1 in 4 cancer cases missed: NHS GPs send away alarming number of patients, delaying vital treatment
If scans were routine, this would rarely happen. But scans cost money! And the NHS has too many clerks to pay to afford many scans
A quarter of cancer sufferers are being sent away by GPs with their early warning signs dismissed as minor ailments, a study reveals today.
Tens of thousands of patients are initially told that their symptoms are ‘nothing to worry about’ or advised to take painkillers or antibiotics for months. They have to make repeated trips to their doctor before being given a correct diagnosis, the report concludes.
Britain has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in Europe despite billions being invested in treatment over the last decade. Experts blame late diagnosis for the alarmingly high death rates and say many tumours are spotted only when it is too late for successful treatment.
More than half of those with rarer cancers – which comprise 50 per cent of all cases – are being forced to see their GP repeatedly before they are finally referred to a specialist. Almost two thirds wait longer than three months between making an appointment to see their family doctor and being told that they have cancer. For many patients this delay proves fatal. Rarer cancers comprise all forms of cancer except breast, bowel, lung and prostate, which are known as the ‘top four’.
They include kidney, thyroid and gall bladder cancer, and cancers of the blood such as myeloma, leukaemia and lymphoma. These illnesses can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms such as pain, tiredness, weight loss and lack of appetite can be explained by many other illnesses.
The study by the Rarer Cancers Foundation found that a quarter of patients are diagnosed only once the disease has already spread to other organs, by which time it is often terminal.
Last month the Coalition promised to save up to 5,000 lives a year by giving GPs the power to refer patients directly for scans and tests rather than going through a cancer specialist. But experts warn that if family doctors do not even suspect patients have cancer, they will simply send them home reassured without asking for these tests.
Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, said: ‘If patients are going to have the best chance of beating cancer then they need to be diagnosed as early as possible. Too many opportunities to diagnose cancer are being missed, leaving patients feeling let down by their GP and the NHS.
‘The Government wants to save an additional 5,000 lives by 2014/15 and half of these should come from rarer cancers. If this goal is to be achieved, then GPs will have to raise their game. We are calling for GPs to be paid according to their performance on diagnosing cancer.’
Experts say that while GPs are very good at spotting lumps in breast of prostate cancer or recognising the symptoms of lung or bowel cancer, rarer cancers often do not have such obvious early warning signs.
Eric Low, chief executive of Myeloma UK, said: ‘They are very difficult to diagnose. We shouldn’t have a bash at GPs – we need to provide them with the resources and background information to enable them to make these diagnoses.’
Many people have told the Rarer Cancers Foundation how symptoms were misinterpreted by GPs. One man said his wife had died of a rare cancer of the bile duct after being told by her GP to stop taking her HRT tablets. When she returned eight months later complaining of a bad back the same doctor prescribed painkillers. Less than week later she was taken to hospital and diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Another patient was told by his GP that the lump on his neck was a swollen gland. He was finally diagnosed with thyroid cancer three months later.
One woman said her mother was given a course of antibiotics after complaining of severe diarrhoea, weight loss and lack of appetite. Her GP even appeared to chastise her for making an appointment saying: ‘There’s stuff you can buy over the counter for that.’ She saw at least three different doctors before being diagnosed with terminal cancer of the gall bladder.
Angela Skeffington, 44, died of stomach cancer after claiming her GP and ten A&E doctors missed signs of the disease. The mother of three was told she was suffering from anorexia, depression, period pain and even indigestion, and was prescribed paracetamol. When the cancer was finally diagnosed, it had spread to her liver and lymph nodes.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘We know that earlier diagnosis is critical to achieving better survival rates, so we’re taking action in this area where the previous government failed.’
Church of England shows some spine
Is this the first time in centuries?
The Archbishop of Canterbury has vowed he will never allow Church of England buildings to be used for gay weddings. Dr Rowan Williams told MPs that he would not bow to pressure to enable his churches to be used for same-sex unions.
His intervention comes as the Coalition consults on plans to allow civil partnerships between gays and lesbians to take place in religious settings for the first time. No church, mosque or synagogue will be forced to host the ceremonies – but some religious people are worried they could be open to discrimination suits if they do not open their doors to gay unions.
Some within the CofE have been calling on the Archbishop to move with the times and allow his churches to host gay weddings – pointing out that polls have shown that some two thirds of the British public would be in support.
But now Dr Williams, who was seen as a liberal when he took up his post, has indicated that on this issue he will ally himself with conservatives in the Church. He told MPs that the CofE believed marriage could only be a union between a man and a woman – and that he would not be changing course.
Challenged by Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown, to explain what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union, Dr Williams said he would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage, and would not be dictated to by the Coalition.
Mr Kirby said the comments would alienate gay Christians and would make the Anglican Church look out of touch. ‘I had hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one-sided,’ he said. ‘Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.’
A consultation on allowing gays and lesbians to have civil partnership ceremonies in church will begin in April. It could even lead to gays getting full marriage rights.
Giles Fraser, canon chancellor at St Paul’s cathedral, said the Church of England should be embracing gay equality in marriages. ‘Gay relationships are perfectly capable of reflecting the love of God,’ he said. ‘Which is why the church should respond more imaginatively to the idea of same-sex blessings being celebrated in church.’
A spokesman for Lambeth Palace, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: ‘The Church still believes on the basis of Bible and tradition that marriage is between a man and a woman and does not accept that this needs to change. ‘Civil partnerships now provide legal securities for same-sex couples but this does not, in itself, alter what we believe to be unique about marriage.’
Canon Glyn Webster, a senior member of the General Synod, said: ‘It’s only possible for a marriage to be between a man and a woman. I’m not saying there can’t be loving relationships between people of the same sex, but that doesn’t equate to marriage. ‘I want the Church to keep to the policy of refusing to hold blessing services for same-sex couples.’
Why are British police so rude? Because they are trained to be
Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published complaint statistics for 2009/10. And for senior officers – indeed for the public at large – they make uncomfortable reading.
For the second successive year the number of complaints increased by eight per cent, to record levels of almost 58,400, but within that headline figure there are trends that should give us all pause for thought. Almost 50 per cent of all allegations related to rudeness, incivility and neglect of duty.
Even the interim Chair of the IPCC, Len Jackson, felt compelled to comment that ‘the number of rude and late complaints … will require forces to develop an open dialogue with the public’. That is Whitehall code for: ‘This has got to change!’
No one who cares about the maintenance of law and order in this country could view these figures with anything but concern – they expose worrying issues that we ignore at our peril. It is not a trivial point of manners but a reflection of the extent to which policing has changed for the worse in this country over the past 25 years.
I witnessed these changes as they began in the late Eighties and as they accelerated over the Nineties and the past decade. For 35 years, until I retired in 2001, I served in two forces and at the Home Office, at every rank from beat PC to Deputy Assistant Commissioner and HM Assistant Inspector of Constabulary.
I believe that we are now feeling the delayed impact of more than two decades of poor decision-making in policing.
Once upon a time the general public could confidently expect courtesy from their local constabulary. Particularly in the years following the Second World War, an easy accommodation emerged which had its roots in the continuing respect for authority figures that was the prevailing attitude of the time, and in recognition of the fact that civil society needed effective policing as crime rates soared.
This contract with the public lasted until the early Nineties when, under the dual pressure of economic and social change, a new generation of chief constables and commissioners, who saw policing as a ‘business’ rather than a vocation based upon service, decided that things had to change.
The new policing, enthusiastically supported by successive Home Secretaries, was about targets, response times and ‘measurable performance’, lifted straight from the MBA syllabuses of the best universities.
Beat patrols on foot in uniform were not part of this brave new world; unless effectiveness could be measured and converted into a ‘bottom line’ cost it was of no use, and had to be scrapped. Police discretion was submerged under a tsunami of directions, guidelines and data-gathering.
Then 9/11 happened and it was decided that the police service was on the frontline in the ‘war on terror’. Almost overnight, we all changed from citizens to suspects. Terrorism legislation and spurious ‘officer safety’ policies led to the militarisation of policing and the greatest change in attitude that had taken place for a century.
Police officers, the majority quite young – the average age of an operational PC is under 24 – have been trained to believe that they are continually under physical threat and must therefore be continually on their guard. It is clear that a significant minority of officers see the public as their enemy and as a potential hazard to be dealt with aggressively.
There is no doubt that standards of behaviour and civility, across the whole of Britain, have changed for the worse over the past quarter century. Courtesy and good behaviour have been abandoned by many in our modern, ‘me’ society. It is clear that a significant minority of officers see the public as their enemy and as a potential hazard to be dealt with aggressively
The police are products of that society; they attend the same schools, live in the same communities and have the same attitudes and prejudices as the best and the worst of us. But police officers should be held to a different standard of behaviour.
This change in attitude has to be set alongside the simultaneous withdrawal from day-to-day street patrolling that has taken place.
Once all young officers would spend their first few years getting to know local communities and local people by patrolling designated beats, tightly supervised with disciplinary sanctions by their sergeants and inspectors. That has been abandoned. Now new recruits, fresh from training which emphasises the primacy of their own safety over that of the public, learn from those senior to them, who also know no better.
A concerned officer recently gave me this extract from a force training programme – the tone is chilling. It says: ‘What the public consider rude is usually just no-nonsense commands and attitude. Unfortunately, when you try to reason with people, they take advantage. Therefore, when you need immediate compliance, you must use stern, unambiguous commands that require no interpretation on the part of the person being talked to. Through experience you must learn to command and dominate ALL interactions.’ The emphatic block capitals were in the original training notes.
So it is hardly surprising that of the 58,399 alleg¬ations of misconduct recorded by the IPCC last year, 11,576 were of rudeness and incivility. It is also deeply worrying and one would expect that the senior leadership of the police would be as concerned as you or I.
The official response from Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), to his credit, acknowledges that a problem exists and encourages the public to complain if they consider that an officer’s conduct has been unsatisfactory so that ‘appropriate action’ can be taken. Sadly there is little evidence to show ‘appropriate action’, which should mean minor disciplinary sanction by middle managers, is ever effective.
I know from experience the default position for too many junior officers is to ‘close ranks’ and deny that anything improper has occurred.
The police have never been held in lower esteem than they are today but the situation is not irretrievable.
Firstly, there must be assertive leadership from those at the top. Most ACPO officers are educationally and socially quite different to their personnel yet they see it as their role to be cheerleaders for their officers rather than critical leaders. Supervision and the maintenance of discipline, lost arts among today’s sergeants and inspectors, need to be relearned.
Lastly, and most importantly, there should be a programme of return-to-uniform foot patrols for all officers during the formative years of their careers to rekindle the skills of talking to people and appreciation of the value of mutual respect.
We are all better served if our police are approachable and courteous rather than granite-faced bullies.
Many officers, throughout the UK, want nothing more than to do the best they can for the public they serve, and are often embarrassed and disgusted by the behaviour of boorish colleagues.
Britain’s schools lottery
The appalling disparity between the best and worst state schools has never been worse
Tomorrow is “admissions day” in the English school system, when the parents of nearly 540,000 children will find out whether their son or daughter has been given a place at their preferred secondary school. For around 60,000 children, the answer will be no. But the disappointment will not be evenly distributed: in some areas, 40 per cent of children will be turned away. There are many parts of England where the local comprehensive is so bad that parents will move house to avoid it. To get round this tactic, low-ability pupils are shoehorned into good schools or the local council resorts to lotteries.
It is impossible to design a state system in which all pupils go to the school of their parents’ choice. But the appalling disparity between the best and worst state schools has never been worse – and it is especially difficult to tackle because bad teachers and bad schools are protected by their allies in the teaching unions and local government.
As we report today, Philip Cottam, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, believes that privately educated children are the victims of university admissions systems skewed in favour of badly performing state pupils.
He is right – but, as he points out, children in run-of-the-mill comprehensives are also victims, as are their frustrated parents. The truth is that people who want their children to have a rigorous education have never enjoyed the liberation from statist mediocrity that they have experienced in other walks of life.
The Thatcher government left millions of children at the mercy of educationalists who despise competition. That situation persists, as many parents will discover tomorrow. Put simply, there are not enough good schools; the obstacles to creating them must be cleared away as soon as possible.
Teaching assistant driven to ‘hell and back’ after racist abuse and violence at hands of teenage PUPILS in Britain
A teaching assistant claims he ‘felt like jumping in front of a bus’ after being punched, racially abused, attacked with a compass and forced to call police when a student threatened to rape his wife and children. Khalid Akram says he even received a death threat from a teenage pupil at the school where he worked in Burnley, Lancashire, but nothing was done despite him filing dozens of complaints to bosses.
He claims he was left with post-traumatic stress disorder following the Rose School’s failure to deal with the abuse, and is now set to go to tribunal alleging unfair dismissal.
He told The People: ‘I’ve been to hell and back over this. ‘I’ve been degraded and treated worse than an animal but no one was there to help me. ‘From Day One I was kicked punched, spat at and called things like P*** b****** and Bin Laden.’
As part of his case, CCTV images will be used, including scenes in which:
* a 13-year-old boy is held back by other staff after he headbutts a teacher who is trying to stop him attack Khalid. The teenager then lets fly a high kick and spits at the shocked teaching assistant. A fortnight later, Khalid claims he said he was going to ‘get you and your family’.
He says he was also injured when a pupil struck him with a pair of compasses; the headteacher, Nicola Jennings, refused to allow him time off to go to hospital for a tetanus jab after his arm was left bleeding.
In another incident, in April 2009, a pupil said he was ‘going to rape your P*** wife and kids’ and kicked him on the wrist. The head refused to call police, but he felt he should ‘for my own safety’, according to the paper.
The following month, he says he was headbutted, while in June he ‘felt like jumping in front of a bus’ after yet more abuse. Later that month, he filled in several racist incident forms, including for being spat at and after one pupil said he was ‘going to die’. And he claims even a colleague – who he says subsequently apologised – talked of going to the ‘P*** shop’.
The 34-year-old kept a diary of the abuse he claims to have suffered at the Burnley school, which has 40 places for students aged 11-16 with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties.
He started there in January 2009, as it was closer to his home than his previous job, but was sacked in the July for alleged dishonesty and falsifying his CV, according to the newspaper.
The tribunal is set for September.
Lancashire county Council declined to comment because ‘the matter is subject to the legal process’. A school source told The People that many staff received abuse at the school, which is a special school for those with behavioural difficulties.
Britain’s £25,000 eco-classroom that can’t be used because solar panels don’t provide enough heat
Eco-campaigners who built a classroom powered by the sun believed they were paving the way for the future. Instead they have been taught a valuable lesson – there is not enough sun in North London to sufficiently heat their building.
The much feted zero-carbon Living Ark classroom was opened three months ago to great fanfare. It boasts laudable green credentials and is made from sustainable wood, sheep’s wool and soil. The roof is made of mud and grass and it has its own ‘rain pod’ and solar panels.
But there is snag – its solar panels only provide enough energy to power a few lightbulbs. As a result the classroom is bitterly cold and uninhabitable for lessons. Parents have branded it ‘useless’, an ‘expensive piece of wood’ and a ‘great idea for the Caribbean’.
The Living Ark was built at Muswell Hill Primary School, North London, at the cost of £25,000. Local councillors, at Labour run Haringey council, who were behind the initiative, opened it with great fanfare in December as a beacon of their climate change policy.
But today a local parent at the 419-pupil school said teachers weren’t allowing pupils into the classroom because it was too cold. ‘What is the point of a classroom that can’t be used when it’s a bit cold outside? My kids have been told it’s too cold for them to use as nobody can figure out how to heat it,’ said the parent, who did not want to be named. ‘This is just an expensive piece of hollowed out wood and no use to anyone. We are living in Britain, not the Caribbean.’
The ‘waste’ of money comes as councils across the country are facing a severe shortage of school places. By 2018 they will need to find an additional 500,000 primary places due to a population surge.
Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, accused the council of wasting money on pet projects which do not benefit pupils. She said: ‘It’s an awful waste that so much money has been ploughed into this eco-mistake. ‘This project fails to meet the needs of staff and pupils by giving them a classroom that is most useful when the kids are on their summer holidays.
‘Lessons have to be learned at the local authority. They must stop spending taxpayers’ hard earned cash on expensive pet projects that do nothing to improve pupils’ education. ‘All this will teach kids is how poorly planned and costly local authorities projects can be.’
Lib Dem Councillor Gail Engerts said: ‘It is such a shame that, considering the fanfare, it emerges that this facility cannot be used by the children all year round.’
Headteacher Jill Hughes defended the project and said she hoped classes would be held in the classroom when the weather gets warmer. She said: ‘We’re delighted to have the Living Ark – its a tremendous resource both for the school and the local community and is an important part of the Muswell Hill low carbon zone initiative.’
Indians and Pakistanis in Britain also likely to be anti-immigration
Populous is a respectable public opinion poll but the fact that the report of their findings was written by Nick Lowles rather raises eyebrows. Lowles is editor of the “Searchlight” magazine. Searchlight is a fringe-Left organization.
The questions asked, sampling details and all the raw frequencies obtained would have to be independently examined before the findings could be fully credited. The abstract of the report gives no sampling details, which is unusual in an abstract, and the full report was not yet online at the time of writing.
More Asians are now opposed to immigration than white Britons, according to a new poll which reveals that opposition to new arrivals now transcends race.
Research commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust found that 39 per cent of Asians, 34 per cent of whites and 21 per cent of blacks believed immigration should be halted either permanently or at least until the UK’s economy was back on track. The findings are a stunning rebuke to the Labour government, which opened the doors to untrammelled immigration and then sought to brand voters ‘bigots’ who questioned the pace of change.
The report, titled Fear and Hope: The New Politics Of Identity, reveals that a large proportion of voters, across all races and communities, now have concerns about immigration. Immigration was held to have been on the whole a bad thing for Britain by 63 per cent of whites, 43 per cent of Asians and 17 per cent of black Britons.
The report also reveals that the failure of mainstream parties to speak out about immigration has opened the door for the possible emergence of a far right party.
Almost half of those questioned, 48 per cent, were open to supporting a new far-right party as long as it eschewed ‘fascist imagery’ and did not condone violence. And 52 per cent agreed that ‘Muslims create problems in the UK’.
The poll, carried out by Populus, was one of the largest studies carried out on the subject, based on 91 questions to more than 5,000 individuals.
It found that peoples’ attitudes to immigration were largely shaped by their level of economic optimism. Those who fear for their jobs and longterm economic wellbeing are more likely to be opposed to further immigration.
The Searchlight Educational Trust said the report ‘throws down a challenge’ to mainstream political parties to better understand what is happening in the body politic, the Trust said, warning ‘dangers’ lie ahead if these issues are not addressed.
The report’s author Nick Lowles said young people are more open to living in an ethnically diverse society. But in a clear warning to the political class, he said: ‘This report gives those of us who are campaigning against extremism nowhere to hide.
‘The harsh truth is we are in danger of losing touch with the public on race, immigration and multiculturalism. ‘The attitude of all sections of the community to these complex issues is now running far ahead of the politicians and community leaders.’
Labour MP Jon Cruddas said the findings should ‘ricochet through the body politic’ as they showed the potential for the rise of the far-right unless mainstream parties acted soon. In a forword to the report, he wrote: ‘Put simply, unless political parties step up and provide a new language of material well-being, of identity and belonging, then these political forces might refract into more malign forms. As such, the political class has been warned.’
The level of net migration into the UK rose by 36 per cent last year, Office for National Statistics figures show. An estimated 572,000 people entered the UK on a long-term basis in the year to June 2010 while 346,000 emigrated.
Ministers want to reduce net migration levels, the difference between the two figures, to tens of thousands by 2015. To help do this, the coalition plans to cap immigration from outside the European Union.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.