on bail while further investigations take place into the death.
They told yesterday how their daughter, a former law student, suffered from acute obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which left her a virtual recluse with a crippling phobia about germs.
As the condition took hold, Miss Hancox would wear socks on her hands which she scrubbed constantly. In her final years only her parents were allowed into the house to try to keep it germ-free.
Samantha studied law but left before finishing her course when her phobia worsened. In recent years, the troubled woman would shower for 20 hours a day and spent all her time cocooned in the front room watching TV
The couple from Tipton, Sandwell, West Midlands, criticised the lack of help they were given from mental health and social services teams as they laid bare the severity of their daughter’s illness.
Mrs Hancox, who is disabled and cannot walk, said: ‘Everything had to be wrapped up. When Ken went out shopping he had to change his clothes before he could come back in or walk around in his underwear. Sometimes she would even want us to burn the clothes. There was a fog in the house from her showering.’
She added: ‘How could they arrest us? We didn’t kill her, it was the OCD. She was our daughter and we loved her.
‘We tried to get help. All these psychiatrists kept coming and all they did was assess her and went away. Occasionally she was admitted to hospital briefly, but nothing was ever done to really help her. We even wrote to Tony Blair when he was prime minister.’ She said her daughter wanted to see a psychotherapist but was told the local primary care trust did not offer that service to patients.
In her last five years Miss Hancox’s state of mind had deteriorated so much that she refused to let any medical professional visit her at home, and was too scared to leave the house herself. Her parents said in her last 18 years she left the house only once other than for a hospital appointment.
They believe she ‘gave up’ fighting the condition last April after Mr Hancox went into hospital for an operation. She was terrified he would bring germs back into their three-bedroom semi-detached home.
She went off her food, Mr Hancox said, and by the time she died the following month her once healthy size 12 body was ‘skin and bone’. The night before she died, Miss Hancox apologised to her mother for not being able to eat her meal. Mrs Hancox said: ‘I think she was trying to tell me she was going to leave me.’
A West Midlands Police spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that a 76-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and are currently on police bail, pending further inquiries.’
No spokesman for Sandwell Mental Health NHS Trust was available for comment. Sandwell Council said it could not comment due to the police investigation.
British police chiefs fly “gay pride” flag… but are forbidden to put up the Union Jack
Police chiefs have come under fire today for flying the rainbow flag for lesbians, gays and bisexuals outside its police stations – when they are forbidden to display the Union Jack.
The multi-coloured ‘Freedom’ flag adopted by the gay pride movement in the 1970’s is now flying at Suffolk Police’s Ipswich HQ and its stations at Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft. The flags – which include the force’s badge – are to mark lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month.
But there was fierce criticism of the move after it was revealed that stations were not allowed, under force policy, to fly the Union Jack or the Cross of St George.
James Brady, 34, of Bury accused the police of being discriminatory – ‘We don’t seem to have a week celebrating hetrosexuality,’ he said. ‘It’s very disappointing that the police are prepared to put up a flag for a minority at the same time as ignoring the vast majority of people. ‘I am certainly not homophobic in any way – but it’s double standards and ignores the roots and traditions of this country.’
Another resident Paul Kimpson, 59, said: ‘It smacks of inequality and I am afraid it does seem to be yet another example of political correctness taking over from common sense. ‘It’s outrageous that the Union Jack can’t be flown on days such as the Queen’s Birthday and that the cross of St George is considered unworthy of being flown when appropriate.’
But Suffolk’s Chief Constable Simon Ash, who personally ran up the rainbow flag at the force’s HQ at Martlesham said: ‘The flag signifies pride and inclusivity. ‘We must continue to recognise and embrace differences while ensuring we provide a policing service to the people of the county who respect their differences.
‘The flags send out the message that we will not accept crime motivated by hate and prejudice and will continue to champion equal opportunities. ‘We have a commitment to tackle hate crimes [but not car theft or street violence] and we want the message to be clear to victims and offenders that offences involving disability, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation or transgender will not be tolerated.
‘We are a force that values and embraces diversity among our own workforce and among the people we serve. I want this to be an organisation where everyone feels comfortable at work and is treated fairly.’
But the flags have prompted politically-incorrect comments from some rank and file officers.One said: ‘I thought it marked Caribbean Week so I was thinking of coming to work in a grass skirt.’
Climate education in British schools: a mess of pottage, a porridge of propaganda?
The politicization of Geography teaching seems to be killing off the subject
Indoctrination in schools is illegal in the UK (e.g. section 406 of the Education Act of 1996). Education ought to teach children about their world. But there are those who see the young as so many potential footsoldiers for their cause, little Trojan horses to fill with propaganda to carry back into their homes and into their futures. All to save the planet of course, so who can object to that?
Of course, they are not ‘saving the planet’. First of all, ‘the planet’ is not in danger, and secondly, crippling our economies physically, and our children mentally, are not pathways to robust societies ready to tackle whatever challenges the future may bring them, environmental and otherwise. They are pathways to poverty and dependency.
Geography is an obvious target for proselytising on ‘climate change’. It does not seem to be thriving as a subject in schools in the UK.
‘In a speech at Charterhouse School, Surrey, Prof Woodhead cited the example of geography, where the curriculum has been focused on turning children into “global citizens” at the expense of an objective study of the earth.
“I think there is a difference between education on the one hand and propaganda on the other – and I think this is one of the main reasons why schools are starting to abandon GCSEs in such numbers,” he said.
“Politicians seem to have this belief that schools and teachers can solve the evils of the world. Simply dump all the deeply intractable social problems on to the curriculum and let the schools sort it out. Schools should be teaching children what they don’t know, not attempting to create citizens of the future who are active and responsible.” ‘
‘Geography lessons ‘not good enough in half of schools’
Children’s knowledge of capital cities, continents, world affairs and the environment is in sharp decline because of poor geography lessons, inspectors warned today.
In a damning report, Ofsted said teaching in the subject was not good enough in more than half of English state schools. Geography – traditionally a cornerstone of the curriculum – is often undermined by a lack of space in school timetables after being edged out by exam practice and other subjects such as citizenship.
Many primary teachers lacked specialist geographical knowledge, the watchdog said, meaning classes often descended into a focus on superficial stereotypes. The subject had practically “disappeared” in one-in-10 primaries.
In secondary schools, classes were often merged with history to form generic “humanities” lessons that focused on vague skills instead of geographical understanding.
Ofsted said the decline severely reduced children’s ability at all ages to grasp key geographical issues, identify countries or capital cities and even read maps properly.’
[‘Ofsted’ is a government agency in the UK: ‘Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. We regulate and inspect to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages.’]
How come so many teachers have apparently stopped teaching in order to become facilitators for producing ill-informed agitators? The same malaise has also affected the BBC, an organisation turning into an international laughing stock because of its blinkered, biased approach on climate and its wish to campaign for ‘the cause’ rather than ‘merely’ broadcast news, information, and honest investigative journalism.
The scientific case for alarm over CO2 is fragile and has been widely dismantled, not least by Nature herself refusing to follow the purposeful computer models equipped with magical powers for CO2. The political case is also faltering, not least due to the absurdities of the IPCC leadership and publications, and to simple-minded bandwagoning by politicians in many countries running out of steam (see for example, the absence of ‘climate change’ in the recent State of the Union address in the USA, and several opinion polls showing the declining credibility of eco-alarmism). So will the educational system be the final redoubt for this whole sorry business?
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