UK’s cancer failings ‘cost 10,000 lives every year’ despite billions of pounds in extra spending
Cancer survival rates in Britain still rank amongst the lowest in Europe despite billions of pounds of extra spending, a damning report says today.
Patients are being denied the best chance of beating tumours because their illness is being picked up far too late.
The report by MPs says up to 10,000 lives could be saved every year if the diagnosis and treatment improved to levels seen in France, Germany and Scandinavia.
It warned that ‘early diagnosis did not happen often enough’, partly because GPs were missing cases and falsely reassuring patients who were actually very sick.
The findings come a day after the Mail revealed that up to a quarter of cancer sufferers were being sent away by family doctors and prescribed paracetamol and antibiotics.
A detailed survey by the Rarer Cancers Foundation showed that many patients were being forced to return to their GP time and time again before tumours were spotted, leading to crucial delays in their treatment.
Today’s report by the Public Accounts Committee claims that despite the investment of £6.3billion in cancer services a year, the gap between Britain’s survival rates and those of the best European countries has not been closed.
MPs warn there is a postcode lottery, with patients referred to cancer specialists eight times more quickly in some parts of the country than in others.
Early diagnosis is vital in terms of a patient’s survival chances. Once tumours spread to other organs, such as the liver, lungs or brain – known as stage 3 or stage 4 cancer – they are very difficult to treat.
Although death rates have fallen in recent years, the report warns there are ‘wide, unexplained variations in the performance of cancer services and in the types of treatment available across the country’.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘This committee fully supports the work by the Department of Health over the past ten years to make tackling cancer a priority. ‘Mortality rates have been falling and cancer waiting times targets consistently achieved. ‘But the one-year survival rates in England are still poor compared with the best performing European countries.’
According to the report from MPs, Britain ranks 23 out of 27 European countries in terms of cancer survival chances.
Why Britain’s £250bn wind power industry could be the greatest scam of our age – and here are the three ‘lies’ that prove it
By Christopher Booker
Scarcely a day goes by without more evidence to show why the Government’s obsession with wind turbines, now at the centre of our national energy policy, is one of the greatest political blunders of our time.
Under a target agreed with the EU, Britain is committed within ten years — at astronomic expense — to generating nearly a third of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly through building thousands more wind turbines.
But the penny is finally dropping for almost everyone — except our politicians — that to rely on windmills to keep our lights on is a colossal and very dangerous act of self-deception.
Take, for example, the 350ft monstrosity familiar to millions of motorists who drive past as it sluggishly revolves above the M4 outside Reading. This wind turbine performed so poorly (working at only 15 per cent of its capacity) that the £130,000 government subsidy given to its owners was more than the £100,000 worth of electricity it produced last year.
Meanwhile, official figures have confirmed that during those freezing, windless weeks around Christmas, when electricity demand was at record levels, the contribution made by Britain’s 3,500 turbines was minuscule.
To keep our homes warm we were having to import vast amounts of power from nuclear reactors in France.
Wind turbines are so expensive that Holland recently became the first country in Europe to abandon its EU renewable energy target, announcing that it is to slash its annual subsidy by billions of euros.
So unpopular are wind turbines that our own Government has just offered ‘bribes’ to local communities, in the form of lower council tax and electricity bills.
In Scotland, the 800 residents of the beautiful island of Tiree are desperately trying to resist Alex Salmond’s plans to railroad through what will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world, covering 139 square miles off their coast, which they say will destroy their community by driving away the tourists who provide much of their living.
So riddled with environmental hypocrisy is the lobbying for wind energy that a recent newspaper report exposed the immense human and ecological catastrophe being inflicted on northern China by the extraction of the rare earth minerals needed to make the giant magnets that every turbine in the West uses to generate its power.
Here in a nutshell are some of the reasons why people are beginning to wake up to the horrific downside of the wind business. And since I began writing about wind turbines nine years ago, I have come to see how the case for them rests on three great lies.
* The first is the pretence that turbines are anything other than ludicrously inefficient. The most glaring dishonesty peddled by the wind industry — and echoed by gullible politicians — is vastly to exaggerate the output of turbines by deliberately talking about them only in terms of their ‘capacity’, as if this was what they actually produce. Rather, it is the total amount of power they have the capability of producing.
The point about wind, of course, is that it is constantly varying in speed, so that the output of turbines averages out at barely a quarter of their capacity.
Furthermore, as they increase in number (the Government wants to see 10,000 more in the next few years) it will, quite farcically, become necessary to build a dozen or more gas-fired power stations, running all the time and emitting CO2, simply to provide instant back-up for when the wind drops.
This means that the 1,000 megawatts all those 3,500 turbines sited around the country feed on average into the grid is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station.
* The second great lie about wind power is the pretence that it is not a preposterously expensive way to produce electricity. No one would dream of building wind turbines unless they were guaranteed a huge government subsidy.
This comes in the form of the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy scheme, paid for through household bills, whereby owners of wind turbines earn an additional £49 for every ‘megawatt hour’ they produce, and twice that sum for offshore turbines.
This is why so many people are now realising that the wind bonanza — almost entirely dominated in Britain by French, German, Spanish and other foreign-owned firms — is one of the greatest scams of our age.
We may not be aware of just how much we are pouring into the pockets of the wind developers, because our bills hide this from us — but as ever more turbines are built, this could soon be adding hundreds of pounds a year to our bills.
When a Swedish firm recently opened what is now the world’s largest offshore windfarm off the coast of Kent, at a cost of £800 million, we were told that its ‘capacity’ was 300 megawatts, enough to provide ‘green’ power for tens of thousands of homes. What we were not told was that its actual output will average only a mere 80 megawatts, a tenth of that supplied by a gas-fired power station — for which we will all be paying a subsidy of £60million a year, or £1.5billion over the 25-year lifespan of the turbines.
* The third great lie of the wind propagandists is that this industry is somehow making a vital contribution to ‘saving the planet’ by cutting our emissions of CO2.
Even if you believe that curbing our use of fossil fuels could change the Earth’s climate, the CO2 reduction achieved by wind turbines is so insignificant that one large windfarm saves considerably less in a year than is given off over the same period by a single jumbo jet flying daily between Britain and America.
Then, of course, the construction of the turbines generates enormous CO2 emissions as a result of the mining and smelting of the metals used, the carbon-intensive cement needed for their huge concrete foundations, the building of miles of road often needed to move them to the site, and the releasing of immense quantities of CO2 locked up in the peat bogs where many turbines are built.
When you consider, too, those gas-fired power stations wastefully running 24 hours a day just to provide back-up for the intermittency of the wind, any savings will vanish altogether.
Yet it is on the strength of these three massive self-deceptions that our Government has embarked on one of the most reckless gambles in our political history: the idea that we can look to the vagaries of the wind to provide nearly a third of the electricity we need to keep our economy running, well over 90 per cent of which is still currently supplied by coal, gas and nuclear power.
It is true that this target of raising the contribution made by wind by more than ten times in the next nine years was set by the EU. But it is no good blaming Brussels for such an absurdly ambitious target, because no one was keener to adopt it than our own politicians, led first by Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband and now by David Cameron and the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.
To meet this target, our Government wants to see us spend £100billion on building 10,000 more turbines, plus another £40billion on connecting them all up to the grid.
According to the electricity industry, we will then need to spend another £100billion on those conventional power stations to provide back-up — all of which adds up to £240billion by 2020, or just over £1,000 a year for every household in the land.
And for this our politicians are quite happy to see our countryside and the seas around our coasts smothered in vast arrays of giant industrial machines, all to produce an amount of electricity that could be provided by conventional power stations at a tenth of the cost.
This flight from reality is truly one of the greatest follies.
But what turns it from a crazed fantasy to a potential catastrophe is that Britain will soon face a huge shortfall in its electricity supplies, when we see the shutdown of conventional power stations, which currently meet nearly 40 per cent of our electricity needs.
All but two of our ageing nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their useful life, with little chance of them being replaced for many years.
Six of our large coal-fired stations will be forced to close under an EU anti-pollution directive, and our Government is doing its best to ensure that we build no more.
There is no way we can hope to make up more than a fraction of the resulting energy gap solely with wind turbines, for the simple and obvious reason that wind is such an intermittent and unreliable energy source.
Meanwhile, this country will soon be facing a colossal energy gap, while relying on politically unreliable countries such as Russia and Algeria for gas supplies.
What we are seeing, in short, is the price we are beginning to pay for the past two decades, during which our energy policy has become hopelessly skewed by the siren calls of the environmentalists, first in persuading our politicians to switch from coal and not to build any more nuclear power stations, and then to fall for the quixotic dream that we could gamble our country’s future on the ‘free’ and ‘clean’ power of wind and sun.
All over the EU, other politicians are waking up to the dead-end to which this madness has been leading us. The Danes, who have built more wind turbines per head than anyone, have realised the idiocy of a policy that has given them the highest electricity prices in Europe, while they have to import much of their power from abroad.
In Spain, their rush for wind and solar power has proved a national disaster. In Germany, having built more turbines than any other country in the world, they are now building new coal-fired stations like crazy.
In Holland, meanwhile, they have now given two fingers to the EU by slashing all their renewables subsidies.
Only in Britain is our political class still so imprisoned in its infatuation with wind that it is prepared to court this dangerously misguided pipedream.
Christian beliefs DO lose out to gay rights: British judges’ ruling against devout foster couple
Christian beliefs an “infection”!
A Christian couple facing a foster parenting ban because of their views on homosexuality were told by a court yesterday that gay rights ‘should take precedence’ over their religious beliefs. Owen and Eunice Johns heard that their values could conflict with the local authority’s duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of those in foster care.
The grandparents have already fostered 15 children and were praised by social workers as ‘kind and hospitable people’ who ‘respond sensitively’ to youngsters.
Outside court, Mr and Mrs Johns, aged 65 and 62, said they were ‘extremely distressed’ and had ‘only wanted to offer a loving home to a child in need’. They believe homosexuality is ‘against God’s law and morals’ – but said they are not homophobic and would ‘accept and love’ any child.
The Pentecostal Christians, who have been carers since 1992, had applied to Derby City Council in 2007 to restart fostering after a break.
But social workers raised concerns that their attitudes to homosexuality would conflict with the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.
The couple decided they were ‘doomed to failure’ and sought a clarification of the law over whether their religious beliefs excluded them from becoming foster carers.
Their case, heard last year, was supported by senior clergy including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey who, in an open letter, warned that gay rights were taking precedence over the rights of others.
During the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission argued that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral views.
Yesterday the retired couple’s request for a ruling that faith should not be a bar to becoming a carer was denied at the High Court in London.
Their case was heard by one of the most senior members of the family court, Lord Justice Munby, who was sitting alongside Mr Justice Beeston. It was ruled that there was no discrimination against them as Christians but that their views on sexual morality may be ‘inimical’ – or harmful – to children. In that situation, they ruled: ‘The equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence.’
The Johnses are considering an appeal but campaigners fear the ruling will be used as a blueprint for other councils to stop devout Christians from becoming foster parents.
The couple, who have four grown-up children and six grandchildren, had applied to be respite carers offering short-term placements for children aged between five and ten. Mrs Johns, a retired nurse, said: ‘This is a sad day for Christianity. The judges have suggested that our views might harm children. We do not believe that this is so. We are prepared to love and accept any child.
‘All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.’
She added that the couple have visited her nephew, who is gay, and his partner in San Francisco. Her husband added: ‘We wanted to offer love and stability and security to a vulnerable child. Eight-year-olds we have looked after want to play, not talk about their sexuality.’
Yesterday the council denied that it had sought to discriminate against Mr and Mrs Johns on the grounds of religious belief, but added that it ‘welcomes the judgment’.
Another false rape claim from Britain
A soldier’s wife cried rape after her husband worked out their baby was conceived while he was thousands of miles away on the Helmand frontline. Samantha Morley told her partner Thomas she had been attacked while he was fighting in Afghanistan to cover up her infidelity. He went to police and the 24-year-old repeated her claims, leading to the arrest of two innocent men.
But after police questioning, the mother-of-three admitted the allegations were an elaborate lie to conceal her affair.
Yesterday she wept as she was jailed for 12 months for perverting the course of justice. Morley, nine weeks’ pregnant with her fourth child, will only serve six months and not have the baby behind bars.
Oxford Crown Court had previously heard that Mr Morley, then her fiancé, grew suspicious after working out the timings of the girl’s birth last May. When he confronted her in June, she claimed she had been raped during a drunken night out the previous summer.
The soldier in 23 Pioneer Regiment, based in Bicester, near Oxford, called police but as detectives delved deeper, they worked out she was lying. Despite the affair, Mr Morley stood by his fiancée and later married her.
Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said: ‘She said she had been out with her sister and they had been drinking. ‘She said she had been assaulted by a stranger in an alleyway and that she had picked up a small part of his name.’
Police visited the Morley home and took a statement during a two-hour interview. They estimated that more than 54 hours were spent investigating her claims.
DNA samples were taken from the couple and the baby. An e-fit picture was produced, which police thought matched the description of a local man. He was arrested and later released on police bail.
Morley then contacted the police and told them she had seen the rapist driving a blue Citroen Saxo car and officers were able to identify a second man.
Mrs Drake said: ‘He said he met her the summer before and they had a relationship. ‘He was able to point the police to computer records from Facebook that showed he had been in contact with Mrs Morley and was asked to resolve the paternity of her youngest child. ‘He thought the dates tallied with the time they spent together. He knew the defendant’s fiancé was away in Afghanistan when they conducted their liaison.’
Mrs Morley was arrested last July and initially insisted her allegation was true before realising how much officers knew.
Mrs Drake added that she had not expected her partner to call the police.
Morley kissed her husband as she entered the dock wearing a grey suit with her dark hair tied back yesterday. He has left the Army to care for their children while she is in prison.
Sophie Murray, defending, said Morley had been afraid of losing her husband and had not acted out of malice.
Judge Mary Jane Mowat said: ‘The result for the two men suspected of one of the worst crimes in our law was undeniable. ‘The more the public hears about false allegations the less likely they, and juries, are to believe the true ones.’
An end to free higher education in Scotland?
Principals warn that universities in Scotland will be left with a £200m funding gap after tuition fees are raised in England
Scottish university principals have again called for an end to free higher education after a report warned of a £200m funding gap following the introduction of higher fees in England.
Universities Scotland, the umbrella body for higher education institutions, said the case for a “fair and modest” payment by Scottish graduates was now unanswerable if current levels of teaching and student numbers were to be maintained.
Its stance has increased pressure on the next Scottish government to scrap a longstanding tradition of free university education for domestic students, in the face of moves to allow English universities to charge between £6,000 and £9,000 a year in tuition fees.
But its conclusions were immediately challenged by the Scottish government, Universities Scotland’s partner on the expert group that produced the report on funding, and by the National Union of Students Scotland.
Each side selected figures from the report that suited its policies. The universities used one of the highest figures based on the impact of inflation, while Scottish ministers chose figures that suited their current policy of funding universities entirely from general taxation.
The dispute – which has led to another rift on funding between the universities and Alex Salmond’s nationalist government – follows weeks of speculation that Scottish universities faced a funding shortfall of up to £500m.
The country’s leading colleges are now facing strikes, laying off staff and closing departments. Glasgow is planning to shut its modern languages and anthropology departments, while staff at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are to take industrial action.
Salmond will campaign in this May’s elections for the Scottish parliament by insisting that the shortfall is actually much smaller, and can be met by the taxpayer without fees or graduate taxes.
His officials believe Universities Scotland has been highly selective with the report’s findings, by using a figure that included inflation and by ignoring the Scottish government’s plans to charge English students up to £6,500 a year to study in Scotland.
If those fees were included and the baseline figure did not include inflation, the gap was actually £93m. And that, sources said, did not include another £35m in expected efficiency savings. Ministers are expected to promise this gap will be met by the government.
NUS Scotland accused Universities Scotland of “scaremongering” and misrepresenting the true scale of the funding gap in a deliberate attempt to bounce voters into accepting tuition fees.
The NUS will now be putting Labour, currently narrow favourites to win May’s election, under pressure to pledge it would not charge students. Labour has said it believes some form of charge is now highly likely and refused to rule out a graduate tax or contribution.
Universities ‘told to discriminate against independent school pupils’
Universities should not be asked to “repair the problems of 18 years of upbringing and education” by skewing admissions in favour of poor-performing pupils, according to a leading headmaster.
Making lower grade offers to students from state schools is like forcing an engineer to improve the design of an aircraft “after the plane has already crashed”, it is claimed.
In a speech on Monday, Philip Cottam, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, says the number of children from deprived backgrounds failing to fulfil their potential is a “blot” on society.
But forcing admissions tutors to repair these problems by discriminating against privately-educated teenagers will fail to address key weaknesses in the education system, he claims.
Speaking at the society’s annual conference, he will criticise the decline of the state grammar school system which provided a decent academic education for pupils from the poorest families.
He will also attack the “culture of entitlement” at the heart of modern schooling “in which competition is seen as negative and all are expected to win prizes”.
The comments come just weeks after ministers insisted universities should hit targets to admit students from state schools and deprived backgrounds in return for charging more than £6,000 a year in tuition fees.
Institutions failing to do enough could be stripped of the power to levy fees as high as £9,000 under Coalition plans.
But Mr Cottam, head of fee-paying Halliford School in Shepperton, Middlesex, says more attention should be focused on repairing Britain’s broken education system than skewing university admissions.
“There is an argument to be made that our national failure to do the best by the 50 per cent or so of pupils who do not get five GCSEs at C or better, including mathematics and English, is in many ways more serious and more damaging than the under-representation of some in our selective universities,” he says.
Addressing headmasters, he adds: “Trying to force universities to repair, let alone make up for, the problems of 18 years of upbringing and education is certainly not the answer.
“It is approaching the issue from the wrong end and is like asking an aeronautical engineer to improve the design of an aircraft after the plane has already crashed.”
Private schools currently educate around seven per cent of children but privately-educated students make up more than four-in-10 of those attending Oxford and Cambridge.
But addressing headmasters at the society’s conference in Telford, Mr Cottam will say that “discriminating against independent school pupils using a mechanistic template” is unfair to the hundreds of thousands of young people in private education.
“It sometimes feels as though our critics believe that the academic success of our pupils has either been handed to them on a plate, or drilled into them, and does not reflect any real ability or potential, let alone hard, determined work by the individuals themselves,” he says.
In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Cottam says the modern education system has become too focused on “entitlement” and a culture in which “all are expected to win prizes”. This fails to promote true competition between young people or push pupils towards academic excellence, he says.
“An education system that emphasises entitlement at the expense of effort and commitment, and that tries to make everyone feel wonderful all of the time, will not develop the strength of character that we all need, in order to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life,” he says.
Mr Cottam also criticises the decline of academically-selective grammar schools. Only 164 remain in England and Labour introduced legislation in the late 90s banning the opening of any more. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat front benches also oppose the expansion of academic selection.
“The grammar school system, for all its many faults, was a real engine of social mobility, and nothing since has been as effective,” he says. “As every estate agent knows, the selection by ability of the grammar school system has been partly replaced by selection by mortgage.
“I am not suggesting that we should necessarily return to the grammar school system but that we should take note of its successes, see how we can learn from them and replicate them where we can, within the different circumstances that now exist.”
The modern education system, he says, is increasingly expected to “provide the answer to all the social ills of society, with the result that it is in danger of resembling a branch of psychotherapy”.